Monday, September 2, 2013

On Back to School (an A - Z list)

There's something about Labor Day weekend that brings a bout of nostalgia.  So many years removed from High School (and College at this point) those first days of September still manage to hit you over the head with the "Back to School" fear.  Now that I have little ones of my own and they are first learning what back to school actually means (it's still a fun thing at their age), I wanted to take some time to reminisce on what life was during those wonderful/miserable years.  What better way to dissect adolescence than with a list.  Let's rehash the A to Z list.  I bring to you my high school/college years in alphabetical order.  This is a more personal post as opposed to my normal book/movie reviews.  Feel free to skip if it's not your thing.  Or do this on your own.  Who doesn't love a good list?

I was a real Otaku for several years of my life.  The number of anime VHS tapes I owned...  Let's just say it took up a lot of space and cost me a lot of money.  I did a number of Otakon conventions in Baltimore - costumed up and all (costumes ranged from Ranma - Ranma 1/2, Akito - Martian Successor Nadesico, Waldo - Where's Waldo (ok, not really anime, but it was a lot of fun)).  Got to see some great foreign films, hit up the merch tables, take loads of pictures of people cosplaying way better than myself - though Waldo got me in A LOT of pictures - some of which I would find after the con as people post online pictures from the upper floor down where I'd been "found" wandering the halls.  Good times.  

Bram Stoker's Dracula
Cheating by using this as a 'B' instead of a 'D'?  Maybe.  But I want the 'D' for something else, so deal with it.  Dracula was the first book I picked up outside of the school curriculum.  Other English classes were reading it.  Mine was not.  And I felt vampires would be interesting so why shouldn't I read it.  So, I read it.  And then I needed more books.  So it was quickly followed by other Horror and Fantasy books, and I haven't turned back since.  My late-developed love of reading started with Dracula.

The Crow
The "the" totally doesn't count as a word for lettering purposes.  I watched a lot of TV in those years.  For some reason though, when a friend of mine suggested we see The Crow I had no idea what it was.  Chances are I disapproved of the movie choice, but thankfully gave in the end.  I was 15 at the time and therefore we had to pull the old "mom buys the tickets, gets us in, and leaves" trick.  I don't know how many times I watched this in total.  And now I hear they're talking about rebooting it.  Mixed feelings.  

Brutal honesty here.  I really never was a HUGE Danzig fan.  Sure I liked the commercial hits - Mother, Her Black Wings, Can't Speak, etc. (and a few of the non-commercial songs), but I wasn't a strict follower of his.  Never seen him live, never really cared to.  However, I list him here because I did like his music enough to give his name a coveted place on my backpack - yes I painted band names all over my backpack with whiteout (who didn't?).  The reason this means anything is because it was that backpack that caused LE to say anything to me in our Educational Psychology course.  I believe the exact line was "I haven't seen anyone proclaim their fanship for Danzig in years." (Not sure Glen would be too happy about that, but the probability of him ever coming across this is nil).  Sparks flew, there was an elevator incident, and today we have two little brats and a dog (soon to be two) and a wonderful old house together.  

Honorable mentions for Dracula (noted above), Diablo II and Denny's (a diner-esque restaurant, if you don't have any of those near you).  

The stars were aligned for me to enter into the business world.  I was a piss poor English student in high school.  The only subject I did relatively well in was Math.  My father is partner in a CPA firm in Manhattan.  All the ducks were lined up for me to get into college and get working on that accounting or finance or marketing degree.  Something changed along the way.  My father is still a CPA, so it wasn't that.  I don't remember where the change came from, if it was a specific course, or if it was just me saying "damn the man," but I changed my major to English with a Creative Writing focus, and then took up grad work in Education.  If one believed in fate, God, the Seven, what-have-you, you could say that this happened so I could meet LE in the aforementioned Educational Psychology class.  All I know is, the education thing ended up not working out for me, and I ended up back in the business world - ok, dad, you were right (thankfully, he doesn't read this).  But I got exposed to a number of good books and good friends during my English and Education days, including my best friend and wife.

I was always a hockey guy (see 'H').  Then one year hockey went on strike...  for the entire year.  I needed to fill the sporting void in my life.  So, I watched some football.  Even then I didn't care for it as much as I do now.  But, there was a team in the Baltimore Ravens that was winning due to their great defense, much like those New Jersey Devils I loved in hockey.  So, I latched onto the Ravens as my football team.  Now, with it's 16 game season and weekly games, football is just so much more accessible than any other sport, and it's the only one I follow.  Looking forward to the opener on Thursday night (go Ravens!).  

Nine Inch Nails led to Ministry led to Skinny Puppy led to more poppy industrial dance like VNV Nation, et. al.  Around my early college years I started going to a goth club in Newark (not a nice area for those not in New Jersey).  I spent many hours drinking myself silly and sweating up my vinyl pants to the industrial/gothic beats there.  Then it spread to clubs in NYC and Philadelphia.  They were the best of times and the worst of times.  We are contemplating making a trip back to the old stomping grounds in the coming weeks (Alas, it will be jeans, t-shirt, and sneakers for me these days.  Long gone are the knee-length boots, pleather pants, and fishnet shirts).  

Scanning through the rest of my answers, you probably wouldn't think me the sporty type.  I wasn't.  Except when it came to hockey.  I started playing when I was around 12 or so, and I just loved it.  I played on ice.  I played on the streets.  I played in organized leagues.  I played in pick-up games where we couldn't get a goalie and used a garbage can.  Hell, we played in the back parking lot to a movie theater on weekend nights.  I watched it on TV (Devils) and watched it again on VHS ("and a save by Potvin, who didn't even know he had the puck" ...  that one's for you, Lenny, if you read this thing).  I got cut up, scraped and bruised.  Friends ended with a broken nose or collar bone.  How can you not love it?

Iron Chef
And I mean the dubbed Japanese version of the show ("I thought white asparagus came from a can").  This show was probably the start of any interest I have in the culinary arts.  The Food Network needs to go give the original Iron Chef a big hug for that initial audience grab.  Because let's face it, Iron Chef America...  not the same.  

This is the majority owner of boardwalk space at the Point Pleasant Boardwalk.  When you watch Jersey Shore on TV, that's Seaside Heights, a little further South.  Pt. Pleasant is a little more...  maybe you can call it a little less sleazy.  I don't know how much weight I put on in pizza, funnel cake, cheesesteaks, etc.  Or how much money spent on rides and nonsense games for crappy prizes.  But it's an escape, and what else are we looking for during this time of our life.  

Killer Klowns from Outer Space
I've mentioned this in a previous post.  There was a stretch of time where a friend of mine and I would go to the video store and rent a horror movie.  Return it and do it again.  We must have seen every horror movie there.  Killer Klowns from Outer Space I would count as my first real B Horror movie - this was before the MST3K (Mystery Science Theater 3000, for those who don't know) days.  I loved every ridiculous minute of it.

Technically, the first concert I ever went to was Aerosmith.  However, the people I went to the Aerosmith show with were not my core friends.  Live was the first concert experience with my core group of friends.  They put on a good show, but in the end, I've seen so many great ones since then that Live really only stands out as a first outing with friends rather than any merit to the band's performance.  

Marilyn Manson
Manson was probably the height of my "weird" phase, which is saying a lot because I did go to a few goth clubs in some choice outfits afterwards.  But, there was something about that Marilyn Manson crowd that just let you escape reality for a while.  I listen to him now and cringe a little, not believing I actually enjoyed it.  I like to think that it was more the experience than just the music, so we will go with that.  I will give him credit though, he does a great job of covering songs.  

Nine Inch Nails
I don't buy much music.  I have, however, needed to purchase multiple copies of Pretty Hate Machine and The Downward Spiral.  Nine Inch Nails was the beginning of me finding myself.  NIN was the gateway into so many subcultures - the goth look, the industrial music leading to the industrial dance leading to synth pop, the teenage angst turned on myself instead of lashing out at friends or family.  NIN killed the first attempt at re-instituting a Woodstock for a new generation.  Trent continues to create, and maybe he's changed, or I have, but the new music just doesn't hold me the way it used to.  Still, I can't think of a more complete album than Pretty Hate Machine.  

Honorable Mention to Nintendo.

Everyone is forced to read Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, and Macbeth at some point.  Multiple times.  And it gets to the point where you think "this is what Shakespeare is." Othello was the first non-ubiquitous Shakespeare play I read (I ended up reading a lot of Big Willy S's works in college - yeah, we roll like that) and it changed how I felt about the bard.  Perhaps it's just that those first plays become a sort of cliche unto themselves with the numerous rereadings, retellings, reimaginings, etc.  Or maybe it was that I could relate to the anger and mania of Othello, or Iago, the bad guy with no motivation other than being bad.  This opened the door to so many other works I wouldn't have bothered picking up, like Titus Andronicus (considered by many Shakespeare's worst play - I thought it fun) and then into the histories and romances.  Of all the books I owned from my English major days, I wish I held on to my highlighter laden, notes-filled Shakespeare books.

One of the perks of working at the movie theater (see R) was getting to know some of the other businesses in town.  What started off with us trading free passes to a local pizzeria for some pizza now and again turned into a few of us could just walk in there whenever to grab a slice, and we would just let them into the movies - no passes needed (and we wonder why the theater closed all these years later).  Needless to say I ate a lot of pizza.  

Honorable Mention to the hours I spent playing Pokemon on Gameboy (even dressed up as James for Halloween one year).

Honestly, I got nothing for Q (will likely come across the same issue with X - EDIT: Nope, X wasn't bad.  U is the problem).  But I jumped on the Bohemian Rhapsody bandwagon when Wayne's World came out.  Though that was likely before my High School days (yeah, that would have been middle school...  let's call it close enough).  

Regal Cinemas
I took a job at Regal when I was 17, which was also the inaugural year of the location.  I worked concessions, box office, at the cafe, but none of that compared to my last position there - projectionist.  I was in charge of getting the movie on screen on time, fixing any problems that arose with the film (brain-wraps in the winter...  it got so bad at some point we took turns standing by one print with a piece of fabric softener to the film to cut back on the static).  Free movies for me was like heaven.  I saw nearly everything that came out - the only movie I actually walked out on was Spy Kids 3D, which was back before 3D was popular and it was just TERRIBLE.  We watched movies after hours.  Midnight releases became popular.  No problem.  Szever would just thread a movie through the projector screening to the public, then instead of leading it to the table, would lead it across the room to another projector, thread it through there, and have it end on that table.  Wallah, now there's a public showing and a private employee showing no one needs to know about while using only one print (the tough part was getting someone upstairs with you to hit the "start" button on both projectors consecutively).  

Honorable Mention to Rutgers University - where the Danzig story takes place.

My first car.  A 1990 (I think that's right) Nissan Stanza.  No A/C.  Constant oil leak issues.  Eventual engine burnout.  Some good times with that car.  Not for this blog to hear about.

Trench Coat
Yeah, I had one of those.  Yeah, I got talked to by a cop after Columbine like I was hoarding a mass of assault rifles.  Meanwhile, my time in school passed in a weapons-free, drug-free and (mostly) alcohol free uneventfulness.

My last letter in terms of how I am writing this.  Stumped.  I wasn't a huge Under the Bridge fan.  Underdog, Ukelele, Ursa Minor, Usagi Yojimbo.  U Can't Touch This.  Under the Dome is too recent, and the TV series isn't living up to the novel, IMHO.  In Utero is technically "I" or even "N" for Nirvana.  /sigh.  *Pass*

I'm writing this after I wrote the "Z" section.  I thought making this list would be easy, but I did this as things came to mind, not necessarily in alphabetical order.  Now that I'm nearing the end, it may be getting a little tougher.  Vampires are certainly more popular today than they were back then.  But back then Anne Rice's vampires took the spotlight with Interview with a Vampire getting its cinematic makeover.  This opened the door for Blade and (totally unrelated to any of it) Vampire Hunter D (the anime) got a new release.  Like I had back in "B," it was Dracula that started my love for reading so we will give vampires the "V" spot.

World of Warcraft
Ugh.  So many hours.  If it wasn't for the little ones, I'd probably still be playing.

I was never a HUGE X-Men fan.  Spider-Man was my go-to comic book when I was younger, and nowadays my comic haul is limited to Deadpool, X-Force and Batman '66.  But the X-Men movies started during my college years and that, if anything, reinvigorated my love for the genre.

Y: The Last Man
The best non-superhero comic book I've ever read.  Constantly in talks for being made into a movie or TV series.  IMDB has it categorized as "In Development." The latest scuttlebutt is that New Line hired Dan Trachtenberg to helm and David Goyer to produce.  Maybe it will happen one day.

Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Shaun of the Dead, Day of the Dead, World War Z (the book), Marvel Zombies, Walking Dead, Resident Evil, playing Undead in WoW, the world was taken over by zombies over the last decade or so (figuratively, obviously...  but it's a good thing I have that assault rifle hoard from my "T" post just in case).  I've cut back on my Z cinema as LE has a love/hate relationship with zombies, but for a long time, they were the monster of choice.

That was a fun flashback.  If you made it this far, maybe you know me a little better.  Feel free to comment, question, copy the idea.  


  1. Hi! Not to be stalking you ... but since you visited my blog, I'm now reading through yours. :)

    Interesting list .... made me think about how I want to hear NIN's new album, and how much I'm anticipating the start of hockey season (go Blackhawks!)

    Looking forward to reading more of your posts.

    1. By all means, stalk away! That's why we write these things. :)

      Thanks. I know this was a bit of a filler post, but sometimes that's what we need to do to get the brain functioning again. Writing up a short review of The Way of Shadows, which will post in the next day or so.

      Thanks for stopping by!