Category Archives: Writing

@n9records #9dayvinylchallenge DAY 3 – A Record From The Year Of Your Birth

When I was a teenager, our family had this place we would go for the summers. There were other kids there to hang out with, but not a lot.

There were these brothers, Rich and Steve, and they were… not nice. Like marching in Charleston not nice. I would hang out with them because there wasn’t really anyone else to kill time with and it was better than hanging around home. They had a copy of this record, and that was my introduction to John Prine.

I remember listening to songs like Grandpa Was A Carpenter and wondering how in the hell these two asshole brothers identified with him? They did not get what this guy was all about. I’m glad I did.

John Prine – Prime Prine – The Best of John Prine

@n9records #9dayvinylchallenge – DAY 2 – Your First Record

When I was 3 or 4 my sister had a record that I was totally enthralled with. On the cover, what looked to be Demon Aliens danced on top of a mountain, with the backdrop of a burned-out and destroyed desert village behind them. It definitely took me someplace else.

One day my mom decided to have a yard sale, and this record ended up out on a table. Once I saw it there little me was not having any of that. I grabbed it and told my mom that this record was MY record.

Listening to Detroit Rock City was the first time music told me a story. The mood of the song changed my mood. I would lay on the floor and listen to this music all afternoon, staring at the cover, reading the insert, and wondering what the hell the KISS ARMY was and if they were anything like the demon aliens on the cover… Good times.

KISS – Destroyer

@n9records #9dayvinylchallenge – DAY 1 – A Record Store Day or Limited Run Release

I am usually loathe to participate in such a thing, but I can not say no to @n9records (@uncle_keems) and his #9dayvinylchallenge.

Here’s my copy of the “Test Pressing” version of Bob Dylan’s Blood On The Tracks, from RSD 2019.

Only available previously as a bootleg, this version saw its first official release in 2019, no doubt stemming from the popularity of 2018’s More Blood, More Tracks. This was the first version of the album that Bob had all finished up and ready to go until his brother talked him out of it over Christmas dinner and ol’ Mr. Zimmerman decided to re-record a bunch of the tracks in Minneapolis to create the version that came to be one of the best albums ever… To me anyway.

Bob Dylan – Blood On The Tracks Test Pressing

One Degree and Partly Cloudy

Walter woke slowly and turned upon his side. He placed himself so that he could see the time as he opened his eyes. The clock read 8:58 am. Once again, he had survived another night. He took a deep breath, stretched out his ribs and lungs, and shivered the cobwebs from inside his chest. Walter wanted the machine pulled out and running efficiently again. He reached across the bed, picked up his cell phone, and checked the weather. The forecast told him it was one degree and partly cloudy.

For a few weeks, the days had been gently getting longer. The Sunrise that day was at 7:33 am. Within an hour and 25 minutes, the light was shining through the window on him in a way that he felt a certain optimism wrapped in a little bit of melancholy. He had made it to another day. The only person that could make this day a bad one would be him.

Walter pulled the bedsheets back and put his feet on the floor. He prepared himself for another day. His feet were cold. With his first few steps of the day, gravity could be cruel. By the time he got to the shower, his feet were working fine.

He took the leash from the hook beside the door and placed it around Charlie. The man and his dog stepped out through the door and walked down the stairs, onto the sidewalk. They opened the door, and the activity of the day was like a bright sea of noise.

They walked by a phone booth that had been on the corner for a very long time, since the phone numbers started with letters. Walter questioned how much longer the relic would be there. The time of the phone booth had passed. At its best, it was Superman’s change room. At its worst, it was a toilet.

A bus passed by Walter, mere feet away from him. The bus braked to a full stop as the rear-mounted engine made a home right beside him. Exhaust was blowing in his face. The dog was taking a piss, and he could not walk away. It had been years since he lived on the farm, but the smell of exhaust took him right back. Walter remembered why he left. One second of memory contained years of emotion, choking him to a time when he was a different person.

After living in the city for so long, every intersection remained a memory for Walter. Every storefront was a remembrance. Every park was a recollection. He realized that the days before outnumbered the days ahead. They say that time is the fire in which we burn. Walter felt like his fire was burning down to embers.

He could not remember when this feeling started. One day, he noticed that he had more memories than dreams. He had done everything he set out to do. The only thing left to do was to consider the memories he had collected.

It was late January, and surprisingly the weather had turned. It seemed like Spring, but that was a lie. The feeling of Spring was a lie, and everyone was aware of it. Everyone knew that Winter still had life, and was ready to make a last desperate stand, to invade their bones with cold and cover their land with snow.

Now though, the Sun was soft with the way it laid its beams upon everyone, rousing them from a cold slumber. It coaxed them to vital reverence for breath and life. It kissed them softly on the cheek and awakened them from their icy hibernation.

So for that day, they all lounged in the lie. They all believed. They chose to act as though spring had come, and the outdoors belonged to them again. The buses were full. People on the sidewalks had shuffled along. Tiny dots of people appeared in such a way that if you looked from above, they were textbook examples of fluid dynamics.

Walter was one of those little dots that day. He chose to walk. He walked in the sunlight, sure to walk on the side of the street that the Sun was shining on. It would have been a crime for someone to walk in the shade that day. He walked. And, he walked.

He walked in the sunlight so fast that a small layer of perspiration came to his forehead, until his legs ached and his muscles became tense, with the intention that every step was producing an energy that would keep the Sun from setting ahead of him.

His effort was futile. The Sun refused to stay above him. Slowly it moved in front of him, showing him its intentions. The Sun had no desire to shine its light upon him until he asked it to go away. It was going to go away on its terms, exactly when it wanted to. Slowly it moved in front of him, creeping towards the horizon until it finally disappeared over the edge, leaving him in a wash of coldness. Warmth dispersed from his bones, permitting the coldness in.

Easter and the Great House of Guitars

I was born and raised in Southern Ontario just east of Toronto. Before cable TV was around, we could only rely on the big antenna for entertainment.

We lived near the shores of Lake Ontario, with the American city of Rochester only 50 miles across the water from us. We fared pretty well. There were five or six stations, and they all came in clear enough for us to get the great shows of the day.

The most memorable part was the local commercials. Places like Wegman’s, Charvel Ice Cream, Irondequoit Dodge, and Hill TV all seemed like they were from another world.

There was one place however, that seemed to be from another planet. That place was the House Of Guitars. Starring the owners of the store, brothers Armand and Bruce Schaubroeck, their commercials were like no others. Irreverent, outlandish, fun, and everything your parents hated. Imagine a scene of Dallas ending, only to have some crazy Rocker telling you to “Get Mom and Dad outta the room, I wanna talk to you about buying something expensive for Easter.”

Great House of Guitars
The store that ate my brain – May 2018

Every time someone mentions the Easter Bunny, I picture Armand’s voice in his Upstate New York accent saying “hop hop” as he is hopping up and down wearing makeshift bunny ears on his head.

Later as a teenager I began playing guitar. The commercials became an information session. As a result, I learned the names of the brands and models of my favourite guitars. I learned about how much they cost because of the killer deals there were at the House of Guitars.

House of Guitars is still around, and I had the chance to make the pilgrimage there a couple of years ago. In any event, you could not find a more welcoming place.

Eight-year-old me loved every minute of it.

Isolation day 26

isolation

Continuing my daily isolation ritual of not getting out of bed until after 10…

“I know what you mean about making good use of your time. I felt like I was doing that to start with, but some of the urgency I was feeling has subsided and it feels like I’ve been sucked into the monotony of it all. It’s a lot easier to waste time now for some reason. I feel bored and restless, but don’t seem to have the energy or will to do anything about it. Cabin fever has set in. The novelty has worn off.”

John Prine 1946-2020

There’s a video out there where Bill Murray is talking about how he was a real bummer to be around at one point in his life. Real down. Depressed. Of course, he was hanging around Hunter S Thompson at the time and Hunter suggested to Bill that he rely on John Prine for his sense of humour. So, Bill decides to go down the rabbit hole, and by about the 20th song he gets to “Linda Goes To Mars”.

John Prine

“I heard that song, and I went ‘humph’. And that was the beginning of the return. It just happened, and that was a great day”.

In 2008/9 John Prine’s songs were the beginning of a return for me. John was the beginning of a return for a lot of us. He’s the only person of whom I can say that I would not be who I am if he hadn’t of been around.

Aw, heck.
I’m so sad.
I’m so happy we had him.

There’s a video that I’ve watched a lot through the years. Austin City Limits, 2005. My definitive JP experience.

John Prine

It’s funny because he played the whole new album Fair & Square and only does 2 of the hits (Flag Decal to open, and Angel From Montgomery to close) but it is total classic John Prine.

I don’t know how, but I managed to find an unedited version. Complete with jokes, banter, false starts, and fuckups. That was the part of it that told me I could do this too. I’ll say it again, and I’ll never stop saying it – thank you so much John, so much. You changed my life.