New Song : Language of Shapes “Stitches”

LoSSo last year I had the pleasure of getting to know South Korea’s “apocalyptic folk” quartet Language of Shapes. They play a mix of folky, roots-y, and pop-inflected music that is as dark as it is deceptively breezy. LoS has a leader in Tristram Burden, a mandolin-wielding pied piper that allows fellow bandmates J.E. Seuk, Courtland Miles, and Robert Goldberg to make their mark musically just as deeply as he does. “Apocalyptic folk” is quite the stamp to put on your music, but listening to their debut you would say it does indeed fit. It’s not your mom and dad’s(or grandpa and grandma’s) folk music. It’s both earthy and organic…and yet futuristic and shimmering. It’s the tribal sounds of survivors. It’s ancient tomes sung around campfires burning over the ruins of yesteryear. It’s some heady stuff.

I recently got an email from Tristram letting me know the band was diligently recording tracks for their new album in the cozy confines of their living room. “We’ve been busy recording. Not quite nearly finished, some way to go. But we’re releasing one track into the inter-void and wanted to let you know and hear what you think of it. We’re still recording in our living room, but feel this is a better chapter, we have a better idea of what we’re doing.” In this writer’s humble opinion, I thought they were doing just fine last time around. Upon listening to the new track called “Stitches”, I’d say they have indeed learned a thing or two along the road to Babylon. The track is decidedly groovier than anything on their debut. The rhythm section of Miles and Goldberg take centerstage, allowing Burden and Seuk to loosen up the reigns and tell a story through the buzzing strings of their mandolins and Burden’s powerful baritone voice. Listening you get a sense of what Zeppelin’s “The Battle of Evermore” would sound like had it been written by Guy Garvey. This track is firmly grounded in the present, while still retaining that out-of-time, sci-fi-ish vibe LoS perfected last time around.

If “Stitches” is any indication as to where Language of Shapes is heading, look out for one hell of a sophomore album from these four. Check out the article from last year here.

A Dog’s Life

dad and dogOn Easter we congregated at my mom and dad’s house. It was an informal gathering of my parents, my brother, sister-in-law, niece, aunt, and of course my wife and kids. Oh, and my parent’s dog Gunther.

Gunther is a miniature schnauzer, though “miniature” doesn’t correctly describe Gunther. Gunther is the largest miniature dog I’ve ever come in contact with. My parents got Gunther back in July/August of 1999. He was a pup. Before he came home with mom and dad he had been christened “Goliath” by the very simple breeders my parents bought him from. He was the biggest of the litter, by far. My wife and I had also gotten a puppy from this litter. He was known as “Tiny”. Yes, he was the smallest of the litter. We had a two-year old miniature schnauzer at home already named Dieter. He was very much the king of the castle and I don’t think he ever truly got over the betrayal of us bringing another dog into the home. Folly for another post, or therapy I suppose.

Anyways, something interesting happened at this point. Within a month of Gunther, aka “Goliath”, going to live with my parents and Helmut, aka “Tiny” coming home with my wife and I we found out we were pregnant. Well, she got pregnant and I helped out in the process. We’d been trying for a couple years and had even gotten pregnant the year before but had a miscarriage pretty early on. I think in bringing another dog into our home we were attempting to build a family of humans and dogs, in lieu of changing diapers and midnight feedings. But as they say life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans. Life certainly was beginning to happen for us. Two dogs, a two-year old and a pup, and a baby on the way. Okay then.

Kids came along throughout the years and the dogs adjusted somewhat. Dieter didn’t mind the kids, but he never really got used to Helmut. Theirs was an interesting relationship. One of play and resentment. Gunther on the other hand grew into his new home well. He also just grew. He was like a standard schnauzer trying to grow in the body of a miniature schnauzer. And while our dogs were both relatively healthy(with the exception of Helmut’s really bad teeth later on), Gunther would run into all kinds of maladies. Skin problems, ear problems, hurting his paw on more than one occasion; poor Gunther was always dealing with something. And yet, he would go on to outlive our seemingly healthy pooches. In 2005 poor Dieter, our very first dog as a couple, began getting sick and losing weight. The vet never figured out what was killing him, but we had no choice but to put him down in December of 2005. I cried like a little kid. That was a hard one for me. Dieter was a reminder of my wife and I as just a couple, before we were parents. Not that I don’t love being a parent, that’s not the case. But Dieter was sleeping in on weekends, lazy afternoons watching movies and ordering pizza in the evenings. He was cool with whatever, as long as you had a spot on the couch for him. Losing him felt like saying goodbye to not only an old companion, but an aspect of my wife and I’s youth I wasn’t ready to let go.

So this left us with the nervous, twitchy little Helmut. Gunther’s true little bro that never got a chance to grow into his own. Dieter made sure of that. Helmut did his best on his own, though. He would eventually create his own little niche of independence despite the absence of his mentor and drill sergeant Dieter. Gunther continued on through dry skin and hurt paws, constantly barking at the kids when we’d go over to mom and dad’s house. The barking would be a constant. If one of the kids got up to go to the bathroom? “BARK!” If one of kids sneezed? “BARK!” If one of the kids twitched? “BARK! BARK! BARK! BARK!” Gunther was very attentive to the kids.

In 2009 Helmut became very sick. Losing weight, vomiting, not eating. Another round of expensive vet visits, no answers, and ideas of sending him down to Purdue University for more expensive tests. That wasn’t an option. Withering to skin and bones we had to put Helmut down. As sad as it was, I knew it was for the best as he was suffering. One incident stands out in my mind not long before he died was on an evening when my then 5 year old daughter was suffering from what is called a bronchial spasm. It’s a fancy way of saying asthma attack. She was lying in our bed after just having a breathing treatment. If you’re not familiar with asthma or breathing problems after you have a breathing treatment you become very tired as the body works so hard to get air. When that relief hits from the Nebulizer you pretty much collapse into exhaustion. Anyways, our bed sat high. Like real high. At this point I was making a little bed for Helmut to sleep in on our bedroom floor as he couldn’t jump on our bed anymore. I’d left the room to get my daughter a glass of water. When I came back in the room Helmut had jumped onto our bed and was lying next to our daughter. He wanted to be there for his friend. He was gone less than two weeks after that.

I guess that brings me back to Sunday. It brings me back to Easter Sunday and my parent’s dog Gunther. Gunther will be 15 this month. The dog with a million maladies and million more barks. He outlived them all. I was out in the backyard with Gunther on Sunday and watched him as he limped and hounded my aunt as she talked on her cell phone. He kept barking at her. He wanted her to know he was keeping an eye on her. I knelt down and pet this old man of a dog. In dog years 15 years old is 105. 105. He would’ve been mentioned on The Today Show by now if he were a human. Gunther’s back leg is swollen, he’s got countless tumors, breath like a thousand rotting trout, dry skin, and he can hardly hear anymore…yet he’s still happy to be around. He still barks at the kids’ every twitch. He still greets you at the door(when he can hear the door open), and he still eats like a horse. He’s still, to me, a reminder of a time before I was a parent. Before there were so many responsibilities. He’s a reminder of a month in my life before the moons aligned, stars shifted, and eggs were fertilized.

Looking at Gunther, petting his boney back and smelling his rank breath I got very emotional. Just for a moment. I know he’s not long for this earth. I started thinking about my parents and the fact that they’re not getting younger. Hell, neither am I. We don’t know how much time we have on this earth. We have only so much time to make our mark here. Only so much time to figure it out. But going inside and seeing my kids and wife playing Yahtzee with my niece, laughing and having a good time, I can’t really ask for more. What’s left to figure out when you’re in a house full of people that love each other. That love you. Gunther seemed pretty happy outside, limping and barking. Content to get his head scratched and belly rubbed. I don’t think he wants any pity from me.

Besides, 105 years is a hell of a good run. Anything past that is icing on the Milkbone.

How I Spent Record Store Day 2014

paige and claire nnnI woke at 6:30am. It was a bright, sunny Saturday morning. Coffee brewing at extra strong. Karma Records was opening at 8am, so I needed to be at full throttle by then. I didn’t know what to expect. My plan was to get there at 7:30am and wait out in the cold, biting air like an idiot. There were things I wanted in that damn store and by God I was going to get them, come Hell or high water. Sure, I could’ve set my alarm for 1:30am and headed east to Fort Wayne. Wait in line at 2:30am at Neat Neat Neat Records like some freak. I could’ve done that. I guess I’m not dedicated enough. Or maybe it’s that I’m a 40 year old man that has a tiny shred of dignity. I’ll leave that crazy shit to the young punks and troglodytes. Those midnight creepers who turned off their PS3s long enough to rock a 60oz can of energy drink, munch on some Taco Bell, and inhale/exhale scented vapors all the while waiting on a desolate and dark street corner. My toupee’s off to ya, ya shits.

Nah, 7:30am is just fine with me. I knew it wasn’t gonna be bare knuckle brawling to get into Karma Records. And I knew that I’d see some friendly faces in line. I was right. Well, I was wrong about 7:30am. I got there at 7:45am. Pulled up and no one was outside the door. Win. As I parked in front of the storefront a kid got out of a beat up Cadillac and got in line before me. Newbie? Never seen ‘em before. He seemed new to the whole RSD thing. I thought that was cool. We’ve won another over. He mentioned something about a Lorde album he wanted. Good to hear. I didn’t have to beat him down for something I wanted. Safe. For now. Within 30 seconds we had ten people in line. Sure, that’s small fries compared to those desolate big city street corners. But for a town that has a church every half mile and a third McDonalds in the works this is a big deal. A line outside a record store in this religious, Christian conservative haven usually would mean a protest against the release of a gangsta rap album; or the Dixie Chicks. Either that or tickets to see Head East and Ambrosia at the Goshen Theater. No, this was a line with folks wanting to buy vinyl. This is a good thing.

8am. BAM! We’re in. The Lorde kid makes a b-line looking for nothing in particular while I use my x-ray vision to find those ear treats. Tame Impala…BOOM! Spoon…POW! Flaming Lips…KAPOW! I can breathe. I got the three big ones on my list. I back away and let the feeding frenzy begin. Karma did it right for the folks in this nowhere special Lake City. Three folks stood behind the counter; nervous, excited, ready for bloodshed. No blood was shed. Folks were cool. No pushing or shoving, not barely a word even spoken. As the crowd thinned out a bit I went back in for the scraps. The chum. Three 7 inch singles were mine. Of Montreal, Dino Jr, and Flaming Lips,…two of which were the Side By Side series. Very cool. Nice reminders of RSD 2014 for RSD 2015. Owner/operator John Vance pointed me in the direction of Hebronix. Yuck’s former head guy’s newest album. “Why not?” I thought. It’s RSD. Plus it’s on green vinyl.

Tis the season.

The evening took me and my gang on an odyssey in an Odyssey to the great Fort Wayne to hear the sultry sounds of Streetlamps for Spotlights at the mighty Neat Neat Neat Records. Morrison Agen is the ringmaster at NNN and in center ring was Jason Davis, Jay Hackbush, and Ryan Holquist playing a mix of fractured rock and shattered post-punk. It was a beautiful thing to see and hear. Another beautiful thing was to witness this with my kiddos and wife in tow. Sure, the live music -loud-ish for young ears- wasn’t quite the kiddos version of fun family night, but the wife and I tapped our toes and relived a youth filled with concerts and stage lights. Twas a great experience. Morrison also hooked me up with one of those RSD-exclusives Mr. Vance couldn’t get his hands on: Medicine’s Part Time Punks Session. Some NNN swag was purchased in the form of t-shirt, slip mat, and some cool buttons for the kids. Oh, and the Streetlamps for Spotlights vinyl was firmly placed in my grubby hands by the time we left South Calhoun Street.

By 7pm RSD had wound down for me. Hands full of great vinyl, and conversations had with very cool folks I know and quite like; plus some conversations with folks I’d never met before in my life but hope to see again. This is what community and fellowship feel like in my world. Everyone coming together with a common love: music. There are no fake smiles or attempts at flaccid earnestness. It’s a tribe of music lovers and vinyl eaters. Spinners of the plastic; 140gram, 180gram, 200gram,…wham, bam, thank you mam! The record store is the Church I choose to worship in. The creator of my universe sits in a 12 inch sleeve and waits for me to spin His wholly words through needle and stylus arm. 33 1/3? 45? Take your pick.

The speakers spit the meaning, you dig?

spoon and tame impalalips and hebronixmedicine albummedicine vinylsfs albumsfs vinylhebronix vinyla place to burynnn slip mat

Even Otto loves vinyl...and his daddy.

Even Otto loves vinyl…and his daddy.

 

Causa Sui :: Live at Freak Valley

causa suiCausa Sui have been putting out true psychedelic rock for almost ten years. In those ten years they’ve transcended the genre into something completely their own. Starting out with a more fuzzed-out stoner rock vibe on their first two records the Denmark natives switched gears on 2008s Summer Sessions, Vol 1-3 by creating more mind-expanding long form jams that harken back to electric Miles, Can, and some of the more progressive psychedelia of the late 60s and early 70s(I’m looking at you Hawkwind.) From 2008 on Causa Sui made music for the lover of music you can get lost in. Worlds form and decay, centuries pass and light years are traveled all in the course of one of Causa Sui’s many excellent expansive albums. Last year’s excellent Euporie Tide seemed to be a concentrated version of the band’s discography. Sometimes Sabbath-heavy, sometimes quietly serene, and sometimes dream-like and hallucinogenc, its one hour plus run time covered all the bases. Now we have Live at Freak Valley, a live testament to the band’s musical prowess. It’s a shining example of what these four guys can do when given a stage and a couple hours to blow minds.

Freak Valley Festival is a music festival that takes place in Siegen, Germany. Someone once said “There’s nothing to do in Siegen”, so the folks at Freak Valley decided to change that. A who’s who of psych, doom, and stoner rock bands have played the festival and Causa Sui can now be added to the roster. Listening to Live at Freak Valley you’re amazed at how four guys can fill every nook and cranny with sound. Jonus Munk(guitar), Jakob Skott(drums), Jess Kahr(bass), and Rasmus Rasmussen(keys) take their signature tracks and open them up. They expand on the ideas laid to tape and let them breathe on the Freak Valley stage. Musical beasts that roam the room melting faces and minds alike. The medley of “Lonesome Traveller/Santa Sangre/Garden of Forking Paths” is 14 minutes of swirling noise, pounding rhythms, and psych guitar freakouts the likes of you haven’t heard since the heyday of acid blotter and liquid light shows. But this music isn’t to be written off as cookie cutter psych rock. There’s muscle to these songs. Causa Sui never relies on the idea that 20 minutes of mindless jamming will satisfy the red-eyed masses. At times these tracks explode into massive, riff-heavy glory reminding you why Black Sabbath were so great in the first place. “Mireille” opens triumphantly and strides along like a gallant steed before Munk engages the wah pedal and begins to lay down some serious Pete Cosey-like jams. At times Rasmussen’s keys sound more like another guitar than keys, but when he throws in some organ it feels like 1970 and Jon Lord all over again. I have to say Rasmus Rasmussen really does create a mood. He keeps things spacey and weird, while the rest of the band can jam like Cream on a good night. Skott holds his own as this band’s Ginger Baker, blasting his drums like a maniac but never losing the groove, while Kahr holds the low end down never letting Skott float off into space. And Jonas Munk knows just when to blow up and when to pull back. “Red Valley” has an ominous vibe, filled with tension and a restraint you feel could explode at any moment. It was a highlight of Summer Sessions, Vol.3 and it’s a highlight here as well. Over three minutes into this track it turns into this Sleep-like doom bruiser and proceeds to get delightfully noisy. When Rasmussen comes in with the space swirls the track settles back down into a mellow vibe. “El Paraiso” and “Euporie” is some of the best live freakouts I’ve ever heard. Put on some headphones and disappear into the ether. And “Homage” sounds even more like Smashing Pumpkins’ “Cherub Rock” live, except without all the whining. Simply excellent.

The band burns through nine tracks in nearly ninety minutes. They hit classics like “El Paraiso” and the aforementioned “Lonesome Traveller/Santa Sangre/Garden of Forking Paths”, but over half the setlist consists of Euporie Tide songs which is great. You can hear the band open these songs up and let them breathe and grow. They improvise and riff on these tunes like jazz players. Jazz players with a penchant for fuzz boxes and heavy psychedelics. As far as live albums go, Live at Freak Valley is one of the best.

I’m sure I’ll never see Causa Sui live. Unless I take a vacation in Denmark or they line up a US tour sometime in the near future Live at Freak Valley is the closest I’ll get to hearing these Danish psych masters do their thing live and in the raw. Thanks to this excellent live testatment I can be happy with that.

8.8 out of 10

 

Streetlamps for Spotlights :: Sound and Color

Alt_Web_IconThe first thing you notice as you listen to Streetlamps for Spotlights full-length debut Sound and Color is how much these guys love texture. Sometimes it’s subtle, but these textural layers are always present in the songs. Whether it’s in Jason Davis’ guitar work with jagged punches of riffs and noise, or in Jay Hackbush’s solid bass lines keeping things afloat, or Ryan Holquist’s pounding drums going from solid rhythms to full on post-punk explosions -sometimes in the same song- the textures are there. As well as being the 6-string guru of SfS Davis sings over these aural explosions, sometimes like a man on a mission and sometimes like a man looking hopelessly for answers. Always though, with a purpose. Sound and Color is part post-punk manifesto and part grizzled, razor wire pop record. Several singles over the last few years have built up to this statement of musical authority. Streetlamps for Spotlights are ready for their close-up.

This debut makes it perfectly clear that Davis, Hackbush, and Holquist are a force to be reckoned with. “Ready Already” opens the album like an explosion of pissed-off conviction. You can almost see the spittle flying in the air as Davis sings “Are you ready already?!” Musically this is a barbed-wire slash of a song, with noise that would make Sonic Youth(RIP) jealous and salivate. But then gears shift in the great “Right Back”, which turns the previous angst in the album opener into an alternative pop gem. The previously mentioned textures? Yeah, they’re all over this one. “Someday” sounds like Green Mind-era Dino Jr, especially in Davis’ guitar work. Hackbush and Holquist give SfS that very unique, almost metal-like backbone allowing Davis to keep things loose and spacey in the mid-section. “Call it Off” is just a scorcher, with some speaker-melting guitar and Holquist completely abusing the drums.

The truly unique thing about these guys is that they keep the mood just slightly off kilter. Just when you think a song is gonna do one thing it does something else. There’s always this underlying dissonance in the music that keeps it becoming, well, “average” I guess. There’s some amazing interplay between these three players and the songs benefit greatly from Davis’ eschewed view of the universe. Take a track like “Walking”. It’s this at times eerie-sounding track with Davis having a conversation with someone about if he were to just walk away and not come back would they even care, as the song fades with a guitar ringing into space. It’s a great balance between artistic reach and melodic presence in a song. It satisfies all the senses. You don’t get fluff from these guys. Then they follow it up with a bombastic track like “Don’t Worry” which just straight up rocks. And “Damaged”? It wouldn’t have sounded out of place on an early Cheap Trick record. I can only imagine between the three of these guys their influences are quite expansive. They take them all and mesh them quite well, but are subtle enough with them that you can never quite put your finger on who a particular song sounds like. It just sounds like Streetlamps for Spotlights. “Lies” and the wonderful “New Year’s Ball” won’t be mistook for anything but SfS songs. Title track and album closer “Sound and Color” leave us with these words, “Will we still be doing this when we are 60/Same thing we’ve been doing since we were 16.” It’s a sentiment that could be taken more than one way.

Sound and Color is an album that at it’s core is about the hurt of loss; the hurt of losing someone. But around that core is a noisy, jangly, jagged rock n’ roll album that is one of the best to ever come out of Fort Wayne. The trio of Davis, Hackbush, and Holquist swirl noise like Pollock dripped paint. It can be messy and sometimes abstract, but always quite wonderful.

9.2 out of 10

 

“It’s too bad she won’t live, but then again, who does?”

DSC04598Yes. I love Blade Runner. In fact, it’s one of my favorite films ever. Ever. The futuristic, post-apocalyptic Los Angeles with the flames blazing into the grey air, the always rainy streets, and Darryl Hannah dressed as a baby doll. Philip K. Dick’s short story about what defines a being as real and not, to me, hits me deeper than most stories about the subject. Guy like Dick, Bradbury, Matheson, and especially Kurt Vonnegut took the human condition and put it under a very humane microscope. Making us look at the ugly things we do and question why we do them. Blade Runner was a perfect example of that. We find a technology to create artificial intelligence, so what do we do? We make human-looking slave labor, what else? Rick Deckard is the good soldier that does what he’s told. But by the end questions these actions and even realizes it doesn’t matter if the life is real or artifical, they are lives. At least that’s what I’m going with.

Dick’s short story, ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep’ was a more condensed idea while the film expounds on these theories. Besides the incredible special effects of Douglas Trumbull, the music by Vangelis grabbed me as a kid and made the relationship between Deckard and Rachael all the more intensified. Vangelis’ sweeping synths and breathy saxophone gave you the feeling of some futuristic Mickey Spillane story. The music is a character itself. It stayed with me long after I’d forgotten certain moments of the film. I knew I had to own this soundtrack at some point. I can remember being a kid and recording Blade Runner off of TV late one night, then a week later recording Brainstorm, a film directed by none other than Douglas Trumbull. It was a week of incredible sci fi that stayed with me up to now.

I grabbed this soundtrack last summer and sadly haven’t listened to it since I first got it. Happy to say I’m glad I got it as it’s making the evening one of reminiscing and great memories. It also reminds me of one of Harrison Ford’s best film performances…besides Force 10 From Navarone. He was in some other sci-fi movies. A series I think. Oh well, they must not have been very big.

Btw, “Memories of Green” on side two still makes me tear up like a little punk.

DSC04599

 

Weird Scenes Inside The Hall of Superheroes or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love Spring Break

DSC04547

Is everybody in? Is everybody in?
Is everybody in?
The ceremony is about to begin

Grown men in tights.

That kind of thing would normally make me uncomfortable. Possibly squirm in my seat, even. I’m not much for the ballet and overzealous cod pieces. Remember that guy on Captain Kangaroo? The skin suit guy that showed his internal organs? He may have sang a song about the wonders of the colon or kidney health, I can’t remember. Anyways, the five-year old me was extremely nervous whenever he appeared. But when we’re talking about superheroes, well that’s different. Superheroes needed the least amount of restraint they could get. They were flying, running, jumping, kicking, punching, and battling to save people like you and me. To save mankind. Tights were a necessity. Tights were part of the uniform. Batman, Superman, Spiderman, The Flash, and even the X-Men wore tights. And I was okay with that. So a couple weeks ago when my dad called me at work to ask me if I knew about the Hall of Superheroes I was intrigued. Apparently my parents were watching a show called ‘Toy Hunter’ where this guy goes around buying rare, vintage, and hard-to-find toys. Some for himself, and some for others I guess. Anyways this particular episode the toy hunting guy goes to the Hall of Superheroes in Elkhart, In. Elkhart. This once thriving industrialized town now just a gritty shell of a town that it once was that sat a mere hour north from my home. My dad said “I think Owen would really like it.”

My son Owen is a huge super hero fan. He loves comics, cartoons, DC, Marvel, movies…anything to do with  superheroes he’s aDSC04553 fan. It started out a couple years ago that he’d buy comics and it seemed to me he was just looking at the pictures, not actually reading the storylines. He filled in the blanks with the classics; the early 90s X-Men cartoons, Iron Man cartoons, Batman: The Animated Series, and the Spiderman and Hulk cartoons from the early 90s as well. I even got him into Spiderman and His Amazing Friends, featuring Iceman(one of my favorites as a kid) and the extremely curvy Firestar(hubba hubba.) But at some point -I’m not sure when- I realized my son wasn’t just looking at the pictures in those comics and graphic novels. He was reading the stories. He was bringing up characters I’d never heard of. He could tell me who everyone was in those books and cartoons. He’d ask me if he could get on the computer and watch videos on Youtube. I’d ask him what he was going to watch and he’d say super hero videos. Well what he was watching were these fan-made videos that were essentially pictures of superheroes with some nu metal band playing in the background. It was disturbing, yet he was just more interested in seeing the pics of folks from the DC/Marvel universes. It has gotten to the point to where I go to the 9 year old if I have any questions regarding superhero history.

So back to the phone call from my dad. This was good news for me, as Spring Break was only a couple weeks away and as usual nothing was planned other than staying up late and watching movies that would surely cause nightmares. This gave me something to take work off for and somewhere to take the kids. They couldn’t say we didn’t do anything on spring break, dammit. Lucky for me my daughters like the superhero stuff enough that they were looking forward to going as well. Win-win.

DSC04552Last Friday we left our house at 11am and began our trek north. Directions were put into the GPS and all seemed well. I knew the general area as I have family that live around Elkhart; plus I’ve been to Elkhart plenty of times in the past. The Hall of Superheroes was located on a county road, so it wasn’t quite “in” town. This is good, as there’s some shady spots in this once thriving town that had jobs a-plenty thanks to the RV-industry. Sadly, that industry crashed and burnt in 2008-2009. Nearly all the RV and trailer factories shut their doors, which led to Elkhart having the highest unemployment rate in the country. Not sure where they stand nowadays, but it’s still a pretty desolate town. The suburban location of our own local Hall of Justice was a welcomed surprise. After the GPS took us on a jaunt through Amish country we finally arrived at our destination. The Hall of Superheroes.

The museum is located on a wooded lot in the back of a very nice brick house. An in-ground pool sits to the left of the museum,DSC04532 which looks like a pull-barn that was converted to look like the home of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and the The Wonder Twins. You walk inside and the place is nice and cool(I’m sure it’s climate controlled due to all the collectibles, including comics.) There’s a teenage boy playing video games at the front desk and he takes our money. $20 for four of us($6 for adults and $4 for kids 10 and under), which I didn’t think was bad. It quickly occured to me what this place really was: it was a guy’s private collection that he turned into a museum in order to make money and add to that collection. The kid that took our money and that was playing video games was the son I imagine. Not a bad gig, really. So, onto the goods. The bottom level had the two most collectible items in the place: Adam West’s original Batman costume and The Greatest American Hero costume wore by William Katt on the tv show. There was a blonde afro wig on the mannequin which donned the suit that could’ve been William Katt’s actual scalp. I’m not sure. On one of the walls was a collection of first edition comics; another was Batman central with tons of memorabilia including a creepy bust of Adam West. Burt Ward’s codpiece may have been there, I’m not sure. There was a “batpole” that went upstairs. My son guffawed at everything, even pointing out that some of the art hanging in the bathroom looked like some art he has in his room. I think he would’ve moved into the place had he been able to. My daughters were mildly interested, but most of the excitement was coming from my 9 year old son.

We headed upstairs and saw right away there was an X-Men arcade game, still working and ready for our quarters. All three kids jumped on that and played together while I looked around. Just an overwhelming amount of comics and toys were everywhere in this room. I can’t imagine what this guy’s house was like before they built this “museum”. And I’m sure he’s been collecting this stuff since he was a kid. His room had to have been a disaster area. Though, as well set up as this place was I imagine he was pretty particular with his toys and comics. Anyways, it was overwhelming to imagine cataloging all the stuff in this building.

DSC04544Pretty soon my daugthers were doing the “Are we done yet?” thing, and I have to admit I was pretty much ready to hit the road. My son seemed to be lost in some Marvel trance, muttering things like “I wish I could buy it” and “Is this for sale?” I knew we needed to get him out, and quickly. We headed back downstairs and my son says “My head hurts”, so I say it’s time to go. We head out to the car and with all the sun the car had heated up rather nicely. Heat doesn’t do much for my son’s headaches. When he gets headaches they affect everything. I tell him I’ll find a Walmart and get some Ibuprofen for him. Well, I hit the main highway and we’re stuck in traffic. Roadwork ahead and no sign of cars moving. He’s quickly feeling worse. The windows were down to air the car out, but due to all the trucks and traffic you could hardly breathe so I had to roll the windows up and turn on the air. Meanwhile, the fumes, heat, and starts and stops have got my son feeling worse. I realized I won’t find a Walmart and see a Walgreens ahead.  I pull in and my son asks if he can go in, too. I say sure, so we all head in. I ask him if he’s okay and he says yes. We find the aisle with the pain relievers and Owen puts his head down and puts his hands on his knees. I ask him what’s wrong and he says his stomach doesn’t feel good. We quickly start looking for the bathroom. We make it to the restroom and just as he walks into the stall his stomach pushes forth a spray of vomit like no other. Had this been at home he would’ve thrown up all over the floor, his bed, the couch, or some other easily ruined piece of furniture. But this time he made it right into the toilet, and Praise Jebus for that. After 45 seconds of heaving he said he was done. His eyes bloodshot and watery, he washed his hands and we went out to find his sisters. Ibuprofen, water, and chips were purchased and we hit the road. By the time we were halfway home the headache subsided, his stomach was fine, and like Wolverine he’d self-healed himself.

The day didn’t end up quite like I’d hoped. I’d planned on a nice lunch, maybe peruse a record store, and then casually make our way home. Instead we threw up in a Walgreens and ate chips in my car from Elkhart back to our humble abode located in the woods. Despite the whole vomit thing, we had a good time at the Hall of Superheroes, laughed at funny action figures, and even saw super hero toilet paper. What more could you ask for?

Maybe a superhero barf bag.

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