Take Out the Trash

Take Out the Trash

“Nothing’s changed.”

Those who are connected with me on Facebook see that phrase every day.

Each morning, I go to the On This Day app within Facebook (many others use the Timehop app) and look at my posts from previous years. I use it to assess my progress and foster a sense of gratitude first thing in the day.

When my old posts are still relevant, I comment with “Nothing’s changed.” Those types of posts are usually centered on my core values, my humor, the way I feel about my family, my ambitions and goals, my love for music — these have never changed.

But when my posts are irrelevant, I take out the trash.

I created my Facebook account in early 2009, and I’m the same person, but not the same personality I was eight — or even five — years ago. Plus, I’ve learned a lot about social media and privacy since first joining (God knows what’s still on my MySpace account).

For most of 2009-2012, I was drunk. Not just on alcohol, which I was, but also on my nascent audio engineering career and the success of my band at the time (Bat On Fire), along with the subsequent praise I was getting from my growing network of peers and colleagues at shows, on the radio, and especially on social media.

I got caught up in the idea of being a local celebrity: getting into all the good concerts for free, getting drinks bought for me, getting invited out to everything, being with women.

Because of my personal headtrash, my Facebook posts from 2009 to mid-2011 mostly revolved around my band; clients I was recording, mixing, or producing; partying; being an audio engineering blowhard; and “bad decisions” (getting laid).

The problem was I felt like I had power. It’s quite embarrassing to read some of the things I posted back then.

I was lost. That is not who I really am, or ever really was.

So, I get rid of it all. I delete the posts, or I remove myself from being tagged in them.

I don’t do this because I’m afraid a future employer will find it, or my girlfriend or family will think less of me if they see it (hell, they’ve known me this whole time).

I’m doing this because I don’t want to remember any of it. Certain episodes, events, and chapters in my past, in a way, disgust me. I want to forgive myself for being a douchebag, forget it, and move on.

It’s not that the past is burdening me, or that I have closure issues — I’m putting as much goodness out into the world as possible, which I hope outweighs my past transgressions; I’m at peace, and karma works in wondrous ways.

The issue is my photographic memory.

When I see these old posts, my mind catapults me back in time to the circumstances surrounding the post, how I felt at the time, what my diet was like, what my belief system was caught up in, how ego-driven I was. The trash posts drum up old feelings of guilt and shame.

But again, these posts are accompanied by many other posts which are positive in nature and timeless in their value. They remain relevant to me and my life, and remind me that even though I made some bad decisions or behaved like a jerk from time to time, I’m still walking a righteous path.

I want to focus on the good, not the bad. In order to improve that focus, I take out the trash. Not just on social media, but in real life, too. Anything that takes away my focus from the present and moves me further away from my goals, I eliminate it.

My mom taught my brother and I from a very young age to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative. Maybe it’s a testament to her that I do that exact thing every morning, first thing…

Nothing’s changed.


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Let he who would move the world first move himself. — Socrates

Copyright © 2017 John Kay, all rights reserved.

Perception in B Flat Major

Perception in B Flat Major

We had a plumber at the house yesterday.

Nothing major, we hoped; our pipes whine whenever we flush the toilet, and a quick Google search revealed that whining pipes could be a result of a water pressure issue.  Since moving into the house two months ago, we cringe every time we hear the shrill scream.

We wonder if this time, when we flush, our home will show its age, and something will burst.  We — more accurately, I — have been following the “if it’s yellow, let it mellow” rule, so as not to exacerbate the problem.

And it could be an expensive fix at a time when we are just settling in after buying the house and everything we got to update it.

But what does money matter when “FIX ME!” cries the copper?  “SOMETHING ISN’T RIGHT!!” the pipes seem to shriek, making their presence known, ramping up the intensity as the day dies.

I just flushed the toilet again, as I’m getting ready to head to an Easter brunch with my family.  Sure enough, ten seconds later, here comes the whining.  And I’m fine with it.

Why are we getting together on Easter, anyway??

My brother, as far as I can tell, is an atheist who values science and fact above all.  I could be wrong, but I believe my sister-in-law feels the same.

Dad isn’t particularly religious, though he was raised Catholic.

My queen is working a double, so she can’t go, but she sure as hell isn’t religious.

Mom is an ordained minister who performs amazing wedding ceremonies (there isn’t a dry eye in the congregation when she finishes her unique love stories which she writes for each couple she marries).  But she doesn’t go to church or take the eucharist or anything like that.  She simply performs her own private bible studies and walks as righteous a path as possible.

And mom didn’t even set this brunch up, it was my aunt and uncle, in town from Atlanta.

A little background on my family, and how close we are: my father (John) and his brother (Ken) married my mother (Vikki) and her sister (Janet).  Two brothers married two sisters.  Because of these unions, Ken and Janet’s kids — Katherine (Kat) and Kevin — are more like siblings than cousins.  We share many similarities, beyond simply physical features.

Ken and Janet set up the brunch, and I know that when Kat and Kevin were kids, their family would attend church.  Methodist, I believe.

And on Easter Sunday when I was a kid, our grandma, John and Ken’s mom, would pop for a couple of rooms at the Holiday Inn where they hosted a large brunch.

I would always look forward to Easter brunch with grandma; as a fat kid, I loved the chocolate mousse.  We’d get to swim in the pool, play putt-putt, arcade games.  It was awesome.

But we’re not kids anymore.  And grandma died fourteen years ago.

Holidays aren’t the same.  At least not for me.  They used to mean something.  Now it seems as though holidays have become a day when family has to get together.  Regardless of what’s going on in people’s lives, or deadlines, or promises, everything must be put on hold because “it’s a holiday”.

The “holidays” I look forward to now are the ones I create.  The ones I earn by way of hard work.

I’m going on a holiday this Wednesday, in fact.  Gaz Coombes is performing in Chicago on his first U.S. tour since Supergrass disbanded.  Supergrass is my favorite band of all time, and Gaz is my favorite contemporary artist.  His latest album, Matador, was nominated for the Freddie Mercury award for Best New Album.  The Mercury awards are like our Grammys.

So, on Wednesday, I’ll be taking the day off, driving to Chicago, and letting loose while witnessing one of my heroes sing his heart out.  That’s a holiday to me.

Not today.  Today, I have to dress my best (which isn’t saying much, since I still have to order my new suit), and put on hold my studio migration and setup, put on hold the song I’ve been working on, put on hold the priorities I value higher, and attend brunch with the family.

I love my family, don’t get me wrong.  I just feel that “because it’s Easter” or “because it’s a holiday” aren’t good reasons for abandoning what’s important for me to do right now.

But I will.

Because I’m a nice guy, I’ll endure the small talk, the banter.  I’ll bite my tongue when I’m judged for my lifestyle.  I’ll leave my verbal épée in its scabbard.  I’ll do my best to relate to the stories of office work, or the you-had-to-be-there tales which always seem to bubble up when conversation gets dull.

When I was a kid, I dreamed that when I became an adult, I’d finally be accepted and welcomed into the guild of the wise, praised for my intelligence and insight, that I would engage in lofty conversations about important issues and more adult topics.

Not so.  Swearing is frowned upon and actively discouraged.  Table manners are critical, certain topics taboo.  Going against the norm is met with judgment and naysaying.  Being different is just too…different.

When I’m with my family, I feel like I’m still a kid, like I accidentally broke the head off of my uncle’s 3-wood or something (which happened, but that’s another story).  I feel as though I’m under surveillance.

And I think the reason I feel that way is because they still see me as a kid, and treat me as such.

Perception is everything.  They say if you change the way you look at things, then the things you look at will change.  Today, I will employ that mindset.

Today, I will look at my aunt and uncle as two crazy kids who married their sibling’s sibling.  Two people who have experienced their own shares of hardship and fruitfulness, who are still to this day trying to get through this thing called life.  Two baby boomers who are trying to make sense of the world in which they live.

The world of the millennial is taking shape.  The world of the baby boomer is dying.  And it scares the living shit out of them.

By changing my perception, I can create whatever experience I want out of this brunch.  So, too, can we all, in life.

Like the whining pipes…

The plumber, who happens to be the boyfriend of my queen’s cousin, said that there really isn’t an issue.  The pipes are just running through holes cut in the wood joists, and sometimes they vibrate, causing the whining.

Now, with his expert opinion, I can relax.  What was once a terrible annoyance and a harbinger of disaster is now a song my house sings.

Last night, after my queen got home from work and used the restroom, I muted the television and asked her to be silent while we listened to the pipes play.  We sat motionless, eyes closed, and listened intently to the symphony being offered.

It was in B flat major.

Change your perception, change your life.

John Kay

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Karma: Gifts From the Universe

I love putting on a brand new pair of socks.

I can’t be alone in this, right??  Don’t you agree that there’s just something great about putting on a brand new pair of socks?  The feel of the fresh cotton; the pure white material that will soon enough be stained; the texture of the little fibers that will be gone after their first rodeo in the washing machine.  New socks are one of life’s joys, plain and simple, and I am always excited when I purchase them.

I was out running errands today, doing the quarterly routine of replenishing toiletries and whatnot, and I fancied a trip to the mall to browse the clearance racks at the brand-name stores. (NOTE: Guys, shop like a girl — shop the clearance racks, and occasionally splurge on something nicer or expensive for an important event.  Both your closet and your next date will thank you.)  I found the socks I wear for $12 per pack with 3 pairs in each pack.  I grabbed 2 packs of socks and a $5 shirt for my buddy on a whim since it was his style and he’s a very good friend to me.  I handed the items to the cashier, and as she scans the first pack of socks…

Cashier: “Wow! Three bucks!”

Me: “…Really??”

Cashier: “Yep!  Three bucks!  That’s a pretty good deal, huh??”

My first thought was, “This can’t be right.  This must be a mistake on their end; I shouldn’t take advantage of their mistake.”  Then, I recalled an incident from my teenage years that put my mind and heart at ease…

Me: “Yes it IS! Ring me up for two more packs, please!”

Walk with me down memory lane for a moment.  When DVD players were first available in the late 1990s, you’d spend upwards of $300 to take home a quality unit.  My dad is a technology guru, and is always researching to discover the best possible bang for the buck; think of him as a walking Consumers Report on new gadgets.  Of course, he bought a great DVD player for a good price, and I wanted to follow suit for my purchase.  I went to Target and they had the floor model available.  I used to work in retail computer sales, and always sold our floor models with confidence, so I don’t mind not having a box…as long as I get the requisite discount!  The DVD player was already marked down to $250, so I was pretty happy.  I took the unit to the cashier (easy there, perverts!) and she scanned the bar code…

Cashier: “Wow! Ninety-nine ninety-nine! That’s a pretty good deal, huh??”

I froze.  I didn’t know what to do.  Obviously this was a mistake.  An inner voice spoke to me: “Target is a big, successful company,” the voice whispered as fast as it could, “They don’t make mistakes like this.  You could cost this woman her job, and you can tell by interacting with her that this is probably a second or even third job.  Get her to look into the situation and pay the marked price.  You can’t live with this on your conscience.”  But then, as quickly as the first voice came and went, a second voice appeared…

“John, you’re making way too big of a deal of this.  She probably won’t lose her job, and Target is a big enough company that they can absorb the loss.  Plus, you’re a good person, and you weren’t trying to deceive or switch tags or something.  This is an error in your favor; take it!”  So, after the few seconds it took to process those thoughts, I looked up at the cashier…

Me: “Yes it IS!”

I paid the $100 and walked out feeling absolutely…


I have a very guilty conscience.  I am ever concerned about making sure others are — and remain — happy, and if I have contributed even in a minor way to the unhappiness of another, I beat myself up over it.  I replay situations over and over in my mind, and analyze the events that took place; what was said, what wasn’t said, body language, eye contact, physical contact, etc.  Like a detective, I search for every opportunity to discover where I messed up or said something upsetting or offensive; I want to be a better person, always (and you should, too!).

So, even though I convinced myself to take advantage of the situation, I still left feeling remorse for potentially costing someone their job, or at the very least getting them in hot water with their superiors.  Every time I used that DVD player, I would feel a tinge of regret.  Of course, it passed over time, but still, I felt a little empathy every time I’d press “play”, and I’d momentarily wonder if that cashier is happy and good in life.

I continue to shop at Target for my toiletries (read: pretzel M&Ms), and I still shop at the same location at which I bought the DVD player.  Sometime within the last year, I was doing my routine toiletry shop and was astonished to look up at my cashier and see the lady that rang me up for the DVD player.  Not only did she not lose her job, she had remained with the company for over a decade!!  I laughed to myself at how silly I was for feeling the way I had.  I recognized the moment as a lesson in life:  don’t feel guilty when you know in your heart that you’ve done nothing wrong.

That lesson resurfaced in my mind instantly when I was buying my new socks today; I used an interaction from when I was a naïve teenager to live a better life today in my thirties.  I considered the savings at the register to be a reward from the universe for working so hard on my album, being a good friend to my friends, helping my parents when they need help, helping my clients make their music better for them, and just trying to make the world a better place.  Call it karma…right??

Give of your gifts, and you will get some gifts from the universe in return.  Just keep giving, even when you feel like you’ve already given everything you can, give a little bit more.

I hope you enjoy your gifts.  Thanks for reading.


Pray eyes shut