Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Concert Series: The Hello People

English: 1978 Todd Rundgren
 1978 Todd Rundgren (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

      During this year's Blogging from A to Z April Challenge Michele at Angel's Bark for the letter "C" wrote about concerts she had attended.   Her post brought to mind some of my own concert memories.  In my comment response to her post I suggested that I might use her idea as an occasional series topic.  This post will be the first of a sporadic series that will most likely correspond to Battle of the Bands posts that you will find on my blog Tossing It Out.   If you haven't visited to vote on my current Battle I hope you will drop by before Sunday evening September 21st at which time I will tally the votes to come up with the most favorite artist of the two I've presented.  The winner will be announced on my post of Monday the 22nd.

The Sounds of the Silent

        Many of us undoubtedly have fond memories of concerts we've attended.   Most of mine come from my college years and the decade or so that came after those years.   I had more time to spare, less obligations to care about, and more friends who were more than willing to join me in my concert experiences.   Actually there were more than a few concerts that I attended by myself since my eclectic music interests took me to events that no one else I knew was willing to join me.

        Another of the reasons that I attended so many concerts was that they were relatively cheap--anywhere from free to five or six dollars.   The big concerts with two to three big acts averaged about five dollars each.  I don't recall paying for parking for most of these, but if we did pay to park the fee was only a dollar or less.  A concert night was not a huge outlay of cash even considering I was only making $1.75 to $2.50 an hour at the job I worked during my off school hours.

        One of the more outstanding concerts (they were almost all outstanding for that matter) was in May of 1972 with the line-up of the headliner Alice Cooper, the band Free, and Todd Rundgren with The Hello People backing him up. Alice Cooper was the draw for most attendees--I was certainly an avid fan.   Free was a bonus.  Their song "All Right Now" had been all over the radio as a huge hit.  They rocked and would have been a great headline band.

          However, the pairing of Todd Rundgren with the Hello People was the act that interested me the most.   I'd already been a Rundgren fan for a few years and had a couple of his albums.   But the Hello People?  I owned their first two albums having found them in cut-outs and loved their music.   What a surprise to find two great acts unpretentiously paired as an opening act.   Being able to see Todd Rundgren in concert was definitely cool, but to see the Hello People coming to Knoxville, Tennessee was a totally unexpected treat.

         I will say here that Rundgren and the Hello People delivered a great concert far exceeding any expectations I had for them.   Honestly I didn't know what to expect, but the show they put on would have been enough for me.  I would have been happy to sit through a couple hours of their act with no other accompanying groups.

        After the coliseum lights darkened and a myriad of lighters flamed up to ignite the joints that were a staple of any rock concert back then, the stage lights came up to reveal a group of mimes.   The white-faced characters began a typical mime routine.  They were proficient in their mimery, but there was no clear indication as to why the mimes were there until they took to their instruments.   As they broke into a jazzy tune from their second album, the Hello People broke the silence barrier and began doing what they did best--playing music.

           Todd Rundgren soon joined them and the collaborative group skillfully addressed a series of some of Todd's best songs.  The Hello People were solid as a back-up band.    The set was too short for my tastes.  As I have already noted, I could have devoted the entire evening to nothing but these fantastic musicians.  But alas, the set ended all too quickly and proceeded to the next two acts.

          I wish there was a filmed record of the Todd with the Hello People.   There may very well be since I've run across at least one YouTube clip of them.   I'd like to see the entire set as I saw it on that May night in 1972.   Those concerts all went by so quickly that it's hard to remember a lot of the details.

Here's the YouTube clip that I've found:


         Those concert years were great times.   It was cheap entertainment compared to now when the cost of parking alone can often exceed an entire night out back in the 70's.  There were many great entertainment events that I witnessed during that time.   I'll try to recapture some of those memories in future posts on Wrote By Rote.

          What great concert memories do you have?   Were there any groups who surprised you with their presentations?    What do you like best about going to hear music artists perform live?


Saturday, September 13, 2014

Is My Life Story Worthy of a Memoir?


         Recently I received a comment on a guest post that was published at my blog Tossing It Out on July 20th of 2011.   Yes, sometimes these comments do crop up on older posts, usually due to someone doing a Google search on the topic of the post.   It's good to know that these posts are showing up on the search engines.

        Anyhow, this guest post was by my long time blogging friend and memoirist Karen Walker at Following the Whispers.   If you don't know Karen I encourage you to check out her blog and give her a follow.  Her first publishing success was a memoir dealing with some of the tough life challenges she has had to endure.   Currently she's wrapping up her first attempt to publish a novel.  Her blog posts usually offer snippets concerning her life that might make you put your own situation into perspective.   If you're thinking about writing a memoir or have already done so but have not yet started submitting it anywhere, Karen's blog might be a good place to commune with others of like mind.

         However, getting back to the comment Karen received on her guest post at my blog, it was offered up by Michael Fontana who left his comment on the post "Do's and Don'ts of Memoir Writing:...". Here's what Michael asks:

Karen, I am writing a memoir and am desperate for a glimmer of hope. It seems that the web is chock full of people saying, "do this" or "don't do that". Also I'm beginning to feel my subject matter is contrived, already been done, or that it's just not that interesting. I seem to be stuck on the idea of having to present it from growing up (which is when I showed traits of what is to come in the "arc") and so many say "don't talk about growing up, being bullied, drinking/drugging/recovery" etc. I'm a bit lost because when I tell stories aloud people say "you have to write a book" but the process is making me think that I don't, but I really want to LOL! Thoughts?
           Here is Karen's reply to Michael:

Hi Michael,I want to encourage you to continue to write your story. Try not to pay attention to what others are saying about the do's and don'ts right now, including me. Just put down on paper the story you want to tell. You can always delete or add things later. And it doesn't matter if someone else had similar issues and told their story. Your story is unique because it is yours. And the way you tell it will be unique, too. Just allow it to come out. With editing, you can start to pay attention to some of what others are saying. But not now. Good luck!karen

       Not much for me to add to Karen's simple practical advice. If you feel compelled to tell a story, first of all just write. Then later on you can go back over your work to see what you did right.

       You can find Karen's complete guest post at Tossing It Out.

        Do you think your life is too boring to write a memoir? Have you read any boring memoirs about a person who had an exciting or extraordinary life? What do you think are the most important things to consider when writing memoir?

Saturday, September 6, 2014

When a Quarter Went a Long Way

English: Pete's Candy Store, in Williamsburg, ...
 Pete's Candy Store, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York City
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

         These days a quarter doesn't go very far.  Not like it used to when I was a kid.  The sales tax on my typical fast food purchase is usually way more than a quarter.  I'd never think of leaving a quarter tip on the table in a restaurant.  A quarter might give you a few minutes of parking on the street meter, but you'd better be prepared to have a whole lot of quarters if you're staying long--now many meters even take credit cards.  Hand a homeless person a quarter and they might take it as an insult.

          When my mother first started giving me an allowance in 1960 it was twenty-five cents each Friday.  It was amazing how far I could stretch a quarter.   A bottled soda was a nickel or a dime and you could turn the bottle back in to get some of that money back.   A candy bar, a pack of gum or Lifesavers, or a small packet of peanuts was five cents.   A quarter would reap a tidy harvest of goodies that could last a couple of days.

           Of course I'd find other ways to get more money for more goodies.   I'd do additional chores for extra pocket money.  Cleaning out drawers, rummaging through the car, or digging under the couch cushions was usually good for amassing a pocketful of jingling change.   Add to this the several dollars I might get at birthdays it seemed that I was never broke for fun money.

           A bit of wheedling my mother for special treats when we were on shopping expeditions always provided some return.   It didn't take much begging on my part since my mother was generous when it came to her kids and she was always willing to do that special something to make us a bit happier than we already were.   And we were happy.   There were always more things I'd like to have, but I wasn't lacking in much.

           Not that we were living a life of excess--frugality was a lesson taught well to me.   But I had enough toys, books, candy, and other things to add more pleasure to my life.  After all, I was usually dealing in fractions of dollars rather than multiple dollars.   My mother probably wasn't dealing with too much more.  Yet we had our treats as well as good meals.  I was dressed decently and our housing was comfortable.

            I'm not sure how much money my father brought home each week, but apparently it was enough.  We weren't rich, but it often felt like we were.   At least kind of rich as my unknowing mind would perceive wealth.  

           Now that I think back on my childhood I realize that wealth doesn't have as much to do with how much money we have, but more to do with how much we can do with the little money that we do have.  The same principle applies now, though now a quarter doesn't last long at all and a five dollar allowance would be considered small by many standards.

           When I had five dollars as a kid I felt like a wealthy man.  I could enjoy that money for weeks.   These days you might as well hand over the five dollars at the door of a business establishment and be prepared to leave with not very much.

            Quarters add up, but by themselves they are pretty meager in our time.

           How much allowance did you receive when you were a kid?   What were some of the ways you made money when you were a child?    What would you typically spend your money on when you were younger?   

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Smaller Stores of a Bygone Era

English: Woolworth department store in Kassel
 Woolworth department store in Kassel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

         Many years ago the mom and pop stores and chains of smaller stores were the mainstay of the American shopping scene.   The department store was typically something one would find downtown or in larger shopping districts.   Dry goods stores, pharmacies, variety stores, and other smaller specialty shops would comprise most of the real estate in those shopping districts.

         Prior to the 1950's there were no shopping malls as we know them today.  A few prototypical shopping ventures experienced some success before that time, but not like the mega shopping complexes surrounded by acres of parking that we've become so accustomed to in the past several decades.   As society became more suburbanized, the stores followed the customers to the areas surrounding the city centers and many cities lost much of the downtown shopping that they had once had.

          My favorite places to shop when I was a kid were the variety stores also known as "five and dime stores".   They were often chains such as Ben Franklin, Kresge's, Woolworth, and others.   These stores carried just enough to keep me busy looking and dreaming what I'd buy on some future occasion or at that moment if I was so fortunate to have a bit of change jingling in my pockets.

         In those days my allowance was a quarter, but it was amazing how far those quarters could go.  Merchandise was inexpensive.   I might buy toys, books, or a packet of foreign postage stamps to add to my collection.   My mother was usually pretty generous with extra nickels and dimes to allow me to buy a candy bar or some other treat during those visits to the store.   We'd go there at least a couple times each week.  After all, the Ben Franklin Store was right near the De Falco's Supermarket that was in the small shopping center called "The Quad".   That was in the San Diego, California suburb called Clairemont.   These were the years between 1959 and 1964.   It was a span of time that was short in retrospect, but it seems like decades in my memory.

           Many of those small stores were the precursors to the behemoths that came along later.   Kresge's became KMart.   Woolworth became the now defunct Woolco.  Walmart began as the Walton's Five and Dime which before that had been a Ben Franklin Store.    A few small variety stores remain scattered across the country, but for the most part the large discount stores have filled the need of the people for wide selection at the lowest prices.

          The future of shopping will probably for the most part be centered on the internet.   The specialty chains like Staples and Best Buy are already closing stores in order to cut costs and centralizing their businesses to distribution centers that fill orders made online and delivered directly to the customer's door.

          Convenience is the key in a time-strapped modern society.   Why drive when you can order from the comfort of your own home and have someone deliver product to your door within a day or two?   Personally I miss those old variety stores.   They were like heaven to my young mind.  Of course I had not seen the discount stores like we have now.   I don't think those variety stores would impress many kids today.

           Did you shop at five and dime stores when you were a kid?   What are some of the variety stores that you remember?    Do you shop at the stores like Dollar Tree, Family Dollar, or 99 Cent Stores?    

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Shopping for Ideas

English: The original Piggly Wiggly Store, Mem...
 The original Piggly Wiggly Store, Memphis, Tennessee. The first self service grocery store, opened 1916. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

         So far I've never lacked for ideas for this blog and I doubt if I ever would.   As long as I live, new ideas will keep coming and now matter how much I write about my past I can't imagine ever running out of memories to write about.   Even the memories I've already written about could be approached from a number of different angles.    Ideas are not only everywhere, but they are infinite.

          Why am I writing about this topic at this time?   I'm just thinking.  I'm pondering some of the things I might write about in blog posts to come.    And since I'm on the topic, then let me ask you some questions about things that might get you to remembering your past.   Maybe these will be some ideas you can use as well.

  • What stores and other businesses can you remember from your youth that are no longer around?
  • What was your favorite store to visit when you  were a kid?
  • Do you have many eating out experiences that you remember from childhood?
  • What things did you typically spend money on when you had it?
  • Did you go grocery shopping with your parents?    Were you a help or more of a hindrance?
  • Are there any products that you no longer see in stores that you miss?
  • Did you have a hobby when you were younger and what types of purchases did you make to sustain your hobby?
  • Was there a neighborhood business that was considered a hang-out for you and your peers?
  • How has shopping changed in our age as compared to your youth?
          I don't expect you to answer all of these questions in the comment section here, though you are certainly welcomed to if you like.   Maybe one question resonates with you that you would like to discuss.  Or maybe you'd like to use one or more of these topics on your own blog.   If you do then please be sure to send me the link so I can read your responses.

         I'll probably be hitting on a few of these ideas in weeks to come.   Memoir can be anything that you remember.    Sometimes memoir evolves from things you don't remember.  That's when the research kicks in.    What's the point of remembering the past?    Maybe you can answer that one too.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Tennessee Stomping Grounds

English: Olympus 4.0 Megapixel 3x zoom Digital...
English: Olympus 4.0 Megapixel 3x zoom Digital Camera. Taken in 2002 in Cocke County, Tennessee. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

         Thomas Wolfe is famously attributed to the saying "You can't go home again" which was taken from a posthumous novel of that name.   Most often the saying is more in reference to the fact that you can't recapture the place and circumstances of your memories.  We can fondly remember, but usually we are disappointed and disillusioned when we visit home hoping to find things like they once were.

        The fact is that things change--people, places, and all that our memories embrace.  Those things might be there in one manner of speaking, but rarely can we completely recapture the old feelings or experience the same sensations like they once were way back when.

        It's been 23 years since that last time I lived in East Tennessee and that was for only a few years having spent a previous 13 years on the road with a traveling show.   When I left my parents' home in 1975 for a life of travel it was not so much a severing ties as it was a beginning of new chapters in my life.  It's a decision that I'm glad I made, but my leaving created a gulf in the familiar relationships I had enjoyed during the years previous to that departure.

        As time passed, my old friends established newer relationships with people I did not know.  Some of those friends went on to get married and start families. Others moved away like I did while a few passed from this life.  Over time even the face and spirit of my home town changed as more people from other places moved into the area, old landmarks disappeared, and newer places were built in their places.  Highways were improved and bypasses were built.   The small town that I had once known took on a greater urban feel.   Where once I could be out and about and almost have a guarantee of running into someone I knew, now I might be out all day all about town and never see an old familiar face.

         Change is to be expected over time and probably a place would not be economically healthy if that change didn't occur.  Geographically my old Tennessee stomping grounds still exists on the map, but for someone who grew up there it is barely recognizable in many ways.

         Friends grow older and gain new responsibilities with careers, lives, and families.   I don't feel quite as comfortable just dropping in on many of them for fear of intruding or interfering with their busy schedules.  There are still a handful with whom I maintain fairly regular contact, but rarely do I actually see them.  The old Tennessee stomping grounds holds a fond place in my memories.  However, these days when I visit East Tennessee in some ways I almost feel like just another one of the many tourists who pass through there each year.

        I would imagine that if I still lived there I might feel a lot different about the old homeland.  But I don't live there anymore.  And I don't know if I ever will again.  Not that I wouldn't want to.  It's just that things change and sometimes going back home can never recapture the memories of what once was.

        Are there places from your past that you've gone back to and they just felt different to you?   Do you currently live in a place where you grew up or that you came back to after an extended time away?   How do you feel about the Thomas Wolfe observation that "you can't go home again"?

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Another Journey Ends

English: Volkswagon bug RV
English: Volkswagon bug RV (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

        Time for a breather.   Kick back and catch up to all that's piled up while I've been roaming the roads of America.   It's been a great time that I somewhat sadly leave behind me yet exhale a sigh of relief that I am home again.   That is, the home where all my stuff is.   The place where I pay my house payment and receive the rest of my bills.   My heart may not totally be here in the place where I live, and my mind is divided as to where I would really like my "home" to be.

        This vacation that my wife and I embarked on was 47 days away from our house.  That's by my wife's count of the days.  I wasn't counting, but her number sounds correct.  It seemed longer in a way and yet it all seemed to fly.   It's good to be back in our own home, but it was nice being gone.  

         The saying goes "All good things must come to an end" and so it goes with a vacation.  Some family members and friends have suggested that when my wife retires we should sell our house, buy an RV, and just travel all the time.  I'm not sure about the RV part.  Sure, having the portability of possessions might be nice and it could be very handy to just pull over sometimes to sleep in my own bed and use my own bathroom.  There is much to be said for having a "house on wheels".  I'm just not sure about driving a big ol' thing around.

         In my younger days I had plenty of experience living out of a van and staying in motels all the time.  I got used to that lifestyle and quite enjoyed it.   It's a good idea to have an address--a base of operations so to speak.  I always used my parents address back then.  Now that's not a viable option.   I guess I'll keep a home somewhere.  Maybe not as big of a house as we have now unless someone is living in it when we're off galavanting.

          It's all something for us to consider in the years to come.   We've still got time to decide, but my wife and I need to start thinking more seriously about the years to come.  I hope there are years--many more of them.

          This previous journey has ended, but the life journey continues.   With each ending comes a new beginning.   It's a circle of life just like in The Lion King.  We've got places to go and people to see before they and we are gone.   The kids are getting settled into their own cycles of life and the grandchildren are coming and growing.   We don't want to miss out on those grandchildren who now live across the country from us.

         I guess we'll figure it out.   One journey has ended and others wait ahead of us.

         Are you living a life in retirement yet?   What are your plans for the future?    If you were living a life of travel how would you want to do it?