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. . .

Friday, August 1, 2014

I Am a Nazarene

The mark shown above is a 'Nun', the Arabic letter 'N'.  In northern Iraq and Syria these days, it is being spray-painted on the houses of Christians ('Nazarenes' as they are known among Muslims) by radical Islamist thugs, to mark the house as a 'Nazarene' house.  When the spray-painted 'Nun' appears, it announces to the occupants of the house a four-fold decision, effective immediately:

1) Convert to Islam, or
2) Pay the dhimma*, and submit to dhimmi-tude, or
3) Leave, without your possessions (which now belong to Islam), or
4) Die

Nice, huh?

*The dhimma is essentially an 'infidel tax', designed to maintain the infidels in economic subjugation.  Dhimmis (those who pay the tax) essentially accept second-class citizenship.  They may not offend the eyes of pious Muslims by displaying any infidel religious symbols (eg, wearing a cross, or a nun's habit, or priestly vestments, or displaying a cross on a church building); neither may they build new churches, or repair old ones.

The very ancient Christian population of Iraq and Syria, which dates back to the early beginnings of Christianity (and pre-dates Islam by several centuries), is essentially being eradicated, as you read this.

The response of the rest of the world has barely been more than chirping crickets, and I can't begin to fathom why.

Is it because the 'victims' are Christian, and in the secular West, we think of Christians as the killjoys of the Sexual Revolution?  Or because, when we hear 'Christian', we think of obnoxious southern-accented TV evangelists, or the weird family with 20 kids?

Or is it because the thugs in question are Muslim, and we fear their irrational wrath?  Or because, somehow or other, we're stuck in a stereotype of Christians as 'oppressors' and Muslims as 'oppressed', and so, finally, the Christians are getting a little come-uppance (and about damn time)?

Or, do we tell ourselves that this is a 'religious problem', and therefore out-of-bounds for a secular state?

I really, really don't understand that Western governments (our own included) won't even issue impotent 'statements of condemnation', much less initiate any humanitarian measures on behalf of the Nazarene refugees.  And Western media will discuss the political and 'warfare' aspects of the dispute, but not the 'religious cleansing' aspects.

What in the world is going on?

By myself, I'm at a loss as to what I, as an individual, can do, concretely, to help my brothers and sisters in Christ across the world.  Anything I can do, like displaying the 'Nun' at the top of my blog as a sign of my solidarity with them, seems utterly 'token' and impotent.

But I do stand with them.  And, if I can do nothing else, I want them to know that.  I, too, am a Nazarene.

And, I will pray.  Partly because, even if I figure out how to do all manner of humanitarian good, but don't pray, I'm kind-of missing the point.  I will pray that God (Allah, as even Arabic Christians call Him), who sees every sparrow that falls from its nest, will watch over them and protect them, and deliver them from evil, and stay the hand of the evil-doer, and grant them His peace.

Oh, Lord, have mercy. . .


(edit, 13 Aug)

Here is an essay posted yesterday, making a similar point to the one I'm making, but providing more supportive documentation. . .


(edit, 21 Aug)

And here is another one. . .

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

And Here They Are. . .

(left to right: 6F's boy, 3M's girl, 2F's boy)

Not that I'm a proud grandpa, or anything. . .

Sunday, July 13, 2014

All Present and Accounted For

Late this Friday evening just past, 2F gave birth to her little guy, so now all of the grandchildren are present and accounted for in extra-uterine space.  Another cute one (seems to be the only kind we make, in our family); 6lb-8oz, and most of it hair, to look at him.  And even though he was born on 7-11, she resisted the urge to name him Slurpee ( I mean, just think of all the great 'baby' puns you could make off a name like that; but, I digress) (I suppose there's also a set of puns to be made around a theme of 'craps', which would also have some hilarity relative to babies, but one should be careful not to push things too far. . .)

And suddenly, 6F's little guy, 6 months on the outside, looks positively huge. . .


And I hope it's not too terribly churlish of me to hope for a wedding or two before the next round of grandkids commences. . .

Sunday, June 15, 2014

2-1/2 Weeks

Thursday, May 29, 2014 - Jen and I have one of our marriage-prep sessions (#4 of a series of 7) with an engaged couple from our church.

Friday, May 30 - Graduation open house for the son of a dear friend, whose husband died a year-and-a-half ago.  Happy, for sure, but sad that Dad wasn't there to share it with him. . .

Saturday, May 31 - Wedding of a young man, classmate of 3M, who was one of my Little League players, back in the day. . .

Sunday, June 1 - Baptism of 3M's baby girl

Monday, June 2 - 1F's birthday, celebrated quietly at home with wine and gin-and-tonics.

Wednesday, June 4 - 7M's confirmation Mass.  4M was his sponsor, and St. Sebastian his patron saint (something about the images of ol' St. Seb stuck full of arrows caught his imagination, somehow. . .)

Saturday, June 7 - Another marriage-prep session (a double, #4-5) with another engaged couple.  Also 2F's baby shower, and another graduation open house (which, you know, means that at least we don't have to cook).

Sunday, June 8 thru Tuesday, June 10 - Craig & 4M are in Seattle, finding an apartment for 4M (recent college grad that he is) to live in when he goes back in July to begin his job with a large, well-known purveyor of fine coffee.  Cheesy tourist photos to follow:

Saturday, June 14 - Ordination to the Catholic priesthood of our next-door neighbors' son, another former Little Leaguer, and former classmate of 3M.  Also 2F's birthday (her 29th) (no, really!).

Sunday, June 15 - First Mass for the newly-ordained young priest.  Which puts an entirely different twist on Father's Day (to say nothing of how his Dad is busting his buttons). . .


For those of you keeping track at home, that's officially a crazy-busy 2-1/2 week stretch.  Looking ahead, it calms down, but only a little.  We've still got more marriage-prep sessions, and 4M's going-away party on the 28th (I didn't anticipate that his moving away across the country would have quite the emotional impact on me that it's had).  So, this June is pretty much a target-rich environment. . .

And, for the Catholics among my readers keeping score, you may have noted that five of the Seven Sacraments are accounted for in the above calendar entries (actually, to be perfectly candid, I'm pretty sure that, somewhere in the past 2.5 weeks, I've gone to confession, although I'll decline to go into detail on that one).  So if anyone is feeling sick, come on over, and we can get you anointed, and fill out a Sacramental Bingo card (kidding! . . . I'm kidding!)


And, it being Father's Day, and me being a father and all, I am grateful for my kids, each and every one of them (joy, grief, heartbreak and all) (did I mention the joy?), and to Jen, for making a father of me in the first place. . .

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Seeing Red

We live near a large state university, the same one that Jen and I both graduated from, back in the day, and 4M just recently (and my dad, a few days before that).  Large enough to have its own on-campus police force (colloquially known to the locals as the Kampus Kops), comprised to a fairly large extent of Criminal Justice majors who aspire to be real police officers someday.  And therein hangs a tale or two. . .

The MSU campus is, not to put too fine a point on it, huge.  A couple square miles, at least.  Which works out to well over 1000 acres, and that doesn't even count the farms to the south of the 'built-up' campus.  So, depending on where one is going, there are certain corners of our metro area that almost inevitably entail driving across campus, in one direction or another.  Which, because of the Kampus Kops, can sometimes (even often?) be waaaayyyy more painful than it needs to be.  Nineteen-year-olds with badges.  How could this possibly go wrong?

It has become apparent, through long experience, that the young Kampus Kops have been taught that people who are careless and unconcerned about things like obeying the law, are often careless and unconcerned about other, smaller things, and that the aspiring young officer of the law, by taking watchful note of these small markers of lawlessness, will often bag bigger Bad Guys than would seem to first meet the eye, because the petty scofflaw is the outward presentation of the Major Criminal.  Dontchaknow.

And so it came to pass, one fine Sunday evening, as Jen and I returned home from a prayer meeting (the geography of which made for a significant advantage if one chose a cross-campus route on the way home), that, about halfway across the two-mile expanse of the campus (and a lovely campus it is, if I may say so myself), I was summoned by flashing red-and-blue lights atop the vehicle behind me.

ME (thinking): What the heck?  I'm watching my speed (just for the sake of saying so, several members of our family had recently been ticketed on campus for 3-over-the-limit, and similar severe crimes).  What is this all about?

A couple minutes pass while the officer runs the standard check on my plate number.  Then the officer gets out of his squad car and proceeds to my window.  Knowing the drill, I hand him my driver's license, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance.  Looking up, I see a pimply-faced young man trying to look as stern as he possibly can.  He seems momentarily taken aback to find himself face-to-face with a gray-haired gentleman.

KAMPUS KOP:  Do you know why I pulled you over, sir?

The classic cop-question to put the driver-miscreant on the defensive.  I searched my brain cells for anything I might have done to attract the attention of this erstwhile specimen of MSU's Finest.  I knew I wasn't speeding, and I was taking a route across campus that didn't entail any turns, so I hadn't failed to signal a turn.  Finally, after a minute or so, I admitted defeat.

ME:  I'm sorry, officer, I have no idea.

Actually, I'm kinda curious to find out.

KK (with a triumphal, even smug air): You have a broken tail-light.

So that's it!  Of course!  I don't even remember how the tail-light lens came to be broken, but in researching the replacement cost of the tail-light, I got a number distressingly close to $200, so I decided that I wasn't going to pay that kind of money to replace a tail-light that was still entirely functional.  I made my way to the auto parts store and purchased a roll of red tail-light tape, with which to cover the hole, and restore the red parts of the tail-light to their original redness.

ME (a little confused):  But I taped it over with the red tail-light tape. . .

KK:  Well. . . it's the wrong shade of red.

He looked me right in the eye with a straight face as he said this.  I looked him straight in the eye right back, not saying a word for a minute or more.

ME (thinking):  Did you just say 'WRONG SHADE OF RED'???  ARE YOU F***ING SH***ING ME???  'WRONG F***ING SHADE OF RED'???  Does it even occur to you how f***ing brain-dead STUPID that sounds?  You pimple-pocked puke!  I wanna talk to the genius that gave you a badge!

ME (out loud, very respectfully):  Uhhhh, I'm sorry officer, but I specifically bought 'Tail-Light Tape'.  (I fished around in the glove-box for the remnant of the roll, still in its package, which proclaimed in large, bold letters that it was, indeed, no-fooling, 'TAIL-LIGHT TAPE').  Is there a different brand I should have bought?

At this point, the young officer-wannabe had a look on his face like he had a stomach-ache, and wished he could be anywhere else.  That damn cracked tail-light was supposed to belong to the biggest drug-dealer on campus, not some gray-haired decent-citizen type who was probably older than his dad.  And the old guy saw right through his BS about 'the wrong shade of red'.  The search was now on for a not-too-badly-failed graceful exit, although, to be brutally candid, it was already too late for that.

KK:  Well, uh, try to be more careful about how you repair your broken tail-lights, OK, sir?  I'll let you off with a warning this time.

ME (thinking):  'LET ME OFF WITH A WARNING'???  You BETTER freakin' let me off with a f***ing WARNING.  'Cuz if you ticket me, I am DEFINITELY contesting it, just to hear you say 'Wrong Shade of Red' to the judge, Idiot-Boy.

I'm thinking that it's not getting any better for the kid as words continue to come out of his mouth, so I just try to bring things to a merciful close, so I can be on my way.

ME:  OK, officer, I'll try to do that.

KK:  Thanks.  Have a good evening, sir.

ME:  I'll try.

ME (thinking):  Dumbass; there's 20 minutes of my life that I'll never get back. . .