May 10, 2015
"SIR, CAN I ASK YOU TO SIT IN THE EMERGENCY EXIT SEAT?"
Twelve years ago this week, I took my last 14-hour direct flight from China. I had done so each quarter, for three years -- traveling from either Hong Kong or Shanghai to Chicago, Detroit or Newark. Living in both worlds -- China and the U.S. Doing marketing here.
But my life had changed. And this was the last of these grueling flights. Never a problem on any of the flights.
We'd been in the air 12 and a half hours. Stiff backs, stale breath, stuffed into economy seats.
Sitting about 5 rows forward from the back of the plane, I suddenly hear a stewardess, who I knew from previous flights, lean over to ask: "Sir, can I ask you to sit in the emergency exit seat?"
"Of course," I replied, getting up and walking to the back of the 747 stretch plane with her, where she motioned to sit in the seat next to the Emergency Exit.
She whispered: "Are you SURE you're comfortable handling the exit door and ramp? The pilot has informed us we've lost primary hydraulic controls. We're approaching O'Hare (Chicago airport) on backup. The runways and approaches have been cleared for our emergency landing."
I told her yes and within 30 minutes, the plane's nose was pitched up, and the pilot came on with emergency instructions for passengers as we made a shuddering final 40-minute approach.
There was no sound but that of screaming engines, shaking seats and loose luggage in the overheads.
No crying. No weeping. No anger.
No sound from passengers.
We hit the runway like a wall, stopping just short on the very last 50 yards of cement.
And broke out in applause for the Captain and crew.
Merry Christmas to all.
And to all a good flight
Mother's Day Reflection:
My mom died 12 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 70, 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?"
January 25, 2015
"I DON'T UNDERSTAND YOU."
"I don't understand you," a friend of some 45 years said to me recently, referring to his difficulty in pinning down my political views.
I voted for Obama in 2008, but over the years have become critical (like many of his early supporters) at the gap between his rhetoric and results as President.
But in the past 6 months, I've dialed back my criticism and am, today, more open minded, more supportive, of him.
Why? Obamacare is proving to be a good thing. Universal, free child care is long overdue. The Keystone Pipeline is an environmentally dangerous, unneeded project. Undeniable facts show a growing economic riff between the rich and everyone else in America.
But I might change my mind about Obama again.
I'm not a liberal or a conservative. I don't like labels on people. I spend at least 3 hours a day reading and listening to a wide range of news and opinion stories, from The Guardian to The Atlantic, The New Yorker to The New York Times, the BBC World Service to the Battle Creek Enquirer.
I'll never be too old to learn. Never too old to change.
And I don't care if that leads to being misunderstood.
January 14, 2015
“Richmond, this is an AUTOCRACY, not a democracy!”
There are some life experiences, stories, you do not tell. They are often clouded in a confusing mixture of pride and shame.
“You need to tell this story! It says so much about you,” my partner said last night, after hearing my very first telling of the story, to anyone, since it happened 36 years ago.
Here it is.
The USS Coral Sea, an aging, post WWII aircraft carrier, had left its Alameda, California home port jammed with a ship’s company and air wing of about 4,000 sailors, pilots, marines and about 80 aircraft, missiles, bombs, including a nuclear bomb; the aircraft mostly the famous F-4 A Phantom attack jet, and assorted onboard delivery planes and helicopters.
I was a Navy reservist, called to active duty, and assigned to the Coral Sea. I served in the Navy reserve to avoid being drafted.
My wife, Anne, and I had a small apartment across the Bay from Alameda, in the Twin Peaks area of San Francisco.
There were high expectations as we completed carrier “trials” and got underway for Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and then on to the Tonkin Gulf, to spend 7 months launching air strikes against North Vietnam targets, mostly the trails and railroads that were transporting North Vietnamese soldiers and equipment to fight the Americans in South Vietnam.
I did not believe in the war. I did not want to be there. No patriotic fervor.
I was assigned to the Aviation Supply Department, where we managed all the parts necessary to keep the planes flying. I had worked as a newspaper reporter before joining the Navy. But I sorted parts, moved boxes around, typed work orders in the Department’s office.
We had just steamed out of Pearl Harbor (known in the Navy simply as “Pearl”), when a friend of mine, an E-4 Second Class Petty Officer who was assistant to the full Commander of all ship supplies, shared a memo one evening. It revealed that the Coral Sea would only return to its home port of Alameda for a few days after the current 8 month deployment, and then head to Bremerton, Washington for two months of routine maintenance. It would deploy again off North Vietnam for 9 months.
I was incensed because there was a Navy Shipyard available to do the maintenance in San Francisco, and these orders meant that ship crew members, like myself, who had family living in Alameda, Oakland or San Francisco, would only have a few days with their family before the next deployment.
I decided to do something about it.
So, I wrote a long, uncritical, but questioning letter, addressed to the ship’s Captain. A friend in the Public Affairs Office, who edited the ship’s daily newsletter, copied and inserted my letter in about a thousand copies of the next newspaper, distributed through the ship early the next morning.
All hell broke loose.
Captain Ferris had every typewriter and every one of its keys, on the ship, checked in order to find out the location of the typewriter that had been used to write the original letter.
He started by examining every typewriter in “Officer’s Country,” on the ship, and told several officers: “I thought an officer had to write that letter. It was too well written for any enlisted person (to author).”
They tracked down the typewriter in the Aviation Supply department. They tracked me down in two days.
And I was literally dragged out of my chair up to the Captain’s at-sea quarters near the quarterdeck of the carrier.
The Captain stood, with two Marine security guards, before me. “RICHMOND,” he screamed, with face red and bushy eyebrows near waving in the breeze, “This is an AUTOCRACY, not a democracy!”
He was in charge. This was his ship. And he wasn’t going to put up with any letters like mine to the crew.
Strangely, I did not end up in the hole, the brig, far far down in the lower bowels of the carrier; with shaved head and guarded by Marines.
I received no punishment.
Strangely, The Captain had me transferred from Aviation Supply to Public Affairs, and made editor of the daily newspaper.
He went on speaker and told the crew that yes, we were going to Bremerton for repairs. But he promised there would be weekly free flights between Bremerton and San Francisco for those crew members who had family there, before we again deployed to the South China Sea.
He also grew to love the way I changed and edited the daily newspaper.
I started writing front page stories in the middle of each night; interviewing returning jet pilots about where the air strikes were done again North Vietnam; what the bombing results accomplished. What happened in terms of pilot returns and aircraft mechanical and weapon problems.
I also started writing short features with photos on all kinds of different ship mates – their family, their jobs on the carrier, how they felt about Navy service.
I added poetry to the newspaper that was submitted by crew members, and coverage of stateside news I thought important and of interest.
About three times a week, my phone would ring an hour or so after I’d distributed the daily newspaper very early in the morning. “HOLD FOR THE CAPTAIN!” his Marine guard would bark into the telephone.
And the Captain would come on, and want to chat about the newspaper content, the interviews, and the stories about crew members. “Great job, Richmond!” he’d say many times.
I went on to serve on the Coral Sea for two combat tours.
Captain Ferris left the ship after that tour, and was promoted to Rear Admiral – a rare promotion for an officer who had not graduated from the Naval Academy.
For all the ensuing years, I have kept track of Admiral Ferris.
He soon retired after his promotion, and lived out his life in Alameda, California. His obituary in 2006 noted that he had been a volunteer deliveryman for “Meals on Wheels” for more than 23 years after retirement.
A great man. A great leader who was loved by every shipmate.
Should I feel shame, or pride, for speaking out on behalf of myself and other shipmates on the Coral Sea, by writing that letter? By breaking Navy regulations.
“No, I really don’t feel shame,” is what I told my partner last night.
Thankfully, I left the Navy in 1970, to travel other life roads, that have always taken me back to the written word, and to watching and writing about people and life experiences and to speaking out when it seemed necessary.
But you never know what the consequences of doing so will be. Often far different than in this strange story of Navy service during the Vietnam conflict.
December 07, 2014
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 seemed ready for a repeat roust and joust this morning.
"Jesus," I thought, "Bambi wouldnt last five seconds around this crowd.
I got coffee. Paid for my gas.
I'm sure many are out for much needed "harvesting" of deer, and fill their food lockers, or those of homeless shelters, with perhaps much economically needed and appreciated protein.
But this isnt my kind of sport or my way of thinking about hunting animals.
I know....my view is shared by about as many people in Michigan as root for the Ohio State Buckeyes.
“HEY!, HAVE A GOOD ONE!,” I lied in artificial baritone, bumping into one of the hunters, as I headed out the gas station door.
October 24, 2014
Author's note: Last week, as chilly October winds blew off Lake Michigan, I traveled down Blue Star Highway, which runs north to south almost within sight of elegant homes, barely hidden on direct side roads to the Lake Michigan shoreline.
The Highway was littered with fancy restaurants and antique shops, like nearby summer Lake homes, closed for the winter.
In front of one store, still open, was a "marked down" display of ''Elegant, Hand Made Chesapeake/ Adirondack deck chairs", at the "special price" of $359.99 each.
I stopped and checked them out. They were poorly constructed and designed -- pale comparisons to those described in the story below. At about twice the price.
So, want the best and the best price in anything wood, stop by Jeannette Elliott's in Battle Creek. No Lake view at her place. But what a skilled craftsman.
Jeanette Elliott’s Woodshop:
Building Furniture to Last a Lifetime
Long before Jeanette Elliott graduated from Harper Creek High School in 1981, she knew what she wanted to do in life: build beautiful, functional, sturdy things from wood that people could use and cherish for their lifetime, and likely the lifetimes of their children.
Elliott is the sole, passionate proprietor, and one employee, of Elliott’s Woodshop, located at 449 N. Bedford Road (M-37), just North of Morgan Road.
Almost anything you want, and can be fashioned from wood, Elliott can make – -- floating boat docks, historic fire station doors, kitchen cabinets, custom deer blinds, library shelves, retail display units – but her specialty seems to be lovingly designed and built summer furniture: Adirondack chairs, picnic tables, wishing wells, fun tete-a-tete chairs, tables – and almost all of very sturdy, lasting cedar and white Oak woods.
Elliott tries to purchase all of her wood and other materials from U.S. manufacturers, and says her furniture and other creations are better made than those sold in the parking lots of Lowe’s or K-Mart, and which usually are from China or somewhere else overseas.
“My passion for wood and woodworking began in 7th grade shop class,” Elliott said with a laugh, removing the safety glasses she’d been wearing while operating a table saw. “And I do whatever it takes to make my business possible.”
That translates into even cleaning school building hallways, classrooms and toilets on a part-time basis, and being thankful for that source of income; while she maintains an 8 to 10 hour Woodshop and display center schedule.
“Oh, I like to work hard. And this is relaxing. There aren’t too many woodshops still operating these days. But my “open” sign is still ‘on’, and I’m thankful for what I have,” she said.
More information about products and Woodshop hours is available by contacting Elliott at 269.962.3700 or 269.965.6732.
October 23, 2014
DEADLINE NEARS FOR 2015 ‘FIRST EVER’
BATTLE CREEK AREA ART COMPETITION
AND WEEK-LONG EVENT SERIES
There has never been a southwest Michigan art competition quite like this one!
Artists from Michigan and around the country will use chainsaws, paint brushes, pottery chards, metal rods and much more to transform a grove of 16 Ash tree trunks at the Leila Arboretum in Battle Creek, into a “Fantasy Forest” of permanent art creations June 13-20, 2015, part of a week-long, interactive celebration of art, music and educational events for people of all ages.
A volunteer committee, headed by former Federal Center Executive Gerald Tilmann, is meeting weekly on art competition planning.
Tilmann said he is encouraging artists to submit entries of their original design concepts for the competition as soon as possible.
Detailed “Call for Artists” information on the entry process is available online at: http://lasgarden.org/pdf/FantasyForestCFA.pdf. The project also has a special Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/all.creatures.wood.and.tall
“There're only 16 tree trunks available in the grove, and we expect many artists to enter the juried art prize competition,” Tilmann commented. “So we encourage them to enter now.
We welcome online, email, telephone and in-person calls and questions about all details of the competition.”
In addition to juried prizes of $5,000, $3,000 and a $1,000 “People’s Choice Award,” artists selected for the competition receive a stipend, and the opportunity to display and sell their other art to an estimated 6,000 people who will visit the week-long competition.
October 04, 2014
“I want to bring the (Service) Station back to its former glory:
Son Applies Lessons, Finds New Hope After
Iconic Father and Civic Leader Jim Hazel’s Death
photos and story by jim richmond
Next week will mark the first anniversary of Jim Hazel, Jr’s death, who was a Battle Creek civic leader and booster without peer for decades.
Today, his son Jim Hazel III still runs the Citgo Service Station on Beadle Lake Road that has been in the family for three generations, and which has gone through good times and – more recently – tough financial times.
But the sun is out and shining as far as Jim Hazel III is concerned.
After straightening out complicated and inaccurate sales taxes debts on the station totaling $100,000 from the past 15 years, Jim is ready to focus on renovating the station to its “full service” status, with its historical emphasis on local, quality auto repair.
Meanwhile Hazel, at age 50, is studying full-time at Western Michigan University, finishing a degree in telecommunications information management, after already earning an associate degree in law, and a master mechanic’s certification. While running the station full-time.
“I was a late starter,” he said, laughing, during a recent interview. “My Dad started working in the Station when he was 11 (years old). I was 13.”
His father took care of the business side, but his son learned more than how to pump gas and fix flat tires.
“My dad was like the energizer bunny. He worked constantly. And he was a ‘connector’ in the community. He connected people together to get problems and projects solved in Battle Creek. He also taught me to keep going forward. That you only have so much time in life.”
The night before this interview, Jim said he sat in the Harper Creek High School football stadium, near a special area dedicated to and where his father always sat for games.
“It’s been a year. But I sat there and teared up over Dad being gone,” his son said.
But Jim is moving forward.
And he has high hopes and big plans:
- To bring the station back to its glory days.
- To give back to the community as a volunteer, as his father did.
- And with wife Nancy, to raise their daughter Alyssia, 14, and a Harper Creek High School freshman, in the Hazel family tradition of hard work and putting community before self.
A year has passed.
But, son Jim still has a huge blowup photo of his Dad in the service station’s front window, as a tribute and a reminder.
Photo or no photo.
Many in Battle Creek will never forget Jim Hazel.
October 03, 2014
Hospital Confusion Over Ebola Victim All Too Common
Jim Richmond's Note: The Texas hospital screw up in communication between nurses and physicians over background of the Ebola infected walk-in patient is all too common an experience for most of us.
My cousin, a phd educated nurse practitioner and university faculty member, has often cautioned me, and others, “You, a family member or a friend have to be your own patient advocate in the hospital.”
In Texas, TV network news are reporting this morning that the doctors and nurses had separate laptop patient information systems. Systems that did not communicate with each other about the Ebola patient's travel history.
So, take with a huge grain of salt, all the Interstate Highway advertising signs by megahospitals about how super efficient and effective they are….
Truth is there are a lot of good, compassionate people working in hospitals. But they make mistakes, like the rest of us. And most big hospitals operate just like most other big businesses.
And when you're a patient in one, you have to not only watch your back but cover your own ass.
Literally and figuratively.
Here’s my own little, recent, true experience in back and ass covering at my “hometown” hospital.
“STAT! STAT! Will The Hospitalist Please Call the Intensivist.”
“STAT! STAT! Will The Hospitalist Please Call the Intensivist.”
By Jim Richmond
I got wheeled onto a hospital elevator yesterday. The elevator stopped and a middle aged man in a white coat and wearing the physician’s stethoscope around his neck, got on.
Funny guy. We bantered back and forth, as the elevator went up the floors.
“A neurologist?” I asked the hospital attendant accompanying me, after the physician got off the elevator.
“No. He’s an Intensivist,” the attendant replied.
“Is that a new board certified medical specialty?” I pressed on. “What does he DO? Is he anything like being a Futurist?,” trying to joke a bit.
“Intensivists are physicians who specialize in treating people in intensive care,” he said. “They work with the hospitalists.”
“The hospitalists?” I asked.
“Hospitalists are doctors who treat patients in a hospital. They’re usually hospital employees. We got lots of them,” the attendant said.
“Oh. What about the general practitioners and family docs? The ones who saw you in their office, knew your medical history and problems, and visited you in the hospital. They had something called ‘hospital privileges'; and made patient rounds in the mornings,” I said.
My wheel chair attendant explained, “Hardly any family docs do hospital visits anymore. It’s specialized now.”
Yes, I thought. 2 ER doctors, 1 Physician’s Assistant, 1 Hospitalist, 1 Intensivist, 1 Charge Nurse, and 2 floor nurses, all asked me the same basic health background questions, while the majority of them also rather frantically typing my answers on their tiny laptops.
“Aren’t all your laptops connected in one patient information system? Do you have to ask the same questions over and over again?,” I inquired, with a smile, of the CCU nurse.
She seemed, only for a moment, a bit puzzled by my question. “Some hospital staff can only access part of the hospital
records for a patient. You DO want your information to be accurate, don’t you?”
“Certainly do,” I meekly replied, and a bit intimidated
, checking to see the back of my hospital gown wasnt showing my cheeks.
Lots of hands in the modern hospital pot these days.
Progress and technology move ever forward.
I got excellent care at the hospital, by friendly, very professional people.
But, I still miss Dr. Robert Oakes. Our family physician (now retired), who birthed both our sons, knew all about my bad knee, the kids’ childhood illnesses and allergies, and was always at the hospital too, when you needed him.
Dr Oakes was my kind of intensivist.
October 02, 2014
Can A Smile Be Your Umbrella?
Just let a smile be your umbrella,
On a rainy, rainy day . . .
And if your sweetie cries, just tell her,
That a smile will always pay . . .
Whenever skies are gray,
Don’t you worry or fret,
A smile will bring the sunshine,
And you’ll never get wet!
So, let a smile be your umbrella,
On a rainy, rainy day . . .
Many of us old-timers won’t soon forget Perry Como’s comfortable smile, singing this tune on his TV show during the late 1950s. Como and the song seemed to say optimism pays in life and that a smile can overcome much, including a rainy day.
It’s still true today.
Unfortunately up to 44 million Americans don’t dare smile because of the condition of their teeth, and don't have an umbrella for a rainy day, according to an article The New Yorker magazine.
It reported on a Harvard University study that “bad teeth” is the No. 1 problem of Americans who can’t afford to go to a dentist.
The Harvard researchers, for their book “Uninsured in America,” interviewed all kinds of people. The most common complaint was about teeth.
There was Gina, a hairdresser in Idaho, whose husband worked at a chain store. Gina had “a peculiar mannerism of keeping her mouth closed even when speaking.” Turned out she hadn’t been able to afford dental care for three years, and one of her front teeth was rotting.
Daniel, a constructor worker, pulled out his bad teeth with pliers.
Then, there was Loretta, who worked nights at a university research center in Mississippi, and was missing most of her teeth. “They’ll break off after a while, and then you grab a hold of them, and they work their way out,” she explained.
Those Americans struggling to get ahead in the job market quickly find out that unsightliness of bad teeth is a major barrier. If your teeth are bad, you’re not going to get a job as a receptionist or a cashier.
According to the study, bad teeth have come to be seen as a marker of “poor parenting, low educational achievement and slow or faulty intellectual development."
I’d call it another “marker” of how we’ve become a society of have and have-nots.
September 27, 2014
What Makes Jim Haadsma Run…
and Run…and Run?
by Jim Richmond
At age 57, with 2 kids in college and 2 in high school, a busy law practice, plus a host of civic and church interests and commitments, what makes Jim Haadsma run so hard for his 4th term as Calhoun County Commissioner representing the 3rd District?
Especially since Haadsma’s Republican opponent (Bryan Smith) seems as publicly visible as the last Battle Creek sighting of Casper The Friendly Ghost?
“I don’t take anything for granted,” Haadsma said, and he certainly doesn’t, having begun his door-knocking, neighborhood-by-neighborhood, 3rd District canvassing more than a year ago.
We were sitting early this morning at Ritzee’s restaurant on W. Michigan Avenue, and Haadsma was a bit taken aback by the ‘run’ question, pausing for a minute, then going back to restate, to massage his thoughts and his answer.
“It has to be my parents; both missionaries. I spent most of my high school years with them in Africa – Rhodesia, a violent time of civic war, when the Europeans and Africans were fighting each other. I saw my parents subordinate themselves to the needs of other people, to public service. And when you’re around that as a young person, it seeps into your heart, spirit, values, and your sense of purpose.”
Returning to the United States in 1976, Haadsma graduated from Michigan State University, attended graduate school at the University of Denver, earned his law degree from Wayne State University, and then practiced what he called “street law” in hometown Muskegon for three years, before joining the McCroskey Law Firm in 1987.
He runs the firm’s Battle Creek office, specializing in workers disability compensation.
Haadsma says, yes, he feels the time pressures of busy personal responsibilities, career and civic engagements -- of “knowing what to keep in and what to leave out – it’s always a challenge.”
But what he hasn’t and doesn’t leave out, is a grassroots engagement and commitment to 3rd District neighborhoods, residents, and needs.
All the energy he spends at civic events and activities is multiplied by the long-term neighborhood canvassing, you can’t understand people’s problems unless you dig down at the neighborhood level, visit with people, and not just at election time.”
With such a busy life, why is serving as a County Commissioner worthwhile?
“The County’s role is not well understood,” he said. “It’s not ‘sexy stuff.’ But we oversee and provide services for seniors, veterans, the county jail, courts, prosecuting attorney’s office, health department, county sheriffs and other infrastructure services needed and important.”
So Jim Haadsma is running hard -- again – - with no interest in a full time political career at the state or federal levels.
“I have a day job – that’s practicing the law,” he said.
The County’s 3rd District has been reshaped recently, makes Haadsma’s work a bit more challenging. It embraces City of Battle Creek precincts, mostly on the east and northeast side, plus the “old” Lakeview area – a mix of neighborhoods with great social, racial and economic differences and diversity.
Haadsma said he learns a lot from his shoe leather approach to constituent service.
He also gives back a lot.
Laurie Sullivan, a northside neighborhood leader and former City Commissioner, “I’ve yet to meet another individual who is so dedicated, so ‘present’ – physically and mentally – as a public servant as Jim (Haadsma). Approachable, compassionate, engaged. We couldn’t ask for anyone better.”
September 25, 2014
“That’ll kill ya, sonny.”
The petite, fragile 80s-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, she stared at me like a piece of bad meat at the supermarket, and said:
“That’ll kill ya, sonny.”
I must of looked bewildered, because her husband took pity, and interpreted:
“The wedding invitations.
They touched hands … turned to the door …
“Thanks for the maps,” she said, winking at her husband.
September 17, 2014
At least twice a year, for more than three years, my Chinese wife and I would take the ferry from Hong Kong to mainland Shenzhen, and then board the train for the then near 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 recently, as I drove down Gregory Boulevard and past McClain’s Bakery 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.
So, I stopped at McClain’s Bakery, and bought a bear claw.
And visited my parents’ graves in a nearby Kansas City cemetery.
I left behind the McClain’s bear claw with almonds on top of the joint grave stone of Mom and Dad.
They won’t mind sharing one, I thought.
They shared everything.
September 15, 2014
Humorist and author David Sedaris, in his latest book, says he finds most short story topics in his own life.
“No one could be as bad, as crazy as I’ve been,” he told THE STRAND on BBC World Service Radio early this morning.
David Sedaris (photo) Sedaris continued: “I wrote a short story about my Mom dying 17 years ago. Then I wrote another one. And then I wrote another one. I realized I was writing too many stories about my mom dying. My readers were probably getting bored listening.”
Truth is, our family life and our friends form the core of our experiences.
Many of my own blogs, short stories and newspaper columns over the past three decades are based on people, places and personal experiences.
And some of those are as indelible today as death and dying.
For example, I loved my red-headed little Irish Mom telling, and retelling, the story of her delivering early morning papers, as an 8-year old, on the neighborhood streets of hometown Atchison, Kansas in the early 1920s.
“Want some ice tea? Come on, Jimmy. Let’s go out on the porch.” I knew she wanted to spend some time, at age 82, talking about her childhood.
She would usually begin: “I still know the names of every family on my paper route. The Kaybricks lived at 11 Parallel…the ….” And she was off to the races -- through a list of 24 or so names and addresses, door by door, usually throwing in a bit of family dirt.
My Mom was a GOOGLE MAP and a Wikipedia long before their time.
And she enjoyed the telling. It was therapy. A way to stay connected. To talk. To care. To bond.
Whether your Mom, or a friend, real listening, too, is an art and part, of loving or caring for someone. And it’s not always easy. Other priorities, distractions try to crowd in the mind and the day. (Photo: Jim with his Mom, Mary McNamara Richmond, shortly before her death in 2003.)
I listen to those I love and care about. Even when they repeat themselves. And, almost without exception, my real friends and loved ones have the capacity to listen when I need an ear, a smile, a word of encouragement.
There are many people with no capacity to listen. They only know how to talk.
How boring that must be.
September 09, 2014
Boomer Dating In The Internet Age:
A ROSE AND A RASPBERRY
Yesterday, a national news outlet carried a piece asserting that an estimated 1 out of 4 males on one of the largest Internet Dating Sites has been convicted of a felony.
This ‘boomer’ dating in the Internet Age is like trying to find out if that “great used car buy,” is the real deal or a leftover from the New Orleans flood.
Not long ago, I was talking with a nice gal on the phone, met on the "Single Seniors Meet" website.
Her photos breathtaking. They showed her posing jauntily before the Gate of Heavenly Peace in Tiananmen Square, and lounging in the sand on the Star Wars movie set in Tunisia.
She suggested I might visit in her southeast city and “even think about going to Sicily" next October.
In perhaps 15 email and phone conversations, we chatted exclusively on two topics: 1) her pets; and 2) the PGA Touring Golf Pro she lived with in the ‘70s.
"You can Google him on the Internet," she said. "He was a real star."
I nudge the conversation to books read, favorite foods, politics (the
Death Star topic), best cities, grandkids.
It was like trying to get the cat out from under the bed.
One night, we were talking (again) about the new "Luxury Microsuede Snoozer Dog Car Seats" and "Thunder Shirts" for anxiety disorders, she's recently purchased for her four Doxies.
"Did you Google (insert golfer's name here)?"
"Yes," I replied.
Turned out I'd heard of the guy. He won the first Tournament of Champions and a number of chickenandpees regionals, but was best known for his gambling and wearing a rose between his teeth on the final four holes of a PGA tournament.
The profile listed his current age as 90.
Suddenly, the phone went quiet: "I’ve something to tell you," she near whispered, a bit breathless, and I wondered if she wanted to talk a little dirty, or I guess what they call today "phone sex."
"It's the age thing."
"The AGE THING?," I asked, thinking about her Golfer paramour's.
"Yes," she replies, "you know my profile says I'm 66." (Long pause.)
"Well, I'm a little older."
"Oh, how much?" I asked, like someone afraid to hear amount of the car transmission replacement bill.
"82," she says. "If I'd posted my real age, no one would've replied."
I poo poohed it all, trying to make us feel comfortable again.
"I'm glad we got past THAT," she said, obviously relieved.
Now about those breathtaking photos.
September 07, 2014
Have we got a deal for you at:
UGLY ED’S OIL SHOPPE
The elderly woman, about 90, pulled her almost new Buick LaCrosse into the bay, next to mine, at the local Ugly Ed’s Oil Shoppe, to be greeted by a phalanx of uniformed attendants, who jumped to it like a Marine Corp drill team, “upselling” her from the advertised $29.95 Oil Change Special to a list of “needed” and “important” services Donald Trump who have had a hard time paying for.
“Upselling” is as American as apple pie; defined by the Oxford dictionary as “techniques for persuading a customer to buy something additional or more expensive.”
But Ugly Ed’s Oil Shoppe has turned upselling into an unusual combination of persuasion, cornball theatrics, intimidation, fear, persistence and repetition that would warm the hearts of Harold Hill, Zig Ziegler and Joel Osteen.
First off, the Ugly Ed team is a model of overstated ballyhoo and military drill team efficiency.
Before the lady has her engine turned off, they’re at work on inspections:
“Tire pressure?,” one team member yells to another.
“36. CHECK!,” comes the reply.
This goes on until a team member with clipboard sides up to the woman’s car window.
“I’d like the $29.95 oil change special,” she says pleasantly.
The technician tells her, sorry, but her Buick REQUIRES synthetic oil. That’s extra. A lot extra from that furnished with the $29.95 “special” on the sign out front.
Her wipes blades also need replacing (he holds up three sets of potential replacements, each increasing in price, and marked something like “Not So Good,” “Fair,” and “The Very Best” and explains the potential road dangers of driving with inferior or defective wiper blades.
He then sells her nitrogen (instead of air) for her tires, two kinds of filters, coolant, and assorted other “critical” items.
“Nice dog you got there,” he says, pointing to the lady’s gray muzzled black lab in the back seat. “But the old guy kinda smells a bit, don’t he?”
He extends the clipboard with bill through her car window, “Just sign right here and we’ll get ja goin.”
Her eyes flare wide, a startled look on her face.
But she signs the bill and hands Ugly Ed her Visa card.
I’m thinkin: The dog aint the only thing that smells here.
August 30, 2014
PUBIC HAIR AND PUBLIC DANCING
I was listening over lunch to a female friend the other day, 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,?"
Thinking: 'Way-Too-Much-Information-Here,' I successfully steered the conversation to more pleasant, topics -- nuclear holocaust, famine in Sudan, lung cancer rates.
Then, early this morning, the BBC World Service radio is running a program on -- guess what -- not the origin and proliferation of atom bombs -- but women and men shaving their pubic hair.
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 story.
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 just every 9 months, she could've demanded wearing spurs and copulating standing up, and I'd gone along with it.)
So, just as, over the years, I've learned to GET USED to body hair everywhere, it's going out of style again.
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 women. And where a body with pubic -- or any other hair -- is getting to be as rare as a Kansas City Strip Steak.
That's probably a vicious, mean spirited lie, propagated by the folks at Bob Jones University, where there allegedly is a rule against students having sex standing up, because it might lead to dancing.
I don't think public hair or dancing have much to do with the rise in pornography.
One suspects my friend's relationship problem is about something more than her boy friend's pubic hair.
I'd bet a good counselor would advise her to take him out on the dance floor more often.
August 29, 2014
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…
August 27, 2014
Falling out of love and grace with college football:
by jim richmond
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?
Oh, I’ve heard it all in this Confessional. You'll feel relieved. A weight will lift from your soul and your conscience.
Well, Father. I think I no longer love college football.
WHAT? Have you not tried to control base impulses, emotions that threaten our beliefs, the core our society?
Yes, Father. OH HOW I’VE TRIED! Just this week, I watched 5 minutes rerun of the Michigan vs Kansas State Game. 7 minutes of the Notre Dame vs. Rutgers game.
And then what did you do?
I turned off the TV.
YOU TURNED OFF THE TV?
You live in Michigan? You grew up as an Irish Catholic Altar Boy?
What if other family, friends, 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 Saturday afternoons at Buffalo Wild Wings.
You would lose the social topic and context that binds all America together each fall.
Father, what shall I do? How can I repent?
My son, I'm sworn by Priestly Vows to never reveal what's said to me in this Confessional.
Think about God's Glory and Love that radiates like a mantle of Holy Grace over campus football stadiums, and will do so next Saturday around this great country.
Complete The Act of Contrition.
Close your eyes and hear as thousands sing The Victors in the Maise and Blues' Big House.
Bring back the sights and sounds of the Irish Guards and cheerleaders leading thousands into the Notre Dame stadium, all singin:
Well I remember the leaves a fallin'
And far off music like pipes a callin'
And I remember the golden morning
I saw the long ranks as they were forming
And there's a magic in the sound of their name
Here come the Irish of Notre Dame
The pilgrims follow by the sacred waters
And arm in arm go the sons and daughters
The drums are rolling and forward bound
They're calling spirits up from the ground
And there's a magic in the sound of their name
Here come the Irish of Notre Dame
Think of those warm fall days, beer kegs and barbecue in the Touchdown Jesus parking Lot.
Fall in love again with college football.
Do I hear something?
Oh, my son, it's sweetest melody this side of Heaven.
Just listen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ff8CUSH2GNI
August 26, 2014
Leila Arboretum More Than Breeze
Through The Trees
by jim richmond
Don’t get me wrong: The Leila Arboretum in Battle Creek is southwest Michigan’s “jewel of nature” with 85 acres of trees, 11 flower gardens, pathways, disc golf course, dramatic hillside pavilion, children’s garden, 6,000 foot heated greenhouse and a horticultural training center.
More and more, it's the favorite outdoor public location for weddings and group events.
But few know it’s also site of two pioneering programs in urban gardening – one that teaches city residents how to grow and sell produce
raised in their own backyard gardens.
And another, the Urbandale Community Vegetable Garden, where scores of citizens – including 44 immigrant Burmese families – raise their own produce on small collective plots, and which also supplies fresh produce for the area Food Bank and other outlets for people with little access to fresh vegetables.
And there’s more than just flowers, trees, plants and produce growing at Leila this summer.
More than 20 high school age kids are working or volunteering there at the Arboretum – getting their hands dirty in the soil, finding out how and where the food they eat actually comes from, earning a little cash for school, learning to show up on time, work with others, be successful in what they do….today…tomorrow… perhaps for a lifetime.
Several of the summer programs involving youth are supported through grants from the Binda Foundation, Miller Foundation, Battle Creek Community Foundation, Fair Food Network, and Post Foods.
August 09, 2014
“I GOTTA DO TWO (2) WITH MY TRAINER"
In the past month, three people have casually mentioned to me they had a “personal trainer.” As in, “I’ll call you back, I gotta do 2 (hours) with my trainer.”
I perhaps unfairly imagine these trainers as beefy, buff, Vaseline gleaming, glowering, horse teethed versions of erstwhile actor and WWF wrestler Duane (“The Rock”) Johnson, or perhaps no nonsense Arnold Schwarzenegger before he thought he could run America's largest state, and diddle the maid's skittle while Maria was doing the TODAY Show.
I thought personal trainers only worked with people like Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, George Clooney or Holly Hunter.
Now I find out lots of folks have trainers to help buff up those quads, and generally feel better about themselves.
Even to help keep a watchful eye and say “no no” over your bad lifestyle habits.
Well, I don't want Arnold looking down at me and smirking: "OK, Jimmy. Five more reps. And I'll be back to check."
With my luck, the “trainer” would also probably insist I put back that half gallon of All Natural Bryer’s Peach Ice Cream, more rarely available in Meijer’s (except August and September) than Hank and Lena Meijer (may they rest in peace).
And, I keep remembering what messy hell John Travolta got
himself into trying to be a trainer for Urma Thurman in PULP FICTION.
I can stand corrected and try to be more open minded about all this...
Meanwhile, think I’ll have another little bowl of that Bryer’s Peach before bedtime.
August 02, 2014
POTATOHEAD OF A TOMATOHEAD
So, this is my first year “harvest” of tomatoes at my home apt. place here in Battle Creek
This from a guy who works at an 85-acre Arboretum with 2 community gardens, a 6,000 square foot heated greenhouse, 3,000 trees, 11 flower gardens, and teaches home gardening and a Master Gardeners Course.
Slow learner or what?
I’ve been there two years. It took me two months to properly say and spell “Arboretum”. (I'd always thought arboretum was the name of the water tank for the guppies you got from Walmart)
No wonder the Arboretum staff hides me in the bathroom when there are important visitors.
I think it’s time for a little continuing education. Perhaps starting with photos and phonic cue cards.
July 29, 2014
In Sun or Shadow, These Volunteers Help Make
Leila'a Dramatic Entrance “Shine”
By Jim Richmond
When the nearly 5,000 visitors pulled into the front entrance of the Leila Arboretum over the course of last Saturday to attend the Leilapalooza Music Festival (30 bands on 5 outdoor stages), many “ooohed and aaahed” to the volunteers directing traffic, complimenting them on the beauty of the Arboretum’s stone columned entrance and welcoming rows of flowers, plants, water pool and flowing fountain.
The Leila Arboretum Entrance has become a trademark of the Arboretum’s dramatic 75 acres of 3,000 trees, 10 gardens, walking paths and so much more that today makes many call the Arboretum “Battle Creek’s and Nature’s ‘Jewel’” of southwest Michigan.
“The front entrance says it all,” commented Leila Arboretum Society’s Brett Myer, its executive director. “And it wouldn’t look or be that beautiful without the incredible hard work, dedication and creativity of our volunteers.”
For as sure as the sun rises, Tuesday mornings year-round find a group of seven to ten volunteers busy working at or around the Leila Arboretum entrance – planting flowers, pruning trees, mowing grass, or in the Leila Arboretum office updating tree labels and doing other chores.
They are affectionately known as “The Tuesday Group,” and their signature volunteer contributions were among those nominated and recognized at the recent Battle Creek Voluntary Acton Awards celebration held at the W. K. Kellogg Foundation.
The Tuesday group have donated an estimated 12,500 hours to the Arboretum over the past nine years – in 2013, alone, a total of 1,206 hours -- volunteer hours valued by the national INDEPENDENT SECTOR organization at $27,135 just for last year; and approximately $281,250 since 2005.
This spring (2014) they planted more than 4,000 annual and perennials at the Arboretum’s front entrance and surrounding the entrance’s pool and fountain that have become a Battle Creek favorite for young people as an outdoor site for weddings. There are 19 flower beds in this small area alone.
Other Tuesdays, you see the group laying down mulch and clearing weeds out from around the hundreds of trees near the entrance.
When the rain or the snow falls, the Tuesday group moves indoors to the Leila Arboretum Society office to plan for next year, print out tree labels or even – very recently – to clean, brighten and better organize the supply room and other office spaces.
Shortly before the Christmas Holiday season, the Tuesday Group strings thousands of holiday lights, plus life-size lighted toy soldiers that welcome visitors at the Arboretum entrance, plus the lighted tree in the fountain’s center and on the nearby pergola.
There are many civic benefits at least partly attributable to the Tuesday Group’s year round efforts: a big boost in attendance at Leila recreation events, growing use of the entrance and fountain area for weddings, and a major increase in people using the Arboretum’s walking trails and picnic areas.
Overall Arboretum visitor attendance reached nearly 70,000 last year --- and has continued to grow in each of recent years – serving not only Battle Creek residents, but attracting thousands from throughout southwest Michigan and even other states.
Why did the Tuesday Group pick Leila Arboretum for their volunteer passion, perspiration and contribution to Battle Creek?
Volunteer Jerry Tilmann serves as the group’s unofficial scribe: “The camaraderie of the group has made it fun to work ‘in the soil’ again and the work has given us a sense of accomplishment and pride. (Mid-week, Tilmann sends out a detailed email summary of the group’s previous day’s accomplishments, future challenges.)
“We simply believe we’re helping to provide some civic pride by having a beautiful park location in the Urbandale/North Side of the City,” he said.
The Tuesday Group’s core volunteer group comes from disparate backgrounds. Rick and Mary Maison, Jerry Tilmann, Judy Wright, and
Gary Steiner are all retirees of the Battle Creek Federal Center. Glen Walters is retired superintendent of the Harper Creek School District. Mary Ann Ruesnik is employed by Jiffy Mix in Chelsea and Martin Krieger, as a medical librarian at Bronson-Battle Creek. Most are graduates of the MSU Master Gardeners’ program, offered at Leila Arboretum’s training center for many years.
Rick Maison was quick to note there are other volunteers who also work with the Tuesday Group on an irregular schedule when personal and professional responsibilities permit. They include Burget and Mary Jane High, Jeff Vanderboss, Richard Avery, Don DeNooyer and Dave DeGraff. Josh Bell of K Drive Greenhouse has been instrumental each year helping the group select and purchase plants and flowers for their Leila projects, he said.
So, come on out to Leila Arbortum on W. Michigan Avenue. See what dedicated volunteers can do.
July 27, 2014
Bizon, Helmboldt stand out as candidates for Michigan’s 62nd District:
Your AUG 5th Primary Vote Can Make a Difference
By Jim Richmond
August 5th primary election votes don’t count for much, do they? Unless you have a marked, stark contrast in leadership, competency, experience and personal strengths of candidates for State House and Senate seats.
You hear so many people exclaim: “I don’t have time and I don’t NEED to vote in the primary.”
Sorry. But to quote the vernacular, not the Elephant’s, not the Donkey’s, but in the pig’s eye.
Who wins in August will matter.
Take the case of the current Michigan State Senator from the 22nd District, who won his House seat primary by just ONE vote in 2002, and has gone on to win every election since and moved up to be an important influence in Michigan politics.
Yes, what happens in August matters.
There are 2 Republicans and 3 Democrats running in the August 5th primary to represent their party come November 4th, to represent the 62nd District, which includes Battle Creek, Calhoun County, Bedford, Convis Township, Pennfield and Springfield.
Terris Todd, Andy Helmboldt and Dave Morgan are the Democrat candidates.
Republicans are fielding Art Kale and Dr. John Bizon.
All have solid civic records.
But two seem to stand out in terms of leadership skills and experience.
If you lean progressive and Democrat, Andy Helmboldt may be the best choice in that group. For Republicans, moderates and conservatives, Dr. John Bizon -- the stronger candidate among their choices.
And if you vote independent, Helmboldt and Bizon have a few but important differences. Most of what they said in recent sit down interviews was about support of good roads and creating jobs. Hardly controversial, partisan positions.
But Helmboldt stresses social equity issues; and Bizon the need to make major changes in the way we educate our children.
Helmboldt is a popular guy around town, and an effective two-term Battle Creek City Commissioner, according to several of his Commissioner colleagues I was able to reach and talk with on background.
He’s taught school, has two young children, shows up at City social and recreational events. He was the top-voter getter among all the at-large candidates in last fall’s city commission election. Helmboldt currently owns and runs a small design and photography business in Battle Creek.
Perhaps most important, you get the impression that Helmboldt is a thoughtful, focused, rather intense and serious young (age 39) guy.
Dr. John Bizon, 63, is running as a Republican candidate, for the first time, because he says “I can make a difference.”
As a successful physician, he probably doesn’t need the $73,000 a year salary that goes along with being a State Representative.
In addition to his medical practice (serving patients and also leading his profession at many levels), Bizon is a former Air Force Colonel with distinguished overseas military service; has a family, and grown children.
There are other differences, of course, between Helmboldt and Bizon that one might expect, party wise, on gun control, the Affordable Care Act and current issues and directions locally and nationally.
But bottom line, they would do a good – perhaps the best jobs – for us from the 62nd District, as our Representative in Lansing.
On average historically, only 1,000 to 1,300 votes decide primary election winners in the 62nd District.
So your vote can and will make a difference.
And perhaps for many years in Michigan’s future.
This is Jim Richmond's personal blog. No money or any other form of compensation determines what is published on this site.
June 21, 2014
"THANKS FOR THE WONDERFUL RIDE!"
Sometimes you have to just let go of friends...even memories.
A friend of 44 years... who I worked with in another city ...educated... gifted...funny...writer and artist... now sends me racist, homophobic, ugly mean spirited unfunny political and other cartoons from his southwest retirement community ... bitter over what he didn't achieve, perceived workplace slights, and anger over people and a world today he refuses to examine or understand
Why make yourself so unhappy in the twilight years?
Lots of wonderful people and things to experience and appreciate today.
So a bit sadly, I just blocked his unhappiness and his emails from today and tomorrows.
Right before they turn off my oxygen, I DON'T want to say: "What a shitty world this was."
I want to smile up at my son, my grandkids, even the angel of death, and say: "Thanks for the wonderful ride!"
June 15, 2014
TWILIGHT ZONE YESTERDAY??
The old man, dressed in starched and ironed jeans, shuffled over to us, using a walker.
My son Joshua Richmond and I were standing near one of the famous Tucker cars at the Gilmore Car Museum yesterday in Hickory Corners, Michigan.
Josh and the octogenarian started chatting about the Tucker - a car way, way ahead of its time in 1948 and allegedly partly run out of business by competitors Ford Motor and GM.
I listened -- only half interested -- as they talked about the Tucker's rear-engined and rear wheel drive... perimeter frame for crash protection and many other safety features and innovations.
I was more interested in the old man..... his thin face, slightly bent nose, piercing blue eyes, unusual intensity and air of purpose and control.
He pummeled Josh with questions...and seemed surprised when Josh, in several cases, obviously knew more about the Tucker car than he did...
I said nothing when we then walked out onto the Museum lawn, but thought to myself: "That old guy looked EXACTLY like pictures of Henry Ford in his 80s." (Ford died at age 83, in 1947)
I casually asked my son: "What did you find out about that old man?"
He replied: "Only that he personally owns about 30 of the antique cars in this museum."
June 05, 2014
“They called him ‘Mr. Don’.”
by jim richmond
The building on the northwest corner of Angell and Hamblin streets is boarded up now, with windows broken out by vandals. In its last days, the store was Cady’s Superette.
But there is more than one unusual twist to the property on this corner.
In 1945, it was the Battle Creek Beer Store, which Don Taft purchased and expanded into sale of freshly cut beef and grocery items.
It was then – as today – a poor neighborhood, and customers called Taft “Mr. Don,” according to son George Taft, who I interviewed in 2005.
So Don Taft named the store Mr. Don’s Superette.
In 1956, Taft opened his first fast food restaurant across the street from the grocery store, and originally named it Frosty Drive In, changing the name to Mr. Don’s in 1960.
Until this past year, the small fast food restaurant still operated, open irregular hours and days, as Figgs Fast Foods, serving -- many local aficionados claim -- the best hamburgers to be found in Battle Creek.
Eventually, George Taft opened three Mr. Don’s Restaurants, both successful and popular for their “cook-to-order” menus, featuring chili dogs, homemade onion rings, soup, the Big Don Burger, and biscuit with sausage gravy.
Restaurant locations were on East Columbia Avenue (closed), southwest Capital Avenue (now Nina’s Tacqueria) and North 20th Street near Dickman Road. The last location is still in the Taft family.
May 25, 2014
HOTS strip club to expand:
COME ONE! COME ALL!
The HOTS strip club, up the street from me here in Battle Creek, Michigan, on Raymond Road, is under construction to more than double its size and offerings.
It must be something like going from a 29C to a 42DD.
Not being a particular connoisseur of strip clubs, I'm not sure what a "doubling" would represent: multiple stages, multiple women, new options on lap dances, after hours tickets for the parking lot?"
I don't think Emmett Township has its own TIFA and business development districts, like downtown Battle Creek or our Ft. Custer Industrial Park.
Too bad, Emmett Township.
Think of all the johns....ups I mean jobs ... that will come to the Township because of this worthwhile project!
Today, I noted a sign saying "OPEN WHILE UNDER CONSTRUCTION!!
Now that's a relief!
May 23, 2014
"They're killing me! They're killing me!"
I was in the hospital (again), on the critical care floor, about 10 days ago.
Early morning, and I hear the very old lady in the room next to me, scream over and over: "SOMEBODY HELP ME! HELP ME! HELP ME! THEY'RE KILLING ME. THEY'RE KILLING ME!"
Then a voice, a hospital attendant, who is rolling an empty wheelchair into the lady's room.
I hear the attendant say: "HI!!! ARE YOU READY FOR YOUR STRESS TEST?"
A visitor in the woman's room yells "STRESS TEST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! SHE'S ALMOST DEAD!"
"Uuuuup, this isn't (Room) 301 (my room), now is it?," the attendant says.
Wheeling ME down for the stress test, I ask the attendant how she likes things after the recent hospital merger.
"I've been working here 40 years," she replies.
I thought: "That's exactly what I was afraid of."
May 12, 2014
Errole Sookhai, 63, :
BATTLE CREEK'S RUNNING MAN
by jim richmond
Errole Sookhai, 63, is Battle Creek, Michigan’s own RUNNING MAN.
You see him every day, as far south as Athens and north to Bellevue.
Sookhai, in his familiar Marine Corps' cap, has run daily since 1979.
Weekdays, he gets in 18 to 20 miles, after "I drop off my special needs son at school," he told me, when I stopped him for a chat in Leila Arboretum.
Weekends, "I usually do 22 to 28 miles. Both days," he added.
Locals remember the many years Sookhai would push his special needs son in a stroller, in front of him, on the long daily runs.
He retired from the Federal Center three years ago, having served in both the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps.
So give our RUNNING MAN a hand and a honk next time you see him.