The 190th Day of the Year

July 12th, 2013 by insightout



dateline: Charlevoix, Michigan

Re: response to an editorial challenge

A ride through pristine countryside in northern Michigan, a beautiful July day, top down, with hot women as companions……lurid thoughts emerge as to how the day might unfold.  However on this day, 190th of the year, ours turned to, what else, infrastructure systems for clean water, sanitary sewers, and storm water management.


Ever wonder about those circular grates at the base of cityscape trees?

On the shore overlooking the south arm of idyllic Lake Charlevoix, at the renowned foundry of the East Jordan Iron Works, three 190SLs convened to visit the largest manufacturer of manhole covers, anywhere.  What follows is all PG, for any reader whose mind might wallow in the gutter.  Where there is rain, molten iron reigns.

Within the twenty four hour window, the three aging 55 y/o Mercedes-Benz roadsters driven by club elders, logged a combined, astounding 1,236 miles, to meet and tour the EJ museum.  Corporate hostess, Erin Nickle, whose charm and feminine guile elevated fire hydrants, hydraulically operated sewer grates, and company mantra (durable products of high quality supported by unparalleled customer service) to a heartthrob level.  And she has gorgeous blue eyes, not that I noticed.


Erin Nickle lectures Donald Freese, prominent steel executive & metallurgical engineer 

Treated as visiting royalty, we are afforded the opportunity to pose, along with a commemorative manhole cover, on the lawn of corporate headquarters.DSCN0505Combine the photo-op with a gourmet luncheon at the Charlevoix bridge, homemade ice cream in Petoskey, and a 56 mile escorted tour, by guides and fellow gearheads, Keith and Marie Ambs in their 1934 Plymouth coupe as the lead dog…well, it doesn’t get any better than this.


L-R, Kathy & Don Drabik, Don & Shirley Freese, Lynn & Charles Spiher 

The moral to the story:  join up with old friends, and drive.


The shadow of the Ambs 1934 Plymouth coupe looms large. Boyne City, MI


L-R: Shirley Freese, Lynn Spiher, Marie Ambs, Kathy Drabik

Responding to the question; here’s some money, would you like to go shopping? Note that smiles had to be photoshopped on all four faces.

The immoral: did I mention that Erin was quite attractive ?



Detour, there’s a muddy road ahead

July 7th, 2013 by insightout

A retrospective, 5July2013

Community pride is manifested in many forms, e.g., Tulsa, OK (birthplace of Garth Brooks), Dyersville, IA (farm location of the movie, “Field of Dreams”), Tryon, NC (The Bulletin, smallest daily newspaper in the U.S.), the list becomes infinite.

DeTour Village, an aptly named town at the eastern tip in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, is so small it reflects 30 years in reverse to highlight its most recognized achievement.


Reaching DeTour is simple. After crossing the Mackinac Bridge, turn east on state road M-134, uninterrupted, and ride the north coast of Lake Huron; the last, pristine, undeveloped shoreline on the entire Great Lakes basin. No McMansions, glitzy marinas, or requisite, garish vinyl clad condos. Locals refer to the highway simply by an adjective, the “Scenic”.

Located at the end of a forty mile cul-de-sac, a mere 3 miles across the St. Mary’s River to Saint Joseph Island, Canada and a claimed population of 420, it is home to the 1983 Girl’s High School basketball champions, the DeTour Red Raiders, with a record 26-0. One year prior, the 1982 team, 26-1, lost only the state championship game. By a single basket.


No fluke however, as the David F. Miller coached team, in five years from 1981-1985 amassed a record of 124-5. Those are John Wooden, Adolph Rupp, Red Auerbach numbers.

Coach Miller today: a little less hair, the 80′s leisure suit retired, his presence still commanding


Tonight, a reunion game to commemorate the victory, pitting the 1983 squad vs. the current 2013 team, has packed the gymnasium with more than 800 friends, neighbors, alumni, children, parents. The pre-tipoff tension is palpable. The 50/50 lottery pool totals a tidy $756.


19 players from the three decade past era have returned and practiced in advance. They are not quite as buff as their championship photo. All nearing 50 y/o, their enthusiasm and competitive spirit have been ameliorated by menopause, marriage, child-bearing, and a few divorces. One, a gorgeous, statuesque, and pony-tailed blond, has six children and four grandchildren. She could easily audition a Celebrex or Cialis commercial on network television.  DSCN0451

“Let’s pretend we’re 18 again”

The game atmosphere is intense. Perspiration trumps inspiration, defense is tight, elbows flay, this is serious s##t. At the end of the 1st quarter, the elderly prevail, 4-2, but as the first half buzzer sounds, a nail biting 13-13 tie. The overflow crowd cheers every shot and roars at each score.  Teen-aged boys cheer their mothers on and boo their female classmates.  The battle of the sexes.  Shooting percentages, also in the low teens, but no one is keeping statistics.

What matters is that on this July Fourth weekend, small town America was the shining moment, a reunion night, a generational memory to savor for a lifetime. Briefly, time stands still, a time to be thankful we’re not in Kabul, Cairo, or Damascus, but in a high school gym adorned with a championship banner adjacent to the American flag.  Long may they both wave.

The final outcome.  Unimportant.

The Detour girls basketball team won.

And I did not win the 50/50 drawing.


Willie Nelson could sing, but he wasn’t always right;

Headed down life’s crooked road,
a lot of things I never knowed

And because of me not knowin’
I now pine

Trouble got in the trail
spent the next five years in jail

Should have read that detour sign

Detour there’s a muddy road ahead, detour….

5 y/o Korean golfer, LPGA at standstill

April 27th, 2013 by insightout

Confidential to David Feherty:

A young female, born in 2008, residing in the Seoul suburb of Nanyangju is contemplating departure from amateur status based upon her recent acceptance to the David Leadbetter Academy, pre-school kindergarten program.

Her parents (father an interventional radiologist, mother a pediatric cardiac surgeon), and the daughter’s name have been withheld based on advice of counsel.  A carefully planned leak from an anonymous source divulged her identity, Phee Nom.  Phee currently plays to a 4 handicap.  The family intends to move to Bradenton, FL, pending passport approval, green card acquisition, medical license reciprocation, finalization of an agent contract with IMG, and receiving title to the ‘Hello Miss Kitty” Ferrari (lo-res photo attached).


The contentious issue; Phee’s demand that the world’s foremost physical trainer, Zhao Hanhua, Chinese gymnastics coach (Beijing Olympics, 2008) of the Wuhan Institute of Physical Education be retained full-time and also relocated to FL.

Preliminary sponsorship negotiations, not yet revealed, have been initiated with representatives from Nike® and Rolex®.   Other corporate entities are being wait-listed on a lottery basis.  The player is also seeking a permanent director seat on the board of the Annika® Academy.  Phee will limit her schedule to 15 events per year through graduation from the 6th grade, Harvard-approved, primary school, according to the PTA, professional tutors association.


An internet rumor that Phee is involved in a clandestine relationship with 4 y/o Charlie Axel Woods, Tiger Wood’s son, was addressed with this terse, six-word, denial, ” I do not date younger men”.

Her future plans, assuming the stodgy LPGA board of governors voids its discriminatory ageist policy, is to complete her LPGA career by age 13, or the onset of menarche, whichever comes sooner.  By 2021, she will likely have accumulated the requisite 35 victories/points to qualify for the LPGA hall of fame, at which time she will retire and join the PGA Tour on a full time basis.  The invitation to her inaugural event, The 2021 Masters tournament, will soon be issued by former tournament chairman, lovable southerner, Wm. “Hootie” Johnson.

Cross-licensing between her favorite charity (Susan Komen’s Race for the Cure©), Mattel®, Hasbro®, and Disney©, are on hold until she actually develops breasts.

Above, Phee, at her first photo shoot for Abercrombie and Fitch®


Thoughts while shaving…..

April 10th, 2013 by insightout

A tattered front page section of the Chicago Tribune, dated Monday, April 10, 2000, has served to collect the clippings from a personal bi-monthly trim for 13 years.  This gesture to preserve marital harmony, a ritual of personal hygiene, is for a wife ambivalent about rings: a ring around the bathroom bowl is not o.k.; a ring of the telephone, a nuisance; a diamond ring, well, you understand,….size and clarity do matter.

Lead stories that day; Vijay Singh in his new green Masters jacket and acting AG, Janet Reno, avows the reuniting of 6 y/o Elian Gonzalez with his father in Cuba.

220px-InselianArmed US Marshal forcibly removing kid from Miami relative

It also marked the 84th birthday of my mother, Florence, who had sadly passed away three years prior.  She was a dreadful cook, a world class leader applying guilt on her three sons, and an advocate for both responsibility & independence (translation : ‘do it yourself’).  Although many years have passed, we still recall fondly the little things, unanticipated, unheralded, that she did for us when we needed it most.  Define motherhood.

On a recent drive through the tired and dusty town, Florence, AZ , two photos triggered memories.

The local rag, the Reminder, as in, "Charles, do your homework"

The local rag, the Florence  Reminder, as in, “Boys, do your homework”


The same Rexall sign, circa 1948, as our first drugstore

The same Rexall sign, circa 1948, as our first drugstore


The ratty double page centerfold in the World’s Greatest Newspaper is a reminder of why I chose to leave industry and embark on a career as a small town pharmacist.

DSCN0224Extolling the virtues of Vioxx in 2000, long before the manufacturer, Merck, withdrew the drug after disclosures that it withheld information about rofecoxib’s risks from doctors and patients for over five years, resulting in between 88,000 and 140,000 cases of serious heart disease.  Worse, by the time it was discontinued in 2004, it had already caused an estimated 60,000 deaths worldwide.

Although no one in the company ever had to face criminal charges or do hard time, the decision by marketing executives and accounting was quite simple; having sold $ 2.7 billion of Vioxx, the math was easy.  The cost of litigation, executed by our superb, in-place, legal department, is far less than the profitability gained if we continue killing patients rather than removing the drug from the market.  Clever bastards. Define greed.

DSCN0227 Yes, but what if you’re at room temperature, six feet below the earth’s surface ?

Little has changed in thirteen years, as the aptly named BigPharma continues their cabal, possessing the morality and ethics equal to (actually, worse than) the tobacco industry.  Vijay Singh will tee it up in Augusta tomorrow.  I still harbor shame and embarrassment, 45 years later, that I was ever employed by a major drug company.  The hairy stubble will still need trimming every two weeks.  Florence was right nearly all the time; none of her boys are under indictment, incarcerated, facing felony warrants, or on public assistance.  Yet.  If you ignore Social Security.

No doubt what has changed.  Elian is now 19 y/o, we still share the same birthdate, December 7th, albeit 54 years apart, and he’s probably tattooed and driving around Havana chasing skirts and drinking Corona.  Tipo con suerte = lucky guy

Six degrees of unification

February 20th, 2013 by insightout

The ‘small world’ phenomenon is familiar to many, as mapped in six easy steps.

♥  2537 miles → Airstreaming → Mushrooms → retired medical professionals → writers → Queen Elizabeth’s dogs ♥

The distance from DeTour Village, MI, to SanDiego, CA is five days by car and 0.005 sec. by Google.  Our summer neighbors, acclaimed travel writer, Graham Mackintosh, and his RN wife Bonni, an accomplished mycologist, split their time in these two idyllic locales.

SanDiego is also home to writer, photographer, naturalist, and RN (ret.) Bill Doyle, and his partner, Larry Ko, a culinary chef extraordinaire & pediatric therapist (ret.).  Their adventures are richly documented on the Airstream site, History Safari Express… appetizing read.

Through our joint friendships, they were all able to meet at this ‘can’t miss’ affair, in scenic Balboa Park.

Caution: Leave your Lotrimin and Sporanox at the door


Bonni is always welcome in our cabin as a dinner guest, where she provides an assorted tray of mushrooms to sample with wine and dinner.  Hand picked from the wild of the upper peninsula, they can range from earthy to sweet….and always, the non-poisonous varieties.  It’s safe to ask for seconds.  Or if you require resuscitation, she is equipped with the nursing skill to insure your survival.

Below, the happy trio smiling in the ethereal atmosphere which can only be provided by fungi and air-borne spores:

L-R, Bill D., Bonni M., Larry K.

If this isn’t adequate evidence that hallucinogens work, enter Queen Elizabeth’s favorite dog, the Welsh Corgi…..another common bond shared at the fair.

Graham and Bonni’s irrepressible, PILI (pronounced, pee-lee), in mid-flight on the beach at Lake Huron

Larry and Bill, with MAC and TASHA in the CA desert, joined by an iron-rich hound in the background

Note: if they were my dogs they would have been named Mac & Cheese


We wished we could have attended, nestled in southern AZ, however did so vicariously.  Content to watch the final episode, season three of Downton Abbey, along with a favorite, the brassy Queen Mother and her corgis.


Perhaps someone else will link Kevin Bacon and the six degrees of separation to this text, but Lynn and I are grateful our mutual friends, living only a few miles apart, finally met at this BYOM* affair.


* bring your own mushrooms



A scenic bypass on “The Longest Road”

February 7th, 2013 by insightout

Not an eternity, today marked two years since Life as Paperboys appeared, describing the introduction of editor/event organizer Rich Luhr to acclaimed American novelist, Philip Caputo.

Tonight, Phil retraces the trip from Patagonia to Tucson’s Alumafiesta with Insightout privileged to ride shotgun in his Tundra.  A wise choice, as our last venture, in one of my temperamental vintage Teutonic sedans resulted in running out of petrol; damn things require gas.  The bait, a delicious five course dinner prepared by Eleanor, fine wine, and a rare opportunity to catch up,  a prelude to Phil’s presentation of his soon-to-be-released travel memoir, “The Longest Road”.

Writers in a lighthearted moment, L-R, Phil C., Rich L.

A non-fiction account of a four month journey, spanning  > 16 thousand miles towing a 1962 Globetrotter, accompanied by wife, Leslie, and two English Setters, Sage and Sky, barely scratches the book’s underlying theme.

Apologies to Vonnegut, “The Globetrotterhouse Four” on the Pacific

Prior to the book release, readers might enjoy Leslie’s well crafted and humorous account of life on the road, keywestdeadhorse.  Aside from her editorial position for a major publication, runway good looks and stature, she has a unique and amusing view of the conditions, signs, and obstacles confronted in trailer life and all the crap most of us have endured.  A really good read.

Phil’s perspective of the human condition, the richness of his prose in 14 prior books and dozens of mainstream publications, promises an epic journey of the American psyche, shoulder-to-shoulder with William Least Heat Moon’s, Blue Highways, John Steinbeck’s, Travels with Charley, and Jack Kerouac’s, On the Road.   Be assured this is not an endorsement, as I have yet to receive a galley proof, but I’m anticipating a Charles Kuralt-like anthology, away from that ghastly motorhome, into an Airstream.

The exclusivity of tonight’s presentation, held in an inflatable, quonset hut/tennis pavilion, is clearly defined at the door.

The ambient temp in the building, a cool 58 F.

With a short introduction, and no warm up act, the headliner entertained the near capacity crowd for an hour.

A mirror image  of the afternoon trip, Phil and I return under still,  dark skies, across the foothills of the Santa Rita mountain range, toward our nests in Patagonia.  A pleasant hour, a couple of malted Mexican beverages, an opportunity to (alert: variation of a common vulgarity) “shoot the poop” sans outside distraction.  We had grown up, only a few months and thirty miles apart, 70 years ago, on the cusp of the industrial revolution, into blue collar families.  Personal setbacks and successes within our lifetime are tempered by trepidation for the future of our offspring at the dawn of the technology revolution.  Crack another Tecate.

The cliche, a must-read, is lame.  If you enjoy the road, airstreaming, and a thoughtful page turner on what makes us tick, do yourself a service and reserve a first edition copy of The Longest Road.  A decision you won’t regret.

Clutching an Illusion

February 3rd, 2013 by insightout

A vintage drive is still the best conveyance for transporting a mood.  Mine, the tempo for today, will be an effort to avoid the soiling of virgins.  A 50 mile drive through scenic high desert country, Patagonia, AZ to Tubac, AZ, in a late model Chevy truck is little consolation to the original plan: driving a 1972 plain jane, Mercedes diesel sedan to visit with Airstream royalty.

Sidelined with a burnt clutch, my Snow White remains at rest, while I suffer the ignominy of public parking, internally portraying myself as the dwarf, Grumpy, at a local Santa Cruz County Car Show.

The sad princess, at home, awaiting a pressure plate, throw-out bearing and clutch slave cylinder

On the cusp of Alumafiesta 2013 in Tucson, I’m privileged to join the event planners; their last gasp of relaxation before the kick-off on Tuesday.  Forget the Super Bowl, where millions of idiots turn on the TV to watch ads, the staff of R&B Productions called an audible….”let’s go to a car show”.

On a country club driving range, a sunny 70F in early February, thousands come to view 500+ wheeled vehicles of every ilk; a ritual about wishes and memories and generations holding hands.  An antidote to future shock, a reminder that the world got along perfectly without microwaves and spray paint and gourmet coffee and cellphones and cruise control.   It is a shining sanctuary from the possible, where every street and neighborhood and architectural element is Hispanic.  The attendees, mostly upper-middle class elderly gringos, silver-haired refugees from cooler climes, are living reminders that not only is winning the only thing, it isn’t even necessary.

The ultimate example of the fin crazed madness of the late 50s, eighteen + feet of 1959 Cadillac El Dorado, precipitated this dialogue.

“When this car was built you were only this big”……..” Nahh, you’re kidding, really ?”

Constant comparison with better old days are illusory and unreliable.  An older German man has driven his ponton, ’roundbody’, 1960 Benz 190 sedan, an anemic performer with the erotic buttocks of a biergarten fraulein.

84 HP, zero-60 mph by sunset


Overheard at every car show, the admonition, ‘ oh look, we ( may sub family, uncle, brother-in-law, grandfather) used to have one of those.’  And yes, I, too, owned a 1958 220S roundbody sedan from 1993-2007.  We called her Daisy.  After Daisy Werthan (Jessica Tandy), in the memorable movie of an old Buick chauffeured by Morgan Freeman.  Drove it to work every day during the summers, transported my daughter to her wedding, reveled in the Teutonic precision, and lusted over the dated pre-WWII styling.  In another irony, I opted to sell Daisy because of a tempermental vacuum operated clutch that I had grown to dislike.

Daisy, at a local mausoleum, the day before she left for the Orient.

The purchaser, an Asian mall developer, shipped our jewel to Hong Kong, where she now resides, suspended on a rotating platform in the atrium of a large shopping center.  A shameful fate, I still harbor guilt that she is no longer allowed to drive.  Like having a tubal ligation before a fertility rite.

On my way home now, imagining the 2001 Silverado I’m driving is a vintage ride, I enter a U.S. border patrol checkpoint, am racially profiled, and summarily allowed to pass through quickly.  Being an anglo geezer has its perks.


Prompting a Yogi Berra-like thought;

nostalgia isn’t what it used to be

A set of Balls…..& Margaret Truman

November 29th, 2012 by insightout

Welcome to the central Indiana supermarket tabloid for a love story….a tissue won’t be necessary.  The Balls, all five of them, are the renowned brothers from Muncie, Indiana, who created a financial empire selling glass canning jars.

George Ball, on the right, the last to survive, died in 1955 at age 93.

Their philanthropy and devotion to community embraced every cultural element within the city, most prominently the establishment of Ball State University whose most notable graduates are David Letterman (class of 1969), Jim Davis, cartoonist creator of Garfield the Cat® (class of 1966), and the irritating John Schnatter; founder, CEO, and blabbermouth for Papa John’s© Pizza.

Should you wonder how this celeb A-list might be confused with the 3rd tier status of presidential offspring, please continue.  Surely you’re thinking Lynda Bird and Luci Baines Johnson, Caroline Kennedy, Trish and Julie Nixon, Chelsea Clinton, and the forgettable twins, Jenna and Barbara Bush.

None, however, approached the talent or intellect of Margaret Truman, George Washington University, class of 1946, member of ΠΒΦ, the only child of 33rd president Harry Truman and wife Bess.  Neither homely nor glamorous, she was an accomplished vocalist.  No threat to her contemporaries, Maria Callas or Beverly Sills, she was still very good, and even better as a mystery novelist.


At age 32, Margaret married Clifton Daniel, age 44, a prominent staff member of the New York Times.  Together they raised four sons in her adopted, beloved Manhattan.  Easy to eschew her original, show-me, hometown, Independence, MO.  Then in 1973, Clifton’s career took a dastardly turn as the Times promoted him to Washington DC bureau chief.  Margaret was furious, as her years in the White House created a contempt for the society within the beltway, and refused to move.  She would need to have a car, which she also detested, having done well without one in Gotham City.

So, enter the New York Times largesse; they purchase a new 1973 Mercedes-Benz, a plain jane, entry level, 4 door sedan for Margaret, to assuage (think WD-40 for the soul) her resistance to the move.  Clearly, a bribe.  She relented.

This confluence of events leads me, along with my loyal canine companion, Jack, to Muncie to examine/appraise this very vehicle.  Aha, you may be thinking, the Seinfeld episode, where George Costanza buys a ratty, Chrysler K-car convertible which he believes was once owned by the B-grade actor, Jon Voight (best known as the biological father of Angelina Jolie, whoever she is).  Good comedy, crummy car.

Celebrity ownership, at any level, has little to zero effect on a car’s value.  The car is inorganic, like an Airstream, and has no individual or institutional memory.  It doesn’t know who owns it, its brand, logo, or have feelings, headaches, or memories of the ‘good times’.  Yes. I’m being harsh, but stuff a sock in it.  The notable exceptions, special order models; e.g. Clark Gable, James Dean, Steve McQueen, Elvis can command a premium.

Not so for Margaret (nee, Truman) Daniel’s sedan, but oh what a sweet example.  Now with its 4th owner, an elderly, respected Muncie barber, it has a verified 30,640 miles on a rust-free chassis with impeccable maintenance history.  Think of that, < 800 miles/yr, over a lifespan of forty years, with an all original pearlweiss exterior (off white) and schwarz mb-vinyl tex interior (black), always garaged, exhibiting few blemishes.

Aside from minimal factory upgrades; laminated tinted glass, power steering, automatic transmission, Behr® air-conditioning (not working), and Becker® AM/FM radio, it is free of those costly and needless options; power windows, power seats, power antenna, cruise control, sun roof, the very trinkets which become wallet shrinkers.


The classic 114 chassis, 280 sedan, fog lamps at the ready

Muncie, Indiana, 28Nov2012

So tonight, Jack and I will raise a toast, with our favorite malted beverage, a Steigel lager,  and a hardy Prost !! to Margaret Truman, an intellectual giant among the precocious White House dwellers.  Her decision to join Clifton in DC, was amply rewarded, as they returned to NYC in 1976.   Mr. Daniel wrote in his volume of reminiscences in 1984, ”We were the kind of people who wouldn’t marry anybody our mothers wouldn’t approve of; a couple of citified small-towners, puritans among the fleshpots.”

The future of the sedan, in limbo, stay tuned.  Tonight, any pizza except Papa John’s.


Right place, right time

August 28th, 2012 by insightout

As I recall, a warm winter day, 2007, in mountainous rural Arizona a few miles from the border to Mexico, I was enjoying a quiet morning ritual.  Coffee at the aptly named local cafe, the Gathering Grounds, the fresh brew originating from the third world; East Timor, Sumatra, or Nicaragua, all promised to be ‘fair trade’.

Lessening the carbon footprint, I bring my own, sizable plastic mug.  It makes me feel good.  Keeps the overpriced java hot, while I embrace the delusion that I’m leaving the earth a better place.   And I get free refills.  The generic mug has a benign black and white overlay, WMH, embedded within a cross.  I like it, a garage sale purchase for a dime, the summer before in the upper peninsula’s Pickford, MI., not far from Stalwart.

From across the room a lone young man, early 20′s, approaches my table.  He is neatly dressed in the khaki brown uniform of the U.S. Border Patrol and asks, “excuse me, sir, may I join you ?”

“Sure, son, have a seat”.  It was clear to me,  he did not intend to ask for my passport, photo ID, or suspect that I might be transporting illegal substances.  Anglo geezers aren’t in the cross hairs of the BP….call it ethnic indiscrimination if you like.  Or reality if you don’t.  We shook hands, his right hand in a cumbersome cast.  He had been crying.

He wanted to know if I was from Michigan and I explained, no, actually Indiana, however, we do spend the summers on the north shore of Lake Huron in the eastern U.P.  and why do you ask ?

His story began to gush.  Growing up in Sault Ste. Marie, jobless after graduation from LSSU,  he joined the border patrol hoping to get stationed nearby at the Canadian border.  A plush, low-risk assignment.  The BP instead sent him to be trained near Ajo, AZ, a desolate desert outpost near the Mexican state of Sonora.  He had nearly severed a finger the first week, caught on a cyclone fence, pursuing illegal immigrants.  In the second week he discovered the remains of a fifteen year old girl, a victim of dehydration and hypothermia.  In the third, a fellow rookie had been shot in the thigh by a drug trafficker.  His fluency in Spanish limited, he had no concept of what he had gotten himself into, had never been away from the “Soo” and as evidenced by the tears, was a desperately homesick kid.

From halfway across the room, he had recognized the logo, WMH.  With no formal training in psychiatry, I thought it might signify Why Men Hurt.  No, he quickly informed me, it’s the War Memorial Hospital, and his Mom, an RN, had worked there for years.  He lived just east of Ashmun Street, the main drag, and before long he was smiling, telling me how he and his friends would jump off the bridge and swim in the canal.  And in the winter play pickup hockey games on the ice.  And how here it was February, 70℉, people wearing short sleeves, can you believe it?

Below, the Ashmun St. bridge, in the dead of winter

Yes, I knew the bridge, had been to the SooLocks, and my favorite saloon was the Antlers, renowned for those walls and ceilings covered with the dessicated body parts of deceased wildlife.  And where else can you enjoy a slice of Venison Pie ?

You couldn’t wipe the grin off his face as he nodded, “yeah, mine too”.

He had to return to duty.  We parted with a handshake, never exchanging names, and by his enthusiastic departure, I was certain he would never forget the encounter.  I know I haven’t.

And now, five years later, I’m enjoying my morning coffee from the same ten cent mug.  In the distance, a passing freighter, the DeTour Reef lighthouse, and less than 100 feet away, a pair of nesting sandhill cranes select insects for breakfast.

Funny, how a garage sale purchase can transport you to the right place, the right time.











Dining or Writing, it’s all relative

July 24th, 2012 by insightout

Our editor would prefer that the underpaid bloggers adhere to the following ethic.

* Potentially libelous statements or damaging innuendo.
* Obscene, explicit, or racist language.
* Personal attacks, insults or threats.
* Allegations of unsubstantiated criminal behavior.
* The use of another person’s real name to disguise your identity.
* Comments unrelated to the story.

XqqqqsMe.  Having departed APZ 2012, a fond farewell bade to Jackson Center, the gastronomic nightmare of central Ohio, we arrive in a nearby community for breakfast.  At the risk of violating #’s 1, 2, 3, 5 above, I can’t tell you the restaurant name is

For fifty years, I have avoided any restaurant featuring a female relative, e.g., Ma’s Kitchen, Granny’s Coffee Shop, Three Nieces Nut Shoppe, Sassy Sista’s Subs and Ribs…you get the picture.  At Aunt Millie’s we are welcomed by the day’s luncheon special on the blackboard easel.  “Creamed chipped beef on toast”, which a local diner, obviously out of editor control, had cleverly graffitied in chalk as “S##t  (vulgar synonym for excrement) on a shingle”.

We opted for bacon, eggs, hashbrowns with a side order of Lipitor served by a friendly waitress with cute knees.

Weeks follow and we find ourselves in Rochester , Minnesota.  The event, an annual picnic for transplant recipients.  300+, much like a traditional family reunion; third cousins, twice removed, meeting for the first time.

A warm day, a catered buffet under a large wedding tent, people coagulate into specialty groups; livers, kidneys (often accompanied by their donors), stem cells, and the elite cadaver organs, hearts and lungs.  High intensity medical chit-chat for drug side effects, lab values, clinic visits, and the necrology report of those who didn’t survive. Gift of Life Emcee, Steve Tarara and his assistant call out for photo ops.

Our Lynn (pulmonary fibrosis), second from right in pink and white, silver hair, next to her 35 y/o friend, Sarah (cystic fibrosis) 

And below, the youngest heart for an 11 y/o, a living doll

The only disappointment on the day….not reuniting with my three favorite nuns, Sr. Colleen, Sr. Pat., and Sr. Mary, all of the order of St. Francis, who did not attend.  Their excuse, rather flimsy I might add, was the need to take three of the elder sisters on an anniversary luncheon.  When they could have dined with us, the organists.

Their choice of restaurant, Baker’s Square, which hereafter should be called the “Six Sisters Diner”, so help me God.

About the Author

Retired 1997.
Frequent travel. Loyal companions: wife, Lynn; dog, Jack.
Avocation: writing social and political satire.
Past life: three decade clinical pharmacy owner. Now in recovery.
Location: Northern Indiana, Eastern U.P. of Michigan, Southern Arizona

No telephone;