Saturday, September 21, 2019

Preface To What House Is This?: Not Really A Complaint But A Complaint

There's too much good food in Portland.  It's true.  I have gained weight since I got here.

Because of certain issues with my health, I like to see a doctor every six months, have my blood checked, if possible get a tune-up & my tires rotated.  What issues?  What business is that of yours?  My gosh.

Where was I?  Oh yeah.  So I met the person who might be my regular doctor this past week, & she was great, but I did tell her I have gained weight since I got here, thanks in part to so much good food in this city.  & I asked her if there were perhaps something she could do, as a medical professional, to somehow slightly decrease the deliciousness of Portland's food to facilitate the daunting task of me getting back into shape.  She said no, she couldn't.

She didn't even offer me pills!

It's on my mind because I ate at this place tonight.  The wife & I shared entrees, which doesn't seem uncommon.  It's been a couple of hours since I ate & I'm still stuffed.  & maybe gained even more weight.

When I should've been working on this week's show!

If it seems fatter than usual, you know why.

Friday, September 20, 2019

This Really Happened Today

Before I relate this anecdote, I want to make it perfectly clear that the events which transpired today at a community radio station in Portland had nothing to do with me.  I was just there volunteering, answering phones.  I was not on air at any point, it was not my show, I did not affect programming in any way.  The person with whom I interacted did not know me, did not choose me, was directed to me because I was not answering a phone at the time.  This is simply something that really happened which I am reporting, not in any way attempting to take credit or otherwise promote myself.

All right?  Because when I mentioned this on Facebook, some people thought this was about me.  I am simply telling you something I experienced as a bystander.

Portland has three community radio stations, & I volunteer at each one.  KBOO is the oldest, it has the most wattage & can therefore reach more listeners, & arguably is the most respected.  I like to help out there because I like the people & I like the vibe.  I am not a fan of pledge drives, but they have a great set-up where volunteers don't have to be in the booth with the programmers, & they feed the volunteers besides.  (I didn't partake, but I heard the hummus today was a bit garlicky.)

As I mentioned above, I was not currently taking a pledge when an older gentleman walked into the door.  He said he wanted to make a pledge in person.  This happens quite a bit, people just walk into KBOO all the time, it is in fact encouraged.  The gentleman explained that he had been listening to the station for thirty years but had never pledged his support.  He intended this walk-in pledge to remedy that.  He carried in his hand a white envelope.

After talking to some people, he sat down next to me, & I began to take his information down.  Most of the pledges we take over the phone & enter into data a computer, but with walk-ins, we write them on a physical sheet of paper.  I asked his name, even calling him "sir."  He told me not to do that, I said I do it because I hope I was raised right.  That broke the ice, I called him by his name, & continued to write down his information.

When it came time for the pledge amount, I asked if I could open the envelope.  I did, saw the check inside, saw the number on the check, & said to him, "Are you sure you want to do this?"

Why would I say such a thing?  Because inside the envelope was a check for ten thousand dollars.  That's $10,000.  A one with four zeroes after it.  I have probably never seen a check for that amount ever.

Other people were summoned to help me.  I got what information I could.  The generous donor had ideas about using it as a matching grant to encourage others to pledge.  He looked over the premiums we had, & chose a tee shirt.  KBOO will give tee shirts to those who pledge $75.  I can't do the math but I do have a calculator on my computer & it tells me he could've taken home 133 tee shirts with his pledge.  One staffer took him to get the tee shirt.

Oh my god I wanted to show everyone the check!  I was amazed that more of us didn't pass out or shit a brick or whatever when I showed them.  The staff at KBOO were mostly clear-headed, quite professional really, while I must've looked like I had just seen an alien turn the corner, wave at me, then scurry away before I could say, "Hey! You're like a UFO alien!"

The person to whose show the generous donor was pledging was the last to see the check.  He was gobsmacked.  But so humble.  Oh god, my ego would be bursting, but the deejay said, "We all get lucky sometimes."

Yeah, no.  Not ten thousand dollars lucky.  Holy shit.

How I wish I had taken a picture of the check, just the numbers at least.  They're kind of burned into my brain though.

My shift ended & I went home to my animals after that.  But it's absolutely true, what I just wrote: this really fucking happened today!

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Since You're Gone

The person who, on my show, portrays my spiritual mentor the Rev Dr Howard Gently is someone I've known since I was in middle school.  He used to make comedic tapes with his older brother & I kinda wanted to get in on the action.  I wasn't funny at all so I assumed the role of straight man.  I would pretend to be a radio call-in host named Gary Franklin & my friend would call in doing different voices.  It's been fun to note than we pretended to be on the radio over thirty years ago & seem to still be doing that now, only, you know, for real.  For "real."  But really on the radio.

One of my favorite calls he did was a fellow who is trapped in his house because a rock band is playing a concert on his front yard.  That band is the Cars.  My friend had taped the Cars playing on some late-night show - my mind tells me it was the Midnight Special but I dunno - it was around the time of "Shake It Up," as that was the song I could hear in the background.  It was a memorable bit because the caller complained to Gary Franklin that he couldn't leave his house because of the people gathered & all his services were disrupted.  He couldn't even call out, his phone lines were cut.  "How are you calling me, then, sir?" Gary Franklin asked.  There was a memorable pause & then the caller said, "I'm losin' my mind, Gary!  You gotta help me!"

My friend & I still quote that to this day.

The Cars are a band that holds up.  They are classic rock, but they're also new wave.  Some of their success had to do with Elliot Easton's iconic guitar solos.  Some of it had to do with Greg Hawkes' unbelievably successful incorporation of synth into the classic rock sound.  But I believe the lion's share of their success had to do with the oddball cool that pervades Ric Ocasek's music, lyrics, & singing.  This is the guy who wrote, "It's an orange-y sky," after all.

The truth is, after I discovered postpunk, I was a little embarrassed how much I liked the Cars.  At some point, in my poor early college years, I got rid of their records to buy new or different records.  (The place I would go for records, Waterloo in Austin, would buy back LPs at two bucks & sell used ones for four.  I often bring in four records & leave with two.)

But sometime in the 90s, I stumbled across the double CD greatest hits collection Just What I Needed.  It was like running into a best friend from high school with whom I'd lost touch.  I remember going to a movie with some young KVRXers a couple nights later, & everyone talking about what CDs or records they'd just added to their collection, & I sheepishly said I bought the Cars greatest hits CD.  They all said, "Holy shit, the Cars are awesome." & I agreed.  Wholeheartedly.

But I noticed I don't play the Cars on the radio a lot - my records indicate the last time was 2017, although I did play a cover of "Shake It Up" on Freeform this summer - probably because I was raised to think the sort of radio I do is supposed to be an alternative to classic rock.  Those lines are blurring & I will belatedly step up my radio worship of the rock genius of Ric Ocasek & crew.  I watched some Youtube videos today - live stuff, mostly, not the videos that defined the band in the 1980s - & was impressed how cohesive they were.

Look, I don't know what kept me in love with music in the dark times where I only knew commercial FM radio & what we now call classic rock, but certainly the Cars helped out.  I remember being quite in love with "You Might Think" when I was disenchanted with radio in late high school.  & though I don't really know if I like the song "Magic" all that music, hearing Ric Ocasek say, "Summer, summer, summer, it turns me upside down" at the very beginning is as powerful to me as an incantation.

It's sad he's no longer with us.  It's amazing what music he left us.  Here they are performing the song that gives this post its name on some late-night television show in the 1980s:

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Hi, How Are You?

Unlike many of my musical heroes who die, I actually knew Daniel Johnston a little.  In 1998, he was working with the Station Manager of KVRX, Mark Miller.  Mark was making a music video for him, which you can see here.  At least a couple of times he followed Mark up to the station, & I was at the station a lot - I was a Program Manager that summer.

To say that Daniel Johnston didn't like me would probably be too much - I just didn't really have much that interested him.  He carried with him a two-liter of Coca-Cola & a carton of Kools, & since I was a smoker at the time, we would often be outside smoking.  Daniel Johnston had a ton of energy & his mind worked double-overtime, obviously fueled by the nicotine & caffeine.  We had a few conversations, we of course talked once about the Beatles, but if there were a woman outside, he was going to be focused on her instead.

The last time I saw him play was in 2000 I think when he came onstage at a Yo La Tengo show.  Something about being around him made me worry about him.  He lived with his parents who were getting on in years - what would happen to him once they had gone?

That level of anxiety I would feel would also come to me in his music, which I had heard before I met him.  I came to Austin for college in 1986 & might have run into him at the McDonald's on the Drag where he worked or maybe I would've seen him handing out his tapes.  I don't recall.  I believe I first saw him live in a nicely-packed room at an early South By Southwest.  I might not have heard his music before.

It was when I started volunteering at KVRX that he began to figure in my life.  We had his cassettes & CDs.  People played him all the time.  & in 1994, Kathy McCarty released Dead Dog's Eyeball, which brought a whole new appreciation to the originals.

There's always a part of me that feels like I didn't appreciate him as much as I feel he deserved.  I don't know if it has something to do with being around Daniel Johnston the Person instead of concentrating on Daniel Johnston the Artist.  I do wish he had been more appreciated in his life.  I also hope that whatever demons tormented him for his short time on this planet let him have moments of peace & beauty away from his music.

He'll always feel so much like Austin to me.  One night, with my dear friend Mike, as we stumbled home after the bars closed, we were carless & drunk & a mile away from our apartment, Mike, shirtless in the heat of Austin in August at 2am, walking down Dean Keaton toward Red River, he began to sing as loud & passionately as possible:

Funeral home
Funeral home
Goin' to the funeral home
Got me a coffin
Shiny & black
I'm goin' to the funeral
& I'm never comin' back

Austin is more populated & busier now, but we had the streets all to ourselves.  I don't remember getting home but I remember that song.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Self Help Radio 091619: A Frank Show

(Most all these Frank, Franklin, & Frankie images from Wikipedia.)

At long last! Finally! Once & for all! The promised show about people named Frank.

Check this: in addition to twenty-nine (29!) songs about Franks - & Frankies & Franklins - there are interviews with four different Franks on this show!  It is a veritable treasure trove of Frankness.  A priceless hoard of Frankitude.  Truly a bonanza of Frankality.  A treasury of Franktion.  There's frankly too much Frank, if you ask me.  But you didn't ask me!  You want to be drowned in as much Frank as possible!

& so it shall be done.  You can listen to the Self Help Radio Frank show at the Self Help Radio website.  You will need a username & a password - neither, alas, are "frank" - it's SHR & selfhelp.  The parade of all things Frank is listed below!

What a good day to be a Frank!

Self Help Radio Frank Show

part one:
"Frank" Ween _The Pod_
"Blank Frank" Brian Eno _Here Come The Warm Jets_
"Frank" Yoni & Geti _Testarossa_

introduction & the origin of the name "Frank"

"Frankie & Johnny" Sam Cooke _The Man Who Invented Soul_
"Daddy Frank (The Guitar Man)" Merle Haggard _Let Me Tell You About A Song_
"Frank's Wild Years" Tom Waits _Swordfishtrombones_
"Frank & Sandy" Pants Yell! _Received Pronunciation_
"Will Success Spoil Frank Summit?" The Times _This Is London_

interview with cousin Frank Schmidt

"Frankie Sinatra" The Avalanches _Wildflower_
"Like Frankie Lymon" The Weather Prophets _CD86: 48 Tracks From The Birth Of Indie Pop_
"Harlem Roulette" The Mountain Goats _Transcendental Youth_
"Blues For Frankie Valli" The Incredible Vickers Brothers _Gallimaufry_

interview with childhood friend Frank David Fruchter

"Frank Mills" Phyllis Newman _Phyllis Newman's World Of Music_
"Gotta Have Something In The Bank Frank" Bob Jaxon _On A Rockin Beach Party_

part two:
"He's Frank" The Monochrome Set _The Independent Singles Collection_
"I'm Frank" The Fall _Extricate_
"Our Frank" Morrissey _Kill Uncle_

interview with Kentucky radio star Frank Yelsom

"The Ballad Of Frankie Lee & Judas Priest" Thea Gilmore _John Wesley Harding_
"Frankie T & Frankie C" Mick Harvey _Sketches From The Book Of The Dead_
"Frankie" Kanda _All The Good Meetings Are Taken_
"So Long Frank Lloyd Wright" Simon & Garfunkel _Bridge Over Troubled Water_

interview with Head Of Production Frank Biggle Magnum

"Frank Black Says" Boat _Dress Like Your Idols_
"Frank De Salvo" The Orchids _Unholy Soul_
"Franklin D. Roosevelt's Back Again" Oscar Brand _Presidential Campaign Songs_
"Franklin Pierce" The Two Man Gentlemen Band _¡Dos Amigos, Una Fiesta!_

conclusion & goodbye

"What About Frank Clement (A Mighty Man)" The Prisonaires _Just Walkin' In The Rain_
"Frankie's House" Johnny Lee Daniels _Teenagers Forever, Vol. 3_
"That's Frankie's Negative" The Moodists _Thirsty's Calling_

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Whither A Frank Show?

(It's not those kind of franks - never mind.  Image from here.)

You may recall, way back in the good old days of August, when Self Help Radio was still without a radio station to call home, there was an announcement on the show's Facebook page & also on the show's website that the next installment of Self Help Radio would be a show about people named Frank.  Not necessarily famous people named Frank!  Just whatever Frank might have been sung about.  Songs were gathered.  People named Frank were hassled.  Promised were made, money was loaned, hair was combed, shirts were tucked in.  & then: I got sick.

Sick as a person named Frank has ever been sick before.  In retrospect, it might have been amusing to try to make a show, especially with my voice a little croaky & the sniffles my only friend.  But I chose to take lots of cold medicine, cover myself in blankets, & wait for the fever to break.

Then I rescheduled the show, which is happening oh my gosh tomorrow!  At 6am!  On Freeform Portland!

Tell all the Franks you know!  Make sure to mention it as well to the Frankies, Franklins, & why the hell not the Francises (Franceses too).  It may be very flattering to them.  Or it may be a grave, grave insult.