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.
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Man in the Van by Oggy Bleacher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.