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July 24, 2012

Nobody Knows But Me.....



July 14, 2012

What To Do With That Tattoo?


What To Do With That Tattoo?

“Ok, show it to me,” she said.

It was a “Welcome Newcomers” Lunch at one of Battle Creek’s largest churches.

There were about 120 people attending, to see if they had interest in joining, with efficient, cordial Church staff, plus a tasty buffet lunch.

As ice breaker, the staff handed out square cards that looked like those for a bingo game, except instead of numbers, there was a checkerboard of smaller squares with teasers like: I WENT TO EUROPE THIS YEAR, I AM A TWIN, and I HAVE A TATTOO.

So to get acquainted and relaxed, we had to go around and talk with other people who might fit and could sign each of the little squares.

A nice middle aged lady came up to me, handed me her card and asked if I could fill in any of her blank squares.

“I have a tattoo,” I replied, writing my initials across the appropriate box on her card.

“Ok,” she asked, without batting an eye or a smile, “Show it to me.”

I thought to myself: ‘She’s no idea where my tattoo is located!’

Still, it was a pretty good bet and icebreaker.

About 25 percent of all Americans, ages 18 to 55, have at least one tattoo. 

Of course, about half wish they didn’t have one.

If you Google the two words “Tattoo + Regret” you get over a million Internet hits.

I used to sit across from a young guy in meetings.  He wore cut off, leather biker tank tops that proudly showed off  these elaborate, detailed near 3-D tattoos that covered his arms, fingers, and one whole side of his neck from hairline to collarbone.

He usually had this drop dead,  good looking wife with him, who, one day,  casually blurted out to the rest of us: “My husband has the most beautiful body in the world!,” which I took as reference the body art. (What I really thought was: TOO-MUCH-INFORMATION.)

I'd asked myself: "What is it with this biker guy?  The beautiful wife? Is it the tattoos?"

I never found out.

His tattoos have lasted a lot longer than the beautiful wife.

I still run into him occasionally. Back then, he was driving an over-the-road, 18-wheeler.

Now, he's selling used cars, real estate or something else.

He's traded in the leather biker tank tops for pastel dress shirts and pasley patterned ties. 

In this hot weather, however,  he looks a bit odd  with his long sleeved, buttoned up, covered up attire – a bit like Komarovsky, trudging down Moscow streets covered in clothing and a frown, vainly searching for his Lara in the movie Dr. Zhivago.

The neck tattoos are still very visible.

Does he have tattoo regrets?

Maybe not.

If 25 percent of Americans have tattoos, perhaps he’s identified and is catering to a new market segment in car or home sales.

Anyway, seems to me "regret" is an often waste-of-time emotion – even when it comes to tattoos.

And, yes, I showed that lady at the Church luncheon my tattoo -- three Chinese characters on my right shoulder, spelling out my first name.

No, I don’t have any regrets, either.  But that’s another story.


July 12, 2012

Mary Jean


Mary Jean

by jim richmond

A  chilly, late October rain was beating down, by the time Richard Mittelstadt and I bought the four rolls of toilet paper at Stack’s Pharmacy, and set out in the darkness of a late Friday evening to Mary Jean Gossey’s house.  We had a surprise planned for her.

Mary Jean was a popular neighborhood girl, Italian with huge green eyes, full lips, an attitude and sense of humor that belied her small 5’ stature. 

We were high school juniors.

She had been my “girlfriend” for just two weeks, and every time I looked into those eyes, my heart raced and my hopes soared. 

We had kissed just once, but I spent every chance at the Gosseys’ playing cards with Mary Jean, brother Bobby, and three older sisters.

Looking back, why did I think the Friday caper Richard and I planned would impress Mary Jean or make her like me more? 

How could I guess what a mess it would make of my life for nearly a year?

Walking quickly up Penn Street for about six blocks, the cold Kansas City rain drenched our clothing and Richard’s enthusiasm.

“Come on, Richard.  It’ll just take a few minutes,” I said, unwrapping the toilet paper rolls and stuffing them inside my wet jacket.

“No, I ain't goin any further.  Wait for you across the street in the apartment building lobby,” Richard told me, chickening out as far as I was concerned.

Rushing across the street, I quickly and silently tossed the toilet paper rolls up into the two large oak trees gracing the Gossey’s front yard – the rolls unraveling and decorating branches like July 4th rockets on the way back down.

A classic tee-pee job! I thought.

I ran up the steps on the Gossey’s expansive, wooden front porch and punched the doorbell with the palm of my wet hand.  What’s the point in tee-peeing if people don’t see it?

Turning, afraid of getting caught, I sprinted back across the wet porch, slipped and slid its full length, and fell over the porch railing into the muddy front yard.

I heard a loud snap.  Something was wrong. 

I got up and started to run.  Part of my right leg went one way, the rest the opposite direction. I looked down to see bones sticking out of my pant leg.  I had broken the leg in six places, and compounded the injury by trying to run on it.

Somehow, Richard and I hobbled to “Doc” Stanley’s house in the rain, cold and darkness… a few blocks away. 

I would end up spending a week in St. Mary’s Hospital and 5 months in a cast from pelvis to toes, getting the leg healed.

I never got another kiss from Mary Jean, although I don’t think the tee-peeing had anything to do with it.  She was, I realized then, and now, a little above my pay grade in looks and popularity.

Getting out of the Navy in 1970, I was buying groceries in the “old neighborhood” Kroger Store one day, to see Mary Jean – now pregnant – and her husband at the checkout stand.

By the time I paid for my groceries, she was gone.

I never saw Mary Jean again.  Later, I heard she had died giving birth to that child.

Now, as I approach age 69, every day on my morning walk, that old right leg sends me tingling reminders of that Friday evening in Kansas City long ago.

And of Mary Jean Gossey’s big green eyes, full lips, and laughter.


July 11, 2012

Exit Only


Exit Only

Coming out of the automatic entrance/exit doors of Meijers on W. Columbia just now, I slow to notice a middle aged man helping a very fragile, perhaps late 80s, pencil thin, gray-haired woman out of his minivan. 

She is wearing those extra large and extra dark glasses, associated with recent eye surgery.

The man drives off, presumably to find a parking space.

The woman -- seeming a bit confused and in the glaring sunshine, shuffles hesitantly, and by mistake, to the “exit” door.  

She stops, then runs her finger tips around the door edges, when it refuses to automatically open.

I go over, touch her lightly on the hand, and say:  “Ma’m, that’s the exit door,” guiding her to the one marked “Entrance.”

 Laughing,  I add, “You know, I have the same problem with those darn doors.”

She smiles, squeezes my fingers, and is gone. 

July 09, 2012

'Going Home' Becomes The Test and The Strengthening of 'Family'



"Going Home" Becomes The Test and Strengthening of "Family"

A babyboomer friend of mine -- with a master's degree and excellent work history in health education -- now has her son and daughter-in-law who is in the advanced stages of multiple sclerosis, plus their 4 dogs, occupying the second floor of her house.  They moved back to Michigan from the southwest, after losing their jobs, and home to foreclosure. 

Because my friend cannot find work, she is also going to take in a VA long term care patient, who is very frail, fragile; as a way to supplement her income.

She puts a good face on all this:  "I don't mind," she tells me on the phone, with a bit of tension and emotion occasionally breaking her optimism and her voice.  "I've always been the caregiver in my family. And my house is large."

 She explained how last Friday, she and her son -- who will be the primary caregivers for the VA patient -- had to go through an FBI fingerprint, background check.  And the Health Department is coming today to inspect her home. 

Talking with her, I think to myself:  “How is this independent woman emotionally surviving,  as her lovely, old historic home ('my 20-year fixup project') becomes wall-to-wall, floor-to-floor people and dogs?"

Not uncharitably, she says about her son and daughter-in-law:  "What could I do, they had nowhere else to go?"

I suspect thousands of other American ‘baby boomers’ and their families are facing similar lifestyle adjustments these days.

An old definition of home and family:  When you have to go there, they have to take you in.

These tough times -- and the strengthening of family bonds and help -- can bring out the best and be a positive experience.  "My sons and I are much closer today, for all of this," my friend said.

July 04, 2012

Death, Taxes and Johnny Cash


Three things certain in life:

Death, Taxes and Johnny Cash

If you live in Calhoun County, Michigan, only three things in life are certain:  death, taxes and Johnny Cash running for office in November.

And it’s a fact again this year, as this yard sign on Bedford Road illustrates.  If you look closely at the sign, you’ll see that it’s been recycled and reused more than Grandma’s bedroom set. 

The “Water” in Water Commissioner has been pasted over, and in Cash’s case it might have read, in prior campaigns, “Johnny Cash for City Commission,” “Johnny Cash for County Commission,” “Johnny Cash for Drain Commission” or, allegedly, about any other Commission in the United States except the Warren Commission.

Still, Cash has had terrible luck getting elected.  And with a name like Johnny Cash, you’d think he’d be a shoe-in.  Doesn’t having a name like “Ted Kennedy,” "Franklin Roosevelt" or "George Clooney" almost guarantee you a free ride down victory lane?  Studies prove it.  So why not, "Johnny Cash"?

All of these poor results just show, me, that Cash is not trying hard enough. 

He ought to marry a June Carter, get a band together and go on the road, with his “Johnny Cash and June Carter Musical Memories and Campaign Show”, performing for folks at the Burnham Brook Senior Center, Springfield Farmers’ Market, Kellogg Foundation staff picnic, and the Urbandale Homecoming.

After all, it’s not as if he’s a boy named Sue.

July 01, 2012




At McDonald’s:



About a month ago, I drove through the spanking new, very attractive McDonald's on W. Michigan Avenue.  It was about 6 a.m., but cars soon backed up from the street curb to the window waiting for service.

At the window, finally, was the shift manager, who handed me my lukewarm coffee and stale breakfast burrito with the exclamation: "TWO NO CALLS!  NO SHOWS!” which I took as a reference to new employee problems and excuse for the service delay.

Being who I am -- never lost for words or views or sharing them -- I later went to the McDonald's Internet site, completed a customer questionnaire, adding the postscript: "Empathized with her new store blues, but customers don't want to hear excuses for poor service." 

I got a nice letter and phone call from McDonald's regional supervisor and the store manager. Then a $5 McDonald's gift coupon in the mail.

A few minutes ago, I drive again through the McDonalds.  A nice cool morning, and I'm thinking we'll have a great balloon launch with sunrise. 

I pull up to the window, smile, and say small talkin to the same shift manager: "Busy with the Balloon Festival people?"

She frowns like I'd asked about an invasion of Nazi Storm Troopers, and said: “What a mess."

Now, I'm not going to write McDonald's again.

But seems to me we should all be happy with and appreciative for the crowds of Balloon Festival visitors in our gas stations, restaurants and convenience stores this weekend. 

I'm not gonna fill out any more McDonald's Internet surveys and don't want any more $5 gift coupons.

But they still got some staff training to do at the new place on Michigan Avenue.