“Let’s Go – While We’re Young!”

Somewhere on the Internet I saw I shirt that read: “I speak fluent movie quotes.”

There are a few variations of this shirt that incorporate “song lyrics” and “sarcasm,” but for me – it is movie quotes. I do this all the time! Here is an example that happened to me today.

I left the house for work without my lunch. I packed it and left it on the counter in the kitchen.

I was already running late, and I debated just coming in and ordering a pizza. Knowing that we seem to have had pizza a lot lately, I decided that I would stop at the Subway down the road from work. They are usually very quick, but today was another story.

Not the Subway I stopped at – but it looks similar….

I stop there every once in a while and the guys who usually work behind the counter are friendly and fast. Tonight, there was an older lady who was working. She must have been the only one there. It was not busy, and there was a guy at the counter ordering when I got there. His order was not especially complicated, but it seemed like it took forever for the 6 inch sub to get made. It took even longer as he checked out.

When she came back to get my order, I looked at her and told her the sub I wanted and on what kind of bread. She brought the bread out and cut it, as they do, and began to talk to me about politics. I stood there looking at her as she was talking … all the while, my sub bun is sitting on the counter awaiting preparation.

She finally moves the bun down to where the meat is and asked me to clarify my order again, which I do. She asks if I want it toasted and I told her no. She puts the meat on the sub, clarifies the type of cheese I want (she had the wrong kind) and begins to put it in the toaster. I remind her that I do not want it toasted. She apologizes and sets the sub down by the veggies and again starts to talk about politics. The entire time, I am watching the clock wondering if I will ever get to work on time.

My veggies are simple: Lettuce, tomato, pickle. She puts the lettuce on, looks at me and begins talking about the government. She grabs for onions, I tell her “No onions, please.” She grabs tomato, looks at me and shifts topics. She begins to tell me that her coworkers say she doesn’t get any work done. I literally look at the clock again and start to mumble under my breath, “Come on, Let’s go! While we’re young!”

I think she has no clue that I need to get going! She grabs for onions again, and I remind her “No onions, please. You just need pickles.” She continues to talk while placing these pickles one by one by one – looking up at me and talking between the placement of each one! I am ready to scream! She again reaches for onions when she has finished with the pickles. I want to look at her and go, “Enough with the onions!!” In all honesty, I was waiting for someone to pop out and tell me I was on some reality prank show!

In the time she began making my sub, put everything on it, wrapped it, bagged it, and rang me up, I heard her talk about politics, work, her neighbor, and the state of the economy! I was in this place for 20 minutes! In that 20 minutes, “Come on, Let’s go! While we’re young!!” kept replaying over and over in my head! The line is from Rodney Dangerfield as he waits for Ted Knight to tee off in a scene from Caddyshack. While it is a very funny line from a very funny movie – I failed to find the humor in it tonight!

Rodney Dangerfield as Al Czervik in Caddyshack

How about you? What are some of your favorite movie lines that you have used in real life situations??

Honey? Does this outfit match?

If this isn’t an unwritten rule, it should be: Kids outfits should be placed in dresser drawers already matched! This blog stems from a conversation I had with my wife before work today.

I have never been the greatest at matching clothes for kids. I admit it. I can bet you money that you will almost always know when I dress my children. I ALWAYS pick the outfits that go together. I remember Dante’ had an outfit that had running pants, a jersey, and a jacket that all went together. He wore that a lot when he was a toddler – because I knew it matched! Dimitri had a similar outfits that I always put him in. Nice and easy – dad can’t mess those up!

Ella was wearing a new outfit, and I commented on how cute it was and how cute she looked in it:

Sam said that it really wasn’t an “outfit.” In other words, the shirt and pants were not bought together as a set. She then went on to explain that I could match that top with the green pants she has on or the yellow, pink, or white pants which are in her drawer. I must have stared at her dumbfounded for a minute because she then made mention that she noticed that I tend to put her in outfits that are already matched.

Well, she is right! That’s what I do! If the matched outfits are all in the wash, I find a shirt and put her in a pair of jeans. Every thing goes with blue jeans, right!? How can I mess that up?

In preparation for writing this blog I Googled “How to match outfits.” Do you wanna know what came up? This:

What in blazes is that!? What do the triangles or that “Star of David” in the middle of it mean?! I clicked on the link for this image and it only complicated matters with a more detailed … and more confusing chart:

Is there any man who can make sense of that?! And those are just colors! I don’t even want to think about matching stripes with polka dots or any other kind of pattern!!

I can only hope that Sam keeps putting clothes away in “paired outfits.” The day this stops I know I will be at a park with her, or out in public and other moms are going to look at her and think “Oh, yeah….her dad dressed her today!”

You can be sure that when Ella starts going to school – outfits will be laid out in advance … just in case … to prevent any fashion faux pas that dad may cause!!

Not my daughter, but probably an outfit I’d dress her in if I couldn’t find a matching outfit in her dresser!

A Smile Amid Chaos

All you had to do this week was turn on the news, check your social media page, or surf the internet to see the chaos going on in the world. As an American, it makes me sad to see the state of the country. The division within the country is just sickening. Abraham Lincoln quoted scripture when he said:

Facebook was full of friends who stated that they were leaving Instagram, Facebook, and other social media platforms to go to MeWe and Parler (whatever those are!). I utilize the “snooze/mute” and “unfollow” features so I don’t see a lot of the content that aggravates me. However, even taking advantage of those features, I still end up seeing things I don’t want to.

When I am feeling angry or upset at the world, politics, or whatever, I need only turn to the smile of my little girl…..

Ella is oblivious to all the craziness in the world. She loves playing with mommy and daddy. She watches Elmo and reads books. She chases the cat and gets into things she isn’t supposed to. She finds joy in simple things, like me making a stuffed dog “bark” at her.

She got to go outside and sit in the snow for the first time in her life. Even though she wasn’t quite used to the snowsuit and boots – she smiled at the peacefulness of a winter day!

Having her in my life is better than any medication a doctor can prescribe! I love my daily dose of Ella – her smile is contagious!

Keep Smiling!!

That Time I Ticked Off Soupy Sales … and His Wife!

The great comedian, Soupy Sales, was born today in 1926. In honor of his birthday, I thought I would share a story I don’t talk about often, because it still makes me sick to my stomach to think about it.

Back in 1989, I was working at WKSG, Kiss-FM in Detroit. I was doing the overnight show and often hung out afterward to help the morning guy, Paul Christy. I had contacted Soupy’s manager and asked if he could cut a few lines for my show. (My favorite was: “Hi Everybody, this is Soupy Sales! Whenever I’m in Detroit, I never miss the Keith Allen Show. I don’t listen to it and I don’t miss it!) In a few weeks, Soupy sent them to the station on a cassette for me along with a note with his phone number. He said to call him If I ever needed any more lines.

A few months later, we were all in the studio and Paul noticed that Soupy was going to be playing a show in town that weekend. He asked me if I still had his phone number. I told him I did. Without missing a beat, he said, “Give it a call and find out where he is staying, so we can get him on for an interview.” Now, it was like 6 am, and the show had just started. I gave him a look and he was dead serious. “Go make the call!”

Paul was my boss. I didn’t want to make him mad, so I was off to the production room and made the call. I’m not sure who I thought I was calling, but I guess I hoped it was his office. It was his home number! His wife, Trudy, answered the phone and it was obvious I woke her up. I told her who I was and why I was calling. She gave me the name of the hotel where Soupy was staying and she assured me that Soupy would get a hold of me. Oh, he did.

That afternoon, I was at home and the phone rang. When I answered it, it was Soupy. He was not very happy. It was obvious that his wife had called him wondering why some schmuck had called her at home at the butt crack of dawn! He gave me a “talking to!” My heart sank as my comedy hero yelled at me for bothering his wife so early. I felt awful.

After it all sank in, I knew I had to make it right. I sat down at the computer and wrote two letters. One to Soupy and one to his wife. I explained how I was wrong for calling so early. I explained how I was just trying to do what my boss had asked me to do. I apologized profusely in both letters. I felt so bad for being disrespectful and for what happened. It was the absolute worst feeling! I cried as I wrote those letters. I felt so bad about the entire incident! Even writing about it now brings back that feeling of “nausea” I had when it happened.

I friend of mine knew the hotel that Soupy was staying at. He said that he would take the letters there for me. He dropped them at the desk and that was that. I would have taken them myself, but the last thing I wanted was to run into Soupy, who at that time I had never met yet. I already felt like crap, and I certainly didn’t want to meet him under those circumstances.

Fast Forward a few years:

Soupy was playing a show at Pine Knob. My buddy Vic and I were going to the show that night. Vic knew Soupy because he worked in New York and often worked near where Soupy lived. That night, before the show, Vic wrote a note on his business card and sent it back to Soupy’s dressing room with a security guard. Next thing I knew, we were being escorted back to see Soupy. Soupy got up and shook hands with Vic. Vic introduced me and when Soupy heard my name, he looked at me and said, “Didn’t we have an incident a few years ago?” I once again felt my heart sink, but Soupy chuckled and said everything was ok. He said he appreciated my apology and proceeded to chat with us as if nothing had happened.

What a relief to finally know that Soupy (and his wife) did get my letters. That was the thing that worried me for years, never knowing if they had actually got to him. He was so gracious and pleasant to me that night. I am glad that I had the chance to shake his hand.

Happy Birthday, Soupy! Thanks for the laughs!

Drew Friedman’s rendition of Soupy Sales

Resolutions or Goals?

I subscribe to some daily writing prompts that will occasionally wind up as a good blog idea. I’d say I use about less than 5% of them, as most of them don’t really strike a chord with me. Every single one of these prompts said to write about my New Year’s Resolutions or Goals for the New Year. My buddy believes that resolutions and goals are the same, but they really are not.

A “resolution” is a firm decision by a person to do or not do something. A “goal” is the object of a person’s ambitions or effort; an aim or desired result. See, a goal is the final product, if you will. With a goal, you prepare, you plan, you set forth your intentions to achieve this final result (the goal) by taking specific actions. A resolution is a “promise” to yourself to do something, while a goal has a specific target.

Do I have resolutions? I guess so. They are probably the same resolutions that many people have: eat more veggies, drink more water, lose weight, be more active, etc. I just need to not do what I do every year and fall of the wagon on these.

I want to make some specific resolutions regarding my role as a husband:

  • I will say “I love you” every day.
  • I will spend more time together – monthly date night.
  • I will pray together.
  • Show more appreciation for all she does.
  • Listen more.

I also have some specific resolutions regarding my role as a father:

  • More one on one time with each of my children.
  • More play time
  • Be more mindful of the words I speak.
  • Read more books and the Bible together.
  • More outside time – walks, catch, etc.
  • Be an example!

There is one thing that I would like to accomplish that I am ashamed to admit I have never done. I have never actually read the bible in it’s entirety in a year’s time. In one of my classes, the teacher actually said that as students, we should strive to read it through at least once or twice a year. It always seemed like a very big task.

Recently, a Facebook friend posted a plan with specific passages to read every day, and by doing it, you’d read through the entire Bible in one year. I printed out the “plan” and I intend to do just that. I know with the classes, I’m going to have to make some extra time, but it needs to be done! My goal is to have each week’s worth of passages with me and to read whenever I get the chance.

Do you set goals for yourself in the new year? Do you make resolutions? What things help you to keep on track?

Hindsight Really is 2020 – A Recap

The saying goes, “Hindsight is 2020,” and many of us are rejoicing that 2020 is really truly behind us! I often wonder if you were to make a list of positives and negatives of the past year, would one outweigh the other? What about 10-15 years ago? Was that just as bad, but we only choose to remember the good things from that year? I don’t know the answers to those questions.

In talking with my youngest son this weekend, he was talking about the last year and listing all of the bad things from it. I told him that is really is easy to see the bad things, the negatives, or the sadness we experienced. I challenged him to try to find some positives among the negatives. As we drove back to my house, we were able to do that. I told him it isn’t always easy to find those positives, and sometimes there may not be any, but to always look for them.

December 31, 2019

As the world awaited 2020’s arrival there was great excitement. Many said, “This is going to be MY YEAR!” Others looked at the new year as a clean slate from 2019 (which they wanted to be over). I recalled the quote from country singer Brad Paisley, who said, “Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365 page book, write a good one.” We looked at 2020 as a year of happiness, recovery, new opportunities, new adventures, and so much more! 2020 had other plans.

2020

Looking back at 2020, the absolute high point was the birth of our daughter, Ella. NOTHING tops this moment! The blog announcing her birth was one of the most read of the year.

My first daughter. Daddy’s little girl. My wife, Sam, was just amazing throughout the delivery. It was the first time I had witnessed natural child birth and I was in awe of everything. My heart was overflowing with happiness. What a day!

This month, Sam and I were talking about what to do for her first birthday. With Covid, there is not a whole lot we can do. We are probably not going to throw the big party we wanted to, but we are working out plans for something special to mark the occasion.

Covid-19

I can’t even imagine if Ella had been born a few weeks later. By the time March arrived, the whole world was talking about Corona virus and Covid-19. Everything started to shut down in an attempt to “flatten the curve.” Our sleep labs closed and we were deployed to the hospital Labor Pool. During my time there, I heard stories and witnessed things I will sadly never forget. With a new baby at home, my constant worry was that I would bring it home to her. I eventually snapped. The doctor called it Acute Stress Disorder and she took me off work. I was out on FMLA for 6 weeks.

Finding the positive in a negative – I got to spend 6 weeks with my daughter. There are countries that allow both parents to stay home with their newborn child for a year when they are born. I wish the United Stated allowed that. There are so many wonderful moments that happen in that first year. It is a shame that we have to go back to work while our babies are still so young.

Another positive: As the curve flattened, I officiated my first wedding for my friend, Theresa from high school. To say I was nervous is an understatement, but all went well and I didn’t mess anything up too bad. It was nice to see other friends from high school at the wedding, too. It was a bit weird, as there were many masks in the crowd, but that had kind of become the “norm.”

Division and hate

2020 brought more division and more hate. There has always been division in politics, but it seems that both parties hatred for each other was over the top. I’ve heard a lot of mudslinging in ads, but the stuff being said was brutal. The politicians seem to have forgotten who they are supposed to be representing and working for – the people of the country!

Everyone was offended by everything in 2020. Social media was full of arguments, name calling, and much more. Really, the media just continued to “feed” the public and make everyone more angry than they were to begin with. Jim Morrison of the Doors once said, “Whoever controls the media, controls the mind.” Noam Chomsky takes it a little further:

I had to finally stop watching the news, and scroll past so many posts from friends. I couldn’t take it. It is totally ok for you to be passionate about your beliefs and your political stance. If it is different than my stance or beliefs, that’s ok, too. You and I can agree to disagree. I was saddened that so many friendships were broken because of the difference of opinion. Friendships that have lasted 30+ years ended because of this, and that breaks my heart. If only more people thought like Thomas Jefferson:

Blog Milestones and Hits and Misses

In 2020, I celebrated two years of blogging. I wrote my 300th blog. I still wrote many movie blogs and music blogs. The music blogs slowed as I started to neglect Tune Tuesday. I tried something new with Friday Movie Quotes, but that didn’t seem to go over too well, so I stopped. Most of my blogs were ramblings about my life and of course, my daughter.

The other blog that got a lot of views was my recent blog about the loss of my friend, and high school band director, Tom Shaner. I posted a link to this on my Facebook, and his daughter also shared it, so many people I didn’t even know read it. I received a private message from his brother who told me that he really appreciated my blog and how it enlightened him on the impact he had on his students. When I finished writing that blog, I didn’t think it did him any justice, but that private message proved otherwise.

Conclusion

As I look back on 2020, I see life’s “circle.” The high point of the year was the birth of my daughter, while the low point of the year was the passing of my friend, Tom. Life and death. A new life enters the world, while an old one leaves the world. Happiness and sadness. As life moves on, the circle continues. We see new births and new deaths.

A pastor once told me that birth is the beginning of death. You begin to die the moment you are born. There is truth to that. So as we look on the new “book” that is 2021, and we begin to write on the blank pages, let’s try to remember the words of actor Michael Landon:

Here’s to a Happy New Year for all of us!

Covid Christmas Memories

I think you would agree that Christmas was a lot different this year!  In a way, it was sad because it was Ella’s first Christmas and it should have been spent visiting grandparents and family.  Thank goodness for video chats!

My dad met me at my work the Monday before Christmas and brought all the gifts for the kids.  I loaded them up in the car and brought them home after work and placed them under the tree.

I was lucky to have both my sons over for Christmas Eve.  I picked up Dimitri on the 23rd and brought him to my house.  Dante’ had to work, so he drove up after work.  They spent the night, so Christmas Eve morning was our Christmas.

My brothers are still sleeping, so I’m here to inspect all the presents!

Naturally, Ella was up before anyone else.  Dante’ and Dimitri were up late.  Dimitri was up about 9, and he woke Dante’ up for presents.  Lol – he was exhausted.  At home, normally he isn’t up until after noon!  He literally opened presents and went back to sleep!

Dimitri nabbed a cool gaming chair and new bed, while Dante’ was loaded up with gift cards.  We video chatted with my dad as they opened their gifts from him, so we didn’t get any pictures of them opening his stuff.

The aftermath!

Ella made out pretty good!  My dad bought her this cute little princess tent! 

She absolutely loves playing in it!

It’s like her own club house!

She got to open one of our presents to her that day…it’s the cutest puppy that she can bounce and spin on.

Later that day, Sam’s mom dropped off the gifts for Ella and the boys.  The boys got some amazing Nike hoodie sweatshirts and Ella got a Minnie Mouse car that she can ride on or walk with.

It makes all kinds of noise!  Each button makes a different sound and the horn has like 4 or 5 different horns.  I’m sure in a month or two I will pull the batteries out!

The greatest thing about Christmas Eve was spending it with some of the greatest gifts God ever gave me: Sam and my kids!

The boys went home Christmas Eve evening so they could be with their mom Christmas morning. After Ella went to bed, I got to work putting Dimitri’s bed together and building Ella’s big gift from us.

With all the time we are spending indoors, we wanted to get her something we could play with inside and eventually outside.  We bought her this really cool swing and slide.

She loves to swing! She loves to go down the slide, too!  It’s funny that she’s already doing things her way!  She wants to climb up the wrong way!

One of my closest friends, Margaret, had asked if Ella had a toy box.  She ordered the perfect one and hand delivered it last weekend.  It’s also a fainting couch!  Lol.

Our little princess was right at home with it….

As different as the holiday was, it was still full of good memories!  I hope you and your family had a blessed holiday season.  Happy New Year!

Whoop! Deer it is!!

I’m Gonna Miss You, “Sir”

I’m still trying to process the loss of my friend, Tom Shaner. He passed away just before Christmas. He was my high school band director. He was more than just a friend to me (and many others). He was a mentor, a leader, a counselor, a cheerleader, a boss, a role model, an advisor, and at times, was like a second father to me.

I received word that he was in the hospital the week before Christmas. Due to Covid, no visitors were allowed. I found out afterward that he had been in ICU. Then his family announced that he was coming home to hospice care. Word came very quickly after that he had passed away. I am still in shock, as are many of his former students.

I had been watching the mailbox for a letter from him. He and I had exchanged e-mails recently and he said he was going to drop a note in the mail. I assumed that the note might be stuffed in the annual Christmas card from him. It never arrived.

My Facebook was filled with other band students remembering him. There were pictures of him and many stories, some I had heard before, some I had been in band to witness, and some I had never heard before. Those various memories from band students younger and older than me, were proof that we all shared many of the same wonderful experiences with him. They also were illustrations of the great impact that this one man had on students throughout his teaching career and far beyond.

From a previous blog:

One of the first blogs I wrote here was about the impact of teachers. I listed some of mine. Here is what I wrote about Mr. Shaner almost 3 years ago:

Mr. Shaner was my band director. If you are looking for my stance on Music Education in schools – here it is. “I LEARNED MORE TO PREPARE ME FOR LIFE FROM BAND CLASS THAN ANY OTHER CLASS IN SCHOOL”. There. I said it. I learned the importance of preparation. I learned the importance of punctuality. I learned the importance of practice. I learned the importance of team work. I learned the importance of organization. I learned the importance of patience. All of my time management skills came directly from band class. I learned about discipline and work ethic. I learned the importance of cooperation and respect. The list goes on and on. The lessons that I took from band class in itself can be an entire blog. (I can also add the importance of dedication, responsibility, self worth, dignity, and honor to this list!)

I recall one day in 9th grade, I was running late for school. I grabbed a pair of khaki pants from a basket that was in the laundry room. I walked into school and TS said “Hey, man, you know an iron can get those wrinkles out of your slacks”. Now some people might think this was mean. I didn’t take it that way. Instead, it made me aware of little things like looking good. It was a simple nudge to take an extra minute to dress right.

It was not odd for him to call someone in the office and ask if everything was ok if they looked like something was bothering them. Sometimes he would get wind of a situation someone was dealing with and he would be aware that there was a lesson in it for everyone. He would just tell some story in class with the lesson at the end and it did two things – it helped the person in the situation AND it helped the rest of us in case that situation ever popped up in our lives.

I remember one time Steve and I were goofing off during a rehearsal. It was the day before festival, so it was not the time to be fooling around. He stopped the band and asked us what was so funny. Because we did not have an answer he pointed to the door and said “Bye. I’ll see you after rehearsal”. We sat at the end of the hall and pondered how much trouble we were going to get into not only with him but with our folks. He sent Kelly, the band president down to the end of the hall to get us. He looked at us dead in the eye and said “I did not want you to go with us to festival tomorrow, but the band as a whole voted and said you should come”. He proceeded with the rehearsal. The following day, I was the first to arrive in the band room. He greeted me with a smile and I was completely confused. He was SO angry the day before. I asked if he had a second and he said to follow him to his office. He sat down and looked at me, like he had no idea why I was there. I apologized for my behavior the previous day and told him it would never happen again. He stared at me for a few seconds and got up quickly (which scared the hell out of me). He extended his hand and said, “It takes a lot of guts to admit when you are wrong. It takes a real man to apologize. Thank you for taking responsibility for your actions. I have a lot of respect for you.” He took it a step further and made sure the entire band knew what happened. He said he thought that they should know that I cared enough about them to apologize for my actions. Talk about respect? I have the utmost respect for that man and all of the lessons I still carry with me to this day. I am glad that we have remained in contact all these years later. He was a major influence in my life and in the lives of many students.

His Own Hashtag!

The one thing that showed up in almost every post about him on Facebook was how strict he was about being punctual. “If you’re on time – you’re late!” He always told us that! In other words, if rehearsal started at 4pm, you had better be in your seat with your instrument ready to play at 3:59pm (or earlier!). SO many people mentioned this in their posts. I chuckled and thought he would think it was great that the hashtag #ifyoureontimeyourelate was in almost all of these posts!

The Band Room

The band room represented a safe haven for most of us. It was like a family gathering place. Almost everyone hung out there before and after school. Most of us ate lunch there, too. We did homework there, we talked about life there, we laughed there, and we cried there. Many of us never used our lockers because we kept most of our stuff in the band room!

Mr. Shaner always had something playing over the speakers in the band room in the morning. Sometimes it was just the classical music station, while other times it was an album featuring artists like Maynard Ferguson and Doc Severinsen. I was introduced to so many great albums by hearing them in the band room.

Many student’s first stop was the band room every day. We’d drop our instruments off in the instrument storage room and walk over the the white grease board where Mr. Shaner wrote all the announcements. At the bottom of that board, he always had some quote. The one I remember most hits me a bit hard with his passing: “Live every day as if it were your last – someday, you’ll be right.”

In my senior year, I was the Band President. All the officers had mailboxes in his office. He would often write notes for all of us on Post It notes and stick them in our mailbox. Mine often read simply “See me”. Sometimes, the sticky note was stuck to some flyer or something and it would read “See me on this!” Every now and then, an officer would find a page from the Far Side calendar in their mailbox, just because.

I had a typing class my senior year. I hated it. I would get my work done early and I would sit there for the rest of the hour doing nothing. Eventually I’d as the teacher for a pass to go to the band room to work on stuff I needed to get done. This became a habit and one day I walked to his desk and before I could ask he said, “No. You may not have a pass to the band room.” I looked at him and said, “I was hoping you could give me a pass to the IMRC.” The teacher looked at me puzzled and I continued, “The Instrumental Music Rehearsal Center” (which was something Mr. Shaner had said in class that week). He wrote the pass and told me to beat it!

Band Class

While in school, I have many wonderful memories of band class and Mr. Shaner. I remember how he would tell us stories about the little old lady that he went to church with, which always made us laugh. Whenever one of his kids had a baby, he’d announce how his wife, Carol, “became a grandma again.” I remember how if there was a part of a song that didn’t sound right, he’d pull out the grade book and go down the line and make us all play individually – for a test grade. Then there was “the parting of the stands”, when he would step off the podium and go directly to whoever he needed to yell at.

When I was a junior, I wanted to be a band director (until I stumbled into radio). Mr. Shaner ran an after school Conducting Class for whoever wanted to be in it. It was part music theory and part conducting. Each of us in the class got to lead the band in a warm up chorale every day. I really enjoyed that. One class he asked each of us to bring a song to the class and explain why we liked it. I remember there being a lot of different types of music and his reaction to each was always enlightening.

The above picture was taken of him conducting the Jazz Band. We rehearsed after school and we got to play at Pep assemblies. Jazz Band was so much fun. It was just a small group of us, and he seemed to really have more fun with us. I remember one of the songs we played was Delta Dawn (the Tanya Tucker song). The sax section had the melody and the harmonies were just fantastic. I was given the solo on a song called “In a Sentimental Mood”. I was scared to play it but he was so encouraging and I remember not being so nervous after he talked to me.

At Christmas time, he would invite the band officers over for dinner or a movie. I remember how strange it felt to be at his house at first, but we were welcomed as friends and family. I can’t remember how many times we drove by his house honking our horns after graduation.

The “Radio” Preview?

At the end of my sophomore year, he had put an announcement on the grease board asking if someone wanted to help take songs from vinyl and transfer them to cassette so he could listen to them in the car. All the music publishing companies would send out record albums with demos of their music for the upcoming season. Band directors would listen to them and then order whatever songs they wanted. He needed someone to announce the title of the song before it played on the tape. That way, when he heard something he liked, he knew what the song title was. I volunteered to do it.

Naturally, before each song, I played DJ and if I knew something about the artist, I’d ad-lib something. I told jokes, and was just silly on them. He must have enjoyed it, because I did it for him the next two years. If we were recording something in class he’s say something like, “Hey, Golden Tones, why don’t you announce this for me.” I remember announcing Duke Ellington’s Mood Indigo by saying, “Here’s a swinging little number called Mood Indigo.” Without missing a beat, he said “Shirley is gonna go around now saying ‘Hi! I’m Mood Indigo!”

He was so encouraging about my radio career. He’d listen when he could. He was always so supportive and interested in my radio job. He often talked about things he’d heard other DJ’s say. In an email he sent last year, he told me: “saw you in front of the microphone on Facebook this morning. I’m always pleased to see you doing what you always do so well.”

Open To All Ideas

He always seemed to want our ideas to come to fruition. It was tradition for the band officers to do a skit in front of the rest of the band. For our sketch, I thought it would be funny to have each officer step into the spotlight and lip sync to songs (this was long before lip sync battles were a thing). He gave the green light and we had a blast!

The skit that year led to us doing a lip sync contest. I asked Mr. Shaner if we could do it as a fund raiser. He was not really sure it would work, and he asked me many questions about it and how we were going to handle things before giving it the go ahead. He was willing to let me throw it together.

He called it Puttin’ On The Hits! We opened it up for everyone, but they had to audition. Someone did Time Warp from Rocky Horror (that won), someone else did Going Back to Cali, and me and my buddy, Steve, did the Ames Brothers Rag Mop. Prior to the show, ticket sales were low. We thought we were gonna cancel it because of that. However, the sales at the door that night sold out the show. We had a full house that night and it was a huge success.

Band Banquet Imitations

My Junior year, the officers were discussing the agenda for the annual Band Banquet. We needed one more speech, so I said I’d get up and do an imitation of Mr. Shaner. That night I was nervous. I got up and started my speech by saying “The longer you’re in band, the more Mr. Shaner starts to grow on you…” with that I ducked under the podium and threw on a bald cap. I then put a baton in the back of my shirt collar like he did. I “yelled” about how nobody practiced, talked about retiring and some other things. As the laughter died down, I realized I hadn’t written an “out”. I went on to thank Mr. Shaner for the many times he opened his office to listen to me talk about life, and issues I was dealing with. I don’t recall all I said, but I got pretty emotional and ended by telling him I loved him. He got up and we hugged. Somewhere I have a picture of that moment.

Remember, that happened my Junior year ….. so when my senior year arrived, he got me back good! I used to have the video of it, but I am not sure what happened to it …. so from memory, here’s what happened:

He always had a spot on the agenda to speak at the Band Banquet. So when it came time for his speech, I introduced him and sat down. He stood up and reached into a paper bag. He pulled out a wig and put it on. The entire hall erupted in laughter. He ran around the hall doing all kinds of gestures that I really hoped I had never done. At one point, he stopped at pointed to the custodian who cleaned our band room and yelled “Get outta here, Bill!” which was something we all yelled at him. By the time he got to the microphone, I was crying from laughing so hard. But he was far from done…..

He began to tell silly stories as me. One of them was “You know, Margaret is always asking me to come over and go to dinner or to the movies, but I tell her I’d rather play pinochle than do that!” (The guys and I would always play cards together, and Margaret was one of my best friends.) As the stories and laughs continued, he paused, said something about a costume change and turned with his back to the audience.

NOTE: Now, if you’ve read any of my previous blogs, you know that we did a lot of TPing when I was in school. We had a group that went out called the TP Bandits……

He reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a piece of toilet paper that he made into a mask and the laughter became ten times louder!

He looked absolutely ridiculous! It was the funniest thing I have ever sat through! My sides ached from laughing so hard!

The thing about Mr. Shaner was, he could take you from laughing like crazy to crying like a baby. Immediately after he took off the TP mask and wig, he spoke to us about the achievements of the year and offered up wisdom. I remember he mentioned how after graduation, friends will go separate ways. He said that you could go 30 years and when you met back up, could pick right up where you left off. Looking back at that now, I am lucky to have had his friendship 30 years after that night!

After his speech, I told him that was the worst impression of me I had ever seen!

After Graduation

I’m not going to lie, I hated graduating. I didn’t want to head out into the real world! I was comfortable in the band room. There was talk about an Alumni Band, and I was asked to head it up. I gathered all the addresses and we got it up and running. It, in itself, became a great way for all of us band “kids” to come back and hang out with Mr. Shaner. We marched in the homecoming parade every year and even played on the field once or twice. He was very supportive of the group. When he retired, there was an attempt to get folks together, but it was less successful. I truly believe that this had to do with the fact that he was not there to run rehearsals and chat with. There was always so much laughter and fun when we all got together, but without him, it was not the same.

I remember stopping by the band room one summer and he had lost a bunch of weight. He said he had been doing Weight Watchers. I had been struggling with weight for some time and I asked him about it. He was very encouraging and suggested I go. I remember losing 85 pounds and he cheered me all along the way!

One day, my girlfriend at the time and I went to see the Community Band play at one of the colleges. I was surprised to see Mr. Shaner playing his cornet in the band. There were many other concerts I attended and saw him play. It was always a treat for me. We often bumped into each other at shows. I remember seeing him at the Detroit Symphony Orchestra show, and at a Doc Severinsen show (among others).

Don’t Break Anything …

I can’t recall if it was before or after Christmas, but my son was about 1 or 2 years old. We had stopped by his house just to say hello. Their house was full of things on shelves that were breakable. I was so nervous with my son. Mrs. Shaner told my son to pick a gift from under the tree. He picked a book that came with a CD that he listened to often growing up. Mr. Shaner and I sat at his kitchen table talking. I kept wanting to get up because Mrs. Shaner was “entertaining” my son. He kept telling me, “Carol is keeping an eye on him. He’s fine.” Come to find out he was in their room jumping up and down on their bed ….. LOL

Hot Chocolate

I’d always mention getting together for coffee when we’d talk on the phone. He’d always say, I don’t do coffee, but I’ll meet you for hot chocolate. We did that often. In those times we were together, we’d talk about life, family, and the various things going on in our lives. There were so many times I’d walk into his office at school and say, “Do you have a minute?”, and we’d talk just like this. I always enjoyed his insights to things. He was so helpful when I was going through my divorce, offering some sage advice. He always helped me to see things just a bit differently.

Even in his last email to me he offered up encouraging words. He spoke of how much he enjoyed seeing my daughter in pictures on Facebook. He suggested a few books he thought I would enjoy and offered support about my bible classes. He was such a wonderful friend.

Some Closing Thoughts

Every once in a while, you meet someone who makes a huge impression on you. Tom Shaner was that man for me. He was more than just a teacher. As I stated, he was a mentor, a counselor, a leader, and a true friend. He taught me and so many other students life lessons that we have carried with us throughout our lives.

He led by example. He was almost always the first one to arrive to things and the last to leave. He was firm, yet caring. He was serious, yet funny. He showed us the importance of hard work. He showed us the importance of humor. He instilled in us pride for our organization and in our accomplishments. He made music and making music fun! The list goes on and on …

What an influence he was to hundreds of students over the years! I commented on someone’s Facebook post this week by saying that “no matter what year you graduated, no matter what section you played in, no matter what you ended up doing for a living, or where you ended up, we all had one common thread – Tom Shaner.”

He has been such a big part of my life, I am not sure where I would be without his guidance. I am forever grateful for the moments that I shared with him. I don’t know that I could ever put into words what a blessing he was to me. I am so thankful to have had him in my life.

He always said “If you’re on time, you’re late,” so I am going to assume that he was right on time for the heavenly concert that God needed an extra cornet for.

Thank you, Sir. You will be missed every day!

Portrait by Tom’s grandson, Evan.

Endings and Beginnings

“What feels like the end is often the beginning …”

I will be the first to admit that this blog is more appropriate for the end of the year. However, with the events of the past few days (which I will elaborate on in a future blog), it weighed on me to write these thoughts down.

2020 brought many things to an end. Sadly, the one thing that didn’t go away was Covid-19. The virus has forced many local and small businesses to shutter their doors forever. The virus cut short the lives of many Americans and people all around the world. It has also put many things in jeopardy of disappearing forever – going to a movie, free samples, touch screens in public, buffets, and even shaking hands.

While not official, I am pretty confident in saying that 2020 has forced the end of my radio career. Stations have their DJ’s broadcasting from home live or recording shows from home. I enjoyed doing it part time and it allowed me access to studios to do any free lance voice work that might some my way. I am sure that if I needed a studio, I could call and get into one (thanks to a few friends). I don’t do enough of it to warrant buying equipment to set up a studio at home. I have come to terms with this and will always look back on my days in radio fondly. I’m a pretty lucky guy to have worked with so many great people.

I am also sure that I am officially retiring from DJing parties and weddings. The equipment has become too heavy for me to lug in and out. The money people are willing to pay is much less than it used to be, and it has stopped being fun for me. There are some events that I would probably still enjoy doing, but those are the low paying gigs. At one time, I really enjoyed doing it, but it has become more like work.

With the end of things, come new beginnings. One up side of not working at the radio station on weekends is time with my kids and my family. Over the past few months, I have watched my daughter accomplish some firsts – and I am glad I didn’t have to miss them because I was working.

There was a time when I was working full time, working part time in radio, and doing DJ stuff on the side. I was never home. That may or may not have been intentional due to my home situation at the time. However, over the past 4 years, my life has changed drastically for the better. I like being home. I love being with my wife, my daughter, and my sons. I cannot wait to be home with them, even if it is just to sit on the couch and watch TV!

So as 2021 approaches, you and I are faced with 365 blank pages to write as we wish ….

I’m sure that the new year will bring challenges, especially since we will still be dealing with Covid-19, political unrest, division, and hatred. But with each blank page – we can make a choice to be positive, be happy, enjoy every minute, and count every blessing.