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!