Monday, March 28, 2011

Face The Music

In the 8th grade, the highlight of my week was spending the weekend at my mother's. I would watch NBC's "Friday Night Videos" and based on that, make a tentative decision on what cassette I'd be buying the following day. I'd get up early Saturday morning, take a shower, and tell my mom that I was off to the mall.

It was about a two-mile walk to the shopping center. My strategy was to go on streets that were less traveled; I enjoyed the relative quiet of these side streets. The second half of the walk was adjacent to one of Winona's lakes. It got mighty cold there in the wintertime. I sometimes felt like Bryan Adams in the "Run To You" video.

Once I hit the mall, all was well. I'd head for Face The Music and take a look at the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart before browsing through the latest cassettes. The music store obviously played music while I was there, but it generally wasn't from works that I was interested in getting. There was one time, however, when they played New Edition's new one.

Many times, getting a recording was a crap shoot as there was no way of knowing if the songs on it, other than the hits, were any good. I once asked myself, which was better, excitedly walking to the mall wondering which of the dozens of works that were available that I'd purchase or the walk home, when I had picked one out and would be able to listen to it once I got back. I decided that the walk home was superior.

One winter afternoon, I strolled to my mom's with Tina Turner's "Private Dancer" in my pocket; "Better Be Good To Me" is probably my favorite track from it. This tradition continued for a number of years. On one sunny 1986 day, I bought both Madonna's "True Blue" and Wham's "Music From The Edge of Heaven".

I mentioned in my last post that I had been watching the BBC miniseries "Electric Dreams" (about a contemporary family who live without modern-day devices).

In the 70's episode, the 12-year old said that he was impressed with records, that it was nice to have something physical to look at and read while one is listening to the music. He mentioned that this isn't the case when one downloads music by computer. I feel the same, though am more than fine with CD's. The main positive of buying a compact disc is being able to play it in the car. I know that it's possible to listen to downloaded music in one's vehicle, but am not quite ready to make that jump.

Last Tuesday, for the first time in quite a while, I bought a CD on its release date: Duran Duran's "All You Need Is Now". I had been listening to a number of tracks from it on YouTube over the past couple months, and when I saw that it was being released with several more songs on it on March 22nd, I knew I wanted to buy it. I never thought as a teenager in the 80's that I'd still be buying new music by the band in my forties.

Thursday, March 24, 2011


While watching the BBC documentary "Electric Dreams" (it's about a family that lives without 21st-century devices for a month), I was reminded of the first time I was introduced to various 20th-century gadgets. In 1982, thinking that it would be something that I'd enjoy being creative with, my mother bought me a tape recorder.

I had went to bed while she was out buying it, but woke up the next morning eager to try it out. I was the first one up as I sat in front of the living room heating vent to keep myself warm as I introduced myself to the device; "Hello, tape recorder, we're going to make some beautiful music together". Along with the recorder itself, my mom had also bought a blank cassette. It was a 90-minute tape made by TDK. She had been told by her sister that 120 minute tapes break relatively easy because of their extra-long size.

I tried to put what I thought was the tape into the recorder, but it was too big. I realized, after a minute or two, that the cassette was still in its case. I opened it up and put the tape inside. The first thing I recorded was me saying, "Testing...1...2...3... Testing ...1...2...3". I played it back and, like many, didn't really believe that the way I sounded on the tape was how I came off in real life. That first day, I recorded a number of TV commercials (a Qbert ad, for one) as well as my brothers and sister talking a bit.

The device hit its full potential in the summer of '83 when I recorded an adaptation of the blockbuster movie "Return of the Jedi" with my siblings. As we headed into the second half of that recording, I quizzed my younger brother on Star Wars minutiae:

Friday, March 18, 2011

Twentieth Century Boy

Thinking about the last post I made (regarding some of the things I experienced in the late 90's), I pondered on how grand it would be if I were able to talk to my 1997-era self, to be able to have a conversation with him, to ask for his thoughts on life and how they compare to my own in 2011.

That man is more overweight than I am, but has less gray hairs.

He likes to shave every other day, something I continue to do. He's only had sex for a few years and just got his drivers' license in the summer of '95. He's just read what he considers to be the best book ever: "Conversations With God" and is sky-high on the wisdom it has imparted to him. He's single, but looks to be getting married the following summer.

Does he imagine what life at 40 is going to be like? Would he shudder knowing that in five years, he'll have kidney stones, that having kids won't be in the cards? He would be fairly self-assured, though he has some interesting habits. When he's in his car and sees the person in front of him throw a cigarette out the window, he'll honk at them as if to say, "What the hell do you think you're doing, littering the roads of this beautiful town?"

He's been a big fan of country music since 1992 when he was first exposed to a show called VH1 Country, an hourlong program that showed past and present country videos. He felt so at home with the genre that he believed it would always be his favorite. Little does he know that in a few years, he'll be buying a number of 80's pop CD's. He now has well over a hundred such discs. He'll work a variety of different jobs in the 2000's, mostly consisting of telephone work.

I wouldn't tell him these things, of course. I'd just like to visit with him for a few hours in a place where he'd be most comfortable, perhaps at one of his favorite restaurants, Wendy's or Taco John's. Maybe we could hit one of the old-school theatres that existed back then, years before stadium-seating came to town. I'm sure he'd be glad to know that two films will rock his world before the end of the decade ("Titanic" and "American Beauty"). I wouldn't wish to allude to the Star Wars prequel trilogy being a bit of a disappointment or that the dog his fiancee' recently picked up wouldn't make it to 2001.

We could discuss favorite childhood memories, various anti-social things we'd done, and women we wished we'd fucked. When it came time to part, I would tell him to enjoy being young, to strive to be kind to all those he encountered (even those who are smokers), and to consider writing his thoughts into a journal so that I might post them one day.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

What's Park Spelled Backwards?

The summer of 1997 was my first in Rochester, a city of 70,000, and I struggled to find things to do when I wasn't working at Premiere Video. One sunny afternoon, I decided to take a stroll on one of the many bike trails that the town had to offer. Before starting, I took a look at the map that had been posted near the trail and chose to take the path that would lead me back to my car.

I must've took a wrong turn as I kept walking and walking, not feeling I was getting any closer to my vehicle. I finally decided to get off the trail and into the residential neighborhoods where, after some time, I was able to piece together how to get back to my point of origin. One good side to the encounter was that I certainly got my exercise for the day.

On a number of occasions, when I needed to get away from my wife-to-be, I drove to a hillside that was located behind a retail establishment called ShopKo. It was steep going at first, like the side of a cliff, but once up there, I got a good view of the area and was able to chill out a bit.

On one evening, I went to a park located at the edge of town. The sun had recently set as I parked my car. Within seconds, some guy parked right next to me, unnecessary I thought, as there were several other parking spots to be found. Feeling a bit uncomfortable, I pulled out and drove about ten parking places to the right. As I turned in, another man parked next to me. Frustrated at not being able to be left alone, I returned home. I found out later that the park was a gay pickup spot.

The place I wound up spending most of my time outdoors was Silver Lake.

Thirty-two minutes was how long it typically took to circle the body of water. Most of the time, I brought my Walkman along to listen to as I walked. When Tori Amos' new CD came out in the fall of 2001, the first time I listened to it was walking around the lake.

One early evening, as I began my walk, I felt a bowel movement coming on, so hurried a bit and headed to a McDonalds that was located just adjacent to the park. Sometimes, at the end of my walk, I would celebrate by going on the swings that were next to the lodge. One time, I smiled blissedly while doing this and listening to Clint Black's Christmas album. I never swung too long as it would make me dizzy after a time.

Sometimes I'd walk with my friend, Art, but it could get tiring as he would whistle at virtually every woman who passed by. One day, halfway around the trail, we were walking together and I had to urinate badly. I saw a huge pine tree coming up and told him I was going to relieve myself there. I looked around and didn't see anyone else nearby. As I situated myself beneath the tree, Art said I wasn't completely obscured, but went for it, anyway. Feeling much better, we continued on our way.

To relieve some of the boredom from walking around the same ol' lake, I had a bit of fun from time to time. I had a ballcap that I would put on not forward or backward, but sideways. I also had some really far-out glasses that I'd put on, the kind that Jesse Ventura used to wear when he was a wrestler.

I was basically daring other walkers to laugh at me and looked closely at people's reactions as I got closer and passed them by.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

A Little Bit of Ecstacy

Wednesday afternoon, I brought the latest issue of the local newspaper into my workplace; it's delivered there during the week. Affixed to the front of it was a sticker that said Great Clips was having their Great Haircut Sale for $6.99. This was perfect timing as I was overdue to get my mane trimmed.

So it was that yesterday afternoon, I headed to their outlet near Wal-Mart and said that I was there to "participate in the Great Haircut Sale". The brunette at the counter smiled and said I could be seen by her right away. We exchanged pleasantries as I told her that I wanted the usual: a number two blade on the sides and back blended in with the top.

As she got started, I noticed an older gentleman getting his hair cut. I was a bit transfixed as I noticed how intently he looked at himself as this was being done. When I'm having a cut, I'll look at anything other than my own face. I'll look at the floor, at the utensils that are on the stylist's stand, at the signage placed there.

I hesitate to say that people who stare at themselves like this man did are vain. They're obviously comfortable with what's in front of them. I suppose some feel that if they don't pay extreme attention to what's being done to their hair, they could miss the moment when the stylist messes it up and they're taken to the point of no return. They're on high alert like the main character from "Hurt Locker", knowing that the next moment might portend their doom.

One big plus of a haircut is being physically touched by an attractive member of the opposite sex. Not that my wife isn't good-looking, but she's been touching me for more than a dozen years. During the haircut, I was thinking, "This feels so good, I almost don't mind if she cuts off more than I want her to" (I was semi-uncomfortable the last time I got a haircut as I knew my wife was watching closely).

A few minutes later, she sent me off and I was in a great mood as I headed to Wal-Mart to pick up some groceries.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Two Weeks of (Mostly) Bliss

Twelve days ago, my SexyGirl took a plane to sunny Las Vegas to spend some time with her parents. Here is what she looks like six months after bariatric surgery:

I knew I was going to miss her, but looked forward to having some "T" time. The first morning I woke up without her by my side, I was startled and soothed by the silence. I've spent the mornings sleeping in, going on the computer for a time, and enjoying the TV not being on during the day.

Before she left, she asked me to be sure that the house didn't get too dirty. Her comment convinced me that she'd come home to a great surprise. Each day last week, I spent an hour or two doing some de-cluttering. Her closet floor had a bunch of clothes and crap all over it, so it was greatly rewarding to remove it as I listened to some of my favorite music. Clothes that were too big for her, I put into storage in the basement. Downstairs, there were boxes scattered everywhere. As I listened to the cassette of Midnight Star's "Planetary Invasion", I put as many boxes as I could underneath the stairs.

One evening, I cleaned out some of the paperwork that had accumulated in one of our kitchen drawers. As I took the drawer out and swept the dust into the wastebasket, I lost grip of it and it fell on my big toe. Youch! It still hurts when I bend it.

When she calls me up each night and asks what I've been up to, I have to omit most of the cleaning I've done in order to ensure the surprise. On one call, she said that she might want to have some cleaning ladies come out as a late birthday present. Maids do a good job of cleaning, but they can't sort through drawers and decide what can and can't be tossed.

I've kept myself relatively busy throughout. Last Sunday, I went to the Hindu temple. It was boring in some parts, but got more interesting when I asked the group if it was better to have an easy life or a hard one. One of the more knowledgeable Hindus said that it's better to have a harder life as one is more apt to turn to a higher power when there is struggle. Not much spiritual growth is typically accomplished when one has it easy. My depression of many years ago attests to this.

I had my monthly massage a couple days ago. Costing just $55 for 90 minutes and located a mere seven blocks from my home, it's an appointment I always look forward to. I'm sometimes caught between wanting to be quiet as she does her work and catching up on what's been going on with her; we worked together in the early '00s. My love also had a massage last week. She's had about four of them in her life and every time, they've been in Sin City with her parents.

She's seen three movies while out there, easily beating me in movie attendance. There've been a couple occasions when I've thought about going, but felt I would be better served by staying home and watching stuff on the DVR. One of my favorites is the late 70's game show "Card Sharks". I enjoyed it as a child and it's great to be able to watch it again.

I went to a pizza place on Friday night with a friend and her daughter and the place was packed. There was a boy of about 12 who kept passing by our table as he went to play video games. With a short blonde haircut and a ballcap on, I pretended that I wanted to say something every time he passed. On one pass, he actually stopped, so I said what I'd been thinking, "You know who you look like?" He said, "Who?" I replied, "Justin Bieber". He said, "Thanks".

I also had some fun yesterday at the grocery store. There was an early-20 something who was shopping and you could plainly see his underwear underneath his pants as he walked the aisles. This irritated me a bit, so I decided to make light of it. I went up to the guy he was shopping with and said, "Your friend's underwear are hot". The man laughed as I headed to the check-out.