October 04, 2014

Son Finds Hope After Jim Hazel's Death

 

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“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.Hazel Citigo.jpg

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.JimHazelIIIcloseup.jpg

“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 All Too Common

 

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.

 

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“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

Bad Teeth: Can A Smile Be Your Umbrella

Bad Teeth:

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.
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 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?

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.FullSizeRender (2).jpg

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.”jim_w_kids2.jpg

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

Flowers and Bouquets to Live For

 

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FLOWERS AND BOUQUETS TO LIVE FOR

 

My friend in Galien, Michigan is a retired academic, published author and painter, but one of her passions is also the small business on her 26-acre flower "farm."

 

Roberta4.jpgThe end products of her farming are beautiful bouquets and arrangements of then dried flowers and wreathes.

 

They are unique because she grows her flowers from seeds....and takes the process through cultivating, harvest, drying, arranging and creation. Selling the creations at large and neighborhood festivals in the Chicago area this time of year.Roberta 5.jpg

 

So each of her items has been "natured and nutured" by her through all phases of growth and creation....each one-of-a-kind.....a total process by one artist, again unique in the highly commercialized dried flowers and wreaths business.

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For more, see her blog at: http://lavenderdays.com/?p=545

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"That'll kill ya, sonny."

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“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.

George. 

Susan.

S-E-I-N-F-E-L-D episode.”

They touched hands … turned to the door …

“Thanks for the maps,” she said, winking at her husband.

September 17, 2014

Bear Claw

Bear Claw

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.

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They shared everything. 

September 15, 2014

The Art of Listening

 

On Listening

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.

399_05_david_sedaris.jpgDavid 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.

untitled.jpgShe 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

 

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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

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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.

“Washer fluid?” 

“FULL!”

“Wiper Blades?” 

“CHECK!”

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

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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

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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?

Hey, Jim?”

          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 With College Football

Falling out of love and grace with college football:

 

THE CONFESSION

 

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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.

Yes?

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?

nd-football.jpgYes, 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.

Go home.

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?

What, Father?

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 Summer Trees

 

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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 

photo.JPGraised in their own backyard gardens. 

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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.

UW.DOC volunteers..jpgAnd 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.

 

Americorp.JPGSeveral 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 2 with my trainer."

 

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“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 

pulpfictioninjection.jpghimself 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

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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

"Tuesday Group" Volunteers Make Leila Shine

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.

 

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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.

photo (3).JPGThe 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. 

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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?

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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  

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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.

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July 27, 2014

Bizon, Helmboldt stand out as 62nd District Candidates

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.

532074_293210357479051_264262032_n.jpgIf 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. 

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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.

This August.

Next year. 

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 Rid!"

 

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"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?

photo (3).JPGTWILIGHT 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'."

photo 3.JPG

 

“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.  

photo 2.JPGUntil 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.photo 1.JPG

May 25, 2014

HOTS Strip Club to expand: Come one, Come all!

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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!"

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"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: Running Man

Errole Sookhai, 63, :

errolesookhai.jpg

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.

May 11, 2014

Momma's Boy

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.

Momma's Boy

My mom died 10 years ago.

mom.scott.josh.jpgBut, 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?"

May 03, 2014

Make mine French Roast, please.

frenchcartoon.jpgFaites à les miens rôti français, s'il vous plait

Make mine French Roast, please

By jim richmond

French is the official language of Quebec, Canada.  And they do not take their language lightly.

The Quebec government has a 1-800 snitch line, where Quebecois can call and inform on violators. 

The line is connected to something known as  “La Commission De Protection De La Langue Francais.”

It doesn’t take much to get turned out. 

It’s a crime in Quebec to print a YARD SALE sign with the English appearing larger and before the French VENTE DE GARAGE.

Or for a clerk in the 7-11 Store to say “hello” instead of “bonjour” first.

Penalties include fines and the revocation of business licenses.

Seems to me our Quebec French friends and neighbors are bucking a worldwide trend to make it easier for people to communicate comfortably and effectively across languages.

Some here in the U.S think everyone should speak English or be put in chains and on a boat back home to Tajikistan. But that's a definite minority viewpoint.

            The fact is if you want to get ahead in this world, you need to read, write and speak English.

Spanish, Chinese, Russian and German also help a lot. Most of the world is bilingual, and being so has cognitive benefits.

For that matter, as an immigrant people, we Americans have never been much for snitching out our friends and neighbors. 

As they say in the hood, “snitches get stitches.” 

Take that Quebec!

“Pifs obtiennent des points.”

 

 

April 23, 2014

'I Ain't No Rolling Stone'

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‘I Ain’t No Rolling Stone’

Various studies have hypothesized that most people are creative, do their best work, are at their peak – for only a few short years.  And that the older we get, the less creative we are; battered down creatively by adulthood; bombarded by society’s conflicting norms; distracted by the mundane.

Bob Dylan would probably agree with that assessment.  Last night, I watched an hour-long documentary interview with Dylan – fairly recent.

“I wasn’t no poet, no prophet.  All I wanted to do was be Elvis Presley,” he commented.

Dylan seemed genuinely perplexed about his early, best songwriting – Like A Rolling Stone (voted the best rock song of all time), All Along the Watchtower, Forever Young, Blowin In The Wind and others.

 

“I look back and read those lyrics now. Did I write those? Where the hell did I get those ideas, those words?  The stuff is seamless, you know.  It’s really good.  Beats the hell out of me,” he said.

April 19, 2014

With Every Beat Of My Heart

 

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With Every Beat Of My Heart

By Jim Richmond

A friend and I were walking across downtown Kalamazoo late last night, after enjoying dinner and a live performance of the Civic Theatre 60s spoof titled BOING, BOING.

Still laughing at the high jinks plot line of a Paris bachelor who tries to juggle simultaneous engagement to three “airline hostesses,” we agreed the play was a much needed relief after a week in which both of us experienced the death and dying of family members and close friends.

“You should write a blog about your own near-death experience,” my friend said.  “It was kinda funny how it all happened.”

Like the plot line in a bad drama, I thought to myself, the actual experience didn’t seem funny that sunny workday afternoon last October.

I ate a chicken salad sandwich from Horrock’s Farmer Market and just completed a leisurely 20 minute, lunch break stroll around the Leila Arboretum on Battle Creek, Michigan’s near Westside, where I still worked part-time as a fundraiser.

A meeting started with colleague Katy A. in my upstairs office of Leila’s old admin building on W. Michigan Avenue.  Katy went to get some background material from her office.  When she returned in just several minutes, she found me.  I had passed out, faced down, into the screen of my computer laptop.

               Katy recalled that I suddenly opened my eyes.  Not knowing what really happened, I asked her to follow me home in her car. 

“Think I’ll just go in, lay down for awhile and relax,” I suggested to her, then stopped myself in mid sentence and said:  “No.  I’d better go to the (hospital) ER.  Will you take me there?”

Thus began a strange 48-hour journey that would take me up to, and half way through death’s door to the other side at least six times, saved from the final trip only by medical technology, luck and several “right choices” that I and others somehow made.

When all the usual heart tests proved negative, the attending Physician’s Assistant in the ER said she was going to recommend my discharge.  Told me to put my street clothes on and she’d return in a few minutes.

Instead, about an hour later, a young ER doctor walked into the room. “Mr. Richmond.  I don’t know what caused you to faint.  But you aren’t going anywhere til I find out.”

So I was admitted to the Cardiac Care Unit, hooked up with monitors, and the next morning was wheeled into an adjoining building for every type of Cat Scan, X-Ray, MRI, ERI known to mankind and described in The Physician’s Reference Manual.

Somehow, I was still connected by telemetry to the heart monitors in my hospital room, when the brain scan technician started removing all the wires he’d put on my head.   I remember he walked into another room. 

The next thing I knew, I opened my eyes to find 8 to 10 physicians, nurses and specialists performing CPR.

My heart had stopped for about two minutes and it had set off telemetric alarms back in my hospital room, bringing a phalanx of Code Blue responders rushing down the hallways to me in the brain scan room.

And they revived me.

I was wheeled to the Intensive Care Unit.  And in several hours, my sons from Lansing and Detroit walked into the Battle Creek hospital room, apparently alerted to my critical condition by the hospital staff.

This time, in addition to other monitors, they also taped what looked like modified car jumper cables to my chest.  And over the next five hours, my heart stopped  six times.

Each time, I could feel and sense losing consciousness, and the jumper cables would automatically jump-start my heart. I felt the shock and pain as the jolt lifted my body a couple inches off the top of the bed.

In the middle of the experience, I could hear someone tell one of doctors and my sons:  “No signed DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) on file for Mr. Richmond.”

I kept my eyes closed not wanting to frighten my sons – or perhaps myself – but was thinking, ‘Jim, this may not have a positive outcome.”

I was wrong, of course. 

I’m alive and writing this blog, looking out on the near blinding spring beauty of Leila Arboretum this early Saturday morning before Easter.

This afternoon, I'll delight in watching my 11-year old granddaughter play soccer in Williamston, Michigan.

All made possible by good medical care, luck, and the little electronic pacemaker that now monitors and regulates every beat of this old, very thankful heart of mine.

April 03, 2014

Trash Day Blues

TRASH DAY BLUES

 

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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 06, 2014

"Thank You, Father Kloster."

 

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“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.

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