Life, Shopping

Things I Learned Today: March 24, 2017


In an effort to keep this here blog of mine going I’ve decided to try something a little different.

They say that we learn something new every day, and today I found that to be exceptionally true. In fact, I started compiling a list in my head while on my drive to work and only found myself adding more things to it, so that didn’t really go as planned.

I’m not very good at mental note-taking so I tried my best to remember what it was I had thought of and haphazardly typed it into Word while on my break at the office. And now I present today’s list.

Things I Learned Today for March 24, 2017

1. People still use CDs in their cars. Shocking, I know. But I was reminded of this when I drove past a guy who had a Case Logic visor CD organizer that was filled with purchased CDs and burned-at-home CD-Rs. It all seemed rather ‘90s since my last two cars have had USB ports and my music has either been on a thumb drive or smartphone ever since. I’m not a big terrestrial radio fan and am a proud Spotify Premium subscriber so my music collection had been downloaded from there and is all on my iPhone. Also, Ann’s car doesn’t even have a CD slot – all music is played via Bluetooth or USB port.

2. The local daily newspaper now costs $1. There was a time when I had to scrape together four quarters to buy the Sunday paper in order to get all of the retail ads and coupons. The daily cost a fourth of that. But as with everything, technology has just about killed this format. Coupons and ads can now be seen online and with Amazon, you don’t really need ads anymore because chances are they have what you need for less and will ship it to you for free. Then why did I even bother buy a newspaper today? The Long Beach Grand Prix is approaching and there was a voucher for a free Friday ticket in today’s edition. That’s the day that the office sort of takes a rather long lunch since the event is literally across the street from us. So spending the $1 was well worth it. Any other day? Not so much.

3. Water refill stations still exist. Whether they are against the wall of the local Walgreens or fancy stand-alone jobs that look like a windmill, they are still around and people still use them. I found this out while researching them since we are in the market to have water delivered to us. I am still not drinking [diet] soda regularly, although there have been a few occasions while dining out when I did get one as a treat. Water is still my mainstay and I have an app to remind me to reach my daily goal of 100 oz., so I figured that having it delivered might be cheaper than buying a case of bottled water at the store. At $1.50 for five gallons from said refill stations, it probably will be. And while I don’t buy soda anymore, I have found a tasty substitute should I crave something bubbly. Highly recommended if you can find it in your area.

4. Domino’s pasta bowls are carb overload. This one may seem a bit obvious but I learned the hard way. Ann ordered three of them last night for dinner and being as hungry as I was when I got home from work, I devoured mine in no time. The bad part: I wasn’t running a marathon today. If I had been, the combination of pasta and pizza crust would have been an excellent source of fuel to burn off. Instead, they sat in my stomach all day and magically turned into sugar as they tend to do if you don’t use them. It was total carb overload, and I felt it all day long. Pretty stupid move.

5. Vans never go out of style. Last week we took Anthony birthday shopping at the local outlets. He loves Vans and has a pretty decent collection of them. In fact, his love ignited mine and I started to build my own collection which includes a pair inspired by The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine (that I will never wear). I wore Off The Walls all the time as a kid – when we could afford them – so wearing them again on a regular basis is fun, and it doesn’t hurt that I can wear them to the office. I have an assortment of colors to choose from but I made a purchase at the outlets last weekend that I won’t soon regret.

Photo Mar 24, 9 15 00 PM

Depending on your monitor calibration, the brightness of your smartphone screen or any other number of factors, these Old Skool style Vans are bright pink with the signature Vans stipe running the sides in cyan. For $20 and 50% off a second pair, I couldn’t pass them up. They are a hit, inside the office and out. I actually had a guy stop me while I was on my bike ride to tell me how much he liked them and today while returning from a Starbucks run with a coworker, someone else walked past and complimented me on my choice of footwear – only I was wearing these instead.

IMG_5229

These are all purple with gold eyes. I also have pairs in dark green and blue, and I dig them all. All this admiration just goes to show that Vans are timeless and at least in their birthplace of southern California, they are more of a lifestyle than anything.

What will I learn tomorrow? Who knows. But I hope you enjoyed the list of things I learned today.

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Life, year in review

Dear 2016


On a personal level, you were a mixed bag.

In February, I was finally hired at my job after working months as a freelancer and I love it. I can’t imagine being anywhere else (in terms of commute, location, the job itself). Also in February, I had a little incident with the parking garage arm while exiting on my scooter. I didn’t write about it since it happened at work.

In April, Ann spent a few days in the hospital after experiencing chest pains. Everything checked out fine and she’s has no problems since.

The summer saw us spending time at quite a few local spots and some not as close.

And in October, I had a second incident on my scooter which was a little more severe than the one in February. But I’m fine and it’s all taken care of, even if the scooter was declared a total loss.

All in all, the good definitely outweighed the bad and for that I’m thankful.

But enough of me. Nobody can look back on you, oh 2016, without thinking about all of the talent we’ve lost. I compiled a list of those I could think of, and note that since starting this list I had to reluctantly make some additions to it:

abe vigoda
Abe Vigoda of Barney Miller

alan rickman
Alan Rickman

alan thicke
Alan Thicke

arnold_palmer
Arnold Palmer

beth howland
Beth Howland of Alice

billy paul
Billy Paul, known for his hit song “Me and Mrs. Jones”

carrie-fisher-debbie-reynolds
Carrie Fisher (12/27/16) and her mother Debbie Reynolds (12/28/16)

dan haggerty
Dan Haggerty of Grizzly Adams

dave mirra
Dave Mirra

david bowie
David Bowie

david huddleston
David Huddleston, who was in two of my favorite movies: The Big Lebowski and Blazing Saddles

doris roberts
Doris Roberts

erik bauersfeld
Erik Bauersfeld, voice of Admiral “It’s a trap!” Ackbar

florence henderson
Florence Henderson

garry marshall
Gary Marshall

garry shandling
Garry Shandling

gene wilder
Gene Wilder (seen here in Blazing Saddles)

george s irving
George S. Irving aka Heat Miser from The Year Without A Santa Claus

george kennedy
George Kennedy

george martin
Sir George Martin, producer extraordinaire

george michael
George Michael

glenn frey
Glenn Frey

gordie howe
Gordie Howe

greg lake
Greg Lake of Emerson, Lake and Palmer

harper lee
Harper Lee

3201004P NEW YORK METS
Broadcaster Joe Garagiola (seen here with Gary Carter, who died in 2012)

john glenn
John Glenn

jon polito
Jon Polito, who also was in The Big Lebowski

kenny baker
Kenny Baker

kimbo slice
Kimbo Slice

leon russell
Leon Russell

leonard cohen
Leonard Cohen

maurice white
Maurice White of Earth, Wind and Fire

merle haggard
Merle Haggard

morley safer
Morley Safer

mr fuji
WWF star Mr. Fuji

muhammad ali
The GOAT

nancy reagan
Nancy Reagan

natalie cole
Natalie Cole

pat harrington
Pat Harrington of One Day At A Time

patty duke
Patty Duke

pete burns
Pete Burns

RA1004_PRINCE
Prince

prince be attrell cordes
Atrell Cordes aka Price Be of PM Dawn

robert vaughn
Robert Vaughn

Rod Temperton
Songwriter Rod Temperton

ron glass
Ron Glass, also of Barney Miller

vanity
Vanity, Prince protégé

zsa zsa
Zsa Zsa Gabor


So hey, 2016. Your time is up.

Seriously. Get out. You’ve done enough damage. Nobody will miss you.

Here’s wishing you all a very happy and prosperous 2017!

 

Life, Music

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.

PSBSuperTour

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.

File Oct 31, 10 06 51 PM

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.

IMG_9786

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.

Life, Music, Uncategorized

Well, This Sucks


I’ve been listening to a lot of Japanese music lately at work courtesy of J1 Radio, in particular their Gold channel which plays some really, really good oldies. No translation needed; the music alone is fantastic.

Although I have to admit that a lot of words are becoming more familiar to me, like “toki doki” (sometimes), “watashi” (I), and “kawaii” (cute). Anyway…

When I hear a song I really like, I’ve gotten into the habit of copying-and-pasting the artist and song title into an email draft and at the end of the day (or couple of days, depending on how well I can manage the list), sending it to my personal address.

From there, I’ll look them up on the YouTube and add them to a playlist. But therein lies the problem.

The issue I was having is that the songs were presented on J1 in Romaji, or the Romanization of the Japanese syllabary.

Example: searching for Mayuzumi Jun “Tenshi no Yuwaku” — my current song obsession — might only yield a few results because most users would have uploaded the video in its traditional Japanese using the combination of Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji.

In short, this: 使の誘惑 黛ジュン

Here’s the song and oh, it’s a good one. It’s been stuck in my head for a while and the video is so freaking retro it kills me.

But here, finally, was the problem. Many searches returned absolutely nothing when using Romaji and being I’m not fluent in Japanese nor would have any clue on how to translate the title properly, there was no hope for some of the songs I wanted to find and add to my ever-expanding “Japanese Classics” playlist.

What a bummer.

But today at work I accidentally found the solution to my problem. The site has a page where you can request a song and of course with that, you’d have to know the artist and/or title. What I discovered was that they maintain an A-Z database of artists they play on the station. So if I were to request the song above, I’d look up the singer’s name under the M category. All of her songs J1 plays would be listed under her name.

So I did just that. I found her along with her name and the song title in proper Japanese characters. But being I already had it on my playlist, I opted to search for one that I couldn’t find on the YouTube using Romaji.

I picked one I know I couldn’t find with Romaji, copied the Japanese title, and searched for it on the YouTube.

BINGO. Found. Then I tried another. BOOM. Score.

This was becoming all too easy and I was happy. I added those few I had found to my playlist and couldn’t wait to go home when until I finally had some quiet time in the evening to finish up my search.

With the kid to bed at 9pm, it was time to look at those emails and apply my new-found method of searching so that I could a) finally add them and b) have a good ol’ time doing it.

I had just started to read one of the emails and began seaching, adding whichever version of the song(s) I preferred to my playlist since I was now getting multiple results for each song. I would have been there all night doing it if it were my choice.

And it was all going so well…before the site went down for maintenance and, as of this post, is still down.

(UPDATE 5/7/16: it was back this morning. Yay!)

Grrrrr. So just when things were falling into place, I get shot down. Hopefully it goes back online real soon so I can continue my searching.

At least this little unexpected outage gave me time to write and less time on Facebook which I’m trying to avoid again. Less time on Facebook has also given me time in the evening to workout and study Spanish so it’s definitely working out.

And if I keep up all this working out, I’ll have to expand my Workout Playlist. After all, who wouldn’t want to workout to “Sexual Violet No. 1”?

I know I would!

 

Entertainment, Music, Requiem in Pace

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:

File Apr 23, 10 11 46 PM

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?”

Money Don’t Matter 2 Night

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.

File Apr 23, 10 11 46 PM

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

File Apr 23, 10 17 30 PM

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”

1999

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:

2000px-Parental_Advisory_label.svg

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.

eiffel

The Eiffel Tower.

la1

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

twins

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

New-Yorker-May

New Yorker Magazine.

04-22-2016-prince-purple-forum

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

File Apr 23, 11 51 46 PM

Long Beach Transit.

File Apr 24, 12 24 09 AM

The local news during the Entertainment Report.

tulsa

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.

star

“Baby I’m a star”

File Apr 24, 12 24 30 AM

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”

7

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

DSCF5993_prince

Free Stuff!, Music

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?

Life, Music

Bad Luck Beard


First of all, if you’re reading this post via a link posted on Facebook (they generate automatically), you’ll notice I’ve been absent for over a week. I do that from time to time so that I don’t get too caught up in any of that funky shit going down in the city.

And so far, it’s been rather nice. The place gets to be like freaking Groundhog Day at times. Yeah, I’m sure I’m no better but meh, it’s not about me. Or is it?

But moving on…

I’m don’t make myself out to be the very superstitious type in that I don’t believe in any of those silly things.

Black cats? I’d have at least a few if I could.

Walking under ladders and opening umbrellas indoors? Pfft. Whatever. Makes no difference to me. I’d do it all day.

But on occasion, things will happen that sort of leave me wondering.

Our office was closed from Christmas Eve until January 4. With such a long time away from work, I decided I’d try something different: to grow a little bit more facial hair since outside of a goatee, I really never have before.

Well, make that one time. I was growing one while working at Ralphs but for some reason, it was against their grooming standards. Goatees were fine. Arms covered in tattoos* were fine as were any kind of body modification. You know — pierced noses, lips, and eyebrows? Stuff like that.

Fingernails of ridiculous length that were slathered in the most hideous display of ungodly and unsightly sparkly trinkets and colors? No problem. In fact, we’ll have you cashier so that everybody can see them!

But facial hair that went below the earlobe? TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE! When I was told this, I returned the next day sans all facial hair. The manager asked why.

“All or nothing,” I replied. “Go big or go home.” Ralphs is a really, really shitty place to work, by the way. I’m sure you’ve figured that out by now.

Anyway, when it came to growing this facial hair, it was to be kept nice and neat. I didn’t want it to extend down my neck and shake hands with the hairs on my chest. Blecch. Nasty. I’m not a big fan of that look. It’s just…Chewbacca.

So I started my vacation with this little plan. I began to shave around it every day in order to keep it neat-n-tidy. It was working rather well and I was happy with the look so far. It was to stay on my face.

Then a few days after Christmas, the world of hard rock lost one of its most badass bassists and guttural vocalists in Lemmy Kilmister.

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And that was the end of Motörhead.

Three days later, Grammy-winning singer/songwriter Natalie Cole passed away.

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I didn’t really give it much thought because, as I said before, I’m not one to give much credence to superstitions. But I kept the beard of sorts going.

Then on January 10, 2016, the real bombshell: David Bowie died. I think this hit the world like a ton of bricks.

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Of all these musicians’ passing, Bowie had the biggest impact on me. His songs are just timeless and the soundtrack of my youth.

Now was when I started to think about the facial hair. It just seemed odd to me that all of these musicians were suddenly passing away after my decision to let it grow out a bit.

Then yesterday…

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Glenn Frey, one of the founding members of The Eagles, died. This was yet another guy whose music was a big part of my youth. So many good memories growing up and listening to The Eagles as we wasted what seemed like endless summers.

So yesterday night, after thinking about all of this, I looked in the mirror and grabbed my trimmer. The beard was getting rather unkempt; longer than I had wanted it. It was also grey, and I’m not the kind of guy who runs to Walgreens for a box of beard dye. It made me look old(er) and I didn’t want that.

I then trimmed the facial hair down to what would be manageable with a standard razor.

Today I shaved it all off.

And hopefully, that will end this streak.

Not that I believe in that kind of stuff, you know.

*I have nothing against tattoos. I have one myself and plan to get more. Like the body mods and fingernails, I’m only using them for comparison to the less noticeable sideburns-below-the-ear look.