Monday, August 20, 2018

8. The Quest For Cool

I have to admit, painful as it is, that I have done things that I am not proud of (involving music purchases. Get your minds out of the gutter). The biggest and most egregious that I can think of is giving into peer pressure and attempting to be “cool”. I have learned since that it is not worth it, and that no matter what I do or how hard I try, I will never be “cool”. But, I was in the seventh grade and at a point when I was trying so hard to fit in. Two of the biggest albums in 1986 were Whitesnake’s self-titled seventh album (I hate when bands release a self-titled album after they have a back catalog). The other was Bon Jovi’s Slippery When Wet. It appeared to me at that time, in order to be cool, one must actually own these albums. So, I asked for them for Christmas (yes, in hindsight, I wasted two perfectly good gift slots on these two albums).

I had already gotten albums from Columbia House records, which was that mail-order company that sold eight, twelve, or seventy albums for a penny. These two albums were not on the “for a penny” list (most of the records on that list were falling in popularity and they had to clear them out to make room for Bon Jovi and Whitesnake). When the Columbia House catalog came in, the prices for these albums were just north of outrageous (usually $12.95 plus shipping and handling) and I was not using my allowance to pay for one album. I could go to Disc Connection and get lots of good albums for cheap. Unfortunately for me, the two albums that I was seeking to make me cool were too new to be in the used section.

Finally, Christmas vacation came, and then Christmas Day, and I got my albums. I was finally, for that short time, “cool”. I listened to them and, frankly, I only remember the hits. There was nothing else on either of these albums that stuck out to me. They were pretty bland. “Here I Go Again” was an okay song at the time, but the half-assed guitar solo ruined the whole song (there’s this choppy progression in the middle of the solo that just takes me out of it…I could go on for hours about that ham-fisted, amateurish thing that was supposed to be a guitar solo, but I won’t…makes Paul Stanley look like a virtuoso…sorry, I’ll stop).

Christmas vacation ended and I was back to school and ready to unleash my new “cool”. “I got Whitesnake and Slippery When Wet,” I said.

“Oh, sorry, Bon Jovi is no longer cool,” I was told. Luckily, I was unable to remember what anybody thought the new cool band was. I decided from that point on, I was the only person allowed to dictate my musical tastes. If I liked a song, I liked it, and if I didn’t, well, it didn’t make it into to my record crate.

The moral of the story is: Bon Jovi sucks and so does Whitesnake. Neither of those albums ever made it to a mixtape or into my CD collection and I also have not listened to them on Google Play because they are not worth my time. Life’s too short for shitty guitar solos.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Announcing SGMR Wellness, LLC

We here at SGMR Industries, Inc. have noticed a great need for health and wellness experts in our great land. People seem to be spending more money in grocery stores and not nearly enough with us. So we are announcing our newest venture, SGMR Wellness, LLC, headed up by Allen C. Grant, HWG. Allen is a certified guru by our own strict set of proprietary criteria that determines what a guru is. Anyway, here is just a sampling of the wisdom of our resident guru.

From his June 2015 seminar, The Water Industry is Killing Us.

“Did you know that you’ve been lied to all these years? You have. The Water Industrial Complex has been cheating you out of health and wellness for thousands of years. You may think that you drink enough water, but you’re not. You’re only getting half of the necessary elements that you need with every glass, but it gets worse. Ladies and gentlemen, the water companies have been using fillers in their water. They have been cheating you all this time and you never even knew it. Look at this chart (he displays a chart of a downward pointing arrow on a graph), it showing us that world’s population has been decreasing for a billion years. Do you know why? Because BIG WATER has been contaminating their product with double the hydrogen for each oxygen atom that they give you. Do you know why? Because hydrogen is cheap, but do you know what else? It’s explosive. That’s right people, the BIG WATER is trying to blow us all up! Wake up and look at this chart again, we are dying off. There are only a few people left on earth according to my statistics that I calculated. When THEY tell you that the world’s population is increasing in numbers, don’t believe them. There are only a few hundred people left on earth as we speak, but there’s something that we can do about it. 
“Ladies and gentlemen, I am introducing you to the newest revolution in water intake and rehydration. I have created a revolutionary new water bottle that is infused with pure, organic, GMO-free oxygen that will help to repair the water that has been foisted upon us for millennia. It will add that extra oxygen that is missing from traditional water and make us all happier and healthier. Right now, because of our newest corporate partnership, we are offering this new bottle not for $10, not $5, but for $49.95. If you keep drinking that ordinary water, you will die like 100% of the people who consume it. If you buy this bottle, you will know that you’ve done something good for yourself when you take that first drink. You will feel more energized and your vitality will improve greatly. What’s even better is that you will have the satisfaction of knowing that you are superior to everyone that doesn’t rush to their computer to buy two or three of these bottles because the more you buy, the better and more superior you will feel. Don’t cheat yourself out of the oxygen that you so desperately need. Live a superior life.”

Ladies and gentlemen, we here at SGMR Industries, Inc. are proud to have Allen Grant on our team to help make people’s lives and our bottom line much, much healthier. Because of the great occasion of having him here, we are offering a special on the ACG Oxygen Bottle, when you buy one bottle at regular price, you get a second one absolutely at the cost of a second one. That’s two bottles for the price of one plus another. Welcome aboard, Allen.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

The Romance That I Never Wrote

I wrote this post five years ago today. I'm still proud of it.

I've always wanted to write a romance novel and I've always had a scene in my mind that I am finally giving myself the opportunity to share. It is only a scene, and it may surprise you. Apologies to other romance writers.
She looked down from the bedroom window into the yard and saw him sitting there in the early afternoon sun. The light reflected off his balding head while the warm breeze blew through the hair on his shoulders. He cradled his hoagie sandwich in his meaty fingers with great passion and she dreamed of being held like that. She also dreamed of feeling that strong mouth on her and she tingled when he took a bite of the sandwich.
His eyes traced upward to the window. She tried to hide, but she was locked in his gaze. The lettuce hung from the side of his mouth as a piece of turkey fell onto his large, bulbous belly that overflowed under his mustard-stained shirt. He smiled at her. His missing front teeth accented the yellow in his remaining teeth. She sighed deeply as he stared at her.
She let the top of her paisley bathrobe fall open as she moved back from the window. He hopped off the tailgate of the 1984 Ford pickup, fell down in a pile of manure, stepped on a rake which hit him in the side of the head. He made his way for the door, never letting go of that hoagie.  She knew that she would soon be smothered by him. 

I hope you enjoyed this excerpt of my never-finished romance, Smothered in Bacon and Lust, not available anywhere but here. Thanks for reading and let me know if you would like to read more things like this, or if you are filing a restraining order against me.

Monday, August 13, 2018

7. There's Someone Else Controlling Me

I decided to fast forward a bit since the details of the early years are not nearly enough to fill any significant portion of a blog. I may refer back where necessary and provide a vignette, but let's pick up in 1986 when I was 12.

I remember the PSAs during Saturday morning cartoons that talked about marijuana being a "gateway" drug. I know nothing about that as I never did drugs and didn't start enjoying the occasional beer until way later in life (seriously, not even joking). I can, however, speak to the truth of a different kind of "gateway" to a wider world.  The gateway to metal.

I was in seventh grade during 1986-87 and my brother was a sophomore in high school. He was friends with the group I will call the jeans vest guys. This is not to be confused with the "denim vest guys" who listen to country music. The jeans vest guys were the long-haired guys who cut the sleeves off their jeans jackets and adorned them with patches and artwork of their favorite heavy metal bands. My brother, as mentioned earlier, was already into bands like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, and of course, Ozzy Osbourne. The next step in the metal chain would be the band that was the gateway drug to even more metal.

Metallica. The album was Ride The Lightning. My brother borrowed the album (on vinyl) off of one of his friends, came home, put it on the turntable and…I was a bit underwhelmed for the first forty seconds. Here was this melodic acoustic guitar solo to start things off. Wow, really? This is…wait…holy shit! I had never heard anything so fast and heavy in my life. The growling vocals singing about impending doom due to warfare. It didn't take long for Eric to buy the album for himself and for me to borrow it and record the first two songs for a mix tape. Of course, this new found sound would not make me any more popular at school.

This brand of heavy metal was commonly referred to ask "kill your mother" music. Motley Crue, Poison, Cinderella, and other hair metal bands were fine. It was the serious underground metal that scared people. So I was listening to Metallica on my Walkman when somebody in my class asked me what I was listening to. Stupidly, I answered, and then it came, "Hey, Jasen's listening to 'kill your mother' music!" I don't remember my reaction to it all, but I probably retreated into my own mind and tried not to pay attention any semblance of popularity I thought I had fade away into oblivion. From then until I graduated the following year, I kept this part of my musical taste under wraps, but I continued to experiment with harder forms of metal, like Anthrax, Megadeth, and eventually the kings, Slayer.

If I could go back in time and talk to myself (provided it doesn't result in the collapse of the universe), I would probably tell myself, "Pay no attention to those other kids because in two years Metallica would release …And Justice For All and they will all jump on this bandwagon. You will be able say that you liked them before they were 'cool'." Of course I can't go back in time (yet) which means I also can't prevent me from wasting a Christmas gift, but that will have to wait.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Announcing Our New President & CEO

After an exhaustive six night, seven day search at our corporate meeting facility in definitely-not-Havana, Cuba, we are now fully prepared to announce the new President & CEO of SGMR Industries, Inc. We have all heard by now of the sudden "passing" of our former President & CEO (who, for legal reasons, we are not permitted to state his name) who "died" tragically in a water polo accident when his horse threw him and ran away. Also, there might have been copious amounts of alcohol involved. We will miss the former President & CEO very much.

Our new President & CEO comes to us from <Note: Attach an impressive company name here before posting this> where he spent many years tuning a fine corporate machine. His vision is exactly the same as our former President & CEO, so he will be a perfect fit in the SGMR Industries, Inc. "family".

Many business analysts have pointed out that the new President & CEO looks, talks, walks, and drinks exactly like the former President & CEO and have expressed concern that the former faked his own death and assumed a new identity in order to avoid numerous charges being levied against him by local, state, federal, and international courts. They are completely wrong, the former President & CEO "died", but unfortunately, his body was never found. Yes, Chadwick Fitzgerald Vanderhaven III bears a striking resemblance to his predecessor, but these corporate bigwigs all look the same to us. It's not the same guy, really. We swear…just not in front of congress.

Ladies and gentlemen, we will never again speak of our former President & CEO ever again. 

Monday, August 6, 2018

6. Sundays In The Kitchen

Growing up, Sundays were truly the most fun day of the week. My mom made dinner every week and my aunt, uncle, and grandpa would come over. Mom was always a good cook and her house is still the gathering place for all major dinners except for Thanksgiving. I took over that holiday when I moved into my own house.

After dinner would be coffee and dessert and listening to the oldies show on radio. My parents and aunt and uncle would go out to a local bar on Tuesdays to see the DJ who hosted this show, Bruce Ryan. If it was somebody's birthday, my dad would call in a dedication for the Beatles' "Birthday". When I was young, there was a great thrill to hearing my name said on the radio. (Today, as a podcaster, I hate hearing my own voice.)

One of the favorite songs that came up just about every week was "Little Darling" by The Diamonds. We would sing along to this song, especially the high-pitched vocals and the spoken word part. Beside that song, my all-time favorite has always been "Stand By Me", whether it's the original by Ben E. King, John Lennon, or the fantastic version from Playing For Change, where musicians from all over the world recorded various songs and they were mixed together.

Oldies still hold a prominent spot in my music listening, especially some of the stuff that wasn't always played on the radio. These days, the local oldies station only plays from the mid-60's and later, which means that I have to depend on Google Play and my own CD collection to give me the good time oldies I enjoy so much. I recommend the box set, Loud, Fast, and Out of Control, the Wild Sounds of 50's Rock. It contains many of my favorites, but no ballads. And I still sing the high notes of "Little Darling" when ever comes through the rotation.