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Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Random Thoughts Brought Upon By A Decapitation

Sometimes I like to go back to some old stuff that I wrote years ago, and see how much I've grown since then.  This was a piece I wrote way back in April 2009 - way before I started this blog.  And I have to say that it's bittersweet.  Eight years ago, I had an epiphany about life, and it was linked to the supportive co-workers that I had...but eight years on, most of that support has moved on, and I sort of find myself at a brutal crossroad that I'm unsure of how to overcome.  But looking back at this piece, it's nice to know that there was a time in which I didn't seem so jaded.  Hopefully I can find a way to get back to that again.

For now...enjoy the tale of how a broken garden statue became a philosophical moment.

I am about to confess to a crime. 

I murdered an innocent garden nymph in the middle of our garden centre area at approximately 1:15 in the afternoon of Thursday, April 16, 2009. 

The poor gal did not stand a chance. I merely brushed up against her with my elbow, and just like the popular rhyme involving ripping the tops off of dandelion plants, her head popped right off. 

Now, granted, the fairy was just a statue on the shelf, marked at $9.96, but needless to say, I bumped off an innocent young statue with her entire life ahead of her. She could have gone places. She could've been a part of the most beautiful garden in all of the world, surrounded by tulips, azaleas, and marigolds. Instead, she'll be buried in the depths of the west receiving trash compactor, destined to be forgotten in the abyss of time. 

Now that I have gotten that confession off of my chest, I can continue. 

Of course, why was I in the garden centre in the first place? If I not had been out there, this whole tragedy might never have happened, right? 

I was outside pricing the now deceased fairy statue, and all of her other friends too. For, while all the statues of cute frogs and scary looking garden gnomes were displayed beautifully, they were also deemed too priceless to sell to anybody. 

No, seriously, none of the items had price tags on them at all. 

So, with my trusty pricing label gun (which I almost smashed against the pavement on the ground for it getting jammed twice in the process), I stuck prices on every item made of stone, porcelain, and brick I could get my hands on. 

But, hey, at least I can say that fairy statue was the only casualty of the day. 

Truth be told, I actually liked being outside for the day. With all the plants and flowers in full bloom, and the nice breeze blowing through and the sun beaming down all day long, I was in a Zen-like state. It was peaceful, calm, and enjoyable. Of course, the sunburn I am currently dealing with is kind of sore, but who expects to get sunburned in the middle of April? Especially in Canada, where some people believe we frolic with the Eskimos and polar bears eleven months of the year. 

But, don't get me wrong. I am very content in my normal job of being a dairy stocker. No temptations for junk food, it's always nice and cool there, you never stand around doing nothing because it's always so incredibly fast-paced. It's great. 

And, while it has taken me nearly five years to realize this, I've come to the conclusion that I actually have it pretty good at my current job. 

I mean, sure, it's not the most glamourous or exciting place to work, and, granted, there are a LOT of things that could stand improvement there. But, all in all, I'm making the best of it. 

Times are tough all over, and in this recession (one of the worst that I've lived through thus far), I am lucky to have a job. Especially one with full-time hours. In that aspect, I'd rather work than be unemployed. 

But, also, I've noticed that I have a ton of people who care about me, and want to see me succeed.  

Let's be real. Five years ago, self-confidence was an issue for me in the aspect that I didn't have ANY whatsoever. I even explained and drilled that point at my interview, because I figured that I wouldn't get the job anyway. To my surprise, I did. And, over the years, I grew within the company from shopping cart collector to a man who can somewhat handle the day-to-day aspects of keeping an entire department looking good (although I will NEVER fully understand that Dairyland/Saputo order that is eight and a half pages of hell in itself). 

And, I got there through the support of my friends and co-workers at my workplace. 

That support means so very much to me. 

I know that I've had some good days, and that I've had some days that I would rather forget having. But, regardless of how sad or angry I might have gotten, my co-workers have never once turned their backs on me, and that means a lot. It was also something that was kind of new to me. Having been distrustful of people beforehand due to being bullied and embarrassed by former classmates and people who completely misunderstood me and never bothered to get to know me, it was hard for me to believe people when they said I was doing a good job. I had done such a good job of closing off my heart to people because I was always so afraid of having my trust abused and broken again. 

I'm now at the point where I do feel as though there are some people who I can really confide in, and, while it has taken a long time, I feel that I'm at the point in my life where I can be comfortable in my own skin. There are some days in which I feel like I am still not confident in my own abilities and my own strengths, and there are days in which I retreat into the wall I built up around myself. Fortunately, those days seem to be few and far between, and I do feel like I am getting better at knowing the one person who does count. Myself. 

My job is not perfect by any means. There are some days in which I admit that I'm sorry I came in, as I'm sure most of you reading this note are feeling, or have felt at one time in their lives. But, there are lots of good qualities about it too, and I am sorry that it took me this long to discover them. 

Of course, you must understand that if I ever come across that couple that tore me a new one because I dared put a limit on their cheese blocks that it will be war. I'll just make sure I have a lot of friends around to defend my honour, so to speak. 

And, in a strange and funny way, I never thought that I would be writing about my friends, because for the longest time, I didn't think that I was capable of having any. 

Working in retail though has made me realize that I have more people on my side than I ever did growing up. And, in a way, it makes a guy like me feel loved, and valued. 

Do I see myself staying there forever? Only time will tell. Personally, I would like to move on to bigger and better things at some point in the future. If that happens, it would be fantastic. But, if I end up staying, at least I would have some good, solid people by my side. And, if I have to get my badge bronzed, I no longer see it as a death sentence...well, most days anyway. 

And, to think, all it took was me killing a nymph to open my eyes to what was really important.

I wonder if that makes me happy, or just plain crazy? 

Friday, February 24, 2017

Jem Reviewed: Episode 49 - Journey Through Time

So, last week on Jem Reviewed, I had a difficult time recapping the episode as it was one that I wasn't a fan of.  Basically they go to a fictional place, they play weird music, and they get chased by the abominable snowman.

I have a feeling that this week's offering isn't going to get any better.  The reason?  This is Episode 49: Journey Through Time.  The more I think of it, the more that title sounds like a "Choose Your Own Adventure" novel I read in the fourth grade.  I've got a funny feeling I'm going to hate this episode too.

We begin with an announcement, courtesy of Lindsey Pearce.  Apparently there is a huge event that is going to be taking place called the World History of Music Concert, where bands from all over the world gather to celebrate music.  I suppose it's like the Eurovision Song Contest only with all nations participating. 

Naturally, Jem and the Holograms are taking part in the festivities.  And the Misfits are not.  But fear not.  Eric Raymond is on the case, and he has an idea that will keep Jem and the Holograms away from the stage so that the Misfits can go on.  Given Eric's track record, I'd say the Misfits are already doomed, but let's watch and see what happens.

Jem and the Holograms are in their studio rehearsing a song for their concert...a song that they originally sang back in Episode 21.

This time around, the song "Rock And Roll is Forever" is set to the clip of the girls standing on flags of their country of origin while playing a tune.  Good idea in theory...except that the storyboard artist seemed to forget that Aja is from CHINA, not JAPAN.  And, I'm not sure why Jem gets an American flag and Kimber gets Scotland - unless the Benton family is Scottish-American.  Does this mean that Emmett Benton sounds like Scrooge McDuck?

Jem's not overly pleased with the song that they're playing, and Kimber tries to encourage her by saying that their song sounds great.  Kimber, the song you're playing was written by Bobby Bailey!  Remember him?  The guy whose apartment you saved?  Sheesh, no wonder Bobby hated you throughout much of Episode 21!  Jem's determined to make their performance stand out though, and she takes the rest of the band to Synergy's room so they can ask her for advice.

Unaware of what is happening outside, there's a transport truck parked outside of the front gates of Starlight Mansion.  Inside is Eric, the Misfits, and Techrat, who apparently has built - get this - a time machine.  I'd be more impressed if it looked like a TARDIS or a DeLorean.  This looks like something a high school student in 2007 would build.

But despite the Misfits disbelief, Techrat sets the time traveling device to the year 1781, and as soon as he pushes the button, something happens inside the mansion and Jem and the Holograms fade away along with Synergy!  

To make this already illogical plot even more unbelievable, as soon as the Holograms disappear, a woman who appears to be dressed like Marie Antoinette appears inside Techrat's truck!  Apparently, she's confused and looking for her beloved "Wolfie".  The Misfits wonder what is going on, and Techrat explains that while his time machine works, there is one flaw.  In order to keep the balance in check, the Holograms are traded out for someone else who shares the same body mass.  Um...unless this woman from the past weighs close to 1,200 pounds, I call BS on that theory.

The Holograms arrive safely in Vienna, March 1781.  But they have three problems.  One, Synergy isn't with them.  Two, Jem has reverted back to Jerrica.  And three, they're so not following the hip new trends of the late eighteenth century.  Someone call the fashion police!

Fortunately for them, these problems magically go away in seconds.  Synergy has found herself trapped underneath a sewer system, but the good news is that she has battery back-up power.  How convenient.  With that power, she turns Jerrica back into Jem, and gives all the girls a makeover 1700s style.

Not too shabby, huh?

At this point, a young man with probably the most annoying laugh I have ever heard in my life comes barging in looking for his lady friend, Constanze.  Ah, I'm guessing this must be "Wolfie".

Actually, the group recognize him immediately as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart!  Wow, they're actually meeting a celebrity that's already dead in the flesh.  This is...kinda weird.  Also weird is today's Jem Trivia.  Apparently, Mozart is voiced by voice actor Cam Clarke, who also is best known for playing Leonardo in "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles".  Wow, so we've had Leonardo and the guy who plays Raphael make cameo appearances.  You think Michelangelo or Donatello will complete the set?  Well, I know for a fact that a third TMNT voice actor is coming up...and he plays a significant role in Season 3.  But that's all I can say.  This episode is after all about the past...not the future.

Anyway, it seems as though Mozart is in a bit of a pickle.  He's determined to play his latest composition, but he worries about being sabotaged by a rival of his - one Antonio Salieri.  The Holograms agree to help him get to the concert without fear of getting ambushed, and it appears as though Aja has developed a crush on him.  Well, at least it's not Kimber or Danse this time.

The plan?  While the real Mozart sneaks off to the concert venue where Salieri is waiting, the Holograms transform Shana into a Mozart hologram to fool the henchmen of Salieri.  Sure enough, the Holograms end up getting kidnapped by Salieri's goons and are taken to another area via horse drawn carriage.  Seems their plan is to make Mozart miss the concert so that Salieri can take over the whole show.

Needless to say, when Mozart arrives on stage a few minutes later, it thwarts Salieri's plans, and the concert goes ahead as planned.  It's also interesting to note that they actually incorporate classical music into the episode - one of the few positives I can note about it.

Jem and the Holograms escape their captors by having Synergy summon a hologram of a band of thieves ready to attack the carriage, causing their kidnappers to flee.  I'm not making this up.  And, Jem and the Holograms arrive at the concert hall in time to catch Mozart in action.  But those storm clouds in the sky don't look too promising.

Remember way back in Episode 12, when the plane the band was on passed through thunderclouds and it reverted Jem back to Jerrica?  Seems like the same thing is about to happen given Synergy's...shocking appearance.

Sure enough, Jem and company revert back to their 1980s counterparts - which doesn't make sense as Jem doesn't change back to Jerrica.  But whatever the case, the audience sees Jem and her friends as witches and they launch a full out assault on them by throwing rocks at them.  

Yep...apparently in the 1700s, stoning people to death was perfectly legal.

Luckily, Techrat manages to do some tweaking and Jem and the Holograms escape their fate.  Little Miss Constanze also gets teleported back.  But a new problem arises when two soldiers make an appearance in Techrat's truck, and they question whether they're still in London.

Wherever they came from, it's under attack as buildings are on fire and war sirens are going off.  What a perfect place for Jem and the Holograms to hide out at.  Much safer than getting pelted with rocks.  Jem and the others wonder where they are.

Shana notices a poster hanging on a wall advertising a special concert event starring the hottest band of 1944.  Apparently the show didn't get clearance rights to use the Glenn Miller Band name, so they've been renamed to the
Ben Tiller Band.  Oh, and Jem and the Holograms are in the middle of London during World War II!  Needless to say, they need to get off the streets before they get blown to bits!

Luckily, Synergy's battery power is still working, so Jem transforms her and the others into 1940s outfits - which immediately draws the attention of two soldiers who happen to be nearby.  They seem taken aback when Jem introduces themselves as a female band, mainly because these sexist blokes don't seem to think that girl bands can exist.

Jem and the Holograms are quite taken aback themselves, as these two guys happen to be members of the Ben Tiller Band.  Ben is also skeptical about the playing power of the Holograms, but Kimber issues them a challenge.  If they give them thirty minutes, they will show them that they know their stuff.  It's a challenge that Ben accepts and before we know it, we have what could be one of the most unusual songs in the Holograms discography.

Thing is, I kind of like "We're Making It Happen".  Sure, the Holograms singing style kind of resembles the Andrews Sisters, but that was the idea back in the 1940s.  And the combination of brass horns and piano certainly makes this single stand out.  It's a rare departure of style for them, but it really works.  Again, credit to Britta Phillips for making this song a brilliant one.  It's very reminiscent of another song that was performed earlier called "Jazz Has".  Simple, but effective.

Unfortunately, the Ben Tiller Band doesn't have time to congratulate them as a bomb detonates outside of the club they're performing at.  Well, that's one way to stop a show.  The Holograms are huddled in a corner as the club collapses all around them, and they think their time is up...and it is.  Well, in London 1944 anyway.  They fade out of the scene just as the ceiling falls down.  That was too close.  But where are the Holograms headed now?

Considering that the soldiers fade away in Techrat's truck and are replaced by a group of 1960s hippies, I'm guessing that the swingin' sixties are the next tour destination through time.  At this point though, the Misfits are getting pissed off with Techrat and they launch a barrage of insults towards him, causing Techrat to send the Misfits back in time as well!  I get the feeling that Techrat enjoyed that a little too much.  But as more hippies fill the truck, Eric is now upset because he has no idea where the Misfits went to.  I've a feeling that the Misfits and Holograms are going to meet up very soon.

The place?  The Woodstock Music Festival of August 1969!  A festival that I would gladly travel through time to experience!  Lucky ducks.

The Holograms arrive in time to accidentally make a man fall onto the ground.  Whoops.  But it's okay...the man just happens to be...wait for it...guitar legend Johnny Beldrix.  I'm guessing Jimi Hendrix had the flu.  Seriously, just take the fine and use their real names.  This ain't the Jem Jam you're at.

Fortunately, the Holograms are dressed crazy enough to blend into the scene - which is a good thing as Synergy is apparently trapped on a truck and is incapacitated at the moment.  But Johnny tells the Holograms that he is not very impressed with his concert promoter as he is making Johnny perform with a group called the Misfits.  It's only at THIS point that the Holograms clue in that the Misfits are responsible.  Because apparently time travel is perfectly normal for them.  As is getting trapped in an erupting volcano.  Or driving a car in the Indy 500.  Or having your very own Broadway musical.

The Holograms promise Johnny that they will find a way to release Johnny from the contract so he can perform by himself.

I should also mention that at this point, the Misfits are EXCITED to be performing at Woodstock.  Never mind the fact that if they perform at the concert, they'll be screwing up history and keeping the tabloids in business by having them speculate on how a band from the 1960s look so young.

And get a look at their promoter, who happens to be named Willy.  My theory is that Willy is a relative of Eric Raymond, as both of them act exactly the same way.  It would be awesome if the show eluded to that possibility, but they don't.  Instead, Willy is talking to an associate of his about some exciting light and sound box that they plan to unveil during Johnny's performance.  Why does that description sound familiar?

Ah, here it is.  The big confrontation between Jem and the Holograms and the Misfits, and of course, the Misfits can't wait to rub it in their faces about how they are going to play one of the biggest concerts in history.  But Jem seems to have an ace up her sleeve.  By now, Synergy's able to respond to Jem's requests and she summons up a hologram of Eric...

...who is dressed up like one of the members of Strawberry Alarm Clock!  Seriously, this is the funniest things I think I've seen on this episode.  And Strawberry Alarm Clock Eric informs the Misfits that they are still under contract to him which means no performing at Woodstock!  And Willy is furious that the Misfits lied to him and he tells them that they are finished...well, at least they are for the next sixteen years, anyway.

Willy convinces Johnny Beldrix to go back on stage, and he launches into a rousing solo performance of the Star-Spangled Banner using his guitar.  It's quite good.  I actually kind of wonder if they re-recorded it with different musicians or if they used Jimi's version...which seems much worse to use his music without permission over his name.  Whatever the case, it's great.

And true to his word, Willy unveils his magic light and sound box on the stage...which happens to be Synergy.  The thing is that Synergy is being lowered on the stage using standard ropes...and it's at that moment that the Misfits get into a shoving match with Willy which causes the ropes to break and Synergy to go plummeting towards the ground.  Uh-oh!  If Synergy hits the ground with that much force, it's bye-bye Jem and the Holograms.  Because we all know that Jerrica would never dye her hair pink and sing the songs herself.

But before the worst happens, everyone vanishes from the scene leaving a bunch of concert spectators to question what sorts of substances they were on to create such illusions.  Everybody returns back to the year 1987 safe and sound, and the Holograms are thrilled to have undergone the fantastic, yet impossible journey they went through.  Though, Aja reminds them not to say anything as they'll get institutionalized.  Ah, Aja...always the voice of reason.

The Misfits also return to the present where they immediately turn on Eric Raymond for destroying their chance to play Woodstock.  For once, Eric is innocent and he tries to defend himself by saying that he was in Techrat's truck the whole time.  But Pizzazz forcibly grabs Techrat's keyboard, eager to teach Eric a lesson.

She types in Eric's name on the computer and he's the one that is transported back in time.  And thanks to the baby dinosaur that makes a sudden appearance, I'm guessing that Pizzazz has sent Eric all the way back in time to the year 65,000,000 B.C.!  I'm amazed Pizzazz actually knows a number that's higher than fifty!

Of course, Eric comes face to face with the baby's mama who is none to pleased to see him.  Eric runs away in terror at the sight even though in all likelihood that dinosaur is not a carnivore.  Still, she could step on him.

Back in the present, it seems as though our baby dinosaur is a bit of a brat, and he instantly turns Techrat's time machine into a pile of metal junk.  But with the time machine inoperable, it does one final trade off, with the dinosaur going back to the prehistoric times...

...and a physically frightened Eric coming back to 1987.  Though in Eric's case, I'm not sure what would be a worse nightmare.  Getting chased by a giant dinosaur or having to face four angry Misfits and a Techrat?  It's too close to call, really.

And while Techrat cries over another lost invention and Eric gets drawn and quartered by Pizzazz, Roxy, Stormer, and Jetta, the Holograms are taking their rightful place as the head entertainers for the World History of Rock Concert.

The song they perform is "Rockin' Down Through Time", and it's easy to see that they used their own time travel experiences to inspire this song.  Though one GLARING inconsistency...they mention the Glenn Miller Band in the song lyrics!  So, it's okay to sing about real musicians, but not okay to depict them in cartoons?  You know, trying to understand broadcast standards and legal terms in the 1980s would be like trying to understand how this episode could be considered realistic, so I'm not even going to try.

Despite the impossibility of the plot, I ended up liking this episode more than I thought I would.  There's some genuinely funny moments in this episode, and I think some of the music was great.  I would have liked to have seen the Misfits perform once though.  They seem to be getting the shaft in the second part of the second season.

Maybe this will be remedied in the FIFTIETH edition of Jem Reviewed.  We go back to England for this one where we learn more about Jetta's family, are reintroduced to an old friend, and are treated to a royal mystery.  Sounds intriguing!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

February 22, 1878

Welcome to this week's Wayback Wednesday entry - the final one of the year.  But that's not to say that we're going to say farewell to the pop culture history lessons for good.  I'll get to more about this at the end of today's entry.

For now, grab yourselves a seat and enjoy today's specials, starting with a heaping appetizer of events that took place on February 22.

1632 - Galileo's "Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems" is published.

1848 - The French Revolution of 1848 begins

1856 - The United States Republican Party hosts its first national convention in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

1862 - Jefferson Davis is inaugurated as the first President of the Confederate States of America

1872 - The Prohibition Party hosts its first national convention in Columbus, Ohio

1918 - Announcer Don Pardo (d. 2014) is born in Westfield, Massachusetts

1924 - Calvin Coolidge becomes the first American President to deliver a radio address from the White House

1932 - Politician Ted Kennedy (d. 2009) is born in Boston, Massachusetts

1943 - Christoph Probst and Hans and Sophie Scholl are executed in Nazi Germany for being members of the White Rose Resurgence during World War II

1944 - American aircraft make the mistake of bombing several Dutch communities resulting in loss of life in the cities of Arnhem, Deventer, Enschede, and Nijmegen

1959 - Lee Petty wins the first Daytona 500

1962 - Steve Irwin (d. 2006) - "The Crocodile Hunter" is born in Essendon, Australia

1976 - Former Supremes member Florence Ballard dies at the age of 32

1980 - The "Miracle on Ice" takes place during the 1980 Winter Olympics where the American hockey team defeats the Soviet Union team with a final score of 4-3

1983 - The Broadway play "Moose Hunters" makes history in the worst way possible - it becomes one of the first plays to open and close in the same night!

1986 - The People Power Revolution begins in the Philippines

1987 - Artist Andy Warhol passes away at the age of 58

1997 - Scottish scientists make the announcement that they have successfully cloned a sheep (named Dolly)

2002 - Animator Chuck Jones dies at the age of 89

2011 - At least 185 people are killed in Christchurch, New Zealand when an earthquake strikes - the second deadliest in the country's history

2014 - New Zealand born television personality Charlotte Dawson takes her own life at the age of 47 following a personal struggle dealing with cyberbullying

And celebrating the day with a slice of birthday cake are the following famous faces; Paul Dooley, Bruce Forsyth, James Hong, Sheila Hancock, Ishmael Reed, Judy Cornwell, Jonathan Demme, Julius Erving, Julie Walters, Ellen Greene, Kyle MacLachlan, Rachel Dratch, Thorsten Kaye, Jeri Ryan, Thomas Jane, Clinton Kelly, Lea Salonga, James Blunt, Chris Moyles, Drew Barrymore, Jenny Frost, and Shamari Fears.

All considering that today is the final Wayback Wednesday of the year, I thought I would make this date worth the trip.  How would you all like to go back in time to the 1800s?

The date?  February 22, 1878.  By my calculations, that date was exactly one hundred and thirty-nine years ago today.

Now, before I go into why this date is so important, I would love to share with you a personal story related to the subject of this date.

And no...I wasn't around in 1878.  Or, 1978 for that matter. 

But when I was a kid, I definitely had my favourite places that I liked to go to in my little town.  I loved going to the park to swing on the swing sets.  I loved throwing pennies into the town fountain in the middle of Court House Square to make a wish.  I loved going to the movie theatre whenever a movie that I really wanted to see was out.

And I loved our little
Woolworth's store that was located downtown.

Okay, so obviously this is a very old photo of the store.  I found it on the website for our town paper and the photo was taken by a local town historian, Doug Grant.  If I had to wager a guess, it was taken sometime in the 1950s or 1960s just based on the cars driving down the street.  But when I was a kid growing up in the 1980s, it was a place that I loved to go to.  I think I loved going to that store more than I did other big named department stores that existed back in those days.

I think one reason I loved Woolworth's so much was because of the lunch counter inside.  I remember once a month, Mom would take me to the lunch counter where I could order anything I wanted for a special lunch.  I always got the cheeseburger, and to this day, their burgers were among the best fast food burgers that I can recall eating.  And the food was relatively cheap as well.  At least, it was back in the 1980s anyway.

And I also had fond memories of perusing the toy department of Woolworth's, deciding on what toy I wanted.  Sometimes I'd spend tooth fairy money there, and other times I would spend allowance money there.  Back when I was a kid, there were endless choices.  I could have bought a gigantic balloon with a Wuzzle or a Sesame Street character on it for a dollar.  I could have bought a couple of storybooks to add to my growing book collection (had the store sold Archie comics, I'd have been in heaven), or I might have even bought a colouring book and a 64 count box of their store brand crayons (which I maintain were better quality than Crayola crayons and would happily pay four times their price for a box of them today). 

I can't recall a single time in which I left Woolworth's without a huge smile on my face.  It was such a great store that contributed to so many memories for me.  I actually cried when Woolworth's closed up shop in the early 1990s and was replaced by the substandard "Bargain Shop". 

So, I'm sure you've already guessed that Woolworth's is the subject of today's blog post.  And the date that I've chosen - February 22, 1878 - is an important one in the department store chain.  It was the date that the very first Woolworth's Five and Dime store opened its doors.

Now, five and dime stores are not exactly a new thing.  It was how Walmart got their start, and back in the 1870s, it was how a lot of businesses operated.  The idea for them was to charge consumers a fixed price on a variety of different kinds of merchandise - usually for nickels or dimes - as an effort to undercut other merchants who sold the same items for higher prices.  The F.W. Woolworth Company was actually one of the first retailers to display merchandise on the sales floor of their store locations WITHOUT the assistance of a sales clerk.  Prior to those days, people would often line up behind a counter with a list of the items they wished to purchase, and the person behind the counter would grab the items themselves.

I suppose looking back on it, the old way of selling merchandise is similar to putting stuff on layaway at Kmart or Walmart locations.

In 1878, Frank Winfield Woolworth obtained credit from a former boss and combined the money loaned to him with his previous savings to purchase the building and merchandise for the grand opening of Woolworth's Great Five Cent Store in Utica, New York on February 22, 1878.  Woolworth had high hopes for the new business, but it closed up shop just three months later in May 1878.  Despite the failure of the initial business, Woolworth refused to give up on the idea, and so the following year, he reopened the Great Five Cent Store in the community of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and unlike what happened in Utica, the store quickly became a success.  So much so that a second location was opened in nearby Harrisburg (this time his brother Charles Sumner Woolworth) would run it.  Unfortunately, the Harrisburg store was forced to close after a disagreement with the landlord, and a couple of other stores opened up without much success.  But in 1880, when the Woolworth brothers opened up a five and dime store location in Scranton, Pennsylvania, their fortunes improved.  By the turn of the twentieth century, a total of six chains of affiliated Woolworth's locations had opened up in the United States and Canada. 

By 1962, Woolworth's had expanded to include Woolco stores - single floor discount stores that specialized in fashion, electronics, toys, and some household merchandise (the store would later become famous for their $1.44 sales which were held every Monday for many years).  By the time of the company's 100th birthday in the late 1970s, it was considered to be the largest department chain in the world, with the company having expanded across North America, Europe, and Australia. 

Woolworth's was also the location of the first of the sit-in protests that took place in Greensboro, North Carolina (the event in which four black students from a nearby college sat down at the lunch counter that was reserved for white customers and refused to leave in protest of the segregation laws that existed back in the early 1960s.

Unfortunately, the company ran into some major financial trouble during the 1980s.  Having tough competition from other retailers who were offering similar products and employing similar business methods, stores began to close up throughout the 1980s.  Although Woolco was still doing quite well in Canada, in the United States, all stores bearing the Woolco name were closed up by 1983.  In addition, the store sustained some bad press following a devastating fire at one of the largest Woolworth's locations in the UK, and despite the store being rebuilt, it was closed for good in the mid-1980s.  Though the incident caused the UK chains of Woolworth's to break away from the parent company and as a direct result of this, the Woolworth's name remained in the UK until January 2009.

Here in North America, the 1990s signified the end of what was once a very powerful company.  Restructuring in 1993 meant the end of the Woolworth's name for a good many stores.  In the United States, almost all Woolworth stores were shut down by 1993, and the last of the stores bearing the name were closed for good in the summer of 1997.  In Canada, many Woolworth's locations had been transformed into "The Bargain Shop", and in 1994, the majority of Woolco stores were rebranded as Walmart locations (save for the few that turned into Zellers locations - a chain that became defunct in 2013 when Target Canada took it over for two years before it pulled out of the country in the spring of 2015). I've shared up above, I do miss the Woolworth's name.  I miss the lunch counter.  I miss the toy department.  I just miss having that childhood staple around.  I don't care what people say.  Ordering a Quarter Pounder at McDonald's is no comparison to sitting at a lunch counter stool and eating a burger that you see made right in front of you. 

But I suppose that like most things in this world, they never truly die if you keep the memories close to your heart. 

So, this marks the finale of Wayback Wednesday.  But fear not.  Next week, the day shifts again to Thursdays.  And the first "Throwback Thursday" post will be shared on Thursday, March 2.

Stay tuned.  There is more to come!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Friendship Connection

I've been doing a lot of thinking about connections.  How we make them.  How we break them.  How we do everything to keep them going, and how we're constantly trying to make new ones.  How sometimes the connections we make aren't as simple as we believe them to be, and how sometimes the most complex connections turn out to be the ones you need the most.

I think the idea of connecting with other people is a must for everybody on this planet.  I think as much as some of us try to deny it, we all need to have some form of interaction with other people because those interactions help keep us sane.

But what if you have a difficult time making such connections?  What do you do then?

Well, I can only speak for myself, but I consider myself to be one of those people who have a really difficult time getting close to people.  What that reason is, I'm not sure.  I have reason to suspect it is because I am considered to be an introvert in a small town filled with extroverted people, and I have always felt as if I don't quite know my place in this world.

Or it could be because I'm as ugly as Quasimodo and repulse everybody that I come into contact with.  But, somehow I don't think that's quite the reason.

I think going back to when I was a kid (and going back to a previous post I wrote about being the odd one out in my family born between generations), I seemed to form connections with some of the most interesting people from my community.  I couldn't tell you the first friend I made in elementary school, but I could tell you that the first adult friend I made was Margaret, the head librarian of our town library at the time - whom I lovingly referred to as "the lady with the bun in her head".

(You see, she always wore her hair in a bun style, hence the phrase.  Funny thing is, I think she got a kick out of it.)

And it was like that throughout my early childhood.  I would have rather chatted with the yard duty teacher than play with people my own age.  I'd rather have talked to the guy delivering bread to the Quickie store instead of the teenagers crowded around the pinball machine.  I formed connections with the most random people in the most unusual circumstances and I saw nothing wrong with it at all.  Of course, I had parental units who supervised every interaction to make sure that it was safe (which was appreciated), but that was how it was. 

I guess part of it comes from the fact that I am the kind of person who doesn't really like small talk.  In fact, I can't stand the whole "Hi, how's your day" garbage that most of us in the world take part in at some point of the day.  I prefer to engage in deeper conversations that provoke thought and encourage creativity.  I'm thinking that could be why I connected with adults more when I was a kid.  I was surrounded by adults in my childhood, and I liked talking to them.  I learned more from the bread delivery guy about life than any of the kids in my class could have taught me.  Again, it seems really strange to some, but that's the way I made connections with people.

I think it also explains why I have so few friends in my community, but have hundreds of connections outside of town.  I've tried figuring it out, and I believe I have friends from four provinces, twenty-nine states, and five different countries!  That's quite a smattering of people scattered all over the place, isn't it?

And yet, I've only ever really met one or two of them in person.

Whether it was because we shared a common interest on a pop culture website, or whether we befriended each other through mutual friends, or in once case bonded because we tag teamed a troll on Facebook and decided that we should be friends because of it, I find it easier to connect with people online than I do in the real world.


Because online I get the chance to think carefully about how I want to phrase an opinion and I can edit it if I feel it's not exactly how I want to come across.  It's kind of similar to what I do with this blog.  My online persona is definitely more of a social butterfly than the dried up cocoon that I present myself as in the real world.  And that's not me poking fun at myself.  That's a known truth! 

Of course, this leads to a bit of a problem.

You see...the friendships that I have made all over the world through a couple thousand dozen keystrokes the last fifteen years are completely real to me.  I hold them in very high regard, and I appreciate them.  But it is such a horrible feeling to know that they are so far away.  It's not as if I can go out to grab a burger with them, or catch a movie with them, or just wander through the nearest park and talk about life as we spin ourselves sick on the swing set.  Online friendships are real friendships...but I wish I lived closer to them.

And, I guess there's a small sliver of doubt in myself about just how real those friendships are.  I worry that one day I will come face to face with these people that I have been friends with for so many years and they will be so disappointed with the actual face to face encounter that they never speak to me again.  Or I do something to screw it up.  Or, they think I look like Quasimodo and run screeching towards Notre Dame University in a panic.

Okay, that last thing won't happen.  Notre Dame University is about 900 miles away from where I live and they'd probably pass out just before they reach the New York state border.

I'm probably worrying over nothing really.  I tell myself that I've known these people for fifteen years now, and that they won't be disappointed if we ever met face to face.  I have to trust that to be true, and I do. 

Because when it comes to real friendships and real never know exactly where you will find them.  They can come out of nowhere from the most unlikely sources.