7. Dashboard Confessional

In honor of me turning 30, I made mix CDs of my favorite songs from each of my 30 favorite musical artists/groups. Read the introductory post for more background information on my 30 at 30 project. Reminder: there is no scientific rationale for this list. They’re simply my personal favorites. Coming in at number 7 is Dashboard Confessional.


Acoustic guitar + emotional lyrics + passionate vocalist = Dashboard Confessional. At its core, Dashboard Confessional boils down to that simple formula. Over time, the band expanded and the musical complexity increased. But the heart of Dashboard Confessional was, is, and always will be Chris Carrabba. In many ways Carrabba is Dashboard Confessional the way Sam Beam is Iron & Wine.

The way I first heard of Dashboard makes me feel incredibly old. I used to belong to something called the BMG music club. Every month they would mail me a catalog from which I could order CDs at a discounted rate. One month Dashboard Confessional’s The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most was the featured album of the month, and I decided to order it on a whim. It arrived at a time in my life when I was just beginning to care about romantic relationships, and the lyrics struck a chord. The album was short, consisting of 10 tracks and clocking in under 30 minutes. I put the CD on loop on my bedroom stereo. Each heart-wrenching lyric fed my teenage angst more and more, and my appetite was insatiable.

Carrabba’s lyrics came from an intersection of heartbreak and hopeless romantic. Perhaps no line hit me harder from my first listen through than the closing line of “This Ruined Puzzle”, in which Carrabba somberly asks the most pertinent question in the world for a lovesick teenager: “Does he ever get the girl?”

Thankfully in 2015, I can answer a definitive “Yes!” to what once felt like an eternally rhetorical question. And it’s in no small part thanks to Dashboard that I can answer affirmatively. The truth is the relationship I have with my wife Jessie was rooted in music. Our story dates back as far as 2003 when she began working with me at Giant Eagle. The first area of common ground that we struck was our interest in music, particularly Dashboard Confessional. After all, we were teens in the early 2000s. Dashboard lyrics obviously flavored our AOL Instant Messenger conversations and away messages during those days.

The opening track on this compilation, “So Impossible” from 2001’s So Impossible [EP] holds a special place in our relationship as well. Jessie used the song’s question-laden lyrics as email bait to learn a little more about me in our earliest days of courtship. Fast forward to Nov. 6, 2005 when Jessie and I were just a few months removed from our first breakup. We nonetheless traveled together to attend Dashboard live at SUNY Fredonia. When Carrabba sung, “As Lovers Go,” I joined in with a message that I believed wholeheartedly.

And I said “I’ve gotta be honest
I’ve been waiting for you all my life.”
For so long I thought I was asylum bound,
But just seeing you makes me think twice.
And being with you here makes me sane,
I fear I’ll go crazy if you leave my side.
You’ve got wits… you’ve got looks,
You’ve got passion but are you brave enough to leave with me tonight?

But you’ve got me…

I’ll be true, I’ll be useful…
I’ll be cavalier…I’ll be yours my dear.
And I’ll belong to you…
If you’ll just let me through.
This is easy as lovers go,
So don’t complicate it by hesitating.
And this is wonderful as loving goes,
This is tailor-made, whats the sense in waiting?

I don’t know if I should credit Carrabba’s lyrics or my valiant attempt to sing along, but whatever the magic bullet was, Jessie and I were dating again within a matter of days. We even saw another live Dashboard performance in Erie in April of ’06. Throughout our college years, Dashboard remained a musical fixture. Sometimes our buddy Rich would play guitar and we’d have late night Dashboard singalongs.

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30 at 30 List #11: Annual Events

In honor of me turning 30, I’m compiling 30 different top-30 lists on a wide variety of topics ranging from trivial interests of mine to meaningful life moments. Read the introductory post for more background information on my 30 at 30 project. Reminder: there is no scientific rationale for these lists. They were composed by a panel of one—me.

I have lived my entire life in Erie, Pennsylvania. In Erie, our summers are full of blissful, Presque Isle postcard-ready sunsets and free, live, outdoor music. Our winters are full of soul-crushing combinations of snow and cold that we begrudgingly accept and even embrace. As a community, we roll our collective eyes as other areas of the country declare “a state of emergency” for one day of bad weather that we endure for months at a time.

Last week, as Erie enjoyed its first stretch of above-freezing temperatures in 2015, I couldn’t help but smile at the melting snow and ice all around me, especially the thick layer of arctic refuge that had engulfed my driveway since shortly after Christmas. It was a subtle reminder that spring was coming, and that even if Erie’s snowfall total isn’t yet finished for this season (we know better than that), brighter days lie ahead. Living in a four-seasons state has its perks. Even if sometimes the seasons feel less like winter/spring/summer/fall and more like winter/post-winter/summer/pre-winter, there is a comfort in the cyclical nature of the seasons.

I am a creature of habit. In addition to living my whole life in Erie, I’ve spent the vast majority of my life as a student and/or teacher, which means my personal/professional life has been shaped year-by-year by the academic calendar. Yet every year as the calendar turns to March, my mood instantly perks up, and it has nothing to do with the impending spring break. The time changes, the snow melts, and, most importantly, the madness begins.

March Madness is the ultimate annual event. From the buildup of the conference tournaments to the anticipation Selection Sunday to the frenzy of the opening weekend to the spectacle of the Final Four, March Madness has it all. Collectively, it is unrivaled. But how many of the various stages of March Madness actually rank among the top 30 on my list of favorite annual events? (Spoiler: the list is sports-heavy). Read on to find out.

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