Friday, December 25, 2009

The Christmas of the Antique Apple

It was an old-fashioned Christmas, with old-fashioned applie pie, and this year, it even featured old-fashioned apples.
Here's the story: A number of years ago - I'm trying to picture the kitchen where I first tried the recipe, and it's not coming to me - I ran across the basic recipe for Dad's Extreme Apple Pie. That wasn't what it was called, of course, but that's how it's known today.
Extreme? A single pie requires five pounds of apples.
When I was growing up, Mom made apple pies fairly often. She always looked for a particular type of apple - the Northern Spy. Even 40 years ago, they were hard to find, and today, they're extremely hard to locate in grocery stores.
They don't sell well in 21st century superstore produce departments, where the visual presentation is paramount. Frankly, they're not pretty. They look like beat-up old farm apples. And they don't travel well.
But this antique breed of apple is fabulous for pies, with firm flesh, and just the right mix of sweet and tart.
And on Christmas Eve, like a Christmas present, there they were - one 10-pound bag - in the produce section at Meijer. Kissy Missy snapped them up.

And the perfect version of Dad's Extreme Apple Pie was made on Christmas Day 2009.

For the second time in a month, the whole gang was here. Matthew slid up from Grand Rapids - literally. Andrew's back from Tech, settling in for a new adventure. Miranda was here. Katherine, and Robert and Jamie, and Kissy Missy and I all shared the kind of Christmas I'd always envied other people having. What we had: "Miracle on 34th Street" on the babble box, and on the table, pot roast, mashed potatoes, corn, carrots, asparagus (from Peru - ya gotta love the 21st century), with Dad's Extreme Apple Pie, a Sarah Lee sweet potato pie and Sleeping Bear made-in-Michigan ice cream for dessert.
And gifts, given from the heart.
What we didn't have: Relatives who sit with silent disapproval, adults playing adolescent mind games, and underwear for Christmas.

Saturday, December 19, 2009


She's 18.

Friday was Katherine's 18th birthday. I keep calling her my "mature, responsible adult daughter." She doesn't know that I (mostly) really mean it.

I always joked that she was the one who was born with a champagne glass in one hand, cigarette in the other, wanting to know who was in charge, baby. Actually, she objects to both ideas, but she still has the attitude she was born with. She is, after all, a ginger.

Sometimes she's an airhead. Sometimes she's a blonde. But along the way she found a fierce dedication to doing things right, and working hard enough to make them happen.

I greeted her on her birthday morning with Alice Cooper's "Eighteen" at a tooth-rattling volume. She just shook her head. Her friends gave her, among other things, "Pride, Prejudice and Zombies." If you have to ask, you won't get it.
After school, I took her to register to vote. Then she went, for the first time, to the casino. Go there on your 18th birthday and the Soaring Eagle will give you $30 on a Players Club card.
She played, and came home with a pocket full of cash.
She says she'll put it in the bank. My mature, responsible, adult daughter.
(Photos by Lisa Yanick-Jonaitis)

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Really. Dad's working.

So, Dad's been spending lots of time at Ford Field recently.
Beal City won the Division 8 state football championship.
Clare made it to the finals.
Central Michigan won the Mid-American Conference championship.
Dad was there with a video camera.
It's not ESPN, but it's great for

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Katherine does her homework

Yes, I know I'm old. When I was a senior in high school, the most sophisticated equipment I got to use for school was a manual Royal typewriter, a Headliner and a Compugraphic. And my dad's 1948-model Kodak 35RF.
The idea of producing homework on video? You mean like TeeVee?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Bird Day

I found this posted on the comments section of from Obamanation, one of our regular contributors. With a little editing, I thought it was worth passing along:

During the darkest hours of the Civil War, Abe Lincoln decide to create a holiday, a propaganda holiday, to force a broken nation to overlook its troubles and be thankful for the good times of a Civil War.
Like freeing the slaves, Lincoln couldn’t have cared less, but when the Northerners started to have second thoughts about Lincoln, the war and life in general, one needs diversions.
Freeing the slaves and creating Thanksgiving were just a couple of his best-known tricks. Declaring people free means nothing if they are still treated like slaves, and what kind of nation celebrates a civil war anyway?
Today’s Thanksgiving is a bizarre ritual comprising corny presidential turkey pardons, lame parade coverage, a turkey dinner at noon, badly played football, travel problems, Christmas advertising, and some weird unwritten law that says you can’t talk about anything but what you are thankful for.
There are four kinds of ways people express their thanks on Thanksgiving.
• The Traditional – Friends, family and health. Simple, sweet, and to the point without grandstanding.
• The Modern – A laundry list of things they have. More of a bragging contest than true thanks. Just another way of some jerkball to rub it into others that they are doing better/are better than the next guy.
• The Sarcastic – A loophole in the Thanksgiving pact that allows smart donkeys a way to truly express their bitterness and spite.
• The Innocent – Ask a little kid what they are thankful for and they might reply “cats and monsters.” [Mark’s note: One of the kids once said he was thankful for boogers.]
After careful deliberation I have decided this Thanksgiving I am very thankful that the guy in Elm Hall will be open and selling pizza on Thanksgiving, and that my wife is hot, because after eating dinner at noon, watching the Lions lose, while pretending civil war, and Christmas is not just around the corner, I just might want something that is truly great.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Thanksgiving 2009

Thanksgiving was on Sunday this year - it was the only day that fit into everyone's schedules - but we got everyone together and we gave thanks. The family was there, the table was full, and the Lions had even won a football game. It was, indeed, Thanksgiving.

And it was us. Matthew said something, well, politically incorrect.

Andrew expounds on cynical libertarianism, and defines politically incorrect just by being there.

Miranda's getting used to this.

But Jamie, well, Jamie still harbors an element of disbelief about this bunch.

The food was good and the laughter was hearty. We once were wished the gift of laughter, and it was here in full force this year. It's family. It's Thanksgiving, and we have so much to give thanks for.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The first half is the warmup act for the band

NPR reporter Tom Goldman nails it.
And yes, marching band is crazy difficult.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

If only this were real ...

I ran across this while looking for something else. It's priceless.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Finals - Again!

For the fourth year in a row, the Oiler band has made it to the Michigan Competing Band Association state finals.
This year, the band made it by the skin of their feathered caps - but they made it.
Mt. Pleasant scored a 70.3 at the Durand Invitational at Durand Saturday. That score was enough to qualify them in 10th place for the finals - by about two-thirds of a point.
It's been a challenging year for the Oiler band. It's by far the youngest band Mt. Pleasant has fielded in years, with about one-third of the band being first-year players.
Flu racked the band a couple of weeks ago - at one practice, a good third of the band was out sick. And the weather for practices and performances has been the worst I've seen in four years.
But they made it.
The show is awesome, and it deserves to be performed on the big stage. The break from "Glycerin" back into "Don't Stop Believin'" near the end of the show always brings a tear to my eye - and the close is heart-stoppingly beautiful.
Show time for the Flight III competition at Ford Field Saturday is 10:05 a.m.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Last week of the season

It all comes down to Durand on Saturday. The Oiler Marching Band has improved continuously this season, but they're young, and the show is very challenging. Still, entering the final week of competition, Mt. Pleasant is in eighth place in Flight III.

The top 10 bands head to Ford Field next weekend for the state finals. The competition this year has been as intense as I can ever remember it.

The guard's looking great this year.

Highly talented seniors like Haruki have provided the inspiration for the more than 30 first-year marchers.

And last weekend at West Bloomfield, Mt. Pleasant collected a 17.9 on its music ensemble score - a remarkably high score. Overall, the Oilers broke 70 at West Bloomfield.

For Katherine, the senior, this weekend and the shot at one more trip to Ford Field means a lot. She'll be pouring her heart and soul into it.

We've been trying to do our part, too, to support the band. Before home games, Kissy Missy and I have been selling Oiler seat cushions. Above, she turns to the flag as Robert conducts the National Athem before the Arthur Hill game.

There will be seven Flight III bands at Durand, and Linden, Trenton and Mt. Pleasant have to be considered the favorites.

It's all about the music, the marching, the effect. Don't stop believing.

Sunday, September 27, 2009


The Oiler band, after a rough Friday night that included the Midland High football team running onto the field during the show, took the field at Novi Saturday - and earned a first-competition score nine points higher than last year's first time out.

The cerebral "Pachelbel's Journey" impressed the judges enough to award a 63.45.

Katherine and Robert await the judge's word after the show at Novi. The verdict: First place, , best music, best marching, best overall effect.

The mayor of Novi, right, prepares to hand the plaque to the Oiler command team as the host Novi command team salutes them.

But the Oiler band can't rest on its laurels. There was another competition Saturday, and in Flight III, Ferndale scored an incredible 73.05 - in September! Farmington Harrison checked in at 67.55, Redford Thurston at 66.8, and Trenton at 66.25. After the weekend, the Oilers are in fifth place statewide in Flight III.
And we have yet to hear from defending champion Stevensville Lakeshore, runnerup Grand Rapids Northview, or last year's other finalists, Byron Center or Linden. The two other 2008 Flight III finalists, Marysville and Allegan, are in Flight IV this year.
Thurston is on the schedule for a head-to-head competition Saturday at the Michigan Invitational Tournament in Flint, while Flight III bands Fruitport, South Lyon and Hazel Park take their shows to Livonia Franklin.
Either the judges are getting soft - which isn't likely - or there are going to be some intense, tight, stunning competitions on the way to Ford Field for the finals.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The band gears up

The young Oiler band's ambitious show hits the road today at the Novi Fanfare.
It's still early in the season - Novi is a place to work out the rough spots, see what the judges think, and start making adjustments.
The Friday night halftime show was a little rough, but they'll get there.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Mt. Pleasant's Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras in September? Of course. Even though it's on Friday.
It's a downtown Mt. Pleasant promotion - and it keeps getting bigger every year.
I don't think I've ever seen as many people downtown as I did Friday night, and the parade - well, it would do justice to a lot of much larger communities.
I was impressed not just with the size of the crowd, but the diversity of the people downtown.
And it was so, so cool to see the everyone - Katherine and Robert with the Oiler Marching Band (you see them in the video) - and Kissy Missy handing out Applefest fliers for the the Zonta Club. (She didn't make the video - not her fault nor mine.)
Not a bad celebration for our little town. Not bad at all.

Monday, September 7, 2009

I've had students like this ...

School's back in session.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

40 years, and rock and roll hasn't died

“Mom, can I go to Woodstock? I can hitchhike.”
I said that to her in August 1969.
“Three days of peace and music, Mom.”
“It’s only 600 miles away.”
Of course, I was only 13 at the time, but what I saw on the news, heard on the radio, made it clear that there was something special going on in the rain. I wanted to be part of it.
I’d wanted to be part of what was happening for a long time. I was a protected Catholic schoolboy, but I paid attention. I had watched the ’60s begin when John Kennedy was killed. I was a fourth-grader when I put a National Geographic map of Vietnam on my bedroom wall. When Mom objected, I told her I’d take it down when the war was over. I had no idea I’d return from college to do that.
Haight-Ashbury, marijuana, acid, the 1968 Democratic Convention, rock and roll, hair, underground newspapers, the East Village, Abraham, Martin and John – and Bobby, gold star mothers, Peter Max … I felt as if I was missing it.
My parents were aghast, horrified, their world falling apart. My father and my uncle had had their guns loaded and ready since Detroit burned the summer before. And half a million drug-addled kids descended on some farm in New York, and their son, my parents' only surviving child, thought it was beautiful.
Adolescents rebel, but this was different, more intense, more political. The world was changing, and rock and roll was the agent. That fall, I would go to a public school for the first time in my life, surrounded by girls in miniskirts. By the time I graduated, I would work for an underground newspaper, discover my life’s work with the school paper, listen to Led Zeppelin and the Doors and the Who and Pink Floyd, the MC5, Dick Wagner before and after he joined Alice Cooper, Bob Seger and Jefferson Airplane. Underground music made its way to the airwaves, I’d smoke weed with a cop’s kid and wonder when the revolution would arrive.
It was a battle, yes, a battle against all that was old and unenlightened and outmoded, a battle for the future.
As a child, every adult I knew was sad, duty-bound, stressed, angry, bound by invisible chains of their own making. Thus it had been for generations. Like every generation before us, we wanted no part of that, but finally, there were enough of us to make it happen.
We would be different. Tomorrow would be different. We were, and it was. We couldn’t imagine how different the next 40 years would be.
The culture did, indeed shift, in ways big and small. No metropolitan area has been incinerated in anger since my parents’ generation. But I really noticed it the first time I heard Steely Dan played as elevator music. I couldn’t help but think, “Damn. We won.”
We’ve all had our tragedies. One of my best friends from grade school came out of the closet, went to New York, and died in the first AIDS epidemic. We’ve all seen too much of the dark side, but it’s given us wisdom. There’s still a lot wrong, but there’s so much that is right.
And we’ve given rock and roll to the generations.
My kid’s high school band has performed tightly disciplined shows with music from “Hair,” Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and Queen – and won. There’s a Beatles song in this year’s show. A Pew Research poll recently found the Beatles were the favorite group of every generation since they played. I didn’t object when Cadillac used Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll” to sell luxury cars. It was luxury for us, and we’d won.
We’ve grown fat and comfortable, cut our hair long ago, and worked just as hard as, maybe harder than, our parents. We turned capitalist and reaped the benefits. Our children are grown or nearly so, and many of us look like our parents and grandparents. But we aren’t them.
I’ve spent the weekend reveling in the music and the memories. “Baby boomers love their nostalgia,” it is said, and it’s true. But it’s still now. A lot of the music was delivered via satellite on an XM-Sirius channel that's Katherine's favorite. I’ve been listening to Buffalo Springfield, Seger, Mitch Ryder, the Dead, Zeppelin and Airplane on Internet radio as I write this.
We embraced the future and it is still ours. Rock and roll.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


If I’m going to have a chronic, progressive and potentially fatal illness, it might as well be something that’s reasonably well understood, treatable and might even lead me to behave myself.
Welcome to diabetes.
I’m 53 years old and I haven’t behaved myself. I love to cook, and even more, I love to eat. I’ve never understood the people who say they get pleasure from exercise – they always look as if they’re in pain. I’ve lived in the mind, not the body.
Diabetes always was a possibility, I knew. My mother was diabetic. My grandfather was diabetic. I inherited what my mother called a “German goiter” – the characteristic, if unpleasing, manifestation of what the medical-pharmaceutical complex now calls “metabolic syndrome.” That means I’ve got a fat gut, and it’s a sign of all kinds of bad things.
I ignored it all, until it started messing with what I wanted to do. I was hungry and tired all the time, thirsty, cranky, and always having to pee. I was having trouble focusing. Living in the mind is tough when the mind doesn’t work like it used to. Achieving moral victories over my inner underachiever is tough when I fall asleep on the couch like a grumpy old man.
It took a little while to figure out what the problem was. Along the way, the docs figured out my thyroid was a little off-kilter, but fixing that didn’t fix the whole problem.
Nope – it turned out to be classic, all-American, he-got-fat type 2 diabetes. But if I’m going to have this disease, it’s not a bad time to have it.
I’ve been put on something called Byetta – brand name from Amylyn/Lilly for a drug with the generic name exanatide. This is essentially a synthetic version of a hormone first isolated – and I can’t make this up – in the saliva of Gila monsters. (Who collected that? And why?) In other words, lizard spit.
As I understand it, my normal hormones don’t stimulate the Isles of Langerhans (say that in a stentorian voice) in my pancreas enough to produce sufficient insulin. The lizard spit does. I inject Byetta twice a day, just before meals.
It’s an under-the-skin injection in the abdomen. Yep, I give myself shots in the belly. The discomfort level is minimal – about a tenth of squeezing a pimple. I have a pen that gives me a tiny, premeasured dose. It’s a no-brainer.
And it works. I’ve been getting blood glucose levels that would be considered outstanding if measured in a non-diabetic. My energy level is where it was years ago, and I’m accomplishing so much more than I was six months ago.
The down side: I have to learn a whole new way to cook and eat. White bread, rice, most pasta and lasagna are out of here. Potatoes in almost any form are deadly. Fresh fruits, fresh vegetables (sweet corn in extreme moderation) and lots of protein are on the menu – like permanently.
It sounds so healthy and happy! It's a chance to make aggressive changes in my lifestyle to live longer and live better in my Golden Years!
I have to keep reminding myself of two things that I learned from very wise people many years go:
• The key to a long life is to develop a chronic disease and manage it well.
• Nothing changes – and this includes business, politics, love and lifestyle – until the pain of changing is perceived to be less than the pain of not changing.
I’ll admit – at the onset, I’ve still got a severe case of the “I don’ wanna’s.” But I gotta.
I won’t deny that I miss McDonald’s French fries and sunshine rice – my own recipe for rice cooked in chicken broth flavored with turmeric and a touch of paprika. But they’ll make me miserable, and I’m enough of a selfish SOB that I don’t like being miserable. And the people I love hate it when I whine.
I’ll do it. I have to. I know there’ll be a payoff down the line, but going on the journey there is tough to embrace and cherish right now. But I’ll go.
Is “kicking and screaming” considered aerobic exercise?

Friday, July 31, 2009

Because I knew you: Remembering Matt Boles

They buried Matt Boles today.

Matt was 18, a year older than Katherine, a year younger than Andrew, and someone whom the family has known for at least 10 years.

Even as an 8- or 9-year-old, this boy was “The Matt Boles.”

The connection comes through Scouting. Back in those days, I was a Scoutmaster, and I got drafted to join the staff of a series of Cub Scout weekend camps. Those are fun, and that’s where I met the Boles family, even before moving to Mt. Pleasant.

Val Boles, Matt’s mother, also was a staffer.For the next five years or so, I’d run the shooting range and Val would run the archery range about five times a summer at Camp Rotary and Paul Bunyan Scout Reservation. Our kids were part of what was called “Half Staff.”

The Half Staff did a lot of things – including being part of the Saturday night lakeshore campfires. These were amazing events, and a big reason was the way this charismatic kid could dominate the scene.

It seemed inborn. He had no fear of performance, and he was willing to do the most audacious things. Matt looked good in a dress – and that was guaranteed to bring down the house.

He loved it.

Matt didn’t appear to be afraid of anything. Fear usually is what holds people back, but that wasn’t part of his makeup. The stories at his wake Thursday night reminded me a lot of the way Tom Wolfe described test pilots in “The Right Stuff,” but applied to the arts and business.

I’ve been to larger funeral gatherings for young people, but only for soldiers and Marines killed in action. Many of the people who turn out for those events are there to honor their country more than honor the decedent. These people turned out for Matt Thursday night and Friday.

All three big rooms at Clark Funeral Chapel in Mt. Pleasant were filled to capacity. The Clarks ran out of chairs, and people sat on the floor. Friends that Matt had known at Mt. Pleasant High School, Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp and through Scouting told stories.

Matt could be arrogant, but it always was softened with humor. He could be persistent, but it was always gentle. Mostly, he was audacious and didn’t let himself get in his way.

The story was told about how he put together a group of kids who, late one night, knocked on a favorite teacher’s door unannounced and declared they would be camping in her back yard. She let them. Matt cooked pancakes in the morning.

Another story came out about how Matt had planned for weeks to surprise and “kidnap” a friend on her 17th birthday. He had it planned down to the last detail – except for the state trooper who wanted to know why he was carrying off a blindfolded teenage girl.

Matt often would call a girl and say “I’ll be there in 10 minutes. You have to come with me. Look cute.” Somehow, the girls said yes and their dads gave their blessing, at least most of the time.

People who are effective at getting things done often bend the rules, and Matt sometimes twisted them into knots. But he did it with such charm and effectiveness that few people were offended.

He was effective – that’s how he helped keep Mt. Pleasant High’s 2009 graduation in Rose Arena, despite a lack of school funding. That’s how he was named to the staff at the Scouts’ National Youth Leadership Training program. That’s how he convinced Mt. Pleasant High to present “Cannibal, the Musical” – “All Singing! All Dancing! All Flesh Eating!”

His goal had been to head to law school. After all, if you’re going to bend the rules, you need to know the rules.

But something freaky, bad and still unexplained stopped him in the middle of Hall’s Lake last weekend. He was following the rules – a boat was trailing him as he swam, the people got him out of the water when he got into trouble and got help fast.

It wasn’t enough.

So many people’s lives really start when they head to college, shed their childish fears, claim their dreams and remake themselves. Matt’s had already begun.

The tears flowed when the song “For Good” from “Wicked” was played:

“So much of me
Is made of what I learned from you
You'll be with me
Like a handprint on my heart
And now whatever way our stories end
I know you have re-written mine
By being my friend...

"Who can say if I've been changed for the better?
But because I knew you
Because I knew you
Because I knew you
I have been changed for good."

“I’m sure Matt’s looking down at us,” one speaker said, “and laughing. Ha-ha! Made you cry!”

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Katherine, the Drummer and Tahquamenon

On our way to Paradise, we stopped at Tahquamenon Falls. After a stop at the Upper Falls - always very impressive - we headed to the Lower Falls. Katherine and the Drummer kind of drifted ahead of the rest of us.

They couldn't stay out of the river.

The ledge above the falls is a perfect spot.

The sound of the water ...

Your friend nearby ...

... just to be together in a beautiful place.

Together ....
Even if they were with HER PARENTS!!!!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A U.P. Fourth

One thing that mid-Michigan doesn't have that da Eastern U.P. does is the truly off-the-wall Fourth of July parade. Every parade has the fire trucks - but how often do the volunteer firefighters get to douse the crowd as they go by?

These guys gets serious about it, ya know, eh?

Ya gotta be ready if you're gonna be standing along Newberry Avenue in Newberry.

At least these guys didn't take part in da tradition. Business is good, eh?

It wasn't just the firefighters and the honey dumpers. Nope, the Newberry High School Marching (Riding on a trailer?) band played at both the Newberry and Curtis parades.

There was a definite sense that it was the time to get dressed up and let loose, eh? After all, you let the Franklin stove finally go out on the Fourth of July, so let's celebrate!

It won't hurt us to go to Curtis! Young families make the scene!

Still can't figure out if the car's done in rust or camo. Doesn't matter - same effect, eh? Add the snowplow and the roadkill, and you get a true expression of da culture youse don't get nowhere else, eh?

Monday, July 6, 2009

Another day in Paradise

After Kissy Missy and I went to Hell, we just simply had to go to Paradise.

Paradise is on the shores of Whitefish Bay, part of Lake Superior, in the eastern Upper Peninsula. Whitefish Township School is located there, as are Catholic, Lutheran, Episcopal and Methodist churches. In the winter, Paradise regularly gets more than 20 feet of snow, so it truly is a paradise for snowmobilers. Robert, Katherine, the Drummer, Kissy Missy and I noted something truly interesting: There are biker bars in both Hell and Paradise.
In Paradise, the biker bar is the Yukon. The snow caved in the roof of this log cabin a few years back, but a new roof has been raised above the log walls. There's a grate on the floor where snowmobilers can knock the snow off their boots. Behind the bar, there are Christmas lights - made of illuminated shotgun shells. The men's room contains graffiti dating back to at least 1977. There are boards missing from the floor of the hallway leading to the lady's room.
And when NASCAR came on the tube, every TV in the place was tuned to it.

We went to Paradise on the Fourth of July, and the community put on a completely awesome fireworks show. It lasted about a half-hour, launched from a pair of barges out in the bay. It was one of the best shows that I've seen in a long time, as you can see in the composite image.
But it got chilly next to the big lake - right after sunset, we could see our breath.
Makes sense that Paradise would be a lot cooler than Hell.