Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Count Chocula And Rabbit Ears - A Journey Through A Saturday of 1974 Television With Wally


Remember when the networks would run a prime time special previewing all of the kids shows they would be airing in the upcoming tv season. Magic, just pure magic.

Let's go back to a Saturday in 1974 and see what I would have watched that day.

6:30AM: I've probably already been up an hour. I may have even watched the Agriculture Report on WSM. Finally something decent comes on: Lassie. It's the one with Tommy Rettig. I never saw any of the other versions. This show was awesome with someone always falling into a well or getting lost or being threatened by an ax murderer.

7:00AM: I never watched Hair Bear Bunch. Lidsville was a Sid & Marty Krofft show and I usually always tuned into those, but instead it was Bugs Bunny for me. Maybe I was just too lazy to get up and change the channel this early in the morning.

7:30AM: By now, it was time since I loathed Yogi Bear. I suppose I'm just not a bear guy. It was either Addams Family or Mister Rogers. I liked both shows so it would depend on my mood.

8:00AM: I'd go to the kitchen and make myself a bowl of Count Chocula or Cocoa Puffs and then settle down for an hour of Scooby Doo Movies. It's weird that this ran on Channel 5 and Super Friends on Channel 2. They would switch networks at some later date and I always think of Scooby being ABC and Super Friends being CBS.

9:00AM: Sigmund and the Sea Monsters ruled the air at this time. It's hard to figure the appeal of this Johnny Whittaker Krofft show now, but I sure loved it when I was 7.

9:30AM: A group of teenagers solving mysteries with their dog. No, I wasn't watching Scooby again, it was Goober and The Ghost Chasers. Hard to call it a complete ripoff when it was also produced by Hanna-Barbara.

10:00AM: Speed Buggy time. I just loved that sputtering hunk of junk.

10:30AM: Josie and the Pussycats rock and rolled another half hour of my life away.

11:00AM: More Hanna-Barbara, but this time it was a choice between Pebbles and Bam Bam or The Jetsons. Most of the time I made the right decision and watched Elroy and kin.

11:30AM: The finest moment of the morning: Fat Albert was the absolute best with visions of the big city, soul music, and a clubhouse in the city dump. How could it not be the most stellar thing on this schedule?

12:00PM: Children's Film Festival with Kukla, Fran, and Ollie delivered excellent viewing over the years with offbeat foreign entries and tearjerkers like Hand In Hand.

1:00PM: I'd get my mother to make me a hamburger or I'd grab a cheese sandwich and sit down to watch the major league baseball game of the week with Joe Garagiola and Tony Kubek. I doubt that I ever made it through a complete game. I'd get bored and run outside to play my own baseball game.

2:30PM: If I actually came back inside it was time for ABC's Wide World Of Sports. It didn't matter what sport it was I'd watch it.

4:00PM: My mother would take over the airwaves so it was Jim Ed Brown or nothing.

4:30PM: The Wilburn Brothers continued the country music assault.

5:00PM: Here's one of the country music shows I liked: Porter Wagoner would stride in with his big red boots and his Nudie suits to entertain along with Speck Rhodes and Dolly.

5:30PM: More country music with that Ole Nashville Music. I barely paid attention to it, but I did figure out it was broadcast from the Grand Ole Opry House.

6:00PM: It was time for the revered Hee Haw. I enjoyed it for the cute girls, corny jokes, and that flaky newscaster dude.

7:00PM: No control over the set at this point so usually it would be All In The Family. That wasn't the family I wanted to see. I would want to watch The Partridge Family and sometimes I would get to do this.

7:30PM: It would be M*A*S*H unless there was a good movie on NBC or ABC.

8:00PM: Mary Tyler Moore in all of her perky glory would be on and I would probably be just coming inside if I had been outside playing.

8:30PM: Bob Newhart which I didn’t understand at all. It was just another in those apartment type sitcoms that adults seemed to find so interesting.

9:00PM: If we weren’t watching a cool movie like Planet Of The Apes or any of the James Bond flicks I’d get to watch Barnaby Jones with my mother. I probably still hadn’t wrapped my 7 year old mind around Buddy Ebsen not being Jed Clampett, but I still dug this show. It had lots of action and the gorgeous Lee Meriwhether.

10:00PM: Local news – usually Channel 5. And yes I would still be up since it was summer and Saturday.

10:30PM: Besides if I fell asleep I would miss watching two shows I loved – Sir Cecil Creape’s Creature Feature on Channel 4 and Championship Wrestling on Channel 2. This is how it went: I would watch Sir Cecil’s entrance and introduction of the movie and then I would flip stations to WNGE to watch professional wrestling. So I’d have the implied blood and gore with Sir Cecil Creape and the probably real blood of Tommy Rich and Jackie Fargo. I’d fall asleep on the couch and somehow always wake up in my bed on Sunday morning.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Getting Jolly

I went to school with John Jolly and I am one of his Facebook friends. I also have received a similar phone call to the one featured in this Youtube clip posted by one of John's other Facebook friends, some dude named Grinning Hester. In fact, John made sure I knew about the Youtube clip. What can one say? I don't believe the Grinning Hester dude is making fun of John, but you can draw your own conclusions. My own opinion of John? He's larger than life - a living legend. Enjoy:

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Which Came First...The Chilton Or The Ono

I think it's fascinating that Alex Chilton borrowed the piano riff from "Mrs. Lennon" for "Holocaust."

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Beatles Remasters

This should be the only review of the remastered Beatles albums you'll need: Chuck Klosterman is such a kidder...or is he?

Monday, August 24, 2009

When I Look Into Cynical Eyes

Guided By Voices has really been speaking to me of late.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Lunchbox Kid Hanging Out With Electric Jesus

My grand plans to put up all of my primary and elementary school pictures are done. I’ve decided they are better placed on Facebook, so instead of finishing that plan I’ve decided to spotlight failure today.

Believe or not I strive for quality here at Soulfish Stew...well most of the time. So that means a lot of posts are started and then left to just take up space on my hard drive. I find it difficult to let go of these orphan posts because sometimes they provide the foundation of another better one. Most of the time they don't and they become like all of the letters unsent I boxed up many years ago. They'll be dragged out once every few years and I'll muse upon them perhaps receiving an emotional charge of some sort before throwing them back in the box and into the attic.

So instead of letting my discarded blog post attempts suffer the same fate I've decided to do a very stewlike thing with them. I'm going to post all of them here today no matter how impoverished or undeveloped they are. First up is what was supposed to be a fever dream spontaneous composition type essay ostensibly about hanging out in Murfreesboro on a hot summer night during the 1985-1987 era. It's actually filled with lots of true things, but it's all so obscured and edited in a way that one shouldn't be able to tell whether it's real or fiction unless you actually know the people.

I sometimes wonder whatever happened to Electric Jesus and his troupe of happy groupies....E.T. used to hang with him when he'd wear his Jesus robes to the game room slash driving range next to Interstate 24 where we'd go to play pinball and then watch people hitting golf balls placing side bets on how many times the little carts retrieving the golf balls would get struck. I imagine you'd get used to the sound of the golf balls like tin roof rain...E.T. had one side of her head shaved and it just wasn't the same as Michelle bobbing her hair, but DD wanted to look for the girl in the Mustang so we'd hit the Memorial Boulevard strip before the merchants and police put a stop to the cruising and we would look for the beautiful girl in the convertible Ford even though we'd probably never even talk to her - she was like fine art on wheels - the exemplary model of teen socialite boredom. People would bring lawn chairs and just sit and watch the poets of the street night weave by and through and around their lives. We were all just little satellites in orbit. Frisbee parking lot and DD would also dream about Carlson and I would dream about leaving town for good, but those were just shimmering asphalt mirages too - I'd barrel across county to work at Mazzio's all week just to pay for some Friday night fun...beer pyramids shotgun bongs skateboarding and torture chambers of youth.

Next up is something titled the Sedaka Theory Of Relativity. It’s about writing and failure with the ultimate outcome being the failure to even complete the blog post which is apropos.

I used to think I was one hell of a writer. I was going to light cherry bombs under the entire literary world and watch them scatter. I had read Kerouac and Kesey. Burroughs and Bukowski. Worshipped at the clay feet of musicians thought to be poets like Lennon, Morrison, Dylan, and Reed. I wore a DIY anarchy button on my thrift store sportcoat and got kicked out of high school assemblies for rowdy behavior. I was ten years ahead of my time in my mind floating around in a miscreant cloud of synched in and out psychosis that was perhaps merely mild narcissist agoraphobia or Asperger's Syndrome.

I ran around scribbling down my thoughts and random story ideas into little spiral bound notebooks feeling like I was a capital A artist and while nobody understood me then...well they would all get it one day and they would kneel before the new god of thunder of prosody. Punks like McIrnerny and Easton Ellis were part of the dying hippie gasp with their proto-yuppie trash aesthetic novels that ripped off Fitzgerald with their marginally sensationalized drug glorifying trips for the post collegiate set.

I kept this up for more than a decade. This fantasy world invention of young author versus whatever you got was compelling and I almost acted upon the shadowy impulse behind the Situationist construct I was building. I almost interviewed to be a sportswriter for the Daily News Journal. I enjoyed sports, while not to the degree of a Frederick Exley, and felt I could be an adept journalist. The interview time arrived and I didn't go. A sudden attack of depression and it was all over. I washed away my dreams of covering Little League and junior school athletics with alcohol and Suicidal Tendencies.

Not that there weren't minor triumphs. One of my friend's mother read one of my notebooks and thought it was really good. She put me right up there with Richard Bach. She loaned me some of his books and I realized my friend's mom must have been a hippie. The only resemblance to Richard Bach my writing bore was that both were in English.

I sent a poem to DD Blank and he liked it because it contained the two lines: prose is for pussies, poetry is for wimps. Or maybe it was the other way around. It does work either way. That portion of the poem was about how jocks viewed a library. Yes, the poem was that deep. It was mainly an ode to a girl I had known in high school that had cut her long hair in the manner of Fitzgerald's character Bernice which had amused and intrigued me. It was also about disappointment of the sort that sometimes turns people into goth zombies.

I showed one of notebooks to my friend Bruno. It happened to be the one that begins "Bruno is now my literary enemy. I can no longer stomach his infantile dreams of rock and roll fame" and so on in rather derogatory fashion down the first page. He never really said much about the content, but we did begin to drift apart as he went on to write for MTSU's Sidelines. He even achieved some campus fame of sorts after he wrote a column titled "Life's A Bitch And Then You Die" which was really about enjoying spring break. Even better was when he got threatening letters from the band Burning Hearts after he called the lead singer effeminate. It got really confusing a few years later after Burning Hearts really did get a female lead singer. I was a writer in my head, but Bruno was doing it for real.

Time wore on and wore out like it has a habit to do. I kept on with the spiral bound trash heaps I was creating. Some of it actually took shape and became, well, good in places. Reading it is like walking through a slum and suddenly turning a corner and finding a shiny dime on the cracked sidewalk. Glimpses of clarity and spirit begin to be discerned. There is some actual lower case "a" art in these latter day notebooks of the 90's. But the indecision was still bugging me.

The Nashville Scene needed some music writers. I talked to Johnathan Marx for what seemed like hours over the phone one day about becoming a paid journalist for them. And then I didn't do it. I chickened out. Oh, yes I did crank out a few issues of a fanzine called Anti-Society. It even got some ego stroking rave reviews by Flipside and Grand Royal, but I wasn’t making cash money. I gave it away and nothing ever really came of it.

I quit working in Nashville and I got out of the pop culture petri dish. I devolved into a consumer again. I no longer played in a band either. I puttered around. I wrote some things that never really went anywhere: a guide to car crash movies, an episode guide to Square Pegs, and the outlines to a kids book I’m still scribbling on every few months or so. It was just scattered energies and creative death.

I got excited for a short time after a phone conversation with DD Blank. I told him about the children during the 70’s that lived at the garbage dump down the road from my grandmother in Ripley, Mississippi. They used to ride by her house on these outlandish bicycles made from trashed bikes and other junk from the dump. They were sorta’ scary. I knew I was dirt poor white trash, but I wasn’t as lowdown as a kid that had to live at a garbage dump. DD thought that little story was great. The thought of dump people tickled his fancy.

So I decided to write the North Mississippi version of Dubliners. The first story I wrote was very brief. It was a trifle titled "The Last Cotton Field." The Dead Mule website put it up....but then again I guess they put all entries up. I’ve done bits and pieces for all of the following titles:

1. “The Last Cotton Field”
2. “The Dump People”
3. “The House Movers”
4. “The Barnstormer”
5. “The Man Who Runs Things”
6. “The Blackberry Hunters”
7. “The CafĂ©”
8. “The Shadow of Colonel Falkner”
9. “The Pictures”
10. “Blue Mountain”

So I got excited about these stories, but the excitement wore off as other things like my job and family took up more time. I know you’ve got to make time if you want to be creative, but it gets so tough as you get older.

Third on this list of aborted posts is Nachotastic which is primarily just jibber jabber that doesn’t make any literal sense so let’s call it a “life study.”

mayhaps the nachotastic kid returns to cause a mixture of dismay, trouble, and pain with a cherry jalapeno on top to finally bring some joy - what is last is first and what is first rides in the hearse.

Egad we be OLD! All I've got is my lame old brain decrepit and prone to breakdown.

Nothin' to du but wallow in the past while the present implodes and the future corrodes.

Yep, just swallow it down on the boulevard, tattooed and scarred, mentally barred and tarred,

supernaughting is not anything like pussyfooting, but it is akin to juggernaughting...

Egan ripping off antennas - man cars are like bugs...

"with my face on the floor" sometimes I feel like dying, sometimes I feel like I'm Emitt Rhodes

dully I scrambled
exactly as I liked
to end up first up
scared of the light

More in my North Mississippi material – this time a couple of stories my mother told me, no title given.

My mother told me how she's lucky to be alive because when she was a child she stepped on a nail and blood poisoning set in and traveled up her leg in a black treacle infestation of bad kudzu blood. She lived in Arkansas at the time (it would have been the Forties) on a sharecropper cotton farm far from West Memphis and medical care. Someone saw how bad her leg was and insisted she be taken to the hospital. So off the family went to West Memphis where the doctor drained the bad blood and pronounced her well enough to walk and go home a few days later, but admonished the family for letting her get so bad for she would have surely died had they delayed much longer.

Her other brush with death arrived in a cotton barn with her baby sister Beatrice in her arms. They were inside the barn when their older sister Inez decided to play with some matches near some cotton bales either not knowing or caring about the flammability of cotton. She discarded a match on the ground and a slight breeze sparked the cotton and soon there was a rim of fire around the barn with my mother and Beatrice still inside. While most of the large family set upon dousing the flames my uncle Palmer heard my mother and Beatrice screaming so he went to get them out of the barn that was filling with smoke. He told my mother to jump across the fire but she wouldn't. So he rushed across, took Beatrice and threw her over the fire first and then my mother. The fire was extinguished before it got too out of hand and the poor sharecroppers hoped the owner of the farm wouldn't notice the cotton that had gotten burned.

And finally one I began just a few days ago, but probably wouldn’t have finished. We’ll call it Ringing The Belle.

I saw a girl wearing a Belle And Sebastian t-shirt in the local Wal-Mart here in Smithville. I said hello to her and expressed my amazement that another person in this town knew about Belle And Sebastian. I couldn’t think of the album If You’re Feeling Sinister when we talked about them, but neither could she and that gave us a laugh. She was a student at the Appalachian Center. Once the power of a rock and roll t-shirt was made manifest in my imagination.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

School Days Grade The 3rd










3rd Grade Mitchell-Neilson Elementary 1975-76

Teacher Mrs. Jennings

1st Row - Bottom
(L-R) Lori Lane, Theresa Koebeck, Kim Poland, don't remember, Kim Moore, Debra Reed, Mary Gannon,
Amy Christiansen, Amy Craddock

2nd Row - Middle
(L-R) Jessie Miles?, me, Britt Smithson, Cindy Davenport, Jimmy Davis, Barbara Money, Detra Cason,
Greg Tidwell

3rd Row - Top
(L-R) Mike Stacey, Kevin Johnston, David Fedak, Darin Coe, Hank Hirlston, Chuckie Boykin, David Burke

Moving on up to the big time. Mitchell-Neilson Elementary is located just across Jones Boulavard from Mitchell-Neilson Primary. It's where the big kids attended school and it was a major deal to begin 3rd grade there. Mrs. Jennings was my teacher. She was a delightful lady. I drove her crazy early on because I printed everything I wrote with squiggly lines. I was just doing it for kicks and later when we learned cursive writing I earned the penmanship award - a dollar bill which I've never spent.

David Burke was my best friend. He was obsessed by the World War's and we used to play war against the girls led by Lori Lan and Debra Reed. We'd pretend on the playground and later draw up elaborate peace treaties that the girls always refused to sign. I'd pretend I was in a fighter plane when I would swing on the most incredible swingset in the world behind the school, leaping out when I was high as I could go.

The playground behind Mitchell-Neilson Elementary was the best. It located under a bunch of trees so it was never too hot and they had these concrete pipes at the edge where you could hide. There actually was a mini woods that began after the pipes and often kids would wander far away and the teachers would have to look for them. It sounds goofy, but it truly was magical. We felt like this was our world of metal monkey bars, jungle gyms, see saws, and more with the dirt in the shade, rocks, and trees all our friends.

Gym class brought us Coach Hedrick and the delights of poison ball and bombardment, both dodge ball variants. I liked bombardment better since the boys and girls got to play it together. It was more like classic dodgeball. Poison ball could be sheer murder with the bigger boys feasting on the smaller ones. There were no lines you had to throw behind. It was just a free for all. I actually won posion ball once. When the girls played poison ball we'd sit up in the stands bored.We played lots of kick ball too.

Since it was the Bicentennial season our class put on a show. I dressed up like Ben Franklin and during our performance in fron of our parents and guests, the kid, Ricky Beckham, who lived across the street brought his younger sisters who made me start giggling. I spent the rest of the night lamenting that I ruined the performance then some girl played the wrong record at the end so I didn;t feel so bad. The only picture taken of me in the outfit was taken by Cindy Davenport, but I never got a copy. I've been told that I was really cute in it.

Kris Hettish used to make up his own version of Mad magazine and then sell them before class began. I wish I still had one of them. I also remember he had a crush on Chris Evert. I learned how to play chess in the library that year. I also read massive amounts of space exploration books and The Hobbit. Where did the time go?

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

School Days Grade The 2nd























Man, I barely remember many of these kids. Maybe the trauma of all of those tornado drills back then crowds most everything else out. Here's the list of those I remember and the ones I don't.

2nd Grade Mitchell-Neilson Primary 1974-75

Teacher Mrs. Dunston

1st row - Floor
(L-R) don't remember, don't remember, David Scott?, Flint Baskin, Steve Goodman, don't remember his fist name, but his last name was Zorn

2nd row
(L-R) Me, Kris Hettish, don't remember but maybe Luther Coppage, Darryl Keener, Detra Cason, Vicky Nichols, don't remember, Therese Brown

3rd row
(L-R) don't remember, don't remember, Ross Alexander, don't remember though it resembles Scott Hercules, don't remember, don't remember, don't remember

4th row
(L-R) maybe Susan Garrett?, Tammy Young?, don't remember, Joy Patterson, Debra Reed, Karen Newcomb, Karin Radar, Paulette Gates?

No time today for much exposition - just some snippets.

Got in trouble and had to sit beside chalk board.

Kris Hettish also used to get in trouble so we would slide the erasers back in forth. Argued about whether Land Of The Lost or Valley Of The Dinosaurs was live action…I was right.

Also used to get my hand smacked with a yardstick. I never held it against Mrs. Dunston though.

Had Mrs. Jennings for reading at the start of the schooyear.
She told me to go home and finish a chapter - I thought she meant the whole book.
A few weeks later I got transferred to the highest level reading class..Mrs. Cooper.

Gym and cafeteria were one and the same. Cafeteria tables would roll into the wall like Murphy beds.

"Me Chinese me play joke" was really popular at lunch.

Another fave was the Electric Company inspired "Sh….it" joke.

My best friend was Karin Radar. I think she became a veternarian.

The day before the last day of school a big hole was blown into the wall of our classroom in order for the library to be expanded. It was cool getting to see the giant hole.

I drew a picture of Jack And The Beanstalk which got me 2nd place in some school contest.

I dressed up like an Indian to accept the award - a book about a mouse named Sylvester and a guitar. I've still got the book. Too bad no body got a picture of me as the Indian.

I guess I'll try to get around to 3rd tomorrow.

Monday, August 03, 2009

School Days Grade The 1st





















Here's my shot at listing the names from my 1st grade class. You can click on the photo to make it bigger.

1st row - floor
(L-R) don't remember, myself, Ken Lane, Fred Martin

2nd row
(L-R) Wendy Warpoole, don't remember, don't remember, Jan or Nan Higdon (I never could tell them apart), don't remember, Sebrina Pendergrast, don't remember, Kim Young, and I believe her name is Tammy Young

3rd row
(L-R) don't remember, don't remember, Mark (Gonz) Taylor, don't remember, Scott Hercules, either Steve Goodman or Steve Effler, Gene Dixon, maybe Mike Stacey, don't remember

4th row
(L-R) don't remember, don't remember, Darin Coe, Debra Reed, Theresa Koebeck, Karen Newcomb, I think this is Sherry Beasley, Kim Poland, and Vickie Haislip

If you know any of the people or have a correction let me know. Tomorrow I'll post 2nd grade.

Children just don't get a summer vacation these days. It was back to school today so in honor of this momentous occasion I figured I'd share some class pictures and a few words from my primary and elementary school days. This is my 1st grade class picture from the 1973-74 school year at Mitchell-Neilson Primary. Miss Wilson was my teacher. Boy, did I have a crush on her. I even still remember that she drove an AMC Gremlin. I sometimes wonder if my constant chatter in class was because I wanted to sit next to her desk where the problem kids had to sit facing the class. It sure seemed like I was in that spot often which only fed my ego. I'd make funny faces at Debra Reed and get in even more trouble.

I couldn't have been too bad a kid since I passed even after missing more than two months of the school year for chicken pox and the mumps. I had Mrs. Armstong for math class and there is where I found the first chicken pox bump. I caught the mumps almost the day I came back to school. I'm sure I missed other days too as I distinctly recall one morning before class I felt sick and my classmates thought I was kidding. They quickly changed their minds after I threw up on them.

One memory that sticks out is quiet time. Miss Wilson would turn out the lights and usually play a record about Peter & The Wolf. She also loved to play "Seasons In The Sun." That tune is engraved upon my mind. Sometimes she'd let us bring records and I'd always bring my mother's 45 of "Hound Dog" and this red headed kid named Darin Coe would do his great Elvis impersonation. My best friend Mark (Gonz) Taylor was a big Elvis fan too. We'd stay friends thoughout our lives and later rock and roll in the punk band The Dislocated.

I hadn't looked at my class photos in many years and I'm saddened less by the passage of time, but by the fact that I don't remember many of my classmates's names. It would be neat if I knew everyone's story, but I guess it's simply amazing that I still know some of these people.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Wes White Then And Now


Wes White played drums for my first punk rock trio: Michael Landon's Ghost. When I first met him he was a heavy metal loving kid from Antioch. Submitted for evidence is the photo on the left. I'd see him around campus at M.T.S.U. and at shows, but it wasn't until he began playing drums in my friend Jon Roy's metal band Knucklbones that I met the dude. He was a frenetic drummer who loved to thrash with his double kick pedal. Soon I had poached him and Toby from Knucklebones and we did our punk rock thing for a short while. Wes went on to play with Hellbilly and The Teen Idols before settling down to married life in Pittsburgh.

Except he hasn't really settled down completely. He's rocking out with the Allegheny Rhythm Rangers these days. Gone is the double kick pedal, but his thrashing little spirit lives.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

A Little Live





Hip-O is about to come out with all of Emitt's ABC/Dunhill releases. Highly, highly recommended if you like Beatle influenced pop or tragic genius stories.

Monday, June 08, 2009

been passing the dutchie on the left hand side since my freshman year in high school -

You never really escape the prison that was high school, even if you move away and age some twenty plus years. Ever since the media learned that nostalgia is a cash cow as big as Paul Bunyan's Babe each succeeeding generation gets bombarded with products designed to make you long for Planet Of The Apes action figures, Transformers, Starland Vocal Band's "Afternoon Delight", parachute pants, flannel, poodle skirts, and more always more even if I am still waiting on the big Micronauts revival.

So some of the above list is more accurately junior high or perhaps even elementary school, but I still would have liked a Dr. Zaius doll (action figure) in high school. If the media wasn't enough we are all, absent of some tremendous blow on the head, carrying around our memories of those days. You never know what will set off these little ticking timebombs of remembrance. It might be a phone call from somebody you weren't really friends with in high school. Note: those phone calls are almost always about money. Perhaps you'll hear a song on the radio so indelibly linked to those days that it circumvents any other interpretation. The Gap Band's "You Dropped A Bomb On Me" is like that for me always evoking sophomore year at Riverdale since it was used as the homecoming theme.

You can try and wipe out years and still they come poltergeisting back. The one year I wouldn't mind pulling an eternal sunshine mind move on would have to be the year of hell I spent at Oakland High School. Maybe it was your standard freshman year experience and things would have gotten better if I hadn't moved and switched to Riverdale, but I doubt it. I had just moved back to Murfreesboro after spending a year in Smyrna and most of my old Murfreesboro friends were attending Riverdale. So I was one lonely dude.

Just a few of the bad memories I'd like to forget: having my favorite baseball cap stolen and thrown on top of the school's roof by a thug who outweighed me by a couple hundred pounds, being spit on by a classmate, enduring Mrs. Overton's study hall right after her algebra class, slicing my right index finger open with a band saw blade, and being forced to sell candy bars. It was such a bleak year I didn't tell my parents when it came time to order a yearbook.

There were only a couple of things that weren't cruddy about that year. One was that I had a steady girlfriend. Of course, she attended Riverdale. She happened to be the first girl I had ever worked up the courage to call on the telephone a few years earlier when we were in 7th grade. I didn't give up on her until she was mine and then I treated her like crap until we broke up. I guess my karma balanced out since I didn't have another girlfriend until after high school ended. The other decent thing about my freshman year was just a ticking memory timebomb until just the other day.

I live next door in Smithville to a metal head named Mello who happens to be from Princeton, Indiana. This is rather strange and mysterious to me due to the fact that one of my customers in the automotive manufacturing world is located in Princeton. It's also amazing to me that he plays guitar and likes many of the same bands I did while growing up. Sure, Van Halen, AC/DC, Black Sabbath, and Kiss were massively popular, but it's not often that I run into people around my age that worshipped at this mighty altar of rock and roll like I did and still do. My neighbor doesn't really appreciate punk rock like I do, but nobody's perfect.

I was over talking to him the other day and he mentioned that he was in a cover band with the rather dubious name of Atomic Trunk Monkeys. They play shows around Murfreesboro and I believe they will open for a revamped Dokken soon. I wondered if the players in the band were around our age. Mello said they were so I asked who was in the band. It was a long shot, but there was the slim chance that I might know them. It turned out I knew one of them. You guessed it. I was led back to that horrible freshman year at Oakland.

Lunch time was the absolute worst. I had nobody to sit with or talk to for the half hour. I'd wander the halls eating my peanut butter sandwich and then buy some candy to sneak during my afternoon classes. Then one day I ran into a kid I vaguely remembered, either from Central Middle and/or Mitchell-Neilson Elementary named Neal. Maybe I was wearing my Molly Hatchet shirt or maybe he was wearing a Kiss one, but for whatever reason we started talking to each other. Lunch break was now the highlight of the day. We'd talk about the bands we hated and the bands we'd like. I'd given up on Kiss by this time and Neal couldn't let that happen so he made me a tape of Music From The Elder when it came out. I had that cassette for years.

Funny how I had forgotten that good memory until Mello had told me the name of the singer/rythym guitarist in the Atomic Trunk Monkeys was Neal. I haven't seen or spoken to Neal, but he did confirm the story to Mello. So maybe I'll catch one of their shows sometime and see what kind of recollections Neal has about our freshman year. Long may the bad memories be repressed and more good ones found.

Monday, June 01, 2009

No Blizzards In Smithville



I guess he just couldn't wait for the drive-thru to be open. Luckily nobody was hurt.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Rock And Roll Flyer Week Ends With A Whole Lotta Jack



First a little surf action. Man Or Astroman? always put on a great show.















Not gonna say much since I'm on the road, but Teen Idols and Jack were two of my favorites from back in the day.















Another great Lucy's Record Shop bill.


















My band Dragula and Jack both did two sets that night for our drunken friends and rednecks.














One last flyer...hit the road Jack.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

More More More Rock And Roll Flyers



There used to be a dingy rock and roll club formerly a strip club named variously Pan's Starship / Pantheon and I loved that joint. I played many shows and saw several gigs there before it became a parking lot - I think this is the Superchunk gig where Mac had shaved his head so it inspired me to do the same – what an awesome live band










Bedlam Hour gig was sparse but fun with their bassist in a cow suit and they threw food at the audience – Their song “Grey Sweater” is a classic - I believe this is the gig where I donned a blond wig and imitated Kurt Cobain on a cover of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” - Soon we would be Michael Landon's Ghost no more changing our name to Pipebomb. Toby and Ratfink made these posters








Letch Patrol were cool guys – my band did “Sonic Reducer” at sound check and the lead singer dude said “We do that song in our show” so I said we wouldn’t do it and he went, “nah, go ahead and play it too” A good afternoon of prime punk rock that only a select few witnessed.










Unrest – I liked the flyer, but still to this day don’t “get” Unrest - Crop Circle Hoax are one of my faves - I shared the bill with them on the last weekend of shows at Lucy - Myself, Brett and Jimmy from Jack played a set - we were called The Most in honor of Donnie Most - I didn't have a clue that Les Shields of numerous Nashville local bands had once been in a band of the same name with a single release to their credit








Jawbreaker – who would have thought they’d be so damn emofluential – I thought they were good not great - but truly anybody who was somebody whatever etc played Lucy's Record Shop back in the day

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

More More Rock And Roll Flyers



The Dislocated Jabbs gig – my band our first show ever in either March or April 1989 - I was shaking when I got on stage – these girls untied my Chuck Taylors – played a couple of Living Color songs, Descendents, S.O.D., Black Flag, the audience was walking out and we launched into Sabbath’s "Hand Of Doom" and they stuck around for more - Gonz and I hung out with the drummer's father before the gig drinking beer after beer - Gonz made the poster - what a night







Summer of 89 Dance – this was a battle of the bands and we won – ditched many of the covers and played mainly original stuff - first time I ever met Shrub who later became our bassist – had mad skate session at Memorial Heights later












Dinosaur Jr. – Green Mind was the album of the year for me so far but Urge Overkill were the highlight for me – their cover of Hot Chocolate’s “Emmaline” really moved me – Dino Jr were loud, very loud













Jack and Brancuzzi’s – wasn’t at this one, but Jack were/are the Replacements south – drunken and disorderly with fistfights and passouts or just pure rock and roll junkie adrenalin ramshackle Faces style – either on or off they put on a pure rock and roll show












Bad Brains – this handbill (dig how it was not cut right) came from a Danzig gig at the Cannery the singer dude Clay from F.U.C.T. was handing them out – I missed the show..I think I was out of town or out of something












Bonus: Not a flyer, but an actual Teenage Fanclub setlist – 328 Music Hall gig Afghan Whigs opened - actual set list I grabbed off the stage at the end of the show (they had access to a copy machine obviously) – Fannies were great soccer ball kicking like a Rod Stewart 70’s concert

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

More Rock And Roll Flyers



Aaaah..."Skankman" in all his glory! January of 86 right before Cantrells bit the dust – just a handful of punks at the show – a group of them drove up in a car slathered with spray paint graffiti with loudspeakers on top of the car – leather jacket skinheads who looked like Circle Jerks mascot “Skankman” they were frightening to behold – hung out near the back with Zander Schloss while PMS performed – they were good – they ate at the Wendy’s behind Vandy after the show one booth over from us – the Jerks were great lots of fun with such a sparse crowd compared to a year or so later when they played Exit/In.




Jason and the Scorchers – I believe this was the kickoff for their Still Standing tour – man that album blew chunks now Jason is a kiddie music star














Fireplace Whiskey Calendar – I would have liked to have seen the Let’s Active and Alex Chilton shows...saw them both a year or so later at different shows














JFA – afternoon gig was great – I bought a shirt that later got me a date

Monday, April 20, 2009

Rock Flyer Week Begins With A Few Words For Each One



Riff Raff later Riff Rath (I had their cassette release) – Mark Schenkel led band - he worked at Cats – The Look don’t know lots of bands have used that name I believe – Mordred Lane I wonder what they were like – Blind Farmers From Hell were legendary Lascassas band later mutated into Hank Flamingo – F Particles again – HR and the Audio Blisters – I never saw them, but I heard they were sonically good Tony Moreale of Cruel Blue always bragged about the bass player.







I had to work that day at the Smyrna McDonalds. The show was broadcast over KDF. I listened to some of it in the break room. It was a bummer day since I was stuck there.












Austin band alternative guitar rock I really liked their album Headache Machine
















electronic pioneer...Mike Smyth at Phonoluxe said the main dude in Dessau was really good at drywall














perhaps Murfreesboro’s first punk band – Sam Baker. I don’t know if this Youtube footage is from this show. Deacon Feilds was Colin Wade Monk’s group. I worked the door once for the F Particles at the Exit/In which was funny...I was 19 and here I was carding people for entry since it wasn't an all ages show there.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Kesey Week Continues With A Youtube Yummy

What do you get when you cross Mighty Lemon Drops and Kix? You get the soundtrack to this video somebody made of the Merry Pranksters.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Oh Yeah!


Kesey Week continues!!!

It all goes back to Morrison. I couldn't stand The Doors when I was younger. It was all so melodramatic and with Manzarek’s freaky organ the music seemed anti-rock to me. This all changed my sophomore year of high school when Brad the Lion loaned me his copy of No One Here Gets Out Alive. He’d been trying to get me into The Doors for weeks. He assured me there was more to them than the pop hits I’d heard on the radio. I don’t know why he didn’t just give me a tape instead of loaning me the book, but it worked. I became a fan of The Doors.

It wasn’t only about The Doors. I’ve written on this subject before, but No One Here Gets Out Alive featured a lists of writers and books that Jim Morrison admired. This led me down other avenues of corruption and potential dissipation. I hit the card catalog at Linebaugh Library like a thirsty alcoholic looking for the books mentioned. I grabbed an armful of Nietzsche, Kerouac’s The Dharma Bums, a book about Allen Ginsberg, and The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test and I was on my way after the pleasant clunk thump of the card stamp machine.

Now let’s digress, regress, progress to a quick summary of The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test: Soon to be famous author Kesey takes part in drug tests which include LSD. His mind gets blown and soon he’s taking trip after trip. Then a group of people coalesce around him and he becomes a sort of spiritual ringleader nicknamed Chief. They paint a bus (Furthur) of many colors and the man who was the inspiration for the character Dean Moriarty in Jack Kerouac’s opus On The Road, Neal Cassady, drives the bus across the USA so this group, dubbed the Merry Pranksters, can attend the World’s Fair being held in NYC. A big jug of orange juice laced with acid helps fuel the trip and many misadventures ensue as they shoot a movie of the trip. Kesey came up with a saying, "You're either on the bus, or you're off the bus." They make it back to California and the scene keeps getting bigger and bigger as the foundation of the Haight-Ashbury hippie scene is laid by the Merry Pranksters with their multi-media extravaganza events dubbed Acid Tests. Kesey gets busted and flees to Mexico. He comes back and after serving a few days in jail he gets out on bail and tells everybody they need to go beyond acid. They have an Acid Test Graduation and the book ends. If you want more detail then that you can go look it up on Wikipedia or buy the book and read it yourself.

Now let’s get into the pudding of this weblog post....my impressions of The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test through time, space, and memory of my sci-fi life. What did I think of the book when I was high school age? I loved it. I was entranced, enthused, intrigued, amazed, and on the bus with the actions and with Tom Wolfe’s trippy prose which he wrote to give a semblance of the acid mind set. The counter culture icons leaped from the pages with their vivid nicknames and pursuits against the social mores of the time.

This isn’t too surprising considering my age of 16 when I first read it. Neal Cassady’s ex-wife Carolyn Cassady, in her book Off The Road, wrote “...understandably the children all got a big kick from the names as well and from the escapades Neal recited; no wonder, I thought, since most of them sounded on a junior high level.” The freedom and frivolity featured in the book cavorting under the quasi-mystical lysergic glow is captivating to a young mind while the traces of Wolfe’s more jaundiced takes on the scene is so surreptitious to be hardly noticeable to me then.

I dug the camaraderie. The day-glo painted bus and anything else the paint would adhere to were a cosmic kick to a kid that felt like high school was a prison gray world. The LSD portion of the story was another part of the appeal. It provided an undercurrent of fear. It had been drilled into our heads at an early age that drugs were bad and the initialized drugs LSD and PCP were the absolute worst. You’d find yourself jumping out of a window thinking you could fly or microwaving a baby if you took them. There were enough bad trip scenes in the book to lend credence to such admonitions. So it was all thrilling rebellion to read. Was this thrilling rebellion sustained for me when I read the book again about eight years later....read on and you’ll know.

I signed up for Dr. Gentry’s counter culture lit class for a few reasons. I had read every book on the syllabus so I knew if I need to I could slack off on the readings. I figured it would be an easy A and I thought I might learn something new even though I was familiar with the topics. I actually read each book again. It was an easy A, but I didn’t gleam any new insights from the class except for my re-appraisal of The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, and that this was the class where I became friends with Michael Gray which ultimately led to my 5 year stint at Phonoluxe Records which is a whole ‘nuther topic I’ve covered before. Right now it’s just the retroactive kool-aid drinking that matters.

The second time around through the book was something else. The Merry Pranksters came off as buffoons this time. They were just a bunch of clueless hippies only interested in sensory things with no real accomplishments or contribution to society. I had gone from open eyed sophomoric youth to punk rock veteran with a complete disdain for the co-opted baby boom Sixties fads and fetishes. It’s there in the book too. The justification for such an attitude is right on the pages when you read about former activists who had been doing great things for civil rights growing their hair, wearing beads, taking drugs, and basically walking away from it all to end up in nasty crash pads to burn out. And the way I saw it in my mid-twenties was that the ones that hadn’t burned out had become megalomaniacal yuppies and much the shame they weren’t all still on LSD. I may have even written a paper in this line and if I can find it I’ll be sure and share it with you.

The summary cliche of life is that you get more conservative as you get older or as they said in The Breakfast Club you lose your heart. I tend to disagree. When I was young, oh so young, I was open minded and ready to taste the freedom promised by the Merry Pranksters. I reached my mid-twenties and I was filled up with ideas and was set in my ways. Now I’m at the midway point of life I’m like a cracked vessel. I’m full of ideas, but the vessel is leaking and the elements are getting in. I read Wolfe’s hippie masterpiece again last week and my ideas have gone all Charlie Brown on me. I’m ambivalent as hell about its contents (read wishy washy).

The acidized text gets old and tiresome after awhile, but Kesey’s story is still compelling...perhaps even more compelling now that I've got a much clearer picture of what he perhaps gave up to become a champion for LSD. Unlike my college era critique, I can see some worth in the Merry Pranksters and their boundary pushing antics. They did add some color to people’s lives and I suppose their pioneering efforts in multi-media paved the way for better things. Even the mystical acid bent doesn’t seem too bad these days. The one thing above all I can give them is that they seemed earnest about their aims of a rather aimless life. You don’t run across much real innocent earnestness these days.

So I haven't turned a full circle regarding the non-fiction New Journalism classic or even place Kesey back on the high school pedestal. I guess you can boil it down to this:

high school - I wanted to be on the bus
college - I wanted to scrap the bus
middle age - I wouldn't mind seeing the bus rolling down the freeway. I might even get on it if I really need a ride.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Reunion - Kesey Week Begins


Twenty four years ago I loaned Ken Kesey's Garage Sale to a dude that worked with me at McDonalds. He was another grill jockey like me, but he was older and cooler and he dated assistant manager Linda. Linda came in to work once that summer of 1985 singing "Walking On Sunshine" and that made everything all right for a few fleeting moments. She threw a party later that summer and I came to it dressed in green slacks and a golf shirt I had purchased at Friedmans. It was my one attempt at going preppie to impress Lisa Whitmore and even though she wasn’t go to be at the party I figured I’d give the outfit a test run.

I also brought The Beatles's Rubber Soul album, the British Parlophone import, and put it on the hi-fi. The crowd grew restless after a few tunes and took it off to be replaced by Prince's Around The World In A Day album which is ironic as hell since it was his blatant Beatles rip/homage/whatever record. So my choice of music was crap, but I did have several people ask me if I played golf. Linda and her boyfriend were perhaps only two or three maybe four years older than me, but at that moment in time fresh out of high school they seemed vastly older, more worldly, and mature than me. Her boyfriend was a cool dude, but I never got my book back.

I had purchased it at the Outlets Limited Mall when I was a junior in high school. There was a little book kiosk in one of the halls that sold remaindered stock. I got an Evergreen Review compilation book there too with some Gregory Corso poetry and drawings inside. After I loaned and lost the Kesey book I'd look for it, but years had gone by and I gave up wandering upon it at McKay or some other fabulous used book shop.

So I broke down last week. I ordered a used copy off of Amazon. It was more than I had paid originally, but it was still well under $20. Not too bad for a quasi-collectible hippie generation artifact. It arrived yesterday along with the Lester Bangs penned Blondie bio I had also ordered. I had hoped that the Kesey book might even bear my name...I used to always write my name on a book back in the day, but it didn't happen. Man, that would have been supremely cool, but it was still awesome to have the book back in my hands.

It's not a great book, but it is a fun volume of essays and fiction. The best moments are Kesey's praise of Faulkner, his pro-life stance stated elegantly and forcefully in an interview with Paul Krassner, and of course lots of stuff about Neal Cassady and the rest of the Beats. Opening it up was like seeing an old friend again. Sure, you've lost touch, but just moments in you're synched right back into all of the old social graces that made your life richer and better for knowing them.

So to celebrate this reunion I’ve decided to make this Kesey Week. Each day I’ll post some blather about Kesey and The Merry Pranksters and their trajectory through my little old life. Tomorrow I’ll examine Tom Wolfe’s tale of Kesey, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, and how the book’s meanings have changed to me through my readings of it over the years.

“We don’t take our trips on LSD” – Merle Haggard

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Sidco Drive Rocking The Armory

subtitled: I was really uptight and analyzed culture too much back then, but what do you expect...I was an anthropology major.

I wonder if the National Guard Armory on Sidco Drive hosts concerts anymore? I saw a trio of concerts there in the early 90's and I have fond memories of all of them. I also worked a skate jam there with the assistance of Toby. It was strange to me back then - this mixture of counter cultural rebellion and the military establishment. I wasn't the only one that felt this way. Paul Westerberg inserted the line "the only thing that scares me is the military" into "Nightclub Jitters" when I saw The Replacements on the Pleased To Meet Me tour.

I believe The Replacements were the first rock show I went to at the Armory. I've written about that show in some detail previously here at the Stew, so we'll skim over it this time. I went with a carload of Murfreesboro punks who really only wanted the Sorry, Ma Forgot To Take Out The Trash era Place Mats. We ran into some other punks who were inhaling some sort of drug. I passed. Dreams So Real opened and they were as dull as a Braves baseball game. I ran into Westerberg in the restroom. He looked like he had been drinking. The Replacements then played a stellar show after which I immediately wrote a letter to my pal DD Blank that I then never mailed.

Show numero dos on the list is thrash metal band Death Angel. They had an almost hit song with the uber cool "I'm Bored" which sums up most teenager's daily lament with chunky riffage rumbling to an almost calamitous full stop. Plus they had Death in their name which is always highly appreciated by acne erupting mosh pit denizens. I went to this show with The Gonz and his little brother Papoose. I don't recall who opened. It was probably Rednecks In Pain or F.U.C.T. or maybe even both. There was a sparse crowd, but they all seemed to be moshing in the approved counter clockwise direction just like the race from Alice In Wonderland. I joined in the fun swinging my arms like some punk rock gorilla working off all of the beer I undoubtedly consumed before arriving.

Death Angel were decent. Nothing was as catchy or immediate as "I'm Bored", but you couldn't be too picky since your thrash metal choices in Nash Vegas were very limited then. The music was loud, fast, and while it might not have ruled you could mosh to it. Papoose asked me to knock one of his classmates down so I did. Then I got knocked down. I'd reverse direction just for kicks. The mosh pit was violent, but caring. If you fell down somebody would always reach down and pick you up after you'd been stomped on a few times. One dude I didn't know got a black eye and I had to do a doubletake. He looked like he could have been a stand-in for Emilio Estevez in Repo Man.

The next day on campus I saw him again. So I went up to him and said, "I saw you at the Death Angel show. How's your eye?"

He replied, "It's okay."

Then I couldn't resist asking, "Did anybody ever tell you that you look like Emilio Estevez's character in Repo Man?"

He answered, "Yeah. They call me Repo."

His real name was Dave and he became part of the crew I hung out with at the K.U.C. Grill. He was perhaps the nicest of the menacing looking punks you might encounter at a punk or thrash show in Nashville or Murfreesboro. Dude's probably a doctor or lawyer now.

It was around that same time frame I saw the Red Hot Chili Peppers play the Armory. It was my second time to witness the spectacle that is Flea and company. I had seen them before at Vandy's Rites Of Spring when DeWayne "Blackbyrd" McKnight was playing with them (although I could be wrong). John Frusciante had definitely joined the group by the time they got to Nashville again and he was quickly becoming one of Papoose's idols. So Gonz and him were by my side at the gig and probably Toby too. The usual wreaking crew - and I mean wreaking not wrecking since we usually wreaked havoc wherever we went. Frusciante was the highlight for us, but the whole band was great. They did leave their tubesocks in their trousers that night. Either nobody opened for them or they were so good I forgot the opening band. Maybe someone can enlighten me if there was one or not.

Now that I am older, oh so much older, the connection of rock shows and the armory makes sense. I don't know why it seemed strange to me even back then. Youth make up the lower ranks of the military and their choice of music is likely whatever is in fashion at the time. Sure, Death Angel, The Replacements, and (at that point in time) the Chili Peppers weren't mainstream, but there's no reason to believe there weren't plenty of military into them. The dude nicknamed Repo was in college ROTC. Just look at the USO shows that go over to Iraq and Afghanistan now. Really when you get down to it there is no counter culture that's not willing to be exploited by the establishment so long as it makes money. It's really about commerce on both sides with rebellion being one of the biggest soft soaps out there. As long as you don't take it too seriously it's alot of fun.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Townie Looping

The weather was excellent yesterday so I took my first bicycle ride of the year. I did what I call my "townie" loop into Smithville, around the golf course, to the high school, and then back New Home towards my home. I didn't do too poorly in my current fatboy shape. I averaged 16 mph at just under 14 miles for the run. Traffic was light and nobody yelled at me which is always a plus. The first roadkill of the season was a big striped cat just inside the city limits. It won't be the last. I saw a bunch of little kids playing with bb guns and much to their credit they didn't shoot at me. It was just a good smooth ride and I felt great afterwards. Please let the warm weather continue.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Happy Birthday!


Happy 4th birthday to my son Liam. You rule dude!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Random Crap From An Old Notebook

Now for a recurring feature here: Random Crap From An Old Notebook

In this case it's from one titled Skating Is Poetry from 1987. It was mainly filled with bad punk rock song lyrics that never got from the page to rehearsal and while those old songs might be more sociologically interesting I've decided to instead share some narcissistic observations along with some bad poetry. It's all non-linear and perhaps only good to me. But that's sort of the point.

1987

I always hate shaving in the morning.
It sounds like 70's music.

You ever notice that the Osmonds all look like frogs, especially that loathsome Jimmy.

One thing I had never noticed before is the blistering guitar solo on "Concrete Jungle."

Hippies...shake your heads like angry mops
Under the rain stroked sky
The gumball rolls into the slot
The preachers don't like rock
and roll
Cause it cuts into their profit.

Cardinal on the sill,
Time stands still,
Let's pop another pill.

The girl with the felt tip shoes
always leads the way.
She's got warm hands
that sound like trains
through kudzu draped railroad trestles.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Thursday, January 22, 2009

I Guess This Is About A Pair Of Shoes

A Pointless Foray Into My Junior High Past

I lived in Smyrna for the first half of 1981 where I attended 8th grade Thurman Francis Junior High. I never found out who Thurman Francis was, but I thought it was a cool name for a school. The colors were teal and orange and their sports teams were the Rams. The school newspaper was called the Ram Page. It had a snack bar and a jukebox in the cafeteria. The 9th grade hall was called "Murder Hall" not because anybody was ever killed there, but because it was so narrow it was murder to make it to class. Freak kids hated the frats and the rest of us tried to not get caught in the crossfire. I went roller skating every weekend in Murfreesboro and my girlfriends all went on to become cheerleaders. My first kiss was on the bleachers in the gym during a basketball game.

Your social standing was about the alliances you kept. What clothes you wore. One kid in my history class named Bucky always wore Izod Lacoste polo shirts. The history teacher once asked him if his family owned stock in the company. You were judged on how well you could feather your hair. How much electricity did it take to power all of those blow dryers every morning as boys and girls across America got ready in the morning. For boys it was okay to bring a football to school, but carrying any instrument case other than for a drum or guitar would invite ridicule and the occasional beat down. Most of all you were judged on your tennis shoes.

It was 6th grade at Mitchell-Neilson Elementary where I first became aware that some kids actually cared about what you wore on your feet. I was changing classes once and a kid who wasn't even in my class laughed at me as he told me I was wearing "buddies." I didn't even know he was referring to my shoes. I knew about Adidas and Converse, but they were just shoes to me. No different from the non-brand name kicks I was wearing. I had no control over what I wore since my parents bought my shoes for me. So it would go until a few months into 8th grade.

I hadn't encountered anymore hallway bullies putting down my shoes, but by 8th grade it became apparent that if you wanted even a hint of a social life you needed name brand shoes. It was also great if you could get the bottoms to squeak on demand. The brand that was king was Nike and the shoe was the canvas court shoes with the light blue Nike swoosh. When school began I was wearing some Trax that my parents got at a Pic N Pay. The only way I was going to get the Nike's I wanted was either wait for my birthday or cut back on roller-skating. This was tough since roller-skating was where everybody went on Friday nights. So I waited until my birthday.

It was only a couple of months or so and I would make do with my Trax until then. I was making friends anyways. Soon the time passed and I went to Agee's Sporting Goods in Murfreesboro and found some a pair of Nike in my size. They were $30. I can still remember the orange box and that new tennis shoe smell of rubber, canvas, and tissue paper. They were the most comfortable and magical shoes I ever owned. I walked into gym class on Monday and everybody was digging that I had Nike tennis shoes. This cemented my position with my new friends and helped me to break the ice with others. I loved those shoes.

I'm sure it was all in my head, but I felt like I was a better athlete with those shoes on my feet. I was taller. I was better looking. I actually now had a reason to use the pay foot lockers at the roller skating rink. The world in general was a divine place as I ran around with my feet a holy blur of sky blue and pure white and what a satisfactory squeak they could make on the school’s tile hallway floors. They were the shoes I had on my feet when I met future cheerleader Christy at the basketball game one brisk autumn night. After the game I flew home on a beat up bicycle filled with the exhilarating rare gift of possibility you are only granted a handful of times in one's life.

Fleeting it is. My Nike's grew dirty over the winter and my feet were growing. Christy and I made it through Valentine's Day as couple, but soon we parted. While I loved my now battered Nike's I was already feeling that sometimes haunting impulse of mine to be different and I went with now fading in popularity Converse for my next pair of shoes. On a warm weekend day in March or April I met the second girlfriend and future cheerleader Lisa playing a pick up baseball game. How great is that; a pick up baseball game. I bet those rarely happen now. Lisa and I didn't last long and soon I would have a string of random girlfriends much like my shoes. A mixture of whim and luck is the only pattern I can detect now.

One afternoon I went with my mother to K-Mart in what was called Stones River Mall at the time. There was an inside mall with many stores, but the best were the Silver Shack game room, Readmore Books, and Port O'Call Records. While my mother shopped in K-Mart I went to the mall to make my rounds. I played a few games of pinball, looked at the latest music magazines, and then went to check out the wall display of the Top 40 45's before I headed back to K-Mart. You had to go outside to get to K-Mart since it was a stand alone store. I ran my fingertips lightly on the brown brick siding as I strolled the long length of sidewalk toward the kiddie rides and phone placed just before the front door. I glanced down and there was my next pair of shoes shining green in the warm afternoon sun.

I looked around and there wasn't anyone there so I scooped up the cash I saw and ran into the store. I didn't even know how much was there. I just knew that I had found some money. I took a deep breath and saw that I had found a couple of 20 dollar bills. I was rich! But, I thought, maybe I should turn it into the store's lost and found. But, I thought, I had found it outside the store. But, I thought, I bet some kind parent had lost the money while digging in their pocket to find money for their kid to ride the mechanical horse or merry go round and they would miss the money and would come back for it to find it gone. I debated in my mind for some time, before I finally found my mother and told her about my find. Her advice was simple and easily followed. She told me to keep the cash and spend it however I liked.

The first thing I did was march right back down to Port O'Call and purchase Styx's Paradise Theater album. It had been high on the charts all year and I really liked its mixture of hard rock and sentimental balladry. The record even had laser etched drawings on the vinyl you could see if you held it up the light and tilted it just right. I'm surprised I didn't go straight to Silver Shack after this and blow the rest of the dough on pinball, but I guess my mother was ready to go back to Smyrna. Maybe I should have spent some of the money on my current girlfriend, but an only child can be selfish so the thought never crossed my mind. Besides, girlfriends came and went during the first half of 1981 with the regularity of spring tornado warnings.

I should have bought another pair of Nike, but instead I went for all white, all leather Pony's with a red mark on the side. Pony was on the upswing then and it made a little stir when I came to school with them instead of my Converse. I basked in this glow for a time, but soon found the Pony's to be uncomfortable, clunky, and nowhere near magical. The leather scuffed and the sides became fouled with black and gray scratches. I spent the remainder of my money I had found at a carnival in Murfreesboro held at Jackson Heights Plaza.

School was winding down at Thurman Francis and I moved back to Murfreesboro. My father would drive me to Smyrna in the morning and I would hang out after school or at the public library until my mother picked me up in the afternoon. It was weird since we had lived just a block or so away from school. I was in some teenage limbo knowing that I'd attend Oakland in the fall, but not wanting to give up all the cool friends I had made. I fell in with a new crew of kids that liked to study at the library that went to Thurman Francis, but I hadn't met yet. This was odd since the school wasn't that big.

There's no real point to that last bit and if there is a point to any of this I doubt I'll find it. It's just strange in retrospect to me how I would fall in with a completely different set of friends after school was over. I mean go to the trouble of doing this when I knew in less than a month school would end and I probably wouldn't see any of them again. It gives it all such a summer camp golden afternoon hue, but even that's circumspect when you consider all I know of summer camps is from movies and Peanuts comics.

I do recall that the library kids weren't hung up on shoes or much of anything really. They didn't care about the Oakland Raiders winning the Super Bowl or the Smyrna High School baseball team's record. They were just a mixture of boys and girls that happened to be friends. The world didn't break down into a binary system for them. That didn't stop me from trying to get yet another girlfriend. That may be the shadowy ulterior motive for me after all, but I believe that was the result of my befriending the group and not the root cause.

My lucky money Pony’s were giving out at an alarming rate whether I was sprinting in gym or playing four square with this kid Napoleon and a pair of girls I wished desperately to roller-skate with soon. The turmoil of the end was getting to me. I wouldn’t get to be a 9th grader at Thurman Francis on top of junior high, but instead I’d get to be a “greenie” at Oakland where the social barriers were rock solid. It wouldn’t matter what shoes one wore.

Things there would be divided into racial, economic, athletic, and cultural (or agricultural) classes there and I wasn’t prepared to negotiate those social constructs. My freshman year would be filled with teenage angst and pathos. It was made up of situations that would make me a fan of The Catcher In The Rye. I can’t even remember what brand of tennis shoes I wore that year. I wore construction boots most of the time with jeans, flannel shirt with a heavy metal t-shirt on the outside, and an ag-boy cap with the duck bill. I started smoking cigarettes and had zero friends at Oakland.

Even in this dismal scenario I still managed to have a girlfriend. She went to Riverdale and we’d catch glimpses of each other during the week as our school buses stopped at Central Middle after leaving each high school. She’d come over to spend the weekend with her father right down the street from me and we’d hang out on the Mitchell-Neilson Elementary playground and maybe go roller skating or to a basketball game and dance. Of course, I treated her like crap and by the time I moved yet again and switched to Riverdale we were kaput even though her ex-boyfriend from her junior high days kept challenging me to fist fights. I resigned myself that life must be filled with such perilous complications and it does seem so. But life is also filled with great moments too. Some of them might even include an orange box.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Reduced

I drove to Nashville last Saturday on I-40 and I passed three semis the whole way into the downtown loop. Car traffic was also light. It was almost eerie. I found myself actually missing the usual barrage of vehicles speeding into the city. It was just a visible sign that the economic apocalypse is nigh.

Yesterday I got that the news that my salary would be cut by 10% due to the sluggish economy. It could be worse. It could get much worse. It probably will. I am a born pessimist. Expect the worst is my motto. That way if it doesn't happen you get a pleasant surprise and if it does; then so what. My economic class has always been upper lower to lower middle and a depression isn't likely to change that too much. I'll make do somehow.

Now if it gets so bad there is marching in the streets, riots, and roving marauders it really won't matter that my family doesn't have a flat screen television or a Nintendo Wii. What will matter is that we don't live in the city. Oddly though, I don't expect it to get that out of hand. I'm not that big of a pessimist.

Look for some more frequent posting again. Mostly old tales of my youth and music mayhem related to Murfreesboro and Nashville.