history

#929: “The Neanderthal Flute”

RECORD STORE TALES #929:  “The Neanderthal Flute”

When Beethoven invented music in 334 BC, he had no idea we would owe him a debt of gratitude over two millennia later.   When his friend, Presley of Elvis, heard this wonderful sound, he decided to pin some strings to a piece of wood and created the first guitar.

That’s how it all started right?  Beethoven, Bach, Elvis, the Beatles?

Music has likely been with us since the dawn of abstract thought.  Ancient evidence is difficult to find, since most musical instruments would have decayed to nothing over tens of thousands of years.  Without physical remains, an “invention” of music is difficult to date.  Even musical notation came much later.  According to Dr. Kathryn Ladano at Wilfrid Laurier University, those who played ancient music “were improvisers. Improvisation has to be the oldest and first form of music, before anything was written or passed down in the oral tradition.”

The oldest musical artefacts we have are flutes made of bone.   The most ancient of these could be the 45,000 year old Divje Babe flute, discovered in Slovenia in 1995.  It was dated using the Electron Spin Resonance (ESR) technique.  The bone is commonly called the “Neanderthal flute” but there is no consensus on who made it…if anyone.   If indeed it is a flute, it would be the oldest known musical instrument ever found.

There are other, younger known bone flutes, but the Divje Babe femur would be the most ancient found by far.  What we do know with certainty is very little.  It has never appeared on a Jethro Tull album for one thing, which is truly unfortunate.  The Divje Babe flute is a broken juvenile cave bear bone, with two clear holes, and possibly the remains of two more at either broken end.  Bones with holes in them are common.  Rather than a flute, it could just be a fluke – a piece of bear femur, pierced by the teeth of a predator.

We have theories.  Was the bone just left as-is by an animal?  Both ends are damaged, probably by a predator looking for the tasty marrow inside.  Tests were made with metal castings of various predator teeth.  The hole alignment does not match any known animal’s teeth, but the holes could have been made at different times rather than simultaneously.  Canadian musicologist Bob Fink thinks it unlikely that such a situation would result in four holes in a straight line.  Tests also showed that bones often broke when trying to duplicate an animal bite.  Finally, we can’t rule out that the holes could be a modern hoax, nor can we rule out Ian Anderson as a suspect.

As humans, we hope the bone is the first known musical instrument and there is some evidence to support that.  For one, the bone appears to be cleaned of marrow, since the inner and outer surfaces are the same colour.  This would be necessary if it were a flute.  The holes are also quite circular, which is unlike most oval-shaped bite holes.  There are no marks on the bottom of the bone, which you would expect if it was between an animal’s jaws.  It takes a lot of pressure to bite a hole in a bear femur.  However there are also no tool marks, which are common on actual man-made bone flutes.

Here’s the most interesting evidence, if not the most compelling.  According to Fink, the four holes line up with the “do, re, mi, fa” of the diatonic scale.  Can you imagine?  45,000 years ago, somebody playing “do re mi” on a bone flute.  Perhaps for ceremonial, religious reasons.  Maybe just to entertain the tribe with a hit song.  Binding communities together, person by person.  Expanding the capabilities of the human brain one note at a time.  The same scale we play today.*

Before you get too excited about the possibilities, the bone is a juvenile cave bear and would not have been very long even before it was broken.  One study (by Nowell and Chase) indicates that the bone would have had to be twice its natural length to play the diatonic scale.  Fink countered this with the possibility of an added mouthpiece that extended its length.

Why not use modern technology to create a replica flute and try to play it?  In 2011, Matija Turk and  Ljuben Dimkaroski did just that.   Their study showed “it was possible to perform a series of musical articulations and ornamentations such as legato, staccato, double and triple tonguing, flutter-tonguing, glissando, chromatic scales, trills, broken chords, interval leaps, and melodic successions from the lowest to the highest tones.”  Furthermore Dimkaroski found that a longer bone was not necessary to play music.  The reconstructed instrument had a three and a half octave range and was less like a flute and more akin to modern woodwinds.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the flute is that it could have been made by our Neanderthal cousins, which would prove that music is a trait shared by two species and not just ours.  Even if the bone really was carved by Neanderthals, there is no way for us to know for certain.  It could have been left in the cave much later on by a wandering human.

We do not have all the answers yet, but the possibility of the same musical scale that we use today being at least 45,000 years old is an enticing one.  It sets the imagination on fire with possibilities.  You could go back in time and play “Heartbreak Hotel” on this ancient flute in that dark cave, if the theories hold true.  What an incredible thought that is.

 

* Dr. Ladano notes, “Even if it didn’t match with the western major or minor tonal system, it isn’t any less valid. Other cultures use different scales and maybe the maker of this flute used a different scale system as well.”

#874: Impossible to Display

A sequel to Getting More Tale #795:  A Case for Security

GETTING MORE TALE #874: Impossible to Display

Shoplifting accounts for over a third of inventory shrinkage in retail.*  At the Record Store we had numerous strategies to combat this, as discussed in prior chapters.  An alert staff can stop a staggering amount of theft, but the last line of defence for us was a magnetic security tag system.  Trying to lift a de-tagged item would set off alarms at the store.

Cassettes, one of of our lower-cost items compared with CDs and box sets, were protected with a single magnetic strip hidden on the seam on the shrink wrap.  These had to be de-tagged magnetically with a device — they were single use only and the tag left the store with the product after being disarmed.  Each tag cost five cents, and that added up.  Higher-cost box sets were protected with multiple tags hidden on the edges of the packaging.  CDs, which also carried significant cost but were the majority of our store, were protected by a double-edged sword.  They were housed in an unbreakable and re-usable plastic longbox, with the magnetic tag stuck to an inner edge.  These tags never had to be disarmed.  You just removed the security case with a special key and set it aside for re-use on fresh inventory.

Cassettes were checked weekly to re-secure loose tags.  We kept a close eye on everything and everyone.  Combined with good practices, the security gate at the front of the store prevented a lot of theft.  Still, there were certain items that were unfortunately hard to both a) protect properly and b) display properly at the same time.  Unusual packaging made some albums difficult to stock on the shelves with the rest of the catalogue.

December 6, 1994:  Pearl Jam – Vitalogy compact disc

Although we weren’t equipped to display records, we had no problems when Vitalogy was released on vinyl November 22, 1994.  We sold the five copies we stocked on the first day.  It was the CD release two weeks later that caused us grief because we ordered those en masse.

The CD release of Vitalogy came ensconced in a miniature cardboard book-shaped package.  It had the same dimensions as a normal CD case, just flipped upright on its short side.  You could put them in a CD security box no problem, but T-Rev discovered a weakness in its design.  Because it was thinner and more flexible than a standcard CD case, you could with a little effort force it out of the security box without unlocking it.  This meant we couldn’t safely stock it out on the shelves.

Instead, the boss man set up a small box under close watchful eye at the front counter.  He placed the Vitalogy CDs in it, with every fifth copy turned 45 degrees so he could easily count how many were in there at any given time.  If he knew that he had 20 copies in the box, but suddenly only counted 19, then he would see if anyone in the store was carrying one around to purchase it.  Eventually we just put it back in the security cases, assuming nobody would be as inventive as T-Rev in trying to get one out.

May 29, 1995:  Pink Floyd – p·u·l·s·e compact disc with flashing light diode.

The original CD release of Pink Floyd’s p·u·l·s·e had a unique gimmick.  The oversized cardboard shell contained the 2 CD album in a book-style case, plus a flashing light gimmick powered by two AA batteries in a hidden compartment.  When the CD was reissued without the light and space-consuming batteries, it could fit in a standard size CD security box.  However the full-on, limited edition original was too large to be stored in our shelving.  Once again we had to put them at the front counter, this time stacked in a pile.

What I remember most about the “pile of p·u·l·s·e” is that flashing light.  However many copies were in that heap at the front counter, the lights flashed incessantly.  You could not turn them off.  Once you purchased the CD, you could remove the batteries from the inside.  Safe in their shrinkwrap on our countertop, they just flashed and flashed away.  Never in synch.  No two copies were ever in synch.  I guess it might have depended on how much juice was still in those batteries.  Copies of p·u·l·s·e flashed for years without a battery change.

June 20, 1995:  Michael Jackson – HIStory double cassette in cardboard sleeve

Although cassettes were being slowly phased out, we still had to carry certain big releases on the format.  In 1995, Michael Jackson still sold impressive numbers.  Enough that we carried one cassette copy, which once again, was packaged in such a way that we couldn’t display it on our cassette shelves.  Unlike other doubles, which sometimes came in a “fat” double cassette case (like Phantom of the Opera) or two normal cases packed together (like The Song Remains the Same), Michael Jackson’s HIStory came with the two tapes face up, side by side, in a cardboard box.  It was dimensioned like no tape shelving system known to man.

Too cumbersome to take up valuable front counter space, HIStory was deigned be displayed without fanfare on a shelf behind the desk.  To buy a copy of HIStory on cassette from us, there were only two paths to a sale:

  1. The customer would have to notice it behind the counter when purchasing other items, and ask for it.
  2. The customer would have to ask if we carried it, and not everyone asks.

My solution was clever.  I had just acquired a computer program that enabled me to create perfectly formatted cassette J-cards for my tape collection.  I used it to print a sleeve that said “MICHAEL JACKSON – HISTORY – 2 CASSETTE SET – ASK AT COUNTER”.  I put that in an empty tape case, and filed it with the rest of the Michael Jackson cassettes.  It took forever but it must have sold eventually!  I don’t know if I was responsible because it didn’t happen on my shift.

We had a cramped little space and we made the best of it.  Given that we were constantly battling for every square inch, any time an artist came out with something that was impossible to display, it created a unique little headache for us!

 

* The other 2/3rds are largely staff theft and errors.

#858: School Days

GETTING MORE TALE #858: School Days

Did anybody really enjoy doing speeches in school?  I dreaded them year after year.  Pick a subject, write a speech, memorize it, time it right, and then it’s showtime.  My first speech was an award winner.  In was in grade three, and I wrote a speech about falling into the Athabasca glacier on my summer vacation.  It was a hit.  But that didn’t get me off the hook.  Year after year, you had to keep coming up with new speeches.

Grade five was Pac-Man, and it didn’t do as well.  Not that I minded.  I wanted to do just well enough, not so well that I had to do it again in a semi-finals.  I was obsessed with Pac-Man that year.  I truly had Pac-Man fever.  In my speech I discussed sequels like Ms. Pac-Man, and how the Atari 2600 version was such a disappointment.

In eighth grade I changed things up considerably and did my speech on Kiss.  I can tell you that the teacher Mrs. Powers visibly reacted every time I said the words Hotter Than Hell.  My speech was like a condensed version of Kisstory, a predecessor perhaps to what I like to do today.  It was actually really good although it was mostly off the cuff.  I knew I wasn’t going to get a good grade because of the subject matter, and I knew a speech about Kiss wasn’t going to make it to any kind of semi-finals, and I really knew they didn’t like the word “hell”.  Name dropping Mick Jagger didn’t help.  But it was really good, natural sounding and I only stumbled a couple of times.

The teachers didn’t really want you to do a speech about rock bands, but I was determined to express myself.  I didn’t want to spend five minutes talking about, I dunno, making steak sandwiches.  I could have whipped up an easy speech on Antarctic exploration or World War II, and gotten a better mark.  The more I look back, I guess I was a teeny tiny bit of a rebel.  But it was the teachers who gave me shit about my Judas Priest shirt that brought it on.

In grade nine I did my speech about Iron Maiden.  I should have diversified.  I could have spoken about nuclear power, Baron Von Richthofen, or Wrestlemania.  To my credit I was always good at telling a story, and I made them interesting.  I just tried to squeeze music into my schoolwork any chance I could.  If the jocks could do a speech about baseball, I should be able to do one about heavy metal.  I do remember one guy had a really well written comedic speech about a blind date.  If I knew fiction was a category I would have tried a hand at that!

In later years I did more expansive independent studies on other subjects, but still managed to work in music.  I did it for a sociology project and a few English ones.  And why not?  I couldn’t do that in algebra, physics, chemistry, or calculus.

These little acts of rock and roll rebellion didn’t get me an A, but I did well enough to be admitted to Wilfrid Laurier University in 1991.  So:  no regrets.  I can still write about Manfred von Richthofen if I want, and I’m fortunate enough that you would probably still read it.  I’ve written about history (tied into music) here a number of times.  I’m sure I’ll do it again.  And why not?  It’s easy to tie this stuff to music; Iced Earth have a song about Richthofen.  Queen have a song about Robert Falcon Scott.  Iron Maiden have songs about everything that ever happened.  The field is wide open.

 

#739: Aces High

GETTING MORE TALE #739: Aces High

I am fortunate, oh so very fortunate, that I still have my old VHS tapes.  Watching them again, over 30 years down the road, has been the closest I’ve ever come to real time travel.  These tapes were my childhood!  I sat in the basement, remote control in hand, recording as much music as possible from, well, MuchMusic!

The Pepsi Power Hour was in its infancy, with J.D. Roberts in the hosting chair.  One by one, each video rolls out in the order I recorded them.  In many cases that means the order in which I first heard them!

The good fortune that I even have these tapes goes further, back to my parents.  They had pay TV, meaning we had MuchMusic when it first began, not when it became free in the late 80s.  They bought a VCR and pretty much let me monopolise it when the Power Hour was on.  Even though it was the middle of the big “Satan scare”, they let me watch the Power Hour, unlike the Dolphs, the weirdo neighbours across the street.  They didn’t even let their kids watch Dr. Who.  Here I am watching Ronnie James Dio slaying people with his sword in “Holy Diver”.  A few clips earlier, a bathing suit clad teacher was dancing on desks in a Van Halen video.  Then there was Kiss.  Were they really “Knights in Satan’s Service”?  My mom asked me that question, but she didn’t stop me from watching.  That couldn’t have been easy, considering the subject matter of “I Love It Loud”.

So I kept recording videos, and stored the tapes safely, as if knowing that 30 years down the road I’d be wanting them again.  Iron Maiden came up frequently on the earliest tapes, and I can’t help thinking of my dad.

The only Iron Maiden videos my dad liked were “Aces High” and “The Trooper”.  He approved of the lyrics and explained them to me in historical context.  I knew all about the Battle of Britain long before I hit the age that they teach you about it in school.  I knew the Charge of the Light Brigade, what a “Cossack” was, and where it happened.  That’s because of Iron Maiden and my dad!  He used it as educational material.  He really seemed to like those lyrics.

Today, my friend Tom who is a teacher uses rock music in the same way — to teach.

“Aces High” was always a personal favourite.  Not only was it a great song, but also a great video.  The single had some of the best cover art you could find on a Maiden vinyl.  “Aces High” received many spins, on the turntable and the VCR alike.  At that age, my sister was like a little shadow, and copied me with everything.  We watched videos together.  We also went to the same school.  In one class, she and her friends were asked about their favourite songs.  My sister said “Aces High” but they wrote down “Ace Is High”.  Come on, people!  It’s not that kind of song!  She was in the 4th grade.

Now I sit, watching my tapes, reliving old memories fresh and new once again.  What a lucky guy I am.

 

#666: 666

GETTING MORE TALE #666: 666

“Here is Wisdom, Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast.”

Ye metal fans!  You have all heard of the number of the Beast, but do you actually know what it is?  Iron Maiden mined the Bible for lyrical ideas in the early days.  The Book of Revelation was a favourite of theirs.  Of the Beast, it tells us that we can identify him by his number.  This is not Satan himself, but the first Beast of the apocalypse, the end of the world.  The Beast, it says, comes from the sea.  There are many interpretations of the Revelations.  Three main schools of thought are that these are prophecies of events that already occurred, will occur in the future, or are happening now in the present day.

The Beast will “rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy. (Revelation 13:1)”  Scholars say the seven heads represent seven kings.  The 10 crowns are 10 more kings that have yet to be crowned.  With an appearance like that, why do we need a number to identify the Beast?

Relevation is a symbolic book of the Bible and no one really claims to understand it all. The apocalyptic writings say that the Beast and the false prophet will muster the armies of the world against the man on the “white horse”.  When they lose, they are tossed into a “lake of fire”.  Some theologians believe the number 666 symbolizes the nations of the Earth that are in conflict with God.  In the 1980s, some thought that 666 represented President Reagan, whose full name, Ronald Wilson Reagan, is three names of six letters each – 666.  Indeed, Reagan changed his Bel-Air address from 666 St. Cloud Road to 668.

With the imagery and mystery inside, the Book of Revelation is great source material for heavy metal lyrics.  The Bible has always been a source for popular music.  Pete Seeger wrote “Turn! Turn! Turn!” around the Book of Ecclesiastes, but Revelations is great for darker themes. Iron Maiden (and even Anvil) made the number of the Beast famous to the secular community.  Every metal head knows the number of the Beast. Or do they?

It turns out, the number may have been wrong all along.  Older and older fragments of the Bible are constantly being unearthed.  The oldest manuscript of Revelation chapter 13 (Papyrus 115) found to date is 1700 years old. This ancient fragment gives the number of the Beast as 616.

Scholars today are split.  Many think 616 is the original number of the Beast, later changed to the more interesting 666 for aesthetic reasons.  Try this trick with a calculator or spreadsheet:  The sum of the numbers 1 through 36 is 666.

If this is true, Iron Maiden has a lot to revise, and metal fans may have some tattoos to fix!

REVIEW: The Sword – Age of Winters (2006)

Purchased at BMV in Toronto 2016 for $6.99.

scan_20161126THE SWORD – Age of Winters (2006 Kemado Records)

The scene:  Earth, post-Rapture.  A seedy bar somewhere in America, haunted by the few remaining survivors.  In walks a cloaked figure, here to recruit the only man who can help him defeat the Antichrist:  former CIA agent Stan Smith.  On the jukebox in the futuristic post-apocalyptic watering hole:  “Barael’s Blade” by The Sword.  (American Dad season 5 episode 9 – “Rapture’s Delight”)

Sounds bizarre, right?  Seth MacFarlane’s American Dad has always used modern rock music in interesting ways, and this wasn’t the only use of music by The Sword on that show.  “Iron Swan” appeared in an episode called “Minstrel Krampus” (also featuring soul crooner Charles Bradley).  Interestingly, not only are both these appearances in rather twisted Christmas episodes, but both songs were drawn from The Sword’s debut long-player, Age of Winters.

The doomy riffs of opening track “Celestial Crown” immediately recall early Black Sabbath circa 1970-72, but drawn out, slowed down, grinding heavy like a glacier carving its path through a mountain.  J.D. Cronise’s howling vocals break the ice on “Barael’s Blade”, but the assault continues right on to “Freya”.  This track, the ogre stomping “Freya”, wields multiple guitar riffs as heavy as the thunder of an avalanche.  The Norse goddess of fertility is also the goddess of war and death.  “Freya” brings the sonic conflict to your speakers.

When the “Winter’s Wolves” arrive, your senses are already overloaded by the riff-heavy metal.  “Wolves” centers on a heavy drum section, like Bill Ward on ephedrine.  Almost as if part of the same song, “The Horned Goddess” reverberates like a coda to “Winter’s Wolves”, different yet solidly in the same icy field.  “The Horned Goddess” soon transforms into a stampede of mammoths making their last stand.  Hypnotizing lead vocals welcome you into this hazy landscape of sound.

Acoustic instrumentation brings “Iron Swan” a different aura, like the Beatles via The Sword.  Then it immediately launches in a thrash metal “War Pigs”, as if all the speedy chops the band had in storage were being used up right now at this very moment.  Epic only touches on what “Iron Swan” is, as there is so much riffery that it becomes overwhelming.  Scientific studies* have shown that the human memory can only retain so many riffs at one time, and so “Iron Swan” becomes like a wave of them hitting your senses one after the other.

Painting of an Aurochs from Wikipedia

Painting of an Aurochs (Wikipedia)

The Aurochs, a part of European megafauna until their extinction in the early 1600s, were the direct ancestor of the modern domestic bovine whose products millions of people consume every day.  It is the Aurochs you see in cave paintings today.  The Sword have given us a seven-minute-plus “Lament for the Aurochs”, and we do not forget the impact that mankind has had on the ancient land we inhabit.  Although back-breeding has produced Auroch-like “Heck cattle”, we shall never feel the ground shake with a herd of Aurochs again.

“And none may see again the shimmering of Avalon,
Or know the fates of all the races man has cursed,
Long gone are the ages of the alchemists,
Now there are none who know the secrets of the earth.

“Lament the passing of the Aurochs,
And the slaying of the ancient wyrm,
Would you dare meet the gaze of the basilisk,
Or face the flames as the phoenix burns?”

The Aurochs give way to an epic instrumental “March of the Lor”, another exercise in maximizing potential riffage.  When “Ebethron” arrives to end the album with a hammering blow, it is a mercy killing.  Age of Winters is almost non-stop, all-in, nothing but riffs and pounding through its entire length.  That in mind, it only takes a short while to recover, and hit play one more time….

I look forward to exploring more of The Sword’s discography.

4.5/5 stars

Look for a review of album #2, Gods of the Earth, soon.

*Not really.

 

GUEST SHOT! #439: 10 E 23rd Street

GUEST SHOT by Mike Lukas

GETTING MORE TALE #439: 10 E 23rd Street

I just finished 93 shows in North America with Steve Earle & The Dukes. I’m their Tour Manager. We have four days off before heading to the west coast for a festival, then on to Europe for another month of touring. Being away from home for so long is tough. So when this little break came up, I told the wife, we were going to take a short trip to NYC. We have tickets to a concert and a Broadway show, a few great dinners, shopping, the works. It was something nice to do together before I leave again.

We are staying at a small boutique hotel in Gramercy. Today [September 29 2015] we were heading across 23rd street on our way to lunch when I saw the number 10 and for some reason that address just kept ringing in my head. 10 East 23rd Street. Over and over, I said to myself 10 East 23rd Street, 10 East 23rd Street, 10 East 23rd Street. Why do I know that address? Then it clicked! 10 East 23rd Street was the loft where KISS was born! It’s the spot where they auditioned Ace and Peter. It’s the place where they took those early pre-make-up photos. I grabbed my wife’s hand and told her we had to stop here.

I filled her in as to the significance this place played in the mind of a KISS fan. I took a quick photo of the façade of the building and noticed the door to #10 was wide open. I beckoned my wife to follow me in. Just a quick peek, the door is open after all.

We went inside and were greeted by a man with a little Boston terrier holding a ball in his mouth. The dog, not the man. He was holding the small service elevator door for us. “Coming up?” he asked. “Nope just popping in for a quick look.” I replied. His expression changed. “You’re KISS fans.” He said with a smile. “Get in the elevator, but we have to be quiet.” In we went and up we went, petting the little pup as we rose. The nice man who went on to explain that every so often people show up at 10 East 23rd Street to see where KISS was born, showed us the door to their former rehearsal spot. “Come over here” he pointed to the stairway. “See those pipes? That’s where that picture was taken.” I of course walked down and snapped a couple pics.

We looked around some more before descending back down to the street. We said thank you again to the man with the dog and made our way down to The Gramercy Tavern for a nice lunch. At lunch I texted a pic over to LeBrain. Knowing full well he would appreciate the experience as only another fellow KISS fan would. His response is what led to this little story!

Mike Lukas

Gallery: Wilfrid Laurier (Canadian Legends series figure)

Earlier this weekend, a discussion was unfolding in the posting for my Johnny Cash action figure gallery.  I have provided the pertinent text between Aaron and myself:

A:  You know what I want for Christmas? The John A. MacDonald action figure! Yes, it exists. It’s not music-related, but since we’re talking about action figures of our heroes…

M:  At some point in the near future I fully intend to work in my Sir Wilfrid Laurier action figure. I haven’t figured out how yet…but I WILL! In fact I was going to throw it in here as a mind-fuck at the end, but it wasn’t working and wasn’t funny so I axed it at the last minute!

Screw it.  Not music-related?  Wouldn’t be the first time!  This figure, 2006 Nafekh, is from “Series 1” of the Canadian Legends.  “Series 2” never came to be.   (My series 2 would have included Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Terry Fox, and Alexander Graham Bell, if such a thing were ever made.)

Part 220: Blackout!

RECORD STORE TALES Part 220:  Blackout!

It seems like only last year, but in fact it was 10 years ago today.  One of the only times we ever closed the store early was the Great Blackout of 2003.  If you lived in, well, North America, you probably remember Blackout 2003.

I recall closing up shop in the mid-afternoon.  It was obvious the power wasn’t coming back on, but the phones were working.  We got the call to do our best to close up without power, and head home.

For many people, particularly in Toronto, this turned out to be an exceptional evening.  People left their homes, went out and socialized.  Many went to the beach.  Me, I just sat at home and read a book until it was too dark to read.  Then I turned in.

I fell asleep quickly, it was so quiet.  Suddenly I woke up to the sound of the phone ringing.  I reached  for my watch, my eyes trying to focus on the glowing hands.  4:30 am.  I didn’t know what to think.

On the other end was Brandon “You Are So Punk”, who worked at our Niagara Falls location.  That first night, they incredibly still had power, although that wasn’t going to last!

“Man, why are you calling?” I yawned.  “It’s 4:30 in the morning.”

Brandon paused.  “What are you talking about?”

Frustrated, I answered, “I’m looking at my watch, you’re calling me at 4:30 in the morning!”

Brandon paused again, and answered simply, “Dude.  Your watch is upside down.  It’s 10:00 pm. I just got home from work.”

D’Oh!

The next day, Friday the 15th, the power was restored in the early morning.  Still, we weren’t supposed to be open.  The government had advised all non-essential businesses to stay closed, and not put additional strain on our fried power grid.  Us being so essential, were open (of course).  That is until about mid-afternoon when we again had to close, due to rolling blackouts.  The shit thing about that was that we were absolutely slammed with people that morning, we were overwhelmed.  A lot of them were what I called “tire kickers” — they like to ask you a lot of questions but they don’t buy anything.  Since nobody was open except us and a few other “essential” businesses, it was like a holiday for the general public.  People brought in used discs by the box load to sell, I kid you not.  I went through 300 discs from one guy alone.  I had him leave his box behind because it was going to take a couple hours to go through, and then we ended up closing while he was out.  He came back a few days later for his cash and unwanted discs (which was most of them).

When people reflect back on the blackout, they usually have fond memories and stories.  Not me!  I remember shit stories!  Oh!  And I had to throw out all the meat that I had bought that day before work too, because the fridge had no power.  Fuck you, blackouts!

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