Wednesday, October 8, 2008


The first time you experience certain things is often meaningful so you might think that they're carved in memory like words on old Roman ruins. These days, mine feel more like pencil fading on old yellowed paper. So, I'm going to make a list of "firsts" in the hopes of retaining those memories as well as to hopefully amuse my readers. If that doesn't work, at the very least, I hope to encourage you to make your own list of important first experiences and share it with me on your blog or in comments.

1. first movie at a movie theater: Snow White and the Three Stooges

I have the vaguest recollection of one of my aunts taking me (and possibly my sister, too) to a theater to see this movie as part of a low rent matinee. This particular aunt was the only one in the bunch (I have 5) who didn't have kids and didn't view them as an incredible burden. I don't remember anything about the movie, though I'm sure it was chosen mainly for being very cheap as a movie made 2 years before I was born and would have been at least 7 years old when I saw it.

2. first movie at a drive-in: A biker movie with lots of violence

Some things you remember because they were so good that the memory lasts forever. Some things are just so awful that you can't get rid of the memory even if you want to do so. In this case, I remember my parents having my sister and I crouch down and hide in the back of their car so they could go to some R-rated movie at a drive-in. The movie they watched was one of those movies in the early 70's (or late 60's, possibly) which showcased roving gangs of criminally-inclined cycle enthusiasts who had nothing better to do than terrorize normal folks. I remember that one part of the movie was some woman was running from the gang and her sister put on a wig and pretended to be her. There was a scene where she was somehow set on fire and ran out of her trailer screaming. This scene traumatized me for years and I can still recall the visceral fear response.

Another old family photo which got badly-damaged. My sister is holding a gift for a kid whose party we were going to attend. I think the gift may have been a kite-making kit. Our front yard led into actual woods.

3. first party: A birthday party at one of my sister's classmates home

My memory of most of the details from my childhood are vague and sketchy, but I do remember this for some reason. The picture above shows my mother thought it was a good idea to dress my sister (who is two years older than I) alike for the party. I remember that we had fun and that I was especially enamored of some party favors we were given. My sister is the keeper of the vault when it comes to such things so she may remember better than I, but I think the birthday child was a girl named Karen C. who grew up and eventually got engaged to my best (male) friend in high school. She turned out to be a possessive bitch and my friend didn't marry her (much to his eternal relief, I'm sure).

In Japan, they made you buy the album then remove the paper cover from the front to see what the members of the band looked like without their make-up. You can see their legs peaking out from under the paper cover.

4. first concert: KISS in 1983 or '84 (Lick It Up tour)

Despite having been a KISS fan since 1978, I never had the chance to see them in their glory with make-up. I wasn't old enough or brave enough to make my way to Pittsburgh (the closest major city to my tiny rural hometown) to see them until I was in college. I put up a notice on a bulletin board at college and asked if anyone wanted to go with me and got together with a young woman named Staci who I became friends with after going to the show with her. I was far more excited about it than her. In fact, I wonder if all the screaming and carrying on I did (which was certainly not out of line for an arena full of KISS fans at that time) embarrassed her. Later shows that I attended were never nearly as good. Part of the reason for that was that KISS followed the same patterns and shtick all the time. They also were exceptionally lazy in terms of the show length. They do 90 minutes, then leave and do a planned encore of the same songs all the time. They essentially planned the encore into the total time of the show. By the third time I saw them, I grew actively annoyed at this pattern and slack-ass approach. Incidentally, the second time I saw KISS was in Tokyo. The timing just worked out such that they were playing during the month I took a vacation here in 1988.

5. First album purchased as an adult (of my own volition and with my own cash): KISS Rock and Roll Over

The strange thing about this purchase was that I bought this record when I didn't have a record player. I adored the design on the cover and I was infatuated with the idea of the band rather than its music. To actually listen to it, I took it to a friend's house (her name was Denise) and listened on her cheap kid's phonograph. You know the type of player I mean. They were the kind made of plastic with horrible little speakers. I think I was more excited by the really cool sticker that came inside the album that replicated the cover art in segments than the music itself. In the end, however, this did turn into one of my favorite albums and is certainly one of KISS's more creative efforts in their long and undistinguished musical career.

The first album I recall owning as a child was the soundtrack to Mary Poppins or Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. I remember obnoxious songs (especially some awful chimney sweep song by Dick Van Dyke) from each of them playing repeatedly, but I don't remember choosing the records. I think my mother probably picked them up at yard sales for u s when we were children. The fact that these movies were old even when I was a kid means that they weren't new releases that were bought for my sister and I.

I could go on for ages with this sort of post, but I think I'll put these up in pieces when the desire strikes me. Besides, I think this is long enough for now. ;-)


Roy said...

The soundtracks for Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang are wonderful!! Up there with My Fair Lady, The Sound of Music, The Great Escape and Hello Dolly. I have these on my iPOD and listen to them sometimes in my car..can you believe it??

Orchid64 said...

Wow. I'm AMAZED that you have the songs from those on your iPod. I only remember one song from each of them right now. As a kid, I remember playing them over and over again, but as I got older, let's just say they were a little too square for me. ;-)