UpDayt ’22: 4 Kids, New Job, New Music

Gang, it’s been over two years since my last proper blog. It’s time I got active on here again, which merits some context, subtext, what-have-ye. Not that you’ve all been stuck pining, desperately wondering what I’ve been up to—no such delusions here. I’m just a touch too orderly to have this careless gap on here. Right, then: on with it!

2019: Burnout…

2019 got me, for the first time in my ~1,000-concert-playing life, burnt out on gigging. I played some fun shows that year, but…how do I put it: the old kicks lost their kick. For one, my increasingly-aware three-year-old daughter began crying whenever I’d leave for another gig or rehearsal, but in general it all got tougher to justify.

The Foamers? did a Halloween show that year where we did a Brooks & Dunn tribute set, which was a total riot, and also did a Stooges tribute set with Holly Trasti and Michael Zink; that whole night was a blast! And Muddy Udders ended the year opening for Olivia Jean (who’s now betrothed to Jack White) which was super cool, but head-scratchingly poorly attended.

In all, 2019 was when I acutely felt the effort/reward balance tip unfavorably. Meanwhile, I’d been following reports of some “coronavirus” spreading overseas as of October, hopeful it would be contained.

2020: Career Change, Coronamania, Childbirth

I had a hired-gun gig in mid-January 2020, a Monday night where I had to drive immediately from work to make it to soundcheck in time. It amounted to little more than a very long, dead-of-winter Monday. Around this time I uneventfully finished a book I’d been ghostwriting, and was increasingly eager for a change from my 10-year employer, while cases of the coronavirus had just begun popping up in the US around this time. My home life was positively idyllic, but that was about the extent of my enthusiasm.

I had just three upcoming gigs booked, but when I was hit with a number of proposed shows for that summer, I couldn’t bring myself to take them on. Partially because I’d decided to leave office work to become a painter, which meant a very new and intimidating schedule of 6am-4:30pm Monday-Friday; I couldn’t imagine feeling ready to rock a stage on Friday nights, let alone how I’d stay awake for the late drive home after. With that, I more or less decreed an indefinite hold on booking.

As the coronavirus continued its spread, news that my wife and I were expecting child #4 was…I don’t want to say “tempered,” but certainly accompanied by new challenges. The virus was extra mysterious then and had me rather freaked out; for all I knew, if my wife caught it while pregnant we’d lose our baby. Again, I’d been following news of it since October ’19, and had seen the wild footage of people dropping in the streets in China, and had opted to err on the side of preparing for Black Plague 2.0.

Pardon my ineloquence, but it sucked. A month before any sort of shutdowns or quarantines I decided I’d be the only one from my house venturing into public. The biggest extra task for me was weekly grocery shopping, which ordinarily wouldn’t sound like much, but on top of my new schedule, the conditions called for much extra care—for all I knew, I could potentially bring this horrendous disease into my home. Early on I was a staunch if embarrassed glove-wearer; conventionally fallible internet wisdom of the time suggested the virus lived on surfaces for three days. As it was just getting to March the weather was plenty cold, so I adopted a routine of leaving groceries in our unheated garage for three days before bringing them inside. When the weather warmed up I ordered a UV wand and would diligently kill any germs on every package before bringing it in. Did I mention it sucked?

My three upcoming gigs were canceled, along with all else. Suddenly I’d gone from, at the very least, wanting to take a break from music, to no longer having a choice.

But between my new work schedule/the effort of a serious career change, and feeling the weight of the world with protecting my growing family from coronavirus, it was easy to forget about music. (Desirable even, what with my dud of a last gig.) I’d been dutifully playing live music since I turned 21, yet when I’d notice the long stretches I’d go without so much as touching an instrument—days, weeks—I didn’t even care. I leaned into music-less-ness. Even commuting to job sites, I’d listen to podcasts or audio books instead of CDs. Music used to liberate me; suddenly I was liberated from it.

Initially the career change to painting was exciting; it was pretty much everything I’d hoped for, and I had some incredible teachers. It was unbelievably refreshing to not have office drama or politics, meetings, or e-mails. Best of all I gained timeless, universal work skills; should I ever need to, I could find work almost instantly, almost anywhere in the world.

I counteracted the oft-mindless physical work with a near-constant soundtrack of classic literature, short stories, and podcasts on history, philosophy, and politics. In hindsight I was trying to get stronger and smarter, focusing on what I could control, racing with whatever weirdness the world was throwing at my family and me, pushing myself to read and exercise more than any other time in my life. There was something self-effacing about so much physical and mental activity, though, and this was probably, willfully the least artistic period of my life.

I even wound up taking on a side job, and from about May 2020 to January 2021 I was painting nearly every weekend as well. It felt good using my new skills to help a friend, but clearly this was more than I should’ve taken on. Once my honeymoon phase of painting had waned, I sized up my career and life to that point and indulged in full-on regret. I didn’t like the position I’d gotten myself into—why did I let it happen?

In a word, music. I’d devoted far too much of my life to music, and that was damn stupid of me… such were my thoughts. Nice goin’, Day—now get back to work painting millionaires’ homes.

As we prepared for our new baby’s arrival, I paid greater attention than ever to our midwife. This would be our third home birth, but with coronavirus/covid uncertainty, for all I knew I’d be delivering this baby on my own, and I actually did feel ready for that.

Thankfully that wasn’t necessary—though our midwife was quarantining just up to our baby’s due date. Alas, our beautiful son was born in November 2020. It was eventful only in retrospect; at the time, we hardly noticed our midwife made it to our house only five minutes before he was born!

I hadn’t taken a day off all year, saving my two weeks’ PTO entirely to stay home to bond with our new baby and run the house while my wife recovered.

Honestly I was grateful to get back to work after that. No idea how my wife keeps this place in such great shape.

Having made it through to our healthy baby’s birth, and with my greatest fears about covid’s potential going unrealized, I slightly began to relax about the virus. (Naturally I caught it late January ’21. Thankfully it went through my house with little impact.)

2021: Radio Silence, Return(s) to Action(s)

Social Media

Oh, right: politics. 2020 was, in a word, alienating: a new virus locks us away from one another; no one can agree on its cause or how to deal with it; and it’s a highly-polarized presidential election year. As is, people typically suck at social media, in the sense that most of us don’t know how to run our own public relations. This never really bothered me, because in-person experiences were where life actually happened, reminding us why we ever liked the people behind these accounts. But with that option removed, the online facsimile of friendship felt less adequate than ever, and like most people, I got very sick of inarticulate, histrionic representations of people I otherwise knew and liked.

Being a creative guy who wants to share his works I couldn’t have fathomed not being on social media. After Tommy and I put out a surprise episode of Live from Stadium Drive early in the year, I took stock. Painting houses, while certainly aesthetic, is hardly creative. Likewise my freelance writing and editing projects (which I’d kept up with all the while) are more of an art than artwork.

In light of all the divisive opinions on social media, I opted to neither add to the noise nor try and futilely (if not boringly) give all sides their nuanced due, and I ultimately abstained from any posts or blogs throughout, aborting at one point a 3,000-word (and counting) attempt to write info-tainingly about covid.

It occurred I could should take a break from social media, so unannounced, as of mid-January, I did.

Music

Gigging still wasn’t an option. Even as some venues reopened, playing out felt either irresponsible (lots of people show up) or impractical (no one shows up).

Lots of people were doing live streams performing, and others were recording and releasing new music—great for them, not so much for me. Frankly I’d grown bitter about the whole medium, and didn’t want to waste another bit of my time or energy on music. And all this from a former “lifer!”

Which isn’t to say I was happier without music. I’d work all day, gone up to 13 hours including commutes, and come home to be the best family man and version of myself I could be. I came to recognize, though, that creativity was vital to the latter, which was by extension vital to the former. That pure selflessness is an ouroboros—killing one’s self by degrees. As the months wore on my spirit hit an unnatural exhaustion, and I began to understand blue-collar nihilism at its worst. Because of the rut I’d gotten into in 2019, I’d forgotten how alive I feel when I’m creating—when I’m actively caring about a project, excited by it, confounded by it, just into it, unable to care whether it’s a “waste” of time.

Man, I needed that again, badly. Sitting dormant all the while was my lifelong, ongoing/oncoming bank of music ideas: riffs, lines of lyrics, songs in various states of completion. Part of me, no matter how far I’d gotten from music, had always assumed I’d keep working on these ideas, and that they’d eventually see the light of day. Was I actually willing to snuff them out once and for all? Was I so sure there was no potential there?

I guess that’s where I drew the line. If I’d bottomed out, that was my bounce back. It hit me that, sure, gigging may be out of the question, but what about just recording and releasing songs? Do it on my own time, no baggage, just music? This was either my worst or best idea yet: a Matty Day solo album?

A name for the album even popped in my head, and served as an engine and magnet for the things I started brainstorming. This was roughly March 2021, and coincided with my falling back in love with music as a medium after a solid year apart; I’m not sure which happened first, but the idea to make music again certainly fed into, and was in turn fed by my rekindled enthusiasm for the medium. I’ll credit the likes of Blur, Depeche Mode, The Chocolate Watchband (specifically with David Aguilar on vocals), David Bowie, both Elvises, The Dukes of Stratosphear, Giuseppe Verdi, The Smiths, Faron Young, DBUK, Desert Sessions, Silverchair/Daniel Johns, The Darkness, Johnny Burnette, Pantera, Scott Walker, Savoy Motel, and New Order among the acts who coaxed me into loving music anew. “Guilty pleasure” was just gone from my vocabulary—I’d been so jaded that I was just happy to enjoy music again.

By summer, my goodness, I was even excited to play a gig! Just two days shy of a year-and-a-half offstage, I got to do an outdoor show with Cory Chisel, and it was one of the best shows we’d ever played.

My gears kept turning, the project slowly took shape over the months, and I was back to my old ways of jotting down ideas and making voice memos for songs. This new material would bolster songs from my good ol’ music bank, with some ideas tracing back up to 15 years. I zeroed in on a tracklist, and in August I humbly asked my pals/bandmates Sam Farrell and Alex Drossart if they’d be game to help me with recording, and they ever so fortunately agreed. As a bit of barter I helped Sam paint the trickier areas of his new house.

That side job pretty much book-ended my year and a half as a painter. It was like my rekindled creative spark inspired more than just music, as I recommitted to finding full-time work as a writer. I guess I’d just heard one too many painters who’d come and go, always complain about painting, only to shrug and say, “Oh well. It’s all I can do.”

I couldn’t accept resigning to that fate. I decided to bite several bullets and add a more “marketable” degree to my English & Film degrees (liberal arts relics of a bygone era). So I quite suddenly put in my two-week notice and enrolled in 24 credits to finish a Marketing program in four months. Worth noting: the timing was also informed by the federal Advance Child Tax Credit payments, which (about) covered my mortgage payments through the end of the year, mitigating some of the risk. And it definitely helped knowing I could always go back to painting if things didn’t work out.

Around this time I was contacted by the editor for the new Green Bay City Pages publication, an alt-weekly sister newspaper to the Green Bay Press-Times. It’d been about five years since I’d stopped writing for (the sadly defunct) Frankly Green Bay, and since it’d give me a chance to sharpen my writing skills by for a new platform, and it might help rebuild the local music scene in light of covid, I went for it:

I had some growing pains fitting my type of music writing into the paper’s style guidelines, and I had to get used to published versions of my articles veering a bit from my vision, but it was great experience and I really enjoyed being contributing. Whoever recommended me for the gig: thank you!

Around that time I also got asked if The Foamers? would open for Mad Mojo Jett, a new band featuring some old friends from Minneapolis, who apparently requested for “any” of my bands to be on the bill. How could I say no? Thus, The Foamers? played our first show in about two years, with our sense of taste sharp as ever, evinced by our mask bikinis. (This fine gentleman filmed most of our songs.)

I finished my classes in December, immediately took up a new ghostwriting project to tide me over, and about a week later I saw a job posting at a local ad agency for a full-time (copy)writer. (Clearly they didn’t see the picture above.)

2022: New Music, New Career

With ghostwriting deadlines looming, I opted to take some time off from City Pages. I’d applied and began interviewing for the copywriter position, which felt oddly natural—more like conversations than job interviews. Wildly enough, I was offered the job! And was able to set a start date approximately after my ghostwriting deadline.

I tried resuming my City Pages contributions, but it was just too much at this point; out of some combination of passion, thoroughness, and vanity, I spent an irrational amount of time on those articles. Now that I was writing full-time, the extra writing was more than I could handle. These are the pieces I had published this year:

A couple weeks after a meeting with Sam and Alex to plan things out, we started recording my solo album on April 20th, and we’ve gotten together on weeknights three or four times a month since, chipping away at one song at a time.

Matty Day…Now!

Almost caught up—your attention span is legendary!

It’s now been six months since I’ve gotten to be a full-time copywriter, and four months since starting work on my solo album. Re: the latter, I’m still coming to terms with saying “solo album” and not cringing. Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled with how it’s going. It just feels weird saying it—maybe due to the dozen-plus featured collaborators/guest players on it.

Writing for a living means I’m always using creative skills, but I’ve quickly learned how I need passion projects to balance out my work work. Beyond the solo album, this has also meant acting in a new short film project with Tommy Burns, more shows with Cory Chisel, a run of gigs with the ‘Torches, a solo set at my grandma’s retirement home, and some Foamers? recordings (with gigs on the way).

Solo set for my grandma and ~50 other residents

I’ve also joined a new band—something I’d pretty well sworn off, but the project was just too appealing, and Sam and Alex and I been talking about doing something with Ryley Crowe and Ryan Eick for years. Now christened Hang Ten, what was intended to be strictly a studio project is now becoming a live-performing band, and we’re debuting on-stage with two shows opening for The Heavy Heavy in October. (I should’ve seen this coming; this is the same trajectory The Foamers? and The Priggs took. [Worth noting my solo tracks will be virtually impossible to recreate live; much of its inspiration’s come from disregarding live performance.])

Hang Ten promo pic by Elle; https://www.instagram.com/dandelioncheese/

Finally (phew), if you’re seeing this you’re likely aware I’m back on social media, possibly more active than I’d ever been. My Facebook account was hacked while it was deactivated, so I’ve had to start from scratch there, and decided to make a public page for whichever endeavors I’ve got going. (I’m also attempting to post weekly local events round-ups there; I can’t shake my urge to help people recognize Green Bay’s not such a bad place. [Accusations of projection aren’t unfair.])

For one of my classes last fall I had to start an Instagram account, so I’ve got that going, too. Sure it’s wise to have these going for creative stuff, but I also needed access to these platforms for my job, part of which requires writing social media posts for clients. (I’ve kept my Twitter account the whole time; I know people hate that site, but it’s truly the best news source.) (I’ve had to do some work on TikTok, and coming to terms with that platform depressed me for days.)

Okay! There you/I have it. Necessary vegetables have been eaten. I can now get on to some other topics, especially after this gnarly late summer run of shows culminates with sets with The “Torches and Foamers? at All Bands on Deck this weekend.

Stay tuned, get rad, roll tide, rock your local casbah, and have sex in a voting booth.

-Matty

There Beginneth the Market-Place

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“Where solitude endeth, there beginneth the market-place; and where the market-place beginneth, there beginneth also the noise of great actors, and the buzzing of poison-flies.”

~Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra

Please, stick(eth) a fork in me if I ever start viewing the world primarily through a marketing lens. But this bit of prose gets at the tricky intersection where art and expression cross into commerce and marketing.

My interpretation: If you want to put yourself and your work out there, then yes, you’re inevitably going to bump elbows with rubbish—but it’s worth it when you believe in your work.

If we fear that promotion diminishes creativity, well, what’s the impact of secrecy? Artists overrate the romance of obscurity. (I’ve been awfully guilty of this safe indulgence, but I think I’ve overcome it.)

Thus Blogged MattyDaystra.

A Decade of Decadence

I swear I don’t set out to write this heavy stuff! I just can’t seem to view it any other way.

Eagle Mobile

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What will technology look like in five or ten years? And how would this impact mobile marketing?

Human behavior is primarily guided by needs. All of us are alive today because our ancestors found ways, against often improbable odds, to meet their needs.

Great thought leaders and innovators have always possessed a particular talent for foreseeing future needs, a talent only possible due to an ability to see beyond one’s immediate circumstance.

A key to such creativity is clarity: when our brains are bombarded with stimulus, we are unable to contemplate anything other than our immediate scenario. (Moments of quiet solitude are often the source of ideas, whether on a walk, a toilet, or in a bath.)

One such scenario is that of experiencing high stress and anxiety. When such difficulties dominate our thoughts, our thought process is unable to wander to brighter pastures.

Another scenario is that…

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Take It Away

I was tasked with reflecting on my Social Media Marketing class, and my stream of consciousness naturally became a Paul McCartney rant.

Eagle Social

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No offense to our instructor—who turned out great—but I had horrible expectations for this class. Frankly I find the modern world largely alienating, and spend much of my rare free time indulging in the brilliant works of bygone eras, evaporated scenes, and vanished movements from the past. It’s an inconvenient struggle, and although I can find it personally rewarding, I also find it unfortunate to operate apart from the collective, akin to self-ostracization. Okay, not entirely; my wife’s as “weird” as I am, and my friends find me interesting. But I do wish I could flip on some contemporary broadcast and feel at home among my own generation for a change.

Anyway, you might surmise from my aversion to modernity, and confirm if you’d read my first post, that I’m no fan of social media, hence my negative prediction for this class. It seems the psychological impacts of…

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Reading the Digital Tea Leaves

Publicly wading through an existential dread-inducing list of digital marketing predictions. Funnily, I might be a perfect fit for this industry.

Eagle Digital

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The future is the great unknown. Er, actually, the future is now! No, no, no—the future is yesterday, old timer!

My first thought upon reading Caleb Mynatt’s article “How Digital Marketing Will Change: 14 Predictions for 2021” falls under what we might call Newton’s first law of internet editorials: For every suggestion or prediction, an opposite of equal assurance will be claimed (i.e. any diet recommended online can elsewhere be fully refuted). Where some of this article’s predictions assert a recommitment to perennial, fundamental, foundational marketing tactics, others claim companies that don’t “get with the times” are going to be left behind—that the old ways are just that. Then again, change and evolution were always perennial features of marketing. To add more nuance, none of these predictions foresees a retreat from the recent embrace of e-commerce, rather some predict a re-embracing of traditional commerce, where others envision e-commerce…

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Credit Where It’s Due

Another blog for a class, begrudgedly acknowledging the significance of social media, and discussing my usage/abstinence.

Eagle Social

The above infographic is from 2018. Usage for these programs has surely further skyrocketed since, but the upshot is there: social media’s popularity can scarcely be overstated.

The topic for this blog is the importance of social media, personally and professionally. In short, I’m not a fan of the social media phenomenon, but it’d be dishonest to diminish the significant role it currently plays in our (post-)modern civilization. In this blog I will discuss the significance of social media, but I will also task myself with something of a challenge: to see if I can better contextualize its role so as to evolve (or even mature) my opinion of it, to begrudgingly appreciate it, and perhaps even learn to—well…let’s not get carried away. (In a recent blog for my Digital Marketing class, I was able to detail a personal evolution from disgust at the marketing profession, to acknowledging it…

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Evolving Views on Digital Marketing

Somewhat experimentally “re-blogging” this piece I wrote for a class. The topic: the importance of digital marketing to you, personally and/or professionally. I spent far too much time on it, tried to fit in more thoughts than I should have, and have likely weirded out some strangers. In other words, I’ve experienced that old familiar blogging feeling all over again.

Eagle Digital

I’ve come quite a ways regarding marketing. This tweet from four and a half years ago pretty well sums up my prior feelings:

I would have summarized this revulsion as follows:

  • Companies compiling my (meta)data is creepy
  • The endless methods of scraping evermore information about consumers as means of maximizing profits is greedy
  • Secretly studying people, for the sake of appealing to their tastes with advertising techniques, is despicable (akin to sneakily learning everything about a desired romantic partner to convince her or him you have loads in common, as in the 2004 film “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”).
  • Mindless profit increase—in the name of “fiduciary responsibility”—and the accompanying increase of resource consumption, degrades the soul and the planet.

Frankly, I do still feel those aspects of marketing are “gross,” and if anything these vile efforts have only ramped up since I expressed my disgust years back.

Supposedly…

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Trading Khakis for Dickies

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Another clothing item I never thought I’d own.

Note: This piece is about a decision I made pre-pandemic. I’ve saved any Covid-centric content for a separate entry so this one could stand alone regarding career change. Whether you’re still working or you’re looking to make your next move, I hope this brings you value.

After a decade in an office I needed change. It had been a good run working at the local college, starting in a temporary position, then getting hired part-time, and ultimately full-time. In that span I managed to marry my girlfriend, buy a house, have a baby girl, adopt my step-son, and have a baby boy.

The employment benefits were incomparable. I could almost always take time off to play gigs, and the hours were normal enough that I could comfortably do “Live from Stadium Drive” episodes during the week. (Won’t embarrass us by dishing on how demanding our silly show can be.) I also got incredible paternity leave. And it only took 10 minutes from my driveway to my desk whether I drove or biked. Most of all, the insurance rates were unbeatable.

How could I walk away from all that?

I’d hardly walked “toward” it to begin with—I’d just wanted a paycheck to supplement what I earned from music. Being a full-time musician at the level I was at meant agreeing to every possible gig, which started to suck the art and excitement out of performing. (To this day I’d rather play a quality concert for free than treat a show like an uninspired shift of work.)

Of course I liked the idea of helping students achieve their goals, but the job was ultimately means to pursue music and, later, to support my family. My opinion of higher education would change, but even if it hadn’t, I felt urgency to expand my skill set—even if it meant switching to an “unskilled” field.

After years of handling college enrollment, graduation, customer service, records, and some marketing and event planning, I had learned as much I could and effectively hit my ceiling. Since I’d always worked on and studied arts and communication, I considered becoming better rounded and learning a trade—something more tactile, while I was still young enough to devote the necessary hours.

After high school I worked three summers doing landscaping and lawn care, and in recent years had done all the random projects home ownership required, but I’d never really worked a trade full-time. Could I even hack it? I’m the sole financial provider for my family of five, so any kind of career switch would be risky. Humbling, too—I’ve got a Bachelor’s degree (double major: English and Film) that I’d more or less be admitting was a mistake, not to mention I’d suddenly be working with younger people who knew a lot more than me. I’d need to jump in, catch up, and succeed. But which trade?

I started calling friends who worked in carpentry, electricity, plumbing, and metal work. Trying to narrow things down, every answer raised more questions: In- or outdoors? Union or non-? Commercial or residential? Traveling or stationary?

A family friend suggested painting. I hadn’t considered it, though I’d done it a decent amount, and my late grandfather was a painter, and I had a friend from the music scene who was a full-time (and then some) painter. I reached out to that friend and by chance, the custom builder he works for was looking to hire another full-time painter. I picked his brain for over an hour, and beyond the demanding schedule (6am-4:30pm, Monday-Friday) I really couldn’t find a red flag. After a few days I decided I’d submit my resume, if only for the potential chance to chat with someone from the company and glean some insight. Since I was still employed I had no pressure or fear of rejection; I was just hoping for advice.

When I dropped off my resume I happened to catch both owners at the shop, which apparently rarely happens. They offered to talk right then, and I had time, so we sat in a conference room together, chatting while they looked over my resume. We got along very well; my gut told me this could be a good fit. One owner had left an accounting position to start this business, so he could relate to the type of change I was seeking. After a good 15 minutes they stepped out for a second, giving me time to think of any other questions. When they returned we talked a bit more before they told me they’d like to hire me(!), but wanted me to think about it some more, especially since I’d be taking a modest pay cut. They gave me their business cards, we shook hands, and I left, taking a moment to sit in my car before starting it. What just happened?

This was freaky alright. Directly from there I had to head into the college and work as if that meeting hadn’t just happened.

My head swirled that day. I knew everything about the job I’d be leaving, but couldn’t really know what full-time painting would be like until I was immersed. I’d be swapping known for unknown, and getting paid less to do it, though if it worked out I’d eventually earn more than ever. I had my wife’s support, but still, the risk would be one of the biggest I’d ever taken. This opportunity had come much faster than I’d anticipated, if I’d anticipated any opportunity at all.

…I had to seize it. The next evening I called one of the owners to accept the job and confirm a start date. The next morning I solemnly submitted my two-week notice to the place I’d worked for almost ten years—just eight days since I even considered painting! I could hardly believe what I was doing. My co-workers were shocked, too, but they understood, and even threw together a couple farewell parties for me. Until then I’d felt a peculiar assurance. Leaving on such good terms, though, I couldn’t help doubting the decision I made.

But now, two months into my new job, I know I made the right move.

At least for now. (Check back after I’ve scraped [paint off] a few more millionaires’ floors.) A job is a job, but here’s what makes the grass greener:

  • Physicality  — I’d rather be physically tired or even sore compared to the exhaustion from working with people. I hated the idea of draining all my politeness having to be “on” all day, and coming home tight-lipped or crabby to my family when they’re excited to see me. I also burn many more calories during the day, and suddenly spared my body from 40 hours of sitting a week.
  • Simplicity  — The work is refreshingly straight-forward. Emotion is rarely a factor. And there aren’t any meetings, e-mails, or seminars.
  • Accountability — There’s not much room for interpretation. We’re all just expected to get our work done well and efficiently. There’s no hiding incompetence, no defensiveness, and no shifting blame.
  • The vibe — I’m a pretty sensitive guy—I blog, even!—but in an office I felt like a business-casual Andrew Dice Clay. Working a trade I still mostly keep to myself, but it feels so much better to not walk on eggshells. The communication is also refreshingly direct.
  • The learning — Can’t say I’ve mastered painting, prep work, caulking, and sanding yet, but already these are skills I’ll carry forever, that I didn’t have before. (I cringe at the walls I painted in my house as an amateur.) If I ever wanted or needed, I could do this work independently for cash. I’m also trying to glean what I can about the other trades I work around—carpentry, electrical work, plumbing, masonry, flooring, etc.
  • Changing locations — From sitting in the same cubicle every day, to working at different sites in different towns every couple of weeks if not days.
  • Tangible, aesthetic results — There’s little sense of accomplishment from clicking a spreadsheet or list closed once it’s finished. But seeing a skeletal frame evolve into a unique, finished home will never get old.
  • Much more sunlight/fresh air — I still work almost entirely inside, but I’m usually surrounded by windows, and there are plenty of trips in and out of the houses.
  • No screens — Typing this blog has constituted more time staring at a computer screen than I’ve spent in the last two months combined, whereas dual monitors used to assault my eyes eight hours a day.
  • No fluorescent lights — Everything I’d hoped it’d be.
  • No dress code — Ditto!
  • Team work/collaboration — Modern offices like to pride themselves on their collaborative environment, but even with cubicle walls removed, workers are still essentially atomized. In trades, workers are like members of some savage symphony.
  • Leaner schedule/life — After a long day of work, then dinner and family time, it’s pretty much time for me to hit the hay, so without noticing I’ll go days without spending money or having a drink. It’s also got me valuing my free time more than ever, and I somehow do more because I’ve got less time.
  • Job security — The inherent insecurity in any trade is whether a given company can find work to do, so that goes without saying. But as long as I show up and do what I’m supposed to do, I’m set. The beauty of trades work is it will always be needed, it cannot be outsourced overseas, and it cannot be automated.
  • Improvisation — As opposed to micromanagement.

In the interest of fairness, here are the things I don’t like:

  • Early/long hours — I’ve been a night owl forever, so this isn’t natural for me. I’m also worried what this earlier schedule will mean for my social life and creative endeavors, which usually burn midnight oil.
  • Beating up my hands — Lots of scrapes, nicks, and broken nails. Working with caulk, putty, paints, and stains means scrubbing all that stuff off my hands and fingernails every night. Going to be a battle not to wreck my mitts (though my hands are stronger than before).
  • Port-a-potties — Self-explanatory.

In all ways this is rougher work than I’d been used to. I’ve been preferring it, but it’s going to take extra effort to keep it that way. This means a routine of stretching and light exercise every morning and night, but also keeping my mind and heart in good condition, detoxing daily with poetry or philosophy, and sweet, sweet family time.

I needed a lot of encouragement to make this switch, so I wanted to write this and pass some onto others. If you’re not liking your line of work (or lack thereof) I hope this offers some insight. If you’ve got some coordination, brain cells, discipline, and humility, you just might be happier taking on a trade.

Holler if I can help. Or just watch “Office Space”.

Best,

-Matty

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Seen here with a Sherwin-Williams HANDy Paint Pail®, somehow happy at 7am.

 

From Vegetarian to Hunter

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I never, Ever imagined possessing one of these.

I’m 34 and just went deer hunting for the first time. I’ve almost wrapped my head around that—most people get into hunting either early in life or never do at all, and most hunters didn’t used to be vegetarians.

Much as it’s been outside my comfort zone, I’m enthusiastic about it now.  Peer reactions have spanned excitement (“‘Bout frickin’ time!”) and intrigue, to bafflement and disappointment.

For those wondering why I’ve suddenly become this cruel barbarian, I’ve hoisted my otherwise dragging knuckles to type some insight on why 5% of Americans try and shoot animals in [insert current year]. Not long ago I mocked hunting and scorned hunters, so I’ll keep that mentality in mind as I try to improve your opinion.

For anyone interested in hunting, maybe this’ll help you decide if it’s for you. I’m happy to share what I’ve learned, and what wisdom was passed onto me from the half-dozen dudes who graciously endured all my rookie questions. Which isn’t to say everyone’s been encouraging—turns out there are some less-than-community-minded hunters out there as well, trying to shut others out. Hopefully I can spare you some of those interactions.

And, for anyone who’s been hunting since they could talk, I hope this will articulate some aspects you’ve been able to take for granted.

My Dietary “Cred”

My evolution’s hardly prescriptive—I’m not telling anyone whether to try hunting and I’m certainly not telling anyone what to eat. But I want to run through my past self-imposed dietary restrictions here, to weaken the misnomer that all hunters are sadistic animal haters.

I was a strict vegetarian for three years—no meat, no fish.  My high school Biology teacher had run down the wastefulness and land degradation of the meat industry, as well as the damage of commercial fishing, and I wanted to be one less contributor. I wasn’t militant or judgmental, just doing what I thought was right, and it helped that I’d always loved veggies. Unfortunately it was probably the least healthy time of my life—I was too young, lacking the discipline and money to make it work well—think cheese pizzas, french fries, shakes, cookies, etc. So after three years I reintroduced poultry and fish to my diet, yet continued to abstain from red meat.

One summer day about two years later, Muddy Udders was on our way to play a private party at some woodsy campground when my mate’s van broke down, just 1,000 feet from the place. We played the show and stayed the night as planned, but we were going to be stuck there another night—two of us would stay with the broken van while the other got a ride back to civilization for parts. Since we hadn’t packed for this, our only food option was the local bar. When we got our second round of bland frozen pizza for the day, this time I couldn’t bring myself to pick off the pepperoni. Unceremoniously, after five years I was back to a wide-open diet.

This remained the case until about five years ago, when a family trip to a farm/petting zoo unexpectedly changed me—the fluffy chicken I was holding reminded me of our cat, the small black cow I was petting reminded me of our dog, and it messed with me.  Silly as that sounds, I was suddenly too sentimental to justify eating meat from any animal I wouldn’t personally want to harm, which was nearly all of them. (That very night I declined free pepperoni pizza after a Muddy Udders show.)

I had, however, caught and filleted fish previously, so having already crossed that rubicon I opted for a pescatarian diet. I stuck to this for another year, before slowly opening my diet back up again. In a word, convenience was what got me, and not just for myself and what was available to me (I painfully recall declining a brat while tailgating), but also not to limit what my wife was cooking for our family. The ethical dilemma just kept gnawing at me (sorry), though, so I developed the practice of sparing a thought of gratitude for any animal that’s died for my meal. I also promised myself I’d get into hunting some far off day, to better understand my place in the food chain.

Connection

Recurring zombie nightmares plagued my childhood—blame a too-early viewing of “Night of the Living Dead” and “Resident Evil” videogames. The scariest thing about zombies is their mindless compulsion to consume, and although they’d haunted my dreams for years, before that fateful lesson in Biology class I’d never been mindful about the resources—farming, ecosystems, raising animals—that went into my meals. Even bland food merits appreciation when considering what it required—cultivation of agriculture, technology invented and employed, how it was transported.

Further, I’ve tried to view food as a source of nourishment and not just a brief thrill for my taste buds. All that effort and sacrifice…what good work can I do with the energy I get from what I eat? What positive action will that precious fuel, fuel? (No, I don’t remember to run through this thought process at every meal, but I’m glad when I do, and I recommend it.)

My wife and I are aiming to be more involved in the process. We’ve stepped up gardening at our house and at a friend’s plot in town they no longer use. We’ve got logs inoculated with mushroom spawn that’ll hopefully bear blue oysters next year, and do a bit of foraging. And we just got a chicken coop, free, from a neighbor who’d built a bigger one—we plan to raise four chicks next year, and look forward to all the fresh eggs. None of this is groundbreaking; we’re just trying to maximize our ability to produce our own food. And to be as self-sufficient and organic as possible, I’ve now ventured into hunting.

The Culture

Though my wife fully supports this venture, some friends and co-workers have disapproved my getting into hunting. But why? Why would someone who eats meat, and watches violent movies and shows, be offended by hunting?

Well, I always hated the culture. My impression of hunters came from the lunkheaded, truck-revving types from high school. Guys who managed to scoff at art and trash nature. The target market of “I LOVE ANIMALS—THEY’RE DELICIOUS” t-shirts.

I was proud to have nothing in common with those people, so it’s been humbling to learn not all hunters are like that. The guys who helped me get started are typically in it for the same reasons: they aspire to provide quality food for their families, while revering nature and respecting animals. If anything they’re fascinated by deer and know a ton about them. As one said, “If you’re not at least a little sad when you take a deer’s life, you probably shouldn’t be hunting.”

These decent people are what you’d call True Sportsmen™—taking only what they need, legally and ethically, while appreciating solitude in wilderness. Hunters will sit still and quiet in the woods, immersed, doing little more than watching and listening to nature for anywhere from four to ten hours.

I loved that part of it. 40 hours every week I stare at two large computer screens two feet from my face, then spend my lunch breaks reading, and read more before bed. It felt so good on my eyes to just sort of bathe them in nature for such long stretches.

And the sounds…About half an hour after getting to my ground blind (sort of like a tent for hunting) the woods would start to forget I was there, and between all the strange bird sounds, the fighting squirrels, and howling coyotes, it’d almost get loud around me.

It was incredible to be out there sitting still at sunrise and sunset. I’d close and open my eyes and by faint degrees it’d get lighter or darker. I realize this experience isn’t exclusively reserved for hunters, but I had never sat alone in the woods for so long, nor had I ever woken up that early for anything other than catching a flight.

Why Now?

I’d been building myself up to address my ethical dilemma about eating meat, and apparently this was the year. For so long I had tacitly approved the hiring of an animal killer, while clinging to moral superiority as if I weren’t still responsible for animals’ deaths. I ignored that personal hypocrisy as long as I could.

I’ll also admit that I wanted a gun for home defense. Obviously I don’t think I’ll ever need to use it (I wouldn’t live where I do if I had actual worry), but I love my family so much that I couldn’t justify being defenseless when I didn’t need to be.

Perhaps the biggest driver was the encouragement of my brother-in-law, who was willing if not eager to mentor me, this season, based off the interest I’d expressed. And another one of my good friends was getting back into hunting after a six-year break, and couldn’t have been cooler about helping me get the right gear—most of which was seriously discounted at a local store that happened to be closing. (That timing was also significant to my pursuing this so suddenly.)

Another key factor is my teenage son is interested in hunting, and I wanted to be able to be there for him to foster that interest in a positive (i.e. not lunkheaded) way. I’d only ever shot a handgun before this year, and I wanted to better understand firearms and hunting before he started getting into it. Not that I’m an expert hunter now, or ever will be, but the crash course I embarked on to get ready for deer season, as well as the hours of wisdom I’ve gotten from friends, will be something of a gift I can give to my son, and will help me steer him more to the True Sportsman™ side.

So… Did Ya Get Anything?

Errrr no. Unfortunately not. The big excitement my first weekend was a bird flying into my blind, back-to-back mornings. In fact I didn’t even encounter a deer until my fourth and final day. That morning one spotted me from behind and started snorting and stomping at me, running off before I could even see it. Then that evening at dusk, just outside my range, a couple of does went leaping by, but because of my license I could only shoot a buck. Day three had been particularly cold and uneventful, so I was very happy to finally hear and see some.

Deer hunting’s a lot harder than I imagined. It’s impossible to mask our scent from them, so playing the wind is vital. And their hearing is almost as acute as their sense of smell. One guy I know apparently just shot his first after ten years trying.

I plan on doing more scouting this off-season, maybe even setting up trail cameras. I also plan to do more target practice, as I’d really only had a week to get the hang of it.

Which brings me to the coolest thing that happened from all of this:

The last day possible, I went to an outdoor shooting range to test out my scope/aim, a place I’d never been, and I’m a bit lost, not seeing any staff around. A truck had pulled in shortly after I parked, and two older guys got out. One walked off, while the other sort of stood in the back looking as unsure as I was. After a minute I went up and asked him, “Excuse me, have you been here before?”

He turns and says, “No, sir.”

AND IT’S MIKE FREAKING MCCARTHY! Go figure, he’s there, and he’s about as inexperienced as me, because he’s been coaching football for thirty-some years every fall during deer season. We chatted very briefly about hunting and wished each other luck. Wow! I even somehow played it somewhat cool! (No way could I tell him about Live from Stadium Drive.) I was stupid excited to meet him, though, so shooting accurately with my nerves that fired-up sort of simulated the excitement of having a deer in my sights. Thanks, Coach!

Although I can’t know how long it’ll be until I get my first deer, this thing’s been great so far. I’ve learned a ton about wildlife, I’ve demystified guns, had some new experiences well outside my comfort zone, and have taken steps toward making peace with my diet. In fact I’ve already applied for a turkey hunting license for spring, and who knows? Maybe what I started this year will eventually culminate in enough venison, turkey, duck, and fish to feed my family year-round—an alternative method for us to not contribute to the environmental devastation of the meat industry.

I hope you enjoyed this or even found it helpful. Hit me with any questions at all!

-Matty

P.S. Killing to live is one mighty paradox. The burden of our position on the food chain leaves few free of hypocrisy. I’m trying to square as many of my circles as possible, and I hope you can too, even if it calls for a very different path than mine.

Politics Sucks

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Even the local stuff, apparently, as borne out by the results of yesterday’s mayoral primary.

This is indeed a “sour grapes” post, but maybe not how you’d imagine. If you’re feeling sweet, perhaps after reading you’ll share some advice.

So who’d Green Bay get? Two guys with—for better or worse—experience in local politics, who by all accounts outspent their competition, in some cases vastly. Nothing shocking or blog-worthy there.

What’s disappointing about these candidates, though, is they are essentially proxies for their respective political parties, in a mayoral race which, to my understanding, disregards party affiliation.

In other words, I spent three precious hours of my weekend researching eight primary candidates and all I got were these lazy Team Red™/Team Blue™ choices. Hashtag-democracy.

Out of principle and respect for the supposed political impartiality of mayoral races, I’d concluded that neither of the blatantly party-affiliated candidates would get my vote. I strive to be an independent person and that absolutely extends to my politics, so I was excited by the prospect of a race requiring partisan voters to look for more than an “R” or “D” next to someone’s name. We might all learn something!

Alas, nope. Political dependence prevails. (We await word on water’s wetness.)

If I sound naive, I suppose I am. I had never voted for mayor before, let alone in a mayoral primary. Parenthood must have spurred my sense of civic duty. But I was especially drawn to the political ambiguity of this race, so I’m dismayed by the outcome, and doubt I’ll vote in April’s election.

It was still heartening to become aware of some quality local people I’d otherwise not know. And this was a great way to learn about the city’s under discussed (see: non-road) issues, such as the capital-D Debt, water infrastructure, plans/cost for a new police station, and lots more. There are some real, ongoing messes, and I’d been pitifully unaware.

Frankly, heaven help whichever of these masochists gets the job. If you’re going to vote, I might suggest the guy whose blame placement you think you’ll prefer.

Already dreading the next election,

-Matty