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 13, 2014
“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.
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.
May 11, 2014
Author's note: I love the fall season....Halloween, Thanksgiving, family get togethers and celebrations -- and pumpkin pie. All remind me of my Mom, as well -- subject of this brief reflection.
My mom died 10 years ago.
But, it could've been yesterday.
Because yesterday -- last night -- I came back from a business meeting and thought to myself: 'Think I'll call Mom.'
Something I did almost every night into adulthood, even with my own family, a busy career, and across the long distance phone lines.
Of course, I couldn't call her, yesterday.
But it's like she isn't gone; it's like I could. And I have that sudden urge many evenings.
I told my grownup son about having this random thought; he gave me a stare and said: "You OK, Dad?"
I may be 69, but I'll never forget my Momma.
I'll always be a Momma's Boy.
I remember my 4'11" red headed Mom -- not far removed McNamara/Begley Irish immigrant family, -- cooking the turkey in a bag overnight, the fresh cranberries, her special dressing and especially the pumpkin pies this time of year, and at Thanksgiving
I love pumpkin pie the way The Cookie Bear loves .... cookies.
And, at Thanksgiving, Mom always made two large pumpkin pies PLUS a small one....just for me....just for Jimmy.
I'm still a Momma's Boy.
And I'm thankful for all she gave me....not just the special pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving time.
Think I'll call her in my mind. Just to chat about the day; perhaps share a tale or gossip about others in the McNamara-Begley clan.
"Can you hear me, Mom?"
May 03, 2014
Faites 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’
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
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
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”
In 1961, on a Friday afternoon in the late spring of our junior year in Kansas City’s prestigious Jesuit-run, all-male Rockhurst (Catholic) High School, my twin brother and I got kicked out.
At Rockhurst, we weren’t academic stars, or very bottom barrel students, either.
Our greatest offense, as I recalled not long ago in conversation with my brother, was filling up those little red “jug” after school demerit detention cards with violations like smoking behind Sedgwick Hall, or sneaking off campus at lunch hour with several classmates for a cheese sandwich at the drug store up Troost Avenue. (For some reason, considered a particularly onerous student crime to School authorities at the time.)
Father Kloster, the School’s principal, had marshaled about 20 or so of us junior class low achievers and bottom feeders, in the School’s theatre that afternoon, with instructions to sit in the first three rows.
And to shut up.
We expected a rather routine litany of our offenses and dressing down by The Principal, unaware of the danger that faced us that afternoon.
The Rev. Kloster, a tall thin man, fair skinned and white haired, with pencil-like, twitching fingers, stood on the stage, in long, flowing black cassock, nervously tapping the stage floor with black-tipped wood pointer in tight right hand.
Never to miss an opportunity, my brother and I along with about 5 others in the 2nd row, were laughing and cutting up a bit. No spitballs, no profanity, but less than appropriately attentive.
Kloster glared down at our little group, his complexion turning fire engine red, from bottom of neck to top of head.
Suddenly, with a sweep of pointer, he gestured to all 7 of us cutting up in the second row:
“That’s it! All of you in the 2nd row!,” he yelled. “You’re out! You aren’t coming back next year!”
And we weren’t and we didn’t – give Father Kloster his due. No parental pleadings would do.
And he was democratic about it: Those in the second row included several of us from comparatively modest Irish middle class families on Kansas City’s lower west side, and guys from wealthy south end families, including the son of one of Kansas City’s oldest and most prestigious real estate families.
My parents were furious – at us – but also asked themselves, if not Rockhurst, “Why? And why now? At the end of our boys’ junior year?”
My brother and I went on our senior year to attend De La Salle Academy, where we were welcomed by both classmates and the Christian Brothers who taught there, and where we made the Honor Roll.
In fall of that year (1961), we returned to Rockhurst one Friday night to watch our De La Salle high school basketball team play Rockhurst.
We went over to the Rockhurst-side student stands to say “hi” to Jesuit Father Maguire, who was Rockhurst’s assistant principal, school disciplinarian and who’d particularly liked both of us for some reason. Perhaps because of our Irish roots.
“Jimmy. Johnny,” Father Maguire said to us that evening. “The decision was wrong. But there was nothing I could do about it.”
My twin brother and I finished high school at DeLaSalle, then college and have since earned Master’s degrees.
We’ve had successful careers – he as president of a regional hospital, and I as president of large charitable foundations across the United States.
And I’ve never spent much time, thought or hand wringing, trying to answer those “why” questions.
Looking back on it, maybe Father Kloster was just having a bad hair day.
The incident and experience came to mind, after a recent Kansas City party chat with, as it happened, several Rockhurst alums and school boosters, who were praising content and comparative ROI value of a Rockhurst High School Jesuit education.
I suspect my brother and I, now approaching age 70, have probably done about as well as anyone in the actual 1962 Rockhurst High School graduating class.
And I probably learned a lot from those three years at Rockhurst and that spring afternoon in the school theatre.
But I like to think I learned a lot more, and owe a lot more, to the Christian Brothers, other teachers and senior high classmates at De La Salle Academy in 1962.
Thank you, Father Kloster.
March 02, 2014
All Species Kinship A ‘Passionate, Effective’ Advocate for Abused Animals
by jim richmond
If neglected, abused, injured and abandoned animals – of all species – have a real guardian angel and advocate in West Michigan it has to be Sophia DiPietro, and the five other all-volunteer, all unpaid staff of the organization known as All Species Kinship (A.S.K.).
And while the bit stuffy sounding organizational name might conjure up the title of a Master’s degree thesis in grad-
uate school, All Species Kinship, DiPietro and fellow travelers are all about practical, neighborhood based, feet on the ground, knock-on-the-door, eyes on the prize, animal advocacy and education in some of the toughest, most challenging areas of Battle Creek and west Michigan.
They travel neighborhoods – in fall and winter three times each week -- the back roads and backyards in their well used white van; looking for dogs who often have been left out in subfreezing weather, chained to the ground or a car tire, without water, food, or adequate protection from wind, rain, cold and snow. They are on the lookout to make sure animals have adequate shade and water on the “dog days” of summer as well as providing pet food to those residents who are down on their luck or have hit a rough patch in life.
They knock on doors, and talk to the animal owners – sometimes individuals who couldn’t care less about caring for their pet, but more often than not, DiPietro said, people who are consumed with concerns and challenges of daily living, “who don’t have phones, regular transportation, and sometimes enough food to eat, themselves.”
“We’re positive. We treat people like we’d want to be treated and we don’t want to close down the conversation: ‘We’d like to help you out with your dog – can we spend a few minutes talking? We’ve got some straw (free relief supplies) and can show you how to pack straw in that doghouse to keep your pet warm.’”
“We are not animal control officers. We are not an animal shelter or humane society. Instead, our work is about proactive mobile outreach; reaching people, and animals, that would otherwise not reached. We are not out there to get people in trouble,” DiPietro emphasized.
A.S.K. reaches and makes a difference for animals that often have negatively associated stereotypes, or special needs as a result of the way in which they have been isolated outside – “the bully breeds” (pit bulls, Rottweiler’s and others) used for backyard breeding, owner status or lawn ornaments, the “worst of the worst,” with lots of health problems, years of physical or mental abuse, DiPietro noted.
A.S.K. volunteers are, bottom line, advocates for the animals. They will and do refer pet abusers to law enforcement when it’s too late for educational attempts to reform poor caretaking. But A.S.K is about changing owner behavior as well as providing emergency supplies, shelter or other quality of life improvements.
For an all-volunteer organization that pays no salaries to anyone, and relies exclusively on contributions, A.S.K. makes a little go a long way in making a difference for animals.
Last year, on average, between 25 and 50 neglected 24/7 chained/kenneled/outside dogs were found and assisted by A.S.K. volunteers each week. A.S.K. distributed – free -- 600 straw bales used for doghouse installation, 50 secure plastic dog houses, and more than 4,000 pounds of free pet food for domestic dogs, cats, birds and rabbits, whose owners were experiencing temporary financial hardships.
A.S.K. operates a 24-hour helpline (877-596-777) and responds to calls about injured/orphaned wildlifeas well as dogs, throughout Calhoun County and beyond.
DiPietro and volunteers know where to find specialized medical treatment for animals, and willingly travel throughout the state to take animals to where they can be given the best chances for re-release back to the wild. On average, A.S.K responds to 500 wildlife emergency calls a year.
All of these services are expensive. And A.S.K. also operates a 100-acre no-kill sanctuary, near Jackson, Michigan, that DiPietro described as “a true sanctuary --- a facility that rescues and provides shelter and care for special-needs animals, emphasizing former chained dogs and abandoned domestic fowl, that have been abused, injured, abandoned or otherwise in need.”
A.S.K. was founded in 2001 by DiPietro and her mother Kathe. Today the organization is an IRS approved 501c3 nonprofit charitable organization with a five-member board of directors.
DiPietro, a Harper Creek High School graduate, holds a degree in wildlife biology from Michigan State University. She spends up to 60 hours a week on A.S.K. animal outreach, along with the other volunteers, for no pay.
“If you want to hang out with me, with us, as an A.S.K. volunteer, you have to be willing ‘to step in the road and in life’s traffic’ to reach and serve animals. It’s a lifestyle,” she said.
A.S.K. pays for 100 percent cost of supplies and other expenses through craft sales, a limited number of food donation bins located throughout Calhoun County, and “other small scale fundraising activities.” Nothing is spent on direct fundraising.
DiPietro noted that “without our donors, we wouldn’t exist and couldn’t do our work for animals. We’re thankful for and use every dollar wisely.”
Send your donation to: All Species Kinship (A.S.K.), P. O. Box 4055, Battle Creek, Michigan 49016. Visit the ASK website for more information at: www.allspecieskinship.org or on Facebook: www.facebook.com/allspecieskinship. Amazon Wish List: http://www.CLICK-HERE-To-Help.org/AllSpeciesKinship.htm
January 04, 2014
Road Trip Musings:
The Final Ride Down The Kiddie Slide Has Begun
I left Kansas City at midnight and as I drove north through the darkness on I-35 toward Des Moines, the temperature plummeted....to minus 13 degrees.
Making the turn east around DeMoines, and on to I-80 for the long trek across Iowa, Illinois and Indiana, 18-wheelers littered the sides of the Interstate, like road kill, and by the dozens...knocked out by the bitter, bitter cold.
At the risk of generalities and banalities, I made the following mental notes during the 13-hour, 725-mile drive from Kansas City, Missouri to Battle Creek, Michigan:
Missouri and Iowa drivers: If the speed limit is 65, they drive 70. If it's 70, they drive 75.
Illinois and Michigan drivers: If the speed limit is 65 they drive 75 or 80. If it's 70, they drive 80 to 90.
"No passing on the right." This law/rule of the road is as dead as Ulysses S. Grant.
If you're in the left lane, and passing, your life is in danger. Many drivers will get, literally within 2 feet of your rear, while driving 75 miles an hour.
Many young people under age 45 today have no regard for anyone else on the road, stop signs or speed limits.
18-wheelers get a bum rap about causing accidents. Compared to car drivers, over-the-road truckers are thoughtful, anticipatory, safe drivers.
In the "Don't fool yourself, Jimmy Boy" category: a drop off in spatial recognition, situational awareness and reaction time are the first signs of getting too old to drive.
I ain't there yet.
But the final ride down the kiddie slide has begun.
November 17, 2013
Michigan Deer Season:
ALONE IN THE TESTOSTERONE ZONE
A damp, dark cloud of human male testosterone, hung over the Shell Station on N.E. Capital in Battle Creek, Michigan at 5 am this morning, more stifling than any car pollution cloud along 5-Ring Road in Beijing, China.
Fifteen to twenty mud caked F-150s, F-250s and F-350s were parked butt to booty, more Ford decals than in a Dealer display lot.
Their owners, most dressed in speckled brown camouflage bib overalls, were strutting their stuff like peacocks, as they filled tanks.
Some leaned again truck beds, telling war stories about yesterday’s game-on against the enemy in the woods around Battle Creek.
And they were ready for a repeat roust and joust this morning.
I was almost afraid one would notice and yell: “LOCK, LOAD! AND GET THAT GUY IN THE GREEN PRIUS!”
Because, so I’ve been told, “Only people without penises drive Priuses.”
I quietly got coffee. Paid for the Prius' gas.
“HEY!, HAVE A GOOD ONE!,” I lied in artificial baritone, bumping into one at the door.
You learn its alright to be chicken, just not a deer,this time of year in Michigan.
October 25, 2013
'No money at Christmas time, or anytime, when they need shoes'
Thanksgiving is not yet here. But the signs of Christmas shopping are showing up everywhere. Even when it comes to increased shoplifting.
The three teenage girls stuffed stolen blouses, slacks, caps and other items down their pants – on the sales floor of a large, suburban, retail store, and then casually headed for the door.
They didn’t get far.
My friend, a seasoned “loss prevention” specialist, was waiting at the door.
Most retail stores make half their annual profits now through Xmas time.
They also suffer huge losses from theft by employees and shoplifters.
This store loses up to $300,000 from theft each Xmas shopping season.
(Research shows approximately ninety percent of the US population will commit the crime of shoplifting at some point in their lives
Adolescents account for one-half of all shoplifting cases, though- value wise- this population steals one-third of what adults steal.
Perhaps surprisingly, the second most frequent shoplifters are senior citizens.
Each family in the United States pays an extra three hundred dollars for goods and services to subsidize losses from shoplifting.)
We sat in my loss prevention friend's small office near the checkouts, as she watched a large bank of video screens scanning locations throughout the store.
"Oh, you learn to spot them. They take new shoes into the dressing rooms. Put them on. And leave the old ones behind. Same thing with jeans, blouses.They wear heavy coats on warm days, carry large purses. Spend too much time glancing around for store personnel or at monitors."
Shoplifting isn't just for poor folks.
"You might think this job (loss prevention) hardened me toward teenagers, seniors, poor people. But it ain't'so," she continued.
“I’ve seen it all. And seen them all. Pinched the powerful – retired chair of a county government, another downtown Pooh-Bah with plenty of cash in his pocket, two sons of a police officer."
Three cop cars were parked next to the store. The girls cuffed in the back of one.
“Don’t jump at criticizing those kids or seniors,” my friend said. “Some are from homes with drugs, domestic violence ... others very limited fixed incomes .. no money at Christmas time....or anytime, when they need clothes or shoes. So they end up here on a busy Saturday afternoon....”
Right along with the Winona Ryders.
October 24, 2013
I was dropping off groceries and a friend, who doesn’t have a car, at his W. Michigan avenue apartment.
Walking back to the car, ready to leave, I hear a voice from behind yell out: “Going up the hill? (Can I) get a ride to (the) Handy Dandy (convenience store) and back?"
No, I’m not. And I do not know this person.
But the store is about six blocks away. I have time.
And, it‘s cold outside; bone-chilling so, as an early Michigan winter approaches.
“OK," I say, to the woman, mid-40s, bundled in a dirty, thread bare coat.
I wait, a bit impatiently outside Handy Dandy's -- questioning the decision and the common sense of providing the ride.
She walks out of the store, nervously opening and tapping the top of a new pack of cigarettes; with a plastic sack in one hand. I see more cigarettes, one roll of toilet paper and a pint of Jim Beam.
"Mind if I have a smoke (in the car)?"
"I'd rather you not."
We drive in strained silence back down W. Michigan toward the apartment.
“You know, I used to walk up here a lot (to the store). But sometimes men stop me and act like I’m a prostitute."
"Oh," I reply, "Don't say?"
The car air, now blasting hot out of the heater -- heavy, oppressive, confining.
Pulling into the apartment driveway, where the journey started, she opens the car door, hesitates, glances back.
"Thanks for the ride," she says with a weak, crooked smile. "No foul about that not smoking in the car, right?"
Getting out, she hesitates, then adds as if in further explanation, “I used to be a tweaker. But you know what I say about crack?”
“No,” I ask, “What’s that?”
“Crack cocaine can kiss the crack in my ass."