Saturday, December 4, 2010

Make Your Opinion Heard!

After considerable reunion planning, the 30th Reunion Committee has some decisions that need to be made, and your input is needed! Whether you are a member of the Class of '81 or a friend of the Class of '81, even if you are only just thinking about going to the reunion, please help decide some of the details by taking a few moments to complete the online survey. Keep in mind you are not committing to anything by completing the survey. You're just helping us to get an idea of what the majority of those planning to attend want.

The first decision that needs to be made is what kind of icebreaker Social we want to have on Friday, August 5th at the 49ers Lodge at West Point from 7-11 PM. One option is a "bare bones" good ol' fashioned kegger. Just the music and the beer flowing while the days are yore are revisited. The cost? At this stage, the cost is a little tricky to calculate without knowing how many people are going and without 2011 prices set. The more that attend, though, the cheaper it will be. Looking at the estimates, though, it could cost as little as $10 and as much as $18. My guess is that it'll be around $15, not bad for a 4 hour keg party.

The second option is what's called a "2 Hour Cocktail Party". Relax, there'll be beer on tap the whole 4 hours, but from 8-10 PM, there will be assorted wines and sodas, hot wings, French bread pizza, Swedish meatballs, cold cuts and cheese platters. The price tag? Again, with more people, the price goes down, but I figure it'll be around $25, a bargain. Afterward, of course, you are free to continue the festivities at either South Gate Tavern or Benny Havens or at the swanky club on top of the Thayer Hotel, ZuluTime which is open until midnight, or wherever you wish to take your party.

Next up, you need to let the Reunion Committee know if you plan on going to the Round Pond BBQ Saturday afternoon. The usual staples, hamburgers, hot dogs, pasta salad, potato salad, soda, and chips are planned (for now) with a best guess price tag of $15 per person which includes a swim pass. If you want to bring kids, they'll be $10 each. This will be a BYOB event however.

Finally, for the Saturday Night Formal-As-You-Want-To-Be (it is going to be August you know - it could be 100 degrees) dinner buffet back at the 49ers Lodge, there are many options for the menu. Here are our choices. There is a Mexican Buffet featuring Southwest grilled chicken, Fajitas, and Burritos. There is an Italian Buffet featuring Lemon Chicken, Pasta Pomodoro, Eggplant Parmigiana, and meatballs in a marinara sauce. Then there's the Autumn Buffet - think Thanksgiving, then the Fair Food Buffet with sausage and peppers, fried chicken, and Waffle Fries, then the German Buffet with Sauerbraten, German Potato Salad, and Brats and sauerkraut, and last, but not least, the All-American Buffet with fried chicken, BBQ beef, BBQ pork, and garlic roasted mashed potatoes. Each buffet has additional appropriately themed side dishes way too numerous to list, but you get the idea. The price difference for each is nominal. My best guess for the evening is $25, again, a bargain.

Sunday Brunch hasn't formally been set up yet, but I figure that is the easiest of the events to plan for. The consensus among those looking to attend up to this point has been to keep this affordable. Even if we go all out here (not including the Sunday Brunch) these 3 events most likely come in under $75. Mission accomplished in my book.

At the end of the survey, there is a spot for you to give us your contact information. By giving us your email address, you will help us keep you in the loop as developments occur, and it'll keep us from having to track you down in the months to come. There is also a spot for you to voice any concerns or recommendations or anything else you want to pass on to us. Oh, and if there is a Bill Gates among us who would like to make a sizable contribution to defer the costs, by all means, I think the rest of us will let you. Just say so in the comments at the end of the survey.

Take take the survey, click here.

Now can somebody please tell me why people from Garrison had goats in their trees, and what the $#%&! "Nothing for the puppy" meant. Wait, never mind, save it for the reunion.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The 30 Year Reunion Is Coming!

As of now, all that's set is the dates, but you can mark it in your calendar. The 30 year reunion will be held on Friday, August 5th through Sunday, August 7th. You know what that means, right? You've only got about 9 months of hitting that P90X so you pretend you've looked that fabulously hot the past 30 years.

The details need to be finalized, but here's what's in store. Friday we'll be having a "Social" at the 49ers Lodge at West Point. By "Social" I mean "Open Bar" with music and dancing. Saturday we're looking to have a barbeque at Round Pond and dinner at the 49ers Lodge, and Sunday we're looking to have a brunch.

If you are on Facebook, look for the Group called JIOHS Class of '81 30th Reunion. If you are not on Facebook, what are the you, the Unibomber? I mean, come on, this 2010! Seriously, you're not on Facebook. Well then, keep stopping by here for further information that comes down the pipeline. Not on Facebook....

Here's some rules to live by for the 30th reunion.

30th Reunion Rules
The first reunion rule is "Don't Be A Debbie Downer.

Seriously, who cares who was a jerk at the prom or did this thing or that 30 years ago. Besides, I'm pretty sure I apologized for all that stuff years ago.

#2 - The second reunion rule is "Don't Be A Debbie Downer".*

#3 - The third reunion rule is "Whatever Happens At The Reunion Will Be On YouTube The Next Day". Fair warning to you uncoordinated types who have had a little too much to drink out there on the dance floor. Just sayin'.

#4 - The last reunion rule is "Pace Yourself On Your Drinking Skippy". Maybe things have changed a little since I lived there, but West Point, if my memory serves correctly, has MPs like every 100 feet. Make arrangements for transportation, and if you have 15 beers at the BBQ Saturday, the only one praying at the porcelin altar in their hotel room during Saturday night's dinner will be you.

Stay tuned for further details.

*OK already, so what if stole that from Fight Club?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Calling All Class of 1981 Grads!

Hey. You. Go to the 30th Reunion.

The 30th Reunion is approaching. It may seem early to get worked up over this, but it's going to take awhile to locate classmates and set up a reunion worth going to.

Here's a possible itinerary: an Ice-Breaker gathering like the one at the 10 year reunion on a Friday night. Activities and fun stuff on Saturday, perhaps a tour of the school for old times sake, maybe bungee jumping off the Bear Mountain Bridge (just kidding there) or perhaps some type of outdoor hanging out kind of activities. Then, a dinner cruise, perhaps, with the late night types continuing elsewhere. Then a Sunday Brunch.

It sounds like a lot of planning. I'm getting the ball rolling by starting a mailing list, but I'm a 1000 miles away, literally, from the Mid-Hudson area. If you are interested on getting in on the mailing list or helping organize, please send an email to expressing your interest. For now, Debby Hannigan/Murphy has been foolish, er, courageous enough to agree to help start up a reunion committee.

I'm going to start a collection of photos of people interested in going on the right side here. If you want to send along a photo, for me to add, I will.

I'm just hoping Carla shows up so I can convince her to flex for me.

Monday, February 22, 2010

A Blast From the Past

I stole this off of Facebook.

For once I'm speechless. That's quite a picture, ladies of '81.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

More Breeze Kings

A few months ago, my brother went to a Breeze Kings show, actually a "Light" Breeze Kings show with just Jim on guitar and Carlos Capote singing and playing harmonica. My brother recorded the show for a future live album release. I've razzed Jim a little calling it "Chinese Democracy* at the 5 Spot", but whatever it ends up being called, I've heard it, and it will be worth getting. I'd love to give you a little taste here, but I don't want to encroach on unwelcome territory. I did, however, fix the link at right to let you download Sorry That You Put Me Down if you haven't already checked it out.

On top of that, I've figured out how to imbed YouTube videos in blogs, allowing me to put the video of Going to Decatur live below. Enjoy.

*Chinese Democracy was the craptacular Guns N Roses album that took 13 years to make.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Time Wins Again...

I bought a leaf-blower this weekend. I know, I'll probably win the Nobel Prize for Blogging with that start to this posting, huh?

Back when I lived in NY, when fall came around, our yard, aka "The Final Resting Spot For EVERY Leaf From EVERY Tree In Our Neighborhood", required hours of back-breaking work to get rid of the leaves.
Since I've moved to North Carolina, not so much, but it's still a challenge.

This year, I couldn't get myself to do all the raking. My wife loves, I mean LOVES, doing work outside, but she always seems to being working the weekends when we get decent weather. So I got a leaf-blower. This weekend, I raked a while where the electrical chord wouldn't reach, then broke out the the blower. My first thought? This is so eff-ing easy!

Last year, when I complained to my brother that my yard had a lot of leaves, he asked what the big deal was - just get out the leaf blower, and I smugly responded with "Maybe you haven't heard, but they have these things called "rakes" these days..." Now, I'm a leaf-blower.

So Time wins again. Do you think I am wimping out here ditching the rake for the leaf-blower, or am I just wising up?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Whew, what a semester I'm in the midst of - 5 classes and 5 preps.  Like anyone cares. Anywho, enough about me...  

The Breeze Kings
Classmate Jim Ransone and the singer of his band the Breeze Kings are working on a live CD with my brother doing the mixing.  I'll get you the details upon completion of the project.  If you haven't picked up You Got To Bring Some to Get Some, you're missing out on some seriously good blues!

This Past Weekend
Mrs. Cahill was visiting her daughter and son-in-law with her husband down here in North Carolina so she stopped by for a visit.  We did a little hiking then stopped by my humble abode for some munchies before she and her family headed out to their next destination.  

I know what you're thinking.  Either she's found the Fountain of Youth or there's a Picture of Dorian Gray thing going on here, right?  Perhaps it's a Curious Case of Benjamin Button thing.

She passed on to me that our class was one of the most scholarly she'd taught.  I threw out a few names and she concurred that she had to be on her toes teaching to us.  I know, we're so advanced!  And, she didn't even get a chance to teach to the two most scholarly in my estimation:  John Schwenk and Dr. Palmer.

A special thanks to Mrs. Cahill for allowing a picture for our blog!  More to come later...

Monday, September 14, 2009

Too Early To Talk About The 30th Reunion?

Don't you usually need to reserve places a year in advance? If so, I guess it's not too early to talk about the 30th reunion, then. What type of place should it be held, fancy or casual? Catered or BBQ on the grill? In Highland Falls, West Point, or Garrison? Is money a factor? Should we combine ours with another class's reunion, like maybe those '81 wannabes in the Class of '82? I figure if you are interested in attending, make your opinions known here and maybe those doing the planning will take your wants into consideration.

Maybe something like this?
OK, that would probably be our kids after they ditched us. We'd probably look more like this.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Sue Confer and JRR Tolkien

So I'm heading out from work after teaching a few math classes, and a student's car in front of me had a bumper sticker that said "Not all who wander are lost".  I thought, "Sue Confer!" That was her quote with her senior informal.  I still have no idea who she was - any takers out there on filling me in.  In her senior informal, she's wearing what looks like a Samurai outfit.  I vaguely remember her doing stuff like that.  

After extensive and exhaustive research*, I discovered the source of the quote was JRR Tolkien from one of the Lord of the Rings books.  Interesting.  

*I googled it.**

**That's the kind of thoroughness that has made me so well respected in academia.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

#2, Mrs. Rasmussen

Ah, you knew a math teacher had to be on this list somewhere, right? Our school had some pretty damn good ones, and somehow I had the luck of having them all as teachers.

I only had Mrs. Rasmussen for the second half of my freshman year when she filled in for Mrs. Cahill who went out on maternity leave, or whatever they called it back then. What a half a year it was, though.

Geometry-wise, her most memorable lesson was "Tom's Old Aunt Sat On His Coffin And Howled." This unforgetable phrase was her version of SOHCAHTOA. As goofy as it was, I used it all the way to a Master's degree in math, and when I teach trig functions, guess how I teach it?

I did fairly well on the Regents that year *cough-100-cough* and Mrs. R was a big reason for my success. I think her biggest legacy, though, was that I've never heard anyone utter a negative word about her. My brother had her the year after I had her, followed by my sister Cindy, followed by my sister Lisa. All thought she was great. Yes, even my brother enjoyed having her as a math teacher! Now that's saying something!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

#3, Mrs. Wilhelm

I'm getting kind of sick of all the attention being thrown at Michael Jackson. People, to paraphrase Charles Barkley, entertainers are not role models! You could not pay me enough money to have had Michael Jackson's life. about some reflections on some people truly more deserving, you know, actual role models? James I. O'Neill had more than its share of bad teachers. Really, really bad teachers. But let's keep it positive here and focus on the good ones (even if there aren't many to reflect upon). My third favorite teacher in high school was Mrs. Wilhelm.

I had Mrs. Wilhelm for Social Studies in my freshman and sophomore years. The 3 years preceding high school were disasters for me in Social Studies. I couldn't stand the subject, and I got my share of Ds and Fs. My teachers were pretty bad, but my own lack of interest was my undoing. I also came to O'Neill a weak reader and a weak writer.

Mrs. Wilhelm wasn't exactly a roller coaster ride of excitement either. She wasn't there to be your friend. She wasn't there to make you laugh, and she wasn't there to be cool. Having said all that, you'd think it'd be pretty surprising, then, that she would rank so high in my estimation.

What she did have going for her was a thorough knowledge of the subject she was teaching. She may have not been there to be your buddy, but she was there to teach you history. It clearly was important to her that her students learned history. She would pose questions to us that I couldn't imagine the answer to, and after her explanation, I understood what she was talking about. She was no-nonsense, but she was fair and she didn't pile it on when you couldn't answer because you didn't do the homework, at least not in my presence. Honestly, what more could you ask of a teacher?

I fared pretty well in Mrs. Wilhelm's classes - mostly Bs. After having her for a teacher, I now have a pretty keen interest in history. Heck, when I taught GED in NYS Corrections, I had to teach history! I hope Mrs. Wilhelm is still out there and enjoying her retirement. I also hope she now gets the "Because there were so many knights in it!" crack I made.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Mr. Aidone

I have to admit, for a small man, Clem had a HUGE presence! Honestly, even though he scared the bajezus out of us, if you just took the time to have a nice heart-to-heart with him, he was a great guy! He was actually one of my favorites during my four years at O'Neill. He was the ONLY teacher/Administrator that did not treat me differently because my Dad was a School Board member! So for that he gets an A+! Hope everyone is doing well! Best Wishes!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Regents Test...

By my junior year, I had pretty much come into my own as a slacker. For the Chemistry Regents exam, the Simpson brothers and I decided we were going to show up in our bathing suits. Only our bathing suits. And something to write with. So we did. Sure we had clothes in Rob's car - just in case we got called on it - but we didn't. It did kind of freak some of the teachers out, but they weren't prepared to send us away. Rob and I had pretty decent tans that we had worked hard on, and Scott was hairy as a bear. That was pretty funny... but not my funniest moment* of high school.

I had Mrs. Wilhelm for Social Studies my sophomore year. When she asked me to answer the question "Why were the Middle Ages called the 'Dark Ages'?", time froze. In a half a second I had many thoughts. This was it! All those years of studying Bazooka Joe were going to pay off!

I love how the landlord flies backwards after hearing the punchline! That always happens when I tell a good joke!

I fantasized like Ralphie in A Christmas Story that when I said this punchline, the other students were going to fall out of their chairs with laughter. I debated whether I should actually say this punchline and cause such chaos, but Mrs. Wilhelm had chuckled earlier in the year when Bob Maher asked her why the Social Studies teacher went to India for lunch.** I imagined my name going down in school history as my O'Neill's biggest smart ass! This was gonna be huge!

So I unleashed it: "Because there were so many knights in it!" Remarkably, there is actually audio footage from that class! Click here. "What did you say?" Mrs. Wilhelm asked. "Because there were so many knights in it!" I repeated. Again. "What?" she asked again completely puzzled. I let it go.

The funniest thing ever said in my presence, though, goes to Norm. Norm was in our class for a few years, but he moved away before graduating. Frank Fey came up to him in the hallway along with several of his henchmen. Frank was a world class smart alack, but a bully, mmm, not so much. I honestly don't think he had it in him. But on this day, he came up to Norm with his posse and said,"Hey Norm. Say your mother sucks." Without missing a beat, Norm says,"OK, Frank. Your mother sucks!" Now that did generate side splitting laughter from Frank's cronies. If you're out there reading this, Norm, well played!

*I mean, high school was just chock filled with hilarity. You know, diagramming sentences and all that stuff. Absolutely hilarious.

**Because she heard there was a New Delhi there!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

You Might Want To Hide This From Your Kids

Terri D posted the invitation to our Junior-Senior Prom (featuring music by Broadway*) up on Facebook.

Pretty sad looking, huh? But there's a good explanation. While Xerox/copy machines existed back in 1981, they were not commonplace. The ol' mimeograph machine is what most copies, including this invite, were made on. You would write out on carbon paper what you wanted copied, place the carbon copy on the roller, and then crank by hand the number of copies you wanted. Remember getting freshly printed hand-outs that smelled like rubbing alcohol? In defense of the mimeograph machine (I used one when I student-taught), you can crank out 50 copies in about 10 seconds if you turn the crank fast enough (seriously, I'm not exaggerating).

So don't let your kids know you went to high school before copiers became real popular. They'll think you're older than dirt**. Oh, and maybe you should avoid telling them about rotary phones too.

*OH MY GOD - Do you remember Broadway? Could they have gotten a worse band?!?
**They probably already do.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

50! Smoking out back...

My brother over at Intravenus De Milo asked me to post this over here.  

As a high school freshman at James I. O’Neill in the latter days of the fall of 1978, I remember hearing his big booming voice for the first time as I ran up the hall late to his class. A voice that suited the man’s physical stature to a tee. A voice that I would become very familiar with for the next four years. I had just been given my “revised” schedule after flagging EVERY class the first quarter trying to keep up with my more academically inclined friends in "Regents" classes(?). My folks and guidance counselor thought a ‘redo’ was in order. As young and dumb as I was back then I couldn’t have cared less either way, it was off to second period wood shop or so said the wrinkled piece of paper in my hand. As I got to the door of his class with the smoke from the last drag of my cigarette dissipating out of my nostrils, I heard, “Phillips!!! Paterick Phillips?!!” just as the door closed and locked (for what ever reason he couldn’t say Patrick, it was always Paterick). Rule one: Don’t be late to AY’s shop classes (I’m sure his first name was Andrew or Arthur or something proper, but I never knew it, or don’t remember it. Not Mr. Yagel, just AY to all of us).

In the days that followed, I learned all of AY’s rules and through the years many of his idiosyncrasies. The rules were simple: Listen to his ten minute lesson, have your homework ready to hold up when your name was called (MANY of us scrawled nursery rhymes out in numbered paragraphs on his colored paper to hold up. I’d say this worked 50% of the time), take his tests, and do your projects. At the end of each class he “rendered” you a grade on a chart posted on the wall. He’d go around the room after clean up, mention what you had done, and pencil in a grade which he shouted out; “Stumbo, nice work on your lathe project today, let’s get it sanded and into finishing by the end of this week, 90”. Yannitelli, smoking out back, I ought to render you a 50, but you got a coat of lacquer on that table of yours so you slide with a 65”, and so on. Being rendered a “50” was what us shop guys did our marginal best to avoid. Later I would learn that AY rendered 50’s to any student he felt didn’t meet the grade whether he or she was in his class or not.

Shop classes back then were pretty much the embodiment of the old school stereotype. The rough around the edges kids, trouble makers, and academically challenged made up most of the roll call, no offense to those who were actually otherwise. It took a special kind of guy (NEVER women) to take on these classrooms and AY was perfectly suited to the task. He was a strong man with big authoritive hands and no neck. He wore a 1950’s style square and tight barber haircut with a set of reading glasses perched on the end of his nose. He rarely smiled. No, that would show us degenerates that he might have a weak side or a soft spot. That’s not to say he lacked a sense of humor.

I guess I followed a typical path upon joining his class which was essentially to blow off everything and make pot smoking devices for the first couple of weeks, “50! Paterick Phillips, pot pipes”, was what he’d call out loudly so the whole class could hear as he’d walk over to the chart on the wall and note the grade. Like many others before and after, I finally got in line and began doing the work and projects as assigned. While AY never smiled, you knew when your worked pleased him and it didn’t have to be great work to accomplish this. It just had to be work that you yourself gave a shit about. I guess that was his first step in dealing with punks like me. I imagine that once he got a kid to care, the rest would come easy. As far as I’m concerned, the man couldn’t have been more right.

AY gave you a break when you deserved a break, and rendered 50’s when they were warranted. Sometimes he’d render a 50 with great stoicism and dry wit to amazing comic effect. As some may recall, I wore my hair pretty long in those days. Sometime during my senior year I happened to have been working on a project that required me to drill a pilot hole in a piece of wood by hoisting the drill up around ear level. I lined up the hole, press the drill’s trigger, and quickly began to pick up the odor of burning hair. Others around the shop table took notice too just as I heard the drill suddenly grind to a halt and at the same time felt a tug on the side of my head. Yes, my hair had gotten caught in the electric motor of the drill. As my classmates began to chuckle, I heard AY pushing through the loud shop bellowing, “What’s burning in my shop?!!!” It took him about two seconds after arriving at our work bench to suss it all out. He unplugged the cord, inspected the power tool which was now stuck to my head, and in his typical manner barked, “Paterick Phillips, 50, improper safety, hair caught in drill!” As he walked over to note my grade on the chart, he informed me that 50’s for the week would follow if I didn’t get my hair out of his drill by the end of the day. I took the power tool to study hall and pulled every last piece of hair out until it worked good as new.

I stayed in the West Point/Highland Falls area for a few years after graduating high school and would often hear other guys much older than I render one another a 50. You might be picking something up at the IGA and overhear a conversation and out of the blue one party would say, “Yeah, I’d have to give’em his 50 for that…”, or hear some dad quip to a kid inside the house, “50, leaving toys in yard…” as you walked by.

Sadly, today a good friend informed me that AY passed away yesterday after a short illness. Naturally, my first thought was to render providence a 50 for taking a guy who had such a remarkable positive impact on so many young men at an age when we needed it the most. There will certainly be no shortage of eulogies delivered in memory of Mr. Yagel, and from my home here in Atlanta Georgia I can picture in my head all the cars lined up on 9W by Hogan’s Funeral Home belonging to the hundreds who will turn up to pay their respects. There will surely be sadness and many tears, but I guarantee there will also be men, some completely gray and others with just a speck showing, holding back chuckles as they retell their own favorite AY vignette to each other. The memories will eventually breach restraint and give way to outright laughter. Nobody will mind this small decorum violation as everyone who knew him will understand. I can’t think of a better way to be remembered than that really.

Rest in peace AY…

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Ubiquitous Mike Doughty

On Saturday afternoon, my wife and I were headed over to some friends' house for a BBQ and we stopped at a grocery store to pick up some supplies. While in the store, I heard 27 Jennifers by Mike Doughty playing over the store's sound system - how cool is that? Here I am 1000 miles away from my high school, listening to my high school's most famous graduate's music!

Mike Doughty is about 10 years younger than us. I remember him as a twerpy little kid. He was my girlfriend's little brother's best friend. Last year when my brother and I went to see him play a few songs at a record store in Atlanta a few hours before his concert, we met up with him, and he asked to see my rockin' tattoos he remembered me getting back in the day. I guess you can be remembered for worse things.

If you are unfamiliar with his music, I'll give you a taste here. Gray Ghost is from his Haughty Melodic CD. For those of you not from West Point, Gray Ghost (and Stoney Lonesome mentioned in the song) were/are housing areas at the Point (Gray Ghost has been torn down, Stoney Lonesome is being refurbished). Also, Fort Hood (which he clearly acknowledges borrows heavily from the song Let The Sun Shine) is from last year's CD Golden Delicious CD.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Facebook vs. Blogging

So which is more effective, Facebook or a blog such as this one? In many ways the answer is Facebook. It is designed to connect you to people you may have once known. It is easy to put a sentence or two into your status and scan the status of your friends commenting whenever you feel the urge to. On the downside, Facebook is private, and not everyone is on yet, so a blog can cast a bigger net. Also, it can be tiresome reading so-and-so's results from the "If I Were A Tree" quiz - of course I'm not talking about your quiz results, those were awesome. Also, if you have more to say than a sentence or two, blogging is the way to go.

If you're not on Facebook yet, I recommend it. It takes your email contacts and connects you with them. In no time, you'll have connections with scads of friends. If you haven't blogged yet, and you have more than a couple of sentences you'd like to express, I recommend blogging as well. Of course both options presuppose you have a boat load of time to spend doing so.

Over the Weekend - I don't know about you, but I was rooting for Papa Clem in the Kentucky Derby. Not that Clem was a father figure or anything. I was reading a friend's thread on Facebook about Westervelt though (who I think succeeded Hughes after we graduated), and man, was he not liked. I always felt Clem was the long arm of the law, but he always seemed fair to me.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Catching The Breeze Kings Again

Last Friday I mosied on down to Greenville, SC for a second view of Class of 81's Jim Ransone's band, The Breeze Kings, the world's 17th greatest blues band*, and to meet up with fellow classmate Terry Dixon Seal.

Terry showed up during the first song carrying this sign, much to Jim's embarrassment.
Well, the rest of the band had a good laugh anyways. Watching The Breeze Kings was as enjoyable the second time around as the first. Also in attendance were my wife, her sister, and her sister's hubby, and everyone's (including Terry's) reaction was "Wow, these guys are really good!" If you have yet to download the free, yes, free! tune on the sidebar to the right to hear what I'm talking about, you're missing out. Of course, you can order the CD off of here.
During the breaks, we hung out, talked a bit, and had a really good time.
L-R: Terry, Chris, and Jim
I hadn't seen Terry since my brother's 20th year reunion 7 years ago. I had trouble recognizing her because I was looking for a blond. She has raised 3 daughters, mostly on her own, a life accomplishment that trumps anything I've done, and she even has grand kids now. There were some bumps along the way, but I don't want to steal her thunder, and I'm hoping she'll post her story here. During the second set, Terry danced with a homeless guy for a while - shocking, huh? Yep, Terry is still Terry. It was actually funny and sweet at the same time.
After the show, Jim had to head back to Atlanta, but Terry led the rest of us to a place called GottRocks where we grabbed a bite and chatted a bit before calling it a night - all in all an excellent night.

An Aside: I'm perfectly content posting here, and I get a lot of positive feedback about our little blog, but many of you out there - you know who you are, yeah you - have expressed a desire to post. I know it can be intimidating to get started, but it's much easier than you think, and I can give you pointers if you want or need them. After all, in our sophomore year, Mrs. Pulliam gave me straight F's - I'm not exaggerating - straight F's on all of my creative writing assignments! And I only worked my way up to a C- in a creative writing class in college! So if a no-talent like me can put something half-way respectable out, think of what you could post! Again, if you are interested in posting, send an email to so that an invitation can be sent to your email address. Again, I'm perfectly happy to continue posting, but I think my juvenile ramblings are only going to hold your interest for so long.
*Jim said he thought The Breeze Kings should declare themselves this. How can you argue they're not?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Yet Another Class Member Who Writes Better Than Me

Liz Prueitt posted a haiku on Tax Day on Facebook:

Hmmm... taxes are paid
Let's extend our trip two days
Aloooha beaches!

Very clever, Liz!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Hot Pictures

Stolen from the "Memories of Highland Falls" Facebook group, these do in fact bring back a lot of memories. It seems like ages since I've been back.

Ah, yes, the Bear Mountain Bridge and Anthony's Nose.

Here's Rafferty's, on the Highland Falls-West Point border. Get your passport ready.

Nice postcard affect in this photo. Last time I was at the Park Restaurant, my stepson threw up 30+ times on the way home on the Thruway. Seriously, 30 times at least! I think he had a stomach bug, though. Nobody else got sick and all he had were pancakes.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Come Back And Stay For Good This Time

I was out and about shopping with my wife on Friday night. We were in some clothing store with the usual muzak playing in the background when "...why dontcha come back, please hurry, why dontcha come back, please hurry, come back and stay for good this time...." came on. Wow, talk about taking you back in time! Music is great for doing that. For a moment, I was 20 again - young and bulletproof. I could do whatever I wanted to do; I was going to be whatever I wanted to be. Those were the days. It's been a while since I felt bulletproof.

...Why dontcha come back, please hurry
Why dontcha come back, please hurry
Come back and stay for good this time...

When I told my wife how much I dug the song, she looked very confused. "This song. Really? Do you have this album?" No. "Did you ever have the album?" No. "Do you even have this song in your music collection?" I did when we got home. The funny thing is, it's not by Zeppelin, or Sabbath, or even Van Halen, or any of the usual suspects, but Paul Young. I know, Paul Young. The only Paul Young fan I can ever remember was my sister Lisa. This song wasn't an "Our Song" with one of my girlfriends either (but there are a couple of those can take me back in time as well).

...Why dontcha come back, please hurry
Why dontcha come back, please hurry
Come back and stay for good this time...

In high school I often lamented being too young to really experience the music of the 60s as it was happening, missing out on the Beach Boys, Motown, the British Invasion, and the pschadelic rock. Our high school years were pretty eventful, music-wise, with the birth of New Wave and Punk, but I think I liked what followed even better. Today, I'm a huge sucker for music from the 80s, even the cheesy stuff. Especially the cheesy stuff. 17 was a pretty good year for me, but my early 20s were even better, and the music from that time, good or bad, just takes me back. I get why adults from our youth were so into music from the 50s.

...Why dontcha come back, please hurry
Why dontcha come back, please hurry
Why dontcha come back, please hurry
Why dontcha come back please hurry
Just come back and stay for good this time...

If you find yourself suddenly wanting to hear Come Back and Stay, just click here for a free download. You're welcome.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Getting Old

Here's when I knew I was old. When I worked at this fancy-pants private school a few years ago, I overheard a couple of my students talking about being confused by the Iran-Contra controversy from the late 80s.

I remembered it pretty clearly. I/we were in our mid-20s. I remembered Ollie North, Fawn Hall, the first Bush's involvement,...etc. So I explained it all to the students as best I could and asked why they were interested in it. They showed me their US history textbook that had a chapter on it. I thought, "Wow, this textbook must be pretty current!", but then it dawned on me: these students weren't even born when all that went on!

Yeah, we're getting up there!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Classmates Spotted At O'Neill Reunion!

Or so I hear. Let me explain. Last weekend, there was a James I. O'Neill reunion in Atlanta - all classes invited. A 4 hour drive is a bit much for me when I don't know who's showing up, so I didn't make it. My brother (Class of '82) lives down there and attended the shindig put on by Tom Wix (Class of '75-ish, I don't know him). As he expected, he was the youngest one there, but he reported seeing and talking to Matt Dubois, Pat Grum, and John Olvey. He said all were doing well and were happy in life. Maybe they'll all stop by here and give an update.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

why i shaggerd

Hello to all the Class of '81! Ward Haskell here. My apologies for hiding for so many years. After my dad was killed during our senior year I went into a drug induced alcoholic coma that lasted for 20 years. I blamed myself for his death since he was coming to pick me up from the Dutchess County sheriff's office after having a long chat with a detective there. There's a lot to this story and why I blamed myself. I guess I find it healing to tell my story so here it is. I got into a fight with my dad the night before he died. I was supposed to go to a Frank Zappa concert, and he caught me with beer and hash. It was the first time I took a swing at him. Needless to say, I got an ass whipping, and I prayed to God that day that he would die. Be careful what you pray for - a day later my dad was killed driving to pick me up from the sheriff's office. Some of you may remember I was in school the next day. Not a smart thing to do. I went into huge party mode and never snapped out of it. I never grieved my dad properly and that's why I couldn't draw a sober breath for many, many years. It turned out to be the car's fault my dad crashed his car, and General Motors wound up settling a law suit with my mom. I still wish I never said that prayer, but I have come to terms with it. After all, no one but God has the power to give or take a life, and I'm sure that he knows that I was just being immature and angry. I now know too that my Dad and God wouldn't want me to have one day of misery on this earth. Life is good now that I've learned to accept that any thing wrong with my world is because I haven't learned to accept a person, place, or thing and that the reason for that can always be found within myself. So class of '81, accept my most humble apology for ditching. After 13 years in Minneapolis, where I married my wife Dawn and had a daughter, Jessica, who is now 19. I also lived a year in Dover, Delaware and now have lived 13 years in Bensalem, Pennslyvania.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Sue Gagliardo

Anyone else remember the first time they laid eyes on a friend they made at O'Neill? I don't have many friendships that started with a vivid first memory, but definitely do with Sue. It actually happened while I was still at Garrison Union Free School (don't know how that name came about), but we used to come over to Highland Falls Middle School once a week or so for shop or home economics (were they real? what a name for a class!, like the checkbook balancing class in high school). I still remember being on the bus one day, ready to return to Garrison when I couldn't help notice this tall elegant girl in a long coat standing on the sidewalk, acting like she owned the place. Little did I know that she would become a close friend and one whom I value to this day!

By the way--the most useful class in high school? Typing, bar none. I'm no whiz, but I have no doubt I've shaved years off of work time because I don't have to hunt and peck. Who taught that class? Mr Weissman?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Room For Improvement

OK, for the most part, we were a pretty decent class. If Frank Lilos was our biggest troublemaker, and he went on to be a cop, we must have been pretty tame. Still, there's always room for improvement. Here are the top 3 phrases/names from our school that were . . . ah . . . not so nice.

"Clem Sux" - Actually Clem posted a comment over at the West Point Skateboard Gang blog - how awesome is that? He seems to have a pretty good sense of humor over the graffiti regarding him etched everywhere. Better than I probably would have had anyways.

"Scapper" - I never had Mr. Craig for Social Studies. I can't say, though, I've heard many good things about him. Feel free to disagree with me in the comments. When I had school detention a couple times*, he was the teacher running it, and he was . . . um . . . kind of a dick. Course, I don't think I would have been too keen on supervising school detention either.

"Rubbernuts" - I had Mr. Ryerson for Social Studies in my junior year. He was actually a pretty good teacher when all the classroom management nonsense wasn't going on. I always pictured his wife and him at a cocktail party or some other gathering and his wife saying,"Yes, Fred is still teaching at the high school and the kids just have the silliest nickname for him - Rubbernuts." Once I turned in my notebook or an assignment or some such during my lunch period while he was teaching a freshman class of Social Studies (I think it was the class that threw his desk out the window ON THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL). As I was turning in whatever I was giving him, Jimmer Bailey stood up, threw up a balled up piece of paper, hit it like he was hitting a baseball, then "rounded the bases" by running around the room, all the while giving the play by play. And all Ryerson could do was say, "Uh Jimmer, sit down, uh, sit down Jimmer..." It was pretty shocking. I hope Mr. Ryerson is having a great time in retirement and never looks back on those days. That's what I'd do.

Am I missing any others? Mrs. Barry being called "Fishface"? Oops, was I the only that called her that? Anything else?

* I don't remember what for, but I must have been framed.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Everything I Needed In Life I Learned In High School

Despite what the author of that corny book from a few years back may have written, I did not learn everything I needed to know in kindergarten – I learned everything I needed to know in high school. Here are just 5 of the things I learned at O’Neill that have gotten me ahead in life.

#1 - Nothing Will Get You Farther In Life Than Knowing How To Diagram A Sentence. This skill that we practiced ad infinitum in English has proved invaluable time and again. Once, I was trapped in an avalanche, and if it hadn’t been for my sentence diagramming abilities, I don’t know that I would have made it out. Next most useful: knowing how to solve a
quadratic equation. I used that one to ward off a bear once.

#2 - Forging Notes Supposedly Written By Your Parents On Lined Paper Torn Out Of A Spiral Notebook Still Works. And you thought it only worked to allow you to use the Smoking Patio or to get away with skipping out to Flat Rock on Senior Skip Day. Went drinking during lunch and didn’t return to work? No prob – forge a note. Or maybe you skipped out of dinner at your in-laws to play poker with your buddies - forge a note.

#3 - Smoking Is A Wise, Widely Accepted Habit Everyone Will Look Up To You For Doing. Don’t listen to those spoil sports who say otherwise. Besides, you can quit anytime you want.

#4 - The Ability To Flip Your Eyelids Inside Out Will Move You To The Top Of The Social Ladder. Almost as cool: wiggling your ears or making that popping noise with your fingers on your cheek.

#5 - Nothing For The Puppy. OK, if I'm being honest, I have no idea what this means, but I saw it in several places in the yearbook. I'm pretty sure it's some kind of code or password to a secret society that controls the world, or something else equally important.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Catching Up With An Old Friend

So I go down to Atlanta last weekend to see Jim Ransone for the first time since we walked the stage for graduation in June of 1981. My brother and I arrived early at the Fernbank and introduced ourselves when he came in to set up. We talked about old times and got caught up a bit. When it's time to play the first set, Jim grabbed his guitar, tapped his foot a couple times, and the band began to play. He's very good. He kept his eyes closed most of the time, didn't use a pick. He's the real deal. Want to see something neat? Check out one of their YouTube videos here. They didn't play Back to Decatur on Friday night because he didn't have an open tuned guitar with him. Still, it was a fine performance.

Between the other sets we talked about the good ol' days. He vividly remembered me writing fake Chinese characters on something I was supposed to turn in to Mrs. Kelly (English, junior year). I didn't remember doing that at all, but it is exactly the kind of stupid shit I would have done*, and since then I remember facing the prospect of leaving something blank about a book I was supposed to have read, but didn't, and figuring "what have I got to lose?". 4 hours, 3 sets, and a lot of "Remember Whens" later, we called it a night and promised not to wait 28 years to get together again.

And all this happened because of this blog. Mentioning someone leads to a comment that gives a website that leads to ordering an album that leads to making arrangements to watch an old classmate in a band. The internet is an amazing thing! Can you think of anyone you're curious about?

*Still do**
**Like last year's local 11 o'clock news story about the "bizarre prankster" screwing around with Wikipedia...but hey, we'll save that for another day.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

One Of Life's Great Mysteries

Like the true nature of the Loch Ness Monster, UFO sightings, and the reason your significant other wants to initiate a dialog in the crucial final moments of the game you've just invested the last 3 hours on, the purpose of Fire Squad eludes mankind's grasp.

Seriously folks. This was a scam to skip classes on a quasi-legitimate basis as often as possible, wasn't it? Of course, I'm just jealous I didn't participate or think up something like this myself! So I say, "Well done Fire Squad!" Excellent "work".

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

More Updates

Jim Ransone
You may remember him as the "Quietest" of our class. He was a pretty good friend of mine back in high school with him and me competing for the "Best Math Student" status of our class. I lost touch with him, though, right after graduation. Now I've come to find out he's a big time blues and rockability guitarist in the band The Breeze Kings. I picked up their last CD, You Got To Bring Some To Get Some! recently, and I was pretty blown away by it.

If you're into Stevie Ray Vaughn, you'll like this album. Click here to download one of the tracks I really like, Sorry That You Put Me Down to check it out. The rest of the CD is just as good and can be ordered on I'm going to try to catch The Breeze Kings down in Atlanta this weekend. I give a report next week.

Rob Simpson
Rob has been located as a result of this blog. He continues to pursue his acting career in Hollywood and overall is doing really well. I let him tell his story if and when he checks in here.

Ward/Ed Haskell is doing well in Pennsylvania. Who else is out there? In the 2 weeks since starting this blog, I can't believe how many people I've communicated with from our class, but I'm kinda curious as to what happened to our better known classmates. I mean what happened to Pete Volkmann, Sheri Hatten, Frank King, Dan Rafferty, Curt Heintz, Lisa Galu, Marybeth Feldman, Gil Crews, Bob Muschek, and Elaine Mamalis (to name only a few)? These people were infinitely more popular than me in high school. Anyone want to check in or give an update? How about it people?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Paternal Instinct

I suppose what I've truly been up to since high school is figuring out that I'm gay, finding a partner and then building the family life I've always wanted. Mark and I have been together twenty years, and have two great girls, Cecilia and Liv, aged 8 and 6. There's a documentary all about us that you can read about at and watch easily if you belong to Netflix or want to buy it from Amazon.

Lots of other great adventures along the way, mostly in NYC, but we're now camped out in Albany while I work for the Spitzer . . . oops, Paterson, administration. I'm on the executive staff of the state parks department, reveling that I get to work with what I love. Do you suppose it's because of growing up in the woods of Garris(t)on(e)?

One question: How do you spell "shagr"?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

I Know It's Not All About Me...

But until someone else posts around here, you have to suffer through my inane ramblings! Last November, my sister Lisa got married, making the present the only time all 5 kids in my family have been married. Above is a picture of all my siblings (O'Neill grads all) and me and our spouses and my parents and my siblings' kids. Everyone except, inexplicably, my sister's new husband. I hope everyone else's family is as happy as ours is.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A Couple of Yearbook Pictures

I know exactly what your first thought of the picture above is - "Ugh!"

I think part of that is that any kid getting off the bus has his/her mood darkened upon reaching school. However, at O'Neill, I think the physical appearance has just as much to do with it. You remember the interior decor, right, Industrial Cinder Blocks? I mean, who was the architect of this school, Hannibal Lechter? And someone had a karmic sense of humor building it on a dump!

The Taj Mahal will never be confused with James I. O'Neill High School.

PS 341 in the Bronx, only negligibly less attractive than O'Neill.

Another Yearbook Picture
From our senior yearbook, the "81" Senior picture, the bottom part of the "8". 5 of us were going to spell out "L-A-T-E-R", but 2 bailed at the last second, Doctor Palmer (yes he has a Phd) and Rob Simpson. I don't remember the rebel flag back then being as much a symbol of Southern racism as it is today. That may be a result of my own worldly naivety, but it doesn't look like such a smart move, bailing now, huh, Doctor?

I tracked down DP about 2 years ago. He's doing well, and it's refreshing to know we can still have the some of the same juvenile arguments we had 30 years ago. When he works his own way over here, he can tell his tale. Rob Simpson, the last I heard, was trying to make it as an actor, even landing a couple bit parts on shows like My 2 Dads, but he and his brother Scott (pictured with the "T" and yes, he was wearing NOTHING under that overcoat) have fallen off the radar. Jim Ransone, I think, is a musician who travels quite a bit on the road, including extended tours overseas [Update: Jim Ransone (pictured below) plays guitar for the Breeze Kings, a blues band out of Atlanta. Click here to go to their website].
Terry D, lying on the ground with I think Al Schindler, lives about an hour from me in SC. Maybe she'll tell us what she's been up to as well.

There, that's just about everything I know about the members of our class. Feel free to enlighten us all with your own story in the comments. C'mon, don't be bashful. Nobody's* judging you!

**I'm joking!!!

Friday, February 6, 2009


While looking through our senior yearbook in order to write a posting at the West Point Skateboard Gang blog, I had the following thoughts.

The words of wisdom that some added to their “Senior Informals” were pretty silly. We weren’t nearly as wise at 17 or 18 as we thought we were, huh? None of them were as dumb, though, as what I was going to say but at the last second wisely opted not to put down. Not that all of them were “dumb” or “silly”, I mean, yours was probably one of the really awesome ones. I think I liked Sue Confer's "Not all who wander are lost" best. I have no idea who Sue Confer was.

Scott Wallace and I worked at one of the camps out by Round Pond one summer during college. I was a dishwasher/laborer, and he was the supervisor. We had a great time working together (at least I did). We swapped stories, cracked jokes, etc... The others who worked there probably thought we were BFFs. We were in some classes together in high school, but I’d say we were only casual friends then. When the summer ended, I went my way, and Scott went his, and that’s a real shame.

When I got the announcement for the 10-year reunion, I realized that one of the several reunion organizers, Sue Gagliardo, lived only a couple blocks away from me in Albany. I met up with her, and you know what? She was totally cool! She was funny, easy to talk to, and very interesting. How did I miss this about her in high school? I must have been pretty clueless!

At the reunion, I got to spend some time hanging out with Pete Small - what a great guy! He's the kind of guy you wish you had for a next door neighbor. I knew Pete a little back in high school, and he was a great guy back then too.

Have you seen Carla Jenning’s picture on Facebook, her body-builder one? Talk about a “Big Gun Show”! I’d love to hear your story, Carla!

The vast majority of people in the yearbook are a mystery to me, including the Class of ’81. How is this possible? James I. O’Neill is the only high school I went to. It’s certainly not because of a fading memory. Mine is famously good at remembering names, faces, and events (I’m the unofficial historian at the WPSG blog). While looking through the yearbook, I asked myself, ”Why didn’t any of these people sit next to me at lunch or something and strike up a conversation?” A better question, though, is “Why didn’t I sit next to more people at lunch or something and strike up a conversation?” The answer, of course, is very simple. We came from 4 distinct communities: Garrison, Fort Montgomery, Highland Falls, and West Point, and each of these had diverse groups within them. I wasn’t BFFs with Scott or Pete or Sue or Carla because I got on a different bus at the end of the day and hung out with other people after school, on weekends, and during the summer. In answer to the blog title "Why?", this blog is my way of sitting next to you today and striking up a conversation.

My life since high school has been a pretty adventurous one, but I’ll bet yours is just as interesting. I invite you to give an update in the comments if you like, or at the very least check out what others have written. Thanks for stopping by!