music

Awesome Music That Makes Your Skin Vibrate: Two Hours of Brent Jensen on the LeBrain Train

A million thank-you’s to Brent Jensen, the author of No Sleep’Til SudburyLeftover People: A Journey Through Post-Rock & Roll America and All My Favourite People Are Broken.  Chatting music is what we love to do here, and it was a privilege to speak with someone so saturated with musical knowledge, stories and connections.  When you watch this show, I hope you feel the kinship that we music diehards share.

Obscure format junkies:  Check out 0:24:10 of the video for info on a format Sony were working on called “The Cube”.  It would have been a six-sided format around the time of the compact disc.

You can buy Brent’s books at Amazon, and you can check out his podcasts at nosleeptilsudbury.libsyn.com.  (I’ll be checking out the Sandy Horne from the Spoons episode ASAP!)   If you’d like some merch, contact him directly and he’ll hook you up.  Details at the end of our video.

A million more thanks to Superdekes for setting this episode up.  My brother from Thunder Bay should be known as “Superfan” after his meticulous homework and attention to detail!

There will be no sleep tonight as I hit the web looking for all these tunes!  From Saxon, to Kick Axe, to Maiden (with and without Blaze), to Priest (with and without Ripper), please enjoy the music that makes our skin vibrate.

 

 

For those who missed it, here is the 11 minutes that Youtube missed, but Facebook had. Unboxings: Jeff Scott Soto, John Norum, The Black Crowes, Frank Zappa, Def Leppard.

Friday Live Stream – Music Movie Lists & Guests

The LeBrain Train – 2000 Words or More with Mike Ladano
Episode 29

Another week, another list show, and this one comes courtesy of the founder of the Nigel Tufnel Top Ten list, Uncle Meat himself.  Music Movies — with one caveat.  No documentaries.  Those would make a fine list on their own.

Lists by:

 

Friday September 25.  7:00 PM E.S.T.  Facebook:  Michael Ladano or Facebook:  MikeLeBrain.  YouTube:  Mike LeBrain.

 

#861: Fall(ing Down)

GETTING MORE TALE #861: Fall(ing Down)

The air is cooler, the leaves are changing colour, and I am sort of keeping it all together.

Six months ago we all went into lockdown, with the optimism of summer still ahead of us.  We didn’t know what summer would look like, but it had to be better than lockdown, right?  For most of us, it was.  We got outside, basked in some sun, watched the numbers go down, and dared to have some hope.

Now the days are shorter, the sleeves are longer, and the numbers are climbing once again.  As it gets colder, our options for getting out of the house are fewer.  Some people love this season.  They love the leaves, the sweaters, the blankets.  I dislike the cold, the dark, the misery.   Now we have to deal with the uncertainty of the future too.   Thanksgiving?  Halloween?  No guarantees.  Some will participate, some will be unable.

Fortunately, music will be there.  It always has been and always will be.

There are plenty of albums that I consider “autumn albums” even if they are not.

Savatage are a good band for fall and winter.  They might be from Florida but albums like Dead Winter Dead and Handful of Rain have a cold, dark aura.  Early Sabbath fits the mold.  Queensryche’s Rage For OrderRadiation by Marillion.  It’s all very subjective but as much as summer music really activated my memory circuits, the same can happen with winter tunes.  This is something to look forward to.

Yes, there are some things I can look forward to.  When I’m hunkered down indoors staying dry and warm, the VHS Archives will return.  I find this to be a good project to work on in the colder months.  Pulling out old VHS tapes, converting them and putting them on YouTube just seems to work better in the winter.  It’s also a good time for buying and trying new tech.  I’m going to try and teach myself some Photoshop this year, so I can give you better images for this site.  This winter I’ll also have live streaming.  That will continue as long as necessary.  I look forward to it and so do the viewers.

I’ll try to focus on what I can do during the winter, and not what I can’t.  Not the traffic, not the wet, not the mess, not the inconvenience.  I will try.  I never believed in what Yoda said.  “Do.  Or do not.  There is no try.”  I understand the point of it — don’t let failure enter your mind, focus only on completing the task.  I just never bought into it.  I’ve given myself some goals, and I will try.

Maybe I can even use some of that negative stuff that I hate.  Do you want to see videos of driving around in the snow to the music of Max the Axe?  Do you want to see me attempt to live stream outdoors from a snowy porch?  It’s likely that both will happen!

There’s one last brick in this fortress of mental health that I am attempting to build that I have not mentioned.  And that is you.  For almost nine years you’ve been there waiting for the next chapter, review, or video.  You’ve shared your thoughts and ideas, and opened your hearts.  Without the loyal reader (or lately, viewer), I might have given up writing a long time ago and done something else.  I am grateful.  So thank you!

 

MOVIE REVIEW: Five Bucks at the Door – The Story of Crocks N Rolls (2020)

FIVE BUCKS AT THE DOOR – THE STORY OF CROCKS N ROLLS (2020)

Directed by Kirsten Kosloski

When she was a kid, it was director Kirsten Kosloski’s job to spend the weekend taping albums for her thrifty dad, who was always borrowing records from friends.  With a floor full of tapes and cases, Kosloski grew to love music in that intimate way that only true music fanatics can relate to.  She felt like a bit of an outsider in Thunder Bay Ontario, but her love of music helped her bond with some local punks.  The place to be was Crocks N Rolls.  She walked up to the entrance.  Owner Frank Loffredo sat in the booth.  Five bucks at the door.  Kirsten had empty pockets.  Loffredo gestured for her to go in anyway.  A life was changed that night.  She became a music journalist.  The dream job she didn’t know existed until Crocks N Rolls opened up her world.

Five Bucks at the Doors – The Story of Crocks N Rolls is a uniquely Canadian documentary.  You quickly realize that Crocks N Rolls could only be the result of Canadian geography and personalities.  We joke about Thunder Bay being isolated (though it is said that their landfill hosts a treasure trove of 80s cassette tapes), but the truth is far deeper than simple stereotypes.  Yes, Thunder Bay is eight hours’ drive away from the big cities, but it also occupies a unique crossroads on the Canadian roadmap.  Touring bands from Ontario and further east had to go through on their way west.  Western bands also had to pass through the crucible.  The only place to play was Crocks.  Most importantly, it was the right place to play.

Sook Yin Lee (Bob’s Your Uncle) calls it a “wonderful enclave of freaks and weirdos.”  Frank Loffredo was just a music fan.  He’d drive to Toronto to see a show. He dreamed of being in the New York or London scenes and drinking up the rock and roll.  Instead he did something better and he brought that vibe to Thunder Bay for everyone to share.  Bands started coming through.  Great bands, bad bands, mediocre bands.  Even if they didn’t sell tickets, Frank would book them a second time.  It wasn’t always about the bottom line.  He would live and sleep in the bar to make it work.  It was about Canadian rock music.  It was about making life bearable for the kids of Thunder Bay who dreamed of getting out.  To Frank it was like “one long day,” but to the kids it was another home.  There were no fights.  It was a melting pot of acceptance and ideas.

Bad Brains, 13 Engines, Razor, Sacrifice, DOA, Henry Rollins…Rollins on a spoken word tour no less.  Five Bucks at the Door is loaded with stories and the best has to be about Henry Rollins and being short changed $10 by Frank Loffredo.  Hank didn’t notice, but Frank had to make it right. He asked a friend to repay the $10 that Frank accidentally owed him.  He also insisted on photographic evidence of the transaction, and that evidence is part of this smorgasbord of punk rock history.

Dave Bidini (The Rheostatics), Bob Wiseman (Blue Rodeo), and many more Canadian artists have acres of stories to tell.  A bunch of tree planters and a canoe?  From Frank’s mom’s home-made spaghetti dinners for the tired band members, to the name of the place.  It looked like an Italian restaurant and the logo looked like it had a bowl and a spoon.  “It was a dumb name,” says Frank.  But the important thing was that “the audience was as much of the show as the band.”  That’s clear by the testimonials and amazing black and white photos.  Scratched and unretouched.

Crocks closed in 1996.  It was no longer sustainable, and then as if adding insult to injury the original place burned down.  But in 2007, Loffredo gave it another go.  Naming it Crocks N Rolls flat out indicated this was to be a continuation of the original.  As before, it’s all still in the family, with a new generation now working with Frank in keeping the rock rolling in Thunder Bay.

Five Bucks at the Door is a refreshing reminder that there are some crucial things we need in life.  Connection, belonging, and music.  Frank brought all three to the teenagers of Thunder Bay that longed for it.  It’s a story that needs to be told, and you owe it to yourself to check it out.  It’s available for streaming for free until September 20, 2020.

5/5 stars

#858: School Days

GETTING MORE TALE #858: School Days

Did anybody really enjoy doing speeches in school?  I dreaded them year after year.  Pick a subject, write a speech, memorize it, time it right, and then it’s showtime.  My first speech was an award winner.  In was in grade three, and I wrote a speech about falling into the Athabasca glacier on my summer vacation.  It was a hit.  But that didn’t get me off the hook.  Year after year, you had to keep coming up with new speeches.

Grade five was Pac-Man, and it didn’t do as well.  Not that I minded.  I wanted to do just well enough, not so well that I had to do it again in a semi-finals.  I was obsessed with Pac-Man that year.  I truly had Pac-Man fever.  In my speech I discussed sequels like Ms. Pac-Man, and how the Atari 2600 version was such a disappointment.

In eighth grade I changed things up considerably and did my speech on Kiss.  I can tell you that the teacher Mrs. Powers visibly reacted every time I said the words Hotter Than Hell.  My speech was like a condensed version of Kisstory, a predecessor perhaps to what I like to do today.  It was actually really good although it was mostly off the cuff.  I knew I wasn’t going to get a good grade because of the subject matter, and I knew a speech about Kiss wasn’t going to make it to any kind of semi-finals, and I really knew they didn’t like the word “hell”.  Name dropping Mick Jagger didn’t help.  But it was really good, natural sounding and I only stumbled a couple of times.

The teachers didn’t really want you to do a speech about rock bands, but I was determined to express myself.  I didn’t want to spend five minutes talking about, I dunno, making steak sandwiches.  I could have whipped up an easy speech on Antarctic exploration or World War II, and gotten a better mark.  The more I look back, I guess I was a teeny tiny bit of a rebel.  But it was the teachers who gave me shit about my Judas Priest shirt that brought it on.

In grade nine I did my speech about Iron Maiden.  I should have diversified.  I could have spoken about nuclear power, Baron Von Richthofen, or Wrestlemania.  To my credit I was always good at telling a story, and I made them interesting.  I just tried to squeeze music into my schoolwork any chance I could.  If the jocks could do a speech about baseball, I should be able to do one about heavy metal.  I do remember one guy had a really well written comedic speech about a blind date.  If I knew fiction was a category I would have tried a hand at that!

In later years I did more expansive independent studies on other subjects, but still managed to work in music.  I did it for a sociology project and a few English ones.  And why not?  I couldn’t do that in algebra, physics, chemistry, or calculus.

These little acts of rock and roll rebellion didn’t get me an A, but I did well enough to be admitted to Wilfrid Laurier University in 1991.  So:  no regrets.  I can still write about Manfred von Richthofen if I want, and I’m fortunate enough that you would probably still read it.  I’ve written about history (tied into music) here a number of times.  I’m sure I’ll do it again.  And why not?  It’s easy to tie this stuff to music; Iced Earth have a song about Richthofen.  Queen have a song about Robert Falcon Scott.  Iron Maiden have songs about everything that ever happened.  The field is wide open.

 

1980: In Depth Stream with Mike and Deke!

Thanks to Rob Daniels for this episode’s title!  This week Deke and I took a trip back to 1980 to discuss some 40 year old albums, in a little more depth than usual.  We each chose three to reminisce on.  There are dozens of critical albums we could have picked from that year, so we each chose three that we important to us on a personal level.

The stories flow like beer, and the laughter can be heard from one side of Ontario to the other.  Join us as Mike mocks the Leafs and Deke praises Buried On Mars.  (There is a good story about Mars’ site and one of the most important albums from 1980.)

Points of interest:

To start with some unboxings, go to 0:02:55 of the stream

The 1980 retrospective starts at 0:09:45 in the stream.

Attention:  Geoff Stephen!!  0:14:00.

For the Back In Black shenanigans skip to 1:28:20.

There’s some audio lag on the latter part of the video; sorry about that.  I hope you enjoy this chat as much as we did!

#849: Indoor Day

Sunday was what we call an “indoor day” at the lake. This is what I did with my indoor day.

The video took me most of the day, because my poor old laptop (10, this year) couldn’t handle all of the large files at once. So I started over from scratch and figured out a workaround until I was done about 7 hours later. I cooked, I went outside, I played with action figures, and I drank coffee until it finally saved without errors.

This video should scratch itches for a variety of people including:

1) Max the Axe fans – the full song “Randy” is included.
2) Dr. Kathryn Ladano fans – the full song “Masked” is included.
3) Those who enjoy driving videos. This is my first extensive use of my dash cam.
4) Nature buffs. You will hear real lake noises, rainstorms, and waves. You will see more cool underwater footage from the beaches of Lake Huron, and the legendary Greatest Sunset in the World.
5) Marvel / action figure fans. Look for a special “Build A Figure” Hulk.

 

You will not get:

1) Audio of me singing “Kissing Time” by Kiss; this was lost with the first version of the video.
2) Any of my pork chops.

But you can freely:

1) Live vicariously through me and absorb the good vibes through your monitor and speakers.

While visitors showing up on our little private road was not unexpected on a long weekend, it is disappointing when they show such little respect for the people who live here. A guy parked his ATV on our grass and said “Don’t get your knickers in a bunch” when my mom asked several times for him to move it. This came after arguing that he had the right to park there due to a “snow allowance”. There is no such thing.

Then we had Kenny the fireworks guys shooting off a “truck bed” full of firepower at 9:30 Saturday night. That was…distracting. As much as I love this place it certainly has changed in the last 45 years. Enjoy the video — the good the bad and the ugly!

#848: Dear Bob

Dear Bob,

I know we don’t get to talk much anymore.  I think the last time I saw you was at a funeral.  We both have our own lives now.  You have four kids to raise, and I have a Jen to take care of and cherish.  While we have separate journeys now, I will always remember and treasure our shared origins.  We were the lucky few to grow up on a very special street in a neighbourhood like no other.

Some of my earliest memories are of us playing in the front yard.  You were two years older but at that young age it hardly mattered.  All that mattered were our adventures.  It started with dinky cars, Lego and plastic swords.  Do you remember building little garages for our cars?  I do.  You showed me how.  A few twigs stuck into the ground covered with a grass roof, and we had multi-car garages right in the front lawn.

You taught me how to improvise our fun.  With cardboard boxes, we constructed a Cloud City for my Star Wars guys to play around in.  Do you remember showing me how to make little sliding pocket doors?  Or how about that board game we came up with on our own?  It was huge!  How many of my mom’s shoeboxes did we cut up to make that?  We used my Army Men for the pieces.  We constructed traps for them, that could you trigger with the pull of a thread.  Mom eventually said “No more shoeboxes!”

I could go on, and on, and on about how we created our own worlds to live in.  The drawings, a huge binder of which I still have!  We designed our own video game.  We wanted to submit it to Atari.  Then, when my family got a computer, we discovered a new world:  word processing!  No more pen and paper; now we could really come up with stories.  The program was called IBM Writer’s Assistant and we pushed the limits of what we could achieve.  We co-wrote the Adventures of Comet-tron, though it was your idea.  I even sold copies of our “book” at a garage sale.  25 cents each, and there were two issues!

Building obstacle courses in the back yard.  Improvising audio equipment with little more than a few wires and black electrical tape.  Riding our bikes, exploring the trails.  Renting horror movies and pausing to see fake rubber props.  Writing down the rules to our own invented version of street volleyball.  These are all things I did with my best friend.  If I didn’t have you, do you think “Double Bounce Volleyball” ever would have been conceived, much less documented with actual rules?  Chances are high that the only reason I owned a volleyball was because you had one first.

It’s funny that you studied architecture later in life, because I remember us sitting down with pencils and designing our future houses.  In our blueprints, we still lived on the same street.  We bulldozed all the other houses, and added on to our own (things like swimming pools and helipads and secret tunnels and overhead bridges).  We put new houses for our families to live in, while our original homes were connected by an enclosed bridge so we could hang out without even having to go out!

As your interests changed, so did mine.  Where you led I was eager to follow.  Music was next.  Do you realize how lucky I was to have you and other older kids around the neighbourhood?  While my classmates were listening to music they’d be embarrassed by in six months, you guys had discovered Van Halen.

Do you remember our front porch listening sessions?  One of us would plug in the stereo, and somebody else would bring over the Van Halen.

“Van Halen!?” said my dad as he came home from work.  “Sounds like some kind of tropical disease!”

And so began the long tradition of my dad creating memorable quotes about rock bands.  Wouldn’t have happened without you.  Your dad had some good ones too.

“Is there something wrong with that man?” he mocked when Bruce Dickinson was screaming the high notes.

Classic!  Absolutely classic.  You were not only there for it, but you were the guy who supplied the music for them to mock!

What I’m getting at here is this.  I need to really let you know how much you shaped my life, and how much I looked up to you.  I wanted to be you.  For years I was your mini-me.  You were smart, you were cool, you were big and strong and creative and everything I wanted to be.  I had nobody like you at my school.  Why did you have to go to a different school?  How life would have been different if you were able to stand up for me during the dark times.

I’ll never forget one thing you did for me.  It was grade six.  My bully Steve went at me really hard that year.  He made me cry in class.  It’s not a good feeling, crying publicly with 30 of your peers.  All I could think is how badly I wished you were there to stop him.  Stop all of them.  Then one day, you did make an appearance.  Our schools had March break during two different weeks.  During your March break, you got on your bike and paid me a visit during recess.  None of those kids had ever seen you before.  Maybe they thought you were my imaginary friend.  Not any more!  Steve actually fell flat down on his back when he saw how much bigger you were.  The memory still makes me smile.

I don’t know if you really understood how bad I had it at school.  It was a daily living nightmare.  You were the opposite of that.  I’d come home, phone you up, and 10 minutes later we’d be in the back yard jumping hurdles made of lawn chairs, and everything was forgotten.  You just got me; we shared the exact same sense of humour.  Nothing can gravitate two friends together like a shared love of laughing at the same things.  You also drew out and nurtured my creative side.  Anytime you came up with something cool on your own (which was frequent) you’d share it with me and together we’d expand on it.  It was the exact opposite of what I had at school.  There, nobody understood me.  There, nobody nurtured me.  There, nobody laughed with me.  Only at me.

You were my hero, man.  You were my Wolverine or Iron Man.  Funny enough, I got into Marvel comics because that’s what you read!  Do you remember reading comics on the patio?  Hawkeye was your favourite Avenger back then.

I mean it when I say you were my hero.  You were smart and popular and I was just happy to be the sidekick!  When I finally made it to highschool, you sneakily got an extra locker next to mine.  I felt so cool sharing that illicit locker, like part of an elite club.  We had some excellent times in highschool.  You bought a black guitar and so for contrast I bought a white one.  We never really put the effort in, but we did have fun drawing our logo.  “Paragon” was the name you chose for our band.  We never really learned to play, but we made a music video.  I know you’ll never forget that.  Together we spent a week after hours at the school in the editing suite, finishing the video with a very tight deadline.  We did it, though.  It was hard work.  We fought through technical issues and were recognized for our efforts by having our video shown at the local 1989 Charlie Awards.  What an honour for us.

I know for a fact that I would not be the person I am today had we not crossed paths 40-some years ago.  I think I’d still find ways to be creative, but the things I do today are just extensions of the things we did then.  Sequels, reboots, remasterings.  I like to think that I’m continuing with the projects we started together.  Together we made a music video and two movies.  Today, I make several music videos every year!  And as hard as it is to believe, I even completely re-edited one of the movies we made 30 years ago.  Finishing the work that we started.

It’s OK that you went to college and started your own life.  It was always going to be that way.  We were never really going to bulldoze the neighbourhood and live in connected houses.  Back then, I was never able to express how important you were — and still are.  You helped me survive.  I knew that all I had to do was endure a week at school.  On Saturday it would be us again, you and me, racing cars, flying starships or hosting our own shows.  Despite everything I had to go through at school, I always have considered it a good childhood.  The best childhood.  And that’s because I had you, my best friend.  We embarked on truly great adventures, and they far outweigh the damage the other kids could do.  When it was you and me, they couldn’t touch me.  They weren’t a part of the worlds we were building out of cardboard and Scotch tape.  You projected a force field around yourself and nobody would touch you.  In turn you were able to shield me with it too.  That was a tremendous gift that you can’t understand unless you were the beneficiary.

Do you remember why you chose the name “Paragon” for our band that never was?  “Because it means we’re the best,” you said.  It was true!  We were the best.  We were the paragon of friendships with adventures that shaped a lifetime.  Thank you for sharing that with me.

 

Happy birthday, buddy.  I hope you’re well.

 

#840: 40 Years in Photos

GETTING MORE TALE #840: 40 Years in Photos

According to Ye Olde Photo Album, we began building the cottage in the summer of 1980.  Until then we stayed in a log cabin down the road with Grandma and Grandpa.  It was a tight squeeze.  Grampa had a bunk house out back where he spent the night.  Grandma had a bedroom where Little Baby Kathryn Ladano slept in a crib.  My mom and dad had a room.  That left me to sleep on a cot in the living room.

Many of my memories of that cabin are Star Wars memories.  The Empire Strikes Back had just come out.  I remember reading the comic book and the collector’s cards by the little front windows.  My mom bought a whole box of Empire Dixie cups for the lake.  Our action figures were always there with us.  I didn’t have a Boba Fett yet, so in the meantime I used a Micronaut with missile-firing backpack.  The cabin had structural support cables running from front to back, and they were great for hanging Star Wars figures in precarious adventurous positions.

There wasn’t much room in that little log cabin so eventually we needed to get a place of our own.  My parents bought a vacant lot nearby and began clearing the land.  We had no phone, no cable TV, nothing other than what we brought with us.  That was usually our Star Wars guys and sometimes a little Fisher-Price tape recorder to play cassettes.  But all my Star Wars soundtracks were on vinyl.  My grandfather had a record player at the cottage but we didn’t play Star Wars records.  Just country!

The land was cleared, a foundation was poured, and flooring laid.  Insulation was installed under the floors and that’s when it rained.  Insulation had to be re-done, a messy job.  The construction attracted attention from local cottagers and a curious little boy named Cyril became my first cottage friend.

Cyril was not only my first cottage friend, and not only my first black friend, but also the first black kid I’d ever met in my life.  Growing up in Catholic schools in Kitchener Ontario was a very white experience.  I’d never even see a black kid before that wasn’t on television.  The picture of Cyril checking out the brand new window delivery was typical.  That was as exciting as things got.  There were always trucks dropping off mountains of lumber.  Like all other little boys in 1980, Cyril was a Star Wars fan.  We got our figures together and played.  I remember freezing Han Solo in a glass of water.  It was the best way to make a “frozen Han” back then!

Funny thing about Cyril.  He had an older step-brother.  Eight years after meeting Cyril, his older brother was my science teacher:  the legendary Mr. Marrow, one of the greatest teachers I ever had, and a guest star in my “Nothing But A Good Time” music video.  He played – surprise surprise – the teacher!  And he nailed it!

I’m not sure what happened to Cyril or Mr. Marrow as their family sold the cottage long ago.  I did see Cyril once as an adult.  He towered over me, and apparently developed a love of Phil Collins!

By 1981 we had a space we could live in.  The interior was not finished, and we used an old folding table in the kitchen.  The back yard was nothing but dirt and stones.  My mom’s ashtray and cigarettes sat on the kitchen table.  It took years to finish the inside, room by room.  The wall slats went up and the ceiling was eventually finished too.  Soon, front and back decks went on.

The next photos come from Easter of 1986, an occasion I’ve written extensively about.  Easter fell in March that year, and we spent it at the lake.  The water was still partly frozen, but a few leads opened up in the ice and we took out the canoe for a trip.  You can see my little sister hunkered down in the middle while my uncle and dad paddled.  Later on in the back yard, I could be found playing air guitar on my favourite weapon – a badminton racquet.  If there was a tape deck on the back porch, it would have been playing “Turbo Lover” by Judas Priest.  The video had just come out and I recorded it to tape so I could listen to it whenever I wanted.  Naturally “Turbo Lover” was followed by “Locked In”.  I wouldn’t get the album itself until September.

One of the most interesting things to me about the older photos is the lack of puppies.  The first Schnauzers arrived in August of ’86.  We had two to choose from – Gentle Ben and Crystal Belle.  I connected with little Ben as the photos show.  I thought he might like to listen to some Triumph on my earphones.  But we chose Crystal (I was outvoted 3-1), and she was our puppy for the next many years.  I’ll be honest and admit that the stories you’ve heard were true.  At the time, I did not want a dog.  I didn’t want a dog because my sister did, and I didn’t want her to have her way.

In a photo from fall of 1987, she can be seen looking for cookie scraps as we lounged on a hammock.  I was wearing an Iron Maiden “Trooper” shirt that I don’t even remember owning at that age.  Later that fall we went on a big hike, following the lake north.  Shortly after, I painted that black vest with flames, and it became part of my Alice Cooper Halloween costume.

During the school years, I stayed home more often.  I didn’t want to miss any WWF wresting, or Much Music Power Hour music videos.  The absence of cable TV and a telephone made it feel like you were really out of contact with the outside world.  Of course, that was the point, but when you’re in your teens that’s not a point you really feel like making.

In the winter, my parents would go for day trips while I would stay home and get into mischief with Bob Schipper.  A photo was snapped of my dad shooting one of his guns on one such trip.  I stayed home to make cardboard guitars with Bob.

Time flew – and so did we!  My dad had a good friend named Jack, who was an airline pilot.  Because of Jack, any time we were going on a flight, he could made arrangements with the pilot to let us come up to the cockpit.  I felt like the kid in the movie Airplane!, meeting Captain Oveur.  Jack was a customer of my dad’s at the bank and that’s how they met.

Jack also had a small plane over his own.  When he came to the cottage for a visit, he didn’t drive.  He flew.  Summer after summer we always looked forward to his visits.  He’d take us all up two at a time if we wanted to.  It was pretty wild being able to see the cottage from the sky.  Too bad we didn’t think to take pictures from the air.

The 80s turned into the 90s.  I’ve written extensively about the summer of 1991, and the photos show change!  The old brown back deck was never meant to be a permanent fixture.  In ’91 we designed and built a bigger and better deck.  It was my job to cut out holes for the trees to grow through and you can see this in the photos.  Or at least you can see me goofing around for the cameras in my beloved Jon Bon Jovi Blaze of Glory T-shirt.  I bought that album there, on cassette the previous year.  The “bloody” scene was caused by a bottle of ketchup, cropped out of the photo (but left in on the original print).  Neon pink was in at the time, by the way.

1991 was a special summer because it was the last summer that Bob came to stay, and the first one that my buddy Peter came for.

Seasons passed and hair grew.  I had pretty good long hair when my Aunt came to visit in 1992.  You can tell it was 1992 by the Wayne’s World shirt.  I just had to have one.  Wayne’s World was everything in 1992.  I started talking like Wayne, using words like “spew” and “not”!  The tape deck that summer was loaded with Queen, Iron Maiden, and my favourite band Kiss who was out for Revenge.  We still have those old plastic deck chairs too!

What is really amazing to me is how quickly the time has gone by, especially those early years.  It felt like ages to finish the cottage.  It seemed like the unpanelled walls and temporary furniture was forever.  Even into the 1990s, our closets were not finished.  You could find the words KISS and NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK inked into the wooden 2x4s framing our closets.  Archaeologists will be able to determine whose room was whose based on hidden graffiti.

I hope you enjoyed this trip down memory lane and can imagine what it was like to be a kid at the lake, playing Star Wars, and later rocking the air guitar badminton racquet to “Turbo Lover”.  Maybe next time there I will break out the racquet for another go.

 

 

#838.5: Father’s Day 2020

Father’s Day 2020 was one of the strangest yet, but we celebrated my dad outdoors with steaks and social distancing.

The day started quietly with an espresso at dawn, but I couldn’t wait to get cooking.  Jen bought steaks and corn.  I love cooking and I especially love barbecuing.  Cooking for my mom and dad is one of the best hobbies I have.

The morning was spent relaxing by myself on the patio, reading Gord Downie and Jeff Lemire’s graphic novel Secret Path, the story of Chanie Wenjack.  I spoke about this book a bit on Saturday’s live stream.  To say reading this book was an intense undertaking is to sell the experience short.  I had to stop twice to catch my breath.  This powerful, true story is made so clear, so intense and spiritual thanks to the words of Gord and the images of Jeff.  A book/album review is absolutely forthcoming.  (Even though the book comes with a download of the Gord Downie album, I still bought the CD individually as well.)

It was a hot afternoon but at least my parents have a back deck with some shade.  I lit the gas and let the flames do their work.  I incorporated some new techniques that I picked up watching YouTube videos over the winter.  I let the steaks get up to room temperature, then patted them dry and seasoned with just salt, pepper and garlic powder.  Nothing fancy and no marinate was necessary.   I overcooked mine a bit for my liking.  Everybody else likes them a bit more done than me.  I forgot how hot my dad’s barbecue can get.  But they were still juicy and flavourful, I just prefer them a little more red.

We chatted current events, the cottage, and Uncle Don Don.  My mom saved for me what was left of his CD collection (I gave my sister first dibs and she took Frank Zappa’s Hot Rats.)  Mom asked me to sort through the music, but I decided to take them home to do that here.  The CD covers have the telltale yellowing of a smoker’s home and I didn’t want to handle them and have to prepare dinner too.

There are a few CDs here that I’ll have to keep.  I’m missing several Tragically Hip.  I don’t have that Lee Aaron (her debut).  I could probably use some Johnny Winter, George Thorogood, Garbage, and Jane’s Addiction.  A few of these are duplicates; I have all the Deep Purple and Alice Cooper albums.  But those are two bands that Uncle Don influenced me to get into.  “Child In Time”, he said.  That was the song he praised.  He has two versions of “Child In Time” in this cardboard box.

Looks like I’m going to be owning Jackyl, Haywire and Collective Soul too.  Cool.  I’ll go through the box in detail in the coming days.

My dad enjoyed his Father’s Day meal, and we had a nice visit.  The first one in many months.  It wasn’t hard to stay sanitised and distant, but it was different.  Just something we have to live with for a while.  Hopefully not too much longer.  I’m starting to get tired of the same old scenery from my little patio at home.  I want to get back to the lake.  Because of various health concerns and vulnerabilities, we’ve all agreed that we can’t all be at the same cottage at the same time, so we’ll have to take turns.  I’ll have to wait a little while longer to cook my dad a nice barbecue chicken dinner (skin on, of course). It’ll happen though — eventually.

I hope all the fathers had as nice a Father’s Day as my dad did.