Thursday, March 30, 2017

PiL -"Bags" (1986)

Black rubber over black plastic.

The Bags - "Survive" (1978)

Paper over plastic.

Life In A BeLo Bag

Photo by Mike Smith
During the early 1980s, no other grocery store was more identified with a particular pocket of Portsmouth, VA, than BeLo Markets. Displaying slimy meat cases, dented peach cans and expired snack cakes, the place gave resigned shoppers a rudimentary hub to redeem colorful food stamps. Accompanied by my mother and four siblings, we would often stock up on sodium nitrite-laden Carl Buddig lunch meats, extra crumbly Wonder bread and various brands of barbecue potato chips. On our 10,000-pound Zenith behemoth of a TV set, the "C'mon, step right into Belo!/It's a fact our prices bring you in!/Our people bring you back!" jingle regularly interrupted important viewings of C-grade animated fare like "Inspector Gadget" and "He-Man and the Masters of the Universe." The low-cost representation carried over into the hallways of Churchland Academy Elementary. Impoverished students sporting Bobos like Pro Champs and Trax on unfortunate feet were invariably serenaded by "You got your shoes at the BeLo!"- like disses from Nike and adidas owners.

In spite of such negative connotations, I always had a soft spot for the budget mart. Many years later, a shirt kiosk inside Greenbrier Mall created what would become one of my favorite tees to that point. Fashioned after a professional-quality photograph of the BeLo sign on Indian River Road in Virginia Beach, its red, white, and yellow hues drew numerous compliments throughout its four-year stint in my wardrobe. There were even several offers from friends and strangers who wanted to purchase the shirt off my back. Either they shared in the childhood nostalgia of a more carefree era or wanted to exact sartorial revenge on their chests. "Did you get your shirt at BeLo?" many asked. "Why, yes! Yes, I did!"

About seven years ago, my friend Danielle offered a relatively simple gift that still keeps on giving to this day. The BeLo Foods cloth bag was embossed with a familiar-yet-alternate logo on the front and an environmentally themed world map on its reverse side. Not long after being ripped from a Florida-sourced bubble envelope, the tote became popular enough to modestly trend on Facebook. At the Hardcore Norfolk movie première in August 2011, it captured the fawning attentions of several nearby acquaintances before and after the showing. Enjoying a cookout hosted by the Thornton family circa 2012, I wanted local legend Vic Demise to place his hard-earned Portsmouth City Jail ball cap alongside the former food receptacle for a unique photo opportunity that somehow failed to knock.

Retiring from the local music scene and refocusing on haunts in Western Tidewater, the BeLo Bag wisely transitioned into an everyday travel accessory. Eleven Starbucks napkins, two old cups, five straws and four sleeves revealed a strong coffee jones exhibited by its handler. Eight packets of Sugar In The Raw were combined with other ingredients to soothe the soft skin of a pretty princess. Three containers of Chick-fil-A Polynesian Sauce never made it onto a nugget-covered tray, for one carelessly coated plastic bags of Halls Cough Drops and Jolly Rancher candies with sweet stickiness. Two metal spoons were extracted from the same wreckage before the soiled star was gently placed in a Samsung washing machine.

Hygiene reared its closely cropped head per second inspection. A can of Barbasol Thick & Rich shaving cream and eight BIC disposable razors sliced stubborn hairs inside the restrooms of Starbucks locations in Downtown Suffolk and Harbour View. Liberal douses of Polo Ralph Lauren Red cologne were also applied in said lavatories' confines. Two tubes of Gold Bond Ultimate Hydrating Cream remained sealed like an unwanted compact disc from a "Crazy" musician. One yellow Pledge can and two green microfiber towels wiped away recurring smudges on Belk-bought Clarks leather shoes with height-boosting soles.

One final examination indicated a strong fondness for crossword puzzles. An issue of Suffolk News-Herald flashed a filled grid and a condemning notation by the "In spite of" clue that seemed to appear in the city paper every day. (Solution: NOTWITHSTANDING) Two clippings from Sunday's The Virginian-Pilot proved to be far more challenging avocations. Syndicated layouts from The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times conformed to particular themes with selected clues and pitched a fair level of difficulty. Eight ink pens furnished by library systems in Suffolk and Portsmouth provided tools that shaded empty squares. However, an uncapped instrument leaked important source material which soiled nineteen CDs and four peg sports games. The victims were treated for their injuries and released near Sentara Obici Hospital.

Although the music formats and wooden blocks decided not to press charges against the rogue writing utensil, both have since left the area. The BeLo Bag now makes its home inside the trunk of a 1999 Buick Century.

Monday, December 12, 2016

The Specials - "Ghost Town" (1981)

Franklin, VA, on a Saturday afternoon would qualify as one.

Carl Lewis - "Break It Up" (1987)

I wonder if his one-time rival Ben Johnson cut a reggae record...

Stupid Bet


On March 21, 2016, Suffolk Public Library sponsored a trivia competition at Derl'z Restaurant & Pub. Our starting squad, Paul D. Camp (Community College) Dropouts, consisted of Hoyt, Beverley, David and myself. Hoyt and I had previously been teammates on TCC (Tidewater Community College) Dropouts during Applebee's-hosted Q & A contests held throughout the prior two years. Powered by multiple platters of half-priced appetizers, our side furnished full-fledged answers and captured four redeemable $25 gift cards. Enjoying a pre-game cheeseburger and fries at Derl'z, I was confident of our chances to triumph once again. In spite of a point system which required more than one explanation to fully comprehend, we quickly adjusted and skillfully placed no lower than second after each of the six frames. Then came the "Final Jeopardy" wager. I believe the category involved naming ten presidential candidates from the past 40 years who had failed to win seats in the big chair. Because the bet was an all-or-nothing proposition, the omissions cost us silver medals that were practically around our upturned necks. Disappointingly, I explained a strategy we'd neglected to undertake. If the risk had been for zero, our sixth-round total would've sewn up second prize. The difference in the amount of "Derl'z Dollars" between silver and bronze was significant enough to shed a tear in the mug of beer. Grudgingly accepting our spot on the podium, we learned a valuable lesson and resolved to alter the attack in hopes of not repeating history.

If there were ever a night for Paul D. Camp Dropouts to tear open Reese's Pieces packets of redemption, an "80s Reload" theme on July 18, 2016, seemed like the sweet actualization of a "Weird Science" hypothesis. Hosted by The Baron's Pub and again backed by Suffolk Public Library, the Reagan/Bush-era topics would tilt heavily toward the "right" platforms of gaming consoles, athletic endeavors and eccentric entertainers. As children of the ColecoVision who were fascinated by a near-exact translation of Donkey Kong, awed by Walter Payton's eventual shuffle to a Super Bowl ring and amused at Rockwell's phony British accent, Hoyt and I would be main handlers of the pop culture-laced pigskin. Two hours before kickoff, a serious injury report was sent via modern telegram. Our dependable running back would be sidelined by an unexpected workload. This gave me a small window to find a replacement for the deeply apologetic Hoyt on the waiver wire. Desperation forced negotiations with a millennial employee of Starbucks and a baby boomer funeral director. When contract details stalled during the 11th hour, I had to assume full captaincy and break the news to Beverley and Dave. The two 1960s graduates, while not necessarily lead foots, would not be scoring many touchdowns with post-AFL rules in place. A Chuck E. Cheese's ceremonial token flip turned up rat tails and commenced game play.

First music video aired on MTV? Rap song by the Chicago Bears? LL Cool J, Beastie Boys and Public Enemy's record label? Arcade game inspired by M.C. Escher? Those were the soft triggers from emcee Angela Martin in the A-block. Most of the nine teams absorbed Nerf bullets and prepped themselves for harder shots. First guard in 23 years to be named NBA MVP in 1987? Electronic board game targeted to teenage girls that included paper money, credit cards and an ATM? Hank Williams, Jr. anthem which pined, "Nobody wants to get drunk and get loud/Everybody just wants to go home"? We sustained direct hits to our score sheet with erroneous replies. Board game that promised: "You do not have to be Rembrandt ... stick figures and squiggly lines will do just fine"? Beverley drew a lovely check mark with her submission. What nation boycotted the 1980 Winter Olympics after they were told to change its flag and anthem to accommodate China? David exuberantly torched the cauldron and maintained our lead. SEC running back who was MVP of the 1983 Sugar Bowl, 1984 Liberty Bowl and 1986 Cotton Bowl? British band who sang "Ghost Town" and appeared on the soundtrack of 1984's "Sixteen Candles"? Gunther knew the footballer and thought he was special by being the only contestant to blow out the fiery cake in one puff. Going into the betting phase, Paul D. Camp Dropouts and Thundercats Are Go! stood apart from the other seven rosters. Would our minimal edge in regulation be enough to bite into a Baron Burger-shaped award?

With the song "Break It Up" in 1987, what Olympic track star leaped into the world of music videos wearing only a very tight spandex workout suit? Hint: In the 1990s, he butchered "The Star-Spangled Banner" at an NBA game. I'll never forget Charley Steiner's fit of uncontrollable laughter when reacting to the interpretation on ESPN. ("Written by Francis Scott Off-Key," indeed!) Both major contenders passed their batons to Angela and awaited the final tallies. Because of an inexplicable blunder where I risked only 18 or so chips, we pulled up lame just before being the first team to break the tape. Thundercats Are Go! doubled their dowry and captured the championship in come-from-behind fashion. "YOU SHOULD HAVE BET IT ALL!" Angela bellowed at me. I'm almost certain Hoyt would've joined her in the coarse chorus. This choke job gripped far tighter than the earlier mishap at Derl'z. I should've never assumed that our primary challenger's sports knowledge wasn't up to snuff. The John McEnroe in me wanted to rip our $10 runner-up certificate in 10,000 pieces and scatter the shavings across Howard Mast Tennis Center's weather-beaten courts. However, a Stefan Edberg-esque transformation took hold and I calmly exchanged warm thoughts with organizers and opponents alike. Carelessness aside, the "80s Reload" was yet another tremendous happening from the Suffolk Public Library's out-and-about itinerary.

Beverley and I finished in fifth-place at the Pub Trivia Night's Horror Edition on October 24, 2016. The Droogs dominated the proceedings and collected $25 from Derl'z. After the slaughter, Brandon and Henry offered us their meal ticket. Were we stupid enough to kindly decline the undeserved prize? Don't bet on it.