humour

Sunday Chuckle: Clear Eyes II

A followup to Sunday Chuckle:  Clear Eyes

Took my early morning walk recently.  One of the roads we like also happens to be a hideout for teenage stoners.  I found a “Clear Eyes” dropper for those red stoner eyes last time.  This time, I think the stoners were rolling blunts!

 

Yah, mon.

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#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.

 

#587: Blocked!

GETTING MORE TALE #587: Blocked!

Someone bugging you on Facebook?  Block!  How about Twitter?  Block!  Go ahead and try it.  The President does it all the time!

In the pre-Record Store 1980s, it was not this easy.

In late 1987 and early 1988, a kid from school named Bobby was getting a bit too clingy.  He was even a bigger nerd than I was.  Way bigger nerd.  His prized possession was a massive multi-volume copy of the Oxford English Dictionary.  His stalking didn’t begin until grade 10 French class.  I was never very good at French.  I can’t really explain why I took it again in grade 10 when I didn’t have to.  It was my worst class.  Bobby and I would study together over the phone.  It helped so we continued our phone studies.  That’s how it started.

Soon after, Bobby began calling for non-school related reasons, which was still OK, but it picked up speed. The calls became very regular.  First, they were every other day.  Then they were daily.  Then twice a night, and more.  He started inviting me to go to church with him.

I was a young kid with no idea how to handle the discomfort I was experiencing.  Talking on the phone was fine, but every night?  I was getting smothered, except I didn’t know that was the word for it.  I wasn’t sure if this was weird or not, or how to deal with it, and I didn’t want to confront him.  I decided the best strategy was to start avoiding his phone calls.  There were two problems with this:

  • In 1987 there wasn’t an easy way to “block” Bobby’s number.
  • My mom outright refused to lie and tell Bobby I wasn’t home.

I made sure my mom knew that Bobby was calling too much and annoying me, but she wouldn’t play ball!  “I won’t lie for you!” she said.  I can remember her answering the phone, while I’m telling her “I’m not home!” only for her to hand the phone over to me.  I was furious but she wouldn’t budge on her lying policy.  New techniques had to be invented.

The easiest was taking the phone off the receiver.  Leaving it “off the hook” would give any caller a busy signal.  No such thing as voicemail.  I began taking the phone off the hook during Bobby’s usual calling hours without telling my parents.  The only problem was that the handset then started making a very loud beeping sound when you left it off the hook.  So I buried the receiver under blankets and pillows so it could not be heard.  Of course we wouldn’t be getting any calls at all from anyone, but I figured that was the price my mom had to pay for refusing to lie!  Later on, I learned how to remove the ear piece so that it wouldn’t make any noise.

The other method of Bobby-blocking required the help of my best friend Bob, not to be confused with Bobby.  One night my parents were out and Bob was over, when the phone rang.

“That’s Bobby calling,” I said.  “Answer the phone and tell him he has the wrong number?”  Bob obliged me.  He was willing to lie for me!  He answered and told Bobby he had the wrong number, but it was a little more complicated than that.  Bobby said, “But I have this number programmed in my phone!”  It was 1987.  Nobody had numbers programmed into phones…except Bobby.  Bob insisted that he still had the wrong number and hung up.  Sure enough the phone rang again as Bobby called back.  This time we didn’t answer.

Things with Bobby came to a head twice.  The first time was over the phone, one of those nights he called multiple times.  He asked me to go to church with him again and I said “No” very firmly.  I said we had our own church to go to and I just didn’t want to go to his.  To my shock he started bawling on the phone and hung up on me.  He then called back, apologized and asked if I’d go to church with him again.  I accepted his apology but declined church again.  He started crying again and hung up again.  He was Lutheran, in case you’re wondering if he was evangelical or something more obscure.  Nope, just Lutheran.  Pretty mainstream.

Bobby and I patched up the friendship and boundaries were re-established.  There was another incident towards the end of 1988 and it was the final one.

I had 11th grade math class with Bobby and the year started fine.  He sat next to me.  One morning in class he took my pencil case and wouldn’t give it back.  I had been drawing band logos on it, so Bobby took it upon himself to take it (and all the pens, pencils and erasers it contained) away, as if he was a parent and I was a child.  I was getting more and more angry and when he finally returned it after class, I was furious.  He acted like it was funny, but I wasn’t laughing.  I was really pissed off.  I went to the cafeteria at lunch, and I told Bob what happened.  He said, “Well we just won’t let him sit with us at lunch.”

I met Bob and our group in the cafeteria for lunch, and we made sure to take up all the bench space.  When Bobby arrived, Bob informed him he’d have to sit somewhere else because I was still mad at him for taking the pencil case and not giving it back until after class.  That was pretty much it.  Bobby and I stopped speaking completely after that, even though we sat next to each other in class.  It was awkward but a certain amount of peace and quiet returned to my life.

I remember shortly after that, I caught a ride home from school with Bob.  He drove a shit-brown Chevette.  We were driving home when I spotted Bobby up ahead.  Bob slowed down his car and followed Bobby without saying anything.  He just slowly, slowly followed, at walking speed, in his car.  This time it was me who found it funny, but Bobby was not amused and yelled at his neighbors to call the police!  (They didn’t.)

Bobby changed schools the next year, and a mutual acquaintance told me that he “hated” me now.  I accept the part that I had to play in it, but I would also suggest that where I was concerned, Bobby was obsessed.  He was not gay,  he was just fixated.  It wasn’t going to end well no matter how it ended.  One thing for certain though, the obsession had to end, because if it didn’t, my wits would.

I can’t help but wonder if much of this could have been avoided if only my mom would have played along and told Bobby I wasn’t home!  We’ll never know now.  Thanks, mom.

 

Sunday Chuckle: Clear Eyes

Mrs. LeBrain and I enjoy a nice walk in the summer time.  One of the roads we like also happens to be a hideout for teenage stoners.  We once encountered a couple of them emerging from the trees.  On this occasion we did not spot any stoners, only what they left behind…!

 

Sunday Chuckle: I had to pee real bad…

Coming home from TFCon, traffic was typical Toronto congestion.  Stop and go, stop and go.  Change lanes, stop.  Change lanes, go!  I had to pee real bad.

When we got back to my place, Jay stepped out of the truck for a smoke.  Jen came out to visit, and I still really had to pee bad.  I did the easiest thing possible: I snuck behind his truck and took a leak.  There was nobody around who could see me.

But then I heard a woman’s voice, and close by!  I looked to the left, to the right, and back again.  I kept hearing the woman’s voice and couldn’t figure out where she was, so I decided to cut myself off mid-stream.  Nobody likes doing that.  Not the greatest feeling in the world.

I heard the woman’s voice again, and then figured it out.  It was my cell phone.  I had butt-dialed my own voicemail and that was the automated voicemail talking to me.  At least I didn’t get busted peeing outside!

 

 

* The photo above was taken during the summer of 1990 and is just a water balloon!

#575: The Chris Cornell Obsession

GETTING MORE TALE #575: The Chris Cornell Obsession

A retelling of a portion of Record Store Tales Part 6:  Year 1

One of my very first lessons at the Record Store came courtesy of a customer whom nearly everyone loathed dealing with.  Nancy was her name, but she also had a very politically incorrect nickname back in 1994-1996.  Some people have no filter, and Nancy was one of those people.

What I discovered during our very first interaction was that she liked Chris Cornell from Soundgarden.  A seemingly innocuous interest.  But she liked Cornell a lot.  More than the average bear.

I was new at the store and had never seen her before.  The store owner had, and with a little mischievous intent, sent me over to ask her if she needed help finding anything.  Little did I know, he was sending me into the lion’s den.

“Hi, can I help you find anything today?” I asked as I approached.

“No thank you,” she said before adding, “Do you have any Soundgarden?”

Of course we did!  It was the summer of 1994.  Superunknown was one of the biggest CDs of the season.  Badmotorfinger was still hot too.  I showed her what we had new and used, but she wasn’t interested.  She just wanted to talk.

She saw the copies of M.E.A.T Magazine that we carried on the front counter.  M.E.A.T (“Metal Events Around Toronto”, or “Metal-Alternative”) was an excellent publication made all the more impressive since it was full-colour, on glossy paper, and free.  Chris Cornell was on the cover that month.  Nancy saw that and went crazy.

“Do you like Chris Cornell?”  That was the question that sucked me in.  I should have answered something neutral, like “He’s OK” or “I don’t know.”  Instead I answered something far more enthusiastic, thus springing the trap.  Once she knew I was a fan too, she wouldn’t stop.

“He’s sexy!” she began.  “He’s so sexy when he wears his Doc Martens.  Are there pictures here of him in his Doc Martens?  Do you know the Doc Martens I mean?” she asked as she flipped through M.E.A.T Magazine.  “I love Chris Cornell when he wears Doc Martens!” she continued.  “He used to have long hair but now it’s short.  I liked his long hair better, which do you like best?”

At this point, I realized I was in the thick of it and the boss had sent me in, intentionally.  He continued going about his business as I tried to extract myself from Nancy’s conversation.  He ignored my sidelong glances appealing for help.  However I was new, brand new in fact, I’d only been there a couple weeks and had no idea what to do!

“Did you know that the original bass player from Soundgarden was Japanese?  I’m Japanese too.  Did you know there are not many Asian people in rock and roll bands?”  I’d never thought about it before.  Now I wished I never had the chance to think about it.

Throughout the 20 or so minutes that I was stuck with Nancy talking to me, she had much to say on sexy grunge rockers, the members of Soundgarden, Doc Marten boots, and Asians in rock.  And of course, she asked my name.

“Nice to meet you Mike, I’m Nancy.”  And I would never, ever forget that name even though she periodically forgot mine.

When Nancy finally left without buying a damn thing, my boss said to me, “That’s your first lesson.  Don’t get into conversations with customers.”

Nancy was one of the most regular of regular customers.  As we expanded, she visited all our local stores.  She came in year after year, and many staff members became trapped in her spider-like snare of conversation.  But she had a nasty side, she wasn’t easy to deal with.  I was “lucky” she was in a good mood during our Cornell conversation.  On other occasions she called one of our guys “retarded” and made work unpleasant in general.  After Soundgarden her next obsession was classical music, and she stalked our classical sections for years.  She had a husband who liked to wait outside, but once or twice he had to come in and calm her down when she was upset about something.

To me she’ll always be Nancy the Chris Cornell fan.  I thought of Nancy when Chris died.  What happened to Nancy?  I used to see her around town, but it’s been over 10 years since I last spotted her.  Probably still haunting records stores somewhere and providing “interesting” conversations.

 

#573: Pawning Sh*t

GETTING MORE TALE #573: Pawning Shit

You’ve met new contributor Aaron, and as he begins his story, you’ll get to know him a little better.  But how did he enter Record Store Tales?

It’s a funny story, but I very briefly dated his older sister.  We all “met” online – a local electronic “BBS” or “Bulletin Board System”.  My handle was “Geddy” and his was “Capone”.  He still sometimes calls me “Geddy”!  He must have thought I was cool or something.  I wasn’t even working at the Record Store yet when we first met, but Aaron/Capone was big time into music.  He loved Guns N’ Roses.  It was 1994, and Guns N’ Roses were still big news.

When I started at the Record Store, it was like the floodgates opened!  Suddenly, via me, Aaron had access to all kinds of rare rock.  His favourite band was Nirvana, and a few months later I was getting in rare CDs like Outcesticide and Hormoaning.  We continued to bond over music, and started hanging out on weekends.  He was known to complain a bit about my “80s rock” in the car…my response was always “the driver chooses the music”!

Most weekends revolved around music in some way.  We’d hit all the major local stores:  Dr. Disc, Encore, HMV, Sunrise, and of course my store.  I remember one Sunday shift: Aaron had nothing to do that day so he just hung out at the mall during my shift.  It ended up being a great idea.  He helped out some of my customers when I was too busy!

I couldn’t even begin to guess how many discs we bought on those shopping excursions, but I remember a few.  I got Japanese imports of Kiss Killers and Judas Priest Unleashed in the East, at the Sunrise records at Conestoga Mall.  I can recall one afternoon of introducing Aaron to Iron Maiden.  Their home video Raising Hell had just come out, which was to be Bruce’s “final” show with the band.  They had a “horror magician” on stage named Simon Drake and we enjoyed that video quite a bit.  “Do all their songs sound like this?” asked Aaron, who was more used to the detuned rock of the 1990s.

I have one memory that happened a bit later on, after Aaron had his daughter.  A lady came into my store with a giant box of CDs and almost all were shit.  I had to pass on most of them for a variety of reasons.  It was mostly dance music.  They were in shit condition, they were shit titles, and we had too many of them already.  The lady didn’t care; she just didn’t want them.  “Just keep them,” she said.  She took a few bucks for the discs we could take, and left behind at least a hundred worthless discs.

Worthless to the Record Store, anyway.

We didn’t really have a specific policy at the time regarding what to do with the abandoned discs in this situation.  The store could not sell them.  I’m not sure if the Boss Man would have been pleased that I took them, which is one reason why I’ve chosen to wait 20 years to write Record Store Tales and Getting More Tale.  Aaron and I took the discs to a Cash Converters store, which was a pawn shop on the other side of town.  They were the competition.*  It was funny watching the guy go through all the CDs I had passed on, checking the discs inside and not caring about all the scratches.

One thing Aaron owned that I did not was a Super Nintendo.  I skipped the Super.  My sister had the original NES and I had the Nintendo 64.  Aaron and I had played WWF Wrestling on his Super Nintendo, and I quickly became addicted to the game.  So together we dumped the box of junk CDs at the pawn shop, where I bought a Super Nintendo and a couple games.  Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire was one, a great game that still rocks today.  Unfortunately that Super Nintendo busted after two months.  Rats!

At least we had fun.  Whether it was watching shitty horror movies (Killer Klowns from Outer Space, The Stuff, Frogs), searching for rock and metal in record store racks, or pawning shit to buy more shit, we definitely had our fair share of fun.  And that’s the long and the short of how Aaron fits into Record Store Tales.

* The Cash Converters outlet close to our store was managed by a guy that we named “Jheri Curl Man”.

 

Sunday Chuckle: Love Gun

Mrs. LeBrain and I have been married nine years, but in many ways we’re still romantic like newlyweds.  The other night we went out together to take out the garbage.  It was beautiful outside.  The sun is up until late now, it was warm and there was a nice breeze.  Neighbors were out, kids playing…it was that sort of night.  I just threw on some pajama pants for the garbage walk.

As we were walking back, I started singing a silly song (it’s the kind of thing I do) and skipping ahead a bit.  I didn’t hear what Jen was saying as she was trying to get my attention.  I just kept singing and skipping.

Then I noticed my weiner was out.  Jen was trying to warn me that my love gun was giving the neighbors a show.  This explained why the one fella looked at me funny.

Sunday Chuckle: Fidget Spinner Fail!

So there’s these two guys at work.  You’ve met Herbert before, a big guy with a big heart that everybody loves.  Then there’s another guy, and for the purposes of this story, we’ll call him “Justin Bieber”.

Herbert recently bought a fidget spinner.  They’re all the rage right now.  Meanwhile, Bieber bought a fidget cube.  These are toys for kids who have attention span issues, and studies show they might help.  But now they are trendy for adults of all types too.

Bieber pulled a prank on Herbert, by disabling his fidget spinner.  He saw a picture on the internet and did this:

Fortunately, Bieber unlocked the spinner before Herbert a) got a bolt cutter, and b) dumped Bieber’s backpack in a toilet.  Happy ending!

Sunday Chuckle: Chicken cocks

Slow week this week.  Jen thought this chicken finger looked more like a cock.  Tee hee.