Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Soda Memories

For years I've been telling people about all the weird flavors of soda I had or saw growing up in Sacramento and no one seems to know what I'm talking about. As I grew older, I eventually realized Sacramento must have been a test market for this kind of thing and it turns out I was right.

I brought up one of these long lost sodas, "Tropical Chill" Pepsi, to Allie the other night and she kind of rolled her eyes at me for retelling the story, yet again. So I decided to try and find evidence of them on the interwebs. Turns out "Tropical Chill" Pepsi was only available for 1991 in select markets. I remember it as being really delicious, like Cherry Pepsi with Hawaiian Punch in it. Back then, soda was still a treat for me. We didn't stock it at home, but my parents would buy me one once or twice a week. I had allowance money but was usually too cheap to spend it on consumables like soda and candy--I'd rather have something I could keep that would last, like toys, comics and baseball cards (almost 20 years later and I'm still trying to get rid of those purchases).

All of us kids loved the new "Tropical Chill" flavor and we gave it its own theme song, co-opting Guy's R&B hit "Let's Chill." The lyrics were the same, but the subject was now about drinking soda instead of getting romantic, "Let's chill/let's settle down/that's what I want to do/Just me and you/Let's chill." We all loved rap and R&B in those days.

One day, we had a big, school-wide athletic event (possibly the "Have a Heart Jogathon") and we scored free "Tropical Chill" soda. I was pretty thrilled. Looking back at it now, I'm sure this soda was just donated or discounted to the school as Pepsi's way of infiltrating the hearts, minds, and taste buds of the city's youth. Still, nothing goes together better than soda and athletics, right?

"Tropical Chill" was one of three fruit infused colas, referred to as the 'Wild Bunch,' which Pepsi marketed and even sold together. I remember seeing another of these flavors, the "Raging Razzberry," but have no memory of the "Strawberry Burst." Apparently, they were all "Fresh From The Tropics," as evidenced by this picture:

There was also Coke AM, an extra-caffeinated soda marketed to coffee drinkers as an alternate way of getting their morning pick-me-up. Turns out I've been misremembering this soda for years and it was actually Pepsi AM. I used to wait for my morning elementary school bus at the end of the block along with my dad, my school mate Linette and her dad Art. Art was really into Pepsi AM and used to drink it while we waited.

There are dozens of great websites and blogs out there that talk about old sodas. I particularly like this one, for giving the lifespan of the various drinks mentioned, and this one for being somewhat more comprehensive in its list of old sodas.

It's funny how even the detritus of our consumer, popular culture can so fully inform our childhood memories. Junk food and advertisements are as much a part of my fond childhood memories as books, TV shows, movies, vacations, sleepovers, and family get-togethers.

I still love the advertisement iconography of my youth; soda can logos, the hats and colors of Major League Baseball teams, light brown M & Ms, McDonald's characters, Bell Biv DeVoe, Bo Jackson commercials. Brown and orange will always be my favorite colors for the San Diego Padres. Though it's long gone, I'll always want another taste of "Tropical Chill."


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Getting things done!

As Allie mentioned, this past weekend was great, productive and relaxing. Friday night I saw the new Star Trek (which I liked, but not as much as I had hoped). Saturday we worked at the store and cleaned the house, and Sunday--I tore the carpet out of Allie's room!

Here are some "before" pictures of the bedroom with nasty, brown carpet.

Here's Ouija helping me pull carpet. She's my little shadow, and follows me around like a dog.

Here's Ouija helping me move Allie's dresser out of the way.

Once the room was cleared out the work wasn't really bad. I was having terrible allergies however, which was only exacerbated by all the dust from the carpet.

I got to listen to music all day, which is a rare occurrence. I put on the following: M.I.A.: Kala, Amy Winehouse: Back In Black, The Rolling Stones: Beggar's Banquet, Esquivel: Space Age Bachelor Pad Music, The Delfonics: The Sound Of Sexy Soul, and The Ventures: Live In Japan '65. Except for the M.I.A., these were all albums I burned off of my computer Saturday. I actually filled the thing with so many mp3s that I can't add any more (the memory is full). I'm trying to clear out space so I can import copies of the CDs I want to sell.

Here are some "after" photos.

It's obvious that at some point someone painted the walls, knowing carpeting was going in. So they didn't bother to keep paint off the hardwood. The floors are in great shape otherwise and they'll look great once we refinish them. I just have two closets and a bedroom left to go and then we'll be carpet free!


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Sunny Sunday

This Sunday was an amazingly nice day. Jeremy and I started the day early by opening up at Guapo at 8am. We left at 11am, went to the library and then I insisted that I needed to get some lime beer.

I have really been into this beer called "Miller Chillada Style." It basically tastes like someone put a whole mess of lime in your beer. So after the library we went to Fred Meyer's and I went in search of my beer.
Unfortunately, they seemed to have quit making Chillada in the big bottle it used to come in and instead they have made it into this light beer that only comes in a 6 pack. I definitely do not need that many. I just wanted one. So I settled for margarita flavored wine coolers. Then Jeremy and I picked up some peach mango salsa and headed home for lunch.

Once home, we played boggle, drank our wine coolers, and munched on chips and salsa outside on our back patio. For lunch we ate leftover carrot peanut soup and jicama mango chicken salad I had made the night before. Our cat Ouija joined us outside and we all hung out on the grass in the nice weather. Very relaxing.
Everyone enjoying the sun.
Ouija is actually happy. She always looks mad.

Jeremy and Ouija

Jeremy and Ouija do a little gardening.

Ouija poses for her next line of inspirational cat posters. She was thinking of the caption for this one to be either "Keep Your Dreams Alive." or "The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow."

Then I got to work giving Pecan (one of our rabbits) a bath and a new hair cut for the hot weather. After that I put Pecan's harness on him and tethered him out in the yard so he could hop, jump and nibble on clover.

This is a picture of Pecan on alert after he heard a dog bark.

Once it grew dark Jeremy and I settled in for turkey burgers and a couple of episodes of one of our favorite shows, "The Wire."

Overall it was a great day, though the next day I woke up SO sore from the yard work and all the weird angles I was in to give Pecan a bath and cut his hair.

James Thurber

I just read the collection of James Thurber cartoons MEN, WOMEN AND DOGS from 1943. James Thurber lived from 1894 to 1961 and was an hilarious, urbane writer who also did cartooning, much of it published in the New Yorker. His cartoons feature a lot of spineless men and domineering women.

Some of them don't make complete sense but are still hilarious. Others make no sense at all (to me at least), I think because they're dated.

I love his cartoons and writing though and reading MEN, WOMEN AND DOGS really sent me back in time, to when I first learned about him. My senior year of high school, our drama teacher picked "A Thurber Carnival" as our spring production. We acted out a bunch of his stories and fables--some as monologues and some as scenes. We did his most famous piece "The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty" and I dressed in scrubs for Mitty's hospital scene fantasy. We had some of Thurber's drawings painted onto plywood for part of the set decoration. To perform a bunch of his cartoons, we all dressed up in evening clothes (black suits for the guys, gowns for the girls) and milled about and danced while a three-piece jazz band played. The music would occasionally stop and someone would let loose a zinger from a cartoon panel.

The production was creative and felt great to be in at the time. I was in several scenes, and had a monologue where I played some guy marooned on an island (I can't remember the story). Looking back, I'm not sure Thurber's work would connect very well with the High School theatre audience. It's sophisticated. A lot of it feels antiquated, which is actually one of the reasons I love it. There were jokes we performers didn't even understand, like the one about a girl from Bryn Mawr. We had never heard of Bryn Mawr and our teacher had to tell us it was a progressive private college, formerly all girls.

Somehow or other, we got a gig to perform the show at some dinner theatre place. It even paid a few measly bucks and we felt very cool and grown-up as a result. The gig was scheduled after the school year ended. I was graduated by then and it was sort of my last big high school hurrah. The performance went well, although I remember my teacher threatening to hit me if I didn't stop chatting backstage (I don't blame him for this). Afterward, we spent the night in this cabin, all crammed together, talking late into the night. A few days later I packed up my bags and flew to England for a two month tour of Europe. After the trip, I moved to Portland for college and though I came back to my hometown for one more summer, I was really already gone.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

I want these! (awesome CDs)

The newest album by Ian Svenonius just came out and I can't wait to get it! Svenonius is the leader of the bands Nation Of Ulysses, Make-Up, Scene Creamers, and Weird War. Now he has a new band, Chain & The Gang.

Check out this awesome album cover!!

I love how low-budget and old-fashioned it looks. Svenonious makes great music which sounds like 60s psych and rock meets 80s punk, with a lot of Sly Stone style soul thrown in as well.

I also really want to get this

which is an album of garage rock and pre-punk recorded by a black power trio in 1975 but never released until early this year.

I'm hoping to sell a bunch of my old CDs in the next few weeks so I can pick these up sometime soon.


Thursday, May 7, 2009

Maisie Kukoc Award

Last month was the annual Stumptown Comics Fest. You can read Jeremy's blog about it here.
Or you can read our other blog about it here. The annual party we have been throwing at our store is always such fun. The main event of our party is to hand out the Maisie Kukoc Award for Comics Inspiration. I think this is an amazing award that our friend, Jesse Reklaw, has organized. To go along with this award you need a trophy. Previous trophy incarnations have included:

Money in a envelope:
(2006 winner Kaz Strzepek)

A plaque:
(2007 Andy Hartzell)

a stuffed trophy:
(2008 winner Sarah Glidden)

Well, this year Greg Means (who has been in charge of the trophy production) asked if I would like to make the trophy. I thought he was joking. Apparently he was serious. So I thought about it for awhile and eventually came up with a plan for it. I decided I wanted to make a model of the logo from the "King-Cat" comics.
Here is what I ended up with:

I have always wanted to try needle felting, but for some reason it is hard for me to make or try new things unless there is a solid reason to. Making this trophy gave me my chance to try out needle felting.

I borrowed a couple of books from the library about needle felting. I eventually ended up buying the one I like the best, called "Wool Pets." I also purchased a beginning needle felting kit from Amazon that included three different needles, a foam block, and an assortment of wool roving. I assembled the throne from various wood bits and pieces I put together from Jo-Ann's Craft Store. Then I painted it all gold and had a brass plate made from the trophy store (that just happens to be down the block from our store).
Here is the winner, Vanessa Davis, and the trophy. I was so glad that Vanessa ended up winning!

1. Because I LOVE Vanessa's comics.
2. Because I knew Vanessa would really appreciate the trophy.
3. Because if it was possible to clone a Vanessa of my very own to hang out with in Portland (she lives all of the way down in Cali) I would.

At least my trophy gets to hang out with her all of the time.
So this past weekend was the first Saturday of May, also known as Free Comic Book Day! Free Comic Book Day is a promotional event dreamed up by the comics industry in which people can come to comic book stores and pick up free copies of pre-selected comics. It's always a big day for stores.

Allie is ready to sell you comics.

Most comic book stores open around 11am, but because we offer coffee, we open at 630am on the weekdays and 8am on the weekends. I knew because of our early hours that people would be hoping and trying to get Free Comic Books early. We decided we'd start giving them out at 10am and put up signs in advance relaying this. Saturday we got in at 959am and found around 12 people already waiting for their comics!

Here's a scene from one of the less busy periods of the day:

This year we had a constant stream of families coming in, especially from 10am to 12pm. From 12pm on, the day got slowly less and less busy until it picked up again right before closing at 7pm. I think by the end of the day a lot of the other stores in town had already closed up, which is why we got that last minute rush.

Free Comic Book Day is always one of the busiest days of the year at Guapo and we usually don't go too crazy promoting or setting up for it. Some stores try and get as many artists to come and sign at the store as possible. One year, I saw a store giving out corndogs, which also had a half dozen people dressed up in authentic Star Wars costumes greeting and taking pictures with customers. This is cool, but just not our style.

For Free Comic Book Day, I don't feel the need to try and up the ante and get tons of cartoonists to sign because the day is already crazy enough as is. Plus, regardless of whether you have the "Best Show In Town," lots of people will actually tour all the area comic book stores so they can get the maximum amount of free comics.

This dog came to pick up his copy of the Free Comic Book Day offering "Owly & Friends." He also gave himself a full body mohawk for the occasion.

This year we did have a few special guest however. At 12pm, Dylan Williams, cartoonist and publisher from Sparkplug Comic Books, came by to promote the Free Comic "Bird Hurdler" which he co-published. At the same time, "Bird Hurdler" contributors Andrice Arp and Lisa Eisenberg, both Portland cartoonists, showed up to sign copies of the book from 12pm to 3pm.

Dylan Williams and Lisa Eisenberg are ready to give you comics!

It was great having Dylan, Andrice, and Lisa there because they're all local, they're all friends, and they're all cartoonists putting out work that I enjoy, and personally want to support.

Most stores will put a limit on how many free comics you can take. This year we let customers take three each (plus a "Bird Hurdler"). One of the reasons for the limit is that the comics aren't actually free for the store. Publishers offer them to us at a reduced rate ($0.10 to $0.50 a copy), but when you're buying hundreds of these things, the cost adds up fast.

For lunch, Allie picked us up food from Los Gorditos, a favorite of ours because it has vegan options for all our vegan friends.

Jesse Reklaw came in to Guapo to offer his support and work on inking his "Slowwave" comic strip. He says the air at Guapo was nice and dry, "great for inking." Upon my request, he's "posing" for the camera.

I was beat by the time the day drew to a close. I'm not used to working nine hour days at Guapo anymore. It was a lot of fun though and sales were great. On the coffee side, Megan actually broke her daily sales record which is an awesome feeling. Our next event at Guapo will be a new art show debuting May 30th, curated by local cartoonist Sean Christensen.


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Pretty flowers

We spent a lot of this Sunday working on our yard. I only had time to mow the front yard though before the weather changed and I got rained out. One minute I was weeding in the sun, wearing a t-shirt, the next minute I was getting pelted by hail. I love Oregon weather!

Here's some pictures I took of the dogwood tree in our front yard. It's still flowering but doesn't look quite so lustrous anymore. The pictures are about a week old.

I'm getting a little better at using Allie's camera as evidenced by these photos (look at my pics from the book sale to see my previous attempts).

I didn't get around to tearing out the carpet in our house like I had promised myself. I was way to beat from working extra at Guapo for Free Comic Book Day. I hope to post about that event soon...


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Grey Gardens!

I've been thinking about Grey Gardens, one of our favorite movies, a lot lately. We watched Grey Gardens and its sequel, The Beales of Grey Gardens late last year and have been in love with the Beales ever since. Grey Gardens is a documentary by the Masyles brothers (who also did the equally fantastic documentaries Gimme Shelter and Salesman) which came out in 1972. It's about Big and Little Edie Beale, a mother and daughter living in spinsterhood together at their decrepit Grey Gardens estate. The Beales were socialites and cousin to Jackie Onassis.

With great skill and subtlety, the movie touches on themes of family, class, and the hunger for fame. What really makes it great is how weird and charming the two ladies are. They are so quotable and (almost) unintentionally hilarious. One of my favorite quotes is when Little Edie answers the door to let the Maysles in to start the days filming. She says cheerfully, "Come on in, we're not ready!"

I'm having troubles getting this to embed, so if it doesn't work, try the link here.

Allie's been watching Gilmore Girls on DVD and the other day it had a scene in which the mother and daughter characters watched Grey Gardens together. It was so exciting to see the Beales again and really reminded me that I need to buy the DVDs.

They made a hit Broadway musical out of Grey Gardens and Allie and I just bought tickets to go see the touring show in June. The documentary is very well-suited for a musical adaptation, since it is already full of tons of singing and dancing (the Beales loved to perform for the camera).

There's also that HBO movie with Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange that just came out. At first, I wasn't into the idea because I thought of it as a cover of the already perfect documentary. Then I realized, there's no reason it needs to be confined to just the period of the Beales' life covered in the documentary. Hopefully, it will show plenty of the stuff from before and after the documentary years.

Anyhow, I highly recommend you rent or buy the DVDs. Documentary lovers, and most women should really enjoy it.