True Confessions 

We feel our age at St. Charles' new skate park, bare our guilty soul to the Recording Industry Association of America and pay our last respects to another victim of asbestos

The insomnia, the paranoia, the guilt that eats away at our innards. We have sinned, we have knowingly infringed on copyrights. In addition to photocopying about a billion magazine articles, doodling pictures of Mickey Mouse and tattooing the Nike swoosh onto our forehead, we have, in our time, downloaded a few MP3s. But that's not all. In the '80s, we purchased bootleg Clash LPs. And we dubbed cassettes -- lots and lots of cassettes -- from LPs. And now the weight of all that wanton infringement is giving us ulcers. We're done, and we just want to sleep again.

So we contacted Ed Hahn, a lawyer with the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the trade group responsible for the recent rash of prosecutions involving illegal MP3 downloading. We were ready to face the music, so to speak. Hahn suggested we sign the Clean Slate program affidavit, which would provide us amnesty from prosecution if we destroy all the MP3s on our hard drive.

But it doesn't say anything about the LPs and cassettes.

Unreal: I just want to come clean, get it over with. I've got some MP3s. But not only that, I've got some bootleg LPs, and a bunch of home-recorded cassettes that I made in the '80s.

Ed Hahn: Have you had a chance to read about our Clean Slate program?

Yeah, I did, but it doesn't say anything about the other stuff.

You mean the bootleg LPs and tapes?

Yeah.

Hmmmm. Well. Jeez. Well, you can participate in the program, and that would cover you, um, it would basically offer you amnesty from copyright enforcement for anything you downloaded. As far as the bootlegged LPs and that sort of thing, you should probably destroy those. I can't say one way or the other whether you're safe or not from any kind of copyright enforcement in respect to that stuff. I mean, you do the math, and you can probably figure out what the statistics are from getting sued for that. I can't make a statement to the effect that, well, if you destroy that stuff you're fine, you'll never be sued. I just can't do that. If you're worried about it, or you have any questions, you may want to talk to a private attorney.

Yeah, I thought about talking to an attorney, but I just wanted to do the right thing. So I just fill out that confession?

If you want to participate in the program, fill out the affidavit and send it in. And assuming you meet the eligibility requirements, you don't have to worry about any lawsuits.

Okay. But will I be one of the first? Are a lot of people doing this? I'm just worried that I'll become the whipping boy.

No, we've gotten a lot of response.

Okay. So I should burn the LPs and CDs -- no, wait, not CDs. I swear I don't have any bootleg CDs. The tapes and the LPs? I should burn them?

It's probably a good idea.

Skating Away

Unreal figured we'd be rolling with the big dogs on opening day of the new skateboard park in St. Charles County. The 33,000-square-foot skateboarding facility, the first component of the county's Youth Activity Park, is the largest skate park in Missouri, featuring rails, embankments, transitions, ledges, and a nine-foot-deep bowl.

Much to our dismay, we weren't allowed to roll at all. We're too damn old. It seems the only dogs permitted to use the facility are of the little variety. Specifically, those aged twelve to eighteen. The reasoning behind the age limit, according to Bettie Yahn-Kramer, director of St. Charles County Parks: "In terms of providing accountability in the park, [we don't want] people in there that would just be loitering around, maybe not interested in the skating activity."

But what about the chain-link fence that surrounds the skate park, and the fact that staffers are always on hand supervising? "Well, you know, it's an area meant for these young people -- it's an area meant for them to call their own."

There is some hope for skateboarders over eighteen and children under twelve who would like to call the park their own too. Park officials are looking into scheduling separate sessions for each of these age groups. "We're not going to have all ages in there at once, primarily for safety reasons," warns Yahn-Kramer. "There's going to be more information coming out on that in the next couple of weeks to a month."

Having been turned away by park authorities, Unreal took our board to the streets and parking lots. Eventually, a blue-uniformed pair told us we'd have to take it elsewhere. "Where?" we inquired. One of the officers offered sympathetically, "You heard about the new skate park out in St. Charles County?"

In Passing

Harold Louis beamed when he showed off the spoon collection his late wife Ruth had assembled during the trips they took together over the course of a 58-year marriage. He was a consummate host, offering a cup of joe to guests in his spic-and-span St. Peters home. And his eyes twinkled when he revealed his secret for getting invited over to his kids' homes for dinner: Just call and ask how to make gravy.

But Louis was also a retired CertainTeed Corp. asbestos worker at the Bellefontaine Neighbors plant. When RFT staffer Geri L. Dreiling wrote about the 79-year-old earlier this year, he'd just been told that his asbestosis had turned to lung cancer ["Time Bomb," March 12]. The World War II veteran with a Purple Heart and three Bronze Stars admitted he was worried.

Six months later, on Friday, September 19, the disease that had already killed so many of his co-workers finally made Louis another statistic for the asbestos mortality tables.

Memorials for Harold Louis can be made to the American Cancer Society or Unity Hospice.

You Don't Know Dick

Dick Gephardt is a party animal. No, really! Just yesterday the presidential hopeful and his wife Jane sponsored "Gephardt Parties Across America," wherein scores of supporters nationwide purportedly hoisted brewskies and gyrated to Fort Dodge, Iowa-based DJ Mike Gustafson's recently issued "Gephardt Remix." The ditty, formally released by Gephardt's campaign, is an ode to house music's paleolithic, Casio-based Revenge of the Nerds theme-song era, layering Gephardt catch phrases such as "my dad was a milk-truck driver" over rudimentary digital beats. (To hear it for yourself, go to www.dickgephardt2004.com and look for the button that says "Host or attend a House Party.")

Then again, perhaps Gephardt's brush with hipness was an aberration. On September 13, just two days before his campaign distributed Gustafson's remix to the masses, the candidate was the beneficiary of a benefit concert at America's Center. The headliner: Michael Bolton. What, were Peter Cetera and Rick Astley not available? How about Christopher Cross, Richard Marx, Billy Ocean or Toto? Must be Wes Clark men.

Heck, even fringe candidates like Al Sharpton and Dennis Kucinich were able to land James Brown and Willie Nelson, respectively, for similar events.

Next time Dick and Jane want to party with a live band and line the campaign coffers simultaneously, Gephardt needn't look any further than his own backyard. Unreal has it on good authority that local rock titans Head East are pining for a campaign gig. Can't you just picture hundreds of loyal Gephardt supporters firing up their Bics in unison, singing, "Save my life I'm going down for the last time"?

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