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.

Carefree-Theatre-in-the-50s

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?

 

Just after the Summer solstice, a post!

I’m borrowing this post idea from Bevchen.  I don’t usually do a lot of meme-inspired posts, but lately I haven’t been posting much at all.  So here’s the “What’s New With You” format…  here’s what I’ve been up to just lately.

Reading.  I haven’t had much time for the Kindle lately, but I did start Jen Bradley‘s novel “Virago,” along with  the fascinating “Cleaning Up The Kingdom, which is written by people who are former members of the Disneyland custodial staff.  Really interesting stuff here!

Watching.  Summer is upon us, which means there’s not as much new television to be seen.  I’ve nearly completed a re-watch of Star Trek: Enterprise, which I absolutely despised on the first run.  I find it considerably less revolting now, and I’m not sure what changed.     I’ve also nearly completed a re-watch of Leverage, which was a delightful and fun show that could easily have run another season without losing steam.

I also watched the first episode of the new Dangermouse, and it’s definitely got flavor of the original ones, even though some of the new voices completely take me out of the show.  The new Silas Greenback voice is particularly terrible.  I’m rather surprised they didn’t try to get Sir David Jason back… after all, he was the original voice of Dangermouse. (And Count Duckula!)  Maybe he wants to retire from acting, since he’s 76 now.

It’s also the summer movie season.  I haven’t had time to watch everything I want to see, but I can say that “Finding Dory” was exceptionally adorable, and the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie was super entertaining.  It was basically a two-hour live-action movie version of an episode of the 90s cartoon.

Fascinated by.  This news that the Earth has picked up a second moon.   Basically, an asteroid got caught in our gravity about a hundred years ago and it never managed to break free.   It’s tiny, about 150 feet by 300 feet, and it has a weird orbit.  It’s still technically a moon, though.    We have two moons!  Next up, Jedi Knights!

Cooking.  I’m not much of a cook, but I’ve been using the slow cooker for the occasional moist fall-apart-y chicken breast. (Amelie’s Salsa Chicken recipe:  Put a chicken breast in the slow cooker with mild salsa for a bunch of hours, then shred and eat with rice or something.  It’s super delicious!)

I’ve also been taking advantage of the meats that they sell which have already been prepped/seasoned/marinated-  Target sells a garlic and herb roast that is absolutely amazing after about six hours in the slow cooker.    I’ve also been making more easy-prep foods like spaghetti at home.  I want to eat out at restaurants less frequently, because I enjoy having money.

Exercising.  I’m still probably going to talk about exercise in more detail in another post down the line, but I’ve been trying to go to the gym several times a week.  When I lived in Germany, I walked most everywhere, lived upstairs, took the bus to work, and walked all over creation whenever I traveled.  My life in Florida is so much more sedentary, and I needed to get up and move.  So, the gym.  I just use the little gym at my apartment complex,  because paying for one that I would never drive to is just a waste of money.  I do some of the weight machines, some Couch-to-5K stuff on the treadmill, some time on the bike, and as little time  as possible on the Devil’s Elliptical.  I hate every second of it, but so far I keep going.

Buying.  Since I’ve been doing the gym stuff, I got myself a new Fitbit.   The Fitbit Charge HR is a wrist-worn step counter that also checks my heart-rate and tracks my sleep.  It’s great for being reassured that I am, in fact, terribly unhealthy and in need of drastic lifestyle change.

I also recently bought an install-it-yourself basic alarm system for my apartment, and the little SD card that activates the maps in my car.  The Mazda 3 model that I drive had the GPS built in already, and just needed the maps to activate the navigation.  There’s an SD card slot in the console.

Traveling. Not so much lately.  I did the Germany/Switzerland trip a little while back, but there’s nothing else on the near horizon, except a planned Disney trip in late August.  Orlando is only about a three hour drive from me, so I tend not to think of it as travel.

Thinking about: Speaking of Orlando, I won’t get into the Pulse nightclub shooting very much, except to say:   Orlando is my second home city (Regensburg is my third,) and some of the victims were friends of my friends.   I love Orlando, and I want to live there again some time in the future.  The attack was brutal and insane and it saddens me greatly.  It also makes me very angry.    I won’t say more about this, because the logical thread here gets into religion and politics, both of which are not topics I can be calm or cheerful about right now.

Listening to.  Mostly Pandora at work, but I’ve been working on an upbeat playlist called Jim Rhatt for the iPod while I’m on the aforementioned treadmill or Devil’s Elliptical.

Recent concerts with Amelie have included Florence + The Machine, Panic at the Disco, and Weezer.   The Cure is playing Miami early next week, but that’s the last show we’ve got tickets for until October (Sia) and November (the Pet Shop Boys.)

Regretting.  That my car has a manual transmission.    Almost all of the cars I’ve ever driven have had a stick shift, but this might be the last one before I go automatic.  I’ve always enjoyed driving manual because I feel like I have more control.   I’ve always preferred cars that were small and quick and maneuverable, like a White Star or the Millennium Falcon.  In fact, whenever I downshift in a turn, I feel kind of like Han pulling this lever, which is obviously the Falcon’s shifter:

falcon-flight-smaller

The problem with driving manual is that I live in South Florida again, and I spend most of my drive time on the highway, especially I-95.  This means there’s a lot of stop-and-go driving, and I spend a large percentage of my drive with my foot pushing the clutch all the way down while I coast along at eight or ten miles an hour.  It’s very annoying, and I often get out of the car with an ache in my clutch foot.

What’s your preference, automatic or stick?

Whatcha been up to?

It’s been a few weeks since I posted, and it’s been a few months since I’ve posted anything about what I’m actually up to.  Here’s some highlights:

  • I went with Amelie to Megacon, a geekery convention that happens each year in Orlando.  If you search this blog for Megacon, you’ll see my photos from several previous years.  Yes, I took hundreds of pictures this year as well, but I haven’t had a chance to sort them yet.  We saw Shatner and George Takei, Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes, Ming Na Wen and John Barrowman, Kevin Conroy and a whole bunch of Harry Potter actors.  Almost all of these people were hilarious.
  • I attended some meetings in Zurich for my job, which meant I got to have a brief visit back to Regensburg.  I took many photos of basically all the same things I took pictures of while I lived there, out of a sense of nostalgia.
  • On that same trip,  I convinced my colleagues to stop for lunch in Vaduz, Liechtenstein on the way to Zurich.  This is my 28th country visited.
  • I had minor surgery on my left shoulder two and a half weeks ago, to remove a fatty tumor called a lipoma.   Lipomas are generally soft, benign, and painless, and doctors usually leave them alone unless they’re impeding your mobility or causing discomfort.  My lipoma had grown to a rather large size, and was located in a place that did actually cause me some discomfort.  It was also growing-  the surgeon who removed it said that it was about the size of a grapefruit, but not entirely round.  Amelie and I named it Lumpy.   The surgery was very fast, but it prevented me from working out or lifting anything heavy for a while.
  • We’ve been to quite a few good movies and concerts in the last few months, including Bernadette Peters and Florence & The Machine.  I enjoyed Captain America: Civil War and the Jungle Book, and I was extremely annoyed with Batman vs. Superman.
  • The doctor told me today that I can do normal workouts again, which is great, because I just purchased a new Fitbit.  I had a Fitbit One throughout my time living in Europe, and I rather enjoyed seeing how much walking I was doing.  The one I purchased now is the Charge HR model, which does everything the One did, plus it monitors my heart rate and has a nifty wrist-band.  Also, Fitbit users can friend each other to compete or encourage each other to be active.  The “taunt” function is kind of fun.  If you have a Fitbit and you want to add me, use stevenglassman42 at gmail.
  • I finally got around to putting this little fellow on my car.  He’s been on my desk for something like two months:
    bb8

What have you been up to?