The Infamous Mentos Cat

Freshman year of college a group of friends and I found ourselves inspired. We we students at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY. Probably one of the most liberal of art schools in the United States, (and that’s saying something). Being college students and art geeks; we had both too much time on our hands and spare video equipment laying around. Not to mention over-active imagination and a deranged sense of humor.

Pratt is famous for a lot of things, one of them is the fully operational steam engine on campus. One of the oldest in the country, and one of very few still functioning. The engine room is located pretty much in the dead center of the campus and is – as any Pratt student or alumni will tell you – a haven for the massive stray cat infestation. Apparently the warmth from the engine room attracts them from the cold New York air. While all the cats were harmless, not everyone was a fan, as you soon will see.

What follows is a video dreamed up, shot, edited and rendered all in a one hour break between classes. It is something that caused a controversy for about a week and spread around campus like wildfire. For that week we were both loved and hated by much of the school, we were rockstars. It’s something, as sick and juvenile as it is that I’m still proud of to this day. Enjoy. (Quicktime 6 or higher is required, which you can find here.)

Watch The Video

(© Jeff Dodson, Max Cameron-Bell, Mike Safianoff, John Morrison and Marcos Landeros. Mentos is a registered trademark of Van Melle USA Inc. the individuals involved in this video and MediaRebellion.com are in no way affiliated with Van Melle USA Inc. This video is a parody, as allowed by US law. Please don’t sue.)

11/02/04 – Judgement Day

Go Vote!

Go vote for peace, vote for our safety, vote for prosperity, vote for our economy, vote for the people outside our communities, vote for our children, vote for our respect, vote for our troops, vote for our future, vote for our jobs, vote for our loved ones, vote for our firemen, vote for our education, vote for our environment, vote for those lost but not forgotten, vote to save democracy, vote to save the bill of rights, vote for sanity, vote for honesty.

Vote to correct a miserable failure.

Please, for yourself, for me, just go vote.

Vote to take back our nation.

MR interviews Pat Thetic of Anti-Flag at Warped Tour 2004

At this year’s Warped Tour on August 7th I got the opportunity to sit down and speak with Pat Thetic, the drummer from the politically charged Pittsburgh punk band Anti-Flag. Pat was generally an easygoing guy with strong opinions who was open for discussion and knowledgeable on pretty much anything we threw at him. We asked his thoughts mostly about Warped Tour (which was celebrating it’s tenth anniversary this summer), the state of the music industry and the upcoming election.

Pat Thetic of Anti-FlagAs you’ve probably heard, early this year Lollapalooza announced the cancellation of it’s tour due mostly to low ticket sales, what do you think sets Warped Tour apart?

I don’t really know. I would think that the ticket price for warped tour they’ve always tried to keep it as low as possible. I don’t know if thats the same for Lollapalooza. And I think the fact you get so many bands that kids still come out to Warped Tour. Lollapalooza bands play for an hour or whatever, at Warped Tour you get about 5 bands in an hour that you can go see. So I think for the money it’s a much better value. I don’t know if kids really think that, but I think there is just so much going on… it’s like an A.D.D.fest you can’t pay attention to one. For young people thats a better thing that seems to, in just my vision of it, (Lollapalooza) seems to be slower than Warped Tour.

What do you guys in bands like about warped tour? Why’d you decide to play this year?

It’s a traveling misfits show of outcasts and fuck ups and that sort of appeals to us. The fact is that there just is a whole bunch of people who don’t know what else to do with themselves. And the family that Warped Tour has sorta created is sorta a unique one. We like that there is a place for screwed up people to hang out for the summer.

Let’s talk about The Terror State, you guys worked with Tom Morello on this album..

We did

How did you meet up with him?

We did a tour with Rage Against The Machine in ’98-99, somewhere in there, it was The Battle of Los Angeles tour; their last tour. They called us up and said ‘Do you wanna do these shows with us’ and it was amazing and scary, ‘cuz it was like huge rooms, it was like stadiums err… arenas. So we got to know him there and when we were getting ready to record this record we were like ‘who would we like to work with?’ and the guy who has been most successful and believes the similar ideas as us and who we really like is Tom, ‘lets ask Tom to be involved’. So we sat down with him while we were on tour in LA and said ‘do you want to be apart of this?’ He said ‘yeah, I’d love to’ so it worked out, it was great.

How was it working with him?

He’s great, he’s got great ideas, he’s got influenced people and yeah he’s just an amazing person. And he’s just a cool dude other than that.

It seems like on this album you mixed more sampling into it? Did that have anything to do with Tom’s influence?

Not so much, more Tom’s influence was in the artwork and the original writing of the songs. In the end production he didn’t really have… He was like ‘yeah that sounds good’ or ‘no that doesn’t sound good’ but he didn’t come to us and say ‘you should put samples in or something.’ That was all stuff that we came up with on our own.

Alright, what do you guys think about new production methods? ProTools and Such?

Love it

Love it?

Love it, can’t get enough of it. As a drummer who grew up.. There are two types of people, there’s drummers and then there’s people who play drums. I’m more of a person who plays drums than a drummer. And ProTools is able to take poor performances and make them good. But what we try and do is get ideas out, and sometimes the performance gets in the way of somebody hearing the ideas. And the beautiful thing about ProTools is that you can clean the performance so people can hear the ideas and not hear that you’re out of key, or off time, or whatever.

You don’t think it waters down things at all? Like some bands are manufactured almost, like a Britney Spears sorta thing?

Well yeah. But she’s going to have a great sounding record no matter wether ProTools is there or not, they are gonna cut tape or whatever. For those of us, who… It’s also, we can create a better record for a lot less money which in punk rock world is very important. Actually, we have a ProTools rig at home, that cost very little money and we can do editing and stuff on our own just in our own office. So yeah, it’s really sort of like the germ warfare of music it has leveled the playing field of music, so that everyone has access to really good sound if they want to. I don’t know if that analogy translated but in my mind it makes sense.

You guys are known for your politics. How do you think the things that have gone on in the last year with things like Punk Voter and MoveOn.org how do you think it’s going to play out in this election. Do you think there will be a significant change in things?

I think it will. You know the poll numbers are like well: Kerry is down by three points or two points and Bush is up by two points or three points. But what those polls are taking into account is the voters who have voted in the last presidential election. I think that through MoveOn, I think through Punk Voter and those types of things, I think there are going to be a lot of voters who have never voted before who will actively vote and I think that those people will have a great impact on the election. I’m hoping.

I’ve been saying that for a long time and I finally heard Michael Moore say it on Larry King Live and I was glad someone else is thinking it. I read an article recently how Howard Stern is going to affect voters because he’s really under fire from the FCC and they were saying that most of the people that were into him are already from liberal areas where the state was already to go to the democrats. Do you think that may be true…

That may… The thing about Howard Stern is he’s got access to millions of people. And Howard Stern saying one thing can affect a lot of people. I know that Pittsburgh, which is where we’re from, has traditionally been a Democratic stronghold but in the last election it was close and we have Howard Stern on the radio in Pittsburgh so I think that he will have an impact with, again, people who are first time voters that never felt that their voice needed to be heard.

But do you really think that things like Warped Tour and Punk Voter are really going to reach people in conservative areas? Like Texas for example.

We go to.. We’ve plays alot of shows in Texas, and we’re doing a Punk Voter swing state tour. And so we are going to focus a lot of attention in the areas where people are traditionally more conservative than liberal.

In The Terror State you have an pamphlet that talks about taking back the Democratic Party. What made you guys really fall along part lines? Where as in the past it’s been..

Yeah, it’s sorta a change for us and it sorta leaves a bad taste in our mouth because we’re not big Democratic party fans. That pamphlet is not actually a pro-Democrat pamphlet that was a pro-leftist pamphlet, saying get these people in the Democratic Party and move them further to the left and present an opposition to the Republican Party not just Republican-lite. In having said that, four more years of Bush is too painfull for us to accept so we are helping to get rid of Bush, not really helping to elect Kerry.

Ideally who out of the Democratic Primaries would you have preferred?

(Dennis) Kucinich is an amazing dude. Kucinich was a great guy nobody gave him any attention, nobody gave him any press and it’s difficult to get the press unless you’re winning. It was interesting because Kucinich was running all the way until the convention but nobody paid any attention to him because Kerry had already won the election.

How do you feel about Nader’s involvement in this election?

Nader. People are always trying to villianize Nader and Nader is an American hero. Nader has done more for the American people than George Bush ever has. And I don’t think Nader is the enemy, and the Democratic Party is making him out to be the enemy and the Republicans are making him out to be the enemy. I think that he’s a hero and he needs to be received that way. And it’s just tragic that everyone has made him out to be the enemy.

Do you think it’s possible that Kerry could be elected and Nader could still get 5% in this election of do you think that it’s going to be closer?

I hope so. I hope that Kerry can get elected and that Nader can get 50% of the vote. If people get to hear what Nader has to say, they are gonna… as always, the American people are intelligent people, caring people and if they hear or have access to information they make the right decisions. And thats why the Democrats and the Republicans didn’t want Nader in the debates. My goal is for Nader, if not Nader than someone with similar views as Nader having a voice and being able to get those ideas out.

Let’s jump back to a bit of the industry stuff and then I’ll let you go.

Okay.

How do you guys, as a band, and you as a person feel about digital music? I don’t necessarily mean file sharing, I mean things like iTunes and stuff. I noticed that Fat and A-F Records’ content aren’t for sale there, is there a reason for this?

We are trying to be. (Editor’s note, since this interview was conducted much of A-F’s music has been added to the iTunes library) And I am interested in it, as a record company, and as a musician I want people to have access to our music. If people choose to do it digitally, I don’t care. Ultimately I want people to also have access to the information that we put in there, thats why we make records. The amazing thing about the internet age that we are in right now is that we can put out a record and then have a website that has, you know, pages and pages of information that we are passionate about. And thats an amazing thing. We don’t necessarily have to put the record out, we can just have the record come out digitally and the information be on the website. Then we’re saving resources, we’re saving trucks that have to ship around that’s an amazing world for me.”

Some bands, like Linkin Park for example have complained that it could kill the album format. That people wouldn’t listen to the whole piece and that’s what their ‘creative vision’ is.

And I understand that, but that means you have to write good music. You know Britney Spears, God bless her, she’ll be done. Because people will be like ‘alright downloaded the one song and I don’t care about the other 9 tracks of filler.’ You know, that’s our responsibility as musicians. If we can’t create songs that people want to hear, then fuck us, we’re not worth being around anyway.

That would have put someone like Lou Bega out of business.

Who’s Lou Bega? I don’t know who he is.

Mambo #5

Oh yeah. Yeah, exactly ya know, that’ll hurt the music industry. (laughs) I don’t give a fuck about the music industry. Ya know, if the people who like what we do are the kids who buy A-F records stuff, if they want to buy it in a different format and we can… or not buy it, but get it, in a different format and we can supply it to them then that’s fine with me.

Do you think that this will lead to a break up of the major music industry?

I hope so, sure. They are consolidating and getting more and more crap. Because they are only worried about record sales and they are like ‘oh I can sell more of Jessica Simpson or whatever the fuck she is, or uh whats her.. the new one, the little one’s name..

Ashlee..

Ashlee Simpson! Yeah so ‘we’re going to look for more people like Ashley Simpson’ Fuck that, that’s why we have independent music. Because we have people who care about music and ideas and not just about wether you can sell records or not. And I think the digital world has that ability a lot more, it levels the playing field, again.

So do you think, not necessarily for you guys, but for a different kind of band that is trying to make it big and spread there ideas. You guys are kinda ‘niche,’ you’ve expanded out of it, but do you think that it’s important to have the major labels there for bands to promote themselves, like a band like Less Than Jake.

No (laughs) I would love to not have the majors. I would love to not have radio that you have to spend two hundred thousand dollars, to get a song on the radio. I don’t wanna live in a world like that. I would much rather live in a world where ya know, if a song’s good it gets on the radio. We’re not in that world, if a songs ‘okay’ and it’s got $200,000 behind it kids have access to it.

But like a band like Rage, they kinda got their message by being on Sony.

Yes

And they probably wouldn’t have gotten as much of a following if they weren’t.

That’s correct.

Do you think that’s important?

No, I think good music, if everybody has an internet connection in their house, which at this point, it’s not true, but in the future, if everybody has access to an internet connection and can access to good music, people will find good music and good music will find people. And you don’t need some creepy dude in New York or L.A. to tell you wether it’s good or not and that’s an amazing world for me. I’m excited about that world.

Rebuttal to Enjoy the Silence 3

In his article “Michael Moore: Patriot or Treasoness”, staff writer Matt Van Dam makes some interesting points regarding Michael Moore and his actions as a writer, filmmaker and self proclaimed patriot. Given the release of his new film “Fahrenheit 9/11” this is a hot topic sparking some heated debate and I think it is deserving of BP’s first follow up article. It is suggested that you read Matt’s piece before reading this one because it is essentially a rebuttal, though I still feel it can stand on it’s own, so it is not required.

Not to offend anyone from the start with this article but the definitions Van Dam cites for a Patriot and a “Treasoness” are not only outdated, but also based on a monarchial system. These definitions are still based on when England’s government previously believed itself to be divinely appointed and therefore without fail. Keep that in mind, the definitions don’t really hold true in the US or in this day in age at all.

Now I feel I can safely say that anyone interested enough in politics can tell you that Moore does have his own slant to things. It is undeniable; while he might not be a liar he is masterfully manipulative of the facts and often leaves out details and tweaks things to fit his views. Despite that, I for one still view him as a patriot, I truly believe in most of Moore’s causes.

Most educated Americans, liberal or conservative, will admit our government has it faults and could always use improvement. Unfortunately though there will always be a lot of people that just don’t see it that way. Some have a bizarre denial that we can do no wrong; others have no idea of what’s going on, because previously they’ve simply been apathetic to such a thing. Moore’s target audience for Bowling For Columbine is these people. He tries to sort of “shock” people into realization of these disturbing situations. Regardless of my appreciation for Moore I’ll be the first to admit parts of it are very deceptive in their methods, but mean well, shock is a commonly used practice and a powerful one if used well. Matt’s claim that it gave him a very bad impression of the United States, while interesting and still relevant is mostly because he’s not the kind of person intended for the viewing of the film, he is not a disillusioned member of American society, therefore not the person Moore is trying to change the perspective of.

I enjoy Moore and I admire him greatly for his ability to pull things together beautifully, stand up for what he believes in and create such a convincing piece; written or visual. I honestly think his heart is in the right place but I won’t deny he does himself a disservice with his small twists and skewed facts in some regards. However, one could argue that his slant to things is really no better than the slant the United States government puts on things themselves, and I don’t think Moore is any better or worse for it in that respect.

That being said, there is one thing that makes me like, admire and trust Moore much more than anyone in our government: he’s really not doing this for himself. Sure he makes a hefty profit, but he gives the money back to his community, back to charities and into ongoing projects. He is consistently raising his target on more and more people he feels are hurting society, hurting the people of this nation and doing our forefathers a disservice. I’m not saying he’s not making a sweet profit doing this, because he does, and he’s the first person to admit it, but if all he was about was making money he wouldn’t devote so much time himself into things, running his website michaelmoore.com with daily updates and stressing himself with project after project, often admitting his faults and taking on more causes. You cannot say Moore is hardly resting on his laurels and just sitting back to collect a check. Moore is someone who works for his money, and at the same time he is doing something he loves and doing it for other people.

Now, I’m not saying Moore can do no wrong, because I feel he has a lot of faults both in his person and in his work, but that’s due to the fact that he is merely human like us all and we cannot hold him to any higher standard than we’d hold ourselves.

Let me get back on point. Matt makes the argument that under the definition of patriot that Moore is no patriot. According to Dictionary.com a Patriot is defined as: “One who loves, supports, and defends one’s country.” Matt claims that because Moore makes the United States look bad and points out it’s faults he is doing it a disservice and definitely not supporting or defending it. I disagree entirely; I feel Moore by pointing out the faults of our nation is helping strengthen it. His criticisms of its actions are in defense of it, of the true values of this nation’s foundation. To assume otherwise is to try and say our government is without fault and should not be questioned. Such a belief is pompous, ignorant and flat out wrong. As I so much love to point out our great (Republican) President Theodore Roosevelt even stated:

“To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.”

Society can only learn from its mistakes, history shows this clearly, so criticism should be welcomed and embraced. When you start trying to squash dissenting opinions you start to encroach on people’s liberties, and therefore lose sight of the original goals of this nation, the values it was built on and committing treason yourself, just because it is people in the government doing so (coughJohnAshcroftcough) doesn’t mean that it should be accepted as correct.

I know I’m going to be stretching here but much as the Declaration of Independence criticized the king of England for the good of the American people, Michael Moore’s attacks on the President, wrong or right, is done out of love for this nation, for the people, because he wants to see it improve. Moore, like you and I don’t want to see the US fall like many other systems before it. He is defending the United States in a way many don’t think to and therefore at least in my mind, a patriot.

“Out of the Blue and Into the Black”

There are often events in the course of history that define a generation. What happened on April 8, 1994 is one of those events. Despite what people will tell you it’s not April 5th, 6th or 7th that really had an impact. It was on April 8th that an electrician in a small town outside of Seattle, Washington called a radio station to announce he had discovered the body of Kurt Cobain in a room over the garage in a house owned by the deceased. But the house had been put up for sale. The details of Kurt’s death can be debated to the point of exhaustion; although it was ruled a suicide there is significant reason for some to believe there was foul play involved. The world had seen an alleged suicide, but more importantly a tragic ending to the life of an amazing person with a tortured soul. But it is not that controversy that I want to discuss or remember today.

Today, April 8, 2004, we mourn the 10th anniversary of Kurt’s passing, something that seems impossible to many, but is undoubtedly true. Love him or hate him, Kurt was the voice of a generation and he made an impact on society greater than many before him or since his death. The phenomenon that surrounded him was exactly what John Lennon meant when he claimed the Beatles were “bigger than Jesus.” There is no sacrilege in this comment; it’s merely a representation of popularity and of icon status. Kurt, to many, is beyond this, he has been placed on a pedestal and viewed as a deity of all things good and right about rock and roll. Ironically, this is not what the man would have wanted at all, but his death sealed that fate, just like Marilyn Monroe and James Dean before him. Kurt died young, in his prime and will forever be remembered as flawless, never hitting a decline like so many other artists.

One has to wonder if the achievement of flawlessness through early death was taken into consideration while whatever act was committed; be it suicide, murder or whatever. Though that thought alone stands against much of what Kurt believed and stood for. He was a humble man who simply enjoyed writing and playing music, it was well known that he hated his celebrity status and the worship that followed him. It bothered him so much that Kurt actually felt guilty for it, expressing often that he was not what everyone thought he was and that he really didn’t want to be a rock star. Yet it was inevitable, Nirvana was one of the biggest things to happen to music and western society since “The Twist”. Their impact on culture today is immeasurable and there is no telling how many people have been inspired by it or will be for days to come. The realization of this for Kurt was too much to handle at times and he would indulge in heroine and alcohol to relieve this suffering; as well as the persistent stomach pains that has followed him throughout life that were no doubt stressed and unaided by the pressures of life in the limelight.

Those who were a fan of Kurt’s work remember his death like our parents remember President Kennedy’s death and Martin Luther King’s death. Many of us can recite exactly what we were doing, where we were, and what we did following— it had that much of an impact on people. It is scary to think that there are two things in my life that have had and enormous impact on me: Kurt’s death and the events of September 11th. I am not by any means comparing the two, but I think it is very significant that those both stand out in my mind as evoking a similar series of emotions.

Why do we do this? What compels human beings to glorify movie stars and musicians to such an intense level so that their deaths have as much impact on our lives as the loss of thousands or the loss of a grandparent? Surely this must be yet another unhealthy side effect of our increasingly media driven society, but it’s one we’ve come to deal with, even adapt to and openly embrace. If it’s not Kurt, it’s Princess Diana or Jerry Garcia or so on. This just doesn’t seem right, but we justify it. We justify it based on how those people make us feel. Kurt’s wounded voice was something so many of us could instantly relate to, he spoke in riddles that somehow made sense of it all and tapped into many emotions some of us weren’t even aware we had. Kurt meant a lot of different things to a lot different people. For some he just created music. For others he created more than this, he gave them a voice, he gave them purpose and something to believe in.

While it is natural for us to do so, it is not my belief that April 8th should be remembered as sad day at all. I believe it should be a day on which we celebrate the impact of one man who really made a difference in a lot of people’s lives. While he was only with us briefly we should appreciate what he did during this short time for we were lucky to have it at all, a man who never wanted to make a difference at all, who inadvertently made the world a better place if only for a moment by just being himself.

“My my, hey hey
Rock and roll is here to stay
It’s better to burn out
Than to fade away
My my, hey hey.

Out of the blue and into the black
You pay for this, but they give you that
And once you’re gone, you can’t come back
When you’re out of the blue and into the black.

The king is gone but he’s not forgotten.
Is this the story of Johnny Rotten?
It’s better to burn out ’cause rust never sleeps
The king is gone but he’s not forgotten.

Hey hey, my my
Rock and roll can never die
There’s more to the picture
Than meets the eye.”


-Neil Young “My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue)”

Soundtrack to Life – Good Luck and Best Wishes, Aki-Bee

‘eeeeeyyyyy! Welcome to the first installment of Soundtrack to Life on the brand new BP site. Most of you are familiar with the run down, but I see a few new faces in the crowd, so allow me to explain. We all have songs that remind us of important times in our lives, whether the song was playing at the time or the lyrics hold a specific meaning. What would our lives be without a soundtrack? I encourage the readers to send in their stories about a song and what it reminds them of. By the time this is posted, John should have put up the entire archive of my work, so you can take a look at what I’m looking for. You get full credit for the story, unless you wish to remain anonymous. Anyways, let’s kick things off with a story about one of our own.

——————————————————–

Good Luck and Best Wishes, Aki-Bee
“The Brightest Bulb Has Burned Out”/”Screws Fall Out” by Less Than Jake

Along the course of our lives, we meet a plethora of different people. Most, we never get the chance to know. Others we know will become tight allies. Still others, bitter enemies. This story is about one of those people who you never thought would make a huge difference in your life, but they did.

Starting early on in life, you tend to look for those on the playground who have similar interests and allign yourself with them. For me, it was videogames. Though this deemed me a nerd, I found my allies in the 2nd grade. Scott, Nick and Jason were the primary three. We all did the same things; videogames, Hot Wheels, and Cub Scouts. At seperate times, I was in the same den as each of them. We’d invite eachother over on weekend nights, do all those fun things we did when we were kids and sleep over on the occassion. In 3rd grade, Nick left, went south to Kentucky. Over the years, I’ve lost touch with him, but from the sounds of it we’ve both walked very different paths.

Our favorite past time, amidst our entire circle of friends was night games, particularly capture the flag. This was always played at either Scott or Jason’s house. Scott’s yard was rather uneven, the backyard was a high hill which sloped all the way to the ditch at the end of the front yard. So more often than not, we played at Jason’s. Scott had an older sister that stayed out of our business. Jason, however, had a little sister, who was always interested in whatever it was we were doing. This was Aki (I’d say her real name, but I think she’d stab me for that). She quickly became the tag-along annoying kid sister I’d never met.

Normally, I had no problem when she got involved, as I am an agreeable guy and just like to avoid arguments (you know, the typical “You can’t come with.”/”Why not?” argument oft held between siblings). Occasionally, the games would get a little rough and she’d have to run inside, but we’d include her anyways, even if it was against her mother’s wishes, on a school night. Usually in these games, she’d team up with Scott. Scott was the athlete and looker of our group, so it’s no surprise she stuck to him at all times. And they’re favorite target: Me. I was probably the most out of shape guy there, aside from when we brought Musse in. So, Scott would sho me up and mock me, and Aki would do the same. That kinda thing get’s on a fella’s nerves. But what did I care? She was a kid, she didn’t know any better.

Then, I believe it was the summer of ’98. Our first game of the year and there she was again. Let the taunting commence. But it didn’t. She didn’t take a shot at me the whole night, despite being on different teams. She and I actually talked peaceably when we did talk. It was as if she’d become a completely different person over the span of a few months. Our group didn’t treat her as a burden anymore, but rather invited her out on a few ventures. Whatever it happened to be, whether it was capture the flag or another board game night, she was usually with us. I’d never seen her as a potential friend, expecting her to go live her own life, but all that was changing.

After Scott’s accident in the early days of ’99, our group became much more tightly knit, doing all that we could together. Jason and his family had moved to a new place, not too far from Regner park. And so lays the scene for one of the most memorable nights in my life. July 4th, 1999. I was bored, had nothing better to do, so I decided to see what was happening locally. I knew the fireworks were gonna be held at Regner that night, and I figured I might find a few people I knew there. Sure enough, there was Jason and Aki with their family and Adam’s family, all there on the shore. So, I sat with them for the show. From where we sat, the fireworks couldn’t have been launched 50 yards away. It was a nice pleasant show. And then, one shell exploded too close to the ground.
“That’s not supposed to happen.” I thought.
The sparks from the blast ignited many of the remaining shells, and everyone could only watch in horror as the finale blew up on the ground. As this happened, we pulled back to the water, about as far as we could go. It was just unreal. Then we heard Aki, crying and screaming. Apparently, one of the cinders hit her in the back. We aren’t sure to this day if it actually happened, she isn’t even sure. There was no burn mark and no sign of an ember. As her mom calmed her down, we collected our group and walked to Jason’s. When I got there, I was glad to see she’d calmed down. She joined us in a game of Risk that night, it came down to me and her, and not to boast, but I won. Throughout the game, somehow it became a joke about stabbing me. Aki runs upstairs and comes back down with her hands behind her back.
“What do you have?”
“Noooothing.”
“What are you hiding?”
“Nooooothing.”
She then chased me around the basement with several butcher’s knives. I had to disarm her several times that night. It’s been a running gag (no pun intended) ever since. Things changed between us from here on out.

2000 was the big year for our clique. We graduated highschool, Jason had introduced me to the punk lifestyle, and we had a big roadtrip planned for the summer. More and more, Aki had become a part of the clique. As we looked at it, we noticed something about the family history. Jason’s older sister, Bean, was held under strict rules, she wound up rebelling and leaving. Jason was also held under these rules, he was already rebelling and about to leave. With Aki, it was just a matter of time. So, we decided to liberate her. Occasionally we’d talk her mom into letting her come with us, and other times, we’d sneak her out. It was convenient, because even with a full car, we could find somewhere to fit her. She is small after all. Often times, we’d fit her in the leg space for the passenger side seat. We’d take her to Webb’s, out on grocery runs, and just any other place that we’d frequent. She was very thankful to be getting out of the house for once.

One February night, in 2001, I got a call.
“Joe?”
“Yeah?”
“This is Sam.”
“Oh hey, what’s going on?”
“Look um, I know you’re a responsible guy, and well…. Something happened to Aki while under my care.”
“What happened?”
“I…. I don’t know. I think there’s something wrong with her head.”
“Did she hit her head or something?”
“I dunno. Could you take a look at it please?”
“Well, I’m not exactly a doctor and I dunno if you should really be drawing attention to this place, but I’ll see what I can do.”
“Okay, thanks. We’ll be right over.”
So, I got my boots on and went outside. I paced at the top of the driveway, worrying, wondering what could have possibly happened. I was expecting Sammy to be carrying Aki out of the car, helping her to stand. Sam pulls up and I meet them half-way down the driveway. Aki is walking fine, she has a hoodie on with the hood up.
“Alright, what happened?” At this point I was worried, not that I wasn’t already, but I was losing my cool. Aki takes her hood off to reveal…….. blonde/orange hair. It was a joke, all at my expense. Her hair used to be a very dark brown. They’d bleached her hair and wanted to see how flustered they could make me. Mission accomplished girls. I joined them later as they dyed her hair to the now infamous Aki Blue. I went home, and I wished her luck with her mom, cuz I knew her mom wouldn’t like it.

In October of ’00, Aki joined us at the Haunted House, teaming up with her new friend Lara. They terrorized the elevator while I stalked the hallways. They were working the Legacy room once while I was walking through the E tunnel, banging on the wall to scare our guests.
thump
thump
thump
thump
“Hey! Who turned out the light?!”
“Uh oh!” and I flee the scene of the crime.

2001 I took on a job at Hardees with Tia and Aki. They were the ones who coerced me to apply there. It was during this time that she gained the name Aki, after people saw a resemblance between her and Dr. Aki Ross on the movie “Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within”. She went to the Warped Tour that year and suffered a concussion in the Less Than Jake pit. This is where she picked up another trait from the movie, furthering the use of her name Aki. She would faint every now and then. People, namely me, would rush to her and ask if she was alright. Her response always was and still is “I’m fine.” This became rather frustrating during work when she’d sporadically pass out. Still, though I was concerned, I find it humorous now.

She joined us again at the 2001 haunted house, often times working with me in the kitchen. Usually though, she hid in the hallways or above the stairwell. When her mom came in we had fun with her. Everyone in the house singled her out.

Up until this point, we’d shared moments like these, but we still didn’t know each other all that well. The following spring, I was out cruising the town. I was just leaving Blockbuster as Aki and Gage came in. I opted to stick around and if nothing else walk with them for a while. We wandered around the store, talked, eyed up a few movies but wound up leaving. We walked toward Aki’s house and Gage went his own way, so I decided to walk Aki home. It had been raining on and off so she welcomed me to stay so the rain could pass. We were gonna go out elsewhere, but she wasn’t feeling well. So, we wound up sitting at her place from about midnght to 4:30 in the morning, just talking. We learned a lot about each other that night, and since then, it’s been as though we’d known eachother for years. Well, it kinda has really, since I’ve known her since she was yay-tall. Dunno if that analogy really works with her, since she isn’t much yay-taller. Man, two short jokes already. I’m gonna die.

There are so many more stories, but I wager you haven’t the patience to read them all. So, I’ll just touch on them briefly.
-Many nights at the Haunted House, working the same room.
-Tuesday night coffee nights at Webb’s.
-Promising redemption against the man who raped her.
-Her calming me down when things were going to shit in my house.
-Her roadtrip to Oklahoma.
-Being there for her through the fireworks on the 4th of July this year.
-Her graduation party.

It’s all been quite odd. Back when I first met her, I’d never imagined we’d even be friends. I’d just kind of thought, an afterthought really, that she’d have her friends, I’d have mine, and we’d live our own seperate lives. In the past three years we’ve shared so many things that had you told me I’d be doing them with her back when she was the annoying little girl who loved to tease me, I’d say you were insane. Whew, that’s a mouthful. But it’s odd how the threads of fate intertwine. She’s gone from one of my good friend’s kid sister, to my most trusted friend. As the years went on we’d seen each other through many trials and tribulations, in fact we still do now. We’ve both lived our hard lives, and thankfully, we’ve been here for eachother.

It came as little surprise to me that she graduated from highschool a whole year early. She’d been telling me that that was the plan all along, get out as soon as posible. She hit up many places in town for a job and eventually landed one at a local restaurant as a waitress. It didn’t last and was soon in the search again. We don’t have the greatest job market in West Bend, so when you need one, they’re hard to find. We couldn’t find anything, and that’s when she approached me with her plan. She would move down to Milwaukee to get her life started. The thought bothered me at first. She was my last remaining tie in this city. Who would I have when she left? But that all gave way to how proud I was of her. Not many people can say that they graduated at 17 and willingly left their home and comfort to get their life started. I’m not the kind of guy to throw a party, but I figured she deserved a party in her honor if she was leaving, and I had the accomidations to do so.

The shopping list consisted of watermelon, Doritios, Milller Genuine Draft, Smirnoff Ice, and Mike’s Hard Lemonade. We spent the majority of the night out by a roaring bonfire, chatting and drinking. It was a small gathering, but a gathering none the less. It was supposed to be her final night in town, so it was a nice sendoff. Just before she left, I insisted on playing a song for her. I could have sang it, but that would have been too sappy. The song:

“The Brightest Bulb Has Burned Out”/”Screws Fall Out”
by Less Than Jake

You told me that your 20 years have gone by much to fast
And you’ve been hopin’ this year will be better than the last
You said you’ve been wagin’ a war against the loneliest of nights
With the strongest drinks and longest lines
Well it’s not that big a surprise
That you’re feelin’ more dead than alive
You’ve feelin’ more dead than alive

So I’ll let you know
If you need, somewhere to go
I’ll be listening when you call
And I’ll be there if you fall off
If you need someone to believe in you
I’ll let you know I will.

You said the whole in your head has gotten bigger than the hole that’s in your chest
And you’re stuck between the past and present tense.
You say you’ve been wagin’ a war against so many years of lies
With stronger drinks and longer lines
Well it’s not that big a surprise
That you’re feelin’ more dead than alive
You’re feelin’ more dead than alive

So I’ll let you know
If you need, somewhere to go
I’ll be listening when you call
And I’ll be there if you fall off
If you need someone to believe in you
I’ll let you know I will.
I’ll let you know I will.
I’ll let you know I will.

But sometimes…….
Ya gotta let it go!!!

So this pen is starting to become
A pipe bomb and these songs
Have turned to anthems again
To everything that’s changed and to everything that’s gone away
Here are my condolences tot he future I never met
It’s gone and never coming back, it’s not coming back
So don’t hold on to your past, you gotta let it go

‘Cause friends leave as time fades away
The people and the places along the way
Without a doubt
Screws fall in and screws they fall out

Tomorrow’s gone up in smoke
And I wonder when I’m alone
Where’d my convictions go
So to everyone that’s gone away
Or fades away or stays the same
Here are my apologies to the person that I used to be
Before I burned down every bridge and every inch
Of everything I used to know, I gotta let it go

Friends leave as time fades away
The people and the places along the way
So don’t hold on to your past
No, it’s never coming back, you gotta let it go

I just wanted to send her off with the message that I’d always be there no matter what, and she shouldn’t worry herself needlessly with the past she’s leaving behind. She said it meant the world to her.

Since that time, I’ve been out there to visit her a few times. She’s doing well, has a job at Claire’s, living at her dad’s, but still gets out every night whether it be for coffee or whatnot. The reason I’ve been down there lately, well, she’s breaking me out of this town. Within a few short week, I’ll be joining her in Milwaukee. That’s right, we’re gonna be roommates. We’re looking at a place later today, and hopefully we can seal the deal shortly thereafter.

Did I do this column to stoke her ego or win favor with her? No. I did it simply because she’s an amazing human being and has changed my life for the better. We all have friends such as these I hope. I just wanted you to see her through my eyes. If she were to die before I do, I’d no longer fear death. Be there a heaven, and she couldn’t get in on her merit alone, she’d sweet talk her way in, trust me. Then one by one, as her loved ones joined her, she’d sneak us all in.

Soundtrack to Life – (Guest author: Aaron Rhoades)

This week’s guest author is our own Aaron Rhoades. Though it’s not one set storyas this column has been in the past, but it does cover the very premise of this column. In this week’s column he discusses how music has influenced his life throughout the years. Enjoy folks.

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As far back as I can remember, I’ve always loved music. It has always been a very big part of my life and has helped me through some hard times. From breakups with girlfriends to deaths in the family, music has always been there to get me through. Call it crazy, call it strange, but it’s like an invisible friend. A friend who speaks to me about problems and feelings, and tells me everything is going to be okay. A friend who tells me tomorrow will be a better day. I love music, and this is my story. I hope you read this all the way through and that you leave with something after doing so. Whether it be the satisfaction of reading a good story, or a realization of just how important music is in our day to day life. This is the story of a music lover, enjoy.

Who’s Bad?

I remember when I was very young, I would always hear my mother and my grandmother playing music. Mostly country music, which isn’t my preference now, but back then I didn’t care. It was music and I liked it. One of my favorite songs was by Kenny Rogers, The Gambler. I used to love hearing that song. Even Christmas songs, which I now find extremely annoying, brought joy to me. Every time Grandma Got Ran Over By A Reindeer would play on the radio, I would call my grandmother to tell her. I got such a kick out of it. Speaking of Christmas, that reminds me of when I got my very first cassette tape. I don’t remember which album it was, but I do know it was a Jackson 5 album. I would guess I was probably about 7 at this time. That Christmas when I got that tape, I was so excited. I was all about Michael Jackson. I had the Beat It T-shirt, the Michael Jackson doll, and hell I even had the leather jacket from the Beat It video. Now I had the tape to go along with it all. I listened to that tape over and over again. I was into Michael Jackson for a while and I even got the Thriller album, on vinyl! I sure wish I knew where that album was now.

Let It Rock

Once my Michael Jackson obsession passed, I was introduced to rock music. Through my cousin, who played Bon Jovi’s album, Slippery When Wet, while he was visiting, I was turned onto to a different type of music. I loved it! Songs like You Give Love A Bad Name, Livin’ On A Prayer, and Dead Or Alive grabbed me by the arm, pulled me in and never let me go. I played them over and over again until I memorized each and every single word. It was like a snowball effect after that. Bon Jovi led to Poison, Whitesnake, and Motley Crue. Yeah, the fucking Crue. I remember seeing the pentagrams on the cover of Theatre Of Pain and thinking I would never be aloud to get the album. But I did and let me tell you, I thought Smoking In The Boys Room was the coolest song ever. These guys who were wearing make up, spandex, long hair, and earrings were singing about something that I knew damn well was against the rules. How could that not be cool to a 10 year old? Sure, that’s nothing compared to the song content now and those bands for the most part are forgotten. Back then though, they were everything to me. I remember emptying out my bank and counting out pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters until I had about 10 dollars just so I could go buy a new cassette. Mostly I only listened to a few select bands. Poison, Whitesnake, Motley Crue, Def Leopard, Bon Jovi, and some Kiss. I had a toy microphone with a stand, as well as an electric guitar that I couldn’t play for shit. Not to mention most of the strings were broken and it was beat all to hell. Me and my friends would get together in my garage with the stereo and we would pretend to be playing the music. We would do this for hours, and we had a kick ass time. Later on, I was introduced to a new band.

You’re In The Jungle Baby

This band wasn’t like the others that I had listened to. They were different. Not only because they didn’t wear make up and spandex, but their sound was different as well. It was raw, aggressive, harsh and in your face, and it fucking rocked harder than anything I’d ever heard before. I’m talking about Axle, Izzy, Duff, Steven and Slash…Guns N Roses. One listen to the song Welcome To The Jungle and I was hooked. They provided an edgier sound than what I was used to, as well as the occasional semi-sappy ballad such as Sweet Child O Mine. I liked how they weren’t afraid to say what they wanted to in their music. Appetite For Destruction was the album that introduced me to the harder side of rock, called metal. I started watching Headbangers Ball on MTV and was turned on to many other metal bands like Iron Maiden, Megadeth, Testament, and Skid Row. Every Saturday night, I was glued to the television watching those videos and jamming along to every tune. While I still enjoyed bands like Whitesnake and Poison, I got more and more into the harder bands I was seeing every Saturday night. I was soon turned onto a band who most people would consider the saviors of heavy metal, Metallica. The first album I heard by them was …And Justice For All and it kicked my ass like nothing else had before. The music was fast and it hit hard as hell. I eventually picked up Kill Em All and then later I got the Black album. I pretty much stopped listening to them after that album. While I’ll always respect what these guys have done for heavy metal, I don’t care too much for their music anymore. Their latest album, St. Anger, is terrible and I honestly wish I had never wasted my money on it. All of the hype of how the old Metallica had returned and got my hopes up I guess, and I was let down. That’s my opinion though. Some people agree with me and some people don’t.

Rollin’ With The Lench Mob

It was late 90, or early 91 and I was in the sixth grade when I bought my first rap album and was turned onto something entirely different. Ice Cube, Amerikkas Most Wanted was the album. I can still remember my Mom being so pissed when I popped it into the cassette player in the car after she bought it for me, not knowing what it was. The intro featured a guy going to the electric chair, and when asked if he had any last words, his reply “Fuck all ya’ll. She was not too pleased, but agreed to let me keep it if I didn’t let my Dad find out. I had never heard rap music before until now. I was immediately hooked and soon forgot about heavy metal. Ice Cube, NWA, and Public Enemy were the first three rap acts I got into. They talked about real things and said what was on their mind. I really liked that. Even though I couldn’t relate to most of the things they were rapping about, I still respected what they were doing. Of course being a white kid who listened to rap, I wasn’t exactly popular in my school of mostly white students. I heard the word “wigger” more than a few times during the day. I didn’t give a shit though, because I loved the music. If I wanted to block out the bullshit I had to put up with, all I had to do is turn up the volume on my discman. I learned about most of the music through the MTV show, Yo! MTV Raps. I watched it religiously, just as I had Headbangers Ball not too long ago. This was the only place to really catch any rap videos at the time, and I really embraced it. It was my only source for discovering new rap artists. Yeah, I watched MTV to learn about new music…sue me. That’s how I learned about all of the rap artists I was into, like Ice T, Too Short, Spice 1, and many others. Rap City was introduced on BET later on as well and they played a lot of the videos that MTV didn’t. I saw a video one day that really caught my attention and I had to run out and get the album. The video was for the song Trapped by 2Pac and the album was 2Pacalypse Now. I loved this album so much. I listened to it over and over and over in my Walkman. So many different emotions are covered on this album, as well as on all of Pacs other albums. He could go from a song like Violent where he talked about killing cops, to a song about teenage pregnancy like Part Time Mutha. I followed Pacs career up through the years, through all of his albums. His music touched me like no other rapper ever had, and I honestly feel he’s the greatest rapper ever. Again, just my opinion. When he died, I honestly felt like I had lost a friend. Still to this day, after he’s passed on, if a Pac album comes out then I’m there to get it on release date. I was later introduced to an album called 99 Ways To Die by a rapper called Master P. This isn’t the rapping alongside his son, ice on my wrist, gold plated fucking mansion Master P that most people know now though. It was about real shit, not how much gold was around his neck. The shit was hot, and I soon began grabbing other No Limit Records albums. Tru, Silk The Shocker, Mia X, and Kane & Able. Their southern style wasn’t like what was out at the time, and it was a breath of fresh air from most other stuff. However, they all got too big for their own good and soon money, cars, and jewelry consumed every single song. Cash Money Records came along too, and they were similar to No Limit. Similar style, released a new album by one of their artists like every damn month. I was into them for a bit too, until I realized it was all becoming the same. Rap became stale and boring to me and I just didn’t enjoy it anymore. It was then that I got into punk rock.

Change of Ideas

It hasn’t been that long since I got into punk music. Two years to be exact, but I’ve gotten quite an extensive collection of albums since then. The first punk album I bought was Blink 182 Take Off Your Pants And Jacket. I know, Blink’s not punk rock, right? Whatever. Like it or not, they are a form of punk rock. This album stayed in my CD changer for the longest time. It was so damn catchy and addictive, I had to have more. I scooped up all of Blinks albums and soon began looking for more punk rock. From Blink 182 I got into other bands like NOFX, Pennywise, and Bad Religion. I was and still am addicted to this music. I love every bit of it. The same thing that attracted me to rap in the sixth grade, also attracted me to punk music. It was real. Of course, the age old argument that punk is dead is bound to come up, right? Well, I don’t think it’s dead, just evolved. You know what they say about opinions though.

Unity

Music, regardless what genre I listened to at the time, has always been a big part of my life. When I was a little kid, I could pretend I was a huge rock star and live out that dream in my garage while jamming along to a Def Leopard album. In High School, rap music was my escape from the bullshit reality I had. Not fitting in at school and a fucked up home life with an alcoholic father. As soon as I put my headphones on, it all went away if only for a short amount of time. When my grandmother, who helped raise me, passed away when I was 18, music helped me through it. I would put on a song by Patti Loveless, called How Can I Help You Say Goodbye and listen to it over and over. When I was 19 and my girlfriend of 3 years moved away to Florida, I must’ve listened to the R. Kelly CD a thousand times in a row. Mainly one song really, called If I Could Turn Back The Hands Of Time. Recently, when my father passed away, I turned to music to help me through things. A song called One More Day by the country band Diamond Rio was played at his funeral, and it makes me think of him every time I hear it. When I’m pissed off, I can pop in some punk or some metal and just go fucking crazy and rock out for a bit. It helps me to get out some aggression, and maybe even keeps me sane. When I’m sad, I can pop in some Less Than Jake, Blink 182, or some other good time bands and it helps to lift my spirits. From good times to bad, music has always been there. I now listen to a wide range of music, consisting of punk, metal, a little bit of rap, and some things in between. If you look at my CD collection, which is rounding out around 600 right now, you’d see a very diverse collection. I’ve got Lil Kim, Snoop Dogg, 2Pac, Biggie, Simple Plan, Good Charlotte, Rancid, Ozzy, Staind, Disturbed, Operation Ivy, Anti-Flag, Blink 182, Toby Keith, Tim McGraw, R Kelly, Ice Cube, Slipknot, Finch, The Used, MXPX, AFI, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Alkaline Trio, Snapcase, Brotha Lynch Hung, and Nas…all on the same CD shelf. How’s that for wide range musical taste? Like I said, I love music. If it sounds good to me, I’ll listen to it and it won’t matter to me what the guy sitting next to me thinks about my choice in music. I see a lot of competing, for lack of a better word, in music today. The punkers don’t like the emo kids, the metal heads don’t like the punkers, the hip-hop heads don’t like the metal heads or the punkers, and there’s all sorts of resentment directed towards people who are into pop music, commonly referred to as “teenie-boppers.” I’ve been guilty of this at times as well. What it all boils down to is, it’s all music. It’s a part of each and every one of our lives, whether we agree on one another’s choices or not. With all of the bullshit going on in the world today, it seems that music is the one thing that should unite us all. Someday, it might be all we have.

Aaron Rhoades

‘Gambino’

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Got a story you’d like to tell about a song that’s in the Soundtrack of your life? Don’t post it on the board. Email it to me and I’ll put it in my column. Stories will be posted in the order that their received. I don’t play favorites. All I ask is that you make sure the spelling and grammar are in fine order.
Email your stories to: loki@baloolapalooza.com

Soundtrack to Life – A Tribute to a Friend

So, I’ve been on a six week hiatus from this column. Like I said, it’s not like a lotta ya read it. But I guess I had a loyal fanbase and that really shouldn’t be denied. So, I have returned from the grave to bring you more stories, and hopefully, you can send me yours, yes?

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A Tribute to a Friend

“Hammering in My Head” by Garbage

It all began in the spring of ’98. Having turned 16 the previous winter, Scott was the first person in our little clique to get his license. This was big for us because it increased where we could go and when we could go. Still, we spent a lot of time at Jay’s place, finding some game to play (ie. Capture the Flag). We’d created a wide variety of games to play so the days were always full. On one of these days, around the time Scott got his license, we were goofing around, playing one of these games when Scott made a dash for his van. He began to make a getaway when he stopped at the corner and called for me to get in. I somehow got ahead of the others and jumped in. He turned on the CD player as we sped off down the block. The song playing was “Hammering in my Head” by Garbage. Since then, I’ve always felt that to be a cruising tune, and the thought of it just takes me back to that day.

But that’s hardly the story here, just a minor portion of it. See, Scott was one of the most popular guys in school. He coulda had any girl he wanted and had friends in all forms of social cliques. I was lucky enough to have known the guy since we were in 2nd grade. That summer, we’d often be at his place, another bonfire party. I remember one in particular, in the fall though, shortly after school had begun that year. People of all walks of life meandered about the yard. Me, I was flat on my back staring up at the stars. A beautiful night. Later we wandered down the street by the old church and ran into another party that was wandering through a field. I think they were looking for someone’s keys. Adam let one of the girls take his car for a test drive. She returned with the rear bumper in the trunk. Tore it off on a mailbox as she was backing out of the driveway. We all had a good laugh about it. As our party died down, we heard rumors of another bonfire in the area. We decided we were gonna crash it. We never found it. We asked a few bars, witnessed a fight in one of the parking lots and wound up wandering an unfamiliar neighborhood. Just a stellar night.

Things were gonna be alright. Everything was right with the world. Suzan had stopped harassing me, and I actually had a social life now. And then, late at night on January 1, or was it 2? I dunno. But it was early ’99. I’d been chatting it up on Battle.net for a good portion of the night and was ready to go to bed. I was about to log off ICQ when Jay sent me a message.

“Scott was just in a bad accident. They had to rush him to Froedtert.”

He’d been driving, heading to Jay’s house when he hit an icy patch. He went into the ditch, but was able to recover and get back on the road. Unfortunately, the car coming from the other way couldn’t stop. He hit the driver’s side door, slamming Scott’s head into the window.

Around here, if you gotta be taken to Froedtert, you got fucked up. I knew that. I walked off to bed, blank faced. I never told my family what had happened. I slept fitfully, praying that he pulled through.

I found out the next day that he’d made it……. but, he was in a coma. When my family found out, I’d told them I hadn’t mentioned it because I just didn’t want to talk about it. This was Scott! The picture of perfect health. This guy was just amazing, and now he was clinging to life. I couldn’t fathom it. I don’t remember how long it took, but he eventually came out of the coma. I didn’t get to see him until April.

The whole clique came down to see him where he was rehabilitating. Awake, yes, but he was bed ridden. How conscious was he? I wondered. I thought they’d take us into his room where he’d be lying there and we could stand at his bedside. Instead, we took a seat in the cafeteria and they wheeled him out in a wheelchair. Here he was, a star track athlete, a ladies man, the king of charisma and just an all around great guy……. helpless. He sat there, head restrained so he didn’t have to support it himself, expressionless, pale, and not moving an inch. Occasionally he’d let out a zombie-esque moan. I did my best to look positive, but I could hardly even look at him. Literally a shadow of his former self. I felt sick. This wasn’t right. This wasn’t fuckin’ right……

It’s been 4 years now, nearing the fifth anniversary of that night. I still can’t believe that this is what has become of my friend. He has vastly improved over the years, but he still has a long way to go. He’s still in his wheelchair, can barely control his legs and arms and has a hard time keeping his head up. He can speak, but very slowly and very slurred. A lot of the time that I see him nowadays I require a translator. The one positive thing I can note is that, well, he’s still in there. The accident cost him his motor skill but he still thinks, acts, and talks like he did before the accident. When I visit, we usually play Magic. He needs someone to handle the cards for him, but he can still beat my ass on most any given day. It’s still not certain as to whether or not he will recover 100%, and sadly, I have my doubts.

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Got a story you’d like to tell about a song that’s in the Soundtrack of your life? Don’t post it on the board. Email it to me and I’ll put it in my column. Stories will be posted in the order that their received. I don’t play favorites. All I ask is that you make sure the spelling and grammar are in fine order.
Email your stories to: loki@baloolapalooza.com

Soundtrack to Life – "Friendly" Competition

Hey look, it’s done on time. Betcha didn’t see that coming. Looks like a slow news week as there’s only one article seperating this one from last week’s addition. I’ve decided this week to go again with something a little more universal. Granted, I have a few songs that can go with this one as there’s a few different spins on this story, but I feel this is the better way of doing it. It’s another montage of stories. Enjoy.

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“Friendly” Competition

“West End Riot” by The Living End

Our story begins in the early 80’s in Barton Wisconsin on a little street known as Kettle View Drive. This spans many a year and many people are involve. So, to prevent a complication of matters, we’re gonna start with a cast of characters.

The Nichols family: My family. We’ve been on this street longer than any of the other families in this story.

Me – No introduction really necessary. Back then I was the neighborhood wuss.

Pat – My older brother, and at that time, rolemodel. One of the street “Ringleaders”

Tim – My younger brother and probably the strangest kid on the street.

The Bertram family: Our next door neighbors. Moved in a year or so after we did.

Nora – The oldest kid in the family and one of the oldest kids on the street. Barely got involved with our matters.

Sara – Same age as Pat. Also one of the “Ringleaders”

Barry – The youngest of the family. Same age as me, most competitive kid on the street and naturally, my arch rival.

The Briggs family: The farm family. All girls, all tomboys.

Michelle – Same age as Nora. Tended to stay out of our business, much like Nora.

Jackie – More or less Sara’s cohort. Same age as her. When the two got together, there was some conniving scheme afoot

Steph – A year younger than me, a year older than Tim. Barry’s cohort? No. Minion, yes. Whatever he did, she did.

The Driscoll family: The well off family. Moved in about ’93.

Angie – Same age as myself and Barry. Usually alright, but could really be a bitch at times. Particularly to me.

Ryan – A jock in training. Tim’s age. Often sided with Barry.

John – The youngest on the street. Prone to disobey orders.

All that said, let’s begin.

There’s a kid who was born and was raised in the west
There’s a kid from the east that never really fit in with the rest
Every week they would meet in the street with their friends
With the guns that they made and the caps that they stole they would fight
To their death.
This time, we’ll have victory
Last time, ended in a defeat
A town, becomes a battle ground! Battle ground! Battle ground!
West End Riot!
West End Riot!
We’ll be here next Saturday
With our guns and our heads held high
So listen up boys you’d better not cry this time

-We had our share of clubs and secret forts. Each one lasting little longer than a few days. What kid didn’t? At this time, the Driscolls hadn’t even moved in yet. Barry was the one always trying to organize the clubs. Often with some grand dream of a tree house. Those never worked. Mostly we’d nail some boards together and forget it entirely. For a brief time, we did have a club house. It was under the stairwell in the closet of the Bertrams’ house. But Sara ran that, and I believe she called it the I Love Buffalos club. She loved buffalos, can’t you tell? Barry started a few of the clubs with the soul purpose of keeping me out. So he’d set up some ridiculous set of rules for getting in, usually a task you had to accomplish. He was a big one for tree climbing, so we had to climb a specific tree a specific way. When I’d try, he’d insist I did it wrong. Petty little kiddy shit. Longest lasting clubhouse we had was a vacant barn on Steph’s yard. It cleaned up pretty nice and there was plenty of space to sit.

-Pat and Sara oft saw Barry and myself as their race horses. “My brother can beat your brother” kinda thing, so we were basically bred to compete with one another. Anything they could think of. Foot races in particular. To the tree and back! Up the hill! Down the hill! Around the house! Talk about building a rivalry. Sometimes he’d win, sometimes I’d win.

-Tag! Your it! So many variations we had on tag. Basic of course, and freeze. But we had to come up with other versions. TV tag where you’d be safe if you stopped and said the name of a TV show. I think we had tornado tag, where upon being tagged you had to spin until someone freed you. Funny, I don’t have a clear memory of that one. And our ever creative Toilet Tag. Upon being tagged, you had to squat down and hold your arms out in a circle. To be freed, someone had to sit on your arms and say “Flush!”. Yeah, we were weird.

-1 o’ clock, 2 o’ clock, 3 o’ clock rock!

4 o’ clock, 5 o’ clock, 6 o’ clock rock!

7 o’ clock, 8 o’ clock, 9 o’ clock rock!

10 o’ clock, 11 o’ clock, 12 o’ clock MIDNIGHT!!!

Our traditional mantra before a game of Ghosts in the Graveyard. This one was only played at night, and I was a whiny little chicken shit who was afraid of the dark. We played this at the Briggs’ house since they had an entire farm, complete with orchard. Basically, the ghost would hide somewhere in the yard and everyone else would go out looking for him/her. The entire neighborhood would play this one. Upon sighting the ghost, you were to yell “Ghost in the Graveyard!” and everyone would return to the safe zone, or Gool as we called it. Whoever got tagged by the ghost would join him/her in the haunt until there was only one survivor. Jackie and Michelle had an advantage in this game. They knew how to ride the horses. So, occasionally, our ghost could be spotted on horseback. Fun game to play though when you have a maze for an orchard.

-The Briggs family also had inner tubes for tractor tires. This served as a completely new game for us. Bounce around on the tube and try to stay on. I had one thing on my side for this game; weight. That’s right, aside from being a wuss and a chicken shit I was also the fat kid. And you always wondered why I’m so damn bitter. But yeah, fun little game.

-Ah pool parties. On any given summer, the Bertrams or my family had an operable pool. Never anything deep enough to go diving but we had our games. Marco polo was a constant. We also had these little yellow eggs that would sink. In each egg was a rubber alligator, but only one egg had the black alligator. Kind of a fun diving game, never too competitive. But if any of you ever had a circular aluminum pool, then you know what we did. Damn straight, whirlpool! Everyone going in one direction to get a strong current going. With like 7 people in the pool we had the current going pretty strong. But what would it be without a competition? We had one. Everyone would hop on a tube and begin rocking back and forth, causing waves. Last man standing wins. Again, my weight had much bearing in this game.

-We had bikes, and we had a nice, semi- steep hill. What do you think we did? I was all for it, until we started putting a ramp at the bottom of the hill. I remember watching Pat biff that one, big time. Didn’t hop off the ramp, so the bike fell on it’s side and he skidded over the lawn. Surprisingly, he wasn’t hurt.

-Fall was always fun. We’d rake together a pile of leaves and figure out some way of utilizing it. A big one was for Breakthrough and Conquer. That’s right, we were American Gladiator fans. We’d use the leaf pile as a goal. Pat, being the biggest at the time, was the hardest guy to face. Barry was just violent, especially when I was the opposition. Steph caught me by surprise a few times. There’s a big difference between a girl and a tomboy as concerns physical competition. Sometimes we just build the pile on one of the landscaping drop offs so we could jump into it. Good times.

See a bum on the street that you think you recognize
Young kid never looked so bad when he was only 4 foot high
Six o’ clock, runnin’ home, I don’t wanna be late
Another Saturday of sun and war, shared with our mates
This time, we’ll have victory
Last time, ended in a defeat
A town, becomes a battle ground! Battle ground! Battle ground!
West End Riot!
West End Riot!
We’ll be here next Saturday
With our guns and our heads held high
So listen up boys you’d better not cry
Boys will be boys playin’ up and makin’ lots of noise
Never used to talk about the future
Never thought that we’d have to care
So West End Riot!

In later years, we were older, so I was braver. But as such, the games got a little more intense, and new facets were added.

-We didn’t play much for organized sports. Occasionally, we’d have a neighborhood softball game, but that was once in a great while. We were big on soccer though. Rarely did a game end without a fight and someone storming off though. Barry and Ryan were probably the best players we had.

-Basketball wasn’t a big one, but we played games like Horse and Lightning all the time. I used to be a great shot, one of the better players in the neighborhood, but my skill has degredated over time. I remember hitting a one arm heave from halfway down our driveway. Barry dared me to try it again. I did, and on a total fluke I hit it again.

-Kick the Can. Alright, so it’s really more of a kids game. But when we were older, the game took on new dimensions. Particularly, strategy and stealth took on new meanings. Of both, I almost took it to an artform. I came up with places to hide that nobody had considered. They had an old wire spool, one of the large wooden ones. Nobody wanted to try hiding in it since it was right out in the open, and that was the beauty of it. I ducked in and stayed in the shadows. As John caught people, they sat on the spool. I caught someone’s attention, Ryan I believe, and as everyone got caught, he told them where I was. They tricked John into believing that they saw me in the orchard. When he went to look, I hopped out and saved the game. My favorite tactic was the simplest though. As John stood guard on the can, counting down to the begining of the game, eyes closed. I had one person creep up right in front of him while I stood behind. He opens his eyes, sees the one person to call them out and I kicked the can out from under him. Granted, he was just a kid, but that would have worked on anyone.

-Winter is another big time for competition. Anyone can have a snowball fight, of which we had many. But our fun was on the Bertrams’ sled hill. We’d set up a ramp of ice about 2/3 the way down the hill and hit it at high speeds on Sno-Tubes (inflatable tubes with handles). Steph had this knack for missing the ramp entirely though, and just hitting the garage. From these tubes, we developed a game. We also had the Tuff Tube, which was originally used for tubing behind a boat, was about 4 feet across. Three people would load onto the tube and glide down the hill. Those who fell off would be nailed by those who followed on the smaller Sno-Tubes. Every time I hit someone I’d lose the tube and go sailing. It was on one of these tubes that Tim ascended the garage and thought it would be a good idea to sled off. Nope. Big mistake. Rather than sailing off, he just dropped. Quite a funny sight. But it was on the sled hill that we manufactured our most devious device.

-Setting, snow covered hill. Mode of transportation, plastic tobogan. Goal, be the only guy to make it down the hill. We called it Sled Wars. Quite simply, we’d try to take each other off our sleds by any means necessary. Dangerous, yes. Fun, damn straight. Worst hit I took was due to Pat. Put me in a headlock and drove me face first into the corner of the garage. I only walked away with a bloody nose.

There’s a man who was born in the west workin’ at a factory
There’s a man from the east who now runs the whole company
How they’ve grown on their own not like the kids they used to be
Saturdays of sun and war are just fond memories.
West End Riot!
West End Riot!
We’ll be here next Saturday
With our guns and our heads held high
So listen up boys you’d better not cry
Listen up boys you’d better not cry
So listen up boys you’d better not cry this time!

Things have changed greatly since then. Ya know, I used to hate those days, how I got singled out and all. Now I just look back on those days and smile. Guess the old saying is true. “One day I’ll look back on this and laugh.”

The Nichols family: We’ve degenerated greatly. All the other families stayed relatively happy and together. Things just went sour for us.

Me – I’m no longer the coward I once was, and I’m probably in the best shape I’ve ever been.

Pat – He went from rolemodel to an example of what not to do.

Tim – Still a nut, but more down to earth now. He actually turned out alright.

The Bertram family: They’ve stayed a happy family unit.

Nora – Went off to college. Living in Madison I think

Sara – Also went to college. She was going to get married, but her fiance died last year of a heart attack. She’s been living back at home.

Barry – Became a pothead. Can’t say I’m overly surprised.

The Briggs family: The very portrait of the happy middle American family. They still own the farm and maintain it.

Michelle – Off to college. Don’t know where she went.

Jackie – Also went to college.

Steph – She’s cleaned up the tomboy persona, and her attitude. Also off at college

The Driscoll family: I never really kept up with them. They still live in the neighborhood, but I never talk with any of them.

Angie – Left town, I’m assuming college. Never really got along with her.

Ryan – Unknown

John – Unknown

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Got a story you’d like to tell about a song that’s in the Soundtrack of your life? Don’t post it on the board. Email it to me and I’ll put it in my column. Stories will be posted in the order that their received. I don’t play favorites. All I ask is that you make sure the spelling and grammar are in fine order.
Email your stories to: loki@baloolapalooza.com

Soundtrack to Life – Nights With The Crew

Yup, late again. I don’t intend on making a habit of this. What’s this week’s excuse? Lack of time once more. Seems like the only real time I get for online writing is what little time I get before work, the occasional evening/afternoon after work and the early, really early mornings, we’re talkin’ between 3 and 6 on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday. It’s a constant struggle. Everyone’s into Diablo once again, so computer time is restricted. So let’s see. Where do we go today? How about something universal. How about a song that most of us would have on our soundtrack? I’ll tell ya though, this one’s more for the punk crowd, but I think most anyone could relate. It’s all in what you think of when you hear it.

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Nights With The Crew

“Look What Happened” by Less Than Jake

And I swear it’s the last time, and I swear it’s my last try
And we’ll walk in circles around this whole block
Walk on the cracks on the same old sidewalk
And we’ll talk about leaving town
Yeah we’ll talk about leaving
I swear it’s the last time, and I swear it’s my last try

There it was, late ’99, early ’00. Finally, I was finally being broken out of the boondocks. Called along for the little adventures that were planned. And there we were, four young men against the world. Myself, the recluse with a biting wit. Jay, the anti-establishment punk, looking for his escape. Musse, a bit of a worry wart but always a voice of reason. And Tim, who’s motto was “Live your life like you’re in a movie. That way you’ll look your best at all times.” Kind of an odd clique, that we were. Each of us occasionally taking cues from the others. We were like something out of movie, ya know, where each guy serves his own purpose and the team works together to achieve their goal. We were nightowls. We thrived at night. In fact that’s when most of the good stories take place. A lot of ’em usually followed a few hours at Webb’s downing cup after cup of coffee.

But that was it. Senior year. In a few short months we’d be graduates. A world of options ahead of us. So around this time, we kinda looked at it like the last big bash. Who knew who was going where or doing what. Jay was liable to pick up and leave, and from the looks of it, I’d be going with him. Musse was looking at schooling and Tim has always had the air of success around him. This very well could be the last hurrah. So we spent a lot of time out on the town, whatever town that may be.

We rode across that bridge all night
We talked our way through city lights
Traced all the lines, we’re killing time
Under those buzzing signs
From downtown to anywhere but here
Tonight yeah I swear to these rooftops
And just hoped that car would never stop
And I swear it’s the last time, and I swear it’s my last try
And we’ll walk in circles around this whole block
Walk on the cracks on the same old sidewalk
And we’ll talk about leaving town
Yeah we’ll talk about leaving
I swear it’s the last time, and I swear it’s my last try

A tame night would include playing Tony Hawk, or Risk and watching a few movies. Still fun as we tended to throw our own commentary into movies. And anyone who’s really gotten into Risk knows what a four hour game can get like with a heated rivalry going on. But those are just the nights we’d stay in. Many a given night in West Bend, any combination of the four of us could be seen wandering around, just walking and chatting. Most of the time we were just griping about this town, and who at our age didn’t. Live in one place for most of your life and the scenery is bound to get boring. We’d take many different paths, just meandering across town, no specific destination, just going where the whim would take us. I enjoyed nights like this.

There aren’t many places to go that time of night, so ya gotta make due with what’s available. Webb’s, always a natural choice. It was fun just staying up late enough to go to Sandy’s Barton Cafe at 4:30 in the morning. Of course by that time we’d be in that pleasant state of loopy where everything is funny, including making the cream decanters moo at people. Another favorite stop was Pick n Save South. Open 24/7 with a little sitting area, generally utilized by the elderly, to have a snack or something. And so we’d go there, get some Little Juan burritos and a bunch of junk food and just sit there watching the late night traffic. A good portion of it was drunk/stoned teens making a midnight run for snacks. We’d just sit there getting dirty looks from store clerks and cracking jokes at the expense of eachother and any patrons of the store we happened to know. Other times, we’d just explore. Adam and Jay actually mapped out part of the sewer system they were able to access one night. The train tressle was also a fun little stop, a hole beneath the tracks where you couldn’t be spotted by the casual observer. Sometimes these little sprees of ours would find us climbing into bed as the sun rose. Yeah, those were the tame nights though.

We drove around that place all night
Passed closed signs and familiar sights
We’re moving by, killing time
Counting those center lines
With twenty-thousand lines left to go
That lead to somewhere I don’t know
It might be the time we leave this all behind
And I swear it’s the last time, and I swear it’s my last try
And we’ll walk in circles around this whole block
Walk on the cracks on the same old sidewalk
And we’ll talk about leaving town
Yeah we’ll talk about leaving
I swear it’s the last time, and I swear it’s my last try

Okay, so we weren’t the wildest bunch, but we knew where to find fun when all else failed.

One night, Jay and I decided just to skate around town. But ya see, I’m a lame ass, and I don’t have a skateboard. But I do have rollerblades, so we were good to go. I could go some of the places he couldn’t naturally, but he was faster due to the fact that he’d been on his board longer than I’d been on my blades. Had a cop stop us as we cut across the highway. Come on, we were safe. So, just cruising along, Jay goes down a loading ramp at a store. See, I thought it was open on the end, not a wall of concrete. Did I mention I can’t really brake on my blades either? Yeah, fun time. But rather than slamming into the wall, I caught myself on the guide rail. Narurally, I was going at a good clip already, so my feet flew out from under me and I did a sideways superman into the wall before falling to the ground. Ow.

I was never along for any of their roof climbing exploits, though they did get caught for trespassing once. We got stopped by the cops all the time but they never had anything on us.

Ya know how sometimes a store will have free AOL CDs? Well Jay collected them. Seriously, he had a massive amount of these things. But to us, they weren’t CDs, oh no. They were Flying Discs of Death! I remember engaging in more than one Flying Disc of Death war in some parking lot in the middle of the night. Those little bastards hurt! Especially when they had chipped away into jagged edges. I was absent for the biggest of these wars which took place at Jay’s house between the basement and ground floor. The stairwell was a warzone. Blood was drawn on more than one combatant.

And then there was Tuesday Night Football League. The four of us teamed up with Gintner and BJ to have two three-man teams. Midnight football on the UWWC football field, full contact of course. Everyone got injured at some point. Afterwards, we the six combatants would stagger into Webb’s, getting odd looks from all the patrons.

Messing with anyone out on the highway is fun. I recommend Halloween masks. So little, but they say so much. We had a bleeding skull mask that Jay would wear during drives. Any time we got near someone, he’d press his face to the window until our fellow commuter would take notice. Some would laugh, others would just speed up. All in good fun.

One of my fonder memories would be of the snowfall of 2000. Jay and I had been up all night, everyone else had passed out. When we saw there was a nice coat of snow already on the ground, we tried to rouse the troops. By this time, it was about 3am, so nobody was moving. We proceded to step outside and have a snowball fight right in the intersection. It was the good kind of packing snow. After we bored ourselves with that, we built a snowman right on the bus stop. Just sitting there on the street corner. Let the kids figure it out. The snow hadn’t been touched, so we had to wander the town. We would slide down the hills and throw ourselves into the snowbanks that were up from previous snowfalls. We visited Tia, but of course she wasn’t awake, so we left a message in the snow outside her apartment. “Moo! 5:20am”. Naturally a cop stopped us eventually, but he didn’t really care that we were out so early, just cautioning us of conditions.

And lastly, a true sign that we live in a boring town. Jay was all about dumpster diving, so he’d look for the good spots to hit up. Pick n Save North and South don’t have dumpsters that are accessible, but they leave their baked goods that are a day past expiration in shopping carts out back. At least…. they used to…. eh heh heh! Myself, Jay and Musse visited the North store one night after working at the Haunted House. We checked out back, but there were no doughnuts or anything like that. But there were two shopping carts full of bread. Jay seizes the moment and shoves all the bread in back of Musse’s Baretta with me. The mere idea of carrying that much bread had us just rolling while he did this. As we drove around, Jay was dropping loaves out the window, throwing them where ever. We stopped at McDonald’s to visit Musse’s mom. Jay left a loaf on the roof of the car and rolled another up in the window. Upon leaving McDonald’s after our brief visit, Jay snatches up the bread on the car and nails me with it.

“What are you trying to do? Start a bread fight?”

Jay snapped his fingers and pointed right at me.

“Duuuude!”

We rolled out and found ourselves in the UWWC parking lot. No view from the road, no security cameras. Jay and I leapt from the car and began wailing on eachother with the purloined loaves. Musse joined us shortly thereafter. You can really only get one good shot out of a loaf of bread before the bag tears and slices go everywhere. Somewhere around 50 loaves of white bread littered the parking lot, left for the birds in the morning.

And there’s been a few times
That we thought it felt right
To take the westbound signs
And just leave town tonight
And I swear it’s the last time, and I swear it’s my last try
And we’ll walk in circles around this whole block
Walk on the cracks on the same old sidewalk
And we’ll talk about leaving town
Yeah we’ll talk about leaving
I swear it’s the last time, and I swear it’s my last try

Ahh. Good times, good times.

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Got a story you’d like to tell about a song that’s in the Soundtrack of your life? Don’t post it on the board. Email it to me and I’ll put it in my column. Stories will be posted in the order that their received. I don’t play favorites. All I ask is that you make sure the spelling and grammar are in fine order.
Email your stories to: loki@baloolapalooza.com