Kickstart My Friendship

In two days we leave for a week of vacation in Costa Rica’s Manuel Antonio National Park. We’re desperately in need of a vacation, after the month we’ve had.

But actually, getting through escrow was probably the easiest accomplishment of the past month. Our escrow process wasn’t that bad at all. Inspections yielded better news on the house than expected, our loan was approved instantly, underwriter didn’t ask us one single question.

But it was still all happening, and on TOP of it, I had probably the most stressful month I’ve had yet at my job. I was also feeling a little under the weather (MS-style), and had a bunch of doctor’s appointments. Annoy-o. And of course Trent had to send the magazine out last week.

AND, there were a few things that came up which we shan’t put out in a public forum just yet… But they’re good. Just time consuming.

So, the house is now pretty much done, the loan docs signed. The work projects are over, the magazine is out. The bill of health is clean, the dog-sitter is lined up (thank you, Katy!). We’re doing the laundry, packing, and getting excited. For many reasons.

But the main reason is that this isn’t just a vacation. We’re going to Costa Rica for a wedding: the wedding of my friend, John, and his fiance, Ashley. I’ve known John for over 20 years, and this is going to be a week-long tropical party with people I’ve known since–as I like to put it–they all had mullets and I had a mushroom cut.

Let’s take a look back at the past 20+ years, then, shall we?

First of all, I left Our Lady of Victory and entered the public school system–where John and the other normal kids had been for a while–in sixth grade. It was the 1989 – 90 academic year.

First things first – we need to set the stage with the awesomely rockin’ soundtrack:

Album cover for Warrant's Cherry Pie, released in 1990.

“Swingin’ on the front porch, swingin’ on the lawn,
Swingin’ where we want ’cause there ain’t nobody home!”

Album cover for Poison's Unskinny Bop.

“Unskinny bop nothin’ more to say!”

Album cover for Motley Crue's Dr. Feelgood.

“Ooh, are you ready girls?”

Okay! Now we’re ready (and yes — I still own all those albums).

I don’t have my sixth grade yearbook any more; I’m pretty sure it’s at Munga’s house (because she never throws ANYTHING away), so I can’t show off our awesome haircuts back then, but that’s okay. I mean, in the early days, I didn’t really know John. That was when boys were generally mystifying and just when you thought you might like them, they would be total dicks to you and snap your bra. I got my bra snapped EVERY DAY in seventh grade math class by Garrett Carter, for example. Every freakin’ day (although in his defense, by high school he had turned into a very nice guy and I don’t hold it against him at all; we cool, GC).

OH WAIT. I have my eighth grade yearbook. That’s almost just as good (but without mullets and mushroom cuts by then because it’s 1992). Here we go:

John in eighth grade.

John, 8th Grade. Slightly askew, because he’s cool like that.

Lisa in eighth grade.

Lisa, 8th Grade. That sweater was from Express. French Country Style, yo.

Because I can:

Garrett in eighth grade.

Bra snapper. 😛 But really — we cool.

I will say that even in middle school, though, John did not seem like a bra-snapper. He was smarter than the other guys and quieter, but he was still cool. This was apparent from the mullet days. This was also true of at least some of the guys he hung out with back then: Bill Ader, for example, and Jeff Koche.

Bill in eighth grade.


Jeff in eighth grade.

Woah, YEAH!

RANDOM MEMORIES: Bill and I were partners in sixth grade social studies class for a project where you had to create a corporation to service the class “society.” We created a shipping company to ship everybody else’s goods and called it “Bill & Lisa’s Excellent Shipping.” Awesome, huh? Jeff sat in front of me in seventh grade social studies class (I think), and I remember he had a kickass Motley Crue “Kickstart My Heart” t-shirt that he would wear pretty much every day.

Bill will be at the wedding; Jeff won’t be, because he and his wife just had a little baby girl. Awww; good excuse. But he did walk my mom down the aisle last year in MY wedding…

Jeff Koche walking Munga down the aisle at my wedding.

Jeff and Munga.

Okay. Back to business.

Probably the earliest memory I have of John is him showing our ALPS class a photo he took of Bret Michaels–the ACTUAL Bret Michaels–backstage at a Poison concert. Probably in like seventh grade. That was SO UNBELIEVABLY cool. Especially for a seventh grader. Like, what the hell?!

Unfortunately, that photo belongs to John, and not me. But here’s a cool picture of Bret Michaels anyway:

Bret Michaels of Poison.

ALPS, by the way, was the “Accelerated Learning Program for Students.” John and I were both in it. We had a lot of fun in that class. Fun which resulted in the teacher, Mrs. Sadler, crying a lot. But we definitely exercised our creativity. Also in that class was Joe Bush, who’ll be at the wedding:

Joe in eighth grade.


Sooo… Yeah. We grew partly-up. We went to high school, and while I won’t speak for everyone else, I think they’d all agree with me that our high school experience was pretty good. I was the captain of the pom pon team and John was the captain of cool but we were still smart kids and nice to people from different social circles. I continued to like that about John through high school. Here we are posing for a photo with our physics class on the last day of school, senior year:

Our physics class on the last day of school, 1996.

Mr. Shar’s class, just before the end of high school. John has his arm around Mr. Shar. I have a sombrero on.

I do not know why I have a sombrero on; I’m pretty sure it was something Cindy Phillips and I decided to do…

Me and Cindy, both wearing sombreros on the last day of high school.

Me and Cindy on the last day of high school with our gym teacher that we loved (can’t remember her name). And sombreros. And a pool noodle. ???

When we graduated, I was given the “Superintendant’s Award for Special Achievement blah blah something” and was asked to speak at commencement. We didn’t have a traditional valedictorian, so it was a big honor. They gave it to me because my dad had died of cancer, very young (at 39), when I was a freshman, and I had gone on to get straight As and do a bunch of other good high school things. As opposed to, say, hanging out under the bleachers and smoking pot all day. Which I guess must be what my school administration expected of a teenager after the tragic death of a parent.

So graduation rolled around and I made my speech and it was good and it made my family real happy and stuff, but a lot of what came after I really don’t remember. But I do remember being out in the parking lot, and I remember John coming up and giving me a hug, and saying “Your speech was awesome.” Like he really meant it.

That was very cool.

It was also really cool because Tom Willerer was with him, and then Tom said, “Yeah, it was really good.” And I looooooved Tom Willerer, all through middle school, and all through high school. I picked him to be my partner for the guy-girl pom pon routine senior year. Here we are dressed up for 70s day of spirit week, the day before the pep rally:

Me and Tom Willerer during Spirit Week.

Stayin’ Alive.

So John, thank you for the hug, and also thank you for that last moment with TW.

And then we were off to college. John and I both went to the University of Michigan (the greatest school in the land), and we were in the same orientation session over the summer. That means we got to stay in the dorms, and eat dorm food, and take some placement exams, but otherwise we just kicked it around Ann Arbor and practiced being college kids. It was awesome.

Right before my Spanish placement exam, though, I got a wicked migraine headache, and threw up in a bathroom outside the cafeteria in East Quad. John actually came in after me and made sure I was okay. I was horkin’ up dorm food, freaking out about missing the exam and having to take two years of Spanish because I wouldn’t place out, and we didn’t even have a good drinking story as our excuse – just a migraine headache. But there he was.

That’s a good friend.

There were some tough parts of college–especially for John–but the parts that were good (which were most of them), were awesome. Jeff even ended up transferring to Michigan from Tennessee (and moving into the house across the street from mine), and Joe ended up at Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, not far away. Our adult friendships really began to take form over keg parties and hookups with certain people’s relatives.

Jeff, Joe, John, and me at a party at my house in college.

Jeff, Joe, John, and me at a party at my house senior year in college. Shortly thereafter, I’m pretty sure my roommate did a keg stand and flipped head over heels down the stairs behind us.

And then we went guns-blazing into adulthood. John had a great engineering job right away, and he ended up buying a house in Royal Oak. It became sort of party central for the rest of us as we moved through our early/mid-20s wishing we were still in college. We nicknamed it Club 217 after we closed down the bar one night, and John and his brother managed to bring some girls back there by telling them they knew a great after-hours place called “Club 217.” Said girls were not amused when they showed up at a little bungalow with the address 217.

John in his house at 217 N Wilson in Royal Oak.

The surly bartender of Club 217’s basement taps.

Eventually, though, we all got serious about life. John sold Club 217 and went off to get his MBA at Wisconsin. Jeff moved to Florida and got a job there. Joe moved to Chicago. I got a job that took me out to San Francisco.

We’ve always kept in touch, though. Some of the best memories have been made since this scattering. Maybe this is how friendship works, or maybe this is just a testament to what it’s like to grow up in the Midwest, where things aren’t altogether that awesome and you have to make your own good time with awesome people who you can honestly say you went to middle school, high school, and college with? A little distance is no obstacle.

Whatever the reason, the good times keep coming…

In 2007, for example, I was visiting a client in Milwaukee, and I extended my trip so I could drive to Madison and spend a couple days with John, who was still in grad school at the time. It was f#@%king freezing cold but it was awesome to see him. We went out and tore it up like undergrads again, getting burgers (yes, I found a vegan one in Madison) and then hitting the Essen Haus so we could drink beer from the boot all night long and dance to German music…

John drinking from the boot at the Essen House in Madison, WI.

Flick and drink and flick…

Me drinking from the boot at the Essen House in Madison, WI.

…and flick and drink and flick…

Back then, I started to wonder if John was ever going to get married. I had just met Trent and I knew I was going to marry him. I was already madly in love with him, but it seemed more than ever like John was loving the bachelor life. He ended up finishing grad school soon after and relocating permanently to San Diego, and that didn’t seem like the place to break him out of his bachelor ways…

But I was wrong. On his annual trip to San Francisco for the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass fest in 2010, John showed up with a girl.

John and Ashley at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival.

Well well well… True love at last.

And just like I could tell with Trent, I could tell the two of them were “it.” They got engaged right around the time of our wedding, a year ago.

As with Jeff Koche, I asked John to be “muscle” for our wedding. We got married in an old auto factory in Detroit so the traditional job of “ushering” didn’t really apply, but I just needed them to make sure people got from the ground floor, where the hors d’oeuvres were, to the second floor, where the ceremony was, before that big steel fire door slid open and I started the walk down the aisle.

I don’t know how it all went down because I was upstairs in hiding, but when the door slid back, everyone was in place. So as far as I’m concerned, no one let me down.

So John and Ashley, this long and somewhat embarrassing blog is an early wedding present to you two. And it comes with a promise that I–and Trent–will always be there for you guys, no matter where we land in life, or how bad our haircuts are. And we promise that your celebration is gonna be the absolute best most Buffet-meets-Hair Metal blast of rock tropical awesomeness ever. I don’t even know what that looks like (or sounds like), but it’s good. I promise.

I also promise that there’s cash coming, too.



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13 thoughts on “Kickstart My Friendship

  1. What an awesome tribute to your friends! And a great wedding gift! Okay, I kept your yearbooks, but you can have them back any time. I had no idea about the bra snapping incident, but I suppose there are just some things moms can’t know. And you made Mrs. Sadler cry? Because she was challenged by your brilliance or because you were a brat? Club 217? Okay, that kind of creativity should be rewarded. And thanks for including my wedding photo in the blog. I have nice memories of these kids too. Love, Mom

  2. lisatemp says:

    Don’t lose those yearbooks! I still have more people to embarass.

    • Kathryn Check says:

      ah the move from the safety of OLV into the world of public school 🙂 Glad that we were able to make that transition together! Have fun at John’s wedding! Sorry we will miss seeing you in Cali.

  3. Megan Spillane says:

    Ok I haven’t read the blog religiously yet but DAMN am I glad I stumbled upon it this morning. This is hilariously awesome. Love it.

  4. Nicole says:

    You remember A LOT! This was great.

  5. Cindy (Phillips) Weflen says:

    love your blog! All the best to John on his wedding, sounds like an amazing trip. and i can’t really explain why we were wearing sombreros other than to embarrassingly point out that the Macarena was really big that year. Oh, and I had bought a giant sombrero on Spring Break in Cancun and needed an excuse to wear it!

  6. […] Wait a minute — you don’t know who John and Ashley are? Then read my greatest blog post ever. […]

  7. […] friends flew up from San Diego to spend the rest of the weekend in the mountains with Trent and I: John McMahon, and his wife Ashley and precious toddler […]

  8. […] John just turned 40 this past weekend, on November 13; Trent and I flew to Detroit to surprise him and join the limo bar crawl celebration. […]

  9. […] This mullet-filled homage to pre-teen friendship… […]

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