Sunday, February 05, 2006


After a couple of requests, this is Tom.

Tom's dad was the city manager of Two Rivers.

I never got to know Tom until 7th grade. But in 4th grade, he used to come into Mrs. Schmidt's class for reading. He often reminded me of an incident I'd had with her. Whenever I got out of line in class, she used to say, "Mr. Wardell." No sooner would she say that than I would correct her with, "It's WarDALL." Despite my cocky pleas, she never got it right. Finally after several "Wardell's" she caught me doing something, and she said "Mr. Wardall." My response? "It's WarDELL." Tom laughed his ass off.

Tom and I became friends in 7th grade. For the most part, the same 25-30 classmates shared all of our classes together. But in a few different classes, a few others would join us. One of those classes was Mrs. Westburg's chorus class. Tom shared that class with us. My friend Doug Wall was in that class as well. Doug and Tom were neighbors. So I may have gotten to know Tom through Doug.

Tom was a little tame. But he had a wild streak in him. I was just the guy to bring that out. We would spend the singing moments coming up with bizarre dances, or pretending to play an invisible saxophone. It was all stupid fun. But Westburg was never amused. The woman seemed to despise kids.

Mrs. Westburg had her own detentions for kids who got unruly in class. Needless to say, after school, her room was never empty. The teachers used to have to take turns supervising the students who waited in line for the buses to come. This particular week, she was in charge. So instead of monitoring her detention, she instructed everyone to write a 100-word essay on the importance of music. Then she left us alone.

Tom and I took advantage of this time to trash the music room. As Shane Peterson and Nick Novachek watched, we tore band schedules off the wall, filled her attendance slip with obscenities, turned her piano around, threw hundreds of papers all over the room, and generally made a colossal mess. As a finishing touch, I told Tom to throw the attendance slip down the tuba. Tom tried to somehow "set" it just inside. But it was to no avail. It fell down deep inside of it. Then we left.

From what I heard, Westburg came back into the room, surveyed the mess, and said, "Only Burt and Tom could have done this." Power to her. She was right. As Tom and I walked home to my house, he was a nervous wreck.

The next day, we were called into Mr. Vogt's office first thing in the morning. It was over very fast. We sat down and he asked, "What happened?" I said that we hadn't done anything. Mr. Vogt then launched into a tirade, leaving us speechless. Before we could even respond, he kicked us out of his office. We somehow dodged a bullet - no detentions, no suspensions, no nothing. What the hell? When it came time for chorus class, Westburg stopped us at the door, refusing to let us in. We were kicked out of her class for one week. What a punishment...

Westburg's class was a fun one. But my time in her room never lasted long. Inevitably, the likes of myself, Kevin Dehne, and Doug Wall would get kicked out. On occasion, Tom did too. One of things we would often do is go into the lunchroom and play tag. It was great. Tom joined us many times.

A few weeks after the trashing incident, word got to me that the band teacher, Mr. Schnel had discovered the attendance slips in the tuba. And he was pissed! Tom confronted me alone and asked me to take the rap for it. His theory was that I was in trouble all the time, and one more thing was no big deal. While Tom on the other hand was a good kid for the most part. Sorry Tom, I couldn't play that game. Too often I ended up taking the rap for shit I didn't do. There was no way I was going to do it willingly. Tom pleaded with me. But I wouldn't budge.

Later that day, just prior to chorus class, Mr. Schnel took us into his office, closed the door, and lit into us with a fury. "Look what I fished out of the tuba today!" I played it cool and defended not only myself, but Tom as well. I told him that I hadn't done it, and was sure that Tom hadn't done it either. Tom on the other hand simply confessed. Quite honestly, I think Mr. Schnel was disappointed. But I was free to go. Tom on the other hand wasn't so lucky. At the time, he had been given the lead role in a play that the chorus class was doing. The play was entitled "Teen." I still have the program, and will scan it in someday. Anyway, as I recall, Tom's grandma had just come into town special to watch him play the part. But it was not to be. Tom's punishment was getting kicked out of the play. At the last minute however, Mrs. Westburg relented and let Tom back in - but in the chorus only. Instead, Brad Van Cuyk got the role. Tom was really pissed off at me, and didn't speak to me for a couple of weeks.

Tom happened to tag along with Jason Anderson, Doug Wall, Jim Colby and Kevin Dehne, when they came over at lunchtime to visit me when I was suspended from school. Read Jason's entry for the details of that day. Needless to say, when the police called Tom's mom, she took an immediate dislike to me. Not long after, I was over at Tom's house. And wherever I went, his mom just glared at me with one of the worst cases of stink eye you can imagine. You could just see the hatred in her face.

Tom was the first person I knew who had a VCR. Although his parents banned him from watching R-rated movies and such, he found a way to access them anyway. And when he was sick from school, he would raid the VCR library. One of the films he watched was one of Tom Cruise's first - "Losin It." It was about a bunch of horny kids who go to Tijuana to get laid. There was some great music in it. Tom memorized it, and taught it to us. We would often sing it in chorus class - not sanctioned by Westburg of course.

"Knock Knock"
"Who's there?"
"Tijuana who?"
"Tijuana bring your mother to the gang bang. Yes you do. It's been a long time since she had a screw. When she was younger, and in her prime, she used to gang bang all the time."

In 8th grade, Tom sat behind me in Mr. Monka's social studies class. Monka used to throw erasers at kids who weren't paying attention. I used to turn around and talk to Tom, and whisper stuff like, "I'm seeing if I can get him to hit me with an eraser. Is he heading towards the chalkboard now?" Sure enough, I got nailed a few times.

After 8th grade, Tom moved to Urbana, Illinois. But we had a mutual friend in Meff. And Meff occasionally had contact with Tom.

In high school, Tom got heavily involved in music. Meff would sometimes visit him. And Tom would take him to other friends of his and jam in a garage or something. Allegedly, Tom got a little involved with drugs too - pot and acid, and who knows what else.

I believe the last time I'd seen Tom was in my junior year. He was staying with Meff. And the two of them came up to Two Rivers for a visit. Tom was morphing into the rocker mode. He was wearing bandanas on his pants. And his hair was growing longer. Prior to his visit, I had called him, and asked if he could score some acid for Richard and I. Alas, he wasn't able to.

Tom eventually started playing in bands. One of his bands was named "Two Rivers." He still plays today. It looks like his current band is named "The Brat Pack." He's even recorded his own music. He's travaled all over the country, and has even had the honor of opening for such bands as "Tool" and "Motley Crue." Apparently Tommy Lee is an ass. And Vince Neil stands about 5'2. You can visit his website here.


In researsching on Tom, I discovered that he was returning to Two Rivers on February 3rd, to play a gig. So Meff and I drove up to watch him play. When we got there, his mom walked over. She recognized Meff. When Tom introduced me, she looked a little shocked, turned to whisper in Tom's ear, and said, "Is he the one..." Yes, Mrs. Grassman, it's me!

Tom said I looked exactly the same as I did 20 years ago. I guess I should be flattered. Now that I think about it, about two years ago, I got carded at Shopko when I bought an R-rated movie. "Yes maam, I'm 32 years old."

When Tom was done with his set, he and his wife joined the two of us. We sat around talking for several hours. I drank 11 orange and malibus. Meff had to drive home, to be sure. We reminisced about the old days. And we even sang the "Tijuana gang bang" song. It was a good time. Needless to say, Tom's wife is a hottie. Check out the photo below. From left to right, it's Tom, Hottie and me. Tom said he'd stop by the blog and say hi.

UPDATE - 10/23/06 - Although I'd E-mailed him from time to time, I hadn't actually spoken to Tom since last February. Then out of the blue, he called me on Saturday afternoon to tell me that he'd had a baby the day before. It is his first child.

Tom and his hottie wife had a daughter. They named her Veronica Moon Grassman. Tom's a musician now. And true to his rocker form, he drove to Indiana on Saturday night to play a gig. He did however stay home on Friday.

Rock & Roll!

Congratulations Tom.

UPDATE - 10/30/06 - This is a video from this past summer, of Tom Grassman performing the national anthem at a Schaumburg Flyers minor league baseball game.

National Anthem

Add to My Profile | More Videos

UPDATE - 1/7/07 - Tom just sent me a video montage of some of his recent performances. So I uploaded them onto Youtube. You can see them below.

UPDATE - 4/29/07 - On Sunday, March 25th, I was invited to a surprise 60th birthday party for Tom Grassman's father. Tom played a short set of songs - mostly Buddy Holly stuff, as that is his dad's favorite. I have several clips from that day. Here's one of them.

UPDATE - 2/1/08 - On November 17th, 2007, I received a text message from Tom, letting me know that he and his wife just had another baby girl So congratulations Tom! Oh, and I received this little tidbit this morning in an Email from Cindy Hayes.

"Finally, I see Tom Grassman on the list of classmates… wonder if he remembers kissing me on the count of three with Missy Ducat and Jim Colby on the couch next to us in my parent’s house. People do change. Tom used to be a huge Billy Joel fan."


At Mon Feb 06, 01:12:00 PM PST, Blogger Brad Strouf said...

Tom looks edgier...Tom's wife looks very pretty...Burt looks exactly the same...interesting.

At Tue Feb 07, 05:18:00 PM PST, Blogger Tommy said...

It's all so true, it makes me cry... no wait laugh. Good times. Let's not forget "Mama's Mountains"! I can tell you this to an extremely high degree of certainty - Seeing you two in old TR was about the best night I've had in a while. I enjoyed myself so much, that I got completely hammered before dragging my ass over to The Lighthouse Inn where I passed out, only to awake to the nagging headache I would endure until later that night in Champaign up until that shot of whiskey before the next show. All in all it was a trully magical weekend, and I can't thank you enough for showing up. We'll do it again, and maybe catch a Packer's game when we're done... beyoches!

At Tue Feb 07, 07:20:00 PM PST, Blogger TWORIVERSWALRUS said...

Rock & roll! (Great comment)

Country roads - take me home
To the place - I belong
West Virgina - mama's mountains
Take me home - country roads

I'm proud to say that the "mama's mountains" lyric was coined by me.

At Tue Feb 07, 08:51:00 PM PST, Blogger the_meff said...

Looking back, I can honestly say the bulk of my fondest memories of grade school come from my time with Tom Grassman.

What was great about Tom was that there was never any stress about hanging out with him. We had a blast no matter what we were doing.

I logged a LOT of movies with Tom.

A lot of TV.

A lot of Atari.

In many ways, from grade 2 through grade 5, he was my blood brother. Sixth, seventh, and eighth found him hanging around with Craig Stangle quite a lot, and, to be honest, Richard and I were just starting to spiral into our own little psychosis.

What was great about Tom is that, after hanging out with the Socialist/Extremist Richard Wheeler, a visit to Tom was like coming home. A sigh of relief.

Time to bust out the popcorn again people. This could go long...

Tom moved to TR in 2nd grade. At the time, Greg Pagel, Ross Remeker (sp?), and I, under the extreme influence of all things sci-fi (i.e., Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, Battle of the Planets) had formed a playground gang called, *ahem*, the Space Team.

On Tom's first day, Greg and I instantly went on a recruiting tear and, needless to say, Tom was a card carrying Space Team officer by mid-afternoon.

The Space Team was a funny thing. Like all political entities, we had our ups and downs and infighting. Tom, who could harbor a temper when provoked, thought ill of his being drummed out on one occasion. Since I was the closest S.T. officer, he lashed out and I received my first full-fisted knuckle sandwich from Tom.

In 3rd Grade, Tom and I found other pursuits. He and I started drawing our own comic books during snow or rained out recesses AND we began producing, I kid you not, full-blown vaudeville-style IMPROV sketches before the class.

And I'll be damned, we got laughs!

Of course, one can't be sure if it was AT us or WITH us, but who cares?

I cannot imagine the balls we had back then to do this. Today, if I have to give a presentation to a room of five at work, I hyperventillate. Back then, though, I thought nothing of acting like a moron before a class of 25...

We did this throughout Mrs. Casperson's class (I can't believe she allowed this?!?!) and into Miss Charter's.

Fourth grade found us composing a massive comic book tome called Indian Magazine. Huge. Big. Phone book sized megavolume filled with Native American stereotype comedy. We would pass pages of drawn material back and forth during class and stifle our chortles at each other's work so as not to get in trouble.

I haven't checked lately, but Tom, I believe I still have the sole issue in my possession.

Anyway, slept over at his house dozens of times. He probably slept over at mine a dozen more. Lots of insomniac nights in front of TJ and the ANT and, later, horror and nudie flicks on HBO and Showtime (ahhh, the early days of cable!)

Anyway, I was genuinely sad to see him go in 8th grade. Our contact over the years has had long dry spells but we were able to reconnect about 3 years ago and then, of course, last Friday night.

I wish him only the best. I hope that we can stay in contact. He's got a terrifically cool wife and, quite frankly, a great outlook on life.

At Tue Feb 07, 09:09:00 PM PST, Blogger Greg Pagel said...

I remember one time when my 3rd grade class (Mrs. McGlin) went to Jeff & Tom's class to watch movies, the projector broke down. While the teacher struggled to fix it, she told Jeff & Tom to do "one of their little skits." They launched into some kind of brilliant parody on "Gone With The Wind." I remember thinking it was awesome. I also remember being very jealous!

Hey she goin' 'ere, Tommy.

At Wed Feb 08, 11:58:00 AM PST, Blogger TWORIVERSWALRUS said...

I should mention that when I saw Tom again, I told him that both Joe Antonie and Brad Strouf send their regards. Tom said, "Brad - my old neighbor. Joe... oh I remember Joe. I played D&D with him."

I think everyone did Tom!

At Wed Feb 08, 01:27:00 PM PST, Blogger HappyMama said...

I never did Tom.

Did I?

At Wed Feb 08, 02:33:00 PM PST, Blogger TWORIVERSWALRUS said...

Not that I know of. Perhaps we could swing?

At Wed Feb 08, 02:55:00 PM PST, Blogger Tommy said...

Burt - That old camera of yours takes pretty good pictures. I look great! I'm still freaking out at all the info I'm finding here - names from the past I had forgotten. Running into old friends and reviving old memories seems to be the thing for me in 2006. Does that mean I've started my middle age crisis? More "Losin' It" quotes:

I know a senorita
Her name is Rosanne
She uses a tortilla for a diaphragm


Knock, knock (who's there)
Eisenhower (Eisenhower who?
Eisenhower late for the gang bang...

There's got to be a web page out there with all of those lyrics...

BTW my webpage is www.grassman.5u.com.
It's lame, but effective. Drop me a email, Brad, Greg, Joe, Jeff...

At Fri Feb 10, 06:28:00 AM PST, Blogger TWORIVERSWALRUS said...

High school punks
Come across the border
Their wallets get thin
And their dicks get shorter

Hey, bob-a-rebo

At Sun Mar 05, 01:19:00 PM PST, Blogger squarenuts said...

I remember "TEEN"! I believe my line was something like this: "Teen, teen; you aren't old enough to drive a car, but you're old enough to wash and wax one". I also remember being in another play at Magee during Christmas. I was Joseph in the evening production and had to borrow your outfit because you played him in the afternoon. Do you remember that?

At Sun Nov 18, 09:00:00 PM PST, Blogger miztec said...

tom grassman man its been a long time since i heard that name. we had westbergs guitar class way back.i remember we had a kind of rivalry goin on back then. as i ofcourse had first chair hahaha which tom eventualy won. congrats old friend good to see uve music ur life. rock on brother \m/

ben franco

At Sun Nov 18, 09:00:00 PM PST, Blogger miztec said...

correction uve made music ur life....insert


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