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MARSHALL: Sunny days and hot dogs

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Last Wednesday was nice and breezy, one of the first sunny days I had seen in a while. So, I figured why not get outside and do a little something?

I did just that after class, heading to a little tailgate event that they were holding at John Wood around 1:30 p.m. I ended up running into a bunch of my friends.

Andrew Marshall

Andrew Marshall

The tailgate was for the girl’s softball and the boy’s baseball games, but as sports don’t necessarily hold our attention, especially baseball, we didn’t spend much time over at the games. I think it was also that it was such a fine day we didn’t want to sit in the bleachers. We enjoyed venturing out and walking around the campus.

But first, there were hot dogs. On a grill behind the Student Activity Center.

My friend Chad was manning the grill as it slowly simmered the hot dogs. The grill was electric and had some problems, struggling to reach 350 degrees, so you had to wait a little bit for your hot dog to really be done. We sat, chatted and passed the time, eventually moseying our way over to the games for a little bit with a posse in tow.

I kind of felt well liked with a group of five or six us just about making up a crowd of our own. We made fun of each other, joked about the game, and mainly killed some time enjoying the sunshine.

Now that the weather is getting nicer after such a long winter, it is not very hard to do nothing outside and be able to look back and say that the day was good.

Toward the end, we made our way back over to the grill and chatted with the lady who is in charge of all the student activities. With hot dogs still remaining on the grill, I was convinced into eating more, brining my total for the day to four.

Maybe next year I should train for a hot dog eating competition, I never thought I could eat so many!

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MARSHALL: There’s nothing better than cake and ice cream

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April brings a lot of nice things besides May flowers — for example, many birthdays. Mine is among them.

I love to celebrate a birthday! It is especially wonderful to celebrate your own because people flood you with compliments and presents, and you might even get some free food out of the whole deal.

Andrew Marshall

Andrew Marshall

However, any birthday will do for my tastes. That’s because with every birthday celebration there usually comes a magical delicacy of the planet Earth, cake and ice cream. These desserts are just fine on their own, but nothing is quite as spectacular as their combination.

Cake — sometimes not as great as you think it should be — is complimented in a superb manner by the champion of desserts. Pudding is all right, soufflé’s not too bad, but ice cream is my ultimate favorite.

Ice creams are simply divine, but add a good cake to the mix and ba-da-bing ba-da-boom bye bye batter it is just an out of the park home run for your taste buds. Picture your favorite cake made homemade just for you, then your favorite ice cream. Each is brilliant in its own right, but whoever came up with the combo really was on to something.

Every time I sit down and have some cake with ice cream on top, tasty fireworks go off in my mouth.

Birthdays are a special occasion because you get to show the love you have for your friends and family on their special day. Everyone should be celebrated for who they are and I fully support that.

I also support cake and ice cream. Very few birthday celebrations skip it. So whoever’s birthday it is — your brother, mother, dog, cousin, dentist —I am in because I know there is a 99 percent chance that there will be a delicacy I will always cherish: cake and ice cream.

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MARSHALL: Get some friends together and bowl

BowlingBallsOn Thursdays, a couple of my friends and I usually try to catch the midnight bowl at Casino Lanes, which runs from about 9:30 p.m. to midnight. It only costs five bucks a bowler, which fits the college student’s price range perfectly.

 I got there nice and early, waiting for my friends to arrive after they got off work around 10. I bowled a game completely by myself, just in the zone besides all the commotion of all the other bowlers. I was about the only guy in the whole place that was alone at a lane, but it turned out to be nice. I scored a 127, and for not bowling for at least a month I was pretty happy to have gotten that.

 

Andrew Marshall

Andrew Marshall

If I actually focus I can be a halfway decent bowler. When I lose focus and am not paying attention though, I struggle to hit 100.

My friends arrived a little later around 9:45 and joined me in the game. This is where my game went completely out the window and I bowled terribly.

We just chatted away, never worried about our scores. We were there to bowl as an activity that we could do as friends. Bowling serves as a kind of enjoyable excuse to see each other.

Bowling is such a terrific game because most people really just cannot bowl well but it doesn’t matter. It often is not taken seriously and it seems to be just something different to enjoy when you are bored.

It is almost disorienting when you bowl with people who are very talented bowlers because it makes you feel as though you should be a better bowler.

I see bowling, as a kind of leisure sport if there ever was one and that is a wonderful thing. So I urge you to get off the couch and get out to bowl. You get to sit down half the time, and maybe you’ll even get a few strikes if you are lucky.

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MARSHALL: Nature walk

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The other day it rained for the first time in what seemed like forever. I can barely believe how calming it was just to know that, for once, it was not cold enough to freeze before it hit the ground.

Andrew Marshall

Andrew Marshall

With the improving weather, my friends and I decided to take a walk around Mowen’s farm. I never can grasp how nice it is just to walk the farm ground and explore for things long ago lost beneath the dirt. We walked and found an old building with a simple tin top covering up a concrete base filled with an assortment of forgotten scraps. One side was filled with tires and the other with cinderblocks, and there was a decaying smaller wooden structure next to the building.

I find it incredible how nature leaves its mark on things that have sat long in its care. The trees in the surround seemed to blend with the shed and it almost blended into the forest, with the structure dotted with moss. We passed the creek eyeing the wet dirt and knowing now was not the best time to be on the shore, unless you wanted to leave with wet boots filled with mud.

It reminded me of my grandparent’s farm, where I live at now, and the creek that runs at the end of the horse pasture. I have many fond memories of my boyhood adventures with only my dog by my side to brave the wilderness. One time I even decided to just hop into the creek, figuring I was already as dirty as can be from running along its length.

Any kind of minimal scratches I ended up leaving with were always worth the adventure I took beyond civilization. Taking this walk with my friends, I enjoyed the nostalgia and the memories it triggered. There are much worse things you can do in the day. And we were overjoyed that for once the weather cooperated so we could go outside.

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MARSHALL: Well played on April Fools’ Day

The beginning of April brings one of my favorites days, April Fools Day. I don’t usually participate in the mischievous work of pranking people, but I always enjoy hearing about things that other people do to their friends and family for entertainment.

Saran Wrap 2Like on Halloween, pranks were expected on this day. People sometimes go all out. A frequently used tool for destruction is plastic wrap, and I have heard many tales about its use. Some of my friends fooled another friend by wrapping his bed and a big portion of his furniture with plastic wrap. With the amount they used, I can’t imagine how long it took to tear through and remove the wrap from around the room.

Another acquaintance told me about a brilliant trick he played on his father, perhaps the most memorable of all the April Fools pranks I have heard about.

This man was about to be married and his future brother-in-law is a police officer. (You might see where this is going.) So, the son had the officer come to his father’s work and make a huge deal of arresting him. He took the father to the car, handcuffed him and everything, only pulling over after a while. Suddenly the police officer removed the handcuffs and handed the man a phone, where his son was on the other end to tell the man it is a joke.

That is some intense pranking if I say so myself; he definitely got the father good. From what I understand his father is still unhappy about it, but hey it was a well-played joke.

So, if you found some toothpaste in your Oreos, a banana in your tailpipe, or dye in your shampoo, I hope you remembered that it was all in good fun. And you can get ready for next year on April 1 — the one day a year you just have to have a sense of humor.

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MARSHALL: Sensless movie fun on a week night

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Just about every month, John Wood Community College has a movie night where all the students can go to see a movie for half off the usual admission.

Recently, I decided to go to the movie, given that it was cheap and I did not have a crazy amount of homework. I decided to totally give in and see just a violent, and somewhat senseless movie, “300: Rise of An Empire.”

Andrew Marshall

Andrew Marshall

Sometimes you’re just in the mood for something somewhat brainless, and I liked the first “300” quite a bit. So I thought why not give it a try. I wasn’t super disappointed.

There was a good amount of action and as much violence as you could ever ask for. The acting was not too bad either and they continued on where the story left off following another Greek hero.

Eva Green was just fantastic as the lady who played the evil Persian naval commander, Artemisia. She had a very convincing way of communicating that she was not to be trifled with, and her performance was one of the best out of all the cast. I think you were meant to focus on her, and the show she put on did not fall short.

Although it was not as great as the firs “300,” I came away pleased and I got to see a movie for only $3 as well. What more can you ask for?

Week night movie time is worth it. If you have the time, a good movie is never a waste.

Two Cow Garage performs in Bloomington.

MARSHALL: Discovering new music

Two Cow Garage performs in Bloomington.

Two Cow Garage performs in Bloomington.

Friday I had my transfer day for the college I’ll be attending in the fall, Illinois State University. The night before I drove to Bloomington and stayed with my friend Steven and hung out with his roommates.

Just my luck, one of his roommates, Nick, works at a record store and exposed me to a bunch of new and different music. I love to hear new artists and although it is a rare occasion to find someone with excellent taste, Nick has it.

Andrew Marshall

Andrew Marshall

I didn’t know there was a genre like doom-surf, which includes a British band called The Wytches. There is nothing like new music exposure to brighten up my day and erase my worries.

I also was in luck because there was a good punk show in Bloomington that night. So when 9 o’clock rolled around, we made our way down the windy streets on the 15-minute walk to Firehouse Pizza in uptown Normal. It’s a cool venue; band T-shirts from the groups that have played there line the walls, and they let people under 21 come in to listen.

The show began with some younger bands that were pretty good and carried out a good tune for the most part. But, much later, some veterans of the road, an old-school folk kind of punk band called Two Cow Garage, stole the show.

These guys had lyrics that really meant something and an energy that the other groups that night lacked. It was a three-piece group with one guy who sang and played the guitar, a bassist and a drummer. They talked about their lives and their music, and their lyrics were teeming with emotion. Two Cow Garage even had a song about wanting to be Bob Dylan, a dream I am sure was real for many people at one time.

As the night came to a close, I just let the music wash through my head and get rid of any worries I could think of. I got a chance to see what the next two years of my life will be like, and I got to listen to a band with a real catchy name. My weekend was complete.

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MARSHALL: Tacos for the soul

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It was spring break at John Wood Community College recently, and I decided to go back to where I grew up, the lovely town of Springfield, Ill.

I went mostly to go see my friend Phil, but also just have a nice, relaxing time in my hometown.

For some reason, every time I drive home I feel nostalgia and joy at being back in the old neighborhood. I enjoyed the drive and realized that I did miss the place.

Andrew Marshall

Andrew Marshall

Phil and I decided to go down the street from where I used to live to the Mexican restaurant La Bamba. Their big slogan is “Burritos as big as your head.” They’re good, but th

e tacos are to die for.

For me and Phil going to La Bamba has been a sort of tradition in our friendship. I remember going to the place and trying horchata (sweet rice milk) for the very first time, like it was just yesterday.

One of my fondest memories is of a day that Phil and I had just gone sledding. We spent a 32 degree day in the winter at least three years ago sledding until we were chilled to the bone. We rode down the hill many times and learned that the workout was more intense than you imagined.

We finally gave up after a couple of hours in the arctic and decided there was no better place to go than Qdoba for some delicious tacos. So after we soldiered to the door, sweaty and soaked from the snow, we devoured those tacos with glee. It was a glorious moment when we took the first bite and warmed up our souls with some tasty cuisine.

tacos2In that memory, Phil and I dined again as I thought of old times and realized that no matter what, we would always have Qdoba. I would always remember that day when we came back to eat there. And I still will, even if the place goes away. I will have that memory of a dear friend and I chowing down on a wintry day.

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MARSHALL: The power of music

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I made my way to Second String Music in downtown Quincy recently for its anniversary party, which included a jam session, but what I really wanted to do is submit to rock n roll’s inner calling, destruction!

This was almost like a mini-rock Olympics that involved the fine art of smashing guitars. What better way to celebrate than to sacrifice the wood back to the rock gods?

I came in the middle of this smashing celebration, as owner and Local Q blogger Rodney Hart was about to compete with his friend Greg in the dropping of the guitars. The rules of this legendary sport are simple. Drop the guitars off the roof, and the victor is the person whose guitar receives the most damage.

Andrew Marshall

Andrew Marshall

However simple this might seem, the competitors boldly climbed the stairs to the roof in preparation for the daring feat. As silence fell upon the street, the guitars soared down like pigeon poop from the sky. With the hit came the sound of splintering wood beaten beyond recognition by gravity.

Although the judges admitted it was the closest of calls, Greg stood victorious with his mangled guitar almost absorbed into the pavement. It was a bitter loss for Rodney as he had been training and stretching on the way upstairs, but he bowed down after some commotion.

I personally think it was a bit too close to call, but people take this kind of stuff too seriously for it to end in a tie.

The day continued on with fun events, and I even smashed a couple of guitars on the pavement. As we were called back inside by the weather, we just jammed. Suddenly everyone was relaxing, and of course many picked up guitars. We began on a country song, and were joined by a banjo player and just made it sing. He played with such ease, seeming to appear out of nowhere on one song and just blending with everyone else.

As the day grew to a close, I realized just how wonderful music could be to bring so many people together. These people were mostly strangers to me, but I felt like I had met them all before. We played and carried on like the best of friends, and music was our bond.

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MARSHALL: Joys of the open road

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Living out in the country I find that it is sometimes very difficult to find something to do with my time. I never thought about the entertaining things that are a part of my every day life that I don’t necessarily take for all they are worth.

I personally enjoy the solitude of a drive. Every time I go out with friends I always want to take my car. Not because it is particularly sporty or bold, but because I love to drive. It is just such an incredible thing to just drive around and, with spring approaching, feel the breeze run through your hair.

Andrew Marshall

Andrew Marshall

It just seems to give you such an interesting control, operating a car, feeling the engine accelerate with the movement of your foot. Wow, you may say that is a pretty boring thing to do, but I beg to differ. When you drive and you really think about it, it’s different. When you cruise onto the highway and hit the speed limit, it is just something special.

Driving you hold such power before you, just hanging at your command. Usually I get stuck in traffic and forget about what it really feels like. I usually just give into the normal feeling I have when I get behind the wheel by thinking of the trip back, already imagining myself there and depriving myself of the enjoyment.

Then I open my door and slide on into the seat. As the engine starts with a purr I realize just how awesome it is that transportation is this easy. In other countries people walk miles to school or have only carts with livestock to get around. Here though we are lucky enough to have cars and we forget how fun it is.

There’s nothing like going down a windy road and feeling the curves, just blending into it. I invite you, when you are tired and coming home from work muster up some energy and just drive.