Sunday, June 19, 2011

Amazing Larry

And So This Is Father's Day.

Many moons ago when Motley Crue's Theatre of Pain tour came to St. Paul my Aunt Cookie and I were eagerly waiting in the box office line the day of the show for tickets. Regrettably the show sold out a few dozen people ahead of us. Pee Wee's Big Adventure was fresh out in theaters at the time and neither of us had seen it yet, so in an effort to alleviate our sorrows we headed back to the car in the parking ramp and off to the movie thee-ay-ter to take in what would instantly become one of my favorite movies of all time. I found a Footloose soundtrack cassette on the parking ramp floor as we walked back to the car which was pretty sweet. It had been run over a few times but much to my surprise when I got home and popped it in the ol' boom box it still worked.

One of the hardest laughs I got was when Pee Wee yelled at his friend Amazing Larry. Larry happens to be my dad's name, so as a result since day one he has always been my first point of reference whenever I hear that name. When you're 12 or 13 and don't see it coming, Pee Wee Herman Yelling "IS THIS SOMETHING YOU CAN SHARE WITH THE REST OF US AMAZING LARRY?" followed by the scene at the left is some funny shit. Especially when your dad is named Larry.

I think we need to start calling my dad Amazing Larry. Why? Well let me crack into a Top 11 list like I did for my mom and explain why. The idea behind a Top 11 List is 11 has one more 1 than 10 which makes it one more awesome than 10. And it consists of all #1's. That's how #1 my parents are!

Amazing Larry's Top 11 List

1. He busted his ass and took care of his family. That's golden rule #1 of being an awesome dad. He didn't go off having a bastard son with the family maid like that Terminator guy did. We never had a maid but that's beside the point.

1. When mom called upon him waking him up (easy thing to do, he worked nights) getting final approval to spend his hard earned money on my first real guitar amp, he said yes. There was never a moment with either of my parents where they weren't supportive with my obsession with the guitar.

1. On that note, my bedroom was right next to his and he worked nights. I liked to play my guitar. A LOT. Do the math on that one. While he was next door attempting to drown the noise out with a fan and saw logs for his next 12+ hour night shift at 3M, I was cranking the likes of KISS, Overkill, Van Halen, Motley Crue, Megadeth, Nuclear Assault, Slayer, Exodus, and Death Angel to name a few. Imagine trying to sleep while a wall-muffled version of this shit was blaring next to you. Add my trying to learn those guitar riffs into the mix, listening to these songs over and over... it's a wonder why he didn't come in and Bluto my guitar. I still listen to That Shit on a regular basis and love it. Sorry for the years of torture, dad. If it's "a phase" as people sometimes like to say, I'm still stuck in it!

1. The many times I was brought to the Bad Report Card Altar of Sacrifice (usually prior to his pre-work nap) he never sacrificed me. I got a good talking to, believe you me. I suppose it was more of an altar of verbal sacrifice. I certainly deserved it. Like the aforementioned loud music I often think he must have had to sit on his hands to keep from strangling me sometimes.

1. This kind of applies to the last 2 #1's, but after the Report Card tongue lashings I'd usually end up grounded and sitting in my room. And like I said, they were always supportive with my craving to play music so never took my guitar away. Being imprisoned to my room for bad grades meant more time with my guitars and KISS records. Thank you for grounding me!

1. I can't tell you the number of times he's come to rescue all of his wonderful delightful children (and wifey-poo) with cars that were either stalled or had keys locked in them. He drove all the way out to Minneapolis and crawled under my dead station wagon that was on a busy street a time or two. Amazing Larry was and is the go-to dude for all of our emergency car repair needs and questions. I don't have a car anymore so he's kind of off the hook with this one... but I can't thank him enough for saving my arse so many times.

1. He makes a boooooooooya that is fit for a king. That word is funny, "booya". The recipe is a secret which I don't know if anyone but Amazing Larry will ever know, and when he makes it there's enough to feed a large army. If it weren't for freezer containers he'd need two bathtubs to contain all of that succulent booya. That stuff is some of the most delicious, savory liquid food with chunks ever. I wish it could be mailed to me.

1. He is the grill master. I got a few lessons from him back in day of how to season grass-fed cow meat, shape it into exquisite patties, and grill those little pucks of deliciousness up. I've tried my hand at grilling over the years but it's just not the same as when Amazing Larry does it. A few years back everyone came to our apartment in Minneapolis where I did the grilling and felt like I was writing a song that Paul McCartney was going to listen to.

1. He can sing like a mo-fo. The Three Tenors should have been the Four Tenors, Amazing Larry being the fourth one. Now that Pavarotti isn't in the mix anymore perhaps he should fill out an application to take his spot.

1. He took guitar lessons way back when I was a wee lad and kept his nylon string Sigma guitar in a black case under his bed. I used to sneak in there and crack open the case to pluck the strings long before I knew what all of those frets and tuning pegs were for. Some dads keep loaded guns hidden in their bedrooms... mine kept a loaded guitar. AW YEAH.

1. He had (and probably still has) a "guy drawer" in his dresser that I used to snoop around in after I was done with the guitar. It consisted of coins, combs, credit cards, and a vast assortment of other belongings that didn't really have a proper home.. so they went in the guy drawer. I always thought that was really cool.

1. He led by example with the DO IT YOURSELF super power. That's the one where you can either a) do a kickass job of fixing something on your own or b) pay someone else a lot of money to do it for you and almost always opt for number A. Fixing cars, remodeling basements, bargain hunting, electrical wiring, duct work, you name it... he is to that stuff like my mom is to sewing, cooking, and pianoing.


This list was just off the top of my head and I could keep going to 111. It's too easy to think of stuff. I think this list actually has twelve #1's... oops. But that's the beauty of the top 11 list. It can have 1 more #1 in it that it's supposed to. I'll hang it up for now but pick up right where I left off next year.

Happy Father's Day, Amazing Larry - Wish we were about 1,170 miles closer so we could cruise over and party with you today!

Amazing Larry Photo by Amazing Chad Richardson Photography 07.07.07

Sunday, May 8, 2011

11 Awesome Things About My Mom

All of them are #1 because MY MOM FUCKING RULES. This was going to be a list of 10 items but I made it 11, because it has one more 1 in it which makes it 1 more awesome than 10. That's how #1 she is!

1. She drove me all over the place to buy my first few guitars and amps. Dad would have too but he worked nights to pay for things like my 2nd guitar and amp and various effects pedals so he was usually sleeping during the day.. I guess I can let that slide, Dad. But hey, more about him on Father's Day.

1. She stands up for her right to eat sardines in the house even though everyone else says they stink

1. My sister and I (I think?) were bickering in the car while Mom was driving and we were annoying enough to disgust her to the point of making her throw her chicken sandwich out the window. Yet she still kept us! Yay for not being sold to a third world country and subjected to a life of sewing soccer balls together or making socks at the Hanes factory for 18 hours a day!

1. Mom makes the coolest quilts ever (ours has KISS pajama patches in it and even a pocket)

1. Mom makes the best bread in the world and killer mochas

1. Back when we lived in MN I was always sent home with white containers of delicious homemade Mom food

1. She subjected me to good music when I was a kid

1. She knows how to send the email on the internets and use The Facebook

1. She used to take me along on midnight shopping trips to Cub Foods and buy me issues of Hit Parader and Metal Edge

1. Before I knew her she was hot. I can't say she's hot after being born because that's kinda gross, but I've seen pictures of her back when my Dad was courting her and yeah, she was hot. She probably still is but like I said, I just can't go there. I'm her son, for crying out loud

1. She makes cakes that are 10 times better than any of that crap you pay 10 times more for at a bakery. For reals. Hit her up for a wedding cake sometime, even if you're not getting married.

There you have it. There's a million more #1s about her but what do you think I do, sit around and write 11 Awesome Thing Number 1 lists about my Mother all day? Only people who are sick in the head or still think their mom is hot do that. I've got an iced mocha to drink and fingernails to clip. Time is money. Chop chop!

Love ya Maw - Happy Mum's Day!

Monday, January 31, 2011

Sounds like I'll need to wear Depends on Thursday

I've been emailing back and forth with a vendor about getting a computer part that I need to have in my meat hooks ASAP and asked if they could reroute the delivery address to my workplace instead of our apartment. In his replies I'm noticing that although he seems to have a relatively firm grasp on how our language works, there are still a few wires under the hood that need detangling. Either that or he knows something I don't know... will the restrooms at work be out of order on Thursday? Am I going to be so excited about this package arriving that I'm going to lose control of my own package? Why is he suggesting that I may be less likely to lose control of my bladder if FedEx delivers on Saturday?

Time will tell. Without further ado, here's his note.

Package is signature required so UPS won't leave it untended

If they wont be able deliver it on Thursday let me know we'll reroute to your work address. Unfortunately we can't reroute right away becose UPS have to make one delivery attempt

Sorry for any incontinence

If it is going to be more continent we can ship it VIA FedEX so it can be delivered to you on Saturday

Tank you 

Saturday, January 29, 2011

My chili contains oatmeal, therefore it is good for me

Last night while busting out the Hebrew Nationals and can-o-turkey chili for a kickass Chilidawgs au Tabasco dinner I realized something about the can of chili: back in the old days we used to have to use a can opener to access our chili.

As you can see by observing my photo to the left, no can opener required nowadays. There's an easy open tab on top of the can! I'm so glad that Hormel has incorporated this convenient feature into their packaging. In the 1990s if I was on the train or bus and came across a can of chili when digging around in my backpack for an item to snack upon, there's no way I'd be able to access any of that delicious chili without the aid of a can opener. I'd have to opt for the CLIF bar instead, and sometimes I'm just not in the mood for a CLIF bar. From now on I'm always keeping a can of Hormel chili in my bag. Alls I have to do is pull that tab and drink up as much slightly-colder-than-room-temperature Hormel chili as I can muster.

As an added bonus, the lid would serve as a personal safety device. I don't need no knives or guns, oh HELL no. All I need is the chili lid. Let's say a bunch of seedy thugs were to board a train that I was on and there was the funk of imminent trouble in the air. They'd think nothing of it if they saw me dig my can of chili out of my bag. "It's cool, dudes, just gonna drink some chili. Long day at the office, ya know what I mean?" They'd let their guard down after realizing I wasn't pulling a piece out of my bag. Little would they know as soon as I put my index finger in that can opener ring and ripped it off, well... "Say Ello To My Little Frend". As soon as they started getting up in someone's shit I'd jump up and start swooshing my canblade through the air. "YOU WANNA FUCK WITH PEOPLE, HA? WELL YOU PICKED THE WRONG TRAIN TODAY, MUTHAFUKKAAAAAS!!" With a few lightning fast swoops of my canblade ring I would have all but one of them decapitated. I'd let the last one go so he could run crying back to their leader like a little baby with a gigantic warm pee stain on the front of his trousers. But before he ran off I'd let him know: "Tell the boss man that he can thank Canblade for sparing your life."


When looking at food packaging it's interesting to think that someone actually takes the pictures on those labels. There were probably a few hundred photos of chili taken that day and they probably all looked roughly the same. A team of experts was then called in and paid to sift through them all and pick the best picture of a bowl of chili. Imagine how much pressure there must be to do that job.

"The cloth napkin is a little blurry in this one."
"This one's good but the steam wafting off of the chili just doesn't speak to me."
"I like how clear this one is but the beans aren't evenly distributed."
"Does anyone have a magnifying glass? I think I see the tip of a talon."

I'd definitely need a strong cocktail after a day of that. Once the final decision is made, off it goes to be printed onto a paper cylinder which is then adhered to a chili can. Billions of these are made and sold around the nation. It's sad to think that not even a small fraction of those who purchase Hormel chili stop to appreciate the photo and the hard work that must go into it. It brings chili consumption to a whole new level of artistry and appreciation. I wonder if the guy who took the picture on the Hormel can stands in the chili aisle and watches how people respond to his work. I should hope not, because he would eventually feel so unappreciated that he would start seeking for some sort of appreciation elsewhere, most likely at the bottom of a bottle of vodka. I doubt that there is therapy powerful enough to compensate for the lack of recognition that comes with being a chili photographer. But it must be pretty cool to see your work every time you go to the store and see chili cans. Yep, I did that. It probably gets the person a lot of action at parties, and I'm sure there's other fringe benefits as well. At popular nightclubs for example. "Sorry sir, the club is full. What's that? You took the picture of chili that's on the Hormel cans? Shit, dude... my apologies. Right this way." And the maroon velvet snake rope fence is unlatched from the gold post and raised just like that.


Right beside the photo of the chili on the can are the words SERVING SUGGESTION.  Every time I crack a can open I'm tempted to put my chili in a ceramic bowl and gingerly place a light green leaf and a chip that's shaped like a hexagon on top of my chili. I would also fold a cloth napkin just so and position it as close as I could to the way it is in the photo on the can to obtain the most accurate chili reenactment possible. It has to be the SERVING SUGGESTION for a reason, right? This may very well unlock a secret chili experience that takes the already hypnotic canned chili bliss to a totally new level otherwise not achievable without the aid of illegal mind-altering substances. I never seem to have the right materials for a proper chili can photo reenactment, but someday I will. I'm sort of afraid of what might be waiting on the other side. What if it's so amazing that I only leave the apartment to get more cans of chili? Or maybe I would even just have it delivered. Leave it at the door, man, and I'll slip the money under the crack after I hear the secret knock. I have this vision in my head similar to a severely discombobulated Howard Hughes sitting alone in his room with his unkempt Forrest Gump-jogging beard surrounded by bottles of pee, but in my case it would be empty Hormel chili cans.

I was quite surprised when looking at the ingredients. Although disturbing, they're not quite as disturbing as I'd expected. Everything in there is pretty good for you maybe with the exception of the salt and the "meat". I had no idea that there's oatmeal in my chili. It's almost healthy! One cop out that always gets me with food labels is the use of the word "Flavoring". Sit and observe the chili for a bit while reading into that word and just you try to refrain from getting sucked into a grossout spiral. "Flavoring" could really be anything. Aspirin, for example, has flavor. So we could presumably classify it as "flavoring". I'm sure that bleach has a flavor. Rats and rat excrement which happen to fall into the chili cauldron at the Hormel factory? They probably add some flavor. Very little flavor due to the size of a rat (or rat dropping) vs. a gigantic cauldron of chili, but it's flavor nonetheless.

"Spices". That's another cop out. No shit there's spices. But which ones? Why even put that word on there? What if I'm allergic to turmeric? That would completely discredit the "Hey allergy freaks, it's all good!" message on the ingredients label. It's a lawsuit waiting to happen.

My wiener of choice.
The more I think about this chili, the more at war I am with myself for ingesting it. I don't eat it all that often, but one side of me is saying to not buy it anymore.. but then this whole new Canblade revelation I've had along with the convenience of being able to drink chili during my commute sort of cancels out any minor truth stretchings that lie within in the Nutritional Information.

It's a good thing that I don't eat it on its own. It goes right on top of my Heeb National hot dawgs which are made with 100% kosher beef. There's certainly nothing bad for me in those... nope. They are the ideal canvas for my Hormel turkey chili. Rather than its religious meaning, I take the word "kosher" for its informal definition which is "Genuine or authentic." My hot dawgs contain only 100% genuine or authentic beef. I suppose there could be other ingredients in them, because beef certainly does not resemble a pencil eraser when it comes off the cow.

OK. I really need to stop thinking about this while I'm ahead of myself. Flavoring is good for me. Spices are good for me. Mechanically separated turkey is good for me. These are not the droids I'm looking for. These are not the droids I'm looking for. These are not the droids I'm looking for.


After finishing this blawg entry another thing dawned on me with the whole Canblade thing. If I were to save up 8 of those, I would be fully equipped for heavy combat. I could wear one on each finger and be the Freddy Krueger (or maybe even Wolverine if I did my hair right) of canned chili. Sorry Nutrition Information angel on my shoulder, but you just got knocked off.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

"What IS Sylvester Stallone" thought spiral

I sometimes wonder what Sylvester Stallone is going to look like when he gets old and then something occurs to me: I probably first saw him when he was around 27 and ice skating with Adrian. Whether I like it or not that will always be my primary Sylvester Stallone point of reference and the image that appears in my brain's slot machine every time that I hear his name.

It's 2011 now and he's approaching 65 years of age... but he certainly doesn't look 65 to me. It almost sounds like I'm complimenting him. Not really the case. There are additional words that follow that glob of words which funnel said glob of words into a proper What IS Sylvester Stallone perspective, and they go like this: He doesn't look 65 at all. He doesn't look 75, he sure as Hell doesn't look 55, and 45 is way out of the picture. He doesn't look 70. Or 60. Or 63. Or 47. He doesn't really have any sort of age at all, he's just this weird looking thing now that's not a person anymore. He's Sylvester Stallone.

Kind of like how Oprah is. I grew up back when Oaps was just a talk show host. At some point in the late 80s or 90s she crossed over from being a daytime talk show host to being a mascot of herself, for herself. She has been completely de-personed. What does she reward only the most dedicated viewers of her show with? The gift of experiencing being in the same room with Oprah Winfrey. That's what. And now she's got her own TV network. Her OWN TV network, that is. How about that for a network name? And guess who's going to be on the next cover of O Magazine... would it be Oprah by chance? I'll bet her bed is setup to dispense 1500 thread count Egyptian Cotton sheets like Kleenex. If she perspires ever so slightly while on them, fwwwwwwwwip - pull those old ones off to dispense the next ones and call your Oompa Loompas in to take the used ones to Oprah's Personal O-Incinerator.

So annnnnnyways. Back to Sly. The only age I ever remember him being is late 30s or early 40s. I'm talking about Rocky III and First Blood. You can at least look at him and picture him as being your friend's cool single dad or something.

See what I mean? That's from Rocky III, my second favorite of the Rocky movies right below the first one. That's a 38ish-to-42ish year old if I ever saw one. Check out how badass his opponent Clubber Lang is. Holy crap, now there's a guy I wouldn't want to piss off. Like if I worked at his local video rental store back in the day and he returned his VHS tapes without rewinding them, I probably wouldn't say anything to him, nor would I charge him the 25 cent fine for not being kind and rewinding. I'd just let it go. It would certainly be a better alternative to potentially watching all of his sweaty hate unfold point blank into my face. Mr. T was in a movie called DC Cab which I rented after seeing his bad ayuss in Rocky III. I remember that I didn't really understand DC Cab and got pretty bored with it after about 20 minutes. I drew pictures as I watched it which is a telltale sign of its inability to keep my attention. Right around that time my brother received an LP entitled Mr. T's Commandments for his birthday. It was an entire record of Mr. T angrily reading positive rhyming affirmations for children over music which at the time I categorized as "break dance music". The break dance music which he angrily spat rhymes upon sounded like it was put together by a freshly castrated Quincy Jones taking his depressing post-surgical woes out on a Casio keyboard. I have it in my iTunes and listen to it on occasion for a good chuckle. Like Sylvester Stallone, it's aging at a rather awkward curve. 


OK, so I started writing this with the intent of trying to crack the code that is Sly Stallone and have digressed a few times already. I'm digressing because the more I try and venture into the "What IS Sylvester Stallone" spiral, the more uncomfortable I get. How long has he been taking steroids? He takes 'em, right? Does he really look that way because of the steroids? Was he really born in 1946 or is that when he was left here on our planet in a smoldering black crater caused by the UFO which intentionally left him here and took off in a hurry?

Perhaps Brigette Nielson was behind the baseball-faced meathead he has mutated into. Let's say that Sly was enjoying a cocktail in a hot tub with Brigette back in the day. I know, it's a rather arousing thought but stick with me for a few more minutes before going to grab a tissue to dab the lustful sweat beading on your foreheads. Perhaps said cocktails were ingested after Brigette had discovered that Sly wasn't filming Cobra II as he'd told her and that he was actually having adult relations with a hot bikini model. Brigette being all shitfaced and high on goofballs 24/7 like she was back then decided to seek revenge and tainted his beverage with some sort of toxic concoction akin to Smilex. "Oh NOOO deea, ze maid just geef you voad-ka and toan-eek like you alwiss have," she'd say after he took the first sip and commented on how it tasted like aspirin. He would also attempt to comment on how his vodka and tonics aren't usually green and bubbling, but she'd say "Shhh sh sh sh shhh... dreenk aahp" and tip the cup against his crooked lips until the liquid poured in and ceased his ability to render his observations into words. This toxic cocktail then cast a freaky-ass spell upon poor Sly's development as a living thing rendering him immortal but tricking 50% of his body into forever thinking it was 16 years old.

I dunno. Does he really look like he's 65? I'm not seeing it. I don't see any age at all. Kind of like another Sylvester: Sylvester the cat. I can't look at him and give you an accurate age estimate. I just look at him and say "Yep, there's Sylvester the cat." Guess how old Sylvester the cat is? I just Googled him and he's 66. He was created one year prior to what IMDB says Sylvester the Stallone was created. Interesting.

I give up. I should really stop before I transition into my conspiracy theories on those weird looking old puffy guy masks, teeth, and wigs that Mickey Rourke wears.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

So THIS is Christmas?

Holy crap, what happened to 2010?

Last I remember we were riding the F train home at 2am on January 1st watching an outstanding young gentleman who looked like Danny from New Kids On The Block. Danny was soused beyond belief and had his arm around his equally soused underage girlfriend. They were slouched sideways in their subway seat. If you were to trace a shape in the air around them you'd get a pretty decent parallelogram. They had both obviously boarded the train at the Times Square station and were decorated with crooked party hats, noisemakers, and residual confetti. Danny was spending those first few minutes of 2010 pointing at one of his friends also on the train slurring "Loogit this fuggin guy, loogit this fuggin guy!" He wasn't trying to pick a fight, he was just a drunk happy dude who found something amusing about That Fuggin' Guy. I was happy for every second that Danny was focused on That Fuggin' Guy, because that was one less second we were at risk of having to watch him make out with his girlfriend any more than we already did.

And... POOF! There went the year - full speed ahead. Here we are at the end of December already. Christmas has come and gone. It always used to pretty much be my favorite most ass-kickingest holiday of the year, but it was a bit of a toughy this year being away from our families and homies. Sure as heck don't miss the Minnesota weather, that's fer damned sher, but the peeps are another story. It's too bad that whoever invented the vacuum tube Habitrail thingies at drive thru bank stations that you send thermoses through couldn't also invent a people sized one. I figure with one of those we could hop in, be in Minnesota in about an hour, and then just hop back in the capsule and zip back to Brooklyn on the same night. Missing family sucks. Especially at this time of year. I have tons of cool Christmas memories that I always look back on quite fondly when I'm in Miss-Mode like this. And when I do so, my brain does this:

I'm sorry. What I MEANT to say is my brain does this:

*******insert Wayne and Garth's "diddlyooop... diddlyooop..." wavy hand gesture here representing being transported to another time*******

My Pyraminx was just like this!
THUD! I've landed in 1982. It's Christmas Day at Grandma Gert & Grampa Claire's. To this day whenever I smell turkey and/or hear Johnny Mathis, I am instantly transported to their home on Palace Ave. in St. Paul. Someone gave me a sweet Tron tee shirt at this particular get-together. I believe it may have been my Aunt Dolly. I hadn't seen Tron yet but was a big Star Wars fan and the Tron dude looked Star Wars-y enough, so that deemed the shirt worthy of wearing. A nearby candle tipped over on the table I'd set the shirt on after unwrapping and some wax ended up splattering on it. I was quite devastated by this until someone suggested we put it in the freezer and the wax would freeze and break off. Worked like a charm. Also on this evening my Aunt Jeannie gave me a Pyraminx which I became completely enamored with and was eventually able to solve every time. Couldn't do the Rubik's Cube back then, still can't. But Pyraminx? I had that shit covered. My sister received a kid's activity book from someone that night (I think?) called GOOD TIMES that completely blew my fucking mind. I was able to score my own copy on Ebay about 10 years ago for $10 and it's still just as fun to thumb through. It's a treasure trove of cool facts and activities that deserves a journal entry of its own, so maybe I'll just shut up about that for now.             

Diddelyoop... diddelyoop... diddelyoop...

1983: Walk, Man. On this Christmas Day my sister and I each unwrapped our very own Sony Walkman AM/FM radios - complete with headphones with the bitchin' orange foam covering. Portable music has always been a pretty intense addiction of mine and this is where it started. To be able to put on headphones and listen to music.. and walk around without worrying about cords coming unplugged from a stereo receiver? The sense of freedom was almost too much for me to fathom. It was like floating. I remember on the way to Gert and Claire's that afternoon Lisa and I were cranking our new portable music headphone devices in the back of the station wagon. We were both tuned in to WLOL and Stray Cat Strut was on. Yes pleaseThere's a scene in National Lampoon's Vacation when Russ and Audrey are in the back of the Wagon Queen Family Truckster rocking out with their headphones on. That toadilly always reminds me of that Christmas Day with my sis.  

The night before, my Aunt Lucy gave me an issue of the heavy metal magazine KERRANG! with KISS in it. This magazine contained the first pictures of them I'd ever seen playing live without makeup. It came with a bonus yellow flexi-disc with a live version of Quiet Riot's "Slick Black Cadillac" on it. I still have that mag and it's awesome to skim through it every now and again. I smell the new electronics smell of the new TV we got around that time as well as new brown living room carpet we had installed that Febrooary whenever I read that magazine. Weird how memories trigger different things like that.

Diddelyoop... diddelyoop... diddelyoop...

The year: 1984. By far my favorite Christmas vacation in my entire 13 year school district 833 prison tenure.

It's the weekend after Christmas. I'm at Cottage Grove's go-to store for all of your heavy metal needs: In Concert. I'd just talked myself out of buying the Twisted Sister Velcro wallet and was staring at the cassette tape display case. I am deep in the throes of a major crisis. Do I want to spend $7.98 of my Christmas money on Helix's Walkin' The Razor's Edge or hold out for something better? Back before the internets, buying an album was a considerably difficult decision for me - there was no way to hear any of the songs unless I'd heard anything on MTV or the radio. If I forked over $8 and didn't like the album, tough titty - I was stuck with it. I usually had to go by how cool the album art and song titles were. I decided that Helix looked "metal" enough for my liking and ended up purchasing the tape. I raced home to throw it in the tape player... Brian Vollmer's first "GIMME AN 'R'!" kicked things off and I thought Man, I want to make heavy shit like this when I grow up. Whenever I take a trip down memory lane and listen to that record I realize that my definition of "heavy" has substantially changed for the better over the years.

Later that week I attended my first KISS concert at the St. Paul Civic Center with my Aunt Cookie. Some new band called Queensryche had just released an album entitled The Warning. I remember seeing it advertised in Circus magazine. I couldn't understand a word Geoff Tate was singing but still thought that they kicked ass, as did KISS. Being that this was my first arena concert I didn't know what it was going to be like. Were we going to meet KISS? Did they walk through the crowd and sweat on people while they were playing? Would some unruly drunken fan stab someone like I'd heard my sister said happened at an Aerosmith concert a year or two earlier? Would they surprise everyone and come out with makeup on?

Nothing like that happened. Cookie and I were given a good solid rock show, complete with confetti and pyro that blinded us - we could feel the heat on our faces even from our borderline nosebleed seats. Paul Stanley made fun of people who listened to Thompson Twins and did a bit with a Michael Jackson doll where he held it to the microphone and mimicked Michael. He played his cracked mirror guitar and occasionally one of the 8 million reflections from the spotlights hitting it would zoom across my face or shirt. I remember feeling as if I'd been baptized every time that happened and thinking Dude. The light reflecting off of Paul Stanley's guitar just hit me! It sounds funny now but that shit's pretty much the most rad thing ever when you're an 11 year old KISS fan. The clip I've pasted here is from that tour - same guitar. Cookie and I dined at the Taco Bell on Robert St. in West St. Paul prior to that concert. This was right around the time I'd developed a liking for hot sauce. I used 3 packets of HOT sauce per taco (there was no "Fire" sauce back then).

Hey, check out how awesome the internet is. I'm going to figure out the exact day of that show. Hold on a sec.

December 29th 1984. That was on a Saturday.

Way cool.

I received a little action figure that Christmas from Cookie called a STINKY. It was a little blue rubber elephant monster looking thing and its odor was "rotten eggs". That thing really smelled like ass. Needless to say it was an instant favorite.

Diddelyoo... diddelyoo... diddelyoo...

Christmas Break 1985 This was the year I started playing guitar. "Santa" left me a Leo Kottke greatest hits record. I also got a telescope and a Radio Shack electronics learning lab. Sadly there weren't any hot chicks on our block who disrobed in front of open windows like there are in the movies. It was too cold to go outside and stargaze, so I pointed it out our living room window and saw a murder happen in the neighbor's window.

Just kidding just kidding just kidding.

I was able to get a pretty good view of the oil refinery that was 5 or 6 miles away from our house. It wasn't my favorite constellation Orion, but it got the job done. For New Years I got to travel via Amtrak to my Aunt Sue's house in LaCrosse - all by myself! They shoot off fireworks from a bluff on New Years Eve in LaCrosse which I had to see to believe. Fireworks were only supposed to be a 4th of July warm weather thing from all I'd known at that point. Seeing them at 12:01am on January 1st 1986 from the inside of a car was pretty damned cool.


Blimey, I could go on and on about other highlights of Christmas past. I haven't even touched on The Great KISS solo album Chirstmas of 1979. Maybe next year. It's nice to be able to play these little home movies back in my brain every December. The weird thing is I don't even have to play them - they play themselves automatically. I catch a whiff of Christmas tree and am suddenly back in 1984 with my brother Chuck dropping Christmas ornaments strategically in our tree to see how far they'd fall. I see a tray of cookies and think of my Great Aunt Chris. I smell wrapping paper and I remember gift tags that said To: Mike From: Santa in handwriting that I never really realized looked a lot like my Mom's. And it doesn't matter what time of the year it is if smell turkey in the oven (which usually happens at the grocery store): It's 1982 and I'm back at Gert and Claire's again.

Brains are weird.

I think I'd like to make my version of A Christmas Story out of that kick-ass 1984 Christmas some day. Instead of a Red Rider BB gun I'll be asking for a dual cassette boom box with EQ and detachable speakers. It would be difficult to cast who would play me. I'm going through a list of current celebs in that age group and it's tough with all of the great talent out there. Jaden Smith would probably be the best fit.

Happy Holidays, y'all. May your 2011 not suck at all!

    Thursday, November 25, 2010

    2010 List of Shit I'm Thankful For

    I never really understood Thanksgiving. As a kid it was just a lame warm-up holiday to the cool one that happened 3 weeks later where Santa came and we got presents and money. As I got older I grew to appreciate it more as an opportunity to hang with family and eat like there was no tomorrow. Now that we live in Brooklyn things are a little different. In some ways not so fun (we miss the shit out of our families) but in other ways I guess it's nice to just be able to stay home and have a small, quiet din-din.

    Alas, this is our second Thanksgiving here and it's not quite as odd as the first one was. Granted last Thanksgiving was a blast in its own new way, it was our first major holiday away from the Fam (Columbus Day was a real bitch too if you want to count that but we somehow pulled through). Here we are on Thanksgiving Part II. Our first year in Brooklyn zoomed by at the speed of a Slayer record playing at 78rpm. We've busted our asses and are still here as a result of said ass busting. Things are just getting started! Here is what I am giving thanks to:

    • My lovely wifey, of course. No duuuuh. I thank her for having an awesome brain, good scents of humor, being very easy to look at, and for being cool with packing up and moving 1,200 miles east last year. I don't know of too many spouses that would partake in such shenanigans.
    • I am thankful that we survived our first year as New Yorkers with flying colors. Contrary to what Emo Philips told me when talking to him backstage at ACME Comedy Club in 2007 (true story), it didn't eat us alive. It hasn't been easy all of the time, but learning how to play the guitar wasn't either and look - I'm still playing it over 20 years later. No pain/no gain. Thank you, New York.
    • I am immensely thankful for the CVS Ear Wax Removal Syringe. I'll just leave it at that. 
    • The Number 7. This blog has been brought to you by the number 7. It is my favorite number in the world. I'm not superstitious and don't do things like open a door and close it 7 times or stop and make a clicking noise 7 times every time I hear a trigger word. I've just always liked the number. I always thought it looked cool on the 16 ounce green glass 7UP bottles at my grandma's and on my dad's Heinz 57 sauce. I was born in July, the 7th month. I was 7 when I got my first KISS record. Married to the lovely wifey on 7/7/7. I have 7 stars in my tattoo. 7/8 is my favorite and most comfortable meter to play/write music in. We moved to 7th Ave in Brooklyn - pure coincidence on the street number. My new job that I really enjoy going to is on the 7th floor, also a coincidence (not like I could really hold out for a job until I found one on a 7th floor). I just bought a bottle of Jack Daniel's (more on that later) which has "No. 7" on it. Just like Jack's jackass in Grizzly Adams. Steve Vai's got it for the number 7 too.. I read an interview where he said he makes every seventh song on each of his CDs some sort of big-time ballad. It's true! Although Eight Is Enough, 7 is truly where it's at for this fella.
    • I am incredibly grateful that if we want or need something, be it butter, beer, milk, or whatever, we can walk outside and find it within a 2 block radius of our apartment 24/7. The delivery services here are quite convenient too.
    • I'm thankful that I don't stock shelves at the Target in Atlantic Center.
    • I grew my beard back this year after a year or two of going without. Turns out that I missed the little fella more than I thought I did. Frank likes to rub his face on it, so I guess he missed it too.
    • I am thankful that Stevie Wonder's Sir Duke is on right now. That song will always kick major ass in my book.. one of my favorite unison riffs ever.
    • I'm glad that the few family peeps and friends who have made it out here to visit made it out here. I hope to see more of you make it out here!
    • On that note, we visited MN over the summer. We didn't miss the state/Twin Cities so much, but we sure miss family (Jesus, can I say that enough?) so it was really awesome to see everyone. It had been almost a year and it was great to see everyone. Mad props to my incredibly awesome Grandma Alice and her way cool twin bro John and his rad wife Chris for coming to see us when we were there. I want to be like them when I grow up. Represent.
    • I heard that this is Shrek's last year as a balloon in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. I am thankful that there is one less Shrek promotional vehicle in the world, even if it's just for one day. ENOUGH WITH SHREK ALREADY.
    • We got to see Jeff Beck in June. I never, ever thought I'd see him live. Not in a meelion years. Mind-blowingly awesome. He does things with the electric guitar that no one else can, and even if they could get close to what he can do, Jeff was still the first one to do it. We were also interviewed by a Rochester news crew while quite soused on the patio of a bar not too far from the show about attending the Rochester Jazz Festival. Peep this and tell me he's not amazing.
    • Smash Mouth headlined the Rochester Jazz Festival, by the way. What the name of all things that don't suck is that all about? Not thankful for that. We heard the entire set from our hotel room.
    • I'm thankful that there's a Taylor Swift Thanksgiving special and a Beyonce one on tonight as well... and that I won't be watching either of them.
    • I'm thankful to be in a no football household. No football on Thanksgiving or pretty much ever is cool with me. Kudos to you if you're a football person, but I'm not. People always ask me about the Vikings out here and they may as well be asking me about how to perform brain surgery.
    • I'm thankful for Line 6's POD HD500. That thing kicks total ass.
    • I am thankful for a co-worker at my previous job for reminding me how NOT to treat people in the workplace.
    • I got to play Iced Ink music in Montreal and some pretty cool spots in NYC. Sorry again to the guys that I had to pull the plug on the band as a live entity, but in hindsight that's what I get for moving here and trying to overachieve without first taking a breather.
    • Our automatic cat feeder. The cats no longer wake us up at 5am (unless it's empty like it was the other day)
    • I'm thankful that if I don't like something, I'm at a point in life where I'm able to speak up and change it - even if it makes me feel like a dickhead. And I quote Rick Nelson: "You can't please everyone, so you've got to please yourself."
    • On that note, I didn't like where my work situation was heading and was able to change it by busting my arse to find a new job much closer to home. I seem to have just enough leverage on my resume to do that kind of thing now. I really dig my new job. Like, a LOT. My condolences to the person who took over for me... I wouldn't wish that upon too many people.
    • Jack Daniel's. It was the first hard liquor to tickle my taste buds way back in 1988. Sorry to break the news to you, Mom and Dad. I have a fear of throwing up which is something that has saved me from many a hangover throughout the years (not to mention a lot of trouble). As a result I only had enough sips back in '88 to cop a decent buzz and I knew damn well when to stop. Hadn't really touched it since but I just bought a bottle. Sipping on that stuff is bringing back some really cool, fun memories. Memories like sitting in the passenger seat of Gyro's Mustang and cruising Maplewood for chicks while blasting Motley Crue and sipping JD (sorry again, Mom and Dad). My recent JD renaissance reminded me of Gyro's Mustang's dashboard: it was black with a white Tron-like grid pattern on it. I think it had maroon upholstery in it. I can smell the strawberry air freshener. Good times & warm fuzzies.
    • Gyro! There's someone I need to track down. He was amongst the very small group of die hard KISS fans I bonded with in my early teenage years. We talked like Yoda all of the time for no reason. Didn't help us much in the chick department.  
    • Them Crooked Vultures. They kick total ass.
    • Joe Satriani's new album is actually really good too. I lost interest in him in the mid 1990s and have tried all of his records since but they've all left me kinda empty. His new record Black Swans and Wormhole Wizards actually kicks ass, more so in a Jeff Beck kind of way than a Joe Satriani/irritating one trick pony guitar shredder kind of way (I actually discovered Jeff Beck via a Satriani interview in the 80's where Joe cited him as one of the greatest 'lectric guitarists ever). It is a good F5 of why I was so inspired listening to Satriani as a teenager.
    • The new peeps I've met since moving here. Y'all rule. Even if I only see some of you once every few months.
    • I'm thankful that it's only 3:39 right now and we're about to assemble a delicious Thanksgiving feast for two. The cats will be getting some primo canned food and catnip as well. 
    As stud muffin Gary Lumpkin used to say on Good Company, "There you have it." And as a sign I drove past in St. Paul Park one year read, "Be Thankful, Eat A Turkey."