Grapevine was a computer program.

Unlike many programs available on Central Michigan University's academic mainframe, Grapevine was not required for any class. That is, no class required use of Grapevine nor was it written as a class assignment. Yet hundreds of people used it.

Grapevine was a mail and conferencing system written by Brian K. "Wiz" Yoder, a man who seemed to have time for everything except sleep. When he arrived at CMU, he was disappointed to learn that the academic mainframe had no electronic mail system. So he wrote one.

Pseudonyms were required. Conversion was encouraged. It became a meeting place -- a place where people left notes, announced parties, discussed politics. It served the functions of e-mail and Usenet when those services where just a distant rumour. On the computing island that was the CDC Cyber 170/730, Wiz merrily strung phone lines and gave everyone a phone.

It's hard to describe the cameraderie that existed on this system. No BBS has matched it. No internet provider has matched it. People met and made friends on Grapevine. The heaviest users still get together for parties, movies, or any excuse that comes to mind.

The Dead Bird Party

In 1986, the first Dead Bird Party was held. The history of the Dead Bird Parties runs somthing like:

  1. (1986) The First Dead Bird Party is thrown by B. Gabriel Helou, Audrey V. Sperko, C. C. "Bosh" Gillett, and L. Michael "The Corporal" Carson at The Ozone. A hastily-dug pit in the back yard with racks from the oven formed the makeshift grill. 50 lbs. of chicken is purchased. After cleaning the butcher shop out of chicken halves, the rest of the order is filled entirely with wings (about 12 lbs. worth). In the two weeks that follow, the Chef du Ozone creates Fireball Chicken Wings in the oven; no fire extinguisher required.

  2. (1987) The Hygrade Dead Bird, held at Melanie Casler's home. Good hot dogs, but it wasn't bird. The decision is made to keep the tradition going.

  3. (1988) The Impromptu Dead Bird, where many of the original Dead Bird crowd gather at the home of Donna Husted.

  4. (1989) The Arbitrary Pool Dead Bird was held at the home of Russ and Melanie Rogers. Bosh and Russ create the wading pool in the back of Bosh's truck. This gave rise to the first watermelon creation, the "arbitrary shark". Russ and Mel are subsequently considered highly strange by their neighbors.

  5. (1990) The De Facto Dead Bird, at Gabe/Donna's 30th birthday, celebrated with co-birthday boy Mark Strandskov, held at the home of Gary Gielincki and Gini Kasten. Smoked Beef and pork were served, but no bird. This was the last bird-less Dead Bird.

  6. (1991) The Reversable Dead Bird, held at Joe and Lisa Besko's new home. Cheryl took the now-famous reversable photo on the back steps; several people followed her lead and have mounted these in clear frames so you could see the front and the back. Jen participated virtually by calling from LA.

    Later in the summer, The Ad Hoc Dead Bird Encore was held at William E. and Renee Deb's home. Several firsts at this one: the first time it's ever rained on a Dead Bird, first time we cooked Spam and ate it, and the first time we smoked the birds. Also, the first time we started scheduling for the following year's Dead Bird.

  7. (1992) The Whole Two Yards Dead Bird, held in the two back yards of Russ and Mel. The event was commemorated by the construction of The Troll Bridge.

  8. (1993) The Sunday Dead Bird, held at B. Gabriel and Audrey V. Helou's home-under-reconstruction. This one was held on a Sunday to cope with Gabe & Audrey's summer wedding schedule and included the environmentally-safe, solar-powered watermelon craft.

  9. (1994) The Home Brew Dead Bird, at the home of Mark and Cheryl Strandskov. Bill and Gabe bring their secret-recipe beer.

  10. (1995) The Cadillac of Dead Birds, held at R. Scott "Dealer" Cadwell's place. This marks The first official Dead Bird sleep-over. A bi-monthly Brunch is held the following morning.

  11. (1996) Dead Birds meet The Dead Crustaceans, where C. C. "Bosh" and Debi Fillmore-Gillett played host to the longest Dead Bird Party to date. Four days of food, friends, family, and fun. It marks the first time the guests of honor were boiled alive, as well as introducing Tandoori-style chicken to the Dead Bird Party. Also the first time Dead Bird has been held outside of Michigan.

  12. (1997) The Tectonic Dead Bird. Long-term analysis indicates Lansing-based Dead Bird parties are shifting east at the rate of 0.125 backyards per year. As a result, plans call for this year's gathering to be at the home of Russ and Mel.

  13. (1998) The Dead Birds Come Home to Roost. Dead birds return to the home of Joe & Lisa Besko, only to find it's moved.

  14. (1999) The Well-Oiled Dead Bird. Held at Bill & Renée Deb's home, this was the first time the dead birds were not barbequed. Instead, they were marinated in olive oil, lemon juice, and herbs.

  15. (2000) The Last Dead Bird of the Second Millenium will be held at Gabe & Audrey's, whether the kitchen's ready or not. Inspired by Bill's cooking the previous year, a Middle-Eastern dead bird feast is planned.

  16. (2001) A Dead Bird Odyssey. For the first time in six years, the dead birds fly north for the summer.

Who We Are

Former Grapevine users can be found here and there around the Net . . .

Talk is now available. It's just not really busy at the moment.

What We've Been Up To

1996 has been a good year for getting together. We still need to get some of the far-flung people to show up for gatherings, but we know they're showing up in spirit.