The Fifth Ward Sign
Story circa July 30th, 1998 | View Post

A map of the area detailing the various streets involved in this excursion
When I was in high school, one of the more interesting and regular gifts that I would get for people were street signs bearing their name. It's not a practice that I encourage, but it had its time in my youth.

Over the summer of 1998 I had started dating Sarah Wagner and wanted to get her one of these signs as well. Since this was still really before the time of internet mapping, I took to my local Target and looked up Sarah's name in one of the key map books. When I've told this story in the past, occasionally someone is not familiar with a key map. So just in case, a key map is a bound book that has a map of every single street within a certain area (usually a city). A key map for the city of Houston probably has about three hundred pages to it.

The map showed that there was a tiny road called Sarah Street in northern central Houston, smack dad in the center of the Fifth Ward. It was late at night, probably after 1am, and I called up my dear friend Victor and asked him if he'd join me. He agreed and even drove. We headed out into Houston from Katy, turned up on 59, and drove into the Fifth Ward. The scenery immediately changed.

Even though it was probably near 2am at this point, there were people walking around everywhere. Cars were parked three and four deep onto lawns at almost every home and there was definitely a sense of discomfort about the whole thing. Victor and I couldn't find the street immediately and had different ideas on how to resolve this. I thought we should just continue driving around looking for it, but being one to trust anyone and everyone, Victor decided that we would ask for directions. Incidentally, Victor is now a real-life ordained Catholic priest.

He pulled up next to some guy standing in the middle of the road and asked him if he knew where Sarah Street was. The guy said he would tell us for a dollar. Victor paid him and he proceeded to give us directions. He told us to go up the block, turn left on Collingsworth and then turn left again at Carr Street. That would take us where we wanted to go. I did not have a very good feeling about this, but we gave it a go.

Victor followed the guy's instructions. We drove to the end of the street when two things occurred to me. Number one was that we had just crossed into a train yard. Number two was that the road we were on dead ended at said train yard. I have no idea if the guy was sending us to get robbed, or perhaps there was a drug house over there he assumed we were trying to buy from, or if he was just sending us away. But I do know that two white kids in a shiny Ford Ranger do NOT want to be at the dead end of a train yard in the Fifth Ward of Houston at 2am on bad information. That is almost as bad as the string of prepositional phrases needed to describe the aforementioned problem.

I didn't really think much beyond that point other than to tell Victor to put it in reverse and to back out quickly. He did.

It was the only sign I never successfully got.

Pearl Jam Set List - Reunion Arena
Story circa July 5th, 1998 | View Post
Another bad ass set list from Pearl Jam. I had the pleasure of enjoying this one with my friends Victor Perez and Michael Laidlaw. We drove from Houston to Dallas for it.

* Sometimes
* Last Exit
* Brain Of J.
* Hail, Hail
* Given To Fly
* In Hiding / Corduroy (Interstellar Overdrive)
* Go
* Wishlist
* Rearviewmirror
* Pilate
* Alive
* Spin The Black Circle
* Off He Goes
* Even Flow (Mother) (Monkey Gone to Heaven)
* Daughter
* Mankind
* Do The Evolution

Encore #1

* Jeremy
* Immortality
* Better Man (Save it for Later)
* Sonic Reducer
The Massive Headwound
Story circa June 12th, 1998 | View Post
In the early summer of 1998, Aaron Duke (Sac), Jon Willis (Willis), and myself took a day trip to Surfside near Galveston.  Our intentions were to fish for the first few hours of the day, have a lunch on the beach, and then head over to a fishing spot we'd found along side the channel weeks earlier.

We probably left Katy sometime around 8am and would have ultimately arrived sometime around 9 or 9:30. Though I think Aaron had surfed a handful of times before, neither Willis nor I ever had. Nevertheless, we wasted no time getting into the water and began our morning of surfing.  To the best of my recollection, both Willis and I tended to stick together as we were both learning this new endeavor, whereas Aaron actually did have the ability to climb up on the board and ride a wave, even if for just a few short moments.

All in all things were going pretty well for the three of us; even Willis and I were finally starting to get the hang of it after just 30 or 45 minutes of practice.  After several attempts, some successful, most failures, Willis and I began another trip out towards the breakers.  We ultimately started walking side by side, but somehow or another he wound up getting 20 or 30 feet in front of me.  Without much warning a huge wave came through and though I didn't actually see it, Jon's board came loose from his hand and flew back towards me.  I guess the same wave wound up turning me around as well (which was probably to my advantage), but before I could think of anything I remember taking a hard blunt shot to the lower right quadrant of my cranium.

I immediately sank to the four or five foot murky Gulf of Mexico sea floor and instinctually cupped the back of my head.  I'm not sure how long I was underwater for, but it was strangely enough a rather peaceful feeling. It wasn't until I surfaced, unaware of where any of the boards now were, and brought my cupped hand in front of my face that I was aware of the trauma my head had experienced.  The real hint was the abundance of blood in my hand and even now on the surface of the water.

I'm not sure how long it took Aaron and Jon to realize what had happened, but it wasn't long before the three of us were back on the beach examining the depths of my wound.  Given the fairly uninhabited part of Galveston we were in, and the fact that we'd just driven over and hour and a half to get there, I wasn't particularly fond about the idea of turning back.  Jon suggested that I probably needed stitches, and while he was probably right, I never did get them.  Instead we concocted the idea to soak my t-shirt in our ice water cooler for a few moments and then to use the freezing t-shirt as a tourniquet on my head.  I waited patiently while the others carefully constricted the freezing cotton shirt to my head and tried not to think about how serious of a wound this may or may not have been.

Though I wasn't opposed to the guys continuing to surf, they politely packed things up and having turned down medical attention, we proceeded to fish for the rest of the day instead.

From that day onward, I was commonly called 'Massive Head Wound Harry', from the great Saturday Night Skit.  This name would later be shortened (over many years) to 'Massive Head Wound', and eventually just 'Massive'.

When we finally arrived back at the Duke's house that evening, tired, sunburned, and slightly damaged, there was just one last thing to do: remove the tourniquet.  This part does get slightly painful to speak of.  As the cotton t-shirt had been tightly affixed to an open wound and then left to sit under the hot Galveston sun for about 8 hours, the surrounding blood had dried and crusted over causing it to adhere to the wound.  Slowly and ever so carefully, Mrs. Duke began separating the cloth from the giant head wound.  The way I can really describe it is like ripping a band-aid off of a hairy part of your body, only the band-aid was a giant cotton shirt and the hair was the shard remains of my scalp.

Though I have never actually seen the wound (due to never having shaved my head), to this day I can still feel the two or three inch scar on the back of my head.
The Waco Window
Story circa April 1st, 1998 | View Post
This is nothing more than another relatively short college antic that took place in Waco and involved Tom Kelley, Nathan Christianson, and of course me.

I had come up to visit the guys in Waco as I had done a few times before, and as we had done a few times before, we got pretty drunk.  The story with Tom and I usually went something like this: 'Ludlow always finds a way to get into trouble, Tom always finds a way to get into trouble, put them together and something terrible is bound to happen to someone else.'  The strange thing in this case was that I think Nathan had more involvement in the destruction than did Tom.  Either way, Tom always played an integral role.

Some time in the latter part of the evening we headed over towards one of their friend's apartments.  Across the street from this apartment was a new condominium being developed. The three of us happened to walk over that way to pee.  And yes, I'm sure we could have just used the bathroom inside, but this seemed like a better plan at the time. Who doesn't love peeing outside?

Once we'd zipped up, the next logical step was to break some of the windows at the new development.  Yes, nothing more than drunken college vandalism at it's finest.  This is actually where I don't think Tom played a huge role, as a very rare change.  In fact, I seem to recall him being inside of the house doing something entirely different than Nathan and I, albeit probably still destructive, but I digress.

Nathan and I began picking up 2x4s on the ground and hurling them at the windows from no more than 20 feet away.  Naturally you'd expect that the windows would have shattered into pieces, but they did not.  In fact, the windows seemed to absorb the shock of the wood with pleasure. With each new impact, the window would let off a springy sounds and sent our pieces of wood to the ground.  Over and over again we tried to destroy these windows, each throw more frustrating than the last.  How was it possible that two drunk college 18 year old guys couldn't destroy these windows?

Well needless to say, our luck was about to change quite heavily.  After repeated failed attempts at breaking the windows, a local Waco squad car and then another pulled up at the scene.  Evidently someone had called them in for vandalizing a local property.  At this point in my life I'd experienced run-ins with the police so many times for mischievous behavior that I'm not sure I was even phased.  They asked us what we were doing and of course we explained that we were just casually checking out the property.  After being told that they were called there for people breaking the windows, we rather pompously pointed out that the claim had been false as none of the windows were in fact broken.

After some back and forth debate and running of our licenses (something I would never let happen today), we were told we could go on the condition that we didn't drive our car (evidently the cops were also keen to the fact that we'd been drinking a bit).  They went so far to tell us that they were going to periodically check on Tom's car throughout the night and if it was gone, they were going to come and get us.

The moral of the story is that high-cost windows are your friends, even when you are trying to kill them.
The Keg Thiefs
Story circa March 4th, 1998 | View Post
Sometime in the Spring of 1998, I was visiting my friends in Waco who were attending Baylor University.  Specifically, I was hanging out with a good high school friend of mine, Tom Kelley, and a girlfriend of his.  Tom and bunch of other friends of mine were in the process of pledging for a fraternity and he was really intent upon standing out to them in one way or another (as Tom typically did).  I guess he figured that I would be the most likely person to help him on this adventure, and of course he was right.

We went to a house party of what I believe was a competing fraternity.  In the back of a someone's pickup truck in the area were about 10 keg shells that had not yet been returned.  Tom and I scoped the area out for some time before I eventually making our move.

I parked my truck just a few feet away from the other pickup truck and killed the lights.  Tom meanwhile got out and quietly started moving all of the keg shells from the other truck into mine, and we took off.

I didn't actually go into the fraternity house with Tom, or at least I don't remember doing so, but it's my understanding that he was quite celebrated for having just lifted so many keg shells from a competing group.  I probably should have just pledged their fraternity right then and there and been done with it.
The Golf Ball Injury
Story circa November 22nd, 1997 | View Post
One evening over the Thanksgiving holiday during my freshman year in college, I took to the local driving range with my little sister. I had been learning to play golf earlier in the summer. One of my roommates, Donlee Cone Smith was an accomplished golfer and a rather good teacher. I was neither, but he was doing his best with me.

The interesting thing about our local driving range is that was uniquely designed by a guy who won the lottery. Evidently he used some of his winnings to develop and presumably patent a system that automatically placed the ball on the tee for the golfer. It was a pretty cool device. All you had to do was tap your golf club on a lever and a PVC arm would drop down into place, set the ball on the tea, and then retract itself. Just when it seemed golf could not get any lazier, this guy proved the world wrong! The relevance of this detail is that one key component to golfing is how one stands relative to the tee. It took me a number of swings to find a good setup, but once I got perfectly into place, I didn't have to move. This presented a pretty big advantage to non-golfers like myself.

As a result to all of this, I was actually hitting the ball really well that evening. One after another, I was driving well beyond my typical norms. My sister, just 13 at the time, was seated in the bench behind me. If it seems strange that she was just watching her brother play golf, keep in mind that 13 is a pretty young age to be independent. I think she just enjoyed the fact that I would take her out and about, the adventure otherwise being unimportant. In this instance, it's good that she was there with me.

After I'd gone through about half of the balls, I sliced the hell out one shot. It was at this moment that a huge flaw in the driving range was inadvertently discovered. There were metal rails extending beyond the area that one could shoot. The ball I sliced hit one of these metal rails (to the right of me) and before I could even finish my swing came back and hit me square in the head over my right eye. I was likely immediately knocked unconscious. As I started to fall to the ground, the momentum from my swing continued and my golf club bent itself around the metal rail to the left of me. I have no idea how long I was unconscious for (likely only seconds), but as I was lying face down on the AstroTurf I could hear my sister chuckling behind me. She later explained to me that she thought I was just playing around as I typically did.

When I rolled over in her direction, I was holding my right hand above my eye. I could feel the injury that I had sustained, but had no idea just how severe it was. As I removed my hand, my sister screamed and realize that not only was I injured, but that I had a protrusion literally the size of a golf ball just above my right eye.

I was in a very blurred state from the injury and only vaguely remember another golfer from a few stalls down coming to my rescue. He picked me up and brought me inside insistent that the place call an ambulence. My sister instead got in touch with my parents and they came and picked me up instead. Another trip to the emergency room ensued.

I was told that I was extremely lucky the injury pushed outwardly from my skull. Evidently an inwardly bruise of that size could have resulted in serious brain injury or other complications. I was also lucky enough not to have fractured my skull. I was perfectly fine just a few days later, albeit became the only of my friends to have ever rendered himself unconscious with a golf ball.

It was many years later before I was comfortable at a driving range again.

My sister sent a package to my college dorm a week or so later. The package contained a note taped to a golf ball that read, "The golf ball that so viciously attacked you". I still have it.
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