GETTING MORE TALE #682: Shady Street
I like where I live. It’s quiet. There’s lots of green. There’s a park across the street. In the summer, baseball teams play there. Most people here are seniors. Not a lot goes on. I’m probably the loudest neighbour, and that’s not saying much. You can usually catch me cruising home after work, some Kiss on the car stereo. That aside, there’s only a little noise pollution.
Down at the end of the street, let’s call it “Shady Street”, there is a meandering roadway that leads to a dead end. This is my favourite place for morning walks. The tree cover keeps it cool, and you never have to worry about traffic. Therefore it’s a perfect stroll for hard rock on the earbuds. Because it’s so secluded, you can throw in some air guitar if you have a good song going. Nobody’s going to see you. There’s nothing down there.
Well, almost nothing.
At the very end, right next to the dead end sign, is an old security camera. It has been there for years. To the left, a single long driveway dotted with multiple imposing “NO TRESPASSING” signs. At the top of that long driveway, a large house with seemingly no occupants. Many years ago, I read a story about a grow operation that was busted on Shady Street. I assumed it had to be that house. In the yellow pages, the address is listed as “Shady Street Electronics”. But you rarely saw any customers, or inhabitants for that matter, going down to the very end of Shady Street.
Clearly suspicious, but the grow operation was a long time ago. Walks down Shady Street have continued to be pleasant, with or without the earbuds. Air guitar is still optional.
This spring, however, I have observed some unusual activity.
Two weeks ago, a group of three teenagers on bicycles sped down Shady Street and did not turn around at the end. What would three teenagers on bikes be in such a rush to do down the dead end road? It struck me as odd immediately. I’ve never seen that before.
Last week, I crossed paths with a dirty guy on a bike heading down there, carrying a large black garbage bag.
I wonder if that house at the end of Shady Street is back in business again.
This is my neighbourhood, and I’m going to take my walks where I take my walks. But I might leave my earbuds at home next time, if traffic is indeed picking up….
GETTING MORE TALE #670: Censor This Too! – The Star Chamber
This is the sequel to Getting More Tale #669: Censor This! In a footnote to that story, we discussed the evil, corrupt English department at Grand River Collegiate Institute in the school year 1990-1991. With music as part and parcel of everything I do, here is the students’ revenge.
This story was written by myself and Andrew “Abbis” anonymously. (You may remember “Abbis” was the subject of a Zeppelin-esque song I co-wrote called “Abbis’ Stomp”.)
Context: A brilliant young student named Danny was accused of plagiarism for his independent study on part of Milton’s Paradise Lost. The entire English department were united in their belief that he had cheated, not realizing this young dark-skinned kid with a strange sounding last name was actually just really gifted. In a parallel to Paradise Lost, Danny soon found himself in a hell of his own. The school treated him shamefully, but could not prove he cheated. Instead of the A+ he deserved, he got a “no report”. This was his final year of highschool, and he wanted that A+ to get into the university program he had applied to.
This story was our revenge on his behalf.
I take a lot of pride in our creative little rebellion. This was about as misbehaved as we got. Our scathing story The Star Chamber (an obvious mashup of MacBeth and Star Wars) was published in the underground school newspaper, in June of 1991, exactly as you see it below. Pay attention for a Zeppelin reference and plenty of Shakespeare. My character is an homage to Han Solo named…Guitar Solo.
THE STAR CHAMBER
(The Uncensored Version)
BY: Robin Hood and his Merry Men
A long time ago, in a Collegiate Institute far, far away, a battle was being waged between the forces of Good and English. The leader of the rebel forces, Danny “The Terror” Skywalker, had for months been a thorn in the side of the English Empire…
ACT I, SCENE I
In the caverns of Smithers the Hutt.
Enter with a flourish and really neato special effects, Darth Chamber and his English entourage.
DARTH: (To Smithers) By Jupiter! We must capture that foul wretch known to all as Danny “The Terror” Skywalker.
SMITHERS: I say yea my Lord.
Exuent Darth and entourage with an even bigger flourish.
END OF SCENE
ACT I, SCENE II
Enter Danny, his faithful companion Guitar Solo at his side, zipping through space in the Tarachan Falcon.
Their favourite album, “Ten Classic Books in Ten Minutes” is suddenly drowned out by the wail of an intergalactic police siren.
Enter Robo Bolt, with colours and drums.
DANNY: What hast thou pulled me over for, sucka?
ROBO: Dost thou thinks that “E.N.G.-S.U.K.S.” is an appropriate licence plate for thine vehicle?
DANNY: What say you? Thou art a strange fellow.
ROBO: Your horrid image doth unfix my hair!
DANNY: Methinks thou art (and I quote Willie Shakespeare) “a coward, a rascal, an eater of broken meats, a beggar, and a lily livered knave”.
ROBO: Draw thine sword, I’ll make a sop’ o’ the moonshine of you! (they draw and fight, Guitar Solo slain by accident.)
GUITAR: To be…or not to be. What a stupid question! GAHK!!! (he dies. Robo is then slain.)
ROBO: I am slain, I am slain, dead, defunct, kicking the bucket, etc. etc. etc. (he dies.)
DANNY: What have I done, o Lord, o nature? What evil spirit hast possessed me?
Exit Danny, delirious from the battle.
END OF SCENE
ACT I, SCENE III
Enter Darth Chamber having been notified of Robo’s death, mad, and garlanded with wild flowers.
DARTH: Oh what foul deed, what evil, for my fair fair Robo. He is killed. (Enter Danny, furious with rage upon sighting Darth.) Draw, or surely thou shalt perish!
DANNY: Have at you, bud!
Enter Smithers from behind.
Smithers strikes Danny over the head with Roget’s Unabridged Dictionary, knocking him unconscious.
END OF SCENE AND ACT
ACT II, SCENE I
Later in the Star Chamber.
Trumpet answers within.
Enter Darth Chamber and Smithers, armed, a trumpet before them, attendants, the Fool, Edgar, Edmund, Oberon, The Duke of Cornwall, Elvis, drums and colours, Danny Skywalker in chains, Gloucester wandering around outside.
DARTH: Hark, four-score and seven years ago this treasonous wretch, Danny Skywalker, hath committed the ultimate crime against the English Empire. May his trunk be devoured by butterflies. By Jupiter! Behold his foul deed. (cries of astonishment within) He hast plagiarised the almighty Milton!!!
DANNY: Oh Hell! Oh spite me! What manner of accusation is this?
DARTH: Silence scurvy knave. (Darth to attendants) Place him in…(drum solo)…the machine!
SMITHERS: Goody goody gosh! By the fairies, Darth is mighty!
FOOL: (sings) O nuncle, court holy water in a dry house is better than this rain water out o’ door. For he’s buying a Stairway to Heaven.
Exuent all. Death march, colours and banners.
END OF SCENE
ACT II, SCENE II
Enter with a flourish, Darth Chamber and Smithers the Hutt, with entourage carrying fluorescent banners with matching tights, led by an Old Man. Danny strapped to the machine.
The machine, a relic left over from the late 20th century, known as a “Dunking Machine” is filled with water, with Danny strapped to a chair above it.
DARTH: By Jupiter! My seated heart dost knock at my ribs. For the time is near o’ blossom.
SMITHERS: Skywalker thy trial begins! If thou float’est, thou art guilty of plagiarism and shalt be sentenced to die…slowly. First we shall tear all the of the hair from thine body, then soak you in lemon juice, and Kraft salad oil. Then we shall take you out to the Dune Sea you shall be eaten alive by the almighty Mouth, while’st being garnished with tomatoes and olives! But if thou sink’est and die’est, we shall know that thou art innocent and we shall let’est you go.
DANNY: Sorry, but I’ve got a prior engagement.
Enter Abbis Man’s ghost. (See last issue — ed.)
Abbis Man runs onto the stage, dropkicks Darth, hits Smithers with the D.D.T. and frees Danny from the machine.
DANNY: Thanks bud!
ABBIS: No problem, let’s get a beer!
Exuent, too tired to flourish.
DARTH: Gosh darn it! Methinks this ending really sucks!
Exuent Darth and all remaining.
END OF SCENE AND ACT
Danny and Abbis Man, having formed a powerful alliance, travel to Earth where they take on aliases and fight crime as Siskel and Ebert.
GETTING MORE TALE #649: Denizens of “The Mall”
Every mall has its questionable denizens. I’m not talking about mall rats or bargain hunters. I mean the people that are there every single day, not doing much of anything, just…being.
Stanley Park Mall in Kitchener, where I spent most of my childhood and early work life, had plenty of characters.
One of the first I was aware of was named “Butts”. Nobody knew his real name, but he earned the nickname Butts by fishing cigarette butts out of ashtrays. He was there frequently, and if not he was mining the ashtrays at Fairview Mall instead. We left him alone, but one kid from school named Kevin Kirby decided to make fun of Butts one day. Butts responded with a flurry of F-bombs. It all seemed rather sad to me and not at all funny. A kid making fun of this guy, and him telling a little kid to fuck off? Why not just leave him alone? I’m sure Butts was made fun of regularly, but Kirby was generally a dick. (Any time he teamed up with me on a school project I did all the work and he coasted off my grade.)
Sue came along a little later. She was in a bad car accident and was in a walker. She really liked the Record Store I worked in, and had a bit of a crush on the owner. We didn’t actually know about the crush until she gave him a Valentine’s Day card. She used to park her walker at the front counter and talk to him for hours. We didn’t assume that meant she had a crush, because there were lots of lonely people in the mall who just liked to talk. It was one of the drawbacks of working there. One day before leaving she gave him a card, and the owner didn’t realise it was a valentine. He opened it in front of us, and we all saw it. He was super embarrassed and really tried to avoid Sue after that. I witnessed him taking a huge dive behind the counter to avoid her when she strolled by! And that wasn’t an isolated incident. I learned from it – I took a few dives behind the counter myself over the years.
The last regular denizen to discuss was the saddest and I don’t know what happened to him. He was known as Johnny Walker. Like Butts, nobody knew his real name although his first name may actually have been John. They called him Johnny Walker because he would walk around the mall all day, every day. The mall was like a big rectangle, and he would complete numerous circuits through the day. He talked to himself as he did, mumbling away as he walked. If you overheard him, it would sound like a normal conversation but with just one person talking.
I’ve been trying to find out what happened to Johnny Walker but nobody seems to know. People at the mall said he was rich and didn’t work or need to work. Maybe it was an inheritance. Maybe an insurance claim. Nobody knew. His clothes weren’t ratty and he was clean shaven, but there was clearly something wrong with him. It was no act.
The general rule of thumb was “just ignore him”. Sometimes kids would make fun of him and he’d get loud and violent. He’d been kicked out of the mall a few times after a violent or loud spell. Then he’d go to a different mall to walk around, before finally returning to Stanley Park again. He was never gone too long.
As told in Record Store Tales Part 6, I only dealt with Johnny Walker once at the Record Store. He strolled in, talking to himself. I took a deep breath and hoped nothing would set him off. He walked, talked, and picked out a tape. He came up to the counter and immediately stopped talking to himself. I sold him the tape, gave him his change, and he walked out again, sharply resuming his conversation with himself.
All I really know about Johnny Walker is that at one point, he listened to tapes.
I hated seeing highschool mallrat kids following him around and shouting at him to “shut up”. If Johnny got loud and violent, I have a feeling the kids were the root cause most of the time. I’m sure they thought it was hilarious to harass this obviously damaged person. But he was still a person, a human being. Although it was sometimes startling to see someone walking around talking to themselves, it would have been nice if parents taught their kids a little respect. We don’t know anybody’s secret battles. Walker minded his own business any time I was present.
If anyone knows what happened to Butts, Sue, or Johnny Walker please drop us a line or leave a comment. I hope they are all doing better.
GETTING MORE TALE #648: “The Mall”
For the first 23 or 24 years of my life, Stanley Park Mall was my epicenter. If I said “Mom, I’m going to the mall!” she knew where I meant. It wasn’t the biggest mall, and certainly not the best. But it was my mall.
This very typical mall, on Ottawa Street in Kitchener, opened in 1969. It was nothing special. There was nowhere to buy music, until it expanded with a Zellers store circa 1973. As small children, we weren’t interested in music yet. Instead it was Zellers’ toy section that had us enthralled.
In 1977 my mother took me to Stanley Park to look for a birthday present for a neighbor named John Schipper, older brother of my best friend Bob. “Look mom! The movie we just saw!” I exclaimed as I laid eyes on my first Star Wars figures. My mom bought C3P0 for John, and R2D2 for me, so we could play together. Little did she know what she got me into, by buying my first Star Wars figure at that Zellers store. But to be fair, who could have known?
The mall also had a bank, and my dad soon transferred there as its manager. I used to feel like such a big shot, strolling into my dad’s office. He’d let us sit at his desk and play with his calculator and telephone. I can even remember helping him with spelling on an internal memo! Once, when my sister was sitting in his chair, she pushed the button for the silent alarm. “Hmmm, this doesn’t do anything,” she thought. After she left, the cops arrived in force to answer the alarm. My dad realised what happened too late!
With my dad working there, plus the Zellers store, it was our main destination for shopping or just being kids. It was walking distance from home. When I was old enough to cross streets by myself, my friends and I made regular trips on our bikes. The Little Short Stop store was our main hangout. We would buy candy, pop, chips, comic books, and Star Wars or Indiana Jones cards. I managed to get a full set of The Empire Strikes Back, and Raiders of the Lost Ark. I got them slowly, pack by pack, and by trading with friends. There was a neighbor who had the one Indiana Jones card I still needed called “I Hate Snakes”. A trade was made and I completed my set. I wish I knew what happened to all the doubles and triples of those cards.
When I was older, that Little Short Stop was my store for amassing a huge collection of rock and wrestling magazines. Hit Parader was my main title and I had a complete set of every issue from 1987-1990.
The mall was also right close to our grade school. Many of my friends would “cut through” the mall as a short cut to get home. One fellow, Chris, tells me he was sometimes chased around by mall security. Naughty kid.
In 1987, something remarkable happened. Stanley Park Mall got its first actual record store: A&A Records and Tapes. Suddenly I had close access to all kinds of music, including 12” singles. I remember flipping through their Aerosmith and Europe singles, thinking “Woah, there are songs here I have never heard of.”
We still checked Zellers, but A&A became the place for us. In fact there were even A&A coupons on the back of every box of Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes. $1.00 off tapes! We sure cashed in a lot of A&A coupons that year. I loved checking out their front charts too. Vinyl was still happening, and the front chart was a big huge display of records. Much larger and more eye catching than a CD chart. I remember rejoicing when Judas Priest’s Ram It Down was on it.
I have clear memories of Bob Schipper and I walking to the mall in early April of 1988 to pick up a new release. Two copies of course; one for each of us. Iron Maiden’s Seventh Son of a Seventh Son was an album we had been looking forward to, and we both got it on that cold Saturday in April 1988. (It took a while to adjust to the new Maiden sound, but Bob’s immediate favourite was “Infinite Dreams”.)
In 1989 I got my first real job, and it was at that very mall. The grocery store Zehrs was my first pay cheque. I cut my hair short for that job and was teased for it at school. Not only that, but suddenly I also needed glasses! It was a pretty drastic image change. But it was a cool work experience. Not only was I working at Zehrs with my best friend Bob, but my dad was still working in the mall too. All three of us in one place!
I was pretty loyal to A&A during those years at the mall, but in 1990 they went under. The last thing I ever bought at an A&A (though a different location) was a CD of Steve Vai’s Flex-Able and some blank tapes.
Yet every cloud has a silver lining. A former employee of A&A Records at our mall location decided to open a business of his own. Guess who he went to for the bank loan? My dad! Six months after A&A closed, he opened his own record store in that mall. The rest is history. The store that I now call “The Record Store” hired me on in July of 1994. And he’s still in business in 2018, albeit not in that mall anymore which suffered a slow and steady decline in the 90s.
There are no record stores in the mall anymore. Zellers went under, and Walmart took over. Their tiny little entertainment section is the only place to buy a CD. The bank is still there, and so is the grocery store, but my Little Short Shop is long gone. There isn’t much left. No Baskin Robbins, no 31 flavors. Bargain shops and discount stores have replaced all the places I used to frequent as a kid. Sad, but not unexpected.
The strange thing is, as much as the mall has changed, I still get a huge shot of nostalgia when I walk into that Walmart that used to be my Zellers. Like a déjà vu, suddenly I am hit with the memory of finding a rare GI Joe, or flipping through Judas Priest tapes. The mall I knew from long ago is no longer the same, but the memory remains.
GETTING MORE TALE returns! You have spoken — you like the series and you like the numbering system. Therefore we aren’t changing a thing. Here’s chapter 641!
GETTING MORE TALE #641: Farmer’s Market Tapes
Much of my highschool downtime was spent trying to build a complete Judas Priest collection. While I was still in grade school, my first Priest was Screaming for Vengeance in 1985. Defenders of the Faith was taped off my buddy Bob. Then came highschool. I bought Turbo at Zellers in 1986. It was followed Priest…Live! in 1987, cementing my love for the band, for real. Collecting began in earnest.
The local Zellers store always had a number of Priest tapes in stock. Adding British Steel, Point of Entry, and Hell Bent for Leather to the collection was just a matter of time and allowance money. Anything before Hell Bent was much harder to find, at least on tape, which was my format in the 80s.
We are fortunate in Kitchener to have two excellent farmer’s markets. The one downtown is cool, but just a little to the north is the big one in St. Jacobs. In the summer, my mom would take my sister and I to the market. Sometimes Grandma would come with us. You could buy anything at the St. Jacobs market. There have always been music dealers with tables there.
July of 1989, I thought I struck rock solid gold at the market. One vendor had a bunch of Priest I’d never seen on tape before, ever. Tapes were $8 each, no tax.
Sad Wings of Destiny and The Best of Judas Priest came home with me that day. I didn’t really know any of the songs, except one: “Rocka Rolla”. Earlier that summer, I bought the Rocka Rolla album on vinyl from Sam the Record Man, figuring I’d never find the tape. The market had Rocka Rolla on tape, and then some! For good measure, I also bought Unleashed in the East that day.
It was wonderful being inundated with fresh Priest. So many tunes I’d never heard before! “The Ripper” and “Victim of Changes” immediately blew me away. “Diamonds and Rust” kicked my ass some more. But something was wrong with two of the tapes.
Sad Wings and Best Of were both originally released on Gull records, and then reissued and reissued and reissued again, often very cheaply. The two farmer’s market cassettes had very nicely printed cover art, but the tapes were utter garbage. They were so shitty that there was only music in one channel. The left side was fine, but there was nothing but a faint echo on the right. Unleashed in the East, released on CBS, was fine. Sad Wings and Best Of were awful. After a few listens, I just couldn’t take it anymore. It was heartbreaking because I was enjoying the songs, but listening to those tapes was horrendous. I eventually replaced them with better copies, and stuck the cover art to a school binder.
Buyer beware! Tapes and their quality issues are no longer really a problem today, but if you’ve never heard of the issuing label, you might want to do your research.
Boppin heard a rumour that Bon Jovi was coming to town. Then an anonymous source informed us that a super-secret private concert was taking place Friday night right here in Kitchener Ontario. The list of talent:
Bon Jovi’s Richie Sambora, Foreigner’s Lou Gramm and Stephanie Calvert of Starship.
Backed by an all-star cast of legendary rockers and potential surprise guest performers:
-Guitar- Heart, Bad Company, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Hugh Mc Donald
– Bass- Bon Jovi
– Guitar- Whitesnake, Dead Daisies, Dio
– Drums- Asia, Yes
– Keys- Lita Ford Band, Missing Persons
– Vocals- MSG/Survivor
– Vocals- Offspring, Last in Line
– Vocals- Rough Cutt, Quiet Riot
– Vocals- Yngwie Malsteen, Dokken
And then our sources tell us that Bret Michaels showed up!
Richie played guitar, but also sang lead vocals without one. According to our source:
“He did both. He was out for the middle bit of the show. He did two Bon Jovi songs, “Dead or Alive” and “Livin’ on a Prayer” and then a super extended (self serving if I’m honest) rendition of “Respect Yourself”. General consensus was that he was the low point of the night!! Even his back up singers, Robin McAuley, Mark Boals, Paul Shortino and Stephanie Calvert looked confused by the end. The night was amazing. So much energy and so much sound.”
Our source also enjoyed Robin McAuley. “He was awesome. ”
Enjoy these photos! Thanks to Krista Ward, our anonymous source!
Most reviewers would acknowledge that one of our least favourite tasks is reviewing a friend’s music. You don’t feel as foot loose and fancy free with your words. When a friend asks for you to review their latest album, that’s hard. Harder still is when a friend would prefer that you don’t review their music!
Such is the case with Death By Technology. I think my friend Aaron Lebold would prefer that his one and only musical release was not revived by me, but this is a problem. My goal, in part, is to review every single album in this collection, and here it is. It has to be done for the sake of this project.
Aaron tells a bit of the background in his story chapter titled “Move confidently in the direction of your dreams”. He says, “I was at a pawn shop one day and came across a four track recorder, which was used for making demo tapes. I bought it and quickly began putting some of my songs on it.” He learned a bit of guitar and was getting good at electronic beats. In a later chapter he discusses recording and pressing up the final CD.
Before I knew it, Aaron came in to my store one day with copies of his CD, A Temporary Solution To a Permanent Problem, under the pseudonym Death by Technology. I put it out for sale with a sticker on it saying “Local Industrial Music Prodigy”, hoping someone would bite. A lot of people listened to it, but selling a copy was hard.
So here’s the truth. It’s a noble effort. The beats and riffs are decent enough. There are weird and creepy movie and TV samples. You can hear what he’s trying to do. I think what would have helped, is if he gave his old buddy Mike a call to sing the lead vocals. Aaron and I never quite saw eye to eye on lead vocals. I go for high pitched screams, he liked a more contemporary rap/rock hybrid. The biggest flaw with this CD is that I’m not on it.
But it can’t be that bad. After all, I remember every tune. This CD is 16 minutes long, and therefore it was perfect for closing time at the Record Store. An old employee named Chris used to put it on at quarter to nine when closing. It was like a tradition!
5/5 stars (if I was on it)
A followup to Sunday Chuckle: Clear Eyes
Took my early morning walk recently. One of the roads we like also happens to be a hideout for teenage stoners. I found a “Clear Eyes” dropper for those red stoner eyes last time. This time, I think the stoners were rolling blunts!