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Saturday Morning Cartoons

I have a hard time convincing my children now that once upon a time, kids had to get all of their cartoon swag on between the hours of 8am & 12pm on Saturday Mornings…  and that was IT!… I mean sure, there were some occasional afternoon cartoons, but they were largely re-runs you’d seen before a hundred times.  In the days before Cartoon Network, Disney Channel, etc…  All the best cartoons were on Saturday mornings…  And this was long before Al Gore invented The Internets and even longer before the advent of streaming on-demand anything…  Times were simpler then…  Kids needed not have an anxiety attack over which cartoon to watch & when…  There were three stations & a 4-hour window of time… and it did not yield to anyone

That last part used to make me so mad on a weekly basis…  Because where I grew up, there were always lots & lots of chores to get done on a Saturday… and that usually meant I’d miss most or all of my cartoons.  Oh sure… I’d try to drag out breakfast as long as possible… But inevitably, there was a barbed wire fence to mend… or a field to plow… or a barn roof to repair… or any number of other things that come up on a small farm and they would not wait!…  At least that’s what my dad told me…  And so the cartoons all too often had to…


At roughly the turn of the century, The Industrial Revolution forever changed the American family.  More specifically, it radically changed the relationship between fathers & sons.  For most of human history, sons grew up working side by side with their fathers on a daily basis, for the good of the family.  They learned multiple crafts & disciplines working at their father’s side, but more importantly, they learned about manhood.  They learned what it took to be a man and eventually, they developed not only the necessary skills, but also the confidence in themselves that manhood required.

But the Industrial Revolution ended a lot of that natural progression for boys in the 20th century.  For the first time in human history, and in quite large numbers, fathers left home to go work at the factory or the mill in pursuit of a better life for their families.  It was a noble effort… and one that has brought about most of the creature comforts we enjoy in today’s modern world.  But the impact on each generation since cannot be underscored.  And it has compounded over the years until today, where as a society… we can no longer even agree on what manhood should even mean…


So like I said…  Saturday morning was chore day at my house.  And if the chores were all done, there were always small projects to complete.  It was so bad that friend of mine just knew… Sleepovers on Saturday Nights were gravy…  Sleepovers on Friday Nights?…

danger-will-robinson

Danger Will Robinson!… If you slept over at my house on a Friday Night, you were getting sucked into whatever chores or projects Saturday had in store…  And no one got a pass!…

I whined & complained about this INCESSANTLY!!!…  in my own head that is…  Because if I had ever voiced any of these concerns out loud, I would have woken up in the following week… as I should have…


I kind of doubt that it was intentional on his part, but at the same time… I should’ve given him far more credit for this & much sooner than I actually did.  Because the simple fact of the matter is that those Saturday mornings were the best “fathering” moments of my entire life.  Dad worked a lot of hours Monday through Friday, but Saturdays?…  That was our time… I wish I’d understood this better at the time…

Most every significant “manhood” skill that I ever learned, I learned on one of those Saturday mornings.  Straightening bent nails led to driving straight nails, which led to building a shed or siding a barn…  So building a deck onto my house later in life…  That was actually a joy for me to build and secretly a huge source of pride…  Plowing a field, led to driving a truck and mastering a stick shift… which is becoming a lost art form…  Fired my first rifle… my first shotgun…  both on a Saturday… And now, I can pick off boyfriends at 100yds without hesitation…  Build or repair a septic system?… Plant a garden?… Wire a house circuit?… Okay, actually that last one was all me, but here’s why…


In the early years, I was just the helper… Go get me this… Go get me that…  Hold this board… and so on… For the most part, it was just the two of us working together…  Somewhere around age 10 or so, we developed this unspoken game where I tried to anticipate what tool or thing he would need before he would ask for it… Oh my word, I can’t even describe the thrill I would feel when I anticipated correctly & handed him the tool/thing as he was in the process of asking for it…  To pull that off… I had to assess the situation, understand what was happening, see where the work was going, foresee where the potential issues were, and act in advance of the need to make the job more successful…  It’s no wonder that I ended up becoming an Engineer as a career choice…  I was solving problems & improving processes before I ever reached middle school.  Then at some point late in high school, he’d actually start asking my opinion on how to approach some jobs we were engaged with…  It was a huge boost of confidence for me going into college… And confidence was something I needed in droves at that point in life…


So yeah… wiring the house circuit?… That was all EE101…  But I never would’ve been in those Electrical Engineering classes in college without missing  those Saturday Morning cartoons…

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Dear Future Boyfriend…

In the 1991 World Championships, Midori Ito had one of the most epic wipe-outs ever witnessed in Women’s Figure Skating.  Why was I watching Women’s Figure Skating in 1991?… Girlfriend…  Future Wife… ‘Nuff Said…  But let’s see the wipe-out in question…

skater

Shortly thereafter, the skater was being interviewed by an eager  NBC sports anchor person.  And in an attempt to bring some real depth to the experience for the viewers back home, asked the skater “What was going through your mind when you realized you weren’t on the ice anymore?…”  The skater, in the best broken English she could muster replied…  “I ask myself…  What am I doing here?…”


With all apologies to Ms. Trainor…  We’re not even close to being THERE yet…  But nonetheless…  What am I doing here indeed?…

This was NOT the PLAN people!…  Her commitment to dance has repelled all other suitors in less time than you can binge watch a season of Stranger Things on Netflix.  The PLAN was perfect…  Finish High School… Dance Professionally all over the globe…  Then maybe at about 30, she might consider dating… Transitioning in her late 30’s from a career in performance to choreography… Start her own company… Conquer the known world…  I mean it was a beautiful plan people!…


But here we are…  And now that I’ve had several days to process the situation, there’s a few things I need to bring you into the loop on…

  1. I distinctly remember 15, 16, 17, & 18…  Like ALL OF IT…  And she has been well versed in all of the things that go along with boys at 15, 16, 17, & 18…  Countermeasures are in place.  You have been warned.
  2. Also… I don’t often shoot firearms, but when I do… I NEVER miss… #CountryBoyStrong the-most-interesting-man-in-the-world
  3. I hope your ego is stable…  She’s in Home School all day… Then Dance until about 10pm…  EVERY… WEEKDAY…  And about a half-day on Saturdays…  There will necessarily be long droughts in communications.  So far, no one has survived this more than a few weeks.
  4. The intensity of the Dance Season is unlike anything you’ve ever experienced.  So let me try to give you a glimpse of what a Competition Weekend is like…  If you’re not at the event, she’ll disappear from social media & other forms of communications no later than Friday… sometimes Thursday evening…  And she will not resurface until most likely sometime on Monday…  There are no exceptions…
  5. If you should happen to try attending a Competition in person… Pucker up buttercup!…  It’ll be 6-8 hours of waiting around to watch her dance 3-4 times in 3 minute bursts… And that’s if its a well run event.  The poorly run events have all that, but then make you stick around until midnight for awards.  Before you poke your eyes out, if you’re nice & I like you… I’ll point out a few entertaining Twitter accounts to help you pass the time…
  6. The aforementioned Dance Season is about an every other weekend event from January to May.  Forget the PromPosal…  She’ll be at a competition…  If she’s not at a competition, she’ll be recovering from a competition…  Pretty much just don’t plan to see her or hear from her for those 4-5 months…
  7. If you have survived up to this point, you still need to realize that she has multiple uncles that love Jesus, but not too much… So they’re more than willing to go back to jail again.
  8. She’s a complex individual that equally enjoys The Walking Dead & the Hallmark Channel… Especially during Christmas Season… If that intimidates you, I have a suggestion…

officerbarbrady


Someday, some special someone will clear all the hurdles.  And the thing that pisses me off the most is… I’ll probably like him.  Cause she’s a good kid with a good head on her shoulders.  She’s also a good judge of character & understands how high the bar needs to be set.  And she’s extremely grounded, knows what she wants out of life, & she will not be denied.  So whoever it is… He won’t be a scrub…

scrub

And if one does slip through the cracks…  I’m still very familiar with swamp lands in both Carolinas…

A Real Piece of Shhhh (be quiet)…

In the next 11 months, my oldest daughter will begin driving…  I’ll pause there while you all pray for me…  Contrary to the popular trend of today, she will NOT be getting a brand new shiny automobile that costs nearly as much as the mortgage on my first house.  At least, that seems to be the parental trend where we live.

No… She will be getting… …  A hand-me-down vehicle with over 100,000 miles.  Its not that she’s a bad kid or that we’re trying to punish her.  And she in fact might turn out to be a really good driver (here’s hoping)…  No, she’s getting a hand-me-down because I remember 16 quite well… I remember how I drove… How my friends drove… And I’ve paid attention through the years and it seems that generationally speaking, it doesn’t really matter… 16 is 16 and the driving in general hasn’t improved much…  Insurance companies have certainly figured this out.  Which also brings up the fact that I couldn’t afford to insure her in a fancy new vehicle anyway…

But more than that…  I too began driving on a hand-me-down vehicle and it taught me MANY valuable lessons.  And the most difficult one was the very last lesson it taught me…


The Chevrolet Monza debuted in 1975… You read that right… Not a MAZ-DA…  A MON-ZA…  Based on the mighty Chevy Vega platform, the Monza proved to be such a big winner for Chevrolet that it was discontinued in 1980.  Yep… that good.

Mine was a Red 1980 model… Similar to the one pictured up there above the title… But minus that huge supercharger sticking out of the hood.  Also, the hatch in the rear had a very sweet vinyl covering, just like on this puke green model below.  But my vinyl was black instead of white.  I’ll pause here to allow you merge the two images in your mind…

1976_chevrolet_monza_towne_coupe

The Monza as designed by Detroit, was a 4 cylinder, 90 Horsepower BEAST!…  However, my model had a few unique…  Let’s call them Upgrades…  When I inherited my Monza, it was 8 years old, with about 125,000 miles on it… Just barely getting broken in…

So for starters… literally… My Monza had some broken teeth on the fly wheel…  Or was it the starter pinion gear?… I forget… Either way, about everything 10th time you attempted to start the thing, it made a horrible grinding noise that would cause small children to run in fear.  But 9 out of 10 was pretty good, all things considered…

It also had a removable key.  This was actually a pretty common feature in well loved GM’s of that era.  With the vehicle running, you could just yank the key right out of the ignition.  This proved to be an INVALUABLE asset given the next Upgrade, which is what I called the Sticky 4th Cylinder Syndrome…

Now that may not be the correct mechanical diagnosis… All I can tell you is that between the months of November & March in North Carolina, this vehicle had a MANDATORY 10 minute warm up period required.  Because when the temperature began dipping below roughly 40 degrees at night, that next morning, you’d start the car and the engine would proceed to convulse violently, as if being beaten & strangled by some unseen attacker.  The whole car would literally sit there & shake like one of those rides at the State Fair that has you puking up snow cone & fried Oreos…  Then after about 10 minutes, the 4th Cylinder would kick in and the engine began to purr like a kitten…  Granted, it was like a kitten that smoked a few packs a day, but still…  So my wintertime routine was this… run outside 10 minutes before I needed to leave, start the car, pull the key out of the ignition, go back inside where it was warm, and then after the 10 minutes was up… then you could depart for your destination.

As if starting the vehicle wasn’t tricky enough, my Monza also required Premium 93 Fuel.  That’s perhaps the only thing it had in common with its fancier European siblings.  With anything below 93 Octane, the vehicle would either 1) turn off almost as violently as it started up in the winter OR 2) not turn off at all… It would just keep running and running and running…

gump-runnign

This brings us to the most iconic Upgrade on my particular Monza…  Due to some failed modification to the Catalytic Converter by my then brother-in-law before it was handed down to me, My Monza backfired…  When I say that it backfired, what I actually mean is that it backfired ALOT!… And by alot, I mean more than every few days…  More than even every time you drove it…  This car backfired EVERY TIME I SHIFTED GEARS!…  Seriously!…  Not even kidding…  Every time you’d let off the gas to make the shift… KA-POW!…

Let me just say, that a car that backfires every time you shift gears is QUITE the head turner… Not to mention a huge chick magnet…  Thankfully, it was the 4-speed model & not the 5-speed…

So humility…  Yes… This vehicle taught me quite a bit about humility.  It maybe wasn’t the WORST beater at my high school, but it was definitely Top 5…  It also gave me a greater appreciation for the vehicles I would own afterwards.  Nothing else ever quite compared.


IN AUGUST OF 1991, I KILLED MY MONZA… It died on Highway 308 near Windsor, NC… May it Rest In Peace…

I was cruising back home after a long day on my summer job at the time.  You see, long before Distracted Driving became an actual thing, I had already perfected the art.  So as I was eating my Moon Pie, drinking my Slushie, and trying to find a better tune on the radio… I ran completely off the road…  All four wheels… Without noticing…

Now this is where Driver’s Education kicked in… I knew that the worst thing to do was try to jerk it back on the road.  So instead, I tried to ease it back on… Only one problem… while the shoulder of the road may have been perfectly smooth when I ran off, there was now a huge lip between the asphalt & the dirt I was riding on. Did I mention I was doing about 60mph at the time?

So as I “eased” back on, the asphalt grabbed the wheels & jerked the Monza over into the LEFT LANE…  As I caught a glimpse of distant on-coming traffic, Driver’s Ed went straight out the window & I was officially in OH-SHIT! territory.  To say I panicked at this point would be too kind…  So naturally, I over-corrected back to the right and ran back off the road on the right shoulder…  AGAIN…  For style points, I decided to flip the car over in the ditch that had thankfully appeared.  I did not realize I was upside down until I undid my seat belt & hit my head.  And I was thankful for that ditch because the driver’s side landed right in the gully of it.  The passenger side?… Not so much… I estimate that if anyone had been riding with me that day, they’d have been permanently reduced to about 3′ 11″ in height.

So I got out of the car easily enough once the seat belt was off.  So fast in fact, that the on-coming car in the distance hadn’t even reached me yet.  When it was all said & done, I got off easy…  Just a few cuts from the glass and a bruise across my chest from the seat belt.


cinderella-dkwyg

In 1988, Cinderella released a song called Don’t Know What You Got (Till It’s Gone)…  And this was the final lesson my Monza taught me.  Although dad did help the process along by not offering to replace the car for about a year.  It taught me not to ever again be an unappreciative little snot-nosed kid that complained about the vehicle he didn’t pay for because it had a few quirks.  And it’s a lesson that still haunts me today…

Enter Sandman

Mercifully… Piano lessons ended and for the rest of middle & high school, my development as a musician ended with it. Unless you count those two months with the French Horn in 7th grade, but thankfully… it didn’t stick & I’ve been able to mostly block all memory of it.

The thing about all those attempts to learn an instrument boils down to this…  The music sucked!… If you’ve ever sat through an elementary school piano recital or middle school band performance, you know what I’m talking about. And that’s in no way a knock on the tiny musicians…  They’re giving it all they’ve got!…  I’m just saying that hours & hours of 10 Little Indians never really captivated me or made me want to play.  And if I didn’t want to play it, I lost interest FAST!

So what was I interested in playing?…  Somewhere along the way, I decided I was going to go counterculture musically to the world I grew up in… And in eastern North Carolina in the 80’s…  Radio stations came in three flavors: Country, Pop, & More Country. So when I discovered the Headbangers Ball on MTV, I was in love…


As far back as when Cronkite was still on the CBS news, my cousin from SC & I spent one week together every summer and it was always the highlight of my summers. We alternated houses annually, one year in NC… the next year in SC…

As we moved on into high school, he started taking Bass & Electric Guitar lessons.  He had no sooner taught me the chords to Rock You Like a Hurricane by The Scorpions and I was HOOKED!…

Only one problem…  I had no guitar  of my own.  So every Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, or any other family gathering, we’d get together & he’d show me the latest riffs he’d been learning. And I’d play for hours until my fingers hurt so bad I had to stop. Bryan Adams wasn’t kidding…


It wasn’t until my Freshman year of college that I finally bit the bullet. I saved up money all year & in the Spring of ’91, bought a blue Kramer Pacer Deluxe & a 10 watt Crate amp off of a friend of a friend.  It was a great little guitar that I completely underappreciated at the time.  And the case only smelled a little bit like marijuana…

The only real problem was the Spring semester was going to end & I had to go home for the summer…


My dad was a frugal man… People would give him clothes for Christmas… Jeans for instance… And he would store them in his closet, many times still in the gift box, until the jeans he was presently wearing developed enough holes to justify replacing.  This cycle could take up to 3 years to complete…

So the thought of bringing home a guitar & amp that I’d spent several hundred dollars on TERRIFIED me!…

I begged a friend that lived nearby to let me hide the guitar & amp at his house for the summer.  He had a great detached Rec Room at his house that we could jam in for hours without bothering anyone. But after about two weeks of this, I couldn’t stand it…

So one day while mom & dad were at work, I did EVERY chore I could think of without being asked… I mowed the lawn, weeded the garden, cleaned the gutters, & fed the cows…  Yes, we had cows… I did mention the Eastern NC thing, right?  Then I laid the guitar out on my bed (which he had to walk by to get to his room)… And then I left the house as fast as I could & didn’t return until almost dark…


Not often, but every once in a while, people will surprise you… Even your parents…

I came home that evening & nothing was said about the guitar. Like I was in an episode of The Twilight Zone, I wandered through the house waiting for the shoe to drop. It never did… Eventually, I put the guitar in the case and went to bed.  At least the marijuana smell was mostly gone by then.


A few months later, but still the same summer, I was playing in the bedroom when dad walked through.  He stopped, looked right at me and said, “I always wanted to learn how to play guitar…”  And then he continued on through the house like nothing had happened.  We’ve never spoken about it since, which is pretty typical of our relationship…


I left one thing out earlier…  I also quit piano because I thought he didn’t approve.  Even though he’d never said anything close to these words, I believed he thought playing piano was for sissies, so I wanted nothing to do with it.

I didn’t know at the time what playing guitar would eventually mean for me.  But I do know that without his 9 words of affirmation, it could’ve turned out completely different.  So even though he’ll never read this… Thanks Dad!

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