Tuesday, January 31, 2012

No. 856 – Farewell to Kings

Performer: Rush
Songwriters: Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, Neal Peart
Original Release: A Farewell to Kings
Year: 1977
Definitive Version: None

I’ve mocked Columbus radio as being the signal that rock radio had started its irreversible decline, but that doesn’t mean that there still weren’t things to be gained by tuning it in on occasion—and this song is evidence of that.

In 1997 to celebrate its 20th anniversary, Q-FM for a few weeks played an A-Z format. I’ve heard other stations since do an A-Z thing where they play all 1,200 songs in their catalog—the same songs you hear over and over anyway—but this was unique: Q-FM played albums.

Granted, it didn’t play every album in its catalog, and it certainly didn’t play the entire album, nor did it play it without commercial breaks. But it most certainly played stuff that it didn’t normally play and stuff that, for all I know, it hasn’t played since. For example, when was the last time you heard Xanadu by Rush on the radio? Exactly: 30 years ago, at least, if ever. Well, Q-FM played it, because one of the first albums on its list was A Farewell to Kings, which means, of course, that they kicked it off with this song.

I had never heard this song before. For various reasons, the mid-1970s Rush period was one I didn’t know very well, and I have a crystal clear vision of driving on I-670, which went pretty much straight from the front door of me and Debbie’s apartment to the front door of the Dispatch, with this song on.

I-670, which was built in the mid-80s to connect downtown and Port Columbus more directly, enters downtown in what one would call the back door of the city. There’s a huge spaghetti junction where I-670 and I-71 bysect, and right on the West side of I-71 is Fort Hayes, which was an Army Reserve base that also was used as a job-education center.

Anyway, what’s notable now is that somewhere nearby was the site of Neil Park, which was the first steel-and-concrete baseball stadium in the country—beating Forbes Field in Pittsburgh by 4 years. The Senators and Redbirds played there from 1905 to 1932.
I didn’t know that at the time I was being introduced to Farewell to Kings. What I did know was that I needed to better complete my knowledge of Rush. I bought this album, Hemispheres and Permanent Waves soon after that.

Monday, January 30, 2012

No. 857 – Dickeye

Performer: Jerry Cantrell
Songwriter: Jerry Cantrell
Original Release: Boggy Depot
Year: 1998
Definitive Version: None

When the Business department moved to the fourth floor, that meant I needed a new place to hide out to lay out BT on Thursday nights, and the perfect spot was the old stomping grounds—the second floor.

Actually, that’s not entirely true. By this time, we had dispensed with the ATEX design machines. (We still used ATEX to edit stories and write headlines and cutlines.) Instead we did the layouts via Quark on Macs. Business had two Macs—one for the stock pages and one for news pages—and I certainly could have used one of those at various times on a Thursday.

But Thursday nights had become my alone time, when I could get away from the Business department to listen to music or put a ballgame on TV while I worked, and I wasn’t about to give that up.

Business was moved to the fourth floor with Sports and Features, and the Editorial department took over the second-floor space, although I never understood why it was moved about as far away as possible from upper management; i.e., the top editors, who were all on the fifth floor, but then there were a lot of things about The Dispatch that I never understood.

Anyway, it was a good hideout spot, and I liked it there better than when I would go up to the fourth floor. There never was anyone there—editorial would be gone by 5:30—so I had the whole floor to myself. I had my own bathroom and was closer to the vending machines in the basement, and I could close the door, so I could play CDs on the Mac without needing my headphones.

I have a clear vision of listening to Boggy Depot—and this song in particular—for the first time at work in the Editorial office. In fact, when I bought it, I saved it particularly for that time, because I wanted to have something new to listen to. I closed the door and cranked it up, reveling in my fortress of solitude in an increasingly hostile environment.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

No. 858 – Pavilion

Performer: Eric Johnson
Songwriters: Eric Johnson
Original Release: Venus Isle
Year: 1996
Definitive Version: I have a bootleg from one of Eric Johnson’s shows from when he warmed up for Rush in 1991 that has a killer version of this song on it.

I’ve seen Eric Johnson four times, and I’m not sure I’ve seen him do this song. He definitely didn’t do it the most recent time or the first two, but I don’t remember whether he played it the third time I saw him, which was shortly after Venus Isle came out.

What I do remember about that show was that it was very mediocre. He was playing a small bar in Cincinnati, and Scott and I were looking forward to it after the experiences we had seeing him warm up for Rush. By this time, we had become total Eric Johnson geeks.

But the show was lackluster, mostly because he didn’t play much that we knew—meaning his own stuff—and what he did with a few exceptions was instrumental, when his songs that include vocals are at least as good if not better.

So, it was with much trepidation that I agreed when Laurie suggested we go to see him at House of Blues earlier this month. She knew I liked him, and she liked what she had heard, so she wanted to go. The tickets were all general admission and not much—less than $40 in this day and age is not much.

We were supposed to get our first snowstorm of the winter that day, so, because we’re old and don’t feel like standing either outside in line or for the whole show any more, we paid extra to have dinner there ahead of time and then have seats.

This time the show was great. In a certain sense, it was like going full circle: I discovered Eric Johnson at a Rush show when I had never heard of him. This time, his warm-up act was Andy McKee, a solo acoustic guitarist. If you haven’t heard about him, I would advise you to immediately (as soon as you’re finished with this blog, of course) get over to YouTube—before Google’s privacy policy changes—and check him out. It’s some pretty amazing stuff.

So, I already felt that we got our money’s worth, even if Eric Johnson sucked. But he didn’t. This time, he came out strong with a few songs off his latest album, Close Up, and an incredible cover of Dear Prudence. At this point in the show, I texted Scott and told him to forget 1996; this was like seeing him again in 1991.

Although he again played almost nothing I knew, this time it was OK, because I was kind of expecting it, but also because what he was playing fit in with his general sound. It was mostly his material or, in the case of Dear Prudence, cover songs that if you didn’t know better, you would have thought he wrote.

He closed the regular set with Cliffs of Dover, which he always closes with, but the song of the night for me was the one before it—When the Sun Meets the Sky. It’s an oldie from Venus Isle, and although it wasn’t one of my faves, it stuck with me, because it is a good atmospheric song. He made it sound great at House of Blues. I told Laurie his guitar in that song sounds like the winter sun on a snowy day—cold and shimmery—and she loved that analogy.

I’ve been listening to it a lot in the weeks since then, and I’m convinced that were I to start the 1,000-song countdown now, it would be on there, so this is my first A/B moment of a song that I discovered, or rediscovered, after starting this countdown. All the information is the same as above, except that Stephen Barber co-wrote the song with Johnson, and there’s no definitive version, although if you find a bootleg from 2011 or 2012 somewhere, that would work.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

No. 859 – Floaty

Performer: Foo Fighters
Songwriters: Dave Grohl
Original Release: Foo Fighters
Year: 1995
Definitive Version: None

After being together a year, I felt comfortable enough to ask Debbie if I could take a separate vacation. The reason was simple: I wanted to go to the National in St. Louis, and I knew she would have no fun—or desire—in going. What woman wants to surround themselves with ugly dudes with chili dog sauce dripping off their T-shirts (aside from me, of course)? She readily assented.

The National, back in the Nineties, was awesome. There really is no other way to describe it. It is—or was—baseball-card collecting nirvana. I skipped the 1994 National for several reasons—the most obvious being my newfound romance—but by 1995, everything had settled down, and it was time to go again.

Dave was totally on board. His wife’s family lived near St. Louis, and Dave went to Missouri, so he had friends who lived in St. Louis. It was an easy sell, even though he had a still-new family. But, given that restriction, he wouldn’t be able to join me until the weekend. That was fine with me, because that would give me two solid days of hitting the floor hard to work on my set lists.

Dave and I, as became our usual M.O., scammed press credentials to avoid paying the $15 admission fee each day. (We WERE members of the press, although I had no intention of writing anything for my paper.) It also gave us access to the press room and a few freebies, but really it was more about getting our feet in the door.

It’s funny now, but unlike other trips, I don’t really have a concrete narrative to deliver of the St. Louis National in 1995. It’s a chaotic collection of memories. For example, I definitely remember was calling Dave from the press room soon after I got there Wednesday night for the sneak preview. I used my calling card. (This still was at a time when cellphones were only for the wealthy, which I was not.)

The press room was in a cool location: It was on the corner of the second floor of the St. Louis convention center, and it had windows that looked out over the whole floor that wrapped around it like a big L. On one side were all the dealers, and on the other were the pro sports leagues and all the games that kids were playing, like kicking a field goal through the uprights or playing wiffleball on a well-layed-out diamond.

There was so much going on, it was hard to keep track of it all. I guess, in retrospect, I don’t remember much in order, because there was too much going on to pay attention to what happened when. Another example: I have no memory of the flight to or from there or how I got from the airport to the hotel downtown when I arrived. I can only assume I took public transportation, because this was before I decided that spending money on a rental car wasn’t a waste.

I suppose I’ll share a few more vignettes at a later point, because Dave and I ended doing quite a bit after he showed up—including a Cardinals game, going up the Arch, and finding the most excellent video-game arcade I’d seen in ages. I’ll just do what we do in newspapers: When we’re not bright enough to construct a narrative, we use bullets.

And with that, I’ll put a 30 on the day.

Friday, January 27, 2012

No. 860 – Change Partners

Performer: Stephen Stills
Songwriters: Stephen Stills
Original Release: Stephen Stills 2
Year: 1971
Definitive Version: Stephen Stills Live, 1975

I only recently discovered that Stephen Stills Live was recorded at the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago. I’ve seen several ballets there but never anything that included Wooden Ships.

Stephen Stills Live was the first live album I owned—specifically for Wooden Ships. I have a pretty good memory of things, but if I might wax philosophical (before I wax the kitchen floor), I would suggest that there are four things a man remembers about his younger days: his first car, his first job, his first lover and, if he’s lucky, his first home run. My first home run came on a brilliant Saturday afternoon before I turned 12.

We played youth league games at Northam Park in the heart of Upper Arlington. The park has Tremont Elementary School on one corner, St. Agatha Church and catholic school on another and the Upper Arlington Public Library on a third. The public swimming pool and tennis courts split the non-church portion of the park in half. On one side of the park were the young kids’ diamonds, noted for their single-screen backstops and grass infields. I played there three years. Closer to St. Agatha were the softball diamonds, where my sister played a couple of years.

On the other side were the big-kids’ diamonds, six of them, with their three-sided backstops that included an overhang and huge all-dirt infields. Diamonds No. 3 and 4 were back to back, so if you hit a foul ball in the right direction or had an overthrow at first base (on Diamond 4), the other game had to stop until the errant pellet was captured, as they used to say. Diamond No. 3 was notable also because a huge tree (since cut down) grew out in right-center field. It was a ground-rule double if you hit it, and I saw that happen only once—the game-winning hit in a big game for the division lead that my team lost 8-7. (Ugh!)

Two leagues played on those diamonds back then: The Big 8 and the Big 10. The leagues were so named because of the team names. The Big 10 included the Buckeyes, the Wolverines, the Gophers, etc., and was for 13-14-year-olds. The Big 8 was strictly for 12-year-olds, but oddly, only a few teams had names of teams from the old Big 8 Conference, such as Colorado. My team was Yale.

So anyway, it was on Diamond No. 3 that the magic moment happened in May 1976. We were playing Duke, and I batted leadoff. On the mound was Kurt Seibert, whom I knew from Boy Scouts.

Northam Park had no fences, so you had to leg everything out. Needless to say, home runs were rare, because if you had any kind of size or reputation for power, the outfield could play as deep as it wanted and run down anything that dropped unless you really hammered it. Up to that point, I had hit only one triple and a bunch of doubles.

But on my deathbed, when I recall the 1971 VW squareback (the Fart), bagging groceries at Food World and Beth, I’ll remember that the first pitch Kurt threw me that day was a swing-and-miss strike, one I instantly wished I had back. Pitch No. 2 was a ball outside. Pitch No. 3 was just like Pitch No. 1, and a mighty “Ping” rang out as the aluminum struck the horsehide. The ball rocketed away to deep left-center, and the trajectory was unlike anything I’d ever hit in a game—even the triple.

As I rounded first, I saw the outfielders still running after the ball as it approached the infield on Diamond No. 2. (That game had to stop play for the live ball—always a great moment, because you knew everyone over there was asking, “Who hit that one?”) I raced around second.

Now came the moment of truth. I was coming to third and what was the coach going to do. Was he going to stop me? I felt as though I were running in mud. RUN FASTER, DAMMIT! And then, I saw: OH MY GOD, HE’S WAVING ME HOME!!!

All I could see now was the catcher. Where was the ball? No one was at home telling me to slide or not slide, and if they were, I wouldn’t have known what to do anyway. Our league was formal but not too formal in terms of instruction—heck, they didn’t even allow us to throw curveballs because of worry that it might hurt young developing arms (which, come to think of it, is probably exactly the right developmental strategy).

The catcher was looking out to the outfield for the ball, but he didn’t have enough time, and I sprinted across the plate to make it 1-0. A HOME RUN!! The team swarmed over me whooping it up and patting me on the back and helmet. (As I said, homers were rare and always worth celebrating.) I don’t remember anything except a general cacophony. Making my way back to the bench was a blur as if I didn’t see anything, but I remember clear as day how I felt—complete joy, with a hint of disbelief.

We won the game 7-3, and I got two more hits that day (both singles), so that made my big moment doubly special. When I hung up my spikes a few years later, I had four homers to my credit, and in fairness, I remember them all clearly, but there’s nothing like the first.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

No. 861 – Whirlpool

Performer: Seal
Songwriter: Seal
Original Release: Seal (I)
Year: 1991
Definitive Version: None

One thing that always has been true about my music preferences is that I’ve added old things long forgotten to the repertoire later in life. That’s certainly true of this song.

After I was introduced to this album in 1992, I played it constantly for the next year and when Seal’s second album came out in 1994, it was more of the same, as I’ve indicated. When Seal kind of disappeared in the late Nineties, I assumed that anything that would grab my attention from him would have to be something new, because I had already made up my mind which songs I liked and which songs would slide into the abyss of time.

Fast-forward another half-decade. I don’t remember when I first realized that Laurie loved Seal too. I’m certain it was early in the relationship, but it became apparent after I moved in with her in 2005 that Seal’s first album was one of her favorite albums, because she played it (the tape version, of course) pretty much every weekend at some point, usually as she was preparing early-afternoon brunch.

Although we encountered a bit of friction after I moved in due to the adjustment—me to a new city trying to find a job and her to having someone live with her for the first time in 17 years.

What I quickly learned was that when she was in the kitchen, the best way I could help was to get as far out of the way as possible (wisdom that holds true to this day). The kitchen was her fortress of solitude. I’ve always been the opposite: I have no problem chatting up people while I cook, but, again, you make the adjustment.

Laurie had her stereo wired so one speaker was in the living room in the front of the apartment and another was in the dining room in the back close to the kitchen. I’d be in the front room working on my research at her desk while she cooked, and when things were about ready, she’d call me to the table for the grand presentation of the meal.

It’s while sitting at the table with the early afternoon sun beginning to creep into the West-facing windows and lighting up the room that I have a clear vision of this song. Laurie’s bringing out the food, and I’m totally in love with her, and all of a sudden, I realize that I’d never really heard this song before. I knew it, of course, and I liked it fine from many years before, but it had slipped into the ether.

Now, I was hearing it in a totally new light, and … it’s a really good song. Why didn’t I notice this before? Different time, different perspective.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

No. 862 – Most High

Performer: Page & Plant
Songwriters: Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, Charlie Jones, Michael Lee
Original Release: Walking into Clarksdale
Year: 1998
Definitive Version: None

One of the things I was most looking forward to when Debbie and I bought our home in 1997 was that I was finally going to be able to have to a proper baseball room.

Dave had introduced me to the concept that displaying all of your cool baseball memorabilia was the right thing to do. He bought his first house in Grand Blanc just before I moved to Columbus, and I remember how awesome his baseball room looked.

When Debbie and I moved into our apartment in Gahanna, I tried to make the guest bedroom something of a baseball room as much as I could given the restraints she put on me in that she didn’t the room to be overwhelmed with it. So, I started with just one wall, which was acceptable to her. I bought and made a few Sauder bookshelves—one for my library and one to display stuff. I bought another one that was shorter, so I could display cool posters and items on top.

But anything set free must have room to grow, and so it was with my baseball wall, although I might have had a hand in it—just a little here and there. It would be just another picture on the wall or another foamy for the bed. Where am I supposed to put this stuff? It grew insidiously until just before we moved, the guest room was on the verge of becoming a baseball room.

But now with a house, space would no longer be an issue. We would have a separate and decoration-neutral guest room, and after some negotiation, Debbie turned over control of the second-largest bedroom. It was all mine to decide what I wanted to do—no compromises.

When you have an entire room, you feel a strong obligation to fill it as best you can, and it took me a year to accumulate all of the infrastructure that I needed to make the baseball room of my dreams (along with more stuff for proper display, of course) … well, that and my laziness. What I really needed was a deadline to complete my tinkering.

I missed Opening Day 1998, which was about when this album came out, but I then set the date: June 18. It would mark the first weekend after our one-year anniversary of moving into the house, and it seemed like a good excuse to have a party anyway. So, no more dawdling. It was time to get serious, and the clock was ticking …

(Don’t you just hate cliffhangers?)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

No. 863 – Sliver

Performer: Nirvana
Songwriter: Kurt Cobain
Original Release: single
Year: 1990
Definitive Version: None

My apologies for the mistake in the previous entry: It should be FCC, not FTC. Phil, the Moron button please …

Anyway, the first real trip that Debbie and I took as a couple was to Chicago over Labor Day weekend in 1994 at a time when I had Nirvana on very heavy rotation. At that point, I was getting the itch to get to Chicago, even though it had been less than a year since I had been last.

I introduced Debbie to all my favorite spots, several of which Jin had turned me onto during previous jaunts. The best thing Debbie and I did on that trip was Too Much Light. Too Much Light, or the long-running sketch show Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind, has been running for 20+ years at this point, and—for those of you who aren’t aware—the premise is simple. The cast attempts to do 30 sketches (can’t really call them plays) in 60 minutes, some comedy, some drama.

Too Much Light (TML) then and now shares space with a funeral home; the show space is on the second floor of a building that could substitute for a Revolutionary times restaurant, and in the antechamber where you wait before the show, you could play board games while you waited. (This was before cellphones; the games are gone now.) In fact, the first time I went, Jin and I played the awesomely funky—and mostly forgotten—Which Witch.

For your admission fee, you roll a die, and you paid (back then) $1 plus the amount of the die. I knew I was going to roll a six and sure enough the boxcar came up. We each got our nametags—mine was Alrightee—and at this point, I was pretty sure Debbie was wondering what she had let herself get into.

The show was great as usual, but a few things stood out about that time. First, it was about the only time I’ve gone where TML didn’t sell out, which means they didn’t order out. (The staff buys a single pizza to be delivered and split 200 ways if they sell out.) Second, it was the only time that I’ve gone where they didn’t finish all 30 sketches in time. They had one sketch, which was essentially a repeat of the previous one but performed down on the street. This necessitated everyone to get up, clear the theater and go downstairs—and then come back. In short, this meant we were screwed, because the previous skit was the longest one of the night. Oh well.

But the trade-off came afterward. The TML cast hangs a row of numbers affixed with clothespins on a line across the front of the stage. The crowd shouts out a number, someone grabs it, reads the sketch, wads up the paper and tosses it into the audience. I caught a number and had a genius idea. After the show, I got everyone in the cast (still the original cast) to autograph the number, explaining that it was for my sister, who introduced me to TML and who had moved to L.A. and was homesick for Chicago.

I smoothed out the paper, put it in a frame and gave it to Jin at Christmas. She was beside herself when she realized what it was. The last time I visited her, I noted with some satisfaction that she still had it hanging on a wall in her house.

Monday, January 23, 2012

No. 864 – Ænema

Performer: Tool
Songwriters: Maynard James Keenan, Adam Jones, Danny Carey, Paul D’Amour
Original Release: Ænima
Year: 1996
Definitive Version: None

In about 1996, the ultimate blue-jeans and black-leather-vest teenage-boy rock station started up in Columbus. It was notable for its name—The Big Wazoo (WAZU were the call letters)—and its format. It was the first rock station I knew of that had no DJs. Instead, every once in a while, there was just some preprogrammed smartass air-check dude with voice-box machine set on Satan who would put down the other rock stations as wuss music.

The Big Wazoo played the hardest of hard: Metallica, Pantera, Iron Maiden, you name it. It was chest-thumping jock rock that lived up to one of Beavis & Butthead’s all-time classic credos: “The only thing cooler than a band that gets chicks, is a band that scares chicks.” The only women allowed were those named Destiny who kept their hair long so you could use it like the bridal of a horse. Even the radio station’s name was badassed.

Well, pay no attention to the corporate suit seeking to curry advertising favor behind the curtain, Destiny. One night as I drove home from work at about midnight, The Big Wazoo started up Ænema and exposed themselves once and for all for the marketing frauds that they were.

I couldn’t believe it at first: Ænima had been out for almost a year, and this song was literally unplayable, or so I thought. It features Maynard saying the f-word at least 20 times and the s-word about a dozen more. (In context, the somewhat satirical message works beyond mere obscenity. Check out a lyric site.)

After 11 p.m., FTC rules on what you could or couldn’t do on the air pre-Janet Jackson loosened up, but still … 30 times? How do you handle it? Do you cut out a couple of particularly objectionable sections, cutting the song to five or so minutes and just let a few of the big words fly, a la Who Are You? Or do you live up to your claim and let the chips fall where they may? In retrospect, I’m surprised I didn’t already know the answer.

Instead, what the hardest of hard did was go totally limp: Every bad word, and I mean every single one, was blanked out, wiped from the track. The Wazoo played all six-and-a-half minutes, and before long, it got to be laughable. What’s the point of playing a song if your fraidy-cat edits make a mockery of it?

Yeah, you guys are take-no-crap rule-breakers, all right. To paraphrase B&B, the only thing lamer than wuss rock is wuss rock dressed up as being kick-ass.

As far as I was concerned, that was the beginning of the death spiral for rock radio. I’m not sure I ever tuned into the Big Wazoo again. I’d already seen Fonzie's rear end soar over the tank, so why bother?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

No. 865 – I Want You Back

Performer: Jackson 5
Songwriters: Berry Gordy, Freddie Perren, Alphonzo Mizell, Deke Richards
Original Release: single, Diana Ross Presents the Jackson 5
Year: 1969
Definitive Version: None

I never have been much for going out to bars by myself. I drank but wasn’t really much of a drinker until I got to Flint. Even then it was always in groups. I didn’t become a solo drinker until after Debbie and I split, and then, it was always wine at home—with and after dinner on Sundays only.

So I’ve never been one to prowl bars to try to meet women. I’ve met women at bars but never when the express purpose in going was to meet someone.

Actually, about the only time I (sort of) tried it, I thought I hooked a winner. After Sasha and I parted ways, I continued to go to Jukebox Saturday Night on occasion during the summer of 1987, because I knew it, it was a dance bar and not a drinking bar and I knew that Cindy would be there—and she was every time—so I wouldn’t really be there alone.

I certainly wouldn’t have minded if Cindy and I had turned into something more than dance partners, but she wasn’t interested, and that was OK, too. So one night, after I had had my customary (at the time) one-and-a-half beers, I was feeling pretty good, and was out on the floor. It likely was to this song, because the Jackson 5 was an all-dance. (Jukebox Saturday Night was also about the Motown if I hadn’t made that clear.)

Anyway, while I was dancing, I did the tried-and-true (and always lame-looking when you’re an outsider) grab the onlooking pair of women and drag them out on the floor. Both came out, and one stayed out after that song for the next one, and the next, and the next.

Well, I had no wingman for her friend, so it wasn’t long when the said friend was grabbing my dance partner to drag her in a different direction—out the door. But I got the digits, as the kids say, and Cindy complimented me for my good work.

And it was good, until I called the said number the next week and spoke with someone who didn’t have a clue what I was talking about. Yep, I got the wrong number. I concede that I might have written it down wrong, but my hearing wasn’t completely shot yet, so I’m certain my dance partner just gave me a wrong number. Oh well, it least it wasn’t the number to the VD hotline.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

No. 866 – Monkey Wrench

Performer: Foo Fighters
Songwriters: Dave Grohl, Nate Mendel, Pat Smear
Original Release: The Colour and the Shape
Year: 1997
Definitive Version: None

Sometimes, history repeats itself. I started in news at the Flint Journal before moving to sports. In the summer of 1997, I had the chance to make a similar move at The Dispatch.

Through a series of moves, a position opened up on the copy desk in the sports department, and that seemed right up my alley. I loved working sports in Flint, and I was ready to do something else, although I didn’t have any general dissatisfaction with my job, so I applied. I knew a few of the guys on the desk from playing Fantasy Football, so I figured that wouldn’t hurt.

I got the job. Then a funny thing happened: Debbie and I went to Pittsburgh for a weekend to see a ballgame (I was in I’ll-go-anywhere-to-see-a-game mode), and all of a sudden in Three Rivers Stadium, I started to have this gnawing feeling that turned into a full-fledged panic attack the next day while driving home.

It turns out, I didn’t want to move to the sports department after all. I guess I started thinking about the job itself: It wasn’t going to be like it was at the Journal, where I had (on any given day) a ton of autonomy. In fact, I had more responsibility and autonomy in business because of my gig running BusinessToday.

Then there was the schedule. When you’re in a relationship, having a work schedule that meant you worked both Friday and Saturday nights probably isn’t such a good idea.

The panic attack wasn’t in the decision; it was from seeing whether I could back out at this point. I called my boss first thing Monday morning and went in to talk to both him and the sports editor. I blamed the easy excuse: Debbie was making me do this because of the schedule. The truth was that I didn’t want to do it after all.

I was allowed to stay where I was. The wheels had only begun to turn to replace me anyway, so it worked out for me … at first. I remember having this album on while working happily away the following Saturday—content in my decision. Sure, I burned a bridge to the sports department, but I didn’t care, because if I wanted to work there, I certainly had the opportunity.

However, what seemed to happen was that, in my opinion, I torched my future at The Dispatch by renegging. Over the next six years that I worked there, I must have applied for a half-dozen other jobs and never even got a sniff. I guess I had proven to be untrustworthy.

Interestingly, just before I left the Flint Journal, it was announced that sports was going to move from the third floor to the second. I left just before then. Just before the sports job opened up at The Dispatch, it was announced that business would move from the second floor to the fourth, and I thought I’d miss another move. I didn’t. Maybe history never repeats after all.

Friday, January 20, 2012

No. 867 – Mistral Wind

Performer: Heart
Songwriters: Ann Wilson, Nancy Wilson, Sue Ennis, Roger Fisher
Original Release: Dog & Butterfly
Year: 1978
Definitive Version: Greatest Hits Live, 1980

Eric was the one person from the Fiji house at Wabash who stayed friends with me after I left, and our junior year, we decided to fill one of the radio slots for WNDY, the 6-8 a.m. shift on Wednesdays. OK, really, I volunteered to help out my station, and Eric said he’d help me out.

Usually, I got there first about a quarter to 6 to turn on the transmitter and get everything up and running, and Eric would roll in sometime around 6 or thereafter. The program director of the student-run station decided to make it a top-40 station that year. Fine: WNDY was a for-profit station, so we had to sell commercials, which meant we couldn’t just experiment.

But what seemed ridiculous—even at the time—was that everything was programmed, even what songs were to be played at what times. What that meant to me and Eric was the song list format usually went into the trash at about 6:02 after we played the on-air welcome. I don’t know about the listeners, but I sure as Hell don’t want to hear Dexy’s Midnight Runners at 6:15 (or any other time, for that matter).

Actually, it was fun. Although I’d never heard Steve & Garry before, our show was similar in the sense that we just went in and did what we wanted unscripted. If anything, Johnny Fever was my model. Our show was called Psych and Mike in the Mornings. Psych, as in Psycho, was Eric’s nickname. I dubbed myself Mike Early, Mike, because it rhymed with Psych, and Early as a tribute to an episode of WKRP, where Johnny dubbed himself Heavy Early when he worked the graveyard shift.

Our best bit was that at 7:06, we’d play a song backwards—yes, we had turntables in those days. Why 7:06? That was also 66 minutes after 6, or 6:66, man. This was shortly after Judas Priest were sued by parents who complained that their son killed himself after being driven to do so by hidden backwards messages in a couple of their songs. Jerry Falwell and others of his ignorant ilk (the PMRC) also had taken up the cudgel that backward masking was Satan’s latest tool. (When in truth, I think we all know who the real tool was. man.)

Anyway, Eric and I were game to go along with it. Maybe they knew something we didn’t. So, we’d play records backwards. We’d play the Priest and Stairway to Heaven and KISS and Cyndi Lauper and Gods knows who else, and when we didn’t hear anything, we’d use that to poke fun at the nincompoops.

On our last show at the end of the year, I brought in Face the Music and played Fire on High, which, of course, has backward masking. You should have seen Eric’s eyes light up when, clear as a bell, the words, “The music is reversible but time is not. Turn back, turn back, turn back,” came on. “IT’S THE DEVIL!! But why is he telling me I should have studied last night instead of playing Thumper?” OK, so it was funny at the time.

Anyway, Eric’s favorite song at the time was Heart’s Dog & Butterfly, which was a mild hit. We played it every other shift for a change of pace. One day, I was recording it in the studio booth for my own use, when I flipped the 45 over. On the other side was Mistral Wind, which I didn’t know, but at nearly 7 minutes had to have something good going for it.

Dog & Butterfly might have been good, but I know a great song when I hear it the first time. I bought Greatest Hits Live at the Wabash bookstore soon after, and I’ll always think about my time as an early-morning drive-time jay when I hear this song.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

No. 868 – Oceans

Performer: Pearl Jam
Songwriters: Stone Gossard, Jeff Ament, Eddie Vedder
Original Release: Ten
Year: 1991
Definitive Version: None

Scott and I had such an excellent time in Toronto in 1991 that we decided to go back for a longer trip in the summer of 1992. We had a full schedule planned out: Scott would drive up from Columbus on Thursday and we’d head to Torch Lake for the weekend the next day, then drive back to Flint Sunday in time for the softball game and head out to Toronto the next day for the week.

I had introduced him to Pearl Jam earlier that summer, so obviously Ten was on the tape player as we drove up to Torch Lake. I don’t remember much about the first leg of the trip, but I sure remember the Sunday.

The 1992 softball season wasn’t nearly the success that 1991 had been for a number of reasons—one being that I had totally lost it as a pitcher. I couldn’t find the strike zone and couldn’t put anything on the ball as a result, because I had screwed up my motion.

At practice that year, to amuse himself, Bill had taken to trying during batting practice to rip line drives back through the box and nail me. Why he thought this was a good idea only he knows, but it got to the point where I’d let go of the ball and reflexively crouch down in fielding position, so the ball wouldn’t rocket off my dome. Unfortunately, that tendency carried over to the game fields. It got to where my natural inclination after letting go of the ball was to just about duck, and you can’t pitch that way. Well, you can, but you won’t have much success.

So I had a brutal year, and as it would turn out, the Toronto trip marked the end of my pitching days in the Grand Blanc coed league. I’d love to be able to tell you that I went out with a bang and shut down the opposition in all three frames of my final game. The truth was slightly different. I don’t remember how many runs I gave up in my final inning, but at least it wasn’t so many that the inning ended because we allowed the league maximum, which I recall was 12. I guess I can say that I got the final batter I faced out.

After that debacle, I needed a Labatts or three. The good news was a huge group of us were headed to the Cobblestone Lounge afterward for a team dinner and a round of volleyball. And we’ll pick up the story there at a later date.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

No. 869 – And So I Know

Performer: The Stone Temple Pilots
Songwriters: Robert DeLeo, Scott Weiland
Original Release: Tiny Music … Songs from the Vatican Gift Shop
Year: 1996
Definitive Version: None

When I had BBT, I started a petition to advocate for a national Opening Day holiday, which makes sense when you think about it: It’s right in between President’s Day and Memorial Day, and what better to celebrate than the end of winter and the start of the National Pastime? Unfortunately, like most of my good ideas, it went nowhere.

As it stands, no team celebrates Opening Day like the Cincinnati Reds. It’s the one game that’s a guaranteed sellout—even when the Reds are terrible, which they’ve been pretty much since 1995. I had never been to a Reds Opening Day, so Debbie and I decided to go in 1996. I got tickets the day they went on sale in January, but they still were in the red seats in center field under the scoreboard.

It was a cold, crisp April Monday (right after this album came out), but other than the temperature, it was a perfect day. The Reds were coming off a playoff year, so there was a lot of anticipation at what was expected to be a good year.

I was apprehensive, because the Reds had fired their manager who had led them to the playoffs (and would have in 1994 too had their not been a strike) and brought in someone who was not up to the task, as I accurately predicted to anyone who would listen (and a few who wouldn’t). But Opening Day always brings out the optimism, so let’s go Reds!

Sparky Anderson, who had also just been fired from the Detroit Tigers, finally had time to come back to Cincinnati, and he served as the parade marshall. (Cincy has an Opening Day parade: How cool is that?) That means he would throw out the first pitch, taking the ball from an elephant. (Insert your own Marge Schott joke here.)

Finally it was time to start, and the lefty Pete Schourek fired strike one to start the season to a huge roar of approval. The next pitch was high and outside … and then all Hell broke loose.

2012 will mark the 40th anniversary of my first Major League game. My first game of any kind was the Triple-A Columbus Jets in 1970. I probably have seen more than 300 pro games, maybe 400. I’ve never seen a no-hitter. I’ve never seen a milestone home run or strikeout. I’ve never seen a pennant clincher.

But I have seen the only time in baseball history when a home-plate umpire collapsed and died of a heart attack on the field, which of course is what happened after that second pitch in 1996. It’s bad form to say “woe is me” given the circumstances, and I’m sorry for that, but it sucks that that’s the biggest historical event I’ve witnessed at a ballgame.

Oh well, Opening Day is only 45 days away, and Opening Day always brings out the optimism.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

No. 870 – Times of Trouble

Performer: Temple of the Dog
Songwriters: Stone Gossard, Chris Cornell
Original Release: Temple of the Dog
Year: 1991
Definitive Version: None

I bought Temple of the Dog right after I discovered Pearl Jam, but I didn’t really get into it until later. By the late Nineties, when I first made a song countdown email list to commemorate the end of the millennium, this album was on heavy rotation.

At about the same time, Debbie ran into trouble of her own—she became unemployed. No, she didn’t start dating her boss’s son: been there, done that. This time, it was office politics.

New Albany had been sprouting wildly, and Wexner’s foundation moved from the tumble-down quaint white farmhouse to a brand new building in one of what were to become signature brick buildings in a town designed for all the rich folks who were moving out there to look old and quaint but lacking all the charm of an actual old and quaint small town. I don’t believe that had anything to do with what happened, but a new office design can change office dynamics.

Anyway, Debbie worked with two women, Gertrude and Hortense, who could best be described as the Wicked Stepsisters to Debbie’s Cinderella. (You can tell I’m an unbiased observer in this little drama, huh?)

When Debbie joined, the three were the best of friends. Debbie sought their companionship—even outside the office—and for a while it seemed fine. But Gertrude had a jealous eye, even though she was the assistant to the president. (Debbie was only the assistant to the veep.) And Hortense, being a loyal toady, always backed Gertrude when it suited her needs.

I don’t recall how the final showdown started, and I’m not sure Debbie even knew, but eventually it led to Gertrude going in to Debbie’s boss and running her down—in several cases flat out lying, as Debbie would tell me later—about Debbie’s work. To his credit, Debbie’s boss didn’t believe much if anything about it, but he recognized the real problem: Gertrude wasn’t going anywhere, and there had to be peace in the office. So Debbie was shown the door, with a bit of a severance, right before Christmas 1998. It was called a layoff, but really Debbie was forced out.

It worked out in the end, because Debbie got a much better job within a couple of months at a much better organization, and the Wicked Stepsisters most assuredly ended up locked up in a tower somewhere with their evil-grinning fat cat and their coal-black hearts.

Monday, January 16, 2012

No. 871 – Mary

Performer: Pete Townshend
Songwriter: Pete Townshend
Original Release: Lifehouse Chronicles
Year: 2000
Definitive Version: None

ITunes was a music game-changer, of course. Now, I could listen to what songs I wanted in any order that I wanted and make my own CDs. And one of the first things I wanted to have was my own Lifehouse.

Lifehouse, of course, was a legendary nonexistent album by The Who that fell apart when Pete Townshend couldn’t properly explain what he was trying to do to everyone involved. And it didn’t help that he came up with the idea at least 20 years before he could have fully realized it anyway. When it fell apart, the bulk of it ended up on Who’s Next and spread over other albums.

Finally in 1999, the technology caught up, and Townshend put together Lifehouse Chronicles, which featured a radio play that finally assembled the whole story.

But two discs in the Chronicles box set were how the original Lifehouse would have been constructed. When I learned about that, I asked mixmaster Scott to put together the same songs in the same order but to use Who versions. Only a few songs—this being one of them—weren’t actually recorded by The Who in the studio (or at least as had been released by 2001). But something was missing—proper album art.

Now it was my turn. Thanks to the miracle of Quark at The Dispatch, I was skilled in page design, so I pulled together all the elements: song list, a proper font, the Lifehouse logo from Pete’s website and the piece de resistance for the back.

I had a perfect picture from AP: It was a shot of the New Year’s celebration in Moscow in 2000 with people milling about on a snowy Red Square. One of the buildings in the back had a green laser stream emanating from it, which harkened to finale of Won’t Get Fooled Again in The Kids Are Alright.

So I sized it, cut it, made prints and popped them in jewel boxes with proper CDs therein to send off to Scott and Jin. Jin was beside herself when she got it and asked if I drew in the lasers. Nope, that was all in the shot. (I tried to find the picture online, but no luck.)

Of course, our Lifehouse albums aren’t the same as actually having a Who Lifehouse album from 1971, but it’s as close as I’ll ever get, and it’s close enough.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

No. 872 – Sugar Mountain

Performer: Neil Young
Songwriter: Neil Young
Original Release: The Loner single
Year: 1969
Definitive Version: Live Rust, 1979

When I graduated from high school, Dad said as my present I could choose to go anywhere in the continental United States for vacation, and the choice was simple: I wanted to go out West.

At that point, in the summer of 1982, I’d never been farther west than Zenda, Wis., which, of course, is almost due north of Chicago, and I wanted to see some serious mountains. So Dad mapped out a reasonable trip, and by reasonable, I mean insane. In the course of two weeks, we would go from Denver to the Grand Tetons, to Yellowstone, to Salt Lake City, to Reno, to San Francisco, to LA. But I was game. I wanted to see as much as I could.

We were going to fly from Columbus to Denver, and we’d have stops in (and I couldn’t make this up), Indianapolis and St. Louis. Are you kidding me? A two-stop flight to Denver? Back then, I didn’t care, but it seems silly in retrospect: What, we didn’t have to stop off in Topeka, too?

We were scheduled to arrive fairly late, but Dad got a line on an earlier flight. We’d be standby, but we had a chance to get to Denver six hours sooner, which seemed like a good idea. All we had to do was get to Indianapolis at the crack of dawn. As luck would have it, one of his friends from work was driving to Indianapolis that morning and could take us. We made the flight. Now we had to make our stand-by flight in St. Louis, which was going to be dicey because we were switching airlines, from Delta to TWA.

No dice. The TWA plane to Denver was full, so that meant—you guessed it—a six-hour layover at the St. Louis airport. We had breakfast and lunch, and I’m pretty sure Dad napped for a large part of that layover. I don’t know what I would have done if it hadn’t been for the arcade that had Donkey Kong (but not Centipede, alas) or my new Walkman, which I had bought specially for the trip. After my last experience flying—to London—I wasn’t going to be caught without my music.

I had taped Live Rust not long before our trip West, and it (and a couple of other things) quickly became the soundtrack of that trip. This song, of course, opens the album, so it’s perfect as the introduction to my senior trip.

Anyway, it finally was time for our regular flight to get us to Denver. At least we’d be able to make it to Steamboat Springs that night. One problem: The rental car agency screwed up. There was no rental car, we’re very sorry, sir. So they put us up in a Denver hotel for the night, and we’d have to set out the next day.

Finally, on a crisp August morning, we headed out in our K car with much trepidation that it even would make it over the Rockies. Our adventure was under way.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

No. 873 – Sunshower

Performer: Chris Cornell
Songwriter: Chris Cornell
Original Release: Great Expectations: The Album
Year: 1998
Definitive Version: None

The house where Debbie and I lived was in a newer development, but the back yard abutted a development that had been there since the ’60s. So, our back yard had a bunch of trees, whereas across the street, there was about nothing except grass.

We had a ton of wildlife visit us, which meant that we had a ton of bird feeders and birdhouses hanging off our deck or in the middle of the yard or hanging off trees. Over the years, we must have seen hundreds if not thousands of birds, and Debbie took hundreds if not thousands of photos of the birds—and the occasional punk squirrel for variety’s sake.

It was rare to find a nest in our trees, because they were either rail-thin ash trees where the closest branch to the ground was 20 feet up or dogwoods that provided no protection. But we still saw plenty of baby birds. In fact, I might have seen one the day it left the nest.

I was working out back on a bright, sunny weekday just before lunch when as I was coming around to the front, I saw this brown blur zip low to the ground from the golden euonymous to the gigantic rose of Sharon bush that marked the front corner of our lot—a distance of maybe 12 feet.

Being the curious type, I went over to take a look, but as I started to pry apart the bush with my hands, I could see—and hear very clearly—a male cardinal chattering like crazy and flying back and forth in the locust tree that towered over the entire front yard. There was a reason for that, and I soon discovered it: The brown blur was a baby cardinal. It was sitting on one of the branches, peeping softly. It had no tail or markings, but the makings of a tiny tuft on its head was the giveaway.

Right at about that time, Debbie pulled into the driveway on her lunch break, and I motioned for her to come over and have a peek. She was about giddy to see a baby cardinal. And, of course, the entire time the male cardinal above was going nuts, doing anything to try and draw our attention.

Before long, we withdrew and as soon as we were out of sight (but still watching), the male zoomed right down to where we had been. That’s why male cardinals are so bright, and why it was flitting about so noisily. It was doing whatever it could to distract us from the baby: Look up here, look how bright I am and how cheery my song is. Nothing to see down there; it’s all up here.

I don’t remember whether I had this song, just sent to me via CD from a collection of requested songs that Scott downloaded from Napster, on my Walkman at the time, but it sure seems to fit.

Friday, January 13, 2012

No. 874 – Hail, Hail

Performer: Pearl Jam
Songwriters: Stone Gossard, Jeff Ament, Mike McCready, Eddie Vedder
Original Release: No Code
Year: 1996
Definitive Version: None

As I’ve mentioned, I’m a Cincinnati Reds fan, and Johnny Bench was my guy from the moment that I got him in the first pack of 1971 Topps cards that I got that year. So when the Reds announced—finally—that the team was going to start honoring its history with a formal unveiling of its first retired numbers in 1996, it was imperative that I went.

The Reds retired Bench’s number 5 when he hung ‘em up in 1989, but the only way you knew that was if you read it somewhere. Unlike other teams, Riverfront Stadium had nothing alerting fans to that—no jersey banner hanging anwhere—just as none of the banners that commemorated any of the Reds’ titles were anywhere to be seen.

This was one of many ill-advised Marge Schott ventures, because she believed that no one cared about the past, when, of course, baseball is ALL ABOUT caring about the past. Anyway, she finally relented, so Debbie and I were off to Cincinnati on a crisp pre-fall Sunday.

For this game, I had to have good seats—more for the pre-game festivities than anything else. I can’t remember whether we scalped or I went the ticket-broker route (I believe the latter, but it doesn’t matter), but we had good seats. Actually they were too good—blue seats almost right behind the screen behind home plate. I wouldn’t be able to get a good picture of anything, and I had my camera loaded and ready to document everything.

So I moved to an open spot closer to the Reds’ dugout, and I had a perfect view of all the action. And there was much action to be had.

The ceremony was cool. The Reds honored Bench and Fred Hutchinson, the first Reds player to have his number retired (1) and the only one until Bench came along. Hutch’s family was there and then Bench spoke, and I was in my glory when they dropped the drapes past the left-field wall, and it became official: Jersey banners, in proper 1960s style for Hutch and 1970s style for Bench, were displayed for all to see.

Then came the topper: Bench was going to throw out the first pitch. But when you’re one of the two best catchers in history, no one wants to see you chuck a lob from the mound. No, instead Bench dropped down behind the plate and fired a one-hopper to second base. How cool was that?

The game was anticlimactic as anticipated. The Reds were mediocre that year, and they were playing the Florida Marlins in a game that didn’t matter to either team. I think the Marlins won, but both had already all but been eliminated from the postseason, so who cares?

After the game, I wanted to move down left field for a closer shot of the banners. It was then that I noticed something troubling: The reel on my Canon didn’t spin like it should after I’ve taken a photo. And the film number read 27. A knot formed in my stomach. Sure enough, when I opened the camera, my worst fear was confirmed: The film that I had loaded hadn’t caught after feeding the reel. I didn’t take a single picture!

Well, that pretty much ruined the whole day, and even listening to Pearl Jam’s brand-new album, No Code, couldn’t console me. But I thought of something. The next day, I called Paul at The Dispatch to see whether a photog had covered the game and whether I might at least get a print of the event. He said he’d see what he could do.

And when I came in to work on Tuesday, a sweet 8x11 print of Bench holding aloft his No. 5 plaque was sitting on my desk. That pic, since signed by JB hisself, now hangs in my hallway, along with the ticket, freebie handout that the Reds passed out that day. It’s a thing of beauty.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

No. 875 – Kiss From a Rose

Performer: Seal
Songwriters: Seal
Original Release: Seal (II)
Year: 1994
Definitive Version: None, although I’d love to find a bootleg from 1994.

To my template of basic information above, I decided to include definitive version, because sometimes a particular recording of a song makes it stand out—even though other versions are mediocre.

I think of this whenever I hear this song, because I saw Seal twice in the span of a year in 1994-1995—both pre- and post-Batman—and each time he did this song. And each time he did it totally differently, and neither sounded like the studio version.

The first time, this song was played fairly early in the set, and it came at the conclusion of a run where Seal did several songs that didn’t follow the album versions much. Killer, in fact, was completely unrecognizable if you didn’t know the words. Kiss From a Rose was closer to the original but played about half a beat quicker with more of a booming bass and guitar and less orchestral swell. In short, it sounded hard and funky. It was the song of the night, in my inexpert opinion.

A year later, just before Debbie and I saw him again, Seal played The Tonight Show, and although we were a Letterman household, we tuned in for Seal’s performance. He played a totally stripped down Kiss—acoustic guitars and some strings. It was light and bland. Unfortunately, that was the exact same version that he played at the second show in the middle, and if I may don my Lester Bangs cap for a second, I’d say that his move away from dance and rock to soft balladeering, which carried over to subsequent albums, suited him like Bozo’s getup. Seal definitely is better when he channels his inner Jimi Hendrix than his inner Nat King Cole.

Then again, his inner Nat landed him Heidi Klum, so what do I know?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

No. 876 – What I Am

Performer: Edie Brickell & New Bohemians
Songwriters: Edie Brickell, Kenny Withrow
Original Release: Shooting Rubberbands at the Stars
Year: 1988
Definitive Version: None

Have you ever been your sister’s wingman? I have twice, both times inadvertently, and both times involved a 21st birthday.

The first time was my sister’s birthday in 1989. She had left college the previous summer to take a year off before enrolling at Columbia College in Chicago. She had decided she wanted to get into the production side of movies.

Anyway, while in the midst of deciding her next move, she came up to visit me in January for her birthday and to see the city. Unfortunately, I lived in the suburbs, but we made it into the city to knock around a bit. For her birthday, we went to Jukebox Saturday Night, which she wanted to check out after I told that it was a total oldies bar.

I actually hadn’t been since I left the YMCA more than a year before, but it was still the same—and Cindy was still there holding court. At one point, I went to the bathroom, and when I came back a couple of dudes were at our table. It turns out one of the guys had been checking out Jin and seemed to notice that although we were together, we weren’t really together, you know? And Jin, naturally agreeable to this surprise development said, nah, he’s just my brother.

So the next thing I know, they’re out on the dance floor, and I’m sitting talking with the guy’s wingman. To this day, I couldn’t tell you what we talked about (probably the Bears or Bulls or whatever dudes talk about when thrown together uncomfortably), but we sat there awhile before Jin and the guy came back. They were moving along, and we had to be on our way as well. Jin got his number, but nothing more came of it, except that she definitely decided that Chicago was a cool place to be.

Anyway, earlier in the visit, we got pizza at Lou Malnati’s, and this song was on the radio, and I recall that Jin thought it was the bee’s knees. I didn’t like it; it was too hip for my tastes. But, like many songs, I got into it years later, and it never fails to make me think about that weekend—the first where I went out with my sister as young adults.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

No. 877 – Porcelina of the Vast Oceans

Performer: Smashing Pumpkins
Songwriter: Billy Corgan
Original Release: Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness
Year: 1995
Definitive Version: None

Now back to the nonsense, already in progress.

After Debbie and I moved in together, I had a lot of time to kill. Work started around 3, and before we bought the house, I really didn’t have much to do before work. I suppose I could have used my time more wisely by volunteering or doing something useful for society, but I decided my time was better spent working out or wasted by playing video games.

I’ve had a love of video games starting from the first time I played Pong and then Tank in the arcades in the 1970s, through Space Invaders, Pac Man, the Atari system and finally Nintendo.

One game in particular that I found and played a ton in 1995—typically with this song and the rest of Mellon Collie on in the guest room in Gahanna—was Uniracers, where you maneuvered a riderless unicycle through these crazy tracks, doing flips and twists and combos to gain speed.

But when Nintendo went to the 64 in the late ’90s, I ended my gaming run. Part of that had to do with getting a house with a huge yard. I no longer had time for video games. But also I like my games easy-to-understand, like Super Mario or Tetris. First-person shooter or other adventure games? Not interested.

I suppose that’s why when I finally got my first iPhone last November, the first and about only app I downloaded was Angry Birds. It doesn’t get mush simpler to learn but fun to play than that. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have one more level to get through before going to work …