Monday, May 28, 2012

Completely Conspicuous 229: Around the Dial

Part 1 of my conversation with special guests Nick Lorenzen and Mike Piantigini as we discuss the death of rock radio. Listen to the episode below or download it directly (right click and "save as").

Show notes:
- Boston alternative rock station WFNX was sold to Clear Channel recently
- Rock radio has been on life support for quite some time
- Too much radio programming and formats
- WFNX was pioneer of the alternative format
- Nick: Knew of WFNX more by reputation as a kid
- Mike: College radio introduced me to a world beyond classic rock and metal

- Jay: R.E.M. and U2 were first so-called alternative bands I got into
- WBCN was revolutionary back in late '60s and '70s, playing free-form rock
- Eventually became formatted like all the rest
- WBCN switched to alternative format in mid-'90s to compete with FNX
- Eventually, BCN went to more talk: Stern, Opie & Anthony
- FNX went downhill for a while with nu metal
- Nick: FNX had rebounded in last few years
- We old guys don't get newer bands like Mumford and Sons
- FNX wasn't going after geezers like us anymore
- Many more options for listeners now: iPod, streaming audio, Pandora
- The "Mike FM" stations just regurgitate '90s alternacrap
- The much-bigger WBCN went off air in '09, turned into a sports talk station
- The market for rock music has diminished; kids are listening to more hip hop and pop
- Plenty of new rock bands coming out all the time
- Nick: Hard rock is used more in sports arenas and commercials
- To be continued next week
- Bonehead of the Week

Music:
Bob Mould - The Act We Act (live)

Hallelujah the Hills - Get Me in a Room
Zeus - Anything You Want, Dear
The White Stripes - Jimmy the Exploder
Completely Conspicuous is available through the iTunes podcast directory. Subscribe and write a review!

The Bob Mould song is from Live at Bottom of the Hill, a free EP of three Sugar songs from the album Copper Blue performed live on Feb. 24 in San Francisco. Download the EP for free (in exchange for your email address) at New.Official.Fm.

The Hallelujah the Hills song is on the album No One Knows What Happens Next on Discrete Pageantry. Download the song for free from HallelujahTheHills.com.


The Zeus song is on the album Busting Visions on Arts and Crafts. Download the song for free from IODA Promonet:
Busting VisionsZeus
"Anything You Want Dear" (mp3)
from "Busting Visions"
(Arts & Crafts)

More On This Album

The White Stripes song is from the band's self-titled album on Sympathy for the Record Industry. Download the song for free from Epitonic.

The opening and closing theme of Completely Conspicuous is "Theme to Big F'in Pants" by Jay Breitling. Find out more about Senor Breitling at his fine music blog Clicky Clicky. Voiceover work is courtesy of James Gralian; check out his site PodGeek.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Top Special

Another week, another music list. This one, conducted as part of a survey for Dan Paquette's Music Obsession, had me compiling my top 100 albums of all time. Not an easy task, for certain. And as with all of these lists, there are many inadvertent omissions and changes of heart along the way. I'm sure I could look at it again and come up with a totally new list. But I had to get the thing turned in by Dan's deadline. In all, 52 people responded with a total of 1,791 different titles and Dan will be counting down the top 1,006 albums starting tomorrow (follow him on the Facebook to indulge in his need to tabulate).

In the meantime, here's my list of the top 100 albums of all time. Numero uno is Led Zeppelin IV, which encapsulated the best of Zep's admittedly great stretch of albums. I actually tend to turn towards Physical Graffiti more these days, but song for song, there's no topping ZoSo.

Here's the rest of the list (feel free to disagree in the comments):


12.       Beatles – Abbey Road
33.       Rolling Stones – Exile on Main Street
44.       The Who – Who’s Next
55.       The Clash – London Calling
66.       Van Halen – s/t
77.       Black Sabbath – Paranoid
88.       David Bowie – The Life and Times of Ziggy Stardust
99.       AC/DC – Back in Black
110.   Prince – Purple Rain
111.   Husker Du – Zen Arcade
112.   Iggy and the Stooges – Raw Power
113.   Neil Young – Tonight’s the Night
114.   Jimi Hendrix Experience – Are You Experienced?
115.   U2 – The Joshua Tree
116.   Led Zeppelin – Physical Graffiti
117.   Beatles – White Album
118.   Nirvana – Nevermind
119.   Mission of Burma – Vs.
220.   Pixies – Surfer Rosa
221.   Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon
222.   Elvis Costello – My Aim is True
223.   Replacements – Tim
224.   Sex Pistols – Never Mind the Bollocks…
225.   Ramones – Road to Ruin
226.   The Who – Quadrophenia
227.   Radiohead – OK Computer
228.   Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
229.   Bob Dylan – Blonde on Blonde
330.   Jimi Hendrix Experience – Electric Ladyland
331.   R.E.M. – Murmur
332.   Guns N’ Roses – Appetite for Destruction
333.   Van Halen – Fair Warning
334.   Rush – Moving Pictures
335.   Pearl Jam – Ten
336.   The Kinks – Something Else
337.   Big Star – #1 Record
338.   Prince – Sign o’ the Times
339.   Velvet Underground and Nico
440.   Talking Heads – Remain in Light
441.   The Stooges – Fun House
442.   Black Flag – Damaged
443.   Minutemen – Double Nickels on the Dime
444.   Metallica – Master of Puppets
445.   Led Zeppelin II
446.   Aerosmith – Toys in the Attic
447.   Stevie Wonder – Songs in the Key of Life
448.   Elvis Costello – This Year’s Model
449.   Pretenders – s/t
550.   Cheap Trick – s/t
551.   Rolling Stones – Beggars Banquet
552.   Fugazi – Repeater
553.   Pixies – Doolittle
554.   Funkadelic – Maggot Brain
555.   Afghan Whigs – Gentlemen
556.   The Jam – All Mod Cons
557.   Matthew Sweet – Girlfriend
558.   Big Star – Radio City
559.   Beck – Mellow Gold
660.   Beastie Boys – Paul’s Boutique
661.   Sloan – Twice Removed
662.   Public Enemy – It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back
663.   Nirvana – In Utero
664.   Peter Gabriel – Melt
665.   Pavement – Slanted and Enchanted
666.   Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here
667.   Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On
668.   U2 – Achtung Baby
669.   Beck – Odelay
770.   Mudhoney – Superfuzz Bigmuff
771.   Soundgarden – Badmotorfinger
772.   Rolling Stones – Let It Bleed
773.   Smashing Pumpkins – Gish
774.   Van Halen II
775.   Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
776.   Queen – News of the World
777.   R.E.M. – Reckoning
778.   Ozzy Osbourne – Blizzard of Ozz
779.   Radiohead – Kid A
880.   Green Day – Dookie
881.   Frank Black – Teenager of the Year
882.   The Who – Live at Leeds
883.   Black Sabbath – s/t
884.   Temple of the Dog – s/t
885.   Sloan – One Chord to Another
886.   Pearl Jam – Vs.
887.   Public Enemy – Fear of a Black Planet
888.   Prince – 1999
889.   The Tragically Hip – Fully Completely
990.   Queens of the Stone Age – Songs for the Deaf
991.   White Stripes – White Blood Cells
992.   PJ Harvey – To Bring You My Love
993.   Husker Du – Flip Your Wig
994.   De La Soul – 3 Feet High and Rising
995.   Iron Maiden – Number of the Beast
996.   Sonic Youth – Daydream Nation
997.   Neil Young and Crazy Horse – Rust Never Sleeps
998.   The Smiths – Meat is Murder
999.   The Cure – Disintegration
1100.  Weezer – s/t (Blue album)




Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Completely Conspicuous 228: Feel the Burn

Part 2 of my conversation with special guest Adam Tinkoff as we discuss diet and exercise. Listen to the episode below or download it directly (right click and "save as").


Show notes:
- Recorded via Skype
- Check out Adam's new show Zen@10 and also the Slow Runners Club
- Adam: Think before you eat
- Jay: Hot dogs gross me out
- Food processing is a nasty business
- Keep track of what you eat for 30 days
- Mix up your workouts
- Adam: Latin dancing is a great workout
- Adam's a "carousel of crazy"
- He did Internet broadcasting in 2000 before podcasting was created
- Taking a break from Slow Runners Club podcast because of busy schedules
- Kicked off 2012 Spring Clean Reboot
- Group effort to eat better
- First week is easy, but after that it's tough to sustain
- We need to make it easy for people to exercise
- Much has changed in the last 20 years
- Harder to lose weight as you get older
- Body mass index (BMI) is useless
- Body fat percentage doesn't need to be single digits
- Adam: All diet plans fail
- Change your habits, then adjustments

- Getting into online fitness coaching
- You don't need a gym to get fit
- The Biggest Loser made weight loss inspiring
- Bonehead of the Week

Music:
The Afghan Whigs - See and Don't See

The Alabama Shakes - Hold On
Sunny Ali and the Kid - Chai
Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra - Do It With a Rockstar

Completely Conspicuous is available through the iTunes podcast directory. Subscribe and write a review!

The Afghan Whigs song is the first new recording from the band since 2006. Download the song for free (in exchange for your email address) at TheAfghanWhigs.com.
The Alabama Shakes song is on the album Boys & Girls on ATO Records. Download the song for free as part of The ATO Spring Sampler (in exchange for your email address) at ATO Records.

The Sunny Ali and the Kid  song is a digital single available for free download at Bandcamp
The Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra song is on her forthcoming album on 8ft Records. Download the song for free from Soundcloud.

The opening and closing theme of Completely Conspicuous is "Theme to Big F'in Pants" by Jay Breitling. Find out more about Senor Breitling at his fine music blog Clicky Clicky. Voiceover work is courtesy of James Gralian; check out his site PodGeek.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Riot In My House

There are certain artists who never seem to get their due, underappreciated despite an undeniable body of work. Mark Lanegan falls into that category. A certain segment of folks only know him as the singer of the Screaming Trees, a band that had a brief shining glimpse of fame during the whole Seattle grunge movement of the early '90s. But Lanegan has never stopped recording and performing, either on his own or collaborating with others. He's released seven solo albums since 1990, including his latest, Blues Funeral, and has recorded with Queens of the Stone Age, The Twilight Singers, The Gutter Twins, Isobel Campbell, The Soulsavers and many others. His distinctive baritone is as worn as he is, solitary and gruff and soulful all at once.

Last Sunday, he visited the Paradise in Boston on a rare solo tour. I'd seen him with the Trees back in '92 and later with QOTSA, the Twilight Singers and the Gutter Twins; for the last three, he would appear on stage to sing certain songs and then disappear again, content to cede the spotlight to the likes of Josh Homme or Greg Dulli. But this time, it was all Lanegan, and he and his backing band didn't disappoint. It was Mother's Day, and the 'Dise wasn't quite full, but those who did venture out were rewarded with a terrific show.


Sean Wheeler and Zander Schloss opened the night with a set of acoustic Americana, an interesting sound coming from two punk rock vets. Wheeler was the maniacal frontman of desert rockers Throw Rag, who opened for Lanegan and QOTSA when I saw them at the Roxy in 2005; Schloss is a punk legend, having played bass for the Circle Jerks and worked with Joe Strummer, Thelonious Monster and countless other artists, as well acting in Repo Man. Wheeler looks like he's been to hell and back, but he was very chatty and provided distinctive crooning while Schloss played his 12-string acoustic. Good stuff.

Lanegan and his relatively unknown backing band played a powerful and atmospheric set that spanned the lanky frontman's career, including eight of the 12 songs from Blues Funeral; standouts included the synth-heavy "The Gravedigger's Song," uptempo rockers "Gray Goes Black" and "Riot In My House" and the dare-I-say danceable "Ode to Sad Disco." But Lanegan also sprinkled in songs from all but two of his solo albums, with the biggest responses coming to tracks from 2004's Bubblegum: "Hit the City," "One Hundred Days," "Wedding Dress" and the night's closer, "Methamphetamine Blues," with its refrain of "Rollin' just to keep on rollin'." He reached back to 1994's Whiskey for the Holy Ghost with the bluesy "Pendulum" and while he didn't play any of the songs that made him an alt-rock star in the days of flannel, Lanegan snuck in two songs from last year's Screaming Trees album Last Words: The Final Recordings, as well as a Leaving Trains cover, "Creeping Coastline of Lights."

As is his wont, Lanegan was immobile on stage, gripping the mike stand like his life depended on it and saying little between songs other than the occasional thank you and once introducing his band. Nobody goes to see Mark Lanegan for the snappy stage banter. The man's there to sing, and sing he did. He's a national treasure and I'm glad I got to see him.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Broken Radio

Another nail was driven into the coffin of Boston rock radio this week when Phoenix Media announced it was selling its pioneering alt-rock station WFNX (101.7 FM) to Clear Channel. Most of the staff has been laid off already, with longtime DJs like Julie Kramer saying their farewells over the last few days. A skeleton crew will run things until the FCC approves the sale; there are reports that Clear Channel will turn the station into a country and western or Spanish talk station. The station had long trumpeted its independent ownership, but obviously it wasn't bringing in the kind of revenue needed to keep it that way.

The sale follows the abrupt August 2009 end of WBCN (104.1), one of the first and most powerful rock stations in the country, which was converted to a "mix" format of mom rock; it actually swapped spaces on the dial with Mix 98.5 and now exists as The Sports Hub, a sports talk station and home of Bruins and Patriots games. That was especially shocking since WBCN was such a major figure in Boston rock, but it illustrated the transient nature of radio these days.

FNX has been around since 1983, the same year we moved to New Hampshire from Washington state. It started out as "Rock the Boat Radio," playing the college rock sounds of bands like R.E.M., U2 and The Cure. I didn't listen to it right away because I was more into the AOR and hard rock found on stations like WBCN and WAAF, but gradually I became aware of FNX. For me, FNX became must-listening after I graduated from college and got into so-called alternative music, moving away from much of the hard rock and metal I grew up on. I listened to FNX all through the '90s and into the '00s, even as BCN tried to compete by going alternative in the mid-90s. While I was working at Webnoize, I started listening to WMBR, the MIT student station, because we had it on in the newsroom and continued that for a few years after leaving.

But once I got an iPod in 2004, I pretty much stopped listening to radio, partially because I was listening to music and podcasts regularly but also because I was sick of hearing the same songs over and over on all the stations. In recent years, I would only listen to FNX on occasion but had no use for the constant repetition of bands like Mumford and Sons and the Killers.

Still, I have to give FNX credit for introducing me to oodles of great bands over the years and having terrific DJs like Kramer, Morning Guy Tai, Neal Robert and more. Like WBCN, FNX represents a great part of my musical education and will certainly be missed. Who's left? WAAF is still at it, playing hard rock and classic rock; WZLX is the main classic rock station in Boston; WXRV plays mellower rock but is still independent; and 92.9 was converted a few years ago to a DJ-less "Mike FM" format that's heavy on the '90s hits. In other words, I'm sticking with my iPod.

Dig the old FNX commercial poking fun at WBCN's adding the Howard Stern show in the mornings (featuring a young Maria Menounos):

Monday, May 14, 2012

Completely Conspicuous 227: Shapes of Things

Part 1 of my conversation with special guest Adam Tinkoff as we discuss fitness. Listen to the episode below or download it directly (right click and "save as").

Show notes:
- Recorded via Skype

- Check out Adam's new show Zen@10 and also the Slow Runners Club
- Talking a little rock: Against Me singer switching genders
- Are Bowie Bonds worth anything?

- Adam's mulling a trip to Bonnaroo
- We both met Trey from Phish at different points

- Frank Zappa's influence on modern music
- Adam doesn't buy the new CDC obesity report
- More folks are becoming long-distance runners getting into fitness
- People need to make better dietary choices
- Bigger problem is inactivity of people on Facebook
- Adam: Was seriously into martial arts, then focused on fatherhood in his 30s
- Now back into fitness
- Adam was a podcasting pioneer, talking about weight loss and fitness
- Drinking alcohol can affect how much nutrition your body gets from food
- Formaldehyde: Your last drink
- Giving up alcohol for short periods can benefit your weight loss and fitness efforts
- Soft drinks are full of unwanted side effects
- Everything in moderation
- To be continued next week
- Bonehead of the Week

Music:
Young Adults - Decay

Guided By Voices - Class Clown Spots a UFO
The Riverboat Gamblers - Comedians
Beck - Lost Cause

Completely Conspicuous is available through the iTunes podcast directory. Subscribe and write a review!

The Young Adults song is on the compilation NOFUCKINGWHERE, featuring Boston bands covering songs from Ride's 1990 album Nowhere compiled by Jay Breitling. Download the entire album for free at Clicky Clicky.

The Guided By Voices song is the title track of the band's forthcoming album on Guided By Voices/Fire Records. Download the song for free at Stereogum.

The Riverboat Gamblers song is on the album The Wolf You Feed on Volcom Entertainment. Download the song for free (in exchange for your email address) from TheRiverboatGamblers.com
The Beck song is on the album Sea Change on Geffen. Download the song for free from Epitonic.

The opening and closing theme of Completely Conspicuous is "Theme to Big F'in Pants" by Jay Breitling. Find out more about Senor Breitling at his fine music blog Clicky Clicky. Voiceover work is courtesy of James Gralian; check out his site PodGeek.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Not That Funny

Ashton Kutcher has made his career playing the himbo, that archetype of the cute but dumb guy who makes people laugh at his wacky foibles on shows like "That '70s Show" and "Two and Half Men" as well as countless rom-coms. He also managed to create a career for himself by being an early adopter on Twitter and producing goofy shows like "Punk'd." Oh, and marrying Demi Moore (at least until that union fell apart last year). For the most part, the guy's been relatively inoffensive.

Until last week, when snack food maker Popchips unveiled a new ad featuring Kutcher in brownface, doing a horrendous Indian accent and attempting to be funny (only a small clip is on YouTube right now):

There was an immediate outcry once the ad was released online, and the ad was quickly pulled and apologies issued amid charges of racism. Here's a particularly sharp rebuttal to the ad from Indian-American comic Hasan Minhaj:


I appreciate his points, but I don't necessarily feel that there needs to be a ban on Indian impressions by non-Indian performers. My problem with the Popchips ad is, as Minhaj points out, the thing's just not funny. Kutcher's just not a talented impressionist and the things he's saying make no sense. I watched the whole ad when it first came out and was just amazed at the sheer awfulness of it. Did somebody actually think it was funny, or did they just not want to offend Kutcher, who no doubt thought it was HI-LARIOUS?

What Kutcher and Popchips failed to realize is that there's a whole generation of Indian-Americans like myself and Minhaj and Anil Dash and the dudes in Das Racist who don't speak in thick accents and don't put up with stupid shit like this.

There are plenty of stereotypical Indians on TV already, played by actual Indians: the dolts in the Metro PCS ads (who I find much more offensive than this, actually, because they should know better), the guy on "Big Bang Theory," the limo driver who pops up on "How I Met Your Mother" every so often, or guys playing doctors, taxi drivers or convenience store owners. At least Kal Penn moved beyond those types of roles to play a stoner in the "Harold and Kumar" movies, even if it's turned my surname into something of a punch line:


Another famous (although maybe not as much anymore) white guy in brownface portrayal of an Indian was by the legendary English comic actor Peter Sellers in "The Party." Although he, unlike Kutcher, is actually funny:


Less successful at pulling off the brownface thing, IMHO, was Fisher Stevens in the much-beloved '80s robot flick "Short Circuit":


But probably the most famous Indian impression is done by Hank Azaria as Apu on "The Simpsons." And yeah, it's pretty stereotypical, but for the most part, I find it to be pretty damn funny. Although if you call me Apu, you can count on getting a smack upside your head (or the verbal equivalent):


(NOTE: It was brought to my attention that I failed to mention Mike Myers' Love Guru movie. I think it's best for all involved if we just forget that ever happened.)

So is Ashton Kutcher a racist? I don't think so. Is he an unfunny dumbass? Definitely. Case closed. Thank you, please come again.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Completely Conspicuous 226: Bottoms Up!

Part 2 of my conversation with special guest Ben Amirault as we discuss the growth of craft beer. Listen to the episode below or download it directly (right click and "save as").
Show notes:
- Check out Ben's beer blog The Church Key
- Dogfish Head has branched out with TV show, limited edition beers
- Northeast has many great brewers: Magic Hat, Smuttynose, Baxter, Long Trail
- "Ice beer" was, and still is, a thing
- Regional pockets of great craft beer throughout the U.S.
- Some of beers can overdo it with the accents (fruit, pumpkin, caramel, chocolate, coffee, etc.)
- Jay: Not big into pairing certain beers with certain types of food
- Canadians will drink Bud or Coors because it's so light
- Ben: Hard to keep up with all the new brewers
- Recent trend is putting craft beer in cans
- Some brewers won't do it, but many are: Sierra Nevada, Harpoon, Oskar Blues, Baxter
- Great packaging can get you to try a beer
- The bomber is a great way to check out a new beer
- Some stores let you "make" your own six-pack from singles
- Bonehead of the Week

Music:
Mission of Burma - Dust Devil

Father John Misty - Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings
Hallelujah the Hills - Hungry Ghost Extraordinaire

The Men - Open Your Heart

Completely Conspicuous is available through the iTunes podcast directory. Subscribe and write a review!
The Mission of Burma song is on the forthcoming album Unsound on Fire Records. Download the song for free at Team Clermont.

The Father John Misty song is on the album Fear Fun on Sub Pop. Download the song for free at Sub Pop.

The Hallelujah the Hills song is on the album No One Knows What Happens Next on Discrete Pageantry. Download the song for free from Prefix Mag
The song by The Men is on the album Open Hearts on Sacred Bones. Download the song for free from Epitonic.

The opening and closing theme of Completely Conspicuous is "Theme to Big F'in Pants" by Jay Breitling. Find out more about Senor Breitling at his fine music blog Clicky Clicky. Voiceover work is courtesy of James Gralian; check out his site PodGeek.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Pass the Mic

After my last post, I wasn't planning on doing any more ruminations on getting older and my own mortality. But then came the sad news that Adam Yauch, aka MCA of the Beastie Boys, died today at the young age of 47. Yauch had been battling cancer for the last three years and missed the Beasties' recent induction into the Rock Hall of Fame, but the news of his death still came as a shock.

The Beasties, along with Run DMC, introduced me to hip hop in the mid-'80s, although it wasn't until 1992's Check Your Head that I really got into them. I never saw them live, but I respected their early beginnings as a scrappy punk band and followed their evolution into a bratty rap act. Just when I was getting sick of Licensed to Ill, the Beasties transformed again with Paul's Boutique, a masterpiece of an album with an insanely amazing collection of samples. Then came Check Your Head and Ill Communication, which highlighted the Beasties' chops as musicians as much as it did their MC skills. As they got into their 40s, the output slowed, but last year's Hot Sauce Committee Part 2 was an excellent return to form.

Yauch's death came just a few days after former NFL linebacker Junior Seau was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at the age of 43. He was only a few years removed from playing with the Patriots and left no suicide note detailing his motivations, but his family has released Seau's brain for further study to determine the extent of brain trauma from concussions suffered during his playing days. One former teammate went so far as to say Seau could have suffered 1,500 concussions. Damn.

It's especially strange to see people my age dying, whether it's from disease or by design. Kinda freaky, really. All we can do now is celebrate their lives.


Gratitude: Fight for Your Right (Revisited), directed by Yauch:

Thursday, May 03, 2012

My Father's Son

So there I was, driving my mother, wife and daughters to a bowling alley in New Hampshire for Hannah's birthday, when a strange fact hit me: I'm the same age (44 going on 45) that my father was in 1985, when I was a senior in high school.

In and of itself, that isn't so outrageous. He became a father at 26, whereas I was 34 when Hannah was born in 2002. It's just that he seemed so much older to me then, and I know when you're 17, anybody over 30 seems like a geezer.

By that point in his life, my dad had already pretty much given up on whatever youth he once had. He was working as a draftsman at the Seabrook nuclear power plant in NH. When he came home from work, he would plop down on the couch and watch TV; the most exercise he got was walking to the bathroom. And he had started drinking more than usual; that would amplify a year or so later when he got laid off and even more when one of his brothers died. And all of that led to a spiral that would eventually result in his death at the not-so-ripe old age of 55.

Still, in the spring of '85, things weren't so grim...or at least that's what I thought. I was graduating from high school as the salutatorian (second overall) and going to UNH in the fall. I had a cute girlfriend who I would ditch since she would still be in high school and I'd be swimming in a sea of chicks at college (yeah, the latter never happened). A fun summer of part-time work and goofing off awaited me before I headed off to Durham.

But my father wasn't feeling so lively. I don't know what the situation was at the office for him, but I do know he was going out to a nearby establishment for drinks fairly often with co-workers. I'm guessing he was dealing with stress. One Friday night in May (I think), he was supposedly going to a dental appointment after work before coming home but hours passed and there was no sign of him. These were pre-cell phone days, so we just waited. I was watching "Miami Vice" when we got the call that he had been in an accident; turns out he rolled his Subaru in a ditch and somehow kept driving before the cops stopped him. Oh, and he was stinking drunk. As a result, he lost his driver's license for three months, so I had to drive him to work for the summer. Which was cool for me, because I didn't have a car, but sucked for him. It certainly freaked my mother out, but my dad just shrugged it off. As I mentioned earlier, that whole situation just got worse in the years to come.

I like to say that the best thing my father taught me was how not to live life. I'm about as different from him as I could be; I exercised more last month than he did the entire last 20 years of his life. I'm a lot more active in the lives of my children than he was with my brother and me; he was into it when I was a baby, or so my mother says, but once my brother came along nearly five years later, he seemingly lost interest. He was old school; he came home and expected dinner on the table, and was vocal about the promptness and quality of said meal. He wasn't physically abusive...well, he stopped after a certain point. I was on the wrong end of a few beatings when I was a kid and pissed him off; he chased me around the house with a hockey stick when I was 8 and gave me a good whack with it...all because I was picking at my vegetables for a half hour after everyone else had left the table. After that, though, he never raised a hand to either of us; I'm guessing he scared himself a little. He just checked out, really, occasionally barking orders or making dickish pronouncements. When he got an idea in his head, there was no swaying him, hence our moving every few years in the early '80s and the terrible financial moves he made along the way.

At this point, I'm not bitter about any of it. My mom still hasn't gotten over the last 10 years of his life, but he didn't exactly go out on a good note. I like the life I've built for myself, and I definitely have a more positive outlook on things than my old man. He was never one to discuss his feelings, so I never really understood his motivations. He didn't have any close friends or confidants, even among his own family. He was always bitter about a perceived slight and looking for a shortcut to get what he wanted, but I'm not sure he'd have been happy if he'd achieved the financial security he sought. Whenever I see the endless parade of schmucks blowing their cash on scratch tickets and Keno at corner stores, I think of my dad. Sad, but true.

Hey, my childhood wasn't all bad. All the bad stuff helped make me the man I am today. But if you were an impartial observer and looked at the two of us at age 44, you'd be hard-pressed to find any similarities. And that's a good thing, as far as I'm concerned.