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September 25, 2012

Rust Bucket...But It's OUR Rust Bucket Aircraft Carrier

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Rust Bucket...But its OUR Rust Bucket Aircraft Carrier.

Chinese are such proud, nationalistic people....

I was sitting in a fancy Dalian restaurant in 2002, overlooking the Yalu River harbor and this rust bucket, second hand Russian carrier at long rest, when my Chinese uncle and Communist Party boo pah, pointed out into the harbor, and said: "Soon, we have almost NEW carrier!"

Having served 3 years on a USA barely post WWII carrier, I knew what I was looking at...but nodded politely.  

Ten years later, they have the old "jump" carrier back in shape and, Im sure, stuffed with the latest electronics, and ready to do braggery and buffery with the Japanese, Vietnamese, USA, etc. in the South China Sea.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/26/world/asia/china-shows-...

September 21, 2012

Searchin for a Heart of Gold...and Gettin Old

 

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Searchin for a Heart of Gold....and Gettin Old.... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eh44QPT1mPE


People like Neil Young, Janis Joplin and others were a common sidewalk sight, when I was living in the Twin Peaks area of San Francisco in '69.

As Young notes in this story about himself,http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/23/magazine/neil-young-com... I, too have spent a lifetime being most happy when I was 'going to, or away from someplace new or, in contrast, singularily familiar.' As long as I was moving, both physically and intellectually.

I've also tried, a bit like Young, through world travel and living, dialogue, reading and writ

ing to remain open minded and a bit unpredictable. Hasn't made for the easiest, most comfortable life; but it has never been boring. 
 
 
 
NeilYoungToday.jpgToday, Neil Young -- this age contemporary -- is also a visual reminder of how old we are getting :-). 

Well, enough on that.... I don't have to work today, so think I'll get in the Bug, drive over The Gate, sip a glass of founders estate Cabernet at Beringer Brothers Winery, and see if I can find Young's ranch. Not that he'll unlock any of those fence gates. 

Anyone wanna come along? We'll be back before dusk. :-)

When Autumn Leaves Begin To Fall

 

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When Autumn Leaves Begin To Fall

Autumn is my favorite time.

Bright color of the leaves.

Chill in the air.

The innocent enthusiasm of college football.

Halloween fun.

But it’s also a bittersweet season.
 
Each year, as red leaves turn to yellow, fade and fall, I’m reminded of the story about the little girl, losing her Mother to a rapidly advancing and incurable disease.
 
The doctor, and the little girl’s father, try to prepare the child for the loss.
 
“When will my Mommy die?” the child asks the doctor, who replies: “When the leaves begin to fall.”
 
Six months later, in mid-October, the father looks out the window of their home. 

There, in the front yard, is the little girl, trying to paste fallen leaves back on the Maple tree.
 
Of course, we can’t paste leaves back on a tree. Any more than avoid death of those we love.
 
Still, at the end, we have our memories to cherish.

My tiny, Irish mother doing the family wash by hand – with crooked arms broken in childhood.

Her saying, late in life and lonely, “Come on Jimmy, let’s go sit on the porch and talk.”
 
Yes, I remember.

When autumn leaves begin to fall.

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Jim Richmond with his mother at McNamara Family gravesite in Atchison, Kansas, USA,  shortly before her own

 

death in 2003.

September 20, 2012

Bright Red Roofed Cupola Important Part of Battle Creek History

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Bright Red Roofed Cupola Important Part of Battle Creek History

Driving west on Michigan Avenue from downtown Battle Creek area, one suddenly sees on the right a model hot air balloon and bright red roofed cupola of the Leila Arboretum’s Children’s Garden. 

The cupola is at the heart -- the center -- of the Children’s Garden as it also was, for all of Battle Creek, near the turn of the 19th Century when the Battle Creek Sanitarium drew thousands of patients in search of better health, and, not long after, the birth of the related Battle Creek breakfast cereal boom.

Cupola.Original.jpgThe large handsome louvered cupola originally topped a pillared wrap-around porch of the grand fieldstone building (the largest in the United States) which opened as the Phelps Sanitorium on Washington Avenue, across from Emmett Street on October 10, 1900.

In 1911, the “Fieldstone Building” was acquired by Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, as an annex to the Battle Creek Sanitarium.  It was later used as a hospital by the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. After years of attempting to raise the significant funds that were necessary to save and restore the then condemned Fieldstone Building, it was concluded the enormous expense was too great of a burden for this small community to undertake.  In December 1985, demolition began on what was North America’s largest fieldstone building.

Garth “Duff” Stoltz, a former employee of the Fieldstone Building and a Battle Creek historian, led a group of Battle Creek citizens in an effort to preserve some part of this unique building for history and future generations.  Thus began the quest to save the cupola as a memento to what once stood tall in the Battle Creek community as a symbol of health and scientific discovery.  

Because the demolition company owned all remains of the building, Stoltz and the Adventist Hospital purchased the cupola for $2,600. 

In 1993, Dr. Tom Bruce of the W. K. Kellogg Foundation and Board President of Leila Arboretum Society (LAS) at the time, approached Stoltz and Ronald Brown, president of the Adventist Hospital to consider donating the Cupola to LAS.  Through the perseverance of Dr. Bruce, Stoltz and Brown agreed to donate the Cupola to LAS in exchange for a donation of $2,600 from Dr. Bruce to the Adventist Church. 

            LAS wanted to restore and preserve the cupola and make it once again available to the community.

Cupola.Installation.jpgIn 2000, the Leila Arboretum Society began the design process for its most unique project to date, a Children’s Garden.  Design consultants Jane Taylor and Deb Kinney, who teamed up to create the award-winning Michigan 4-H Children’s Garden at Michigan State University, developed the plans for LAS’ new Children’s Garden.  When a picture of the Cupola was shown to Taylor and Kinney, they were excited and started developing all of the mini-themes of the Garden around the Cupola, thus making it the centerpiece of the Garden.  In 1985, demolition began on the building.

The cupola became the design centerpiece for the Society’s new and unique Children’s Garden: A 16-foot tall, 8-feet in diameter octagon structure made of wood, tin and metal complete with a working door and a 16-foot wood mast perched on top of its signature bright red dome.

Battle Creek Architect and historian Randy Case and his firm Architecture + design Inc. designed and specified the work in the children’s garden and the cupola restoration.

Today, the cupola sits high above the Children’s Garden on 16 columns, paired and identical to those that originally existed on the front porch of the original Fieldstone Building.  These columns rest on top of a 3-foot high foundation, which is made from fieldstones saved from the original Fieldstone Building, creating a gazebo. 

The entire structure stretches 48-feet in the air, creating an amazing site for travelers on West Michigan Avenue.  Visitors begin their visit to the Garden at the cupola, and by exploring historic plants, wheat and corn, and the particular role they play to not only science but also to the history of Battle Creek.

Stop by and visit the Leila Arboretum’s unique Children’s Garden, open daily and on weekends.  No admission is charged.

September 13, 2012

Larry Bridges Loves Being 'On The Road' In Urbandale

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Larry Bridges Loves Being ‘On The Road’ In Urbandale

 

I was sitting, waiting for tires to be put on the front end The Respectmobile, at 8 a.m. this morning, chatting it up with Larry Bridges, who recently moved his "On The Road" Towing from Upton Avenue to W. Michigan Avenue in Urbandale.

"Hey, did you see the story on us, front page of today's paper?," he asked. Sure enough. (Below's the link.)

Larry and I ended up talking about City Commissioners, the upcoming election, religion, his marriages, growing up days in rural Kentucky, and the ups and downs of the towing business.

All I know is that if you want HONEST service on a tow....or need tires...or minor service work like an oil change, you can't go wrong by calling Larry or his son Eddie, at On The Road, 269.964.9009, or stopping by 1382 W. Michigan Avenue.


"We love Urbandale. Our business has tripled since we moved here," Larry said.

Here’s the link to this morning’s newspaper article:
http://www.battlecreekenquirer.com/article/20120912/NEWS01/309120020/Companies-say-city-towing-policy-killing-them?nclick_check=1

 

Photo Caption:  Larry and son Eddie in front of their relocated business on W. Michigan Avenue in Battle Creek, Mi, USA.

September 12, 2012

Kids Help Organize Recovery Festival

 Author's note: kids actually planning and leading an important community effort they really care about... Are you out and about Battle Creek on Sat. 29th? Stop by, check it out, buy some terrific pizza and support a worthwhile, grassroots community initiative. :-)  -- Jim R.

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Kids Help Organize Sept 29th

‘Voices for Recovery’ Festival

Area youth and more than 10 service organizations are joining together to plan and help host a day-long “Voices for Recovery Festival” enhancing awareness and support for programs and people involved in recovery from alcohol, drugs and other forms of addiction.

The Festival, open to all but especially for other youth, will be Saturday, September 29, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Bill’s Pizza Factory, 256 Helmer Road (across from airport), and will spotlight live performances by five local musical bands, a Battle Creek Blaze Football clinic for kids, rap poetry readings, kids basketball tournament, a clothing drive for kids’ new or gently used items, disk golf demonstration and lessons, face painting and variety of other activities.

Primary sponsors are the Substance Abuse and Prevention Council and the Alano Club of Battle Creek, along with a wide variety of other organizations involved, including The Haven of Rest’s Life Recovery Program, Starr Commonwealth, the Drug/Sobriety/Juvenile courts, City Parks and Recreation, the VA Medical Center, CityLincC, Kinetic Affect, Starrstruq Dance Academy, Battle Creek Knights, The Mylstone Project, United Ways and HandsOn Battle Creek.

A planning committee of area youth from the Alano Club’s Kids2Kids Program, originally funded by Post Foods and the Battle Creek Community Foundation, has had a central role in planning and in coordinating the activities, according to Danielle Evans, program manager of the Club.

“We are excited by the incredible collaboration by area organizations for the Festival, and because youth – themselves – are actually providing much of the leadership and work for it,” Evans noted.

Ten percent of all pizza sales during the Festival will be donated by Bill’s Pizza Factory to support the programs and outreach services of the Substance Abuse Council and the Alano Club.

For more information, call the Substance Abuse Council at 968-4699, or contact Evans at 269-317-3874, email: mhd712@sbcglobal.net.

September 10, 2012

No Free Lunch in Calhoun County Jail

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In Calhoun County Jail



My phone rang late one recent evening.

“Jim? It’s Tommy,” the voice on the line said. 

“Where ya been, Tommy?,” I asked the guy, who I knew casually from several years ago, when helping raise money for the new Alano Club (12-step addiction recovery) facility on Territorial Road.

“Been in the (Calhoun County) Jail ... 87 days,” Tommy said. “Can you do me a favor? Drive me over to Meijer’s tonight to buy groceries?”

Tommy, in his ‘50s, lives with his parents, who are in their 80s and in poor health. 

Tommy is a chronic alcoholic, to the point where he's “disabled” by his alcoholism, and collects $900 a month in Social Security Disability.

So I drive out, pick Tommy up at his parents’ house, and we stop by the McDonalds on S.W. Capital before heading to Meijer’s on B Drive to get his groceries, and then back to Horrock’s, for some hot chili sauce he has a post partum craving for.

On the ride, and over a soft drink at the McDonalds, I learned a lot about life in the Calhoun County Jail, where, Tommy said, “Everyone but the illegal immigrants pay for every fu*ck*n thing they give us.”

It was hard to work up much sympathy.

But, evidently, Tommy was pretty much on target about the Jail and the money thing.

The Jail charged him $37 for every night he spent in the place, he claimed.

He complained he'd paid for a new pair of underpants ("or ya had to sleep naked on your bunk"), his toothbrush, for having his blood pressure checked, for a couple of aspirins, and extra for some condiments to put on his two hot dogs and four pieces of bread daily fare, which consisted mostly of grits, oatmeal, bread, Kool-Aid, and the hot dogs.

Tommy said he was only in the Jail for a few days before catching an antibiotic resistant staph infection that left him with blisters and boils, also common in hospitals and nursing homes.

Reveille was at 5:30, then breakfast, then two hours to sleep back in the Jail “pod” which houses about 48 inmates on two floors, two inmates to a cell.

After lunch, more sleep or reading religious (only) materials, dinner, followed by taps and lights out around 9.

About 600 inmates are in the Calhoun County jail at any one time, Tommy said.

"I met rapists and murderers in there, but mostly guys who owe lots of child support.  And heroin addicts.  Heroin's big," he told me.

“What’d you learn from the experience?,” I inquired, as we carried the groceries up the steps into his parents’ house about 9 p.m.

“Just I never wanna to go back,” Tommy said.

I started to pull out of the driveway to leave, backed up, and said: “Tommy, DON’T drink. Get to a (12-step) meeting. Call if you need a ride or wanna talk.”

Tommy doesn’t have any chances left, before spending time in a state prison. Or much time before dying from his alcoholism, if he continues to drink.

I’ll help him when I can.  If he starts helping himself.

You can’t make a person stop drinking.
--------------------------
Note: I continued to take Tommy to the grocery store about once a week for a month, since neither of his parents drive. Then, he started calling me at night, drunk.  The last time, about three weeks ago, he was incoherent and said he'd just falled down the stairs to his basement bedroom and that there were spiders  and rats crawling in his hair.  I called 911 and later learned two County sherriff officers and an ambulance forced his admittal to a local hospital. “Tommy’s” name  and a few details have been changed.

August 28, 2012

Laura Davis: Quiet Leader for Downtown's Challenging Rebirth

Laura Davis:

Quiet Leader for Downtown’s

Challenging Rebirth

Story and Photo by Jim Richmond

As Battle Creek celebrates its latest downtown improvements, digging through local history revealed quiet leadership by one individual -- 27 years ago – that reshaped and revitalized the center city in a dramatic, profound and lasting way that makes today’s modest civic enhancements seem, like,  well, comparing a parking lot to a pyramid.  And it was a near monumental effort that took patience, fortitude and nearly $90 million.

IMG_20120828_083913.jpgThe quiet leader behind it all was Laura A. Davis, who in 1985 was a Vice President of the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, and was asked to meet with then Foundation CEO Russell Mawby. 

Davis recalls Mawby saying: “Laura, how would you like to build a building?”  She replied: “Russ, I’ve never built anything.”

But Mawby thought Davis had just the right stuff for the job: “I picked Laura because she knew the community, cherished its roots and history, was good with people, planning, thoughtful and thorough,” Mawby said in a recent telephone interview.

Davis accepted the challenge of leading a national site search for a new W. K. Kellogg Foundation headquarters, with the Foundation settling on an East Michigan Avenue location in downtown Battle Creek.

“We could have built the headquarters in any community, at any location.  But Russ and the Board of Trustees wanted it to be in Battle Creek, and where the project could have most economic development impact in terms of construction jobs, and in terms of the future of the downtown,” Davis recalled.

She then coordinated the massive five-year project, which included negotiating purchase of 43 individual downtown properties from owners– many of the properties run down and empty, and only a few with historical value. 

The Foundation also paid for the relocation of 14 tenant businesses, and constructed a new Riverwalk Center complex to house some of the tenants.

The new Foundation headquarters building would encompass 213,000 square feet of space on three floors, with an attractive red brick, steel and glass façade.

Davis said the Foundation saw it primarily as an economic development and downtown revitalization effort.  “We were guided by the question: ‘How can we have the most positive impact on Battle Creek?’”

The Foundation insisted on using local and Michigan architects, lawyers, planners, and construction personnel for all aspects of the project.  The Foundation building was furnished with equipment, offices, furniture, kitchen and computers from local and Michigan suppliers.

Davis often spent 16-hour days, for the five years, in her small, cramped portable office near the downtown construction site. 

She said she learned a lot, and had to overcome some misperceptions in the mostly male construction business.

Early in the planning, she was the only woman in the room with project architects and a large number of construction contractors present to hear about bidding parameters.

“One of the guys said he could sure use a cup of coffee.  So I got up, and casually poured a cup for him,” Davis said.

“Boy was he surprised, when the architect then introduced me as the owner’s representative!” she continued with a laugh.

Davis is proud she brought the downtown redevelopment effort in “on time and on budget,” in spite of the complicated property acquisitions, new building construction,  replacement parking lots for the City of Battle Creek, the Riverwalk Centre complex, and a new Mill Race Park.

“Everyone worked together – the Foundation, the City, Cereal City Development Corporation, property owners, history buffs, civic leaders – to make it happen.  It showed what a City can do, when you have a positive, can do attitude.”

Davis retired from the Kellogg Foundation staff in 1997 after a 33 year career.

‘Can do’ could be her middle name.

Copyright, 2012, Jim Richmond.  All rights reserved.

 

 

August 21, 2012

Peace If Not Love In Happy Valley

 

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PEACE IF NOT LOVE IN HAPPY VALLEY

This is a 'shout-out' to my friend Laurie Sullivan who provided TRULY expert advice on how to stair-step socialize and acclimate my cat Dinky, with my son's visiting 60 pound Black Lab/Rott, "Paris."

A rather traumatic Paris visit for Dinky six months or so ago, has, so far, been a cake-walk or should I say, cat-walk.

Dinky takes comfort in the no sudden loss of territorial imperative, and realizes keeping peace instead of making war can be fun, even with what instinctively looms as an emotionally oppressive, threatening and intolerable new presence and intrusion in daily life as we know it on Broadway Blvd in Battle Creek, MI, USA.

There is co-existence, stability, neah happiness, this morning, in this little patch of Urbandale.

 Who sez we can't learn from our pets?

Now, think I'll take Paris for a walk, and say a prayer for those in Happy Valley.

August 17, 2012

Memorial Park Cemetery in Battle Creek: Where Care and Caring Really Matter

 

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Memorial Park Cemetery in Battle Creek:

Where Care and Caring Really Matter


           Motorists navigating the fast paced traffic along Columbia Avenue and Helmer Road have little time to notice the nearby 84 acres and 5 miles of pathways that embrace one of Battle Creek’s loveliest and best maintained cemeteries, known as the not-for-profit Memorial Park Cemetery Association.

The Cemetery is unique in the nation for being owned and operated by a service organization, the Battle Creek Kiwanis Club. 

fountain.jpgEstablished as a privately funded cemetery by pioneer funeral home owner and director Andy Hebbel in 1924, Memorial Park was the first “modern” cemetery in Battle Creek, designed in advance, laid out like a subdivision, with careful attention to family plots, pathways, lovely trees, fountains, and even a small lake and an attractive chapel and mausoleum.

Particular attention has been given to maintaining precise records on the people and the graves of the some 23,000 people buried there.

Andy Hebbel and his wife Ester, who had no heirs, donated the cemetery to the Kiwanis Club, which operates the cemetery as a community service.

The Club elects the Cemetery’s all volunteer Board of Directors and Club members devote lots of time to seasonal cemetery upkeep and various memorial day efforts.

Jim Talbot, a friendly and engaging person perhaps reflecting his past career as a savings and loan vice president, has been managing the Cemetery since 1991, which has a full-time staff of 5 people, including 3 permanent ground crew workers, plus 4 seasonal workers.

Talbot said the Cemetery is self sustaining from perpetual care, interment rights and service fees. 


“We’ve seen lots of changes in the death care industry in recent decades,” Talbot observed. “More baby boomers are deciding on cremation rather than burial.  Families are also waiting to hold memorial services til later, when family and friends can gather from out of town.  It helps spread out the costs as well.”

 

 

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Memorial Park staff members Jim Talbot (left) and Doug Felter.

 

A grave, full service interment and ground memorial is only about $2,500 at the Cemetery, but Talbot noted that funeral home costs “can add around $6,500” for embalming, casket and other services.

“Cemeteries are all about ritual and a permanent memorial – protecting the dignity and the memory of those who can’t protect their own dignity,” Talbot said.

Memorial Park Cemetery is maintained in pristine condition by Grounds Manager Doug Felter and his staff, and they are very visible cutting grass, trimming bushes and trees, and handling all the details of burials, which average about one each day at the Cemetery.

Most hours of the day, a few area residents can also be seen walking the Cemetery’s meandering pathways.  It is, perhaps, one of the most attractive and safe walking areas in greater Battle Creek.

Talbot says the Cemetery doesn’t mind the walkers one bit. “We want people to know more about Memorial Park.  Individuals pick a cemetery for themselves or loved ones because they know about it, because they have family or friends buried here.”

There’s plenty of room remaining at Memorial Park – about 50 percent of burial plots have been sold, but only about 20 percent are already used.  The Cemetery primarily serves the area encompassing the City of Battle Creek and 5 area townships.

“We want people to know this is all we do.  We are here just to serve the people of Battle Creek,” Talbot said.

The Cemetery’s main entrance and attractive administration center is accessed on Territorial Road.

For more information: http://www.bcmemorialpark.org

August 03, 2012

Clear Election Choices for Important Water Resources Position

Stand out Republican, Democratic Candidates: Mark Jones, Christine Kosmowski

Clear Election Choices for Important Water Resources Position

By Jim Richmond

               Near hidden in the weeds of voting decisions at next Tuesday’s primary election is one of the least understood in Calhoun County governance and services, yet of major importance to many County residents: election of a Calhoun County Water Resources Commissioner.

               The County Water Resources Commissioner and his staff construct and maintain about 500 storm water management systems (County drains) in Calhoun County.  These systems provide storm water management, drainage, flood prevention and stream protection for urban and agricultural lands – especially for County land owners outside the incorporated limits of the City of Battle Creek.

               There are two Democrats and seven Republicans vying to represent their parties by victory on Tuesday, and then the November primary election faceoff.

               Both the Democratic and Republican best qualified candidates are clear:  Christine Kosmowski (D) and Mark Jones (R), have strong professional, technical, and relevant career experience.

               Kosmowski is a likely winner on the Democratic side, with incumbent Commissioner Larry Cortright facing recent allegations over public intoxication, and questions during candidate forums regarding his job performance.

Kosmowski works as Environmental Programs Coordinator for the City of Battle Creek, with experience in environmental and water evaluation. She earned a master’s degree in earth science from Western Michigan University and has been active as a volunteer in area conservation projects and organizations.

               

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Among the seven Republican candidates, Mark Jones is the demonstrated, best choice.  Jones has 20-plus years of civil engineering and project management, including in many of the major duties he would be responsible for as Water Resources Commissioner.  He has studied civil engineering at Walla Walla College in Washington State.

Jones has a solid track record of civic leadership in Battle Creek, having chaired Neighborhood Planning Council #4, as well as volunteer service with the Battle Creek Historic District Board, Kingman Museum, Junior Achievement and Kiwanis. He is currently president of Merchant Services of Southwest Michigan


               Why has this elected post drawn nine eager candidates?
 The Water Resources Commissioner has wide discretion and near independent authority in carrying out projects.  (The position is also relatively well paid, with an annual salary of $65,000, plus use of a County truck.)

               Only limited information is available on the Internet regarding most of the Republican candidates:

Johnny Cash,   past volunteer service as City Planning Council Chair and various neighborhood groups in Battle Creek; has run for the position unsuccessfully in the past,  holds welding and mechanical repair certificate/two-year degree.

Mark Jones, RECOMMENDED.

Dan Loew,  Athens School Board member and East Leroy resident, 25 years farming experience.

Tony Mahoney,  no Internet campaign information available.

Travis Piepkow, Lee Township farmer, active in Calhoun County Farm Bureau.

Josh Stults, no Internet campaign information available.

Heath Tichenor, no Internet campaign information available.

              

               

July 24, 2012

Nobody Knows But Me.....

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July 14, 2012

What To Do With That Tattoo?

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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

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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

Exitonly.jpg

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'

 

Family2.jpg

"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

cashsign.jpg

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: NO SHOWS, NO CALLS AND BALLOON BOTHERERS

 

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At McDonald’s:

NO CALLS, NO SHOWS AND BALLOON BOTHERERS

 

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.

June 24, 2012

Road Rage Revisited

Road.Rage.Revisited.jpgRoad Rage

I was ashamed of myself yesterday.

The National Institute of Mental Health calls it “Intermittent Explosive Disorder.”  We know it as “ROAD RAGE.”

In my advancing age, I was driving rather leisurely at a legal speed east on Verona Road, stopping for a light, before turning right on 11 Mile Road, to head past Firekeepers Casino, for a casual chat with a good friend in Marshall.

At the corner light, the driver behind me hit her horn, jammed her index finger out the window at me, and with screech of tires, roared past, across a yellow no-passing line, down 11 Mile.

She was apparently unhappy that 1) I had only been going 45 miles an hour in a 45 mile zone on Verona; and 2) I had the temerity to make a full stop as the light changed from yellow to red at 11 Mile.

Now, I could easily lie, here.  I could claim self righteousness.  That I was a law abiding, innocent do-bee behind the wheel.

But, I wasn’t. I had gotten pissed when she tailed gated me for 3 miles.  I got more steamed when she gave me finger and roared past on 11 Mile Road.

Then, the line of traffic from 11 Mile, turning left onto Michigan, and to the Casino was backed up a quarter mile at the next light.

The same young gal behind me, ignored two lanes of traffic, pulled up on my right, rolled down her window, starting screaming profanities at me, as her two young female friends…AND a young child in the back seat, stared.

WHAT DID I DO?

I joined the mayhem: rolling my window down, exchanging the finger exercise, and calling her names that would make a sailor blush.

The experience stayed with me the rest of the day, and now I’m writing about it here at 4:32 a.m. the next day.

And I need to change my own car behavior.

As a long time friend use to say about most small irritations and bumps in life: “It just doesn’t matter.”

But road rage DOES matter: It’s a criminal offense in Michigan.  And 56 percent of all fatal car crashes involve aggressive driving*

Here are some tips on how to avoid road rage:

Don't Offend 

  • Avoid cutting drivers off and apologize if you do so
  • Avoid tailgating and honking the horn
  • Avoid making inappropriate or offensive gestures

Don't Engage

  • Steer clear of other aggressive drivers
  • Avoid eye contact
  • Seek help if you're being followed by driving to a safe/crowded location or by dialing 911

Adjust Your Attitude 

  • Leave yourself enough time rather than trying to make good time
  • Put yourself in the other driver's shoes
  • Take a deep breath and remember escalating a situation will only make things worse.
* AAAFoundation research study

June 17, 2012

Tough Times For Tiger (Part II)

jp-golf-1-sfSpan.jpgTOUGH TIMES FOR TIGER, Part II

Tiger Woods shot 75 yesterday at the U.S. Open, and has only a marginal chance to recoup and win the terrifying tough tournament today.  He was SO whiny and full of excuses in the post-round interview.

For all his talent, it’s his unpredictability of late, his arrogance and lack of humor people most notice.

Perhaps 15,000 fans surrounded the last hole yesterday, as he walked up the fairway.

Admiring his talent doesn't mean people like him.

Phil Mickelson has had an even tougher week, and lacks the awestruck talent of Woods. But Mickelson is a champion, too, and a standup guy, father and husband. He's also outgoing, unassuming, and friendly to his fans, plus puts a lot of his wealth back in charitable causes, like breast cancer research and treatment. 

All a stark contrast to Mr. Woods' personal priorities and lifestyle. 

Yet, I hope they both do well today. 

Late last night, as the sun started to set on the practice putting green at the U.S. Open in San Francisco, after play had ended, and the fans were gone, Tiger Woods -- and no one else -- was seen in the sunset and dimming daylight, still on the practice putting green. I thought, "My God, he must be exhausted from the day he's had on the course!"

Most people would have been in the clubhouse with a double gin and tonic, or, back at the motel, in bed for the night.

So, I'm not going to count Tiger down and out for today, or for a long, long time.

In my book, he's still the greatest golfer to ever play the game.

June 16, 2012

Don't tell me Tiger Woods ain't The Man

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Don’t tell me Tiger Woods ain’t The Man

“He’s not as good as Jack (Nicklaus),” a friend said to me about Tiger Woods, after Woods won The Memorial last month to tie Jack Nicklaus for #2 in all time tour wins at 73.

I replied that Nicklaus was certainly great, but it  took him to age 46 to achieve his 73 wins, and Woods has done it at age 36.

“He’ll never beat Nicklaus’ 18 majors,” my friend retorted. 

Don’t bet on it.  Woods is at 14th major tournament wins, and I'd not put money against him smoking the field again today and tomorrow on the U.S. Open's San Francisco course to make it 15.

There are so many reasons for apparently people not to like Woods.  I’ve heard him compared to Michael Vick, Donald Trump, John Edwards, and Jane Fonda:

He’s a cad and a sex addict. 

He doesn’t smile enough. 

He doesn’t sign kids’ autographs.

He makes too much money ... $90 million a year and is the highest paid athlete in the world. 

He's (shall I write the unspoken sometimes subtexted?), b-l-a-c-k in a sport traditionally and historically white as Santa Claus’ beard.

I don’t particularly like Woods as a person and don’t make excuses for his chilly demeanor and off-course antics.

 He won't win any Father's Day awards tomorrow.

But after watching Woods for five hours yesterday, as he raced up and ripped a hole through the leader board; with uncanny discipline, and awestruck skill conquering the terrifyingly tough U.S. Open course, there is no doubt in my mind:  He’s in a class of his own  – hats off and respectful nods to Sam Snead, Ben Hogan, Nicklaus, Palmer, Tom Watson, Mickelson, and the wannabees like Bubba Watson, Luke McDonald, Rickie Fowler and others.

So I wish Tiger Woods only the best in the next few years.  He doesn’t need my good wishes – or anyone else’s – because he’s the all time man when it comes to the game of golf.

June 15, 2012

"Why don't you just die, you senile old bastard!"

"WHY DON'T YOU JUST DIE, YOU SENILE OLD BASTARD!"


That was a post back at me from a 20-something male on the international Denny's Restaurant website the other day, after I'd posted a comment critical of our local Denny's food and service.  


This morning I was reminded of the comment, the presence or lack of civility among MANY of today's youth, as I finished playing 9 holes of golf, and was walking back to my car in the VA Hospital parking lot.


Two young men in their late 20s or early 30s, were carrying their golf clubs, walking past me toward the course.  


"Beautiful morning, guys," I said to them with a smile.


"Outstanding morning, sir!," one of them replied.


It's pretty easy to spot most young people who've served in the military, by their dress and their manner, and their respect for others....especially for old grey haired men like me, who they surmise (correctly) served our country in a different time, and a different war.

You learn a lot in the U.S. military besides fighting a war.

June 14, 2012

"Jim, you were a bad, bad boy."

'JIM, YOU WERE A BAD, BAD BOY."

 

 

HealthBuddy.jpg

My friends at the VA Hospital have hooked me up with a new roommate. She is a small offwhite box, with four buttons and an interactive screen; and is attached to both my laptop and the Internet by ethernet cable. The VA calls her "Health Buddy." I call her "Hally," in reference to "Hal" the computer in 2001 The Space Odyssey. 

 

You may recall that Hal tried to kill his human friend Dave in the movie.

 

"Hally," so far, is more benign. Each morning, she flashes a green light, and then starts asking me a series of new questions, to which I must respond. 

 

Some seem prescient:

 

"GOOD MORNING, Jim. So glad to see you! Did you sleep well? I noticed from your Comcast logon that you stayed up late last night to watch the Tigers game on TV. That was some sixth inning for the Tigers, right Jim? But, don't take this wrong, Jim, that bag of chips was a bad idea and you need your sleep.

 

It wont happen again, will it, Jim?"

 

"Jim, Jim, Jim. You sent Deidre an email on SENIORSMEET suggesting lunch. Do you think that's wise, Jim?  Wouldn't it be better to go a little s-l-o-w-e-r. You're not a spring chicken anymore, Jim. And Deidre may be a 300-pound ax murderer or sex pervert."

 

Still, I look forward to my little exchange with "Hally" each morning. At the end of session, she turns lighthearted, warm and cuddly, and asks me several historical questions....about famous dates, events....and tries to fool me. 

 

Evidently, someone at the VA Hospital besides Hally is also reading all my health related responses about exercise, food intake, mood swings, etc. 

 

And they may be reading this blog post.

 

So for the record, and because I BELIEVE and SUPPORT Hally, the VA and THE AMERICAN FLAG, let me say, hereandnow, unequivocally, God Bless You, out there, whoever you are.

 

----

 

In 2001 Space Odyssey,
[on Dave's return to the ship, after HAL has killed the rest of the crew] 

 

HAL: Look Dave, I can see you're really upset about this. I honestly think you ought to sit down calmly, take a stress pill, and think things over.

May 16, 2012

On Being Jim Richmond...or George Washington...or With Catherine Keener

On Being Jim Richmond, George Washington, or With Catherine Keener

Since a good friend died recently, I've  searched back in memory to good times with him from 40 years ago. Some still very vivid and specific. 

 

We do that with memories of growing up...the first kiss...getting beat up by bullies in 6th grade....and later...that perfect vacation to Kiawah Island with spouse and kids.

 

It seems like a waste that a person's memories of a lifetime are lost with death. Aren't there some perfect for sharing with family, and others that many would enjoy or benefit from?

 

How about a CD with Washington's mental, eyeview experience of Crossing the Delaware, JFK's White House decision to not respond to Kruschev's second letter over the Bay of Pigs, your grandparents' first person view of that sea voyage from Ireland to America, or maybe just an ordinary time with your mom on the porch, drinking ice tea, and sharing laughs?

 

It'd be BEING JOHN MALKOVICH, except on CD, and no Catherine Keener.

 

Perhaps the day will come:

 

"Mr. Richmond, you only have a few days left. We're got to take you off the respirator, now. But first, we're gonna attach these little wires to your head. One right here (won't hurt for long Mr. Richmond) and another right there....  scan your brain, put your memories on a CD. Now, that's OK, right, Mr. Richmond?"

 

Of course, by then, I'm so drugged up and intubated, cant tell them there's a lot in my personal brain bank I don't want my grandkids to view on a CD five years from now.

 

Raises lots of privacy and censorship issues.


But who'da thought ten years ago we'd be seeing our own dirty laundry, and others, on something called  "Facebook"?

 

Speaking of too-much-info, if you think this blog applies, blame Dinky. He woke me up at 2 this morning -- the little bastard -- insisting on a snack of canned cat food. 

 

Now that I'm up, think I'll roll that memory tape again of Catherine Keener.

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May 14, 2012

Don't Let Politics Ruin Good Friendships.......

 DONT LET POLITICS RUIN GOOD FRIENDSHIPS.......

 

In the early 70s, the three of us were best buds and colleagues, working 16 hour days getting a new community college district, including three new campuses, funded and built in Kansas City. We also spent many a wild evening drinking Guiness on tap at 'Kelly's," Kansas City's famous Irish bar.

 

In a few years, we went our separate ways. Lowell became president of a community college in the Los Angeles District. Eventually, I helped my other friend, Ted, get hired for a position here in Battle Creek. Both since retired in the southwest. 

 

Like the movie, THE BIG CHILL, we would get together once a year, or so, to drink a beer and talk about the crazy days. Over the decades, we grew apart...although I stayed in contact with both by email and occasional phone conversation. 

 

Last year, the other two met in Tuscon, where one now lives. In the middle of dinner, Ted got up and stormed out. "I COULDNT STAND LISTENING TO LOWELL'S POLITICAL BULLSHIT," Ted told me in describing their visit. Neither talked to the other since then. 

 

In recent months, I tried to encourage Ted to MAKE THE CALL. "Just don't talk politics with Lowell. Give him a call."

 

Ted never did.

 

Last night, Lowell's wife called: "Lowell just died, Jim. He was diagnosed with lung cancer several months ago. He didn't want people to know. It was the pulmonary fibrosis that killed him. I had to approve him coming off the respirator. Toughest decision I ever had to make," she said. 

 

I emailed Ted at 1 a.m. this morning, who replied he was overwhelmed that he'd never called Lowell. "The news is like a dagger in my heart," he said.

 

My point in this tale is that CURRENT DAY POLITICS CAN RUIN A LOT OF GOOD FRIENDSHIPS, if we let it. 

 

And, at the end of our own last day, or those of our friends, screw the politics: "All we really have is our family, our friends, and our memories."

May 04, 2012

Putting The Best Face On The Daily Newspaper

Putting The Best Face On The Daily Newspaper

 

In many respects, I had a rather depressing 90-minute chat over coffee yesterday with the Executive Editor of the Battle Creek Enquirer (BCE) daily newspaper, now a part of the Gannett chain, after decades of distinguished reporting and civic leadership as a family-owned newspaper. 

The Battle Creek Enquirer’s newsroom staff has shrunk more than Rick Moranis and his kids in the 1989 movie -- from 33 editorial staffers about 15 years ago, to 13 today. (I heard from another  source later yesterday that there are now only 4 fulltime reporters in that number.) 

I commented casually to the BCE Editor about several errors of fact and grammar I'd seen in yesterday's paper and asked: "Who is copy editor today?" 

He got this startled look like I’d asked him how often he had sex with his wife. 

Turns out, there is no offical "copy editor" at the Enquirer anymore, he said, it's a chore passed around among the small staff.

When I started as a newspaper reporter 46 years ago, you kept the newsroom staff separate from the business side, trying to ensure news objectivity.

Gannett now has the BCE Editor handling both -- and one gets the impression he has more fingers in the profit/loss dike than Hans Brinker. 

I guess we should just be thankful to have a daily newspaper in Battle Creek.

 

April 24, 2012

"Just Keep Them Moving."

“Just Keep Them Moving…”

 

        “President and Mrs. Reagan Request The Pleasure of The Company of Mr. Richmond….”  


The fancy inscribed invitation was printed on heavy card stock, with raised lettering, and went on to describe the menu for the White House Luncheon, down to the California Sauvignon Blanc and petit fours.

East Room table setu.jpgOn the appointed day and hour, I joined about 150 other guests at the White House, for the annual Voluntary Action Awards luncheon.

In one corner of the East Room, where the event was held, was a reception line. We walked up to, were introduced to and shook the hands of Nancy Reagan and Barbara Bush.  

Mrs. Reagan was still relatively young.  But I had a strange, negative reaction to her ice cold hand, bright red lipstick and heavy white pancake makeup.  This exHollywood actress and in photos very attractive woman – looked anorexic, almost unworldly – a pencil-then version of Yvonne De Carlo in The Munster’s TV series.  

Mrs. Bush was a dervish of gestures, a fro' of white hair ringing head like a halo.

We were seated at cramped tables of 8 in the East Room, and a U.S. Marine Corps Honor Guard marched in The Colors.

The lunch was a formal affair.  I chatted with Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa, sitting next to me, in his first Senate term  and loquacious over the unanticipated vagaries of constituent services.

Mrs. Reagan and Bush presented the Luncheon Awards. (No sign of their distinguished spouses.)

Afterwards, The First Lady and Mrs. Bush stood in the White House doorway, saying good bye and good day.  

I was a bit overwhelmed, as a Proud American, as we waited to file out into the bright Washington sunshine and afternoon.

A lovely, thoughtful goodbye – a closing touch, special ending to a special day.

The departure line had slackened as it neared the door.

Suddenly, Mrs. Bush could be heard rather loudly instructing a minion behind her: “Just keep them moving.”

Good thing The Gipper was not there...he'd a kept the line moving, but probably wouldnt have appreciated Barbara's push.

Mrs. Bush was never shy about calling 'em as she saw 'em.

 

April 22, 2012

Bang, Bang, I shot you down. Bang, Bang, you hit the ground.

Bang bang, I shot you down.  Bang bang, you hit the ground.

freedomfirearms.jpg


I checked out the custom mail box (see photo) and then dropped in the 10th Anniversary two-day celebration for Freedom Firearms, on s.w. Capital Avenue recently.

Balloons and costume characters near the street and parking lot, and a casual crowd of about 100 guests crammed into the front sales and fire arms display area, featuring hundreds of handguns. In the back were a classroom and soundproof firing range. 

Clerk told me Freedom Firearms --- right here in Cereal City -- is now nearly selling more guns than Smith and Wesson.

Why's that, I asked.

"Bang!, sales really took off three years ago when Obama was elected," he said. "People afraid Obama was gonna take our guns away."

Besides selling guns, the place is busy training people to use them, through a mandatory, near day-long class for licensing, that costs about $150.  "If you're gonna have a gun, you better learn how to use it," the clerk admonished.

You can rent time on the range to practice with your pistol.

About 20 Ubbermiddleaged men in black shirts with FREEDOM FIREARMS over their left pockets, sporting guns slung low from their hips like the Duke in Rio Bravo, were keeping the visitors and free hot dogs and potato salad lunchers under control.

 "Do all these guys WORK here?," I asked the clerk.

"Nah," he replied, "they just, like, hang out here a few hours a week. It's, like,  home to some of them." 

Guns are not just a macho thing no more, it turns out.  They're in half of all American homes today. 250,000 Americans are shot with handguns every year.

The clerk told me many customers are women, and "lots are old widow-types, living alone out in the country, and wanting a fair chance against a thief or rapist."

I looked around, trying to spot one of these old widow-types, thinking she'd make an interesting interview.  I'd of settled for an old widower. None were evident at the gun cases, sign-in table, or back where the food was being dished up. But there weren't special name badges for old widow-types, and I might have missed one.

Then, the country western music was turned down, and we all gathered around a huge gun case, as The-Men-In-Black presented a special, stainless steel, semiautomatic to the Freedom Firearms co-owners.  The crowd was parted to bring out a 10th Anniversary cake the size of the flight deck on a USS flattop. 

One of The-Men-In-Black -- with mushroom-pale skin, accusing gray-green eyes, and a pinched expression -- gave a near tear-eyed testimonial about what Freedom Firearms meant to him and his wife.

The coowners thanked folks for being there, and for helping the business get over the rough, (Before Obama) early years.

Guess many people in Calhoun County are flocking to buy Glocks these days...perhaps for solid, self defense reasons.

And if you're one, seems Freedom Firearms is a pretty good place to get one.

I skipped the hot dogs and potato salad, and headed to the door, thinking about guns in America, and what we used to say in the newsroom:

"If it bleeds, it leads."

I didnt feel much like celebrating.

 

March 14, 2012

Manning Up

 

police interregoation.jpg

Manning Up

by jim richmond

 They all do it: First 48, COPS, America's Most Wanted, Criminal Intent, Nothing Personal, Law and Order.

You name the cops show on cable, and they do it.

The hidden camera in the police interrogation room rolls, and we see the alleged, unindicted, seemingly unmirandized perp spill his guts.

On these shows at least, 70 percent of the time it’s white trash from the trailer park or black dude from the hood. Street smart, but otherwise dumb as a rock.

The two cops doing the interview are working on him.

They’ve got him a nice cup of coffee with creamer and a stir stick, a Coke, maybe even a Burger King with large fries.

They’ve moved their chairs so close to him, if they cough he gets pneumonia.

One plays good cop.  Nice. Smiles a lot. Considerate.  “Got enough coffee?”  “Need Another Coke?,” he asks, sometimes patting the perp friendly-like on one arm.

The other cop is bad ass, pushy, disdainful. “YOU DID IT MOTHERFUC*ER, YOU DID IT!,” he screams.

They may not have all the goods.  But they want the perp to think they do.

Then bad cop leaves. 

And good cop goes for coup de grace.

“It’s time to man up,” he says thoughtfully.  “We know what happened. We got ALL the facts.

“This is your LAST time to tell YOUR version of what went down. Your mama would want you to be truthful.  You can clear you soul and your conscience.

“You just made a mistake, right? You aint a bad person.  I know that.  We know that. Do the right thing. It’ll look good for you in court.”

So alleged perp breaks, confesses.  Thinks it's all just too much to handle.

Good cop is sympathetic, encouraging, reeling him in like a 12-pound bass on an 8-pound test line.

“Be right back,” he says, walking out, twisting the door lock behind him.

The perp starts sobbing for his mamma -- like he might of never sobbed for the young kid or the old lady he allegedly banged.

And the good cop, bad cop?

They stand in the hallway.  Laugh.  Exchange high fives.

‘Stupid, dumb, BLEEP-ER,’ one says.

No sympathy for the devil here:  Do the crime, serve the time.

But sometimes these taped interviews leave a very bad taste in the viewer's mind and eye.

Is this what justice is all about?

These TV gotcha stories hold lots of lessons.

An ugly one:

Even if you went to Harvard, drive a Beemer and aint sinned since Sunday school..... once in that interview room with good cop/bad cop, keep your lips tight, lawyer up.

Manning up leads to going down.

February 09, 2012

Closing the Door...

Closing the Door

Lots of memories, and surprises, the past few days helping a long time friend and mentor sort through hundreds of boxes with photos, notes and mementos from his life and career.

loneliness1.jpg


Near the end of our effort yesterday, I opened one small box. It included a note from Mrs. George Romney after her husband's death, another from Fred and Lena Meijer after their visit to my friend's farm in Augusta and near the bottom,, the  hand written note Id sent in '94 trying to explain to him why my wife and I were getting a divorce.

Startled,  I began to say something to him,  as he sat quietly at a nearby desk.

Instead, I  put all
the notes back in the box and closed the lid.... Much as I thought I had in 1994.

How foolish we are.