“The Ball is Tipped”

“And there you are.  You’re running for your life.  You’re a shooting star.” – David Barrett

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(Part 1 of a three part series)

Hello March my old friend!  How I love you so every 334 days when you come roaring in like a lion.  I love your cool winds, your lavish green Irish celebrations, and the days that mark my wedding anniversary, my dad’s birthday, and my birthday.  And I love all of your days and nights filled with collegiate basketball.  I believe some refer to it as “March Madness.”  For me, it’s simply roundball therapy at it’s finest, and it helps to restore my sanity from any madness that may result in my professional or personal life.

For those of you that know of my affinity for all things 80’s, one more reason that I love that magical decade is that the single greatest sports anthem of all-time was born in 1986 by an Emmy award-winning Michigan man named David Barrett.  Originally scheduled for use after the Super Bowl in 1987, CBS ran out of time and decided to use it after the NCAA national championship game between Indiana and Syracuse instead.  The rest, as they say, is history.

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“And all the years, no one knows”

This will be the 31st season that the anthem will be used shortly after crowning a new champion.  Coaches and players and fans at the championship game and those all around the country will hush anyone within earshot when the opening notes of “One Shining Moment” start up.  I had a high school basketball teammate (shout out Blake W!) who recorded the first three “One Shining Moment(s)” on his parents’ VCR.  Not the game.  Just the musical montage following the game.  This thing called the world wide web was just a glimmer in young Al Gore’s imagination at that time, and we had no idea that one day we would be able to watch any and every “One Shining Moment” anytime we wanted.  I love the internet sometimes!

“Just how hard you worked, but now it shows..”

In March of 1987 I turned 16 and was a sophomore at West Mid-High in Norman, Oklahoma, and my dad was an assistant basketball coach at the University of Oklahoma. Now, I am a father to a 16 year old of my own.  During the first ever musical montage (that you will see at the end of this post) you get a few glimpses of Sooner players like Dave Sieger and Tony “the Hawk” Martin (many of these same players were one year away from a national championship game appearance of their own).  The Sooners were bounced in the Sweet 16 in 1987 by a very good Tom Davis-led Iowa team that year that featured future NBA pros B.J. Armstrong, Brad Lohaus, Roy Marble, and Kevin Gamble, who hit the game-winner against OU.

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OU Sooner statistics from that 1986-87 team

I don’t consider the college basketball season officially over until the video and song finish every April after that Monday night contest.  Even though it is meant to conclude the NCAA tournament, when I watch it at the beginning of March, it excites me for what lays ahead this month – the players, the coaches, the sheer exhilaration of buzzer-beaters, the painful endings to seasons and careers, and the overall pageantry of it all.

Today’s post features the very first “One Shining Moment” in 1987.  I still remember the game with Indiana’s Keith Smart knocking down the winning jumper in the waning seconds.  I watched the video for the first time in many years, and was surprised to find that 30 years later, “frozen in time,” the video prominently features two coaches who are still coaching today.  One is a young Rick Pitino, who was coaching the Providence Friars to the final four that year, and will try to do the same this year leading a talented Louisville team with national championship aspirations.  The other is the venerable Jim Boeheim of Syracuse, whose Orange lost in the finals to Bobby Knight’s Indiana Hoosiers.  In another tie-in, the Hoosiers were led by Steve Alford, who will be coaching a very talented UCLA squad in this year’s tournament.  So sit back and enjoy the next three minutes featuring the very first “One Shining Moment.”

“One shining moment, it’s all on the line.  One shining moment, there frozen in time…”

Thank you for reading, thank you God for David Barrett, and may your team be on a roll heading into the NCAA tournament.

sincerely,

the 80’s

 

 

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“Clean Shirt,”

“new shoes.  And I don’t know where I am goin’ to.” – ZZ Top

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Spring 1989, by the fireplace in our home in Norman, OK

This is going to be a ridiculous post, so you’ve been warned.  Flee now or read on if you’re so inclined to waste a few minutes on something ridiculous.  Here goes… recently my wife bought me a flat-billed baseball hat when we went to a Needtobreathe concert in Oklahoma City.  I’m warning you again.  This is going to be ridiculous.

Back in October I wrote about this awesome  same-day concert trip to OKC with our friends, the Cherry’s.  My wife and I always try to buy some concert swag whenever we hit these shows.  Well, let’s just say I wasn’t overly thrilled when my wife came back with the hat.  Though I love and have way too many baseball hats (trust me), I now have exactly one flat-billed hat.  In case you didn’t read the concert post, the venue (The Criterion in OKC) is a standing room only venue so you can’t leave your spot (especially if you have a good one like we did) without fear of never getting it back.  So I saved our “spots” while my wife went to the bathroom and made her way by the merch table.  I think my awesome reply when my wife returned with her t-shirt and my new hat was “oh… that’s… cool… um… did you realize it’s a flat bill?”  Not exactly a ringing endorsement dripping with gratitude.

Ever since my younger days I’ve always liked clothes and prided myself on being nicely dressed without being the fanciest.  I wanted to look nice, not overly nice – I didn’t want to invite ridicule and teasing from the guys.  I didn’t want to bring too much attention to myself, but I liked looking nice and color coordinated.  I owe much of that to my mom’s keen style and just the extreme blessing of a family that was able to afford items like nice clothes.  I understood pretty early that not every family could or wanted to spend money on wardrobe like my mom did.  These days my wife will confirm my love of nice clothes and especially baseball hats and shoes.  If I could have an unlimited gift card to Banana Republic and Foot Locker I wouldn’t need to go anywhere else for the rest of my life.

When flat-billed hats first came out I thought “those look stupid.”  After they were out a year or two and baseball teams started embracing them.  I thought “those still look stupid, but some of those guys can pull it off.”  And by “some of those guys” I meant mostly under the age of about 25.  I am a 45 year old banker that considers himself stylish but never really seriously considered buying a flat-billed hat.  Now I have one, and this is the first time I’m wearing it in public.  I’m sitting in Starbucks wearing my flat-billed Needtobreathe hat feeling strangely insecure probably not unlike an 8th grade school girl wearing a new dress to school.

Has anyone noticed?  If so, are they thinking that guy is too old to be wearing that hat?  He looks like a dork!  Does anyone even care?  Hey you sitting over there with your teenage friends pretending to study – look at me!  What do you think?  

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Stupid or stylish?  LOL.  Don’t care now, because I’m sure I’ll continue to wear it occasionally… when I’m feeling young and hip.  By saying “young and hip” I’m proving to myself I have no idea how the actual young and hip say that phrase today. #America

I told you this post was going to be ridiculous, but it just goes to show you’re never too old to feel insecure about your wardrobe.  We care less as we get older.  Ask any gentleman wearing black dress socks and sandals to attest, but part of me is glad that I still do care.  I care enough to feel a little insecure, and that’s not a bad thing.  Heck, it even produced a nearly 1,000 word post.

If nothing else, this post is a dedication to the woman who taught me how to match my clothes, how to look “put together,” and that shoes were an important piece of the wardrobe.  My mom personally helped keep food not only on our table, but on the table of Ralph Lauren through the 80’s and into the 90’s.  She loved that little polo man and I learned to love him too.

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You can barely make the little polo man on my long sleeve plaid shirt at my home in Norman, OK.

I don’t know if anyone noticed or even cared about my hat while I was sitting in Starbucks banging out this post, but my wife cared and noticed as I left the house.  She called me “P Diddy” as I left the house tonight, and then added “you look cute.”  She’s the only one that really matters to me anyway, because I married a woman who loves and appreciates a nice wardrobe more than I do.

“Black shades, white gloves.  Lookin’ sharp, lookin’ for love.”

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Senior prom – May, 1989.

I won’t be confused with the poor sap in today’s song/video, but this hit is a classic from 1983 from guys that were rocking their own form of style.  These guys make the “Duck Dynasty” guys look like baby-faced kids.  With their wonderful, flowing beards, Dusty Hill and Billy Gibbons were the recognizable faces of ZZ Top.  Joined by drummer Frank Beard (ironically the most clean shaven of the group), ZZ Top had quite a bit of success producing numerous hits especially between 1983-1986.  This is one of their most recognizable and famous songs.  If my looks couldn’t draw the girls when I was growing up (which they rarely did), then I always hoped they’d come running just as fast as they can, cause every girl crazy bout a “Sharp Dressed Man.”

As always, thanks for reading and wear your favorite shoes today.

sincerely,

the 80’s

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“No Need to Worry. No Need to Cry.”

“I’m your Messiah and you’re the reason why.” – Prince

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Prince is pointing at and talking to u.

Recently I completed a 2 week fast that I’ve been participating in with other members of the church I attend.  It’s not necessarily a no-food-at-all fast, but I chose to fast food from sunup 2 sundown everyday 4 two weeks.  One of my friends jokingly asked me if I was observing Ramadan (an Islamic celebration that also includes fasting from sunup 2 sundown).  He works 4 a large corporation that makes its’ living largely by selling poultry around the world.  He was on a no-meat fast so I started referring 2 him as a Vegan, and thought about endorsing him on Linkedin 4 his vegetarian ways.  I didn’t though.  It was all in good fun.

“You’re just a sinner I am told.  Be your fire when you’re cold.”

When you’re skipping a meal and snacks throughout the day time does not fly by, and that’s a good thing.  The fast is supposed 2 make you a little uncomfortable.  You’re supposed to stop and think and reflect and pray when those hunger pains hit.  I wasn’t listening 2 Prince to divert my attention from being hungry if you think that’s where I’m somehow going with this post.  I was actually listening to Matt Redman and “10,000 Reasons” every morning during this time.

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Matt Redman is also pointing and talking to you.  He’s practically just like Prince!

Everyone, sing along with Matt!  “Bless the Lord, oh my soul.  Oh my soul, worship His holy name…”  Love that song.

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“I’m not a human.  I’m a dove.  I’m your conscious.  I am love.  All I really need is to know that you believe.”

Wow.  Spiritual imagery anyone?

Anyway, because of the fast, I got out of bed earlier than normal those two weeks.  I was up no later than 6:30, and on most days I was up by 6.  That might not be early for some of you, but for me it is.  Because of this our dog now starts whimpering and whining very lowly around 6 am in her room and it increasingly grows stronger.  By 6:30 it becomes unbearable and I let her out 2 go 2 the bathroom.  The main thing is she knows it is time 2 eat.  She’s hungry.  I was hungry every afternoon for two weeks.

But on the last afternoon of my fast, this particular Prince song came on the radio as I was driving back to the office from an appointment.  It got me thinking about the lyrics (populated throughout this post), and Prince’s use (intentionally or not) of spiritual imagery throughout the song.  It’s really very interesting considering what a huge pop hit this was 4 the Purple One back in the winter of 1984-85.

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I can still remember the 8th grade girls at Whittier, many names and faces now a blur, but they were wearing their black Madonna fingerless gloves, and cool shades, walking around with their cool friends.  They were singing this cool song (8th grade was very cool, alright?), and using the hand gestures associated with it.  If you paid attention at all in 1984 then you know what I’m talking about – point to your eye or use your pinky finger or both (I), make a fist (would), point a gun at your head (die), show four fingers (for), and then point at the person you’re singing to (you).  I would die 4 u.  Darling if u want me 2!

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“Purple Rain” would be the pinnacle of a spectacular career 4 an other-worldly musician.  My appreciation 4 his talent grew the older I became and the more I read or saw about him and his ability to play many instruments proficiently as well as writing, singing, arranging, etc.  His guitar playing on a performance of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” along with Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne, and Steve Winwood at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2004 was incredible.  He really was an enigma in many ways, but aside from his in-your-face sexuality, and his eccentricities he was above all a musical prodigy, and a cultural phenomenon during his peak in the 80’s and early 90’s.

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You can see how popular Prince was based on a survey of a bunch of middle schoolers back in 1984!

I read that Prince became more spiritual in the years before he died.  He was a Jehovah’s Witness, which to me is a strange Christian denomination.  Sorry, but if you choose not 2 celebrate Christmas, Easter, or birthdays (among many other strange customs and beliefs) then I am out.  Apparently it fit Prince, and I hope he achieved some sense of peace practicing it.  Personally Jehovah’s Witnesses remind me of someone using their GPS and in cruise control on an interstate, but then making an abrupt exit off the highway because “they know a better way.”  Just stay on the right road man!  Come back!  Come back!

Strange the things that pop into my head during a fast.  I was hungry.  I fed myself with scripture and teachings and prayer and I’m a better person 4 it.  And a post about Prince with a splash of Matt Redman came from it as well.  How many posts have you read where those 2 are mentioned together!?  LOL.  If you think me a little strange or odd, then perhaps…

“I am something that you’ll never comprehend.”

Here is a live performance of the late, great Prince Nelson Rogers and one of my top 5 Prince songs ever… “I Would Die 4 U”

As always, thanks 4 reading

sincerely,

the 80’s

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“Years May Come and Go”

“Here’s one thing I know…” – Jackson Browne & Clarence Clemons

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I’m having a hard time concentrating today, and it’s not because tomorrow is the national holiday that celebrates a large, ugly, rodent who will dictate the remaining length of our winter.  No, today’s post was spurred on because a co-worker announced her resignation today.  I thought about writing this post months ago after another friend left the organization for a different job out of state, but for whatever reason this post just never made it into words… until now.

Today is actually the third time in the last 12 months I’ve lost a favorite co-worker of mine who has decided to move on to a new job, and it sucks.  Natalie left today and everyone in the bank let out a collective sigh of disappointed resignation.  Make no mistake, I am not disappointed for her or the others that have left in the last 12 months.  I’m happy for them and their families, and the opportunity that lies ahead.  It’s an exciting and anxious time in their lives.  I’m disappointed for me.  I’m sad for me.  Everyone that’s ever worked somewhere with good, talented people knows what that’s like.  It happens in every profession everyday.  It’s nothing unique, but it feels like the end of a little era.  Changes like this make me stop for a moment and reflect, and wonder how the hell it went by so quickly.  And it also makes me a little sad to know that it won’t ever be the same.  I also wonder to myself:  what did that time together produce?

I met Ron the first day I started with my current employer in April 2013.  With a hearty laugh, a servant’s heart, and a mild resemblance to Larry Bird (ironically, Ron is from Indiana and actually helped to run Larry Bird’s charity golf tournament), I liked him immediately.  We went on numerous sales calls and lunches and I was always amazed at his ability to never meet a stranger.  This is a gift, and it’s not one I possess, but I took mental notes and found inspiration in his ability to quickly make “life-long” friends.  With a fondness for certain phrases, anyone who knows Ron knows some of his favorites, and I’m no different.  He might mention how he “played basketball poorly at USC” or he might talk about his spirituality and his lack of fear of dying – “we’re all in line, but I’m not volunteering to move up.”  Sometimes it was his way of looking at business transactions – “what you don’t make on the peanuts, you make up for on the popcorn.”  If Ron likes and respects you then he might describe you as an “absolute rockstar” to anyone who would listen.  Well, Ron will always be a rockstar in my book, and the next two former co-workers (it’s still strange to me referring to these three as “former co-workers”) are rockstars to me as well.

I worked with Ruston for the better part of 10 years and we became closer and closer friends as the years wore on.  He served as my loan coordinator for most of those years, which was a role he quickly became overqualified for.  Nonetheless I loved our daily conversations that might be about family or work or just something ridiculous.  He taught me a lot about patience and just enjoying the moment.  We had hundreds of talks through the years and the majority of them contained laughs.  Many of those laughs happened while we ate lunch together as well (especially the last few years we worked together).  It was always a pleasure to be around him whether we were chowing down on a “Slim’s plate,” at Slim Chickens, or “The Heisman” at Billy Sims BBQ (which ironically closed down shortly after Ruston took another job and moved out of town).  We never missed a chance to share our lives with each other and make each other laugh.  We still communicate often but I miss the daily chats.  My family was at the hospital for the birth of his first two children (Brandt & Nora), and only missed the third one (Ansley) because we were out of town.  I helped him load the moving truck his final day in NW Arkansas and told his dad what an outstanding son he and his wife raised.  He’s humble, kind, someone I would trust with my life, and just an all-around good man.  I’m forever grateful for the days we spent working together.

I worked with Natalie for only about three years, but it was a fun three years.  She infused energy and fun and creativity into work from day one.  We commiserated over boring banking events and laughed at the inane ridiculous inefficiencies that sometimes go along with the job.  We bonded over community events, meetings, a love of our families, and daily pop culture happenings.  My wife and I visited her and her husband after the birth of their second son, Witten.  Though I’m anti-Dallas Cowboys, I just can’t find it within me anymore to cheer against Jason Witten when the Cowboys are playing.  With basketball being my favorite sport I’ve been enjoying the recent weekly updates on her oldest, Brody (or as I now call him – “LeBrody James” after a recent 30 point performance in his Upward Basketball league game).  I am already planning my first trip to see a game at the P.G. gym.  I want it to be when LeBrody begins playing varsity basketball for the Tigers, and I honestly can’t wait for that day.  I’m sure I’ll blink and it will be here in no time, and our three years will be but a blip in time becoming harder and harder to recall as the years pass.  The definition of a shooting star in our industry, I have no doubts that Natalie will be running her own successful bank or business one day if that’s the path she chooses.

“Know that I intend to be the one who always makes you laugh until you cry”

People come and go through your life all the time.  I still work with many great people who continue to make work fun day in and day out.  Working with someone for many years makes you wonder sometimes if you see them more than your family.  You become invested in their lives.  It’s just a natural byproduct of being interested and learning about your fellow co-workers.  You listen to their problems.  You celebrate the good times and you empathize during the sad times.  You’re there with them during monumental moments in their lives – weddings, births, promotions, deaths, etc.  You start caring for these people like they’re actually family members, and in many ways they are.

I asked at the beginning of this post what that time together produced?  That’s pretty easy.  It produced a better me.  Three unique individuals who I dearly love are now all a part of the fabric of my life here on earth.  Every time I see one of those quilts that has passed down from generation to generation with patches and notations all over it I think that’s what our lives are like.  We meet new people everyday.  We strike up relationships and we enjoy moments in time together.  These people and events impact our lives in different ways at different times.  I now have a patch of Ron and of Ruston and of Natalie sewn onto my hypothetical quilt, and I’m so very thankful for that.

“All my life, you’re a friend of mine”

(Personal note:  I’ve told each of you before, but it’s worth repeating – it was great fun working with each of you, good luck wherever this amazing thing called life takes you, and know that wherever you go and whatever you do I’ll be cheering for you.)

In keeping with the theme of this blog, today’s featured video features the duet between Jackson Browne and the late, great “Big Man,” Clarence Clemons.  It was a top 20 hit in 1985 and drips of 80’s deliciousness.  It features the actress Darryl Hannah (Browne’s girlfriend at the time) in the video holding a bulky 80’s VHS video recorder, and she actually sings background vocals on the song.  It’s a campy little video and song, but the message is simple and genuine, and I’m dedicating it to three of my favorite co-workers.

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“I Had a Dream”

“I had an awesome dream.”

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This is one of those posts entirely spontaneous with no clear cut direction that I hope rides a wave of momentum spurred on by the great 80’s jheri curl of one Lionel Brockman Richie Jr.  The lyrics quoted above have always stood out to me every time this song has played since it’s debut over 30 years ago in 1985.  Lionel didn’t just have a dream, he had an AWESOME dream.  Occasionally when I have a dream I can actually remember I will tell my wife… ‘I had a dream… no, I had an awesome dream!’ just to pay tribute to one of the great voices and lines from an 80’s song.

It’s very applicable in your everyday life as well:

I had a lunch… I had an awesome lunch…

I had a customer phone call… I had an awesome customer phone call…

I had a bathroom break… I had an awesome bathroom break…

Try it sometime.  Though I love the lyrical line, the song is not my favorite Lionel song by any means (“Stuck on You” solo and “Sail On” with The Commodores hold those honors), and the lyrics are, well, corny at best, but the sentiment and the actual message are solid.

“It’s time to start believing oh yes.  Believing who you are.  You are a shining star.”

This song was featured in the commercially successful movie “White Nights.”  Remember that movie?  Me neither, but that’s only because I never saw it.  Oh I’ve seen bits and pieces on cable tv through the years, but I’ve never sat through an entire showing of it.  I was only 14 when the movie debuted and it was about a couple of shining star ballet dancers (Gregory Hines and Mikhail Baryshnikov) as far as I knew.  It wasn’t ever going to be very high on my “must see” list.

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No offense to ballet dancers, but it just wasn’t my thing back in 1985

Dancing movies were big in the 80’s.  You had the hit movies like “Footloose,” “Flashdance,” and “Dirty Dancing,” and you had a slew of other dance movies as well like “Grease 2,” “Stayin’ Alive,” “Breakin’,” “Fame,” and “A Chorus Line” just to name a few more so there was nothing unusual at all about a film starring two really good ballet dancers.

“As we go down life’s lonesome highway.  Seems the hardest thing to do is to find a friend or two.”

Is life really a lonesome highway?  Depends upon what stage of life you’re in I guess, but I haven’t been on too many lonesome highways in my life.  I’ve been on a few, but for the most part highways are noisy, crowded, and obstacle-infused death-traps that I loathe.  But finding a friend or two?  I don’t think it’s the hardest thing to do, because we were made for relationships.  Now, to have good ones may take a little more work and can definitely be hard at times, but I also believe these relationships are the best things about our time on this planet.

I write about relationships and friends a lot on this blog.  It’s probably because the subject matter is so important to me, and in my opinion, what make life so worth getting up everyday with an expectancy and an anticipation as to what lies ahead.  We experience all kinds of joys and pains in life, and we need those relationships because they make the pain a little less painful and the joy a little more joyful.

“Say you, say me it for always.  Oh that’s the way it should be”

I will say it for always, Lionel!  This song, that line about having an awesome dream, the movie I never saw, some of the best hair of the 80’s, a #1 hit, an Academy Award and  Golden Globe award-winning song.  I’m thankful for it all, and I’m thankful for the music of Lionel Richie.  The video for “Say You, Say Me…”

Remember that you are a shining star, and be thankful for all of those wonderful relationships you have, you have had, and you are going to have, because that is what is really important.

Have a great day.  No, have an AWESOME day!

sincerely,

the 80’s

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“I Could Move Out to the Left For a While”

“I could slide to the right for a while.” – Breakfast Club

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Don’t confuse this one hit wonder of a band with the movie “The Breakfast Club.”

Today I wished an old high school friend of mine a happy birthday on Facebook.  What did we ever do before Facebook and other internet sites like birthdayreminder.com came along?  Well, we didn’t wish near as many people happy birthday for one, and we didn’t worry about it either.  Personally, I like the birthday reminders.  It gives me a chance to reflect even for just a few seconds about the person I’m wishing a happy birthday, and to see what random memories or thoughts come along with that.

“I’m doing my very best dancing.  Every time you’re looking the other way.”

The guy I wished happy birthday is not a friend that I call on the phone or see once a year, but instead just someone I might run into at reunions and follow along on social media.  He’s a guy that made me laugh though… a lot.  For five years from 8th grade through graduation we went to school together.  We attended the same church, and church classes, and we attended basketball practices together for many of those years as well.  His name is Lance and here’s what he wrote in my high school senior yearbook in May of 1989:

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“Blade” was a high school nickname.  Referring to my slender build, my basketball coach Tony Robinson said that when I turned sideways I was like a blade.

Silly?  Yes.  Ridiculous?  Of course.  Amusing?  To this day it makes me smile whenever I pull out the 1989 (83rd volume) “Norman Trail” yearbook.

One of my favorite memories of being with Lance was on our way to basketball practice one day in the spring of 1987.  We were sophomores at West Mid-High, and any basketball players at West had to make the 1.5 mile drive to Norman High School (where only juniors and seniors attended) for practice at the end of the school day.  Lance would ride along many times to practice in my ’84 Camaro.  He loved to practice the art of distraction with me when he was in my Camaro.  Lance would distract me and then deftly put my car from drive into neutral causing me to rev my engine but go nowhere while at a stop sign or a traffic light.  I would shake my head, smile, then usually I put it back into drive without my foot on the brake causing the car to lurch ahead while at the same time making me look ridiculous.

Well, this one particular day I was driving us in my Camaro to practice.  I had probably had my car for less than a month, and Lance was my only passenger that day.  The streets were wet from a recent rain, and I was at a two-way stop sign making a left turn onto Berry Road from Westlawn Drive.

Those of you familiar with Norman know that Berry Road is a busy road most times of the day and even more so  towards the end of a school day.  After sitting at the stop sign what seemed to me for hours, and getting impatient (as most 16 year olds are apt to be), I eventually slammed on the gas when I saw the slightest of openings between the oncoming traffic in both directions.  Well, in a vehicle not known for its handling in wet or icy conditions, and with a back end that weighs about as much as I did in high school, that’s not the smartest thing to do.

“Gonna make a move that knocks you over.  Watch this turn one’s gonna put you away.”

The car immediately bolted out onto Berry Road and began fishtailing.  I was an inexperienced driver at that point because I had just turned 16 at the end of March.  By the grace of God there was was a house on the southeast corner of Berry and Apache that had a portion of curb missing separating the front yard and Berry Road.  Thankfully I shot up on the lawn right through that opening and came to an abrupt stop.  I sat there silently shaking as the adrenaline rushed through me, but Lance… oh Lance.  He just started laughing and yelled “that was awesome!”

“I got to get up and back ’cause I’ve been off track”

Quickly realizing that no one was hurt and the car was fine, I smiled a smile of relief, and laughed along with Lance.  Praying to God that no one I knew saw me (pretty sure one of my other teammates drove by me and honked; not entirely sure if I dreamed that up or not), I sheepishly pulled through the makeshift driveway/front yard to the other side and onto Apache Street and eventually made my way to the high school.

Funny the memories that make impressions in your brain and are never forgotten.  That very brief, slightly frightening moment in the spring of 1987 is mostly due to a silly Facebook birthday reminder.  Little memories like this one are woven into the fabric of life and are constant reminders of the tremendous blessing it is of having friends at different stages and times throughout your life, especially those that can make you laugh.

You know what else was brief and slightly frightening in the spring of 1987 and makes me laugh today 30 years after its’ release?  The video and song lyrics from today’s featured band.

“I could be big and tough and other funny stuff”

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Back-up singers dressing in poultry costumes was a common theme in the 80’s.

Maybe it’s the ridiculous chicken costumes or the fact that lead singer Dan Gilroy bears a small resemblance to Vanilla Ice.  Perhaps it’s the colorfully outrageous video featuring the likes of the great Wink Martindale, or possibly it’s just the infectious tune of the song.  Whatever it is I’ve always genuinely liked this song.  It’s bright, upbeat, fun, and features singing chickens, and peaked all the way up at #7 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the spring of ’87.  An interesting side note:  according to Wikipedia, pop star Madonna was the drummer for this group in early 80’s.

Wake up!  It’s Breakfast Club!

Thanks for reading.

Oh, and I told Lance I would be calling him this summer.

sincerely,

the 80’s

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“Everyday the Dreamers Die”

“See what’s on the other side.” – U2

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These first few weeks of January have really challenged me.  I’ve been working on this post for days, but it seems fitting that I would finish it up on MLK Day, because Bono is a big fan of the late Dr. King:

“He wasn’t just talking about the American dream. It was a much bigger idea, actually, an idea that could fit an African dream, an Irish dream. And it certainly wasn’t a daydream. It was a call to action.” – Bono

Two thousand and sixteen flew by and I have to say I’m not sure where it went.  I found joy in small family moments and in our summer trip to Madison, WI and Chicago.  My daughter turned 16 and my wife and I found joy in the many blessings that we try not to take for granted everyday (I would like to quote contemporary musical lyricist philosopher Peter Hernandez by using the phrase “#blessed.”)

I was saddened by the continued random acts of senseless violence everywhere.  I was disappointed in politicians and media and in many Americans during the election cycle that was nothing more than a glorified circus.  I was saddened by the deaths of family and acquaintances, and of some of music’s best (Glenn Frey, Prince, and George Michael; for me, those are three of the giants in the industry).

I felt like I made strides in areas of my life and maybe that’s all I was intended for in 2016.  There were times I felt like I was in neutral spinning my wheels while cars drove slowly by me and stared sympathetically at the idiot stuck in park.  Maybe I was “running to stand still.”  I felt like this blog in particular has been stuck in park to begin 2017.  My river of ideas has an army of beavers somewhere upstream.  I’ve been trying to find the location so I can blow the friggin’ dam up.

I say all of that in order to say thank you U2.  If there is one band who will call you to think, act, examine, and question then it has to be the quartet from Dublin comprised of Paul, David, Adam, and Larry.

“The rivers run but soon run dry.  We need new dreams tonight”

Maybe God is purposely slowing me down, and preparing me for something more in 2017, but I do want more out of 2017.  I want to write more.  I want to write better.  I want more out of my relationships.  I want more from my heavenly relationship.  I want to produce more fruit at my day job.  I want to be a better co-worker to others.  I want to lead better.  I want to serve more.  I want to be a better father, a better husband, a better friend, a better son.  I want to soak in more of the good word.  I want to spend more quality time with family members and close friends.  I can’t be the only one that has this overload of feelings and desires all cascade upon me at the same time can I?  Where to start, and on January 16th no less?

Relax… breathe.  I think I sometimes have so many thoughts like that at once that my immediate response is escaping to the television or down the thousands of rabbit holes the internet can take you.  If there’s a better time consumer than the internet I’d like to know what it is.  Not saying that the internet is a bad time consumer, because you can learn and grow in knowledge from time spent online.  It’s a wonderful resource, but you can also spend worthless amounts of time when you have a natural curiosity towards entertainment.  Actors, athletes, musicians, and the like interest me.  If it didn’t, then this blog probably wouldn’t exist.  I like the nostalgia of the 80’s.  I like the memories that produce posts and random thoughts that I can’t quite formulate onto the screen yet.  And I absolutely love the music.

Which brings me to the subject matter at hand today.  One group that soothes me, and in a way helps me to focus is the band U2 and the album a few of you may have heard of called “The Joshua Tree.”  I was reminded of the greatness of this album following a recent announcement by the band to tour in 2017, and to play this album in order from “Where the Streets Have No Name” to “Mothers of the Disappeared.”

I hadn’t listened to this album in its entirety in quite a few years, but I was inspired to listen to it and write about this album and band when I saw a recent Instagram post by a former Norman High classmate who posted a memory of the album and the discussion she had in class with others about whether side 2 was better than side one.  For those of you who are now lost, let me introduce you to the cassette!  It had two sides just like albums.

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Behold!  The cassette tape!  A side “A” and a side “B”

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This piece is not a dissertation or literary masterpiece by any means on the greatness of the album, but simply a way for me to pay tribute to a band that I have to say I was late to the game on.  My true appreciation for the band really didn’t begin until the early 90’s at the encouragement of a great friend of mine named Scott.  I didn’t own “The Joshua Tree.”  I didn’t own “Rattle and Hum.”  I sure didn’t own “The Unforgettable Fire,” or “War,” but he encouraged me to listen more to the band and so I purchased both “The Joshua Tree” and “Achtung Baby” around the same time period, and listened, and listened, and listened some more.

The first U2 song I actually remember was seeing the video on MTV in the fall of 1984 for “Pride (In the Name of Love).”  While easily a more appropriate song and video to post today, I don’t remember being overly impressed with the song, and dismissed the ridiculously annoying video that featured a lot of train tracks and no shots at all of the band if I recall correctly (I searched for the video online, but it seems to not exist anywhere that I can find anyway).  A much better video featuring the band with some poor lighting in a basement somewhere is the prevalent video online for the song.

I didn’t spend much time lost in the lyrical wonderland of U2 songs in the mid to late 80’s because my musical tastes were being swept away more with the likes of Van Halen, Poison, GNR, Run DMC, LL Cool J, and classic rock acts like The Eagles and Boston.  To borrow from my financial world, U2 is one of the bands that continues to appreciate in value in my mind and that opinion continues to be strengthened by their continual sell-outs in stadiums around the world, and the social significance and causes that they bring awareness to.

Personally, if they’re going to tour and play “The Joshua Tree” in its entirety from front to back, then I think the band should have to revert to the hairstyles and clothes they rocked in 1987.  That’s the only true way to try to recapture that 1987 magic!  Bono and The Edge better get that hair growing again if this tour is going to work properly.  I’m ready to dye my hair dark again, break out my stone washed denim, polo shirt, and loafers (minus the socks) and show out for one of the greatest bands of all-time.

“Desert sky.  Dream beneath a desert sky.”

Today’s featured video is not my favorite U2 song by any means.  It’s not even my favorite song on “The Joshua Tree” album (“Where the Streets Have No Name” holds that distinction).   Somehow though it seemed appropriate as I wandered my way into this post not knowing which direction it would take me.

The song didn’t even break the top 40 in the U.S., and was the fourth single released from the album.  As much as I love this song, everytime I listen to it I just feel like there’s something missing.  Maybe it’s the fact that it’s the shortest song on the album coming in at just under three minutes in length leaving a bit of longingness for more.  Whatever it is it just feels like it could have been more.  Nonetheless I still love it, and here is the video for “In God’s Country…”

Postscript…

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Just for fun, I thought I’d rank my favorite Joshua Tree songs in order, because who doesn’t like a good list for debating unimportant things like this?  I will preface this list with the fact that it has changed many times throughout the years, and probably will continue to.  That’s another sign for me of a truly great album.  It’s always dynamic.  I’ve been listening again to this album a lot since the announcement of the tour, and here’s what has been appealing to me now, and keep in mind that this album is like a NBA all-star game – even the 11th player is awesome:

  1.  Where the Streets Have No Name (“I want to tear down the walls that hold me inside.”  Just a special song that I’ve already featured in a difficult post I wrote months ago)
  2. Red Hill Mining Town (“From father to son the blood runs thin.”)
  3. I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (“I have spoke with the tongue of angels
    I have held the hand of a devil.”)
  4. Running to Stand Still (“You’ve got to cry without weeping, talk without speaking, scream without raising your voice”)
  5. One Tree Hill (a tribute to Bono’s personal assistant who was killed in a motorcycle accident just prior to the recording of this album; “You run like a river runs to the sea.”)
  6. In God’s Country (“Sad Eyes, Crooked Crosses”)
  7. Trip Through Your Wires (“Lips were dry, throat like rust.  You gave me shelter from the heat and the dust.”)
  8.  Bullet the Blue Sky (love the vividness of the lyrics and the Biblical reference – “In the locust wind comes a rattle and hum.  Jacob wrestled the angel and the angel was overcome.”)
  9. Mothers of the Disappeared (Beauty and sadness – “In the wind we hear their laughter.  In the rain we see their tears.”)
  10. With or Without You (30 years ago this song is probably top 4 on this album; hauntingly beautiful vocals – “Slight of hand and twist of fate.  On a bed of nails she makes me wait.”)
  11. Exit (give this song to Jim Morrison and the Doors and I think it fits right in – “A dog started crying like a broken hearted man at the howling wind.”)

There’s really no wrong or right way to rank these songs so feel free to post your rankings in the comments section if so inclined.

Wow, this really did turn into a dissertation on the greatness of this album as I sit here and realize I’ve just pushed out over 1800 words.

Thank you U2, and as always if you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading.

Here’s to an awesome 2017 for you and yours, and hopefully there’s a U2 concert in your new future as well.

sincerely,

the 80’s

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“Penny For Your Thoughts”

“A nickel for a kiss.  A dime if you tell me that you love me.” – Tavares

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Back in 1982 money went a lot further.  Just look at the above lyrics from the family band known as Tavares.  After all the average price of gasoline was only 91 cents per gallon, the average cost of a new car was $7,983, and a loaf of sliced white bread was a mere 50 cents.  Even though the yearly rate of inflation was roughly 6%, according to Tavares, thoughts only cost one penny and a kiss was five cents!  What a bargain!

You know what else was only a penny back in 1982?  Twelve cassettes of my choice courtesy of the Columbia House Mail-order music club!  With an insert in the TV Guide and usually one in the Sunday newspaper “Parade” insert, Columbia House preyed upon the impressionable youthful minds like myself that craved great music.

With hundreds of cassettes to choose from there was no way I could say no to such an obviously great deal.  I was probably 11 or 12 the first time I joined the club.  I specifically remember receiving Hall & Oates “Private Eyes,” Van Halen’s “Diver Down,” Men At Work’s “Business As Usual,” and Alabama’s “Mountain Music” cassettes among that first batch.  As I remember you had the option of only selecting four cassettes with the agreement to buy one at regular club price over the next year, or you could opt for the 12 with the agreement to buy 8 more over the next three years.  I think even 11 year old me was smart enough to realize that I couldn’t afford to buy eight more cassettes over three years with no real means of consistent income besides the occasional birthday money from grandma, aunts, and uncles.  So, instead I opted for the four cassettes with the realistic possibility that I could scrape together enough cash to pay for one cassette at regular club price, which I believe was Air Supply’s “Greatest Hits.”

 

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Two of the originals still residing in my attic

My longing to belong to a club probably started earlier in my life.  When I was just a young man of say seven or eight, I wanted to be part of a club.  I wanted to have an actual clubhouse with a unique hand-sewn flag flying from it.  I wanted to hold meetings, and to enjoy the fellowship of my peers concerning important childhood issues of the day like where we were riding our bikes to, what sport were we going to play that day, or just a place to try out new toys or read comic books.

If you’re old enough to remember then you will recall the Little Rascals and “The He-Man Woman-Haters Club.”  I thought their clubhouse and their mission was just about the greatest thing ever.

I grew up, dated, and eventually got married, thankfully making me ineligible for the “He-Man Woman-Haters Club,” but I continued to be barraged with invitations to real clubs.  Service clubs, school clubs, and even buyer’s clubs like Columbia House all clamored for my attention and my membership.

I belonged to Columbia House and later BMG Music Club on multiple occasions through the years in fact.  I mailed in my 1 cent (plus shipping and handling) for 12 cassettes and later 8 CD’s with the agreement to buy the required amount at regular club prices.  And just like many others, I ended up as a 14 year old with no job and a bill my parents had to bail me out on (twice if I recall correctly), but hey, I was part of a club!

I don’t have the minimum IQ (132) to join the Mensa Society club (shocker) or the deep pockets to join The Core Club in New York ($50,000 registration fee and $15,000 annually), but through my work, I am a member of a local country club with access to golf, tennis, swimming pools, and more.  I feel strangely out of place when I’m in the large clubhouse though, but I do feel right at home on the golf course.

We’re on to a new year, and 2017 presents endless possibilities and opportunities before us all.  Clubs and organizations are anywhere and everywhere, but it was only in the 80’s where one penny could make you feel like you owned the world.

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“If I had a crystal ball I would gaze into your mind
See what you were thinkin’, if my ship was sinkin’
If you’re leavin’ me behind”

A penny for 12 cassettes, a nickel for a kiss… Even though this song is really a love song I just loved the fact that it mentions a penny, so enjoy the smooth R&B sounds of Ralph, Pooch, Chubby, Butch, and Tiny today on this #16 R&B charts hit (#33 on the Billboard Hot 100) called “A Penny For Your Thoughts.”  Listen, and think about those first cassettes or cd’s you got when you were just a young kid with no money, but did have a penny.

As always, thanks for reading.

sincerely,

the 80’s

 

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“I’m Looking Out For Angels”

“Just trying to find some peace.” – George Michael

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I hope you are, George.  I hope you’ve found some peace, because 2016 is leaving a wake of destruction of 80’s hit makers.  Glenn Frey, David Bowie, Prince, and now George Michael.  Add to that mix other musicians like Maurice White, Merle Haggard, and Leon Russell, and I think 2016 has done enough damage to the music industry.

George Michael passed away on Christmas Day at the age of just 53.  The sad irony that I just posted his iconic Christmas classic “Last Christmas” on Christmas eve is not lost on me either.  I will always listen to that song during Christmas season, but I will forever remember George as a black leather jacket, gold cross earring-wearing bad boy of the mid to late 80’s and early 90’s.  There was no arguing the man had style and perfect hair.  Wearing some aviator shades, and maintaining a perfectly unshaven beard, George was the definition of cool around 1987 and 88.

George introduced us all to the coolness of the four or five day stubble look.  If I could have grown a perfect beard like his when I was junior at Norman High School in 1988, I would have definitely done that.  I would have looked pretty ridiculous though in my basketball uniform.

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“Because it ain’t no joy for an uptown boy whose teacher has told him goodbye, goodbye, goodbye.”  

He wasn’t always the cool-looking George though.  When most of us first saw and heard George Michael he was bopping around in some way too short-shorts and wearing a pink long sleeve shirt and some ridiculous yellow finger-less gloves as part of the duo known as Wham!  The video for “Wake Me Up (Before You Go Go)” played in heavy rotation on MTV and you couldn’t avoid it (though I tried).  It was this initial foray into the public eye which made George Michael’s “announcement” later on in life that he was gay/bi-sexual a non-event for many who had this image ingrained in our memories from 1984.

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After his departure from Andrew Ridgeley and the duo Wham! George remade his image  into a more serious adult artist.  He became a tight-jean-wearing, butt-shaking, lady killer in the late 80’s and early 90’s.  When he released the controversial “I Want Your Sex” in 1987 it drew gasps from the PMRC (Casey Kasem even refused to say the name of his song on his weekly American Top 40 instead referring to it as George Michael’s latest hit), but it shot George into superstardom as one of six top five singles released from the “Faith” album.  The video for the single was one of MTV’s most controversial videos at the time due to its’ sexual themes.

Many of the girls I knew loved George Michael.  My wife was a big fan.  I always thought there would come a time where we go catch him in concert, but this just goes to show that you never know when the end is coming for each one of us so enjoy each day.

For what it’s worth, my favorite 10 George Michael songs loosely arranged:
1. Careless Whisper  2.  Too Funky  3.  Everything She Wants (Wham!)  4.  Last Christmas  5.  I Want Your Sex  6.  Freedom ’90  7.  Faith  8.  One More Try  9.  & 10. would be his duets with Elton John (“Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me”), and Aretha Franklin (“I Knew You Were Waiting”).

“So if you love me.  Say you love me.  But if you don’t just let me go.” 

There were thousands that loved the soulful sound and model looks of George Michael, but it’s unfortunately time to let another 80’s icon go.  Memories preserved forever through the magic of music, and George gave us some of the best.  This song was a #1 hit in the U.S. for Michael in 1988 as the fourth single released off of his multi-platinum album “Faith.”  It’s “One More Try.”

R.I.P. Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou

Thanks for reading.

sincerely,

the 80’s

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“Tell Me Baby, Do You Recognize Me?”

“Well it’s been a year, it doesn’t surprise me.” – Wham!

My gift to you today on this Christmas eve is the gift that gives every year at this time.  Consider it a guilty pleasure, pure 80’s trash, or somewhere in between.  Whatever you think of it I consider it one of my favorite Christmas songs.  I’m not kidding.  I need some Wham! “Last Christmas” every Christmas season.  I love the song and the accompanying festive video with George’s perfectly coiffed hair.  I love the pensive, wistful looks and the silly snowball fight that ensues.

Released in December of 1984 when George and Andrew were still a duo, they appear in this video with model Kathy Hill as the woman with “the soul of ice” in the middle of this somewhat bizarre love triangle.  This Christmas anthem has been covered by artists from Jimmy Eat World to Carly Rae Jepsen to Arianna Grande in recent years, and continues to be a staple on most Christmas playlists.

Just remember, if someone gives you their heart this Christmas, at least wait until after the first of the year to give it away.  Don’t do it the very next day.

Merry Christmas from Santa and his reindeers!

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Norman, OK, Christmas 1980 something

sincerely,

the 80’s

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