Sunday, August 27, 2006

Teen, Teen, Teen

Saturday was Robert's 13th birthday.
Everyone was eager to point out that means we now have three teenagers under one roof; Andrew's 16, Kathy's 14 and Robert's now 13.
Actually, I'd already figured out at we'll be the parents of three teenagers for 1,177 days.
One is difficult. Two is impossible. Three is no problem, because we're already doing the impossible.
Robert got some reeds for his clarinet, a pre-paid cell phone and an afternoon at the movies with his best friend Jalen. German chocolate cake, strawberry ice cream and insulting cards made the day.
He's looking over my shoulder as I write this. My baby's growing up! Sniff! Sniff!
He bit me.

One great opener!

The Oiler marching band got to work early Friday night. Twenty-three seconds into the game -- 23 seconds! -- Skyler Swindell blasted 72 yards down the sidelines and scored Mount Pleasant High's first touchdown of the season against the Midland Overachievers, and the Oiler band struck up the Mount Pleasant Fight Song.
They had two other opportunities for that, as the Oilers beat the Chemics 21-10. The Detroit News had had Midland ranked No. 5 in the state in the preseason. Oops. Last year, with Mount Pleasant struggling in the Saginaw Valley League, the Oilers went 4-5, and they've got a new coach. No one expected much.
Hey, a win's a win, especially against Midland.
The band: It's just jelling very, very nice. The Elemental Led show is coming together, with complex, swirling choreography, compelling music and a really tight band.
I think the band got almost as much applause as the team.
And Robert: Let us not forget he still was 12 years old as he played in this first game.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Wow, what a week!

Just finding the time to go online and update this has been a challenge, let alone having the time to put something coherent here. How's this for all-in-the-last-five-days?
MONDAY: Kissy Missy began a new job with CMU. The long drive over to Midland had been extraordinarily tiring, and she was somewhat frustrated with the university there. She's been interviewing occasionally for university jobs closer to home, and bingo! She got one.
This is a good job, working as student services coordinator for the online portions of CMU's off-campus program. She said her job essentially consists of keeping up with students' progress, sending reminder e-mails to them to log on, register and so on.
So in other words, she's an electronic nag?
MONDAY NIGHT: I went before the Mount Pleasant school board to pitch them on creation of a parents' group to support vocal music. Members of the board were smiling; it looks as if we'll be a go.
TUESDAY: Band members launched the first fund-raiser of the fall -- collecting empty returnable cans and bottles door-to-door. I don't know how much money they raised, but I know the back end of our van was full. Wisdom: Want to find lots of empty beer cans? Go to a house that has little trees growing in the eavestrough.
WEDNESDAY: Robert went to eighth-grade orientation at West Intermediate School. That's five years straight I've gone to an orientation session at West; I think I know Mr. Stef's speech by heart. The jolt comes from recognizing that Robert's still in middle school. I've often said he's 12 going on 42.
WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON: Saw the eye doctor, who told me I have the very, very early beginning of cataracts, but there doesn't seem to be anything else wrong with my eyes. Just another reminder that I'm old. He gave me a new prescription; Kissy Missy and I will be picking out new "Dutch architect" glasses this weekend.
WEDNESDAY NIGHT: Ran into a guy at a township meeting whom I knew years ago in Big Rapids. He recognized me, and told me I still was the best disc jockey west Michigan had ever had. I wouldn't give back those years for anything, but when I stopped understanding the music I was playing, I knew it was time to quit.
THURSDAY: Kathy did her orientation at Mount Pleasant High School. She's got Honors English and Honors Math on her schedule, and she claims to be focused and ready.
I spent the afternoon in a faculty meeting, then helped a young man who wants to be a sportwriter sign his journalism major. I have about 16 things to do to follow up on that meeting -- plus write a story for Monday.
TODAY: The first MPHS football game vs. the Midland Overachievers. Halftime -- and Zeppelin!

Saturday, August 19, 2006


Really, all it takes is hard work, dedication, support, self-discipline, focus, desire, teamwork and talent. That's all
The Oiler Marching Band showed it all in its first public performance Saturday night. The show isn't really ready for prime time, yet. The band is learning its show, but after five intense days of band camp, the band is making progress.

The show opens with the opening to "Stairway to Heaven," segues nicely into "Kashmir," then the "Moby Dick" drum solo. Over the next few weeks, the band will add "Living Lovin' Maid," "Black Dog" and "The Immigrant Song." It's an ambitious schedule -- Zeppelin music isn't simple, and it's very well known. But these guys are doing a credible job with it.

I think about Robert, one of the youngest members of the band. He's doing this at 12 years old. Most of my accomplishments at 12 were all in my imagination. This is real.
The first football game is six days away, vs. the Midland Overachievers.
Somehow, it seems fitting.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Band Camp, Day Two

The Mount Pleasant Oiler Marching Band focused on drill its first two days, and Robert says he's on his way to learning it.
He's one of only three eighth-graders who are part of the band, and he's keeping up with the intense regimen. The day starts at 7:45 a.m., which means that our day starts even earlier. It takes about 25 minutes to get from Lake Isabella to MPHS.

The day runs until 9 p.m. It's drill. It's marching. It's sectional music. It's intense, and Robert's gotten himself slightly sunburned. But as far as he's concerned, it's the greatest thing he's ever done.

He's been well-accepted by the older kids. He says that it helps that he's the only clarinetist who has a watch. (Most high school kids these days keep track of time with their mobile phones, and, course, mobile phones aren't allowed on the practice field.)

The show is based on the music of Led Zeppelin -- "Stairway to Heaven," "Black Dog," "The Immigrant Song" and "Kashmir." Incredible stuff, a marching band accompanied by a rock combo. The bassist already has the gut-wrenching bass line of "The Immigrant Song" down cold.

Three more days of intense, band-camp stuff, then daily practice until the first performance Aug. 25, when the Oilers host Midland. Then the real work begins.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Band camp

It begins today.
Robert's already appeared once with the Mount Pleasant High School Marching Band, but the real work begins today, with the start of the infamous Band Camp.
He and a lot of other eager overachievers will be practicing 11 hours a day for the next five days to get started on this year's shows. We leave for MPHS in a few minutes; Robert seems uncharacteristically calm.
He ate a pasty for breakfast, and is quietly sitting across the counter from me, drinking coffee, smiling knowingly.
Yeah, Dad's more nervous than Robert. That's the way it always is, isn't it?

Monday, August 14, 2006

Annie and Lexie

We met Fuzzy's girls Sunday.
That's plural. He's become quite serious about Annie, and Annie has a daughter, Alexis, known as Lexie.
I can see why he fell for both of them.
Fuzzy's known Annie since high school. Apparently she wanted to go out with him then, but he was taken. That relationship has long since evaporated, and a few months ago, quite by accident, Annie and her new daughter moved in across the street from Fuzzy.
Sparks flew, and Fuzzy and Annie became an item.
On Sunday, it was "Meet the Parents" time, or in our case, "Meet the Fokkers."
Actually, it wasn't that weird. Annie is something of a rebel, the black sheep of a very traditional West Michigan family.
She's very focused. I wouldn't describe her as driven, but I certainly would describe her as a strong woman.
And she fit right into this off-the-wall gang.
I cooked stuffed French toast for everyone, followed by pot roast, sweet corn and blueberry pie.
Annie said she wanted to come back again; she didn't run away screaming. She and Lexie certainly are very welcome to be a part of this slightly off-the-wall organization.

Thursday, August 3, 2006

Pretty things

The Web site is looking for photos of the state to display. I've got a few.

I zapped them this image, of the hay field south of Lake Isabella, and I'll probably send them another couple as time goes on. I think my stuff is at least as pretty as many of the photos, although the Houghton-Hancock bridge image is absolutely awesome!
If nothing else, it's a cheap way for the state to dress up its site. Ego is cheaper than dollars.