29 March 2008

the concert, plus some other stuff

Does everybody hate their boss? I can't imagine that's an unequivocally true statement, but it's got to, at the absolute least, be one that at least a sizable portion of the population can sympathize with.

I have two bosses; I don't hate either one of them. I do like one significantly more than the other, but that's because one of them has what I would consider a healthier outlook on his job, and on mine, than the other.

Not to belittle academics or anything, but for my money, there's a serious difference in importance between someone who simply amasses a lot of knowledge, and someone who takes that knowledge and applies it, and as a result, contributes something, or creates something, or simply makes something happen. Therefore, I don't see a ridiculous amount of value in checking out and packaging books to send across the country when, for all I know, the person for whom they're intended may not even wind up using them in a dissertation or a thesis or... what have you. I'm not helping someone write a speech that could turn the rest of the country's opinion around on universal health care, I'm not shipping books out to an attorney or a team of attorneys, I'm not even sending a book to a writer who's doing research for a new book, even a bad one. And the same goes for the books that I move around the building for the tuition-paying members of our university.

I don't want to rant for too long about how much I dislike my job, because it's really not that bad. It's low-pressure, less than demanding, pays all right, and I don't have to take any work home with me. Once my work day is done, that's it. I have the rest of my life to do, well, what I want to do. It's just that the longer I spend working this job, the more of my time I feel I'm wasting, the more of my life I feel I'm wasting, and the further and further away I get from actually achieving any of my "life goals."

The point of all this prefacing is that several weeks ago my best friend and I had planned to go down to Arizona for a few days, because a confluence of great events practically demanded it. In the span of five days, we could have seen not one but two Colorado Rockies spring training games, the Phoenix Suns face off against the Golden State Warriors in the battle of the two teams that play basketball the way it's supposed to be played, a Helmet concert in Utah on the way back home, and one of the best bands in the world, Explosions in the Sky.

The problem: he and I work together at the library. One of my bosses is his boss. You can figure out which one.

The other problem: our boss' boss was taking a 5-week vacation. She was going to be gone during that pissant little 5-day period we were intended to be gone, as well.

He (our boss) came to the conclusion that he couldn't afford to have both of us gone at the same time that she wasn't around, either. But, of course, no one at this place can actually make a decision and stand by it without pushing it up the chain of command, so the day before she (our boss' boss) leaves on her (once again) 5-week vacation, he (our boss) takes our reasonable request to her, and basically tells her that he needs her to rubber-stamp his decision to not let us go. Nevermind the fact that she's not going to be here, and that he doesn't know how to do any of the stuff that we do, so it's not like we're expecting him to cover for us during those three days of work that we're going to miss. He, of course, can't just come out and say that he doesn't think he can handle having the three of us gone at the same time (which I wouldn't have agreed with, but would at least have had to accept. Despite my vast array of complaints, he's my boss. I have to ask him for time off. I would've respected him a little for making a decision on his own, particularly an unpopular one), because he can't be the cause of any conflict. Hence the buck-passing, a skill it seems you have to develop if you're going to work where we all work.

So, we couldn't go. All right. Our appeal has been rejected, we move on. We don't necessarily appreciate it, but we move on. The problem is that she felt it was important to explain to me her thought process (our boss says he doesn't want us to go, but he can't just say that, so he has to get her to cover for him. It's an easy process to understand) as she's on her way out the door for her long-ass vacation. And it's not that I don't appreciate her at least pretending to care about what I think, it's that she made a point of explaining to me that one of us could still go on the trip, and then asked me which one of us was going to get to escape.

How many times in the history of ever have you, dear reader, made plans to go do something with someone else (friend/neighbor/relative/significant other/pet/whatever) where that other party wasn't fairly essential in the enjoyment of the plan? When you're supposed to meet a long-lost friend for dinner, and your friend has to cancel, do you still decide to go to dinner alone, staring forlornly at the place setting across the table from you? Would she have gone ahead on her rafting trip plans if everyone else she knew that was going all of a sudden couldn't come along (I don't honestly know the answer to this - it may well be yes)? I'd like to think no. So why in the hell would Matt or I take the time off to go to these games and concerts alone while the other one wastes away at work? Who thinks like that?

I explained this reasoning to her in a much less argumentative fashion, that we'd made these plans together, and we weren't going to leave the other one behind on a mad dash to Arizona. Arizona as a destination wasn't all that important, it was the things happening in Arizona that mattered.

"Oh, now I feel guilty," was her response.

Okay. Good. Feel guilty. You're taking five fucking weeks off while we all have to cover for you being gone, and as a result, I can't take three piddling days off work to go do something awesome. Go on vacation and leave us to all have a much better time at work while you're gone.

Now, the point of all this very long-winded, tangential prefacing is that Explosions played down in Denver this past Wednesday. I was there; you'd best believe I was there. You couldn't drag me away, as Reginald VelJohnson said in Die Hard.

It was a fantastic experience, much like my first Pelican show all that long ago down at the late, lamented Rock Island, or the first day I actually listened to Ten all the way through, not having any idea what I was getting myself into (that was a good day). Overall, I'd give the crowd almost as good a response as the band, as into it and quietly grooving as they were. Much though I enjoy the sort of music that people run into each other for, I've never been all that down with the concept of smashing into my fellow concert-goers as the band plays on. I'd rather just enjoy the music (which is one of the genuinely serious upsides to getting older - the 21+ section seems to support fewer of the mosh-pitters, mostly, I imagine, because no one wants to spill their overpriced drink), which makes me right at home at less than 40% of the concerts I go to.

The band, unsurprisingly, proved why they have virtually no peers in the post-rock scene (or in much of today's music world, in general) - there's no bullshit with Explosions. They took the stage, introduced themselves, and proceeded to play songs from all across their catalogue for the next... I don't think I could even tell you for how long they played. I know it was just about long enough, really. I can only stand in one place, bobbing my head, for so long, and they took just the right amount of time.

I raved about how good I think All of a Sudden, I Miss Everyone is earlier, so I won't go to the ridiculous trouble of restating myself. Suffice to say, they don't lose any of their awesomeness when they leave a recording studio (which anyone could gather from other, better, more established people than myself, but it's always better to see/experience/other infinitives for yourself). And while I badly wanted them to kick off the show with "Birth & Death of the Day," they probably made the right decision to open with "First Breath After Coma." That song's really impossible to use as anything other than a beginning. They placed "Birth & Death" at a really awesome moment in the show, which did more than a good job appeasing me.

I've never been as bull on Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Die, Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Live Forever as I have on the other albums (even How Strange, Innocence, because I think it's really interesting to hear Explosions in kind of a proto-mode), but that's all changed since the show. "Greet Death" translates phenomenally well into a live setting (which, while not shocking at all, is still worth mentioning), and I knew I should've written this all down while it was fresh in my mind, but I swear I remember "Yasmin the Light" washing over me.

No bullshit. Played as long as they needed to play, and didn't soak up the audience's energy by making them applaud way too long for an encore. Lights came up almost right after they left the stage. My friends and I could begin our too-long search for the right restaurant to grab dinner (but that's a story for another night).

To make this all wrap around (because that's what a good writer does - s/he brings the end around to build off the beginning), what tees me off the most about the whole vacation disaster thing is that I could have had this Explosions experience more than once in a month, but no. I know I probably appreciate it more for just having seen it the one time, but it's been almost seven years since they've been here last. I hope it doesn't have to sustain me for another 3/4 of a decade (though it probably could. Just that spectacular).

Thanks, guys. You've taken your skill and your abilities and made the world a better place by applying them to something more than a simple... furthering of them.

You know what I'm trying to say, right?

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