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About the Groom

I was born in Harvey Illinois, just south of Chicago and near the little town of Riverdale (although the closest train stop is Ivanhoe not Riverdale). I am the third of four siblings who were all raised by my folks, Don and Theresa.

Both of my parents were implants from Minnesota and were former farm kids who ended up working in the Windy City (or close enough). My dad for IBM downtown. he rode the train (from the Ivanhoe stop) downtown 5 days a week. It was a treat to go with to pick him up at the station in one of our ever present station wagons. To this day I'm still not quite sure what he did there. There was a period where I though for sure he must be a spy or something. Mom was (and still is) a RN working in labor and delivery before I was born. She took a break to gut us kids old enough to manage okay and returned to the baby mill.

I think the contrasts from their lives, and the way they wore many different hats most definitely set the stage for my life to come, and the way I live it.

The neighborhood, then, was a real nice place to live. We even had a block party once. Neighbors would congregate on various front porches (to talk about God knows what). I remember once, a new family was moving in down the street. Matt and I went down to check it out and found that they had two kids, both boys, both our ages. After a little bit of a scuffle I made a friend for life. Ed Koranda. He'll be my witness on my wedding day

I'm told that we moved once. It was just after Matt, my little brother, was born, so I was almost a year old. It was only a couple blocks away, so it almost doesn't really count, especially when your a baby and don't have to carry boxes. After seeing plenty of military families during my six years in the US Navy, I've come to really appreciate growing up in one place like I did.

I am a result of the Cook county public school system. I was never a good student, unless it was a subject that happened to strike my fancy, but I never enjoyed having other people tell me what I should be doing (or learning). My motivation was not getting in big trouble with my folks for getting another D (or gasp, an F!) I longed for some sort of independence.

So... after high school, I joined the Navy. Did I mention that I could be impulsive :)

Before I joined up, I watched my two older sisters, first Kara, then Jeni, head off to various colleges. It was also obvious that my brother was bound for higher education. Formal schooling is not my thing. I dread it, and even then didn't want to spend my measly money (borrowed or not), or effort, on something I dread. Life is too short. Earning potential be damned!

High school wasn't a total drag though. I managed to find some things to do. Looking back I realize that is where I gained my love for technical things. My high School, Thornton Township HS, had a very cool, fully functional TV studio, and one of my classes my Freshman year was "Radio / TV 1" I remember editing a project radio commercial in which the background music was the, then very popular, theme from Miami Vice.

I also tried my hand at sports. Believe it or not in my sophomore year... I was a swimmer! Once, I even swam the 100m freestyle leg of a relay race in less than a minute, which, for me, was fast. Like a lot of things I tended to want to take it easy sometimes. That was how I met another of my lifelong friends. Jerry Swateck. Jerry and I met while 'resting' at the shallow end of the pool. I would usually 'rest' or 'work out a cramp' until the coach yelled at me. I don't know if Jerry really had a cramp, or if he was Anyway, Jerry was into the theater click in school, he worked on lighting in the schools giant theatre. After my great experience in the TV studio, I got involved. For the rest of my time in high school I was very involved in the theater. I was a sound guy, eventually, 'the' sound guy.

The military was just fine for me. While it wasn't all awesome, I enjoyed my six years there quite a bit. In the way the military does, it helped me to find what I'm good at. Identifying, and fixing problems. Out in the bay area of San Francisco, at a base that no longer exists called Mare Island, I was trained to operate, and repair a shipboard, aircraft tracking, missile fire control radar system. I loved working on that system, and making it work as good as it can. Eventually the ship that my radar was installed in, The USS Callaghan DDG-994, home ported first in Long Beach, California, then San Diego, then Bremerton Washington, took me all over the world, and all the way around it (to the West) once. I lived aboard her for four years. One of my fondest memories was when my Dad traveled to Acapulco to ride the ship back to San Diego. This was the ships last stop on a 6 month deployment in which we were the first US ship to enter Kuwait harbor after Desert Storm. I've never seen people more happy to be 'free' than those very, very thankful Kuaiti people. My prized possesion to this day is a can of "Kuwait is free and beautifull" silly string. Less than year after my discharge the Callaghan was decomissioned and put into mothballs (as they say).

Several years later I was pleased to find out that our government had sold her to Taiwan. They recommissioned her the Su-Au DDG-1802. After a failed attempt to go visit her in Taiwan (aided by now Wisconsin Senator elect Tammy Baldwin) I settled for exchanging zippo lighters with a Taiwanese sailor aboard her whom I met via Facebook.

After getting out of the Navy I moved back home to the Chicago area. My skills quickly landed me a job testing, and fixing everything on and in newly manufactured train cab cars for Chicago's Metra system (the shiny double deck ones). It was a great job. I even had to learn to drive trains and had my own "engineers license" so that we could do test drives and customer presentations and acceptance runs. It was fun. Unfortunately the company didn't get another contract and went out of business. Fortunately, before that happened, by keeping in touch with a great shipmate and friend, I managed to get my foot in the door in the power generation industry. I loaded up and moved back out to California. This time to Bakersfield.

I had now lived in all parts of California, Northern, Southern, and Central. Eventually I had my fill of the state and got myself back into the midwest. Sorry sunshine staters, Wisconsin is better :)

The work in the power industry was great, I was working as a factory rep, for GE, assisting customers to install their brand new gas turbine (jet engine) based power plants. The ones I worked on were derrivatives of the same engines used on 747s and other Jumbo jets, except instead of a big turbo-fan, they spin a electric generator. Cool, and it was! While I felt like a word traveler after leaving the Navy, that was nothing compared to the genuine globe trotting I did while working there. I have had the true luxury of meeting, and working side by side with real people from all over the world. Often I would be the only 'American' around, I was very independent and I loved it, I believe it's given me a very unique perspective on a lot of things. A lot. While I was doing this work it eventually dawned on me that I had no real reason to be living in that hell hole of a state so I told my superiors that I would be relocating to Wisconsin (where, in my absence, both my parents and my oldest sister Kara had moved to before me).

I sold my house in California, and thanks to lots of overseas work, I was homeless for about a year before I bought my condo in Madison. I lived in hotels, man camps, and rentals. It was my life. I had no real reason to choose Madison. My sister Kara had somehow ended up there and I'd visited before and found it to be a nice, apparently relaxed, fun town (and I've seen LOTS of towns). Mainly it was geography. Hardly anyone I knew, let alone family, lived anywhere close to Riverdale anymore. That town had taken a drastic turn for the worse. Only my brother still lived in the Chicago area, but the west side.....no. Madison was ideal. Chicago was just a couple hour drive, so was Ferryville, WI where my parents had 'retired' to (although Dad now works at Cabellas and Mom is still RNing at a hospital in LaCrosse.

So, in the spring of 2004 I moved into my condo on the isthmus. The isthums is a strip of land between two large lakes that is the downtown of Madison WI. Smack in the center of it (and it's cool grid of streets) is the awesome Wisconsin capitol building. I was only there about a month when I found out there was a power plant project getting going less than three miles from my condo. It was for the local utility "Madison Gas & Electric". Working in the line of work I was in I saw lots of guys like me stay 'on the road' too long. It's not a pretty thing, I never wanted it to happen to me. I was always looking for that perfect 'site' to settle down at and start a regular kind of job, after all I was in my mid thirties. I always figured it would be a site that I was there to do the 'start-up'. It was almost always the case that almost every customer would offer me the chance to work for them, and stay with them. I was the 'expert' on their fancy, new, expensive machine. I almost did it before.

I came very close to going to work for the New York Power Authority. I spent a year living in NYC back in 2001 while starting up almost a dozen machines at sites all over the five boroughs. I had the idealic New York City experience. Biggest of all, I was on expense account!!! I had a one bedroom apartment on the upper east side (90th and first ave), I had a car AND a parking spot. I used to juggle (a hobby) in central park and I spent a lot of my time exploring, when I had some to spare (which honestly was not too often). Not long after that job I was contacted by them and offered a job. Unfortunately, I think I spoiled myself on the City. The reality of a regular, though well paying, job there would not come even remotely close to what I had become accustomed to there, so for that, and other reasons I declined. I very often wonder what would have come of that.

After all that time working there, and loving that city, the day I was finally done with that project and flew home was September 10, 2001. It was even a red-eye flight and actually landed in California on September 11th. We all know what happened later that morning. Had I not left I would have not been in any danger, but I often wonder how I could have helped if I was there. As it was I was only able to offer the remaining days of the month in my apartment to people in need. That felt good.

With the exception of being underground at Penn station to transfer from one train to another station in an attempt to outrun Hurricane Irene, and get to England on time, I have not been in Manhattan since, someday I'll go see the memorial.

Anyway, I went ahead and contacted MG&E and told them who I was and that I was thinking of settling down and that they wouldn't even have to pay relocation expenses (not that they would've) because I already lived about three miles from their power plant under construction. I'll never forget the call I got from them. I was in San Antonio, starting up a four unit site. We were literally starting the engines for the very first time when my phone rang. Later, they offered me the job. It was a good job, for a union job, but I would be taking a massively huge pay cut to do it. After lots,and lots, and lots of hand wringing and contemplation and upset stomach I finally decided the for that job to show up the way it did, where it did, was some sort of sign. I took it.

I finally tried to settle down. I had regular hours, the work was challenging, but not too much, I had good co-workers, there was lots of pretty scenery on the campus where the plant was located. There was a learning curve which was daunting because I now had to know about all sorts of new and wonderful equipment and processes, but I got it figured out soon enough. For the first time since I left home to join the Navy, I had a regular job and I was starting to lean away from the 'my life is my work' mode. Although you can probably tell that I believe a very large portion of 'who I am' is 'what I do', but until then the 'what I do' was mostly work. Now I had some space to stretch out. I went biker.

I bought my first Harley-Davidson motorcylce in 1989 with money I saved while I was in my very first Navy school at Great Lakes naval station, near Waukegan, IL. I saved that money by not going parying with my meager pay, but taking the train (of the same type I would eventually drive) into Chicago, and then taking the same train my Dad took to and from work, home. I would then hang out with my old high school friends. Everyone was broke, so I was able to save. When I finished that 'school' I bought a 1986 HD sportster 883 with cash. Before buying it I had never ridden a motorcycle. The cool guy at Oak Lawn HD assured me that if I "could ride a bicycle, drive a stick shift, and wasn't a sissy" he could teach me in about a half hour (using my bike...after paying for it). He was right. It wasn't that hard. Every once in a while when the air is just right, I am brought back to that very first ride from that shop, to my parents house. I remember it was cold, and I doubt I ever stopped smiling. One of the best feelings in my life.

In the years that followed I've gone though a couple other bikes, even a Suszuki, but my heart belongs to HD. They're not the fastest, most agile, or most cost effective, by far....but they have that certain something that speaks right to my soul.

Other than becoming a early member of the lightly cheesy H.O.G (Harley owners group), where the only entry requirement is written in it's title {Napa-Solano CA chapter} I never rode in a group. I was always by myself. I liked it that way.

When I started working in Madison I went out and purchased a bicycle to use to commute to work on. I did that (*year round*) for most of the time I worked there. For the first couple years, I only drove my car a handful of times. Anyway, I also used to ride the nice network of bicycle trails. One time I was riding one of them with my then girlfriend Nicole. We had stopped at this kind of remote bar out where the bike path (a converted railroad bed) meets a popular motorcycle road. It's near the town of Riley. The Riley pub. It gets both kind of bikers, peddle and motor. On that particular day there was a boxing ring set up outside the bar, right next to the bicycle path and when we came by we saw a pretty large group of bikers (motor) enjoying themselves. They were a "motorcycle club" and wore a "three piece patch". They were the "C.C. Riders MC" and this was the first time I came across them. Later, I would become a member. Entry is quite a bit more difficult than H.O.G. which is one reason I like it. On that day I found a group of kindred spirits.

Quite a bit of time later, I was at that same bar


      Had to take a break.  Sorry this got so long. I'll finish it before the wedding (I hope), Rich