April 03, 2014
TRASH DAY BLUES
Life changes are full of adjustments, right? It's like your new girl friend only wants that special backrub after the SECOND glass of pinot noir.
Among the changes moving back to Kansas City from Battle Creek, Michigan has been the proper protocol for weekly trash putout and pickup.
As in the photo -- from this morning -- everyone can, does and is LIMITED to putting out two bags of trash and a blue container of recyclables. Lined up looking down the street curb like a crowd waiting for FDR and Eleanor do a drive by.
In Battle Creek, I was used to going out to the curb on Trash Day each week, and the street looked like the day after the fall of Saigon: discarded refrigerators, cardboard casket with someone's mother-in-law inside, the engine from a 1984 Pinto, boxes filled with used tampons and wine bottles, plus eight or nine bags of trash -- all in front of one house.
I truly miss the disorder. I could drive down Broadway Blvd on Trash Morning and write a short story about every house.
I don’t know a damn thing about my new neighbors. Where do people hide their dirty linen, drinking habits and trash here in Kansas City?
It aint curbside on Trash Day.
March 24, 2014
At least twice a year, for more than four years, my Chinese wife and I would take the ferry from Hong Kong to mainland Shenzhen, and then board the train for the then two day journey, up through the heart and soul of rural eastern coastal China to visit her relatives in hometown Shanghai.
In Shanghai, a beautiful booming city with interesting reminders of long ago British influence, we did many things – but one we never, never forgot to do.
We would gather with Li Li’s (my wife) relatives at her parents’ gravesites. The cremation urns built into the walls of a large mausoleum, reserved for the “Po Bas” of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, which included my father-in-law, who had long marched with Mao and then ruled over all Shanghai importing and exporting for nearly ten years, until he fell out of grace and spent years (as did Li Li, 15 years old at the time) doing stoop labor on a Chinese communal labor farm.
But he and Li Li, the whole family, were “reeducated” and returned to Red China’s graces. And Mother and Father now interned with other true Revolutionaries.
The cremation urns included little, attached special boxes, filled with toy miniature reproductions of a bed, stove, luxury food items. And we would add to the boxes, in respect and hope that “Mother and Father” would have access to real life comforts in the afterlife.
I was reminded of all this yesterday, as I drove down Gregory Boulevard and past McClain’s Bakery here in hometown Kansas City, where one of my own Mother’s (Mary McNamara Richmond) favorite delights was to buy several of the Bakery’s bear claws with almonds.
“Let's sit on the porch, have a bear claw (and coffee). Talk,” she’d say on my visits back with her and Dad.
Talk and family recollections were part of my Irish Mother’s favorite topics and activities.
So, I stopped at McClain’s yesterday morning, and bought two bear claws.
And today, I’m visiting my parents’ graves in a Kansas City cemetery here.
Just to "talk."
And leave one McClain’s bear claw with almonds on top of the joint grave stone of Mom and Dad.
They won’t mind sharing one.
They shared everything.
March 06, 2014
“Thank You, Father Kloster”
In 1961, on a Friday afternoon in the late spring of our junior year in Kansas City’s prestigious Jesuit-run, all-male Rockhurst (Catholic) High School, my twin brother and I got kicked out.
At Rockhurst, we weren’t academic stars, or very bottom barrel students, either.
Our greatest offense, as I recalled not long ago in conversation with my brother, was filling up those little red “jug” after school demerit detention cards with violations like smoking behind Sedgwick Hall, or sneaking off campus at lunch hour with several classmates for a cheese sandwich at the drug store up Troost Avenue. (For some reason, considered a particularly onerous student crime to School authorities at the time.)
Father Kloster, the School’s principal, had marshaled about 20 or so of us junior class low achievers and bottom feeders, in the School’s theatre that afternoon, with instructions to sit in the first three rows.
And to shut up.
We expected a rather routine litany of our offenses and dressing down by The Principal, unaware of the danger that faced us that afternoon.
The Rev. Kloster, a tall thin man, fair skinned and white haired, with pencil-like, twitching fingers, stood on the stage, in long, flowing black cassock, nervously tapping the stage floor with black-tipped wood pointer in tight right hand.
Never to miss an opportunity, my brother and I along with about 5 others in the 2nd row, were laughing and cutting up a bit. No spitballs, no profanity, but less than appropriately attentive.
Kloster glared down at our little group, his complexion turning fire engine red, from bottom of neck to top of head.
Suddenly, with a sweep of pointer, he gestured to all 7 of us cutting up in the second row:
“That’s it! All of you in the 2nd row!,” he yelled. “You’re out! You aren’t coming back next year!”
And we weren’t and we didn’t – give Father Kloster his due. No parental pleadings would do.
And he was democratic about it: Those in the second row included several of us from comparatively modest Irish middle class families on Kansas City’s lower west side, and guys from wealthy south end families, including the son of one of Kansas City’s oldest and most prestigious real estate families.
My parents were furious – at us – but also asked themselves, if not Rockhurst, “Why? And why now? At the end of our boys’ junior year?”
My brother and I went on our senior year to attend De La Salle Academy, where we were welcomed by both classmates and the Christian Brothers who taught there, and where we made the Honor Roll.
In fall of that year (1961), we returned to Rockhurst one Friday night to watch our De La Salle high school basketball team play Rockhurst.
We went over to the Rockhurst-side student stands to say “hi” to Jesuit Father Maguire, who was Rockhurst’s assistant principal, school disciplinarian and who’d particularly liked both of us for some reason. Perhaps because of our Irish roots.
“Jimmy. Johnny,” Father Maguire said to us that evening. “The decision was wrong. But there was nothing I could do about it.”
My twin brother and I finished high school at DeLaSalle, then college and have since earned Master’s degrees.
We’ve had successful careers – he as president of a regional hospital, and I as president of large charitable foundations across the United States.
And I’ve never spent much time, thought or hand wringing, trying to answer those “why” questions.
Looking back on it, maybe Father Kloster was just having a bad hair day.
The incident and experience came to mind, after a recent Kansas City party chat with, as it happened, several Rockhurst alums and school boosters, who were praising content and comparative ROI value of a Rockhurst High School Jesuit education.
I suspect my brother and I, now approaching age 70, have probably done about as well as anyone in the actual 1962 Rockhurst High School graduating class.
And I probably learned a lot from those three years at Rockhurst and that spring afternoon in the school theatre.
But I like to think I learned a lot more, and owe a lot more, to the Christian Brothers, other teachers and senior high classmates at De La Salle Academy in 1962.
Thank you, Father Kloster.
March 02, 2014
All Species Kinship A ‘Passionate, Effective’ Advocate for Abused Animals
by jim richmond
If neglected, abused, injured and abandoned animals – of all species – have a real guardian angel and advocate in West Michigan it has to be Sophia DiPietro, and the five other all-volunteer, all unpaid staff of the organization known as All Species Kinship (A.S.K.).
And while the bit stuffy sounding organizational name might conjure up the title of a Master’s degree thesis in grad-
uate school, All Species Kinship, DiPietro and fellow travelers are all about practical, neighborhood based, feet on the ground, knock-on-the-door, eyes on the prize, animal advocacy and education in some of the toughest, most challenging areas of Battle Creek and west Michigan.
They travel neighborhoods – in fall and winter three times each week -- the back roads and backyards in their well used white van; looking for dogs who often have been left out in subfreezing weather, chained to the ground or a car tire, without water, food, or adequate protection from wind, rain, cold and snow. They are on the lookout to make sure animals have adequate shade and water on the “dog days” of summer as well as providing pet food to those residents who are down on their luck or have hit a rough patch in life.
They knock on doors, and talk to the animal owners – sometimes individuals who couldn’t care less about caring for their pet, but more often than not, DiPietro said, people who are consumed with concerns and challenges of daily living, “who don’t have phones, regular transportation, and sometimes enough food to eat, themselves.”
“We’re positive. We treat people like we’d want to be treated and we don’t want to close down the conversation: ‘We’d like to help you out with your dog – can we spend a few minutes talking? We’ve got some straw (free relief supplies) and can show you how to pack straw in that doghouse to keep your pet warm.’”
“We are not animal control officers. We are not an animal shelter or humane society. Instead, our work is about proactive mobile outreach; reaching people, and animals, that would otherwise not reached. We are not out there to get people in trouble,” DiPietro emphasized.
A.S.K. reaches and makes a difference for animals that often have negatively associated stereotypes, or special needs as a result of the way in which they have been isolated outside – “the bully breeds” (pit bulls, Rottweiler’s and others) used for backyard breeding, owner status or lawn ornaments, the “worst of the worst,” with lots of health problems, years of physical or mental abuse, DiPietro noted.
A.S.K. volunteers are, bottom line, advocates for the animals. They will and do refer pet abusers to law enforcement when it’s too late for educational attempts to reform poor caretaking. But A.S.K is about changing owner behavior as well as providing emergency supplies, shelter or other quality of life improvements.
For an all-volunteer organization that pays no salaries to anyone, and relies exclusively on contributions, A.S.K. makes a little go a long way in making a difference for animals.
Last year, on average, between 25 and 50 neglected 24/7 chained/kenneled/outside dogs were found and assisted by A.S.K. volunteers each week. A.S.K. distributed – free -- 600 straw bales used for doghouse installation, 50 secure plastic dog houses, and more than 4,000 pounds of free pet food for domestic dogs, cats, birds and rabbits, whose owners were experiencing temporary financial hardships.
A.S.K. operates a 24-hour helpline (877-596-777) and responds to calls about injured/orphaned wildlifeas well as dogs, throughout Calhoun County and beyond.
DiPietro and volunteers know where to find specialized medical treatment for animals, and willingly travel throughout the state to take animals to where they can be given the best chances for re-release back to the wild. On average, A.S.K responds to 500 wildlife emergency calls a year.
All of these services are expensive. And A.S.K. also operates a 100-acre no-kill sanctuary, near Jackson, Michigan, that DiPietro described as “a true sanctuary --- a facility that rescues and provides shelter and care for special-needs animals, emphasizing former chained dogs and abandoned domestic fowl, that have been abused, injured, abandoned or otherwise in need.”
A.S.K. was founded in 2001 by DiPietro and her mother Kathe. Today the organization is an IRS approved 501c3 nonprofit charitable organization with a five-member board of directors.
DiPietro, a Harper Creek High School graduate, holds a degree in wildlife biology from Michigan State University. She spends up to 60 hours a week on A.S.K. animal outreach, along with the other volunteers, for no pay.
“If you want to hang out with me, with us, as an A.S.K. volunteer, you have to be willing ‘to step in the road and in life’s traffic’ to reach and serve animals. It’s a lifestyle,” she said.
A.S.K. pays for 100 percent cost of supplies and other expenses through craft sales, a limited number of food donation bins located throughout Calhoun County, and “other small scale fundraising activities.” Nothing is spent on direct fundraising.
DiPietro noted that “without our donors, we wouldn’t exist and couldn’t do our work for animals. We’re thankful for and use every dollar wisely.”
Send your donation to: All Species Kinship (A.S.K.), P. O. Box 4055, Battle Creek, Michigan 49016. Visit the ASK website for more information at: www.allspecieskinship.org or on Facebook: www.facebook.com/allspecieskinship. Amazon Wish List: http://www.CLICK-HERE-To-Help.org/AllSpeciesKinship.htm
January 04, 2014
Road Trip Musings:
The Final Ride Down The Kiddie Slide Has Begun
I left Kansas City at midnight and as I drove north through the darkness on I-35 toward Des Moines, the temperature plummeted....to minus 13 degrees.
Making the turn east around DeMoines, and on to I-80 for the long trek across Iowa, Illinois and Indiana, 18-wheelers littered the sides of the Interstate, like road kill, and by the dozens...knocked out by the bitter, bitter cold.
At the risk of generalities and banalities, I made the following mental notes during the 13-hour, 725-mile drive from Kansas City, Missouri to Battle Creek, Michigan:
Missouri and Iowa drivers: If the speed limit is 65, they drive 70. If it's 70, they drive 75.
Illinois and Michigan drivers: If the speed limit is 65 they drive 75 or 80. If it's 70, they drive 80 to 90.
"No passing on the right." This law/rule of the road is as dead as Ulysses S. Grant.
If you're in the left lane, and passing, your life is in danger. Many drivers will get, literally within 2 feet of your rear, while driving 75 miles an hour.
Many young people under age 45 today have no regard for anyone else on the road, stop signs or speed limits.
18-wheelers get a bum rap about causing accidents. Compared to car drivers, over-the-road truckers are thoughtful, anticipatory, safe drivers.
In the "Don't fool yourself, Jimmy Boy" category: a drop off in spatial recognition, situational awareness and reaction time are the first signs of getting too old to drive.
I ain't there yet.
But the final ride down the kiddie slide has begun.
December 29, 2013
Falling out of love and grace with football:
Bless me, Father, it’s been 47 years since my last confession.
That’s OK, my son. I’m sure you've much to confess. Go ahead now. Take your time.
Well, Father, my biggest sin has been my most recent sin.
Oh, I’m so ashamed, Father.
Take a deep breath, my Son. Did you commit adultery? Did you lay down with a four-legged beast? Did you rob, plunder, rape, kill? I’ve heard it all in this Confessional. Don't be afraid. You'll feel relieved. A weight will lift from your soul and your conscience.
Well, Father. I think I no longer love college and pro football.
WHAT? YOU NO LONGER LOVE COLLEGE AND PRO FOOTBALL!
Have you no shame? Have you tried to control base impulses, emotions that threaten our beliefs, our society?
Yes, Father. OH HOW I’VE TRIED! Just this week. I watched 5 minutes of the Michigan vs Kansas State Game. 7 minutes of the Notre Dame vs. Rutgers game. And then, today, 4 minutes of the Chiefs vs Chargers game.
And then what did you do?
I turned off the TV.
YOU TURNED OFF THE TV!
You live in Kansas City and in Michigan? What if other family, friends, the public learn of your sin, my son?
The police may make you wear an ankle monitor and report weekly to a Probation Officer. You'll no longer be invited to parties, or Saturday afternoons at Buffalo Wild Wings.
You would lose the social topic and context all America loves.
Father, what shall I do?
My son, I'm sworn by Priestly Vows to never reveal what's said to me in this Confessional.
Go back home. Turn on that TV and the Bowl Game play-offs. Think of how your sin has hurt you and those you love and care about.
Complete The Act of Contrition.
Remember the Glory Days. Think positive.
Hear the Maize and Blue, or Fighting Irish fight song in your head.
Think of warm fall days, beer kegs and barbecue in the Arrowhead Stadium Parking Lot.
Fall in love again with pro football.
Fall in love again with college football.
Do I hear something?
Oh, my son, it's sweetest melody this side of Heaven. Just listen: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7csGhMQoQms
December 04, 2013
Men’s ‘War’ Stories
“I’m not surprised George had the affair,” my female friend said. “He found someone new who’d listen to and appreciate his war stories.”
George, married 40 years to Sue, had been caught through credit card receipts, having an affair with a young office assistant. They’d been working long hours together on a business deal and evidently pursuing each other around bedroom posts at the "Wee Hours Motel."
My friend’s hypothesis is that many older men like George have little left, late in life, but their ego and their “war stories,” that they'll shamelessly repeat to near anyone who’ll listen.
“I'm attentive and smile, when my husband starts on one of his war stories to others at a social dinner,” she continued. “At home, I pick up the newspaper or leave the room. He could be talking to a fence post. In fact, he'd tell the stories to a fencepost.”
She claimed wives also routinely hear spouses take their rather mundane life experiences and turn them into grand adventures worthy of Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Arc -- embellishing with fictional details to make them more interesting, self important.
"You know what I mean," she said, "like how they’d tripped out on Acapulco Gold at Woodstock when they’d really watched Woodstock from a bar stool and TV set in Akron, or been a combat platoon 'point man' in Vietnam, when actually they got shot in the ass on third day In-County and shipped permanently stateside with a band aid and a Purple Heart."
You seem a little angry. Does this topic touch too close to home? Don’t women have war stories? I replied.
“It’s different with us,” she said. “Women may dominate conversation but we’re interested in relationships, small, daily living stories. We don’t have to talk about bagging an 8-point deer or a 28-year old office assistant.”
She stared into my eyes, winked: “Bet you got war stories. Don’t you, Jim? Any 28-year old assistants behind those glasses?
Me?, I replied, pausing to take a slow, languid bite out of my Ritzee oliverburger.
Well, there IS a good one about breaking my leg, at age 14, tee-peeing my girlfriend’s house in the rain. One about living up the street from Janis Joplin in San Francisco. Interviewing Michael Caine and being an extra in a war movie in the Philippines.
Let me tell you the one about Chinese Police knocking on my door in Hong Kong…
November 17, 2013
Michigan Deer Season:
ALONE IN THE TESTOSTERONE ZONE
A damp, dark cloud of human male testosterone, hung over the Shell Station on N.E. Capital in Battle Creek, Michigan at 5 am this morning, more stifling than any car pollution cloud along 5-Ring Road in Beijing, China.
Fifteen to twenty mud caked F-150s, F-250s and F-350s were parked butt to booty, more Ford decals than in a Dealer display lot.
Their owners, most dressed in speckled brown camouflage bib overalls, were strutting their stuff like peacocks, as they filled tanks.
Some leaned again truck beds, telling war stories about yesterday’s game-on against the enemy in the woods around Battle Creek.
And they were ready for a repeat roust and joust this morning.
I was almost afraid one would notice and yell: “LOCK, LOAD! AND GET THAT GUY IN THE GREEN PRIUS!”
Because, so I’ve been told, “Only people without penises drive Priuses.”
I quietly got coffee. Paid for the Prius' gas.
“HEY!, HAVE A GOOD ONE!,” I lied in artificial baritone, bumping into one at the door.
You learn its alright to be chicken, just not a deer,this time of year in Michigan.
October 25, 2013
'No money at Christmas time, or anytime, when they need shoes'
Thanksgiving is not yet here. But the signs of Christmas shopping are showing up everywhere. Even when it comes to increased shoplifting.
The three teenage girls stuffed stolen blouses, slacks, caps and other items down their pants – on the sales floor of a large, suburban, retail store, and then casually headed for the door.
They didn’t get far.
My friend, a seasoned “loss prevention” specialist, was waiting at the door.
Most retail stores make half their annual profits now through Xmas time.
They also suffer huge losses from theft by employees and shoplifters.
This store loses up to $300,000 from theft each Xmas shopping season.
(Research shows approximately ninety percent of the US population will commit the crime of shoplifting at some point in their lives
Adolescents account for one-half of all shoplifting cases, though- value wise- this population steals one-third of what adults steal.
Perhaps surprisingly, the second most frequent shoplifters are senior citizens.
Each family in the United States pays an extra three hundred dollars for goods and services to subsidize losses from shoplifting.)
We sat in my loss prevention friend's small office near the checkouts, as she watched a large bank of video screens scanning locations throughout the store.
"Oh, you learn to spot them. They take new shoes into the dressing rooms. Put them on. And leave the old ones behind. Same thing with jeans, blouses.They wear heavy coats on warm days, carry large purses. Spend too much time glancing around for store personnel or at monitors."
Shoplifting isn't just for poor folks.
"You might think this job (loss prevention) hardened me toward teenagers, seniors, poor people. But it ain't'so," she continued.
“I’ve seen it all. And seen them all. Pinched the powerful – retired chair of a county government, another downtown Pooh-Bah with plenty of cash in his pocket, two sons of a police officer."
Three cop cars were parked next to the store. The girls cuffed in the back of one.
“Don’t jump at criticizing those kids or seniors,” my friend said. “Some are from homes with drugs, domestic violence ... others very limited fixed incomes .. no money at Christmas time....or anytime, when they need clothes or shoes. So they end up here on a busy Saturday afternoon....”
Right along with the Winona Ryders.
October 24, 2013
I was dropping off groceries and a friend, who doesn’t have a car, at his W. Michigan avenue apartment.
Walking back to the car, ready to leave, I hear a voice from behind yell out: “Going up the hill? (Can I) get a ride to (the) Handy Dandy (convenience store) and back?"
No, I’m not. And I do not know this person.
But the store is about six blocks away. I have time.
And, it‘s cold outside; bone-chilling so, as an early Michigan winter approaches.
“OK," I say, to the woman, mid-40s, bundled in a dirty, thread bare coat.
I wait, a bit impatiently outside Handy Dandy's -- questioning the decision and the common sense of providing the ride.
She walks out of the store, nervously opening and tapping the top of a new pack of cigarettes; with a plastic sack in one hand. I see more cigarettes, one roll of toilet paper and a pint of Jim Beam.
"Mind if I have a smoke (in the car)?"
"I'd rather you not."
We drive in strained silence back down W. Michigan toward the apartment.
“You know, I used to walk up here a lot (to the store). But sometimes men stop me and act like I’m a prostitute."
"Oh," I reply, "Don't say?"
The car air, now blasting hot out of the heater -- heavy, oppressive, confining.
Pulling into the apartment driveway, where the journey started, she opens the car door, hesitates, glances back.
"Thanks for the ride," she says with a weak, crooked smile. "No foul about that not smoking in the car, right?"
Getting out, she hesitates, then adds as if in further explanation, “I used to be a tweaker. But you know what I say about crack?”
“No,” I ask, “What’s that?”
“Crack cocaine can kiss the crack in my ass."
October 23, 2013
Note: The author recently returned to hometown Kansas City to live, after 35 years in Michigan, California, Washington, DC, Hong Kong and other locations.
KANSAS CITY MOVES:
Welcome Back To Bimmerville
A Kansas City colleague and I drove out to a Sunday brunch with education consultants, at a restaurant across the state line in suburban, ubber upscale Johnson County, Kansas.
I had not been in that part of metro K.C. in 35 years.
What caught my eye was not so much the explosive growth of affluent homes, shopping areas, and restaurants -- although impressive.
But the cars.
More BMW 700s, Audi A-7s, Lexus LX 570s, and Infiniti M56s than you'd find on Germany's Autobahn or Beijing's 6th Ring Road.
If you drove those cars anywhere in little Battle Creek, Michigan – where I lived much of the past 3 decades - you'd be considered, by some, a bit uppity, get stared at, robbed at gunpoint, or asked for a charitable contribution.
At a minimum, you’d park that car where you could watch it out the bedroom window, or at the vacant end of the Meijer supermarket lot.
Not cheek by jowl in a Johnson County restaurant parking lot.
One of many little personal adjustments.
Welcome Back To Bimmerville.
October 16, 2013
Author's note: I love the fall season....Halloween, Thanksgiving, family get togethers and celebrations -- and pumpkin pie. All remind me of my Mom, as well -- subject of this brief reflection.
My mom died 10 years ago.
But, it could've been yesterday.
Because yesterday -- last night -- I came back from a business meeting and thought to myself: 'Think I'll call Mom.'
Something I did almost every night into adulthood, even with my own family, a busy career, and across the long distance phone lines.
Of course, I couldn't call her, yesterday.
But it's like she isn't gone; it's like I could. And I have that sudden urge many evenings.
I told my grownup son about having this random thought; he gave me a stare and said: "You OK, Dad?"
I may be 69, but I'll never forget my Momma.
I'll always be a Momma's Boy.
I remember my 4'11" red headed Mom -- not far removed McNamara/Begley Irish immigrant family, -- cooking the turkey in a bag overnight, the fresh cranberries, her special dressing and especially the pumpkin pies this time of year, and at Thanksgiving
I love pumpkin pie the way The Cookie Bear loves .... cookies.
And, at Thanksgiving, Mom always made two large pumpkin pies PLUS a small one....just for me....just for Jimmy.
I'm still a Momma's Boy.
And I'm thankful for all she gave me....not just the special pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving time.
Think I'll call her in my mind. Just to chat about the day; perhaps share a tale or gossip about others in the McNamara-Begley clan.
"Can you hear me, Mom?"
September 11, 2013
on your face... and a reminder that ...in spite of all the world's chaos...we are bound together by our humanity....our similarities ... more than our differences.
-- Jim R.
WHAT'S MY LINE, DOROTHY KILGALLEN?
Last night, President Obama told us he's reserving the right to attack Syria because 'it's still on the table' and that 'Bashar Al Assad crossed the line.'
On the table
Off the table
Over the line
On the line
Cross the line
Moving on down the line
It ain't my line, officer
Who stole my line
Roses are red, violets are blue, cross my red line and I'll do you.
What's my line, Dorothy Kilgallen?
September 02, 2013
When “Free” Ain’t So Free
At Your Local McDonald's
Here in Michigan, the local McDonald’s promotes this “Buy Five, Get One Free” coffee program.
The only problem is that you may be paying nearly TRIPLE for that “free” Large Hot McCafe or Premium Roast.
In Kansas City recently, I went through the McDonald’s Drive In and was surprised to find the same cup of coffee 60 cents cheaper than here.
“Is that coffee on some special discount,” I asked the Kansas City McDonald’s window clerk. “Regular price,” she replied.
I noticed they weren’t offering the “buy five, get one free” program.
So redeeming that “free” McDonald’s cup of jo, after you paste in the five stickers on that promotion card, may actually be costing you, in aggregate, about $3 more – compared to other McDonalds.
Where is Ronald McDonald when you need him?
PUBLIC PUBIC HAIR?
The other day, I was listening and silently consoling a female friend who was unhappy with the sexual interest and performance of her boyfriend. "My God, Jim, he even shaves his PUBIC HAIR! How many men shave their pubic hair?"
Gagahed, speechless, thinking: 'Way-Too-Much-Information-Here,' I turned the conversation to more pleasant, comfortable topics -- nuclear holocaust, famine in Sudan, lung cancer rates.
Then, just now, the BBC World Services radio is running a program on -- GUESS WHAT -- the origin and proliferation of -- not atom bombs -- but women and men shaving their pubic hair.
I-kid-you-not. Now, I wonder how long before this topic gets to the Sunday Morning Talk Shows? Chris Wallace: "SENATOR, DID YOU, OR DID YOU NOT, QUIT SHAVING YOUR PUBIC HAIR?"
Turns out, women and men started shaving (all or most of) their hair with the Egyptians. Every other day, so they'd be ready to party with the Gods, according to the BBC.
I remember living in San Francisco in 1969, when my wife suddenly decided she no longer wanted to shave any hair. (As an always horny U.S. Navy sailor, home on leave every 9 months, she could have told me she wanted to starting wearing spurs and copulate only standing up, and I'd gone along with it.)
So, just as, over the years, I've learned to GET USED to body hair, it's going out of style again.
Fast forward to today, and the BBC says shaving of both male and female pubic hair is linked to the rise and spread of Internet porn -- where, allegedly, 30 percent of all online viewers are now -- TA DA -- women. And where a body with pubic -- or any other hair -- is as rare as a Kansas City Strip Steak.
I sympathize with my friend and her boyfriend problem.
But I think my days of partying with The Gods are about over.
And I'm gonna keep all the hair I got left ...
August 30, 2013
On Leaving Battle Creek
After 35 years, on September 27th, I'm leaving adopted hometown Battle Creek, returning to my hometown of birth, relatives, family graves and childhood memories -- Kansas City, Missouri.
It's been a good ride in Michigan. I'm thankful for living in ‘Cereal City’ and for good friends here.
Last night, I asked myself: “Have you made a difference?” -- which has been the guiding question for me, pretty much, as I’ve move through life and worked for many organizations and projects.
I think so… in Battle Creek. As the saying goes, if you don’t know where you’ve been, you won’t know where you’re going:
- helped give away, and raise, while at Kellogg Foundation and BCCF about $150 million for Battle Creek civic projects, nonprofits, and social causes -- everything from startup of Binder Park Zoo to the Linear Park and Neighborhoods, Inc ...
- worked with Lisa Wyatt Knowlton, Bob Miller, Sadie Penn, Bill LaMothe and many others to jump start a then dormant Battle Creek Community Foundation and, in a short time, to plan the Science-Math Center and Burnham Brook Community Center ...
- struggled successfully along with people like Russ Mawby, Shanon Legg, Julie Tindol, RoyTooke and others to fund, build and open the new $850,000 Center for alcoholic recovery on Territorial Road ...
- directed the Humane Society with volunteer Board leaders like Chuck McCann and Annie Stetler in the Society’s geographic, service and facility expansion …
- wrote nearly 200 weekly newspaper columns about local history and everyday people.
Along this Battle Creek journey, I learned a lot, too:
- how to "properly" clean shit out of dog kennels,
- grow and change from my mistakes,
- appreciate the lives of others and support them in their aspirations,
- that money, a corner office, and possessions won't buy you happiness,
- if you let grass grow under your feet, it usually turns into poison ivy,
- that good friends are few and to be cherished.
And some important daily living touchstones, including:
- Don’t get mad or even,
- Ask a woman if you want to get something done or organized
- Don’t believe the nice things people say if they think you have money in your pocket
- People are always…always, much more interesting, layered and complex, if you take the time to listen and get to know them.
I'll stay in touch on this site, and return to Michigan often to see friends and my son Josh and his family.
Hope you'll visit me in Kansas City.
We'll go down, and get down, with the best ribs and fries in the world at Arthur Bryant's or, if you prefer, trip out to The Plaza for still the best hamburger in the world at Winstead's.
See you later, friends.
Or as we said in the ‘50s: Give me five, Mr. Jive . See you later, alligator.
August 23, 2013
“Isn’t it nice to be remembered
For something in your lifetime, Jim?”
Last night, I’m leaning against the meeting room wall, relying on it to prop my body and spirit a bit… to offset back pain, a bit eager that the “corn roast” recognizing a nonprofit organization’s volunteers draw to a close after nearly 3 hours.
My job duties and role had been largely “in the background” -- as preferred these days –- but instead of an attitude-with-gratitude, tonight I feel a bit like grumpy old man with bad back and sore feet.
I’d spent the day buying groceries at Sam’s Club for the event, assisting with food preparation, and greeting the evening’s guests and volunteers.
I’m chatting with my boss, when a late-60s age man suddenly appears before us.
“Hi Bill,’ my boss says to the man, “great to have you here.”
Bill turns to me and quietly, almost intently says: “My wife and I have hoped to meet you for years. You wrote that wonderful history and people column every Monday in the (news)paper. We read every one. Every Monday.”
I replied: “You know, Bill, I’ve done many things, had many jobs. But people still remember me for that little newspaper column.”
“Well, we loved your writing, your stories about local history and everyday people,” he says. “Isn’t it nice to be remembered for something in your lifetime, Jim?”
August 22, 2013
A steamy, humid night here in Battle Creek, Michigan USofA and the window a/c is on the blink.
I lay in bed, with crazy cat Dinky spooned up against me like a newlywed, and recall other hot nights in Kansas City, Missouri during the early 1950s.
We had no air conditioning -- barely a fan in our family home. Only rich people did back then.
In spite of the cloying, late August Midwest heat, our Mom would still iron Dad's dress shirts many mornings.
And as a 9-year old, I'd sometimes stretch out on the inviting, cool wood floor in the upstairs bedroom where, while ironing, she'd casually pummel me with questions -- like the good cop in a criminal investigation -- 'what were the other neighborhood kids up to?' 'did I have that reading assignment finished?' and then she'd slowly digress into simple stories from her own childhood of long ago in Atchison, Kansas.
Approaching age 69, how thankful I am tonight, and all nights, for my parents and those memories.
How sad too many young people today seem to lack the engaged and loving role models that helped shape our values, corrected our mistakes, and provided unconditional, self sacrificing love.
July 26, 2013
GROWING OLD WITH (A Little) DIGNITY
by jim richmond
I've noticed a gradual collection of small physical humiliations, slights as well as changes of attitude and emphasis as I approach age 70. (I KNOW, CHERYL, ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE! BE HAPPY!!!!!)
A few collected from recent self reflection:
1. Because you could ride a 3-speed bike in grade school in 1954 does NOT mean you can ride a racing bike in 2013 with pencil thin tires, 14 gears, and requiring a posture only acquired in old age after a 6-month course of yoga stretching.
2. Those press-and-turn "child protection lids" on the pickle jars and aspirin bottles are anti-senior people plots by Justin Beiber and Lady Ga Ga.
3. You feel socially alienated by mores and a lack of public civility -- almost walking out of the Columbia Ave. Meijer self-serve line at 4 a.m., after staring at the two EMO Boy/Girl Toys in the next line feeling-each-other-up, and doing an open mouth, tongue-down-your-throat version of the Lee Strasberg Method of stand up sexual intercourse.
4. You put an empty Masonjar on the bedroom floor to cut down on carpet wear from bathroom pee visits.
5. You call the neighbor kid to pull your lawn mower start cord.
6. You quit cutting the grass at all because of the mower start cord.
7. You look in the mirror and see the profile of the Walmartian you joked about with friends on FB just five years ago.
8. The McDonald's clerk stops asking if you qualify for the Senior Citizen Coffee Discount.
9. You feel comfortable hitting from The Ladies Tee.
10. You play 'Winter Rules' in the summer time, generous to a fault in bestowing Mulligans, and give yourself every putt under 8 feet.
11. The kid clerk at the Marathon station calls you "gramps."
12. Your son asks for a copy of your burial insurance policy.
13. You are no longer eligible for a burial insurance policy.
14. You quit hyperventilating when there are Fools On The Hill or one in The White House.
15. You are pleasantly surprised and thankful every morning when you wake up, can get out of bed, feed the cat, and kiss the misses.
16. You feel lucky to have a misses to kiss.
17. You think "phone sex" is a reference to a call from the doctor about your enlarged prostrate.
18. You no longer worry about the Social Security Trust Fund going broke.
July 20, 2013
80 Percent of Life's Success is Not Just Showing Up
I want to give the lie to comedian Woody Allen’s often quoted observation that: '80 percent of life success is just showing up.'
Or at least, I hope not.
Showing up can’t be worth more than, say, 40 or 50 percent.
Although I know some people who have made a career of showing up.
Showing up everywhere. Always on time.
Of course, that doesn’t always translate into positive, productive action or engagement on their part.
You may be able to fry eggs or do open heart surgery by their ontime clock.
But they disappear right before the shovels are handed out, the plate passed, or there’s a call for raised hands to dig out snow from the Church steps after Sunday Mass.
I much prefer people who keep their word about showing up and can be counted on when times are tough, needs apparent, the cause just and important.
Most of us have a few lifetime role models like them.
And you know who you are.
For over 10 years, northside buddy Mike Dougherty and I would meet at the corner of Elizabeth and Sherman at 5:30 ever weekday morning for a 4 to 8 mile run.
No excuses: Rain. Snow. 80 degrees or -23 below (actual one morning).
Because we knew that if one didn't show, the other ran in the dark, in the weather, alone.
Those days are long gone.
But like going to college, serving in the military or just getting up and making your bed each morning, life experiences offer good lessons and stay with you.
SO, I'm puttin on my walkin shoes, at near age 69, and heading out the door.
Even tho I don't really want to....
And wherever my ol friend Mike has landed these days, I hope he's doing well.
June 16, 2013
PHIL MICKELSON DESERVES A SPECIAL FATHER'S DAY
Today is Phil Mickelson's 43rd birthday, as he leads the final round (by 1 stroke) of the U.S. Golf Open.
Many golf "experts" put Mickelson in only the top 15 or so of all time golfer greats.
He may not quite be a Tiger Woods or Jack Nicklaus to most people, but he's #1 on my list --- not just for his golf scoring, which is remarkable for this leftee.
But how he reflects the values of golf.
-- He's stood by and supported his wife through her breast cancer.
-- He's a family man who flies home, just for the overnight, and in the middle of golf tournaments to attend his kids' school events.
-- He loves and respects his golf fans, smiling, shaking their hands, giving them time and "hi 5s," signing autographs.
-- He never complains about his arthritis or has excuses for poor play.
And he's hit some of the most exciting golf shots ever.
So Happy Birthday, Phil. Hope you take it all at the Open today.
I can't think of another golfer who deserves it more on Father's Day than you do.
June 07, 2013
“That’ll kill ya, sonny.”
The petite, fragile 88-something Chinese woman and older buttoned down starched shirt caucasian husband walked into the Arboretum office yesterday.
“Can I help you?,” I inquired.
“We’re passing thru. From New Jersey. Gotta map of the Arboretum?,” she asked, as I continued to lick envelopes, anxious to get letters to Postman, waiting in the office parking lot.
Smileless, straight faced, she stared at me like selecting a piece of meat at the supermarket, and said:
“That’ll kill ya, sonny.”
I must of looked bewildered, because her husband took pity, and interpreted:
They touched hands … turned to the door …
“Thanks for the maps,” she said, winking at her husband.
The following was written by Ben Stein and recited by him on CBS
Sunday Morning Commentary.
I don't like getting pushed around for being a Jew, and I don't think
Christians like getting pushed around for being Christians. I think
People who believe in God are sick and tired of getting pushed around,
Period. I have no idea where the concept came from, that America is an
Explicitly atheist country. I can't find it in the Constitution and I
Don't like it being shoved down my throat...
Or maybe I can put it another way: where did the idea come from that
We should worship celebrities and we aren't allowed to worship God as
We understand Him? I guess that's a sign that I'm getting old, too.
But there are a lot of us who are wondering where these celebrities
Came from and where the America we knew went to.
In light of the many jokes we send to one another for a laugh, this is
A little different: This is not intended to be a joke; it's not funny,
it's intended to get you thinking.
In light of recent events... Terrorists attack, school shootings,
Etc.. I think it started when Madeleine Murray O'Hare (she was
Murdered, her body found a few years ago) complained she didn't want
Prayer in our schools, and we said OK. Then someone said you better
Not read the Bible in school... The Bible says thou shalt not kill;
Thou shalt not steal, and love your neighbor as yourself. And we said
Then Dr. Benjamin Spock said we shouldn't spank our children when they
Misbehave, because their little personalities would be warped and we
Might damage their self-esteem (Dr. Spock's son committed suicide). We
Said an expert should know what he's talking about.. And we said
Now we're asking ourselves why our children have no conscience, why
They don't know right from wrong, and why it doesn't bother them to
Kill strangers, their classmates, and themselves.
Probably, if we think about it long and hard enough, we can figure it
Out. I think it has a great deal to do with 'WE REAP WHAT WE SOW.'
Funny how simple it is for people to trash God and then wonder why the
world's going to @#!*% . Funny how we believe what the newspapers say,
But question what the Bible says. Funny how you can send 'jokes'
Through e-mail and they spread like wildfire, but when you start
Sending messages regarding the Lord, people think twice about sharing.
Funny how lewd, crude, vulgar and obscene articles pass freely through
Cyberspace, but public discussion of God is suppressed in the school
Are you laughing yet?
Funny how when you forward this message, you will not send it to many
On your address list because you're not sure what they believe, or
What they will think of you for sending it.
Funny how we can be more worried about what other people think of us
Than what God thinks of us.
Pass it on if you think it has merit.
If not, then just discard it... No one will know you did. But, if you
Discard this thought process, don't sit back and complain about what
Bad shape the world is in.
My Best Regards, Honestly and respectfully,
June 04, 2013
"I DONT LET NOBODY, NOTHING BOTHER ME"
Fifth in check out line early this morning at the Family Fair super on W. Michigan. Everyone is paying with their orange bridge/food stamp card. 'What are the odds on that?,' I think to myself.
Old, dirty, gray grizzled wanna be biker is in front of me. 'You have a nice day!,' the clerk says to him. 'Oh, I always have a nice day. Don't let nobody or nothin bother ME!,' he replies.
Walks out in steel-tipped boots, to his beat up old H-D, parkied illegally on the sidewalk outside the store door, jumps starts, and roars across the parking lot at about 60.
'Maybe I should go down to the Toeller Human Services Building and get me one of those bridge cards today, instead of to my little 3-day a week, part-time job?,' I think. 'Nah, I'd kill myself on that bike. And I wouldn't look good in that red bandana.'
May 26, 2013
Have an hour this weekend?
Talk a walk in Memorial Park Cemetery (on Territorial Rd near Helmer. The walk around its outer pathway is almost exactly 1.5 miles.).
Kiwanis have all the flowers and flags out and placed there.
Many families adding their own flowers and visiting graves.
Lots of friends and memories to recall and appreciate during the walk.
The Cemetery has an interesting history, as well.... a later timeline to that of near downtown Oak Hill Cemetery, with its plethora of Posts, Kelloggs and other earliernotables.
For more about Memorial Park Cemetery, its uniqueness and role in local history, go to my blog:
May 23, 2013
The Luck of Life's Draw
If lucky, at some point in life you stop, look around, and realize that 9 out of 10 of your best grade school friends, G.I. buddies and many family and friends are gone.
And you ask: "WHY ME? Why am I the lucky one to STILL be here?"
And from that point, you have a little better appreciation of each day, of the luck that has been your life draw, greater patience in the face of pettiness, walk a bit more gently across life's pathway of egg shell existence.
And your eyes are better at noticing the goodness in other people...and less...much less willing to criticize or complain.
May 13, 2013
SIGN IN NYC DELI:
"Cell phone talk or text while ordering? Go to the back of the line!"
Friends had children and grandchildren over yesterday for Mother's Day, and made EVERYONE check their cell phones and I-Pads at the door.
OMG, what next, check handguns at the door? Where's the NRA's phone number when you need it?
Do I hear an AMEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ?
May 11, 2013
Pay Telephone Scuffle Early Tripwire
To Eventual Closing of Eaton Plant?
By Jim Richmond
The huge, tightly fenced, long vacant and unused land on the west side of 20th Street in Battle Creek has been a puzzle as I frequently drive by the location -- until the other morning.
Turns out, the land may be a silent, sad witness to the all too familiar refrain in Michigan history – corporations and unions blindly fighting each other, and then killing working people’s golden goose of good jobs with high pay and benefits, as well as the law of unintended consequences.
“Let me tell you about what happened with Eaton’s,” my 81-year old friend and self described “retired Eaton’s factory rat” said to me over breakfast in Ritzee’s restaurant recently.
He described “pork chopper” union plant reps at Eaton’s in the 1930s to 1980s, who the company paid regular hourly wages, but “pretty much didn’t do anything but union business in the plant.”
“They were the real power, not the company people or the shift supervisors,” my friend claimed.
One day in the 1970s, -- when he along with hundreds of others worked in Eaton’s 20th Street plant making car valves -- a management person from AT&T telephone, whose local union employees were on strike at the time – came into the Eaton’s plant just to empty the coins from the plant’s AT&T-owned pay telephones.
The Eaton’s union shop steward raised hell, physically barred the AT&T management person from the telephones, and then filed a union grievance with Eaton’s management over the pay telephone incident, my friend alleged.
“And before long, we (Eaton plant union employees) were on strike in ‘sympathy’ to our AT&T union brothers and sisters,” he said.
The U.S. automakers relied on the Battle Creek Eaton’s Plant for many if not most of their auto valves at the time.
And, my friend claimed, he and other long time union employees watched as Eaton’s management quietly began a slow, steady process of dispersing its auto valve manufacturing out of Battle Creek, to other, new U.S. locations and throughout the world.
In 1983, Eaton’s closed the 20th Street plant facility in Battle Creek, after what the corporation described in news stories as “fruitless discussion with union officials to save the plant.”
Industrial pollution and contamination have kept the property from being used or sold for other purposes.
“You never know how something small -- like that scuffle over the pay phone incident -- can have unintended consequences,” my friend concluded.
Finishing coffee, getting up to leave, my friend’s wife touched the sleeve of my shirt and laughed: “Don’t let his libertarian comments, today, about the union fool you, Jim. He (her husband) was right in the middle of all that stuff and as big a (union) supporter as any of those other people.”
Ironically, nearby Ft. Custer Industrial Park is today home for a huge, seemingly ever expanding regional DENSO plant, which makes auto parts for Toyota and others. Its non-union – like most plants in Ft. Custer Park – and pays a fraction in wages and benefits, relatively, to what Eaton’s union employees made on 20th Street during more than 5 decades of that plant’s existence.
Within the past year, Michigan has become a Right To Work state, over state capitol protests and demonstrations by union employees from auto plants, schools, hospitals.