Saturday, January 23, 2021

Photographs Of Places I've Lived # 19: Southbend Dr

(image from Google Maps.)

At some point in the fall of 2010, my wife began looking for houses to buy.  She did it without telling me that's what she was doing, because we had agreed to stay in the rental for a couple of years before looking.  What if we didn't like Lexington?  What if she was offered or found a job somewhere else?  She didn't tell me because she didn't want to argue with me & also because it was her money anyway.

She took me to this house & I was unimpressed.  She didn't care.  To this day she will ask me as a courtesy about what I think about things but I know it doesn't matter.  The house seemed cluttered inside, but she had a vision.  She knocked the walls out of the dining room so you walked into a spacious living space.  It had a small sun room in the back that the animals loved.  It was a bit too big - four bedrooms & two + 1/2 baths.  The half bath is where we kept the litter box.  The rooms were basically for storage, except the guest room which was sometime used.  But we had very few guests in Kentucky.  It's not a destination many people come to, & we discovered that the folks we thought were our friends didn't really like us enough to come visit us.

It was a gorgeous place, & I loved living there.  The house, I mean.  I met some wonderful folks in Lexington & I came to think the radio station, WRFL, was a sacred space.  I worked very hard to make RFL more accessible to students & also to community members.  I was able to help change the music department there & also helped with some policies.  & I loved doing Self Help Radio at that station.

But I kept saying to myself, "I don't want to die in Kentucky."  My wife & I often think if we'd ended up in Louisville or in Cincinnati, we might have stayed in that part of the world.  But Lexington was a bit too circumscribed for us.  It wasn't a dying small town like Huntington was, & it was a college town, which is always a good thing.  But as I looked for pictures of the house on my computer - it seems I never took a picture of the front of the place I lived, as I couldn't find one - I was reminded of how tiny my life was.  We still had to drive to Louisville or Cincinnati or Columbus to see most touring bands - they simply didn't find their way to Lexington.  There wasn't a vegetarian restaurant when we lived there, & no Ethiopian cuisine either.  We made do, though.  I was already learning to cook.  & our semi-regular trips to the Costco in Louisville (forty-five minutes to the west) ended when Costco opened in town.

My dog George died in that house.  (You can read my tribute to him here on this blog.)  We adopted Pauline the day after George died, & she grew up in this house.  (Here's a post where you can see a video of her playing in our backyard with Winston - when she was smaller than him.)  We adopted our sweet cat Boone when we lived here - in the neighborhood.  (That story is on the blog too.)  My sister Pat died while we lived in Lexington, & we brought home her dog Yoko to join our pack.  (I wrote about my sister & adopting Yoko also on this blog.)  There was a point where it was me, my wife, four dogs, & four cats.  & the house was big enough.  We joked about adopting more, but we both knew we weren't going to be in Kentucky forever.

Man, I miss that house.  It would turn out to be only my third favorite house - so far - & it suffered from being a bit too big - & also from being in Kentucky.  That house here in Portland would still be kind of big - but also just fine.

Not the yard though.  Holy shit not that yard.  It took me two days to mow that fucker.  God I hated that yard.  I loved it because the dogs loved it but I hated it when I mowed it.  How fortunate the Google mappers took their picture when it was freshly mowed!

The day we left, in August 2016, I remember having a look around from the front door, then closing & locking that door for the last time.  I didn't feel too terribly sad.  I believe we lived there for a little over five years, which is either tied for the longest I've ever lived in a place, or is actually the longest.  It was a good house.  We had great neighbors.  I loved living there, I really did.  But I'm very glad I'm not still living there.

Such feelings, so complicated & contradictory.

Friday, January 22, 2021

The Films Of 1985 (Chuck Style)

Hey!  In case you were listening to this past week's Self Help Radio (it was the favorites of 1985 show), but didn't really understand why in the middle of each set there was a sample from a movie & a fellow talking about that movie, it's because that was the show's resident cinephile Chuck talking about his favorite films of 1985.  Ya silly.

But you say it went by too fast!  & you wanted to learn more about those movies!  Like - what were the movies?

They were: Brazil, Day Of The Dead, Re-Animator, The Return Of The Living Dead, Static, Better Off Dead, The Goonies, & Pee-wee's Big Adventure.

How can I find out more about the movies + others from 1985?  There are several ways to do so:

Check out Chuck's Twitter feed!
Watch full movies from 1985 on YouTube!
You can also watch trailers for 1985 movies on YouTube!
There are movies from 1985 on IMDb TV!
& finally here are Chuck's movies on Letterboxd tagged for the show!

Okay then.  We'll be returning to 1985 in the summer, so maybe you can take the time to get up to speed.  Ya silly.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Self Help Radio 011921: 1985

(All images from Discogs.)

Here it is.  The seventeenth (!) installment of the show I do on my birthday week.  Lots of music from 1985 that I love dearly.  Whenever I do one of these shows, I think to myself, "I bet I could do a radio show for an entire year just focused on one particular year, & it wouldn't exhaust the great stuff released then."  This becomes more apparent as I get to the years when I was actively looking for & acquiring new music - something I've been doing since 1985, basically.  Which is why I am going to continue with 1985 in six months.  There is so much more to share!

Much thanks to our resident cinephile Chuck who took the time to share with us his favorite eight films from 1985.  His commentary is spread throughout the show.  The rest is me talking & lots of music.

Listen now at the Self Help Radio website.  Remember you'll need a username & a password, which are SHR & selfhelpradio.  What I played is below.  Feel free to share your favorites of the year!

Self Help Radio 1985 Show
"When The Going Is Smooth & Good" William Onyeabor _Anything You Sow_
"The World Turned Upside Down" Billy Bragg _Between The Wars_
"The People's Limousine" The Coward Brothers _The People's Limousine_

"I Want The One I Can't Have" The Smiths _Meat Is Murder_
"Go Out & Get 'Em, Boy!" The Wedding Present _Go Out & Get 'Em Boy!_
"Well Well Well" The Woodentops _Well Well Well_
"Hounds Of Love" Kate Bush _Hounds Of Love_
"Primitive Painters" Felt _Ignite The Seven Cannons & Set Sail For The Sun_

"Spoilt Victorian Child" The Fall _This Nation's Saving Grace_
"Edie" The Adult Net _Edie_
"Throne Of Agony" Scraping Foetus Off The Wheel _Nail_
"My Wife & My Dead Wife (Live)" Robyn Hitchcock & The Egyptians _Gotta Let This Hen Out!_
"The UFO Man" Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers _Rockin' & Romance_

"In Between Days" The Cure _The Head On The Door_
"Bring On The Dancing Horses" Echo & The Bunnymen _Songs To Learn & Sing_
"Never Surrender" Chin-Chin _Sound Of The Westway_
"Dirty Old Town" The Pogues _Rum Sodomy & The Lash_
"Downtown Train" Tom Waits _Rain Dogs_

"Malaria" Shriekback _Oil & Gold_
"Singing Rule Britannia (While The Walls Close In)" The Chameleons _What Does Anything Mean? Basically_
"Melonella" Cocteau Twins _Echoes In A Shallow Bay_
"Death Valley '69" Sonic Youth _Bad Moon Rising_
"Books About UFOs" Hüsker Dü _New Day Rising_

"Fish (Doghouse Version)" Throwing Muses _In A Doghouse_
"Why I Love Country Music" Lloyd Cole & The Commotions _Easy Pieces_
"All Fall Down" Primal Scream _All Fall Down_
"I'm Alright With You" The Pastels _I'm Alright With You_
"Haunted When The Minutes Drag" Love & Rockets _Seventh Dream Of Teenage Heaven_

"The Hardest Walk" The Jesus & Mary Chain _Psychocandy_
"Hollow Eyes" Red Lorry Yellow Lorry _Talk About The Weather_
"Avatar" Dead Can Dance _Spleen & Ideal_
"Life In A Northern Town" The Dream Academy _The Dream Academy_
"Stay Up Late" Talking Heads _Little Creatures_

"The Bottom Line" Big Audio Dynamite _This Is Big Audio Dynamite_
"The Whole Of The Moon" The Waterboys _This Is The Sea_

Monday, January 18, 2021

Whither 1985?

(image from here)

This is something I do every year: during my birthday week, I play songs from a year in the past.  & not just any year!  I started in 2003 (the first time my birthday rolled around during the show) with 1968, the year of my birth, & have gone up a year every year since then.  I have made it to 1985.  Which was (in my opinion) an amazing year for music.

Using the Rate Your Music website, I have gone through thousands of albums, singles, & EPs released that year.  I made long lists & spent the last week re-listening to many of those records to re-familiarize myself with them, to see if I still loved them as much as I once did (almost always the answer was hell yes), to decide what I might play on the show.  & a couple of things became obvious: one, there are too many songs to fit even a three-hour show; & two, I listened to a lot of musicians who were white & male.  Of course I did!  I was a lonely young white kid in a miserable suburb of Dallas in 1985.  I was naturally going to be drawn to songs designed for lonely white kids.

My half-assed solution is that I plan to revisit 1985 in six months.  The next show might not be my absolute top favorites, but certainly I think I can include great music I've discovered since my youth that is not quite as white & male as the stuff you'll hear tonight.

Tonight!  At midnight!  On 90.7 KBOO!  Online at!  Listen to the soundtrack of Gary's seventeenth year on the planet.  Sort of.  A lot of the music I would discover later.  But some of it I was actually listening to in 1985.  & like I said: I think it was a great year for music.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Preface To 1985: How Was My 17th Year?

So in 1985, I finished my eleventh grade year & I began my twelfth grade year.  I worked in the summer, I had a friend with whom I mostly hung out, I listened to a lot of music, & I read lots of books, comics, & whatever I could get my hands on.  I had virtually no idea about the future.  I hadn't thought about college - I had a sense I would be going, but hadn't made any plans.  No one at school talked to me or asked me about it - I don't think I ever spoke to a guidance counselor after ninth grade.  My family couldn't talk to me about it because none of them had any experience with college.  I feel like I lived in the moment almost by default, but I certainly wasn't seizing the day.  I was just kind of existing.  School, part-time job, fast food, sleep.  Every day.

The songs that I loved were all about love but I was very awkward around girls.  There was one person, a young lady named Cynthia, to whom I wrote notes constantly, & she wrote back, but mainly because she was friendly.  I don't think I found her attractive, & I don't think I really wanted to kiss her or anything, I simply wanted practice.  It was obvious she didn't want anything like that from me.  She laughed at most everything I said, mainly because she was very religious & very conservative, & I could say basic mainstream things & be outrageous.  I remember one time she asked me if I had a bible, & I said, "Sure.  It's in the fiction section of my library."  She found that funny & horrifying at the same time.

A class that became important to me was AP History.  The teacher tended to cultivate personal relationships with his students - not in a weird way - he thought of himself as a mentor - & he was also the faculty sponsor for the Whiz Quiz high school team I was on.  He would encourage us to keep our things in his room, so most of twelfth grade I didn't really use my locker.  I guess I thought it was some kind of status, & I took to coming to school before 7:30am to avoid the teachers who wouldn't let students wander the halls before class - they would make the students gather outside closed doors before 8am, & let them in like for a concert, a concert no one wanted to go to.  I could sit in the hall before the teacher arrived.  & then sit in his classroom before first period.  A couple of other students did it too, & we became friends of a sort.  I suppose I thought we'd be friends longer, but we mostly lost touch after high school.

It was in AP History that I first fell in love for reals.  Her name was Laura - it probably still is, but I of course haven't seen her in decades.  I actually asked her out once, I took her to see a play, but she thought of it as a "just friends" thing.  My heart was quite broken after I dropped her off.  I went to where my friend worked at the Mobil gas station & just slept in my car, more depressed & forlorn than I had ever felt.  I simply had no idea what the right thing to do was, how to go about it, or even how to read basic signs.  I suppose she thought I was nice.  From my current vantage point at the precipice of 53 years, I don't know where I got the courage or bravery to even try.

Most of my high school stories are not fun stories.  I might have been a bit arrogant - I was the asshole in the class who got the perfect score on the test & ruined the curve.  I certainly felt superior to everyone despite being secretly envious.  Why them & not me?  I read books about looking inward but never quite examined myself.  My mother had this way of making you do things with her moods & with strange, awkward compliments which I think she learned from her mother.  I too would toss in words of self-pity, unthinkingly, as a learned behavior, which for the first time people called me out for doing.  One high school friend didn't talk to me for months because she felt I was somehow manipulating her.  My lack of self-awareness made me think she was in the wrong, not me.

But I don't necessarily think of my seventeenth year as a dark time.  I was surrounding myself with things I loved, I was seeing more movies, I was reading lots, I was finding new music.  I was finding out what I liked, something that really takes a while, & needs cultivating.  The person with whom I spent the most time, my "best friend," would have gladly been anywhere else if someone else had only asked, but we did drive around Dallas listening to music, going to record stores & book stores, sometimes well into the night.  I came to know the city better.

The truth is, it was neither as hard as I thought it was, nor as easy.  I was woefully ill-equipped for looming adulthood, & I had no one to help me, & would have rejected anyone's help if it had been offered.  My lessons were in the works of creation I loved.  & I tried to join in: I actually wrote a book in that year.  (It wasn't that long, maybe 200 handwritten pages.)  I remember almost nothing about it, & it's in a box somewhere, but I wrote it in pencil, so it's almost certainly faded.  I do recall I was very proud of myself, & the friend I mentioned above, the one who called me manipulative, she asked to read it.  My "best friend" never offered to.

& she read it!  When she handed it back to me, I remember this as if I were there at this moment, & I asked, "What did you think?"  She looked kind of puzzled & said, "It's terrible, isn't it?"  As if that were something I already knew.

My reaction was swift.  I took it back from her, I stormed away, & I honestly never looked at it again.  It seems I was not going to be good at taking any kind of criticism for my writing in my life.

Though that really happened, it also feels like a metaphor for the person I was at seventeen.  Confident enough to take the time to write a novel, but unable to have a friend dislike it, & willing to just reject it outright once the slightest negativity came my way.  How many other things did I abandon & give up when there were signs it wouldn't be celebrated & embraced immediately?