A while back, I was on a work trip in Louisiana and Texas. My colleague and I were driving an RV to a number of hospitals and putting together a series of short videos for a regional health care system. Fantastic trip, loads of fun, great guy. We took turns driving.

I remember driving one night and quietly playing System of a Down on the RV's front speakers. Jeffrey, my buddy, came up from the back bedroom where he had been resting and asked if everything was okay.

Yeah, I'm good. Why do you ask?

- Are you feeling…aggressive?


- What's with the angry music?

I smiled.

I just like it. I said. I'm not angry. I'm not depressed. I'm not in a bad mood. I just feel like listening to some crazy Armenians play experimental metal in odd time signatures.

Don't worry, I'm not mad. At you, or anyone else.

He patted my shoulder and returned to the back.

That's the kind of guy he was. And is. He cared enough to check on me, which I really appreciate. This is in no way making fun of his concern over my well-being. That's what friends do.

I still like loud music. We have family danceoffs to the Chemical Brothers. And I am guessing there are few households on the West Coast who blast Rachmaninov on vinyl as exuberantly as we do (within safe hearing limits, of course :)

I don't listen to System of a Down a whole lot these days, but I still enjoy them occasionally. Their head bouncing, insanely charged brand of heaviness unfairly got tagged with the 'nu-metal' label of the early '00s, but make no mistake: there was and is no other band quite like them.

Sometimes, music does match your mood. You're sad, so you listen to David Gray. You're angry, so you listen to Deftones. You feel especially hip, you listen to Jay-Z :) Et cetera. But sometimes there's no relationship between your gut emotional state and the music you soundtrack the moment with. And no reason for good friends to be worried. But it's still nice when they check in with you to make sure.

There's two schools of thought when it comes to inquiring about people's well-being (or approaching them when something awful in their life has just occurred). One is the "if something's wrong and they want to talk about it, then they'll let me know, so I won't bother them unless they decide to tell me" approach.

The other is the "hey, I care about this person and if I think something might be wrong, I'll ask them and proactively make sure they're okay." This is the one I like. The one that people like my Mom and other people I admire subscribe to.

Our daughter wants to start playing the piano and the cello, like her Aunt Lanessa. Our son is huge into percussion - his drumsticks accompany him everywhere, sunup to sundown. Maybe they'll start a jazz combo one of these days. Or maybe they'll play alongside each other in an experimental thrash metal band. Who knows. As long as there is love in their hearts and joy splattered across their faces, and as long as they remember to be the kind of people who ask others how they're doing, like my friend Jeffrey.

Right now, I am listening to Queens of the Stone Age and I am in such a wonderful mood, and I just smiled at a stranger while listening to the desert metalscreamers chug their way through Millionaire.

But they're no System of a Down. Nope. Prison Song = Greatest Song Ever.

System of a Down
Prison Song


  1. Count Koen into your jazz combo as guitarist. We were banking on him being the family drummer and got all this percussion stuff for him, but so far, he's WAY more into guitar.

    On another note, this was a good reminder for me of what it means to be a friend---a friend that cares---my stoic Norwegian roots sometimes make me tend to avoid anything that might get tool feely. At least that's my excuse--or maybe some male stereotypical mindset that at some point I thought I was supposed to live up to. Whatever I can claim to dodge my own responsibility on the matter! :)

    After all, being a supportive friend is good and in the wise words of the great Lord Helmet, "Good is dumb".

    Nonetheless, I'm not known to be good at noticing when a friend might be struggling and need some encouragement or just a listening ear. It's not something I'm proud of, but when it's a habit--when it's ingrained into your personality, breaking it is uncomfortable and an uphill battle. It's a battle I'm trying to fight, and reminders like this one are an important part of that.

    1. We'll save a slot for Koen! (Whew, that's a weight off my mind. Now to figure out where they should go to college...:)

      It's always challenging to figure out what "ingrained traits" you want to evolve and develop, and which ones you want to take a diverging path from. You, Brian, have a self-awareness that, I think, is a cornerstone trait for a world-view intelligent, critically-thinking, empathetic human being. One of the traits I want our children to learn from their parents is that a person is not captive to their genetics...I will work on becoming a more quality human being every day of my life.

      Except for Wednesdays. I think I'll take Wednesdays off.

      You are a good and interesting person, Mr. Vistaunet. I admire you.

    2. Whoa---I see that I let an errant "l" slip by unnoticed--I wrote "tool feely". Heheheheh--that's got to be one of the funnier typos I've made---at least for those that share my 5th grade sense of humor.

      But seriously---thank you for your kind words. Working to become a more quality human being (almost) everyday--now there is a good goal. Of course if we were all that diligent that consistently, the new quip might have to become TGIW!

      And I'm going to remember the statement, "A person is not captive to their genetics".


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