Thursday, February 25, 2016

Farewell to the Stockdales

On my first day in Eugene, in the Fall of 2005, I found myself standing in front of the announcement board of Hendricks Hall on the University of Oregon Campus. It is there where I was browsing the profiles of numerous other members of my cohort for the school’s Community and Regional Planning and Public Administration Graduate degrees. I noticed that one of the students was a graduate of BYU Hawaii. As a Mormon, that meant that there was a good chance I already knew a lot about this guy. Though we had come to Eugene with full purpose of mind to be open to all sorts of new experiences and people, I must say that those first few weeks of adjustment were inclining me towards anything familiar. I met Dave Stockdale, my first week in Eugene and he and his wife Teresa were at our house for food and games our second weekend in Eugene.

It was clear from the beginning that (for us at least) this was a couple that we were going to enjoy being around. They were laid back, loved to laugh and were in a very similar situation to our own. Over the next few years, our lives were deeply seasoned by a heavy dose of  “Stockdale.” They lived a few blocks from us and we found ourselves at their home nearly every night. The Stockdales quickly became the friends that we could be ourselves around. Their little condo became the living stage for two years of gut splitting laughter, commiserations about school, marriage, relationships, family planning. The soundtrack was 90s alternative, 70’s fluff, “Office” episodes, and generally non-critically acclaimed movies from the Stockdale’s DVD collection. The fare was always delicious, the games were often vicious. Several game playing dynamics that stand out include the following:
  • Someone (probably Teresa) Utters a fairly directed “Whose turn is it?.... Jake!?"
  • “Freak Dave,  leave me alone!!!” as Annie throws her Settlers of Catan cards at Dave and Dave laughs uncontrollably
  • Teresa, perturbed by some game move of Dave’s, glares at him with a look that makes her unapproving disposition very clear. Dave responds with a sort of “this had better be worth it” look on his face.
  • Jake turning any comment into a cue for a brief musical interlude.
The Stockdales really became our first experience with having a surrogate family. Annie and I both have a long history of deep friendships, but the combination of deep friendship and incredible distance from family created a new kind of friendship and reliance. I remember once I found myself contemplating a bit of a potential financial bind. Dave expressed his willingness to help us out if we needed it. I was deeply moved by that, because it felt like something only family would do. We didn’t end up needing the help, but the gesture was a powerful one that I have never forgotten. On another occasion Annie and I found ourselves stranded in Grants Pass, Oregon. Our vehicle had broken down and we had spent the night in a hotel. The car wouldn’t be repaired for days and we were pretty careworn. After relaying our circumstances the Stockdale’s insisted on driving the three hours down to Grants Pass to get us and take us back home. I am moved again by the very memory as I write it now.

A particularly spectacular highlight in those years was the rather bizarre alignment of European trips that we independently scheduled and yet serendipitously placed  us both in Florence, Italy together for about a day and a half. It felt bizarre when it happened and only seems to increase in its wonder each time we contemplate it.

Over the years our families have grown, our neighborhoods have changed, our priorities have evolved (and been added upon). I remember Annie and I screaming out loud in the middle of a blessing on a dinner, which Dave had used as a clever opportunity to announce Teresa’s pregnancy with their first child Bella (whom they had to wait too long for). They, in turn, mourned with us in our family-starting struggles and celebrated with us when things finally came together.

We don’t see the Stockdales as much as we used to and not as much as we’d like to.  Still on occasion we have gotten together for some good food and conversation and to let our kids become better acquainted, and to always pause for reflection and gratitude on a room now brimming with screaming kids. Most of these get-togethers also result in a card or board game or two. The most recent permutation of this involves the Callisters sleeping over so that we can play into the night like we used to.

Also memorably, Dave and I recently had the opportunity to do something that we had long wanted to do: work on something together professionally. As public servants in the same (relatively small) town, it seemed possible that it would happen at some point. It finally did last year and it was a pleasure to see Dave at work and realize how good he is at his job.

Which brings us to now. Dave recently accepted a job as the City Manager of Prosser, Washington. We are so proud of him and know that Prosser is lucky to have him. Still it is with sadness that we say goodbye. We continue to slowly close the door on a special chapter in our lives. Surely we will always remain close with the Stockdales, but we will have fewer chances to enjoy their company. As they say, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Good luck to the Stockdales in their adventures to come. They will always have a dedicated chapter in the story of our lives and a place at the Callister family table.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Snoasis: Frozen in Salt Lake Valley Pop-Cultural History

With a healthy workforce of six children ranging in ages from 10 to 20, my parents decided to purchase a snow cone shack in the mid-1990s. I was 16 (probably about to turn 17). With our family friends, the Clements, we were the first to bring the Snoasis franchise to Utah (from Idaho). Business those first few years was mediocre and I remember some long days looking out that small window. The Snoasis grew in popularity every year and by the time I was working summers or weekends as a college student, it was quite commonplace to literally shave ice for an entire 5 hour shift (and well into the night). The line would stretch fifty yards sometimes. We jokingly referred to it as “Club Snoasis,” but there was no joke about it, it was the weekend meeting place in Cottonwood Heights (Highland and Fort Union). The place was still hopping at 10 O’Clock on any Saturday night.

My younger siblings, especially Daniel and Deborah (the youngest), have a particularly intimate story to tell. Daniel once reckoned (through a fairly sophisticated mathematical equation) that he had shaved a quarter of a million snowcones  (and this was a few years before it closed mind you).
With just over a decade of operation, by essentially the same staff, the Snoasis became a bit of a folk-standard in the area. But it was not just southeastern Salt Lake County. People would come from all over the Valley, and even Davis and Utah Counties. It was not rocket science but there was something to it. Was it love? Was it skill? Was it dedication? It was probably a mix of these things, but I think it was mostly the beastly, loud and temperamental “old school” shaver machines we used. There was some art to it for sure.
We watched couples date, marry and have children. We watched children go from kindergarten through high school graduation, we saw mothers through multiple pregnancies, smokers through several attempts to quit and cancer patients through their treatments (many, though not all, with successful outcomes).  
Even in Oregon I will occasionally run into someone who has a “Snoasis Story” to tell. A few years back David Archuleta was being interviewed by a local television station and when asked if he had been back to his old favorite haunts while in town, he noted that he had been back to Snoasis! I think only then did some of us reflect on that young dark haired, smiley kid who frequented the shack.

Ma and Pa Callister paid their employees a bit beyond the prevailing wage for folks our age. For this reason, high school summer Snoasis jobs turned into College summer Snoasis jobs. Many a joke was cracked about the tractor beam of the Snoasis which WOULD NOT LET YOU GO. A chance to live at home, spend your days with family and make a reasonable income were too much for most. For a time it was possible to stop by the Snoasis and have your snow cone prepared by two or more individuals with advanced degrees.
A stint at Snoasis became a right-of-passage for recent (or courting) in-laws. Many (Annie, Angie and Deena in particular) contributed more than just a stint. Only one Callister in-law was not an official employee, but Stephen’s credentials lay in the fact that he had been a steady customer for almost the entire decade of the shack’s existence.

Snoasis paid for many a Callister’s (or Callister cousin’s) college tuition, it paid for weddings, it paid for band equipment, it paid for vacations to Europe, to South America, to Southern Utah. It became a thread that was woven between the members of the family, from shaving ice and squirting juice, to shaking sugar water and counting money at the end of the day.
Dad had a respectable full time job elsewhere, so Mom was the boss. She shared these responsibilities as time went on, but there was never a time when she wasn’t the “Sugar Momma!” She filled in for many an otherwise occupied employee and could shave and fill as fast as anyone.
In the Snoasis’ later years the staff started to consist of fewer and fewer family members. Employees remained close friends and acquaintances but was definitely a changing dynamic. Developments at the Dan’s Grocery store (where Snoasis was located) had made the annual permitting process increasingly difficult. Nothing that couldn’t be overcome, but with the family dynamic waning, Mom was losing her Snoasis steam. It just wasn’t filling the same niche that it had. The shack was still at its prime, still had very long lines and a huge following, but Mom and Dad weren’t feeling it anymore.
People were hesitant to believe it, when they were told that summer would be the last. On the  last day people showed up (as they always did on the last day in September) with coolers to purchase their “winter stores.” When the following summer rolled around again, the Snoasis building sat in my parent’s back yard.  
For the next few years my mother refused to entertain the thought of selling it. The building had too many memories and had really become a sort of mascot for our family. I am still impressed by my Dad’s patience with this, considering that the business had ENORMOUS goodwill and they were constantly receiving attractive offers. But there the Snoasis sat. Mom needed time.
A few years later, the time came. Mom sent out a picture to all of us of the backyard WITHOUT the Snoasis. I am not sure how my siblings felt but I doubt that they could have avoided the immediate sense of absence and loss that I felt. It was the right thing to do for sure, but it was the final seal on an era that will forever fill evenings of storytelling and reminiscing: The funny regulars, everyone’s weird work corks, the times we got robbed, the times we were on the news, fear that we would have to show the inspector how to run the hot water (mom was the only who knew .. I think…), my old car, Sheldon hauling sugar water down to the masses, ice and juice floating in Cream, Dan and Jake’s music, Rachel yelling at the high school thugs, and just hours of sibling association.
I don’t know where that Snoasis is now but I imagine it is satisfying a new generation of pregnant woman, keeping a new generation of cavities going and hopefully creating memories and bringing people together again.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Hello world will THIS IS US!!

Maybe someone does it more than we do. I will not claim to be an expert on the subject. But I will clearly assert that I have some breadth and depth in flying with children (though not as much as my wife). The topic has floated rather naturally to the surface because this week myself, my wife and our three little ones will embark on yet another cross-country flight. My palms are already a little clammy, my thoughts a little anxious and my blood pressure already slightly elevated.  

If you’re an anxious person, you know that sometimes it’s helpful to take the issue that preoccupies you and “break it down.” What’s the real issue here? OK, let’s break it down:
·         Pain: There will be pain for sure. I will be carrying a tremendous amount of stuff, without question. I will most likely be sitting in some uncomfortable position for numerous hours, and though I am always sitting in an uncomfortable position on a flight, one or more of my children will make it that much less comfortable.
·         Fatigue: I will be exhausted. The hours we are flying are ridiculous. That aside, any trip with the children, even to the store or park, is exhausting.
·         Inconvenience: Everything about the children makes traveling an inconvenience. Dirty diapers, awkward meals, toys, spills, stains, temperaments, etc.

Ok these are rough, BUT they are ENTIRELY manageable, and frankly, just components of our EVERY-DAY lives.

So what is it really? Why the anxiety?
I think this is it: IT’S ALL OF YOU! By that, I mean the rest of society. It’s my inability to turn-off that part of me that allows someone to cut in line, that hurries across a cross-walk when a car is waiting for me, that asks before putting the seat back on a plane, that apologizes for having a lot of stuff in the check-out line.

My anxiety is the combination of knowing what I am about to subject everyone on that plane to, and knowing that my sweet, innocent, albeit rambunctious, children will be the subject of gazes, eye rolls, hushed conversation, sneers, etc. This makes me feel about as vulnerable as anything that I do with any sort of regulatory. I DO NOT LIKE IT.

Imagine its 3 am, your daughter has been screaming for two hours, you are nowhere even close to your destination, things like dirty diapers or even throw-up permeate the air. Though admittedly entirely horrible, imagine how different that situation is when you are in your own car as opposed to sitting on a plane, 30,000 feet in the air with 300 people who don’t know you.

One gift that some mothers are endowed with is the gift to NOT CARE. They say, “Hello world this is my offspring in raw form! We are going to see my family on the other side of the country, and though I am not an insensitive person, and will try my best to bridle their infant and toddler passions, THIS IS US! We bought tickets like you did. I do not take pleasure in your inconvenience, but please recognize that your (frankly moderate) inconvenience on this leg of your trip is not sufficient in my eyes to prevent me from seeing my family, to prevent my children from seeing their grandparents. If your feeling sorry for yourself just remember that they will be accompanying ME for the rest of my trip….. and life.” Incidentally my wife have this gift :)

I don’t have to tell current parents of small children this: but the rest of you: please know that MOST parents are subjecting themselves and their poor children to long flights NOT for recreation entertainment, and not in an effort to ruin your day. In truth it is almost always an incredibly difficult necessity in their efforts to remain connected to family and loved ones. Do them a TREMENDOUS favor and just smile at them. Give them your temporary waiver of etiquette so they can focus on their kids and each other.  It will mean a lot in helping them get through one of the hardest things they frequently have to do. 

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Check out the first full length album release from my Brother and I, "CEDAR & SAGE"

Cedar and Sage are overjoyed to release to you Rendezvous,  an album of songs that we feel represent a unique brand of "Jake and Dan" music. Those who know us best may have a sense for what this album may contain... perhaps a modern day take on the likes of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young or America? Certainly a love song or two... and what about some surprise tracks from the reaches of Dan's ever-agile musical mind? We think it's all here. And it's here for you... so take it!

The truest compliment to us would be that you enjoy the music enough to make a donation to the Daniel and Angela Callister Family Adoption Fund (through PayPal in the top right corner of this blog). ANY Donation is helpful. If you'd like to make a donation by some other means please contact us at

These files will be available for FREE to download until April 26th
then the tracks will only be available through an online purchasing site. 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

"Without You": A story less told that you might like to hear...

As a teenager (mid-90s) I remember "sampling" was a phenomena that, although not new, seemed to be as pervasive as ever in popular music. If your not familiar with the phenomena of "sampling," its pretty simple: artists use rhythms, beats, licks, and lyrics from existing songs, and build a "new" song around it. A perfect example is Puff Daddy using The Police's "Every Breath You Take." I got into an argument with a kid at school once about a tune that I knew was based on a Chicago sample that he insisted was original (its funny to think that nowadays I could have had the original song playing in his ear within seconds, but even in the mid-90s the information age hadn't really arrived). Anyway, all this to say that, as a young (and odd) lover of older music, I was frequently finding myself in a position of the "advocate" for recognition of original artwork. Janet Jackson has nothing to do with that great guitar lick.. its from an America song written 25 years ago! Hey Warren G fans...that's a Michael McDonald groove in there!
Ok Jake.. whats the story?..Yesterday evening, I watched a short documentary about the band Badfinger. I am aware of some of their hits, but knew little else about them. Their story, to me becomes a deeper and more meaningful application of this concept of  "recognition."

I'll try to be brief... Badfinger were the first artists to sign onto Apple Records. Apple was a label owned and started by the Beatles (James Taylor also signed onto Apple shortly after Badfinger). When the Beatles broke up, Badfinger was slated as the "next Beatles." Their early hits included "If you want it hear it is come and get it," and "Know matter what you do." If you don't recognize these songs form the title, you'd recognize them if you heard them.
The band had tremendous promise. Tragically, the unfortunate combination of the band's inexperience and a crooked manager left them without anything (financially) to show for their early success. The band's leader and primary song writer, Pete Ham had naively defended the crooked manager till the betrayal was exposed. Devestated, and facing serious financial hardship, Pete Ham, a young father, took his own life.
Several years later after painful attempts at recovery and tragic infighting between members of the band, Tom Evans, Pete Ham's closest friend in the band, also took his own life in a desperate moment.
Tragic and sad story, right? But what is the "recognition" issue here? What I did NOT know is that Badfinger had written and released a song along with those previous hits that went essentially unnoticed as a "Badfinger" song. The song was picked up by Harry Nillsson as a VERY rare cover tune for him. The song was called "Without You." Some of you more seasoned readers will remember the Harry Nilsson version.. some of you my age may only remember a Mariah Carey version of the song which was a major hit in 1994.
Most music listeners could care less about the story or context of a song. If they choose to think about it all, they rarely consider that it might go any deeper. (and to be fair.. a lot of songs, past and certainly present, don't go any deeper than the radio wave itself).  In 1994, when Mariah Carey came out with this song, I have to admit that the thought NEVER occurred to me that this song had a story.  I would later discover that Harry Nilsson had recorded a version and that it was not his, but I never knew whose it was.
It was, in fact, Pete Ham and Tom Evans of Badfinger who had co-written the song in 1972.

No I can't forget this evening or your face as you were leaving
But I guess that's just the way the story goes
You always smile, but in your eyes
Your sorrow shows
Yes, it shows
No I can't forget tomorrow
When I think of all my sorrow
When I had you there but then I let you go
And now it's only fair that I should let you know
What you should know

I can't live

If living is without you
I can't live
I can't give anymore

The next time you hear this song, in addition to any emotion the song may evoke on its own, consider its careworn co-writers perhaps revisiting the song in future moments of utter desperation. Whew! Music is more than we make of it sometimes. Its fun, and its catchy but its also art, literature and even history. 

Just wanted to share...

Monday, January 21, 2013

Ok, This is one of those dangerous posts that represents the alignment of several factors: The moment where I find myself much fatigued by the staleness of my blog and the previous post :) and the ever-rare moment where I find myself with a moment to write. The danger lies in having no clear direction or objective to my post. I sense confusion in some readers: "you mean your other posts had direction and objective?" Well.. sometimes, but many were the result of the phenomena described above.
What to write about?... hmmm... well here is something that is occupying brainspace tonight. Henry's hair has contracted a terminal condition.. its called "Mommy's waning patiencitis."  There is no clear cure. I am in a certain state of denial. I have noted the looks, I have heard the subtle (and less subtle) commentary. I am aware that my son is in territory akin to running around with scissors, or dancing on a table, or running in a cul-de-sac... (all of which Henry has done recently.. and if there was a table in the cul-de-sac he surely, at some point, would have done all of them at once). Even the "cool" parents are starting to look at me like "seriously Jake.. get this under control..."
Why the long hair Jake?.. whats this all about? Well, maybe its my way of joining in in that universal parental exercise of projecting onto and through our children. Recently I provided my wife with a tactless sidenote about her effort to throw our kids a last minute two-year birthday party. I tried to remind her that the party she felt compelled to throw the kids (for their sake) was almost certainly 95% for her. She needed to know that she hadn't failed them, she needed to show them the picture twenty years from now, she needed her friends to see that she had it together.  True or not, I think there is no denying that the things we do under the banner of "for the children" are often as much for us. So my version of that may be Henry walking around in the likeness of a member of the Doobie Brothers. Yes, Daddy is a professional, Daddy needs to look respectable-ish... but deep down inside, Daddy wants his flowing mane to sway back and forth as he wales out the lead line on Bread's "Guitar Man." There IS something satisfying about it. Henry may be my pressure valve for grown-up anxiety, for the frustration that recognizing that conforming is a net positive evokes...
Do I fear that Henry is going to look like a dork with his haircut? Yes... yes I do. But, its a healthy exercise to keep this "projection" business in check right? Perhaps less hypocrisy on my part can ease the burden of my tactless sidenotes if nothing else :)

Thursday, December 6, 2012

A word in defense of technology!

About a year ago, I sent my brother a song that I had written and recorded. I had written songs before (some that I was very proud of) but songwriting was always a relatively painful process for me. I was finding, ironically, that amongst the increased distraction and stress that my life had become, songwriting was starting to come to me much more naturally and enjoyably. I remember thinking, well that's great, now that I have no vehicle to share this stuff, it starts coming. That's when I sent my first audio file to my brother Dan (living at the time in Moscow, Idaho). Mostly I just wanted his blessing and some kind of feedback. Dan sent a file back shortly thereafter with bass and drums..... Cool.

This was the beginning of our exploration of remote collaboration and our journey to find a venue for our music. Mostly it has just been tremendously fun and rewarding to be working with my brother on something that we both enjoy, and can contribute to. At present we have assembled enough original tunes to produce a full length album under the name "Cedar & Sage." He is now living in Meredith, New Hampshire and I am in Eugene, Oregon making it a "transcontinental collaboration."

With one or two Christmas songs in our repertoire and with the season upon us, we decided to hastily produce a Christmas album. We started a website where you can listen to and/or download the Christmas album for free. Its our gift and celebration of this great new collaboration. The full length album "Rendezvous" will be available in the Spring of 2013(a few tracks from that album are also posted on the website). For all of the potential evils of technology, it sure is nice when you find a way that it truly brings you closer to others and brings you some genuine fulfillment of a talent or aspiration. Please have a listen if you have a moment.