Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Band Geek - Yeah, I'm Okay With That....

In just a short amount of time, I'll be headed back home to Pennsylvania.  Typically, I don't get to see many friends while visiting because, well...we all have schedules and places to be.  If it isn't a holiday or planned vacation trip, it's usually in and out - a few hours in one spot.  You've all gone home to spend time with family - you get it, right?  I shouldn't say that.  The last trip was for my grandmother's 85th birthday and we saw more family than usual....and it was a great visit.  I have a great family, actually.  Many cousins, aunts, uncles....even a sister.  Wait...especially a sister.  That ought to get me my Christmas kaleidoscope (long story)...and I digress.  The point is that, when headed home, there is little to no time for friends.  The next trip, though, is planned to allow for just that...and there's where the 'band geek' thing comes in to play.

Yes, I was in the band.  Six years, actually.  We, however, defied the stereotype of typical 'band geeks'.  We were THE big thing during our four years in high school.  It wasn't the football team.  If it had been, we might have taken a lot more grief for spending time in the band room.  No, we were the reason everyone had a good time for those four years.  We were the people that knew how to have a good time...because we were....well, really good.  Many of you will conjure up images of some seriously bad high school marching bands as you read this.  Let me throw out our stats from the four years my class was there: roughly 12 wins at area competitions, 2 state championships (out of about 30 competing bands), and 2nd place in our division (one of two divisions), 5th place overall in the National Championships.  Yeah...we were good.  Confident?  There was a bit of that, too.  Oh, and the memories.  Ah, the memories.  Not all good, mind you, but most of them are.  There was the trip to Veteran's Stadium in Philadelphia our freshman year to compete.  We had been on football fields before, certainly, but walking out of the tunnel onto the sideline of the field there.....well, it was....HUGE.  Winning the championship that year only bolstered our confidence and allowed us an opportunity.  If I share it, I will certainly date myself...but I must.  Winning that show got us into the Bicentennial Parade in Philadelphia the next summer.  It was 1976...in Philadelphia....a seriously big deal.  We fared well the following two years, but there was no championship.  Then, our senior year we headed back to Philadelphia after being in Hershey, PA the previous two years.  It was, apparently, a great place for us - we seemed to perform better on a larger stage, I suppose.  As I said, most of the memories are great, some not so much.  We headed out that tunnel again three years later and while the astroturf felt the same, the mood was different.  My best friend's mother, Jane, was like a second mother to several of us and the band's biggest supporter. Scott used to joke that, while many of us talked about quitting band at one point or another, if he even thought about it, he'd have to leave town.  She'd hunt him down and hurt him.  She loved watching us perform and did not miss a show.  This year, though she was there with us, she had been diagnosed with a brain tumor.  We spent the morning at West Chester University going through a final practice.  As others sat and ate lunch before heading into the city, two of us sat on a bus with a pen and paper and wrote a dedication for her.  We, as a group, dedicated that final show of the year to her.  Not one person disagreed with the sentiments and our director, as he had on many occasions, let some of us lead.  it was, quite simply, one of the many life lessons we'd learned.  It was a performance, many of us still believe, that was the best of the year.  Though it was the last one she'd see, we made her proud, I think.  See?  Some good, some not so much.  That win also allowed us an opportunity - a 3:00 a.m. parade.  We got home late that Saturday (okay, early Sunday) and unloaded the buses about a mile from the center of town.  We unpacked the instruments, unloaded the buses, and headed into the downtown area...only to find throngs of supporters waiting.  It was pretty cool and something we still talk about.  We were there, we were part of it.  Sometimes, it's good to be a band geek.

Later the next year, we headed west on a train.  Yes, 140 kids got on a train and headed to Chicago where we eventually boarded our buses.  Looking back, I believe the parents were masochists.  Really?  140 kids on a school trip...for 10 DAYS?  Utter madness?  Nah...we were good kids and would never get in any.....okay, got to move.  A little afraid lightning might shoot through the roof just now.  Seriously, we weren't bad.  Typical high school stuff....from back then.  Not what they do now....goodness NO!  So...I digress again.  We boarded the buses and headed off to the first show.  You see, on our way to the National Championships, the director and staff scheduled us to compete in the Mid-Iowa Combine of Bands.  It was, literally, a week-long tour of Iowa with a different competition every night.  It was a blast. The schedule was always the same - get to the new town, practice, eat lunch set up by the parents group, then practice again in the afternoon.  Little time off before getting ready for the show, performance, then back to the school where we stayed to unfurl our sleeping bags or climb onto a cot set up in the gym.  We'd sleep until early morning, then head off on the buses again for another day of the same.  We loved it.  Tempers can get short and you can learn to get fairly irritated with people when you are with them in such close proximity for an extended period of time.  We did, too.  It never, though, carried over to a performance.  I have to say, it was one of the most memorable experiences I have ever had and taught me a lot.

Most importantly, that was what we got from the experience - life lessons.  I say that because they stay with me to this day and I have passed them on to my kids and others.  One of the most important?  If you're going to do something, especially if you know it's wrong, take responsibility for it if you get caught.  Accept responsibility.  Period.  The other was how to manage and work with others.  To be taught these lessons at that age has proven to be invaluable.  We had student leaders when we first joined and they, in turn, taught us to do the same when working with underclassmen.  Yet another lesson that has served me well over the years?  It doesn't matter if you are right or wrong when performing any task - if you do it with enough confidence, you can fool many people.  Translation - if you look like you're supposed to be there, most will assume you are.  I'm telling you, it works.    Though we had many parents helping guide us in those days, we had a great director that taught those lessons.  Mr Brodie is humble to this day and may not willingly admit he had a huge impact on our lives, but he did.  He was a great teacher and, lo these many years later, we all still have great admiration and respect for him.  We will never be able to thank him enough.  So I will head home next week to be with friends of years gone by so that we can be there for the rededication of the field on which we spent many a Friday evening.  We will get to share memories, both good and not so good, as we sit and remember those no longer with us.  You see, we're getting to that age.  Several of those that marched with us 'back in the day' are gone.  We will remember them, too, as family because, well...that's what we were.  It was a fraternity and a bond we will always share.  I look forward to seeing those friends again...and reliving a few moments of a not-so-mispent youth.

Until next time.........

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

How Many Chances? Or, Is Being a Celebrity An Automatic "Get Out of Jail Free" Card?

Hi, I'm Dave ("Hi, Dave!")...and I'm here at Bloggers Anonymous because, well.....I'm lax about keeping up while I am on the road performing my day job which, truth be told, needs to be maintained so I can survive.  Blogging hasn't been paying the bills.  I know, though, with your help, I can shed that paltry day job and move on to bigger and better things in the world of blogging.  Seriously.  Saw it on TV.  Internet sales are the way to go.  Matter of fact, the guy promoting the products tells me that I can become rich by working a mere 4 hours a day...AND can own my own yacht!  Sadly, I cannot invest yet - I'm still paying on a piece of land in the Everglades.  But I digress.....

Really, I have been lax and haven't written.  The news, though, never fails me.  it lets me know when I need to post something.  I was a little disappointed about the last posting, though.  I really expected some feedback.  Listen, Occupy Wall Street is a movement and I wrote that they were tired of big business getting all the cash and running the world.  What I didn't say (and wanted to get called out on) was that there are many that think we ought to redistribute the wealth.  Here's something I heard the other day that ought to give everyone pause...because we all know it's true - "If everyone in the US made $50,000.00 in 2012 and wealth was distributed evenly, there will (shortly after) be those with millions and those with nothing."  That's all that is going on right now, folks.  Some would invest, some would gamble, some would stick the cash under their mattress.  It's been happening forever and we won't change it.  We need to re-examine the programs we are utilizing that provide much of the taxpayers monies to those that have learned to take advantage of the system.  We've all seen them.  When there are certain groups that are on welfare and have more children because (and I heard this from the source), "I get more money if I have more kids," the system is being bilked.  When I watch a friend with two kids go through a divorce and worry about losing his home, there's a problem when he has to clean out his life savings just to survive after losing his job.  I like the idea in Florida that people have to take a drug test prior to receiving their welfare checks.  Even as the ACLU calls it unconstitutional, I ask how they can see it that way.  Didn't all of us have to take drug tests prior to being hired at work?  I like it.  Here's another idea - why not have those that are capable work for their checks when they get government assistance?  hey, there are plenty of trash-strewn highways and streets.  There are plenty of elderly folks that need to be helped.  Why can't these people actually provide a service for the money we are doling out to them?  Big questions - are you politicians listening?

So....now let's move on to the real reason for writing tonight.  It seems our favorite celebrity bad girl (Wait, just one?) has been put in handcuffs today and taken to jail.  For all I know, she might be out already.  Lindsey Lohan was taken into custody and had her probation revoked today.  She was to have served 360 hours at a women's shelter, yet nine of her trips were, as has been reported, "blown off," while another time she went and left after spending an hour.  The judge even asked how she could have complied with her psychological visits that were to take place weekly...when she was spending a month in Europe.  Wait, what now?  A month WHERE?  Since when do people on probation get to travel to Europe?  Oh, but wait....my mistake.  Her attorney cleared it up for us by stating the obvious - "We're dealing with someone on probation here.  Most people on probation don't always do things perfectly."  Well.....my take on that is...if you weren't driving drunk and shoplifting, you wouldn't be on probation...right?  Why, though, are these people allowed to get away with this?  Okay, I realize money is the obvious reason.  I also, having dealt with people managing correctional facilities, realize that California has an extreme overcrowding situation in the prisons and jails.  Sorry, I'm not accepting it.  When someone like this is allowed to, for all intents and purposes, thumb their nose at the system, they will continue....and they are setting precedent.  How long do you think it will be before others that are not wealthy call attention to his case and scream discrimination?  How long will we allow someone that flagrantly flaunts their apathy and disdain for the system continue to mock the judges?  It is a pathetic example and I, for one, am tired of seeing it allowed.

The worst part of this, I think, is the lack of guidance provided by either her parents, her managers, her lawyers, or the system in general.  Money corrupts.  Don't believe me?  Check out the television shows that her friend, Paris Hilton, had.  I have never....EVER...seen someone so incredibly.....well, I can't say what i want to say without sounding mean.  This is not an intelligent girl.  How's that?  She is in the position she is merely because grandpa knew how to run a hotel chain properly.  Seriously, these kids are such incredibly poor role models that we need to use them as examples - of what NOT to do.  Instead, however, the system lets them off and treats them with a light hand by giving them a slap on the wrist for something that would cause the rest of us to be incarcerated immediately.  It's time to stop the shenanigans.  It's time to make the right decisions.  it's time for the system to wake up and do things that make sense....and WE, as Americans, need to demand it.

Until next time.............

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Our Disdain for Politics....and Occupy Wall Street

The question was posed today online - Are the slew of debates by the Republicans hurting their chances and the party?  How can anyone say, "No?"  Of course they are...for a variety of reasons.  First of all, we've all been bemoaning the length of presidential campaigns for quite some time.  Personally, I'm tired of it already...and the good news is we're more than a year away from the elections!  I know, we have to find the candidate.  I've said it before and stand by my assertion - we're not going to find the person that's best for the job.  We're going to get the person with the fewest amount of skeletons in their closet.  Seriously, we're going to take the current field of 8 or 10 candidates and whittle them down to about 3 or 4.  They will drop out because they have no money or they realize they won't be able to make a successful run after all.  Then, when we narrow down the field, someone will get tripped up by said skeletons.  Don't believe me?  Think Gary Hart.  Think John Edwards.  Trust me, there's dirty laundry out there and we will be witness to the exposure.  Does it not happen every 4 years?  When there are Congressional races, we see it then, too.  We are now more than a year ahead of the elections and have had more than a handful of debates so far.  They stumble over answers - see ya'!  They trot out ridiculous plans that get picked apart - Gone!  They give the Democrats time to kick back, grab a bowl of popcorn, and wait for the implosion...all while they plot how to defeat them and get the President reelected.  Is anyone really guiding this ship?  I can't bear to watch anymore.  Honestly, I am already fed up with the lack of leadership and in-fighting with our elected officials.  Sadly, we now get to watch as they parade around telling us why they'd be best for the job of leading us.  Think about it - the President was elected in 2008 and took office in 2009.  He then had to ramp up and get everyone marching to his wildly mistuned drum.  Congress, apparently, doesn't like the beat of that drum, either...so they make things more difficult.  Now, after the President has had a couple of years (maybe 1,000 days) under his belt to govern, it's time to get reelected.  Forget the working class.  We'll mind the store and hold down the fort while you guys are telling us how great you'd be.  At this pace, I'd say our kids, when they are our age, will elect a President and watch everyone immediately launch the next campaign.  Very, very disheartening if you ask me.  I know no one asked...but I'm the one with the keyboard.  I'm sharing!  This, of course, leads to the Occupy Wall Street protests.

I was wildly lost when I first tried to track down information on the protests.  Asleep at the wheel might be a better term.  The, after a few suggestions by friends, I decided to read.  Novel concept, I know.  Best I can tell, the movement and protests are, well, to protest the fact that we're fed up and the Middle-class is getting screwed.  hey, not my words - I read it somewhere.  Can anyone disagree, though?  It's actually a protest, from what I gather, against big corporations and the fact that they have far too much influence on government.  It's been described as democracy at its most basic level.  It's being knocked for being leaderless.  But leaderless, as it has been explained, does not mean unorganized.  They are organizing in many more areas and, while I can honestly say I have not informed myself enough yet, I know that I am one that believes that lobbyists and corporations are making more of the decisions within our government than the common man.  I know that this group of protesters is making a case for real democracy - as when our forefathers founded our country.  They debate.  They listen.  They argue without fighting.  There are real ideas being discussed, as far as I can tell, to benefit all rather than a select few.  They are growing...and fast.  Even the take on the protests, it seems, are divided across party lines.  And there it is.....

I'm not sure if I fit in with these protests or not.  I only know how I feel.  My opinion is just that - my opinion.  I long, however, for the days of John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Ben Franklin.  I long for the days when spirited debate took place over a cold ale and men argued the pros and cons of differing ideas...ALL for the benefit of the many rather than a mere few.  I long for the days of the greatness of our country.  A time when we listened to each other.  A time when we cared about each other.  A time when we helped each other.  A time when the news wasn't merely filled with murders and rapes.  A time when we heard good news, too.  This weekend, we will travel to celebrate my grandmother's 85th birthday.  Quite a rare event, actually.  She was a member of that generation - The Greatest Generation - as they were called by Tom Brokaw.  They knew what it was to pull together as Americans, not just as Republicans and Democrats.  They always were, and always will be, Americans.  We could learn much from them.  We're too busy, though, to be concerned with what they can teach us.  We're busy being our 12-year old children - we refuse to listen to our elders because (as any kid knows) we know best...and much better than they do!  I want leaders and I want people that will listen to us.  I want our government to do what's best for people trying to put their children through school...not the oil companies.  Hey, I'm certainly NOT against free-enterprise.  I'm against screwing the people that are keeping the economy moving.  It's time the government paid attention...and protestors might just do it.  I'd wake up if I were in Washington.

Until next time...........

Friday, October 7, 2011

A Cancer-Killing Virus? Will They Let It Get To Us?

Absolute news that is too good to be true, right?  A cancer-killing virus has been found at Penn State Hershey Medical Center.  I know, I know.......you're wondering, once again, if it really works, if it's a virus that kills only a certain percentage of the cancer, etc.  Well, based on a story posted online by a friend and shown on ABC's Channel 27, WHTM, in Pennsylvania, this is the scoop - it kills breast cancer cells (all kinds of breast cancer cells) and does it 100% of the time.  I can almost feel your skepticism...but bear with me.  The virus, apparently, triggers the breast cancer cells to turn on themselves and die.  It does NO damage to healthy cells.  Assuming this was an error of sorts, the researchers repeated the procedure (as scientists do) time after time and, in every case, found the same results.  Okay, so more skepticism - they only did it in culture dishes so far...and mice.  Again, something scientists do.  What were the results when they moved to mice?  Same thing.  It just keeps working.  Promising, in my opinion, is a largely understated word for this find.  If you want to read about this, try this link:


We're holding our collective breaths, are we not?  I realize this is merely one form of cancer, but don't we think Susan G Komen would be smiling at the news?  This is breast cancer, yes, and who among us has not, in one form or another, been touched by this specific type of cancer?  Friends and family alike are constantly in our thoughts and prayers as they fight this horrid disease.  I've watched my 85-year old grandmother face it down twice.  30 years ago it snuck up on her and was determined to be her mortal enemy.  Apparently, breast cancer did not realize the formidable foe it had in this lady.  She fought it - courageously and gracefully - and beat it.  Fast forward some 28 years later when, in one unlikely visit to the doctor, they found another lump.  After a biopsy, it was confirmed that, yet again, this killer was showing its' relentless side - it was back.  Yet again, after miles and miles of Walking for the Cure over the years, my grandmother would not let it win.  Her exact words (and part of the reason you really have to love this lady) aren't quite fit to print when asked how she felt about it.  "I kicked this sh** before, I'll kick it again!"  Admirable...and inspiring.  I full expect this lady to be mentioned by Willard Scott on the Today Show at some point.  She is not going to let it beat her...and neither should anyone else.  Until now, though, many did not have a choice.

When I read the comments online about this discovery, I noticed a few people that made a very good point.  They said this discovery will never make it to manufacturing.  They say the government will quash it long before it becomes available or, somewhere along the line it will be found to be ineffective.  Before anyone decries that notion, think about it with an open mind and see the whole picture.  While some are saying people will make a fortune off this cure, others are saying it will put too many people out of work. Seriously, this is an argument I have heard for years - the Cancer Society is big business and this disease is a big part of the employment picture.  We're not just talking about doctors fighting the disease.  Think about every aspect of it and what is involved.  While I consider it (as many others do, too, I'm sure) a sick, twisted notion that we would shelve a cure in the face of jobs.....think about it honestly.  How many people, truly, would be affected by a cure for cancer?  How many hospitals would close?  How many health-care workers would suddenly have to enter a different specialty?  Again, I know...and agree - we should think about the life-saving benefits here rather than the economy, right?  It's better to save people from dying than worry about those in this field of medicine, right?  We need to save lives, period...RIGHT?  At the risk of sounding (extremely) sarcastic.....you still put milk and cookies out for Santa, do ya?  Think this through completely and remember, as Steve Jobs pointed out just a few nights ago - Death is our ultimate destination.  While you find what I am saying unbelievable, remember to weigh the fact that, ultimately, we're all going to die...then tell me what you think our leaders will do.

If you ask me my personal opinion, I will tell you that I am still in favor of saving lives.  To think we would do anything other than that is morally repugnant to me.  I do, however, understand how others could feel the way they do.  I understand (and disagree with) how the decision could be reached to keep something like this from us.  As a matter of fact, the researchers stated in the article that the biggest problem they are facing right now is funding.  they cannot find funds to further this research.  Wait, what now?  Someone just spills the words, "Cure for cancer," and WE CAN'T FIND MONEY???  I'm sorry, but the money ought to be pouring in.  I can virtually guarantee that anyone ever touched by this disease will open their wallets.  I know, too, that any time anyone ever says, "Susan G Komen," or "anything for the cure," I will gladly donate...and that is simply to fight breast cancer.  I have seen too many friends and family members touched by many different forms of cancer.  It's time to stop the pain and suffering.  It's time to find a cure for all of these dreadful, horrible diseases.  In the absence of that, though, I will gladly settle for this one.  Give us a break and throw us one little victory in this never-ending fight....please.

Until next time...............