Not Ready For My Close Up

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I heard a great story today.  A client came in with some 16mm film to be transferred and after we conducted the transaction, we got to talking. Some of our stories seemed to share certain elements and before you know it I was showing her one of the video editing jobs I had done in the recent past. The soundtrack I used was taken from an Andrea Bocelli album and my client smiled as she recalled her memory.

It was in the 90s and Bocelli was giving a concert in Madison Square Garden. My client, who lived in NY at the time and was a big fan, was able to score two tickets… up in the nosebleed section. In fact, there was no seat situated further away from the stage which from her vantage point looked about the size of a postage stamp.

As they were settling in, a woman came up to her and asked if she would like to swap seats. In typical New York fashion, she retorted, “How much further away do you want me to go? Out in the parking lot?” The woman quickly put her mind at ease. “No,” she said, “I just have these two extra seats that I need filled.” My client figured they couldn’t be any worse than the ones she paid for so she took her up on the offer.  A few minutes later they found themselves in the orchestra, third row center sitting amidst A list celebrities. They had better seats than Donald Trump who sat two rows behind them. Turns out the woman who offered them worked for Bolla Wines who was the concert’s sponsor and they had some extra comp seats up close and she didn’t want them to go unused.

As she told the story, I couldn’t help but notice that it was as if she was experiencing it all over again. That’s the power of the past remembered. What a great memory.

Unfortunately, the only story I had that was similar was back when Orlando was home to the Solar Bears, an ice hockey franchise.  I got seats in the balcony and was prepared to root the home team on from a birds eye view when we got randomly selected for a seat upgrade. Instead of being perched and viewing the game from above where we could watch the entire ice and see the plays and patterns develop before our eyes, we were escorted to the ground floor behind the glass where we sat in wingback chairs and given champagne glasses but, to be honest, the view was terrible. The only part of the game we could see was when a player crosschecked an opponent into the glass right in front of us. And we really didn’t need or particularly want to see that up close.

It turns out that not every upgrade is a good one. 

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of films, videotape, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

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Pardon My Blooper

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I consider myself an intelligent being. I can arrange my thoughts and convey them in a coherent, often poignant manner. I am able to assess a problematic situation and arrive at a workable solution. I am able to present myself to the world as a mature, compassionate, thoughtful adult… but I have a hidden secret.  I possess an immature sense of humor. I laugh at inappropriate times and events. I can’t help myself.

It all started when I bought my first comedy album. It was Kermit Schafer’s collection of radio and TV bloopers. Back when radio and TV shows were broadcast live, all the inadvertent mistakes made by the announcers and performers were broadcast right along with the rest of the show. And I found them uncontrollably hysterical.

The fact that the mistakes were made on live tv or radio and were completely unscripted and unintentional made it all the funnier.  I played that record over and over until my sides hurt so much from laughing that I had to stop.

Thinking back on the some of the malapropisms that I remember from the album, I will admit them to be certainly sophomoric and imbecilic… which I supposed only increased the humor quotient to a young boy.

I remember: The announcer who proudly intoned, “Wonder Bread… for the breast in bed!”  The excited race track announcer who excitedly informed his audience that the favorite was being pulled from the race: “This just in… Harass is not going to run… Harass is not going to run… Remember to scratch Harass.” The formal and distinguished introduction of the 31st US President: “Ladies and Gentlemen, the President of the United States… Hoobert Heever.”

It slayed me every single time. And even though I grew up, my sense of humor didn’t follow suit. Well intentioned people making mistakes that result in unexpected consequences always make me laugh despite every attempt of mine to stifle it.

I was videotaping a soccer game involving my young son’s team. Our goalie had the ball and decided to clear the zone. He booted the ball in a high arcing trajectory. And as I followed the ball with the camera, I could see it heading to one of the opponent’s mid-fielders. It was a high arcing shot so the young lad had time to plant his feet, bend his knees, and position himself precisely where he wanted to be to block the ball as it descended. Which it did, like a targeted laser, squarely between the unfortunate lad’s legs.

When watching the video footage later, you could clearly hear my chortle as the ball struck. The fact that I was standing next to the father of the poor defender was a bit awkward. What was more awkward was the fact that as I lay in bed, replaying the scene in my head, I started to silently laugh so hard that I shook my wife awake. Her immediate response… “Are you still thinking about that poor boy!?!”

I may have a problem.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of films, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

Trotting Out Old Memories

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One of our customers today presented me with a VHS tape that she wanted to convert to a DVD. It contained footage of a championship horse that she raced back in the day. Harness racing.  My dad always called them “trotters.” And my, how he loved the trotters.

He used to pour over the daily racing form; looking at the past performances of, not only the horses, but also the jockeys. He would calculate the odds, evaluate the cost and the risk, and then decide which race or races he would put his two dollars on. He always kept himself on a firm budget and insisted on the same from us.

As we grew older, an occasional  trip to the track became a family event. And we each got our own two dollars to put on a horse. My sisters couldn’t be bothered with learning my father’s system. They tended to go the route my mother chose. They bet on the horse with the cleverest name. Most of the time, they lost.

Me, I tried to emulate my old man. I studied the racing form, not knowing much about what I was looking at. But I thought that if I looked hard enough, I would see something that no one else did. Following the logic of the racing form gave me inconsistent results so I switched to watching the horses as they were led onto the track. I decided to put my money on the horse that looked like a winner. I bet with my gut.

I soon learned that looks can be deceiving and my gut was often wrong. So I then decided that as long as I was going to throw  two dollars away, I might as well do it with an outside chance that I would hit it big.  I started to search the racing form looking for long shots that had certain stats that showed they might have a chance to win… if the conditions were right.

I certainly lost more than I won. But on those rare occasions when my horse came in the money,  I won big because the odds were long.  Granted, the winnings weren’t big enough to cover all those $2.00 losses but it still made me feel good when it happened.

My fondest memory was the one time, in what was a pure fluke, I hit a trifecta. That’s when you successfully pick the horses that come in first, second and third in a race. A two dollar bet suddenly turned into a hundred dollar payout. I stopped going to the track soon after that. I knew that trying to repeat that success would only lead to greater losses.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of films, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

It Is Funny The Things You Remember…

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We always enjoy talking to the customers that come into the studio… getting to know them… hearing their stories… It never ceases to amaze me the many connections I can make between their memories and mine. Today, we were helping a woman with a video tape that she needed converted to a digital form. In speaking with her, she informed us that she owned a roller skating rink. The memories came flooding back.

Our youngest son could skate like an Olympian. There was a grace he possessed on the ice (with blades) or on the wood (with wheels) that defied explanation. He was a natural. But he was also a guy’s guy. And he discovered hockey. First roller hockey but he eventually graduated to the ice.

I wish I could tell you the fond memories of watching him compete and perform intricate movements that seemed impossible to me… but that isn’t what I remember most.

I wish I could tell you of the exciting games I was privileged to watch as a spectator, cheering my son on from the bleachers and celebrating their wins… but that isn’t what I remember most.

I can, however, tell you about the ride home. You see, in order to get the ice time, we had to join a league about 90 minutes from the house. And after the game, where he gave his all on the ice, my son took off his uniform, dressed in his street clothes, and stuffed his gear: jersey, pads, and everything else into his gigantic hockey bag which I then hefted into the back of our car. To say it was aromatic would be an insult to noses everywhere. I have never in my life before or since experienced a stench like the one that came from that hockey bag. And I’m the son of a gym teacher. I grew up around locker rooms.

The week in between games were spent trying to neutralize the locker room scent from the bag. And we tried everything. Nothing really worked. We sprinkled it with lemon freshener. It just made it smell like lemon sweat. We tried airing it out in our backyard which I think is why we didn’t see many birds come to our feeder during hockey season. I contemplated chucking everything into our pool and using super-chlorinator tablets to see if that would do anything but chickened out… not because I might have to replace his gear but because I thought I would somehow ruin the pool.

Still, a little acrid exposure was a small sacrifice to make in order to watch your children engaged and enjoying one of their passions. And I truly did enjoy watching him skate. Still do.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of films, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

Hey, Coach O!

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I had a couple of high school coaches in my studio today. I always enjoy hearing stories from coaches because they remind me so much of my dad who was a public school gym teacher and coach for most of the time that I knew him.

But he was so much more than that. Well before I ventured onto the scene he was quite the “Big Man on Campus” at Roanoke University. He was a star basketball player, nicknamed “The Big Scoop” for his skills under the basket. He was voted thrice to the All State team and eventually earned a spot on the all Century Team and was inducted in Roanoke University’s Hall of Fame.

His illustrious playing career was interrupted by a little disturbance most people knew as WWII. He left school to enlist in the Army Air Corps where he became a bombardier as part of the 448th Bomb Group for the Mighty Eighth Army Air Force. He flew 24 missions over wartime Germany and thankfully made it back home safely. Upon his return to the states, he resumed his education at Roanoke University and even played for another season where he racked up awards, accolades, and the attention of one Red Auerbach who invited him to come play for him. At the time, Red was coaching the Washington Capitols.

Unfortunately, when my dad was free to accept the offer, Red had no open positions so he returned to his family home in New Jersey and got picked up by the Paterson Crescents, a team in the American Basketball League. He only played a couple of seasons before he decided to shift his attention and talents elsewhere.

He became the Athletic Director for a Naval Base in Bainbridge MD, and then decided to embark on a career in public education. It was a career that carried him through to retirement age. And he left an indelible impression on scores of children who were fortunate enough to have had him as a coach or teacher.

I still remember walking down a city street with my father only to be continually interrupted by what appeared to me to be grown men who would shout out, “Hey, Mr. O!” or “Hey Coach!” Even at my tender age, I could see the love and respect these men had for my father because he had provided them instruction and a role model to emulate when they, as much younger versions of themselves, were his students.

It’s a warm memory. One that I am glad to know has not diminished over time.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of films, videotapes, audio recordings, photos and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

Dodge This!

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It is rather sad when one peaks in the 5th grade. I mean, so much of life still lies ahead but the glory days remain back in grade school. You see, I was a bit of a prodigy in elementary school. I have already recounted my feats of speed in an earlier blog but apparently I was quite the agile little dickens as well. I was unbeatable in a sport I’m told is rarely played in schools these days. Of course, I’m talking about dodgeball.

Because I grew up in the 60s, we’re not talking about the sanctioned sport of Dodgeball with complex rules and uniformed teams as showcased in the Vince Vaughn movie. The way we played it on the blacktop, one kid stood in the center of a circle around which the entire class was standing. And the sole object was to throw a red rubber kickball, a little larger than a basketball, at that kid until he was hit. Who ever threw the ball that hit the kid became the next one to stand in the middle as the target.

Once I made the center, it was game over. I was like ridiculously hard to hit. I may have lost the limberness I once had but back in the day I was a cross between a circus contortionist and Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four (he was the one who could stretch himself like rubber.) On more than one occasion, the recess monitor had to come to break up our game because it was time to resume class. With me in the center, the game would never end.

My superior skill at dodging a ball soon became the stuff of classroom legend. My peers, who once were my friends, became determined to bring me down. They started sneaking extra balls to the lineup thinking I could be blindsided.  They changed the rules by eliminating the circle and just lining me up against the brick wall of the school building. It was like facing a firing squad of rubber balls.

I graduated from elementary school undefeated in dodgeball. I was certain my future was bright. But my career came to a sudden and unexpected end. No one ever told me they didn’t play dodgeball in junior high.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of films, videotapes, audio cassettes, photos and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

Keeping In Sync

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As many years as I have been transferring home movies for families, I would have thought I had captured every sporting event known to mankind.  I have transferred baseball games, football games, soccer matches, volleyball games, lacrosse matches, field hockey games, martial arts exhibitions, and more. But yesterday was a first. I transferred a videotape that had actually contained a client’s family member performing a synchronized swimming performance.

Now, let me first state how appreciative I am at the discipline needed to effectively pull off a synchronized performance of any kind. It requires great concentration, skill, and practice to move in unison with another person. Just ask the Rockettes. But, in this particular instance, there is a problem… the elephant in the room if you will…

I discovered through the watching of the tape I transferred that I am incapable of seeing a synchronized swimming performance without bringing to mind the Saturday Night Live sketch featuring Martin Short and Harry Shearer. First aired in 1984, it has arguably been declared as the best sketch ever to have appeared on SNL.  That is high praise. There may be a few sketches that I would personally rank higher but I can’t argue with the impact it had upon my brain because this sketch will invariably come to mind whenever when I see a legitimate synchronized performance no matter how good it may be.

In the sketch, Shearer and Short appeared as brothers who pursued their passion for the sport even though, in Short’s own words, he is not that strong at swimming. For your viewing pleasure, here’s a link to this classic SNL routine:

 

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotape, audio cassette, photos and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

Sink or Swim?

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I am currently transferring a large number of a family’s videotapes that span a decade or two. Today I went through a series of tapes where the parents lovingly worked with their children in the pool, teaching them to swim. That sparked a memory within me.

I believe I mentioned earlier that I used to be a lifeguard. I was also a swimming instructor. I typically taught beginner classes because, as I said in an earlier blog, I do enjoy working with children.

One day, I was in the lifeguard tower when I heard a high-pitched, terrified scream. I focused in on the sound and saw a young boy struggling to reach the side of the pool. He made it and a male adult, who I assumed was his father, pulled him out of the pool and threw him back into the water. The crowd was watching. I jumped down from my station and began walking toward him.

Not a good scene. Here I am, a 17 year old kid in a speedo with a whistle around my neck, approaching a grown-ass man who, in my view, was abusing his child. This could get ugly.

The child, once again, managed to get to the edge of the pool and before the adult could throw him back in, I spoke softly: “I can help you.” He looked at me. “If you want to teach your son to swim, there are better ways. I have a class starting next week. I can leave a spot open for him. No charge.”

I thought the father was going to create a scene but he backed down, perhaps sensing the crowd was not on his side. The mother, after he left, came up and thanked me and offered to pay me for the lessons. I declined.

I have never taught anyone as fearful of the water as that child was. It took the better part of a week to get him to let go of my arm when we were in the water together. Another half week to get him to trust me enough to lie still with my hand beneath his head as his body floated on the surface. On the last day of class, I removed my hand and he floated on the water all by himself.

The entire poolside of parents stood and cheered. I high-fived the young boy and then looked over to his mother and her expression of pure joy and gratitude will always stay with me. A few weeks later, I saw the boy, happy and playing in the water with other children his age. I never saw his father again. And I had no problem with that.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of films, videotapes, audio cassettes, photos, slides, and more. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

The Replacements

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I saw an old movie on TV the other night. It was a Keanu Reeves film called The Replacements. It was inspired, though not based, on actual events that I still remember. It was, without a doubt, the most enjoyable football season that I, as a fan, ever lived through. Most others vehemently disagree.

The year was 1987 and the NFL players union decided to hold a strike during the regular season. Wanting a change in the free agency program, the players, after game two of the season, decided to sit out games until negotiations went their way. The owners had a different idea. They chose to field replacement teams using players they found wherever they could. Some had been cut during training camp, others were passed over by the draft, some were just invited to play because they were big and strong. They dressed these guys in the uniforms and put them on the field but they had precious little time to teach them the game and how to gel as a team. The result was a series of some pretty ugly plays disguising itself as a football game.

I was fortunate because I grew up in the DC area and was thus an enthusiastic Redskins fan. This all happened during the Joe Gibbs era and he was a master at manipulating events to his favor. I don’t know how he did it but he managed to go 3-0 during these replacement games. It may have been because of his quirky and charismatic replacement quarterback, Babe Laufenberg.

I found Babe fun to watch because every down brought what seemed to me to be a broken play that required him to somehow improvise to find a way to advance the ball. And a lot of times he did. Games were unpredictable and resembled more of the neighborhood backyard football I played as a kid. You remember the kind I mean. We huddled and the play called was always the same… “go long… I’ll throw it to you.”

After three games, the regular players came back. I guess they realized they needed the league more than the league needed them. The Redskins went on to win the Super Bowl that year. Babe Laufenberg was released by the Redskins, no longer needed or wanted. And for this one fan, the game would never be the same. 

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of films, videotapes, audio cassettes, photos and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.