His Name Was Prince


And he was funky.

And rest assured that my Facebook friends are probably…well, most definitely tired of my posts about the man and his music which is why I’m here to expand my thoughts just a little bit more.

First off, I find it hard to believe that he’s gone. I was at work doing my thing when I got this text from Ann:

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No. Seriously. What was the punchline here? There had to be one because this had to be some kind of horrible, horrible joke.

The old joke when we were kids was, “Hey, did you hear Alan Hamel died?”

“Really?”

Yeah. Tell a friend.”

“And u think u got it bad?”

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This was Prince. Ain’t no way this was supposed to happen so soon, especially with so many other great musicians passing away in 2016 and late 2015.

But Ann’s not very good at telling jokes and I couldn’t really think of a punchline for this one, so I had to start my own investigating.

I immediately searched for more information on Twitter, my usual news source. Everyone was all reporting the same ongoing “death investigation” with no definite word on what had happened.

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But then the confirmations started. This was the very tweet that crushed my soul.

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Note that I got it via Roku. I don’t give TMZ any more attention than I wish to as they mostly report trash I’m not remotely interested in.

I’m a fan of all kinds of music and I know what I like, and I like Prince. That’s why it was so incredibly shocking to hear he had died. Music is a very important part of my life probably because I can’t play an instrument and appreciate those who can, and admire those who are masters.

Well, I try.

Upon reading this tweet, I sat at my desk and out a huge, disappointing sigh that sounded like more of an annoyed grunt. It could have been. My coworker laughed and asked if I was okay.

Then I showed her the tweet.

“No way,” she exclaimed. As the news spread across almost every person/business I follow on Twitter, it was apparent that there would be no punchline as it was no joke. We were both shocked.

At age 57, Prince Rogers Nelson was gone.

“We could all die any day”

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Granted, I’m not his biggest fan in that I don’t have many of his albums nor did I ever witness him live, something I most definitely regret now. But I do enjoy music — all kinds. And you don’t have to be a big Prince fan in order to appreciate his contribution to the music world – at least if you grew up in the time he was at the top of his game.

That year was 1984 when his quasi-biographical Purple Rain hit the theaters. While people were still singing his hits from 1999, the movie propelled him to a level of success and attention that was incredible to witness.

I can recall seeing Purple Rain shirts by the handful in high school with their proud owners bragging about his incredible concert at The Forum. Back then, you couldn’t turn on the radio or MTV without hearing/seeing Prince, most likely “When Doves Cry,” even though all of his singles from 1999 were still popular.

Prince had arrived only a few years after being booed off the stage while opening for the Rolling Stones, and he was still about pushing boundaries.

“Whenever my hopes and dreams
Are aimed in the wrong direction
She’s always there
Tellin’ me how much she cares”

She’s Always in My Hair

Distributing his album Planet Earth via Sunday newspaper in the UK. The Lord’s Prayer in “Controversy.” His name change to an unpronounceable symbol. The buttless chaps he wore on the MTV Music Awards. And, of course, his reluctance to be a part of the Internet by not having an official website, his videos on YouTube (and his threats to sue anyone who posted them), or his albums on streaming services.

Of course in 1999, the eponymous song became the anthem of the year. If you went to a New Year’s Eve party you know it was played allllll night.

But as fans continue to mourn, videos are starting to show up. Here’s one I remember seeing a ton of times on MTV and it’s one of the rate videos where you’ll see Prince sit behind the drums and madly pound out a solo.

While this entire performance is worthy of watching, the solo begins at 7:45.

And let’s not forget that his song “Darling Nikki” and not a rap song was responsible for this sticker:

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I can think of songs on the radio today that are even more explicit than that one but hey, it gives Tipper Gore something to be proud of I guess.

There was never a doubt that he was an incredible musician, songwriter, and performer and like the man himself, his music knew no boundaries. This is perhaps why so many musicians paid tribute to him on the day he passed away, most of them playing his somber “Purple Rain.”

Corey Taylor of metal band Slipknot:

A student choir at the Disney Concert Hall:

Adam Levine of Maroon 5:

The cast of The Color Purple:

Bruce Springsteen:

Jimmy Buffett:

As musicians paid homage to Prince, cities around the world did the same.

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The Eiffel Tower.

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Downtown Los Angeles, who may just win the prize for tributes.

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The Minnesota Twins. Ironically, it was raining the day he passed.

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New Yorker Magazine.

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The Forum in Inglewood, where Prince played 21 nights in 2011.

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Long Beach Transit.

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The local news during the Entertainment Report.

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A church in Tulsa, OK.

When applicable, people will flock to Hollywood leave flowers and mementos at the Walk of Fame star of a recently deceased star. Prince, of course, was not your average star and does not have a star on the Walk of Fame. As a result, a someone decided he needed one where fans could mourn.

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“Baby I’m a star”

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And of course, my own that I posted on Instagram.

The only thing I’ve seen that came close to this was when John Lennon was assassinated. It was a beautiful way to celebrate the life of a man who wore the most feminine outfits while shredding a guitar like no other – and prancing around on stage in his trademark high-heeled boots.

So guys, if you ever think you’re a badass, just forget it. Prince owns you even now.

He was taken away from us much too fast but we were lucky to walk this planet at the same time to experience his incredible gift.

“No one in the whole universe will ever compare”

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So thank you and goodnight, sweet Prince. Rest in Power.

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The Lost Art of the Mixtape


I never know why I mention this or what kind of importance it has but I’d like to say that I’m composing this post from my phone via the WordPress app. I think it’s because there are photos on my phone I want to use and reclining in the lounge chair is much more comfortable than sitting at the computer.

Anyway.

Now that I’m feeling better, I decided that I would be up at the crack of dawn to go for a nice run/walk. These days I’m not even concerned with my pace anymore; a reasonable distance makes me happy. (My goal was 9 miles but I ended up at 7.25 miles. Meh. Close enough.)

My usual route takes me down the block and around to the street that leads me to the park. Today was no exception. This route is my there’s-no-turning-back route; once I turn that corner I’ve committed to at least 6 miles.

But before I reached the Point of No Return, I came across a box of stuff that read “FREE” on the side. I gave it a quick gander and discovered it had some good stuff inside.

Hey, it’s not as bad as it sounds. We’ve scored some major goods that people were getting rid of: furniture, home decor, etc. And on the top of the box was a set of DaKine rack pads that are used for a car’s surfboard rack. A great find but I gave them to my neighbor down the street who is an avid surfer.

Once I saw there were more goodies inside, I sent a text to Ann to come pick it up. I had already started my run and was in the groove.

When I got home I had a chance to look in the box. There were some nice items but I, being the music lover, was more delighted by this:

  

A whole bunch of cassette tapes from a bygone era, some of them actually good. 

Come on. You know you love “Rush, Rush” by Paula Abdul. I didn’t care about her opinions regarding cold-hearted snakes or how opposites attracted but this song…this one I like. It took me back to the days when MTV still played music videos, and the one for this song featured a very young Keanu Reeves.

Funny thing about “My Heart Will Go On.” I told Ann yesterday that I wanted to take her to the local Titanic exhibit before it closes sometime next month. Talk about timing.

(The exhibit was really interesting but not as good as the one we saw at the Queen Mary years ago.)

Anyway, mixed in with those tapes was this one:

  
A TDK normal bias tape. Not even chrome. Oh man. If you grew up in the era of cassettes, you know your Case Logic cassette case was about 50% purchased music and 50% “Various” or mixtapes. Mine was more like 75% mixtape.

Being that I still often find myself stuck in the ’80s, I still have two functioning Sony Walkman players. Once I saw this tape I knew what I had to do: listen to it.

And while it wasn’t really much of a mix, I enjoyed just the same.

Most of the songs were Janet Jackson tracks like “Control,” “Nasty Boys,” “What Have You Done for Me Lately,” and “Let’s Wait Awhile.”

But interspersed with Ms. Jackson’s* songs were some by The Jets, everybody’s favorite pop band from Minnesota.

Boy, did those take me back. This song in particular which I listened to in its entirety and, yes, sang along with — loudly.

Ugh. My awkward teenage years. The outfits, the music, the prom, the fun we had without smartphones. You kids these days have absolutely no idea.

In listening to the tape I discovered a few things.

First, kids today will never know the joy of throwing together a mixtape. Making a playlist on your iPhone pales in comparison because there’s no work involved, just dragging and dropping. Plus your music is already on your device.

When we made tapes, we had to take into consideration the total time we had to work with. A 90-minute Maxell? That’s 45 minutes per side. Better make it good.  Then we had to collect which songs wanted on the tape, whether LP or CD (or in some cases, dubbed from the cassette single). Sure, we had that stupid three-digit counter on the cassette deck but it never gave us much help. We had to stare at the tape as it was recording the music and hope it didn’t run out.

Sometimes it did, and your tape was ruined. You had to go without that last song, the one that really tied the theme together. Madness, I tell you.

All of this, by the way, in real time. And if the song skipped? Gotta start it over again at the end of the previous song.

Also while listening to this stranger’s hard work, I heard hisses and pops. This mixtape was recorded from vinyl sources and I have to tell you that it sounded absolutely beautiful on a normal-bias cassette. 

Mixtapes were a lot of work. They were a test of patience but based on the sheer number of tapes we bought back then, it made no difference because they were more of a labor of love. I never found myself without blank tapes, usually 90-minute Maxell XL II, because I never knew when the urge to throw together a tape would hit me.

But when it did, it was pure magic.

*Does this mean I’m a nasty boy?

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…

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!

Proof that YouTube Has Everything


Wow, what an amazingly horrible picture that is. But alas, it is part of my history and a reminder of those two years when I worked at Knott’s Berry Farm, America’s Oldest Themed Amusement Park (or so the recording outside the ticket booths spewed every two minutes).

Even though it was a part-time job, I had a blast working there. I was part of the Admissions Department who possibly had the easiest of jobs anywhere in the park: selling tickets and occasionally working at the admission/re-entry gates. It sure beat working as a food monkey or ride operator – especially on hot summer days when we had the A/C cranked to Max in the ticket booths. They could always tell who worked in Admissions in the Crew’s Nest, our local cafeteria: despite our rather warm and uncomfortable costumes, we were the only ones not sweating in summer.

And summer, naturally, is when amusement parks thrive and when employees need to shine their brightest by giving the best guest experience possible. As such, the Knott family – truly a class act every time I interacted with any of them – made it a point to have a Summer Kick-Off Meeting just before the busy season began.

The meetings we held in the Good Time Theater which is still there but now called the Charles M. Schulz Theater. With so many employees, they had to split the meeting up into two.

Anyway, the meetings were meant to rile up the troops and get them ready for the eventual summer blitzkrieg of tourists and locals alike. They gave us the scoop on the latest rides (usually scheduled to open that summer), got a t-shirt featuring said ride, and overall had a good time.

They also showed a few videos, one of which was the newest, not-yet-released commercial. And then there was the annual Employee Music Video since, well, it was the ‘80s and that’s what everybody seemed to do back then.

The videos featured selected employees from each department around the Farm and was shot in what seemed like a matter of days…possibly one day. To look at it now it’s safe to say that they were quite possibly the worst videos ever made but for a group of 20-somethings making $6.06 an hour, there was nothing better than to see yourself on a big screen in front of all of your co-workers.

And keeping with the title of this post, here’s my proof that YouTube does indeed have everything. (Well, except Prince videos. He doesn’t like this whole Internet thing.) This is the video shot my first year at Knott’s and honestly, I don’t remember the ones for 1990 and 1991. I honestly thought I’d never see this video ever again yet here I am posting a link to it some 22 years later.

Technology is a wonderful thing, methinks. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the horrific quality and lack of technology presented in this thing.

1989 Knott’s Berry Farm Employee/Summer Kick-Off Video – “Dancin’ in the Street”

The dancing, the acting, the everything is just so bad. But for some reason I find myself watching it over and over again, possibly to see if I can recall any of the people in it. And if you think this one’s bad, watch the one from 1988.

Or better yet, 1986.

Notes on the video:

  • At 0:42 – the guy with his back against girl’s back is Darryl Lester in a rare moment when you saw him smiling. Other than that, dude never did. The Main Gate is where I spent my two years.
  • At 0:50 – Gasoline Alley is long gone.
  • People with the red name tags were Leads.
  • At 1:46 – the XK-1 opened in 1990 but was always down for maintenance. It lasted only 8 years.
  • At 1:57 – “The CDR” refers to the Chicken Dinner Restaurant, much in the same way that Disney Cast Members refer to Disney’s California Adventure as DCA. The CDR, by the way, makes some amazing chicken.
  • At 2:23 – The Corkscrew rollercoaster was removed in 1989.
  • At 2:40 – Studio K was Knott’s answer to Disneyland’s Videopolis.

That video, while cheesy, brings me such sweet memories of my time working there and the friends I made there, only one of which I have kept in contact with since then. It’s also a reminder of when Knott’s Berry Farm was still a small, simple, family owned venture chock full of innocent rides, simple fun, and crappy souvenirs.

Sadly, once Cedar Fair took over, it was turned into a corporate business venture with little or no redeeming qualities or, for that matter, heart left. There are many people who, despite its lack of thrill rides, would love to have the old KBF back — cheesiness and all.

I am definitely one of them.

For a rather lengthy history of Knott’s, check out the Wikipedia page.