Friday Photo Flashback

Time for another edition of the Friday Photo Flashback. Today, we go back to May of 1987 to the annual Band Banquet.

I stumbled on the above photo in a stack of pictures from my dad. I realize that the photo is a bit blurry, but if you look carefully, you will see that I have a conductor’s baton sticking in my shirt collar. This was just one of many things our band director, Tom Shaner, used to do.

If you are not familiar with the story, I blogged about it when Mr. Shaner passed away. Here is an excerpt from that blog:

My junior year of high school, the band 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 of the other things he used to say. 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.

I actually found that photo, too!

Back to the first photo. We did our band banquets at this little VFW Hall every year. I remember the sound system being just awful. If you touched the microphone the wrong way, it became all static and no one could understand what you were saying. The set up for the banquet was pretty much the same every year. The officers all sat up front and each of us had a responsibility. Some gave out awards, others gave out letters, some introduced speakers, etc.

As I look at this photo, Joe is wearing sunglasses to my right. I can’t remember exactly why he was wearing them. He may have had his eyes dilated or something. To my left is our band president (who sadly just passed away unexpectedly) Ingrid. You really can’t see her, however, it looks like she is covering her face. I guess I’d like to think she’s covering her face saying to herself, “Oh my gosh, why did we let him talk!?” To her left is Ron, our second drum major. I love that he is cracking up in the picture. His laugh was so boisterous!

This is one of those times I wish I still had the video of this, or at least a panoramic picture of the officer’s table. There was a lot of laughter that year, and Mr. Shaner waited a full year to get me back. You can read about that and him here:

These two photos remind me of such a fun time. Those band banquets were such fun. After dinner and all of the awards and speeches, there was a live band that played music all night. There was plenty of dancing and many laughs. It was always a very special night for us.

A Blog in Three Quarter Time

There is a thing that circulates on Facebook every so often that says, “Every thing I learned about Classical Music, I learned from Looney Tunes.” In a way, that is true for me (and a lot of people). Here is a link to an article from Classic FM:

I bring this up for a silly reason today. I was playing that crazy racing game Forza Horizon 5 the other day. In the game, there are different radio stations you can listen to. I usually have the classical music station on as I play the game. I think there are like 10 songs that rotate. Every time this one song would come on, I’d laugh because I’d think of cartoon trapeze artists. I bet without even hearing it, you know what song I am talking about!

In my 52 years, I never knew the name of it or who composed it. I know know. Forza Horizon 5 is set in Mexico, so it is only appropriate that the song was written by a Mexican composer by the name of Juventino Rosas. The waltz (in 3/4 time) is called Sobre las Olas or “Over the Waves.” It was first published in 1888!

The song has been recorded by Chet Atkins, The Beach Boys, Pete Fountain and Willie Nelson! It appeared in the 1943 Warner Brothers cartoon “An Itch in Time” and the 1950 Warner Brothers cartoon Canary Row. It appears with English lyrics (entitled “The Loveliest Night of the Year”) in the 1951 film “The Great Caruso.” It remains Rosas’ most popular piece of music.

Give it a listen here (the melody you will recognize begins 41 seconds into the song):

Please understand that this song by itself doesn’t make me laugh. I actually enjoy it. The reason it makes me laugh in the game is that it is usually playing while I am driving and crashing into mailboxes, running over gates, rear ending cars in my way, or watching my car go off a cliff or something.

Imagine that song playing while you are casually ripping up the roads at 307 miles per hour!!! Or even passing someone doing 131 miles per hour….

I’m not sure why this makes me chuckle but it does. Now, take Gustov Holst’s piece from The Planets – Mars, The Bringer of War. This piece fits into those scenarios a bit better. There is a sense of urgency and suspense involved. In some racing events, it is a perfect background piece. Even better, there is one race that you are driving up a mountain to where there is a live volcano – talk about a perfect song!

As much of a stress reliever the game is for me, I love the fact that there is some great classical music in it to accompany the various races and tasks.

So let me change what I said earlier … “Every thing I learned about Classical Music, I learned from band class, Looney Tunes … and a video racing game!”

Ghosts of Halloween Past

A few years back, I wrote a blog about those terrible Halloween costumes we used to wear as kids. You know, the one with the plastic masks with the holes in them? The masks with that cheap rubber band that always broke? Remember those? Here is a link to that blog as a refresher for you:

There was a Trunk or Treat close to our house recently and I could see all the kids dressed up in their Halloween costumes. I tried to remember what I had dressed up as for Halloween as a kid and I really cannot remember. So I pulled out a hard drive which contains a bunch of photo scans from my dad. I figured if my folks had taken any pictures of us in costumes, they’d be on that drive.

What I found was that there were next to none on this drive. There were a couple, which I will share, but nothing from when we were really young. I guess my parents must have thought those costumes with the cheap masks and slits for eyes were not photo worthy. The only ones they took pictures of were when we did something out of the ordinary.

One year my brother and I wanted to be vampires or something. So my dad bought the make up and such and the result was … less than steller.

We don’t even have capes! I dunno, this get up stumps me. My dad tried to make me look like Sir Graves Ghastly, who was a local horror movie host on TV. I think that he did a good job, but without the rest of the vampire ensemble, people had to wonder who they heck we were!

Sir Graves Ghastly. We met him once at a mall appearance. He was very cool and everyone asked him to do his “laugh.”

Another year I went out as Oliver Hardy of Laurel and Hardy.

I’m sure this also made no sense to people answering the door because my brother dressed up as a woman. Perhaps Mr. Hardy had a date? I suppose I could have been mistaken for Charlie Chaplin, but my body shape was more Hardy than Chaplin!

The only other Halloween picture I have is from my Sophomore year of high school. The band had a Halloween party at some barn as I recall and we all went to it. I didn’t know what to go as, and decided on going as a clown. I threw on a pair of pajama pants over my jeans, one of my dad’s old shirts, an awful sport coat, clown wig, hat and tie, and added a huge horn. It was ridiculous!

This is just a guess, but that year at the annual Band Banquet, I won the Mock Elections for “Band Clown.” I am sure that this outfit played a part in that win. It was cool to win that award every year I was in band.

While this wasn’t necessarily Halloween, one of the other photos of my “in costume” that came up was one that I used when I worked at 94.5 The Moose. I used to take song lyrics and read them behind some classical music and called it a “Dramatic Reading.” It was a silly chance to “overact.”

The first reading I did was Gretchen Wilson’s Redneck Woman. Imagine classical music playing with me dramatically saying, “Victoria Secret. There’s stuff’s real nice. But I can buy the same damn thing on a Walmart shelf – half price!” It was utter stupidity. To promote it on the website, they took this picture:

HA! I’m such an idiot!

I suppose it is probably better that there are no pictures of me in those cheap costumes. I remember I was always overweight and the pants always seemed to rip before we were done Trick or Treating. And half the time, the thing that held the mask on broke after three or four blocks and wound up in the bottom of the Trick or Treat bag or pillowcase anyway.

As silly as these are, they are fun to look back at!

Friday Photo Flashback

Time for another Friday Photo Flashback. This time around I’m taking you to my room….circa 1990.

The shelf you are looking at sat above my bed (a waterbed…lol). Above it was another shelf with the globe my grandmother had got me for Christmas, some ceramic pieces my mom made me and a few other things.

Just by looking at this picture, I can recall where everything else was in the room. To the right of this picture is the window that looks out to the front yard. On the wall opposite this one, my dresser sat in the corner. Directly next to it was a shelf that my cheap stereo system sat on.

(The stereo had a double cassette deck, turntable, radio tuner, and a place for a microphone. Long before I worked in radio, I made tapes for people with songs I recorded off the radio with me acting as DJ. I know I’d be embarrassed to hear those now!)

The closet was to the left of this picture. All along the walls were photos, posters, and your typical teen wall decor. The shelf pictured here was the focal point of the room.In a way, this shelf encompasses “me.”

Centered on it are the (now long gone) Three Stooges figurines. I really wish I still had them. I marvelled at the detail of the faces when I first saw them. They were fairly expensive when they came out. They represent “humor,” which has always been important in my life. To laugh and make people laugh … It’s a very big part of who I was/am.

Above the Stooges, a treble clef and music notes hang. Both were gifts from my mom. I’m sure the clef hung elsewhere in the house before she gave it to me. Music has always been important to me and continues to be.

To the left of Larry is an award I got in my senior year. I think it was for “Best Dancer” which is ridiculous. I probably only got the award because I did the Curly Shuffle once at a band party. I’ve never claimed to be a dancer. Perhaps when I hit my goal weight, I will think about a dance class with Sam.

To the right of Moe is my high school diploma. I always joke that I was in the half of the class that made the top half possible. I think if it wasn’t for band class, I probably would have done even worse. I was not the ideal student. That experience only helped me when we I finally went to college – I knew what NOT to do!

The two flags were something I got at Epcot one year. They represent my Italian and American heritage. There is more in my background on my mom’s side (English, Scottish, and German), but I tend to embrace the Italian more

The screwdriver on the shelf? I have no explanation for. I’m screwy, maybe? Yeah. That’s true in a lot of ways.

Why I Want My Children to Be in Band

While scrolling Facebook this weekend, there were lots of pictures of high school Homecoming dances and football games. Hoco, as it is now called, was one of those events I always looked forward to! I loved marching in the parade and playing the halftime show.

This morning a link to this article came up and it hit home. I cannot find an author listed, but it came from the website:

What follows is the entire article. I cannot agree more with it. I know that there are many of my classmates who have band kids of their own now and they post photos of them in uniform often. I am sure they look at them knowing that they are sharing similar experiences that we did when we were in high school.

I’m sharing the article in its entirety for them and for parents with children who aren’t quite old enough to be in band yet. I hope that this conveys to them the amazing things that a band student gains from being a part of it.

Why I Want My Children To Be In Band

When I think of the character traits I want my children to develop, I think of strength, resilience, kindness, happiness, bravery, independence, balance, community, and gratefulness. Being a band director, I see how band helps students learn and develop these qualities every day.


In band, children learn to take on something difficult.

In today’s world so many things are instant; So many things are fast and easy; So many things are disposable. But learning to play an instrument is just challenging as it has always been.

Students learn delayed gratification, they learn not to give up, they learn that strength takes time and dedication and work. There are no shortcuts — which develops strength.


The band hall is a place of expected mistakes. Students will make hundreds if not thousands of mistakes in a given class period. Millions over the course of their musical journey. Mistakes in band are not only expected; they are signs of growth.

Squeaks on a clarinet show that a student is learning to cover the holes. Cracks on a trumpet show that a student is increasing range. Missed notes on a xylophone show that a student is improving muscle memory. And because we know that mistakes and areas of improvement will never end, we know that student’s resiliency will never stop growing.


Students in a musical ensemble are given frequent opportunities to express kindness to others.

A smile to a neighbor who performed better today than yesterday. A thumbs-up to a friend who just nailed a solo, or a hug for a friend who just bombed one. A five-minute help session with a younger band member who needs some experience. A cheering section for the beginning band or the top band.

Constant encouragement and kindness can be found in band halls every day.


Children find happiness in many different activities. Music is one that lasts a lifetime.
It allows them to put aside their worries, forget their troubles and find moments of pure joy. Whether this is happiness over an individual achievement, a perfect moment of musicality, or just having a band hall to call home, band can provide happiness when children most need it.


Playing an instrument helps children learn to be brave.

Trying something new that is a physical as well as a personal risk can be scary. Performing by yourself for the class can be intimidating. Performing on a stage with, or without, your band friends can be terrifying. But these experiences can also be satisfying. And exhilarating. And empowering.

Learning to perform and step outside your comfort zone develops bravery.


From learning to assemble their instrument in beginning band, to performing a senior recital, students learn independence in band.

Students grow in independence every day in the band hall. Learning to take care of their equipment; learning to have their supplies; learning to come prepared to rehearsal for your own sake and for the sake of those around you; learning that what you do affects the group…

All of these opportunities to grow in independence are constant in band.


Students learn balance in band.

They learn that they are not always the most important part, but they are always important. They learn that there is a busy-season in life – a time to buckle down and work before a concert, and there is a time to breathe, to take it easy and enjoy time with their friends.


Band is community.

Members learn that the part that they play may be different from the person who sits next to them, but both parts are equally important in creating beautiful music. They learn precision – that accuracy of their own part is not enough – it is equally important that they be able to play in rhythm, in sync and in tune with those around them. They learn to listen to the director, to the leaders in the ensemble, to the musicians around the room. And to thrive as a community.


Watching students at final concerts is a chance to see the gratefulness they have developed because of band and music. I see students who are grateful for the opportunity to show their parents their hard work; Students who are grateful for the technique and skill that they’ve mastered; Students who are grateful for the life-long friends who are sitting beside them; Students who are grateful that – for the rest of their life – music will be a part of them.

And as a band director, I am so grateful for the privilege to watch students develop the character traits above. My wish is that my children – that all children in all band halls – develop strength, resilience, kindness, happiness, bravery, independence, balance, community, and gratefulness.

The music is what makes it possible.
The challenge is what makes it possible.
The dedication is what makes it possible.

Music is a great way to grow great humans.

Final Thoughts From Me

First, let me give kudos to whoever wrote this amazing piece! As a former band student, the things this band director mentions are things that I have taken with me long after graduation. They are things I have used in my life for years.

I am so glad that I had the opportunity to play an instrument under the direction of great instructors (Ron Uphoff, Lloyd Mest, and Tom Shaner) and apply those lessons learned on a daily basis. If you have a band student, you are probably seeing these things in them already. If you question whether or not to to get your child in band, I hope this article causes you to say “yes!”

Something’s Missing!

Warning – Band Alumni Rant To Follow!

It is no secret to anyone who follows my blog that I am a Band Nerd through and through! I have many wonderful memories of playing in band when I was in school. Many memories surround the high school Homecomings.

Homecoming was always on a Saturday. We’d start the day in the morning by marching in the parade. There would be an hour or so break between the end of the parade and the actual homecoming game. After the game, we’d all go home to shower and get ready for the dance that would take place that evening. It was an all day event.

Sam had mentioned earlier in the week that the homecoming parade for our local high school was tonight. We talked about taking the kids to watch it. The route is a short distance from our house, so we all dressed and loaded up the stroller and walked to get a good spot.

From where we stood, we could look down the street to see where the parade would be starting from. At 5pm on the dot, I could see the drum major leading the band out onto the main drag. Local police and fire trucks were usually at the head of our homecoming parades, but this one had the band front and center.

As the band approached, I awaited the “roll off” which would ultimately prompt the band to play the school song. The school song was always a song played on parade routes for us. There was usually one or two other songs we’d rotate through as we marched. If we were marching in a holiday parade, we might have a Christmas song in there.

The band kept coming closer and there was still no music. I figured they were waiting for a spot full of spectators before playing. Our drum majors often did this. If there was a stretch with just a few people, we marched without playing. However, if there was a big line of people along the route, you could rest assured we were playing.

Then I noticed why there was no music – the band members didn’t even have their instruments! The only ones who did were the drummers. I was floored (and disappointed) by this. It was a beautiful day – sunny and about 65 degrees at parade time – why were they not playing? I couldn’t even fathom this.

The band walked by and were all chanting or yelling something. It was probably “Go Mustangs” or “Hurray for Clio” or something like that. Why wouldn’t you want to belt out the school fight song along the route? I don’t get it. You are at the front of the parade – it’s your time to shine. You have that golden opportunity to set the stage for everything else that follows, and you just walk on by. Heck, they may as well have been throwing candy into the crowd like everyone else did in my opinion. They were no different than the boy scouts sitting on a flatbed …

When I think of a band in a parade, I think of brass players right out in front with their notes piercing through the air and letting everyone along the parade route know they are coming! They are belting out the school fight song that alumni along the road can sing along with and little kids can clap along with. Maybe it’s just a great march from John Phillip Sousa to fire up the crowd before they all file into the stands to watch the grid iron competition. The band is such an important part of a parade.

When they plan the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, they choose 10-12 high school or university bands from across the country to perform. That, in itself, tells you of the importance of the presence of a marching band in a parade. Last year in the Detroit Thanksgiving parade, there were 5 bands that performed. Even in the Mickey Mouse photo above, the characters are playing musical instruments. To me, this says that a band is vital to a good parade.

I remember vividly that our band director, Tom Shaner, would take us out at least once during homecoming week to march around the neighborhood in preparation for the parade. It was always neat to see people standing on their front porches to watch us go by. The kids who were too young to be in school would watch us and jump around and dance to the school song. Marching bands and music make people smile!

By definition, Homecoming is a long-standing American tradition where colleges and high schools would welcome alumni back to campus and the community. So when I graduated, we got some of the old band gang back together to march in the homecoming parade. Mr. Shaner was more than happy to have us back. A highlight of getting ready for the parade was meeting together a few weeks before hand to rehearse music. With all of us sitting around in the band room, it was like old times.

That first year we gathered up quite a group with good instrumentation and we marched. We used to joke that we’d need oxygen at the end of the parade! For many, we hadn’t picked up our horns in months or years! We always counted on the newly graduated to sort of carry the older folks.

A buddy’s brother designed our logo to put it on sweatshirts so we could all sort of be in uniform. What a blast we’d have getting together every year. Once Mr. Shaner retired, the interest to get together started to fade. I sure do miss playing my trumpet in those parades.

I’m not 100% sure why the local band didn’t play in the parade. Perhaps there is a specific reason. I don’t know. As a former band student, I was disappointed – not only for me, but for my kids (and all the kids on the parade route). I wanted them to hear the sounds of the band! I’m also disappointed for the band members. What is there to remember about your homecoming parade if you weren’t playing a special piece of music? Even if all you played was the school fight song 5-10 times along the route – play something! What kind of memory is just walking along? What is a marching band without music? I guess it’s just a bunch of people walking ….


I was a sophomore in high school 36 years ago. Space shuttle launches were nothing new to me, as they had done 24 launches since 1981. On January 28, 1986, the entire country watched as the first teacher (Christa McAuliffe) was on board. It was a Tuesday and it seemed like every classroom was watching the launch. 73 seconds into the launch, the shuttle exploded. The entire crew was killed.

The footage of the explosion was replayed over and over again as all the major networks did special reports throughout the day. I remember watching the footage live. I recall some silence as the explosion happened and the rocket boosters went off in different directions. I remember the cameras panning the crowd and the looks of horror and sadness on their faces.

I remember watching President Reagan address the nation that evening from the White House. I remember how much that impacted me. He truly was the “Great Communicator”: “We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and ‘slipped the surly bonds of earth’ to ‘touch the face of God.’” Here is a wonderful article about that address to the nation:

In band class, we were rehearsing music for our Winter Concert, which was usually in early to mid February. After the Challenger disaster, a new piece of music appeared in our music folders. We probably had less than two weeks to work it up to include it in the concert. It was The Navy Hymn (Eternal Father Strong to Save).

That particular concert was going to be a busy one. Dr. Tim Lautzenheiser was visiting our band and after an extremely powerful two days worth of team building, and leadership lessons was set to conduct a few numbers. A local pastor was there to serve as emcee. A few of the songs on the program were ones that we would work up to take to Band Festival that year. With all of that going on, here was a new piece of music to learn.

We were told by our band director, Tom Shaner, that we were adding it to honor those lost in the Challenger disaster. It was not a difficult piece to play. We were told that our emcee was going to do some sort of narrative over the music as we played the song. Up until a few days before the concert, we had no idea what he was going to say. We brought him in to rehearse the song with us so he could be sure that the timing of it worked out.

I don’t recall what he said word for word, but somewhere I am sure a member of the band had the cassette recording of that concert. I remember it being an very moving tribute. What I remember most was when he read off each of the crew member’s names. Hearing them over the music that we were playing was very emotional for sure. It was the perfect tribute and I doubt there was a dry eye in the auditorium.

I don’t recall if it was the following day, or the following week, but I remember that the pastor who served as our emcee for that show passed away suddenly soon after that concert. It was so sad, but that amazing narrative was saved for many to hear on those cassette tapes. It was a concert I won’t soon forget.

2 Years of Ramblings – A Reflection


Two Years Old

Word Press informs me that this blog turned two years old yesterday!  Two years and the blogging continues….

I wrote a blog reflecting on one year and some feelings remain the same.  Rather than look back on the entire two years, I thought I would reflect on the last year, which had many milestones!  Over the past year, I have gained many more followers, so for those new followers, let me give you a brief look at why this blog exists two years later.

The beginnings


When I began this blog, I really didn’t have any idea of what it would be.  In my head, I thought that I might blog about some things I liked.  I also knew I would probably write about some favorite memories.  I might also write tributes to important people in my life or just random thoughts to help me deal with emotions or life situations.

This blog was meant for me.  It was to be a “sort of” therapy for me.  I envisioned it as a way to keep track of thoughts, write down stories I didn’t want to forget, and occasionally just vent. I had often joked about writing an autobiography, and in a way, this blog has become “chapters”.

I never thought that anyone would actually want to read these blogs (unless, of course, the blog mentioned them)!  Yet, here I am over two years later and I have “followers” – people who actually make it a point to read this no matter what the topic.  It humbles me.

Looking Back

If I were to compare “year one” with “year two” I would say the blogs leaned a lot more happy.  They contained many happy moments.  Looking back, I see how I have grown and learned to deal with certain people, certain situations, and look at things more objectively.  I have learned to think before reacting.  I have learned to separate myself from those things that bring on stress and make me uncomfortable.  I have gotten more in touch with the person I want to be. Looking back, I see much more happiness.  Life has been very good to me over the last year.

Musical Blogs


Much like last year, there were plenty of blogs about music.  I began to post a song every Tuesday that held some special meaning.  Maybe the song was prompted by a singer’s birthday or it was just something I heard on the radio.  I admit toward the end of the year, I neglected the Tune Tuesday feature a bit.  I hope to be a bit more consistent with it in the year ahead.  Last year’s songs ranged from Dean Martin to Hugh Laurie to the Muppets!  I look forward to this year’s selections.

Memories of the Past


Nostalgic memories are often featured here.  Many of them stem from things I see that bring back memories.  Some writings stem from an idea I got from a fellow blogger.  Some of the topics from last year included the ice cream man, toys I remember from my childhood, breakfast cereals from my childhood, memories of band class, the Sunday comics I used to read, books I read as a child and to my boys, and the summer baseball games I played in the neighborhood.  There was also a blog about Muppets phased out of Sesame Street.

Guest Blogger


I toyed with this idea, and my little brother stepped up to bat.  It was fun to tell him to write whatever he wanted to and see what he came up with.  I really like this idea, and I hope to get a few others to write occasional pieces for this blog.  I am very open to this idea.  Let me know if you would like to do this!  You could write about me, our friendship, or expand on something I have already written.

Friendship salutes


This year I saluted my oldest and best friend on his birthday.  I also saluted three of my friends from school/band in one blog because they all celebrated birthdays in October. Remembering some of the funny radio stories that involved my co-host Stephanie was a blast for sure!  Some blogs were inspired by friends and their posts on Facebook.  Year three I am already planning some overdue friendship blogs.  Stay tuned!



This year, I did a series on my favorite movies by decade.  The idea was to pick one favorite film from each year you have been alive.  I was born in 1970, so I did a blog for each decade (70’s, 80’s, 90’s, and 2000’s).  I neglected to do 2010-2019, but now that we have entered the new decade, I will have to make sure to wrap that series up.  I really enjoy being able to write about my favorite films, and I found it a challenge to narrow it down to one each year.



Last year I wrote about less celebrities than the year before.  I wrote about The Three Stooges, in a round about way, as I went with the boys to the Stooges Festival in Redford.  I devoted an entire blog to some of the very funny lines that Paul Lynde had from the Hollywood Squares.  The great Jack Benny got an much deserved blog on his birthday.  I also wrote about Elvis on the anniversary of his passing.  I believe that there are a few other celebrities who I could easily devote an entire blog to, I just wonder if folks would read it.



Along with movies and music, TV tends to be a topic I love to write about.  This year I wrote a blog about the classic 1966 Batman show.  I also wrote about my favorite TV shows of the 1950’s.  For Tune Tuesday, I picked Sanford and Son because of the theme song.  I really need to write about that show and some of my other favorites.  This year I blogged about the remake of All in the Family and The Jefferson’s which again brought me back to one of my original blogging ideas – “why must they remake everything!?”  I also had a chance to talk about one of my favorite Christmas TV specials this year.

Serious Topics


While many blogs tend to focus on entertaining things, some blogs wind up being of a serious nature.  I am human.  I can’t be upbeat all the time.  I finally had the guts to write about the topic of divorce – just to see if I could do it. Death was also a topic.  I lost some close friends this year.  I also had friends of mine who lost loved ones.  Just this week alone, my buddy Chris lost his mom and a co-worker lost hers.  It’s a hard topic to write about, but I did.

Emotional Blogs


As I look back over “year two”, there is no shortage of blogs that brought about strong emotions from me.  One of those stemmed from a photo shoot for my oldest son.  Senior pictures.  I still choke up as I think about him being a senior and graduating.  Speaking of graduation, my wife graduated with her Bachelor’s Degree in April.  I felt so much pride for her as she walked that stage.  She did all the work, so why it was so emotional for me, I don’t know.  I sometimes think I can get too emotional.  Rest assured – there are more emotional blogs in the year ahead!



The blog also consisted of many personal rants.  Some I have mentioned (TV and Movie remakes, missing Muppets, and such), but I also ranted (and whined) about having the “man cold”.  That blog brought about much teasing from friends!  I also ranted about how much I miss record stores (prompted by a record player I received for my birthday).  I know I have other “rant” topics in my blogging notebook.

A Love Story


Sam and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary.  I chose to take the occasion of our anniversary to tell “our story”. The people who were close to us knew the story, but many didn’t.  As sort of a “love letter” to my wife, and as a way to tell just how our wonderful relationship began, I wrote a series of three blogs leading up to our anniversary.  Those blogs talked of how we met and became close friends, how we began dating and how I proposed, and then how we got married.  Those blogs were among my highest read last year.  A blog followed about our anniversary trip.  Sam makes me SO happy and I am sure there will be many more blogs about our amazing relationship.


On Father’s Day, Sam told me that we were expecting a baby.  It was SO hard to NOT blog about that!!  We waited some time before spilling the beans with our big announcement.  A series of blogs about expecting a baby, then finding out we were having a girl, and finally sharing the name we had picked for her remain the most read blogs in the history of this blog!  The support from our friends and family has been SO amazing!  Sharing stories of the baby shower and 3D ultrasound pics has been a thrill.  We are closing in on the due date (February 16) and she can come anytime.  The nursery is ready and so are we! We anxiously await her arrival and with it, I will have plenty of things to share with you about being a dad again!

The Future

As I said last year – Not so long ago, I was told my someone once close to me to stop writing.  “Nobody wants to read about that crap!  It is a waste of time.  Stop trying to be creative. Nobody cares about what you like and don’t like!”  If I have learned anything from Facebook and this blog, it is that people do care!  People do like to read what I write!  In the end, I don’t really write for others, I write for myself.  The fact that other people read this blog and get some enjoyment out if it is a little bonus.

In future blogs, I will continue to write about things I love.  I will write about things that people want to know about.  I hope to do more Question and Answer blogs and I will continue to participate in Blogathons.  I want to write about how Autism played a role on my life, which I never seemed to get around to last year.  I also want to continue to write on movies and music. I will continue to write about things in my personal life (and how it is affected by the arrival of our beautiful daughter). I will continue to write – because I enjoy it.  The minute this is no longer satisfying and I feel that I have written all I can write … I will stop.  Until then, thank YOU for reading my “various ramblings”.  I appreciate you!

Happy 2nd Birthday!!


Three Birthday Tributes


Today I would like to salute three of my closest friends.  I guess, in a way, I am taking the easy way out by including all three of them in one blog.  I am doing it this way because they all celebrate birthdays this month.  So here are some thoughts on three great guys.

Joe – October 15

Joe is my Polish brother.  He says that I am his Italian brother.  The great Red Buttons used to joke that “there is only one difference between the Polish and the Italians – One year of high school!”  We truly are like brothers.  Joe and I met in junior high school.  We had band 1st hour.  It was in this class that I also met Steve K, who you will hear about shortly.  We all hit it off immediately, and have been friends ever since.

In high school, I used to pick Joe up and drive him to school.  He used to run out of the house with a bowl of cereal in his hand.  I remember that cereal was Fruit Islands.  They don’t make it anymore, but the commercials had some guy saying “Ayumma yumma”.  Not sure why, but I will always remember that.

All of the guys I am talking about were in band.  Steve K, Joe, and I all graduated the same year.  Steve M, graduated before us.  Joe and I were band officers.  We were both librarians.  That meant we were responsible for all the music.  We copied it and made sure the parts were placed in the right folders for band members.  Our senior year, Joe was head librarian and I was band president.  We spent many hours after school working on music and hanging with the band director and custodian.  We were probably more of an annoyance than anything!

Bill, the custodian, was such a cool guy!  He invited us to his wedding!  We used to pick a day and he would make sure not to bring lunch that day.  We’d order a pizza from Sorrento’s and eat it in the band room.  We’d sit around telling stories and laughing.  Such fun times!

There was a brief period where I switched from trumpet to tuba.  Joe was the lone tuba player.  I played tuba at the commencement ceremonies for the class of 87, and then played it briefly for marching band.  I was asked by the band director to switch back to trumpet.  He said we needed more trumpets – but now that I think about it, maybe I was just a real crappy tuba player!

It seems like Joe and I have been golfing and bowling together for as long as I can remember.  I remember bowling at this little hole in the wall dump in St. Clair Shores with Joe.  It was always such fun there, and we are still friends with many of the folks we met there.  Eventually we joined a league at Pastime Lanes.  It was there we made more friendships, and I watched him bowl a 300 game.  Pastime is long gone, but we still have many memories there.

Steve K, Joe and I all golfed for Senior Skip Day.  Steve borrowed our buddy Wayne’s golf clubs.  On the first tee, he hit the ball, but the club head broke off the driver.  The club head went farther than the damn golf ball!  Joe and I laughed like hell!  One time Joe and I were golfing in Lapeer and there was an electrical wire that went across the fairway.  What are the odds that one of us would hit that?  Joe did.  He teed off – it hit the wire and dropped like a stone in the fairway.

We used to play pinochle over at Joe’s parents house till all hours of the night.  Their house was just one of many houses that hosted pinochle nights.  Eventually, he and his sister moved into their own place and the card games moved there.  We’d sit around drinking Bud Light listening to 580 CKWW or WCXI and play cards all night.  So many nights of crazy conversations about music, movies, and TV.

Steve M – October 19

Steve and I had probably met before, but we really got to know each other because of Alumni Band.  I remembered that alumni had played once or twice at homecoming while I was still in school.  When I graduated, I wanted to make sure that the tradition continued.  So I bugged the band director and we threw it together.  The first year was a small group.  The second year it was a little bigger. It was a way for us to get together and play and have fun.

Steve and I hit it off immediately.  We both were trumpet players.  I knew his younger brother, Jeff, because he was my brother’s age.  He was also a DJ and did weddings and we loved to talk music.  He hosted some alumni band BBQ’s and was a key part in the success of the group.

I am not sure exactly how we ended up DJing together.  I think it was because he had a light show and I didn’t.  I brought him along and we ended up having so much fun, we kept doing it.  Little by little we added things to the gigs we did.  We both did this stupid Blues Brothers intro to kick off dancing.  I had this bad Elvis wig and would go out and sing to a female wedding guest (story about the wig in a sec).  We had blow up instruments and silly cardboard things we’d hold up while we danced.  We had a friggin blast!!

One time, Steve had his truck backed into the garage.  He had the tailgate glass up and I went inside to comb the Elvis wig down.  I used to put it on my head and comb it down before I put it on this stupid Styrofoam head I had.  I was in his bathroom combing and I heard the truck start and all of a sudden a huge crash.  I walked to the door of the garage and saw that the tailgate glass had caught the garage door and shattered all over the place.  I stood there, wearing that dumb wig, and asked what happened.  At the time, it wasn’t funny (It was raining, we were running late, when we got the gig, Steve had forgotten his shoes, so I went to Kmart to buy him a pair, it was a mess!).  We look back now and Steve will still laugh, “You were standing there wearing the King’s hair!”  After weddings, it was tradition to grab White Castle hamburgers!  Some of my favorite gigs were DJing for cancer benefits or VFW steak outs. When Steve M was living in his apartment, his crazy neighbor (who we called Fruit Loops) used to always come out when we were loading or unloading for DJ gigs.  I wonder what happened to her….LOL

Steve M, Steve K, Joe, and I spent many nights singing karaoke.  We used to have so much fun.  We’d go to these two dive bars – McGee’s and Grady’s.  We’d drink, sing songs and laugh like hell.  We all had specific songs we used to do.  We used to have these guys who’d get up and sing that we’d make fun of.  There was a guy who looked and sounded like Bela Lugosi!  He’d sing Let Me Call You Sweetheart with that accent!  Then there was “Opera Man”.  We called him that because every song he sang, he’d sing it like he was one of the Three Tenors! I would sing harmony for Steve M on Losing My Religion a lot.  We’d have such a fun time!  Now, he is actually hosting karaoke every week at a few places.  I’m over due to get out and sing!

Steve K – October 28

Steve and I became friends in junior high, in the same class as Joe.  Here’s the thing – we almost didn’t stay friends.  Admittedly, we all kind of picked on Steve.  We razzed him – a lot.  Steve and I both played trumpet.  Now I am not sure why he found my trumpet to be better than his.  I do know that he would often switch his with mine.  Well, one day he was walking in the band room and he dropped “his” horn and bent the bell.  I laughed.  We all did.  I probably said something like “You idiot!  Nice job!” or something like that.  He looked at me sheepishly while I laughed and said, “Uh, Keith….this is YOUR trumpet.”  My laughter stopped and I grabbed him by the throat!  Our band director, Mr. Mest, came running over and pulled us both into the office.

Steve and I were in 2nd hour with each other.  After the “incident” we went to the next class.  I was still upset about the whole thing and kept egging him on throughout the class.  I was calling him names, and just being an ass.  He finally got up and walked over to me as I was talking to our buddy Warren.  He grabbed the desk I was sitting in and literally flipped it over – with me still in it!  It totally took me by surprise! Needless to say, we both were sent to the office.  I don’t know if detention was given or not, but I know we both got “yellow slips”.  This was bad, I just don’t know or remember how bad.

I think our dad’s ended up having to talk to each other about the incident and arrangements were made to take care of the horn. I think we both got a “talking to” by our dads and we stayed friends.  We always seemed to be together.  We sat next to each other in band for as long as I can remember.  I often call Steve “Norton” because he reminded me so much to Ed Norton on the Honeymooners.  He’d say some of the silliest things.  We’d laugh all the time.  That Senior Skip Day, he even golfed like Norton did in that episode of the Honeymooners!

The only real time I got in trouble in band class was with Steve.  The other trumpets always waited for us to bring up our horns.  They never seemed to count the rests.  So Steve and I were talking and saying “Let’s bring up our horns early and fool those guys.”  Well, we were rehearsing for band festival and the band director was in no mood for jokes.  He stopped the music and asked what we were talking about.  When I told him he simply pointed to the door and said “Bye.”  We were told to wait until after rehearsal and then talk to him afterward.  We both felt like crap.  You just didn’t tick off the band director – not when festival was the next day!  We were allowed back to rehearsal shortly afterward, but we both still felt stupid!

We’d spend hours in the car driving around.  I would make “driving tapes” and we’d pile in and spend the night driving around the neighborhood.  We’d cruise Gratiot and look at girls.  We’d drive with the windows down, jamming to our favorite songs and singing at the top of our lungs.  We’d harmonize to Huey Lewis & the News, Jerry Lee Lewis, Frankie Ford, and so many other artists.  It was what we did!

He was with me when I got my first speeding ticket (on my way to Sam’s Jams) and he was with me when I had my first car accident.  I was driving in my ’79 Caprice Classic (ok, my dad’s ’79 Caprice Classic) and it had rained.  I was going to his house to drop him off.  I made the left turn and the roads were wet.  I began to go into a skid (rear wheel drive).  I remembered Driver’s Ed class “turn into the skid”, and I did.  Too bad I was literally in front of a parked car when I turned into the skid.  I slammed into the front of this car!  Steve’s mom called my dad.  I was in shock.  I knew I was a dead man.  My dad drove over and walked right past me and looked at the car.  I heard him mumble under his breath “There’s about $1500 worth of damage here.”  I later said, “You didn’t ask about me at all!” to which my dad replied, “I saw you standing there – I knew you were ok!”

I don’t recall if it was our senior year or not, but we had a band trip to Cedar Point.  I am not a ride person.  Steve, me and Chris walked around most of the day probably looking at girls.  We stumbled on this “You Be the Star” booth.  This was LONG before karaoke was a thing.  You went into a sound booth, put headphones on and sang to an instrumental track of a song.  Then, you got a cassette tape of your recording.  I think we did Twist and Shout, Steve did Mack the Knife (which would become his karaoke theme song), and we all did Hip to Be Square by Huey Lewis.  The song had just come out and he said he knew it, so he sang lead on it.  Chris and I sang the “Hip.  Hip.  So Hip to be Square” lines in the background.  I think I may still have that tape!

At my graduation party, my dad and some of his band buddies set up and played music at the party.  My dad had typed up the lyrics to Weird Al’s parody of La Bamba (Lasagna) and his band played it while me, Joe and Steve all sang it.  Steve was leaving to go to basic training soon after we graduated.  It was sad to know my buddy was going to be leaving.  I’m not sure what happened, but he never ended up staying in the navy.  He did, however, move to one of the Carolinas for awhile.  I’d get in trouble for long distance calls to him talking about stupidity…LOL.  He would tell me all about these silly sweepers he’d hear on a station called The Frog out there!

When he moved back to Michigan, Steve also used to DJ with me.  He would bring these crazy songs I had never heard before and want me to play them.  Sometimes they’d work, sometimes they didn’t.  One day, Steve M and I were DJing at the VFW right by Steve K’s house.  He came to the event.  He was dancing like crazy on the dance floor.  I think his wife wanted to go home and he wanted to stay.  She left and went home.  He had to call her later to come pick him back up because while he was out on the floor dancing he split his pants!  Typical Steve.  Stuff like that happened to him all the time!  That is one of my favorite Steve stories.

He was always my pinochle partner when we played with my grandparents (and when we played with Tonya, Michelle and the gang).  You could always count on him having the Ace of Clubs!  A trickless is when you and your partner take every possible trick in the hand.  Steve and I pulled one against my grandparents once.  It pissed my grandpa (who was very competitive) off!  The next hand, we pulled another one!  That was the end of the card playing that night!  Grandpa was done!  Somewhere, I still have the yellow legal pad with those back to back trickless hands written on it!

One day, we were all playing cards at Tonya’s house and the “F You’s” were flying around the table.  Steve meant to say, “F You and the horse you rode in on”, but instead said “the horse you rode on in.”  I am not sure why that made us all laugh so hard, but it did.  To this day, I say it wrong – because of Steve!  I am sure I could devote an entire blog to some of the silly things Steve has said.

He recently had a stroke.  That being said, he is recovering well.  I have to tell you though, when I heard the news I was scared!  This is my buddy and I can’t imagine not having him around.  When I went to the hospital to see him, I was like all emotional.  I hid it very well, but here is a guy, one of my closest friends,  who was my age (not even 50!) and this happened to him.  I was happy that he was ok, and that the prognosis was good, but just knowing that it could have been a very different outcome freaked me out.  It was an eye opening experience.  I guess that’s why I am writing this blog.

I want these three guys to know how glad I am to have their friendship.  We all share a love of music.  We all have the same taste in movies.  We all love a funny joke or pun. We have all shared silly conversations, as well as deep serious conversations.  I have one blood brother, but I am blessed to have these guys as brothers and friends.  In 30+ years, I have been lucky enough to share laughter and tears with these guys.  All of them stood up in my first wedding and I stood up in Joe’s and Steve K’s weddings.  We can go months without chatting and then pick right up where we left off.  Conversations always include laughter, movie quotes, and a whole lot of love.

Even though two of them have already celebrated theirs, and one is a few days away – Happy Birthday, Boys.  I love you guys!  Thank you for being such amazing friends for so many years!

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Joe, my brother Chris, Me, Steve M. Jeff, and Steve K at my first wedding.


Beers are overdue!









“It’s a Cop!”

Today’s writing prompt actually made me laugh: “Have you ever had an encounter with the police?” Yes. Yes, I have. I have had a few …. as a matter of fact …..


My First Ticket

It was probably my junior or senior year and there was a very cool record store in Ferndale called “Sam’s Jams.” They had everything, including some very hard to find vinyl albums. I remember finding old Soupy Sales albums, rare Tom Lerer albums, and stuff I didn’t even know existed on vinyl there. I spent many hours there before they closed their doors.

I was driving in my dad’s 1979 Caprice Classic (I loved that car!) through Royal Oak and Steve was with me. It was in November, so it was already dark out. The speed limit was like 30 and I was going a little faster than that. I remember when the flashers went on behind me – I was terrified! I had never been pulled over before. There were butterflies in my stomach and I was sweating as the policeman approached the car.


He asked for my license, registration, and proof of insurance. He asked if I knew how fast I was going and if I knew what the speed limit was. I didn’t know either. He said he’d be back. I became more and more nervous the longer he was in his car. When he returned, he asked, “Do you know you are driving on expired plates?” My dad’s birthday is the first of November, and my dad insisted that he had until the end of the month to renew. I told the cop this and he said very sternly, “You’re dad is wrong. Are you aware that I can impound this vehicle? Where are you heading?” I told him we were going to Sam’s Jams. He told me, “No you are not. You are going home. I would recommend that you not do any driving until your dad gets these plates renewed.” He then handed me my ticket, and told me I was lucky he wasn’t impounding the vehicle. I turned around and drove home (where my dad insisted that he had until the end of the month to renew those tags!).

No stranger to tickets

Don’t take that heading the wrong way, I just have had a few tickets here and there in my 30+ years of driving. One of them came on Thanksgiving.


We were leaving my dad’s house and heading to my ex’s family’s house for dinner. We hadn’t been driving very long, because we were technically still in my dad’s neighborhood when I got pulled over. If my memory serves me correctly, we had stayed a bit longer than my ex wanted to at my folks house. When we left, she was angry and we were arguing in the car. I was driving in a 25 and probably doing 40-45. She was telling me that we were going to be “so late” and the more she yelled, the angrier I got.

The cop was going the other way and he swung around quick and turned on the flashers. This, of course, led to more of an argument. The cop walked up and asked for my information and I believe my ex said, “I knew he was going too fast, sir.” My son asked the cop if I was going to jail – LOL. I got a ticket and an earful that continued all the way to her family’s Thanksgiving dinner.


One ticket I got was while driving to work one night. There was an accident at the intersection of 12 and Woodward. I took Woodward to work every night and had to turn right onto 12 Mile. Driving toward 12 Mile, there was a wrecker with a vehicle already on it just before you reached 12 mile. The cop was on the other side of 12 mile and his flashers were on. There were cars going the opposite way on 12 mile, so when I got to 12 mile, I turned right. (So the cop is on my left on one side of 12 on Woodward, and the wrecker is on the right side of 12 mile on Woodward). As I pull into our parking lot at work, he zips in behind me and turns on the lights.

Keep in mind, there are no flares or cones or anything on the street AND there was nothing blocking me from making the turn, so I figured I was ok to do so. Nope. I was informed by the officer that I had drove through “an accident scene” which I guess is a TON of points. He wrote me up instead for “impeding traffic”, which was a little less points, but still a few more than I ever wanted on my record.


I am a creature of habit. I take the same way to work every day. I like to travel familiar roads. When the GPS has me take another way, or I am in unfamiliar surroundings, I start to get nervous. Especially when the roads are back roads that twist, turn and wind all over the place.

Friday, I was driving to an appointment and the GPS tells me that the road ahead is closed and has me get off and take another route. The roads are twisting and turning all over the place and before I know it, I am in a construction zone. The GPS is yelling at me to turn in like .2 miles and because I am not paying attention to my speed, you guessed it – here comes the Oakland County Sheriff.

He had every right to cop the attitude that he did. “Do you realize you are in a construction zone?” “You do see that there are workers present and that there is no concrete barrier, right?” My heart was pounding. I am always careful – especially in construction zones. My wife can tell you, I usually have the cruise control on. She even jokes about how slow I drive. I was given a break (thankfully) because I had no points on my record. I was told to slow down and he wrote me up for 5 over. I am one lucky guy!

My favorite encounter with the police – October 1987


I have probably blogged about this before, but when I was a senior in high school the big thing to do was toilet paper houses. There were many groups that went out together – the cheerleaders, the football players, the choir members, and of course, us band people. The band was large and there were three or four groups that went out and TP’d. My group was the TP Bandits.

One of my best friends, Steve (the same Steve who was with me when I got my first ticket) had a birthday in October. He was dating a gal at the time and for his birthday, we decided that we were going to TP his house. When did our “drive by,” we could see him upstairs in his room watching TV with the gal. We parked the car just a bit down from his driveway and Margaret, Ronnie, and I went to work. The three of us used a ton of TP on this huge tree in front of his house, wrapped bushes, the mailbox, etc…. it was a beautiful job!

Once everything was finished, we stood in the middle of his lawn and sang “Happy Birthday” at the top of our lungs. He came to his bedroom window and laughed. After the last note was sung, we turned and ran to our car … but we didn’t get far. As we sung Happy Birthday, a cop car had pulled up in front of the house. Ronnie and Margaret ran away first and I was probably making faces at Steve or giving him the finger or something. All I remember hearing is Ronnie yelling, “It’s a cop!” I then felt a very firm grip on my shoulder and was told to get in the back of the Warren Police Cruiser.

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As the officer closed the door of the cruiser, I could see Steve’s mom running outside yelling, “It’s a prank! It’s ok! They’re ok! It’s just a prank!” Margaret, Ronnie and I sat in the back of this cop car and I kept thinking, “We’re never going to get to go to graduation!” “We’re being arrested for TPing!” “What the hell am I gonna tell my folks?!”

The cop in the car went one by one and asked us our names, our addresses, our phone numbers, and probably a bunch of other things. I don’t remember much of it, but I know I laughed when he got to Ronnie, because he totally started rattling off all his info as fast as I have ever heard him talk! The cop told us that we could go to jail because of vandalism or something and I thought, “It’s TP! Are you serious!?” When the other cop returned the vehicle, he played “good cop.” He told us that he had all our information. He wanted us to go out and clean up as much as we possible could. They were going to drive back by the house later and if it wasn’t cleaned up “we know where to find you!”

Steve got quite a laugh out of the whole thing. I think the cops asked if they wanted us to clean it up and he probably told them yes. It was a huge birthday backfire. I also remember coming to school the next day and waiting for people to razz us. A few people had heard what happened, but surprisingly, no one really said anything. I thought we were totally in the clear. During band class, we were in the middle of a song and all of a sudden, our band director, Mr. Shaner, cut us all off and proudly yelled, “Hey! Did everyone hear what happened to our TP Bandits last night?!” The band erupted with laughter and Margaret, Ronnie and I were red with embarrassment!

Yeah … I’ve had a few encounters with the police …. some were more fun than others!