The Way It Used to Be

It seems I need to get back into blogging.

Since I don’t watch much TV, I’ve been spending my nights in a fruitless effort to try to learn the Japanese language – and still getting nowhere. At least it feels that way. It’s doubtful I’ll make much progress anymore so it’s on the back burner for now. Disappointing, yes, but you know what they say about old dogs and new tricks, let alone those of a foreign language.

And on top of that, it’s kind of a way to hit the proverbial Reset button. I need to do this as much as I need to meditate, something else I haven’t done in a long time.

At any rate, this old dog spent last Saturday night with his son at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles to see one of his all-time favorite groups, Pet Shop Boys. In all my years of concert-going, this was only the second PSB show I have attended. Technically, it should have been the third but things happen. As expected, it was spectacular.

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The good thing about this venue is that like most of my favorite spots in Los Angeles, it’s close to a Metro station and that makes me happy. Rather than spend $20 on parking plus burning all that gas to get there, I spent $7 round-trip for the both of us.

The trip to the Pico Station was pretty uneventful save for the usual hustling from vendors selling food and cell phone accessories. Pretty much expected.

When we arrived at our exit, I saw a couple exit before us and the girl gave me a glance and said, “You going to the Pet Shop Boys concert?”

She had me pegged. It must have been my shirt from their 1991 Performance tour that gave me away.

“Oh yeah, I’ve been waiting a long time,” I told her. She then gave me a rundown of all PSB shows she’s attended then pointed to her boyfriend.

“He hasn’t seen them live yet.” I smiled.

“Oh, you will NOT be disappointed,” I told him as we made our way down the sidewalk. Anthony held the gate for them and they were surprised. Kids don’t do that these days.

We then split up and told them to enjoy the show as they made their way into a corner Mexican restaurant across the street. Anthony and I headed over to the venue.

And wow. Let me explain. In addition to the usual Saturday night crowd, there were also two other events happening: Stan Lee’s Comic-con at the L.A. Convention Center and the League of Legends Championship at Staples Center and outside Microsoft Theater. There were tons of young people there having a great time. Granted I don’t know much about either of those things – remember, Old Dog – but I’d be more inclined to attend the comic-con if I had a choice. There might be a slight chance I’d be able to recognize some of the cosplay outfits based on my limited knowledge of anime. In fact I’m sure I saw a young lady dressed as one of the Sailor characters. There are many and I can only identify Moon. Jupiter, Mars, Venus? Forget it. But one out of…many isn’t bad I guess.

And to their credit, most of them are handmade. Probably not the easiest thing to do.

As we made our way through the crowd, there was a guy pointing out and verbally identifying people by their wardrobe and giving a high-five gesture, then slapping them one if they held out their hand. So many smiles everywhere. Video screens flashing ads and music videos lit up our steps to the venue.

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Anthony then asked me, “Is this what Japan is like?” Hmm. Shibuya and Harajuku. Osaka’s dotonbori. I looked up and around.

“Yeah, pretty much,” I told him basing my opinion on sheer speculation and not fact. But they do look like places that would have a similar vibe, if not better.

“Okay, we need to go then,” he said with a smile. In time, my man. In time.

The show began a little after 9 pm and as previously stated, it was amazing. A lot of newer stuff mixed with classics like “West End Girls,” “Domino Dancing” and “Always On My Mind.” Then, of course, “It’s A Sin.” That song pretty much changed my life.

We left the venue satisfied, ears ringing, and walked the couple of blocks back to the train station for our ride home. That’s where I saw the couple from earlier that night. I saw the guy and asked, “Well?”

“It was outstanding,” he said with a smile. His girlfriend chimed in and agreed. I then asked which stop was theirs as the train approached. It was only one away from ours so Anthony and I sat next to them for the ride and introduced ourselves.

I discovered that the couple – we’ll call them Jack and Dianne – were big music fans and regular concert-goers. At 31, Jack was the oldest of the two and about 7 years Dianne’s senior. At one point Dianne mentioned that she had seen Depeche Mode a few times and was looking forward to seeing them this time around. I am too, and I told her about the DM shows I have attended.

“Oh, I first saw them in 1987 at The Forum. Music for the Masses Tour. Then I saw them at the Rose Bowl in 1988.”

“Really? And how much was it for that show?”

I replied without hesitation. “$22.50. And for four acts: Wire, Thomas Dolby, OMD, and Depeche Mode.”

Totally stunned. That concert is the stuff of legends. I then told her I was at the Jimmy Kimmel taping in the pit taking lo-res pictures with my old Verizon LG enV flip-phone.

We talked about how incredibly expensive concerts can be now, even for the cheap seats. I agreed then told them they have it easy these days. They didn’t remember a time before the Internet and apps when buying concert tickets was an event in itself.

How did you even get to see any shows back then?

“Two ways to buy them: camp out or call Ticketmaster and 213-480-3232. See? I still remember the phone number. And you had to keep calling if the line was busy and if you finally got through, it was a miracle. This was before the Redial button, you know. But even if you camped outside Music Plus or The Wherehouse, there was no guarantee you’d get them. Scalpers have always been around and they still are.”

And camping out usually meant sparking up conversation with the people around you, especially if the wait was expected to be long. And when it was over, you’d part ways with the knowledge you might just see them at the show. And if you didn’t, hey, you at least had a great chat to kill some time.

Then we went over shows we’ve been to. That lasted a while with me but it turns out that despite me being old enough to be Dianne’s father, we all had similar taste in music. I said the last show we attended was Perfume, a Japanese electro-pop group that rarely tours the U.S.

Not only were ticket prices discussed but physical tickets in general. We used to collect them and put them in scrap books or our wallets as a way of showing our friends we were there. Well, outside of buying a shirt. Now I’m not even sure if you can opt for a physical ticket or have to print them at home (and still get charged even though you’re using your own ink). But I do know that a virtual ticket is indeed pretty cool but nowhere as cool as a stub. And if you don’t screencap it, it’s lost.

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Speaking of Perfume, I told them that as I was waiting for them to tour the U.S., I wanted to find some videos on YouTube of their Japan tour. It was impossible and the reason is simple: I learned that in Japan, it’s not allowed. At all.

So it was only natural that the conversation took yet another turn. I said concerts were so much better in the days before smartphones. Why? Because we were in the moment enjoying the show. We knew we would have stories to tell the next day at school or at work. There seemed to be more of a personal connection between the music and the fan back then, rather than this “look at me” generation that cares more about taking selfies with the stage in the background or posting live videos on Facebook. Seeing a sea of screens in front of me the entire show is pretty annoying because I come from the cigarette-lighter-during-a-ballad generation. And it was waaaaay cooler.

To further prove my point about the disconnect between music and fan today, I told them the story of the mixtape I found and how making one back in the day was such a labor of love. It had to express how we were feeling and being caught up in the creation of it was part of our connection to the music because we knew how hard it was to get this tape just right.

And the act of buying music itself? Totally different. Click-to-buy is nothing like lining up for that new CD on New Music Tuesday.

We had a great chat that made the trip seem so much shorter. When Anthony and I arrived at our stop, we shook hands and exchanged pleasantries while they complimented me on Anthony’s politeness at the Pico Station where he held the gate open for them. We both thanked them.

And while I could have given them links to my social media accounts to stay in touch, it only seemed appropriate to end our talk and part ways with these kids like this.

Just like the way it used to be outside Music Plus, waiting for Phil Collins tickets to go on sale.

Manic Monday

Monday night was crazy.

Earlier in the day, Ann had sent me a picture of my wonderful neighbor — you already know I’m being fatuous — standing in the street next to his car. That is, his damaged car.

Turns out that another resident on our street came flying around the corner at their usual high rate of speed, lost control, and wiped out my neighbor’s car. They flipped their car twice after impact which shows you how ridiculously fast they were going, with a child in the back seat. All are fine and I’m sorry that kid has a mother that doesn’t take his safety into consideration when she gets behind the wheel. They are known for speeding on our street all the time.

Ann told me the sound of the accident was horrible as they usually are but being close to the scene made it sound worse. She was a bit shaken up by it all and I can’t say I blame her. Accidents are truly scary to hear, scarier to see, and even more scary to be in.

That’s when I enter the picture, about 7 miles away.

I was making my way home as usual, taking the same streets as I always do. Just another ho-hum ride home for me.

Then it happened.

Just as I passed an intersection, a car made a right turn into my lane on their red light. Contact was made and the impact threw my scooter out of control. Yes, I was on my scooter.

I went sideways for a moment before finally losing control and falling to the ground, rolling in the street maybe about four times at around 35 MPH. My helmet made contact with the asphalt and got scraped up pretty bad. The impact on the asphalt jammed my scooter’s center stand into the body and it is no longer usable. All of this happened within seconds.

And all I was thinking while I was rolling was “Hang on…hang on…just hang on…don’t let go.” The adrenaline was pumping anyhow and that’s probably what kept me going. The worst thing I could have done was panicked — and I didn’t. Macho man.

Once I stopped rolling and dusted myself off, then having a few choice words with the driver who hit me, I texted Ann the following: “I got hit. I’m fine. Exchanging information.” But with all the chaos happening outside our own house, she left her phone in the kitchen and didn’t get the message until much later.

Daylight was quickly fading into night.

In the midst of all of this, between police questioning and fire trucks and ambulances, I finally got a call from her to make sure I was okay. I assured her I was. Then I got one from Anthony and it was something I never want to hear again. He was absolutely hysterical but again, I was fine and I calmed him down.

My bodily damage? Minimal. I have a few spots of road rash on my left leg (DON’T EVER Google that if you’re not ready for it) and not much else. Thankfully, nothing is broken and I didn’t suffer a concussion with my head hitting the ground. The police made their report, the paramedics checked me out, and I refused to go to the hospital as I felt good enough to ride home, which is exactly what I did.

There are more details but that’s all I’m divulging. I don’t pay my insurance for nothing.

Since I started riding, I’ve always worn a video camera of some kind on my helmet. Not because I was doing stupid tricks to share on YouTube but for the one time I may need it. Plus it keeps my own self honest. And after two years of riding, I thought I was about as safe as they get: lane-splitting only at red lights, avoiding any kind of trouble, etc. I’d never had an accident; just a few close calls that were wiped clean from the memory card of my GoPro. Of course, I keep the clips of interesting things I’ve witnessed on the road.

The camera itself was an investment and a form of insurance provided anything ever happened. And so far I was certain that I’d never need any footage recorded with it.

That was until Monday night. The point of impact, me rolling several times in the street, my feet flying up in the air, my brand new Vans shoes being ruined.  It’s all on there and…well, remember what I said earlier about being in an accident? Try having yours recorded. It really makes you sit back and think.

But perhaps the most gut-wrenching feeling I had was when Anthony called me, crying like never before. There I was with flashing lights all around me trying to reassure him that everything was going to be okay. Easy for me to say.

But I’d heard that cry in the past, and it was from me in 1976 when Mom got the call that Dad had passed away at the hospital. It absolutely tore me up.

And that was it. That ride home on my scooter would be my last.

I took Tuesday off so that I could take care of business. First, I submitted my insurance claim to see if it would cover any damage to my scooter. As of this post, the other guy has yet to contact their insurance or make a claim. I get the feeling they won’t, but that’s when the GoPro footage will come in handy. My company already has a copy of it and all they have to do is send it over to the other insurance company.

Second, I cancelled the insurance on the motorcycle and it’s going to sit in the garage until I can find a buyer. Yes, I’m getting rid of it. I do, however, plan to keep the scooter only because I’m so deep into it with the credit card that was used to pay for it. I won’t get much for it anyhow, and even less now that it’s been in an accident. I don’t know the extent of any damage to the body of my scooter so I’ll have to have it checked.

Third, I went out and got myself a car. I wasn’t kidding when I said I was done riding. It’s a 2015 Nissan Versa Note and I have to admit that since Nissan pays me (although I don’t work for them directly), there’s a sense of pride being behind the wheel of their product. I already know everything about it and I just got it.

Granted the payments aren’t exactly what we negotiated but it’s a small price to pay for my own safety. There’s no doubt I’ll miss riding and all that goes with it, but when I got the scooter it was meant to be a temporary fix until we could find another solution. And it worked, until Monday night.

And I’m willing to hang it up and put all of it behind me.


Because I’m not putting my family through this kind of misery ever again.

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