I Gotta' Say, Today Was A Good Day

I Gotta' Say, Today Was A Good Day

     Hello once again, avid readers. It seems we find ourselves here again, at the threshold of another exciting adventure in my DC escapades. Over the course of the last couple weeks, you’ve experienced some of my sights and sounds that I’ve experienced inside and outside of my internship. But, one thing that I’ve failed to really dive into is how I, as a constantly busy working-machine, take time for amusement and relaxation when not on the job. While I may have mentioned on past occasions some of my trips out into the DC night life; this merely represents a small fraction of how my time is spent in relaxation out here. Overall, I’ve had a breadth of experiences that have both enhanced my appreciation of DC, and contributed to keeping me mentally sane while trying to juggle everything the TWC experience has to offer like an uncoordinated circus clown. While there may be some similar veins in the types of the activities that I partake in outside of my professional and academic lives out here, each activity really appeals to a different need of mine: releasing the floodgates of rest, relief, and sometimes even more stress (but in a good way, of course). With this in mind, let us take a delve into the restful release of sweet down-time and all the fruits that such times can bring to the work-weary life of an intern stuck in the middle of it all.

LEEERRRROOOYYYYY JENNNKKIIINNNSS!!!!!NBA
(Chi-town Represent) 
     Video games, while quite possibly one of the most selfish, body-deprecating, and ultimately nerdy experiences that one can engage in these days, really do aide in my overall relaxation (mostly after a long, or particularly stressful day of work). Falling down the proverbial rabbit hole, I’ve found an honest chunk of my time (actually far less than I’ve been accustomed to in the past) towards warping into the digital world, a la Tron, and taking on the varied personas of the pixelated public. Coming to The Washington Center, I knew that bringing an Xbox in tow would be a valuable decision, but little did I understand how fundamentally necessary it would be towards taking the stress of the work-week and applying it towards semi-constructive (and significantly far-less destructive) mediums. It’s amazing what a couple impassioned bouts of hockey in NHL 2K11, or a couple quarters of NBA 2K11 can do to bring out some of those strung-up, penned-in fits of competition that have about as much of a chance of escaping in the work place as light in a black hole. Simply put, playing either of my roommates, or a variety of other friends among the halls of the RAF, in a quick couple games does a lot to release some of my pent-up, competitive energy. This isn’t to say that I always win. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. I loose most of the time, and for once, I’ve never been happier to loose. It gives me something to work towards; a continuing outlet for my continued frustrations with the necessary adjustments I’ve had to make in order to succeed in an environment that, up until a couple weeks ago, was totally alien to me.

Duty Calls All Too Often
COD
 (Murkin' every day!)

     However, you cannot associate stress-relief and Xbox in the same argument without a brief nod towards the king of all things stress-reduction: Call of Duty. Come to think of it, after the first couple weeks, and building expectations for what’s to come in the following, I bet I would be able to argue that a couple quick rounds of everyone’s favorite (or most-hated) first-person shooter are damn-near therapeutic. I mean, come on, let’s analyze this with a quick example. Patient A (let’s call him Bobby) goes to work every week, keeps up with an ever-increasing work load, somehow manages to keep up with his studies (which he happens to be doing in tandem with his 9-5) and all the while finds himself doing everything he can to see all the required sites necessary for a visitor of DC to embrace to get “the full package.” Now, let’s say that Bobby decides not to partake in any stress-relieving activity like… let’s say… playing COD. One day, Bobby’s stress bubble is going to burst a blood-vessel in his brain, and Bobby is going to set off like aluminum in the microwave; possibly lashing out at those most dear to him in fits of unexplained rage, perhaps even punting the neighbor’s dog for barking too loud one morning. Patient B (let’s call him…say… Jimmy) has all the same stresses, but comes home each night to partake in a few quick skirmishes within the online battlegrounds of Xbox Live; relieving each sliver of stress with a couple hundred rounds of ammunition and a few virtual napalm strikes. Jimmy, unlike Bobby, has found a viable outlet for his aggression, one that doesn’t involve alienating one’s friends or harming the local fauna. Now, I know, I know, this is highly improbable, in fact it could be argued that by embracing the violence of digital warzones, Jimmy is, in fact, becoming more violent. However this mandates a firm belief in the ultimate fact that humanity is inherently dumb; something I refuse to believe. I’m sure we’re all (well maybe not all of us, but most of us) are smart enough to be able to tell the difference between real life and polygons on a screen. With this in mind, sending some of your best buddies to their respective online heaven or hell in electronic warfare can be equated to squeezing a virtual stress ball: hard and frustrating at times, yet strangely soothing in its ability to take your mind off the agitators of the real world.

Coast to Coast, The High Seas Echo’s… It’s Not You, It’s Me
 
     Speaking of soothing: It all comes down to music. If slaying virtual dragons, murking digital battlegrounds, or icing a friend in your own version of the Stanley Cup isn’t enough to take you down a couple notches, look no further than the trappings of music “junkie-dom.” As I’ve made plainly clear in past postings, I love music. No, that doesn’t mean I only like metal; or can only stand to hear the bass-pounding drives of techno; or prefer a solid rhyme over a well-orchestrated melody. What it means is that I enjoy music for what it is: an escape from the confines of the here and now. When I truly find something I enjoy (which happens quite often, if not every day) it breaks me away from the problems, the struggles, even from the good. It takes me to a place that’s nowhere and everywhere at the same time. It allows me to explore my consciousness, but not always in a crazy, self-analytical kind of way. It simply takes the right kind of music to do that. Sometimes music just allows me to embrace the feeling of a moment, other times it allows me to look, retrospectively, at my entire existence. This may sound quite pretentious of me, and perhaps it is, but that doesn’t matter. Music should be as individual an experience as the varied and talented artists that litter our IPods and computer hard drives.

(Above: Lupe's new CD Cover, Below: Nobody Wave)

 

     My interpretations should not interfere with your own. However, that been said, there are certain genres that I am quite partial to at different points in the day. Say, for example, I’m on my way to work. Its 8:30 in the morning, the Metro’s crowded, my head’s booting for the day. I need something to wake me up. Cue the womps and pounds of Skrillex (one of the most talented DJ’s I’ve heard in years). As the beat repeats through my mind, building up to a smashing crescendo, I’m able to slowly get the gears within lubed up. Then, by the time the drop hits, I’m ready to embrace the day’s challenges. Complex beats electrify my sleepy corpse into action, reminding me subconsciously that another day awaits my efforts. By the time I get to work, the beats soften, the mood mellows, and the track comes to a slow, fading conclusion. It’s refreshing; it’s invigorating, more importantly… it wakes me up. Now let’s examine lunch time. I’m walking up the street to any variety of delicious eats along Thirteenth Street. It’s a beautiful day outside. The sun’s shining, people are out everywhere. Life is good. Cue the surf-y strums of Nobody Wave’s “Fast Asleep.” Sounding more like the soundtrack to a mild afternoon at the beach than lunch-break respite, the lo-fi anthem allows my thoughts to soar. It’s a temporary release from the stresses associated with the 9-5. It makes me think of the ocean. Suddenly the streets don’t seem so chaotic, not so congested. The blue hue of the sky seems brighter, life seems calm. Then, time to go home: time for something celebratory. Cue up some Lupe Fiasco or some Kanye West. Lyrically complex rhymes layer over complex and tapered beats; stories of success, wealth, and fame fill my thoughts with grandiose dreams. Anything is possible now. Even when things aren’t so good, there’s something to pull me up out of the muck. Day got you down? Lay the smack down with some blast-beat laden, nuclear breakdowns of The Acacia Strain. Nothing makes you feel better after a rough day than the angst, passion, and raw brutality of destroying everything around you. So, as you can see, music, for me, can fit a variety of molds (these are not the only ways I enjoy music by the way) meshing to each individual mood as they arise. In this sense, music can be the ultimate tool towards pure relaxation: taking you to places outside of your everyday problems, issues, and struggles, and transplanting you to a state where melody and noise become your very being.

Inter-tubes FTW

     

    (It's not a big truck...) 

     Yet, music isn’t the last stop on the relaxation agenda. Last, but not least, lies the infamous Netflix Instant Queue. For those of you who don’t know, Netflix offers a service where for $7.99 a month, you can instantly stream any of over thousands of movies, television shows, and documentaries as much as you’d like. Simply put, this might be the best eight dollars I spend every month. The roommates and I, in fact, use the instant queue every night (many times multiple times a night). There is no better way to wind down a long day than by popping on a couple episodes of History Chanel’s “The Universe,” to blow your mind with fantastical tales of what lies beyond. Nor can it be beat to come home from a light-hearted day at the office, only to be accentuated by that comedy that came out on DVD a couple weeks ago that you’ve been dying to see. In the mood for a pulse-pounding action flick? They’ve got entire libraries of anything from Arnold laden, one-lining, explosion-fests to emotionally driven war flicks. If you can’t find something to enjoy on the instant queue, you obviously aren’t looking hard enough. I’m not going to lie: every night I fall asleep (either in our living room, or in my bed, on my laptop) to a documentary, television show, or film chosen from the instant queue. In this sense, rather than stressing about how “it’s too late, I need to get to bed, I got to wake up at 7:30 AM,” and not be able to fall asleep for what seems like an eternity, I can pop on a movie. This diversion of my focus from the very necessary act of sleep actually produces sleep exponentially faster for me, all the while entertaining me until the very second that my heavy eyelids drop down for the night. It’s like melatonin, but without having to swallow those disgusting little pills. Not to mention, if you’re bored at all, all it takes is a quick browse through the menus before you find some way to meaningfully occupy your time. In fact, I owe the instant queue to my newfound appreciation of movies, especially good ones. I feel like armed with the instant queue, I’ve been able to see some amazing movies that I would have never seen otherwise! I mean, I’ve seen my fair share of garbage on it too, but the good far outweighs the bad. I now can appreciate good film on a far more intelligent level because I’ve seen enough that I can pick up on the subtle nuances that transcend a good film into “great” status. I could kiss the owners of Netflix for making such a remarkable system for watching movies. Now, if only they would add all releases (especially new releases) onto the instant queue. I would be able to die a happy man.

     Now, go forth young padawans into the world and use the knowledge I’ve given you to make your lives a little less stressful, and a little more bearable. But, keep in mind, these are not the only ways you can find rest and relaxation in your, often-stressful, lives. These just happen to be three of the best ways that I cope with the issues and struggles that I have on a day-to-day basis. What might work for me might do exactly the opposite for you. One man’s trash is another’s treasure, and vice-versa.

 

Bonus:

     In this bonus round of my blogging bonanza, I bring to you the smooth, lo-fi, jams of the indie-surf-rock group known as Nobody Wave. Unfortunately, they recently broke up (*cue sad faces all-around). But, that can’t stop us from picturing the sunrise on the Pacific Ocean while being carried away by the melodic strums and the soothing wails. I don’t know about you, but this song just screams “summer” through my head, reminding me of good times past, and more to come. Hang in there folks, the beach is coming. Be sure to bring a towel… and a boom box armed with Nobody Wave’s CD: Headgeared.

(Unfortunately the band has no YouTube “videos” of their songs, so instead I’m guna’ link you to Sound Cloud instead, along with a link to buy the album if you so chose… Happy trails friends!)

 

 

Image Credits:

NHL 11 Image: http://diehardgamefan.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/nhl11_t.jpg

NBA 2K11 Image: http://www.digitalbattle.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/Nba2k11_pc-dvd_fob-w800.jpg

Call of Duty: Black Ops Image: http://attackofthefanboy.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/Call-of-Duty-Black-Ops-Multiplayer.jpg

Lupe Fiasco – Lasers Image: http://images.freshnessmag.com/wp-content/uploads//2011/01/lupe-fiasco-lasers-cover-art-570x570.jpg

Nobody Wave Image: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-c2nrD3wpIME/TWgliNGQ6MI/AAAAAAAAASw/uhAUr2JH1hg/s320/Nobody%2BWave.png

Internet Image: http://www.disciplesofbloggism.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/tubes.jpg

 

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