A Change in Focus

A few weeks ago I had a realization: I haven’t been writing. To most people, this probably does not sound like a bad thing. But I’ve always felt like I have a talent for writing and a potential to do good things with it, and not following through on that is a kind of self-betrayal. This knowledge of my failure to write is always in the back of my mind, but my new realization/kick-in-the-pants came in part as I attended the BYU Symposium on Books for Young Readers and gained knowledge from the fabulous authors and illustrators that spoke there. Then, that Sunday in church the cognizance of my dereliction was again brought forward when my Primary co-teacher in our class of 10-11-year-old boys gave this lesson. The time had come to think seriously about writing again, and develop a plan.

As an undergraduate in college, I was somewhat sure that I would go forward to obtain an MFA and PhD in Creative Writing, and become a poet and college professor on some fine campus somewhere. Although I did well in creative writing in college, after graduating I failed to follow through on this goal. I didn’t make the networking connections I needed to make, and I didn’t say the right things politically that I needed to say, and I didn’t apply to enough schools, but far more essentially, I failed to follow through and continue writing poetry after graduation.

Later, while working as a substitute teacher in public education, I wrote myself halfway through a novel meant for middle grade readers, became frustrated and unsure of where I was going with it, and put it aside. I stopped writing again. In intervening years I’ve made a couple of abortive, guilt-ridden attempts to participate in NaNoWriMo that led only to stress and failure.

But I discovered blogging. I never was that great at it, from a standpoint of consistency, popularity, or monetization, but I did it occasionally. A couple of my blogs have come and gone before the establishment of this site, Josh’s Froz-T-Freez. One of my reasons for having this site is to provide myself a motivator to continue writing as well as a venue to share that writing. As it turns out, it only sort of works to these purposes. Although I don’t post regularly on this site (and although I do occasionally make these grand bogus claims that I am finally going to commence doing so), I still think about what I might post on here or hope to post on here a great deal. It takes up a significant piece of my mental life, even if it never converts to actual posts. My mind is filled with albums I feel I need to review, restaurants I want to visit or visit again and write about, mixtapes I want to put together, pictures to take, random ideas I would like to explore through essays, etc. All of this stuff, even if it’s only half-baked, half-finished, and never posted, still takes up a lot of time. It is also crippling in its failed ambition. Self-expectations that my site be filled with reviews that are thorough and comprehensive have prevented me from even posting so much as a list of my so-far-favorite albums of 2011. My idea of what would constitute a “written blog post” has become in my mind somewhat overblown and unwieldy to do on a regular basis, and because of that high expectation I rarely follow through.

As I considered my desires to write and my failures to do so, I began to question the amount of mental energy I devote to this oft-times derelict site, and to social media in general. If I truly think about my aspirations in writing they have little to do with the content of this site. I have the aforementioned half-finished novel that I set aside four or five years ago, ideas for other novels, and a desire to try writing picture books and maybe get back into writing poetry, which I haven’t done for years but used to love the most. I’d maybe like to try my hand at some well-crafted personal essays. These are far different projects than writing lots of reviews, regardless of whether I am reviewing drive-ins, middle grade children’s novels, or rock albums that I like. There are plenty of people out there writing book and album reviews, most of them better at it and/or more successful or persistent at it than me. My true aspirations are not necessarily to become a great record reviewer, but to write some things that no one else in the world would write.

Writing regularly requires dedication and planning, so I recognized that I needed to refocus and re-prioritize some areas in my life, and let some things go that are less important to me. So in my mind I tried on the idea of killing this site and pulling away from social media in general. I told my wife that I might do it, so as to instead make a plan to devote consistent time every day to this other writing I have been neglecting – the extended, laborious process of writing novels, stories and poems that must occur off the grid. Unlike writing on a blog, this writing has no easy payoff from hitting the “publish” button, sometimes receiving one or two comments from family or other nice people. Instead it is a commitment to work in total darkness and obscurity for months and years, only then to undertake the stressful endeavor of convincing someone to read and hopefully buy and publish your manuscript. Scary.

But the day after I had this discussion and declared I might unplug, I went bonkers on Twitter. I wrote mini-drafts of record reviews. I made threats that I would blow up the Internet if I could not figure out a way to publish my every idle thought easily, stylishly, instantaneously, and simultaneously to all the various social media networks in current or future usage. I thought of all the other intended items I had yet to post on this site. I did not dig out my old novel. I did not write a poem. And furthermore I didn’t feel that badly about it.

My conclusion from this experience of the past week or so is that I’m definitely not ready to give up on social media, and particularly on this site. I’m just finally ready to simplify it and streamline it in my own mind, so that I can share the things I would like to share easily without a lot of pressure or expectations for myself, writing-wise. I will devote most of my writing energies to those other types of writings, and leave this as a casual sharing of interests when I have time.

For example, it turns out I don’t need to feel bad that I never wrote that exhaustive and now hopelessly untimely review of the Springville Art Museum’s Spring Salon that I had intended to write; I can simply throw up a picture from the show every now again with a quick shout-out to the artist, and that will probably be more fun and interesting for everyone anyway. I don’t need to write an exhaustive review of every restaurant I like – I can just throw up a picture or two and write a simple paragraph or sentence highlighting the place. “If you’re interested you go try it yourself.” Basically what I am saying is that the Froz-T-Freez is going into more of a curation mode. There may still be longer written pieces from time to time, but this will now morph into a place for me to quickly highlight and share things I like and that I think other people might benefit from.

The Adventures of Little Lord Fitz and Little Pea: The Furniture Store Capers

On Tuesday I happened upon this tweet declaring a new “mission” from one Amy Krouse Rosenthal, via her blog Mission Amy KR. Her mission was simple: she commisioned “agents” at twenty locations throughout the country to hide copies of her picture book Little Pea under random mattresses in random furniture stores; a play on the whole Princess and the Pea fairy tale. She posted the following youtube video, which gave clues as to the locations of the hidden little peas:

I actually sat and watched through all five minutes of this video, which was strange behavior for me. Perhaps I could sense that destiny had called me on this day. Or perhaps I just like it when people do goofy things like this in stores and public places. I was just a little curious to see if there was going to be one planted somewhere in Utah. Whatever the reason that held my attention for the duration, my hope beyond hope was confirmed as I watched some lady on the video place a copy of this book under a mattress of a “rustic mountain home” bed display in the R.C. Willey furniture store only a couple of miles from my house. I knew not only where this store was located, but, having visited it once a couple of years ago, I even had a general idea of where this type of furniture was located within the store, unless they had changed everything around. Further, I was on vacation from work for the day, and would be willingly aided and accompanied by a picture book-loving wife and little Lord Fitz himself, who would be our go-to man to find the book. And as a final motivation, I myself am currently on a professional and personal quest to explore the world of children’s picture books and discover new titles; what better way to enact my quest than by rummaging through the bed displays of a furniture store as a prank to get a free book? And so it was decided that we would assay that very afternoon to retrieve the Little Pea.

Before I proceed with the recounting of our adventures, there is something you should know about the nature of my relationship with R.C. Willey stores: they frighten and irritate me to no end. Each R.C. Willey location, in addition to being filled with furniture of varying stylishness, is also crawling with salespersons on commission. They will follow you around, and if you tell one to bug off it does no good, because no sooner will he or she leave you alone than another salesperson will find you un-chaperoned and start tailing you. If you are in any way paranoid or unsocial it is not a good place for you. So, I was glad to have my two cohorts with me on the trek.

We arrived at the store parking lot, strapped the lad into his stroller, and entered. There were people all about, which seemed encouraging for our Tuesday afternoon quest, until I realized that virtually all of them were employees. There must have been a 3-to-1 salesperson-to-customer ratio, which meant that we had no chance of being inconspicuous, and also that the salespeople would be extra hungry for business. We proceeded into the store with caution, browsed some furniture, and then made our way to the goal area. I had remembered the mountain cabin type furniture, such as was shown in the video, being in a strange basement showroom of the store. I was unsure whether this would give us more privacy to search for the book, or would leave us to be cornered by a salesperson as the only shoppers in the area.

I made one great error in preparing for our quest for the little pea: I failed to a get a screenshot of the placement of the book. I had remembered it was a rustic looking bed with a TV next to it, and I thought that would be good enough to find it. As it turns out, I was both right and wrong. As we reached the area, I quickly found a bed that matched my memory, with a TV next to it playing at that very moment a ridiculous scene from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid in which a bunch of guys are shot and fall down a hillside in slow motion. Really put me in the mood to buy some rustic furniture right then. I pulled up the mattress from the foot of the bed on both sides, but found nothing. We then wandered around the area for a while, but could not find another bed that matched what we had seen in the video. I wondered if they had already re-arranged their showroom since the book had been hidden. I hoped they hadn’t put it on display on a nightstand in the children’s section or something, thus making our retrieval of the book appear as stealing.

During this time, a salesperson approached us, offering to help us find something, and to my horror my wife straightly told her we were looking for a book that was hidden under a mattress in the store, according to a video that we had seen at a website. Our subtlety gone, now the vast and mysterious mechanizations of the R.C. Willey superstore would be set into motion to thwart us. The salesperson told us that the floor designers would surely have found anything like what we were looking for, and we should check with Customer Service to see if they had our lost book. She then quickly went away, I assumed to inform security that strange persons were in the basement trying to mess up and steal display items. I’m the paranoid one in the family, if you haven’t noticed.

We then came up with the wise idea to try to pull the video up on our phone, but the reception down in the basement was too poor. We went upstairs, I found an obscure couch to sit on where I could attempt to search for and load the video on my phone, and my wife checked with Customer Service and continued to talk to salespeople, who all seemed to be somewhat confused and nervous by what she was asking them. Ten minutes later, after being solicited for sales assistance by three different individuals, I finally had the video cued up and paused on the shot of the bed under which the book had been placed. We showed it to the salesperson, the first one who had helped us. To her credit, she immediately recognized the bed and knew exactly where it was. She led us back downstairs and directly to the very first bed I had checked, with Butch and Sundance playing next to it. My wife pulled up the mattress, and there was the book, in a plastic bag, at the very head of the bed. I had not checked thoroughly enough. Roosevelt Fitzwallace himself pulled the book out (see photo above). We found the note inside the book and showed it to the salesperson, and she, although still somewhat confused, let us take it.

So, the pea was not found by a princess or a prince, but it was found by a little lord, certainly on his way to greatness.

As we made our way to exit of the store, we ran back into other employees that my wife had talked with. She informed them that we had found the book, and tried to relieve them. Apparently they had commenced searching the R.C. Willey website and called the corporate offices to try to find out about this secret book giveaway promotion that they hadn’t known about. Tomorrow they had a “Walk-Through” scheduled, and they were extremely concerned about mobs of people coming in and tearing apart their displays looking for hidden stuff. We tried to comfort them, saying that we were probably the only people who would come in looking for the book.

So, thank you, Mission Amy KR!!! Lord Fitz has deigned to lend me his copy of Little Pea, and so it shall be added to the collection of books I need to read and review for my massive picture book project:

*It should perhaps again be mentioned that, for the purposes of this web site, the boy’s name is Roosevelt FitzWallace, a.k.a. Fitz, Fitzy, or Little Lord Fitz. The original goal was also to avoid the accurate rendering of his facial image at all costs, but once again I have failed in that obfuscation. I could not bear to put a black box over his eyes; he is just too cute.


The Froz-T-Freez staff is growing! We are currenly on-site at the Intermountain Medical Center, recruiting and training our newest member. Due to contractual restrictions, we cannot yet reveal his or her identity. However, I am prepared to admit that he is but a young, little lad.

For some time I’ve been debating whether to write about or show images of my new child publicly on the Internet. I know a lot of other people publicly post photos and anecdotes of their children, including numerous of my own relatives and friends, and I don’t know that there is anything wrong with it. At the same time, I am very cognizant of the fact that he currently has no say on whether I make any and every facet of his young life public or not, and yet it will potentially remain available and accessible for his entire life. Fourth grade bullies, potential employers, and future authoritarian dictators alike will all potentially be able to judge him not only on his own thoughts and merits but also by what I may write about his potty training experiences.

And yet, at not quite a week into this whole parenthood thing, I already have the urge to share some things. So, inspired by some comments I heard once from an unremembered celebrity guest on a talk show, I have arrived at a compromise. (Indeed, I make most of my major life decisions based on advice from celebrities on talk shows, so this one should be no exception.) This is the compromise I offer to the world:

I shall at times mention or write about my child in the text of this website, which does indeed constitute a public forum, with the following exemptions:

  1. I will not be sharing his true name, but shall create a pseudonym for him.
  2. I will not show pictures of his face.

The picture part will be the hardest to remain true to, because he’s a cute little baby, but it will also be a fun challenge.

So, without further ado, I present to the world the name of Roosevelt FitzWallace, affectionately referred to as Fitz, and perhaps occasionally as Little Lord Fitz.

Picture Book Marathon

I’ve never written a picture book before, but I always thought I would try it one day. Well, it turns out that one day will come very soon, and for 28 days in a row, starting February 1. I recently happened upon the Picture Book Marathon, and after a five second perusal of the site I rashly signed up to give it a go. The Picture Book Marathon appears to have been started by two people of my own home town of Salt Lake City, which I think is special. The idea is that participants will write the text of one picture book every day for the month of February. The project is clearly inspired by NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), but thankfully they’ve ditched a lot of the anal retentiveness of that competition (the obsessive word counts, the emphasis on “finishing,” the need to actually work on the same story every day, all that silly stuff). Novelists may need that sort of thing, but we picture book authors and illustrators are a much more fun, laid back kind of crowd.

I’ve tried NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) a couple of times, and each time I have prematurely ended it 1.5 to 2 weeks later in a maelstrom of stress, guilt and failure. But for some reason this new idea of writing 26 picture books in a month holds no such negative power over me. Maybe this is because I have no great expectations for myself in writing a good picture book. Maybe it’s because I don’t even have a very clear idea of what constitutes a good picture book. Maybe it’s because I will be free to write about whatever I want, and my commitment to a certain story or idea need only last for one day, or even for one hour. Whatever the reason, it sounds like just a whole bunch of fun without a lot of pressure.

I guarantee you right now there will be at least one book about a robot, maybe more. And a talking rock. And an okapi. Definitely an okapi. Yeah, I know you’ve probably never heard of it. I think the okapi has more indie cred than any other ungulate, but it’s going to blow up in the mainstream really soon and one of my picture books will be the cause. Then I’ll write another book about the okapi being a corporate sell-out.

Wish me luck?

I Remember a Cassette Cathedral

One of my musical pastimes of 2011 shall be an exhaustive exploration of my tape collection. At New Year’s time I dug all of them out of my parents’ basement, and I’m so excited.

It’s been a long time since I’ve heard Fresh Aire V. Too Long.

Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti: Before Today

Record Review

In the late eighties, a succession of lemon vehicles and financial problems led my family to procure from my uncle a run-down, rust orange 1975 Chevrolet Impala out of desperation.  Un-affectionately referred to as Big Red, the “boat” was somewhat of an ugly embarrassment, and its exhaust production was so profuse that I don’t doubt that it could have single-handedly instigated our growing global warming crisis.  Still, it got us around just fine, and I now remember it with more fondness than any other car my family had during my childhood.

Seemingly exclusive to the period of the Impala, my dad tuned in to a 70s/80s soft rock station on a constant basis. This incessant radio listening and genre choice is one that I have never witnessed my dad repeat in any other car or at any other time in his life; it is as if the Impala itself demanded its own soundtrack, reliving its faded glory days back in the summer of ’75 with songs like “Jackie Blue” and “Summer Breeze” still blowing through its speakers.  Big Red has now long since met the junkyard, but my secret fondness for large American sedans, the color of rust, and, most of all, the music of Seals & Crofts, Hall & Oates, Christopher Cross, and many other fine artists still remains.  Judging from his band’s first full-length effort for label 4AD, Ariel Pink must have a similar fossil fuel-consuming dinosaur in his past.  Fully inhaling the carcinogenic particulate cloud of bygone pop eras, Pink has constructed a masterpiece of yacht rock, synth pop, TV show theme songs, and much, much more.

I wish I had that ‘75 Impala today, so that I could pop in a cassette of Before Today and drive around town listening to these would-have-been-on-the-Time-Life-compilation classics.  Big Red would have let these tracks breeze through its speakers with nary a backfire.  “Round And Round” is more than a great sing-along; it pulls out all the compositional stops with pre-choruses, bridges, and breakdowns all over the place.  Meanwhile, “Can’t Hear My Eyes” is the soft grooving #1 hit that Hall & Oates forgot to write. The impeccable vintage production work is lovingly crafted just for my Impala’s speakers, while the at times cartoonish vocal parts that burst out at random times imply that Pink shares with many of us that same complex love-hate relationship with this pop detritus to which he pays homage.  Some sort of ironic wink exists with every song on the album.  One example is “Fright Night (Nevermore),” in which Pink sings his own line “Knock knock on the door three times! Baby, knock knock on the door!” like it’s an irritating jingle he can’t get out of his head.  Most undercutting is the final track, which, while sounding like a murky, authentic reproduction of early British post-punk, proclaims somewhat cynically the anti-punk, anti-idealist declaration that “Revolution’s a lie.”  Pink’s songs do bring back that pleasant summer breeze of years past, but they bring with it the embarrassing exhaust, the rust, the broken door handles, and the guilt of a pop culture environmental catastrophe.

Before Today
Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti
Released: June 8, 2010

Josh’s Froz-T-Freez Explained, Briefly

As we begin a new year here at the Freez (hopefully a year of consistent content), I thought it would be an opportune time to explain both to myself and to everyone else what exactly the Froz-T-Freez is.  This is the closest we will get to a mission statement.

As you might have noticed, the Froz-T-Freez isn’t an actual drive-in; it’s only a blog.  I’m not a soda jerk, line cook, or a small business owner.  We don’t offer any food here, except perhaps the occasional recipe.

So what is the Froz-T-Freez?  The idea of the Froz-T-Freez grew out of an obsession with drive-ins, but the content you will find here encompasses many other personal obsessions: music, books, photography, art, nature, pop culture, religion, and other randomly selected cultural and natural ephemora.

The Freez is a simply a place on the web for an aspiring writer, foodie, librarian, music nerd, art appreciator, and faithful person (and to clarify, “aspiring” goes in front of all the terms on that list) to practice his writing, explore and think through things, and champion things he thinks are cool or worthwhile:  It is my personally curated library/museum/advertisement/menu of the world as I see it at the moment.

Enjoy your meal.  And please don’t mention our secret menu.  It’s not real.

For an older version of “The Froz-T-Freez Story,” in which I go off about how I wanted to run a combo record store/soda fountain, click here.

On Failing to Reach the Summit of Mount Timpanogos

Yesterday I attempted to hike to the top of Mt. Timpanogos, and I failed.


For several years I have had the goal to reach the top of this mountain, and time and time again I have put it off, thinking the weather would not be good, or I was not in good enough shape to do it yet, or it was a holiday or Saturday and too many people would be on the trail, or there were more important things to do that day. Whatever myriad excuses.

But yesterday I decided it was time to just do it. Virginia had to work both Friday night and Saturday morning in Orem, so I suggested we camp out Friday at our little house in Provo Canyon that we are trying to sell, and that on Saturday I would hike while she worked (she is with child so this kind of hike isn’t really a temptation for her right now). To further impel me to finish the hike (so I thought), I decided that I would hike up one trail and down a different trail. So, before her work Virginia kindly double drove with me to park my car at the Timponeeke trailhead, and then dropped me off back at the Aspen Grove trailhead where I would begin my hike. I assumed I would have no cell phone usage available to me except for perhaps at the summit of the mountain, so I would have no choice but to follow through and reach my car on the other side of the mountain.

[Some background on Mt. Timpanogos: The second-tallest peak in the Wasatch mountain range, Timpanogos towers over Orem and the other Northern communities of Utah County. Numerous schools, businesses and even an LDS temple in the area are named after the mountain. The hike up Timp is extremely popular; I easily encountered 50-100 other hikers during the several hours I was on the trail yesterday. For more info on the hike, some great descriptions and photos of both trails to the summit of Timp can be found here.]

The main difference between the two Timpanogos trails is that the Aspen Grove trail is shorter but steeper, while the Timponeeke trail is longer but allegedly more moderate a climb. Against all my prior daydreaming and planning, I decided yesterday morning that I would begin at the Aspen Grove trailhead. Descending steep terrain is hard on my knees and I don’t find it very fun, so I decided I would climb the steep trail and descend on the more moderate trail.

So I began my hike. I didn’t see anyone on the trail for the first 30 minutes or so. I passed the two waterfalls and left other people there to gawk at them and take pictures. It was 10 AM and I still had a long way to go to and must be on my way.

As I later stopped under the shade of a pine tree for my first real break at 1.5 miles or so, I began to encounter people coming down the mountain. They were almost universally younger than me, most of them probably BYU and UVU students. For one of the first times in my life I became fully cognizant of the reality that, at 30 years old, I am not in the same peer group as these kids, and at this point in my life I would never be mistaken for a college student. I’m an old man now. In retrospect this realization may have added “weight,” as it were, to my pack for the rest of the trip. I don’t know.

I continued on. For a half hour or so I totally zoned out from the trail. Suddenly the terrain changed and I realized I had traveled a fair distance without even paying attention. This made me happy because I thought it meant I had found some kind of rhythm, which could only bode well for my journey. Having once again noticed my surroundings, I stopped to take a look at the impending topography. From the outset of the hike I had noticed this imposing, impossibly high cliff ahead of the trail. I had actually noticed this feature many times while simply driving by the area on the Alpine Loop road. Most hikes I am acquainted with rely on some sort of side canyon or fork to lead the hiker up to the summit, and I had taken it for granted that this hike would be the same. Now as I looked at my environment and tried to determine where the trail would next take me, I saw that there were no side canyons ahead, no ridge to go around; I was already on the side of this cliff and there were only more switchbacks up this cliff ahead. It was the path of the trail, and it was unavoidable.

The long, gradual switchbacks that I coasted through had ended and now the steep climbing began in earnest. In places it was hard to tell what was the regular trail, what was a shortcut trail, and what was a dried up stream cascade or waterfall. People began passing me on a regular basis, some of them scurrying up or down steep shortcuts with which I wanted to have no business. I was slowing up. I had to stop a lot. I heard people above me on the trail, far away but directly above me, still on these same switchbacks on this same cliff.

I sat down on a rock and drank. People passed me. I ate a sandwich. People passed me. I stood up and walked about five steps, and found I wanted to stop again and look. I did this several more times, gaining an altitude over the course of 20 minutes that others had attained in a mere 1-2 minutes. I turned on my cell phone to check the time, and I beheld full bars with 3G? Was this a trick? It was 12:45 PM. At my one-step-per-minute rate, I knew that even if I did manage to push through and get to the meeting-place of the Aspen Grove and Timponeeke trails (all hope of reaching the summit had evaporated at this point), it could well be midnight by the time I reached my car on the other side. My wife would be off work in less than an hour. If I turned around it would not mean attempting to hitch a ride on the Alpine Loop with some shameful tale of slothfulness and failure (that’s what I have this blog for, after all); I could just call my wife to come save me!

And so that is what I did. I made it back down off the mountain safe and healthy, save some serious sunburn. TOTAL FAILURE. And yet, I had hiked enough steep miles to have more than answered any number of other hikes with a summit reached and unqualified success on the return. Mt. Olympus, for example. So where was my failure? Failure to pick the right trail? Failure to plan appropriately? Failure to persevere? Failure to bring a caffeinated drink with me?

TO BE CONTINUED, hopefully . . .