American Shares Unnecessary Opinion About America

Stars & Stripes
Stars & Stripes

I was pretty sick of America for a long time.

I thought, “What a dull place filled with rubes.” I lived in a bubble, riding my commuter bike all within a 3 mile radius in Atlanta, Georgia. My love for California was no secret and Horace Greeley’s quote, “Go west young man, and grow up with the country,” reverberated in my head on a loop. After talking about leaving for over a decade I finally packed my bags and headed west.

My traveling companion and I drove 3,500 miles from Atlanta to Ventura, California. Along the way we visited New Orleans, Fort Worth, Austin, Las Cruces, the Grand Canyon, Joshua Tree and San Diego. During this trip I saw, with my own eyes, what a wonderful place this country is.

You can watch my video of our trip here.

We have so much natural beauty and breathtaking landscapes. So much good food! We have an amazing interstate system making it easy to travel. We also have freedom.

There’s always been a lot of confusion, anger, misdirection and sleight of hand in this country. However the “idea” of America remains solid.

I’ve always loved how Bono describes America as an idea. Our country represents this idea of freedom of expression, that anyone can come here and have a better life.

No America isn’t perfect. 241 years old and we’ve still got issues. We struggle with dysfunction, pride, racism, inequality and fear, but the idea of America is strong. I believe it. I believe this idea will remain for a long time to come.

Without getting too Lee Greenwoody, I’m proud to say I’m an American. I’m not always proud or supportive of the actions of those in our government that represent us, but I know we live in a wonderful place. I implore you to get out of your bubble and see this country for yourself. I think you’ll find what I found, a country that’s imperfect but rich in natural beauty.  You’ll see a country as an idea, which stands for the freedom of self-expression and offers an opportunity to change your life.

Happy Independence Day!!!

June Gloom

Please enjoy this lengthy update from me. I have to tip my hat to the ever-amazing Alison for encouraging me to write. When you’re done reading her blog, please check out my pal Jes too as she travels to Seattle.


Might I interest you in some excuses as to the recent silence over here?I’ve been justifiably preoccupied. Moving and dealing with movers, unpacking and looking for fun government documents, trips to Target, Vons, Trader Joe’s, and the Manhattan Beach Library, and starting a new job, ended my 3 month stint of homelessness and unemployment. I chose to call it a mini-retirement, but let’s not haggle over semantics.

I left Ventura on Saturday, June 4th and moved to Manhattan Beach. Finally the last trip, driving my packed to the gills car, on US interstates. I’d misunderstood the movers’ ambiguous message, thinking they’d arrive on Sunday, June 5th. Nope, they were only loading the truck (my items were stored in Atlanta) which would ultimately deliver the items to me on June 16th. For 12 days a lovely Serta air mattress served as my bunk, and Trader Joe’s frozen food sustained me. I knew when everything arrived this brief interval of discomfort would quickly fade. And it has. The most important thing is that I now have internet.

I looked at a number of places from Redondo Beach, Hermosa Beach, and El Segundo to eastwards, towards Lawndale. The proximity and convenience of this spot to my job, Trader Joe’s, the beach, and nearby parks, made it an easy decision. For some strange reason not having a refrigerator is a thing out here. Nearly half of the places I perused had no fridge. Yes, you must provide your own fridge if there isn’t one. This spot also has a fridge and a gas stove in its favor. It’s old though. The walls are so thin you might as well say, “Bless you,” when you hear a neighbor sneeze.

Manhattan Beach, and the entire South Bay, flows with money. Every other car cruising by is a Maserati, Tesla, Ferrari, or a Benz or a Beemer. If you want to live near the beach and get a 2 bedroom, it’s $3500 a month. The weather, the food, the beach, the vibe, and the scenery, it’s all beautiful and it will cost you. Some call this cost the “Sunshine Tax.”

Dude it's June Gloom
Dude it’s June Gloom

One thing that is not beautiful is what the locals call June Gloom. There’s also May Gray. In the morning a thick, gray fog spreads out over the city. The clouds don’t leave until early afternoon, sometimes later. Some like it, they enjoy the cooler temperatures the fog brings. Not me, I demand sunny skies and warm temperatures at all times. That’s why I moved here! I won’t have to endure these awful 60 degree temperatures much longer. June Gloom is almost over.

I am learning a lot about marketing, writing, and the semiconductor industry at the new gig. I’m writing press releases again, something I haven’t done since 1999. I’m observing and noting the office rhythms, learning who does what, how do things get done, and which roles the players have.

IMG_9620
My rad 80’s style skateboard from Soul Performance

Skateboarding is something I do now. I even rode into work one day. However I am nowhere experienced enough to ride the deck along these busy streets. One weird move or fall and I could be under a truck. I do ride it around my place and I’m getting better. I’m learning how to stop more fluidly and turn with more control.

This past Thursday, June 23rd, my buds from the rocking Atlanta band, Big Jesus were in Echo Park. I excitedly drove through rush hour Los Angeles traffic to see my pals. They played a very short 30 minute set but those that saw it, saw a tight, rocking band with lots of confidence. To see their growth over the past few years was special. They’ve worked hard and I’ve said they’re the next band to break out of Atlanta. Don’t forget I used to sign bands. I’d definitely sign these guys.

Thank you bike, you served me well :(

While so many great things have happened, unfortunately my bicycle was stolen on June 20th. I locked it outside our office that morning. It was still there during my walking breaks. Around 4:30 I was outside on the phone when I noticed it was gone. I went into the nearby businesses to ask if anyone saw anything. They didn’t and it was gone. It’s a bummer, but I’ll get another bike and this time, a much stronger lock!

I started the Ketogenic way of eating (woe) back in April while I was in Ventura. When I moved without any of my cookware I was in a bind so I broke ketosis and ate carbs. I’m happy to be eating Ketogenic again! My goal is drop my body fat and gain muscle. After I get a bit more settled I find a decently priced gym where I can work out.

Today, June 26th, was a day of firsts. I had a first date. A first Bumble date. It was my first time in Downey (we met there as a halfway point) and it was my first date with a Filipino woman. While it wasn’t a love connection we both agreed to stay in touch. We’d talked on the phone several times previously and we texted almost every day. So I have a new California lady friend!

Before you go here’s what I’ve been digging.

Movies: Devil Wears Prada – This year marks the 10 year anniversary and I’ve always loved that film. Very inspiring.
Eye in the Sky – Excellent film with an excellent cast which asks hard questions about modern warfare.
Brothers Grimsby – I’m a Sacha Baron Cohen fan and this film might be his best yet.
The Martian – Simply an amazing and awesome film.
Embrace of the Serpent – Loved this film about an Amazonian shaman across several decades.

Shows: Maron – I’m a Marc Maron fan and this season may be my favorite so far.
GoT – I have a love/hate relationship with this show. I’ve wanted to quit watching it so many times but then something amazing happens.
Silicon Valley – One of the best comedies out now.

Music: Moz, Chairlift, my rad 80’s playlist, Steely Dan (I stupidly missed their recent show at the Hollywood Bowl)

Books: Spiritual Economics – I’m reading this a second time. This book is packed with gems on every single page.

That’s all for now. Thanks for hanging out with me. I promise to do better about updating. I have no excuses now, except laziness.

April 10th Update – Ventura, Dog Sprints And Interviews

Another beautiful day in Ventura

A post shared by James 🎼MusicianProducerWriter (@jamesstaubes) on

Hey everybody. Greetings from Ventura, California aka “the whitest place on earth.” Sorry I’ve been lax in writing. I’ll do better.

Since I left Atlanta so much has happened.

Our cross-country trip exceeded all expectations. We couldn’t have planned a more beautiful, amazing, once in a lifetime trip. Lowrie and I drove from Atlanta to New Orleans, New Orleans to Fort Worth, Fort Worth to Austin, Austin to Las Cruces, Las Cruces to the Grand Canyon, Grand Canyon to Joshua Tree, Joshua Tree to San Diego, and San Diego to Ventura. We stayed with some phenomenal friends along the way. We drove 3,500 miles.

We saw so many beautiful landscapes and experienced so many unique adventures. I’m going to put together a video of our trip soon.

I’m staying with my friend Kelly in Ventura while I get settled out here. I’ve become friends with Kelly’s two great dogs, Chelsea and Chloe. We go to the park and run sprints together.

Since I arrived on March 11th I’ve hardly been idle. In the mornings I’ve searched for jobs and leveraged my connections for opportunities. I’ve had meetings with some folks in pro audio, advertising, and marketing. It’s going well and I’m hopeful I’ll find a great situation.

After eating all the amazing fat food on the road trip I had to get my exercise discipline back in action. I was getting robust. Thankfully there is a gym and pool at Kelly’s place. Many days I’ll read by the pool, lift some weights, and swim some laps. I’ve found a great $5 yoga class at the Ventura Buddhist Study Center. I’m also focused on giving up sugar. Working on day 3.

That’s it for now. I’ll do better about posting. How are you?

Time For FAWM

Every year since 2013, I’ve signed up, and completed, the February Album Writing Month (FAWM) challenge. FAWM is a global songwriting challenge to write 14 songs in 28 days during the month of February. Nothing is written before February 1st.

In 2008 I did the NaNoWriMo challenge to write a novel of 50,000 words during November. I previously wrote about the early bird yoga challenge. I love creative challenges. They give me accountability, a deadline, and a real impetus to follow through.

Through FAWM I’ve learned so much about mixing, recording, production, and editing on the fly. However, the biggest lessons I’ve learned are in songwriting. The challenge forces me to move fast and make quick decisions. There’s no time to debate and question. I have to turn off the inner editor and critic, or else I’ll lose valuable time. I have to go with what I’ve written and figure out some way to make it work.

Sure, I end up writing some real stinkers, but I always get a few gems too. It’s all about the process, and ultimately, it’s about finishing. When it’s over I can go back and polish the good songs and make them better.

FAWM also gives me insight into how I live my life. Each year I see how much time I waste on social media, watching movies and shows, and thinking about myself. It shows me how much I accomplish when I’m focused and determined.

Even with all those worthwhile benefits I’ve mentioned, my favorite thing about FAWM is the global community. Everyone is positive and encouraging. Folks take the time to listen to your songs and give constructive feedback. I’ve had several great collaborations with a lyricist (Hey Kim!) and a rapper (Whassup GSlade?!), which I’ve never met in person. I’ve connected with songwriters all over the world. I’ve made a friend in North Carolina, the UK, and one in South Africa. It’s inspiring to hear all the songs being written during this time and it’s fulfilling to encourage all the creative energy. FAWM is a wonderful celebration of creativity and music.

Next Monday it begins. I’m eager to get started and I’m excited to see what happens.

You can follow my progress on my FAWM profile:
http://fawm.org/fawmers/jamesstaubes/

11 Things I Learned In 2015

2015 was a great year for me! Don’t worry, this post is not one long humblebrag. After about 3 years of being stagnant, I kept on going and finally had breakthrough year.

Here are 11 lessons I wanted to share:

1. If you can do it, do it now

My uncle has lived in France for 10 years. 5 years ago I told him I was going to visit. I’d never been to Europe and going was on my bucket list. However, another year would pass, growing my procrastination and excuse making skills, but not growing my life experience.

“Hey I’m going to visit this year. Just getting it all together. I’ll keep you posted.”

Then, another year would go by.

During a conversation with my dad, he encouraged me to skip the beach vacation I was considering, and to go see my uncle. I listened.

My trip to Paris in August of last year was life-changing. All these years I could have gone but I always had an excuse: it wasn’t the right time, it’s too expensive, I’m too busy, it’s too late now,  I missed the window of opportunity. All of these statements were fear based and ultimately preventing me from having amazing experiences.

If you have the means to do something you’ve always wanted to do, do it and do it now! If you have the vacation time, take it! Buy the ticket and pull the trigger. It doesn’t have to be a vacation, it can be anything you’ve always wanted to do: take piano lessons, study acting, or driving cross-country. Do it now while you have the chance!

2. Travel by yourself

Don’t let the excuse of traveling alone dissuade you from taking a trip. I’ve taken many excursions by myself and there are many benefits. You can do whatever you want and change in the moment. You can move at your own pace. Traveling alone also makes you accountable for your trip. With no one else to lean on you’re responsible for the plan and making your trip a success. I covered so much ground in Paris by myself.

3. Experiences count more than things

Paris is one of the most amazing cities in the world. The things you can buy will not replace the unforgettable meals at places like La Relais de Venise or Chez Gladines. The perfumes and miniature Eiffel Towers could never replace the thrill of walking through the world’s finest museums. This applies to life in general. The live shows we see, the historical landmarks we visit, and the friends we make always hold more value than cars, clothes, computers, or tchotchkes. Speaking of friends…

4. Making new friends is thrilling

In 2015 I became friends with 2 women who greatly enriched my life. One woman I dated briefly, but we both agreed we were better as friends. Another woman I met through some mutual friends. She invited me to see Brandi Carlile and we’ve been having fun ever since. I love the excitement and newness of an emerging friendship. When there’s an instant, kindred connection of shared interests with someone new, it brings a spark into your life.

5. Biking is the best way to commute

In September I began biking to work. Our office ran out of parking spaces and offered some compensation to those who’d either walk or bike to work. Fortunately, I live close to the office and have a short commute, so it was an easy decision. I love biking into the office, most of the time. On cold or rainy days, I often question (and curse) what I’m doing, but I use the opportunity to practice mind control and stay in the present moment. I also saved a lot of money on gas. Through September until the end of the year, I only filled up my car 3 times.

6. Review your life

Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” In 2015 I began using the Passion Planner. This outstanding planner got me into the habit of reviewing each day, week, and month, making sure I stayed on point. Last week I did a year-end review. I can clearly see where I succeeded and where I needed to improve. Consistently reviewing your life is like referring to a map. It helps you stay on track.

7. Take personality tests

Our company uses the Birkman Method extensively. The information this test yields is revelatory and indispensable in relating to my co-workers. It gives helpful insights into why they act the way they do, and how I can best approach them. Birkman also shares insights into my strengths and helps me understand my tendencies. I’m a big fan of any personality test that gives valuable info about myself and others, and helps us all better interact with and serve each other.

8. Yoga is amazing

You can read my post about yoga here.

9. One measure at a time

At the beginning of the year my piano teacher gave me the challenge of learning a Bach two-part invention. It is the hardest piece of music I’ve ever played or learned as an adult thus far. Going measure by measure is the only way I could accomplish this goal. Every day during practice I worked and persevered until finally, I was able to put the entire piece under my fingers. It’s been so rewarding. I still have a lot of work on this piece but the knowledge, skill, and ear-training I’ve achieved going measure by measure were musical and personal highlights of this year.

10. Establish a solid morning routine

I’m a goober so morning routines fascinate me. Setting up my day correctly and methodically is important. There are creative, physical, and spiritual tasks that, if I complete before getting out the door, allow me to move through life with greater ease, and grace. Without a good morning routine, I can become “Hulkish.”

11. Keep going

Winston Churchill said, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” While I wasn’t necessarily in a bad place,  I’d been stuck for a while. I’d fallen into a rut of doing the same things, going to the same places, and thinking the same thoughts. In April I moved near Cabbagetown. That move helped me change up my routine significantly. In January of last year I was promoted to a Senior position on my team.

Even though it didn’t feel like anything was happening all those years, I kept on working and improving. Eventually something happened. My situation, outlook, and routines changed for the better. I just had to keep moving to get there.

What did you learn in 2015? Share the wisdom please!