Category Archives: West Seneca

I think I thought I found her. I think.

My idée fixe.

I was planning on returning to the ol’ Winch this summer, and naturally, my thoughts turned to a girl who is married with two possibly adult children, who hasn’t seen me in 35 years, and truthfully, forgot who I was last time I called her at her home to point out that it was our mutual birthday. For me it was an important yearly ritual.

So one of those alumni keeper-tracker thingies online had her email address, or maybe AN email address. Maybe an old one. Maybe a very old one.

So I sent her an email linking to my blog page.  Let’s see what happens!

I have been listening to old Aerosmith lately. They were a ferocious band, and I really think their first 5 albums are as good as anything of that time in that genre. Especially “Rocks”, their 1976 album. Joe Perry is underrated, but it seems like after all the rehab and politicking, they basically gave the reins to Steven Tyler entirely for their reunion. All the hired guns co-writing their stuff,  virtually NO collaborations from Brad Whitford, Tom Hamilton or Joey Kramer. But boy, those first few records really get under my skin in a good way. Melody, lyrics and that hard-charging rhythm section turn it on on every track. My favorite Aerosmith song is “Nobody’s Fault”, but every song on those records offers up something. Swagger that’s genuine. There’s nothing worse to my ears than the fake swagger of their offerings since 1980. Maybe they should go back on drugs. That Burger King commercial Tyler is in makes me sick.

If they had stopped after the first big break-up, that would have been ok with me. Kinda like my first band, Leo. Paul and I were just as polarized as Perry/Tyler, but we lived just down the street, Paul’s drums were made of plastic, and my guitar never recovered from that missing volume knob.

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“You Shook Me All Night Long” deciphered. For you.

She was a fast machine
She kept her motor clean
She was the best damn woman I had ever seen
She had the sightless eyes
Telling me no lies
Knockin’ me out with those American thighs
Taking more than her share
Had me fighting for air
She told me to come but I was already there
‘Cause the walls start shaking
The earth was quaking
My mind was aching
And we were making it and you –

CHORUS:

Shook me all night long
Yeah you shook me all night long

etc. etc.

The first time it struck me, I was at the Club Diamond Dust in Cheektowaga with one of my college professors. We were watching the gals, some pretty, some not. One of them had a cowboy outfit on, and danced to the song in question. As the music played and her gyrations wound down into a desperate, sweaty denouement, I wondered aloud to whom the singer was singing his song.  Was it “She”? Or was it “You”?

As the girl, blonde and about 30, negotiated the steep stairs with her glittered heels, her belt-buckle enshrined in a crumpled dollar-bill frame of sorts, I approached her, more or less on a dare from the professor, who shall go nameless. Brian was his name.

“Hey. I loved your act.”

“Thanks sweetie! Do you want a dance all to yourself?”

“No thanks. But I was wondering if you ever, you know, thought about….the context.”

“Huh?” (at this point the next horse-faced woman took to the stage, gyrating to “All The Girls I’ve Loved Before” in some tuxedo-esque monstrosity.)

“The context. WHO shook you all night long? ‘She’ or ‘You’? Did you ever think about that?”

“……………………………………………………………………………………………….so no dance?”

Brian was convulsing in paroxysms of laughter as I sheepishly crouched my way back to my seat. No help there.

Then this happened recently:

http://abclocal.go.com/wtvd/story?section=news/local&id=8514693

RALEIGH (WTVD) — A Selma man is charged with intentional child abuse after allegedly shaking his 5-month-old baby hard enough to cause injury to the child’s brain.

Twenty-eight-year-old Christopher Scott Childers, of 216 E. Lenoir Street, was arrested Saturday and is being held in the Wake County Jail under a $30,000 bond.

Childers was due in court Monday to face the felony charge.

And it made sense. All at once.

He’s singing to his biological mother, the woman who had to give up her child when it was discovered by social workers that she had, indeed, shaken her child all night long. So now he’s telling her about an unfortunate recent sexual encounter he had with what turned out to be his great-aunt, a woman 30 years his senior, whom he had not met previously, but chanced upon at a local church fete. He felt shame and bewilderment upon discovering this fact, but he was drunk at the time, and he was slightly retarded as well. He blamed his mother, justifiably, for this.

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I know Nancy doesn’t remember, but I do.

We were living in West Seneca, and I followed Nancy’s lead for the only time in my life that I can remember. The era of the CB radio. I took a few tentative steps but Nancy was all-in as I recall. And she used to go to these parties called “breaks”.  If you were around Aurora Avenue in the mid to late 70’s, everyone in the neighborhood was immersed in the culture on one level or another. I won’t go into too much detail here, except to say it was a great way to meet young people outside of your immediate vicinity.

One of those people was Kathy. She lived on Boynton Street off Clinton. She and her friends met me at what was then the Valu Cinema on Clinton and S Rossler Ave. I think that’s what it was called. I would go there to meet all these nice people, but I really went to see Kathy, her sweet face reminding me of Meredith Baxter-Birney. Her cabal of pals seemed innocuous enough, but it was nice to be with her. I rode my bike to her house a few times. I remember that. Being at her front door. Calling her now and then to see what the gang was doing.

Nancy and I rarely occupied the same space, even living in the same house. As you know, I would go to school, get picked on mercilessly, come home, play my Beatles records with my headphones on, and read liner notes like they were scripture. Then to bed. However, for some reason, Nancy and I attended the same “break” once. This once. And Kathy was there! How did Nancy know Kathy? Anyhow, sitting next to Kathy was a very beautiful, thin, blonde fellow, terribly nice. Dave? Rob?

I remember trying really hard to make Kathy laugh. Doing my “routine” as it were. She seemed to be enjoying it. Still, something wasn’t right. There was some sort of silent….understanding…for lack of a better word, between her and Dave. As if, instinctively, it was known or to be known, that the two were together. An undeclared energy that they gave off. Do you know what I’m talking about? They couldn’t have been older than 12 or 13. 14 tops.

I dropped my fork.  I leaned down to pick it up. I made the mistake of looking up for a second. And it looked exactly like this:

Well, that broke my heart. And it was the last time I saw any of them.

I tell you this story because I remember the song that was playing on the jukebox at that moment, and every time I hear it, I think of Kathy and Dave and wonder if they stayed together or if he turned out to be an asshole and if she dropped him. Then maybe she went on a wild, frenzied search for my phone number to rekindle our young, sweet, unfulfilled love, only to live out her days in regret and eternal celibacy. Her dry, dry cooter a constant reminder of the genuine needy love she could have had with the kid with the plaid pants.

The song was this, and it came up on the Pandora just now, which is why I’m really, really sad all the sudden. I’ll get over it.

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Say, fellows, that Jordan River, well, it’s chilly and, er…cold.

The kids were watching something really shrill on the ol’ DVR. I asked them what it was and they responded “Fred – The Movie”. I encourage them to give everything a chance at least once, as long as it doesn’t hurt ’em. But this movie was as devoid of whimsy, space, irony, humor, pathos, everything. It was awful. Horrible.

I searched for some info regarding this abomination. And found a review from Mark Kermode, a critic for the BBC, who compared the experience to sitting through another painful cinematic experience, apparently, “A Serbian Film”. So of course I needed to read more about THAT film, and I’m sorry I did. Here’s the Wikipedia article about it. I warn you, it’s fucking vile.

But if you must….

So as I understand it, after having read further, it may be that the film is an allegorical commentary on the Serbian tragedy of the past few years. It doesn’t matter. But whenever I hear of anything having to do with Serbia or Macedonia, my thoughts turn to Debbie. It doesn’t matter. Serbian folk music. Debbie. Macedonian Squirrel Cookies. Debbie. Yugo (the car). Debbie. When someone says “You Go Girl” at the doctor’s office. Bosnian Monkey Chunkers. Debbie.

See, Debbie and I met during my senior year in high school. We were at an All-County Chorus festival (ahem, only the best of the best). And some of the fellas were auditioning for solo parts in one of the songs we were singing, “Every Time I Feel The Spirit”, that negro spiritual that we West Seneca kids were so familiar with. “Dat Jordan River, it chilly and cold, it chill de body, but not de soul…” Hey, I could relate. Anyhow, I gave it my best shot, and they picked a couple other guys, and that was that.

Then, during break, the prettiest girl I had ever seen got my attention and sweetly, earnestly, somewhat sardonically opined, and I quote, “Don’t let this go to your head, but I thought you were the best one…” and her name was Debbie. And it still is.

It was nice talking to Debbie, but while we talked, coincidentally, one of the majordomos in the hierarchy of choral fame tapped me on the shoulder and informed me that I would, in fact, be one of the soloists! What a moment! I mean, the other soloist would be a genuine descendent of a former slave, but maybe they were making their own ironic statement by forcing the audience to process the sight of a black fellow and me, the Caucasian-iest of the Caucasians, in a battle for the choral ages, perhaps an ersatz re-enactment of the civil rights struggles of the 60’s. Or we were just the two best singers. It didn’t matter. It mattered that Debbie was there to witness all of it.”Don’t let this go to your head..”? How could it not??

I remember getting her phone number in the parking lot as the buses pulled away for the final time, and looking forward to breaking the “wait-a-day” rule. And we made a date to meet at Sambo’s on Union Road. According to my scorecard, it was, in fact, a date. I remember being really nervous, and I remember being crushed when she told me she would only consider marrying a guy of Macedonian origin. I guess I knew it was too good to be true, but still, it was nice to think, for a moment, that trapped beneath the boozy haze of my white-trash upbringing, someone as sweet as she could see my talent. That meant everything. And it still does. And we sorta lost touch after that.

So years later, our paths crossed again in college. She and I were both pursuing degrees in Broadcasting. Seeing her every other day was so nice, even though I believe she was dating someone else. A great thing about Debbie you should know: She liked my poetry. All those strange, intentionally off-putting poems and stories that all my old friends back in Buffalo know me for were written with Debbie in mind. Not about her, but to show to her and make her laugh. Once I knew she was a captive audience (we were in a classroom, where could she go?) I couldn’t be stopped. The night before seeing her, I worked for $3.10/hr. in the gym locker room, making sure nothing got stolen. I was terrible at my job, but I learned to pick locks.

I won’t post them all here, but I do have some pieces of paper still floating around with my deviant scribbles. Things like:

Roses are red, violets are blue, hot feathered smell-hole, I’ve got a Jew. 

I saw that she was working at a local college and I sought her out unsuccessfully for a few years, but when I found her on the Facebook, it was good to see her smile again. She had changed but she was still doing what she loved, out there singing, dancing, and still, through it all, I could still see the sunshine in her soul. I won’t say more about my friend Debbie except to say that I think about her at unexpected times, and she might not think about me, and that’s ok, because she probably never knew what she gave to me. A beautiful, wonderful stranger came to me and said something nice when I needed to hear it. For that, no matter how far we drift, I will never forget Debbie.

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Heit. Heit. HEIT!!!!

This guitar cost $35 new. The coke residue in this guy’s wrist hair is worth more.

It’s not really memory lane. More like “memory alley” or “memory space between buildings you think is a walkway but isn’t”.

One day my mother put an ad in the Penny Saver trying to sell my Heit guitar. The one I bought at Brand Names. No, I think what happened was that a dude put an ad in the Penny Saver LOOKING for Heit Guitars. He was a collector, he said when he came to our house to investigate mine. We believed that someone who collected them should pay more. Someone who valued something I did not value but merely possessed should be punished. I know I wasn’t the only one who felt this. When my band-mate Joe was throwing out a flood light (blue), I said I’d take it. He, without missing a beat: “Five dollars?”

So this bookish fellow come into our house and examines my Heit. See, it was a classic because it was a. used, b. missing a volume knob, and c. missing a tuning peg that needed to be turned with pliers. I was not smart enough to know that “music stores” “sold” “parts” to “guitars”. I thought  was stuck, and that was that. Kind of like when the gas cap to my 1989 Chevy Spectrum rolled off the top and onto the I90 because gas caps (I heard from a guy on the street who claimed to be Paul McCartney’s OTHER Uncle) cost $100-$200. So I never replaced it, and that’s how the Dry Gas companies stayed in business those years.

“How much you want for it?”

I was about to say what I paid for it when mom “shhhh”-ed me and offered up “$100”.

He just look at her with the saddest expression. Like the girl who watched the girl who interviewed Karl Childers. And he shook his head and walked out. No sale. My mother muttered “He’ll be back…” and sauntered off to silently extract a bottle of Old Mr. Boston from its Biriulkian cluster in the hopes that her dejected son didn’t hear the muted clunking under all those week-old hamper-fermented clothes. But alas, he did.

I had heard that Strats and Les Pauls increased in value as the years went on, but you almost never saw Jimmy Page with a pair of pliers on stage. “clk…….clk……clk clk…….thum….thummmm…….clk clk…….(still flat)….thummm……”

All the fun ends tonight. A street is a strip of land adjoining buildings in an urban context, where people may reside, assemble and interact. A road is a strip of land connecting two or more destinations over which people and goods are transported. When a road passes through an urban area it may also serve as a street.

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Farmer’s Market brings back memories of the Winch.

We went to the Farmer’s Market this morning. It was cold and rainy. Bought a Spicy Sausage Quiche (Also my stripper name back in the day. Ironic.)

Brought it home. Dove in. It was delicious.

Then it occurred to me that perhaps the Quiche contained sour cream. The mere thought made me not want any more. I left some for the cats. There’s a good 60% of a Quiche that others may have for lunch.

I can’t eat sour cream, cream cheese, mayonnaise, blue cheese, whipped cream, Ranch dressing, Russian dressing, French dressing or cheesecake. It’s odd, and I don’t know where it comes from. I was thinking that maybe it came from our Winchester initiation ritual. I’ll explain.

When kids graduated 9th grade, they were now going to move on to the senior high school. And everyone knew that this was going to happen. And all summer, at any time, on any day, a small group of provocateurs would organize the other kids in the neighborhood to execute the dreaded initiation. How did it start? Who was responsible? How long had this been happening? Did it happen in other ‘hoods? I didn’t know and I still don’t.I think it might have been just the boys.

When the day came, however, you knew in short order. You were tricked into either a tent or an alley or a garage. One of the ring-leaders would concoct an amalgam of unnatural liquid and solid combinations. Say, mayonnaise, gravy, raw eggs, pickle brine, etc.etc. ahead of time. It would be dumped on your person in a most forceful, unpleasant manner. And that was…it. You would slink off to the nearest hose and wash yourself off and then live another day. I know it happened to me in the tent on the Pulaski property. It was Ron Storrs, his brother Bob, a Koeppel or two. Honestly I think this might have been the deepest they had ever gone into civic planning in their lives. Had they used that initiative to cure cancer or stop country music’s popularity in the early 90’s, this world might whisper their names in a different tone.

But that’s the only reason I can fathom as to why the sight of a mayonnaise jar or a sour cream container makes me wretch.

I wish I could afford therapy.

Cassette tapes, 8-track tapes, etc. Part 1.

Firstly, let me just say the words you are longing to hear in these troubled times: Donny and Marie sing “Johnny B Goode” but instead, it’s “Ronnie B Goode” as in Ronald Reagan, as in the 1981 Inauguration ceremony. If your soul isn’t dead already, let me do it for ya.

 

About 25 miles from West Seneca to Attica.

No one else in my department came to work today. everyone is afraid of traversing the slippery roads, but I, ever brave and true and dedicated to the company that will be spitting me out unceremoniously in a few days (unless “Can we have our access card?” is ceremony to you) am imbued with a withering Protestant work ethic. So here I am, writing in my blog. Casey says that blogs are a 2008 thing. But I know you can’t live without my thoughts on various nonsense so here again am I.  (cue harmonica music)

When I was 7 years old, the Attica Prison Riots occurred. I had no idea what that meant. However, shortly thereafter, my mother had in her possession a book (paperback) that detailed the entire unpleasantness. With pictures. Men being lined up naked, processions, even lines marching back to law and order. And it shocked me. I had never seen a naked male form before, much less dozens, shackled, emasculated, tamed.

So I naturally put our new 8-track living room console stereo with attendant low impedance microphone to good work by constructing a little free-form rap about it. I still remember it, too. I kept going until the track ran out. CHUCK-UNGGG! Let’s see. Imagine a 7-8 year old uttering the following in a living room somewhere in the poor part of West Seneca, New York. This is non-sense, I know, but it is what I said. All of it is [sic].

“…So we got a Attica book, and it showed a man’s DINK. That is not in the question, so when we got our record, then we go’ed it down. We used to think that we were great, even though we didn’t play our instruments at they…we used to…” CHUCK-UNGGG!

This was a hell of a thing, this 8-track console stereo. I’ve never seen one like it. You COULD record right off the turntable onto the 8-track. But I used it to record my own ramblings. Though you couldn’t play it back right away, the fidelity was much better than a cassette tape because the speed of the tape itself was faster, therefore less information per inch of tape. The same applies to audio recorded onto a VHS tape. Higher speed means better fidelity.  Usually.

The rotten part is that there’s no “rewind” button, so, since the blank tapes were usually 60 minutes long, you’d have to wait 15 or so minutes to hear what you just did. So when Paul and I started “Leo” when I was 11 and he was 12, we used cassette tape after cassette tape, recording anything and everything we did together. Writing songs, talking, passing the tapes back and forth between us. An economic anthropology. Labeling them, titling them like albums. “Leo VIII”, “Leo ’77” (an EP), “Sparks”, “We’re Comin’ For Ya”, etc.etc.

So copious was our archive in such a short time that one could literally spend hours on the floor, on your stomach, arms crossed in front of you for support, pressing rewind, fast-forward, or play and fast-forward at the same time, thereby enabling you to hear, in chipmunk voices, the next “incident” or stray recording on the cassette. Many MANY a night did I spend thusly. When we met Dan, that didn’t help. You could tell we all did the same thing. Little sentences here, a lyric there, maybe a riff or an attempt to flesh out an idea. There must have been hundreds of these tapes floating around at one time or another. Each sacred in its own way.

And here it is, 35 years later, and of all the tapes Paul and I did, I have one.

More later.

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