Sunday, October 26, 2014

Are You Ready for Some Football?

I don't usually post a whole lot about football around these parts, although in recent years, my Spartans have inspired me to wax rhapsodical from time to time.  But this weekend was a kind of football-ish harmonic convergence around here.  You would be very kind to indulge me. . .


7M is a high-school junior, and a linebacker for his school's football team.  He's pretty darn good (if I may say so myself), and is usually among the leading tacklers for his team.  It never gets old, hearing your son's name called over the PA, I tell you.

His team has had a really good season so far, going undefeated, winning their league championship, and qualifying for the state playoffs, besides.  This Friday night past, they played another undefeated, highly-ranked team, and won, 27-22.  It was the only game all year that they won by less than 30 points.  It was actually kinda fun to watch a game that wasn't played with a running clock for most of the second half. . .

The team is sufficiently highly ranked that it wouldn't be a surprise for them to be playing in the domed stadium in Detroit over Thanksgiving weekend (ie, for the state championship).  There being four rounds of games to win before that comes to pass, I'll stop short of counting any unhatched chickens.  But it's been a fun ride so far. . .


8M played football for the first time in his life this fall.  He hasn't been as athletically-inclined as his brothers, and I'm fine with that; he sure doesn't have to have athletic success in order to please me.  He has his own really unique personality, and his own set of unique skills and proclivities that make him a really interesting and fun person in his own very estimable right; we're glad to have him in our family, no matter how stunned we were to find ourselves expecting our eighth child deep into our 40s, all those years ago. . .

Anyway, it's been a lot of fun, watching him learn to play the game, progressing from "Where am I?  What am I supposed to be doing?  I have no clue. . ." to understanding his assignments, and making plays.  Last week, he got his name called over the PA for the first time (he made a tackle), and in today's game, he actually carried the ball a couple times.  Mind you, I'm not so much living vicariously through the success he's had (such as it is), as I am proud of him making the effort, and learning to do something that he started out utterly clueless of.  Very cool. . .


And just for the sake of saying so, I have to mention the way my Spartans man-handled the hated Wolverines over the weekend, the sixth time we've beaten them in the last seven games.  Truth to tell, I didn't think that the Spartans played all that well, certainly far short of their best.  But even so, they dominated the blue-corn guys from start to finish.  It's a sign of how strong our team is, I suppose, that they can dominate their rival while still not playing their best.

I'm still getting used to this whole rivalry-dominance thing.  Our friends from down the road have had far more success against us, in my adult lifetime, than we've had against them (though we pretty much owned them in my childhood; just sayin').  I'm just glad (*shedding a small tear*) to have lived long enough to see the tables turned, at least for a while. . .


And then this morning, the Lions played the Sunday Brunch Special from Wembley Stadium in London.  That's London, in the UK, not Ontario.  Five time zones to the east of here.  NFL marketing-types, gotta love 'em. . .

The Leos started out terrible, trailing 21-0 at halftime.  But they turned the tables in the second half and ended up pulling out a 22-21 victory on a last-second field goal (some real bizarre doings in those final seconds, which I'll decline to discuss in detail, but it did make things, um interesting).

I'm not quite ready to start calling them "MY Lions" just yet (6-2 and leading the division has gone down in flames too often, too recently, for me to jump on the bandwagon quite this soon).  But this could yet turn into one of the better years of my own personal memory. . .


So, lots of football this weekend, all the way from middle-school, to high school, to major-college, to the pros.  And all of 'em went according to my own humble rooting interests, which was nice.

And the weather in these parts was spectacular this weekend - mid-60s, brilliant sunshine, cloudless azure skies. . . So I put another 32 miles on my bike, bringing me to 876 miles for the year.  Barring any nasty weather wiping out entire weekends, I should just sneak past 1000 before the snow flies.  But, we will see what we will see. . .

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Michigan Weather. . .

If you don't like it, goes the saying, wait five minutes. . . it'll change. . .

[This quote is actually attributed to Mark Twain, in reference to New England; I'm not sure Ol' Sam ever even set foot in the State of Michigan.  I'm also reasonably sure that pretty much every state not named California has 'borrowed' this quote for itself.

The meteorologist-types of my acquaintance tell me that the Great Lakes actually have a 'moderating' effect on Michigan's climate.  But the saying is common among my fellow-Michiganders (or are we Michiganians? I can never remember), whether justly or not. . .]


My Tigers having finished their season early this year, I'm left to talk about . . . the weather.

No, not really.  I'll just revert to my other favorite autumnal blogging topic: tracking my bicycling miles.

This has been a tough cycling season for me.  First off, last winter was extraordinarily long and cold, and whereas I'm usually out on my bike in early March, this year the snow and ice and cold temperatures didn't abate, so as to allow me to get out on the road, until the very last weekend of March.  So I lost nearly a full month at the beginning of the season.

Then in April, I came down with a nasty respiratory virus.  My normal protocol in such instances is to get plenty of rest, and cut back on my miles (riding, say, 17 miles instead of 25 or 30; gotta keep the legs working, dontchaknow), and in the fullness of time, the virus runs its course, and I haven't lost too much of my conditioning edge (heck, sometimes, a ride can even have a 'blow-the-gunk-out' effect on my respiratory system).  This time, though, every time I put on even very modest miles, my lungs responded by getting even sicker, and threatening to fling small chunks of themselves through the air.  I finally went to see my doctor, who prescribed an oral steroid for me, and that, plus a couple weeks off the bike, finally brought me back to my normal, radiant good health.  But by that time, it was early May, and I was basically starting over at building up my miles, two months behind schedule.

And so it went.  My schedule seemed to conspire against me more than usual, as well. Events like funerals, or marriage-enrichment conferences (Jenn and I started working in marriage-prep classes for our parish this year) kept coming up, pushing my rides to a less-convenient time, and obliging me to ride fewer miles than I'd planned.  And then I had a mild relapse of the respiratory virus in August, so I had to skip another ride or two again.

So now, here I am, in mid-October, when I'd normally have something like 1200 miles on my legs and lungs (a couple years ago, I was over 1600 by late October), and wondering how many hundred more I'd be able to get in before the snow flies and the shoulders of the roads are covered with ice, relegating me to the stationary bike for the winter.  And I've got 811 miles in for the year.

My 'basic goal' every year is 1000 miles, and I've usually reached that by early/mid-September, so I can set my sights higher.  In recent years, I've averaged about 1400 miles a year, give-or-take, but this year, I'll have to be pretty diligent just to make my 'basic goal'.

Which brings us back to the weather.  Fall weather can be unpredictable in my part of Michigan, as the seasonal transition takes hold.  It is more prone to be rainy and windy during this time of the year, and the temperatures are trending downward.  For several years now, I've been blessed to have most of our 'Weather' happen during the week, while I'm at work, and can't get out on the road, anyway.  This year, though, the 'weather' has come on the weekends to a greater extent than usual, forcing me to consult forecasts, trying to work my riding schedule around the particular 3 hours when the rain will be taking a break.  And of course, that leaves me subject to the, uh, accuracy of the forecasts.

So, three or four times in the last few weeks, I've targeted a three-hour window in the rain pattern, and gotten out on the road at the first sign of non-threatening skies, only to find that, 15 miles out in the countryside, the weather had a different schedule.  Riding in the rain is not my favorite thing to do, but once you're out on the road, you don't have much choice.  One recent Saturday,  I was a little late getting out on the road, when I knew I had about a three-hour rain-free window.  So, when I was about five miles from home, the skies opened up, and the wind-machine turned on (20-25 mph, directly into my face, which seemed kinda over-the-top on Mother Nature's part).  It only lasted for a mile or so, but you can get awfully cold and wet in a mile of downpour, against a stiff wind.  Another time, I left the house under blue skies, with the promise of the weatherman that I had a good, solid three hours before the rain returned.  Within three miles, I was being pelted with sleet (SLEET!  add my normal 12-mph to the wind-borne velocity of the falling ice-needles against my face, and you have a distinctly unpleasant experience), all the while seeing blue skies off to the west.  For the rest of the ride, I was mostly riding under sunny blue skies, but as I turned onto the final 7-mile run back toward home, there was a large, dark, ominous-looking cloud directly ahead of me.  Nothing to do but keep riding, and by the time I was even with where the black cloud had been, it had moved off to the east, and I missed getting rained on, for once.  Which, you know, was just fine with me.

So anyway, as things sit, I'll have to ride some pretty aggressive miles, and hope that the weather stays ride-able into December, if I hope to make 1000 miles for the season.  Which is by no means given.

But then, in the last two weeks, the typically schizoid fall weather, driving rain alternating with bright sunshine, has meant that I've twice driven home at the end of a work day, under a stunningly brilliant double rainbow, so, you know, there's that. . .

Monday, October 6, 2014

Well, That Was Quick. . .

Recalling what I said in my previous post about frequency of posting during the baseball post-season month of October. . .  Yeah, well, so much for that.  My Tigers were unceremoniously swept out of the playoffs yesterday evening.  It's not like I didn't see it coming, or anything, but, you know, we hoped for better. . .

Our three-game whirlwind tour (and I use the term 'whirlwind' both in the sense of 'brief and frenetic', and also 'getting slammed by a tornado') of the baseball post-season was really something of a microcosm of the entire season - the bullpen imploding, wasting creditable, if not spectacular starting pitching, and then the bats inexplicably disappearing when we did get solid pitching.  I mean, 12 FREAKIN' RUNS OVER CONSECUTIVE 8TH INNINGS?  Twelve!?!  Seriously?!?  But such was the quality of our bullpen this year; no lead was ever safe.  I'd be listening to a game on the radio, and the starter would be through seven innings with 110 or so pitches, and a nine-run lead, and I'd be anxiously wringing my hands, wondering if a nine-run lead could hold up through two innings of relief pitching.  (I don't recall if the bullpen ever actually blew a nine-run lead or not, but it had some atrocious meltdowns.  I know we lost more than one lead of three runs or more in the 9th inning)

And, for all the all-star caliber hitters the Tigers have, they were prone to mystifying offensive droughts, making guys with career ERAs of 5.86 look like Sandy Freakin' Koufax.  On paper, before the season, it looked like we should win our division by at least 10 games.  Our starting rotation included two of the past three Cy Young Award winners (and we picked up the third one at the trade deadline), and Miguel Cabrera was the two-time defending Most Valuable Player.  We even unloaded Prince Fielder's horrible contract and even more horrible defense; things were looking good.  We had some injury problems, but nothing terribly our of the ordinary (although both Cabrera and Justin Verlander were coming off off-season surgeries, and both of them were mystifyingly un-dominant for long stretches of the season).  We ended up squeaking out the division championship by one game, after looking up at the Kansas City Royals for a lot of the summer.  It was a frustrating season, but it seemed like were starting to get our stuff together just in time for the playoffs.  I guess not, huh?

But hey, the Los Angeles Angels, who by most all accounts were the best team in the American League, got similarly broomed out of the playoffs by the aforementioned Royals, and the Washington Nationals, who were likewise counted the best team in the National League, are on life support, having lost their first two games at home, and heading to San Francisco with no more losses 'to give'.  Which goes to show, I suppose, that once you get into the playoffs, anything can happen. . .

The coming off-season promises to be tumultuous for my Tigers, in all sorts of ways.  Max Scherzer, our best pitcher the past two seasons, is a free agent, and I can't imagine that the Tigers will be able to match the money that teams like the Yankees will be prepared to throw at him.  Victor Martinez, who was our best hitter this year, is also a free agent, and it is not a given that we will be able to re-sign him, either.  Torii Hunter has given the Tigers a couple of solid seasons, even at 39 years of age, and he's a free agent, too.  We will see what we will see, of course (we always do), but there is a large sense that the Tigers' window of opportunity to win a World Series is about to slam shut.  It's been a nice run for the past 5-6 seasons, but they haven't yet won it all, and it seems about to become less likely, not more.



The Lions also lost ignominiously yesterday afternoon, making it a dismally lost weekend for Detroit professional sports teams. . .

But at least, on a somewhat happier note, my Spartans won their game Saturday night.  Not, however, before they gave up most of a 24-point, end-of-the-3rd-quarter lead, having to intercept a pass on the 10-yard-line with 30 seconds left in order to hang on for a 5-point win.  In the last four minutes of the game, they gave up a touchdown on a punt return, and bounced a short filed goal off the upright.  I was seriously hyperventilating at that point.  Credit to Nebraska, our opponent, for not getting the memo that the game was over at the end of the 3rd quarter.  The mismatch in intensity between the two teams in the 4th quarter was glaring.  My Spartans will have to play hard for all four quarters, if they hope to contend for the kind of honors they aspire to.


At any rate, given the end of the Tigers' season, things might be a tad less sports-oriented around these parts than I'd hoped (or some of my readers might have feared) this month.  So, who knows what stuff I might be posting about?  With a sideways tip of the hat to my friend Suldog, I can't promise that my next post will be soon, and I sure can't promise that it'll be better.  But, you know, eventually, with more stuff, of one sort or another. . .

Monday, September 29, 2014

Fire the Bastards!

It's October, and in recent years here in The Yard, that has meant a sudden uptick in my posting frequency, as I follow my Tigers through the baseball post-season, and this year, that grand tradition continues, as the Tigers have won their division for the fourth consecutive year, the first time in team history that they've appeared in four consecutive post-seasons.  Although, to be candid, post-seasons these days are not what they once were, with 10 teams out of 30 qualifying for the festivities; whereas, back when Ty Cobb and the boys were appearing in three consecutive World Series from 1907-09, two teams out of 16 faced each other in the World Series, so that still seems like a bigger deal. . .

Even so, these recent years have been a period of noteworthy success for the Detroit Baseball Club.  You might think that such a period of unprecedented sustained success would make for a happy group of Tiger fans.  But you would be wrong.  At least on a wider level; myself, I'm as happy a Tiger fan as I've ever been, except in the immediate aftermath of the '68 and '84 World Series.  But at least judging from the people who call in to the sports-talk-radio stations, Tiger fans by-and-large are unprecedentedly angry and frustrated.

Both last year and this year, the Tigers finished atop the division standings by just a single game over the second-place team.  Many fans, evidently spoiled by the team's run of success, think that the division race should have been over by Labor Day, and by such a dominant margin that the next-best team should be in third place, not second.  When the team struggled with injuries, and a few of the players who were being counted on to perform at a high level, um, didn't, these fans became even more angry and frustrated.

The Tigers' manager this year is a man named Brad Ausmus, who is on his first managing job after a long career as a player, during which he achieved average-to above-average success from, shall we say, less-than-elite-level skills.  He played two separate tours with the Tigers, during which he was a consistent fan favorite.  So when he was named the Tigers' manager last winter, the move was met with approval, for the most part.  But when the team failed to dominate in the 'expected' manner, a growing undertone of anger arose.

This is nothing new, mind you.  For the eight seasons prior to this one, the Tigers' manager was a man named Jim Leyland, who was what they call a 'baseball lifer'.  He'd had a couple previous gigs as a major-league manager, taking the Pittsburgh Pirates to a couple of post-seasons back in the early 90s, and winning a World Series with the Florida Marlins in '98.  In his eight seasons in Detroit, the Tigers made the post-season four times, and played in two World Series, both of which they lost (they also lost a one-game tie-breaker in '09, which ought to count as a 'post-season' game, especially if you're going to count a one-game wild-card playoff as a post-season game; but I digress).

Virtually every day of those eight years, somebody in Detroit was calling in on talk-radio, calling for him to be fired.  Because he didn't call for the bunt when he should have.  Because he called for the bunt when he shouldn't have.  Because he left his starter in one batter too long.  Because he pulled his starter, who was obviously cruising, and good for another 23 innings.  Because a hit-and-run play backfired.  Because the third-baseman threw the ball into the upper deck, or the left-fielder missed the cutoff man.  Etc., etc, etc.  All under the general heading of "We know more about baseball than you do."  A guy who's been in professional baseball for 50 years, and some pizza-delivery guy is certain that he knows more about baseball than him.  'Cuz, you know, he played baseball in high school, and he KNOWS baseball.  It would be funny if it weren't so pathetic.

And so this year, when injuries set in, and key players under-performed, and success was less certain than it 'should have been', the same set of brilliant fans began calling for Brad Ausmus to be fired.  Or Dave Dombrowski, the general manager.  Or both of them, in a public execution at home plate, before the next game.  It's just a good thing that the Tigers finally did win; who knows what might have happened if they hadn't.

And here's the thing that really grinds my backside about the whole thing, even beyond the pathetic aspect of thinking they know more about baseball than a guy who's been in the game professionally for 50 years - these folks are awfully casual about wanting someone else to lose their job.  Look, I know that professional sports is a results-driven business, and if you don't win, you won't keep your job for long; I get that.  But the constant, day-after-day drumbeat of 'Fire the Bastard!' directed at a team, and a manager, having considerably more-than-normal success, is jaw-droppingly bizarre.  Would they want other people to be as casual about pulling the plug on their continued employment as they are about the managers of their favorite sports teams?  Do people act like this in other towns?  I mean, other than New York?

My modest proposal - anyone who goes on talk radio and calls for the coach of his favorite team to be fired, should be judged by the same standard.  Get the change wrong on a pizza order - you're fired!  Have a typo in your sales report - you're fired!  And so on down the line.  Any bit of strategy that backfires - that's it, you're gone!  Have great results year after year, but some guy with flecks of spittle on his I-phone thinks you're a moron and he could've done better?  You're screwed, get outta here!

(*puff, pant*) (*puff, pant*)

(*deep, cleansing breath*)

Okay, better now. . .

Anyway, the Tigers begin their fourth consecutive post-season on Thursday against the Orioles in Baltimore.  And once again, hope springs eternal.  I wish all your teams well, until they play my Tigers.  Maybe this will finally be our year. . .

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Day of the Drunken Birds

These days, I'm not posting so much, and occasionally, I'm leaving some good, post-worthy stories as comments on other folks' blogs.  Such is the case with this one, although by now I forget whose blog I left it on as a comment.  It really does deserve to be preserved for posterity along with the rest of my stories, though, so here you go. . .


The house I grew up in, Up North, was situated at the end of a dead-end street, out near what, in those days, counted as the edge of town.  There were no other houses within a block of ours, and our back yard was bordered on two sides by what could only be honestly described as a swamp.  In one corner of the yard was a mountain ash tree, the kind with the little orange berries.  For most of the summer, the tree would be liberally speckled with orange berries, which made for a colorful splash in that corner of the yard.

Now, birds (mostly robins and blue jays) loved those little orange berries, and would come from far and wide to descend on our yard in order to partake of their orange-y goodness.  And throughout the summers, the, uh, bird-lime that was splatted around our yard (and on our cars, and house, and back porch, etc) had a distinctly orange-ish hue, sometimes containing the stems and other accoutrements of the birdly-eaten berries.

The birds usually kept the berries eaten to a degree that meant that, by summer's end, the berries were gone, and the tree wasn't producing any more of them.  In the fullness of time, the leaves fell, and the following spring, the cycle commenced anew.

One summer, though, the berries lingered into the early fall.  I don't know if the birds were otherwise occupied that summer, or if the tree put out a particularly abundant berry crop that year, but September came, and there were still berries on the tree, where, in a typical year, there were none.

Then suddenly, one day, a massive flock of birds descended on our yard and denuded the tree of its remaining berries.  The berries, however, having remained on the tree so much longer than usual, had begun to, uh, ferment.  In fact, they were well-advanced in the process of fermentation.  And so, by afternoon, we were treated to one of the most bizarre spectacles I've ever witnessed in my young life, which has gone down in family lore as The Day of the Drunken Birds.

Dozens of birds were reeling and stumbling around our back yard, staggering sideways, hopping on one leg, trying desperately to keep (or regain) their balance, like something out of a Red Skelton skit.  I was still a couple years away from heading to college, but, in retrospect, it was reminiscent of last call at a college-town bar.  Birds were bumping into each other, knocking each other down, and struggling to regain their feet with indifferent success.  A few of them tried to take flight, but they simply couldn't get their wings and tail-feathers working together, and they would careen sideways, a foot or two off the ground, until they crashed awkwardly back onto the lawn, somersaulting a couple times before coming to rest.  I didn't witness it first-hand, but I'm sure that, scattered around the yard were numerous small puddles of worm-scented bird-puke.

By evening, a few, maybe half, had recovered enough to have moved on, but our yard was still scattered with several comatose, semi-comatose and near-comatose birds.  Some were just lying there, awake, their wings splayed out from their bodies on the ground, staring with glazed eyes off into the sky.  Others were asleep, dozing off their unplanned bender.  If my mom had been inclined to serve robin for dinner, marinated in ash-berry wine, we could have invited company and had enough to go around.

By the next morning, they were gone (perhaps amazingly, I saw no evidence that any of the neighbors' cats had come marauding overnight).  I smile to imagine them, one by one, drifting groggily awake, shaking their heads to clear the fog, wondering what the hell had happened to them, complaining about how loud the damn crickets were chirping, then taking weary flight while promising themselves, "never again. . ."

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Honeymoon in the Hotel Chevette

Since our wedding anniversary was just a few weeks ago, I got to thinking about our honeymoon (and hey, who doesn't enjoy thinking about their honeymoon?), and recalled that I had posted a story from our honeymoon, some years ago, on my old blog.  It's been a long time since I re-posted anything, so I suppose you all won't mind too much.  Besides, it's a pretty good story. . .


For our honeymoon, Jenn and I went on a tour of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. We actually spent our first night in our own house, then went to Mackinac Island. We spent two days and a night on the island, then drove on to the tiny village of Paradise (sign on the outskirts: “Welcome to Paradise; Glad You Made It”), where we spent our third night of wedded bliss (yes, we really did spend a night in Paradise on our honeymoon) before taking in Tahquamenon Falls the next day. At the end of that day, we drove on to Munising, where our plan was to take in the Pictured Rocks the following day.

Now, other than Mackinac Island, I hadn’t made any reservations. Northern Michigan, especially along the shores of the Great Lakes, is blanketed with hundreds of little mom-and-pop cabins, and it is not usually a very big deal to just drive along the road near the area you intend to stay, looking for a ‘Vacancy’ sign to be lit at a place that doesn’t look too nasty. I’ve done it dozens of times, and never had a problem. Except once.  On our honeymoon.  Oh yeah. . . Good, good times. . .

After a delightfully scenic drive from Tahquamenon Falls to Munising (I think I'm not supposed to mention skinny-dipping at a secluded beach on Lake Superior, so I won't), we began to see the little cabins popping up as we got close to Munising. ‘No Vacancy’. Hmmm. . . OK. With the Pictured Rocks, though, there ought to be no shortage of other cabins available to choose from.

Next place – ‘No Vacancy’. And the next place, and the next place, and the next place. We were into town by now, looking for a not-too-seedy-looking motel, and we found several, all with the ‘No Vacancy’ sign lit.

Hmmmm. . . well, we’ll just head on down the road on the far side of Munising, and see what we find there. . .

Again, ‘No Vacancy’, ‘No Vacancy’, ‘No Vacancy’.

I’m starting to get frustrated now, and Jenn is starting to get a little concerned as I’m getting more and more agitated as the ‘No Vacancy’ signs continue piling up. Finally, I pulled into a gas station, and asked a guy where I might look that I haven’t tried yet. He suggested a couple back roads out into the hinterlands surrounding Munising, and I thanked him for the tip. We followed his directions, and found the places he was sending us to.

‘No Vacancy’.

I actually went into the office at one of the places, just to confirm that they really didn’t have any rooms, and the neon ‘No’ wasn’t just inadvertently lit. Alas, the sign told the truth. But the manager pointed us farther down the road, to the little village of Christmas, Michigan, about 10 miles or so west of Munising. I thanked her, and we drove off.

We arrived in Christmas (greeted by giant plastic candy canes, and a giant plastic Santa Claus, as we drove into 'town', such as it was), and found a small cluster of three or four cabin-resorts.

‘No Vacancy’, ‘No Vacancy’, ‘No Vacancy’


What!? Was this a mistake? Did one of these places actually have an available room? Or was the neon ‘No’ cruelly lying in its unlit state? I pulled into the parking space by the office, and fairly sprinted in. When I walked through the door, there was a guy standing at the desk, with a mildly disgusted look on his face, and I heard him say,

“Well, if that’s the only room you’ve got, I guess I’ll take it.”

My heart sank. I looked imploringly at the manager, as if to say, please tell me you didn't really just rent out the very last room you have? The very last possible available room within three days’ drive of Munising? She shrugged, nodded, and said, “Sorry.”

I asked if she had any suggestions for where else I might look, and she said, “Well, you might try the KOA.”

I thanked her, and retreated to my car (a still-pretty-shiny ’79 4-door Chevy Chevette) to weigh my options, as the neon 'No' flickered into light above our car. At this point, I was NOT a happy camper, despite the prospects of spending the night at a KOA. On my honeymoon. Here I was, four days into my marriage, and I was already an abject failure. Tasked with nothing more onerous than taking my bride on a nice vacation so we could (*ahem*) get to know each other, I had failed miserably.

As the steam slowly seeped out of my ears, Jenn tried to be helpful. “You know, we’ll look back on this and laugh, someday.”

I was in no mood to think about how funny this predicament would come to seem, from the vantage point of some future time. All I knew is that I had failed. The Universe had conspired against me, to make me look like a fool in front of my bride, in whose eyes I had previously been able to do no wrong (well, OK, maybe she wasn’t quite that star-struck, but I wanted to think she was). And I was, how shall I say it. . . pissed!

I think I spent a couple minutes having a small tantrum in the car (it was a small car; there wasn’t enough room for a really big tantrum), before Jenn finally got me to calm down. She said how it would be fun to sleep in our car at the KOA, and c’mon, we could make it work out, and it would be fun, and a great story to tell afterward. I wasn’t really mollified (those of you who remember my old blog will get the pun that this used to be), but, lacking any better alternative, agreed that the KOA was probably our best (meaning, 'only') option, at this point. The sun was setting, and it was too long a drive to our next destination (the Porcupine Mountains, if anyone is interested), and besides, we really wanted to see the Pictured Rocks.

So I drove back toward Munising, and pulled into the KOA. The very portrait of dejection and defeat, I moped into the office. Approaching the desk, I simply asked the clerk, “What’ll it cost me to stay here tonight?”

“What have you got?” she cheerfully replied.

Now wait just a minute, missy – I wasn’t born yesterday. I may be desperate for a place to sleep tonight, but you just tell me your price, and I’ll pay it.

“No, no – do you have a camper, or an RV, or a tent, or what?”

Oh. Uh, we’ve got a Chevette.

“What’s that?”

Our car – we’re sleeping in our car. Do you just have a place where we could park it for the night?

“Oh, um, sure.” She seemed almost embarrassed, like I was some poor unfortunate homeless person asking her for a handout. “I guess two bucks is plenty for that.” I shoved a couple dollar bills at her, and shuffled resignedly back to our car.

When I arrived, Jenn was well into the process of transforming our little Chevette into the Honeymoon Suite Munising. She collected every towel, or grocery bag, or t-shirt we had readily at hand, raided the first-aid kit, and taped towels/bags/shirts over all the windows with band-aids. “There!” she declared triumphantly. “That ought to do the trick!”

My wife is a great, great woman.

I could only smile at my new bride’s resourcefulness, and her glee at having rendered our little car honeymoon-worthy was just irresistible. I grabbed one of the towels that she hadn’t used as a window-covering, and went off to take a shower. When I returned, I poked my head in through the car door, to find Jenn wrapped in my bathrobe, flashing me her very best ‘come-hither’ smile. The back seat was folded down, and our sleeping bag was rolled out. The car was too small for us to stretch all the way out – when it came to sleeping, the most comfortable arrangement involved us draping our legs over the backs of the front seats.

But it was our honeymoon, and we had business to attend to. Getting to (*ahem*) know each other, and all that. . .

When we emerged from the car the next morning, and began taking down the window-coverings, and packing up to get back on the road, I think the folks on the neighboring campsites were looking at us a little bit oddly. But who cared? We were on our honeymoon! We were going to see the Pictured Rocks!  Life was good!

And our very first marital crisis had been successfully defused, besides. . .

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Bliss My Soul. . . Again. . .

Just a quick note today to mark the arrival of Jenn's-and-my 34th wedding anniversary (or, put another way, the successful completion of 34 years of wedded bliss) (Well, Jenn might not agree that all 34 of them have been exactly blissful, but why quibble?  It's been good.  Mostly.  ;)  )

Thank you, My Beloved, for throwing your life in with mine, and for loving me so very well for lo, these 34 years.  I'm well aware that you didn't have to do that, and blessed am I that you did, and that you stayed with me even when I made it hard for you.  You have made my life both richer and happier, and I'm grateful for every minute we've spent together.

Happy Anniversary, My Love.  I owe you, big-time. . .


You may have noticed that I've spelled my wife's name with two 'n's above.  This is a change of somewhat recent vintage, so as to distinguish her from our neighbor Jen, who lives across the street, and is in a women's group with her, in our Christian community (and who, coincidentally, also writes a blog of her own; hopefully, it wasn't too confusing to see the occasional comment from 'Jen' who seemed to know things about our family that I'd never blogged about. . .)  Besides, her mother, for whatever reasons of her own, has always written her nickname as 'Jenn'.  So now, you can, too. . .