I am my own doppelganger

For nearly my entire K-12 experience, I was a school walker. I walked to school. My house was perfectly positioned to be nearly equidistant to all the school buildings within Thornapple Kellogg Schools. But for a brief time in first grade, before my house was finished, I rode the bus to school.

indian_valley_campgroundMy family was living in Indian Vally Campground in a fifth wheel camper borrowed from my mom’s parents while the builders were working on our house in the village. I have a feeling that living in a campground is one step below living in a trailer park, but I had some good times there. Sure, we had to walk up the hill to the bathhouse in order to shower, but we also had campfires regularly, so I guess it was okay.

But my story isn’t about campground life. I just got sidetracked. My story is about the other Josh Mosey who rode my bus to school.

ducktales_lunchboxOn my way home one day, I must have left my lunchbox on the bus. It was an awesome lunchbox, officially licensed by the cartoon, “Ducktales”, which was one of my favorite shows. My mom, having the foresight that motherhood provides and knowing my tendency to forget things, wisely inscribed my name upon the interior of the lunchbox, so that when I lost it, it might be returned to me.

In fact, this was the case when, in the days after leaving said lunchbox on the bus, my bus driver showed me the lunchbox and asked if it was mine.

“It looks like mine,” I said. “But let me make sure.”

I opened the box to see the name “Josh Mosey” written inside.

“Um,” I said. “Nope, this isn’t mine.”

“But that’s your name,” said the driver.

“But my mom wrote my name in black marker,” I protested. “This one says ‘Josh Mosey’ in blue. It must belong to the other Josh Mosey.”

Suddenly, my older brother steps up.

“I’ll take it for him,” he said, grabbing the box and my hand and taking us both off the bus and back to our camper.

“But that isn’t my lunchbox,” I told him.

I was so convinced that I was right in remembering the color of marker in which my name was written that I created my own doppelganger.

I’m fairly certain now that I just remembered the color wrong, that the box with blue lettering really was mine all along, but sometimes I still wonder. Is there another Josh Mosey out there? What has become of him? And what does he think of me?

Innermost Secret 22 | Being in a Dead Woman’s House for 3 Days

DSC00863Let us delve deeper into the murky past and discover that tawdry secrets locked up in my notebook from one decade ago. If you are just joining us, you may want to start at the beginning (Innermost Secrets 1-8, 9-15, & 16-21).

22nd Innermost Secret:

  • 21st Innermost Secret is actually true.

I was in 8th grade when I had the paper route. One of the worst parts is that it wasn’t even my paper route that the old lady was on. I was covering a friend’s route while he and his family were on vacation. The woman was a shut-in, so you actually had to deliver the paper in the house. The protocol went like this: Knock on the door, enter, announce yourself, walk into the kitchen, the old lady was probably watching television in the kitchen, greet her, and every Friday you would get a 3 Musketeers candy bar.

IS2122What happened while my friend was on vacation was this: The first few days proceeded according to plan. The fourth day, the old lady was not in the kitchen when I arrived. Oh well, I thought, everyone has to go to the bathroom sometime. I announced that I was there and I left the paper sitting on the kitchen counter.

The next day was the same, except it was raining, so all of the papers I was delivering were stuck in water-proof bags. I saw the paper from the day before sitting there, but didn’t think much of it. It didn’t register that the paper had not moved an inch.

The third day that the lady wasn’t there, I noticed the first paper with the second bag-wrapped paper on top of it in the same position as the day before. It was once again raining, so my mom was taking me around on the paper route in the family van. At seeing the papers as they were and not seeing the old lady with a candy bar ready for me, I went out and got my mom.

My mom ventured into the house a bit further and discovered the old lady dead in the bathroom. This was before the age of ubiquitous cell phones, so she went over to a neighbor’s house to call 911. The paramedics came and apparently the woman had been dead for a while.

“Didn’t you notice the smell?” ask people when they hear this story.

Well, here’s a little known fact about the elderly. They always smell a bit like decay anyway. So the distinction between nearly deceased and deceased was so subtle that my nose did not pick up on it.

If you are elderly and reading this, I’m sorry that you had to find out this way. But now that you know, maybe take this news into consideration when asking for hugs and kisses from your family members. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t. Just make them short.

Anyway, that’s the truth of the matter and the story behind my 22nd (and 21st) Innermost Secret(s). Stay tuned next week when I will likely talk about a whole batch instead of just one (or two)!

Innermost Secrets 16 – 21

And so we continue our trip into my deepest, darkest places. Or at least, those deep, dark places that I didn’t mind sharing with people about a decade ago with people at YMCA Camp Manitou Lin. Need to brush up on Innermost Secrets 1 – 15? Check this post and this post.

16th Innermost Secret:

  • I am the spider that bites the British staff.

I shared in my 9th Innermost Secret about how the camp employed a group of British staff through an international work exchange program, and how I was jealous of them because being British is cool. One thing that I was not jealous of was the spider bites that they all got. Whenever the staff would sleep in the tents near the high ropes course, one of the British staff would get bit by a spider, but none of the American staff were ever bothered. Perhaps the Brits have sweeter blood, or perhaps the spiders are some kind of uber-patriots who still think we’re fighting the Revolutionary War.

17th Innermost Secret:

  • Kate Crawford is my ex-wife, also Pat Crawford is my ex-husband.

Pat and Kate ran the high ropes course at camp. They were an incredibly kind couple who were a few years older than the rest of us, and as such, they stayed above most of the camp drama. They also sold me a really nice hiking backpack. I wasn’t really married to either of them… or was I? No, I wasn’t.

18th Innermost Secret:

  • Innermost Secret number 2 is a lie.

Self-referential humor is the best humor. Also, since many of my innermost secrets are lies, I think it is funny to lie about lying. Does that make my 18th Innermost Secret true? No.

19th Innermost Secret:

  • Danger is my middle name.

I still like telling people this secret. But in truth, my middle name is not Danger. My middle name is Dumbledore.

20th Innermost Secret:

  • My second wife died in a pillow fight.

Aside from the past tense phrasing of this secret, this may well be true. But I haven’t actually been married twice, nor do I plan to be. Besides, my wife and I have agreed that neither one of us is allowed to die before the other. Either we both go at the same time, or not at all. Although, if I were to choose a way for both of us to die simultaneously, a pillow fight would be a pretty good way I feel.

21st Innermost Secret:

  • When I was a paperboy, I delivered papers to a dead woman for 3 days without knowing she was dead.

Hmm. To be continued next week!

Innermost Secrets 1 – 8

I was cleaning part of my basement the other day when I happened across a relic from my time as Visiting Groups Director at YMCA Camp Manitou-Lin. What I found was a little notebook filled with all of my innermost secrets. I filled this little notebook with my innermost secrets because that is what the cover told me to do. And though there is a picture of a lock on the cover, it isn’t all that safe of a notebook.

You see, I used to leave this little notebook around the camp for people to enjoy before they returned it to my desk. I liked to see if people would read the secrets or whether they would respect my privacy. In most cases, curiousity triumphed over privacy (which shouldn’t that surprising to anyone who has worked at a camp). Anyway, I thought I would share these secrets with you too.

Today, I’ll cover the first two pages of the notebook. More pages will follow in future weeks.

1st Innermost Secret:

  • My name is Josh Mosey.

I wanted people to be able to identify the owner right away. That way they could easily return my secrets to my desk. Also, I liked the idea of using known facts as innermost secrets.

2nd Innermost Secret:

  • I’m the Visiting Groups Director.

Just in case anyone didn’t know who I was, they could find my office by my title.

3rd Innermost Secret:

  • I’m straight.

I don’t think there was a lot of question here, but in case there was, I wanted people know that I am a straight man whose secret inclinations are also straight.

4th Innermost Secret:

  • I really am 23.

This was actually a lie. At the time I wrote this, I was 21. I think I told people that I was 23 because that was the minimum age for certain camp restrictions, like administrating the ropes course.

5th Innermost Secret:

  • My favorite animal is a human woman.

I read this to my wife and she said, “So we’re just animals to you?” I didn’t know how to respond at the time, but I’ll try now. “Um,” I would say. “Nope, you aren’t animals at all. But if you were, you’d be my favorite.”

6th Innermost Secret:

  • I had scones once.

I know that scones are delicious pastries that go well with coffee and tea, but the word scones also kind of sounds like a horribly painful disease. Like shingles or boils. Scones.

7th Innermost Secret:

  • Norway rules!

This isn’t a secret so much as an opinion. Actually, no. This isn’t so much an opinion as a fact. Norway rules!

8th Innermost Secret:

  • My “gut” is really all muscle.

I like this one because it is quite obviously not true. And even if it were, how would that explain the extra chin that hides neath my beard?

Hopefully you’ll enjoy this series, because I have a total of 54 innermost secrets to share. Until next time, thanks for reading!

I am a non-existent vice-presidential candidate.

Now that the election is over and I don’t have to worry about anyone stealing my ideas, I feel free to share with you a story from my high school days.

Around the end of my junior year, petitions came out for people to run for class office in the student council for the next year. Those interested had to get a minimum number of student signatures in order to have their name put on the ballot. Thinking that it might be cool to be the student council president or vice-president during my senior year, I picked up a petition and started getting signatures.

After the petition was about half-filled, I had second thoughts. What was I signing up for anyway? Sure, it would probably look good on a college application, but it meant a lot of additional work. I would have to set up and attend a lot of the student functions, dances, and so on. This would eat up time better spent on extracurricular activities that I would actually enjoy. So I decided not to run after all.

But I already had a half-filled petition. And that meant I was halfway to a great prank.

Is this Jeff Young?

The prank was this: get a non-existent person elected to class office.

Having filled out my name on the top of the petition in pencil, it didn’t take much to erase any record that I had been interested in running for Class Vice-President. The trick was to find a name that students in my high school either wouldn’t recognize as a fake or if they did, vote for it anyway. Keep in mind that my graduating class was pretty small (less than 200 students I am sure). It would have to be a pretty run-of-the-mill name but not so much that it would be easily spotted as fake. What I came up with was Jeff Young.

I finished getting the signatures with Jeff’s name on top of the form and handed it into the school office. A week later, the ballots came out with Jeff among the candidates. Once we knew that he was in the running, my friends and I campaigned for Jeff. We made posters to hang in the hallways and classrooms.

When a teacher would ask us who Jeff was, we would say, “He usually sits in the back. You know, the kid with the hair.”

“Oh yeah,” they would say, imagining someone else. “Right.”

Some kids caught on to the fact that Jeff was not real, but this did not deter his campaign. Being on the inside of a joke in high school is probably one of the greatest feelings an adolescent could hope for.

Finally came voting day.

This was the day that someone finally ratted Jeff out to the authorities. Well, to some authorities anyway. There were about four teachers who discovered that Jeff wasn’t real before we cast our ballots. These teachers threatened to throw away any of the ballots that voted for Jeff, forcing those students to choose one of the other less-imaginary candidates for Senior Class Vice-President.

After the votes were tallied, Jeff Young did not win. He came in second, right in front of one of the more popular girls in our class.

The funny thing was that once the truth came out, Jeff was no longer just my joke. He belonged to my classmates too. Some kids fought hard to get him included in the school yearbook (as “not pictured”). His name showed up on the class t-shirts, though I did not put it there. I think someone wanted to get his name read at graduation (but by then, the teachers were on the lookout for Jeff). Someone even brought in a friend from a neighboring school to pretend to be Jeff for the day.

It was all great fun, though I do still feel bad for the girl who lost the election to my non-existent candidate. What if she needed the accolades that came with class office to get into the college of her choice? Oh well. It was funny at the time (and it still is). I’m pretty sure that she turned out all right.

Anyway, hopefully I’ve timed this post right so that we can get a good laugh and then forget about it before the next presidential election. Goodness knows what would happen if we elected a fake person for President.

I was unpopular before it was cool.

So, I’ve seen a lot of this story across the internet, and I can’t help but remember the time when I was a joke nominee in my high school Homecoming. For those unfamiliar with the current story, here’s a snippet:

High school student Whitney Kropp was shocked earlier this month when she was  named to the homecoming court.

Her happy surprise turned to humiliation when she learned the reason. The  students thought it would be funny if the popularity contest was won by someone  who was unpopular.

From The Detroit News: http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20120924/METRO/209240341#ixzz27gT0w1qo

The story goes on to say that the town is rallying around Whitney, offering her services and products so that she might be the belle of the ball.

The town of Middleville didn’t exactly rally around me in this way.

Here’s my story.

It started, I think, in marching band practice. The teacher was giving out instructions for the upcoming Homecoming game. When he started handing out the assignments for the low brass section (I played trombone), I raised my hand and said, “Mr. Rickert, I won’t be able to march at the game since I’ll be the Homecoming King.” The whole band had a good chuckle. I meant it as a joke after all.

It isn’t that I was an outcast, but I definitely wasn’t the most popular kid in school either. My clique was the brainy, sarcastic crowd. If there were jocks among us, they were soccer players, which aren’t really in the same category of jocks as footballers, basketballers, or wrestlers. We were the kids who aced tests and talked about Monty Python, ever ready with a quippy jibe at another’s expense.

It was a fun little clique to be in.

So when the announcements for the Homecoming Court came out with my name on the list, I was surprised. Was I really popular enough to be on this list? Maybe, I thought.

And then I thought back to my marching band announcement and realized that I was probably being the butt of my own joke (this was not the first, nor last, time this has happened to me). I believe I was nominated to the Homecoming Court as a joke. But rather than feel the affront that some teenagers are wont to do, I played it cool. After all, even though I was probably there as a humorous offset to the other options, I was still going to be paraded about in a Corvette, I still got out of marching that night with the band, and I got to escort one of the pretty girls in my class around. All good things.

Now, when the night of the Homecoming game arrived, did I expect to be crowned king? No. Not really. But did I think that I had a chance? That my classmates would look past the obvious choices (a football jock and a party-hardened slacker) and choose the best choice (the brains with a sense of humor (me))? I hoped so.

Alas, I was not crowned king (the slacker was). But nor was I laughed out of the stadium.

What was my point in saying all this?

I remember at the time all of the emotions, feeling triumphant, then slighted, accepting myself as a joke, and secretly hoping that I was popular after all. I remember how I was in high school, how desperate I was to be cool, how important it was to be liked, how sharp everything felt. Perhaps time and maturity have dulled my sensitivity to such ups and downs, or perhaps my younger self was making mountains out of mole hills. I think it was the latter.

Anyway, I hope that Whitney learns to take things in stride, that her town’s rallying around her doesn’t reinforce an unhealthy perspective that the opinions of other people are still the most important thing in the world. Because at the moment, I’m sure that she is feeling super loved, and that is great. But I hope she is learning to love who she is in spite of all of this attention.

I am a former ska band member.

Remember ska?

It was the late 90’s. Groups like the Squirrel Nut Zippers, the Mighty, Mighty Bosstones, and No Doubt ruled the airwaves. That is, unless you were a God-fearing Christian, and then you listened to The O.C. Supertones, Five Iron Frenzy, and if you went in for them, the Insyderz.

I was sold out for ska.

This may have been due to my background interest in jazz, big band, and swing music. It may have been because this was the popular music when I was at my most impressionable age. Or it may have been because I saw the possibility of people simultaneously playing trombone AND being cool.

I was band geek in high school. King of the band geeks, actually. Voted “Most Musical” in my senior yearbook (along with “Class Kiss Up”, but we don’t need to talk about that now), recipient of the John Phillips Sousa Award, and member of the Jazz Band on Bass Trombone, the Symphonic Band on Baritone, and the Freshmen Band (as a senior, mind you) on Tenor Sax. Also, I sang in the Honors Choir. So, my senior year was dominated by music classes.

And as if I didn’t get enough music during the day, I was also in the school musicals.

But I digress. All of those accomplishments happened in my senior year of high school. It was while I was a sophomore that I was in the ska band.

Our band’s name was the Kung Foo Chickens and a Guy Named Fred. We didn’t really have a guy named Fred, and I would have been surprised if anyone in the band knew any form of martial arts. Mainly, we just thought it was a cool name for a ska band. Also, we liked the idea of our band logo including a Karate Kid version of Colonel Sanders (Kung Foo Chickens = KFC) in what would surely have been blatant copy-write infringement.

The Kung Foo Chickens had very few original songs. We were mostly a cover/praise band. We did a few songs by the Supertones, a few by Five Iron Frenzy, and a few ska-versions of praise songs. Mostly, we had a good time.

But those good times were short-lived.

After our first official gig at church all-nighter, our band disbanded. Or rather, they morphed into a rock band, leaving the horn section that defines the ska band behind.

Was I hurt? I don’t remember. Probably. But it wouldn’t have been because I was convinced that our band could have made it in the arena of ska. It would have been because I hate rejection, and the fact I chose the wrong instrument to play seems an arbitrary reason to be ousted from a group. Anyway, I’m mostly over it now.

Also, ska is coming back. I heard the other day that No Doubt is getting back together. And Five Iron Frenzy recently broke all kinds of records on Kickstarter for having the fastest and most funded money drive ever.

Perhaps it isn’t too late for a resurrection of Kung Foo Chickens. Or maybe some better-named ska band.

Anyone in need of a rusty trombone player?

I am unsure where the boundries are when it comes to new people and practical jokes.

It was the summer after what should have been my final year at Western Michigan University. I had completed all but my internship for my the requirements of my major, and I just landed the perfect job at YMCA Camp Manitou-Lin in Middleville, Michigan, my hometown.

I was to be the Visiting Groups and Weekends Director for the camp. This put me at third in line to inherit leadership of the camp behind the director and Assistant/Summer Camp Director. Like all great camp jobs, YMCA Camp Manitou-Lin would provide me with nice housing and free food, plus a small amount of money so I could buy things like clothes and Tom Hanks movies. But best of all, the job would count toward my internship requirements.

My job was to coordinate the visits of all outside groups to the camp during the summer. YMCA Camp Manitou-Lin is the official camp for all YMCAs in the Greater Grand Rapids Area, which at the time meant around five or six different youth centers. Each center would send a group of kids to the camp once or twice a week. And then there were the groups on the weekends: boy scouts, girl scouts, youth groups, future farmers of America, and so on. So, while the camp was already full with kids staying at summer camp, kids visiting for day camp, and kids attending horse camp, it was my job to squeeze in these outside groups, giving them varied experiences using the camp’s many resources.

But I digress. I was setting up my office when a package came in the mail for the Visiting Groups Director. I opened it to find an informational kit dealing with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS. There were brochures, there were diagrams, there was even a VHS tape for sufferers of IBS. I was confused.

I took the package to the Summer Camp Director who had just been promoted from the job which I now occupied. She instantly recognized it as part of some program associated with Women’s Health that a visiting group had signed up for. Why they sent it to the camp instead of to the group who had visited was a bit of a mystery, but that was the explanation for why we got it.

As I was in her office, getting this explanation, the Camp Director welcomed me to the camp. Outside of the initial interview, this was the first time we had spoken.

“Welcome to the team,” he said.

“Thanks,” I said.

“Hey,” he said. “Did you see the thing about the camp that was on the news the other night?”

I told him that I hadn’t. He handed me a VHS tape.

“You should watch it. I haven’t seen it yet, but I heard that it was a nice piece and it might help you know a little more about the camp. Just return it to me when you are done.”

“Sure thing,” I said.

I took the VHS from the Director and the IBS package back to my office to finish setting things up.

The next day, I took the VHS from the IBS packet and put it into the sleeve of the VHS that the Director gave me and gave it back to the Director. That night, he popped the tape into his VCR, ready to see the great news story that everyone had been telling him about. Instead, he watched about five minutes of a video for sufferers of Irritable Bowel Syndrome, fast-forwarded it a bit, rewound it a bit, and finally popped the tape out to look at the label.

Sure enough, it was not the video he had lent me. Now, he was confused.

He found me the next day. I asked him how the news story was. He laughed.

“When I first saw what it was,” he said, “I was confused. I double-checked the sleeve, but it was the one that I let you borrow. Then I looked at the video itself and I thought ‘Did the new guy really just make me watch a video about IBS after meeting only once before?'”

“I did,” I said. “I did.”

“Well played,” he said. “That was a risk, you know. But you made me laugh. I’m glad you are here.”

I was glad to be there too.

I am a [smart] fraud.

“Rather fail with honor than succeed by fraud.” – Sophocles

With respect to Sophocles, when making plans for college, I  disagree.

Here’s the story.

I had already been accepted to Western Michigan University, but was applying for acceptance to the Lee Honors College within the University.

The Lee Honors College aims to enrich its members with distinctive classes and special opportunities in order to create “The Distinctive Student“.

Members of the Honors College were eligible to live in a special residence hall with like-minded students and certain restrictions that made study time more possible and profitable.

My GPA was high enough to qualify, and I had no trouble writing the essay about why I would make a good addition to the Honors College, but I didn’t look at the due date on the teacher recommendations. You see, I was supposed to have two teachers and a school administrator write recommendations for me to get into the program. The first time I saw the due date was the day before they were due.

I did not freak out. Doing assignments the night before the due date was how I got through high school. It was like I was training myself for this very situation.

I approached two of my favorite teachers and the vice-principal  in school that day and explained my situation. One of the teachers told me that it would be a pleasure and that she would have my recommendation done by the end of the school day. The other two told me that they were too busy to write them and that I should have approached them sooner.

Sure, they were right, but I wasn’t about to let that stop me.

I made them an offer.

“I will write the recommendations for you,” I said, “then you can read them over and only sign off on them if they sound like something you would have written anyway.”

“Sure,” they both said.

And so I wrote my recommendations. I made sure to write them with different voices, and using slightly different layouts to account for the fact that they were being written by two different people. I drove to their homes that night and got their signatures, thereby making them real.

The following day, I drove to Kalamazoo and handed in all of my materials.

Within a couple of weeks, I got notification in the mail that I was accepted into the program.

I wasn’t surprised. I had at least two very good recommendations.

I am a Natural at Self-Promotion.

Last week, I told the origin story of the “I Love Josh Mosey” t-shirts, as well as how they helped me achieve semi-stardom in Big Sky country.

But I skipped some of the story…

Liz in the t-shirt. Josh stuffing his face.

If you didn’t read last week’s post, I made a bunch of t-shirts with my face on them for my friends as graduation gifts. What I didn’t tell you was how the visiting-from-out-of-town family of one of my friends wanted the shirts too. Of course, I was only too willing to give away more things with my face on them, so my friend Liz and many of her cousins got the shirt too.

Fast forward to the graduation ceremony. It is the year 2000, the ceremony is halfway done, people have been reminded a few times now to hold their applause for the end of the program.

My name is called.

All heck breaks loose.

Unbeknownst to me, all of my friend’s cousins who got my t-shirts had worn them to graduation. At my name being called, they stood proudly, stretching their shirts so that everyone could see them, shouting things like “We Love Josh Mosey!” and “Josh Mosey for President!” and “Woo Hoo!”

The announcer kindly reminds the crowd to wait for the end of the program to applaud while I shake hands with the principal, receive my diploma, and walk to the side of the gymnasium completely red-faced. It was wonderful.

His House, an awesome campus ministry.

The next fall, I went to Western Michigan University where Liz’s brother and sister-in-law, Jesse and Rachel, attended. After a week or so of settling in, the pair paid me a visit and introduced me to His House Christian Fellowship, the campus ministry where they were involved (and the one where I would become involved as well).

When they picked me up, Rachel was wearing her “I Love Josh Mosey” shirt, as she had been for a little while around campus. So when I came to my first His House event, a lot of people came up to me, recognizing my face from the shirt and I instantly had friends, albeit ones whose names I did not yet know.

If there is a lesson to be had in there somewhere, it is this. T-shirts with your face on them are great gifts, every time. Maybe I should be selling them through this blog…

Stay tuned for that.