Saturday, October 4, 2014

Going Off Of The Rails On A Crazy Train





Oh. I stand corrected. 

Friday, October 3, 2014

All The Other Kids With The Pumped Up Kicks

I want to talk about the end of an era. Not anything that's been on the news, but something I do want to remember. It's this pair of shoes.

Thanks to Jake for the arm.
If you look closely, you'll see that they're completely destroyed. That right sole is half peeled away from the rest of the shoe, they're riddled with holes, and it's a miracle that the original laces are still in any useful condition. 

When I first began pounding the pavement on the South Side after work or whenever the hell I felt like it, I found that the best shoes I could wear were these elderly Chucks. I'd been given them sometime during college and rarely wore them; but as I began to enjoy the Pittsburgh nightlife, I kept preferring these over my Reeboks for some reason. Somehow, the Chucks were far more comfortable for the bar crawling I was doing, and when it comes to hitting the hipster bars, they looked about right (even though Stuff Hipsters Hate claims that Chucks are out. I disagree). 

But it didn't end there. These shoes have been to two or three states and picked up mud on numerous railfan trips. Parties and family gatherings saw them out; and I'm certain that a lot of beer, liquor, barbeque sauce and pipe tobacco ash have pelted and rained upon them while I wore them almost everywhere I went. They didn't make it to Puerto Rico as I was worried about wearing them through airport security and didn't quite have space in my suitcase for them. And they've only been worn to work once, when I had a day off and had forgotten something in my locker. 

Sadly, though, they began to take on the epically beaten appearance you see on them in the photo I've posted. That right sole began to peel so badly it was folding over and dragging when I walked. They had hit a level of lifetime mileage that would finally put them out of service. 

Fortunately, I received a replacement pair for my birthday recently; this pair is red, rather than the original pair's black with red lining. And they're a little bit different from their predecessors, but in the long run I don't mind that at all. (I wanted green but that's another story.)

Should I bury them or give them a Viking funeral?

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Found In The Wreck With His Hand On The Throttle

I'm posting a photo of a preserved steam locomotive. You may find this photo unusual, as I myself do. 

Southern Pacific 0-6-0 shifter 1294 was retired in 1957 and displayed in the San Francisco Zoo playground as a monument to the bygone era of railroad steam traction. Apparently, however, the salty air of the Bay accelerated the locomotive's deterioration and forced the zoo to remove the locomotive. In 1987 she was cut up. 

The locomotive was pretty popular on the playground, however, because it was essentially a standard-gauge jungle gym. Yes, kids were allowed - and apparently encouraged - to climb all over 1294, as you can clearly see from Alan McFaden's 1969 photograph. 

Photo by Alan McFaden, found on

I do not think this was a good idea.

Could someone tell that kid standing on the stack to get the hell down before he falls off? He's at least twelve feet off of the ground right there. If he survived this day, he's probably in his sixties now; but he's still making me nervous. 

Am I already a cranky old man?

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Breaking Free From All The Spells Chained To My Head

Surely, every fantasy reader knows about the case of the dead villain who doesn't let it stop him. Possibly the best-known example is Sauron and his One Ring. Pouring his power into it to control the other rings - the Three of the Elves (they saw what Sauron did there), the Seven of the Dwarves, and the Nine of the Kings of Men - it was later taken from him and lost. If it fell into the wrong hands, Sauron could rise to his full power again.

Harry Potter fans know a similar attempt by series villain Voldemort; J.K. Rowling coined the term Horcrux to define such an item. But it's in the webcomic Order Of The Stick, a long-running story operating under the Dungeons & Dragons rules, that we get a serious name for these objects; big bad lich Xykon has an amulet that will regenerate his undead body in case of emergency. His second-in-command, the goblin cleric Redcloak, refers to it as a phylactery. And Wikipedia does indeed define the word as "an amulet or charm, worn for its supernatural power." The site also mentions that the phylactery is common as an item in fantasy games. I took a peek at the 'lich' entry in my D&D 1st edition Monster Manual, and it does indeed make mention of the item, but does not give any details about the phylactery in particular.

It is neat to learn that some of the things in fiction I enjoy have real-world inspirations and precedents.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Flip-Out Skip-Out Trip-Out And Make Your Stand

I officially have the most worn-out copy of 'Green Tambourine' by The Lemon Pipers. No, seriously. I swear you can hear the wear of a thousand hippies toking to the vibes, man. And that's AFTER cleaning the marijuana smoke from the grooves. The B-side, 'No Help From Me', is not bad, but not as classic as 'Green Tambourine'.

And my copy of 'Mellow Yellow' is just as trashed. Donovan never sounded more scratchy, not in his worst case of the flu. That's the trouble with buying loose 45s; they're often the worst-treated records you can find. But for 50 cents, what do you really expect? That said, even a scratchy copy of 'Sunny South Kensington', the B-side, is totes worth it for the price when you discover how neat a piece of 60's pop it is.

So glad 'Susie-Q Part 1' is in much better shape. I'm guessing that my buddy Matt probably has a near-mint copy; he's the biggest Creedence Clearwater Revival fan I know. However - Matt, have you heard the B-side, 'Susie-Q Part 2'? It's an instrumental workout in another key; and damn, John Fogerty can shred! (Matt says yes he has.)

One of my favorite records of all time, the instrumental 'Red River Rock' by Johnny & The Hurricanes, released on the Warwick label in 1958, holds a special place for me as it was one of the first songs I taught myself to play on guitar. Finding a copy on that very original label in the Mill Hall Goodwill, with my very good friend Roi was a real treat. This nostalgia-laden (for me, anyway) disc has a B-side called 'Buckeye' that's also good. Sadly, that side of my copy has a patch of white noise that makes it almost impossible to listen to.

A fair copy of The Status Quo's 'Pictures Of Matchstick Men' can be found in my collection. I remember hearing this psychedelic classic on the oft-mourned Channel 97. Sometimes a DJ would bring it out for something different, or it'd get played on their A to Z Playback when every one-hit wonder and also-ran got their moment in the sun. Less psychedelic and more poppy, but just as interesting, is 'Gentlemen Joe's Sidewalk Cafe' on the flip side. A tale of lost love, it's another side of 60's pop and rock that I wish we could hear more of these days. I think this one came from a visit to Half-Price Books.

Despite some clicks and pops, Wilbert Harrison's 'Kansas City' on the original Fury record label is probably one of my all-time favorite R&B discs. The easy delivery of Harrison, and his smooth voice - combined with one of the most easygoing blues beats - make this a true classic. The flip side is a doo-wop number called 'Listen, My Darling'; unfortunately my copy has a very off-center pressing of this track and at times you can hear the effective speed change.

Another classic early rock instrumental, Lonnie Mack's cover of the Chuck Berry hit 'Memphis' is in better condition than I'd hoped, thankfully. Recorded in 1961, the disc boasts a B-side called 'Down In The Dumps' which easily could've been a hit in its own right. If anyone has a copy of Mack's other claim to fame, 'Wham!' they're willing to part with, would you let me know?

How about a little country to round things out? Dave Dudley rose to fame with this single, released on the Golden Wing label - the truck driver anthem 'Six Days On The Road'. I never noticed that he started his sojourn on this slice of wax in Pittsburgh. Thanks for the shout-out, Dave. I hate to say it about one of my favorite country records, but the B-side is an empty return; 'I Feel A Cry Coming On' is a pretty standard country tale of lost love. Dudley sounds great, but the song isn't much special.

If I need to find a replacement for this Motown classic, I'm sure it won't be hard; 'You Keep Me Hanging On' by The Supremes. I realize I've been ignoring my Sixties soul stacks - I've got a small collection of The Supremes and The Temptations, among others, but just haven't made time to spin them. That's an error I aim to rectify. 'Remove This Doubt' on the flip side is a hidden gem I know I've never heard before.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Nine Riders, Hunting Souls

At last! Undeniable proof that Gondor of old once resided within the Allegheny Mountains!

Also, 'Warriors Mark' is a pretty badass name for a town. 

(I swear I'll blog about something other than Lord Of The Rings soon.)