High School Graduate

POSTED IN | 10:54 PM

When my last year of high school rolled around all I could think of was getting the crap out of there. So tired was I of the "high life" — the veritable champagne of educations. But in my haste to skip forward into more interesting life chapters, it seems I forgot to pick something up along the way. That is until recently.

A swift phone call in June to my secondary school alma-mater procured me with the info I hoped for. And several weeks later saw me strolling down the hospital-like corridors of Norman's finest teenage education ward, reminiscing blunders of adolescence as the main office came into view. A booty of personal mementos lie in wait.

The anticipation weighed on me like so many cafeteria lunches and somewhere deep within my being a petrified, indigestible fish stick rolled over in its acidic grave. I dry heaved, but managed to contain the guttural tides. Decades of ingrained vomit-related embarrassment held my guts true to the programmed Social Code: VOMIT AT SCHOOL AND BE FOREVER REMEMBERED AS THE 'PUKE KID' (vis-à-vis: HOLD IT IN AT ALL. FREAKING. COST.)

But the office door hissed open and soon I held the anticipated package in hand. A smile sprouted on my lips and the weight of the moment came upon me. I was officially a high school graduate. The crisp diploma in my palm acting proof of the sterling accomplishment.

So it was that my official high school graduation came and went in that moment. Three blinks. Two heart beats. One ring of the office phone. The emotional summation of my years as a confused, nerdy, clueless, emotionally immature secondary education student flashed before me in a shrill technicolor. Wonk!

I heard harrowing screams, then felt tingly-warm all over before getting visions of B-flat scales being squelched out in the boxish Norman North band hall. I cried and laughed at the same time, and somewhere deep, deep down the fish stick breathed its last and returned to a reverent dormancy. I'd paid my penance. The Public School Lunch Gods (PSLGs) found their requite. The unicorns went about grazing on Rainbow Hill, and all was right in the world again.

So my spirits soared, finally winning closure to that perplexing, brilliant era.

And then I saw the envelope with my name on it. And I remembered that it contained a letter I'd written to myself in the eighth grade. An assignment we all did, with the purpose of saving it until graduation. Only my eighth-grade missive reached me a few years later than planned.

And so, as a recent high school graduate, I'll leave you with a few words of wisdom from my 14-year-old self, written on an inconsequential day in May 1999. May the fish sticks be with you.


Hey, I think after high school I want to go to UCO or something. I'd like to have a music degree and major in trombone and drums. Or maybe I'd like to be a civil engineer or if all else fails then I'll be a grease monkey.

I received the outstanding band student award last night at our band concert. It was great. I don't want to get married too early in life. I figure after I graduate from college and get a job and a horse and a fast car, then I'll worry about getting married. I really don't have anything else to say so I'll see ya in the future.



and then an excerpt from another portion of the letter. seems i was somewhat anti-girlfriend in those days. ah, the intuitions of a teenage male mind. truly a hallmark of wisdom. sorry girls. I guess i was just going through a jerky, insensitive, cheap-as-all-get-out phase. haha. but such is life in grade No. 8.

...I don't like anyone right now. I'm going to try to stay away from a "girl friend" as long as possible due to me enjoying my freedom, time and money. I do enjoy having girls as friends but don't want a "girl friend." In my opinion I think girls are childish and extremely stupid. I really don't have anything else to say other than in the future don't get a girl friend, John.

p.s. Get more guns (hand guns)


Happy Birthday, Sis!

Well, big-sis No. 2 rolled over on year 27 of her life this Sunday. Woohoo. And Laura's always been a special gal. It seems she started out this way from the beginning. She was born INSIDE the placenta, just hanging out, soaking up the nutrients first-hand like a carefree, vagabond looter. The delivery doctor had never seen this before and was really nerdily excited about it (so i'm told — i was non-living at this juncture).

But in honesty I'll say I am rather pleased with an older sis of her caliber. We've seen a lot of things together as the bottom two familial rungs. And I hope we see a lot more (though perhaps in fewer younger-sib lackey/subordinate roles). Give the Fatman and Chubby Dinah a run for their lordish birth order empire! But that's another story.

Love you lots, Sis.

Happy Birthday!


Wish to build a dream on.


Good times garb. Cooking use optional. (reminds me of the Muppets' chef — "noo-nee-noo-nee-noo")
This week saw the influx of some Idaho-based relatives to the Stu Family HQ. Two of these youthful relatives I've never met (you don't make it to northern Idaho too often from Oklahoma). But good folk, certainly. My little nephews fell into step with their similarly aged cousins in a jiff. I like how kids can go from stranger to BFF in one game of Nah-nee-nah-nee-boo-boo. I kinda wish adults were more like that. Maybe we could try ring-around-the-Caramel-Macchiato or something. But I'm not holding my breath. Or my latte.

Hot Wheels action. Here we have cousins Grace (R) and Olivia. And Molly went along for squirrel-hunting technical support. Good to know she's there in a pinch.

Papa Stu swooped in when the batteries waned.

Embarrassing stories with Pa Stu and sis-in-law Laura.

Nephew Joshy.

Olivia v. Hose.

The Jose Canseco shot. Bonus points for hand and bat placement.


Thought of Robert Redford with this one. Truly The Natural material.

Sister squabble.


Nephew Carson. Word on the street says there will be another nephew kicking around come March. This big bro will have more lackeys at his disposal before long.

Grace and Abby share a (muffled) moment.

In other news, these pictures were made possible by my newest photography friend. Call it an employment present to myself, but I'm rather tickled with the shots it gets. Behold, the 70-200 f2.8 IS. Remarkably it does my laundry, cooking and taxes too. So give me a shout. I'll bet it could conjure a decent macchiato.

Parting Shots

POSTED IN | 11:22 PM
Well, I am back on hearty, red Oklahoma soil. But I wanted to share a few final pics from the previous weeks' army band hoo-ah.

Group shot. The 95th Division is reorganizing in October, so this is the last Annual Training for our group as the 95th Division Band. We repatch in a few months as the 395th Army Reserve Band. Basically we will do what we've always done, but wear a different patch. I think we're up for the challenge. Army Strong, people. Army Strong.

Different angle.

And a "less serious" shot. (of course the Army doesn't do "silly")

Flying in to Denver. I like aerial shots. I was trying to figure out where I was sitting when I watched the 4th fireworks downtown a few weeks ago. Somewhere down there. Results inconclusive.

How many bandees can you fit in a tram? Traveling alone or in small groups has its merits. But I like traveling in groups too for sure. The team/camaraderie mentality.

If you're in the military or a dependent, you can go in the USO room at the Denver airport. You can get tons of food, sit in luxury recliners, sleep in special dark rooms, use the net, play video games, get magazines and books and postcards, watch TV, loiter to no end. And all for free. Woo-woo. The place in Denver is really nice. They have them other places too, domestically and internationally. We hit it up like a pack of dingos. And if you're curious, USO is a non-profit and not funded by the gov't (so they say).

Farewell, Arizona


When I look at this, everything just seems to make sense. Yes, even my algebra homework from 10th grade.

Jeep Country

There are LOTS of Jeeps out here in Arizona. With weather like this it's no wonder. You could go top-off all summer and winter probably. Makes me long for my CJ-7 days of old. I loved that Jeep (we called him Ralph, btw. the name countesy of Jules). I don't so much miss getting 10 miles to the gallon though. Sheesh.

A summer/winter shot on old school polaroids. Took this when I was a freshman in high school (c. 1999). The glory days, for sure...

Some Highlights

POSTED IN | 12:34 AM

Warm up before our concert in Green Valley on Wednesday.

Green Valley concert magic. A great, older crowd. Super enthusiastic. Of course we got the Standing-O after Stars and Stripes at the end. I mean, who can resist the Sousa powers, honestly?

Half the venerable trombone section. Great guys, this lot. Except that guy in the middle looks kinda shady. Something about the 'stach really creeps me out.

Sgt. Stewart and Sgt. Stuart. Only she married into hers and mine's been awesomely attached my whole life. And obviously we know which spelling is supreme, though it did make roll-call situations tricky for a while.

The hotel fire alarm went off at midnight the other night. Lame. We evacuated across the street. I got some decent shots out of the ordeal at least.

Private Jones took to lying in the street.

Back seat shenanigans.

Annual band cookout. GREAT weather and good times.

The food was TASTY too. *nom nom*

Soybeans, I think.

Good lighting.

Dennis takes a sunset picture.

Aloe at sunset.

Dark walk home.


p.s. i love the Arizona landscape. and we have a physical training test in the morning at 0600. blah. The Man...got me right where he wants me...

Spit Happens


For all you brass players out there.

Took a Hike

POSTED IN | 12:13 AM
Despite angry clouds to the north, our small trio gathered yesterday for nearby hiking adventures. In the end it was a sopping, top-five-hikes-ever excursion by my accounts.

Fort Huachuca rests at about 5,000 feet and is amidst its monsoon season which means the weather is totally bossa nova for all things outdoors (cloudy, mid-upper 70s, cool breeze, low humidity. not the kind of weather you associate with Arizona). Thus we set out to see what we could see...

A good start.

Spc. Kimmel, folks. He has special needs.

Enter the rain. Of course we didn't turn back mid-way to the summit, even with nature's foreboding.

For fun. Sorry Sam, I kind of stole your idea (though it's not a self-portrait).

Parade field.

A darn shame. R.I.P. Nathan. You'll be missed. On the bright side he was only a tuba player...

Big rocks.

Summit panoramic. Pouring rain ensued shortly thereafter.

We were a little damp by the end (we were on the peak second from right when the rain started). Thankfully my camera didn't get too wet. Probably an amusing scene my hoofing down the mudslide trail, camera bag tucked under the right arm, running back style. Took us an hour to hike up and 30 minutes to slosh-sprint down in the thunder and lightning. Top five hikes, most definitely.

On a different excursion we played at a minor league baseball game in Tucson. This is a boredom-fighting pre-game shot in the backstage downtime. So much excitement.

If you're in the Army then you know one-third of your entire military career is spent parked decisively on your arse, waiting for further orders. I'll tell you the army band is NO exception. But you get used to it. A classic "hurry-up-and-wait" shot by all standards.

Sammy the Sidewinder. Shockingly, just after this picture the right-most soldier grabbed the mace and cracked it across Sammy's snaky face to the horror of all gathered.
No, not really. But that's what my brain imagined when taking the picture.