Childhood Heroes and the Disappointments of Adulthood

Most of us can remember a time when we weren’t so jaded and beaten down by life.  These were days of great possibility, when life was what you made of it.  The future was something greatly anticipated, with new things to experience and lessons to learn.

Essex JohnsonIn these halcyon days of youth, we always saw the best in things, and in people.  It was okay to have heroes—individuals to whom we could look with unwavering admiration and affection, without the slightest hint of cynicism or fear that they might not be exactly as they appear.  To return to those days would be return to a time when “The Juice” was a reference to O.J. Simpson (football player, actor, and spokesperson), and had nothing to do with blood doping or anabolic steroids.

Unfortunately, with adulthood comes a knowledge of good and evil, and the understanding that those we held in such high esteem might not have deserved all the love we were all too willing to shower upon them.  (One needn’t look back too far.  A recent purge of collected Sports Illustrated magazines revealed many cover stories dedicated to the likes of Lance Armstrong, Joe Paterno, and Tiger Woods.  A particularly amusing cover from 2000 announced, “With Sammy [Sosa], Junior [Griffey], and Mac [McGwire], the juice is in the National League Central.”  Yes. Yes it was.)

The ’70s were a great time to grow up as a sports-crazy boy in Ohio.  The “Big Red Machine” in Cincinnati was arguably the best baseball team in history that didn’t call Yankee Stadium home.  In college football, Ohio State and Michigan were in the midst of the “ten year war” between Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler that would take an already heated rivalry off the charts in terms of intensity.  These teams boasted legendary names.  Bench.  Morgan.  Rose.  Griffin.  Tatum.  Gradishar.

While I loved all these guys, my first love was the expansion professional football team in Cincinnati.  And my favorite player was a slight tailback out of Grambling State University, all but forgotten for all but the most ardent of Bengal fans.

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Book Review – Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics

I’m not in the habit of offering book reviews here on this blog, this being the first, and I’m not likely to be doing this very often.  However, I am going to make an exception in this case.

Bad ReligionAs Beth and I were preparing for young Samuel’s arrival, I determined that there might be some downtime at the hospital (less than I anticipated, as it turns out).  I had heard a bit of a buzz surrounding New York Times columnist Ross Douthat’s new book, Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics, and decided it was worth the download.

It certainly was.

In Bad Religion, Douthat examines two predominant arguments concerning what he perceives to be American decline.  The first blames a move away from traditional religious mores and beliefs for cultural rot.  A second argument takes exactly the opposite approach, blaming the America’s corporate religiosity as an anchor that is preventing the nation from progressing.

Douthat offers an alternative view.  “America’s problem isn’t too much religion, or too little of it,” he says.  “It’s bad religion: the slow-motion collapse of traditional Christianity and the rise of a variety of pseudo-Christianities in its place.”

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The Butter Knife Story

As the title might imply, this blog will from time to time look back at stories of my childhood and assorted Rempe lore.  For starters, I thought I would begin with the story portrayed in the above banner—what has come to be known to friends and family alike as “the butter knife story.”

In recent years, some have called into question elements of this account.  The objections generally center around the nature of household current, and its ability to propel small children considerable distances.  To this, I can only say that I remember what I remember, and the images from that Sunday morning remain firmly entrenched in my brain.  Nobody has ever questioned that this is something in which the story’s principals would have participated.  In fact, the story could help to explain a lot about the Rempe brothers and our development (or lack thereof).

With that caveat, and operating under the premise that absolute truth should not be allowed to get in the way of a good story, I offer a cautionary tale – one that will be shielded from my offspring until they have learned the dangers of conductivity.  I give you “The Butter Knife Story.”


It was early on a Sunday morning.  I was about eight years old at time—roughly the age when you start realizing that sleeping in can actually be a good thing.  Alas, younger brothers Doug and Bill had not yet reached that stage in their development.

“Steve!  Get up!  You have to see this.”

Doug was bouncing with excitement.  “You really need to see this!” he repeated.  Before I could protest, he had thrown the covers of my bed open and had pulled me halfway out of the bed.  Knowing that resistance at this stage would be futile, I grabbed my glasses and followed Doug into the living room.

I half-expected some major destruction as I rounded the corner.  Instead, I was greeted with the sight of younger brother Bill, still in pajamas and with uncombed hair, seated on the floor.  His feet were straight out in front of him, about a shoulder’s width apart, facing the far wall.

“What’s he doing?” I asked?

“Just watch,” Doug replied.

There were two things that I had failed to notice upon my entry into the room.  The first was that between Bill’s feet on the wall was a standard two-prong household outlet.  The second was the all-metal butter knife he was holding in his left hand.

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Photo Gallery #2: Samuel Meets the Family

I promise not to make this blog a virtual family photo gallery.  Well, not exclusively.  However, if my readers will indulge me this one time, I offer one more photo gallery of our newest family member, meeting his brother, sister, and other assorted family members. – SR

Samuel Robert

On Saturday evening, July 14, Samuel Robert made his first appearance on this terrestrial ball.  He came in a hurry, barely allowing the doctor into the room before arriving himself.  He is seven pounds, three ounces; and 21 inches long.  And, all bias aside, is as beautiful a baby as I have ever seen.  (Okay, maybe a little bias remains.)

Here are a few of the initial images of Sam, taken in the first few hours following his birth.  More images are sure to follow, as well as stories and reflections.

A Letter to My (Unborn) Son

Hi Champ!

This is your daddy!  You don’t know me yet – well, you don’t actually know anyone yet – but we’re going to be spending a lot of time together.

I’m the guy who is going to teach you ride a bike, who is going to take you to your first ball game, and who is going to introduce you to the joy of a good root beer float.  I’m sure there will be late-night science projects and early-morning raids of your Christmas stockings.  But first, you have to get here.

Your mother and I have been eagerly awaiting your arrival ever since we found out you would be joining us.  We can’t wait to see your little face, to hold your little hands, and to hear your little voice.  Mom is busy preparing things for your arrival, getting everything set so that you have a place to sleep and clothes to wear.

Did you know that you have a big sister and a big brother?  Grace and Caleb are every bit as excited as Mom and I are to meet their “baybee bruddah.”  You are going to have fun getting to know them!  There is so much they want to show and teach you.  I’m sure the three of you will find plenty of unique ways to get into trouble together, much like I did with my brothers many, many years ago.

You are going to have a lifetime to learn and experience all that life has to offer.  However, there are a handful of simple truths I want you to know up front.

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Diary of a Storm

This past weekend, a significant storm blew through the Washington, DC, area, downing trees, disrupting power service, and generally making a mess out of the nation’s capital.  The following is what my diary of the last few days would have looked like, if I were disciplined enough to actually keep a diary.  -SR


Friday, June 29
The storms are rolling in this evening.  The howling wind and sound of rain blowing up against the siding are making it awful hard to concentrate on tonight’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives marathon on the Food Network.  Is it too much to ask for a few minutes of peace and quiet now that the work week is done, and the wife and kids are snuggled into their beds?  As it is, I have to keep running outside to make sure our grill cover doesn’t end up in a neighboring county.  (The last trip out, not only was the grill cover plastered against the neighbor’s fence, the grill was actually on the other side of the patio than it was just a few minutes before.)

Sure was a scorcher today!  Fortunately, I was able to “man up” and get the grass mowed before the real heat and humidity set in this afternoon.  Now, the weekend is largely free.  I got a good deal on a couple of prime ribeye steaks—can’t wait to throw those bad boys on grill tomorrow.  (Provided, of course, the grill is still there.)  The rest of the weekend is supposed to be even hotter.  Sounds like a good excuse to spend some time on the couch and catching up on some televised sports.  Thank God for electricity and good ol’ air cond

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