“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 …..

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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.

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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.

ERIK ESTRADA & LARRY WILCOX CHIPS (1977)

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.

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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.

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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

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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!

Tune Tuesday – Muppet Music

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40 years ago this week, The Muppet Movie hit theaters.  My brother and I always made it a point to watch the Muppet Show on TV.  It was always fun to see the famous guest stars interact with Kermit and the gang.  If I am being honest, I am still upset that the final 2 seasons of The Muppet Show has yet to come out on DVD!

The movie itself was the 10th highest grossing film of 1979 and was loaded with cameos from celebrities like Bob Hope, Richard Pryor, Milton Berle, Dom Deluise, Steve Martin, Madeline Kahn, Mel Brooks, Telly Savalas, and so many more.  The cameo by Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy is especially special, because Bergen passed away shortly after he shot his scene in 1978.  Bergen was a hero of Muppet creator Jim Henson, and the movie is dedicated to his memory.

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The movie itself is a masterpiece.  It remains, in my opinion, the best of all the Muppet films.  Jim Henson did things in this movie that had never been done before – we saw Muppets walking, and Kermit riding a bike!!!!

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The movie had a great story and thanks to the writing of Paul Williams and Kenny Ascher, some really amazing music!  The soundtrack includes “I’m Going to Go Back There Someday” (which would be performed at Jim Henson’s funeral), “Never Before, Never Again”, and the bluesy, “I Hope That Something Better Comes Along”.  All of these are great songs in their own right, but for Tune Tuesday, and in celebration of the 40th Anniversary of The Muppet Movie, here are MY favorite songs from the film.

Can You Picture That?

I have always loved Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem!  First of all, what a great name for a band!  Second, Dr. Teeth was always so “hip.”  Floyd and Janice were “like totally far out!”  Animal was one hell of a drummer and I Zoot could really nail a sax solo! I always loved how they could take a standard song like “Tenderly” and rock it out!  Check out this groovy track!

Oh yeah, whoo
Everybody’s lover, everybody’s brother, I wanna be your lifetime friend
Crazy as a rocket, nothin’ in my pocket, I keep it at the rainbow’s end
I never think of money, I think of milk ‘n honey, grinnin’ like a Cheshire cat
I focus on the pleasure, somethin’ I can treasure, can you picture that?
Can you picture that?

Hey Floyd, take a verse

Let me take your picture, add it to the mixture, there it is I got you now
Really nothin’ to it, anyone can do it, it’s easy and we all know how
Now begins the changin’, mental rearrangin’, nothing’s really where it’s at

Now the Eiffel Tower’s holdin up a flower
I gave it to a Texas cat
Fact is there’s nothin’ out there you can’t do
Yeah, even Santa Claus believes in you

Beat down the walls, begin, believe, behold, begat
Be a better drummer, be an up and comer Can you picture that?
Can you picture that
All of us are winnin, pickin and a-grinnin, Lordy but I love to jam

Jelly-belly gigglin’, dancin’ and a-wigglin’, honey that’s the way I am

Lost my heart in Texas, Northern lights affect us
I keep it underneath my hat
Aurora Borealis, shining down on Dallas, can you picture that?
Can you picture that?

Can you picture? You gotta see it in your mind
Can you picture? You know it’s quick and easy to find
Can you picture? You don’t have to buy a frame
Can you picture? Can you picture that?
Can you picture that?

Use it if you need it
Don’t forget to feed it
Can you picture that?

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Movie Fact:  The Studebaker in the movie is currently housed at The Studebaker Museum in Indiana.

Movin’ Right Along

There is just so much to love about this song!  Kermit and Fozzie are traveling the open road in the Studebaker mentioned above.  It’s really the perfect song to kick off any road trip.  It’s just a fun song.  As I watch this scene now, I think about how many times my buddies and I would hop in my Caprice Classic in high school, pop in a “driving mix” tape and sing along to songs as we drove around wasting gas.  We were so much like Kermit and Fozzie!

Movin’ right along in search of good times and good news,
With good friends you can’t lose,
This could become a habit!
Opportunity knocks once let’s reach out and grab it (yeah!),
Together we’ll nab it,
We’ll hitchhike, bus or yellow cab it!
(Cab it?)

Movin’ right along.
Footloose and fancy-free.
Getting there is half the fun; come share it with me.
Moving right along (doog-a-doon doog-a-doon).
We’ll learn to share the load.
We don’t need a map to keep this show on the road.

(Hey, that song is sounding better Fozzie.)

Movin’ right along,
We’ve found a life on the highway.
And your way is my way,
So trust my navigation.

California here we come, the pie-in-the-sky-land.
Palm trees, and warm sand.
Though sadly we just left Rhode Island.
(We did what?!)
(Just forget it.)

Movin’ right along (doog-a-doon doog-a-doon).
Hey LA, where’ve you gone?
Send someone to fetch us, were in Saskatchewan!

Movin’ right along (doog-a-doon doog-a-doon).
You take it, you know best.
Hey, I’ve never seen the sun come up in the West?

Movin’ right along.
We’re truly birds of a feather,
We’re in this together and we know where we’re going.
Movie stars with flashy cars and life with the top down.
We’re storming the big town,
(Yeah, Storm is right should it be snowing?)
(Uh, no I don’t think so…)

Movin’ right along,
Do I see signs of men?
Yeah, “welcome” on the same post that says “come back again.”
Moving right along, nice town!
Footloose and fancy-free,
You’re ready for the big time…
Is it ready for me?

Movin’ right along,
Movin’ right along,
Movin’ right along,
Movin’ right along

The Rainbow Connection

What an amazing song this is!  It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song (it lost to a song no one remembers), it was a Top 40 hit (reaching #25 on the charts), and has been covered by artists like The Dixie Chicks, Willie Nelson, Judy Collins, Kenny Loggins, Jason Mraz, Gwen Stefani, and The Carpenters (just to name a few!).  The American Film Institute named the song one of the top 100 songs in their AFI’s 100 Years … 100 Songs list (it came in at #74).

Jim Henson told the song writers that the opening song would be Kermit in a swamp singing with a banjo.  According to Paul Williams, he and Kenny Ascher wrote most of the song fairly quickly at Williams’ house, but got stuck trying to think of appropriate words for the part in the chorus that eventually became the phrase “the rainbow connection”; they were looking for a way to tie in the chorus to the song’s theme of rainbows. As they sat down for dinner with Williams’ then-wife, Kate Clinton, they explained to her their predicament of looking for a phrase that would provide “a rainbow connection”, then realized, in the course of explaining the problem to her, that the phrase “the rainbow connection” would itself be a good fit.

In a recent interview with Vanity Fair, Paul Williams explained how the song was recorded.  He said that when the song was being recorded in the studio, Jim Henson started by simply performing the song himself in Kermit’s voice. However, there was a feeling that something was missing. Williams said that somebody, he doesn’t recall who, suggested that Kermit should give the song a try. Henson then took the Kermit the Frog puppet into the recording booth with him and performed the song with the world’s most famous piece of green felt. He says that “Kermit sang it brilliantly! One can only imagine what this looked like to the people working on recording the song. Kermit the Frog himself, with Jim Henson standing behind him, really did sing “Rainbow Connection.” Clearly, this was the thing that was missing. The recording would then be perfect, and would go on to inspire millions in The Muppet Movie.

Why are there so many songs about rainbows
And what’s on the other side
Rainbows are visions
But only illusions
And rainbows have nothing to hide

So we’ve been told
And some choose to believe it
I know they’re wrong, wait and see
Some day we’ll find it
The rainbow connection
The lovers, the dreamers, and me

Who said that every wish
Would be heard and answered
When wished on the morning star
Somebody thought of that
And someone believed it
And look what it’s done so far

What’s so amazing
That keeps us stargazing
And what do we think we might see
Someday we’ll find it
The rainbow connection
The lovers, the dreamers, and me

All of us under its spell, we know that it’s probably magic

Have you been half asleep?
And have you heard voices?
I’ve heard them calling my name
Is this the sweet sound
That called the young sailors?
The voice might be one and the same

I’ve heard it too many times to ignore it
It’s something that I’m supposed to be
Someday we’ll find it
The rainbow connection
The lovers, the dreamers and me

La da da di da da dum da duh da da dum di da ohhh

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Happy Anniversary!

40 years later, and this movie still amazes me.  It never gets old.  I still enjoy watching it and I still tear up during the finale.  40 years later and I agree with the Swedish Chef – “Der Flim is Okie Dokie”!

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