Our 20th High School Class Reunion: Fort Payne Wildcats Class of 1999

 

We have arrived.

In an age of reboots, sequels, and of course, reunions, the timing was perfect for the Fort Payne High School Class of 1999 to have our 20th reunion!

Back in May of 1999, during the week of our high school graduation, we had our class picnic in our city park. Most of us were just 18 years old and didn’t really know, and couldn’t know, what we wanted to do with our lives.

We hadn’t yet figured out what we were really good at, or bad at, or how we would even earn a living.

But during the course of two decades, it sort of forced us to figure out who we were going to be. At now that we are all pushing 40, our lives are, for the most part, figured out.

If graduating high school was like putting the car in reverse, backing it out of the garage, putting it into first, and determining which of the endless roads we were supposed to start driving down…

Then making it to our 20th high school reunion is like having the car in cruise control.

Granted, for most of us, the road we took was not a straight and easy one. That road had many surprising turns. Often that road turned us right back around in the same direction we had already come from.

But by now, we are ultimately settled in for the rest of the ride. We’re not trying to figure out who we are anymore.

We know now.

So for this class reunion in particular, it was especially a milestone. For the first time, we were catching up with the grown up doppelganger versions of each other.

I also realized by attending my 20th high school reunion, that I was fortunate to grow up with a particularly special group of people, at a special time, in a special place.

We were born in 1980 and 1981; during the start of our town’s economic boom, as Fort Payne, Alabama became “The Official Sock Capital of the World”; thanks to our town’s massive hosiery production.

Not to mention, the country group Alabama had just become living legends… and they just happen to be from our little town, located in the tail end of the Appalachian Mountains.

It was magical time and place to grow up. We are a close group of people.

Our class reunions are a really big deal to us and I am confident they always will be.

-Nick Shell

Advertisements

Dear Jack: Your Easter Ride In A White 1980 MG MGB Convertible

4 years, 4 months.

White 1980 MG MGB Convertible

Dear Jack,

Obviously, a lot of what I do on this blog is review cars from a family friendly perspective. All you have to do is click on the Family Friendly Car Reviews page on the upper left side of this page to be able to see the dozens of different vehicles our family has now reviewed.

What happened over Easter weekend was a little bit different though…

You and Papa got to test drive his the 1980 MG MGB convertible he is fixing up for his Daddy!

White 1980 MG MGB Convertible

He installed your car seat in the only passenger seat the 1980 MG MGB convertible has and you guys drove down to the end of the road and back. This marks your first time in a convertible and your first time in the front seat of a car.

Granted, I doubt you two even reached 30 miles per hour, and it was basically on a closed course, but still… that’s a big deal for you!

This weekend was basically Papa’s official debut of his 1980 MG MGB convertible. He’s been spending a lot of time working on it; getting it into drivable condition.

White 1980 MG MGB Convertible

You took your “new” stuffed animal who you named “Killer Whaley” with you. I got him back in 1987 when our family visited MarineLand on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls during my only visit to see where Nonna grew up; in Buffalo, New York.

After Papa gave you, then your cousin Calla, a ride in the 1980 MG MGB convertible, we had planned to follow everyone else in the Toyota Highlander down to the park. However, right as we were all about to leave, Papa realized one of the tires had lost a lot of air.

So it look like you were pretty lucky to get to cruise in it… I didn’t even get to myself!

Maybe next time…

Love,

Daddy

White 1980 MG MGB Convertible

The Generation X and Generation Y Hybrid: For People Turning 30 This Year

Here’s to the Class of 1999 (as well as for anyone else close enough in age to relate this).

We were born between the fall of 1980 and the summer of 1981; currently the ones turning 30 within the next year.  It was us who remember having vinyl records in our house during our early Elementary School days, but by the time we got to Junior High we learned the cool kids were getting CD players.  We remember how in the 3rd grade when The Simpsons came out, our parents hesitated to let us watch it, and now we wonder in amazement that they’re still making new episodes of it, and how tame and polite the show seems now compared next to Family Guy.

During our high school days, we came home and fell asleep to a Saved by the Bell marathon until dinner was ready.  We clearly remember the horrific Columbine shooting in Colorado happening just a few weeks before our high school graduation.  (The event actually happened on my 18th birthday.)

 

Yes, we remember Teddy Ruxpin and slap bracelets.  We remember when The Ren & Stimpy Show was the coolest show ever.

We are part of Generation X, barely: The last year of Generation X ended in 1981.  That means the new generation, Generation Y, began in 1982, just 7 full months after I was born.  After a motivation speaker at work a few weeks ago gave characteristics of each generation, I confirmed my belief that I’m not a typical Generation X guy; and if anything, I’m more Generation Y.  The caricatured characteristics of the generations (below) are from notes I took while listening to the speaker that day, Dan Baker:

Generation X: 1961-1981

33% of the work force, first generation to get divorced, “latch-key kids”, high-tech, loner, needs to be happy, reward-motivated, blames everyone else for their problems, high work ethic, works the bureaucracy, cold-blooded practical

Generation Y (Millennial): 1982-2001

20% of the work force, lacks people skills, no sense of authority, no sense of boundaries, not intimidated by threats, has no prejudice, not motivated by money, loves to be mentored, learns by mistakes, learns quickly, knows how to trick the system, “so what?” generation, wants to feel special, wants someone to care about them, needs to “be built”, bad listener, good watcher, needs encouragement, not good at having real friendships- partly because they rely so heavily on social networks (texting, facebook, etc.)

I definitely relate with a few Generation X characteristics: I’ve always born more of a loner and am content being that way.  I need to be happy.  I know how to work the bureaucracy.  And because I’m not a black-and-white, cut-and-dry person, I am definitely cold-blooded practical.

But as a whole, more Generation Y traits jumped out at me: I am not intimidated by threats.  I am as little prejudice as I know to be humanly possible.  I am definitely not motivated by money (I have been preached to my whole life that money isn’t everything and that it doesn’t make people happy, and I believe it).  I do love to be mentored, just as I love to mentor.  I totally know how to trick the system; it’s one of my specialties- taking a machete to red tape.  I’m not so good of a good listener, but I’m always watching, even when you don’t want me to.  And I need encouragement.

I “work the bureaucracy” be being faithful and loyal to people for the long run (Gen. X), but I’m not faithful or loyal to the system because I “know how to trick the system” (Gen. Y).  I am “cold-blooded practical” (Gen. X) about all my decisions and opinions, yet because I am motivated by encouragement and want to feel special (Gen. Y), I am not being practical because I am letting my “feelings” control me and allowing others’ opinions of my achievements to become part of the deciding factor of whether or not I am successful in what I do.

So I predict that most other people born around 1981 are in this similar situation where they don’t identify fully with either generation, but instead with elements of both.  And I’m sure the hybrid traits I have adopted are not necessarily the same ones as other people born in 1981.  But I do find it pretty interesting how my way of thinking and outlook on life resemble specific X and Y traits.

So now you know.  It’s official.  You’re Generation X, but there’s a good chance you act and think more like Generation Y.  We’re the in-betweens.  And I think that makes us feel special; which for our generation, is pretty dang important.

Mario Eugene Shell (The Person I Almost Was): If I’m Both Hispanic and White, Which Box Do I Check in Those Surveys?

If only I looked more ethnic.


It’s hard to fathom now, but the entire time my mom knew she was pregnant with me (from October 1980 to April 1981) her “boy name” for me was Mario Eugene Shell.  But of course, my name is instead Nicholas Shane Shell.  Why?  I “didn’t look like a Mario”.  In other words, I was too white.

In essence, I am a mixed race- technically only half white.  One of the main ways I determine whether or not a person is “white” (other than their skin color) is by looking at their last name- if it ends in a vowel, they are probably not white.  My mom’s maiden name was Metallo (Italian) and her mother’s maiden name was Mendez (it doesn’t end in a vowel but it’s common knowledge that Mexicans are not “white”- especially not the ones in my family- they have darker skin).

My dad (a Southern boy of English, German, Cherokee Indian, and distant Greek traces) had married this exotic black haired woman from the North (Buffalo, NY).  It was assumed that their child would take after the more ethnic features, like mocha skin and black curly hair.  But on April 20, 1981 at 8:37 PM, both my parents were amazed to hold a seemingly All-American baby.

They looked at each other, then my mom said to my dad, “He’s not a Mario.  We need a new name.”  A few hours later, before midnight, still on the day I was born, I was named Nicholas (a Greek name that is a popular Italian male name).  My middle name is Shane, which is a form of Sean, which is a form of the Hebrew (Jewish) name, John.  (Shane was considered for my first name but “Shane Shell” really doesn’t work.)

And that’s how I got my name- a quickly formed “plan B”.  To imagine, if I looked more Mexican (like my sister, though she’s often mistaken for Hawaiian) or even a dark-skinned Italian, I would have been Mario Eugene.  (My dad’s middle name is Eugene.)  That’s means that growing up, everyone at school would have called me Super Mario and constantly made references to video game series.  But I don’t think it would have been all that different from my actual childhood, where everyone sang “Nick-nick-nick-nick-nick-nick-nick-nick, Nickelodeon!” to me.  And some people still do… Aunt Rosa!

Escape (The Pina Colada Song) from a Logical Perspective, Finally

It’s time to literally think through the lyrics of the Rupert Holmes’ 1979-1980 hit, “Escape”.  A song that many of us thought was called “If You Like Pina Coladas” and was performed by Jimmy Buffett.

Many people in the history of modern civilization have claimed there are two kinds of people in the world. But through much research and toil on my part, I have learned truly what the defining line of what these two kinds are. An overwhelming number believe it is whether or not you like Pina Coladas. Those people are not looking at the big picture. They are only looking at the “here and now”, what is sweet, and smooth, and relaxing- exotic, even.

There are also those believe it is whether or not you like getting caught in the rain. They are able to go through the rest of the day with wet socks and not be bothered by it. Those are the free spirited who are always able to take moldy lemons and make fresh lemonade. That is a good thing, but is it consistent?

Then are those who believe it all comes down whether or not you are into yoga. It’s just that it seems a little judgmental “to put someone in a box” because they may or may not be into a trendy form of mental, physical, and spiritual exercise. I think it’s a given that some people are just better cut out for Pilates or Tai-Bo.

Rupert Holmes

Perhaps the most controversial outlook is the one that says it depends on whether or not you have half a brain. I would have to think that anyone who can read this has a half a brain. But is that the true question? Most scientists say we only use 10% of our brain. And that even geniuses only use 20%. So is it a matter of how much a brain you have, or how much of it that you use? It seems if you have half a brain but use 100% of it, then you’re much better off them someone who has a whole brain and uses 10%. The whole “half a brain/whole brain” is simply a theory with too many holes in it.

So what is the answer? There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who like making love at midnight in the dunes of the cape, and those who do not. No questions asked. I mean, you’ve seen Napoleon Dynamite and you think of the scene where his grandma goes four-wheeling in the dunes of Idaho and breaks her coccyx. But those dunes are nowhere near a cape. Nevermind that you don’t exactly know what a cape is. It obviously has something to do when some sort of a peninsula type of land mass. It’s always near an ocean.

Except for Cape Girardeau, Missouri. It’s on the border of Illinois and the Mississippi River. Nevermind that not only do you have to find a dune, that happens to be near a cape, but that it also has to be at midnight. You have to get past that.

Come to terms with whether or not you’ve made love so many times at midnight in the dunes of the cape that now you can officially say you like to do that. An even bigger question arises with Cape San Blas, FL, which is located directly on the Central Time/Eastern Time border. Depending on exactly which side of the time zone you are on, it could be either 11:00 PM, 12:00 AM, or 1:00 AM. And what if one lover is on the Eastern Time Zone side but the other is on Central, then you’ve really got a problem.

Just don’t think about how dangerous it could possibly be to be in a vulnerable position outside at night in some sort of cave near sand. Don’t think about wild coyotes, jellyfish, or pirates. If and when you do figure that out, then and only then, you’ll know which kind of person you are.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Escape_(Rupert_Holmes_song)

And one more thing… Now that you’ve read my take on pina coladas, why not read my perspective on being a dad?  That’s right- parenting from a dad’s point of view.  I have been documenting my thoughts as a dad since the week we found out my wife was pregnant.  I formally invite you now to read my “dad blog” by clicking on the link below:

dad from day one

 

Readers’ Expectations 2: Jewish Sesame Street, & Uncle Jesse’s Doll

It’s that time again to see what off-the-wall phrases that people typed in Google to find my website.  My apologies to the random strangers who were disappointed to find that I did not provide exactly what they were looking for.  However, I will take the time to address their inquiries, which ironically means that if anyone else searches for these same terms, my website will be one the first ones to show up on a Google search:

“did Asians make up the Rubik’s cube?”- Good try.  But the Rubik’s Cube was invented in 1974 by a Hungarian named Erno Rubik, a sculptor and professor or architecture, though the puzzle toy was not licensed and sold to the American public until 1980.

אריק ובנץ תמונות”- I recognized this as Hebrew, the Jewish manuscript.  As I’ve said before in The Code, I purposely find ways to incorporate ways to include Jewish and marijuana references in most of what I write, to keep things edgy, but not controversial.  But in this case, I reeled in someone who really knows a thing or two about Judaism.  Too bad I have no idea what “אריק ובנץ תמונות” translates to in English.  When I typed it back into Google, it took me to this weird website for an Israeli TV network, featuring a humanized Bert and Ernie:

http://cc.bingj.com/cache.aspx?q=%d7%90%d7%a8%d7%99%d7%a7+%d7%95%d7%91%d7%a0%d7%a5+%d7%aa%d7%9e%d7%95%d7%a0%d7%95%d7%aa&d=4789146318864423&mkt=en-US&setlang=en-US&w=c22fccc6,f5f2d72b

“angry cigarettes and alcohol”- Yes, they are so angry these days, aren’t they?  You must be referring to a picture I posted… healthnutshell: 1.2 Billion People Can’t

“bowling balls”- I am indeed quite the expert.  Glad I could help… It Was All Just a Dream: Tiny Niece at V

“john handcocks signicher”- That’s one awkward way to misspell it.  Here ya go… John Hancock

“Uncle Jesse doll”- If every word I said could make you laugh, I’d talk forever.  Cue Uncle Jesse in a black leather vest with no shirt underneath in a tub with candles all around.  Uncle Jesse will always have a place in our hearts.

“grandmother’s house reunion”- Look, buddy.  I can’t help you with that.  I don’t know when your next family reunion at your grandmother’s house is going to be.  You’ll have to ask your Aunt Murt about that one… Pickles Make for Good Reading Material- 4

 

 

The Truth and Irony about Solving a Rubik’s Cube

Somebody’s gotta be able to do it.  So I took it upon myself to become that person.

Last night at 11:15 PM, I solved my first Rubik’s Cube.  Then again, and again, again.  It all started on February 23rd when I was trying to think of a clever title for a post that I was working on about the true danger of dying of boredom and inactivity, which ended up with me questioning the small possibility that I could have a mild case of Aspergers (I’m pretty sure I don’t, though…).  I ended up naming the writing “Rubik’s Cube Syndrome”.

http://wp.me/pxqBU-zv

A few days later, on February 27th, I decided to take the concept literally: I went to Target and paid $9 for a Rubik’s Cube.  Because I realized I didn’t know anyone in my life that knew how to solve it, nor did I know anyone who knew anyone who knew how to solve it.  So I knew that meant that I would have to become that person.  I would have to become “that guy”.

For the next 11 days (which ended last night), I took “The Cube” with me everywhere.  The token running joke I kept hearing as I was learning to solve it was, “I can solve that thing for you, just let me take off the stickers…”

Everyday during my lunch break I walked over to Borders and used their free wi-fi to watch YouTube videos on how to solve it.  And, it worked.

The truth about solving a Rubik’s Cube is this:  Basically, trusting your own puzzle-solving abilities, you can not solve a Rubik’s cube.  It’s impossible.

The Cube is solved through completing a series of 7 layers, starting from the bottom up (like levels of an old school Nintendo game like Donkey Kong) and each one has a corresponding algorithm which is a set series of turns and twists (like the Konami code on Contra to get 30 extra lives or the combination of buttons pressed in order to pull of a “special move” on Streetfighter II).  But one wrong move, and you end up having to go back a few layers and start over.

The biggest hint that The Cube itself provides is that the middle squares of each side are the only ones locked into place, and each corner is predetermined.  For example, the green side will never share corners with the blue sides, because they’re on opposite sides from each other.

Interestingly, in theory, no matter what the positions are, it should never take more than 20 twists in order to return The Rubik’s cube to its original state.

The Rubix Cube has been frustrated millions of people since its commercial release 30 years ago in 1980.  Understandably.  Without memorizing the algorithms, it virtually is impossible.

So my advice is this.  Unless you’re willing to spend 11 days to memorize the exact formula, don’t waste your time.  It will be nothing but frustrating.  The Cube is either the most frustrating puzzle in the world or the most rewarding and therapeutic.  But if you don’t follow the formula step by step, you will not succeed.

The irony of being able to solve a Rubik’s cube is this: While you will most definitely be able to impress your friends when they watch you do it in front of them in just a matter of a few minutes, it takes memorizing algorithms to do it.  You must become a little bit dorky in order to become cool.

And I’m okay with that.  Because for a lifetime I have memorized the formula.  So for a lifetime, I will keep my mind active.  I called my Rubik’s Cube my “Alzheimer’s Prevention Device”.