Monthly Archives: February 2015

The Smoke ‘n’ Poke

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For those who don’t know, a head shop is a store that sells smoking paraphernalia.  We began Wonderwall Records in the small back room of a head shop called The Golden Door on the east side of Indianapolis.  When the store owner, Bobby, wouldn’t renew our lease at the end of six months, we assumed the lease of an abandoned linen shop a few doors down the short strip mall.

One traumatic night I witnessed Bobby being shot to the ground by men who were later identified as FBI.  Apparently, he was a drug dealer they had been watching for some time.  After Bobby went to jail The Golden Door was forced to close, and we were put in the precarious position of sending our customers down the street to a competing record store where they could buy their pipes, papers, bongs and roach clips.  It quickly became obvious that we would not survive without adding those items to our store inventory.  Ironically, while we were dedicated to selling music at the lowest price possible, we had no reservations about making obscene profits on this other merchandise.

We were able to operate our store with the social ideals we espoused.  Nobody worked a forty hour work week because we thought people needed to have a life beyond their job.  We provided health insurance for all full time (35 hour) employees, one’s birthday was a paid holiday, and vacation was allotted as one week after one year of service, two weeks after two, and three weeks after three.  We had very little employee turnover, and kept most of the same staff  from 1973-1983.

Since our store was located in close proximity to Fort Benjamin Harrison, we had a steady flow of customers from the Army base where my brother and I had lived as children in the base mobile home park.  The GIs from the fort bought mass quantities of records and cassettes, but they were also shopping for gifts to send their girlfriends back home.

Joyce,Gary,Pam6 (Bonus- Hannah!)

One day a paraphernalia salesman opened his catalog to a selection of vibrators, thumb cuffs, Joy Jelly,  and “dicks on a stick” in white or dark chocolate.  When I asked why he would be selling such things he replied, “Sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll, Joyce.”  I could see the logic in his thinking.  There were strip clubs a few miles from our store.  Between the club dancers and the GIs, we learned there was actually a demand for this merchandise.  We wanted to sell all of these and the smoking paraphernalia out of the sight of children and minors who came in for music, so we built a separate room at the back of the store which employees referred to among ourselves as The Smoke ‘n’ Poke.  On a recent trip to Sydney, Australia, I encountered a sign  that reminded me of those Wonderwall days.

Sydney, Australia sighting

Sydney, Australia sighting

Let’s get this party started!

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Sixty-five years ago I burst onto the world stage from the loins of my Japanese-Hawaiian mother in Montgomery, Alabama.  I promised myself I’d launch this blog today, so the clock is ticking.   I will use this first post to say a little something something about my central beliefs.  If you hold different views, I invite you to express them elsewhere.  This is not a place seeking political debate.

Mother came to the mainland after marrying dad, whom she met on Kauai during World War II.  Dad served twenty-five years as an officer in the U.S. Army, and had to put up with my anti-war and protest marching during my college years at Purdue.  I couldn’t just tromp around carrying signs and stuffing flowers down the barrels of peacekeeper rifles (a contradiction in terms?), though I did both of those.  I  opened my trap to protest tuition fee hikes and ended up quoted in the local paper that was read by my uncle who ratted me out to dad.  Today I express most of my deeply held political views with posts on my Facebook and Twitter pages, but I also dedicate many hours every election cycle to the Democratic Party.

Mother & dad in Hawaii

Mother & dad in Hawaii

I am a product of, and continue to believe in, a strong public education.  My daughters graduated from  Indianapolis and Van Nuys, California public high schools and Indiana universities.  All three of us have spent years as high school educators.  America’s schools need more funding, teachers need smaller classes, and students need high expectations from involved parents and the society who needs them to excel.  I’ve earned the right to speak my truth about this topic through twenty-three years as a special educator at Los Angeles Unified School District and five years of college communications instruction in Indiana.

After graduating from Purdue, I became an entrepreneur.  My wasband, brother and I owned a retail record store and head shop in Indianapolis called Wonderwall.  I  believe that music is a necessity of life, following close after food and shelter.  The arts are necessary and important to any free society.   Music is in my soul, just as it is probably in yours.  I must sing, and have performed since first grade.  I recently found the mimeographed program from my first grade talent show in Lincoln Park, Michigan.  Mother, who died almost seven years ago, never told me she kept that memento.  Last summer I had the honor of performing a reunion gig with members of my pop rock band from the eighties.  Two weeks ago I was privileged to perform at the 51st Women’s AA Conference with a group of mega-talented singers and players.  Nothing thrills me more than performing.  I barely get nervous, only eager, to be in front of an audience.

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Crazy Al’s Indianapolis. Opening for the Go Gos.

 

My record store partners & I prided ourselves on selling music at the lowest prices in town.  Our slogan was, “Wonderwall…where you can afford your music habit.”  After ten years, we closed the store for other pursuits.  The store had not been my dream, but I am thrilled to have survived the experience of working for myself (a lifelong fantasy for so many).

That’s all for now.  The rain is trickling down in Toluca Lake, California.  The 2015 Oscars just ended, and I’m headed to bed as an official senior citizen.  I’m inspired, excited, impatient, and ready to rock this town.

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