January is such a dead month. There’s very little going on, as everyone is getting over the holiday rush and preparing for the year ahead. At least, that’s the way it’s always felt to me. So naturally, it’s a time for self-reflection, or at least weekends out of the house, spending all those Christmas gift cards you got. I needed to get out. I needed to get my mind off things. So, it was off it the city.
As I’ve blogged before, I don’t feel too guilty about spending a lot of money if I’m sure to pick up at least one thing I need. This time out, that one thing was a new set of headphones. Now, you may be sitting there thinking that headphones are nothing, but for us radio folk, they are a tool of the trade. And I was disheartened this past week when my favourite pair of headphones just up and quit working. I plugged them into the board to start doing my show, and the left side was just completely gone.
Granted, my headphones weren’t top of the line or anything like that, but my sister gave them to me for Christmas a few years ago. They always filled the bill, and it was like having my sister right there with me. So I was sad to see them go. But I got a new pair, and I’ll be breaking those in on Monday.
Sadly, I didn’t find the one thing that I was really looking forward to spending a gift card on. I’m not much of a gamer, but damn it, I really wanted an NES Classic for Christmas. With a Best Buy gift card in hand, I stopped in at Best Buy to see if any were back in stock yet. With a sympathetic shrug, the clerk checked the computer and told me, “No.” So I guess I’ll just keep trying until they are.
I never had a Nintendo when I was a kid, but I always wanted one. So the NES Classic is my last, best, nostalgic chance to get one. Did I tell you of how I screwed myself out of the chance to get one when I was a kid? I don’t think I’ve ever blogged it, but I know I tell it on the air just about every Christmas as an example to all the kids out there how they’ve got to be good for Santa.
It was the early 1990s, the height of the console wars. Christmas was coming up, and Mom started hinting that Santa was thinking about bringing us kids a video game console. “But, he can’t decide if he should bring a Nintendo or a Sega,” said Mom. I was Team Nintendo all the way. All my friends had Nintendo. All our cousins had Nintendo. Whenever we rented a video game console from the corner store on a rainy weekend afternoon, it was a Nintendo. Nintendo just made sense. But my brother...my brother was Sega all the way. My brother was deep into military aircraft when we were kids, and as such, he was hooked on the Sega classic After Burner. He wanted a Sega just so he could get his After Burner fix.
So, over the dinner table that night, my brother and I broke into a debate over the merits of Nintendo versus Sega. And the debate quickly devolved into an argument. And as the argument was about to devolve into a fistfight, Mom broke us up and said, “HEY! If you’re going to be that way, Santa’s bringing you NO VIDEO GAMES. EVER.” And thus, we did not get a video game console that Christmas.
I still got my Nintendo fix. I had a paper route, so I diligently saved my paper route money for about six months. When I had enough, I bought myself a Game Boy, as it was Nintendo’s hot new console at the time. I loved that Game Boy. Played it quite a bit. But there’s still a part of me that wanted a Nintendo.
So I’ll keep occasionally dropping in at Best Buy and the odd video game store until they’re back in stock. I mean, hey, I may be nostalgic for one, but not nostalgic enough to drop $500 for one on Kijiji. At that price, may as well go to a used video game store and buy a Nintendo proper.
Since people know what I like, the bulk of my gift cards this Christmas were for Cineplex, so that meant I was next off to see a movie. Now, January is usually a pretty slow time for movies, but there still happens to be one out there I had my eye on. I was going to see The Founder. Now, I get it. The Founder doesn’t look like my kind of movie. No superheroes, no spaceships, nothing. But I do love fast food. And my love of fast food has extended beyond just running out to McDonald’s whenever they introduce a new promotional burger. I have spent countless hours reading up on the history of the various fast food franchise and their origins. Many told me back in the day that the book Fast Food Nation would turn me off fast food forever, but instead, I found it to be a fascinating peek-behind-the-curtain for this billion dollar industry. So, yeah. I wanted to see The Founder.
The Founder tells the true story of Ray Kroc. In his early 50s, Kroc had been a salesman for all his life. He’s OK at it, enough to buy a nice house and get married, but Kroc wants more. When we first meet him, he’s selling restaurant equipment, and trying to move these fancy milkshake machines that can make five milkshakes at once. While checking in with his office one day, he learns of a restaurant that’s actually put in an order for 8 of his machines. Curious as to what kind of restaurant would need to make 40 milkshakes at once, he decides to investigate personally. His journey takes him to a little California hamburger stand called McDonald’s. He meets the founders and owners, Dick and Mac McDonald, and quickly becomes enamored with their business. They’ve developed a whole new method of food preparation and restaurant management that they call “Speedy Service,” getting people their food and out the door within 30 seconds. Kroc senses this could be huge, and enters into an agreement with the McDonald brothers. Kroc gets to work selling McDonald’s franchises, and thus begins the tale of how Kroc turned that humble burger stand into the fast food empire we know it to be today.
The Founder is a really good movie, you guys. Michael Keaton plays Kroc, and he manages to walk that fine line between charming and sleazy that most salespeople need to walk. Equally good is Nick Offerman as Dick McDonald, who quickly begins to regret the Pandora ’s Box he opened when he went into business with Kroc. I also love how it plays with convention a little bit. When Kroc and the McDonald brothers go out for a drink, and the McDonalds starts explaining how they came up with their concept, the whole film plays like a documentary for that segment. It’s like we’re watching the A&E Biography of the McDonald brothers.
And that was about all I did in the city that day. Although, I kind of regret that i didn’t make it all the way down to West Edmonton Mall, as I’m sure I’ll be running out of time to check out HMV. News broke on Friday afternoon that HMV is planning to close up shop, and shut down all of its Canadian locations. And with that, the last great Canadian record store chain will be gone. Man, HMV had been one of my regular stops at West Edmonton Mall for as long as I can remember.
When its current location first opened up in 1999, I remember what a big deal it was. One of those stores that comes along that the media trumpets as “revolutionary.” When it first opened in ’99, one of its biggest features was its rooms. These were pretty much stores within the store. You could go into the country music room, where all the country albums were and country was playing on the loudspeakers. You could go into the hip hop room, which was pretty much the same thing, but for hip hop. And there was even a listening lounge, where you could preview the newest albums before buying them. Back in those hazy lazy days after college, that listening lounge was the popular place where I’d meet up with my friends in the city for a night on the town.
And that’s not even HMV’s original location in West Edmonton Mall. Their original location was where Victoria’s Secret now is. Bought a lot of albums there. Hell, bought a lot of VHS tapes there, when I started getting into movies. I remember blowing my mother’s mind, when I picked up the Star Wars trilogy...the famous “one last time” edition from 1995, which wound up being the last official release of the original theatrical editions. “You actually like Star Wars that much?” asked my mother, slightly confused. Hell, I remember when HMV used to have two locations in West Edmonton Mall. They had a second, smaller one, over in Phase I for a couple of years. I remember having an awkward encounter there with the girl I had a crush on in elementary school. We had moved on to separate high schools by then, and made the awkward comments about how much we had...grown, and that was the last time we ever saw each other.
That’s getting me nostalgic for all the record stores that used to be in West Edmonton Mall. As a kid, I remember visiting A&A Records and Tapes in the Mall, until HMV moved in and put them out of business. Music World used to be in the food court, where the eyeglass store is now. Again, bought a lot of VHS tapes at Music World, because I was starting to become a snob about aspect ratios, and it was the first place I saw with a dedicated widescreen section. Over where Chapters is now, that used to be the West Edmonton Mall location of Sam the Record Man. Didn’t shop at Sam’s that much, as I always found HMV to be a little bit cheaper.
Sad seeing all these record stores go, even though I am part of the problem. Ever since the smartphone era begin, I buy pretty much all of my music digitally now. And streaming music services like Spotify make it even easier. But ya know, with the resurgence of vinyl, I am half-tempted to get myself a turntable some days. If I go through with that, I guess I’ll have to buy my records online. I blogged back in December that I wandered into HMV to pick up the soundtracks for Star Trek Beyond and Rogue One. Those might wind up being the last albums I ever buy at HMV.
Speaking of smartphones, did I mention yet that I finally bit the bullet and upgraded my smartphone? Did that about two weeks ago. I figured I should update you, as pondering over when to upgrade kind of dominated the “my day in the city” blog entries last year. But yeah, with everything on my iPhone 4S being all slow and choppy, I finally said, “Screw it, I gotta do it.”
Ran down to Spruce Grove, because there’s a Telus Store there where I got my 4S 4 years ago, and they treated me really nice. After mulling my choices online for most of 2016, I finally settled on an iPhone 6S. As I told my friends, I’ve bought too much stuff on iTunes to turn back now. And again, that Telus Store treated me really nice. They brought up my account, and discovered I qualified for a free upgrade. So all I really had to pay for was a new SIM card and the protective case.
I’ve spent the past two weeks playing with my new phone and getting accustomed to it. I’m annoying the three people who follow me on SnapChat because I can finally use filters without my phone crashing. I’m finally playing Pokemon Go. Yeah, I’m about seven months late to the party on that fad, but I’m having a lot of fun with it. With my increased duties at work, I don’t have much time to go out for my evening walks anymore. But damn it, Pokemon Go is getting me out, because these 5km eggs aren’t going to hatch themselves.
The only real problem I have with my new phone is my PC is now so old that my phone won’t sync to it. So I can’t download my tunes! Yeah, if there’s anything I’ve ever bought on iTunes, I can always download that from the cloud, but any of my albums that I’ve ripped over the years, and I’m SOL. So I guess next up is I gotta get a new PC. And I also wouldn’t mind a laptop or tablet, for when I’m on the road.
But maybe I will be satisfied with my new phone for when I’m on the road. I can’t get over how much bigger this 6S is compared to the 4S. I can see myself comfortably watching Netflix on this.
As I’m winding down on this rambling, I’m thinking I need to get a podcast again. So much of this would have been good show prep for a podcast. And there’s so much more to talk about. Like the latest trailer for the Power Rangers reboot. Or the latest trailer for Logan. Or the next Star Wars movie has a title now. (The Last Jedi, in case you haven’t heard.) So much to talk about, and so little time.
And the usually quiet January is almost done. So If I’m going to do it, I’d better do it.