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November 01, 2010

Hey, Mr. Postman

Hey, Mr. Postman!

Yes, Virginia, honey.IMG00238-20101101-0808.jpg

We called it a “Mail Box.”  There was one on every house, and then one, like in this picture,  in almost every neighborhood.

Odd as it might seem today, people wrote down their thoughts on what we called “paper.”  They used something called a “pen” or “pencil.”

Grandma or Grandpa would then put the “paper” with their written thoughts into a wrapper, called an “envelope.” And stick a little glued photo on the outside.

And put the envelope in the “Mail Box.”

A strange lady or a man would stop at the “Mail Box”, usually once a day, and remove all the “envelopes.” The lady or man were called “Postmen.”

The “Postmen” were a proud people. 

They picked up and delivered the envelopes even when it rained, or snowed, or flooded.

They wore strange blue and grey tribal clothes.

The envelopes went by train, truck and airplane, to another person, in another neighborhood, city, state or even country, somewhere around the world.

It would take three days for this to happen.  Occasionally a week or more. And, once in a while, the envelope got lost and never arrived at all.

Imagine that!

Then the world changed.

People started using what were called “computers” for sending “email,” and for “social networking” on things called “Facebook”, “MySpace” and “Tweeter.”

The Postmen disappeared.

Then paper.  Then envelopes.

And, so too, all but a few of these now abandoned, relic “Mail Boxes,” scattered in obscure, hidden away places.

Silent symbols of a different time.


August 23, 2010

"Mr. Mac"


“Mr. Mac”

By  Jim  Richmond


To some, he was known as “Teddy Mac,” to others, just “Teddy,” but at work, it was strictly “Mr. Mac.”

He was “Uncle Teddy,” (McNamara) to me.

The McNamara’s, a first and second generation Irish immigrant family, lived in the small, river bluff town of Atchison in northeast Kansas, moving there after a short time on the kin’s Begley family farm in nearby Potter, Kansas.McNamaras.jpg


Photo Caption: (left to right) Bobby, Jimmy, Teddy, Mary, Tommy and Johnny McNamara.  Photo taken in Atchison,  at their father’s Catholic funeral.  About 1956.


Teddy was one of five brothers – Jimmy, Tommy, Bobby, Johnny – raised largely during teen years by their Irish widower of a father,  Thomas

and small, red-headed sister Mary, who had to “step up” at age 13, when wife and mother, Anna Martha Begley McNamara, died after a long TB wasting.

Anna died in the upstairs bedroom of their small house on Parallel Avenue.

Husband, Thomas was to lose his job with the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad engine repair yard.  Yet, through it all, he kept the family together.

Shortly after her mother's death, little Mary broke both her arms.  The doctor put her on the kitchen table in the McNamara house, tried to straighten and then set her arms.  But they would remain crooked the rest of her life.

Mary dropped out of high school for awhile to help manage household chores, do the laundry, housekeeping and cooking for her father and unruly band of five brothers.

The McNamara brothers were Irish to the core -- lovers of life, family, Catholic faith, and  “tip and taste of the brew.”

Mary said that -- except for soft hearted and especially considerate Tommy -- her brothers had a bit of the Irish devil in and about them. It was a challenge for the young girl to care for six men in the home.

Teddy McNamara was especially loved by the young ladies in Atchison, Mary recalled, in a 1992 videotaped interview, when she was 77.

  “Oh, Teddy also kept Pop on his toes, trying to keep track of him,” Mary said with a laugh.

One Sunday morning, Teddy told his dad he was off to attend Catholic Mass.  Just an hour later, Pop McNamara ran into a neighbor while shopping in downtown Atchison.

“Good morning, Thomas,” the neighbor said. “Sure and enough, I just saw your Teddy watering the grass front of that tavern by the river.”

 To keep up with the ladies, and in order to afford decent clothes in his poor Irish family, young Teddy Mac also changed jobs frequently and acquired a talent for selling almost anything, to anyone, Mary recalled.

He had a short-lived job selling bedroom furniture.  Teddy was about to close a mattress sale with his own dad. “But he wanted Pop to pay full price and full commission,” Mary chuckled.  

Later in life, Teddy became somewhat of a business legend in Kansas City for his detailed knowledge, skills and toughness in purchasing fresh vegetables and frozen food items that were then, in turn, sold to area restaurants, hospitals and retail outlets by Pisciotta’s Frozen Foods and Vegetables, an Italian family business.

While the Italians owned and ran the business, with a fleet of trucks and warehouses, everyone called Teddy McNamara, “Mr. Mac,” out of respect for his buying and selling talents and contributions to the business’s success.

He was Pisciotta’s purchasing manager, and knew good bananas from bad like no other, and how to turn around and sell a train load of frozen French fries, hardly before the train had arrived in the Kansas City station.

It was said that no one could barter or buy like “Mr. Mac.”

I was about 17 when he got me an after-school job at Pisciotta’s.

I’d ride the bus from De La Salle Academy to the business’s location near the farmers’ market, in the “river bottoms” north of downtown Kansas City.

For a couple dollars an hour, I’d sort blue copy invoices, help the office staff, and any small errand “Mr. Mac” or “W.E.” Pisciotta (the family scion and business’ CEO) might have for me.

I valued the job, and learned by watching Uncle Teddy and the Italians.

And while Uncle Teddy and I were Irish, the Pisciottas treated us – like most of their employees – more like members of their extended Italian family.

Several times, W.E. gave me cash advances so I could buy a new refrigerator, or other big ticket item, for my mom on her birthdays – deducting $15 from my weekly paycheck to pay him and Pisciotta’s back.

Well before my own teenage years, all but Tommy of the McNamara brothers had moved from Atchison to Kansas City or elsewhere. (Mary met and married Charles E. Richmond in Atchison, and the couple relocated to Kansas City, where they raised their family.)

On many Saturdays, Teddy, Johnny and Bobby would show up at our house, getting out of one car en masse for an unscheduled visit, with a six pack of beer and heads full of blarney.

More often than not, Teddy would also have a crate of free Pisciotta groceries and vegetables for my Mom.

Mom always had a place at our Kansas City home, table and in her heart for her brothers.  And they, in turn, treated her with a quiet deference and solicitude that probably had something to do with the Atchison years and her help in raising them.

Living in Kansas City, Teddy and his nurse wife Delores raised three daughters, Gerri, Kathy and Jeannie. 

The girls roughly paralleled the ages of me, my twin brother John and older sister, Martha.  So we saw a lot of the Teddy McNamaras in Kansas City.

Gerri tells me she and her sisters thought we lived in “a mansion,” while I recall our place on Coleman Road as a nice, but modest three bedroom home. 

Memories of youth are in the eye of the beholder, because, in turn, I remember Uncle Teddy, Aunt Delores and their girls always had lots and lots of food, and bottled soft drinks when we visited their home.  (Bottled soft drinks were a rarity at our house, reserved for special occasions. Our three cousins seemed to have all they wanted, whenever they wanted it. Big time distinctions for kids in the early to mid 1950s!)

The McNamara brothers, and sister Mary, have long since died.  

Starting with Tommy, in Peoria at age 40 of a heart attack and with a young family, and ending with Mary, at 88, in 2003, they dropped like the individual petals from a bright green shamrock.

 Irene McNamara, Tommy's widow, at age 92, is the last of the generation and still lives in Peoria with four of her five children, and scores of grandchildren.

After Teddy’s funeral, we followed the casket and the long line of cars from Church to the Catholic cemetery and then to the gravesite.

It was a cold, blustery day. 

After the service, I turned with the crowd of mourners, heading back alone, I thought, to my car. 

Next to me, walking slowly up the cemetery road was W. E. Pisciotta – still the “boss” but much older, Italian good looks misshapen by age and illness.  He was breathing hard as we inched toward the cars together.

I felt honored for the moment with him, remembering from my youth his business skills, his family’s open heart to their employees, his personal generosity to me.

“Jimmy, your Uncle was somebody special,” W.E. said, simply.   

We walked on silently in the chill, and parted.

W.E. was a man of few words, great presence. His six words that day imprinted on my mind, remaining for 40 years. 

He, too, did not live much longer, after our cemetery road meander.

And while Uncle Teddy, “Mr. Mac,” his Irish brothers and my mom are gone, they have left, in their places, several blossoming generations of McNamaras, plus extended relatives with melting pot names like Borkowski, Richmond, Goble, Van Meter, Dunwiddie, Jertson and Meyer. And many carry on the Irish traditions a bit, remembering their own versions of stories about Atchison, and the McNamara’s brothers and sister who came before them.

Teddy -- “Mr. Mac” -- will always be a special uncle:  An Irish Uncle with character, guts, humor, talent, and love of family.      

          He knew a lot about bananas and French fries.

He taught a lot more about selling, dealing with people of different backgrounds, races and cultures, and what it means to be a standup guy.

“Mr. Mac” left a legacy, and me with lots of great memories. Ted.Grandson.jpg


Photo Caption: Teddy McNamara , with Grandson Jon VanMeter



Update, 4.15.2013. Below, the author, Jim Richmond, visits with his Aunt Irene McNamara recently in Peoria.  At age 92, she is the last of her generation of McNamaras.



August 06, 2010

Change on the Morbid Motor Mile


Change on the Morbid Motor Mile

Change is good. 

Change is unavoidable.

But, sometimes change can seem a bit strange.

Take the old Henkel Auto Showroom on “The Motor Mile” stretch of car dealerships along Dickman Road in Battle Creek.

Smack dab between and among Heritage Chevrolet, DeMaag Olds, Sunshine Toyota, Lakeview Ford dealership showrooms and sales lots is a new neighbor, new addition.

The old Henkel showroom and lot is being transformed into ‘Baxter Funeral and Cremation Services.’

There must be a Motor Mile synergy here.  I just don’t see it.

Perhaps it’s the proximity in being able to get your oil changed and funeral planned while you wait.

Maybe it’s straightout marketing.

Baxter can put a nice display and range of caskets and urns in its own, new ‘showroom’ and  on its lots:.

One casket could have a display sign: “GUARANTEED FOR 1,000 YEARS!” 





And there could be a display of attractive urns suitable for cremation remains.



Or another:


Let’s wait and see if Baxter can get along with its neighbors, and the competition.

July 23, 2010

Replacing Your Divot


Replacing Your Divot

A friend is fond of saying ... you can tell a lot about a person by playing golf with them.

No need for lie detector test.  Credit or loan worthiness check. Number of points on a driver’s license. Asking what people think  in the community.   Just watch what they do on the golf course.

I was reminded of this several weeks ago when I played in a charitable golf outing.  Full field of more than 122-plus golfers, all with their clubs in their carts…two to a cart….two carts to each hole. Ready to roll promptly at 9 a.m.

Except one person in our foursome:  A very “visible” business person who usually wears fancy suits, $50 ties, and acts like he knows everyone and has all the answers to community problems.

And -- although I barely knew him --I forked over his $45 tournament fee, just in case he showed up at the last moment.

Which he did right before the gun went off, and our two “shotgun” foursomes were sent to the 12th hole to start our round.

He showed up with his 5’8, 14 year old son. 

“Oh, none of you mind if Eric (name changed) just rides along,” he says, as his son squeezes  in as the third person in a golf cart made for two.

golf.jpgNone of us said a word. 

But it was obvious the kid had no business on the golf course, when there was a “full capacity” adult tournament underway.  Without clubs.  

“Hey,” I thought to myself, “if the kid wants to ride along.  And it’s a bit crowded.   No big deal.”

But, of course, it was and is if you’re a golfer; if you believe in basic golf etiquette, and what it teaches about life, about respecting others, being considerate, taking your turn on the tee according to who won the last hole, not driving the cart close to the greens, etc.

Unless you don’t care what people think.

And this self described civic and business leader evidently didn’t care.  And he probably knew better. He had nice clubs.  Hit the ball a long way.  Obviously played a lot of golf. 

Worse:  The kid started playing out of his dad’s bag, once we were out of sight of the course marshall and the club house.

Sometimes, there would be 8 players stacked up behind us on the fairway.  Sometimes “dad “ let his son hit two balls.

Sometimes, dad would yell and criticize his kid:


“Get over here!!!!”

“Pick up that club!”

As we approached the 9th green, in site of the clubhouse, the adults got out of our carts with putters.  And dad had the kid drive the cart rest of the way to the green.

Getting ready to putt, I turned and the kid had run the cart into a nearby tree, and was vainly trying to extricate himself from the overhanging branches.

I kept wondering why everyone in the tournament, in our two foursomes, let this guy (“dad”) slide in his example of terrible golf ethics.

I think I know why.  But that’s another blog.

It took two weeks to get my $45 tournament fee back from the guy. 

I’d pretty much decided the money wasn’t important.  That none of it mattered to me, or in the great scheme of things.

But then I recalled  this guy had run for public office last fall, and almost won.

And I’d  almost voted for him.

You can learn a lot about someone on a golf course.

June 10, 2010

Rubbernecking and The Art of the 'Second Ask'

Rubbernecking and The Art of the ‘Second Ask’

I was fortunate to recently “chauffeur” a nationally recognized physician, educator and retired charitable foundation CEO around town.

            We spent a lot of time in my old car; had many good discussions;  and, caught up on when the two of us worked together 28 years ago.

I also learned much about the man; much I’d never known; or fully appreciated.

Of course, that’s the case with many of our relationships – is it not?  Family, close friends, acquaintances -- almost  everyone  I’ve met over the past 65 years – and then taken time to listen to – has proven more interesting, layered, than I'd have imagined.

In the car, we got into a discussion about the “Differential Diagnosis” approach to disease identification, which students are taught in medical school. (http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/differential_diagnosis).  It is a step-by-step protocol for interviewing patients; finding out more about their lives, their concerns, their health.

I’m all for ‘differential diagnosis’ and wish we’d apply it more to our personal relationships and conversations.

How many people do you know who have only one question in them? 


Bill:  “Hey, did you get that car fixed, Tom?”

Tom:  “Well, you know I took it in yesterday and…… (He is interrupted by Bill)”

Bill: “I had a 57 Chevy Bel Air coupe, white on pink, and let me tell you about the time that darn car broke down, too.”

       A lot of people move on to their own personal experiences, to the “me” part of any conversation, before opening words are out of your mouth.

      Either that, or they rubberneck to see who else they might  talk to in the room.

      So, I’m a supporter of the “differential diagnosis” approach to conversations.  Listening to someone’s FULL response after you ask them a question; listening well enough to ask a second,  amplifying question.  That restates and focuses on what they have told you.  Not on your own life experiences.

     It’s a great way to really know people.  To show interest and respect.  And to separate yourself from rubberneckers in the room.

April 03, 2010

Death Bed Visions

Death Bed Visions

About 25 percent of people on their death beds describe having visions, where they are visited by long deceased family members – usually their mother or father. These “visits” are different from “near death” experiences.

Those on their death bed see and talk with the parent and, usually, report that the parent tells them: “I will be back to get you.”

After such a visit, hospice workers report that the person dying becomes peaceful.   For more on this, scroll down to “Chapter 4” on this website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p006pp68#p006zcrz

March 31, 2010

One Toke Over The Line?

One Toke Over The Line ?

onetoke.jpgThere are two strange, new storefronts round the corner from where I work on Territorial Road near 20th street in Battle Creek, Mi., USA.  

One is a makeshift, fertilizer and sun lamp filled “BC HYDRO” indoor plant -growing store. CALL 96-GROW.

The other has a sign in front: “Cereal City Compassion Club” with a marijuana plant for a logo.

Cars crowd the front and side lots during daylight hours.   People enter and leave thru rear doors.

A blue and white, tied-dyed blanket hangs from the Cereal City Compassion Club window, blocking out curious eyes. “PRIVATE. Please enter in rear of Bldg.”

Medical marijuana relief, or pot- shops for Ann Arborites and aging hippies?

Could  the new ‘business’ be part of an Economic Development Plan by our City Fathers?

Civic improvement at its creative, cutting-edge best?

After all, these roach-and-stem-loving folks replace the blind pig and after-hours gambling den that occupied the same storefront spaces until recently.

We got the number for 96-GROW.

Anyone know the one for Silent Observer?

Verdict In On Early Screening for Breast Cancer

A new study puts to rest the debate over the efficacy of early screening for breast cancer: benefits outweigh risks.  For every 1 woman who is subjected to unnecessary surgery or other treatment, 2 women are saved as a result of early screening.

Amidst the study’s details, a rather remarkable comment by one of the study’s physician/researchers: “If only we could understand why and how some women’s bodies destroy the cancer without treatment.  If we knew (the answer,) we could ‘cure’ breast cancer.”

For study details, go to: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/8594940.stm

 ‘Happiness’ Is Found in Our Relationships; Not Our Bank Account

That Porsche in the driveway might be kick-ass fun on the road and a real rubber-necker with the girls, but it won’t make you happy.

Worldwide comparisons of relative “happiness” reveal that net income, and salary raises, don’t mean much after you reach an annual income of about $60,000.

What makes people happy and content are their relationships, and when they reach out, and give back, to other people and their communities.

Read all about it, in this brief essay.  Then: be happy. http://www.movementforhappiness.org/movement-manifesto

March 28, 2010

Getting Revenge

Getting Revenge

Revenge or forgiveness?  Why do we not seek revenge against our genetic relatives? What are the key factors that make us willing, or unwilling, to forgive someone? 

This is a wonderful NPR program .....  anxious to read his book.  Enjoy.  Go to: http://speakingoffaith.publicradio.org/programs/2008/reve...

March 21, 2010

These Cats Are Sure Catty

"Kitty Sez: 'Fill Up That Food Bowl, Fool.'"

Males over age 18 know we're just pawns in the hands of most women. A smile, a gentle hand on the nap of the neck. We turn to putty.

Women will claim men play the same game.

Now, we learn our feline friends have our number.

Don’t let that purring go to your head or your heart.

'Fill up that food bowl, fool.'

Go to: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8147566.stm


March 19, 2010

Slow Those BCPS School Buses Down, Please


Slow Those BCPS School Buses Down, Please


This afternoon, I was stopped at a traffic light behind a Community Action Agency of South Central Michigan (CAA) minivan.

A large painted notice on the back of the van, proclaimed:  “How’s my driving?  For a compliment or complaint, call (telephone #).”

I know bus and truck drivers hate snitch signs and often cover them with mud or scratch out part of the telephone #.

So this is my compliment to CAA for caring about how its employees drive, and for the safety of van passengers and the general public.

And while on the topic, here’s my raspberry to whoever is in charge of bus drivers at the Battle Creek Public Schools (BCPS).

Over and over this past winter, I watched as BCPS school bus drivers barreled over the Washington Bridge going 50 miles an hour, ran red lights, and ignored stop signs.

Thankfully, most of the time, the buses had no children aboard.

While the BCPS drivers might have a tight schedule getting our kids to and from schools, someone needs to tell them to s-l-o-w down.

And how about that CAA sign?

February 02, 2010

Remember When?

Remember When??


Mr. W. K. Kellogg's home on W. Van Buren in Battle Creek remained empty for decades after his death in the early ‘50s; and until the mid-1980s. My (then) wife and I actually thought about buying it....got a Realtor's tour...and noticed the ancient telephones still had "W.K's" name and other locations on them.  But both the house, and the neighborhood, were in rough shape by then.

The house was finally purchased by the W. K. Kellogg Foundation and moved to its new downtown headquarters site, where the house is today.

Laura Davis, WKKF SVP., (in pix, waving, red jacket and hard hat), managed all aspects of the WKKF's $85 million construction and economic development project. I believe the WKKF moved into the new headquarters bldg in '91.  Laura still resides in Battle Creek. (Photo is from a postcard sent to Mrs. Davis, and taken/drawn by a local artist, who inserted Tony-The-Tiger, W. K. with his seeing-eye dog "Rinson,"  offspring of the famous TV and movie dog, "Rin Tin Tin.")

January 18, 2010

The Race To The Bottom in Michigan Public Education

 “To Be or Not To Be”:

The Race to the Bottom

The Michigan Education Association (MEA) -- nee public school teachers’ union -- continues its track record of resisting change in the classroom and ignoring the fact that not only can’t Billy read, many Michigan teachers can’t read or write at the 12th grade level, lack basic computation skills, and ought to be working in a car wash or Wally Mart, rather than collecting an average salary of $ 54,739 a year, for about 9 months work.  (Michigan ranks about 4th in teacher salaries, nationally; but 23rd in high school graduation rates.)

The MEA is urging its local affiliates to publicly resist and criticize the State of Michigan’s application for “federal stimulus funds” under the Obama Administration’s “Race To The Top” competitive grants program.  The feds are giving major grants to a limited number of states willing to address public school improvements in a comprehensive way.

Street talk sez Michigan has as much chance of getting one of the $100 million-plus federal grants, in round-one, as the City of Detroit has of hosting the  2020 summer Olympics.

But we can’t blame the MEA for everything wrong with public education in Michigan.

After months of feverish activity and grantwriting, Governor Jennifer Granholm and her minions at the Department of Education are reportedly printing up covers for their “Race To the Top” grant application to the Feds.  They’re calling Michigan’s application “BE THE CHANGE.”

No wonder we be not getting the federal dollars.

January 14, 2010

Larry The Barber

Larry The Barber


I’d lost track of Larry Gregg.  He’d cut my hair at the downtown Hair Shed for nearly 25 years or so, whenever circumstances found me back in Battle Creek for awhile.  He also cut the hair of my two sons, from near toddler age to adulthood.

Larry was a lot of fun and good for a laugh.  He was irreverent, and  always had the latest downtown gossip and tidbits…..what businesses were on the brink, who was sleeping with whom at the companies and major NGOs downtown, what BCU was working on larrygreg.jpgin Ft. Custer, who was odds on favorite in City Commission races.

He last cut my hair in August, 2009….the tab was $20 plus tip.  My salad days were drawing to a close, at that point.  So I started getting my haircut at a place off SW Capital that had a $8 special for old people and vets.

I ran into Larry and a friend of his in the Horrocks check out line one evening last Oct. 

Then, I opened the BC Shopper-NEWS last week…and found this little display ad notice.

Larry would have made a great CIA agent.

January 13, 2010

Pulling The Plug On China

Pulling the Plug on China

So, Google may pack up and leave China, after finding out the Chinese have been cyber attacking the Google  Internet system.

Surprise.  Surprise.

More than Google might buy a ticket on the 14-hour Beijing/Newark shuttle out of China.

Americans could quit buying most things made in China.  No more $15 made-in-China dress shoes at WallyMart.  No more $300 big screens from Beijing.  No more silk shirts from Shenzhen. No more rip-off Gucci bags from Guangxi.

Imagine the U.S. Main Street response to such a boycott:  the tearing of hair, the screaming and moaning by liberals and conservatives alike; charges of punishing America’s poor while protecting Wall Street fat cats!

Now, before Internet or Facebook trolls start labeling me an isolationist, a racist, sexist, elitist and bigot, let me note I was married to a Chinese woman.  (A lovely, engaging woman.) 

I lived in China three years.  (Culturally, an awesome country.)  Traveled from Hong Kong to Dalian, lots of time in Shanghai and Beijing, and in remote rural areas, eating farm meals  of fish head soup and rice with Chinese peasant family members, sitting on dirt floors, around stone fireplaces, in huts with no windows and pigs in the bedrooms.

But most urban Chinese – especially those under 40 – have nothing but distain for the United States and Americans.  They see us as a gluttonous glob of overweight, self absorbed people.   Our kids don’t learn, our economy doesn’t work;  lazy round-eyes that scream “Gimmme Mine! ME! ME! ME!” about everything from food stamps to health care. 

Young Chinese consider America the trash bin of history.  And they’d love to help  close the lid.

Wallymart1.jpgSo, maybe it’s time we take out our own trash in America. Have a housecleaning and a work bee; start on a new diet, get some backbone and kahoones.

I’d start by putting China and Chinese consumer products on my high calorie, junk food, take-out-the-trash  list. 


Right behind Wall Street. The banks.  Entitlement programs.  And War in Wackastan.

Think we could coax Dirty Harry out of retirement?wallymart2.jpg



January 10, 2010

Payback Time


Payback Time.


A few weeks  ago, my car died.  A tiny, ’91 Geo Metro. Two-seater.  Convertible. 4 (yes, four) cylinders.  Stick shift.  With a bent front frame that made the front tires toe-in, and the lil’ sweetie drive like a drunken sailor.


I’d had the car for about 4 months; bought from A Comedy King who left me less than chuckling, with all the things wrong with the car. 


But that’s not what this blog is all about.


See,  I got this friend who’s in the used car business – a shrewed guy and businessman, with a big heart --  and, he travels to Lansing, Grand Rapids and Northern  Indiana several times a week for car auctions.


So I got a great deal from him on a ’99 Ford Crown Victoria.  Now this is not your everyday run-of-the-mill-used -ford. 




This car has balls to the wall: “POLICE INTERCEPTOR” reads the chrome on the trunk grillwork.  Heavy duty shocks, brakes, tires.  And a 4.6 fuel-injected V-8 under the hood.


It’s a “retired” light blue Michigan State Police Cruiser.  You know the kind --  black trim and, best of all, those HUGE front and back, extended bumpers – as righteous phallic symbols as a police 38 special or a stun gun.



So, I’ve gone from having NO road respect; to almost having too much.



Cars slow down behind me and give PLENTY of room.  Those in front suddenly start using their turn signals and stopping at yellow lights.



Maybe I should get a pair of those mirror-like  sunglasses.  And start practicin sayin things like: “Feeling lucky punk?  Now do ya?”



Gosh, It’s nice to suddenly have status.  And feel respected.  Isn’t it?  J


Author's Note:  For those of you who live in southwest Michigan, USofA....and are looking for a QUALITY used car at the RIGHT price...from a dealer you can TRUST, send me an email at: jmadisonrichmond@gmail.com.  And I'll share the name of my car dealer-friend.  You won't go wrong!



December 28, 2009

A Christmas Story?


A Christmas Story?

Grandpa watched year-old “Jackson” scoot across the dark wood, dusty floor, anxious to grab bright green and red lights off the Christmas tree, to climb the stairs – spurts of activity, a magnet drawn to things new, different.

Jackson’s nearby parents a security blanket, watchful eyes and hands scooping him up and away from hot lights, steep stairs, the unknown, unpredictable aspects of life.

xmas09.dad.josh.kids.jpgJackson seemed not to recognize the old man in the red sweater; not part of his circle of faces and voices.

He stared with set lips, unsmiling eyes at Grandpa’s funny face efforts, bursting out a single sob when the old man laughed, talked too loud.

“Is this kid intelligent beyond his years, or what?  Look at those eyes,” Grandpa said to his son, Joshua, Jackson’s 30-year old father.

Joshua said nothing; nodding a small acknowledgement, turning back to fast-thumb his Blackberry keyboard, checking emails, Facebook, and the day’s sport scores.

Grandpa took it in, thinking of links between ages and generations, between grandson and characters in a book he was reading…a biography of Charles Schulz, cartoonist and creator of Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus, Snoopy, Schroeder and Pigpen.

Cartoon characters based on youngsters like Jackson?, he reflected. 

No, Charlie Brown and Lucy may have looked like small children, but were insecure and neurotic as most teenagers and adults, and why PEANUTS was the top cartoon strip for decades before Schulz’s death in 2000.

“My contract says when I die, Peanuts dies,” Schulz would say about his comic strip, which made him a billionaire.

An unhappy, lonely man, Schulz kept an emotional wall between himself and his children – thinking the barrier protected his creativity as a cartoonist. Charlie Brown and Snoopy on newspaper print were more important than family distractions. “I put all of me in my characters,” he’d tell anyone who asked.

Then Schulz grew old and fragile in the late ‘90s, with cancer, and strokes: He changed -- physically and emotionally clinging to family, tears welling up in his eyes and down his cheek, when they sought to leave, to be with their own children, in their own homes.


Grandpa drove home from the Christmas gathering, thinking Jackson was fortunate to have his  parents, who put arms around him, protected against hot lights and steep stairs;  thankful the little boy was no, not, Charlie Brown, or Linus, or  Schroeder.

Pulling into the driveway, he thought,   

We’re born in extreme weakness.

We die in extreme weakness.  

And, in between?

Admit your mistakes.

Live in the day.

Remember only people are important.

Try not to trip on the stairs.   Or fall on the ice.

Let Lucy keep the football.




November 20, 2009

F-Laws, Russell Ackoff, and 'Moving The Ball Down The Field'

F-Laws, Russell Ackoff, and 'Moving The Ball Down the Field'


I have a long time, good friend, Steve, who talks about 'moving the ball forward,' in life. He means he has a predisposition, a preference for action over inaction, for commission over omission.

A modest, quiet guy, he's nevertheless been very successful -- by almost any measurement one cares to use in life.

If like me, chances are you know more people who're not like Steve -- who'd rather work their mouths than work their brains, or their arms; and who'll criticize others'  work or action, while avoiding it themselves.

That may sound a bit harsh and negative. But modern society -- modern business -- does not generally reward risk takers.

Yet, people and organizations learn, change and grow by errors of commission -- by our efforts, and from our failures. 95 percent of what we know and retain, we have learned on the job or in life. Not in school or in a Harvard MBA program. (Typically, we retain only about 5 percent of what we read.)

We suffer, we fail, in life and in business by errors of omission. By fear.  By inactivity.  By doing nothing.  Or too little.

Russell Ackoff, world renowned guru in operational theory and research (who recently died), published his F-Laws, a laundry list of the crazy rules that make life, leadership and business failure/success often problematic and frustrating because of our aversion to action and risk taking in life and in our relationships.

For a reprint/audio copy of a BBC interview with Ackoff shortly before he died, go to:

November 03, 2009

Your (Un)friendly Secretary of State Office

Your (Un)Friendly Secretary of State Office


"You’ll  have to wait outside! We have to get to the machine! Our staff must get through!," the grumpy gal in gray sweater said to me, and about 6 others crammed into the 4x5 entranceway to the Secretary of State office on SW Capital at 8:45 am yesterday, all of us waiting to get a number and then get car title, license or plate.

We'd had a "cozy" little get-acquainted chat...bantering about giving each other Swine Flu, the Lions Loss, etc, until the gray sweater gal (turned out she was the SOS BRANCH MANAGER) pushed open the Door.

NO matter the self service "machine" she was sooo worried about had a big "out of service" sign on it.


No matter it was raining outside.


No matter HER employees had all been NICE to us when THEY came thru the same door earlier.

I told my new found compatriots: "Something in her wakeup must of been wrong.  She doesn't need take it out on us. We're the customers. We're the taxpayers. We're her boss."


Rapid bobbing of heads in agreement. 


Ah, I thought, we have the beginning of a modest taxpayer’s revolt here.

We rushed into get our number slips, and the solidarity slipped away. Every man, woman and child for themselves.  And ready, eager smiles of supplication for the gray sweater lady.


It’s how wars are lost.  And won.

November 01, 2009

Asher, Sullivan Are Real "Change Candidates"

Color.jpgAsher, Sullivan Are Real ‘Change Candidates”

Next Tuesday, a small number of City voters can make a huge difference in Battle Creek's future.

The recent City Commission's difficulty in dealing with financial cutbacks and future directions reflects how important it is for City voters to....vote.....
And in doing so, I urge my friends and associates to consider voting "yes" for Ward 3 candidate Laurie Sullivan, and Ward 4 candidate Chuck Asher.

 Photo: City Commission Candidate Laurie Sullivan (left) with Steve and Linda H. at their Elizabeth Street home.  (Photo by Jim Richmond)

Both are nonencumbents... challengers...part of the nonpartisan "Candidates for Change" that hope to bring fresh ideas and commitment as new City Commissioners.

Laurie -- as many of you know from her on Facebook -- has been an oustanding and outspoken civic and neighborhood leader on BC's north side for more than a decade.

She and her husband bought an empty house -- which had no heat or electricity...and turned it into a gemstone of a place, while Laurie worked with the BCPD to push the crack pushers and addicts out of the neighborhood ..and through her leadership and collaborative style and ability with other Northside residents brought new energy to code enforcement and historic preservation discussions on the Northside and downtown area.

She is a strong leader...who will devote the time and the brainpower to helping build a better Battle Creek.


Photo: Chuck Asher at one of his "50 Stops a Day, 50 Days," at a near southside residence.

Chuck Asher is a retired BC Fire Department Lt., who has knocked on "50 Doors (each of) 50 Days" talking with near-southside residents about City issues, their views and concerns.

Asher is committed to making public services like police, fire and street repairs real priorities.

Both of these people LISTEN as well as they TALK.

So, on Tuesday, if you're in Battle Creek’s Ward 3 or 4....hope you'll think SULLIVAN....ASHER.


October 19, 2009

Jackie Pieper Died This Past Week

Jackie Pieper Taught "Lessons" in Teaching and in Life


Pieper.jpg"Miss Pieper's Boys" are boys no longer.

And Jackie Pieper, 84, admits her own life is no longer what it was before Feb. 22, 2003, when she suffered a fall in her home.

It was an accident -- like those experienced by many elderly Americans -- that wiped out her independence. For her there was no more living in her own home, driving her car, shopping and coffee with retired colleagues and regular church attendance.

But, according to a friend, Pieper always has lived by the motto "Turn life's losses into life's gains." She has shared that philosophy -- and much more -- with dozens of "kids-heading-for-nowhere" that she taught in the Lakeview School District for 22 years.

And "Miss Pieper's Boys" have not forgotten the lesson, or their teacher.

Pieper was born in 1919, the only child of John and Nelle Pieper, both teachers in Urbana, Ill. Her father, a professor of agriculture at the University of Illinois, suffered a heart attack and died at age 53 in 1939. Jackie said it was from her mother, a country-school teacher, that she acquired her "zero tolerance for errors." "My mother used to say: 'There is no excuse for meaning well and doing badly.'"

Pieper never meant to be a teacher, in spite of her parents' strong career example.

She earned university degrees in speech and industrial design and for 12 years designed the exteriors of everything from washing machines and furniture to children's toys and outboard motors at a company in Chicago.

Pieper attended summer workshops on Mackinac Island of the Moral Rearmament Movement, and "I learned that God could guide you in life -- that I could go anywhere and do anything."

Pieper went back and got a master's degree in speech and language, became certified to teach and ended up applying for a teaching position in Battle Creek, "where I didn't know a soul, but knew that I belonged, and that I would spend my life teaching kids here."

For more than two decades, she was part of a small group of "migrant" teachers in the Lakeview School District.

"We went from school to school, working with kids who had language difficulties," she said.

Pieper never married but would end up with a huge "family."

Over the years, she also became what she called "a gap filler" for poor kids, often from broken homes, where there was a gap between government assistance and what the family needed to survive.

One of those families included Gary Nash, who described himself as "a kid heading for nowhere" when he met Jackie Pieper.

"With six children, our family was so poor all we ever ate was commodity food. My dad died when I was really young. And at age 8, I had a profound stuttering problem."

Pieper worked with Nash to overcome the stuttering, and he became one of "Miss Pieper's Boys" -- disadvantaged youngsters she ensured got dental care, new clothes for starting school in the fall and even Christmas presents to give to other family members.

She filled the basement of her house on South Moreland Drive with new clothing, purchased with her own money and donations from others, that she'd give to kids and their families.

Nash, now executive director of the YMCA in Escanaba, also remembers all the trips he and other "carloads of kids" would take with Pieper to basketball games, musical and theatrical productions, the zoo or a movie.

"What I didn't know then was that each of these trips was a 'teachable moment' for us kids, as far as Jackie was concerned. We'd go to a basketball game, and then over a nice dinner, Jackie would talk and question us about how the team never gave up and what might that mean for our own lives and futures."

Pieper also followed the life paths of her former students; was known to quietly help kids pay for their college tuition. She would even let some of them stay in the basement of her home while attending college classes to save money.

"I'm a weed puller, not a flower planter," she said, referring to helping kids and families with immediate needs. "I've always been interested more in righting today's wrongs than in starting up something new."

The past year, since her fall, has been a roller coaster of "in and out of hospitals, nursing homes, getting better, and then getting other health problems," Pieper said.

She now has a small, comfortable unit in the Heritage Assistance Living Center on Helmer Road.

"It was a shock for me, the prospect of having to sell my home and move in here," she said during a recent interview. "But the day I arrived, all the pictures, all the furniture, all the things I loved from my home had been brought here by my great and good friends. It was almost like going home again."

Today, whenever Jackie Pieper needs something, her many friends and now adult "Miss Pieper's Boys" are there for her. Little wonder why.

"She was just like an aunt or second mother to dozens of us kids," Nash said. "There was never a lot of 'gray' in Jackie Pieper's world. She taught and showed us that there's a lot you can and should do in life. And some things you shouldn't do. I've never met a more honest person, in each and every aspect of her life. She set standards for integrity, moral courage and selflessness."

Nash said he is "trying to pass along" these same values to his own four children.

And while Jackie Pieper might still consider herself a reformer, a "weed puller," it's obvious she's planted plenty of flowers during her lifetime.

Jim Richmond lives in Battle Creek, and is past vice president of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and president of the Battle Creek Community Foundation.  His column  first appeared in the Battle Creek Enquirer newspaper.

October 13, 2009

At Large City Candidates' Forum: The Winner Is....

At Large, City Candidates' Forum: The Winner is....
There were almost as many  candidates (9) on the stage at Burnham Brooke Community Center last night as people in the audience (40).

My Grades/Notes on the Group:

Ryan Hersha, A+: appears  head and shoulders above this crowd...articulate, thoughtful, informed, people and community oriented and centered.

Carlton Lartigue, B+: talks the talk, but can he walk the walk?

Susan Baldwin, B: seems informed, dedicated ..   but several troubling votes as an incumbent about NIBC, etc.  and a bit brittle in  attitude.

Jason Pancost, C+: this red cheeked, cherub-faced kid has some good ideas.  Wore a suit and tie.  His mama raised him right.  Good luck.

Beverli Carpenter-Hunter, C:  very engaging ... retired Detroit cop... she and Hersha only ones to work the crowd...hey its an election, these hardy, late-night folks vote!

Steve Bessony, C: personalized t-shirt guy, "My name is b-e-s-s-o-n-y, glib ... may be a light weight.

Johnny Cash, C-: like his public safety emphasis, but would you want him representing you every week?

Ebony Thorpe, D- : clueless  ... lost inside her head and with the facts.

Bill Morris, F:  Mr. Economic Development can't squirm away from his checked past and unpaid tax bills.....  affirms why not to vote for him.

Diane Thompson:  absent, but with a  good, written excuse from home.


September 25, 2009

Donorcycles, Punkmobiles and Women Drivers

Donorcycles, Punkmobiles and Women Drivers

“How do you like riding that donorcycle?”  a friend said to me, with a smile and chuckle,  the other day.

It took me a while to get it: motorcycle or bicycle riding + frequent use= traffic accident, and opportunity to donate heart, lung, kidney or liver (or all of them).

After about two months of riding a bicycle to work at 5:30 a.m. and normal daylight hours, I have G-O-T the message.  You can watch the track, the traffic and your back, wear helmets and leather pants until the cows come home.

You’re still gonna get whacked on that two-wheeler.  It’s just a matter of time and distance, the law of gravity, and female driving habits.

Evil.motorcycle.jpgA couple weeks ago, a guy I know and his new, young squeeze were on their Honda or Harley, stopped at the light on Columbia, in front of the Michigan State Police headquarters.  A woman in a car came up right behind and hit them…..the couple was thrown over the top of the cycle; they survived; the cycle did not. “I never saw them!  I never saw them!,” the woman driver exclaimed to onlookers and the State Police bluecoaters.

The basic problem is that two wheelers are invisible to everyone else on the road.


(ABOVE) Photo Caption: Don't do Evel on your motorcycle.

You are SMALL.  Vulnerable. 

Some motorists get a perverse thrill out of intimidating and scaring road runners and two-wheelers.  They drive up next to you in their punkmobiles, and yell “FUC* YOU!!!!!” in your ear, laughing as pee runs down your leg and into your tennis shoe.

Two-wheelers LEARN to WATCH drivers’ EYES.  You can tell whether the driver is paying attention to driving, the traffic, and sees you. 

Doesn’t matter if you’re peddling in one of those supposedly secure and safe, white striped “bicycle lanes.”  That white stripe could be yellow, because it runs right up your back, as you peddle along, and proclaims:  “Road Kill!! Hit me!”

The biggest threat to all of us on donorcycles:  WOMEN CAR DRIVERS.

They are not mean.  

They don't yell obscenities at you.  Women drivers  almost always grin abashedly, and mouth the words: “I’M SORRY,” after they’ve pushed the bicyclist off the road.  Or flying into a ditch.

Women are compulsive multi-taskers, when behind the wheel of a car.

She is bopping to Bon Jovi on the CD.  With her left hand, she is talking to her boyfriend on the cell phone, plucking eyebrows with tweezers in the mirror, taking a drag off a cigarette and balancing a hot cup of coffee.  With her right hand, she is applying lipstick and combing her hair.   Occasionally, she nudges the steering wheel with free elbow, to keep the car heading in generally the right direction.

So it ain’t no joke:  Stay off bicycles and motorcycles, unless you want to die young or have a death wish.

 chairs_edithann2.jpgAs Edith Ann used to say on Laugh-In: “And that’s the truth.”




August 30, 2009

'First Wes' Sunday Service a Pleasant Surprise

Author’s Note: This is second is a series of “Church Visit” profiles to appear here.

For last week’s visit to, and profile of, Dexter Lake Church go to: http://ragstorichmond.blogspirit.com/archive/2009/08/23/c...

Next Sunday: First Christian Church.  On 8.13.09: Ft. Custer Chapel  (former military base chapel, now operated as a nondenominational church.).  8.20.09: Southwind Community Church (Lakeview). 8:30.09: Salvation Army (Battle Creek).  For later fall: Battle Creek's high roller, downtown churches.


‘First Wes’ Sunday Service a Pleasant Surprise




I was prepared to not particularly like First Wes Church today. Albeit a good friend is a Church member. My prior impressions of First Wes were as this huge, quasi mega, impersonal church (for Battle Creek’s size) more about growth than agape.

Turned out I was wrong.  On several  scores.

The Church's Senior Pastor spoke on “The Real Thing,” agape love vs. Eros or physical love.  I’d give him a grade of B+ on the sermon.  Sort of a laid back style, combining bits of Deback Chopra, Wayne Dyer and Tony Campolo. His sermon was reasoned; perhaps a bit too secular in tone and delivery:  “Real love is a choice, not a feeling. If we have real faith in the Lord, that faith leads to real love.  Real love is choosing to love those you’d rather not love.  Real love pulls us out of fear of life and others.”

He used PowerPoint slides, a giant screen with an amusing video with skits about how wearing your Christianity on your sleeve, chest or car bumper doesn’t mean you’re A Good Christian, or a very loving person.

Along with than the sermon, I was impressed with the music and the musicians:  five or six musicians that sounded like 12.  Three great lead singers, solid instrumental accompaniment.  The contemporary religious songs were well chosen (love themes, like the sermon).  It would be hard for Pontius Pilate to sit at First Wes and not stand up, and get caught up in the Christian music.  And the music left me with a spiritual connectedness that lasted through the day.

One of the male vocalists is evidently head of Church music.  Good voice.  But, I kept hoping the female vocalist would sing solo again – a white Mavis Staples.  “Wow, is she good,” I leaned over and said to my friend and Church host.  “Yes, sings a lot of jazz, too” my friend commented.

At the end of his sermon, The Pastor, in what seemed like a somewhat awkward, halting statement about recent  Church growth and adding another pastor (they have 3 or 4 for various functions ... big church) showed a video of the new assistant minister – growing up in Battle Creek, swimming in a Lakeview H.S. meet, later with his motorcycle, and a solitary baby picture of his wife (I think.  Or was it his child?  Hard to tell from the video's audio track). 

The congregation didn’t seem to know whether to shout out  welcome and amen, or laugh, uncomfortably, at what they thought -- but were not sure -- was self depreciating humor in the video.  I hoped the New Guy would come up next to the Senior Pastor on stage.  He didn't.

I stopped at the Information Desk before the service and got a purple plastic bag with First Wes welcome items.  “You want a First Wes coffee mug or water bottle?” the friendly Welcome Desk volunteer asked me.  (I took the purple water bottle.)  Lots of good printed Church material in the bag. Turned out the volunteer was the sister of a mutual friend, I’d worked with, long ago in Battle Creek.

Resting for a minute in the atrium’s “First Wes” Café after the service, with lines of folks getting cappuccino, coffee and sweets, I glanced through the Sunday’s bulletin:  1,924 attended last week’s three services and donated $28,772.  Pretty impressive when there was no offertory or basket passing at the service, just the opportunity to leave an offering or tithe envelope at the door.

“We exist to reach the lost and broken in the region and to bring them into a fully devoted relationship with Christ,” is the proclaimed, printed mission of First Wes Church.  (Some may be lost and broken, but the Sunday congregation looked pretty put together and middle class to me.)

First Wes makes up for its size, by having active church missions and programs for youth, adults, men, women, singles, and almost any other small group interest possible within its congregation.

Overall, a nice, low key and inspirational  Sunday morning of reflection.  

I like First Wes and will go back.  If they let me in the parking lot and the door. 

But then that's what agape is all about.


For more information on the Church and its many programs and services, go to: firstwes.org.

August 23, 2009

Dexter Lake Church

Church of the Nice and Easy

I went to the Dexter Lake Church today; that used to have this huge congregation, but is going thru some life changes and hard times; as we all do.

The old minister left; the new one is young, long winded, the congregation has shrunk,  and the remainder seem a bit testy.  (Something like, I guess, what's happened since Donnie Swaggart took over from Dad Jimmy.)

It's one of those....well the word escapes me.... (pentacostal?) churches where most everyone stands throughout the service, people say "Amen!" to ever 3rd word uttered by the preacher, and rock and sway back and forth like they've had a few too many... waving their arms in motion to the music and the minister's words.....their eyes gradually starting to roll back into the top of their heads ... where there's a giant stage, musical instruments like an iterant 70s rock band might have, and a HUGE rear screen that flashes pictures -- reminded me of Fillmore West in SF in 69, except I looked all around and couldn't see any tie-dyed t-shirts,  Bill Graham, Grace Slick, Big Brother and the Holding Company, County Joe, or Janis Joplin in the church audience.

The screen didn't changes images, but had something like: "Dexter Lake Church" -- Experience it. Believe it. (Or something like that, I hadn't brought a pencil or notepad with me.)

Now, that should have been more than a WARNING, since I'm a fallen-away-Catholic, a borderline agnostic...questioning most everything......searching for faith, and thus Sunday church hopping.

Right then, I thought "Nope, this ain't my cup of tea."

But I got a ride over with a friend.

I wanted to be nice.

Most of all, I didn't want to walk the 4 miles back to my own car.

So I sat and listened to the preacher...and tried to concentrate on what he was yelling about ... something to do with a half full clay jar of olive oil, and then he went and actually got a clay jar off the stage, as a prop I guess, and he'd wave the jar in the air while he preached, and I kept hoping he wouldn't spill the olive oil. 

          He was starting to sway and roll on the balls of his feet ... breathing heavy....wiping sweat from forehead with a white hanky ... alternating cadence of loud breathing and pauses.....that reminded me a bit of foreplay and that nasty Tina Turner rift ("We only do it nice...and easy").

I looked around and realized I was probably the only one not getting it ...  and not getting into the spirit of the occasion.

So, I kept day dreaming....checking out people in the other pews.....

A few rows up and to the right were five churchgoers together ...in profile.....two men...three women....and I think they were related. They were all chewing gum (most of the people in the church seemed to be chewing gum). But these five were chewing gum in sync, like the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th violin chairs in the Battle Creek Symphony orchestra. Or The Beastie Boys. Or the Spice girls. Or The Temptations.

"How do they do that?," I wondered to myself.

After about 40 minutes of this, I excused myself from my friend, and went out to the car....and started reading the last chapters of THE ODESSA FILE.

Next Sunday I'll try a bit more mainstream church....

And I won't write about the experience here.

Or will I?

August 20, 2009

Lius Live Life of Hard Work, Family Values



Lius Live Life of Hard Work, Family Values


by Jim Richmond


It’s been 36 years, since Tony Liu swam for six hours in shark infested waters of the Pacific Ocean, escaping the Communist China mainland and reaching freedom in Hong Kong, and eventually the United States.100_0175 copy copy.jpg


Tony said he longed to live in America, learn English, open a Chinese restaurant, raise a family, and most of all, to become a U.S. citizen.  Goals he’s since achieved.


For most of those years, Tony and his vivacious wife, Lisa, (a native of Hong Kong) have owned and operated Chinese restaurants in Battle Creek, first in the downtown, and for the past 20 years on Columbia Avenue. 


Their “Tony’s Hong Kong Restaurant” is not the biggest Chinese restaurant in Battle Creek, but many area residents think it has among the best food, service and most authentic décor. 


“Our buffet is not the largest (in variety of offerings among  area restaurants), but our food is very high quality,” Tony commented one recent afternoon, sitting  at a table, during a lull in the restaurant’s business, talking about why his restaurant have been successful in an increasingly competitive local market.                             

Tony and Lisa Liu, with daughter Melissa. (Photo by Jim Richmond)


While he’s proud of the buffet, Tony encourages guests to consider ordering from the menu, which features a much larger variety of speciality dishes. 


He gives a tour of the spotlessly clean kitchen area of the restaurant, and the large sign that reminds him and  employees: “Quality Food.  Good Service.  Clean  Restaurant.”


Since arriving in Battle Creek 31 years ago, the Lius have devoted long hours, usually seven days a week to their business, while raising their family of four children, Roger, 27, Daniel, 25, Waiman, 19 and Melissa, 16. 


Roger and Daniel are both University of Michigan graduates; now computer engineers  for the Intel Corporation. Waiman attends the University; and Melissa is a junior at Lakeview High School and attends the Science and Math Center.


Tony and Lisa also have developed a personal and family philosophy over the years that can be summarized: ‘Work hard. Get an education. Take care of family. Appreciate what you have.’


Their children worked weekends, for no pay, at the family restaurant during high school and college days while they were living at home.  And daughter Melissa was working at the restaurant during the recent interview with her parents.


Melissa said she sometimes misses not going with friends to weekend parties or a football game, “But I learned to realize my parents are working hard for us. That they’ve sacrificed a lot for us, and for the family,” she said.  “It doesn’t hurt me to sacrifice a little (by working at the restaurant weekends).”


Tony’s Hong Kong Restaurant is located at 174 East Columbia Avenue in Battle Creek, Michigan, USA.






August 04, 2009

Bottlecap Blues

Bottlecap Blues


In the 1950s, soft drinks came in glass bottles with strong, clawlike steel caps that had to be pried open and off.  And the pointed edges of the caps were sharp…sharp as nails, a razor blade.

A bottlecap was a strange weapon of torture…especially to use on a child.

But he did it.

“He” was a full Professor of History at the regional university in Kansas City.  The Professor, a normally meek, mild mannered, tiny, timid sort of a man with bow tie and thick glasses, lived next door for several years on Coleman Road.  With Shelly, his 4-year old daughter. (Twin brother Johnny and I were about 7 at the time.)

Shelly was as loud, outgoing and captivating as her pedantic pop was scholarly and nondescript.180px-Bottle_cap_special.jpg

While The Professor seemed very bright, he did not own or drive a car.

Many days, my Dad would take The Professor, and Shelly, to the grocery store, or the library or the doctor’s office, in our 1948 dark blue, four-door Plymouth.

Johnny rode one backseat, shotgun window.  I the other. 

In between would sit The Professor, and Shelly.

As regular as rain, or a sunset, The Professor would tightly hold one of Shelly’s hands whenever in the car.

 Shelly would jabber on.  Like a typical, somewhat hyperactive child. 

Until she would let out a muffled wimper, and contort her arms and torso as if undergoing electric shock treatment.

She struggled desperately to roll off the car seat, away from her father, and onto the floor.

Trying,  most of all, to pull hand from her father’s death grip.

Seems The Professor secretly carried a sharpened bottlecap, and he pressed the cap into the soft palmed flesh of his lovely daughter’s hand.

When she 'misbehaved.'

When my Dad found out, car rides for The Professor, were over.


June 23, 2009

WWII ‘Old Salt’ Worries ‘Luck May Be Running Out’

WWII ‘Old Salt’ Worries ‘Luck May Be Running Out’



Frank Price says he’s been lucky in war and in love, serving and surviving on the battleship USS South Dakota (BB-57) during World War II, when the ship suffered 42 hits during just one of its engagements with Japanese warships and fighter planes.

Price, 88, talks knowledgeably about the ship’s bloody WWII conflicts, battles with famous names like Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Tinian and Truk. He served on the USS South Dakota for nearly five years, achieving the rank of Chief Warrant Officer.

But his real luck in life has less to do with making it through World War II, than meeting and marrying Margaret Marie (Lennon), his wife of 64 years, Price said.

The two grew up on neighboring farms near Bellevue, Michigan, but didn’t start dating until after Price returned from Navy service.

“I didn’t get serious with any girls before I got out of the (military) service,” he recalled.  “Because I didn’t know if I’d make it back home alive.”

He remembered Margaret. “I walked over to the Lennon family farm and asked her mom if I could ask Margaret out on a date,” Price recalled.  Six months later, they married.

Price returned to work at Post Foods, where he was employed 45 years. 

After raising seven children, Margaret then worked 20 years at the Battle Creek Federal Center.

Following retirement, the Prices relocated to Sarasota, Florida; but returned to Battle Creek to be closer to family and for medical reasons, he said.

About a year ago, they moved into the Care Community assisted living facility, located on General Avenue in the Ft. Custer area of Battle Creek. 

After a fall and a hospital stay, Margaret was transferred by her physician and family to a long term care facility.

Each morning, Frank gets a ride from Care Community to visit his wife for two or three hours.

“I’ve been lucky to have Margaret all these years.  But, maybe my luck’s running out.  I miss her so, so much,” he said.

n  30 –


USSSDakota.jpgPhoto Caption: Frank Price served as a Chief Warrant Officer for nearly five years aboard the USS South Dakota (BB 57), during some of the battleship’s most fearsome fights with the Japanese in World War II. (US Navy Photo).

June 07, 2009

These Cemeteries Worth A Visit


"These Cemeteries Worth A Visit"

Two of my favorite places for walks, and just quiet bench time, are historic Oak Hill Cemetery, where everyone from Ellen White, C.W. Post, W. K. Kellogg to Junior Walker ("Junior Walker and The All Stars -- "Shotgun!" fame) are buried, and the relatively new Ft. Custer National Cemetery off Dickman Road in nearby Augusta, Michigan.

There is a German POW memorial and grave(s) site at the national cemetery. A line of German POW graves. German soldiers were prisoners at Ft. Custer in WWII from 1943 to 1946.  More than half of the 26 buried here, were killed on Oct. 31, 1945 when the truck they were riding in....to do farm work...was hit by a train.

Across the cemetery road are more U.S. military graves, and a single bench near the tree line, that provides a wonderful spot for thinking or reading, or saying a prayer of thanks to our US soliders buried here.

I stop at the bench often on my walks....but also slowly meander among the U.S. graves...mostly from WWI, Korea and Vietnam......quite a few of the Vietnam vets buried here are younger than me. (Perhaps, one day, I will join my Vietnam Vet brethern in this ground. Not an unpleasant thought.)

But I wonder about all of them....their military service in the various wars. Their families. Their lives.

Capt. U.S. Army
48th MASH
January 17, 1928 - July 20,2002.
"We Love You Mom"

Capt. Burley served as a nurse in one of the MASH (Mobile Army Surgical Hospitals) units, forward deployed during the Korean Conflict -- the same hospitals that the TV series and movie were based on.

There are so many told and untold stories in the two cemeteries.

But the national cemetery, and our US soldiers buried there, are special.

And, yes, "We Love You Mom."


 Actual MASH unit, unloading wounded US soliders, Korea, early 1950s.

June 05, 2009

Postcard to George Bush in Texas

Postcard to George blog post photo                                     

Hi, George.

By now you and Laura are settled back in Texas.

Sorry I missed your spine-tingling speech the other day at the SW Michigan Economic Club – whooooohaaaaa!  Bet that was a perky group.  Understand it was only the second public speech you’ve made since departing the White House.  You wanted to be around friends, right? Not worry about protesters or placards.

Take your time to adjust.

Even for a guy with your gumba, it must be a change, a shock!

Hope you're sleeping in a bit late.

Giving Laura more hugs.

Back out there biking with Lance Armstrong in the mornings.

You deserve it!

Pretty rough eight years, right, pardner? Like fallin off a buckin Texas longhorn in the last 60 seconds of a two-minute ride.

Left you with a few bruises, we bet?

But then you left us in a pile of steer shit, too, if you'd pardon my language.

Decided what you're gonna do now?

Build that new presidential library to house papers about your eight years of Presidential "successes"?

Maybe your library can rewrite history. So there WERE weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. So you tracked down Osama. So you tightened rathered than loosened regulatory rules on the Wall Street speculators. Reformed social security and national health care. Got us started down the free-from-foreign-oil road. 

While you wait for that library, just lean back, chill out,  mi amigo!

You could buy another baseball team.
Join Rush on radio in the morning.

We could use you, Cowboy!!!!
Bang, bang. Bang, bang. In my cold, dead hand..and all that.  Especially now that Charlton is pushing up daisies instead of fighting gladiators in The Coliseum.

Me? Gosh, buddy, I'm lost for words, M-I-S-S-I-N you so!

As I said, Amerika has been in a pile of deep do-do long before your departure. 

Same with our family, Mr. P.

Mary lost her job.  Has breast cancer; which has spread. We've spent all our money saved for retirement, so we could pay her hospital bills.

I'm on unemployment, too.

Can’t sell the house.  And the kids can't find work; except at McDonald's or Wal-Mart.

But, don't worry about us.

We'll get by.... Always do.

And like most folks in Amerika, we're trying hard to stay positive,  but to clean up after your eight-year Texas Chainsaw Massacre, know what I mean?

Maybe not.

You always said you didn't give a damn what people thought about you as President...that history would decide.

I think you're soooooo right. It's being written right now.

Say "hey," to Laura for us.

Kick that coon dog for me, hear? :-)

May 31, 2009

"I'm his live-in girlfriend! You little prick!"

"I'm his live-in girlfriend! You little prick!!"

The Felpausch grocery store on Columbia Avenue was like a Strasberg acting class yesterday – but the ‘student’ performing got an ‘F” grade from her audience.

The checkout lines were long.  So we all had time for the show. Right behind me is a woman, chatting away on her "two-way" cell.

"That son of a bitch came to my door last night," she two-ways to someone. "I told him:'I gave up that crack candy FOUR weeks ago!  And my old man is upstairs, and he'll come down and beat your ass!'"

I listen and linger to watch her, and a kid who looked about 3, with filthy clothes, try to pay for their groceries with a check.  And then have a problem.

“I’m his live-in girlfriend!,” she screams at this young male clerk, staffing the customer service/blooze/cigarette/lottery desk in front of checkout lines.

Thirty or so of us in four lines are all eyes and ears.

Young clerk goes on autopilot.  He pastes a half smile on his face, his eyes go blank, as he repeatedly lifts up a microphone and pleads: “Manager to customer service.  Manager to customer service, please."

Having my four items checked, and being a nosey old man, I walk over and stand in line behind lady in shorts; like I’m waiting to buy a carton of KOOLS or a fifth of STOLI.  I wanna hear it all.

“We can’t cash the check, ma’m.  You signed it but your name isn't on the account,” clerkboy repeats, batting the virtual ball back and for to the woman’s side of the net.

But she has a vicious serve, a relentless backhand, and a trash mouth.

“I signed that fu*ckin thing, because I’M HIS LIVE-IN GIRLFRIEND! SOOOO, you’d rather just lose a good customer?  You, you........ little PRICK!”

She repeats her mantra, in a loud voice, as  “manager” finally shows up. 

And when their brief conversation is over, she follows manager to the back of the store, a pit bull waiting to take a bite out of his ass or ankles, at first misstep.

Walking to the parking lot, I thought  how times have changed.

It used to be if you were someone’s ‘live-in girlfriend,’ you didn’t publicize the fact. 

To say nothing about signing the guy’s personal checks, because you happened to be pulling his chain,  after midnight.

And to think a lot of this crazy stuff started with Lee Marvin and palimony.

I'd better go take my spoonful of Geritol.