Thursday, December 28, 2006

Monkeying around

Just before Christmas, Kissy Missy took the kids to Taco Bell to grab a quick bite between overachievement events. And there, dressed as Santa Claus, was Magical Balloon Michael. He's in his 20s, and was putting together a balloon sculpture like I've never seen -- a monkey in a tree as tall as Katherine. Quite detailed, too. He gave it to Katherine, who passed it along to the mother of one of her friends who was in the hospital.
Magical Michael was handing out business cards. I suppose it's better than honest work, and certainly better than his previous career as a professional wrestler. But what do I know about that? I haven't done anything my dad would consider "honest work" in years.

Upscale pie

Kissy Missy and I have returned from the Great (not yet White) North. It's a quiet day, and we went to lunch at the Grand Traverse Pie Co. in Mount Pleasant.

The day the place opened up, it was packed. It opened up right near the corner of Mission and Preston, just off campus, but this isn't a student crowd. It's too expensive for the run-of-the-mill student, although I've seen some sorority girls hanging out in here.
No, it's become wildly popular with the upscale professor and educator types, the same kinds of people who hang around Frankfort on summer's days.
The coffee's good, the wi-fi is fast, the soup's excellent and the pie, well, it's fabulous.

My one complaint is that the place can get real noisy on a lunch hour. And, OK, I have another gripe: the background music is insipid. But other than that, it's done a lot to enliven the city stretch of Mission Street, and provides a cool hangout for former hippies who now are old, fat, smart people.

America's best place name

Without a doubt, the best place name in America is Pine Stump Junction, Mich.
Yes, it's real. It's far from anywhere, about 25 miles north of Newberry. It is close to the Two Hearted River, of Hemingway fame, which hasn't changed much since Papa wrote about it decades ago. This year, it's pretty quiet because of lack of snow, but it's usually a snowmobile stop in the fabulous snow country west of Paradise. If you're looking for a place beyond the cell phones, beyond the Internet, somewhere close to the edge of the planet, this is your place.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Live from somewhere south of Pine Stump Junction

I’m still playing catch-up around the holidays. I’m writing this on Boxing Day at a restaurant in Newberry. I’m not sure when I can find a ’Net connection and post it.
The kids are at their mom’s; I’m glad to hear that all the kids were down there, along with Annie and Lexie. That’s something positive.
Kissy Missy and I came up to her mom’s on Christmas Eve, and got together with her brother, and his wife and kids. We had Christmas Eve dinner, then went to church at St. Gregory’s in Newberry.
Christmas Day was quiet and peaceful; Christmas dinner was meatball Stroganoff.
There’s almost no snow up here, and that’s got a lot of people worried. If there’s no snow, there are no snowmobilers. If there are no snowmobilers, there’s no winter economy.

Amazing display

One of the most wonderful things about Christmas in mid-Michigan is the holiday display at the Sheahan house.

The Sheahans did quite well as the owners of one of the local watering holes, and retired many years ago. Thirty or 40 years ago, the family began decorating the yard, and it’s kinda gotten out of control.

Now, people come from all over the place to see the decorations. There usually are cars on Kinney Street, slowly cruising past.

A giant snowman rules over the side yard

It’s perfectly OK to sit in the sleigh in the front yard. Kissy Missy was telling me she was cold.

Run away! Ski away!

Andrew’s eyes lit up when he opened his Christmas gift – a sweatshirt emblazoned with the killer rabbit from Monty Python and the Holy Grail and the legend, “Run away! Run away!”

After spending four days skiing at Marquette Mountain, Andrew was glad to sleep in his own bed for a night. They had snow at Marquette, but it was rapidly going away, and one of the days was mostly slush. Yuck.
This year’s boys’ ski team seems as if it’s really, really competitive. That’s a good thing for the Oilers. Andrew’s new skis are fast, and he’s focusing on his need for speed.
Think killer rabbits on skis.

The Wicked Girl Returns

Katherine was ecstatic when she came back from Toronto.
She described seeing the musical “Wicked” as “beyond amazing” and “better than Broadway.” Of course, she’s never actually seen anything on Broadway, but I would imagine that any big-city musical production in Toronto would have incredibly high production values.
And I’m glad she’s seen them.
She and the other choir members had the opportunity to work with a couple of cast members the next day; one of them was highly complimentary to Katherine’s voice.
When I asked Katherine what she thought about Toronto, she simply answered, “Big,” as if it were a bad thing. It’s not; it’s just one of the coolest cities in the world.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Skiers, singers and buses

Christmas break, two different kids, two different buses, two different countries. Holy Wa!
Tuesday night, Andrew and the ski team got on a Hartzler bus bound for Marquette Mountain. It's the annual team-building and high-intensity training session, this year extended to four days.
The sense I got as the team loaded the bus was electric! I haven't had that sense before, but this group has the horses to do something really terrific this year, and I think they have the want-to.
It's been an uncharacteristically warm late fall, but at last report, Marquette Mountain was able to make snow, and had three runs open.

After the skiers took off, Katherine performed in the annual Holiday Collage concert (more on that later) then went home to try to get some sleep.
Wednesday morning, 4 a.m., alarm clock time. Katherine is out of bed, ready -- she's going on the trip she's been anticipating since August -- Toronto! Wicked, the musical, at the Canon Theatre!

The bus was to leave at 6 a.m.; we got there at 5:38, the first ones in the parking lot.
Passport in hand -- she does want to come back to the United States -- she was ready, excited, practically glowing.
Part of the trip is a workshop with the cast members, and, of course, shopping!
I suspect before the trip's over, she will have fallen in love with the musical theater, as well as Toronto.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Watching the wildlife

Last week, it got cold. It's been a pretty mild winter so far; according to my calculations, we're 7 percent warmer than normal as of this week.
Still, that means some warm days (like today) and some cold days. The temperature dropped down to the coldest it's been since last March, snow piled up in the woods, and it looked a lot like winter.
Outside the patio door, I looked out into the woods, and saw them. Three deer had bedded down in the snow just outside the door, right on the edge of the woods. They were warm and safe, sheltered from the cold.
A deer path runs through the woods north of the house, and it's not unusual to find signs that the neighborhood deer had bedded down in the tall grass behind the house. They're shy, of course, and they're pretty close to humans.
But here, at least for an afternoon, they felt comfortable enough to be there.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

The fridge dancers

Last June, Andrew, Robert, Kissy Missy and I went to Frankfort for Father's Day. Kathy had left the day before on her way to her European tour, so the four of us went to Lake Michigan, splashed in the lake, and generally had a great time.
One of the places we stopped was called the Trick Dog Gallery. It was an art gallery, which also sold food and gifts. The food at the Trick Dog is simple, but amazing; the specialty is a stuffed Brazilian French toast that is to die for.
We couldn't afford any of the really fancy art that owner/artist Greg Jaris had for sale -- although it was cool. It's quirky, fun, beyond trendy, just really neat. It's the kind of thing that you'll find in a teacher's house, a really cool teacher's house. Perhaps someday ...
But we did bring back souvenirs from the Trick Dog.
Kissy Missy picked out some refrigerator magnets with a twist -- they're silhouettes of a clown, a monkey, a dancer and a musician. All are fully articulated, and they can be placed in any position.
All four of them live on the refrigerator in the back room. Anyone is free to change the magnets' positions.
The monkey and the clown just seem to tolerate each other, tied with magnets to the freezer door. But the dancer and the musician appear to have started something.
They change, sometimes from day to day, sometimes from week to week, sometimes from hour to hour.
When I wake up in the morning, the dancers are there on the refrigerator door. They are joyful. They are a definite message that there is fun in the house.
It seems, sometimes, that a relationship has blossomed between the dancer and the musician. There's a story there, and the story hasn't come to an end. There is mystery in that story, told in silhouette and body language and dance. They are friends, perhaps. Or perhaps they are lovers, or perhaps they are siblings.
In any case, on any given morning when I awake, I wonder what new chapter of the story will be told. Are they happy? Intense? Angry? Is it the relationship of the century? Or will today's story be stormy and dark? Will it be over the top? Or perhaps under the bottom.

Downhill at speed

The sun had just set over the Buck Hills of southern Benzie County as Andrew and I pulled into Crystal Mountain.
The slopes were lit brilliantly, the bluish light of the mercury-vapor lamps reflecting off the snow.
"I love night skiing," Andrew said. He got his first lift ticket of the season, caught a chairlift and headed up the mountain to initiate his new Fisher skis.
"I still got it," Andrew said, as he returned from more than two hours and what he estimated to be 30 or 40 runs. "The skis work."
He'd sold thousands of Wendy's hamburgers to pay for those skis. Saturday night, it was time to cash in.
Crystal Mountain opened midday Friday. Andrew and I went there after he got off work Saturday.
"The snow was wonderful," Andrew said. "A little beaten up, but that's what you expect in night skiing."
That's because it was late in the day. A full day of temperatures in the mid-30s and what the racers call "civilian" skiers had torn up the surface.
"It's had all day to have skiers to go over it," Andrew explained, "and snowboarders, who don't carve very well, rip it up."
That made the surface "a little mushy" but the new Fishers were fabulous beneath his boots.
"My edges are so good I can bite down into the solid layers underneath," Andrew said. "There's more of a sense of control. They fit better how I move."
Andrew said he hit almost every open slope; 25 of Crystal's 45 runs were open.
"Some I was going for speed," he said. On his last run, he took the chairlift to the highest point on the mountain.
"I came straight down in a tuck," he said.
The equipment issues, at least for now, appear to have been solved. Andrew's looking forward to a very fast winter.

Friday, December 8, 2006

"A Christmas Carol"

The run of "A Christmas Carol" at the Broadway Theatre is continuing, with performances tonight, Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.
Katherine has been working her tail off to keep up with everything involved. She's in the chorus, singing Christmas carols from the balcony. She solos on "O Come, O Come Emmanuel."
Katherine's been battling laryngitis on this one, but the show goes on. The family, as a family, sees the entire show tonight.
Break a leg.

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Fuzzy, Annie and Lexie

I'm still playing catch-up after a slightly crazy period; this should have gone up several days ago.
Katherine and I went to Kentwood over the weekend for Lexie's first birthday party. It was so good to get together with Matthew -- and to see Annie and Lexie.
Annie is a fabulous addition to what once was the slightly warped Gang of Four. It's neat to watch the two of them relate to each other. There's little strained, little that's artificial.
Lexie, of course, is Annie's daughter. Just watching Fuzzy relate to her is a joy. He's a natural. He's completely comfortable with that little girl on his lap, and she's completely at ease with him.
I get the impression that Annie, who sees herself as a rebel, someone who tests the limits, has been looking for a comfortable place from which she can do that. I sense that Annie has been looking, perhaps even without realizing it, for a place where she can challenge and test and perhaps rebel, then come home safely.
Perhaps she's found it.
Meanwhile, Katherine is eyeing Annie's drum set.

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

The annoying Christmas letter

When I started this blog I kind of had the idea of making this sort of a holiday newsletter that might run all year long.
Well, that's happened.
Well, we had all the images and stories. Why not put some of them into print? I was able to make a sort of a holiday newsletter -- but it's really kind of an ad for the Ranzenblog. That's going into some of this year's Christmas cards.
Click on the image for a full-size view. It's just fun.

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

A One

It's there on his nightstand -- a simple medal, with a design that probably hasn't changed in 60 years. It's Robert's Division One medal from last weekend's Michigan School Band and Orchestra Association Junior High District Solo & Ensemble Festival at Perry.
Students are judged on their playing ability on a scale from 5 to 1. I've never heard of anyone getting a 5; a 1 is the best.
"I got a One."
For band students, that just says it all.
He's been working on his solo for weeks. The bus would be leaving at 6 a.m., so he gradually set his alarm back so he would be used to getting up excruciatingly
early. That morning, he got up, put on his Blue Lake sweatshirt, and just played.
He says it was a great solo.
Robert got a One. Nothing more needs to be said.

Monday, December 4, 2006

Partying with the star

I'm playing catch-up here, so expect a flurry of posts over the next couple of days. The big one: Jeff Daniels and Kissy Missy.
Jeff Daniels is a CMU alumnus, who went on to fame and fun in "Dumb and Dumber," then truly got serious about his craft.
He's got a list of credits a mile long, but he's truly a nice guy.
He put on a fund-raiser for the CMU theater department last week. Kissy Missy bid on some tickets (at a substantial discount from face value, I might add) and we ended up with seats in the fourth row.
The show was at Bush Theater, not a place one ordinarily thinks of as an intimate venue, but it was a fun, intimate show. He told stories, sang songs and seemed to enjoy himself as much as the crowd did.
Afterward, he put up with the meet-and-greet types at the reception. It was great.
Kissy Missy, of course, has a special connection. She's an extra in the bar scene in "Escanaba in da Moonlight." He loves his craft, he loves the impact it has on ordinary people, and he's a nice guy.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Back at it again

Back to work Monday after the long holiday, and actually, it feels good.
I've decided -- for whatever good it does me -- that the trouble with a fall semester is that the break comes 12 weeks into it, and it's short. Spring's easier, with a break right in the middle.
So what would happen if we Americans moved Thanksgiving to the last week in October, instead of the last week of November? The Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving the second Monday of October, but that's a little early.
Make it the last Thursday of October. The Thursday holiday helps the retailers and makes it a long weekend.
Maybe there could be a tie-in with Halloween, but I'd have to figure out the scheduling. Maybe Halloween could be Thursday, Black Friday on Friday, and Thanksgiving on Monday.
If this about retailing anyway, why not start the Christmas season earlier? We're already getting Christmas Carols in early November; why not have everybody start them at the same time, and we can get used to it? Besides, that way, there'd be at least one, maybe two credit card payments during the holiday shopping season, so people could buy more!
And the weather would be so much better for Black Friday if it were in October instead of November.
Is there a call for a movement here?

Friday, November 24, 2006


Thanksgiving 2006 was peaceful and calm. Getting there was a challenge.
The kids, who haven't spent a weekend together at their mother's since, oh, about June, all went to Detroit for the holiday. Sounds simple enough, right?
Not with the schedule juggling that was necessary. Andrew worked Wednesday night until 8. Kathy had a rehearsal that run until 9:30. We finally swapped kids in Midland at 10:30.
That left Kissy Missy and me to spend Bird-Day by ourselves. That was nice, watching parades, going to the Doherty for Thanksgiving dinner, simply enjoying the beautiful day as a couple.
It was some of the best weather I can recall for a Thanksgiving Day. It was sunny, and the temperature rose to the mid-50s.
Today, I have to work at the paper. I'm not sure what I'll be doing, but it shouldn't be a major strain. I guess we missed the early shopping -- Prime Outlets at Birch Run opened at midnight.
The kids come back early Saturday morning; Andrew needs to be to work at 10 a.m., so he'll be up excruciatingly early.
For all of it, yes, we are thankful.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Dancing in the Street

As I headed for Mount Pleasant High School to pick up Katherine, I did a serious double-take at the corner of Mission and Bellows.
Katherine and her friends were hanging on the street corner, dancing.
Clearly, that day's rehearsal for the Michigan State Honors Choir had gone incredibly well. Mount Pleasant has the largest contingent of singers of any school in this choir, and these girls are very close. The choir "sounds amazing," according to Katherine.
The rehearsal was in Holland, so they'd spent a considerable time on the road. Apparently, it was worth it.
And besides that, there was, um, this boy.
Hey, my story about how I got into the newspaper business starts when I was a high school freshman, and begins with the words, "There was this girl ..."
The girls had come back from an amazing day, and full of high spirits and hijinks, ran down the street, too joyful not to dance.
The choir's performance is 3 p.m. Jan. 27 at Devos Hall in Grand Rapids. You know we'll be there.

Thursday, November 16, 2006


It was one of the moments Andrew has been working toward and waiting for for months.

He and I went to the Sun and Snow Ski Shop in Cadillac – one of the best ski shops around – on Wednesday to buy skis.
He’s had his eyes on a set of Fischers for a while. Here’s how they’re described:
This ultra-responsive slalom ski is made to the specifications of Fischer's World Cup athletes. It's handmade with the highest quality wood, titanium and AirCarbon. The perfect sidecut combined with the best construction can mean only one thing when introduced to an athlete with true dedication... and that is SUCCESS. FIS legal radius in all lengths. 15mm World Cup racing plate which accommodates any racing binding. Suggested retail price: $950.
Andrew paid less.
Andrew is serious about being competitive this year, and he realizes the price that will take.
He’s been committed to this purchase – along with shin guards and pole guards for banging the gates out of the way – since he began looking for work last summer. He’s made the sacrifices, day after day. Now he has to turn it into success on the slopes.
That takes desire, and I think he’s already demonstrated that.
The next moment -- the bigger moment -- will be when he takes them out the first time.
The forecast: 1 to 2 inches of snow overnight.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Emo boy?

I must be an emo boy.
I wear tight shirts.
I wear tight pants.
My tight shirts and my tight pants are black.
I feel things.
I have feelings.
Only emo boys have feelings.
But I can't be an emo boy.
My hair is not straight.
I don't like Dashboard.
I don't like to hurt myself.
When hot grease from the fryer at work splattered on me, I felt it.
I felt it.
It hurt. Hurt was bad.
Can I be an emo boy?

Friday, November 10, 2006

Why Robert's a musician

The Mount Pleasant High School Marching Band celebrated its best season in years Thursday night at the band banquet.

Awards were passed out, some serious, some more, um, whimsical.
Robert won the "Chick Magnet Award."
His, um, harem, (excuse me, the other members of the clarinet section) immediately hugged in severely.
He smiled.

Thursday, November 9, 2006

The silly season ends

I used to be a complete political junkie.
I would hang on the words of political leaders, trying to parse how they might affect outcomes of elections. It was about power, influence, the game itself was what mattered.
It was fun to write about, too, because it had all the elements of great stories: great characters, great conflict, great drama, great ideas. But all that has changed, and not for the better.
I had a real hard time getting excited about this year's elections. The atmosphere has changed so much since I first got excited about the electoral process 30 years ago.
There was no drama in this year's elections; the results of most legislative and congressional races were largely foregone conclusions, decreed by highly effective redistricting in 2000. Term limits simply means incumbent protection; House seats now are six-year terms with the distraction of a couple of elections in the middle.
Many campaign staffers simply are arrogant SOBs bent on callous manipulation of the Great Unwashed, and what's worse, the manipulation works.
We've tuned out, and this just isn't fun any more.
The ideas of all sides are stale, and they don't seem to reflect reality. All sides have gotten stuck in the 20th century, either bleating watered-down Marxism, which doesn't work, or ranting on the always-bizarre combination of Adam Smith and St. Paul.
Yet we turn out, and we vote, and we hold our noses. Just don't call my house with political pitches any more.

Monday, November 6, 2006

Just another Sunday at Wal-Mart

“Did you just hear somebody scream?” I asked.
Andrew and I were Wal-Mart’s photo department Sunday afternoon to get his passport pictures. They’re cheap and the photos meet government specifications.
The portrait studio was pretty busy Sunday. As Andrew and I got in line, I heard someone screaming bloody murder
Andrew heard it too. The woman in front of us didn’t seem very concerned.
“Oh, that was my daughter in the bathroom,” the large, dark-haired woman said. “She screams all the time.”
She went into the ladies room and brought out a girl, about 3, who was, indeed screaming. She did not stop screaming and crying as long as we were there.
It seemed obvious we’d be there a while, and I was able to look into the studio where a family photo shoot was under way. It looked as if Dad were home from the military. He was wearing his U.S. Army fatigues, complete with his E-3 insignia. He looked fairly normal.
The woman he was with – I didn’t see a wedding band, but they clearly had a longstanding relationship – had gotten dressed up for the occasion. Her hair was three colors – auburn at the roots, blonde in the middle, dark at the ends, sort of like Neapolitan ice cream with bad hair dye.
She was wearing a little black dress, or rather, almost wearing it. Her tattooed titties kept coming dangerously close to falling out. They were much larger than appropriate for this little dress, but not as large as her belly. No, I don’t think she was pregnant.
She had a rose tattoo on her shoulder, and I’d swear I’d seen the same tattoo on her upper arm – which was a big as my thigh – on sailors coming back from World War II.
They had three kids with them. The two girls looked OK, except there just wasn’t any light on in their eyes. The boy didn’t look real bright, either, or maybe it was just my perception of an 8-year-old blond kid with wavy hair cut into a Mohawk.
They came out, and the proof photos the photographer on the computer screen were, well, photos of this family. That family looked very proud.
About this time, I started looking at the large, dark-haired woman’s family. The little girl was still screaming. My attention was drawn to her little brother in the shopping cart. I tried to keep from staring at the fact that he was crosseyed as a bat.
I think they were there to get pictures of the oldest girl. I felt so sorry for her. She had an underbite that would do justice to a Neanderthal woman, and her lower cuspid teeth protruded when she closed her mouth.
Yep. She had tusks.
Her little sister kept screaming, and any time she looked at Tusk Girl or Crosseyed Boy, she’d scream louder. Maybe I understand now. The large, dark-haired woman also had a baby in the shopping cart. I don’t know what was wrong with him, but there had to have been something.
I wonder – have the politicians who promise that all our kids are going to grow up and work for Google or become rocket scientists ever been to Wal-Mart?
Presiding over this all was a thin, young, pretty portrait photographer named Amanda. She kept smiling, being helpful, taking photos, selling photos, looking like it was just another day at the office. Screaming children, kids in Mohawks, Mom falling out of her little black dress, and kids with tusks all seemed, to Amanda, to be entirely normal.
Well, maybe it is. This is ’Merica, after all, and it was just another Sunday afternoon at Wal-Mart's.

Friday, November 3, 2006

Counting down the days

There were a few snowflakes in the air yesterday, and that's got Andrew very excited. Tuesday was the coldest day since March 21, and that's got Andrew excited.
He was clunking around the house in his ski boots the other night.
Ski season's not far away, and that's what Andrew lives for.
Last summer, he began working at Wendy's. The reason: he wanted new skis, to help him compete on the Mount Pleasant High School ski team.
I love walking down the hall at MPHS that has photos of all the championship teams over the years. Andrew, as a freshman, was a jv member of the conference champion Mount Pleasant ski team, and his picture is on the group photo on the wall.
He wants to be varsity and get the photo up there again.
In the next few days, we'll try to head up to Cadillac, to one of the best ski shops around, and get those skis and other gear.
With every burger order he's taken (You want that in a combo?), he's been thinking snow.
It's almost time.

Thursday, November 2, 2006

Mirror, Mirror

So, just how evil is this woman?
The Kissy Missy costume on Halloween -- the Wicked Stepmother!

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Honors choir, again

For the second straight year, Kathy's been selected for the Michigan School Vocal Music Association's State Honors Choir.

Kathy sings alto, a very powerful, moving alto. With the right song, she can make you cry.
Earlier this year, as an eighth-grader, she performed with the honors choir at Devos Hall in Grand Rapids. That was Jan. 21, 2006, and it was a marvelous experience.
Next year's performance is set for Jan. 27, 3 p.m., same venue.
Kathy's smiling a little bit; the honors choir is to perform the gospel "Walk in Jerusalem." It's the same arrangement the Blue Lake choir used last summer on its European tour.
"I know this!" Kathy said when she saw the music.
It's a great song -- and it will be a great performance.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Finals night

The Oiler marching band turned in its best performance of the season, and finished sixth in the Michigan Competing Bands Association Flight III finals at Ford Field in Detroit.

Under the shadowless television lights in the world-class football stadium, the 80 kids from mid-Michigan performed tightly, smoothly, confidently. It was the final performance of "Elemental Led: The Music of Led Zeppelin."
The judges' take: 72.35, the highest score the Oilers have received in years.
That beat the earlier score at the West Bloomfield Invitational - where they won - of 72.05. Second-highest during the season was at Durand, 71.525
Just to be there was a major accomplishment. The highly nontraditional show Mount Pleasant presented was just plain fun to watch, and the kids just loved to put it on.
The top shows were traditional, modern marching band shows, heavy on visual effects and challenging modern-composer music. All of the top bands are huge operations with big budgets and large numbers of students. Lakeshore, for example, has 190 kids involved.
Personally, I liked the Lakeshore show better than Ferndale's, but my take doesn't count.
Before heading to Detroit, the Mount Pleasant band put on a final rehearsal/community show at Community Memorial Stadium. The wind was fierce, gusting about 26 mph. The temperature was about 40.

Still, about 500 people came out to see the band and see the show. One older woman made the comment, "I wanted to see the band play music they liked, instead of the funeral dirges they made us play when I was in school."
These guys loved it.
There was a sense of disappointment at where Mount Pleasant finished - after all, they'd gone into the finals ranked No. 4. But this was territory they'd never been in before.
All told, it was a remarkable story. I don't know the back story, but it's clear there is one. Mount Pleasant won the state finals in 2000. The current band director started in 2002, and I remember getting telephone calls at the Herald from parents who seemed relieved the old director was gone.
This band is purely Matt Taton's. There is a handful of seniors who came up as eighth-graders in 2002. These guys are young, and they've seen what it takes.
On the way home, driving through the night on I-96 and U.S. 127, a Lansing classic rock station played a set of "Kashmir," "Good Times, Bad Times," "Communication Breakdown" and "Tangerine."
When the band buses pulled into Mount Pleasant High School at 1:45 a.m. - and the time change had kicked in, so it felt like 2:45 - the kids were wiped out, but pleased.
They'll be back.

Here are the final scores from the Michigan Competing Bands Assocation Flight III Finals at Ford Field, Oct. 28, 2006:

1. Ferndale ..................................81.80
2. Stevensville Lakeshore ........80.80
3. Farmington Hills Harrison..75.80
4. Redford Thurston................. 75.55
5. Allegan.....................................72.8
6. Mount Pleasant......................72.35
7. Trenton....................................71.4
8. Comstock Park.......................68.4
9. Marysville...............................67.0
10. Fruitport................................66.1

One bragging point: The Fruitport football team beat Mount Pleasant Friday night in the first round of the state playoffs. Band members now can say, "Nyah! The band beat Fruitport!"

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Throwing babies

Yeah, it had to be the wind that made my eyes tear up. And the cold, yeah, that was it, that was why I got the sniffles as the band put on its community show at Community Memorial Stadium.
It was about 40 degrees with the winds gusting to 26, rain coming down sideways.
And those guys were tight, together, comfortable with the show even in the awful weather. The wind tried to snatch away the high notes, but it couldn't do it.
About 400 people showed up for the show, despite the terrible weather.
One woman said, "I just wanted to see the kids play music they liked, instead of the funeral dirges they made us play in high school."
The sense was magic. It had the atmosphere of an opening night.
The transition from the opening "Stairway to Heaven" into "Kashmir" still takes my breath away, no matter how many times I see it. The breaks on "Moby Dick" are so tight, they'll get cheers. And there's no way to sit still during "The Immigrant Song."
One of band director Matt Taton's sayings is that you can get so good people will throw babies.
At the end of the community show, somebody threw a doll on the field.
It's all up there tonight, Ford Field, 9:30 p.m.

St. Louis in five

The Cardinals beat the Tigers three straight games in St. Louis, and St. Louis is the World Series champion.
I can't really say I'm disappointed; no one -- absolutely NO ONE -- expected the Tigers to be anywhere near the World Series this year. It was a great ride.
Today's finals day, the day at Ford Field that's been on the schedule for the Oiler band all year. It's been a long time since the band's played at the finals -- 2000 was the last appearance, and they won that year.
It's 7:40 a.m. in the Ranzenhaus. I'm the only one up. It will be a cold, windy, nasty, blustery day. Winds up around 40 mph, snow mixed with rain, general yuck. But I'm doing my part -- there's 20 pounds of fruit on the kitchen table for the band, and I'm ready to go pack lunches.
But first, the day must begin .....

Friday, October 27, 2006

The price of overacheiving

This has been one of the craziest, longest, most sleepless weeks of my life.
Sunday afternoon, Kissy Missy dragged me to the walk-in clinic. I'd been coughing and hacking, and generally just feeling lousy. Then I got a fever of 101.3. I had a respiratory infection.
A good course of antibiotics got that cleaned up. I took half a day off Monday, then got right back into the saddle. Monday night, city commission. Tuesday, teaching. Wednesday, Union Township. Thursday, a city candidates forum. Friday, I was supposed to go to the "Rocky Horror Picture Show" with Kissy Missy, but that had to be canceled because I spent most of the afternoon in an interview, and didn't get my Sunday and Monday stories done.
They're done. Finally.
Through the middle of this, Kathy's come down with an eye infection. She feels lousy, and naked without her eye makeup.
Saturday: the zoo continues. Kissy Missy will be part of Prof Ed's events as part of Make a Difference Day. Andrew works. Robert has band practice, and heads for Detroit and the state finals.
We won't be far behind.
I'm excited, but right now, I hear a bed calling. As soon as I file my hours, buy a bunch of apples and bananas for the band, and recharge Robert's phone.
Don't ask me to do anything else.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Headed to Ford Field

Here are the final standings in the Michigan Competing Band Association Flight III regular season:
1.Stevensville: Lakeshore........75.950
2. Ferndale..............................73.300
3. Redford: Thurston...............72.900
4. Mount Pleasant..................71.525
5. Farmington Hills: Harrison..70.800
6. Trenton................................70.350
7. Allegan.................................70.275
8. Marysville............................69.400
9. Comstock Park ...................66.825
10. Fruitport............................65.950

11. St. Clair Shores: Lakeview 65.300
12. Gibraltar: Carlson..............62.925
13. Linden...............................60.725
14. Hazel Park ........................60.550
15. Dearborn Heights Crestwood 59.700
16. St. Clair Shores: Lake Shore 59.475
17. St. Clair Shores: South Lake 57.575
18. Auburn Hills: Avondale....... 57.150

The top 10 bands compete at 8 p.m. Saturday at Ford Field, Detroit. This year is the first time since 2000 thta Mount Pleasant has made it to the finals. The Oilers are scheduled to play Saturday at 9:45 p.m.
Right across the street: the potential Game Six of the World Series.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Live from Kansas

When people ask when their story will be in the paper, I give them a tentative day, but I caution them that the news business deals with the unexpected. No kidding! Here's a video that proves that point better than anything I could say.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Clarkston Invitational

Images from the Clarkston Invitational today at Clarkston High School:

Monday, September 11, 2006

What kind of grin?

Robert seems to have made many new friends since joining the Mount Pleasant High School Marching Band.