My First Date

I tend not to use daily writing prompts, as many of them I find silly or just stupid. However, every once in a while, one will come in the email that makes me go “I haven’t written about that” or “That might be fun to write about.” Today, the prompt was “Do you remember your first date?”

My first date happened when I was a sophomore. It was the first year that I was in marching band. I wasn’t the one who asked, it was actually a girl who asked me out! A senior!! This, in itself, was pretty mind blowing to me, but it didn’t blow my mind at first … because I thought she was joking!!

Let me say that I never went to dances in junior high school. I suppose if I had a steady girlfriend, I may have went to a dance, but I didn’t.

In high school we had two bands. One was the varsity band, which was made up of all freshman (there were a lot of us) and we all knew each other from being in junior high band. By the time I got to concert band in 10th grade, there were plenty of upper classmen that I hadn’t met yet. I met many of them for the first time when we gathered for Band Camp in August.

Homecoming always happened in October, and I guess it was sometime in late September that I was in the band room after class and one of the French Horn players walked by me and said “So, Keith, you’re taking me to Homecoming, right?!” I remember answering “Oh, sure” or something like that. I kinda blew it off and kept walking. Who in the world would want to go to a dance with me??!!

If memory serves me correctly, she asked me one or two more times after that and I again, chuckled, said yes in a joking way and blew it off. She must have figured out that I didn’t know she was serious and the other French Horn player came over to me one day and said, “You do know that she is 100% serious, right?!” THAT blew my mind!

I could not even imagine that anyone would want to go to a dance with me. Hell, I had never danced with a girl before in my life! My mind was racing with all kinds of things. “What do I do on a first date?” “What do I wear to a dance?” “What if I can’t dance?” You know, typical high school questions….

Once I was told she was serious, I think I asked her – just to be sure! She laughed at me and said, “If I wasn’t, I wouldn’t have asked you!” So now I have a date! I came home and told my folks. I remember my dad saying I needed to wear a nice tie. He had to tie it, because I certainly had no idea how to tie one! My mom said I needed to get a corsage (“What is a corsage?”) for her. I think they thought it was cool that I was going to be going out ….. on a date …… with a girl!

I didn’t have a car, so I am sure we went with a friend. They picked me up at my house and my date was already in the car. I remember my folks with their camera, snapping pictures (which have been lost somewhere, sadly). Once we were able to break away from the paparazzi, we were off to the dance. I remember walking in and feeling out of place, but my date quickly made me feel better by making jokes and making me laugh.

My first dance? I don’t remember much about it, as I was kind of spaced out. I sort of remember the slow song (probably a Madonna song) starting and my date asking me to dance. I told her I had never danced before and she pulled me out anyway. Butterflies?! Boy, did I have butterflies!!!! So there I was, both hands on her back, swaying back and forth to the song. I remember later dancing to another slow song and her laying her head on my shoulder. More butterflies.

You’d think I would have a better recollection of such a big moment in a teen’s life. I wish I did. Outside of those two dances, the rest of the dance is kind of a blur to me. For what it is worth, it has been over 30 years since my first date. What I DO remember about that night is actually very embarrassing.

Our Homecoming happened all in one day. We were up early to be at the Pancake Breakfast. Then we headed to the band room to prepare for the Homecoming parade at 9 or 10. After that we got an hour break to eat lunch and then head to the football game. Kickoff was like 1pm or so. We were there early for the pregame show and then stayed through the whole game, which ended about 4 or 5. The dance would follow that evening in the gym at 8. So it was a long day.

After the dance, my date and I went with the others who drove us to Chi-Chi’s. This would be a very popular “after dance” or “after concert” place to eat. The dance had probably ended at about 11pm and then we all went out to dinner. I was usually in bed by 10pm. So here we are at dinner and I am literally fighting to keep my eyes open. I know I probably put my head down at some point. I was a light weight. I couldn’t hang with the big boys and girls! I probably dozed in the car on the way home, too. It was pretty embarrassing. I know the others got quite a laugh. I was a terrible date for her.

I’m sure one of the others may read this and correct any misinformation or add to the story, but this is what I remember. It must not have been THAT bad, as I remain friends with her to this day.

The Comics

84 tigers

While prepping for my weekend shift on the radio, I was going through some old prep to see if there was anything that I could recycle or update.  In that prep was a line about a paperboy delivering papers.  At first I laughed, because, are there even paperboys anymore?!  Second, does anyone read the paper physically today?  I mean, most newspapers are all online today – some of which you have to pay for!

I was a paperboy for both the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News.  I remember as a kid reading my horoscope, the Names and Faces column, Bob Talbert, and all about the Detroit Tigers.  The thing I loved about getting the paper was reading the comics page!  There were so many great comic strips over the years.  I could always count on a good laugh from some of my favorite characters.  Off the top of my head, here are just some of my favorite strips (past and present)…..

The Far Side

From 1980 to 1995, Gary Larson provided a daily laugh for me and so many others!  At one time, I owned all the books and every year I bought the wall calendar.  The cartoons are like a good movie, or TV show – you have seen it hundreds of times, but they are still funny!  I miss this comic so much!

Far side

The Argyle Sweater

This is the closest thing to The Far Side that I have found.  I love how Scott Hilburn incorporates puns almost daily.  Since there is no more Far Side wall calendar, I get the Argyle Sweater one for 365 laughs a year!



This seemed to be the first comic on every comics page for as long as I can remember.  Charles Schulz created some very memorable characters.  I related to Charlie Brown in so many ways growing up.


Calvin and Hobbes

LONG before Toy Story showed us what toys do when we aren’t around, there was Calvin and Hobbes.  Calvin was a kid with a big imagination.  He had many adventures with his stuffed friend, Hobbes.  The strip only lasted 10 years (1985-1995), but still remains one of the best!



Ed Crankshaft was a former minor league baseball player for the Toledo Mud Hens, who now is a school bus driver.  One of the running gags was how he destroyed his neighbor’s mailbox on a daily basis.  At times, this strip had some serious story lines, and remains a favorite.


Funky Winkerbean

Crankshaft was actually a “spin-off” of this strip.  One of the reasons I loved this strip so much, was that it would occasionally focus on Harry Dinkle, the band director and his marching band.  Our band director could be strict, but hardly as strict as Dinkle.  It was not uncommon for strips about band camp to appear the same week we were doing band camp in high school.  As a band geek, I loved this strip!



There are so many things I love about this comic by Kevin Fagan!  The relationship between the father (Ralph) and his son (Norman) reminds me so much of the relationship I have with my dad.  I can relate to the constant dieting struggles that Ralph endures.  There are funny story lines about their dog (Wally), their duck (Bob), and their cay (Oogie).  Ralph’s friend is named No-Neck!  This reminds me of my dad and my grandma – they had nick names for everyone!  The strip has been going since 1979 and Kevin is still drawing it!  GREAT strip that always makes me laugh!



Chip Dunham started drawing this in 1990.  How can you go wrong with a bunch of incompetent pirates?!  The adventures of Captain Crow and the crew of The Revenge range from battles with their enemy (the Green ship), golf, pet care (thanks to Louie, the captain’s dog), and gardening.  One of the things I love about this strip is the occasional breaking of the “fourth wall”.  Often, the “cartoonist” plays a character in the strip he is drawing….



Another great strip that follows a very funny family – the Fox’s.  Bill Amend began this strip in 1988 and up until December of 2006, it ran 7 days a week.  Since then, it’s been running only on Sundays.  Many of the funny situations involved their 3 kids, Peter, Paige, and Jason.

Small Fox


I was almost 30 when this strip debuted in 1997, but found it very funny.  Jeremy is a teenager struggling with typical teenager stuff: girls, school, etc.  There were many times where I could picture myself in his shoes.


Honorable Mentions

There were so many comics that I read each day.  The ones mentioned above are just a few favorites that I enjoyed.  Others include: The Wizard of ID, Mother Goose and Grimm, Garfield, Hagar the Horrible, Beetle Bailey, Pearls Before Swine, and BC.  I am sure there are more, but without using Google, these are the ones that came to mind immediately.

While I don’t get a newspaper on a daily basis anymore, when I do, I still go straight to the comics page.  What comics did you enjoy reading in the paper?


I’m With the Band ….


Autumn/Fall is my favorite season. There is something about the cool crisp air and fall colors that I absolutely love. With fall comes sweatshirt weather, bonfires, and high school football games. Those high school football games remind me of marching band and the annual homecoming.

“Homecoming” is defined as “an annual tradition where people, towns, high schools, and colleges come together (usually in the fall) to welcome back former residents or alumni”. Over the past couple weeks, I have enjoyed seeing many of my Facebook friends posting Homecoming pictures. Many of them are pictures of their sons or daughters all dressed up for the dance while some pictures are from Homecoming parades. Some of the pictures were posted by former classmates who are now teaching at my old high school, and they brought back some great memories.

Prior to high school, our junior high band marched in the homecoming parades and played a song or two. I don’t ever recall staying for the homecoming game afterward. I don’t ever recall walking in the parade while I was in elementary school either, though that seems to be the thing nowadays. At my son’s parade last year, every single elementary school in the district had some sort of representation or float of some kind.

Our ninth grade band had something like 70-100 members if my memory serves me correct. Because of that fact, we stayed a separate entity. We were the Varsity Band and the 10th-12th graders were in the Concert/Marching Band. As Freshmen, we also marched in the parade as a “bonus” band. It was just a taste of what was to come as we entered 10th grade.

1985-1986 – Marching Band Season 1

Prior to school starting, we were given our music for the year’s Marching Band season. The music consisted of the four songs for our halftime show, music for the pregame, music that would be used for pep assemblies, and music that we might play in the stands or in a parade. The instructions were clear “Memorize these songs!” To be honest, this scared the hell out of me. I was never good at memorizing anything, but after playing along with the cassette tape that was available, I had most of it ready by band camp.

I will spare you the obligatory “this one time at band camp” line and just say that band camp was 1) hard work 2) hot and 3) a blast. We had all gotten the “charts” of what the pregame and halftime show were supposed to look like. It was neat to look at, but as a sophomore who had never charted a show, I had no idea what it meant. Basically, the chart shows where you are at one point in the song on one page and where you are going on the pages that follow. You might start on the 30 yard line, but in 12 measures, you are going to march in step to the 45 yard line and take your place there. Then over the course of another 24 measures, you are going to make your way over to the 25 yard line while marching side step (horn facing the stands) and playing the melody.


You can imagine the amount of rehearsal time that something like this has to take. I can recall our band director asking us to do it over and over and over again. “Pick it up from measure 8″….”Keith was out of step, let’s do it again” … “The flutes need to be louder here”…. “Good! Let’s try it all the way through from the top – one more time!” Slowly, but surely, the show came together. It wasn’t until we saw a video of the show from one of the football games that I really came to know how cool the show looked on the field.

I’ll never forget the songs from the show. It opened with “Artistry in Rhythm”, which was Stan Kenton’s theme song. We were all lined up facing the visitor stands. Ronnie, the junior drum major faced us, while John, the head drum major was on the podium, waiting for us to turn around on the first note. We all stood with our heads down and as Ronnie counted to eight, we slowly raised our heads, brought our instruments to our lips and as he said “eight” we stepped off turning toward the home stands with the dramatic opening of the tune. Not sure how I remember that, but I can recall it like it was yesterday! It was a pretty tough song with some pretty high notes. Cathy played this amazing trumpet solo on the song and nailed it every show. She was one of two trumpet players who I admired in our band. As a young player, I hoped one day I could play as well as them.

Next, we played the Louis Prima song “Sing, Sing, Sing”, which of course was a big hit for the Benny Goodman band. I think of all the songs we played for marching band, it was my favorite. We had a solid percussion section and they really held this one together. This song had a bit for everybody. The melody was carried by the brass, the woodwinds, and the low brass even got to shine in this one. What I remember most about this song was that at the end of the song, the band formed a G-Clef on the field while the drums and majorettes formed a musical note. It truly was a very cool thing.


Our third song was called Rock ‘n Roll Fever, which was a medley of songs like Heartbreak Hotel, At the Hop, and others. Carmelle was our first chair trumpet. She was the section leader. She had a pretty amazing solo in this number (as did Chad and Scott). She could nail high notes and they were clear as a bell. I remember I had only heard the solos on the cassette tape prior to us all getting together on the field. To hear Cathy and Carmelle knock those solos out of the park every time, truly stuck with me.

What I didn’t really care for was the fact that there was a dance that was created to go along with this song. We all stayed in the formation we ended with at the end of Sing, Sing, Sing and we did this dance. As silly as I felt doing it, the crowd seemed to like it a lot. We did a dance to at least one song every year I was in marching band…sadly. Maybe I just wish we had continued to do some more moving around on the field, but I kinda hated the dance numbers.

The final number of our show was “I’ll Be There”, which was a HUGE hit for the Jackson 5. It was the perfect show closer. It was a very soft and pretty arrangement and the movement of the band matched it perfectly. As the song ended, we all marched off the field to head back to the “band bleachers” to continue to root for our Football Team – The Abes (who were coached by the best – Jim Benefield. My Senior year – he helped coach them to an undefeated season!).

Other Random Marching Band Memories

  • Marching in a parade is always a cool thing. Marching in a parade through Disney, kind of tops them all! You’d stop in specific spots at times and play a song, then get back into ranks and march a bit more. Mickey, Goofy, Pluto and all the characters would be around dancing to your songs. Such fun times and great memories.
  • The Hall Football Hall of Fame Parade. We did this once … once! It had to be the longest parade EVER! I remember we were marching and we’d see a floating balloon in front of us start to come down. We’d be thinking “the end is near – we are almost done” and that damn balloon would jump back up in the air and mock us! By the end of the parade, our legs felt like jelly and our lips were basically dead.
  • Senior year I got to play a solo in the half time show. We did the George Gershwin song Rhapsody in Blue. One of my lifelong friends, Margaret, and I got to play solos. She stood on one side of me and we did a “question and answer” type solo. I played, she answered. The solo was quite easy for me, and nothing as complicated as the solos that were played by Cathy and Carmelle in my first year of marching band, but it was still a solo. It was exciting! I knew it and I had it memorized, but I was always nervous each time I had to play that thing in front of the crowd. It’s funny to think about that now, as I am quite comfortable being in front of a crowd (because of the radio work I did for so long). I guess, when you think about it, both scenarios are “performing” in front of a group, but with band – there are always the possibilities of playing a wrong note!
  • Doggin’ Around. We had this fun, bouncy and jazzy number called Doggin’ Around. I might be wrong, but I want to say it was a Count Basie song. Anyway, it was a damn fun song to play and I thought it would be fun to conduct it. Some of us were taking a conducting class and I asked the band director if I could conduct it at one of the games. I must have pestered him enough because he said yes. We played the song during our post game show. (This was done when the home team won a game – and we won EVERY game that year!) I knew that song inside and out. I knew where every brass sting was, I knew where the tuba line was important, and I knew where every crescendo and decrescendo was! I counted it off and the band played – how they were able to follow me, I am not sure. I was moving my hips all over the place in time with the song. I was dancing along while conducting. It was crazy. When I saw a video of it, I was embarrassed at just how silly I looked, but again, the crowd seemed to love it, and I was having fun.
  • The Washington and Lee Swing. The Lincoln School Song. I can still play this by memory! This is one of those “If I had a dollar for every time I played this song…” songs. It was a parade favorite, it was played at pep assemblies, it was played during pre-game, post-game, when the football team entered the field, and every single time the team scored! While in school, I think we kind of got sick of it … but now, when I hear it, I am reminded of some of the best days of my life!
  • The Star Spangled Banner. You hear the National Anthem before each and every sporting event. With high school events, it is no different. One thing I always remember is that whenever our band director conducted it, he played it pretty quickly. I think one time he said, “there’s no need to drag it out – we wanna get the game started”. Whenever I hear a band play it slow and drag it out … I always think about how fast we used to play it.
  • The Italian Number. We Got The Beat was a hit for The Go Go’s in 1980. I’m not sure when the LHS Band started playing it, but it basically became a tradition. It was a standard “must play” song every year. It is also another song that I can play by memory. In marching band, you play while at attention – feet together, back strait, horn level to the ground. With this song, all bets were off. You danced, you swayed, you “got down”, and had fun! It was a celebratory song that was a “staple” to every post game show. It was often called “We Gotta Da Beat” or “that Italian number”. I’m not sure if it is still a tradition at LHS, but deep down, I hope it is.

Times have changed

When I go to a high school football game today I get excited to watch the band! I walk in with the expectation of seeing lots of movement and hearing the full, loud sounds of the band. Recently, I have been somewhat disappointed. It seems that today, you need to have an entire pit full of xylophones, bells, and in some cases, electric guitars! I understand that these are all musical instruments, but I’m old school and I don’t think they belong.

At one recent performance, it took the band 3 minutes just to get all the stuff down in front of the gridiron for the show. To me, this is a waste of performance time. When that clock started to tick away the halftime break, we were entering the field, and within a minute, we were playing! I digress. Bottom line, I DO love to watch a marching band and it takes me back to a time in my life where I had a lot of fun.

Thanks to YouTube, there are many great college marching band shows available to view online. Recently the LSU Marching Band got a lot of attention doing a halftime show with a bunch of TV themes. OSU has also gained attention with some of their great shows as well. I am always amazed at the things these bands are able to do on the field. Kudos to the creators of these shows, they entertain in SO many ways!

After I graduated in 1988, we created an Alumni Band. Keeping with the Homecoming theme, it was a chance for band alumni to come back and march in the Homecoming parade again. We pulled out the school song one more time and played it with every ounce of school spirit we had. We were able to order a new piece of music to play in the parade as well. After our band director retired, the tradition of the alumni band returning began to fade. Part of the fun was rehearsing again with him and laughing like old times.

It’s been some time since the alumni band last played for Homecoming. Who knows if the interest is still there and whether or not the new band director would be open to welcoming us back. I do know this – Each and every fall I will always be reminded of those chilly days of fall where I’d suit up in my band uniform and march on to the field to play that school song loud and proud! I will remember with a smile how very special it was to be in the marching band!