Friday, April 26, 2019

Someone at Digitized a Treasury of Vintage Kmart Background Music and Customer Announcements and This Is Why We Have the Internet

Attention Kmart (and Kresge's!) shoppers.

While this blog often covers topics ranging from awesome to awful, I also have a fondness for the antiquated. And this post is about that.

Months ago, maybe even a year or more, I ran across a link to the above-mentioned digital archive. If I remember correctly, I spent several days there listening to the streams. Some went as far back as the early 1960s (when Kmart was known as Kresge's). Most hailed from the early '90s, an era which could arguably be called the chain's last, best days. 

But all of them were amazing. Each conjured a place and time that was simpler, brighter and perhaps a bit happier, when life's necessities and little luxuries could be found at bargain prices in a wonderland of mid-century optimism--all of it accompanied by jaunty tunes and friendly reminders to visit the Pharmacy section for all your healthcare needs, or check out the new Spring arrivals now blooming in our Garden department.

At any rate, I rediscovered the link while I was cleaning out my bookmarks, and was transported all over again.

The fact that Kmart (and its sister store, Sears) is suffering the most protracted of deaths only adds to the bittersweet sense of something lost in exchange for all we've gained: e-commerce, one-touch ordering, two-day shipping.

The bit of synchronicity that makes this that much more interesting (at least to me) is that just last week I drove all the way to Des Plaines, Illinois specifically to visit a Kmart. Ironically, I was there to pick up an internet order from Sears, a black puffer vest I'd been wanting since last fall and was finally on sale for the lowest of last season's prices. 

What struck me immediately after walking through the automatic doors was just how vast the place was. The phrase "as far as the eye can see" would not have been hyperbole. So, after picking up my order and trying it on, I decided to take a walk around for the sole reason that these monuments to middle-class consumerism might not be around much longer.

The most delightful thing I discovered was a selection of men's musk-scented colognes I remember from childhood: Jovan Musk for Men, and White Musk for Men, and Coty Musk. Naturally I tried them all.

I'm going back for that Coty Musk. And once I've spritzed it on, I'll sit down at my desk and take yet another trip back in time.

Please visit the Treasury of Kmart Background Music and Announcements.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Dream Theater: The Murder of T_____ L_____

Photo from
R_____ C_____ was a bully and he hated me. I don't know why. But I was just one of many people at high school he made life miserable for. 

One day, during lunch, I was walking outside and R_____ passed by. For some reason I felt emboldened, and hopeful that maybe I could make him stop. I asked, "What's your problem with me?" 

R_____ looked like he was going to answer, like we might just be able to clear up whatever had started all this. But at that moment T_____ L_____ walked by. Randy turned and grabbed him by the neck, and threw him with enormous strength against a nearby wall.

To my horror, I saw that he'd ripped T_____'s head right off his body. And immediately after, I realized that it could have been me if T_____ hadn't walked by when he did. 

R_____ and I looked at each other. He seemed as shocked as I was by what had happened. 

I ran back to school, and once there tried to act like everything was fine. I decided not to tell anyone what had happened. I told myself someone was sure to find the body, and tie the murder back to R_____ soon enough. 

But that didn't happen. Days passed. We went to class. Everyone buzzed about the terrible murder that had occurred. Randy walked the halls looking like someone with a terrible secret--which he was.

I had one, too. I couldn't eat anything without remembering the sight of T_____'s body, bouncing off that brick wall and landing headless on the sidewalk. I couldn't pay attention during class, couldn't get my work done. I was constantly looking over my shoulder, sure that R_____ meant to kill me next, to make sure I didn't tell anyone. 

Then one day, the police appeared and arrested R_____. All the cheerleaders gathered around him, to make sure he didn't try to escape. It was over. 

Once R_____ had been led away in handcuffs I left my desk and walked over to where Mrs. J_____ was sitting. I leaned in close and whispered to her that I was there when it happened. I saw the whole thing. 

Monday, April 1, 2019

Dream Theater: A Family Reunion

Photo from

There was a family reunion happening, in a hotel on the edge of a city, next door to a small airport. My mother was there, and P_____ had brought her kids. 

It was a strange place. The toilet and tub were right there next to the bed, not separated by a wall or anything, which certainly made me glad I'd gotten my own room. The check-in and check-out times were at odd hours, too, and before I knew it I'd overstayed my reservation and would have to pay for an extra day. Even though most of us were leaving. Meeting our flights at the airport that was just a short walk away. 

A pilot had just landed a small private plane, and I greeted him like a traveling business associate. As we walked toward the hotel I explained some of its quirks, and invited him to join me for dinner. 

My mother was there when we arrived, with my sister and father. This surprised me because my parents had split in a bitter divorce when I was thirteen. But they were going to give things another try. After all these years my father had changed. My mother, too. We all had. 

They wanted to get dinner at a restaurant located on the other side of the city. I'd been there once before. It wasn't worth the trip and I tried to convince them of this, but they insisted. 

I got on the train that would take me there. It was crowded with commuters and children and people who were rude, all of them loud and jostling each other for space. My stop was the last on the line. When I got off I was horrified to discover I was completely naked. 

That's when I remembered: THIS is why I hated this trip so much. Getting off the train naked, with no idea how it had happened. But I'd done it once before and survived. The secret was not minding that I wasn't wearing any clothes. If I ignored it, everyone else would, too. 

Fortunately I found a large cardigan sweater at the foot of a staircase, one that would cover me completely. I wrapped it around myself and climbed the stairs for what seemed like ten or twenty floors and finally emerged in a mall.

I wondered if I could get a pair of pants and shoes somewhere, even though I didn't have any money. Maybe I could explain the situation to whoever was working and they'd understand. That's when I reached into the pockets of the sweater and found a wad of money. Twenties and tens and ones. Enough to buy whatever I needed. And in the other pocket, an ID badge from a hospital. The name on it was Michael Breen, M.D. 

I continued walking through the mall, passing a number of other restaurants that would have been just as good if not better than the one we were going to. It was at the far end and by the time I finally got there my parents and sister were leaving. They'd ordered dinner without me and finished their meals. 

"What happened to you?" they asked.