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Old Hobbits Die Hard

We went to that hot new fantasy movie the other night, settling into our seats while the lights dimmed.  As the opening titles rolled, a cell phone began to chirp a steady Bf.  Moments later, a second phone beeped, this one four tones higher.  As I rolled my eyes, a third phone pitched in D joined them.  “Sheesh,” I stage-whispered to Janet, “some people don’t know how to behave in public.”  “Calm down,” she advised.  “In this case, it’s completely apropos.  Listen – it’s the Chord of the Rings.”

Yes … unfortunately you seem to have entered the Land Where the Shadows Lie, also known as the 2003 edition of the Tolopka Tattler.  Be warned:  You journey at your peril!

1953: Bermuda Honeymoon

Party On, Garth

Our tale begins with Big Round Numbers.  Janet‘s Mom Pauline celebrated her 80th birthday in April and we joined her in Dayton to mark the occasion. 

Cincinnati's Great American Ballpark:
Pauline's first-ever major league game

A few days later, Steve’s family gathered in Florida to congratulate his Mom & Dad on reaching their 50th wedding anniversary.  And in May, Janet reached the magic half-century mark herself, smug in the knowledge that she can now order off Denny’s Senior menu.

Texas Two-Step

Not content with a two-state tour in April, we sandwiched in a band trip to San Antonio.  This was our third (and best!) trip to Fiesta.  We hit town about 2PM on Wednesday, and by 7PM we were rockin’ out with the Power Pep Band at the famed River Walk.  Thursday’s PPB gig was at El Mercado, the largest Mexican market outside Mexico, where an enthusiastic noon crowd awarded us the key to the city. [1]   But Splashtown San Antonio was definitely our most memorable performance.

That gig really came alive after the official performance ended. That's when we doffed our PPB duds, pulled on pool wear, and headed for the "lazy river" winding through the park. 




Sharing a well-earned margarita at El Mercado

Yeah, we're in there somewhere!

Bands Gotta Swim, Birds Gotta Fly

Nothing’s more tempting [2] than bright orange inner tubes and a chance to play Floatin’ Down the Old Green River the way it was meant to be played.  We soon had a huge orange flotilla gliding through the park. We hit one snag: Floatin’ is a tuba feature, and we learned that you can't balance a sousaphone player inside an inner tube, no matter how hard you try. No problem – our sousa simply hopped into the water, bestriding it like a Colossus of old. We substituted plastic shakers for woodwinds, [3] but otherwise put on as authentic a performance as is possible while floating along on your back with the director waving wildly (and largely futilely) from somewhere in the pack. This one now heads our Zaniest Performance list, edging last year’s rendition of Hall of the Mountain King in the middle of a huge cornfield maze.

Click here for more PPB photos from San Antonio.


A Turn for the Wurst

San Antonio’s grand finale was the Fiesta Flambeau parade with the Get A Life Marching Band.  As an unexpected bonus, we discovered that the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile would also be in the parade!  Yes, fate brought together a band whose motto is "We'd rather miss a note than a meal" and a vehicle shaped like an enormous frankfurter.  We flocked to the Weinermobile, sang several lusty choruses of "I'd like to be an Oscar Meyer weiner", and collected some very special Weinermobile pins as souvenirs.


A proud day for GAL

It's Showtime, Folks

Finally, parade time.  The crowd is unbelievable:  400,000 party-ready parade watchers line the 2.6 mile route.  They're 8-10 deep on both sides of the street and screaming so loud they almost drown out the band!  We surf the adrenaline wave down the street in the most fun parade we’ve ever done.  And … despite our small size (~80 folks) we were awarded First Place Out of State Band! [4]

Click to see our gen-u-ine award letter and plaque.  And don't miss all the rest of the GAL photos from San Antonio.

Wailin' on the streets of San Antonio

Takin’ It To the Streets


As it turns out, 2003 was a stellar year for band events.  The Power Pep Band livened up a birthday party at a Dundee vineyard, entertained Clark County Fairgoers in Washington state, wriggled the chicken dance at Uncle Otto’s Oktoberfest, and lit up a Torch and some happy faces at the Oregon Special Olympics.  PPB was also on hand to help Intel celebrate its 35th anniversary this summer, the first time we’ve shared an event with confetti cannons. Four cannons, to be precise, each firing one pound of confetti per second to a height of 75 feet for 40 seconds. You do the math ... Watch the blizzard on video right here.

In between beers at Uncle Otto's Oktoberfest

Double Secret Probation

In 1978, National Lampoon’s Animal House was filmed in Cottage Grove, Oregon.  Remember the big homecoming parade?  Remember the band that marched up a blind alley and smashed into the wall?  Well, in 2003 we stood in for that band as Cottage Grove celebrated a quarter-century of movie madness by recreating the parade, complete with Faber College cheerleaders, Playboy bunnies, homecoming queens, and John Belushi look-alikes. [5]   By special request of the organizers, we halted the band in the middle of downtown, then played, danced, and led the crowd in doing the Time Warp from the Rocky Horror Picture Show. [6]

Janet leads one last rehearsal of Time Warp just before the parade

Janet's peplos (hey — don't think nasty!)

Toga! Toga! Toga!

Of course no homage to Animal House would be complete without a toga party, so the town threw a huge one well into the night.  PPB was the opening act at the party; then it was time to change into the togas that Janet sewed from scratch [7] and boogie down to musical headliners The Kingsmen [8] and Otis Day and the Knights.

Lots more Roman attire plus sound clips from the party are available at a click!




Patrician, eh?

Moonlight in Vermont

After 22 years at Intel, Steve had the luxury of taking a third sabbatical this fall.  Part of it was spent here at home, giving Steve a chance to arrange some tunes for the band, learn the rudiments of programming Active Server Pages, [9] and begin the umpteenth rewrite of the Football Pool software.  We also spent a couple of weeks traveling in New England, starting with three nights in New York City.  Although we’ve been to NYC before, this was the first time we stayed right in the heart of the city (Times Square) – definitely a superior experience.  We spent a day strolling Fifth Avenue and hoofing through much of Central Park, where Steve finally found the Alice in Wonderland Mad Tea Party statue that he’s searched for on other trips.  That evening we had tickets for the new musical Hairspray, which we thoroughly enjoyed.

Hans Christian Andersen reads The Ugly Duckling to Janet

Aboard the Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island ferry

Coming to America

The next day we headed down to the ferry at the Battery.  We visited the Statue of Liberty, but our main goal was Ellis Island, immigration gateway for millions including some of Steve’s (and for all we know Janet’s) forebears.  While the museum’s displays and artifacts are excellent, the real highlight was standing quietly in the vastness of the Registry Hall, feeling the latent hopes, fears, and dreams of the generations who were turned back on the next ship or passed through to a new life in America.  Wow.  Later, we braved the worsening weather and took the long subway ride out to Shea Stadium to see a Mets game.  The weather (mostly) cooperated and we had great seats, so it was a pretty fun night.

Freshly-trapped Maine lobster

A White Sport Coat and a Pink Crustacean

Then it was off to Penn Station and the train to Boston.  We joined a “leaf-peeper” tour for a week, enjoying the scenery and totting up new states at a dizzying pace.  A few of the small thrills:  lunch in the other Portland (Maine); the view from Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park near Baaa Haaabaaa [10] ; lobsters live and cooked; America’s oldest continuously operated general store in Bath, NH; primeval mist in Queechee Gorge, VT that made you think dinosaurs might appear at any moment; storming the gates of Ft. Ticonderoga, NY like Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys.

Bar Harbor lobster dinner

Do You Believe in Miracles? Yes!

In Lake Placid, NY we downed tasty pizza, stood in the rink where the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” occurred (USA 4, USSR 3), and puttered through the Winter Olympics Museum; hard to believe two Olympics were staged in this town of 5,000.








Our girl in goal

The famed Adams-Jefferson correspondence was written at this desk

The Redcoats Are Coming

Naturally, we got a full dose of history in and around Boston, especially since we stayed on for a few days after the tour ended.  Standing on the green at Lexington imagining the redcoats coming from Boston, we realized the “manifest destiny” version of American history that we learned in school doesn’t do the Revolutionaries justice.  They were mostly ordinary folks (not “Founding Fathers”) making this stuff up as they went along, with every chance that it would turn out badly – and they did it anyway.  We have a lot to be grateful for.

Since we both read David McCullough’s excellent John Adams last year, a trip to Quincy was mandatory.  We visited the Adams crypt and the home where four generations of Adamses lived, feeling a certain frisson as we walked the stairs, running our hands along the same rail that John, Abigail, and John Quincy used so many years ago.


Witches Parking Only; All Others Will Be Toad

A side-trip to Salem yielded two kinds of thrills: touristy fun like witches, sailing history, and pirates; and the sheer act of driving in Boston.  The combination of cowpath streets, adrenaline-crazed drivers, and rampant street construction reduced us to desperately taking any road that headed north from the city, figuring we’d course-correct later.    Even our Hertz NeverLost® system couldn’t live up to its name, plaintively wailing with growing frustration “please return to the indicated route.”  Driving into the city was just as exciting; at one point NeverLost sweetly intoned “please exit now” as we were driving through a tunnel. [11]   Motivated by a 10PM drop-off deadline, we were within 2 blocks of our Hertz garage at 9:15PM.  At 9:45, Steve finally Beat the Clock by spotting the nearly-invisible alley that ended our quest.  Whew!

Brewing up trouble in Salem


Am I Blue?

One night we scored tickets to see a performance by Blue Man Group – an exhilarating but totally inexplicable experience but darned entertaining. 

We visited Cheers, [12] walked the Freedom Trail end to end, and enjoyed a gorgeous fall day in Boston’s Public Garden. [13]   We spent a day in Newport, RI [14] gawking at the “summer cottages” built by the Vanderbilts and other swells in the good old days.  We rode the “T” and soaked up history and architecture at the JFK Museum & Library.  And every morning, we break­fasted at Finagle a Bagel to watch their amazing slicer in glorious action.

Janet's the one on the right
Our new Rhode Island cottage

Get Me to the Church

2003 also turned out to be a big year for weddings.  Janet’s brother Jim got hitched in October, which took us back to the Cincinnati / Dayton area.  Steve’s brother Dan tied the knot in November in Gatlinburg, TN, the Gateway to the Smoky Mountains.  Gatlinburg’s definitely a tourist town with a unique slant; [15] besides being decked out with more Christmas lights per square foot than you’d believe, there were charming little wedding chapels tucked into the hillsides about every two blocks. [16]   It was our second chance this year to reunite with the New Jersey aunts/cousins, and a fine time was had by all.

Que Seurat, Seurat

Our swing band, Second Wind Jazz Ensemble, grew to 16 members this year and played an increasing variety of music and gigs.  Highlight of the year was playing a fancy-schmancy party at the Portland Art Museum when they hosted this year’s American Museum Association conference.  That event became our second album, A Breath of Fresh Art.  For reasons beyond our ken, it’s not yet available at Amazon or Wal-Mart, so you’ll have to let us know if you crave a copy. Better still, just click here to listen to a few cuts from the album.

Avoiding Starving Artist Syndrome

To support our music addiction, we are both still gainfully employed.  Steve’s driving a program to harmonize technology across Intel’s many product lines – a challenge that’s proving to be as much about social and organizational dynamics as it is about technology.  He’s also actively working to increase Intel’s population of senior technical women, which leads to 2003’s Best Newsletter Story That We Can’t Tell In Print.[17]  Janet is still at Metro, the tri-county area’s regional government.  This year’s elections brought in a new Council President, which led to the usual round of reorganization and job shuffling.  The hot news as we go to press is that she’s one HR signature away from being promoted[18] to Senior Management Analyst – yippee! 

We’re Outa Here

We’re past our allotted space, so we’ll spare you the details of shaking hands with the next-to-last man to walk on the moon, boogying six feet from the stage at an awesome Chicago concert, or mocking our band buddies at Halloween with look-alike masks. We wish you more than your share of health, happiness, and humor throughout 2004.

With love,

Steve & Janet

[1] Or maybe just the key to the Texaco station restroom …

[2] We can resist anything except temptation!

[3] Even we have limits to our craziness!

[4] Really!  We're not making this part up!

[5] No trombones were injured in the making of this parade.

[6] We’re not sure why they wanted a production number from a different film, but it was definitely in keeping with the spirit of the day!

[7] Actually, they were made of some kind of cotton material.

[8] Yep, our heroes – the Louie Louie guys!

[9] Just can’t take the geek out of the boy ….

[10] That’s Bar Harbor in Downeast speak.

[11] Sure, the tunnel had only been open for a couple of weeks, but hey – it says NEVER lost, right?

[12] To our surprise, nobody knew our names.

[13] For all you old Captain Kangaroo fans, that’s where they book Make Way for Ducklings is set.

[14] Racking up another state for our list.

[15] Think Las Vegas meets The Grand Ol’ Opry.

[16] Gatlinburg’s the country’s 2nd most popular wedding spot.

[17] Ask us about the Pink Fairy Wand …

[18] Or in Metro-speak “having her job reclassified.”