When I was a kid, I thought people were saying "Windshield Factor," as opposed to "Wind Chill Factor." As in, the colder outside it is, the more fucked up your windshield gets.
I imagine when other people hear "Star 69" by REM, they also think of the time they were peacefully sitting in their bedroom as a teenager listening to the song when suddenly they heard their dad scream at the top of their lungs "HEYYYY!!! STOP THAT!!!," which made you cringe in embarrassment because you knew it had to be something really stupid, and then you come to find out later it was in response to these two boys you knew across the street taking off their shirts (which in retrospect was pretty homoerotic) and engaging in a fistfight, which your dad had thought to intervene in, but thankfully one of the boys' fathers intervened instead, because your dad is not the type who should be trying to break up fistfights, and then your mom relays the story seemingly placing partial blame on you somehow, because you knew the boys that were fighting. Am I right?
When I was 14 years old, I had the cassette single for this song sitting out on the dresser in my bedroom. My mom had a tendency to panic at the sight of unusual/rock n' roll visual stimuli, and remarked "I don't know about some of this music you're listening to."
I've always wondered what gave her pause about this, my best guess is that it's the bald guy in front there.
When I was in 6th grade camp, I overheard a camper tell a counselor he "looked like Mick Jagger," but I didn't know who Mick Jagger was, so I heard it as "MaJagger." I thought to myself, "Is he trying to say 'MacGyver'?"
In retrospect, that guy did totally look like MaJagger.
One summer afternoon while I was living in Hawaii and attending community college in the late 90's, I was sitting next to a man at a bus stop who looked to be in his 30's, had long hair, wore a cowboy hat and carried a walking stick. He introduced himself to me as "Reverend Slain." He told me about a church he had started, and asked me if I was interested in joining. I smirked and said something along the lines of "I'm not interested in joining a cult," to which he replied "It's not a cult, it's a church," which is what they all say. We then talked about music, and he told me how much enjoyed the debut album by Bow Wow Wow, and that he only needed to listen to albums for a few weeks before giving them away to someone else, because he could then just play the songs back in his head.
A few weeks later as school was starting, I saw him walking around this little area on campus where students would congregate. Apparently he was there to take a few classes. He had painted his eyes black, because ya know, first day of school and all. I walked up to him and I said, "Hey Reverend!" He was like, "Remember my name? Reverend SLAAAINNN," and as he was saying the word "slain," he made a slow throat-slashing gesture with his thumb. The other students went silent and just sort of looked at him. I don't think I saw him again after that.
In a groggy haze right before I got out of bed, I pictured a roll of toilet paper with Chewbacca printed on it, he was smiling happily, and there were printed words that said "Good Cheese!" "Go Left!" I presume the text was intended to compliment what you ate, then offer wiping instructions.
At one point during my childhood, I decided that I wanted to bulk up my scrawny physique. My dad took me to a store in Solon called Silverman's, which in that location closed in the late 80's, and sadly the last of these Cleveland-area stores (I just now found out) closed in 2015. I bought this pair of 5-lb dumbells (sic) pictured above, which I have held on to since the mid-80's. If you asked me to show you the mid-80's in one photo, I'd show you this one. Some EG scholars may recognize this photo which was used for the cover of 2003's Dickalis, cleaned up collectively by Mary Alice and Brent Gummow.
After maybe a week a lifting these weights, I would annoy my sister by walking around the house and growling "LOOK AT MY MUSCLES!" while flexing. In addition to the weights, my dad made me a punching bag out of a plastic shopping bag and packing peanuts, attached it to the tree in our backyard, and I would whale on it while chanting "Rocky, Rocky!" while picturing Sylvester Stallone walking up suddenly to surprise me and offer some encouraging words. This girl who lived down the street eventually broke my punching bag after she kicked it while riding our tire swing.
I went to high school for 2 1/2 years before I dropped out to be awesome, and amidst the flurry of anxiety, angst, and straight-F's, I had one teacher that really reached me. He was a guy in his late-30's that taught Social Studies, but instead of teaching from a history book, he taught us about shit like 'How to do a job interview,' 'Here's how we fucked up Vietnam', and 'Here's what to do if a cop comes to your house without a warrant.' I ended up getting a 'C' grade in his class, which was like a damn miracle.
Because I work at a nonprofit that deals with schools, I'm often browsing school websites for email addresses. It dawned on me to look up my old high school to see if any of the names were familiar. Aside from this weirdo who was in my class who now teaches there, I recognized zero names, except that this guy was STILL there. He has to be in his 60's now. So spur of the moment, I did maybe the corniest thing I've ever done, and sent him a short and mild "Oh Captain, My Captain" note. Just letting him know that he was the only one there who talked to me like a human, and that I didn't forget. I figured that good people deserve to hear good things, and that this could sort of be like a movie we were starring in together. This guy wrote me back right away, and said that he was so glad to hear from me, and that I made his day. I know you teachers like that stuff.
It dawned on me later that a former student in 2019 contacting a teacher about a class in 1993 is equivalent to a teacher in 1993 getting a note from a student from 1967. Fuck that, right? So I'm hoping at least that he'll tell his next class that he heard from a student who took his class in 1993, and that his students will briefly look up from their phones to roll their eyes and be like "Whatever, was this guy like at Woodstock or something?"
While working at Burger King as a teenager, I once looked over my manager's shoulder while he was reading a letter someone sent to the restaurant. It said, "I just LOVE Burger King breakfast! When I think about the delicious sandwiches you serve, my mouth just waters..." and so on. I kept looking at him for a reaction, and he didn't seem to think this was weird at all.
The first time I got high on pot was in late 1994 when I was 16. I had tried to smoke it once before with a group of kids who had foolishly emptied a cigarette in order to refill it with the weed they had, which of course did not work. The time it did work, I smoked for an entire afternoon with my friend's brother, who I had not met before that day.
I met my friend Bill while working that Summer at the now long-shuttered SeaWorld Ohio, washing dishes at a restaurant called Mama Rosa's. He was my immediate supervisor, either 18 or 19 years old. We had kept in touch following his untimely mid-Summer firing (if you're gonna skip work, ya gotta at least call to warn them), and I got a ride to his house one late-morning during a day off from school in October. We had planned for a while to smoke weed together, and I had just recently bought about ten dollars worth through a friend. After being dropped off, Bill told me almost right away that he had to leave, because his grandmother needed some kind of assistance across town. He offered that I could stay and hang out with his brother Jim until he got back, and maybe even smoke weed with him instead. Jim, who already looked high, offered in turn to hang out with me.
After Bill left, I sat down with Jim in their living room. He asked me if I'd smoked before, and I falsely assured him I had "done it a lot," just like on TV. He told me that he'd been smoking about six months. He then proceeded to pull out an arsenal of paraphernalia, including a pipe, a water bong, and a steamroller. I handed him my weed, and he took a deep whiff of it. "Smells homegrown" he said. Sure, homegrown. He packed the bowl of the water bong, and showed me how to use it. I remember enjoying the sound of the bubbles when inhaling. We hung out for a little while talking, and I made the rookie mistake of saying the pot wasn't doing anything. Mere seconds later I was laughing hysterically at absolutely nothing. We then did a hit of the steamroller as well as the pipe, and then I think one more from the water bong. I think he was on to me by now, because he kept reminding me to hold in the hits for as long as I could, and asking through a grin "Are you sure you've done this a lot?" I think I stammered something about "trying it," and he said "Ok, like, social smoking." I got up and looked at myself in the mirror, and my eyes looked insane. He asked me if I wanted to listen to any music. "Nirvana!" I yelped. I wanted to listen to Nirvana during my first stoned experience. He said he had a copy of Nevermind somewhere, but sadly was unable to locate it. I got up and looked at the CDs he had, and I saw two copies of Blood Sugar Sex Magik. "This is fine," I said.
We hung out and listened to the Chili Peppers while playing Tecmo Super Bowl II. We kept laughing while playing, because this version had a weird video feature that was a close up of the Quarterback whenever he threw a bomb, and Jim would yell "OH NO, THE BOMB!" each time it happened. I remember watching the music video for "Head Like a Hole," and the infamous cow scene from Top Secret! He asked me if I wanted any food, and we stumbled into his kitchen. I grabbed a box of muffins from his pantry and said "Banana Nut Muffins," and started laughing like a maniac. I had several of those as well as a bunch of cantaloupe. He advised that I had "the munchies." Eventually Bill came back, and we were all hanging out talking, when their suddenly mom pulled in the driveway. I looked around, panicked at the paraphernalia spread out everywhere, and they assured me that she was clueless. We were introduced, and she was in fact, clueless. We hung out into the late-afternoon while we came down, and I was picked up early that evening.
I remember not knowing how to feel afterwards. I was glad to have had the experience, but also wondered if it was a waste of my day. I wasn't nervous or paranoid while it was happening, but every other time I smoked pot afterwards, I was. I don't know whether it was a matter of my brain trying to anticipate what was coming, and then pushing it away? It always sounded like a better idea in practice than it was in reality, and it wasn't a habit that stuck for very long. I tried again in earnest in 2017, with Mary Alice, and it was the same thing. I'm too anxious of a person. But that first time was pretty memorable.
I had a dream that the Carpenters put out a song in 1988 called "Barbecue Eu," which served as the basis for Cliff Huxtable's barbecue mantra, "All riiiiight, barbecuuuuuue!" The chorus of the song featured Karen wistfully singing, "BARRR-be-cuuuuuuuueeee..."
Right before I got out of bed, in a groggy state of being half awake, I had a vision of Kennedy (ex-VJ, Fox News) saying, “Why do I believe in my job more than astronauts believe in the negative syrrintics of Tang?”
One afternoon while in 5th grade, my teacher asked my class to use our calculators to divide 8/3 to see what would happen, and my idiot friend yelled loudly at the sight of 2.66666666667 on his screen, so much so that the other kids in the class gathered around him to see if he was okay.
In 1995, back when all of us were still trying to figure out how the information superhighway operated, I once got a random email from a guy in South America, asking if anyone was there. "Yes, I am here!" I enthusiastically replied. He never wrote back. If anyone knows who this might be, tell him to fuck off.
I first heard of Nirvana the way I heard of a lot of new and exciting things, through my cousin Tom. He played me the Nevermind album he had just bought on cassette, and I was terrified. I was 13-years old at the time, and loud rock and roll scared the hell out of me. I was raised to think there was something wrong with it, that it was wicked or satanic. Later on I saw the video on MTV for "Smells Like Teen Spirit" at my friend Louie's house, and I wasn't so scared. "Nirvana is the only heavy metal band I like," I boldly declared. I wasn't sure how to differentiate this band from Mötley Crüe, Metallica, Guns N' Roses, and all the other bands the bullies at school were into, but I knew I liked it a lot better.
My friend Brandon also had the Nevermind tape, and he made me a copy. "They're the only heavy metal band I like," I told him. "They aren't heavy metal," he said, "They're just a regular rock band." He then said to me, "You know how a lot of times you buy a tape, and a couple songs are good, and the rest of the songs are just ok? This album is different. EVERY song is good." He was right. I became obsessed with the album, often listening to it 3 to 4 times per day. I listened to it on my headphones when playing basketball, while riding a bike, in a car while different music was playing on the radio, anywhere. They were instantly my favorite band. Before I got into other alternative rock music of the day, I was listening to Nirvana at the same time as when I was asking my mom if I could get the Kris Kross tape at Kmart.
I first spotted the Bleach album on tape in a now defunct record store in Solon when I was 14. I quickly snapped it up, and was initially taken back at what I heard. This album from 1989 didn't at all have the pop sensibility of Nevermind, and I honestly thought it kind of sucked. But this was in 1992, back before music could be thumbed through and instantly disposed of. I listened to the album with dedication, and eventually got into it. Same thing later that year when the Incesticide collection of "covers, rarities, and b-sides" came out. I didn't know what any of that shit meant, or who the Vaselines or Devo were, but I eventually settled in to the recording. Since Incesticide and Bleach did not generally receive the same attention as their breakthrough album did, they felt more personal to me. Looking back, I associate Incesticide with spending time alone, listening to it in a dark, quiet house by myself. But I don't associate that with feeling bad at all, or necessarily feeling happy, just a time that I appreciate.
When In Utero came out in 1993, I was having the hardest time finding an opportunity to go anywhere to pick it up. So one night when the rest of family went out for the evening, I famously rode my bike from Aurora to Solon in a rainstorm to get the tape, as my hometown didn't have any place I could go. (Kind of like Aberdeen, right Kurt? Ok, sorry.) I rode all the way there, got the tape, then rode all the way back before my family got home. My mom noticed that my jacket was covered in mud, and asked me for an explanation. "Oh, I just rode my back around for a while," which sounds completely deranged due to the fact that it was nighttime, raining and cold out, and I was 15 years old. "So THAT'S why you asked when we'd be home," she said. Looking back, I think the idea of my riding a bike around like a serial killer would be more concerning than the truth of what I did.
By 1994, I'd adopted more of the look and identity associated with "the scene." I started to grow my hair out, and exclusively listened to alternative rock. On the morning of April 8th (during my school's Spring Break), I went to my friend Kenny's house wearing a Dinosaur Jr. shirt with 70's striped socks (probably my dad's) pulled up on my calves. I tried to put my hair in a ponytail, but it wasn't quite long enough. We went to his friend's house that afternoon to see a girl he was on and off with, and while we were hanging out, her older brother walked up to us and said "Did you guys hear Kurt Cobain killed himself?" Kenny immediately burst out laughing, as he knew what a fan of Nirvana I was. I felt sick all over. I remember watching the news report on a TV at their house. While returning home late that afternoon, I saw in the distance my friend Louie approaching me on the sidewalk, and he pantomimed shooting himself in the head with his finger. He and I both went to Kenny's house, where MTV News on. Kenny's older brother and Louie both cracked jokes at my expense. I'm not sure why my friend Mikey was in the area that day, as he did not live near our neighborhood, but he was one of the good ones, and also a big Nirvana fan. He met the rest of us at Kenny's house, and we hugged as soon as he walked in. Kenny's older brother told us both to get out.
When I returned to school after the break, I wore a poorly handmade Kurt Cobain shirt as a tribute, and I got fiercely ridiculed. I think at first I thought, "I don't care, this is for Kurt!," but I eventually took the shirt off (was wearing an undershirt for this anticipated reason) because it got to be too much. Kenny told me later that I "Shouldn't have worn that shirt." Aurora: Ya gotta love it. No you don't.
So there it is, I was one of those "Nirvana changed my life, truly spoke to me" people. But before I adopted the lifestyle and attitude, there was the music. Nirvana didn't just get me into punk rock, they got me into music. I can't believe it's been 25 years today (died on the 5th, but they did not find his body until the 8th), but I also can believe it. Seems like a million years ago. Long may Kurt live, and long may the music reign.
I was telling a good friend recently that I was never one of those kids who had “girlfriends” in grade school. I watched quizzically while the other kids had those little meaningless relationships usually based on nothing more than a few notes being traded back and forth. Not that I wasn’t at all interested, it just wasn’t part of my world as a short, weirdly-dressed boy. I remember as a teenager a friend’s older brother asking me about the “girlfriends” I might have had as a kid, and he was astounded when I told him there were none.
In 9th Grade, this friendly popular boy who I’d known for years asked me if I wanted to help carry the Freshman float during halftime of the Homecoming game. (Quick aside, typing out that last sentence makes me realize how absurd being alive really is) I figured what the hell, I was planning to go to the game anyway. So me and a few other “not-popular-but-in-the-middle-sort-of-blending-in” type boys carried the float. Problem being, I was still pretty short at this point, and I didn’t help carry the float so much as I reached up to touch it while it was being carried. I think only my one good friend noticed and laughed at me later. But that's not the sad story.
Fast forward a couple years to my second year of 10th Grade. I had flunked the prior year, and was still considered a Sophomore. I didn't really care at this point. I just wanted it all to go away. I did have my eye on this girl though. She sat at the same lunch table with me and all the other weirdos. I had grown some by now and fancied myself a Cobain-esque rebel, so I had a little more confidence. It didn't seem so far fetched that I could go out with a girl. I didn't particularly care about Homecoming or school dances, but the timing was such that it fell in my lap.
Looking back, how it went down was obviously wrong. The topic of Homecoming came up at our table one day when the event was closing in on us, and she happened to mention that she wasn't going. I don't remember if it was my suggestion (probably was), but the idea of she and I going together was brought up. Others at the table, myself included, began to pressure her. I said something to the effect of "What are you afraid of?," and she reluctantly agreed. The table cheered this arrangement, and we all departed for class.
Minutes later, I was at my locker, when a friend of hers tapped me on the shoulder. "You know she was just kidding, right?" My heart sank into my stomach. "Oh, I know!" I falsely claimed. I walked to my next class, defeated. I relayed the tale to this friendly, kind of berserk metalhead guy I sat next to. He offered me strange, words of comfort that I can't recall.
All who I told what happened felt sympathy for me, but like I said, looking back it was a messed up situation. I was humiliated by it all, but she had agreed under peer pressure, and then understandably wanted to bail. I was also annoyed, because it was a stupid idea to begin with. I'm not sure I would have been a good date for her anyway, it'd of helped to have had my shit together a little more. So in the end, this is just a story.
I prefer not to share photos of my immediate family online, and of course today will be no exception. I don’t like the idea of making them vulnerable like that. Who knows what sort of jerkoff “Haha look at these people” website the photos could end up on. I was just sent a photo from my mom that would be a candidate for such modern-day ridicule.
It’s a photo of myself, my sister, and mom and dad from late-1978. I was a baby, my sister was 3, and my parents were in their 30's. It was found in a pile of photos by an old family friend whose wife just passed away. It’s vintage 1970’s, right down to my dad’s glasses, my mom’s top, and the faded retro look of the background. The three of them look very happy, and I look completely spaced out. It made me tear up a little.
I thought about how innocent that group of people were. I thought about how in less than 10 years, my mom and I would both suffer greatly from anxiety and depression, but not know what to call it. I thought about how in 1995, that little body of mine that was so painstakingly protected would be crushed in a car accident. I thought about how my parents are in their 70's now, thought about the amount of time passed, and thought about how these little pieces of our lives are just floating out there in history.
I also thought about a photo I recently saw online. It was of a guy from Alabama - him and his friend as kids, sitting on a bed together with a large keyboard, both wearing sunglasses and pretending to be rockers, or just cool dudes. The photo looked like it probably came from the mid-80’s. I happened upon the photo, because I saw this person make an obnoxious pro-Trump comment on Facebook, and randomly decided to scroll through his pictures. Amidst all of his misguided and ugly bullcrap, there was that photo shining brightly.
It made me a little sad, this photo. This asshole was once like the rest of us, a playful innocent little dope, before they got fucked up. Not that we shouldn’t be angry or even dismissive with this person and his ilk. It was just a reminder that with the exception of the Trump family themselves, we should take a moment to think about each other’s humanity before wishing the other would just die. I just wanted to write that out before I forget about it tomorrow.
My first plane ride came in the Summer of 1987. My family and I had planned to fly to Houston on American Airlines to visit my aunt and uncle, and my recently born cousin. It was an exciting Summer, I remember my sister and I talking at one point how it was "only 90 days" until we got to make the trip. The tickets were quite expensive, I believe they cost over $400 each. To (somehow) receive a significant discount on these tickets, my family saved labels from a total of 17 jars of Skippy peanut butter.
On the morning of the flight, I was flooded with excitement. We were told that it's a good idea to chew gum while on a plane so our ears wouldn't pop. My mom told a female flight attendant of our gum plan, to which they replied "That's a good idea." The moment the plane began to move on the runway, I started frantically chewing my gum. We set off to our connecting stop, O'Hare International.
Following our short Cleveland-Chicago jaunt, we boarded the flight headed to Houston. I sat in the window seat in a row of three, next to my dad who was in the middle spot, while a stranger sat near the aisle. I was given peanuts and a Coke to drink shortly after takeoff, and the man sitting next to my dad gave me the peanuts he was given. I thought that was really cool of him. It was a clear day, superb for window viewing. My dad leaned over and helped me spot a racetrack on the ground below. I later lied and claimed I saw a football field, with a little tiny dot above it, implying that it was a football being thrown. My family told me this mysterious dot was likely a low flying plane. (My family had a history ruining my creative fabrications)
I'm not entirely certain what I got to have for lunch, but I remember it being quite enjoyable. It was something along the lines of a turkey club and potato chips. Upon being served, a male flight attendant asked me what I wanted to drink. I hesitated, looking at him wide-eyed. He smiled at me, clasped his hands together, and said "How about a nice Coca-Cola Classic?" I nodded in agreement.
Once our flight was finished and we had arrived in Houston, I felt as if I had a kinship with the everyone involved in the flight. The pilot greeted all who passed, and thanked them earnestly. The flight attendants smiled and bid us farewell, and I felt like we had just shared something special. I knew they would always remember me.
Remember when you were in school and your teacher would say to your class as a group, “Okay, let’s stop the march to the bathroom” if too many kids were getting up to go at the same time? That’s such bullcrap. That implies that the “march to the bathroom” is some organized effort or a product of groupthink. Also, what if you’re that one kid who REALLY has to go?
I remember in 3rd grade my friend Jason really had to piss, and our teacher told him “Not right now.” He took it with gentle good humor by crossing his legs and moaning in agony, but still, I don’t care for that.
I had a dream last night that Donald Trump invited me to dinner at his house. I'm not sure if it was the White House that ended up at, but it was a nice house. I was invited as a "journalist" for some reason, I presumed because of the obnoxious posts I'd made about him on social media. He was married to a woman who was not Melania, she had a much more conservative look - glasses, short hair, and was closer to his age. They had a window on their house that saw right onto the field where the Washington Nationals play. I asked this woman if they ever watched the games through the window, and she told me that they had intended to go to the games more often, but due to Donald being elected President, they were unable to.
I decided to talk to Donald like I didn't hate him with every fiber of my being, to see what he was really like. I asked him if he intended to go to baseball games after his time as President was over, and he said "From what I understand, you never really stop being President." He then began to show me a slide show while making commentary about the images. Much of it was benign, until he got to a slide that showed an image of someone's calf with a SS tattoo. I informed him that this was anti-Semitic, and he shrugged it off. A young African-American woman with dreadlocks arrived as an additional dinner guest, and I mouthed the words "I'm so glad to see you" when she walked up to where we were sitting, and she flashed a reassuring smile at me.
We were all sitting at a dinner table together, and there were NFL highlights playing on a TV next to us. Donald asked me if I thought that if the Raiders won the Super Bowl, the Black Hole would become disillusioned. I told him that I had not been watching football for the past couple years, but that I thought that they might. Another dinner guest arrived, and it was a Hispanic woman I work with in real life. Donald and his wife then retreated to their kitchen to talk privately, and I told the women that we had to find a way to get out of there.
The sound of hammering is the one thing I can't sleep through, and I was woken by the sound of someone pounding away at who-knows-what. I don't know who the hell is constantly using a hammer in our apartment complex, or what they could be doing, but it happens all the time.
Remember when you were a kid, if you were home by yourself you were supposed to answer the phone by saying that your mom "Can't come to the phone right now?" What a dead giveaway, might as well give the kidnappers your address at that point.