18. about me.

How you can tell it’s a NaBloPoMo month — we’re only two weeks in, and this is the second Facebook meme I’ve stolen from the blog.

I may have bitten off more than I can chew with this one, the *insertnumberhere* Things You Didn’t Know About Me meme. The rules and conventions for this one state that you like a friend’s post and they assign you a number; I liked Mel’s post last week … and she assigned me 15.

FIFTEEN. As in, the most she assigned to anyone who liked her post. I’m choosing to be flattered that Mel thought I could come up with that many reasonably interesting things about myself — even if myself thinks that’s probably a stretch.

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Before I begin, let me make it clear that I’ll follow the rules here — comment on this post here, like or comment on FB and I’ll give you a number. And if you don’t have a regular outlet for Internet Fun, feel free to leave your list in the comments here.

Mushrooms and olives. I really want to like them. But I really, really don’t.

My first craft beer. I was visiting Juan in Brooklyn, and we stopped at his corner grocery in Park Slope to get some, uh, supplies before we went out for the evening. There, in the cooler, were six packs of Brooklyn Lager. I later found Brooklyn Brown in The Union, my home bar in Athens. And my life hasn’t been the same since.

Certified weather freak boy. I’ve always been curious about what makes weather work, ever since our childhood babysitter let me stay up and watch a thunderstorm light up Leighton Road. That fascination has continued well into adulthood, when I’ve voluntarily attended National Weather Service storm spotter certification classes multiple times — the basic class twice and the advanced class once. Understanding the weather helps professionally, but c’mon — as nerdy stuff goes, it’s pretty cool, too.

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Shorts, man. I love this time of year. When the weather turns, I love digging out sweaters and coats and scarves and all the other accouterments. But let’s be clear — if it’s above 30 degrees, I’m wearing shorts.

I’ll die with a beard. The last time I shaved off my beard entirely was late in my collegiate career. I had an interview for an internship with an editor from a major metro paper in Ohio, and I wanted to make a good impression. But I’ve always suspected that I blew the interview because the editor had a glass eye that pointed up and to the left by about 45 degrees. I was so distracted that I don’t think I uttered a complete sentence the entire time we talked (and it’s always been my guess that the paper sent this guy to interview college kids FOR THAT VERY REASON). I didn’t get the internship and Mrs. Crappy liked the beard, so I grew it  back immediately. And seeing old pictures of beardless me are more than enough to help solidify the decision to keep it forever.

My cause: skin cancer. I’m not a preacher. I generally think it’s best to let people make their own decisions. But for the most part, preventing skin cancer is so simple — and it seems that so few people ever worry about it. I’ve written a bunch about this over the years, starting the time the second tumor was hacked out of my left arm. I’ve had three taken from my arm and one burned off of my forehead. And if I had just put on sunscreen when I was a kid, chances are decent that I wouldn’t have had the trouble I’ve had. It’s not a huge deal — none of my tumors have been serious — but given that skin cancer is largely preventable, it’s a thing for me. And yeah, I’ll probably try to make it a thing for you too. Sorry in advance.

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Chateau de Blanc. I have eaten White Castles for breakfast. When we drive from Thanksgiving dinner in Pittsburgh to my parents’ house in Columbus, I will bring home a bag of White Castles for a Thanksgiving night snack. I once picked up 60 White Castles for my father’s poker night (along with another dozen for me) . If there was was a White Castle closer than Canton, Ohio, I’d be there right now.

Best concerts by non-hippie bands. Wilco, especially the show at the Carnegie Music Hall in Oakland a few years ago. Little Feat, on a sweaty August night at the Newport. The Stones, on the Steel Wheels tour in Louisville, especially because that’s the first time I heard them play Sympathy for the Devil (otherwise known as the Greatest Rock ‘n Roll Song of All Time) live. Cowboy Junkies at Metropol, which had temporarily lost its liquor license, making for a quiet, respectful audience. Jorma Kaukonen and Michael Falzarano, in front of me and maybe eight other people at Another Fool’s Cafe in Athens.

Bourbon. The Manhattan is the family cocktail. I come by it honestly.

Irish kid, Italian cook. I have no Italian in me whatsoever, but I love me some Italian cooking — and, uh, eating. Some of this comes from the family spaghetti-and-meatballs recipe, which was born decades ago when the family owned a restaurant somewhere in Columbus; I suppose it also comes from it not being too difficult to do Italian pretty well. Lasagna? Yep. Carbonara? Yep. Improvising and tinkering with pasta dishes? Yep.

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Meeting famous people. It might have something to do with my job — I’ve interviewed senators, congresspeople, Timothy Leary, Graham Chapman, and many others — but I have no difficulty marching up to someone I recognize and saying hello (and it still kills me that I wasn’t with Mrs. Crappy the time she walked right by Ringo Starr in Aspen a few years ago). As a caution — that goes for Internet-famous people as well. If we haven’t met before but I think I’ve spotted you while we’re out, I will stop you and introduce myself.

Best job ever. I have been a paperboy. I have worked in restaurants. I have made it through multiple holiday seasons at a chain of Hallmark stores in Columbus. And I am now a journalist, the fulfillment of the closest thing I’ve had to a lifelong dream. But without question, the most fun I’ve ever had was working at the Bagel Buggy in Athens every Friday morning for one of my senior-year spring quarters.

Work is surreal. I am a trained professional journalist. And nearly everything I do professionally now didn’t exist when I was a student at the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism.

The moment I first set eyes on Mrs. Crappy. I was never really sure love at first sight was possible until it happened to me. I was starting a late night at my college paper, and I walked through the business offices just as the general assignment staff — where most of us got our starts — was wrapping up a meeting. I looked over and there was a new girl — long, light brown hair. Round, almost Lennon glasses. Big smile and a big laugh. I was thunderstruck; I think I actually stopped and stared for a second before moving on to the production room. I tracked down the GA editor as soon as I could and was filled in, because she also happened to be Mrs. Crappy’s resident assistant. It took a while for us to connect — although not for a lack of effort on my part — but, yeah, it’s worked out pretty well.

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Hats. In the summer? I’m a ballcap guy. But when the weather turns cold — as you may have gathered from the photos — I’m a fan of hats with stuff on them.

sunday funday.

For the first time in something like eight years, my Sundays are free.

Back in the middle of the last decade, the editors at my paper asked me to start a Sunday through Thursday work week. Having Fridays off was awesome, but it was kind of a drag on Sundays to haul myself out of the house and get up to work while everyone else was having fun. The Sunday shifts themselves weren’t bad — they were actually pretty quiet, usually — but having to work a night shift to start my week and then get back to the office first thing Monday morning? Ugh.

I missed a lot working on Sundays, mostly time with Mrs. Crappy; we always felt like we had to pack a lot in on Friday nights and Saturdays, because that was the only weekend time we had available together. Taking a pre-work nap certainly didn’t help any of the tepid efforts I’ve made to get back into some kind of regular NFL fandom (although, yes, the perpetually pathetic state of the Browns has also contributed).

And, apparently, I’ve missed a bunch of excellent television, something I’m keenly aware of when I read my Twitter feed on Sunday nights. Because of my work schedule, I’ve never seen a single episode of Mad Men, Game of Thrones, Walking Dead, Downton Abbey or any of the other series that regularly aired on Sunday nights. Not a single one.

(And yes, I’m aware that there are plenty of non-broadcast ways to catch up with each of those shows. But I’m far enough behind that I’m not sure I want to make the effort.)

A couple weeks ago, my schedule changed, at my suggestion. I’m actually in charge of a couple people at work, and between that responsibility and the insistence of the people in our corporate office that some Big Decisions be made at the end of the week, I felt like I was missing too much as I started my early weekends.

So. Here I am. Home on a Sunday night. The television is available, but I feel more like sitting on my kickass front porch with a beer — a Stone Imperial Russian Stout, to be specific — some music — a hippie bluegrass mix I recently assembled, to be specific — and my blog.

This is great way to spend an evening, but I’m still sort of feeling like I’m missing something. So. You guys have any suggestions? Is there one or more of these shows (or others) I should be watching? What is it about that series that makes it so good?

porch

I’m willing to listen, people, but make sure your reasons are pretty compelling. Because this kind of Sunday evening is pretty tough to beat.

vacation.

[vimeo 61594873]

Getting to a beach is definitely in the cards, but there is one thing we know for sure: We’ll see you at Merriweather.

soul man.

 

I don’t think I saw the Blues Brothers movie in the theater when it was released in 1980, but I know I watched the hell out of it when it showed  up on cable.

I am not exaggerating here. I was fascinated by the band, having seen its SNL appearances through the 1970s, and I loved the music, especially as an alternative to the disco that passed as the popular music of the day.

And when the movie showed up on HBO? I watched. Daily.

Seriously. In the first week it was released on cable, it fell into a rotation where it was on in the late afternoon nearly every day for two weeks. And I fell into a rotation of my own, turning it on when I got home from school and watching right up until it was time for dinner.

My father didn’t seem irritated to see me watching the Blues Brothers every night for a week, although I may recall an eyeroll or two. But I remember this distinctly: somewhere around the second week of my Blues Brothers binge, Dad told me to turn off the TV and follow him into the living room.

He sat me down on the couch while he knelt in front of the cabinet that held the stereo components and all of his records. He flipped through one stack and pulled out a red double LP. He put one of the vinyl discs on the turntable and gently dropped the needle at the start of the record.

He turned up the volume, set the album cover in my lap and said: “If you’re going to listen to this stuff, you should know where it comes from.”

And at impressive volume, I heard a by-then-familiar horn line. And I heard Otis Redding singing “I Can’t Turn You Lose,” the song that Belushi and Akroyd adpoted as their theme music.

I looked at the liner notes inside the album. And that’s when I found out that Donald “Duck” Dunn and Steve Cropper were real musicians with an unreal history. My father’s impromptu lesson was about Otis Redding and the band (Booker T and the MGs) that propelled him in the studio and on stage; that lesson also led me to Delaney and Bonnie, Wilson Pickett, Albert King and Sam and Dave, a lot to digest for a very white kid in a very white suburb.

My high-school friends will tell you that discovery — and the subsequent obsession — never really subsided; they got to hear plenty of Stax soul as we rode around Columbus in Turbo Pinto.

When Dunn died on Sunday, he was doing what he had always done. He was touring in Japan, playing the bass lines that held together the best soul records ever recorded. And whether you’re talking about his work in Memphis or as part of the Blues Brothers’ revival of the form, Dunn’s stamp is unmistakable.

And it will never be duplicated.

on the record.

When we visited the library last week, Mrs. Crappy found a book she thought would be right in my wheelhouse. And she was correct.

Record Store Days is an ode to the romance of the dingy stores that occupied much of my time — and my money — from about age 10 until fairly recently. When I was younger, I had places close by where I got my comic books, but somewhere around 1976 or 1977, a couple things happened: I was given greater leeway by my parents to ride my red Schwinn 10-speed beyond the boundaries of the immediate neighborhood, and I started to really pay attention to music.

And when I found I could get to the Buzzard’s Nest record store on Henderson Road in about 20 minutes on my bike? I got a backpack big enough to hold LPs, and off I went.

Transportation was a key, here. My parents are exceedingly patient people — and my father, especially, understood the obsession — but I realized quickly that the legitimate number of requests I could make for a ride or a stop at a record store was limited. So the bike — and later the moped and the Pinto, my first car — got me to the nearby Buzzard’s Nest, the chain store (I think) on Lane Avenue and — the Holy Grail — the used-record stores on High Street on Ohio State’s campus.

Especially when I was still pedaling up to Buzzard’s Nest, I know I was in awe of the people who worked there. They were, in my pre-adolescent mind, my people. They knew the disco records, but they were rock ‘n roll guys, long hair, cheesy 70s facial hair, black t-shirts — they were what 10-year-old me wanted to be.

I grew out of the black t-shirt phase at some point in junior high school — that had something to do with discovering the Grateful Dead, which sent me off down a less-metallic path — but my love for the record store never wavered. I enjoy the ease of buying music now — and I will admit that I’m not a vinyl purist by any stretch, because the music itself is still more important to me than the medium — but I miss spending an hour in a store, flipping through bin after bin of treasure and coming across something I’ve never seen.

I’ve mentioned Buzzard’s Nest already. It was the local chain in Columbus, and I think it managed to stick around sometime into the late 1980s. I loved my local Buzzard’s Nest, but the real treasure was to be found elsewhere. Here’s a taste of what I remember about my record stores:

Magnolia Thunderpussy. Easily the best name for a record store I’ve ever heard. This campus staple is still around, although it seems like it’s moved at least a couple times since I’ve lived in Columbus. I remember it being the biggest, but not necessarily the best of the campus stores. Thorough selection, but almost as pricy as Buzzard’s Nest.

The one at the bottom of the stairs. This was up High Street a bit, almost to Lane, in a basement spot customers reached via a double stairway on the east side of the street. I don’t recall if this was the Columbus version of Schoolkids Records, but I know it was my primary stop. A good selection of new stuff, and always a reliable flow of used records to pick over, at prices that accommodated my paperboy’s income.

The one above Bernie’s. Was this Schoolkids? The name wasn’t really the important part; the 25-cent and 50-cent bins were. This little place was hit-or-miss, but when you hit, you hit big. Used records were sorted by price per disc — a quarter, 50 cents or maybe a buck if the vinyl was really clean. On a good day, a five-dollar bill was enough to fill my backpack and make my ride back home a little uncomfortable — because of the weight of the LPs and the fact I was in a hurry to get home.

Schoolkids Records, Athens. Last time I visited OU, this was no longer a record store, and that’s a shame — it was a great one when I was a student. They mostly had switched to CDs by the time I returned from the Army, but I had as well, so no biggie. Excellent selection, including some difficult-to-find stuff. They did the midnight sales on Tuesdays for big-deal releases, and I attended a couple of those; once they got to know me, though, they would also hold copies of stuff on the promise I’d be in before lunch to pick it up.

The one downstairs, Athens. This was on Union Street, below a Chinese restaurant and next to the old carryout where I used to buy 12-packs of Weidemann beer for $5. It was small and dark, with used vinyl only. I scored some good stuff there, and was sorry to see it was gone when I returned to Athens after getting out of the Army.

A couple big ones:

Tower Records, NYC. From the moment that Juan moved to Brooklyn after he finished school, I made it clear that the first weekend I visited we would be heading to the village so I could bask in the glory that was Tower Records. I wasn’t disappointed, either. The place was huge, and it had everything. I was smart enough that I showed up looking for a few specific things — records to fill out a catalog of a couple bands, if I remember — and I think I left with nearly everything I was looking for.

ear X Tacy, Louisville. Upon completion of basic training, I was informed that I would be staying at Fort Knox in Kentucky for the remainder of my time in the Army. That was good, mostly; I was a fairly short distance from home, so I could get back to Columbus pretty much whenever I felt the need. But I still needed to explore Louisville a little bit, to find out what my home for the next couple years had to offer. Most of the guys in my platoon recommended the gigantic mall just south of town, but there was one guy who lived down the hall on my floor in the billets who knew better. His nickname was, appropriately, Pig; I met him when I heard astonishingly good banjo coming from down the hall and found him playing in the bathroom. Pig’s advice? “Go find ear X Tacy.” It was maybe the best independent record store I ever came across; killer selection, knowledgeable-and-friendly staff, the perfect vibe. It also served as a community hub in Louisville, or at least it did for me; at the end of those weeks where I was struggling with Army life, I’d drive up to the store on Saturday morning, spend a couple hours and a few bucks and come back happy. The closing of record stores isn’t news these days, but I was crushed last fall when I heard that ear X Tacy was shutting down.

Border’s Books and Music. Yeah, I know. Chain, box store, blah, blah, blah. I don’t care. Border’s — especially the one in Northway Mall — always felt comfortable to me, and when they were able, they were a kickass record store. But I’m including them here for symbolic reasons more than anything else, because the demise of music sales at that particular store was really the final thing that drove me to the world of downloads. The shift, at first, was subtle; if you went a couple months between visits, the music section would shrink by a row or two. The more obscure genres vanished first, and I didn’t really miss the Russian folk music CDs. But when the reggae section vanished? Jazz got reduced by half? The quirkier rock and pop musicians disappeared? At some point I walked downstairs and found that nearly the entire thing was gone; what had taken up nearly the entire floor had been consolidated down to two lonely, pathetic racks in the middle of the sprawling room. And I felt like crying.

We have good record stores here still. I stop in when I think to, but I generally can count on one hand the number of physical CDs I buy each year these days. For me, the hunt these days is in iTunes, at eMusic, on etree or the archive. I get what I need there, and most days, that’s enough. But I miss old version of the hunt: digging through bins, pulling the LPs from the sleeves and grinning when I found a clean one in the fifty-cent stack, pedaling home as fast as I could to give it a listen. That feeling I will never have again.

I don’t often do this, but I have questions: What was your favorite record store? What made it so?