a very mongrel christmas.

Back in October I wrote about a Christmas folk band called Mark and the Mongrels of which I am a member. Today, I would like to reflect on this past song writing/performing season and share with you some of the new jams and old favorites.

Since August, we had a somewhat regular Wednesday night band meeting, where we would pitch ideas, sample songs, edit, rehearse and drink beer (not necessarily in that order). We established some goals early on including: playing a live show, partnering with Second Helpings (an Indianapolis-based charity) and officially ‘dropping’ an album.

Well on December 20, we circled up at the Tin Roof in downtown Indianapolis and played what some would call an ‘intimate’ show – it was mainly friends and co-workers in attendance, but there were a few outsiders who were likely entertained/confused. We raised a little money for Second Helpings at that event, and today I present to you, our album:

Mark and the Mongrels – A Whole ‘nother Christmas

I know what you’re thinking, “Why would I want to listen to Christmas music now?” Here are a few reasons:

  1. For anyone in the Midwest: the weather feels more like Christmas now than it did in December.
  2. For those who are tired of Christmas music: you can’t be tired of these songs! We perform no covers – only originals.
  3. For those who claim Christmas is behind us: yeah, if you are a pessimist.

So go ahead, click the link. You can listen for free if you want, or better yet, own the album for a measly $5 and feel good about donating a few bucks to a worthwhile cause! Purchase comes with a year of merriment from merry men.



the polar vortexpress.

Last weekend Annie and I went to Traverse City, Michigan for a belated Christmas getaway. Snowshoeing, fine dining, cribbage lessons and plenty of wine tasting filled the weekend. It ’twas lovely.

Until we got word of the pending winter storm.

Sunday we decided to hit the road a little earlier than we had planned, with hopes of beating the onslaught. Welp, we failed. By the time we hit Southwestern Michigan, cars were sliding off the road like cray cray and visibility was only getting worse. Per the recommendation of our friends and family, we got a hotel for the night. One tip for people who find themselves in this situation: find a hotel with a bar and restaurant.

Night one we were limited to cable TV and a vending machine. Fortunately, rumor had it Saugatuck had a brewery just down the road and conditions were just not severe enough to prevent us from dabbling. Come morning though, we were way stuck.

The parking lot at the hotel was completely buried and it was looking as though we’d be surviving on microwave popcorn and Snickers bars. Fortunately, the local plowmen managed to carve a path out of the lot and the roads were clear enough for us to relocate a few miles up the road at a hotel that did have the necessary amenities.

As cabin fever set in, we managed to entertain ourselves with drinks, Draw Something and the BCS National Championship. However, that night we both agreed we had to give the road a shot the next day lest we go completely stir crazy.

It took nearly twice as long as it should have, and Indiana had far worse roads than those we drove in Michigan. But with Podcasts and road game apps, we managed to survive it in tact, without one major scare.

I know Oregon has been hit with some snow this year, but if any of you out west are looking for an adventure, please come visit the Midwest in the winter months. This recent road trip helped me appreciate the mild, rainy winters of Oregon all the more.

4.5 years and still adjusting,


six pointers to the wacked-out server lady.

Annie and I went to a new restaurant with a couple friends on Friday. It’s next to and affiliated with a pretty popular place, Taste, and it has that upscale, speakeasy, farm-to-table feel that is trending more and more. It’s called E+D (Eat plus Drink) and this is my review.

The cocktails were great, the food was pretty good, but the waitstaff was phenomenal. And  by ‘phenomenal’ I mainly mean ‘hilarious’ and/or ‘embarrassing.’ I chalked it up to them getting their sea legs, since they just opened, but part of it might also have been because our server seemed to be a teensy bit psycho.

In the interest of being a helpful patron, I’d like to share some tips with that nice woman who served us. I organized these chronologically so as to recreate the experience. I think it will help her to walk through from start to finish.

  1. When guests opt to ‘wait for a table to open up downstairs,’ just let them grab a cocktail and wait. No need to stress out. No need to push the ‘open table’ – which is a low coffee table with high chairs, positioned conveniently below the giant TV playing Toy Story and just off the busy path of traffic to and fro the bar.
  2. Do please use your inside voice. No need to shout so that all tables can hear everything you say.
  3. When the table is ready, don’t just send your guests downstairs while you run off in the opposite direction. Wait until you are available and walk them down so as to avoid almost certain confusion (see tip #4).
  4. When you say, “Head downstairs and take the table with the two chairs and the bench,” it’s best that you make sure that there are in fact two chairs and a bench, or extra seats to grab. Four people with three seats causes some awkwardness for all the other guests who have no choice but to tolerate the party of four hovering in the middle of the room.
  5. If someone asks about switching the giant TVs from Toy Story to the Pacers game, and you say “Yes! I want to see that game too!” Maybe go ahead and do that. Pixar movies, while fun, kind of step on the ambiance of a restaurant for adults.
  6. If you get in trouble because a couple ‘walked out on you,’ certainly don’t have a crazy, cackling rant about it to your current guests.

That’s it! Just six little improvements and you’ll be struggling a lot less. For any other crazy servers out there, feel free to use any of the above information you can. Just to be clear though, I like you just the way you are and I’ll continue to be amused if you decide to stick to your current strategy.

Seriously though, you should go to E+D. If nothing else, stop in for a drink and a game of ‘guess who the crazy one is.’


the nba.

When I was a wee tyke, I was a big NBA fan. Particularly, I was a fan of the Trailblazers during the Drexler, Porter, Ainge, Robinson, Kersey, Strickland, etc. era. Oh yeah and who could forget Kevin Duckworth?

Once that team dissolved, and the infamous ‘Jailblazers’ took over, I transitioned, as many Oregonians did, to watching college sports.

A few years ago I read The Book of Basketball: The NBA According to the Sports Guy, by Bill Simmons, which re-sparked my interest in the league a tad, but I still couldn’t help being annoyed by the NBA as a whole. I would tune into a Playoff game here and there and watch at least some of the Finals, but I found the game to be slow, lazy (except for the last 2-4 minutes) and in general more dramatic than exciting.

My rebirth as an NBA fan definitely began in Chicago. I went to several Bulls games, which would have killed my 7-year-old self, and they gave me some faith in the game. I just like watching players actually work hard as a team and I think the Bulls do that for the most part. (They kind of have to since their star is always injured.)

That little spark of interest in the NBA is coming in very handy now that I’m back in Indianapolis, because the Pacers are really exciting this season. After seeing them take down the Bulls and the Heat, I can’t help but think that they have a good shot at the championship this year. (Now you can blame me if they fall apart.)

And how about this for a full circle? The Blazers are hot this year too! They’re 19-4 while Indiana is 19-3 (one of those losses being to the Blazers). Needless to say, I picked up some tickets for that rematch when Portland comes to town.

I think the reason I am reinvigorated is because neither of these teams are chock full o’ superstars. They are young and talented, but they aren’t a powerhouse of celeb players (cough, Heat). I’m feeling some money ball magic this year, which is just the kick in the pants the NBA needed.

Now if it is a Pacers/Blazers final, who will I root for? That’s a good question. I’ll suspend judgement for now and probably just pick whoever is favored to win.

Just kidding. Go Pacers.






I just moved to a new apartment, which reminds me very much of my first apartment in Elk Grove, CA. The main difference is that this apartment doesn’t have a roommate.

I was thinking about that old place recently, and reflected fondly on a memory that is sure to not translate well to written word. You see, much like my current place, that apartment in Elk Grove had a community pool that my roommate (Dane) and I frequented in the summer.

Another frequenter of the pool was a father and son duo. I never got the dad’s name, but the son’s name was Brandon. Ask me how I know that.

WELL, what typically happened was this: Dane and/or I would be reading by the pool. Brandon (who we think had some social issues) would play in the pool while his dad watched. As he played, he would say to himself (in a slightly Kermit-esque voice), “Oh yeah, you’re right Brandon,” while he splashed around. The thing was, he would steadily make his way to our side of the pool, all the while gradually getting louder, “OH yeeeaaaah! You’re RIIIIIIGHT, Brandon!”

Eventually, he would peak when he was right near us, still in the pool, exclaiming, “OH YEEEAAAH YOU’RE RIIIIIIGHT, BRANDON!” It was at this point that his dad would say, “Hey Brandon, why don’t you settle down and come back to this side of the pool,” and Brandon would float on back while muttering under his breath, “You’re in timeout, Brandon.”

I will admit, though we knew it was terrible to laugh, Dane and I had a hell of a time keeping our composure throughout this routine. In an effort to ‘be cool’ we would block our faces with our books and suppress the pending outburst. However, we did turn it into a fun game for after-pool-hours.

You see, the phrase, “Oh yeah, you’re right!” is very common. So when someone says that, I like to add a ‘Brandon!’ onto the end of it. For example, your friend is looking for a parking spot and you are the passenger:

You: I think that’s a spot.

Friend: Really, where?

You: Right behind the big SUV.

Friend: Oh yeah, you’re right!


Friend: Um, what? That’s not my name.

Side note: this works best for non-Brandon-named friends.

Another scene that works well for this phrase is if you are arguing about a googleable factoid and your opponent is correct. Once you find the answer, a very loud, “OH YEAH YOU’RE RIGHT BRANDON!” will most certainly confuse. And really, that’s what it’s all about – embarrassment and confusion.

So wherever you are, Brandon, this post is in your honor. Thanks for always being right and thanks for giving me the opportunity to spread your awkwardness.



time’s person of the year short list.

This morning, Today shared Time Magazine’s list of nominees for Person of the Year. Here is that list taken directly from today.com:

  • Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who the United States declared was behind a chemical attack on Syrian residents;
  • Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas and member of the Tea Party movement;
  • Hassan Rouhani, the president of Iran who recently agreed to an interim deal that would curb his nation’s nuclear program;
  • Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who fled to Russia after leaking top-secret U.S. documents that revealed widespread government surveillance programs;
  • Pope Francis, who became pontiff after Pope Benedict abdicated in March;
  • Edie Windsor, the marriage equality advocate whose Supreme Court victory struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act;
  • Miley Cyrus, whose twerk-filled performance at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards set off a chain of memorable entertainment moments;
  • Amazon.com founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos, who this year bought The Washington Post and recently announced that Amazon was exploring drone delivery;
  • Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, the individual tasked with overseeing the launch of the Affordable Care Act and under fire for its botched rollout.

To read the full article, click HERE.

I’m just going to put this out there so you don’t waste any breath on the subject: Miley is not an actual consideration. She was added to this list so people would pay attention to it. Normally, no one cares or pays attention because it’s all boring activists or public servants who make the short list. But now people can say, “Oh my gawd, Miley Cyrus might be Time’s Person of the Year. That would be totes cray cray.” Don’t worry though. I’m confident that one of the boring people will win.

If I’m wrong though, and after this year of actual newsworthy events Miley Cyrus wins for humping Robin Thicke’s leg, I think we can officially give up on mainstream media.

I’ll be over here rooting for Pope Francis.


pre-thanksgiving thanksgiving.

My friend Mark started this tradition five years ago. You might know it as, ‘Friendsgiving,’ but we call it PTT. It is always the Saturday before Thanksgiving, so it’s just a little more official as a holiday – no last minute planning here. There are evites, RSVPs and Google Docs; thus making it the least mongrely of the mongrel gatherings.

This was my 4th Pre-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving and boy let me tell ya, it was a good’un. There were less people this year (about 20 guests total) and dishes ranged from Wheatie’s famous corn casserole to an authentic eggplant parmigiana (Mark’s buddy’s wife is from Italy).

A few of us joked about how this party/gathering makes us feel so adult. There’s a cocktail hour with hors d’oeuvres; we all sit down at one table and pass food family style. There’s a toast and after dinner entertainment (it may or may not have been a set of Mark and the Mongrels’ greatest hits). All-in-all, at any given point in the night you look around and realize, “Man, this feels strangely responsible and tame.”

The one element that does make it an authentic mongrel gathering is that no pictures were taken. I kind of appreciate that though. Sometimes at things like this it just turns into a constant photo shoot, which kind of eats into the actual memory making. Of course, the counterpoint is that pictures are helpful because booze is involved and memories may not be as solid without photographic evidence.

Either way, photos or none, this event reminds me how lucky a fella I am to have such kind, intelligent and hilarious friends.