friendship

#896: Plans

RECORD STORE TALES #896: Plans

Plans.  Gotta make ’em, but sometimes nothing goes according to them.

Winter is over.  We made it through.  I have Seasonal Affective Disorder (appropriately acronymed as SAD), so winter is always a hard time.  It feels good to be on the other side of it, and not have to put on layers of warmth just to take out the garbage.

Last fall I made some plans to make it through the winter.  I completed some, and I left others unstarted.  That’s just the way the cookie crumbles, and what was winter 2020/21 but a shitty stale crumbled up cookie?

As we hunkered in for the winter, I gave myself a couple projects to keep me occupied.  One was continuing with the VHS Archives.  I accomplished very little on this.  I did not play any video tapes at all this year, and only uploaded videos I already had on my hard drive.  This season I only posted six videos.

I also wanted to teach myself Photoshop this winter.  I didn’t get anything done there.  As it turns out, I didn’t really have to, thanks to the generosity of friends.  Good ol’ T-Bone has donated his time and made plenty of great artwork for the LeBrain Train live show.  Plus our artist friend Saige did some great work too.  I’m so lucky that we have built such an amazing community of artists and writers together.

Speaking of the live show, I had one plan that I thought would be easy, but never came to be.  As a proud Canadian boy, I wanted to show some of our American friends (especially the one in Hawaii!) what a Canadian winter looks like.  I planned on doing a live show outdoors in a snow storm.  I thought that would be an absolute hoot.  The weather never really aligned with a good live stream day.  It was kind of a mild winter compared to others.

Looking back at the goals from the fall, there are two I did accomplish. One was to make a dashcam video of a shitty winter drive, set to the music of Max the Axe. I did that with “Magnum P.I.” and it is a great example of a typical winter commute.  The second mission accomplished was to keep on live streaming.  I still haven’t missed a week — knock wood.

I couldn’t have done it without my friends.  You know who you are.  Chances are if you’re reading this, you’re one of ’em.

#880: Death Team

GETTING MORE TALE #880: Death Team

One of my favourite ways to spend a Saturday morning was down in the basement drawing pictures while listening to heavy metal music with my best buddy Bob.  Most likely, we were watching one of my VHS tapes of the Pepsi Power Hour while doodling away with our pencils.  It was the best of times, with the best of friends, and the absolute best kind of music.

In the early to mid 1980s, MuchMusic was only available on pay TV.  We had it, but Bob Schipper did not.  Therefore he only had two pathways to the Pepsi Power Hour:

  1. Wait for the one or two weeks per year when pay TV was free for sneak preview.
  2. I tape the videos, and share my finds with him on Saturday mornings.

It was an amazing way to bond as kids.  He brought with him his paper and pencils, and we would get down to business while watching music videos.

In the summer, we moved activities to the front or back porches, with a ghetto blaster playing Kiss or Iron Maiden as we sketched.   In fact, the story really begins on the back porch.  The very same back porch on which we schooled George Balasz about Accept.  Bob had mastered the art of drawing muscled warriors in cool poses.  His very first was a master of escape whom he dubbed “Motor Head”.  In his first appearance, he seems doomed, hanging from a noose.  But a closer look reveals him casually smoking a cigarette and holding a pair of nun-chucks for his imminent escape.  Note the frayed rope.  He was in no danger – he was biding his time!

Having mastered this first character, it was time to expand on the concept. Bob drew many different designs and body types. Giants, archers, characters with cybernetic limbs…the field was wide open, but heavy metal music was always an influence.

Bob’s second sketch was a man in a metal Quiet Riot mask he named “Killer”.  Killer was one of Bob’s favourites.  As his drawing abilities grew, he expanded upon Killer.  Next, he designed a custom car and robotic pet for the character.  I liked the way he used metal plates and rivets for detail.

Bob taught me the secrets of drawing these heroic figures, and I began to create my own warriors.  The characters we were sketching resembled Mad Max marauders, crossed with heavy metal tropes.  Really, all of that metal stuff was inspired by the post-apocalyptic fiction genre that was all the rage in the early 80s.  Nobody did it better than Mad Max, and many of our characters wore masks like Lord Humungous.  Others had bandaged faces, like Eddie in some of the Powerslave-era Iron Maiden artwork.  Some wielded ninja-like weapons, since ninja movies were also all the rage at the time.

We called our characters “Death Team”.

Bob’s backstory concept of Death Team was a school gang, with a strong influence from martial arts movies.  The idea was that the gang evolves into a government-sanctioned fighting force.  That meant no limits.  The cars and trucks that we drew were armoured and kitted out.  Very much inspired by M.A.S.K., Mad Max, and other shows of the time.  If there was something cool on the screen, we would try to draw it and add our own twists.  What I brought to the table was my interest in GI Joe comics, and the military side of fiction.  The ninjas were the common ground between Death Team and GI Joe, and many of my characters had weapons and outfits inspired by the comics.  I started giving my characters code names and bios, just like GI Joe, and gave them the inverted star sigil.

At this point during the earliest Death Team drawings, my sister and I had our big musical schism.  That means that up until 1985, she was into the same music I was.  Well…not W.A.S.P.  But she liked Quiet Riot, Motley Crue and Iron Maiden.  Then something happened, and she went into what I called “New Wave”.  Pointer Sisters, Corey Hart, Tina Turner.  To counter our heavy metal Death Team, she created her own squad called the Wavers.  She drew her own team members:  “Waver” and “The Wave”.  Needless to say, Death Team would have crushed the Wavers in combat.

Bob and I sketched solo, during the week.  Then we’d gather on the weekends to share our work.  We’d inspire each other and keep drawing more.   Those are the Saturday morning Power Hour sessions I remember so fondly.

One weekend, Bob came over excited that he had learned to draw “a really cool bike”.  He arrived at my door with his new character “Bike Ninja”.  We helped each other name our characters, but that one didn’t need anything fancier than simply “Bike Ninja”.  His boots had outward-facing spikes, and his left hand was replaced by a robotic claw with a laser in it.

“That might make it hard for him to ride his bike,” I offered up.

“Nahh!” said Bob.  “He’s a ninja!”

My mom noticed that many of the characters were smoking cigarettes.  She asked why that was.  Bob started putting cigarettes in some of their mouths (even the ones wearing masks) to make them look cooler, so I followed suit.  That was the rock and roll influence, as many of our rock star heroes like Eddie Van Halen were constantly smoking.  We had no interest in it, but the visual followed into our art.

Bob’s art was much better and more original than mine.  I improved over time.  By 1987 I had finally drawn one I was really proud of, a character all about street justice and inspired by Dee Snider from Twisted Sister.  In fact this character was meant to be the real Dee Snider, joining our team to save Earth.  The concept was stolen from Sgt. Slaughter, the WWF wrestler who joined the fictional GI Joe team.  If that could happen, then Dee Snider could join Death Team!

As Bob and I built our little world of characters on paper, we realized our gang needed someone to fight.  Bob was watching the Silver Hawks cartoon before school in the mornings, and took influence from some of the creatures seen on early morning TV.  We decided on a force of alien invaders as our adversaries, and a wide variety we did draw.

Bob was really the visual guy though; his drawings were so far ahead of mine.  I was more a conceptual guy.  I came up with the character bios and some of the overarching story.  It was hard bridging the street gang origins together with the alien invasion concept, but I wrote an origin.  Together, Bob and I wanted Death Team to be a Canadian team (with some American and overseas volunteers).  We wrote them as a down-on-their-luck school gang who lived together on the rough side of town, wherever that was.  They actually began as two rival gangs who combined their forces together.  We wrote the first pages together and then I finished writing the story.  The guys were so tough, that they were swiftly recruited by the Canadian government as a unit of street enforcers.  The Death Team was born!

I decided that the leader of the alien invasion was to be a human.  Perhaps inspired by Xur in The Last Starfighter, the alien leader was a former Death Team computer wizard who made contact with the aliens by sending a signal through a black hole.  He then defected and joined them, determined to conquer the Earth for his own.  We even named our alien alliance the “Xor Aliens”.

Bob was really good at drawing aliens, though most had human bodies with alien heads, hands and feet.  Some were covered with hair.  He was good at drawing big round mouths with a circular row of teeth.  I thought that was a cool visual.  Many of ours were aquatic.  Planet Xor must have had a lot of oceans.

When I look back at these drawings, I see a difference between Bob and I.  It’s quality vs. quantity.  His are better while mine are plentiful.  Some of mine were little more than outlines with no shading or depth.  Plenty of mine are rip-offs.  He was coming up his own ideas.  The thing we have in common, easily seen in these sketches, is how much fun we had!

The pinnacle of of our fun was realized one afternoon when we decided to commit Death Tape to an audio adventure.  One side of a 60 minute tape contains us acting out our favourite characters, in a series of adventures.  This is all done to the backing tracks of great hard rock tunes.  It opens with “In the Beginning” and “Shout at the Devil” by the mighty Motley Crue.  This meant we used two ghetto blasters in making this tape.  One to record, and one to play the backing music while we acted out the scenes.  Quiet Riot’s “Slick Black Cadillac” and “Caught in the Crossfire” by April Wine were the songs used for the other scenes.  I just remember having so much fun doing it.  It didn’t matter if the tape is unlistenable.  My face was red from laughing so hard that day.

All this Death Team stuff goes hand-in-hand with the earliest days of my discovery of metal.  You can see the influences bleeding through.  Characters named “Motor Head” and “Killer” and “Helix” and “Crazee” and “Iron Maiden”.  We weren’t terribly original, but we were terrifically entertained.  Entertained by ourselves!  All we needed was some paper, some sharp pencils, and a good song.  I can still hear the tunes playing, whether it was W.A.S.P. or Motley Crue or Iron Maiden themselves.  The tunes were critical.  The team could not have existed with the tunes, and the tunes were only more fun to listen to while drawing pictures of the team.

Later on in school, when I was much better at art, I tried my hand at doing a sequel team, called “DT 2”.  I played the music, and tried to recreate the magic by sitting down and drawing some updated ninjas.  Without my friend it was a futile exercise.  Death Team cannot exist without three things:

  1. Heavy metal music
  2. Paper and sharp pencils
  3. My buddy Bob

Anything else is simply a knock-off.

Friendship & Tunes and Surprise Guests Stream!

In contrast to last week’s 3+ hour show, a shorter one for you tonight.  Short but cool, if “a little light on the Scott Peddle content” according to my Yelp reviews.  The subject of friendship and the music that connects us was the topic for this hour.  But then, as if summoned by the Live Stream gods…came a surprise.

** SPOILERS **

The very first official live stream FROM SAUSAGEFEST.  Say hello to Seb, Dr. Dave, the Meat Man, Bucky, Tyler and the rest of the gang!   To skip to this part of the stream go to 1:04:50 below.

Rob Daniels also joined at the end.  Enjoy the show!

Rock and Roll Friendship Stream

If all goes according to plan, I will be going live tonight at 6:30 PM E.S.T as a solo artist once again!

Unfortunately the weather is looking like storms all weekend, which can mess with the internet.  If I am unable to go live tonight then I will reschedule the show.

This show’s theme is another one suggested by SuperdekesFriendship!  Good friends, and all the great tunes that connect them.  Music, and pals!  The reason for this week’s topic is simple.

Today begins the 19th annual Sausagefest.  I’ve made the incredibly difficult decision to stay isolated this year.  While I am 100% confident that none of my friends will get sick, I am practising a stricter social distancing policy.  2020 is a seriously screwed up year, and this year I’m valuing family more than ever.  If I want to spend time under the same roof as my parents at the cottage, and have them be comfortable with that, then I need to respect them by adhering to the same distancing as they are.  If I want to be enjoying my “happy place” with them, then I need to respect that.

Because I cannot be with my friends today, I’ll be talking about them.  My “Nostalgia Stream“, about my childhood best friend Bob, was one of the most popular shows I’ve done.  He had a huge impact on me musically, but so did others.  This time we’ll be talking about some of the other colourful characters in my crazy life, all centred around the love of rock and roll.

As before, when I’m done yammering on I’ll open it up for others to join in!

Facebook:  Michael Ladano or Facebook:  MikeLeBrainYouTube:  Mike LeBrain.


!!Attention!!

I have been told by someone younger and more knowledgeable about such things that shows like mine need a name.  Apparently that’ll help with exposure.  The following names have all been suggested.  Please leave a comment with your favourite or a suggestion of your own.

 

  • LeBrain and Friends’ Rock and Roll Landfill
  • LeBrain Wave
  • LeBrain’s Chat Rock
  • LeBrain Meltdown
  • The LeBrain Drain
  • 2000 Words or More With Mike Ladano
  • The Lebrain Eats A Worm And A Stick YouTube Hour*
  • Geezer Mike’s Rock Talkin’, Ball Walkin’, Super Shit Sandwich Show
  • Musical Thinking With LeBrain
  • Too Much Fuckin’ Perspective’ with LeBrain
  • Mike’s World With a Side of Meat and a Dash of Deke
  • The LeBrain Train – A Rockin’ Friday Adventure
  • LeBrain Center
  • LeBrain Scan
  • LeBrain Candy
  • Scattered LeBrain
  • Wrack Your LeBrain
  • Shit for LeBrains
  • LeBrain Farts

 

 

* Guess who suggested that one.

#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.

 

#780: Radio Friends & Exes

GETTING MORE TALE #780: Radio Friends & Exes

I’ll always be grateful to radio for giving me a start.  I won’t rehash the whole story but I used to be a call-in contest winner and then became a semi-regular guest.  Radio is a lot of fun, though I don’t really listen to commercial stations anymore like the one that got my name out there originally.  (I still appear on Rob Daniels’ Visions in Sound, and I’ll be back there in December at the latest to talk about new Star Wars music.)   One thing that hasn’t changed is that I have met so many solid people through radio.

There’s Jolene the Jays fan, always raising money for good causes.  Or Greg, the contest winner who seems to have free tickets to offer to me all the time.  I met one of my best friends, Jay, through the radio.  He noticed I was talking about Transformers one day and next thing you knew, we were buddies.  And let’s not forget about Jamie, an old-school rocker who was writing articles for Access magazine under the tutelage of Keith Sharp back when I used to read it!  It used to be that we listened to the same radio station, but in 2019 I was honoured to be a guest at Jamie’s wedding.

I’m very happy and proud to have met such good people thanks to radio.  I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that radio stations and their personalities are often very active in the community.  They bring people with similar interests together, while making the city a better place.

Of course, like any platform, it’s not exclusively good people.  There have been some seriously weird fucks that I’ve come into contact with thanks to the airwaves.  Like Dean, the conspiracy theorizing anti-vax, bike-riding vegan.  Or amateur wrestler turned far-right radio mogul Raymond.  A few Proud Boys.  The usual assholes.

I have fresh wounds from another radio listener.  I never met him.  He moved out to Alberta for work.  He was one of those guys who would periodically have serious life problems and post them all over social media.  Then he’d disappear a while and come back a few months later.  His latest problems involved a workplace injury.  He needed antibiotics and was short $28.  He sent me a private message.

I thought about what my old man has said in the past.  “If you loan somebody money, consider it a gift because you’ll never get it back.”  And my dad is right; I’ve helped people out in the past and don’t usually get repaid.  Sometimes it’s because I said “Don’t worry about it, you need this more than I do.”  But usually it was just people stiffing me.

For whatever sympathetic reason, I sent the guy $30.  He even sent me a picture back of the medication to prove that’s what he spent it on.  I have no reason to disbelieve any of his story.  He asked me for money again a few weeks later, promising to pay back the original $30.  I said no that time.  Then he asked for $20 for bus tickets.  He caught me on a good day that time.  A few days later he needed $25; I sent him a final $30 and said this would be the last time I could help him out.  I left it unambiguous:  this is the last time I can help you out.  “Man I love you!” he responded.

One weekend in late September I heard frantic messages on my phone.  I checked and it was him, needing $44 urgently.  He was being evicted and was short $44 to rent a U-Haul van to move his stuff.  He sent screenshots of landlords that owed him money.  He sent screenshots of his bank balance in single digits.  He showed an angry message from a landlord explaining that he already had three days’ court-ordered notice to pick up his stuff, and it would all be taken to the dump on the weekend.  I was getting all these messages while my wife was recovering from a humiliating public epileptic seizure.  I told him that I was very sorry, but I could not help him.  The messages continued through the night as I was dealing with my own shit.  He was promising me $88 in return for $44, within 24 hours.

I sat there, thinking to myself.  On one side, I felt for the guy.  Assuming he was being honest with me, he had only a few hours to raise $44 and move his stuff in a U-Haul.  He was going to lose all his possessions that day.  I felt terrible for him.  I was already down $80 so what’s another $44?  On the other hand…is there nobody else he can ask for help?  Somebody who lives in the same province as him?  Somebody who’s actually met him in person?  Friends?  Family?  Not a stranger that he used to listen to on the radio?

Sunday afternoon my wife had another seizure.  I heard my phone dinging but I didn’t answer it.  I had bigger things on my mind.  Later that evening, I checked my messages.  His belongings had been taken to the dump.

“This is the point I’m done with social media,” the message began.  From that I gather he’d been asking other Facebook “friends” for money.  “Needed $44 to save thousands, got zero. Will be lucky to maintain an empty apartment on my wife’s money, my tools are gone so I can’t contribute.”  Guilt trip time?  I couldn’t believe this guy.  Why should Facebook, or me for that matter, be responsible for you?

“Likely never hear from me again. I’m out.”

This one I responded to.

“Likely never hear from you again…even though you owe me money?”

I felt terrible the whole time I wrote this, but it had to be said.

“I told you last time, I would not be able to help you again. I don’t even know you. We have never met face to face. And now you are guilting me and threatening to rip me off?

“I am sorry but at this point I have no choice but to block you. I will never see my money again, I know that, but I refuse to be guilted when I have already been so generous.

“I hope whatever your problems are, you sort them out, but I cannot have this in my life.”

Alternating between feeling the guilt that I said I wasn’t going to let myself feel, and wondering what the fuck this guy expected of a total stranger, I went on with my night and worrying about my own wife. But what did he expect? I gave him money three times before. Small amounts, but I knew I wasn’t going to be paid back, and I told him on the third time that was it. Did he think we were…actual friends? Because he knew my voice on the radio, and because I write about my life in public, did he think we were…friends? He also wrote things about his life, but I tried to stay out of that. He seemed to be having problems with his job, his wife, and his sexual identity and I wanted nothing to do with a stranger’s problems. I have plenty of my own, believe me.

I tried to be a good person. I feel like I was a good person three times, but had to draw a line somewhere. The day that my wife was in the hospital having a seizure seemed like the right time to draw that line.

As for lines? The bottom line is that I have made some amazing friends through the radio, and I wouldn’t change that, ever. But you always have to have your guard up for the problems that come with it.

#598: “Seven”

Here’s a very special story for a very special day. September 18th is the day I met my wife! Happy “meetaversary” sweetie.

GETTING MORE TALE #598: “Seven”

When dating, there are many rites of passage on the road to a long term relationship.  For either sex, one of the usual hurdles is meeting the “best friend”.  If the best friend doesn’t like you, your whole relationship could be doomed.  It happened to me and it could happen to you!

I met Mrs. LeBrain on Sept 18 2005.  We made contact like most people these days, first online and then in person.  Meeting people online in 2005 wasn’t as mundane as it is today.  Jen had never met someone from online before.  We’ve told the tale of meeting before – from both perspectives.  Mine was Record Store Tales #111:  The Girl in the Sam Roberts Shirt.  Her version was Getting More Tale #434:  The Man in the Bob Marley Shirt.  Needless to say, music is important to both of us.

There was one thing Jen failed to do, and that was inform her best friend Lara that she was meeting someone over the internet.  She knew Lara wouldn’t approve.  Once we started dating regularly, she had to come clean.  As predicted Lara wasn’t impressed that she would go and meet some random internet dude without telling her.  She was in trouble!  And so was I, just for existing secretly!

Jen arranged a coffee meet up.  We picked up Lara and her friend Dave, and headed over to the nearest Tim Horton’s.  I was pleasantly surprised by Lara.  Jen had made her out to sound evil and dangerous.  She seemed anything but!  Funny, smart, and clearly someone who cared deeply for her best friend.  We got along immediately.

At one point in the evening, Lara asked me, “On a scale from one to 10, how pissed off would you be?”

I didn’t understand.  “Pardon?”

“On a scale from one to 10, how pissed off would you be?” she answered.

“Well, I’m a pretty easy going guy, so I’d say about a three.”  Hypothetically, of course.

Secretly, inside, Jen was worried what this meant.  She said nothing, nor did Dave.

We continued to drink our coffee and chat.  Lara liked science fiction, so we had that in common.  In Canada, sitting around a Tim Horton’s all night drinking coffee (or tea in Lara’s case) is a pretty common pastime.  My wife can really drink coffee like a champion.  If there was a Stanley Cup of Coffee, she would win it every season.

We made tentative plans for a future meet up, when suddenly –

RRRRRRRIIIIIP!

Lara reached over, grabbed my soul patch hair, the part right below my bottom lip, and YANKED HARD.  I looked wide-eyed to see my own facial hair in her fingers.

She asked again, “On a scale from one to 10, how pissed off would you be?”

My answer was immediate.  “SEVEN!  DEFINITELY SEVEN!”

And that is why to this day, all of Lara’s kids and their friends call me “Uncle Seven”.  My nickname became Seven, irreversibly and permanently.  It’s been over ten years and I’m still Uncle Seven.  In fact, here is an actual conversation that I had with her son Tyler, and his girlfriend.  It was Tyler’s 19th birthday:

Mike:  “Tyler, you’re an adult now, you don’t have to call me Uncle Seven anymore.  Just call me Mike.”

Tyler:  “OK Seven.”

Girlfriend:  “Wait…your name is Mike? I thought it was Seven.”

Mike:  “…You thought my real name was Seven?!  Who the hell would name their kids a number?!”

Girlfriend:  “There’s a girl named Eleven.”

Mike:  “Yeah!  On a TV show!  And it wasn’t her real name!!”

 

The fact that I took Lara’s little “test” as a joke meant that our friendship was solidly guaranteed.  I passed!  We’ve been tight ever since.