Tools of the Trade….

I wish I had more pictures of all of the instruments that I’ve had in years gone by, I have a few laying around….I’ll find them sometime.

Otherwise…let’s get to it

This picture is from 2005 or thereabouts…

bass

on the left…you have a Johnson knock-off bass and on the right, a Yahama Pacifica guitar.  Yup, I’m left-handed….at least when it comes to playing instruments.  I bought both of these at a local mom and pop music store in Ludington, MI.  Bought em’ the old-school way, put a down payment and paid it off on layaway.  Also on the table to the right of the Yahama is a cheap Ukulele which I restrung so that I could play it.  Unfortunately, in 2007….I pawned off most of my instruments and equipment, including these two.  It was a sad day.

Now onto more current dealings…

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This is my acoustic which has been beaten up over the years, it’s a Fender model and I got this at a Guitar Center in Cincinnati, OH.  It’s served me well over the last few years.  I keep it downtuned in D most of the time as I hate tuning and retuning if I want to play something in a lower key.  I just bought some heavy gauge strings, I think that will help it out a bit.

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This is my electric, a Stedman Pro…knock-off…but it’s cool.  The only problem I really have with it is the build quality.  It never wants to stay in tune, this was a gift from my ex-fiancee’ and her father who got this for me on my birthday back in 2009.  So, on that basis alone…I’m never going to part with it but, I do have my eye on something better which you’ll see down below.

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This is my piano, a Yamaha 88-key DGX-500.  My Brother got this for me a few years ago as a gift.  I learned how to play piano on this thing, it’s pretty neat.  It also has MIDI out going to my laptop so that I can play software instruments.  It too has been knocked around over the years, and a couple of keys on the higher octaves no longer work due to contacts wearing out.  I think I can fix that on my own, it’s a huge undertaking to take this whole thing apart to do something which may or may not work.  We’ll see…otherwise 85 of the 88 keys work just fine.

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This is my vocal / acoustic guitar mic…..an Audio-Technica, I got this at Guitar Center in Grand Rapids a long time ago.  Does the job pretty well

IMG_20140106_124928 IMG_20140106_124921

This is my other instrument mic, a cheap Radio Shack mic that I got…well, at a Radio Shack.  I got that here in Tennessee just as an extra microphone, it’s not as focused of a mic as the one above..but then again, it’s not supposed to be…so you have to be real quiet when you use this because it’ll pick up everything!

IMG_20140106_124811 IMG_20140106_124831

What good are microphones and instruments if you can’t record them?  This is what gets the music into the computer, an M-Audio Fast Track Pro 2X2 which I’ve had for quite a few years.  It was actually unopened for most of that time because I had another cheaper M-Audio interface that I was still using.  I’m going to eventually step up to a FireWire interface at some point down the line.  I got this one on clearance at Comp USA in Grand Rapids when they were closing their store a while back, I don’t even remember what year it was now.  But I got this for almost 50% off the regular retail price.

And now for stuff that I’d like to get….Tax Refund time is around the corner, after all…..the following pictures were taken at a local music shop a few minutes away from me downtown…..

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a Korg keyboard, not quite as big as mine as far as number of octaves and keys…but this thing plays and feels wonderful.  Price: $1300 (on sale, even!)

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A Lefty Fender Jazz bass, this thing has been sitting over there for a couple of years..not too many left-handed bass players in town, I’d reckon.  Due to it being deadweight as far as inventory is concerned…it originally was going for around $700.  now it’s marked down to $550 or something like that.  Out of the three instruments, this is one that I’m definitely going to get come March or April.  This is #1 on my list because I’ve been in need of a bass for quite some time (ever since I pawned off my old one) and frankly, I miss playing bass.

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This one was unexpected, I saw this sitting over by the front door.  This is where all of the used instruments go to sit around until someone buys them.  This is a nice guitar, a Kurt Cobain model Fender Jag-Stang.  Aptly named because of it’s combining of the Fender Jaguar and the Fender Mustang models of guitar.  It almost looks like a Fender Jazzmaster on steroids, haha.  I haven’t plugged it in to anything yet, but I have picked it up and played around with it.  The biggest thing I like about it (besides the fact that it’s a lefty) is the fact that it’s HEAVY….it weighs like a ton of bricks.  That’s a good thing actually, shows to me that this was built really well and can hold it’s tunings well and you won’t have to worry about beating it up over time.  This one is #2 behind the bass that I want to get.  If I’m extremely lucky, I can maybe put a down payment on both of these and pay them off over time.  We’ll see how it goes.

I’ll have more later in the week, have a good day peeps!

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New Year brings new focus…..a new perspective……whatever their directives…..

 

ok ok

That was a bad rehashing of a famous line from “Your Blue Room” from the Passengers album (a one-shot side project of U2 & Brian Eno in the mid-1990’s)

 

Anyway,

It is a new year and a lot has happened for me on a personal level….

 

but before we get to that bit, just a loose end to tie up concerning my last post about Jethro Tull.  Since I made that post, nothing has changed insofar as the “retirement” of Jethro Tull.  Ian Anderson is still touring behind his new record “Thick As A Brick 2” with his own solo band.  Martin Barre is still touring with his own solo band called “Martin Barre’s New Day” which consists of new members and some old members of Jethro Tull.  The main point of news lately is that Steven Wilson (mastermind behind the great prog rock band Porcupine Tree) has remixed and remastered A Passion Play for possible release in 2014.  Wilson has done a fabulous job with other reissues of Jethro Tull’s catalog including “Thick As A Brick” and “Benefit”.  So, this news is pretty cool to hear and I’m stoked to grab it when it hits the stores.  There’s also the possibility of unreleased material being put on this set.  There were quite a few of them with that particular album, some not even bootlegged yet.  When and if that happens this year, I’ll definitely post about it.

 

I’ve been getting reacquainted with my past hobby of playing music and actually recording it.  I did this quite a bit in the early to mid 200o’s and when I started working around the clock and getting into a new relationship, all of that came to an end.  Now that I’m working a regular gig with regular hours and single, it’s all come back to me.

 

One major difference now that I didn’t have back then was better recording equipment.  This has helped immensely as I don’t have nearly the amount of instruments that I used to have.

In my next post (don’t worry, it’s not going to be another six months…that I can assure you) I will post some pictures of my tools of the trade…probably tomorrow for sure

 

in the meantime…..my music is here in case anybody wants to listen….it’s mostly covers right now, but more original material will be forthcoming in the next few weeks…enjoy! and happy new year everybody!

 

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Jethro Tull – A Passion Play

A+Passion+Play

 

This past weekend, Jethro Tull’s “A Passion Play” album turned 40 years of age.  The album was originally released in the UK on July 6th, 1973 and it happens to be my favorite album of all time.  And that my friends will be the topic of discussion this morning.

The year 1973 was such a landmark in the music industry for so many reasons that it would take me many pages to explain why.  Last year I once toyed with the idea of writing about the year in music that 1973 was and to try and get interviews with all of the major players but that was just wishful thinking.  There’s no way in hell that musicians would grant little ol’ me interview time for such a subject, so that notion was quickly forgotten and cast aside to the scrap heap of grand concepts that I’ll never chase.

To put it into perspective, in 1973…all of these albums were released:  Pink Floyd – The Dark Side Of The Moon, Yes – Tales From Topographic Oceans, Emerson Lake & Palmer  – Brain Salad Surgery, Elton John – Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, The Rolling Stones – Goat’s Head Soup, The Who – Quadrophenia, Led Zeppelin – Houses Of The Holy, Mike Oldfield – Tubular Bells, the debut album by Queen, The Allman Brothers Band – Brothers & Sisters, Genesis – Selling England By The Pound, Bruce Springsteen & The E-Street Band – Greetings From Asbury Park, The Stooges – Raw Power, King Crimson – Larks’ Tongues In Aspic, David Bowie – Aladdin Sane….and the list goes on and on and on.

Elvis had his big comeback concert broadcast from Hawaii in 1973 as well, so you can see that the stars were weirdly aligned that year for great music to be produced.  Which is pretty ironic considering that the Oil Embargo Crisis started late that year and caused a shortage in actual vinyl production which caused albums to be delayed.

Let’s get to the actual album in question….

Jethro Tull had an auspicious beginning to 1973 thanks to the lovely country of France.  The members of JT were in France, specifically the Chateau D’Herouville studios.  This was the famed studio where Elton John recorded his Honky Chateau album during 1972.  “Rocket Man” was composed there so it’s got to have something good there, right?  wrong

In August 1972 after being on the road touring behind their last release “Thick As A Brick”, Ian Anderson (JT band leader and lead vocalist) set up camp at the Chateau to write and record with the rest of his band.  Why not record in Old Blighty, you ask?  Simple reason…..JT garnered huge success with TAAB and it netted them a healthy profit.  This in turn made them prime candidates for Britain’s insanely high tax bracket for the wealthy.  So, in essence…they became tax exiles for half the year and France was the locale of choice.

As Anderson has mentioned over the years, nothing seemed to go right at the Chateau.  From tape machines not working to recordings being mysteriously wiped…it was just a bad vibe all around.  Anderson and band came back to Britain at the beginning of 1973 with some of the Chateau material to work out the kinks.  Some of the material was reworked and rearranged and became the genesis of A Passion Play.  Most of the original material that was written at the Chateau seemed to revolve around a concept album dealing with animals of which one song (Bungle In The Jungle) would later be revisted and released in altered form on the following album “Warchild” in 1974.  An hour’s worth of the Chateau sessions (both the early versions of A Passion Play and the Animal-themed songs) were released on the Nightcap compilation album in 1993.

Anderson composed APP as a story dealing with the afterlife and where one goes after they check out of the living world.  The protagonist in this story (Ronnie) begins by viewing his own funeral and ends up going to Heaven during the first half of the piece.  Realizing that Heaven is…well…rather boring….he talks to the head steward at the business office of “Heaven” (playfully, the company is called “G. Oddie & Son”) to request a trip to that other place.  He gets there and realizes that he really doesn’t fit in there either and ends up in the end reincarnated (at least that’s how it seems to play out during the last lines of the piece).

There’s a fabulous website devoted to this album (http://www.ministry-of-information.co.uk/app/index.htm) dealing with the possible themes and covers pretty much the whole period of that album (tours, etc.)

Ian Anderson has had a rocky relationship with this album as it did brisk business in the charts for a short period in the summer of 1973, even hitting #1 on the Billboard Charts for a week in August before tumbling downward.  It didn’t help that JT’s publicist famously declared that JT were going to retire due to the negative press reviews they were getting in relation to the album.  All of this retirement talk of course was behind IA’s back and it really damaged their credibility with some of the British public.

Apart from some brief medleys of some of the material on the 1975 tour for Warchild, Jethro Tull never played anything from APP ever again after their 1973 tour.  Fans were hoping that something could be resurrected this summer due to the 40th anniversary and due to the fact that IA has spent all last year playing all of TAAB with his solo band in celebrating that album’s anniversary as well as his new release TAAB2.  But, due to the complexity of APP and also due to IA’s reticence on playing the material…it’s probably never going to happen.  That being said, JT’s guitarist Martin Barre has included “flight from lucifer” from APP into his band’s setlists over the past year.

My story of this album started in the early 1990’s when I was buying up a lot of compact discs.  All I had from Jethro Tull at that time was the Anniversary Collection, a double-disc set celebrating their 25th anniversary at that time (1993) which contained a lot of good stuff (aqualung, obviously…and pretty much all of their radio hits).  It also contained an edit from APP and I really liked what I had heard.  I went out and bought the album at Vinyl Solution the very next weekend and I was hooked.  It was and continues to be an album that I go to almost weekly to listen to the whole thing all the way through.  It’s almost therapeutic to me in that regard, no matter what kind of day I’m having…as soon as I listen to that record…it helps me greatly.

Sure, they had better songs commercially and some would even argue that they had better albums than APP but for my money, if you like the concept album thing…APP has you covered…if you like great songwriting, again APP has you covered….you like goofy Brothers Grimm style fables?  Once again, APP has you covered, in between side one and side two…we have “The Hare Who Lost His Spectacles” a charming story narrated by JT bassist Jeffrey Hammond which has a Peter & The Wolf type of vibe in places.  Doesn’t Ian Anderson play anything else other than flute and guitar?   APP is on the case….Saxophones…specifically, soprano & sopranino saxes….I’d suspect it’s because the fingerings are the same as the flute.  I think he also played them on a couple of songs on Warchild, but I’m not sure…but it was this album (APP) where he started playing them.  I have some experience playing saxophone, but it was Alto Sax and I’ve never played a flute so I couldn’t tell you if the fingerings on the smaller sax are similar to the flute.  The final word on APP,  It’s the best thing JT ever did and it’s the best album in my collection, bar none.

Finally, here are some images to round out the APP experience….

Jethro Tull - live 1973 - (L-R): Jeffrey Hammond, Ian Anderson, Martin Barre

Jethro Tull – live 1973 – (L-R): Jeffrey Hammond, Ian Anderson, Martin Barre

Live 1973 - Pianist John Evan tries to stop IA from answering the phone

Live 1973 – Pianist John Evan tries to stop IA from answering the phone

APP on 8-track!

APP on 8-track!

Handbill for the APP Tour - Steeleye Span was a folk rock outfit from the UK that IA produced

Handbill for the APP Tour – Steeleye Span was a folk rock outfit from the UK that IA produced

The APP Ballerina was put to good use in the marketing campaign

The APP Ballerina was put to good use in the marketing campaign

The back cover of the vinyl LP of APP

The back cover of the vinyl LP of APP

I guess at this point, I should chime in about the Ballerina….what’s up with her?  Why is she on the album cover looking dead with blood dribbling out of her mouth?  I don’t really recall anywhere where IA explained what the Ballerina had to do with the story, I do know that the image of the dead ballerina on the cover was part of a video that was shot to introduce APP live on tour.  There was a circular screen behind the band and there was a tape of eerie keyboards and synthesizer music that slowly built up to a crescendo.  While this was happening, the film shown on the screen showed the ballerina in a pose similar to the album cover and then slowly coming to life with small movements and then being shown jumping through a mirror which at that point would trigger a huge flashpot explosion with the band running out (literally) and playing the intro to APP.  Sadly, they didn’t film any of their shows during this period and the only footage that exists is fan-shot footage via 8mm and 16mm films which can be found on YouTube if you look hard enough.  I can only wager a guess and say that the Ballerina has a double meaning, perhaps the album cover shows a fallen angel (allusions to Lucifer who arrives later in the album) and also the symbolism of the ballerina relates to the “theater” nature of the piece and the literature that came with the album (almost like a program or a handbill of a play).

inside cover jacket of APP

inside cover jacket of APP

clip of promotional video of "The Hare Who Lost His Spectacles" - Jeffrey Hammond is on the left in glasses, Ian Anderson is on the right

clip of promotional video of “The Hare Who Lost His Spectacles” – Jeffrey Hammond is on the left in glasses, Ian Anderson is on the right

I should point out here that Jeffrey Hammond was my favorite member of Jethro Tull, he was in the band from 1971-1975.  He’s not a bass player at all, he’s a painter and had to be taught how to play bass beforehand.  He’s an extremely old childhood friend of Ian Anderson going all the way back to Primary School (If I’m remembering that right)…anyway, Ian thought so highly of him, he dedicated two songs to Jeffrey on JT’s first two albums in the late 1960’s (A Song For Jeffrey & Jeffrey Goes To Leceister Square).

Jeffrey cut quite an interesting figure on stage, he was known for running around like a lunatic and yet still was able to hold the basslines down.  He’s also known for his sense of fashion…case in point…

Jethro Tull - live 1975 - Jeffrey Hammond & Ian Anderson

Jethro Tull – live 1975 – Jeffrey Hammond & Ian Anderson

Are you fucking kidding me?  Zebra stripe getup and Zebra Striped bass?  fucking brilliant man that Jeffrey

Jethro Tull - Live 1975

Jethro Tull – Live 1975

That sense of fashion extended to double bass too, apparently

His brilliance can even be extended to the current day, who’s aping his style…..you ask?

russell-brand-totally-looks-like-jeffrey-hammond

……..case closed

When Jeffrey walked away after the Warchild tour in 1975, he famously burned his stage clothes (The 1973 Panama Jack outfit, the aforementioned Zebra Suit, etc.) and never picked up a bass again.  He has gone back to his paintings and is quite good at it.

BlackpoolPromenade-SummerunfinishedJefreyHammond2007

The above was done by Jeffrey in 2007 entitled “Blackpool Promenade” which depicts his native Blackpool during the Carnival season.  Really cool painting

that’s all for today, kids

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TIMELINE: 1983-1984

 

I don’t know why I’m keeping these memories to two-year increments, I certainly don’t remember every single thing that’s happened to me.  Oh well, let’s get moving…

 

1983….

Another strange year, I turned eight years old in October of that year.  The Police were everywhere on MTV during this period due to the excellent Snychronicity album.  Nothing too groundbreaking really happened to me during that year, I think I played Dungeons & Dragons that year with my cousin or something….I don’t know.  Nothing is really leaping out at me for that year.  Must not have been memorable then…

The Police in 1983 (L-R): Andy Summers, Gordon Sumner (aka Sting), Stewart Copeland

The Police in 1983 (L-R): Andy Summers, Gordon Sumner (aka Sting), Stewart Copeland

 

 

let’s move on to 1984…..

....1984 was his year

.1984 was his year

1984 was HUGE….I repeat HUGE….A lot happened that year….Prince’s Purple Rain was everywhere, it seemed that Prince’s Little Red Corvette video (which was actually released in 1982) was being played every five minutes in tandem with the new videos that he put out for When Doves Cry and all of the other Purple Rain associated stuff.  Even Morris Day got into the act with “Jungle Love”  (HEY! OH-EE-OH-EE-OH!..GIRL I WANNA KNOW YA!)

 

Jungle Love never looked so suave

Jungle Love never looked so suave

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jack Morris - Chicago No-Hitter - April 1984

Jack Morris – Chicago No-Hitter – April 1984

Ask any Michiganian (or Michigander for that matter) what 1984 meant to them?   Just one thing…..Detroit Tigers winning it all!  Arguably the greatest season that any sports team ever had not named the Chicago Bulls of 1995-96.  The 1984 Tigers season was magical right from the start.  In just the fourth game of the season in early April, Jack Morris pitched a No-Hitter on National Television when he iced the Chicago White Sox at Old Comiskey Park 4-0.  Milt Wilcox (a fellow starting pitcher for the Tigers) had to smile, he came within one out of a perfect game in 1983 which was also against the White Sox.  He retired the first 26 batters without incident until Jerry Hairston singled to right.  The Tigers would go on to an unprecedented 35-5 start (an eyepopping .875 winning percentage) to coast through the rest of the season winning the AL East by 15 games.

Boxscore from Morris' masterpiece

Boxscore from Morris’ masterpiece

 

 

 

 

I have fond memories of watching the World Series against the Padres which was kind of a letdown as most people around here were really hoping that the Cubs would have been the opponent.  Like the Tigers, the Chicago Cubs also had an insane year in 1984.  The Cubs also had a huge following thanks to WGN being broadcast nationwide.  The Cubs had some great ballplayers at that time, Ryne Sandberg, Garry Matthews, Larry Bowa, Rick Sutcliffe, Jody Davis, Ron Cey, etc.

images-2 imgres-6

imgres-7

 

When the Cubs demolished the Padres in game 1 of the NLCS 13-0, people were already punching their tickets for the World Series.  It would have been a dream Series for this area, we’re almost equidistant from both Chicago & Detroit and fans here could have bought up tickets to all seven games no problem.  The dream Series actually happened the very next year although it was in a different state (Missouri – St. Louis Cardinals vs. Kansas City Royals)  The I-70 Series…that was a great one, went all seven games too.  Maybe I’ll reserve that for 1985 in the timeline.

When the Tigers clinched it in Game 5 when Gibby (Kirk Gibson) sealed the deal with a home run late in the game, the crowd went bananas.  I remember the final out and this mass wave of fans just stormed the field at Tiger Stadium and starting ripping up the sod, I would have loved to have been there for that.  It was one of the coolest things I ever experienced watching it on television.  It meant more to me because I was such a huge fan of baseball at that age.

 GAME....SET.......


GAME….SET…….

....MATCH!

.MATCH!

Fuck Charlie Sheen....this is WINNING!

Fuck Charlie Sheen….this is WINNING!

 

 

.....uh.....huh?

…..uh…..huh?

A strange oddity also in Baseball that I remember was seeing Pete Rose in a Montreal Expos jersey, he played for them briefly in 1984 before coming back to the Cincinnati Reds.  So many great things were happening around Baseball…you had the excellent weekly show TWIB (This Week In Baseball) narrated by none other than the Hall Of Famer Mel Allen….you also had the Baseball Bunch which was one of my favorites, you had Tommy Lasorda showing kids how to play the game (minus the cursing out of umpires of course) and you had cameos by famous ballplayers of the day such as Steve Garvey, Steve Sax, Tony Gwynn, etc.   and who could forget the San Diego Chicken?   Awesome stuff for a kid like me at that time.

I didn't realize the San Diego Chicken was a member of Cobra Kai....that LaRusso boy better watch out

I didn’t realize the San Diego Chicken was a member of Cobra Kai….that LaRusso boy better watch out

 

I also remember watching the 1984 Summer Olympic Games from Los Angeles, watching Edwin Moses kill it on the hurdles, Carl Lewis whooping ass on the track, and also watching Mary Decker Slaney falling near the end of the Marathon (or was it a long-distance track event?  I don’t remember at the moment and I don’t feel like looking it up).  Of course, Mary Lou Retton taking it to Romania and showing them that Comanecci was old-hat…that was 1976, it was now 1984 and Yankee Gymnastics was all the way live….ok, that really wasn’t said in 1984…maybe a really young Coolio uttered that phrase in 1984…who knows?

 

Aside from sports, I also bought my very first album in 1984 with my own money, The Genesis album “Abacab” which was originally released in 1981.  I did cover that briefly in my last post about North Kent Mall.  But that album started it all up with me, consequently I never did buy another album until I was in High School and Compact Discs were around…but that’s another story for another time.

 

 

I gotta admit...those old Padres jerseys were pretty dope...I'd get one if I had the cash

I gotta admit…those old Padres jerseys were pretty dope…I’d get one if I had the cash

 

 

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I know…I know….I suck at posting

 

Hopefully, this’ll be the last time I can say those words

A quick rundown on the last eighteen months or so…

My Health issues have mostly cleared up (knock on wood) I do have high blood pressure and this partly manifested itself in August 2012 when I suffered from bad nosebleeds for three days straight.

I suspect it had more to do with my vitamin consumption more than anything else.  I was taking mad amounts of different vitamins…extra vitamins (vitamin D, Biotin, B Complex, etc.) on top of my regular Centrum multivitamin that I took daily.  My thought process was that it was okay, I’ll just piss out whatever excess vitamins that I had coarsing through my veins.  This was just plain dumb…I had no idea that excessive vitamin usage can fuck you right up.

Oh well, lesson learned

Otherwise, it’s been pretty ho-hum, went back home twice in late 2012, I was home for a few days at the end of October and celebrated my birthday with my Brother, that was pretty cool.  And I also was home for a couple of weeks over the holidays and even got to use my Brother’s truck to go out and meet a few friends.  Even got to have dinner with my old pals, including Oregonmike98 (http://oregonmike98.wordpress.com/author/oregonmike98/) whom I haven’t seen in over three years.  It was a blast!  My friendship with him goes all the way back to 1999 and sometimes it doesn’t seem all that long ago that we both frequented the same coffeehouse.

I have two more posts to make this morning…..one dealing with 1983-1984 in my life memory bank timeline and speaking of memory banks, the other post will be dealing with my favorite album which just celebrated its’ 40th Anniversary over the weekend.

 

Fun stuff….time to get cracking!

 

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Timeline: 1981-1982

First things first, I’d like to thank Oregonmike98….his mention of my blog was the kick in the ass that I needed to come back to it again.  I had plans of posting stuff in the past three months but a lot of things ended up in the way…most of them I covered in my last post, earlier this afternoon.  From what I can understand of blogs and diaries in general is that you can’t take long breaks from it..you have to report on the here and now…day by day.  I’ve taken this lesson to heart and I’m going to try and post something here most every day…the good with the bad.  I can post things that are completely truthful like….right about now, I’d do just about anything for an American Spirit Blue pack of cigarettes and a 20 oz. of Mountain Dew.  These two things are self-evident with me….it’s my fuel…it’s what drives the tank.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone “Keith Richards 1977” and stayed up for days on end either studying for my classes or playing poker or a bit of both and it was down to my stupidity and my intake of cigs and pop.

FUEL

MORE FUEL

As with all things that are great and/or beneficial…they always have to have a dark side to them.  They always have to ultimately destroy you….how many great poets and artists have indulged and spoken about the great things that LSD can offer an artistic mind?  Pretty much any household “drug” has that polarizing nature to it…it enhances and it destroys.  Granted, I was a bit late in coming to the nicotine dance (I was 31 when I started smoking) but I still liked what I experienced.

Anyways, this is a long intro to what’s next on my itinerary…..1981 and 1982……

1981 was a very strange year on paper…..Baseball ended up having a huge strike which affected the regular season, we got a new President who used to be an actor way back when….some would argue that Presidents are still actors to this day.  A little cable channel experiment which showcased music “videos” also was born during this year.  I was cognizant of two of these events, I was a HUGE baseball fan when I was a kid…my goal in life was to play for the Detroit Tigers as a second baseman and to also have the number 30 which was taken from my favorite baseball player on earth, Willie Randolph.  I know, I know….Randolph played for the Yankees, what the fuck is wrong with you?  People have to realize that the 1981 New York Yankees were light years away from the Evil Empire that they became in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s.  The Yankees of 1981 had some legitimate bad-asses….Reggie Jackson, Oscar Gamble, Greg Nettles, Dave Winfield, Ron Guidry, Goose Gossage, and Lou Piniella.

My man...Willie Randoiph

My man…Willie Randoiph

If there was a favorite team that I liked to watch the Tigers play against, it was always the Yankees.  Especially at Yankee Stadium…..up to that point, I had already watched the cult classic movie “The Warriors”, so I was interested (at the ripe age of 6) in what Gotham City had to offer.  I always wanted to visit Yankee Stadium, not to root for the Yankees but to show up in Tiger gear….now that the stadium is long demolished, I’ll never get to experience that thrill….I’m just glad that I saw a Tigers game at Tigers Stadium (a 5-4 loss in 10 innings to the Baltimore Orioles in 1988).

Anyways, I just loved the way that Randolph carried himself on the field.  He was so graceful when he would pivot for that double play or running to snag that ground ball in the hole between first and second base.  He was a good hitter too….he was my favorite non-Tiger ballplayer.  1981 was the last high-water mark for the Yankees as they lost the the Dodgers 4 games to 2 in the World Series….no, there wouldn’t be Reggie cracking three home runs on three pitches this time around…it was over.  In fact, Reggie would be gone after 1981, signing with the California Angels the next season.  This started the famous manager turnstile that Steinbrenner ran in the early 1980’s….Bob Lemon, Yogi Berra, Billy Martin (repeatedly), etc

But, funnily enough….I don’t remember baseball going on strike in 1981, nor do I remember the NFL going on strike the next year….I do remember Reagan, I have vivid memories of him being shot…him raising his arm to answer the reporters’ question….the pop that sounded like firecrackers…and a swarm of people all going down and everybody screaming.  I remember NBC and Saturday Night Live taking this to its’ logical conclusion a few weeks later.  Eddie Murphy as Buckwheat being shot as he was answering a question….don’t know who wrote that skit that day (Al Franken?) but it was brilliant and funny.

I can remember UA Cable having a channel with nothing on it, actually they had quite a few channels with nothing on it as Cable was still in its’ infancy in the early 1980’s.  One channel in particular had a message on it…something to the effect of “stay tuned for MTV…Music Television…coming soon”…..I didn’t know what the fuck that all meant.  Then, one day that year…MTV took off, literally…with images of a space shuttle launching and these videos came on with music tied to them….some were performance videos, some were taken from live concerts and some were just bad acting plays with the musicians lip synching to the music.  The music video was not invented by MTV of course….music videos existed way back in the late 1960’s as performance pieces by bands of the day.  MTV was the first channel to devote itself exclusively to this concept and it worked.  I can remember Martha Quinn having a call-in segment relating to a trivia question about an artist that was being featured that day….god, Martha Quinn was such a beauty….I had a crush on her big time….I always thought that she was one of the high school girls dancing in the J. Geils Band video for the song “Centerfold”….I can remember that rumor being so prominent that Quinn squashed that rumor on-air during a segment in between videos.

Martha Quinn – yum

The original format of MTV just plain worked….show music videos mostly, have one or two segments (i.e. the aforementioned trivia segment)  they also came out with a call-in show based on two music videos (a precursor to MTV’s most wanted by about 15 years) and callers calling in to vote, it was kinda like a boxing match.  MTV would also have a live concert on Saturday nights…sometimes live, sometimes archived…but it was a full concert.  I can remember watching Genesis play from London (this was an archive show as the concert itself was recorded in 1980) on MTV on a saturday night.  They’ve added certain things (Headbangers’ Ball, Yo MTV Raps, Beavis and Butthead, etc) which I thought were great….some others (Road Rules, The Real World, any show added later than 1997) were absolutely dismal.

When MTV decided to spin MTV2 as their “all music” channel, it was cool…I just wished that channel was available to more cable or satellite systems….it also brought the world Jancee Dunn…another female VJ crush….vrooom!

Jancee Dunn.....I wanted you so so bad <3

Jancee Dunn…..I wanted you so so bad ❤

It was also in 1981 when I started going to school in Grand Rapids Public Schools….I did so in part of 1980 as I switched from St. Alphonsus to Coit Elementary School….went to Kindergarten to finish out 1980.  In 1981, it was first grade and Mrs. Geglio…very cool class and very cool teacher.  My Mom wasn’t impressed though and freaked out because I was still quite small and bony at this stage and she made me repeat the first grade the very next year.  It didn’t affect me right away until later on when I realized that all of the friends that I had made in my early days were all one grade ahead of me.  And this is also part of the reason that I was 19 going on 20 in my last year of high school (1995).  Music-wise, 1981 and 1982 really introduced a lot of different things….For one, it introduced the New Romantic branch of New Wave that was riding the charts in England at the time.  Bands like Spandau Ballet, Haircut 100, and Culture Club were all starting to get small footholds in the States due to exposure on MTV.  When I heard Spandau Ballet being played a year later (in 1983…”true”) at North Kent Mall inside Jean Nicole while my Mom was shopping for clothes, I knew something was up.

I’ll pick this time out now to talk about North Kent Mall…..North Kent Mall was located on Plainfield Avenue just south of 5 Mile Road.  You had  Jupiter Rd. which turned west off of Plainfield and took you down about an eighth of a mile with Witmark (a mail-order store) on your left and a small movie theater and K-Mart on your right….the road ended just beyond K-Mart.  K-mart was the south anchor of the mall with Montgomery Ward being the north anchor.  Sometime in the early 2000’s, it was demolished with a Lowe’s Hardware store in its’ place now.

I can remember a couple of times when I was a kid, me and my brother and our friends taking the bus ($0.50 fare!) all the way out to North Kent Mall and fucking around there all day.  Aladdin’s Castle was what beckoned most of us kids to the mall in the first place. You had Orange Julius also in the food court, Janie’s Cookie Company…..Circus World, which was a kick-ass toy store across from Jean Nicole……The Onion Crock, local Grand Rapidians who are my age or older remember this place with much regard…..they closed their restaurants years and years ago…but their soups live on as they’re available at local grocers’ like D&W and Family Fare.  There’s always rumors that the family who ran the Onion Crock are going to open up a restaurant again….but in my mind, nothing could touch their location in North Kent Mall in the 1980’s….it was dark, mysterious, classy, etc…..that was one of my favorite places to go in the mall, I’d order their soup and sandwich meal….half a sandwich of turkey, lettuce and mayo with a cup of hunter’s hodgepodge soup…..that was beyond great to an adolescent in those years.

Musicland was also there and later on, Sam Goody…..I can remember me and my bro purchasing albums in 1985 or thereabouts…..he bought Run DMC – King Of Rock on cassette….I bought Genesis – Abacab also on cassette….he went on to buy another album on vinyl…can’t remember right now what it was…might have been LL Cool J’s first album.

I have fond memories of eating mashed potatoes and turkey with gravy on it from the K-Mart Cafeteria which was adjacent to the Mall entrance.  They had this beautiful metal statue on that end (the south end-near the K-Mart entrance) of a man holding up a bird (I think?) perched on the back of his hand.  To this day, I can look up and see the windows that dotted the top portion of the mall…almost like little skylights.

Fulton Street is almost a line of demarcation…besides it being the line between north and south….it was also an unofficial line from where kids would hang out….anybody who seemed to live north of Fulton went to North Kent Mall while kids who lived south of Fulton would hang out at either Woodland or Eastbrook….considering the close proximity of those two malls, they probably hung out at both.

I miss North Kent Mall to this day and I wanted to bring my kids (if and when I have any) to that mall and showed them all of the cool things that I did when I was their age.  The day they tore it down, I drove up there with a heavy heart and snapped a bunch of pictures of the debris…I have them in storage someplace, but I’ll scan them sometime and put them up here……for now, I have some great old-school pictures of North Kent Mall from this wonderful website:  http://gr-retro.blogspot.com/2011/03/north-kent-mall.html

Food court entrance – North Kent Mall – Aladdin’s Castle is inside as you walk in on your right

aladdin’s castle – THE arcade for north-side folk like myself

Great shot, looking northward…you can see the Montgomery Ward sign in the back…Payless Shoe Source…GNC…etc

next time, we’ll cover 1983-1984 and some other current happenings…

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three months? what the hell, man?

It’s been forever since I posted here and I got derailed for good reason.  Around the time of my last post (mid February), I started suffering from pain in my right kidney area.  This went on for many days until I couldn’t hack it anymore and went into the ER.  They ran their usual battery of tests and also ran a cat scan of my lower stomach/kidney area.  For some reason, I think I had a flashback as my heart rate and blood pressure went through the roof as they were slowly moving the apparatus that I was laying on towards the ring that housed the computerized cameras and such.

One thing I neglected to include in my 1980-81 post was that I had a cat scan done to me that year.  I don’t even remember why either….I just remember them wanting scans of my brain and that my mom was holding my hand as I was slowly lead backwards into that machine.  I remember that procedure being done at Metropolitan Hospital which is still there in East Grand Rapids to this day.  I can remember my mom leaving EGR via East Beltline because I could see the signs for the malls (Woodland & Eastbrook) as we were getting closer driving south.  She may have taken me to the mall and gotten me some food and done some shopping, that part of it escapes me.  That would have been something different as 95% of trips that I had made to a mall in my youth involved North Kent Mall.

Anyways, gotten way off track….let’s take it back to 2012……I was pretty much having an anxiety attack during the scan.  I tried my best not to fidget too much and the hospital got what it was looking for.  Strangely enough, as I was being wheeled back into my room…my nerves also calmed down.  Turns out that it wasn’t a kidney stone causing the pain, it was gall stones causing it.  Sometimes, it doesn’t matter what you do…you sometimes get gall stones.  Although one of the possible triggers is extreme and sudden weight loss.  In 2008, I lost about 70 lbs in the span of four to six months…it was insane.  So, that may have caused this to happen now…who knows?

Instead of getting my gall bladder taken out, I’m instead taking the wait-and-see approach.  I still get pains from time to time back there but it’s not nearly as bad as it once was.  And this was only February……I have two more months to cover!

In March, just three weeks after my gall bladder issues….I was sitting down in my kitchen and basically just chilling out on my computer.  Smoking the occasional cigarette and drinking a Mountain Dew.  When all of a sudden, my heart rate just jacks up big time and this is the kind of heart rate that you can hear.  Thud, Thud, Thud, Thud……I figured it would go away in a sec….but it didn’t.  One of the last things that I had bought when I was still living with my ex-gf’s parents was a top of the line heart rate/blood pressure monitor.  This would come in handy as I hooked myself up to it and checked the reading…..my heart rate was something like 135 and my BP was 202/143.  I was scared and I should have called an ambulance but I didn’t.  I just jumped into my ex gf’s dad’s truck and went back to the ER.  They kept me in the hospital for a couple of days running tests on my heart…the only test they didn’t run was a cath test…which they didn’t run because all of my other heart tests came back okay, just a guess on my part.

As it turns out, that wasn’t my last trip to the ER….a couple of weeks later, I started having those same symptoms again and went back.  This time, the one thing that jumped out of the blood tests and other things that they did was that my potassium was very low. They ended up hooking me up to an IV of potassium-laced water and let me sit there for a couple of days.  Apparently, they can’t give all of the potassium to you at once, it’d kill you….so they had to dose it out over a couple of days.  As it stands now, I’ve only had these “attacks” like two or three times since and it’s gone away after a few minutes….I’m pretty certain now that these “attacks” were really anxiety attacks or panic attacks.

Well….what happened in April, you ask?  I went back to my hometown in Michigan and spent ten days up there due to scary issues.  My brother suffered a heart attack at age 40, he almost died considering one of his arteries was completely blocked.  The hospital where he was at (he was in Dayton, OH…on the road….he’s a trucker) did a fabulous job and put a stent inside him to take care of the blockage.  He’s got another artery that’s around 40% blocked but they can’t do anything about it.  Coming back to visit was a no-brainer in my mind, getting the money to do so (to buy the Greyhound ticket) was a bit of a hassle but I did it.  It was fun being back in town but I really couldn’t do anything social.  My brother was in much better shape than what I was expecting.  I was expecting him bed-ridden and all fucked up.  No, he was his usual funny self…I tried to do any physical lifting that he might have had to do…but he did them no problem….even though the danger is that he could re-open his incision (where the docs put in the stent) and because he’s on blood thinners, look the fuck out.   But that didn’t happen…..again, the flip side to all of that was that I was kind of trapped there at his place with really no outlet and I was pretty much fine with that as this trip wasn’t a social trip anyway, it was to take care of him.  I had fun, he had fun…we all had fun…pictures will be forthcoming soon (my card reader that I just purchased from Amazon will be here either tomorrow or Thursday).

The trip up there put me behind in my bills for a month.  So…I’ve been playing catchup with everybody and I’ve had stretches where I haven’t had enough money to buy cigarettes for days on end.  The lack of nicotine and caffeine is killing me, but..it’s also helping me too.  I think it’s helping me for the eventual day when I do decide to give up both vices.  I know for a fact that my heart rate and blood pressure have both gone down during these dry spells.  I’d like to reach a point to where I can smoke maybe one or two cigarettes a day…maybe three or four…tops.  I’m currently going through such a phase right now…ran out of cigarettes on Saturday, didn’t smoke any on Sunday, borrowed three cigs yesterday at random times during work.  I’m going to try not to borrow any today, the 31st (my next paycheck) is a long way away…bummer.

 

in my imagination, this is me…over and over again

 

 

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