Grass Roots Media: Andrea and Donnie Rogers and the Beyond Our Control Archive

From 1967 to 1986 high school students in South Bend, Indiana produced the half-hour sketch comedy television show “Beyond Our Control,” in association with Junior Achievement and sponsored by the local NBC affiliate, WNDU-TV, on the campus of the University of Notre Dame. All of the show’s original pictures, scripts, films and videotapes have found a home at Grass Roots Media, Inc. of South Bend-- thanks to owners Donnie and Andrea Rogers’s generous donation of space.

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (February 22). A cold front moved in from the northwest. Snowfall here is about 70 inches a year. Located at the top of the freshwater-bearing carbonate and sandstone aquifer of the Great Lakes Basin, the prairie plants native here grow exceedingly green, but you would not have known it on that day.

Grass Roots Building

Easy now, from the balmy heights of a promising spring, to pooh-pooh the bitterness of the winter just past-- it is human nature to suppose it was not after all that bad, but as we all may remember from those early crew calls, the winters drop pretty dark mornings around here.

Some say after a few more years of global warming, they'll be frying bacon on the mailboxes in the Bend. That day the clouds carried ice from Minnesota, which turned to sleet over Lake Michigan, and joined the snow, already in progress in South Bend, blanketing the river city.

Some background

Dave Simkins, BOC Chief Archivist (BOC '74-'77) works to preserve the legacy of BOC virtually non-stop. Dave has made tangible memorials remembering BOC in one way or another since his participation as a member of and advisor to the award-winning companies of the 1970s.

Since July of 2001, he has worked on behalf of BOC's alumni association members to formalize the show's archive, for the purposes of both reproduction and preservation. Using his own resources and working from his home in Pasadena, David’s mission has been to scan, to one appropriate reproductive media or another, all the thousands of feet of original film, hours of tape, still photographs and art, and scripts and production documents to which BOC is heir.

These boxes of tapes, slides, photos and production docs constitute the mother-lode of the purest ore of BOC lore. Samples from this rich vein of core material have entertained visitors to the BOC Web page, and been generously made available free and downloadable through the alumni association site. The original material of all the BOC stuff will find a permanent home at Grass Roots Media, a South Bend business owned by BOC alums Donnie and Andrea Rogers—where they have a lot of space, an equal abundance of generosity, and a warm spot in their hearts for that very nice TV show of local broadcast legend.BOC brought together hundreds of local kids for twenty years, who found in the lessons it taught their vocation, and with Andrea and Donnie, a marriage and business partnership.

The Basement Storeroom

Donnie and Andrea also own the Grass Roots building (variously referred to among historians of the architecture of the South Bend city-fabric as The Prairie Building, or more recently, The Hamilton Apartments), and spent the morning talking about hosting the BOC physical archives there.

Andrea and Donnie are renting a clean, well-lighted space of 1500 cubic feet (eight-by-twelve-by-fifteen feet) of shelf space to the BOC alumni group, for the storage of the television show archives.

The alumni organization is paying an annual $1-- at the organization’s demand. This demonstrates that the meritocratic ethos of Bonus Points follows BOC veterans into the most obscure corners of their lives. The BOCTVAA management insisted on making the payment, and Andrea indulged them in taking it. An additional empty room is available when needed for the temporary use of BOC for storage during short-term events, like screenings, seminars, or conferences."Space is a luxury," Andrea said, sitting at the long conference table in the Grass Roots boardroom. "I'm just so happy to have all this space in this building-- we couldn't have offered that before. This kind of extra space is, to me, a luxury. I'm storing bikes here, and everything. It's just so easy and we're happy to do it."

"It doesn't have to be tying up Joe Dundon's garage," Donnie added. "He's bringing a lot of stuff over today. It's a fairly safe place to have everything-- it's dry. We've been here a year, and there've been no moisture problems down there."
Once upon a time Donnie Ehmen (his last name has since been changed to Rogers), a high school sophomore, rode in from Walkerton and started working as a summer intern at WSND, the Notre Dame fine arts radio station. Andrea Rogers, whose father was a professor of literature at the University of Notre Dame, worked there, too.At WSND Donnie was a board operator, traffic manager, and assistant station manager for one summer. Andrea was a board op.
Donnie and Andrea
Donnie and Andrea

"Pulled out records for 'Tafelmusik,' and whatever other program we'd signed up to," she said, mentioning a well-known WSND local broadcast."We'd choose classical music by the length of the movement of the piece-- I can't just play the things that I'm familiar with, because how long would that last? In my family we always played instruments in orchestra," Andrea said, "all through fourth grade, through high school. But-- it's not like I had a really diverse knowledge of classical-- I knew how to pronounce Bach, and so on, but I-- it's like, oh damn, we've got to fill this amount of time, OK, I'm going to pull these!""This piece will provide a stark counterpoint to the piece I played previously," said Donnie."Yes," Andrea added. "Stark counterpoint meaning I don't know what's on it, and I didn't know what was on the other one."

"But it's thirty-seven minutes long, and that's how much time I need to fill," Donnie finished."I moved to town my freshman year of high school, from a school of 300 kids to 1400 kids in Clay; and the next summer got involved in the internship at WSND-- the Fine Arts radio station-- and, actually I had seen Andrea at school and she was also in that-- in the internship," Donnie said.The following fall of 1984, at auditions for the Beyond Our Control 1985 company, they bumped into each other again.

Throughout high school both worked in these broadcasting venues together, hanging out with each other and with a big group of friends that were involved with the radio station and Beyond Our Control."This Donnie kid just kept showing up at the same stuff I signed up for," Andrea said."It was good," Donnie said.As a result of his BOC experience ('85-'86), Donnie landed another summer internship with Bill Siminski producing commercials at WNDU.

He again met Andrea at WSND, accidentally but possibly on purpose moved into her neighborhood, once gave her a ride home, and the rest is history. Andrea is now president of Grass Roots Media. She said she robbed the cradle, since Donnie is ten months her junior, but they were in college at the same time. Donnie attended Indiana University, South Bend, studying scene design and communications at the same time Andrea attended Notre Dame, studying literature."I was doing that stuff, and Donnie was doing, kind of, technical theater, and more technical kind of stuff," Andrea said. "The relationship. And then the company. And then the marriage. And then the corporation. Andrea is president of Grass Roots, and Donnie, vice-president. Donnie is the treasurer. Andrea is the secretary."We forget these things," Andrea said. "We have to put them down on paper, but we're the only stockholders. So you've got to kind of divvy those jobs up, and they only count on paper, really."


Among BOC's time-scattered materials are rumored to be 2-inch and 1-inch. There is a verified forest of three-quarter-inch videotape, magnetic sound tape, 16 mm. film, stills, spirit-master reproduced annual production books, and scripts of teasers, announcer-copy and PSAs. BOC’s own in-house bi-weekly news broadside, the "Poopsheet," is in there, too; including editions of it from the early '70s to the concluding annual reports and printed materials from the show's final days in 1986.One of the BOC archive projects in which Donnie and Grass Roots is participating with David Simkins is in the preparation of the presentation-room tapes from the July 2001 BOC Reunion, assembled for that event by Indianapolis film and video editor and BOC alumnus Kevin Zimmerman ('73-'76).

Using the same material Donnie will be working on a version of the chronological arrangement of the archived shows, and from among the 2001 reunion presentation tapes developed by Kevin, for distribution-- probably in DVD form, but VHS volumes have not been ruled out.Describing the scope of the editing work Grass Roots is doing for BOC, Donnie said, "First off, I'm taking all the cool display-tapes that Kevin Zimmerman put together for the reunion, and I'm trying to get those transferred over to DVD-- with some menu-ing, so people don't have to watch all two hours, if they don't want to. If they want to hop to a specific bit--""That's the point of a DVD," explained Andrea."Exactly.

He (Kevin) just found the logs that he put together. I've got the first one in the machine, and now that I'm done with the Addy show I can start turning my attention to get those DVDs rolled out. Once we get those taken care of, those are going to be fairly straightforward, because he's done the hard work already, getting them put together. He also has all the old footage that he could find transferred to Beta SP, and we've got that here, now."Myself, and Kevin Fye (Washington High School, BOC '77-'79), and Joe Haase (Penn, '83-'86) are going to start going through all the old footage and trying to somehow chronologize it-- that's a word. It had been suggested," Donnie continued, "that somebody'd kind of be able to like to see some sort of a chronology. So we can have all the '67 bits, and all the '72 bits and all, kind of-- put together; so we're just going to go through them and establish a comprehensive log so we can assemble those in a logical order."Some of the stuff I've been looking at I could tell was coming off 2-inch," Donnie said, adding that an operational 2-inch Ampex VTR machine was rumored to be somewhere in the South Bend area, and successfully used to build a recent local broadcast retrospective."We have boxes of all those plaques. Best Technician, Best Actor for whatever years, and everything," Andrea said. "It's just so neat to just pull one off the stack, and say, 'Oh my God I know him!' We have bags full of three-quarter inch tapes. It says, Show Number Two, Final. Work Tape Thirteen. Beyond Our Control. Twenty-eight, forty-four. Show Number Two, '83. We have piles of three-quarter inch in there."

Growing Grass Roots

The original business was in Donnie's name, and after getting the official tax ID in April of 1992 he was actively creating animation components and title graphics for his clients under the name of Grass Roots Media. Donnie and Andrea's business started out as a sole proprietorship, working from Donnie’s house. Now located in a spacious building at 115 N. William, in downtown South Bend, Grass Roots Media, Inc. is a multi-service media production company, offering location and studio videography, digital audio recording and production, Avid non-linear digital editing and linear video editing, Lightwave 3-D animation, DVD authoring, and multimedia encoding for CD-ROM and Web.

Jointly helmed by Donnie and Andrea Rogers, Grass Roots, Inc. is officially the landlord of the Beyond Our Control TV Alumni Association's physical archive of the show. In January, BOC signed an annual lease with Avilys, the company Andrea and Donnie own to manage the Prairie Building itself, where Grass Roots and a number of other businesses are located. Grass Roots is an S-corp, and Donnie and Andrea formed an LLC to buy the building, naming it Avilys.

The word "avilys" means "bee-hive" in Lithuanian."We were still living on Donnie's salary from WNDU, when he was full-time, that I was full-time Grass Roots Media, and then-- he'd work the morning shift, and he'd come back at one o'clock and then join me. I've got the numbers downstairs. It was real money; it wasn't huge money, but we had clients. On a regular basis."Dave Miller of Absolute Recording in South Bend was the first Grass Roots client. An "audio guy turned video guy," Donnie did some animations for him.

"Even when I was doing scene design I was involved in computer-- interested in computer graphics and seeing the direction things could change. At the time I evolved into more or less a full-time job at the station, because I hadn't finished my degree yet-- but the station, WNDU luring me away with an internship and then a position-- cash meant a lot to me," Donnie said. "And I saw a lot of potential in computer graphics and stuff, and so on my own took out a bank loan and bought a great big Commodore media computer and started doing computer animations in a spare bedroom.

"Dave kind of found out that I was doing this; I didn't seek him out at all, but he found out about it, and so I started doing just logo animations for him to dump off to huge three-quarter inch tapes for him to use in his facility over in Elkhart. "He was primarily in audio recording, and he had at the time a really nice video editing facility over there. Local commercials, industrial videos, a lot of manufacturing; this is the JACo pop-up RV for 1992 and things like this," Donnie said.

"At the time when a nice facility meant you could still get away with editing on three-quarter inch," added Andrea.Then, the Grass Roots studio complex consisted of a Commodore Amiga 2500-- the only machine at the time that could do full-color, or at least high-resolution, multiple-color animation, in real time.Donnie was able to script the animations, play them back, and lay them off to tape, for use within larger projects. Most of Grass Roots early work was making titles and process graphics-- pieces, parts moving together, a company's logo flying in and doing something. In his bedroom Donnie would then lay the animation off on a little three-quarter deck, found with other old BOC stuff saved from the WNDU dumpster at the close of the show in 1986.In the final, liquidating days of the "Beyond Our Control" TV show, the huge old 5850 machines used to make BOC-- big, beige three-quarter inch videotape recorders on their way to some Michiana landfill-- found their way into Donnie Roger's bedroom and formed some part of the original Grass Roots physical plant.

"Big Sonys. They were sitting in my basement. I just fired them up, and spooled the tape off," Donnie said."To have some more up-to-date stuff I bought a couple Super VHS machines, and some editing software, that also ran in the computer. And at that time I had started testing a video product called a Video Toaster, for a company out of Kansas."I heard about what they were developing, and wrote them-- or, actually called them-- called their tech support guys and said, 'What are you doing? What's this box going to do?' I was really interested, and just started hammering them with questions. And they offered to make me a tester, so they sent me one of the pre-production models," he said.

"The Toaster is just-- it's really sentimental, and I think it's kind of cool that, twelve years old, it'll still power up and do exactly what it was intended to do the day it was made. You don't find that with anything else," said Donnie."We have serial board number zero zero zero zero eleven. An emotional attachment, obviously," Andrea added.
The company has an Avid Media Composer Suite, an Avid Express Suite, and just added an Avid Express DV, for jobs that don't need all the horsepower of the larger composers-- smaller jobs which, according to Andrea, "don't need the real-time effects, don't need five million layers of video, only need four, or six, or something.""That's on the same suite as the video authoring software," Donnie said.
Donnie at the controls
"We're also beta-testing some new DVD authoring software for a company called Sonic, and they do a lot of leading DVD stuff right now; and so we're-- I'm testing a new package of software for them right now."Grass Roots also runs a Pro Tools Audio Suite, hooked up to a voiceover booth, and has a small shooting space with a Chroma Key wall for product-shots and stand-ups.

In 1993 Donnie and Andrea realized they couldn't keep making incremental jumps in editing equipment, every nine months or something. They decided they had to take the plunge, and get a loan. Grass Roots had been doing industrial or educational projects, or high-end consumer projects, on Super VHS and Hi-8."Nothing I'd really want anyone to broadcast," Donnie said. "But this-- goes back to our first client, Dave Miller-- he was deciding at that point to get away from three-quarter, and he started to invest in Beta SP gear. He wasn't necessarily interested in re-outfitting his entire editing suite, with his old three-quarter inch gear. So we talked to him enough, and we explained to him what we were thinking of doing, and that if he was going to be investing in Betacam SP gear for his shooting, we'd do the same on the other end and be able to be his post-house.

They started to talk to one or two banks, but then a local leasing business, Freeman-Spicer Financial Services, through rep Ed Lennie, put together a debt structure for the Grass Roots expansion, allowing Grass Roots to be among the first South Bend-area shops to offer Avid-based non-linear videotape editing."And it's certainly what other people were using, too," Andrea added, "so it's not like we were putting all our eggs in the Dave Miller basket. It was just one indicator."Andrea wrote the business-plan. Grass Roots finally got a Betacam SP deck; in the fall of 1993 the two had the financing figured out, and, at the end of December, Grass Roots's Avid Media Suite Pro arrived."Christmas Eve," Donnie said.
Donnie and Andrea

Local Color

"I can see the mayor's office from our window, here," Donnie said. "When they're making a pitch for a convention, Mickey Dobsky from the city gives us a call and says, 'Hey, will you-- we need the mayor to do a quick stand-up?'"

"So the mayor walks down and we chat and put him in the studio and shoot him on the Chroma Key wall," said Andrea.

Grass Roots occupies almost half of the William Street building. A conference room and kitchen are shared space. The growing media business is the dominant presence, employs six people, and owns the property.

Nowadays at Grass Roots there are moments when everyone who's anyone in South Bend is passing through here. The video business-- and all of the boutique businesses around it-- benefit by whom might be coming into the building, to work with any of the others.

Grass Roots just finished a project for the local ad club, producing the local "Addy" yearly commercial Awards Banquet, on February 21st. The production included image-magnification of live action, and pulling pre-produced material and timing the projection to match the action on the dais.

"Pulling in stuff I'd learned from-- I realized-- going through it last night, and pulling in things that I'd learned when I was Bill Siminski's intern at WNDU. Pulling in things that I'd learned in the company, with Denny," Donnie said.

St. Mary's University in South Bend is also a Grass Roots client, in the school's development of a Web-downloadable, interactive video project to attract student tuition dollars to their educational program, an increasingly competitive market.

"We shot a spot this year on 24p (24-frame progressive scan, video). And the stuff looks gorgeous. We used one of the big Sony 900s; Rick Thompson down in Indy's got one, and he came up and shot for us. Stuff's gorgeous," Donnie said. "We just got our-- our-- got the digi-betas transferred to SP. For our final cut. The client was real happy."

On a spot for South Bend's Goodwill Industries Donnie's idea was to mimick the graphics from an old Volkswagen TV commercial.


"All the graphics for the commercial were done shooting this graphics board and then keying it in, making it look like a cool old TV spot. And that's all stuff I learned working at the TV station with Bill and Denny. Because aside from just my time with the (BOC) company, I spent eight years working with them as peers at the TV station and learning from them." Donnie said.

"I still cherish that-- knowing how it was done, knowing the new ways we have to get it done faster, cheaper, cleaner-- but knowing how to go back and get that old look if you want it. That spot we did-- it was one of the spots that won an award last night."

In the first week in February Grass Roots completed a project for Porsche. "A multi-media company in town, in our humble little Mishawaka, got the contract to do a CD-ROM that's going to-- I think it's going to be in all the new Porsches-- to tell the owner, give the owners a little history of the company, and a little bit about their car; and things like that," Donnie said.

"Part of the roll-out to the new Porsche Cayenne, their SUV. Think of a Porsche station-wagon."

Scott Wadzinski was lead editor on the Porsche project, is a senior editor at Grass Roots, and cameraman. He is reputed to have great mechanical gifts-- a man who can fix anything. Scott is also qualified on the Avid Pro Tools setup.

"Call him on down," Andrea said. "’Oh, it's a loose whosawhatsit; I'll get out the soldering iron and we'll just. . . .’ He can restore a Studebaker!"

"He thinks he can," said Donnie, and laughed.

Maria Rogers, Andrea's sister, is Project Manager for the production facility, handling the scheduling of edit suites or booking a five-man shoot in Florida. Maria makes sure that everybody has the information they need when they need it, matching up the people and the projects.

"She's very organized, and keeps things running smoothly," Andrea said. Kendra Ervin came to Grass Roots just over a year-and-a-half ago part-time, and has recently taken on a full-time schedule as an editor on the Avid and some DVD, working closely with Donnie. She is qualified in Pro Tool sessions.

"She'd be sort of like an assistant producer kind of person," said Andrea. "Sara Hack is our newest person, and just started at the first of the year. She gets here at eight, makes the coffee, opens things up, interacts with the clients, and she's our first line of defense, on the phones. She's just such an asset.

"I am not a morning person," Andrea decisively said. "All my thirty-five years I've never been a morning person."

Public Service Announcement

It's not all business with these people.


"Way back in the seventies," said Donnie, " you might remember 'Fast Freddie and the Playboys.' He was like this first-- male stripper. He went on Donahue, and they had stories on him on ‘20-20’. His sister found all these old news tapes of his appearances on the news and Donahue and things, and his appearances on local TV in Hawaii, and all over the country."

"All on three-quarter inch, dusty three-quarter inch. He died-- I don't know, recently, or a couple of years ago," said Andrea.

"The family-- they heard about Uncle Fred, but they didn't know-- his act was pretty tame-- but nobody'd ever seen him perform! So she brought in all these dusty old three-quarter inch tapes, and we put them all on a DVD for her so she could give it away to the family for Christmas," Donnie explained.

"It was hilarious. The old commercials and the way TV was done, then," he said. "You just had this set with a-- I mean it was so BOC. Because now-- I mean, BOC was so much more like real TV, then, than real TV is now; if that makes sense. But they were so much closer to real TV, then. The local menswear commercials from Honolulu-- because he was on TV in Hawaii a lot. Their morning show in Hawaii had all these local commercials, with guys holding up a flowery shirt in front of a palm tree and talking about their deals.

"Just being able to see all that stuff was great," he said.

In the coming year the Grass Roots managers hope business will hold steady, with no big patches of slow time. Since editing is at the end of the production time-line, if the ad agencies are not getting a lot of business, then the producers aren't getting a lot of production, so even as work picks up, a post-production house like Grass Roots, working at the end of the food chain, is likelier to be kept waiting for work.

"I'd like to give everybody a raise, myself most of all," Andrea said.

"But I'd just like to stay busy enough-- we've had enough ego-stroking projects that we feel like we've done enough stuff that's either fun or interesting or worthwhile, or of a caliber that gets noticed-- so the main thing, now, is just to-- to stay busy enough, and keep everybody humming along," she mused.

According to a feature on Grass Roots which appeared in the February 10 South Bend Tribune Business Weekly, Donnie and Andrea bought the building housing Grass Roots (and now the BOC archive) in August, 2001. The article enumerated 17 full-time workers in the building, along with interns, part-time workers and clients, spread out on 2,800 to 3,000 square feet on each of three floors.

The building was built in 1907, and at one time was called the Hamilton Apartments. "Somewhere back in the '50s or '60s they enclosed the porches on the front and turned it into offices," the Tribune Business article quoted Andrea. "When the building became available, Grass Roots Media, now in its eighth year as a corporation, was renting the first floor of the Grace Building at 314 W. Colfax Ave," she said.

The reasons and attractions which sold BOC on partnering with Grass Roots in preservation of these historic materials are clear: a clean and secure physical space, owned and competently managed by a caring dual-career BOC alumni couple, vested in a media business, and operating in South Bend: virtually the Fertile Delta of BOC, centering Berrien, Cass, and St. Joe counties.

Among the Avilys Buildings tenants, Dave Coleman and Kevin Fye helm Imagine Creative Design. The company specializes in graphic design, and designs some animation components. Imagine Creative Design did the Grass Roots brochure and rate card. The Big Idea Company is run by Lou Pierce, a broadcast consultant. Phase Two Architects consults in the design of commercial and industrial buildings. Ad Images is run by Jim Rogers. No relation to Andrea and Donnie.

"Just a bizarre coincidence," said Andrea.

"He's the tallest guy, here!" she said. "The biggest guy! But he has the smallest office! No, I'm not kidding you! It's seventy-three square feet!"

"Hunkered over this very tiny iBook, doing all of his work." he said.

"Oh, he's very funny," she said.


"We're now teaching students at St. Mary's how to use a Panasonic mini-DV camera; and a great, color screen that flips out on the side.

"I told them, used to be the viewfinders were black-and white not that long ago. And you white-balance, and you just hope it's right, and they were like," Andrea gasped dramatically and clutched her jersey, "don't you understand?

"But I'm thinking about when I was taught how to use a camera at BOC, and it's the same stuff that I'm using now," Andrea said.

Asked if his BOC experience was sticking with him, Donnie laughed and said, "Yeah, yeah-- I mean-- Andrea's here."

"And Joe Haase," said Andrea. "He taught me three-quarter inch linear editing."

"Joe Haase and I paralleled each other for like-- for a while. He'd get a job somewhere and I'd go get a job there, and we went to IUSB together, and we shared a house together for a while," said Donnie.

"There's not a day goes by that we're not somehow touched by Beyond Our Control in one way or another," he said. "Just because I-- I've always-- we're constantly seeing people who were in the company at one time or another, even if they're not in the business any more. Whether it's contacts at WNDU, or WSBT, or wherever."

The current archive project he is working on with Kevin Zimmerman's materials, and the potential work involved in developing a chronological archive for the three-quarter inch tapes of the show Donnie said will give him a chance "to connect with people."

Using Kevin Zimmerman's logs, Donnie and Andrea hope to chronologically order and formally archive that specific material for whatever curatorial purposes may present themselves in future. For the remaining material, when this massive archive effort has finally concluded (within a year, according to the best current estimates) Donnie and Andrea's Grass Roots space will continue to provide a permanent home, back in South Bend, for all of BOC's precious TV relics.


"And-- yeah, keep in touch. And not a day goes by-- not a day goes by I don't think about Denny," he said.

In Andrea's office, a bass-violin rests on an instrument tree. A famous drawing of Don Quixote is on the wall with the quote, "and so from little sleep and much reading, his brain dried up and he lost his wits."

Regarding the very nice TV show, Andrea had this to say: "I want to thank my mom, for letting me take the mailbox off the house, three Saturdays in a row. Just all the props-wrangling that our families put up with for BOC shoots, and-- I just started thinking about all the Saturday morning craziness.

"The BOC thing? It's sort of a matter of convenience, that I'm involved," she said. "I know that that sounds sort of lame, but I-- because it's all happening right here, I really don't have to go to a lot of effort to participate. If I had to travel, if I had to make long-distance phone-calls-- if I was in another part of the country..."

It is a room reflecting clear personal tastes, with flowers and sunlight and clean, straight walls. She bows a few notes on the bass, making deep thrumming sounds that resonate with the firm hand on the bow; the strong pinch on the strings. Sheet music on the stand reflects the winter sun onto the ceiling of the room.

"But being a teenager is a painful time and a difficult time of your life," Andrea continued, and put the instrument back on its rest. "And closer to that time I wouldn't have wanted to, sort of, think about it a lot and revisit it-- now it's easier. I can look at pictures of me in high school, and it's not so awful. But-- that's the perspective of time and age, so."

Donnie and Andrea had decided in the afternoon to open up the Grass Roots studio to any casual strollers of the old BOC stripe who happened by, or whoever else had gathered at their door. This last gasp of winter drew a number of BOC people from around South Bend to meet at the William Street building. There was coffee and soft drinks and booze if you wanted it, graciously provided by Grass Roots, and hilariously enjoyed by all.

By the end of the day, when BOC Secretary Erik Möllberg and his new dog, gangly and happy and friendly (the dog-- although Erik himself indeed has some of those qualities), got into Erik's blue pickup, the snow drove hard across the parking lot from the northwest. It was a slushy, sleety snow that stuck to the eyebrows and lashes. But it had been a great day. The morning was industrious.

That afternoon an ad hoc BOC gathering ensued where nothing significant, organizationally, was discussed and nothing decided-- in which fact probably lay the greatness of it. The finest days are often kept, by a mischievious Providence, from any rememberable, tangible significance, oftener spent in solitude than in company. Great days spent in the company of others result from an unusual and wholly unpredictable good feeling among them, not unlike a rainbow appearing out of a clear, blue sky, or the sudden rapture of congregations. The people involved in such phenomena are themselves always innocent of annoying planning, ignorant of any pettifogging ambition to material accomplishment or social acceptability, and innocent of any associated anxiety among their companions-- yet are somehow wholly, unintentionally and inchoately satisfied with them, and themselves. The chances of more than a handful of such days in a lifetime is slight, unless one is a sailor or a vagabond, and like the Kraken of yore they can never be credibly described afterwards.

In the magic hour, at dusk, the sky glowed cool white. The light was pale and refrigerator-florescent behind the bright overcast, until the sun was well-down. Then another, dark snowfall muffled the whine of the tires on the highway, sharpened the eye, attuned the hand on the steering wheel to any sudden slackness, any sensation of drift. The fanatics of an adolescently headlong but antique creed went their middle-aged ways safely home.

Photo credits: Phil Patnaude and BOC.