Category Archives: Jen

Alligator Shirt Day

When I posted the picture below, I promised more information on Alligator Shirt Day.

The Car
Jill on the day that Alligator Shirt Day was invented.

The truth is that it isn’t much of a story.
A couple of years ago my mom went to Florida to visit some family. Of all of the places that they visited, I think that her favorite was St. Augustine. While she was in St. Augustine, she picked me up a souvenir. A black t-shirt with an alligator on its front.

If you can claim to know me at all, you know I am a fan of alligators. You also know that I have a severe weakness for monster movies.

When I was a small child I watched a movie called Alligator. Very few movies have influenced the man that I have become like Alligator. (Shaft, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, Cannibal Ferox, Zardoz, Smokey and the Bandit, Every Which Way But Loose and The Duel to name a few.)

The basic premise of Alligator is that a little kid gets a baby alligator as a pet at a fair of some kind. The kid’s dad is a big jerk and flushes the baby gator down the toilet. The baby alligator lives in the sewers of a major city. Then after 20 years the gator busts through a city street and crashes a wedding among other venues. It is basically Jaws with an alligator instead of a shark. It is not anywhere as well made, but that is part of its charm.

I watched this movie with my dad when we still lived on West 15th Street.

When we lived on West 15th Street, we had an aquarium in the kitchen. Well, where else would you put an aquarium?

Occasionally we would put newts in this aquarium. The interesting thing about newts is that they have no problem escaping aquariums. This freaked my mom out.

Although I have my doubts that she watched very much of Alligator, it left enough of an impression on her that she was always worried that these escaped newts were living under the house (it didn’t really have a basement, more of a cellar) and growing to monstrous proportions.

Maybe this is where you can measure the greatest distance between me and my mom. She was afraid that there were giant newts living in our cellar. I was hoping that there were giant newts living in our cellar.

That house isn’t there any longer and I never read any newspaper article claiming that giant newts went on a rampage in west Boone after being discovered under a demolished house.

Although the odds are against it, I like to think that the giant newts moved on after we moved out and are living in the woods just outside of Boone. Waiting. Just waiting.

I never wear the alligator shirt. Perhaps it is because when you have something that cherry, you live in a constant fear that if you take the shirt out of the closet something bad will happen to it. A sweet and sour sauce accident at Chinese Homestyle Cooking. A barbecue sauce accident at Battle’s. A bloomin’ onion sauce accident at Wallaby’s.

This brings me to the day of the picture above.

Jill and I were going to go cruising around in her car. But as it turned out it rained that day. This sudden unexpected rainfall was caused by Jill washing her car. She has those kind of powers. We still cruised the car, but with the top up.

We ended up at Jen and Derrick’s.

While we were conversing with Derrick, Jill brought up that their dad had brought her back 3 new shirts from his latest Boy Scout camping trip. 1 of these shirts had an alligator on it. She seemed less than impressed with this shirt.

I brought up the fact that I also had an awesome alligator shirt, but I never have a special enough occasion to wear it.

We struck a deal that we would declare one of the days of next year’s The Road Trip to be Alligator Shirt Day and we would wear our shirts.

When I returned home that evening I looked through my closet and found my alligator shirt. I looked at it and thought, “You will get to leave the closet in about one more year.”

A couple of days later I was wandering the shafts of the Computer Mine, when I ran into Coreen. She was sporting a shirt with a crocodile on it that came from the Vacation Bible School that she ran this Summer.

I commented on how I admired her crocodile shirt and I told her about my alligator shirt and the deal that Jill and I had brokered.

She pointed out that if I wore my shirt to work, she would also wear her shirt and we could have Alligator Shirt Day at work.

It seemed like a magnificent idea. So magnificent we had our picture taken to remember the day.

Alligator Shirt Day

Alligator Shirt Day

Alligator Shirt Day was such a success that Coreen and I decided to declare September 2 to forever be Alligator Shirt Day. In fact, if there is a 2010 Photography 139 Calendar, you can bet dollars to donuts that when you flip to September, you will see Alligator Shirt Day staring back at you on the 2nd.

I don’t know that this new holiday that I have invented will take off, but I have a good feeling about it.

Plus, how great is 2010 going to be? There will be not 1, but 2 Alligator Shirt Days!!

By the way, this is journal entry #2 of 5 that are about groups I am in that have matching shirts. The Knocker Walkers, The Alligator Shirt People…

Saving Second Base

On Wednesday, Jen brought me the super-cute Knocker Walkers shirt for the 5K on Saturday. I would have to say that the shirt was super-cute and ended up being the best shirt that I saw there.

The only shirt I saw that approached it was a shirt with a baseball diamond on it that said: “Saving Second Base”. But that shirt was a distant second.

I took a few pictures to send to interested parties and I am going to post some here. Remember that these pictures were taken with a phone, so they aren’t of the highest quality.

Derrick registering for the 5K.

Jen texting somebody to find out their location.

Jen and Jessica. Jessica is one of the 2 founding members of the Knocker Walkers and is a cancer survivor.

I call this picture “Estrogen Overload”. We arrived at the event about an hour early and proceeded to… well I’ll leave that alone and repeat that it was for a good cause.

Sara seemed to insist that this was the first time she had ever seen my legs, even though I wear shorts constantly. This was the first time I have ever seen Sara in a ball cap.

Me, Sara, Jen and Derrick

Sara and Jen

Dionne, Jessica (with her pink mohawk) and Jen. Even though we (Sara and I) just met Dionne, I think she might attend the Matisyahu concert with us on Thursday night. She will be a welcome addition to the concert, since of the 3 of us, she is the only one that can pronounce his name correctly on the first try. Although I have been practicing.

This picture is supposed to show how crowded it was at the start of the 5K. We lined up about 2 blocks away from the starting line and it took about ten minutes to get to the starting line. For an event like this, that is a “good thing”.

Jen waiting to get to the starting line.

The starting line.

This picture is supposed to show how far into the distance the crowd was this closely packed. You can’t really tell in this picture, but the crowd goes all the way to the buildings in the distance. The crowd was that packed almost as far behind us. 25,800 people.

Derrick, Jen, Sara and Karolina nearing the end of the 5K.

Jen, Derrick, Sara and Karolina crossing the finish line. 1 hour and 20 some minutes after the race had started.

It was an awesome event and I would encourage anybody to be a part of it next year.

I would also like to give a special thanks to Jason Baier and Geri Derner for making contributions to the cause through my pledge page. Special people, those two.

Coltrane’s 1st Wife’s Middle Name

Rarely when I publish pictures do I explain the thought process, the technical information or the inspiration. If somebody is confused by a picture or intrigued by a picture I want them to come to their own conclusions.

I feel by telling people too much about a picture, it cheapens the experience for them. That being written, I am going to part with my traditional way of doing things and give a rare glimpse into what happened before I created a trio of images.

The story of these pictures actually starts with the story of the picture above.

As you can tell, I am very pleased with the shirt I am wearing. It is an awesome shirt and if it isn’t the greatest shirt I currently own, it is certainly a top 5 shirt.

If you can read and have an adequate brain, you probably have deduced that this shirt was purchased at the Beaverdale Fall Festival. Good for you Big Brain! This shirt was indeed purchased at the Beaverdale Fall Festival.

Sara invited a bunch of us down to her house for the Beaverdale Fall Festival. Jen, Jill and I accepted the invitation.

This is the first thing that happened to put these events into motion:

Jill picked me up in her sweet car.

The Car
Picture actually taken on the day that the idea for Alligator Shirt Day was Born.
More on that at a later date.

We swung out to Ledges to briefly interact with Jay, Monica and Jeff.

Then we met Jen in Ames and went to Beaverdale to meet up with Sara.

At Sara’s house we were treated to steamed asparagus and the company of Cousin Amy. Jen gave Jill and I beaver tats with a sharpie to symbolize the importance of the event.

I know a lot of people that are really good at a lot of things, but I don’t think I know anybody who is as good at a given skill as Jen is at drawing beavers. I think she should go into business.

After a small amount of time digesting the asparagus we made the short 3 block walk from Sara and Jupiter’s home to the Beaverdale Fall Festival. Jupiter was left behind in the basement. That is the life of a dog, no matter how pretty.

Our first stop was a table where an elderly gentleman was selling Beaverdale Fall Festival swag. He regaled us with tales of past Beaverdale Fall Festival shirts. My heart was particularly broken because a couple of these shirts sounded at least as sweet as the Beaverdale Night Fever shirt he was hawking this year. One was a parody of album cover of “Let it Be”. The other was a parody of the album cover of “Abbey Road”.



But if I live by one rule it is this: Don’t waste your time lamenting the beaver shirts that got away. Be thankful for the beaver shirts that you have.

Feel free to use my rule as the center of your life as well. I guarantee you it will serve you well.

Jen, Jill, Sara and I each purchased a Beaverdale Night Fever shirt. Admittedly, we should have picked one up for Derrick, but having to stand at Sara’s birthday party and take the picture of the 4 of us in our beaver shirts was his punishment for choosing 35 South over us on that night.

Jen and I declared that we would wear our beaver shirts at work on Monday. Sara gave us no indication when she would wear her beaver shirt, but Jill announced that she would wear her shirt to work on the following Friday.

Jill works at one of those companies that has “expectations” and “standards” about the clothes that their employees wear. But on Fridays, they let there employees get all casual.

Monday came and I arrived at work sporting my sweet new beaver shirt. I had Jesse take a picture of me with my phone so I could picture message Jen and find out if she was also sporting her sweet beaver shirt.

Jen was sitting in her office explaining the beaver shirt story to Jessica (who is the person that is organizing the Knocker Walkers team) when my picture message came through. This apparently amused them both.

On Friday, my work soundtrack consisted entirely of John Coltrane music. I decided to follow-up on Jill to see if she was wearing her beaver shirt. As I was typing out the text message I had a strange flashback. I remembered sitting around Jen and Derrick’s living room this summer before their wedding.

They asked the guests of their wedding to pick a song for the reception. We were going through the list of songs that people had picked and I had stopped on Jill’s song. She had chosen Naima by John Coltrane.

It was the only jazz song anybody had suggested. I remembered that.

Jill texted me back that she was wearing the beaver shirt and enjoying the many jealous looks she was getting from her co-workers.

I turned on the only copy of Naima that I possess and gave it a listen. The only version that I own is from the album Live at the Village Vanguard Again! It is 15 minutes and 10 seconds long. It is 110% chaos.

Now I know that the original is not chaos. The only other song on this album is a 20 minute 21 second version of My Favorite Things. It is also chaos. I have 3 other copies of My Favorite Things that are not chaos. This album is chaos. It is also genius.

I texted Jill and asked her why she chose the song Naima.

She answered back that it was her favorite Coltrane ballad.

I wrote back that I was going to need to find a studio version of the song because the only version I had was live and was chaos.

She wrote back that the studio version was “incredibly soothing and hopelessly romantic”.

I wrote her, “That is the single greatest description I have ever heard for a song.”

I told her I would find a copy of the studio version and give it a listen and then we could compare notes.

I did some research on the song to find out what album the original song was on. Turns out that it was Giant Steps. This was an album that I have literally held in my hands at least 10 times, but have never purchased because it seemed to me that I could wait for a remastered version of the album.

Ames is virtually devoid of music stores. I know that is partially because Ames didn’t support its music stores and partially because the internet and iTunes have so radically changed the market that music stores with inventory of not Top 40 (read crap) are not going to make it.

I remember when I was in high school – Bill, Lowell, Andy and I would load into Bill’s Ford Fairmont station wagon and drive to Campustown to visit the (not 1, not 2) 3 music stores located with a 3 block radius. There was Archives, Peeples and BHS Records. BHS Records wasn’t really called BHS Records. It went by another name, but we always called it BHS Records because it is where we discovered the Butthole Surfers.

Now they are all gone and if a person is looking for new, experimental, alternative music – good luck! I don’t know where this generation of kids is going to discover bands like Jerry’s Kids, Intense Mutilation, The Abortions, Dead Kennedys, Dead Milkmen, The Ramones or the Revolting Cocks.

The options in Ames for buying music are the big box department stores. That means virtually no choice at all.

But I wasn’t without hope. Best Buy has a small jazz section. Borders has a slightly bigger jazz section. Hastings has a slightly larger jazz section than Borders. But if you were to combine all of their jazz sections the term that would best describe the conglomeration is anemic.

That Friday after I left work, I did not have time to stop at Best Buy or Borders for reasons that currently escape me. After all, this was nearly a month ago.

Now I know what you are thinking… You are thinking that somebody that literally mines computers for a living must easily have the aptitude to download this song from iTunes, Amazon, Zune or illegally find it in one of the murky backwaters of the worldwide web.

It is true that I have that capacity. But I am also the guy who still wants CDs. I want liner notes and album art. I want to rip the CD to my hard drive. I want to be able to have a real CD (not a burned copy) to sit inside the 300 disc changer that resides at the bottom of my stack of audio equipment in my home.

On Saturday morning I had a fairly busy day scheduled. I woke up early and met Frank at the gym. This was one of his first times back to the gym since his NDE so it was a fairly light workout.

I left the gym with enough time to stop at Best Buy and Borders before I had to meet Sara in Beaverdale for our jaunt over to Prospect Park to watch Jen rip it up in the Des Moines Regatta.

Des Moines Regatta - 2009
Derrick and Jen at the Des Moines Regatta

I can write what I am about to write with a clear conscience. The dude that runs the Best Buy in Ames is one of my best friends and although he is not a reader (his term) he still is a loyal subscriber to this blog.

Scott tenderloining.

Best Buy broke, no, shattered my heart into a million pieces. Not only did they not have Giant Steps, they didn’t have a single Coltrane album. I could understand that they didn’t have Giant Steps. Even though it is a fairly seminal jazz album. I mean I don’t own it, so I shouldn’t judge Best Buy too harshly. But they didn’t have a single John Coltrane album in stock. I know, pretty unforgivable. I mean to have a serious talk with Scott about this tragic oversight the next time that we are knocking down a tenderloin. (Yes, I realize that music and movies are loss leader items for stores like Best Buy and in a tough economy it is smart business practice to keep as little on hand stock as possible, especially items that aren’t exactly flying off the shelf like 50 year old jazz albums. But we’re talking about Coltrane, man!)

Borders used to have a fairly decent jazz selection. Unfortunately a few months back they decided to lower their inventory levels and concentrate on selling Top 40 (read crap) music. Now their jazz section is a disgrace on multiple levels.

Their first disgrace is the size. It is only about 1/3 of its previous size. Their 2nd disgrace is that their discs are randomly “organized”. I literally went through every single jazz album they had in stock to determine that they did not carry Giant Steps.

Disappointed I made my way down to Beaverdale to meet Sara for the Des Moines Regatta.

I was hoping to have time to hit a music store in Des Moines while I was down there, but it wasn’t to be. The Regatta ran a touch longer than expected and then after the portion that interested us had concluded, we ate at Zimm’s.

Sara contends they have the best nachos in Des Moines. I argue for Skip’s.

I left Des Moines at 3 and had to be at the wedding of Mindy Vickers in Boone at 4. I got stuck behind the Army football team on Highway 17, so I was not able to make record time, but I did get to the wedding only a handful of minutes late.

I grabbed a seat in the back of the church next to my old boss, the Son-in-Law. After the wedding concluded, the Son-in-Law set up shop on the Senile Old Man. It was awesome! I could have listened for hours, but instead I congratulated the happy couple and headed to the ISU-Army football game.

After the game, I went to Dustin Jackson’s wedding reception.

Dustin and I – The World’s Most Dominant Egg Toss Team

I just want to note that I miss those sideburns.

I had an awesome time at the reception, before returning home to sleep.

In the morning I attended church and around noon the family took my mom to La Carreta for her birthday.

At this feast, Teresa asked me if I would take Logan over to the art festival in Ames. He needed to go for extra credit.

I agreed to take him because I was going to Ames to check out Hastings to see if I could find Giant Steps. I could use the company.

Johnathan decided he wanted to go, so we met at my house and prepared to load up the car. But before we got in the car Logan insisted that he get to choose the music.

I told him he could choose the music on the way there, but on the way back he was in my world.

He asked if I had The Beatles One CD.

I asked him if he meant, “Like the Greatest Hits Album”.


I was disappointed. My sister had failed in teaching him one of life’s most valuable truths.

“Greatest hits albums are for sailors and housewives.” I think we all know what terrible taste in music sailors and housewives possess.

I gave Logan a long lecture on the evils of the “Greatest Hits Album”.

Logan having the good fortune of me being his uncle his entire life, listened and took to heart the wisdom that I imparted to him.

The first stop in Ames was Hastings. As we approached the door I noticed that it was plastered with signs proclaiming that Hastings was closing on Wednesday.

Interesting, I thought. Then I entered the store.

“Bennett.” I heard called out to my left.

Ungs was working the Customer Service Desk.

“What is this all about?” I asked pointing to the sign.

“Our lease is up. We are closing down forever. They held a meeting and told us a couple of days ago.”

“Did they at least give you burnt cheese and pretzels?”


I was disappointed. When we had been told that Campus was closing down, the Senile Old Man had at least provided us with burnt cheese and pretzels.

I worked my way back to the jazz section and surveyed the Coltrane albums. Giant Steps wasn’t there. But as I examined the albums I noticed that Naima was on The Very Best of John Coltrane.

Fate was laughing in my face. I wanted to hear the song, but I didn’t want the indignity of buying a Greatest Hits Album. But sometimes a man has to swallow his pride.

I looked around to make sure Logan and Johnathan weren’t paying attention. Luckily for me, they were quite enthralled with a pimp goblet.

Might be what the Holy Grail looks like…

I picked up the CD and made my way to the checkout. They never noticed.

We headed up to the art festival.

Coltrane's 1st Wife's Middle Name

Coltrane's 1st Wife's Middle Name

They seemed to enjoy the art festival and after ambling around for an hour or so we headed back to Boone so Johnathan could go to work.

We dropped off Johnathan, then Logan and I made a brief stop by the Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad so that we could see Thomas the Tank.

Coltrane's 1st Wife's Middle Name

Then I dropped off Logan and went home to prepare my house for Rabbit Feast. By prepare my house, I mean that I was home.

Becky came over and began her preparations. Jay came over and prepared his appetite.

Becky served so much food that I can’t possibly remember it all. I do remember that it turns out that I don’t particularly care for rabbit, stud rabbits aren’t treated with nearly enough respect and Becky made some kind of peanut butter glaze that was incredible.

After the meal, I amazed Jay and Becky with my ability to play YouTube on my Blu-Ray player. All things considered, I am more impressed by the fact that it plays Pandora. But to show them the YouTube functionality, we watched several clips from Robot Chicken. Becky was not amused by Robot Chicken. I feel bad that she doesn’t appreciate the greatness of that show.

Jay and Becky left around 11 and I immediately crashed.

The next day I brought my CD to work to listen to Naima. This is not how I like to listen to music. I like to not have any distractions and be in complete darkness. I don’t know, light distracts my ears. Nothing I can do about it. I have to live with this brain.

While I was perusing the liner notes, I learned that the version of Naima on this greatest hits collection was live.

Fate was laughing at me again. This time, I had to laugh with the stupid jerk as well. Then I went to Amazon and downloaded the Giant Steps version of Naima.

I made a CD of the studio version of the song and the two different live versions of the song. That night as I went to bed, I put the CD on “Repeat Disc” and listened to the disc until I fell asleep.

I’m not going to go into details about my exchange with Jill about the song. It was mostly me making references to other forms of art and a discussion on what it means to be “hopelessly romantic” and whether or not that is a bad thing.

But I will share the one paragraph that Jill sent that inspired me to make these pictures:

I believe that you do not need to be an accomplished musician in order to be an accomplished music lover. Actually, I think knowing too much about the technicalities can ruin just purely loving to listen to music. I luckily never cared too much about music theory so I don’t think I’m part of that group, but I would much rather go hear music live rather than listen to recorded music. That is probably why my favorite genre is jazz because it’s so spontaneous and so great live. Unfortunately I no longer have any of my jazz cds, but I will slowly rebuild my collection. I’m not going to pretend to know a lot about jazz because I don’t. I played in jazz band only because it was just so much fun. I was never great at it by any stretch of the imagination but I simply didn’t care. I’ve heard a lot of it, but honestly can’t name every standard or tell you who performed them all. I do know what I like when I hear it though, and I can usually explain why I like it. I think that is all that really matters.

I should state for those that don’t know, Jill is an accomplished musician and played the most rocking piccolo solo I ever heard in my life this Summer with the Boone City Band.

I think you know that I am not an accomplished musician. In fact, I could hardly be described as a musician at all. But I do still have my old slide trombone sitting in my basement from my days at dear old BHS.

But after being inspired and somewhat liberated by reading those words, I decided to take a self portrait with my trombone in homage to a couple of my favorite musicians (Miles Davis and John Coltrane) and two of their seminal albums, Kind of Blue and Blue Train.

So that is the story that lead me to sit in my basement one Thursday night and make these images with a beat up trombone that has seen better days, but will never see better days again.

Coltrane's 1st Wife's Middle Name
Kind of Blue Train Series – 001


I know it is a lot to get through just to see 3 pictures.

The Favor

I spent an interesting weekend in Kansas City last weekend.

Jen, Derrick, Jesse, Baier and I left early Saturday morning to make it to Arrowhead Stadium in time for the Iowa State-Kansas State game.

Baier took this picture of Jen, Derrick and I with my phone so that we could send birthday wishes back to Sara.

I did not take my camera to this game, so I don’t have photos to remember this game, but that will hardly be necessary.

Iowa State thoroughly dominated the game, yet managed to be losing by 7 with 30 seconds left in the game. This was thanks to Kansas State pulling a couple of touchdowns out of their butt on two 3rd and longs.

Just when it seemed like their wasn’t any justice in this cruel world, Arnaud lofted a pass toward the back corner of the endzone. When he threw this pass, I was fairly certain it was going to be intercepted. He threw the pass to Jake Williams who was double covered and the pass looked like it was badly overthrown.

Yet, miracles happen! Some how and some way (I’m still not certain how) the pass made it through 2 Kansas State defenders and landed softly in the diving hands of Jake Williams.

Our section went crazy. We were going to overtime.

Then the unthinkable happened. Well, it would be the unthinkable for a fan of about any other team than Iowa State, but Iowa State fans know that they never get full miracles. They get a taste of glory and then have it snatched away from them in the cruelest way imaginable.

There was the game where the refs blew the call and robbed Seneca Wallace of a touchdown against Florida State. There was Tony Yelk’s missed field goal against Alabama. There was the not one, but the two missed field goals that cost us North Division titles against Missouri and Kansas. There was blowing a 20 point lead against Kansas last year. There was ending up 1 yard short of beating Colorado last year.

Now there is this… Kansas State blocking an extra point that would have tied the game and sent it into overtime.

We were stunned. It hurt, but I couldn’t help thinking that this is what it means to be a Cyclone fan. To have a collection of losses that defy ordinary explanation forever engraved into your memory.

I can remember everything about those losses that I just described and at least a dozen more. But I still wouldn’t trade those experiences for cheering for a team with a more “successful” history.

But the game was only the beginning of the weekend. In fact, perhaps the story of what happened after the game started well before we even left for Kansas City.

We had considerable discussion about where to stay that weekend. We gave some consideration about staying with some of our friends and relatives in Kansas City, but with 5 of us, we didn’t want to put anybody out that much.

But it was a busy weekend in Kansas City. The Chiefs were in town for a woodshed beating by the Giants. Plus a bunch of rednecks were driving around in a circle. Apparently this is considered entertainment by some people. Needless to say, getting a hotel for the weekend was going to be difficult.

Jesse volunteered to find us rooms because he still had some connections from his days in the hotel business. He called a guy that we are not going to refer to as a friend. We are going to refer to him as an acquaintance.

This acquaintance agreed to do us a favor. He got us in at a hotel, but we had to claim to be part of a wedding block. He told us that the hotel was a nice business hotel. It was called The Extended Stay and the rooms had both a fridge and a microwave in every room.

Sounded great. Until we pulled up to the hotel and saw it in person.

For starters, the hotel looked like it had been abandoned. There wasn’t a single car in the parking lot and there was clearly black mold on the curtains.

We got out of our vehicles and walked toward the hotel lobby. There was a guy hanging out in a van. He started it as we approached the vehicle. Then as we walked by, he shut it off.

I don’t want to be accused of judging people, but it is my firm belief that he shut off the van when he saw Jen. He got out of the van and followed us into the hotel.

There was a line of about 3 people at the front desk. The front desk employee was the angriest hotel employee I have ever seen and I worked at a hotel once.

Derrick and I sat down on a couch. Jen and Baier sat down in a sofa across from us. Jesse stood in line. Creepy Guy walked into the lobby and then leaned against a wall. He just looked at us.

Then a completely random guy walked into the hotel lobby. I write “random” when I feel that there wasn’t anything random about it. I feel that what this guy did was his job.

Random Guy announced to all the people in the lobby, “Hey, there is a Dominoes right across the street! You could just walk over and pick up your pizza and save the delivery costs!”

Only he said it with legitimate excitement and not an ounce of irony. Not at all like I would say it. In a way that was as demeaning to Dominoes and what they laughingly try to pass off as pizza as possible.

Then as suddenly as he appeared, Random Guy was gone.

It was then that Creepy Guy decided to speak. He made another general announcement to the lobby: “If you want some good food, there is an Outback about a mile up the road.”

Once again, this was said without the slightest bit of irony. I do enjoy the Outback, but if I am in Kansas City do you really think I’m looking for a chain steakhouse?

Shortly after the announcement Jesse was at the front of the line.

He told Angry Front Desk Guy that he was checking in for 2 rooms.

Angry Front Desk Guy asked him if he was paying for both rooms. Jesse indicated that he could leave both rooms on his card for now and they they would settle up in the morning.

Angry Front Desk Guy snarled, “That isn’t what I asked.”

At this point two Pretty Boys entered the lobby. They looked around and then they walked back outside.

I laughed quietly at the Pretty Boys. I knew that they were going outside to have the exact same conversation that Jen, Derrick, Baier and I were having with our eyes. “Do we really want to stay in this dump?”

Derrick had hopped up when Angry Front Desk Guy had snapped at Jesse and had put down a credit card for Derrick and Jen’s room.

As Jesse and Derrick concluded their transaction (we got a 10 dollar discount because the rooms didn’t have phones) with Angry Front Desk Guy, the two Pretty Boys re-entered the hotel lobby. Apparently they had decided to “sack-up” and give the Bates Motel a chance.

We left the lobby and returned to our vehicles. We drove past the abandoned section of the hotel and parked next to our rooms.

Our rooms were on the 2nd floor of the hotel. It was a hotel where the doors face the outside world. Just like God meant for cheap, sleazy hotels to be.

As we packed up our stuff, the two Pretty Boys caught up with us.

We walked up to the 2nd floor on steps that felt that they could conceivably collapse at any moment while making small talk about Cyclone athletics with the Pretty Boys.

The balcony of the 2nd floor did not feel much sturdier than the stairs.

Jen and Derrick entered room 206.

We entered room 212.

The Pretty Boys entered room 214.

There was a rather obvious problem with room 212. The heater had been taken apart and was strewn across the floor.

We walked back out to the balcony. Jesse called the front desk to report our dilemma. The 2 Pretty Boys exited their room at about the same time. They indicated that they weren’t staying at this place and one of them muttered something about cobwebs.

Cobwebs? Whatever Nancy.

The Angry Front Desk Guy told Jesse that if he came down to the front desk he would get us another room. Jesse started the walk to the front desk, when out of nowhere (not literally, he wasn’t a magician) Creepy Guy appeared.

He asked us if we wanted room 214. I didn’t quite understand how he knew that the 2 Pretty Boys weren’t going to stay when they had made that decision literally minutes ago, but we looked around 214 and decided that we could handle a few cobwebs if it meant that we had heat.

Creepy Guy told us that he would run down and get us a key for 214. While we waited for his return, we dumped our stuff in 214.

Jen emerged from 206 and came down to our room. She made a beeline for our bathroom. She looked around in there and then made the announcement that she would be showering there in the morning.

“Your bathroom is that bad?” I inquired.

“There is blood on the door.” She replied.

She took me down to 206. First she pointed out the hole that had been punched in the bathroom door. Then she pointed out about 7 or 8 blood splatters that dotted the bathroom door and the doorway.

Then she opened the door to reveal the bathroom. I’m not sure what the best word to describe their bathroom would be, but “clean” was not it.

“I wouldn’t shower here either.”

As I came out into the clean air of the balcony, Creepy Guy had returned with our key. We locked up our hotel rooms (as if it mattered) and loaded into the Forester for the trip to my Aunt’s house in Easton.

The drive to Easton consisted mostly of Jesse doing an impression of Creepy Guy hitting on Jen that sounded like a mixture of Hannibal Lecter and Forrest Gump and a discussion of what was the strangest text message I had received on this day.

For the record, it went something like this:

Awesome! 4got that was this weekend! Give Derrick and Jen my love. Thanks 4 the pic! Looks like UR all having a blast! My toilet just overflowed 4 no apparent reason. Back 2 trying 2 dry the bathroom floor.

We had a wonderful time at my Aunt’s house. I got to re-connect with my cousins Adam and Jordan and Sarah. My Uncle Mike regaled us with stories of the 20 years he spent working with the “scum of the Earth” in Leavenworth’s prison system. Including a touching story about how he received a Christmas card from a prisoner named “Cold Cuts”. Of course, Cold Cuts earned that nickname for cannibalizing two women when he was a member of polite society.

We returned to the Kansas City version of the Bates Motel. Jen and Derrick to 206. Baier, Jesse and I to 214.

We turned on ESPN to catch up on the rest of the college football scores of the day. After a few minutes there was a knock on the door.

By the looks of the place, I knew it wasn’t housekeeping. I figured there was a decent chance that it was the “live hooker” that Derrick had postulated earlier in the evening might come free with every room. I figured there was also a decent chance that it was a drug dealer making a cold call. If it was, it would not be the first time on this day that I had politely declined drugs. I figured there was also a decent chance that it was Random Guy stopping by to urge us to not pass up the chance to cash in on Dominoes, just across the street. I figured that there was a decent chance that it was Creepy Guy thinking that Jen was staying in this room. He would be wearing his dress bowie, with his hair slicked back and sporting a half bottle of Drakkar Noir coming to woo Jen.

But in the end, it was Jen and Derrick. They came in and sat down.

“Umm…” they began, “We found blood on our sheets.” Then they added, “We are going to find a different hotel.”

“Good decision.” I told them.

They moved slowly toward the door and then Jen turned back and said, “I hope you don’t think this makes us uppity.”

I will NEVER forget her saying that. It was funny and peculiar on so many levels.

They ended up at a hotel in Kearney. At about 1:24 in the morning my phone beeped.

I picked it up and saw that I had a new text message from Jen. It read:

They have a few rms left if u get 2 creepd.

I rolled over and tried to catch some sleep.

When the light started to trickle into the room in the morning I got up. I looked outside. There was a cop car prowling the parking lot checking the license plates of every car in the lot.

I thought to myself, “I’m still alive and what’s more, I’m ready for some Waffle House!!”

Creepy Guy (Surprise! Drinking Mountain Dew)


Padded Headboards? Swanky!

You can save yourself the delivery charge!!

I’m considering making a return trip to Kansas City in November. I hope it is adventurous in a different manner.

Des Moines Regatta

Admittedly, this is a series of very similar pictures, but I hope to convey the excitement and pageantry of the Des Moines Regatta.

I went down there on Saturday to watch Jen compete with Derrick and sara.

Some of these photos were taken by Sara who redeemed herself after last year’s incident.

Des Moines Regatta - 2009

Des Moines Regatta - 2009

Des Moines Regatta - 2009

Des Moines Regatta - 2009

Des Moines Regatta - 2009

Des Moines Regatta - 2009

Des Moines Regatta - 2009

Des Moines Regatta - 2009

Des Moines Regatta - 2009

Des Moines Regatta - 2009

Des Moines Regatta - 2009

Des Moines Regatta - 2009

Des Moines Regatta - 2009

Des Moines Regatta - 2009

Des Moines Regatta - 2009

Des Moines Regatta - 2009

Des Moines Regatta - 2009

Des Moines Regatta - 2009

Des Moines Regatta - 2009

Des Moines Regatta - 2009

Des Moines Regatta - 2009

Des Moines Regatta - 2009

Des Moines Regatta - 2009

Des Moines Regatta - 2009

Des Moines Regatta - 2009

It was one of my busier Saturdays. I hit the gym with Frank about 8:30. I failed to find a copy of the album “Giant Steps”, but more on that later. I met Sara at 11 to go to the Des Moines Regatta. I left Des Moines at 3 and followed the Army Football team all of the way from 141 up to 30. Hit the Mindy Vickers wedding at 4. Got to Jack Trice Stadium at 5:30. Watched the Cyclones win fairly easily while not looking remotely impressive. Made my way through postgame traffic and got to Hickory Hall for the Dustin Jackson-Danielle Schell wedding reception at about 10 pm. I got home about midnight and slept like a champ.


Life and work has been busy as of late, but I did want to draw some attention to pictures from a recent Road/Camping Trip that I went on.

You can see those pictures by clicking on the link below:

Backbone State Park – Road Trip

I might write on this trip in the future, but the important things to know are this:

  • The Gunderburger is a full pound of meat.
  • Spook Cave is the only boat cave tour in Iowa.
  • 6 people went on the trip. We packed enough stuff for 20 people.
  • Jay is afraid of waterfalls.
  • Derrick knows his way around a burger.
  • Sara earned her hiking badge.
  • Shannon makes a mean biscuits and gravy.
  • I need a new tent.
  • We have gotten old.

I’m already looking forward to next year’s The Road Trip.

4th of July

I had a pretty great 4th of July!

I woke up in the morning and headed to Ames at about 9 am. I met Shannon and her cousin Matthew for a pretty sweet breakfast of biscuits and gravy that Shannon made.

Then I headed over to Jen and Derrick’s to drop off some cherry ice cream I made the night before for their annual 4th of July barbecue.

I got to Bandshell Park at about 10 am and worked on Ames on the Half Shell until about 7 pm.

I got a few photos of the event, but I’m just going to post my 5 favorite.

Nadas - 4th of July
Peg and Angie with Mike Butterworth of The Nadas

Nadas - 4th of July
Me with Teresa and Logan

Nadas - 4th of July
Me with Willy

Nadas - 4th of July
Geri D. re-enacting the stamping of Matthew’s Tongue

Nadas - 4th of July
Matthew and Shannon’s Annual 4th of July Portrait (Destined to be used as a Facebook Profile Picture with the cute part cropped out of it.)

After Ames on the Half Shell, I headed over to the fireworks firing grounds. Lighting off fireworks was quite a bit more dramatic this year. I saw quite a few fireworks do things that they weren’t supposed to do.

Becky signed up to do fireworks, but after the very first one that Shannon lit blew up only a few feet in the air and flew all over the shooting area, she changed her mind.

I have to admit, that was pretty exciting. The next day I talked to Melissa. She did security for fireworks, so she wasn’t at ground zero. She told me that when she saw that first firework blow up and shoot fireworks all over the area, she said a little prayer. But figured everybody must have been okay, because the fireworks didn’t stop.

Shannon never knew that her firework malfunctioned, but that is part of the training. You don’t watch your firework.

After a couple of minutes, Becky changed her mind and joined in the fun.

Here are a few pictures from the fireworks:

Independence Day - 2009
Scott showing off our massive amount of communication technology we had a ground zero.

Independence Day - 2009
Hammering Rebar. Rebar is hammered in between mortars to prevent them from falling over and firing into the crowd. Or worse, at the shooters. This is an example of what went wrong in Charles City last year. They used rebar, but they only hammered it in a few inches into asphalt. Because all the mortars were chained together, when one mortar fell over, they all fell over.
Independence Day - 2009
Joe unpacking fireworks.

Independence Day - 2009
The 10 minute warning. This was the very first firework that Becky ever lit.

Independence Day - 2009
Last year, Sara asked me what fireworks look like from the other side. I don’t have a good answer for that question, but this is what fireworks look like from underneath.

Independence Day - 2009
Shannon lighting a 5 inch shell. The 5 inch shells were the biggest that we lit off this year. I think this is actually my favorite picture from the day. Even though I’m sure critics will claim that it is slightly derivative of my earlier work.

Independence Day - 2009
This is an example of what it can look like when something goes minorly wrong. It might look to some people like this is a series of fireworks going off, but it isn’t. This is what it looks like when a firework doesn’t go up high enough before it blows up. It comes back to the earth before it has completely burned up. The strange thing about this picture is that if you look closely, you can see aluminum foil on top of the mortars. These are the grand finale mortars and they are covered by aluminum foil in case something like this happens. All the grand finale fireworks are fused together, so if 1 of them goes off, they all go off. If you look even closer, you will notice that there is not aluminum foil covering all of the mortars. This happened while people were removing the foil and getting ready to set off the Grand Finale. If you look very close, you can make out Joe on the very right side of the picture. Shannon was also in the middle of this, but she does not appear in the picture.
Independence Day - 2009
The Grand Finale going off.

There are a ton of other great pictures from the day. I suggest you either click on the picture below or the link below and check them out:


It was a great and safe fireworks show. It was a spectacular show and nobody came close to getting injured!

I concluded the evening hanging out with some wonderful people at Jen and Derrick’s barbecue. I didn’t leave there until a little after 2, but I still woke up in time to usher at church. Take that sleep! Who needs you any way?


On Saturday, June 20, 2009 I headed to Ottumwa with Sara to help Jen and Derrick with the house that they are trying to unload down there.

Before we left, we stopped for lunch at George the Chili King. I had never eaten there, but I called Jen to see if she wanted us to pick up some lunch for her.

Her only response was to remind me that the toilet in Ottumwa does not work that well.

I snapped a few pictures with the phone (although not a great camera, it is the reason I selected the phone) to document my Chili King experience.

One of the bonuses of the trip was getting to introduce Jen, Sara, Jill and Derrick to the greatness of Bonne Finken.

Pictures of Jill and Derrick listening to Bonne Finken.




I wish I had some pictures of the basement powerwashing, but alas, you will have to imagine what that looked like.