Archive for the ‘Memories’ Category

The other day I wrote a story called Meeting the General in which I recounted the day I first met Coach Bobby Knight. While writing that one I was reminded of the time I met another coaching legend, Jerry “Tark the Shark” Tarkanian. Tarkananian was largely known as the legendary coach of the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels from 1973-1992 where he won a National Title in 1990. He also had an overall record of 706-198 so yeah, helluva coach. Because of all this it was pretty exciting to meet him one night back in the fall of 1986.

I was attending a basketball clinic at the University of Kentucky with some coaching friends, and after a day of speakers we retreated to the bar of the hotel in which we were staying. At first the place was pretty full, but as time wore on the crowd thinned out to maybe 15-20 people, mostly high school coaches from around the midwest.

Around 10:00pm I looked up and there at the door was Jerry Tarkanian and Dick Vitale. Both had spoken earlier and were apparently looking for some refreshments. They stopped, glanced around, spotted my group at a table in the back, and proceeded to walk right up to us and ask if they could sit down.

Well, hell yes. Have a seat.

We basically just shot the breeze with them for awhile, Tark being particularly friendly and asking where we were from, what level we coached, stuff like that. As time went on most of the table headed off to their rooms, including Vitale, which bothered me not in the least because he’d been a bit of a smug jackass. Tark? Not so much. Like I said, he couldn’t have been more engaging. Bottom line, it finally came down to four people at the table, with Tark regaling us with stories of his years in coaching.

At one point he and I had sort of drifted into our own conversation and I asked him if he had something simple I could add as a secondary offense for my team, which happened to be a bunch of 8th graders at the time. He promptly asked someone for a pen, grabbed some napkins, and drew up a little motion offense that included a coiuple backscreens and backcuts. He descibed some details and options you could run out of it, and that was that.

We then spent another hour or so talking, and finally got up and walked out together. As he started to leave, though, he turned around and said, “You know, I started out as a junior high coach too. It was some of the best times of my life. If you’re ever out in Vegas give me a call.” He then handed me a card and walked away.

Fast forward to the summer of 1989 when I was in Las Vegas with my friend Jigger. We landed, I played some roulette, I lost some cash quickly, and I realized I needed to step away from the tables before I lost my life savings. On a whim I decided to give The Shark a call and see if I could get hold of him. I had no idea if he’d even be in town. His secretary answered, I gave a quick explanation of who I was and how I’d met Coach Tarkanian, and was put on hold. A minute later she was back and told me that he said sure, come on over. Remember that this was nearly 3-years after we’d first met. I was amazed.

Of course I grabbed a cab to the Thomas & Mack Center (also known at the time as The Shark Tank), and sure enough a grad assistant was at the door waiting for me. Long story short I was given a tour of the arena and locker room facilities by The Shark himself. I even got to meet Stacey “Plastic Man” Augmon, a starter on the 1990 National Championship team and future NBA player. All told Tark probably spent an hour that day with me, a guy he’d met in a hotel bar years prior.

Before I left we exchanged information, he gave me a smile and a hug, and I went back to the casinos. He could not have been nicer.

Then, about 2-weeks later, I received a package in the mail. Inside I found an autographed poster, bumper stickers, and some UNLV gear along with a note thanking me for stopping in to see him.

That was the last time I met Tark personally, although we did chat a few times on the phone over the next few years.  And that offense he’d given me back in 1986? I ended up using it for years, very successfully I might add.

We called it Vegas.

Coach Tarkanian ended up being inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2013, 2-years before he passed away at the age of 84. Tark had many a run-in with the NCAA over the years, but his won-loss record and testimonials from the players and coaches who loved him can’t be denied.

As for me, I’ll never forget the kindness he extended to an unknown coach for no real reason, other than the fact he was a good and caring person.

 

Here’s a great documentary on the Runnin’ Rebels of UNLV. It’s worth a look.

Check out the highlights of UNLV’s dismantling of Duke in 1990.

 

So I was perusing a website called Terribly Terrier today and found an article entitled Jack Russell Terrier: The Adrenaline Junkie of the Dog World. It contained info and facts about Jack Russell Terriers, so of course I couldn’t help but see if Sparky fit the stereotype. Let’s take a look . . .

If you’ve never heard of a terrier who can jump 5-foot fences, spend hours tenaciously pursuing a rodent, and keep the whole family continually entertained with its antics, then you don’t know Jack.

The Jack Russell Terrier is arguably the epitome of terrier-ness, possessing in spades all the traits that make terriers what they are.

Jacks were originally bred to hunt foxes in England in the late 1700s. But like other terriers who started as hunting dogs, they have more recently leveraged their intelligence, charm, and scruffy good looks to become beloved household pets.

Jumping 5-foot fences? Check. Keeping me entertained with his antics? Check. Intelligence, charm and scruffy good looks? Yep. That’s my Spark.

Jacks are feisty, funny, affectionate, loyal, smart… and entirely too much for many people to handle.

My Sparky is all of those things and more. In fact, I know for a fact that my little dude is smarter than many of my former 5th graders and more loyal than most of my friends. Affectionate? You tell me.

The Spark, as we speak.

These active pups need lots of daily activity. They a chance to burn off their excess energy in positive ways.

Hence my hikes and trips to the cemetary and soccer fields. Dude loves to run.

Jacks are generally good-natured, especially toward members of their own pack. However, they’re not afraid to mix it up with other dogs – even dogs that are several times bigger than them.

Gee, ya think? Sparky has not only scrapped with dogs several sizes larger than him, he’s had scrapes with possums (it bolted after a quick scuffle, didn’t play dead), nutrias (OBX critter), raccoons (thankfully he didn’t get bitten), stingrays (seriously, in the shallow surf), geese (it attacked first, bad decision), buzzards (it was eating something in a field and Spark took offense), skunks (somehow he didn’t get skunked), snakes (it lunged and was dead in about 3-seconds), and yes, coyotes (he won). Click on that link for the story. We won’t mention chickens due to the Statute of Limitations.

Jack Russells love to dig. If you have a garden that’s precious to you, you might want to consider another breed.

Well, Sparky once spent nearly an hour at my Mom’s digging and trying to get to some sort of critter. He’d still be there if I hadn’t bribed him with a Chicken McNugget.

Some pooches just aren’t cut out for social hour at the dog park, and that includes a lot of Jack Russell Terriers. If they aren’t acquainted with other dogs thay may show aggression. 

Mmmmm . . . yeah. I shall plead the 5th on this one.

Unfortunately, because a lot of people get Jack Russells without realizing how much attention they need, you can also find a lot of these dogs surrendered to shelters and rescue organizations. If you’re up to the challenge of owning a Jack Russell, consider adopting an adult dog that needs a home.

First off, anyone who surrenders a dog to a shelter should be beaten about the head and shoulders with an 18-inch Nylabone Big Chew Toy Bone. Secondly, sure Jacks are a bit of a challenge. They’re energetic and need attention. However, if you want a loyal, affectionate, intelligent, charming and funny companion, Jack Russells are the way to go.

Seriously, rescue a Jack Russell. Sparky coming into my life is one of the best things that ever happened to me.

Nope. Not that Moses. There’s another one.

It all started way back in 1983, when my my brother-in-law and great friend Jigger asked me to coach the 7th grade basketball team at Paint Valley. Jigger had coached high school basketball at Bishop Flaget in the early 70s, and since this was my very first coaching job he gave me some old books about coaching.

Now, when I say old I mean old, like 1940s old. They were so old in fact that I put them on the shelf, only occasionally glancing through them. I mean, what could I possibly learn from a book that was written when coaches weren’t allowed to talk to their teams during timeouts?*

*Dead serious. Coaches weren’t allowed to do this until the 1948-49 season. Look it up. 

Anyway, at some point during that first year I coached we needed a baseline out of bounds play (a BLOB – sideline out of bounds is a SLOB) and on a whim I revisited a couple of those books. Low and behold, in one I found a BLOB that looked pretty damn good. It was fairly unique because it was a BLOB that flooded the baseline. At the time everyone played zone defense while defending out-of-bounds plays, although that’s completely changed over the years. Because of this the top guys on the zone weren’t used to coming all the way down to the baseline and by flooding it with your players you could catch your opponent off guard. Here’s the initial setup, as drawn on an idex card by me a million years ago:

When the play started this was the initial movement, although we added wrinkles that I’ll talk about in a bit:

You put your shooters on the blocks, and they would sprint to the corners. We’d put our best shooter on the opposite block because the corner he ran to seemed to be the one that was open the most. The player in the middle was our best post man and the player at the top of the key was usually our point guard. When the post player screened the point guard, the opponent had to either switch or not switch. If they switched the post man would be open and roll straight to the basket. If they didn’t switch the point guard would be open. If defenders sagged to help that action one or both of the corners would be open. Simple but effective, and it was just as efficient against zones as it was against man-to-man.

Over the years we added wrinkles, such as having the players on the blocks cross and go to opposite corners, or moving the two players in the middle to different spots. We also added extra movement if nobody was open, but to be honest that rarely happened.

I can’t recall what we called the play in its early years, but I do know how the name that stuck came to be. It was in my first year at Paint Valley and of course I was showing it to my players. After explaining how it worked I asked the team what they wanted to name it, and my all-league point guard Todd Shoemaker said something like this:

“Everybody parts like the Red Sea and I go right down the middle. Let’s call it Moses.”

And so it came to pass.

I’ve had a lot of former players become coaches, guys like the aforementioned Todd, Craig Kerns, Josh Case, Clay Archer and others. Many of them have used it and used it effectively. Hey, my team from Montserrat has used it as well.

Not only that, and I won’t name names but college coaches have watched the play at camps, asked about it, and have used it over the years. I’m talking Division 1, big-time Top 10 college programs. Some even call it Moses. In fact, next time you watch a college game look for the set I showed you on a baseline out of bounds play and see if you can hear the player taking the ball out yell “Moses!”

It happens. True story.

I don’t know how many points my teams scored on Moses over the years but I do know it was a lot. It got to the point where our opponents knew the play, so we disguised it. Anytime we yelled Noah, Abraham, Abel, Adam or any other biblical name it was essentially Moses. In reality though, it didn’t matter if they knew. It was that effective.

Yep, a simple little play I got from a book written in the 1940s is still used today in all levels of basketball. And you know why?

Because it works.

 

I’ll take The Block at #1.

“Enjoy the little things in life because one day you’ll look back and realize they were the big things.” – Kurt Vonnegut

Years ago my late father told me a story, a story that most kids today wouldn’t understand. It was from a time long ago, a time of hardship and poverty that most of us cannot begin to comprehend today.

My dad grew up the youngest of seven children, the son of Sadie and Royal Shoemaker. Grandpa was a carpenter and a blacksmith, and he and Grandma somehow raised every one of their kids to be a part of independent and successful families. The oldest was Myrl who ended up in the second most powerful position in the state of Ohio, serving as its Lieutenant Governor and Director of Natural Resources after 24-years as a State Representative. Brothers Hester (Deck) and Leroy were also strong figures who raised amazing families, and sisters Alice, Ruth and Millie were the matriarchs of great households as well.

Dad? His name was Ralph and he graduated from Ohio University and rose to the Head of Purchasing at the Mead Corporation, a large paper company here in Southern Ohio.

Bottom line, Grandpa and Grandma did an amazing job of raising seven children, most of whom grew up during the Great Depression, the worst economic downturn in the history of the industrialized world.

Which brings me to my father’s story.

It was a Christmas morning, probably sometime in the 1980s, and we were all sitting around watching the grandkids open their myriad of gifts, just tearing through the presents and tossing them aside with barely a glance. It was apparent that Dad was amazed at the sheer number of gifts the kids were getting, and he and I were chuckling about it. At some point we found ourselves in another room and he asked me this question:

Do you want to hear about the best Christmas I ever had?

Well, sure. Dad was never one to share a lot of his personal feelings so I wanted to hear what he had to say. Then he began the story. I’m paraphrasing but I remember it well . . .

“It was, I don’t know, maybe 1933 or 1934. It was Christmas morning, although we didn’t have much of a celebration or anything. I think I was in 1st or 2nd Grade. We didn’t have much at all back then, and we all had chores to do around the house each day. One of my jobs was to get up and shovel coal into the furnace. It was cold in the house, so the first thing I did when I awoke was to put my shoes on. They were always right by my bed. When I put one of them on, I felt something inside. I reached in and there, with a white ribbon tied to it, was a red pencil. A red pencil! Some of the kids at school had their own pencils but most of us did not. I was so excited. I cherished that red pencil more than any present I ever got. I promise you I appreciated that gift more than kids today appreciate theirs. And I made that one pencil last the rest of the school year.”

As he recounted the story I could see the excitement in his eyes, even after all the years that had passed.

You see, back then in that space and time for that little boy, getting a new pencil was special. So special that he remembered it vividly decades later.

I guess we should just appreciate and be grateful for what we have, right? And it’s not always the quantity or the price of the gifts, sometimes it can be something very, very simple.

Like a red pencil.

 

So my sister and I have been cleaning out my Mom’s house and property and I found some boxes I’d stored in the pole barn. Some of them had all my old cassette tapes, and there were a lot. Like hundreds. And hundreds. And hundreds. Anyway, included were a lot of mix-tapes I’d made or that people had made for me, and man did they bring back a ton of memories. By the way, a couple of guys made me the large majority of tapes I’d been given, so thanks to Jed and Goose. They both helped form my musical tastes back in the 80s and 90s, the glory days of the mix-tape if you will. Included are quite a few bootlegs, mostly of R.E.M. that were somehow procured by the aforementioned Jed, Goose or myself. Anyway, I thought I might post just a few photos of the tapes because I know they’ll jog some memories of quite a few former students and friends. Let’s begin with those R.E.M. bootlegs.

Trust me, there are some rare recordings in there, and I bet not too many exist anymore. Stellar stuff.

Here are some other notables. Some aren’t actually mix-tapes but just copies of regular tapes. Since these were spread around to a lot of people, anyone recognize anything? Click to enlarge and scroll.

Memories, man.

Over the years I’ve told several stories that involved Jigger. Jigger was my brother-in-law and my principal, but most of all he was my friend. Whether it was going on vacations together, working together, or just hanging out, something interesting was always happening with him. If you don’t believe me, simply type “Jigger” into that search box on the left and hit enter. This site is full of Jigger stories.

For some reason this latest memory popped into my head the other day, and I’ve no idea why. It was the late 80s and Sis, Jigger, Twana and I had decided to take a camping trip through upstate New York.

Were we campers? We were not. Did we have camping gear? Nah. But hey, when Jigger got an idea in his head everyone sort of got swept up in the wave of his personality. It was that strong.

So, we went to K-Mart, bought some cheap gear and set out into the great unknown. The very first night we found a little campground somewhere south of Niagara Falls, parked our cars, set up or cheap little pup tents far away from anyone else, and built a fire. We were good to go.

Or so we thought.

It started around 10:00 that night as we were sitting around in our lawn chairs, having some adult beverages and cooking some hot dogs over the campfire. Somewhere, far in the distance, we heard a strange noise. It was sort of a faint wail, a cry of pain or distress from what sounded like an animal. We listened for a minute and dismissed it as being too far away to be a threat.

We chatted a few more minutes, then Jigger held up his hand to quiet everyone down, cocked his head, and said, “Is that thing getting closer?”

The answer was yes.

As we listened, the noise from the creature was indeed drawing closer and closer.

I guess we all stood up when the thing was maybe 100-yards out, wondering what the hell we were supposed to do. Find a weapon? Climb a tree? Run?

It turned out we didn’t have time for any of those, because before we could act it was upon us. There, bursting out of the woods, was an animal clearly possessed. It was a raccoon, and something was definitely wrong. Maybe it had rabies or something but that beast was crazed, man. It was running awkwardly, snapping its jaws and still screaming like a damn demented forest goblin.

The raccoon did a couple circles around the fire, sometimes on its hind legs, as we all darted around, high-stepping and screaming in panic, looking for somewhere to hide before the freak leaped up, ripped a vein out of one of our necks and killed us.

Then it turned, ran directly through the fire, and disappeared into the woods on the other side.

We all stood there in shock, staring at the smoke, sparks and flames the demon left in its wake as the wailing noises slowly faded into the night.

After a bit of time we started laughing, amazed at what had happened and how we’d reacted to it. And yes, we all decided it might be a good idea to sleep in the cars that night.

Those $12.99 K-Mart pup tents just didn’t seem like a good idea at the time.

PS- The next morning I woke up to the sounds of Jigger frying bacon over the campfire and singing “Rocky Raccoon” by The Beatles, because of course he was. 

Bonus raccoon gif because raccoons are cool.

As many of the local readers of my site know, I lost my mother on July 22nd. I haven’t written anything about it because frankly it was just too difficult. I’d already written several stories involving Mom, including A Right Cross With Love, Traveling Through History With Mom, The Greatest Teachers, and one I simply titled Mom. They all tell, in different ways, what my mother meant to me.

My sister Sara and I have been going through our mother’s house, trying to sort through everything. The other day we found a box containing notes that family members had written to Mom for her birthday a few years ago. My late sister Karen had asked that everyone in the family write notes to tell Mom what she meant to them. I went through them and found mine, and I think they are a pretty good reflection of my mother’s influence on me. Some are funny, some are sad, but together they paint a pretty accurate picture of what my mother meant to me.

Here they are, the notes I wrote to Mom . . .

  • Mom, you taught me to be independent. On my very first day of school in 1st grade I panicked on my way there with my sisters and I turned and ran back home. When I got there the door was locked. I’d just left so I knew you were in there. I knocked and knocked but there was no answer. After awhile I simply turned and went to school by myself. Only when I was older did I realize what you were doing – teaching me independence. Thank you Mom.
  • Mom, I have so many great memories of you as I grew up. I remember that you would let me lick the icing off the mixer after you made a cake. I loved those times.
  • Mom, you were my teacher in 4th grade. I thought I had it made! My Mom was my teacher! Woohoo! You paddled me the 4th week of school. And yes, I deserved it. I was pushing my boundaries and you were sending a message to not only me but the rest of the class. The message was received, Mom. Loud and clear.
  • Mom, I love our regular trips to Jerry’s for pizza. We’ve been doing it for over 20-years now and I cherish every moment.
  • Mom, you believe with all your heart that I can do literally anything I want in life and be the best at it. You always have. Thank you for loving me and for always, without fail, believing in me.
  • Mom, you are always, without fail, happy to see me. That means everything to me.
  • Mom, you are without a doubt the toughest person I’ve ever known. I guess growing up on a farm with two brothers will do that, right? I’m so lucky that you’re always on my side.
  • Mom, I became a teacher because of you. You impacted so many students in your career and I saw that. I wanted to be just like you. I wanted to try and have an impact just like you did. If I have impacted students positively, you are the reason for it.
  • Mom, I love you because no matter how badly I’ve screwed up or how many stupid mistakes I’ve made in my life, you’ve always loved me and supported me unconditionally.
  • Mom, I know without a doubt that you’re the best person I’ve ever known.

Last summer my mother lost her oldest daughter and her husband of 70-years, yet throughout all the loss she stayed amazingly strong. Even recently, as the end neared, Mom remained the same kind, sweet, loving person she’d always been.

I passed by Mom’s bedroom window when I’d go into her house over the past several months. My sister Sara would too. When I did I’d always stop and look in at her, both on my way in and out. When I left I’d always do something dumb, like acting like I was on an elevator, walking down stairs, or just making a funny face or something. Mom would always laugh and laugh. I just wanted her to be happy in her last days, and I think she was.

When Mom finally passed she was in her home with her family, where she was comfortable and where she knew she was loved.

Quite simply Mom was the toughest, smartest, sweetest, most honest person you could ever hope to meet. Oh sure, if I messed up she’d let me know about it but I never, ever felt as if she was disappointed in me. Unconditional love like she gave to me was priceless, and I will miss it.

There won’t be anymore trips to Jerry’s, but the lessons my mother taught Sara and I will stay with us the rest of our lives.

Mom had some flowers she called Naked Ladies, some call them Resurrection Lilies or Surprise Lilies, that grew every year just outside her bedroom. Every year several would sprout up about this time of year. This year just one single Naked Lady popped up, and it’s beautiful. It’s almost as if Mom is letting us know she’s OK, and that Sara and I are going to be OK too. And although Sara and I are the only ones left and we both feel a tremendous void in our lives, we will be O.K. We have to be. We have to carry on and be strong, because you know what? That’s exactly what Mom would want us to do.

Click and scroll for the insanity.

The album “Let It Be” by The Beatles was supposed to be a trip back to their roots – pared down, simple, no orchestration or strings, no overdubs, and no overwhelming production. They wanted the album to have an almost “live” feel. This from a band that had recorded albums like “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” in which the studio work and production were groundbreaking in their complexity. Bottom line, The Beatles wanted to get back to their roots.

Here’s the album track list:

Side 1

  1. Two of Us
  2. Dig a Pony
  3. Across the Universe
  4. I Me Mine
  5. Dig It
  6. Let It Be
  7. Maggie May

Side 2

  1. I’ve Got a Feeling
  2. One After 909
  3. The Long and Winding Road
  4. For You Blue
  5. Get Back

The songs range from the silly (“Dig It”, “Dig a Pony” and Maggie May”) to the rockin’ (“Get Back”) to the almost country sounding (“One After 909”) to the beautifully legendary (“Let It Be”, “Across the Universe” and “The Long and Winding Road”). It was a truly a wonderful album in spite of the cracks that were beginning to show, fissures that would eventually tear the group apart.

Quick note – although “Let It Be” was the last album released by The Beatles, it was actually recorded before Abbey Road.

As I mentioned before, during the recording of “Let It Be” the relationships between all four Beatles was strained severely, almost to its breaking point. It was so strained, in fact, that the guys became so tired of the in-fighting they allowed manager Allen Klein (who Paul hated but John liked) to take over the finishing touches on the album. Klein ended up handing the project over to legendary “Wall of Sound” producer Phil Spector, who proceeded to completely defeat the original purpose of the album by adding orchestras and female background singers (which The Beatles had never used before) to songs like “The Long and Winding Road” and “Let It Be.” Paul McCartney has stated publicly many times that when he first heard the final product he was aghast at the results.

Years later, in 2003, the album was re-released by McCartney as “Let It Be . . . Naked” in an attempt to rectify the mistake and let the public listen to the album as it was originally intended. The result was a beautiful album of simple songs in which the voices and musicianship stand magnificently on their own.

Here’s a comparison of the original release of “The Long and Winding Road” with strings and background vocals, followed by the originally intended pared down, simple version:

Long and Winding Road (with added vocals and orchestration)

Long and Winding Road (original “naked” version)

Big difference. Sure, the first version is beautiful, but I much prefer the second one, especially since Paul wanted it to be heard that way originally. Again, all the added fluff went against the spirit of the album, which was to “get back” to the roots of The Beatles.

Here are some videos from the movie “Let It Be” which was basically a documentary regarding the making of the album. It includes the legendary surprise “rooftop concert”. Great stuff:

Let It Be

The Long and Winding Road

Get Back

Let It Be Factoids:

  • Piano legend Billy Preston played keyboard on the album.
  • During the recording sessions, tensions between George Harrison and Paul McCartney, grew so heated that Harrison left the studio.
  • Although recorded in 1969 and released on “Let it Be” a year later, the song “One After 909” was one of John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s first collaborations, dating back to 1959.
  • In the United States, advance orders for the album were the largest in the industry up to that point – over 3.7 million units.
  • Legend has it that when McCartney sang “Get back, get back, get back to where you once belonged” he was looking directly at Yoko Ono, who was in studio during the recording.

 

 

It’s June, and that always meant a month chock full of basketball. We had Monday and Wednesday night league games, shootouts, our PV Youth Camp, and of course our annual pilgrimage to WVU Team Camp, the Gary Williams Team Camp before that, or even the Bob Huggins Camps at UC and the Ohio U Camps under Billy Hahn back in the late 80s and early 90s. All were always great times.

As you might expect, stories abound from those days . . .

One year we arrived in Morgantown on Friday, got registered at camp, and I got all the guys checked into their hotel rooms. About an hour later my hotel phone rings, and I pick up.

“Hello?”

“Coach, this is T-Bag Medley. I have a question.”

Yes, he gave me his full name.

Because you know, it could have possibly been T-Bag McGinnis or T-Bag Mertz or any other number of my friends named “T-Bag” that happen to refer to me as “coach.” You can’t make this stuff up, kids.

Anyway, I told the guys and for the rest of the weekend and probably forevermore “T-Bag” would be known by his full name of “T-Bag Medley.”

Good Lord.

One time at WVU I heard some of my players being too loud in the hotel lobby. I went out there (pretty upset with them since their were other people in the lobby) and found a couple of my guys in the little room with the snack machines and stuff. They were talking loudly so I ripped into them pretty good, and as I did I noticed a player named Boom slowly disappearing behind one of the machines until he was completely behind it.

Me: “Boom! Why are you hiding behind the machine?”

Boom, in a small, trembling voice: “Because I’m scared.”

Keep in mind this was from a senior and 3-year varsity player. All I could do was laugh and walk away.

Some of my players hadn’t spent a lot of times away from home or in hotels, as was evident one day when one of them took me aside and whispered, “Coach, while we were gone today somebody came in and cleaned up our room. They made our bed and everything. It was awesome!”

The kid was tickled to death, like he’d hit the lottery or something. Couldn’t have been happier.

McCloy vs. 911 Wings.

Draise vs. 911 Wings.

And I’ll never forget a yearly tradition at Hugg’s camp at WVU – the yearly Eating of the 911 Wings. You see, there was a place called Kegler’s that had the hottest chicken wings on the planet. They were so hot they were called 911 Wings. Although we didn’t force players to try one we always told them it was a PV basketball tradition, a Rite of Passage if you will. Almost all the players tried at least one. Those wings were absolutely brutal. To watch them take a bite, then nod their head like it wasn’t that bad, only to see the heat kick in and tears come to their eyes, well it was memorable to put it mildly.

I like to think of it as the ultimate team-building exercise.

Note: 2017 grad Jay Riley could order a plate of those damn things and not bat an eye. Kid had an iron stomach. Or maybe no taste buds.

Once while we were out eating at a restaurant I had a player order extra futons for his salad. The waitress just looked at him blankly and asked, “You mean croutons?” as the table erupted in laughter.

I used to take my teams out to the University of Maryland for the Gary Williams Basketball Camp. It’s a long story but I used to be the Commissioner of the camps there for Gary from 1989 to 2002.

The kids who attended Maryland Camp came from the Washington DC area as well as Baltimore, Philly, New York City and schools all along the east coast. To say my Southern Ohio boys were out of their element was a bit of an understatement. Still, my guys hung out with the city boys, stayed in the dorms with them, and more than held their own on the basketball court. To me it was a win-win all-around. You know, expanding cultural horizons and all that. Not to mention it made my guys better playing against such good competition.

Which brings me to a story that Gary Williams, legendary former coach at Maryland, still tells to this day. Remember that it was 1992, and “trash talking” was in its early stages. Understand that trash talking hardly ever led to violence on the court, it was just a part of the game for players from the playgrounds of the inner-cities. My team, however, was not used to it. It hadn’t made its way to our neck of the woods yet.

With this in mind, my Ohio boys had been in a particularly intense contest with a team from Philly, which we happened to have won. Afterwards, in a corridor outside the Cole Field House floor, words were exchanged between an opposing player and one of my guys. After the other player challenged my player with some unkind words, a punch was thrown.

Somebody got throttled, and he wasn’t from Ross County.

Gary Williams, the aforementioned Maryland coach, happened to be in the corridor and jumped between my player and the other guy who was, well, on the hallway floor. At that point, as Gary will tell you, the following conversation took place:

Coach Williams: “What are you doing, man? Why did you punch him?”

My guy: “Coach, where I come from we only talk like that for a minute. Then we start to hit.”

Gary thought that was the greatest thing he’d ever heard, and he could hardly wait to tell me about it.

Another story at Maryland involved a certain player of mine whose name I’ll leave out to protect the not-so-innocent. This guy liked the ladies, and it just so happened a girls rugby camp was going on the same week as our basketball camp. During our lunch break I was in a car, and as we drove I noticed him flirting with a young lady.

Sorry, but this was too good to pass up. As we passed I stopped the car, rolled down the window, and said this:

“Hey man, we should be getting those STD test results back any time now. I’ll let you know if you’re clean.”

I’m telling you, the look on his face was priceless. Hers too.

Then we drove away.

My last story from Maryland didn’t involve my players, but instead involved me. You have to remember that Cole Field House was a legendary basketball arena. All the ACC greats played there, guys like Len Bias, Michael Jordan, Tim Duncan, Grant Hill, Kenny Anderson, Billy Cunningham, Christian Laettner, Ralph Sampson, James Worthy, Joe Smith and David Thompson. In 1966 the famous National Championship game between Texas Western and Kentucky took place in Cole. Texas Western had an all-black starting line-up and Kentucky was all-white. Led by the legendary coach Don Haskins, Texas Western beat the Adolph Rupp coached Kentucky 72-65. Bottom line, it was a storied, historic arena. Knowing that makes the following story more relevant . . .

It was the last day of camp, the parents had arrived to pick up their kids, and I was announcing the championship game. The contest was nearing its conclusion when I said the following:

After the game all parents and visitors need to go to the tunnel end of the gym so they can watch the awards ceremony.”

Believe me, I said this with all sincerity and honesty. Never gave it a second thought. But then, all of a sudden, future Hall of Fame coach Gary Williams is looming over me screaming:

“Does this look like a GYM to you, Shoe? Michael Jordan did his first cradle dunk here! Lenny Bias played here! An all black Texas Western team beat an all white Kentucky team on this court in 1966! This is COLE FIELD HOUSE, MAN!”

I’m paraphrasing but that was the gist of it. At this point I was laughing so hard I couldn’t breathe, which only made Gary angrier. I mean, he was serious but it was so funny at the time I couldn’t help myself. In the meantime any coach within 10-feet was slowly backing away as to not get caught in the line of fire. As far as Coach Williams was concerned I’d insulted the sacred grounds of Cole Field House by referring to it as a “gym.”

Believe me, to Gary Williams that was sacrilegious, man. 

Being the good guy that Gary was we laughed about it together later, but at the time I thought I was gonna get coldcocked by one of college’s all-time greatest coaches. Whew.

Believe me, there are more stories that will have to wait and be told another day. But bottom line, these few stories are what’s great about coaching. Not all the great memories are from time spent during a game. They’re from practices, camps, on the bus, and when we together as a team far away from game night, developing relationships that will last forever.

Ultimately, it’s all about relationships.

Like many people I’ve seen a lot in my life, been through some things I wish I hadn’t, and have seen friends come and go. Some friends went of their own volition, others I sort of extricated myself from, and way too many died before they should have. My late uncle, a man I had great respect for, once told me that if on the day you die you can count the number of your true friends on one hand you’ll be a lucky man. At the time I was sort of incredulous and didn’t understand it. Five friends or less? Please. After all, I had a plenty of friends at the time.

Or so I thought. Over time though, I’ve come to realize he was right.

You see, as a kid you think you have all these friends that will be there forever. Buddies for life and all that. But as time goes by your circle begins to get smaller. Things happen – people get married, move away, or maybe you just drift apart. Other times events happen in your life that sort of force people to take a side, to stand up for you, and quite often they don’t. That’s the point where you realize they weren’t quite the friend you believed them to be.

For an example, I had a guy that coached for me, a man I’d hired and helped along the way, a man I’d considered a friend. I unexpectedly lost that job awhile back, and I haven’t heard a word from him since the day he’d heard I was being non-renewed. He’d coached for me for 5-years. Guess you never know what’s going on inside someone’s head.

When you go through those experiences, the experiences where people have to put themselves out there for you, the times that taking a stand is required, those are the times you find out who your true friends are. Because for some, friendship is conditional.

And it’s at those points in your life when your circle of friends grow smaller. The good news is that although the circle is smaller, it is also stronger.

You know why? Because real friendship, like real love, is unconditional. A true friend will be there no matter what, right there beside you, even when you’re wrong. A true friend won’t try to lead you or follow you, but simply be beside you.

Here’s what Jim Morrison of The Doors had to say:

A true friend is someone who lets you have total freedom to be yourself – and especially to feel. Or, not feel. Whatever you happen to be feeling at the moment is fine with them. That’s what real love amounts to – letting a person be what he or she really is.”

Jim knew what was up.

Will a true friend tell you when you’ve made a mistake? Point out what an idiot you’ve been? Hell yes they will, and I’d expect nothing less. But when the time comes to pick a side there’ll be no question where they’ll stand.

Years ago I was with an old friend and I’d been going through a tough time. I was in the middle of a breakup and I was explaining the circumstances to him. I’d just gotten started when he put his hand on my arm and said this:

“You don’t have to explain. I’m on your side automatically.”

I’m not sure even he understood what those words meant to me at that moment.

So true friendship is unconditional and can survive anything. A true friend accepts you for who you are, flaws and all. They have your back through anything that may arise, and they love you enough to be honest with you, even if the truth hurts. They want what’s best for you and they won’t abandon you when times get tough or you’re of no use to them anymore. A true friend will also keep you humble. Believe me, my best friends have no trouble in that department.

Given all that criteria, I suppose it’s no surprise that during your lifetime few will qualify. As for those that do, cherish them and do your best not to lose them.

Because as my uncle said, if on the day you die you can count ’em on one hand you should consider yourself lucky.

The 80s, man. What a decade. Big hair, spandex, high-wasted jeans, leg warmers, neon colors, cut-off sweatshirts, mullets, I could go on forever. I taught at a middle school in Greenfield, Ohio back then and everyone looked like they were straight out of Pretty in Pink, The Breakfast Club or Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Anyway, I ran across this gem today and it’s so 80s it hurts. Denim for days, man.

PS- I had no idea Jordache jeans still existed, but damned if they don’t.

PPS- That one guy looks like the lead singer of Fine Young Cannibals. Google it.

PPPS- If I was that denim I’d be distressed, too.

My late sister Karen was one of the most amazing teachers I ever knew. She taught elementary school for 30-years and influenced the lives of thousands of students and fellow teachers. With all her experience came a lot of stories, and like me she enjoyed telling (and retelling) them. I was subbing at a local school yesterday, we had a tornado drill, and while standing outside with the students I was reminded of this one. I hope you like it . . .

It was during one of Sis’s early years in education and she was teaching 3rd Grade. Like most young teachers, Sis always attempted to do things the right way and build a good reputation for herself. Almost always, she did.

Almost always.

Not on this day though. You see, she was in front of her class going over something when the alarm went off, indicating a school safety drill was in progress.

Fire drill!

Sis knew the procedure. She immediately grabbed her grade book and whatever else teachers are supposed to take with them and calmly told her class to follow her outside.

Her class was at the end of the hallway, so all they had to do was exit the classroom, make a right, and go straight outside to their proper location, far away from the school and to relative safety. As they were calmly but briskly walking, one of Sis’s students ran from his spot in the line to come up and tug on her sleeve.

Mrs. Anderson! MRS. ANDERSON!”

“Bobby, be quiet! It’s fine! It’s only a drill. Don’t be afraid!”

“But Mrs. Ander . . .”

“Shhhhh! Go back and get in line!”

Bobby did. Reluctantly.

Once they got situated and Sis was going down the line counting heads, Bobby once again spoke up when she got to him.

“Mrs. Ander . . .”

“Bobby! What did I tell you? Everything’s fine! We’ll talk when we get back inside.”

“But . . “

“Shhhhhhh!”

Thankfully everyone was in line and accounted for, and Sis went back to her spot at the head of the line. There was one problem though- where were the other classes?

Did Sis take her class out the wrong door? Should they be on the other side of the school? What was happening? And then . . .

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a kid lean forward and pop his head out of the line towards her. It was Bobby.

“Mrs. Anderson, I think this is a tornado drill.”

Yes, my sister had taken her class outside during a tornado drill, which couldn’t be more opposite of what you should do.

Oops.

Needless to say she then gave her class orders to hustle back in the building, on the double if you will.

Luckily she had an understanding principal and they got a good laugh about it later. She was also lucky that, you know, there wasn’t an actual tornado.

The moral of the story? When one of your students is really trying to tell you something, you should probably listen.

Note- We teased Sis about this for years with lines like, “There might be a fire drill tomorrow. Don’t forget to take your kids and gather around the fuel tanks.” Good times.

SCENE

Enigmatic gunslinger Shane rides into a small Wyoming town with hopes of quietly settling down as a farmhand. Taking a job on homesteader Joe Starrett’s farm, Shane is drawn into a battle between the townsfolk and ruthless cattle baron Rufus Ryker. Shane’s growing attraction to Starrett’s wife, Marian, and his fondness for their son Joey, who idolizes Shane, forces Shane to realize that he must thwart Ryker’s plan of taking over the Starrett’s land. Ryker brings in legendary gunfighter Jack Wilson to kill Shane, and the following gunfight ensues.

img_5960.jpgI had a lot of amazing experiences as a kid and have written about them on this site quite a bit. I was lucky enough to have a father (and several uncles) who were into sports and they took myself and my cousins to games all the time. We’d load up and head to Cincinnati to see the Reds, Bengals and Royals (the old NBA team), to Columbus to watch Ohio State basketball and football games, Columbus Checkers hockey games, and even make the journey to Cleveland for the occasional Browns or Indians game.

We almost always had good tickets, for between Dad and my Uncle Myrl we had the connections to make it happen. Myrl was State Representative (and later Lt. Governor) who obtained tickets through political channels, and my Dad was Purchasing Manager at Mead Corporation, a prominent paper company in our area. Dad’s job required buying anything and everything the company required, so as you can imagine salesmen were always bombarding him with gifts to sway his decisions. This was before the ethics laws tightened up, thank God. Anyway, great tickets.

My family had a pretty intense interest in sports, and our traditional Thanksgiving weekend basketball games were legendary. There was no such thing as “friendly” competition, and after one particularly spirited game featuring some broken ribs, a black-eye, some shattered eyeglasses and what might have been a ruptured spleen, Aunt Dorothy put a stop to it. After all, we were aged mid-20s and upwards at that point so it seemed like the prudent thing to do.

But back to high school. Most of us were pretty good athletes, and some were better than good. Among these were Mick Shoemaker, a 1st Team All-Ohioan in basketball, baseball and football who went on the receive a D1 scholarship to the University of Cincinnati, and John  Shoemaker, a terrific athlete who played basketball at Miami of Ohio, was drafted by the Chicago Bulls, but chose to play baseball after being drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers. There were many others from back then (let’s not forget Mark Litter, a 1st Team All-American middle linebacker football player) and plenty of others, way too many to mention (sorry Mike, Todd, Lisa, etc.).

However, without a doubt the best of all was Greg Cook. Greg was the nephew of my Aunt Dorothy, which technically made him not my cousin, although he always called me Cousin Dave and even signed a football and sweatshirt in that fashion. Hell, he probably thought I was his cousin because I was always with his cousins Keith, Kevin, Brenda, Mick and Deb.

Anyway, Greg played football at Chillicothe, then at the University of Cincinnati, and finally for the Cincinnati Bengals, who drafted him in the 1st Round of the 1969 draft. Because of Greg all of us got to go into the locker room after games, where we got to meet a lot of famous players. I remember meeting guys like Joe Namath, Daryl Lamonica and even OJ Simpson. Pretty big deal for a 13-year old kid as you might imagine.

Bottom line, Greg was really good and a big deal at the time. He was even selected as the NFL Rookie of the Year. Coach Bill Walsh, while talking to NFL Films, said Greg “threw, by far, the best deep ball of any quarterback I ever saw”. Walsh called him “A combination of Terry Bradshaw’s size and strength with Joe Montana’s instincts and feel for the game”.

Keep in mind that Bill Walsh coached the Super Bowl Champion San Francisco 49ers and Joe Montana, kids.

But while going to games, getting great seats, and going to the locker room were all great, those aren’t my favorite memories of Greg Cook. What I remember are the days when he’d come to visit my Aunt Dorothy and Uncle Myrl.

It was always during the off-season of course, and if I wasn’t already at the house (like I said, I practically lived there), somebody would call me with the news:

“Greg’s coming. Get up here.”

And up there I would get, as fast as my 1966 Schwinn Stingray bike with the banana seat, rear slick and sissy bar would take me.

Some days Greg would just sit and watch TV while I would cast furtive glances his way, amazed that a famous NFL quarterback was watching the Reds-Dodgers game with us. But on other, even more special days, he’d ask us if we all wanted to go outside to run through some passing drills with him.

Well, hell yes we did, and we just happened to have a few footballs at the ready for that very thing.

Sometimes we’d go out behind the old Twin Elementary School (right beside the house), other times we’d all pile in Uncle Myrl’s pickup truck and head to our local high school, Paint Valley, where we’d actually play on the field there. Cousin Mike was the high school coach there at the time so we were good to go.

I’ll never forget Greg’s workouts with us. To begin, the man with the strongest arm in the NFL would get on one knee at the 10-yard line, instruct my cousins and I on which routes to run, and begin zipping passes to us. After 20-30 throws he’d move back to the 20, then the 30, and continue on until he was on the 50-yard line, firing passes to us, all the time while on one knee.

So yeah, strong arm.

Those were great days for a Bourneville kid, man, running routes and catching footballs from an NFL quarterback.

Sadly, Greg’s career was cut short due to a rotator cuff injury, an injury that went untreated for too long and, incredibly, could be fixed rather easily by today’s doctors.

Although he went on to be a motivational speaker and continue a lifelong love of painting, Greg was always remembered as the player whose greatness was cut short by injury, a name that begs the question “what might have been.”

Greg died in 2012, and he was only 65. His life, like his career, cut short.

But for me, it’s not only watching him play in Nippert Stadium and Riverfront Coliseum that I remember, it’s those days behind Twin School or on the Paint Valley HS field, long blonde hair blowing in the breeze, smiling as he rifled those passes to a few of his lucky little cousins.

1969 Bengals Signed Football

Great video about Greg:

https://youtu.be/tVzDtrgybjc

Mirror: The Beatles Abbey Road album cover is one of the most famous in the world. The album’s sleeve shows the four members — Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr — walking across the street outside Abbey Road Studios in North London.

However, if you look closely at the photo of the Fab Four, you’ll notice a suited gent standing on the pavement. For years fans have been trying to track the mystery man down, and it is an American tourist called Paul Cole. He was tracked down and said he was included in the snap purely by chance. Paul said he was standing by the side of the road waiting for his wife, who had been looking around a museum.

“I just happened to look up, and I saw those guys walking across the street like a line of ducks. ‘A bunch of kooks,’ I called them, because they were rather radical looking at that time.”  

He said: “I saw the album and I recognized myself right away. I had a new sports jacket on and I’d just bought new shell-rimmed glasses.
I said to my children, ‘Get a magnifying glass out and you’ll see’.”

Paul Cole died in 2008 at the age of 98.

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve looked at that cover and wondered who the dude was standing on the street in the background. I just figured it was somebody who worked in the area and was used to seeing the boys around. Turns it was Paul Cole, an American who was tired of touristing with the wifey and had gone out for a quiet moment and some fresh air. Little did he know he’d end up being on one of the most iconic rock and roll album covers in the history of mankind. That’s wild stuff, man. Anyway, Paul Freakin’ Cole. Check him out:

Believe it or not I used to coach football. Sure, basketball has always been my true love but I actually coached junior high football for 4-years back when I first started teaching. I coached 1-year at Paint Valley and 3-years at Greenfield McClain. I had a couple good years and a couple that were, shall we say, suspect. Ah, what the hell, I’ll be honest – I had no freaking idea what I was doing, and the story I’m about to tell is evidence of that.

The very first year I coached I had an 8th grader named Donnie. Donnie was a strapping young lad, probably 5′-11′, 200 pounds, in other words a big dude for being just 13-years old. Donnie was a good, honest country boy, simple in his ways and speech.

Anyway, in our infinite football wisdom my assistant and I made the decision to insert Donnie at the fullback position, because hey, the dude was monstrous for his age and could just truck the hell out of any poor 110-pound youngster that might foolishly attempt to tackle him.

On a related note, my assistant had the same football background and experience that I did, which amounted to a grand total of none.

So for the first couple of games Donnie played well, gaining a lot of yards whilst annihilating the occasional player, both on the opponent’s team or ours, that got in his way.

Defensively however, our young squad was struggling. Our guys had a lot of heart but exhibited a distinct lack of interest in, you know, hitting somebody.

Did it ever occur to our brilliant football minds to give Donnie a try on defense? Sadly, it did not. Until one day . . .

My assistant and I were standing on the sideline before a game, lamenting our lack of a defense, when Donnie walked up to us. The words he then uttered not only opened our eyes but changed the football fortunes of the young Bearcat squad from that moment forward.

“Coach, can I ask you something?”

“Sure Donnie, what is it?”

“Coach, I don’t wanna carry the ball anymore. I wanna get that guy what got the ball.”

It took me a second to interpret the words, but I finally realized Donnie wanted to play defense, to get the guy that has the ball.

Well, we weren’t the smartest football coaches on the planet, but if Donnie wanted “to get that guy what got the ball”, then damn it, who were we to get in his way?

Long story short, we put Donnie in at linebacker. On the very first play of the game he steamrolled two linemen trying to block him, grabbed the horrified opposing quarterback by the neck, threw him about 7-yards backwards, then picked up the resulting fumble and lumbered about 40-yards into the end zone.

Like it or not, from then on Donnie did have to carry the ball, but only after he extricated it from the shaking hands of our whimpering opponents.

I would never turn into a great football coach, but I did learn a valuable lesson from Donnie – listen to your players. Sometimes they’re smarter than you are.

 

 

Lord knows I experienced more than my share of injuries as a kid, some my fault, others not so much. And although I have scars, thankfully there were no permanent damages.

I think.

Anyway, I’ve written several stories over the years regarding my misspent youth and here they are, all combined into one glorious blog. Seriously, it’s a miracle I survived. Enjoy . . .

RUN OVER BY A TRUCK

Yep. This happened.

When I was 11 or 12 my buddies and I got on this kick where we built homemade go-carts. We’d take the wheels off of an old wagon or something and attach them to a 2×4, make axles, and go from there. We’d attach the axles with a bolt down through the middle, and in that way we’d be able to steer with our feet.

Make sense?

Anyway, the go-carts became quite elaborate with sides and roofs (we’d use whatever wood, tin, or anything we could find in our parent’s garages) along with some creative paint jobs. For mine, I found a big rectangle shaped board and nailed it to the bottom of my go-cart. It made it look like it had wings, so I christened it “The Flying Dutchman” because I’m part Dutch and part German. And hey, even at my young age “The Nazi Death Wagon” just didn’t seem appropriate.

If you’ve been reading my “Childhood Injuries” series, you know that we didn’t exactly err on the side of caution when I was a kid, so it probably won’t surprise you to learn that we raced our go-carts right down the hill on Twin Road. Yes, it’s a pretty high traffic area, but I don’t recall that being figured into the equation at the time.

So we’d have these races down the hill, two at a time, winners advancing just like March Madness. This was a different kind of madness, but still. Each cart had a pusher that would give you a start, just like the bobsledders in the Olympics. My pusher was Ted, the same guy who knocked me out with a beer bottle and watched me plummet 20-feet out of a willow tree. In retrospect, Ted wasn’t exactly a lucky charm for me, but at the time that hadn’t occurred to me.

One day we’re having our races, and Ted gives me a helluva shove. I’m leading by a hefty margin, hunched over to reduce wind resistance as The Flying Dutchman hurtled down the hill.

All was well until I saw the truck.

It was pulling out of Keran Street, which ran perpendicular onto Twin Road. The guy driving the truck looked right, then left towards me. He didn’t see me, perhaps because he was looking for a regulation vehicle on a public road and not a small wooden contraption built from garage junk. Then he turned left, directly towards me, and it was too late for me to ditch.

I was going to be hit.

At this point I had few options. The truck was going to run right over me. It was too late to roll off the go-cart, so it looked like the end for young Dave.

Listen, if you’ve never seen a truck grill coming at you at 30-mph from a height of about 2-feet off the road you haven’t lived. Without really thinking, I just reached up and grabbed the truck bumper as it went over my head. Somehow, I stayed in the cart but unfortunately the truck kept going. In the background I could hear my buddies yelling, “STOP! YOU’RE KILLING OUR FRIEND!” or something along those lines. The guy probably only drove a few feet with me dragging under his front bumper but it seemed like, oh I don’t know, 43-miles. This was probably so because every second I held on I expected to lose my grip and be crushed by the undercarriage of a 1968 Ford F100.

But I didn’t, and the driver finally stopped. He jumped out and pulled me from under his truck, genuinely concerned that he may have killed a child. Except not really. He ripped me a new one:

“What the hell do you think you’re doing? You rolled right under my truck you %$#*&%$ IDIOT!!”

Yeah, because it’s all about you, bud. Still, he had a point.

Bottom line I was unhurt, miraculously I might add. And I somehow avoided peeing my pants, which saved me from great ridicule on the mean streets of Bourneville, Ohio.

After some more ass-chewing and the extrication of The Flying Dutchman from under the truck, I pulled my undamaged go-cart back to the top of the hill, where the races continued. After all, life went on, fortunately for me.

And hey, it was just another near-death experience for me. No big deal. Just another day in the life of a southern Ohio kid in the late 60s.

THE HOLEY TONGUE

This was one of the stories in a series about my susceptibility to almost getting killed as a kid. I’ve alluded to this little mishap before, so stop me if you’ve heard it already.

On Halloween when I was, oh, maybe 11 or 12, my buddy Ted and I decided to climb the big willow tree in my front yard and scare the bejesus out of passing children. If you have to ask why you don’t know what fun is, folks.

I was climbing ahead of Ted, at least 20-feet up. He was probably 10-feet off the ground behind me. I reached for a branch, it broke, and next thing I knew I was hurtling downward, backwards, towards the gaping jaws of death. You ever fall from a great height backwards? A lot of stuff goes through your head as you fall all slow-motiony and whatnot through the air, like “I hope mom will be OK without me” or “I sure wish I would’ve kissed Debbie Mirkelson on the playground last Tuesday when I had the chance“, or perhaps, “Oh no, when they clean my room they’re going to find those magazines under my mattress.

Too specific? Never mind.

My point is, you actually experience great insight and retrospection on the way down. I actually think I may have understood The Grand Unification Theory for a second, but sadly it vanished from my brain upon impact. Anywho, as I flew past Ted, and you may find this hard to believe, but he actually yelled, “A-h-h-h-h-h-h-h . . .” imitating a man falling down a hole.

What can I say? I’ve had some really weird friends in my life.

So I hit the ground, landing on my back, and all the air went out of me. Things went black and I thought, “So this is what it’s like to be dead.”

Except I wasn’t, although for a second I’m pretty sure I saw Jesus.

Soon Ted came down and shook me, probably not the preferred method of treatment, and it was only then that I began to feel the pain. My back hurt like hell, but something was seriously wrong with my mouth. I instinctively reached in there to see what was wrong, and to my horror there was a a lot of blood and a substantial sized hole in my tongue. I ran screaming bloody murder into my house, only to be chastised by my parents for interrupting a scintillating episode of “My Three Sons” or something.

Did anyone call 911? Nah. Was I taken to the emergency room? I was not. I got a wet rag, stuck it in my mouth and got on with my life.

Bottom line? Even though I still have a lump in my tongue today, it healed. And my back is fine if you ignore the fact that, on rainy days, it feels like a honey badger is chewing on my lower lumbar vertebrae.

What can I say? ‘Twas a different, and in many ways better, time.

THE FRIED HAND

When I was really young, around three-years old, I was at my grandparent’s farmhouse. They had a woodstove in the kitchen and I was doing what toddlers do, which was toddling. I walked over to the stove and I remember that it looked almost fuzzy, which I know realize indicated that it was red-hot. Being a little kid and not knowing any better, I placed my flat palm on the stove. I don’t remember a lot after that, other than it hurt like a mofo and skin was hanging off my hand like melting plastic.

I have no idea how my burn was treated, but knowing my family at the time grandpa probably killed a chicken and rubbed it’s spleen on me or something (I can’t believe I just typed “Do chickens have spleens?” into The Goggle).

Anyway, it was a serious burn, man. How do I know? Because the scar’s still there, as you can plainly see. On a related note, I used to tell girls I got the scar from pulling an old lady out of a burning car. Hey, whatever works.

Legend has it that my parents had been pretty sure I was left-handed (like dad) up to that point, but I had to go so long using my right hand I became right-handed.

Anyway, it’s weird that I can remember an accident from so long ago, but I think it was so traumatic it’s burned into the banks of my memory. See what I did there? Burned? Never mind.

Note: I just talked to Mom about this. I asked if I was taken to the hospital or the doctor that day and here is her exact quote:

“No, the lady across the road was a nurse or something and she put some kind of salve on it.”

God, that’s just too perfect.

FIRECRACKERS & CLOTHESLINES

That title sounds like a Strawberry Alarm Clock album from the 60’s. Anyway . . .

When I was 16 or 17 I hung around a lot at my sister’s house. She was young and hadn’t been married long, so for a teenager that was the place to go, ya know?

Anywho, one summer night a buddy and I were hanging out there, probably looking for trouble and up to no good. Somehow we got hold of some fireworks and decided to have some fun. First, we went out back and shot bottle rockets at each other, always a guaranteed good time. After a bit, disappointed that nobody was maimed or anyone’s eye was put out, we headed down to the creek to throw M-80s into the water. Lemme tell ya, watching underwater explosions was pure entertainment for a southern Ohio kid in 1973. Probably still is. The fish probably didn’t think so, but hey.

That amused us for awhile, until we began throwing the M-80s at each other, because of course we did. If you don’t know, M-80s are deadly and banned in many parts of the good old USA, basically because they are deadly in the hands of moronic people such as I. How my brother-in-law had possession of these I do not know, but let’s just say he knew a guy. Anyway, in the beginning we at least had the good sense to throw them at each other’s feet, because anyone can spare a toe or two, right?

But of course that didn’t last.

Because at one point I see a lit M-80 coming straight for my face. I instinctively threw my hands up, and as luck would have it the M-80 blew right as it hit my hand.

Good God it hurt. I was certain I’d lost some fingers or worse, but I couldn’t tell because A) It was dark, and B) I couldn’t feel my hand.

The only thing I could do was run to my sister’s house in a panic. I bolted through the darkness of the backyard with my eyes on the light over her backdoor. I was running as fast as I could, holding my hand as I went, certain I was minus some digits. All I wanted was to get to the house and examine the extent of my horrific injuries.

To reiterate – pitch dark, running full-speed through the backyard, focused on porch light. What more could possibly go wrong?

Turns out, a lot – like being clotheslined by a clothesline.

Yep, the one that I forgot was there.

It caught me exactly at throat level, so my feet kept going but my head stayed where it was. I was upended feet first, flew through the air, and eventually landed on my back.

After lying there stunned for a few minutes I got up and staggered into the house and into the bathroom to check out the damages. Turns out my throat had a rope burn across it and looked as if I’d attempted suicide by slitting my throat with a butter knife. Oh, and my back felt as if a railroad spike had been hammered into it.

But on a positive note, I still had all my fingers, and after a couple hours I could actually feel them.

You know, in retrospect I really should have been more cautious as a kid.

Nah, that wouldn’t have been any fun.

HAMMER TIME!

I was in my late teens when this little gem occurred. It was summer and my dad had ordered me to do some work on the gutters of our house. The gutters were loose in places, so I was basically moving a ladder around the house and hammering in those long nails that hold them up where they needed it.

After working about halfway around the house, I decided I needed to take a break and grab a glass of water. I hung the hammer on one of the rungs of the ladder and climbed down.

You see where this is going, don’t you?

It was when I returned to my job that I made what could have been a fatal error in judgment. For some reason (quite possibly because I was an ignoramus) I decided that, as long as I was on the ground, I may as well move the ladder down a few feet. So, I grabbed the ladder and started to move it, and an instant later the world went black.

I think I may have had a brief instant where I thought I’d been attacked from behind with a sledgehammer, but that thought disappeared along with my consciousness.

When I awoke in the grass a few minutes (seconds?) later, all I knew for sure was that I had a massive headache and a knot on my head the size of Verne Troyer’s skull.*

*Search it up on The Goggle.

I looked around, half expecting to see a gang of hoodlums that had inexplicably wandered into Bourneville, Ohio to steal my brand new Stanley Curved Claw Wood Handle Nailing Hammer, except the hammer was right there in the grass beside me.

Wait.

Oh, crap.

I’d forgotten the hammer was lurking at the top, hanging on a ladder rung, waiting to come hurtling down from above the minute I moved the ladder and kill me on impact.

I have no idea how my skull wasn’t crushed. I mean, a hammer falling from 12-feet onto your head? Seriously?

I swear I didn’t even put ice on it. I didn’t even know what being concussed meant back then. I just rubbed it, checked for blood (there was none), and went back to working on the gutters. Hell, if I’d told dad I’d have been rebuked for being stupid, which incidentally would have been 100% correct.

If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a million times. I have no idea how I’m still alive.

OLD SCHOOL REMEDIES, GRANDPA STYLE

My Grandpa Shoemaker was about the toughest old bird you could ever meet. He was once a blacksmith, and a piece of molten iron had broken off and lodged under the skin of his arm decades before I was born. It was never removed, and when I was a little kid he used to let me move it around under his skin. It was weird, you could actually move it up and down his forearm.

Anyway, tough cat my grandpa. He also had hands like vice grips, and when he grabbed you there was no getting away. That said, he was one of the kindest, most gentle men I’ve ever known. As I’ve mentioned before, some of my fondest memories are of when I used to accompany him when he ran his trotlines in Paint Creek. I used to love to listen to him, because he was so wise and his stories were so fascinating to me.

But on to the point of this story. When I was 15 or 16 I went down to his house for one reason or the other. We were sitting on his front porch side-by-side, just talking. At one point he noticed me rubbing the back of my left hand and asked if something was wrong. I told him that a cyst had developed and it was bothering me. It didn’t really hurt but it was about the size of a big marble and was annoying as hell.

I told Grandpa I was going to have it removed soon because it was bothering me, and he just looked at me like I was an idiot. After all, this was a guy who’d had a piece of iron in his arm since 1913.

He then asked how I was going to do that, and I began explaining that it was a minor operation, that they’d just numb my hand and . . .

T-H-H-W-W-A-A-C-K!

Next thing I knew my hand felt like it had been hammered by the heel of a work boot, which is fitting because that’s exactly what had happened. When I wasn’t looking, Grandpa had taken it upon himself to save me some money. He’d slipped his work boot off and popped me a good one. Turns out that in the old days folks got rid of cysts by shattering the living hell out of them, country style.

And you know what? Although it hurt like a sumbitch, it worked. I’d had that cyst for years but after that moment it never came back. I don’t know if he broke it into bits or slammed it so far into my hand you couldn’t see it, but it was gone forever.

Sure, I couldn’t feel my hand for 3-4 hours, but you gotta take the bad with the good I suppose.

Hell, I’m just thankful there wasn’t a hammer nearby at the time.

HOOKED IN THE JAW

When I was a kid my grandfather, my father and I used to go to ponds all over the area to fish. Grandpa Shoemaker used to have trotlines up and down Paint Creek and we’d fish for bait to put on them. If you don’t know, trotlines were fishing lines that were stretched across the creek, attached at both ends to trees or something on the bank. You had bait attached every few feet to the line and it had to be checked once or twice a day to see what you’d caught. Some of my greatest memories are of my grandfather and I checking his trotlines in his row boat.

Sometimes he’d even let me row! Wonderful memories.

Anyway, back to the ponds. Dad was fishing and I was beside him. At some point I had to get a worm to re-bait my hook and was walking behind dad. That’s when he decided to cast his line, either because he didn’t see me or because he was trying to teach me a lesson. I’d say it’s about 50-50 either way.

Next thing I knew I felt the fishing line sort of wrap around my neck and hook just under my jawline. That in itself was painful enough, but before I could scream dad whipped the line back out toward the water while the hook was still lodged in my jaw.

Trust me, then I screamed.

The hook stayed imbedded even after the jerk, it just became more deeply enlodged in my jaw.

Yeah, that’s never good.

After briefly showing annoyance for my rude interrupting of his cast, dad came back and began his attempt at hook removal. As you know, those things are made to go in easy. Coming out is another story, hence the little thing called a barb on the end.

After much pulling and twisting, Dad and Grandpa finally dislodged the offending hook. I’m telling you, that may have been the worst 5-minutes of my life. Not only that, after the hook was out dad splashed some pond water on it to clean it up. Not the preferred method of wound-cleaning I’m sure. Still, I nevertheless avoided a life-threatening blue gill infection when all was said and done.

Was I rushed to the ER? Nah. Did I get chastised for being stupid and walking behind a man who was casting a fishing line? Of course I did.

And did I ever do it again? No way.

BLINDED BY HENDRIX

Almost.

One day back in the idiocy of my youth, my friend Billy and I made the awesome decision to have a 45-record war. For those of you who don’t know what a 45-record was, it was a little record that had music on it. You played it on a turntable, which was a . . . ah, screw it. Search it up on The Goggle.

The point is we built these little forts out of couch cushions and started whipping these little records at each other, which was like throwing Frisbees except they were thinner with much sharper edges. After a bit I peeked over a cushion and caught a 45 right over my left eye. I seem to remember it was “Hey Joe” by Jimi Hendrix. It cut a nasty slice about a quarter inch long right through my left eyebrow, and I proceeded to bleed like a stuck pig.*

*I have no idea if a stuck pig bleeds more than a stuck rabbit or stuck marmoset, but folks seem to stick pigs for some reason.

I was afraid to tell mom because I knew I’d get in trouble for being a jackass (there was some precedent for this), so I stuck a rag on it until it stopped, then found my oldest sister and asked for her help. After being initially aghast at the injury, she poured some mercurochrome** on it, followed by a big band-aid.

**For you youngsters out there, mercurochrome was once used as a cure-all by mothers far and wide for injuries ranging from small cuts to severe head trauma. A few drops of mercurochrome could supposedly cure a shotgun blast to the chest. Unfortunately, in 1998 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration declared that mercurochrome was “not generally recognized as safe and effective” as an over-the-counter antiseptic and forbade its sale across state lines. Sad, really.

Anyway, had the Hendrix record been an inch lower I’d have undoubtedly lost an eyeball, which is hardly ever a good thing.

Long story short, to this day if I smooth down my eyebrow, there’s a little scar line where hair refuses to grow.

Thanks Billy!

Note: If any of my exes asks about the scar, I got it in a bar fight. Let’s keep this on the downlow.

JUST LIKE THE WESTERNS, BUT NOT REALLY

One time my buddy Ted (yeah, him again) and I found some old beer bottles in a ditch or somewhere. After checking to see if there was any booze left, we got the bright idea to pretend to be cowboys in a saloon fight. Hey, we’d seen the TV westerns where guys were just getting clobbered left and right with bottles that would shatter upon impact. We flipped a coin, and Ted got to go first.

We pretended to fight, then I saw Ted rear back to let me have it. I saw the bottle coming . . . and then everything went black.

Turns out those bottles on TV aren’t real, and it takes a lot of force to actually break a beer bottle over a human’s head, at least in 1967. Hence, the bottle remained intact and I went down like a sack of lug nuts.

At least Ted tried to help. What did he do, you ask? The same thing he saw cowboys do on TV – he ran to the garage, got a bucket, filled it with water and threw it in my face.

Turns out that actually works.

Anywho, I sat up, shook it off, and got on with my life. And we were smart enough not to try it again on Ted, so perhaps we did have a few brain cells in our craniums.

Nah. Probably not.

CROQUET BALL KO

This one also took place at Uncle Myrl’s and Aunt Dorothy’s. One summer day I was up there and we went outside to play some baseball. The problem was, we couldn’t find a baseball. I believe it was cousin Kevin who grabbed a croquet ball from somewhere. We’d been playing awhile, I was pitching, when cousin Mick sent a screaming line drive right back at me. I didn’t get my glove up in time and the croquet ball caught me right between the eyes, knocking me out cold.

And what was the reaction of my loving cousins? They all ran back into the house.

I have no idea how long I was out, but I do remember getting up and staggering back into the house with a goose egg on my head the size of an orange. Incredibly (in retrospect), everyone was casually sitting around watching TV.

Me: “What the hell? Thanks for nothing.

Mick: “Hey, look. He’s alive!”

Kevin, pointing to my head: “Better get some ice on that.”

True story.

THE SLICED FOOT

Once, when I was about 5 or 6 my parents and I were sitting on the front porch and Dad told me to run around the house to see how fast I could go. In retrospect it’s pretty obvious he was just trying to get rid of me for a little bit, but that’s neither here nor there. Any, I was barefoot as usual and when I made it back around and stood there panting, he sort of looked down, pointed, and calmly stated this:

“Hey, looks like you cut your foot there.”

I looked down, and sure enough there was a 3-inch slice of meat hanging off my instep like you would not dream. Blood everywhere too, I might add. But hey, no biggie. Mom just slapped some Mecuricome* on it, added a band-aid or six and I was ready to rock and roll.

*Again, for you younger folk out there, Mecuricome was a wonder antiseptic that was used to prevent and cure all sorts of maladies. And yes, it had mercury in it. I recall it was red and it stung like a mofo. Sadly it was discontinued years ago. Something about causing cancer or some such nonsense. On a related note, I bet mom still has a bottle stashed somewhere.

PS- I’m also 90% sure I broke a kneecap that went untreated when I wrecked my bike as a kid. How do I know this? Because when I get down on that knee today if feels as if I’m kneeling on a live power line. Somehow, I soldier on.

THE BICYCLE WAGON TRAIN WAS A BAD IDEA

I have no idea who first came up with the idea, but if I had to bet I’d say it was Max. All the ideas that got us into trouble seemed to originate with him.

All I know is that it was a bad idea, we were idiots to think we could pull it off, and it could have killed somebody. But let’s start at the beginning . . .

It was the summer of my, oh, let’s say 11th year. I’m guessing because I don’t remember exactly when the incident took place, and that may have something to do with what happened that day.

Because you know, concussions and traumatic events can do that to a kid’s brain.

Anyway, myself and six of my friends were sitting in my dad’s garage, probably discussing Raquel Welch’s breasts or the decline of Willie Mays or something. We were all either sitting on or near our bikes, which were obviously our main forms of transportation back then. As I recall, the bikes ranged from my spiffy little Schwinn with the butterfly handlebars and funky sissy bar to my buddy Scratch’s 1954 era Columbia which his dad had passed down to him. Aside from Scratch and I, the other conspirators involved that fateful day were Mel, Max, Rocky, Ted and Fred. Max, you may remember, was the kid behind the infamous episode in which we almost lost our buddy Harold.

Best to keep that in mind as we continue.

Note: Scratch’s name has an interesting origin. You see, his name was Richard so we originally called him Rich, which we eventually shortened to Itch. However, Itch’s mom hated the name and asked us to stop calling him Itch. Hence the name Scratch. Kids can be cruel.

At some point the TV show Wagon Train came up. For some reason, when I was a kid there were a lot of Westerns on television. I think I’ve seen every episode of The Rifleman (stellar), Gunsmoke (legendary), Bat Masterson (I can still sing the theme song in its entirety), The Big Valley (Audra? Smokin’ hot), Bonanza (loved Hoss), and my personal favorite, Sky King. Sky King was about a cowboy who flew an airplane. Really.
But back to Wagon Train. Talking about the TV show somehow brought us around to actual wagon trains, and this led to somebody suggesting we form our own wagon train.

With our bicycles.

Trust me, at the time, in our strange little still-unfully formed brains, this seemed like a good idea. And then, for some unknown reason, somebody suggested we attach our bikes with ropes. Now that I think about it, in real wagon trains the wagons weren’t attached by anything so I don’t know what the hell we were thinking.

But like I said, unformed brains.

At that point we were amped for the idea though, and there was no stopping us. Wagon Train! Let’s do this! So we rummaged around my garage and came up with a collection of rope, wire, clothesline, an old bike inner tube, and a three-foot length of chain. Somehow, we attached our bikes together. I distinctly recall tying one end of a clothesline around my bike seat post and the other end around the handlebars of Fred’s old beat-up Huffy Cruiser.

Note II: Fred, by the way, was a man ahead of his time. He would later become known as the first guy who dyed his hair at our school. Yep, he changed his hair color at the age of 16. And he changed that color to green. Gutsy move in any era.

Soon we were finished and ready to roll. For some reason yours truly was in the lead, followed by Fred, Scratch, Max, Mel, Rocky, and finally Ted. After some initial struggles we actually made it out of the driveway and up the street a bit, albeit with some herky-jerky movements along the way.

By the way, nobody, and I mean nobody, wore a helmet back then. If somebody would’ve shown up wearing one he would’ve been harassed, shamed, laughed at, teased, spat upon and possibly beaten to a pulp for being a pansy. Hell, I once put one of those tall safety flags on the back of my bike and my friend Ted ended up taking it off and whipping me with it. Bourneville was a tough neighborhood back in the day.

We finally made it to the top of the hill in front of the old Twin School, and then we stopped to regroup before heading down the hill towards Route 50. It seemed the prudent thing to do. Regroup, that is.

Did I mention we were about to head down a hill?

At this point I remember raising my hand and giving the signal to move forward, then actually yelling, “Wagons, HO!”

Seriously. I yelled, “Wagons, HO!”

After a couple of false starts we began our descent, and all was well as we started down the hill. Believe it or not we started to gain a sort of chemistry, becoming a finely-tuned working unit if you will. We were pedaling in unison and gaining speed. In fact, we were rolling so fast I started to contemplate other things, the first and foremost being how in the hell are we going to stop?

As it turned out, however, stopping at the bottom of the hill wasn’t going to figure into the equation. This is because right about then, to my horror, I heard Max yell this:

“I wonder what would happen if I hit my brakes?”

All I got out was “Don’t do it M . . .” before, well, Max did it.

So picture 7-bikes, all tied together, going down a hill really fast, and the guy on the bike right in the middle slams on his breaks.

Carnage.

The three guys in front of Max (me, Fred and Scratch) all went right over our handlebars, headfirst. I actually held on to mine for a second, which caused me to flip completely over and land on the road, on my back. Miraculously though, other than the blacktop burn on my ass I was unscathed.

You know, until .3 seconds later when Fred landed on me, and .1 seconds after that when Scratch landed on Fred.

Yep, that’ll knock the breath right out of you, trust me.

As for the rest of the guys, Mel, Rocky and Ted all crashed into Max of course, flipping his bike head-over-heels and into the three now-unmanned bikes in front of them. Oh, and Mel had teeth marks in his back, and from whence they came was never established.

Like I said, carnage.

When all was said and done we were a pile of skinned knees, flat tires, bent rims, banana seats, handlebars, bike fenders and crushed souls.

But as was our way back then we got up, checked for damages, wiped off our scraped knees, dusted ourselves off and pushed or carried our damaged bikes back home. Nobody cried or yelled for mommy, just a lot of wiping off blood and checking for protruding bones. And we were laughing all the way.

After all, we had a memory we could talk about for years to come, even all the way up to January of 2018, almost 51-years later.

Just another beautiful day in downtown Bourneville, Ohio, circa 1967.

Good times for sure, if you could live through it.

GRUNGY’S REVENGE

Another story from my misspent youth . . .

We had a kid in our neighborhood when I was growing up that was, shall we say, lacking in the looks department. Ah, what the hell, he was the ugliest SOB I’ve ever seen. He had a bulbous nose, elephantine ears, beady eyes, and his complexion was so bad it looked as if his face had caught on fire on somebody’d put it out with a rake.

God, I can be mean. But seriously, this dude’s parents had to tie a steak around his neck to get the dog to play with him. I swear he had to sneak up on a glass of water to get a drink. Hey-O! I could go on forever.

In addition, he was really big for his class at school. Alright, so he’d been held back a couple of times. But he was still big for his age, and not just big-big. Humongously fat-big. Add some long greasy hair to the mix and I think you get the visual.

The guy’s last name was Granderson, and for some unknown reason that only our then-addled minds could understand, we called him Grungy. Grungy Granderson. Hey, it seemed to fit.

Anyway, he hated the nickname. Hated it. If you ever called him that you best be sure that you weren’t within grabbing distance or you were in for a severe ass-whipping. However, since Grungy was lacking in the footspeed department some of us would occasionally get away with actually calling him that to his troll-like face. The fact that Grungy was such a mean and hateful guy somehow made this acceptable in our world.

Wait. Now that I think about it, it’s sort of obvious why he was so angry all the time. The world can be a cruel place, man.

I actually felt a hint of remorse there for a second. Hold on . . . OK, it passed.

That said, one day I was cruising by Twin School on my bike with my buddy Buddy (seriously, his name was Buddy) when we noticed Grungy shooting some hoops on the playground. Buddy, who could be a bit of a jackass, then suggested we ride over and torment Grungy a bit. After all, we were on our bikes and he was not. Seemed like a safe and entertaining way to kill a few minutes. Have I mentioned I was once one helluva punk-ass kid?

Before we rode over there, though, Buddy and I had this conversation:

Buddy: “Hey, why don’t you see how close you can get to him, call him Grungy, and then take off?”

Me: “Why don’t you?”

Because I’m quick like that.

Buddy: “C’mon. I dare you.”

Me: “No way man. That dude would crush my spleen if he caught me.”

Buddy: “You’re a chicken.”

Me: “For once in your life you are correct. I am a chicken.”

Buddy: “C’mon. I double dare you.”

Now, when I was 12-years old you could dare me, you could call me chicken, you could question my manhood. But you could not double dare me. Ever. Double dare me and I would take you up on it. That was the rule of the street in Bourneville, Ohio in the late 60s my friends. I know, it makes no sense, but anyone in my age group knows exactly what I’m talking about.

So . . .

We rode on over and I immediately began circling Grungy on my bike, saying clever things like:

“G-r-u-n-g-y . . .”

“Hey GRUNGY!”

“Grungeman!”

“What’s up Grungy?”

“G-R-U-U-U-U-U-N . . .”

A-n-d I never got that last part out because a basketball had just slammed into the back of my head at approximately the speed of light. I swear it felt like a cannonball had hit me from a distance of 10-feet, thrown by an angry King Kong after 17-Red Bulls and a shot of liquid adrenaline. To this day if you look closely at the back of my head I’m pretty sure you can see the faint outline of the word “Spalding” there, backwards.

Of course I flew off my bike, and when I came to my senses Grungy was towering over me like an enraged Goblin on steroids.

Man, was he pissed.

He then picked me up by the front of my t-shirt and belt of my pants, held me over his head, and threw me like a rag doll into the air. While airborne it felt like I was moving in slow motion. Everything became quiet and it was actually quite peaceful for a few seconds. While up there I believe I actually caught a glimpse of Buddy, my supposed friend, pedaling away at warp-speed while glancing over his shoulder in fear, like a hobo being chased by a guy with a job offer.

Of course all that ended when I landed on the playground blacktop.

I sat up, stunned, looking around wildly for the expected onslaught that was to come. But nothing came. All I saw was Grungy riding away on my little bike, looking like one of those bears in the circus that they’ve taught to ride a bicycle. It would have been funny if I’d had any feeling in my upper torso.

After sitting on the ground for awhile trying to catch my breath and my bearings and feeling around for missing teeth and you know, blood, I got up and walked home.

And there, leaning against a tree in my front yard, was my bike.

Grungy had left it for me.

God knows I deserved what I got and he had every right to roll my bicycle into Paint Creek or something, but for some reason he didn’t.

Grungy moved away soon after that, and I never got the chance to ask him why he left my bike for me. I guess somewhere deep inside that big, mean, ugly body there beat a good heart.

I sort of wish I’d known that sooner.

I actually attempted two websites before this one and neither really caught on. The first was called Rock Hard Times and was all about music. The second was called The Inside Handshake and stuck exclusively to sports. Then one day it hit me – why limit myself to one subject? Hell, I have opinions and observations on other stuff as well. Why not open it up to everything? Music, sports, politics, science, entertainment, nature, the list was endless. Thus was born Shoe: Untied, a play on my name along with the idea of sort of letting loose (actually a friend of mine came up with the title and I liked it). Anyway, as you know the site turned out to be a pretty eclectic one, and that’s the way my crack staff and I like it.

One thing I discovered early is that you can never, ever predict what people will like. Sometimes I write something I think is great and get very little response. Other times I write something that I feel is sort of trivial and it just blows up (see drunk pig blog below). Like the title says, it defies explanation.

With that said, here is our annual year-end report and Top 25 Most Popular Blogs for 2018. We’ll start with #1 and work our way down. Just click on the title if you want to take a gander.

Australian Pig Steals 18-Beers From Campers, Gets Drunk, Fights Cow

Yes ladies and gentlemen, a short little article I posted along with my observations back in 2014 got over 500,000 views this past year. For you non-mathematicians, that’s over half a million people. Seriously man, it was about a drunk pig. See, a radio station out in Seattle happened upon my site, liked the post, and put a link to that story on its website. Then the Aussies got hold of it and the rest is history.

UPDATE: Drunk Australian Pig That Started Fight With Cow Killed In Car Accident

Aaaand of course the throngs of people who loved the drunken swine story were interested in the tragic update. On a related note, Australians and I have the same exact sense of humor.

My Side of the Story

Nearly 400,000 people from all over the world heard my side of the story, and I’m glad they did.

Sis

I thought losing a basketball job was a tragic experience. I soon learned that, on life’s grand scale, it wasn’t.

My Dad and I

My memories of my father, who we lost just 53-days after my sister.

“Things Most White People Say” List Is Hilarious, Also 100% Correct

Basically just a repost of some funny tweets I’d run across. Good stuff and people liked it.

Incredible Photo of the Day: Gator Catch!

This was another post that the Australians inexplicably enjoyed. A large percentage of its views came from the Land Down Under.

So How Many People Did The Rifleman Actually Kill?

I love the old TV show The Rifleman, so one day I decided to research just how many people Lucas McCain actually killed. The answer? 120. Ol’ Luke murdered 120 people. But hey, they all deserved it so it’s cool.

Scioto Valley Conference Boys Basketball Preview & Predictions

A preview I wrote regarding our local basketball conference. I must say it’s turning out the way I predicted. So far.

The 2017 Ugly Dog Contest Was An Absolute Joke

My critique of the Ugly Dog Contest and its beautiful winner, Martha.

Cool Beans! Words and Phrases That Need To Make A Comeback

Another story I published a couple years that seems to never go away. Just a simple blog about words.

An American Hero: Ruby Bridges

My story about Ruby Bridges, the little 6-year old African-American who integrated an all-white elementary school in New Orleans on November 14, 1960.

Map of the Day: World Rat Distribution

The most fascinating aspect of this map is that Alberta, Canada is rat free, and it’s not by accident.

Regarding Beach Midgets

Just an offbeat, original little story that people seemed to find hilarious.

15 Reasons I Hate LeBron James (Or Used To)

I wrote this after LeBron left Cleveland with his ridiculous television show, “The Decision”. I really did hate the guy for a few years, but he won me back with his letter admitting he’d made a mistake with the way he left, then returning to Cleveland and ultimately bringing them a championship.

Celebrity Mugshots: My Top 10

Another old post that saw a resurgence of sorts in 2018. I’ve no idea why.

Meet Australian Cow Knickers, the Biggest Damn Cow You’ll Ever See

Again, Australians, man.

If You Haven’t heard of August Landmesser It’s a Damn Shame

I’m truly glad people liked this one, and I’m glad I got to spread the word about August Landmesser.

Paint Valley Basketball Records

This is a page I maintain that’s linked to Shoe: Untied. It gets a lot of hits.

Brad Kerns and Parenting the Way It Should Be

A telling story about one of my basketball parents and also one of the best friends I ever had.

The Many Worlds Theory is Wildly Fascinating

A pretty good example of what an eclectic website Shoe: Untied really is.

Map of the Day: USA IQ Test Scores by State

I had a lot I wanted to say here politically bit I couldn’t pull the trigger.

Man Killed Trying to Bring Christianity to Remote Island Tribe

A recent story that was quite controversial. Seems not everyone agreed with my views.

Another Drunk Animal Causes Havoc, and This Time It’s a Sozzled Squirrel.

Who knew drunk animal stories would be so wildly popular? Not I.

Don’t Think Animals Are Scary Smart? Read On.

There’s a certain segment of people who visit my site that can’t get enough of the animal stuff. They just eat it up. Animals, man.

So there ya go. All in all it was the biggest year ever for Shoe: Untied, and I thank the people who visit because you’re obviously as nuts as I am.

Happy New Year everyone.

 

I was subbing in the old Huntington gym the other day and was reminded of this story . . .

Many moons ago, back when I played high school basketball, I played with perhaps the best player our league has ever seen. He happened to be my cousin and his name was Mick Shoemaker. Mick averaged 31.6 points per game his senior year, scored over 1,500 career points and received a full scholarship to the University of Cincinnati. There once existed a photo of Mick, just a few feet in front of his home bench and barely past the end of the scorer’s table, shooting a jump shot from about 25-feet out. In the photo his feet are at the eye level of those sitting on the bench. You realize the current high school 3-point line is 19-feet, 9-inches from the hoop, right?

So yeah, good. Really good.

Me? Not that good. I mean, I started and had some good games but Mick was on another level. Anyway, all this leads me to certain game in that old Huntington gym against our rivals, the Hunstmen.

The referee threw up the ball and we were soon on offense. Now, it wasn’t unusual for opposing teams to try a variety of defenses in a vain attempt to stop Mick. Anyway, the strategy Huntington was employing in this game was the old Box & 1. For those unaware, a Box & 1 is a defense where one guy sticks with a really good player and the other four guys play a zone, always ready to help out on him. What made this particular Box & 1 unique was that the one was on me.

Well, now. At this point I was thinking pretty highly of myself. Huntington had figured it out! I was the guy they had to stop! Let Mick Shoemaker have his points, the secret to beating Paint Valley was stopping Dave Shoemaker!

Yep, that’s what I actually thought for about 7-seconds. But then there was a lull in the action, the gym grew quiet, and I heard this from the opposing team’s coach:

Not him dummy! “The OTHER Shoemaker!”

I swear the Huntington coach screamed it so loud that everyone heard it, including some folks over in Happy Hollow. At that point the guy guarding me scurried away to guard Mick, leaving me standing there alone, undefended and humbled.

On the other hand, our own bench thought it was quite hilarious. Trust me, it took me awhile to live that one down.

Yeah. Not me.

 

I’ve posted ads from the past in the past, and they are sometimes usually always well received. If you like this blog and want to check the others out, click here:

These Old Timey Ads Are Well Intentioned, Hilariously Inappropriate

Old Timey Ads Part 2: When Sexism Was Rampant

Good stuff, and you shall laugh uproariously upon reading them. Anywho, that brings us to my latest installment, which brings us ads just as inappropriate and cringe-worthy as the others. Let us begin . . .

[click on the first photo and scroll for the captions]

 

Check it out, man. That toy gun would put your eye out in a millisecond. Think anybody complained? Hells to the nah. If I would’ve gotten blasted in the eyehole by that thing Dad would’ve yelled at me for not ducking sooner, then punched me in the shoulder so hard my ankles would’ve gone numb. Back in my day men were men and toys could literally kill you.

PS- How did I miss this thing as a kid? I would have struck terror in the hearts of my sisters, man.


One of my former students recently asked me how many concerts I had seen in my lifetime, and I told them I had no idea but it had to be over a hundred. I LOVE live music and always have, and I’ve been going to shows for approximately 45-years. Anyway, because I was asked I have attempted to recall all the shows I’ve seen, and believe me when I say there is no way I’ll remember them all. Because of this you can bet this blog will be updated often as the memories come flooding back or somebody reminds me of something I forgot. With all this in mind, let me begin. I’ll list the concerts along with notes on some of them, and they will be in somewhat of a chronological order but not really. An asterisk indicates a Rock Hall of Fame inductee, and I believe I’ve seen 25 bands/artists that have earned that honor. That said, I’ve also seen some shows that might surprise you. Let us begin . . .

Redbone

1974, Kings Island Senior Night. They were Native Americans, they wore full Native American regalia, and their big hit was “Come and Get Your Love.” I was front row and I was forever turned on to live music. Who could not be after seeing this?

Note: I have no idea if that’s politically correct or not, I just know it’s a great song.

Brownsville Station

These cool cats sang the original “Smokin’ in the Boys Room” and followed Redbone. I’ll never forget singer Cub Coda’s roaring vocals and drummer Henry “H-Bomb” Weck destroying the skins. Epic.

Seals & Crofts

Thanks to my Uncle Myrl we always had great seats at the Ohio State Fair. Hence the front row seats for the band that gave us “Summer Breeze” and “Diamond Girl.” It was a very good show.

The Stylistics

Believe it or not I saw this legendary R&B group at the Ross County Fairgrounds. Who booked them there I do not know, but it was the early to mid-70s so they were in their heyday.

Aerosmith*

Ah, the famous (well, at least to me) Aerosmith concert. You know, the one where I drank Stroh’s beer with Joe Perry and Steven Tyler? That one? Yeah, I used to have a cool photo of me sitting between those rock Gods on a backstage couch, smiling broadly, luxurious locks cascading down our backs. Sorry, I got lost in the mists of time there for a second. Anyway, here’s the link: Steven, Joe and Me: Meeting Aerosmith. Read it. I would but it would make me cry again.

Note: I looked it up. It was March 24th, 1978 at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Columbus.

Allman Brothers Band*

I saw these guys at an outdoor venue somewhere over near Zanesville. I don’t think it was Legend Valley, but I could be wrong. Anyway, they were as good as you might expect Southern Rock legends to be.

The Beach Boys* (6)

I’ve seen The Boys six times at various venues, including the big return of Brian Wilson sometime around 1977. They’re always a good show. Oh, and remember the time Mike Love tried to steal my girlfriend? If not, here’s the story: In the late 70’s I went to see them, again at Riverfront Coliseum in The Natti. We were once again right down front. From the get-go Mike Love was paying special attention to my date, at one point getting down on one knee and singing a song right up in her grillmix. I don’t remember the song, probably because I was too busy watching the security dude and figuring my odds of getting a shot at Love’s nose. Eventually Love actually sent a guy down to ask if she was interested. She said no and he never came close to us the rest of the show. Bizarre experience.

Chicago* (3)

Yep. This guy.

Chicago was always a good show, especially when they rocked and before they started with all the sappy ballads in the early 80s. The most memorable show was when Peter Cetera nearly stole my date. Yep, it happened again, and this show and The Beach Boys show were only a couple weeks apart. I guess I should look at the bright side and assume I had good taste in women? Anyway, here’s a link to the whole sordid affair: How Peter Cetera Once Ruined a Relationship. Mine.

Warren Zevon

I saw the legend back in early ’79 when I was living on West 8th Avenue, just south of The Ohio State University campus. I distinctly recall sitting at a table in the since demolished Serene Lounge, a misnamed establishment if there ever was one. As I sat there enjoying Happy Hour, a buddy came rushing in and said he had tickets to a show up the street at The Agora, which is now The Newport. Of course I asked who was playing, and he told me Warren Zevon. Being the sophisticated music aficionado that I was, I immediately jumped at the chance. O.K., truth be told I’d never heard of Warren Zevon. Seems I’d missed the whole “Werewolves of London” hoopla from a few months prior. Go figure. Long story short, I went, was blown away and became a huge fan.

Note. It’s odd but one clear memory I have of that night was Zevon mentioning that his dad was named Stumpy. That’s a cool dad name, don’t you think? Anyway, one of my big regrets (among many) is the fact that I never saw Warren Zevon live again.

Steely Dan

I think I saw these guys at St. John Arena, but I’ll be damned if I can remember exactly. Anyway, it was the late 70s, a period my loving father used to refer to as “my hazy period.”

The New York Dolls

Believe it or not I actually saw these punk legends at the Fairgrounds Coliseum where they opened for The Babys and, wait for it . . . REO Speedwagon. To say I’d never seen anything like them (spiked collars, high heels, multi-colored hair, hot pants) is an understatement. I’m pretty sure I stood there, mouth agape, during their entire show.

Steppenwolf

These rock legends actually performed at Sam’s Place, a big barn-type venue south on Chillicothe on Route 23. I believe the building is still there. Anyway, they rocked out “Born to Be Wild” and “Magic Carpet Ride” right here in good ol’ Ross County USA.

The Babys

The Babys followed the New York Dolls, and although “Isn’t It Time” and “Every Time I Think of You” are great songs, following the Dolls was a tough gig ( not to mention everyone was there to see REO).

REO Speedwagon

I feel like I’ve seen REO more than once, but perhaps not. Anyway, it was a rockin’ show. I remember they closed with “Ridin’ the Storm Out.”

Jeff Lynne

Electric Light Orchestra* (13)

Yep, I’ve seen ELO 13-times at least, and every single show was a joy, a revelation and an absolute rock spectacle. Hey, who doesn’t like lasers, giant spaceships and giant butterflies and moths fluttering above the audience? I know I do. Seriously, Jeff Lynne is a musical genius and a rock legend, and I shall see him again in less than a month. However, the most memorable ELO show was the night I found myself in the middle of a Jeff Lynne/ELO scenario of which I wanted no part of. To fully understand, read this: Pimping for the Electric Light Orchestra. UPDATE: Caught ELO again on 7/30 at Nationwide in Columbus. Once again it was an outstanding show.

Roxy Music

I saw Roxy Music open for ELO at Veterans Memorial in 1975, and Bryan Ferry did not disappoint, singing “Love Is The Drug” and others in all his Glam Rock glory.

Gentle Giant

Saw this Prog Rock band open for ELO in The Natti, circa 1977.

Steve Hillage

Hillage was a guitarist of note back in the 70s.

Rick Derringer (3)

I first saw Derringer on the “Frampton Comes Alive” tour at the Tangerine Bowl in Florida. There were several bands before Frampton, and one of them was Kansas. They came out and it was clear from the get-go they were tanked. Just smashed, drunk and/or high as hell. Midway through song two or three they just turned and walked off the stage. The crowd basically rioted until something pretty cool happened. Rick Derringer, who had played a short set earlier, returned to the stage and started playing. Slowly the crowd got into it and eventually he was actually playing requests. That’s a true pro right there, and he saved everyone from a potentially nasty situation. When Frampton finally came out he thanked Derringer profusely and even called him back out for an encore. I’ll always have fond memories of Rick Derringer because of that day.

Led Zeppelin*

Led Zeppelin

At some point a bit before The Who tragedy at Riverfront Coliseum (again, my dates are a little fuzzy) I saw Led Zeppelin there. The whole festival seating/general admission thing was in place, and it was pretty ugly. We got there real early to get in line. The coliseum’s policy at the time was to open just 4-doors at around 6:30 PM (again, hazy) for the 8:00 show. We were right up front, and a little after 5:00 PM things began to get ugly. Remember, 4-doors for 12,000+ people. Idiocy. People in the back began pressing forward and those of us in front were getting crushed against the doors. Guys were begging the security inside to open up, but they weren’t listening. A police chopper suddenly appeared and began hovering about 30-feet up, and a guy with a bullhorn was telling people to back up. Nobody was having it, and at one point I remember a beer bottle being thrown at the chopper and shattering off its side. By this time I was seriously in fear of not making it out of there. My arms were pressed against my sides so tightly that I couldn’t raise them. Occasionally my feet would rise off the ground and I’d have to completely go wherever the crowd took me. Scary stuff for sure. The worst part was when the crowd would start to lean and you feared getting crushed. It was hard to breathe and several people passed out but obviously didn’t fall down. Surreal as hell. Finally, an ignorant security guard did a dumb but ultimately good thing – he cracked a door open, ostensibly to tell somebody when the gates would open. At that point the door was ripped open and the crowd poured in. Glass was flying everywhere, and as I was being pushed through a guard reached out and ripped a flask from my neck, nearly slashing my throat. No tickets were taken and chaos ensued. After I got away from the rushing crowd, I sought out a cop and yelled, “If these people don’t start opening more doors somebody’s going to get killed here!” A prophetic statement, unfortunately. When the news came down months later that 11-people were killed at The Who show, I wasn’t surprised. I knew exactly what had taken place. Oh, and by the way, I scored a front row spot. Hey, it was Zep.

The Eagles* (3)

I first saw The Eagles during their Hotel California Tour, and I remember the big album cover backdrop. Joe Walsh had just joined the group and he was on fire. Great show. As a bonus, no band member tried to pick up my girlfriend.

Todd Rundgren (5)

I’ve seen the greatest rocker never to be inducted into the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame four times, and every single time he has been amazing. Just a multi-talented musician and performer. Most recently I saw him at the Taft Theater in Cincinnati and then as a member of the Beatles 50th Anniversary White Album Tour and he was amazing as always.

Elton John*

I was lucky enough to see Elton at the peak of his powers, during the legendary Yellow Brick Road Tour. I can’t recall who opened for him but I do remember Kiki Dee coming on stage for the song, “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart”. I also remember that we had seats w-a-y at the back of the arena, near the top. At one point Elton stopped to thank his writing partner Bernie Taupin and pointed him out in the crowd. They shone a spotlight on him, and he was sitting right behind me. I asked him why he was sitting in the cheap seats and he said he liked to hear what the acoustics were like from up there. Cool.

Marshall Tucker Band

No clue where this concert took place. Kentucky perhaps. Rupp Arena? I’ve no clue but it was during the “Heard It In A Love Song/Can’t You See” era. What can I say? I fell into the Urban Cowboy country rock phase for a minute.

Cheap Trick*

This one was at St. John Arena in Columbus and I recall that it was on the same Monday night that Marquette won the NCAA Basketball Title. 1977 perhaps? Let me check. Hold on . . . . . . . yep, March 28th, 1977. 67-59 over Dean Smith and North Carolina. Al McGuire’s last game. Anyway, at one point some kid from Zane Trace threw his ZT hat on stage and Rick Neilson put it on and wore it for the rest of the show. Wild night. Can’t remember who opened.

Rush*

Went with a buddy who was a huge Rush guy, I believe it was in Dayton at Hara Arena. On a related note, Rush people are an interesting group.

Edgar Winter Group

“Frankenstein” baby! EWG rocks, man. Saw them at an outdoor show somewhere in Columbus. It was in a big parking lot and was sponsored by QFM-96. I think.

Joe Walsh

I saw Joe just before he joined The Eagles, just after he released his “But Seriously, Folks . . .” album. Dude was really good with the crowd, and of course his guitar playing was amazing.

Kansas

I told you about Kansas when I talked about Rick Derringer earlier. They sucked.

Peter Frampton (3)

Peter Frampton

I was a big Frampton fan back in the day, and myself and 3 friends followed him on his “Frampton Comes Alive” Tour. We saw him in Tampa, Louisville and back in Ohio. He was touring with the aforementioned Kansas, Rick Derringer and the J Geils Band. Trust me, Peter Frampton put on one hell of a show.

John Sebastian*

John Sebastian was the frontman for the Lovin’ Spoonful before embarking on a solo career. He didn’t have much success until he penned the theme song for the TV show “Welcome Back Kotter”. Anyway, I saw him as the opening act for, wait for it . . . Steve Martin. The show was at Mershon Auditorium in, I believe, the Spring of ’77 or ’78.

J Geils Band (2)

Saw these guys during the Frampton tour, and one thing sticks out in my mind. Their Louisville show was the last show of the tour and lead singer Peter Wolf busted out the champagne. As usual we’d worked our way down to the front row, and Wolf poured a good portion of the bottle right over my head before I tilted my head back and drank the rest. Good times indeed.

John Waite

Waite was the lead singer of The Babys before starting a solo career. I saw him at a small venue in Columbus (The Newport?) and he was really good. Remember “Missing You”?

Wild Cherry

Yep, I saw these guys sing “Play That Funky Music” in a small bar on High Street in Columbus j-u-s-t before they hit it big.

Barry Manilow

I told you some of the artists would surprise you. I went with my sister and her husband Jigger, and it was a really good show. Vets Memorial I believe.

Doobie Brothers

Thankfully I saw The Doobies before Michael McDonald arrived to wreck their sound with his so-called “blue-eyed soul”. Newsflash: It was not. I preferred the pre-McDonald days of “China Grove”, “Long Train Runnin'” and “Blackwater”. It was a fantastic show that I saw somewhere in Cleveland.

James Taylor* (5)

Ah, the original JT. I’ve seen him at least 5-times, the most memorable being the night I stole his jacket. From my original blog: I went to see him at Blossom Music Center back in ’78 with my friends Tom and Chris. After the show we ambled down to the side of the stage, just getting a look at the setup really. The roadies were tearing down the set, wandering around doing this and that. At some point I looked up and said, “Hey, look. He left his jacket hanging on the mike stand.” He’d worn it onstage and had taken it off during the show. Anyway, one of us (probably Tom) gets the bright idea to try to grab it. Nice plan but the place was crawling with security and roadies. I turn to Chris for ideas, turn back around, and Tom had already jumped the railing and was halfway across the stage. He was just casually walking like he belonged there. A couple of guys glanced at him but didn’t say a word, either because he looked like he belonged or because he was 6′-3″, 280-lbs and looked like he could rip your heart out and show it to you before you died (which by the way he could have but that’s another story). He casually grabs the jacket, throws it over his shoulder, and hops off the other side of the stage as Chris and I run frantically around to meet him. We walk away without looking back, expecting at any moment to hear, “Stop them! Thieves! They have James Taylor’s jacket! For God’s sake stop the bastards!” Except it doesn’t happen, and we make it to the car. At that point Tom tries it on. Obviously too small. Chris grabs it. Too big. Heh-heh. Fit me perfectly. Apparently, in ’78, James Taylor and I were exactly the same size. Anyway, that’s how I came to own James Taylor’s jacket. By the way, later I woke up wide-eyed in the middle of the night, realizing I hadn’t checked the pockets. The possibilities were mind-boggling. Carly Simon’s phone number possibly? Alas, nothing. Damn . . .

Charlie Daniels Band

Again, this was during my country rock phase, which lasted about, oh, a minute and a half. Charlie was cool back then though, although I felt that way partly because I wasn’t aware of the right-wing conservative assclownery he’s exhibited the last 20-years or so.

Blue Oyster Cult

Dayton, Ohio, in Hara Arena. At the end of the concert the drummer threw his sticks into the crowd. I got my hand on one but it slipped through my fingers, damn it.

Yes*

I was never a big Yes fan, but I attended this show with a friend. As I recall I wasn’t that impressed.

Emerson, Lake & Palmer

See Yes above.

Grand Funk Railroad

I watched Mark Farner, Don Brewer and the boys at St. John Arena in Columbus and they were great. I distinctly recall them blowing the roof off the joint with “We’re An American Band”. I think Farner found Jesus shortly after this tour.

Amy Grant

Another shocker, amirite? Yep, I saw Amy at the Ohio State Fair and once again we were right up front. My girlfriend at the time loved her, hence my presence at the show.

Hall & Oates*

Talk about a great opening act. I saw these guys open for ELO in Cleveland at Richfield Coliseum. Of course, they were incredible.

Pat Benatar

Yep. Big Pat Benatar fan, man. Saw her in Riverfront Coliseum back around ’82 ish. I remember being impressed with her lead guitarist and future husband Neil Geraldo too. Dude could shred.

Alabama

Another Ohio State Fair show where I couldn’t turn down the tickets. Hey, it was the early 80s and the band was pretty damn big.

Barbara Mandrell

Same as the Alabama show with one big difference – Barbara Mandrell was smokin’ hot at the time.

Kenny Rogers

You’ll have to give me a break on this one. My mother was a big Kenny Rogers fan and I took her as a surprise for her birthday. She loved it. I’m such a good son.

The Alarm

The Alarm

This show was actually a surprise for me pulled off by my ex-wife Twana, and it was spectacular. I loved The Alarm (still do) and their show at Riverbend in Cincy was great. However, they were just the opening act for the big surprise, which was . . . drumroll please . . .

Bob Dylan*

It was 1988 and like I said, this was a surprise gift for me. Dylan was amazing as you might expect, putting on an unforgettable show.

Pink Floyd*

In June of 1975 I traveled to Pittsburgh to see Pink Floyd at Three Rivers Stadium, and they were insanely good. Obviously this was when Roger Waters was still with them, contrary to the American tour 20-years later when they were without him and I refused to attend. To me, the best part of Floyd was Roger Waters. Anywho, great show with flyin’ pigs and whatnot.

Meat Loaf

I saw Meat at a small venue near Lancaster in the mid-80s. This was after his success with Bat Out of Hell in the late 70s and before his big comeback in ’93, and he was in the middle of his well publicized emotional issues. At one point during the show he stopped mid-song and helicoptered his mic stand into the crowd, nearly decapitating myself and several others. It was like “Meat Loaf! YEAH! Woohoo! Wait . . . look out!” Fortunately he got it together and finished, but I remember his voice was freakin’ shot. Let’s just say Meat did not bring his A game that night.

Paul McCartney* (9)

Yes, I have seen Sir Paul many times at many venues in cities ranging from Cincinnati to Indianapolis to Cleveland to Chicago. Perhaps my favorite show was the one in Columbus where a bunch of us went all out rented a suite. Our seats were right over the stage. Also, one year in Cincy I was in the front 8-10 rows which was incredible. With McCartney every song is legendary, plus there’s always that awareness that you’re watching a freakin’ Beatle.

Dan Fogelberg (4)

Fogelberg was always great live, and I saw him at Blossom in Cleveland, The Palace in Columbus and a couple other places.

Indigo Girls

I’d never heard of the Indigo Girls when  first saw them open for R.E.M. at Riverfront Coliseum, but it didn’t take a genius to figure out they were going to be big.

R.E.M.* (15)

I’ve seen R.E.M. more than any other band, first in ’83 at a gym in Springfield, Ohio in front of maybe 100-people, and the last time at Blossom in Cleveland in ’04 along with 20,000 other fans. It was pretty cool watching them grow from a small, relatively unknown band to a worldwide sensation. R.E.M. trails only The Beatles on my favorite bands list.

The Minutemen

I saw these alt legends open for R.E.M. at Vets Memorial a couple weeks before lead singer D. Boon was killed in an auto accident. Memorable concert for sure.

The O’Jays*

Ok, technically I never bought a ticket to watch these guys. However, I did hear them sing along with me on an airplane. Not kidding. Here’s the story: It happened when my late friend Jigger and I were heading to Vegas back in the early ’90s. You’ve got to remember that I’ve always been quite the Motown/Philly Sound fan and am pretty knowledgeable about a lot of the groups of that genre. We’d been in the air for a few minutes when I thought I recognized a guy a couple of rows in front of me. Was that Eddie Levert of The O’Jays? I loved The O’Jays! What the hell, I thought. I went up and sat by him (keep in mind there were only about 30-people on the plane). Sure enough, it was Levert and the rest of the group along with about eight roadies sitting here and there. Throwing caution and common sense to the wind, I started singing one of their big hits, “Love Train” and begging the guys to join in. What can I say? I was overcome with joy at meeting the O’Jays and I was pretty sure I’d never have this chance again. Long story short, in a couple minutes all three O’Jays were singing backup to yours truly on lead vocal. One of the guys (Walter Williams possibly) actually got up in the aisle and was doing the dance moves as I stood and sang beside him. Surreal. About halfway through I forgot the words and Levert took over. I then attempted to join the dancing but failed miserably, to the delight of the audience. I then took a theatrical bow with the group as the crowd went wild (at least in my mind, don’t tell me they didn’t), the stewardesses applauded and Jigger sat there shaking his head. I believe I even followed up by trying to start a rousing rendition of “Backstabbers” but my moment had passed. The group got off at our stopover in Minneapolis, bro hugs were shared all around, and the O’Jays went on their way. And you know what? To this day I can’t hear “Love Train” without getting a big grin on my face.

Fetchin Bones

The Bones opened for REM at Bogart’s and they were great. One reviewer described them as such: “a band that must be seen live for a full grasp of their eclectic frenzy.” Couldn’t have said it better.

The dB’s

These guys opened for REM in Dayton, at either Hara or UD Arena (I can’t remember which). The band was led by Pete Holsapple, who later sat in on many an REM gig.

The Neats

The Neats opened for REM at that show in Springfield, Ohio.

Toad the Wet Sprocket

I saw TTWS at The Newport sometime in the mid-90s. Can’t remember much about the show other than the fact that lead singer Todd Phillips didn’t wear any shoes.

Matthew Sweet

Ah, another great Newport show. I’ve loved Matthew Sweet since 1991 and he did not disappoint.

Hootie & the Blowfish

Once again I saw these guys at The Newport, just before they blew wide open. I remember Darius Rucker downed about 8 Budweiser bottles during the show, and he often had one in his hand as he sang.

The String Cheese Incident

I’m not really into Jam Bands, and I have no idea what inspired me to go to this show. Now that I think of it, I have no idea who I was with or where they played. Somewhere outside for sure.

Screaming Trees

Screaming Trees

The Trees were the middle act at College Park, MD in 1992. They followed Gruntruck and preceded Alice in Chains. Of those three bands, I loved the Screaming Trees the most. The show was at Ritchie Coliseum as I recall.

Alice in Chains

See above.

Gruntruck

Also see above.

Fugazi

Great show at the tiny City Lights venue in Indy back in 1993. I remember clearly that the tickets cost a mere $5.00.

The National

The National opened for REM at Blossom in 2004.

Brian Wilson

I was thrilled to see Brian Wilson during his Pet Sounds Tour in 2002. His backing band was the Wondermints and they were fantastic too. He played the album in its entirety, start to finish. Stellar, and the work of a musical genius.

Steve Forbert (4)

I put Steve Forbert in my Top 10 All-Time favorite artists. I’ve seen him at small venues in Newport, KY, and Granville and Worthington in Ohio (2). He always puts on a great show. One of music’s most underappreciated talents.

Faith No More

Caught these guys at The Newport (surprise!) in September of 1992. The main thing I remember is that lead singer Mike Patton had some absolutely killer pipes.

Helmet

I have very little recollection of this one. Sorry Helmet.

The Temptations*

I finally got to see The Temps around 2008, and they only had one original member remaining. Still a great show though.

Ziggy Marley

Ziggy

I can attribute this one to pure luck. One night in the Caribbean I was sitting at a little Tiki Bar, and a guy came up and casually mentioned that Ziggy was playing a couple hundred yards down the beach. Wait. What? Hell yes mon. I hustled down there and the rest is history.

They Might Be Giants (8)

Man, I’ve seen the two John’s 8 times since 1992 (the last this past winter) and every show has been awesome. One of my favorite bands ever.

OK GO

This group opened for TMBG the night the electric went out at The Newport and everything was delayed a couple hours. They were great, but my main memory was after the show when the lead singer tried to pick up my nephew’s wife out by the merch stand. Musicians, man.

Eels (7)

Eels

I’ve seen E and the boys on several occasions, usually in Columbus but at least once in Cleveland. Big, big fan and E never, ever fails to entertain. I’ve been on E’s bandwagon since his early solo albums “A Man Called E” and “Broken Toy Shop”. One of the most underappreciated artists of my lifetime.

The Flaming Lips 

Love the lips, and I saw them at the Nelsonville Music Festival a few years ago. And yes, Wayne Coyne got in one of those big bubbles and walked out over the audience. Fun aplenty.

Beck

I used to volunteer for a company that worked concerts around Columbus (actually I only did it twice) but on one occasion I ended up being Beck’s damn backstage bodyguard. He actually invited me to stand beside the stage and watch the show. Dude really liked me for some reason, man. You can read all about it here: Bodyguarding Beck. True story.

Martina McBride

I must have received good reviews for being Beck’s bodyguard, because a couple weeks later they asked me to be the bodyguard for Martina McBride. Once again I was allowed to watch from the wings. Hey, I’ve never owned a Martina McBride song but damn she was a hottie. Anyway, I protected two famous singers and neither were harmed under my watch. My record is unblemished.

Carbon Leaf (20)

Carbon Leaf

I’ve been a big Carbon Leaf fan since around 2000, and I’ve become acquainted with lead singer Barry Privett. I’ve seen them at Kelley’s in the Outer Banks, The Basement and a few other places in Columbus, a little bar in Chapel Hill, the Southgate House in Newport, KY and The 20th Century Theater in Cincy among other places. I highly recommend this band. Update: I caught them at The Kent Stage on March 8th, 2020. Still amazing.

The Wallflowers

I have no earthly idea where I saw these guys. Maybe the old Capital Theater on High Street in Columbus?

Paul Westerberg

I’d waited many a year to see the former Replacements frontman in person, and it was one helluva show. It was at The Newport, which was perfect, and one of my friends said it was the first time he’d actually seen a real life rock star. Westerberg growled/wailed his tunes in black jeans, boots and a leather jacket, all the while smoking a cigarette and barking at the occasional roadie. At one point he played while laying on his back, and he added covers like “If I Had a Hammer” and “Daydream Believer” along with his solo stuff and some Replacement classics. Just an amazing, powerful performance from a rock legend that I’ve admired for years. I’ll never forget it.

Ben Folds (4)

Ben always puts on a great show, and the interaction with his fans is incredible. I last saw him in the fall of last year and he hadn’t lost a step.

Billy Bragg

This show was at Mountain Stage, West Virginia, and was actually broadcast live on National Public Radio. For some reason I remember Billy telling the audience that on the way to the show his bus had passed a little town with an interesting name – Bragg. Weird the stuff you remember.

MC Honky

MC Honky was actually Mark Oliver Everett, otherwise known as E of the Eels. He opened for, you guessed it, The Eels. Strange but interesting night.

Taylor Swift

Yep, I saw her at OU-Chillicothe at the very beginning of her career back in 2007, performing before maybe 2500 people. She’d only had a couple hits at that time, and I remember she stood at the back of the gym after the show until she’d signed every single fan’s autograph. There was no dancing or anything like that, she basically just sat on a stool and played her songs solo.

Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band*

Quite simply one of the best live performers to have ever lived. There was no big light show, no video screens, no theatrics. Just Bruce and the band playing straight ahead rock and roll. I saw The Boss at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, and it was unforgettable.

Buddy Guy*

Buddy opened for Clapton at The Schott in the late 00s, and he was spectacular.

Bon Jovi* (4)

An ex of mine had a deep, unapologetic love for Jon Bon Jovi, hence the many trips to see the band. They’re crazy good live, and the trips were worth it to me to watch Richie Sambora play guitar. All the shows were at large arenas.

Goo Goo Dolls

I saw the Goos in their heyday, which was sometime around 1998-1999. according to my internal heyday meter. I must say Johnny Rzeznik and the boys were pretty damn good. I cannot recall where I saw them.

Cracker (3)

Love me some Cracker, and I’ve seen them at Kelley’s in the OBX, the Southgate House in northern Kentucky, and the Picktown Palooza (yes, such a thing exists). I’ve had the pleasure to meet guitarist Johnny Hickman a few times and am happy to report that he’s a good dude.

Green Day*

I took my son to see these guys at The Schott in Columbus as part of my Expose My Kid to The Legends Project (he’s seen McCartney, R.E.M., AC/DC, The Eels, and several others) and they were just about what you’d expect. Those little dudes are like Energizer Bunnies, man. It was their American Idiot Tour I believe.

AC/DC*

Tremendous show at The Schott, and for some reason I was pleasantly surprised at how good of a guitarist Angus Young is. I should have known I guess? Anyway, there were more 50-year old boobs on display than I care to recall.

Eric Clapton*

Saw Slowhand at Nationwide Arena, and it was something to behold. See, even though the show was 2 1/2 hours long Clapton didn’t play that many songs. All the tunes were a long, bluesy numbers and every one was breathtakingly good. Although a few morons were yelling for them there was no “I Shot the Sheriff” or “Tears in Heaven.” To top off the greatness of the show, Derek Trucks was a part of the band and Robert Cray came out to jam during the last 30-minutes or so. Legendary.

Robert Cray 

See Eric Clapton above.

Angels & Airwaves

A & A is led by Blink-182’s Tom Delonge, and I went to The Newport with my son to see the band in the mid-00s. Kip wanted to get down front, so we worked our way down to the right front of the stage with yours truly against a railing. Suffice to say the mosh pit was deadly, my ribs were crushed repeatedly against the railing, and I could barely get out of bed the next day. Hey, you have to sacrifice for family. On a related note, it was totally worth it.

The Color Fred

These guys opened for A & A and I have very little recollection as to whether they were any good.

Fuel

I caught Fuel at a small venue in Columbus, but I can’t remember the exact location. Interesting crowd at Fuel shows.

The Smithereens

I saw these guys at the Roanoke Island Festival Park in Manteo, NC as part of a big summer show with 4 other acts. I’ve always loved The Smithereens and they did not fail me.

Scars on 45

Scars on 45 are English band that was a part of the Mateo show. They impressed me.

Gin Blossoms (3)

I’ve seen these guys at the Manteo Festival, Summerfest and Bogey’s in Dublin, OH.

Spin Doctors

Another band at the Manteo concert, and believe me when I say they still have it.

Joan Jett*

Joan headlined the big Manteo show and she was stunningly good. On a related note, the Roanoke Festival Park is a stunning venue with the backdrop to the stage being the Roanoke Sound. Beautiful.

Social D

Social Distortion

After years of trying I finally got to see Mike Ness and Social D at what was then LC Pavilion in Columbus a few years ago. They were everything I expected them to be.

Mudhoney

My buddy Goose and I caught the legendary grunge rockers at tiny Café Bourbon Street in Columbus in 2010. Lead singer Mark Arm, the man who coined the term “grunge”, was in top form. I felt lucky to have seen them, and Arm gave me the setlist. Boom.

Manchester Orchestra

This band opened for My Chemical Romance and Blink-182 in Cincinnati. My only recollection is that they had a lush, orchestral sound, hence their name choice I guess.

My Chemical Romance (2)

I’ve seen MCR twice, once opening for Green Day in Columbus and once for Blink-182 in Cincinnati. On both occasions they were very good, and it turned out that the Cincy tour was their last.

Blink-182

My son was a big Blink guy and this show was pretty special. I recall sitting in the parking lot waiting for the rain to stop, and when it did we debated whether to make a run for the gates. We decided in the affirmative, and when we were exactly halfway to our destination the torrential downpour began anew. We were drenched for the entire show. I also remember that the banter between Tom Delonge and Mark Hoppes was hilarious. Really good show.

Band of Horses

Saw Band of Horse open for My Morning Jacket a few years ago and I thought they were fantastic. I actually enjoyed them more than the headliner.

My Morning Jacket

I don’t know, there’s something about these guys that’s sort of monotonous to me. Can’t say I loved it.

Bowling for Soup

A couple years ago I went to see Bowling for Soup at the A&R in Columbus. The show was at 7:00, but as I am want to do I went up around 4:00 to scout out the terrain. I could hear the band doing a soundcheck inside, and there was a line of probably 150 people sitting outside the door and down the sidewalk. I thought what the hell, I’ll take a shot at this. I walked past all the people, up to the door, and as luck would have it the door was open. I walked in, nodded at a few security guys in A&R polos, and sauntered on to the front of the stage and watched the guys warm up. After a bit I walked to the back of the venue and was leaning against the wall when I was approached by a very large dude. I was expecting the worst, but the guy said, “Hey, have you seen Greg?” I looked around as if I knew who the hell Greg was, then told him, “No, not recently.” He then thanked me and gave me a knuckle-bump before departing. Crisis averted. Then, a short while later I swear this happened: The band stopped and the lead singer looked straight at me and asked, “Whaddaya think? Is that enough bass?” The world stopped for a second as the entire band and everyone in the venue looked at me. I nodded knowingly and gave the thumbs-up sign as the bass player shot me a return thumbs-up before kicking into another tune. At that point I had cred with the entire place so I could basically do whatever I wanted. What can I say? The secret is acting like you belong. Bottom line, I saw the soundcheck and the show, and both were great.

Bacon Brothers

I was invited to this show at an outdoor mall somewhere in Dayton, and I have to say Kevin Bacon and his brother were pretty good. Somebody opened but I can’t recall the band name.

Lit

I saw Lit along with the Gin Blossoms and the next three bands during the Summerland Tour a few years back. Lit was excellent, Gin Blossoms were very good, Marcy Playground was Ok, Sugar Ray was surprisingly amazing and Everclear was disappointing.

Sugar Ray

See Lit.

Marcy Playground

See Lit.

Everclear

See Lit.

The Hold Steady

The Hold Steady

Caught these guys in Cincy at Bogart’s (I think). They were excellent. Really underrated band in my opinion.

Nathanael Rateliff & the Night Sweats (3)

Saw their show at the Nelsonville Music Festival a couple years back and they were great. They also opened for Kings of Leon last summer, and I saw them at Express Live! in early October. Always stellar.

Sister Hazel

Urban Meyer’s favorite band played Bogey’s in Dublin/Muirfield a couple years ago along with the Gin Blossoms. And yes, Urb and Shelley were in attendance. I used to know Shelley back in the day, and here she is giving me a shout out:

Soul Asylum

For the life of me I cannot recall where I saw Soul Asylum, but I remember it being a grungy little bar type of establishment. Go figure. It was towards the beginning of their success.

Kings of Leon

Attended a KOL show at Riverbend in Cincinnati last summer. Great band, great show.

Guided by Voices (2)

One of my friends is a big fan so I went with him to see his hero Robert Pollard. I’m glad I went. Update: Caught GBV again at the Bellwether Festival in Waynesville, Ohio. Once again a fantastic performance.

Tedeschi Trucks Band

Amazing band I saw during their Wheels of Soul Tour back in 2015 at the PNC Pavilion in The Natti. They’re unbelievable live.

Avett Brothers (7)

I first laid ears on The Avetts around ’05 in the Outer Banks, and have since seen them in Raleigh, NC, The Louisville Palace in KY, and several other venues in Ohio. One of my favorite live bands currently.

Tall Heights

I saw this band open for Ben Folds last fall. Cool sound.

Todd Snider

Todd is one of my friend’s favorite artists, and I must say I enjoyed the show. I think we saw him in Cincinnati. I think. UPDATE: I checked. It was at the Madison Theater in Cincy.

The Pixies (2)

The Pixies were on my Bucket List, and thankfully I’ve seen them twice in the last year or so. The first was at Express Live! in Columbus and the second at an amazing show I’ll talk about shortly. Just a legendary, influential alternative band.

John Hiatt

I love John Hiatt and I finally got to see him a couple years ago in Columbus. I think it was The Palace, and it was just John and his guitar. Incredible performance.

Rick Brantley

Opened for John Hiatt, and I remember his song “Hurt People” the most.

G-Love

G-Love opened for Jack Johnson and he was great. He came out later with Jack to sing “Rodeo Clowns” and it was amazing.

Jack Johnson

I was never a huge Jack Johnson fan but he won me over a few weeks ago at Riverbend in Cincinnati. It was a laid back, mellow show with a tremendous vibe.

Foo Fighters (4)

Ah, The Foos. I’ve seen them 4-times in the past year and they blew me away. The first show was in Cincy at US Bank Arena (formerly Riverfront Coliseum) and just the other night at Ruoff Home Mortgage Music Center in Noblesville, IN outside Indianapolis. The Indy show was special because we were 12-rows back. Incredible night. The third time I saw them was at CalJam ’18, which I’ll talk about below. Finally (for now) I saw them at the Sonic Temple Festival in Columbus, Ohio and they were epic. We had backstage passes and spent some time in keyboardist Rami Jaffee’s private box. Amazing stuff.

PS – Dave Grohl is a God.

The Struts (3)

The Struts are a Queen-influenced group fronted by a guy named Luke Spiller, who is fantastic. They opened for the Foo Fighters all three times I saw them. High energy, rockin’ band.

The Wombats

I loved The Wombats back in the late 80s, and if you didn’t like “Let’s Dance to the Joy Division” you are a phony, a pretender, and you have the musical taste of a ferret. I finally saw them a couple weeks ago as the opener for The Pixies and then Weezer, and as expected they killed it.

Weezer

To be honest I went to the Weezer show for opening acts The Wombats and The Pixies, but to my surprise Weezer blew the roof off at Riverbend. I mean, I knew they’d be good but they were way better than I expected. Incredible show that actually shocked me, and I don’t shock easily.

Jimmy Buffett (3)

I first saw Buffett in 1977, again in the late 80s, and finally a couple weeks ago in Cincinnati. Buffett shows are basically one big beach party, replete with leis, bikinis and margaritas, among other things [clears throat]. You get the picture.

Some of the bands below have been mentioned before, but I saw them all at Cal Jam ’18 the weekend of 10/4-10/6. What an amazing experience:

Foo Fighters/Nirvana

1111111111111111111111111111111111111111

Joan Jett, Pat Smear, Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl.

Still can’t believe I was at this legendary show where Nirvana (minus Kurt Cobain of course) reunited with Joan Jett and Deer Tick lead singer John McCauley to perform seven songs at the end of the regular Foos show. When Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic walked out the place erupted, and Joan and John sounded great singing the lead with Dave Grohl back on the drums. Incredible.

Post Pop Depression

LOVED these guys. PPP is Godfather of Punk Iggy Pop (The Stooges), Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age, Eagles of Death Metal), Dean Fertita (QOTSA, The Dead Weather) and Matt Helders (Arctic Monkeys) among others. Amazing show, and at 71 Iggy is still going strong.

Garbage

I really liked Garbage a lot. Shirley Manson definitely still has it, and her band was tight.

Yungblud (2)

I was surprised how much I liked this guy. Trust me, angry British punk is alive. The Sex Pistols would be proud. I saw him at both CalJam and Sonic Temple.

Metz

Enjoyed this show as well. Rockin’ young band.

Tenacious D

Yep, Jack Black’s band was there too, and I have to say I didn’t love them. Hard to take Jack Black seriously as a musician after School of Rock, you know?

Greta Van Fleet

Honestly, I can take or leave these Led Zeppelin sound-alikes. Didn’t dig it at all.

Deer Tick

LOVED these guys. Great band with 3 different lead singers. Reminded me a little of The Band in that way.

Gang of Youths

I really liked frontman David Le’aupepe and this Australian band. Sort of a cross between U2, Springsteen and The Alarm. Lots of anthemic rock.

The Front Bottoms

The Front Bottoms

Probably my favorite new band I saw in California. I got to meet lead singer Brian Sella briefly, and I can report he is a good dude.

Thunderpussy

This all-girl band rocked the hell out of it, and Foos drummer Taylor Hawkins sat sidestage and watched their drummer, who was fantastic.

Giants in the Trees

This is Krist Novoselic’s band, and I cannot say I’m a fan of the dreamy, psychedelic vibe they were putting out.

Billy Idol

Billy played the first night, and he did not disappoint. Dude still has the pipes, and guitarist Steve Stevens was as good as ever.

Cal Jam Bonuses:

At the backstage layout, I absentmindedly asked out loud what kind of pasta they were serving. From behind me I heard a voice say, “That’s Couscous Mac ‘n Cheese, man. You have to try it.” I turned around and it was Foo Fighter’s drummer Taylor Hawkins.

I also got to meet and spend a little time with the man who played drums on one of my favorite songs of all-time, The Church of Logic, Sin and Love by The Men. Suffice it to say that Dave Botkin was a great guy.

The Hives

Caught these guys at Sonic Temple and they were great. I’s always wanted to see them and was glad I did.

The Interrupters

At the Sonic Temple again, and if you like music akin to Elvis Costello you’ll love these guys.

Phish

My buddy had been begging me to see these guys for years but I just didn’t get the whole Phish thing. Having gone, I must say I had a good time. It was great music, great people and a great vibe. I’m not going to quit life and follow Phish, but I’ll certainly go again.

Selo

Saw this band at the Bellwether Festival and I was impressed. Good new band.

Strfkr

Yep. That says what you think it says, and they were a lot of fun. Because hey, who doesn’t like spacemen crowd surfing and blow-up dolls beingtossed into the audience?

Nick Lowe

Caught the legend himself at the Joanne Davidson Center in Columbus and he did not disappoint. His voice is as good as ever, and his backing band, the legendary Los Straightjackets, were tight as hell. Loved every minute of it.

Todd Rundgren, Micky Dolenz, Christopher Cross, Joey Molland of Badfinger and Jason Scheff of Chicago

Saw these guys perform The Beatles’ White Album in Cincinnati on its 50th Anniversary and it was special to say the least. Amazing show.

J-u-s-t Missed Shows:

The Who

Yep we had tickets to Riverfront Coliseum the night of the tragedy where 11-people were crushed to death, and we were actually on the way to the concert. Fortunately we were stupid enough to think a party in Chillicothe would be more fun, and it might have saved our lives. And yes, I know about a million people claim to have had tickets to that show. We actually did.

Lynyrd Skynyrd

I had tickets for a show at St. John’s Arena in Columbus on October 28th, 1978, but unfortunately we all know what happened 8-days prior – their plane crashed in Mississippi. I’ll never forget waking up the morning and my roommate Jed telling me what had happened. And, being the 21-year old jackass that I was, I returned my ticket because I thought I needed the $8.25 or whatever the hell the ticket cost back then, probably to buy beer.

Well, some of you. If you’re under 30 perhaps not. Anyway, many of us older folk can remember the way old supermarkets looked, as well as the old country, small town stores. What follows is a look back at a simpler time, 20 photographs along with my comments. Point, click and scroll. Do it man.