Saturday, October 21, 2017

Old Stories

I was rewatching the original recording of this song and decided I could do better now that I'm sober so I'll see how I feel about this take. I was inspired by some Press Room artists who sang average original tunes and I decided to write a tribute to the places I remember growing up with and the nostalgia was unavoidable. I sing this song from time to time for a small audience and wonder what they must think about these places that very few people even remember because they don't exist anymore.

Sometimes I take a moment to tell some details and the detail I like to share is, possibly fake, of Brad throwing a nerf football to me in the dinnerware aisle of JJ Newberry and I missed it and it bounced into a shelf of gaudy crystal globes, knocking them to the ground where they splintered, causing Brad and me to flee out the back door near the pet store section. I'm not sure it really happened.

Another memory is of the now neglected Jerry Lewis Theater in Portsmouth. I didn't see Star Wars there, because I saw that in Boston, but I watched Empire Strikes Back at the Jerry Lewis in '81 or '82. Later, a friend got a job as a ticket taker and I told him to let me in the back door to see Top Gun and I waited there patiently and out popped the manager like a skeleton on a spring. I panicked and said, "I'm waiting for Dan!" and then ran away into the forest. Dan lost that job but did alright in the end.

I'll annotate this song further at the risk of taking some mystery away, J.J. Newberry's had a lunch counter and a pet store where my buddy Christos bought a dog he named after the light hitting Red Sox shortstop Spike Owen, and a toy section where I stole baseball cards and picked up a nerf football and passed to to Brad. He passed it back but overthrew me and it flew into a display of that cheap leaded crystal cracker vases those kinds of stores had. Before the sound of breaking glass even reached the front desk Brad had fled out the backdoor with me in hot pursuit. Laverdier Drug Store was where we stole some gum, Brad got caught because he had velcro cargo pant pockets. I got the gum out of my pocket before they caught me but the event was a red flag in our childhood. They had an arcade at the drug store too. It's a fish restaurant last I checked. Pic 'n' Pay was the name of a grocery store that sponsored a little league team that wore red uniforms. The store is now named Hannafords and it's basically the same. The Little Store was actually called "The Little Store" and it was 2 blocks from my house and sold snacks and bread and had a deli that was probably not licensed by food health department but offered good sandwiches to the winner of the weekly arcade game contest. Venture and Galaga and Pac Man and even Dragon's Lair made their way through that store in the golden era of console video games. Twinkies did cost twenty five cents. It's now a private residence with a cool front porch that was the portal to sugar and games for an entire neighborhood for about 3 years. The 'penny candy' reference is to Strawberry Banke root beer sticks and hard candy that was offered in wood baskets for a penny. Especially the soft cherry balls and multi-colored candy drops and licorice and bit-o-honey. It was across the street from our football field at Prescott Park (which still exists unchanged), so we always could get twenty cents worth of candy on the way home. The hot dog reference is to Gillies hot dog stand between the old J.J. Newberry and the parking garage, which has expanded from the old trolley car unit to almost a modern restaurant. The number of experiences I had at Gillies could fill a book. 'Houses made of logs' refers to the age of the houses, since there are no original log cabins in Portsmouth anymore. But there are graveyards 'old as time', dating back to pre-revolution colonial era. The chorus involves J.J. Newberry a general merchandise store, Peddlers was the local, now gone bicycle shop, Dollifs was the coin and baseball card collectible shop with a quirky, before-its-time blind auction on items like confederate money and old pennies. Sessions was the record store where I bought my first LP album: Billy Joel's Glass Houses. Sometimes I throw in "Daddy's Junky Music" which was an instrument store that closed up after the internet gouged prices beyond what could compete with. Gallaghers was the place I went to have my baseball glove relaced with leather and to buy a BB gun. It was general sporting goods like soccer balls and boxing gloves. The Mall in Newington put them all out of business but the internet got the last laugh.

These places have a personal history but, like the song says, nothing stays the same.  What strikes me about this song now that I've been playing it for several years is that there is a metaphor and longing that I intended for the places, but the final verse is a tribute to my buddy Brad who is also gone and I wonder sometimes if all these places aren't symbolic of him. I think my plan is to sing it as a tribute to the places and if the message is taken as a tribute to Brad then so be it.

The crackling you hear in the background is the old woodstove back in action after a long hot summer. Why did I leave the Costa Rican beach for this climate that is either an inferno or a deep freezer? some guy named Alan Jackson recorded a similar tune. Everyone's got a story.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Tough Day

The damn pack rats (bush tailed wood rat) are endemic and I should've murdered this one but it was so pitiful. The rat built its nest inside the wall and all summer long went back and forth through this little entrance. Well, it's been eating too damn much because one day it got completely stuck trying to make the  90 degree bend after the entrance. It couldn't go up and it couldn't go back. I saw this tail wagging from inside the wall and thought one of my coworkers was setting a trap on me. No, it was a living rat stuck half inside its mizzen entrance. Man, what a mess. It had been there for hours if not days, shitting and pissing on the floor. I was hoping it was already dead but when I grabbed its legs with some trash tongs it squirmed and hissed like a horror movie. But it was trapped.

I had the choice to cut it in half with a sawzall or a hoe but I was afraid half of it would rot inside the wall. So I pried the wall off and set the stupid animal free. It was mortally wounded and gets a nomination for the Darwin Awards, but I showed it mercy. Let nature take its course. It hobbled behind an outdoor storage shelf and I hope it returns the favor to some other hapless mammal. I buttoned up the mizzen entrance, probably entombing a dozen rats who will rot over the winter, but at least this animal needs to learn a lesson and chew the entrance a little wider before winter.

Monday, October 2, 2017


Insert bolt in a vise
Push then pull hard on the shock until...

the Oil seal comes out.
This is for a 1981 Yamaha sr185 Exciter motorcycle shock. Yamaha made a slide hammer for this procedure but the vise method works good too. Of course, remove the circlip first and drain the old fork oil out because when the oil seal finally comes out it will pour everything onto the floor.. and use a piece of wood or the old oil seal to seat the new seal instead of something like a wrench which can mar the shock and cause one of the low tolerance sleeves to catch on any burrs. Add 6.3 oz 10w fork oil. etc. etc.  reinstall.
I love how everything is easy to work on with the exciter. They made an owner friendly vehicle. If I can find the part then I can do the work. It's the only bike a person would need for a city or town.

Update 9/18: The left side oil seal lasted only 1 year. It started leaking badly so I had no choice but replace it. I did take the fork off once and measured the oil and thought maybe it was overfull because there was around 7+oz but putting in exactly 6.2oz did not change the leaking. The original oil seals (which I saved because I'm a hoarder) were not actually leaking when I replaced them but the removal process had damaged them so I had to buy another oil seal. I found an OEM fork seal. I'm also a year older and the damage has been done to more than just the oil seal so the push and pull method was jarring my arthritic spine and causes too much pain so I pondered how else I could do this and decided to try a chain+come along/chain binder that we have in the shop. It's hard to describe and I didn't get a picture of it. I don't recommend this method but the slide hammer fork tool Yamaha describes is not something most people have, so you clamp the retaining bolt head in a vise, then put the front axle bolt in the fork, then wrap a chain around the axle bolt and use a chain binder affixed to some unmovable source (in my case it was the steel frame of the building) then bind the chain and torque it together. The worst case scenario would have the steel frame fall apart...the second worst scenario would bend the axle bolt...and the third worst scenario would have so much tension build up on the fork part that either the bolt threads strip out or the bolt slips away from the vise projecting it into your knee or else the two parts spring apart and hit you with violence and pain and spraying fork oil everywhere. In my case, the best case scenario happened, the two parts gradually separated and did not spring apart but simply slipped so that I could catch them. Then I took great care in pressing in the new seal with an old seal as a drift and a rubber mallet and curved wrench as another drift. This works to avoid marring any surface and I hammer in a circle until the new seal was below the channel for the Cir-clip. I hope this will solve the leaking and it's not some awful problem with the fork surface itself that prevents the seal from working. The surface does not look worn but one never knows.)
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Man in the Van by Oggy Bleacher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.