RSTs Mk II: Getting More Tale

#849: Indoor Day

Sunday was what we call an “indoor day” at the lake. This is what I did with my indoor day.

The video took me most of the day, because my poor old laptop (10, this year) couldn’t handle all of the large files at once. So I started over from scratch and figured out a workaround until I was done about 7 hours later. I cooked, I went outside, I played with action figures, and I drank coffee until it finally saved without errors.

This video should scratch itches for a variety of people including:

1) Max the Axe fans – the full song “Randy” is included.
2) Dr. Kathryn Ladano fans – the full song “Masked” is included.
3) Those who enjoy driving videos. This is my first extensive use of my dash cam.
4) Nature buffs. You will hear real lake noises, rainstorms, and waves. You will see more cool underwater footage from the beaches of Lake Huron, and the legendary Greatest Sunset in the World.
5) Marvel / action figure fans. Look for a special “Build A Figure” Hulk.

 

You will not get:

1) Audio of me singing “Kissing Time” by Kiss; this was lost with the first version of the video.
2) Any of my pork chops.

But you can freely:

1) Live vicariously through me and absorb the good vibes through your monitor and speakers.

While visitors showing up on our little private road was not unexpected on a long weekend, it is disappointing when they show such little respect for the people who live here. A guy parked his ATV on our grass and said “Don’t get your knickers in a bunch” when my mom asked several times for him to move it. This came after arguing that he had the right to park there due to a “snow allowance”. There is no such thing.

Then we had Kenny the fireworks guys shooting off a “truck bed” full of firepower at 9:30 Saturday night. That was…distracting. As much as I love this place it certainly has changed in the last 45 years. Enjoy the video — the good the bad and the ugly!

#848: Dear Bob

Dear Bob,

I know we don’t get to talk much anymore.  I think the last time I saw you was at a funeral.  We both have our own lives now.  You have four kids to raise, and I have a Jen to take care of and cherish.  While we have separate journeys now, I will always remember and treasure our shared origins.  We were the lucky few to grow up on a very special street in a neighbourhood like no other.

Some of my earliest memories are of us playing in the front yard.  You were two years older but at that young age it hardly mattered.  All that mattered were our adventures.  It started with dinky cars, Lego and plastic swords.  Do you remember building little garages for our cars?  I do.  You showed me how.  A few twigs stuck into the ground covered with a grass roof, and we had multi-car garages right in the front lawn.

You taught me how to improvise our fun.  With cardboard boxes, we constructed a Cloud City for my Star Wars guys to play around in.  Do you remember showing me how to make little sliding pocket doors?  Or how about that board game we came up with on our own?  It was huge!  How many of my mom’s shoeboxes did we cut up to make that?  We used my Army Men for the pieces.  We constructed traps for them, that could you trigger with the pull of a thread.  Mom eventually said “No more shoeboxes!”

I could go on, and on, and on about how we created our own worlds to live in.  The drawings, a huge binder of which I still have!  We designed our own video game.  We wanted to submit it to Atari.  Then, when my family got a computer, we discovered a new world:  word processing!  No more pen and paper; now we could really come up with stories.  The program was called IBM Writer’s Assistant and we pushed the limits of what we could achieve.  We co-wrote the Adventures of Comet-tron, though it was your idea.  I even sold copies of our “book” at a garage sale.  25 cents each, and there were two issues!

Building obstacle courses in the back yard.  Improvising audio equipment with little more than a few wires and black electrical tape.  Riding our bikes, exploring the trails.  Renting horror movies and pausing to see fake rubber props.  Writing down the rules to our own invented version of street volleyball.  These are all things I did with my best friend.  If I didn’t have you, do you think “Double Bounce Volleyball” ever would have been conceived, much less documented with actual rules?  Chances are high that the only reason I owned a volleyball was because you had one first.

It’s funny that you studied architecture later in life, because I remember us sitting down with pencils and designing our future houses.  In our blueprints, we still lived on the same street.  We bulldozed all the other houses, and added on to our own (things like swimming pools and helipads and secret tunnels and overhead bridges).  We put new houses for our families to live in, while our original homes were connected by an enclosed bridge so we could hang out without even having to go out!

As your interests changed, so did mine.  Where you led I was eager to follow.  Music was next.  Do you realize how lucky I was to have you and other older kids around the neighbourhood?  While my classmates were listening to music they’d be embarrassed by in six months, you guys had discovered Van Halen.

Do you remember our front porch listening sessions?  One of us would plug in the stereo, and somebody else would bring over the Van Halen.

“Van Halen!?” said my dad as he came home from work.  “Sounds like some kind of tropical disease!”

And so began the long tradition of my dad creating memorable quotes about rock bands.  Wouldn’t have happened without you.  Your dad had some good ones too.

“Is there something wrong with that man?” he mocked when Bruce Dickinson was screaming the high notes.

Classic!  Absolutely classic.  You were not only there for it, but you were the guy who supplied the music for them to mock!

What I’m getting at here is this.  I need to really let you know how much you shaped my life, and how much I looked up to you.  I wanted to be you.  For years I was your mini-me.  You were smart, you were cool, you were big and strong and creative and everything I wanted to be.  I had nobody like you at my school.  Why did you have to go to a different school?  How life would have been different if you were able to stand up for me during the dark times.

I’ll never forget one thing you did for me.  It was grade six.  My bully Steve went at me really hard that year.  He made me cry in class.  It’s not a good feeling, crying publicly with 30 of your peers.  All I could think is how badly I wished you were there to stop him.  Stop all of them.  Then one day, you did make an appearance.  Our schools had March break during two different weeks.  During your March break, you got on your bike and paid me a visit during recess.  None of those kids had ever seen you before.  Maybe they thought you were my imaginary friend.  Not any more!  Steve actually fell flat down on his back when he saw how much bigger you were.  The memory still makes me smile.

I don’t know if you really understood how bad I had it at school.  It was a daily living nightmare.  You were the opposite of that.  I’d come home, phone you up, and 10 minutes later we’d be in the back yard jumping hurdles made of lawn chairs, and everything was forgotten.  You just got me; we shared the exact same sense of humour.  Nothing can gravitate two friends together like a shared love of laughing at the same things.  You also drew out and nurtured my creative side.  Anytime you came up with something cool on your own (which was frequent) you’d share it with me and together we’d expand on it.  It was the exact opposite of what I had at school.  There, nobody understood me.  There, nobody nurtured me.  There, nobody laughed with me.  Only at me.

You were my hero, man.  You were my Wolverine or Iron Man.  Funny enough, I got into Marvel comics because that’s what you read!  Do you remember reading comics on the patio?  Hawkeye was your favourite Avenger back then.

I mean it when I say you were my hero.  You were smart and popular and I was just happy to be the sidekick!  When I finally made it to highschool, you sneakily got an extra locker next to mine.  I felt so cool sharing that illicit locker, like part of an elite club.  We had some excellent times in highschool.  You bought a black guitar and so for contrast I bought a white one.  We never really put the effort in, but we did have fun drawing our logo.  “Paragon” was the name you chose for our band.  We never really learned to play, but we made a music video.  I know you’ll never forget that.  Together we spent a week after hours at the school in the editing suite, finishing the video with a very tight deadline.  We did it, though.  It was hard work.  We fought through technical issues and were recognized for our efforts by having our video shown at the local 1989 Charlie Awards.  What an honour for us.

I know for a fact that I would not be the person I am today had we not crossed paths 40-some years ago.  I think I’d still find ways to be creative, but the things I do today are just extensions of the things we did then.  Sequels, reboots, remasterings.  I like to think that I’m continuing with the projects we started together.  Together we made a music video and two movies.  Today, I make several music videos every year!  And as hard as it is to believe, I even completely re-edited one of the movies we made 30 years ago.  Finishing the work that we started.

It’s OK that you went to college and started your own life.  It was always going to be that way.  We were never really going to bulldoze the neighbourhood and live in connected houses.  Back then, I was never able to express how important you were — and still are.  You helped me survive.  I knew that all I had to do was endure a week at school.  On Saturday it would be us again, you and me, racing cars, flying starships or hosting our own shows.  Despite everything I had to go through at school, I always have considered it a good childhood.  The best childhood.  And that’s because I had you, my best friend.  We embarked on truly great adventures, and they far outweigh the damage the other kids could do.  When it was you and me, they couldn’t touch me.  They weren’t a part of the worlds we were building out of cardboard and Scotch tape.  You projected a force field around yourself and nobody would touch you.  In turn you were able to shield me with it too.  That was a tremendous gift that you can’t understand unless you were the beneficiary.

Do you remember why you chose the name “Paragon” for our band that never was?  “Because it means we’re the best,” you said.  It was true!  We were the best.  We were the paragon of friendships with adventures that shaped a lifetime.  Thank you for sharing that with me.

 

Happy birthday, buddy.  I hope you’re well.

 

#847: Taping the Kiss

GETTING MORE TALE #847: Taping the Kiss

My obsession with Kiss was started in September of 1985.  You all know the story.  I knew that the neighbour, George Balasz, only needed two Kiss albums to complete his LP collection.  He needed The Elder, and Hotter Than Hell.  One day Ian Johnson called, wanting to trade some records for an Atari game:  Superman, one of the poorest games in the Atari catalogue.  He could have that stinker!  He was trading me copies of Alive! and the much coveted Hotter Than Hell.  I already knew that I was going to spin Hotter Than Hell over for more trades.

I played Hotter Than Hell once.  Then I called George to negotiate a trade.

By the conclusion of the evening, I had acquired a Walkman, Black Sabbath’s Paranoid on cassette, an Abbott and Costello record and an Iron Maiden 12″ single.  Not bad for a shitty Atari game.

Now, technically the Atari game belonged to my sister and I, and she was pissed that I traded it without at least consulting her, but today she understands the monumental significance of her sacrifice.  My Kiss collection had begun.

I owned a record player, but it was a terrible one, so my Kiss focus was going to be cassette.  I asked George to record that scratchy copy of Hotter Than Hell for me.  Between that day in September of 1985 and summer of 1987, I taped just about every Kiss album from George.  The ones I didn’t tape, I bought at the local Zellers store.  Their selection was limited.  For that matter, every store’s selection was limited.  There wasn’t much Kiss available on cassette in 1985 Kitchener.  I had to have them.  I had to get them all.

I can’t remember the specific order anymore.  I probably recorded Animalize off George next.  I say this because it was on the flipside of the 120 minute cassette that also contained Hotter Than Hell.  Those, plus my LP of Kiss Alive, kept me occupied for a few months.

There were only a few vintage Kiss albums you could find on tape in town.  Dynasty and Destroyer were common.  They had been reissued in something called The Priceless Collection, a low budget series of repressings.   The vinyl edition of Destroyer in this series lacked the gatefold.  I got Dynasty in one of the local stores, and a few weeks later, accidentally dropped it into a bucket of wallpaper water.  My dad bought me a new copy right away.  I have an amazing dad.  He always took care of me.

It was a neat experience, getting those Kiss albums on tape as a kid.  It was a whole new world to me.  Imagine getting a Kiss album, and hearing for the first time who sang which songs.  You’d try to guess from the titles.  You couldn’t guess from the writing credits, necessarily.  I’d listen to the words and try to figure out what Kiss were singing about.  Wonder if, when I was a grown-up, I would have some of these experiences with the ladies that Kiss were talking about.

I taped a few more off George in the interim.  Sometimes I’d just drop a tape off at his house while he was at work.  I asked him to record Kiss, Dressed to Kill, Unmasked, Creatures of the Night, Love Gun, and Double Platinum. He wrote down the song titles as neatly as he could, and then I made my own covers.  I had a system.  I always had a big Kiss logo on the top half of the cover.  I tried to draw them identically every time.  If it was a single album, I would add a crude drawing of something to do with the album.  On Dressed to Kill, I had Gene in a trenchcoat.  On Love Gun, a pistol.  On the back cover I’d write out the tracks.  But for a double album, I used the bottom half of the front cover to list all the songs.  There wasn’t enough room on the back for a double album tracklist once I cut (or punched) out the two holes for the tape shell.  The back cover also had the year of release, and I drew a symbol on the tape label to indicate whether I recorded it from LP or cassette.  The spine featured a “Dolby stereo” logo.  I was meticulous about keeping all my Kiss tapes looking the same.

The only one of these Kiss tapes that I still have the hand made cover for is Crazy Nights, and I half-assed it because I knew I’d be buying a copy as soon as I could.  I can remember recording Crazy Nights the day it came out from George, and this temporary cover was on the tape that tided me over until I could get a real copy.*

Of course, some were store bought.  Lick It Up was a Christmas gift and I bough Asylum myself.  Destroyer was another early purchase.  I had it before I heard Double Platinum.  I had never heard “Detroit Rock City” before.  I was familiar with some tunes from Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park, my first exposure to many Kiss hits.  I found Destroyer to be weird and I was surprised how much George liked it.

A memory that I have of Creatures of the Night is how good that album made me feel.  Listening to that tape in the garage after a day of bullying at school was a powerful experience.  The music was defiant.  The lyrics sounded good.  “Get me off this carousel, you can do as you please, you can go to hell.” Yeah you can!

Once George got The Elder, I taped it pronto.  I remember we couldn’t read all the song titles.  “Escape from the Ish?  What is that?”  He couldn’t legibly squeeze “Island” into the line.  Then I started seeing Kiss cassette reissues in stores.  Creatures came out with Kulick on the cover.  Most importantly, all the Kiss solo albums, which were otherwise impossible to locate on tape, were reissued in early ’87.  I asked — nay, demanded — all four for my birthday.  And because I was so spoiled, I received all four.  I listened to them in alphabetical order three times each.  A lot of the tunes weirded me out.  Too much funky bass.

Last to land in my collection was Rock And Roll Over.  And I recognized, that until Kiss out with a new album, this was the last time I was going to have this experience:  hearing a Kiss song for the first time, guessing who sang what and trying to understand the lyrics.  It was bittersweet.

It turns out, even when Kiss do put out a new album, it’s just not the same.  I don’t feel like I am learning something of Kisstory, like I did with the older albums.  I don’t get the sensation of “Wow, this is a classic song that I didn’t know before.”  It is just not the same.  But I’m glad I had the experience.

* When I got Crazy Nights, I recorded over this tape and re-used the paper for the cover.  Mixed Songs replaced Crazy Nights, a compilation of singles by Dokken, Ratt, Anvil, Helix and many more.

#846: The United Federation of Planets

GETTING MORE TALE #846: The United Federation of Planets

I used to be an optimist.  In my younger, more impressionable 20s, I felt like humankind had the universe by the balls.  The things we could achieve when united were remarkable but only the tip of what we could do collectively.  Where did I think we’d be by 2020?

Not here, that’s for damn sure!  I didn’t think we’d have the flying car, or free energy.  I thought we’d be on a better road than this.

At that younger age, I immersed myself seriously in science fiction.  Clarke in particular, but Roddenberry was also crucial to my mindset.  The optimistic future of Star Trek was the one I chose to believe in.  Gene Roddenberry was not wrong about what humanity could do when united.  I believed unity was our ultimate destiny, as we left behind our tribal pasts and prejudices.  I thought it was inevitable that eventually we would have something like the United Federation of Planets.  Prosperity through technology and collective wisdom.

It makes me sad and broken to see that we have not made many strides towards Roddenberry’s future, but have taken many steps backwards.  What would Gene think?  While I think he would be delighted to see that technology has leaped faster in some regards than he predicted, he would also be crushed by our continued divisions.

It’s in the news every day.  People are angry.  Some have forgotten the basic manners that their mothers taught them while others are behaving like, frankly, assholes.  Covid has us all stressed, and it has brought some of us together more closely while dividing others even more sharply.  I try to consume as little news as possible but it’s all but unavoidable to see this bullshit.  Even if one only reads music news, it is everywhere.  Ratt and Bobby Blotzer’s son feuding with Sebastian Bach and Dee Snider over the wearing of masks during this pandemic.  This cultural tension has pervaded every aspect of society.  At least you can buy some sweet Kiss-branded masks now.  Yet the amount of hate in the air over this issue is actually quite scary.

Incidentally as a side note, as our economy continues to be devastated by this disease, every brand in the world should start making masks.  Metallica, Maple Leafs, Kiss, Kellogg’s Froot Loops.  People are going to buy them and it’s time to strike while the iron is hot.  Only by adapting to this pandemic are we going to save businesses.  But back to where we were.

I used to believe good would always triumph over evil.  That is what all my favourite stories taught me.  Good is stronger.  Show humanity some adversity and we will unite and overcome.

Roddenberry did predict we’d need a Third World War before we get there.  I hope he was wrong about that too.

Star Trek was popular because people wanted to live in that world.  Star Trek fans exist in every part of the political spectrum.  Millions dreamed of being the helmsman on a starship, and to live in that world.  A world where the Earth knows no war, no poverty and no starvation.  Some of Arthur C. Clarke’s fiction was equally optimistic.  I figured guys as smart as Clarke, who conceived the communication satellite, were smart enough that they were probably right about the future.  Yet here we are, stuck in the mire like it’s still the 1950s.

Of course it’s not too late.  We can still turn around and say “I don’t care if you are this or that, and believe in A, B or C.”  We’re going to have to.  Why can’t everybody see this?  Humanity has no hope of survival if we can’t rise above our tribal differences.

 

#845: VHIII

This piece is a followup to the Friday July 17 live stream “Lead Singer’s Disease”.

GETTING MORE TALE #845: VHIII

We carried two magazines at the Record Store:  Spin, and Rolling Stone.  I cannot remember which printed the following comment in 1996, when Van Halen announced their new lead singer.  After a tumultuous few months with Sammy Hagar quitting and David Lee Roth briefly re-joining, the Van Halens decided on Extreme frontman Gary Cherone to carry the VH torch.

Spin or Stone, in a brief paragraph, commented:  “Roth, Hagar, Cherone…the downward spiral continues.”

Bullshit!

I called bullshit then and I call bullshit now.  That is crap journalism, and so typical of the anti-rock attitudes of the 1990s.

First of all, we hadn’t heard one note of Gary Cherone’s new music with Van Halen, so how could they make that judgement?  Second, it severely short-sells Sammy Hagar, who took Van Halen to their first #1 and scored some seriously massive followup hits with the band.  Critically acclaimed ones too, like “Right Now”.  So:  bullshit!  They were absolutely out of line to print that, and we had many reasons to be optimistic about Gary Cherone.

Some of the thoughts that crossed our minds when the Van Halen news hit:

  • Will Van Halen play “More Than Words” live, like they use to give Sammy a solo song or two?  Eddie would sound amazing on that, wouldn’t he?  He’d put his own spin on it, surely.
  • With Cherone, Van Halen would be able to play a wider variety of Roth tunes again.
  • Gary’s natural charisma, as witnessed at the 1992 Freddie Mercury tribute concert, was bound to bring new life to Van Halen.
  • His lyrics, usually more serious than Hagar’s, would allow Van Halen to adapt to the 1990s.
  • The only drawback I saw was that Gary didn’t play guitar, bringing Van Halen back to just one guitar, live.  The tiniest of issues.

I was not only optimistic, but I was excited.  It’s natural, when two bands you like merge in such a way.  One of my favourite singers working with one of my favourite bands?  Yeah, I was overly excited.  At that time, coming off three amazing Extreme albums in a row, I was a bigger Gary fan than Sammy.  However, when Van Halen III finally came out in 1998 after an agonising wait, I was not immediately impressed.  Nor were a lot of people.  But I gave it more than a fair shake, cranking it as much as I could get away with at the Record Store.  And it grew on me.  It was my favourite album to play in the car during the spring of ’98.

I bought the album in the limited edition tin.  I got it from Al King at Sam the Record Man.  I had a lot invested it in emotionally and monetarily.  T-Rev will remember me praising the record, but also telling him, “Something about it doesn’t sound like Van Halen.”  What I sensed then was the lack of Michael Anthony who only appeared on three tracks.  His lack of vocals was very obvious.

When Eddie first decided upon Gary Cherone as singer, one of the things he commented was that Gary had the “voice of an angel”.  I found that encouraging, but when they made Van Halen III, Gary bellowed almost every single song at the top of his lungs.  His blown-out voice carried none of the nuance it did on the same-titled Extreme album III.  It was a disappointing choice, making Cherone sounding overly similar to Sammy Hagar.

“Why bother changing singers if the new guy is trying to sound like the old guy?” I wondered to myself.

Van Halen did not play “More Than Words” or any other Extreme songs live.  One could argue that Extreme didn’t have the pedigree of Sammy Hagar and didn’t deserve to take up any time in a setlist when you could play another Roth song instead.  Many of them returned to the live setting after an absence:  “I’m the One”, “Unchained”, “Mean Street”, “Romeo Delight”, “Dance the Night Away”, “Feel Your Love Tonight”, and even “Somebody Get Me a Doctor”, albeit now sung by Michael Anthony.  The new Cherone album took up a generous chunk of the set, and the Hagar tracks were reduced to a few key hits:  “Why Can’t This Be Love”, “When It’s Love”, “Humans Being” and “Right Now”.

The new Van Halen underperformed to say the least.  I was shocked when we received 50 copies at the Record Store.  There was no way I was going to be able to sell 50 copies, and I tried.  Lord did I try!  I have been very critical of our regional manager in the past, because she was absolutely merciless in pointing out every one of my failures.  Now that she can’t hurt me anymore, I feel freer to talk about some of it.  She definitely can’t blame me for us getting stuck with a huge pule of Van Halen III.  I never would have ordered 50 copies.  20 was what I had in mind.  But she didn’t ask me.  Hand on the bible, this one was not on me.

YouTuber Todd in the Shadows tackled Van Halen III in one of his “Trainwreckords” episodes, and he goes into great detail about every single thing that went wrong with the album.  This excellent and funny analysis is well worth the 18 minutes of your time.

 

#844: Happy Birthday in the Age of Covid

GETTING MORE TALE #844: Happy Birthday in the Age of Covid

 

All I wanted for my birthday was one more weekend at the lake.  During the time of Covid, that’s never been a certainty.

My parents are not young anymore (although my mom would probably fool you).  I have a 96 year old grandmother that my mom cares for.  We have to be extra, extra, extra careful about everything.  The Ontario government announced Phase 3 of re-opening last week and so my mom and dad decided that we could try spending some time under one roof together for my birthday.  I got my wish.

Packing my electronics and my Marvel figures, Jen and I headed up to the cottage Thursday night.  Lately, especially this year, I’ve been trying to roadtrip exclusively to music that I would have played there when I was a kid.  Usually that’s Kiss but this weekend I decided to shake it up and play some Europe.  The Final Countdown and Out of this World were both acquired at the cottage the first time when they were new.  Playing them on the way there was really trippy.  This resulted in a future Europe-based story that I look forward to sharing.

The first thing we did was jump in the lake for a swim.  I clocked in nine swims this past weekend.  The footage wasn’t as stunning as last week; the lake was murkier.  Instead of worrying about making videos, I just decided to enjoy it and live in the moment.  (There are plusses to both approaches, but the wavy video from last week can’t be topped.)

We ate steak for almost every meal.  I cooked a slab of blue-rare perfection that became steak & eggs the following morning.  I sat outside and watched Marvel movies all weekend.  The Incredible Hulk, Ant-Man, and Captain America: Civil War.  I cranked the tunes outdoors as well:  Europe again, and classic Kiss.  Dynasty, Unmasked, and Gene’s solo album were all air-guitared live on the deck.

I was still worried about my parents and their comfort.  After seeking advice, I decided to set up sanitising stations at the door and on the deck.  They arrived on Saturday afternoon bearing hot, fresh French fries courtesy of a local stand called the Cheesy Monkey.  Later that afternoon they had a small party with cake.  My sister came over and next door neighbour Paul stopped by.  Everybody was six feet apart and we handled things like snacks and drinks very carefully.  My dad bought me a stick of meat and everybody else got me Marvel figures.  Do they know me or what?  I think our trial run for having everybody together at the cottage worked out pretty well.  This really helps relieve the stress.

Something else interesting happened this weekend.  First, flash your minds back to 2002.  Marillion were pioneering a new kind of live release, a subscription based series of archive recordings called the Front Row Club.  I was a subscriber from beginning to end (2002-2008) and never missed a release.  One of the perks that early subscribers received was an exclusive Front Row Club T-shirt.  I had completely forgotten about it, until my mom handed it back to me this weekend.  Somehow, it had become the property of my late Uncle Don.  I don’t remember giving it to him, and I don’t think he liked Marillion, but my mom found it in his shirts.  Now it’s back in my closet again.  We’ll never know how or why!

We left Sunday afternoon after an exciting rain storm, though not as big as we’ve seen before.  Then we went to go and visit Grandma who only turned 96 a week ago!  The good news is that she looks exactly the same as she did when she was 95.  We had a great visit though she really hopes we can get back to something more normal soon.  Can’t say that I blame her, but it was actually a pretty normal birthday for me.

The cottage is a special place in terms of family history and mental well-being.  It’s a place I’ve always enjoyed showing off and I hope you can get a taste of paradise from the pictures.

Thank you everyone for the birthday wishes!  I haven’t finished responding to every one and I may have missed a few.  It sure could have been a heck of a lot worse.

 

Sunday Chuckle: F*** Off Light

My sister has a little recording/rehearsal building she calls Kathronia.  Yesterday she was in there practicing for a recording session.  You could tell she was working because she has a red recording light in there.

“Where’s your sister?” asked my dad.

“She’s in there rehearsing,” I answered. “You can see she has the red light on.”

“Oh yeah,” he said.  “That’s her Fuck Off light.”

Henceforce those things shall be known as Fuck Off lights!

#839.5: More Thieves

I was going to jokingly title this as REVIEW: Rock And Roll Children by Michael LeFevre. I assume it’s a great book, but I wouldn’t know. Somebody stole it from the Royal Mail and replaced it with a cheap notebook.  $77 bucks gone.

Thanks, asshole.

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#843: Summer Depression

After three days in paradise, returning to the stink of the city and the daily grind is depressing. It is a hard feeling to shake.

What makes it harder this year is the uncertainty. Because of Covid-19 there are no guarantees when we’ll be able to go back.

For three days, Covid was so far from our minds. No masks required when you’re isolated by yourselves in the woods. The only time I remembered Covid, it was too late. A neighbour was having car trouble and needed a lift to where he left his car on the highway. Without hesitation I told him to jump in and I drove him to his vehicle. Only on the way back did I remember Covid, and that we were not wearing masks in the car.

When I’m there in paradise, I’m up at the crack of dawn with a coffee in my hand, listening to the symphony of the forest.

When I’m back home, I can’t get up without hitting the snooze button a few times. The roar of traffic can be heard from the highway.

I hope you all are making the best of this summer as possible.

#842: Three Times

GETTING MORE TALE #842: Three Times

Cottages were not meant to have all the niceties of city living.  No washing machines, no dishwasher, no cable TV, no telephones.  At least that’s how it used to be.  When we used to head to the cottage for a long two week vacation, we had to take our clothes to the laundromat.  If we needed to make a phone call, we had to go over to my Uncle’s place who had a phone.  If I was worried about missing some WWF wrestling, I had to set the VCR at home and hope it worked.  (It usually didn’t — programming those simple machines was very finicky.)

We only got two TV stations at the cottage so pickings were slim.  There was a station up in Lion’s Head and another in Wingham.  You had to turn the TV antenna in the general direction of those towns to get a signal.  I can recall that the two stations were exactly 90 degrees apart and almost in line with the cottage itself.  If you wanted Lion’s Head, you turned the antenna aligned with the front wall.  If you wanted Wingham, you turned it 90 degrees to match the angle of the side wall.  All done manually by twisting a pole in your hands.  Changing channels in the rain was something that happened too!  On a particularly clear day, we could pick up a signal from Michigan across the lake.  The old timers say that if the weather is just right, you could actually see the lights of Michigan from the shore of Goderich, Ontario — a trick of the refraction of light.

Between those two stations, we had very little television to choose from.  The one show that we watched every single day was The Price is Right.  I seem to remember watching Bob Barker and Barker’s Beauties after many morning swims, and just before heading back to the beach again.

One morning in ’87, we were watching a poor old guy named Fred up there on the Price is Right, and he was so uncomfortable.  “You can tell he really doesn’t want to be there,” I said to my sister Kathryn.  He ended up winning a bid and had to play a pricing game.  He looked so miserable and confused up there.  You just wanted the poor guy to lose and be out of his misery.  But that also demonstrates how dull cottage life could be for a kid — one of the most memorable highlights of that vacation was a goddamn Price is Right episode!  I can still remember Fred and his green hat!

The potential boredom of the cottage, and even the Price is Right, really sparked some creative moments.  Two things you needed at the lake at all times:  Some paper and pencils.  With those, you could keep yourself entertained through days-long rain spells and cold snaps.  The weather up there was colder and wetter than home, and you could find yourself stuck indoors with no respite.

Kathryn was always creative back then, which was shortly before she started playing music.  She invented her own games.  One of them was based on the Price is Right.

Do you recall that pricing game called “Three Strikes”?  You reached in a bag and pulled out a chip.  It could have a number, or a “strike” on it.  Pull three strikes and yer out!  Kathryn invented her own variation of that.  She called it “Three Times”.  Her version was far more challenging.  She put more chips and way more strikes in the bag.  It was unwinnable.  But memorable.  We still talk about her first prototypical game, “Three Times”.  Not a triumph, but certainly a good effort.

Another of her creations was more original and ambitious.  It was a Choose Your Own Adventure book.  She drew upon real life experiences for its storyline.  This book still exists; it is in a drawer at the lake.  It is fully illustrated and bound.

Inside, on a street that looked a lot like ours, a little kid was taking their dog for a walk.  A cute miniature Schnauzer, just like ours.  Turn the page.  You see a man approaching.  Do you:  1) Turn and walk the other direction? 2) Turn and walk towards the man.

I’m not sure what the two endings say about my sister.  In one, the man turns out to be your dad and walks with you.  In the other, the same man kills you with a knife!

This bizarre book was limited to a single copy.  Her latest work, The Improvising Musician’s Mask:  Using Musical Instruments to Build Self-Confidence and Social Skills in Collective Free Improvisation is less accessible but saw a wider distribution.  But would it exist if her Choose Your Own Adventure dog walking book did not?

We’ll never know!