Story of the Month: The Quest for the Stereo and the Spirit of the 90s

StoryoftheMonth

It’s strange that the 90s still feel “new” to me. The early 2000s feel passé and ancient. Things about the 90s still stick with me and despite the “convenience” of new technology I miss some of the aspects of “inconvenience” of my teenage years. Columbia Record Clubs, VHS and DVD rentals, Magazine research…it’s all stuff that, though it may still exist, isn’t a main part of the culture anymore… My first CDs came from Columbia record Club! And I could only play them in my Sega CD….through a mono-TV.

Thinking of this reminded me of buying my first stereo. It was 1997. I’d had them given as gifts before, Christmas and Birthday presents. The one that I was replacing was indeed a birthday present from my 15th Birthday. It was a TWO disc changer. And it seemed so cool. It had two trays on the top and they would swap places when the discs were changed (I knew so little I once tried to put my Full Throttle PC-CDROM into it to play the great Gone Jackals soundtrack… It didn’t work… But I DID get that soundtrack…from Columbia House!). The stereo started to skip and the changing mechanism didn’t work. I’d saved up some money and went to get myself a brand new stereo. We started out early, about 10 AM. I was kind of excited.

In the 90s, in my area, there were only a few places to go. Circuit City, H.H. Gregg, and Media Play. I usually went to Circuit City, but I remember H.H. Gregg had a sale on them so my mom drove me there. I picked out an AMAZING 5 disc changer. Brought it home, hooked it up, ran my TV and video games systems through it. Connected my parents’ old MASSIVE JBL speakers…and it didn’t work. I tried repeatedly and it didn’t work. So we took it back. H.H. Gregg said they would only offer to fix it, we explained it was a BRAND NEW item and they reluctantly let us exchange it. Unfortunately they didn’t have the one I bought so I downgraded to a three-disc changer, OK with the savings in money, and brought it home. I went through the rigmarole of hooking it back up and…guess what… It didn’t work. Acted like there was no CD in the tray. So we boxed it up and brought it back. The store manger came out and didn’t believe us that it didn’t work. I remember he went in the back and came out with a CD on his finger. He put it in, pressed play, and….it didn’t work. He said “It’s like it’s not reading the CD at all…” My mom, if I recall, responded “No shit.” We got my money back and went to Circuit City.

Old Circuit City buildings had these cool entrances with red-plastic floors covered in circles. it felt like something out of Total Recall. Shopping here was like being in a sci-fi movie…

I felt more comfortable here. We’d purchased PCs from here before with 2 year warranties. Typically when they died after 18 months or so we’d activate the warranty and they’d replace the PC with one that cost the same NOW as the one we got THEN. It means essentially a free-upgrade system if the PC went bad. They quit doing that after a few years.

I found a nice Philips 5 disc changer and took it home. I quit hooking up all my stuff to it and took to just opening the box, plugging it into to the nearest outlet and trying it. I plugged it in. The CD played! I changed discs…and…the mechanism sounded like a pepper mill and it just sat there. We tried it again and…nope. No disc-changing. By this time it was after 3PM. It had been all day. We boxed it up, took it back, and I remember distinctly the woman and man salespeople saying, “Oh I’m sorry… I can’t believe it… Luckily this is Circuit City!” They gave us another one and we took it and went home.

It didn’t even get all the way out of the box. I pulled it out and noticed the back of it looked like it had been kicked in. We just looked despairingly at it and shrugged. I remember saying, “Screw it if it works I don’t care.” It didn’t. It didn’t even power on.

So we took it back…it was after 5PM. Walking back to the stereo section the two salespeople were standing there chatting and I remember the woman turned and saw us, looking stunned she said, “Oh you’re kidding…” I explained it looked like it someone had used it for batting practice and she said, “That’s our shipping…it’s just a box to them.”

Of course they didn’t have the one I picked out. I went to the deep end. I found an amazing-looking Sony 50-disc CD changer. It was 200 more than I planned to spend but I had it. After much consideration I bought it… Took it home…took it out of the box….and…glory be. It worked! It sounded amazing.  in fact it STILL works. It STILL sounds amazing. It as surround sound ports built in. If I want it will play all 50 discs loaded one after another.  It evens started my love affair with Sony products…in all the years I’ve bought them I’ve never had a bad one…

It's an MHC-F100.  Aftermoving it to and from college for four years, from room-to-room, furniture-to-furniture...it's still busting it old school.
It’s an MHC-F100. Aftermoving it to and from college for four years, from room-to-room, furniture-to-furniture…it’s still busting it old school.

Yes portable music, iTunes, Bose, have all changed the way we play music, but that experience plus the quality and awesomeness of this system still sum it up for me. Nothing sounds better than a CD…and it sounds all the sweeter knowing the system I found at the end of that capitalist-consumer quest is still alive and kicking. A bit like the spirit of the 90s to me.

Story of the Month: Walking in Memphis

StoryoftheMonth

What follows is the story of five guys who witnessed the intrusion of supernatural forces into the late-night, alcohol-infused descent into madness that so often accompanies underground poker games. Every detail is completely accurate, and no embellishments have been added. I may have been intoxicated at the time and, to be honest, I might be lying outright about any or all of it, so you probably should not assume any of this actually happened . . . although it did.

 Walking in Memphis

by a guest RevPub writer

Among the group were Brody, Jesse, Moe, Paxton, and Ray. Brody was the ring leader of the night’s circus, and he was a true player in more ways than one. His job prepping venues for conventions and trade shows introduced him people at every echelon of society, and he found it easy to connect to all of them. His passion for fast cars and easy women belied his playing style, which was calculated, methodical, and dangerous.

Brody’s cousin, Jesse, was the host for the evening. His well-paying position at an international manufacturer afforded him the ability to purchase his home outright before turning 30. Jesse’s mountain of a truck couldn’t fit in the garage, so he did the only logical thing and turned the garage into a poker palace. Jesse’s play style was laid back. He didn’t waste time bluffing; instead he enjoyed lively conversation and alcohol.

Brody’s other cousin, Moe, had also inherited Brody’s genetic ability to attract the opposite sex. Bored with his ability to pick up a different girl every night, he now thrived on the challenge of picking up big pots off those foolish enough to call his bluffs at the wrong time. His play style was unmistakably aggressive, and he never met a player he couldn’t outplay.

Paxton was Brody’s friend who was enjoying his summer break from college. His appreciation for fast cars mirrored that of Brody’s, so their friendship was inevitable. Paxton’s play style was cautious and precise. He waited for the right set of cards to set check/raise traps that could steal half your chips before you realized you never had a chance. Then there was Brody’s other friend, Ray. Ray and Brody were friends from a previous sales job. Ray was the prototypical salesman, and some of his swagger rubbed off on Brody. Ray was the kind of salesman a company would use to sell sales techniques to sales teams. He didn’t sell things professionally for the money; he enjoyed it for the thrill of bending people to his will to close a deal. It was this thrill that brought him to games where he could bend people into abandoning their cards by convincing them he had better ones. At best, his play style could be described as unorthodox and, at worst, it was pure lunacy. He didn’t let a little thing like a lousy hand stand in his way, and he would often play hands blind. Naturally, this approach frequently caused Ray to go home broke.

It was a warm summer’s night, and the players arrived around 8:00 pm. After an initial round of drinks, playing commenced. Up to this point, the night was unremarkable. The conversation and entertainment proceeded as it had dozens of times before. With the first deal of the cards, however, Ray changed. Outwardly, he was the same confident, charismatic guy who could befriend you before speaking a word.

Looking into his eyes, however, revealed something else present. The game initially progressed with everyone making small talk and playing in his typical manner, except Ray. He wasn’t playing at all. He anted up when it was his turn, but he folded every hand after briefly glancing at his cards. Then, after 30 minutes, it happened. With two others committed preflop, Ray started mumbling. His mumbling slowly grew louder until his words became clear. Ray was singing part of Cher’s version of Walking in Memphis. His words were not as harmonic as Cher’s, but rather rhythmic and soft like a monk’s chant. Ray repeated the same verse, “When I was walking in Memphis . . . walking with my feet 10 feet off the Beale . . . walking in Memphis . . . but do I really feel the way I feel.”

With each of us looking at each other laughing at the musical improvisation, Ray bet one third of his chips. One of the remaining two players folded, and one called with a pocket pair of queens. The following two rounds of betting were minimal. Then, when Ray and Brody showed their hands, it became clear Ray had bet almost 40% of his chips on a terrible hand consisting of 9 and 2 that were not even in the same suit. This was a horrible hand to bet, and especially one with which to bet so heavily. Somehow, he won. The fourth and fifth community cards were a two and a nine, so Ray picked up two pair while Brody’s initially superior pair of pocket queens became useless. It was an interesting way to win a good amount of chips, but this is certainly not the first time a weak hand won despite the odds. After all, the wild swings of Texas Hold’em are what make the game so much fun to play and watch. I’ve had similar wins myself, and it was most likely just a lucky bluff that he beat when called . . . or so I thought.

Two hands later, almost the exact same thing happened. Ray chanted the song’s lyrics with a 7 and 4 off suit and a smaller pot and won with community cards that were not revealed when he initially bet. Then it happened again four hands later. And again. And again. And again. For roughly 45 minutes, Ray won hand after hand with lousy cards after chanting the song. He became the overwhelming chip leader and eliminated two players. Eventually, the remaining two players refused to play against him when he led off singing the song. They folded those hands instead.

Ordinarily, this kind of control over your opponents would be an advantage for Ray. He could have won the tournament by simply singing the song every hand to collect the other players’ antes, which would make him the victor when they ran out of chips. However, Ray played the game for the thrill of the bet. Grinding out a boring win wasn’t really a victory to him, and for some reason, he could not win without singing the song, regardless how strong his cards. It seemed that whatever demonic force Ray channeled to win the unwinnable also damned him to lose that which should have easily been his.

I am not a statistician, but based on my years of experience playing Texas Hold’em, I can say I have never seen a player defy such insurmountable odds so consistently. Ultimately, with his powers lost, Ray was eliminated. Moe then beat Brody to win the tournament and the glory. I’ve only seen Ray a couple times since that night, neither of which playing poker. He apparently stopped playing after that night. He doesn’t talk about his reason for quitting, but we all know it’s because he didn’t like being “touched by an ‘angel.’”

As for me, I still don’t have much better things to do than play poker on Saturday nights. I am smarter about it now. No more suburban houses. I only play where it’s safe, in the back rooms and alleys filled with hustlers and card sharks . . . where people get stabbed for beating someone with a 9, 2 off suit preflop bet and unimaginably terrifying things would happen for singing a Cher song . . . where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came.

Story of the Month: The Slip

StoryoftheMonth

What is a friend? Webster’s says 1) one attached to another by affection or esteem and 2) one that is not hostile.

What about a good friend? Some may think a good friend comforts you when you’ve had a bad day, or they are always there when you need someone. I think a good friend doesn’t hold anything against you – especially when you say something a little too honest. This month’s story celebrates those friends who forgive us, no matter what we say in the moment.

The Slip

One of James’ life rules is funny trumps mean. It’s a good thing, too, or I’d be screwed. I try to practice “think before you speak,” but there’s a reason the Freudian slip exists.

A couple of years ago, James and I were browsing the Halloween toys and decorations in the Madison Kroger. We didn’t have plans that night, so we were killing time trying on hats and wigs, and playing with skeleton hands and ghostly figures.

We were looking at socks and tights, and my mind was somewhere else. I’m pretty sure I was trying to decide between yellow and black or pink and black stripes.

James picked up an object and said something – neither of us can remember what it was – but he says it was dumb. Maybe he was right, because I recall not laughing at the joke, and there was an awkward pause.

“Well, I sounded stupid,” James said.

To which I responded, without even looking at him, “Don’t be stupid!”

And I was dead serious. In the middle of Kroger, I demanded my best friend not act stupid, and at that moment, I meant it! Then it hit me. What did I just say?! I accidentally said what I was thinking, and it wasn’t good. James is the smartest person I know, but somewhere in the depths of my mind, I felt differently.

Eyes wide and embarrassed, I looked at James. After a couple of seconds, we both started laughing. I kept apologizing for calling him stupid, and he just laughed and laughed. Funny trumps mean. Thank goodness.

With that said, the best of friends understand when you call them stupid in a public area. They laugh with and at you, and don’t take offense. The best friends know when you slip and don’t get mad, or take you too seriously.

James and Raven hanging out

Feel free to share your Freudian slips below!

silver airconditioning duct

Story of the Month: Car Slinky

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Do you remember the end of Toy Story? Woody and Buzz hop on R.C. and ride to the moving truck. They make it to the truck, and Slinky Dog hops down and grabs Woody. Slinky Dog stretches as far as he can, moving from one side of the street to the other, until he can’t hold on any longer.

Believe it or not, I’ve had a similar incident involving a car and a slinky-type contraption.

Slinky Dog helping Woody and Buzz
Photo from: platypuscomix.net

 Car Slinky

One night after work, my friend and I decided to take his mom’s 350Z for a spin. It was a beautiful car and an awesome night for a late drive. The weather was perfect.

2003 orange Nissan 350Z
An orange Nissan 350Z. Photo from:
kids-n-fun.com

We drove around and chatted, twisting and turning through all back roads of the Franklin Road area — until we came to this in the middle of the road:

silver airconditioning duct
Photo from:
alibaba.com

You may recognize it. It’s an air conditioning duct. We tried to dodge it, and thought we did until I looked in the side mirror.

The duct was attached underneath the car, and we were dragging it down Edmonson Pike and Nolensville Road at 1 in the morning. The silver car slinky was at least 20 feet long, and it dragged from one side of the street to the other. Frantically, we tried to figure out what to do, but we couldn’t stop laughing. I cried from laughing so hard and knew we were going to get pulled over. No cop would ignore a sports car dragging a 20-plus-foot slinky down a main road in the middle of the night.

I felt like the baby sister in Toy Story seeing Slinky Dog in her side mirror. It was epic.

After about 10 minutes, we were finally able pull into a parking lot and unhook the duct. There was no damage done to the car, and it made for a great story. Some of my fondest memories are car stories, and you never know what you’ll see. Who knows there may be a YouTube video somewhere…

For fun, here’s the end of Toy Story, backwards! And if you have any funny car stories, we’d love to read them!

Story of the Month Wasps and Irrational Anger

StoryoftheMonth

As I mentioned last month, the weather is getting warmer, which means all the critters of spring are beginning to arrive.

With a relatively mild winter in my area again it means we have more than usual (the same was true last year…and these critters included MICE but maybe that’s next month’s story…) and they start arriving earlier.  Though spiders tend to freak people out more, nothing causes fear and panic through a school playground, office parking lot, or park picnic spot more than wasps buzzing through.

It could be because they seem to come right at you.  It could be because, with their natural red and black costuming (or yellow and black depending on the species and area), they seem to be DRESSED like villains from an 80s action movie.  But they seem to radiate aggression.

Anatomy of a Wasp

I’d managed to live 30-some-odd years on this planet without ever feeling the wrath of their terrible sting…until last month.  Stepping barefoot into my closet to read the back of MUSTARD (of all things….) from my mini-fridge I felt a sharp pain.  Like I’d trod on glass.  Glass sculpted into the shape of a fanged thorn.  Glass sculpted into the shape of a fanged thorn and dipped in molten lead.  And venom.  And HATE.

I immediately jumped back and saw I’d stepped on a wasp who stung the $#!* out of me.  As the pain sunk in I vented it by brutally crushing the life out of it with all the antagonism I could muster.  I spent the morning hopping on one foot, and the rest of the day refilling bags of ice and resting my foot on them to keep the pain down.

My friend Mike says being stung builds character.  Bollocks to that!

After the initial wash of rage had subsided it dawned on me…that wasp stung the crap out of me…but only because I’d stepped on it.  I’ve lived with venomous spiders, aggressive frogs, feisty turtles, and attitude-y cats, but only this little critter managed to really inflict serious pain.  But essentially, I started that fight.  Though I ended it with extreme prejudice as well, it did make me realize that reaction is essentially the same anger I get when the gate to my station wagon closed while I was getting my guitar in high school and smashed me in the head (seriously happened) or when I stood up underneath my pull-up bar and it crashed into my neck (that also happened).  The immediate reaction is irrational rage at the inanimate object…just for existing…  (I punched the metal pull-up bar.  Yeah that was smart…) I became one of those idiots I hate who hear a bear has killed imbecile that was trying to get a picture hugging said bear and immediate go out to kill all bears.

In retrospect, I got stung, it hurt like a *&%^!#$^&#@ but I can’t blame the evil little monster who assaulted me as it was reacting to my actions.  Who knows how many times I’d stab some big oaf that tried to step on me.

I’ll keep that in mind the next time a vicious, little, fire-red demon attempts to do me in via near-microscopic venom shard…

That's the one that got me...
That’s the one that got me…

See more stories in our Story of the Month section!

Story of the Month Spring n’ Spiders

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It’s spring!  In addition to warming weather, tempestuous storms, and the return of green to the world around us spring also means…bugs…

As a rule I have no distaste for insects, bugs, or mollusks that we share our world with, and this can be surprising as some of the encounters I’ve had would make you think otherwise!  As story of the month this month I’ll share one of my most memorable encounters with the various domestic invertebrates found in the southern United States:

Spring n’ Spiders

I inherited a garage room as a senior in high school after a brown recluse spider was found stuck to a glue trap and my mom refused to sleep there any longer.  As it was the biggest room in the house (with an outside door!) I didn’t hesitate to take it, but soon found the trapped spider had friends…hundreds of them…

Creepy Spider

At first seeing one of them would send me fleeing the room and sleeping on the couch in a different room.  After a while I got used to them.  Taking them out casually with a length of cedar pole or a riding crop (WHACK it’d cut them right in half…) I got from an art teacher.

One day, after finding a few of the glue traps I set so packed with the venomous little critters it had noticeable weight, I enlisted my friend Mike to come over, rip the room apart, open all the cupboards and closets, and bug bomb it into oblivion. So we did.  Took the place apart, including the couch, cushions, bed, closet, the whole place.

Lit the fuse (literally…we didn’t know we were supposed to turn off the gas…the water heater was in there and we could have truly declared inquisitorial exterminatus on that end of the house…) and left.  We came back after the allotted time and put everything back together.  We put a pizza in the oven and turned on Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and flipped through a sword catalog for fun.

Sitting there, chilling, I looked down and saw one of the little bastards sitting right in the middle of my chest.  Normally pretty stoic I declared “Sunnuva bitch there’s one of em on me!” trampolined it off my shirt and into the floor, stomping it with my boot and grinding it across the carpet into shreds.  Mike joined the melee by taking both cans of wasp spray we had and spraying its dismembered body with them like a gunslinger.  We created possibly the deadest spider in the history of dead spiders…

Since then the brown recluse infestation has subsided.  It went from hundreds of them at all stages of maturity, creeping from closets, out from under furniture (and in one disturbing encounter dozens rappelling down webs from the ceiling) to…none…  At first I was mystified before I found a curio I bought had an infestation of its own…of cellar spiders.  These harmless little rascals spin irregular webs under furniture and in corners…the perfect places to ensnare brown recluses.  They did the job chemicals and smack ’em sticks couldn’t.  And I happily traded one infestation for another.

Despite these encounters I still have no arachnophobia (despite creepy spider dreams occasionally) and even released a captured brown recluse by a tree outside my previous place of employment (I figured what’s one more spineless, cantankerous, creeper around there…) and even had a “pet” spider outside my house for a while.  It goes to show nature might be creepy, and even dangerous, but it’s never to be hated or feared!

Enjoy the first few days of spring!  There are more such “nature” encounters coming soon!

See more stories in our Story of the Month section!