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Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Remembering "55dodger" (also known as Woody)

It's Whatever Wednesday, and for today's entry, I have selected the Professor Plum card. If you're just tuning in to the Whatever Wednesday for the first time, I've taken six cards from the classic board game “Clue” and assigned a topic to each character. In this case, the Professor Plum card corresponds to the Thursday Diary entry. So for today, I'm going to do a diary entry celebrating the life of a friend who I've never met, yet touched my life in some manner.

Confused? You won't be.

October 9, 2013

First things first, I want to pay my respects to a man who I never met, but who had an impact in not only my life, but the lives of several other people.

On message boards, he was known solely by his screenname.  "55dodger".  But in reality, his name was William.  Though, everyone called him by his nickname, which was "Woody".  And, let me tell you something about Woody.  He was quite the guy.

This man - who served his country via the United States Air Force for many years - knew so much more about music than I could ever hope to know.  He was a fan of sports - especially basketball, football, and anything to do with his L.A. Dodgers.  But the one thing that stands out about Woody the most was his absolute love and devotion to his family.  Every day, he would talk about how proud he was of his wife, children, and grandchildren.  He would post photos, stories, videos, and all sorts of things showing him enjoying and loving his family on social media sites, and it was really refreshing to see.  To witness a devoted family man like Woody beam about his loved ones was touching.

That's why I think I'm more saddened for his loved ones after the news that I heard yesterday.

You see...Woody was diagnosed with terminal cancer a few months ago.  And per his wishes, only his closest relatives knew until the very end...which just happened yesterday.  Woody passed away from cancer last night, leaving behind all of those loved ones that he was so proud of.  My heart breaks for them, and I can't even imagine what they are going through right now at this difficult time.

So, how did I end up crossing paths with the man who called himself "55dodger"?  Well, it all begins roughly a decade ago on a website that is now defunct.

As someone who has been doing a blog on pop culture for several years now, one of the common questions that I get from some of my readers is...why pop culture?  What influenced you to choose pop culture as the main source of your blog content?

To be honest, I've always had a soft spot for pop culture.  I've mentioned this countlessly, but I was a very lonely child growing up.  I didn't have very many close friends who I went to school with or who even lived in my neighbourhood, so I spent a lot of time by myself playing outside in the backyard, or inside watching some of my favourite television shows and movies.  It was not the most ideal situation, but I got through it the best way I knew how to.

And I think that's what attracted me to the former Yesterdayland website.  It was a spot on the Internet that ran for approximately six or seven years (I joined up during the peak of its popularity in the summer of 2001), and it was a pop culture addict's island of paradise.  There were sections devoted towards retro toys, black and white television shows, timeless movies, and classic music.  And, there was an extensive message board community present where members could interact with other members and discuss a variety of topics, share jokes and stories, and other things.

Now, keep in mind that I was only twenty years old when I joined YL (as we members often referred to the site by).  And the twenty year old me was a lot less emotionally stable or mature than the thirty-two year old me that I currently am now.  And, there were some instances in which my tactics towards handling mean people on that website were anything but mature.

But one place where I could always be myself and not have to face getting attacked by some of the meaner members, or worry about being targeted by troublemakers was the site's music section.  The music board of YL was dominated by people who never got involved with the drama of the site at all.  They didn't concern themselves with the trolls of the site, nor did they venture very far from the music board.  Why would they, when all they really wanted to discuss was music.  It was a board where members would answer questions about where to find albums and singles.  Where people would do online trades when it came to exchanging music.  Where people would post links to videos (which back in 2001 were extremely rare to find online).

It was on the Music board on YL that I became acquainted with 55dodger (a.k.a. Woody).

I honestly wish I remembered how Woody and I first met.  The experience draws a blank.  But I do remember that at one point, Woody and I became a part of a small faction of members who bonded together thanks to our mutual love of music.  All of us had our different tastes in music, but that didn't matter.  We were all bonded by our love of music in general.  There was a guy who went by the name of H2IZCOOL who was basically a walking encyclopedia of music trivia and who came up with some rather ingenious games.  We had a woman named Dawn who was sweet and kind to everyone she met and who knew a lot about music herself.  Railyn was a few years older than I was, but we ended up having the same tastes in music, and we bonded over our similar experiences through our childhoods.  Ken and I had the Canadian connection going on.  A man who went by the name of "satmorning" bonded with me through our love of pop music and Archie Comics.  It was really amazing to see all of these people bond over a mutual love of music.  Even though I was one of the youngest of the group (the only one younger was a gal named Viki who was four years younger than I), it was such a unique bonding experience.

Eventually all good things had to come to an end.  In 2003, YL was mercy-killed after some turbulent months where the trolls took over, and where the owners pulled the plug without any warning from them whatsoever...a decision that to this day brings much bitterness to some of the former members of the site.  But surprisingly enough, our little music group didn't let that bother us.  We just started up our own discussion group.

The group was known as "The Music Click", and as far as I knew, everyone who was a former member of Yesterdayland was welcome to join - provided that you weren't one of the trolls that were causing trouble.  So, I was very happy to see some familiar names join the group.  There was satmorning and Dawn (who started up the group), myself, Viki, Ken, H2IZCOOL, Railyn, a man who went by the handle "Gremashlo", a man who went by the name Pete70s...

...and of course, 55dodger.

I think it wasn't until I got to join the Music Click that I became closer to Woody.  I was always drawn in by his stories and tales of his life, as well as the wonderful music posts that he used to do on that site.  I remember him always wishing everyone on the site a happy birthday (and us with him every June 26th), and the one thing that I just remember about him the most was that he was always the kind of person who you could always be yourself to and he would never judge you harshly in any way.  He just listened.  I always said that Woody made a great listener.  So many people would talk to him about anything and everything.  He might not have known the answer to the question...but he always listened.

I just hope that he's listening now when his friends and family talk about how much of an impact he had on everyone's life.  He certainly was one of a kind, and he will never be replaced.

But one thing that I think Woody would not want us to feel is any sadness for him.  He lived one hell of a life, and I think that it should be celebrated and not mourned.  And that's why I will end this piece off with a song that I think he would appreciate.  At least I hope so.

Rest in peace, Woody.  You'll never be forgotten.  And, hey...keep a few clouds reserved for all of us up there.  I wish I could have gotten to meet you in person...but just having the opportunity to know you through an online setting is something that I'll always treasure.

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