Record Store Tales

#922: Running Through Alberta (1990)

RECORD STORE TALES #922: Running Through Alberta (1990)

A long time ago, in a constitutional monarchy not far away, prices were lower.  The despised goods and services tax (GST) kicked in January 1, 1991.  This federal tax added a 7% levy to your average purchase.  In the before-fore times, in the Canadian province known as Alberta, there was no such thing as a “sales tax”.  What you saw on the sticker was what you paid.  It was an exhilarating time and place to be.  The GST wrecked that, but our last trek out west before the hated tax kicked in was nothing short of glorious.

School was out for summer, and I quit my part-time job packing groceries to hang out at the cottage and take a special trip to Calgary.  It was time for a visit with cousin Geoff, formerly known as “Captain Destructo”.  The most important things to do on any trip were two-fold:

  1. Pack appropriate music for the journey.
  2. Buy music on aforementioned journey.

I had just received two albums that were brand new to me from the Columbia House music clubSchool’s Out, by Alice Cooper, and Come An’ Get It by Whitesnake.  As my newest acquisitions, they had to come along.  I also brought Steve Vai’s Passion & Warfare which I was recently obsessed with.  Finally, I carried enough cash from my job that I had just quit, to buy as much music as I could find.  Stuff that none of the stores in Kitchener had in stock.

The clear memory of driving through the mountains with School’s Out blasting in my ears brings a smile to my face.  While some moments were undeniably weird (“Gutter Cat vs. The Jets”), I couldn’t believe how catchy the album was.  I still can’t.  Alice Cooper records were not necessarily designed to deliver catchy songs.  They were twisted, and School’s Out was like a Twizzler.  Regardless, “Gutter Cat” was entertaining while being unforgettable.  I couldn’t wait to share it with my best friend Bob.  He loved cats!  Another track that took me by surprise was “Alma Mater”, but I couldn’t get it out of my head.  The fact that I’d be graduating in a year was scary.  But the roaring “Public Animal #9” just made me sing along.  I also dug “Blue Turk” although I had no idea how to categorize it.  To me it sounded like something from an old musical from days gone by.  Here I was discovering this ancient music for the first time while the Rocky Mountains zipped past me in the back seat of a minivan.  I like to appreciate moments like that.  I just stared out the window while Dennis Dunaway buzzed my ears with bass.

Next up was Whitesnake.  I still love Come An’ Get It; it’s probably my overall favourite Whitesnake.  A few songs don’t click, such as “Girl”, but lemme tell you folks — “Child of Babylon” is another one of those songs that you just have to  experience while driving through the Rockies.  Bob and I were slowly discovering old Whitesnake.  He was the first to have Saints & Sinners, but I was the first to have Come An’ Get It.  It was something of a “blind buy” for me, since I didn’t know any of the songs.  By the end of the trip, I’d already love “Wine, Women An’ Song”, “Come An’ Get It”, and “Lonely Days, Lonely Nights”.

Two favourites in the making, it was already turning into a memorable vacation.  I enjoyed shopping at corny gift shops.  I bought some goofy round sunglasses with flip-open lenses.  Alberta is dinosaur country, and so I bought a casting of a Tyrannosaurus tooth.  At another gift shop I bought a totem knick-knack.  I remember Geoffrey and I climbing the modest mountains around the hoodoos at Drumheller, and finding a cave near the top where we paused and caught some shade.

When we hit the Calgary Zoo, Geoff showed us how to put coins on the train tracks to be crushed into minature copper and nickle pancakes.  They had a little train that took tours of the park.  It ran on a regular schedule so we always knew about when we should put the coins on the track.  I had heard that copper guitar picks were the best, but they were hard to find, so I crushed a couple pennies.  I turned them into guitar picks once we got home.  We didn’t crush anything more valuable than a dime, but sometimes you’d lose the coin if it went flying off the track.  (Incidentally, you can’t derail a train with a penny, that is a myth.)  We could tell the conductor knew what we were doing and was getting annoyed, so we cut it out.

When we finally hit a music store in a Calgary mall, I was elated.  I was always on the lookout for singles, and here I found a few notable ones.  Aerosmith’s The Other Side EP was an easy “yes”.  It had a number of remixes that, while not great, were exclusives.  It also had something called the “Wayne’s World Theme” live.  What was this “Wayne’s World”?  I knew not, but it wasn’t on the album, so I was happy enough.

Poison were hot on the charts with their brand-new album Flesh & Blood.  Bob was already raving about the album, and one song he pointed out was “Valley of Lost Souls”.  I found the cassette single for “Unskinny Bop” which included this song and an instrumental pretentiously called “Swamp Juice (Soul-O)”.  I never particularly cared for “Unskinny Bop”, but it was the current Poison hit, and “Valley of Lost Souls” was as good as advertised.  I also located Jon Bon Jovi’s solo single “Blaze of Glory”.  I didn’t know it yet but this single had some slightly edited versions of the album cuts — another exclusive.

The purchase I might have been happiest with was a re-buy.  Although it seems ridiculous that at age 18 I was already re-buying albums, it had begun.  My cassette of Judas Priest’s Sad Wings of Destiny was shite.  For all intents and purposes, it only had one channel.  I owned Rocka Rolla on vinyl, but didn’t really have a good way of playing it and making it sound decent back then.  I knew there was a cassette on Attic records with both albums on one tape, and I found it in Calgary.  I was glad to finally have a copy of Sad Wings that I could properly listen to.  I even gained new appreciation for Rocka Rolla on those mountain drives.  “Caviar and Meths” sounds amazing drifting through the mountains.

Not only did we find some cool stuff we couldn’t easily locate in Ontario, but we paid no tax.  Since Alberta had no provincial sales tax, everything we were buying, we were buying cheaper!

I wanted a cowboy hat.  We went shopping for them, but I was having a hard time deciding and then Geoffrey told me about an Alberta saying.  Something about “everybody in Alberta has an asshole and a cowboy hat.”  Either that or “every asshole in Alberta has a cowboy hat.”  Same difference.  Either way, I was dissuaded.

Geoffrey could be exhausting and I really wanted nothing more than to lie down and listen to some new tunes, so I was granted a couple hours of privacy.  We traded tapes back and forth for listening.  My sister Kathryn had the new single for “Can’t Stop Falling Into Love” by Cheap Trick so I listened to that while she borrowed my Poison.

Here’s a funny detail.   For the car trip with Whitesnake and Alice Cooper, I can remember being on the left side of the vehicle.  For Rocka Rolla, I seem to remember sitting on the right.  The view was always great.  Nothing like Ontario.  The air was different, and even the weather was unusual to us.  People left their doors unlocked, we were told by Uncle Phil.

Auntie Lynda spoiled us and took us on all these day trips; it was fantastic.  It was the last great summer holiday.  I know I kept a journal of the trip, which seems to be unfortunately lost.  Great trip though it was, I looked forward to coming home and seeing my friends.  Showing off my new purchases and sharing my new music.  The flight home was uneventful and we arrived late at night and exhausted.  I didn’t sleep much that night — I had recordings of WWF wrestling matches to catch up on.  The last great summer holiday was over, but never forgotten.

#909.5: Visual Supplemental – It Was Back in the Summer of ’83, There’s a Reason I Remember It Well

RECORD STORE TALES #909.5:
Visual Supplemental
It Was Back in the Summer of ’83, There’s a Reason I Remember It Well

AUTHOR’S NOTE: To enjoy this supplemental chapter, please be sure to have first finished reading Record Store Tales #909: It Was Back in the Summer of ’83, There’s a Reason I Remember It Well!


We both loved and feared when cousin Geoff came to visit.  So full of energy.  Much more than me.  We had great times, but usually tinged with a hint of destruction.  This is a kid who gave himself the nickname ‘Alligator’.

Geoff’s visit in the summer of ’83 launched with a trip to the lake.  My Aunt Lynda loves the cottage and so it was a special place for her too.  The photos tell the stories.  As a kid (and adult) I was obsessed with lighthouses, and my Grandfather made this amazing example.  It had lights inside and opening doors.  But you can see, we kids just treated it as another toy!  It appears that Geoff knocked out one of the windows, which is hanging from the edge.

You can see us playing Star Wars at the lighthouse.  I can identify my Bossk figure dangling from the top.  Kathryn and Geoff were right there with me, with their figures.  I look like I’m just immersed in that world.  A galaxy far, far away yet in our back yard.  You couldn’t have found three happier kids.

After returning from the lake, the main part of our adventure began.

Geoff’s grandparents on his dad’s side owned a huge piece of property in the country with a swimming pool, and the most amazing landscape to explore.  Grassy fields gave way to trees, and I don’t think we ever hit the end of the property when we went walking.  It simply went on forever.  Any time we went there, it was a treat.  We spent a few days at the property that summer, swimming and running pretending we were Jedi or superheroes.

I’m glad that we have some pics of that place.  Not a lot.  Mostly the pool.  None of the sprawling real estate and endless fields behind.  None of that cool organ they had in the living room.  None of the steep cliff, with stairway and landings, that that went from the house down to the pool.  But we have lots of the pool.  Imagine “Sister Christian” playing behind as you swim.

It always came back to Star Wars.  Return of the Jedi was brand new.  When Geoff was visiting, we wanted to see it again in the theatre, but as explained in the story, we were vetoed by the adults.  We saw Superman III instead.  (Be sure to read the full story.)   And, as described in many previous chapters, you couldn’t just watch a Star Wars at home like today.  So we had to use our imaginations.  I can easily see what we are reading in this picture.

The lightning from the Emperor’s fingers gives it away.  That is the read-along record/book set for Return of the Jedi.  It was the best way to enjoy the story at home.  Look at the three of us reading along, lost in that world, oblivious to the camera.

The record itself is spinning on my parents’ system behind us, the very system that I later made my own.  It seemed so huge then; not so big in the pictures.  All of our records — mine and my parents too — would have been in that cabinet behind us!  Also barely visible just behind me is my beige Fisher-Price mono tape recorder.  That thing was indestructible.

The three of us sat there, listening and reading as Darth Vader turned back to the light.  In a few short years, everything would have changed.  The decor, the media we listened to, and the entertainment we consumed.  Star Wars was on its last legs and the next record to enter that cabinet was not Star Wars.  It was not from a movie at all, although it certainly tried to be.  A band called Styx would soon be replacing John Williams on the platter.  Who could have guessed that this picture of us enjoying a Star Wars record together would the last time?

#921.5: All I Wanted For My Birthday Was…

I wasn’t feeling very social on my unhappy worstday.

However, rotten moods eventually fade and I thought I would try to fulfill my social obligations on Tuesday. I picked up Jen and we went to go visit my parents. They had special donuts for us and a birthday card for me.

I couple weeks ago, I was talking to someone about having the vaccine, and the province re-opening. She asked me “What kind of things are you looking forward to doing now that you are vaccinated and things are opening back up?” I have simple needs so I answered, “I’d like to go shopping at Toys R Us and a record store.” So far I’ve done one of those two things. Realizing I had a birthday coming too, I added “and I’d really like to watch TV with my dad.”

Watching television with the old man is an experience. The way he flips channels, his running commentary…I haven’t watched TV with my dad since Christmas 2019. I realized yesterday that the only birthday present that I really needed was to watch TV with my dad.

He had Pawn Stars on. I sat on the couch, and after an hour had gone by…I started to feel normal again.

A guy was selling “rare” picture discs. The Pawn Stars offered him $60 for five. I had one of the five! It was a shaped picture disc for Iron Maiden’s “The Clairvoyant”. I paid $10 for it back in 2001.

The Pawn Stars explained that the discs were not a gold mine, because picture discs have an inferior sound, which is true. Still, $60 for five discs is $12 each USD. And I only paid $10 CAD. So that’s not bad. The same guy also had “Infinite Dreams”, some Pee-Wee Herman, and a Ghostbusters disc.

It was the first time I’ve been in the same room as my parents without worrying about masks, viruses, and sanitizer. It was the first “normal” visit in a year and a half. It felt strange, and then it felt normal.

All I wanted was to watch TV with my dad for my birthday. I got what I wanted.

I feel alright.

#921: Unhappy Worstday

It started with a sunburn.

A mid-afternoon swim on Saturday turned into a sleepless Sunday night.  The sunburn wasn’t that bad, but we lost track of time in the water and my back was really red.  Saturday night I was OK, but Sunday I was not.  I feel asleep with no shirt on, on top of the covers, with the air conditioning blasting right onto my back.  I woke up in the middle of the night with the worst chill I ever had in my life.

I’ve never had the shivers so bad.  It took a Visions In Sound sweatshirt, lots of blankets, and a Jen, but a couple hours later I was warmed up again.  I haven’t felt a chill like that since the flu of 2009.  I hid under the covers and was sweating for the rest of the night.  The lack of restful sleep meant an exhausted Monday.

Birthday Monday, didn’t have any solid plans.  Having dinner with my folks was a possibility but I was not feeling well from the lack of sleep and sunburn.  Maybe it is age, but it was the second worst sunburn I’ve ever inflicted upon myself.  And it was my own fault too; no sunscreen.  I’d forgotten how rotten a sunburn can make you feel.  Combine that with the effects from the chill the night before, and I was in no mood to be social.  A quiet night at home would do.

Except it wouldn’t.

Jen went out in the afternoon to the mall.  I wish she wouldn’t spend so long there.  We’ve had so many seizures there, usually at the end of her day when she was getting ready to head home.  When I started getting confusing text messages from her that didn’t make sense, I knew that it was happening again.  I happened to be finished work at that exact moment, so I jumped in the car.  It took 10-15 phone calls before she finally picked up.  During the seizure she lost her groceries and mobility device.  What a nightmare.  She recovered all her stuff but…wow.

Not the worst birthday I ever had, but definitely in the bottom five.

The one thing I really appreciated is all the birthday messages.  They were the best gift, but the one I really loved was this one from Darr Erickson.  Darr wins the 2021 round with this champion of a comment:

Thank you Darr, and to everyone else who wished me a happy birthday this year.  And even if you didn’t, thank you anyway, because I know you were thinking it.

This Friday on the LeBrain Train, we’ll have the real celebration. Harrison the Mad Metal Man has chosen to celebrate his own birth on Friday, so it’s a double party!  It will be a list show with the theme:  Songs that make our skin vibrate!  We have have a full panel as well as drop-in guests.  Spoiler alert:  Brent Jensen will be there!  (And he always shows up!)

Help us this Friday to make it a much better celebration.  Hope to see you then.

#920: Wild in the Streets – Helix – Center in the Square, Kitchener, 1987

RECORD STORE TALES #920: Wild in the Streets
Helix – Center in the Square, Kitchener, 1987

We simply could not wait to see our first real concert.

As soon as the date was announced, we got tickets:  Helix with a band called Haywire opening.  Center in the Square, downtown Kitchener.  We were second row mezzanine.  Bob and I were so psyched to finally see our first real rock concert.

We wanted to bring a banner that said “HOMETOWN HELIX”.  We dreamed big.

Helix were hot on the road for their new album, Wild in the Streets.  We’d seen the video and knew what their stage show was going to look like.  The stage set played on the brick wall artwork from the album cover, with two ramps on the sides, that resembled the “fangs” in the Helix logo.  We thought those ramps were absolutely badass.  We couldn’t wait to see Brian Vollmer slide down mid-song,

We were not interested in Haywire — too pop.  The two girls in front of us were obviously Haywire fans.  They had the shirts and were going nuts for singer Paul MacAusland.  Bob and I didn’t think much of him, especially when he laid down flat on his face on the stage.  “That’s his stage move?” we questioned.  Bob liked the guitarist, but I wanted to hear some “real” rock, not this.

A kid from our school, Brian Knight, was there in the loges on the side.  He boasted the next day at school that Helix were not that good; he had seen better.  Ironically he later went on to roadie for Helix.  He could be seen in the 1991 MuchMusic special Waltzing with Helix.  He was also acknowledged in Brian Vollmer’s book Gimme An R, albeit his name was misspelled “McKnight”.  Sadly, Brian passed away this year.

What Brian claimed was simply untrue.  It might have been our first real rock concert, but it was a hell of a first.  We didn’t know a lot of the songs but we knew the hits and some of the deep cuts from Walkin’ the Razor’s Edge.  They certainly played everything we wanted to hear, including the new single “Dream On”, “Wild in the Streets”, “Gimme Gimme Good Lovin'”, “Rock You”, “Heavy Metal Love”, “(Make Me Do) Anything You Want”, “Kids are all Shakin'”, and “Deep Cuts the Knife”.  They also played a new tune that we found amusing.  It went, “Bend over and kiss your ass goodbye” (“Kiss It Goodbye”).  Fritz Hinz took a drum solo, and turned around and shockingly revealed his bare bottom with nothing but a jock strap.  We laughed – we were easily entertained!

The highlight of the show was when Vollmer climbed the loges, and then ran all the way across the mezzanine, right past our noses!  We could hardly believe it.  Bob reached out his hand but Brian didn’t slap it.  I simply made a fist, like “right on man”!  It was amazing how we’d been watching this guy climb up, and then make his way in our direction…and then he ran past and it was over in a second!  Before we knew it he was on the other side, and climbing back down to the stage again.  We knew he had a reputation for climbing on top of things and doing somersaults, but we sure didn’t know that was going to happen when we bought our tickets!

Helix didn’t make as much use of the side ramps as I thought they would, but they did put on a hell of a show.  Doctor Doerner played that big doubleneck that we wanted to see so bad, and of course the “Wild in the Streets” guitar.  We got to see all their stage moves and tricks, and yes, the women in the audience were unlike any we’d ever seen before outside of a video.

We got all the songs we wanted, plus a few we didn’t know like “Dirty Dog”.  They put on one of the most energetic shows that I’m ever likely to see.  It was the MTV/MuchMusic era and all we had seen before were music videos.  The quick cut-and-paste editing of a music video is hard to compete with.  Helix had to work hard on stage, and they went above and beyond that night.

Not a bad “first”.  What I did notice was that Vollmer’s voice sounded thinner than on album.  I wondered if all concerts were like that?  I couldn’t believe how deaf I was afterwards!  Both of us were experiencing this for the first time.  It was a strange sensation and we must have been yelling in the car the whole way home, when my dad came to pick us up.

We couldn’t stop talking about Helix for days.  Weeks.  They didn’t really have to win us over; they were hometown heroes to us.  Instead Helix just cemented our loyalty.  It is said that a great rock show can change a life.  In this case, it simply affirmed everything we had hoped.

Rock Candy reissue

#919: Robert Grass

RECORD STORE TALES #919: Robert Grass

During the summer of 1988, we were lucky to have some cottage visits with the Szabo family.  They had been friends for years.  Robert Szabo is now a successful guitar player/singer/songwriter.  Back then he was a neighbour from school, but his younger siblings Steve and Michelle were also good friends.  They came to visit us at our cottage, and then we went to go and visit them at their place in Grand Bend.  A much busier beach town.

When they came to visit us, we treated them to a backyard barbecue and some fun and amusements.  Steven and Michelle came; Rob was busy elsewhere.  We busted out the games and, as usual, improvised.  We played a drawing game based on the TV show Win, Lose or Draw.  You had to draw sketches and people guessed the words you were trying to draw.  We used coloured markers and went to town on good ol’ lined paper.

We were having a great time but after a few rounds, people were guessing too easily.  I decided to throw a curve ball and pick something to draw that would be harder to guess.  A musical artist but an obvious one that people associated with me.  I chose “Robert Plant”, because I thought it was a recognizable enough name, but not an obvious pick.  Young kids in 1988 were not all familiar with Robert Plant, but some of us were.

Two words.  First word!

I drew Steven and Michelle’s family, with Robert as the tallest.  They successfully guessed “Robert” as the first word.  I hoped this wasn’t too easy.

Second word.  I grabbed a green marker and started drawing plants.  They were having trouble guessing the second word.  Shrubs, weeds, and….

“ROBERT GRASS!” yelled my sister Kathryn, seemingly in victory.

I laughed.  “Who the hell is Robert Grass?” I asked.

“I don’t know!” she answered.

A logical answer I suppose since I did draw some grass with my plants.  After much laughter and giggling, they eventually got the correct guy, Robert Plant, which made a lot more sense than Robert Grass.  And within a year or so, my sister even owned Now and Zen on cassette!  That more than made up for her wrong guess.

 

#918: Drinkin’ Thinkin’

RECORD STORE TALES #918: Drinkin’ Thinkin’

A buddy of mine said the other day, “I saw your clips from the first live show.  I was killin’ myself laughing, that was great”.  The part a lot of people laugh at is when I say “Have I had too much fruit punch this evening?”  I appear drunk but was not.  I told him that, and I had to convince him.  But it’s true.  I don’t really drink.

Note that I said “don’t really”.  I don’t call myself a “non-drinker” or an “abstainer”.  Two summers ago I had a beer with Max the Axe, so I am obviously not a non-drinker.  But that was the first drink in many years, and last drink until present.  I just don’t like the way it makes my stomach feel.  As I got older, my stomach got worse, exacerbated by anxiety and stress.  It’s just not an experience I seek out anymore.

From my mid-20s to my early 30s, I enjoyed a sometimes-drink.  I was a lightweight.  T-Rev was a great buddy to hang out with, and he tried to get me to be more social.  We’d be hanging out with a whole bunch of girls that he worked with at the Waterloo Inn, and I loved hanging out with that group.  They could take it much further than I could, but I did my best.  Beer, shots, depth charges.  Usually, I was just the designated driver.

When I wasn’t driving, I’d have some drinks at work functions.  The Record Store had a birthday party for me at Jack Astor’s.  I loved Jack Astor’s because they had the most amazing seafood linguine, and still to this day, the best lemonade.  None of my co-workers particularly liked it, but it was my birthday so it was nice of them to go there.  As for the drinking, it started with one beer and picked up from there.  Everybody wanted to buy me a shot.  It was a great night and I distinctly remember grabbing a dude’s ass.  No homophobia here, folks.  I’ll save him the embarrassment of being named, but it was a friend who played guitar in one of my favourite local bands.

I am pretty sure I puked the next morning, but I can’t even say for sure which birthday it was.  I think it was my 31st.

Even though my relations with the boss that I refer to as “The Bully” were always rocky, she did attend my birthday party.  Having seen me grab a guitar player’s ass, I thought it might be prudent to just pro-actively apologise in case she was offended by anything she saw.  “Sorry I got a little loud and rowdy when I was drunk,” I said.

“You weren’t drunk,” she flatly responded.

What?  “Yes I was…they started buying me beer right away,” I said, taken aback by her response to me.

“I’ve never seen anyone get drunk off one beer before,” she claimed.

I didn’t know what to say.  She thought I was putting on an act?  I was a little disturbed by her accusation.

At that time I was a skinny guy.  I had very little alcohol tolerance.  Whether she believed me or much, it didn’t take much to make me tipsy.  Add in the natural high you get from your own birthday party, when everybody is nice to you and at least pretends to like you.  Not only was I drunk, but I think that might have been the best drunk I’ve ever been.

What a strange accusation to make.  There was something wrong with this boss.  The professional response would have been, “Apology accepted, hope you had a nice birthday.  Have a good day.”

Circling back, when I appeared drunk on fruit punch in that live clip, I was completely sober.  I was having a lot of fun, and being live on Facebook was kind of like a birthday party.  It’s a natural high.  Your friends are there and you are the centre of attention.  Being “drunk” doesn’t depend on how many beers I’ve finished.  If I’m already surfing the high of life, it just takes a little.  I’m a cheap drunk if I’m in a good mood!

 

#916.5: I’ve Been Shot! – Update

In in update to this week’s story, #916: Oh My, I’ve Been Shot! (Again), I am pleased to provide all the nitty gritty details of getting a second jab in the arm of the ol’ mRNA vaccine.

Here it comes.

Are you ready?

I’m not kidding around when it comes to this stuff.  All the nitty gritty details.

Jen and I have experienced an eventful week since getting the second dose of Covid-19 vaccine.  On Tuesday night, about four hours after being shot in the arms, we experienced hunger, so we decided to order in.  We selected Italian, and both ordered the same:  aglio e olio with steak strips.  We each finished about half.  Later on that evening after watching American Dad, I experienced tiredness so I went to bed.  In the morning, the first thing I noticed was that I was hungry, so I was naughty and finished my aglio for breakast.  Around 10 that morning I went to Toys R Us and bought some Transformers, some Marvel Legends, and Star Wars Black Series figures.  I then had an odd tingling sensation, of being lighter in the wallet.  At the same time, a forgotten feeling in my chest emerged — the symptoms of joy from having scored cool stuff in a store once again.

Everything from this point on is simply a blur.  I didn’t know what to do, so I enjoyed the day off I had booked for recovery, wrote a review, and had a generally awesome holiday.

In other words:

Jen and I experienced no side effects.  Sore arms don’t count — that’s pretty much a universal complaint.  I had an amusing moment when I was changing around my box set display.  I was lifting a Def Leppard box over my head when I realized — oh shit, I can’t move my shoulder that high.  I discovered through the day that if I used my arm only from the elbow down, I was good to go. I just avoided moving that shoulder.  Went to work the next day.  All good.

To recap:

Jen and I had Pfizer in April, and Moderna this week.  No side effects.

It feels good to be over and done with this (until the inevitable booster — or not).  Now in a little over a week I’ll be at maximum immunity and I will be celebrating a birthday with my family.  I want to sit down in a room and watch TV with my dad.  That’s an activity I truly miss.  His channel surfing accompanied by grumping and complaining was the highlight of every visit.  I look forward to socializing with my family, playing board games, and maybe even going to see the next Marvel movie in a theater.

Oh!  Speaking of Marvel — watched Black Widow last night, not bad.  Widow was never my favourite Avenger; she and Hawkeye never resonated with me the way that Tony or Steve Rogers did.  Having said that, Scarlett kicked it out of the park with a family-focused storyline and some serious action sequences.  This was her Marvel tour-de-force and she had some intense one-on-one scenes.  The final confrontation with Russian General Whatever-akov (Ray Winstone) was cool because it was different for a Marvel film.  Rachel Weisz and Florence Pugh — also some fine performances and not the last we will see of Pugh.  And finally David Harbour.  You just want to hug that big dirty smelly Russian teddy bear Alexei.  This Marvel film was high on action, but also featuring slow and dramatic character scenes.  A pretty fair balance.  There were a couple neat twists, some cool shout-outs to the Avengers, and of course the obligatory post-credit scene.  We have now seen four entries of the MCU’s Phase Four.  Black Widow comes closest in scale to Falcon and the Winter Soldier, but far grittier.  It’s closest in the sense that it’s character-driven, Earth-bound, and without magic or space aliens coming into play.  And as to how this fits in with the future of the MCU even though it takes place in 2016?  Watch the post-Blip, post credit scene.

All is well.  Admittedly, I was worried about side effects.  A couple of my good buddy co-hosts on the LeBrain Train experienced a day or two of uncomfortable side effects.  So I listened to their experiences, planned ahead, booked a recovery day off work, and hoped for the best while preparing for the worst.  We got lucky this time, which seems miraculous for Jen given her complex cross section of medical conditions.  We rarely get lucky, but this time we did.  Jen is much more social than I am, and she needs to be able to go out and interact socially with her friends.  Me, I’m usually happy just to stay in and listen to music.  Jen and I are good this way.  So she is eager to rejoin society in whatever capacity given Ontario’s state of re-opening.

On last night’s episode of the LeBrain Train, I gave Covid-19 the finger for killing John Prine.

Let’s get this pandemic in the past.  Whatever you are currently doing to keep yourself safe, you’re doing a good job, keep it up!  We all live in different regions with different situations.  Me, I live in Hot Spot, Canada.  Stay out of the hospital.  There is one LeBrain Train guest whose name I will keep private.  He is a Covid long-hauler.  He has felt shitty for 16 months.  Any time something like that happens to someone close to me, it hits home.  I’ve been saying this for 16 months:  don’t be stupid.  Stay safe.  You matter.

 

#917: The Dangerous Walk of Death

RECORD STORE TALES #917: The Dangerous Walk of Death

Some of my fond childhood places no longer exist.  What I would give to see some of those places again, as they were in my memories.  Hi-Way Market, the old Record Store at the mall, or my grandpa’s old place in Guelph.  Scant photos exist today.

I did find a couple of pictures from one old place that is no longer as it was.  And that place is called the Dangerous Walk of Death.

One of the fulfilling activities at the cottage was to go for a long walk.  If you said “I’m going for a walk,” it could mean you’d be gone for hours.  There was so much to explore in just our little subdivision.  If we walked to the north, there was a river and sometimes we’d walk along the riverbed and explore it inland.  To the south was another river and the Dangerous Walk of Death.

My dad and sister discovered this place.  There was a road to the south we called the “K” road.  Today it is Kuehner Street.  It had developments on both sides and came to an abrupt end after several cottages.  It ended at a trail, and that is where our fun began.  When we were very young, I used to scared my sister by telling her that “Henry the Hermit” lived in the very woods that our little trail crossed through.  (I also convinced my cousin that sharks could swim up through the pipes into the toilets.)

When you entered the trail, you were immediately swallowed by the trees and things got dark quickly.  It was a narrow space but you never passed anyone else.  You had to walk single file.  It seemed to be our place and our place alone.

If you traced this trail all the way to the end, there was a clearing where an old abandoned cottage once burned down.  Then, the river that my dad dubbed “Dead Man’s River”.  He called it that for good reason.  Snapping turtles were known to make their home there.  We were careful not to step in the waters of Dead Man’s River.

Today there is a quaint little walking bridge that takes you over to the next subdivision.  In our day, it was only possible to cross when the riverbed was dry.  But crossing was not the way to the Dangerous Walk of Death.  To embark on that journey, one had to follow the river inland.

Once again, my dad and sister found the inland path.  It had obviously been purposely cleared by someone many years ago.  It ran parallel to the river, through the deep forest.  Dad used to tell us that many of these trails were original indigenous hunting grounds.  He was probably right.  Artefacts were found by an archaeological team several years ago that proved the original inhabitants used to fish there.  We were acutely aware that we were on very old land when we went on our walks.  The wilderness had probably not changed that much and it was easy to imagine stepping back in time and bumping into a tribe of fishermen and hunters.  They would have had a different name for this place.

Inland we walked, through different kinds of terrain.  There was one area we called “stump land”.  You had to watch your step, and walking there at night was foolish.  Many times did one of us trip in our journey through stump land.

In the middle of stump land was a very small clearing with a large rock in the middle of it.   Sitting Rock.  This was our stopping point.  It was quite scenic.  The sun would dance through the trees making spectacular patterns of light on the ground.  Fortunately I have a picture of this very place as it was in the mid-90s.  An ex-girlfriend and I made a trip to the lake in August 1995 and took this picture.  A much skinnier me is seated upon the rock.  My Jann Arden “Insensitive” hat, a free promo from the Record Store, sits on my melon. And there I am on my mossy seat.  I used to think this would be a cool spot to film a music video — me on acoustic guitar.  Once, I sketched a picture of how cool I’d look playing acoustic guitar on top of Sitting Rock, me and my mullet and a guitar I couldn’t play.  In the real photo, to my right you can see the trail behind.  But this was not the place to turn back.  Greater challenges and better views were ahead.

Following the trail further inland, you would reach a spot that appeared to be the end of the line.  However if you pushed through the overgrown branches, you would find a sparsely wooded area that went steeply uphill.  Watch your step that you don’t go over the Cliffs of Insanity.

This was the end of our odyssey.  Here the trees cleared again and you could look down upon the river below.  I do not have a picture of the view from here, but I do have a picture of us crouching at the edge of the cliff.  The only hint of the chasm beneath are the trees behind us.  You can tell from the distance and height of these trees that there must be a large gorge behind.

Here we usually turned back.  In younger and more adventurous years we kept venturing inland through the woods until we finally hit the main road.  Then we would walk back home.  But that way was far longer and stank of anticlimax.  Our pilgrimage’s natural end was at the cliffs and I’m glad I at least have a partial photographic document of this walk.

If Sitting Rock is still there, then it is inaccessible and on private land.   These photos could be the only ones that exist of our old stomping grounds.  And before us, the ones that lived off this land.

#916: Oh My, I’ve Been Shot! (Again)

A sequel to #894:  Entertainment Needed at the Vaccine Clinic

 

At an age that seems like a another lifetime ago, I refused to get vaccinations.  I wasn’t anti-vax by any means.  I was actually quite pro-vax, but simultaneously, a chickenshit.  As soon as I was old enough to make decisions for myself, I stopped with the needles.  Then about 15 years ago I decided to get the flu shot.  My reaction was so bad that I swore off needles once more.

A global pandemic has a way of forcing you to get over your fears, and so I’ve just had my second shot.  My arm is just starting to get sore as I write.

When we last caught up at the vaccine clinic, they were administering Pfizer.  This time it’s Moderna.  Canada has approved the mixing of these two brands, as they are so similar.  As for the side effects, I guess we’ll find out soon enough.

As before, things were fast and efficient.  We were in and out in 45 minutes, including the 30 minute wait afterwards.  There appeared to be about four times as many people, but the massive facility didn’t feel any more full than last time.  Good to see us getting on top of this.  I like being in the percentage of people who are double vaxxed in Canada.

As before, the volunteers were excellent — the perfect mixture of professional and friendly.

You know what?  None of us here are scientists.  (If you are, raise your hand!)  We’re just music fans trying to make the best of a worldwide crisis.  This the first global pandemic for any of us, unless you’re 103 years old.  We are living through history and we are even making history.

16 months ago, near the start of this pandemic, I predicated and hoped that we’d see creativity blossom in new ways.  I think we have seen that.  Our friends in the band Suicide Star are a great example.  They recorded their new album Isolation during lockdown, learning to work in new ways, and finding a bloom of creative sparks.  Elsewhere, Styx were also working on new music.  Lawrence Gowan was able to use some vintage and not-very-portable keyboards on this album that he never thought he’d play on a Styx record.  How cool is that?  On the other side of the coin, the new Dennis DeYoung album 26 East Vol. 2 has several lyrics directly addressing the pandemic, such as “St. Quarantine” and “Little Did We Know”.

We have suffered, we have lost, and we have sacrificed.  With this second shot in my arm, I hope that I am doing my part to get this behind us.   If that makes me a guinea pig, so be it.  You can thank me later.  I have a birthday coming soon, and my whole family will be double-vaxxed by then.  Does that mean I can actually have a birthday party this year?

I miss walking into record stores and toy stores.  I miss my grandma.  We all hope this is slowly but surely coming to an end.  After so many false hopes, it seems somehow unlikely, but hope I shall.  Wish me luck with the side effects and I’ll be sure to let you know how I’m doing.

Let’s end this — no mercy!