“Basketball is My Favorite Sport”

“I like the way they dribble up and down the court.” – Kurtis Blow

With summer winding down I didn’t want to let it get away without a post of one of my favorite summertime memories of my youth – basketball camp.

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This is the basketball camp you went to if you were a top high school basketball player in the country.  I never made this one.

Google “camps for kids” and you’ll get everything from tennis camp to robotics camp to various church camps to dance and music camps.  Summer is a time for vacations and fun and for shipping your child off for a week or two to do something he or she enjoys.

For me, back in the 80’s, Jerry Jobe Basketball Camp was usually the highlight of my summer.  One week (sometimes I attended two weeks) filled with nothing but basketball from Sunday night through Friday at noon.  There were none of these “team camps” and sponsored AAU teams criss-crossing the country all summer long playing in different tournaments.  Those were just in their early stages.  For the most part, it was just basketball camps tailored to the individual and developing your skills.

Jerry Jobe was a close family friend and legendary coach in Oklahoma when I started attending his camps.  My dad had served under Jerry as an assistant at Southwestern Oklahoma College in Weatherford, Oklahoma, where I was born.  Jerry would later be inducted into the Oklahoma basketball coaches hall of fame as well as the hall of fames at both Southwestern and Oklahoma Christian University, where I first started attending his camps.

“Basketball has always been my thing.  I like Magic, Bird, and Bernard King.”

There were typically three three week sessions (three weeks for girls and three weeks for boys), and you had to be 10 years old to attend.  The first time I attended was 1980, and I was the youngest kid there at only 9.  Because of the closeness of our two families I was allowed to attend a year early.  I stayed in the dorms that week with my dad, who was working the camp (the camps had multiple coaches and college players working them), and at that time was also the head coach at Northern Oklahoma Junior College in Tonkawa, Oklahoma.

The camp was held on the campus of Oklahoma Christian College (now Oklahoma Christian University) in Edmond, Oklahoma, where Jerry was head coach from 1975-1983.  During that time, his OCC teams won 79% of their games, and were some of the best teams in the nation.  That fact attracted hundreds of kids every summer to his camps.

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My dad working up a sweat in the un-air-conditioned “Eagles’ Nest” at Oklahoma Christian College back in the early 80’s in Edmond, OK.

That first year and the next few years, everyone knew me as “Duke” or “Dukester” or “lil Duke.”  Duke is my middle name (my mom’s family name) and what the Jobes enjoyed calling me, so they had “Duke” printed on the back of my two Jerry Jobe basketball shirts.  There was usually a red one and a white one and those were used for “league games” during the afternoon.

“I like slam dunks, it takes me to the hoop.  My favorite play is the alley-oop.”

In addition to the t-shirts, everyone also received a brightly colored red, white, and blue rubber basketball with the camp name on it (they were OCC Eagle grey and purple in the early days when we were still at OCC).  Those balls were used for our morning drills intended to improve ball-handling, passing, and shooting skills.

After Jerry left OCC in 1983, the camp was moved to Chickasha (where Jerry had spent many years as a high school coach) and onto the campus of USAO (University of Sciences & Arts Oklahoma).  Instead of dorms, we had the awesomeness of staying in a motel where right before bed we’d turn the thermostat down so low that frost would form on the windows.  The camp bussed us from the motel to the cafeteria and gym on campus every day.

After breakfast our day began with a variety of ball-handling drills and various stations to improve all aspects of our game.  The afternoon was reserved for league games where every team would play two full games every day, and the evening was for more drills and contests including free throw shooting, one vs. one, and three vs. three.

Also during the afternoons every year we watched the same videos (on a projector) of shooting instructor George Lehmann.  Lehmann was a New Jersey native that had spent about 7-8 seasons in the old ABA during the 60’s and early 70’s.  Afterwards he formed a company with his brother Austin and they began conducting clinics with George demonstrating shooting and Austin showcasing his ball-handling skills.

(George played one season with the ABA’s Memphis Tams.  Remember them?  No one does, but they did exist!  His instructional shooting videos existed and we used to watch them on an old school projector like the one above.)

The thing about those instructional videos was that they were edited perfectly and never showed George missing a shot unless he was doing it on purpose to make a point.  There were times when I was first attending camp that I just thought “this guy never missed!”

When I look back now at some of the footage I realize that this guy didn’t miss very much, but he did have a little editing help along the way.   Here’s a youtube clip from one of George’s videos where he’s talking about the most important step in shooting the basketball – keeping the elbow straight.  And remember – “practice makes permanent!”

There was also the “Eagle ball-handling drill” which in itself was a contest against the clock and against all of the other campers.  It was a drill comprised of five different moves culminating with raising the ball above your head to signify you were finished.  I remember the fastest time being just under 20 seconds one summer by a guy named Buck Jenkins who was 2-3 years older than me.  There were qualifying rounds multiple times every day, and if you had one of the fastest times you qualified for the finals on Friday morning.  The winner of Friday’s mornings finals between all of the qualifiers determined the week’s “best ball-handler” award.  I think I won it one week in my final year of attending in 1987 though I could never get to sub 20 seconds.

Friday morning is when all the parents could attend and all of the finals were conducted to determine the winners of the week’s contests.  The Eagle/Jerry Jobe ball-handling drill, the free throw shooting contest, the finals of the one vs. one and three vs. three contests, and then the league championship games in each league were conducted all leading up to the presentation of awards and trophies just before camp was dismissed.

I also worked the girls’ camp one week during the summer heading into my junior year of high school with four other high school players from around the area.  I helped run drills and refereed the games during the afternoon.  I had my best camp personally as a camper later that same summer winning the free throw shooting contest, the Eagle ball-handling drill, the one vs. one competition and the overall “Mr. Basketball” award.

The next summer (before my senior season) I was primed for a big week or two of camp, but that all came to a crashing halt when I injured my achilles tendon during summer league play with my Norman High teammates.  Doctor’s orders forced me to rest and ice it for the next few weeks which basically ended my summer league season and nixed any chances I had at attending camp.  So I really never got to properly finish my Jerry Jobe Basketball Camp career since that was the last eligible summer for me to attend as a player, and that was truly a disappointment to me at that time.

11-20-2007-9-26-37-am-6313073(Jerry Jobe (far left) during his induction into the Oklahoma Christian HOF in 2007.) 

I’m not sure how many more years the Jerry Jobe basketball camp existed after I finished.  Individual camp numbers were on the decline and more focus was being put on summer leagues and team camps.  Jerry never got back into coaching either, instead taking a job with the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association, which he worked for until his retirement in 1996.  Jerry and his wife Laura Beth have resided and still continue enjoying retirement living in Norman, Oklahoma.

I’ll forever be grateful for the memories of those hot summers and un air-conditioned gyms attending camp in the early years with my dad and then later as a high school player.  I made a lot of friends those weeks, had a ton of fun, made many memories, and it made me into a better basketball player.

(Outside the motel where the campers stayed with fellow campers on the left Miles Moorman and Steve Carpenter.   In the right picture is my little sis Kari and my best friend, fellow camper, and “Spirit Award” winner Barry Blanton.  Pics from summer 1985)

“To the hoop ya’ll, it’s basketball!”

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Today’s music video is that from a song that we heard multiple times every day of the week during camp.  In my head it seems like this song was played at least 10 times a day (and maybe it was) in the gym during our ball-handling and stations sessions in the mornings and evenings.  It was always playing during our free-throw shooting contests.

The song was released by “The Breaks” artist Kurtis Blow in 1984, and was an instant success particularly in the basketball playing community.

The video is part “Westside Story,” and part kung fu fighting.  It features a 7 or 8 foot goal and a lot of non-basketball players.  It’s a hilariously bad video, but it’s also very radically 80’s in terms of clothing and hair styles.  I don’t even care how bad it is, I still love it.  Featuring a brief cameo by The Fat Boys at the very end as well, here is Mister Kurtis Blow and the iconic song and video to “Basketball”

We love that basssketballlll…

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed your summer camp when you were younger!

sincerely,

the 80’s

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“She Was a Flower for the Takin'”

“Her beauty cut just like a knife.” – Waylon Jennings

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Those are some of the iconic lyrics sung by the late, great Waylon Jennings, and a beautiful view of Boulder, Colorado from Flagstaff Mountain.

“He was a banker from Macon.”

Not only is the song one of my favorite Waylon songs, but I would argue it’s possibly the most famous song featuring a banker.  “Penny Lane,” by the Beatles also comes to mind, and “Only in America” by Brooks and Dunn as well.  There are other songs (not many) featuring bankers, but none quite like the banker in Waylon’s song.

I chose this 1987 country classic for this post because my day job is that of a banker.  I know, I know.  How cliche’, right?  Mild-mannered banker by day, vigilante, world-changing writer by night and on weekends!  What an exciting life I lead!

“Last I heard, she had moved to Boulder…” – Garth Brooks

(You know sometimes 90’s lyrics from Garth Brooks can be fitting)

I recently spent two weeks in Boulder on the CU campus for Graduate School of Banking (GSBC).  Yes, this is a real thing, and it lasts two weeks every summer for three years.  And it is fantastic.

Sure, the eight classes, guest speakers and panels, and one interactive case study I had in that span were a little overwhelming with information, and I was inside the majority of the day, but what a beautiful setting to be in while you learn.

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The Wolf Law Building where all of my classes were held

Nestled at the base of the Rocky Mountains at an elevation of about 5,400 feet, this was my first visit to this unique city.  With a population somewhere north of 100,000, Boulder is not unlike many cities with major universities.  There are young people and students everywhere.  There are bookstores and coffee shops.  There is shopping and dining and the pedestrian-friendly Pearl Street Mall downtown.

And then there are numerous local breweries and of course, a few dive bars that are a requisite of any good college town.  One particular bar features tricycle racing on Tuesday nights which in itself is quite the spectacle.  Grown individuals racing against the clock in two-person teams peddling as fast as they can around a makeshift track in the center of the bar with patrons lining the way.

I told one of my banker friends that it reminded me a little of watching the Tour de France when the riders race through heavily populated towns along the way and the people crowd onto the road cheering the riders on to the finish.

Speaking of wheels, what I wasn’t prepared for in Boulder were the amount of two wheeled vehicles.  Bicycles and bicyclists are everywhere.  There are paths and there are  bicycle lanes on the streets, and I’m almost positive every individual in Boulder owns one.  I was nervous half the time just driving around the city trying to be wary of all the two-wheeled vehicles.

“Now the banker is an old man…”

There were 500+ bankers and bank examiners on campus, around town, and of course enjoying a cold beverage of choice, and trike racing.  They were of all ages and origins.  I met individuals from New Hampshire and California and North Dakota and Florida, and everywhere in between.  Most are community bankers from smaller banks that don’t exceed about $1 billion in assets.  There are some exceptions, but for the most part these are community bankers representing their banks from smaller communities and rural areas.

We played golf, went whitewater rafting, and attended a Colorado Rockies baseball game.  There were planned dinners and a battle of events between classes (the first year class was victorious).

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My view watching the Rockies lose to the Pittsburgh Pirates

There were people to meet and have lunch with in the C4C (Center for Community) on campus.  Most of all there was knowledge to be gained and skills to learn and information to take back home to make us better at our profession and to make our banks better in our communities.

Continuing education is important regardless of what profession you are in be it an officer of the law, a systems programmer, or just a boring, mild-mannered banker.  You should never stop learning and re-learning the things that make you a better person, a better worker, and a better pillar in the community.

“I would walk through Hell on Sunday, to keep my Rose in Paradise.”

Written by Jim McBride and Stewart Harris, this song was one Waylon’s sixteen #1 hits at the time of its release in 1987.  Singing about a rich, jealous, possibly murderous banker,  and the banker’s wife named Rose, here is Waylon Jennings with “Rose in Paradise.”

Thanks for reading.

sincerely,

the 80’s

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“How Do You Like Him So Far?”

“How do you like his show?” – Loverboy

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How bout a scenic photo from a recent vacation stay instead?  Because the only show here is what I pound out on my keyboard or add in the way of pretty pictures!

Sometimes writing is a struggle, a real grind.  I feel like the blinking cursor is an old basketball opponent mocking me at times – you got nothing!  Your sentence structuring sucks!  You call that a complete thought?  Where’s your transition?  Are you really going to write about (fill in the blank)?  Pathetic!  Is that all you got!?  Don’t bring that weak grammar in here!

With every gloating moment of time that passes my confidence wanes and doubt begins to creep in.  I’m turning the ball over.  I’m missing easy shots.  Typos and dangling participles abound!  I need a bucket.  I need a stop.  I need something to get me going… a thought, an idea, a topic.  Wait, I got it… I got it… nah, I got nothing.

Instead, I find it easier to surf the web checking out the news of the day, and reviewing last night’s statistics of my fantasy baseball team that’s been on the rise the past two weeks jumping from 5th to 3rd and just a half point out of 2nd place (I knew you’d be interested to know that).

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Go Moonlight Teddy Grahams!

My family and I are a few weeks removed from a trip to Dauphin Island, Alabama, where we enjoyed the beach and some fine gulf seafood during our stay in this sleepy little place.  If you hate travel pieces then you can just stop right now, because that’s what you’re getting today.

This might not be the highlight-reel slam-dunk I was looking for, but sometimes a nice assist or hustle play will work just fine.  After all, you would think that after 1,500 plus miles of driving and a week spent on the beach, and around the tiny little island I’d have a ton to write about.

For those of you unfamiliar with Dauphin Island, it is a 166 square mile barrier island that was originally named “Massacre Island” by French explorer Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville upon his discovery of a mass grave.  The grave actually turned out to be a burial mound opened up by a recent hurricane.  I can’t believe they wanted to change the name though – how cool is “Massacre Island” I ask!

The island was apparently renamed sometime later for Louis XIV’s great-grandson (and heir) known as the Dauphin (french for dolphin).  Dauphin was a title used for the heir apparent to the throne of France from 1350 to 1791 and again from 1824 to 1830.

This quaint island (connected to the Alabama mainland by the three mile Dauphin Island Bridge) is home to an old military fort (Fort Gaines), a sea lab, an educational aquarium, a bird sanctuary, numerous condos, private houses, and one fabulous bakery.  There are a few local restaurants (our favorites being JT’s Sunset Grill and Dority’s Bar & Grill), and tourist shops scattered throughout the island as well.

(The Lighthouse Bakery was on point and loaded with tons of non-caloric sweets… you just have to think positive while devouring the deliciousness!)

We played on the beach during the day, hunted “ghost crabs” with flashlights at night, and got caught in a torrential downpour riding bicycles one day (ultimately safely finding shelter back at the bike rental place that also doubled as an ice cream and flavored ice place).

The locals we met there were awesome.  In fact, we stayed in a 6th floor condo with a wonderful view that happened to be owned by two island locals (Marcus and Diana) by way of NW Arkansas.  Diana was actually one of our daughter’s pre-K teachers in Springdale many years ago.  We enjoyed a great dinner our last night with Marcus and Diana back across the bridge on the mainland at the Pelican Reef Restaurant.

“How do you like his image?  How do you like his style?”

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(My beautiful wife posing at Fort Gains right before this cannon blew the hell out of all those cars down on the beach!  Vivid imagination alert!)

Basically if you like big crowds, lines, lots of traffic, and commercialism then don’t go to Dauphin Island.  You’ll hate it.  Stick to the more well known and touristy Gulf Shores, AL just across the bay.  On the other hand, if you’re ok with a slower pace, less people, less traffic, no chain restaurants (save one little Subway location on the island), and less tourism in general then you might give Dauphin Island a look one day.

The words will come.  The sentences will form.  The post will find completion.  Swish.

“The kid is hot tonight.  Whoa so hot tonight.  But tell me where will he be tomorrow?”

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It’s a question we ask of so many and even of ourselves.  Where will he or she be tomorrow?  Where will I be tomorrow?  Will I regret the red leather pants in 30 years?  So many questions, so few answers, but I say the red leather pants still look cool Paul Dean!

I chose this Loverboy hit from 1981 because it just gives me good vibes and helps alleviate any worries I may harbor about tomorrow.  Just forget about tomorrow and live in the present.  I realize that statement drips heavy with irony given the origination of this site was partially due to my love of music that’s approximately 30 years old.

I’m sure Loverboy had some doubts too as to whether they could recreate the success of their first single “Turn Me Loose.”  That single introduced most of us to the Canadian rock band as it turned into a top 40 hit in the U.S. and a top 10 hit in Canada.

“The Kid is Hot Tonite” didn’t break the top 40 in the U.S. for whatever reason, and maybe it created some doubt within the group, but that doubt would be quickly erased by the eight top 40 singles that would follow through 1987.  So, in retrospect, Loverboy really had nothing to worry about.  The biggest concern for the video below had to be lead singer Mike Reno making sure his lip-syncing was on point for this “American Bandstand” “live” performance…

How do you like him so far?  How do you like his show?

Stay hot, and thanks for reading.

sincerely,

the 80’s

 

 

 

 

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“Born Down in a Dead Man’s Town”

“The first kick I took is when I hit the ground.” – Bruce Springsteen

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I’m a hat guy.

I have all kinds of hats – fedoras, flat caps, tons of baseball hats with rounded bills new and vintage, a flat bill baseball hat, and even cowboy hat thrown in for good measure.  I have adjustable hats and fitted hats.  I’ve had hats with chains and polka dots and rips in them.  I just like hats.  My wife will tell you I have too many hats and that I have a lot of shoes too, and she’s right.  I do have more hats though because I don’t have an unlimited clothing budget and we all know hats are less expensive.  Simple mathematics.  Bottom line though – I like and can respect a strong headwear game.

“Born in the U.S.A., I’m a cool rocking daddy in the U.S.A.”

My newest hat is this patriotic one I purchased at a local business called Junk Brands.  The female-owned, Bentonville, Arkansas-based company is probably best known for their large array of headbands, but to quote them, they “have more cool stuff than just headbands.”  Case in point…

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I love the design of this hat, so when I stumbled across it online I went down and purchased it ($28.99).  Though a little on the pricey side for an adjustable hat, I had been looking to purchase a patriotic hat the past few months, and the ability to buy and support local was what tipped the scales for me on this purchase.

The friendly guy (should have got a name, but for this post he’ll just have to be “friendly guy” Sorry) behind the counter told me they try to come out with 14 new designs every month.  That seems like a lot of SKU’s (stock keeping units) to me, but I suppose the model is working for them so far.  It must be.  They manufacture their stuff on site with some of the most innovative equipment just a few miles from the world’s largest retailer, and have been in business since 2011 apparently.  That’s what the hat says after all – ESTD MMXI.  Glad I took those Latin classes in high school!

I thought the snap back portion was interesting and different from what I’ve seen on most of my other hats, and the interior band is made with a moisture-wicking fabric to absorb those pesky beads of sweat that originate around my hairline.  I like finding a hat that fits well, but also has something unique about it and I found that with this hat.  The mesh is comfortable (I’ve had mesh hats with the hard, less-giving mesh, and I try to steer clear of those now).

The downside to this positive review is that there is now a good possibility that once they realize a middle-aged white man is writing about how cool Junk Brands is that they may realize the company has peaked or has pushed past its prime.  Lol.  You’re demographic is changing!  Time to sell the company for a nice fat profit!  It’s either that, or they just might need to reinvent themselves into something else kind of like Facebook has since your parents joined making it the un-coolest of all social media platforms, but still a major force in the world today.

Speaking of cool and giving a tip of the cap to part of the reason this blog exists, here is a look at some of the more memorable headwear stars from the illustrious decade of the 80’s:

I could see Axl Rose (middle row bottom) and Bret Michaels (bottom right) being the biggest Junk Brand supporters back in the late 1980’s, and even today for Mr. Michaels as I rarely see that guy without his headband and/or his quasi-cowboy hat resting on top of his dome.

 

“I’m ten years burning down the road.  Nowhere to run ain’t got nowhere to go.”

Well Bruce that’s a depressing lyric, but hey, a happy July the 4th to you, the reader, anyway!

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I’m a hat guy and I’m a Bruce guy, and I also realize this isn’t as patriotic of a song as the title suggests or you may have even been led to believe.  In fact, Bruce wrote it as kind of an anti-anthem about the hardships and unfairness Vietnam veterans encountered upon their return home from the war.  The bitter verses are often just kind of ignored while the chorus is happily taken out of context as proud Americans scream out with exuberance and pride.

For such a serious song I was always amused and perplexed by the very end of this video.  Who thought… “ahh, let’s get a close up of Bruce’s ass… that’ll be the perfect ending!  The ladies will love it!”  Lol.

Yes, I realize it’s also the album cover from that iconic 1984 album, and as Bruce once jokingly described in “Rolling Stone:” “… in the end, the picture of my ass looked better than the picture of my face.”  Classic.  To quote Bruce again (albeit from a different song), “there’s a joke here somewhere and it’s on me.”

Regardless of the reasoning, for your 4th, here is that blue-collar, jean jacket, head-band-wearing legendary voice for the working man, Bruuuuuucccceeee…

“Born in the U.S.A!” 

Don’t blow any limbs off, bring a strong head-wear game today (I will be), and thanks for reading!

sincerely,

the 80’s

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“Every Rose Has Its Thorn”

“Just like every night has its dawn.” – Poison

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Some of the best glam-rock hair in the business in 1988

I’ve spent the past few days thinking about and discussing “thorns.”

Also known as unwelcome events, thorns are both literal and figurative, and we all have them in our lives.  There are little thorns that nag us and annoy us.  And then there are big thorns that can cause us discomfort and lingering pain.  We all react differently to them.

The subject of figurative thorns came up as a message in a series at my church, and then again at my weekly men’s study group.  Why do these figurative thorns exist?  Is it man’s fault?  Does God create these thorns?  What do we do with them?

“Was it something I said or something I did?”

What’s the purpose?  Thorns are made to teach us, to shape us, to mold us into the type of person we were made to be.  We start learning about these literal thorns when we’re little – we learn about pain from hot stoves and sharp objects (like actual thorns).  We learn about patience when don’t get our way immediately.  We learn about punishment as a result of our actions.

Thorns also protect.  On a rose bush (of which we have three at my house), they continually remind me – don’t get too close!  Wear your gloves!  Prune me at your own risk!  I also realize these thorns have a job to do – protecting a beautiful flower.  There’s nothing like a rose bush to remind me that absolute beauty can arise anywhere.   Something painful and unsightly can transform into something worthy and beautiful.

Unfortunately though, thorns also can drive wedges.  They can put separation and division into relationships.  They can prevent us from doing things we should be doing.  These thorns are the ones that ultimately strengthen our resolve, but until then they tend to create distance between loved ones and friends and co-workers and even between us and our Creator.  After all, it’s one thing to be taught a lesson in patience perhaps through being “stuck” in an unfulfilling job, but it’s a whole different ballgame when the thorn is a unexpected painful loss of a loved one or child.

“Like a knife that cuts you the wound heals, but the scar, that scar remains”

It was really interesting to see my men’s group, many of whom are very strong in their faith, grappling with their own current-day personal thorns and asking questions as to why.  I consider many of these men veteran, battle-tested men with many years of thorns and scars discussing this topic.  What this told me is that even those with personal relationships with God question things that we may never fully understand.

Even though we may not understand it, I think it’s perfectly fine to question why.  That doesn’t make you any weaker of a person or lacking in faith.  It’s a commonality that binds us and makes us all human.  These questions transcend race and gender and political and sexual orientation.  Even Jesus questioned his father with his dying breath when he said “my God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”

Ultimately thorns are what make us stronger if we allow them to.  If we don’t or won’t try to derive some sort of positive gain from these thorns then they can destroy or at least derail us from our purpose.  They can send us down dark paths and into dark places we were never meant to go.  There is a choice though there may not seem like one at the time.  We have to remember that it “rains on the just and unjust alike,” and we have to endure this pain or discomfort for something greater.  We/I have to believe that.  What’s the alternative?

We may not understand the purpose, and it’s awfully easy to feel abandoned and alone like you’re the only one who’s ever struggled with an issue.  That’s a lie.  Recognize your “thorn,” and go ahead and question why it’s happening, and then go seek out a good friend or council.  You may never truly understand the why to a thorn.  It can be frustrating, and that’s ok, but I think faith exists for this very issue.  Faith that something good will come from it.  Faith that the wound will heal or sting less as time wears on.  Faith that your story (no matter how big or small) will matter to someone else someday.

 

“But now I hear you found somebody new, And that I never meant that much to you”

To many, today’s featured song by the band Poison, ironically, is considered by many the thorn in the glam metal scene of the late 80’s.  Many see this particular song as the beginning of the downfall of the genre.  Though I loved the song (and still do), some of those in the industry (even Poison’s own record label) felt the power ballad was too soft or not the right type of song as it featured a sad, cowboy-hat-wearing Brett Michaels playing his acoustic guitar.  (Sidenote:  I used to be able to play a majority of this song on my acoustic guitar many years ago.  Lol).

The song was released in late 1988 and promptly went to the top of the charts the last two weeks and the first week of 1989.  Shows what “they” know!

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The glam metal era was at it’s peak by this time, but was beginning to show cracks in its lifespan as harder rocking groups like Guns N’ Roses and Metallica, alternative acts like Nirvana and Pearl Jam, and rap started arriving on the scene and pushing bands like Poison to the side.  But the boys from Pennsylvania had a great run from 1986 to 1990 charting 10 top 40 hits during that span making them one of the most successful bands of the late 80’s.

This song, apparently written by Poison frontman Brett Michaels after he called his girlfriend from the road on tour late one night and was devastated upon hearing an unfamiliar male voice in the background, is Poison’s only #1 hit.  Reminding us all about relational thorns enjoy this classic today…

Thanks for reading.

sincerely,

the 80’s

 

 

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“Be Courageous and Be Brave”

“And in my heart you’ll always stay forever young.” – Rod Stewart

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Dr. Suess once said “Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.”  I can’t tell you how much I love this quote.  Moments that are planned, and moments that sneak up on us and surprise us all have the ability to turn into memories that can last a lifetime.

Not many things make me reflect on moments and memories and the passing of time quite like a high school graduation.  I spent Friday evening attending and celebrating my nephew’s high school graduation.  He not only graduated from high school, but he did so with college credits as well!  Was that even a thing when I graduated?  Probably, but I was just happy to earn my diploma by itself.

It was quite an impressive achievement for my nephew (some of his classmates actually received their high school diploma AND a two-year Associate’s Degree).  But, in the words of my wise father-in-law – “his story isn’t written yet.”  Eighteen years is quite a while, but he’s right in this case – it’s only the beginning for my nephew.

My beginning / high school graduation happened 28 years ago.

As I sat through my nephew’s graduation of maybe 40-50 students I thought about his 18 years.  My wife and I were married the same year he was born (1999).  I remember my sister-in-law was big and pregnant at our wedding in March of that year.  I remember the times my wife and I got to babysit the first boy in her family in many years at our big blue house in Lexington, Oklahoma.  And we loved every minute of it.

I also thought about my high school graduation in 1989.  It featured some 550 (or was it 650?) students and was held in the Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, Oklahoma.

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I don’t remember much from the event itself.  I remember thinking it was long with that many students, but I couldn’t tell you one thing that was said during the event.  After it was over I do remember walking out and up the ramp (part of the Lloyd Noble Center is underground) where we were directed to walk as graduates.

I paused for a moment near the top of the ramp, turned around, and stood there watching my fellow graduates walk up the ramp wearing their caps and black gowns, and basically off into the sunset.  I wondered what would become of them, of us.  I knew colleges, the military, and jobs awaited us.  Life awaited us, and even though I didn’t really know how, I knew things would never be the same.  Our stories were just beginning, and they were beginning in all different directions.

People I attended school with almost every day for five years I would never see again except for the occasional class reunion.  I now “see” many of them through the power of the internet on social media.  I feel like I know many of them better now than I did all of those years ago.  We’ve all formed opinions and affiliations, and have had marriages and divorces and started families and mourned the passing of others.  We’re all grown up.  Our stories are still unfolding for many of us, though I’m still saddened by the untimely loss of our senior class president Ann Fagan Lovasz , who you’ll see in the above program gave the invocation at our commencement ceremony.  (Ann passed away in 2014 after a long, courageous bout with cancer.)

“But whatever road you choose, I’m right behind you win or lose… forever young.”

Just like I had supportive parents, and uncles and aunts, and friends behind me I feel I should return the favor to the next generation of graduates in our family.  That’s one reason I showed up to support and congratulate, and I thoroughly enjoyed Friday night.   I look forward to watching my nephew’s story unfold.

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Good luck awesome nephew!

Released 10 months before I graduated, this Rod Stewart song peaked at #12 and the video features the strangeness of Rod holding a random (albeit cute) little red-headed boy on the back of a moving vehicle while singing to him.  Remember when you could ride in the back of a pick up truck.  Today, they’d slap Rod with a hefty fine, and call DHS in to investigating possible child endangerment.

Regardless, let’s enjoy the sentiment, and Rod’s fantastic 1988 hair, and may you, the reader, (and possibly a graduate yourself) also remain “Forever Young”

Thanks for reading

sincerely,

the 80’s

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“This Prison Has Now Become Your Home”

“A sentence you seemed prepared to face.” – Sting

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I had just finished another year of prison or school if you will by the time June of 1985 rolled around.  My only year at Whittier Middle School in Norman, OK (8th grade) was complete, but it seemed like school would last forever.  I laugh at that thought now.

The uncertainty of high school lay ahead at a two year “mid-high” called West Mid-High which housed about half of the 9th and 10th graders in Norman.  The other half attended cross-town rival Central Mid-High.  Central was located on the east side of Norman and was filled with academically-challenged thugs, gang members, vagrants, and ugly girls.  Ok, so maybe that’s a slight exaggeration… all the girls weren’t ugly.  Hey oh!  They were our crosstown rival alright?

Also during the summer of 1985 Gordon Sumner released his first solo album called “The Dream of the Blue Turtles.”  Better known for being lead singer of the band The Police and by his professional name, “Sting,”  I disliked his first single “If You Love Somebody (Set Them Free)” very much.  I absolutely hated the second single “Love is the Seventh Wave.”  Ahh, but the third single!  The third single (and final track on the album) saved my growing disdain for his solo career when my ears were treated to “Fortress Around Your Heart.”

As I’ve aged I’ve garnered a better appreciation for the lyrical poets of the 80’s, and one has to include Mr. Sumner in this hypothetical list.  Coming off of the brilliant “Sychronicity” album (the final Police album), his songs and lyrical prowess as part of The Police were well established by then, but no one was sure what to expect from his solo career.  And that act was back-firing in my mind in a hurry when “Fortress Around Your Heart” was released.

“And if I’ve built this fortress around your heart, encircled you in trenches and barbed wire,”

Sting’s clever lyrics drip with images of failure and regret, of trying to bridge gaps and satisfy others, and of attempting to avoid mistakes of the past, and ultimately reconciliation.

Who can relate to that?  Just everyone.

That’s the reason why this song appeals to many and is thought highly of by so many  including Sting himself who once said that the chorus was one of the best he’d ever written.

I’m always impressed at what people produce though trial and tribulation.  This song was written by Sting after the failure of his first marriage that lasted eight years.  At lowest points people amaze me with their resilience and courage and brilliance.  People rise up.

You too will rise up.  If you’re struggling with something or someone.  If you’re feeling down and defeated.  If you feel like someone has built a fortress around your heart just know that you’re not alone.

We were made to be relational.  Bridges can be built.  Obstacles can be overcome and reconciliations can happen.  Be patient.  Be intentional.  Be prayerful.  Be P.I.P., baby!  I just made that up, but I like it.

“Then let me build a bridge, for I cannot fill the chasm, and let me set the battlements on fire”

For an 8th grader in the summer of 1985 I was too young to even have a clue of what Sting was singing to me through the oversized stereo speakers in my room.  I wasn’t worried about reconciliation or building bridges or regretting past failures.  I hadn’t really experienced life yet.  I just thought the rhythm of the song was cool and the lyrics were interesting (who uses the word “fortress” in a song, much less the chorus and title?  Sting does!).  I probably had some idea that the song was about war or love or both and I guess I was close, but I couldn’t really relate in 1985.

In 2017 I can.  And that’s the thing with rock stars and their songs.  The people won’t be around forever, but their songs will.  Their lyrics live on, and the meanings behind those songs can be ever-evolving through the different stages we go through in our lives.  If you think about it, that’s a sign of a well-written song.

“As I returned across the fields I’d known, I recognized the walls that I once made.
Had to stop in my tracks for fear of walking on the mines I’d laid.”

There’s a lot of 80’s-ness to enjoy in this video.  For one, check out the ancient VCR at the beginning of the video.  Then, there’s the incredible acting “wakey, wakey, Mister Sting….”  Finally, the slow zoom into the eyes of Sting who is apparently staring deep into your soul, so I’m warning you right now to repent before Sting uncovers your darkest sins and desires through his stare.

I will introduce today’s featured video by quoting Sting – “just one song… and I’ll choose it.”  Well, I choose my favorite… a song that hit #8 on the Billboard Hot 100 – “Fortress Around Your Heart…”

The lyrics, the imagery, and Sting showing off his chiseled arms for the video will forever be my favorite memory to date of the post-Police Sting, who by the way hit the top 40 again at the end of last year with a song I really enjoy called “I Can’t Stop Thinking About You” at the young age of 65.  Kudos to you Mister Sting.

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Sting wasn’t the only one putting on a gun show wearing tank tops in the 80’s!  LOL.  My grandma and sister are obstructing the view to my much larger left one.  Trust me.

As always, thanks for reading.

sincerely,

the 80’s

 

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“I See You”

“You see me.” – Darryl Hall & John Oates

I see you Darryl Hall and John Oates!

Two facts I learned recently:  Darryl Hall is 70, and Darryl Hall has great hair.

I found myself mesmorized by the swooshiness of his hair (that’s a word, right?) last week as a buddy of mine and I took in the first show of the Hall & Oates / Tears for Fears 2017 tour held at the BOK Center in Tulsa.

Seventy!  Does he look 70 in this picture below?  His musical partner of 45+ years is not looking too shabby either.  That’s John Oates on the right, and he’s the youngster of the two at age 69.

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At some point as you grow older you realize that the musical heroes from your youth are not going to live forever, and that you better give in and go see some of these acts before they die (Case in point:  Michael Jackson, Prince, George Michael, Glenn Frey/Eagles, Whitney Houston).  While this blog is subject to my random whims and thoughts, I suppose that part of it is a dedication to those musicians and all the joy and entertainment they’ve provided me and countless others through the years.

So when the opportunity came along to see two pretty big acts from the 80’s on the same ticket I decided that would be a great birthday present for myself and told my wife as much.  My wife bought the tickets but couldn’t go so that’s how a buddy of mine and I ended up in downtown Tulsa after work on a Thursday night.

I’ve featured a post featuring Tears for Fears on this blog before.  The post dealt about leaving a legacy while highlighting one of my top 10 all-time favorite 80’s songs – “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.”  Though they only had four or five top 10 hits in the U.S., Tears for Fears album “Songs From the Big Chair” was one of the biggest albums of 1985, and the group was a staple on MTV for a few years.  These two youngsters at just 55 years of age put on a solid set to open up for Hall & Oates.  Here is a clip from that very song that opened their set…

If any group or duo deserves a little love and appreciation it has to be Hall & Oates with their 16 top 10 hits and numerous other top 40 hits.  These dudes were huge in the 80’s.  They’re not going to blow you away with their music, or make your ears ring from guitar solos, but they will entertain you for 90 minutes with still solid vocals and a stellar band.  I did feel like I needed a glass of wine though while I listened to these elder statesmen roll through their enormous catalog of hits dating back to the late 70’s.  If you prefer to sit at concerts (I did tell a few people that I actually sat down through this whole concert, and that was a first), then you can at this concert (unless you’re on the floor where they stood most of the night).  Man, I’m getting old too.

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I still have this cassette that I “purchased” for a penny from the Columbia House mail-order Music Club back in the early 80’s

 

Besides the 1981 “Private Eyes” cassette (pictured above), I also own the 1982 “H2O” cassette featuring the classic #1 hit “Maneater.”

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Can’t believe my wife wouldn’t let me get her this shirt

My biggest recollection of having that cassette though was the fact that I used the song “One on One” (a top 10 hit) as a musical score for my own nerf basketball highlight reel.  Granted I didn’t have a video camera at my disposal (like I did a few years later), but I did have a good imagination.  I would cue up the slow tempo song and while it played I would conduct my own highlight montage in my bedroom using my nerf hoop mounted on my door.  While the song played imagine 11 year old Kyle moving around in slow motion with endless imaginary dunks, blocked shots, and great plays as Hall & Oates provided the background music for this all-world display of nerf hoop talent.  I conducted this “highlight video” numerous times using Hall & Oates for the music.

“Private Eyes.  They’re watching you.  They see your every move.”

There will be thousands of eyes on the duo of Hall & Oates as they continue on with their tour.  Whether you like any of their music or not, just know this:  Even though Mr. Oates is sans the famous thick, dark, bushy mustache he sported throughout the 80’s (he did rock a Cain’s Ballroom t-shirt for the Tulsa crowd though), and Mr. Hall can’t quite reach some of those falsetto notes anymore, these two still look really good, and can still perform at a high quality.  And come one, where do I get that hair when I’m 70?  Seriously.

Hall & Oates with an early foray into music videos and their classic “Private Eyes”…

And as a bonus, the 2017 live version from the BOK Center in Tulsa…

As always, thanks for reading.

sincerely,

the 80’s

 

 

 

 

 

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“I Believe The Children Are Our Future”

“Teach them well and let them lead the way.” – Whitney Houston

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Parenting is hard.

Watching your children make mistakes is excruciating at times.  You wonder if you hurt more than they actually do.

The emotions as a parent can be extreme and more powerful than anyone without children can even imagine.  As parents our chests swell with pride at every milestone and achievement.  That’s my boy!  That’s my girl!  The high is almost intoxicating at times, and there aren’t many feelings comparable to that parental pride.

But, as parents we’re also frequently left wondering what we did or didn’t do when our children make poor decisions and the consequences that come with those decisions.  Where did we fail?  Why did this happen?  What could we have done differently to prevent it?  Questions that can drive one mad with regret.

Last night a thunderstorm blew through here bringing with it golf ball sized hail that exploded on our roof, the side of our house, and on our porches.  It hit our windows.  It was loud and slightly unnerving.

As I lie awake at 1 am after the hail had subsided but still listening to the rain fall, it wasn’t lost on me that storms blow through our lives all the time, both literally and figuratively.  Sometimes we watch in awe and wonder.  Other times we cower and hide and pray for it to end.  Storms can pass through quickly while at other times they seem to linger forever.  Either way we usually make it through.  The sun comes out and we keep on living.  We press forward.  It’s all we can and know how to do.

The older our children get the more important their decisions become.  The challenges parents face becomes more and more difficult.  The thunderstorms become bigger and scarier.  The processing of emotions and the inner turmoil that can be caused by a child’s mistake can be frustrating at best.  With each mistake a new reality sets in.  A new future begins.

“Show them all the beauty they possess inside.  Give them a sense of pride to make it easier.”

As parents we’re tasked with trying to help our children make the best decisions possible with the experiences and wisdom that we’ve gained in life.  It’s all we can really do.  We can’t make decisions for them.  We can’t force them to do the right thing.  We shower them with love and protection and a sense of self-worth, but when they make mistakes we have to let them know that we’re disappointed for them (not in them), and what this means for their life now and in the future.

I assume God went through many of these same emotions in reading Old Testament scripture as his children, the Israelites, wandered the desert for 40 years constantly disobeying God and making poor choices.  Joy and pride followed by embarrassment,  disappointment, and punishment.

There was never any promise of things being easy though.

“Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33 (NLT)

I don’t know how people without faith make it.  I don’t know how parents with children remain sane without it.

“Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” – Proverbs 22:6

These two verses offer hope and encouragement for me and for many others, and that has to be enough in times of confusion and pain and sorrow.

“If I fail, if I succeed, at least I’ll live as I believe.”

I love the lyrics to today’s featured song written by the late writers Michael Masser and Linda Creed.  George Benson made this a hit on the R&B charts in 1977, but Whitney Houston did what Whitney Houston did to songs.  She took this song in 1986, and “Whitney-ized” it.  She made it bigger, bolder, more powerful.  Sorry George, but I think you would agree with me.

The lyrics (written during Creed’s battle with breast cancer in 1976-77) tell the story of coping with life’s great challenges and persevering, and eventually passing that strength on to your children.

“I never found anyone who fulfill my needs.  A lonely place to be so I learned to depend on me.”

Today’s video is both haunting and beautiful to me.  Whitney Houston in her prime in 1987 showed us why she is one of the great talents of all-time.  Though I’m thankful for her voice and the music she produced, it makes me a little sad to listen to her.  By now we all know Whitney’s struggles and tragic end to her life at the age of 48 in 2012.  We also know that ironically, the tragedy also carried over to her daughter Bobbi Kristina just three years later when she passed at the age of 22.

“And if by chance, that special place that you’ve been dreaming of leads you to a lonely place.  Find your strength in love.”

Parenting is not easy at any socio or economic status and doesn’t discriminate because of race or sexual orientation.  We make poor decisions.  Our children make poor decisions.  We all live with the consequences.  Like I said at the beginning, parenting is hard.  Life is hard.

The story of Whitney and her daughter is a sad tale, because in the end love alone didn’t win for Whitney or her daughter.  It’s cautionary everyday stories like this that scare us as parents.  Are we enough for our children?  Is love enough?  It has to be right?  There’s nothing else.  1 John 4:8 says “whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”  God is love.  I choose God and I choose love and I choose to carry on.

“Learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all.”

Another choice I made was to choose a live performance video of this song which Whitney sang at the 1987 Grammy’s.  To me, it just enforces the greatness of Whitney when you see her absolute nail this song live.  There are not many voices that can give me absolute chills, but hers is a rare exception.  Beauty, grace, and some of the most powerful vocal chords to ever grace this Earth…

Thanks for reading and hang in there all you parents.  Keep loving and keep living.

sincerely,

the 80’s

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“This Speech is My Recital”

“I think it’s very vital to rock a rhyme that’s right on time” – Run DMC

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I’m not easily impressed with public speakers.  Maybe it’s because they seem like they are a dime a dozen, or maybe it’s because so many of them aren’t very good.  As a local banker and amateur rapper I feel fairly qualified to judge.  (I realize I just dropped an “amateur rapper” on you in the previous sentence… hey, just ask my wife!)

In my profession I attend a lot of charity events in the area, and I hear a lot of speakers.  The format at these events is pretty much the same – host/emcee, guest speaker or speakers, award presentation, auction (silent or public… sometimes both if you’re lucky).  So I am witness to these speakers quite often, and very few are memorable.  I will tell you though I am a sucker for a well prepared young speaker.  And by “young” I mean someone still in high school or younger.

At the recent Boys and Girls’ Club of Benton County “Youth of the Year” gala, a deserving young woman named Fernanda Alcantara was awarded the honor (she also won the award at the state level), and her acceptance speech was outstanding, borderline brilliant.  I don’t think she looked down at her notes but maybe once and I’m not sure how much of her speech was actually prepared, and how much of it was from the heart or “off-the-cuff.”  I would much prefer hearing from her than many of the ones that have long been lost to memory by now.  She was polished and professional and very engaging.

I attend a local adult chapter of FCA, and am always excited and amazed to hear from the kids in attendance.  Most of the time they are high school athletes sharing about their lives, and occasionally they are junior high or middle school kids and I’m almost always astounded at their boldness and their sense of purpose.  I think it’s good for the kids as well to get some real world practice at speaking in front of others.

I had the occasional report or presentation to give (as most of us did) growing up, but my first real practice with public speaking was in college when I took a speech class.  We had to tackle a subject, prepare, practice, and present.  There are not many things more unnerving in school than having to stand in front of all your peers and ramble on about some unimportant event in your life or a current issue of the day.  It’s all I could do to just stand there and withstand all of the judgmental eyes shooting daggers through my face.

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I don’t remember many of the speeches I gave in that class.  I know one was about snow skiing, but the one speech that really stands out to me is that I once gave a speech about procrastination.  The irony is that I was totally unprepared to give it!  I’m pretty sure I didn’t even start preparing for until 10 or 11 the night before.

I actually put my Nintendo gaming system, a TV remote, an empty Domino’s pizza box, and a cordless cell phone in a duffel bag and shuffled off to speech class (it was my first class of the day twice a week).  Once there, I was a disorganized mess referring to some partially scribbled notes I had quickly made the night before as I pulled each item out of the bag and explained how they were good for procrastinating.  My speech teacher quickly agreed that I knew how to procrastinate, but I don’t think she appreciated the irony evidenced by the ‘C’ she gave me on that speech.  In retrospect this could have been a great speech, but my lack of preparation doomed it from the start.

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The original Nintendo.  Who else had one of these bad boys in the late 80’s!?  Hours and hours were spent mastering Tecmo Bowl, Tetris, and RBI Baseball to name a few. 

Public speaking is an interesting dynamic, and something that can easily be addictive for some.  The spotlight is on, and it can bring with it a sense of entitlement, importance and even power.  ‘Hey, look at me!  I’m speaking!  I’m important with important things to say so take notes… and be prepared to laugh at my awesome jokes like I’m Chris Rock!”

Though not natural for many, public speaking gets easier the older you get.  Like many of you, through the years I’ve had to speak in front of peers at various events.  I’ve taught  classes for adults and children, and lead discussions.  I’ve had to promote places and events, and have spoken at weddings and receptions.

Though I can’t sing (thus the need for me to be able to rap, duh), I imagine it’s not totally unlike a musical performer who gets up on the stage and performs for a crowd.  If you’re good, you have fans for life.  If you’re terrible then your career will be short-lived and unmemorable unless you’re really terrible, then in that case you might be memorable, but it will be for being awful, which probably isn’t the goal either.

“When I wake up people take up mostly all of my time.  I’m not singin’, phone keep ringin’ ’cause I make up a rhyme.”

Thirty years ago today’s featured song and video was released on Run-D.M.C.‘s third album “Raising Hell.”  This song charted on the US Billboard Hot 100 along with the R&B/Hip Hop charts.  The video (“they took my chain!”) was a memorable one from my youth not only because I love the song, but the video is entertaining featuring the popular magic act of Penn & Teller.  When the mood strikes, I love me some Run-D.M.C. though.  They (along with Beastie Boys and LL Cool J) were probably most influential in cultivating my love of rap music growing up.  Of course, today they’re not quite the same since the shooting death of third member DJ Jam Master Jay back in 2002.  But back in the mid and late 80’s they were definitely the “Kings from Queens.”

As you contemplate your next speaking event, small or large, just know that I understand it’s a tough gig.  I’m not judging.  Really.  There’s nothing easy about speaking in front of others.  It can be fun and enjoyable and a bit intoxicating I suppose, but I also know it can be difficult, and frustrating, and nerve-wracking, and dare I even say maybe even a little… “tricky?”

“It’s Tricky to rock a rhyme, to rock a rhyme that’s right on time”

Here we go!

As always, thanks for reading.  Now, go put on your Adidas and rock a rhyme.

sincerely,

the 80’s

kkrapper

Still rappin’ to this day

 

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