Tag Archives: Clio

Story of the Day: 2-18-11

How I Missed the Pixies

If you know anything about me, you know that my favorite band in the entire world is the Pixies. I have loved the Pixies since I was in 8th grade. I was not the first person in the known universe to love the Pixies, but I was definitely the first person at George R. Carter middle school in Clio, Michigan to love the Pixies.

I was part of a tiny contingent of people in my class who really liked music. I mean, I’m sure there were other people who really liked music. But we were the music snobs. It was hard to be a music snob in Clio in 1989. The only radio stations that played interesting music were in far-off cities like Detroit and Ann Arbor. We didn’t have cable so I couldn’t watch MTV. There was a music video show on the local PBS station that I watched rabidly, but it was only 1/2 an hour a week. My friend Rion, another music snob, would sometimes tape 120 Minutes for me, but he also had a tendency to get mad at me for hard-to-understand reasons and show up at school with bags of candy and give candy to all of the rest of our friends and none to me.

I mainly learned what was new and cool by reading Spin and Rolling Spin. That was where I first heard of the Pixies second album, Doolittle. It initially caught my eye because my 5th & 6th grade band teacher was named Mr. Doolittle, and I thought it would be cool to buy it for him as a gift, even though we weren’t particularly close and I hadn’t been his student for two years. That should give you an indication of what kind of student I was. The kind that fantasized about buying gifts for his old teachers.

But before buying it for Mr. Doolittle, I bought it for myself to give it a test run. So I biked to Manufacturers Market Place outlet mall in Birch Run with Brian Fairweather to buy Doolittle on cassette.

The first time I listened to it, I knew this album was something special. I immediately became obsessed and spent the next 10 years of my life seeking out every piece of music the Pixies had ever recorded. Which wasn’t very much; they only released four albums, an EP, and a handful of B sides. Today you could buy those 10 years of my life for about $40 on iTunes.

I only managed to see the Pixies live once before they broke up, on the Trompe le Monde tour. They hated each other and seemed to just be going through the motions. Plus it was in a seated venue and we were kind of far away. After the show, my friends and I waited behind the venue for an hour in the hopes that they’d notice us as they were walking out to their tour bus and say, “you high school kids look pretty cool. Let’s hang out.” We did see them come out of the venue, but when we tried to say hi to Black Francis, he said, “fuck off, man.” It was still pretty cool that he talked to us.

A few years later, when Don and I lived at 21-20, Rion came to stay with us. That was a total disaster for reasons that will be discussed in tomorrow’s story. While he was crashing on our couch, he let slip that he’d gone to see the Pixies on the Doolittle tour, back in 1989 when they were young and they weren’t just playing the role of greatest band in the universe, they actually were the greatest band in the universe.

“What?” I asked. “I am the biggest Pixies fan in the history of Clio. You and I went to shows together constantly when we were growing up, and if I’d known you were going to see the Pixies, I would have gone to see the Pixies. Why was I not at this show?”

“I was mad at you,” he answered. “The week before I asked you to see Sinead with me and you said no.”

“And so you blocked me out of seeing my favorite band of all time when they were touring behind my favorite album of all time?”

“Yeah,” he said. “It was general admission, too. And they were awesome.”

It’s difficult to fathom how upsetting this was. Imagine your favorite album is Sgt. Pepper, and you had the opportunity to see The Beatles playing that album in a small club, but your friend didn’t tell you about it because you had refused to go see the Electric Prunes with him the week before. That is how Rion’s admission felt to me.

Shortly after that, Rion and I stopped speaking. I didn’t see him again until the week before I moved to Los Angeles. It wasn’t the Pixies incident that severed our relationship; it was the incident that occurred at 21-20. But to this day, it remains one of the biggest missed opportunities of my life. I really, really should have gone to that Sinead O’ Connor show.


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Story of the Day: 1-22-11

To Catch a Thief

I have never stolen anything in my life. Well, that’s not true. When I was younger I would sometimes go to Perry Drugs in the Clio Plaza and stick one magazine inside another magazine, thus getting two magazines for the price of one. There’s really no reason to buy a magazine as large as Rolling Stone unless you’re going to stick a Metal Edge inside it. 

But that’s not really stealing, that’s just taking advantage of uninterested minimum wage workers. I never grabbed an item from a shelf and stuck it in my pocket, or went into someone else’s room and took one of their toys. That I never did.

I have, however, been wanted for retail fraud. 

It was my second or third week of college, and I was at Tower Records in Ann Arbor with my friend Sofia. They were having a big sale and the price gun was sitting out on top of a row of CDs. I really wanted this CD by a band called Possum Dixon, so I punched myself out a new price tag and voila! $6 markdown. I should have realized from my time spent in the retail trenches that stores do not just mark merchandise down willy-nilly. There was no way a 2 year-old CD by Possum Dixon, a CD that the record label had no reason to promote, would be on sale. Retail logic played no part in my decision, though. I was a rebel. I laughed in the face of logic.

I took the CD up to the counter and to my surprise, they let me buy it. I was feeling pretty good about myself as we left the store. Until one of the security guards stopped me at the door.

“Can we talk to you in the back?” he said.

“What’s going on?” Sofia asked.

“Nothing,” I said. “I”ll handle it. Don’t wait for me … I might not return.”

The guard took me deep into the control room, where the other security guards were waiting to tear me apart. You could smell the testosterone in the room as I entered. 

“Nice job, guy,” one of the guards said. “We got the whole thing on tape.”

“Okay,” I said. “I’m guilty. You saw me. What do I have to do?”

“One – pay us ten times the amount you marked the CD down. That’s $60. Two – never come back here again.”

“That’s it?” I asked. “That’s all I need to do?”

“Yep,” the guard said.

“Do I get to keep the CD?” I asked.

“I don’t see why not,” the guard answered. “You paid for it.”

Luckily, I had my checkbook with me, so I wrote them a check on the spot. I was a little bummed about not being able to go back to Tower, but  there were approximately 7 other record stores within walking distance, so it wasn’t that much of a loss. In retrospect it seems a little weird that they would have a rule where they charged ten times the amount of money I marked the CD down. That’s a pretty convoluted rule. But at the time, I didn’t care if the dude stuck the money in his pocket; I just didn’t want to have to call my parents from jail. 

Unfortunately, the Tower police weren’t very concerned about what my parents thought. About two months later, I got an irate call from my dad.

“What the fuck?” he screamed. “You just got a letter from the Ann Arbor police saying you’re wanted for retail fraud! What the fuck?”

I explained the situation to my dad, and he managed to cool down somewhat. Retail fraud certainly made it sound a lot worse than it actually was. He gave me the number of a police officer in charge of the case and I assured him I would take care of it. 

I hung up and immediately called Ann Arbor police.

“Well, you’ve got two options,” the cop in charge of dealing with price fixers told me. “Number one, you can plead not guilty, and we’ll take you to court. Number two, you can plead guilty and we’ll put you in the first offender program.”

“What happens in the first offender program?” I asked.

“First offender program is a $300 fine, 90 hours of community service, and 6 months of probation.”

That sounded like kind of a rotten deal, especially since I’d already paid the guys at Tower $60 for nothing. But I was torn, because I knew I was guilty. I decided to call a campus lawyer to get some advice.

“Always plead not guilty,” the lawyer told me.

“But I’m guilty,” I said.

“Doesn’t matter,” he answered. “The courts are so backed up that they’ll stick you at the bottom of the pile and you’ll probably never have to deal with it again.”

So I followed his advice. I pled not guilty. And the lawyer was right; I was never contacted again. I felt a little strange about it, because I knew I was guilty and I have a life rule that I will never lie under oath. I have not been able to demonstrate that rule yet, but if I ever end up on Judge Judy, be assured that the other guy is the one lying. 

There are two postscripts to this story. The first postscript is that I wrote a fan letter to the band, Possum Dixon, telling them the lengths I had gone to to get their CD. One night when I was home from college, the lead singer of the band, Rob Zabrecky called me on the phone.

“Hey man,” he said. “I just wanted to let you know that we thought your letter was hilarious.” It was probably the only letter Possum Dixon ever received. 

We talked for a few minutes. He told me the band was on tour with Frank Black, who used to go by the name Black Francis when he was a member of the Pixies. 

“Do you call him Frank, or Black?” I asked. 

“We call him Charles,” he told me.

Before we hung up, I made some really embarrassing comment about how we were now friends. Rob sort of half-chuckled and hung up, never to call again.

The post-postscript is that just last year, I was at the Magic Castle with my friend Ryan, a magician. The Magic Castle is a somewhat mysterious and exclusive LA club where  magicians perform magic for other magicians. You can’t get in without an invite from a member of the club and you have to wear a suit and tie. 

We were waiting at the bar for one of the shows to begin, when Ryan saw another magician he knew.

“Hey,” he said, introducing me, “this is Rob Zabrecky.”

“Rob Zabrecky?” I asked. “You didn’t use to be in a band called Possum Dixon, did you?”

Turned out: yes, he did. Same fucking guy. 16 years later, the guy who’d called me from across the country after I wrote him a letter about how I was wanted for retail fraud for marking down his band’s CD was now a working magician who just happened to be at the same weird magician bar as me and my friend who just happened to know him. I told Rob the story of our coincidental early encounter, but he didn’t appear to remember any of it. It’s possible he immediately remembered my weird comment about how he was my friend and he was feeling embarrassed for both of us. I maybe shouldn’t have ended the conversation by telling him we were clearly destined to be together.


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Story of the Day: 1-10-11

Little Green Men

I saw a UFO once. It was the summer after my freshman year of college. That was a strange summer. We were all the same to each other even though we had created new lives and identities in other places. It was like we returned from summer camp to find a new summer camp built where our homes used to be.

Lisi was visiting. We had just gone to pick up Keith Bradburn at his house in Flushing. Fairweather, Rosenberg, and someone else … McCurdy? … were riding in the other car. We were all headed back to my house in Clio. I was driving the Sunbird. It didn’t even have a name, my car. It was just the Sunbird. That’s how much I hated it. 

We were heading north on Linden Road. Rosey and the others were in front of us. As we crossed Pierson Road, I saw a triangle of light hovering in the sky, right above I-75. 

“What is that?” I asked. 

“UFO, I guess,” Keith said.

“Shit,” I said. “What should we do?”

“Let’s get under it,” Lisi suggested, “and see if it lifts us up.”

I stepped on the gas and headed east on Pierson Road, trying to see where exactly the ship was located. It was impossible to tell how far away it was. It could have been close and small or far away and huge. All we could tell was that it was a triangle shaped thing with lights underneath it that hovered in one place. It didn’t make helicopter noises. It definitely was not a plane. I’m not saying it was filled with a buncha ETs, but it was definitely unlike any other aircraft I have ever seen.

We drove for about a mile, trying to get underneath it. Just when we seemed to be getting a bead on its location, it stopped hovering and flew off into the distance. It didn’t shoot across the sky in a quick burst of light, but it did move across the sky in a smooth and direct line that implied it was moving very, very quickly. We couldn’t keep up, so we turned around and headed back to my house.

The others were waiting when we arrived.

“Did you see that thing?” we asked. 

They had, but they hadn’t tried to chase it down. No one seemed as excited as I was about it, but everyone admitted it seemed like a pretty strange thing.

We thought we should report it, but we didn’t think the police would care. So I called CK105, Flint’s biggest radio station. 

“We just saw a UFO!” I said, when the DJ picked up the phone.

He asked me what I’d been smoking. I’m not sure if that’s exactly what he said, but it had a similar flavor of sad local DJ ineptitude. 

“You’re working the late shift at CK105 in Flint,” I complained. “A guy calls you up to say he just saw a UFO, and that’s the best you can do? Are you the worst DJ in radio history?”

He hung up and didn’t mention anything about our exchange on the air, proving that he was, indeed, the worst DJ in radio history.

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