Des Moines and Opportunities

Beef Cake passing around the drum machine during Little Ruckus' set. See all that confetti? I swept that all up because I am far too nice.

Beef Cake passing around the drum machine during Little Ruckus’ set. See all that confetti? I swept that all up because I am far too nice.

“Hey! He lives!” Chris Ford shouted to me just outside the Vaudeville Mews. I was a little sweaty from sweeping up a sticky floor covered in confetti, and the frigid air was vicious, having the smarts to know exactly how to get through my sweatshirt to smack against my bare skin, and malicious enough to do it as much and as often as possible. So, I was as cold as I have maybe ever been. Even though I was freezing, my face suddenly got warm and I stammered something I don’t recall back to Chris. Some sort of clichéd excuse for not being out and about as much as I had expected. I’m always a little awkward around him for some reason, but the combination of that and my embarrassment at being even playfully called out for not being around added to a flush face and a decided lack of eye contact. I was somehow overheated and frigid all at once. That was a pretty horrible experience. But he was right, I hadn’t been out in a while and I was out because a cookie told me to. Well, sort of.

I got a fortune cookie the other day that said “Be patient and keep your cool – the opportunities you seek are arriving soon.” This one caught my eye, and it wasn’t just the awkward dash (I mean come on, China, just use a period). I’m a guy who is constantly awaiting his opportunity, his chance, his one big break. My job takes so much of my focus and robs so much of my joy, that I am always looking for some sort of sign of life that will suddenly transport me out. Any little nugget that maybe that will all turn around. What’s funny, though, is I don’t really do all that much to try and better my situation. I just sort of expect the universe to provide, and when I get little messages wrapped up in my pre-packaged dessert, I feel like I am on the right track. This is stupid. So very, very stupid. Waiting for a chance is a horrifying and stressful existence. You think it’d be easy, but the mental anguish just isn’t worth it.

Putting in a little work actually, you know, pays off on occasion. And I mean even a little work. Not always, mind you, but sometimes, just getting off your ass and putting in the effort can actually bring about the results you want. Take this blog, for instance. There was a time when I put in some actual effort, and it paid off. I got some more writing gigs, some I actually got paid for and everything. Then I lost my focus and shit went south. Yet, I somehow think that I will carry the same weight I did a few months back when I was at this twice a day or four times a week or whatever. And well, that ain’t the case. The universe doesn’t work that way.

Now, while I do love to talk about myself, there is a broader correlation here. There are so, so many people who want Des Moines to be something bigger and better, a Midwest Portland or Nashville or some other “hip” city. But they are almost un-willing to put in the work to make the city just that. And really, all it takes is getting off your ass once in a while. I went out the other night, and I caught two awesome shows. I first went to a fun all-ages show with the Sandwich Eating Crew (Beef Cake, Trouble Lights and Little Ruckus) and had a blast. It wasn’t just the music, although I am a fan (as my archives will show), it was watching this group of men and women give a shit about something and watching the crowd, their friends mostly, but also a group of guys who I thought for sure were just mocking the whole proceedings until they started throwing up the SEC hand sign and throwing confetti with the rest of the folks, just be happy. They were energetic, they were sweaty, they were a little boozed, but mostly they were happy. It was a cool thing to see. It was cool to see people be happy, taking the chance that was given to them and experiencing joy.

Later on that night I went over to Gas Lamp and finally saw Viva Montesa live (also that show featured Christopher the Conquered, Mumford’s and The White Elephant. Yeah, it was awesome). Viva Montesa have so much energy and exude this handsome confidence that I couldn’t help but be drawn into. They’re like this musical version of Ryan Gosling, charming, good looking and surprisingly bad ass. Oh, but mostly they’re great at music. I had their latest album Everybody’s Got Something Good To Say at number two for 2012 (you can check out the rest of the list right here) and they didn’t disappoint live. But again, there was a large crowd who showed up, and an incredible band fed off of that. But here in one night were two fairly different shows, in two different places and all I had to do was show up and be entertained (I chose to sweep the floor, because I am a weirdo), and the bands did the rest.

Now what this has to do with opportunities is simple. There are shows like this all the time. There are ways to make whatever shows you want happen. There are ways to be involved with organizations who make Des Moines better, and there are ways to start that organization if you don’t feel it exists. What makes this town better is people giving a shit. It means getting out to a show, even if you aren’t sure you like the bands. Or maybe it means learning about local bands, finding a couple you like and then going to their shows. But it basically means doing some work and making your own opportunities. You say you want cool bands in Des Moines, then find a cool band and get them to Des Moines, or find some cool bands already here. You say you want more coverage for a certain genre, or band or whatever, then give them that coverage. You say you want things to change, well then change them. Then watch as opportunities come. The universe only provides you a place to make your mark, it will not provide you a pen.

So, let’s start simple. Go to a show tonight, or tomorrow, or sometime soon. Pick a genre of music you like and find a place playing that. It may require a little effort, but dammit, it is worth it. Even a little work can pay off in the end. Take the opportunities that you already have, don’t wait for them to come to you. You don’t always have to listen to desserts, regardless of how tasty. Right, Homer?

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