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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.

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.


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


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!"


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."





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.


May 14, 2012

Don't 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.


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.


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.

February 06, 2012

Trash Talkin The Manning Family


Trash talking is dangerous.

Angry, potty-mouth people usually get retribution not affirmation.

Those on the national sports TV programs spent the past week dissing Eli Manning:

He's a louse.

He's a loser.

He lives on luck.

He is, one pundit said, 'the worst quarterback in pro ball. I'd rather see his ol man come out on the field." 

Hear that Archie?

Bet you're proud of both your boys this morning.

January 21, 2012


Temptations ….everywhere


A recent study revealed we spend about 1/3rd of our day, 8 hours, resisting temptations, desires and wants -- for sex, the second piece of pie, smoking a cigarette, for having a drink, or buying that fancy dress or shirt.

Yet, the BETTER we become at resisting one temptation -- say overeating -- the better we become, over time, at resisting other temptations. (SHORT term, resisting one type of temptation makes it more likely we will succumb to another. “No, I won’t have that second bowl of ice cream.”  An hour later, we succumb to the left over turkey in the frig.)

But, wouldn't life be a bore without desires, wants and temptations?


January 20, 2012

Don't .....

Don’t F*ck With The Trucks

I should know better than write blogs like this one. They just get me in hot water.

But, this morning, driving to a meeting, I asked myself: “Why are so many Ford-150/250/350 pickup drivers such angry, road raged, aggressive jerks?”

The question was prompted by my slowly cruising  up, as I usually do, Bedford Road around 6:30a.m.

The streets were slick as glass, yet the F-150s and F-250s and even occasional F-350 were crawling up my ashow-to-draw-cartoons-32.jpgs, and everyone else’s, who deemed to go just the speed limit.

Long lines of cars and trucks streamed, broke rank and order, randomly crisscrossed lanes, more like a mad cattle stampede, as swerling snow nearly blinding all, in the rush to jobs at  Ft. Custer Industrial Park.

I noticed this same phenomenon recently on a long drive to rural Northwest Missouri and back. 

In those Missouri neckofthewoods, pardner, if you aint got at least a F-150, or king size Dodge Ram,  you probably change baby diapers, do laundry, let the wife go out with girlfriends on Friday night, and drink beer with foreign names.

The only thing worse than driving a compact car, is driving a compact truck. With a Toyota or Suzuki brandplate.

I don’t give twit or lick  what people drive or beer they drink.

Except when their road rage, back bumper crowding, switchbacking behavior makes me wish I had a Glock in the glove compartment.

But this ain’t Texas.

You can give me your best shot. I drive an old Michigan State Trooper car. 

Talk about respect.

You wan na piece of me? Do you punk?

January 11, 2012

Sleepin' With A Pig In The Bedroom


Sleeping With A Pig In The Bedroom

My Chinese relatives, living in a very rural area near the Yalu River, North Korea and the city of Dalian in Northeast China, kept their pigs outside the kitchen door – which actually had no door.


As a result, the pigs would wander in during dinner, which would be cooking in an open, stone fireplace.


 And you’d  find a pig in the bedroom on occasion.


Seemed rather primitive, even for rural China.   With the Chinese, there’s a practical reason for everything.  Even when not stated.


An epiphany this morning, thanks to an NPR piece on the mating habits of insects.


It’s all about females and female mosquitoes – not pigs, turns out.



Female mosquitoes love to bite warm blooded creatures – including humans.  They suck  blood for the protein; for reproduction purposes.


The males (ah, another example of the male species not REALLY being the overly aggressive ones) do NOT bite.


 Comparatively speaking, they’re love bugs…or rather love insects.


The female mosquitoes  wander the nights, looking for victims and the red nectar needed for making baby mosquitoes – by the millions.


And they end up frequently in your bedroom – especially if you’re rural, poor Chinese and have nothing to cover door or windows.4a2e5b6ababd78117c44a0966c9f0ba5.jpg


Pigs are even more warm blooded that humans.  So mosquitoes are attracted to the pig in the bedroom…and don’t bite the people in the bed.


Makes you  almost want to sleep with a pig in the bedroom. 


But I’ve already done that.









January 08, 2012

Playing The (Golf) Game, Part II

Playin The (Golf) Game


cartoon-golfer.jpgI've got this friend who was a PGA Club professional.  He shoots close to scratch.

For about three years, he used to say we were gonna play a round. 

We never played.

I felt a bit bad about it, at first.

Like being the short, fat kid who got left behind when the high school "in-crowd" went out for pizza after the Friday night football game.

That feeling didn't last long. He's a very nice guy, and I realized our golf skills and interests were as divergent as Pavarotti and Prince. 

For most of his life, my PGA friend played golf at least weekly.

On average, I've played maybe twice a year.

Today, in semi-retirement, I'm comfortable with my golf game,   including how, when, who I play with.

My actual golf bud and good friend is a fellow Vietnam era Navy Vet.

He is schizophrenic.  And makes no bones about it, telling people so.

Several days a week we play the short, easy (cheap) course at the nearby Veterans Hospital.

On business trips, I've played courses across the U.S., in China, Japan, Germany, Russia, South America and the Caribbean.  

But today I'll take the little VA course here in Battle Creek, Michigan USA, thank you very much.

My VA golfing bud will occasionally stop suddenly on the tee or in the middle of the fairway, and want me to hold hands with him and recite The Serenity Prayer.  

Somehow, I don't think that'd be acceptable at Pebble Beach, Spy Glass, or Augusta National.

I used to be a bit uneasy about the hand holding and prayer thing.  

I'd keep looking back to see who might be watching us from the last tee box.

You're suppose to stick to golfing on the course.

Hit the ball.  

Replace your divot.  

Be courteous.

And, most of  all, don't hold up the play of others behind you.

Golf manners are important.  

But I've learned not to be obsessive about them, or most things in life. 

I care more about my golf buddy than whether duffers behind us have to wait a couple minutes.  

I care more about walking down the fairway, singing an old Hippie tune duet, and laughing with him, than whether I hit the green in regulation.

I'm out to have a good day, and help my VA and Vietnam Vet friend have a good one.

Now back to my other friend, the former PGA Club Pro.  

I'm up early this Sunday, writing, as I usually do.  

Been thinking about the talk I heard my PGA Club Pro friend give last night to a civic group. 

It was well done, interesting, relevant to his audience.

But listening to him describe his early golf career, I also was thinking, "Well, I'd rather light burning matches under my fingernail -- today --  than watch (NAME)  hit his four-wood 230 yards off the tee."

And I was also reminded he'd get no golf outing kicks, waiting as I swung my driver in desperation like a baseball bat, punch my shot maybe 10 yards past the ladys' tee, hack out of the heavy rough, only to four- or five-putt.

I've been searching for a tag, a close, a kernel of relevance for this blog. 

Maybe it's choosing golf buddies of comparable skill sets and interests.

Smelling the roses.

Appreciating friends.

Keeping your eye on the ball, and life priorities, in difficult circumstances, and times.

All I know, it's my kind of duffer, dubbing, drubbing golf that makes The Serenity Prayer relevant --  where ever you play.


The Serenity Prayer is the common name for an originally untitled prayer by the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr:

 God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;  courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time; 
Enjoying one moment at a time; 
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; 
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it; 
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life 
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.

January 07, 2012

" And that's ..."

'And that's not all they wanted from me....'


One recent cold Sunday morning, I stopped by an assisted living home for seniors to visit a friend.

We sit in a nondescript, large, chilly dining room, with coffee and plates heaped with lukewarm noodles, meat balls, cut corn and apple cobbler.


Perhaps 35 residents eating lunch at small tables. Four staff members hand out noon medications, fill tiny green plastic cups with watered-down, sweet cider.

All around, the usual signs and sounds of physical and mental aging ... a sudden flood of  memories about the difficult, final years and days of my dead parents and similar experiences described by friends and their own loved ones. 


And midst the signs of dementia and decrepitude, most of the old people are making the best of their day, and their life in the place.

k0526150.jpgA sudden tap on my shoulder.

“Could you help me pour that coffee in my cup?” she says.

She's dressed in a bright green and white MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY sweater, buttoned down the front, with a white turtleneck sweater, and black slacks.

Gold MSU “Spartan” ear rings dangle and twist when she turns her head.

“Sure,” I say, getting up, walking to the Bunn burner and filling her green-and-white MSU 'Spartee' mug.

“My wrists are weak, or I’d pour my own,” she explains. “And that (coffee) pot is heavy.”

She's  an attractive, petite, trim woman, perhaps in late 80s. White coffered hair. Made up, decked out like a wealthy owner of a sky box in The Big House. Except her allegiance isn't in Ann Arbor.

“Did you go to State? How about those Spartans?,” I ask her, making small talk.

“Class of ’52,” she replies. “I was gonna be a lawyer but switched to special ed in my senior year.”

“Can I ask your name? Mine’s Jim.”

“My middle's Anna, with an A. Not ‘E,’ one’s Irish, one’s German,” she explains, smiling.

Anna goes on, in a rapid monologue, about raising her children, various schools she taught special ed in, about John Hanna, the MSC/U College president during her time.

As she talks, her face and gestures becomes more relaxed,

Anna moves closer with each thought,  sentence. Our chins are barely six inches apart, like a loving pair of slow dancers.

Every detail of her white pancake makeup is revealed... the light red, slightly crooked lipstick outline…black hairs, standing like soldiers in a muster line, above her lips.

I stay chatty. Look in her eyes. Smile. Ask followup questions.  Resist the urge to back up. Or away from the conversation.

“I was divorced, with three small kids. Making it on my own. But with this figure and blond hair, you know.  I’m at  this teachers’ conference.
All the men wanted me to leave my Battle Creek teaching job. And go to work in their (school) District. But, that’s not all they wanted,” she adds.

“Do you live here?,” she says.

“No. I live in Battle Creek.”

“I know you don’t live
HERE,” she replies, glancing around to the other tables.

“Have a good day,” she says. Smiles contently, releases me from her mental embrace and turns away.

I finish apple cobbler with my friend.


And head into the cold and snow of a late Sunday morning in Michigan.

December 31, 2010

"Oh Cisco!" Oh, Pancho!"

The Cisco Kid is in Battle Creek, Michigan USA.  Nearly 60 years after his TV debut in the early 1950s.

I watch him some  evenings. Just as I did as a nine year old.

Like The Lone Ranger, Cisco Kid always captures the bad guys and whows the ladies.

Unlike the Masked Man,  who today seems a bit stuffy  and even condescending,  Cisco Kid still has  a sense of humor,  natural acting ability, and a good time with his sidekick, Pancho.


Viewers can  count on a joke, and the famous “Oh, Cisco!", "Oh, Pancho!” at the close of each episode.


In real life, Duncan Renaldo was evidently as nice a guy as the one he played on our tv  sets, according to Internet and print articles about his life.


He also had a secret – one that would get him in hot water, even today.


Renaldo was an illegal immigrant from Spain.

Born in 1904,  he never knew his parents. He  came to the U.S.  in the 1920s, working  on a Brazilian coal ship.


He overstayed his 90-day visa,  and was arrested in the 1930s and threatened with deportation.

U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt eventually granted him a pardon. 

In 1928 Renaldo  started making films for MGM. His career  soon dimmed when he became the 'Cisco Kid' in a 1945 film series that eventually wound up on television.

Along side Pancho (Leo Carrillo), the Cisco Kid won the day -- usually without drawing his pistol.

According to accounts, The Cisco Kid was wildly popular in his day -- among children and adult viewers.


The  television series ended in the mid-1950s. (By that time, Renaldo was 51 and Carillo approaching 80 years of age.)

Historical photographs available on the Internet recall famous visits to county fairs and company-sponsored picnics  by Renaldo in the early 60s.   That was how he made his living after the movie and tv lights went out.

With grace and good fun, Renaldo posed with local groups who remembered and loved his style and his smile.


Duncan Renaldo died in 1980 of lung cancer.


We could use a few more Cisco Kids.

"Adios, Amigo!"

"See you soon!"


07:55 | Permalink | Tags: writers who write |  Facebook |

December 23, 2010

30 Minutes With Gerry

I've been on a tear the last week or so, reading stories about the Pacific island campaigns (Tarawa, Guadacanal, etc) of WWII.


Most of us know that George Bush The First was a Navy pilot.  Many fewer, perhaps, that Gerald Ford served quietly, with distinction, during some of the worst fighting in the Pacific.



But Gerald Ford, from  his University of Michigan football days, to his U.S. Presidency, was never one to blow his own horn.



I hadn’t lived in Grand Rapids, Michigan long before I met former U.S. President Gerald Ford for the first, and last, time.


An afternoon meeting concluded in my office, and one of the participants mentioned he was going down to “visit with Gerry” at the Ford Presidential Museum. And he asked if I wanted to come along.


So we walked down Pearl Street, across the Grand River bridge to the Museum.



Inside, I noticed several men with the telltale lapel pins and ear plugs associated with the Secret Service.


But we were rather casually ushered into President Ford’s office at the Museum.


He got up and greeted us – particularly my colleague, who was an old friend.


And the three of us sat chatting about University of Michigan football, Bill Clinton’s reelection prospects, and local politics for about 30 minutes.


I was surprised at how ‘easy’ the conversation was; and that Ford seemed in no hurry to end the chat.  There was no glancing at his watch; no shifting of his eyes in anticipation of the next meeting on his schedule.


Walking  back across the Grand River bridge, my colleague told several endearing stories from his friend “Gerry” Ford’s some 25 years representing Grand Rapids and Michigan’s 5th Congressional District.


I was thinking about the President Gerald Ford who helped bring a close to Watergate, the Vietnam War, and dealt with Soviet expansionism and domestic inflation in the mid-1970s.


“He's a very common man,” my associate commented to me about Ford.


And much more, I thought to myself.



December 21, 2010

"Ma'm, that's mighty fine peach cobbler."

“Ma'm, that’s mighty fine peach cobbler.”

A friend was an iterant preacher and member of a musical quartet in the '50s, that made a meager living traveling the upper Midwest, performing at tent revivals and small town churches.

The quartet relied on generosity of the church faithful, including food and bed most nights.

When lucky,thpeachcobbler.jpgey'd share a local farm family’s dinner table and fare.

The musical group's lifestye was one part religious fervor and one part snake oil salesmenship. 

All that singing, traveling and living together bred  more than a bit of familiarity. “Many an evening, we’d end up kicking each other under the dinner table,” my minister friend recalled.

One quartet member had his own Harold-Hill like sales pitch at the dinner table.

“That's mighty fine asparagus!,” he’d say, complimenting the household missus, while brushing off gravy stains and bread crumbs from his shirt front.

“Oh, you think so?” missus would say, acting surprised by the compliment. “Well, how about you havin’ a second helpin of that asparagus, then!”

After dinner coffee and dessert served.

Before table could be cleared of dishes, the siren song repeated.

“Oh, yes. Ma'm, that's mighty fine peach cobbler. Mighty fine peach cobbler.”

“Don't say, you tell me?” missus would respond, proud as a 4-H blue ribbon winner at the County Fair. 

 “I got a nice second piece for you rite here.”

December 20, 2010

Learning From Our Failures

200px-Santa-eop2.jpgLearning From Our Failures At This Christmas Time

As bad as things seem, for so many in America, at this Christmas, times WILL get better.  They almost always do, if we take one day at a time, and keep moving forward in life.

All the whining about the U.S. being in "death throes," mirroring the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, leaves me nothing but bored and depressed.

Who needs it? And, I don't believe it for a minute. 

Wasn't it just a few years back when we were ready to throw General Motors and Ford Motors into the trash heap of history?

Today?  I'll take a new Ford, for quality and technology,  over a Toyota, any day.

There's a grand tradition in this country of getting up off our ass*s, cynching up our pants, going back to work, and surprising people with our resilency, and our come-from-behind attitude.

We just like to bit*ch about things.

  • Orville Wright got kicked out of grade school.

  • Henry Ford went bankrupt four times.

  • The copy machine was rejected 10 years before the Xerox machine was finally introduced.

  • The fax machine failed when invented in the 1840s.

  • The Apple Newton PDA tanked when introduced; but many of its components are included in the tremendously successful I-Pad.

  • President Harry Truman had a lower popularity rating that Barack Obama – the joke of the day was: “To Err is Truman.”  Yet Truman went on to deal with the Korean War, the birth of the nation of Israel, created the Department of Defense – and is today considered one of our top 5 or so U.S presidents.

Merry Christmas.  Wanna join me in making it a good year?

December 14, 2010

Bus Stop Blues

 Downtown Bus Stop Blues 

bus-stop.jpgShe  sat huddled, alone, in a corner of the clear plastic, doorless hut, a sharp , bitter wind blowing under the cigarette butt, trash hewn benches, chilling the feet of those waiting for the public buses.


The young woman wore dark glasses, dressed in a bulky brown jacket, winter scarf, sock cap pulled down below her ears to eye level. She appeared withdrawn, tiny, confused ...  afraid.


Her grimy, off-white tennis shoes and thin, summer weight, brown cotton pants dripped melting snow when she moved.  Wet stains crept up her pant legs to the knees.


One hand and arm  clung tightly to a small bag, stuffed with a blanket.


The bag suddenly moved on its own, and she quickly adjusted the blanket, and slid to the end of the bench, avoiding  two old men who’d joined us.


“You OK?” I asked.


She sensed the object of my concern, gently pulling back the blanket from  top of the bag.


Out popped the homely, bugged-eyed  head of a small pug dog.


“You know my cat died this morning. My dog is sick, too. I’m  taking him to the vet in Athens,” she said. “PLEASE don’t tell the bus driver,” she implored.


"Athens?” I replied. “That’s 12 miles beyond Beckley and the end of your bus route.  How’re you getting there?”


“I’m  gonna walk. My vet is cheap. I don’t mind,” she said, removing dark glasses for the first time, tears welling-up above rose-hued winter cheeks.


The men  watched, listened.


One laughed,  commenting to his pal. “Nothing special. I used to walk to the Marshall jail.”


He took a swig from  the sack,  passing it to his friend.


Buses arrived, and we fled to our own, and  our own lives.


I wondered  later if the girl and her dog made it to Athens.


In the winter air and wet clothes.

And what I might have, but did not, do for her.

December 08, 2010

Peeing In The Orange Juice Glass

Peeing In The Orange Juice Glass

A friend dropped by my place the other night...and wanted to share a short story manuscript he had just completed.  I felt complimented that he would ask, and said: "OK, I'll try not to pee in the orange juice glass."

Most of us have a family member, colleague or friend who ALWAYS has to have the credit and the  last word. 

On the work site, we learn to give the boss credit for successes and to assume blame for failures. And to let the boss take ownership for the best ideas. (They usually do, anyway!)


Graphic artists intentionally make minor design mistakes or omissions so a client will catch them and feel an important partner in the creative process. 

 I   worked as a journalist and writer for years – and then in management –  and tried to stay mindful of how good copy, a good idea, a good project or a good employee -- can be spoiled  by Alpha dog behavior of an enthusiastic supervisor.

   For example: writers of all sort  are a rather bilious lot, "full of envy, fear and self loathing" --  and  notoriously negative about ANY  blue edit marks, commonly referred to as "tweaks, " by  a book or copy editor.  

The old story goes like this:

 'A writer is left on a deserted island with his editor.  

The writer is starving.  

All that is left is a glass of orange juice.  

Days pass.

The writer is near death.  

He is about to drink the juice when the editor grabs the glass from his hand and pees into it.  

 The writer looks at him, stunned. 

 "There," the editor says, handing back the glass, "It just needed a little tweaking."  

I’m not sure how all this hangs together.

Maybe, simply that there's  a difference between tweaking and peeing in the glass -- in most of our relationships; whether on the job, with the wife, teenage daughter/son, or friend.

And sometimes the best advice is no advice.  And no tweaking.

Or, maybe I just need a good copy editor for this blogsite.

December 02, 2010

Doing Well In America


 Doing Well In America

Travel  and foreign living experiences can be a reminder of how soft we have it  in America -- even when the U.S. unemployment rate is in the double digits, and when one of our biggest concerns is if Congress is going to give us more unemployment benefits.

Fact is:   We're fortunate to have been born and raised in this country. 

All of us. 

Relatively speaking.


During a visit to rural Ghana in West Africa a few years back, a new acquaintance commented to me: "We  watch American soaps on our  village TV. My son said: 'Mommy, mommy. I want to live in America.  Even the poor people are fat in America!!'"


Living in Florida not long ago, my new landlords invited me to dinner, along with another friend  who speaks fluent Spanish.


Landlords are Cubans.  Mid 30s.  Have been in the US for only four years. 


The husband is this burly guy who looks more like a sumo wrestler from Japan. 


The wife is attractive, with personal balance along with an obvious,  strong love of her husband.  (And much deserved pride in her home cooking.)


We sit outside in the night heat.  Lots of laughter.   Mostly in Spanish among the three others. 


I watch their lips, trying to capture words, from my high school Spanish class, like lightening bugs.


We eat homemade tacos thick as Bibles; stuffed with fresh corn, meat, green peppers, lettuce,  onions and sauce. Followed by thimble cups of thick, black coffee or Pepsi and a homemade Cuban custard.


The husband works as a welder each day. 


During dinner, he rubs his arms to relieve large burns, presumably from a welding torch.


He can speak little English.  His wife more.  And their 8-yo daughter both, but has no Spanish accent.


Daughter is bored by the growups’ conversation and wanders back and forth from the patio to a small tv in the kitchen, where lipsticked, prepubescent girls  sing in English while stage dancing on Nickelodion.  


“Oh, Jessica mocks my English all the time,” the landlady says, looking at her nearby daughter, but laughing.


Landlord  goes to work from  2 p.m. to midnight most days.   I hear his car pull back into the drive.


By 8 a.m., he’s out in front  of the house fixing other people’s cars; to make a little more money for his family. 


Or he’s  on the roof, installing shingles, finishing the rehab on our house, which he is turning  into a three-unit.  He appears to do it all: car repair, plumbing, framing, roofing,  electrical, welding.


My Spanish-speaking friend mentions she wants to have a new bathroom added to her own house.  We talk about cost of materials.  Landlord suggests he could do it ‘in his spare time.’


His wife is upset.  She tells us she doesn’t have enough to keep her busy. 


She is raising their daughter. 


She is going to school every day, full time to become  a beautician. 


She notices I’ve just had a haircut and wants to start cutting mine. 


She hears my  friend talking about cleaning my apartment every two weeks for $20, and says she would like to do it herself.


“I need more to do,” she says.  ‘Or life gets boring.”


They’ve brought many skill sets, and a great attitude to America.


In Cuba, it was  about 'making do.'


In America, these people will do well.

Even in these hard times for many of us.


November 24, 2010

Ten Things More Fun Than Watching DWTS Finale

Ten Things More Fun Than Watching The DWTS Finale


#10: wisdom teeth removed with pliers



#8: listening to Sonny and Cher sing "I got you babe"

#7: hearing your girlfriend say: "It's not you, it's me"

#6: meeting with the IRS Audit Agent

#5: finding out the Viagra no longer works

#4: finding out the Viagra works to well

#3: finishing lower than Sarah Palin on the GRE(xam)

#2: trying to fit into your '69 Navy bell bottoms

#1: Answering the phone, to hear her say: "Honey, I think there was a hole in the condom"


November 09, 2010




I'm not surprised Margaret Hamilton also taught elementary school. She looked, acted, in OZ like many teachers I had in grade school during the early  and mid-'50s -- with several very notable exceptions.  (Not that I or my twin were exactly at the 'head of 220px-MargaretHamiltoninTheWizardOfOz.jpgthe class'.)

Have you noticed some elementary school teachers  treat adults like children? 

A little condescending.  A little prescriptive. 

A little too much parsing of an adult topic into simple concepts and outcomes.


My best bud from the 80s, (I ran 8 miles at 5 a.m. with him for years) was married to such a teacher. 


Every Friday night, she would carefully write out a  long " Weekend Honey Do" list for him and post  on the frig door.  He had to get it  done by Sunday evening. Period. 


She withheld many things from him, if he was derelict in his duties.


One Sat. she woke to her own life lesson.


During the night, he'd left.  Permanently.


Had wiped  her "assignments" from the frig door.


Left her his own version of a Saturday "To Do" list.


There's more than one lesson in this true story.