kitchener

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

 

 

#767: Just Older

A sequel to Getting More Tale #332:  Getting Older Everyday

 

 

GETTING MORE TALE #767: Just Older

Unless you’re a teenager buying booze with your fake ID, nobody likes being mistaken for older than they actually are.

When I was in my 30s, people used to think I was in my 20s.  I looked younger and I dressed younger because I worked at a Record Store and I could get away with it.  I bleached my hair, had piercings, and flashy shirts.  I saw people working at hair salons looking like rock stars so I thought the same could work for me in a Record Store.  Eventually I had a collection of over 30 flashy shirts.  I don’t think my bosses were impressed with my new image, but it was a hit with the ladies.

I loved looking younger than my actual age but all good things come to an end.

After quitting the store I wanted to change my line of work and look more professional.  The fancy shirts went into a closet.  The pleather pants were saved for Halloween.  The hair was toned down.  Eventually it started to go grey.  My beard turned white and I got fat.  It can happen to anyone.

I own the “old man” schtick now, but there is still one thing that I hate.  And I do mean hate.

Mrs. LeBrain is a little younger than me (I’m a 1972 model and she’s a 1978), but not by a significant difference.  Where she wins is a natural youthful look.  People always mistake her for someone much younger.  She loves being asked for ID.  That kind of thing makes her day.  What pisses me off is when people mistake me for her father!  And it keeps happening!

I took Jen to the hospital to have some tests done (no worries, all good) and had about an hour to kill.  I had an mp3 player loaded up with Kiss.  Because Heavy Metal OverloRd had been talking about Hotter Than Hell (a personal favourite and among the first Kiss records I ever owned), I decided to take a nice morning walk while listening to that album.  When done I progressed onward to Rock and Roll Over.  It was a lovely morning filled with cool summer breezes, trainspotting, and Paul Stanley at his peak.

I got back in good time and soon a nurse called to tell me Jen was all set to go.  She led me to her bed, and I saw a big bright smile on her face.  It’s the smile that keeps me going every day.  “Hi ‘dad’!” she said grinning.  I was confused.  Did she have a seizure?  Was she really mistaking me for her dad?

No, she was playing around.  The nurse asked if she wanted them to call “her father” to come and get her.  Me being her father!  Jesus Murphy….

I hate, hate, hate being mistaken for her father!  I didn’t even have my big white beard!

I’ll let it slide because those nurses did a great job as always, but c’mon!

I looked exactly like the guy in the photograph below.  I don’t think he looks old enough to be Jen’s dad, do you?

The hat, maybe?  The day I took Jen to the hospital I was wearing a Van Halen T-shirt and camo shorts with shoes and socks.

I have since shed the locks; a mixture of “shit brown” (my dad’s words) and grey highlights.  I now rock the bald head again, but do I look any younger?  I don’t think so.

It’s a game I just can’t win!  Though it doesn’t really matter does it?  Jen prefers me with less hair, and it’s a lot less work.  I was just keeping it long just to have long hair at Sausagefest for once.  I enjoyed that (it also kept my neck from getting burned), but long hair doesn’t feel nice in the summer time.  It’s time to go back to what feels good!

I have a birthday coming up this week, but I’m not old.  Just older!

 

Gallery: Cheap Trick, Kitchener Ontario, 6/10/2019

Dr. Kathryn saw Cheap Trick at the Centre in the Square and has returned with photographic proof.

Comments:

“Cheap Trick were great! They played for about an hour and a half straight with no encore. It was a good mix of old songs and new. There were a bunch in the middle I didn’t know. Robin Zander can still sing pretty well, but his shortcomings were very obvious when he started to sing ‘The Flame’ with just himself on guitar. When he has all the other players behind him, his voice sounds much better and you can’t hear where he’s lacking. There was an extra guitar player (Robin Zander’s son Robin Taylor Zander) in the back and Tom Petersson played a twelve string bass. Rick Nielsen threw picks into the audience and I caught three!  Looking back, I didn’t get any close ups of Robin Zander! He was right in front of me plenty.”

Setlist:

  • Hello There
  • Way of the World
  • Oh, Candy
  • Big Eyes
  • California Man (The Move cover)
  • On Top of the World
  • Stiff Competition
  • Downed
  • Ain’t That a Shame (Fats Domino cover)
  • High Roller
  • Lookin’ Out for Number One
  • Stop This Game
  • I’m Waiting for the Man (The Velvet Underground cover)
  • The Flame
  • I Want You to Want Me
  • Dream Police
  • Surrender
  • Clock Strikes Ten
  • Goodnight Now