Tuesday, January 19 2021

body wash, working on the weekend, and switchfoot



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Dear Journal,

Good morning, everyone! Happy Tuesday. The holiday weekend was great, but it feels good to get things back on track too. Sitting here alone with my laptop in the early morning right on schedule, everything just feels right.

Sip. This morning in the shower I realized that my bottle of body wash was empty. I’ve passively been an Old Spice man for, give or take, the last ten years. This past bottle that I’ve just worked through was named something like bear claw or hawk finger. I used to enjoy trying each of the flavors, but after a while they all start to smell the same. Underneath all the little variations it’s just the same blue goop that vaguely smells like an experimental candy.

I had to resort to using Marissa’s body wash, and let me tell you I feel amazing. I feel like I just ran through a fresh rain forest. I feel aromatic and moisturized. To quote the great Nick Miller from New Girl, “I smell like a baby in a damn meadow.”

In fact, I’m feeling so good about how I smell, I think I’ll submit a formal request to just consolidate on body wash. We’re already running low on shower shelf space. My bottle of old spice boat captain flavored body wash also happens to take up most of the shelf. Because men are big - especially us old spice men. You know us, always doing cool stuff like chopping wood, eating ham, and smoking pipe tobacco. We don’t take crap from anyone. We just want to do what we always do - slather our bodies in FOXCREST flavored gel and watch the game.

I wish I could stay on the computer all day and joke about male body wash. Looking ahead, I actually have kid of a busy day. I have some meetings sprinkled throughout. I’m picking up groceries in the morning. I have a vault upgrade in production in the afternoon, and plenty of other problems with the staging environment to sort out. In fact, some of the work found its way to me over the weekend. An engineer from our office in Australia meekly tagged me in a slack message, knowing it was a holiday weekend in the US. I broke out in a cold sweat thinking of I could have possibly broken last Friday.

“You don’t have to sign on, do you?” asked Marissa.

“Well, technically not unless they call an incident,” I said. “But I don’t think I’m going to be able to relax unless I see what’s up. Let me throw an hour at it.”

Thankfully, an hour was all it took to get things squared up. Buried in the giant changelog for the vault terraform provider was a little blurb about how they removed trailing slashes from auth backends. This explained pretty elegantly why all of the sudden we had a bunch of permission errors - the paths got reapplied without those extra slashes and the rest was history. I don’t encourage people to work on the weekend, but if you’re gonna do it, this was kind of a fun little problem. I’m glad we got it fixed. It would have been hard to attack the same problem this morning, especially since it’s the middle of the night in Australia.

Today will be busy. I don’t know if it’s just me, but when my schedule starts to fill up, my music playlist reverts to the stuff I used to listen to when I was in high school. Dreary weather and hard work calls for something hopeful - something like Switchfoot.

The music you listened to in high school is supposed to be just a little bit embarrassing after you grow up, and there are plenty of examples in my own catalog. The first track of my morning mixtape in grade school was Eye of the Tiger, which I unironically looked to for motivation . I used to practice the rap verses from Jesus Freak in my bathroom mirror and film myself dancing to KJ52 and Gospel Gangstaz.

But one band that I never feel embarrassment for is Switchfoot. The older I get, the more I appreciate how good their music was. Jon Foreman may have been viewed by most as just a ruggedly handsome California boy and occasional guest star on MTV and Nickelodeon’s Slime Time Live, but he was as much a poet and a philosopher. His thoughtful lyrics still have the same hold over me decades later. These days when I listen to Switchfoot, I feel lucky to have somehow found them in an ocean of terrible music.

The band has great history. There are these great striations in their tenured catalog that show their growth. I found them at the height of their popularity when they made The Beautiful Letdown when it felt like the iconic guitar riff from Meant to Live was on the radio every fifteen minutes. But at the height of their popularity, that record still felt so restless and regretful. It felt like their giant Sony/Columbia record company’s push for main stream appeal was wearing them down. As Meant to Live’s popularity started to wane, they put out the laziest music video rehash to promote Sony’s new Spider-Man movie. It just featured Jon Foreman walking down an empty street singing over cuts of Toby Maguire’s Spider-Man swinging through the city, and needless to say Jon looked like he was phoning it in.

The Beautiful Letdown was a special album because even in spite of big budget polished sound and the pop appeal, the powerful lyrics still cut through. It was hard to ignore the message of the songs that contradicted where the big budget studios wanted to steer them. More than bent on getting by. If we’re adding to the noise, turn off this song. This is your life, are you who you want to be? We were meant to live for so much more, have we lost ourselves?

Thankfully Switchfoot bagged Columbia/Sony and started their own record company. They grew into their role as leaders in thoughtful alt rock while staying true to their Christian roots. They went on to define their sound.

But lately I find myself coming back to their first album, The Legend of Chin. It’s probably their least accessible album, but it’s got this existential dread and doubt that the other albums lack. The lyrics constantly give you conflicting feelings of dread and hope.

Go, go where you are. Anchor your roots underneath. Doubt your doubts, and believe your beliefs.

Thank God for Switchfoot. Have a great day, everyone.