Did I Kill Glenn Frey?

A couple of weeks ago, I came across an article that stated David Bowie had announced he would no longer be touring. And then his new album came out. Tara is a Bowie fan, so I was telling her these things, lamenting the fact that we’d never get to see him play live.

Three days later, David Bowie was dead.

Last week, I was chatting with a coworker about his weekend. “I went hiking,” he told me. “I saw an eagle!”

“Which one?” I asked. “Glenn Frey?”

That very afternoon, Glenn Frey was dead.

This past weekend, we were talking about the recent spate of celebrity deaths with Anne. “At least Abe Vigoda is still alive!” Tara remarked.

Three days later, Abe Vigoda was dead.

Now, my coworkers think I’m cursing celebrities. Causing their untimely deaths just by mentioning them. I have been absolutely forbidden from speaking the name “Tom Hanks” out loud, because Deb is a huge fan and warns me she will be devastated if he kicks the bucket next.

Mum’s the word. I hope blog posts don’t count, though.

All these deaths have been sad, but the worst for me was Abe Vigoda’s. As you know, I’m a huge fan of Barney Miller. Fish was the heart and soul of the show. The Godfather ain’t bad, either. So long, Sal Tessio. Back in 2012 I blogged about Abe Vigoda and the daily status update on his website. There had been so many rumors of Abe’s untimely demise over the years, his website kept you in the loop on whether or not he was still actually alive. Morbidly fascinating. I visited the site often – most recently, a month or two ago. Sadly, this


Was replaced with this following his passing:

Screen Shot 2016-01-27 at 4.52.03 PM

Sigh. All the good ones are taken from us far too soon. Yes, I realize that Abe Vigoda was a month shy of 95 years old. Doesn’t matter. That’s still too soon, dammit!

On a lighter note, in order to take advantage of our weekend in Ocean Shores, Tara and I took last Friday off. In my absence, I was apparently on my team’s mind, because when I returned to work Monday morning they had left me a little welcome back to the office! surprise.


Thoughtful, huh? How nice of them to spare not just one square, but roughly 800.

Tuesday, Kimberly ended up staying home to watch her sick daughter. There are two important things to mention at this point:

  1. Kimberly hates Justin Bieber.
  2. Turnabout is fair play.

You can probably guess where this is going. Bieber

Wednesday morning, when she returned to work, she began finding photos of her favorite pop idol in unexpected places. Like inside the photo frame where her daughter’s picture usually resides. The top drawer of her filing cabinet. And, probably my favorite spot of all, her telephone receiver. She only found this when her phone rang.

Best of all? She’s only discovered a few of the photos I surreptitiously placed around her workspace. Chances are, she’s still going to be finding these photos in June.

Talk about the gift that keeps on giving…


Joe Isuz-who?

We were watching TV one day last week and a commercial came on. I can’t remember the product, but the pitchman was a dead ringer for Joe Isuzu.

“That guy’s a dead ringer for Joe Isuzu, huh?” I asked Tara.

She turned to me with a blank look on her face, and I cringed when she said, “Who’s Joe Isuzu?”

For the most part our age difference is a non-factor, but it’s cases like these – usually pop-culture references that go over her head – that best illustrate the eight-year divide.

“Who’s Joe Isuzu?!” I replied, stunned. “You might as well not even know who Spuds McKenzie is!”

Cue the blank look.

joe isuzu

Oh, man. I don’t know how much more of this I can take. Which sacred American pop icon will my dear wife confess to being oblivious to next? Mikey from Life cereal? Mean Joe Green? The California Raisins??

David Leisure was the quintessential product spokesman – smarmy, confident, and funny. I loved those commercials. His character, Joe Isuzu, became so popular that Michael Dukakis even mentioned him in a 1988 presidential debate.

Tara, please tell me you know who Michael Dukakis is…!

Anyway. We had a nice little weekend getaway in Ocean Shores, WA. Met up with Anne, Anthony, Tracy, and David at a beach house maybe half a mile from the ocean. A break in the weather gave us the opportunity to walk along the shore without getting drenched, and Saturday evening we bought fresh Dungeness crab and steamer clams to go along with the clam chowder Tracy made. Damn good dinner, if I do say so myself. We mostly relaxed, watching movies and taking advantage of the hot tub on the deck. There are a crazy number of deer roaming freely throughout town. We saw them lined up along the main drag at all hours of the day. Kinda cool. Ocean Shores is a sleepy little town, not at all touristy like some of the places along the Oregon coast. It was a refreshing change of pace.

We wanted to be home in time for the AFC Championship game, but were under the impression it began at 1:00. Well, it did start at 1:00…Denver time. Details, details. So we ended up listening to the first half on AM radio (how quaint!) during the drive home. We got back in time for the second half, so at least we got to see our Broncos finish off the Pats and advance to the Super Bowl. PFM, baby! One more game to go!!

Grin and Bear It

I had a dilemma this weekend. On the one hand, I have a well-documented fear of running into (okay, getting mauled by is closer to the truth) a bear someday when I’m out hiking. On the other hand, I have a deep respect and admiration for Leonardo DiCaprio. He’s probably my favorite actor. So, his new movie, The Revenant, about a guy who tangles with a bear and barely (bearly? ha!) lives to tell about it: to see or not to see, that was the question.

The answer was “to see.” And I’m glad we did; it was a really intense and emotionally compelling movie. Great story, amazing cinematography, and what I deem an(other) Oscar-worthy performance by Leo. Give him a damn statue already!

I’ll just be sure to include bear repellant in my backpack next time I hit the trail.

At least the bear is keeping him warm now.
At least the bear is keeping him warm now.

The rest of the weekend was pretty low-key. Saturday, we helped my parents move some furniture between the upstairs and downstairs, and then between their house and storage unit. Including a couch, recliner, and thousand-pound coffee table. Perils of owning a pickup truck! You become the de facto moving company for friends and family. Which is cool. We both woke up a little sore this morning, but are feeling fine now. We also binge watched Making a Murderer, at the urging of many a spirited Facebook post and workplace discussion. I’m thankful for the suggestions, because Tara and I got completely sucked into the real-life drama involving Steven Avery, his nephew Brandon, possibly (probably) corrupt law enforcement officers, inept defense lawyers, and a Wisconsin town that gets one hell of a lot of snow. If you haven’t yet watched this 10-part Netflix documentary, what are you waiting for?! Do it. Especially if you’re a fan of Serial. (Bonus: everybody who speaks sounds like they just walked off the set of Fargo.)

So not guilty. Maybe.
NOT guilty. Maybe.

I may write a separate post on the show, as I’m super curious for feedback from others.

When we were in Ely over New Year’s, I stocked up on Snap-E-Tom at the local grocery store. I fell in love with this tomato chile cocktail last summer in Park City, when I picked one up on a whim. It’s like a saltier, less sugary V8. With a kick. Naturally, none of the local stores around here sells it. Ridley’s only had thirteen cans left on their shelf, so I brought them all back, but they are not going to last long. Especially after we made Bloody Marys with ’em yesterday morning. I guess this means every time we visit Ely we’ll be coming back with a cooler full of both Basque chorizo and Snap-E-Tom.

snap-e-tomI’d better quit trying, and falling in love with, new things outside of a 50-mile radius from home.

Tara, of course, being the exception to that rule.

No Bright Colors in the Zombie Apocalypse

I was watching The Walking Dead last night and made an interesting observation. Not sure if I ever noticed it before, but for some reason there are no bright colors in the zombie apocalypse. Everybody is cloaked in gray. This lends an eerie ambiance to the show, but a one-dimensional wardrobe is not very realistic. I mean, eventually you would run across a walker sporting a Spongebob Squarepants t-shirt. Right? Or any of the following…

  • An “I’m With Stupid —>” tee
  • A “My Parents Went to Cabo San Lucas and All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt” t-shirt
  • An ugly Christmas sweater
  • A wife beater
  • A Russell Wilson jersey
  • A bathrobe
  • A powder blue tuxedo

Scratch that last one. It’s not like the zombie apocalypse happened in the 70s. But you get my point. I’d think instead of a sea of gray, the undead-littered horizon would resemble a technicolor blanket. What do I know, though? My only experience with things coming back from the dead has been Arrested Development, and that left much to be desired.

Everybody’s so drab looking.

The same applies to the undead ladies, of course. Just once I’d love to see a “walker” that looked like this…

sexy zombie

‘Cause I’m all about equal opportunity.

My newest team member starts today. I christened her Tamale Girl because, during her interview, she mentioned that her husband makes excellent tamales. I don’t know if this was a subtle way of ingratiating herself into my Mexican food loving-heart, but it worked. It came down to her and another guy, and he was a Denver Broncos fan like me. Talk about a toss-up. Corn husks FTW!

(And writing samples. Hers was slightly better.)

Speaking of my Broncos, I feel pretty badly for Peyton Manning these days. The guy had a great run, but he is clearly in the twilight of his career. Maybe he’ll come back this season and get the storybook ending he deserves. If not, well…I’m a big fan of our new quarterback, Brock Osweiler. Real excited to see what he can do for the team. He’s off to a good start, anyway.

Brock’s a great name, by the way. But talk about destiny: when his parents named him, he pretty much had to become an NFL quarterback. Right? It’s such a football name. You don’t see very many accountants named Brock. Or veterinarians or poets laureate. I was telling this to a coworker named Blake, and realized that he is in the wrong line of business. Blakes are also typically quarterbacks. Or country singers. What our Blake is doing designing ads for a living is beyond me.

There are other names like that. Micks are musicians. Mildreds are spinstresses. And people named Waldo are forever getting lost in the crowd. (He might be easy to spot – for once – in a zombie horde, what with his bright red-and-white striped shirt.)

Happy Thanksgiving in advance!

No Nudes is Good News

While skimming through Facebook this morning, I came upon a link to an article that said Playboy is planning to stop publishing photos of naked women.

Very funny, I thought. The Onion is at it again.

Imagine my surprise when I saw the source for the article is NPR, and the story is legit. Playboy without naked women is like Disneyland without Mickey Mouse. Sacrilege! It’s the whole reason people buy the magazine, right? Never mind all that “I read it for the articles” mumbo-jumbo. While it’s true that Playboy does have interesting articles on occasion, it’s hardly a bastion of journalistic excellence.

Then again, the CEO has an excellent point. He writes,

You’re now one click away from every sex act imaginable for free. And so it’s just passé at this juncture.

Fair enough, and true. This certainly marks a victory for feminism, a cause I wholeheartedly support. I can’t help but have mixed feelings, though. Playboy is such a rite of passage for so many young men. Yes, mom, I looked at it when I was younger. But so did your dad! I don’t know whether I should “out” my dearly departed grandfather in this fashion, but Hugh Hefner has forced my hand. One summer a few years after he passed away, I was visiting my grandmother in New Jersey and happened upon boxes and boxes of old Playboy magazines in the basement, many of these dating to the 1950s and 60s. They were probably worth a small fortune! To me they were priceless, as they provided a never-ending source of reading material for me during my six-week stay. Plus, they made me admire my grandfather even more! I saw that he was just a regular guy, and I respected that. 76-09-playboy

I suppose we can call this a step forward for women’s rights, and I will not deny that this is good news. And yet, it’s the end of an era. RIP, Old Playboy format.

Last week, my content specialist pulled me aside to “have a talk.” My pulse quickened a little when she made that request, but I reasoned that we’ve had impromptu talks plenty of times before, and it’s not like she was going to hand me her resignation.

Five minutes later, she had handed me her resignation.

Well, shit. I’ll just pretend that we’re not really swamped at work and already looking for a third person to add to our team! So now we’re in need of two. It’s okay; I actually encouraged her to follow her dream, and the opportunity she has is a good one. No hard feelings. Today I began the screening process for new content writers, and had forgotten how entertaining reading cover letters and resumes can be! The very first one I looked at was from a self-professed “jack of all trades, master of none” who has been an energy drink distributor, a mechanic, a grocery store fish specialist, and “an entrepreneur in the medical cannabis scene in Portland.” That’s right: he owns his own marijuana edibles company and he can distinguish between steelhead and chinook like nobody’s business! Can I hire him TODAY, please?!


Like many social media denizens slash foodies, I like to take pictures of my food. Mostly these turn out decent, but I learned yesterday that it is virtually impossible to make split pea soup look even remotely palatable. Regardless of how delicious it might taste, it’s going to resemble something regurgitated by a baby. Case in point:

pea soup

Trust me when I say it tasted much better than it looked. I had never made split pea soup before, but because Tara was partying it up with her friends on the Oregon coast, I took advantage of her absence by making myself food that she would never eat. Considering she’s such a picky eater all I really had to do was throw open the pantry, but I digress.

So this was a smoky ham and split pea soup that simply cooked in the crockpot all day. I topped it with a dollop of plain nonfat Greek yogurt (who needs sour cream, anyway?) and a dash of smoked paprika. Good stuff! I’m assuming I’m not the only one who eats things they otherwise would not when their spouse or significant other is out of town? Feel free to weigh in on that (and share your go-to solo indulgence if you’re so inclined).

I missed my wife, but made sure to keep busy over the long weekend. I took Friday off and drove to the Oregon coast for a hike up Neahkanie Mountain. The view from the summit was breathtaking, despite the thick cloud cover.


After that I drove to Cannon Beach, where I proceeded to set up my beach chair and kick back with a magazine. Well, that lasted all of ten minutes, because it was cold as hell and started raining. So I returned to my car, changed into warmer clothes and a jacket, and walked past Haystack Rock and back. Because, why settle for a five-mile hike when you can add a three-mile walk to the mix?

By then it was approaching dinnertime, so I drove half an hour south to Garibaldi. My destination? The Ghost Hole, a little dive-bar some coworkers told me about. I was a little intimidated when I first walked in because the place was clearly inhabited by locals, but I grabbed a seat by the window, ordered a Bloody Mary and a cheeseburger, and settled right in. Ended up staying for a couple more drinks before leaving. I thought I’d stroll around town for a little while afterwards, but it was dark, rainy, and cold. Too bad – I found Garibaldi to be quite charming. Tara and I will have to come back and do some exploring.

Saturday, I spent the afternoon strolling through the Hawthorne District, my favorite Portland neighborhood. Browsed through a couple of vintage stores and bought records from the used record shop we frequently frequent. Is that redundant? Oh, well. Sunday was more relaxing, though I did walk to Target in pursuit of a pair of gloves, a strange (and ultimately fruitless) mission considering it was sunny and 80 degrees. Hey, fall – come back! I made the aforementioned soup for dinner and ended up watching a documentary on Netflix called Fed Up. Fascinating look at America’s obesity epidemic and the proliferation of Type 2 diabetes in people of all ages. It was very eye-opening, and made me feel genuinely sorry for the handful of kids chronicled in the doc. All were morbidly obese and wanted to get healthy, but were having difficulty thanks to many obstacles in their path, such as:

  • Soft drink lobbyists testifying before Congress that soda is not unhealthy and is, in fact, part of a balanced diet.
  • School lunch programs that are reliant on exclusive contracts with fast-food chains.
  • Food manufacturers making up the lack of flavor in their reduced-fat items by doubling or tripling the amount of sugar.
  • Companies targeting kids through false and misleading advertising.
  • Parents enabling their own children by buying junk food or products they erroneously believe to be healthy.

It’s somewhat maddening. Take the whole school lunch thing. It boggles my mind how different things are now from when I was a kid. Not only are there vending machines in the hallways; my daughter can order Taco Bell, Burger King, Pizza Hut, or Subway for lunch. In the cafeteria. WTF? We got choices, too: eat or don’t eat. That was it.

It was also interesting to see old commercials featuring Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble smoking Winston cigarettes. And then they cut to the present day, where Fred Flintsone and Barney Rubble are peddling sugar-laden Fruity Pebbles cereal.


Based on my own personal experiences, I already know that sugar is evil. This documentary really drove the point home. I highly recommend it to anybody interested in learning more about nutrition and how the “American diet” is contributing to so many serious health issues.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin

It’s been surprisingly cool lately. Especially jarring since we just suffered through our hottest summer in history, but I for one am not complaining. Fall is my favorite season and if it has decided to show up early this year, so be it. Because of the colder weather, I wore pants yesterday for the first time in months. I should elaborate: jeans instead of shorts. It’s not like I was walking around in my boxers every day.

Just in the afternoons, much to the consternation of my coworkers.

In addition to being a cooler-than-normal month, September has also been super busy. We knew looking at the calendar that this would be the case. Hot on the heels of our mini family reunion, Tara, Audrey and I drove up to Mount Hood last Friday to hang out with my uncle Tom and his wife Sue before they flew back to New Jersey. They had spent most of the week in a cabin in the woods, and invited us to join them their final night.

You literary buffs and pro-abolitionists (better be everybody reading!) will appreciate the fact that we stayed in Uncle Tom’s cabin.

Uncle Tom's cabin.
Uncle Tom’s cabin.

We met up with them last Friday evening at a cozy little restaurant called the Rendezvous Grill in Rhododendron, where we enjoyed great conversation and food. I hate to use cliches like “my salmon was to die for,” but my salmon was to die for. As was Tom’s, and as was Sue’s. That’s right: we’re all a bunch of fish lovers. Tara and Audrey were the exceptions, ordering food that once walked instead of swam, but we all left quite pleased with our dinner, not to mention a little tipsy. Tom and Sue graciously picked up the tab; considering it was not insubstantial, we very much appreciated their generosity.

Cards Against Humanity: not for the faint of heart.
Cards Against Humanity: not for the faint of heart.

Afterwards we followed them to the cabin, and the adults spent the rest of the evening drinking and playing Cards Against Humanity. Gulp. Talk about a family bonding experience! There’s an eye-opening game for you. But lots of fun.

Not a bad way to spend a Friday evening.
Not a bad way to spend a Friday evening.

We enjoyed a dip in the hot tub out on the deck beneath the stars before hitting the sack. We were up four hours later to catch the sunrise over Trillium Lake, something that Tara had wanted to do for a long time. It was well worth the lack of sleep. After a hike around the lake we returned to the cabin and Tara cooked breakfast while Tom and I played a game of Scrabble. We’ve been playing Words With Friends for years, and Tom is my toughest competition by far.

Who won, you ask? My answer is simple: it doesn’t matter, right?

(Damn stupid tiles!).

Then it was time to pack up; they had a flight to catch at PDX, and we had to get home. All in all we had a great 17-hour visit and enjoyed their company. Hope we get the chance to do it again sometime soon.

Trillium Lake.
Trillium Lake.

Monday, Tara and I celebrated our second anniversary with a Foo Fighters concert at the Moda Center in Portland. Great show; Dave Grohl came out kickin’! Not literally, of course. In reality he spent the entire three hours seated in a giant, lavish, over-the-top throne that he designed himself while high on oxycontin after breaking his leg earlier in the year. This thing had flashing lights, guitar necks, and an elaborate FF logo. At one point, Dave played guitar with his leg brace. It doesn’t get more badass than that! Three hours and 25 songs later the concert ended, which meant another late night for us. But again, totally worth it. He’s Dave f***ing Grohl, man.

Well, he IS rock royalty. (Image courtesy of nj.com).
Well, he IS rock royalty. (Image courtesy of nj.com).

Because our anniversary landed on a Monday, we went out for dinner the evening before. We wanted something nice and were torn between three different Portland restaurants, but ultimately decided on Imperial because we are Top Chef fans and were cheering on Doug Adams last season. I thought he should have won, but after eating there I no longer think that.

I know it.

DinnerBecause hot damn, that was one delicious dinner from start to finish. Everything was amazing, from my chipotle-infused Bloody Mary to the oysters with a horseradish mignonette; the giant, fluffy Parker House rolls with butter and Jacobsen sea salt; the buttermilk fried chicken with sweet pickles, honey, and hot sauce; the pasta carbonara with bacon; the caramelized green beans with kimchi, pork tongue, and a sunnyside egg; the fire roasted mushrooms with bone marrow and parsley; the warm chocolate chip cookie; and the cheese plate (a creamy wedge of bleu, wafer crackers, thinly sliced apples, honey, and candied walnuts). I’m much more cautious – okay, militant – over what I eat these days, but this was a splurge night and I’m glad I did. Afterwards we walked across Portland’s newest bridge, the Tilikum Crossing. All in all, we had a great anniversary this year.

Portland's newest bridge.
Portland’s newest bridge.

Our busy September continues this weekend with a camping trip on the Washington coast. It’s actually been two years since we’ve gone, and the weather looks to cooperate. Then next week we’re seeing The Who in concert, provided Roger Daltrey doesn’t keel over first. Oh, you think I’m kidding, but he has cancelled a bunch of tour dates due to a “mystery virus.” Portland is to be the first show they play once resuming their tour, so fingers crossed.

Ready, Cassette, Go

A few days ago, my dad told me he had a boxful of cassette tapes he wanted to get rid of, and asked me if I was interested before he tossed them.

“Thanks, but no thanks,” I replied.

And then I saw this article and was like, wait a second. Maybe I was a bit hasty?


Anybody who knows me at all is well aware of my fondness for vinyl. The only “new” music I actually buy these days is records. Our album collection now exceeds 400. Obviously, I love nostalgia and all things retro. Not just in music; this fondness extends to lava lamps, the VW Bus, beaded curtains, avocado green appliances, and so forth and so on.

But I’m just not a fan of cassettes.

I owned them growing up. Quite a few, actually. I alternated between records and tapes growing up, preferring the sound of LPs but the convenience (and portability!) of cassettes once the Walkman came out. Tapes are such a pain in the ass, though. Forget about skipping to a particular song; you pretty much had to immerse yourself in the whole album experience. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing – bands concentrated on cohesive full-length records rather than putting out collections of disposable singles, and music was truly art – but tell that to a 16 year-old who wants to hear Night Ranger’s “Sentimental Street” without having to wade through the drivel that is “I Need a Woman.” At least a record allows you to pick up the needle and skip to the next track, if so desired.

Tapes also fail to satisfy your desire for instant gratification. If you want to listen to “Separate Ways” but your cassette copy of Frontiers is stuck on “Faithfully,” you’ve gotta hit rewind and wait a couple of minutes. Life is too short for that nonsense.

Exactly! The reason I kept pencils next to my music collection.
Exactly! The reason I kept pencils next to my music collection.

Don’t even get me started on the cassette players’ fondness for eating tape. There is nothing more frustrating than Cyndi Lauper’s “She Bop” devolving into an incoherent mumble-jumble midway through the song because the tape got tangled up. Unspooling that shit and praying it would still sound okay is one pastime I do not miss.

I guess I should have seen this coming, though. If the hipsters can revive Pabst Blue Ribbon and somehow make that cool again (strike that; PBR was never cool to begin with), cassettes are simply the next logical step. I would argue that anybody longing for a cassette tape is really craving novelty, not nostalgia. They’ve probably never seen one before, and certainly haven’t been forced to deal with the problems listed above. Things become obsolete for a reason: it’s called technological progress, not regress.

Last week, my beloved favorite band, The Moondoggies, announced a cassette release party for their first album, Don’t Be a Stranger, which came out in 2008.  It’s not even available on vinyl.

And damned if I didn’t think, I’ve gotta have that…

Zeppelin Had Coda

I apologize for my recent absence from Blogville. Work has been kicking my ass lately. We’ve been busy for months, but that has really ramped up these past few weeks. Considering that the company has tripled in size in the nearly three years I have been there, this isn’t exactly a shock. Sadly, they are unwilling to invest in another copywriter at this point, choosing instead to hire more marketing staff and focus on increasing membership. Of course, more marketing staff + increasing membership = more content to write. This has all the makings of what the old-timers call a “vicious circle.” As a result, I’ve been under the gun and stressed out quite a bit over the work that has been piling up and the deadlines that are falling by the wayside. But as I told my junior content specialist, there is no use complaining about something we have no control over. If it takes a few missed deadlines to get management to acknowledge the need for help, so be it.

Fortunately, the company is still investing in fun activities for its employees, and Friday was no exception. We shut down the office at 1 PM for our annual picnic. Busy or not, there was no way I was going to miss out on the opportunity to get paid to drink down by the river on a Friday afternoon. We had reserved a picnic shelter at Cottonwood Beach in Washougal and the plan had been to barbecue, play some volleyball and kickball, and socialize. It turned out to be really hot and muggy, so most of us congregated beneath the shelter instead. We had good food, lively conversation, and plenty of booze.

And then the cops showed up.

I hadn’t given much thought to all the No Alcohol Allowed Under Penalty of Death! signs posted all over the place, figuring whoever organized the picnic surely must have gotten a permit or special exception. After all, there were cases of beer right out in plain sight. I am not a beer drinker myself, but came prepared with a flask full of vodka. It wouldn’t be a {Insert Company Name} party without a little booze, after all!

Shit just got real.

Surprise, surprise. There had been no special deal brokered, no temporary liquor license granted for our group, so when four police cruisers showed up and a bunch of sallow-looking uniformed fellas stepped out of their vehicles, the jig was up. I nervously worried about getting patted down, but luckily my flask went undiscovered. We were asked to remove all alcohol from the premises and issued a citation, and after that the party pretty much petered out. Tara and I left around 4, and ended up at our favorite bar in downtown VanWA for more (legal) drinks. We’d invited a bunch of friends to stop by, but nobody did. Lame! Fortunately, we enjoy each other’s company best of all, and had a great time anyway.

At one point we started talking about music. Tara asked me whether I thought Nirvana would still be as revered today if Kurt hadn’t killed himself. No, I replied. They would have eventually made a bad album. It happens to all bands – even Led Zeppelin had “Coda” – and that would have diminished their legacy. And then she asked about other untimely rock ‘n roll deaths. What if Jim Morrison hadn’t died so tragically young?

“It’s probably a good thing he did,” I replied (though not really). “Because you know The Doors would have gone on to release the inevitable disco album, and that would have forever tainted them.”

It’s funny, the conversations you have after downing a few drinks.

Yesterday, summer came to an abrupt end. We had a big windstorm move through, with some pretty heavy rain in the morning. Since it’s still only August I’m sure this is temporary and we will soon return to our Regularly Scheduled Program (warm + dry), but it was a nice break from the monotony and the perfect excuse to spend the day holed up inside. We made meatloaf and watched Boyhood. Usually our weekends are go-go-go, so it’s nice to chill out for a change.

It’s beginning to look like fall out there.

What’s the 411?

Last week, we paid Audrey to catalogue* our record collection.

*As an aside, I realize that “catalog” is the more common spelling of this word in American English, but I prefer the European version. I also favor favour and find colour more colorful than color. However, I refuse to belabor the point and call our holiday Labour Day. I’m funny when it comes to language. 

Anyway. Our record collection continues to grow, and this was becoming a problem. Case in point: we hit our favorite record store in Portland recently and ended up buying an album we already owned. As much as I like Ozzy Osbourne, one copy of “Blizzard of Ozz” is plenty. This has happened on more than one occasion, so we figured it was time to actually come up with a list we can refer to in order to avoid duplicates. Only, the idea of sitting down and going through all those albums one by one seemed far too onerous a task to deal with, so we bribed my daughter to do it. The grand total? 411. That’s a lot of vinyl! Some of those albums we bought nine days ago, while others I have had for almost 40 years.

In fact, I still own the very first record I ever bought. And there’s a great story to go along with it.


In August of 1977, we were on vacation in Texas, staying with some friends of the family in Wichita Falls. I was eight years old and not nearly as worldly as I am these days. One afternoon the adults walked into the living room, and I could tell immediately that something was wrong. Their eyes were downcast and brimming with tears, and they spoke in the same hushed tones usually reserved for the recounting of Bad News.

“What’s wrong?” I asked nervously.

“Elvis is dead,” my mom answered sadly.

“Oh, no!” I cried. And then, after a long pause, “Who’s Elvis?”

I feel pretty stupid about the whole thing now, of course. I may have only been a kid, but you’d think I’d at least have some knowledge of the King of Rock ‘n Roll! Nope. I’d never heard of the guy before. It’s rare that you can point to any random, particular day and assign it significance, but for me, August 16, 1977 is monumental. It’s not just the day that Elvis died – it’s also the day I discovered rock ‘n roll.

elvis headlines

News of Elvis’s death was all over television for the next few days. It made me want to learn more about this fat man in a white sequined jumpsuit whose death stunned the nation. A few weeks later, I walked into a record store and bought my very first album ever. C’mon, Everybody. Because I did not know any of Elvis’s music I chose that one randomly. It was a compilation album containing songs from a number of his movies (another revelation: Elvis made movies!). Aside from “Follow That Dream” there weren’t even any songs that I would consider classic Elvis, but it was enough to whet my appetite and ignited a love affair with popular music in general, and vinyl in particular, that continues unabated to this day. 411 records and counting, remember? (And a handy Excel spreadsheet so we don’t double dip further).

Rock and roll music, if you like it, if you feel it, you can’t help but move to it. That’s what happens to me. I can’t help it. ~ Elvis Presley

I am reminded of this story not just because the 38th anniversary of his passing was Sunday (did you realize Elvis would be 80 now?), but also because the King has a significant role in my novel-in-progress. In case you’re wondering, it’s set in the present day. Anything more than that is a spoiler, and my virtual lips are sealed. But I’ve had to do some research in order to flesh out the character and portray him convincingly. I was hoping to avoid cliches such as fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches, but guess what? Elvis really did eat fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches. All the damn time. So, fine. Fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches will make a guest appearance in my book, too.

In the meantime, I’ve been listening to his music a lot lately. Trying to get into the right frame of mind, if you will. My favorite Elvis songs, in order, are:

  1. Burning Love
  2. Kentucky Rain
  3. Suspicious Minds
  4. Don’t Be Cruel
  5. Mystery Train

What about you? Favorite Elvis song? First album you ever bought? Is there a celebrity whose death significantly affected your life?