While you weren’t looking, everyone else got old

This excellent performance of Bowie’s “Five Years” by the Cowboy Junkies is worth your time.

But if you haven’t seen them in a long while, you may — as I was — be taken aback by Margo’s white hair. You shouldn’t; Timmons was born in 1961, just like plenty of the musical idols of our shared youth (I mean, she’s younger than all the members of R.E.M., for example).

The Trinity Session is, of course, over 30 years old now.

And then there’s this: Have you looked in the mirror lately? Odds are, you’re getting older, too.

Things Nobody Remembers But Me

Everybody remembers the juggernaut that NBC’s long-running ER was, but NOT everyone remembers the short-lived sitcom by the same name from the mid-1980s (don’t click these yet).

What’s fun about this is that George Clooney had roles in both of them. Obviously it’s his turn in the later show as Doug Ross that made him GEORGE CLOONEY; in the sitcom, he was a mere (recurring! not regular cast!) ER tech (which makes sense – he was only 23 at the time).

The question I put to you, anonymous reader, is this: What other famous actor appeared in multiple episodes of both ERs?

(The Wikipedia link for the 80s show gives it away, so think hard before clicking.)

Today in Pop Will Eat Itself

Ric Ocasek, of course, has died. He was 75.

His age is only one of the several surprising things I learned about him in the wake of his passing. The Cars were an earlier, more established band than most of what I listened to growing up, so I understand they’re likely to be older (ie, born in the 1940s, like the members of Blondie, not the 1950s or 60s, like bands that hit in the mid-80s), but still: Ric Ocasek was 75? I mean, damn; that puts him in the same age cohort as folks who hit in the early 60s, like the Stones. (Benjamin Orr, who died of cancer in 2000, was only a little younger (b. 1947).)

The second surprising thing is this: though estranged for about a year or so, he and Paulina Porizkova were still married. Rock musicians and supermodels aren’t the sort of folks you think of when you say “thirty year marriage,” but here we are.

Finally, I found this morning that the song I most wanted to see — well, the video I most wanted to see — was “Magic” from 1984’s Heartbeat City. You know it: it’s the one where Ocasek appears to walk on water in a fancy swimming pool behind an even fancier home.

Here’s the fun part: That house is the west coast family home for Richard and Kathy Hilton, i.e. Paris’ parents. Paris, born in 1981, would’ve been about 3 when they shot this video.

Weird.

Set the Wayback Machine to September, 1998: Lawyers, Guns, & Money

In 1998, I went dove hunting with some pals from Dallas.

I wrote about it for my own amusement, and ran the piece on my web site at the time (the ancestor to Miscellaneous Heathen, which didn’t go online until two years AFTER this piece was written).

It’s fall again, and I realized that it’s utterly criminal that this little bit of fun has been offline for quite some time, so I present it here, again, for your amusement. Enjoy.

Lawyers, Guns & Money

Return of the Native: Wherein our Intrepid Texas Correspondent Rediscovers His Hunting Roots

I am part Cracker, though you wouldn’t know it to look at me. I grew up in Mississippi, where my family has lived for generations. I hunted, camped, and fished; I drove a pick-up truck to high school; I owned boots. It was something of an oddball combination, though, at least – certainly – to outsiders. Weekends might begin in a field west of town shooting at birds and end with dinner at the Country Club, all with the same assortment of bankers, lawyers, doctors, and real estate developers. There’s an odd sort of gentility to these things in the South, so it never struck me as odd that Larry Foote would drive his Porsche to both dove hunt and dinner, or that Cadillacs matched pickups at most expeditions.

Somehow, I lost much of this in college. I left for Alabama at 18 and promptly became a tortured (okay, mostly just drunk) intellectual type, perfectly willing to discuss the meaning of life or the existence of God until 4:30 in the morning during the week as long as the other side of the conversation was cute enough or there were drugs enough to make it interesting. Both if I was lucky. I stayed in Tuscaloosa most of the time, venturing home rarely, and lost – to some degree – a bit of the old-school Faulknerian whiskey-soaked hunting ambiance of my youth. I should have known, however, that this wasn’t to be a permanent state.

By 1994, I’d moved to Houston. Houston is hotter, flatter, and more muggy than anything in Alabama or Mississippi, but I fell in love with it anyway. The combination of international business, flabbergasting amounts of eighties-style oil money, and old-fashioned Texas-dialect Southernism agreed with me, and still does. Slowly, I noticed I was becoming more like home than I had been in Alabama, and I didn’t mind. My drawl returned with a vengeance, particularly with alcohol. I bought boots again. I drank local beer. So when a pal from Dallas invited me on a dove hunt – my first since high school, easily – it didn’t surprise me at all that I jumped at the chance.

What follows is a rough chronology. The participants were Patrick, a college pal who has ended up in Dallas married to a local; Dwayne, his brother-in-law; and Richard, his father-in-law. Both in-laws are attorneys; Patrick is an administrator with a local college in Dallas. The events transcribed occurred over August 31-September 1, 1998, and are represented here more or less accurately. As best I remember.

Monday:

12:30 Leave office. Drive to Academy Sports to purchase Hunting License I didn’t buy over weekend because wallet location became a problem; one must have photo ID for a hunting license in Texas.

1:00 Leave Academy. Express dismay to any listening deities at amazing process required to obtain state permission to shoot things from the air.

1:30 Arrive Hobby Airport. Attempt not to look suspicious carrying gun case into airport.

1:45 Check gun into loving arms of Southwest Airlines. Casually inquire as to insurance coverage for firearm.

2:50 Plane departs; order cocktail in response to somewhat exuberant toddler.

3:30 Arrive Dallas-Love Field. Encounter remaining members of hunting party. Wave goodbye to toddler with outstanding lung capacity.

3:50 Accidentally notice that my luggage – and gun – merrily riding the carousel for flight 119, not flight 34. Pounce on luggage while attempting to NOT step on aforementioned toddler.

3:55 – 4:15 Attempt, with 2 lawyers and a college administrator, to get shotgun, briefcase, and suitcase into already-capacity-loaded Pathfinder. Express wonder at the sheer volume of equipment required for 1-day hunting expedition.

4:20 Depart Dallas for wonderful downtown Brownwood, Texas. This will take 3 or 4 hours, so we stop for beer. Driver abstains. Lawyers and consultant do not, and continue to fail to abstain well into West Texas.

5:00 Remember, with college administrator, that Warren Zevon once sang of “lawyers, guns, and money.” Express pleasure that all three are present in at least token quantities, so no bad things can possibly happen.

6:00 All terrain for miles now visible. No meaningful trees present, though cactuses and scrub are plentiful. Toast landscape with beer.

7:00 Stop for restaurant suggestions at somewhat vague looking minute mart in Comanche, Texas. Elect younger lawyer to “work the clerk” for information re: culinary adventures in Comanche. Upon discovering all food in Comanche apparently unacceptable, purchase snacks at said store.

7:05 Convenience Store declared to be “lucky” by younger lawyer. All parties purchase Lotto tickets.

Dialog:

Younger Lawyer: “Has anybody won here yet?”

Karla-Faye-Tucker-lookalike-Clerk: “This is Comanche.”

This, apparently, explains it all.

7:45 Arrive Brownwood, Texas. Locate Tuesday’s rendezvous point (the Section Hand Restaurant and Boot Store). Select alternative cuisine for dinner.

8:00 Narrowly avoid Golden Corral dinner in favor of Blue Cactus. Everything is still fried, but at least a little spicier. And they serve beer. In theory. Waitress unable to serve beer for reasons unspecified but probably linked to age, so manager does. Several times.

8:45 Locate liquor store for purchase of after-dinner cigars.

9:00 Adjourn to Best Western poolside lounge area, still blissfully unaware of stock market gyrations. Enjoy cocktails and hunting stories. Return to hotel room for A&M v. FSU football. Note that all is right in the world, as the Trinity of Hunting, Football, and Cocktails are present. Express belief that this trumps earlier hat trick of Lawyers, Guns, and Money.

9:30 Channel change during commercial leads to discovery of stock market gyrations. Mix another drink. Remind self that investments are long term in nature.

10:30 Remind self again that investments are long term in nature. Advised by attorney to mix additional beverage.

11:45 Sleep.

Tuesday

05:00 Annoyingly cheery clerk delivers wake-up call. Stumble into clothing, gather firearms, and reload truck. A total of 7 degrees still required to shoehorn everything into vehicle. Collective need for coffee reaching fever pitch.

05:30 Arrive at Section Hand restaurant. It does not open until 0600. They are, however, serving coffee.

05:40 Purchase local newspaper.

05:42 Complete local newspaper. Opt for second paper.

05:50 Over discussions of market with other hunters, drink at least as much coffee as you did beer the night before. This is viewed as karmic balance, at least in terms of hangover reduction.

06:15 With addition of biscuits, sausage, eggs, and grits, begin to feel almost human despite the hour. Lawyers and administrator agree. More coffee administered.

06:35 Caravan of well-armed personnel leaves Section Hand restaurant for parts unknown. Guide wonders out loud which of 2 waitresses he should give his cell phone number to for late arrivals; another local opines “It don’t matter; they’re both stupid.”

06:45 Paved road ends. Caravan continues.

06:50 Now officially in the Middle of Nowhere. Gather ammunition (50 rounds) for first phase of hunt. Privately certain this is more than enough.

07:00 Discover Timberland boots not nearly as waterproof as advertised. Vow to never eschew more thematically correct Red Wings again.

07:10 Select position on east fence row under small mesquite tree.

08:00 Return to truck for additional ammunition with 1 for 10 record. College administrator by this point certain his initial stash of shells loaded with blanks, a theory shaky at best as same shell pool fueled aforementioned 5-bird hour.

09:30 Birds wisely decide field to be questionable. Appear to dining elsewhere. This, combined with additional supply shortages (e.g., shells) send hunting party back to hotel, 19 birds in hand (Sr Lawyer: 9; Jr Lawyer: 4; Consultant: 5; Administrator: 1). An average of three boxes of shells per hunter were consumed, however.

10:00 Return to hotel for much needed shower and nap.

12:45 Depart hotel for Wal-Mart for additional provisions. Attempt to not be stereotypes of city folk in Brownwood Wal-Mart almost certainly a failure, though markedly more successful than the prior year, when Senior and Junior Lawyers and Administrator made trip in Jaguar.

1:30 Return to Section Hand to sample lunchtime offerings and attempt to corner market on coffee. Chicken-fried steak deemed most appropriate meal.

2:45 Guide rendezvous at Section Hand; depart again for field after much discussion of temperature (now hovering in mid-90s). Provision check reveals almost certainly enough shells, beer, and Gatorade.

3:00 Arrive at same field. Guide informs hunting party that birds are probably 2 hours away, if tradition holds. Guide departs.

3:05 Upon hearing this news, junior lawyer strips to boxers and hunting boots and settles in the sun to drink beer and review Wall Street Journal.

3:30 Birds arrive, apparently hoping for a sneak attack. Junior lawyer continues mode of dress, perhaps not the best for running through tall grass and weeds to retrieve birds.

4:00 MORE birds arrive. Logistical problems ensue. Am unable to return to selected (and shady) post after bird retrieval due to continued bird overflights and subsequent retrievals. Crouching in weeds amid the field becomes de facto post despite lack of cover.

4:30 After taking a double, note that limit for group is likely looming large. Suggest inventory. Creative accounting brings group total to 59, though this fails to include the 9 birds total lost in brush and the 5 or so simply discarded as uncleanable due to unfortunate proximity to firearm barrel. Shotgun shell consumption at this point no longer worth examining. Express dismay at number of birds still eating in far end of field, occasionally fluttering up several hundred at a time.

5:15 Load truck. Again.

6:00 After gas, food, and beer, depart Brownwood. Consultant and lawyers resume lack of abstention.

10:30 Arrive Dallas. Purchase antihistamines to make up for squatting in weeds all day.

10:45 Arrive Patrick’s home. Collapse on couch after cursory hello to his lovely wife, who finds this all terribly funny.

UVA is taking their house.

This story is horrific.

For example:

The $164,000 billed to Waldron for intestinal surgery was more than twice what a commercial insurer would have paid for her care

Oh, and it gets even more awful, because not only are they taking houses. In another case:

Nacy Sexton, who is in his 30s andl ives outside Richmond, hoped he might get a break on his medical bills as a student enrolled at the University of Virginia. He was close to finishing a bachelor’s degree in 2015 when he was hospitalized for lupus. When he was unable to cover the reduced bill offered by the hospital, the university blocked his enrollment.

You can’t get blood from a stone, but by god they’ll do everything possible to keep you poor!

Fuck these bloodsuckers.

“No amount of antipathy for the hollowness of fashion can prepare you for how powerfully uncool Phish is.”

This is a really great piece on Phish from an outsider’s perspective.

So I went to a Phish show. It was a big deal, not because I love Phish, but because my partner Leah loves them, and I emphatically do not. In our nearly 14 years together, this hasn’t been a problem (apart from the time she tried to make the case that a band I like is similar to Phish, and I, uh, did not respond well), but after I reluctantly agreed to finally go to a show with her, it started to feel increasingly consequential: If ever an event could shatter any notion of our fundamental compatibility, it would be this one. And ending a long-term relationship surrounded by 25,000 people whose collective drug haze effectively constitutes its own microclimate seemed less than ideal. So I decided to do everything I could to approach the live Phish experience as gracefully as possible.

Ha!

And

Phish culture’s preppie-infused hippie essence is equally off-putting. Maybe it’s because punk happened; or because we’ve internalized the war on drugs; or because Don Henley saw a Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac; or because Phish’s music generally has no discernible message; or because it all seems so anachronistic and naive and lazily escapist. Whatever the reason, ingesting an assortment of psychedelics and blissfully writhing along with a 30-minute Trey Anastasio guitar solo while wearing a donut-patterned beach towel as a cape is the kind of behavior that might make you more enemies than friends.

And (my favorite):

This was the baggage I brought with me to Camden, New Jersey’s BB&T Pavilion, where we set up a blanket on the lawn about 20 minutes before showtime. There were six of us: three fans and three non-fans, which sounds like a nice even split until you remember that my two pseudo-anthropologist compatriots and I were actually outnumbered by about 8,000 to one. And let me tell you, those many thousands of Phishheads were very, very happy to be there. When the first few notes of the poetically named “Mike’s Song” kicked off the show, the crowd reacted as if Prince had returned from the dead and announced he’d be producing new episodes of The Wire.

Reader, I lol’d. (Emph. added.)

Conan was a Texan

I don’t remember why I opened this tab, but clearly it’s STILL open because, in the Wikipedia article about Conan author Robert Howard, we find this:

Early 1932 saw Howard taking one of his frequent trips around Texas. He traveled through the southern part of the state with his main occupation being, in his own words, “the wholesale consumption of tortillas, enchiladas and cheap Spanish wine.” In Fredericksburg, while overlooking sullen hills through a misty rain, he conceived of the fantasy land of Cimmeria, a bitter hard northern region home to fearsome barbarians. […]

It was also during this trip that Howard first conceived of the character of Conan. Later, in 1935, Howard claimed in a letter to Clark Ashton Smith that Conan “simply grew up in my mind a few years ago when I was stopping in a little border town on the lower Rio Grande.”

Steven Pinker, the Most Annoying Man in the World

This article summarizes very well my reservations about Pinker and his brand of “public intellectual.”

It begins:

You know, of course, what the most grating and infuriating human behavior is. It is not when another person is simply being unreasonable. It is when that person is constantly insisting that they are Just Being Reasonable, and wondering why you’re acting so crazy and irrational, while they themselves are in fact being extremely goddamn unreasonable. It is not when they are just wrong, but when they top it off by patronizingly explaining your own views to you, purporting to refute them, while not having the faintest understanding of what those views actually are.

Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker is that guy. He thinks many people are very unreasonable, and makes sweeping claims about their irrationality and moral imbecility, but often doesn’t bother to listen to what they actually say. While insisting for page upon page on the necessity of rationality, he irrationally caricatures and mocks ideas he hasn’t tried to understand. Then, when the people who believe those ideas become upset, he sees this as further proof of their emotion-driven thinking, and becomes even more convinced that he is right. It is a pattern displayed by many of those who are critics of “social justice” and the political left. Pinker, however, takes it to an extreme: Nobody has ever tried to look more Reasonable while being so ignorant and condescending.

If you’re curious about Pinker, go read the whole thing.

This is hilarious

Bill O’Reilly, almost getting it:

Screen Shot 2019 06 24 at 12 48 37 PM

Yeah, Bill, it’s a LOT like that.

In case the graphic gets lost:

Slavery reparations is a far-left favorite because it does a number of things. It reinforces the radical belief that the United States was founded by racist white men who installed a system whereby white guys would run everything and blacks, women and others would be exploited.

followed by

It also suggests that personal responsibility does not count when the legacy of slavery dropped a curtain of oppression on the black race and there is no recovering from that. The radical left says our society remains unjust to this day, forget personal responsibility.

(Widely linked; screenshot from BoingBoing.)

Mississippi is apparently upset that not enough people are laughing at them

So, as of now, it’s illegal — like, jailable illegal — to refer to burgers or hotdogs not made from animals as “veggie burgers” or “veggie dogs”.

No, seriously.

More:

This week, a new law went into effect in Mississippi. The state now bans plant-based meat providers from using labels like “veggie burger” or “vegan hot dog” on their products. Such labels are potentially punishable with jail time. Words like “burger” and “hot dog” would be permitted only for products from slaughtered livestock. Proponents claim the law is necessary to avoid confusing consumers — but given that the phrase “veggie burger” hasn’t been especially confusing for consumers this whole time, it certainly seems more like an effort to keep alternatives to meat away from shoppers.

Donna Tartt knew where she was going.

After seeing the new trailer for the film version of her latest book, I fell down a bit of a Donna Tartt hole online. I’d missed her Charlie Rose interview, for example, which is interesting; she’s famously press-shy and intensely private.

At the bottom of this Google pit I found this archival piece from Vanity Fair, which heralds her as a grand new voice in fiction. The web version dates it from 1999, but it’s written as though it was published closer to the release date of her first novel, The Secret History, in 1992.

Point being, it’s early on in her laconic career. Tartt, for all her accolades and success, is a slow writer. She’s taken a decade to produce each of the two followups to her splash debut. The Little Friend didn’t appear until 2002; her third and most recent work, The Goldfinch, came 11 years later.

Anyway, here’s the point; it’s in the last paragraphs of the Vanity Fair piece:

We’re driving down a dark back road in Bennington, and I suddenly wonder how fame and wealth will take her. “I’m like Huck Finn,” she says. “I can be perfectly happy on no money at all. Now that I have money, my life has changed not a bit. Everybody’s expecting me to buy a condo, make investments. I don’t care about any of that. I like ephemera—books, clothes. Food. That’s all.” I ask, musingly, if she ever intends to settle down and have a family. She shakes her head firmly. “Je ne vais jamais me marier,” she says.

Suddenly she spots, with delight, a whirling flock of goldfinches. “Look at these goldfinches—do you see?” she cries. “Goldfinches are the greatest little birds, because they build their nests in the spring, a long time after all the other birds do. They’re the last to settle down—they just fly around and they’re happy for a long time, and just sing and play. And only when it’s insanely late in the year, they kind of break down and build their nests. I love goldfinches,” she sighs, huddling tinily in the big car seat. “They’re my favorite bird.

Emphasis added.

Yup, we see you, Ms Tartt.

“We’re talking about language”

I have a longstanding fascination with regional dialects. I think it’s because in my own lifetime, so many are vanishing thanks to easier mobility and the ubiquity of mass communication.

Only a few places retain a clear local accent or dialect — several areas of Louisiana, for example, including accents that outsiders would probably place in Brooklyn. There’s still a real Boston sound.

And off the coast of North Carolina, we find the hoi toiders. There’s video.

Meanwhile, in 1979…

Joy Division, with an important Transmission.

This might be the best one-song TV performance I’ve ever seen, and it’s 40 years old now. I’m having trouble nailing down the date, but there’s a graphic for Unknown Pleasures behind them; that album was recorded in April of 1979, and behind it they played twice on British television: in July of 79, on Granada TV, and soon after that on BBC2’s Something Else.

They’d release Transmission as a stand-alone, non-album single the following November, seemingly poised for larger success. And then, of course, Ian Curtis would take his own life in May of the following year, at 23.

No one writes better about aviation

William Langewiesche has written no end of wonderful pieces about flight. This makes sense; his father Wolfgang wrote the definitive text on the subject back in 1944, so young William grew up with flight, and indeed worked as a pilot himself for years before taking up writing.

Eventually working with both Vanity Fair and The Atlantic, Langewiesche has won two National Magazine Awards, and been nominated for many others — and not always about flight. He’s written about the Sahara, the unbuilding of the World Trade Center, and nuclear proliferation in the third world, international shipping, and the Chilean mining disaster.

But it’s in flight that he seems to be the most compelling to me. Over the years he’s covered the so-called Miracle on the Hudson, the Columbia disaster, the now-nearly-forgotten collision of planes over the Amazon in 2006, and, most compellingly, about the 1999 crash of EgyptAir 990

This month, in the Atlantic, he has a new piece, on the loss of flight MH370; it appears that we now have as close to a rock solid explanation as we’re likely to get, given Malaysian corruption and the realities of ocean searches. Sadly, this situation has a lot in common with EgyptAir 990.

The piece is long, but it’s very good, and well worth your time.

So, what’s the story with the 737 MAX?

It’s possible you’re curious.

Greg Travis breaks it all down in this long Medium post that’s super worth your time.

The tl;dr here is that Boeing was doing everything in their power to make fundamental changes to the 737 without the result being considered a new airplane, and they went WAY THE FUCK TOO FAR. Moreover, the software at work to make the new plane fly like the old plan (& thus prevent legions of pilots from needing recertification on the MAX) made some seriously, seriously stupid assumptions.

One wonders if this plane will fly again at all, but if it does I suspect it’ll be as a creature distinct from the 737 parent.

The Importance of Relative Velocity in Military Aviation

Recently, a Dutch F-16 managed to shoot itself with its own gun during maneuvers.

The rounds have a muzzle velocity of 3,450 feet per second (1050 meters per second). That is speed boosted initially by the aircraft itself, but atmospheric drag slows the shells down eventually. And if a pilot accelerates and maneuvers in the wrong way after firing the cannon, the aircraft could be unexpectedly reunited with its recently departed rounds.

Click through; this is also not the first time something like this has happened. In fact, the first time was in 1956.

Also hilarious: the gun in question, a 20mm Vulcan cannon, can fire 6,000 rounds a minute — but the F-16 only carries 511 rounds, or about 5 seconds of fire.

Rule #1 Online: Nobody else needs your password

So Facebook has apparently been asking people for their email passwords, which is just amazingly wrongheaded and evil. I’m sure plenty of folks gave them up, too. But here’s the thing:

There is never a good reason to give your password to anyone. Note I didn’t say “email password;” I mean literally ANY password. Maybe we get a little flexible about this where spouses come into play, or that shared Hulu account, but for things like email: NOPE.

It’s ABSOLUTELY a red flag if anyone online ever asks you for a password to some other site, as Facebook does here. There’s no reason for Facebook to need this information. There’s no reason for you to give it to them. Seriously. NO GOOD CAN COME FROM THIS.

This Week’s Best Thing On The Internet

So, Tom Hiddleston did a funny little vitamin commercial for the Chinese market, and it’s notable for lots of reasons if you’re interested in that sort of thing. For one thing, it was released on Hiddleston’s own Weibo channel, so it’s not just advertising native to social media, it’s advertising tailor-made for a Chinese social media platform — and is meant to be consumed on phones (hence the vertical video).

Anyway, it’s apparently hugely successful in China, but lots of it seems super weird to Western consumers — not the least of it being the weird “immersive” style, and obviously the food choice.

This would all be fuel for discussion on its own, but then Phil Wang made something amazing with it, and that’s why I’m posting it here. Enjoy.

GenX Uncle Chet Explains: Music Shopping

Things were very different when I was a teenager. We had a senile, right-wing Republican president with bellicose thoughts, a precarious economy, and the Russians were scarier every day, so really a totally different environment than we have today.

Right.

Anyway, music was huge — transformational, definitional, personal, and incredibly important, at least to some folks. It’s tempting to assert that people today don’t feel that same connection, but I suspect that’s more about me being older and missing it myself. What’s definitely true, though, is that finding, listening to, exploring, and purchasing music were materially different processes in 1985.

First, all we really had for exploration was radio. Radio was a little better in the 80s — more local control, more idiosyncratic DJs — but that “better” was unevenly distributed. You had a shot at hearing new and interesting things if you lived in a big city, but for kids like me in the hinterlands you were lucky if you had two top-40 stations in a sea of country and “easy listening.”

The exception was folks lucky enough to be in range of a good university station. This is where the term “college radio” came from; those stations — typically weak enough that you’d lose them in a car wash — played ALL SORTS of weird and idiosyncratic stuff, and many’s the GenXer who discovered, say, the Velvet Underground, or Captain Beefheart, because some weirdo was spinning them at 3 in the morning on KTRU or WVUA.

But say you heard something you loved, and you wanted to buy it. Well, good luck! You might not even know what it was, and there was no Shazam to help you. Again, if you lived somewhere cool — large cities like New York or LA; interesting ones like Houston or New Orleans; a good college town like Tuscaloosa or Athens — you probably had a pretty damn good record store, of the type most folks today have only seen in movies. These places had clerks with nearly encyclopedic knowledge of at least a few genres, and could point you at new things you’d dig based on the records you bought.

But even then, this was the exception. In the bleak rural wastelands where many of us grew up, the only real vendor would be a chain store in a mall. In my hometown, it was Camelot Music. And as with any mall vendor, what kept them open was the hits — hits which, increasingly, mattered not at all to me and my friends. Until the late 80s, when so-called college/alternative bands basically took over, even finding something like REM’s “Murmur” or U2’s “War” could be a challenge in a place like this. Mail order was technically possible, but mostly focused on more niche material — lost of my punk pals ordered tapes from a zine called MAXIMUMROCKNROLL, for example. But there’s risk there; you had to more or less order blind, since obviously nobody was playing punk on the radio, and for the most part there was no exposure outside tape trading or live shows.

But what cousin Mickey asked about was the joy of it, not the suck of it. I had no real joy in this department until I went to college, in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, which then was home to a truly great record shop called the Vinyl Solution. Owner George Hadjidakis was a musical sensei for an endless stream of curious misfit freshmen; he must have sold thousands of copies of albums like “White Light/White Heat” and “Raw Power” over the years; I know that’s where MY copies came from (to say nothing of George’s evangelism for Big Star and Alex Chilton!). To enter a shop like this was to enter a temple; the acolytes might smile at you, or judge you, but once you were IN you’d be IN for good — you’d get tips about where the next cool band was playing or partying, and maybe even get on the guest list. They’d play new stuff for you, so you’d know about Janes Addiction before other people. Folks would hang out, smoke, and bullshit about music for hours — and inevitably leave with something they didn’t think they needed when they got up that morning.

The thing that’s hard to communicate today is the degree to which shops like this — with no cafe, no bar, no espresso machine, and usually nowhere to even fucking SIT — were destinations. To go to the record store was an escape, an activity intended to be open-ended. You’ve got somewhere to be in a could hours? Can it wait? Yeah, it can wait; George just got some copies of that VU bootleg you were asking about.

So you drift in, chat, and start sifting, flipping album after album or CD after CD – it was the 80s, after all – looking for the next treasure you didn’t know you wanted, the one that would open your next musical door. Writing this now, I have an intensely strong sense memory of the scent of used records and stale cigarette smoke, and how enveloped in sound you’d be thanks to the excellent speakers mounted on the walls.

Eventually, you’d leave with your purchases bundled up, maybe wondering a little how you’d eat for the rest of the week — we were, after all, college students — but more than anything excited to get home and play the records or CDs you’d just bought, which more than likely you’d already played once on the store’s system. At home, though, there’d be a cold beer, or maybe a joint, and you could play the wizened clerk to your friends who’d stayed at the dorm that day, and pass along your whatever new tips you’d gleaned from George.

We are, here in Houston, impossibly lucky, because we still HAVE at least a few great record shops. Maybe my favorite is Cactus Music, now over 30 years old. Music shopping is different now, but Quinn and his posse have kept a bit of the experience I loved at Vinyl Solution alive for a new generation. You really should treasure these shops; they’re rare and hard to sustain. Most were only precariously viable even in the “good years” of the 80s, and were ill-equipped to survive what Apple and Amazon brought to the marketplace. Among the dead is, it breaks my heart to tell you, is Vinyl Solution.

The thing is, though, that every time I play Big Star, or Pylon, or Iggy, part of me is back in George’s dusty shop with my buddy John, soaking up new music like a sponge, dizzy with musical euphoria. I only have $20; what can I get today, and what can I put off? Who’s playing later at the Chukker? Let’s get some Beast and drop the needle on that bootleg instead; I think Jolly’s got some weed.

That, my millennial pals, is something that’s hard to download. But Quinn will do his best to sell it to you at Cactus, and he won’t be far off. Tomorrow’s Saturday; there’s no better day for a trip to the record shop.

The ULTIMATE Florida Man

ZOMG:

If I understand this story correctly, Port Richey, Florida just had its second mayor arrested in the last three weeks. The first wasn’t your standard mayoral arrest. Mayor Dale Massad was arrested when he opened fire on a SWAT team that had come to arrest him on charges of practicing medicine out of his home without a license. Sheriff Chris Nocco said Massad was a violent drug user who kept a stash of weapons in his home, had had previous run-ins with the law and lost his medical license 25 years ago after a three year old patient died.

After the mayor was arrested in this shootout the state also announced an insurance fraud investigation. Governor Ron DeSantis then suspended Massad from office and replaced him with Vice Mayor Terance Rowe. The new acting mayor criticized how the Sheriff’s office had treated his predecessor but conceded that Massad was “not a perfect role model.”

Now Rowe has been arrested for obstruction of justice, conspiracy to obstruct justice and using a two-way communications device to facilitate the commission of a crime. Notably, Massad is also charged with that two way communications device charge, which sounds like a clue.

Florida Department of Law Enforcement agent Mark Brutnell said the case against Rowe is “related but [to Massad’s] it’s an off-shoot.” Both cases are “very active investigations” with “lots of moving parts.”