Hours could seem like days.

Today’s Nanopoblano post is kind of a cheat, because I feel like I have only a few words today. (Few words and kind of a head-ache.)  Numbers, on the other hand, I have lots of.  My brain doesn’t spin down much.

this-is-fine

From today, it will be:

1 day to the Pet Shop Boys concert.

6 days to my elder brother’s 50th birthday.

7 days until I start my last week of On-call for Mr. Company.  (And another few days after that until I get a full night’s sleep again without interruption.)

9 days to Thanksgiving.   Earlier in my career, I usually had to work Thanksgiving.  That doesn’t happen any more, but I kind of miss it.    There was always a camaraderie among those who were tapped to work a holiday.  Plus the food was always provided by management.  Those mashies were delicious.

13 days until the start of the four-way Supergirl-Flash-Arrow-Legends crossover event on the CW.  I am so fricking excited to see Supergirl interact with more of the established Arrowverse characters, you have no idea.

17 days to my birthday.  I’m not super enthused about this one.  I’ve got bigger things on my mind right now than reaching 44.

18 days until Amelie and I go to see the B-52s!  That’s gonna be a fun show.

21 days until my niece turns 6.  I could swear she was a toddler about five minutes ago.  I have no idea what to get her this year-  for a little while, I could just get something related to Frozen and it would be a winner.    I think if I got her another Frozen-themed gift, her mother might lynch me.

22 days until I move out of my apartment.  At this point, my to-do lists have their own to-do lists.  I’m sure I’m forgetting stuff.

25 days until the next time Amelie and I visit a sci-fi convention.  There’s a little one here in Ft. Lauderdale, which should be fun.  The guest list for this one is not bad, including James Marsters, Summer Glau, Sam Jones, Judge Reinhold, Tim Russ, Billy Dee Williams, and Joey Fatone!  (I’m enthused about all but one of those.  Betcha can’t guess which one!)

30 days to the end of my job.  Which means I should really go to fewer concerts and whatnot.    (In reality, I am working far fewer than thirty days until the end-  it’s just thirty calendar days.)

And, as a final treat,

30+1 days until the next Star Wars movie, Rogue One, comes out.   This is the first feature film set in the Star Wars universe that isn’t about the Skywalkers and the Solos.   I’m pretty jazzed about it.

What’s the next thing you’re counting down to?  Where will you be in 31 days?

Editor’s Note:  I’m attempting to blog every day in November with CheerPeppers.  I don’t expect to succeed because life be crazy, but any blogging in excess of my previous post-free month is a win, right?

Dance Me to the End of Love*

Damn it, 2016, knock it off already.  You’ve already taken Alan Rickman, Prince, Abe Vigoda, George Gaynes, Jerry Doyle, Gene Wilder, and David Bowie.  And now I see in the news that you’ve also taken Leonard Cohen from us?  This will not stand!

Leonard Cohen was beloved by many of my friends. I loved him too.   Leonard has been actively writing and performing music for almost sixty years.  Almost everyone knows his work, even if they don’t realize it- he wrote “Hallelujah,” one of the most covered songs ever sung.  Jeff Buckley, Rufus Wainwright, and countless others have done  hundreds of versions of this song, but the original is still the best.  Leonard Cohen originally wrote around 80 verses for the song, and different artists sometimes choose different verses, which means that almost every version is just a little bit different.

My first exposure to Leonard Cohen was in 1990, when I was seventeen years old.  A group of us (including Jade Walker and our good friend Chris Pine, who is now deceased) went to see the Christian Slater movie, “Pump Up The Volume.”  During the movie, Christian Slater’s character spun up “Everybody Knows” and “If It Be Your Will.”  I was transfixed, and I’ve been listening to Leonard Cohen (and the ridiculous number of covers of his work) ever since.  Those first two songs are still among my favorite songs of all time.

A recent Rolling Stone article mentions that when he finished his “Grand Tour” in New Zealand on December 21st, 2013, he had been touring for five years and played 387 shows. He came out of that tour with serious physical problems.  Leonard Cohen had multiple fractures of the spine, and severe mobility problems.   His final album, “You Want It Darker,” was recorded from a makeshift studio in his house.  His son set up a Neumann microphone on the dining room table, and set the living room up with recording gear, a laptop running Protools, and a set of speakers.    Much of that album was recorded with Leonard in an orthopedic medical chair.  “You Want It Darker” was released on October 21st,  just a few weeks before Leonard left us.

leonard_cohen-rollingstone-nov-17-2016(Editor’s note:  I accidentally acquired a subscription to the Rolling Stone a few months ago.  I’m still not entirely sure how this happened, but every once in a while the magazine is really entertaining.  If you’re interested in reading this fascinating look at the production of Leonard Cohen’s final album, I scanned the page from the November 17, 2016 Rolling Stone.  Here you go.  Click the thumbnail on the right to embiggen.  )

Leonard was 82 when he died, which means he was about 79 at the end of his final tour.  Six months before the Grand Tour ended, I was lucky enough to see him at the SAP Arena in Mannheim, Germany.  I was thrilled to finally be able to see him live, and I had no idea that he was on the last tour of his career.  Even then, in late June of 2013, he was spry and witty and a master of his craft.

Thanks to the wonders of YouTube, I can show you what it was like to see him perform Hallelujah live in Mannheim, Germany, about three and a half years ago.

I’m tired of 2016 taking my musical idols from us.  Someone keep an eye on Cyndi Lauper, Martin Gore, Andy Bell, and Vince Clarke, ok?

*If you’re not familiar, “Dance Me to the End of Love” is one of Leonard Cohen’s songs.  There’s a live version on the 2009 Live in London recording you can get from Amazon and iTunes.

What’s your favorite Leonard Cohen song?

Editor’s Note:  I’m attempting to blog every day in November with CheerPeppers.  I don’t expect to succeed because life be crazy, but any blogging in excess of my previous post-free month is a win, right?

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?

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?

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?