A Beach Bum Looks at 50 … 6 Days

50 It only gets closer. Watching Dr. Who right now … and wishing I could jump into my Tardis and travel back in time.  No matter.  It’s not going to happen …

I’m still not feeling too much dread at the prospect.  Embrace it.  Make it work for me.  It certainly beats the alternative.  We’ve got this huge party planned for Saturday.  It should be quite the soiree.


I remember virtually nothing about middle school … grades 7 and 8.  But it was in that time that I got my first electric guitar, a 12 string.  I remember going into Bridwells Music and Appliance each week with my allowance, paying $5 a week on Lay-Away.  I played in a three-piece three-chord rock-and-roll band when I was 13.  Funk 13, we called ourselves.  Donny Tharp played bass, Trent Ripley played drums, and I was the guitarist.  I’ve completely lost track of Donny and  Trent, though I heard from Trent’s mom a couple of years ago.  I don’t remember the circumstances particularly, but it might have been my sister and nephews’ funeral.  Trent wound up as a baker … at the Asharam Bakery in Bloomington.  In my Clayton’s bread book, there’s one of his recipes.  It was pretty cool to think I used to play music with that guy.  I wonder if they knew I was on TV now that they’s say “it’s pretty cool we used to play music with that guy”.  Somehow, I hope so.

We made our own show lights.  Charlie Kaderabek would occasionally “play the lights”.  Just two wood boxes with three colored flood lights each, wired to a box with three switches.  We built them from scratch … and I do recall getting a nice shock when we first plugged them in.  But it eventually worked.  We played together into high school, playing convocations at school mostly.  At one point, I bought a Fender Duo-Sonic II.  I wound up selling it years later to Dan Leach for way too little money.  I’d be afraid to find out what it’s actually worth right now.  I’m sure it was really rare.  I hope Dan’s enjoying it still.

About the only thing that stands out from that time frame other than the music was one very cold day … about 5 degrees, when my scout troop was supposed to go on a winter survival kind of day.  I was the only kid that showed up, and the scoutmaster and I went out.  I don’t think it was for overnight, but I really don’t remember.  What I DO remember is him teaching me how to build a fire in a snowdrift.  Dry birch bark kept the kindling off the ground, and I WAS allowed to use a match.  We got a fire going against a downed log in the snow and cold.  Not a skill that’s going to help me a lot in Florida, but there was a huge sense of accomplishment.

Mostly, I wouldn’t go back to high school for anything.  I was young and stupid and singularly unattractive.  I was looking at my old yearbook pictures when I was home at moms, and even though I wanted to just toss the damn things, Jenni insisted that I keep them.  She actually read some of what was written in them, too, which is pretty weird.  I don’t think it’s embarrassing, particularly, but just weird.  I read some of it, and that was weird, too.  But looking at the pictures was worse.  I’m amazed I EVER got a date, and while I didn’t have a lot, I dated 3 girls exclusively during High School, I at least got dates.  Still, it was a tumultuous time.  I took up smoking … experimented with pot … played a lot of music … took a lot of pictures … and got decent grades in the process. I was in an Explorer Scout troop attached to the Bedford Medical Center.  I volunteered pushing wheel chairs down to the x-ray department, and I worked in the darkroom a lot.  It was pretty easy.  Take the film out of the cartridge, feed it into the machine, and put them in a folder.

We did a lot of camping.  Our explorer advisors, Josette and Lud Ludwig, had a big farm outside of town.  We’d go out there and cook and play music and smoke and laugh.  None of the girls I dated wanted to go camping, and I didn’t really see any of the camping girls as girlfriends … just friends.  I think when you’ve seen everybody at their absolute worst after a weekend in a tent, well, it’s probably not the best light.  Of course, I don’t know that any of them would have dated me in any event, but no matter.  We’d occasionally head up the quarry property just south of Bloomington to camp.  We rode our bikes up there once.  I can still see myself flying down a hill, and hitting the railroad tracks half way down a little too hard.  I bent both my rims, and rode the rest of the way on untrue rims.  Fortunately, we had a sag-wagon meeting us with all the gear, so I didn’t have to ride back on the broken bike.

Then, there was the infamous Chicago concert in Bloomington, where I got busted for smoking pot in the arena.  Honest to god hauled off to jail, and my parents had to come to Bloomington to get me out.  Robert  Shultz was with me, and when the people we’d gone up there with came over looking for us, they got told we’d been escorted from the building.  Not the best night of my life, to be sure, but a true youthful indiscretion.  I was 15 at the time.  The good news is, it was one trip back to  Bloomington to juvenile court, where the judge basically said “you’re basically a good kid, don’t to that again, or you’ll be in some serious trouble”.  The records were supposed to have been purged when I turned 18.  I wonder if they ever were.

My parents were cooler about it than I had any right to expect.  I didn’t even get grounded, and I got to go to ground school that summer, something we’d been planning for a year.  Ground school for aviation was on an army base in Wisconsin, I think.  I didn’t pass, but the next time I took the course, I did.

The high school moved between my sophomore and junior years to a brand new prison-like campus about 6 miles out of town.  But I’d just gotten my drivers license, and I loved the freedom of driving to school.  I was in the marching band and the pep band and playing rock and roll.  The school system was experimenting with a “modular” system of scheduling classes.  Each hour was broken up into 20 minute “mods”, which you could string together into 40 or 60 minutes classes.  We were allowed to schedule our classes ourselves, a lot like college.  And, you could build free time into your day.  I used that time to practice, haunt the music practice rooms, play at the cool electric pianos in the labs, and do my homework.  My senior year of high school, I got great grades and never took home a book.

I also took a basic computer class, and by basic I mean BASIC … the language.  I finished the course work in 8 weeks, and the teacher said “I really can’t tell you that you don’t have to come to class any more … but you’ve got an “A’ …  Just show up once in a while and do some work.”

I also got the theater bug.  I was cast as “Diesel”, one of the Jets in “West Side Story”, and played in the pit orchestra for a musical called “Irene”.  I still love acting, particularly Improv.  But that’s another post.

All in all, high school was OK … but like I said, I wouldn’t go back for anything.  I think, like so many people, if I knew then what I know now, my life would be a LOT different.  But there’s really no reason to ruminate on that.

There’s more, and I’ve got a few days before we get to 50.  For now, I need to go make lunch for tomorrow and get some sleep.  Tomorrow’s Week in Review is the GOP candidates for House 17.  I need to be sharp.



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Filed under 50, Birthday, Family, Live Music, Music, Nostalgia, Thoughts

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