kincardine

#605: “Hey, you got a message, use Western Union!” 

GETTING MORE TALE #605: “Hey, you got a message, use Western Union!”

Featuring guest essay by John Hubner

“A lot of bands mature, which means they get square; they start delivering messages. Hey, you got a message, use Western Union.” – David Lee Roth

When David Lee Roth made that legendary statement, he was talking about rock and roll bands who take things too seriously.  Might as well jump?  This is course is a matter of taste.  I enjoy Van Halen and ZZ Top, but I also enjoy the more cerebral works of Marillion and Dream Theater.  In music there truly is room for all tastes and styles.  Few genres are as diverse as rock and roll, even lyrically.  If a writer is a strong enough to embed personal messages in their words that might go undetected by the listener, then this kind of lyric should be celebrated.  On the other hand, fans are sometimes turned off when the messages are too overt.  U2 have faced some backlash over this.

So, rock bands:  by all means, feel free to tell us all about climate change, globalism, big pharma and Wall Street.  If you do it well, the fans won’t mind.  On the other hand, there is no shame in rock and rolling all nite and partying every day.  As Paul Stanley once said in one of his many stage raps, “We all came here tonight to escape from the world! Tomorrow morning when we get up it’ll be just as screwed up as it is today. We might as well have a little fun!” And that is certainly one very valid reason to rock.

Even here, in these very virtual pages, I’ve taken a few liberties where I’ve veered slightly off course.  I’ve preached a little bit about the plight of the Indigenous Canadian.  Other tangents included mental health, stigma, religion, tolerance, and even the rights of service dog owners, with music as the common thread.  I hope I haven’t offended anyone with these fairly benign notions.  I try to be careful.  As a writer, I founded myself with two projects:  my reviews, and Record Store Tales.  Most of you got here because of the music, and so that’s what I deliver.  I don’t need to bore you with social justice or environmental ideals.  I don’t want to bore myself, either.

Speaking of Record Store Tales, one of its many focuses was to relay lessons I learned from a decade of retail management.  Any time I walk into any record store, I could make mental lists of things they are doing great and others for Continual Improvement.  That goes for a lot of retail in general too.  Back to the subject at hand…and this should be patently obvious to most sensible people…leave your personal politics out of your customer service job.

Mrs. LeBrain and I were up at the cottage a couple years ago, and we stopped at Shoppers Drug Mart to pick up some bathroom essentials and some candy.  There was only one cashier on duty and she was a chatty one.  There was a problem with the person in front of us; something wasn’t scanning right.  It took forever to fix, and this cashier would not stop talking.  I had a feeling we’d be in for some chatting when she finally got to us.

I was right, and it didn’t start well with a “How are you today darlin’?”  Fine…thanks.  “Would you like a bag for this?”  I glanced at Mrs. LeBrain who nodded yes and said, “Yeah a couple bags.”  Her response threw me for a loop.

“Well have you seen the landfill?” she asked me in a condescending tone.

“Ummm…no?” I answered, very puzzled.

“Well,” she began, “There’s no room left in the landfill and the birds are choking on plastic from garbage bags…”

I politely let her finish, and then explained, “OK, but we have dogs here at the cottage, and these bags will be used for them.”  There were in fact three poop factories (Schnauzers) at the cottage that weekend.*  Stoop and scoop, people.  Stoop and scoop.

It’s none of her business why I wanted those bags, I didn’t need to explain myself and I certainly didn’t need to be lectured about reusing and recycling.  I went through highschool at the start of the green revolution.  I do my best to be a responsible inhabitant of Mother Earth.  Rest assured, I am not some littering jackass who doesn’t give a shit.  Sometimes you just need a couple plastic bags, goddammit!

I thought about being “that customer” and complaining about the talky cashier, but decided to live and let live, and instead save it for this story.  Consider my wisdom, young padawans.  You don’t know your customers as well as you think you might.  Say too much, and you just might lose your customer, or find them complaining about you to your boss, as happened to me once when I made a snarky comment about Radiohead!**

So ends today’s lesson, friends.  Do you agree with this experience and advice?

We asked Schnauzer expert John Hubner for a “message” about how awesome Schnauzers are.  He sent us the following treatise:


Klaus. Dieter. Helmut. Otto.

No, these are not the names of former members of Kraftwerk. Nor are they the names off the guest list to Angela Merkel’s surprise birthday party. Those four names are the miniature schnauzers that have had a profound effect on my life. “Miniature schnauzers? What?” Yes, those sometimes salt and pepper, sometimes gray, sometimes black, and occasionally blonde yippy terriers that bark bloody murder at you every time you pass by their house(the bark is usually followed up with a crazed “KNOCK IT OFF!” from the same house.) Those dogs with the short stature, manly beard, and a nub for a tail. They have personality for miles and loyalty till the end. They’re the go-to pooch for old ladies and your great aunt that doesn’t like men all that much.
How did I end up miniature schnauzer poster boy? I was a sick kid who suffered from allergies. When I asked my mom why we couldn’t get a Boxer she said it was because of my allergies. But not long after that a book on miniature schnauzers showed up at our house and I was told if we ever got a dog it would be a schnauzer. When I asked why my mom said “Well, schnauzers have hair like your dad’s hair, while a Boxer has hair like your uncle Chuck.” “We never see uncle Chuck” I said. “Exactly, because we’re allergic to him” my mom replied.
Regardless of that bizarre exchange, a miniature schnauzer ended up at our house when I was 8 years old and the rest is history. Growing up with a mini schnauzer I grew to love their loyalty but need for personal space. They weren’t goofy and sloppy like bigger breeds; but they weren’t standoffish like poodles and cats. What I came to realize is that miniature schnauzers are a lot like me. They can laugh and joke and rub elbows for awhile, but eventually they need to retreat from the crowds and the chit chat. Every mini schnauzer I’ve ever known mingle for a bit, then they say “See ya” and head for the comfort of their favorite spot on the couch. I love that about ’em. I respect that.
Miniature schnauzers are better than your dog. Sorry, it’s true. They’re like grumpy little people that don’t take crap from nobody and they’ve got an awesome beard to prove it. They’re loyal, temperamental, prone to anxiety, and do NOT like people knocking on the front door. They like to nap and will tell you what they want when you’re in the kitchen. They howl when left alone in the house and they keep the couch from floating away for a greater part of the day.
I think I’m part schnauzer.

** Freed of the shackles of the Record Store, I can say I like Radiohead enough to own a couple CDs, but still find them so very pretentious. 

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#587: Jean’s Stormy Weekend Vinyl Tales (With Video)

GETTING MORE TALE #587: Jean’s Stormy Weekend Vinyl Tales

Another long weekend in Ontario has come and gone.  Yes, international friends, the first weekend of August is a long weekend for we Ontarians.  Despite a stormy start, it was just a lovely time.

Every holiday weekend needs its weekend music (unless your name is “1537” or some similar number).  The car trip commenced with the finish of a double live album called Black Masquerade by Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow.  This 1995 concert features Doogie White on lead vocals.  We enjoyed it as a contrast to the newer Live in Birmingham 2016 with Ronnie Romero singing, which had been in the car during the week.  On the whole, I think I prefer Romero to White in Rainbow, but that’s not an easy choice to make.  Both are very talented and charismatic frontmen, but with very different voices.

When Black Masquerade came to its natural closing point with “Smoke on the Water”, I switched the deck over to the new Styx.  Don’t be surprised if you see the new Styx album The Mission on many 2017 year-end lists.  It’s been a favourite of mine the past few weeks, and Mrs. LeBrain was very impressed herself.  “And this is their new album?” she asked, since it sounds straight out of the 1970s at times.

We got to the cottage Friday night.  A storm was blowing through.  It was too cold for funnel clouds to form, but as you will see in the video I put together, it was gale force weather.  And then the next day?  Completely calm.

Brand new video!

For weekend entertainment, I brought with me some of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies.  Thanks to Mr. BuriedOnMars, who has been reviewing the MCU films in order, I have been re-watching the early ones again.  This weekend I chose Iron Man 3 and The Avengers, because neither are on (Canadian) Netflix at the moment.  Both were enjoyable entertainment, but Iron Man 3 is just too gosh darn long and weakly plotted.  And of course there was more music to be heard.  Some friends down the road were partying to George Jones.  It reminded me of the old days when my Grandpa would have done the same but maybe with Kenny Rogers instead.

Mom and dad provided the meat for the weekend, and I did the cooking.  Jen did up her potatoes and I took care of the steaks.  On the holiday Monday, we hooked up with old buddy Peter and his sister Jo.  Regular readers may recall some of my adventures with Peter, particularly Getting More Tale #559:  Hotel Hobbies.  It was fantastic catching up with the two of them at the newly renovated Jean’s for breakfast.  Jean’s is bigger and just as busy.  It’s one of those reliable breakfast places that we have been going for years.  Still reliable!

Peter told me something at breakfast that did surprise me.  I noticed that the old Record Store in which I worked was now buying used vinyl again.  In the past, only Tom‘s store stocked used vinyl but times they-are-a-changin’.  Sadly Peter’s dad passed away late last year.  He had some old vinyl.  Not a lot, just about 20 records or so.  Pete’s dad would have had old German music, nothing of any particular monetary value.  Peter decided to give my old store a call to see if they’d take them off his hands.  What he was told was so strange:  He’d have to send them into the head office, and they’d take a look and get back to him within one month.

One month?  Peter took the old records to Value Village and dumped them there.

I don’t know what the story is with the one month thing.  Maybe they realized the records weren’t their thing and were trying to brush him off?  Seems a bizarre answer.

I’m sure if Peter’s dad somehow had any rare German Scorpions records, he would have let me know, as unlikely as that is!

Great to see old friends again.  After breakfast the weather was starting to turn rotten, so we made our way home.  And what a musical ride it was!  All of Deep Purple’s Purpendicular album.  All of Rush’s Moving Pictures.  Side one of the next album, Signals.  It was a smorgasbord of so called “smart-guy rock”!

Hopefully we’ll make it up a couple more times before the summer is over.  There are still quite a few new albums here at LeBrain HQ that need road trip testing.  Styx’s The Mission passed the road trip test, securing a big point in this year’s Best Album stakes.  To be continued….

 

 

#572: VIDEO – A Weekend at the Lake

GETTING MORE TALE #572: A Weekend at the Lake

A new summer, and new tech! My beloved BlackBerry Z10, bought over four years ago in early 2013, has bitten the dust.  That Blackberry was responsible for most of my Sausagefest and Mike and Aaron Go to Toronto videos, not to mention the hundreds of photos it provided for this site.  In that time, my BlackBerry required no service at all.  So to all those who told me not to buy a CrackBerry:

My new weapon is a Samsung (not the kind that explodes) and so far I’m very pleased with it.  This past weekend I had a chance to give its camera and video abilities a test run.  Needless to say the quality of both exceeds my four year old phone.  I was so happy with the quality that I decided to edit together a little video and post it for you.  I’ve done this for a few good reasons:

  1. It’s another excuse to showcase the excellent music of Stealth, featuring Kathryn Ladano and Richard Burrows.
  2. I have a chance to give my Samsung a dry run before using it to create the 2017 Sausagefest video in July!
  3. This video ties in nicely with Getting More Tale #567:  Creatures of the Night.  I wanted to give you a feeling for what it actually sounds like at the lake, and I captured a bit of a nice rain storm.  In this video you’ll get that, some nice crashing waves, and a raging river at near-flood levels.  In fact the water level at our location on Lake Huron has returned to its 1980s level.  Old-timers there always said the water levels rise and fall over decades-long cycles.

Please enjoy some of the music of Stealth, and the sounds of pure nature.  Look for a cameo by my dad, up to no good prob’ly.  Leave your comments below:  What do you think LeBrain’s dad is up to this time?

 

#567: Creatures of the Night

GETTING MORE TALE #567: Creatures of the Night

“Listen to them, the children of the night. What music they make!” – Bram Stoker

For decades, trips to the cottage and music were synonymous. When I was a younger fella, I would bring all my music with me. That usually meant five or six tape boxes, full of cassettes, and a walkman. I even brought my turntable with me for a couple summers.

As the music collection grew, I’d have to pick and choose tunes for the trip. It’s sad to admit it, but true nonetheless: I spent hours picking music, far more time than I used to pack clothes and essentials. It wouldn’t be unusual to find I didn’t pack enough pants, but plenty of Deep Purple.

It’s much easier today. Load up some flash drives, or better yet, bring all the music I have ripped so far on my 2T external hard drive. In the olden days, we didn’t even have a phone or cable TV. We had radios and a big TV antenna that could pick up two channels.  It was a cavalcade of classic Ontario television:  Bowling for Dollars, the Hilarious House of Frightenstein, and Trivia Company with Johnnie Walters.  Now, we have five or six devices fighting for the Wi-Fi signal, with me usually streaming Netflix. We have multiple computers, several phones, and of course cable TV. Talk about roughing it! In the 1980s, my sister and I would struggle to pick up any radio station that wasn’t playing country. Now, I just set my browser window to my home station of 107.5 DaveRocks. Unbelievable!

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The interesting thing is, there are already plenty of sounds available to listen to if you don’t bring your own music. People used to spend tons of money on “nature sounds” CDs, but at the cottage you can get that for free.

You haven’t lived until you’ve gone to sleep with the sound of crashing waves coming through your open window. Nothing can put you to sleep faster, even when it’s just an afternoon nap. The sound of children playing in the lake only makes the afternoon snooze that much more peaceful. In the evening, the waves pick up intensity and are augmented by nocturnal woodland creatures. These “children of the night” can be heard pitter-patting around the deck, and in the branches just outside the window. Soothing sounds. Nothing to be afraid of, even in the dark. The only thing to fear would be a wayward skunk poking around looking for garbage. I used to like pitching a tent in the back yard and sleeping there. I used to bring a Walkman in there to listen to tunes on the earphones, but sometimes in the night I’d be woken up by a raccoon sniffing around for scraps.

The absence of city sounds can be strange for those not used to it. In the city there is a constant backdrop of automobile sounds, planes flying overhead, and trucks hauling their freight. Even at night, there is a dim background hum of traffic, and of electric lights buzzing overhead. At the cottage the quiet is amplified by the dark. We are so used to the light pollution of the city, that the pitch black of a cottage night can be quite striking, especially during a late night stroll.

Bringing music to the lake is still mandatory. It’s important to turn it off now and then, and just listen to the creatures of the night.

 

Sunday Chuckle: Nuclear Iodine Pills

How things have changed at the cottage in just two years. It is true that Kincardine is not far from Bruce Nuclear. What’s new is the mandatory early warning system (in case of meltdown) and government-issued emergency iodine pills! Welcome to the atomic age.  Cottage essentials used to be beach towels, a few candles if the power went out, and lots of card games.  Now it’s distant early warnings and nuclear iodine pills!

Sunday Chuckle: Protect your nuts

I bought this shirt in Kincardine Ontario, with Jen when we were first going out.  The girl at the checkout counter looked at it and muttered, “Protect your nuts?”

I didn’t know how to respond, so I simply said “Yeah…because it’s always good…to protect your nuts…”

It still fits, more or less.

protect-your-nuts

 

#483: The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

GETTING MORE TALE #483: The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down,
Of the big lake they call gichi-gumi.
The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead,
When the skies of November turn gloomy.
With a load of iron ore twenty-six thousand tons more,
Than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty,
That good ship and crew was a bone to be chewed.
When the gales of November came early.

Living in Southern Ontario, we have easy access to three of the five Great Lakes. Many children spent time holidaying on Huron, Erie or Ontario. In school we learned to memorize the names of the Great Lakes with the acronym “HOMES”: Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie and Superior. The Ojibwe called Superior “gichi-gami” meaning “big sea”. When I was a kid we spent our summers at the cottage in Kincardine. Kincardine is located on the eastern shore of Lake Huron, or as my dad used to call it when I was a toddler, “big water”. Some things are universal.

We are surrounded by nautical activity, from the great locks at Welland canal, to the legendary shipwrecks on the Great Lakes.   Just a few kilometers south of Kincardine is Boiler Beach, so named because a few meters from the shore sits the boiler from an old steamer that exploded in 1883.  The Erie Belle was a tug boat sent to rescue another ship that had blown aground after missing Kincardine harbour and attempting to turn around.  It could not budge the freighter, and the Erie Belle’s boiler exploded when the engine overheated and seized.   The piece of history is still sitting there partly due to the cold fresh waters of Huron.  You can see it clearly even from the road.  If that kind of sight doesn’t instil in a kid an interest in nautical Great Lakes history, nothing will.  And then there are glass-bottom boats that do tours, and in clear waters to view shipwrecks.

We also weathered quite a few storms that rolled in off the lake, taking down hydro poles and trees.  All you can do is sit tight and wait it out.  We always kept several oil lamps at the cottage, ready to go, and we had to use them annually.  It was easy to see how a even a huge ship could come to harm in such a storm.

Today, thanks to Gordon Lightfoot’s musical immortalization, the wreck of the freighter SS Edmund Fitzgerald is the most famous Great Lakes shipwreck of all time.

EDMUND

The huge freighter was hauling iron from Duluth, Minnesota to steel mills in Detroit, Michigan.  Its final destination of the season was the port of Cleveland. It was late in the year 1975, and the big ship had to traverse the entire length of Superior, the deepest and most northerly lake.  From there, to the locks at Sault Ste. Marie, and then south down the entire length of Huron.  The Edmund Fitzgerald was a sturdy ship, launched in 1958 as the largest on the lakes.  She broke speed records, and then broke her own records.  She was a favourite to crowds because of the charismatic “DJ Captain”, Captain Peter Pulcer.  He enjoyed piping music in the loudspeakers, and entertaining crowds on the St. Clair and Detroit rivers with tales of the big ship.  But it was Captain Ernest M. McSorley who was command that fateful night in November.

There was a storm on the radar, but the weather service predicted it would proceed harmlessly south of Lake Superior.  The Edmund Fitzgerald departed on November 9, but by 7 pm that night, the weather reports suddenly changed.  The storm was crossing the lake, and they sounded the warning for gale-force winds.  Pounded by 60 mph winds and 10 foot waves, the Edmund Fitzgerald headed north for shelter.

When suppertime came, the old cook came on deck,
Saying, “Fellas, it’s too rough to feed ya.”
At seven PM it grew dark, it was then,
He said, “Fellas, it’s been good to know ya.”
The captain wired in he had water comin’ in,
And the good ship and crew was in peril.
And later that night when her lights went out of sight,
Came the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

Gordon Lightfoot was fascinated by the story and wrote the famous song around the disaster. His storytelling ability made it legendary, never to be forgotten.  It went to #1 on every relevant chart in Canada, and has been covered by artists as diverse as the Dandy Warhols and the Rhoestatics.  And in honour of the 29 men who died on that ship, he has revised his old lyrics. Formerly the words went, “At seven PM a main hatchway caved in.” However this implies the hatchway was not secured properly, and investigations showed that there was no crew error in the disaster. With respect to history, Lightfoot changed the line to “At seven PM it grew dark, it was then…”

Lake Huron rolls, Superior sings,
In the rooms of her ice-water mansion.
Old Michigan steams like a young man’s dreams,
The islands and bays are for sportsmen.
And farther below, Lake Ontario,
Takes in what Lake Erie can send her.
And the iron boats go as the mariners all know,
With the gales of November remembered.

The Edmund Fitzgerald lies at the bottom today, 15 miles from the aptly named  Deadman’s Cove, Ontario.  It is now a protected site, but there are no conclusive answers to what happened in her final moments.  The way Lightfoot worded it was appropriately vague: “And later that night when her lights went out of sight, Came the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.”  What is more important today, rather than the cause of the wreck, is the fact that the 29 people lost at sea are now immortal.  Gordon Lightfoot ensured that.

In a rustic old hall in Detroit they prayed,
In the Maritime Sailors’ Cathedral,
The church bell chimed ’til it rang twenty-nine times,
For each man on the Edmund Fitzgerald.

#399: Record Shopping in the Sticks

07-10-06_1858

RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale
#399: Record Shopping in the Sticks

Summers in Kincardine, Ontario in the late 1980s and early 90s were beautiful, but to a teenage me they felt isolated.  No phone at the cottage, no cable TV, and nothing that cityfolk would call a record store.  We did have a few options.  There were places that you could buy music, including one crummy music store that popped up for a brief while.  Summertime is made for music, and one of my favourite childhood experiences was listening to brand new tunes in the summer.

We’d be at the cottage for two weeks straight every August, and I would usually pack my entire my tape collection to come with me (oh how my dad loved that).   Having all my favourite songs with me meant I’d always have music for whatever mood I was in.  Still, nothing could beat the rush of new music!  New didn’t have to mean “new” per se; I was collecting the back catalogues of many metal masters too.  There was always something to buy that would be brand new to me.

In the very early days, you could buy tapes at the local Stedmans store downtown.  Stedmans sold everything from clothes to musical instruments to toys.  Like many of these places, they are now closed.  It was one store to buy new cassettes, and that is where I picked up Priest…Live! back in July of 1987.  The other place to buy tapes at that time was an electronics store called Don’s Hi Fi.  White Lion’s Big Game and W.A.S.P.’s Headless Children came from Don’s Hi Fi during the summer of 1989.  I couldn’t wait until I got home and played them.  We’d rip open the plastic and check out the pictures in the car, waiting to get back and hit play.  The following summer, I bought Jon Bon Jovi’s Blaze of Glory at the same store.  We would also be able to find tapes in the cheapie bin at places like drug stores, and I picked up The Earthquake Album from such a bin.

Around 1988, an actual music store opened up in Kincardine.  It was there that I purchased Painkiller by Judas Priest, and Exposed by Vince Neil.  It was a small store and they didn’t have many catalogue items, but you could pick up new releases there and some key older releases such as greatest hits.

Beyond these few stores, you had to get out of town.  Kincardine is a small place, but Port Elgin to the north offered a few more options.  There was a Radio Shack there with a different selection of tapes.  They also had 7” singles, of which we bought a couple on clearance.

L-R Peter, Bob, Mike. Note Peter wearing deck shoes on a deck.  He always was the best dresser.

L-R Peter, Bob, Mike. Note Peter wearing deck shoes on a deck. He always was the best dresser. Also note my official Starfleet sideburns.  Summer 1992

In the summer of ’92 we made several day trips to Port Elgin.  My sister and I were headed to a “cards & comics” store that we discovered.  One afternoon my sister phoned them up to ask if they had any promotional Star Wars cards?  They did – road trip!  The first of many happy and successful trips to Port Elgin looking for goodies.  (Yes, promo cards are collectible just like some promo CDs.)

On the same trip, we found this grungy record store on the corner of the main drag.  Really scummy, really dirty.  They bought and sold used tapes and records.  My sister brought in a whole bunch of her cassettes for store credit, and walked out with Rod Stewart’s Out of Order and one or two others.  My first purchase there was Black Sabbath’s Live at Last.  I bought my original copy of Helix’s Wild in the Streets on cassette at that store.  The tape glowed in the dark.  I’ve never seen another glow-in-the-dark tape before or since!  I also picked up Kiss’ Creatures of the Night (original cover) on vinyl, as well as Twister Sister’s Come Out and Play.  You might remember that Come Out and Play had that awesome cover with the opening manhole?  That was the reason I bought it.

Those stores in Port Elgin are both gone.  Don’s Hi Fi still exists in Kincardine, but they don’t sell music anymore.  I did buy a pair of earbuds there about five years ago, but things have changed so much.  There’s no such thing as “isolation” anymore, not like it felt back then.  Today I can sit on the front porch of the cottage, streaming live radio from home straight to the laptop.  I used to pack my entire tape collection for the cottage, but now anything I want to listen to, I can search for on Youtube.  It is simply amazing how much has changed in the last two decades, and I am sure that in another 20 years it will be just as startlingly different.

As long as I can still listen to my music there, I’ll be happy!

VIDEOS: The Cottage in the Woods 3

WARNING:  These videos contain 0% Rock.  However the water was nice and choppy this past weekend.  In addition, I saw a cute family of ducks surfing near their nest!

“SURFIN’ BIRD!”

Enjoy the videos below.

See also:

RECORD STORE TALES Part 308: The Cottage in the Woods
The Cottage in the Woods 2

VIDEO: LeBrain’s ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Challenged by Cupface.

ALS.ca