Friday, September 5, 2014

One Memory Triggers Another

My gambling brought us free tickets to the Joan Rivers show mentioned in the last post. Also mentioned was my relative ignorance regarding Las Vegas and money.

Howevah . . . my ignorance was not total, if only because some things are universal.

When Mandy and I headed for the appropriate theater, I slipped a folded twenty into my right hand and used my left hand to direct Mandy, ever so subtly, toward whatever point seemed most likely to provide happiness. A gent with a book outlining all possible chair and table arrangements seated us, but only after I had shaken hands with him and announced that we were visiting from Chicago. He returned the handshake enthusiastically and hoped that we would enjoy not only the show biut the rest of our stay as well.

At that point our relative weights had exchanged hosts by the weight of one twenty dollar bill, and he lifted the cordon separating two imaginary classes of patrons, dropped it on the other side of us, and murmured "Any place you wish." I asked Mandy to choose a spot, she did, and our host seated us, bowed, and disappeared.

A couple of minutes later, while Mandy and I were awaiting our drinks, our host seated a party of six, all late twenties in age, I should think, a couple of tables away from us, and thus below the salt. Immediately, the group's alpha male began whining, "We were hoping for a better location than this. Can't we do better than this?"

(Ha! Yes, you can, but not by whining.)

Thursday, September 4, 2014


Joan Rivers has given up the ghost at age 81 and has reminded me of an unblogged Las Vegas story you might enjoy.

Perhaps 20 years ago Mandy and I saw Joan Rivers in Las Vegas, and she was top notch. Opening for her were the Smothers Brothers and Jim Stafford, all as one act and very amusing.

A funny thing happened. It was a dinner/show at one of the major casinos (the Frontier? I'm not sure.), and after we had ordered drinks we were given menus.

Now I knew Mandy really liked lobster, and the only two entrees on this menu were chicken and lobster - $25 and $50, respectively.

After a minute Mandy said "I'm getting the chicken." I said "Whaaat? You love lobster and seldom have a chance at it."

"I know, Donnie, but it's too expensive."

"So you're getting a $25 chicken?"

She came to her senses and had the lobster. I had the chicken 'cuz I'm not that big a lobster fan. I imagine the waiter thought I was the stereotypical cheapskate husband or something.

This, by the way, was the trip I blogged about in a string of entries beginning May 11, 2008, the trip during which she called her girlfriend and they had me make a bet for each of them.

At the time Mandy was worrying about the $50 lobster I was $9,000 ahead. I do b'lieve that if I'd been just a tad more informed, I could have slipped the waiter and the cook a few bucks each and had a perfectly good rare steak as a substitute for the chicken, but that trip was just the very beginning of my education about the effect of money in Las Vegas.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Music and Memories

With 2,805 songs in my jukebox, there is grist for many a fond (and occasionally not so fond) memory. I think it is safe to say that more than half of the songs carry with them the thought of some past event, friend, lover, or place. Many - most - of the memories are trivial, but do bring a smile to my face, or at least the thought of a smile to my mind.

Some songs that trigger a memory trigger *exactly* the same memory every time I hear them, although my mind might wander anywhere after the initial thought.

I cannot convey to you the substance of those memories, and if I tried then you might never return here, having learned that the printed word can indeed put one to sleep, but I'm not quite ready to abandon the subject of the jukebox, so I thought I'd give you some odd facts about it, at least a few of which you might find mildly interesting.
  • Artist with the most songs on the jukebox: Elvis Presley, with 60. It might have been The Beatles (47) but for the fact that many of their songs didn't make the top 20 only because they were not released as singles. Singles purchases and jukebox plays were part of the Billboard scoring criteria, so songs released only on albums paid a price for that.

  • Song with the most radical difference in presentations: With a Little Help from My Friends, by The Beatles and by Joe Cocker.

    (Note: this excludes a number of possiblities created by white artists covering releases of songs by black artists, a common practice in the 1950's. They are too numerous to recite, but a fine example would be Long Tall Sally by Little Richard and by Pat Boone. I once emailed a friend with links to YouTube versions of those two), and she subsequently told me that she simply could not listen to more than one verse of Pat Boone's version. Try it yourself:

    Little Richard

    Pat Boone:  )

  • Best cover version done in the same style as the original: Angel of the Morning, Merrilee Rush and the Turnabouts, covered by Juice Newton

  • Too good to leave out: That's All Right, by Elvis Presley (his first recording)

  • Longest recording: Tubular Bells (Part One), (25:33) by Mike Oldfield. The ultimate stoner recording.

  • Best disco number: Stayin' Alive, by The Bee Gees (To be fair, there is very little on the jukebox in the way of disco.)

  • The song that breaks my heart: Adios Mi Corazon, by Juice Newton

  • The song you wouldn't believe is on my jukebox if you knew me: Dance Hall Days, by Wang Chung

  • Earliest recording: White Christmas, by Bing Crosby (1942)

  • Latest recording: Time After Time, by Blaque

  • Earliest Rock and Roll song: (We're Gonna) Rock Around the Clock, by Bill Haley and His Comets, the one that kicked it all off.

  • Longest (that made the charts): Money for Nothing, (8:13) by Dire Straits

  • Artist with most duets that charted: Marvin Gaye, with 8 - 5 with Tammi Terrell, 2 with Mary Wells, and 1 with Kim Weston
That's all I got.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Wandering Through My Past

About 30 years ago I met Jeff (RIP), about whom I have posted here, and he and I became best friends. Jeff grew up in the Detroit area and knew a *lot* about the music of the 1950's and 1960's, and one day I told him that when technology permitted I would have a jukebox that included every tune that made the pop music top 20 from 1955 to 1969, the music of my youth, basically. We were both sure that one day technology *would* provide for this, but of course we had no idea of what form that might take.

In the 1990's mp3 came along, and in 1998 I decided that *this* was it, this was how I could acquire and store all tunes I needed. A company named MusicMatch had created a software jukebox that ran on home computers and sold for $19.95, with free updates as they were released. I bought a copy and I am here to tell you that there has *never* been a better music management program for home users and their PC's.

In the beginning, hard drives did not have the capacity to store all the music I wanted - I think that when I started I had a 20MB (roughly twenty million bytes) hard drive, but I knew that the technology would increase that at a faster rate than I would acquire music. My "completed" jukebox takes 7.02 GB, about seven billion bytes. Today you can get a drive with a trillion bytes.

I also needed to know *which* songs were top 20/1955-1969, and I acquired a copy of Joel Whitburn's "The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits." I recommend this book, which is updated and released every several years, to anyone seriously interested in pop music. I've owned three editions, and they all begin with 1955 and end at the year before the release. For all the top 40 songs it provides title, recording artist, charting information, record/CD label information, tidbits about artists and songs, yada yada yada. Did you know that the Herman's Hermits novelty hit "I'm Henry the VIII, I Am" was a hit in 1911 for someone named Henry Champion? Oh, stop it. You did not.

I began collecting "my" songs in 1998, purchasing music CD's based on the Whitburn book and using downloaded software to convert the songs to the mp3 format. With the acquisition of "Hopeless" by Andy Williams (#13, 1963) last week, I reached my goal of . . . well. what amounts to *my* definition of the top 20, 1955-1969.

Why "my" definition? Well, the Whitburn book blindsided me. When it was several years old I had worn it out. It's a large and thick book, and pages were falling out. I replaced it with the latest version, not seeing the trap. I'd bet you don't see it either.

In the interim between the releases, the creators of the book had consulted - and incorporated - more polls, more criteria, etc., and I found to my horror that the new book had a slightly *different* version of what songs had made the top 20. Got it? My first edition of the book said that *these* songs had made the top 20, and my second edition of the book said *those* songs had made the top 20. The two sets were *nearly* identical, but not quite.

I had a Notepad document which began as a complete list of the records that the first edition said made the top 20, and which was modified by deleting each entry as I acquired the song. I bit the bullet. I went through the new edition artist by artist, checking to see that either I already had each song I needed or that it was in my "needed" list. If neither of those things were true it was added to the "needed" list.

You know what's coming, right? Right. When I wore out the second edition and acquired a third, I ran into the same problem. However, I had anticipated it and decided that my "needed" list was frozen forever after the incorporation of second edition changes. We're talking about nearly 2,600 songs here, which had begun as 2,400 and something. I had (and have) no reason to believe that the book wouldn't alter that list with every edition, and I wasn't going to do several weeks of work with each new book.

In full screen mode, my MusicMatch Jukebox (MMJB) displays 30 songs at a time. I've set it up so that for each song I see (from left to right) the song title, the recording artist, the year in which it peaked, its peak position, and the song duration. More information is available by right clicking on one of those fields.

In addition to my originally defined set, I have a couple hundred songs on there which didn't make the top 20 or weren't in the 1955 to 1969 period, but are there simply because it's my jukebox and I want them there.

If this is already TMI, you might want to skip the next post.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Time Continues Its March

Five years ago today I published this.

It never occurred to me that some of the subject matter might be new to the occasional young adult who stumbled over this blog. I know that much of life just goes right over my head, but really, sometimes I am astonished at how oblivious I can be.

Last week I drove to a friend's house. On the way I got stopped by a red light. The driver on my immediate left began honking his horn. I rolled my window down and saw a thirtyish male driver. He pointed toward the rear of my can and yelled, "What's with the Jane Fonda sticker?"

Instantly, it flashed through my mind for the first time how long ago all that was.

I gave my questioner a very short description of the reason for the bumper sticker, the light turned green, he said "Gotcha," and we drove on.

You know, it was 41 years ago that she posed in that anti-aircraft gun embankment, and 46 years ago that I left Vietnam. To me it seems
. . . not "like yesterday," exactly, but only a few years ago.

Nevertheless, two generations of adult Americans now exist who were born after all that was over, and who are now personally and immediately affected by our Vietnam experience not much more than my generation was personally and immediately affected by . . . World War I, say.


Monday, June 3, 2013

WJMK Memories

For a while, WJMK in Chicago was an oldies station, playing music from the 1950's and 1960's. The following occurred (roughly) between 1979 and 1991.
  • A father called in asking the DJ to play Tony Joe White's Polk Salad Annie because his children would not believe that a song included the lines

    Polk Salad Annie,
    'Gators got your granny.
    Chomp, chomp chomp.

    And no, it's not Poke Salad Annie, it's Polk Salad Annie.

  • Another dad called in asking for a particular version of Land of 1000 Dances, and for the artists to be credited aloud because *his* children declined to believe that any recording group had been named "Cannibal and the Headhunters."

  • The very first time I heard Amy Scott's voice she had just joined WJMK as a disc jockey. Marcie Blane's I Want to Be Bobby's Girl finished playing and Amy said, "Ah, yes, feed the starving children in Ethiopia and let me be Bobby's girl."

  • Singer Shirley Ellis had only three top 40 hits, The Nitty Gritty, The Name Game, and The Clapping Song (Clap Pat Clap Slap). Once after Amy played The Name Game, she announced "That was the easily entertained Shirley Ellis."
It doesn't take much to amuse me.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Dad's Memories: My Afterthoughts

Related to Part I:

First Class postage was very stable for a long time. During Dad's childhood it was two cents. During my childhood it was three cents. Also during my childhood, the postman delivered twice a day, entirely on foot - no house to house truck driving.

Regarding the knickers boys wore to school: Dad once told me that some boys, during the first few school days of their lives, deposited something into their trousers, which would slide down until stopped by the bunching of the tucked in pants at the boots. Before long you could tell by the smell. Also, one girl created quite a puddle under her chair.

Strafford went on to become the black sheep of the family. At 12 or 13 he hustled little bottles of booze in the stands at sports events, and eventually became a bookie.


When I got out of the Army Strafford offered me a job as a runner. but that was the wrong side of the law for me

Related to Part II:

Tacetta Chevrolet is still in business in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

I do not remember either of the Portsmouth restaurants he mentions, but I do remember the neighboring Olympia Theater. And the Civic Theater, the Colonial Theater, and the Arcadia. That last was the one most frequented by children. On a Saturday afternoon we would see:
  • A newsreel
  • A cartoon (occasionally two)
  • Previews of coming attractions
  • A serial (featuring Batman, Nyoka the Jungle Girl, Hopalong Cassidy, and others, always left in some kind of terrible trouble so you would have to come back next week).
  • *Two* full length movies
Dad mentions that he began his Civil Service in Portland, Maine, and that is the source of my very first memories. I was ten months old when we moved there.

The "Yard in Portsmouth" is a reference to the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, which is actually in Kittery, Maine. Portsmouth is across the water in New Hampshire.

Regarding Dad's Army service "(boy did I hate that shit):" Dad was very short, about five foot one (and had flat feet, so don't believe the myths about flat feet being rejected). He was drafted and did his time at Fort Benning, Georgia. He particularly disliked the heat. Also, the clothing he was issued was too big for him. The worst consequence of this, I think, was during his basic training. When he had to enter a tent filled with gas (probably chlorine and sulphur), he had to take his mask off briefly before exiting. Unbeknownst to him, his too-large shirt filled up with the gas, and several minutes later, when the heat caused him to pull his shirt away from his body, he got a pretty good lungful of the gas. (You know, "lungful" is not a real word according to, but I've used it all my life and it's too late to stop now. Perhaps the dictionaries will catch up.) It was several days before he could smoke again.

During the Pop and Rena years, the family owned a dairy farm which had been in the family a very long time. I have, passed down to me by my father, an 1875 medal for an Ayrshire cow. There was, at some point, a stud bull named Linwood, and for a few years a standard greeting between male members of the family was "How's your Linwood?"

Related to Part III: I caught bloody Hell for my little mention of having heard the Barbee story "at least two hundred times." He denied ever telling it before, but really, I'd been hearing it since my childhood and I was in my late forties at the time of my comment. But the wheel is coming full circle, and I am sometimes caught repeating myself by my friends.

The 110 House Dad mentioned was in Amesbury, Massachusetts. "Was" is the key word here, as the last time I went by the site, perhaps 30 years ago, it had been replaced by a car wash. George Lay, mentioned by Dad, married the owner and was the regular host. We despised each other, but mostly got along for the sake of my dad.