[code"> [/code"> Courtenay Brown: November 2006

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Embarassing Childhood Music Selections

My first record was Air Supply, the song that was about Love out of Nothing At All or something. Five-year-old Courtenay was brought to tears every time she heard it for some reason. At 8, i got to buy 2 tapes for a plane ride, I chose Billy Idol's Rebel Yell and a Whitney Houston tape where she was bald on the front. I wasn't sure if she was a boy or a girl.

My brother loved Bette Midler's Wind beneath my Wings so much that he had the whole tape. This was when he was 10 years old, an age at which he should have known better...

But we still turned out OK somehow.

I am curious: what were your childhood choices?

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Wednesday, November 29, 2006


I am home again. The plane ride back from Hawaii was amusing - in front of me was "one of THOSE women". The type who is very self centered and thus loud, self-righteous, and annoying in small spaces such as airplanes. I guess she tried to go to the bathroom in First Class, although at the beginning of the flight us coach folks were informed that we had our own bathrooms and don't even try to go to first class, anyway OOTW went up there, got sent back by the flight attendant, and then OOTW stormed back, came up with some story about how the staff shoved her, got her husband to yell at the coach flight attendants, basically got the whole staff involved, and bitched as vehemently as possible for the rest of the flight. I don't see the justice in complaining on Aloha Airlines - we got 3 beverage services, a snack, a cheeseburger meal, AND milk and cookies! Save the bitching for United or some other stingy-on-the-pretzels glorified cattle carrier... Anyway, when we got off the plane in Oakland there were uniformed policemen waiting for OOTW and her husband.

I was observing OOTW while listening to the gentleman sitting next to me talk about his family, his days in the Navy, something about GWB spending Thanksgiving in Hawaii, and the pink iPod he got his Jewish granddaughter for Christmas. He was a very sweet old man. I was surprised that he did not bring any entertainment for the 5 hour flight, then I realized he didn't want to entertain himself, he just wanted to talk to someone. Initially I felt virtuous for lending an ear, but I would be lying if I said I didn't enjoy the somewhat one-sided conversation. It's nice to have unplanned, detailed interactions with people.

Anyway, yes I am Home. A couple weeks ago I posted a photo of Home in a disastrous state. Here is Home in its current state:
For those of you who did not see my place back when it was Devon's and my place: where the sofa is, there used to be 10 bikes and 3 extra wheelsets. Where the black chair is, there used to be a big TV, big speakers, an xbox, and stereo equipment. Where the little table is, there used to be a dresser. The doors in the foreground that are open used to be closed, with a futon on the living room side and a computer desk on the bedroom side (closer side). Now I have space.

Life is good.

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Sunday, November 26, 2006

I can get used to Vacation

I have fallen into a lovely pattern here in Hawaii. Get up, look out the window to verify that it's another beautiful day in paradise, go for a run, put on sunscreen, go to the beach, look at the clouds, listen to some hawaiian reggae, put on more sunscreen, hang out with my brother, all at a leisurely pace (except the training of course...). I met these two really cool girls visiting from New York, we went to the beach together and talked, amongst other things, about how they could ditch the city and make a new life in Hawaii. This was on Friday. At the time I was thinking about how lucky I am to live in the Bay Area. Today is Sunday. Today I was thinking about how I could make a new life in Hawaii. This place grabbed hold of me completely - the colors, the air, the water, the way no one is in a hurry because wherever they are it's gorgeous, almost everything about it has made me want to stay. Even though I got jeered as a hauli today for making a left hand turn into a beach parking lot.

Anyway. Not to worry, I am not up and moving to Hawaii. They don't have bike races here. And my life is in California, where I am very happy because it's an awesome place and I love what I do. But, this trip has made me think... I never take vacations. I get so wrapped up in whatever it is that I am doing that it never occurs to me to go do something else or to allocate money towards something else. So I am already working on a New Year's Resolution: have a better variety of fun. I want to go skiing with my brother and cousins in January. I want to come back to Hawaii. I want to go to Sundance this summer with my dad's family, who I haven't seen since before I started bike racing because the annual trip is always the same weekend as some race. I have never been to Yosemite, or to Tahoe, but I live within a few hours' drive of each. Don't get me wrong, bike racing is definitely fun, but I am now craving a bit of variety.

Back to the here-and-now. Today I went to Waimea Bay on the North Shore which was (shock and surprise!) gorgeous. The waves can be huge and powerful, I saw this movie a while ago called Riding Giants about the big-wave surfers and Waimea Bay was one of their spots. Today the waves weren't too huge but the current was definitely powerful. I stayed close to shore.

Here is the bay late in the afternoon:

Here is my sky photo of the day:

Last night we went to the University of Hawaii vs. Purdue football game. The last football game I attended was the 49ers vs. the Cowboys last year. It was horrible - gross, loud, dirty, and I couldn't see the game because I needed new contacts. Still do. Yesterday's game, however, was a blast. Especially when Hawaii won, 42-35. I only asked lame and poorly-timed questions during 5 of the touchdown plays... and I even managed to get a photo of the winning touchdown!

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Why are the highways in Hawaii called Interstates? Does the Queen Liliuokalani Freeway go through Oregon too or something? (if you look at the photo you can see that at the top of the H-1 sign it says "interstate")

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Saturday, November 25, 2006

Conversation with Mom #2

So yesterday morning, I called my mom to wish her a happy Thanksgiving. I had just woken up. Since it is 5 hours later in Maryland than it is in Hawaii, she had not just woken up. She had been up for approximately 100 hours fixing dinner...

me: hey ma um happy thanksgiving.


me: whoa. thanks.

Sal: SO, is it a BEAUTiful day in PARAdise?!

me: ma i just woke up. i don't know.

Sal: WELL, why don't you look out the WINDow?!

I should have had breakfast before calling her. But anyway, it was indeed a beautiful day in paradise, as was today.

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Friday, November 24, 2006

7 a.m. at Hanauma Bay

This morning we got up at 5:30 (believe it Ma, we did!) and went swimming with all kinds of lovely fishies. Here is my brother getting in the water a little after sunrise.

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Thursday, November 23, 2006

Victim of something?

So I am here in Hawaii. Which means beach time, and like most girls (I think), donning a bikini and walking around in public is kinda scary because bikinis don't have much fabric for covering and concealing one's less desirable body characteristics. Add to the normal insecurities my NOT very attractive cyclist's "tan."
And then, to this collection of self-consciousness, also add the fact that my legs make me look like either a domestic abuse victim or a bad ballboy at a tennis match.

What happened? How did I get 10 bruises on the side of my leg? It was either the cross race, or bike polo, or maybe a bit of both. Nevertheless, Hanauma Bay and North Shore here I come...

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Thanksgiving in Hawaii

My first full day in Hawaii included a hike along the ridge behind Than's house, a swim and a some sun at Kailua (including a sea turtle and a little girl posing for her parents), a large Thanksgiving gathering in Hawaii Kai...

...and a lovely sunset:

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Sunday, November 19, 2006

BASP #4 - Golden Gate Park Cyclocross and The Big W (Finally!)

Today was the race in the Golden Gate Park. I may be slightly biased, but I thought this year's course was even better than the previous two years'. And doing something so hard while in a place as beautiful as the park is much more gratifying than racing in a football parking lot! Like at MacLaren Park, I got a good start, and then came grinding to a halt upon hitting the dirt. I have no idea how, but for some reason I dropped my chain. However, this time I had the benefit of Dustin's excellent adjustment of my third-eye and my front derailleur, so the chain did not go into no-man's land and I was able to fix it before my entire field passed me, AND I didn't have to sit there helplessly calling for Travis. Seriously, if you have a perplexing drivetrain conundrum, take your bike to Freewheel on Hayes St. They will get your bike working smoother than ever, and they will be nice to you!

Back to the race: I spent 2 laps fighting to get back into the top 5, then a few laps sitting at the back of the top 5 as we all rounded the course together, somewhere in there I grabbed a dollar from the beer bottle propped in the back of Mack's jeans... At one point through the deep sandy part (which, pat-on-the-back-for-me, I seemed to ride better than anyone else because everyone else was hitting the brakes and then floundering, and the sandy part was followed by a short sharp hill which is also my specialty, plus my teammate Chris was standing there cheering so I wanted to give him a performance worth cheering), I decided that I was going to win.

How silly, all it takes is "deciding"! But I needed that determination - I wasn't going to hope for the win, I was going to make it happen. So what about the dropped chain? I had made my way back to the front and felt strong rather than spent. So what that Devon wasn't there to feed or photograph me? I had supporters all over the course who gave me bottles, made me smile, and made me want to pedal that much harder. So what that he and I just broke up, that I was feeling exhaustingly fragile, and that I had turned my life upside down over the past two weeks? I did not want to use those things as excuses for being complacent. Those things were supposed to make me stronger. So I just stepped it up and stopped worrying about anything other than riding my bike and going my hardest, rather than my next-to-hardest (which is a specialty I am working on eliminating...). Linda Elgart and I gapped the other girls together, she was winning the masters' race and I was winning the B's, and we worked together very efficiently for the last 2 laps.

Halfway through the last lap, Linda and I encountered a seemingly unending string of C racers. Sigh. It is usually exciting to see that women's racing is growing so much, but in this case the timing was totally wrong, it took like 10 seconds to pass each of them safely and our comfortable lead dwindled. So just before the second-to-last set of barriers, Kristy, another strong B racer, caught us. No sitting around for me, I knew I had to hit the last stretch of dirt first, because I knew that I was faster than she was on the last uphill but not on the last barriers, so if I got to the uphill first, I would win. I succeeded, took off up the last hill, and then as if to seal the deal I heard her crash behind me so I didn't stress over the barriers, then I got to the pavement and still sprinted as if Kristy was right on my wheel. I like sprinting. Linda held on to her lead too and crossed the line soon after I did, so we both won our races. I know this is a total chick-racer comment, but it was really wonderful to have that teamwork and camaraderie with her!

So there you go - I won. I believed in myself, I had a whole community supporting me, including Devon in spirit because he put together some awesome tubeless Ksyriums for me, and I had fun!

I don't really have pictures of the actual race (see comment above about not having a resident photographer anymore.) But there were a few people out there taking photos so I hope to have a subsequent post with images. However, here are photos of me at the podium, thanks Mack!

After the race, a bunch of us went to Kathleen's for some delicious enchiladas and some quality time with Travis' dog Wee-gee. Here is Kathleen with Wee-gee, who is officially my favourite not-quite-a-dog Dog.

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Why? pt. 2

Why do I race? Because I enjoy it. It is a physical enactment of the internal questions and challenges I present to myself, the proverbial "what is the meaning of life..." Or, more directly, how can I make myself happy? Both on and off the bike, I am happy when I feel challenged and then successful. Racing is a challenge, it's one of the hardest things I have done. I bring all this up because a couple of weeks ago, I wasn't exactly sure why I race my bike. I posted a blog about it, discussed it with a few friends, and did a lot of thinking.

I realized that, during this past road season, I somehow allowed myself to get comfortable and I stopped having expectations of myself. Soon I stopped wanting to win, because I didn't think I could. (Albany doesn't count because hardly anyone was there.) I think that part of the reason behind this is I didn't question why I raced, I just kept going through the motions with the minimal amount of emotional commitment. I had parallel experiences in other areas of my life - I generally stopped questioning myself, and suddenly woke up in a place that I did not want to be. I do not want to be complacent, ever, yet by September I found myself mired in complacency. What to do?

The answer: race cyclocross.

That seems like such a simple answer. Wouldn't it be wonderful if all the world's problems could be solved by cyclocross? Although I don't like the mental image of certain world leaders in spandex. Ew. Anyway, I wanted to get my drive back, to put my game face on and keep it there, just like I wanted to feel like a real person again, not just a robot going through the motions. That's a big reason why I opted to race in the B's this year, so I could be racing to win, because in the A's I would not realistically be in contention for the win. That's for next year! Anyway, for me, cyclocross has become a metaphor for life. Cyclocross requires skill, strength, speed, and tenacity. It's hard. But beyond the physical requirements, it requires self confidence and a solid support network. I don't think it's possible to win without help and encouragement from mechanics, spectators, and other racers, just like life is almost impossible and unbearable when you're all alone. Racing cyclocross has reminded me that I love and need the challenge of racing, that I love and need the community, and I can carry these things into other areas of my life. Bottom line: I can win because I am strong and I am fast, and because I feed off of (sometimes quite literally - thanks for the bottles Melissa and Travis!) the energy and spirit of other people. It's a very human experience.

O.K., enough of the preaching-to-the-choir, since most of my readers are racers and you have probably discovered these things for yourselves already. Thanks for bearing with me and helping me get to this point.

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Saturday, November 18, 2006

New Soundtrack - let me know if you want me to burn it for you

My boss likes to tease me for over-explaining - he says, "it's never a simple yes or no answer with you Courtenay!" Here is an overexplanation of my subject line:

Up until day before yesterday, I had my iTunes on my work computer, because Devon was using my laptop when he was on the road racing for Monex this past season. The problem with this was that I couldn't really look for and listen to new music, because we don't listen to music at work, we work. Annoyingly, our subtenants DO listen to their music at work, and it's stuff like Maroon 5, Billy Joel, the Goo Goo Dolls, and the Grey's Anatomy soundtrack. And they tend to sing along. I can hear it loud and clear from my desk. Ugh-and-eyerolls. Anyway, my music library has been somewhat stagnant for a while. But on Thursday I switched my iTunes back to my personal laptop, of which I recently regained full possession, so I am free to browse and download as much as I want! Yesterday, rather than hanging curtains, doing laundry, and going to Trader Joe's to restock my empty Clif Bar drawer, I browsed for music.

Here's a link to my latest iMix, there are a few songs I've had for a while but most are new. Unfortunately it wouldn't upload my Diplo songs, or the Severed Heads. Oh well.

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I'm going to HAWAII!!

Next week I am taking a real live vacation, one without a family wedding, and one without bikes, safety-pins and slippery tyvek numbers, chamois butter and chain lube and alarm clocks and all the other racing accessories that go into way too much luggage... Instead there will be sun, bikinis, snorkels, frisbees, cute boys, a ride on the new motorcycle, and my awesome brother as host! Tune in for photos and reports. I can't wait!

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

A Puppy and a Sofa!

Sally and Martina, this one's for you. On Sunday I saw this very cute puppy outside Ben & Nicks in Rockridge. The puppy and my dinner companions were great, however the service was horrible so I don't recommend going there on a Sunday night when the little girl with the short black ponytail is the only waitress.
Anyway, the puppy:
Then Kate and Molly came out to visit the puppy with me. It was very sweet:

As for the second item in my subject line... I am getting my new sofa tonight! I can't wait. The place has been a disaster area. Here is a "before" photo, I hope to be able to post some cool "after" photos here pretty soon...

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Conversation with Mom

My mom, Sal, is great. I call her a lot for both advice and entertainment - she has a lot of opinions, as do I. Anyway I recently decided to go home for Christmas (home is Maryland), last year before the trip home for the holidays my mom called me like 10 times to get my itinerary, which had not changed at all between the first and the last of those calls but she asked for it anyway... This year I have a feeling that the 10 conversations will be about Christmas Presents. Here is a transcript of Conversation with Sal about Christmas Presents, Take 1:

Sal: What do you want for Christmas?

Me: Books! I want some good books to read!

Sal: Why don't you just go to the library!

Me: Why did you ask me what I want for Christmas then?

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Saturday, November 11, 2006

A Home

I have a cyclist friend who is looking for a new place to live - he is very nice, a very good racer, and a good roommate. If you or anyone you know has a room available, preferably in the East Bay or Santa Rosa, please let me know! My email is cour10ay@gmail.com.

Thank you~


Last Friday: Roller Skating; This Friday: Bowling!

I find it amusing that the past two Friday nights were spent doing Typical American Leisure Activities Requiring Rented Footwear... We were joking that next Friday we may all have to try golf.
Anyway, last night Taitt, Dan, Roman, Martina, Devon, and I all went to Albany Bowl to celebrate Taitt's one-year anniversary of quitting her serfdom at the law firm. I have never been a fan of bowling but it was actually a lot of fun, we were in the glow-in-the-dark lanes with live music clips from the 70's on a drop down screen.

I stretched and fixed my hair and everything but I was still dead last in both games. Martina is a good bowler, watch out for her! She grew up wanting to be a professional bowler and it shows. Taitt's pretty good too, and had many celebration-worthy turns (I had exactly 1...), and Dan was content to sit back and watch Roman and Devon.
Devon was the only one to show up with his own ball and shoes, which he got when he was in a bowling league (!) a few years back. And he won both games, which is always a good thing when you are the lone guy to show up with the gear! Here is his league-worthy form:

But it was Roman who won the entertainment, speed, and general enthusiasm awards!
(no he is not trying to do a somersault, he is actually bowling, and he was only a couple points behind Devon so something about this method works!)

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Thursday, November 09, 2006

Comic Relief

From the October 16 New Yorker:

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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Rumor Mill

The Dow just moved up 20 points based on the rumor that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is resigning!!


OK the rumor is confirmed. He resigned. GWB is giving a press conference now. He said the word "fuck." CBS bleeped it out! Anyway, back to work, in sight of the TV so I can keep up with what's going on.


Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Election Day

I feel like I am in school and cramming for an exam. I have had the election booklet for weeks, the one with all the ballot items and explanations of the pro's and con's. Didn't look at it till today. There seem to be a lot of traffic and gas issues, and of course the adolescent abortion issue, and all kinds of "we have too much debt already!" "but we need to borrow money to, like, fix schools and build roads wide enough for everyone's hummers!"... GAH! But I have to vote. Expecially since I promised another bike shuttle rider that I would hand in her absentee ballot this afternoon.

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Sunday, November 05, 2006

Bay Area Super Prestige Cyclocross #3

The first minute of today's race was awesome! I got a great start, hit the dirt first, hit the barriers first... quite literally, unfortunately.

I take back what I said in a previous post about my bike being an inanimate object. That thing has a mind and attitude of its own. Somehow this collision (caused by my complete unawareness of how fast I was going, so I take full responsibility) resulted in my chain falling off underneath the chainguard and lodging itself in the nether regions of the bottom bracket area. I got to the top of the big run-up before I realized it, went backwards after remounting my bike, caused at least one girl to crash (sorry!), and then started wrestling with my bike. It almost won. I watched the entire field of B's, 35+'s, and C's pass me before Travis came and rescued me!

The rest of the race was fun though, I passed people and I got $6 from the beer bottles at the top of the run-up, which was enough to cover my post-race burrito so I was happy.

Here I am running up the run-up like a real 'cross racer.
Here I am negotiating these twisty parts that were ridiculously hard for some reason. I was running them until Mack goaded me into riding them like a real 'cross racer - gotta be consistent I guess:

And here I am again! You can see that there is another racer in the background...
And here is Jen! Like me, she didn't have the most successful day with her bike (she crashed), but like me she also had fun. See, she is smiling!
I plan on attending couples counselling with my bicycle this week, so that we can work through our communication issues and have a successful race next weekend.

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Documentation of the Skating Party

As many members of the NorCal cycling community know, Martina turned 25 this weekend. A bunch of us went roller skating in San Ramon on Friday to celebrate. Devon and I took photos, most of which were pretty bad actually, but a few turned out. I have to admit that I was only kinda looking forward to it, because initially when I heard it was a skating party I thought that meant ice skating, which I LOVE, so I never really got over my disappointment that we weren't going to get to wear mittens, scarves, hats, etc. But actually, I had a great time! I made up my own prizes: Martina had the best outfit and skates. Dave McCook (big surprise) took the prize for speediest and scariest on 8 wheels. Kate took the prize for speediest girl, Jen Day was the most graceful, Christian was the best at "accidentally" knocking over little kids, JD was the sweatiest, Pat did this trick that was almost as cool as the kid doing handstands and flips, and Roman and Devon tied for most awkward! Oh, and according to -anonymous source-, Max Jenkins was the cutest.

Here is Roman:
Here (L-R) are JD, Pat, Sue, Molly, Christian, and Kate.

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Saturday, November 04, 2006


At my last cyclocross race, as I was going up the most painful of the run-ups for what seemed like the 89th time, I heard a spectator say to his friend "with cyclocross, the first question you have to ask is: why?" At that moment, I had no sane or believable answer to give. But it made me think.

Let me back up. Until I moved to California four years ago, I rode horses. I did other things too - work, school, art, that sort of thing, but what I "did" was ride horses. I did compete, but my main motivation was that I love horses and I felt so fulfilled and gratified by my relationship with each horse. That was the why. And, of course, I liked to show off that I could ride well and the horse loved me.

During college, I took up running in addition to riding. The why was psychological. When I was 12, my stepfather died of a heart attack while he and I were running a 10K together. He collapsed the second he crossed the finish line. The experience was awful. I began running 8 years later for therapeutic reasons - I chose the Charlottesville 10-Miler race as a training goal, and thought of Rick every step of every mile from when I first began training to when I finished the race (winning my age group, incidentally - "showing off" appears again).

The running was therapeutic for sure, and simultaneously sadistic. There is a point that athletes push themselves towards, a point that is beyond the goal of a mere exerciser. It was at this point that I realized I was an athlete. So I think the "why" in running was also a challenge, and a sort of fuck-you directed towards myself. Somewhat appropriately, the fuck-you resulted in multiple stress fractures.

Cycling took over for running (couldn't run anymore) and riding (how many horses have you seen in San Francisco?) soon after I moved west. I started cycling for exercise. I started racing because I always seemed to race other recreational riders up hills so why not try a real race? So I did, saw some success, seemed to smile and want to do more. I kept going, wanting to progress and wanting to be able to tell people someday that I was a pro athlete and wanting to see them be impressed and wanting to have some goal in life that did not involve pay raises, cars, Marc Jacobs, and other material goals that classmates and co-workers had.

Sorry for rambling. It's just that I have made so many sacrifices in order to be a cyclist, yet I don't think I ever really stopped to consider why. I don't get the same gratification I did from my relationships with horses, there is still a void in my life in that respect. But cycling does make me happy in several ways. I enjoy it - I love being outside, and I get immediate pleasure from things requiring skill on my bike, like speeding downhill or navigating through traffic or riding off-road. Plus I have made some great friends through cycling. And I definitely enjoy an audience, which I think is one of the reasons why I prefer criteriums to road races. Why suffer so hard if there's no one there to see and admire you? So there is the showing off again. But I think that perhaps the biggest reason is so I can escape the rat race in favor of a real race. A real race feels more pure and more honest - no guise of doing it for charity, or for doing something for any reason other than wanting recognition and wanting to be the best. In my own eyes as well as the eyes of others.

I would like to think that there are cyclists who love cycling as much as I love riding horses, but how can that be? A bike is an inanimate object, it doesn't give you anything that you don't already have within yourself, right?

I would love to hear other people's reasons why. Call it mid-life, or more appropriately call it saturn return since I am 28, but anyway I would like to understand the "why?".

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Thursday, November 02, 2006

Soundtrack to my life

I had lunch with a friend yesterday, a friend for whom I have made mix cd's in the past. He asked for some new bands to listen to, and suggested I make an iMix. So I did. Here it is, compiled with my specific friend in mind so I left out some things, for example System of a Down's "Deer Dance" has really been resonating with me lately but it's not immediately accessible to everyone because it's too damn loud. Same with At the Drive In. I still think that Mars Volta and Sparta are weak replacements for ATDI, sometimes I really wish we could go back to the year 2000...


Maybe I will venture into the land of iMix's again soon, who knows - listening to Live 105 REAlly angers the DJ in me so perhaps I will channel that energy in more productive ways than just telling my radio how retarded it is for spewing out the same Offspring, Beastie Boys, and Panic! at the Disco (current least fave) songs all the time!

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