Fast Times At Bayside High: The Reunion

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In my previous article, Fast Times At Bayside High, I looked back on one of the best college courses I ever took: Storytelling. I shared some of the great stories from that class, including a few of my own. It went so long though that I had to break it up. So now I’ll share my third and final story from that semester. Also, stay tuned to the very end — I conducted an interview with Cylk Cozart back in 2009 regarding his Saved By The Bell cameo and much more.

Be sure to read my Q&A with Cylk Cozart at the end
Be sure to read my Q&A with Cylk Cozart at the end

THE FINAL STORY

BaseballSavedUs

No rest for the wicked! Right after Zack’s War I started thinking about what my third and final story might be. It had to be better than my first two. One day I was perusing the children section of my library looking for inspiration. It hit me in the form of BASEBALL SAVED US. It’s an awe-inspiring story about a young spirited Japanese boy’s experience in camp in 1942 — the year when all people of Japanese descent living in America were put into camps due to the government’s increasing paranoia. Many decades later, 1988 to be precise, the US government admitted their wrongdoing. I love baseball and found much breadth in this tale of survival and hope. I decided to adapt BASEBALL SAVED US for my final story until fate stepped in. One day in December of 2003 I came across a hilarious story I read online. I loved it so much that it bumped Baseball Saved Us.

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The story was a little short though, so I fleshed it out by incorporating a fun rapid fire scene from an old childhood favorite of mine, Happy Ghost III. For those unfamiliar to the Happy Ghost series, it was a comedy franchise consisting of five films from 1984-1991. It’s totally a product of its time and it’s super cheesy but I find a lot of charm in that.

They don't make 'em like they used to
They don’t make ‘em like they used to
Raymond Wong had supernatural powers
Raymond Wong had supernatural powers
Happy Ghost III featured the mega adorable Maggie Cheung
Happy Ghost III starred the too adorable Maggie Cheung
1986 at its cheesiest and finest
1986 at its cheesiest and finest
My title went from one end of the board to the other!
My title went from one end of the board to the other!

So, adapting one scene from Happy Ghost III and jamming it with the online story I read, I had a full and proper story to end things with a bang. I called it AFTER FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH… BUT BEFORE AMERICAN PIE… THERE WAS A GUY… NAMED ALAN Y. The title was so long that it stretched all the way across the white board. I remember my classmates clamoring about it when they saw the ridiculously long title on the board. They knew they were in for quite a treat.

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Do you believe in true love? Do you believe that there’s someone out there for everyone? Well, this is a story about me and my dear sweetheart, Katy. As you can probably infer from the title of this story however, this isn’t exactly your run of the mill sappy love story. But first, let me tell you how Katy and I met.

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It was my first day of my senior year in high school… but for most others it was the 5th week of school. Yeah, I changed schools. But let’s not talk about why. So I’m cruising the parking lot for a spot and there’s one left. That’s when I saw this goofy looking teacher heading for it too. All’s fair in love and war… and parking spots I always say.

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Guitar in one hand and comb in the other, I got out and waved to all the honeys drooling at me.

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The goofy teacher made some lame remark but I paid it no mind.

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Whatever! The chances I’ll get him are like 1 in 200 anyway.

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My first class was music. It was 8:10 and as usual, I made a dramatic and fashionably late entrance. Sliding into the room on my knees, I cranked up my guitar and sang.

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Still like that old time rock ‘n roll!
That kind of music just soothes the soul!
I reminisce about the DAYS OF OLD…
With that old time ROCK ‘N ROLL!

“Hey hey hey! You?!?”

I’ll be damned! It was the goofy looking teacher from earlier in the parking lot.

“What are you doing here?” he bellowed.

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“What is your name?” he demanded.

I turned to face my classmates and saw a handful of beautiful lasses. Suddenly I remembered why I never dropped out, despite being 19 and flunking a grade prior.

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“My name is Alan… Alan Y. I’m a good guy. I only drink and smoke occasionally. I make lots of money betting on horse racing and I love taking cute young girls out to dinner, such as you, you AND YOU — on the house!”

“Stop right there! Sit down.”

I took the empty seat next to a precious little thing. Katy, as I’d come to know.

“Hey good looking. I’m here now, so what are your two other wishes?”

"Not there! Sit in the corner!" "Sir, where's my dignity?" "Sit in the corner... or GET THE HELL OUT!"
“Not there! Sit in the corner!”
“Where’s my dignity?”
“Sit in the corner… or GET THE HELL OUT!
I glanced at Katy and gave her a knowing look
I glanced at Katy and gave her a knowing look

“Better do as he says, or the poor son of a bitch will have a heart attack.”

I went over to the corner as requested but the teacher kept coming at me.

“How old are you?”

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“How old is that?”

“Makes me 19.”

"Why change schools? Musta been expelled! Why expelled? Musta been bad behaviors!"
“Why change schools? Must have been expelled!
Why expelled? Must have been bad behavior!”
"Must have been terrible conduct!"
“Must have been terrible conduct!”
"Sir, you obviously studied logic in college."
“Wow, you obviously studied logic in college.”
"Why don't you tell me. After all, you seem to know it all."
“Why don’t you tell me. After all, you seem to know it all.”
"You're too dumb to do anything for yourself, I can see!"
“You’re too dumb to do anything for yourself, I can see!”

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"Class, LISTEN TO ME!"
“Class, LISTEN TO ME!”

“He’s a prime example of how you DON’T want to be in life… so take a good close look at him and consider yourselves WARNED!”

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“You said my IQ is low but can you spend the shortest amount of time to answer me three simple questions?”

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"You see, these two questions..."
“You see, these two questions…”

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"Are you finished?"
“Are you finished?”

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Note: you should have seen the look on the girls faces!
Note: you should have seen the look on the girls’ faces!
Yeah, it was exactly like that :P
Yeah, it was exactly like that :P

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"When stimulated, the pupil dilates 7 times. Now sir, you refused to answer me..."
“When stimulated, the pupil dilates 7 times.
Now sir, you refused to answer me…”

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Note: Instant crowd pleaser!
Note: Their reaction was priceless!
It made the entire room burst in laughter
It made all my Storytelling classmates burst in laughter

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After class Katy came up to me. “That was awesome! A little mean, but I never laughed so hard in my life before!”

“Just another day at the office. He had it coming.”

“I suppose he did!”

“Hey, wanna grab a bite to eat?”

Katy and I hit it off. We became a couple later that week. We were madly in love and we were so happy. Katy and I had been dating for over a year. We decided the time was right to get married. My parents helped us in every way and my friends encouraged me. And Katy? She was a dream come true.

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There was only one thing bothering me, very much indeed. That one thing was her older sister, Tammy. My prospective sister-in-law was 22 years old, wore tight mini skirts and low cut blouses. She would regularly bend over whenever I was around. It had to be deliberate. There are worse things in the world that could happen to a guy, of course, but I was never good at fighting temptation and I didn’t want to do Katy like that. Simply put, Tammy was like a box jellyfish. Absolutely mesmerizing, but equally and potentially fatal.

One day Tammy called and asked me to come over to check the wedding invitations. I thought nothing of it and drove over. When I arrived, it turned out that she was alone…

“Uh, where’s Katy?”

“Out.”

“Of course… when will she uh, um, be back?”

“A couple hours.”

“What about uh, your um… parents?”

“They won’t be back til dinner.”

I cracked a nervous smile. Tammy’s tone was too suggestive. Too seductive. The next thing I knew, she walked over to me and whispered in my ear that soon I was to be married, and she had feelings and desires for me that she couldn’t overcome. Didn’t want to overcome. She told me she wanted to make love to me just once before I commit the rest of my life to her sister.

Albaaaaa

I was absolutely stunned and at a loss for words. She continued lustfully, “I’m going upstairs to my bedroom now… feel free to join me…”

Frozen like a statue, I watched her go up the stairs. When she reached the top she pulled off her pink panties and threw them down at me.

“TAKE ME, TARZAN!”

Albaaaaaa

I watched as Tammy disappeared into her room. I couldn’t help but imagine what she was doing in bed. I knew EXACTLY what I had to do. Without wasting another second, I turned around and headed straight for the front door. I made a beeline for my car, but I didn’t make it very far.

My future father-in-law was standing right outside. With tears in his eyes he hugged me and said, “We’re very happy that you’ve passed our little test. We couldn’t have asked for a better man for our Katy. Welcome to the family!”

The moral of this story is…

Always keep your condoms in the car.

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A thunderous silence fell over the Storytelling class for about two seconds. Then came the “ohhhhs” and riotous laughter when people started registering what happened. Priceless! I sat down and they went on with their feedback. They loved the humor in the story, the rapid fire exchange between Alan and his teacher, and the “moral” of the story was a big winner as well. I aced the class. This third and last story was probably my strongest story of the three I told. I’m glad to have gone out with a bang.

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CLOSING THOUGHTS

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Looking back on my college years, I had my fair share of fond memories. Inevitably, I always think back to the friends and unforgettable experiences. That includes the great Storytelling class I took during the fall of 2003. From the camaraderie and stories my classmates and I shared to the crazy professor we had, it was one of the best classes I’ve ever taken in my life. It was a makeshift campfire every Tuesday and Thursday where we celebrated the human spirit and shared moving stories… emotional ones and entertaining ones alike. We all have interesting stories waiting to be told. A great story lives on and is passed from generation to generation. It stands the test of time. Maybe the next great story the world will hear… will be your very own.

CYLK COZART INTERVIEW

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I emailed Mr. Cozart June 2009 in hopes of scoring an interview with him. He reached back and the following Q&A was conducted on July 3, 2009. Enjoy.

PS- Read Fast Times At Bayside High for context if you haven’t yet.

  • 1). Any stories or memories you can share about working on the episode Zack’s War? What was it like working with the cast and crew, specifically Mark-Paul Gosselaar (whom you shared the majority of your onscreen time with)?

Mark was one of the most gracious actors that I’ve worked with. Very kind and funny. Great guy. Everyone loved him.

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  • 2). How aware of the show Saved By The Bell were you prior to signing on for this one episode?

I had never seen the show until I got the offer. A lot of my friends had seen it and told me about every one of the characters. I knew all of them when I walked on the stage for the first time.

Any time that I have ran into any of the cast, we always hug and talk about that episode. And laugh for about 10 minutes. LOL!!!

  • 3). When was the last time you saw Zack’s War and what are your thoughts on how that episode came out? Personally speaking, it’s one of my all time favorites for ANY sitcom.

I see that show all the time. So many people of all ages see that particular episode and I have gotten as much attention from Saved By The Bell as a lot of movies that I have made. I have several friends and family members who will never let me forget it. I loved every minute of it!

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  • 4). You have been in over 30 movies and 20 television shows, what is your proudest moment as an actor? (i.e. was there a specific film you’re most proud of?)

That would have to be WHITE MEN CAN’T JUMP. Ron Shelton (Writer/Director) is and always will be in my life.

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Wesley Snipes and I keep in touch on a regular basis. But one of my best friends in LIFE is Woody Harrelson. We have become very close friends since we met on the first day he came in to audition.

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I was set to play Sidney Dean. Tom Cruise and Keanu Reeves both came in to audition while I sat and read with them. At the end of all the auditions, Ron asked me who I felt the most comfortable with and I said hands down, Woody.

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The next thing I know, 20th Century Fox called Ron and said to put Wesley in the lead because New Jack City, Wesley’s film that just came out at the time, was a hit movie and Wesley was hot! They loved me but gave me a co-starring role.

That was the “worst” day of my acting life I thought. But once Ron took me to dinner and explained how the studio system worked, I felt a little better. Still it hurt so bad.

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Ron told me that he and I would make many many more films together. We have already made three: White Men Can’t Jump, Play it to the Bone and Blue Chips.

Blue Chips
Blue Chips
  • 5). How old were you when you first got into acting and what originally intrigued you about acting?

I used to watch Andy of Mayberry and The Beverly Hillbillies everyday. That made me aware of HOLLYWOOD. But growing up in Tennessee, there was no way to even know how to get there. But I figured it out ;)

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Cozart went on to act with the likes of Mel Gibson
Cozart went on to act with the likes of Mel Gibson
Julia Roberts
Julia Roberts
And most notably, Jim Varney AKA Ernest
And most notably, Jim Varney AKA Ernest :P
Rest in Peace Jim Varney
Rest in Peace Jim Varney
Cinematic masterpiece at its finest
Cinematic masterpiece at its finest
  • 6). Which do you prefer: acting in films or acting in plays? (I have done both and I myself much prefer theater; nothing beats that raw LIVE “one take, no net” element).

There is nothing like that direct response from a live audience. Like live theater. Playing basketball in front of thousands of people while in college, was just like doing a play to me… in a way. So I loved the stage from the start.

Film is the most rewarding as far as exposure to so many people is concerned.

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  • 7). You were about six years old when Martin Luther King Jr. made his infamous “I Have A Dream” speech. Where were you that day and what were your memories of that time frame in the ’60s when racial tension was running incredibly high?

MLKRVG

I’m a product of the ‘Baby Boomers.’ I was right in the middle of the SOUTH, Tennessee. Where the KKK “originated.” It was Hell for my family and friends. I remember most of that time at that young age.

BlackPan60s2Check this out, within a 6-month time frame, King was killed. 2 months later, Kennedy. After that, students from Kent State had their heads bashed in race riots. Charles Manson Sharon Tate Murders, Vietnam. Most of our parents were either pot smoking hippies or trying to join the Black Panther party. Those were the times that we lived in.

OnceUponHW

Note: ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD, directed by Quentin Tarantino, is set to be released on July 26, 2019. Starring Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio, critics predict it will be one of the most successful films of the year. In 1969 Los Angeles, a former Western star and his longtime stunt double struggle to find success in a Hollywood that they don’t recognize anymore. Sharon Tate is their next door neighbor, and the infamous Manson Tate murders will be featured in the film. Once Upon A Time In Hollywood is sure to be the hit of the summer.

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  • 8). Ever look back and wonder what would have happened if you never suffered that foot injury in that one NBA Summer League game? Was that your greatest regret in life? Or do you believe everything happens for a reason?

Every day, I think about “What If”???? Then right after that thought leaves… I think that nothing ever stays the same in life. It can’t and expect to survive. So I don’t hold on or regret anything. I am living my dream. I played pro basketball AND I am working with the most wonderful people in the entertainment world!!!! I have so much to be thankful for when you break it down.

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  • 9). As someone who has seen and done a whole lot, what advice in general would you give young people as they march through the trials and tribulations of life?

I would say to them first… “How well do you take the word “NO”? I would tell them, not to worry about what other people think of their work or performance. But work on your craft so you can always be your best critic.

This is an ART. You have natural ability but you must train as a pro athlete trains before the season. They work out so hard before the games, that the actual game is FUN. Same as an actor. Train your mind, body and soul for whatever you want to make a living.

Thank you for the interview!

Respectfully,
Cylk Cozart

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In late 2016, actress Nikki Estridge submitted a DNA test because she couldn’t shake the feeling that she didn’t look like her siblings. Sure enough, she discovered that she was 32% African American, and she also found out that her dad is Cylk Cozart.

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Nikki called her dad on Father’s Day to break the news. The two quickly met up and began making up for lost father-daughter time. It’s a touching story that’s worth a read! Cylk didn’t know that he had a daughter, or that she was married with kids! So he also realized he was a grandfather. What a crazy story! Congratulations to the Cozarts for their incredible reunion and new life :)

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Fast Times At Bayside High

CampfireS

I’ve loved storytelling ever since I was a little kid. I can pretty much trace it back to growing up with a vibrant and charismatic uncle who always had a story to tell. Many nights back in the glorious late ’80s to early ’90s were spent with my brother either curled up on the couch listening to Uncle Jimmy’s tales of wonder, or camping out in the backyard under the stars on a hot summer night listening to Uncle Jimmy regale us with ghastly tales of the macabre. As I grew older, I came to appreciate the ART of storytelling. In college I took one of the best classes ever: Storytelling. I still remember the course objective to this day: “To be DAMN GOOD at storytelling.” Even to this day, randomly I find myself fondly reminiscing about that class and all the crazy stories it produced. So gather around for a storytelling extravaganza!

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Storytelling is one of the oldest and purest forms of entertainment, dating back to ancient times when drawings were etched on cave walls. I feel it’s sort of become a lost art in this day and age in an era proliferated by technology. Between checking emails, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, texting and so forth, our level of actual face to face communication has dwindled and thus, storytelling has taken a back seat over the past number of years. When done right, storytelling is perhaps the purest and greatest form of entertainment at its basic core. All you need is a talented speaker with a vision and an engaged audience looking for some message to click or resonate.

STORYTELLING CLASS: FALL 2003

The scene of the crime. The place the magic happened
The scene of the crime. The place the magic happened

In August of 2003, I had just turned 20 and was entering my junior year at University. One of the classes I took that semester was Storytelling as it fell under my Minor of Theatre Arts. The room itself was like none other. Not a single desk in sight. Instead, you had one big ass rectangular table. Right away I knew this was going to be one of those rare special classes that I’ll remember for the rest of my life. Chairs rested on the sides for the ‘peanut gallery’ folks. You told your story standing front and center with the professor sitting at the back table jotting down notes and rating your performance. Each class began with a 15 minute vocalization and body warm-up. We had a new leader each day. The leader would drape this thick green curtain (long replaced in this photo which was taken in 2007) to cover the windows. The leader then lights a match. To this day I don’t know why we did our exercises in the dark, but it sure made it memorable.

Wheres Professor?
Where’s Professor?

We met Tuesdays and Thursdays from noon to 1:15. Our professor was an eccentric woman in her 60s. Her taste for fashion was rather remarkable. She never wore the same outfit twice and always had matching shoes to go with whatever handbag or purse she decided to bring with her that day. Outside of class I often saw her randomly smoking somewhere on campus in one of her loud outfits. It was the closest thing to playing Where’s Waldo in real life. She was certainly one of a kind. Like one of those old Hollywood stars that just stepped off the set of a movie filmed in the 1940s.

She called this the Peanut Gallery.. AKA the Stragglers
She called this the Peanut Gallery, AKA the Stragglers

If you came to class tardy, you snuck into one of these side chairs. This was actually where you wanted to be back in the fall of 2003 as the class’ two hottest girls always sat there. For some odd reason, I often found myself a part of the infamous Peanut Gallery. Odd, that.

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The class had so many classic characters. We had someone from every walk of life imaginable. From ripe 18 year old freshmen to 45 year old mothers looking to finish up their degrees. Hell, we even had a former NBA player! But more on him later.

Classic Sean... a mishmash of Bill Murray and Seth Rogen
Sean was a mishmash of Bill Murray and Seth Rogen

I’ll never forget Sean. Sean was 25 years old, Caucasian, married and possessed a dry and dark sense of humor. He was also quite the artist. The big guy took a liking to me as we often chatted before class began. He was a hell of a character whose “unique” speeches always made everyone bust a rib laughing. Imagine Bill Murray’s sense of humor and Seth Rogen’s physical features, and that’s pretty much Sean. His speeches had the most awkward pauses; we could never figure out if that was by design or if it was just Sean being Sean. Whatever the reason behind the madness, I’ll never forget his crazy stories. He blurred lines and was a master storyteller. During the first couple weeks of Storytelling, we all had to share an icebreaker in front of the class. I still remember Sean’s icebreaker. Now listen to this and tell me if it ain’t messed up.

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When I was 5 years old, I saw the Devil. I was at the local playground… sitting in the sandbox. The Devil… looked at me… and he said… “Son, you more messed up than me.” I said… “COOOOL.”

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I loved the format of the class. Each of us told 4 stories that semester (a quick icebreaker and 3 full proper stories). Each day we had 3-5 storytellers. If it wasn’t your day, you just sat back and got to chill. But if it was your day to share, it was first come first serve. You would march up to the white board to write down the title of your story. Do warm-ups. Then showtime! It was the easiest and coolest format of any college course I ever took. Sean’s first story — I’ll just share a small bit of it — was insane. He was doing his spiel and suddenly, WITHOUT warning, he collapsed! SPLAT! Did I mention by the way that he was about 6’1″ and 230 pounds? And I remember most of us being like “WHAT THE HELL…” And most of us kinda got up, you know, in that sort of weird half position where you’re caught between sitting down and standing up… just so we could get a better view to see if he was OK or not on the floor. WITHOUT WARNING HE POPS UP LIKE A SPRING and yells “AND THEEEEEN!!!!” That made many flinch. We were like “DAMN DUDE DON’T DO THAT YA FREAK!!!” Good times. I’m getting ahead of myself though. Let’s go back quickly to DAY ONE…

THURSDAY AUGUST 28, 2003

Today we got in groups of 4 and had 5 minutes to come up with a fairy tale to reenact in front of the class. The catch? It had to be a silent presentation. So we were forced to rely on everything except our voices. The lesson here was learning how to communicate effectively through using hand gestures, facial expressions and body language. My group had a guy my age, a middle-aged father of two and a middle-aged mother of four (Marlene was one of my favorite storytellers… an absolute natural that Marlene). We decided on The 3 Little Pigs. The 3 guys would play the pigs and Marlene the wolf. I played the first pig, and had an idea on how to make the scene work.

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I started out by building my lovely straw house. Marlene the wolf came. Blew down my poor house. I panicked and frantically pointed behind her. I made my getaway as she glanced back. I pretended to run smack dab into an imaginary door and flew back, holding my nose and acting it all out in a very slapstick fashion. Lots of laughter from the audience. It felt good to be the first one up and making people laugh. After the wolf blew down the second house we ran off to the brick house. Once safely in, we began taunting the wolf. She tried to blow us (as in the brick house!) down but she couldn’t. I flexed my muscles, every now and then showing my tentativeness by hiding behind my brothers while continually taunting. I had the entire class roaring and eating out of my hands!

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The best part of all came at the end of class. I was walking out when one of the cute girls from the class looked back at me in the hallway. She flashed me an ear-to-ear grin. That was the precise moment where I thought to myself, “GOD I love Storytelling.” It was a great feeling. Being up there and controlling the audience’s emotions without even talking was downright EMPOWERING.

Hey, Storytelling has its perks ;)
Hey, Storytelling has its perks ;)

THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 11, 2003

On the 2 year anniversary of 9/11, it was my day to share my icebreaker. I decided to share a story about believing in yourself, even against all critics and odds.

Hi. My name’s Steven, but most call me Steve. Like some of you, this is my junior year. Summer of 2002 I did a really dumb thing. I parked in our school’s parking lot without a valid parking permit. I just had to drop off my registration bill and thought I could sneak in, sneak out. I have no idea why I didn’t park elsewhere or in one of the 20 minute zones. I guess I just wasn’t thinking that morning.

Anyway, I came back to my car and surprise surprise, there was a ticket slapped to my windshield. 31 dollars. I went to get a petition form. My brother snapped at me when he found out. Then he saw the petition form I was holding and told me to not even bother. Said he tried it before and got rejected. And that all his friends suffered the same fate in years past as well. So I would be no different, according to him.

ACCORDING TO HIM. Me on the other hand… I knew I could buck the system if I could just come up with something creative, memorable and never-before-seen…

Thanks Three's Company. Rest In Peace John Ritter
Thanks Three’s Company. Rest In Peace John Ritter

One night I was channel surfing and came upon Nick At Nite. And there I found my inspiration…

“Come on and knock on our doooor.
We’ve been waiting for yoooou.
… there’s a thing and a thing and the guy falls off his bike…

Three’s Company too!”

The wheels in my mind began turning. Hmmm. “Come on and knock on my door. I’ve been waiting for you… to lift the fee.” No that doesn’t flow. I need to express my story somehow… my STORY… hey! That’s it! My story…

“Here’s a story…”

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Of course. The Brady Bunch! I went to work and the words began flowing out of my pen like it was meant to be. And this is how it went:

Here’s a story… about a man named Steven… that’s me (I quickly added, causing my classmates to chuckle).

Who was caught in the parking lot without a permit.

Now he’s pleading for some justice.

He was only there to pay his registration bill.

It cost him nine hundred and fifty-seven dollars, plus the line was long.

The line was long, the line was long.

And when he came back, he found out he was 5 minutes too late… well actually 12 but 5 sounded a whole lot better (I quickly added, much to the laughter of my peers once again).

He said to himself, “If there’s any good left in this world, they’ll lift the fee.”

And that’s how it came to be!

10 days passed. Finally it was mailed back home with a verdict. It would either be stamped REJECTED or FILE AS A WARNING.

I flipped the petition form over for all my classmates to see.

It was stamped “FILE AS A WARNING.”

They cheered and applauded while I stood there humbly motioning with my hands ALRIGHT ALRIGHT CALM DOWN Y’ALL… I ain’t quite done yet!

This here, in my hands, is proof positive that sometimes if you go with your gut feeling, really put in the work and believe with conviction, it just may pay off. More specifically, it just may pay off 31 dollars.

And so, my icebreaker was complete and I received a second ovation less than half a minute after the first one. It was humbling and empowering all at once. But the craziest thing was, later that same day when I got home from class, I read the terrible news that John Ritter passed away that very same day. What were the odds of that?! I loved him in Three’s Company and the Problem Child movies, plus he always reminded me of Uncle Jimmy. Uncle Jimmy was like an Asian version of John Ritter :P

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Uncle Jimmy circa December 1986

Before I share the main stories I told that semester, I gotta share this one from my classmate. It was probably the best story I heard that entire semester, and I still remember it 15+ years later. The following story comes courtesy of the guy who, during his icebreaker, shared with us that he once played for the Toronto Raptors (!) during an NBA preseason before being cut.

TorRap

I’m walking to class one day and I spot this hot chick. She had sunglasses on, a mini skirt, and a bomb pink top. She was the kind of girl guys dream about. So I’m like, I gotta get with her, right, but what do I see? A guy holding her hand. Damn! So I walked to class but all I could think about was her.

Next thing I knew, she walked through the door! I was like “HELL YEAH! This was a sign.” But once again, that guy was holding her hand. I looked at him and I was like, “What?! This hot girl is with some average Joe Shmoe like him?” She sat down with her boyfriend. Screw it, I still went up to her. I asked for her name and how’s she doing and all that stuff. Her boyfriend asked me rudely what I wanted.

“I just wanna talk with her. Is that illegal?”

Then he got up and hugged her right in my face. I’m feeling bad at this point, but then he said, “See you later, sis.”

And inside I’m going “OH YEEEEAHHH!”

StoryTellingRVG7

Later that day I was at the cafeteria when I saw her sitting by herself. Yes, this was my chance. So I came over and we talked. I definitely could see us getting together. I was cracking jokes and she was laughing a lot. But soon I had to get to class. All day I was thinking about her. I mean, I think about girls a LOT, but this girl was driving me nuts!

Once I finished class I was walking to my car when I saw her standing around, and she was crying. I rushed over and asked her what’s going on. She told me her brother got in a fight with her and left her, so she had no ride home.

“What?! Your bro’s a real asshole. You don’t know how to use public transportation or something? Hey, don’t worry. I can give you a ride home.”

She didn’t hesitate at all and gave me a nod. Wow, I couldn’t believe how this situation was unfolding. She gave me her address and luckily I was familiar with the area. As we began walking, suddenly she grabbed my hand. I was like HELL YEAH! So we were walking down the street and I was nodding my head like “Yeah this my girl” to everyone walking by who was checking her out.

StoryTellingRVG9

After driving her home, I asked if she’d like me to walk her to her door. She said yes. I opened the passenger door for her and again she held my hand in hers. We walked over to her front door and I could see she was still distraught over the fight with her brother. She fidgeted with the keys as she opened the front door. She got in, said bye quickly and closed the door in my face without giving me a chance to say anything.

I was like… WHAT THE FUCK?!?

So I pound on the door.

“Who is it?”

Who is it? What kind of messed up mind games is this chick playing?!?

“It’s me. Who else?”

She opened the door. “What do you want?”

“You’re welcome. Hey listen, if you want I can straighten out your brother for you. Well alright then, I’ll see you Thursday.”

“… I need to see you Thursday too,” she said quietly.

Then she closed the door and I stood there thinking, DAMN! Girls. Can’t live with ‘em… sure as hell can’t live without ‘em.

So Thursday came and after class we walked to the cafeteria. She asked me if she could hold my hand. At this point I was just so confused by her split personality, so I decided to let her know what was on my mind.

“What are we gonna do? Play patty cake? Why you acting all weird on me huh? I need to know right now. Why all the games? One minute you’re holding my hand, the next minute you’re slamming doors in my face! What is it, huh?! Is it because I’m black?”

“No.”

“Is it because I’m 6’6″? You don’t like tall guys?”

“No, it’s not that.”

“Then what?”

“I only see your personality.”

“Say what? My personality? You mean, you think I’m all jokes? You wanna see the deeper me or something? Wassup?”

“I don’t see you as a tall black guy. I only see your personality.”

At this point I was thinking this chick has me all mixed up! Then she held my hand, took off her sunglasses and told me,I can’t see. I’m blind.”

The room fell in thunderous silence as he stood there, staring at us for a second letting everything sink in. Then he slowly sat down as the room erupted in applause and cheers. Maybe the NBA didn’t work out for him, but he’s definitely got a future in any field that requires dynamic public speaking!

THURSDAY OCTOBER 2, 2003

StoryTellingClass2

I remember standing right there, glancing at my 20+ classmates for a second before I began. I was a bit nervous, but once I got going I channeled that nervous energy into positive energy. Sharing about one of the greatest nights of my life in front of friends and colleagues turned out to be one of my greatest collegiate memories. And since the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake was only 2 weeks away, I used part of that title as a tribute.

TCMREmake

memhall111

memhall115

I had a blast recounting my epic Halloween 1994 adventure in front of my peers. At that time it was only 9 years removed. Crazy to think this upcoming Halloween will be the 25th anniversary!

On the hot seat...
On the hot seat…

After finishing your story, you took a seat right there for feedback time. This is where the professor as well as your classmates chime in. They gave me a nice ovation as I sat down. One girl said she loved how I made sound effects and how I painted pictures for her with my word choice, such as “green and red lights flashing wildly into the night.” Another classmate said I had great projection and energy. Professor told me, “Steven you possess great stage presence; you’re a natural storyteller with an irresistible style.” Wow. Talk about pumping a guy up!

StorytellingRVG15

THURSDAY NOVEMBER 6, 2003

StoryTellingRVG11

In the weeks leading up to my second story, I was watching Saved By The Bell episodes on the season one DVD set my brother bought when it first came out in September of 2003. We both watched the show religiously when we were kids in the late ’80s to mid ’90s. Hell, growing up I even looked up to Zack Morris. I thought he was just the coolest dude around. In the words of Mean Gene Okerlund, “I mean HE HAD IT ALL.” A hot girlfriend in Kelly Kapowski, great friends and Zack was the toast of Bayside High. While high school for me in real life never quite played out like how Bayside High was depicted, for one day at least I had a chance to be Zack Morris.

ZACK’S WAR

StoryTellingClass2

Before I officially start my story, I’d like you all to know in advance that you may be familiar with the characters to come. Also, I will be switching voices on the fly. Having said that, let us begin…

The year was 1990. I remember that year fondly. It was my senior year at Bayside High and the best year of my life. A lot of things happened in 1990 that I’ll never forget. Sure I got in trouble a lot, but I usually charmed my way out of it. Many called me a slacker as well as a class clown. Now truth be told, there’s a reason for those labels. However, one day… that all changed…

Note to reader: Remember that “Corps” is pronounced “core.”

"Alright everyone, listen up, because I have GREAT news"
“Alright everyone, listen up because I have GREAT news.”
"Madonna's the new school nurse?"
“Madonna’s the new school nurse?”

SBTBZW3

“No. Bayside has been chosen to host the pilot program for the California Cadet Corps. Now I’d like to introduce you… Lieutenant Chet Adams.”

SBTBZW4

“In the Cadet Corps we initiate students into the Army way of life. Naturally, there’s discipline and hard work involved.”

"NOOO THANK YOU!"
“NOOO THANK YOU!”
"Every school has one, he's ours"
“Every school has one… he’s ours.”

SBTBZW7

“As I was saying… there’s also career training and a chance for college scholarships. I hope you sign up and see what you can be in today’s Army. Hope I’ll be seeing some of you soon.”

"Thank you Lieutenant. Have a good day. So, any volunteers?"
“Thank you Lieutenant. Have a good day.
So, any volunteers?”
"Count me in, Mr. Belding"
“Count me in, Mr. Belding.”
"Count me... OUT, Mr. Belding"
“Count me… OUT, Mr. Belding.”
"Oh you're out all right. MY OFFICE, FIVE MINUTES"
“Oh you’re out all right. MY OFFICE. FIVE MINUTES.”

SBTBZW12

"This is it, Morris"
“This is it, Morris.”
"The end. EL FINITO. I am fed up with your wisecracks"
“The end. EL FINITO. I am fed up with your wisecracks.”

SBTBZW15

“I’m giving you a month’s worth of Saturday detention.”

FOUR Saturdays?”

“Nah uh. THIRTY Saturdays.”

Thirty Saturdays?! Sir, can we negotiate? Hey I’ll wash your car!”

“The last time you washed my car you flooded the inside.”

“Carpool, sir.”

“Hold on…”

"Holding, sir..."
“Holding, sir…”

SBTBZW17

“Hmmm, maybe there IS something you can do. I wanna see this Cadet Corps succeed here SO… you sign up, no detention.”

“You mean all I hafta do is join that Mickey Mouse Army?”

“That’s right. Oh, that and one other little request. We need a full class for the program so it’s your job to get ‘em.”

"Alright, you got a deal Mr. Belding"
“Alright, you got a deal Mr. Belding.”
"Either he's getting real old, or I'm getting really good"
“Either he’s getting real old, or I’m getting really good!”

SBTBZW20

The next day Zack went to the Max, the local Bayside High hangout, to recruit and assemble a full class. Employing his natural charisma and used car salesman tactics, Zack recruited enough students save for one. He needed one last sucker… and that’s when his best friend entered the Max.

“Hey Screech! You wanna know how to get Molly? By being a REAL MAN.”

“ME?!”

“That’s right. Wait til Molly sees you… in a uniform.”

“Count me in, Zack! I’ll be ALL that I can be!”

SBTBZW21

The next week Zack and his friends waited for the first official Cadet Corps class to begin. As they waited for Lieutenant Chet Adams to arrive, they began discussing among themselves what the experience might be like.

“I hope I can handle this and have a chance at that college scholarship.”

“Ah stop worrying, Kelly. Would I be in this class if it weren’t a snap?”

And that’s when the Lieutenant walked in…

SBTBZW22

“Weeeell, it’s nice to see such a good turn out. Now I want you guys to relax, enjoy yourselves, and I’m sure we’re going to have a good time.”

"See, what did I tell you? Piece of cake!"
“See, what did I tell you? Piece of cake!”

*Turns around, back facing audience*

*Bell rings*

*Turns to face audience*

"TEN-HUT! Maybe I wasn't clear... ON YOUR FEET!! The Cadet Core is now in session. There will BE!"
TEN-HUT! Maybe I wasn’t clear… ON YOUR FEET!!
The Cadet Corps is now in session. There will BE!
"No talking. No SMILING. AND NO BLINKING!!"
“No talking. No SMILING. AND NO BLINKING!!
"Hey lighten up Lieutenant. There's no war. Haven't you heard, peace broke out all over the world"
“Hey lighten up Lieutenant. There’s no war.
Haven’t you heard, peace broke out all over the world.”
"I remember you. Big mouth. DOWN AND GIMME 20"
“I remember you. Big mouth. DOWN AND GIMME 20.”
"How 'bout two fives and a ten?"
“How ’bout two fives and a ten?”
"How about FIFTY?" "C'mon Lieutenant, where's the fun and games?"
“How about FIFTY?”
“C’mon Lieutenant, where’s the fun and games?”

SBTBZW30

“Oh it’s gonna be plenty of fun… FOR ME. MAKE THAT ONE HUNDRED.”

“But sir, I can’t do that many push ups.”

“Oh that’s OK. I have all day to watch you try.”

The next day Zack showed up to class but something was missing…

"Why aren't you in uniform, Cadet Morris?"
“Why aren’t you in uniform, Cadet Morris?”
"Well let's face it sir, I'm just not Core material. I think it's best for both of us if I resign"
“Well let’s face it, sir. I’m just not Corps material.
I think it’s best for both of us if I resign.”
"Oh that's too bad, because I had big plans for you"
“Oh that’s too bad, because I had big plans for you.”

SBTBZW34

“Well, I’m afraid my ARMS can’t take any more of your BIG plans, sir.”

"You're a born leader; I'd hate to lose you. How 'bout I make you a deal?"
“You’re a born leader. I’d hate to lose you.
How ’bout I make you a deal?”
"Oh yeah, what kind of deal?" "We're gonna have an athletic competition soon." "Well that's great sir, but where's the deal?"
“Oh yeah, what kind of deal?”
“We’re gonna have an athletic competition soon.”
“Well that’s great sir, but where’s the deal?”
"If your team wins, I'll let you out of the Core. And even better, you can pick the teams. Do we have a deal?" "Ha... pick the teams? YES SIR."
“If your team wins, I’ll let you out of the Corps.
And even better, YOU can pick the teams.
Do we have a deal?”
“Ha… pick the teams? YES SIR.”
"Who does this guy think he's dealing with?"
“Who does this guy think he’s dealing with?”

The Lieutenant made the big announcement later that day in class.

“The highlight of every Cadet Corps program is an athletic competition. It helps develop physical skills, teamwork, and it’s the Army’s way of separating the men from the boys.”

“Excuse me?”

“I mean, the persons from the persons. Better now, Ms. Spano?”

“Thank you.”

“Now, there will be a red team and a blue team. I’ve already picked the leaders for the two teams: AC Slater and Zack Morris. I’ve given Cadet Morris the responsibility of choosing the teams.”

“Alright, we’ll start first with the red team. When I call your name, step forward. Alan, Screech, hmmm, Lisa, Louise. OK, you guys are with Slater.”

“What?!”

“Jessie, Kelly, Butch and Rocco, you guys are with me on the blue team… LET THE GAMES BEGIN!

"Wait a second, that's not fair. He's got all the jocks!"
“Wait a second, that’s not fair. He’s got all the jocks!”
"Are these teams evenly matched, Cadet Morris?"
“Are these teams evenly matched, Cadet Morris?”
"They certainly are, sir. If anything, Slater has the advantage..."
“They certainly are, sir.
If anything, Slater has the advantage…”

“Yeah for WHAT — THE NERD BOWL?!

"Are you sure this is fair?" "Sir, you have my word."
“Are you sure this is fair?”
“Sir, you have my word.”
" Zack, you'll lead the red team. Slater the blue team"
“Zack, you’ll lead the red team. Slater, the blue team.”
"But sir! You said I could pick the teams!"
“But sir! You said I could pick the teams!”
"I know. And you did a fine job. But I pick the leaders. That's MY job."
“I know. And you did a fine job.
But I pick the leaders. That’s MY job.”
"Pretty good at this job huh, Zack?" "Shut up Screech."
“Pretty good at this job huh, Zack?”
“Shut up Screech.”

Later that day Zack and Slater began practicing with their own teams. Zack, the red team. Slater, the blue team. The blue team was a well-oiled machine. The red team on the other hand…

SBTBZW47

“Left… left, left, right, left… company HALT. Alan, I said halt!”

“I thought you said MALT! And I’m thirsty from all this moving about.”

“Alright team, get it together. Come on. About-FACE!”

"Alan, I'm not a cake so PLEASE get outta my face! Man you guys are hopeless. Turn around!"
“Alan, I’m not a cake so PLEASE get out of my face!
Man, you guys are hopeless. Turn around!”
*shakes head*
*shakes head*

SBTBZW50

Maybe Zack’s red team could salvage the obstacle course. Then again…

“OK guys, let’s do something right this time alright. Let’s go guys!”

“Red team ready, GO.”

Zack flew through the tires. His teammates however fell flat on their faces.

SBTBZW51

“Great, JUST great. I am NEVER gonna win with a bunch of losers like you. You guys are the worst clumsiest bunch of goofs I’ve ever seen! I QUIT!

Zack tore off his red armband and stormed off. After school that day his best friend Screech dropped by.

"Zack you gotta come back. We don't stand a chance without you." "Forget it Screech. I don't wanna waste my time"
“Zack you gotta come back.
We don’t stand a chance without you!”
“Forget it, Screech. I don’t wanna waste my time.”

“Oh but we’re getting better. Alan even got his uniform off without ripping it.”

“Big deal.”

SBTBZW53

“I don’t get it, Zack. You’re the one who talked us into joining the Corps. And now you’re quitting it all just because you’re not on the best team?”

“Yeah that’s about it. Because the Corps is stupid.”

SBTBZW54

“But you said the Corps would make me the kind of man Molly would want.”

"SO I LIED. Sue me."
SO I LIED. Sue me.”

SBTBZW56

“You know Zack… ever since we were little… I looked up to you. You had everything. And I always wanted to be like you. Now I’m glad I’m not.”

SBTBZW57

Screech left the room and left Zack to ruminate. The next day…

*clears throat* "What are you doing here, Morris?" "Rejoining my team with your permission, sir."
*clears throat*
“What are you doing here, Morris?”
“Rejoining my team with your permission, sir.”
"That's impossible, Morris. You're a quitter. The Core doesn't want quitters."
“That’s impossible, Morris. You’re a quitter.
The Corps doesn’t want quitters.”

“I want another chance. Please let me back in, sir.”

“That’s not for me to decide. Maybe they don’t want you back.”

SBTBZW60

“Alright, I let all you guys down and I called you losers. You know what, I was wrong. The only real loser on this team… was me.”

"Screech, I'm sorry. Guys, please take me back."
“Screech, I’m sorry. Guys, please take me back.”

“We’ll have to talk this over…”

“Look guys, I think we need him DESPERATELY.”

“Welcome back, buddy.”

Not only was Zack back, but so too the athletic competition. Tied two wins a piece, the big Tug-O-War finale would determine the winner. Alas…

SBTBZW62

“Since the rope broke, this is the tie breaking event… the super obstacle course. Each team will choose one man… I mean, ONE PERSON… to compete.”

“Very good, Lieutenant.”

“I’m trying, Ms. Spano.”

"Now Butch, this is YOUR event." "Yeah!" "Bring it home baby!" "GRRRRRRRR!!"
“Now Butch, this is YOUR event. Bring it home, baby!”
GRRRRRRRR!!
"Well Morris here's your chance. Your team wins and you're out of the Core. A free man"
“Well Morris… here’s your chance. Your team wins…
And you’re out of the Corps. A free man.”
"Zack, Butch is running again. You're the only one who can beat him!"
“Zack, Butch is running again.
You’re the only one who can beat him!”

NOPEThere’s someone else here who can beat him...”

“WHO?!?”

"... Screech."
“… Screech.

“ARE YOU CRAZY?!?!? You saw what happened last time!”

“Yeah, I can’t beat Butch. We’ll lose!

"NOT IF YOU WIN. Come on Screech. It's time you started believing in yourself."
NOT IF YOU WIN. Come on Screech.
It’s time you started believing in yourself.”

“Runners, take your position.”

“Alright Screech you can do it!”

“Ready… GO!”

Both Butch and Screech shot off like two cannons being fired into the dark cold night. In the end, it was Screech who crossed the finish line first. No one could believe it. No one except Zack Morris. Molly came over to greet Screech with a kiss in the winner’s circle, and everyone filed out of the hallway except for Zack and the Lieutenant.

"Nice work, Morris. Personally, I didn't think you stood a chance."
“Nice work, Morris.
Personally, I didn’t think you stood a chance.”
"Well thank you, sir. You didn't give me much of a choice."
“Well thank you, sir.
You didn’t give me much of a choice.”
"Ahhh you got what you wanted Morris. I guess this is good-bye."
“Ah, you got what you wanted Morris.
I guess this is good-bye.”
"Why sir? Are you quitting?"
“Why sir? Are you quitting?”
"Not me."
“Not me.”
"Well, not me either. Someone told me... the Core doesn't like a quitter."
“Well, not me either. Someone once told me…
THE CORPS DOESN’T LIKE A QUITTER.”
*SALUTE* (I held the pose as the class cheered)
*SALUTE*

StoryTellingClass

As I stood there saluting the class as if I were looking into the eyes of the Lieutenant himself, the class gave me a roaring ovation that sent chilling goosebumps up and down my spine. I sat down and right away one girl said, “That was so unexpected and awesome. I loved that show when I was a kid and I felt like those characters were right in front of me!” I saw many of my classmates nodding and smiling in agreement, and I can’t tell you how great that felt. The professor had this to add. “Steven, that was an INCREDIBLE one man show you just put on for us. Thank you, I enjoyed it very much.”

SethMurray2

Remember Sean? Bill Murray meets Seth Rogen? The next week he told me, “You know Steve, I’ve never cared to watch Saved By The Bell before. But the other day it came on TBS and I just had to watch it because of your story. I couldn’t believe how accurately you replicated the characters, especially Zack. It was your voice, facial expressions and mannerisms… I thought I was watching YOU on the show!”

StorytellingRVG16

CLOSING THOUGHTS

CampfireS2

So what was my third and last story of the semester? I’d love to share that here but this is already at 5,000+ words! I’ll save my third and final story for next time. See you soon at the Bayside High reunion! ;)

WMCJ2

In addition, check out the link above for an exclusive interview I conducted with Cylk Cozart back in the summer of 2009. He had some interesting stories to share… from what life in the ’60s was like to his one episode cameo in Saved By The Bell to White Men Can’t Jump and much more.

Cozart6

Mr. USA Tony Atlas

"Thank God almighty, we are free at last!"
“Free at last, thank God almighty, we are free at last!”

Today (January 15, 2019) would have marked Martin Luther King Jr.’s 90th birthday. A prominent leader of the Civil Rights movement, Martin lived a rich and fulfilling life. He helped to stir about change in our country and his dream lives on today in the hearts and minds of many. I’m a fan of great speeches. When certain words are strung together in a way that flow majestically, it can really resonate deeply with me and touch me to my very core. With that said, one of my favorite speeches that has flown under the radar came from Mr. USA Tony Atlas. I’m proud to replicate his 2006 WWE Hall of Fame speech. Damn was 2006 a great year for speeches (see Bret Hart and Mean Gene Okerlund). I loved Tony’s speech so much that I used parts of it in a graduate course I took in 2007 when I had to play out a patriotic role. The class gave me a standing ovation and thought I was crazy for coming up with something so extravagant on the fly, but truth be told I had seen Tony’s speech probably a dozen times on my Wrestlemania 22 DVD by that point. They even nominated me for an Oscar :P Anyway, without further ado, please welcome WWE Hall of Famer, TONY ATLAS!

TonyAtlas

Known for his incredible strength and astonishing agility, Tony Atlas is one of the most impressive physical specimens in the world of professional wrestling. A former Mr. USA, Atlas is one of the first body builders to ever enter the wrestling industry.

TonyAtlas2

In the mid 1970s, Atlas made a name for himself in the NWA. After Atlas muscled his way through the NWA, it was on to the World Wide Wrestling Federation. It was there that Mr. USA became a nationally known superstar, competing against legends such as Rowdy Roddy Piper, Mr. Wonderful, Big John Studd and Sgt. Slaughter. Atlas also had memorable matches against Hulk Hogan, even press slamming the “Immortal One.” Tony takes pride in the fact that he was never pinned by the Hulkster.

TonyAtlas3

The highlight of his career came in 1983. Tony Atlas and his partner, Rocky Johnson, made history. By defeating the Wild Samoans, Mr. USA and Rocky Johnson became the first superstars of African American descent to win a tag team championship in the World Wrestling Federation.

TonyAtlas4

Tony Atlas is a leader in the world of power lifting, an icon in the world of body building, and a legend in the world of professional wrestling. Tonight we are proud to welcome in the WWE Hall of Fame, Mr. USA Tony Atlas.

MeanGeneHOF148

King: In this business, you’re lucky if you find that special tag team partner. Here to induct Tony Atlas tonight is his former tag partner and best friend, Special Delivery Jones!

The capacity crowd rises to greet Special Delivery Jones
The capacity crowd rises to greet SD Jones
SD Jones looking sharp!
SD Jones looking sharp!

Tonight I’m here to induct my best friend, Tony Atlas.

TonyAtlas7

Tony Atlas and I met 1980, in Allentown, Pennsylvania… long time ago. We talked, we became very close friends, and we decided to talk to office, maybe we could become tag team partners. Finally, they turned us wide open. Tony Atlas and I became one of the best tag teams, that time, around Pennsylvania, New York, Baltimore, Maryland — all the way around Maryland. Anyway, let me get there… I’m getting excited, excuse me.

TonyAtlas8

Tony said to me, “SD, we need the straps.” I said, “OK, we have to wrestle Saito and Mr. Fuji.” We tried and we tried and we tried. I could not do it. I was the one that killed the tag.

TonyAtlas9

So, I had to step aside. When I stepped aside, Rocky Johnson came to town. They became the first African Americans to ever win the WWE tag team championship. I think I did the right thing, because I couldn’t carry the load and Rocky Johnson was a better partner… BUT… I made a mistake. It didn’t last 3 weeks. They fought, they fought, they had mistakes, they had problems. And I had to push Rocky away and I went back to Atlas. We became partners again.

TonyAtlas10

We traveled the world. Tony and I were in Spain at one time. I saw some body builders doing some stuff in a gym. I asked them where is the gym where all the power lifters are? They told us it was in another town, I can’t remember the name right now but anyway… we flew all the way to Barcelona… listen to me, Barcelona — JUST to meet those guys.

Tony Atlas and I flew there, six hours it took. When we got there they brought the Olympic lifters to meet us. They say they wrestlers they suppose to be strong. Tony Atlas says to me “Bossman” — he calls me Bossman a lot — “I’m hungry.” I said, “We not gonna eat, we have to do this, we have to represent WWE.” He said, “OK Bossman.”

TonyAtlas11

We got in there and I did my little 510 pounds. Think I was a big shot, that’s what I thought. They pushed me aside. Tony says, “Bossman, stand behind me.” When Tony got on the bench ladies and gentlemen, he lifted SIX HUNDRED AND SIXTY pounds and all the guys — they took off.

*crowd claps*

I didn’t stop there. We went on to Vienna, Austria. I found out where they were lifting also. I went in, I said to them, “I have a man here who can OUTLIFT EVERYBODY.”

They said, “No wrestlers can outlift us. We are Olympic.”

I said, “OK my brother.”

I brought in Tony.

I said, “Tony sit down, rest yourself.”

TonyAtlas12

Tony went up again. He started off with 400 pounds, went all the way up to SIX HUNDRED and TWENTY POUNDS. And one of the guys said, “He IS an Olympic lifter!”

*crowd claps*

I didn’t stop. We went on to Egypt for WWE — those are the places that we went FOR THIS OFFICE.

When we got to Egypt one guy told me that we have to go to Cairo, on the other side of the river, which they say is the Nile. I said we are going to do it. I got a bus, I pay the guy, we went over.

Rocky Johnson was with me, he said "You're crazy"
Rocky Johnson was with me. He said “You’re crazy!”

I said “No, I want to show the world that Tony Atlas is one of the best we ever had in this business.”

When I got there there were lifters, lifters from the Olympics. One of the guys looked at us and said, “I saw this guy in a book some place, they call him Mr. USA right?”

Tony went on the bench and Tony did SIX HUNDRED and THIRTY-FIVE pounds, walked away. He said “Bossman, I’m hungry.”

*crowd laughs*

He's always hungry I don't understand, he's always *crowd laughs*
He’s always hungry I don’t understand, he’s always
*crowd laughs*

I didn’t stop there. He said, “SD, when are you going to stop? Bossman stop it.” I said I’ll stop, but I didn’t.

TonyAtlas15

We went to Norway for this office — this WWE office — those are the places that we went together, doing what we love.

We were pioneers. “Tony, just call yourself a pioneer for WWE” — that’s what I told him.

In Norway I met some guys. They said they weren’t too good, we got a gym and all. One guy went up to 600 pounds and stopped. I told Tony, “Please don’t do it, please don’t. He has all his family here…”

Tony said, "I don't have my family here..." *crowd laughs*
Tony said, “I don’t have my family here…”
*crowd laughs*

Tony did SIX HUNDRED AND FORTY pounds and we walked away.

TonyAtlas17

He looked at me, “You gonna stop. If you don’t stop, Bossman, I’m gonna pop you one of these.”

*crowd laughs*

TonyAtlas18

We were very very close friends, we are still very close. We call each other like 3, 4 times a month just talking about LIFE. Tony is one of the greatest in our business. He won the Atlantic championship, he won tag team championship. He won the championship in Puerto Rico, he is one of the best we ever had in our business.

And he did not stop there. He went on to do bodybuilding and won the Mr. USA contest. Tonight, ladies and gentlemen, I’m honored. Tony, tonight your name will be with the best of the best in our business and the Hall of Fame. Congratulations my brother, and God Bless you.

TonyAtlas19

Tony Atlas makes his way out to the sold out capacity crowd at the huge Rosemont Theatre in Rosemont, Illinois.

A show of respect from Tony's peers
A show of respect from Tony’s peers
The two best friends embrace
The two best friends embrace

TonyAtlas22

The World’s Strongest Man, Mark Henry, gives Tony Atlas a nudge nudge wink wink.

... and Atlas plays along
… and Atlas plays along
Henry shows his appreciation
Henry shows his appreciation
Atlas soaks it all in before the crowd hushes down
Atlas soaks it all in before the crowd hushes down

TonyAtlas26

WEEELL… first of all, I like to uh… I like to thank… the wrestling fans.

*crowd cheers*

Because, without you fans, there be no Hulk Hogan…. *crowd cheers*

There be no Ric Flair…. *crowd cheers twice as loud*

TonyAtlas27

There be no Tony Atlas… there be nothing. You guys — I have been to arenas where the snow is up to my hip — wrestling fans come out to see it. I been down in Florida with one of the greatest wrestlers and a very good friend of mine by the name of Dusty Rhodes the American Dream *crowd cheers*

TonyAtlas28

I been in Mid Atlantic with another great wrestler by the name of Ric Flair — the Nature Boy *crowd cheers*

I had the honor of wrestling Olympic champion Ken Patera *minor applause*

TonyAtlas29

I had the honor of matching STRENGTH with the man that HAD the 23 inch guns — SUPERSTAR Billy Graham!

*crowd erupts*

TonyAtlas30

You KNOW… what I gonna say right now is from the heart, because it’s probably my last time for saying anything to such wonderful people.

But my mother, Beatrice James White, gave birth to NINE kids. Worked TWO jobs. They called it a SPLIT SHIFT. She got up in the morning went to work at 7 O’Clock, work until 2 went back at 4 worked until 11. I’m from Virginia, raised up in the SLAVE SHACK where we didn’t have wooden floors — we had dirt on the floors. I got up and scrubbed dirt floors. We didn’t have dishes in the house; my mother brought home newspaper, dumped food on the newspaper, we sat there and ate… with no dishes in the house.

I graduated from high school with the same pair of pants I started school with. We were DIRT POOR. But I was BLESSED. Because, regardless of if you born in a mansion on the HILL, or you born in the SLAVE SHACK in Virginia… I was born in the greatest country in the history — the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA!

*Crowd goes crazy*
*Crowd goes crazy*

TonyAtlas32

And EVEN THOUGH… even though they say that Mr. USA represent body building… when the people WAVED THEM AMERICAN FLAGS… when the people hollered U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A… I feel PRRROOOOUD to be an American!

*crowd cheers*

TonyAtlas33

And if you APPLY yourself, if you work hard, keep your nose clean and do as you’re told, and really really put forth a good effort, in the United States of America I don’t care where you was born, or how you came up, or what color you are, or what race you are, or what GENDER you are, you can make it because YOU ARE… in the UNITED States of AMERICA!

*crowd goes absolutely nuts*

TonyAtlas34

And IN THE UNITED States of America I met a very good friend by the name of SD Jones, Blackjack Mulligan, Bobby Heenan, Dusty Rhodes, and the list go on and on and on but right now I want to give a special thank — y’all folk don’t know this but I don’t mind telling you because I AM in America and I AIN’T ASHAMED OF NUTTHIN’!

*crowd cheers*

TonyAtlas35

I want this lady right here to stand up. Stand up, Monica, please darling.

TonyAtlas36

TonyAtlas37

Now, in 1989 I found myself homeless… I made a lot of money but as the old timers say, “It ain’t what you made it’s what you saved.” I shoulda listen.

*crowd chuckles*

TonyAtlas38

Because my mother always told me, “A hard head makes a soft behind.” I shoulda listen to mom… ‘coz she always say “Don’t lemme tell you again BOY!”

*crowd laughs*

TonyAtlas39

This lady took in a homeless man… fed him, didn’t know who I were.

*crowd claps*

She took in a homeless man, fed him, built him back up, and educated him. Now I’m a certified personal trainer because of this lady here.

*The crowd gives Monica a roaring ovation*
*Crowd gives Monica a roaring ovation*

TonyAtlas41

TonyAtlas42

And I’m gonna say something else I DON’T CARE who don’t like it. 3 months later Vince McMahon called me… and made me some money, get me back on my feet. Thank you Mr. McMahon I don’t care WHO DON’T LIKE IT!

Tony had a short stint in late 1990 as Saba Simba
Tony had a short stint in late 1990 as Saba Simba
The McMahons clap approvingly
The McMahons clap approvingly

TonyAtlas44

Being a professional wrestler was the greatest thing that ever happened to a poor ol’ Virginia boy, raised up in the sticks of Virginia, with nothing to eat. But I’m not complaining now, because I love my ham hock and beans. More so than them steaks and them lobsters — what them little snails y’all guys eat — that Escargot stuff? Now if y’all be eating that then don’t be making fun of MAH BEANS.

*crowd laughs*

And one day somebody asked my wife, “Why you marry Tony Atlas?” She said, “He makes good pork chops!” *blinks while crowd laughs*

Anyway, I don’t want to take much more time. From the bottom of my heart, I love all the people in the wrestling business. I love all the great fans that made the wrestling business, because without you fans there would be none of us.

TonyAtlas45

And all I got to say is God bless each and every one of you. And always remember, you live in the greatest country in the history of the world — U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A! Thank you!

*Crowd cheers*

CLOSING THOUGHTS

TonyAtlas46

Another wildly entertaining and inspiring speech, one can learn a lot from Tony’s life experiences. There is a lot of crap that goes on in this world but at the end of the day, I like to believe in the goodness of the human race. Of course there’s a select handful that tries to ruin it for everybody else, but stories like Tony’s warms my heart. How Monica, a completely random stranger, took in a homeless man, fed him, gave him shelter and rebuilt him from the ground up. Amazing tales like this remind me that genuine kindness and compassion — even in the smallest way — goes a long way.

Mean Gene Okerlund

MeanGeneHOF51

Earlier this week, the wrestling world was saddened by the loss of Eugene Arthur Okerlund (1942-2019). Better known to wrestling fans worldwide as Mean Gene Okerlund, Mean Gene was one of a kind. He was one of my favorite personalities in the wacky world of professional wrestling. I have so many fond memories of him conducting interviews with guys like Hulk Hogan, Macho Man Randy Savage, Ultimate Warrior and the list goes on and on. Hearing of his passing at age 76 was like losing a small part of my childhood. He meant a lot to me and millions of other fans who grew up on late ’80s and early ’90s WWF. To honor his legacy, I’ve transcribed his WWE Hall of Fame induction speech from 2006. Enjoy.

MEAN GENE OKERLUND
HALL OF FAME SPEECH
APRIL 1, 2006

Please welcome WWE Hall of Famer, Hulk Hogan!

Crowd goes crazy as I'm A Real American blares
Crowd goes crazy as Real American blares

When it comes crashing down and it hurts inside…
You gotta take a stand; it don’t help to hide!

IF YOU HURT MY FRIENDS THEN YOU HURT MY PRIDE. I GOTTA BE A MAN, I CAN'T LET IT SLIDE!
IF YOU HURT MY FRIENDS THEN YOU HURT MY PRIDE.
I GOTTA BE A MAN — I CAN’T LET IT SLIDE!
I'M A REAL AMERICAN. FIGHT FOR THE RIGHTS OF EVERY MAN!
I AM A REAL AMERICAN.
FIGHT FOR THE RIGHTS OF EVERY MAN!
I AM A REAL AMERICAN. FIGHT FOR WHAT'S RIGHT... FIGHT FOR YOUR LIFE!
I AM A REAL AMERICAN.
FIGHT FOR WHAT’S RIGHT — FIGHT FOR YOUR LIFE!
*Fans chanting HOGAN HOGAN HOGAN!*
*Fans chanting HOGAN HOGAN HOGAN!*
Alright! It's good to see you guys again
Alright! It’s good to see you guys again

MeanGeneHOF7

Um, it was really great to be in the back and come up to Gene Okerlund…

*pauses to look at rowdy fans*  You guys OK?
*pauses to look at rowdy fans*  You guys OK?
*ONE MORE MATCH! ONE MORE MATCH!*
“ONE MORE MATCH! ONE MORE MATCH!”
*ONE MORE MATCH! ONE MORE MATCH!*
“ONE MORE MATCH! ONE MORE MATCH!”

*ONE MORE MATCH! ONE MORE MATCH!*
[I think they want Hogan to have one more match -Ed.]
MeanGeneHOF12

Alright you guys. Um, it, it was really great to be in the back and shake Mean Gene’s hand and say hello to him…

*HOGAN AUSTIN! *CLAP CLAP* HOGAN AUSTIN!*
“HOGAN AUSTIN! *CLAP CLAP* HOGAN AUSTIN!”
*HOGAN AUSTIN! *CLAP CLAP* HOGAN AUSTIN!*
“HOGAN AUSTIN! *CLAP CLAP* HOGAN AUSTIN!”
*HOGAN AUSTIN! *CLAP CLAP* HOGAN AUSTIN!*
“HOGAN AUSTIN! *CLAP CLAP* HOGAN AUSTIN!”
[I think they want Hogan and Austin to have a match -Ed.]
[I think they want Hogan and Austin to have a match -Ed.]
The Hulkster takes it all in
The Hulkster takes it all in
He strokes his beard as the ravenous fans continue on
He strokes his beard as the ravenous fans continue on
Crowd starts to jeer in good fun. Classic Hogan!
Crowd starts to jeer in good fun. Classic Hogan!

MeanGeneHOF20

Aw, aw stop it! I knew I’d get you guys to shut up. No, thank you very much.

You know what, that would be a good match someday
You know what, that would be a good match someday

*Crowd massively pops*

MeanGeneHOF22

You think uh, Austin could handle the power of HULKAMANIA?

*Crowd boos a bit*

I like that. Maybe I'll grow the black beard back in
I like that. Maybe I’ll grow the black beard back in

*Crowd pops*

MeanGeneHOF24

ANYWAY, tonight guys, it’s a great night because I finally got a chance to shake Mean Gene’s hand and give him a hug in the back. Because usually, we’re on the run. And for 20 years, whenever I see Mean Gene, it was always last minute running.

MeanGeneHOF25

Trying to put the headband on my bald head, slide in front of the microphone…

LEMME TELL YOU SOMETHING MEAN GENE!!
LEMME TELL YOU SOMETHING MEAN GENE!!

*Crowd goes bonkers*

MeanGeneHOF27

That’s how we usually hooked up. But tonight I’m here to uh, induct Mean Gene into the Hall of Fame.

And we go way back. Way back
And we go way back. Way back
Ric Flair, the McMahons and Triple H look on
Ric Flair, the McMahons and Triple H look on

And I’d love to tell you a bunch of stories, but I don’t think uh, it would be really appropriate for today’s day and age.

MeanGeneHOF30

But anyway, Mean Gene started in this business when he was 16 years old. He started uh, in radio. And soon after he started in radio in the Twin Cities he moved right on to TV. And uh, at that time I was just getting ready to get started in the business. Just thinking about being a wrestler and had no idea that Mean Gene and myself would become very, very close friends.

Fan screams "I LOVE YOU HOGAN!"
Fan screams “I LOVE YOU HOGAN!”
Thank you brother. You're not my type but I love you too
Thank you brother. You’re not my type but I love you too
Crowd bursts into laughter, if you wheel
Crowd bursts into laughter, if you wheel ;)

MeanGeneHOF34

Anyway, in 1980 I had a little run here in the WWE. I worked for Vince Senior, Vince’s dad, and had a great time here.

MeanGeneHOF35

And after my little run here, I went to the AWA. Mr. Verne Gagne promoted and ran that company.

The great Mr. Verne Gagne (R.I.P.) looks on
The great Mr. Verne Gagne (R.I.P.) looks on

MeanGeneHOF37

And that’s where Verne and Greg started dialing me in to what Hulkamania was all about. Teaching me how to work like Hulk Hogan and get it together in the ring.

MeanGeneHOF38

During that time I became very good friends with Mean Gene. I had no idea back then how close we would be today.

MeanGeneHOF39

We started running around the Twin Cities. I was single at the time. Mean Gene would show me where all the parties were. We would go to all the rock and roll clubs. Stay out til the wee hours in the mornings til the sun came up. And as the days went by, we became closer and closer friends.

The Big Show enjoying the Hulkster's old stories
The Big Show enjoying the Hulkster’s old stories

MeanGeneHOF41

Then I got a call from Vince McMahon, and I had a chance to come back to the WWE, and I begged Mean Gene Okerlund to come with me. And thank God he came. Because at that time, the WWE was going through a huge transition. It was basically going from a very small territorial wrestling company…

MeanGeneHOF42

… around New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts… to this huge conglomerate that covered the globe.

MeanGeneHOF43

And Mean Gene — a lot of you fans don’t understand — was like the FOUNDATION of this company.

MeanGeneHOF44

He was there for the interviews, he was there for the wrestlers like myself that at certain times wouldn’t know what to say or what direction to go in. And Gene Okerlund basically worked harder than the wrestlers, traveling and sometimes you know, spent a lot more time on the road and in different hotel rooms doing interviews, because we used to do interviews on a daily basis.

MeanGeneHOF45

I had an opportunity when I was in the Twin Cities actually to get Mean Gene in the ring with me. And I had no idea that as I was trying to get Mean Gene in the ring as my tag team partner, he was more popular than the wrestlers at that time because he had been in the Twin Cities and he basically was the face of professional wrestling.

MeanGeneHOF46

We had a chance when we came to the WWE to get things up and rolling, and Mean Gene became the VOICE of professional wrestling. Everywhere you turned, there was another wrestler standing there.

MeanGeneHOF47

And if Mean Gene wasn’t there conducting the interview, it kinda wasn’t the same.

MeanGeneHOF48

So not only was Gene like a life support for Hulkamania and myself — LEMME TELL YOU SOMETHING MEAN GENE!! — everybody else such as Bret the Hitman Hart *crowd pops massively* and a lot of the guys in this room, they depended on Mean Gene to help them a lot in the interviews.

MeanGeneHOF49

He was a HUGE part of this transition… from the small wrestling era to the huge arena of sports entertainment. You guys take a look here and I’ll show you what I’m talking about.

MeanGeneHOF57

It’s my honor to have Mean Gene as a friend, and now it’s a greater honor to induct Mean Gene to the Hall of Fame… Mean Gene!

Jim Ross and friends stand up to applaud Mean Gene
Jim Ross and friends stand up to applaud Mean Gene
Classic Okerlund. Always the showman
Classic Okerlund. Always the showman
The two longtime friends embrace
The two longtime friends embrace
And I do mean LONGTIME friends
And I do mean LONGTIME friends
IT'S STILL REAL TO HIM, DAMNIT
IT’S STILL REAL TO HIM, DAMNIT :P
Thank you very much. Wow. I like that a lot
Thank you very much. Wow. I like that a lot
This guy did tell me one fib...
This guy did tell me one fib…
In that tag team match that we had he said...
In that tag team match that we had, he said…

MeanGeneHOF65

All you’re gonna be is a prop in the corner, and you’re not even gonna have to get in the ring with George the Animal Steele or Mr. Fuji.

MeanGeneHOF66

MeanGeneHOF67

Well he got in there, cleaned house, came over, gave me a hi-five.

The ref called it a TAG
The ref called it a TAG
And I ended up in the ring with those two clowns!
And I ended up in the ring with those two clowns!

MeanGeneClowns

MeanGeneHOF56

*Crowd laughs* But it was a lot of fun
*Crowd laughs* But it was a lot of fun

MeanGeneHOF71

And yes we did... we did make the circuit BIG TIME
And yes we did… we did make the circuit BIG TIME
Jesse Ventura gave me the moniker "Mean Gene"
Jesse Ventura gave me the moniker “Mean Gene”
BUT HERE'S THE GUY
BUT HERE’S THE GUY
THAT ETCHED IT IN GRANITE
THAT ETCHED IT IN GRANITE, HULK HOGAN!

MeanGeneHOF76

*Crowd cheers and claps*
*Crowd cheers and claps*
I want to tell you about the talent in professional wrestling
I want to tell you about the talent in professional wrestling

Each and every one of these guys, and gals, can stand out there and cut one hell of a promo. I can be there as a prop with a microphone and throw in a question now and then, but they know how to get the job done. And I’ve had some very unique experiences through the years… which I’d like to share with you.

MeanGeneHOF79

I think, uh, Bobby the Brain Heenan, we’ve gone through it all.

MeanGeneHOF80

AWA... yes... WWE, WCW...
AWA… yes… WWE, WCW…
*What's the Weasel up to?*
The Weasel’s up to something as Sherri cracks up
The two old friends shake hands
The two old friends shake hands
Heenan grabs Okerlund by the dome
Heenan grabs Okerlund by the dome
... and plants a big wet one. Awww
… and plants a big wet one as the crowd laughs

MeanGeneHOF86

Classic Bobby the Brain Heenan. Rest in Peace
Classic Bobby the Brain Heenan. Rest in Peace

MeanGeneHOF88

Taking a look at that hair… on that package we just saw, I’m glad I went bald! *Crowd laughs*

MeanGeneHOF89

Verne Gagne… Verne Gagne started me out in April of 1971.

MeanGeneHOF90

Verne, I learned a whole lot from you. Greg Gagne and the class of ’72, with Jim Brunzell and Brockwinkel and all of the great stars of the AWA.

Verne Gagne, Tony Atlas and SD Jones look on
Verne Gagne, Tony Atlas and SD Jones look on

MeanGeneHOF92

You deserve recognition — finally getting it — welcome to the Hall of Fame.

MeanGeneHOF93

MeanGeneHOF94

Interviews back in the old days...
Interviews back in the old days…
... were kind of the LIFEBLOOD of the WWE
… were kind of the LIFEBLOOD of the WWE
And there was a gentleman by the name of the Iron Sheik...
And there was a gentleman by the name of the Iron Sheik…
Randy Orton and the crowd chuckle knowingly...
Randy Orton and the crowd chuckle knowingly…

MeanGeneHOF99

The Iron Sheik… who uh… you go to work and you’re entertained *crowd laughs*

MeanGeneHOF100

There was a promotion — I don’t know who came up with it — it’s called The Great Turkey Tournament. And it happened around Thanksgiving time, as usual. And all of a sudden, Howard Finkel got this turkey up in Groton, Connecticut. We were doing interviews in New Haven. He brought the turkey back in a cage. I did interviews with Paul Orndorff, Dusty Rhodes and everybody else.

But here all of a sudden comes the Iron Sheik...
But here all of a sudden comes the Iron Sheik…
He opens the cage
He opens the cage
Pulls the turkey out
Pulls the turkey out
and CHOKES IT
and CHOKES IT
And slams it back down while he's cutting a promo
And slams it back down while he’s cutting a promo
THE BIRD DIES
THE BIRD DIES
Of course we couldn't use it on the air
Of course we couldn’t use it on the air
Kurt Angle and the capacity crowd erupts in laughter
Kurt Angle and the capacity crowd erupts in laughter

MeanGeneHOF109

Howard had to send uh, one of the boys back up to Groton, Connecticut to the turkey farm to get another bird.

Howard Finkel twinkles at the (mis)adventures
Howard Finkel twinkles at the (mis)adventures

MeanGeneHOF111

AND SPEAKING OF BIRDS… what about that COCKAMAMIEGobbledy Gooker?!

Edge and the crowd chuckles
Edge and the crowd chuckles

MeanGeneHOF113

Patterson, I know it was your idea!
Patterson, I know it was your idea!
Pat Patterson and Torrie Wilson laugh
Pat Patterson and Torrie Wilson laugh

MeanGeneHOF116

No that uh, that was quite an evening. All of a sudden we touted this big, huge EGG up to Hartford, Connecticut for the Survivor Series.

Survivor Series 1990
Survivor Series 1990

MeanGeneHOF117

And when it finally cracked open, here comes a knockoff of the San Diego Chicken… the Gobbledy Gooker.

The fans revolted and booed it out of the building
*The fans revolted and booed it out of the building*
And, of course, my friend Roddy Piper says go to it...
And, of course, my friend Roddy Piper says go to it…
... put this guy over
… put this guy over
Hector, we had a lot of fun
Hector, we had a lot of fun
But ALL is forgotten *crowd chuckles*
But ALL is forgotten *crowd chuckles*
Héctor Guerrero was the man in the chicken suit
Héctor Guerrero (middle) was the Gobbledy Gooker
Trying to make chicken salad out of chicken shit...
Trying to make chicken salad out of chicken…

MeanGeneHOF123

Couple of guys by the name of Hillbilly Jim, Cousin Junior… OH, Uncle Elmer!

MeanGeneHOF124

Great, great interview here. I start the interview out with Hillbilly Jim. He gives us a little bit of his own music. And finally he turns it over to Uncle Elmer.

And he proceeds to hit me over the head with a COWBELL
And he proceeds to hit me over the head with a COWBELL
The good Sarge chuckles along with the crowd
The good Sarge chuckles along with the crowd

MeanGeneHOF127

Now I’m down on my knees. And he’s got a handkerchief on the back of his overalls which he’s had for two months.

Takes it out and wipes it all over my face *crowd groans*
Takes it out and wipes it all over my face
Trish Stratus laughs as the crowd groans a bit
Trish Stratus laughs as the crowd groans a bit
So you do pay the price
So you do pay the price

MeanGeneHOF131

Ric Flair…

*Crowd goes WOOOO!*

Ric… everybody’s talked about Ric Flair.

MeanGeneHOF132

Ric Flair I saw as a BOUNCER in a bar… not that I went to many bars

Ric Flair and Linda McMahon are amused
Ric Flair and Linda McMahon are amused

MeanGeneHOF134

But he was there with Kenny Patera… in the Twin Cities. Then of course uh, he went to Verne Gagne’s camp, and cranking it up. And that was the beginning of the Nature Boy.

MeanGeneHOF135

MeanGeneHOF136

Finally ended up with a career in dancing… the robe, the bar.

MeanGeneHOF137

I’ve seen it coast to coast, and border to border and EVEN INTERNATIONALLY!

MeanGeneHOF138

Jake Roberts. Jake Roberts
Jake Roberts. Jake Roberts
*Crowd pops* Thank you. By God, he was a great one
*Crowd pops* Thank you. By God, he was a great one
John Cena, Mark Henry and the crowd claps approvingly
John Cena, Mark Henry and the fans clap approvingly
[One of the best on the mic of all time, bar none -Ed.]
[One of the best on the mic of all time, bar none -Ed.]
JAKE THE SNAKE ROBERTS
JAKE THE SNAKE ROBERTS

MeanGeneHOF143

We were doing a market specific, which was an interview that would only air in Cleveland, Ohio.

And I, I said, Jake Roberts, come on in
And I, I said, Jake Roberts, come on in

MeanGeneHOF145

I can’t think of a better town. The great fans here. The Browns, the Cavaliers, at that time the Cleveland Barons. I mean THEY HAD IT ALL. And I said the people in Cleveland are fantastic.

He said, STOP RIGHT THERE
He said, STOP RIGHT THERE

MeanGeneHOF147

Those teams are all losers. The people here don’t have any personality. They’re all ugly. And uh, he says quite candidly, I CAN’T STAND THEM.

Jerry the King Lawler laughs along with the crowd
Jerry the King Lawler laughs along with the crowd
I said, you know, my mother-in-law is from Cleveland.
I said, you know, my mother-in-law is from Cleveland
He says, I didn't like her mustache either
He says, I didn’t like her mustache either
Crowd laughs and applauds. Dusty is tickled
Crowd laughs and applauds. Dusty is tickled

MeanGeneHOF152

I take a look back at the years that we’ve been active with this Hall of Fame.

MeanGeneHOF153

And I gotta tell ya, I’ve played golf with a guy by the name of Carlton Fisk of the baseball Hall of Fame, and this…*crowd pops*and this… this honor here tonight ABSOLUTELY THRILLS ME.

MeanGeneHOF154

This month I’ll be 35 years… in announcing professional wrestling… in one fashion or another.

MeanGeneHOF155

Last Monday I celebrated my 42nd... FORTY SECOND...
Last Monday I celebrated my 42nd… FORTY SECOND

MeanGeneHOF157

… wedding anniversary with my lovely wife, Jeanne… *crowd pops* down there somewhere.

MeanGeneHOF158

And this is a very, VERY elite fraternity that we have
And this is a very, VERY elite fraternity that we have
A great group of people, both the guys and the gals
A great group of people, both the guys and the gals

MeanGeneHOF161

The behind-the-scenes people. They are the LIFEBLOOD of this great entertainment mecca.

MeanGeneHOF162

And I will say this… I’ve been PROUD to be a part of the WWE and professional wrestling for 35 years. And I’m gonna do it for another 35if at all possible.

MeanGeneHOF163

MeanGeneHOF164

Superstar Billy Graham, I encourage signing up for ORGAN DONATION.

MeanGeneHOF165

MeanGeneHOF166

*Crowd cheers* Thank you. I got a couple of them here. That whiskey’s a little tough on them but…

MeanGeneHOF167

MeanGeneHOF168

… you gotta get the right one from a trainer. You know what I’m saying?

And in closing, finally I'd like to say this...
And in closing, finally I’d like to say this
If one day I'm called... UP TO THE BIG HOUSE...
If one day I’m called… UP TO THE BIG HOUSE
If I'm called, they'll have a funeral
If I’m called, they’ll have a funeral
I want you to bury me face down
I want you to BURY ME FACE DOWN
AND THEN...
AND THEN…
.... ALL OF MY CRITICS CAN KISS MY ASS!!
…. ALL OF MY CRITICS CAN KISS MY ASS!!
Laughter erupts as Gene receives a standing ovation
Laughter erupts as Gene receives a standing ovation
Mean Gene Okerlund goes out in style
Mean Gene Okerlund goes out in style
Batista, AKA Drax the Destroyer, loves it
Batista, AKA Drax the Destroyer, loves it
Hogan and Mean Gene embrace again
Hulk Hogan and Mean Gene embrace once again
What a night, what a career, what a legacy
What a night, what a career and what a legacy

CLOSING THOUGHTS

GeneHogan

Mean Gene Okerlund will be missed but never forgotten. He left a lasting imprint on not just my childhood but countless others who grew up watching WWF in the late ’80s and early ’90s. A true legend in every sense of the word, they broke the mold when they made Gene Okerlund. There’ll never be another one, that’s for damn sure. A tip of the cap to you, Gene. Rest in Power and thanks for all the fun memories.

WrestleFe9

Halloween II

IconicHall16

Friday. August 5, 2016. One of the most memorable days of my life. It was the last week of my summer break and I had to end it with a bang. And that I did. I drove hundreds of miles to Alhambra, California, to visit my childhood best friend. Nelson and I go way back. We met in Kindergarten and were best friends through 7th grade, but then my family moved in 1996 and things were never quite the same. Yet despite it all, we remained in touch throughout the years. Nelly and I share a special bond. We may go weeks, months and sometimes even years without talking, but as soon as we get back in touch it’s like we never left. Those are the best! Little did I know when I left my house to go visit Nelson in LA that he only lived 3 miles away from many of the filming locations of the 1978 classic, Halloween.

"Haddonfield" in August 2016
“Haddonfield” in August 2016

The initial plan was just to reconnect with my childhood best friend and go to Disneyland to hang out with Mickey Mouse. How serendipitous it was, then, to find Michael Myers unexpectedly lurking in Nelly’s backyard! Nelson and I were literally running down the streets of “Haddonfield” (AKA South Pasadena) hunting the Boogeyman — we were not only chasing a piece of our past but we were living it up in the present while looking forward to the future. When all the cosmic forces in the universe magically collide like that, it makes for the absolute best memories.

We visited many of the filming locations that day
We visited many of the filming locations that day
Nearly 40 years of history!
Nearly 4 decades of history!
Original Myers house from the 1978 film
Original Myers house from the 1978 film
Myers house 2016
Myers house 2016
Obligatory "That's me!" shot
Obligatory “That’s me!” shot
One of the most iconic scenes in horror cinema!
One of the most iconic scenes in horror history
It was so surreal standing there. Gave me goosebumps
It was SO surreal standing there. Gave me goosebumps
Michael stalked these streets nearly 40 years ago
Michael stalked these very streets nearly 40 years ago…

Hunting the Boogeyman indeed! There Nelson and I sat admiring the sights and sounds of Haddonfield. We fondly reminisced about our childhood memories growing up watching the Halloween movies together and a more innocent time of our lives. It was just what the doctor ordered to end summer with a bang and look forward to what the next chapter of our lives would bring. It’s funny how that works, eh?

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Jump to October 2018. Fall break was fast approaching as was the release of the new Halloween movie, which was rapidly racking up rave reviews. Since I had the week off from teaching, I decided to capitalize on a once in a lifetime opportunity. Horror’s Hallowed Grounds with Sean Clark was doing a 40th Anniversary bus tour of Halloween. Sure, I had seen many of the locations just two years prior, but this was the 40th Anniversary! No way was I gonna miss that, especially with it perfectly landing during my 10 day fall break. This was all in addition to attending the 40th Anniversary Halloween Convention. Without further ado, here are some pictures and memories from that awesome weekend.

Not exactly paradise but it'll do
Not exactly a view from paradise but it’ll do

Going with Nelson would have been perfect but unfortunately it wasn’t meant to be. He left to Thailand for the month to visit some family and since I left on a Thursday (October 11, 2018), everyone else was working. So it was the first solo trip of my life. They say everyone should experience a solo vacation at least once in their lives. I don’t know if this qualifies per se, but I’ll take it. It was a blast and a weekend getaway that I will always cherish and remember. I slept at America’s Best Value Inn. It wasn’t the most lavish of places but it sufficed for a 2 night stay.

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I left Thursday morning and hit Pasadena around 5:30 PM. After unwinding for 10 minutes in my room, I went out to grab an early dinner. The long drive had me feeling hungry as a mofo.

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There were lots of cool Halloween decorations lighting up the darkening streets of South Pasadena.

Nothing like an awesome Halloween display
Nothing like an awesome Halloween display

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Back in 2016 when I visited Nelson, he took me to Shakey’s Pizza Palor and I have been craving it ever since. It’s just pizza, fried chicken and potato wedges but damn did it hit the spot 2 years ago. So I had to come back.

Half Firehouse half Rustic Garlic Chicken
Half Firehouse half Rustic Garlic Chicken

Mmm, so good. I wish there was a Shakey’s where I live. I ate a few slices and took the rest to go.

Made for a greasy yummy midnight snack ;)
Made for a greasy yummy midnight snack ;)

I then spent the better part of 3 hours texting a new lady friend before crashing for the evening…

Friday, October 12. Let's get the show on the road!
Friday, October 12. Let’s get the show on the road :D
Halloween promotion was off the charts in LA!
Halloween promotion was off the charts in LA!
My new friend next to me said Artse. I only saw ARSE
My new friend next to me said Artse. I only saw ARSE
The house from Nightmare on Elm Street
The house from Nightmare on Elm Street
Sean Clark was our tour guide. Super cool guy
Sean Clark was our tour guide. Super cool guy

Here we are getting ready to pass by the now defunct All American Burger from Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982). Good times.

The Doyle House
The Doyle house 2018
The Doyle House 1978
The Doyle house 1978
The Wallace House 2018
The Wallace house 2018
The Wallace House 1978
The Wallace house 1978
Fans from all over flocked to celebrate 40 years
Fans from all over flocked to celebrate 40 years
More Halloween promotion
More Halloween promotion
The promotion was LEGIT
Halloween is BACK, baby
Love the sight of Michael Myers looming large over LA
Love the sight of Michael Myers looming over LA

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Here’s the infamous spot from Halloween II where Michael Myers bumped into the boombox guy. After hearing the news that Laurie Strode has been admitted to Haddonfield Memorial Hospital, Michael Myers is once more on the move.

*cue sudden sharp sound effect*
*cue sudden sharp sound effect*
And here's where we see the bouncing guy
And here’s where we see the bouncing guy
Surreal standing there so many decades later
Surreal standing there so many decades later
We even visited the church from The Fog
We even visited the church from The Fog
Mrs. Elrod's house
Mrs. Elrod’s house
The Buccaneer from Halloween III
The Buccaneer from Halloween III
Shout out to Craig sitting there!
Shout out to Craig sitting there!

I took a seat at the bar and chatted with Craig. He asked what all the commotion was for. I told him it was a bus tour celebrating 40 years of Halloween. “Shit, it’s been 40 years already?” He took the rest of the work day off to start his weekend early to drink :P It was nice chatting with the locals.

Love the character this bar has
Love the character this bar has
Sean Clark takes us to the "Garbage Day" spot
Sean Clark takes us to the “Garbage Day” spot
From Silent Night Deadly Night Part 2
From Silent Night Deadly Night Part 2
"GARBAGE DAY?!?"  *BANG*
“GARBAGE DAY?!?” *BANG*
The infamous cemetery scene from Halloween
The infamous cemetery scene from Halloween
Pee Wee's House!
Pee Wee’s House!
Pee Wee's Big Adventure
From Pee Wee’s Big Adventure
Another one of my favorite films, this was a nice bonus
Another one of my favorite films, this was a nice bonus
Ah, my childhood
Ah, my childhood
The line for the hedge was insane
The line for the hedge was insane
Looking at it from this angle, its pretty ridiculous :P
Looking at it from this angle, it’s pretty ridiculous :P

America… a precious land where dozens and dozens of horror movie fans can gather to take pictures standing half obscured by a 7 foot tall hedge. God bless America indeed.

The classic opening shot
The classic opening shot
Iconic
Iconic
The restaurant from Terminator
The restaurant from Terminator (1984)
The Night They Came Home
The Night Late Afternoon They Came Home
"I SHOT HIM! SIX TIMES! HES NOT HUMAN!"
Just wish I was here at night…
"I SHOT HIM! SIX TIMES! HE'S NOT HUMAN!"
“I SHOT HIM! SIX TIMES! HE’S NOT HUMAN!”
It sure would be spooky standing there at night...
It sure would be spooky standing here at night…
Definitely not spooky in the daytime :P
It loses its effect a bit in the daytime :P
Standing where Donald Pleasence once stood
Standing where Donald Pleasence once stood
Dr. Loomis, if only yo ass turned around...
Dr. Loomis, if only yo ass turned around…
The Strode House
The Strode House
Nice
Nice
I just had to
C’mon, you knew I just had to
Inside the Myers House!
Inside the Myers House!
The same house 40 years ago
The same house 40 years ago
What an honor
What an honor :)
Thank you Sean Clark for a fun tour!
Thank you Sean Clark for a fun tour!
All of a sudden all the houses went DARK...
Reminds me of the creepy scene the lights go out
Off to my Friday night dinner... SHAKE SHACK!
Off to my Friday night dinner… SHAKE SHACK!

I’ve heard the hype for Shake Shack for years now, and finally I had a chance to try it out for myself.

Mmmm
Mmmm. That milkshake was legit
Nothing like meat hanging out over the tray
Nothing like hot meat hanging out over the tray :D
Went to Target to see their Halloween display
Nothing warms my heart like a Halloween display
Went to Target to pick up a few items
From that fancy hoity-toity store… Target
Hello Jack Skellington!
Hello Jack Skellington!
Love seeing the ghoulish sights of Halloween
Love seeing the ghoulish sights of Halloween
Yo bro, didnt I kill your ass in Resident Evil?
Yo bro, thought I killed your ass in Resident Evil
Had fun driving around LA at night blasting 80s songs
Driving around LA at night blasting ’80s songs :D

There’s something about driving around LA at night playing all the old hits. I blasted Jackson Browne’s Somebody’s Baby as I drove up and down West LA. It was so damn peaceful and beautiful. The cool night air smacking my face as I left all my worries behind. Really transported me back to the ’80s. I felt like I was going to see Damone at the next light!

Act like wherever you are is the place to be
“Act like wherever you are is the place to be” -Damone

So awesome blaring this while driving around LA
So awesome to play this while driving around LA

I eventually made my way back to the hotel and ended up texting a new lady friend for 4 hours before finally crashing…

Saturday, October 13. Halloween Convention
Saturday, October 13. Halloween Convention time!
Met a new friend. Heres my convention buddy, Crystal
Met a new friend. Here’s my convention buddy, Crystal

After parking and taking the elevator down, I ran into Crystal. She flew in from St. Louis and we became Convention buddies for the day :P Shout out to Crystal. It was fun walking around the Convention and hanging out!

Tom Atkins from Halloween III was a big hit
Tom Atkins from Halloween III was a big hit
Best part was seeing a guy propose!
Best part was seeing a guy propose to his girlfriend!
Flanked by two Boogeymen!
Flanked by two Boogeymen!
Early Saturday evening I made the long drive back
Early Saturday evening I made the long drive back
I finally made it back super late and crashed like a mofo
I-5 is so damn spooky and eerie at night

CLOSING THOUGHTS

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I had a blast roaming around in LA hunting the Boogeyman once more. Although Nelson was out of the country and unable to make it, I still made the most of it. Met a bunch of cool Halloween fans and we just got to live out our fandom and toast to 40 friggin’ years. Not many movies carry with it such a legacy and fanbase as John Carpenter’s Halloween. Best of all, I’ll also remember this trip as the weekend I really hit it off with my new lady friend, who is now currently my girlfriend. We spent 7 hours texting Thursday and Friday night while I was in LA laying in my hotel bed. We had our first date on Sunday (the day I drove back from LA). The next week we went to see the new Halloween (fittingly so) and it just went from there. So yeah, I’ll always look back on that weekend fondly. It was well worth the long drive and expenses I paid to make it happen. What else can I say but thanks for all the memories and long live Halloween!

Hey, who’s that good looking guy at 1:32?! ;)

Halloween

Nothing like counting down the days to Halloween
Nothing like counting down the days to Halloween

October is quite possibly my favorite month of the year. Fall is one of my favorite seasons thanks to its darkening late afternoons, the soothing sound of leaves crunching beneath your sneakers and bundling up with horror movies galore. And my favorite horror movie of all time also happens to be one of my favorite holidays: HALLOWEEN. I have many fond memories of the holiday, but I’ve always wanted to write an article exclusively featuring the Halloween film franchise. What better night than tonight, Halloween 2018, to get that started once and for all? So light up your pumpkins, turn off the lights, grab a cold drink and kick back with me as we stroll down memory lane. But beware — the Boogeyman may be lurking right around that dark corner…

MY HALLOWEEN ORIGINS

HalloweCover

It all began innocently enough in 1989 when my uncle took me to a local mom and pop rental store. We frequented the small humble establishment of Video Mart on many nights, but this night proved to be one for the ages. The cover of Halloween immediately resonated with me. Despite the knife posing in a very volatile way, my 6 year old self imagined an epic movie about trick or treating. I was sold like a cheap hooker on a sordid Saturday night. Uncle Jimmy, being a super rad uncle and all, obliged and I spent the whole movie behind the couch watching bits and pieces of it with my hands covering my eyes. That very night I had a nightmare of Michael Myers stalking me. The door creaked open ever so slowly, revealing the ghastly sight of the Shape standing there in the doorway. That cold and blank mask burned a hole through my soul as I laid there in bed paralyzed. I became a fan for life from that point on. Go figure, right?

Michael and I have shared a bond for nearly 30 years
Michael and I have shared a bond for nearly 30 years

HALLOWEEN

October 25, 1978
October 25, 1978

A little over 40 years ago, John Carpenter and friends changed the entire horror genre when Halloween landed and became a smash success. Initially, it flopped as critics were harsh. But soon word of mouth spread and critics started giving it more favorable reviews. It took off like a speeding bullet and never looked back. So what made the original Halloween so damn captivating?

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The plot was simple and perfect. A masked maniac escapes a sanitarium the night before Halloween. He was admitted 15 years prior for brutally stabbing his sister to death when he was 6 years old in 1963 on a cold Halloween night. Now, exactly 15 years later in 1978, evil roams the streets once again. The Boogeyman began stalking and murdering babysitters on Halloween night in the sleepy suburbs of Haddonfield. It struck a chord with viewers because Haddonfield was essentially “Anytown, USA.” It felt like Halloween could happen on any street in America, including your very own. And there’s something very harrowing about that.

The Boogeyman could be lurking anywhere...
The Boogeyman could be lurking anywhere…

In Jaws, you’re not safe only when you’re in the water. In Friday the 13th, you’re not safe only when you visit Camp Crystal Lake. But in Halloween, you’re not safe anywhere… not even in your own backyard. It’s the idea that the Boogeyman could be hiding in the shadows as you take out the trash or that he may be lurking in that dark corner of your garage…

BoogeStairs

Michael Myers was a brilliant antagonist, and continues to stand the test of time 40 years later. A silent and swift killer, “The Shape” is a relentless force of nature. That William Shatner mask painted white is iconic and forever part of horror movie lore. For my money, Michael Myers is still the quintessential Boogeyman and the best villain the horror genre has ever produced. No one else comes close.

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Who could ever forget that classic opening shot with young Michael’s point of view? There was an eerie and uneasy feeling to this continuous tracking shot as viewers were put in the deranged shoes of Michael, stalking his sister and watching from the shadows, before ultimately stabbing her to a gruesome death.

"MICHAEL?"
“MICHAEL?”

The shot ends with Michael’s parents coming back to the house, lifting Michael’s clown mask off in the driveway and staring at him in utter disbelief. Young Michael’s blank and emotionless face added to the creepiness. It was as if a silent alarm went off in his head, triggering him to commit a most heinous act. The camera cranes back as the chilling piano theme playing in the background picks up its cadence, perfectly punctuating the moment. It was movie magic at its best. Halloween didn’t miss a single beat.

Every small town has that ONE house...
Every small town has that ONE house…

From that point on, the Myers house became the spook house. Growing up, it always felt like it was an urban legend that every little town has that one house where unspeakable horrors happen and kids are warned to stay far away from. Halloween hit on all these notes and did it better than any other horror movie.

The infamous theme was a huge key to its effectiveness. It resonates with audiences still to this day 40 years later.

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Halloween was full of classic scenes and masterfully crafted shots that represented John Carpenter’s finest work.

Oh hell no...
Oh hell no…

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And who could forget that iconic “chase scene” between Michael and Laurie Strode? Many horror movies have imitated it since in the past 4 decades, but there’s only one!

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The great thing about Michael was that he didn’t just appear at night. He shows up plenty in the middle of the day. It really gave off the feeling that danger was lurking behind every corner.

You weren't even safe at school...
You weren’t even safe at school…
Or your own backyard
Or your own backyard

Poor Laurie. For some unexplained reason, Michael set his sights on her and went on a relentless pursuit. Later sequels bogged things down by explaining how they were brother and sister, but the original did it best because the ambiguity made it effectively scary. After all, why do psychos go after the victims that they do? Nobody knows, sometimes not even the psychopaths themselves. And that’s what makes it so unsettling: it could happen to anyone. You could be going about your day innocently and innocuously enough when someone suddenly decides to make you their next target.

It's a lot scarier when it's completely random
It’s a lot scarier when it’s completely random
Michael's mannerisms were perfectly creepy
Michael’s mannerisms were perfectly creepy
"See anything you like?"
“See anything you like?”
Yes he does. Choking, in particular
Yes he does. Choking, in particular
Somehow I doubt he's ordering pizza
Somehow I doubt he’s ordering pizza
The moment you realize shit is fucked up
The moment you realize shit is fucked up
Get the hell out of there, Laurie!
Get the hell out of there, Laurie!
Props to Jamie Lee Curits who played Laurie great
Props to Jamie Lee Curtis who played Laurie great
One of the best shots in the franchise
One of the best shots in the franchise
No words to describe this
Iconic
The epic finale begins
And thus, the epic finale begins
Take that, bitch!
Take that, bitch!
"You cant kill the Boogeyman!"
“You can’t kill the Boogeyman!”
This scene scared me so much as a kid!
This scene scared me so much as a kid!
WATCH YO BACK GIRL!
WATCH YO BACK GIRL!
GAWD DAMN!
GAWD DAMN!
Wheres Doctor Loomis when you need him?
Where’s Doctor Loomis when you need him?
Ah, good old Donald Pleasence to the rescue
Ah, good old Donald Pleasence to the rescue
Often imitated, never duplicated
Often imitated, never duplicated

Halloween really is as close to being a perfect horror movie as one can get. It was really scary watching it as a kid and it has left an imprint on my soul, as it has to countless others. It’s somewhat of a slow burn — one that modern audiences watching it for the first time today may not quite get or appreciate — but that doesn’t take away from its greatness still. Michael Myers is the perfect villain and Jamie Lee Curtis played the perfect victim, bringing Laurie Strode to life. Donald Pleasence added further legitimacy to the film with his veteran acting chops in the fan favorite role of mad raving Dr. Loomis. John Carpenter’s classic Halloween theme was the icing on the cake. It’s one of the most iconic movie themes ever created. Back to the Future, Star Wars, Jurassic Park, Jaws… you can’t include such a list without Halloween firmly near if not at the very top. I give Halloween a perfect 10 out of 10.

HALLOWEEN II

October 30, 1981
October 30, 1981

I caught Halloween II not terribly long after first watching the original in 1989. It was maybe around 1990 or 1991 that once again my uncle rented me the sequel. It picks up right after the events of the first film.

Michael was shot six times and fell off a balcony
Michael was shot six times and fell off a balcony
Mere seconds later, Loomis peers over and hes gone...
Mere seconds later, Loomis peers over and he’s gone…

I love how Halloween II is a direct continuation of Halloween. We see a bewildered Dr. Loomis running out of the house. He stares at the bloody space where Michael’s body once laid. The blood dripping off his fingers indicates pure evil is on the loose. Then the next door neighbor pops out of his house and we get this memorable interaction:

Neighbor: What’s going on out here?
Loomis: Call the police! Tell the sheriff I shot him!
Neighbor: Who?
Loomis: Tell him, he’s still on the loose!
Neighbor: Is this some kind of joke? I’ve been trick-or-treated to death tonight.
Loomis: [looks at the blood on his hand] You don’t know what death is!

*cue an updated frenetic Halloween theme*
*cue an updated frenetic Halloween theme*

It was such a banging intro! I get chills whenever I see it. The music continues to play as the wicked looking pumpkin cracks open slowly to reveal a skull. I always thought this movie had more of a Halloween seasonal feel than the first one.

There was something very sinister about Halloween II
There was something very sinister about Halloween II
The various POV shots were creepy as hell
The various POV shots were creepy as hell

Indeed, Halloween II was an unsettling watch. In some ways, as a kid at least, I found the sequel even scarier than the classic original. Michael creeps around in the shadows a lot here, and now knowing that he’s some kind of unstoppable Boogeyman made him more dangerous than ever before.

Look out, Mrs. Elrod!
Look out, Mrs. Elrod!
What a money shot
“He is now believed to be at large… in Haddonfield”

One of my favorite scenes from the entire franchise. That’s a money shot right there. The reporter’s haunting last line lingers in the air right as Michael picks up the kitchen knife. Great stuff.

Great job, Loomis. Dick
“IS IT HIM OR NOT?!?!”

Following on the heels of 1980’s Friday the 13th and a host of other slashers that proliferated the early ’80s, Halloween II ups the violence, body count and chaos. Not to mention the budget, which jumped from 325,000 in the original to 2.5 million in the sequel. As a result, more costly scenes were staged. Poor Ben Tramer. He just wanted to get home from the Halloween party. And what the hell was a police officer thinking going 40, 45 MPH in a residential neighborhood on Halloween of all nights?! The ’80s… what a time to be alive (or not).

HalloJLC8

Most of the movie takes place at Haddonfield Memorial Hospital, which hands down ranks as the creepiest hospital in the history of movies. After hearing the news on the radio that Laurie Strode has been transferred to Haddonfield Memorial, Michael Myers makes a beeline for the hospital.

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There’s something naturally creepy about a dimly lit hospital with very few staff workers. Sure it’s not realistic in the least, but it made for one hell of a spooky setting.

Hospitals are unsettling in general. Add in Michael...
Hospitals are unsettling in general. Add in Michael…
And it becomes downright traumatizing!
And it becomes downright traumatizing!

Dark long hospital hallways, a lurking Boogeyman and a dreadful sense of isolation and despair made Halloween II a wonderfully atmospheric film.

Halloween II made me fear going to the hospital
Halloween II made me fear going to the hospital
Jamie Lee Curtis was out of it for the most part
Jamie Lee Curtis was out of sorts for the most part
Which made her more helpless
Which made her more helpless
This chase scene is almost as good as the original
This chase scene is almost as good as the original

The remixed chase theme makes my hair stand up on end…

I was freaking out as a kid watching it!
I was freaking out as a kid watching it!
It had multiple chase scenes, in fact
It had multiple chase scenes, in fact
This one was pretty good in its own right
This one was pretty good in its own right
Robo Myers was scary indeed
Robo Myers was scary indeed

GlassShatter

There was something frightening about the way he simply walked through the glass window without so much as flinching a single muscle. He was robotic and relentless — the perfect killing machine. I could barely watch it as a kid.

The mask isnt quite as good, though
Look at those eyes… or don’t, rather
Speaking of eyes
Speaking of eyes
Siiiick
Siiiick
Loomis and Michael go out in a blaze of glory
Loomis and Michael go out in a blaze of glory
Literally
Literally

CreepHosp

Far from a perfect sequel, Halloween II nevertheless is more than serviceable. It pairs well with the original Halloween since it picks up directly following the events of the first film, which means both movies make for a nice little Halloween marathon. Laurie Strode’s character has understandably been nerfed but I found myself sometimes wishing she was written a little better and had more to do. Halloween II fails to recapture the success and magic of the original, but it’s a solid sequel especially when you compare it to the other sequels to come. I give it a very respectable 7.5 out of 10.

HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH

October 22, 1982
October 22, 1982

I remember my dad renting this from Hollywood Video circa 1994. The cover intrigued me, as I thought a wicked witch would be the film’s main villain. And the idea of a killer witch on the prowl on Halloween night really captured my imagination. The cover had three spooky looking trick or treaters and I loved the tagline: The Night No One Comes Home. Very clever play off the first film’s tagline: The Night He Came Home. The witch looming over the kids was super sinister looking as well, and I loved the way they used the red shade to give it a really ominous aura. But when I actually saw the movie, I got something completely different. Not bad different, just it wasn’t what I expected. And at the time, being around 10 or so, I didn’t like different. I wanted Michael Myers or at the very least, a killer witch. I know it would be cliché but it would have fit Halloween so perfectly.

Love this Goosebumps inspired creation!
Love this Goosebumps inspired creation!
Really wasn't a bad idea, and the masks were sick
Really wasn’t a bad idea, and the masks were sick

Halloween III: Season of the Witch marked a drastic change in the series. Michael Myers was nowhere to be found, other than a TV cameo, and the hope of the producers was to turn Halloween into an anthology series. It made sense on many levels but the critics killed it. No Michael, no mas.

If only it wasn't billed as Halloween III
If only it wasn’t billed as Halloween III

However, taken on its own, this isn’t a bad horror movie. In fact, it’s garnered a bit of a cult following in the past 15 years or so. I haven’t watched it in nearly 25 years though, so I can’t accurately give it a rating.

HALLOWEEN 4: RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS

October 21, 1988
October 21, 1988

He’s baaaaaack. After a long grueling 7 year hiatus, and coming home in time for the 10 year anniversary, Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers was a nice return to basics. Haddonfield, Illinois. Sleepy suburbs. Halloween decorations. Dr. Loomis rambling and raving about evil. And of course, a certain deranged masked maniac.

Meet newcomer Danielle Harris
Meet newcomer Danielle Harris

Laurie Strode was written to have died in a car crash, and the new star of the show was her daughter, Jamie. Played by Danielle Harris, the movie revolves around her and Michael’s obsession to kill his niece.

What a creeper
What a creeper

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The mask was a little weird looking to me but it’s a pretty solid sequel. The best thing it’s got going for it is atmosphere.

Halloween 4 kicks off with a series of amazing shots
Halloween 4 kicks off with a series of amazing shots
It completely captures the autumn season
It completely captures the autumn season
Especially in the Midwest, where Haddonfield is
Especially in the Midwest, where Haddonfield lies
It totally sets the mood proper!
It totally sets the mood proper!
I just wish the rest of the film lived up to this
It just screams HALLOWEEN
Seeing the title loom over the farmland was amazing
Seeing the title loom over the farmland was perfect
Scene with Reverend Sayer was awesome
Scene with Reverend Sayer was awesome

Sayer: You’re huntin’ it, ain’t ya? Yeah, you’re huntin’ it all right. Just like me.
Loomis: What are you hunting, Mr. Sayer?
Sayer: Apocalypse, end of the world, Armageddon. It’s always got a face and a name. *pause for a swig* I’ve been huntin’ the bastard for 30 years, give or take. Come close a time or two… too damn close. *pause for self-reflection, with slight head shake* You can’t kill damnation, mister. It don’t die like a man dies.

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Michael was back to his lurking ways. The film is a little slow in spots, but there’s no denying it’s packed with atmosphere.

You can almost feel the chill in the air
You can almost feel the chill in the air

Rachel Carruthers was such a great character. She’s no Laurie Strode, but she made the absence of Jamie Lee Curtis a bit more bearable. Total girl next door vibe to Rachel and she was just cool as shit.

It was a nice comeback for the Boogeyman
It was a nice comeback for the Boogeyman
One of the creepiest endings ever in a horror film
One of the creepiest endings ever in a horror film

Halloween 4 ends ominously with Jamie pulling a 1963 Michael Myers. Dr. Loomis trying to shoot her at the bottom of the staircase as he screams “NOOO! NOOOO!!” was very unsettling to say the least. Halloween 4 has its share of blemishes but is a solid return to form, and many fans regard it as one of the better sequels in the franchise. I give Halloween 4 a 7 out of 10.

HALLOWEEN 5: REVENGE OF MICHAEL MYERS

October 13, 1989
October 13, 1989

It’s fitting that Halloween 5 was released on a Friday the 13th. Less than a year removed from Halloween 4, Halloween 5 was rushed into production and theatres. Critics were very harsh on it and Michael would disappear for 6 years following this “debacle.” Of course, your mileage may vary.

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The dynamic duo of Jamie and Rachel return. Unfortunately, similar to her “mom” in Halloween II, Jamie is subdued and doesn’t talk for much in the film due to the trauma of last year’s events. I wish she wasn’t so limited. In another dumb decision, they killed off Rachel in the first act and the film heads downhill after that. Hey Rachel, Bryan Cranston from Godzilla says hi.

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The good doc also returned. Loomis is perhaps crazier than ever, even threatening to offer up Jamie as bait. He’s pretty much a caricature at this point, but a beloved caricature nonetheless.

Hall5Shot

The film opens up with a hermit taking care of Michael… supposedly for the past year?! It’s a bit ridiculous, but I have to admit there’s a certain cheesy charm to it that I can appreciate. Of course, Halloween nears and the alarm in Michael’s deranged mind goes off. He grabs the mask…

Well, you know the rest
Well, you know the rest

Hallowe5

Speaking of the mask, there’s been a lot of hate on the mask here. But I actually kind of like it. I like it more than the Halloween 4 mask, that’s for sure. Sometimes referred to as the “long neck” mask, it’s got a certain creepiness to it.

Hall5Shot9

Speaking of masks, at one point Michael dons the “Brute” mask in a very chilling and effective scene. Though heavily flawed, Halloween 5 isn’t without some nice moments.

Michael unmasked from the original
Michael unmasked from the original
Michael unmasked from Halloween 5
Michael unmasked from Halloween 5

I remember the advertising for Halloween 5 being that audiences can now see Michael’s face. I always thought that funny since we sort of see his face back in the very first movie. Michael even cries in part 5. That’s just wrong.

Keep your mask on, Michael, even if some hate it
Keep your mask on, Michael, even if some hate it
Barn scenes were pretty spooky
Barn scenes were pretty spooky
Loved the fog
Loved the eerie fog
Ouch
Ouch
Damn, he didnt get to see the 90s did he
Damn. He didn’t get to see the ’90s, did he
Just you and me, Michael
Just you and me, Michael
To the gawd damn bitter end
To the gawd damn bitter end
Not even they were able to save things
Not even they were able to save this film
How most fans feel about Halloween 5
How most fans feel about Halloween 5

Truth be told, it’s a guilty pleasure for me. I know it isn’t good, and it certainly represents a down point in the series. In fact, Michael would go dormant for 6 years following this critical and commercial flop (it was the lowest grossing Halloween film at just 11.6 million dollars). But for me at least, there’s a certain charm to it that I sort of dig (and embrace). It’s got this European Gothic vibe to it and it’s pretty creepy in a few spots. Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely one of the weaker entries in the franchise but I don’t find it nearly as unwatchable as many do. I give Halloween 5 a 5 out of 10.

HALLOWEEN 6: CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS

September 29, 1995
September 29, 1995

Halloween 6 has a messy backstory. It went through many script revisions and studio issues. The theatrical version is a plodding mess, but I quite liked the Producer’s Cut. Originally titled Halloween 666: The Origin of Michael Myers, one day someone jokingly pitched The Curse of Michael Myers because the film felt cursed and was one big headache. The joke stuck and that became the subtitle of the film. Fun fact: Pink Panther and Halloween are the only franchises to have the subtitles of Return, Revenge and Curse. And why oh why the release date of September 29? Could they not have waited at least one more week if not two? I guess it’s fitting; it’s a sign that this movie was full of questionable choices.

halloween6-2

I do like certain parts of Halloween 6, though. Especially the Producer’s Cut. It’s full of Halloween atmosphere and it was just nice to see Michael again after a 6 year hiatus.

The remix theme is badass! I like how it has sort of this violent techno vibe to it. Really differentiates it from the other versions.

Still stalking after all these years
Still stalking after all these years
Never gets tired seeing him pop out of the shadows
Never gets old seeing him pop out of the shadows

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He clearly let himself go a bit, too
He clearly let himself go a bit
But his walk stalk game was still on point
But his walk stalk game was still on point
The red lighting made it even scarier
The mask looked vicious in certain shots
And looked a bit gentler in others. Fascinating
Yet looked a bit gentler in this scene…

A young Paul Rudd played Tommy Doyle, the boy Laurie Strode babysat in the original film. This was before his breakout performance in Clueless, which came out before Halloween 6 despite Halloween 6 being filmed first. Michael Myers vs. Ant-Man… an interesting thought indeed.

H6Shot4

This was Donald Pleasance’s final appearance in the Halloween franchise, as the 75 year old veteran actor died in February of 1995. There were a ton of reshoots that took place following his death. It’s sad that he had to go out in this way, but part of me feels perhaps he wouldn’t have it any other way: fighting Michael to the bitter end.

He was a vicious bastard in 6
He was a vicious bastard in 6

Halloween 6 was universally panned at the box office. Made on a budget of 6 million, it only grossed 15 million and we wouldn’t see Michael for another 3 years. I dislike the theatrical version but I am a fan of the Producer’s Cut, even if it is still somewhat of a jumbled mess. I was never keen on the whole Thorn mythology that parts 4, 5 and 6 adopted but I do like the Halloween atmosphere of part 6. I rate the Producer’s Cut of Halloween 6 a 7.5 out of 10.

HALLOWEEN: H20

August 5, 1998
August 5, 1998

Other than its nonsensical release date, I’m a fan of Halloween: H20. This was the big 20th anniversary bash for Halloween and its original scream queen, Jamie Lee Curtis, was back in the fold. Sure, it’s a bit teeny boppy and it has some of that Scream spirit to it, but it was a fun sequel and a satisfying end to the series (until it wasn’t, of course).

Welcome back, Jamie
Welcome back, Jamie
Fun fact: I drew this for an art class I took in high school
Fun fact: I drew this for an art class I took in high school
I wanted to give him orange hair though :P
I wanted to give him orange hair though :P
Shout out to my art teacher from 2000!
Shout out to my art teacher from 2000!
The mask was weird, though
The mask was a bit weird
The random crappy CGI shots didnt help either
The random crappy CGI shots didn’t help either
Why, oh why?
Why, oh why? Is this Alien Michael Myers?!

H20Shot6

Featuring then teen heart throb Josh Harnett and Michelle Williams from the hit TV show Dawson’s Creek, it was clear which audience H20 was catering to.

H20Shot13

It also featured LL Cool J, who was the first African American in the series since Gloria Glifford portrayed Mrs. Alves, a no-nonsense charge nurse at Haddonfield Memorial Hospital in Halloween II (way back in 1981). LL Cool J was a huge hip hop star and he did a great job as Ronnie, stealing each scene he was in.

H20 also featured a very young Joseph Gordon-Levitt
H20 also featured a very young Joseph Gordon-Levitt
And a returning Nancy Stephens!
And a returning Nancy Stephens!

NurseChamb

Nancy played Nurse Chambers in the first two Halloween films.

It was a lovely cameo that gave the film some history
It was a lovely cameo that gave the film some history
Speaking of history...
Speaking of history and cameos…

A really nice scene occurs when Janet Leigh shows up. She was Jamie Lee Curtis’ real life mom, and the star actress of Psycho (the original horror film many like to call it). She even throws in the clever line “If I may be maternal for a moment…” this was a nice wink and nod to the diehard fans out there.

What a reunion. 20 years in the making
What a reunion. 20 years in the making

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I love how Laurie Strode fights back and confronts her monster. She was a real badass in this one.

And thats the end of Michael and the series
And that’s the end of Michael Myers

H20Shot11

I remember catching H20 in theatres with my uncle and friend. I really liked it. Upon repeated viewings though, there are a few areas that could have used improvement. But overall, it’s a fun ride that’s well paced and gives us a mostly satisfying finale. It’s perhaps a bit too teeny boppy but it was nice to see Michael back in the limelight making a killing at the box office. H20 raked in a cool 55 million dollars. I rate Halloween: H20 a 7.5 out of 10.

HALLOWEEN RESURRECTION

July 12, 2002 Summer -- really?!
July 12, 2002 (Summer — really?!)

Halloween Resurrection is often considered as the worst entry of the franchise (when not counting the Rob Zombie versions). Jamie Lee Curtis returns for an awkward cameo where she apparently dies like nothing within the first 10 minutes or so. It was so jarring and somewhat negated the effectiveness of H20.

Why am I in this piece of shit movie???
Why am I in this piece of shit movie???

A product of its time, Halloween Resurrection played around with found footage and reality TV. It’s not without a few fleeting moments of mediocrity and it even grossed a very respectable 30 million dollars. But the critics and fans hated it alike, and Michael was buried for 5 more years until Rob Zombie came along…

HallRes2

The mask was just weird. And as any Halloween diehard fan will tell ya… Busta Rhymes going Bruce Lee on Michael Myers’ ass was just plain goofy and wrong.

HallRes3

It’s not unwatchable but it’s definitely my least watched Halloween movie of the first 8 films. It just strays too far away from what made the Halloween movies so effective and fun to watch. I give Halloween Resurrection a 4 out of 10.

HALLOWEEN (2007)

August 31, 2007
August 31, 2007

Rob Zombie’s reimagining of Halloween was a very polarizing film. There are parts I liked a lot and other parts I could have done without.

It was nice to see Danielle Harris back in the mix
It was nice to see Danielle Harris back in the mix

Danielle Harris, who played Jamie Strode in Halloween 4 and 5, returns to the series but as a different character. How’s that for bizarre and confusing?

"Laurie, whos the Boogeyman?"
“Laurie, who’s the Boogeyman?”
Michaels mask was sick
Michael’s mask was sick
Very sinister and evil looking
Very sinister and evil looking

The 1978 original is a million times better but I kind of like this one. Rob Zombie had some good ideas and it came together fairly well minus a few missteps. I give Halloween (2007) a 6 out of 10.

HALLOWEEN II (2009)

August 28, 2009
August 28, 2009

I hated this movie. The less said, the better. I give Halloween II (2009) a 1 out of 10.

HALLOWEEN (2018)

October 19, 2018
October 19, 2018

After being dormant for nearly a damn decade, Michael Myers exploded back on the scene with a bang. The highest grossing film of the franchise to date, Halloween was met with mostly positive reviews. I caught it with my girlfriend and we both liked it, but we also both agreed that it was missing that wow factor. It’s a well made film but there were a few uneven instances where the film never quite hit that next gear for me.

Good times with the GF
Good times with the GF

NewHallo2

It was nice to see Jamie Lee Curtis return for the 40 year reunion. She does a bang up job as usual. Unfortunately, the writing and direction was a little wonky. Laurie Strode made some questionable decisions that took me out of the moment. For example, for someone who was preparing for Michael for the last 40 years, why would she stand against the front door with glass knowing that Michael could easily break the glass and grab her? Little details like this disappointed and frustrated me. Jamie Lee Curtis did the most she could but a film is hampered when a script is written poorly.

Michael's a badass, for sure
Happy 40th anniversary, Boogeyman

I’m happy to see the success for this latest Halloween, knowing that Michael will stalk the streets of Haddonfield again. However, I was slightly underwhelmed by this movie, especially given all the hype and rave reviews. I still like it, but I didn’t love it. I give Halloween (2018) a 6.5 out of 10.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Halloween-posters

11 movies (10 of which he appeared in), multiple timelines and directors… yet through it all, Halloween continues to endure. It’s one of the most beloved horror franchises of all time. Despite a handful of questionable sequels of varying quality, the series continues to power through. It’s easily my favorite horror franchise of all time and that will never change.

MichaelStal

Michael Myers is timeless. An icon then, and an icon now. He is the quintessential Boogeyman. That stalker in the night that roams the dark streets and backyards, waiting patiently for his next victim. The mask, the mannerisms, the music… it all works like a perfect symphony to give Michael the life that has carried him through the different generations. He’ll always live, because pure evil can never die. More importantly, the fan support deems it so. Halloween will rage on, and Michael’s warpath will never truly end. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

MY PERSONAL RANKING

1. Halloween (1978)
2. Halloween: H20
3. Halloween II (1981)
4. Halloween 6 (Producer’s Cut)
5. Halloween 4
6. Halloween (2018)
7. Halloween 5
8. Halloween (2007)
9. Halloween Resurrection
10. Halloween II (2009)

Of Mastodons and Men

Ahhh -- childhood summer memories
I get by with a little help from my friends…

The Wonder Years. Sometimes dramatic… sometimes hilarious… always able to strike just the right emotional chord. Growing up, I loved The Wonder Years. I still do in fact; it’s my favorite TV show of all time. Launched in January of 1988, the show took its audience on a magical tour of suburban life in America in the late 1960s, viewed through the lens of teenager Kevin Arnold (played by Fred Savage). The first person narrative (voiced by Daniel Stern) enabled us to see the world through the eyes of young Kevin Arnold, who was coming of age in an age of turbulence and perpetual change. Like so many who watched the show, I was able to easily identify with Kevin — he was the prototypical everyday teenager. On a personal side note, the best compliment I’ve ever received in regards to my writing is that it evokes nostalgic memories of the infamous voice-over but I digress.

christmasmem11

Last month saw the 25th anniversary of the final Wonder Years episode, Independence Day, which aired on May 12, 1993. It’s hard to believe it’s been 25 years since The Wonder Years went off the air, so continuing in the tradition of A Very Cutlip Christmas, I figure now is the perfect time to share yet another one of my favorite episodes from this seminal series.

This is a story of roots.

A story of relationships.

And a story of knowing yourself.

It’s a story…

OF MASTODONS AND MEN

"Primitive man. Warrior. Hunter. Tool maker."
“Primitive man. Warrior. Hunter. Tool maker.”
"Slayer of mastodons."
“Slayer of mastodons.”
"Armed with only his instincts and a spear... he roamed the earth in tribes."
“Armed with only his instincts and a spear…
he roamed the earth in tribes.”

OMAM4

In a lot of ways, high school boys are a lot like primitive man.

They foraged for their food
They forage for their food
They fashioned cruel tools
They fashion cruel tools
And of course, they hang out in groups
And of course, they hang out in groups

In fact, about the only difference between my clan and neanderthal man was…

*ahem*  "Any questions?"
*ahem*  “Any questions?”
Neanderthals had bigger brains
Neanderthals had bigger brains

OMAM10

“Hey, you guys wanna shoot some hoops after school?”

“Oh yeah, count me in.”

“Hey Kev, you playing?”

“Sure.”

The tribe. That year we were inseparable. We faced all the challenges.

“KEVIN!”

All but one, anyway. Women
All but one, anyway. Women
"Uh, look guys, I'm gonna hafta take a raincheck, k?"
“Uh, look guys, I’m gonna hafta take a raincheck…”

Julie Aidem. We been going out for 2 weeks. And to put it mildly…

"Carry my books?"   "Sure." "You don't mind?"  "Are you kidding!"
“Carry my books?”  “Sure.”
“You don’t mind?”  “Are you kidding!”

She appreciated the little things about me.

“You know, you have a really cute laugh.”

“Really? Hahahaha.”

She liked my laugh.

“I thought about you today, Kevin.”

“Yeah, I was thinking about you too.”

She thought about me… lots.

"I thought that you look REALLY good in stripes." "No kidding?"
“I thought that you look REALLY good in stripes.”
“No kidding?”

“Yeah, but with the collar up. You know, it really suits you.”

That was Julie. She watched over me. Took care of me. Civilized me.

"How's that?" "SO MUCH BETTER!" Let's face it. She was good for me
“How’s that?”  “SO MUCH BETTER!”
Let’s face it. She was good for me

And if that wasn’t enough.

“Hey Julie! Hey Kevin!”

She had a great dad, too.

"How's the car coming, Mr. Aidem?"
“How’s the car coming, Mr. Aidem?”

“How many times do I have to tell you to call me Ben?”

“… Ben.”

“Well, finally got that problem solved. Now she’s ready for a little spin.”

I admired the guy. He had hobbies, he was funny. A real man’s man.

A man who was surrounded by women...
A man who was surrounded by women…

“Honey, did I hear you say you’re going to take the sports car out for a drive?”

“Thought so, yeah.”

“You remember our agreement: You ONLY drive the sports car on the weekends.”

“Heh, I don’t know what got into me!”

“He’d be off driving it DAY and NIGHT if I let him, wouldn’t you, Ben?”

Not that Julie’s mom wasn’t every bit as fun loving as her dad.

“Hey Kevin, why don’t you stay for dinner?”

“I’d love to, June!”

She was just more... civilized
She was just more… civilized
"I mean... Mrs. Aidem."
“I mean… Mrs. Aidem.”
After all, like mother...
After all, like mother…
... like daughter
… like daughter

OMAM22

All in all, it was quite a household. Filled with doilies and laced curtains. And of course, Pupu.

“Quiet, Pupu! Quiet!”

“I don’t get it, Daddy. You’re the only one that Pupu barks at.”

“That’s because Pupu loves Daddy!”

"Oh Ben, the salad fork."
“Oh Ben, the salad fork.”

The Aidem family was a model of decorum. There may have been a reason for that.

The girls outnumbered the boys by a ratio of 4 to 1. 5 to 1 if you counted the pooch.
The girls outnumbered the boys by a ratio of 4 to 1.
5 to 1 if you counted the pooch.

“So Kev, who do you like for the World Series?”

“I don’t know. I think I like the Tigers, or maybe the Cubs.”

“Oakland’s gonna knock everyone else on their butts.”

“DAD-DY!”

“BEN!”

“Oh, sorry. NOT at the dinner table!”

Still, I had to admit, I liked it there. It was nice being in a civilized home
Still, I had to admit, I liked it there.
It was nice being in a civilized home
"Oh Ben, fix your collar."
“Oh Ben, fix your collar.”

A home where people actually said please, and used butter knives. As oppose to say…

The Arnold house
The Arnold house
We were a house of men
We were a house of men
A house of slobs
A house of slobs
"Milk and cookies?"   "Yeah, sure"
“Milk and cookies?”  “Yeah, sure.”

Yeah, this was the life. Catered to. Coddled. Taken care of.

"So, did you miss me?"  "... You just went upstairs to get some cookies..."
“So, did you miss me?”
“… You just went upstairs to get some cookies…”
"I MISSED you."
“I missed you.”
"... Well, yeah. Yeah! Of course I missed you."
“… Well, yeah. Yeah! Of course I missed you.”

OMAM34

Still, at two and a half weeks into the relationship, it was beginning to occur to me that civilization was not without its discontents.

"What are you thinking?" She asked me that a lot
“What are you thinking?”
She asked me that a lot
"I'm thinking... these are great cookies!" "Well tomorrow I'll make brownies." Tomorrow? *Pupu barking*
“I’m thinking… these are great cookies!”
“Well tomorrow I’ll make brownies.”
Tomorrow?  *Pupu barking*
"Hello?" "Oh, daddy must be home." "Anyone down here?" "Hey Ben." "Hey Kev, how you doing? New muffler, check it out!"
“Hello?”  “Oh, daddy must be home.”
“Anyone down here?”  “Hey Ben.”
“Hey Kev, how you doing? New muffler, check it out!”

“Well that’s great, daddy….”

“… OH yeah, lemme get something outta my tool box and I’ll get out of your way.”

Hmmmm.

*Pupu continues barking at Ben*
*Pupu continues barking at Ben*

“Daddy! Look what you’re doing to Pupu! You’re hurting her feelings!”

“Oh, I don’t know what got into me!”

“I’ll go get her a biscuit.”

And suddenly, the thought struck me this guy might appreciate a little male bonding.

"So Ben, this is a great cell you got here."
“So Ben, this is a great cell you got here.”
"A few too many linens for my taste." "Oh, yeah, me too."
“A few too many linens for my taste.”
“Oh, yeah, me too.”
"Some dog."
“Some dog.”
"She's no Duke." "Duke?" *Julie returns* "I got the biscuit! Pupu, I love you so much."
“She’s no Duke.”  “Duke?”  *Julie returns*
“I got the biscuit! Pupu, I love you so much.”
"I'll tell you about Duke some other time."
“I’ll tell you about Duke some other time.”

And there ya had it.

“Did you miss me?”

So much for guy talk.

“Yeah, of course I missed you.”

The next day the guys were giving me a hard time about Julie.

“Look, I can do whatever I want. I don’t have to ask anyone! I’m playing football today after school, and that’s that!”

“Yeah sure Kev, whatever you say.”

“I’ll be there!”

But there was one little problem. Leaving the bathroom, I heard it…

"KEVIN! I missed you!"
“KEVIN! I missed you!”

Maybe that’s when I began to realize… the undeniable truth.

Julie Aidem had me on a very short leash
Julie Aidem had me on a very short leash
"Primitive man derived his power from the tribe."
“Primitive man derived his power from the tribe.”
"But occasionally, one of its members betrayed the rest."
“But occasionally, one of its members betrayed the rest.”
"Soon, this lone hunter was set adrift from the pack." "Shunned, and ostracized."
“Soon, this lone hunter was set adrift from the pack.
Shunned, and ostracized.”

“So Paul, you wanna play some football this afternoon?”

“You got it, Chuck.”

By the next day, one thing was clear.

“Hey guys, what time you playing?”

"You guys hear something?" In my tribe, my name was Mud
“You guys hear something?”
In my tribe, my name was Mud

*Bell rings*

Still, I had one skill primitive man did not: I could whine.

“C’mon guys!  I wanna play!”

“Look Kev, you bailed on us yesterday, and you didn’t even tell us.”

“I got tied up! It was an emergency!”

“It was JULIE, wasn’t it?”

“It was ONE time. I promise, it’ll never happen again. Please?”

And with that, I bared my soul
And with that, I bared my soul
Thrown myself on the mercy of the tribe
Thrown myself on the mercy of the tribe
And they, in turn, pronounced their verdict
And they, in turn, pronounced their verdict
"What the hell."
“What the hell.”
And so, that afternoon, I was reborn
And so, that afternoon, I was reborn

A few hours with the guys and I remembered who I was.

Kevin Arnold: Runner. Passer. Hunter. Warrior. AND IT FELT GOOD
Kevin Arnold: Runner. Passer. Hunter. WARRIOR.
AND IT FELT GOOD

Yep, by the time I came home I was a new man.

“Hi mom.”

“Kevin, you have a visitor.”

ARRRRRRRRGH!!!!
ARRRRRRRRGH!!!!
"Hi Kevin!"
“Hi Kevin!”

“… H-Hi. I wasn’t expecting you. So Julie, what’s going on?”

“Oh nothing. I thought you were coming over today.”

OK, it was clear we reached a critical juncture. It was time to set ground rules, here and now.

“Julie…”

“Yes, Kevin?”

“Every once in a while, guys gotta, you know, hang out with other guys.”

And there it was. Gentle but somehow, firm.

“I guess you forgot what today is!”

“Today?”

“It’s our 3 week anniversary!”

“It is?”

“I got you a gift!”

Awww geez.

“You did?”

“Open it!”

Made you wonder if they knew how to gift wrap crow.

“Do you like it?”

“Yeah! I- I love it, it’s great, it’s it’s…”

Striped.

“… striped!”

“You know Kevin, if you wanna be with the guys sometimes, I understand.”

“No, no, that’s not it. It’s just –“

"I wouldn't want you to feel like I'm smothering you." "No! Don't be ridiculous. You're not smothering me."
“I wouldn’t want you to feel like I’m smothering you.”
“No! Don’t be ridiculous. You’re not smothering me.”
"Because if you don't think we're right for each other..." "No Julie, I definitely think we're right for each other." "Oh that's what I think, Kevin!"
“Because if you don’t think we’re right for each other…”
“No Julie, I definitely think we’re right for each other.”
“Oh that’s what I think, Kevin!”

And right about then, something went wrong.

“So maybe it’s time we made more of a commitment.”

“Commitment?”

“Oh Kevin! This is so exciting! I can’t wait to tell everyone we’re going steady! But first we have to tell mommy and daddy at dinner.”

And suddenly, somehow, I was going steady
And suddenly, somehow, I was going steady

Not that I’d actually agreed to anything, you understand. Not technically, anyway.

OMAM61

Still, that night outside Julie’s house, I knew I didn’t have the courage to turn back.

"Hey Kev!"
“Hey Kev!”
"I hear there's gonna be a little announcement tonight."
“I hear there’s gonna be a little announcement tonight.”

Great, the whole family knew. And not only that, now we were gonna have the talk.

The father-of-the-bride speech.

About the birds.

About the bees.

"Duke loved nights like this."
“Duke loved nights like this.”

About… Duke?

"Was Duke your dog?" "Duke was a hell of a dog."
“Was Duke your dog?”
“Duke was a hell of a dog.”

“Duke was a black lab. Eighty pounds. He was so full of fun, and so full of spirit. He was a real man’s best friend kind of dog, you know. And Duke wasn’t afraid of anything.”

I could tell Duke was more than just a dog to this guy
I could tell Duke was more than just a dog to this guy

“What happened to him?”

“Ran away the day I proposed to June. I still think about him you know. Every now and then, at night…

... I SWEAR, I can still hear Duke's howl..." *Long silence except for the chirping of crickets*
I SWEAR, I can still hear Duke’s howl…”
*Long silence except for the chirping of crickets*

“BEN! Dinner!”

“… C’mon.”

That night I did my best to forestall the inevitable
That night I did my best to forestall the inevitable

“Kevin…”

“Uhh… terrific mash potatoes, Mrs. Aidem.”

“Thank you, Kevin.”

But then, I suppose they don’t call it the inevitable for nothing.

“Kevin, don’t you have an announcement to make?”

At least not around the Aidem household.

“Uhhhh, yeah. Yeah, yeah. I do…”

“Kevin, I think you should stand up.”

And so, it arrived. The last exit. The final whistle
And so, it arrived. The last exit. The final whistle

“Well…”

And that’s when it happened.

"Honey, fix your collar."
“Honey, fix your collar.”
It was... weird
It was… weird

OMAM72

"I thought Pupu only barked at you Daddy!"
“I thought Pupu only barked at you Daddy!”

It was horrible. It was amazing. Almost as if Pupu knew I was about to join the ranks of Aidem men.

And then, from out of nowhere, I SWEAR I HEARD IT
And then, from out of nowhere, I SWEAR I HEARD IT
OW-OOOOOOOOH!!! It was a clarion call. And I knew what I had to do. It was now or never
“OW-OOOOOOOOH!!!”  It was a clarion call.
And I knew what I had to do. IT WAS NOW OR NEVER
"NOOOOO!!!!"
“NOOOOO!!!!”

OMAM77

“Julie, I can’t do this. I just CAN’T! I like my collar down! And I HATE wearing striped shirts! And I don’t like cookies! And another thing, I don’t want to spend every minute with you. I like hanging out with the guys! I’m a HUNTER! And a WARRIOR!!

OMAM78

"AND WHAT ABOUT THE MASTODONS?!"
“AND WHAT ABOUT THE MASTODONS?!”

OMAM80

OMAM81

OK, maybe I got a little carried away about the mastodon thing, but I wasn’t just speaking for myself. I was speaking for all mankind. For Ben.

And even, for Duke, wherever he was
And even, for Duke, wherever he was

“I can’t do it, Julie. We can’t go steady.”

*Aidem girls run off crying*

And then, it was over. Except for one thing  "I think you better go, Kev." "... Good idea."
And then, it was over. Except for one thing
“I think you better go, Kev.”  “… Good idea.”
"Man. Fire maker. Tool maker. Thinker of complex thoughts."
“Man. Fire maker. Tool maker.
Thinker of complex thoughts.”
"Noble. Furious. Dignified."
“Noble. Furious. Dignified.”

OMAM86

Over the next few weeks I rejoined my tribe. And in a lot of ways, I was back where I belonged.

*honk honk*
*honk honk*

I guess I knew there was still some unfinished business.

Between Ben and me at least.

I guess I knew there was still some unfinished business Between Ben and me at least
“I’ll be right back, guys.”

“Hey Ben.”

“Hey Kevin. I thought that was you. You look pretty good out there.”

“Thanks. So… how’s Julie?”

“Oh she found a new guy. They’re going steady.”

“Huh, no kidding!”

“Yeah, he looks great in stripes.”

“I bet… hey! You got the car out on a Thursday huh!”

"Yeah, I thought I go a little crazy."
“Yeah, I thought I go a little crazy.”

And in a way, I couldn’t help thinking I had something to do with it.

"Well, it was nice seeing you again, Ben."
“Well, it was nice seeing you again, Ben.”
"Hey Kevin... one day you're gonna see."  "What's that?" "It's not that bad..."
“Hey Kevin, one day you’re gonna see.”  “What’s that?”
“It’s not that bad…”
"... having people who care for you, you know?"
“… having people who care for you, you know?”
I guess Ben understood something. Something I'd learn... in time. "Thanks. I'll keep that in mind."
I guess Ben understood something.
Something I would learn… in time.
“Thanks. I’ll keep that in mind.”

OMAM94

But me, I was just a sixteen-year-old guy, and the way I saw it, there were still a lot of mastodons yet to be slayed.

*beep beep*
*beep beep*

OMAM96

OMAM97

OMAM98

"OW-OOOOOOOOH!!!!!"
“OW-OOOOOOOOH!!!!”

JULIE AIDEM, MEET SARAH FRANKLIN

Some say high school are some of the most critical years of your life. You made friends, enemies and memories. Sometimes you even broke hearts.

Looking back at my high school yearbook I see a lot of faces that pass through the years. Some I wonder how they’re doing and what they’re up to. Others, I wonder if they ever wonder about me. And then… there’s Sarah Franklin.

OMAM100

December 1999.

I was a junior in high school. Coincidentally, much like Kevin Arnold, my tale happened when I too was 16.

It was a language arts class, and we were watching a great film called Smoke Signals.

OMAM103

OMAM104

OMAM105

Amazing coming-of-age road trip movie
Amazing coming-of-age road trip movie

It seemed like an ordinary day, a day just like any other. Little did I know, it was anything but.

So I’m sitting there enjoying the movie when I started to notice Sarah giving me funny looks. I didn’t know why exactly, but I knew something was brewing.

And surprise surprise, something was.

THE NOTE

On my way out of class that day I felt a tap. When I turned around, Sarah Franklin shoved an envelope in my hands and dashed off. It happened so fast I almost couldn’t believe it. Not wanting to involve the guys with the matter, I kept silent about it throughout lunch. When I got home I ripped the envelope open.

Whatever was inside… I knew one thing… it was more than just a party invitation.

I found a 2-page letter, printed on yellow and green paper. Here’s the gist of what it said:

  • Hi Steven!

    I know we only see each other in English and Study Hall, but what I’m about to tell and ask you is HUGE. You see, my sister met a wonderful guy 10 months ago. They shared such a wonderful relationship and I’d never seen her any happier before than in those 10 months. Regrettably, good things never last, and his family ended up moving 10 months later. They knew a long distance relationship would never work, so they reluctantly broke up. My sister, ever since, has not been the same and as her big sis I’m looking for a great guy who is looking for a meaningful and loyal relationship. As I said, we don’t really know each other, but from what I know of you, you seem like a really great guy! It’s hard to find a good guy in this day and age who doesn’t use foul language or the like.

    So… what I’m getting at is… would you like to meet my sister over lunch? If you’re looking for a great girl who will love and be loyal to you, my sister is the one. Please call me later today between 4 and 9 PM. My number is 867-5309.

    -Sarah Franklin

    PS- If I seem weird tomorrow in English class it will be because you know why! :)

THE CALL

Wow. It’s not everyday you get a letter like that! But at the time I just wasn’t looking for a relationship. So much like Kevin Arnold did, I knew what I had to do.

To this day I can still vividly remember the enthusiasm and giddiness in her voice as she picked up the phone… but I’ll also never forget how I took the wind right out of her sail in the next few seconds. It was hard. I felt bad. But I knew I had to be honest.

“WHAT ABOUT THE MASTODONS?!?!”

I didn’t quite go berserk like how Kevin Arnold did. There was no talk about being a hunter, a warrior or slaying mastodons. Instead I opted for the classic American way: a quick courteous note followed by friendly rejection.

Like Kevin, I wasn’t ready. I too was sixteen-years-old, and the way I saw it, there too were mastodons yet to be slayed.

Looking back, am I sorry about what I did? In a way, a little bit. Maybe the least I could have done was have lunch with the poor girl. But you know, when you’re 16 you do “dumb” things. Sarah Franklin figured I was different from the other guys. After what happened, she probably hated my guts.

THE AFTERMATH

Senior Grad Night. All the seniors were living it up at Disneyland. On one ride, my eyes met Sarah Franklin’s. We exchanged a nod — an unspoken pact of forgiveness. A moment that signified her younger sister was doing dandy in the game of life and that bygones would be bygones.

At least, that’s what I’d like to tell you.

But no such Wonder Years ending.

I really don’t remember what happened to Sarah Franklin. In fact, I hardly recall seeing her around my senior year. We haven’t spoken to each other since that one fateful phone call. Then again, not like we ever did before, you understand.

IN CLOSING…

We’ve all broken someone’s heart. We didn’t mean to… it just happens. Lord knows we’ve been on the other end as well.

Yup, in high school we made friends, enemies and memories. Good and bad. And every now and then there are people you wonder about, and people you wonder if they ever wonder about you. And then there are the Sarah Franklin’s of the world. You don’t really want to remember the memories of the Sarah Franklin’s…

But you do.

Sarah, wherever you are, I hope you and your sister are doing well. I hope both of you have found the right guy (or girl) to share life’s ups and downs with. Cheers.

Nightcrawler

NightCraw

Growing up in the late ’80s to mid ’90s, cartoons were the best. Cartoons really hit their prime during that time as well. Whether it was G.I. Joe, ThunderCats, Transformers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Duck Tales or Mighty Max, cartoons were as important to me as video games. One of my favorite cartoon shows was X-Men: The Animated Series. It just recently turned 25 years old. Wow. How time flies. Since Avengers: Infinity War came out recently and I just reviewed Marvel Super Heroes: War of the Gems, I can’t think of a better time to share my favorite episode from the X-Men Animated Series than now. It touches on some pretty deep topics that you just didn’t see being broached back in the day. It flew over my head as a kid but when I saw this episode later in my 20’s, it completely resonated with me. Let’s see… it’s got:

  • Faith
  • The danger of being ignorant
  • Don’t judge a book by its cover
  • Accepting others who are different from us
  • Man’s struggle with whether or not there is a greater power

Originally aired nearly 23 years ago on May 13, 1995, RVGFanatic proudly presents…

Shout out to Len Uhley for making this great episode
Shout out to Len Uhley for making this great episode
A cold and stormy night somewhere near the Alps...
A cold and stormy night somewhere near the Alps…
"I saw the fiend!  It had fangs!  And claws!"
“I saw the fiend! It had fangs! And claws!”
"It was horrible! It haunts us!"
“It was horrible! It haunts us!”
"We must do something!  We shall destroy him!"
“We must do something! We shall destroy him!”
"DOWN WITH THE DEMON!  DOWN WITH THE DEMON!"
“DOWN WITH THE DEMON! DOWN WITH THE DEMON!”

NightCraw8

NightCraw9

NightCraw10

NightCraw11

"AHHH!!  IT'S THE DEMON!!!  THE CURSED CREATURE!!"
“AHHH!! IT’S THE DEMON!!! THE CURSED CREATURE!!”
"Schieß!  Schieß! Get him!" "Destroy the demon! Shoot it now!"
“Schieß! Schieß! Get him!”
“Destroy the demon! Shoot it now!”
"Don't let it get away! Hurry!  What, it vanished into thin air!?"
“Don’t let it get away! What, it vanished into thin air!?”
"Heartless fools. They know not what they do..."
“Heartless fools. They know not what they do…”

NightCraw16

“I know, she say. Let’s take a trip, she say. It’d be fun, she say. Huh! Some fun.”

“After what we’ve been through lately, I figured we could use some time off.”

"But you didn't tell me we'd have a chaperone."
“But you didn’t tell me we’d have a chaperone.”
"Don't whine to me. This ain't my idea of a good time"
“Don’t whine to me. This ain’t my idea of a good time.”
"Hey, hoser, I thought you like to ski"
“Hey, hoser, I thought you like to ski.”
"Look at him. Who does he think he is, Hugh Jackman?"
“Look at him. Who does he think he is, Hugh Jackman?”

“This is sitting around drinking hot cocoa and getting funny looks from rich folk.”

"Yeah, well, next time, plan your own darn vacation!"
“Yeah, well, next time, plan your own darn vacation!”
"CHÈRE!  WAIT!"
“CHÈRE! WAIT!”
"Well, I hope you're happy"
“Well, I hope you’re happy.”
"Don't know the meaning of the word"
“Don’t know the meaning of the word.”

NightCraw25

“Come on, a demon? You must be kidding!”

“I heard it on the train. The whole town thinks they’ve been under attack by some dark creature for months. Must be some local yokel superstition.”

“TELL ME MORE.”

NightCraw26

“I’ll make it up to you. We’ll fly to Monte Carlo. We eat nice, lie on the beach…”

"Or you two could do something REALLY interesting." "Where are you going?" "Demon hunting. Interested?" "WHAT hunting?" "Gambit, a demon hunter? I'm gonna regret this, aren't I?"
“Or you two could do something REALLY interesting.”
“Where are you going?”
“Demon hunting. Interested?”
“WHAT hunting?”
“Gambit a demon hunter? I’m gona regret this aren’t I?”
"Exactly how far is this Neuherzl?" "A couple more miles. Why? You quitting, Gam?"
“Exactly how far is this Neuherzl?”
“A couple more miles. Why? You quitting, Gam?”
"It IS getting kind of late. Maybe I ought to fly us there." "What, and spoil Gumbo’s fun?"
“It IS getting kind of late. Maybe I ought to fly us there.”
“What, and spoil Gumbo’s fun?”
"Okay. So we don’t ski much on the bayou." *giggles* "You sure you don’t want help?"
“Okay. So we don’t ski much on the bayou.”
*giggles* “You sure you don’t want help?”
"Of course not. Gambit a natural athlete. … AHH!"
“Of course not. Gambit a natural athlete. … AHH!”
"Come on, Remy. Say something"
“Come on, Remy. Say something.”

NightCraw33

“Man doesn’t break a sweat against Apocalypse or Magneto. So WHAT nails him? A pine tree. Wait… OH CRAP.”

 "AVALANCHE!!!"
“AVALANCHE!!!”

NightCraw35

NightCraw36

"WHAT IN TARNATION?!"
“WHAT IN TARNATION?!”

NightCraw38

“Please, do not worry. This is home to twenty members of our order. We minister to many ski accident victims.”

"Logan! How is he?" "Gambit will hurt a while. But he’ll be okay"
“Logan! How is he?”
“Gambit will hurt a while. But he’ll be okay.”
"Praise be to God"
“Praise be to God.”
*sniffing* "Who's the snoop?"
*sniffing* “Who’s the snoop?”

NightCraw42

“Brother Reinhard. Please show our guests to the visitor accommodations.”

“Brother, is it wise to have strangers around at this terrible time? They’re not the usual travelers!”

“Those in need are always welcome, Brother Reinhard. Please have faith in our mission.”

"You all monks? So, I’m the only woman here."
“You all monks? So, I’m the only woman here.”

“Yeah. Therefore, would you be kind enough to accept something more appropriate to wear during your stay?”

“Don’t wanna make the natives restless…”

NightCraw44

NightCraw45

NightCraw46

“You should take care where you walk. Some doors on the upper levels open into thin air. The abbey was heavily damaged during the war.”

NightCraw47

“So, Johann, besides praying and ministering, what do you boys do all day?”

“Our mission is to give shelter and comfort to all travelers. And, of course, to offer a place to renew one’s relationship with the Lord.”

NightCraw48

“Being close to Heaven didn’t help us this afternoon, Father.”

“Are you sure, sir? Have you lost your faith? What is it that you seek?”

“Action. F’rinstance, I hear ya got a demon hanging around here.”

“You mean down in the town, in Neuherzl. Yes. An odd rumor, isn’t it? Personally, I have never myself met a demon…”

The word demon causes him to drop the plates
The word demon alone causes him to drop the plates

NightCraw50

"Pardon, Reverend, I didn’t expect… hey!  What are you doing?"
“Pardon, Reverend, I didn’t expect…
Hey! What are you doing?”

NightCraw52

NightCraw53

NightCraw54

*GASP* "Oh no! They must serve the demon!"
*GASP* “Oh no! They must serve the demon!”
"AHHHHHH!!!"
“AHHHHHH!!!”

NightCraw57

"There, you're safe now!" *Rogue gasps* "Please! You do not understand!"
“There, you’re safe now!”
*Rogue gasps*
“Please! You do not understand!”
"GAAAAAAAAAAAHHH!"
“GAAAAAAAAAAAHHH!”
"TRY HOPPING OVER THESE, PAL!"
“TRY HOPPING OVER THESE, PAL!”
"I do not wish to fight."
“I do not wish to fight.”
"You and me are through dancing, Mr. Demon!" "No! You mustn’t!" "WHY SHOULDN'T I?!"
“You and me are through dancing, Mr. Demon!”
“No! You mustn’t!”
“WHY SHOULDN’T I?!”
"BECAUSE..... HE IS MY BROTHER!"
“BECAUSE… HE IS MY BROTHER!”
"Brother? I don’t see the resemblance."
“Brother? I don’t see the resemblance.”

“Brother in the ecclesiastical sense — a member of our monastery.”

NightCraw65

“I’m sorry I startled you, Fräulein. I did not know you could fly.”

“It’s okay. I didn’t know you could do whatever that was you did.”

“Teleportation. I think of a place I’d rather be, look to it, and I am there.”

“Gambit rather be in Monte Carlo. Think you can work that out?”

"Enough small talk! Are you the guy who attacked Gambit?"
“Enough small talk! Did you attack Gambit?”
"Of course not! Brother Nightcrawler is a man of God."
“Of course not! Brother Nightcrawler is a man of God.”

“But, aren’t you the demon we heard about?”

NightCraw68

“In a manner of speaking, yes. Like yourselves, I am a mutant. But unlike most mutants, my condition was obvious from the moment I was born.”

NightCraw69

"AHH! IT'S A MONSTER! AN ABOMINATION OF GOD!"
“AHH! IT’S A MONSTER! AN ABOMINATION OF GOD!”

NightCraw71

“The villagers drove my mother away… for bearing such a freak.”

NightCraw72

“I never even knew her name. She could be anyone, really…”

"She abandoned me..."
“She abandoned me…”
"... but I did not die..."
“… but I did not die…”

NightCraw75

“Instead I was found by a family of traveling performers. I became Nightcrawler, the star attraction of their little circus. For their freakish world, I was perfect!”

NightCraw76

“But when the spotlight went out, I was still an outcast. Shunned and hated.”

"Guess there no peace for the wicked-looking."
“Guess there no peace for the wicked-looking.”
"GAMBIT!"
“GAMBIT!”

NightCraw79

“No, he’s right. Though all people are flawed and all struggle with the capacity for sin, none likes to be reminded of our shared human weakness. My appearance does not make it easy.”

"Don’t it make you crazy?!"
“Don’t it make you crazy?!”

“It did once. But then I found peace by devoting my life to God. He directed me to this place, where they value the character of my heart, not my appearance.”

"What are you talking about? We’re MUTANTS! God gave up on us a long time ago!"
“What are you talking about? We’re MUTANTS!
God gave up on us a long time ago!”

NightCraw82

“No, my friend. God does not give up on any of His children, be it human or mutant. He is there for us in our times of joy, and to help us when we are in pain… if we let Him.”

NightCraw83

“Don’t give me that easy answer garbage! I’ve tried! Don’t ya think I want that!! I don’t need a sermon from some circus boy preacher.”

"Looks like you touched a nerve." "I am sorry. I did not mean to upset him."
“Looks like you touched a nerve.”
“I’m sorry. I did not mean to upset him.”

NightCraw85

“Fine. Now Gambit got a question. If you’re not the guy who tried to put me out for good, who was?”

NightCraw86

“All people of Neuherzl! I can no longer allow such sacrilege! The beast you seek is there! In the monastery!”

“Are you mad? Those are men of God!”

"The EVIL ONE has defiled that holy place! It must be destroyed!"
“The EVIL ONE has defiled that holy place!
It must be destroyed!”

NightCraw88

"You are searching for me?"
“You are searching for me?”
"Nah, looking for a moment alone."
“Nah, looking for a moment alone.”

NightCraw91

“We are alike, you and I, angry at the world, and ourselves. My pain drove me to seek God. Yours drove you away.”

"Don’t tell me about God! What kind of God would let men do THIS to me?"
DON’T TELL ME ABOUT GOD!!
What kind of God would let men do THIS to me?”

NightCraw93

“Our ability to understand God’s purpose is limited, but we take comfort in the fact His love is limitless.”

*SCOFFS* "I used to buy into all that..."
*SCOFFS* “I used to buy into all that…”
"BUT I'VE LIVED TOO LONG!"
“BUT I’VE LIVED TOO LONG!”
"... and I've done too much..."
“… and I’ve done too much…”
"Life will ALWAYS be hard. I understand this better than most."
“Life will ALWAYS be hard.
I understand this better than most.”

NightCraw98

“Yet despite it all, people of every faith believe there is a God who loves them.”

"Can so many be wrong?"
“Can so many be wrong?”
"OPEN YOUR HEART, HERR LOGAN."
“OPEN YOUR HEART, HERR LOGAN.”

NightCraw101

“Would it hurt so much to see the world through different eyes?”

NightCraw102

“Brother! There is a mob headed up the road from Neuherzl. They must have discovered you are here.”

"And they want to rip you into little pieces. Tell me, preacher. What’s God’s purpose in that?"
“And they want to rip you into little pieces.
Tell me, preacher, what’s God’s purpose in that?”

NightCraw104

“Neuherzl is isolated. The people know nothing about mutants. Perhaps I am here to help open their hearts. I must leave so no one will be hurt.”

"Running away, preacher? What’s wrong -- lose your faith?"
“Running away, preacher?
What’s wrong — lose your faith?”
"Why? Why must they always hate me?"
“Why? Why must they always hate me?”

NightCraw107

"WE MUST STOP THE DEMON NO MATTER THE COST!"
“WE MUST STOP THE DEMON, NO MATTER THE COST!”

NightCraw109

“Remember, Logan. Those people aren’t bad. They’re just scared. Be careful.”

“Careful? Fifty against two?!”

"Trois, mes amis. Don’t you know Gambit’s ready for anything?"
“Trois, mes amis.
Don’t you know Gambit’s ready for anything?”
"You sure you’re up for this?" "Course, chére. Soon as the room stop spinning."
“You sure you’re up for this?”
“Course, chére. Soon as the room stop spinning.”
"LET'S BREAK THE DOOR DOWN!!"
“LET’S BREAK DOWN THE DOOR!!”
"Welcome Wagon's here."
“Welcome Wagon’s here.”
"DEVIL! DESTROY THE DEMON! OUT WITH YOU!!"
“DEVIL! DESTROY THE DEMON! OUT WITH YOU!!”

NightCraw115

NightCraw116

"THE DEMON MUST DIE! WE MUST CLEANSE THIS PLACE!!"
“THE DEMON MUST DIE! WE MUST CLEANSE THIS PLACE!”
"FIRST, YOU'VE GOT TO GET PAST ME!"
“FIRST, YOU’VE GOT TO GET PAST ME!”

NightCraw119

"Okay, people, now settle down!"
“Okay, people, now settle down!”

NightCraw121

"DON'T TOUCH ME!"
“DON’T TOUCH ME!”
"AHHHHHHHH!!"
“AHHHHH!!”
"Stop the demons! Our families! They want to hurt us! Kill them!"
“Stop the demons! Our families!
They want to hurt us! Kill them!”
"GET OUT OF MY HEAD!"
“GET OUT OF MY HEAD!”

NightCraw126

"I’m trying not to turn you bozos into hamburger. Now back off!"
“I’m trying not to turn you bozos into hamburger.
Now back off!”
"Bitte, Frau Kohler! You know us! Please listen to us!"
“Bitte, Frau Kohler! You know us! Please listen to us!”
"Nein! You are a pawn of the Evil One! Tell us where your monster is hiding!"
“Nein! You are a pawn of the Evil One!
Tell us where your monster is hiding!”
"I am not hiding."
“I am not hiding.”
*Villagers scream*
“What?! Where did they go?!”

NightCraw132

"The library? How did we get here?"
“The library? How did we get here?”
"Gambit not enjoying this vacation one bit." "Get him downstairs!"
“Gambit not enjoying this vacation one bit.”
“Get him downstairs!”
"What are you going to do?"
“What are you going to do?”

“I will surrender. It is the only way to prevent anyone else getting hurt.”

NightCraw136

NightCraw137

NightCraw138

"Brother Reinhard! STOP!"
“Brother Reinhard! STOP!”
"THIS IS THE END, DEMON!"
“THIS IS THE END, DEMON!”
"Be careful! The whole place is burning down!" "DEFILER!!!!"
“Be careful! The whole place is burning down!”
“DEFILER!!”
"The demon is attacking Brother Reinhard!"
“The demon is attacking Brother Reinhard!”
"I shall surrender!"
“I shall surrender!”
"YOU HAVE CORRUPTED THIS PLACE! I MUST PURIFY IT!"
“YOU HAVE CORRUPTED THIS PLACE! I MUST PURIFY IT!”
"LOOK! THE DEMON HAS GOT BROTHER REINHARD!"
“LOOK! THE DEMON HAS GOT BROTHER REINHARD!”

NightCraw146

"Go ahead demon, do your worst! … Why do you pause? I have betrayed you!"
“Go ahead demon, do your worst!
… Why do you pause? I have betrayed you!”
"It is not for me to judge you, Brother Reinhard."
“It is not for me to judge you, Brother Reinhard.”
"The question is... how will God judge you?"
“The question is… how will God judge you?”
"Look around you. This is the fruit of YOUR labors... ... Not mine!"
“Look around you. This is the fruit of YOUR labors…
Not mine!
*GASP*
*GASP*
"Lord help me! I was wrong! I have sinned! What have I done?"
“Lord help me! I was wrong!
I have sinned! What have I done?”

NightCraw153

NightCraw154

"Thank you, my friends. Your presence here was a great blessing."
“Thank you, my friends.
Your presence here was a great blessing.”
"What do you mean, blessing?! Look at this place! We blew it!"
“What do you mean, blessing?!
Look at this place! We blew it!

NightCraw157

“I disagree. Brother Reinhard understands his tragic mistake and has repented.”

NightCraw158

“The townspeople no longer look at me with fear in their hearts.”

"There was no loss of life. All are reasons to be thankful."
“There was no loss of life.
All are reasons to be thankful.”
"What about the monastery?"
“What about the monastery?”
"A great tragedy. But it was only stone and mortar."
“A great tragedy. But it was only stone and mortar.”

NightCraw162

“The foundation God has built in our hearts can never be ruined.”

"Man, I don't get you."
“Man, I don’t get you.”
"Here, I’ve marked a few passages you may find rewarding."
“I’ve marked a few passages you may find rewarding.”

NightCraw165

"Remember, Herr Logan... DIFFERENT EYES..."
“Remember, Herr Logan… DIFFERENT EYES…”

NightCraw167

 *SIGH*  "Paris. Back in the civilized world."
*SIGH* “Paris. Back in the civilized world.”

NightCraw169

“I don’t know. Those quiet little monks were starting to grow on me.”

NightCraw170

“Face it, chére, those monks kid themselves. We on our own in this world. Life is random. Deal you a full house, or a busted flush.”

NightCraw171

NightCraw172

"Something I said?"
“Something I said?”
"Ah well. Looks like more food for Gambit."
“Oh well. Looks like more food for Gambit.”
*SIGH* "What if he’s right? What if there’s nothing else?"
*SIGH* “What if he’s right? What if there’s nothing else?”

NightCraw176

NightCraw177

NightCraw178

NightCraw179

NightCraw180

“I will give thanks to you, oh Lord. For though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, and you comforted me. I will trust and not be afraid.”

NightCraw181

NightCraw182

NightCraw183

NightCraw184

CLOSING THOUGHTS

NightCraw185

I love how this episode centers around Logan’s struggle with faith in something larger than himself. TV shows back in the ’90s rarely touched upon such issues, much less cartoons. Nightcrawler’s pure faith, if not admirable and inspirational, is certainly understandable. Len Uhley, who wrote this landmark episode, didn’t shove religion down the viewer’s throat. Instead, he presented it in a way that more or less left it up to the individual to decipher. It didn’t beat you over the head but the message was just strong enough to make you think about things that perhaps may be outside of one’s comfort zone. Very few cartoon episodes have ever made me reflect on my own life and views as much as Nightcrawler did. Is there really a God who exists and cares for us all? Can we find true peace from God’s word? That’s up to each individual person. Nightcrawler did a great job of broaching the subject. Personally, I’m a believer. I became a Christian at 25 back in 2009. I got into it pretty hardcore, but I’m pretty casual nowadays with my faith. It’s more of a private thing these days for me, and that’s how I like to keep it.

Shout out to Len Uhley! What a fantastic episode
Shout out to Len Uhley!

I’d be remiss if I didn’t share my favorite faith-related story. Several summers ago, I organized a volunteering gig with some friends of mine. It was a foot washing and feeding event for the homeless. It was a humbling experience. I’ll never forget the first man whose feet I washed. He told me right off the bat, pardon the pun, that his name is Bruce Wayne and that he’s THE Batman. Naturally, part of me thought he was crazy. But as the foot washing went on, “Bruce” shared childhood stories of his father with me, his 29 years in the truck driving business, and shared his dreams growing up. Didn’t take long for me to realize he’s just like anyone else. At the end he thanked me for the foot washing and left.

No youre not. Oh wait, you are?!
No you’re not. Oh wait, you are?!

Not three minutes later, he walked back in to show me his identification card. SON OF A BITCH. Sure enough, there it was, clear as day. Name: BRUCE WAYNE. He wasn’t kidding, he really was Bruce Wayne. He gave me a grin and I returned the gesture as we nodded before he walked out. Later I spoke with the coordinator and she explained to me Bruce is a regular and how his Batman persona is his own personal way of coping with being homeless. Wow. It’s a little bit deeper than just “Oh, this dude’s a crazy homeless guy.” The experience reminded me not to be so quick judging others. Walk a mile in their shoes — or wash their feet — before you decide what their story is.

BruceWaynePrays

Len Uhley reflects fondly on his Nightcrawler episode here.

Switched: How Nintendo Won Me Back

Nintendo made me a believer once more
Nintendo makes a believer out of me once more

In late 2016, Nintendo released a trailer highlighting their upcoming 7th console, the Nintendo Switch. To say that I was skeptical would have been a gross understatement. I had long lost faith in Nintendo, or at least in their current state. My brother and I grew up on the NES and the Super Nintendo. Both systems were amazing, giving us countless memories. The Nintendo 64 came along in 1996 and was a mixed bag. By the time the GameCube launched in late 2001, my brother and I stopped caring. Neither of the two Wii consoles were able to move the needle on my gaming meter. As for the PlayStation and XBox consoles, they surely had their share of gems but I honestly didn’t care enough to ever buy any of those systems. I was content with my SNES collection and assumed that my time buying games had long come to an end. That was, at least, until I finally played the Switch…

With the Switch, gaming has hit new heights
With the Switch, gaming has reached new heights

A NEW ERA — FINALLY

I thought I was done buying games. I was wrong...
I thought I was done buying games. I was wrong…

As it has been well documented here on RVGFanatic, I got back into the SNES scene nearly 12 years ago (January 2006). It’s been an incredible journey and I have played so many amazing games since then. I more or less finished my collection in 2012 and figured I was set for life. I had no interest in modern gaming. Not that I hated them but rather I just didn’t care enough to play them. That slowly began to change as I heard the rumblings for one, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The trailer, released in early 2017, was breathtaking. If any modern game can bring me back to the fold, Breath of the Wild might be it. For the first time in forever, I found myself salivating over a new game.

I was floored. It was the first time in nearly 12 years that I found myself thinking, “It might be time to buy another system.” I remember one night in March 2017 my bro sent me a funny picture of some guy on the internet declaring it was going to be an epic night. Sure looked like it!

Oh hell yeah!
Talk about living the good life

Seeing that pic made me remember all the epic gaming adventures I had long long ago. It was that little seed planted in my head. The Switch launched on March 3, 2017. I didn’t buy one but I remember telling myself maybe Black Friday. Maybe. But I found no deals on the Switch and thus, Black Friday came and went. My brother, on the other hand, struck a bit of gold…

SwitStor12

Despite not owning a Switch, he spotted Breath of the Wild on Walmart’s website for the incredibly low price of $29. He jumped on it because he knew I had interest in buying a Switch. Apparently it was a mistake on the website — it was supposed to be marked down to $49 but he made the purchase before the website could correct itself. They honored their end and shipped the game out to him. Coincidentally, I read this on Reddit a few days ago…

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My brother was one of the lucky few
My brother was one of the lucky few

[SATURDAY] DECEMBER 2, 2017

SwitStor14

After visiting my month old nephew, I hit up the local Target only to be greeted by the last Switch console. I couldn’t resist and pulled the trigger. Final damage following a flurry of gift cards: $267. I walked out of Target cradling the Switch against my chest as though it were Frankenstein’s very own heart! It was my first system purchase in nearly 12 years :D

Oh I'm answering the call. Don't have to tell me twice!
Oh I’m answering the call. Don’t have to tell me twice!

Breath of the Wild arrived at my brother’s place later that day. It was like it was meant to be. I picked it up, drove back home, popped it in and was immediately blown away. Honestly, I hadn’t played a 3D “modern” game in forever. These past 12 years I stuck mainly to the SNES. Well, Breath of the Wild has definitely made me rethink my gaming habits. Although I still love and play the SNES, it certainly won’t be the only system I play going forward. Nintendo had officially converted me. I have, pardon the pun, made the switch.

ZelBotW2

Right away I was flung into the wide open world of Hyrule. It literally took my breath away. Immersive is a word that gets thrown around a lot in gaming circles but I can’t think of a better adjective to describe this game. Best of all, it looks and plays great even on the portable end. In fact, I’ve been playing it only in this format thus far.

The older I get, the less time I have to do this
The older I get, the less I have time to do this

As I get older and busier, I find I have less and less time to sit in front of a TV to play a game. The portability makes it perfect to play for 20 minutes while laying in bed before sleeping. It’s also ideal to play while having a TV show on in the background. It’s truly a game changer. The Switch is a versatile little sucker and it’s portable gaming the likes of which we have never seen before. We have come a long way since the Game Boy and Game Gear, haven’t we?

ZelBotW6

I began going through the shrines and giggling like a little school girl on the inside. I could tell it was the beginning of an unforgettable gaming experience.

ZelBotW7

Acquiring new skills and weapons is all part of the fun. Each new power gained opened up even more possibilities.

ZelBotW5

Hunting for food or shooting enemies from afar became highly addicting.

ZelBotW3

I’m only 12 hours in or so but already I feel like this is easily one of the top 10 (if not 5) best games I have ever played. Quite frankly, maybe even #1.

[MONDAY] DECEMBER 4, 2017

SwiCov

But there was no rest for the weary. A few days later, I went to Best Buy to pick up Doom for $53 following my 20% discount. I haven’t been able to play Doom yet because I want to beat Zelda first. But rest assured, having missed the 2016 version of Doom and hearing what a competent amazing port the Switch version is, I cannot bloody wait to dig into this one!

SwitIm8

[WEDNESDAY] DECEMBER 6, 2017

SwiCov1

I honestly thought I would just have Breath of the Wild and Doom for now. But you know how these things work. There’s a snowball effect when something comes along and completely captures your imagination. A few days after picking up Doom, my brother told me GameStop was selling Rayman Legends for only $25.

SwitIm10

I have Rayman on the Sega Saturn and have always enjoyed it. Plus, the Switch version received rave reviews, so I decided to swing by the local GameStop after work to pick it up. Unfortunately, the GameStop I went to was sold out. But the clerk said there was another location nearby that had 3 copies left. That store happened to be at my childhood mall!

SwitStor10

I can’t count the number of times my mom took me to this mall when I was a kid. Every Friday after school we went. It was sort of a tradition of ours. Rain or shine. Seeing the tall Christmas tree there always brings back memories of the mall Santa back in the day. Although the mall has been renovated over the years, the core structure remains. It never fails to bring back a memory or two.

SwitStor9

Making the walk down this way was something of a spiritual experience, as sad as that may sound. I’ve walked that path thousands of time. It was always visit Suncoast first, followed by Software Etc., KB Toys, Walden Books and Cyberstation. Being here again brought back a ton of nostalgia for me, and reminded me of my early SNES hunting days back in 2006. The thrill and excitement hanging in the air. That feeling of knowing you were going to come away with a brand new game to add to the ole collection. Hopping around town snatching up games left and right like a mad man. It was more than just collecting games. It was reclaiming bits and pieces of my childhood in whole new ways.

How I remember thee, Suncoast
How I remember thee, Suncoast
This was THE place to be on a Saturday night back then
This was THE place to be on a Friday night back then

A montage of these classic childhood sights and sounds suddenly flashed in my mind as I entered GameStop and picked up Rayman Legends at the counter. It was now my 3rd Switch game in nearly as many days. Yep, I could feel it coming. And there was no stopping it. I had Switch fever!

SwitIm11

[SATURDAY] DECEMBER 9, 2017

SwiCov2

I visited Target the next day to pick up a few things. I had absolutely ZERO intentions of buying another Switch game but lo and behold, there I found Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 on sale for $39.99. Before I knew it, a 4th game was added to my rapidly growing Switch library.

SwitIm6

I texted my brother about my latest purchase and he said I had gone nuts. He was probably right. But damn was I having fun!

Switch collection ASSEMBLE! [Really? -Ed.]
Switch collection ASSEMBLE! [Really? -Ed.]

[SUNDAY] DECEMBER 10, 2017

SwiCov3

After buying Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2, I thought to myself, “OK now I’m really done. For a while at least.” Well, a while turned out to be less than 24 hours later. The following day, my brother texted me that Toys R Us was selling Lego City Undercover for just $19.99. Lego in a GTA (Grand Theft Auto) setting? Count me in!

SwitIm

While Toys R Us was processing my online pickup order, I searched the web on my iPhone only to discover that Fry’s Electronics was selling Resident Evil Revelations Collection for only $29.99. And of course, there just happened to be a Fry’s down the road from Toys R Us. So I drove over to Fry’s to buy Resident Evil Revelations Collection. Then drove back to Toys R Us to pick up Lego City Undercover. I felt like an absolute mad man; I haven’t done this much game hunting in 10 years!

RERBox

SwitIm3

Quite an extreme contrast  between my two latest buys
Quite an extreme contrast between my two latest buys!

While at Fry’s hunting down Resident Evil Revelations Collection, I ran across Axiom Verge for $29.99. I was tempted to add it to my tab. Axiom Verge caught my eye a few years back and I was always curious about it. But a quick search revealed Toys R Us selling it for $29.99 plus a 15% discount. I was hoping to pick it up at the Toys R Us location I just bought Lego City Undercover from, but unfortunately they didn’t have one in stock. The closest pick up location was… *gasp*… the old Toys R Us store from my childhood!

Always wanted to play this. Now I finally can!
Always wanted to play this. Now I finally can!

[MONDAY] DECEMBER 11, 2017

Ah, the vintage train tracks of my childhood :)
Ah, the vintage train tracks of my childhood :)
Come on, let's go! I got a Switch game to pick up!
Come on, let’s go! I got a Switch game to pick up!

Going to my childhood Toys R Us meant passing through this old haunt. My cousins lived in the neighborhood nearby and I spent much of my youth visiting my cousins on the weekends back in the late ’80s to mid ’90s. Needless to say, that whole area is incredibly nostalgic to me. It’s also where I experienced the greatest Halloween of my life back in 1994. The infamous night I met “The Lady in the Haunted House” AKA Becky, who has gone on to become a lifelong friend. I actually just met up with Becky a few weeks ago. Going through the old neighborhood was just an added bonus to my jaunt for Axiom Verge.

SwitStor5

I stood there for a moment to just admire the scene. This was the same Toys R Us my parents took me and my brother to millions of times back in the late ’80s to mid ’90s. It was probably 10 years since I had last been there. At that point, it was one of the few relics from my past still standing in the same spot!

TRUGS

Who doesn’t remember the classic Toys R Us game slips back in the day? Seeing an aisle plastered with them was like a little slice of Heaven. Some of my fondest childhood memories came from simply strolling through the aisles drooling at the game covers all bug-eyed. Nothing topped the feeling of when your parents relented and bought you a game! Taking that slip out of its sleeve, only to discover it’s the LAST one, and taking it to the special game counter to claim your precious pixelated prize. Cue the Final Fantasy victory theme!

I remember seeing NES games like Dr. Chaos
I remember seeing NES game slips like Dr. Chaos
Chakan on the Genesis
As well as Chakan on the Genesis
And Battletoads in Battlemaniacs
And Battletoads in Battlemaniacs on SNES

Sadly, Toys R Us long stopped doing the game slips. Nonetheless, being there brought back the wave of memories. I also ran into two versions of Goldar from the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: OG Goldie and that crappy looking version from the 2017 movie.

What is this mess?
What mess is this?!
Now thats what Im talking about
Now THAT’S what I’m talking about

Ah, Imaginext. In 2004 I ran across a bunch of their sets on clearance from the same Toys R Us location. Huge sets going for literally $5. I remember bringing home a bunch of the sets and my ex being bewildered!

I still have them unopened. Saving for my future son
I still have them unopened. Saving for my future son

After walking around the store for 15 minutes or so just taking it all in, I made my way to the pickup counter. I cannot wait to play Axiom Verge but first I have to beat Breath of the Wild :P

AxiomBox

SwitIm21

Not a bad deal at $27! It looks awesome.

SwitStor2

Before pulling out of the parking lot, I stood there to admire my childhood Toys R Us one last time. Even though the inside has long been gutted and rearranged, there were pockets in the store where I remember standing some 25, 30 years ago! R.I.P. Toys R Us.

CHRISTMAS 2017

SwiCov4

It’s been forever since I’ve played a newer Mario game. I know I’ve missed out on many great Mario games since 1991’s Super Mario World, so Super Mario Odyssey will certainly make up for some of that lost time.

SwitIm23

[SATURDAY] DECEMBER 23, 2017

Thanks Cindy!
Jackpot! What a great Christmas present :)

SwiTarget

Earlier in the day I was able to price match Puyo Puyo Tetris and Ninjago at Target. Both were going for $39.99 but Toys R Us was selling both for $19.99. Thanks Toys R Us!

Gotta love that Target price match
Gotta love that Target price match!

SwiEx2

[SATURDAY] JANUARY 13, 2018

SkyrimSwi

I received a $25 gift card for Amazon and used it on Skyrim, a game I’ve never played before but can’t wait to dig into. It ended up costing only $35.99.

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[SUNDAY] JANUARY 14, 2018

I had been wanting to buy this game badly...
I had been wanting to buy this game badly…

I spent the weekend out of town with my girlfriend. I was browsing Nintendo Switch Deals on Reddit (shout out!) on a lazy Sunday morning when I came across this promising post…

SwiEx4

Lady Luck was on my side as my girlfriend’s town happened to be one of the 63 stores closing down! I was cautiously optimistic but I figured the game I wanted most (Mario Kart 8 Deluxe) would be long sold out. Eh, it can’t hurt to try, right…

SwiEx3

After waiting in line (just to enter the store) for some odd 30 minutes, we were finally in. I made a beeline for the electronics section. Lo and behold, I spotted the last copy sitting before my eyes! I bought Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Arms.

SwiArms

I was so happy that I was able to get the last copy of Mario Kart. The rush of adrenaline as we snagged the final copy (and picked up Arms as well) lasted all the way on the drive home. A most serendipitous Sunday!

SamClu

Thanks for taking care of me, Jennifer!

NoireSwi

Later  that same night, I dropped by Target to buy L.A. Noire. I had a gift card and paid $38.

NoireSwi2

Taking place in Los Angeles in the late ’40s, L.A. Noire is another “modern” game I missed out on but can now play thanks to my Switch.

(e)SHOP ‘TIL YA DROP

Ah, my first two eShop purchases
Ah, my first two eShop purchases

On Christmas morning 2017, the floodgates were opened when I made my very first eShop purchase. Here are my 34 digital games in order of purchase.

Stardew Valley (Harvest Moon fans unite!)
Stardew Valley (Harvest Moon fans unite!)
Enter the Gungeon
Enter the Gungeon
Oxenfree
Oxenfree
Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove
Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove
Volgarr the Viking
Volgarr the Viking
Oceanhorn
Oceanhorn
The Mummy Demastered
The Mummy Demastered
Butcher
Butcher
Shock Troopers
Shock Troopers
Shock Troopers: 2nd Squad
Shock Troopers: 2nd Squad
Top Hunter: Roddy and Cathy
Top Hunter: Roddy and Cathy
Spinmaster
Spinmaster
Double Dragon IV
Double Dragon IV
The Count Lucanor
The Count Lucanor
Street Hoop
Street Hoop
Metal Slug
Metal Slug
Pulstar
Pulstar
Blazing Star
Blazing Star
Last Resort
Last Resort
World Heroes
World Heroes
Mutation Nation
Mutation Nation
Robo Army
Robo Army
Rocket League
Rocket League
Steamworld Dig 2
SteamWorld Dig 2
Retro City Rampage
Retro City Rampage
Blaster Master Zero
Blaster Master Zero
Mighty Gunvolt Burst
Mighty Gunvolt Burst
Caveman Warriors
Caveman Warriors
King of the Monsters
King of the Monsters
Double Dragon
Double Dragon
World Heroes 2
World Heroes 2
Celeste
Celeste
Samurai Shodown II
Samurai Shodown II
Magician Lord
Magician Lord

SOME GAMES I’LL BUY IN 2018

Wolfenstein II
Wolfenstein II
Mega Man 11
Mega Man 11
Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection
Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection

Holy shit!

Yoshi
Yoshi
Shin Megami Tensei V
Shin Megami Tensei V
Dragon Warrior XI
Dragon Warrior XI
Metal Slug 2 (or X)
Metal Slug X
Metal Slug 3
Metal Slug 3
Fatal Fury Special
Fatal Fury Special
Sonic Mania
Sonic Mania
Shantae: Half-Genie Hero
Shantae: Half-Genie Hero
Golf Story
Golf Story
Mr. Shifty
Mr. Shifty

And so much more. The Switch’s future is bright and the possibilities are endless. Welcome back to my heart, Nintendo. Welcome back!

CLOSING THOUGHTS

ZelBotW4

It’s hard for me to believe that I would ever feel so invested in a system not named Super Nintendo, especially in the year 2017. But the Switch has made a believer out of me. Being able to play all these amazing games on the go as well as on the big screen TV is a brilliant stroke of ingenuity. Its versatility caters to your lifestyle, as it should, rather than you catering to a system’s limitations. As much as I still love my SNES, I’ll admit there are times where I’m just not in the mood to sit by my TV to play. There are times where I wish I could just play it in bed or during a show. The Switch allows you to do so. Nintendo has something big on its hands here, as evident by the Switch recently surpassing the 10 million units sold mark. This is truly the future wave of gaming.

ZelBotW9

If you’ve been teetering on the fence with the Switch, it’s time to hop over. It has the same impeccable Nintendo magic that I remember the NES and SNES having back in the ’80s and ’90s. Hell, over time I can even possibly see the Switch overtaking the SNES as my favorite system of all time. Never in a million years did I ever think I would say that. If Nintendo eventually releases some of their SNES classics on the Switch eShop going forward then all bets are off. The Switch is poised for unprecedented success, merging gamers from all generations. Its legacy as one of the coolest systems ever is quickly being etched in stone by the day. Don’t miss out! Nintendo is BACK baby and damnit, they might be better than ever.

Adventures in Africa

It was the adventure of a lifetime
It was the adventure of a lifetime

Today is September 21, 2017. It marks the last day of summer 2017. Tomorrow officially marks the first day of fall. I can’t think of anything more fitting to write about now than the summer adventure I had in Kenya, Africa seven years ago. I found myself at a missions meeting at my local church in May of 2010. I felt a tugging on my heart strings when they spoke about the Africa trip. GO, the inner voice proclaimed as clear as day. It’s kind of like the “voice” from Field of Dreams, except you don’t actually hear it audibly. You hear it in your spirit. And that day I knew beyond a shadow of doubt, by the grace of God, I would be serving the good folks of Kenya later that summer.

"Go to Kenya" said the voice. Or the MC at least
“Go to Kenya” said the voice. Or the speaker anyhow

May, June and July were crazy months indeed. We had a team of a dozen and we spent those three months in the States getting to know each other. After all, we were going to be stuck together for two weeks in close proximity 24/7. We sent out support letters to friends and family, hosted many fundraisers, got our necessary shots (big fun that was) and we prepared our hearts and minds for the exciting journey ahead. It wasn’t all smooth sailing though. Violence and protests broke out in Kenya a couple months prior to our arrival date. The US Embassy even urged us NOT to go during the dates we had targeted. That’s crazy now that I think back on it! We had a few members step down from the trip due to the warning and political unrest. It was a decision that each of us had to make on our own accord. I forged ahead and am so thankful I did.

Happy 27th to me!
Happy 27th to me!

Late July 2010. The day we boarded our flight was actually my 27th birthday. It also marked the first time I would be leaving the good ol’ US of A. Yup, Kenya was my first trip outside the US. I’m not much of a traveler as you can see, but I appreciated the love they gave me (champagne on the house).

Finally, we were there!
Finally, we were there!

I’ll never forget landing after a long 24 hour flight (including layovers). I was sitting next to a Kenyan and we had been talking the final half hour of the flight. He was visiting his family from his new home, Chicago. “You’re going to love Kenya,” he said. “The people here are very friendly and we love to just talk. It’s not like how it is in America, you know. In Kenya, people can sit and talk for the whole day. Try that in America and see how far you get!” We wished one another well as we exited the plane. I remember thinking to myself if everyone in Kenya is like this then what an awesome trip it’ll be. As we waited for our Kenyan hosts to pick us up, we converted our US dollars to the Kenyan currency (shillings). Then we waited outside in the cool of the night, at around roughly 11 PM, anticipating our hosts.

Making memories right off the bat
Making memories right off the bat

It wasn’t long before a big bus pulled up and a whole bunch of friendly Kenyans jumped out eager to shake our hands and embrace us with a big ole hug. They were our hosts. We climbed aboard and each team member sat next to a Kenyan. I sat next to Jeff who reminded me of a dear old college friend back in the States. You know how you instantly bond with certain people? That was the case for me and Jeff. As we passed by the busy roads, Jeff shared with me that we were going to pass by his ex girlfriend’s house coming up soon. “I was ready to propose to her,” he reminisced. “But I kid you not, the day before, she dumped me. It burned in my heart for a long time.” And then, there it was. In the dead calm still of the night, I spotted Jeff’s ex’s house. An idea flashed excitedly through my mind. “Hey Jeff tell you what. YOU. ME. A BAG OF EGGS. THAT HOUSE. 3 AM TONIGHT.” It was met with the greatest and loudest laugh I’d ever heard. James, sitting three rows back, yelled “PARTY UP IN STEVE’S ROW!”

I'll never forget that first night in Kenya...
I’ll never forget that first night in Kenya…

A pastor that my church back home partners with hosted us in his lovely home. The goal of our trip? Work with the orphans of Kenya and spread the love of Christ through Bible stories and worship over the course of the next two weeks. We unloaded our things and met our host family. The pastor, his lovely wife and three children — two high school boys and a girl about to enter high school. We took bucket showers which was a major adjustment, but it wasn’t too bad once you got used to it. The guys slept in one room while the girls slept in another.

KenyaBeds

I’ll never forget lying in bed that night alongside four other team members. Our flat single beds were on the ground next to each other in a cramped little room. It was 1 AM. Everyone was dead tired and had already crashed, but I was wide awake. And that’s when I heard it. A cacophony of various wild animals howling and hollering. Dogs barking, roosters crowing (Kenya roosters’ clocks are all messed up), cats screeching, maybe even wild coyotes. It sounded like bloody murder out there. And for the first time, it REALLY hit me… Toto, we’re not  in Kansas anymore! I closed my eyes and fell off into a deep sound sleep. Early the next morning, we woke up at the butt crack of dawn. One by one, we shuffled off into the restroom like zombies. We all had jet lag but there was a quiet sense of excitement in the air. We gathered at the breakfast table where the pastor spoke to us. On the agenda? Trek out to the local schools, introduce ourselves to the children, and advertise that we’d be working with them throughout the next two weeks.

School #1
School #1

The 12 of us, along with three Kenyan guides, walked to the first school. It was about two miles away from Pastor’s house. Instead of riding the bus, we wanted to take in the sights and sounds. It was a long dirt path. Along the way we saw Kenyans out and about, and everyone waved to us. I’ll never forget turning the corner and seeing all the children jumping and cheering for us on cue. They treated us like we were rock stars! They even sang a song to us in Swahili. They didn’t know us but they treated us like we were kings and queens. It was a timely reminder of how lucky I was. We introduced ourselves, advertised our program and performed musical skits for them. They watched on with great interest and clapped loudly whenever one of us spoke. It was pretty surreal. They treated us like we were movie stars!

Everywhere we went we had adoring fans
Everywhere we went we had adoring fans
School #2
School #2

It didn’t take long before the whole room was filled! More songs and musical skits ensued, much to the delight of the children. They were crammed in there like sardines. Yet they all seemed so joyful. It reminded me of the many things we sometimes complain about that aren’t really that big a deal.

School #3
School #3

The next school we visited was easily the most affluent of the lot. The little children were all dressed warmly and the school was the nicest looking one.

They sang a song for us and we returned the favor
They sang a song for us and we returned the favor
Gotta love the kid with the glasses
Gotta love the kid with the glasses

I loved the looks on their little faces as we performed our various musical skits advertising our program in the weeks to come.

School #4 (gotta love the yellow jacket rebel there)
School #4

The next school was much smaller. They wore lovely red uniforms, except for that one badass rebel there! :D

Shouting it loud and proud
Shouting it loud and proud

These kids stepped up one at a time to declare their future aspirations. Answers of doctors, teachers and nurses filled the air. The session ended with all of us dancing with the children. It was a great time! Then, my two team leaders were called to be at another school at the same time our 5th school visit was scheduled, so they needed a proxy. They appointed me. I was set to be the MC for the next school visit. Wow. I felt anxious and apprehensive, despite having a public speaking and theatrical background. One thing’s for sure… I will never forget that 5th school visit…

School #5
School #5

It’s been said that the Lord has a sense of humor. So of course the 5th school, the one I was responsible for MC’ing, had to be the rowdiest of the day!

The calm AFTER the storm
The calm AFTER the storm

From sheer chaos to a nice calm scene. We finally had room to exhale. Our day of work had concluded and it was back to Pastor’s house for dinner preparation and more planning for the following day. I took a moment to take in this scene before heading back to our team bus. To remember the madness that filled this area not five short minutes ago, and how peaceful it now was.

Samosa

After heading back to Pastor’s house, we hung out in the living room. The two main facilitators were still out on business, so I led the debriefing session. It was a great, crazy day for all of us. Then some of us headed into the kitchen to help Joy, Pastor’s wife, with making the samosa. Man, I love me some samosa!

Their home cooked meals were SO good
Their home cooked meals were SO good

This was a typical meal during our stay. Joy is a mean cook, believe that! Although we craved American food, I can’t complain and we always got seconds!

PASTOR LEE: ENTER THE PIMP

Oh Pastor Lee, what a character you are...
Oh Pastor Lee, what a character you are…

After dinner, one of our dear Kenyan host friends, Pastor Lee, called all 12 of us over. It was a classic scene. He sat there in the middle of the living room, in this single person desk (rather random and a bit peculiar right off the bat). He briskly signaled for us to come over. We all thought he had something serious to share. Maybe something deeply spiritual. Maybe he just wanted to pump us up for tomorrow. We all waited for what seemed like forever as he just stared at each of us silently, caught in deep thought, his mouth agape. And then, the most unforgettable line came hurling out of his mouth… “How do you turn girls on?”

We all paused and looked at each other like, “Whoa, did he JUST say what I think he just said? No he dih-ent!”

“How do you turn girls on?” he asked once again, like a child asking for a cookie. In his little desk no less, which looked slightly too uncomfortable for a man of his size to be sitting in…

After the initial shock wore off, one of the girls fielded his inquiry. “We love a man with confidence. That, a sense of humor and poise is very big to us. It says a lot about the guy.”

“Pastor Lee, what do YOU think turns girls on?” one of the guys asked, playing along.

“Well, I use this…” he fumbled around in his pocket and for a second there we all kind of gave each other a funny look like what shenanigans will this be. Lee isn’t a small guy and he barely fit in the desk. His face strained as he reached deep into his pocket. It was quite comical. Finally he pulled out a pen and held it high in the air with a grin plastered from ear to ear, like a knight in shining armor upholding his mighty sword after slaying the vicious dragon.

“That’s your great trick?!” everyone asked.

“Not a trick my friends but a deadly weapon indeed when wielded in the right hands… it is the mighty pen.”

I wish I could find the words to describe the following moments justice. It’s one of those “you just had to be there” scenarios. All of us were looking like “what the hell is happening right now?!” or as the cool kids supposedly say, “Is this real life?!” What a funny, strange man! His verbiage and mannerisms are classic. Add in his Kenyan accent and it’s like Night at the Comedy Club with Lee :P

“You see,” he continued. “When I have this, this pen I’m holding right here, yes, this one… when I have this, when I am wielding this pen you see here, it is not merely an ordinary pen. Suddenly… it becomes… something entirely more… than just… a regular pen… you see?”

He is what you would call a grade-A classic character. He shared his legendary pickup line: “Hi m’am. Do you have one second? I’d like to show you this cool new pen I have… or perhaps I could entertain you in letting you borrow it?”

Ironically saw this when I got home. Lee lives!
Ironically saw this back home a week after Kenya :D

He had us rolling in stitches! The girls tried to give him a few pointers in the right direction but Lee was adamant on keeping his pen routine. He claimed it yields him great success all throughout the land of Kenya. It was hard to tell whether this was part of his shtick, whether he was dead serious, or if he was just plain crazy. I guess that’s what makes Lee so special and endearing. You never knew what he’d say but whatever it was, you could be sure of one thing. You’ll be laughing. Sometimes with him, but most often, at him. And I think, that’s the whole point ;)

The best part though was when Lee left and we asked Pastor a burning question…

“Pastor, is Lee a pastor?”

“Lee?! Oh no. Good grief, NO.”

“Oh? We’ve been calling him Pastor Lee all night, and he never once said anything…”

“Of course not. Lee just likes having that title, and he’ll take it from anyone who gives it to him.”

We all looked at each other like “MAN! Bamboozled, by THAT fool?! F*cking Lee!”

The trip was sure to be memorable before Lee. After meeting Lee, I knew I would surely never forget these next two weeks…

Say hi, Lee! The Man, The Myth, The Legend
Say hi, Lee! The Man, The Myth, The Legend

BACK TO SERVING

These kids arrived even earlier than we did!
These kids arrived even earlier than we did!

Early the next morning we headed to a local church to work with the children there. They looked up to us as though we were rock stars. It was very humbling.

A tour of the place
A tour of the place

Walking through these cramped bare hallways reminded me quickly of how good I have it back home. And the small stuff I sometimes find myself bitching about? It’s nothing in the grand scheme of things.

A peek at one of the rooms we'll be teaching in
A peek at one of the rooms we’ll be teaching in
Reminded me of how much I take for granted at home
Reminded me of how much I take for granted at home
The slums of Kenya
The slums of Kenya

Our Kenyan helpers then took us to the rooftop where we saw the slums stretch out before our very eyes. It was a crazy sight! Later that day we visited the slums and sat in one to speak with one of the ladies. It was maybe 10×10 with no electricity. She lives with her five children all jammed up in there. Insane. The craziest part was when I spotted a baby crawling around in the mud on the road with no parent in sight. Being there in the slums really shifts your perspective. It just reminded me not to take things for granted and not to bitch over the small stuff too much as we humans sometimes have a proclivity to do.

Something a picture just doesn't fully capture
Something a picture just doesn’t fully capture

I’ll never forget sitting in one of those slum shacks. We were squeezed in like sardines. I was only there for 15 minutes. I can’t imagine living there. It was a good reminder that the next time I feel like complaining about little inconveniences (i.e. lack of parking spots, light just turning red, etc.) I really should think twice and be GRATEFUL instead. You see this stuff on TV but it doesn’t hit you until you walk through it in your own two shoes.

Love that kid's Michael Jordan impersonation!
Love that kid’s Michael Jordan impersonation!

While we were taking photos, some of the kids below spotted us and played to the camera!

Bless their little hearts. "WHAT UP LITTLE MAN?!"
Bless their little hearts. “WHAT UP LITTLE MAN?!”

They were so happy to see us. We were greeted and (in some cases) mobbed everywhere we went, like we were the Second Coming. It was nuts.

It's story time!
It’s story time!

It wasn’t long before our room filled up with kids. Manning this station was me, Jeff and Theresa. Our station was the Bible story telling hour. The kids were so well behaved and eager to hear us talk. We shared Acts 12:1-19 with them and acted out the story. I played Peter, Theresa played the angel and Jeff, bless that Kenyan’s good heart, played Rhoda the female servant, complete with girly voice and all. Needless to say, it was a big hit with the kids!

Jeff's quite the little thespian!
Jeff’s quite the little thespian!

The story tells us that Peter was in prison. Back home his people were praying for his safe return. When he actually did, Rhoda answered the door and was so excited that she ran back to let everyone know of Peter’s miraculous return. They told her she was out of her mind. You have to love the irony…

TAKE A CHILL PILL

Party riding back to Pastor's house
Party riding back to Pastor’s house

On the car ride home I sat in the back of the bus with one of our Kenyan friends. I love this dude. We called him E and he’s got the greatest laugh — well alright, it’s tied with Jeff. I just love how Kenyans have this fire and zest for life and laughing. So, E and I were just chilling in the back of the bus. We ended up sharing our testimonies to each other on the ride back to Pastor’s house. The topic moved to girls and E was sharing his angst (at age 20) to get a girlfriend.

“Yeah Steve, I can’t help it man. It’s been on my mind 24/7. I just want a girlfriend. Right now!”

“Man, just chill. You be alright. I tell ya, what I wouldn’t give to be 20 again. You got your whole life ahead of you… you’ll be just fine. In the meantime, trust me, take a chill pill on the ladies.”

“Good points there. I like you Steve. I like you a whole LOTS! *laughs his big laugh* Say, by chance do you have a chill pill?”

I pretended to dump a chill pill in his outstretched hand. “Need some water?” I added.

Right on cue, James, who sat one row ahead of us, offered E his water bottle without looking back. Amazing comedic timing! E and I burst out in laughter and one of the leaders up front said, “Sounds like they’re having a PARTY back there!” Good times.

SWITCHING IT UP

Spending the night at a new place
Spending the night at a new place

Later that night our team split up and slept in different places. We were working with different churches the next morning so pockets of us left to different locales that evening. It was just me, James, E and Isaiah who stayed at this other pastor’s house. It was a rainy night. This new house was much smaller and unlike the previous Pastor’s house we stayed at, this one was void of any electricity. We had to use flashlights to navigate our way around the house after dark. I really felt homesick that night. Nearly all of my team members were somewhere else and I had gotten used to the first Pastor’s house. This new place felt like we had stepped back into the Dark Ages. Before we headed off to bed, all six of us sat in the pastor’s living room area. We were cloaked predominantly in darkness outside the flickering of a few candles. Heavy rain whipped outside. It set quite the mood! I sat across from Isaiah and he started to share his testimony with all of us. I’ll never forget this. Isaiah is one of those guys who has a booming, commanding voice. He’s a big guy, too. The type that people naturally stop and listen to whenever he talks. I couldn’t see his face in the dark, but his booming voice reached out to all of us as we sat in that small dark living room.

Isaiah began sharing his testimony with us
Isaiah began sharing his testimony with us

“About three years back, I was hanging out with the wrong crowd. I was doing things I shouldn’t have done. Smoking things I shouldn’t have smoked. Taking things I shouldn’t have taken. One day my friends and I got into a fight with a rival group. Before I knew it, the silver glint of a 9mm gun blinded my eyes. Then I found my legs carrying me. I heard shots being fired off. They zipped right past my ear. I heard my friends crying out and the sickening THUD of their bodies hitting the floor. But there was nothing I could do. Nothing except run. I don’t know how I managed to escape with my life that day, except by the grace of God. At that moment, I knew God kept me alive because He still has plans for me to carry out. I gave my life over to Christ and made it my mission to work with the youth, help show them the right way from the wrong way. I know that’s the calling God has placed on my life and I’ve been happily living it out these past three years.”

Wow. Quite a powerful story. The heavy rain lashing against the windows, darkness all around us, it all enhanced the atmosphere. I could only just hear his booming voice. We’re so bombarded with visuals and technology. It was actually nice to just sit in the darkness and hear Isaiah share his story. It felt like I had stepped into a time machine as it did not feel like 2010. I no longer felt homesick after hearing his moving story. It’s amazing how a little light can brighten up even the darkest of rooms…

Nothing like the smell of  a brand new early morning :)
Nothing like the smell of a brand new early morning :)

The very next morning proved to be damp and moist thanks to the heavy rain throughout the night. It felt surreal just standing in the middle of the road, in this country, so far away from the comforts of home. On today’s agenda: we’ll be heading over to the local church to help hand craft some items for the kids to take home with them. We made thousands of them.

Each one was stuffed with cotton. Super mini-pillow!
Each one was stuffed with cotton. Super mini pillow!

EVERY TRIP NEEDS A LITTLE DRAMA…

Hello there, Rocksteady
Hello there, Rocksteady

During our two week trip we had one day off for pure sightseeing. We went to the museum, the zoo and we even did some shopping for family and friends back home. This was another crazy day because later that night during our daily share time before bed, one of the girls voiced her displeasure that we “wasted” a day where we should have been working with the kids to “make a difference.” I guess no trip is complete without a little drama and internal strife. It was dead silence in Pastor’s living room that night after she shared. After the initial shock of the raw comment wore off, we all shared our thoughts and it was actually quite the breakthrough. We were one week into our trip at that point, with one week left to go, and that night proved to be the catalyst for us bonding like a real team should. Something happened that night. And we realized we really needed to band together as a team to finish what we’d started.

One day sightseeing. Too much?
Sometimes you just need a day off to recharge

Later that night, in the privacy of guys’ room, James, the male team leader and I stayed up til 3 AM talking about it. The other guys had already passed out. James, T and I just laid there on our beds talking in the dark. James and I encouraged our leader, who was under extreme duress. The next morning an amazing thing happened. Around the breakfast table we were all laughing and talking excitedly about the day ahead. Not once was a word mentioned of the previous night. It was an unspoken catalyst that drew our team closer together. After all, if you can’t be honest with the folks in your fox hole, then who the hell can you be honest with?

FINISHING OUR MISSION STRONG

Compassion abounds in Kenya
Compassion abounds in Kenya

Our trip ended with a bang. One of my favorite memories was our last day working with the kids. In this story telling hour we reenacted Acts 3:1-10 where Peter heals a lame beggar in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. It was awesome because we had one of the boys volunteer to be the beggar. He sat there shaking and begging. But the best part of it all? The kids began coming up to him to offer whatever they had. That was NOT in the script! It showed the abundance of compassion these kids possess and how truly big their hearts are. Gotta love the little boy there looking on with a concerned look ready to lend a helping hand. I’m not ashamed to admit that witnessing this gave me goosebumps!

Farewell my friends! Until next time
Farewell my friends! Until next time

Our last day in Kenya was a bittersweet day. At the end we just played with the kids, did Red Rover and danced. I felt like I was 10 years old all over again. Before we piled into the team bus, they all tried to prolong the day. Some even asked if they could come back to the States with us. I’ll never forget their joyful faces and unabashed spirits. It’s an image that’s stuck with me ever since.

Each team member wrote appreciation notes for all
Eat your heart out, Shaolin Soccer

The night before we left Kenya we made envelopes for each other and taped them to the wall. Here we could write little notes of appreciation to one another. I felt like a six year old kid on Christmas Eve. That night we all sat around in Pastor’s living room, our last night together, writing our appreciation notes to one another. The only rule was you couldn’t read them until you were on the airplane. One of the girls drew this up for me, because well, I developed a certain reputation on the team. One day I was playing soccer with the Kenyan kids and I scored the winning goal with a mid-air karate kick. Didn’t mean to! I saw the ball flying in the air and I instinctively leaped, karate kicking the ball into the opposing net for the victory. Everyone was cracking up and the soccer karate kick stuck. Hey, I can think of worst things!

Good ol' James! Good dude
Good ol’ James! Good dude
You kick ass, James
You kick ass, James

SteveNote3

From James sister
From James’ sister
The female team leader
The female team leader
Theresa, my fellow story teller station buddy
Theresa, my fellow story teller station buddy

SteveNote4A

From one of the guys, Cool Joe
From one of the guys, Cool Joe
The male team leader
The male team leader
From Little Miss Dancer, Sharon
From Little Miss Dancer, Sharon
Ha! Classic Tim!
Ha! Classic Tim! :D

SteveNote6

From my dear sweet friend. Lee loved you didnt he?
From my dear sweet friend. Lee loved you didn’t he?
He sure did :P
He sure did :P
Thanks for the love, Lee. No, I dont need your pen!
Thanks for the love, Lee. No, I don’t need your pen!

SteveNote8-A

Wow, her note really touched me. Much love!
Wow, her note really touched me. Much love!

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Kenya was awesome. Loved the kids!
Kenya was awesome. Loved the kids!

The missions trip to Kenya back in the summer of 2010 was one of the best adventures of my lifetime, bar none. I was amazed by the sense of tight knit community the Kenyans have over there. They don’t have much technology but what they DO have is a tremendous amount of unwavering faith and love for one another. I was also insanely humbled by their hospitality and affection. They were so good to us and I like to think they taught us more than we taught them.

They love God and each other so much
This kid is working it!

This picture in some ways captures the essence of Kenya to me. They love God and each other so much. Their faith is inspirational. Take this little boy for example. He’s jotting down notes about a Bible lesson and he’s taking it all in. I was blown away. If you’ve never been on a mission trip before but have always considered it, or maybe you’ve been on the fence, then I hope this story inspires you to push through. And even if you don’t have any interest to go on one, I hope this story touched you in some way. I’m a big believer of paying it forward. Acts of random kindness makes this world such a better place for all involved. Be blessed, stay blessed and bless others! Cheers.

Thanks. And everyone else too :)
Thanks. And everyone else too :)

This song was all the rage at the time of our Kenya trip. It’s stuck in my head to this day and whenever I hear it still, I can’t help but think back to my times in Kenya over seven summers ago…