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I had this recurring dream that I somehow inherited an old Corvette (mid-70s, the bad years) and was trying to rewire the stereo because it worked when the car was running, but not when it was shut off or in accessory mode. I seem to remember having to fix the same thing in my first car a million years ago. (Chilton’s guide is your friend.) This got me thinking about the whole culture of aftermarket car stereos in the 80s and 90s that is largely gone now. Every car had an identical hole for the radio (two knobs, unless you sawed that out and made a square hole for an Alpine) and every factory radio was a piece of shit, usually without a tape player. My first car had a mono AM radio stock, with a single paper speaker under the dash. I fell down long k-holes paging through the JC Whitney catalog, looking at no-name stereos with suspiciously high wattage and ending up with the cheapest amp available at the local Radio Shack.
I have been wasting a lot of time watching car restoration videos on YouTube, maybe because they are good background noise, and maybe because I wish I was restoring a car, even though I don’t have the time, space, money, or patience to do this. My favorite channel is a very well-done set of videos from a guy named Ronald Finger who is restoring an old Fiero. I’ve always been obsessed with the Fiero (see here) even though I’ve never even ridden in one, and stock, most of them drive and feel about like a vintage Pontiac Sunbird, although they do look better, and can be hot-rodded up to be a formidable performer. But that’s a formidable performer with no airbags, antilock brakes, navigation system, or any other new safety or creature comfort features, so maybe not.
I also recently watched the ZZ Top documentary on Netflix (too lazy to find a link.) It was pretty good, although it pretty much ended when they got to Eliminator, and didn’t go into any details on that album except how MTV blew them up with their videos. They didn’t touch the fact that the writing credits were slightly disputed, or that it’s essentially a self-produced Billy Gibbons solo album (with help from sound engineer Linden Hudson) and almost all of the drums and bass using drum machines and synth. There’s also a story of Hudson researching every popular song on the radio to determine their speed and deciding that the album should all be recorded at 120 bpm.
That said, I would say Eliminator is definitely in my top five all-time list, because the production and songwriting is so impeccable and a perfect mix of blues, pop, dance, and country music. I listened to the album a few times yesterday, and although people generally think of the big hits, the deep cuts on the album are amazing. Songs like “I Need You Tonight,” “Thug,” and even “TV Dinners” are so amazing, even though they usually aren’t discussed by the “hey remember the 80s” crowd.
Speaking of Houston… I was thinking the other night about how I used to see a disproportionate number of Astros games back when they were a National League team. The first MLB game I ever saw was Astros @ Brewers, and the first Rockies home game I saw was against Houston. It was also a strange coincidence, because in my horrible pee-wee league experience, I played for a team named after the Astros. Our uniforms were bright orange, like the tequila sunrise jersey Houston used to have. Prior to the throwback thing taking off, Houston in the 00s had boring red uniforms, so no joy there.
I have been thinking about New York a lot for some reason. The thing I think about most is how in the early 00s when I was single I had this dumb weekend routine that usually involved staying up late on Fridays and playing PlayStation 2 until three in the morning. Then I’d oversleep, walk to the subway, stop and get a bagel at this hole-in-the-wall place on 30th Ave where I was in love with the cashier and never talked to her other than asking for an everything with a smear and a can of Coke. Then I’d go into Manhattan and waste the afternoon walking between book stores and record stores and video places, buying various media that I’d then consume for the rest of the weekend while ordering delivery from one of the same three places. There was a diner where the guy on the phone knew who I was the second I called and asked me if I wanted the usual. And then Sunday was grocery store, laundry, and more nothing. Writing was always anticipated and never happened.
It’s now bugging me that I can’t remember what “the usual” was. I think it was a greek omelette. I also used to get a side of cereal, which is the laziest damn thing imaginable, paying three bucks for a little box of corn flakes and a coffee cup of milk. I remember one time misplacing the cup of milk in the fridge and wondering where it went, and then finding out a week later that it dumped into the little tray underneath the crispers and was now a biological warfare weapon.
I’ve probably mentioned this before, but I looked up that old Astoria apartment, and it has not been upgraded whatsoever, but costs more than twice as much to rent. I think I was paying around 800 back in the early 00s, and it’s now about two grand. And the neighborhood – the bones are still there, but it’s obviously had a lot of gentrification in the last 15 years. Lots of small family houses ripped out and replaced with 12-unit mini “luxury” apartment buildings. They have a Chipotle now. I don’t know if they have a grocery store that isn’t a disaster, but I guess you just order online?
I had a weird dream the other night that this guy Rob who lived by me in Astoria sent out a mass email saying he was retiring from his job, and quitting technology entirely, and that this was the last email he was ever going to send. I’ve probably watched too many Unabomber documentaries lately.
Falling down a huge ADX Florence k-hole. I’ll probably spend the rest of the day looking that stuff up, unless I fall sideways into some other wiki-hole, like I did the other day when I spent two hours reading about nuclear-powered rocket plans of the fifties and sixties.