My Locker. 1994.

In the early 1990's, a lot could be learned about a person by looking in their school locker.

Some students chose to install shelves to help keep their books and materials perfectly organized. Others chose to simply pile their possessions inside in whatever way they could manage and still get the door closed. Pictures of boyfriends and girlfriends were a popular locker decoration. Occasionally a magnetic mirror would show up on the inside of someone's door.

My locker was a testament to the music I listened to. The pictures below hung in my locker during my senior year of high school. Amazingly, I still have these pictures today. I recently rediscovered them in one of several boxes labeled "Tim's Stuff" as we pack for our upcoming move.

Welcome to my locker. Senior year. 1994.

Don't Meet Your Heroes (If You're Medicated)

Last weekend, I wrote about our trek to Indy where Jason Ringenberg continued to strengthen the opinion I have of him as one of the classiest musicians in Nashville. At the end of that post, I mentioned that the only time I've ever found myself star struck was the first time I met Jason at a small venue in Urbana. Over the past week, I've had a few people ask me about this story.

Well, here it is.

In addition to being a longtime Scorchers fan, I also know enough about the Nashville music scene to know that Jason Ringenberg is borderline legendary. We may not be talking Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson levels of legendary, but legendary nonetheless. For all of these reasons, I jumped at the opportunity to see Jason open for then-unknown Justin Townes Earle back in March of 2009. I knew the venue and it was tiny. Tiny enough that I'd easily have the opportunity to shake the hand of one of my favorite musicians.

In the week leading up to the show, I was dealing with a pretty rough head cold complete with raspy cough and a very noticeable hoarseness to my voice. Feeling better as the week progressed, I was not about to miss this show despite the fact that my voice had still not returned to full strength. For good measure, to ensure that the cold didn't sneak back up on me in the middle of the show, I thought it'd be a good idea to swig down a dose of cold medicine when I got to the venue.

Jason took the stage and was nothing short of terrific as I took in a set spattered with Scorchers classics with my friends Frank and Christine. After wrapping up his set, Jason headed to his merchandise table where he was greeted by a few fans looking for an autograph or a CD.

It was time to face a legend.

Jason had recently started recording children's music under the name Farmer Jason and Amy and I had recently added the first of our three children to our family. Charlotte was about a year old at the time and we'd recently introduced her to Farmer Jason's debut album which she absolutely loved. I thought it'd be cool to have Jason sign Charlotte's CD.

With the CD in hand, I approached Jason at the merch table and quickly came to the realization that the dose of cold medicine may not have been the best idea.

At this point, a voice in my head told me to head back to my seat. I chose to ignore that voice.

Greeting Jason with a smile and a handshake, I opened my mouth to thank him for a great show and to ask if he'd sign my daughter's CD. The sound that came from my mouth was hardly a sound at all. I'd compare it to something like a raspy Yoda voice.

Again, that voice in my head was urging me to stop while I was ahead. But I continued.

My voice was strong enough that I could be understood when I spoke and Jason, being the classy guy he is, thanked me for coming and graciously agreed to sign Charlotte's CD.

As he did so, he asked how old she was and what her favorite song on the album was. It just so happened that her favorite song at the time was a tune called "Little Kitty." Sharing this information with Jason, the cold medicine took full effect as I started to ramble on about her love of the song and her love of our own cat, Smokey.

I told him a lot about Smokey.

She was dark grey. She was lazy. She wasn't really a friendly cat.

The voice in my head was screaming at me now: "SHUT UP AND GO BACK TO YOUR SEAT!"

The best I can describe this situation was as somewhat of an out-of-body experience. I could hear myself talking. I was aware of what I was saying. I knew I sounded absolutely ridiculous. But I could not stop myself!

I didn't take this opportunity to tell Jason Ringenberg how much I loved the Scorchers or to ask any one of the dozens of questions I probably had about his career. Seriously, I was meeting one of my favorite musicians for the first time and I was telling him about our cat?!? Don't forget about my voice, either. That just made this scenario all the more horrifying.

Jason, a class act, smiled as though he was fascinated by my cat stories and even stood to take a picture with me.

God bless him.

Since that night, I've had the opportunity to redeem myself by coming face-to-face with Jason a few more times. One of those times was at a house concert held at our friends Cynthia and Ernie's home where it became clear to me that Jason Ringenberg is just a normal guy like me. The Sandwich Life house concerts always follow a potluck dinner and as I walked into Cynthia and Ernie's living room, it was a very welcome dose of reality to see Jason pulled up to their coffee table chatting with everyone over a plate of chicken and potatoes.

So what have I taken away from all of this?

1. The old cliche that says "don't meet your heroes" holds no water when it comes to Jason Ringenberg.

2. The new cliche says "don't meet your heroes if you've been taking cold medicine. Unless your heroes like stories about cats. Then totally go for it."

Farmer Jason at the Indiana State Fair

Consider yourself warned, Peter Cooper. Jason Ringenberg is closing in on you as the nicest guy in Nashville.

A few days ago, my wife realized that Farmer Jason was doing a two-week gig at the Indiana State Fair -- three shows a day just under two hours down the interstate in Indianapolis. This morning we packed the van and headed east to thrill the kids with some live Farmer Jason.

For those of you who don't know, I've long been a fan of Jason and the Scorchers and couldn't have been more excited when front man (and fellow Illinoisan) Jason Ringenberg started recording children's music as Farmer Jason just about the time that Amy and I started having kids. Our kids all love Farmer Jason and I love the fact that they do. Even more, I always enjoy putting on an old Scorchers album and watching their looks of slight confusion when they hear "Farmer Jason" doing quite a different style of music.

So our plan was to get to the fair in time to catch Farmer Jason's 12:30 performance, but due to some rain and the fact that we parked on the complete opposite side of the fairground from where he was performing, we got to the tent about ten minutes into his set. Nevertheless, our kids eyes widened with excitement and Farmer Jason had their full attention.

Closing out his set, he was just about to play Mason's favorite song -- Punk Rock Skunk -- when another boy in the small crowd requested something different. Then, with the 12:30 show in the books, Farmer Jason graciously offered to stick around and greet any of the kids who might want a picture with him and, of course, we took him up on the offer.

We talked for a few minutes about the kids' love of his music and their dad's love of the Scorchers. We chatted about Central Illinois living and how the fields look great at this time of year. Wanting to let Farmer Jason go about his business, we thanked him for a fun show as the girls and I left the tent. Looking behind us, I was surprised to find Mason and Amy lagging behind. It was clear that Mason was in deep conversation with Farmer Jason.

"At bedtime I listen to your CD of Punk Rock Skunk."

Realizing that he was about to play that song at the end of his set and hadn't, Farmer Jason asked us if we had plans to return for his 2:00 show. Unfortunately, we would gone by then.

Then, without hesitation, he invited us back into the tent.

You, Jason Ringenberg, are a class act. Thanks for treating my kids like they were the only kids on the planet. Even for just a few minutes.

I think my kids were a little star-struck when it came to meeting Farmer Jason in person. That's okay, though. I admit that the only star-struck experience I've ever had in my life was the first time I met Jason Ringenberg.

But that's a story for another day.

Day 65: Atari, Southern Comfort, Willie Nelson

So. After 64 days of summer vacation, how do I mark the eve of the final day of my break from the real world?



A stiff drink.

And Willie Nelson on the turntable.


For one final day...the Summer of Tim continues...

Day 64: The Evolution of a Camp Kid

I was a camp kid.

But we'll get to that in a minute.

We had a potential buyer for our house return today for another look so we (again) headed to my in-law's to take over their house for a few hours while our house was being shown. Amy took the kids for a swim while I plugged in my laptop to get through some more work in preparation for next week's return to reality. Less that fifteen minutes later, I was in the pool myself. As I sat there checking graduation progress for my students based on their grades from this past spring, I could see Amy and the kids through the window and quickly realized that I've got the next ten months to work. No way should I be wasting away my last few days of summer like that.

There was a possibility that we'd go to an outdoor screening of Big Hero 6 at the Illini's Memorial Stadium later in the evening, but as the day progressed, Charlotte started feeling a little bit crummy again so we stayed home instead -- having our own screening of the movie.

With the kids in bed, Amy and I watched the remaining five episodes of Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp. My opinion from yesterday hasn't changed in the least. It was awesome. Makes we really want to go back and watch old episodes of The State.

Watching these episodes, in a lot of ways, brought back memories of my own days at camp. While the camp I attended regularly as a kid was a church camp and provided quite a different experience than Camp Firewood, it was camp nonetheless.

The friendships. The fun. The lifelong memories.

My first opportunity to go to camp came in the summer of 1985 when I would have been entering the fourth grade. Over the next eight years, I would find myself spending over half of my summer break at camp in every role from camper to kitchen helper to faculty for the younger campers.

No doubt. I was a camp kid.

A group photo was taken at each week of camp. While I didn't take home a picture at every week I was a part of, I still have all of the photos that I did. Let's take a look at the 8+ year evolution of a camp kid.

[If you're viewing this on a phone, you'll probably want to turn it sideways for a wider view. For any camp friends who may be reading this, feel free to click on each of the pictures below for the full image. You're sure to recognize a lot of old friends!]

First time at camp. For Salem readers, there's Dave Burnett on the left. (1985)
Old enough to start staying for a full week. (1986)
Having just finished 7th grade, I brought some friends along this time. (1989)
I wore a vest. (1990)
I wore a vest twice. (1990)
Wind-blown mullet. Puka shell necklace. (1990)
Getting cooler with the shades. (1991)
Even cooler with shades and no smile. (1991)
Paisley shirt buttoned to the top. Awesome. (1991)
Forgot how skinny I used to be. (1992)
"Parental Advisory" shirt. Starting to test some boundaries, I suppose. (1992)
Skinny tie. Perfect. One of the best weeks I ever had at camp! (1992)
I had the hipster side-part long before hipsters had the side-part. (1992)
Look out! Silk shirt and tie! (1993)
Remember how colorful the mid-90s were? (1993)
Speaking of colors, how about Cross Colors? (1993)
I think I'm wearing at least two, if not three, beaded necklaces. (1993)
HEY-YO! Peroxide + sunshine + bowl cut = this guy. (1994)

Sure. I was a bit of a knucklehead then and I admit that I still am now. But I owe a lot to this camp.

A lot.

And I'm grateful for that.

It would take me weeks to recount the memories I have of my days at camp -- some of the greatest memories I've got. It certainly wasn't Camp Firewood. It was Oil Belt.

And it was amazing.

The Summer of Tim continues...

Day 63: Roddy Piper, #WHAS, The Underwear Song

Charlotte was feeling a little under the weather this morning so with two house showings scheduled, we headed over to my in-law's for a morning of laziness as we burned through more episodes of Full House than I'd care to admit. Amy's professional development training ended by early afternoon by which point Charlotte was feeling better. So while Amy and the kids hit the pool, I headed across town to do some work in my office.

It seems that slowly going back to work a little at a time over the past few weeks has been easier to accept than it would be to just jump in head first this coming Tuesday.

Wrestling legend Rowdy Roddy Piper died today of a heart attack at the age of 61. I can only think of a few celebrities whose deaths have actually had a significant impact on me. While Roddy Piper is not one of those, he is still a significant image in my childhood memories. From watching Hulk Hogan's Rock 'n' Wresting on Saturday mornings to the set of Thumb Wrestlers I bought with my allowance when I was nine, Piper was one of my early favorites when it came to professional wrestling.

Short of jumping off the kitchen table onto an unlucky sibling, the Thumb Wrestler line of toys was one of the first times I remember there being an "at home" version of pretending to be your favorite wrestler. It's also one of the more poorly designed toys I've ever seen as your thumb finds itself in a location when it's time to play.

The thumb hole couldn't have been in the figure's back, huh?

The Netflix episodes of Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp premiered today and Amy and I took in three of the eight episodes once the kids were in bed.

My one-word review up to this point?


My pal Guy shared a video online that I can only assume he was singing along to at the top of his lungs by the end of the night. While I doubt I'll be showing this video to my own kids, I'm thinking about teaching this song to the children of everyone that I know.

Thank me later, parents.

The Summer of Tim continues...