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Looking For Quacks In The Pavement

Category: Memories (page 1 of 3)

Priceless

My mother was big into all kinds of things when Sis and I were kids. She had an on again, off again relationship with playing the flute (usually to Jethro Tull) for instance. At one point her big fascination was horses. She rode horses, she owned a horse or two, she traded a lovely souped-up Ford Fairlane 500 for a beat-up truck so she could haul hay around for horses. One day she ended up with a pony. Which is to say that someone gave her a pony.

You know that joke about people who want all the things, “and a pony”? Mom actually got the pony.

She paid nothing for this animal, so, seizing upon available inspiration, it was renamed to… Priceless. Priceless Pony.

I tell you this so that when you look at my cast of ducks and wonder how the cast-iron duck got stuck with “Rusty” for a name, you realize that the apple did not, in fact, fall far from the tree.

Dervish D.

If I keep this up, January 2013 will see more posts here than any two months in 2012 put together…

At any rate. The last song to come up in Poweramp on my tablet last night (why pay for a separate MP3 player when I have LG Tone headphones and a nice big tablet?) was… this:

[audio:Vangelis-DervishD.mp3]

And that got me thinking about how my musical tastes went from mostly-classic-rock to include so much electronica like Pet Shop Boys and BT. I have my great-granddad to thank, in this case.

Great-Grandpa George was a tinkerer, a packrat, a storyteller, and a very strange sort of audiophile. Like many such folk in the early 1980s he believed that the LP was far superior to any new-fangled digital compact disc nonsense. Unlike anyone else I’ve ever met, however, he believed that cassette tapes were also superior to CDs. (He was also an Edgar Cayce fan. Ah, well.) Either way, he had multiple turntables and racks of tape decks and several open-reel rigs in the house, most of them in the upstairs living space of the house.

Luckily, when I had to sleep over at their place, I got to sleep upstairs with all the cool toys. (This explains so much, doesn’t it…?)

This being the early 80s, and me being around 10 years old, my musical knowledge was limited to Top 40 radio, whatever my parents listened to, and… Grandpa’s tape and record collection. Not much of his available material stuck with me for very long, but man, I loved the Vangelis tapes like “Opera Sauvage,” “Mask,” and especially “Spiral,” from which the above track is pulled. Much like the Genesis stuff I’d get into a few years later, this was rich and complex imagination fuel for my little brain, and I ate it up.

My father remains unamused by Vangelis, by the way: The notion of one man looping instruments and samples in a studio is what he describes as “musical masturbation.” I see his point, but I also sort of don’t care. (Love you, Dad!)

There’s a direct, if unusual, path from that Dervish D song to the Jan Hammer and Tony Banks and Pet Shop Boys and KOTOKO and BT and Venus Hum pieces which form one of the pillars of my musical collection today. So, thank you, Grandpa George, for all those tapes we made all those years ago.

Wake Me Up When December Ends

You know, I was doing so well at the posting thing… back in November. I don’t know what happened this month! Well, okay, I know some things that happened…

  • On the 6th we went to our company’s holiday party, held for the second year running at Uptown Billiards. This is the first year that Kyla and I were actually able to go, thanks to a delightful lack of Snowpocalypse this time. I shot a few games of pool, watched others lose money at the card table, noshed on many more delectable lemon tarts than I ought, and generally had a good time.
  • My holiday shopping was completed by December 12th this year. I’m very, very happy about this. (Now, my holiday wrapping, on the other hand… well. Er.)
  • We “enjoyed” one hell of a cold snap the week of the 6th… and my roomie took most of that week off from work, so I was on the train each direction. It wasn’t fun, but I managed okay… except for the morning that I was stupid enough to forget adding a sweater to my bundle-up layers. Whoops. See, Hillsboro is always several degrees colder than downtown Portland, and it’s a 15-minute walk from train station to office… ugh. Still: It beats suffering another Snowpocalypse.
  • Among all of the buying neat things for friends and loved ones, I did sneak in a purchase just for me: A Logitech G110 “gaming” keyboard for my main computer. Now, don’t think I bought it because the keys light up (blue, red, or purple). I bought it for the anti-ghosting, and because reviews indicated that among gaming keyboards, it’s the one which still functions reasonably well as a regular keyboard, something at which many of the “gaming” rigs seem to fail utterly. Oh, and it wasn’t hideously expensive, either.
  • I love knowing that my kids are going to love their presents. Sometimes, being Dad is awesome.

Now, let’s see if I can stay on top of this “journal” thing I’m supposed to be doing…

Aquarium Trip, September 2007

Kyla and I took a long weekend back in September, planned well in advance for the specific purpose of taking Alex and Erica out to the coast for a tour of the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport. (Who did they have to kill to nab “aquarium.org”, anyway?). The kids and I had been there before, during the years between Keiko’s departure and the completion of the underwater passage exhibit, which we were keen to see.

Crazy aside: We ended up renting a Chevy Malibu sedan from Enterprise; the previous renter brought it back because it was too old. If that car was manufactured before 2004 I’d be stunned, people. “Too old?” As Kyla said, “Let me show you my beat up old Ford Escort, lady.”

At any rate, after a few hours’ travel spent kibbutzing and listening to Daft Punk and other odd road-music selections, we arrived and proceeded to wander the length and breadth of the place, looking at fishies and crustaceans, snapping photographs, and amusing ourselves with silly banter.

Photographs, I said!

Some of the pictures make for good journal fodder, so we’ll highlight them…
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The Great Olive And Mushroom Pizza Debacle

While reminiscing about the arcade of my youth (Lindsey’s Drive In, Brewster, Washington) I remembered this little story that I haven’t yet committed to journal…

In those early years after moving to middle-of-nowhere, Washington state, our little family spent a lot of time with Mom’s mother and stepfather, probably because they had a reasonable amount of money on hand and we, er, didn’t. (When Mom was married to one particular sleazeball, however, we didn’t spend a lot of time with the grandparents. I won’t name names, ’cause Sis may read this and her blood pressure will go up enough just thinking about it.) My step-grandparent, one Mr. Dobson, joined us for dinner at Lindsey’s one day. I’m fairly certain that Mom, Sis, Grandma and “Grandpa” and I were the dinner party, but I won’t swear to that on a Bible or anything.

Hey, who’s going to turn down pizza? But, wait! What’s all of this icky garbage on top? Olives? They make my stomach turn, and that’s just from the smell. Mushrooms? I can tolerate the fungus occasionally, nowadays, but back then it was another icky foodstuff I tried to avoid. So, being something under the age of ten years old, I childishly voiced my disdain for the selected toppings.

What was Mr. Dobson’s rational, reasoned response? He scraped every last olive and mushroom off of the entire pizza… and placed this unwanted bounty on my plate. That’s right, folks. Everyone else got to eat plain sauce-and-cheese pizzas while I choked down what I could of the disgusting glop in front of me. One child complains, everybody suffers. Perhaps there was supposed to be a lesson for me in the experience, but if there was, I didn’t take away what he’d hoped for. Mostly I left the table with the devout belief that my “grandpa” was a complete asshole. Not that I had the words for such a sentiment for a few years yet, but you get the picture.

Oddly enough, this experience didn’t turn me off to pizza entirely. We never invited “grandpa” to dinner at a restaurant after that, though…

May 18, 1980

With all of the rumbling and recent steam coming from that sawed-off mountain to the north of Portland, maybe this is a good time to tell the story of my experiences during The Big One.

I was only eight years old; my sister, not yet three. Mom was dating a guy who owned two Ford Mustangs, one small and black and nifty, the other big and green and ugly. He owned, or at least had the run of, some property in the Cascade foothills within reasonable driving distance of Brewster, WA. We were at his little cabin in the woods for the weekend. I think that we were skinning logs that morning, but it may have been the previous day. (Bear with me. We’re talking about a temporal distance of twenty-six years, after all.)

I remember what sounded a bit like a sonic boom, but with that curiously muffled quality that a great distance imparts to any loud noise. We were all outside, and I think we all immediately knew what happened. I knew, anyway, and Mom wasted no time hustling us away from the cabin and back into town.

What came next is a bit vague, though I do have a clear memory of Brewster later on (possibly the next day), with overcast skies and a couple of inches of ash covering everything in sight. During one summer, a couple of years later, Sis and I were living in Soap Lake with The Savages (Ken & Virginia) and there were still ashdrifts all over the desert.

All I can think now is, “I’m glad the prevailing winds would carry the ash away from Portland if that happens again.” Well… I also think, “I hope Hood doesn’t go next!”

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