kitchener

#833: Flag Boy (Part Two of the 1986 Saga)

STOPARRETPotentially triggering material ahead.

 

 

GETTING MORE TALE #833: Flag Boy

Part Two of the 1986 Saga

One of the many recurring themes here has been the awful experiences of being a metalhead in Catholic school.  A story that has somehow escaped being told until now is the one where those bastard kids gave me the name “Fag Boy” for a whole school year.

Grade 8, the 1985-86 year, had to be the worst.  It was kicked off by a huge fight with the school bully Steve Hartman, a total piece of shit, but at least I won.  Not that it helped.  I was teased relentlessly all year for my love of Kiss and Judas Priest.  Then I had mono.  Incidentally, Catholic school bullies are the worst and the teachers didn’t give a fuck.  When one kid, Ian Johnson, got into a fight with another bully, the teachers made them walk around the schoolyard together hand in hand.  What was that supposed to do?

The only thing that made life easier that year was beating Hartman in September of ’85.  That kept him off my back for the school year, although there were other bullies waiting in the wings.  Jeff Brooks, who stuffed snow down my jacket every Thursday after shop class.  Kevin Kirby, who copied my homework.  Towards the end even Hartman was campaigning for a “rematch”.

My sister used to call that school the “Hell Hole”.  She would sing Spinal Tap’s “Hell Hole” when we drove by.  This is a little kid in grade 4 calling her school that name.

At the start of the eighth grade, to learn social responsibility, we all had to volunteer for something.  There were a limited selection of slots for each role we were offered.  I cannot remember all of the duties that were set out on our menu of options.  Volunteering at the church was definitely among them, but I volunteered for the one I thought would be the most interesting:  security!  On a regular basis, we were to walk around the school when it was closed to make sure all was well.  Keep an eye out for anything wrong, like vandalism.  It was perfect because I was always biking around that direction anyway.  It was really the most appealing of all the options to me.

I’m sure you have already guessed they didn’t give me the security assignment.  No, I was given something that was supposed to be better, but was actually far worse.  It was such a dubious honour.  I was Flag Boy.

I wasn’t athletic, I was a skinny kid who openly listened to Judas Priest.  No way were they putting me on security.  They gave the two open positions to a couple of the athletic kids.  I don’t think either of them did any security that year.

As Flag Boy, I was responsible for putting out and bringing in the Maple Leaf at the start and end of every day for the year. It was worst at the start of the day.  When announcements were about to commence, I had to get out of my seat and leave the class, which always seemed to amuse them.  Then I had to walk down the hallway past the other grade 8 classroom, who always mocked and laughed and pointed at me as I went.  They called me “Fag Boy” from day one.  What made it even worse were my boots.  My dad gave them to me.  I thought they were so cool.  They didn’t have laces, they had dual zippers.  The boots only made me more a “Fag Boy”.

When the first pair of boots wore out, my dad gave me his second identical backup pair.  Ironically those boots would be considered so retro and stylish today.

The abuse that year was pretty bad and I faked sick a lot.  I faked sick mostly on Thursdays, which was shop class.  They bussed us to another school, St. Joseph, which had a woodworking shop.  The supervision was minimal and the bus rides were all but intolerable.  At one point or another I just decided I couldn’t take it anymore and faked sick as many Thursdays as I could.  By the time I got sick with mono for real, I had several incomplete projects in woodworking.  I was home for the rest of the term, and I never had to worry about those Thursday bus trips again.

Having mono sucked a lot, but Thursdays on the bus were far worse.  I considered it more than a fair trade.

While sick at home for real, I absorbed as many Pepsi Power Hours as I could.  I heard Hear N’ Aid for the first time.  I became addicted to “Rough Boy” by ZZ Top because of that damn music video.  (I guess I learned from an early age that I’m really a leg man.)  My heavy metal credentials grew by leaps and bounds and I listened to more and more songs:  “Metal on Metal”, “Never Surrender”, “Turbo Lover”, “Rock and Roll Children”.  To this day, I associate those songs with my sick time in 1986.  Especially Dio’s “Rock and Roll Children”.  The surreal music video suited the way I felt physically.  It didn’t look like the real world and I didn’t feel like myself.

My association of heavy metal music with relief from the outside world was cemented that year.  I had always come home to the comfort of a few Kiss tapes.  In 1986, sick with mono, I was safe from the school and surrounded not by bullies but by Ronnie James Dio, Ozzy Osbourne, Rob Halford, and Bruce Dickinson.  They didn’t call me “Fag Boy”, in fact their lyrics encouraged me to dig for strength.  Recovering from my illness, I had built this wall of metal around me.  It would be my armour for life.

I don’t know if those kids remember calling me “Fag Boy”, or if they would admit it.  I know I wouldn’t recognize Hartman if I saw him today.  They used to talk about forgiveness a lot in Catholic school.  You can forgive, but you never forget.

 

Sunday Chuckle: The Guy in the Silver Mercedes

There has been this shady guy driving a silver Mercedes up and down our street.  He’s definitely up to something.  He always parks in the cul-de-sac at the end where he is out of sight.  We used to assume he was dealing drugs but we found some evidence last week that suggests he’s up to something else.

Sunday Chuckle: That time Laura dedicated a Bieber song to me

March 27 2020Laura Geddes from 105.3 Virgin Radio asked for listeners to submit messages to our friends and family listening.  So I submitted a clip — little did I know Laura was going to dedicate a Justin Bieber song to me as well!  First time for everything.

Incidentally that’s the first time my voice has been on Virgin, now making it three local stations that have been LeBraaaained!

Thanks Laura!

Sunday Chuckle: Weston’s Bread

Press play!

 

#797: Don’t Be Afraid to Ask For It!

GETTING MORE TALE #797: Don’t Be Afraid to Ask For It!

In the early 90s, we got our first Costco store in Kitchener.  My parents raved about how much I’d love it.  In those early years, I enjoyed going with them.  I’d throw a 20 pack of Hot Rods into the cart and see if they’d notice (they always did).  They didn’t have much of a music selection, but what they did have was priced to go.  So I picked up a few current releases:

The Guns was a nice score.  The full Tokyo show, split onto two VHS tapes (sold separately).  At Costco prices they were affordable.  The show later made up a large portion of their album Live Era.  Costco was great for buying new releases, junk food in bulk, and the occasional electronics.  We enjoyed getting free food samples and checking out the latest in TVs and videos games.  I stocked up on blank tapes.  But there was one thing Costco didn’t have.

To be clear, it wasn’t that I was looking to buy this.  I was just being a shit.  I have a juvenile sense of humour, and always have.  Costco should have known that if they were going to leave pads of paper for “suggestions” at the end of every aisle, someone was going to write silly things on it.

Most people wrote sensible suggestions.  “Too much packaging on products” was a good one.  It’s true, Costco would use far too much cardboard and plastic to package together three things of deodorant.  But I noticed they didn’t carry something; something important that could easily be sold in bulk.  My mom gave me shit for it, but I always wrote “CONDOMS” on the suggestion pads.

I didn’t need condoms, believe me.  Definitely not in bulk.  But something about the idea tickled my funnybone, and so every time, I wrote it down.

“MICHAEL!” my mother would scold.  I’d grin and laugh.  It went on and on like this, visit after visit.

But you know something?  It was a good idea.  So good that a few years later, they were stocked.  I couldn’t believe it.

“Kathryn!” I shouted at my sister.  “Get over here, you won’t believe this.”  I proudly pointed at the condoms.  “Do you think that’s because of me?”  I mean, I wrote it down enough times.

I think I had something to do with it.  At least, that’s the way I tell the story, and I’ll be damned if I’m changing it now.  Costco carries condoms because of me.

There was one guy I knew back in the day who would have appreciated it.  He was a friend of a friend.  We were at an age when you’d be expected to be “embarrassed” to be buying condoms.  Not this guy.  He went up to the counter at the drug store and said, “See that?  That’s a five pack.  That means I’m getting it five times.”  Then when the transaction was done, he’d conclude by saying “See you tomorrow!”  No embarrassment for that guy.  I like to think that I got Costco to carry condoms in bulk, and I did it for that guy.  You’re welcome!

 

 

 

Sunday Chuckle: Wash Your GWAR!

I wonder if the folks in the Family Truckster ahead of me realized they were advertising for a thrash metal band from space!

 

#783: Take A Look at this Photograph

GETTING MORE TALE #783:  Take A Look at this Photograph

One day in mid ’95, Tom Morwood brought a camera to work at ye olde Record Store.  It was the earliest of days, and I was still working at the original mall store.  “What are you taking pictures in this place for?”  He snapped one of me flashing the devil horns behind the counter.  “Just for the memories man,” he answered.  I’m glad he did it.

He dug up that very same old photo recently, and a like a rush of blood, suddenly memories flooded my brain.  I barely recognised myself, but the store?   I’ll never forget it.  Let’s have a look at the anatomy of this picture and dissect it for details!

Detail #1: Handmade signage!

Before we went corporate, most of the signage was hand made.  Most was done by T-Rev, though “DJ Donny D” helped.  “NOW PLAYING”, “CD CASES”, “RAP/DANCE”.  It looks totally ghetto, like a real record store.  None of this professionally printed generic signage like today.  Now all the stores have to look exactly the same, like a chain.  Back then we could be artistic and do what we wanted.  The boss didn’t think I was very good at making signs so he let T-Rev do the majority.  He was probably right, though it wasn’t for lack of effort, just ability.  And it looks like an actual cool record store.  Not a video arcade or whatever they’re trying to be today.

There’s one sign that isn’t hand made, and that’s the “no smoking” sticker at the cash register!  Can you imagine needing that sticker in a store today?  Also:  cash register!  The first and last one I ever used.  Everything was done on computers after this store closed.

Detail #2:  The fuck is up with ma hair?

It looks black.  It was not black.  I dyed my hair dark once in 2000, but this picture is not from 2000 (as we’ll get to).  It must just be the lighting.  That’s definitely me though.  You can just make out my mullet.  I loved that Laurier sweatshirt!  I’m guessing it’s not summer; it must be a colder month or I wouldn’t be wearing a sweatshirt.  I’m assuming here, but I look really goofy and totally uncool.

Detail #3:  The front racks.

On the top left of the photo you can clearly make out CD and cassette copies of REM’s Monster.  That dates this photo to sometime in 1995.  The album came out in ’94 but Tom wasn’t hired until ’95.  There’s no way it was still front racked all the way into 1996, so it has to be ’95.  I can’t make out the other titles on the front rack.  You can see the plastic security cases that we kept the CDs and tapes in.  Anti-theft devices were not cheap, by the way, but a future chapter called “A Case For Security” will get into this in more detail.

Detail #4:  The magazines.

We used to sell Rolling Stone and Spin.  Funny enough, here we have them displayed in a rack for Vibe magazine!  We stopped carrying Vibe in 1994 but kept using the rack.

Detail #5:  The mirror.

If you glance over to the far right, you can see a vertical line in the wall slats.  That’s actually a corner; the back wall was a mirror.  As told in Getting More Tale #409, it fooled some people.  One day an elderly gentleman asked me if “that section back there is closed to cripples and old men?”  Nope, it’s just a mirror, not a secret room!  We must have kept it pretty clean if we fooled him!

Detail #6:  The CD cases.

Notice there are no clear CD cases there?  Just the ones with the black spines?  We didn’t carry clear cases.  If memory serves, our supplier didn’t carry them until a year or two later.  That meant clear cases were a rare treasured commodity to us.  I have a few memories of needing clear trays to replace broken ones, but not having any lying around.  We had to conserve them.

Detail #7:  Overstock.

See all those CDs behind me?  Those are overstock – additional copies of stuff that was already on display on the racks.  Generally these were titles that were not moving, and I can absolutely guarantee that there are multiple copies Motley Crue ’94 and David Lee Roth’s Your Filthy Little Mouth in this picture.

Detail #8:  Happiness.

Don’t let the metal faced scowl fool you.  This was my happy place.  I don’t care what ex-bosses and regional managers thought.  That store was special.  One of the bosses used to tell me that my nostalgia for the old store was warped by rose-coloured glasses.  I disagree.  Look at this picture.  It’s one guy working in a cramped little music store.  There is nobody looking over my shoulder, no “suits” wheeling and dealing.  We were free to make that store as cool as possible.  We could listen to music of our choosing with few but sensible limits.  Nothing like the spiteful “No Kiss” rule of later years.  (Although you can see here I didn’t display anything under the “Now Playing” sign.  I didn’t like the way the alligator clip could scuff up a case.)  We were responsible for cashing out, doing the bank deposit, and closing up.

Sure, it was a little like working in caveman times to a certain degree.  We had no computer, just a gnarly old cash register.  If you look behind me, under the overstock shelves you can see boxes full of clear plastic baggies.  Each one had a CD inside.  If somebody wanted to know if we had a used CD in stock, we’d flip through the baggies which were in alphabetical order.  Not an exact science but we got the job done.

As the store got bigger, we became more sophisticated, had more buying power, and better stock as a result.  Yet it’s the original store that I’m nostalgic for, not the second or third one with the larger floor space and computerized inventory.  Those stores had their own perks and problems, but they didn’t have as much personality.  Some may disagree.  This isn’t a critique on the owner, either.  He had to do what he had to do in order to grow, put bread on his table, and follow his own dreams.  We understand.  He had a vision and it led him to success.  Together as a tight team, we ran a pretty cool music store.  We all contributed ideas and our talents, and did the best with what we had.  The fact that so many people tell me they have fond memories of that store means it couldn’t have been all that bad.

When I look at this photograph all I see are good memories.  Thanks for the foresight, Tom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

VIDEO: Dashcam Idiots #1

I’ve had this camera for just a week, and look at this fool.

 

Sunday Chuckle: Hulk Rules

Spotted in Kitchener.  Who do you think this guy’s favourite wrestler is?

Bonus points:  note that he is also a “panties bandit”.  How many panties do you think this car got him?

#770: Encore!

GETTING MORE TALE #770: Encore!

I’ve been avoiding downtown Kitchener for the last couple years.  All that construction (five years’ worth) installing our new light-rail transit system…it’s been hellacious.  But that construction is now over, and the LRT train (called the ION) is running every 15 minutes.  Only two years behind schedule!  And guess where one of the stops is?  Right by legendary record store Encore Records.  Perfect!  No need to worry about parking.

Mrs. LeBrain and I hopped on a bus to the mall, and a few minutes later the train pulled in.  Using the free Wi-fi, I live-streamed myself making goofy faces on our new train.  The ride was quiet and fast since it only stopped a handful of times.  These new trains are lovely!  Now that they are finally running, I can see that the headaches will be worth it.  Clean and quick – I’d use the ION again.  It’s a shame but there are still people who hate the train so much that they would actually like to spend taxpayer money on ripping up the tracks!  What a waste that would be.  Let’s give this LRT a fair shake.

We disembarked the train at the City Hall stop, only a brief walk from Encore.  Not only was this my first ride on the train, but also my first visit to Encore since they moved from their old Queen St. location.  The new store, though not wheelchair accessible, seemed bigger and cleaner.  Old pal Al “The” King was there, happily still slinging the rock for us patrons.

We chatted a bit.  Al really enjoyed working at Encore.  There was a guy that I trained at my old Record Store about 15 years ago.  He left shortly after to work at Encore, and he’s still there!  When you find a place you enjoy working, I guess you stay!

Time to go look at music….

It didn’t take long for me to exceed my budget for the day.  First snag was from the new release rack:  The Beaches’ excellent new EP The Professional, $9.99.  A great recording; it will be getting a few spins this summer.  Next:  the used CD racks.  Plenty of stock as usual.  I came looking for old Styx, but there was no used Styx that I needed.  Instead I grabbed three Scorpions remasters:  World Wide Live (with DVD), Savage Amusement (with DVD), and Animal Magnetism.  $20 each.

Whoops!  I already owned Animal Magnetism.  No big deal; looks like some lucky person will be getting a free copy from me.  I really have to keep track of reissues better.  This is happening more and more frequently as my collection grows.

I still wanted some more classic Styx.  I’ve been playing my Styx albums repeatedly.  I needed some more classics to throw in the shuffle, so I moved on to the new CD racks.  There I picked up Pieces of Eight and Crystal Ball.  $9.99 each.  One by one and I’ll get them all.

Continuing through the racks of new stock, I spied two Kick Axe remasters by Rock Candy.  I’ve wanted both these albums for a long time:  Vices and Welcome to the Club, $22.99 each.  I’ve spun through both twice and was impressed with both the music and liner notes.  What an underrated singer George Criston is.  This sparked more Kick Axe purchases later on Discogs and Amazon.  The third album, Rock the World, is coming in the form of another Rock Candy remaster.  And thanks to the excellent liner notes inside Vices, I also tracked down some early Kick Axe on Discogs.  Debut single “Week-End Ride” / “One More Time” from 1981 is inbound!  Also coming, from the same year, is a compilation LP called Playboy Street Rock.  Kick Axe have a live track on that called “Reality is the Nightmare”.  It’s going to be cool hearing those early songs, which had a different singer.

It’s funny about Kick Axe.  One of the first buttons I ever bought for my jacket was Vices.  It only took close to 40 years to finally get the album.

Finally we closed the Encore trip with some vinyl.  A lovely reissue of Alice Cooper’s Zipper Catches Skin, on clear “black smoke” vinyl.  It looks and sounds great, and now I finally have all the Alice Cooper studio albums.

We bid farewell to Al and headed home again on the ION.  Now that the train is up and running, I do believe I’ll be making Encore a fairly regular weekend stop.

5/5 stars