Archive for December, 2009

Farewell to The Rev

December 29, 2009

Today, The Rev died.

James "The Rev" Sullivan

For those who don’t know, James “The Rev” Sullivan was the drummer for the metal band Avenged Sevenfold. Yes, people die all the time. Sure, I’ve never met the man. The impact of his passing is nowhere near what a family member or friend would give.

But still.. it sucks.

I have to imagine that how I feel right now, is how young rock and roll fans felt when they found out Keith Moon, John Bonham, Cliff Burton, or Randy Rhoads died. It’s a meloncholy, blah feeling. A talented artist I enjoy has passed away far before the time he should’ve, due to reasons unknown. The future of a band I enjoy immensely is up in the air.

Avenged Sevenfold has a special place in my life.

In the fall of 2008 I spent most of my time working at a factory in town called Menasha. I would wake up at 5 AM every morning, work until 2:30, come home, and split time between bumping around the internet and playing X-Box Live. I mainly played the game Halo 3 with a variety of friends.

It was on Halo that a good friend of mine introduced me to a girl we had went to school with, yet I never talked to. (We knew each other as kids, come to find out, but that’s a story for another day.) Her name was Ashley. We hit it off right away, it seemed. We would talk for hours on end, a couple nights a week, playing games with one another while talking about a variety of topics. There were times we’d play Halo, even though we didn’t want to, just to talk to one another.

One day Ashley left a bulletin on MySpace asking anyone interested if they would be interested in going to a concert with her in November. Of course, I said, I’d be more than interested. Being a rock music enthusiast and live show addict, I couldn’t turn her down! The bands playing were Saving Abel, Shinedown, Buckcherry, and Avenged Sevenfold.

I had heard a song or two by each band, and didn’t dislike anything by them. I had seen Saving Abel open for one of my favorite young rock groups, Airbourne, so knew what they had to offer. It seemed like it would be a fun show, and if nothing else, I could find a few new favorites. It was a huge bonus that I could get to spend some time with an attractive young lady that seemed interested in me.

The night of the show came around, Ashley and I had a connection, we enjoyed the concert and had a blast. The entire night was very memorable, and I could write for hours about the experience. However, today I will only focus on the impact of Avenged Sevenfold on me that night and beyond.

After Buckcherry’s set ended with a disgustingly interesting 13-minute progressive rendition of their hit single “Crazy Bitch,” I sat there with Ashley talking about the show we had witnessed so far. Shinedown certainly left a massive impression. I enjoyed their singer’s passion for rock and roll, the depth of their lyrics, and the tightness of their compositions. Plus, their bassist played his four-string with a pair of drumsticks, how sick is that? They were an instant favorite and I ended up buying their shirt and album that night. Buckcherry’s set couldn’t end fast enough for me, as I felt their ballads were tame and their rock songs were repetitive, derivative, emotionally bankrupt, and sleazy for the sake of sleaze. I didn’t enjoy them at all.

Queensryche blasted over the PA while they set up the stage for Avenged Sevenfold, randomly enough. I wasn’t expecting to hear a chunk of the Operation Mindcrime album that night, but it pleased me and got me pumped up for A7X (of whom I had only heard “Bat Country and parts of the “Waking the Fallen” album before). Ashley couldn’t stop talking about how huge the mosh pits were going to be, how hard she was going to bang her head, and how brutal riffs were about to pound me into the ground. Sure enough, I counted FORTY-FIVE Marshall amps stacked on top of eachother on the back of the stage. Damn. This was going to be intense.

Sure enough, it was. The lights dimmed down. The only light on stage was a green spotlight on a keyboard front and center. A built man with sleeve tattoos, sunglasses, and shaved head began playing a haunting organ melody. I had no clue what was about to happen, and I could feel myself tense up. Ashley grinned at me wide as the crowd cheered, the band members running onstage. Synyster Gates began playing a beautiful intro.

All of a sudden, the built man playing the keyboards (M. Shadows) ripped out a long, fierce scream. Typically not into screaming, I braced myself and winced. What was I in for?

One of the best damn shows I’d ever seen, that’s what I was in for.

It was all uphill from there.

The musicians (including the amazing Rev himself) launched into a series of delightful churning riffs. Apparently this was their song “Critical Acclaim.” I watched, slack-jawed, as M. Shadows and The Rev exchanged incredible vocals. The Rev sang as he pounded away, viciously keeping time with double-bass insanity. M. Shadows practically rapped, in pseudo-Rage fury while Synyster, Zacky Vengeance, Johnny Christ, and company blasted my eardrums with their sweet heavy metal. This was delightful. This was what I had been missing out on by not being a metal fan for most of my life. This was music I could get into.

The whole concert was amazing. I loved the yearning chorus of “Afterlife.” I dug the country/blues tinges of “Gunslinger” and “Dear God.” I nearly fell over at the majesty of dueling solos during “Bat Country.” The lusty “Scream” stirred the animal within me. My fist pumped during “Unholy Confessions” and I made a poor attempt at headbanging to “Almost Easy.” Ashley far out-classed me in that department, with her long dark locks whipping around her head as she cackled, rocking it out to her favorites.

All in all, it was a great show. Whenever I spoke of the concert, I’d always make note of how impressive The Rev was. The only other drummer I could think of that compared to his versatility was Deen Castronovo. The Rev not only banged and thundered, he could be tasteful when he needed to. There was a new drummer I could add to my list of favorites, alongside Peart, Portnoy, Gavin Harrison, Chad Smith, and Steve Smith.

Ashley and I ended up bonding over Avenged Sevenfold several times after that concert. We would watch their videos on MTV’s website. I discovered Ashley’s amazing, soaring singing voice whenever she would cover “Afterlife” playing Rock Band 2. When I needed a laugh, she would provide with her “Duckie Dance,” flipping unseen foes off while snarling out the “Shh, be quiet, might p*ss somebody off…” parts of “Critical Acclaim.” She cackled at me one night, when I was exhausted and not in my right mind from a long day of driving, as I stated that “Scream” was a “modern heavy metal version of ‘Stone in Love’ on steroids.” When I spent a gift card from Christmas in a Target in another town, I purchased the self-titled Avenged Sevenfold album.

Avenged Sevenfold's self-titled

During long, cold days and treacherous nights I would grow exhausted and frustrated with my life. I’d vent by playing the game NHL 09 with a group of my friends. “Afterlife” was on the soundtrack, and would cycle as an ‘entrance song’ for our hockey team as we took the virtual ice. I have vivid memories of Woodbridge, Kuhner, Russell, Benson, Riding, and Chidester ripping onto the ice together as A7X blasted furiously, heralding the arrival of The Heartlanders. We also played “Afterlife” and “Critical Acclaim” while playing basketball at Russell’s private gym.

I needed to keep myself pumped up as I slogged my way to my humdrum factory job. What better way to do that than crank A7X while going to work? One of my favorite album sides to listen to on my trips to the Menasha plant was the first side of the self-titled record.

There’s video evidence of me playing Rock Band drums to “Afterlife,” my own awkward untalented tribute to The Rev. The video even includes me singing some incorrect lyrics badly. I remember the night clearly though, I had immersed myself in the song, became one with it and truly had “a moment” with it.

Early in our relationship, Ashley and I would take long drives for the hell of it, listening to music and talking about our hopes, dreams, and feelings. We would go back and forth between her favorites and mine. Somehow we could always agree with no fighting on listening to Avenged Sevenfold. My soundtrack of 2009, and for my relationship with Ashley is packed with the band’s work.

I vividly remember the day after Michael Jackson died. Ashley and I had a long conversation while parked on the side of high street about the effects of major celebrity deaths, or the deaths of any musician or athlete. Ironically we discussed how Ashley’s stepfather would need to be held if a Tennessee Titan were to die early. Steve McNair was shot and killed the next week. I thought about how I would feel if I lost a treasured Cincinnati Bengal…recently Chris Henry fell off a truck and perished. I recall all too well Ashley and I laughing about us being middle-aged and married, going through a midlife crisis and following the bands we loved in our youth, and travelling with Avenged Sevenfold on their 2035 Retirement Tour….

Revisiting the conversation we had after Michael Jackson died, I know Ashley said she would need extra cuddling if we ever lost a member of Pearl Jam, Shinedown, or Avenged Sevenfold before their time.

As always, I look forward to extra cuddles with Ashley tonight.

I just wish it wasn’t for this reason.

R.I.P. James “The Rev” Sullivan.

The Rev, a drummer extraordinaire and man lost too young.

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This Is Your History! Blog, Write, Share, Read!

December 28, 2009

I feel as if sometimes we as humans don’t really take the time to think about the future, what it will be like, how the world will change, how we ourselves will change, and what we will leave behind after we die. Twenty years ago, my parents never dreamed there would be a computer in almost every home, life-like video games, 3D movies created digitally, internet, and a phone in nearly every pocket. I’m sure my grandfather is shocked as anyone that rap is mainstream and popular, and my grandmother is certainly thankful for the insane advances in healthcare and technology.

We’ve come a long way, and (somehow) we still have a long way to go. There is much happening in the world every day. The face of the human race is evolving with every minute. Every person in the world has a role to play in how the future will be for themselves, their family, their friends, their city, their country, their race, their planet. It’s up to us to make decisions that will positively impact those around and ahead of ourselves, to further the progress that has been rapidly increasing over the last millenium.

I know, I know. Get to the point, you say, o faithful reader. This isn’t a novel, it’s a blog entry, you say. Okay, okay. Here goes. This is a bit of a “Why I Blog” entry. I’ll explain the turn of events that led to me starting a blog, and what inspires me to try to do great things every day.

It was summer, the year 2009. In other words, it really wasn’t that long ago. I was working 2nd shift at a local truck part painting factory called Vitatoe. Of course, I didn’t like it all. I’ve had several jobs in manufacturing and I can’t stand that kind of work. Playing late night basketball with my friends, spending time with my wonderful girlfriend Ashley during the morning/afternoon, and listening to plenty of great music helped me get through it.

I also spent a lot of time hanging out with my friend Kaila Vest. As some of you may have read, she was born with a condition called Pectus Excavatum. She went into surgery on June 30th. I remember being extremely nervous that morning, even though I had no reason to be. I knew things would turn out okay for her, BUT, it was the first time I’ve had a close friend have a big surgery like this. Needless to say my mind was snowballing about random things and I couldn’t stay calm until I heard Kaila got out of her surgery safe.

Her mom texted me and let me know she was fine, so I was a bit more relieved. I got in the shower that morning to get ready and spend time with Ashley, then go to work. After I got out of the shower, I had a sudden rush of lightheadedness. I literally became dizzy and fell over in my bathroom. I had no clue what had happened, and panicked. I didn’t say anything to my mom, Ashley, or anyone at all. I just went about my business as usual after I got up, wondering what the hell that was about.

Later that same night at work, near the end of my shift, I had the exact same thing happen to me there that had happened in my bathroom. I couldn’t stand still, my heart and my head both rushing, as I paced around the factory floor aimlessly, just trying to keep myself calm and trying to figure out what was wrong with me. I blamed everything on having a pulled chest muscle; the previous day at work I lifted 100 pound truck rims by myself for fifteen minutes. Not the smartest move in the world, but it would explain my pain.

That night my buddy Danny Russell texted me and asked me if I wanted to randomly go to Pennsylvania with him for a NASCAR Sprint Cup Race at Pocono Raceway. Of course, me being the young and foolish adventurer I am, I agreed to it. On 48 hours notice, we were making a 16-hour round trip to go watch some racing. Oddly enough, over the next three days, before/during/after our trip to the race, I didn’t have that discomfort/faintness at all. I wondered why this could be. Sure enough, within the next day after I got back home, it would come back at least once a day. What in the world was wrong with me, what was up with these faint feelings and random discomforts??

After a few more days I finally talked to my mom and dad about what was going on. My mom passed it off as being anxiety, telling me to calm down and relax. I thought to myself, maybe it WAS anxiety. I googled Anxiety Disorder and thought, hey, this sounds like what I’m going through. Random discomfort and faintness, check. Raised pulse and blood pressure, check. Numbness in the left arm, check. Wait, I thought, aren’t these also symptoms of heart attacks or heart conditions? Naturally, I read up on those, and found myself worrying about much more than any somewhat healthy 21 year old needed to.

The more I analyzed my life in early August, the more anxiety-causing agents I discovered. I worked extensively with paint, paint remover/thinner, and other paint-based chemicals. I absolutely hated my job. I had horrible sleep patterns, drank an obscene amount of caffeine, and didn’t have a very balanced diet. I struggled with money (still do), and was constantly either frustrated or depressed. Kaila was still in the hospital, I was having various disagreements with friends, my friends were having disagreements with one another… it just made for a very trying time.

I’ll never forget August 14th and 15th, 2009. The 14th was Ashley’s birthday. I had a great time watching her open her presents, spending time with her, eating Chinese with her, and cherishing her company. It was just too bad that I had to work that evening, as I would’ve taken her to a concert that night instead.

We agreed to make up for that on the 15th. I drove us up to Columbus, where we met up with my uncle, grandma, and sisters for a little bit. From there I took her to Tuttle Mall, where we proceeded to shop around and enjoy some Chik-Fil-A and Caribou Coffee. It was a great day, a fun day, and I was enjoying myself immensely. On the way home I experienced my discomfort that I had been having yet again while driving. I toughed it out and got back to Ashley’s house, where we sat down to watch some preseason football.

Not five minutes passed when my discomfort returned. I stood up and went into Ashley’s kitchen to get a bottle of water and clear my head. That’s when it hit, coming out of nowhere, like nothing I had ever felt before. I felt a surge through my whole body, my chest tightened hard from the middle out, and I could feel my heartbeat gallop into the sunset. I keeled over the table, not having any clue what was wrong with me. I felt to myself, is this a heart attack?! Is this a heart attack?!! Ashley’s family was a tremendous help, sitting me upright and helping me breathe, as I was hyperventilating. They wanted to call a squad right away, but I wanted to see what my family thought first. Ashley called my mom and dad, and they arrived about 15 minutes later to check me out. I was sweating profusely, twitching randomly, breathing rapidly, and still my heartbeat was fast. My family and Ashley’s, and myself, all came to the mutual decision to call a squad.

Not long after the call was made, the squad showed up. I was impressed and happy with how quickly they responded. Three EMTs came in to check me out. My pulse and blood pressure were astronomical, and I told them about my tingliness. They agreed that it was a concern and asked me the usual litany of questions about allergies, family history, personal history, etc. They checked my blood sugar; I was evidently normal. From there they walked me out to the ambulance and it was off to the emergency room with me.

I was very scared from the time my “attack” happened, and that fright just refused to subside. I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t calm down, and my “surging” feeling refused to go away. All I could think was, am I dying? Am I ill? What’s wrong with me? Am I going to make it out of the hospital? Is Ashley okay? My family?

I was wheeled on a stretcher into the emergency room. So it began. I was given two separate IVs, one in each arm. They took a blood sample. They took a plasma sample. They checked my pulse, my temperature, my heart rate. My pulse averaged 140 or so during the entire time I was in the ER, and if I remember correctly my blood pressure was 180/100. The whole time I clenched my mom and dad’s hands, or Ashley’s, depending on who was in the room with me.

The madness didn’t end. I was hooked up to an EKG monitor. They took a chest X-Ray. Four different nurses and two different doctors came in to talk to me. The whole experience was both clear and fuzzy at the same time, I didn’t know what to think or feel other than negative, frightful thoughts. I was in the middle of a whirlwind of needles, wires, beeps, pokes, and questions.

Perhaps one of the most frightening tests I went through was this scan where I was slid on my back into a giant, cold, tight metal tube. That’s not the worst part. Before I was slid into the tube they gave me a shot of dye. They warned me it would feel “a little funny.” They should rephrase that and say, “this should feel like the creepiest physical experience of your entire life.” Within seconds after the shot, my entire body felt like it was burning from the inside out. I clinched my eyes shot and prayed fervently, just wishing that somehow it would all go away.

Later on, while I was still laying in the emergency room bed, I had the worst “attack” yet. My chest felt as if it was exploding. I sat upright quickly, feeling my eyes bug out as I grabbed my heart. I moved quickly and without caution as I sprung up, I tugged hard on my IVs. I could hear my mom faintly yelling (if you know my mom that’s an understatement, for her to be faint especially next to me, meant I was truly in a whirlwind) “Help! HELP! He needs HELP over here!” In that moment I swore I was dying. It was the scariest feeling yet. A nurse came over, and saw that my pulse and BP had shot up. She gave me a shot of a drug called Atavan.

I could’ve sworn something was wrong with me. I was dying, or gravely ill, or going insane. My thoughts were all negative. I was saying the most ridiculous things. “Ashley, promise me you’ll never stop singing. “If I ever get out of here, I’m gonna do this.” so on, so forth.. outrageous statements. But I really thought it was all over.

They admitted me to the hospital that night, saying that they were to take more tests in the morning. I couldn’t sleep at all, it was the longest night I’ve ever experienced. I couldn’t watch television. I couldn’t listen to my iPod or do anything at all. When a nurse asked me that night if I needed anything, I merely asked her for something to write with. I wrote Ashley a poem and a letter.

The whole night, my thoughts were an endless snowball of negativity. I didn’t think I was ever getting out. I thought about my friends. Did they know I was in here? Would they care if something happened to me? What’s my legacy going to be? How will I be remembered? What have I truly accomplished?

I listened to one album only, Marillion’s Misplaced Childhood, my favorite album of all time. I tried to watch TV, nothing could interest me. My chest remained sore. Every time I managed to drift off to sleep, I awoke within minutes with a chest discomfort/tightness, or a nurse would come in and check on me. I could get no rest.

Morning came soon enough. I was shocked to discover, as I opened my eyes, I had actually gotten one whole hour of uninterrupted sleep. I awoke to a friendly nurse taking my blood pressure. I asked her what my BP and pulse were. 120/85 and 63, respectively. They had both went back down to normal levels since the night before. I was shocked and at the same time, ecstatic. That HAD to be a good sign. For the first time in twelve hours I had a smile on my face.

They called off one test (I had no clue what it was and couldn’t figure out whether it was good or bad that they cancelled it). My only test that morning was an insane experience. They basically took an ultrasound of my chest and legs to check on my heart functions, and to make sure I had no clots of any kind. This was surreal. The computer screen showed a perfect image of my heart. I laid there and watched it pump, churning away, seeing my blood go in and out, moving through my body. I could hear an amplified version of my heartbeat. I could hear the thud of its muscles, and the squishing of my blood. This muscle, I thought, is the only thing that keeps this whole gig running. Its health is vital to my health as a whole. If this little buddy peters out, the shebang goes with it. I was fascinated and found a new appreciation for the heart, its functions, and its role in my survival.

There were a few more hours of waiting. Fortunately, Ashley had arrived and was keeping me company. I was so thrilled, so happy to see her. She was a tremendous comfort. My parents were on their way and I lay there with Ashley, waiting for either my folks or a doctor, whoever it may be that comes first.

The doctor came first, to let me know what was wrong with me. I was much relieved to find out that my parents’ suspicions were true, I just suffered from anxiety. I drilled the doctor with questions, trying to make absolute sure that’s what was wrong. He said I was healthy as can be, no blockages or unusual rhythms or clots or anything. The flushing, warm feeling of happiness covered up any discomfort I had at the time and I felt my thoughts clear back up.

My parents came to pick me up, just in time to see me get a Holter monitor attached to my chest and back. I had to wear a portable monitor for the next day, so if I did have any peculiar heartbeats or arrythmias, they could be detected.

I carried on with my life as usual from there on out. I still awoke nearly every night for the longest time with a sudden rush in the chest, and I struggled getting to sleep. I never knew whether or not I was dying, or if it was just anxiety, or what was going. In the end though, I got through.

After the longest time, my discomforts finally started to go away. After only a handful of anxiety attacks within the month after the first, I stopped having them. As of the writing of this blog I’ve gone a little over three months without anxiety attacks. I look at the steps I took to make them go away..

I took better care of myself. I slept at least an hour or two longer every night. I tried not to worry so much, and I started doing breathing exercises. I reconciled with those I had conflict with. I cut back on my caffeine intake. I took a different job at Arby’s, getting hired there a fortunate two weeks after being laid off at Vitatoe. Anxiety defeated.

I haven’t been the same since that first anxiety attack. It’s odd that it takes thinking one’s dying, to make oneself truly want to live. What if I would’ve actually died that night? Well, I didn’t. I’m not going to take my life for granted anymore. Death can happen by any cause at any time for any reason. I’m not worried about where I’m going after I die, however I’m worried about what I leave behind when I do go. I’m not talking about physical or monetary possessions.

What have I accomplished, what will I accomplish? What have I created, what will I create? How have I touched others, how shall I touch others? I’ve been living my life with a purpose over the past few months. I realize I have a fear of being forgotten. I have a fear of not making my mark on this world, of not having any kind of impact. I made a bucket list of sorts. I started a blog, what you’re reading today. I made more of an effort to manage my time wisely, to spend more time with family and friends and my lovely girlfriend Ashley. I started working on a few novels. I’ve finally started doing so much that “i’ve been meaning to.” Well, I’m finally doing it.

And it took me thinking I was dying to trigger this.

This is my history.

I’m going to die someday. What I’ve written, however, won’t go away. (That’s as long as the Internet’s around, but that’s another story)

This is why I blog and write. I want others to learn from my experiences. I want others to avoid the mistakes I’ve made. I want others to enjoy the amazing experiences I’ve enjoyed. I want my life to be framed and accessible to those who wish to learn about it. I want to reach out to others. I want to make the world a better place one way or another. I want others to feel better about who they are. I want others’ dreams to come true.

It all starts with me… and it all starts with you.

Let’s write when we can spare the time and energy. Let’s share everything that we enjoy, and help others when we can. Take some time to read others’ work, learn a lesson or two, add every experience you have and every fact you can gather to your mind. If we all do this, we all become smarter and more experienced people. We make more of the world around us. We add more to our lives, and to others’ as well.

That… is why I blog. And it’s why you should too.

Tyler Woodbridge on Writing (Part Three: High School)

December 15, 2009

High school dawned. I was busy with football, constantly lifting weights and running and trying to maximize my physical potential. On the first day of school, I realized that I had to drop a class I had been taking for four years (Band) due to the fact that football would interfere with me getting the most out of the experience. I went to the guidance counselor and asked what classes were open. A journalism/newspaper writing class happened to have room, and I managed to get in.

With me having a natural flair for writing that was well-developed at the time, I picked up journalism rather easily, however, at first I had a few minor difficulties. My writing style was a bit too grandiose, I had to practice paring down the words and getting straight to the facts. I also lacked patience when it came to writing draft after draft of a short article, and some of my article ideas were far too ambitious for the deadline space I was given. More often than not I found myself scrambling at the last minute to get interviews or facts that I couldn’t’ve gotten before due to my busy schedule.

My first teacher, Mrs. Murphy, was an odd cookie. I liked her a lot, but sometimes it seemed that she got too caught up in running things “by the book.” She even forced me to write a retraction on a controversial article that I wrote about unhealthy eating/exercise habits practiced by school wrestlers; that didn’t gain me any favors with my wrestling team either. I was given all kinds of throwaway article assignments and received endless grief from her. It didn’t phase me too much at all, as I respected her and learned quite a bit.

Murphy left, and as my sophomore year rolled around I ended up with Mr. Ben Gerard Broschart as my teacher. He was a riot, he was a funny and easy-going guy that ran an enjoyable class. I have no ill statements to make about Mr. Broschart. He was brutally honest about the strength of my articles (or lack thereof), helped me pick up interviews and hone my skills, and made layout nights (I became an editor that year, and was one for the rest of high school) extremely fun. I was very immature and made all manner of mischief throughout my sophomore and junior years; Broschart had to come down hard on me every now and then. I appreciate how he handled my misbehavior, stern yet understandable, and think that he was a very professional yet accessible teacher. If I could list my five favorite teachers and professors I’d ever had, Ben Broschart would definitely be near the top, if not at the top. Hey, he helped me understand and accept U2 and Bruce Springsteen, now two of my favorite artists, so how can I not love him?

Mr. Broschart accepted a job in another school district, and his reign gave way to Mr. Jeff Fisher. “Fish,” as we affectionately called him (no relation to the sensational Marillion singer that I idolize), was barely older than his students, fresh out of college. He was like a perfect mix of Murphy and Broschart. He ran the class by the book while letting us have a little fun at the same time. Journalism remained my favorite class during my senior year, and I accomplished a lot of in-depth projects under his reign. It’s regrettable that I can’t find any copies of my work from senior year anywhere, as that’s the work I’m proudest of and should I pursue journalism again, those articles would look great in a portfolio.

The friends I made in Journalism class are unforgettable and incredible influences on me as a person today. I went from being a shy, quiet, overachiever my freshman year; to being the outgoing, musical, life-loving person I am today, and much of that transition was brought about by the friends I made in Journalism class. I’d like to give a nod here to three of my favorite people from Journalism and thank them for what they’ve done for me.

Kayla Rosebrook, who was already one of my great friends, ended up becoming my closest ally in high school. I talked to her every day in that class, no matter what, and was very close to her for a long time. I’d confide in her about anything and she would do the same. Her intelligence, wit, talent, and friendliness shined through in everything and I know to this day, although we rarely talk, I can still trust her to be a rock solid colleague and friend.

She seems like a completely different person now, but Lara Wheeler and I didn’t get off on the right foot. She went from barely contributing to the paper and hating me due to my overbearing personality, to becoming an excellent writer, a great friend, and a huge influence and support to me today. We became even closer after high school, and shared many things: music, rides, money, memories, adventures. I’m honored to say she’s one of my best friends of all time, and I’m glad I met her, thanks to Journalism class.

What can I say about Jessie Ford? Out of everyone in the class, she seemed to get the biggest kick out of my personality, creativity, boldness, and determination. Profoundly talented and extremely easy to get along with, she was perhaps a bit too encouraging of my insanity. She provided just as many, if not more laughs than anyone else in the class and is now a design professional. Check out her work here. I haven’t kept touch with her as much as everyone else, but when I think back on Journalism class, her face is usually one of the first to pop up. What a great girl.

There were many, many others who made Journalism class a great experience. Alex Buchanan, Tyler Stewart, Allison Hornyak, Chris Germann, Amanda Tootle, Marissa Tackett, Erin Casey Cottrill, Vanessa Triplett, Taylor Harrison, Tripp Lowery, and several others contributed laughs, memories, advice, help, and various other influences. They’re all unforgettable in different ways.

I ended up deciding to pursue journalism in college at Wilmington, where I majored in Communications and played on the football team. I ended up having to leave after my freshman year and have been out of college ever since due to incidents out of my control, but that’s a blog and a story for another day. I’d like to give a nod here to David Goguen, who was one of my favorite professors at WC. He was full of stories and was very friendly and helpful, I can’t thank him enough for the opportunities and praise he gave me.

I also picked up another writing interest in high school: Comedy writing. It all started when myself and my friend Austin Drewyor couldn’t stop making fun of another kid who played on our football team. The kid was unintentionally hilarious in just how stupid he could act, and looked like a small mammal. Therefore, Austin and I took it upon ourselves to start writing comic scripts and drawing cartoons centered around the kid, who we named Muskrat. It took off from there, with us creating endless other characters based on ourselves and those around us. My character was named Kirk, his was known as Toenail, and there was a legion of crazy, epic, random shenanigans written about in the three years to come.

I blame this comedic writing exercise as the reason for my grades being a bit lower than they should have been. Sometimes in class, instead of taking the notes on the board, Austin and I would write scripts back and forth. We’d pass them to our friends, who would cry laughing at the adventures we wrote about. I wasted so much time and energy and effort in these scripts, yet was so proud of them. We actually kept a folder through all three years that we wrote these scripts, filled to the brim with hundreds of characters, hundreds of events, and thousands of laughs. Unfortunately, these scripts have been lost or thrown away, our many hours of effort faded into nothing. Sure, we could probably write many of them again, but the spontaneity was what sparked their genius.

These scripts were a perfect example of my immaturity, my sense of humor, and the ridiculousness of our teachers and the people we knew. Austin and I wrote with coarse language, vulgar explicity, and held nothing back in our quest to bring laughter to the masses. Celebrity appearances, personal insults, drug references, blatant sexuality and tasteless gags abound peppered our Muskrat Scripts, as we called them. Those who enjoy South Park, The Simpsons, Will Ferrell or Kevin Smith movies, and Family Guy praised our work and said that we could definitely have a future in cartoon/comedy writing. I think, if Austin and I ever decided to, we could indeed make our way into the cartoon/comedy world. That’s an avenue I always want to keep open, as writing these scripts was something I enjoyed and could parlay into something useful one day. That is, if you want to count genital jokes, wanton violence, and cruel parody as useful. I like to think it is.

More to come in a future entry… as these are topics I could write about forever.

If you’re a friend of mine reading this and happen to have an unforgettable memory about CHS Journalism class from 2002 to 2006, or happened to have enjoyed a Muskrat script sometime in that time frame as well… post one of your favorite quotes or memories having to do with this topic! Unfortunately I’ve forgotten too much about two things I’ve held dear to me for so long. Your contributions are much appreciated!!