Social Media, 1991 Style

Keef
Keef

I love this picture. It is a glimpse into the mind of myself as a 19 year old. Sometimes I forget the phases I’ve gone through in my life. These pictures help me remember. This is a picture of one of the walls of my dorm in Prentice Hall at Kent State University during the winter of 1991. In this particular snapshot, you see Keith Richards on the right in the big poster. He’s got a cigarette hanging out of his mouth, a towel over his head and a shirt on that says “Who the fuck is Mick Jagger?” Classic Keith. I’ve never been a total Rolling Stones fanatic, but I have most certainly gone through phases. I was clearly in one of them here.

The three pictures on top of one another on the left are awesome. All of them are from Rolling Stone and the top two are pictures of people from the show Twin Peaks. Ah, Twin Peaks, how I loved you so much that first season. I specifically remembering how HOT all the ladies in that show were (except the pie lady). But it was Sherilyn Fenn who really knocked me out, the way she tied cherry stems in her mouth and all. Whew. We never saw enough of Sheryl Lee, either, who played Laura Palmer. Damn. The underrated Madchen Amick, too. Whew. It was an all-star lineup!

That’s Led Zeppelin in the third Rolling Stone picture.

Now, the pictures in the middle are personal shots. Best I can make out, there are three pictures of our family dog, Max, who was my favorite of all our pets growing up. One is from a summer party with some friends and the other two were taken by my friend Fernando Gonzalez (see post about Food World below) at Abbey Road in London.

Really fun to see these……posters were our social media back in 1991.

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Welcome To The Occupation

All Candy, Gum and Mints were 2 for $.75 cents!
All Candy, Gum and Mints were 2 for $.75 cents!

Here’s another delightful shot. This picture was taken at Food World in Clinton, MA, which is now a Shaw’s. This was my second job, circa 1986  (see earlier post here with details). I have a lot of stories from Food World, all of which are funny. It was a pretty good time in my life. I must have been a sophomore in high school and the collection of guys that worked there with me were all about my age and we were all about having fun. For some completely insane reason, they gave us the keys to the store and we actually opened it on Sunday mornings. However, we’d have to get there a few hours early to get everything ready for opening. Do you understand this? A collection of high school kids, 15-17 years old get to the store a few hours early and we’re the only ones there. Bedlam ensued each week. The Sunday morning shift was the shift to have. Among other things:

  • We had pallet jack races where you stand on a pallet jack and use it like a scooter, up and down the aisles. Yes, we’d crash into each other. On purpose.
  • Razor blade fights. How did someone not die or lose an eye? We would take new razor blades for cutting knives and literally flick them around and they would stick in stuff. We’d flick them at each other. Only one person ever had one stick in their flesh. That’s an amazingly low number.
  • Free food. Duh. The amount of “damages” that occured on Sunday mornings was significantly higher than other days, let’s just leave it at that.
  • Food World is where I also learned how to play pitch. I won’t go into details, but pitch is a card game that has never really left my side. I played it all through college and very heavily in the 1990’s with friends from the city. A lifelong friend.
  • Free music. For some dumb reason, Food World also sold cassette tapes. Are you serious? I was an emerging music fanatic and there was music there. And nobody around? It is where I discovered Husker Du and their awesome album covers (hey, the music was good too!). The Georgia Satellites……so many more.
  • Whip hits. Before they started putting plastic wrap over the whip cream cans, we’d go into the dairy cooler, pop the caps off and inhale the air before the cream came out. It was a stupid, quick high. All you really felt was goofy for about 10 seconds. A guy named Chris Smith, however, took it to another level when he popped about 10 cans right in a row and inhaled it all……and promptly fell over. No lie. Quite funny, although I did panic for about 5 seconds, thinking he was going to die.

Even when the full-timers were there, Food World was a fun place. The manager was Jim Struh’s, I don’t know how old he was but he wasn’t the right guy to be managing us idiots. A pushover to say the least. There was a funny/crazy lady there named Joan Zordan who always made me laugh. My aunt worked there (you can see her comments sprinkled through this blog). I met my longtime high school girlfriend there. It was just a great time.

This particular picture was taken by someone I met there who became a good friend of mine. His name was Fernando Gonzalez and his family left Cuba in the late 1950s to come to the USA. I think he was up in Massachusetts attending Atlantic Union College, but I am not sure. He was a terrific person who was an absolute Beatles fanatic, among other sixties music. He also taught me a lot about how other people (non-citizens) look at the U.S. He was a good friend and a good person. I don’t know where he is now. I had heard he moved back down to Miami to be with his family, but when you look up Fernando Gonzalez in the phone book in Miami, you’ll have a lot of calling to do before you get the right one. It would be amazing to see what he is up to.

Anyway, the picture. I am attempting to block the “No” in the sign, so that it says “Beer and wine purchases are allowed at this register due to Mass state law requirements.” Stupid, I know. The hair is vintage mid-’80s. I think I was probably trying to grow it like Michael Stipe. This was the early stages and it wasn’t good. The leather tie – again – 1980s, baby. Other than that, supermarkets haven’t really changed much since then, have they?

By the way, while I worked there it changed over to Shaw’s a guy named Ray Abramo came in to manage it – and that is where the fun totally ended. It was never the same after that guy came in and it’s probably for the better, after all the fun we inflicted on it.

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Random

  • So, I wasn’t terribly surprised to see that Crocs is on the verge of bankruptcy. The ubiquitous shoe, mostly found on children, reminded me a lot of jams, those now funny shorts that many of us wore in the 1980’s. Not because they were similar in style, but because they were similar in trajectory, i.e. quick, explosive growth, followed up by a year or two of blanketing the globe. Suddenly, though, the knock-offs start to emerge, the market is saturated and the shine slowly starts to wear off and suddenly stores find themselves with end-caps and end-caps of unsold inventory and nothing to do with them but drop the price or sell them off for pennies on the dollar to another retailer. It’s an oft-repeated phenomenon in the retail world. I never wore them and neither did my children, but I see their utility. I guess I may not be seeing them for long.
  • I’m reading Michael Pollan’s “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” and I must tell you, it’s one of the more compelling books I’ve read in some time. There is enlightenment, disgust and bewilderment and inspiration, all rolled up into one and presented in a nice little package here. It is, of course, a must read. That said, there are certain passages where I kind of wish I’d never started reading it because now when I eat certain foods, I’ll feel guilty or irresponsible for contributing to horrific business of food. I hope it becomes easier for everyone to understand food soon.
  • I’m also reading Tom Brokaw’s book about the 1960s, called “Boom!” This is a less of a book, I suppose, and more like a collection of interviews and remembrances from the people who were there. Much like “The Greatest Generation,” Brokaw’s profiles in “Boom!” range from the very well-known (Judy Collins, Dick Cheney, many others) down to some everyday people like us. It’s light-to-medium reading and a good summer book.
  • Today happens to be my 5th anniversary with Stephanie. All the old cliches about time moving so quickly are true. We met for real at the tail end of 1999 (we really met in the early fall of 1985) and while so much has changed in the ten years (hi kiddos!) we’ve been connected, another old cliche applies here – she has unequivocally and consistently made me a better person.
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Going To California With An Aching In My Heart

As much as I love California (see post below), I totally hate it right now. I am here because yesterday at work I  had to do something that I hoped I would never ever have to do – let someone go. I don’t think I have ever been as anxious and nervous in my life as I was yesterday. I won’t – and can’t –  comment on the why’s, but I can say that all the things you read about doing these things are true – it is indeed a very painful thing to have to do. Because when it comes right down to it, we are all human. We are all trying to make our way in the world. A lot of us are trying to find our true calling, doing our best and living our lives. I’ve done this before, but not on this level. And it hurts. To be the one who has to deliver the news and let someone know a source of income and stability is gone? That hurts. I do not do the “ruthless, steely-eyed” thing well at all, because simply said, it is not who I am. Those who know me, know that. On a human level, it leaves a scar. And like many scars, it will heal a little bit but it will also leave a permanent mark.

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He Runs, Wishing He Could Fly

jeff-ca-blogThis picture isn’t funny or terribly notable, but when I saw it in the photo album, it brought me back a little and reminded me of a couple of things. This is my second trip to California, my first had been in 1984 when I was just short of 13 years old. I loved it then, I loved it in this picture and I love it now. In this picture, I had just turned 23, was out in California visiting my cousin Cindy and interviewing for a job at the place she worked, a video production and local cable TV advertising firm called Bay Cable Advertising. I knew right when I walked in that I didn’t want to work there, but you need to make lemonade out of lemons, so I just thought I’d practice my interview skills. After my interview, I actually ended up in a Japanese chocolate bar commercial they were shooting. No kidding! Man, I’d love to have a copy of that now.

Anyway, I think back from time to time on what would have happened in my life had I moved to California straight out of college. Where my life would be. Where I would be living and who I’d be living it with. You obviously can’t obsess over such things – the past is the past. But I believe it’s a good practice to think back to all the decisions I’ve made and the paths I’ve taken and consider the choices I’ve made. As it turns out, other than the four years of college in Kent, Ohio, I’ve never lived anywhere except for Massachusetts. I am completely, totally fine with that. At that time, a job at Bay Cable Advertising wouldn’t have been enough to take me 3,000 miles away from family. I just couldn’t accept only seeing them on Christmas every year or whatever. Couldn’t do it.

A few years later, I went down to NYC to interview at Razor & Tie, a boutique record label in the big city. I loved the office, had a lot of respect for the person I would have been working for and would have taken the job and moved. But I didn’t get the job. What would I be doing now if I lived in NYC?

Not long after that, during the Tar Hut years, I gave serious consideration to moving down to Nashville. We had just landed a national distribution deal with Warner Bros/ADA through Steve Earle’s E-Squared label, based in Nashville and I wanted to be there so I could work with them in person and make noise. Be the squeaky wheel. Again, I wouldn’t have loved moving to Nashville, but I would have done just about anything for the label to succeed. What would I be doing now if I still lived in Nashville?

It wasn’t much later that I actually started looking for places to live in Northampton and Amherst, MA. This was towards the end of the Tar Hut days. I knew the end was coming for the label and that bummed me out terribly. A relationship had just fallen apart and it hit me pretty hard. It very well may have been a low point in my life. Where would I be today if I lived out there? That’s obviously less dramatic than a move to Nashville, NYC or California, but still, the smallest decisions can mean so much later.

As it turns out, I re-connected with my now wife a few months later and, well, there you have it. We’re closing in on ten years together, five under the vows of marriage. I now cannot even imagine my life without her or the boys. So I have no huge regrets. It’s interesting to think about the paths you’ve chosen.

And that’s what this picture made me think about. A 23 year old kid with virtually all roads open. And much like the picture, it’s pretty much a blank slate – an empty background, full of blue sky and wonder……

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