“Cleveland Rocks!”

For our anniversary, my wife and I wanted to plan a little getaway to celebrate.  Neither one of us had too much PTO in our “banks” at work, so we decided on a weekend trip.  During the planning the destinations changed frequently.  Originally, we had hoped to head back for another trip to Florida, but due to the lack of time available, we decided on something a bit closer to home.

There was talk of going to Nashville and maybe catching a show at the Grand Ole Opry.  Then there was talk of Gatlinburg, where my mom so often talked about.  I think we even chatted about Pennsylvania, too.  Eventually, we decided that Chicago was where we wanted to go, but then realized that it was St. Patrick’s Day weekend, and we figured it might be just a tad crazy (although seeing the river turned green would have been cool.

Cleveland??

To be honest, I am not even sure how we decided on Cleveland, Ohio.  I had mentioned that my dad had gone to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and said it was cool.  I started to look at things in Cincinnati.  There was a lot to do there, but why wasn’t the Hall of Fame coming up in any of my searches?  I knew that Cincy was close to Louisville, KY and thought that we could maybe do something there, too.  I had gone as far as to drop a radio buddy a note to say we were gonna be down there and asked for good restaurants to eat at … only to then realize the Hall of Fame was in Cleveland!

Now that we had cleared that up, we were set for Cleveland.  Now, I will be the first to admit “Cleveland,Ohio” as the answer to “Where did you and your wife spend your first wedding anniversary?” is not at all romantic.  Many people laughed when I told them.  Here is the thing about my wife and I, the destination really didn’t matter – it was simply the fact that we were going to be together.  To me, this is just one of the reasons I love her.  We can be content with just having time with each other, no matter where we are, or what we are doing.

We have made it a tradition to go to restaurants that local wherever we go.  If we can go there at home, we’ll go there at home!  By doing this, we have really been treated to some amazing food.  We always try to find a good steak house or something very unique to the city we are in and we have yet to be disappointed.

The Hall of Fame

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Personally, I think Sam loves watching me get excited about stuff like this.  We both love museums, but I must have been like a little kid on his birthday during this trip!  I had, of course, seen pictures of the Hall of Fame, but it was something else to be standing in front of it.  The big red block letters that sit upon the sidewalk read “LONG LIVE ROCK”.  As I walked up the steps, there are phoney concert speakers erected by the hand rails. The excitement builds as you walk in.

As you enter, you walk into a huge foyer/lobby.  The gift shop is to your right, to the left a cafe/coffee shop, and in front of you there is an escalator to take you down to purchase tickets.  After buying our tickets, you get ready to enter and above the doors the perfect AC/DC quote to welcome you: “For those about to rock …”

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Walking into the main exhibition hall, the first thing I noticed were pictures of John Lennon and Ray Charles on the wall.  The first thing I am drawn to is a glass case containing Bill Haley’s guitar.  Bill is often credited as being the singer of the first “rock and roll” song – Rock Around the Clock.  There is a picture of him playing it in the case as well.  I am not sure why I was so taken in by it, but I was.

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The next thing we saw was a line of bass guitars that belong to Geddy Lee of Rush.  I didn’t count , but there had to be like a dozen of them.  The information said that this was only part of his massive collection.

The Roots

One thing I was thrilled to see here was the fact that the “roots” of Rock and Roll were well represented.  Rock really evolved from a combination of Gospel, R&B, Bluegrass, Country, Folk, and Blues music. Each of those genres was represented here.  Among my favorite things I saw:  a suite belonging to Hank Williams Sr.; Louis Jordan’s music folder with his music and cue sheets; stuff from Muddy Waters, BB King, and Mahalia Jackson; Ray Charles sunglasses; Carl Perkins Guitar; salutes to Johnny Otis, Big Joe Turner, and Sam Cooke and so much more.   The roots of rock were so well represented.  Without these people and the genres of music, there would be no rock and roll.

Elvis

There is a pretty cool section devoted to Elvis, who was one of the first 10 artists inducted into the Hall of Fame.  The Hall has a standing agreement with Graceland in Memphis (which is a museum in itself) and they send memorabilia to them often, so the exhibit changes often.  There was a very cool motorcycle that was custom-built for Elvis.  His gold sequins suit is there, and a jukebox which was given to him as a gift from RCA Records – it contains only Elvis records.  Also on display was a double Gibson guitar which he played in his film Spinout.

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The Summer of Love

With the 50th anniversary of the “Summer of Love”, there were some very cool things here.  I saw groovy outfits from the Mama’s and the Papa’s, clothing from Jimi Hendrix, and the HUGE mixing board that was used to record some of Jimi’s music.

On thing I really liked to see was the various things that song lyrics were written on.  There were quite a few original pieces of paper where the beginnings of songs were scribbled.  There were also plenty of hotel pads of paper with lyrics on them.  Loved seeing where changes were made to lyrics.

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Cities and Sounds

I loved that there was a section of the hall that saluted cities and sounds.  There was a section devoted to Memphis, Los Angeles, San Francisco, London and Liverpool, Seattle, and of course, Detroit.

In the Memphis section, there were plenty of neat things from Sun Records.  Johnny Cash, Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Roy Orbison all recorded there.  To stand in front of Roy Orbison’s glasses and guitar was pretty awesome.  My earliest musical memories are of my dad playing Roy’s music for me.

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A nice tribute to Motown is here with stuff from Barry Gordy, The Supremes (you can see some of their dresses), Smokey Robinson, and the Temptations are all here.  They were playing the episode of To Tell The Truth with Barry Gordy as we walked through this section.

The Beatles and the Rolling Stones each have a nice section at the Hall.  I thought Mick Jagger of the Stones was taller, but standing by some of his outfits, he’s shorter than I thought.  There is the Asher family piano that Paul McCartney donated, some of John Lennon’s outfits, and the handwritten lyrics to “In My Life”.  A very cool documentary was playing in their section as well.

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I jumped ahead a bit because the next section was London and Liverpool.  There were some very neat things from the Yardbirds, Peter and Gordon, Herman’s Hermits and the Zombies too.  All in all a nice salute to the British Invasion.

San Fran featured stuff from The Grateful Dead and Janis Joplin, while LA featured stuff from The Eagles, Jackson Brown, Joni Mitchell and Neil Young.  One cool thing here was a duffle bag full of hotel keys.  I don’t recall, but I think it said it belonged to one of the Eagles.  They basically kept the hotel key (and keychain) from every place they stayed while on tour.  The bag was stuffed full of some very cool looking keychains!

This section also had tributes to grunge music, punk music and a section called “Rave On” which focused on the “pioneers” of rock.  Those pioneers included Fats Domino, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, The Everly Brothers and Buddy Holly.  Soul Music was also spotlighted here with some awesome suits from James Brown, stuff from Aretha Franklin, pieces of the wreckage from Otis Redding’s plane crash, and Sam and Dave.  Featured in the soul section were two amazing things – guitars from Donald “Duck” Dunn and Steve “The Colonel” Cropper.  They played on almost every Atlantic and Stax record.  They were members of Booker T and the MG’s, and also played with the Blues Brothers.  Very cool to see!!!

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Don’t worry metal heads, there was a section for Heavy Metal too. Oh, and a section for Rap, as well.

Protests

When Rock and Roll started to make waves, it wasn’t too popular with folks.  We tend to forget the hatred toward the genre, but they had plenty of newscasts about burning records, and protests that happened.  It was weird to watch the hatred toward the Beatles and read hate mail to the Rolling Stones.  Other artists that were discussed in this section were Frank Zappa and ELO.

On the Radio

As a radio guy, it was cool to be able to walk up to an interactive touch screen and select a region of the US and then listen to old airchecks of DJ’s from different eras.  Naturally, I had to listen to some of the Detroit personalities:  Dick Purtain, Robin Seymour, and The Electrifying Mojo!  There were plenty of familiar names from all over the states and it was nice to get to listen to their stuff too.

The Power of Rock

On the third level, there was a wall with each “class” inducted into the Hall of Fame by year.  You could also go to a touch screen and search by class, by year, or by artist, and listen to their music.  SO many great songs!!!

The Power of Rock is a short film by Jonathan Demme which features many performances from past Hall of Fame inductions.  So many stars and so many great songs were in this film.  The theater had a light show and great sound for the film and it was almost like you were watching a concert live.  The film ends with Prince’s guitar solo on While My Guitar Gently Weeps – WOW!  Forgot how amazing that was!  They also had some of the great quotes on the walls of the hallway that you left the theater by.  Prince’s outfit from that show and other outfits were there as well.

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Rock on TV

It was also very cool to see some of the TV show memorabilia on this level.  You could go and record something about your favorite singer or album in special booths.  It was pretty cool to stand in front of Dick Clark’s American Bandstand podium!  His microphone was in a glass case with other things like the set design for the Beatles appearance on Ed Sullivan.  They had TV cameras there, Don Cornelius’ suit from Soul Train, outfits from the Jackson Five and Sonny & Cher and the coat worn by Davy Jones of the Monkees that he wore on The Brady Bunch.  There was also some cool musically related stuff from Saturday Night Live, and from various music videos we all watched on MTV.  It was neat to see Paul Shaffer’s keyboard that he played for so many years on the Late Show with David Letterman.

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On the Radio – LIVE

One thing I didn’t realize was that Sirius XM broadcasts their “Classic Vinyl” station out of the Hall of Fame.  Rachel Steele was on air when we went through.  There is a glass window that allows you to look into the studio and watch them broadcast.  I actually felt bad for her.  One thing radio people like is the fact that they can go in to work without really worrying about what to wear, because….who is going to see you!?  Whoever is on the air here, really has to “doll up” every day.

Over all, I loved every second of my visit here!  Any music lover would enjoy themselves!!  If you have never been …. you have to!

Christmas in March

The final stop on the trip was The Christmas Story House.  It is the house featured in the holiday classic.  They renamed the street “Cleveland Street” in honor of the movie.  The Leg Lamp proudly sits in the front window and the Bumpass House is next door.

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This is such an inexpensive treat!  The house looks a little different on the inside, but they have restored much of it to be exactly like it looks in the film, which took a bit because there were a few owners since the movie.

We were allowed to take as many pictures as we liked.  There was a guide who took us through the house and told some stories.  You can see the bathroom where Ralphie solves Little Orphan Annie’s secret message, you can see the many plugs the tree was plugged into, pick up the phone that Mrs. Parker calls Flick’s mom on, see the boy’s room, and see the damper in the kitchen that billows black smoke because of the “clinker” furnace.

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From the backyard you can see the steel mill (still in operation), which helped Jean Sheppard (the author) pick that particular house for the film.  Across the street is a museum with the actual Red Rider BB gun used in the film, outfits from the cast, Darren McGavin’s plaster life mask (used for make up and such), plenty of behind the scenes pictures, and the Old Man’s car.  The gift shop is full of great items and yes, you can purchase a pink bunny suit or a leg lamp (in various sizes).

Sam told me she’d buy me a bunny suit, but only if I wore it every Christmas!  Incidentally, if you have the $$, you can spend the night in the house or next door at the Bumpass house.

The trip was short, but full of good memories.  I love that we were able to do it and I love that we got to spend time with each other. It was the perfect anniversary trip.

Cleveland, does indeed, ROCK!

 

 

 

Some Favorite TV Episodes…

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This blog is my entry in The Fifth Annual Favorite TV Show Episode Blogathon, which is being hosted by Terence Towles Canote and his site, “A Shroud of Thoughts.” Terence has also written a book entitled “Television: Rare and Well Done – Essays on the Medium”.  He writes about TV’s “Golden Age”, westerns, the spy craze of the 1960’s, and a whole lot more.  It is available on Amazon.

His page can be found at: www.mercurie.blogspot.com/

The guidelines for this Blogathon stated that the shows being written about must be at least 25 years old, so you couldn’t write about anything after 1994. There are many participating in this blog and you can read their entries here:

http://mercurie.blogspot.com/2019/03/the-5th-annual-favourite-tv-show.html

To the tube ….

In all honesty, I could have written about countless episodes from countless shows. I may actually try to make it a point to write more about single episodes of shows in the future.  For this blog, there were TV episodes that immediately came to mind and the issue for me became “Which one should I write about?”  I narrowed the list down to four, and Terence said it was perfectly ok to write about all of them!  The shows I have chosen will give you a glimpse of early TV in the 50’s, classic Sci-Fi from the 50’s, and a groovy look at the 70’s.

Three of the four shows that follow are sitcoms.  One of the shows is a drama (which I will talk about more before that episode’s write-up).  I believe TV Guide once said that a good sitcom needed some specific things:  Good characters (even if they are static and predictable), an interesting and relatable plot, structure, believable dialogue, and conflict.   The sitcoms I am writing about certainly have each of these things.  I’d like to add one more element to this:  a pay-off.  Like a good joke, some of the most memorable episodes have a great pay-off at the end.  Some pay-offs are better than others.  Some pay-offs are funny, some are serious, some simply make a point.  Watch for each of these elements as you read about my four choices.

The Honeymooners

The Honeymooners first appeared on TV as a short sketch on the show Cavalcade of Stars on October 5, 1951. When the show moved to the CBS network and became The Jackie Gleason Show in 1952, the sketch continued.  It became a full half hour sitcom in October of 1955 and ran for 39 episodes, which are now referred to as “the Classic 39.”

The show was about Ralph Kramden, New York bus driver, and his wife Alice. They live on a tight budget in a rundown apartment. Ed Norton, a sewer worker, and his wife Trixie live upstairs.  Ralph and Ed are great friends – they bowl together, belong to a lodge, and work together on “get rich quick” schemes. (If this friendship sounds familiar – yes, this show was the blueprint for the cartoon, The Flintstones!) The first TV episode I am writing about is Show #1 of the Classic 39 – TV or Not TV.

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The Honeymooners – TV or Not TV (Originally aired October 1, 1955)

Trixie tells Alice that their TV set is broken, and they need to get a new one. Alice points out that while they are getting their second TV, the Kramdens have never owned one.  Trixie suggests that Alice try to butter Ralph up by giving him the “pipe and slippers” routine.  She tells her to go out of her way to make him feel special and then, when the time is right, ask him for a TV.

When Ralph gets home, Alice puts the plan in action. She brings him slippers, calls him “sweetums” and “Sweetheart face”, brings him the paper, and is acting more loving than normal.  Ralph is immediately suspicious.  He figures she is being extra nice so he won’t go bowling or that her mother is hiding somewhere in the apartment.  She insists that this is not the case and asks what she can get him to drink.  His response is priceless, “Let me have what you’re drinking.  I want to get loaded, too!”

Once she feels he is comfortable, she says, “Oh, by the way, Ralph…” to which he immediately jumps to his feet! “Ah ha!  I knew there was a ‘by the way’ in there somewhere!  What’s ‘by the way’?”  She tells Ralph that the Nortons are getting a new TV and wants to know why they don’t have one yet.  Alice says that Ralph goes out at night to play pool, go bowling, or go to the lodge he belongs to while she is left to look at the ice box, the stove, the sink, and the four walls of her kitchen.  She pleads, “Well, I don’t wanna look at that icebox, that stove, that sink and these four walls.  I want to look at Liberace!”

When Ed Norton comes in, Ralph immediately yells at him and calls him a troublemaker.  He says that because they are getting a new TV, Alice wants one, too.  Ed confesses to Ralph that he was actually hoping that he could borrow some money from him.  He tells Ralph that the new TV’s are expensive and he really can’t afford to get a new one and no one will give him any more credit. This is when Ralph gets an idea that leads to the wonderful comedy of this episode.

Ralph says that he can’t afford a new TV and Ed can’t afford on either, so he says they can both pool together their money and buy one together.  He says it will solve all their problems.  Ralph can still go bowling, Ed can watch his Captain Video shows, and Alice can watch TV while he is away.  Ed begins to question why the TV automatically ends up at the Kramden’s house.  So Ralph suggests flipping a coin to see where the TV ends up.  “Heads I win, tails you lose,” Ralph says.  It comes up tails – so Ed loses.  Ralph pockets the coin and when Ed suddenly says, “Wait a minute” Ralph thinks Ed has figured out he’s been duped.  Nope.  He just wanted his coin back.

In the next scene, Ed is in front of the TV watching Captain Video.  He is wearing his space helmet, adjusts his disintegrator gun, and recites the Captain Video Pledge.  This is the final straw for Ralph.  He says that for three days he has watched nothing but “space shows, westerns, cartoons, and puppet shows” and tonight he wants to watch a movie.  He turns on a romantic movie and in the middle of it, Ed calls it silly and switches the channel back to Captain Video.  Ed then switches it back to Captain Video. It is like two school children fighting back and forth.  Ralph finally yells at Ed to “get out” and Ed reminds him that half of the set is his, and if he goes, half the set goes with him.

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They finally look in the paper to see if there is something that they both can agree on.  They find a boxing match to watch and once it is on it looks “fuzzy”.  Ed suggests that Ralph take the antenna and move it around the room.  He has Ralph move all over and out into the hallway.  One he is out in the hall, Ed locks him out, switches the channel to Captain Video, puts back on his space helmet and listens to Ralph banging on the door!

The next few scenes are among my favorites.  We see Ralph in front of the TV dozing off while watching a movie.  Alice calls to him from the bedroom and says he needs to get to bed because he has to work in the morning.  He shouts back that he is watching The Late Show.  He continues to doze and Alice again calls to him.  He finally gets up and turns the TV on.  His eyes are half closed, and instead of walking through the bedroom door, he walks into the hallway.  In a very funny moment, we hear a bunch of crashing and banging.  Alice runs out of the bedroom to find Ralph walking back in holding his head.  He simply says, “I fell down the stairs.”  As they walk in the bedroom, Alice yells at him for staying up late instead of going to bed.

What follows is one of the best scenes in this episode.  All is quiet and the door to the Kramden’s apartment opens and in walks Ed.  He is in his robe and pajamas and carrying a bag.  He turns on the TV and we hear the announcer say, “And now for the Late, LATE, show.”  Ed pulls out a huge submarine sandwich from the bag and begins to eat as some scary music plays from the TV.  While Ed is eating, there are gunshots and a woman screaming from the TV.  Ralph comes flying out of the bedroom and sees that Ed is watching TV.  He is furious and tells Ed to get out of the apartment.  Ed again argues that he owns part of the set. The argument continues and Alice comes out of the bedroom.

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When Ralph laments “Why does all of this happen to me?” Alice reminds him that he is the one who was too cheap to buy a TV and so he conned Ed into going in on a set with him, so he could get one for half price.  Alice then says that she doesn’t understand them.  She reminds them that they are good friends and they don’t have any troubles when they bowl or shoot pool together.  She asks them why they can’t get along now.  This, of course makes them both feel awful and they apologize to each other.  Ed asks Ralph if he can stay and watch the end of the movie.  When Ralph hears about the movie, he pulls up a chair next to Ed.  As the movie plays, they both doze off and fall asleep.

Alice returns to the kitchen and finds both men asleep.  She gives them both a blanket and says, “I’ve gotta admit it, Ralph.  For once in your life, you’re right.  We should have never gotten a television set.”

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One of the reasons this is one of my favorite episodes is because of the scene where Norton sneaks in to the apartment to watch his movie.  Jackie Gleason did not like to rehearse.  He read the script and performed it once – when the camera was rolling.  When you see this scene, you will notice Art Carney begins to laugh when Ralph comes running out of the bedroom.  It was the first time doing the scene together and it cracked him up.  It is such a quick moment, and you really have to watch Carney when it happens.  The pro that Art was, he is able to recover quickly and finish the scene.

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The second TV Episode I am writing about is also an episode of the Honeymooners and was also part of the Classic 39.  This episode gives us a look at the Norton’s apartment.  Compared to the Kramden’s, the Norton’s look like they are doing much better financially.  It is much nicer, it has a much more updated feel, and he has a machine to record records (which had to cost him a pretty penny).  We also get to see just how much Ralph and his mother-in-law dislike each other, which is one of the reasons this episode is a favorite of mine.

The Honeymooners – A Matter of Record (Originally aired January 7, 1956)

Ralph is excited that he has two tickets to the Broadway hit play, “Murder Strikes Out.”  It is a play that has everyone talking!  It has a chills, thrills, and a surprise ending! Ralph is excited because he has always promised to take Alice to a real Broadway show and he can finally do it.  He tells her to get dressed because they are going to make a date of it.

Alice asks if the tickets are for that night and Ralph tells her they are.  She tells Ralph that she cannot go because her mother is coming over for a visit.  He cannot believe that she would give up a night to go to a real show because her mother is coming.  She tells him that it is impossible and that she cannot go because he mother is going to arrive any minute.  She suggests that Ed Norton go with him.  Ed agrees and goes up to change.

Ralph is more and more angry at the thought of Alice not going because of her mother.  It is obvious that she and he do not get along with each other.  He cannot believe that he is going to the play with a “space cadet” because of her mother.  He bad mouths her and Alice says that she knows her mother isn’t the easiest person to get along with and tells Ralph that is no reason to act the way he is.  He tells her that he acts that way because “Your mother is a blabbermouth.”

This word is obviously not one that Alice likes at all and tells Ralph to stop calling her that.  He replies, “All right, you’re the expert on crossword puzzles.  Give me another word for blabbermouth.”  He then explains why he dislikes her so much.  He tells Alice that from the moment she arrives until the moment she leaves, she’ll be talking about why she should have married one of her other boyfriends, why he is so fat, and why there isn’t new furniture in the apartment.  He says she is nosy and “if there is one thing I hate, it’s a nosy blabbermouth!”

With this Alice delivers an ultimatum.  “Now listen Ralph.  I am warning you for the last time. You call her that once more, and when my mother leaves here tonight, I just might go with her.” Ralph tells her he won’t say a word to her or her mother.  Alice says that would be fine because there won’t be any arguments that way.  Ralph then asks, “You think because I don’t say a word, there won’t be an argument?  I’ll bet you a million dollars that she won’t be in this apartment three minutes before she starts an argument! I won’t have to say a word!”

With this there is a knock at the door and Alice’s mother comes in. As she enters, in a very funny move, Ralph grabs the alarm clock and sets it for 3 minutes.  He holds up three fingers to Alice as if to say, “She’s got three minutes!”  As soon as mother is in the door, she complains that Alice lives too far from the subway.  She slams Ralph by saying that she guesses that they can’t do better with the rent they can afford and how important it is to have a husband who is a provider.  She then says that Alice looks think and accuses her of not eating – she even goes a step further to slam Ralph by insinuating that maybe she’s not getting enough of the food in the house.  With each little jab, Ralph gets more uncomfortable and rolls his eyes.

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Just as predicted, Alice’s mother then begins to talk about an old boy that “used to be crazy” about Alice.  She tells him how tall and handsome he is and then jabs at Ralph again saying, “I guess a man doesn’t have to get fat if he doesn’t want to.”  She then goes a step further and says “of all the boys you brought to our house, he’s the only one I had any use for.” (Ralph had obviously been to her house – so we have yet another jab at him.)

Alice pours her mother a cup of coffee and asks Ralph if he wants some, but he just grunts (keeping his promise not to say a word).  Her mother asks what’s wrong with him, and Alice tells her he is fine and that he is going to the Broadway show.  When she tells her mother the name of the show, she brushes it off and simply says “oh that.”  Ralph continues to be agitated as Alice’s mother says that her neighbor has seen it.  She goes on about how it was supposed to be suspenseful and give you chills and thrills, and then says, “and all that stuff about ‘don’t tell your friends the surprise ending.’  Well it was no surprise to Mrs. Finley (the camera is on Ralph as Alice’s mother is about to spoil the whole thing). She knew the whole time that it wasn’t the uncle who committed the murder – it was the husband!”

What follows is the moment that brings this episode to my list of favorites:

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As if on cue, as soon as Alice’s mother ruins the ending of the play, the alarm clock rings.  The three minutes are up and Ralph is done.  He stands up and slams his hand on the alarm clock to shut it off.  He turns to his mother and in classic Jackie Gleason style yells, “YOU.  Are a Blabbermouth!  A Blabbermouth!  You!  Blabbermouth!” and then tells her to get out!  Throughout his rant Alice is trying to get him to stop.  Alice’s mother get’s up and leaves.  Ed walks in as Alice walks out.

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Ralph tells Ed that Alice’s mother ruined it all for him.  He tells Ed the outcome of the play.  That doesn’t bother Ed, who still wants to go.  When Ralph questions why he’d want to go now that he knows the ending, Ed says he’ll watch it right up to the end and then get up and walk out.

In the next scene, we see Ralph sulking because Alice is still at her mother’s house.  She’s been gone 5 days and Ralph is miserable.  He tells Ed that if he could find a way to talk to her, he would pour out his heart to her and she’d forgive him.  Ed has an idea.  He pulls out a recorder and tells Ralph he can record an apology on a record and that way, Alice will know exactly how sorry he is.

As Ralph begins to apologize to Alice.  He tells her how miserable he is without her there.  He then even apologizes to her mother.  As he does so, he says that “she doesn’t mean the things she says.  It’s just her nature. She doesn’t mean to be mean.  She’s just born that way.”  The more he talks about his mother-in-law, the more angry he becomes.  It’s like he is reliving the entire moment all over again.  As he continues, he gets louder and angrier.  “When she spilled the beans about the end of the play, I shouldn’t have got mad at that.  I should’ve expected it from her. I know how she is.  It’s never gonna be any different Alice! She’s gonna be the same old way, Alice!  She’s a Blabbermouth! ….”

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Ed jumps in and stops him and asks him what he is doing.  He explains that every time he thinks of her mother he flips. He tells him to stop thinking about her mother and to think about Alice.  Ed puts his last blank record on the recorder, leaves the room at Ralph’s request and Ralph records a very heartfelt apology.  We really see the tender side of Ralph as he records this.  When he is done he calls Ed back into the room.  Ed begins to cry because he has been listening.

Ralph gives Ed Alice’s mother’s address and he addresses the envelope.  Ed asks his wife to hand him the record from the recorder, and she hands him the first record! In the next scene, Ralph is questioning Ed – Did he send it?  Did he send it to the right address? He cannot figure out why Alice hasn’t come home.  There is a knock on the door and it is one of the members of Ed’s stickball team.  He tells Ed that one of the members can’t play the next day because he has the measles.  The boy also says that Ed’s wife told him he’d be down with Ralph and that she was upstairs talking to Alice.

Ralph is excited because she is in the building and MUST be coming home.  He tells Ed to go back upstairs so he can be alone when Alice comes back.  He thanks him for mailing the record.   When Alice comes in, she is quiet.  Ralph asks if she got the record and says he meant every word.  She looks at him and says, “So my mother was born mean, huh? It’s in her nature, huh?  Once a blabbermouth always a blabbermouth ….”  She tells him she is glad he sent her the record because now she knows how he really feels and leaves. Ralph pleads as she leaves and tells her she got the wrong record.  After she is gone, he calls up to Ed Norton to come down.  He wants to tell him “how it came out.”  As the scene fades out, Ralph is smacking the stick from the stickball boy on the kitchen table awaiting Ed’s arrival.

The next scene opens with Ed entering Ralph’s apartment.  Ralph angrily tells him to leave.  He calls him a menace and tells him to leave.  Ed informs Ralph that Alice is coming back.  He took the right record over to Alice’s mother’s house and played it for her.  He tells Ralph that she cried and cried and forgives him.  He tells Ralph that she is on the way home, and will be bringing him a steak for dinner.

There is a knock on the door and it is someone from the Health Department.  He asks if there are any children living there.  Ralph says no.  The doctor explains that there is an outbreak of measles in the building and names off the children who have it – all of who are on Ed’s stickball team.  The doctor asks if Ralph has ever had the measles and he says no.  He gives him a quick exam and says he has them now, and explains that he probably caught them from hanging around Ed.

When Alice finally arrives home, she is prevented from entering by the Health Department doctor.  Ralph begs the doctor telling him that he hasn’t seen his wife in three weeks.  Ralph reluctantly tells Alice to go back to her mother’s until the outbreak has subsided.  Ed tells Ralph how impressed he is, sending his wife away so she don’t get the measles, especially when he really wants her there.  He says how sad it is tat he’ll be there alone to cook and clean.  Ralph grabs the stick, begins to slam it on the table and says, “She didn’t leave me with the mess, stickball coach!” and yells at Ed to put on the apron.

I think that this is just another example of a great story and great writing.  The story has twists to it (wrong record mailed, catching the measles) and we get to see not only the typical angry Ralph, we get to see the tender side and just how much he and Alice love each other.  We also see some wonderful gestures from Ed as Ralph’s friend.  It is just a great all around episode with some very touching and very funny moments.

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My third pick for favorite TV Episodes comes from the pen of Rod Serling.  It also comes to us from The Twilight Zone.

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Personally, I think Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone was such a big hit because of the formula it followed.  Each episode started with a sort of teaser – something to introduce you to the characters or the situation.  This was usually followed by a narration by Rod.  You then have “Act 1” which furthers the story and identifies the “conflict”, if you will.  “Act 2” the characters try to resolve the conflict, we are led to the climax, and the fake or false resolution and the pay-off/twist at the end.

This is far from original, as many radio shows in the 1940’s followed this same format.  You can give a listen to Suspense, The Mysterious Traveler, or The Whistler to find examples of this.  Rod, obviously listened to a lot of radio growing up to the radio and was influenced by this.  He used some of the same elements as he wrote shows for the Twilight Zone.

If you had to pick a show from the Twilight Zone series that exemplified a “classic” episode, Time Enough At Last would easily be one of the choices.  It has characters we connect with and feel for, it has a plot that is believable (and very possible at the time it aired), very real dialogue (Rod was very particular about making sure the words spoken by the actors were genuine), and a very ironic twist at the end.

The Twilight Zone – Time Enough At Last (Originally aired November 20, 1959)

As the story opens, we are introduced to Henry Bemis (played by the amazing Burgess Meredith), a bank teller who sees the world through “Coke Bottle” glasses and loves to read.  As a matter of fact, he is reading on the job, and his reading has caused him to not give enough money to his customer.  He is so enthralled by the book he is reading, he even asks his customer if she’s read it.  He goes on about the characters and the story, but by the time he looks up from the book, she has already left.  No one seems to be as interested in the book as he is.

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Reading on the job is taking a toll on his work.  He is reprimanded by his boss, the bank president who tells him to read on his own time.  He is told that is he is caught reading on the job again, he can basically look for another job.  Reading is also getting him in trouble at home.  His wife detests that he spends so much time reading and has basically told him it is not allowed at home.  His wife is a real witch who says that when he is reading he is “sacrificing conversation”. (In all honesty, she isn’t very pleasant and I can’t imagine conversation with her being pleasant either.

She tells Henry that they are going to visit friends.  He grabs a book from under a couch cushion and sticks it in his jacket pocket.  His wife asks him what is in his pocket and he acts like he has no idea.  It is a book of poetry.  She asks if he would like to read her something from it.  He gets excited that she is interested to hear poems and he opens the book to find that she has gone through with a pen or pencil and scribbled out every word on every page of the book.  He is visibly upset by this and she grabs the book and rips out the pages and throws them on the floor.  He drops to the floor and begins to scoop them up.

I love the opening narration from Rod Serling:

“Witness Mr. Henry Bemis, a charter member in the fraternity of dreamers. A bookish little man whose passion is the printed page but who is conspired against by a bank president and a wife and a world full of tongue-cluckers and the unrelenting hands of a clock. But in just a moment, Mr. Bemis will enter a world without bank presidents or wives or clocks or anything else. He’ll have a world all to himself – without anyone.”

The next day, we see Henry look at the clock, grab his book and newspaper, put up his “this window closed” sign, and he heads off to read at lunch.  We see him walk to the basement, he enters the bank vault, pulls the door shut and sits down to read.  The newspaper headline foreshadows what is to come:  “H-Bomb Capable of Total Destruction”

While in the vault, Henry is knocked unconscious by a huge shock wave.  When he wakes up, he walks upstairs to find total desolation.  The bank is in ruins there is complete destruction.  As he wanders outside, we hear the eerie sounds of howling winds and see a smoldering landscape.

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As he wanders through what is left of the world, the Rod Serling narration returns:

“Seconds, minutes, hours, they crawl by on hands and knees for Mr. Henry Bemis, who looks for a spark in the ashes of a dead world. A telephone connected to nothingness, a neighborhood bar, a movie, a baseball diamond, a hardware store, the mailbox that was once his house and now is rubble; they lie at his feet as battered monuments to what was but is no more. Mr. Henry Bemis, on an eight hour tour of a graveyard.”

As he continues to walk and examine the rubble, he finds what is left of his mailbox.  He calls to his wife, but there is no answer.  It is becoming more and more obvious that he is the last man on earth.  On the bright side, there is plenty of food.  There are cans of food available in the remains of grocery stores.  Sadly, he is alone.  He even states that the “worst part” is “being alone”.

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As time continues to pass, despite Henry telling himself that it’s ok, he is desperately searching for someone – anyone!   He wants to find something to do and someone to do it with. He stumbles on what is left of a sporting goods store and on the ground he sees a revolver.  He thinks of the terrible loneliness, picks up the revolver and decides to commit suicide.  As he puts the gun to his head, and notices in front of him the remains of the public library.

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He runs to find books – hundreds of books!  He picks them up and reads off titles and authors.  He has hit the jackpot!  He can get lost in the stories of romance, adventure, and more!  There is no one to tell him whether he can or cannot read!  No one is there to tell him what to read and what NOT to read!  He has found the mother load of books and they are all his for the reading!

He stacks the books into piles.  He has 12 piles for every year.  Each pile contains the books that he will read for that month.  He has piles for years to come.  He has planned it out and is excited to know that he will be able to spend the rest of his days lost in books.  He was a man who never had enough time to read.  As he sits on the library steps he says that “the best thing is there’s time.  There’s all the time I need.  All the time I want.  Time.  Time.  Time!  There’s time enough at last!”

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We see Henry Bemis in a moment of perfect jubilation, and it all changes in the blink of an eye.  He sees a book on the stairs, and as leans down to reach for it, his glasses fall from his face and the lenses break.  He searches for them with his hands and eventually finds the frames.  He lifts them up and the lenses, which are cracked, fall out and fall to the ground.  In the classic Twilight Zone twist, Henry says simply,  “That’s not fair. That’s not fair at all. There was time now. There was all the time I wanted…! That’s not fair!” He bursts into tears, surrounded by books he will never be able to read.

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As powerful as this is, what makes the ending even more powerful is the final narration of Rod Serling:

“The best-laid plans of mice and men – and Henry Bemis, the small man in the glasses who wanted nothing but time. Henry Bemis, now just a part of a smashed landscape, just a piece of the rubble, just a fragment of what man has deeded to himself. Mr. Henry Bemis – in the Twilight Zone. “

It’s interesting to note that the final narration may be a tip of the hat to actor Burgess Meredith’s acting credits – he was in the 1939 movie “Of Mice and Men”.  Rod Serling must have liked him as he, and Jack Klugman each starred in 4 episodes of the series.  He is also in the episodes Mr. Dingle The Strong, The Obsolete Man, and Printer’s Devil.  he also appears in the Twilight Zone movie.

Why is this one of my favorite TV episodes?  To me it is just perfect.  I don’t care how many times I see it, I am always blown away at the ending – and ending that I know is coming, and yet, still love it.  It is a masterpiece!

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My final entry to this blog is a selfish one.  For 30+ years, I worked on the radio as an on air personality.  So I guess it makes sense to give a nod to one of the greatest “radio” oriented TV shows, WKRP in Cincinnati.  This sitcom is funny to watch whether you work in radio or not.  It’s a bit funnier if you work in radio, because you truly know someone just like each of the characters of this show!

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While in radio, I worked as a Program Director (Andy Travis’ job on the show), Promotions Director, Music Director, Assistant Program Director, Production Director, and even held the position of General Manager (Arthur Carlson’s job on the show) for a short time.  Usually, the Promotions Director and the Program Director get together to come up with an promotional idea for the station – usually a giveaway or something like that.  A Salesperson (Herb Tarlek on the show) then goes out to find a sponsor to tie in with the promotion.  It is then executed on the air with the personalities (Dr. Johnny Fever and Venus Flytrap on the show).

This episode made my list of favorites because, first of all, it has all the great things that a good sitcom should have (mentioned above), second, I’ve had to deal with radio promotions that didn’t go as planned, the pay-off of this episode is one of the greatest in television, and finally, the premise of the show is based on a real event!  Over the years, the origins are not quite clear, but MOST of the stories say that a radio executive named Clarke Brown who said that an Atlanta radio station did a similar promotion where the turkeys were given away.

As I stated, the pay-off to this episode is so good, it really is the reason why it makes all the “best of” lists.  The story is a slow go to get there.  The first act of the episode sets up the premise and it isn’t until halfway through the show that we start to see where it is going and finally get to the pay-off.

WKRP in Cincinnati – Turkey’s Away (Originally aired October 30, 1978)

General Manager Arthur Carlson just wants to be a part of things.  His mother owns the radio station and he is managing it.  He is nosing around the on air studio, he is asking questions of everyone and Program Director, Andy Travis is hearing all about it.  “You gotta do something about Mr. Carlson…”

The station had just recently flipped formats to a rock format, and Mr. Carlson is starting to feel left out of the day to day operations, and a bit unappreciated.  He seems to be up in everyone’s business.  We learn that Mr. Carlson has come up with a Thanksgiving promotion and only he and Herb know about it.  There is a lot of concern among the staff, but Andy is ok to let Mr. Carlson have his promotion.

As the stage to the second act is set, Les Nessman, WKRP’s newsman has now been brought in to go to the spot where the “event” will happen and broadcast live.  We still don’t know what the secret promotion is!  We just know it will be big and Les will do a play by play.

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The pay-off begins when Les begins his broadcast from the Pinedale Shopping Mall. As he begins to broadcast, we see Dr. Johnny Fever, Venus Flytrap, Andy Travis, and Bailey Quarters in the studio listening to the broadcast.  Les begins by saying:

“I’m here with hundreds of people who have gathered to witness what has been described as perhaps the greatest turkey event in Thanksgiving Day history. All we know for sure is that in a very few moments there are going to be a lot of happy people out here.”

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It is obvious by his play by play that he has really no idea what is about to happen either.  He says he hears the sound of a helicopter.  Andy is also intrigued as he asks those around him, “A helicopter?”

In a very funny moment, Les says there is something being pulled behind the helicopter.  It is a banner.  “and it says H a p p y… T h a n k s… giving… from W… K… R… P!” What is funny to me (as a radio guy) is that he reads it, and even though he works for the station, he drags out the call letters one at a time…..” Even the people in the studio at the station are trying to help him drag out the call letters!

Note:  The Hindenburg was a huge airship that literally exploded and the disaster was broadcast on radio.  When the writers wrote Les’s broadcast, they had that broadcast in mind.

For what happens next, here is the script of Les’s broadcast courtesy of http://www.imdb.com:

Les Nessman:  “What a sight, ladies and gentlemen. What a sight. The ‘copter seems to circling the parking area now. I guess it’s looking for a place to land. No! Something just came out of the back of a helicopter. It’s a dark object, perhaps a skydiver plummeting to the earth from only two thousand feet in the air… There’s a third… No parachutes yet… Those can’t be skydivers. I can’t tell just yet what they are but… Oh my God! They’re turkeys! Oh no! Johnny can you get this? Oh, they’re crashing to the earth right in front of our eyes! One just went through the windshield of a parked car! This is terrible! Everyone’s running around pushing each other. Oh my goodness! Oh, the humanity! People are running about. The turkeys are hitting the ground like sacks of wet cement! Folks, I don’t know how much longer… The crowd is running for their lives. I think I’m going to step inside. I can’t stand here and watch this anymore. No, I can’t go in there. Children are searching for their mothers and oh, not since the Hindenburg tragedy has there been anything like this. I don’t know how much longer I can hold my position here, Johnny. The crowd… (Silence)”

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Richard Sanders, who plays Les, is brilliant in this scene.  You can totally see the horror in his face as he realizes what is happening.  That, along with his wonderful read of the dialogue, makes this a very believable story!

Johnny Fever, in shock as are the rest of the staff in the studio, turns on the microphone once he realizes they have lost communication with Les and in a brilliant live ad-lib says:

“Thanks for that on-the-spot report, Les. For those of you who’ve just tuned in, the Pinedale Shopping Mall has just been bombed with live turkeys. Film at eleven.”

We then see Jennifer, Andy, and others fielding complaint calls.  Les walks in and he is stunned and in a state of shock.

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When asked what happened, Les replies:

“I don’t know. A man and his two children tried to kill me. After the turkeys hit the pavement, the crowd kind of scattered but, some of them tried to attack me! I tried to jam myself into a phone booth. Then Mr. Carlson had the helicopter land in the middle of the parking lot. I guess he thought he could save the day by turning the rest of the turkeys loose. It gets pretty strange after that.

When Mr. Carlson and Herb walk in to the station, they look like they have been through hell.  Their clothes are torn, there are feathers on them, and they look disheveled.  Mr. Carlson is in disbelief!  He tells the staff that he doesn’t understand how it didn’t work.  He tells them that he had planned it out down to the last detail. He went as far as to say, “It was perfect!”.

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Mr. Carlson and Herb walk into his office and the rest of the staff continue to ask Les about what happened.  Terrified, Les says that it was like the turkeys mounted a counter attack and were “organized”.  The credits of the show begin to appear on the screen and then we have the classic pay-off.  Carlson emerges from his office and says the ten words that make this episode a classic:

“As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly!”

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As I said, it was a slow build up, but the pay-off remains one of the most quoted lines from the show.  As mentioned earlier, the episode is based on a real radio station event.  In real life, the turkeys were thrown off trucks to listeners, and sadly, the results were about the same.

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I chose these episodes after thinking on it for about 5 minutes.  In that time I came up with about 15 episodes and narrowed it down to these.  After I made the decision, I realize that I could have written about my favorite episodes of Perry Mason, Sanford and Son, Mission: Impossible, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Get Smart, The Monkees, and the list goes on and on….  These were just the ones that hit me immediately.  I suppose it is nice to know that I will have a few in the bank for next year’s blogathon.

I want to thank Terence for indulging me and allowing me to write about four episodes instead of one.  Thank you for reading!

How about you?  What is YOUR favorite classic TV episode??

 

 

 

 

Tune Tuesday – Let Them Talk

In a new feature (which I may or may not continue), I want to feature some tunes I like once a week.  What better day of the week to do it than on Tuesday?

Many know award-winning actor Hugh Laurie for his role as Dr. Gregory House on House, MD (his American accent always blew me away as I watched, because I knew he was English).  He was half of the comedy duo of Fry and Laurie with Stephen Fry.  He appeared on the show Jeeves and Wooster, the films Sense and Sensibility, 101 Dalmatians, and Stuart Little, and had authored a book (The Gun Seller).  He is also a very talented musician.

Today’s tune is the title track from his first album – Let Them Talk.  The album is subtitled “A Celebration of New Orleans Blues” and is just fantastic.  His piano work is just marvelous and he sings with feeling.  The period instruments and guest vocalists add to the feel of some great blues music.

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I picked this song for a few reasons.  First, I love the attitude of the song – “Let them talk!”  In my life recently, there are way too many people who are talking about me, my life, and what’s going on in it.  It is easy to get caught up in wondering what people think … but in reality, who cares?!  LET THEM TALK!  Maybe they are talking because they see how much better things are for me.  Maybe they are jealous.  Maybe they are unhappy with their own lives and aren’t happy unless they are talking smack about others.  I don’t know.  Whatever the case, LET THEM TALK!

Another reason I love this song is that it is a guy singing about just how wonderful it is to be with his special someone.  As you can tell by my last few blogs, I feel the same way!  I want to yell at the top of my lungs how much I love my wife!  I want the world to know how special she is and how special our relationship is!

The final reason I love this song is the simplicity of it musically.  A voice and a piano (and a few minor instruments).  It is so stripped down and yet it causes you to get lost in the song.  Give it a listen and enjoy:

Let Them Talk – Hugh Laurie

Just let them talk
If they want to
Talk don’t bother me
I’m gonna keep on to the whole wide world knows
That I really love you
I really love you so

Let them whisper
For they know know
What’s between you and I
I’m gonna keep on
I’m gonna keep on loving you
’till the day that I die

They tried to break up our romance
They didn’t stay a chance
We have the kind of love that’s so strong
We’ll be together from now on

They say that gossip comes from the devil’s workshop
And only true love can make it stop
I’m gonna keep on
I’m gonna keep on loving you
’till the day that I die

Oh they’re envious of everything that we do
But I wanna say it’s wonderful
When you love someone
And that someone
And that someone, really loves you

And that someone
And that someone, really loves you

Yeah that someone
And that someone, really loves you

Yeahhh

And that someone
Yeah that someone, really loves you

 

 

Part III – To the Aisle

One year ago, March 19, 2018, Sam and I were married. In the last 365 days, I have been blessed with the most wonderful partner! We have had some really amazing moments and our love for each other continues to grow with each passing day. After she said yes to my proposal, we began to plan the wedding. The plans that led up to it, changed quite often, as you will see.

We began to search for venues to host the event. We found a couple of really neat places. One of them was up in Clair. It was a very rustic looking hall and we thought we might do the ceremony and reception there. It would be a little hike for family and friends, and we took that into consideration. There was another place that looked nice too, it was small and they had packages were we could do a ceremony and brunch afterward. Then we looked at a barn which was also very nice. I have DJ’d a few “barn weddings” and they are always very nice. We both liked the idea of the “rustic” look.

We then began to plan a vacation for the two of us. We were talking about a trip to Florida. Sam had never been to a Detroit Tiger game and I had never been to Spring Training. We kind of built the trip around Spring Training. As we were doing this, the thought of getting married in Florida became something we talked more and more about. We would, of course, tell our folks. The original plan was to get married in Florida, and then come home and have a big back yard party. We would invite all of our friends and family, and at the party, we’d let everyone know we had gotten married. We planned to “renew” our vows again in front of everyone. I had a buddy of mine ready to DJ for us and everything. Due to circumstances beyond our control, we were unable to do that.

I am, however, getting ahead of myself. Let me back track a bit. Once we decided to get married in Florida, we had to research all that needed to be done to be sure we were ready when we got there. We found out that in Florida, there were certain things that we had to do. One of those things was a pre-marriage class. We were able to do it online and we both found it very interesting and beneficial. We learned a lot more about each other and found we had things in common that hadn’t come up prior to this. Once we finished the class, we printed off our Certificates of Completion and filed them in our “Florida” folder.

Burma Shave

As I have mentioned in the previous blogs, Sam and I met because of the Sleep Program at Baker College. Two of the instructors, Christine and Michele, were instrumental in our getting together. No, they didn’t hook us up or anything like that. They did, however, suggest me as a tutor, which ultimately led to Sam and I becoming friends – and more. The entire time we had been dating, we kept it from them. At one point, one of them even told Sam that I “wasn’t her type”.

When we knew what the plan was, and knowing what key roles they both played in our getting together, we decided that they would be the first ones to know. We tried to think of a cool way to tell them and I came up with one. We’d be leaving for Florida on a Thursday. We’d arrive on Friday and planned on getting married Monday afternoon at the county courthouse. Each day they’d get an “update” from us in the style of Burma Shave signs.

For those who may not know what I am talking about Burma Shave was a cream that was used for shaving. They used to have poems along stretches of highways, including the world famous Route 66. As you drove you’d see the first line – then the next one – the next one – and so on. Here is a picture of what some of them looked like:

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They were very popular.

So, I wrote a little poem for each day, detailing our day’s events. In re-reading them in the messages we sent to Christine and Michele, I laughed and felt that they would be perfect for this blog. The only poem I actually sat and thought about was the one for when we had gotten hitched. The rest were written on the fly in a matter of minutes. The last one was really the one I put a lot of time into.

What I love about them is that they are really generic and in no way, shape, or form tip them off on anything until the final poem. I wrote to Christine and Michele the day before we left “Over the next 7 days – Sam and I have decided to treat you both to odes about our trip. I am sure that you will enjoy them, laugh and smile.” I hope you do as well.

Thursday, March 15th.

We left right after I got home from my midnight shift. Sam drove while I slept and then we switched off. Once we got in the car I sent this to Christine and Michele:

“As we drive, I’ve got nothing but time. Be prepared for a week full of rhyme. Nobody talks this way – it’s kind of dumb. Who the hell cares, Florida here we come!”

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Friday, March 16

“We have arrived all safe and sound. We see the palm trees lining the ground. 170 more miles to where we will stay. It feels damn good to be away. So here we go with day number one. We’re happy to be in the Florida sun.”

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We arrived at our hotel and we were pretty tired after that long drive! We did get the chance to relax a bit out by the pool. We relaxed and rested up for the remainder of the night. We were so tired, we spent our first evening having pizza delivered and eating it in bed.

Saturday, March 17

“The windows are down and we feel the breeze, as we drove past rows of palm trees. We headed out to Disney Springs and shopped. If I didn’t have her hand, Sam would never have stopped. Now it is off to enjoy a nice steak. We hope you enjoy these posts from our break.”

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We spent the day in Disney Springs and it was a lot of fun. I had no idea this place even existed. There were lots of things to see and I enjoyed some of the great stores, including the Lego store. Because of the reference to the steak, this must have been the night we went to Outback Steakhouse where a couple gave us a free “bloomin’ onion”!

Sunday, March 18

“Day three finds us among the beachers. Yet, here we sit thinking of our favorite teachers. I am wondering if Sam will ever learn, to wear sunscreen so she will not burn. I, too, worry about getting to red. Especially on the top of my head. The best rhyme is yet to come. We promise to tell you tomorrow by one.”

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We spent the day at St. Pete’s beach. It was truly an amazing day. What a joy to sit in the sun and talk to each other. We did indeed get sunburned. Sam was very red by the time we left the beach. We were both hurting a bit the next day. When we got back to the hotel, we sent one more poem.

“Are you sick of my poems I send you each day? I really hope not, there are more on the way. I’ll send you one more before your next class. Until then we’re getting sand out of our ass”.

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After we went to the beach, we came back to our hotel and asked about good local places to eat. The hotel recommended a tremendous Mexican restaurant. It was called Tapatio’s. We almost went somewhere else because the place was packed. I am glad we stayed because not only was the food delicious, they had a mariachi band that was playing while we were there. They were a lot of fun and they interacted with the customers and took requests. It was one of many great highlights!

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Monday, March 19 – Wedding Day.

We woke up very excited. I had never been more sure of anything in my life! We dressed and got ready to leave the hotel to head to the courthouse. I wore a maroon shirt and tie, and Sam had a beautiful white dress that she bought for the occasion. Sam is NOT a dress person at all, but we both wanted to dress up and make sure to get pictures at the courthouse.

There were a few people there before us. We filled out all of the appropriate paperwork and were asked if we wanted to get married there at the desk or in the back where they had a room they performed ceremonies. We chose to go to the back. They had a beautiful archway that we stood under. It was just Sam, me, and our officiant. It was a truly special moment. It was intimate and emotional. When we were pronounced man and wife, my heart was filled with a joy I cannot describe. I replay that first kiss over and over in my mind – it was so awesome.

Once we were “official”, we took our picture outside the courthouse with our marriage certificate. It was then time to send the final poem.

“Waking up to vacation day four, you asked for poems – get ready for more. We’ve posted some pics and lots of tags – time now to let the cat out of the bag. Sometimes a secret is very hard to keep. By the end of this rhyme we hope you don’t weep. Let me take a minute to calm all your fears. If you do cry, they will only be happy tears. ‘Happy’ is what you want us to be. That’s what we are, you can take it from me. Our trip to Florida will be over all too soon. But it’s not only a trip – it’s a honeymoon. I asked Sam way back in the fall, now this is where you may start to bawl. Remember when you said I wasn’t her type? Maybe you just got caught up in the hype. Did you see this coming? Probably not. Three more verses – that’s all I’ve got. It’s because of you two that both of us met, and no she’s not pregnant … at least not yet! We wish you were here, even though it might rain. Then we would have the entire “Collective Brain”! Today, I married the love of my life. She made me her husband, and I made her my wife!”

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We truly caught both of them by surprise! Both of them had no idea. We were able to keep the secret from a lot of people, but Christine and Michele were certainly the hardest to keep it from! We talked to them both so often, so many times we almost slipped about wedding plans, marriage classes, the proposal, and more! It was a relief to finally let them in on it – and to thank them for playing such a BIG role in our being together!! The love that we felt from both of them that day was just amazing! For me, it was extra special. Both of them had been such great friends and helped me through some of those very dark days. To have them rejoice for us – well, that just made the moment even more special.

We celebrated our wedding with a delicious steak dinner at the Texas Cattle Company. The food was truly amazing. We were gearing up for the Spring Training game the following day, so it was cool to see that they had Al Kaline and Willie Horton jerseys hanging inside the restaurant.

“Eagle Eye Hope”

There was one picture from early on in the trip that had people talking. The day we went to Disney Springs, Sam and I went to the Coca-Cola Store. They had the opportunity to get pictures taken with the Coke Polar Bear. I talked Sam into doing it and we are hugging the Polar Bear. Without realizing it, Sam’s left hand was front and center in the picture. She was wearing her engagement ring in it. Some of of friends noticed and starting talking among themselves and wondered what the deal was. One of our friends, Hope, who never holds back came right and and asked. She had taken a screen shot of the picture and circled Sam’s hand in bright yellow and sent it to me with the following “What’s with the ring on Sam’s finger??”

I responded by simply saying, “Of all of our friends – YOU would be the one to notice that!” Her reply was priceless: “OH MY GOD – Are you serious?!” She then told us she was crying she was so happy, and followed it with recorded voice messages of her crying and telling us how happy she was for us! All of this happened before we were even married. She messaged me the day before we got married. We eventually had to call her and listen to her cry. In all honesty, she’s probably gonna kill me because I shared this, but I want her to know that knowing how happy she was for us was one of many highlights of our trip!

Tuesday, March 20 – The Honeymoon Begins

We were both extremely excited to visit Joker Merchant Stadium. Of the entire trip, this was the only day that had called for rain. Prior to game time, it had rained a bit. As we arrived at the stadium, it was sprinkling and I was worried the game might happen. It cleared up and the game went on. I can’t recall for sure, but there was a big cloud burst around the 8th inning that had people scattering, and the heavy stuff didn’t happen until we were walking – well, running – to our car after the game.

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Because of the rain, I didn’t really get a good pic of the stadium. I went back the following day to get it, which explains the sunshine. One of the great things about our seats, was that we were right on the first base line and Miguel Cabrera was literally right in front of us. He is one of my favorite players and it was neat to watch him play.

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Wednesday, March 21

The last big thing we did while in Florida, was visit the Florida Aquarium. Sam loves penguins, and so I made sure that we also go to go back for the “Penguin Experience” We got to hold the penguins, and take pictures with them, and to see the smile on Sam’s face, it was worth every penny. She was in heaven. I was so happy I could make that happen for her.

We also took a Dolphin Cruise. It was very windy and they actually cancelled the rest of the cruises after ours was done. We did get to see some dolphins and we also got to see Tampa from all around the bay. One of my favorite souvenirs from the trip is the “otter” coffee mug I got from the aquarium. Every time I pour myself a cup of coffee in it, I am reminded of this very special day.

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Thursday, March 22 – Homeward Bound

Our trip was truly one that will never be forgotten. We left the state of Florida a married couple looking ahead to the future and our new life together. Little things that we had done hundreds of times before suddenly took on new meaning – holding hands in the car, kissing each other goodnight, etc… I don’t know how to explain it, but they meant more now that Sam and I were married.

The “Unfinished Song”

The morning after we arrived home, I woke from a dream. In the dream I heard a song. I had the melody, but never recorded it on my phone so I wouldn’t forget it. My fault. I did, however, write down the words I remembered. I had hoped that when we had our backyard party, I could play or sing this for Sam. She’s never seen this, and I never found the time to write any more to it.

They say that you find love when you least expect you will

That love can cure depression better than a pill.

I never really thought about it, but I believe it’s true

I’ve never felt this happiness, now I do because of you.

The Chorus I wrote, and the melody I forgot was this:

Only you can make me smile by standing by my side

Only you can make me feel these things way down deep inside

I never thought I could love like this before

But each and every day you make me want you more.

Is it a hit? Probably not. One day I should finish it, huh?

Looking back at 365 Days …

Over the past year, Sam and I have share some very special moments. We’ve taken road trips to Kentucky (to visit family), Tennessee (for a boat ride at the Opryland Hotel), Clare (to visit friends and grab a hamburger at the coolest hamburger joint), and Caseville (to revisit my childhood vacation spots). We enjoyed on stage performances of Wicked and Phantom of the Opera. We’ve had family fun at the Sloan Museum Dinosaur exhibit, the Saginaw Zoo, and a Great Lakes Loons baseball game. We hosted our annual 4th of July party (which was almost when we had our backyard wedding bash), and our first family Thanksgiving. We all went and took part in Beaumont Lights over the holidays and we added two silly cats (Moe and Maizey) to our lives.

The time I have spent with Sam is time that I treasure. She is on my mind from the moment I leave home until the moment I come home to her. She has been an constant support. Her love for me is something like I have never experienced. She is such a positive person and rejects negativity. She has brought about a change in me that has only made me strive to be a better man, a better father, a better husband, and a better friend. I do not have to pretend to be someone I am not. I am free to be myself and she loves me for all of my little quirks and more. She will send me texts that can bring me to tears because they come at a time when I least expect them, but really need them. She encourages me in ways that I cannot describe. She is a source of constant joy.

I have been blessed more than any man could imagine. From out of darkness came this woman who brought light. She brought friendship, she brought companionship, she brought love, and she brought bliss. I feel this complete contentment, joyfulness, exhilaration, ecstasy, and delight when I am with her. I thank God each and every day for the opportunity to love her and to be loved by her.

Happy first anniversary, Sam. There are not enough words for me to express all that you mean to me. I hope and pray to always be the man you need me to be. I once again promise to love you today, and for each day that follows for the rest of our “happily ever after”.

Thank you for being you. I love you.

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Part II – The Proposal

Yesterday’s blog was an emotional one to write.  I put some things in it that I had been quiet about for some time (depression, suicide, divorce, and unhappiness). It came as a surprise to many, and the wonderful words shared by friends on Facebook, and right here on my page meant more to me than you can imagine.  Thank you for reading, following, and your comments.

But, wait!  There’s more!  The story continues…..

When I ended my blog yesterday, I brought you to the place where I had come to realize what an amazing woman I had been blessed with.  As crazy as it sounds, so soon after a divorce, I knew that everything was right!  I did not want to lose this wonderful woman that had been placed in my life.  She had expressed to me that she was very happy as well.  There was no doubt that we had both fallen deeply in love with each other.

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I knew I wanted to be with her forever.  I wanted to propose and I wanted it to be something special.  I had bought a ring and had kept it hidden.  It was not your traditional “solitaire” diamond.  I liked it, but I kept wondering whether she would like it.  I finally caved and texted her sister and asked for her opinion.  She told me it was “perfect” and that it was exactly what Sam would like.

Now, I had to think of how to do it!

The Plan

Sam loves Disney movies.  In discussing movies, we discovered that we both loved the Disney/Pixar film, Up! (An amazing film, that is a MUST see).  The film begins by introducing us to Ellie and Carl.  They are adventurers!  Ellie even has An Adventure Book to record all of her adventures.  Ellie and Carl grow up, get married and the book plays a big part of the story.  In doing a search, I found the perfect way to deliver the ring!  I found a book that could be personalized and when you opened it up, the ring would be tied to a ribbon!

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It was PERFECT!  I ordered it with the understanding that it would take a few weeks to deliver.  I had made dinner reservations at a nice Italian place we had discovered quite by accident.  It technically wasn’t where we went for our first date, but we both really liked it, so I chose to go there to have dinner after she (hopefully) said “yes”.  We live close to Frankenmuth (home of the world’s largest Christmas store, for those who don’t live in Michigan), and I had arranged for a horse-drawn carriage ride.  The plan was to hand her our book and ask her while we were crossing the bridge in Frankenmuth.

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When the plan fails to come together, you improvise …

As that Saturday approached, I continued to watch the mail.  The book had not arrived yet.  I knew when I order it that I was cutting it close.  When the book didn’t arrive in the mail, because of our work schedules, I decided I didn’t want to wait a week.  I had the carriage reserved, I had reservations for dinner, I would proceed without the book.

We arrived in Frankenmuth and we began to walk toward the Bavarian Inn Restaurant (where the rides leave from).  Sam looked a bit confused, because I had already told her I had dinner plans in another city.  She must have thought we were going to eat there, until I walked up to the horse and carriage.  We climbed aboard and the ride began.  I began to thank her for how she changed my life.  We turned onto main street and approached the bridge.  I told her how happy she made me and how much I loved her.  As I struggled to try to get the ring box out of my pants pocket, I told her I could imagine my life without her in it.  Off in the distance, there was a slight rumble.  With the ring box now in my hand, my anxiety level was through the roof!  As we reached the point – it was time.  As I began to speak, from behind the carriage that rumble had become a load roar!  At the very moment I was about to ask Sam to marry me, this group of 20-50 bikers came roaring past us with a thunderous noise that made it impossible for us to hear each other!

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To this day, I am surprised that the noise didn’t startle the horse that pulled the carriage.  I don’t know, maybe it was deaf!  It had to be.  Honestly, that horse should have jumped and scurried and wrecked the carriage with us in it!  That didn’t happen, thankfully, but by the time the motorcycle gang from hell had passed us, we were over the bridge and the ride was just moments away from ending.  We were almost back to where we started.

All the momentum that I had built up to lead to that special moment was now long gone.  I think, to be funny, I said something along the lines of, “So, anyway ….”  and eventually popped the question before the horse and carriage had come to a stop.  She, of course said “yes”.  There were tears and my anxiety was no longer present, it had been replaced by overabundant joy!

We held hands almost the entire way down to the restaurant.  I think the only time we weren’t holding hand was when she was looking at the ring, now on her hand, smiling that wonderful smile of hers!  We had an amazing Italian dinner at Maggiano’s and we had an amazing day!!

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Now to plan the wedding

The only people we told right away were some family members.  Her folks knew, her sister at least knew it was coming, and My dad and Rose knew.  We chose to keep it secret from our friends and other family members until we decided when and where we were going to get married, and go from there.

With our first anniversary only two days away, that story will be next.

Oh, and that book showed up the Monday after our date!

The Beginnings of a Beautiful Friendship

Beginning

One year ago tonight, right about the time I am writing this blog, Sam and I posted a picture on Facebook of us in front of the “Welcome to Kentucky sign”.  We were on our way down to Florida for a vacation that would not only serve as a vacation, but also as our honeymoon.  Coincidentally, 4 years before that picture, we became Facebook friends.  With our first anniversary approaching, I thought I would write a few blogs that tells our story.

Baker College

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In June of 2013, I graduated from Baker College with my degree in applied science as a Polysomnographic Technology (Those two fancy words simply mean, I am a sleep technologist).  I became very good friends with the sleep instructors (Christine, Michele, and Angie).  I was asked by the program director if I would be willing to volunteer to tutor students in future classes if they needed help.  I told her that I would love to help out.

One of the hardest classes of the degree was Pharmacology.  This wasn’t your normal Pharmacology class.  Yes, you had to know the types of drugs, the names of drugs, what they did, and such, but you also had to know how these drugs affected a person’s sleep.  It was pretty detailed, and much of that information was not found in the books.  I was called and asked to meet with a small group of students from the current class.  I remember meeting up with them at the Tim Horton’s near the college.  Sam was among those in that group.

Sam and I actually met shortly before this.  I was doing my clinicals at a lab that worked with pediatric patients.  She brought 2-year-old Gracie to my lab and I actually ran her study!  She may have been the first pediatric patient I hooked up and ran on my own.

Well, over the next few months, I met with Sam off and on and went over stuff for the classes.  We prepped for tests and talked about working with kids and sleep related stuff.  When it was time for her to do her clinicals, she was placed at a lab that did not work with pediatric patients.  Sam wanted to work with kids, so there was one night she shadowed at my lab so she could observe, prior to starting her clinical rotation.  Sam graduated one year after me.

The “Unwritten” Rule

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Many sleep techs drive far to get to their jobs.  Many people who graduated in my class drive anywhere from 40-60 minutes to work.  It’s just the way it goes.  I currently drive 70 minutes, and Sam drives 50 minutes.  So, there is an understanding among people who work in sleep, an “unwritten rule” so to speak.  Basically, what it says is “Know who is working on nights you work.  If you are driving home in the morning and you feel like you are falling asleep, call someone you know is also driving home.  Talk each other home.”

Sam and I ended up working many of the same days.  It was not odd for either of us to call each other at 6:30 or 7:30 in the morning to “talk each other home.”  At first, it was a lot of shop talk – what kinds of studies we ran that night, crazy heart stuff we saw, or comparing notes on what equipment or mask worked best.  The more we talked, the more we learned about each other.  It was not odd to chat about my boys and her brothers.  There were times where she would even call to say she was taking her brothers swimming and wanted to know if my boys wanted to go as well.  We became very good friends.

It was not odd for us to run into each other at the college in the office of Christine, who was the Dean of the program, or at one of the sleep classes.  Sometimes, we even helped present review material or helped proctor tests.  At one time, there was talk of how we could all start our own sleep lab. Conversations involving Christine, Michele, Sam and I were often referred to as meetings of the “Collective Brain”.  The friendships that were made because of the sleep program go very deep and helped me through some very turbulent times.

Days of Trouble

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Without going into detail, I will just say that working the midnight shift had only added to problems I was going through at home.  The added stress affected me very much.  I was already suffering from depression and was just going through the motions and fighting the constant battle of trying to make ends meet.  The struggles were physically, emotionally, and mentally draining.  It was not something that I spoke about to many people.  There were plenty of fake smiles on social media, and I hid things very well.

The “Collective Brain” saw through much of this.  For example, one day I got a call from one of them while I was at the laundromat.  Our dryer had died months before and the budget didn’t allow for us to get a new one.  I received a call one day asking if I was going to be at home.  I stated that I was going to be home for a little while, and I was told that I had to  be home between 3:30p and 4:30p.  I asked why, and was told by one of the “brain” folks not to worry about it and to be there.  At about 4:15 a truck pulls in my driveway with a dryer in the back!  I was told that someone had paid for it and they were told where to deliver it.  These three friends, pooled together money and wanted to relieve a little of our stress and bought it for us!

There was another time where we were all just talking.  I was trying to work some overtime to try to make sure I had money to get the boys Christmas presents.  The stress must have shown, because the “brain” once again surprised me with a bag of Nerf guns, and other toys because “there is no way that your boys are not opening up presents on Christmas morning!”  You cannot even begin to know how humbled you can feel when you are the recipient of someone’s gracious giving heart.  They brought me to tears yet again.

Saved from the Darkest Days

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As the trials and tribulations continued at home, I found myself in an unhappy place.  I was feeling worthless.  I felt like the ultimate failure.  As I began to really sense all that was going on, there was this overwhelming feeling of emptiness.  I was worried, I was scared, and I felt like I had truly reached the end of my rope.

There are a few people who know this, but now I will publicly admit that I had reached a point where I was ready to end my life.  I didn’t know how I was going to do it.  I didn’t know when I was going to do it.  I had convinced myself that I was not doing anyone any good and that I was causing more trouble for people by being around.  Then, without knowing it, Sam said something that saved my life.

It was one of those “talk me home calls”.  She was tired and trying not to fall asleep.  I was driving home.  She innocently asked me about the boys and asked what we were doing with them over the weekend.  I don’t remember what it was, it probably wasn’t much.  After I told her, she replied with, “That sounds like fun.  Your boys are so lucky to have you as their dad.”

BOOM!  It was a punch to the stomach!  The ton of bricks hit me square on the head.  It was a shot of reality.  It was one simple sentence that made me realize that I could NEVER leave those boys!  It would be selfish and hurtful to even consider it anymore.  What kind of dad would do something like that and leave his sons to wonder “why”?!  NO!  That option, which should have never been an option, was officially off the table! She saved my life.

I had no choice but to move forward!  Dark days became darker.  Struggles became more difficult.  Arguments, disagreements, more arguments, and irreconcilable differences led me to divorce.  There was a brief period where I tried to co-exist, but the tribulations continued and I was told to leave the house.

In another “talk me home” call with Sam, I asked nonchalantly if she knew of anyone who had an apartment or room to rent.  She asked my why and I told her.  Without missing a beat, she told me that she had a spare room in her house that her brothers used when they came over every other weekend.  She told me that if I didn’t mind sleeping on a bunk bed, I was welcome to stay with her until I found a place.  She said I could sleep on the couch when her brothers were there.  I asked her how much she would want me to pay her to stay and her response was simply, “Keith.  You’re my friend.  You need a place to stay.  Every so often, help buy some groceries or toss a few bucks toward the electric or water bill.  I’ll help you in any way I can”

“I’m on my way from misery to happiness …”

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In the months that followed, we spent lots of time together.  She helped me with so many difficult decisions.  She was a voice of reason, a true friend, a shoulder to cry on, and was always honest and supportive.  It was apparent to both of us that we really enjoyed each other’s company.  The more time we spent with each other, the more connected we felt.  As feelings continued to grow, we began dating.

What an amazing feeling to live life with someone who doesn’t judge you, belittle you, insult you, make false accusations of you, spread gossip, or is not happy unless they are making others unhappy.  To be free of the judgement and negativity and to actually feel special, loved, and important was all new to me – and wonderful!

She saved my life.  She changed my life.  This beautiful friend and I fell in love at a time when I never expected it, but then again, isn’t that when they say you truly find love?!  I was experiencing joy that was so unexpected and astonishing that I decided I had better make sure we were going to be together forever …

…that story will be in the next blog.

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It’s not just a cold … it’s a “man cold”!

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As I lay here, knowing that I am a few breaths away from death … I have chosen to spend my last few moments writing a blog. Yes, the “man cold” will be the death of me.

It all started so simply – a runny nose. Then, on the way to work on Sunday, the onset of some severe sinus pressure, headache, and general aches, made it very difficult to make it through the night.  After an entire 10 hours of blowing my nose, I was set to star in the next installment of Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer!  The hour drive home was difficult, not only because I was tired, but because every single bump or pothole I hit only amplified the aches and pains I was already feeling.

When my alarm went off for work on Monday, I could barely move.  I felt like I could hardly move.  I decided it was best to stay home and try to sleep it off.  I think I ended up sleeping a total of 30 hours!  I did feel better on Tuesday and attempted to go to work.  I was lucky that I didn’t have patients to run, and I was able to sit and score sleep studies.  Despite the Day-Quill, by 5:00 a.m. I was starting to feel worse.  I left work a little early and came home.

Sleep.  That’s all I wanted today.  I was in bed by 6:30 a.m., but I just couldn’t fall asleep.  Between coughing sneezing, feeling hot, feeling cold, and constantly blowing my nose, I was up more than I slept.  I know that I was finally able to get some sleep, because I remember dreaming.  It just wasn’t enough…so I am home again.

My wife says I gave it to her, because she started feeling bad Monday night.  Like most women, she believes all men exaggerate the symptoms of a cold. She struggled through her night at work, while I was home.  She called to check on me a few times, and also told kept me up to date on how she felt, which got progressively worse as the night went on.  She may deny this in the future, but I am positive she stated during one phone call, “I will never make fun of you when you are sick again.”

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Is the “man cold” or “man flu” real?

I found a blog from Dr. Robert Shmerling, a Harvard doctor that says that the “man cold” is real!  According to one study, men and women experience illnesses differently.  Some of the things found in the study:

  • Influenza vaccination tends to cause more local (skin) and systemic (bodywide) reactions and better antibody response in women. Testosterone may play a role, as men with the highest levels tended to have a lower antibody response. A better antibody response may lessen the severity of flu, so it’s possible that vaccinated men get more severe symptoms than women because they don’t respond to vaccination as well.
  • In test tube studies of nasal cells infected with influenza, exposure to the female hormone estradiol reduced the immune response when the cells came from women, but not in cells from men. Treatment with antiestrogen drugs reduces this effect. Since flu symptoms are in large part due to the body’s immune reaction, a lessened immune response in women may translate to milder symptoms.
  • In at least one study reviewing six years of data, men were hospitalized with the flu more often than women. Another reported more deaths among men than women due to flu.
  • A survey by a popular magazine found that men reported taking longer to recover from flu-like illnesses than women (three days vs. 1.5 days)

The article says that “taken together, these findings suggest that there may be more to “man flu” than just men exaggerating their symptoms or unnecessarily behaving helplessly.”

Read the whole story here:

https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/man-flu-really-thing-2018010413033

I am hoping that another night of sleep will allow me to feel well enough to go on our mini-vacation to celebrate our one year wedding anniversary this weekend! Now, if you will excuse me, I am taking a shot of Ny-Quil, grabbing my pillow, and going to try to sleep.

Oh, and ladies … try not to be so hard on your man next time he feels under the weather.

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