“Gypsy, Sittin’ Lookin’ Pretty”

“The broken rose with laughin’ eyes.” – Def Leppard

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There are those times in your life.  Those fleeting moments that you want to hold onto forever.  You concentrate, you beg, you pray – don’t let me forget this moment.  It might be a stunningly beautiful view from a mountaintop 14,000 feet high in Colorado.  It could be the setting sun beyond the ocean horizon of your dream beach wedding.  It might be your son laughing with childish abandon chasing bubbles around the front yard of your first house.  It might even be your 17 year old daughter swaying to the sounds of an 80’s rock icon at a sold out arena concert in downtown Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Oh for just a few more seconds to savor!  Just a few more glimpses of a time that will only live on in memory.  Some people call it living in the moment or being in the present.  It’ when your awareness and understanding and appreciation come together simultaneously and your heart swells.  I like to think of those moments as a mix between awesomeness with a slight dash of heartbreak.

“You’re a mystery, always runnin’ wild.  Like a child without a home.”

I think there’s always a little bit of heartbreak to those moments, because they are fleeting and I know that moment is destined to become a fading memory soon enough.  But most of all though, I’m thankful for those moments and for the memories to come.  I’m appreciative, but still a little sad at the same time.

I surprised my 17 year old daughter with a Monday daddy-daughter date night.  I told her to be ready about 2:30 and that I would be home and we were going somewhere.  We got in the car at about 3 and as we headed out of town, I cranked up Def Leppard’s iconic “Pour Some Sugar on Me” from the speakers of the car.  I told her we were headed to see these guys in Tulsa (about a 90 minute drive) along with Journey at the BOK Center.  We were also headed for dinner at our favorite restaurant.  She was pumped as we listened to my newly created Spotify playlist cleverly titled “Def Leppard – Journey” along the way.

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Just finishing off our pre-concert meal at our favorite restaurant in downtown Tulsa – Ti Amo

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My wife and I have raised her on all kinds of music.  We have listened to everything from Christian artists to rap to country to pop to classical throughout her life, but she loves her some 80’s rock music, and Def Leppard is one of her favorites.  When your five year old, strapped into her car seat, is singing “Fa, fa, fa, foolin’!” from the backseat then I think you’re winning at parenting.  It may just be a small win, but a win is a win!

Parenting is exhausting.  The challenges are different from day to day, year to year.  It can be draining and unrewarding and agonizingly frustrating at times, but there are those moments that make all the tough times worth it.  The heart softens and the realization of what’s really important in this life surface once again.  Love.  Health.  It’s in those moments that life is truly awe-inspiring and beautiful.  And I was lucky enough to get another one of those moments on Monday night in section 108 standing next to one sweet 17 year old who was swaying to the music.

“You’re bringin’ on the heartbreak.  Bringin’ on the heartache”

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In the land of under-appreciated Def Leppard tunes, I have to put this one in the mix.  There’s nothing quite like a concert to make you appreciate some songs you haven’t heard in a while.  I never thought too much of this minor DL hit, but man has it come to the forefront of my psyche the past 72 hours since the concert.

I know the ballad is really about a girl (aren’t they all?) who won’t let the singer into her heart, but when this was released originally in 1981 (mixed and re-released again in 1984) I doubt the band had little idea of the heartbreak in store for them.  Drummer Rick Allen would lose an arm in a single car high speed automobile accident in 1985, and original lead guitarist and songwriter Steve Clark would lose his life to alcohol poisoning in 1991.  Heartbreak and heartache seem to be ingredients for most rock bands.

There are two parts I really like in this song.  One is when the guitar takes off at about the 1:07 mark where the song kicks into a different gear. The other is Joe Elliott’s multiple “No(s)!” just after the three minute mark to break up the brief silence in the song.

Only getting as high as #61 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1984, here is the under-appreciated “Bringin’ on the Heartbreak”…

Thanks for reading and may you find one of those moments today – a moment that is awesomely beautiful with just a tinge of heartbreak to it.

sincerely,

the 80’s

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“Some Days Won’t End Ever and Some Days Pass on By”

“I’ll be working here forever, at least until I die.” – Huey Lewis and The News

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I loved that “Bowzer “from Sha Na Na was part of the group.

I’ve been reading a book this week that a friend of mine wrote a few years back.  The book is a collection of stories from his time of coaching a girl’s softball team, and one of the statements that really made an impression on me recently was the phrase “embrace the grind.”

We hear statements or variations of it all the time:  “The struggle is real.”  “I work.  I hustle.  I grind.”  “Embrace the suck.”  “Struggle, hustle, grind, shine.”

One of the definitions of grinding something though is to sharpen it.  As iron sharpens iron anyone?  All the grinding can be worth it.  Embrace the grind.  To “embrace” something is to accept something willingly and enthusiastically.  But don’t you just hate those people sometimes?  It sure is easy to roll the eyes at those type of people, or let out a heavy sigh at a mundane task that we’ve done a thousand times.  Embracing is hard when it’s something we don’t want.

“Hey I’m not complainin’ ’cause I really need the work.  Hittin’ up my buddy’s got me feelin’ like a jerk.”

Growing up in the 80’s, my jobs consisted of odd jobs that are still teenager-related to this day.  I had the occasional babysitting gig through the year.  I worked a girls’ basketball camp or two before my senior year of high school.  But mostly, I mowed lawns with my best friend Barry during the summer.  I worked on my tan as sounds of Van Halen and Guns n’ Roses and LL Cool J reverberated into the depths of my brain while mowing and edging lawns for neighbors and around town.

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I mowed those many lawns with one of these things hanging from my belt loop or strapped over my shoulder.

There’s not much to “the grind” when you’re young.  Everything is new.  You’re making money for the first time and spending it on frivolous things.  I was living under my parent’s roof, so there wasn’t a “struggle” to make rent or pay the electric or gas bills.  Maybe there was a car payment or an occasional date involved somewhere during those days, but for the most part it was just spending money for more cassettes!

“Hundred dollar car note, two hundred rent.  I get a check on Friday, but it’s all ready spent.”

My 17-year-old daughter got her first real job a little over a week ago working as a cashier at a local grocery store, so she is just beginning to learn about “the grind” and workin’ for a livin’.  She’ll be asking about taxes and everyone’s favorite friend, “FICA” soon enough, but for now she’s excited.  She came home with her very first check yesterday and it was for $141.  When you’re 17, $141 mine as well be a thousand dollars.

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Work that checkout lane, girl!

But she’s on her way.  She’s learning about responsibility and being a team player.  She’s learning about accountability and sacrifice, and she’s also learning about the importance of comfortable shoes when you’re standing the majority of the day for your job.

I want her to be excited about this job.  I want her to be proud of her monetary accomplishment, and I want her to be a good employee.  Her excitement makes me think about various jobs I’ve had through the years and that feeling of excitement and anticipation that came with that new job and new co-workers.

I hope it never does, but the day may come soon enough where she will wake up and feel like it’s the same day as yesterday and work won’t be as exciting.  There will be no newness to it.  It might even be hard and unpleasant and unrewarding.  Even if it becomes a grind, I hope she learns to embrace it, because she’ll be better and she’ll be sharper for it.  If we learn to embrace the grind, we will all be better for it.

“I’m takin’ what they’re givin’ ’cause I’m workin’ for a livin'”
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Anytime you can get a harmonica solo into a hit song there has to be another level of appreciation for something like that!  I, for one, have always appreciated Huey Lewis and The News.  Sure they have a few songs that make me want to scratch my ear drums for relief (“Hip to Be Square” anyone?), but for the most part Huey Lewis and his band provided some of the best sounds of the 80’s.

They formed in San Francisco in 1979 and broke into mainstream success with one of my favorites – 1982’s “Do You Believe in Love?”  And though today’s song and video is not particularly in my top five of favorite Huey songs, nor a big hit for the group, this track, also from 1982, is an ode to the working man or woman.  It’s an ode to all of you out there grindin’ every day and earning an honest dollar.  It’s now a soundtrack song for my  80’s-music-lovin’ daughter as well.

Only reaching #41 on the Billboard Hot 100 back then, here is “Workin’ for a Livin'”

A shout out to Huey Lewis and continued prayers and good thoughts for his battle and ultimate recovery from Meniere’s disease which has caused him to cancel all of his 2018 shows.

Also, I’m just teasing with that “Bowzer,” from Sha Na Na comment.  I know it’s you Mario Cipollina

Thanks for reading all of you that continue workin’ for a livin’, and remember to embrace the grind today.

sincerely,

the 80’s

 

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“Hot Summer Streets and the Pavements Are Burning…”

“I sit around.” – Bananarama

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In the summer of 1984, America took a stunning crane kick to the face when a karate movie featuring a young Ralph Macchio and an aging Pat Morita debuted and proceeded to win the hearts of Americans everywhere.

The underdog story features an unlikely friendship between a Jersey kid relocating with his mom to Recedo, CA, named Daniel LaRusso (Macchio) and the maintenance man (the late, great Pat Morita) at the apartment complex he and his mom move into.  Throw in a gang of karate bullies, their ex U.S. Army Special Forces Green Beret sensei, a few cool songs like this one today, some iconic sayings (“Wax on. Wax off.” “Paint the fence.” “Sweep the leg.” etc.), and you had the makings of a classic movie.  And that’s just what it became – classic.

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Macchio and Morita formed a powerful duo in the 80’s

Around that same time I owned a “how-to” book on Judo.  Judo was very popular for some reason back in the 60’s, and I’m pretty sure that’s when the book was written.  I’m not even sure how I came to possess such a book, but I thought I could read the book, look at the pictures, and teach myself Judo all from the comfort of my own bedroom!  Sure, it wasn’t karate, but it was still a lot of kicking and punching, and I was going to be a total badass!

Well, amongst minor details like my overall lack of desire and dedication, I also didn’t have a partner to practice on nor anyone to tell me if I was doing everything correctly.  Eventually (like two days later), I just gave up on learning judo, but told myself I would learn some sort of martial arts at a later date.  I never did, but I always imagined that one day I would be the skinny underdog who was picked on but eventually became a karate champion by defeating those same bullies along the way in a tournament in front of thousands.  Oh, and I would win the heart of the prettiest girl in school just like Daniel LaRusso of course!

“The city is crowded, my friends are away, and I’m on my own”

Fast forward to the spring of 2018 and as I was browsing through an issue of “Sports Illustrated,” and I saw an advertisement for a new Youtube series called “Cobra Kai.”  Realizing that this new series stars the original characters from “The Karate Kid” in Macchio and his enemy, Johnny Lawrence (outstandingly played by William Zabka), I watched all ten 30 minute episodes over the course of about three days and loved it.  I loved it so much I told my wife and daughter that they needed to watch it, and so I watched it a second time with them.

The story picks up some 30+ years after the All Valley Championships and catches us up on what has transpired, and what is going on in the lives of Daniel and Johnny.  Lawrence, down on his luck, reopens the defunct Cobra Kai dojo reigniting a rivalry with the already successful Daniel LaRusso.  Throw in some flashbacks to the original movie, introduce a whole new crop of young talented characters, provide some brilliant writing by Josh Heald, Jon Hurwitz, and Hayden Schlossberg, and you have something special.

It’s definitely PG-13 for all the language and high school humor, but if you are a fan of “The Karate Kid” or just a fan of well-written, action packed comedy dramas then you should give this series a shot.

“It’s too close for comfort, this heat has got right out of hand”

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The movie and subsequent MTV video helped introduce us to three quirky young women that summer called Bananarama.  With their smoky eyes, messy, low-hanging bangs, and British accents, my 13 year-old self was immediately seduced by this London trio.  I was transfixed to my MTV anytime this video appeared.  “Cruel Summer” helped propel Bananarama to top 10 status for the first time ever in the U.S., and the song also reached #8 in their native UK.

I found it interesting in an interview by original member Siobahn Fahey that the group was first introduced to cocaine during this video shoot by some local dock workers.  Fahey was quoted as saying “That was our lunch.  When you watch that video, we look really tired and miserable in the scenes we shot before lunch, and then the after-lunch shots are all euphoric and manic.” 

That alone made me watch it again just to see if I could tell.  Not sure that I really could, but maybe you can when you watch.  Nonetheless, this song is actually a rather dark song about being alone under an oppressive heat watching the summer slip by.  But with it’s upbeat tempo and catchy chorus, it still has to be a staple on any summer playlist.

One of my all-time favorite 80’s songs – it’s “Cruel Summer” by Bananarama…

 

As a bonus, here is the song featured in “The Karate Kid”…

Thanks for reading, and just remember:  Strike first.  Strike hard.  No mercy.

sincerely,

the 80’s

kkcobrakai

 

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“Have You Ever Been Stabbed in the Back…”

“By someone you thought was really cool?” –  Jody Watley

I hope none of you will be getting stabbed in the back metaphorically, or physically for that matter.

I remember how every May brought the anticipation of the end of another school year, and the beginning of summer.  I have a daughter who is a junior in high school now, and I was curious about one timeless end of school year tradition the other day.  On my way to drop her off at school, I asked her if they still sell yearbooks at school.  She said yes.  I followed up by asking if kids still sign them for each other, and she replied affirmatively even saying that they have a “yearbook party” at the end of the school year.  Apparently all of the students eligible to attend the party (my daughter thought you had to have at least a 2.0 GPA to attend) gather in the gym one afternoon during the last week of school and sign yearbooks for each other.

I remember how exciting, yet scary it could be when it came to yearbook signing.  Do I dare ask that person?  Will they ask me so I don’t have to ask them first?  It was intimidating for an introvert like myself to go ask one of “the cool kids” or one of “the pretty girls” to sign my yearbook.  And then if they did sign my yearbook, what would they say?  If I had to sign theirs, what would I say?  “You’re cool.  Have a great summer.  Glad we had class together.  See you next year.  Hope we have classes together next year.”  Lame.  Lame. Lame!  Oh the pressure of the yearbook signing!  I’m sure I would be horrified by some of the things I wrote 30-35 years ago.  I have no clue what I wrote to other people, but I know one year I signed many of them “Your friend and mine, Kyle Kerwin.”  Insert slapping my forehead emoji right here.

Surely yearbook signing anxiety is a thing, right?  Can one see a therapist for this?  I just remember that you had to be either witty, or sincere and nice (without sounding creepy).  The really good signers could do both.  Signing a yearbook that can still make that person smile all these years later is a resume’ worthy skill in my opinion!

“Smiles they hide behind.  Never know what’s on their mind.”

I read through many of my friends’ messages in my old yearbooks the other day.  I made it easy for a lot of people because they knew me as a good basketball player so they could always write how awesome I was at basketball or encourage me to “keep up the hard work!”  “I know I’ll see you in the pros ones day!”  Lol.  There were funny ones and nice ones, and messages from people I don’t even remember now.  What do kids today sign?  ‘Your Facebook profile picture is awesome.’  No.  Kids aren’t even on Facebook.  How about ‘Your Instagram photos are on point!’ or ‘Your Twitter feed is lit!’  Maybe it’s ‘I’ll check you out on Snapchat,’ or ‘Text me this summer (heart emoji, smiley emoji, peace emoji)!’

Whatever it is these days I still love that I have these little thoughts frozen in time on paper from the people I grew up with.

Some of my “friends” from 8th and 9th grade in 1985 and 1986…

Some of my high school friends from 1988 & 1989…

“Friends are hard to find.  Friends, yours and mine
I’m talkin’ ’bout your friends”

By the time today’s featured song and video was released in April of 1989 I was about a month away from graduating high school with my friends.  Also during this time, Chicago-born Jody Watley was killing it.  She was the god-daughter of the late, great Jackie Wilson, and got her start in the entertainment business as a dancer on the TV show “Soul Train.” 

She was an original member of the band Shalamar from 1977-1983 before embarking on her successful solo career that saw her garner a Grammy in 1988 for Best New Artist.  This song would be the seventh of eight straight singles to appear in the top 10 of either the Billboard Hot 100, the U.S. R&B charts, and/or the U.S. Dance charts between 1987-1989.

During this time in the late 80’s, it was also becoming common for R&B singers to include rappers in the extended versions of their songs.  Many times the rap parts would be edited out for Top 40 radio and you would never know they existed.  Who was cooler back in the 80’s rap game moreso than the duo of Eric B & Rakim.  There’s no question mark because that’s a rhetorical question.  The answer is nobody!  The fact that the “Paid in Full” duo lent their talents to a Jody Watley jam upped her street cred in my books, and not the other way around.  This song peaked at #9 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1989.

Here is the extended remix featuring the musical rap stylings of MC Rakim and his DJ, Eric B, who happened to be back on tour this spring for the first time in 25 years.

I wish Eric B. & Rakim and Jody Watley were my “Friends,” because I’d let them sign my yearbook, and then I’d retroactively be the coolest NHS Tiger class of 1989.

Thanks for reading.

sincerely,

the 80’s

NHS Grad

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“People Always Told Me, Be Careful of What You Do”

“Don’t go around breaking young girls’ hearts.” – Michael Jackson

I’m not sure what actually led me down the Michael Jackson YouTube rabbit hole at 11pm last night.  It might have been the fact that I recently purchased tickets for to see his sister Janet at the Amp in NW Arkansas in July.  Or maybe it was because I stumbled across a video of Michael and Britney Spears performing together in 2001 (video at the end of the post).  I had no recollection of their duet to Michael’s song “The Way You Make Me Feel.”  Michael crushes his 1987 hit while Britney does a good job strutting across stage I guess.

Whatever the reason, I watched about 30 minutes of any live Michael Jackson videos that popped up on my screen.  As a performer, he was unmatched.  He was a talent that comes around once in a generation.  My dad commented recently that as people get older and pass on, many times it’s those people who really understood the greatness of their era in terms of witnessing talent in the entertainment world (sports, movies, music, etc.).  I think it’s especially true in the older eras where video was very limited (think 1950’s and 60’s especially).

Next June it will have been 10 years since Jackson passed away.  But back in the winter of 1982, I was just 11 when Michael Jackson (then 24 years old) was beginning his ascension to the title as the undisputed “King of Pop.”  His album “Thriller” was released at the end of November in 1982 and it wasn’t long before I owned the cassette.  I received it as a Christmas present at my grandma’s house in Tulsa that year, and it wasn’t long before I began my quest to be the best damn Michael Jackson impersonator in the family!

“Billie Jean” was the second single released in January of 1983 and in May 1983 I was barely 12 when he performed the song “live” on a tribute to 25 years of Motown.  He appeared on stage with his signature white glove, his hat, and his black pants purposely tailored too short to show off his white socks.  And, oh the shiny sequins!  They were all over Michael, and somehow it looked very normal.

Well, it didn’t take me long to have my own white glove and hat and a black jacket.  I would wear my penny loafers and roll up my black slacks to display my white socks, but I didn’t have any sequins, which is probably a good thing for me at that time.  I would wet my dark curly hair just to see if I could get any of the curls to drop down the front of my face, and I would cue up Billie Jean on whatever cassette player was available.

“‘Cause we danced on the floor in the round”

It was during that live “Motown 25:  Yesterday, Today, Forever” performance that Michael performed a dance move called the moonwalk.  Variations of the move had existed for many years, but the performance became a pop cultural event, and that move would become one his signature moves for live performances of the song.

When he did the moonwalk (he did it twice during the song) I stared in disbelief.  What just happened!?  He looks like he’s walking forward, but he’s moving backwards!  Impossible!  My twelve year old head almost exploded and I, along with every other MJ fan in the world, had to learn to moonwalk!  I actually saw the “how-to” on a book or a magazine somewhere not too long after that and practiced it until I could do it.  I was a very average moonwalker, but an average moonwalker still made me the best moonwalker in the family!

If you’ve never seen or haven’t seen that historic performance in quite some time, here it is in all of its’ lip-syncing glory.  No one even cared that MJ didn’t sing it live.  There was just something magical about his presence and the way he moved.  The moonwalks are brief and they happen at the 3:39 and 4:34 marks if you don’t want to watch the whole song.  You can hear some of the girls scream when he does the first one as I’m sure they didn’t know exactly what he was doing either, but they knew it was extraordinary.  And it was.  It was Michael.

 

“People always told me be careful of what you do, and don’t go around breaking young girls’ hearts”

Oh how I was going to break the young girls’ hearts!  So with a very average moonwalk in my MJ repertoire, this skinny white boy was ready to perform!  I could spin.  I could land on my toes, and I could kick my leg out like Michael.  I could thrust my pelvis to the beat at the beginning of the song.  I had the wardrobe less the sequins.  Mind you the performance was probably very average or below average, but in my mind I was practically Michael’s dancing twin!  All I needed was an audience, and my younger cousins and sister became the first to see my almost identical Michael Jackson moves.

I performed the act a handful of times in front of them and whatever other family members I could drag into the performing area.  Those members typically consisted of my parents, my grandma, and whatever uncles and aunts were around at the time.  They oohed and ahhed and clapped and whistled and encouraged every spin move and every moonwalk.

As far as I know, there are no videos or pictures of my Michael Jackson recreation which I performed on numerous occasions throughout 1983.  That is both good and a little disappointing at the same time.  Maybe somewhere in some family member’s photo album exists a picture of me in all of my MJ glory, but until that photo surfaces the memory will just have to exist in my head, and now in yours too.

She told me her name was Billie Jean, as she caused a scene
Then every head turned with eyes that dreamed of being the one

“Billie Jean” has always been my favorite MJ song.   The song was a huge hit in 1983 hitting #1 not only in the U.S., but in many countries around the world.  It stayed atop the top spot on U.S. Billboard Hot 100 for seven weeks.  The video for “Billie Jean” became the first video by a black artist to be shown in heavy rotation on MTV.  At the time, MTV was barely two years old, and considered more of a channel for rock music.  Jackson and “Billie Jean” broke that mold and expanded MTV’s reach.

One of my favorite songs and a very cool video even to this day, it’s “Billie Jean.”

I hope your steps light up someday when you’re walking down the street.  May you never forget the greatness that was Michael Jackson, and should our paths cross, I will always accept your moonwalking challenge.

Thanks for reading

sincerely,

the 80’s

P.S.  As a bonus, here is the Michael – Britney performance from 2001

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“What Started Out As Friendship Has Grown Stronger”

“I only wish I had the strength to let it show.” – REO Speedwagon

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In January of 1985 I was an awkward 8th grader hitting puberty and starting my second semester at Whittier Middle School in Norman, Oklahoma.  That same month, one of the mushiest, lyrically corny love songs of the 1980’s was released.  It was a huge hit… and I loved it.  REO Speedwagon’s “Can’t Fight This Feeling” brought us lyrics about candles in windows, and ships, and crawling around on the floor and crashing through the door.

I disliked a lot of slow 80’s love songs, but this one was somehow different.  By this time the 8th grade Whittier Warrior basketball season was in full swing.  My skinny legs, arms and bushy hair were in full glory in my #10 bright blue Warriors uniform.  We had a full slate of games inside our recreational gym that winter and also traveled to play competition in and around the area including our biggest rivals in Norman – fellow middle school rivals Longfellow (they were terrible) and Irving (they were good).

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All arms, legs, and braces in 1985.  Pretty sure the trophy was the result of a 3rd place finish at a holiday tournament in Moore.

“You’re a candle in the window.  On a cold, dark winter’s night.
And I’m getting closer than I ever thought I might.”

I also had my first real girlfriend during this time.  She had blond hair, blue eyes, and lived across Highway 9 about a mile from my parents’ house.  We held hands.  We hugged.  We walked with our arms around each other.  We flirted on the playground at recess between serious games of six-square.  I put my arm around her in the movie theater.  We even (gasp) kissed!  I still remember a make-out session in my backyard late one weekend night.  It was a sloppy, wet, I-don’t-know-what-the-heck-I’m-doing, totally awesome mess.

And so this particular song brings me back to the memories of 8th grade “love” every time.  I recall my best friend Barry and myself having a conversation about this song in 8th grade.  It was something to the effect of how the song spoke to both of us because we had these girlfriends, and we just couldn’t break up with them.  We were too cool to be attached, but every time Kevin Cronin belted out that it was time to “bring this ship into the shore, and throw away the oars, forever,”  we just had to agree with him.  We just couldn’t fight the feeling anymore, and I’m positive we weren’t the only ones in the midst of middle school passion who felt that way.     

“I tell myself that I can’t hold out forever.  I said there is no reason for my fear.”

We couldn’t see past tomorrow when we were 13.  We were living for the next moment to hold hands, to have a hug, to sneak a kiss.  Those 8th grade moments seemed like they would always be there.  This song, at its’ heart, is really about fear of change, a fear of commitment.  And to some extent, that is what our little pubescent 8th grade minds and bodies were struggling with at that time – change and fear.

“The wind blows and we are gone – as though we had never been here.” – Psalms 103:16 NLT

Thinking back to those days makes me realize how short life really is.  My 8th grade girlfriend didn’t last past 8th grade, but Barry’s did.  They actually ended up dating through high school, college, and marrying, but then sadly divorced shortly after.  Change and fear are constants through life no matter what your age.

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I love this team picture taken near the end of our season for so many reasons.  Our eighth grade faces etched forever in time.  We were so cool.  I still remember all of their names.  I can’t tell you what they’re all doing these days, but I still keep in contact with some of them.  I see a few of them every now and then when I go back to Norman.

One thing about 8th grade basketball, it didn’t matter if you were very good or even really loved basketball, because all were still welcome at this age.  Everyone made the team.  We had 21 players in this picture and I know we’re missing at least one person from this photo because one of our starters is not in it.

I didn’t want this post to just be about an 8th grade flame, but also as an ode to my teammates, my brothers on the Whittier Warriors basketball team of 1984-85, because we were all in this together.  We were all experiencing levels of change and fear during that time.  We battled together against a common opponent with a different name on their jersey, but we also fought with common, bigger opponents then like rejection and insecurity and anxiety.  Those opponents truly never go away I suppose.

By 9th grade, this group had dwindled to about six or seven of us.  And by the time we were all juniors in high school I was the last of this group still playing school basketball.  Others were playing soccer or baseball or football while others were out of sports completely and were just chasing girls and cars and music.  But for a brief time, a beautiful time, we were all teammates banded together by the blue and white of Whittier Warrior basketball.

(The grainy yearbook photo below paints a different set of players that actually totaled 27 players.  This photo was taken at the beginning of the season.)

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“And I can’t fight this feeling anymore.  I’ve forgotten what I started fighting for.”

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My actual 45 that I still own of the REO classic

This song spent three weeks at #1 in March of 1985 and is considered REO’s most successful single.  The group had achieved the top spot one other time before this with my personal REO favorite.  It was another soft rock power ballad back in 1981 called “Keep On Loving You.”

The band from Champaign, Illinois actually formed in 1967, but it wasn’t until the early and mid-80’s when the band had their most success behind lead singer Kevin Cronin and his awesome hair.  I’m fully convinced that my hair would have looked like Kevin’s if I had been in a band in the 80’s instead of playing basketball.

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The video is a trek through the changes in life beginning with a baby and ending with an old man.  What it may lack in continuity or comprehension it more than makes up for in awesome 80’s graphics!

Here is the Wagon with that #1 hit that pulled on my heartstrings and was the love song of choice for many of us back in 1985 – “Can’t Fight This Feeling”

Thanks for reading, and let me know if Kevin Cronin spoke to you like he did to me in 1985!

sincerely,

the 80’s

 

 

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“Shooting at the Walls of Heartache (Bang Bang)”

“I am the warrior” – Patty Smyth of Scandal

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The hair.  The makeup.  The look only Patty Smyth could pull off in 1984.

Another grown man nearly brought me to tears last night and even this morning as I reflected on his true story.  It’s one of those “feel-good” stories that we all need to soak in from time to time amidst the constant barrage of garbage we’re fueled with from media news outlets every day.

Andre Ingram made his debut in the NBA with the Los Angeles Lakers last night at the NBA ripe old age of 32.  Andre has been grinding in the minor league of basketball for ten years.  Ten years!  I hate to waiting longer than 10 minutes for my food at a restaurant, and this guy toiled on buses and stayed in cheap motels in outposts like Fort Wayne, Indiana, Erie, Pennsylvania, and Sioux City, Iowa.

The NBA’s developmental league formerly known as the “D League,” but currently called the “G League.”  The “G” is for Gatorade, the current sponsor, and the league is the home to many hooping hopefuls trying to work their way up to a spot in the NBA.  Very few succeed out of the approximately 10-11% that are ever called up to the NBA.  Most of the players in the G League are making less than $27,000 per year, which is a far cry from the average NBA salary of $6.2 million this season.  Hell, teachers in Oklahoma are making more money than G-leaguers and we all know by now they aren’t making near enough money.

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(Photo: Gary A. Vasquez, USA TODAY Sports)

Ten years.  How many of us would have given up on a sports dream if it meant toiling in the minor league system for that long?  Patience and perseverance and sacrifice is what I see when I look at the graying hair of Andre Ingram.  He’s the first to admit there were times when he was discouraged.  Times when he thought this day would never come.  Times when he thought about hanging it up.  Patience and perseverance.  And what kind of wife would support a husband playing a game for that long and all of the travel and nights away from the family?  A wife willing to sacrifice her happiness at times for the dream of her husband.  It’s beautiful really.  Were there fights and arguments at times?  Surely.  Were there tears and anger and disappointment along the road?  There had to be.  They would not be human otherwise.

Still, I got to sit and watch most of the game last night as Ingram not only played, but played well, pouring in 19 points in a Lakers’ loss to Houston.  He made his very first shot (a three-pointer no less), and even received chants of “M-V-P!  M-V-P!” at one point during the game.  It had to feel good to be him in that moment last night.  He’ll get at least one more game in a Laker uniform in their season finale’ tonight against the Clippers.  He may get some more games.  He may never get another into another game.  Either way, I felt good for him last night and for his family.  I was happy for the warrior within him who persevered and never gave up.  Kudos to you, Andre Ingram.

“Yes I am the warrior, and victory is mine”

Ironically enough my Bible reading this morning consisted of a true warrior and his name was David.  Almost everyone has read or heard the story of the handsome youngest son of Jesse who bravely stood up to the nine foot Philistine named Goliath.  David rejected the traditional battle gear and opted for his rod, his sling, and five smooth stones.  It took just one shot to the giant’s head to take him down and turn the momentum of the battle against the Philistines and in favor of the Israelites.

In Malcolm Gladwell’s book titled “David and Goliath:  Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants” Gladwell points out that the victory by David was not necessarily an upset of epic proportions because David possessed the right combination of attributes to actually own the advantage in a non hand to hand combat situation.  He wasn’t weighed down by heavy armor and he obviously was a great shot with a sling and rock.  As a young man who had spent countless days and nights defending his father’s flock of sheep from bears and lions, David was already well equipped with the skills to overcome obstacles and the skills needed for that very meeting with Goliath.

Of course God had also already blessed David and appointed him as the future king to succeed Saul, but God had also prepared him for this moment in history.  David was already a warrior in his heart and mind at this point pleading with King Saul to let him fight Goliath by telling him When a lion or a bear comes to steal a lamb from the flock, I go after it with a club and rescue the lamb from its mouth. If the animal turns on me, I catch it by the jaw and club it to death. I have done this to both lions and bears, and I’ll do it to this pagan Philistine, too…(1 Sam 17:34-36)” 

“I don’t want to tame your animal style.  You won’t be caged.  In the call of the wild”

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Today’s featured video is just another ho-hum apocalyptic scene shot in or on top of a warehouse somewhere.  It’s hysterically campy and it makes me laugh thinking that there could be apocalyptic dancing someday which could make this video prophetic.  Video cheesiness aside, this has always been one of my favorite 80’s songs because of Patty Smyth and her vocals and just the rhythm and pace of the song.  Sure the lyrics may be referring to a love affair of some sort, but I like to think that anyone who has persevered through trials and tough times like the aforementioned Andre Ingram or in the ancient days of David, deserves to think of themselves as a warrior.  This song kind of pumps me up.  Sometimes I wish I could walk into a room with intro music.  If so, this would be one of my go-to songs.  If I could only pull off the makeup and the hair as brilliantly as Smyth!

This is Scandal with lead singer Patty Smyth and their 1984 #7 U.S. Billboard Hot 100 hit, “The Warrior”…

Go be a warrior today in whatever you do, and thanks for reading.

Bang, bang.

sincerely,

the 80’s

 

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“Contact is All it Takes”

“To change your life to lose your place in time.” – Van Halen

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(L-R) Michael Anthony, Sammy Hagar, Eddie & Alex Van Halen… in a photo from 1985-ish taken by famed rock photographer Chris Walter.  

Where has February gone?  It was just January wasn’t it?  It feels good to be back on the keyboard and banging out this appropriate post for February featuring my all-time favorite band.

It was Richard Gere’s character Edward Lewis in the movie “Pretty Woman” who said, “Impossible relationships.  My special gift is impossible relationships.”  Well, Edward Lewis doesn’t have the market cornered in impossible relationships.  Most of us, at one time or another, have been in an impossible relationship.  Hell, there’s probably a relationship right now that you have in your life that seems impossible whether it be your significant other, a family member, friend, or co-worker.

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An all-time great movie.  A movie I saw with a college girlfriend in Shawnee, OK, back in the spring of 1990.

Maybe relationships aren’t impossible, but relationships are difficult at best.  The ones worth fighting for that is.  They’re hard work.  They’re complex.  The highs and lows can be agonizingly frustrating and stunningly beautiful at the same time.  Whether 17 or 77, relationships can be satisfying and unsatisfying on multiple levels and at different stages along the journey.  I’m reminded of this constantly, not only in my own relationships with my spouse, family, and friends, but as the father of a 17-year-old young woman struggling to find her place in this crazy, beautiful, sometimes lonely world.

 

“Another world, some other time.  You lay your sanity on the line”

I still remember being a teenager.  Always searching.  Searching for friends.  Searching for a place to belong.  Tepidly stretching my horizons with one foot out the door and the other firmly planted within the four walls of my parents’ house.   Searching for direction and for life in general… “laying my sanity on the line.”  Searching for love.

Oh love!  How I thought you would never walk in and find me.  Day after day, week after week, you denied yourself from me within my peer group.  Oh there were glimpses and flickers of it throughout junior high and high school.  I still remember my youthful lusts and desires that only a high school teenage boy possesses.  I remember the names of all the pretty girls I was friends with.  But, oh the daily agony of walking around the halls and campus of high school as the only person without a love of his own!  That’s what it felt like sometimes.  Lonely.  Where was my girl?  Where was my cheerleader?  What was I missing out on that everyone else seemed to have?  Discouragement and disappointment popped up along the way eroding away my confidence and self-esteem.

“Nothing feels the same.  All your dreams are strange”

There’s very little of a “long view” when it comes to being a teenager unfortunately.  I’m not saying there are no teenagers that think very far into the future.  There are, and I’ve met some, but they are in the minority.  Most don’t think past tomorrow or this week or maybe past their next English test or their next birthday.  Just think about birthdays for a moment, and the milestones they represent – 13 (you’re a teenager! or the Bar Mitzvah celebration in Jewish traditions), 15 (most can get a driver’s permit!), 16 (you can get your driver’s license – freedom!), 18 (you are of legal age for many things like joining the military, voting, and smoking – smoke up Johnny!).

It’s just hard when you’re a teenager.  It’s hard to think about all the potential for that special love and those fulfilling relationships when you’re older and in your 20’s or 30’s or even later (gasp)!  It’s almost an un-comprehensible thought when you’re young to have to wait that long.  But now being in my 40’s, I’ve long realized that those trying teenage years were just a speck of dust in my life.  There were fun and sad and beautiful moments during those growing years, but they didn’t define me all these years later.

My wife is currently teaching a life group at our church all on relationships.  It’s based on author Danny Silk’s book “Keep Your Love On.”  It’s four weeks of soul-searching, pride-crushing, set-your-ego-aside boot camp for strengthening relationships.  All kinds of relationships – spouses, friends, family, co-workers.  It’s applicable for anyone.  She’s been teaching these works for years.  I even wrote about it briefly in a 2016 post dedicated to my wife.

My wife is totally crushing it by the way.  She knows that book forward and backwards.  Does it mean she has relationships mastered?  Hardly.  She’ll be the first to tell you that knowing this information might make it even more difficult, because you know what you’re supposed to be doing, but still sometimes you still mess up.  Like I said before – relationships can be agonizingly frustrating, and let’s add messy to that as well.

Point in case – the picture at the beginning of this post.  You have the always complex brotherly relationship of the two Van Halen brothers.  Virtuoso musical talents are handed out to very few people in this world, but they were handed to the brothers (more so to young Edward, who is considered to be one of the greatest guitar players ever).  Then there’s the new lead singer that had to come in and develop relationships with these brothers and the bass player, Michael Anthony.  Anthony survived both lead singers only to find himself on the outs years ago when Eddie’s son Wolfgang Van Halen was old enough to be in the band and he took over bass duties.  These guys had their share of joy and happiness and unbelievable success, but they’ve also had bitterness and jealousy and destructiveness through the years.  Bands are a lot like families.  There are good times and bad times and sometimes relationships that just don’t work out.

“Familiar faces, familiar sights.  Reach back remember with all your might.”

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These familiar faces are from March of 1986 or thereabouts and they were at the beginnings of new relationship dynamics within the band.  The Van Halen album “5150” was released just before my 15th birthday that year, and it was magical.  I might be unceremoniously ripped of my Van Halen card for spewing such blasphemy, but at one time I considered it my favorite and the best Van Halen album ever.  As I’ve aged though (and grown wiser) I still consider it a top 3 album along with “Van Halen,” and “1984.”

It was the first (and best) Van Halen album with then new lead singer Sammy Hagar.  However, you will find that some Van Halen fans refuse to even recognize this time during Van Halen’s existence.  It’s as if they stopped being Van Halen once original lead singer David Lee Roth exited the picture as Van Halen’s original frontman, and they transformed into a softer, poppier “Van Hagar” instead.

But in 1986, the keyboard was playing a bigger and bigger role in pop music in general and with Eddie experimenting on keys and Sammy stepping in to sing lead and also providing some solid guitar playing himself Van Halen was further transformed into a pop powerhouse in the mid 80’s.

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Who didn’t have a sweet keyboard in the 80’s I ask!

“Love Walks In” was released as a single in July 1986.  I vividly remember the hot, humid, July heat of Oklahoma – mowing the lawn, sweat pouring down the face of a six-foot, barely 140 pound sophomore listening to my Sony Walkman blast the sweet sounds of the reinvented Van Halen into my eardrums.  Listening.  Searching.  Secretly wishing and waiting for love to walk in –  baby, pull the string…

May all of your relationships be built on a solid foundation of unconditional love and if you need it, may the right love come walkin’ in for you.

sincerely,

the 80’s

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“If I Could Turn Back Time”

“If I could find a way.” – Cher

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In July of 1989 I was barely two months out of Norman High School and was preparing for college life.  I had signed a letter of intent months earlier to play basketball for Coach Don Sumner and St. Gregory’s College in Shawnee, Oklahoma.

A new chapter was beginning just like it does for every incoming college freshman.  At that time St. Gregory’s was a private two year college with a student population of under 300.  I had twice as many classmates in my senior graduating class at Norman High.

Founded in 1875 by Benedictine monks, St. Gregory’s was a high school for boys until 1965.  St. Gregory’s then became a two-year college before becoming a baccalaureate-conferring university in 1997.  The university began offering graduate classes in 2006.

“I don’t know why I did the things I did.”

I used today’s song as part of a video montage that I put together on VHS at the end of the 1989-90 school year.  I had taken with me to St. Gregory’s the family VHS video camera and spent parts of the school year video taping in and around the co-ed dorms, around campus, and around town.  I took my footage and edited it down to an approximately 10-12 minute “highlight” video, and I used this song as the final piece in the video.

Every time I hear this song, I think of St. Gregory’s without fail.  I think of my life-long friends, many of whom I still stay in contact with.  I think of that VHS video that I spent hours putting together.  I think of running around on frozen ponds, our homemade “music videos,” and the late night dorm parties with cheap beer and wine coolers.  I think of the video game sessions of Techmo Bowl on my Nintendo NES, the flag football and intramural basketball and softball, and the iconic mud whiffle ball game we played.

That made it all the more disheartening when I heard that St. Gregory’s was closing its’ doors at the end of this past semester.  A $12.5MM loan through the USDA had fallen through and the funding needed for a university languishing in the red would not be available to help keep St. Gregory’s open.

Though it remains to be seen what will happen with the campus and buildings, the memories are what every proud St. Gregory’s alumni will cherish and carry on with them.  The friendships and lifelong bonds that were forged at that school will live on forever.

“I know I made you cry, but baby…”

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Also in July of 1989 Cherilyn Sarkisian was hitting the pinnacle of a semi-comeback.  Popular through the 60’s and 70’s with her music, “Cher” found the top 10 again in 1987 with “I Found Someone.”  But it was the summer of 1989 that made most red American males sit up and take notice when the then 43 year old released the video for “If I Could Turn Back Time.”

Filmed aboard the deck of the USS Missouri, Cher showed off her fit body and two identical strategically placed tattoos that could be seen through the backside of her one piece fishnet stocking.  Sailors lined the ship and Cher’s band (including 12 year old son Elijah Blue Allman) performed the song and shot the video.

Whether she knew she had a lifelong anthem or not, I don’t know.  She probably knew.  She’s Cher.  Whatever the case, the song provided the perfect backdrop to an amateur highlight video of a bunch of 18 and 19 year olds having fun at a small two year college in Shawnee, Oklahoma.  Maybe this video and song take you back to a moment in time.  How can it not?

Here is Cher with that age old wish “If I Could Turn Back Time…”

Thanks for reading,

sincerely,

the 80’s / St. Gregory’s alumni 1991

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“While Life Passes Like a Breeze with Only Ourselves to Please”

“We stand alone.” – KiLLeR DWaRfS

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Today’s short post is a story I was reminded of when I recently stumbled across today’s video.

My wife likes to tell the story of a time she was listening to a radio program called “FamilyLife Today” featuring Dennis Rainey and co-host Bob Lepine.  Mr. Rainey is a renowned author and a co-founder of a Christian organization based out of Little Rock called FamilyLife.  The organization is part of the Cru (Campus Crusade for Christ) ministry, and is specifically designed around the role of providing a blueprint for what healthy, Godly marriages and families should look like.

During this particular broadcast, Mr. Rainey was recalling a story about one of his daughters and the fact that he didn’t want her to “settle” for, and marry someone that he thought was a  “spiritual midget.”  The term was used to describe someone with very little knowledge or passion for learning the lessons and teachings of the Bible.  My wife relayed this phrase to me excitedly at which point, without really thinking at all, I told her that our daughter is not marrying a midget of any kind, spiritual or otherwise.

Stunned for a minute, but quite amused my wife has told this story many times over the years.  She was even able to relay this story to Dennis himself a few years later at a marriage conference being hosted in Rogers, AR, called “Weekend to Remember.”  I don’t remember what Dennis’ reaction was, but the story has just become something funny that we’ve both laughed about over the years.

“And all this time you wondered if you had a friend.  Hey look, it’s me in the end”

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Being played as a puppet in a video was not new when N’Sync used the trick in 2000.

Long before the boys of N’Sync were being played as puppets in their video “Bye Bye Bye,” there was a little known hair metal band from Ontario Canada with a song and video that featured the group being controlled by a puppet master as well.

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Albeit the choreography lacked in comparison to the boy group, this rock group, fittingly enough for this post, is called the Killer Dwarfs (stylized like this -KiLLeR DWaRfS).  Quite honestly, I’ve listened to, and heard, a lot of music from a lot of different artists in the 80’s, but I’d never heard of these guys until recently.

“But if we could find a way to breath.  Some hope for tomorrow is all we really need.”

While my hope for tomorrow is that my daughter doesn’t marry a spiritual midget, I would probably prefer that she also doesn’t marry a “Killer Dwarf” either.  I actually have no idea about this group.  They may some of the kindest, spiritually filled people in rock and roll so I won’t judge, nor will I judge the small in stature in our society.  The story really just gave me a great reason to offer up this video and song today.

From 1988, enjoy a Cuddly Cola, and the video for “We Stand Alone,” by the KiLLeR DWaRfS

Thanks for reading.

sincerely,

the 80’s

 

 

 

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