New Year’s Evolution

With each successive New Year’s Eve I feel as though I’m getting more and more boring. No crazy New Year’s Eve parties, no sloshing of drinks, no drunken toasts at midnight to ring in the new year. There wasn’t even a party favor or party hat to wear to make the evening more festive. I made myself a drink at 5:30pm(a rum and coke.) After drinking that I just felt tired and decided it wasn’t worth it. My wife took our 14-year old daughter to do some post-Christmas shopping at the mall in the early afternoon so the boy and I stayed home. We ended up cooking up some grub, watching the last episode of Gotham, then finishing up the ‘Crisis On Two Earths’ crossover special with The Flash, Arrow, Supergirl, and Legends Of Tomorrow. By the time that was over it was nearly 9pm and I was already in my pajama pants and sprawled on the couch. The wife and I rang in the new year by finishing this season of Mr. Robot and popping some popcorn.

Happy New Year.

Don’t take any of that as complaining or disappointment. On the contrary, that’s pretty much how I prefer to celebrate New Year’s Eve anymore. I’m too old for hangovers and going to bed drunk. Those days have pretty much passed for me. They’re not fun for me, nor are they fun for anyone around me. There’s just a certain point in one’s life when you go, “Okay. Time to be an adult.” I do enjoy a tasty lager or mixed drink, don’t get me wrong. But I just don’t see the point in downing drink after drink until you reach some kind of personal desolation point.

So while some were toasting to the death of the old year and the pending birth of a new one dressed to the nines or in costumed regalia, I was perched comfortably at home in a Christmas fleece eating popcorn and peanut M&Ms entranced by costumed heroes and a depressed computer hacker named Elliot.

2017. Gotta say this hasn’t been a very good year, pretty much all around. We’re all still healthy, happy, and looking forward to promising days ahead here at the Hubner compound. We’ve all moved past the negatives of 2017 and are looking forward to a better 2018, but it wasn’t easy getting to this point. A summer infestation of bed bugs has left its scars, both physically and psychically. I lost one of my very good friends to suicide, which I’m still trying to cope with. But everyone within our four walls are doing well. I have to be thankful for that. The world at large is still a massive dumpster fire with cretins pissing on the flames everyday. I know there’s still people out there with common sense and big hearts trying to get things right, but the noisy bastards make it hard to concentrate on the good stuff.

I’m looking forward to 2018. No, I mean it. My oldest is graduating high school and will be heading off the college in the fall. My wife is heading into the new year with a job she really loves and we’re excited to see where she goes with it. My two youngest are doing well in school and are looking forward to where things will lead them. I’m excited to continue writing, listening to music, and sharpening my skills as a musician and songwriter. I’m ready to get back to some serious playing, guitar-wise. It’s recently been a great thing for me to head down into the studio, plug into the Marshall and play.

So here’s to 2018. More great records, more great comics, more great opportunities,…and did I say more great records?

 

 

 

 

That Last Hangover

people often change, but, memories of people can remain – Ray Davies

 

The last time I woke up with a hangover was going to be the last time for good. It’s a headspace I can’t take anymore. I’m too old to be feeling like I’m dying from the inside out; heart pounding, head pounding, stomach folding into itself. Each day is too valuable to waste even one of them sitting around with a headache, sour gut, and general chemical malaise. That last hangover was back in September of 2016.

It was a Saturday night putting down lagers with one of my oldest friends. It was a scene that’s transpired many, many times over the last nearly 20 years. We’d get together, drink, have dinner, watch a movie, and listen to music on Youtube till one of us said “uncle”. Just harmless fun. The next morning was usually a bear, but we had a hell of a time. Laughs were had and spirits were enjoyed(maybe even exorcised.) We’d get together at least once a month, if not more in our 20s. Once kids came into the picture for me the drinking evenings became more scarce, but when we’d find the time we’d make the most of it. But that Sunday morning in September I knew I couldn’t do that anymore. I was done tempting fate.

Over the last few years our get togethers were getting less and less. Kids get older, things come up, and that’s just how it is. But even over the last few years I’ve found myself not really enjoying that next day. It took longer and longer to completely recuperate from a night of “beering” it with the pal. Then early last year I had back surgery. I didn’t drink from February till the end of April as I was on pain meds, and since I’m not cool I didn’t mix booze with pills. I found once I’d healed up that I just didn’t have the stomach for drinking like I’d had in the past. I started wondering “Did I have a drinking problem and not know it?” “Was I relying on alcohol too much?” No, that wasn’t the case. It was that I’m middle-aged and I can’t take that sort of Olympic drinking anymore. I love a pint or two on a Friday night with some records spinning. I adore having a drink with the Mrs when we’re out to dinner. I just can’t sit and make 6 or 7 hours dedicated to downing beer after beer. The sloppiness of the whole thing just really bothers me nowadays. Binge drinking in your 40s isn’t smart(well, duh).

I’ve never liked going out to just specifically drink. Even when I’d turned 21 the whole bar scene bugged the hell out of me. People for the most part are absolute shits when they’re drunk. The myth of the happy drunk was created by other drunks. Drunks are plain obnoxious for the most part. The idea of the local pub and friends gathering is all great and good until you go one pint over, then shit gets ugly. What’s one pint over? You don’t know till you’re already there(or the next morning when you can’t recall how you got home or why you’re wearing underwear that doesn’t belong to you or why your car is parked at the neighbor’s house.) In 1998 I was in a rock band that played local bars. In that year alone I was sicker than I’d ever been in the last 6 years prior. Respiratory illnesses, ear infections, asthma,….in my opinion the cause of hanging out in dank, smokey bars till 2 am playing Doors covers and lousy original songs. I just always felt like I wasn’t quite sad enough to be sitting in a booth at a local bar drinking a Coors Light and listening to some guy sing Garth Brooks’ “The Dance” at Karaoke. I had a home. I had a life. I didn’t need to be there. But I was young and figured that’s what I was supposed to do.

I’m older now. I’m at the age where I like being home. I’m at the age where I’m finally comfortable in my own skin. Saying no when I really mean it, and not saying yes when I don’t. My guilty pleasures are lawyer shows and a pint of Ben and Jerry’s, not a long line of rum and cokes. If I’m going to have a drink on the weekend it’ll be sitting in my chair with my wife. Watching a movie, or making a pizza. Spinning records, or playing video games with my son. That’s where I need to be. That’s where I want to be. If I’m going to feel like shit it’s going to be because I’m feverish or I’ve got a chest cold or I put in a good workout the day before. I want my Sunday mornings to be me worshiping at the alter of dark roast and Miles Davis with a side of hotcakes. Not having that burning sensation in my lower intestines and belching up hops. The last hangover I’ll ever have was in September of 2016.

This past Saturday I got together with my old pal. We had a couple beers, watched a couple movies, and had hamburgers on the grill. It was a pleasant evening. Dare I say, a mature display of grown men enjoying each others company?(nah, don’t say that.) By 9:30 pm I was home, Ben and Jerry’s in hand, watching a movie with my family. Sunday morning the dark roast was perfect, as was the french toast. No headaches, no gurgling bowels, and no regrets. I’m changing. I’ve been changing for the past 7 years. It’s not always easy, but for the most part the evolution of me has been enlightening. When you get to the point in your life when you’re ready to move on and leave bad habits in the rearview mirror, it’s a pretty amazing thing. Life feels more vital, and the idea of drinking to the point of blotto isn’t even the remotest options.

My name is J, and I’m an adult. Finally.

Editors Note:

Writing this, I was reminded of the Kinks’ song “Do You Remember Walter”. When I first heard it, back when I was 19, I always identified with the Ray Davies character. He’s talking to his friend Walter. He says “Walter, remember when the world was young/And all the girls knew Walter’s name?/Walter, isn’t it a shame the way our little world has changed?”, as if Walter can’t or won’t remember the old days. Later Davies laments “And if I talked about the old times you’d get bored/And you’ll have nothing more to say”. Nowadays though, I seem to identify with Walter more and more. “Do you remember, Walter, how we said we’d fight the world so we’d be free/We’d save up all our money and we’d buy a boat and sail away to sea/But it was not to be, I knew you then but do I know you now?”

“I knew you then but do I know you now?” Hell, I barely knew myself. 

 

 

 

Today’s Headline : ‘Slacker Dad Has Not-So Slacker Daughter’

I was not the best student in high school. Sure I always passed my classes and I never failed, but I did the absolute minimum I needed to do in order to move on to the next level and I never looked back. I didn’t procrastinate. In fact I usually got things done pretty early on, but I didn’t put forth any more effort than needed. I had other things to do, like….like….well, play guitar and listen to tapes in my bedroom. Oh, and I had a couple friends to hang out with. And by my senior year I had a steady girlfriend so that really took up most of my time when I wasn’t working bagging groceries.

So you see…I was a grade-A academic mope. I knew enough to keep me out of the spotlight, kept my head low, and did what I was told and nothing more. Academia wasn’t for me. I told myself once I graduated that I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to write screenplays for these fantastical ideas that were in my head. Juliard didn’t accept me into their music program, so I guess I wanted to be the next Bergman, Allen, or Soderbergh. I told my parents that I wanted to go into journalism so as not to scare them about the whole movie making scam. I took the entrance exams and passed. I was accepted to three different colleges in Indiana but realized I was too lazy to want to go away to school. I decided on a local campus(only 50 minutes away.) I could drive to class and still live at home. I was all set to go off and further my already shaky education.

Then something happened.

I got a job at a video store and decided I wanted to rent porn and video games to former teachers I had and other dregs of society. It’s okay, really. Within a year I’d gotten a job at one of the top 3 orthopedic companies in the world and that was all she wrote. I worked there for 6 years in various capacities. By the time I’d left there 6 years later I was a traveling auditor. I went to various distributors offices across the East and West coasts; as well as Florida, Texas and as far northwest as Montana. I counted the consignment implants they had on hand to make sure they weren’t selling our product under the table. It was a decent job, especially for a guy that was renting out porn and video games to educators and tweakers 6 years prior to that.

I left there in late 1999 and went to yet another orthopedic company. That one I’m still at. I did some furthering of my education a few times over the last 16 years. I took an Intro To Business, Intro To Computer Science, a Psych and Sociology class as well and got straight As. But, that still wasn’t for me. I’m the kind of guy that works as a cog during the day making a pretty decent wage(decent enough to put a roof over my family’s head, food in our cupboards, and “things” to make us happy.) My job isn’t my career. My job is a means to comfort. A means to do the things I love. Like writing and creating music. Those are the things I love to do regardless of monetary reward. Reading graphic novels with my son, buying vinyl, taking cool trips with my family, and going to concerts with my wife. Those are the things my job allows me to do, and I am ever grateful for that.

But I guess I want more for my kids. My oldest is leaving our local high school this fall and going to the Indiana Academy. It’s a school for junior and senior high school kids for just the state of Indiana. They only accept 150 teens per class for the year and my daughter was one of those teens. She’s extremely bright, but also a kid that “gets it”. She’s not what my dad would call an “egghead”. She appreciates the arts. She’s obsessed with Hamilton: The Musical, Grey’s Anatomy, dark and dry humor, and my homemade mac and cheese. So she’s got a good head on her shoulders. We received her transcripts from her old school so we could give them to the Academy. Out of a possible 12 point grade average, she currently has a 12.13. I really don’t know where she gets that pizzazz for school and study, but wherever she does, thank you.

She’s also a great oboist. She’s been playing for nearly 4 years now and she loves it. She’s currently enrolled in a week-long music camp at one of the semi-local colleges. She’s loving it and learning a lot. Today is her recital. Unfortunately for me I can’t attend it. I’m heading to Chicago with one of my oldest friends and we’re seeing The Cure at the UIC Pavillion. Now before you start calling foul on me not going these tickets were bought back in November. The camp didn’t come into the picture till about two months ago. I feel bad enough for not going, so don’t make it worse people. Thanks.

Bottom line, sometimes as parents it’s okay to gloat about our kids. Sometimes you folks that choose to not be a parent just need to deal with us gloat-y, proud parents. Even if just for a quick moment. I usually keep things to myself. I don’t go on the Facebooks and Friendsters and post a pic every half hour about how great my kids are and how I live only for them and yadda yadda(hey, those people piss me off, too.) I live for me, as well as my family. We’re parents, but we’re also still individuals and its okay to be an individual as well as a parent and spouse…and son, daughter, cousin, grandparent, gimp, what have you. We’re still lovers of music, art, film, comic books, great food, sports and have opinions of our own. I think that’s why our kids love us. At least that’s why I love my kids. Not because I have to because I made them and they dirty my bathroom and eat my food. But because I genuinely think they’re all pretty great human beings.

And oboes rock, in case you didn’t know.

Judy

Judy was my mother-in-law.

Judy died on May 19th, 2014 in her apartment from complications due to alcoholism and subsequently Cirrhosis of the liver. It was the solitary life for her because that’s what her alcoholism required. She was alone most of the time I’d known her, which was 23 years when she died. When I first met her she lived with a guy. An asshole, really. He was an alcoholic like her and it was apparent the relationship was tumultuous to say the least. Eventually Judy got tired of her guy and she bought a trailer one row over from him in the same lousy trailer park. From there Judy had steady work. She had no debt and lived pretty simply. She still drank but somehow made things work. She kept the booze and work separate.

My girlfriend became my wife in 1996. In 1997 we had our first child. His name was Dieter and he was a miniature schnauzer. Judy would watch Dieter for us. He’d stay at her trailer so we could go somewhere overnight. Like Cedar Point, or to a concert. Judy enjoyed having Dieter over. My wife and Judy had a miniature schnauzer when my wife was a little girl. We have pictures from one time when Dieter stayed with Judy. He had a look like “What the f**k is going on here?” It was priceless.

In 2000 my wife and I had our first “human” baby. Our daughter Claire was born on May 13th, 2000. Judy loved being a grandma. We saw her more once Claire was born than we’d ever seen her previously. Maybe being a grandma was her chance to do things better than she was able to as a mom. I mean, she did the best she could raising her daughter on her own. They moved often and Judy worked third shift, so my wife was pretty much on her own before and after school. In retrospect that’s one of those situations where you think “Wow. You’re lucky to be alive after that kind of childhood”, but as it happened it was just life. Regardless of the mistakes as a mom, she wanted to make up for them as a grandma.

During all this time Judy had boyfriends here and there, all of which dealt with drinking problems. None were as bad as that first guy I met, but I never wanted my children around them. They all seemed broken or ruined in some way. I don’t think Judy would have ever wanted to be with someone that had their shit together. I think she would’ve been too hard on herself. She already had two siblings -an older brother and a younger sister- that were very successful in life and she constantly compared herself to them. She didn’t need a partner to make her feel like a failure as well. The last guy she was with was Mark. He was a good 15 to 20 years younger than Judy. He was on permanent disability because of back problems and was on painkillers all the time, as well as being an alcoholic. Despite the fact that the guy was annoying, Judy seemed to be content with him. They got along, so at least she wasn’t alone.

My wife would reach out to her mom as much as she could, but you can only ask someone so many times to come over, have dinner, and see their grandkids and be

Judy with newborn Claire, May 2000
Judy with newborn Claire, May 2000

rejected before you stop calling. Though she wouldn’t come over, she always remembered the kids birthdays. By 2010 we had three children, two girls and a boy. Judy always had a birthday card for each of them, as well as for Valentine’s Day, Easter, and sometimes for no reason at all. She wanted the kids to know that she loved them despite not spending much time with them(or us.) She would come over on birthdays and every Christmas. Whether she had the money or not to spend, she’d make sure each of the kids got something from her, even if it was $10 in a plain white envelope. One year she bought me one of those novelty, battery-powered singing fish. It would start singing a tune every time you walked by it as it was supposed to hang on the wall(it never hung on our wall, btw.)

On April 28th, 2010, my wife’s birthday, we got a call late that night from Judy telling us that my wife’s brother Joe had died. He’d taken his own life. He’d struggled his whole life with substance abuse and crimes, mainly theft and disorderly conduct, that seemed more like acting out for attention than anything malicious. He’d been troubled since he was a teenager and never got on the right path. Losing Joe was what started Judy’s spiral. From that moment on Judy’s drinking got worse. So much so that within a year from her son’s death she lost her job of 15 years because she was going to work drunk. She was old enough to get social security so she officially “retired”. This gave Judy ample time for drinking. Her and Mark were more partners in oblivion than a couple. On several occasions we would get drunken calls from Judy in the middle of the night. Usually she was trying to call someone else and would call us instead. One night my wife had almost convinced her to go to rehab and get help. But at the last minute she changed her mind.

In March of 2013 Judy was walking from a friend’s trailer to her own on a Saturday night. Somewhere between those trailers she passed out and fell in some bushes. She laid in those bushes all night. She was found the next morning and an ambulance was called. She suffered from cuts and bruises as well as hypothermia and alcohol poisoning. She was in critical care for over a week in the hospital. Even after two days in the hospital her blood alcohol level was still above the legal limit. She left the hospital and went to a rehabilitation clinic. She needed to get her strength back in her limbs from the hypothermia. She was very short of breath for at least a week afterwards. She was also jaundiced from her liver being enlarged, overworked, and generally poisoned. My wife did everything for her during this time. Took her to appointments, sat with her and even set her up with an apartment at a retirement community in town.

When Judy left the rehab facility she seemed like a new person. She had color back, she’d put some weight back on, and her liver had shrunk down to a reasonably normal size. We gave her some of our old furniture and bought her a new TV and set her up in the new living situation. She was set up to make a new start, and she did all right for a couple months. Then in September of 2013 she passed out in her bathroom, fell, and broke her hip. She hobbled around on a broken hip for a good couple of weeks. She told my wife that she had just pulled a muscle. My wife finally convinced her to go to the doctor. After X-rays it was pretty apparent she’d broken her hip. During her consultation with the orthopedic surgeon(who was a recovering alcoholic himself) he asked her when the last time she’d had a drink was. She said months ago. He asked her again and she said recently. So once again she dried out in the hospital after her hip surgery.

In February of 2014 Judy called my wife and told her she needed help. She was afraid she was going to die if she didn’t quit drinking. She was drinking a 6-pack of beer and a bottle of vodka a day. We got her into a rehab facility in Indianapolis. She was there for seven days. When she left there she once again seemed to be on the road to recovery. Clear-eyed and full of potential, or so she seemed.

When someone is trying to kick a habit, you not only have to lose the drugs but the friends you used the drugs with. That means opening yourself up to meet new, healthy people to spend your time with. Judy couldn’t do that. She was too far gone inside. She could never forgive herself for not living up to expectations she put on herself. She could never forgive her mom for loving her sister more than she loved her. She could never forgive her dad for leaving her when she was a little girl. And she could never forgive herself for damaging her son to the point that he’d kill himself. Of course most of these things she created in her mind. A mind with clouded judgement. Not even having a daughter and another son that loved her, or grandchildren that loved her as well could pull her out of that black hole called addiction. It had a hold of her and despite all her efforts, late night calls for help, and the support of her daughter she succumbed to the demon.

On May 19th, 2014 Judy passed away in her apartment, alone. A self-assigned alone. An alone that you must have if you want to wallow in your own pain. The only thing that can fix that is total oblivion. Alcohol was her gateway there. Not the love of a caring and concerned daughter, son-in-law, three grandchildren, or the distant worry of siblings and a son could convince her that she wasn’t alone or that she had a reason to give up the juice for good. Judy seemed to be a whirlwind of turmoil and angst since day one, and that angst spilled over into a love of the bottle.

So I want to say this to you, Judy. You did the very best you could in the situation you were in. And that situation was raising a young daughter on your own while your ex made a new life in another state pretending he had no responsibility to you or your daughter. I thank you for keeping it together long enough to allow your daughter to grow up and be an integral part of my existence. You were riding choppy waters, but you kept your little girl as safe as you could. At least you didn’t hit the “self-destruct” button until you saw she was going to be okay. Thank you for that. And thanks for being a part of your grandchildren’s lives when you could. The board games, the cards in the mail, the trips to the zoo, and the homemade ice cream incident are all stories permanently embedded in the Hubner family history. Archived and lovingly remembered for future generations. You will not be forgotten.

And thanks for that singing fish. That won’t be forgotten either.

 

R.I.P., Christopher Tracy

I begrudgingly became a Prince fan. Why? Well, when you’ve got a best pal that listens only to Prince and you’re hanging out with him nearly every weekend it’s inevitable that the “Purple One” is going to rub off on you. Prior to meeting this best pal in the third grade I can remember hearing songs like “Little Red Corvette” and “Delirious” on the radio going to and driving home from town with my mom and thinking “I like this but I don’t know why.” When you hear lines like “I guess I should’ve closed my eyes/When you drove me to the place where your horses run free/’Cause I felt a little ill when I saw all the pictures/Of the jockeys that were there before me”, at 8 years old you’re not equipped with the life know how to understand that lyrical situation. But still, those songs got me tingling a bit. There were some feels for sure. But by the time 6th grade rolled around I was well into Ratt, Van Halen, Quiet Riot, and Twisted Sister, while my buddy was bringing over cassettes of Duran Duran, Madonna, and of course Prince.

My time frame for getting to know Mr. Prince Rogers Nelson was adolescence. Ages 10 to 14. Those albums were 1999, Purple Rain, Around The World In A Day, Parade, and Sign ‘o the Times. That was a time span of 5 years. In five years he redefined what it was to be not only a musical superstar, but what it was to be an artist. Each one of those albums were uniquely their own little worlds. Each contained massive radio hits, but hits on Prince’s terms not anyone else’s. Not only was he this Machiavellian character, he was the absolute creator of his own universe. He employed band members, and some were very recognizable in that five year time frame. His band “The Revolution”. In the studio he was the Revolution. He created those records on his own, much like some strange alien creature moving from instrument to instrument in the studio. He made the sounds he heard in his head, and then instructed others what to do live. It was certainly a crew live, but behind the curtains one guy was running the show. He wanted to shock and offend just as much as he wanted to entertain. He made funky, dirty music that was meant to titillate and make people think. He used sexuality like an instrument; and instruction tool to open eyes and minds. But within those five years he went from end of world parties to a concept album that teemed with dance pop and jazz.

The man knew no boundaries. He didn’t take no for an answer. Regardless of your feelings about him or his music, you had to respect the artistry and fearlessness in his music.

I’d have to say Purple Rain, for me, is the record that affected me the most as a kid. The purple smoke and mirrors facade that hid the fact that Prince made a masterpiece of pop music. It ranged from Hendrix-ian guitar mania(“Let’s Go Crazy”), straight up boy/girl love song(“Take Me With U”), to one of the most perplexing radio hits of the 80s(“When Doves Cry”), Purple Rain had everything. Oh, it also had some naughty bits in it for some pre-adolescent confusion(“Darling Nikki” and “Computer Blue”). There seemed to be something for everyone on that album. My parents weren’t fans of Thriller, but dammit they sure did like Purple Rain. It was a bi-partisan record, at least in our house. As I’ve gotten older Sign ‘o the Times has become my go-to Prince record, for sheer volume and artistic reach, but Purple Rain never disappoints.

So here’s to that awkward kid from Minneapolis, Minnesota that grew up to change music forever. He blew boundary lines; musical, sexual, societal, and artistic to pieces and rebuilt to according to his rules. From one Midwest guy to another, thanks Prince. Thanks for being as weird and strange as you were. And for being as beautiful as you were.

R.I.P., Christopher Tracy.


Editor’s Note: The Prince videos available are sketchy at best, so I felt this was a fitting way to pay tribute. D’Angelo did this song justice, one of my absolute favorite songs.

 

Don’t Look Back In Anger : A Local Tribute To David Bowie

by J. Hubner

painting by Shane Darin Page

 

“Planet earth is blue And there’s nothing I can do.” – David Bowie

David Bowie was one of those artists that just felt eternal. He was someone that could disappear off of our collective radar for years and then reappear with an amazing record and we wouldn’t blink twice. Because despite his absence we knew that he’d return eventually. I mean, the man had over 40 years worth of music for us to delve into to help pass the time in-between his reappearances. He had a phase for every person. Folksy, glam, soul, Krautrock, electronic, industrial, radio ready pop, etc…the list goes on.

The man was a slave to no label.

But what he was, sadly, was mortal. He succumbed to liver cancer on January 10th, 2016, just two days after his 69th birthday. It was an absolute shock to me, as it was to the rest of the world, because he kept his impending death to himself. I think so many were surprised at just how much his death affected us. Like I said, Bowie seemed eternal. I think in thinking that we were partly right. While David Jones may not have been eternal, David Bowie’s music is.

I thought it would be fitting to reach out to some local musicians and general music fans and ask them to share their favorite Bowie memories. Favorite album, song, and why those mean as much as they do to them. The response I got was overwhelming.

Here’s to the Starman.

12647980_940512482723693_1165415178_nBart J. Helms(The Snarks): With Bowie, I think the difference lies less in favorite album than favorite period, and for me, the 1976-1977 span when the Bowie/Eno/Visconti team recorded Low and “Heroes” is unbeatable. Musically, every song is its own wonderful adventure, but I think the real lesson comes in the historical context. By that point, Bowie had tried folk, glam and soul, and it was brave of him to move to electronic music at that time – brooding, atmospheric electronic music at that. Nearly half the albums’ tracks are instrumentals too, which I’m sure made the record label really happy. Above all, Bowie has taught me to drop the ego and dive into every project wholeheartedly, to treat every idea as its own little world.

Dwane Ferren(singer/songwriter): There are no rules. That’s what I learned from David Bowie. Every time I dropped the needle, “There are no rules”. And isn’t that why we all crawled out of the forest for the glow of the city lights, to pick up guitars and scream at our fathers? There are no rules and f**k anyone who said otherwise. It’s not hard for me to pick my favorite Bowie album. Tin Machine II. I remember the first album came out in 1988. I had heard that David was now in a band and this new collaboration was influenced by one of his favorites, The Pixies. I’m all aboard. The first album was noisy, loud, abrasive and dare I say “grungy”? In 1988 mind you. And if your not keeping score, that’s before Nevermind. Only Bowie could outdo Cobain. Tin Machine II was more melodic, crafted, and almost delicate. The lyrics are what really stand out to me. Lines like “ten dollars tore us apart”, and “you belong in Rock and Roll”. It was like he knew he had my attention, and now he was telling me how it was.

Bob Roets(owner, Wooden Nickel Music): Ziggy Stardust was the first album that I purchased back in 1972 and has always been my favorite. Not a bad track on that album-I thought it represented his greatest alter-ego, Ziggy. I loved concept albums back then and thought it was a beautiful album in which Bowie told a story of an intergalactic rock star. It is right up there in stature with some of my favorite concept albums such as the Who’s Tommy, the Beatles Sgt. Pepper or the Beach Boys Pet Sounds. My favorite song by Bowie was not from Ziggy, however, but the awesome tune “Rebel Rebel” from Diamond Dogs. I remember seeing him perform the tune live when I saw his show at Cobo Hall in Detroit back in 1974 and being blown away! It was a song written about his turning point effectively abandoning the glam movement that he was such a big part of for so long. I remember the “Diamond Dogs” tour was probably the most theatrical concert that I had attended up til that time. Quite impressed!

Ryan Holquist(March On, Comrade): Until last week, my favorite David Bowie era was, hands down, the Spiders from Mars trifecta of Hunky Dory, Ziggy Stardust, and Aladdin Sane. When I first heard those albums in my early teens, they were an unmatched blend of classic rock, progressive rock, glam rock, folk; equal parts Elton John, Queen, Peter Gabriel, Joni Mitchell, and something altogether different. If I had to pick a favorite song, I suppose it would be “Life on Mars”. And then last week, he released ★! I had never been so immediately receptive to a new David Bowie album in my lifetime. ★ features one of my favorite drummers, Mark Guiliana, and prompted me to start my iPhone list of favorite albums of the year. I discussed with my brother that I’d never been able to bring myself to spend the money on Bowie tickets his last couple times around, but that if he toured with this band, I’d be in. But now I am perversely proud to have fully fallen for his final stunt.

Tyler Gilstrap(Karma Records of Warsaw): Favorite album: Hunky Dory, Favorite Song: “Life On Mars”. I first heard this album when I was maybe 14 or 15. Movie soundtracks and classic rock stations slowly led me to the watering hole of early era Bowie. Life on Mars was the first song I heard of his and it hit me right in the gut. It changed what I thought good writing was. I didn’t know many Bowie fans at that point, so I mostly ended up listening to the songs on this album by myself. Jump forward to about 19, I had discovered punk, started exploring hip hop, metal and alternative rock. My knowledge of Bowie had grown with my musical discoveries. Ziggy Stardust, Young Americans, Space Oddity, mostly the 70s stuff. This stuff influenced everything I was getting into. Metal borrowed the fashion, hip hop borrowed the music, and punk borrowed the rebellion. Bowie took everything that had come before him; jazz, garage rock, folk, blues blended them up into that Bowie sound. And that sound in turn influenced everything that came after.

Matt Kelley(owner at OLG, also Trainhoppers, The Good Ones Clothing): I remember playing LOW—a gift to me from former OLG art director, Drew Kora—as walk-in music when Lloyd Cole played The B-Side. Lloyd heard it and said, “You know, this record…” And then we both stood there for several minutes—listening, together, speechless. The album hasn’t aged a day, which is to say: even now it sounds like the future.

Olivia Fabian(owner at OFabz Swimwear, project manager at OLG, The Good Ones Clothing): My favorite David Bowie album is Ziggy Stardust because singing “Five Years,” “Moonage Daydream” and “Starman” turned up super loud with the windows down is a family tradition that feeds my soul.

Jonathan Barker(art director at OLG): “Rebel Rebel”. That riff, you can’t un-hear a riff like that. So much attitude, it hangs with you for days after you hear it. Makes me want to go out and start a band.

Derek Mauger(Heaven’s Gateway Drugs): Favorite album: The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. I had a long thing written about how much I love David Bowie and how important his work is to me, but it rambled on and on forever so I deleted it. Almost all of Bowie’s musical “phases” strike different chords in me, but none resonate as much as his glam Ziggy Stardust era. Of those records, “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust…” is pound for pound my favorite. The pairing of David Bowie and Mick Ronson, in my mind, is on par with Mick and Keef, or John and Paul. The album itself is ridiculous in every sense; a space alien playing what are essentially coked up versions of Wayne Cochran songs with lyrics about squawking pink monkey birds and ray-guns but it works, and it is unreal start to finish.

It is no coincidence my dog is named Bowie. Yesterday, I yelled “it’s time to come inside Bowie” to my dog while he was out in the yard and I broke down crying. We always have their music.

Mark Hutchins(singer/songwriter): He had always been a peripheral presence for me, but I never realized just how big an influence he was – is – until he died. And, holy hell, what a way to go out. I’ve listened to the new album several times now. He left us with a gift. I loved the usual suspects, “Changes”, “Space Oddity”, “Let’s Dance”, but Scary Monsters was a big one. “Ashes to Ashes”… Nothing could prepare a geographically isolated but music-crazy kid for the debut of THAT clip on Friday Night Videos. Holy crap. Oh, and he gets bonus points for covering a Pixies song. When he wasn’t creating it, he exercised incredible taste.


 

Well, for me I’d have to say Let’s Dance was the album that made the biggest impact on me. It wasn’t the most influential(that would be Low), but it had an overwhelming impact on me as a kid. It came out in 1983 and I was 9-years old. Songs like “Modern Love”, “China Girl”, and “Let’s Dance” were played on pop radio and MTV at a pretty constant rate and being a radio kid those songs wormed their way into my brain pretty deeply. Add to the mix watching Bowie in The Hunger(Susan Sarandon, Catherine Deneuve, yes..) and Labyrinth, as well as the freaky video with Mick Jagger for “Dancing In The Streets” and early 80s David Bowie became a permanent fixture in my childhood. Of course there were the oldies station staples like “Space Oddity”, “Rebel Rebel”, and “Changes”, but nothing stuck quite like Let’s Dance-era David Bowie. I got older and discovered the genius of the Berlin trilogy. Low, Heroes, and Lodger are, in my opinion, the pinnacle of Bowie’s creativity and artistic expression(though he would continue to be creative and artistic until his final days.) There wasn’t aliens and space suits, but there was a visual style that was as unique and visceral as the cold, steely music that was stuck in the grooves of those three amazing records.

I guess what this all means is this: throw a dart at a board with all of David Bowie’s albums listed on it. Wherever that dart lands, that was his best era. It doesn’t matter where it lands, they all are important and vital in the life, career, and mystique of David Bowie.

 

Getting Old

Man, I’m feeling my 42 years lately. I was never a spry, full of energy kind of person, but being sore and tired are things that are becoming a way of life for me now. Lower back pain and stiffness, my left elbow and forearm ache, and my knees are starting to make sounds like an antique rocking chair. I don’t know what to think. Am I falling apart? Has my warranty expired and now all those outdated pieces that kept me together for so long finally starting to reject me? Is this really what getting old is?

I’ve never had a problem with getting old. In fact, mentally I feel more in tune with myself than I ever did when I was 20, 25, or 30 years old. Being over the hill suits me just fine, and the further away I get from the selfie generation, the better. Youtube stars, twerking, beard culture, craft meateries, things foxes say, skinny jeans,…I just wasn’t meant for these times, man. I can’t relate to any of it. I feel completely antiquated and alienated from these current trends, yet my daughter thinks I’m a hipster. Why? Because I drink craft beer out of a pint glass and spin vinyl. That’s not being a hipster. That’s just having good taste, people. I own a pour-over and I like it. I buy coffee beans online, so what? I’m not following trends, just my taste buds. I also still occasionally listen to Dokken and Yngwie Malmsteen. I don’t think hipsters do that, just 42 year olds that have stopped giving a shit about what’s cool and what’s not cool.

If I dig it, I go with it.

When you’re officially over the hill you need to stop caring about what others think or if what you’re doing would be considered passe, dated, or just not cool. I don’t care if it’s not cool, if  I want to watch cartoons with my son for 3 hours I will. I’m finding great literature and art in comic book stores and I think that’s pretty amazing. I’m loving doom metal and stoner metal and I don’t get high. I just love the riffs and the darkness within it. I’m becoming a sci-fi geek for the first time in my life. My wife and I still occasionally go to concerts, and we leave before the encore is over so we don’t have to fight traffic. Wanna make something of it? I’ve considered buying a bottle of scotch and seeing if it fits me. I still may at some point. I don’t take any prescription meds but I fear I may have to someday because of heredity. I love concert t-shirts but hate that they shrink in weird spots after about two washes. There’s a stack of Marvel Zombies books on my nightstand my son wants me to read, and I will read them right after I finish Alan Moore’s V For Vendetta. I’m most content sitting in my Lazy Boy with a stout next to me and a record spinning on a Friday night while the kids are in their rooms doing their thing and my wife is on her laptop on the couch. I don’t like being on the go. I’m a homebody. I workout usually 4 days a week, but the last two weeks have been pretty sketchy due to head colds and phantom muscle pain.

thugMuscle pain. I’m back to that. This is the part of getting old that I don’t much care for. I can’t just move heavy objects like I used to without a joint or muscle arguing with me for two weeks with pain and spasms. Getting up on ladders seems like risking certain death. Big cities kind of freak me out. Heavy traffic freaks me out. Driving at night freaks me out. Being up past midnight feels like I’m playing with fire, like at any moment I’m going to turn into a Gremlin. Or a pumpkin. The idea of an alternate universe, with an alternate version of me really freaks me out. Cause what if the alternate version of me takes selfies, twerks, or loves Youtube stars? What if that version of me has a craft beard, and bottles his own hard cider in some chic outhouse just outside an alternate universe Buffalo, New York or Portland? What if that bastard wears skinny jeans and listens to Imagine Dragons and 5 Seconds of Summer??? God, I hate my alternate self already.

Though, I bet he still has back pain.