mike howe

#926: The Things We Took For Granted

RECORD STORE TALES #926 The Things We Took For Granted

The regular car trip to the lake was either tremendous fun or terrible torture.  It all depended on what kind of mood I was in, I guess.  I’d pester my sister and my dad would threaten to pull over.  Or, I’d be occupied reading a novel or comic.

If we were lucky, the trip would start at McDonalds.  I would always get two cheeseburgers.  Those slippery little burgers were always so good.  I could eat about 10 in a row right about now.

Keeping two kids entertained on a two hour drive isn’t easy but my parents did a good job.  First there was the radio. When Mom wasn’t listening to the ball game, my dad would put on something more entertaining.  In the 70s, it was the Star Wars radio drama.  Later on it was CBC and the pre-TV Royal Canadian Air Farce, or the science show Quirks & Quarks hosted first by David Suzuki, and later by Jay Ingram.

My dad took advantage of my early fascination with maps to keep me occupied.  He would pull out the road map, show our route, and have me track our progress.  He helped me memorize the way to the lake:  Dorking, Listowel, Molesworth, left turn at Bluevale, then Wingham, Whitechurch, Lucknow, a right at Amberley and finally Kincardine.  Thirst would kick in mid-way (probably from all that McDonalds) so a regular stop was made at this lonely pop machine in the middle of Lucknow.  Lucknow used to be the deadest of towns, not that it is very happening now, but it used to be you’d never see a soul there.  But they had this one pop machine in the middle of town.  Just as it was starting to get dark, Dad would pull over in Lucknow and get me a pop to tide me over.  Eventually that road map became too tattered and torn, but that’s how I learned to get to the lake from home.

Upon the advent of the Walkman, my sister and I were better able to entertain ourselves.  Two and a half tapes were what it took to get you from home to the lake.  We had to remember fresh batteries.  Remember those awful Walkman earphones?  It seemed all you could get were those terrible foam-padded rinky-dink things that came free with every player.  The wires were always shorting out to mono and you couldn’t keep those things secure on your head.  Not to mention the quality of the tapes and players could afford.  But it kept us entertained.  We didn’t know any better.

Those crap kind of earphones!

Every time we went to the lake as kids, I felt a certain pang for home.  When we were there for any significant time, there were things I hated about being away.  I missed my friends, my Atari games, my GI Joes, my comics.  I missed well-kept green city grass to lie down on, not the stony sandy lawns at the lake.  I missed cable TV and the good stores with all the cool stuff you couldn’t get in the country.  We didn’t appreciate what we did have in the country.  So it was no surprise, when I got old enough, that I stayed home more and more often.  There was a trial run in grade 10 when they left me home one Sunday, while they went up for a day and back in the evening.  I think I spent it working on my cardboard air guitar.

In August of 1991 my parents let me stay home for two weeks alone while they went to the lake.   And it was actually pretty awesome.

I had all kinds of plans.  Movie nights every night, with snacks.  I went to my friend Peter’s house, who had a massive VHS collection from working at Steve’s TV, and I borrowed at least a dozen films.  I remember two impactful flicks: Tremors and The AbyssTremors was an enjoyable popcorn movie, but I was blown away by The Abyss.  I couldn’t wait to tell my sister about this cool science fiction movie I discovered.  It had a reputation as a flop.  It defied expectations  A surprisingly excellent movie.

I had enough food to eat like a king for a week, plus pop and chips.  I checked out late night television.  I discovered the Metal Mike show.  I listened to music in the living room, not just my bedroom.  My dad usually monopolised entertainment in the house.  The TV remote was his.  The VCR was under his jurisdiction.  To have all this time to myself, and have movie nights and watch TV shows I’d never seen before, was exciting.  Plus I’d get to tape stuff from Pepsi Power Hour that week while it was still on the air.

I did have one ulterior motive.  There was a girl I like named Tracey.  I was introduced to Tracey by a school friend.  I had a limited amount of summer left to try and hang out with her.  She was playing hard to get.  I was determined to get some time with her while I was home.  Finally she committed to a date.  We met up at Stanley Park Mall and walked from there to my place to watch music videos.  And that was about it.  I remember she liked the looks of Mike Howe from Metal Church.  That was the most memorable thing about that day with Tracey.  Watching the Pepsi Power Hour, and her liking Mike Howe.  I distinctly remember they were covering the Operation Rock & Roll tour with Alice Cooper, Judas Priest, Motorhead, Metal Church and Dangerous Toys.  That would have made it the week of August 19, 1991.  Toronto was the final date on the tour, and infamously the last Judas Priest show before Rob Halford quit to go solo.  MuchMusic had an interview by Michael Williams with Rob, pre-accident.  Yes, pre-accident:  Rob hit his head on a lighting truss, riding his motorcycle out on stage during the opening number “Hell Bent For Leather”.

Mike Howe

The chance to hang out with Tracey was the main reason I stayed home that August, but regardless of the obsession with Mike Howe, not Ladano, I had an amazing time.  School was starting soon, and I’d be entering a new world at Wilfrid Laurier University, where I knew nobody and had no idea what to expect.  The remaining days of summer were a cherished time.  Every last moment was savoured.

I spent the balance of my time alone walking to the mall, checking out music, and just enjoying having the house.  I relished being able to play my music as loudly as I wanted, and stay up late every night, checking out whatever happened on TV after that hour.  The barbecue made many, many hot dogs.  I’m sure they made me do stuff like mow the lawn while they were gone.  I did all the dishes by hand because I didn’t know how to use the dishwasher!  I might even have done laundry.  I wasn’t bored!  But I missed them and was glad when they got home.

After all I had to tell them all about The Abyss!

#924: FU!


What is anger?  One of the most powerful of the human emotions.  It can take over your rational mind, but it is just a mask for what is really going on in your head.  Grief, frustration, loss of control…these can all manifest as anger.

Right now, I am angry.

I’m processing a lot of information.  Earlier this week, we lost Joey Jordison of Slipknot, younger than me at age 46.  Before that it was Mike Howe of Metal Church at age 55, not much older than I am.  I didn’t let these deaths affect me.  I didn’t let the losses in.  Ignored and plowed forward.  Sometimes you can handle the shit, sometimes you can’t.  A little bit of denial got me through the days.

Then we lost Don Simmons of Helix.  This one stung because Don’s sister is a long time family friend.  We’ve known her…what, 35 years?  40?  In fact she was going to hook me up with Don for an interview.   Don was 64 and now things were hitting close to home.

Then it was ZZ Top’s Dusty Hill.  Just as long as we’ve known Don’s sister, Dusty Hill has been singing me the blues.  Rocking blues actually, but Dusty and ZZ Top have been a part of my life for so long.  Most of my life.  ZZ Top have been a standby.  Great tunes when I needed them, on demand, when I had the blues or needed a kick.  Dusty’s gone.

And then, mere hours after Dusty, as if the world needed another kick in the balls, an old friend of mine lost his wife.  Age 40.  Multiple sclerosis.  And they are good people.  They did nothing to deserve this.  I worked with him several years ago, but we kept in touch.  Good by, from Newfoundland, who loves AC/DC and Sloan.  And his wife.  She was inspiring.  Those of us touched by neurological disorders tend to feel a bond.  Whether it’s epilepsy or MS, there are many shared experiences.  I always felt like we had this in common; that we were the loving supporters of our sick wives.  So stuff like this, it hits home.  Hard.  I was sad when he moved out to Fort McMurray.  I can’t imagine what he’s going through now.  I don’t want to.

What is my anger masking?  Fear.  Grief.  Confusion.  And I’m going to have to deal with them eventually.

For my friend, in indescribably pain, a song by his favourite band.  No grief here, just rock.  I’m thinking of you.  This one’s for you man.