Saturday, September 12, 2015

Spending The Day In The Past

(I found this image here.)

It's not near the time of my birthday, so there's no real excuse for me to be stumbling into my past, but I was talking to a friend about our old haunts in Garland, Texas, & I asked him about this place from my past.  It was a knick-knack/tchotchke store in the portion of the Ridgewood Shopping Center very close to the apartments my family lived in from around 1977 to 1982.

During the time we lived there, we knew some kids - a couple of them were teenagers, who were more friends of my sister Karin - who, like us, were quite poor, so my little brother & I emulated them in their shoplifting ways.  I can't say I stole a whole lot of things, but I got pretty good at it.  There was a "dime store" called TG&Y & across the drive from that place, was the weird knick-knack store.  You can read more about TG&Y here; its demise is a little sad.  I think the store I visited had closed before the chain itself disappeared, but I can't be sure, because it had been four years since I lived near the Ridgewood Shopping Center.

The tchotchke place seemed very fancy to me.  It smelled of odd fragrances inside, & every shelf seemed to have a soft lining, & the little things - carved ceramics, figurines, etc. - had their prices hand-written on little tags usually on their bottoms.  Thinking about it now, I realize that it's the same smell you associate with hobby places like Michaels or Jo-Ann's or that hateful & intolerant place - what's it called, Lobby Lobby? - that smell from ceramics & metals.  Except at this place, it was crammed into a small, not terribly lit place.  Oh, & the people there watched me like a hawk, with good reason - I probably wanted to steal something.  Just to have it, you know?

There was a grocery store called Minyards on the same side as the knick-knack shop, & it existed until the end of the late 1990s, because I remember going there during my third year of college & seeing someone I hadn't seen since middle school.  That, by the way, never happens anymore - I haven't run into anyone I knew from high school in two decades or more.  Not in my home town, not really anywhere.

In any event - I know this information is only of interest to me, & I apologize for that - the most interesting thing about TG&Y is something I've just discovered, which is this: the former employees have a web site & a Facebook page where they reconnect with each other, & share information about possible retirement benefits.

Where I am going with this - what I asked my friend - is what the hell was the name of the shop that existed across from the TG&Y?  Here's a picture from Google maps of what the old place looks like now-ish:

TG&Y would be the building on the right, the knick-knack place would be the first shop on the left.  The place looks so nondescript now, but the pillars that line the left side used to have this pebble-y covering that was attractive & also painful if you ran into it.  It was probably too hard to maintain - I guess pulled off the pebbly thing & painted the pillars.

In my lame "research" - you know, just trying to find stuff with Google - I found a forum where I asked if anyone remembered the place's name.  & then - just a few minutes ago - in the shower - my brain told me this name: "The Gift Shoppe."

There's no real way to know if that's what it was actually called, but in my mind I can see the sign hanging by the door, I can almost make out the font.  It feels right.  It feels like there's a place called "The Gift Shoppe," where I never could ever afford to buy a gift.  & wouldn't even know anyone who would want a gift from there.

Was that really its name?  I don't know.  I think so.  I did spend the whole day trying to find out!

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Self Help Radio 090815: Ambition

(Original image here.)

It certainly didn't feel ambitious to do a radio show about ambition.  Although I am proud that the first fifteen songs I played were all called "Ambition."  & one of those was a request!

The show went tolerably well despite how terrible I do in it.  Much of that is because of the great interviews I had: CJ Buchanan, talking about his new book, "The Death Of Ambition"; Mark Miller, talking about ambition in Hollywood; & the Reverend Dr. Howard Gently, giving us spiritual wisdom about ambition.  As I said on the air, it's good to have them around, because it means less of me on the show.

& the show is now available for your listening - pleasure? could it be? - at the Self Help Radio website.  As always, please pay attention to password/username information at the top of the page.  What I played is below.

So much for ambition!

(part one)

"Ambition" The Subway Sect _Twenty Odd Years: The Story Of Vic Godard & The Subway Sect_
"Ambition" Iggy Pop _Soldier_
"Ambition" TV21 _Ambition_

"Ambition" UK Subs _Endangered Species_
"Ambition" The Lonely Hearts _Ambition 7"_
"Ambition" Dalek I Love You _Dalek I Love You_
"Ambition" Robert Marlow _The Peter Pan Effect_

"Ambition" New Model Army _No Rest For The Wicked_
"Ambition" The Knack _Zoom_
"Ambition" John Vanderslice _Mass Suicide Occult Figurines_

"Ambition" Graduate _Acting My Age_
"Ambition" Velvet Elvis _Velvet Elvis_

(part two)

"Ambition" Smog _Supper_
"Ambition" Blue Skies For Black Hearts _Serenades & Hand Grenades_
"Ambition" We Are Scientists _Barbara_

"Man With Ambition" Denzil Dennis _Early Dayz_
"Good Ambition" The Ethiopians _Everything Crash_
"Aim & Ambition" Jimmy Cliff _Hard Road To Travel_
"My Ambition" Marcia Griffiths _Truly_

"Ambitious" Wire _The Ideal Copy_
"Ambitions" Liechtenstein _Fast Forward_
"My Life's Ambition" Groovey Joe Poovey _Greatest Grooves_
"Slave Of My Ambition" Malaria _Emotion_

"Great Expectations" The Ghost Of A Saber Tooth Tiger _Midnight Sun_

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Whither Ambition?

(Original image found here.)

This is true: I am probably the least ambitious person you'll ever meet.  Sure, I put a lot of work into my radio show, not that you could tell, but I don't know that if I knew how to make it really great, if I could actually do it.  Because I have spent my life doing the bare minimum required of me to make or do something passable.  A striver for excellence I ain't.

For example: I usually wrote my college papers the night before they were due.  In fact, in the days before most people had computers, I would often ask my professors if it were all right if I turned papers in hand-written.  I remember one class - it must have been an existentialist lit class - where I wrote a paper on my bedroom floor on my stomach in pen about two hours before class.  It was for a book a really love, Jean-Paul Sartre's Nausea, & I had a lot to say about it, but still.

You might say, well, you know you could get away with it.  But that's completely wrong - I've never had the confidence that I could in fact get things done in time.  I even told one professor I should take an incomplete instead of writing a paper, but she talked me off the ledge & let me turn that final report in a bit later.

Anyway, I could've gone to grad school, I suppose.  But I stuck with the easiest job I could find after college.  & at one period of time, I thought I might write, but it turned out I liked being ridiculous on the radio even better.  It was certainly less work - it was in fact easy, sharing music with people.  If in fact my radio shows sound as shabby as I believe they do, it's because the whole process feels easy to me.  Perhaps I should try harder.  I wonder what that would feel like.

In any event - today I unambitiously present a show about ambition.  It's on from four to six pm (4-6pm) on eighty-eight point one fm (88.1 fm) WRFL in Lexington proper.  All over the world improper it's online at  I have lots of guests today - I guess that's ambitious - & the first hour or so will be entirely filled with songs called "Ambition."

Don't worry, I didn't work that hard on it.  If you can't listen, I'll archive it tomorrow on the show's web site.

By the way, it's annoying to me that we still say "man" or "mankind" to mean the entire human race.  When I see a quote like the one above, my first thought is, "& what did Marcus Aurelius think a woman's worth was?"  (Well, chances are he didn't think of women at all.)  Would it be so bad to retroactively change quotes like that to "A person's worth..." or "A human's worth..."?  It's translated from the Latin anyway.

Here's an ambitious thought: just as I think I'll be old & die in a world in which same-sex marriage is no big deal to the vast majority of us, I hope I'll be old & die in a world where people stop saying "man" & "mankind" & instead say "human" & "humankind" or "humanity."  That way, even though every day will be over 120 degrees, & most of the great coastal cities will be underwater, I'll at least be glad that as the human race is dying out, we aren't as homophobic & sexist as we were when I was a kid.

Monday, September 07, 2015

Preface To Ambition: Ambitious Inspiration

There are two songs that I was listening to recently that made me think, Hey, I should do a radio show about ambition.  (I've already shared this on my Facebook page today.  Sorry for the repeat.)  (I'm going to post this to my Twitter page too.  It's the lame way I try to be relevant on social media.)

Here's the first one, a legendary single by Subway Sect:

& the other, from the mid-80s version of Wire:

This is normally what I talk about on the day of my show, but I thought I'd share today.  Great songs - maybe a great show?

Sunday, September 06, 2015

Belabor Day

Do you remember where you were at when you learned what certain words meant?  Is that a weird questions to ask?  I used to be one of those kids who had a dictionary by the side of the bed - because I read in bed - & I would look words up I didn't understand.  Not that I always remember the meanings.  I always have to look up "feckless" (I note this ironically) & also "jejune," for example (another word that may painfully describe me), since for some reason I can't keep them in my head.  Two words that I used to have a problem with - "atavistic" & "quotidian" - I am now comfortable with.  So there's hope for me yet!

Nowadays of course I just look them up on my computer or phone (which is a computer, isn't it).  But that wasn't the question I asked.  Do you remember the moment when you learned what a particular word meant?  There are some words that I remember exactly when I learned what they meant.

To qualify my previous statement: I don't know an exact date or time, but I do know an exact scenario, usually involving a book, or comic book, or newspaper, or magazine.

One of those words is "belabor."  It's most often used in the phrase "to belabor the point."  I might be accuse of belaboring many points in this blog.  Belabor means to argue or go on about something in too much detail.  Belaboring a point is basically talking something to death.

It must have been in the late seventies because I was skimming a magazine (Time? Newsweek? People? Hustler?) at my mom's convenience store, & they were complaining about the President - who was Carter - belaboring a point about his foreign policy, most probably with Iran.  My initial thought was that he was working hard to make the point - he was "laboring" to make the point, although I didn't know what the "be-" prefix might point to.  Some hours after that, on the news, they used the same phrase: "belaboring the point."  It didn't seem like a positive statement in context.  It started to drive me crazy.

So I looked it up.  & I learned what it meant.  That very day.

& you - do you have memories of discovering word meanings in a specific matter?  Maybe you should think about them on this Belabor Day.