I’m Gonna Miss You, “Sir”

I’m still trying to process the loss of my friend, Tom Shaner. He passed away just before Christmas. He was my high school band director. He was more than just a friend to me (and many others). He was a mentor, a leader, a counselor, a cheerleader, a boss, a role model, an advisor, and at times, was like a second father to me.

I received word that he was in the hospital the week before Christmas. Due to Covid, no visitors were allowed. I found out afterward that he had been in ICU. Then his family announced that he was coming home to hospice care. Word came very quickly after that he had passed away. I am still in shock, as are many of his former students.

I had been watching the mailbox for a letter from him. He and I had exchanged e-mails recently and he said he was going to drop a note in the mail. I assumed that the note might be stuffed in the annual Christmas card from him. It never arrived.

My Facebook was filled with other band students remembering him. There were pictures of him and many stories, some I had heard before, some I had been in band to witness, and some I had never heard before. Those various memories from band students younger and older than me, were proof that we all shared many of the same wonderful experiences with him. They also were illustrations of the great impact that this one man had on students throughout his teaching career and far beyond.

From a previous blog:

One of the first blogs I wrote here was about the impact of teachers. I listed some of mine. Here is what I wrote about Mr. Shaner almost 3 years ago:

Mr. Shaner was my band director. If you are looking for my stance on Music Education in schools – here it is. “I LEARNED MORE TO PREPARE ME FOR LIFE FROM BAND CLASS THAN ANY OTHER CLASS IN SCHOOL”. There. I said it. I learned the importance of preparation. I learned the importance of punctuality. I learned the importance of practice. I learned the importance of team work. I learned the importance of organization. I learned the importance of patience. All of my time management skills came directly from band class. I learned about discipline and work ethic. I learned the importance of cooperation and respect. The list goes on and on. The lessons that I took from band class in itself can be an entire blog. (I can also add the importance of dedication, responsibility, self worth, dignity, and honor to this list!)

I recall one day in 9th grade, I was running late for school. I grabbed a pair of khaki pants from a basket that was in the laundry room. I walked into school and TS said “Hey, man, you know an iron can get those wrinkles out of your slacks”. Now some people might think this was mean. I didn’t take it that way. Instead, it made me aware of little things like looking good. It was a simple nudge to take an extra minute to dress right.

It was not odd for him to call someone in the office and ask if everything was ok if they looked like something was bothering them. Sometimes he would get wind of a situation someone was dealing with and he would be aware that there was a lesson in it for everyone. He would just tell some story in class with the lesson at the end and it did two things – it helped the person in the situation AND it helped the rest of us in case that situation ever popped up in our lives.

I remember one time Steve and I were goofing off during a rehearsal. It was the day before festival, so it was not the time to be fooling around. He stopped the band and asked us what was so funny. Because we did not have an answer he pointed to the door and said “Bye. I’ll see you after rehearsal”. We sat at the end of the hall and pondered how much trouble we were going to get into not only with him but with our folks. He sent Kelly, the band president down to the end of the hall to get us. He looked at us dead in the eye and said “I did not want you to go with us to festival tomorrow, but the band as a whole voted and said you should come”. He proceeded with the rehearsal. The following day, I was the first to arrive in the band room. He greeted me with a smile and I was completely confused. He was SO angry the day before. I asked if he had a second and he said to follow him to his office. He sat down and looked at me, like he had no idea why I was there. I apologized for my behavior the previous day and told him it would never happen again. He stared at me for a few seconds and got up quickly (which scared the hell out of me). He extended his hand and said, “It takes a lot of guts to admit when you are wrong. It takes a real man to apologize. Thank you for taking responsibility for your actions. I have a lot of respect for you.” He took it a step further and made sure the entire band knew what happened. He said he thought that they should know that I cared enough about them to apologize for my actions. Talk about respect? I have the utmost respect for that man and all of the lessons I still carry with me to this day. I am glad that we have remained in contact all these years later. He was a major influence in my life and in the lives of many students.

His Own Hashtag!

The one thing that showed up in almost every post about him on Facebook was how strict he was about being punctual. “If you’re on time – you’re late!” He always told us that! In other words, if rehearsal started at 4pm, you had better be in your seat with your instrument ready to play at 3:59pm (or earlier!). SO many people mentioned this in their posts. I chuckled and thought he would think it was great that the hashtag #ifyoureontimeyourelate was in almost all of these posts!

The Band Room

The band room represented a safe haven for most of us. It was like a family gathering place. Almost everyone hung out there before and after school. Most of us ate lunch there, too. We did homework there, we talked about life there, we laughed there, and we cried there. Many of us never used our lockers because we kept most of our stuff in the band room!

Mr. Shaner always had something playing over the speakers in the band room in the morning. Sometimes it was just the classical music station, while other times it was an album featuring artists like Maynard Ferguson and Doc Severinsen. I was introduced to so many great albums by hearing them in the band room.

Many student’s first stop was the band room every day. We’d drop our instruments off in the instrument storage room and walk over the the white grease board where Mr. Shaner wrote all the announcements. At the bottom of that board, he always had some quote. The one I remember most hits me a bit hard with his passing: “Live every day as if it were your last – someday, you’ll be right.”

In my senior year, I was the Band President. All the officers had mailboxes in his office. He would often write notes for all of us on Post It notes and stick them in our mailbox. Mine often read simply “See me”. Sometimes, the sticky note was stuck to some flyer or something and it would read “See me on this!” Every now and then, an officer would find a page from the Far Side calendar in their mailbox, just because.

I had a typing class my senior year. I hated it. I would get my work done early and I would sit there for the rest of the hour doing nothing. Eventually I’d as the teacher for a pass to go to the band room to work on stuff I needed to get done. This became a habit and one day I walked to his desk and before I could ask he said, “No. You may not have a pass to the band room.” I looked at him and said, “I was hoping you could give me a pass to the IMRC.” The teacher looked at me puzzled and I continued, “The Instrumental Music Rehearsal Center” (which was something Mr. Shaner had said in class that week). He wrote the pass and told me to beat it!

Band Class

While in school, I have many wonderful memories of band class and Mr. Shaner. I remember how he would tell us stories about the little old lady that he went to church with, which always made us laugh. Whenever one of his kids had a baby, he’d announce how his wife, Carol, “became a grandma again.” I remember how if there was a part of a song that didn’t sound right, he’d pull out the grade book and go down the line and make us all play individually – for a test grade. Then there was “the parting of the stands”, when he would step off the podium and go directly to whoever he needed to yell at.

When I was a junior, I wanted to be a band director (until I stumbled into radio). Mr. Shaner ran an after school Conducting Class for whoever wanted to be in it. It was part music theory and part conducting. Each of us in the class got to lead the band in a warm up chorale every day. I really enjoyed that. One class he asked each of us to bring a song to the class and explain why we liked it. I remember there being a lot of different types of music and his reaction to each was always enlightening.

The above picture was taken of him conducting the Jazz Band. We rehearsed after school and we got to play at Pep assemblies. Jazz Band was so much fun. It was just a small group of us, and he seemed to really have more fun with us. I remember one of the songs we played was Delta Dawn (the Tanya Tucker song). The sax section had the melody and the harmonies were just fantastic. I was given the solo on a song called “In a Sentimental Mood”. I was scared to play it but he was so encouraging and I remember not being so nervous after he talked to me.

At Christmas time, he would invite the band officers over for dinner or a movie. I remember how strange it felt to be at his house at first, but we were welcomed as friends and family. I can’t remember how many times we drove by his house honking our horns after graduation.

The “Radio” Preview?

At the end of my sophomore year, he had put an announcement on the grease board asking if someone wanted to help take songs from vinyl and transfer them to cassette so he could listen to them in the car. All the music publishing companies would send out record albums with demos of their music for the upcoming season. Band directors would listen to them and then order whatever songs they wanted. He needed someone to announce the title of the song before it played on the tape. That way, when he heard something he liked, he knew what the song title was. I volunteered to do it.

Naturally, before each song, I played DJ and if I knew something about the artist, I’d ad-lib something. I told jokes, and was just silly on them. He must have enjoyed it, because I did it for him the next two years. If we were recording something in class he’s say something like, “Hey, Golden Tones, why don’t you announce this for me.” I remember announcing Duke Ellington’s Mood Indigo by saying, “Here’s a swinging little number called Mood Indigo.” Without missing a beat, he said “Shirley is gonna go around now saying ‘Hi! I’m Mood Indigo!”

He was so encouraging about my radio career. He’d listen when he could. He was always so supportive and interested in my radio job. He often talked about things he’d heard other DJ’s say. In an email he sent last year, he told me: “saw you in front of the microphone on Facebook this morning. I’m always pleased to see you doing what you always do so well.”

Open To All Ideas

He always seemed to want our ideas to come to fruition. It was tradition for the band officers to do a skit in front of the rest of the band. For our sketch, I thought it would be funny to have each officer step into the spotlight and lip sync to songs (this was long before lip sync battles were a thing). He gave the green light and we had a blast!

The skit that year led to us doing a lip sync contest. I asked Mr. Shaner if we could do it as a fund raiser. He was not really sure it would work, and he asked me many questions about it and how we were going to handle things before giving it the go ahead. He was willing to let me throw it together.

He called it Puttin’ On The Hits! We opened it up for everyone, but they had to audition. Someone did Time Warp from Rocky Horror (that won), someone else did Going Back to Cali, and me and my buddy, Steve, did the Ames Brothers Rag Mop. Prior to the show, ticket sales were low. We thought we were gonna cancel it because of that. However, the sales at the door that night sold out the show. We had a full house that night and it was a huge success.

Band Banquet Imitations

My Junior year, the 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 other things. 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.

Remember, that happened my Junior year ….. so when my senior year arrived, he got me back good! I used to have the video of it, but I am not sure what happened to it …. so from memory, here’s what happened:

He always had a spot on the agenda to speak at the Band Banquet. So when it came time for his speech, I introduced him and sat down. He stood up and reached into a paper bag. He pulled out a wig and put it on. The entire hall erupted in laughter. He ran around the hall doing all kinds of gestures that I really hoped I had never done. At one point, he stopped at pointed to the custodian who cleaned our band room and yelled “Get outta here, Bill!” which was something we all yelled at him. By the time he got to the microphone, I was crying from laughing so hard. But he was far from done…..

He began to tell silly stories as me. One of them was “You know, Margaret is always asking me to come over and go to dinner or to the movies, but I tell her I’d rather play pinochle than do that!” (The guys and I would always play cards together, and Margaret was one of my best friends.) As the stories and laughs continued, he paused, said something about a costume change and turned with his back to the audience.

NOTE: Now, if you’ve read any of my previous blogs, you know that we did a lot of TPing when I was in school. We had a group that went out called the TP Bandits……

He reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a piece of toilet paper that he made into a mask and the laughter became ten times louder!

He looked absolutely ridiculous! It was the funniest thing I have ever sat through! My sides ached from laughing so hard!

The thing about Mr. Shaner was, he could take you from laughing like crazy to crying like a baby. Immediately after he took off the TP mask and wig, he spoke to us about the achievements of the year and offered up wisdom. I remember he mentioned how after graduation, friends will go separate ways. He said that you could go 30 years and when you met back up, could pick right up where you left off. Looking back at that now, I am lucky to have had his friendship 30 years after that night!

After his speech, I told him that was the worst impression of me I had ever seen!

After Graduation

I’m not going to lie, I hated graduating. I didn’t want to head out into the real world! I was comfortable in the band room. There was talk about an Alumni Band, and I was asked to head it up. I gathered all the addresses and we got it up and running. It, in itself, became a great way for all of us band “kids” to come back and hang out with Mr. Shaner. We marched in the homecoming parade every year and even played on the field once or twice. He was very supportive of the group. When he retired, there was an attempt to get folks together, but it was less successful. I truly believe that this had to do with the fact that he was not there to run rehearsals and chat with. There was always so much laughter and fun when we all got together, but without him, it was not the same.

I remember stopping by the band room one summer and he had lost a bunch of weight. He said he had been doing Weight Watchers. I had been struggling with weight for some time and I asked him about it. He was very encouraging and suggested I go. I remember losing 85 pounds and he cheered me all along the way!

One day, my girlfriend at the time and I went to see the Community Band play at one of the colleges. I was surprised to see Mr. Shaner playing his cornet in the band. There were many other concerts I attended and saw him play. It was always a treat for me. We often bumped into each other at shows. I remember seeing him at the Detroit Symphony Orchestra show, and at a Doc Severinsen show (among others).

Don’t Break Anything …

I can’t recall if it was before or after Christmas, but my son was about 1 or 2 years old. We had stopped by his house just to say hello. Their house was full of things on shelves that were breakable. I was so nervous with my son. Mrs. Shaner told my son to pick a gift from under the tree. He picked a book that came with a CD that he listened to often growing up. Mr. Shaner and I sat at his kitchen table talking. I kept wanting to get up because Mrs. Shaner was “entertaining” my son. He kept telling me, “Carol is keeping an eye on him. He’s fine.” Come to find out he was in their room jumping up and down on their bed ….. LOL

Hot Chocolate

I’d always mention getting together for coffee when we’d talk on the phone. He’d always say, I don’t do coffee, but I’ll meet you for hot chocolate. We did that often. In those times we were together, we’d talk about life, family, and the various things going on in our lives. There were so many times I’d walk into his office at school and say, “Do you have a minute?”, and we’d talk just like this. I always enjoyed his insights to things. He was so helpful when I was going through my divorce, offering some sage advice. He always helped me to see things just a bit differently.

Even in his last email to me he offered up encouraging words. He spoke of how much he enjoyed seeing my daughter in pictures on Facebook. He suggested a few books he thought I would enjoy and offered support about my bible classes. He was such a wonderful friend.

Some Closing Thoughts

Every once in a while, you meet someone who makes a huge impression on you. Tom Shaner was that man for me. He was more than just a teacher. As I stated, he was a mentor, a counselor, a leader, and a true friend. He taught me and so many other students life lessons that we have carried with us throughout our lives.

He led by example. He was almost always the first one to arrive to things and the last to leave. He was firm, yet caring. He was serious, yet funny. He showed us the importance of hard work. He showed us the importance of humor. He instilled in us pride for our organization and in our accomplishments. He made music and making music fun! The list goes on and on …

What an influence he was to hundreds of students over the years! I commented on someone’s Facebook post this week by saying that “no matter what year you graduated, no matter what section you played in, no matter what you ended up doing for a living, or where you ended up, we all had one common thread – Tom Shaner.”

He has been such a big part of my life, I am not sure where I would be without his guidance. I am forever grateful for the moments that I shared with him. I don’t know that I could ever put into words what a blessing he was to me. I am so thankful to have had him in my life.

He always said “If you’re on time, you’re late,” so I am going to assume that he was right on time for the heavenly concert that God needed an extra cornet for.

Thank you, Sir. You will be missed every day!

Portrait by Tom’s grandson, Evan.

A Little Mischief

All my life the night before Halloween was referred to as Devil’s Night. In some places it is called Mischief Night. Other places call it Goosey Night, Mat Night, or Cabbage Night. Whatever you called it, it was usually a night that kids/teens would go out and prank people. Usually those pranks were pretty harmless. Recently, Devil’s Night in Michigan (Detroit, in particular) became a night that folks would go out and set fires to abandoned house and buildings. It is now referred to as Angel’s Night as many patrol neighborhoods in hopes of stopping those fires.

I was not an innocent little teenager, as I would occasionally go out on October 30th and cause mischief. In discussing with a friend the many pranks associated with Devil’s Night, I did many of them, but not all of them. How many of these were you involved with?

Toilet Papering

Of all the pranks we came up with, I admit, this was my favorite. We TP’d houses even when it wasn’t Devil’s Night! You can read about that in a past blog. We had a group in high school called the TP Bandits. I swear we bought hundreds of dollars in TP in 1988! When we were done, we left works of art! The sheer beauty of TP blowing in wind …. ah, what a sight!

Soaping Windows

Probably one of the cheapest and least menacing pranks was soaping windows. You’d go into your bathroom and home and swipe a bar of soap and go up and down the street drawing smiley faces on car windows. Sometimes we’d write “hello” or draw things on home windows, but not usually. I can see where this might not be so harmless today. I have a feeling that most kids today would write hateful things on car windows. The nice thing about this prank was a car wash or rain would take care of the soap.

Ding Dong Ditch

I’ll be honest, I never heard it called “Ding Dong Ditch” until recently. We would usually just say, “Hey! Wanna go ring doorbells?!” This prank is more annoying than anything and if you were slow, you’d get caught. Basic idea – ring the doorbell and run. I would imagine that the Ring Doorbells with cameras make this not as fun. It really is a dumb prank. This is almost the same thing as …

Knock and Run

This prank is basically the same thing, except you knock on the door and run. I have a feeling this came about because of homes that had no doorbell! I’m not sure I’d have the guts to do this, but when I saw this picture I laughed. Imagine doing this to your own home!

He probably needs a longer hockey stick…..

Egging houses

A bit more expensive and a lot messier, this was a prank I only did a couple times. A buddy of mine busted a window by whipping an egg at it, and I think that was when I decided that “egging” was not my favorite prank. Most people just egged cars, but some threw them at doors and houses. It was always messy and I remember my dad hating having to clean that up. Some people took this prank in another direction and used tomatoes!

Forking

This is a prank I never really understood. Forking a lawn is just what it sounds like – someone puts a bunch of plastic forks in a lawn. I would think you’d need a whole lot of people to pull off this prank in a hurry, otherwise, it is gonna take you a while to get it done. I don’t know about you, but if I am pulling a prank like this or TPing, I wanna get it, get it done, and get out before I get caught! This is one of those pranks I never really understood.

The Flaming Bag of Poop

This is probably the cruelest of all the pranks. It is gross. Someone puts dog poop in a paper bag and lights it on fire. Then, they knock on the door or ring the doorbell and run away. The home owner comes to the door and stomps on the bag, getting poop on their shoe. This prank has shown up in Adam Sandler movies, on Saturday Night Live (in Matt Foley and Martha Stewart sketches), and on the Simpsons.

For the record, I never did this prank. I can’t even imagine wanting to pick up a piece of dog poop!

Smashing Pumpkins

I guess this prank is pretty mean, too. I know how hard my son worked on carving his pumpkin. If he woke up Halloween morning and found it busted up, I can only imagine how upset he’d be. I am not sure that this is really a Devil’s Night thing, as I think most pumpkin smashing happens after Halloween when the gourds are a bit more … mushy.

Did I miss any pranks? Let me know!

I hope that when I walk out to my car in the morning it is egg and soap free!

“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!

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.

Questions and Answers #1

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I have a blog that is totally ready to post, except that I was unable to figure out how to add audio (some friends have offered suggestions as to how to do that, and I will attempt that in the following day or two).  Since that blog was not ready, I went to my Facebook friends and asked for questions they would like me to answer.  I am pleased with their response, and with the questions they posed, and I have a feeling this is just the first of  many blogs like this.   Today’s blog contains the answers to those some of those questions.

Melody

Melody asked one of the easiest questions:  “What do you miss most about high school?”

I would say without a doubt – Band class.  It is no secret that I was what many refer to as a “band geek”.  When I look back at the people I have stayed in touch with, most of them are from band class.  Some of us spent hours after school practicing our instruments.  I was one of the band librarians, so I had access to the library of songs.  We would often go through the files and pull out music just to play it.  We spent hours after school playing (gee, you would have thought that would have made us better players… )!

As I have said before, I learned more about life from band class than any other class (see blog about thanking teachers). Performing a piece of music with others brings an amazing sense of accomplishment.  It also brings about the opportunity to learn about relationships.  Sure, as with most big groups, there were little “cliques”, but when it was time to play together as one, we did.  It truly was like a big family.

I remains one of those things I miss most.

Jeff

Jeff asked a particularly difficult , yet easy question.  “What sport do you absolutely love to watch, but you believe are terrible at participating?”

My first response was “define terrible” – LOL.  Seriously, though, I am someone who wishes I had been more active in sports growing up.  As much as we played baseball during our summer vacation, you would think I would have tried out for something like that.  Growing up, I thought I might be a good pitcher.  The fact that I always struggled with weight, and didn’t necessarily like the thought of rejection probably led me to not try out for things I may have been good at.

To answer the question, I would probably have to say football.  I love watching football.  Playing, however, I was never that good.  To this day, if a football leaves my hand it wobbles through the air.  I cannot through a spiral to save my life!  Catching a football is always a joke for me too.  I suppose I just never really learned how to reach up and pull it in.

Every Thanksgiving, we used to get family together and play a touch football game.  There is a lot of running involved in football, so you can only imagine what I had to look like trying to run down the field. The following day, after using muscles that I hadn’t used in years, you know exactly how bad the pain felt – and this was when I was much younger than I am today!

Great question!

James

James knows I currently work in the sleep field.  I deal with people who have sleep apnea and other sleep disorders.  His question is “Does MyPillow help with sleep problems?”

The question that comes to mind with your question, James:  What are your sleep problems?

Let me tell you what I have heard from patients regarding this and then give a few quick thoughts.  With the patients who I have seen who spent the money on this, the only real “review” they can give is that they are more comfortable.  The claims that this pillow can help give you more REM sleep, is something that no one can really say, unless a sleep lab is using them with their patients.

We check for REM sleep with all of the electrodes on a patient’s head and face.  Some of the home tests and sleep watches and such can ‘assume’ or “estimate” what REM sleep is based on heart rate, but without being able to see brainwaves, eye movements, and muscle tone, it is hard to determine.

REM sleep IS the important sleep – that is what the body needs to feel refreshed and what we need to function.  A typical human gets about three “REM cycles” cycles a night and this is based on the circadian rhythm.  Sleep apnea is always worse in REM sleep, and people who have apnea usually have this very important sleep stage cut short because of the apnea events.  In all honesty, I personally believe that a person’s pillow has nothing to do with “helping” a person’s sleep – but only helps – possibly – with comfort.

My advice – take the Epworth Sleepiness Scale (you can find it online).  Answer it honestly and if your score is 9 or more, see a sleep specialist.

Jodi

My wonderful Aunt Jodi’s question is “Do you use wooden spoons?”  My aunt was often our babysitter.  The threat was that if misbehaved, she would spank us with the wooden spoon.  This is funny, because there are many T-shirts and posters out there about how Italian mothers used to use the wooden spoon to discipline their kids – Jodi isn’t Italian!

Yes.  I use them.  To stir things on the stove.  LOL

Kristine

Kristine and I were in anatomy class together in college.  We dissected a sheep brain together. She’s a CNA now.  Her question truly made me laugh.  “Why did we never meet under the stairs?”

If memory serves me, I believe there was some couple who were kissing each other goodbye before class or something and we both kinda rolled our eyes at this.  This led to us chatting about how in high school, couples always seemed to be making out under the stairs.  At any rate, this became a running gag throughout school “Meet me under the stairs”.

The answer – there was always some other couple there!  ROFL.  Seriously, Kristine is a good friend and she has some pretty talented kids!  I always enjoyed seeing how proud she was of her boys when she talked about their football games or wrestling matches.

Kathy

Kathy’s question was short and to the point, “Do you still TP houses on the side?”

Back in high school, toilet papering houses was the thing to do for some reason. Our band class alone probably helped Charmin stock rise!  I do not claim to be the one who started this trend, but I guess I was involved in more TP jobs than others.  At one point we printed signs (on a dot matrix printer – WOW) that said, “You have been TP’d by The TP Bandits” and left it at houses we hit.  Fair is fair – if we hit them, they could hit us back.  That was how they knew who to come after.   The real question was “who was with you?”  I was usually driving, but the accomplices often changed.  Sometimes, there would be 8-12 people out doing the jobs with me.  My house was a favorite target.

To answer your question, Kathy, no.  I have been retired from “the Bandits” for some time. 🙂

Dave

Dave writes “Why is Bernie Miller so awesome?”

Bernie and I also went to high school together.  Dave, this questions answer will take me many, many paragraphs to write.  I make you a promise now – Bernie Miller’s awesomeness warrants its own blog.  Watch for it in the days or weeks ahead.

At that time, I will also attempt to answer Bernie’s question about swimming in dry ice.  No promises on a correct answer on that.

Diana

Diana asks, “What is your biggest regret from high school; do you wish you had done anything differently?”

I think that as we get older, it becomes easier to look back on things from the past and find things we regret doing or not doing.  I also think that it is easy to look back and see how you could have handled things differently.  That being said, let me say this:  I am who I am today because of the decisions and choices that I have made and the people who were a part of my life.  There is nothing that I can do today, that can change that.  With all that being said, I do have some regrets, and there are things I wish I had done differently.

I really regret not being a better student.  I regret that I did not take school a bit more seriously.  I can think of two HUGE assignments that I waited until the last minute to throw together, that had I just followed directions and spent the time I should have on them, I would have gotten better grades.  I sucked at studying.  If I had spent as much time studying as I did TPing, well, lets just say I would have been a whole lot better off come report card time.

It’s easy to sit back and look at my sons and think “You gotta spend more time on this” or “You didn’t study enough on this” because that was me in high school.  It is different today because they spend their time on video games and electronics, where as I was out TPing and goofing around, but it really is the same thing.  I wish for my sons that they would spend more time focusing on school.  I don’t want them to wait until after 40 years old to go to college.  I want them to experience success and financial stability sooner than I did.

Not sure that  answers the question, and if not, there are plenty of other regrets I can dive into ….

Angie, Joe, Eric. and John

This “asking to answer your questions” blog has shown me that I have some really funny friends.  Their questions are asked in jest – and I love it.  Life needs more laughter, and here are three examples of friends I surround myself with because they are funny – or smart asses – one way or the other.

Angie asks, “Is that your real hair/hair color?”  Yes, what little there is.  Shaving it and polishing it up to a perfect shine is much easier than coloring the grey on the few hairs that are up there!

Joe asks, “When you throw your bowling ball do you inhale or exhale?” and Eric follows with “Do you cup your ball with delicate fingers or hold on tight before release?”  My answer to both of you will be as silly as your questions – It depends on whether or not I am at Pastime Lanes!

John asks, “What is the air speed velocity of an unladen swallow?”  Kudos for a Monty Python reference!  I do believe the answer is 24 miles per hour or 11 meters a second.  Now take your coconuts and beat it!

Jason

Jason is a fellow band geek who poses the question “Do and/or can you still play your trumpet?”

If Tom Shaner were still teaching band, and if we were currently challenging for chairs … I would be guaranteed last chair!  The sounds that come out of it are no longer … quality sounds!  LOL

Now that Dante’ is no longer playing in band, my trumpet is back with me.  I still have a folder with copies of some of the music we played in band.  I still have my big ole Arban’s book for trumpet, and yes, occasionally, I pull out the horn and attempt to play.  I have been debating going back for lessons and perhaps joining a small group like the Salvation Army Band or something like that, just so I can still play.  It really is one of those things I miss a lot.

Vince

Vince asks a political question:  “How come Hilary Clinton blames everyone but herself and the Dems for losing the election?”

Well, Vince, I think that  (The following has been deleted by the US Government because it goes against policies or procedures that even we don’t understand.) …and that would be my best guess.

Chris

Chris wants to know “What was the best vacation you took with your parents and Christopher?”

I have blogged in the past about Caseville.  We went there often on weekends in the summer, but I don’t think that I would put those visits in the category of a vacation.  The only one that really stands out for me is a summer trip to Mackinaw.  I was probably about Dimitri’s age when we went, and I have some great photos to remind me of that trip.

I remember staying at this hotel in a second floor room, and there was a white, metal guard rail along the edge.  There wasn’t a whole lot of room to walk and there were chairs outside the rooms.  I have a picture of my mom and dad sitting outside the room that is one of my favorites.

I remember going to the Grand Hotel, and were were only allowed to stay for a minute or two because we were all dressed in shorts and T-shirts, and maybe there was a dress code or something, I don’t know.  I remember taking the boat to the Island and visiting the Fort.  That was one of my favorite things about the trip!  I remember the cannons and I remember mom taking a picture next to us in the stocks.

We went there when the Dukes of Hazzard was a huge TV hit.  How do I remember this?  Well, we used to ride bikes around the neighborhood and I would always pretend to be Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane.  I had a blue cowboy had that I loved and while at a gift shop I found a sheriff’s badge.  That was one of the only things I remember bringing home from that trip.

I am in the process of scanning some pictures – I am sure some Mackinaw pictures will end up here or on Facebook.

Deb

My cousin, Deb, asks a simple, yet difficult question.  “What is your dream job?”

You know, I think I have been lucky enough to have done a couple of them, but at the same time, there are others that are appealing as well.  I love my current job as a sleep tech.  I get to help people.  That’s a very satisfying thing.  In some cases, what I do leads to life saving treatments for people who are on the verge of a heart attack or stroke.

Radio was a dream I had in high school  I was lucky enough to do almost immediately after graduation.  I had never done it before and I got to learn the ropes from some of the best!  I admit my first 5 years in radio were less than stellar, in that I was so new to the business that I really hadn’t learned how to use my creativity.

Radio is addictive.  The more I listened and learned, the better I got.  I got to meet so many great people, celebrities, and non-celebrities.  I got to shake hands with legendary radio people and producers.  I got to be creative and do things that I envisioned and put those things on the air.  I got to raise money for children with cancer, raise money for local neighbors who lost homes to fires, raise awareness for autism, breast cancer, heart disease and more.  Radio was a dream job come true! (more on this in a future blog).

I think if there were a dream job that I have yet to do – there would be two of them:  teaching and acting.  In a couple previous blogs, I mentioned the want to teach.  I wish I had gone to school for that.  There are so many things about teaching that would validate this as a dream job.

Acting.  I don’t know that anyone would ever want to see my ugly mug on a screen, but I would love to do it.  I worked with a guy, Jeff Kelly, who does it.  I’ve seen trailers for his films and am always amazed at his abilities.  He’s such a jovial and nice guy, yet I saw him in a trailer where he was a mean killer – he was totally convincing!  I think I could do it, but who knows.  I think it would be fun.  I already do some “acting” in regards to voice work, and I would love to try it once, just to say I did it.  I always laughed when people told me I remind them of Dom Deluise…I always liked him as an actor.  I think it would be pretty damn cool to act in a film or on TV.

Phyllis and Shelley

As I read the questions from these two friends, I felt that the answers to their questions would be enough to write separate blogs responses.  Phyllis wanted to know about famous people I have met and more specifically my “OMG moment”.  There are a few of them – and I will tell you all about them.

Shelley wanted to know about radio listeners who have become friends and how that evolves.  I have been lucky enough to have made life long friends through the radio.  Some of them have been friends with me since my first radio job 30 years ago.  Great stories to share…and I will.

Thanks for your questions!  We’ll do this again soon!