Someone got creative with this sign!
GETTING MORE TALE #686: Puke!
Almost everybody hates puking. It’s one of the most unpleasant bodily functions, and everyone does it. Especially rock stars! I remember reading an interview with the rock band Kix in Hit Parader magazine. On the subject of tour stories, one of the guitarists was sick during one show. He had a puke bucket at side stage, but he missed and the puke ended up hitting an electric fan, which splattered the vomit all over the drummer. “But he felt better for about half a song!”
On the less funny side, too many rock stars died after choking on their own vomit. Jimi Hendrix and John Bonham come to mind. It’s a tragic way to go, when the rock and roll lifestyle eats its own young. Unfortunately the lessons are not always learned and rock and roll continues to be littered with tragedy.
But let’s keep it light this time.
I have always been a power-puker. I wake up the neighborhood. I’ve never puked on stage like the guy from Kix, but I do have a couple rock and roll stories.
At Sausagefest several years ago, I pushed it one step too far. Not with alcohol, but with food. That last sausage was a little undercooked and it didn’t feel right in my stomach. I was OK though the Saturday night countdown, and I went to bed after the music ended. I slept in my car that year, and I started feeling sick after a very brief sleep.
I woke up and I knew I was going to puke. I got out the car and walked towards the middle of the field. I didn’t want to puke near anybody’s tent. I could hear that some of the guys were still up and partying, but I couldn’t see anything. And then, I released the hounds:
“You OK there buddy?” I could hear Tom asking from somewhere in the dark.
“Yeah I just ate too much,” I responded as I recovered. “Can you get me a bottle of water from my car?”
Tom made sure I was OK, and I slept great after that. I have no idea how late those guys stayed up, but I know that some years I have woken up in the morning only to find Uncle Meat and Bucky still hadn’t gone to sleep! There I was going for my morning shit, and these guys were still hanging by the fire.
It happened again a few years later, after Thanksgiving dinner at the cottage. I blame my mom for this one. She laid out way too much food, including tables full of chocolate and candy. As I did at Sausagefest, I ate too much. I woke up in the middle of the night again, knowing I was going to puke. I didn’t want to wake anyone in that small cottage so I went outside to the back yard. Then, once again, I released the evil from my stomach.
I walked back into the cottage to find that I did in fact wake everyone, despite my best efforts not to.
Here’s the funny thing. In both cases, the puddle of puke was gone in the morning. Eaten by wild animals? Hope they enjoyed the meal!
RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale
#362: Lávate las manos! (Wash your hands!)
What is the prime rule of retail? Some sources say it’s an employee’s presentation, from language to punctuality to appearance. A knowledgeable staff is absolutely important, and even trumps friendliness. Friendliness without knowledge in a retail environment doesn’t help the customer. Customer service is clearly important, as is leading by example, which I tried to do myself. Other sources say convenience is king. An online presence is a must, but in brick and mortar stores, what truly is the one prime, cardinal rule of retail?
I say it’s a simple one. Wash your hands!
Research suggests that in the United States, 22 million days of work are lost per year just by common illnesses spread in the conventional ways. When a sick employee does manage to make it into work, their productivity is reduced due to lack of energy and focus. They risk spreading the illness further, and also disgusting potential customers with their coughing and sneezing.
It’s easy enough to reduce the spread just by making sure your employees are washing their hands. According to the CDC, “Handwashing is like a ‘do-it-yourself’ vaccine—it involves five simple and effective steps (Wet, Lather, Scrub, Rinse, Dry) that you can take to reduce the spread of diarrheal and respiratory illness so you can stay healthy. Regular handwashing, particularly before and after certain activities, is one of the best ways to remove germs, avoid getting sick, and prevent the spread of germs to others.” By “certain activities”, I can tell you that buying used CDs off the public certainly qualified. At the Record Store, we had a bottle of hand sanitizer at the register, so I could quickly scrub up if there was no time to hit the washroom.
I have seen some gross, disgusting substances on CDs that I and my staff have handled. That doesn’t even include the invisible germs that were on a lot of them! Sticky CDs and CD cases were quite common. When I first started out, I caught hell from the boss because I didn’t want to buy a box of CDs from a guy who had very few discs without yucky, sticky CD cases! Most of the time, we couldn’t identify the goo, although we were fairly certain that some had been covered with semen before. (Needless to say, we passed on the semen CD, no complaints from bosses that time.)
The most disturbing health risk that I witnessed was covering the in-demand box set called Good Vibrations: Thirty Years of the Beach Boys. It was covered in blood – still wet, as the guy selling it to us was actually bleeding from his hands at that moment! The staff guy who was handling the set, Jason, quietly announced, “I have to go and wash my hands – they are covered with blood.” The customer then laughed and said, “Yah, that’s me. But don’t worry, I ain’t got AIDS or nothin’.”
With hindsight, I seemed to be sick all the time. Handling all that dirty money and those filthy CDs, it was almost impossible to keep my hands clean. All it takes is one itchy eye to rub without thinking, and BAM! You’ve got a virus! At the Record Store I suffered from all sorts of ailments, as did we all. I also felt a certain amount of pressure to show up for work even when I was under the weather, so I tended to work through it.
I would give the same advice to customers and staff alike: There is only one prime rule of retail. If you want to stop spreading all those filthy germs, lávate las fucking manos!
RECORD STORE TALES Mk II: Getting More Tale
#328: Slowly Going Deaf?
I’ve been listening to music for as long as I can remember. I’ve been listening to rock music — and I’ve been told to turn it down — since I was 11 years old. That’s 30 years ago. Remember all those times your parents said, “Turn it down, or you’ll be deaf by the time you’re 40!” Let’s see if that’s true.
I’m not the concert-goer that a lot of you are. I’ve always had a thing about crowds, but I’ve definitely seen my share of loud shows: Black Sabbath & Motorhead, Helix and Deep Purple are not the kind of bands that turn it down. In 1972 Deep Purple were declared by Guinness to be the world’s loudest band! But I don’t enjoy the sheer earthquake noise levels you can get at a concert like that, so I’ve been using earplugs much of the time for almost 20 years. I started wearing them shortly after seeing Kiss in ’96. I find this cuts a lot of the noise, and renders the concert to a volume more akin to a loud home stereo.
Where I’m most guilty of playing it too loud is the car. Sometimes I don’t realize just how loud it is in there until I start the car in the morning, having left the stereo on at full blast. I seem to turn it up, turn it up, turn it up…and get used to it. Like a frog in cold water that you begin to slowly heat to boil, I become accommodated to the volume of the rock. So that would concern me, where hearing loss is concerned.
How much hearing have I lost? I completed a hearing test at work a short while ago, and have received the results. Using a 2009 baseline as the comparison, it looks like it’s barely changed at all!
Here’s how the exam worked. A mobile hearing test truck pulls into the parking lot and we take the hearing tests six people at a time. Each one of us enters a soundproof booth, which look like we’re sitting in the escape pods of a spaceship, especially after we don our special noise-cancelling headphones. Unfortunately it’s not a perfect setup. I and several others could hear the beeping of forklifts and tow motors in the yard, through the booth and headphones. This doesn’t help when you’re supposed to push a little button at the sound of a beep in your ears. The test took about five minutes to complete and the results came back about two weeks later. And here they are. I don’t know what half this stuff means, but I’m told I have no major loss. Alright!
I didn’t want to post ANYTHING about this subject until confirmed by the band. Now AC/DC have confirmed that Malcolm Young (61) is suffering from dementia. Dementia is a horrible illness, without a cure, and all we can really do is pray (if you so choose) and support the Young family.
AC/DC is continuing on with Uncle Mal and Ang’s nephew Stevie Young, who previously filled in for Mal on the 1988 Blow Up Your Video tour. The new album, Rock or Bust, is out December 1.
RECORD STORE TALES Part 256: A Case of the Mondays
Towards the end of my record store years, 2005 to the start of 2006, the mere thought of waking up in the morning of a Monday was enough to make me feel physically ill. The feelings of dread usually began settling in on Sunday evening. By Monday morning I was not feeling well at all. I was used to being beaten down by unpleasant customers, unpredictable superiors, and long hours with not enough time off. I was sick and tired of being used, but I was also sick. I began to hate the mere sight of a CD, and certain songs played in store became so annoying that they haunted me at night. I stopped enjoying music.
I remember waking up one Monday morning and thinking to myself, “I wonder what would happen if I quit my job today.” I had a home and a mortgage, but finding a new job had proved difficult. My skill set was expansive, and my time at the record store had demonstrated my loyalty. Most jobs I was applying for were not interested in somebody with only retail experience. It didn’t matter that I was a manager, so I went from interview to interview without luck. The steady rejection impacted my emotional state in a negative way.
I called my dad, who I could always count on for good advice.
“Hey dad,” I began. “I have kind of a weird question for you. What would you say if I told you I wanted to go to work and quit my job today?”
“I would say that is not a very good idea,” he responded with seriousness. “You have a mortgage, and I’m sure you know it’s easier to find a new job when you’re already employed. Finding a good job while out of work is easier said than done. I would strongly advise that you don’t quit anything until you have something else to fall back on.”
Not the answer I wanted to hear, but I knew he was right. What I didn’t tell my dad (and what he didn’t know until he started reading these Record Store Tales) is just how miserable I was. I had become a complete basket case. He tells me now that he regrets the advice that he gave me that Monday morning. If he had known what I was going through he would have given me very different advice.
I thanked him for his words of wisdom and hung up the phone. I got dressed and ready for work. Breakfast was out of the question. My stomach was too wound up to handle eating. At the end of the record store days, I was generally only eating one or two meals a day. I didn’t really put together how that was affecting my mental and physical energy levels.
I used to listen to the same CD in the car on the way to work in the mornings: Dance of Death by Iron Maiden. I’d get in, put on the album, and then try to take as long as possible to get to work. Red lights meant more Maiden. Then as I’d pull into the store, I’d check out the parking lot and see if any of the bosses had arrived yet. You could never guess their temperament any day, so all I could do was pray they all had nice weekends. If they were in a good mood, they’d leave me more or less alone. If not, you could cut the tension with a knife.
I hated the tense Monday mornings.
Once I entered and hung up my coat, I’d do a walk around. I’d check to see how sales were on the weekend, what messes were left for me to clean up, and what problems had come up. I’d also rush to do a quick cleaning. Any glass surfaces with fingerprints had to be wiped clean before any bosses spotted them. They had a habit of bitching about anything they saw before I did. Other store managers didn’t have to deal with the stress of having “head office” in the back of their stores, but I did.
These taut Mondays were often long and enervating. I’d open the store at 10am and wait for the first customer. Usually they were people selling scratched up CDs for cigarette money. The day would drag on, and Mondays meant getting home later than usual, since Monday was also Stock Transfer Day! Even though I was “off” duty, none of us were ever really off duty. The phone, after all, could ring any time.
I suffered in silence. I didn’t want to stress out my parents, so that one phone call to my dad was all they knew. It was a dark time, but it is always darkest before the dawn. I survived. I am here with Record Store Tales to prove it.
RECORD STORE TALES Part 217: My Fuckin’ Neck!
Kids – do not crack your neck. Don’t do it. I know it feels good. Just don’t. I know the feeling, the release of pressure. The sudden relaxation of the nearby muscles. The temporary but instant relief from pain.
I used to crack my neck, apparently a bit too much, and by early 1996 it had caught up with me. I was about to go out for lunch at Casey’s with an ex-girlfriend of mine. We’d started to hang out again. I thought there might be a chance of getting back together, so I was looking forward to it.
I was toweling dry my hair, perhaps applying a bit too much force on one side, when suddenly: snap. Something hurt. Something hurt a lot. I collapsed to the ground, cradling my suddenly-too-heavy head in my hands. I’d experienced neck pain before (which started me on cracking it in the first place), but nothing like this! I was completely immobile. I sat like that, in pain holding my head in my hands, for 15 minutes. Finally I was able to find a comfortable way to stand up.
I took some Aspirin, and collapsed again in the stairway. I literally could not take both hands off my head without being in extreme pain. I had to be holding my head with at least one hand at all times. I considered cancelling the date with the ex, but quickly dismissed that option. The perceived opportunity for pity outweighed the physical pain. Now all I had to do was figure out how to put on my boots.
The ex arrived to pick me up, and she advised me to see a doctor. Nahh! I said. I took an Aspirin. Doctor Schmockter. I did know that, feeling the way I did, there was no way I was going to put able to pull a 4 hour shift at the record store that night. All that bending over and filing…one handed? No. Even though I was very proud of my perfect attendance record (no sick days in almost 2 years, a milestone I wanted to reach), I had to call in sick. I felt the pain of my now tarnished sick record.
We sat down at Casey’s, and I stupidly ordered French onion soup. Only when the dish arrived did I realize how hard it was to get the spoon all the way to my mouth without leaning. Leaning equaled pain, but by moving slowly and steadily, I gradually ate the soup.
I had a heavy scarf around my neck, and the warm soup going down my throat felt great too. Plus, the painkillers were kicking in. My mood brightened by the time my chicken arrived. When I had finished that, my sore neck muscles began to loosen up. I was regaining some mobility. Plus, the lunch was going splendidly! Conversation was brisk and good humoured.
“You know what,” I said to the ex, “I think I’m going to work after all.”
“Are you sure?” she queried. “Your neck looks really stiff.”
“It is,” I replied. “But it’s Wednesday. It’s a slow night. New stock arrived yesterday, Trevor would have finished stocking everything. I’ll be OK.” Plus, I was digging the new Extreme and wanted to hear it again.
Mike Mangini on drums
I excused myself to go to a pay phone and call the store.
“Hey man, it’s Mike,” I said when my boss answered. “Have you got anybody to fill my shift yet? Because I can do it. I feel alot better.” He told me that he was just going to work straight through. I assured him I was OK, and I got the ex to drop me off at the store.
I walked in, head cocked at an awkward angle, wearing a silly scarf. My boss was with a customer but he glanced at me, noting my odd posture. As soon as he was done with the customer, he turned to me.
“Oh, Mike…how in the heck did you do that again?”
Slightly embarrassed I answered, “Drying my hair.”
“You did THAT drying your hair?” he cried.
“Yeah,” I said sheepishly. “Does it look bad? Can you tell?”
“Can you tell?” he replied. “It’s as obvious as the nose on your face!”
Oh man. Oh man. I didn’t realize how comical I looked. Sure enough, several customers asked about my strange posture. And all of them had the same question:
“How in the heck did you do that?”
Drying my hair! Now leave me alone about it!!
Unfortunately this was merely the first of many such episodes. A high price to pay, for the temporary relief of cracking your neck. I should have just said it was whiplash from banging my head too much.
RECORD STORE TALES Part 215: Mono
Today, I was listening to some old-school Dio, and I had a thought. A sudden thought that I wanted to explore:
“My taste in music was 100% solidified by that month in 1986 that I had mono!”
Yeah! I think it’s true! I was sick at home for a month (at least) too tired to do anything except record videos on the Pepsi Power Hour! I was inundated with a steady intake of incredible songs, in many cases for the first time. And because I still have the old VHS tapes, I know exactly what’s on them. This brief but intense period of my life was rocked by this soundtrack, over and over again:
Dio – “Rock and Roll Children”
Lee Aaron – “Shake It Up”
ZZ Top – “Rough Boy”
Thor (Jon Mikl Thor) – “Keep the Dogs Away”
Triumph – “Never Surrender”
Loudness – “Let It Go”
Spinal Tap – “Hell Hole”, the theme song that my sister and I dedicated to our old Catholic grade school!
These songs were first impressed upon me during that period, the visuals always cool and intriguing to me. Especially Lee Aaron. Ahem. Anyway. I watched these videos over and over again. I recorded the audio (in mono) (…hah, I made a pun!) to a cassette so I could listen to them on my Walkman. This came in handy at the cottage. We didn’t have a VCR or cable there, so the only way to bring my songs was to tape them from the TV.
That one intense period of being stuck at home with nothing but heavy metal heroes might have made me the LeBrain I am today. I’m glad something good came out of it! I couldn’t even go swimming that entire summer!