kitchener

Sunday Chuckle?

I love a nice cool walk on a beautiful summer morning.  I always bring my camera, because sometimes you see some weird shit.

Sometimes you see nice nature stuff, like this snail.

Sometimes you see things that make you scratch your head.  I’m not sure if this is a Sunday Chuckle or a WTF?  What is a “Redneck Mafia”?  Isn’t that something of an oxymoron?  And a “NO-Club”?  What is that?

A few weeks later he was back, looking like he was trying to make two parking spots for the price of one.  Who is this guy?

Guess below in the comments.  Or don’t.  Whatever!

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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…!

 

#579: Entering the Asylum

GETTING MORE TALE #579: Entering the Asylum
(Supplement to the  Re-Review series)

Back in Record Store Tales Part 3 (!), we took a nostalgic look at my first ever Kiss albums, that all arrived in one glorious batch.  The year was 1985, but Kiss also had a new album coming out in a matter of days.  Now that I had started on a Kiss collection, I would have to get their newest album too, called Asylum.  I didn’t even know how to pronounce “asylum” correctly, nor did I know what the word meant, but I did understand that it was their third album without makeup.

Next door neighbor George, who was my introduction to Kiss, came over one day talking about the new single “Tears Are Falling” and how much I would love it.  I didn’t have much money but by the time the snow fell, my dad bought me a copy of Asylum on cassette.  We got it at the Zellers store at Stanley Park Mall in Kitchener.

My meager Kiss collection at that point consisted of Alive!, Asylum (cassette) and a bunch of LPs I recorded off George.  I didn’t know much about the discography but George was a good teacher.  George actually named one of his first bands Asylum.  Before long I could name all the albums, in order.  I even predicted that the next single would be “Uh! All Night”.  I didn’t foresee the third single “Who Wants To Be Lonely” because Kiss hadn’t done a third single in ages!

George was only missing two Kiss albums:  The Elder, and Double Platinum.  He was dying to get both and finish the collection.  His record collection was fascinating to me and a goldmine of music to tape and explore.  The album covers, particularly for Kiss and Iron Maiden, had me hooked.

As my interest in Kiss grew, a new kid at school who I later found out was a “liar liar pants on fire” claimed he had “all” the Kiss albums at home.  His name was Joe Ciaccia (pronounced “chee-chaw”).  I asked him if that meant he had The Elder.  He said yes.  I told George I knew a kid who owned it, and he just about shit his pants.  I made arrangements with Joe to meet up at his place on the next Sunday to do a trade.  All I asked for brokering this trade was recording the album.

George was really excited.  “I don’t care what he wants for it, I’m not leaving without that record.”  I distinctly remember a small group of us trudging through the snow to meet Joe at his apartment.  Who came with us?  I can’t remember.  Joe lived on Breckenridge Drive, just down the street from Brian Vollmer of Helix.  One thing that I can remember very clearly was grabbing my Sanyo ghetto blaster loaded with D-cell batteries, my Asylum tape, and rocking while walking to Joe’s.

Listening to a cassette on a ghetto blaster powered by D-cells was a warbly experience that kids today don’t understand.  Our small group lollygagging through the slush listening to “King of the Mountain” on that old Sanyo is an image I’ll always remember.  I carried it through the wet melting snow.  Those Sanyo ghetto blasters were built like tanks!  You could drop them and they’d keep on ticking.

We arrived at Joe’s apartment and buzzed.  No answer.  Buzzed again.  No answer.  I began to realize my fears.  Joe was all talk and no Elder.  We hung out down there a while but there was no sign of Joe.  George was partly crushed and mostly pissed off.  At school, Joe gradually earned a reputation for tall tales.  His were beginning to rival the lies of Ian Johnson – they even lived on the same street.

We flipped the Asylum tape over and began the walk home.  A wasted trip, and Joe dodged me at school the next day.  George kept pestering me to arrange a second hookup with Joe, thinking he still had that copy of The Elder that he wanted so badly.  I realized Joe was full of shit and told George the sad truth.  The record was not there.  Joe was telling stories, trying to seem cool to me for having all the Kiss albums.  Then he got caught in the lie, after going so far as to arrange a trade and giving me the address.  Very un-cool.

George did get a copy of The Elder a few months later, and he still taped me a copy.  It was a strange album, after being immersed in Asylum for many months.  Then, I definitely preferred AsylumAsylum was special to me.  It was my first “new” Kiss album since getting into the band!  I had boarded the Kiss train and I wasn’t getting off!

#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: Hail Satin!

Photo by:  Scott

Location:  Market Square, Kitchener

#564: The Smell of Home

GETTING MORE TALE #564: The Smell of Home

What does your home town smell like?

I may complain a lot, but I do actually love this town.  I was born in Kitchener.  I don’t want to live anywhere else.  It’s certainly not the greatest town in the world, but it’s mine. Kitchener isn’t known worldwide for its burning hot music scene (polka music at Oktoberfest time excluded).  That said we have produced a few local legends:

  • Helix (formed 1974) was based out of Kitchener for many years.
  • Errol Blackwood and Messenjah are our claim to fame in the reggae community.
  • Singer/songwriters Paul MacLeod, Danny Michel, Rob Szabo and Steve Strongman all hailed from here.  You also may have heard of one of the greatest bass clarinetists in the world, Kathryn Ladano.
  • Bluesman Mel Brown wasn’t born here, but he made it home.

Not a lot to boast about, but better than a kick in the pants.

Kitchener also is not known for its arts (that would be Waterloo) or its education (also Waterloo) or sciences (Waterloo again). What it does seem to have in plenty is a number of distinct smells.

Driving up Victoria street, you can smell the Weston’s bread bakery cooking up lots of delicious scents.  My dad has a song he used to like to sing when driving by:

“Weston’s bread,
Is full of lead,
If you eat too much,
You’ll surely be dead.”

That was a nice smell, but I remember a far worse smell in the Record Store days.

I spent the majority of my years in the Fairway Road area of town.  I remember taking the garbage out on many, many nights and smelling the same unexplainable smell.  It only happened during the summer. I don’t even know how to describe it properly.  I used to call it “grape flavoured urine” smell.  It was a weird mix of grape and pee, and in the evenings taking out the garbage, it was everywhere!  What the hell was it?  Nobody knew.  I haven’t smelled grape flavoured urine in a long time…but I remember it clearly any time I take out the garbage on a warm summer night.

There was an even worse smell when I was transferred to “the wrong side of the tracks”.  The garbage bin there was behind a diner.  Back there it always smelled of dirty cooking grease.

I hope your town smells better than “grape flavoured urine”, although you don’t have Messenjah or Helix….

Oh and that red poo-shaped sculpture?  Nobody has a clue what it is!

#540: I Can Drive 55

GETTING MORE TALE #540:  I Can Drive 55

In 25 years of driving, I believe I have only had three speeding tickets.  Apparently, I can drive 55. Most of the time.

I took driver training at Canada Driving School, and there is one thing I’ll never forget from one of the in-class sessions.

“Music can have an influence on your driving,” said the instructor.  “Fast and upbeat music can trick your brain into driving faster without realizing it.  Keep an eye on your speedometer and don’t listen to AC/DC if this is a problem!”

A couple months later I had my license and was driving myself to and from school in my dad’s Plymouth Sundance.  There was no graduated licensing in Ontario back then.  I was driving alone on the expressway.  Of course, I loved having a car stereo to myself.  In short order it was proven that listening to AC/DC was not a problem for me.  Instead of weighing down the accelerator pedal, AC/DC kept me calm in traffic.  Silence made me nervous but music soothed.  If I was speeding it had nothing to do with the song on the tape deck.  If anything, I tended to slow myself down a bit so my trip could take a little longer, and I could finish a song.

In fact, recent studies have shown that, generally speaking, if music is an influence on driving it tends to be a positive influence.  I can’t say I’m surprised.

Sure, I’ve admitted to air drumming and so on in the car.  This is usually at red lights though, so I’m letting myself off.

I like to listen to live albums in the car.  They work very well in that noisy environment.  Instead of silence between songs that lets in all that road noise, you hear only the screaming of a crowd.  In addition, the length of a live album works well for highway driving.  If I’m heading to the Toronto area, a typical double live album will easily get a full play on the road.  At home, I don’t always have time to listen to a double live album in one sitting.

IMG_20140914_094438

Facing the roads on a daily basis in this town can be like taking your life in your hands.  I’ve whined and moaned about the drivers here and it has been getting worse.  The 401 is undergoing heavy construction and drivers have a loose grasp on what lanes are lanes and what are not.  It’s treacherous, and more and more drivers are thinking only about their commute time rather than driving like a sane person.  Instead of weaving in and out desperately trying to get a little further ahead in the pack, I tend to stay in one lane as much as possible.  Perhaps this is the calming effect of good music.  I don’t need to race home if there is a good song I want to finish.  Maybe the racing guys should put on a good song, too.

I’ll admit it, driving is far from my favourite activity.  My favourite kind of day off involves no driving anywhere.  There are estimates that we spend about five years of our lives locked in our cars on the road.  I prefer to think of that as five years of road testing some amazing albums.  I would also argue that roughly 50% of the music reviews here are mikeladano.com were brainstormed while listening to the albums in the car.

Quite frankly, I don’t understand the speed demons.  Where are you going in such a hurry?  Maybe you should have left a little earlier.  Some music in the car makes the time fly easier.

han-solo-cameo-in-the-i-cant-drive-55-music-video

Did you catch Han Solo’s cameo in the “I Can’t Drive 55” music video? Left – John David Kalodner. Right – Han Solo.

 

 

 

#531: The More Things Change…

GETTING MORE TALE #531: The More Things Change…

The first record store I worked in no longer exists.  It closed (moved actually) in 1996, but even the physical location it was in has gone.  It was tucked away in a mall, but that unit was torn up and enlarged and made into a discount store.

That entire mall has changed completely in the last 20 years.  I spent a lot of years in that mall as a kid, teen and young adult.  Before the record store opened in ’91, I would mostly shop at the Zellers store.  Zellers wasn’t bad.  They carried 7″ singles, and that is the very store about which Record Store Tales Part 4:  A Word About B-Sides was written.  The fact that they even had singles made my early music collection much more interesting.  Once I even spied a very rare Def Leppard promotional cassette called Soundtrack to the Video Historia.  It was exactly that — a cassette version of all the songs on Leppard’s Historia home video.  I assumed it would have the rare video mix of “Pour Some Sugar On Me”, and I wanted it.  But they wouldn’t sell it to me, even though it appeared in their flyer that week.  Whoops.

During my highschool years, the mall even had an A&A Records & Tapes.  A&A closed up shop nationwide in 1990-91 (much sooner in our mall).  Now Zellers is gone too (turned into a Walmart) and the grocery store Zehrs has grown supersized.  My first ever job was at the Zehrs store.  Now I can’t find my way around it; it’s too huge.  Trying to find a box of crackers takes me 15 minutes.  I have so much history with that mall.  My dad worked there before I did.  Amazingly, the bank at which he used to work is still open, though completely changed and enlarged.  His old office is now just part of the general reception area.  The old vault, which my dad used to let me into when we visited, is also long gone.

When we were really young, my mom, sister and I went to visit my dad at the bank regularly.  We liked playing with the calculator and his phone.  My sister enjoyed sitting in his big chair.  Within reach of her tiny hands was the silent alarm, hidden under his desk.  She found it, and decided to try it out and see what it did.  Nothing!  Nothing at all.  We left and headed home, while my dad continued work.  A few minutes after we departed, in rolled a squad of cops responding to the silent alarm!  My dad had no idea, but he figured it out in short order.

Needless to say, I grew up with that mall as a second home.  When I was in grade school, it was basically right next door.  I knew every inch of it, at least the way it used to be.  The Baskin Robbins – long gone.  Little Short Stop where I bought all my comics, candy and Star Wars cards — gone.  The sole restaurant — gone.  Black’s Photography – gone.  Radio Shack – also gone.  Entire wings of the mall don’t exist anymore, swallowed up by other stores.  Nothing decent moved in to replace them.  Walmart took over the skeleton of Zellers and the grocery store expanded.  Everything else was taken up by crap discount stores of questionable value.  Nobody shops there anymore.  The mall is dead.  It used to be infested with mall rats.  Now you couldn’t find a teenager within 100 meters of that place.

The second record store I worked in was also in Kitchener, but not in a mall.  It was in a strip plaza.  That strip plaza has also completely changed over the last 20 years.  When we first moved in there, they had a coffee shop and a bank.  The coffee shop was gone within the first year and the bank a few years later.  There were two gigantic gift and craft shops – both gone.  There was a dollar store where we could pop in and buy a bag of chips – gone.  “Cheese chips” was our thing at that location.  It was a new flavour to us, cheddar cheese.  We bought a lot of cheese chips from that store.

That plaza doesn’t even look the same anymore.  Today, most of the stores have been bulldozed, including my old record store.  However they moved down a little ways; not too far for the customers.  These stores were torn down to make way for a new grocery store.  Quite a shock, to see my old store reduced to rubble.  There was nothing but concrete shambles where I spent every weekday for many years not so long ago!  A strange sight to behold.  So much happened on that little patch of rubble!  Half of Record Store Tales came from that destruction zone.

I think it would be fascinating to take a look at these places in another 20 years.  Will they even exist?  Will anyone care?  Or am I just another old fogie reminiscing about the “good old days”?  You only live once and I’m very happy to have lived where I have.

#526: Location, Location, Location

GETTING MORE TALE #526: Location, Location, Location

I worked at many Record Store locations over the years, often temporarily for training and managing.  Some of them I spent a few days at, others were several weeks or months in total.  Each one had its own flavour and clientele.  While experiences and mileage may vary, here are some memories of some favourite locations (all in Ontario, Canada).

 

cambridge1. Cambridge

The store in Cambridge was our first to carry movies, initially in VHS format.  It was a lot of fun working there from time to time, buying and selling used movies.  There was always something I wanted for my collection, and it broke up the monotony of seeing nothing but CDs every day.

Cambridge was also interesting because we used to get a number of people coming in just to ask where the strip club was.  “It used to be around here!”  I don’t know why the dudes looking for the strip club kept stopping in the Record Store (as opposed to the Tim Hortons or a gas station or anywhere else), but they did indeed used to ask.

Some of the customers in Cambridge were…well, let’s just say they were not all our best and brightest.  T-Rev managed that store, and I took over temporarily when he was on road trips elsewhere setting up new stores.  The customers there wore me down more than anywhere else.  Especially when they came in to sell, which was frequently.  Cambridge bought a lot of stock.  If the customer wasn’t happy with my offer, they’d ask when the “regular guy” would be back.  Maddening since I was more generous than a lot of other folks.

There was one customer in Cambridge who hated selling to me, he always asked where “the regular guy” was.  He asked my name and I told him it was Sanchez.  When T-Rev came back, we had a laugh over the employee named “Sanchez” who was apparently low-balling this customer for his dance CDs.

 

hamilton2. Hamilton

The store I worked at in Hamilton was pretty quiet most of the time.  There was a lunch time rush when kids from the nearby highschool would come in to listen to and occasionally buy CDs.  Given Steeltown’s reputation, I was pleasantly surprised to find the kids I dealt with to be polite and friendly, more than I was used to seeing.  The adults weren’t always so friendly, but no more or less than any of the other stores I worked in.  Hamilton was a shitty place to drive (confusing one-way streets), but I didn’t mind working there at all.

 

kitchener3. Kitchener

I worked in three different stores in the Kitchener area.  One of the other guys there used to refer to Kitchener as a “ham & egger” town, a phrase I never heard before.  A lot of blue collar customers.  It was still a step up from Cambridge, depending on which Kitchener location I was working in.

I’ve said many times that my favourite store was the original one, in a small mall in Kitchener.  It was our only mall store ever.  It was a special place to work.  It was tiny and compact.  It could get really busy on the weekends.  There were a lot of regular customers, more than I remember elsewhere, probably due to the fact we were in a mall.  There was a familiarity – I knew them, and they knew me.  When I was eventually given a larger store elsewhere to manager, I missed the faces I would see on a regular basis at the mall.

I also missed the “unique” individuals you’d meet at the mall store.  Malls have a whole ecosystem of life forms, unlike others in the outside world.  There was Johnny Walker, so named because every day he would walk the circuit around the mall, talking to himself, all day.  One day, something peculiar happened.  He came in, stopped talking to himself, and bought a tape.  He paid for his cassette and then resumed walking and talking to himself again.  I only saw that happen once.  There was Butts, the guy who would dig through ashtrays looking for cigarette butts.  Let’s not forget Trevor the Security Guard, and the drunks at the restaurant next door.  It was a blast!  I didn’t care for the mallrats, but they were a minor annoyance.

 

oakville4. Oakville

I did not like working on Oakville, as was discussed in Record Store Tales Part 16: Travelling Man.  Many of those customers were snooty; just too good for you.  They felt entitled to park in the fire lane, because they were more important than you.  Read the Oakville tale for the misery that was working there.

 

mississauga

5. Mississauga

More than any other location, I may have resented Mississauga the most.  It was a shit location.  There was nothing of any value around.  There was a health products store, but nowhere to buy a snack or a lunch.  There was no foot traffic.  Across the street was an empty field.  It was a dead store from the day it opened.  I invested myself deeply in my work.  There are many things in life that can crush your soul.  One of them is working hard at something (training employees, helping set up a store) and seeing it come up to nothing.  That was Mississauga.  In the used CD business, you depend on customers bringing in good stuff for you to re-sell.  Mississauga provided very little good stuff.

 

There were more, all with tales of their own.   These however were five of the most memorable, each for its own reasons.  While a change of scenery is nice once in a while, there is nothing better than working in a location you love.

 

RIP Paul MacLeod (1970-2016)

PAUL

2016 has taken another precious musical genius, and this time it hurts even more, because Paul MacLeod was one of our own.

MacLeod was the local prodigy that joined Skydiggers and launched an impressive series of solo albums.  I’d heard lots of Paul’s music over the years but it was only a short while ago that Uncle Meat told me, “You have to get the CD by this band called Hibakusha.  They are the local Rush.”  So I did and he was right.  5/5 stars.  That was the first CD of Paul’s that I bought.

Paul was very close to a number of friends of mine, Uncle Meat in particular.  His heart is now broken, his dear friend gone.  Below is my favourite Paul MacLeod video. Recorded live in the downtown streets of Kitchener, “Down on the Street” is simply amazing.  There are many people here that miss Paul.  Rest in peace.