Category Archives: Life

A Reprobate Remembers Mr. Jankowich

JankowichI heard the news this morning that John Jankowich, a beloved teacher at Easton Area High School, passed away in Florida earlier this week at the age of 72.

As is typical for me whenever I receive news like this, my memory banks quickly took me back to where it all began. So come along with me for the ride….

***

When I was a bright-eyed, fresh-faced sophomore at Easton High School in 1984, one of the urban legends going around the hallowed halls was of a teacher who lived on the upper floors of the school and taught senior students the importance of mythological creatures like Zeus, Odin and Pegasus. To make things even more interesting, rumors swirled that this teacher also came to class dressed in full mythological garb. It was from that very moment I knew that “Mythology” had to be one of my 12 grade classes.

That was my first exposure to Mr. Jankowich and for the next two years all I heard about was how cool, how mean and how fun “Janks” was in his Mythology class and how I couldn’t wait to be one of his pupils.

Fast forward two years….

FullSizeRenderAt the time of my arrival to Mr. Jank’s Mythology class in 1986 I was heavily into role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons. So in addition to it being a course on literature, Mythology was also kind of like a pep talk for me about a world I one day longed to live in.

Another thing I fondly recall about Jank’s class was that it was also the first time I heard the word “reprobate”. It was a term he gleefully used to often describe his students…

“SIT DOWN YOU REPROBATES!”

…. and a term that I myself would become (unbeknownst to him) that following Spring….

One of the benefits of being a Senior at Easton High School in 1987 was being able to go off campus for 5th period lunch every day. So long as you were doing well in class you were eligible to leave the premises with your homies for a ninety-minute visit to the local McDonalds, Burger King or Richard’s Drive-In. Yes, it was the ultimate perk for being a senior. Unless of course your grades weren’t quite up to par or you didn’t follow the rules of the school.

Mr. Jankowich had the wonderful opportunity of overseeing that 5th period. A ninety-minute “class” that ran through all three lunch periods and was held daily in the school’s auditorium. This class was intended to be used as a silent place of study but ironically became the final destination for school reprobates under the name, “restricted study hall” or “restricted” for short.

“SIT DOWN YOU REPROBATES!”

Bad grades, tardiness and other devious and malicious intent would always result in the removal of senior privileges and land you a spot in Jank’s “class” where silence was strictly enforced.

Does this look like a reprobate to you?

Does this student look like a reprobate to you?

But Jimmy Wood (who had refused to dress for swimming in gym class and had thus landed in restricted) had other intentions. Jimmy found himself stuck for a week in Jank’s class while his other classmates were out enjoying spring afternoons over a Big Mac, Whopper or Greasy Dick’s cheeseburger – and Jimmy didn’t like it.

So Jimmy the reprobate came up with a plan.

One day during restricted, Jimmy asked Mr. Jankowich if he could go to the gym. Jimmy told Jank that he wanted to get excuse passes made to allow him to  go make-up his swimming requirement during 5th period. Mr. Jankowich – now proud of Jimmy’s desire to do good, agreed and sent Jimmy on his way. But what Jank didn’t know was that Jimmy would have something more sinister in mind.

Jimmy kept his word though and went down to the gym and had Ms. David (the instructor) write him up several slips excusing him from restricted in order to make up gym class.

The next day at 5th period, Jimmy showed Mr. Jankowich the signed pass. Jank happily patted Jimmy on the head and excused him from restricted. But as Jimmy made his way down the hall to gym he realized that there was now nothing to stop him from simply leaving the school and joining his friends for lunch. I mean, he really was excused from restricted, right?  So for the next five days, Jimmy showed Jank the pass, received a pat on the head and then enjoyed the freedom from restricted until his full senior privileges were reinstated.

And he lived happily ever after….

***

Although I’m sure he would have gotten a giggle out of my mischievous deed now, I never saw Mr. Jankowich again after graduation. But I will never forget that spring, how much fun his class was or when he came to school dressed like he was going to a toga party.

John Jankowich’s obituary stated that he taught English, British Literature and Mythology for over 30 years and also taught English as a Second Language to immigrants in night school for 18 years. The four loves of his life were God, family, friends and education and he used those blessings to help others —-

—- including this reprobate.

RIP Mr. Jank.

 

Birthday Reflections At 45

BirthdayCakeToday is October 5th, 2014: My 45th birthday.

Wait a minute. Wasn’t it just yesterday that I was reminiscing about my life on my 44th birthday?

I swear, time is going by WAY too fast. I am now officially half-way to 90. A staggering accomplishment if I do say so myself.

I’m grateful every day for all of the blessings in my life: a loving family, friends, good health and being able to do something I really love to do – write.

I’m not sure if I’ll make it to be a nonagenarian but what I do know is that for each year that goes by time seems to be going at breakneck speed – and I don’t think I like it.

Case in point: my daughter turned thirteen this year. And although there have certainly been a few teen drama moments that have tried my patience, I still find myself always thinking that in five short years she will begin building a life on her own.

Slow down.

2014 has been a year of firsts for me. This year saw me achieve some monumental interviews. Pipe dreams for the kid who played guitar endlessly throughout high school in his upstairs bedroom. I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing Joe Perry (Aerosmith), Slash (Guns N’ Roses), Ted Nugent, Steve Vai and Don Felder (The Eagles) among many others.

I’ve also had the once in a lifetime opportunity of attending Jim Peterik’s book release event in New York City where I got to see him perform an intimate acoustic set for an audience of about thirty people. I sit here now with a smile on my face recalling how the music he made with the band Survivor got me through my own teenage drama in the 1980’s. When times were tough, I knew I could always find solace in songs like “I Can’t Hold Back,” “High On You,” “The Search is Over,” “Is This Love,” “Man Against The World” and “In Good Faith”.

Photo: Kat Gallaso

Photo: Kath Galasso

Jim’s music was so influential to me that at my high school graduation party my friend Nathan Brown and I set up an impromptu jam session. Out on my parent’s patio, Nathan and I set up his drum set and I plugged in my guitar. Then for the next two hours — to the delight chagrin of those in attendance, the two of us jammed along to the entire “Vital Signs” album while it spun on my mother’s worn out turntable.

For me to now sit in a small club and watch Jim Peterik do a few of those same songs in 2014 was nothing short of incredible.

Slow down.

As I think of that post graduation party I am suddenly reminded that 2014 was also a year of loss. Nathan Brown and I had been the best of friends when we roamed the halls of Easton High School. Dreaming about (and often forming) short-lived bands that at the time we thought would take over the world. I still remember all of those conversations we had late in the night talking about everything we were going to do once we “made it”. Nathan was the best man at my wedding in 1995 and someone who always knew how to make you laugh. In short, he was one of a kind.

I always thought that our bond of brotherhood would be inseparable, but life sometimes has a funny way of throwing a wrench into even the best of circumstances. Sadly, towards the end of the 1990’s and the start of the 21st century, the two of us lost touch. Although we would eventually reconnect at a concert three years ago, we never really hung out again like we used to. It was the usual case of “maybe someday”. Yep, there would always be a someday — right?

Ironically, on September 11th of this year, Nathan’s name popped into my head for some reason. Suddenly, “someday” was today! I decided to do a quick Google search on him to see if maybe he had a Facebook or something so that I might reach out to him. But when the first hit came back from the search engine, my heart just sank.

It was his obituary.

Nathan had passed away suddenly in his home on August 9th. He had already been gone for more than a month. His final service was already over and I am still devastated for not being there to at least say goodbye and pay my respects.

Please….Slow down.

As I begin to celebrate my 45th year on this bouncing ball my heart is heavy but I’m feeling optimistic. There’s a big world out there just waiting to be explored. Family and friends to love, books to read, articles (and books) to write, music to create and new dreams to find.

But my real wish on this October 5th is to have the strength to seize each day and then slow down. I still want to enjoy those big moments, but now I want to savor the small ones just as much. I’ve realized there’s only so much time we are given here in this life.

And I plan on making the most of it.

A Quick Thought On The Passing of Robin Williams

MorkJust a quick little blurb with my thoughts on the passing of Robin Williams.

First of all, let me just say that I too am a huge fan of his work. I will never forget seeing him for the very first time as Mork on “Happy Days” and following him along on the “Mork and Mindy” spinoff.

As an eleven-year old boy, I also fondly recall begging my parents to take me to see him in “Popeye”, one of his first film roles.

Shortly after graduating high school, I spent the summer working as an usher at a movie theater. Coincidentally, it was also the same year that “Dead Poet’s Society” was released. So in between sweeping up popcorn and picking up stuck wads of bubblegum, I must have watched that movie no less than fifty times – and never got tired of it. There was just something about Robin Williams’ performances that were so engaging.

I can’t say that I’ve felt the same way about every one of his films. Although I did enjoy him in “Mrs. Doubtfire” and “Good Will Hunting” (the film that won him the Academy Award), I didn’t really care for “What Dreams May Come” or “Hook”.

I was one of the many who was shocked when I heard the news that Robin Williams had committed suicide. How could someone so larger than life and with the ability to bring joy to so many people be so sad inside that the only escape he could find was through the final solution? I am not a doctor and have never met Williams but do count my blessings that I don’t have to deal with the issues that plagued him for years.

I also find it “funny” – truthfully, a bit sad that there are people in this world who (also without having known him) are either assuming to know why Mr. Williams decided to take his own life or are using this tragedy as yet another means to forward their own agendas.

There are some in the news media who are actually calling Robin Williams a coward for “feeling sad” and for taking his own life. Which makes me wonder if these same pundits would say the same about a veteran returning from Iraq who finds it unbearable to assimilate back into civilian life? And then we have the ones who see Williams’ death as a metaphor for a political party. As if suffering from severe depression is similar to that of being a liberal. How sad it is that these people are given a nation wide platform to spew ignorance and hate while a family is grieving.

I’ll admit, I too was selfish when I first heard the news of Robin’s passing. I immediately wanted to rent all of those movies I loved just to see Robin Williams one more time. I wanted to watch that episode of “Happy Days” again. The one where he challenges Richie Cunningham and the Fonz. Yes, even though that part of my own life had moved on, I still wanted Robin Williams to be here.

DPS

We sometimes lose sight of the fact that the people we love and the ones who’ve touched our lives will not be with us forever. Instead, we tend to see them as kind of like our favorite pair of jeans or our go-to security blanket. Something that can just lie around for years in a dresser (or on a DVD shelf) and only be pulled out when we need them for comfort.

Ironically, today (August 13) also happens to be the 30th anniversary of the death of my grandfather. The first time I ever had to experience the loss of someone dear to me. So I will use Robin Williams’ death as a reminder that everything in life is only temporary, and will find comfort in the words he spoke in one of my favorite films from 25 years ago…

Carpe Diem.

‘When Times Get Ruff': New ‘Doodle’ Book Benefits Ronald McDonald House Charities

WhenTimesGetRuffIt’s hard to believe that we’re already on the third installment of our Doodle Dog Book series. What started out as a dream by two high school friends has turned into something bigger than either of us could have ever imagined.

But Michele and I both believe that the real fulfillment in accomplishing a dream comes from giving it a purpose – and that’s exactly what we’ve done, by donating 100% of our profits from sales of our first two books to worthy causes.

In keeping with this trend, all personal proceeds from sales of our brand-new book, “Doodle: When Times Get Ruff” will go to Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio, a non-profit organization which provides a home away from home for families with seriously ill children staying and receiving treatment at nearby hospitals.

“Doodle: When Times Get Ruff” tells the story of Chloe, a young girl who faces uncertainty when her younger brother Christopher becomes ill. With help and love from both family and friends, Chloe is able to overcome her fear.

If you’re already a fan of the first two books you’ll notice the return of a few familiar characters, but with an added twist. You may also discover a few “easter eggs” that have been hidden somewhere within the text as well.

As an added bonus, from now until December 31st, Michele and I will be donating all future profits from sales of our first two books, “Doodle” and “Doodle Meets The Pound Pup” to RMHC of Central Ohio as well.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Mackenzie Schuler, the Marketing & Communications Coordinator for Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio, to find out more about her job and what goes on at RMH. We hope that after reading this interview with Mackenzie and seeing all of the good work that she and the rest of the staff and volunteers at RMHC of Central Ohio do for their community, you will consider purchasing a copy of our book or helping us spread the word!

Ruff

How did you become involved in non-profit work?

I grew up in Iowa with a family full of outdoors men. During my senior year in high school, my Grandpa was sitting up in a tree stand when it suddenly gave out. He fell fifteen feet and broke all of the vertebrae in his neck and back; completely shattering his spine. While he was in the hospital being treated my mom, grandma and aunt would all take turns staying either in his room or in the hospital waiting room. I remember they would be there for days on end and I got to see firsthand how draining it was for them to be in that environment and not have any break or an oasis to get away from it. I had originally intended to be a journalism major but that experience shifted my focus to non-profit work. I had two great internships while I was in college and fell in love with it.

RonaldMCdonaldWhat’s the mission of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio?

Our mission is to serve the families of seriously ill children in central Ohio and we create, find and support programs that do just that. When a family checks in, we don’t ask them to pay anything. That means we have a large gap that we have to makeup through fundraising. 

People may already know what the Ronald McDonald House is, but we also have a number of other things – including the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile which is basically a traveling, pediatric doctor’s office that goes around and visits kids who may not be able to get access to healthcare otherwise. It travels north to Mansfield all the way down to southern Ohio.

What’s a typical day like for you?

Well, there is no “typical” day in a non-profit setting [laughs]. We get to wear many different hats. I remember one Saturday I was here and we were all unloading head boards. We don’t hire anyone to do it for us. We do all of the work ourselves. So one day I might be meeting with a family to talk about their experience at RMH and the next day, I might be moving furniture or reupholstering chairs.

My main focus here though is being the Marketing and Communications Coordinator. I do all of our social media as well as all of internal and external communications. I also work directly with families to tell a story each month for our electronic newsletter. I’ll work with our Family Services department to find a family who would be willing to talk about their experience and then tie it back to everyone who helps give their time, money and effort to the Ronald McDonald House.

What can you tell me about the recent expansion at RMH?

Currently, we have 80 guest rooms and have just added a 42-room expansion. With 122 rooms, it makes us the largest Ronald McDonald House in the world. It’s really exciting. In addition to the rooms, we’ve also added things like a roof-top garden and a salon area. We have lots of common spaces for families to spend their time together and keep their lives as normal as possible in not so normal circumstances. We’ll be having a Community Open House on Sunday, Sept 14th from 1-4pm. We want to use this opportunity to thank people for all of their support and want them to feel like they’re a part of the project as well.

What are some of the ways people can help?

There are a number of ways you can get involved. When you visit our website you’ll find a tab there that says “How You Can Help”. It can be anything from volunteering regularly to making a meal or even collecting pop tabs.

StoriesOfHope

Is there something that people might not know about RMH that you think they should be aware of?

One of the things people might not be aware of is that we rely 100% on donations from the community. We also have a very small staff, so in order to keep our facility running we have volunteers that are here from 9am – 9pm every day of the week. Our volunteers also help us save money. As an example, since we don’t have a hired cleaning staff, our volunteers are the ones who keep our house spotless. It’s because of their hard work that we’re able to save over a million dollars a year.

What is the best part of your job?

There are so many great stories that are told every day here at the Ronald McDonald House. I love the mission and how no one is ever asked to pay. It’s an amazing service provided to the community. One where the only thing the family has to be concerned about is helping their child heal. They don’t need to focus on anything else. Only on what’s important.

 For more information on
Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio – Click Here!

Click here to Order a Copy of Doodle: When Times Get Ruff

My Rock Star Moment

Me - August 6th, 2004

Me – August 6th, 2004

Even though it happened ten years ago, it still feels like it was yesterday.

I was standing alone in my upstairs bathroom. An introverted thirty-four year old man looking at himself in the mirror — and shaking like a leaf. It was 3 pm and soon I would have to muster up enough courage to drive over to South Bethlehem for sound check.

August 6th, 2004 is a day I will NEVER forget.

I suppose it’s best to give you a little bit of a back story before I continue on with this tale. So here goes..

From the first day I picked up my grandmother’s hand-held potato slicer, pretended it was a guitar and did my best Ace Frehley interpretation, it’s been my dream – shredding my guitar on a huge stage while staring out into a sea of people. And so began the days of callused fingers, long walks downtown to the music store for weekly lessons and countless hours spent practicing Mel Bay scales and Metal Method licks.

Unfortunately, my new found interest in music, repetitive practice and Les Paul guitars also brought along with it the constant torment and ridicule by my siblings and their friends. Many of them telling me (in not so many words) that what I was doing would never amount to anything. But rather than wallow in denial and self-pity, their words only served to reinforce my passion. So while other kids of the MTV generation played sports or hung out with friends after school playing Atari, I spent most of my afternoons trying to figure out how Eddie Van-Halen got his Kung-Fu. I was so sure of what the future held that I even wrote entries into my journal describing all of the things that were going to happen to me after I had officially “made it” as a rock star.

on a side note, I’m still waiting for the hordes of women to chase me down the streets of New York City.

The crowd

The crowd

Yes, I had dreamed about this moment forever…. and suddenly, forever was now!

On August 6th, 2004, my band was going to be the opening act for Clay Aiken at Musikfest – on the biggest stage of them all! Yes, THE Clay Aiken!

OK, before you start giggling uncontrollably, remember this. Clay Aiken had just placed second in season two of American Idol and was almost on the same level as Justin Bieber, One Direction or any of those other boy bands. That is to say, people were going absolutely bonkers for him. It was the fastest sellout in the festival’s history (6,000+ people) and we had the greatest singer ever in our arsenal who had gotten us the gig…..

…but here I was, standing in the bathroom…a complete nervous wreck!

To this day, I’m not sure how I held it all together. Somehow, my “Rock Star Moment” was here, and I wasn’t about to let it slip away. Grabbing my Les Paul and blue-flamed do rag, I slowly made my way to Bethlehem.

The rest of that evening was a bit of a whirlwind for me. There was time spent setting up gear in front of the stage, testing guitar levels and watching the thousands of people standing in line waiting to get in. Then there was the anticipation of going out there and feeling a rush that no drug could ever deliver.

Prior to August 6th, the most people I had ever played for was maybe 40 in some smoky bar at two in the morning. And even though I was fully aware that they weren’t there to see us, I got to taste the experience of walking out on stage in front of six-thousand people!! Finally looking out, instead of always looking in.

I liked what I saw.

mu

I’ve never had that kind of experience since and most likely never will again. It was through the love of music, a lot of hard work and a little bit of luck that the cosmos aligned for me that particular summer night – and it was the beginning of a special journey we would all share together as a band.

As a seven-year old boy imitating his guitar hero on a vegetable slicer it seemed like such a far away dream. But just the idea of having a dream – no matter how small it might be or how long it takes you to achieve is something that doesn’t fade after the lights finally go out and the music stops. When you realize that dreams do indeed come true, the magic becomes a part of you forever.

Tell me, what are some of your rock star moments?

Night Ranger Provides Music Therapy at New York City Show

NR -BBSOk, I’ll admit it. The last time I saw a full Night Ranger headlining set was back in 1985 when the band was touring on the success of its third album, “Seven Wishes”  — Does anyone else remember bassist/vocalist Jack Blades rising out of the genie lamp to begin the night’s festivities?

Although I’ve seen Night Ranger many more times over the years, its always been when they were teamed up on a bill with two or three other bands. And for as much as I will always love hearing their biggest hits, I lamented never having the opportunity to hear some of the earlier material that always appealed to me. Album cuts that never quite made it mainstream. But Night Ranger’s performance last night at BB King Blues Club in New York City was a trip through three decades of rock and for me personally, some much needed therapy.

Opening the set was the fitting “Touch of Madness” – a single from the band’s monster album “Midnight Madness”. Next, the band immediately took us thirty years into the future. Performing “St. Bartholomew” (from the band’s brand new album “High Road”) for the very first time live. Blades would go on to joke about “sneaking” that one into the set, but the fans enthusiastic response indicated they knew otherwise.

From there, Night Ranger took us on a whirlwind journey through time and quite a bit of their early catalog. Performing nearly half of the “Dawn Patrol”, “Midnight Madness” and “Seven Wishes” albums as well as tracks from Blade’s days with Damn Yankees.

The band also brought us forward into the new millennium with “Lay It On Me” from 2011’s “Somewhere in California” as well as the title cut of their current album, “High Road”.

There was no doubt that the band would also include their biggest hits in their New York City set and the songs “Don’t Tell Me You Love Me”, “Sister Christian” and “When You Close Your Eyes” were met with equal adulation.

Night Ranger (BB Kings New York City)

Night Ranger (BB Kings New York City)

Bassist/Vocalist Jack Blades is the quintessential showman. Whether he’s introducing a new song or asking the audience if they’d like to come out on the road with the band, Blades is in his comfort zone when he’s out front.

You’d be hard pressed to find a better drummer/vocalist combination in music than Kelly Keagy. Seeing him hit the high notes for “Sentimental Street” or “Sing Me Away” while continuing to keep an infectious beat is still mind boggling.

Keyboardist Eric Levy was absolutely brilliant in staying true to the band’s classic sound and has become a staple of Night Ranger.

Guitarists Brad Gillis and Joel Hoekstra (a New York City native) are a force to be reckoned with. The duo trade off guitar leads with ease and perfection. Gillis laying down the most flawless, tasty licks while Hoekstra literally felt right at home. Firing up the crowd with his own guitar prowess and the biggest smile you’ve ever seen. He was glad to be there, and so was I.

Night Ranger

I’ve been a Night Ranger fan since the band’s early days and can still recall the first time I heard “You Can Still (Rock In America) on my neighbor’s cassette recorder. For me, it was a game changing moment.

Much the same as last night’s show at BB King’s.

Night Ranger Set List (BB King Blues Club NYC)

Touch of Madness
St. Bartholomew (Live Debut)
Four in the Morning
Lay It On Me
Coming of Age (Damn Yankees cover)
Sentimental Street
Seven Wishes
Sing Me Away
High Road
Night Ranger
High Enough (Damn Yankees cover)
Goodbye
When You Close Your Eyes
Don’t Tell Me You Love Me

Encore:

Penny
Sister Christian
(You Can Still) Rock in America

 

A Ribbon

photo 2Last night I found myself fumbling through a collection of “stuff” that had been accumulating for years down in nether regions of my basement.

I’m sure it’s something that everyone does from time to time — going through weathered cardboard containers of old photographs, love letters and school yearbooks that clutter basements and attic crawl spaces. Of course, some of these “memories” I had told myself to dispose of years ago and yet, here they still are.

I suppose it’s just as well. It’s always nice for me to remember the curious, artistic, naive child I once was am. And by now you should be fully aware of my affection for life milestones. If there’s an anniversary of a memorable day, I love to talk about it – and today is no different. Because buried deep beneath the mounds of 1970’s comic books, VHS tapes and teenaged poetry I discovered a ribbon. And not just any regular old run-of-the-mill ribbon mind you. This was a single, purple-colored ribbon with the words “Porter School 1978-1979 – 1st” emblazoned upon it.

I tried to remember what huge endeavor I must have overcome 35 years ago to achieve this great glory. Fortunately, there was a tag affixed to the ribbon which gave me the answer.

photo 1It was near the last day of fourth grade – June 5th, 1979 to be exact. My elementary school had a fun-filled day planned at a nearby park. Kids competed with each other in games of skill like the egg toss and three-legged race – and to each victor there went a win, place or show ribbon!

This particular award I won by besting at least a hundred students in the Sack Race. (Ok, that’s a bit embellished, but to a nine-year old boy who had come in first place for the very first time, it felt like I had just won a marathon).

This ribbon is also significant because it was the final year of school before they tore down Porter Elementary. A school that had stood for nearly 88 years in Easton’s south side but by this point had become obsolete and a bit of an eye sore. By fall, I’d find myself being bussed across the city limits to Palmer Elementary School and away from my typical routine of walking three blocks to school every day. It was the first time in my life that I had experienced such a drastic change from my normal, comfortable schedule.

Porter School (Circa 1979)

Porter School (circa 1979)

What’s ironic is that in my discovery of the 1st place ribbon, I also stumbled upon another award I had won. It was exactly one year to the day of my victory on the grid-iron that my fifth grade class placed second in the Silent Spelling competition of 1980. Yet through all of the other triumphs that would follow, nothing from my childhood tops that final end of school victory at Porter Elementary.

Second Place exactly one year later.

Second Place – exactly one year later.

Busing to schools quickly became the new norm. Then there were school lockers, late bells, final exams, adolescence, girls, graduation…. you get the picture. Every year more and more responsibility and every year the award (much like its blue color that slowly became purple) faded further and further into history.

Looking back, winning that ribbon was a wonderful achievement. But I don’t think I kept it around after all this time simply because I won the Sack Race in fourth grade. No, the real reason this ribbon still exists thirty-five years later is because it will always remind me of an innocence I once had.

A Father’s Day Thank You

Sorry Bones. I got the last laugh!

Sorry Bones. I got the last laugh!

It was a warm June day in 1984 when I again asked him the question..

“Dad? Can I PLEASE go with Bones to the concert?”

Bones was my brother –  two-years my senior and someone who was already becoming well versed in the concert ‘experience’. I mean, here was a dude who had already seen The J Geils Band and The Doobie Brothers perform at the Allentown Fairgrounds and The Kinks at Stabler Arena. To say that I was a little jealous for having been relegated to just listening to vinyl records is a bit of an understatement and to be honest, I half expected Dad to tell me “No” — just like he did the last time.

The previous summer, I asked begged my father to let me go with Bones to see The Kinks. After contemplating it for several minutes (along with listening to my brother’s very vocal protest against me going) Dad made it very clear — “No.” Now was not the time to let his 14-year-old son attend his first concert.

But this was now 1984. NINETEEN-EIGHTY-FREAKING-FOUR MAN!!!! I was going to start high school in the fall — and quickly becoming a man of my own. Heck, I had even started showing interest in playing guitar, and what better way to learn than by seeing how its done first hand, right Dad???

“So Dad? Can I go to the concert with Bones?”

Much to my brother’s chagrin, he had to accept the fact that on June 16, 1984 he was going to have to chauffeur me to the Allentown Fairgrounds to see The Scorpions and some up and coming band calling themselves Bon Jovi.

As luck would have it I was familiar with Bon Jovi; having already bought their debut album with my saved up lawn mowing money. At the time, they were mostly known for their song “Runaway” which was getting quite a bit of airplay on Casey Kasem’s American Top 40.  But that wasn’t the song that really appealed to me. As a soon to be 15 year-old boy there was only one song on that record that I could immediately relate to. It was the third song on the album: “She Don’t Know Me”.

I can’t even begin to tell you the countless times those lyrics came into my head during my adolescence. Especially in certain situations where the female persuasion was involved — I’d always find myself thinking: “If only she would look my way…. but She Don’t Know Me.”

It’s kind of ironic (well, actually no surprise) that the first two songs I learned on guitar were “Rock You Like A Hurricane” by Scorpions and “She Don’t Know Me” by Bon Jovi. The other thing that’s kind of cool is that Richie Sambora is playing the same guitar I had in this video…. :)

Over the subsequent thirty years I’ve seen a plethora of concerts. Some of the best include: REO Speedwagon, Survivor, Night Ranger, RATT and Mötley Crüe — all of which had huge albums and were at the TOP of their game. I saw Bon Jovi several more times along with shows by Bryan Adams, Whitesnake, Firehouse and Vixen. Then there’s the classic rock giants Boston, Foreigner, Styx and Journey. I saw AC/DC perform at Stabler Arena (a rinky dink college gymnasium) and Def Leppard twice on the Hysteria Tour. So many GREAT shows.

Although I could ramble on dozens of more examples I like to think that first show was the one that laid the foundation for my life as a music lover and metal head.

So, on this Father’s Day I would like to say a special thank you to my late father for the “Yes” answer he gave me thirty years ago.

A day I will never forget.

A Letter To Mickey Rooney

RooneyDear Mr. Rooney,

I woke up this morning to the sad news that you had passed away. While I suppose I really shouldn’t be all that upset (considering you did live to the ripe old age of 93) I can’t help but feel a sense of emptiness inside whenever I think that you will no longer be here.

No, you do not know who I am but I certainly know you. Years ago, my grandmother told me all about how she loved watching your performances as Andy Hardy in “A Family Affair” and “Love Laughs at Andy Hardy”. Films that were well before my time.

For the next few days, I’ll be reading obituaries from people and publications who will try their best to memorialize your life and body of work. Most of them will remember you for things like your honorary Oscars, hanging out with Judy Garland and Audrey Hepburn or being one of the last real heroes from Hollywood’s Golden Age. And I’m sure the gossip columns will once again bring up your failed marriages (including a short one to legendary actress Ava Gardner) or claims of elder abuse.

But me? I will always remember you for just one thing. Not for Andy Hardy or Mr. Yunioshi from “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” or even the mentally challenged Bill Sackter, the role that won you a Golden Globe and Emmy Award. On the contrary, I will always remember you as Santa Claus, the clay mation character you portrayed in those wonderful 1970’s Rankin Bass specials that I enjoyed watching every year as a child.

Because whether you know it or not, you taught me valuable lessons in your performances as Kris Kringle. Important, philosophical things like:

How to put one foot in front of the other:

And most importantly, how to believe in Santa Claus.

Whenever I watch these specials (even all of these years later) I am young again and you are still here.

So as you go forth on to your final destination, take comfort in the fact that generations of children (even forty-five year old ones like me) will always think fondly of you at the end of every year.

Godspeed Mr. Rooney.

Your friend,

Jimmy

Against All Odds: Author / Humanitarian Joey Parker Discusses Inspirational New Book

JoeyParkerMovementJoey Parker was at a crossroads in his life. Growing up in a very conservative town in Idaho, he often struggled with his own personal identity and relationships as well as with college and his purpose in life. It wasn’t until a trip to Africa that Joey was able to find his true calling. A passion to make a difference in the world that would result in the creation of an entire movement.

Today, Joey’s humanitarian efforts have not only resulted in raising funds and awareness for those suffering in third world countries, but also for the major social and ecological issues here at home. Joey also regularly contributes articles and interviews highlighting the positive side of Hollywood for his own website as well as for MTV Act.

Joey’s first book, The Joey Parker Movement: Against All Odds is an insightful collection of personal stories offering today’s youth encouragement in overcoming life’s obstacles. From dealing with anxiety to coping with heartache and death, the book is a primer for building a better perspective and world. With celebrity contributions from the likes of Denise Richards, Lisa Rinna, Kristin Cavallari and even a foreword by Paris Hilton, Joey’s book is a story of one man’s dream for the future and a how-to guide for living a better life.

I spoke with Joey about his inspiring new book and movement.

How did the idea for the book come about?

I always thought my story was unique and interesting and the idea of writing a book was something that was always on my bucket list. About two years ago, I reached out to a publishing company that was following me on Twitter and about a week or so later we had a conference call. They loved the idea and concept for it and the process began.

What was the writing process like for you?

I’ve never done anything like this before so I spent a lot of time writing at night, writing in coffee shops and going back and forth with my editors. It was a learning process, but such an amazing project to work on. In the book I talk about many different subjects that were tough for me to go through. I think it will really help other people come into their own as well.

A lot of celebrities made contributions to the book. Tell me a little about that.

All of my relationships in the book came about randomly through Twitter, interviews or through some of the work that I’ve done. I’ve maintained many of those relationships so when the opportunity came to reach out with the idea for the book, they all loved it and wanted to write-up pieces for it.

Joey-ParisWhat made you decide to include the foreword by Paris Hilton?

Paris has such a unique voice. A lot of people tend to see her through a different lens (i.e. tabloids), but she’s a smart entrepreneur who’s grown such an incredible business empire. She’s a fascinating person in pop culture and there’s a lot of pop culture throughout the book. I really wanted to add her voice to the foreword.

What was the inspiration that started The Joey Parker Movement?

It was during a time when I was trying to decide what I wanted to do with my life and figuring out who I was as an individual. I decided that one of the things I wanted to do was go on a really big trip, so I went to Africa. While I was there I saw a whole other side of the world I never thought I would get to see. When I came back I knew I wanted to do something. I just wasn’t sure what it was.

What did you do next?

I decided to start blogging and writing about the positive side of pop culture. I began writing articles, Tweeting and reaching out to celebrities for interviews. I wanted to show a different side of Hollywood. The positive side. There’s so much negativity out there and people just tearing each other down. I want to embrace the good. That’s where the theme of my website and book came about.

How would describe The Joey Parker Movement?

It’s an evolving theme that’s based on living with a positive attitude and embracing the good in life. For the website, it’s about embracing the good in Hollywood and showing a different side that people don’t often get to see.

What disappoints you the most about what’s going on in the world today?

I am disappointed in the lack of compassion that so many politicians around the United States have when it comes to LGBT rights. I was just at a hearing in Boise, Idaho where I was able to talk with protestors who were urging Idaho politicians to “Add The Words” to the Idaho Human Rights Act (adding “sexual orientation” and “gender identity”). For months, activists went to the capital to protest yet politicians throughout Idaho once again ignored the people. After my visit to Boise, three LGBT teens committed suicide.

The time is now to speak up, and politicians need to wake up. We must begin to pass laws that protect our people. The youth of our country need support and I hope through my book the younger generation can find some extra hope that boosts them forward.

Joey Parker (Photo by: Christopher Loke)

Joey Parker (Photo by: Christopher Loke)

Consequently, what excites or encourages you about what’s going on in the world today?

How passionate our generation is. I believe we are a unique generation that is ready to push toward a positive future. We truly are ready to make a difference. We are sick of the cycle we have seen in the past and are ready to take it into our own hands. We are vibrant go-getters ready to take on the obstacles we have ahead and pave our own ways.

What’s the message you’d like people to take from reading your book?

Happiness is an inside job. Looking within ourselves may be scary, but it’s facing our inner battles that unlocks the path toward true happiness.

For more on The Joey Parker Movement
Be sure to check out his official website by Clicking Here!

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