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.

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 ….

Friday Photo Flashback

For this week’s edition of the Friday Photo Flashback, we go back to Spring Break of 1989. I had graduated high school, was working at my first radio job, and my high school band was heading to Florida to perform at Disney World. My brother was still in band at the time and my parents and I tagged along on the trip as chaperones.

My grandmother and aunt had moved to Florida. At some point on the trip, my grandmother met up with us. If my memory serves me correctly, my friend Steve also came on this trip, and we were hanging out together. I wish I had spent a little more time with my grandma on this trip, but you know how 19 year old kids are …

I love this picture of my mom and my grandma. They both would be diagnosed with breast cancer and their lives would be cut short by it. In this picture, they are both healthy. This is the way I will always remember my grandma. She always seemed to wear her hair that way. It was the late 80’s, so both her and mom have those big round lenses on their glasses. I can see the watch that she always wore, too.

My mom is wearing a T-Shirt with the Kiss-FM logo. That was my first radio job, and I am sure I was still working there when this was taken. What I wouldn’t give to have one of those shirts today! Blonde was not my mother’s natural hair color, but I always loved when she wore it that color. Her hair seems to be a bit short in this picture, too.

The more I look at this photo, the more I think that this was taken just before we all loaded up the busses to head back home, or maybe before my grandma was heading home. Mom is holding shopping bags, so we had probably all just come back from one last trek to buy souvenirs. It is hard to say.

I don’t think this was the same trip (mom’s hair looks longer), but it could be.

When I found out my grandma had cancer, I avoided seeing her. I regret this. A lot. It is one of those things that comes up a lot in my mind. If I could turn back the clock, I would. I didn’t want to see her sick. I remember someone had taken some pictures of her after she had gone through some chemotherapy or radiation and she was a shell of her former self.

Those pictures sort of assured me that I was doing the right thing by not seeing her. Well, at least I thought so. I know now it was not. I should have seen her. I should have called her. I should have held her hand and said I love you. I should have had the chance to say goodbye. In Sinatra’s “My Way,” he says, “Regrets. I’ve had a few…” This is one of my biggest regrets. The only good thing about my not seeing her sick is that when I think of her, she is just as she was in these photos.

I think of these two brave women every October – Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I miss them both very much.

Friday Photo Flashback

It is time for another installment of my Friday Photo Flashback. This week – a picture I didn’t even know I had.

It certainly is not a great picture of me, but it does bring back memories. The background seems dark and things behind us are hard to make out, but the people in it stir up good memories.

From left to right front row: me, Karen, and Joe. Back row: Margaret and Steve

The photo was taken at my high school graduation party. I only know this because of the clothes we are wearing (thanks to other photos from the party). It is a snapshot of an ending and new beginning for us – the end of school and the start of “real life.”

1988. The people in the photo were my best friends. Jeff would also be included in that group, and there is another photo of all of us together somewhere. The only thing that would make this a perfect snapshot of my life at that time would be Jeff in it.

I spent so much time with all of these people in high school. We always seemed to be together. it wasn’t always all of us, but you could almost be that I’d be with at least one of them!

Steve and I were practically inseparable. We spent hours in the car driving and listening to tapes I had made to “cruise” with. I’ve always said we were like Jackie Gleason and Art Carney – Ralph and Norton. I think we drove each other nuts at times, but we truly were great friends … And still are. The day was bittersweet for us because I believe the day after this photo was taken, Steve left for basic training.

Joe and I hung out almost as much, but he was always the better student and actually did his homework. A lot of the time he’d be doing that so it was just Steve and I out causing trouble. There were many times, however, that we’d all hope in the car and drive around wasting gas. I think of the three of us as the Three Amigos, or maybe the Three Stooges is more accurate. We all played cards (Pinochle) together for hours on end. Now we try to find time between our work schedules to schedule a golf outing together…

Margaret and I were as close as Steve and me. I love that she has her arm around me in this picture. We never dated – even though our folks wanted us to – but it was almost like we did. We loved each other, but never in a romantic kind of way We went to movies, dances, and dinner together and our friendship continues to this day. She is Aunt Margaret to my kids and they love her just as much as I do.

Margaret and I used to talk for hours on the phone when were in school. We still do. Both of us have long drives to work and we often chat while driving. We still vent, laugh and cry with each other. Ours truly is an amazing friendship.

Karen and I had probably just started dating when this picture was taken. She was the same age as my brother and a Freshman when I was a Senior. For some reason, she stood next to me in parade formation in marching band. It was weird because I played trumpet and she was a flute player. Not sure why we were next to each other, but it led to our relationship.

I always tried to make her laugh when we were in marching band. I usually did. As prom approached, I kind of jokingly asked if she’d want to go. She surprised me and said yes. I remember Joe and I got a limo and I think we both had top hats. I think both Karen and Joe’s date wore blue dresses. All my prom pictures are gone now, so it is hard to remember. I do have vivid memories of that night, but that is really all.

We dated for about 5 years total with a short break in there somewhere. Karen was my first love. She wasn’t my first girlfriend, but my first serious one. We had a lot of wonderful memories. She’s married now and a wonderful mother. She works hard in the medical field and I still hear from her sisters and also am friends with some of her family on Facebook. I recently DJ’d her sister’s wedding and saw her briefly. I was glad to get to say hello.

I have some wonderful memories of that graduation party. My dad gathered up members of the wedding band he had played with and they all set up and played music at the party. My Uncle Tom played drums on some songs and did some singing of old blues tunes. My cousins also joined in and played drums and guitar. It was so cool. Steve, Joe, Jeff and I all got up and sang Weird Al’s parody of La Bamba (Lasagna) like a bunch of fools.

Of course, I think of the many folks who were there, who are no longer here. My mom, my grandparents, my great grandma, my great Aunt, Steve’s dad, Joe’s mom, and so many others. Thankfully they live on in photos and memories.

It seems to me as I look at this picture that we are posing for someone else’s photo. I wonder who might have been taking it. I would certainly love to see that one. Maybe I’m wrong, though. We all don’t seem to be looking the same way. Perhaps this is just an excellent candid picture. It’s a nice candid picture where I still have hair, big glasses, and am surrounded by some of the best people I’ve ever or will ever know.

Spring Re-Run – Music Education

March is National “Music In Our Schools Month.” For those who have been followers of my blog since the very beginning know my feelings on how important Music Education is to students. Whether it is band, orchestra, or choir, the benefits of music education speak for themselves.

I have shared many blogs reflecting on my time in band, my friendship with my band director, and musical memories in general. Before the month of March winds down, I wanted to re-post a “re-run” of a blog I wrote a few years ago. The basis of it is a paper I wrote for my college composition class.

Today, it seems that when schools are in trouble financially, sports and the fine arts are the first things that are cut. Many times this comes about because people do not pass millage proposals or because of school board members who have no ideas of the benefits of music education.

I encourage you to read this and share with others, especially if there is a remote possibility that your school district is considering removing fine arts, sports or other extra curricular activities!

No More Shop

I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when I read a recent article stating that many schools across the country no longer offer “shop” classes. Ken Robinson, Ph.D, wrote in ” Creative Schools, The Element, Finding Your Element, and Out of Our Minds” that vocational programs like shop class have been on the decline in the last decade because of emphasis on improving standardized test scores, not skills.

He says: “The work of electricians, builders, plumbers, chefs, paramedics, carpenters, mechanics, engineers, security staff, and all the rest is absolutely vital to the quality of each of our lives,” he wrote. “Yet the demands of academic testing mean that schools often aren’t able to focus on these other capabilities at all.”

This is truly sad. I remember I first got to take shop classes in junior high. The first class I had was Wood Shop.

I loved Wood Shop. I think we made a pencil holder as our first project. I also made a key rack, and a couple other pieces. I never went to competitions like some of the students did, though. They made beautiful clocks and cabinets. I was satisfied with my key rack. I loved working with the lathe, the saws, sanders, and stains. I will forever remember the smell of the woodshop.

The next semester I had Metal Shop.

Metal Shop was OK, but I didn’t like it as much as Wood Shop. I remember we made a screwdriver, a metal box, and a candle stick holder as our projects. We got to pick what our final project was and I made a shoe horn for my grandpa. For the candle holder, we had to stick the metal in a forge and then beat/shape it with a hammer. I stood too close to the forge and singed my eyebrows!!

It really wasn’t a shop class, but the next elective we had was drafting.

This class was difficult for me. First of all, my handwriting sucked, and I could never get my letters to look like they wanted them. I also never seemed to be able to get my drawings to look right. Maybe I just didn’t grasp it. I don’t know. I enjoyed TRYING to draw the projects we had, but struggled.

Today, almost all drafting is done on computers. I am guessing this class would have been a whole lot easier that way.

I never took basic electricity or auto shop. Believe me, I wish I had. Lord knows the money I could have saved by fixing my own cars!

I wish schools would bring back these types of classes, along with more of the fine arts stuff (band, choir, art, drama). These classes might just be the thing that exposes students to a trade that they find interesting or a talent that they excel in.

“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.

buford 2

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!