A sheer leotard and a sexy bug: Experiencing Ric Ocasek.

Ric Ocasek’s death this past weekend hit me kinda hard. At this point I’m pretty inured to the musical icons I grew up with dying. Prince. Tom Petty. Heck, I even choked up a bit when I saw that Eddie Money passed away a few days prior. “Shakin’” will always be one of those songs that I scream along with when I’m alone and cannot be shamed for my awful, awful voice.

When I heard that Ric was gone, I needed to sit out on the porch for a while and be quiet. Then I put on Candy-O.

Ric was gut punch. 

For me music is an even more of a memory trigger than an aisle of Yankee Candle scents. And the deepest of those memories have a visual component:

–Sometimes it’s a movie I’ve conjured up in my head based on the lyrics. I do a harrowing Edmund Fitzgerald.

–Sometimes I imagine I’m up there performing a song. Usually that song is “Caribbean Queen.”

–Sometimes it’s the layout of the room where I listened to that song. Whenever I see ice glazing the trees, I’m back in our family room on Long Island during the ice storm of 1973 —the ice storm in The Ice Storm. The power was out for days; my dad was out off town on business; my mom was low on smokes. We huddled in sleeping bags and blankets in front of the fireplace. Our only entertainment was a very sturdy, pretty huge transistor radio clad in avocado green pleather. WABC 77 had this thing where they would play a particular song twice in a row, declaring it a “WABC repeat repeat RE-PEAT!” before starting it over. WABC’s chosen song, again and again, while the world froze? “Top of the World” by The Carpenters.

But so many of the musical memories lodged in my brain are tied to the promotional ephemera put out to promote the work. Album covers, videos, even those carnival prize mirrors —I stole three of them from my job at the Zoo Amusement Park: Mick Jagger’s lips, Pink Floyd’s Wall, and a psychedelic nightmare left over from REO Speedwagon’s “Riding the Storm Out” days. They fit perfectly one atop the other on the side of my stereo cabinet.

My intense memories of Ric Ocasek and The Cars stem from this non-musical side of music.

I will get thru the obvious one first. I lost my virginity on a Friday the 13th in front of the wooden altar of a 25” console television playing MTV and the video for “You Might Think.” It won the very first MTV award for best video. In it, Ric cute-stalks a model who looks like his famous model wife but is not his famous model wife thru an oversaturated fluorescent world set against a black background. Video effect follows video effect until Ric turns into a bug. Continue reading

Russell Drive, the end

[Because I’ve been quite blocked lately, I’ve been doing Writing Prompts. Here’s one… What is your earliest memory?]

Looking back, I’m surprised I wasn’t killed.

We moved out of the house on Russell Drive a few days after my third birthday, so consequently I have very few memories of my time there. All my recollections of what it looked like –white with reddish-brown trim and shutters –come from driving by on visits back to the Milwaukee area in subsequent years.

My only memory of the interior is looking up at my mother while she stood in front of the kitchen window while yellow lightning bolts hung in the sky behind her. And that’s not really a memory of the interior when you come to think about it. I have never seen lightning that exact color and duration again. One’s first memory of a thing always comes with a quality that makes it seem not real. You can spend your whole life chasing that first memory. Continue reading

A review of the Wendy’s at Exit 262 of I-80 in Hazleton, PA…

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Mile marker 262 of any stretch of highway is as good a place stop as any other.

On the eastbound trip along I-80 into NYC, one knows there’s only fifty more miles of Pennsylvania. Better start prepping your mind and your bladder for the descent into the City.

On the westbound journey, one pulls over to steel themselves in the face of the 262 miles of Pennsylvania that lies ahead.

“It’s sooooo long,” people you talk to always seem to know the exact mileage, “311 miles!” And it not just any 311 miles of Pennsylvania, it’s 311 miles of Pennsylvania laid out as to avoid major population centers. You’ll pass by such landmarks as State Game Lands Number 331 and State Game Lands Number 54. The cruel joke here is the original name of the highway was the Keystone Shortway. “You want the shortest way through Pennsylvania? Well, it’s 311 miles. Fuck you. Call it the Shortway, you rest stop fouling bitch!”

“Shortway…” you grovel.

“Good. That’s how Pennsylvania likes its motorists.” Continue reading

T-Shirts for Christmas

I am currently in my pre-Christmas scramble to complete my list…

The cat: check. Wigs: check. Monkey: check. Disco cats: check. Giant tree burned in 1988: check. The G Train: check. 19th century folk art advertising sign of a pig: check. Skyline of Columbus –canted and slightly blurred: check. Graffiti jellyfish: not check. Soviet meerkats: not check. The cat, yet again: not check. A precarious fire escape: not check.

Of course I will not be wrapping any Soviet meerkats. The vast majority of meerkats who lived under the Soviet system are either long dead or have become oligarchs. And I dare anyone to who tries to put the cat in a box for wrapping to staunch their wounds in time before they bleed out. At least try to wear a green turtleneck before attempting to do so; the blood and the turtleneck will look festive together.

The reader, unless Christo is reading this blog for some reason (In that case, I loved The Gates.), has figured out that I’m probably talking about photographs here. This is a collection of found photos and photos of found objects (and the cat, always the cat). The vast majority is my own work, but when you find great disco cats, you’ve got to grab them. Continue reading

This day in September: Five memories of my dad and the Twin Towers

Just trying to add something positive to balance a negative day. September 11th doesn’t need any more maudlin.

I need to reclaim my memories of those buildings.

1…

I had just woken up and was engaged in my morning ritual of removing my stuffed animals from the grocery bags where they spent the night. This was serious business; the animals needed to bagged every night because if there was a fire, they could be evacuated with less fuss.

My dad stuck his head in my room. My eight-year-old self was slightly startled; he normally was on his way to the train by now. Was I in trouble for bagging my animals again? It was normally my mom who took issue with this completely normal and in no way morbid ritual.

His eyes were wide. “Hey Chris-popples, you need to see this!”

The use of the “-popples” suffix always meant fun was afoot.

We hurried down the stairs to the master bedroom. Our house on Long Island was a split-level. He pointed to the dresser. “Look at that!” The black and white Bradford television, the one that took an eternity to warm up, the one I got to watch when I was sick, the one with the necessary vertical hold knob, was tuned to the Today show.

Some dude was walking a tightrope between the Twin Towers!

I sat on the edge of the bed while watching the spectacle unfold in glorious black and white, breathing in the in smell of the English Leather that my dad slapped all over his face after he shaved.

The Twin Towers will always be monochrome and reek of that cologne you brought your dad for Father’s Day every year.

2…

My dad got to go to some sort of business-guy function in an upper floor of one of the Towers. He told me that the building was so tall, the rain was “falling” upwards. I didn’t know whether to believe him or not. After all, this was the same man who spent the better part of my life trying to convince me that Suzanne Pleshette had a wooden leg. Continue reading