Monday, March 26, 2012

South Haven

Lighthouse at the entrance to the harbor at South Haven

It has finally turned back cool.  Not unseasonably cool, mind you, just cool for this season.  The temperature plunged to the freezing mark, but only right at dawn, then it began to warm up.   We’ll see what tonight brings.  All the fruit and berry farmers and biting their nails and worrying as everything is budding out way too early (it looks like it is the end of April and not March).  Hopefully, there will be apples, blueberries and cherries come summer.

Last week, as we were in the middle of several weeks of summer-like weather, we took a trip over to the West Coast (yes, Michigan has a West Coast, along with an East Coast and a North Shore, just look at a map).  Destination was South Haven, a quaint port town that used to ship out a lot of lumber and produce, mostly across the lake to Chicago.  Nobody ships by boat anymore out of this port, but today the harbor is filled with graceful sailboats and gas-guzzling motorboats (you can sense my preferences).  Because it was still considered winter when I visited, there were only a few boats in the water, most were on land waiting for spring.

While at South Haven, we discovered a new favorite restaurant, “Clementines.”  It’s inside an old building that has been tastefully decorated.  This place does to perch what Frankenmuth does to chicken, having served 13 tons of the fish in the previous year.  “That’s a lot of fish, so it must be good,” I thought as I ordered a platter.  I washed it down with a pint of Rupperts Dark Ale (It was brewed in New York state).   After lunched, we strolled around town, stopping at the Olive Cart, a store that infuses their own spices into olive oil and Balsamic vinegars.  We walked away with a half dozen bottles.  The salad I’m having for lunch today will be coated with a combination of oil and vinegar from our trip.   Next, we wandered over to the book store.  It’s a nice story, mostly used but some new books featuring local authors or topics.  It was a beautiful day, sunny and warm, but the warm air over the cold lake created a fog that kept us from seeing far offshore, but I so wanted to get on a boat and sail into the unknown.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Shake It Up (Political Reporting by Nevada Jack)

Nevada Jack
 Nevada Jack hasn't been too active since the Bush Administration, but he has finally come out of retirement and decided to throw his two cent into the current political climate in America.  "I'm not looking to do a long term political gig," the furry fellow said when he turned in his copy.  "After all, there are more important things than politics.  Both the regular season for Major league baseball and trout season opens next month."

Shake It Up
by Nevada Jack

Ever wonder why certain characters all seem to be drinking Cokes or Pepsi s or eating Reese’s Peanut Pieces?  Somewhere, some marketing guru paid a producer for the rights to have their product featured on the big screen.  It’s standard practice for manufacturers to pay to have their products highlighted in movies.   Subtle advertising!  The consumer doesn’t even know he’s just paid and outrageous amount of money to watch a commercial.   In a bold move, Henry Liealot, the marketing guru for The Ohio Art Company, makers of the 50 year old kid’s toy Etch A Sketch, came up with a new product placement scheme.  Liealot negotiated a financial deal with Mitt Ronney's aide Eric Fehrnstorm to highlight his company’s product on the campaign trail.  Etch A Sketch sales have skyrocketed, forcing many stores to dig through their back shelves to find extra boxes of the product, which were then dusted off and for the first time since 1969, prominently displayed. 

Most baby boomers have fond memories of the Etch A Sketch as a favorite Christmas or birthday gift from back in the 60s.  The “favorite status” of the gift generally lasted about 48 hours, after which the toy was cast off, only later to be passed down to a younger sibling or sold at a church rummage sale.  Lately, the company has been battling to market its product in a digital age. 

I’ve been amazed at the result,” said Liealot.  I didn’t even think about approaching rival candidates with the idea, but soon both Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum were playing with their own Etch A Sketches.  In what seemed to be a replay of many baby boomers childhood fights, Rick grabbed Newt’s Etch A Sketch and erased his drawing of the White House.   Newt responded with a sucker punch to Rick’s stomach.   Meanwhile, Mitt picked up another delegate from some far-flung American territory in the South Pacific.  Commentators at all the major news media outlets pondered if it was finally enough for him to put away the nomination.

In response to the success had by the Ohio Art Company, other manufacturers have been quick to start their own political product placement campaigns.   In the board room of Just for Men Shampoo, a debate has been ongoing as to whether they should try to pitch their product to Mitt or Rick.   Newt’s campaign has been proactive, conducting their own a bidding war to decide if their candidate will represent the Double Wooper or the Big Mac.   The Hunger Games producers have supposedly been approached by Ron Paul’s folks for an endorsement.   It does seem like the Republican party is truly the party of big business, but that hasn’t stopped Spaulding, a major supplier of basketballs to approach President Obama for his endorsement.   The President, who was reportedly seen wearing a Carolina blue jersey, told the Spaulding representative to get back with him after the NCAA tournament was over.

A poll conducted by Phew Public Research Foundation showed that most Americans wished politics were like the Etch A Sketch, so they could erase Bush’s eight years in the White House and go back to a time when the country was solvent and hadn’t pissed off half the world.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

A Saturday afternoon in March

If Photos had sound, you'd be deafened by the frogs hidden here

The chain squeaks occasionally as the hammock swing slowly twist.  I am sitting on my back porch late in the afternoon of Saint Patrick’s Day.  I’m glad for the screen, for it keeps the mosquitoes away.  It’s been a warm day and I relax listening to a dozen species of birds sing.  I can hear cars on the highway, but that’s the other side of the house and I can’t see them.  Occasionally the familiar putt-putt-putt of a Harley Davidson is heard, another sign that spring is at hand.  I’ve never own a motorcycle, but if I ever do get one, it’ll be a BMW as I see no need to advertise my presence long before I arrive.  Across the field kids are playing outside.  They’re a new family who just recently moved in.   Two are quite small, and an older girl in a bathing suit with long white legs chases the younger ones down with a squirt gun.  Back home this sky would be called “Carolina Blue.”  There’s not a cloud in the sky and 30,000 feet up there is a small contrail left behind an east bound jet.  I close my eyes and concentrate on the birds and soon fall asleep for a quick doze.  All is well in the world except that it’s weird to be outside in shorts and flip-flops this early in the year.    It is still astronomical winter and generally I’m shoveling snow this time of the year.

Earlier in the week, I spent some time exploring the Wau Ke Na Preserve near South Haven, over on Lake Michigan.  For mid-March, I was amazed at the sound of so many frogs in the ponds nestled in the site.  Wau Ke Na means "forest by the water" and is a large tract of land under care of the Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy. 
Geese take flight (Wau Ke Na Preserve)

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Lunatic Express

Things have been busy lately as I've been working to get a new campaign underway and haven't been spending much time in blogland...  I hope all is well with everyone.

 Carl Hoffman, The Lunatic Express: Discovering the World . . . via Its Most Dangerous Buses, Boats, Trains, and Planes (Random House Digital, 2010)


Seeing the title was all it took.  I had to read this book.  Hoffman spent half a year on some of the most dangerous modes of transportation in the world.  He travels by air on a Cuban and an Afghanistan Airline; on buses in the United States, across the Andes in South America and in Afghanistan (where he suggests buses are safer than flying); on trains across Africa, India, China, Mongolia and Russia; and ferries in Indonesia and Bangladesh.  He makes it around the world without a major hitch until 4 in the morning on his last day as he’s heading back to Washington (taking the bus from LA) and the bus breaks down.  After his ex refuses to come pick him up, he calls a cab to take him home. 

 Not only is Hoffman’s mode of travel dangerous, he is often traveling in dangerous places.  There are drug warlords in South America, rioting in Africa and then there’s Afghanistan.  However, Hoffman experiences gracious hospitality almost everywhere he goes.  And his fellow traveling companions, who welcome him, also watch out for him.  On a bus in India, Hoffman confesses that he was “as usual, in a cocoon of generosity and watching eyes.” (150) The slowness of much of this travel gives Hoffman time to reflect (and question) people’s friendship.  Certainly, he realizes, some see him as a business opportunity, but most often the friendship is genuine.  Hoffman also spends time in his head (which makes on paper) reflecting on if it is truly possible for him to befriend those he travels with, for our worlds are completely different.  He even feels envy for many who are poor, but know where they belong and are a part of a family.  Hoffman is somewhat estranged to his own family.  He feels guilty traveling and leaving his kids and wonders if he shouldn’t settle down, but realizes that “escape is such a part of his life.” (133)  Early in his travels, when in South America, his daughter joins him for a most discomforting bus ride. 

As Hoffman begins a new chapter on a new leg of travel, he provides a newsletter clipping as proof of the danger.  We learn, for example that over 20,000 people have been killed Mumbai commuter trains over the past five years.  These clippings don’t really fit into the story, but are provided as a background, to show that danger does exist.  On a number of occasions, Hoffman notes that this type of travel for most people in the world is normal everyday business.

Hoffman often seems to get locked into his head.  He worries about his family back home and if he is being too selfish.  He ponders how he relates to those with whom he’s traveling.  He realizes the world is too big and he’s too curious and that he will only be able to get a glimpse of it (but more of a glimpse than most of us).  He thinks about a woman he met in India.  A lot of the “head stuff” distracts from the travel experiences.  Another thing that seemed annoying is that ways Hoffman remained connected, always toting an international cell phone that allows him to text and call home (or India).  Such connects reminds us that he isn’t as isolated as he’d like us to think he is. 

In my opinion this is a good book and I’m glad I read it, but it is not a great book.   I read the book on an e-reader.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

The Monkees

"borrowed from th web"


Davy Jones, one of the original Monkees died from a heart attack this week.  he was 68.

It was just a few months after we moved to Wilmington in August of 1966 that my aunt, Betty Ann, and her family came to see us.  It was one of the few times I recall them visiting.  They seldom left home, except for heading over to the lake by Morrow Mountain.  The occasion had to do with a bowling tournament Joel, her husband, was in.  I had never bowled and knew it wasn’t something my parents did.   It’d be another year or so before I’d bowl my first game at a friend’s birthday party, but like my parents, bowling would never be a game I became very interested in.  As an adult, I’ve mostly considered the game a poor excuse to drink beer.  But I’d been told that Joel was pretty good.  He was strong and could sling that ball and the pins seemed to jump out of the way.  

For me, what was really exciting about having Betty Ann and Joel visit was that my cousin Merry Rose came along.  I’m also sure Leslie was along, but she was still an infant.  I’m not sure if my younger brother had been born; if not, he wasn’t far off as he came in mid-December.    What I really remember about all of this is that Merry Rose was head-over-heels crazy about the Monkees.  When we were at the shopping center, she brought one of their records and one of the times we were watching her father bowl, she was all fidgety about getting home in time to watch the Monkees TV show on our black-and-white TV.   It was okay that the TV was black-and-white, that’s all most of us had back then.  I don’t remember if Merry had a favorite Monkee, but if she did, I’m sure it was Davy Jones.  All the girls seemed to fall for his smile and accent.  

Even now, over forty years later, songs such as “Daydream Believer,” “Last Train to Clarksville,”  “Pleasant Valley Sunday” and “I’m a Believer” easily spin in my head.  There music was about love and life and when compared to the direction of Rock and Roll in the rest of that decade of turmoil, innocent.  The Monkees TV show ran from 1966 to 1968.  By the end of their run, what Paul McCarthy might have called “silly love songs” had been replaced by harsher music just as the decade’s “summer of love” morphed into summers of discontent as the country was rocked with protest and riots.   Instead of love songs, you had groups like Chicago with sound tracks from the 1968 Democratic Convention and the chanting of “The Whole World is Watching” dubbed into their first album.  In such a world, the songs and the comic antics of the Monkees seemed out-of-place. 

I am thankful for my memories of the Monkees and their songs.  They take me back to a much simpler time; a time before the riots and turmoil that would define much of my junior high and high school years.   Rest in peace, Davy Jones.