Making the Band: Crisis Averted

Ever have a funny story that only people present in the moment find humorous? Well let me try to convey such an anecdote in an even more difficult format -- electronic type!

Context: I went with Feyonce, Janky, and Jess to the "Taste of Champaign" this weekend. If you have ever been to the Taste in Chicago, erase all notions you may have that these events were similar. Just imagine a gathering of the dull and trite restaurants in your town set up in a park purveying their food and drink. You've imagined the Taste of Champaign. Which as a side note, really sucks, because we have awesome and unique restaurants here that could totally jazz up the affair...but what-ev...

So we purchase our tickets and our goodies and seek out shaded environs. Hot guy walks his dog by us, we all get a blip on the homometer (thanks for the upgrade, Allie!) But I did a lap in front of him and later Jess manufactures a reason to ask him for a light and he's either distant or snob-and-a-half in both cases. Barney.

You now have backdrop. To the real point here. This live band is playing up some funky music, and not in a good way. For example, they cover "Honkey Tonk Bedonkey Donk." Seriously. And this one song featured the lead singer belting out this weird reverb that can best be described as a record stuck in a skip-loop atop an off-balanced washer spin cycle. And he hit some nut-clutched falsettos. All around not so good. I check out the schedule to see who the honk these guys are, and it's "Hurricane Gumbo" of course! Let's just say they creole-ly sucked.

So Feyonce and I start joking about our own music group where we all have names that are weather phenomena. We cracked up because, you know, we're easily entertained. So we keep riffing and come up with the following: Feyonce is Avalanche, Jess is Flash Flood, Janky is ATMS 120 (which is a class offered on campus entitled Severe and Hazardous Weather, but it sounds cooler to say "AT-MOHS 120), and I'm Fujita Five (for the tornado intensity scale, of which 5 is the most devastating).

This snowballs, of course, (pun intended), and out of no where, I come up with the band name "Crisis Averted." Don't ask me why or how. Just laugh at our wittiness! Then things got really crazy, and I decided our first tour would have an astronomical theme (because that's related to weather patterns and climatology, or at least I want to think it is), which I seductively entitled "Big Bang in the Black Hole." Cue the hook to pull me off stage.

Anyway, we thought it was hilarious, and we will be performing live karaoke at Yardstock in Champaign on August 5, I believe. Which is basically a party in someone's backyard, but every band must start off somewheres. Don't worry, I made sure it didn't conflict with opening night of "Snakes on a Plane." I haven't lost sense of my priorities! Our first numbers will be "Rock Me Like a Hurricane" and "I Love A Rainy Night."

So put your hands together, show some love, as you pick up what we're putting down for ya! C'mon y'all, make some noise for CRISIS AVERTED!!!

Folks Is Crazy: "Can you hear me crash?"

People, please. I'm not sure if this epidemic plagues other burroughs quite like our tech-friendly college town, but I notice it almost every day. In the immortal words of the Backstreet Boys, "Tell me why!" Why do people talk on their cell phones while RIDING A BICYCLE!? Seriously.

I generally don't lament and curse car operators on cell phones unless they are swerving like drunks and seem oblivious to the true task at hand. Then we got problems. But the bicycle...that's plain ridiculous. How you gonna respond quickly trying to pedal and keep control with one hand, handle bars all wobbling as you hunch over gabbing desperately about drivel. "I love you more! No, I do..." Derp.

Especially in this madhouse of cars, busses, pedestrians, and bicyclists that I call the University of Illinois campus. We've had two pedestrians struck by busses and killed in the past year because of the hostile mixture of all these players. What's so important you can't pull aside and talk? More importantly, what's so important you have to answer your phone WHILE RIDING A BICYCLE!?

How many times have students answered their phone in my office while in an appointment to tell the person calling they can't answer their phone!? WTF, people? Think about it -- we aren't always 100% reachable, nor should we be expected to be. Our culture has fostered that implicit assumption, but I'd think self-preservation and good old-fashioned common sense would take hold at some point. Engage your brains, college students! That's why you come here, isn't it?

So here's to you cell phone talking bicycle operator -- I have no empathy for you, and I will give you the crook-eye, and I secretly wish you will get into a minor accident. People these days grow up in bubbles of comfort with safety nets, and sometimes you have to learn by scraped knees and broken bones. And it just might be a black and white MINI Cooper that gets you there. Can you hear me know?


The national flag of the United States and the rainbow flag. While seemingly representing different aspects of our culture, I believe, at their core, these flags symbolize the same beliefs and values. Those of unity, strength from diversity, inclusion, and of freedom. No ruler or law can hold an oppressed people forever. Each of us yearn to exercise our freedoms and I should hope, respect the freedoms of other people. These flags are the reminders of the human condition.

We need not approve of one another, have empathy, or even understand each other, though it would be nice. But there is no reason we should not all strive for respect and tolerance for the human condition. Because at our cores, we are not so different from one another.

Unfortunately, the world is never so simple. Anyone of us may face adversity for who we are and what we live for. So I close this post with words of peace and good fortune, to be remembered in times of need: "May God stand between you and harm, in all the empty places where you must walk."

Premonition or Wishful Thinking?

So last night I have this dream that in the next Presidential election, Ronald Reagan is running against Colin Powell. And they are sitting right next to each other while the results are being tallied. At one point, one of them puts his hand on the other's arm to offer support, and I thought, "Wow how nice is that!"

Then the winner is declared but I miss the announcement. "Who won?" I ask. Someone says, "Who do you think?" Then I see that Colin is our new President and he immediately steps up and gives this elaborate, detailed speech about how he is going to run his administration and positively change the country. And I think, "Now this is what a President should be like." I was also happy this country FINALLY elected a President who is a minority in ANY way.

I think it's funny. Not just because two Republicans were running against each another. Or that one of them is sorta not living anymore. Or that they had a tender moment together as their fates hung in the balance. It's mostly funny that I even dream about the unfabulous job our current "president" is doing, and it reminds me that once he disappears, we will have a chance for a better country and a better world.

May all these dreams come true : )


Mike has been a great father in so many ways. Like all the men in my family (and most other families, I assume), Mike and I do not outwardly express our emotions to one another quite like we should. But behind every phone call or thing we do for each other, we know it's there... unspoken on our lips, but residing in our hearts. It's love.

Mike has been doing the same job for 27 years now. That's right, for my entire life, he has been doing the same thing and keeps on. I'm amazed how he has kept it together after all these years, especially since the company was bought out and the new owners could care less about running the business. He has to put up with a lot. But he keeps on. That shows patience and duty. He could have moved up but didn't want to. He likes his personal life outside of work too much. I inherited that from Pops.

Yeah, I call him Pops. Not sure where the name came from, but one day I called him that and it stuck. It's my term of affection for him. He even signs his emails with it now : )

When I was younger, he built a model train set for me. It was on a wood platform that was 6' x 8' or so. HO scale, of course. There was a tunnel, a general store, a lumber yard, gas station, a few houses. He would take me to the model railroad shows at the convention center each year and I'd marvel at the elaborate landscapes, the finest details, and the criss-cross of track with trains buzzing in every direction, on phantom collision courses. I was always proud of our modest set up.

He is the handiest handyman. He has remodeled just about every room in his house, helped me install countless things around my house, and built two telescopes. And we're talking telescopes that are 7-8 feet long. They were quite impressive! He knows a lot about astronomy and photography and has taught me a little about both. One evening we were outside during the lunar eclipse taking pictures. I made one of the photos into a gift for him.

Mike took well to my announcement of being gay. I think my stepmother had "prepped" him because she seemed to know for a while. I wasn't sure how he would respond, but he was calm and told me it was going to be okay. He's been able to be open about it with me, which is a comfort. We'll see how things shake out once I start dating someone and it becomes more real.

Mike took care of my stepmother while she battled Multiple Sclerosis. She was bed-ridden for 8 years, and in that time, he worked full time, did all the chores, and cared for Darlene. It was very hard on him... harder than I'll ever know. I tried to help when I was back home, but somehow I think I could have done more. I know he misses her still, even though part of him knows she is in the better place with no more pain. I miss her too.

I know he wouldn't think it so, but he was a role model during that time. Sure he lost his cool at times, but he's only human. He sacrificed a lot because he loved Darlene. Fortunately, he has been able to do things he was unable to do for all those years. Like take up golf, get back to photography, go to star parties, and hang out at the bookstore.

I feel like I am a 50/50 split of Mike and Vicki. I share so many traits and tendencies from both parents. From Mike, I inherited my introverted side and my temper. We share interests in science fiction, photography, being practical, and keeping things simple.

So here's to you, Pops! For all you have been and done for me, I am grateful.

A Memory That Serves Me

In undergrad I took a creative writing class. There was this guy named Luke who wrote beautiful stories. One always stood out in my head:

It was about a boy's experience one day with this old pink house that everyone in the neighborhood talked about. The story goes that an old man lived in there, even though it was abandoned and falling apart. He had eyes that glowed like two flashlights. He would scare anyone that came near the place. One day the boy was riding his bicycle with his friend and stopped in front of the house because it intrigued him. While staring at it, he sees this old man inside and he freezes. Then the boy notices the old man is not really scary, but sad. As if he lost everything.

Time passes and the boy grows up into an adult and gets married. His wife dies, I think...that part of the story is sketchy in my memory. He's had a full life. At some point, he hears the pink house in his old neighborhood caught fire. He decides to go back to visit it and his childhood for some peace of mind. He goes inside what is left of the pink house and remembers back to when he was just an innocent boy. Then as he stands in front of the window, he notices a young boy on a bicycle peering in at him. The boy looks knowingly at him, as if he can sense the sadness and loss that he feels.

It was really powerful when Luke read it in class, and I wished that we had shared copies of our stories in the class, but the instructor decided not to do it that quarter. The ending gives me chills when I think back on it. I got Luke's email address from the instructor and almost contacted him, but I didn't. Too bad because I loved that story. And he was cute.

The End of Another Cycle

Sunset in Sarasota, Florida

Lido Beach in Sarasota

July 4, 2005 in Xenia, Ohio

It's Not Spring, It's Revenge.

So our good friend Karma has been talking to Mother Nature, and she's been telling about my recent bad-mouthing of mother dearest. I complained about the lack of spring, and so Mom got back to me...or rather, back AT me.

She turned nature against me! First, there was the cranky ol' robin cussing me out. Now I have ants building, not a colony, but an Empire under my garage! They have catacombs all over the place. I'm half-expecting to come home and they've carried off the entire garage. There are weeds all over the yard and sprouting up through my driveway. And every day, the grass gets longer and longer, reaching out to me with its green tentacles of chloroplastic doom. And don't even get me started on seasonal allergies!

Army says "Be careful what you ask for." The sweetest revenge is a wish come true.

Mental Manufactory: The Bird Bath

I have thunk up plenty of ridiculous inventions. Some of them are absolutely out of control, while others could actually work...some of them barring legal issues, of course. For example, my Hush, Little Baby child sedative spray would be a best seller, if not for the legal and ethical issues of knocking out your children with a spritz of ether or liquified Ambien.

Anyway, I thought it would be fun to share some of those ideas along with any rough schematics I have penned. I offer up one of my favorites in the first installment of Army's Mental Manufactory -- i.e., the kookiness that is created inside Chris's head.

If you have ever gone to a restaurant that focuses on drinking, they may have a big party drink. I've heard of the shark bowl or fire hydrant, which as you might image, is a big vessel brimming with booze. I thought it would be clever to wheel out a bird bath, complete with a plastic bird, and have long straws that your party could sip from.

I offer you, The Bird Bath:

I think I'd change the advertising slogan by removing the line: Big mess. It flows a little better. Then I could implement these in my outdoor garden-themed restaurant called Manic Mondays or my sorority/fraternity themed restaurant chain called Phi Pi Chi Psi. Haven't decided yet. But those, my friends, are for another post : )


"Rumbling Spirit of the Times"

In a previous post, Mythology of Life: Haunts of Man, I had talked about how the darker parts of humanity seem to be reflected in what we build. I was thinking recently on my fascination with ghosts, scary movies, and the haunted roads, buildings, and cemetaries of folklore. I began to wonder -- are these places really haunted by spirits and poltergeists? Or are we the ones who are haunted, projecting those parts of ourselves onto the world around us?

I heard a quote recently that has stuck with me, and you can find retrofitted on my recent Introspection post. "The monster never sees the monster in the mirror." The idea is that a person who does bad things doesn't see that part of themselves. Call it a self-serving bias or personal blinders. But what if it also meant we don't realize the fears and anxieties we carry and how we make them manifest in our environment?

Else said, I think we perceive what we want to, knowingly or not. I love ghost stories because they are personal. People tell them with passion and detail. I always want to find a logical explanation, but inevitably, I would fear putting the situation to the test. Why? Because going to a scary place truly frightens me. Emotion trumps logic. I bring the fear of the unknown and losing control with me.

But I still love to push myself to the edge. Two coworkers and I are planning an excursion. We are going to watch the movie Session 9. Then we are paying a visit to Ashmore, Illinois to visit an old mental hospital that has been abandoned. Personally, I think we are a bit crazy! But not as crazy or cool as the folks who run the Infiltration website, which I just found and now love.

I think I am onto something here. But maybe it's possible that when some of us die, because of the tragedy of the death or the troubled experience of life, we cannot let go. So we hang on in some state of limbo, inadvertently instilling fear in others because we cannot stop haunting ourselves. It's the power of emotion over logic.

Virginia Trip: Part II

We wake up on day two to a very chilly mountain air...oh let's be honest, it was downright cold outside! Like upper 30's to lower 40's with a breeze at high altitudes. We decide to motor along the Skyline Drive, hop out and look, then move on from a climate controlled Tyler. Our communing with nature only goes so far. Thankfully the views were worth it.

As we are leaving our room for the last time, the door right across from ours opens and there he is!! It's the guy we ran into twice the day before -- he was in the very next room! After a laugh and talk of stalking, we head out to our cars. He sees my U. of Illinois hoody and says he's from Illinois, too. Small world (and we didn't even need Kevin Bacon on this one).

Toward the end of our motoring, we did stop on a few short hikes (thanks to a warmer front). It was about this point I showcased my bear mating call. Ever since I went to the circus and was totally let down by not seeing a bear on a unicycle, I thought this was my chance at redemption. The black bears had repopulated the park and surely would show themselves. Not so much...but maybe with some incentive? The lure of a bear in heat? Or distress? I actually recorded my bear call on the computer, but it was so absolutely ridiculous, I dare not share it with my reading audience. To Janell, my apologies for listening to that hot mess I subjected you to...

Nevertheless, we did see a deer while traveling the Dickey Ridge and Fox Hollow Trails. Sadly, it staggered off before I could snap a shot with my camera. This was our last walk through the inviting Shenandoah National Park before leaving nature for some man-made roller coaster action!

Williamsburg, VA

We motored to Williamsburg that day and decided to walk the Colonial town by afternoon and eve. First off, the place is quite expansive. I didn't get any pictures, but it was worth the stroll. We stopped at a coffee house (not from the olden days) and had delicious seafood for dinner. Janell enjoyed the scallop salad and I savored the shrimp linguine. Quite good for a coffee house meal, so thanks to the woman in the Christmas store for the suggestion. Remember, ask the locals.

Busch Gardens

Step 1: Know someone who works for Anheuser-Busch so you can get free admission.

Step 2: Scout ahead, arrive early and push down children and old people to gain some ground.

Step 3: Ride best coaster first in the front seat!

Step 4: Try not to get kicked out of the park.

As you can see from my gallery of BG photos, I did not secure all my loose articles, which is a major no-no on the roller coasters. Whatevah! I got some hot action photos in the bends and falls of several coasters, and I regret nothing!! However, the 40-year-old nerd man-child who was way into his minimum wage job figuratively wagged his finger in my face and gave me a stern talking-to. I didn't restow my camera when we got back to the station, and he geekily informed me I'd be ejected from the park (with extreme prejudice (my words, not his)) if I was caught doing that again. And how would anyone know?? I said okay in a very off-handed way and left the ride.

Chris - 1; Busch Law Holding Me Down - 0.

It wasn't until after I returned home to look up some coaster information that I found out one of the coasters we rode, Apollo's Chariot, was the ride Fabio was on when he came face-to-face with a goose! One degree of separation with Fabio!!! Take that, Kevin Bacon!!

The park had an awesome smokehouse where we ate lunch. One grumble, though: this park has horrible walkways. Dead ends, crowded, narrow paths, and backtracking. So not cool. A very beautiful park, however, so if you have to needlessly hoof it, it's the place to be.

We leave Busch in the late afternoon to motor to Ashland, VA to stay the night before our trip to King's Dominion. In search of local cuisine, Janell asks the front desk attendant for some suggestions. She recommends we go to this mall where there are many choices. Now I don't know how many definitions folks have for a "mall" but I don't think it includes a strip mall with a Wal-Mart. Because that's where she led us! Curses, foiled! So we ate at the exotic far-flung Ruby Tuesdays. And it wasn't even on a Tuesday, so that was chancy.

King's Dominion

For those of you who've been to King's Island, the similarity of these parks is a bit Twilight Zone-esque. They have duplicate coasters, the Eiffel Tower, similar theming, with one glaring omission...this park did NOT have my most favorite Skyline Chili!!! Scam!!

This park does benefit from one of the best coasters I've ridden -- Volcano! I got a shot of it from another coaster, which you can see in the gallery, but I had to include an overhead picture because, well, this ride rocks! It launches you out of the volcano : )

We loved it so much, we waited over an hour for a second ride before we left. So this group of punk bastards push through the line, claiming their party was ahead and they had to step out of line for the restroom. You know, total bullshit. Because they stop in front of the group ahead of us. And folks are pissed!! This old guy gets into the thug leader's face and is talking down on him...things got a bit heated! The worst part is there were no park officials around to boot these suckahs out of the line! And then the line jumped AGAIN (assholes) and so we couldn't do anything at that point. I was so hoping to reach the station and then rat them out, so they waited over an hour for nothing. Oh well, trust that karma will serve itself. They tried to get this other group to cut in with them but we pushed past them again, so I think they got the picture. A few girls left in shame. The part that ticked me off was the guy who thought he was the shit and didn't care what everyone thought. Freakin' mofo.

Go West!

Damn this post is long. Well, too late for a part III. We must forge on, and that's exactly what we did -- forging back to Ohio. Highlights on the way back included a sweet drive though some twisty mountainous roads in Virginia. How I missed taking Tyler on the bends in the straight gridlines of Illinois farm country! Then we dash past a sideroad tourist trap and cannot turn back! I feel guilt! We missed -- drum roll -- Mystery Hole! Thank god for the internet, so I could glimpse what I missed, but it's not the same, my friends. Not the same.

We went through a Psychodelic Car Wash! First off, this was a touchless wash that literally took almost 10 minutes per car. But then -- Tangerine Dream soapy foam!! Check out the photos, man, they're trippy! And then we had lunch at Arby's by the not-so-Nuclear-Nuclear Power Plant. Apparently, it never went nuke, but it had the big ol' signature cooling towers. I dared to drink the water. But the weirder thing was that each table at Arby's either had a phone (not a pay phone, just a regular hand held) or a phone to puzzle that one out?

One last scenic stop was made in New River Gorge State Park because it isn't nice to. It had something to do with British people. As usual, the photos do no justice, nor does the retelling of how I told Janell I was going to fake a British accent the whole time we were there. Why? Well, why not? So I did this whole routine I've well forgotten now, and she laughed at it, unlike other people I know who get hostile at my British accent, but I'm not pointing fingers. It had to do with the Brits coming to America to silently take over the country in a second invasion with their sexy accents and reality TV...I don't know, it was hilarious at the time! So then I kept talking that way because once you start, it's so hard to stop.

Well, that about wraps it up, and just in time for dinner. Adventures were had, lessons were learned, money was saved, and mysteries were left unsolved. Tomorrow will be yet another day to experience. Army out.