Monday, December 19, 2011

Ben & Joe Picture Commentary - Summer

At the end of July, Ben, Joe and I put together a brief commentary on random pictures while testing the abilities of Power Point 2011.

It sat in queue for a few months. Debbi said it was "too old" to earn a spot on her blog, so I'll gladly take the 2nd rate videos.

Here it be:

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Crotch Injury Video

So, what do you do on a dull afternoon when you're about 16-18 years old (other than participate in the OBA)?

Some points to consider:

1. In the years leading up to the mid 90's, America's Funniest Home Videos was all the rage (at least as I perceived it). During this time, it seems like at least 33% of the videos on that show were of men getting hit in the crotch by . . . something. Anything, really.

2. Video cameras were different back then. Not everyone had them, so when you got access to one with a blank tape, you had to act. Plop in a big 'ole VHS and shoot away.

This is the situation four friends friends found themselves in -- Charlie Knight, Brad Williams, John Huston, and myself (there may have been a separate cameraman, I don't remember.)

After at LEAST 13 years in the vault (my basement), this long lost classic has been, at last, found. Without further ado, I present, in all it's glory, the famous Crotch Injury Video.

Disclaimer: This does have a little bit of a "PG" feel.

Friday, December 2, 2011

What Happened to Bert?

I'm talking about "Bert" from Mary Poppins . . .

Well, we know that he lived in London in the year 1910, and worked as a Chimney sweep, Screever (chalk artist), and part-time kite salesman.

We know he had a friend named "Mary Poppins" who was a nanny. Along with Bert, and the two children in her care, Jane and Michael Banks, they had a very well-documented adventure.

But after Mary Poppins floated away on her magical umbrella, what ever happened to Bert?

Well, Ben and Joe have helped me figure it out.

Apparently he moved to the English countryside.
We lost track of him for quite a while, but it
does seem like at some point he got married and had two children of his own, Jemima and Jeremy. Unfortunately, he also became a widower at some point.

Things began to turn around when he decided to invent a flying car named "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" and fell in love with wealthy candy heiress "Truly Scrumptious."

The only part we can't figure out is why he started going by the name "Caractacus" after he left London. Our best guess is that his full name is "Caractacus Bert Potts."

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I'm 99% sure that this is what Ben & Joe actually think. Dick Van Dyke is always referred to as "Bert" regardless of which movie we're watching.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

My First Road Trip (One County Over)

During my senior year of high school, I was finally allowed to drive somewhere out of town. I had to ask permission of my parents/beg them to allow me. Where was the destination of this adventure? Oskaloosa - literally one county north.

The purpose of the trip was to watch a cross-country match. Well, it was even less cool than that, it was a JV cross-country match. Just going from memory, I think Ian Kenning and Shawn Neary tried out for cross-country our senior year and made the JV team . . . maybe Erin Alberty too. Why? I have no idea, other than I would guess that they had a fairly light acedemic year (a lot of my piers and I had a light senior year) and just wanted one last chance at a different experience. Why not.

So I went with a couple of my slightly younger peers -- my "sophomore friends." I do not remember which ones. I would be inclined to say Charlie Knight and Brad Williams . . . but I dunno.

The track meet was really boring. But what an amazing drive!!!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

We Had Cars

In High School, most of my friends had a car of some kind that they could call their very own. Usually this would be your stereotypical cheap, used "starter car," but we loved them nonetheless.

I took Driver's Education class in the summer between my freshman and sophomore years of High School, and turned 16 in March of my sophomore year. The following summer I got my first car: a light blue 1988 Pontiac Grand-Am. My dad and I picked it up at the small place right where Vine Street ended - right before it dead-ended south of the river.* I think it was Martz Auto.

It wasn't much of anything, but I sure liked it and it served my purposes well, primarily driving to school, around town, to friend's homes, and to school related activities. I also had it for my first 3 years of college.

Two other prominent 88's come to mind:

Peter Hemmings had a black 1988 Ford Festiva (not to be confused with the "Fiesta."). Later, in college, I accidentally broke the passenger-side windshield with my roommate's forehead.

Kevin Crotty had a red 1988 Chevy Sprint. The iconic image was Kevin arriving for marching band practice with 7 seconds to spare, pulling into the gravel lower pit while pulling the parking brake, skidding, and falling out of the door with trombone in hand ready to march. Probably a slight exaggeration of an actual remembrance. I also remember I was in his car (I think he was driving me home) when he got his first speeding ticket, going 37 in a 25 MPH zone on North Court.

Other Honorable Mentions:

- Brian Jackson had an old Chevy LUV pickup, probably from the 1970's - DOT orange. I recall it had a radio with dials only, AM only, and one central speaker in the dashboard that didn't work too well.

- Matt Bednar had a GEO tracker - very cool (well, cool for 1996). I vaguely remember that one time someone put it in neutral (or it was left in neutral) and it rolled into another car in the Lutheran church parking lot (you could pay to park there, to avoid the distance and hazards of the upper or lower pit [the "public" student parking areas]).

- Dave Eilers had a big gray boat of a car, of some kind. His fame was that he was the first of my friends to get a car (must have had a birthday that made him "old" for the grade).

- Shawn Neary had some kind of dark red sedan, possibly a Buick Century or something like that.

- Alex Stroda had a burgundy station wagon.

- Chirs Knight got a big cream or white car at some point, although it seems like it was later than the rest of us.

- John Huston had a big creamy yellow sedan, probably from the 70's or very early 80's.

- It seems like I remember that Thad Fiscella, a fellow percussionist in band, had a fairly nice car that was aqua green of some kind. The weird thing was, my senior year I gave him rides to marching band practice and he paid me like $1 per day for that service. I'm not sure why, but I think it was because his dad didn't want him to park the "nice" car in one of the pits.

Do you remember any of these cars? Or did I leave out any of my High School acquaintances? If so, please post a comment.

NOTE: These pictures are simply random cars I found on Google Images that look "close enough" to what I remember. Not a photo of the actual car.

* Vine Street used to have a bridge over the Des Moines river that was closed and torn down before I was born - or at least old enough to remember. It was always very easy to see where it "should have been," though, especially from the south, it was the road that ran directly in front of the main entrance to John Deere. Vine street is also famous - in my opinion - for being the worst exit ramp ever. Highway 34/63 ran like an interstate through there (now just 34 due to the bypass), and the exit ramp in either direction basically requires you to slow from 45 down to 25 or less in about 15 feet and make a hard 90 degree turn to the right that starts a terribly sharp hair-pin style ramp.

If I ever move back to Ottumwa and run for mayor, my sole platform will be to bring back the Vine St. bridge. Because I assume mayors do that kind of stuff.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Being a "Sevie"

A "Sevie" is a derogatory term for a "Seventh Grader."

(Pronounced "Seh-vee")

(At least, it was at Evans Jr. High around 1992-93.)

As a Sevie, your big concerns in life often center around being picked on by 8th graders in the hallways between classes. Still adjusting to the concept of having many teachers (instead of just one main one), you are learning to thrive and avoid conflict. I didn't have too many runs-in as a Sevie; I tried my best to avoid eye-contact with the scariest 8th graders (the ones who had the kinda-sorta moustache, or who were repeating 8th grade for the 2nd or 3rd time), and for the most part that strategy worked very well.

I only remember getting picked on once, and that was when a mean 8th grader knocked my trapper keeper out of my hands and spilled my papers all over the floor*. Unfortunately, this was fairly common, and you usually couldn't go more than a week without seeing it happen to at least one or two of your fellow Sevies.

A well-known way to combat this was to attach a thumb-tack, pointy side up, to your trapper keeper. I did this only once, and on that particular day, no one tried to knock mine out of my hands. However, I did observe this "working" once: a friend** of mine named John Kunert used the thumb tack method once, and an 8th grader hit his trapper keeper from above, and, although he did knock it out of John's hand, he got quite a poke from the tack and said, "Owww! That hurt quite a lot! You stupid Sevie!" (Or, something like that, of course his exact words may have been a bit more crude...)

End of story.


* For my younger/foreign viewers, a "traper keeper" is a large, plastic 3-ring binder that has a flap on one end that covers your trappers and velcros shut. A "trapper" is just a pocket folder with the pockets on the side instead of the bottoms. A great way to keep track of your papers and worksheets is to have one trapper for each subject.

** John Kunert was a "friend" in the sense of a school friend - we spoke at school and on the after-lunch playground, but never hung out outside of school - although he did loan me a "They Might Be Giants" tape*** at some point. I think he was in band. I think he played trombone. He didn't finish high school with us. I wonder what happened to him?

*** A "tape," in this context, refers to an audio cassette. You know, those things before CD's. You know -- CD's - or "Compact Disks" - those things before MP3 players.

Friday, July 29, 2011

"You Know, Guys . . ."

"You know, Guys, __ _ ___ ____ _______ . . . __? _ _____."

There are probably about 10 or so people in this world that can finish that quote verbatim, no assistance whatsoever.
It's probably - nay, certainly - the most famous quote spoken in FBBC's Dorm 230 during my two years there (1997-98 school year; 1998-1999 school year*).

In the early part of the fall semester of 1998, the famous
Major League Baseball home run record chase was in it's full glory. This was the race between first baseman Mark McGwire of the St. Louis Cardinals and right fielder Sammy Sosa of the Chicago Cubs that resulted in both players breaking Roger Maris's long-standing and highly coveted record of 61 home runs (62 home runs needed to break the record). [Side note: McGwire broke Maris's record on September 8 against the Cubs and finished with 70 home runs. Sosa finished with 66. Barry Bonds now holds the record, after hitting 73 home runs during the 2001 season. See:

Well, this memory must have been from just before or just after September 8th. On a typical afternoon several of us dorm guys were sitting in room #1. This was the room of Brian Peterson, Mike Meyers, Brent Fincham and Travis Brogden (I think). I know Chris Ellis was also in the room along with myself, possibly Jared Johnston and a few others, along with the guy who is the focus of the story -- we'll just call him "Driftwood."
We were just having a friendly chat about baseball. Someone in the room must have been a Cardinals fan because there were some pictures of Mark McGwire up in the room, and even (I think) a border along a window made up of small pictures of either McGwire or Sosa - one for every home run they (respectively) hit. I say that because it explains why someone may engage in a discussion about McGwire and or Sosa.
So we had a standard back-and-forth banter about all our views on the issues. There was a lull in the conversation, and a moment of 10-20 seconds of silence. That's when Driftwood decided to add this gem:

"You Know, Guys . . . if I was Mark McGwire . . . 62? I dunno."

The silence was deafening.

After what seemed like an eternity, I remember Brent Fincham being the first to speak up: "You didn't really finish your thought there, Driftwood . . . pretty much no point in talking at all."

I think I was laughing on the inside so hard that I just got up and left at that point. If you were there, please add to my memory by leaving a comment.

(* For the sake of full disclosure, I should point out that I technically only lived in Dorm 230 for 3 semesters, as I transferred from FBBC to Iowa State for one semester - Fall of 1998 - and then transferred back to FBBC for the Spring 1999 semester. I did visit quite often during that term though, and had lots of friends there. It was during one of these visits that this episode took place.)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Dodgeball - On a Cement Wall

The most common form of dodgeball is the kind played in a gymnasium or athletic center of some kind: two teams throwing the ball(s) at each other.

At Horace Mann Elementary school in Ottumwa, that kind of dodgeball was played in gym class pretty often, but there was a different variety played at almost every recess for my 4 years on the "big kids" playground (3rd - 6th grades; Kindergarten - 2nd grade had their own "little kids" playground).

There was an elevated area just outside the west entrance where the bike racks were. You would come out the doors and go down a ramp to get to the playground, and then loop back around to where the lower area met the elevated area -- at this point it was not a gradual ramp, it effectively formed a cement wall about 5-6 feet high (my best estimate after 20 years later). We would line up along that wall for playground dodgeball.

In this variety, only 1 person would be the "thrower." The thrower would stand behind a crack (we couldn't afford a line) about 10 feet away and throw the rubber stinging welt ball as hard as he or she could at a random (or, singled out) victim along the wall; if the victim was struck, he would be out - if the victim caught the ball, he became the new thrower. If dodged successfully, just do another throw. This process would repeat until there was one thrower and one victim, so if struck, the thrower wins the overall game, and if the one last victim along the wall catches it, he becomes the overall winner.

I really don't have a lot of hilarities to share about this topic, but I've never seen it played since then, so I wanted to record the memory. I heard third-hand that a few years after I left elementary school, this activity was banned. I would imagine it had to do with throwing a ball at a child as hard as you can when his head is only a few inches from a cement wall. I GUESS I can see potential for a incident here, though I never remember any major ones -- besides, if it was a "head shot," it didn't count. Can anyone verify this info?

I also remember that we would hurl insults at the thrower to enrage them into making a anger based, easy-to-catch throw. Things like "Mike is a dork!" I also remember a girl named "Eye" (probably not how it was spelled, but that's how it was pronounced) - and the popular insult, "Eye is an Eye Doctor!" - zing!

I also remember that there was a really good thrower named Chad Mason (I think), but he must have moved or something before Jr. High, because I don't remember him after 6th grade.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Ottumwa Blues Association

At some point in High School, the Ottumwa Blues Association was formed for one day only. I remember that it was warm weather, so it may have been during the summer.

Members of this prestigious organization include myself (snare drum and vocals), Ian K. (trumpet), Shawn N. (guitar, possibly tuba), and John H. (guitar) for sure; other "probable" members [this is that whole memory fading thing I was talking about] include Kevin C. (trombone), Dave E. (trombone), Matt B. (euphonium), Peter H. (trumpet) and Chris K. (a happy supporter...maybe the camera operator). If you were in our brief organization and I left you out, I do apologize - please comment and let me know!

At this point I'm sure you are wondering breathlessly - "What is the Ottumwa Blues Association?" Well, the Ottumwa Blues Association, or OBA as it's commonly known, was formed when my groups of friends must have been very bored one day. We had that thought process - common to many high schoolers, I'm sure - "lets all take our band instruments and some music to the mall and play them. Maybe people will give us money!"

After standing near the back entrance and playing a few rousing tunes, I think we had received only one coin from a friendly national guard recruiter. That's when we decided to make the boldest move ever in the history of the OBA - we moved into the lobby of Wal-Mart. Did we ask permission? No, but we did get a sign.

Someone went in and purchased a large sheet of poster-board and a magic marker, and wrote "OTTUMWA BLUES ASSOCIATION" on the sign. Kids -- let that be a lesson to you. Signs lend a lot of credibility to almost anything!

Our profits shot up (to several coins!). A few old ladies stopped to listen for a couple minutes. You could almost hear their thoughts: "Oh! What nice young men... playing good, clean music and supporting their community! After all, it's not just any blues association, it's our blues association!" With a large handful of admirers, we were able to produce a few nice tunes (including a stirring rendition of "Blue Moon") and draw some polite clapping.

Everything was going great until the Wal-Mart manager on duty showed up.

"No... no... You can't just.... SHOW UP and start playing here in our lobby, without a permission note.... or anything...."

John H. stepped up, in the leader role, and gave his best "nice-young-man" apology and asked a great question.... "well, who do we have to get permission from?"

"Uh, that would be me."
"Oh! What's your name?"
"I'm Chad."
"Oh, thanks Chad... I'm John [handshake]. What do we have to do to get permission to play here?"

At that point "Chad" (or whatever his name was) made up some excuse like Oh... well... If it was up to me, I don't mind, but, something something, corporate policy, have to run it by HR, or something.

Well, it was mostly downhill from there. We moved outside once again, and played near (not in) the Wal-Mart entrance. [And yes, for those of you who didn't meet me until after high school, the Ottumwa Mall did use to have a Wal-Mart INSIDE the Mall... the only mall I've been to that frequently had people pushing shopping carts up and down the halls. Apparently Wal-Mart didn't mind if you took their cart to other stores...] We probably only played for another half hour after that, and the only noteworthy thing we got was a scrap of paper with a phone number on it from a girl from Eddyville. I guess... she was asking out all of us? Or any of us???

I think we would have got in a lot more trouble, but no one called us on it, since we had that sign.

Somewhere in this world, there is a videotape of this episode. I have no idea where it is, or even who filmed it, or who owned the video camera. If anyone knows, please contact me and I will gladly get it on YouTube!

Were we weird? This seemed like a perfectly fun and wholesome activity to me, and yet I've never seen any kids doing this in my life since then. Why not? And why did we feel the need to videotape ourselves doing this?

Duso the Dolphin (Or is it Do-so?)

At Horace Mann Elementary School, we had a guidance counselor. I think her name was Mrs. Shelby, but don't hold me to that.

I have a gut feeling that guidance counselors are different now than they were in the 1980's (and very early 90's). I only remember going to her once, because math was hard and I didn't want to be in the advanced group. Not sure why that involves the guidance counselor...

ANYHOW, we learned important life lessons from a puppet named Duso the Dolphin (Although that spelling was found on a quick google search, I always thought it was Do-so) and his other puppet colleagues. Things like sharing, how to not fight, how to not use bad words, how to stand in line, why policemen are nice, etc.

(I have no idea who this man is, I just found the picture on a google images search, and it pretty much matched my memory.)

In early elementary, we would watch the puppet shows and learn from them. 6th graders would help "run" the other puppets (the guidance counselor would be Duso, and 6th graders would be the "friends" - a dog, a flamingo (?), maybe a fish??? some other animals???)

Here is where the story gets Awesome -- In 6th grade, I was asked to be one of the puppet helpers!!! I know, you are jealous.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

7th Grade Desk Incident

Well, memories must start somewhere.

In 7th grade, English class at Evans Junior High (my class of '97 will remember that we went to one year at "Evans Junior High" and one year at "Evans Middle School." Oh, yes, I really see the difference!). Teacher: Mrs. Stokes. This was near the beginning of the year.

I sat directly to the left of a student -- let's call him "Shane Beckelforn." (I don't want to use real last names on this blog ... especially one that's not all that flattering.)

I wore a long-sleeve shirt to school that day with a tee-shirt underneath. I got to class a couple minutes early, and just moments before the bell rang, I decided I was too hot and decided to take off the outer shirt.

When I reached the moment when I had my right sleeve off and my head just barely thru the hole, Shane decided it would be funny to pull me over. He grabbed the (limp) right sleeve and pulled. With my left arm still halfway stuck in my shirt, and my head now within the main part of the shirt, I fell halfway over. But it was the type of desk that the chair was welded onto, so I didn't fall out of the chair, the whole chair/desk unit tipped over with me in it and I was stuck there for 30 seconds or so, leaning at a 45 degree angle, "headless" against Shane's desk -- probably flailing in a manner that was amusing to the other students.

Mrs. Stokes walked in at that moment, and Shane quickly pushed my desk (with me still in it) back to the standard upright position. -- Like, Oh, if I do it real fast, she won't notice!!! Of course she did, and this was one of those situations where no one needed to tattle, reputations gave away the situation very clearly.

I removed the stretched-out overshirt and tried my best to not be embarrassed. Shane was sent to the hallway to await further discipline (I have no idea what came of it.)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


Why am I starting another blog???

I wanted to write down many of the memories that I've had in my life. I have so many stories to share about things that I find to be hilarious, interesting, heartwarming, etc. .... but that I'm sure most people could care less about....

Unless you know me.

For example, I could talk about the big ditch next to the playground at Horace Mann, or the time playground equipment was being built on the "little kids" playground and for a few glorious months we were allowed to bring a toy from home. Maybe 10 people would like that.

Or I could talk about how once "Our Hearts Were Young..." and at least 15 people would probably know what I'm talking about.

Or the Ottumwa Blues Association, getting ready for marching band each morning, Peter in Ms. Cox's class, Miss America on stage with John Q. Murphy, me and Aimee in one debate tournament, and many other things; at at least 20 people might be interested.

Just beginning a quote with the phrase, "You know, guys, if I was Mark McGwire...," or using the simple 3-digit number "230" would hold the interest for, I'm guessing, 23.0 people or so....

But I want to do this for me.

I have found that at the ripe old age of 32 my memory, even now, is fading a little bit. If I don't start recording some of these things soon, how in the world will I remember them when I'm really old??? (whenever that is.) So, some of these hilarious stories must be told. From Elementary school to college, and beyond. Let the reminiscing begin.

So, friends, Iowans, countrymen.... where shall I start? What topics would you care about reliving (even slightly). Let me reach deep into the memory banks, and propose some topics.

- Did he ever really swing over the bar?
- Dodgeball - on a cement wall
- Dan Dan the Fireman
- Riding the bus
- Pep band
- Middle School rotating trimester classes
- Challenger explosion - 1st grade
- Do-so the dolphin
- Best books in the library
- Pink Slips
- Any various adventures of Abe (with me getting drug into...)
- Nintendo
- Spud's Emporium
- Multiple Colleges
- Rogue Garage door opener
- Camp
- My 1st Car, and the cars of others
- Mr. Gullion's class
- Grade school plays
- Dormball
- College rooms
- Caution, Ebola Quarantine area
- Going on the roof with a class I wasn't actually in
- Debate pep assembly

Just a smattering. Your opinion, please.