catharsis

Part 320: End of the Line #6: The Birth of LeBrain

RECORD STORE TALES Part 320: End of the Line #6: The Birth of LeBrain

I discovered quickly that listening to rock radio in an office was much better than listening to CDs in the Record Store. They really hounded me about my in-store music selections.  With the radio, nobody yells at me about the music. I could just enjoy it as I worked, and the music has not been lame!  Just this week, I rocked out to Judas Priest’s “Painkiller” and Savatage’s “Hall of the Mountain King” at work on the radio.  Last week it was Slayer.  I doubt I ever played any of those songs in the Record Store.  Traffic reports are an added bonus.

Our office has its radio set to 107.5 Dave FM, and it is through them that I met new friends such as Marko Fox, Craig Fee, Simon McGhee, Patrick Dynamite, and more. It is there that I became “LeBrain”.  There was a daily contest…a near legendary contest…called the 4 O’Clock 4-Play.  Every day at 4:00, Craig would play four songs with a common theme.  Guess the theme, win the prize.  I started winning frequently, and had started submitting my own 4-Play quizzes for the show.  They numbered in the hundreds, I am certain.  Some have never been used.  Craig told me he had an email folder filled with my 4-Plays that hadn’t been used yet.

Photo0978

Craig Fee with some beard douchebag.

This led to features on the station such as “Stump LeBrain Week”, where I was in the studio every day for a week as listeners tried to stump me. (The only day I was not in the studio was the Wednesday, where I was live on air with Marko at Chicopee ski club.)  Other listeners sent in their own 4-Plays specifically to stump me, and Craig picked his five favourites.  That was followed by LeBrainuary – an entire month of my own musical 4-Plays.  They also did a final LeBrain Week before they finally shut the contest down.

I still hear about that contest.  Every once in a while I meet someone new who knows me only as “LeBrain” from the radio.  There was one at Sausagefest this year.  I always get asked, “When are they bringing that contest back?  It was awesome.”  I wish I knew!  I’ve bugged Craig about it too.

While it lasted, it was awesome. I became a D-grade local celebrity! But I wanted more. I pestered and bugged Craig Fee daily. I sent him my reviews, early chapters of the Record Store Tales, rock news, rants, anything and everything!

You know what happened next. It was the “lightbulb moment”.  Craig said the magic words: “You need to start your own blog.”  

And so I did, and that’s why you’re reading this today.

I knew immediately I wanted to finally publish the Record Store Tales.  I started writing them over 10 years ago.  I originally envisioned a book version of Record Store Tales.  I started writing it with that in mind, but most of it hasn’t been used, because I felt some chapters were a little too off-topic.   Instead I mined my extensive journals to create new content.  It took about 2 1/2 years to post all of the Record Store Tales, at an average of one every three days.

So here we are, at the end. I knew this day would come eventually. I thought at most I’d come up with 100 installments, tops.  Having said that, the number of stories that I chose not to tell exceeds this body of work greatly.  Believe it or not, I decided to be nice.  There are many things done and many things said that have been left out.  I’ve tried to be candid and maintain my own integrity, and just tell the story of a very cool time in my life.  Not everybody gets to work in a record store.

Positives and negatives aside, the writing experience for me has been mostly healthy, sometimes cathartic, and immensely fun. I hope you have had fun too.

Thank you for your support, inspiration, kind words and contributions: Mrs. LeBrain, Craig, Marko, Aaron, Uncle Meat, Iron Tom Sharpe (Meaford’s greatest athlete), T-Rev, Lemon Kurri, my parents, and everyone else who has ever contributed or told me not to stop.

A huge thanks to the owner at the old Record Store. You gave me a chance and taught me so much.  You have my number.

Sincerest apologies to those I have hurt or offended.

Finally, thanks to YOU – the people who have read this stuff, whether you were a one-timer or a regular. I thrive on feedback and you made this a very rewarding experience.

I hope you’ll stick around, as we launch the Post-Record Store Tales (official title to be announced soon) and continue on with the awesome reviews! Live long…and prosper.

The End.

SPOCK

Part 320: End of the Line #3: The Last Day

STOPARRET

Emotional material ahead. If you have been upset by past Record Store Tales, do not read on. 
I’m not fucking kidding.

 

FARE WELL LEBRAIN 0

RECORD STORE TALES Part 320: End of the Line #3 The Last Day

The last two weeks at work after giving my notice were difficult, but now I had light at the end of the tunnel. My boss took me aside and asked me not to buy a hundred CDs with the last of my discount.

One thought that had occurred to me after giving notice was this.  If I had gone to my doctor on December 19 for some Prozac or something, instead of writing my letter of resignation, he immediately would have written me a note for at least two weeks sick leave, right in the middle of the Christmas rush, absolutely screwing them over.  Without question.  That’s how much I had cracked.  I chose not to do that.  Instead I chose to leave on an upstanding note, head held high.  I stated in my letter that I understood that this was the busy season, and I had no desire to cause scheduling problems for them.  I offered to stay until the end of the month of January 2006.  This would allow them plenty of time to find a new manager.

One thing that disappointed me was way that the store handled my departure.  They waited until my last day to announce that I was leaving.  This hurt my feelings. In my experience, when somebody like me leaves, an email will go out a week or two ahead of time. “So-and-so has decided to move on to new opportunities. His-or-her last day will be Friday the 13th,” or whatever. I didn’t get that. I speculate there was a certain amount of shell-shock. When your longest serving employee moves on to greener pastures, it’s hard to spin that positive, I guess? I really don’t know the reason behind it, all I know is that it stung.

Christmas had come and gone. I have almost no memories of that Christmas at all. All I really remember was that I went to Brampton on Christmas Day to meet Jen’s extended family. I met her Uncle Peter, Nana and Granddad for the first time. And I couldn’t stay long, since I had to open the store for our big annual Boxing Day sale the next day.  I have no memories of Boxing Day, New Year’s, or any of the other days from that period. I really only remember my last day.

Thankfully my journal has some details of my last two weeks, but they are few and far between:

Date: 2005/12/27 10:09 am

I have been at this store every second that it has been open since 1:30 pm on December 23.  That is an utterly depressing thought. How many more days of this?  I do not yet know.

Date: 2005/12/28 8:13 pm (I had been told what my final scheduled work day would be)

January 4, 2006, I will be a free man again.  The emotions I am feeling run the entire spectrum.  But on January 5, there’s a good chance I may just sleep the entire day, just because I can.  For the first time in 12 years I will have no reason to think about that store.  That is a very liberating thought.

Date: 2006/01/04 08:00 am

My last day.

I was hoping to just go home quietly today, but I hear there’s something planned.  I know my boss is buying me lunch, I don’t know what else is going on.  I hate being the center of attention at work.  At a party, sure, I’ll gladly take center stage and ham it up.  At work I’d rather just fade into the background.

Meh, I shouldn’t be complaining.  It IS my last day.  Hard to believe.  Well, I’d better be getting ready.

Date: 2006/01/04 10:49 am

The goodbye phonecalls and emails have started pouring in, they made the official announcement of my last day this morning.  It’s overwhelming.  So many people I may never see again!  The emotions I am feeling, they are overwhelming.  No matter how bad it got here, I had so many friends.  I lost sight of that fact.  I sure will miss so many people.

They bought me one of those giant “farewell” cards and had loads of people sign it.  I still have that.  It was a kind gesture.

I still miss a lot of people, but life does go on.  I had never done anything like this before; leaving a place I had worked for so long.  It was like losing a part of myself.  But, that part had become dark and cancerous.  So, my health gradually returned.  I slowly became myself again, a long journey in itself.

To be continued…

RST

Jen and two great co-workers arranged a surprise party for me a couple weeks after.   I have some pics from it.  I also have no idea who that guy is in the picture with me.

Part 320: End of the Line #2: The Last Straw

STOPARRET

Emotional material ahead. If you have been upset by past Record Store Tales, do not read on. 

 

RECORD STORE TALES Part 320: End of the Line #2 The Last Straw

Date: 2005/12/20 08:32 am

Well, I guess it’s time for some major news.  I quit my job yesterday.  I feel that I have been pushed one step beyond what I am willing to accept.  I wrote my letter of resignation yesterday.  My last day has yet to be decided but come January I will be free as a bird to de-stress and spend every day finding that new job that I know is coming.

RST

I have never disclosed my exact reason for leaving the store.  I spent almost 12 years there, but the last several of them were not pleasant.  There were personality clashes and other issues that I will not get into to protect the guilty.  Suffice to say that if I wanted to, I could have written another 320 Record Store Tales about all the shenanigans behind the scenes.

One of the biggest signs of a problem was the fact that I was losing my love of music.  That is not something I thought would happen, but it set in slowly like a cancer.

I had been looking for other work for a little while but only half-heartedly.  I had discovered that, even though I had 12 years’ experience with 10 of them as a manager, retail experience was not valued in many of the jobs I was looking at.

Events became unbearable on December  18, 2005.  It was exactly a week before Christmas and our stores were busy.  I managed to get myself a couple days off for that entire month, the 18th being the last of them (besides the 25th itself).  I spent the morning with Jen and my parents, having breakfast at a local place that they enjoy.  We had a great breakfast of bacon, eggs, toast and beans.  It was a chance for my parents to get to know Jen a little better, who they only met two months previous.

As soon as I got home from breakfast, I found two messages on my answering machine from the store.  Somehow, I had a gut feeling that would be the case.  They had only been open for two hours.  Apparently there was some sort of power surge and our computer was on the fritz.  They couldn’t ring in sales, so all transactions were being done on paper.  In addition, somehow, the computer’s monitor was now displaying sideways!  They had turned the screen on its side just to read it.  The messages on the phone asked if I could run down to Office Depot and buy some receipt books for them to record manual sales on, and check in on the store.  They had already called in some extra help for the shift.  When I got the messages, I called and said I was on my way.

The store was busy when I got there but not overwhelmingly so.  I stayed an hour to help, and then went home.  All was well and there was nothing else I could do that day.  The computers were even working again.  Jen was with me the whole day and will stand by all of this.

The following morning, Monday the 19th, did not go at all like I had expected.

I went into work an hour before we opened, as I always did.  The monitor had righted itself, and all was more or less back to normal.  All was well with the world again.

Except for one person.

This one person was not happy.  At all.  Apparently, when the store’s staff couldn’t get hold of me (remember I was at a breakfast with my parents) they called someone higher up.  And that person proceeded to tear me a new asshole for it.  This person was not interested, at all, in the fact that I did come into the store on my day off and help.  I did everything requested of me.  This was not good enough.

“You have to leave your cell phone on, all the time, from now on,” the person demanded.

My personal cell phone.  I had owned my cell for about 6 years.  I selected it and paid for everything myself, for my own personal use.  Work never had anything to do with my personal cell phone.  It was mine, and I rarely used it.

So, I did what I had always rehearsed in my mind, should a demand I deemed unreasonable ever come up.  I nodded, paused, and the words came out of me automatically:

“Then I’m going to have to give you my notice.”

There was a very brief silence.

“Then you’ll have to write a letter of resignation.” Into the office.  Door closed.

That was it.  I had done it.  Finally, I had done it.

In my letter of resignation, I stated simply that I no longer wanted to deal with the stress of a job that had almost become 7 days a week, 365 days a year.  I signed the letter, perhaps the most important letter I ever wrote in my life.

It was the scariest thing I had done yet.

To be continued…

Part 320: End of the Line #1: The First Interview

RST

RECORD STORE TALES Part 320:
End of the Line #1: The First Interview

Every journey starts with a first step.

By 2005 it was obvious that my career at the Record Store did not have a future. Franchises were struggling, and I found myself on the outside of the clique of people who ran the show. I had sunk into a deep depression, which was exacerbated daily by the store. I was working as hard as I ever had, returning home exhausted each night, but the writing was on the wall.  It had been for years. I put together a resume and began applying for jobs.

Assembling that first resume was interesting. I hadn’t had to look for a job in over a decade.  Retail experience was one thing, but I was beaten down so much that I struggled to play up my skills. I couldn’t see my strengths. As I worked on it and sought advice from people I trusted within the organization, I realized my experience was anything but limited to a cash register. I had been responsible for training dozens of employees, and even some franchise owners too.  I had been responsible for bank deposits, and sometimes I was carrying thousands of dollars in cash on my person. I had also spent a couple years running our website. I had travelled all over southern Ontario helping to deal with staffing issues. There was so much responsibility, and I had received so little credit for it, that I was selling myself short. Once I got some help and got that resume into shape, I started applying for jobs.  One franchise owner wrote me a glowing letter of recommendation that I still treasure.  It gave my spirit a huge boost.

Not having done a job interview in a decade, I was applying to anything, just to get my interview chops back. I had applied to sales and management-type jobs, but was shot down each time for “only having retail experience”. Even though I had managed a staff many times, it didn’t seem to matter. I worried that spending 10 years in one job wasn’t necessarily a good thing, like I thought it was.

I got a call back from a local chicken restaurant. They were hiring for an assistant manager position, so I gave it a shot. The interview with the manager was set for a Sunday; an odd day for sure but at least I had it off. I put on a pair of dress pants for the first time in a long time; I remember they were uncomfortably tight. I squeezed in and headed off to the interview.  As far as a first interview in years goes, I did pretty well. As this blog attests to, if there’s one thing I like talking about, it’s music. If there’s two, it’s music and myself.  I’m good at conversing, in other words.  (I get this from my Grandfather who had “the gift of gab”.) However I had no food service experience and I really wasn’t all that interested. I was more curious what was out there.

Of course I did not get the job, but that interview experience taught me two things. One, doing an interview is like riding a bike. Once you learn how, you never forget; you might be rusty but it’s easy to climb back on. The second thing I learned was to always make sure I have a pair of dress pants that fit!

PANTS

My second interview went much better.  I had applied for a position at Manulife and I nailed it.  Even though I had given what I still think was the best interview of my life, I did not get the job, and my mood sank further.  These journal entries have all the details:

Date: 2005/12/15 11:37 am

Man, that interview went so well. I was told that I was the best candidate they interviewed, but that there was also an internal candidate who was a favourite.

45 minutes after the interview concluded, I got an email saying the other candidate got the job.

Date: 2005/12/15 19:22 pm

Yeah, I guess I can admit I’m just really bummed right now. I definitely gave the best interview of my life today. And she said so many great things about me:

“You have such great personality, I would hate to see that stifled in you.”

“You are by far the best candidate I have talked to.”

We bonded over Pink Floyd, Helix, the St. Jacobs Market, Walkerton…it was a damn fun interview.

Ahh well. One thing for sure, I had a taste while I toured their building of what a REAL job is. They even had a Tim Horton’s on site! There’s a professionalism that my current job couldn’t even dream of having. It was fantastic. I have a very clear vision of what I want now, and I WILL get it.

Regardless of my bravado, this rejection hit me extremely hard.

To be continued.

Part 275: Catharis (Second Anniversary special)

MIKELADANOMikeladano.com celebrates its second anniversary today!  It started with Record Store Tales Part 1, and here we are at Part 275!  (That’s one tale every 2.65 days for the numbers-oriented out there.)  A huge THANK-YOU to everyone who’ve read my stuff; as David Lee Roth says, “It ain’t no fuckin’ good without an audience.”  I also need to thank those friends that read this stuff years ago and told me to keep writing — they know who they are.   And my family, but especially the lovely Mrs. LeBrain who lets me rock and roll all nite and part of every day.  I love you sweety.

Enjoy this Record Store Tale!

RECORD STORE TALES Part 275:  Catharsis

Sometimes when I hit these milestones, I like to reflect on where I’ve been and where I’m headed.  Two years ago when I began publishing the Record Store Tales I didn’t know if anyone would read it.  I was pleased to find that enough people enjoyed reading these stories that it was worth continuing.

I knew when I started posting these that eventually, inevitably, somebody from the old record store would find them.  I made the decision to write under my real name, not a pseudonym.  I anticipated that while some of my old friends would be entertained by these stories, some would not.  I took efforts to protect the identities of the characters in the story that are not portrayed in a positive light.

I did a “soft” launch of the site.  That is, I began publishing the stories one chapter at a time, but I kept it to myself and a close circle of friends.  The response was very positive and constructive.  While some friends urged me to “keep it short”, one of the most popular earlier stories was one of the longest.  Part 16: Traveling Man was the story of a long misadventure in Oakville Ontario, climaxed by an encounter with an unpleasant lawyer customer.  One friend told me the story was “fucking hilarious” and that he anticipated from the start that the guy in the story was a lawyer.   This feedback encouraged me to keep going for it.  I was fired up.

Then once I had enough content up to give people something substantial to read, I did my “official” launch via Facebook, Twitter and email.  It didn’t take long for the rain to hit my parade.  As I anticipated some people from the store didn’t like my stories, but Spoogecakes was the only one to publicly voice her disgust, way back in Part 35.5.  The funny thing about this was that I hadn’t planned on even mentioning Spoogecakes in my story, but then she went and wrote herself in.  Oh well.

I never could have done a white-washed version of the Record Store Tales.  I tried.  Seven or eight years ago I tried something called “Record Store-ies” (lame title, I know).  Some of the “Record Store-ies” got recycled into the old Klassic Kwotes, but it wasn’t the satisfying, cathartic experience that my soul had been craving.  After the Spoogecakes shit-storm, I approached a mentor of mine about the situation.  I asked him if I had been too negative in the past, if I should have toned it down.  His response to me was something I have taken to heart ever since.

“If you compromise your art in order to please a small minority of people no matter how vocal, you will ultimately end up with a piece of art that you don’t like.”

That was great advice.  My bottom line is always, “Do I like it?”  I’ve tried to maintain a balance.  There are stories about people with whom I conflicted, but there are also stories about things like me shitting my pants in the store.   And I didn’t give myself an alias for these stories!

This isn’t just storytelling to me.  This is catharsis.  While I was experiencing everything I experienced in the record store, good or bad, I held tight to one thought.  That thought was, “When this is all over, at least I will have a bunch of great stories to share.  If I can entertain just a few people with these stories then it’s all been worth it.”   Spoogecakes commented that there are “two sides to every story”.

That’s right.  And this is mine.