Why do we Stand?

It’s morning at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.  Welders, electricians, shipfitters, and engineers alike settle in to begin their day working to repair the pacific naval fleet.  The rain pounds the asphalt as I walk from my office to the machine shop for a work brief, ill equipped for the weather as usual.  It’s been this way for weeks now, as is the norm in the Puget Sound, with no signs of a respite.  Any second now, a trumpet will sound through the loud speakers, signaling the national anthem.  All that are inside are free to go about their business while the it plays.  However, those caught outside are instructed to stop what they’re doing and stand at attention.  I pick up the pace and walk briskly to the door, fast enough to make it in inside, slow enough not to bring about unnecessary attention.  I’m almost there, mere seconds from sanctuary—

“Badum, badum!” the trumpet plays.  Only a few steps separate me from the entrance of the shop.  I hesitate.  My mind goes into hyperdrive.  Do I sneak in?  I don’t want to be late for the meeting.  Besides, I don’t think anybody will even notice, and who would blame me if I did?  Nobody will ever see…


If you’ve ever spent an extended period of time on a military base, most likely you’ve had a similar experience, especially if you are stuck in extreme weather conditions.  Every morning at 0800, the Star-Spangled Banner rings throughout the base, and every morning, everybody who is outside stands at attention out of respect for our military, including me, no matter how many thoughts vacillate through my head.

So, it’s no surprise that several different emotions ran through me last Sunday as I watched players kneel during the anthem, or link arms to make a statement that didn’t seem to have much to do with the anthem.  I was angry, even furious at times.  The headlines on CNN, “NFL players take a knee in defiance of Trump,” didn’t make matters any better.  “How could somebody be so disrespectful to a country that has given them so much?” I thought or, “Why protest like this?  Why make a political statement at the expense of the American Flag?” or perhaps the most egregious, “What are they doing?  This kneeling crap’s going to screw up my fantasy team (which it did)…”

At the same time, I was sad.  Watching the demonstrations take place, it was almost as if I no longer recognized the country that I had grown up in.  I felt that I could never watch a game and cheer for a team I loved so much the same way ever again.  It was as if by a single gesture, all the excitement, the entire livelihood of the NFL had been sucked out of me.  Perhaps the worst part was that I didn’t see a single leader of the NFL, the coaches, commissioner, or any of the broadcasters have the courage to say what those players were doing on the field was wrong.

After all, standing for the national anthem is a practice that’s been entrenched into most of us since we were young.  It’s an anthem that often gives me goosebumps, and even a little swell in my heart after a beautiful and emotional rendition.  And I hate to admit, but during times of inebriation, I’ve admittedly sang the anthem at the top of my lungs like a jackass.  But if you’re anything like me, for most of your life, you’ve stood with your hand over your heart, many times just to go through the motions, never really stopping to ask the question, “why is it so important to stand for the national anthem?”

Many of the reasons the players chose to kneel were well expressed, most stemming from the that inequalities still exist in our country and that social justice must be attained before they choose to stand again, a viewpoint exacerbated by Trump’s recent comments.  And how much can I argue that inequalities don’t exist?  After all, we are a country that for better or worse, has been through a lot since its inception, born with its ailments, or foibles perhaps, that the founders knew couldn’t be cured with just the stroke of a pen.  They were shortcomings that would take years of pain, suffering, and intense battle to overcome.

“America is great because she is good.  If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great,” said Alexis de Toqueville, the French diplomat who had spent a copious amount of time studying democracy in the early years of the United States, eventually authoring, “Democracy in America.” The founders shared de Toqueville’s sentiment that the American citizenry consisted of a good-hearted, God-fearing people, and had faith that they could, and would carry out the dream of a free society if given the chance.  With this, they were granted the power to choose its leaders through a representative Republic, with the ability to form, to quote from our constitution, “a more perfect union,” of which many risked and sacrificed their business, riches, security, and in some cases, lives to fight against all odds, against the most powerful nation on the planet, so that one day, maybe, just maybe they could secure this dream for the American people.

We are a country that in order to remain united and survive past its infancy, had to accept the inhumane practice of slavery.  And although slavery existed, the founders knew the system of government they had set in place would allow the will of the people to eventually right its wrongs and put an end to the practice.  And with a war that cost the lives of roughly a million Americans, a great president, and nearly divided our country for good, we paid our debts and were able to overcome this evil.

We are a country that continues to fight against the evils of racism to this day.  During the civil rights movement of the sixties, people of all backgrounds fought against many powerful institutions to pronounce the treatment of a group of people based on their race is wrong, and it must be stopped.  And through peaceful protest, heavy persistence, and battling past the constant threat of violence, those who had fought so long for fair and equal treatment won the argument and changed the hearts of Americans alike.

We are a country who continues this rejection of prejudice to this day.  At the recent riots in Charlottesville, while many in the media screamed of fear and the rise of fascism, white supremacy and racism, I saw a swath of Americans who came together to take a stand against a vile display hate and anger.  The hundreds of demonstrators that came to protest that day were highly outnumbered by the voices denouncing them from all around the country, voices that aren’t afraid to speak out, not matter where the source of such evil comes from.

And when it comes to evil, we are a country who has had a proven track record against it.  On December 7th, 1941, there was little hesitation from our country to take action after the attack on Pearl Harbor, judging by the response of our leaders and the abundance of young men willing to join the military to take a stand against the Nazi’s and Imperialist Japan.  And like the soldiers of the American Revolution, Civil War, and other wars before them, they fought, risked, and sacrificed, from the beaches of Normandy to the islands of the Pacific, enduring the harshest of conditions and all horrors that come with war.  They fought to defeat this evil, for there was a belief that what they were fighting for was something greater than themselves, that although they may fall, their brothers would fight on to secure their way of life, that their sacrifice may result in a much better world for their friends, family, and the rest of the world.

We are a country who from the beginning, has always promoted science and innovation.  Not by force and coercion, but by allowing the pursuit of happiness to take its course, to let one take command of his or her own ideas, dreams, and visions of the world and watch them flourish.  Through this, we’ve built and powered great cities, from New York to San Francisco.  We’ve taken command of the internet, unleashed its power and provided an infinite catalogue of knowledge and the ability to connect with people thousands of miles away with just the click of a button.  All throughout our history, we’ve created thousands of other inventions most of which go unnoticed in the day to day grind: the automobile, airplane, iPhone with GPS capabilities, indoor plumbing and waste treatment, air conditioning, electricity, fresh drinking water, refrigeration, an MRI machine, Disneyland, Nintendo, Instagram, and the list goes on.  Thousands—millions of inventions that make our lives better, each and every day, most of which are taken for granted by everyday citizens, including myself.

We are a country that promotes the free expression of art, creative ideas, and different modes of thinking.  And through the advancement of music and motion pictures, artists continue to find ways to experiment and express themselves, creating art that touches our hearts and makes us laugh, cry, and at times jump up with excitement.  By watching films like the Godfather, Forrest Gump, Star Wars, or any John Hughes movie, or by attending your favorite band’s concert, whether it be Kanye West, Taylor Swift, Metallica, or Kenny Chesney, this art holds a deeply emotional and significant impact on our lives and has changed the way we view the world.

I mean, c’mon, we are a country that put a man on the mother f’n moon for God’s sake!  Excuse my language, but think about this for a second.  Back in the day when the Pilgrims came over, it took 2 to 3 months just to sail across the ocean, one way, and this ain’t your luxury Carnival Cruise we’re talkin’.  These trips sucked, and if you wanted to go and visit Europe, you best believe you were gonna stay there for a long ass time.  Then, America was born, and in less than 200 years, we flew a couple of dudes into space, traveled nearly a million miles, landed on the moon, and brought their asses back to Earth in a little over a week!  That’s incredible!  (And if you’re one of those people that believe the moon landing was a hoax, Buzz Aldrin will come and punch you in the face!)

Imagine Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson talking about this after they wrote the Declaration of Independence.  “You know Tom, after we get this forming a country stuff figured out, someday, we’re gonna walk on that big old moon up there.”  Forget about it.  It never happened!  And who could blame them?  The country they helped form was able to do something inconceivable, something that nobody in their wildest dreams could’ve ever thought possible, a feat no other country has ever been able to do, ever!  Man, if they were alive today, they’d be damn proud of what this country has accomplished.

Somebody once shared a quote from John Adams that has stuck with me, “I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy.”  These great men who set the foundation for this country, who did the heavy lifting and hard work in its early days, and those who, to this day, serve to protect our country, our freedom, and our way of life, who allow us to live peacefully without the threat of anybody taking that away, it’s these people who allow us to live our lives as we see fit.  It’s these great men and women who allow people like me to drink Rockstar energy drinks and share silly stories of my misfortunes when I should be studying mathematics and philosophy.  It’s these same people who provide artists like Kanye West the opportunity to share their crazy views while creating their amazing beats without the fear of censorship.  It’s these people who give us the luxury to watch, play, and celebrate a game in which two teams try to carry a pigskin across a field.

It’s these people of whom we are indebted to, of whom deserve our deepest gratitude.

And above all, we are a country that comes together during the tough times.  I’ll never forget September 11, 2001, watching on a 13-inch television set in Mr. Rayburn’s science class as a Junior in High School when both towers of the World Trades Center came down, knowing that the one and only world I ever knew would be changed forever.  And I’ll never forget the emotions felt during that time, the amount of pride I felt as an American, in my fellow countrymen, seeing almost every single person I knew set aside their differences and unite to heal as a country.

It’s a spirit of lending a helping hand to our fellow man that continues to this day, as I watch several strangers come together, donating their time, money, and efforts to provide aid and rebuild the lives of victims of the hurricanes in Texas and Florida.

I see the national anthem as an allegory for this type of spirit.  Played before times of intense battle and divisiveness, where fans will relentlessly jaw insults back and forth and two teams will spend 60 minutes pounding the crap out of each other, we all can take a moment to stand with our hands on our hearts, to remember that there are things in this world and in our lives that are bigger than us, bigger than Donald Trump, that there are principles we all can unite around.

We can take a moment to reflect on those great men and women, admittedly greater than myself who have served and those who have shaped this great country through art, innovation, risk, and sacrifice into what it is today, to allow us to partake in such coveted pastimes such as the NFL.  It’s a reminder that someday, through hard work, patience, and sacrifice, we too may become the great men of our generation.  It’s a reminder that though our country is not perfect, nor will it ever will be, we have the ability to change, to strive towards a more perfect union.  Our system of government allows it.

…It reminds us that America is great because she is good, and despite our differences, the flag and the anthem unite us.  It always has.  It is the single most unifying symbol we have.

If anything good has come out of the craziness of this kneeling fiasco, it’s given me a chance to reaffirmed my beliefs on standing for the anthem and the importance behind it.  It’s given me the opportunity to articulate my views so that others who do not know better may understand.  Never again will I question whether or not I should try to sneak in at the last second to avoid having to listen to the anthem for a minute on a military base.  And as long as America remains great, I will always stand at attention when the anthem is played, on base or at a sporting events, no matter the weather.  I will show respect for the American flag, and I ask you to do the same.

I ask you to set politics aside, and remember the reasons as to why it’s important to show this respect when our anthem is played.  I implore you to search within yourself, to look at the big picture, to remember that even with the present inequalities or injustices you may see in your life (and trust me, I have a list of my own), that there is so much more good than bad that has come about from this country and from the people living in it.

I implore you to stand next to me with your hand on your heart, unified.

So as it turns out, Michael Jordan wasn’t born in North Carolina…

Ever since I was born, my mother has reminded me of the fact that I was born in Wilmington, North Carolina. Yea, no big deal right? Wrong, because there’s another big part to it… That it happened to be the same hospital where Michael Jordan, the greatest basketball player of all time, was born. It was a fact that I repeated time and time again throughout my life. In grade school, the kids would hang on my every word and repeat the story to others as if I were a legend. Through my college years I would tell the tale and be met with responses along the lines of “No way!” or “Get out of here!” and other expressions of excitement. Even now as a working professional, I still tell the tale and receive the nod of approval and ever so slight grins that grow at a slow, yet proportional rate. I repeat it as if it’s my mantra, my motto.

It was one of my proudest claims to fame, a highlight of my life, and a great pick-up line for the ladies. In fact, it was merely a couple weeks ago that I was attending a bachelorette party and I laid down the line in front of a large crowd of babes, where they all smiled with a heightened level of impressiveness. And for those that are wondering, yes I said bachelorette party, and yes, aside from the over abundance of phallic objects, its was really fun (thanks to the efforts of a few boundary babes)! Even better than any of the bachelor parties I’ve ever been to, no offense to those bachelors, especially my buddy Alex. I love you man, but being stuck in the middle of the woods at night with a busted up rig that can’t start in weather that was around 10 degrees wasn’t exactly the greatest moment of my life. Especially after the fact that we nearly rolled off the edge of a cliff and to our deaths about 10 times, but that’s a whole other story. Let’s just say I’m happy to be alive to tell my stories after that incident.

But the point is, I would walk into a room and spread the truth in front of a crowd of people, and instantaneously I would be greeted with astonishment, with a slight wave of jealousy coming from a few. What could they say that made them relevant?  Nothing. I was always one step ahead.

It had been nearly 25 years since I stepped foot in the motherland, or crawled for that matter, and I was ready for a welcoming reception home. I met my compadres Mike and Jason at Jay Bee’s World Famous Hotdog’s in Statesville, North Carolina, where I have no idea why their hotdog’s are considered to be world famous. Every place I’ve been to that claims they have world famous hotdogs have always left me with a feeling of disappointment, such as Ben’s Chili Bowl in Washington DC. If you’re going to say you have a world famous hot dog, it better be damn good. At least don’t call them world famous so your standards shoot through the roof. If you don’t claim it and your hotdog is terrible, I won’t really care, but when you claim world fame status and your hotdog stinks, your reputation and integrity fly out the window in my book, and leave me with less satisfaction than if I ate a 1/4 pound all beef kosher dog from Costco, except that those actually aren’t that bad. One, they taste better, two, they’re only a buck fifty, three, a 22 ounce drink is included, and four, they don’t even claim to be world famous! They just let the taste of their juicy dog do the talking, and that’s the way I roll.

Anyway, after eating my less than mediocre world famous hotdog, we headed to our destination in Asheville, NC, telling story’s of the glory days when we were hooligans roaming the streets of Moscow, Idaho. We were a minute away from the house when the story popped into my head, and I found the perfect segway to tell my great tale of fame. “Dude, this is my first trip my back to North Carolina since I’ve been born. And I don’t want to brag or anything, but I happened to be born in the same hospital as Michael Jordan.

Mike tweaked his head toward me with a sudden look of confusion. “Uhh, Michael Jordan was born in Brooklyn New York dude.”

“Bull crap,” I swore back to him. He was wrong. He had to be. I knew he was going to take offense to my statement, just like he always does, and of course he wasn’t going to believe it, he never believes anything I say, but he couldn’t prove anything this time. What the hell did he know? He was seriously going to go against my mother’s word? I don’t think so. Not even he has the balls to go there, and when it comes to arguments with Mike, trust me, we’ll go to the deepest and dirtiest depths just to prove a point. It’s personal.

“Wikipedia it man,” is all he said back.

“Wikipedia isn’t a source!” I wanted to screamed. That’s like the first things they teach us in college! God I couldn’t believe he just said that! Wikipedia? C’mon! It took a lot to hold back the fury that bellowed inside me, because I was freaking mad!  Lieutenant Dan mad when he’s yelling at God during the hurricane in Bayou La Batre. Bill O’Reily mad when he’s told to play it out. Freaking Kanye West mad when Taylor Swift robs Beyonce of the best video award at the MTV VMA’s!

But I kept my cool and held my tongue through the whole ordeal. Now was not the time to blow up and cause a scene. I was about to meet the remainder of his family that I had not yet met, including his mother, and impressions to me are above and beyond the most important. Besides, there was plenty of time to prove Mike wrong and make him look like a fool, an act I get more joy out of than being that kid who receives an Xbox for Christmas! All I needed to do was wait for the opportune moment. Patience is key in situations like this.

Luckily for us, nothing brings a bunch of testosterone craved boys together like a classic Pay-Per-View UFC match, including an epic bout between Rhonda Rousy and Miranda Tate, and watching Anderson Silva’s leg snap in half. I know people are gonna hate on me for saying this, but seeing that live was freaking awesome!  And even better than that was the epic Packers and Bears matchup that proceeded the following day. Wow, that was one that’ll go down in the history books. It’s 4th and 8 with 44 seconds remaining in the game. the Pack is down 27-28 and the Bears are lined up for a jail break blitz. 7 defensive linemen vs. 6 on the offense. Rodgers snaps the ball and Julius Peppers runs towards Rodgers unblocked. John Kuhn the fullback dives in front of him with a last ditch effort to deliver a block. He barely slows the bastard, but it’s just enough for Rodgers to escape within a fingertips length. Out of the pocket he spots a wide open Randall Cobb in the middle of the field. He delivers a strike and into the endzone goes Cobb, ball in hand… and that’s when me and Mike went bonkers. We were jumping up and down in the bar, yelling, calling, texting, hugging complete strangers, and even in some instances, kissing (ayayay I know, I almost got slapped for that)! But in the end it didn’t matter, for we were full of cheer and were going to spread it around to everyone we could see, including Bears fans! You’re probably asking why, but it’s just the kind of guy I am. I can look past those types of things for one night.

We made our unmistakable appearance known to all at the various bars we visited, and by the evening’s end it had been a complete night of unforgettable memories and passion. Yet something was still bothering me deep inside as I lay in bed at the end of it all. The controversy of Michael Jordan’s birthplace still lingered, and I just couldn’t shake it off. I had to know. This had to be settled once and for all.

I picked up my iPad and googled his name. I hovered my finger over the link, but couldn’t quite press down on the screen. What was I nervous for? This was my mother’s word against Mike’s. There should be no sense of hesitation inside of me. But there was… “Man up,” I told myself before I pressed down on the link and watched the circular bars rotate in the upper left corner of the iPad, waiting for the answer, my heart working overtime against the disproportionate level of alcohol in my bloodstream. The answer would come soon. I was right. I had to be right. The screen finally refreshed and there popped up the wikipedia page. I gazed down at my answer in plain black text, waiting for me at the right hand side of the screen.

Michael Jordan: Born – Brooklyn, New York.

My heart sunk at the answer presented in front of me. How could this be? My mother had been lying to me my whole life, and I bought into until just now, when I finally saw the truth. How was I going to tell all my friends whom believed my story throughout the years? How could I even bare the thought of facing all of the babes I had met at the bachelorette party now that I’m a phony? And the worst of all, how will my relationship with my mother resume now that that sacred bond of trust has now been broken?

I awoke the next morning, pretending that the whole incident never happened, but it was no use. “Oh, by the way, did you find out where Michael Jordan was born?” It was a cheap shot question I could not defend, and he said it so smugly in front of everybody. He was mocking me big time, and I tried to play it smooth, but all that came out was one of those pathetic looks of the same fashion as the one that is permanently engrained onto Jay Cutler’s face. And he stood there in his pompous stature that makes James Franco look like Mother Teresa. No other words needed to be exchanged. Congratulations Mike, you won the argument, and my life is over. I’m sure you feel no shame whatsoever. In fact, I bet you’re ecstatic. I hope you’re happy, and I hope the torment you put me through along with a newly broken family was worth it for you.

I can’t believe she did that, out of all people, my own mother! I’m completely devastated. Those types of things just shouldn’t happen. The thought of sneaking off to get a McRib before Thanksgiving pales in comparison to this quarter century fib. It’s probably going to be at least another quarter of a century before I fully recover too. But then again, I did get over the fact that Santa Claus didn’t exist, so maybe there’s hope for a rebuild of our relationship. Although I think a lot of chocolate chip cookies and cheesecake may be required for the rekindling (*hint hint*).

Wisconsin: The Conclusion

A slight drizzle covered the lake house that somber Sunday morning in flawless fashion to supplement the mood of saying goodbye.  I had just spent an almost perfect week in the state of Wisconsin and now the thought of heading to work at 5 in the morning was all ready making my body cringe.


I took a moment to breath in a few last molecules of Chain o’ Lakes air, but due to the fact that I was “dilly dallying” (as my mother used to say) the night before, that moment was cut short, and a classic race against time scenario was in play to pack my belongings into my undersized carry-on and catch my plane.  To my luck though, I would find the Appleton airport to be much smaller in size compared to SeaTac, and navigating through security and to my gate was a breeze, turning my crush on time into a non-issue (after the fact that is).


I boarded the plane and found my seat, finally getting a moment to relax after the Chinese fire drill that consisted of me scurrying to the airport.  I leaned back and shut my eyes as the flight attendant instructed us of what to do in case we fall to our immanent doom…  And that’s when it set in.  My grandparents were selling the house.  It was the last time I’d ever step foot in that place ever again.


Immediately, memories started to flood my head, one after another.  I embraced the opportunity and pondered on each passing one, letting the nostalgia sink in before moving on to the next, further exploring the infinitesimal alleys of the mind…



I still can still remember walking into that house for the very fist time.  Through the eyes of an 8-year old boy, I saw a gargantuan castle on the water filled with secret passages, built in intercoms, and 1000’s of square feet to provide me with hours of exotic exploration.  Not to mention an arsenal of toys at my disposal: speedboats, inner tubes, noodles, a floating dock, fishing poles, paddle boats, you name it!  This place had it all.  And for a kid growing up in the 90’s, it was a Big F***in’ Deal (to quote our often candid vice-president)!


Us kids were wired from the get go the night the Bero’s and the Wohler’s came together for the first time to celebrate the holy union of my grandma and grandpa. Everyone had a lot to prove to each other, especially me.  I did my part by devising a secret scheme with the big boys to sneak into the girl’s bunk and pour water into all of their sleeping bags, leaving them completely miserable for their night’s slumber.  My stunt had gained enough respect from the older cousins that lasted through the wedding, however my cousin Brian and step-cousin Hans had different plans, for my devious plot was pork and beans compared to what they were about to pull off.


The adults that night found it in their best interest to separate themselves from their kids, which proved to be a foolish choice after Cousin Brian and Step-Cousin Hans found an empty champagne bottle, in which they proceeded to fill it up with a half and half mixture of 7-Up and Sunkist Orange Soda.  While Step-Cousin Hannah played a dramatic tune on the piano resembling a legato/minor ragtime feel, the two took turns taking pulls from the bottle, simulating the effects of two pre-teens getting completely plastered (pulling it off quite well actually).  It didn’t take long for their slurred words and stumbling about the house to make it to the upstairs in full view of grandma.  She cried out in disgust and embarrassment, especially after they spilled soda all over the carpet in front of the new members of our family, setting a perfect Wohlers example for years to come! 


Luckily for Cousin Brain, he’s always been grandma’s favorite, and can get away with just about anything, and Step-Cousin Hans wasn’t officially our cousin yet, so a high energy scolding was waived, and the two were able to continue with their wild antics with little consequence throughout the night, as well as future visits.


We learned a many great traits of the lake, including how to tube like a champ, the art of fish filleting with grandpa (in all honesty I never really got that one down very well), and even how to go pee when you’re out in the middle of the lake (consisting of draining the bladder into an old coffee cup and dumping it overboard).  Some of those skills came in handy when my cousin Kimmy and I took the paddleboat out to the floating dock and I caught a nice blue gill in front of a bunch of slightly intoxicated locals passing along in their pontoon (fortunately, I didn’t have to pee that time).  They cheered over my success, only to berate me when Kimmy unhooked the fish for me (I know right.  A girl unhooking a fish? It’s Crazy!).  APPARENTLY I wasn’t man enough to do it myself.


And somewhere along the timeline of our childhood Cousin Brain, totally oblivious to his surroundings, walked straight through the screen door in front of the whole family.  Everybody talks of the incident as if it’s the Holy Grail of events that occurred at the cabin, and for the longest time I pretended to know all about it.  But to be honest, I have no recollection of that ever occurring.  Not even of grandma blowing a gasket (And believe me, I would’ve remembered that)!  It kind of makes me mad, the fact that I’ll never fully relate to such an epic tale that will be passed down for generations, and that is still being retold to this day.  Maybe I’ll get over it…  Someday.


During one summer, my family and I drove all the way to Wisconsin from Washington, one of the best family vacations we ever had in my book (one where my little sis found the urge to bite into the bottom of a Styrofoam cup, spilling a quart of lemonade all over the Burb’s interior, but that’s a whole other story).  I was cruising in the back seat of our baby blue Suburban with my Pokémon (Red Version) Game Boy game with the mega-hits of the late 90’s blasting through the speakers, which was all I needed to last through the trek.  The hits included Smashmouth’s “All-Star,” The Abercrombie and Fitch Song, Pearl Jam’s “Oh where, oh where has my baby been,” and Six-Pence, None the Richer.  It was the peak of the 90’s Alternative Rock sensation as so elegantly reflected upon the styles of us teenage cousins and our excitement over Woodstock 99.


Once we arrived at Grandma and Grandpa’s that summer, the tunes got a little more explicit when I reunited with Kimmy, who had acquired quite the potty mouth since the last time we hung out.  Regardless of her tendencies to speak as if she had the mouth a sailor, we were busy rockin’ out to Limp Bizkit, Blink 182, and any other dirty band that Cousin Holly had introduced us to, for she was full blown into her pop-punk/hardcore phase at that point.


And when Cousin Brain showed up, all he could talk about was American Pie, and how it was the greatest freaking thing that ever happened in the 20th century.  For hours he was talking a million miles a minute, babbling on about who got naked, what ridiculous thing this one kid did, who said all the swears, and on and on and on…  Jesus Christ the guy wouldn’t shut up about it!  And I was hanging on his every word, totally obsessed.


“Shannon Elizabeth’s boobs?  He does what to a pie?”  Holy crap I was salivating!  The way he was describing it, I figured it was going to be this generation’s Gone With the Wind, and during the next year, I made it my goal to see this magnificent accomplishment of cinema magic, no matter the cost.  And as it turned out, when my best friend Austin Moody got his heart broken later that year, his mom felt bad for him and rented American Pie for us to watch.  It turned out to be everything my Cousin described it to be…  And so much more…


Once we finally bloomed into adults (about ten years later), we realized that no matter how much we had grown, some things never change.  With all of the cousins back at the cabin, we could only act mature for so long before something got out of hand.  It probably started during the bon-fire after I spent about an hour chasing Kimmy’s kids around.  “You’re it!” Carson would scream after an unsuspecting tag, followed by a most devilish laugh as if she knew she was going to put you through hell just to tag her back.  Miraculously, they would all tucker out and go to sleep.  But that’s when the real trouble would begin.


Tony (Kimmy’s Husband), Nick and I stumbled upon a stash of fireworks in the water sports shed after we had polished off a few brews.  “Yea!  Let’s light them off!  That sounds like a fantastic idea in the middle of the night!”  So we did…  ending up waking half the lake in the process.


The next morning, I walked into an overflow of verbal abuse at the house.  “What were you doing lighting off those fireworks?” my grandma sneered.  1: She didn’t have to scream and embarrass me in front of all my aunts and uncles.  I go through enough crap as it is.  2: She had absolutely no proof it was me who lit the fireworks off!  As soon as I walked in, she just ASSUMED I was the one who lit off the fireworks.  This is America for God’s sakes!  Innocent until proven guilty!


Yea, I lit the fireworks off, so?  I’m always the guy taking the blame, no matter what!  Maybe it’s me who causes the most trouble around the cabin, but regardless, it’s still a bunch of bull crap if you ask me!


Not all the trips to the Chain O’Lakes were of the recreational sort however.  In fact, some of those trips proved to be very humbling experiences.  One such occasion was when we joined together to mourn the death of my Aunt Cathy, who had passed from a long and painful struggle with cancer.  I’ll never forget the storm of emotions floating around that cold January weekend in 2011, all leading up to the NFC championship between the Packers and the Bears.  That Sunday, we gathered at the grandparent’s house and we watched the Packer game as a family, hoping and praying for a win, some type of sign to let us know that her spirit was still with us.


And when BJ Raji intercepted Jay Cutler’s pass and ran in for a pick 6, we went ballistic!  We recreated his famous “Teach me how to Raji” dance, and jumped all around the house, hooting and hollering, performing silly dances, doing push-ups…  Well, I think I was the only one doing push-ups and stupid dances (I don’t quite have all the details nailed down), but the one thing that was for certain was the explosion of positive energy that surfaced in that house when the Packers defeated the Bears, sending them to win Super Bowl 45.


After moments like that, I think it’s only natural to wonder if your loved one’s had a hand in that game.  Now it’s unlikely that the good lord meddles in the affairs of NFL teams, but victories like these remind us that our loved ones are always watching out for us, as was Cathy during the game, and will continue to do so throughout our lives.  It reminded me of her positive and easygoing spirit, for she never got too worked up over things, knowing that life was too short to waste getting upset over things that don’t matter in the long term.  Even in her final hours, we were told she was still cracking jokes doing her best to keep us from worrying about her fate.  I think she understood that this was just one step in a grander picture, and that we would all be reunited with her in heaven someday soon.  And until then, we should enjoy the small victories like seeing our favorite team reach the Super Bowl.


And as it turns out, it is those small things that will stick with me the most.  My grandpa’s off-colored jokes, for which it seemed as if he’d always have a new one ready for us to crack up at each visit.  Listening to that Rihanna song (Oh na na, what’s my name?) during my work out and runs around the lake, and enjoying happy hour every 4 PM at the house with the relatives, devising new tricks to getting under grandma’s skin (I should add that I have a pretty high success rate).  It’s as if they all come together in a grand picture to make up a culture, where it might not be just a single memory that you miss, but the overall feeling of being in a place you hold dear in your heart where so many special things have taken place.


And nothing cut deeper into my heart like the times when I could sit on the dock and watch the hot summer sun set on the lake, reflecting the golden rays of light back on the lakefront property.  There’s an amazing phenomenon that happens during a sunset, one of those things that settles the soul and brings serenity to your life at that very moment.  As if time slows down, and no matter how hectic life gets, you always have time to sit down and reflect on it whenever that great ball of burning mass lowers itself from the sky.


And for a final time one evening during my vacation, with an old fashion in hand and the new Daft Punk album pumping into my ears, I was able to do just that; Reflect, and write…   About life, love, how blessed I was to be in such a beautiful setting, and whatever else was going on in that crazy head of mine.  I reminisced about the importance of family and how my grandparents had provided us grandchildren with the ability to acquire such wonderful memories over the past 20 years.   A place where I truly felt at home and could flourish with my talents to unlimited bounds.  A place I had grown to love and would have to come back to, retaining the sprit of the Chain O’Lakes with me wherever I would go.


I thought about all of those memories and so much more on that plane ride back to Seattle, for so many things occur inside the human brain in such a short period of time, far too much for us to ever understand.  Your thoughts and senses cause reactions that send signals through your body that release different chemicals, causing us to react a certain way.  Whether it’s pain, happiness, anger, you name it. The brain controls it.  And the usual emotion that comes from reliving great memories in your life is a bit of sadness and depression, for you may miss those days, or possibly be horrified at some of the choices you had made.  But for some reason, I didn’t feel that at all.  Instead, after looking back at my time in Wisconsin, I felt an emotion that hadn’t been felt in a long time…


I became inspired.


I realized how much I had taken the lake for granted over the years; the cabin, all the toys, the boat, and the property itself.  All of that didn’t just appear for my family one day.  It came from the expense of hard work and sacrifice from my grandpa, who had a dream.  Working through the ranks in his career, and through his sincere dedication, he eventually became the president of his company and was able to provide his family with an unimaginable gift that we were able to enjoy throughout the passing years.  A place where my grandparents got to watch us play out on the floating dock, take us on pontoon rides through the lake, and send us to their secret fishing spots around the lake to come back with bucket full of blue gill for the evening’s fish fry.


A place where we would get in trouble and have the opportunity to learn from our mistakes, whether it’s lighting fireworks in the middle of the night, using an Ouija board and forever haunting the downstairs living room, or walking through a screen door in front of the whole family.  A place where we could laugh and love by singing songs and doing ridiculous tricks in your Speedo for passing boaters, or gather around the campfire to share your words of wisdom, such as the greatest movies of the 20th century, or just sit out on the lake during a summer sunset to appreciate the magnificence of life.  But most of all, it was a place that my grandparents could watch us kids grown into self-sustaining adults, forge life-long memories, and make us realize the importance of family and how great life can truly be with it.


It took me 20 years to realize how precious this gift was, and how grateful I was to be able to spend the time I did in such a wonderful place.  I didn’t want to see it go, didn’t want it to be the last time I’d ever see it.  So I became inspired; that someday, I could work hard and utilize my talents to become successful, just as my grandpa had.  That someday, I could maybe find my own special little place where I can bring my family and watch them grow up; where they can create their own memories to pass down to their children.  It inspired me to create my own destiny, that I can someday find my own house and cabin on the Chain O’ Lakes.


And while I’m finishing this post, I find it appropriate that I’m sipping on an old fashion, a perfect Midwest cocktail to compliment the memoirs of my epic Wisconsin trip.  It’s made up of a mix of cherries and oranges, two fruits reflecting the attitudes of the people of Wisconsin; a certain quaintness and sweetness that you just can’t find anywhere else.  The whiskey, which allows us to let loose every now and then, for there’s no need to be overly judgmental in the Badger State.  Add a little bit of 7-up, to provide a little excitement, in the same fashion every Wisconsin trip brings.  All poured over a cup full of ice to remind us how strong and lumber the people of Wisconsin are when they go through the great pains of enduring freezing temperatures and harsh winters to support the things they love and hold dearest to their hearts, kind of like they did during the ice bowl many moons ago.  And to top it off, add few sprinkles of aromatic bitter, for yes, life throws us curveballs from time to time, but mixed with a supporting family of tasty ingredients, we take it all in and remember that life is good, and will always be good in this gem of the Midwest.


So with my old fashion in hand, I would like to propose a toast.  Here’s to the great state of Wisconsin.  A state I can’t wait to come back to and make even more fantastic memories for the many years to come.


Till next time Wisconsin.  I’ll see you soon…


Grizzly Chadams

Wisconsin Part 2: The Green Bay Packers

Friday, August 9th, 2013


I will never know exactly what drove me to walk into my grandparent’s garage that morning.  I had no purpose to enter, but some supernatural source kept guiding me up the stairs and out the door.  They say the Holy Spirit works in mysterious ways, and could’ve very well pushed me into an event that I would not want to miss.  OR it could’ve been the evil spirits released when Cousin Holly convinced Cousin Erin and myself to use a Ouija Board, a decision I’ve regretted ever since which has cursed the downstairs living room for the past 15 years (I still can’t sleep in there to this day).


No matter the cause, I turned the doorknob and immediately sensed turmoil.  I entered to my grandma flailing her arms about in panic as if the sky was falling.  “NO!  STOP!” She screamed in blood curdling fashion, just like in the slasher flicks right before the killer slices his poor victim into pieces.  Part of me wanted to step away from the pandemonium right then and there.  I mean, what if there was a killer on the loose?  I didn’t want to be the next!  But I couldn’t leave my grandma behind like that.  I had to find out what was eating at her soul; what was driving her bananas.  I mean, what the hay…  We’re family!


When I turned to my right, everything started to make sense.  It was so crystal clear why she was acting so hysterical, as if she had heard news that Aaron Rodgers had just gotten into a car accident and was in intensive care…


My grandpa was attempting to park the Lincoln.


For some reason, the Mercury was parked in an awkward position where as the task of maneuvering the Lincoln through the garage and into its normal dwelling proved much more difficult than usual.  I guess I could blame my pops for that one, but then again, if it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t be writing such an epic tale of miscommunication, one of the best recipes for failure in the business world.


 “To the left!  Stop! Back up! NO!”  My grandma was barking out orders so fast and so furious she could easily be mistaken for that Chef Ramsey guy on TV, and was driving my grandpa to shear madness.  He had endured a lot through the war, and she was inching him to the breaking point.  Her words and actions were becoming a giant blur.  Heck, even I was getting confused, but at the same time impressed at the sight of an 85 year old moving her arms and legs in the fashion of a Richard Simmons workout on crack!


My grandpa however was a different story.  All this bewilderment had pushed him to the edge.  “Screw it!” he mouthed through the windshield of the Lincoln right before he blasted his foot down on the pedal.  What followed was the sound of metal crushing on metal and a brand new streak of scratched paint etched onto the Mercury.  That was when all hell broke loose…  And my grandma lost her freaking marbles!


She was making noises I never knew existed!  The closest thing I could describe it to were the sounds in “Alien” where the baby alien pops out of the guy’s stomach.  But it was when she started smacking herself in the head with both hands when I knew action had to be taken, common sense for any person with an ounce of courage.


But that’s not what I did.  I just froze.  The world was crashing down all around me and I stood there, petrified.  “I couldn’t move a muscle!  “Wake up stupid!” I said to myself.  I needed a catalyst, something to strike a reaction to get my blood flowing once again.  Then came cousin Brian, true-blooded Eagle Scout and captain of the pontoon.  He maneuvered past grandma’s flying fists of fury and to the Lincoln to guide it back to its customary state.  Just the spark I needed.


With grandma’s attention diverted, I slothed across the garage and made my escape to the outside unnoticed, miraculously unscathed from the mayhem.  After taking a moment to digest what had just happened, I was reduced to the emotional condition that any man goes through after a near brush with death.  I started giggling like a little schoolgirl to the point where tears nearly streamed down my face.  And I couldn’t stop!


It’s one of the surreal survival stories that you just can’t make up.


I guess life throws us for loops sometimes, but we have to bounce back quick in order to press on and make it in this world, which can be said of the mangled Lincoln incident.  We had to move forward, for me, my sisters, Cousin Holly and her domestic partner Nick were on our way to see the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field!


Man we were all so excited.  So much that my older sister was almost charged with shoplifting at the supermarket right before the game.  Her mind was just racing like a racehorse at the thought of stepping into the great arena of beer, cheese, and athleticism.  Luckily for us, the people of Wisconsin are kind and understanding, and let us off with a simple warning, knowing how important this moment was for us; something you just don’t see in the other NFL markets (no offense to the other teams).  And thank God, for that!  I would’ve pulled a grandma if we missed the game just because she got sent to the pin!


Most people have heard of Green Bay because of football, but don’t understand and would never understand its captivating appeal unless they visited, for it’s unlike any other city with a professional football team.  It’s barely considered a city with its 100,000 residents, where the whole state of Wisconsin travels far and long to converge and watch their Packers on game day.  Where the towering skyscrapers surrounding the stadium in a metropolitan city are replaced with farmed planes and a suburban neighborhood, and your parking lot is a family’s backyard, located a  block away from the stadium.  You are greeted with open arms and are invited to use their bathroom, cook on their grill, and even join them for a miller light or two.  It doesn’t even matter if you’re rooting for the other team.  The Packer nation welcomes anybody with the respect they deserve, as long as the same decency is returned.  That is, unless you’re a Bears fan (Don’t even get me started on them.  They’re awful.  I kind of want to throw up thinking about it right now.  Yuck.  UHUAGH!).


Come game day, church’s rearrange their scheduled sermons, stores shut down, and the city of Green Bay along with its neighbors gather around to cheer for what is truly their team.  Not a team owned by a mega billionaire or controlled by corporate interests who give ridiculous names for their stadium just to promote their obnoxious products or company (Mall of America Field?  Gillete Stadium? Century Link Field? Sorry Seahawk fans but I mean, c’mon!), but a team that is bought and paid for through shareholders made up of members of the Packer nation, for which I am proud to say that I am a part owner.


The people’s team.  It’s what’s taught to the children of Wisconsin and decedents of Packer fans.  Bred in green and gold, they learn early on about the significance of their team, and what it means to be a part of it.  It is the only small town team that could withstand the turbulent years of the NFL when money was not accessible and the talent pool was lacking They were able to survive as an NFL franchise when no other small town team could, with its dignity still intact no less.  In fact, when the team was on the verge of going broke, the city came together and pitched in to cover all of the bills and expenses in order to keep the team alive.


Then there’s the legend of Vince Lombardi, a man faced with prejudice his whole life for having an “i” at the end of his name.  A man who fought tooth and nail to follow his dreams and become a head coach in the NFL, even if nobody was willing to give him the chance.  A man, who for when all the odds were against him, took a rag tag group of grunts, the worst in the NFL (and the only team that would take him) and turn them into the greatest championship powerhouse the game has ever had, all while becoming the most respected man in the history of the sport.


Or the countless stories fans have to share about their team passed down from generation to generation.  Spend enough time in Wisconsin and you’re bound to run into somebody whose family stories date back to the days when Curly Lambeau founded the team and can tell you of innumerable experiences of traveling to Green Bay to endure the freezing temperatures just to watch their boys battle it out on the frozen tundra; the most memorable being the Ice Bowl, an infamous game in which the Packers clashed with the Cowboys over a field that was completely frozen over with a wind chill temperature of nearly -50 degrees; a game where the Packers miraculously came back and scored a touchdown at the final seconds of the game to send them onto Super Bowl II.   A game that my grandpa attended, in which he had help enduring thanks to a bottle of whiskey.  I am still in awe whenever he tells of the story.


And even after attending one game (even if it’s only a pre-season game where they lose big time, or a playoff game where they go 16-1 for the season and then blow it), you realize that it’s more than just a game for the people Green Bay, Wisconsin, and Packer fans as a whole.  It’s a way of life.  A supportive culture of people who will go out of their way to make you feel at home and who will risk life and limb for their team.  It’s because the Packers are as much a part of them as they are to the players, coaches, staff and executives, and without their contribution, the Packers most likely wouldn’t even exist.  Green Bay would just be another small mid-west town, and the team would’ve moved elsewhere and would be just like any other big city team, which makes visiting Green Bay during a Packer game and going to Lambaeu an experience you can’t find anywhere else.  An experience I hope to share with lots of friends and family for years to come, and a tradition I plan to pass down to my children someday, as it has been passed down to me from members of my family.


So here’s to the beginning of football season.  Here’s to the memories it brings.  The good feelings, the bad feelings…  Here’s to the Green Bay Packers.  GO PACK GO!!!