RSTs Mk II: Getting More Tale

#560: Seize the Day

GETTING MORE TALE #560: Seize the Day

It started in early 2008.  It probably really began much earlier than that, but January 2008 was when I knew something was very wrong.

Jen and I were looking forward to getting married in August.  She was still living in Brampton, and coming to visit me in Kitchener on weekends.  Things seemed fine, until they weren’t.  She seemed tired a lot.  She slept a lot of the days and was up until late in the night.  She seemed depressed.  Then one day I noticed something really, really odd.

We used to enjoy playing Nintendo Wii all the time.  Her favourite game was called Find Mii.  It was a simple “Where’s Waldo” style of game.  You had to find certain people in crowds.  Jen was the master of Find Mii.  I saw her finish the game a few times.  She was unbeatable and had several winning strategies.  There was one level where you had to choose a particular Wii character, and then a few levels later, you would have to identify that person in a crowd scene.  It made sense to pick a character who stands out in a crowd, like one with a colourful hat.  When Jen hit that level she picked the most generic character to find later.  I thought that was odd.

Find Mii

“Why did you pick that one?” I asked.  “That will be hard to find in a crowd.”

She didn’t answer.  She didn’t even notice I was speaking.  I just sat and watched her.  She continued playing.

When she got to the level where she had to pick out the character she had chosen earlier, she was very confused.

“What?” she said.  “I didn’t pick anybody yet.”

“Yes you did,” I answered.  “Don’t you remember?  I thought it was strange that you picked such an ordinary looking character.”

“No I didn’t…” she answered but there was worry in her voice.

I had my suspicions.  I got with her parents and we eventually talked her into going to see the doctor.  She was very resistant.  I can understand this.  Nobody likes finding out there is something wrong with them.  It’s frightening.  But so is watching someone you love suffering.

Nobody was particularly surprised when she was diagnosed with epilepsy.  It fit what we were seeing.  What I had witnessed was what the doctor called an “absence seizure”.  I call it “zoning out” because that’s how it looks to an outsider.  It looks like someone has completely spaced out, staring at nothing.

I thought, optimistically, that a neurologist would put Jen on some medication and she would be OK.  Most people are.  I had a friend who also had “zone out” seizures, but when he took his medication he was fine.  When it comes to Jen’s health I always try to be optimistic.  It could, after all, have been a whole lot worse.  Unfortunately my optimism was misplaced.  This was not going to be an easy fix.

There have been so many ups and downs since that day in 2008.  From the happiness at finding a neurologist, to the despair of side effects and pills just flat-out not working.  From people who don’t understand and mock epilepsy, to accidents and injury.  There have been so many.  These incidents have taken their toll not only on Jen, but on me.  People forget that the role of the supporter is no easy task.

As 2008 went on, the wedding loomed closer.  Jen prepared to move to Kitchener and start her new life with me.  One of her former co-workers at Brampton Transit thought epilepsy was terribly amusing.  “Wouldn’t it be funny if she had a seizure at her wedding!” one said, not knowing she was overheard.  As if getting married and moving wasn’t stressful enough!

But we made it.  We had an awesome wedding, and no seizures.  We were very fortunate to be surrounded by the best of family and friends.

Jen moved to Kitchener and three months later had full time employment with Research in Motion, aka Blackberry (before they went tits up).  She worked really hard and was very proud to get that job, and rightfully so.  One of the perks to working there (of many including a custom R.I.M. Monopoly board that we treasure) were their company concerts.  They had thrown private parties featuring Aerosmith one year, and the Tragically Hip another.

Their next employee concert wasn’t a private one, but still free:  U2.  U2 had signed a big endorsement deal and were on TV every night advertising Blackberry phones.  Jen was very much looking forward to seeing U2, but with their light show, could she even go at all?  Imagine her heartbreak when her doctor told her it was very unwise to go and see U2 in concert.

Concerts in general were a problem.  She hasn’t been able to go and see one since we saw Russell Peters early in our marriage.  We tried to see the Trailer Park Boys too.  As soon as cameras started flashing, she had a seizure.  She was taken out in a wheelchair and we didn’t see the rest of the show.  Movies were also impossible.  We had to leave The Muppets before the show even started.  It has been difficult getting used to what we can and cannot do with her epilepsy.

She cannot drive.  But she has to get out and have a life.  Staying inside all day is a sure recipe for depression.  She does her best.  She takes busses, taxis and Uber.  Unfortunately seizures can happen anywhere.  Over the last few years I have received dozens upon dozens of phone calls telling me that my wife had a seizure on a bus.  Off to the hospital we go, where we’d wait several hours for a discharge.  Now, if she is able, she tries to insist on not being taken to the hospital.  They cannot do anything for her there.  We know this from experience.

Unfortunately seizures on a bus sometimes mean falling on a bus.  Jen has had so many injuries from seizure related falls over the years:  concussions, twisted ankles and knees, and a fractured knee.  She’s no longer able to walk without assistance.  When on a bus, she has to fight for a disabled seat.  If she’s not seated on a bus, it’s not safe.  And too many entitled children (and adults) refuse to move for her.  A couple weeks ago she was told to move from the accessible seat to make room for a bloody shopping cart.  An inanimate object.  It is frustrating.  When she falls, it is heartbreaking.

One evening (December 11 2011) after a bus seizure, one of those entitled kids (old enough to know better) thought he needed to take pictures of my wife on the stretcher for his friends.  He is lucky that I don’t believe in physical confrontation.  If I did, there would have been two people on stretchers.  Jen’s mom said, “What is that kid doing?”  I went over to speak with him as he was walking away.

“Hey!  What are you doing?” I shouted.  He ignored me and continued to walk away.  “Hey you!  What do you think you’re doing!” I repeated as I followed.  For a second time he ignored me.  Once again I shouted, “You, taking the picture!  What do you think you’re doing?”

“Taking a picture for my friend,” he answered.

“Why, because it’s really funny?” I asked.

“What do you care?” he retorted.

“That’s my wife!” I said.

“I didn’t take a picture of her face, why are you being rude?”

Rude?  Seriously?   “I don’t care!” I yelled.

“Fuck you,” the little disrespectful dink said, and walked away.  I returned the sentiment, but I could not believe it.  I’m the rude one?

When she’s taking public transit now, we have a routine.  When she is out on her own, she texts me every 30 minutes to check in so I don’t have to worry.  When she can’t get somewhere because of an emergency vehicle with flashing lights, she can text me and we can figure out what to do.  Aside from the falls and injuries, we have had some scares.  I once witnessed her almost wandering straight out into traffic while picking her up from work.  She’s had her shopping bags ripped off at the mall.  She’s had people point and laugh because they think she’s walking around dazed from drinking too much.  We have had to develop thicker skins.

What about all the doctors and specialists?  Her first neurologist couldn’t figure out what was wrong with her and dropped her as a patient.  Finding a neurologist is hard. There are no neurologists here in Kitchener.  You have to go to Mississauga, London, or Toronto.  Eventually we did the only thing we had left to try:  Go to an emergency room in Mississauga where they have neurologists, tell them this girl keeps having seizures, and she needs to see one.  It was her family doctor who instructed us to do this.  Of course emergency didn’t want to deal with that, but that was the only option we had left.  They changed their tune when we told them that she had a seizure right there in their waiting room.  Now we have a new neurologist, and he is in the process of putting her through a battery of tests.  Surgery is the option on the table, but there is a medication we haven’t tried yet that we are going to ask for:  medical cannabis.  That might be the miracle cure we are still hoping for.

In the meantime, we continue to fight on.  We take inspiration from figures like Prince and Neil Young, both epileptics who overcame their illness to perform for millions on stage.  We try to find the humour in life.  We have to.  We don’t have a choice in the matter.  With that in mind, I’ll leave you with some of the epilepsy moments we have been able to laugh at.


When Jen comes out of a seizure, her senses all seem enhanced.  Her vision can be like looking at the world through binoculars.  She can see incredible detail and very vivid colours.  After a seizure the world seems vibrantly bright.  And unfortunately for her, sometimes the first thing she sees after a seizure is my face.  So I can’t help but laugh by some of those post-seizure observations she’s made:

  1. “Wow, your beard is WHITE!”
  2. “Your nose is pointy…and triangle shaped!”
  3. A variation of the above, “Your nose is pointy…and tear-drop shaped!”

I have a glow-in-the-dark Albert Einstein T-shirt that I love.  One night after a seizure, it was glowing away in the dark.  That’s when she observed, “Your tummy is glass…on fire!”  I guess that’s what glowing Albert looked like in the dark!

We will continue to fight this disease, and we will continue to try and see the light side of things.  It’s the only way.  If we didn’t try to laugh at it, it would have beaten both of us by now.  That’s not going to happen.  We have worked and fought way too hard since 2008.

In the meantime, we will continue to raise awareness.  Do you or your kids have any articles of clothing with flashing lights?  Do you take flash photographs in public?  These things can, and will, trigger a seizure.  Try to be mindful of your surroundings and the people around you.  And please, if an epileptic asks you to stop taking flash photos, just turn off your flash.  Don’t tell them to “fuck off” because “that’s not my problem”, as we have been told recently.  Be a good person, and do your good deed for the day.  Do your part to stop a seizure before it happens.

http://epilepsyontario.org/

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#558: Easter Eggs

GETTING MORE TALE #558: Easter Eggs

“Easter eggs” – Hidden content that you have to really search to find.  Often refers to hidden DVD/Blu-ray bonus features.  The first DVD Easter egg I heard of was on the original “steelbook” version of Terminator 2.  If you go to the right menu and punch in the exact date of Judgment Day, you can access a super-extra-extended version of the film, only visible in this specific way.  Another great DVD Easter egg was on Fellowship of the Ring.  Click around, and you will find a clip from the MTV movie awards where Jack Black has pierced his own wiener with the One Ring.

The term “Easter eggs” is common vocabulary today, and has expanded to include secret cameos or information in films too.  Recent examples:  The appearance of the droid Chopper from Star Wars: Rebels in the new film Rogue One.  Or brief glimpse of Lexcorp trucks, in Man of Steel.  They’re designed not to be immediately noticed, but only detected by die-hard fans after repeat viewings.

The old Record Store has Easter eggs too, so secret that I don’t think anyone who still works there even knows about them.  But they’re still there.

When I first began Record Store Tales, I made a decision to never publicly identify the name of the store.  For that reason, I’ll remain vague.  Back in the olden days when everybody more or less got along, at least two Easter eggs were hidden somewhere on the store website.  They were nods and winks at two employees:  myself, and one other guy who had been there a long time.  They are still there, hidden unless you know where to look.  They were never removed even after both of us left.

There is one more Easter egg, that only two people know about:  Tom (co-founder of Sausagefest) and myself.   Tom owned a franchise at the time.  When he eventually moved on to something else, he asked me to do him a favour.  He wanted to leave his mark in some way on the place.  I can understand that.  Tom, T-Rev, a couple others, and I put our blood, sweat and tears into that store.  It wouldn’t be right to call us “original members” or “founding fathers”, because there was only one owner who started it all.  T-Rev and I weren’t owners, we had no stakes.  It was all just pure passion.  We were there in the very early days as we made the baby steps.  We contributed all our energy to that place, helping to build it and make it grow.  I can’t speak for Tom, but I personally am very proud of that.  Tom pushed to be the first one that carried vinyl.  T-Rev helped actually build the stores, putting up shelving and all the works.  I trained dozens of people and came up with the idea of a store newsletter.  It’s not as if they have a “wall of fame” with our pictures on it.  Tom leaving his mark seems pretty justifiable.

So, he asked me to sneak something in there, and I did.  Tom’s little tribute is still on the website.  Only he and I know where to look.  His franchise was always kickass, and he personally supplied me with plenty of great rock from there, including autographed Helix records, some Foo Fighters singles and a rare live Judas Priest.  He had a 25 cent bin of vinyl that always had good stuff in it.  Let’s all raise our Romulan ale to a true rock and roll animal, the mighty Tom.

#557: Just Joking

GETTING MORE TALE #557: Just Joking

Ever heard a joke that made you almost too uncomfortable to laugh?

In my second year of university, I was in a history class and one of the students missed a previous lesson.  He asked if he could borrow some notes, so my friend Tim offered.  “Thanks!” he responded, and then added jokingly, “Hey, who says white people never help out black people?”  Yes, he was black, and Tim and I were white.  We laughed, but a part of us felt like laughing at that joke was taboo.  It clearly wasn’t, he was obviously just kidding, but it hit that grey area of discomfort.

Here is an example from the Record Store.  One of our regular customers named himself “Richard the Indian”.  Super nice guy, usually easy to deal with.  Loved heavy metal.  He had a native status card proving he’s indigenous and entitling him to a tax discount, but he also absolutely looked it.  He had long straight black hair, and wizened eyes.  Even though he referred to himself as “Richard the Indian”, I didn’t like calling him that to his face.  It didn’t seem “right” to me.  So, he was usually just addressed as “Richard”.

He listened to his music on a CD Discman.  He was always have problems with it, and I saw pieces falling off it once. It was “a piece of junk”, according to him.  “This thing must have been made by Indians!” he joked, playing on the stereotype that all Indians are drunk and lazy.

Do you laugh?  I let out a slight uncomfortable chuckle.  Some of the staff felt uncomfortable too.  “I know he’s just kidding, but it makes me feel weird when he makes Indian jokes,” someone told me.  “I feel like I should laugh, but also shouldn’t.”

The ins and outs of retail are labyrinthine.  There have been jokes that flat-out were not funny.  One guy thought he was hilarious with this joke:  Q: What does Marvin Gaye have in common with one of his records?  A: They’re both black and have a hole in the middle.  That joke got no laughs because it wasn’t funny at all.  In other situations, I have laughed and then realized too late that the customer wasn’t joking.

So what do you do?  If you work in retail, when in doubt, don’t laugh.  Do not.  At worst you’ll appear humourless, at best you’ll avoid the wrong reaction!

#555.5: A Short Visit to Sonic Boom

GETTING MORE TALE #555.5: A Short Visit to Sonic Boom

Yesterday I took Mrs. LeBrain to Toronto to see a neurosurgeon.  It was a great meeting; very positive, but we will get more into that in a future tale.   (Look for an upcoming Getting More Tale story called “Seize the Day” if you want to know more.)   After the meeting with the doctor, she had some tests.  I didn’t need to be around for the those, so with a couple hours to kill, I went down to Sonic Boom on Spadina.  I was accompanied by Mrs. LeBrain’s Mom, who insisted we cab to the store.  It was a rainy miserable day outside.  Wet, cold, windy and unpleasant.  The cab ride wasn’t unwelcome.

I’m glad I shaved my beard down to a goatee the other day, because almost every dude in that store looked the same.  Bearded hipsters buying vinyl, left right and center, lookalikes all!  I tuned out the background noise and focused on the cool.  Upstairs they had two colouring books I almost considered getting.  Do you know anyone who is a huge fan of either James Franco or Benedict Cumberbatch?  If so, I am happy to report that Sonic Boom had colouring books of both.  (They also had Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation.)  I spied the new Mastodon among the new releases, but headed downstairs where the real treasures usually lay.

Although I put in a Herculean effort, there was little to be found.  Maybe I have too many CDs, because everywhere I flipped it seemed to be “got it, got it, got it, got it…”  Aaron asked me to look for Danny Michel and a few other titles.  Nothing to be found.  I was struck by how just about everything seems to be reissued on vinyl today.  The Spice Girls’ first album, Spice.  I fail to comprehend.  It doesn’t compute.  I considered buying some Kiss reissues, but I didn’t really want to come home with something I already owned.

With some persistence I did liberate three titles:

  1. The Sword – High Country (CD, used, $9.99)
  2. Queen – The Game (2 CD remaster, used, $9.99)
  3. Rush – Agora Ballroom, Cleveland Ohio, May 1975 (vinyl, new, $32.99)

The Queen set was in the recent arrivals, and that is a nice score.  I’m nowhere near complete with my Queen remasters, but when I can pick them off one by one, used?  That’s the best way.  The Rush on the other hand is something of a chance I’m taking.  This is a radio broadcast vinyl, and I’ve never bought one of those before.  They had several available.  I don’t have anything live from Rush in 1975, so that was the key factor.  Also a non-album track:  “Bad Boy”, a Larry Williams cover.  180 gram coloured vinyl to boot.  Should be good times.

Not a knockout shopping excursion, but not a waste of time either.  We walked back to the hospital (although Mrs. LeBrain’s Mom would have preferred a cab) and got soaked, but it’s good to stretch the legs when it’s a long day of driving and sitting.  Besides, we enjoyed looking at the Toronto scenery.  The fruit and vegetable markets smelled great.  They even had bonsai trees.

Back in the hospital waiting room, I was able to do a little research for my Kiss Re-Review series in progress.  Guess which album I have to write up next.

I don’t want to use the word “disappointing” for this Sonic Boom trip, because I am very pleased with my new albums.  I told Uncle Meat I wanted some more The Sword, and Sonic Boom delivered.  I’m more surprised than disappointed that I was only able to scrounge up three finds this time.  Every visit is different, and I’m sure that next time I return (either in the fall with Aaron, or sooner for more tests) it will be another story.  Sonic Boom is still an absolute must for any music fan visiting Toronto.  Don’t miss out, and be sure to check out the new arrival bins.  They are often the key to many great finds.

As always Sonic Boom gets 5/5 stars.  And so does Mrs. LeBrain for being a tough-as-nails trooper.

 

#555: How to Be Annoying

GETTING MORE TALE #555: How to Be Annoying

Nobody really liked working with Dandy.  What Dandy did was decide who he liked and who he didn’t.  If he liked you, he wouldn’t annoy you repeatedly.  If he didn’t like you, then he just didn’t care – he’d do whatever he wanted, the more annoying the better.  One or two higher ranked people never saw his annoying side.  For the rest of us, he’d act like an idiot on a dime.

One of his most annoying habits was dancing at work.  He’d put on one of his favourite bands – the Dandy Warhols, or the Toilet Boys – and dance around the store.  And when he danced, his white belly would pop out from his too-tight black T-shirt – not a pretty sight.  I’ll admit I’m not the most svelte of specimens but I keep my white belly under ample amounts of shirt!  I’ll never forget the sight of him belly dancing when the Toilet Boys came on.

He also liked to embarrass other people as much as possible.  For example, when Joe Strummer died.  Customers were jumping on the Clash bandwagon, but I really didn’t know anything about the band.  I knew the hits from having heard them in the store, and there were songs that I like. I know one of the drummers (Terry Chimes) was briefly in Black Sabbath.  But I knew next to nothing else about the band members.  Due to his name (Strummer) I assumed Joe was the guitar player.  To this day I only own one Clash album (London Calling).  It just wasn’t my background.  My youth was a heady mix of British and North American classic rock and metal, and I never even bought a punk rock album until the mid-90s (Never Mind the Bollocks was my first).  Once Dandy realized I didn’t know who Joe Strummer’s was, he made sure to tell everybody.  Loudly.

“Hey get this!  We were listening to the Clash – Mike thinks Joe Strummer is the guitar player!  HAH HAH HAH!  He doesn’t even know!  HAH HAH HAH!”

But then the next day he would be nice as pie to me, and picking on somebody else.  Usually the infamous Spoogecakes.

Spoogecakes and Dandy weren’t exactly two of a kind.  She liked Lord of the Rings, Finger 11 and the Showboat soundtrack (we’ll talk about that one another day).  He liked drugs, makeup, and whatever was on-trend.  The only thing they had in common was annoying me.  Like for example, one time Spoogecakes hid my hat somewhere in the store and thought it was freaking hilarious.  I found out later on that she had a crush on me and this was an attention-getting game.  Kind of like something you’d do in grade school, annoying the girl you like for attention because you didn’t know what else to do.

It was Dandy who coined her original nickname:  the Angry Walrus.  His opinion was that she had that kind of face, and always seemed angry.  (She did definitely always seem angry.)  Apparently the name stuck immediately.  It was like a freight train that could not be stopped and I was the last one to hear about it, because I was the manager and nobody wanted to tell me.

Dandy:  “Damn, you have me scheduled to work with the Angry Walrus tonight.  That sucks.”

Me:  “Who the fuck is the ‘Angry Walrus’?”

I was so frustrated with both of them that I really didn’t even give a fuck anymore.  Thankfully I was soon transferred over to another location, and I never had to work with either again.  Thank fuck!

#553: Jesus’ Lyric

GETTING MORE TALE #553: Jesus’ Lyric

Many record store employees drink.  Record store people are just people, and some people drink.  And some drink, a lot. I was never much of a drinker, not until I moved in with T-Rev in ’98. Then I caught up pretty quickly (Captain Morgan’s and Coke, not beer), but I still couldn’t compete with those guys. (In fact, I still remember when I went out for my 30th birthday. I was accused by the Operations Manager/Bully of “faking” that I was drunk. I’m a light weight, and she was just a meany.)

Like me, some of the younger folks, they just couldn’t pace themselves.  The difference is they’d be drinking while having to open the store the following morning.  A lot of them would be out partying, and then we’d get the inevitable phone call the next morning. “I’m sick. Can you cover for me today?” It happened more than once, not naming names.

One guy, who helped me set up the first store that I managed, came into work hungover so many damn times. The first time, I had to send him home. He was absolutely useless. He was actually trying to work with his head down touching the counter. He was slowing me down, so I sent him home and somebody else came in.

The same guy came in hungover one Saturday morning, later on, after we opened. He had his head down on the counter when a customer approached him. He raised his head.

jasons-lyric“Uhh, excuse me. Do you have the soundtrack to Jason’s Lyric?”

The hungover employee stumbled over to the computer.

“It’s a movie soundtrack,” clarified the customer, seeing Mr. Hangover was struggling.

“No. We don’t have it.”

The customer asked him to check to see if one of our other stores had it, so he picked up the phone.  The customer went back to browsing while Mr. Hangover was making the call.   We only had three stores at the time.   One of them had Jason’s Lyric used on CD!

Mr. Hangover then walked out onto the floor to tell the customer about the CD. Only problem:  he didn’t remember who asked.   Or the exact name of the CD he asked for.  So Mr. Hangover approached somebody who looked right.

Walking up to the unsuspecting stranger he said, “Hey man. They got your Jesus’ Lyric over there.”

“What?”

“They got your Jesus’ Lyric soundtrack CD at the other store that you asked for.”

Overhearing this, the correct customer identified himself, and things got sorted.  No big surprise ending here:  Mr. Hangover was let go soon after!

#551: “You’re Wrong on Unmasked” (Intro to the KISS RE-Review series!)

GETTING MORE TALE #551: “You’re Wrong on Unmasked
(Introduction to the kiss-logo Re-Review series)

When mikeladano.com launched five years ago on March 9 of 2012, one of the earliest projects on hand was posting a complete series of Kiss reviews.  This included every compilation I’d ever listened to, every studio album, every official live album, every B-side.  As comprehensive as it was intended to be, it was not 100% original.  Most of it was recycled from old reviews I wrote long ago and posted elsewhere.  Posting the old Kiss reviews was a good way to kick-start the site with loads of content right off the bat.

There was, however, a certain sense of dissatisfaction, as there often is with any old writing that is repurposed for something else.

Several months after the series was completed, I received a text from a girl I knew named Lee.  Out of the blue, she sent me this Kiss-related note:

“You’re wrong on Unmasked”.

“Pardon?” I texted back.  We’d never talked about Kiss even once.  She’d didn’t read my stuff.  I didn’t get it.

“You’re wrong on Unmasked.”  Then a followup: “Eric told me to text that to you,” she added.  “I’m not sure what it means.”

Ah, that made sense.  Lee played darts with Uncle “Eric” Meat, legendary Kiss fan and one of the Jedi masters who instructed me in the ways of the Rock.   Apparently, Uncle Meat felt I was too harsh on the second of Kiss’ two disco albums.  He urged me to one day revisit it.  Having moved on to other series since (including Iron Maiden, Van Halen, Aerosmith, and King’s X) I wasn’t too interested at the time of going back and doing any Kiss over again.

Still…I’ve improved as a writer since Kiss.  Some of those reviews are over a decade old.  Plus, the other series (particularly Van Halen) were so much, much better than Kiss.  That text message planted the idea in my head of one day re-doing all of my Kiss reviews fresh, from scratch, the way they should have been done.

So that’s what we’ll be doing:  Bigger, better, fresher.  The old reviews are fine, but feelings change, even in as short a period as five years.  Sometimes you might feel different about an album from day to day, even for an album you’ve owned for 30 years!  It will be interesting to compare.  The new reviews will be bigger and beefier, with more info and more photos.  Plus, Uncle Meat will even be joining me on some albums to add his own ratings and comments!    Just as a remastered CD forces you to buy the album again, my “remastered” reviews will hopefully force you to read about Kiss one more time.  There will even be a review of a rare officially released Kiss song that I was unaware of when I did the first series!  (It was on a tribute album, recently acquired and also featuring other luminaries such as Alice Cooper and Def Leppard.)

For these reasons, and in the effort of creating a truly high-quality series of reviews deserving of the Hottest Band in the Land, we will be taking one last in-depth look at the official Kiss catalogue.  One more time!  (It won’t be necessary to re-do budget compilations like 20th Century Masters, but everything significant from Wicked Lester to Sonic Boom will be given a second look.  Reviews from Monster onwards were fresh from the start, so we won’t need to look at those a second time either.  Besides, we have already posted reviews for three separate editions of Monster!)  There may even be room for some additional reviews outside the traditional discography.

2017 promises to be the year of  kiss-logo at mikeladano.com.  Get ready to shout it out loud!

Original KISS reviews are below:

KISS – 20th Century Masters –  The DVD Collection (2004)
KISS – 40 (2014 Japanese with bonus track)
KISS – 40 (“Best of Kiss 40” 2015 Universal Japan)
KISS – Alive! 1975–2000 (2006, 4 discs, Best Buy bonus CD, iTunes bonus track)
KISS – Alive! (1975)
KISS – Alive II (1978)
KISS – Alive III (1993)
KISS – Alive IV: Kiss Symphony (2-disc edition, 2003)
KISS – Alive 35: Live at Credit Union Centre, Saskatoon SK, Nov 10 2009 (Concert Online)
KISS – Animalize Live Uncensored (VHS, 1985)
KISS – Animalize (1984)
KISS – Asylum (1985)
KISS – The Best Of Kiss (Green Series) (2008), Playlist Your Way (2008), Legends of Rock (2009), Superstar Series (2009)
KISS – Best Of Solo Albums (German import, 1979)
KISS – The Box Set (Deluxe mini guitar case edition, 2001)
KISS – Carnival of Souls (The Final Sessions) (1997)
KISS – Crazy Nights (1987)
KISS – Creatures of the Night (1982, 1985, 1997)
KISS – Deadly Demos (1995 bootleg CD)
KISS – Destroyer (1976)
KISS – Destroyer (Resurrected) (2012, originally released 1976)
KISS – Destroyer (Resurrected) (2012 Universal, replacement CD)
KISS – “Don’t Touch My Ascot” (2015)
KISS – Double Platinum (1978)
KISS – Double Platinum (1978, 1997 foil embossed reissue)
KISS – Dressed To Kill (1975)
KISS – Dynasty (1979, 1997 Japanese import)
KISS – Exposed (VHS 1987, DVD 2002)
KISS – “God Gave Rock ‘N’ Roll To You II” (1991 CD single)
KISS – Gold (2005, Universal)
KISS – Greatest Hits (1997, Europe only)
KISS – Greatest Kiss (1997 European, Japanese, North American versions)
KISS – Greatest Live Hits (2015 Concert Live limited edition)
KISS – “Hell or Hallelujah” (2012 single)
KISS – Hot In the Shade (1989)
KISS – Hotter Than Hell (1974)
KISS – Icon and Icon 2 (2010)
KISS – Ikons (2008, Universal)
KISS – Jigoku-Retsuden (2008) (aka Kiss Klassics)
KISS – Killers (1981)
KISS – Kiss (1974)
KISS – Kiss Rocks Vegas (3 CD/1 Blu-ray Japanese import, 2016)
KISS – Kissin’ Time in San Fransisco (1974 or 1975 bootleg)
KISS – Lick It Up (1983)
KISS – Love Gun (1977)
KISS – Love Gun (2014 Deluxe edition)
KISS – Monster (2012 CD, iTunes editions) Reviews by LeBrain and Tommy Morais
KISS – Monster (Japan Tour Edition bonus CD)
KISS – MTV Unplugged (1996)
KISS – Music From The Elder (1981, 1997 remaster)
KISS – The Originals & The Originals II (1976 & 1978)
KISS – Psycho Circus (1998)
KISS – “Psycho Circus” (CD/VHS single, 1998)
KISS – Revenge (1992)
KISS – The Ritz On Fire (2013 Gold Fish, recorded 1988)
KISS – Rock and Roll Over (1976)
KISS vs MOMOIRO CLOVER Z – “Samurai Son” / “Yume no Ukiyo ni Saitemina” (2015 CD singles)
KISS – Smashes, Thrashes & Hits (1988)
KISS – Sonic Boom (2009 Walmart exclusive version)
KISS – Unholy Kisses (1992 bootleg)
KISS – Unmasked (1980)
KISS – The Very Best Of (Universal, 2002)
KISS – Wicked Lester / Eddie Kramer Demos (1972 – 1973, CD bootleg)
KISS – You Wanted the Best, You Got the Best!! (1996, Japanese import, bonus track)
KISS SOLO – Peter Criss (1978)
KISS SOLO – Ace Frehley (1978)
KISS SOLO – Gene Simmons (1978)
KISS SOLO – Paul Stanley (1978)
A KISS Tribute for Cancer Care: A World With Heroes – A 40th Anniversary Celebration (2013)
A KISS Tribute for Cancer Care: A World With Heroes EP (2014)
KISS My Ass: Classic Kiss Regrooved (Official tribute album, 1994)

 

 

 

#550: The Toy

GETTING MORE TALE #550: The Toy

The worst thing about running a “family oriented” used CD store was kids.  Not every kid mind you…just the ones that weren’t attended to by their parents.  Toddlers, seven year olds…whatever. They were hell to deal with, because nine times out of ten, the parents would rather scour our shelves looking for John Mellencamp discs than make sure their kids weren’t destroying the store. T-Rev used to say “People should need a license to have kids,” after witnessing the destruction they can unleash when parents don’t give a shit.

So, some typical store activities for kiddies:

  • Taking discs off the shelves and putting them elsewhere.
  • Running behind the counter and grabbing discs there.  This was especially troublesome.  Discs were in numbered slots.  If Junior takes the disc out and throws it somewhere, you have to look it up in inventory to see what slot it was supposed to be in.  How do you do that with a CD that has no title or artist printed on it?  Happened more frequently than you think.  I called those discs “lost soldiers”.
  • Just running behind the counter because why not.
  • Screaming.
  • Throwing things.
  • Spilling food or drinks.
  • Trying to attach themselves to my legs.

Talking to the parents was useless. They’d usually yell something like, “Stop that!” before turning their backs to look for some Tim McGraw discs.

So we came up with a plan to deal with it. A little toy for the kids to quietly play with in the corner! A little hobby center for the toddlers. A few kids did play quietly with it, while others just fought over it. Battles, screaming, with parents deeply immersed in the Bargain Bin looking for MuchDance ’98.

Within two weeks, the toy had developed a gross, slimy coating that you couldn’t clean off. It was disgusting; it looked like kids had been licking it (they probably were). And wouldn’t you know it? The lovely children that used to throw things around the store found something new to throw: the toy and its parts! It could and did end up anywhere in the store. Including begind the counter.  We bought that toy so kids would be occupied and leave us alone. The damned thing was way more work than it was worth.

What a disaster. I hated that fucking thing.

#549: E-Commerce Dawning

GETTING MORE TALE #549: E-Commerce Dawning

I had been trying to get out of the storefront for a while. As a manager you can only take so much retail in a lifetime, even in the Record Store. My reservoir for dealing with the public in a buy/sell situation only had about five or six years in it before I was running on pure fumes. Fortunately e-commerce was becoming a dominant force and I was chosen to manage our new website. It was a good website.  The boss knew what he wanted, and didn’t settle for less.  He listened to feedback and relentlessly tested the site.  It was a challenge since our inventory was changing minute by minute, and technology hadn’t caught up to our needs yet.  When it was finally ready to go live, it was a slow start.  It began as a one man operation.

I was sent out to do some research. The boss sent me to an e-commerce convention at the Waterloo Inn in mid-2000. I returned with plenty of notes and information about how laws would protect buyers and sellers in online sales.

When we first started e-commerce, the website was a part time job. I was still in the store most of the time, because we were only getting 10-15 orders per day. I would have time allotted to go in the back room and get the e-commerce stuff done: processing credit card orders, responding to customers, keeping the books. Customer complaints were infrequent but fun. Often it involved somebody whining that they couldn’t return something because they lost their receipt, or complaining that something was taking too long to come in. Then I’d investigate and get the other side of the story.  There was one guy we all remember that was a constant complainer.  He picked up his orders in-store.  He carried a briefcase with him, and inside that briefcase was a printout of every order he ever placed.

 

The boss told me, “This is your baby, run it however works best for you.” So I did and it went well until it was just too busy for one person to run alone. Then they decided to run the e-commerce thing full time. I was given a small staff of about three people, all people who also worked in store. We had a tiny office to work out of. It had a computer, printer, its own VISA machine and all the supplies needed to ship CDs by FedEx. We learned as we went.

I had a really good staff back there and it was fun juggling that with the store. I worked a lot of double shifts, but I was enjoying it. Things were going well, and over time we got busier and busier.  They decided they wanted a full-time manager for the position.  I was frozen out, and landed back in the store full time. I heard that oft-repeated mantra: “Your time is more valuable to us in the store.”

A couple years’ of work on that website, and suddenly it was pulled away and I was back where I didn’t want to be. My goal was to get out of the store, and I worked hours and hours above and beyond the call of duty to do it. I voluntarily came in on the morning of my Christmas Eve off (year 2000) just to process online orders, so we wouldn’t be slammed by too many when we re-opened. I poured all my energy into it knowing the goal of being out of the store was not far away. Then the floor fell out from under.

They had me transitioning into a new position of being a trainer for new staff and franchisees. That would have been fine except that was a small portion of my time.  The franchising stalled and that meant most of the time I was running a store. Promises of ever getting out had evaporated.

Like many things from the formative years, I had plenty of fond memories of toiling away on that website. Most satisfying was the feeling that I was climbing the ladder and working towards the goal of getting away from the front counter. Apparently the bosses felt that the front counter was the thing I was best at, and didn’t consider other factors such as morale and personal growth. It was like being kicked back to highschool after I’d already graduated and moved on to university.  The ironic thing was one person who eventually ran the website after me was fired for theft. Change isn’t always good.  Maybe they should have left things as-is.

The only song related to e-commerce I could find.

#548: Bad Boys

 

GETTING MORE TALE #548: Bad Boys

I was speaking to a friend’s son the other day.  He’s in his late teens.  We chatted about parents and rules and chores and I realized, “The ‘bad’ stuff I used to do as a kid is nothing compared to what teenagers think is ‘bad’ today.”  When I was teenager, I had never seen a drug.  I didn’t know any kids who drank.  None of my friends had tattoos.  We liked heavy metal music, which had an aura of evil, but that was just the image.  Our lives were pretty mundane…but we did have our fun.

My buddy Bob was the leader when we were growing up.  He was creative and had all the best ideas.  We invented our own games.  A version of street volleyball with no net was one.  A backyard obstacle course made of chairs and sprinklers was another.  I have a book full of drawings we made for video game ideas we planned on selling to Atari.  There is a huge binder (3″)  filled with action figure ideas — we called it “Death Team”  It was a years-long project that included written story lines and an audio sketch.  We imagined the AC/DC instrumental “D.T.” was their theme song.  We even made an elaborate board game using old cardboard, a lot of tape, and a bag of army men.  Making things (or modifying them) was a big part of our creative process.  In 9th grade, we made elaborate cardboard guitars for air guitar purposes.  We used yardsticks as the guitar necks, and the bodies were cut from old boxes.  We then painted them, using my mom’s workshop with dozens of colours to choose from.  We really let it loose for Halloween.  We started preparing for Halloween in late August.  We began by making heads out of papier-mâché. Ours were crude, but when dressed up with sunglasses, hats or wigs, did the trick. Then we would begin working on an audio tape. This was a 60-minute long compilation of scary bits from Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden albums. We hid some speakers outside and would play the tape on a loop for background scary sounds.   Kids loved it.  Really small ones were scared, so we had to stop the tape and turn on the lights for them, but 95% thought it was awesome (including parents).  We’d see kids across the street, and they’d make a beeline for our house as soon as they saw it.  My favourite costume was the one I made in grade 10:  Alice Cooper.

We also did a bunch of things that we didn’t tell our parents about.  My mother is about to read about some of these things for the first time.

We loved to make prank calls.  In the days before call display, Bob and I were the kings.  My parents went out every single Wednesday night to take my sister to dance classes.  Bob came over, we watched music videos, ate chips, and made prank calls.  We didn’t dial random numbers like most kids.  We looked up names that we thought were funny in the phone book, and called them.  There was one name in the phone book that Bob found especially amusing: Hans.  So Bob called up Hans and sang him a little song.  “Hans, hans, hans and feet, I have hans and feet.”  Somebody named Price was met with the phone call, “Come on down, the price is right!”  We really thought we were the most hilarious pair in the world.  Then we started pretending we were calling from the Coca Cola company and asking people if they preferred “New” Coke to old Coke.  Only Bob had a deep enough voice to fool anyone.

Then, there was the time I nailed “Phat Curtis” in the back of the neck with a projectile I named “The Killerang”.  When I was really young, I know I hit Mrs. Reddekopp’s car right in the middle of the hood with one of Bob’s lawn darts.  Bob reluctantly retrieved my errant dart, because I was too scared to get it.  “You can never ever tell anyone about this,” he cautioned me.  We knew that if we kept quiet, everybody would assume another neighbor kid, George, did it.  That’s exactly what happened.

Like many other kids of the 80s, we recorded comedy sketches on tape.  I have seven volumes of “Mike and Bob” on cassette here.  Having played them recently, I can assure you that you are missing out on nothing.  We sure did have fun making those tapes, but I can see why Bob found them embarrassing a few years later.  The recordings usually took place at my house, in the basement or garage.  His parents were pretty strict.

On recording nights, we had to stock up on snacks.  The only place within walking distance was the Little Short Stop at Stanley Park Mall, long gone now.  We spent many, many days and nights at the Short Stop over the years, pouring over comic books, Star Wars (or Indiana Jones) cards, and candy bars.  Later on it was rock magazines.  Our snack fix during this period was ketchup flavoured potato chips.  The thicker that ketchup dust, the better.  When we didn’t get ketchup, we got dill pickle.  It was only a 10 minute walk to the mall, but on those recording nights, we probably took half an hour each way.  We were busy ringing doorbells.

“Nicky Nicky Nine Door” was what they called it, but we were just being little shits.  We would choose houses on the way to the store, ring the doorbell and then hide in the bushes.  Once or twice, Bob was almost caught.  Sometimes we’d find a house we really liked and hit him up on the way to the store and on the way back.  And sometimes, a third for good measure.

We bored of “Nicky Nicky Nine Door” and soon found a new night time occupation:  walking around the nearby public school.  Stanley Park Sr. Public School was not locked at night.  At least, it wasn’t until we were caught.  Bob and I would wander the hallways, and buy a pop from the Pepsi machine inside.  We didn’t vandalize, and we didn’t steal.  All we did was go in and buy a can of soda for each of us.  The custodian never seemed to be around, but one night, they were.  They told us to get out, we were trespassing!  Bob asked, “But can I buy my can of pop still?”  The custodian said sure, so Bob walked over to the pop machine, bought his soda, thanked the guy, and left!  Is it still trespassing if you buy merchandise?  We didn’t think so!

That school was the site of many of our escapades.  Most of them were benign:  baseball in the park, basketball on the courts, and later on, tennis.  We had many late night tennis matches.  We ran sprints, we did the long jump, we rode our bikes.  When we didn’t have a ghetto blaster playing, we were probably singing.  George would often provide the boom box, loaded up with Kiss, Black Sabbath, or Iron Maiden.  When boredom set in, our activities became more mischievous.  Bob and George were skilled at climbing up to the school’s roof to retrieve lost tennis balls and basketballs.  One cold Sunday afternoon, Bob decided he wanted to throw his old bike off the roof.  We got a rope, Bob climbed up onto the roof, and then hauled the bike up by the rope.  He backed up, made a running start, and tossed the bike off.  There was barely any damage!  He went for round two, and the front wheel was heavily dented.  As he hauled it up one more time for round three, a man in a car drove up to us and told us to leave.  Bob asked, “So I can’t throw my bike off this roof?”  Wordlessly the man shook his head.  Who knew you couldn’t just throw a bike off a roof?  It was his bike, right?  No harm no foul?

It’s funny to look back at these moments and realize, these were the best times of our childhoods.  I don’t think Bob would want his kids to read this.  For that reason, I’m leaving out other sordid details and I’ll deny everything else.  For example, we may or may not have spelled the word “FUCK” on the lawn of the school in strips of fresh sod.  I can’t confirm or deny that we scratched KISS and IRON MAIDEN in the school doors with paper clips.  Both of us had pellet guns, and I may or may not have fired a round through George’s mom’s laundry.  My dad found pellets in the fence.  He knew what we were up to.  We denied.  We water-ballooned George’s bedroom window.  We would hide behind the fence, laughing, listening to him singing “Love Gun” loudly and out of key in his room.

We knew that not all these activities were particularly “good” behaviour (that’s why we didn’t tell our parents), but we considered it all pretty innocent.  We did well in school.  Both of us got into the schools we wanted to go to.  He has a large family and I’m happily married to a beautiful wife.  That leads us into the last story.

At my wedding, Bob decided he wanted to make a short speech, and tell a story about us.  It was so true, and so funny, that I had tears in my eyes.  I mentioned earlier that Bob’s parents were stricter than mine.  As such, Bob was not allowed to eat any sweet cereals for breakfast.  He complained and complained of shredded wheat.  He also was not really allowed to indulge himself in snacks at home, and he really loved our microwave oven.  This is how Bob invented some of his classic foods and beverages:

  • The Froot Loops dog – A hot dog topped with Froot Loops and any other toppings of your choice.
  • Froot Loops orange juice – A glass of orange juice with a handful of Froot Loops as a garnish.
  • Froot Loops swamp water – combine milk, orange juice and grape juice in one glass.  Top with Froot Loops and serve.  In case of Froot Loop shortage, substitute with Apple Jacks.

Those were the times of our lives.