Enhanced Memories



Can it be that it was all so simple then

Or has time rewritten every line

If we had the chance to do it all again, tell me, would we, could we?


I have to give Peter VanderMeulen credit for making my enhanced memories.  He taught me that I should never retell a story, unless I could improve it.  By retelling and rethinking my stories over the years, I’ve finally managed to actually forget the original dull stories and only remember the latest and greatest versions of those stories.  Thanks Pete.

Caught up in the frenzy of nostalgia surrounding the Christmas holiday, I was thinking about one of my fondest memories, the time I was “The Next Elvis” in Germany.  I’ve told this story 100 times, but I don’t think I ever put it in writing.  Now, knowing that there are only a very few people on the planet who can dispute what really happened that day, here goes my version.

First, a little background.  When I was a kid I played clarinet and saxophone.  It was a way to control my asthma.  Being one of the few saxophonists in the neighborhood, I wound up in a band called The Townsmen, later called The Heard.  When I went to boot camp in the Navy, I used my “musical experience” as a way to free me from the drudges of boot camp.  I managed to talk my way into the boot camp band, and I would always say I had band practice whenever my company was scheduled for the obstacle course.  I never once had to run the obstacle course, and I never played with the band.

So, I didn’t really have a big career in music, but, when I was stationed in Germany, I did do something that no musician before me ever did.  I invented the mike drop.

The Navy guys I worked with in Germany would bust my chops anytime I mentioned anything about once playing in a band.  Since Elvis Presley had recently departed Germany, they jokingly dubbed me “the next Elvis.”  Hey, call me anything but late for dinner.  I didn’t object.  I liked the nickname.

So one night, the fleet is in.  Three American ships are docking at the nearby seaport town of Kiel.  One ship is enough to get all the single girls out.  Three ships and even the married women will be out on the town.  My buddies and I planned to get to Kiel early, and we did.  We were the first half dozen guys lined up at the main bar on the lower level of the biggest disco in the town, The Star Palast.  The owner of the club was also at that bar and he was in his glory.  The club was packed with the proverbial drunken sailors spending just like they do in the proverb.  He was raking in money like never before.

My supervisor, Dave, was sitting on a bar stool next to the owner and he decided to prank him, and me.  They talked and talked and the owner kept glancing down the bar at me.  Finally, he got up and walked over to me.  He shook my hand and said, “Your friend told me who you are.”

I turned and saw “my friend” laughing his ass off.

“Just who did my friend say I was?” I asked the owner.

“He told me you were the next Elvis.”

By now, Dave is laughing so hard he’s crying.

“Well, I don’t know about that,” I said modestly.

“Look at how many Americans are in my club tonight,” he said waving his arm in a circle.  “Would you do me a big honor and go up on stage and sing one song for them?”

Dave is now having trouble not laughing himself off his barstool.  There must have been a thousand drunken sailors in the place and not one of them knew me from Adam.  “I’m sorry” I told the owner.  I would love to sing a song, but my band isn’t here.”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” he said. “Of course.  How silly of me.”  Then, just a beat later.  “But, how about if you just say hello to everyone.  You don’t have to sing a song.  Just say hello to them.  You’re such a big star in America, that I’m sure they’d all like to know that you are here partying with them.”

I was cornered.  Dave was practically wetting himself laughing.  Then I thought of a way out.  “I tell you what,” I told the owner.  “I’ll sing a song, but since I don’t have my band here, I’ll need to recruit some background singers.”

“Sure.  Anything you want.”

I walked onto the stage, grabbed the mike and announced that I would like some sailors to join me on the stage to sing the gospel song, “Oh Happy Day, which was currently the #1 song in Germany.

About 300 sailors scrambled onto the stage completely surrounding me.  We did the song and their buddies in the audience went absolutely wild to see so many of their friends up on the stage in a foreign country.  The owner thought the crowd was going wild for me.  I could tell by looking at him.  We see what we want to see.

As soon as the song was over, I said, “Thank you.” And just dropped the mike.  I was hoping to break it, just in case somebody wanted an encore, which I knew I could not provide.  Fortunately, nobody did, but I still give myself credit for inventing the mike drop.  It was a cool move.

When I got back to my bar stool, the owner congratulated me, and he swept up all the checks on the bar.  He tore them in half and threw them down.  “Thank you.” He said.  “I’m so glad I got to see the next Elvis.  Come back anytime.  You never have to pay for a drink in my club.”

I never went back there.  Lightning doesn’t strike twice in the same place, and I didn’t risk it,  So, now I can continue to enjoy my enhanced memory of the moment.  I just wonder if somewhere in Germany a guy is telling the story about how the next Elvis disappeared after performing in his club in Kiel, Germany.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,


Ooh You’re a Holiday

Bob_Shane - 2015.png

Shane and bass guitar.pngSanta Clause


Christmas came early this year, almost two weeks early.  Thanksgiving was two weeks early this year, too.  It was all by design and it worked out perfectly.

My family is big on celebrating holidays, birthdays, etc. on the exact date.  Somehow, I don’t have that scheduling gene in my DNA.  I celebrate whenever beer and friends are available.  Also, since more travelling is involved these days, I try to group my celebrations together, and away from the heavy travel days in the year.  So, when I heard that my friend Marianne’s musical-prodigy son Shane was performing in New York City in mid-November, I decided that was close enough to celebrate Thanksgiving.  Anyone who’s seen the Steve Martin/John Candy movie Airplanes, Trains, and Automobiles knows that travelling too close to a holiday can be a nightmare.

Whenever I plan a trip to New York nowadays I make sure I have plenty of fun things to do there, so that my fun-to-travelling ratio leans way more towards fun.  Shane was playing on a Friday, so I made plans to meet other friends on Saturday and Sunday.  The weekend was packed with fun.  My family wasn’t too keen on celebrating Thanksgiving two weeks early, but I figured that an extra day of giving thanks this year wouldn’t hurt any of us.  After all, it was a good year.  I went to far more weddings than funerals this year, and at my age that alone makes it a very good year.

Shane’s music did a great job of getting the weekend off to a good start, and it got even better when his Mom bought drinks for everyone afterwards.  Saturday and Sunday were both fun filled, so when Marianne announced that her holiday party would be on December 12th, I thought that Christmas should be moved forward, too.

Then my country western friends Patrice and Jimmie announced that their holiday get-together would be on the afternoon of the 12th, I was sure that Christmas, too, would come early this year.  I contacted my friend Linda and made dinner and movie plans with her for the Friday before, and made plans with my friends John and Margaret for some fun at their house in Long Beach on Sunday.  Another fun-filled weekend was planned.

I was halfway to the Amtrak station on Friday and I realized that I forgot my cell phone.  There wasn’t enough time to return home, so I just headed to New York without it and hoped that I wouldn’t need it.  Fortunately, I didn’t, though I might have saved by friend Linda a little driving if I had been able to call her with my exact location when I got to Hicksville, New York, where we were meeting.  She had to circle the station a few times in heavy traffic before she found me, but it worked out.  We had a nice dinner and a lot of laughs as we caught up with the goings-on in our lives, and then we went to see Love, The Coopers, which provided even more laughs

Patrice and Jimmie’s address was in my cell phone, but I had been to parties at their house before, so Saturday afternoon I was able to find it without any trouble.  Good thing, or I would have been mad at myself for forgetting my cell phone.  More than a dozen of my C&W friends were there and Patrice and Jimmie had prepared tons of great food, so I stuffed myself at a luncheon fit for a king.

Next stop, over to Tres and Marianne’s home in Merrick for their annual holiday party which is either the best or the second-best party of the year, depending upon how good their St. Patrick’s Day party is.  They always hire Bob, who was the piano player at their wedding reception many years ago, and he rocked the place as always.  Shane joined in and accompanied him on the big Bass Guitar.  Everyone else joined them on vocals, and we were loud enough to attract the attention of the local police.  Fortunately, there were plenty of off-duty cops at the party to convince them to go back to the donut shop, and the party continued until the wee hours of the morning.

On Sunday the Jets won easily, making my family happy, and my friend John picked me up to celebrate at his house in Long Beach.  The weather was so nice that John, his wife Margaret, and I took a walk on the beach.  We saw on the news that some people at Coney Island went in for a swim, because the weather was so nice, but we were happy just walking in the sand.

There was something different at their house this year, besides the weather.  Christmas came early there, too.  Margaret’s birthday is December 6th, and they traditionally don’t put out the Christmas ornaments until one full week later.  But now they have grandkids, and so the house was already decorated for Christmas.

Now it’s Monday and I’m on the train back to Lancaster.  It’s only the 14th, and I’ve already had a Merry Christmas and now I’m looking forward to a Happy New Year.  I guess I’ll have to wait until the actual date for that one, but I do have a couple bottles of champagne in the refrigerator.  Maybe I can get an early start on that one, too.

I hope you all have much to be thankful for this year, and enjoy the holidays.  Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and all the best to everyone.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,