Real Estate, WWE, the Tour Business, and recent podcast listens

I feel like writing a blog post, so this is just going to be random stuff about what’s up with my life right now.

FYI: Married life is awesome.

Real Estate

First off, for our next rental property purchases we chose the “hard” difficulty level. We have purchased two single-family homes (one partially with proceeds from a 1031 Exchange sale of the condo in Reno). So for property number 1, aside from carpet paint, and various other minor repairs (replacing treads and risers on front steps), putting in appliances, and vinyl floor we have encountered these difficulties:

Rotted back door, frame, and part of the sub-floor and joists (Taken care of for a very reasonable price by BWB Construction)

Appliances in place, paint, carpet, etc. complete I then spent a week showing the house every evening to roughly 16 people (well, 16 appointments, half no showed).

Finally we get a renter and I show up Sunday evening to do some last little repairs and…..img_20161009_143225 img_20161010_173403 img_20161010_173424 img_20161010_175834and a tree fell. Luckily it just did some minor damage to the back deck guard rail.

But man!

And the Housing Authority is suppose to come and inspect maybe as early as this week.

So I got to do my best lumberjack impression and cut of the three with a much too small chainsaw borrowed from a fellow Mason.

Looks like I’m spending part of my Saturday repairing the guardrail.

Our other property is in the middle of a renovation loan (also with BWB Construction doing the work) and all was going okay until we needed to drop the power line to complete the fascia repairs and Dominion (the power company who also happens to own every government official in Virginia) says they can’t come out until October 24th… when our rate lock on the loan expires.


Luckily BWB got on the phone with them to come out earlier (although they were suppose to come out 2 days ago, but still haven’t).

Otherwise, things are going well there.


One of the best things about living in Richmond, VA is that the WWE comes through here 3 or 4 times per year for live events, TV shows, and sometimes PPVs.

Last Friday, Melanie and I went to NXT at the Altria Theater. This was the set up for those who are curious:


The event was fun. We went to the PPV “Backlash” in September, but that’s a lot more casual fans and less hardcore “smarks” (referenced in a previous article).

Best match of the night was Austin Aries vs. Cedrick Alexander from a wrestling match perspective.

The most entertaining matches were Samoa Joe/Bobby Roode vs. Shinsuke Nakamura/No Way Jose and Asuka vs. Aaliyah because of the personalities of who were involved.

The Smarkiness of the event led to much more fun crowd and lots of chants, singing along, and all the things that us rasslin’ fans like to do.

Backlash, the WWE PPV, had two really awesome matches in Dolph Ziggler vs. The Miz for the Intercontinental Title and AJ Styles winning the WWE title from Dean Ambrose.

For any long time wrestling fan, AJ Styles holding the WWE title seems like some fantasy land as of 5 years ago.

By the way, we sprung for the nicer seats for the PPV…

img_20160911_191821 img_20160911_191817


How about them 49ers? Man, we are terrible. Chip Kelly, Blaine Gabbert… our team is like the frickin’ Island of Misfit Toys.

Richmond Tour Guys

The tour business is a little on auto-pilot as I have turned my attention to getting these two rental properties together. Luckily I have an incredible guide in Michael Thomas who has been massively taking up the slack. It’s impossible to convey to him how much easier he has made my time management.

So far this year, we have given tours to over 825 people between regular walking tours, private tours, and custom tour packages. I swell with pride knowing that something that I started has been apart of 825 people’s vacations. They could spend their visit to Richmond doing anything… and they chose the Richmond Tour Guys.

We are Number 3 on Trip Advisor for “Tours in Richmond” behind only a bike tour and food tour.

Also, we brought on a new guide, Ray. He will start doing tours on weekdays, which is an area that I’ve longed to explore since the Tour Guys’ inception in 2014. Unfortunately it’s starting in October and November, which are traditionally less well attended.

As for the bad:

I had a couple of good private tours lined up including an Executive tour complete with an Executive Coach that cancelled; and a tour for a retirement home that I spent 10.5 hours routing, writing a script for, and practicing for them to cancel and thus, the Richmond tour guys has a new policy:

20% or $50 deposit for all specialized private tours!

New Phone: Blue Life One X2

I just got a new phone since the screen on my old phone (Huawei P8 Light) got shattered by an errant phone drop.

I don’t sign contracts for cel phones after I signed a 2 year contract with AT&T and submerged the phone I got from it in the river. So now I just buy unlocked smart phones by lesser known companies and I have not had a bad experience yet.

After cruising cNet, I ended up getting the Blue Life One X2 Android phone which has an octacore 1.4ghx processor, 4gb of memory, 64gb storage, 16 mp back, and 8mp front camera.

All of which the internet tells me is good.

I bought this one for $180 (normally $200, $180 special pre-sale price).

So far the phone is great. It’s way faster than the old one, I don’t have to worry about running out of space for podcasts, and the screen is bigger. The camera is also twice as good (literally, the old phone was 8mp). CNET rated it the best smart phone under $250 and honestly, since I’m not gaming or doing anything intense with my phone, I don’t really need the Samsung Awesome.


In August I was all about working on Historic Mason’s Hall, the 1785 building in Shockoe Bottom that is the oldest lodge in the US continuously used for Masonic purposes. Then everything else took a back seat to real estate for the last month or so and probably will for 2 or 3 more weeks.

Efforts for the lodge are going strong.. slow and steady, but strong. We recently got a donation from the Sons of the Revolution and have embarked on a Facebook Ads fundraising campaign that has had some success. We have a great core group of guys who care about the building and are willing to put in the time to make saving it happen.

One of the things that we’re finding is how a little cleaning can go a long way:

2016-08-20-cleaning-masons-hall img_20160826_113044

I also recently discovered podcasts about Freemasonry. The one I’ve been listening to most is Masonic Roundtable. It features two Virginia Masons, so it’s got a lot of relevance to me.

I especially like the historical episodes such as on the Morgan Affair, the Baltimore Convention of 1843, and the episode on Prince Hall Freemasonry which is the traditionally African American branch of Freemasonry (we are working on bringing things together).

It also covers some more esoteric topics such as “memento mori,” or reflecting upon death and how we should make the most of the time we have on this plane of existence.

I reiterate as I did in my post about Freemasonry that Freemasonry is not a religion or cult, and it is non-denominational.


Tour Company Stuff, New Podcast Recommendations, WM 31, Star Trek, Musings

I haven’t written anything in a couple of months now, which is hurting my mission of this blog being the first thing that comes up when you Google my very unique name. I’ve still got to chase Spokeo and Quirky off of the first page of results, but that will come. I will take this opportunity to update y’all on happenings with the tour business (why I’ve been so busy), My Wrestlemania 31 predictions, some cool new Podcasts that I’ve been getting into, and pretty much just muse about stuff that I’ve been thinking about.

DSC01521Big Things For the Tour Guys

Big things going on for me with the Richmond Tour Guys. First off, tour season has restarted! I finally get to give tours again. I’ve even brought on 2 guides so I can have some weekends off occasionally. One of them is a recent VCU Grad with a degree in History and the other is long time Church Hill (the oldest neighborhood in Richmond) resident who will be doing 2 tours of Church Hill per month.

That reminds me, I have added a tour of Church Hill which will take place on Saturdays at 3:30 PM and Thursday evenings at 5:00 PM. I’m very excited for these as Church Hill has so much rich history share and the tour ends around a pub, so I may be able to have a pint or two with some of the more interesting tour attendees.

I was also contacted by Taylor’s Classic Travels that has a trolley that they rent out for private events, wine tours, brewery tours, and weddings. They have been hired by The Brownstone and Butler’s Unique Catering to do a tour of Church Hill and are using me to guide the tours. I’m very excited to make this connection and work with Terra and Joe.

If you want to buy tickets to this all-you-can-eat brunch, ride a trolley, and witness me blow your mind with my awesome tour guiding, the link is here.

After I get back from visiting family and friends on the West Coast in June, I’m going to start charging for tours and see if this has legs as a full-fledged business. So if you want to come on the free tour, get it while it lasts!

I’ve also had a ton of other opportunities come my way as well that I’m working on, but can’t mention yet on such a public forum…..

New Podcasts

Entrepreneur On Fire: Since the tour business has been going so well, I have decided that I need to update my business IQ. Since I have no formal business training and I am too busy to read any non-history related books since I’m writing and developing two new tours; I get it in during my morning cleansing ritual (shower, shave, getting dressed, etc.) and driving time (which I have much of) via Podcasts.

Entrepreneur On Fire has given me some, as the host John Lee Dumas would put it, “mind blowing insights” into my business. Basically, he spends a half-hour interviewing various entrepreneurs about their business, how they built it, and finding out their habits. I have gained more insight into how to run, market, and view my business than I could possibly have otherwise.

Ironically enough, the first one that I listened to was an interview with a guy who started Museum Hack which gives entertaining tours of museums in New York.

I was hooked.

Now I listen to the almost every podcast Lee puts out. If you are an entrepreneur, side-preneur (me!), or want-repreneur, this is a great Podcast to check out. It has quickly risen to the top of my podcast Queue.

What the Speak!: This Podcast is all about Public Speaking. Bryan Kelly interviews public speakers of all sorts and learns about their journey, which teaches me all sorts of tips and tricks.  Being a Tour Guide, a lot of what I do is performance based speaking. Since I have no formal education in public speaking (other than a one semester Speech class Freshman year of college where my final project was an epic speech on the word F***) I decided to look for a podcast on the topic.

One Google search later, lo and behold, What the Speak comes up. It really put what I do into perspective. Even without being able to see myself giving tours, I can already see things that I need to work on and improve.

The Thomas Jefferson Hour – Switching gears, this podcast is all about the most famous of Virginians… Thomas Jefferson. Clay Jenkins, award winning Humanities Scholar and Thomas Jefferson researcher, gives in-character interviews as Thomas Jefferson to give his view. It sounds really hokey, but it is one of the most incredible podcasts that I listen to. Jenkins has studied Thomas Jefferson so in depth, that he flawlessly answers questions off the cuff, citing primary sources for reference.

Actually, learning about Thomas Jefferson and all that he accomplished in field literally ranging from A to Z (he even knew how to tie arteries!) will really make one feel intellectually inferior.

Wrestlemania 31 Predictions

Wrestlemania 31 is coming up  and I’m not super thrilled about the card.

The match I’m most looking forward to is Bray Wyatt vs. The Undertaker. Now that the Undertaker has had his streak broken (last year by Brock Lesnar) it’s fair game as to whether he can win or lose. There’s no assumption that the streak will continue because it’s been broken. They could have Taker lose, and have that be the nail in his coffin as he passes the torch to the self-titled “New Face of Fear” Bray Wyatt, or he could win and redeem himself. I hope he loses and rides out into the sunset…. although by the looks of it he may have trouble getting on the horse. It’s a tossup, but I’ll say Wyatt wins which will fit into the narrative on next year’s Wrestlemania where Undertaker will hang up the boots if he loses and his opponent is some heel who just wants to “put him out of his misery.”

Triple H vs. Sting will be good. They are both incredible in-ring storytellers. Seeing Sting in action in front of 80,000 people again will be nuts. He’s been in small arena’s with TNA for the last 12 years. It’s hard to say who’s going to win, but my money is on Sting to fit with the Wrestlemania hero’s win narrative. The match will be very good.

John Cena vs. Rusev is a feud that I have really been enjoying. There’s just something so old school and nostalgic about a Russian talking smack about the US and the hero standing up and fighting for the country he loves. (Rusev’s actually Bulgarian, but WWE doesn’t have much regard for the geographic knowledge of their audience). They had a really good match at Fastlane and I think this one will be good as well. Cena goes over for the feel good moment.

Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar…. eh.. the build up to this has been atrocious. I mean it’s basically Paul Heyman giving awesome promos and Roman Reigns fighting off the Authority. I like Roman Reigns, but I don’t buy him as a Wrestlemania main eventer. Not yet at least. Lesnar has officially re-signed with WWE, so I think he wins since Reigns is proving to be a non-starter for much of the WWE Universe. I still think Rollins is going to cash in Money in the Bank at WM 31.

By the way, that crowd is going to be very ruthless to Roman Reigns.

The Intercontinental Title Ladder Match is going to be a fun match, but there are better ways to use the guys who are going to be in it. Daniel Bryan was main-eventing Wrestlemania last year and now he’s been jammed into a match with 6 other guys who have nothing else to do on that Sunday night. The build up has been somewhat amusing, mostly thanks to R Truth’s antics, but overall it’s a real non-starter. I say Bryan captures the title in order to bring some prestige back to it.

The Bellas vs. AJ and Paige is also a real non-starter, mostly because I do not like the Bella Twins. Nikki is so sloppy and unbelievable as a credible threat. Paige and AJ can wrestle circles around them. Either way, it’ a Divas match, so the WWe will probably either give them 3 minutes or just bump them when Sting/Triple H goes too long. Because that’s what WWE does to Divas at Wrestlemanias. Paige and AJ for the victory.

Andre The Giant Battle Royal: Who knows? After Cesaro won last year and was summarily buried, it doesn’t feel like this Battle Royal matters as much as it did last year when it was new and could potentially be a stepping stone to greater things. I don’t rightly know who will win; or care for that matter. So…uh… let’s jut say that…uh…. Curtis Axel wins and gets pushed to the stars! Axelmania!

Star Trek

A few months ago, I decided to watch Star Trek, the original series on Netflix. I had never watched it before and had a much different idea of what it was in my mind prior to watching it…..

Zounds! What an incredible show! I mean the production value isn’t incredible, but the messages and morals are mind blowing. Spock’s insights into humanity from a purely logical perspective and his verbal exchanges with Captain Kirk are highly entertaining. The show really makes one think about humanity and society’s faults as well as our greater qualities such as a soul and free will. Things that we take for granted are put on display in different species that lack these things.

I’m almost ashamed I hadn’t given it a chance before. I’m smack dab in the middle of season 2 right now.

Other Thoughts

  • I was at Sweetfrog by the theater the other day waiting for my beautiful girlfriend to meet me and ventured over to see what was playing and realized I had never heard of any of the movies that were playing. You see, Melanie and I cut our cable cord a year or so ago and have not looked back since. Between the internet, Netflix, and Hulu, we don’t miss anything AND we get to save money and not watch all of the commercials. The commercials we see are not the same as they are on actual TV so we never see movie previews. I’m pretty sure they’re all going to be terrible anyway. Anything that’s grandiose enough to win awards is not worth paying to see in theaters anyway when it will be out on VOD and DVD in 2 months.
  • Light beer is disgusting. I use to drink it if it was present at a gathering. I liked it okay. I accidentally bought Yuengling Light the other day and was severely disappointed to taste that flavorless beer when I was expecting delicious Yuengling.
  • Yuengling, for my West Coast compatriots who haven’t heard of it, is a great East Coast beer. It’s like a step above Bud/Coors/Miller in terms of taste and maybe $1 more expensive for a 6-pack, but not quite as expensive or heavy as craft brews. I had never actually heard of Yuengling until I moved to the East Coast, because apparently it isn’t distributed West of the Mississippi. It is the oldest brewery in the country, by the way.
  • I want to have a Podcast in the worst way…. soon…..

Remember everybody, Matthew Maggy says “zip it up and zip it out!”


Why I Watch Pro-Wrestling, How To Appreciate It, and Brief Primer

Wrestlemania 29 in NY Giants Stadium

Wrestlemania 29 in NY Giants Stadium

When it comes up in conversation that I watch Pro-Wrestling, the first thing people say is “isn’t that fake?” or “like UFC?” And I just shake my head. People just don’t get it. So I thought I might explain it.

You see, I watch a lot of WWE Network, and WWE TV programming and would like to post some musings on it from time-to-time. Although, I’m sure nobody reads this, if they do, then I would like a reference point to point people to go back to when I do review a WWE PPV or muse about the sport.  So this post will be all about why and how I appreciate Pro Wrestling; and a bit about the business.

Now, there are some people who may have watched it back in the day (either 80s/90s, or late 90s/early 00’s) and will have no idea what’s going on, so I will also give a brief summary to catch those folks up in separate post that I will link later.

The “Fake Issue” and How to Appreciate Pro-Wrestling

This whole “isn’t it fake?” question is probably the most annoying thing people say, because they know it’s staged, and are pejoratively implying that I think it’s real or that I don’t get it. 

I’m not stupid.

So we begin by letting you know that it is scripted and staged, not fake. It is a show. If someone says to you “I’m going to go see Grease on stage,” would you respond by saying “but isn’t that fake?” No, you would not. 

Two wrestlers having a match are performing a piece of art with their movement and often words. One has to appreciate professional wrestling as its own distinct art form. 

Think of Pro-Wrestling more as athletic theater simulating fighting. Vince McMahon, WWE CEO refers to it as “sports-entertainment,” (though most hardcore wrestling fans will tell you that’s BS) but that is the category that Pro-Wrestling would fall under. It’s not like wrestling promotions try to pass it off as purely competitive anymore.

In summary: Pro-Wrestling is its own, unique art form. 

So now that we’ve dealt with the whole “isn’t that fake?” thing I’ll get into the two ends of the fan spectrum.

I am what is known as a “smart fan” (Smark). A smark is a member of the “Internet Wrestling Community” (IWC). This is mostly males under 50 who have been watching it since they were young and haven’t stopped once it was no longer cool. We follow backstage news on “insider” web-sites such as Pro-Wrestling Torch and spend time Youtubing obscure matches and events, then discussing them. We also listen to several Pro-Wrestling Podcasts that talk about the business from an insider’s perspective. We talk about the business using “insider” terms. A lot of this news consists of keeping up with politics and real-life beefs between wrestlers behind the scenes. We tend to analyze (over-analyze, more like it) the product and judge the living hell out of it if we don’t like what was going on. We still watch it almost no matter what.

Think of it like Sci-fi fans loving Starwars, but spending time judging George Lucas’ decision to put Jar-Jar Binks in a movie and make Anakin a whiny little ______ while hanging onto and speculating about every bit of news that comes out about Episode 7 hoping that it will be better.

The other side of the coin is what fans like me refer to as a “casual” fan. This is someone who enjoys the show as a show, not over-analyzing and criticizing every little thing that happens (or doesn’t happen). These are the fans that will just stop watching if the show isn’t keeping their interest like any other show on television. A lot of these fans are children who some of the more outrageous aspects of the characters appeal to. Many are people who have watched it off and on since they were kids, but aren’t necessarily fanatic about following every aspect of it. They may not watch every week, but will often go to live shows.

Where as a “smark” would refer to a bad guy as a “heel” and a good guy as a “baby-face” and so-on with other industry insider lingo, a casual fan would just say “bad guy” or “good guy.” They wouldn’t judge the show through an analytical lens like I would.

Neither is better than the other. In fact, a lot of smarks really want more casual fans to watch. If there are more casual fans spending money, it will keep the industry going. Smark’s opinions often differ with WWe management on how to make this happen.

To clarify: I am a “smark.”

I enjoy, above all, the athletic entertainment aspect of wrestling. A great wrestling match is a combination of timing, chemistry, athleticism, and cool looking moves that are chained together and create a flow. The latter is known as “chain wrestling” and would look a bit more like amateur wrestling. There is brawling, which is a lot of punches, kicks, and throwing moves. There may be a lot of high flying acrobatic moves. The purpose of this is to tell a story.  

A good match such as Dean Ambrose vs. Seth Rollins from Raw in 2014 may not have all of the characteristics, but enough to make it entertaining. A great match, such as CM Punk vs. Daniel Bryan from Money In The Bank 2010 combines most of the characteristics. A legendary match such as Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker from Wrestlemania 25 contains all of them.

The other aspect of the show is the “promo” or “mic-work.” This is the smack-talking that goes on to hype these matches and fuel the story-lines. A great interview may be funny, it may be intense, it may poetic, it may be dark, or it may be a straight-forward smack talk. Which direction the promo takes depends on the character. The Rock used humor and smack-talk. Mick Foley (Mankind) used humor and intensity. The Undertaker used a lot of darkness in his interviews.

One of the major complaints of modern wrestling is that the promo segments are often too long and are more prevalent than actual wrestling matches. Another complaint now a-days is that all of the promos in WWE are scripted by a writing staff and can come off as very unnatural and forced which takes away from the telling of the story. 

As mentioned above, story-telling is what pro-wrestling is all about. Some people have called Pro-Wrestling a “male soap opera.” I suppose that’s an apt description though I’ve never been much of a fan of that term because it involved soap-opera. The combination of traits that make a match as mentioned above is the conduit for which the story is told. Whether it be the young up-and-comer trying to knock the veteran off of their perch, two power-houses trying to prove who is the bigger bad-ass, or an intensely personal feud between two-people. The promo aspect works to move the story forward and sometimes can be the major conduit for which the story is told leading up to a match. This is especially true if the match is between two older-wrestlers who can’t handle the physical toll of nightly action. A good example of this is Undertaker vs. Triple H from Wrestlemania 27 and 28.

The best part of Rasslin’ is live events. Pro-Wrestling made it’s reputation on live events. There is nothing quite like seeing Pro-Wrestling, especially WWE Live. I have been to a few live shows. some are televised such as Raw, some are House Shows which are not televised and often don’t do anything to further story-lines, and some are “PPVs” which are monthly big events that culminate and begin new story-lines. I went to Wrestlemania 29 in New York, NY in 2013. It was one of the coolest experiences of my life. 80,000 screaming fans from all over the world coming together to enjoy “the show of shows.”

That is probably the thing that I love about wrestling, the camaraderie between the fans of the sport. I think anybody can be converted into a wrestling fan on some level by experiencing being apart of a great wrestling crowd.

Now adays, with social media, Podcasts, and “shoot” (legitimate, out of character) interviews, fans can connect like never before with Pro-Wrestlers. Having Chris Jericho re-tweet something you write is pretty darn cool. Social media also gives fans a lot of power to influence the events of WWE by making their voices heard.

In summary: I watch Pro-Wrestling as a show. The physicality makes for telling a great story. Being a wrestling fan is an interactive experience… especially at live events and with social media. Yeah, it’s extremely cheesy sometimes and sometimes moves look really fake. Sometimes there are the stupidest characters. When there are just awful segments, you just kind of wade through the BS, suspend your disbelief in some instances, and enjoy the good stuff.

And if your a Smark, complain a little.

How My Changing Musical Tastes Have Come Full Circle

(Note: Most of the links in this article are to YouTube videos of the songs)

Browsing my Pandora station list, I spy the recent “Celtic Thunder” addition and I can’t help but think of how my musical tastes have so radically changed over time and have come full circle.

As a kid, I listened to whatever my parents had on the radio (although I pretty much constantly jammed to my Ninja Turtles movie soundtrack on my Walk-Man). It was usually Oldies (a collective term which both robs authenticity from and is the highest compliment of a song) and a bit of modern country. My Dad’s best efforts to expose me to good music (Credence Clearwater Revival, Beatles, Dooby Brothers, The Lovin’ Spoonful) and my mom’s best efforts to indoctrinate me with Elvis (more on that later) were very much in vain. When I was 10 I loved Coolio’s hit “Gangsta’s Paradise” and I played the hell out of my sister’s Fuji’s CD and TLC “Waterfalls” single. Then of course there was the WWE Entrance Music CD phase.

But for the most part, I never had a huge interest in music.

Then came 8th grade and I listened strictly to hip-hop and rap. This is pretty much all owed to Eminem’s “Slim Shady LP.” I was an akward 15 year old white kid with kind of baggy pants (sorry, no surviving photos…) and all of the lyrics to Snoop Doggy Dogg, Dr. Dre, 2Pac, and Notorious BIG songs memorized word for word. By far, my favorite CD was NWA’s “Straight Outta Compton” album. I loved those old school kicks and the hard rock-based bassy beats. To this day, I have a complete gap of knowledge of anything non Hip-Hop/R&B that was released between the years of 1999 and 2010 except for a few token very popular songs (ie: Papa Roach’s “Last Resort” and Blink 182’s Enema of the State album). I couldn’t and still can’t name a single Third Eye Blind (except for Jumper, because of the Yes Man movie version), Matchbox 20, Sixpence, Creed, Nickelback, or any alternative rock songs (as Monday night trivia at FW Sullivans has made abundantly clear).

This was compounded by the “Hyphy” movement of the early and mid-2000’s. This was the second San Francisco Bay Area Golden Age of Rap. I dug the heck out guys like E-40, Mac Dre, The Team, Turf Talk, Yukmouth, Keak Da Sneak, and countless others who most people have never heard of, but are widely known throughout the Bay Area. This also made me a fan of Bay Area rap from the early-90s when first wave of Bay Area rapper’s blew up like Spice-1, Celly Cel, JT The Bigga Figga, and Too ShortRappin 4 Tay made one of my all time top-10 CDs “Don’t Fight The Feelin’,” featuring the hit “Player’s Club” (it’s just an everyday thang).

Something happened around when I was 18 or 19 (2004). I was going through a rough time in life, and I actually discovered Johnny Cash and Country music. I think I liked the story-telling, song-writing aspect of this music; which is what I liked most about Hip-Hop. I also dabbled in some other songs and music, but I still pretty much exclusively listened to rap.

Then I moved to Reno when I was 21 (2007) and pretty much stopped listening to music. There was no version the Bay Area Heritage Hip-Hop Station 106.1 KMEL there, Pandora didn’t exist yet, and most of the radio was terrible. I mostly just listened to NPR through college, though I also started listening to the Classic Rock station and flirted with other songs I heard that I liked (most notably “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” by John Denver).

Then, something magical happened. I discovered Karaoke.

Enter… the Elvis phase.

I became almost as obsessed with Elvis as my mom was. One thing to understand is that my mother was an Elvis fanatic, with a capital F. Growing up we had walls and shelves full of Elvis merchandise There was always Elvis’ silver-tongued lyrics coursing through the stereo system. I guess when I hit 24, my Elvis gene activated and BAM! – I was all about some Elvis. Elvis led to Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Buddy Holly, and others of that Rock & Roll and Rockabilly style.

Then came Memphis, Tennessee.

Posing in Sun Studios on the microphone that Elvis supposedly used.

Posing in Sun Studios on the microphone that Elvis supposedly used.

With a half-desire to be an Elvis Impersonator, a yearning to experience Graceland (somewhat underwhelming),and a thirst to behold Sun Studios where Elvis recorded his first singles; “the birth place of Rock & Roll” was a natural stop on my 2012 road trip that I took on my move from Nevada to Virginia.

It was a musical awakening.

Memphis opened up a whole new world of music to me. B.B. King’s Rythm and Blues museum and the Staxx soul museum showed me the roots of where this Rock & Roll and even Hip-Hop music came from. I learned about Soul music via Otis Redding and Sam Cook; and Blues music such as BB King and John Lee Hooker. I learned about the fusion of Black Gospel and Country that led to Blues and then Rock & Roll, and, basically, all modern music.

What I knew as “Oldies” suddenly split into at least 6 different genres (Soul, Funk, Blues, Rock & Roll, Folk Rock, and Rockabilly). Songs that I heard as a child on the “Oldies” station suddenly had artists with names, producers, studios, influences, and off-shoots.

I began to appreciate Blue Grass while living in rural Virginia by attending the Blue Grass Festival in Amelia, VA. I learned that Blue Grass is actually countrified Irish and Scottish folk music.

On a whim, I typed in “Cool Jazz” in Pandora and was enjoying a genre that I had never been remotely interested in before.

I completely lost interest in Hip-Hop, other than a few select artists. I think it was more of a function of hating radio hip-hop and just over-saturating my brain with it when I was younger, than not appreciating it.

I met some traveling musicians in Spain who I later visited in Italy called the “Rubiconians” who played a Punk/Ragae/Island fusion that blew my mind and helped me to appreciate that Latin style.

The one type of music that I never really got into, and assumed that I never would, was very fast metal. Then Chris Jericho played his band Fozzy’s songs on his Podcast. I liked them, so I bought the CD. Even the really fast loud growling stuff was good to me. I tested the water with a Seether Pandora station and enjoyed it quite a bit. I even began having an understanding that Metal and Punk are completely and why. (Thanks Chris Jericho!).

Now I’m enjoying for the first time, in a long time, my “Bay Area” Pandora station.

The only constant through all of my life musically?: A thorough love of Weird Al Yankovich’s entire collection.

Discovering Podcasts

logopodcastI am not a fan of what’s on the radio.

I can only listed to so much NPR.

I’m on a long drive and even “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” the seminal 80s pump up jam by Twisted Sister is lulling me to sleep.

What am I to do?

Enter Podcasts.

Podcasts are something that I had heard of for years, but never had bothered to check out. After all, isn’t it just some jokers in their basement with a microphone? Anyone with any talent would be on the radio.

But that, past Matthew, could not be more incorrect.

My first exposure to a Podcast was Hardcore History by Dan Carlin. He is such an amazing broadcaster and raconteur that even Tim Ferris gushed when he interviewed him for his Podcast.

It’s okay to be star struck, Tim, I would be too.

So my journey into the exciting world of Podcast listening began earlier this year. I had been back from my round the world trip for 2.5 weeks and was visiting my friends and family back West. It was time to head back to Virginia, but due to budgetary constraints, I couldn’t make quite the epic road trip I had envisioned (save for a lovely few days with my cousin Alex and his family in St. Louis) and had to do a lot of driving without stopping other than for the occasional nap at rest stops.

So I downloaded the “Wrath of the Khans” quadrillogy of the Hardcore History podcast and was blown away by the sheer detail of story telling and the obvious preparation that was required to produce just one of these episodes. I was entertained for roughly 12 hours straight by this one guy’s story of the Khan conquerors (Khanquerors?).

I was hooked.

Then I found out that many of my favorite pro wrestling personalities have their own podcasts including the entertaining “Talk is Jericho” with the Fozzy lead-singing rockstar, and legendary professional ‘rassler, “The Ayatollah of Rock and Roll-A”, Chris Jericho.

Now I look forward to his new show every Wednesday and Friday.

All I have to do is load up my phone and hit play.

I didn’t think much of old Matthew and his mistaken view about the amateurish nature of podcasts until I heard Tim Ferris interview Dan Carlin. Carlin noted that he is a former television broadcaster and radio show host, but that he prefers Podcasts. There are no censors (not that he is risque’, by any means), no one telling him what he can and can’t say, and he can focus on talking about this very narrow topic that he enjoys for 3.5 hours and there are more people listening than on mainstream radio. He calls it “narrow casting” rather than “broadcasting.”

And its more proof that as people, we aren’t beholden to whatever Clear Channel wants to cram down our throats.

I don’t know if I can stand Kesha every 4 songs, or Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, and Rachel Maddow spewing hogwash and party propaganda.

To listen, you can go directly to the Podcasts website and listen/download, or use a service such as iTunes, Stitcher, or iPP Player (that’s what I use on my Android phone, but I have no idea what it is).

You’ll notice a pattern of history and pro-wrestling here…

The ones I listen to religiously are:

“Hardcore History” – Dan Carlin’s incredible, in-depth show about history. I cannot stress enough how fantastic this show is.

“Common Sense” – Dan Carlin’s quasi-conservative populist political show.

“Talk is Jericho” Chris Jericho (WWE Pro-Wrestling Legend, and Lead Singer of Fozzy, a fairly popular metal band) talks about pro-wrestling, music, movies, pop-culture, and interviews people from these various fields. From Jake “The Snake” Roberts, to UFO experts, to his dad. Good stuff.

 “History Replays Today: The Richmond History Podcast” – Jeff Majer does a bi-weekly show where he interviews someone about the history of Richmond or issues surrounding Richmond. As a Richmond Tour Guide, I have used this as a source for information.

Occasional/Alternating Weekly Listens

The above Podcasts I listen to every new episode, no matter what. The following are ones that I check out when the topic/interviewer interests me, or I run out of other Podcasts.

“Back Story” – The American History Guys take current events and talk about the the history behind them. For example, they did an entire show on the history of Political Factions in the United States and how we ended up with our (terrible) two-party system.

“The Art of Manliness Podcast” – Bret McKay and his wife are the founders of the men’s interest and self-improvement blog “Art of Manliness” and generally covers some pretty interesting topics, although the interviewees are sometimes not the most interesting people to listen to.

“The Ross Report” – Jim Ross, the legendary Pro-Wrestling announcer gives his opinions on the industry and the product, and interviews someone from the industry.

“My History Can Beat Up Your Politics” – Bruce Carlson does kind of the same thing as Back Story, but he seems a little more cynical, which I like.

“The Tim Ferriss Show” I am a big fan of his life and body hacking books (4-HB helped me lose 50 pounds) and he has some pretty interesting topics that he covers (such as the benefits of being a Jack-of-All Trades, or Generalist) and generally gives a new perspective on things that you think you know.

“The Steve Austin Show” is WWE Legend Stone Cold Steve Austin’s Podcast which is mostly him shooting the breeze about random topics like beer, food, and anecdotes from his life followed by an interview which is usually with a Pro-Wrestling related personality, but sometimes varies. Sometimes he just answers fan questions for an hour and a half, which is also good.