Toronto

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Sam Sniderman passed away on Sunday, September 23rd 2012. He was 92 years old.

I didn’t know the man. I never met him. When I saw him in passing there was a sense of reverence that came with the experience. As in “That’s him, that’s the guy.”

Simply put, the gentleman who was known as Sam The Record Man played a huge part in fuelling the music-obsessed soul trapped inside this 43-going-on-18 year old. Opened in 1961, the iconic flagship store on Yonge Street in Toronto that launched a cross-Canada chain was a haven and a world of discovery. It was also the place I happily dropped thousands of dollars over the course of my teen years and into my 20s without thinking twice.

When the store closed down in 2007 it was heartbreaking for anyone that had spent significant time weeding through the vinyl, cassettes and CDs. The weekly off-day visits, the obligatory stop-ins on the way to a pub, club, the movies or a restaurant on the weekends, the late night visits – which the Barenaked Ladies wrote about in ‘Brian Wilson’- on the way home… it was hard to believe it had come to an end.

Sure, there were other record stores on the same strip, but Sam’s was the place, particularly through the ’80s and into the ’90s. Didn’t matter if Cheapies sold certain albums cheaper on any given week, didn’t matter if A&A’s next door was bigger on selling the soon-to-be-impossible-to-find 12″ singles (that even the Record Peddler didn’t have in stock), didn’t matter if the HMV down the street was big and flashy; Sam’s was tradition. It had the old off-white tiled floors that should have been replaced at the end of the ’70s. It had plastic dust jackets over the vinyl LPs for a reason. It had that record store smell.

It was the ultimate mom & pop record store. Supersized.

I didn’t realize it at the time but, looking back now, in a way Sam’s was like home. Not in a cheesy nerd outsiders-got-no-place-else-to-go way, but rather one of those mandatory visits one made when in the neighbourhood. Five or 10 kilometers was still close enough to demand a music run. Or else. And I know I wasn’t alone in my thinking. Continue Reading

As I get older there’s a growing tendency to dismiss the younger generation as a collective of superficial, lazy, clued-out morons. I’m talking about ages 13 through 30, who in my estimation are for the most part a legion of spoiled X-Box / Playstation brats that take too many things in life for granted.

Mobile technology. Music in your grubby eardrums at the click of a button. Research and plagiarism made possible without having to go anywhere near a library. Print-’em at home concert / movie / hockey tickets. Not having to risk life and at least one hand scoffing Dad’s copies of Penthouse (again) thanks to Bill Gates products in the privacy of your own room.

Good for them. Pass Junior another Happy Meal, then try to get him out of the fucking house. Continue Reading

I’m an experienced traveller. I actually hate flying, but I’ve made the trek between Toronto and Germany (via Holland or Paris) dozens of times, jetted to various parts of Scandinavia, continental Europe and the UK, even risked my sanity journeying to the US, all without any major drama. Sure, there have been the occasional delays, lousy food, drink-spilling turbulence, screaming kids accompanied by their idiot “parentin’ izn’t fer us rednecks” parents, but nothing that put me into a state of wanting to cause bodily harm to the nearest airline employee.

Not until this year’s highly anticipated return home to Toronto.

Folks that know me are painfully aware of how much I love coming home. It’s my annual respite from all the things that piss me off about Germany – and there is definitely a book in there – a return to the people and places that make me feel like me. With that in mind, I’m inclined to brush off the general chaos and stupidity that’s bound to crop up on an overseas-with-a-connecting-flight trip and focus on the awesomosity that awaits me in Toronto. I realized this year, however, that when the airline loses your luggage and takes its sweet time in recovering it and getting it to you, no matter how much fun you’re having the questions of “Where?” and “When?” and “What if?” have a tendency to dampen one’s mood. Not a good thing. Continue Reading

BeerI lost my rock club virginity in 1987, a year before I became legally allowed to get sloshed in public. It was only fitting that my chosen arena for the all-important passage to metalhead manhood took place at The Gasworks, one of two high profile rock venues in Toronto – the other being the beloved original Rock N’ Roll Heaven – that played host to wannabes and would-bes and acknowledged stars during its quarter century run (Yes, the same Gasworks Mike Myers mentions in Wayne’s World, even though the film’s version of the club is “slightly” different from the original). As a wet-behind-the-ears teen I’d passed the nondescript Yonge Street club during countless trips to the Record Peddler, Cheapies and Sam’s, wondering what it was like to see the bands advertised in the bashed up showcase window outside playing what must be a pretty small fricking room. I’d heard the Gasworks name thrown around time and again by the big boys at arena shows over the years, which added to the mystique, making it one of the Places I Have To Check Out Before I Die.
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