Recurring Dreams

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As someone who works as a sleep technologist, I am often asked about dreams. Why do we dream? Can dreams really tell the future? What do dreams mean? The list of questions I get asked about dreams is a long one. There are many schools of thought about dreams. Take a psychology class and just the thoughts of famous psychologists alone could fill a book! The most common question I get asked about dreams is in regards to recurring dreams. “Do you ever have recurring dreams?” Yes. Yes, I do. “Why do we have those?” I have no idea. I wish I did.

I’ve never been one to put too much faith into “dream interpretation.” To me, it seems like it is often just someone’s opinion. Sometimes they make sense, but most of the time they just seem like some generic thing – like a horoscope. I may be wrong, and maybe there is something to it, but I really haven’t found it to be that way.

Recurring Dream #1

I have been having this one dream off and on for years, probably since I was about 10 years old. My brother and I are out in the backyard. Sometimes it is at our first house (at least I think that’s where it is), most of the time, however, we’re at my mom and dad’s. The old dog house that was there when we moved in is still in the back corner. The swing set is in the middle of the yard. It is no bigger than an average backyard.

While we are outside, the wind begins to pick up and dark clouds roll in. My mother will stick her head out the sliding glass door and call for us to come in because of storms. As I look up in the sky, a funnel cloud begins to form. (FYI: My grandmother told me all kinds of stories about tornadoes, which left me forever terrified of them) It is at this point that my brother and I begin to run toward the house. As we run, the yard begins to get bigger and bigger. It is like I am running and the house is moving farther and farther away.

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My brother is running behind me and I am holding his hand. I keep looking behind us as the funnel cloud begins to turn into a tornado. It is windier and we are fighting to get to the house. We get to the swing set and we are being pulled off the ground by the funnel. We are literally hanging on to the bars of the swing set so we won’t get sucked away by the tornado. My mom is screaming to us, but cannot get to us. As I lose my grip on the swing set – I wake up.

Recurring Dream #2

This is one that I have a bit more frequently than the tornado dream. I mentioned it on Facebook once and was surprised that I wasn’t the only one to have this kind of dream. This one is the “band dream.”

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While there are many variations of it, they are always very similar in nature: (1) I forgot my instrument at home and my band director is going down the line making every one play individually. (2) I have my instrument, but didn’t practice the piece and the band director is going down the line making everyone play individually. (3) I have my instrument, but don’t have my music folder. (4) I have my music folder and my instrument, but I suddenly cannot play the song we are working on.

The variations can also take place in different places: (1) Sometimes we are rehearsing in the band room. (2) Sometimes we are on stage at a concert. (3)Sometimes we are playing at band festival. (4) Sometimes we are on the football field and we are in marching band. (5) Sometimes we are marching in a parade.

Our band director was a man who I had great respect for. I think we all did. He was a good leader and taught us many lessons. He was strict and stern. You always tried to be prepared for class. Sometimes you weren’t and he knew it. I remember this one song that had a simple chromatic scale at the beginning of it. It was a fast tempo song, so if you didn’t practice it, you could easily blow it. We all started the song, started it again, and again until finally he pulled out the grade book and made every one of us play it. You either played it right and passed or played it wrong and failed. I failed it.

In the dream, all the old band classmates are there. I can’t really look at them and say what year it is. Many times its just all the people who were in band at one time or another. There is often things going on that are just weird – like bubbles coming out of clarinets or water coming out of the tuba. Many times we are rehearsing songs I remember playing while in band. Other times we are working up songs I have never heard. Sometimes famous people are in the dream rehearsing with us. There is no specific or common ending to the dream.

While this dream can often cause me to feel anxiety, I usually wake up from the “band dream” chuckling at the absurdity of what was in it. I also wake wishing that I could go back to those days when I still played well. I can barely make a sound on my trumpet today. I miss playing in band. It was, one of my favorite things about high school.

Sweet Dreams

I probably have one or two other recurring dreams, I just forgot them right now. I’ll remember them after I have them. I don’t know what makes me dream these same dreams. I don’t know what prompts them. I have always found dreams to be very cool. They can be very real! They can make you feel real emotions. Every once in awhile, they can be a little too real.

Other times, a dream, which you can’t explain, can make you look back at it and wonder. I had one of those too. When I was going through my divorce, I had a ton of stress. I woke up crying one night after having a dream. I dreamt my mom was talking to me. I was upset. She looked at me and said, “It’s going to be alright, honey. You are going to come out of this and things will be just fine.”

She was right!

What are your thoughts on dreams? I’d love to hear them.

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31 Years Ago

The year is ….

1988

  • Ronald Reagan is President of the United States.
  • It cost 24 cents to mail a letter.
  • A gallon of gas was 91 cents.
  • The Washington Redskins beat the Broncos in Super Bowl XXII
  • The Winter Olympics were held in Calgary.
  • The average yearly salary was $24,500.
  • The LA Dodgers beat the Oakland A’s in the World Series.

1988 movies included Rain Man, Die Hard, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Big, A Fish Called Wanda, and ….

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1988 music included:

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…and Sweet Child O’ Mine from Guns ‘N Roses, too!

It was also a very special year for me …

Always an Abe!

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I was reminded by Facebook’s “Memories” feed that it was 31 years ago this week that I graduated from Lincoln High School. (25 years later – to the day – I would graduate from college.) It’s hard to believe that it has been that long. Some days I can’t remember where I put my car keys, but I can remember graduation day like it was yesterday!

The ceremony always happened outside, unless it rained. If it rained, less people from your family could attend, because it was moved indoors to the auditorium. Luckily, the weather cooperated June 9, 1988, and we walked the stage outside in the stadium. The band performed some songs prior to things getting started. As a senior, we played through most of them. I remember conducting a number – it was called Tin Pan Alley. That is a memory I will never forget.

At the required time, the seniors left the band to go line up to walk in (to Pomp and Circumstance). I will always remember in the days leading up to graduation, sitting in band class and the seniors having to “sit out” during a number because we weren’t going to be there when they played it. Sitting in class listening to Pomp and Circumstance while the underclassmen played it was weird. It was then that I knew exactly how the seniors the year before felt when they had to listen while we played it.

I remember someone telling me that your senior year will go fast – they were right. There were times I wish there was a pause button. It was my favorite year of high school hands down. Our football team was undefeated. I had a solo in the marching band show. I went to all the dances and the prom. I got my first new car and spent many hours with my friends driving around listening to mix tapes I had made.

Things I Miss Most

It’s 31 years later and there are times I wish I could go back. There are so many things I miss about high school:

Friday Night Football Games. Yes, I miss playing in the Halftime Show, but I also miss watching our boys win! My classmates were always out their playing hard, and as I said, were undefeated my senior year. Coach Jim Benefield was the BEST! Hands down.

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Movies in Class. Whenever you walked into a class and saw the TV and VCR, you were instantly excited. Even if it was some dumb educational film, it was a welcome event!

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School Holidays. Winter Break! Christmas Break! Extra days surrounding other holidays! We had a lot of extra time off! And who can forget Summer Vacation?! In some countries, extra days off and built in vacation time is looked at as a must. Productivity in those countries are high and workers are happy. Sadly, once you graduate, you seem to work to death and often have to fight to get time off! I miss those holidays!!

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Yearbooks. There was a time where you didn’t know what your picture looked like until the teacher passed them out. 9 times out of 10, mine came out looking terrible. Even Picture Retake Day didn’t help! There are plenty of bad yearbook pictures of me! There are also plenty of other kids with bad yearbook pictures. Today, I love sitting back and reading the things people wrote in my yearbook.

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Less Responsibilities. This holds true for most adults. We tend to look back at the days of ‘freedom”. Who wouldn’t want to be in a position to not worry about whether or not you have enough money to pay bills?!

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Working While Going to School. My first job was at a boat marina. They worked around my crazy band and school schedule. I don’t remember the hourly rate, but I do remember getting a check for $150-$250 every two weeks. It was like “mad money”. I used it to buy albums, tapes, books, and gadgets. I really had no bills, and a teenager rarely saves money.

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Passing Notes. Long before texting, we used to write notes and pass them back and forth in classes and in the hallways. Sometimes, I’d get caught passing one in class. I did most note passing in the hallway. Many times it was just stupid gossip, a drawing, or the “Do you want to go to the dance – check yes or no” type note. Some folks even got real creative about the way the notes were folded, too!

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Lockers. I am sure my locker partner, Joe (who was always good at numbers), can remember our locker combination! I remember it was outside the library, under the clock, on the second floor. I rarely used it after freshman year. I kept most of my books in the band room or in a backpack. A lot of girls decorated the inside of their lockers, and on game days, they often decorated the lockers of the football players. I think my locker was basically a storage place for whatever I didn’t want to take home.

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Less Technology. I’ll be the first to admit that I am connected to my phone today. But, back in school, we weren’t connected to it. We talked to people. We had to use the card catalog to find books and encyclopedias to write reports. We used maps. We watched film strips! We had to thread the film projector. We rewound tapes to listen to a song again. Yeah, technology is great, but there were advantages to not having it too.

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Field Trips. You had to have your permission slips! I never did the Washington DC trip. I did do a Florida Trip to Disney. I also loved those little trips to places like the Detroit Science Center or Cranbrook. I remember having my mom chaperone a couple times. Field trips were probably more frequent in elementary and middle school, but the ones in high school were always great fun!

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Young Love. As you flip through a yearbook, you can often see those high school romances (the ones that lasted, and the ones that didn’t). I know a few people who married their high school sweetheart and they are still together!! That’s amazing! With young love comes hurt in many cases. I witnessed that at a prom I DJ’d recently. I remember seeing this guy sitting on the floor with his face in his hands and I thought, “I know how you feel, pal.”

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Dances/Prom. It wasn’t until high school that I even attended a dance. It always seemed like it was just me and a few friends going to get out of the house. We never danced with anyone, we sat and talked and listened to the music. We walked around and drank that really crappy punch that always seemed to be the drink provided. I remember going to Homecoming with a gal who asked me. I had no idea even how to dance! After that night, though, I realized dancing with girls was a whole lot more fun than sitting eating those stale mints and drinking that punch! I remember using some of the money I was making at that boat job to rent a tux and go in on a limo for the fancier dances.

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Teachers. No surprise here. Go back and read some of the many blogs I have written about the teachers I had in high school. They were the best! Mr. Shaner, Mr. Benefield, Mr. Balos, Mr. Yanoulaki, Mrs. Carter, Mrs. Beltz, Mr. Harvey, the list goes on and on. I am friends with many of them on Facebook. I am also friends with other teachers who I never had in class, but always respected and made an impact on me. I was lucky to know them in high school – and after!

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Friends. My core group of friends and I have pretty much stayed in touch since high school. With My Space and Facebook, I have been able to reconnect with those I lost touch with. That’s one thing about technology that I am ok with. A downside to this is that since we all are connected on Facebook, our chances of a real reunion probably won’t happen (Not that we ever really had one – we didn’t. We tagged along with the Class of ’89 once, but nothing official for my class.) What was great about high school is that you always saw your friends every day. It was always extra cool when they were in the same class as you. The ones that weren’t, you couldn’t wait to meet them in the hall to tell them about something silly that happened or to plan something for after school. I miss that, but at the same time, when I am finally able to hook up with a friend on the phone or on social media, I enjoy picking up where we left off.

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The Future. In high school, the future seemed so unclear. There were infinite possibilities. Your career path had not been chosen yet. There was a blank canvas for you to paint on. You had so many choices. You were in control over what you did next. The future was bright and it was something to look forward to. I’m not saying that 31 years later, I have no future, I do. It’s just different to look at it and know that the future is a bit more narrow since there is a lot less time ahead of me. I can still look ahead and know that there are a lot of good things awaiting me. I still look forward to the future, but I am looking at it through eyes that have seen more than an 18 year old. I have experienced more hurt. I have seen more cruelty and negativity. I have seen more dishonesty and hatred. I have lived through much difficulty. I look at the future a bit more cautiously now than I did at 18. I am smarter now, I hope.

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Final Thoughts

Would I love to go back to the days of my youth? Would I love to have less responsibility, no bills, and have more time to just have fun? Yes. Without a doubt! However, if I were to go back to those days, I would live through some hurtful times, through depression, and shame. I would likely make some of the same bad decisions. I would make the same mistakes, maybe more.

Truth is, if I had the opportunity to go back and change things, I probably wouldn’t. Anyone who has watched Back to the Future or any time travel movie knows that all it takes is one small change to change everything else in the future. Would I like to go back and erase embarrassing moments? Would I like to go back and take back words I said in anger? Would I like to correct a mistake? Sure. But if I did that, it changes where I am today.

Yeah, I went through some real crappy times, but they all brought me to where I am today. Today, I am a happily married man. I have an amazing wife. I have two wonderful sons. I have some of the most amazing friends. I have a loving family. Life is good. Why would I want to change it?

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Questions and Answers #3

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The Facebook “Memories” feed can be a good thing or a bad thing.  Sometimes, I am reminded of times in my life where I was just going through the motions, pretending that all was right in my world, when it wasn’t.  Sometimes I get sad to see picture of my son’s as toddlers and am reminded of how fast they grow up.  Sometimes, I will smile at things from my past radio career and sometimes I smile as I see reminders of the good things that have happened over the past few years.

This blog is just over a year old, and this week I was reminded by Facebook that I asked my Facebook friends to ask me questions they wanted me to answer.  I looked back through my blogs and realized that the last time I did a “Q&A” blog was in October, so I once again asked for Questions…..what follows is the answers to those questions.  (If a non-Facebook friend and follower ever has a question you’d like answered, feel free to ask in the comments.)

Melanie

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Melanie was my next door neighbor in Flint, MI.  Our street was literally behind K-Mart.  Her question, which was probably meant as a joke, is “Do you miss living behind K-Mart in Flint?”  I say she probably meant it as a joke, because the neighborhood, which used to be a very nice one, is a far cry from what it used to be.  The crime level in that part of town is much higher than it was when we were living there.

I have to be honest, I do miss that house.  It was the first home I ever bought.  It is also the home I brought my first son home to.  I remember painting the nursery in tan and putting up all the Noah’s Ark themed borders, building the crib, etc.  I remember watching my dad and son play catch in the backyard.  I remember my mom, who was still in the middle of her cancer treatments, laying on the floor and playing with my son.  I have so many great pictures of her with him in that house.

I remember the old shed in the back and the swing set I built for him.  I remember almost setting the house on fire with the barbecue and ripping out the fence that was between our house and Melanie’s old house.  I also remember pulling my son in his birthday wagon around the neighborhood on summer days.

I also remember the great neighbors we had.  As I said, Melanie and her husband lived next door and were always good neighbors.  On the other side, Jerry lived there with his daughter Terry Sue.  Her kids Jerry and Stephanie would often come over and they’d play with my son.  I would often talk with their Aunt Diane, too, who lived just down the street.  Jerry was a nice man.  He was always willing to loan me a tool if I needed one, or help me with my lawnmower.  He’d often be the guy who cleared my driveway with his snow blower in the winter.  Sadly he passed away shortly after we moved in.

Next to Jerry was Harry and Myrt.  They were an elderly couple who were from down south.  Harry loved to talk politics.  Myrt always made us candy at Christmas time.  You could always find them on the porch drinking sweet tea, and always a pleasure to talk to.  Another elderly couple lived across the street when I first moved in, Ed and Margie.  They were such great people, he was always riding his bike around the neighborhood and always smiling.  We were so sad when he and Margie passed away.

When Melanie moved away, we were blessed with another wonderful couple as neighbors – Jamie and Jason.  Their plan was much like ours, this house was kind of our starter house and we had hoped to move once our son came.  They moved before we did and that was when things started to go bad.  Their old house had a milk chute.  It was next to their side door.  The guy who moved in was probably about 24, and he was up at all hours of the night.  He was renting the house from his aunt and we found out he was using the house to sell drugs.  There were people up and down the driveway all night.  They’d drop their order in the milk chute and come back to get it later.  He never threw anything away and there were bags of trash all over the back yard.  I’m still not sure what exactly happened to the guy, but he suddenly disappeared.  I have heard rumors, but never really found out more.  It wasn’t long after that, we moved away.

James

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Again, probably meant as a joke, but he wants to know my “take on breakdancing”. Here is my take – I can’t do it.  I can do the Curly Shuffle and the Box Step (thanks to high school gym class).  I am amazed that people can do this.  There is talk of it being an Olympic Event, so it must something that interests people.  If I had the chance to take dance lessons, I would opt for ballroom dancing over break dancing.

Marcia

Marcia is a dear friend from elementary school and always loves to ask questions.  Today, she asks “Who was your favorite teacher at Carlson (our school) and why?”

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I moved to the district in 2nd grade.  Any time a kid moves and had to change schools, there is stress involved.  I remember Mrs. Cook being a very sweet lady and made the transition much easier.  I only had her for about half a year, and remember that I liked her very much.  However, if I had to pick a favorite elementary school teacher, (meaning someone who’s class I was in) it would have to pick Mrs. Gallop.

I remember her being very fun.  While I don’t remember many specific things, I remember she made me laugh a lot.  I had a great respect for her and I remember not wanting to ever disappoint her.  Two distinct memories I have of her class both involve reading.  I remember she read many books to us.  It was one of my favorite things about the class.  I remember her reading us “Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing” by Judy Blume.  There was a sequel she read to us to about the main character’s brother Fudge.  She always was very animated when she read them.  I have those books on my shelf, as I bought them for my sons.

I also remember her reading James and The Giant Peach by Roald Dahl.   I remember there was a swear word in it (ass or damn, I think) and she prepped the whole class.  “There is a bad word in this story.  I really don’t want to read it, but if I do, remember that it is not nice to say words like that.”  When she said it, some gasped and some chuckled.  She just kept on reading …

Fourth grade was probably my favorite elementary school year.  Mrs. Gallop was instrumental in that.  She was so much fun and made learning fun.  Years after I graduated, I was working for the district as a custodian part-time.  She had moved up to either principal or assistant principal at the middle school.  She was in her office and I remember walking in and saying hello.  I told her she probably wouldn’t remember me, but when I told her my name, she said “Of course I remember you.  You had just got your glasses over the summer and you told me that you were so glad you could see the board, and your friends, and me!”  How she remembered that, I really don’t know.  I assumed she was just saying she remembered me to shut me up, but I had gotten my glasses over the summer, so she remembered.

I may or may not have looked for her on Facebook, some teachers who have Facebook accounts don’t use it to connect to former students.  At any rate, she is not my friend on there.  I have written about teachers in the past, and I firmly believe that they make a difference each and every day in the lives of their students.  They play such an important role.  She was such a wonderful lady and I was lucky that I was in her class.  If any teachers from the district still keep in touch with her, please let her know that I am forever grateful for the laughs, the learning, and for making me feel like I mattered.

Joseph

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Joe is one of my oldest friends.  We met in band class in junior high.  One of the things we have in common is our love for music.  No surprise that his question is “What was your favorite piece of music to play in band?”  I responded and asked if he meant concert or marching band.  He said it was my choice and that he would “go easy on” me.

Trying to pick one song out of four years worth of music is quite a task.  I thought about it a lot before writing this.  I have narrowed it down, but cannot pick just one.  I also looked at both marching band and concert band separately.  I hope you don’t mind, Joe, but here are the Top 5 for each:

Concert Band

5 – The Seventies Medley

4 – Armed Forces Salute

3 – Hall of Fame March

2 – Tin Pan Alley

1 – Four of a Kind

Marching Band

5 – Washington and Lee Swing (for sentimental reasons)

4 – Artistry in Rhythm

3 – Doggin’ Around

2 – We Got the Beat

1 – Sing, Sing, Sing

It was far from easy to do this, Joe!  I also realize I can probably write an entire blog about this.

Vince

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Vince asks a question that I used to get often when I did Career Day presentations at schools while working in radio.  He says, “Radio call in prizes … Ex: Caller #20 wins tickets …. are they legitimate? If yes, is there a strategy to calling in?”

The quick answer (at least in my experience) is yes.  Before I explain, let me talk a bit about contesting.  When I first started in radio, access to the internet was not really a thing.  We used to have many trivia books and often asked musical questions or questions we found in those trivia books to give away prizes.  When Trivial Pursuit came out, we had the boxes of questions in the studio to ask.  It’s hard to do those kind of things today because so many people can Google the answers and it is just not fun to do any more.  I’m not sure why the “be caller # ___” contests have become so popular, to be honest.  I really dislike those contests.  There is no entertainment value to it at all – and it is not fun for the DJ.  When I was at Kiss-FM, we had 6 requests lines, today, it’s usually 3.  So the DJ has to literally answer the phones, “You’re caller number 1 (click) you’re caller number 2 (click) you’re caller number 3 (click)” and so on….

Many stations use their frequency to pick the caller number – 95.5 looks for the 95th caller, 89X looks for caller 89, etc.  How is this entertaining for the listeners who are not playing?  The answer is – it isn’t.  As far as a strategy, I don’t know of any.  Back in the day, you used “speed dial” to get in and just keep redialing.  Today, with cell phones, there is no speed dial.  It’s the luck of the draw.  There are people who we call “contest pigs” who literally sit and listen for radio contests up and down the dial.  They spend all day dialing to win prizes.  There are two things radio DJ hate about those winners – first, when they tell you “I was caller 1, 7, 18, 33, and ….” we usually edit that out of the call for play back on the air.  We don’t want other listeners to know that they couldn’t get through because you and your family were monopolizing the phone lines.  The other thing we hate is when we finally get a winner for a very cool prize and they act like they could care less.  “Hey, Vince!  You just won $15,000!” and their response is an unemotional “Gee, thanks.  Do you like write me a check or something for that?”  That’s the response you expect from “Congrats!  You just won a free taco and tickets to the flower show.”

I don’t do radio full-time any more, so contesting is a bit different now.  Many stations run company wide contesting now.  They’ll tell you this in their promo mentions.  Basically, a company who owns stations throughout the country, all the stations are giving away the prize and all the listeners from all the stations have a chance to win it.  The odds are just a tad worse than when there is a local contest.

Aaron

Of all the questions asked, Aaron asked the most difficult: “If you had to pick your top 5 or 10 1980’s (your choice) movies for a must see list what would they be?”

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For the record, I literally went year by year from 1980-1989 thinking I could narrow it down to 5 or 10.  Then I thought “I can’t do this!” and thought if I divided it into genre, I could make it easier.  That actually made it more difficult.  If anything, it made me realize how many great movies were made in the 80’s.  It also made me realize that some could easily fall into more than one genre.

So, Aaron, from my list here are some “must see” flicks from each year:

1980 – Airplane!, The Blues Brothers, Caddyshack, The Shining, Somewhere in Time, The Empire Strikes Back

1981 – Arthur, Cannonball Run, History of the World Part 1, Night Hawks, Private Lessons, Porky’s, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Stripes, Zorro – The Gay Blade

1982 – 48 Hours, Creepshow, ET, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

1983 – A Christmas Story, The Dead Zone, National Lampoon’s Vacation, Trading Places, War Games, Doctor Detroit

1984 – Beverly Hills Cop, Footloose, Ghostbusters, Johnny Dangerously, The Karate Kid, The Natural, Police Academy, Revenge of the Nerds, Terminator

1985 – Back to the Future, The Breakfast Club, Clue, Fletch, A View to a Kill

1986 – Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, The Golden Child, One Crazy Summer, The Three Amigos, Top Gun, The Color of Money, Aliens

1987 – Good Morning Vietnam, Fatal Attraction, La Bamba, No Way Out, Planes Trains and Automobiles, The Princess Bride, Robocop, The Untouchables, Adventures in Baby Sitting, Spaceballs

1988 – The Naked Gun, Rain Man, Scrooged, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Coming to America, Big, Beetlejuice

1989 – Batman, Dead Poet’s Society, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Weekend at Bernie’s, Tango and Cash, UHF, Uncle Buck

After spending way too much time trying to sort them….It was just easier that way.  I had hoped to expand on all of these.  I am sure that I left MANY off.  I even edited the edited list to get to these.  Some of them are on the list because they are personal favorites.  How about you, Aaron (or any other reader)…if you had to pick 5 or 10, could you do it??

Thanks to those who sent questions!  It’s always fun for me to answer them!

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Monday Memory – Pranked

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It’s April Fool’s Day. In honor of this, I thought I would share a funny story in which I was the victim of a funny prank. It’s funny now, but at the time, I didn’t find it funny at all. My memory is a bit fuzzy on some of the details, but I am sure my friends will be more than happy to fill in details or correct me if I mess up details.

The TP Bandits

One of the highlights of my senior year of high school was going out toilet papering. We’d go to the store, buy 12-24 rolls of toilet paper and go out and hit some friend’s house. I don’t know how or why this became the “thing” to do, but we did it. If it was your birthday, you could almost count on your house being hit.

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There were groups that went out together: 1) The Cheerleaders, 2) The Jocks, 3) The Choir Kids, and 4) The Band Kids (and there were sometimes groups within the groups). We belonged to a sub-group of Band kids. We called our group The TP Bandits. There was never a doubt that we were the ones who hit your house. We had printed up (on a crappy dot matrix printer) signs that read “You have just been TP’d by the TP Bandits.” There was a cheesy and terrible graphic of two cowboys on it. We usually left it in the mailbox. I got a megaphone for Christmas one year, and it was not odd for us to yell something like “Love ya, Babes!” to whoever’s house we hit.

I am sure that Toilet Paper stocks went up that year. It was completely out of control! My dad would always wake up the next morning and come in to wake me up by saying something like, “So, your friends were here again last night. Looks like you’ve got some cleaning up to do!” Because we went out a lot, I got TP’d a lot. It was like that scene in The Godfather where Sonny is explaining how “they killed Luca, so we hit them back and killed ….” If you went out and TP’d – you could expect to get it back.

It wasn’t just houses, either. There were plenty of times where we TP’d cars. Many times, we’d do it when the friend was at work. My friend Diana always reminds me of the time we got her car while she was working at Frank’s Nursery. She’ll have to remind me, but I think she had left her car unlocked and I think we TP’d INSIDE it! I am almost positive I remember TPing around her rearview mirror.

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The Prank

As best as I can remember, we went to one of the colleges (I think it was CMU) to watch a football game. It was an optional trip and the whole reason we went was so we could watch the band’s half-time show. I don’t remember if it was something that you had to pay to go to, but that was probably the case. Because of that, I remember that not all of my friends were going on the trip. I would soon learn why.

I remember the buses turning into the parking lot at the high school (and here is where my friends may need to refresh my memory) and noticing something on my car. My memory is not clear here, but as I remember it, there were empty toilet paper rolls on my radio antenna (I do not think they had TP’d the car). It was at that moment that I knew that I was in for it when I got home.

I am not 100% positive on this, but I think my friend Joe was the mastermind of the whole thing. I remember getting in the car and heading home. As I turned onto my street, I could see the streams of TP waving from the tree in front of my house. The closer I got, the more I realized that it was MUCH more than that! The lawn was white – like it had been covered with a layer of snow. Branches were wrapped completely and so was the tree trunk. The front yard and back yard had been covered in toilet paper.

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As I drove by, there were friends sitting up on the roof awaiting my arrival. They were waving and smiling and I was furious! I called my mom from an ancient Nokia cell phone and she answered with a smile, “Hi, baby. Where are you?! You have guests here!” I remember asking if they had gone into my bedroom and she told me I’d have to come home to find out. I had lots of memorabilia in there and I was worried that something might get broke. I couldn’t believe that she had let them in my room.

Joe had asked my mother if they could come over while I was away to “decorate”. My mom must have thought this was a hilarious idea, because she let it happen. I am guessing if he had asked my dad, he would have told him to get lost along with some words of profanity. I am sure my mom probably helped string some toilet paper around, too that day!

When I finally got up the courage to return home, my friends were still up on the roof. There was one of those contruction barriers with the flashing light on it. They had painted it all white and in big black letters painted “Love Ya, Babes!” I am sure that Derek was solely responsible for that!

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I got out of my car and looked around as I walked into the house. I gotta tell you, it was a masterpiece! I was impressed at their work. It was beautiful. It was the kind of TP job you wish you had time to do! Word is that the police stopped at the house more than one time and my mom was right out there to tell them it was totally fine with her! I can only imagine the talk back at the police station that day.

The “piece de resistance” of the job was what they did to my bedroom. As I turned the corner to go into my room, I looked into my doorway and saw nothing but newpapers! There was literally a pile of newspaper coming out the door! They had blown up hundreds of balloons, laid those down first, and then crumbled up newspapers and put them in the room to make it look like they had filled the room floor to ceiling with newspapers!

As angry as I was at my mom for letting it happen, I smile about it now. That was the way she was. She knew that I had done more than my fair share of TPing around the city, and this was the ultimate payback! I am sure she was filled with excitement at the thought of having a bunch of the gang over to do it and probably laughed the entire time. That’s one of the reasons so many people loved her – she loved a good joke and this certainly was one!

I came to find out that more people were in on the joke than I thought. Even kids who were on the trip were aware that it was happening while we were there! I was the brunt of many jokes that following school day! I was red-faced, but not because of sunburn. I carried the embarrassment with me throughout the day. It seemed like every one, even those who weren’t in band, knew of the prank and were talking about how cool my mom was for letting it happen!

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It is the best prank that has ever been pulled on me to date – and it wasn’t even done on April Fool’s Day! For my friends who were there: What details did I leave out? For my friends who weren’t: What was the best prank ever pulled on you?

FYI – these pictures are NOT of the job they did. I’m sure someone has some, but I sadly, do not.

I’m With the Band ….

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

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

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

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

1985-1986 – Marching Band Season 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other Random Marching Band Memories

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

Times have changed

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

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

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

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

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

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