Apocalypse Then


Living in southern California in the late ’80s was weird.

It was during that time when we experienced a sudden infestation of the Mediterranean Fruit Fly or Medfly as it was lovingly referred to by the local media. (This pen name obviously paved the way for celebrity couple names like Bennifer and Brangelina.)

Eventually, the infestation was tracked down to a person/organization calling themselves The Breeders.

But that wasn’t the weird part of all this.

Because we were apparently overrun with Medflies, they had to be eradicated by whichever way the Department of Agriculture saw fit. In this case, they enlisted the service of some cropdusters whose tanks were loaded up with a mixture corn syrup and Malathion, an insecticide that is considered to be relatively harmless.

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The helicopters would fly over at night on a regular schedule, the exact period escaping me at the moment, although I think it was every two weeks. On spraying nights, there would be about three of them lined up and making the rounds, dropping their chemical mix upon the city.

It was recommended that you not go outside during spraying. You also had to cover your car or garage it so that it would not sustain any damage from the mixture, which was sticky and thick as you might expect it to be.

I remember watching them spray. I would stand at my bedroom window and wait for the distant rumble of the helicopters turn into a thunderous drone as they passed over the house. It reminded me of Apocalypse Now.

Now I don’t want to get my tin-foil hat out of the closet but it kind of makes you think.

These days you can’t even buy certain medications over the counter. Back in the ’80s, we were being exposed to insecticide and there wasn’t anything we could do about it.

Weird.

 

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I Wanna Go Back


Ann and I decided to go out for a breakfast date this morning after we dropped off the kid at school, so we went to the newest 85 Café Bakery location which isn’t too far from us. We’re not the full-on, greasy-meal-complete-with-all-the-fixin’s kind of couple. We just can’t start the day off with a heavy meal. In fact I find it extremely unhealthy and, more to the point, gross.

Baked goods, especially those from 85 Café (a Taiwanese company just starting to branch into the US), are another story. There’s no arguing over this. We must exercise a great amount of self-control when we go there as it is amazing. Half of the café serves bread right out of the oven while the other half sells specialty items like this strawberry tiramisu.

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But since we found ourselves on the short end of the money stick this week*, we opted for baked goods of a lesser monetary amount. And in case you’re dying to know what that looked like, well, here you go.

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The UCC Kona coffee is mine. They don’t sell it there and I enjoy it with my pastries and/or donuts.

And yes, I unapologetically and shamelessly post pictures of food on my social media accounts for everyone to see, even if they think said pictures are the fruit of Satan’s loins. I’m not there to live up to anyone’s standards, approval, or expectations. I like to do it so if pictures of things like freaking food offend you, look away. And lighten up. Yeesh.

Ahem. Anyway.

As we sat across from each other engaged in serious conversation about everything and nothing, music played in the background to fill the void that the hustle and bustle of a café filled with customer’s couldn’t. Most of the music went unnoticed until a familiar tune fell upon my ears.

(An aside: even after almost 22 years of marriage, Ann and I almost never sit next to each other at a table, and didn’t even while we dated. We are always across from each other. Eye contact is key for us.)

I had to think about it a moment. It was an instrumental played on what was probably a Hammond B3, the quintessential instrument of choice in blue-collar homes or concert venues in the 60s and 70s.

The Girl from Ipanema”?  No no no, it wasn’t that. Close maybe, but not exactly what it was. And being it’s impossible (at least for me) to think of one song while listening to another, I had to sort of block it out while I thought a little harder about it.

Hmm. I have it my collection. So familiar. I started to sing along…

Someone to hold me tight, that would be very nice
Someone to love me right, that would be very nice

I had gotten that far.

“Someone to Watch Over Me”? Nope. While a real song, that wasn’t it either.

I had to grab the phone and do some sleuthing, finally ending up on YouTube: it was Astrud Gilberto’s “So Nice.”

Oh man. The organ, that voice and the way it reverbs, the way the instruments are channeled. Put all of those together and songs like this were arguably the sexiest ever recorded. Seriously. Nothing in recent memory comes close. And let’s not forget all of the instrumental sex that one Henry Mancini created.

Reel it in, man. Back on-topic.

As I sat across from Ann chatting about the song, my mind was suddenly teleported back to the time I spent at the mall when I was a teenager. The local malls were our social network at the time; a place where we would hang out and watch things unfold, meet people, discover new music, and just enjoy being with others – in real-life, not on a computer or smartphone screen.

Now unless you grew up during that time, you have no idea how an organ ties in with that memory. But if you did, let this video jog your memory.

This version here is extremely similar to what I heard in the café and what I might have heard while strolling through the mall past Chess King, Spencer Gifts, Red Eye, or Clifton’s Cafeteria all while taking in the smell of burnt caramel corn or fresh-baked pretzels. No phones, no worries. Just good times.

One of the staples of every mall was, in fact, an organ store where the salespeople would be standing at an organ near the front of the entry while demonstrating how easy it was to play songs like this one or “Spanish Eyes.” But even by then, the once mighty Wurlitzer was quickly becoming a thing of the past with youth becoming more focused on things like the brand-new Walkman. Why bother with an organ when I can take my music anywhere?

While I’m on the topic, I came across this article while searching for “mall organ stores” which Google suggested might be “mall oregon stores.” You know your industry has become archaic when even Google tries to forget it ever existed.

Anyway, you can read it here and laugh at how it is suggested that organs are aimed at people who are 45-50 years old, “sedentary” and “don’t go water skiing.”

Wow. Seriously, with all the conveniences we have now that have the potential to make us even more sedentary, today’s people in that age group – myself at age 46 included – are nowhere near as lazy as this article suggests they were back in its published year of 1981. So basically, we were dead once we hit 45? WOW!

Soooo, with all that said, I miss going to the mall and sharing a bag of caramel corn with my friends while we listened to a toupee-wearing salesman tickling the ivories.

Bet you never saw that coming.


*We all learned a valuable lesson when Anthony’s classmate got him “free iTunes credit.” It was actually a $15 gift card purchase that was deducted from our debit card. He then bought an album thinking he had said credit but he hadn’t redeemed the code yet, deducting yet another $16 from our account.  PARENTAL RESTRICTIONS, PEOPLE.

Blogging 365, Day 12: Adventures in Thrift Shopping


It’s been bone-chillingly cold around here lately at least by California standards. In fact, tonight is supposed to be one of the coldest nights we’ve had for some time that could break records. I’ve been using my sleeping bag – tested for up to 24 degrees – as my blanket as of late and it’s been working just fine.

Either way, the 36 degree temperatures didn’t stop me from going for a 6.2 mile run at 7 am. I just had to bundle up a bit and I was fine.

Once I got home and put back some of the 950 calories I had just burned, we decided to make a trip to good ol’ Goodwill to see what we could conjure up. We love thrift shopping because even if we go home empty-handed, we always leave the place in a better mood after seeing some of the fun and crazy stuff that once made other peoples’ lives worth living.

Let’s start off with this gem that children of the ‘80s will know and appreciate. CAM02740

Face it, you had one. And if you didn’t you had a knock-off like I did because you couldn’t afford the real McCoy – that is, Mom couldn’t afford it.

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Ah, this! The Sony Mavica line of digital cameras that used floppy disks as storage media! Believe it or not, this was one of the high-end models because it was 2 megapixels and supported both floppy disks and Memory Stick media (which begs the question: Why?). I was always jealous of this one since I had the one with 640×480 resolution and having the Memory Stick option would have meant not having to carry around a box of floppies like I did one year on Las Vegas. The quality of the camera was absolutely atrocious but hey, I was cool. One disk held around 25 images if I recall. Now I carry around a phone with 5 MP and a 32GB card and it’s not enough.

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*RING! RING! CLICK!* This is Jim Rockford. At the tone, leave your name and message. I’ll get back to you. *BEEEP!*

Don’t check your messages, Jim. You know it’s going to be bad news. By the way, Mike Post ruled TV themes back in the day…when shows still had theme songs

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Anthony preparing for his future.

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I really should have gotten this but I don’t think my bosses would have approved. My co-workers, on the other hand, would probably fight over it or laugh at it.

Actually, some might want my job starting Monday. We’re getting swamped with projects and it’s looking like at least a week of one-hour overtime each day. This is going to come in handy and while tedious, I will gladly take it along with my raise that went into effect at the beginning of the year.

Off to bed. Or reading at least. I’m falling behind  on both…

Blogging 365, Day 11: I’m Still Standing


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Back in my high school days, the Walkman as well as a myriad of knock-offs were en vogue. They were our version of the iPod if the iPod was large, ugly, had a short battery life and could only carry one album at a time on a cassette. Despite it all, we managed and were happy campers.

But our teachers hated them. So much, in fact, that I seem to recall them saying this phrase over and over during my high school years:

You keep listening to that thing like that and you’ll be deaf by the time you’re 40!

I suppose that was meant to deprive us of our happiness. It never seemed to work.

So here I am about a month from my 44th birthday, sitting with earbuds in my ears listening to my iPod which carries my entire music collection on it and can fit in my pocket.

I can still hear just fine. Most of my high school teachers are now dead.

I think it’s clear to see who won this battle.

Awesome ’80s 5k Run


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Another month, another 5k in the books!

I ran the inaugural Awesome ‘80s Run on Saturday in beautiful Pasadena, California or more to the point, the Rose Bowl loop. I had contemplated long and hard about doing this one or the Conquer the Bridge event since I’m not exactly made of money and must choose between events most of the time. In the end, this event won and I’m glad it did.

As the name implies, the event was ‘80s themed with participants encouraged to dress in ‘80s fashion and believe me, the neon was out in force for this one. Well, maybe except for me:

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But at least I have stories behind my outfit. The hat was from the 1984 Olympics which were held in Los Angeles, the shirt was from Depeche Mode’s 1988 concert at the Rose Bowl, and the Walkman (not visible) was the one I had in high school in 1986. The rest of the stuff was thrown together and were the best ‘80s-like items I had.

CAM01223At any rate, the vibe was excellent with everybody checking out each other’s outfits and costumes. I saw people dressed not only in ‘80s fashion but also ‘80s icons: Ghostbusters, Hulk Hogan, Boy George, Richard Simmons, and a few were even dressed up as Rubik’s Cubes and Simon games. It was amazingly cool, and there was even a replica Back to the Future Delorean you could get your picture with. To see some of the craziness yourself, click here to view their album on Facebook.

Okay, costumes aside, there was a 5k and 10k to run. Unfortunately there was a delay in getting the run going as the police had to limit the number of runners to 100 per pack. By the time I started going, it was almost an hour past the original starting time. Not cool but not something I’d cry over. It’s not like I had a job interview or anything.

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By the time I started going, I realized that maybe standing around for too long may not have been good after all as I started cramping up before I hit 1/4 mile. But I persisted, told myself I was fine and kept going. Just keep going…uphill…

One of the big complaints with runners was the lack of water stations during this event. There was one at about the halfway point which worked out fine for me but apparently not with others. It’s turned into a great, big ugly discussion on the event’s Facebook page, complete with name-calling and profanity. There was also a lack of nutrition at the race’s end, something I wasn’t prepared for as every run I’ve done has had either fruit or bagels at the finish line. Simple advice even for me: people, always come prepared with your own just in case.

In the end, however, my experience was more positive than negative. I met a few friends there and we started off together but then separated about 1/2 mile into it. And hey, I also met someone who was also at the Depeche Mode show in 1988!

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Sadly, she admitted to throwing out all of her shirts from that tour and offered to buy mine. Not for sale, I told her 🙂

Finishers got what will probably be one of the heaviest medals in the collection:

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This medals is seriously thick, seriously heavy, and seriously cool! Despite a few glitches, the Superhero Events team – they are also responsible for the Hollywood Half events – provided a memorable event and venue, one that was a bit more nostalgic for myself and my fellow DM fan. You could tell that people were loving this event despite the fact that most were probably born in the ’90s.

I left the event with yet another medal for my wall and a yearning to go back to the ‘80s for only a moment to see if we actually did dress as hideous as we did that day.

But I think we know the answer to that.

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Next event: Long Beach Marathon Bike Tour on October 7!