Saturday, January 16, 2021

The Jobs Of 1985

It's a sadness that memory is murky.  I'm trying to remember what I was doing as my part-time jobs in 1985 & it has befuddled me.  You might as well be asking me what classes I was taking in 11th grade from first to sixth period.  I might guess one or two, but not all.

My mother worked at a convenience store, the Time Saver, owned by the man whom she was dating, if you can call two people who were both in their fifties "dating."  Ed was an unpleasant fellow who really didn't like me.  I returned the feeling, but it was more complicated than that.  He bought me a car in 1984 & I agreed to work afternoons after school to pay it off.  Fifty dollars a week, I would get I think five dollars an hour, I would keep what was left for myself.  My mother, who had no real sense of self-preservation, stole constantly from Ed.  In later years, she would chuckle & say, "I ripped him off blind!"  But of course he only had the store; he had no other source of income, he wasn't independently wealthy; this was what he was doing to make a life, & he was giving money to her to pay her rent, feed & clothe her kids, etc.  When I look back at how mercenary my mother was, I wonder what had happened to her to make her so.  I wonder if she treated my father that way, & if they contributed to his own fall into alcoholism.  I couldn't really ask her when she was alive, & now that she's gone, it's all speculation.

In any event, Ed was somewhat loathsome.  I will perhaps write me about him at some time, although I am sure I've written about him before.  It's kind of impossible to search for "Ed" in my many posts.  I came to find the time we spent together at the store trying.  He had discovered things I liked & he would remark on them in a condescending way that I knew had some kind of malice behind it.  He was my mom's boyfriend, he was my boss, I couldn't just explode at him.  So I longed for a way out.  Despite it being a pretty good gig, & despite the fact that I, too, was stealing from him.

It pains me to admit this.  But it was so easy.  I wasn't making much money, I had a gas guzzler, I needed comic books, & I often ate fast food because my mother didn't really cook.  If a certain number of people came in, I would often leave the cash register open, calculate what they bought in my head, & then make change as if I had rung up their purchases.  In this way, I would pocket five dollars a night.  I never did more - I had enough of a sense of right & wrong, or at least I didn't want to get caught.  & I covered my tracks, which my mother never did - it was common at the end of the night to be something like fifty dollars off, which I took to mean my mother had stolen fifty dollars that day.

One major factor was that I was a bit envious of people at school who had good stories from their dumb jobs.  They were working at fast food joints, interacting with all sorts of weirdos, & I was just in the same store that I'd worked in & been in & my mom worked in forever it seemed.  A guy I knew named Karel - who was a grade above me - happened to mention that he delivered pizza.  I had a car, he said it was good money, & so I applied & got a job at Crusty's Pizza in the Eastgate Shopping Center.

This has to be late 1984 or early 1985.  It seems like I worked there forever - but it was probably only a few months.  I might have mentioned that I worked at the Mobil gas station during the summer of 1985, & for some reason I thought it was before my pizza delivery experience.  But now I am pretty certain it was after.  For one thing, when I delivered pizza, I was able to listen to a lot of music.  Sure, I was running my poor old car down, but when you drive for several hours a night, you can listen to a lot of albums.  By the summer of 1985, I had consumed a good deal of music, mostly Bowie's, Lennon's, & Costello's catalogs.  But there's also this piece of evidence:

One of the fellow who worked with me was a very tall, very homely, very thin, very quiet dude named David.  David was a classic rock fan, & also something of an illustrator.  I don't think David stayed at Crusty's as long as I did - he wasn't there when I left. I once hung out with him to see if he wanted to collaborate on a comic book with me (he wasn't that kind of an artist), but what I can remember is, if a band came to town, he would take the time to paint on his hatchback the band's logo.  He seemed to do this for radio promotions - he had won free tickets for that before.  One time, he did it for U2, he recreated the cover of the Under A Blood Red Sky album on the back of his car.  The only time U2 came to Dallas in the period was in February, 1985.  The last time was in 1983 when I didn't have a car.  So I had to be working at Crusty's at that time.

It seems like everyone left (David & Karel too) as spring approached, & the new delivery guys were jerks, & they stole money from where I kept change inside my car.  (I was dumb, I didn't lock it, because I was in & out so much.)  & then Crusty's closed, they had a store in Arlington they wanted me to transfer to, & they said I could be a cook but I was terrible at making pizza.  So I ended my pizza delivery days then.

My brother Ralph was working at a Mobil at the border of Garland & Richardson, & I believe I worked there for a while.  I seem to remember working there in the summer.  I may not have been there long when the manager transferred to a different Mobil, which is where I was working on the Saturday when Live Aid happened (July 1985).  So maybe I didn't work at the first Mobil for long.  That manager left & I stayed when the new manager came along, but he didn't like me much.  I always felt uncomfortable around him.  He always seemed to be testing me.  After I apparently failed at training a new employee, he called me & fired me.  But I believe that was in early 1986.

The funny thing is, I remember that my boss at Mobil was called Rob.  I have no memory of anyone else who worked there, except one woman who was very attractive but kind of intimidating.  Sometimes I think about my life & all the conversations I've had with people I've known & of course I can't remember any of them.  What does it say about memory that we can work with people for months & have no memory of them at all?  Why would I ever dare to think I was memorable?

This evening, on a dog walk, I worked out my 1985 work history & am still not very satisfied.  I wish I had saved pay stubs, I wish I had kept something like a journal.  I didn't.  Imagine carrying all that from high school to college!  But there's something interesting to end this probably dull entry with:

My brother Ralph got me the job at Mobil, but he was fired quickly after I was hired.  Why?  He was caught stealing.  Our mother's example was always with us.

Friday, January 15, 2021

My Seventeenth Year

The upcoming episode of Self Help Radio has the theme "1985."  When I first began the show, I had the notion that on my birthday week, I would revisit the year of my birth, 1968, & each birthday thereafter, I would go forward a year.  I would play my favorite music from that year.  Naturally, I wasn't listening to much music of my own choosing in 1968, so it was music that I love now, & that has been the case for most of these shows.  But for the 1985 show, I will play music I listened to & bought in 1985.  Much of it I would discover in the next couple of years, but I hope you'll agree with me that 1985 was a good year for music.

On January 20, 1985, I turned seventeen.  I'm not sure if it was a big deal or not.  I was a junior at South Garland High School in Garland, Texas, when the year began.  I'd become a senior in the fall.  I had maybe three or four people I knew in school that I considered "school friends," but I didn't really see them outside of school.  I had a friend named Gary Anderson that I knew outside of school because he frequented the same book store where I bought comics.  Gary was an odd kid - I talked about him here, & also here, & also here.  That last link has a story I will tell below.  The main person I hung out with, the person I called my best friend, actually didn't like me all that much.  I suspect he only hung out with me because I had a car.  I introduced him to Bowie & other musicians, & music became important to him.  But he loved to insult me, to demean me, he took a kind of sadistic glee in it.  I loved & admired him, & didn't know that your friends shouldn't do that to you.  All I had, really, was my experience with my family, & every member of my family acted as though they were in competition with one another.  If you were, let's say, somewhat intelligent & doing very well at school, you were told in no uncertain terms that that would get you nowhere & that "common sense" was more important than "book smarts."  In that way, my family denigrated whatever small achievements I had while amplifying my failures.  "He can't even change the oil in his car!"

My "best friend" would often get angry at me if I disliked or otherwise spoke out against things he had decided were good or important.  I learned to simply not tell him if I disagreed with him.  Later on in life, when our situations were such that I felt I could disagree with him, he would act horrified, even frightened, & to this day he doesn't talk to me about things he knows I have different opinions than he does.  Anyway, in about six years, he would betray me so utterly that it almost killed me, & it took me much longer to realize it was easy for him because of how contemptuous he was of me.

At seventeen, I had never been kissed, & of course I had never had a relationship with a girl.  I wouldn't have known how to start one.  This is a true story: there was a girl in our neighborhood whom I fancied.  I had "met" her at the convenience store where I worked, & found out she lived nearby.  I asked her over to my little apartment (this is where we lived) & told her how I felt.  She was of course dumbstruck, & said, "Okay," & left, & never spoke to me again.  The idea that I might ask her out hadn't occurred to me.  I guess I hadn't seen enough movies or something.  I simply didn't know what I was expecting.

Which brings me to the story of Gary Anderson.  Gary was gay, although I wouldn't have entirely known what that meant at the time, & wouldn't find out for a few years.  But, you know, it was kind of obvious.  At some point, either in 1985 or earlier, he was looking at my high school yearbook.  He had big round eyes & a long mane of curly blond hair, too poofy to be a mullet, but mullet-esque, & he turned to me with horror.  "Gary!" he said.  "You let boys sign your yearbook?"  I said of course I did.  The only people I talked to in school were boys.  He said, "Won't people think you're gay?"

Mostly people didn't think about me at all.  My family had almost written me off, my little brother didn't even say hello to me if he saw me in the halls at high school, & despite I suppose having a good academic record, I didn't really distinguish myself in anything notable in school.  Well, I was on the Whiz Quiz team.  That was a kind of local "College Bowl" competition, & our team was beaten by the team that went on to take it all.  My brain is telling me it was Arts Magnet, but I don't know if I remember it.  I missed a simple Mark Twain question that would've tied the game if I had answered it correctly.  For some reason, I agreed to be team captain in my senior year but luckily Whiz Quiz was either discontinued or put on hiatus.  There's a videotape of the event - it was broadcast on local television - that my friend Russell taped & gave me a copy of, but I was never able to watch it all the way through.  It's not fun watching yourself lose.

Even acquaintances thought very little of me.  My favorite place to get comics was a bookstore - I won't remember what it was called, but I remember the odd man, Don, who owned it.  I should write more about Don.  Anyway, I came in at some point in 1985 to get comics, & he wasn't there.  He had sold the place.  The woman who bought it told me she intended to continue with the same arrangement he had with me - putting aside comics for me each week - but it really hurt that he never told me.  I visited that store every week for two years & talked with him.  He never said goodbye.  It probably didn't even cross his mind.

As for work - this is getting long & there's lots to say about this year - I worked at the convenience store owned by my mother's boyfriend but wasn't fond of it.  I worked over the summer I believe at Mobil gas station, & remember quite liking it, moving with the manager to a different store when he transferred.  His name was Rob, he was the first Sikh I ever met, although entirely American.  & also my first horndog.  The guy made Jack Tripper on Three's Company seem like a seminarian.  At some point I also delivered pizza, & I think I did that after the gas stations?  No, I think it was before.  It's too bad, too.  It ruined my poor old car.

Enough for today.  These little yearly entries are the closest I'll ever get to writing an autobiography, so I feel the need to cram so much in.  But I feel like I liked 1985 pretty much.  I was mostly unself-aware but thought I knew it all.  Is that how most seventeen-year-olds feel?

PS When Self Help Radio explored the number "seventeen" as theme, I wrote a little about my seventeenth year.  You can read that, if you want, here.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Jeans On Film

(image sources below)

If you listened to this week's Self Help Radio, the show about Jean, you doubtless caught another installment of Chuck's Happily Unsophisticated Cinema Korner in which the show's resident cinephile talked about four famous Jeans - Arthur, Seberg, Simmons, & Marsh - & some of their work.  But Chuck didn't stop there!  If you want to follow up on his Jean research:

Here is his Jean's list on IMDb featuring the works of all the Jeans.  Plus he's created Youtube playlists where you can sample many of their works: Jean Arthur, Jean Seberg, Jean Simmons, Jean Marsh.  There are many treasures to be unearthed on these playlists!

& as always, you can keep track of the movies & other stuff Chuck watched for Self Help Radio by following his Twitter account.

So much to explore!  It's so nice to be a Jean!

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Self Help Radio 011221: Jean's Show

(Again, not that kind of jean.  Image from here.)

Finally.  After all the disappointment, the anger, the confusion, the tears, the frustration, the harsh words, the arrests, the trials, the convictions, the sudden overturning of the convictions, the mobs, the property damage, the terrifying nights of fear & hiding, the helplessness, the hopelessness - finally, here's Jean's show.  & we freely admit, Jean deserved this show.  It was all worth it for her.

You might be saying, "Wasn't this show delayed for a week?"  It's true, but as we have seen, in 2021, a week feels more like a month.  Possibly two.  It's early yet.

You & your friend Jean (also Jeanette, Jeannie, & Janine) call listen to the show at the Self Help Radio website.  Please let her know she'll need a username & a password, which is SHR & selfhelp.  She'll get to hear lots of songs about her as well as interviews with namesakes.  That information is below.

Hooray for Jean!

Self Help Radio Jean's Show
"Have You Seen Jean" Al Vance _The Complete Goldwax Singles. Vol. 1: 1962-1966_
"I Love My Jean" Camera Obscura _I Love My Jean_
"Creeping Jean" The Kinks _The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society_

introduction & definitions

"Jeanne" Air & Francoise Hardy _Pop Romantique_
"Blue Jean" Papercranes _We Were So Turned On: A Tribute To David Bowie_
"Jellypop Perky Jean" Julian Cope _Droolian_
"Jeane" The Smiths _This Charming Man_
"Miss Jean" Richard Barone _Clouds Over Eden_

interview with Jean-Marie

"Recessive Jean" Shriekback _Without Real String Or Fish_
"Jean's Not Happening" The Pale Fountains _...From Across The Kitchen Table_
"String Bean Jean" Belle & Sebastian _Dog On Wheels_
"Jean's Waving" Amor De Días _The House At Sea_
"Jean & Dinah" The Mighty Sparrow _Soca Anthology: Dr. Bird_

interview with Jeannette

"Jeannette" Gus Viseur _Cafe De Paris 1930-41: 24 Accordion Classics From The Boulevards Of Paris_
"Jeanette" Wade Flemons _Casino Classics: The Forgotten Floorshakers_
"Jeanette" The English Beat _Special Beat Service_
"Electro-Jeanette" Nosoträsh _Popemas_
"Blues For Jeanette" Lil' Ed & The Blues Imperials _Chicken, Gravy, & Biscuits_

interview with Bonnie Jeanne

"Jean" Aaron Freeman _Marvelous Clouds_
"Bettye Jean's Blues" Bettye Jean Washington _I'm A Bad, Bad Girl: Seven Dozen Dusky Divas 1939-1953_
"Betty Jean" The Soul Of John Black _Black John_
"My Sister Mary Jean" Lily Tomlin _And That's The Truth_
"Amber Jean" Neil Young & The International Harvesters _A Treasure_

Chuck's Happily Unsophisticated Cinema Korner looks at actors named Jean

"I Dream Of Jeannie" Big Kahuna & The Copa Cat Pack _Shake Those Hula Hips_
"I Dream Of Jeanie With The Light Brown Hair" Sam Cooke _Sam Cooke_
"Jeannie With The Dark Blue Eyes" Doug Powell _Virginia Rocks! The History Of Rockabilly In The Commonwealth_
"Jeannie Nitro" The Fratellis _We Need Medicine_
"Jeannie Steps Out" Eileen Rose _At Our Tables_

a Self Help Radio list: famous Jeans

"Janine" David Bowie _Space Oddity_
"Jean & Paul" The Cherry Orchard _The Start Of Our Affair_
"Jeanie" The Reivers _Saturday_
"Jeanie" Widowspeak _Plum_
"Jeannine I Dream Of Lilac Time" Gene Austin _Gene Austin_
"Devon Jean" Rudolph Johnson _Killer Jazz Funk From Black Jazz Vault_

conclusion & goodbye

"Jeane, If You're Ever In Portland (Live)" Casiotone For The Painfully Alone _Bobby Malone Moves Home E.P._
"Jeannie's Last Kiss" Bobby Bare _500 Miles Away From Home_
"Jeanie" The Sweet _The Sweet's Biggest Hits_
"Jeanie Loves Pop" Warm Soda _Someone For You_
"Skinny Jeanne" The Pernice Brothers _Spread The Feeling_
"Jeanie Jeanie Jeanie" Eddie Cochran _Somethin' Else: The Fine Lookin' Hits Of Eddie Cochran_

Monday, January 11, 2021

Whither Jean's Show (We'll Try It Again)?

(Image from here.)

Oh, I know what you're thinking, you're thinking, last week at this time Gary wrote:

Tonight's show is all about people (mainly women) named Jean.  I thought about perhaps including the male Jean, since it's the same word, but mostly I found songs about women named Jean.  & Jeannie.  & Jeanette.  & I think a Janine or two.  If there's a Jean song about a dude, it's probably by accident, or because I didn't notice.
Plus I'll talk to some Jeans!  I was able to find three Jeans of assorted types - a Jean-Marie, a Jeannette, & a Bonnie Jeanne - & I'll ask them about their names, where they got them, what they think of them.  & since there are lots of film stars named Jean, our resident cinephile Chuck will talk about four of them.  That's in addition to all the songs!  & who knows what other Jean might show up?

Why do a show about the name Jean?  Wouldya believe I once wanted to be named Jean?  Because of Jean Grey of the X-Men?  You wouldn't believe that?  Well, good.  It's not true.  I had a hard enough time with the word "dick" in my last name; an ambiguously-gendered name would have been rougher still.  No, the reason I'm doing it is because I noticed lots of songs with the name Jean.  It's really as simple as that.  I thought, "I should do a show."  & now I will.

But then you tuned in & although you heard three Jean songs there weren't any after that!  What the fuck?  Why would I try again?

Hope springs eternal I guess.  Like I said last week, 

Jean's show is on tonight (or Tuesday morning if you prefer) on 90.7 fm KBOO, online at, from midnight to 3am.  You may think, does Jean really deserve three hours?  She does!  She really does.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Preface To Jean's Show, Again: Déjà Vu

According to Wikipedia, "Déjà vu is the feeling that one has lived through the present situation before. This is a French phrase that translates literally as 'already seen.' Although some interpret déjà vu in a paranormal context, mainstream scientific approaches reject the explanation of déjà vu as 'precognition' or 'prophecy.'"

Do you remember this scene in the Matrix?

<iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe>

(You can just watch the first minute.)

That's not how déjà vu works.  You don't see something & then think you've seen it again suddenly.  You get the feeling, which is almost certainly generated randomly by your brain, that you've experienced what you just experienced before.  It actually happened to me tonight, at the end of a movie I was watching.  I not only felt that I had seen the end credits before, it almost convinced me I had scene the entire movie before.  Which I couldn't have - it was just released this year.

It sometimes baffles people that your brain can replicate the feeling of having experienced something before.  But it happens in situations outside déjà vu.  Have you ever had a dream you were in a place that is utterly familiar to you but when you wake you realize you've never been there before?  It's not because there's some mystical connection - "I was there in a past life" - it's because your brain, in the dream, gives you the memory of feeling like you've been in the place before.  This happens to me all the time.  & it helps me experience other things in the dream - I don't spend time in the dream wondering where the hell I am because the dream makes me think I am in a place I've been before.  That's a feeling, like déjà vu.

But today was the opposite of déjà vu.  I spent the day in something like a mild panic because I would normally be working on my show today.  But the Dickenbock Report is done, & so is Self Help Radio.  I did spend some time today working on upcoming shows, but mostly I just felt a little lost.  I became a little addlepated at the evening's end, which made me think it might not be Sunday.  Is it Sunday?  It feels like Saturday.

One thing I hope is I don't experience déjà vu Tuesday morning, with my show turning off fifteen minutes in.  It will perhaps make me think that in fact I'm cursed.  That 2021 cursed me!