Browse Category: Music

DANCING FISH AND THE DANNY GODINEZ BAND

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(Originally posted on the website Continuum…)

SOMETIMES the best things happen when you do something on the spur of the moment, something spontaneous. When you are tired of the routine. When it’s late Friday afternoon and the full workweek has all but killed your brain. When you make a phone call to hook up with someone you haven’t seen in a while and say, “Let’s go!” When they are available and it just all works out. That is the best!

Such was the way my weekend started out when I called Cousin AP and asked the magic question: “Sushi?”

We went out for sushi at The Dancing Fish Company in Bethlehem, PA. It was the best! I didn’t see any of the fish dancing. Even if the fish tried to dance, it would have been a short little waltz! One of us would have covered it with ginger, dipped it in soy sauce, and it would have been curtains for the fish and delight for the palate! Spider, dragon, Alaska, vegetable and yellowtail were the rolls we feasted on. Plus we had “chicken and ribs.” Huh? At a sushi restaurant? But wait! The “chicken and ribs” dish was actually a California roll covered with spicy tuna. Yummy! Add to this a little salad and miso soup. Top it off with an ice cream dessert called “mochi” that brings you to a state of near euphoria, especially the red bean. And you have a meal worth dancing for. Bring a cousin, a good friend, a lovely person onto the stage and you have Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers cutting up the rug!

AFTER DINNER, Cousin AP and I decided to go to the Pattenburg House. It was only 9:30. Neither of us felt like going home so early. So we went over to Pattenburg to have a drink and maybe catch some music. AP had heard that some guy from Seattle was doing a solo show. We enjoyed the first band, a group of local guys called Dyer Weed. Their music was kind of groovy and fun. Some of the guys in the band weren’t even wearing shoes. That’s the way it is at the Pattenburg House. The atmosphere is kind of laid back. A lot of people frequent the place and know each other. You can let your hair down, laugh and dance. But since I don’t have enough hair to let down, and I don’t dance (despite the Fred Astaire analogy above), I just enjoyed watching the band.

The first band finished, packed up and we were excited to see that the act from Seattle was not just a solo singer but a full band. They were the Danny Godinez Band. The who? No, not The Who! The Danny Godinez Band! Although we had never heard of them before, let me tell you, within the first 30 seconds of the very first song we were amazed and knew that we had gotten something worth way more than the little $5 cover charge we paid! These guys were awesome! They were extremely talented, precise, jazzy, rocky, soulful, playful, quiet and explosive! Wow!

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Of course, as a drummer, I watch every move a drummer makes. This drummer was blowing me away! He used everything at his disposal with precision, speed, accuracy and timing. He was a well-trained warrior wielding his weapons and tearing through the crowd.

Yet, when you talk with him, Todd is a mild-mannered kind-hearted guy, an intelligent guy who takes the time to listen when people speak to him. We struck up a conversation when the band took a break and made a connection for me to possibly do some web design for the band and, more importantly, to make a friend.

What about the rest of the band?

Danny Godinez will quickly get your attention with his acoustic guitar. He was smooth and fast. It was obvious that he “becomes one” with his guitar. When a guy uses harmonics, slaps his strings, picks with precision and speed, and masterfully bends his guitar neck to get just the perfect sound, you know that you are getting more than just music. You are getting the man’s soul. When he adds smooth singing and even mimics his guitar licks with his vocals, you are getting soul and art.

Danny, as well, is a super nice guy. In fact, all the guys in the band are great people. There is no arrogance among them. They interacted with the crowd in a positive and friendly way. It was great to see. How many times do you see musicians that don’t even have half the talent as Danny and his band who have ten times the amount of arrogance and act like their “you-know-what” doesn’t stink? Most of the time their music stinks more than their “you-know-what!”

Farko is the bass player. He came from Uzbekistan and hooked up with the others when he came to Seattle to attend music school. Farko is a mighty cool guy to talk with. We really enjoyed talking and laughing with him. It was interesting to hear his story.

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On the keyboards is Joe Raven. Wow! He is all curly hair and lightening fingers! It was a lot of fun to watch him play. Just like the others, he was a delight to talk with as well.

COUSIN AP and I enjoyed ourselves so much that we decided to make the trek to Norwalk, Connecticut to see the band again on Saturday night. I wanted to hook up with them again in order to talk some more about their website and possibly helping them out with that. AP and I both wanted to see them again just to enjoy their incredible music. We were surprised that it took us less than two hours to make the trip. Norwalk was a nice little town. There were plenty of clubs, shops and restaurants around. The band played at a place called Ocean Drive on Washington Street. It appeared to be a little upscale. In fact, we nearly paid more for a glass of wine than you would pay in a store for a small bottle! It was so opposite of the scene at the Pattenburg House. Regardless, AP and I had a good time. She took a lot of good pictures for the band. We had an opportunity to meet some new people. It felt good to get away and do something different.

ONE LAST THING. The Danny Godinez Band from Seattle, Washington is like a secret that no one should keep anymore. When I first heard them I thought, “Why hasn’t someone told me about this band before?” It almost felt morally wrong that I had never heard anyone talk about these guys before. Hey! If there is a good band, I want to know about it! Don’t leave me in the dark! How dare you! Let’s make a deal. Any time you find out about a good band, let me know. I’ll do the same for you. And if the timing is right and you are in the mood to do something spontaneous, let’s go hear a good band together. Okay? Good!

DON’T LOSE THAT NUMBER

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(Originally posted on the website Continuum…)

BACK IN TIME again. This nostalgic piece is being written while under the influence of Steely Dan. Who would have thought? When I was in high school it just was not cool to listen to Steely Dan! How could that boring stuff compare to something as deep and musically intricate as the amazingly broad spectrum of three chord symphonies produced by the likes of AC/DC? How could that lame music measure up to the culturally enhancing and magnanimous-thought evoking quality of the wholesome Alice Cooper? Tell me. How could Steely Dan ever hold a candle to the altruistic, not-for-profit, purely for the love of art, labor of love of the face-painted Kings In Selfless Service, KISS? My how perspectives change with a little time and experience! The rich keyboards, clean drums, smooth background vocals, quality lyrics, horns, percussion, worthy guitar work, I’ll take Steely Dan! Now they take me to times past through “Rikki Don’t Lose that Number.”

I am always impressed at the way in which a song, a sound, a smell or any one of innumerable stimuli has the ability to carry one back in time without warning. You might be in the midst of complicated work, or driving to the store, or watching a parade or eating a meal, when suddenly something causes you to remember days of long ago. A long closed and forgotten door in your subconscious is opened and you find yourself in fields of yesteryear.

How did “Rikki Don’t Lose that Number” place me in the backseat of my grandparent’s car in New Egypt, New Jersey on our way home from the Jersey Shore? Was it a hit song on the radio on one of those summer trips back in the early 1970s? Was it one of the many popular tunes that Sister C, Cousin B and I used to sing along with while we jumped on the bed in Pop and Gram’s spare bedroom? That room had a mirror on the wall and we would jump and sing and collapse in heaps of laughter upon the mattress. I remember that “Black Water” by the Doobie Brothers was one of our favorites. (“I’d like to hear some funky Dixie Land, pretty mama come and take me by the hand…”) But “Rikki?” I don’t remember that being one of our favorites. Oh, but I don’t want to “lose that number!” I don’t want to lose that connection with the past and those good memories! I’ll “send it off in a letter to myself” and to whoever wishes to read it. Maybe it will bring smiles from the past to someone’s face that has long forgotten how smile.

New Egypt, New Jersey is not a major town. I don’t remember any town at all actually. I remember flat Central Jersey farm fields. I remember the small racetrack there. Was it only for go-carts or was it for stock cars? I don’t remember. Pop would always travel the county roads through the New Jersey pines when we went to the shore. New Egypt is somewhere on one of those routes. Maybe it was the oddness to a child’s mind of a place called “Egypt” in New Jersey. Are there pyramids here too? Maybe just small ones brought over by the early Egyptian settlers who arrived in New Jersey around the time of the Dutch? Do the mummies come out at night and eat people in New Egypt? We never hung around long enough to find out. We were only passing through on our way to Sea Isle City, Cape May, Avalon, Atlantic City or Brigantine.

DO YOU KNOW the excitement of a North Jersey kid when he sees sand along the road on his trip to the shore? It’s comparable to seeing the first snow flurries of the winter, the first robin of spring, the first neighborhood house decorated with Christmas lights on the day after Thanksgiving. Somewhere around New Egypt we became alive again, mummies or no mummies. The lethargy was gone. Our nearly bursting bladders were forgotten. The air was fresh with salt and excitement. The sand was on the ground! The beach was just beyond the next incline in the road! Do I see the waves already? Or is that only the heat rising from the road?

There was another sign that we were almost to the shore. Along one of those county roads through the pines there was an ice cream stand. How we would look forward to arriving there! Pop was famous for near mental breaking long trips without many stops. Oh, but he loved ice cream and we could count on his stopping at this stand! By the time we would get there we would be ready for 10 feet tall ice cream cones! It was all very psychological. If we could just keep our sanity until we made it to that ice cream joint, we knew we would be refreshed and able to keep our minds for the rest of the journey. The excitement and sugar would carry us the rest of the way! What a second wind!

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AT THE SHORE we would stay in campgrounds. Pop always had a trailer or a mobile home. When we were old enough, Cousin P and I had the honors of helping Pop hook up the water and sewer hoses when we got to the grounds. Other than that, our time was filled with fun. We would bring our bikes and ride the dirt lanes through the grounds and pretend we were one of several favorite stock car racers. We would spend our change on candy at the campground store. We would go to the game room and play air hockey while The Guess Who sang “American Woman” on the jukebox. Every evening we would take refuge in the trailer while the truck passed through and sprayed for mosquitoes. I’m sure they killed a lot of those critters and some of our brane shells. I mean shane brells. I mean brain cells. If it rained, we would play card games such as “Pig,” “Go Fish” and the interminable “War.”

We spent a lot of time at the beach. In my mind I will always have a vision of my grandfather walking painlessly barefoot over scorching sand, like a pale, bald, Irish firewalker, while his children’s children hooted and hopped among the broken shells and discarded cigarette butts in his wake. Mahatma O’Ghandi, leading a band of initiates yet to be trained in the art of endurance. Oh, the mercy of the ocean! Praise to the gods of water and relief!

In the evenings, the boardwalk was the attraction. We laid down our quarters. The wheels spun. The prizes were won now and then. We bought kites, saltwater taffy, t-shirts, key chains, polished seashells, magnets and more. We ate funnel cake, freshly roasted peanuts, candy apples, cotton candy.

In Atlantic City, we watched the horse dive at the Steel Pier. We had our pictures taken with Phyllis Diller and the Pope at the wax museum. We never failed to get a kick out of the Planter’s Peanut man at their store on the boardwalk. Gram purchased specially designed shoes in Atlantic City. Was the store called Sheldon’s?

At Cape May, we searched for Cape May “Diamonds” on the beach. We marveled at the half-sunken concrete ship. We watched Pop go crabbing and fishing in the bay. We gave up and finally bought the “diamonds” at one of the many sea shell shops.

At Brigantine, we stayed with the nuns, friends of Aunt E. There, Cousin P was the only one brave enough to see the movie “Jaws” in the theatre. How does one muster enough courage to watch a movie about a killer shark at night and then swim in the ocean the very next day? At Brigantine, I got one of the worst sunburns of my life. Somehow, I was severely burned on my hips. It hurt to wear my jeans at night. One night there were toads everywhere outside. Of course, we enjoyed catching them. Well, I only semi-enjoyed it. Bending over hurt too much due to the sunburn! I distinctly remember Cousin P telling me that I looked like an absolute idiot trying to catch toads by only squatting and not bending my waist.

One of the funniest things I ever saw happened at the shore. We spent the day on the beach and were ready to leave. We were tired and hungry standing outside of the car while Pop unlocked the doors. I remember that one of the girls had to pee. For crying out loud! You had a whole friggin’ ocean just yards away but you want to hold it until we find a bathroom??? Then it happened! Right down the back of someone’s neck! Sea gull poop! I was looking right at her, one of my cousins, when humor struck! She was standing next to a telephone pole and… “Bombs away!” Have you ever seen the way a young girl dances when she has gull crap on the back of her neck? I was delighted! When she yelled, “It’s not funny!” it became even funnier! When I said, “Ewww! Look at the shells in it!” she nearly killed me! Thank you, “Rikki,” for reminding me of gull shit!

ON AND ON I could go with these memories! As I play the Steely Dan song again, I am thankful that I didn’t “lose this number.” Hey, “Rikki,” you know who you are while you’re reading this. “Don’t lose that number!” Call it up. Remember those times from your past when you were a little more carefree and optimistic. Think of gull shit on your cousin’s neck and smile! “Send it off in a letter to yourself” and pass it on in order to inspire someone else. May the gull of paradise visit you all!

A GLASSFUL OF SUNSHINE

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(Originally posted on the website Continuum…)

INTERESTING day today. I went down to Flemington in the afternoon. I heard that the band Cairo was playing at a wine tasting event that was being held by Unionville Vineyards, Amwell Valley Vineyards and Poor Richard’s Winery. It was a beautiful afternoon. I found myself alone on a Saturday without any solid plans. So I thought I’d take a drive down to see the band.

JF has to work this weekend. It was a rather sudden change in her schedule. I don’t like change! They say that the only thing that does not change in life is the fact that things change. Well, I’d like to change that! They say that change is good. But I’m not so sure that all change is good. Some change is just rather necessary or compulsory or mandatory, forced upon you by the will of another. But I digress here. It is not the end of the world that JF and I are not together this weekend. Schedules change. Remember? Change is good. But since we had been seeing each other nearly every Saturday and Sunday for quite a while, I’m at a little bit of a loss to know exactly what to do with myself right now.

So rather than sit in my stuffy little apartment and drive myself crazy by knowing that I should clean the place but lack the ambition to do so, I decided to get out of here. I came very close to giving into the temptation to go back to bed around 10 am. I could have rationalized that it’s been a while since I got to sleep late. I could have said, “Gee, Sam, you work so hard, you drive so much, you only sleep about five hours each night. Take it easy on yourself, buddy!” I could have given in to the increased gravitational pull from the mattress, the luring pulsation of the pillow, the death wrap of the blankets. If so, I would have wasted such a great day! I ran out of here with the mattress snarling and nipping at my heels. Whew! Saved the day!

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CAIRO is just great! Today was the first that I ever heard them live. Very great sound! They have a funky-bluesy-reggaey kind of sound. It was perfect for such a sunny day. Plus, they are really down to earth people. They are playing again tonight in New Hope, PA. I’m thinking about going down there. I got it in my blood now! I’ll worry about the messy house tomorrow… or maybe not!

There were quite a few people out to see Cairo, taste some wine and just enjoy the gorgeous weather. I felt like a mole that hadn’t broken through the surface of the earth in about fifteen years! It sure is a different vantage point on the world when you are basking in the sun listening to good music compared to when you are in your cell chained to a computer at work! It was good to be around people who were just having some fun and relaxing. It was good to see kids dancing, parents dancing, pretty girls dancing. Yeah! That’s right! I was sitting right there with the two prettiest girls! I even had my picture taken with them! No, I’m not going to show you! You will just get jealous! They’re MY girls! Ha!

YOU KNOW, watching this little boy dance in the grass today made me long to be free again. Why can’t I be so free in heart to get up and dance for the simple reason that I felt happy? Why do I always have to worry about image? Why do I allow myself to be stifled by cares and stresses? Why do I allow myself to remain crippled by past heartaches and failures? Why do I bury my true potential beneath the fear of what others might say? Why do I allow myself to feel mediocre and insignificant when I am the only ME that ever was or will be? Why can’t I shine as bright as the sun today? Man! I do not want to reach the end of my days with a big burden of regret on my back! God help me to dance!

Well, time to put this on the web, take a quick shower and go listen to some good music again!

LAND THAT I LOVE

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(Originally posted on the website Continuum…)

WHEN THINKING patriotic thoughts, I suppose it is very appropriate to be listening to Kansas. Here is a band that is famous for American style rock-n-roll. The band is named after a state that is located right in the heart of our great nation. Plus many of their songs deal with the greatness of America and our responsibility as Americans to preserve our heritage, our freedom, and the beauty of our land. Take these lyrics as an example:

“Can I tell you something
Got to tell you one thing
If you expect the freedom
That you say is yours
Prove that you deserve it
Help us to preserve it
Or being free will just be
Words and nothing more”
(“Can I Tell You”)

Are we still free? It is up to each one of us. To be free we must be brave. September 11 taught us this to some degree. We must bravely continue our lives and not allow terror to constrict the freedom in our hearts. We are Americans. We are brave. We must walk on with our heads held high and our hearts ever open. Our compassion and generosity are major factors in our freedom. We are known for these things. What other nation pursues humanitarian efforts to the extent that we do? What other nation sends out more missionaries, social aid workers, etc.? What other nation feels compelled to send its military into the world not to conquer new lands but to preserve peace? Sure, many may argue over the motives of our government and say that we are interfering where we shouldn’t for the sake of protecting our own financial interests and such. Certainly we must consider our financial interests. Our financial strength has been one of the biggest contributors to our freedom. Don’t bite the hand that frees you! Let us be brave, compassionate and free. Let us preserve our freedom and prove that we deserve it by our courage and caring.

How do we remain compassionate in the face of terrorism? Do our enemies mistake our generosity and compassion for weakness? Do they think that they can terrorize without retribution? Maybe they think that after so many various terror assaults against us without much in the way of significant response. It seems that it took something as awful as the destruction of the Twin Towers to finally wake us up. Now we cannot allow our enemies to mistake our compassion for weakness or tolerance. It seems to me that heIn the light of recently renewed warnings of terroristic activity in our country, especially so close to home in New York City, this is where my thinking is on the matter. We must remind ourselves of the qualities that make us truly American. We must first fight ourselves and our own apathy in order to be men and women of character and integrity. That is the toughest battle, which must be fought on a daily basis. Prevail in that struggle and we will truly be free. We will be able to walk with our heads held high. We will have courage to live and give from our hearts. We will not be intimidated by terrorists. Their inhuman acts will only serve to temper our characters and steel our resolve to be the best of the best in all the world.

Yes, I love this land. I believe that we have the greatest country that ever was. The freedoms and opportunities that we have are amazing! It is unfortunate that so many Americans do not see the opportunities. We need a new crusade. Someone wake the American populace! Bring out the history books. Tell us again of great leaders, courageous explorers and passionate dreamers! Raise the flags again! Sing the anthems! We are Americans! Remember, to whom much is given, much is required. Let us prove that we deserve our freedom. May our freedom always be in heart and in deeds and never merely in words. who is the most loving can also be the most angry when the interests of his heart are threatened. Here we must prove that we deserve our freedom. The same principle of love that causes us to give of ourselves in helping others is what should drive us to courageous defense of those that we love and unwavering and unmistakable justice toward those who would harm the ones we love. It is the same principle that causes a man to flame with jealousy when one mars the honor of the woman that he loves. Compassion and justice are two sides of the same coin. We must traffic in both aspects of such commerce in order to buy our freedom continually.

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In the light of recently renewed warnings of terroristic activity in our country, especially so close to home in New York City, this is where my thinking is on the matter. We must remind ourselves of the qualities that make us truly American. We must first fight ourselves and our own apathy in order to be men and women of character and integrity. That is the toughest battle, which must be fought on a daily basis. Prevail in that struggle and we will truly be free. We will be able to walk with our heads held high. We will have courage to live and give from our hearts. We will not be intimidated by terrorists. Their inhuman acts will only serve to temper our characters and steel our resolve to be the best of the best in all the world.

Yes, I love this land. I believe that we have the greatest country that ever was. The freedoms and opportunities that we have are amazing! It is unfortunate that so many Americans do not see the opportunities. We need a new crusade. Someone wake the American populace! Bring out the history books. Tell us again of great leaders, courageous explorers and passionate dreamers! Raise the flags again! Sing the anthems! We are Americans! Remember, to whom much is given, much is required. Let us prove that we deserve our freedom. May our freedom always be in heart and in deeds and never merely in words.

CORRESPONDING PICTURE GALLERY:

I BLAME CAROLE KING: THE EVIL INFLUENCES OF MY MOTHER’S MUSIC

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(Originally posted on the website Continuum…)

I’M LISTENING TO “Walking into Clarksdale” by Jimmy Page and Robert Plant. Man! Talk about a stinky CD! I got it a few years ago on Ebay. I guess I just had to listen to it today to remind myself how bad it is! What a disappointment compared to most of their early work in Zeppelin! There won’t be any writing inspiration from this music! I better put something else on!

Let’s see… Dire Straits? Eagles? ELO? (Hmm… “Evil Woman” I could write about X.1 or X.2.) The Goo Goo Dolls? The Guess Who? (Hmm again… “American Woman” Sounds like more ex-wife inspiration.) Don Henley? (“The End of the Innocence” That happened at birth.) Faith Hill? (Wait! Who put THAT in my CD collection?) Carole King? (Lots of childhood inspiration there thanks to Mom!) Led Zeppelin? (Nope. I got a bad Page and Plant vibe right now.) Lynyrd Skynyrd? (“Gimme Back my Bullets” Ah! More ex-wife inspiration!) John Mellencamp? (Someone once told me that I sound like a mix of Bob Seger and John Mellencamp when I sing. “Sammy Cougar Mellonhead.”) Nazareth? (Not again! “Love Hurts” More ex material!) Tom Petty? Pink Floyd?

Did you notice that they are all in alphabetical order? Yeah. It’s one of my idiosyncrasies, just like making sure all of my money is facing the same direction with the smaller bills in front.

OKAY. Here we go. It’s Carole King. Look what you’ve done to me, Mother! “Oooo, Darling! When you’re near me and you tenderly call my name…” What have I become? Oh, this is disgusting! I hope none of the guys at work find out that I listen to this mush! Yet I don’t seem to have the will to turn it off. And it’s taking me back…

I’m remembering the year that my parents divorced. I was nine. The signs that the end was near were pretty obvious even for a nine-year-old. The note on the table that read, “You can have the pool. I want such-and-such,” was a dead giveaway. When the news was broken to Sister C and I, I remember saying, “I know already.” We were in the dining room at Pop’s diner.

Was I angry about it? Did I have resentments? Did it cause some heartache and bring weirdness into my life? I’d be a liar if I answered no. Yet, through the years I realized that I would not have become the person that I am if I didn’t experience living through my parents’ divorce. I also have this gut feeling that I would have been a rather boring person, maybe a passionless average Joe. Just before the divorce I was interested in playing the saxophone. My God! That would have prevented my whole glorious drumming career! I could have turned out to be one of those kids in the band who have no coordination yet insist on “trying out” your drum set. How annoying! And they never stop once they start! A few of these types came SOOOO close to being harpooned through the throat by a drumstick! So, I didn’t spend much time thinking about what could have been if my parents stayed together. To me it felt more like this was the path that my life needed to follow. It’s just the way it was.

“You gotta get up every morning with a smile on your face and show the world that you’re beautiful as you feel.” Well, Carole, easy for you to sing about it! Not always the easiest thing in the world though! But I’m learning to do it more!

NOW, where was I? Oh yeah. Age nine.

Remember Pop’s red Ford Ranchero? For the rest of my fourth grade school year we lived with my grandparents and Mom drove us back and forth to school instead of changing schools mid year. (Thank you Mom!) It seemed like we were always on Asbury Road. I distinctly remember “Crocodile Rock” by Elton John playing on the radio one hot afternoon as we drove home.

Fourth grade was also the year of my first fist fight in school. Yeah, there’s a milestone for any boy! The fight broke out in the middle of class. I don’t even remember the other kid’s name now. It was stupid. I had other fights outside of school in those days. One friend and I got into fights every now and then. One time I broke something of his. He chased me all the way home. The front door was locked and Mom was inside vacuuming the living room. This kid was pounding on me and I was pounding on the door. But Mom wouldn’t open it! (I’ve been meaning to ask you about that, Mom!) I ended up getting pushed into the rose bushes. He got me good. That may have been our last fight before I moved away. I think he was one up on me. We’ll see who ends up in the bushes if I ever find that guy!

It was also the same year that I punched an eighth grader in the face. He was this big tall kid with flaming red hair. One time he chased me all over the neighborhood, pounding me on the top of the head the whole time. I couldn’t get away from him. Then one day I went to meet one of my friends, David Clark. At the spot where we were supposed to meet there was someone sitting on the other side of the road. I thought it was my friend and yelled, “Hey, Clarkbar!” To my horror, the person on the other side unfolded and stood up. Strutting his way across the street was the giant carrot head! “What did you call me??” “Nothing!” POW!! Right in the left cheek! It worked! It left him stunned just long enough for me to get a head start. I ran to the house of the aforementioned friend (the one who shoved me into the roses) and pounded on his front door. His mom opened the door and yanked me in just as the flaming giant was nipping at my heels! He left me alone after that.

There was another bully where I lived as a kid. His name was Gary Sinko. Sinko doesn’t sound like much of a bully’s name. But we were all afraid of him. I don’t know exactly why. He wasn’t very big. It was all in his attitude I guess. He used to pick on me and beat on me. One day I was crossing through some yards. Suddenly, Gary was standing right in front of me. “Where do you think you are going?” “Nowhere!” POW!! Right in the stomach! Again, it bought me enough of a head start to get away. I never punched a kid in the stomach before. I remember thinking of how soft it felt. He never bothered me again either.

Bullies are everywhere though! Even after we moved to Gram’s I had to deal with a few. One of them was Victor Motyka. Even in fifth grade he had long hair. It was pure blonde. And he was smoking pot back then. He was a bad dude with a big bully attitude. Everyone in school was afraid of him. He was a little crazy. It was dislike at first sight for he and I. He’d push me around and what not. Until one day, the day he made a big mistake. Returning my tray in the cafeteria during lunch one day I bumped into Victor. He decided to show off in front of everyone. Whenever Victor was around, people watched him to see if he’d do anything crazy. So, he started pushing me and calling me “four eyes.” (Yeah, I wore glasses as a kid.) Then he knocked my glasses off onto the floor. POW!! I punched him right in the face! No running this time. I stood there and waited. I guess I put him in his place because he didn’t fight back and he never bothered me again. If you don’t put a bully in his place he will always feed on your fear and never leave you alone.

WOW! Look at what this Carole King music is doing to me! People talk about rock-n-roll causing people to do violent things. I don’t know. I think this mellow junk is more dangerous! Maybe there are subliminal messages recorded backwards on this CD. “I feel the earth move under my feet.” Yeah! It’s from the bodies of the wounded falling down! “You just call on my name, and you know wherever I am I’ll coming running to see you.” No thanks, Carole! You’ll just come running to knock me into the rose bushes! I need to listen to something wholesome instead of all this easy listening angst! Something like Nirvana maybe…

Now, with the proper musical background, let’s go back to fourth grade and talk about…

sampuke

PUKING!

I only ever threw up once in school. I told Mom that I felt sick in the morning. She wouldn’t believe me and felt that I was just faking it. As a kid you are guilty until proven innocent. So off to school I went. I made it to lunchtime. I managed to force down some fruit cocktail. But it didn’t stay down for long. After lunch our class was in the library working on book reports. I delayed the puking for as long as possible. That’s the way I am. I can’t handle it. I lay there for hours when I have the flu and dread the idea of puking until it comes out with such violence that it nearly rips my head off. Afterwards I always tell myself that the next time I will puke ASAP because you always feel so much better as soon as you do. But I never do that! So, here I was in the library, choking it down until I couldn’t hold it much longer. The teacher was surrounded by students who were waiting their turn to ask questions. So I in my timidity stood there green-faced until it was finally my turn. I said, “I… think… I’m… gonna… pu…” He pointed and yelled, “Run to the bathroom! Run!” One step. Two steps. Three steps. BLAHHHHHH! Right there on the library carpeting! It was embarrassing but I didn’t feel well enough to care. A few more steps. BLAHHHHHH! BLAHHHHH! Ten minutes later Mom was picking me up in the nurse’s office. “I told you I was sick.”

NOW, the most embarrassing incident in my entire school career happened in second grade. During the whole ten years of school that followed, nothing topped this. No, not the time that I fell in a huge puddle during gym class. No, not the time that I farted by accident in seventh grade geometry class. No, not the time that I got caught burning papers during study hall in the auditorium. This just may be the most embarrassing incident in my whole life. It happened when I had to read a report in front of the class. I did my report on bats, the flying kind. I sat there in utter nervousness as student after student got in front of the class to read. I was so scared! So much so that I did not even have the courage to ask to use the bathroom before it was my turn. (You know what’s coming. Don’t you?) So I got up to read. I was pale white and shaking. All eyes were on me. It was my turn in the spotlight. I can still see all of those kids with looks of anticipation on their faces, waiting for me to start. “My report is on bats. Bats are the only flying mammals…” PSSSSsssss…

Yes! I pissed my pants in front of the whole class in second grade! There! Now the whole world knows! For all of these years the laughter of those kids has echoed in my mind night after night! I can still smell the fear and urine spreading on the cheap indoor/outdoor carpeting! I still curse the flying mammals!

sampee

But God bless my second grade teacher, Mrs. Yates! She quickly ushered me out of the room with her arm around me. “Oh, Sammy! Why didn’t you tell me you had to go? I would have let you. Go down to the nurse.” I walked into the nurse’s office with my pants soaked and reeking. “What happened to you??” “Uh… I got sick?”

SO MUCH for the past. Here’s something interesting. I just joined the Toastmasters club where I work. Let’s hope that my first speech there goes a little better than my speech in second grade! I hope they don’t ask me to speak on the topic of the most embarrassing experience of my life. I’ll be pissed!