Friday, December 7, 2012

The (Los Gatos Creek) Trail Less Taken

I took Max for a walk on the Los Gatos Creek Trail - not just any part of the Los Gatos Creek Trail but the first 2 miles - the Los Gatos Creek trail less taken, as it were. This isolated section begins in downtown San Jose at the former South Pacific Coast Railroad tracks (which transported passengers from Santa Cruz to Alameda in the late 1800s) off Auzerias Avenue. It then runs under Interstate 280, crosses Auzerias Avenue (again) and ends at Lonus Street.

The longer more populous nine mile portion of the trail (where multitudes of runners, cyclists and dog walkers vie for space) begins blocks down at Meridian Avenue and runs along the Los Gatos Creek into the Sierra Azul Mountains. On this short downtown end of the trail, Los Gatos Creek joins with the Guadalupe River - and its trails - which empties into the southern most tip of the San Francisco Bay.

Free-standing low tan wall on left behind tree
is part of the original cannery (below)

The first mile is pleasant enough. It wafts through the land on which the Del Monte pineapple cannery used to stand. This land is now home to condominiums and this portion of the Los Gatos Creek Trail has been landscaped.

The cannery building
Photo acknowledgement

After crossing the not-too-busy Auzerias Avenue (and before hitting Lonus Street), the trail is trashed and (seemingly) taken over by the homeless and other indigents. It goes underneath Interstate 280 and huge piles of mined rock sprinkle its vista. I was somewhat frightened by everyone I passed and decided not to take out my new iPhone 5 until I was safely back at the condos. As I took the pineapple express back, I watched an old man picking up trash off the ground. I thanked him for doing so but now I understand why this is a trail less taken.

Cleaning up the park

Friday, November 30, 2012

A Cat's Meow

After 18 days away from home I went downstairs to the Queens Lair where Lucy was playing the cello. I said hello. She ignored me and continued to play.

Playing the cello

Two hours later I went downstairs to the Queens Lair where Lucy was sleeping. I scratched her head. She woke up and meowed once before going back to sleep. (Meow translation: where the f*ck you been?)

The Queens's Lair

Two hours later Lucy came upstairs and we got a welcome home picture.

Max, Lucy and me

Friday, November 9, 2012

I ♥ My iPhone 3GS With iOS6

Now I understand how my sister felt when her eldest son went off to college. I just bought the new iPhone 5 and am on the road to activating it, restoring my iPhone 3GS to factory settings and passing my beloved iPhone 3GS on to said sister. I got my iPhone 5 a week ago; it remains unwrapped in it's box. I first had to deal with my iPhone 3GS (heretofore Tommy).


First off, I needed it unlocked. I didn't know where it would end up so unlocking it (allowing it to be used on any carrier's network) seemed a smart thing to do. A good condition (and mine is pristine), 32 GB 3GS will sell for upwards of $200 on eBay!

After getting ATT to unlock, I realized that the Restore I had to do would upgrade Tommy to iOS 6 - which I hadn't planned on doing...but, alas. So I hit Restore & Update. After twenty minutes, the code completed it's functions but I got an error. This error lead me to an Apple Bug Report which basically told me to upgrade my desktop OS, iTunes and everything else. Only then, will my restore work.

My 3 year old iPhone 3GS re-packed and ready for my sister

An hour later, I was back on iTunes and hit Restore & Upgrade. This time, twenty minutes later, I got the message I had hoped for: Congratulations, your phone is now unlocked! So I unplugged my phone to see what iOS 6 had done on it.

iOS 6 is like having a new iPhone 3GS! I have noticed improved performance and no noticeable battery drain - after I turned off MapQuest's turn-by-turn voice which I had unknowingly left on. (The Siri-like voice scared the shit out of the occupants of my car and drained the battery 50% before I noticed.) Mail looks nicer but Do Not Disturb is not my thing. Maps has been fine for me but I haven't traveled far yet. (I am backed up with the aforementioned MapQuest and Waze.) Passbook is not my thing and I still can't figure out why the hell I need Reminders. I have alerts on my desktop Calendar. I don't get Reminders. Anyway, iOS 6 on my iPhone 3GS rocks! And my sister gets a great phone!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Take Only PB&J, Leave Only PB&J

Airlines no longer provide meals with your ticket. So when I go on a plane, I bring (natural) peanut butter & jelly sandwiches (topped with fresh fruit, coconut and cinnamon) along for the ride. When I arrive at my destination, I buy (natural) peanut butter, fruit conserves (less sweet than jelly), sprouted grain bread and toppings so I have the ingredients for a healthful PB&J while visiting. Before I depart for my return trip home, I make PB&J sandwiches for the plane ride back and the peanut butter, fruit conserves and sprouted grain bread I did not eat while visiting are left behind. To paraphrase the idiom used by our national parks (Take only memories, leave only footprints), I always say:

Take only PB&J; leave only PB&J.

Friday, October 12, 2012

30 Tips To Losing 30 Pounds

Updated: December 2014

July, 2011 - September, 2012

  1. Stop Eating Processed Foods

    It's the biggest DON'T and I did it. One day you're in and the next, you're out. I feared what might happen to my body with a continued presence of processed foods. Tortilla chips, Wheat Thins, pizza, whole wheat pasta and multi-grain cereals are no longer welcome in my home. These are processed, high-carbohydrate foods - even though I considered them comparatively healthy. Now, I maintain a 97% fresh diet that contains legumes, fruits, vegetables, seeds, and nuts.
  2. Eat Plenty of Fruits and Vegetables

    I eat a diverse and abundant selection of fruits and vegetables. In return, I get high quality nutrients and antioxidants (for bolstering the immune system). They also contain the fiber we desperately need to keep our digestive system working. What number are you on the Bristol Stool Scale?
  3. Eat Legumes For Incomplete Protein

    Legumes are a key source of protein and a good low-fat source of carbohydrates. Legumes include alfalfa, clover, green peas, beans (black, kidney, pinto and the like), lentils, lupins, chickpeas, mesquite, carob, soy, and peanuts. They do not contain all nine of the essential amino acids and most be combined (in a twenty four hour period) with its protein complement: brown rice or quinoa or nuts or seeds or dairy.
  4. Eat Nuts To Complete Legume Protein

    Nuts provide a healthy source of fat and a long-lasting form of energy. They are my go-to snack for those times I crave tortilla chips and Wheat Thins. (Those times are diminishing.) Nuts do not contain all nine of the essential amino acids and most be combined (in a twenty four hour period) with its protein complement: legumes or quinoa or dairy.
  5. Eat Quinoa For Complete High-Quality Protein

    Instead of brown rice, eat red Quinoa. (There are lighter varieties as well.) Like amaranth, it is a complete source of high-quality protein - just like a New York steak (which is really not high-quality anyway.) From a culinary point of view, they are used like rice. But technically each is a dry hard fruit with a single seed at its center. Amaranth and quinoa are each a complete protein: high in total protein and having all essential amino acids in ideal proportions. No complementary protein is needed. I haven't tried amaranth yet but quinoa can be made quickly and tastes great!

    Quinoa mixed with sauteed red pepper and onion,
    raw organic spinach, black beans and pounded garlic
  6. Eat Edamame

    An incomplete protein source that baffles those (my mother) who don't frequent Japanese restaurants. Edamame has even less protein than the more mature soybean it would've grown into had it not been picked as a child. Other protein sources include tempeh and tofu although I am not a fan of either. Great salty snack. Edamame.
  7. Use Flax Seeds and Walnuts

    These items supply essential fatty acids, a must-have nutrient. I add ground flax seeds (from my coffee grinder turned flax seed grinder) to my daily oatmeal with a handful of mixed nuts and blueberries mixed with a spoon coated with honey (dip spoon in jar and remove). See #26 for more on my oat meal. I also throw walnuts in a vegetable sauté. These are most important foods so be creative.
  8. Smear Peanut Butter On It

    Smear natural peanut (or any old kind of nut) butter on as many foods as you can. Put it on dates, figs, bananas and apples. Mix it into hot oatmeal. Add it to blended drinks. Use fruit conserves (sparingly) to top it for a PB & J. (See #9.)
  9. Allow Sprouted Breads

    Sliced bread is not the easiest thing from which to wean yourself. Sprouted breads are an excellent alternative. Sprouted grains are easier to digest compared to whole grains, and the sprouting process increases the bioavailability of certain vitamins and minerals in the bread. If you must, make sure it's sprouted like the loaves baked by Food For Life Bakery. And if you're a lover of PB & J, skip the jelly and fruit conserves and top the nut butter on sprouted bread with mashed berries - better sugar and more fiber.
  10. Use Frozen Foods Sparingly

    All types of foods are now frozen. Dr. Praeger's California Veggie Burgers only contain carrots, onions, string beans, oat bran, soybeans, zucchini, peas, broccoli, corn, soy flakes, spinach, expeller pressed canola oil, red peppers, arrowroot, corn starch, garlic, corn meal, salt, parsley, black pepper. I now forgo the bread and use two patties to sandwich my spinach, sliced onion and mustard. I also buy natural burritos (read no preservatives and additives) and keep them in the freezer - even a frozen corn meal crust pizza. They're there if, once in a while I want it, but no worries because the next time my meal is again focused on legumes, grains, fruits and vegetables.

  11. 'Cause I Eats Me Spinach

    This super vegetable is delicious and packs a nutritional (and fibrous) punch. I put raw spinach under (or on top of) everything I eat. (See frozen pizza in #10.) I never use pre-made salad dressings. If I decide I'd like to dress the spinach, for a particular meal, I use only enough olive oil to slightly coat the spinach leaf - a tablespoon or so. I then add balsamic vinegar, mustard, spices and maybe some hot sauce.
  12. Don't Label Your Eating Habits

    I recently read an article on veganism and commented underneath it that I consider myself a vegan but will eat as I choose from the menu when in a restaurant. Well, one would've thought I had murdered a puppy for the flames I endured. You are not a vegan! You can't call yourself a vegan! You have to stop that! You are confusing everyone! I was a vegan for many, many years and now, on occasion, work my way over to the dark side. Oh, maybe that's what they meant. Ah, who cares. Don't eat based on a label. Find what works for you.
  13. Don't Label My Eating Habits A Diet

    This is a life style. If I went back to eating the way I had, I would gain 30 pounds. And I thought I was eating healthy!
  14. 2014 UPDATE: Losing weight is something you must really want to do. I love my bread, my pasta, my pizza, my Wheat Thins and especially my corn chips but when I get the desire to pop some of that crap (yes, crap) in my mouth I weigh it against what it will do to my weight and how much I have to increase my exercise regimen to counteract the empty calories. Usually (but not always) the desire is quashed because I like the way I look and don't want to go back to the beast called the belly. If I have pizza, I top it with spinach. If I have chips, I make a bean salsa with avocado to (hopefully) counteract the chips. To date, I've lost a good 45-50 pounds.

  15. Roast Your Vegetables

    Roasted vegetables are delicious!! I roast broccoli, cauliflower, red pepper, baby carrots, Brussels sprouts, green beans, beets and other root vegetables. For example, preheat oven to 350-400°. Open a bag of Brussels sprouts. Cut in half. Throw in a big bowl. Coat in olive oil. Salt. Pepper. Pounded Garlic. Toss. Dump on cookie sheet. Roast for 10-15 minutes. Shave fresh Parmesan (or the vegan Rawmesan) on the cooling sprouts.
  16. Don't Rely On White Potatoes

    If you must, preheat oven to 350-400°. Julienne them. Throw in a big bowl. Coat in olive oil. Salt. Pepper. Pounded Garlic. Toss. Dump on cookie sheet. Roast for 10-15 minutes. Sweet potatoes and yams are better nutritionally. Anything with color is better for you nutritionally. (I will order fries or onion rings in a restaurant if I feel so inclined. I'm not a nitwit.)
  17. Don't Rely On White Anything

    Anything with white flour is processed. Sugar is the devil if you are the type that is scared by that. Any food that is white has little to no need for ingestion in a human body - including iceberg lettuce, white rice, white potatoes, white bread, cow milk. Yea, I went there. If you must, spend the extra money for local and organic cow milk. Anything with color is better for you nutritionally - although I'm not referring to chocolate milk. See #25.

  18. Eat Garlic Pounded With A Mortar and Pestle

    You might have been intrigued by the term pounded garlic in my roasting recipes. Although I eat raw garlic in daily abundance, I know longer crush garlic in a press - and certainly would never just slice garlic (which does not release the healing properties of the onion). I pound my garlic in a mortar and pestle. It's also great for pounding other herbs and seeds (fennel, mustard). Best ten bucks I've ever spent. Eat garlic once a day, minimum.
  19. 2014 UPDATE: When I joined Facebook a few years back, I connected with a friend I hadn't heard from in 25 years. The first question he asked was if I still eat raw garlic each day. I was somewhat surprised because it made me realize how long I have been eating it. I am (touch wood) rarely sick, mosquitos never bother me and the people I kiss never seem to notice as long as I brush my teeth (and maybe shower). Garlic - it's good for what ails you!

  20. Move Yourself For 35 Minutes* Every Day

    It doesn't matter what. Run. Bike. Dance to disco in your living room. Walk! Do it the same time every day and as early in the day as you can. I swim. Late morning with all the other old broads at 24 Hour Fitness. It's a nice overall exercise that works for my schedule. Sometimes I bike instead but I had an accident last year that involved a cemetery and a tombstone which I'm scared of repeating. Find what works for you. Remember this is a life style so we must work the time into our daily routines. Now it's your turn.

    *Why 35 minutes? Because if you make 35 minutes each day, you will never waiver below 30 minutes. Trust me. It's only five more minutes.

    2014 UPDATE: I swam when I lived in California. When I moved to New York City I started running. My first day it took me 16 minutes to walk a mile. It's been six months now and I jog a mile in about 10 minutes. I jog six miles which takes me about an hour. I have never sweat in my exercise routine but now I understand why that is so important to the metabolism and what people mean by a second wind and endorphins. It really kicked my weight loss into high gear as can be seen by the 2014 picture.

  21. Vary Your Food Choices

    Take the time to rotate the foods you eat for each meal. This involves planning. I choose to make one vegetable, grain or legume the cornerstone of each meal. When I'm in a restaurant, turkey, fish, or pork (but never beef or chicken) might be the cornerstone. (And I loves me some unagi nigiri.) Whatever the cornerstone is, I roast it. See #14.
  22. Supplement With A Multiple Vitamin

    That's what my doctor said. It can't hurt.
  23. Get Sufficient Calories

    I'm not sure what this means because I don't count calories but I do sometimes get hungry now. Shock! When I do, I eat nuts or a low-fat yogurt or a juicy apple (the latter can be quite filling). I assume that hunger means I needed the calories. Maybe not. Larabar and Trio bars are great packaged snacks to keep in the freezer.

  24. Hydrate! Eat Watermelon and Grapes

    Just do it. Drink half your body weight (pounds) in ounces of water each day; I think I weigh 190 (don't have a scale) so half of that in ounces is 95. I don't think I drink that amount but I eat a lot of fruit also. If you're exercising and sweating profusely, add another liter with half a teaspoon of sea salt to ensure proper electrolyte replenishment. And eat cool watermelon - it's like an orgasm in your mouth. And the water counts towards your aqua needs. Eat grapes for filling hydration. And organic is not always best with these two fruits; pick and choose.
  25. Eat More Frequently

    I have two large meals in which I balance protein with vegetables, fruit, beans and grains as most do. In between those meals, when I get hungry, I reach for the nuts, edamame or fruit. No more crackers, tortilla chips and organic, all natural pop tarts.
  26. Weigh Yourself

    Once a week. Only. On the same scale. Nude. After your thirty minutes of exercise. It is what it is. Move on.
  27. Allow Chocolate

    The antioxidants and flavonoids in cocoa are what makes chocolate (made with cocoa, butter and sugar) a good choice for this life style. The best option is dark chocolate with 70% or higher cocoa content. (White chocolate is made from the fatty part of the cocoa bean so no cocoa; therefore, no antioxidants or brown color.) I make a mixture of equal parts cashews, almonds and chocolate bits and I'm still here - albeit 30 pounds lighter.
  28. Eat Oatmeal Every Morning

    Eat old-fashioned oatmeal (organic is readily available and inexpensive) mixed with walnuts, coconut, raisins, blueberries and sliced banana. Top with cinnamon, crushed date sugar (from your mortar and pestle) or honey, and ground flax seeds. Your digestion will be singing in no time. Plus look how many other tips this one encompasses.

    2008 - 2012
  29. Reach For Juicy, Not Dried, Fruit

    The water in juicy fruit counts towards your aqua needs. Throw a roll of paper towels in the back seat of your car to wipe your hands but eat the juicy fruit. I rarely eat dried now (except raisins); try to reach first for juicy.
  30. A Nutritional Label Is Your Friend

    There are many salsas and other topical sauces with ingredient names that can be pronounced and can sit in your refrigerator. Most of them have little to no calories. Look to the nutritional labels and buy these particular types of sauces to enjoy. Trader Joe's is a good place for this type of thing. This is the only time that I allow eating based on a label. (See #12.)
  31. Use Brown Rice Sparingly

    I rarely eat brown rice now - opting to splurge any rice allotment on sushi (despite rule #12 and 16). I've been eating quinoa when I might have previously had brown rice. Quinoa is much lighter and a complete protein. (See #5.) Feel what food does in your body. I find the gluten in potatoes, rice, pasta and the like to be very inflating and don't want them sitting in my digestive tract. As the not quite elegant Kate Moss said Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.
  32. Enjoy The Food

    I eat food. I don't eat the taste on food. I learned to use herbs and spices to enhance the food - not engulf it. I found I love crushed fennel. Go know. I always include turmeric, a wonderful-tasting spice with many healing properties. Cayenne pepper, the same. Black pepper. (Minimal) Sea salt. Here's a spice mix that increases your metabolism which, in turn, helps weight loss: crush chili powder, turmeric and mustard seeds in your mortar and pestle. Rub the mix over a lean protein, toss with olive oil on a vegetable before roasting, or throw it on plain microwave popcorn tossed in olive oil.

Put me on your fridge.

This article has been edited and republished on

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Remnants of the Recently Peed

I was in the water closet at my local Starbucks. (Well, it's true.) The toilet seat was down when I walked in, and covered with somebody else's urine. I thought as I peed.

As long as I just hit the bulls-eye and leave no NEW urine on the seat, I would feel no remorse in just washing my hands and walking out the door without wiping this filthy seat. As is often quoted when one visits a national park - leave only footprints, take only memories.

This experience reminded me of my dog Max's desire to sniff the remnants of the recently peed on our daily walks through the neighborhood.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Vicki Lawrence vs. The Other Woman

In 1975, almost three years after the phenomenal success of The Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia, Vicki Lawrence released a single on Private Stock Records called The Other Woman. This low-charting single (#81) is one of two that ensures Vicki not be labeled a one-hit wonder in music history reference books. (The second single from the The Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia LP, He Did With Me, is the other.) The only time I've heard The Other Woman was in 1975 when Vicki performed it on The Mike Douglas Show, a daily chat show that aired in the mid afternoon.


For almost forty years now the refrain I remember from that performance of The Other Woman has haunted me like a Chile Relleno. It has attached itself to the nether regions of my mind until I could take no more and bought myself a copy of the hard-to-find 45 RPM single on eBay for $9.99 ON SALE!

The B-side is Cameo from Vicki's second LP Ships In
The Night
, produced by Tommy “Snuff” Garrett.

So for my second WORLD INTERNET PREMIERE, I am posting The Other Woman in digital format for all Vicki Lawrence fans to enjoy. I have searched for years in hopes of snagging a digitized copy but now I put it on YouTube for eternity - or until someone with a connection to the long-gone Private Stock Records tells me to take it down.

Written by Tom Bahler and Harry Shannon
Produced by Tommy “Snuff” Garrett

Send me an email or leave a comment below if you'd like a link to download Vicki's rare third album.
Newborn Woman was never released in the US (or on CD).
The ZIP also contains some bonus tracks.


I'm up early every Monday morning there's some laundry to do
I'm emptying out his pockets while the kids go off to school
And then I see the letter and my heart just breaks in two
Its another woman's writing, saying “Baby, I love you”

Well 10 years of being married to him I haven't let myself letdown
So I make a quick appointment to do some work at the gym downtown
What a shock to finally find out that my nicest dress don't fit
So I sit down at my mirror and I get out my makeup kit

The other woman is in for the fight of her life
I've loved him too much and too long, to have him taken away
Oh that would be the day!
I'm going to bury the hurt, gonna get down to work
Roll up my sleeves and be what he needs…a lover at night
Oh and not just a wife, you bet your life, I'm gonna keep him.

Well I read the daily papers and we discuss the latest news
And I love him each and every night, just the way that I used to do
Well sometimes it just takes giving to get something back again
 Now there'll never be another woman and a whole new life begins.

The other woman is in for the fight of her life
I've loved him too much and too long, to have him taken away
Oh that would be the day!
I'm going to bury the hurt, gonna get down to work
Roll up my sleeves and be what he needs…a lover at night
Oh and not just a wife, you bet your life.

The other woman is in for the fight of her life
I've loved him too much and too long, to have him taken away
Oh that would be the day!
I'm going to bury the hurt, gonna get down to work
Roll up my sleeves and be what he needs…a lover at night
Oh and not just a wife, you bet your life.

Monday, July 2, 2012

In Search of ABBA

In 1996 I went to Sweden in search of ABBA. This is my story.

My Love, My Life

Is it true you're going to Sweden to find ABBA? my boss asked me.

No, I said. I don't think they're lost. But I am going in search of ABBA.

The difference: I'm not Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction. I didn't HAVE to "find" ABBA. It was enough for me to go to Stockholm and search for the very place in Old Town that ABBA had their picture taken some twenty years ago. The poster above has traveled with me, hanging in homes in major American cities, since it came folded in the book ABBA The Ultimate Pop Group by Marianne Lindvall, published in 1977. I wanted to know that I had been there.


I flew into Stockholm on March 29 and took a forty minute bus ride from the airport. Sweden reminded me of upstate New York except for the fact that all the highway signs seemed to be written in Pig Latin. (Everything seemed to end in an a.) My first order of business, after visiting the requisite palaces, museums, Skansen and WASA, was to scour the used compact disc stores for all the rare ABBA music I was not able to find in the United States. But what I learned was: if you want rare ABBA - don't go to Sweden! I found ABBA-The Tribute, Josefin Nillson's Shapes and The Ainbusk Singers Från När till fjärran but not one real ABBA record that I did not already own. The treasured haul I had hoped for never materialized but unbeknownst to me, it was right around the corner.

Suzy Hang-A-Round

Within walking distance of the last music store I went to was Polar Studios. I was there to take a picture of the building and the plaque above the doorbell that read POLAR STUDIOS. I turned the corner, saw the building and took a few pictures. When I walked up to the door to take a picture of the plaque, I realized that the front of the studio was actually mirrored glass. Those on the outside could not see in...BUT I SAW SHAPES MOVING INSIDE. After wiping the drool off my lower lip, I put my nose to the glass and watched the people inside. At this point, a woman came to the front door, opened it and asked me a question in Swedish. I'm sorry, I said. I don't speak Swedish.

Can I help you? she asked.

Oh, not really. I stammered. I'm an ABBA fan from the United States. I have a web page on the Internet devoted to them. I just wanted to stop by, take a picture of your door jamb and walk where I know they have walked. But thanks for asking.

I turned to walk away when she said, Would you like to come in and have a look around? Let me see if Agnetha is around.

She closed the door and left me, once again, with spittle pouring out of my mouth. Did she say Agnetha? I thought. Oh dear, I am getting a tour of Polar Studios from Agnetha. I am going to die, right here. Right now.

She came back to the door and said, Please come in. Annika has a few moments. OK, so I had misunderstood her accent. But Annika was good. I could deal with a tour of Polar Studios by Annika. So I learned to use my legs again, followed her to the reception desk and was introduced to Annika.

The first thing Annika showed me was a big wooden piano-looking, glockenspheel kind of thing. She said this was an instrument that Benny and Bjorn had invented that they had used on some of their records. That's when I asked the inevitable question, Are they here today?

No, she said. They aren't recording today. But we can look in the studio. Thomas Ledin is in there. Annika knew she didn't have to explain that Ledin had recorded some duets with Agnetha in the eighties. Today he was solo. Darn it.

After leaving the studio, someone walked by us wearing a Polar Studios t-shirt. I said to Annika, who at this point had become my best friend in the world, I must have one of those shirts. I have 1000 kroner on me right now. It's yours.

Oh, Michael. Don't be absurd. What size are you?

As big as they come.

She walked around her desk, handed me a t-shirt and said, Think of it as a gift from Benny and Bjorn. So I flew out of Polar Studios on gossamer wings and decided, even though it was 4:30 pm on the Friday before Easter, to take a bus to Mono Music. Who knows, maybe I would meet Gorel Hanser?

The bus trip took about an hour, from one end of Stockholm to the other. I got to the Mono Music building (picture below) at about 4:55 pm and saw this woman walking from a car to the front door of the building. I followed her inside the building and introduced myself.

Well, it's nice to meet you Michael. I am Gorel but I am running to get to the airport so I have no time to speak to you now, she said.

I didn't even expect to meet you, I said. But here is my card. It has my web page address. Check it out if you have the time. And tell Benny and Bjorn about it too. Thank you so much.

She left. I left. (I have yet to receive an email from Gorel. Gorel, are you out there?

Move On

I spent my last day in Stockholm in Old Town looking for the infamous place where ABBA had taken that fateful poster picture. I spent hours walking around asking people to take my picture in front of fountains, buildings and squares, knowing in my heart that none of these was the square that I wanted. I had one hour and one picture left and started to walk to the train station. As I was leaving Old Town I passed this woman with two children. As I had the one picture left I asked her if she could take it. She said, Absolutely and retraced her steps to get a bigger background. I smiled and left for the train station, disappointed but realizing that Old Town would always be in my heart, if not on my film.
I rode to Malmo to wait for the ferry to Copenhagen. One of the ABBAnatic places I saw was the State Theater which, at the time, was in between its engagements of Kristina Från Duvemala. I took some pictures of the theater to live vicariously through the Kodak moment.

Hasta Mañana

I arrived in Scheidam the evening before the Day of the ABBA convention, the 12th of April, 1996. I wanted to get myself settled and get a good night's sleep before the pomp and circumstance. Now Scheidam has some lovely parts (canals, windmills, architecture) but on a Friday night there's bupkus in terms of evening entertainment. I spent the night sitting in front of a statue in a lovely little park and going back to the hotel to watch Streets Of Gold starring Klaus Maria Brandeaur. Thankfully, it was not dubbed from its original English. As the sound of bones breaking and blood gushing lulled me to sleep, I thought It's okay. Tomorrow is the real reason I came to Scheidam.

The Visitors

I awoke bright and early and had myself a hearty, hotel breakfast. Thankfully too as this was, it turned out, the only food I had until dinner. With camera in hand, I left the hotel. I turned the corner at 10:30 am and saw about 100 ABBAnatics. Muriel was even there. (Actually it was a four foot cardboard cut-out promotional piece from Muriel's Wedding but I can dream can't I.)

We congregated around the entrance, chatting among ourselves until 11:00 am, when the doors finally opened. As a non-member of the ABBF fan club I paid 7.50 guilders and, as everyone did, received an ABBF fan club 10th anniversary cloth bag in which I was able to drop all my ABBA goodies.

There was an immediate scramble to get to the sale tables first. I was specifically looking for bootleg recordings so I made my first round just looking for the treasures. I found exactly what I had hoped to find: ABBA 1970-1982 and Dancing Queens, both 50 guilders (about $33 dollars US). Not a bad price since later in the day I saw both cds for 70 guilders and upwards. Much of the merchandise, not including the ABBF fan club and the couple selling Made In Sweden for 25 guilders, was very over-priced. I guess those of us who made it there are what one would call a captive audience.

After my purchases I was able to relax and take a stroll around. I first visited the ABBA Museum, in which I was NOT allowed to take pictures. It was quite entertaining. I saw the four ABBA dolls, gold records presented to Gorel Hanser for sales of ABBA Gold, rare LPs, newspaper clippings, an ABBA belt and the infamous ABBA soap and perfume. In addition, they had Agnetha's, Benny's and Bjorn's blue satin tuxedo jackets on display. I could not believe it when I saw Benny's tails. I had coveted them from afar for many years and now, to see them in person, I realized that, in fact, it would never fit me. He seems so much bigger on a dust jacket.

After the museum I did some more shopping. I picked up a t-shirt and some pictures. I also saw a multitude of t-shirts that fellow ABBAnatics had made themselves, from silk-screened pictures of Frida and Agnetha to a hand-painted shirt that said Take A Chance On ABBA. There is so little out there for the average ABBAnatic, it is nice to see how resourceful we have become.

Throughout this time I met and spoke with many people, some of which I had met through the internet and my ABBAnatic page. Anita and Helga, the women who run the fan club and organized the day; Jeffrey de Hart, American correspondent of the ABBF fan club; Tamara Bakker, who bought and sent me my first bootleg; Bart from Amsterdam whom I never got to tell about Egbert and Egberta; Richard and Lester who came in from England and stayed at The Windmill Hotel also; Kevin Fletcher and his lovely wife, a guy from North Carolina, a girl from Holland, a guy from Belgium, a singer from France. It was an endless parade.

After my second shopping spree I went to check out the video room. Playing in the room was A Is For Agnetha, the special made for the release of Eyes Of A Woman and A Is For ABBA, the 1993 John Peel special. Both were quite entertaining, especially the video Agnetha made for I Won't Let You Go, one of my favorite solo numbers. I also saw Frida and The Real Group, Frida and Marie Fredricksson and Frida alone singing Saltwater. In addition, there were numerous ABBA live performances and the quartet of corny commercials the group made for the Australian electronics company, National.

Following the videos I took one more shopping stroll and bought something,which will most probably be one of my most useful pieces of ABBA memoribilia: an ABBA umbrella. Now I have one more reason to be happy when it rains. I then went back to the hotel to drop off my spoils and ready myself for the dinner and ABBA disco.

Dance (While The Music Still Goes)

The dinner was for members of the club only but, as I had traveled so far and Jeffrey is so persuasive, I was able to attend. As there were no open restaurants in the area I considered myself very lucky - although I had to throw away my vegan ways for the evening and eat the pork chops. The desert was an incredible simulation of chocolate pudding.

Around 7:00 pm, they started what I had been waiting for the most: the ABBA disco, one long night of dancing to just ABBA-related music. Until 11:00 pm, it was non-stop. I was a ball of sweat by the time everyone joined hands for the last song, The Way Old Friends Do.

The one problem though was the song choices. In four hours I heard Gimme Gimme Gimme (A Man After Midnight) three times but never heard Does Your Mother Know. The DJ played If It Wasn't For The Nights only after I requested it three times; yet when the first strains wafted through the speakers, the floor became wall-to-wall people. I heard Voulez Vous four times but never heard Fernando or I've Been Waiting For You. Granted these songs are slow numbers but I did hear Chiquitita. And there were couples who would've danced to these ballads anyway. Hell, I would've danced to these alone. I believe that the crowd there would have danced to anything by ABBA. So why play only disco ABBA (The Visitors and Lay All Your Love On Me)? I was a DJ in a nightclub for three years and annually held an ABBA night called ABBArama. As part of the evening I played ABBA: The Movie, ABBA videos and a night of ABBA-related music. As this was prior to the resurgence of ABBA in the public eye not more than twenty people ever showed up but, I never repeated a song. Hey Hey Helen was right beside Super Trouper; Bang-A-Boomerang back with The Name Of The Game. There is so much ABBA music to enjoy on a dance floor! So I say to Anita, Next year, I'll be the DJ. Although now I don't know: would I rather DJ or dance? AAhhh, I can do both. Just give me a call, Anita.

When All Is Said And Done

All in all, I did get my four hours of dancing in and ABBA Day was a resounding success. I met a lot of great people and had a lot of fun. And, if I might toot my own horn, my Polar Studios t-shirt made me the envy of everyone who saw it (You'll notice the gentleman above trying to rip it off my back!) So who's up for November 23 in Bristol? I'm checking airfares as you read.

So what is left? Oh, the irony of it all...

Head over Heels

...After all this you might think, Wait a minute. In Part 4: Move On, the guy said he never got the picture. So where did the one above come from? Well, when I wrote Part Four on the train to Malmo as far as I knew I never got the picture. When I arrived back in the United States I developed my film and upon looking at the pictures I was flabbergasted to see that the last picture of me in Old Town taken by the wonderful woman with the two children was actually taken in the very spot that ABBA had stood almost twenty years earlier. And I never knew it! (FYI, I'm standing in Björn's spot.)

So remember be careful what you wish for, you just might get it. Wait...that isn't the right moral for this allegorical story. I'll go think of another one and tell you later.

This piece was originally published in 1996 as a rondelay where each click of a (relatively new thing called the) hyperlink resulted in the display of a new section. It has been updated for this 2012 publication.

I'm also the proprietor of Shhhh! The Official ABBA Bootleg Page, an archive of detailed information regarding more than twenty ABBA bootleg collections and hundreds of tracks.

Monday, April 16, 2012

I Went to The Esalen Institute...

...and all I left with were memories of hot springs over the Pacific, a phenomenal massage, delicious organic food, these pictures of the property and, Peanut Butter and Tahini Central.

Photos taken January 21-22, 2012