Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Three Hour Tour

This friend of mine, a particularly good one, asked me and a few of his coworkers to go on a chartered fishing trip last Friday. It was supposed to be five hours on Lake Erie, but we didn’t know if we were going to head out in the first place as the captain wasn’t sure it was safe. Finally, he gave it a “go” and we headed out onto choppy waters.

When we finally reached “the right spot,” we started fishing. For the life of me I don’t know how you find a “spot” in the middle of Lake Erie. All the “spots” seem identical to me. But what do I know? I’m a land lubber. And how. But we fished that “spot” with swells of water making their way higher and higher over the side of the boat. And I have to confess that baiting my hook while being tossed in the air was challenging. I have a few holes in the epidermis of my phalanges to prove it. You had to grab a minnow by the head so you could spear it with the hook. I considered holding it between my teeth while hooking it, but the guys might have thought I was showing off. Can’t have that. But, still, minnow eyeballs and brains were flying everywhere.

It was truly disgusting, yes, but manly men don’t squawk at such things.

The boat heaved us higher and higher. Water sprayed in our faces, as if someone was on the side of the boat squirting us with a water hose. Perhaps it was the fish. They certainly weren’t busy getting caught. But I was loving every minute of it, just happy that someone invited me to the “spot.”

Did I mention I caught a fish?

It was a little silver thing. About an inch and a half long. It gleamed at me balefully, clearly upset with me for having interrupted morning breakfast. We tossed it back, to the delight of some seagulls, and I continued feeding minnows to fish I’d never even get to see. They carefully slipped the bait off the hooks and looked up from the depths, laughing at the goofy looking guy being tossed around on the boat.

A few of the other guys caught a decent sized fish or two, but the weather started getting dark and our captain said grimly, “We’d better head back in.” I looked at him and, I have to say, he looked a little nervous to me. Which made me a little nervous. Our brave and sure captain had been doing this for twenty five years. He’s not supposed to get nervous. But his first mate, a mighty sailing man, quickly reeled in the rods and we began shoving our way through waves that were now, according to the captain, “six footers.”

Six footers?

Water crashed over the boat, and I’d say that approximately 92.3 percent of it went down my shirt and shorts, to pool icily in my skivvies. (That’s sailor talk for undies.)  A tarp was pulled over us, which helped, and we made it back to shore, where things were much more calm. Nice even. Our five hour tour had been cut to three, but it was a blast. And we had a little time to fish from the docks. Now, that was the “spot.”

Ironic ending: For lunch we had all you can eat fish at a restaurant. It wasn’t fresh, but hey. I was glad to make it to shore in one piece.

Matthew 4:19
Peace to you, land lubbers.

© LW Publishing 2010

Thursday, September 23, 2010


I'm not big on berries, but the better half and myself decided to make homemade Raspberry jam the other night. Why? You could reason that someone slipped us some hallucinogens while we weren’t looking but, actually, it’s just about how one thing leads to another...

We were out with the kids. We went to an apple orchard with my wife’s sister and her son. Had a great time, and on the way home we stopped to show our kids my wife’s old house, the one she grew up in. So we went there and looked at it.

It just sat there.

But next door was my wife’s old neighbor, who happens to run a Raspberry farm. So, I thought, let’s go visit and, while we’re there, we can pick a few berries for the kids. We parked, we said "hello," we talked for a while and asked if we could pick a few berries. He grabbed three LARGE trays filled with little plastic berry baskets. He said, “We’ll see how much you guys can pick.”


So we picked. And we picked. And we picked some more. We ended up with a lot of berries, which made me a bit nervous as I only had a ten in my pocket. I thought, well, we picked some berries for the guy. He can sell them to someone else. But what he did was give us the Raspberries. He wouldn’t take a dime. It was an amazing kindness that was totally NOT expected. It blows me away how nice some people are, especially considering how nice some people aren’t. And in case you ever read this: Thanks again Mr. B.

My wife’s sister took some of the berries, but she didn’t want much, which left a lot of berries. A lot. My kids ate some, but they couldn’t eat all those berries. So, what do you do?

You make jam. Isn't that what you do? You make jam.

I Googled for jam recipies, figured out the basic ingredients, and decided to do “cooked” jam so it would last longer. I recruited the wife and we stumbled through four and a half jars of Raspberry jam, boiled the jars before and after and all that. Burned myself a few times. It was chaos. Didn’t think ahead of time about how I was going to get the jars in and out of the boiling water. Apparently they have tools for that, but I didn’t think about it until after the water was already boiling and the jam was cooking. So there you go. We figured it out. We used some plastic tongs and whatever we could find. It was madness. But...

Right now, in the fridge, are some jars of pretty incredible Raspberry jam. I had some on toast and, I’m telling you, it’s very tasty.

By the grace of God.

P.S. Yes, the picture is what we made, not some internet fake. Also, while writing this post, my spell correct taught me that they are called RASP berries. Not RAS berries or RAZ berries. You learn something new everyday.

© LW Publishing 2010

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


I stumble across a lot of facts while looking for other facts. For instance: According to some medical dictionaries, there are people out there who have bibliophobia. They have an unreasoning fear of books. Which means, apparently, that if they drive by a library or accidently stumble across Amazon.com they will break out into a cold sweat with heart palpitations and want to run home to their mommies.


I imagine the conversation. The psychologist with his little notebook, sitting next to the couch where a nervous looking man is twiddling his fingers together with anxiety.

The Doc: Dzo, idz it dat you are afdddraaid of boooks, or idz it dat you joost hab no deezire to rdddread zem?

The Patient: Who me? Well, honestly, I just like to wait for the movie.

Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2010

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Second Hand

There’s a big neighborhood yard sale going on today in our neighborhood. Cars everywhere, people getting in and out. We’re not participating this time, but I’ve been people watching out front a bit, and I don’t see much merchandise getting moved out.

People don’t really want to buy things at yard sales anymore. What they want to do is make a token payment of, say, fifty cents, and then drive away with your car and your youngest child and give you a dirty look on their way out for not giving them a good enough deal.

We tried selling things at the last city-wide yard sale and we didn’t sell much. No one wants what we don’t want anymore. And I’m amazed at how used books don’t sell. You can hardly give them away. I don’t know if people just don’t read anymore or what.

Which reminds me.

This is how it works: I was with my dad at the doctor’s office for his regular check up last week and they had some books for sale there. Seemed weird, but it was some kind of fund raiser. Besides, it was more interesting than the magazines. What’s with the magazines? They used to have good magazines in doctor’s offices. Now they just throw their used medical journals out and who cares if you pass out from boredom by the time they call your name.

Anyway. In this little book sale, I found a book by Ira Levin, who is the author of Rosemary’s Baby. I read Rosemary’s Baby years ago, and I felt the book and the movie were a bit over rated. But that’s just me. Whatever. The book I found is called “This Perfect Day,” which just happens to be a dystopian fantasy in the order of Orwell’s 1984 and Huxley’s Brave New World and Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. And, so far, This Perfect Day is WAY better than Rosemary’s Baby, even though I had never even heard of it before. No movie, that I know of, has been made from it. It was not even on my radar screen. But it’s very well written so far and kind of creepy. We’ll see how it ends up, as I’m only about fifty or so pages into it so far.

Never heard of it. It cost me one dollar, in hardback, original print from 1970. It’s in rough shape, but still. I have a book to read that I’m enjoying reading. It’s so good that all my other reading has been put on the back burner. And that’s how it works sometimes.

So. You reading anything good?

Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2010

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Day After

 It’s fascinating and a little frightening how fast life moves on.

I was at my buddy Joe’s funeral last night. Joe Smith. It was kind of intimidating. It just wasn’t right. He was too young to be resting in a casket. I kept wondering: if we had known twenty-five or thirty years ago that he would be gone at this time, what would have changed? Anything? If you knew that you weren’t going to make it into old age, that two years from now or five years from now or twenty that you would be gone from here, if you KNEW, then what would change about how you are living life right now?

Ignorance is bliss.

Apparently, Joe’s heart stopped working, which is amazingly ironic because he was all heart. It’s the last thing I thought would ever go bad in him. It was painful to look at him. Joe’s eighty-eight year old mother took me by the hand and we faced him together. He had a grin on his face, which is unusual, but his mom liked it. So did I. It was fitting.

There were some friends from High School at the funeral that I hadn’t seen in almost 30 years. 30 YEARS!!!  Pardon my French, but holy crap Batman! That’s like a lifetime all by itself. Even though it was a funeral, it was good to see them. It was like we hadn’t been apart at all. These people are wonderful. I could have talked all night with them without missing a beat. Only thing was, Joe wasn’t in on the conversations, and they would have been a lot funnier if he had been.

It’s a little sad that it took one of us dying to get us together, which is as much my fault as anyone’s because I’m so busy. I haven’t always been there for people like I wanted to because there’s just no time. My life is very full like everyone else’s seems to be. And even death didn’t draw all of us together. Some couldn’t make it to the funeral home, of course. Life gets in the way. High School was a long time ago. People have jobs and responsibilities, some people are too far away, and that’s that.

Every funeral I go to makes me think of this haunting line from a Jackson Browne song that I love called “Of Missing Persons.” A sentence from that song has been stuck in my head for decades and it won’t go away because it’s so true...

“Does it take a death to learn what a life is worth?”

Joe was an amazing person. They had pictures of him, like they usually do at funerals, and there he was, smiling with that big smile of his, through the windows of those photos. I had sat across from him, smiling at me, looking just like that, many times, back when Joe lived just a few blocks from another close friend who means the world to me. And these two were with me at a time in life when I was trying to figure out who and what I was. I don’t exactly know why we fell together in time the way we did, but I’m thankful for it, and I realize that they are both a part of the definition of who I am, along with other great friends who have no idea how important to me they are, even though I haven’t seen some of them for years. We simply ended up separated by the geography and expectations of life. I’m not bitter about it, that’s just how it goes, but it makes you wish there was a little more time here to keep things going. And it makes you want to reconnect with people that you have lost contact with. But that’s easier said than done.

When I was working on my undergraduate and then my master’s degrees I lost touch with practically everyone I had known prior to that. Not good, but there is nothing I could do about it. The demands were very heavy. And then we had kids and I launched into a whole different direction job wise with the church, and then suddenly 30 years is past and your hair is going grey and you find yourself wondering where the time went.

Honestly, right now, I feel like going away somewhere quiet where there are no expectations. I feel like I need time away to assess and figure things out. But that’s not going to happen. We don’t always get to do what we feel we need to do. So I will forge ahead and pray and try to figure out what God wants and what the people around me need so I can love them like I should.

What else can you do?

Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2010

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Joe Smith

My heart is broken today. I found out late yesterday that a good buddy from High School has passed away. This was someone I loved and admired and spent countless hours with over a lot of years. He always made me laugh and he was good at so many things.

His name was Joe Smith, but he was a lot more complex than his name.

Joe and my other buddy, Al, were like brothers to me in High School. In my heart they still are.

Years ago Joe wanted to lose weight and he just did it. He buckled down and did it. He ran marathons like a champ. He worked hard. I thought he could do pretty much anything, but I was wrong.

One day, I'm not sure exactly when, maybe just for fun or to fit in or out of curiosity, maybe out of grief over losing his father at such a young age, whatever the reason: he tried some drugs. Any one of us could have. Most of us did. We had a taste. But most of us put it away.

He didn’t. He continued to struggle all through his life. A devil on one shoulder, an angel on the other.

Even when we were young he had a hard side, a certain face that would look at you and have some kind of emptiness in it that is hard to define. Light moved in and out of his eyes. When it was there, he was a joy. When it was gone, he was . . . difficult.

But I refuse to define him by his weakness. I refuse to remember him for those things alone. What I remember most is how he made people laugh. How he made me laugh. Like his family, he enjoyed laughter and good food and friends. I remember how he learned to cook, like a chef, with great care and knowledge. One time I showed up at a restaurant he was working at and he made me a prime rib that weighed about five pounds, I think, with all the trimmings, and he wouldn't take a dime. I remember how he liked to dance and listen to music. I remember his determination and willpower to run and finish marathons. And I remember how bright and joyful his smile was, especially when he was telling a joke he thought was funny.

I miss my friend Joe. I miss him a lot. More than I can say. I feel empty inside.

But I look for a better day.

“I have spoke with the tongue of angels
I have held the hand of a devil
It was warm in the night
I was cold as a stone
I believe in the Kingdom Come
Then all the colors will bleed into one
Bleed into one
But yes I'm still running
You broke the bonds
And you loosed the chains
Carried the cross
Of my shame
Oh my shame
You know I believe it
But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.”
                                Bono, U2

Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2010

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Movie Hosts: A Trip Through Time

I have a fond place in my heart for TV movie hosts. These were not talk show hosts, but movie hosts. I don’t know where the phenomenon began, but when I was very young, 3 and 4 years old, it was very common to find movies on TV during the daytime all week long and on weekends that had a “host,” a person who would come on and introduce the movie and do interstitials before or after the commercials. These people were on one of the three or four networks, not on some homegrown, cable operated, nobody watches it, channel (There wasn't any cable at that time anyway).

Growing up, during the week it was Bill Kennedy at the Movies and Rita Bell's Prize Movie.

 Bill Kennedy knew a lot about the movies he showed, giving trivia and jokes as he went along. He was even a bit player in a few of the movies he showed. He had been through a moderate career as an actor before getting into the world of hosting. Over the years, as he got older and older, his toupee grew larger and more noticeable, but this guy was a lot of fun to watch.

 Rita Bell didn’t know so much about the movies, but she was nice. I read somewhere that she ended up in California doing something or other. And these two shows had all kinds of movies, including a lot of classic films from the 1940's and 1950's. I kind of lost track of them when I started school, but I did go on to watch an after school movie show that would often have series of Godzilla movies or other sci fi fair, like the Planet of the Apes films. Sad thing was that there was no host for these movies.

But on the weekends, on Saturday especially, there was the great Sir Graves Ghastly, a man named Lawson Deming who dressed up as a goofy vampire and did all kinds of comedy bits that were absolutely compelling for a kid. It was on this show that I first saw the British Hammer films, most of the Vincent Price horror films and, most importantly of all, the Universal Monster movies like Frankenstein, the Wolfman, the Mummy and Creature from the Black Lagoon. These movies also showed sometimes on the after school show, but it had no host, so it lacked the charm of Sir Graves.

As I got older, I found, late night on Saturday nights, a guy named “The Ghoul,” who showed creepy movies and blew things up with firecrackers and M80's. This guy was an absolute blast to watch and while he’s not on TV in Detroit right now, he’s still around on the web, and I see him every year at the comic convention.  His real name is Ron Sweed and he’s very kind and fun to be around.

Sadly, over time, all of these kinds of shows began to fade away, at least around the Detroit area. Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, tried to keep it going, as well as others, but I never liked any of those. To me they lacked the innocence of the earlier shows.

But now I have found a local show called “Wolfman Mac's Chiller Drive-In,” and, I have to say, this show has the charm. It has the fun and the innocence, though occasionally they’ll show a movie with something a little racy in it. Keep your kids away from Barbara Steele (that’s all I’ve got to say about that). They really try to give this show the classic movie host feel, with lots of Ghoulish touches, sketches, and so on. I’m telling you, it’s pretty fun if you like this sort of thing. My kids like watching it with me, which is the bomb, and I feel like I'm going back in time in a way. I really like it. It’s on Saturday nights at 10pm on RTV (which is regular broadcast TV, channel 7.2, ABC) in Detroit. I think RTV is on in several different states, but not sure if Wolfman Mac is on those or not. I’m sure the website will say. And tonight they’re showing Vincent Price in House on Haunted Hill.

Gotta love it.

Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2010

Thursday, September 9, 2010

100th Post

Woo hoop dee do dah day. This is officially my 100th post – though a few of the posts along the way were technical things I had to do, so they probably don’t really count, but I’m counting them anyway. As if it matters.

I have to say: I’ve really enjoyed this ride so far.

My friend, Zombie, encouraged me, along with a few others, to start this Blog. He set me up, showed me the ropes. So, if you think this Blog stinks, you can blame him. Not really. But he said it would be good for people to get to know me a little better, and I hope it has accomplished that to some degree. I realize my writing can be somewhat of an acquired taste...

But when I first started this, one of the things that inspired me was the idea that I could leave a bit of a record for my kids, a way to look back and remember their dad and maybe understand me a little better, to get a feel for what makes me . . . me.

I want them to know that I love God in Christ and I love their mom and I love them with all my heart. I want them to know that I'm a person, just like them, with hopes and dreams and weaknesses and challenges. I want them to know a little bit about what I like and enjoy, so maybe they can relate a bit when they get older. And that’s always in the back of my mind when I post things. I treat it all as a letter to my kids, so they can still hang with me a bit after my time is up. If others want to join in with me along the way, that’s cool. This is meant to be fun. And I’m glad you’re here with me. But my kids are my main motivation.

I talked to my 8 year old about this and she explained it to her sisters. She said: "Dad's doing his Blog for us for when he's dead."

Isn't that charming?

She gets it from me.

Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2010

Monday, September 6, 2010

End of Summer

The end of summer is a strong emotional time for me. Not exactly sure why. Maybe it’s because it feels like a time of change and transition, moving on to other things. Maybe it’s partly because of the trends of life, work and school.

Or it could just be the weather.

On one hand, I feel fresh and ready for what’s ahead, excited a little over the idea that there is new opportunity for change and growth. The fall and winter are work times, productive times, times to put wings on my hope for something better.

On the other hand, I feel a sense of loss. The past year seems to end for me here. Not on December 31st, like it should, but at the end of August when summer comes to a close. This time with my wife and kids and friends, it's behind us. It's gone now, and the only way to move is forward.

And yet, the fall is one of my favorite times of year.  I treasure this cool, sweatshirt wearing, leaves changing colors, time between summer and the winter that I could do without. The fall is the transition, the get ready for the ice age. And in Michigan, where I live, the fall is all too short sometimes. Winter seems to come at us like a starving carnivore, wanting to devour the warmth and sun.

The end of summer has been filled with some painful revelations and challenges. Several people I love have discovered that they aren’t as healthy as they thought they were. I'll be at the hospital all day Tuesday with my sister who is in for cancer surgery. It makes me sick to think of her going through this, but I can do nothing about it except pray and try to be there for her. The winter ahead could be very difficult.

Some of the people I love are enduring great loss. The past year has been a hard one for so many people. Life isn’t what they expected. It has hit them hard while they weren't looking and taken the wind out of them. Some of them are working hard to just breathe again. And on top of these kinds of things, my kids are getting older. They aren’t really “little” children anymore. So the house is changing. The dynamic is different, and we all have to find our place in the new environment.

For me personally, heading into this fall and winter, there are a lot of things that need to change, a lot that needs to be done. Personally, professionally, and in my home. But I think I’m ready.

Back to work. Hup, hup, hup.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2010

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Jouir de la Musique

Hearing the keyboard player hitting blue chords with his right hand, hammering with his thumb and pinky. Left hand walks. Or Chick flowing on the keys like a cool stream in the desert.

The words, flowing from the likes of Chris Martin and Jack Johnson, from Sting, from Paul Simon and Jackson Browne, from Dylan.

How do we account for Bob Dylan or the soul in the deep rumble of Johnny Cash or the gliss and light of Stevie Wonder or the genius of Ray Charles? Louis Armstrong and Nat King Cole and Billie Holiday are unexplainable. Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra and Thelonious Monk, stepping from one to the other around brilliant corners.

From Stanley Jordan to Geddy Lee to John Patitucci, almost underground, laying tracks for the trains to ride. Stevie Ray Vaughn eating his strings, pulling life out of them. Hendrix and Clapton and B.B. King, Van Halen, and Johnny Lang and Satriani, their picks and fingers like butterfly wings grazing the strings, ringing. Elvis Costello, singing his vibrato, shaping his phrasing, aiming true, or the Elvis Brothers stomping the downbeat all over the stage, trying to touch a piece of what made that boy from Memphis sing like he did.

Pat Boone did his best, but, you know: “hold it fellas, that don’t move me,” like Elvis Presley looking to get real real gone for a change.

Lock into the pocket of Weckyl and Kunkel and Colaiuta. Pop.

Hey. Hey. Hey. I may know what’s happening here. If not knowledge, then feel. I feel it...

I feel the band, playing behind me, falling right on the beat, rock solid, right in line, giving me a notion that the world has some sense to it. Oh, the big E chord ringing out, shouting at the world.

I feel the right phonemes, piecing together the right words in the right sentences, with the phrasing exactly as it somehow should be. I feel the contrary motion, the harmonic lines, making peace with the melody in a weary world. The feel of guitar strings under my fingers, resisting enough to sing. The back beat strikes and pulls back, strikes again, through my heart.

There’s something about the first chord of a song. Finding it. Playing it. Using it to get to the next chord and the first word that leads to the rest until an idea is formed, certain syllables rolling off the tongue, attached to other, just right, certain syllables, shaped into words and phrases, resting on patterns and changes that carry not just ideas, but emotion.

It's like puzzle pieces, falling into place.
It's like tasting destiny.
It's like knowing the answer to an obscure and cryptic question.
It's like being just where you should be. When you should be. And knowing it.

Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2010