All For Love

I was clicking around today, when I learned that Bell Biv Devoe has released “Run,” their first new song in fifteen years.  I watched the video, and then I fell down the Wiki-hole.  It started with an idle curiosity about just how old Ricky Bell, Michael Bivens, and Ronnie DeVoe are.    I also thought that Bobby Brown was dead, for some reason, but I was mistaken about that.

Thirteen year old me.

For me, those names, along with Ralph Tresvant, are still forever-linked with New Edition, the band they all shared throughout most of the 1980s.    I used to have their first singles (Cool It Now, Mr. Telephone Man) on 45 rpm vinyl, the cassette singles of my youth.    In late 1985, thirteen year old me played the hell out of my All For Love cassette.  I still occasionally hum their song about staying in school.

There’s a verse in one of the songs, where the band members are listed off: “Ronnie, Bobbie, Ricky and Mike,” says Ralph Tresvant, and “Hey Ralph!” says one of the others.  I’m not actually sure who has the line, but that little back-and-forth has been stuck in my head on and off for thirty years.

Fast forward to April of 1986.  I was in the eighth grade, and my father had secured tickets to the two of us to see the “All For Love” tour in the West Palm Beach auditorium!   This was my first ever concert, although I’ve seen at least 128 other musical acts since then.  I didn’t know it at the time, but Bobby Brown had just left the group, so he wasn’t part of the 1986 tour.

Dad was a very good sport to take me, because this entire event was way outside of his comfort zone.   The general admission system wasn’t very well organized for this show, and getting into a seat involved a fair amount of pushing through a crush of people.  I was a small kid at that point in my life, so it was extra crazy for me.

I still have the ticket stub for this show.  I still have almost all of my ticket stubs.  This one is kind of amazing because it was printed by a ticketing company that no longer exists (Bass Ticket Outlets), for a concert venue that no longer exists (the West Palm Beach Auditorium).

What was your first concert?  What was your favorite?


On Working Out

Editor’s note:  I’ve been mentioning to other bloggers in comments for months that I really wanted to write a post about working out.  Having a regular fitness routine is all pretty new to me, and  I wanted to write a post on the topic, but I could never quite get around to it.  Seeing very interesting writing from my bloggy friends, such as Charlotte’s “Gymming For Noobs” post kicked me out of idle and I finally started to write it.

I very nearly called this post “A Weighty Topic,” but then I realized that the last two posts on this blog have titles in the “an adjective noun” format.  I could not in good conscience use another title in that format.  Onward!

For years, I’ve felt like I needed to be working out regularly.  I wore the same sized jeans since high school, but once I hit my mid-thirties, I became physically phht. Once my waistline started expanding, I knew it was time.  A few years back, I even signed up for a membership to a national chain of gyms, because they opened a facility next to my office and I thought the convenience would make me go more often.

I went twice.  In a year.  I thought I had the motivation, but I was very, very wrong.

When I moved to Germany, I didn’t have a car.  I was on foot much of the time, using a bus to get to work and trains for longer distances.  Sometimes I’d be in the car of a friend, but for most of my day-to-day living, I was walking.  My apartment was upstairs and the elevator in my building on Hemauerstraße was incredibly slow, so I had stairs every day.   After a while, I got curious about just how much I was walking, so I purchased my first Fitbit.

It turns out I was walking a lot more than I thought, despite the desk job.  On one day in Budapest in 2014, I walked more than 20,000 steps.  On one trip to London, I walked more than 100,000 steps in under a week.   This is exciting, I thought!  I’m actually exercising, but without any real effort-  I’m just going where I wanted to go anyway.

In late 2014, I moved back to the US.  The desk job is basically the same here as it was there, except my Coke and Oreo consumption has decreased dramatically because of all the high fructose corn syrup used here in the States.  Seriously, I miss the Oreos and Coke from Germany.  They’re SO much tastier over there.  But I digress.

The problem is that I’m in South Florida, where everything is spread out in ridiculous ways, so you need a car to do almost anything.   It’s also super crazy hot and humid here for eight months out of the year, which makes outdoor activity trickier.  The result is that I became more sedentary.  Each day, I would walk from my apartment to my car, from my car to the office, from the office to lunch, and so on.  After a few months, I sold my Fitbit on eBay, because I wasn’t going anywhere.

I’ve only taken a few trips since I came back.  Aside from a couple of flights inside the US, one five week stint in Japan last summer, and one quick European hop a few months  ago, my life had become much, much more stationary.

Amelie likes to work out, though.  In the earlier days of the relationship, I would often drop her off at the gym, and then I would run an errand or sit at a nearby Starbucks, tapping away on the laptop to write a blog post.

One day, I joined her for a workout.  It was exhausting.

When I moved into this apartment, one of the considerations was, “Is the gym in this complex good enough for Amelie to work out?”   On the cardio side, it has two treadmills, two of what I call the Devil’s Elliptical, and one mediocre bike.


On the weight side, there’s three cable-and-pulley variable-weight machines for various exercises, and a big rack of dumbbells of different weights.


I started to join Amelie in the gym more often.    I started off with just a little bit of fast walking on the treadmill, and a small amount of the cable weights.  I didn’t have much of a routine, and I had no goal other than to keep her company.  I had to stop for a few weeks in May and June, after I had some minor surgery.  I was over-careful, though- when I asked the Doc if I could go back to working out, he just said “sure, do what you want.”  Scrubs is right about surgeons!

Over time, I started to build up a routine.  I started spending more time on the treadmill.  I started to add more weights, and more exercise variations with those weights.

And I hated every second of it.

I will never be one of those people who posts inspiring fitness quotes on Facebook.  For me, working out was painful, sweaty, breathless, and deadly dull.    Going to the gym for even a short bit of time was agony.

But Amelie was there with me.  She nudged me to get off the man-eating couch.  She encouraged me to get up and go.   She said proud things when I had a new achievement.  Without her, I would have just gone back to bed for another nap.

I got faster.

The first real improvement I noticed was that I could jog for longer on the treadmill.  Then I noticed that my speed was improving, and that I could breathe more easily.  One day, I reached the end of a mile in less than thirteen minutes.  I found that I could sprint farther and faster.    I can never figure out what to do with my hands, though.  Do you make fists when you’re running?  Do you relax them like Mr. Burns at speed?  Do you flatten them and knife them forward like the Flash?


I purchased another Fitbit, this time a model with a heart rate monitor.  I quickly discovered that there’s a large Fitbit user-base in my company, and they often do weekly step challenges. Fitbit lets you “Friend” people and compare your steps to theirs.  It sort of turns walking into a competition, which is always fun.

My body started to change in subtle and unexpected ways.   The weights exercises started to become easier because my body began to move differently.  My posture improved.  Amusingly, my body weight stayed around the same.  I’m no more than two or three pounds lighter than I was before all the working out, but it’s clear to me that I have less of a nascent paunch and more muscles.  For perhaps the first time in my life, I have visible biceps.  I just feel better than I did.  Stronger.

I even tried running outside, but it’s still too hot for that to be a regular thing.   South Florida weather sucks.  The Devil’s Elliptical is still the most hated piece of equipment in the entire gym.

Now I usually go to the gym at least four times a week.  Sometimes Amelie is with me, and sometimes not.   I’m not sure yet if this qualifies as a habit, because it’s still too easy to stay on the couch or take another nap.    But for now, this is happening.

One more unexpected thing happened.  I stopped hating every second of the workout.  Don’t get me wrong; I still don’t enjoy my workouts.  I’m proud of them, though.   Every time I finish a run or some weights, I send a message to Amelie to tell her how much I did.  We’re each other’s cheerleaders.  She still says encouraging things and tells me that she’s proud of me, and that helps me keep going.

I still can’t figure out what the hell to do with my hands when I run though.


What’s in your workout?

A Regensburg Morning

Editor’s note:  This post was inspired by the Daily Post’s one-word writing prompt:  Morning.

For almost three years, I woke up to the same set of sounds.  Morning in Regensburg was predictable, and my bedroom window looked over a fairly busy residential street just outside the city center.   Many students for the local university lived just a few buildings down the street.  With no air conditioning, I left the window cracked open almost every night.

Around 4:30 or 5:00 Am, the street sweeper would come by.   By 6, the garbage truck would roll past, and the pedestrians would start their commute,  hard soled shoes clicking on the sidewalk.

Some of the people would pull little wheeled suitcases behind them.  The rhythmic clack-clack-clack of their rubber wheels meeting the sidewalk seams became very soothing to me.  To this day, that sound makes me sleepy.

In winter, the sounds were basically the same, but the street sweeper would be a snow plow, and the footsteps would often be muffled by freshly fallen snow.

My sounds in the morning now are more muted.  The weather in South Florida is too hot, too humid to sleep comfortably with the window open.   We never have Winter here, and cool air is only felt two or three months out of the year.  It’s almost never cool enough to sleep with the window open.

My apartment now is far enough away from most traffic that I only hear a passing vehicle if it’s extremely large or has artificially amplified mufflers.  People do that in South Florida, making their tiny economical cars sound like angry racing dragons.  I don’t really understand the motivation.

It’s quieter, sure, but sometimes it’s a little too quiet.  I’ve taken to running a small fan in the room just to produce some white noise.  I think I sleep better here than I did there, because I don’t hear every street sweeper, every drunken student singing through the streets as they come back from the bars in the Altstadt at three in the morning.

I miss the rolling suitcases, though.

Do you sleep with your windows open?

The Carefree Theater on South Dixie Highway in West Palm Beach Friday morning, October 30, 2015. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

A Carefree Life.

On Dixie Highway, less than a mile and a half from downtown West Palm Beach, Florida, there is an abandoned movie theater.  It’s called the Carefree Theatre, and it was a major part of my life during the 1990s.

The Carefree  started in 1936 as the Carefree Center and Bowlaway.   The building housed a soda fountain and a ten lane bowling alley with “pin boys” who would set the  pins and roll balls back to the bowlers.  Automatic pin setters were installed later at great expense.


The movie theater portion began construction in 1946, and opened in 1947.  The two front rows of seats were removed to allow the addition of a curved stage in front of the screen, reducing the number of seats from 800 to 772.  There were offices and dressing rooms upstairs, and retail space along the northern wall.  An outdoor rollerskating rink was tried on the roof, but the idea was dismissed after one season.  One of the smaller shop fronts was a barber shop for years.  It had been converted to a tiny art gallery when I worked there in the 1990s.  I’m still getting to that.

Owner of the Carefree Theatre Jon Stoll. Staff photo by Allen Eyestone

In 1984, a man named Jon Stoll bought the center.  He already had a functioning concert promotion business, a company called Fantasma Productions.   He set up Fantasma in the offices on the south side of the building.   The old derelict bowling alley became the Comedy Corner, one of South Florida’s premiere comedy clubs.  People like Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Maher played there.  Dan Whitney (known to most people as Larry the Cable Guy) did opening act work there in his early days in comedy.  A restaurant opened in the northwest corner of the building, with a bar that was made from the old bowling lane wood.

1984 photo of Carefree Theater in WPB photo by Loren Hosack

In 1984, the Carefree was the largest single-screen movie theater in the state of Florida.  The theater started to run art and foreign films in 1990, and concerts routinely graced the stage.    A regular Saturday night showing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show started up, and ran continuously for fifteen years.

I was in college when I first visited the Carefree Theater.  The year was 1991, and I went with a group of people to see the Rocky Horror Picture Show.   I was friends with people who were friends with other people who were in the shadow cast of Rocky Horror, and it wasn’t long before I wound up in the cast myself.  I mostly played Brad, but I spent time in many of the other parts.  There may or may not be photos of me playing Dr. Frank N. Further out in the wild.

In 1993, my job as a cashier for a county pool ran past my limited cap of hours.  It was October, so I needed a job to get me through until January came to reset the cap.  I got a job at the Carefree as a projectionist and assistant manager, and I worked that job alongside my county job.

I stopped playing in Rocky Horror in 1997, just before I went back to school at the University of Central Florida to complete my degree, but I still worked at the Carefree sometimes when I was back in town for the weekend.   Here’s a few of the things I most remember about my time at the Carefree:

  • Running many, many well known movies, including Amelie, Shakespeare In Love, and the Engish Patient.  We also did a run of Anime films on Friday nights that included Princess Mononoke and The Lensman.   The Jewish Film Festival would rent our space for their movies on a yearly basis.  So would the local Bollywood community,  which marks the first time I’d ever projected a movie so long that it had an intermission.

  • Accidentally starting a very, very large LARP (live action role-playing for those that aren’t familiar) of Vampire: The Masquerade.   The idea started as a lark, and quickly grew to an enormous crowd of people.  We got permission from the powers that be to actually open the theater for the game, as long as the concession stand had someone on standby to sell popcorn and drinks to the LARPers.

  • Wearing many, many fun Halloween costumes.  My best-ever costume was during Halloween 1997, when I dressed as Jareth, David Bowie’s character from the movie Labyrinth.
    Me as Jareth

  • Meeting Weird Al Yankovic, BB King, Howard Jones, Lisa Loeb, and so many more before or after their shows.  I bumped into Ben Folds in the bathroom, and had an entire conversation with him without knowing that he was the lead singer in that new band that was playing that night.   There were so many amazing concerts at this place that I couldn’t even list them all.  Tori Amos played the Carefree when her latest release was Little Earthquakes.

  • Seeing comedy live from people like Jerry Seinfeld, Bill Hicks, Richard Jeni, Carrot Top, Tommy Chong, and Patton Oswalt.  Patton Oswalt and Dana Gould played the Comedy Corner on the same night, and when their show was done they came over to see the last half of Rocky Horror.  Dana Gould writes for the Simpsons now, and Patton Oswalt is in absolutely everything else.  I sat in Patton Oswalt’s lap during the floor show part of the movie, and he was a really good sport about it.  Michael Winslow, the sound effects guy from the Police Academy movies did a few shows there, and I got to meet him offstage in the afternoon.  It turns out he makes those sounds all the time.

  • One night while closing up, I went around the back of the building to trip a power breaker, and I fell into an open manhole.  There had been construction recently, and someone left the cover open.   It was also dark, and I wasn’t expecting to lose six feet of height in half a second.   I got six or seven stitches in my shin from that little adventure.   My injuries are frequently cartoonish in nature, and this is a perfect example of that.

  • Joy, one of my then-coworkers, told me that at one point, some of the staff from the comedy club next door were playing with a Ouija board in the wait-station behind the bar. There was a history of odd events and vaguely supernatural spookiness in the building, and they discovered from their Ouija dabbling that there was an entity named “Steven” who was stuck in the building and couldn’t leave.  Joy’s deadpan response still makes me laugh: “Yeah, but he’s still alive.”

I finally turned in my keys in 2001.  In 2004, South Florida had a whole bunch of bad hurricanes hit us in a row, causing roof damage.  In December of 2005, during the Jewish Film Festival, part of the roof collapsed.  There were 600 people in the Carefree Theatre, but the collapse was over an empty storefront.  The building was evacuated, but nobody was injured.  In March of 2006, the damaged part of the building was demolished.

030306 MET Carefree Staff Photo by Lannis Waters/ The Palm Beach Post 0019825A [ WITH STORY BY TBA??] ---WEST PALM BEACH--- Workers with Southeast Contracting Services tear down and haul off debris from the damaged portion of the Carefree Theatre building Friday. The Carefree Theatre was deemed unsafe by city inspectors after a roof collapsed on the south side of the building in December. 3/3/06. ..... NOT FOR DISTRIBUTION OUTSIDE COX PAPERS OUT PALM BEACH, BROWARD, MARTIN, ST. LUCIE, INDIAN RIVER AND OKEECHOBEE COUNTIES IN FLORIDA. ORLANDO OUT. NO SALES. TV OUT. TABLOIDS OUT. MAGAZINES OUT. WIDE WORLD OUT. INTERNET USE OUT. ORG XMIT: MER0603031518146801 ORG XMIT: MER0703191752118553

In 2008, Jon Stoll died of a stroke.  The theater has been empty ever since.  Here’s what it looks like now, on any night that has epic stormclouds:

The Carefree Theater on South Dixie Highway in West Palm Beach Friday morning, October 30, 2015. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

So many relationships formed while I was working there.  Several marriages still hold from those days.  Several funerals, too.    And many, many friendships.  A hefty chunk of my Facebook friend-list is people who I met during my years working there.   One good friend, John Rundell, has been saying for years that he wants us to buy the abandoned theater to reopen it in some way.

It turns out we missed our window of opportunity, though.  Lori Stoll,  Jon’s widow, sold the entire complex to a developer and film producer named Charles Cohen.  He’s planning on razing the building to the ground and rebuilding it with a six-screen stadium-style movie theater, with apartments above the theater.

He still plans on showing art house and foreign films, though.  Maybe it will still seem like the place I remember.

South Florida friends, do you have any fond memories of the Carefree Theatre?

Data Rot

I’ve long been fascinated with data rot.

Data rot has two basic types.  The first is about the medium on which information is stored.  For example, hard drives can have mechanical failure.  Audio cassettes and other recording media can be affected by moisture, heat and humidity, so that they don’t retain their information as effectively.  Translation:  If you leave your “Now That’s What I Call Music #38” tape in the glove box for more than a few months, it will start to sound terrible.  (And, according to Good Omens  it will also become a Best of Queen album, but that’s a separate problem.)

The second type of data rot is the one that fascinates me the most.  It’s that the machines to read the older types of data are simply harder to find.  When’s the last time you saw a reel-to-reel or an 8-track player outside of a pawn shop or a garage sale?  Betamax, anyone? I had a brief flirtation with MiniDisc in the 1990s, even going so far as to convert a bunch of my Best of Queen tapes to MiniDisc, right up until CD burners and mp3 technology caught up to my needs.   Heck, even my modern laptop has no floppy or optical drive.   (Astonishingly, some of our nuclear arsenal is secured by the use of archaic 8-inch floppy disks. Security by obscurity!)

More recently, I’ve been thinking that there’s a third type of data rot, one which is much more personal.  My company has been going through changes for the last year or so, and they decided last summer to sell off the part of the business that I work in.  The user base of our servers is being migrated away to another company, and everything will be transferred out within the next seven or eight months.

These are the servers I’ve been working on for the last fourteen years.

Here’s where the data rot comes in-  many of our systems are home grown or proprietary.   Sure, the systems that I work in every day have a basis in FreeBSD and Linux, but much of the environment on top of those operating systems is not used anywhere else in the world.

In less than a year, the only place those systems will exist is in the minds of the people who have worked on it.  I have so much specialized knowledge that I will never use again.  That’s data rot.

This past week was a brutal time at our company, with a tremendous round of layoffs taking out people who were there for ten, fourteen, sixteen years.  My department lost something like 60% of our staff.  My row of cubicles went from ten people to four.   When my usefulness is at an end, I’ll almost definitely be fired as well.  I wonder if that could be considered data rot too.

The other day, I was driving home and I noticed a big, fat iguana sunning itself on the grass on the side of the road.  I’ve been having a lot of memory problems lately.  I don’t know if it’s all the headaches I’ve had over the last few years, or whether it’s just a sign of getting older.  Amelie thinks that my crappy short term memory is just because I don’t sleep enough.  Whatever the reason, I spent the next mile and a half of that drive trying to remember the word for iguana.  I was absolutely convinced that it started with A, but all I could think of were aardvark, avocado, abogado.  My memory is definitely swiss cheese compared to where it used to be.  I can’t even remember where I put all my Best of Queen tapes. I guess that could be data rot as well.

What do you think?  Have you ever experienced data rot in your own life?