Archive for July, 2004

A Tribute to a Friend

July 15th, 2004 | Category: General

Introducing Andrew W. Graff
For this entry I will refer to Andrew mostly as “Andy”. When I met Andy in Lakeville, we were very young–and that is the name that I grew up using for him. I guess I never stopped calling him by his shortened name!

I am not entirely certain when it was I first met Andy. We may have met hanging out with kids from the neighborhood in the forest near his house–we frequented that area with bikes in those days. Maybe it was hanging out at a friend’s house in the neighborhood. In any case, we met–and immediately formed a bond. Andy was four years younger than I. Andy has a younger sister Sara, whom we spent a great deal of time trying to ignore. That is, until my relationship with their family as a “babysitter” came along. Then I was forced to pay attention! Actually, I don’t ever recall Andy and I being completely rude to her. Being that I was only four years older than Andy and maybe 6 years older than Sarah, it was easy to relate to the both of them on some level.

Trading and Collecting
I do recall learning of Andy’s fondness for collecting at a young age. To me, this was a great fascination already. I had sort of a reputation for being a ‘trader’ in the neighborhood. In fact, I may be greatly responsible for Andy’s attraction to trading toys and collectibles. I used to trade almost anything. I would wheel and deal in anything from Hot Wheels to Transformers to Star Wars figures (back when they meant something). In fact I remember making quite the deal for a transformer named ‘Wheeljack’ with Andy once. I think I probably made out better on a lot of the deals early on. Nevertheless, Andy eventually got to be as good a trader in the neighborhood as I did. I dare say he even surpassed me in the role–a role that he would carry with him almost as a personality trait for the rest of his life.

The Babysitter
It was always a pleasure to babysit Andy and Sarah. I mean, it really wasn’t like babysitting at all. In general, the two behaved very well, had good manners and were raised to be good children. We would frequently watch the movies in their VHS collection. We’d have ice-cream shakes if I had anything to do with it’and believe me I did! We’d play ‘Star Wars’ and act out the different characters. Sarah, being the girl, always ended up as Princess Leia–whom we’d CONSTANTLY be saving from someone or something. She’d roll off the couch and we’d catch her. Or we’d bounce off the couch (sorry Mary and Bob) and pretend to have superhuman powers–we did you know. We were invincible. Well, at the least, our imaginations were.

There was one particular babysitting moment that I am most aware of. I was putting the two of them to bed and we hadn’t picked up from our playing much. I stepped on Optimus Prime. For those of you who don’t know who Optimus Prime is, I’ll elaborate. Optimus Prime is a Transformer. Transformers were robot toys in the 80s that could transform into normal vehicles and gadgets such as VW Beetles, Dump Trucks, Guns, Jets and even a Tape Recorder. I won’t bother to list off their names as fans are already fully aware of them. Optimus Prime was the leader of the Transformers. He could be transformed into a Semi Truck and had a cool, low, raspy voice’and I stepped on him. I broke his arm off! Now, Transformers cannot be glued back together once they’re broken. There are too many moving parts. You could glue his arm back on’but he’d never be a truck again. Talk about stripping a hero of his super powers! Liken it to this: What if by stepping on Superman I could somehow be responsible for him being unable to fly! I felt very badly about this for many years. Though Andy forgave me long ago, I always envisioned replacing Optimus for him one day.

The Quintessential Trekker
I think Star Trek may be the single most important bonding experience for Andy and me. As we grew up our interests fluctuated but with Star Trek our interests converged and grew. We would watch the movies over and over again. It didn’t matter how many times we saw Star Trek II, we were always pleasantly grossed out when the slimy creature would crawl in and out of Chekhov’s ear. Andy’s favorite Star Trek films were Star Trek II until Star Trek IV came out, then Star Trek VI when that was released and most recently his favorite was the Next Generation film: First Contact. A few years ago I had some promotional posters framed. When a ride at the Hilton, Las Vegas called the “Star Trek Experience” opened, Star Trek: First Contact had just been released to Laserdisc. Included inside was a cool mini-movie poster with advertising for the Hilton ride on the back. I was able to procure several mint copies of this 2-sided poster. I had them framed side by side with one side of the poster facing forward with the characters Picard and Data on it and the other side facing with the Hilton information included. Andy admired that poster every time he came to visit me. I gave it to him last year along with a Return of the Jedi framed print.

The mail was a powerful tool for Andy’s Star Trek and Star Wars habits. I remember he sent in box tops for a Star Wars figure back in the 80s’ It was for the evil Emperor Palpatine from Return of the Jedi. Once he wrote George Lucas for an autograph. George’s secretary sent him a form letter and an 8×10 of George sitting next to the Millennium Falcon. Andy gave that photo to me. He also gave me three matted post cards of the original Star Wars films. But his true love was always Star Trek (until wrestling came along) and we frequently attended conventions. We would shop, meet the stars and wait in line for autographs. It was never beyond Andy to solicit an autograph through the mail. I think Andy has almost every original Star Trek cast member’s signature.

We frequented Star Trek convention’s at the Minneapolis Convention Center in downtown Minneapolis’near Central Lutheran Church’where I believe his dad, Rev. Robert Graff, was an associate pastor for many years. (I may be wrong, but I think that’s the case) Back in ’93 or ’94 he and his dad and me and my dad all went to a Star Trek convention together. It was to see Nimoy and Shatner. It was either at that convention or at another one within a year or two that Bob, Andy’s dad, showcased his new Star Trek puppets: Guinan and Data. They are actually featured in the credits of the Star Trek documentary called ‘Trekkies’. I was there with them when the puppets were filmed. You can see Bob clearly in the shot’but only Andy’s arm manipulating one of the puppets. It doesn’t matter that I can’t see him–I know that arm is Andy and that’s all that matters. Coincidentally, Andy didn’t know that they were even in the video until I called him up after seeing it at a friend’s house on a trip to Boston. He was especially pleased. I think he bought two copies–one for himself and one for Bob.

You Sell, I Sell, We All Sell On eBay
Andy was responsible for my first eBay transaction. I remember him calling me up one day and telling me about this auction utopia online called eBay. By this time, Andy was heavily into wrestling. Though I think his obsession with wrestling started awhile before I found out about it’he really liked it a lot. He probably owns more autographs of BOTH wrestlers and Star Trek actors than anyone I know. Now, although I had already heard of eBay I’d never actually purchased or sold anything there and so Andy was instrumental in getting me hooked up with eBay. In fact, my very first feedback EVER on eBay was from Andy.

He was a genius in collecting by now. He’d buy $25 boxes of Star Trek or wrestling trading cards and turn around pick out the most valuable cards, put them on eBay and quadruple his money. Andy was always good with numbers. He graduated from Augsburg with a degree in finance. I’d pitched once or twice the idea of starting up a small company in which all we would do was sell stuff on eBay. We never did. But it was a nice thought. Andy and I already knew how to be pals and business associates’it would have been interesting.

Andy in the ‘Hood
Here is a small world story about Andy and me. Remember, I told you about the time Andy called me up to tell me about eBay? I was working at a company called Barry Blower in Fridley at the time. I had recently referred a friend of mine, Darren Tilbury for a job at Lutheran brotherhood. Darren had worked with me on small projects at the Barry Plant off and on for 6 months or so. Darren got the job at Lutheran Brotherhood! Later, after leaving Barry Blower, Darren then referred me to Lutheran Brotherhood when I interviewed for a position in Server Support in the I.T. Department. Not six months later, I’ll bet’who should I see standing at the elevator waiting to go up? Andy! He had landed a position in the finance branch one floor above me! It was shortly after that he would be diagnosed with cancer.

Family Matters
Andy’s parents, Bob and Mary Graff, welcomed all of his friends into their home while he was growing up and treated all of us with kindness and respect. I can say that those traits definitely were passed on to both Andy and Sarah. They are parents with full hearts. They take interest in everything their kids participate in. Bob attended many science fiction events with Andy. He also watched some of the British programming on PBS with Andy, such as Faulty Towers and Are You Being Served?. Mary made sure that the kids had everything they needed in life (and some of the neighbor kids too). When Andy would get off the bus at his corner he’d walk briskly home to catch the afternoon cartoons’which included G.I. Joe, Transformers, Heathcliff, He-Man, Thundercats and more. If he was ever teased or mistreated his Mom and Dad provided him with the care he needed and often Mary would be the front line in his defense’and his sister Sarah too. I remember recently a time when I was visiting Andy to help him with his computer, Mary was waiting on Andy hand and foot and making sure he was as comfortable and healthy as he could be. Through the chemo, both Bob and Mary were at his side. Though they were moving from the old neighborhood because Bob was offered a church in NC, they never lost sight of what comes first’their family and God. I’m also convinced that his their prayers for their own son and their dedication to God and his will is what kept Andy and the whole family on a steady course.

Sarah, his little sister was naturally a pain in the neck to him growing up at times’but they could also play together. They grew up sharing that special bond that only two siblings can share. I know’I share that same feeling with my brother, Brian. Unknowingly as they grew older, Sarah and Andy had become friends. As adults many of us who have siblings find that it’s easier to relate to one another when there are no outside pressures dictating who you have to be cool with or who you have to impress. We all ‘grow up’ in every sense of those words. Andy’s parents and sister, in the way in which they raised and grew with Andy, would provide him with the tools he needed to live life. He learned to have a sense of humor, cherish life and be strong through any situation.

Not Enough Time, Too Much Space and the Future
Andy and I started out as neighborhood acquaintances with a business agenda of trading toys and quickly grew to be friends. We were brought together on many occasions and in many situations. Though we didn’t spend as much time as we used to together, whenever we got together’we had an instant bond. He was like a brother to me.

It’s the 20th Anniversary of the Transformers this year. Most kids from about 25-35 will know this. They released a commemorative edition of Optimus Prime’the aforementioned toy I broke. This one is made in Die-Cast metal so I’m sure to not break it if I step on the arm. July 2nd I saw it at a convention I was attending in Bloomington, MN. The convention was mere minutes from the Edina chemo-rehabilitation center that Andy was staying at. I had decided that Sunday morning’July 4th I would go ahead and buy it for Andy. I received a call that morning. It was from Andy’s cell phone. His father, Bob, was on the line. He said with sadness in his voice, ‘I’m sorry to have to call you but Andrew passed away last night.’ My heart sank as he went on, ‘We knew he was getting close and Andrew said, ‘Dad I need you to call a few people–can you please call Adam.”

Andy had first known about his cancer when he woke up with back pain one morning while at home one day. This was about the time he was working with me at LB in 2001. They found a rare lung cancer in one lung. Andy never smoked and never much hung out in bars. It was a strange strain that they had a hard time identifying and he was on chemo for a long time. When the cancer retreated he went back for a checkup several months later. To his dismay, they found it had come back in the same spot. He also had it in his liver. Again, they gave him aggressive chemo. They thought they were close to ridding his body of the cancer but for some reason he wasn’t getting better. He worsened and they did more tests. They found more cancer in the lining of his brain and spine.

A day or so after he had passed away, I received a call from Andy’s cell phone again. This time Bob informed me of the wake and requested that I be a pallbearer. I told him I’d be honored. I attended the wake after work the following Wednesday. The line was long. It ran out the door and clear into the middle of the lobby. It was that length for more that two hours. The wait to see him was about 25-30 minutes. His parents and sister were there greeting everyone and sharing stories. Many of the people in attendance knew Mary from her healing ministry or had attended churches for which Bob had been a pastor. But mostly we were all there to pay respects to our dear friend. It is amazing how one person can touch so many lives.

The funeral was the following Thursday at Central Lutheran in downtown Minneapolis. It was right across the street from the convention center that Andy and I had frequented for Star Trek conventions. I knew he’d be happy he was near there.

The church is simply amazing. It has a giant pipe organ that was playing very loudly when we came in. It was a little scary at first as it was playing some of the more boisterous melodies and more sinister tunes. It didn’t quite make sense to me why they would play so loudly these varying hymns. The music would mellow and at times gain strength and become jubilant. Later I would learn many new things about Andy in the ceremony’including that he loved the pipe organ. They explained in the program how he liked the loud boisterous evocative sounds and it then made sense. in addition to the revelation of his interest in the pipe organ, I met 5 of his good friends who were my partners as pall-bearers’including a very special friend of his, Elizabeth “Betsy” Peterson, for whom he had a crush for many years. None of us knew each other–all of us were brought together by him.

There isn’t a way to adequately describe all the things that go through your head when someone dies. When I looked at Andy’s family in mourning, I saw a broken frame. When I think of him now, I feel a loss of a true friendship that was free of complications and expectations. I feel short-changed. I wanted to spend more time with him before he got sick, while he was sick and even more now that he’s gone. We had so much to do yet.

He was only 27.

My Dad once said to me, ‘You can’t feel guilty about someone’s death. There is never enough time to do everything you want to do with someone.’ He explained that he had a relative that was close pass away recently and that he had wished he had accepted their invitations to visit more often. Unfortunately other circumstances prevented him from doing so. He came to realize the importance of keeping in contact with someone’but that it is not possible to be everywhere at once. We all grow in different directions’but it doesn’t mean we stop loving friends and family. I’m thankful for the times I did get to talk with Andy before he passed away. However, it will take some time for me to get used to the fact I can’t just call him up and say ‘hi’ and talk about the latest news. I miss him.

Leave a message for Andy
I recently called up Andy’s family to see how they were doing and offer any assistance they may need with future tasks involving Andy or anything else. I didn’t have their new number, so I dialed a number that I had in my phonebook to see if it was possibly his old roommate. It was not. It was Andy’s workplace–Wells Fargo Financial. Andy’s voice answered the phone. He said, ‘This is Andrew Graff. I’m not available right now, leave a message and I’ll get back to you.’ It hit me. He isn’t available right now. Excuse me, but that made me smile. It was like he was saying, ‘It may be awhile, but we’ll see each other again.’

I’ll count on it.

The second half of the voicemail was ‘leave a message’. So I’d like to invite anyone who would like to leave a message for Andy to do so in the comments section of this entry. Thanks for reading.

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I’m Back!

July 14th, 2004 | Category: General

“We’re back to fight the evil… we will never deceive you…” If you get that reference—then I’m not the only person with a penchant for remembering horrible song lyrics.

First, let me start by saying–my network is back up and running! Yessss! And it’s a bit faster with the new ActionTec router installed. Actually, it’s a LOT faster.

Today the power went out at work. This happened last year when there was a fire in the building. There was no fire this time. No, it was nothing so simple. Road construction near 494 and highway 100 caused this outage. You guessed it, another severed power line by our friends in road construction. Hat’s off to those boyz! They let us out at about 2:45pm today! The downside is that I’ll be in at 6:30am to bring the lab equipment back up. GRRR! A few of us stopped over to Majors today for a drink. That was pretty cool.

So I went to Matt’s for dinner, came home and took a nap then mowed the lawn. At least I feel like I got something done with the extra time off.

Heather is out of town this week so I’m bored out of my mind when I come home. Though there are lot’s of things to do—and things I should be doing, I miss her being around. OK, all at once… “Awwwwwwww. BLEH.”

Yeah, yeah I know. What can I say? I’m a romantic!

Though with her out of town, I’ve played my music louder than normal, watched movies she’s sure to get bored with and I finally got around to reinstalling my surround sound. 16 gauge flat speaker wire rules!

Well this is it for tonight. I suppose I should rest before the impending 5:30am wake-up call.

Sweet dreams everyone!

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CAPs Off to DMT

July 12th, 2004 | Category: General

I have not updated in awhile. This site will be in flux for the next day or two while I work ou the bugs in my network. I’ve recently switched from CAP to DMT with my DSL for the faster speed. With this comes the pain of redesigning my network so I can take advantage of all the features of the new router–though I’m not sure it’s possible.

I’ll update this again once I’ve got my network squared away.

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