Archive for March, 2011

O Lord, won’tcha baah me…

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

Seems like it was right around the time I moved permanently onto the Planet Ann Arbor that people were first saying things like, “Will the last person to leave Michigan please turn out the lights?” I haven’t heard that phrase in quite a while but I have lived in this beautiful state all my life and I’ve seen two automobile industry meltdowns, the second one bailed out by our own taxpayer dollars. My bro’ was an auto engineer at GM and I think I know a bit about what his opinions were toward the enod end (enod?) of his life. Hint: He started buying Honda vee-hickles and steered me toward one too, ten years ago, four years before he died. That would be the Dogha, the 2001 Honda Accord EX-V6 that is sitting in my driveway right now, rock solid at 150K. Anyone want to buy it? [Hey bro’, hope you are seeing that the vee-hickle you recommended all those years ago is alive and kicking ass!]

Michigan. What’s next? I don’t know what I think. I grew up in the Upper Peninsula but The Commander is from the Detroit area of the Lower Peninsula. When I was a kid, the Fin Family was successful in the Upper and the Mac family was successful in the Lower. Not rich, just successful. And very hard-working. The GG’s fam was successful [in the lower] and we have both worked our you-know-whats off to be successful, even throughout the many years that I did volunteer work and did not hold a job “outside the home” (I hate that phrase, blech). We are not rich. We are not poor. We don’t want to see people get cash from our tax dollars if they are able but not willing to work (and some people are not). We also do not want to see people struggle to put food on the table or a roof over their heads (or even a reason to get up in the morning) if they cannot find jobs. I wish I had answers but I don’t.

I’m not happy with our new governor. I think our state needs to make some changes. But we are down now and we have been down for many years. The auto industry here may rebound a bit but I do not think it will ever return to what it was back when my grandaddy used to drive us around Detroit in his Cadillac in the 50s and 60s. And now? I’m not sure what to think about all of the changes that our governor is working on. Cutting unemployment? Okaaaayy. He seems to think that by next January (?) a lot of people won’t need unemployment benefits any more. Say what? Yes. He’s cutting the business tax. He thinks that will spur all kinds of businesses to create jobs. Jobs, jobs, jobs. Will it? Who knows? I can’t even think about the education cuts tonight…

More questions here than answers. Michigan is a large, beautiful, complicated state. I love the Great Lake State. I don’t have the answers…

Love y’all,
KW

Crystal Black Pearl

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

Ever get one of those calls where the caller says something like, “Everything is all right but…” Well. I had to make one of those today. This is not going to be the post I intended to write today but unfortunately, this is what you’re gonna get.

I have had one vee-hickular accident in my entire life. Well, one that I count, anyway. I was 17 and I was driving my grandma’s old 1965 Ford Fairlane 500 past the funeral home on Bingham in Sault Ste. Siberia on glare ice. Another vee-hickle coming the other way went left of center and smashed into my front end. There were no injuries and it was not my fault, but, since we all pulled into the funeral home parking lot to sort things out, it was pretty interesting when The Commander and Grandroobly drove by just a little later.

There are a few little incidents that I am not counting:

1) I am not counting the time I backed the Fairlane into the old waaaarrr fence trying to turn around down by the stream. I didn’t tell the parents about that one and they jumped through hoops trying to figure out how it happened. I can still remember The Commander asking, “Could somebody have taken a file to it?”

2) I am not [really] counting the time I was sitting in the Commie High parking lot in The Indefatigable, waiting for Mouse, when a kid driving a vee-hickle with a fake leg sticking out of its trunk swung wide for his target parking space and hit me so hard I bounced over the cement barrier.

3) I am not counting the time I got hit by a tornado.

Today. I got off the I94 18-wheel Slogway after work and I was sitting on Jackson at the left turn signal onto N. Maple. Almost home… This is a loooonnnng light and I was the first in line, having pulled up to it just as it turned yellow. Maybe the person behind me thought I shouldda run it? I sat. And I sat. And I sat. I watched the traffic as it cycled through. When the left turn signal f-i-n-a-l-l-y turned green, I put the clutch in, shifted into first and hit the gas. In that order. Or not… The Ninja stalled with a big lurch! Yiiy! I panicked just a bit and scrambled to get my vee-hickle started again. And then. I lurched again! What had I done now? Really panicked then. Finally. I got the Ninja started and took off.

It wasn’t until I was almost to the Dexter/N. Maple light that it occurred to me that the second *larger* lurch was not the result of my ham-handed shifting! I had been rear-ended. You read that right. I was rear-ended and lurched a couple feet into the intersection and DIDN’T REALIZE IT! I thought it was my problem. It was a memory of that day down at Commie High that made me realize it. Yeah, now I remember that thunk and lurch.

I have no clue who was behind me at that intersection. I didn’t stop and that person didn’t follow me or try to get my attention in any way (that I know of). On the surface, it just looks like a little dent/scratch. But I know enough about the auto body industry to know that it’ll cost, oh, about $600 or so to fix. Not something I wanted to use our tax refund for.

What hurts the most? My dignity. I love to drive and I am very alert and focused about it. Because I love it. I drive stick all the time. I can’t remember a time when I haven’t owned at least one manual transmission vee-hickle. The Ninja is a loverly six-speed manual. I can’t say I have never stalled it but it’s a rare event. I don’t think this incident was my fault but it was pretty stupid for me to stall the car and I am licking my wounds and wishing I could re-do my homeward commute today.

The other driver? Hmmm… I do not know who it was. Whoever it was is fortunate that I have been in so few accidents [knock on wood big time] that I didn’t even realize I had been hit! I hope that person watches the vee-hickle in front of them in addition to the light from now on. I would like for them to try to find me and ‘fess up but I doubt that’ll happen. In lieu of that, I hope they are sitting somewhere feeling guilty. I hope they will pay their good fortune forward.

More likely, they are sitting around laughing about the idiot that they rear-ended today who didn’t even notice it. Sigh…

Troll or spam?

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

I can’t decide whether “Dr. Michigan” is a troll or a random robot spammer. I get a lot of random spam. Akismet takes care of 99.99% of it* and I catch the rest of it by evaluating first time comments and rejecting or approving them. Usually, I reject. “Your blog has such wonderful information. I will bookmark it.” (etc. etc. etc.) Yeah roight. My blahg is random blather!

I could go either way on Dr. Michigan. He (and I am guessing he is a he, if he isn’t just random spam) does have a website, which I’m not going to link to because I don’t know who he is and his website looks [to me] like an attempt to set up something people might think is real. I am on the fence about that. My reasons are too long and boring to relate here.

His question hit close to home though. Yes, the “girls” still do go swimming in Lake Superior “every morning up there”. Well. Not *every* morning.

Now for the long answer…

1) When I was a little kid, I pretty much tried to put my bathing suit on as soon as we moved out to the cabin (the day after school got out in June) and not take it off until we moved back to town (Labor Day). It may have been 40 degrees out there but we swam as much as we possibly could. *Morning*, noon, and night. I can remember a Labor Day when it was *snowing*. There were about a billion people hanging out on the beach and us kids were swimming. Of course!

2) Uh-huh… Teenage years. Maybe our Dr. Michigan was one of the Coast Guard guys who flew their helicopter low along the beach every morning when us *girls* were swimming in our bikinis [or more likely walking the beach in sweatshirts and shorts]. Oh, prob’ly not. But those of us who did not have indoor plumbing in our family cabin had to *bathe* in the lake (no we did not skinny dip — people around there had binoculars and telescopes, fer kee-reist). I’ll never forget one day when I got to my summer job for my 8:00 AM start time and Mr. D asking me if I had swum that morning. Yes. He laughed. I’d like to think that one of the reasons I got along so well there (besides the fact that I *owned* my work) was because I had enough gumption to *bathe* in the cold and sometimes turbulent waters of Gitchee Gumee at 7:00 AM or whenever and still get to work on time.

3) Now. The Commander put indoor plumbing into the Moomincabin eons ago. The Beach Urchins have never known the days of using the outhouse and bathing in the lake, although they do love to wash their hair in the lake when it is warm enough. It’s a rare day that I venture into Gitchee Gumme for an early morning swimming expotition any more. A shower is [arguably] less work. I do still swim up there. And. When the weather is favorable enough for an early morning kayak ride, I will often swim at the end of it.

Anyway, that’s our deck in the photoooo and I definitely did not swim in L. Superior over the weekend. At any time of day.

And hopefully, “Dr. Michigan” will either identify himself or go away.

* If you are a real person and your comment doesn’t show up, let me know! I never check what’s been caught in Akismet, so I have probably missed you.

Greenhorn lineup

Monday, March 28th, 2011

My dad died five years ago last Wednesday and I had some kind of long, blathery post planned about that and I downloaded this photooo to [maybe] go with it. Fortunately, some much happier news pre-empted that post. Even though my original post wouldn’t have been anything approaching maudlin, you are happy about that.

These guys are the Veteran Greenhorns, apparently arranged in order of height. I actually know (or have known) all of these old coots except for the tall dude at the far right. And I mean tall. Grandroobly was six feet tall and this guy towers over him. Anyway. There’s Ott McNott, Pete Sherman, Lewiegee, Boult, Jim Sherman, Grandroobly (aka my dad), aaaannnndd… I’m sure the tall dude’s name is somewhere in my memory banks but my brain’s I/O is not quite dredging it out. Is it Johnson? Maybe The Commander will comment… At least three of these guys are still alive: Ott and the Sherman brothers. Lewiegee, Boult, and Grandroobly are dead. I don’t know about the tall dude.

These guys grew up together and, as high school students, they raised their own kind of hell. I don’t know exactly what that all is. What I know about it is that they enjoyed tromping around out in the woods. One of Grandroobly’s favorite stories to tell his granddaughters was about the time some of the VGs tried to drive somebody’s crappy old vee-hickle over to somewhere north of Newberry to go camping. Well. A wheel came off along the way and they eventually figured that out when they saw it bouncing along the road in front of them. As Grandroobly told it, one of the VG’s, namely Pete, was not there but he had heard the story so many times that he thought he was!

The VGs all scattered off to college and then WWII but somehow they stayed friends forever and I grew up with some of their children…

Yeah, these guys look sorta like Stormy Kromer. The plaid wool shirts and all. This was the late 1930s and this clothing was what you wore when you wanted to go out and play around in the yooperland woods [or whatever those guys were actually doing] back then. 70-some years later, the GG is emulating these guys with all of his Stormy Kromer gear. And my California beach urchin mentioned at xmas that there is somewhat of a trend amongst some of her male contemporaries to wear that kind of kind of gear. Is the Millennial generation emulating their grandparents? Far be it from me to know, I know *very* few boys from the Millennial generation…

Me? I love my new-age clothing. Some of it is wool and some of it is more hi-tech. And some of it is just, well, DKNY tights underneath JCPenny cotton/spandex leggings. Go figger. The point is that I can easily make myself warm, at least for walking or skiing or whatever, down to the single digits. But I do have to keep moving to stay warm. That is all.

Sault Ste. Siberia Marie

Sunday, March 27th, 2011

This is a scene from the early morning walking route that I take when I am visiting the small but beautiful city of Sault Ste. Marie, where I grew up. The Michigan side, that is. There are two Sault Ste. Maries and the other one is across the St. Marys River in Ontario. My dad’s family emigrated from Scotland to Canada in the mid-1800s and his parents were both born in Ontario, although they never lived in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. For various reasons that are too long for this entry (and I would probably mangle the stories anyway), their families moved from Canada to the *Michigan* Sault and my grandparents became American citizens when they were young.

I took this photoooo as I walked along the escarpment that runs through the city of Sault Ste. Marie. There’s a particularly good view from this vantage point along the road at the “back” of the local state university, Lake Superior State. This is one of my favorite locations in town. It kind of makes The Soo look like a big city. That’s because, from this location, you are looking at both the Michigan and Ontario cities. Sault, Ontario is larger than Sault, MI by a factor of five or six.

When I was a kid, I was always dying to live in a big city with hustle and bustle and fancy stores and restaurants and things. Like Detroit used to be when we would visit my grandparents there. Sault Ste. Marie was such a backwater. Or so I thought (when I wasn’t out sledding or skiing or kamikazi bike-riding or (sigh) being carried by Grandroobly (or even Grandberry) from the Old Cabin down to our family’s beach on Gitchee Gumee to look at the stars). I was obsessed with cities and their populations. As we traveled around the state, I would often sit with a road map in my lap and look up how many miles to the next exit and the distance between various cities and the population of the next city/town/village. Was it a bigger or smaller city than Sault Ste. Marie? Would Siberia ever grow enough to have freeways everywhere and skyscrapers and things? And yes, I was a nerd. Why do you think I have a GPS in my vee-hickle even though I don’t need it 99.999% of the time?

A quick google confirms that the Soo’s population has probably not changed much since I was a kid. It isn’t easy to live in a rugged northern outpost, but it seems like a steady number of people continue to manage to do it and, despite what outsiders might think, there is a vibrant educational and arts community going on. Just as vibrant as when I was a beach urchin.

I took the photooo with my iPhone on Friday morning. The temperature was seven degrees. March 25. Yes, the photo is heavily apped (Instragram, in this case). I am pretty much using my iPhone for photos these days. Yes, I have a couple of other cameras but I’m trying to travel light these days and I don’t think the iPhone is all that bad. It’s always with me and it fits in my pocketses. As apped as this photooo is, it really does show how the cities of Sault Ste. Siberia look on a clear and very cold day as the sun is thinking about coming up over the horizon.

Spring break at the beach

Saturday, March 26th, 2011

I took this photooo (and apped it, yes) yesterday morning. It was seven degrees. Or it may have been up to 11 by then. I’m not sure. But there was NO wind and I was able to actually stand there on the beach and look around and take photooos and videos and stuff without freezing to death. Even when I took my glubs off.

Today? Well. The view was the same but a pretty stiff wind was blowing in off the big lake. When I wasn’t thinking about how to stay warm, I was thinking about how big the waves would be coming down outta Lake Superior onto our beach if the bay wasn’t filled with ice. So. Cold? Yessirree! Any thoughts we may have had about walking the beach were pretty much squelched in favor of the Dogha’s warmth. We spent about 20 seconds on the beach today. I did not take my glubs off.

We made a contingency plan to try to walk all of the power canal bridges this afternoon. Seven, I think. But we’ll do that another day. Instead, my cuzzint, the mean old grunchie old Grinchie, finally showed up and we spent a wonderful afternoon with him, ending in a homemade pizza dinner with whine, etc. And then the Grinch fluttered off to another social engagement and we are here winding down, poised to head back down south tomorrow.

Y’all do *not* let me forget to pack Bob’s bread!

Good night. The north shall rise again. -KW

 

First terrorist tourist of the year

Friday, March 25th, 2011

It was 7:30 AM or thereabouts. The young man who stepped out of the guardhouse into the seven degree air as I entered the Soo Locks park had this look on his face like, “who the heck are you?” He asked, “Are you going to work? Or…”

About a billion thoughts raced through my brain. I-am-not-a-terrorist. I-saw-the-Ojibway-going-up-and-I-wanted-to-watch-it-lock-through. I-am-not-a-terrorist. I-do-not-have-any-weapons-not-even-an-umbrella. I-am-not-a-terrorist. All-I-have-is-my-phone-and-a-packet-of-kleenex. I-am-not-a-terrorist. And so on…

I *said* [with a huge smile], “Good morning! I am your first tourist!” He grabbed at the word “tourist” and started telling me about the locks and the fact that it had opened for traffic just last night. Ships are now plying the waters of the great lake they call Gitchee Gumee again, after a long winter’s nap. I already knew that. I follow “I love Sault Ste. Marie” on facebook. I smiled again and waved him off with, “Oh, I’m not really *that* much of a tourist. I grew up here.” He waved me on and went back into his nice heated guardhouse. I climbed the stairs to the observation platform and watched the Ojibway rising to Superior’s level in the Poe Lock until I felt like a solid block of ice and then I walked out of the park, up Ashmun St. and the escarpment, home to The Commander’s.

Don’t get me wrong. This kid was very nice and friendly albeit kind of astounded that somebody was actually walking into the locks park at 7:30 on a seven degree morning. A baggy old kayak woman in a pink ski jacket and a black bomber hat with sequins. Terrorist? In that getup? Worker? The workers at the locks all wear Carhartts and things. I am not a Carhartt kind of gal. I suppose it’s pointless to throw any more words at this tired old subject but I am sick of going through this kind of theatre. I wanna be able to walk freely into the damn locks park without being questioned. I bet those security folks hate having to question meeee too.

Made a mad dash out to check out the Moominbeach mid-morning. It’s still there and we seem to have acquired a new vee-hickle over the winter ;-). I was able to drive down but couldn’t find a decent parking place (too much snow), so I drove back up, parked at Lewiegee’s, and walked down. Cheap little 26-second video on facebook.

Lunch at Clyde’s Drive-In on opening day! For the season, that is. You would think the car-hops would be complaining about having to work in single-digit temperatures but our waitress was absolutely exuberant! We watched the Sugar Island ferry make a couple of crossings and the Mesabi Miner go up and yes, Jane we split an order of onion rings! I saved you one. I’ll email it to you.

Afternoon of hanging out here with The Commander as she went through old papers, letters from the Beach Urchins and things. Walked down the escarpment to the Soo Supervalu for a few items for dinner. Which The Comm is busily preparing as I write this. The GG is down at East Lake kibbitzing with his North Country Trail buddy Kay. And last but not least, hopefully, my loverly cuzzint, the mean old grunchy old Grinchie will get Frooggy’s phone message and join us for a drinky-poo and dinner.

Seeya in the next episode,
Kayak Woman

P.S. From the “meanwhile-back-at-the-ranch” category: The saga of the underground parking structure money pit where the library lot used to be continues. Story at annarbor.com.

They moved to Florida and they all died

Thursday, March 24th, 2011

Because that’s what [some] Yoopers do. But some of the daughters sing. Yes. And that’s how I figured out who *this* particular moved-to-Fla-and-died person was.

Today. I took my usual walk. I think my fav-o-rite regulars on my walk ever are the women who run with their headlamps on. The skunks? Not so much. Coffee at Barry’s with MMCB. Work. For a few hours. It was the yearly “fun” day today. Lunch and whirly-ball and a raffle and more. Sigh. I think it’s wonderful that my company can set aside a day (or two or three) to honor its employees. In fact last fall, I participated in a kayak outing. I had a wonderful time doing that. Whirly-ball? Not my fave. But a lot of other people were excited about it and that’s cool.

Me? I bailed. I haven’t been in the Yooperland since New Year’s Day. That means I haven’t seen The Commander since then. That’s a bit too long. I weighed my position as a loyal employee to an employer that has been good to me against my position as a member of the sandwich generation. I weighed spending five hours having “fun” with the people I have fun working with every day against spending five hours driving north to have a much-needed long weekend at The Commander’s. I am pretty quiet (I think) about my private life at work. I mean, my co-workers have an idea of what goes on but I don’t spout all of the details. What details there are. Boring is the name of the game here, knock on wood! My boss was cool with my plan to trade the fun day in for time with my moom and everyone else who asked why I wasn’t participating kind of took a step back… Ohhh… Yes, you should do that. Have a good trip. Be careful.

Good trip? Yes. We had a wonderful trip up. Dinner at the Palace Saloon and then a drive down by the locks and river. The locks are supposed to open for the year at midnight tonight and we saw two boats below the locks sitting, waiting to go up. And there was a coast guard vessel above the locks looking for baggy old kayak women jumping out of their vee-hickles to take iPhone photoos. Yes, they even got their binoculars out. This is a brave new world folks.

And maybe because The Comm and I have *not* seen each other for a while, we got to talking a bit over there at the Palace. About stuff. Her family. My family. The Fins. What I thought when I was a kid. What she thought when she was a kid. This kind of stuff is what makes the world go ’round. It is a gift to have a moom who is the age of mine who is still with it, even if she can’t always pull exactly the right word (or name) out of the hat at the precise moment she needs it (er, not that I can always do that either). The Comm’s moom died suddenly [in a car accident] when The Comm was 15 so The Comm never had the kind of experience I am having now, nor did she know the other end, that of being a teenager rebelling against her parents. She had to grow up fast. Me? I am finally starting to feel like an adult!

And we even found The Commander’s gloves tonight. Right where she left them. Between the passenger’s seat and the Dogha door. And tomorrow, when she’s looking for them again, I’ll tell her they’re on top of the liq-wire cabinet. Because there was the teensiest bit o’ B&B after we got home. Anyway, I moved them to the top of the dishwasher.

Good night. The north shall rise again! –Kayak Woman

What generation will the babies born in 2011 be known as?

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

I was at work thinking about a certain anniversary that occurs today. It isn’t a particularly happy one but it is what it is and I was thinking about blahgging about it but I think I’ll wait until, I dunno, tomorrow or sometime this weekend or whenever or never. We’ll see. I have to be in the right mood. Kinda like that cleaning out the closets mood. Man, I wish I could get that particular mojo back!

Anyway. The news that usurped my tentatively planned blahg entry is that we now have another great-nephew! Charles Xavier was born this morning. He is the, lemme see, two plus two plus… Uh, didn’t I just count this on my fingers for Alexandria? He is the 10th great-grandchild of the guy holding the fish in the photoooo. I am pretty good at the begats but I do have to use my fingers occasionally and I have now run out of fingers! No polydactyly here. Anyway, congratulations to his parents and older sibs, not to mention the Lord of Linden and The Beautiful Kathy, who are now the grandparents of seven. Roight?

So, that’s Grandpa Garth in the photooo when he was young and didn’t even have grandchildren yet, not to mention great-grandchildren. I think he caught that fish on Houghton Lake! I was around when he took his grandchildren about in boats and I think that, if he was still alive, he would be doing that with his great-grandchildren… Anyway, Grandpa Garth is from the “Great[est?] Generation”. He served in WWII, on the Hornet aircraft carrier, to be exact. He was popular with women but it seemed that Grandma Sally, my absolutely drop-dead gorgeous mother-in-law, was the only one worth spending his life with. They had 10 children, the GG and his “ugly” [identical twin] brother being numbers five and six. 10 minutes apart, if I have it right. Those 10 children produced 19 grandchildren and I think all of us in that generation (baby boom) are done having children. Our 19 kids span what are sometimes called Gen-X and Millennials. But what about all these new kids? What will we call this new generation of kids. What will they do. I know one thing that they will do. They will blame their parents’ generation for screwing things up. Isn’t that what we all do?

Welcome, Charles Xavier!

124 pages. 31,803 words. 64 figures. 66 tables.

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

And I am almost a third of the way done.

I didn’t blahg about the new underground parking garage they are building (and building and building and building) on the site of my fav-o-rite old Library Lot yesterday. Today is a different story. Today was one of those days when I was so hunkered down writing (MS Word) and tweaking code (html/css/jquery) that I didn’t even talk to one co-worker until she returned to work from a class in the late afternoon. I was in my BAcave. You’ve heard of “Mancave”, roight? Yeah, I know BAcave just doesn’t have the same ring. What the heck is a BA? What does a BA do? Sometimes I’m not even sure what I do. (Don’t kid yourself, I am in my element and having fun!)

Anyway, I had about a half hour left by then and I couldn’t get any traction, or even figure out where the heck I was so… I. checked. facebook. What did I find? This link, posted by Mouse. The short story, if you don’t want to bother with the link, is that two very popular and successful vegetarian restaurants (Jerusalem Garden and Earthen Jar) that have been around FOREVER are having trouble making a go of it. Why? Because the once parking lot adjacent to them and the street in front of them are closed. And have been for what seems like decades but is actually six months for the street and a couple years (?) for the parking lot.

Both of those restaurants are wonderful but I don’t frequent them too often. Why? Mostly because I don’t go downtown very often. But when Mouse worked at the yarn store out on South Industrial (closed, alas) and I was a vagabond, I would frequently go and pick up lunch for her (and sometimes some of her co-workers (and sometimes myself)) at Jerusalem Garden. In those days, I could just swing in to the Library Lot (if it wasn’t during the Art Fair, heaven forbid) and walk over to get food. Today? Not so much. I can see why these restaurants are suffering.

I can’t figure out why the city officials and the Downtown Development Authority thought that the Library Lot needed to be turned into an underground parking structure. (what the hell is a DDA anyway? And whose pocketses is it in?) The Library Lot was just about the most handy parking lot in town. It was centrally located and there was no snaking around and around and around like the old Jacobson’s structure (although that one isn’t the worst). On most days, you simply drove in to the Library Lot, snagged your ticket, parked, and walked freely to whatever stores you wanted to patronize. If you had purchases you didn’t want to carry, you could easily walk back over to the Library Lot and put them in your trunk. And it was free on Sundays. Once in a while it was full but not too often and, if you live on the Planet, you just deal with it. Heck, parking around here isn’t anything approaching what it’s like in say, San Francisco!

So. Underground parking structure? For what purpose? And why a conference center on top? I am sorry. I know that change is necessary in some situations. I don’t think this is one of those situations. I think that real estate developers have put dollar signs in the eyes of some of the local politicians and their adjuncts. An underground parking structure is bad enough for these venerable restaurants but a conference center might kill them. We may need a conference center but I hate the idea of having one on top of the Library Lot and I don’t think that us taxpayers can afford to fund something like that, which will probably end up being a big empty hulk, like the much-touted Tally Hall and some other prodjects.

Ah well. I hate real estate developers. Why do our city officials even give them the time of day? They are speculators. Actually, I think that, in some ways, they would make good dictators… Thank the gods for the messy democratic process that we have that keeps a lot of those folks from seeking political power…

Vulpes vulpes fulva

Monday, March 21st, 2011

Lemme seeeeee… What to write about what to write about…

There are a lot of things I want to write about. There is our wondrous new governor’s latest message. I actually agree with some of his goals. More transparency anyone? Yes. I am less happy with the rather dictatorial style in which he is handing things down. Just because it works on a spreadsheet doesn’t mean it will work in life. People are messy and that’s [usually] a good thing. Change may need to happen but it needs to happen incrementally.

Then there is the conference center proposal on my fave old “library lot”. The majority of the Planet Ann Arbor citizens don’t seem to want it but the mayor and some of the city council members [and some real estate developers] seem pretty hot about it. I am with the the citizens. I don’t think that a conference center would be successful enough for my tax dollars to support it. And I think that most real estate developers are scummy but we won’t go there tonight.

On the other hand, as our wondrous city government contemplates cutting police and fire services even more, the most recent fire chief quits and sends a letter to his boss. I can’t help thinking about the two young people who died in a fire a couple blocks away from here in January. [I still can’t bring myself to walk through that neighborhood.] I know that the fire-fighters did all they could in that case. But what if they couldn’t get to that fire because they were all the way across town fighting another one? And there was no one else? [Note to self: Be strong and walk by that house again.]

And then there are the “Trophy Kids“. You’ve heard of trophy wives and trophy dogs, roight? Apparently my generation (baby boom) raised trophy kids. In other words, the Millennial Generation. Who knew? I always felt like I was just putting one foot in front of the other… But is this generation following what their parents supposedly dreamed and planned for them? (Does any generation?)

And there was something about African dictators…

I don’t feel like I can write a coherent entry about any of these things, not to mention a few other things that are on my mind that I can’t remember right now. [You are happy about that.] So here is vulpes vulpes fulva, found somewhere down there by the Huron River on Sunday. Every red-blooded American boy needs a good collection of skulls, roight? I don’t really know if this skull once belonged to a specimen of vulpes vulpes fulva. The GG seems to think it does and I’m not sure if he really knows but I’m also not sure it really matters. And, actually, if he ever gets hit by a beer truck, aminal skulls will probably not be the first thing I’ll throw out. (Knock on wood!)

What things are y’all cogitating about?

Good night,
Kayak Woman

Right ascension: 00h 00′ 00”

Sunday, March 20th, 2011

Whew! Weird, weird, weird dreams last night. Bears *everywhere* in the woods at the Moomincabin. Now, there *are* bears in the Moominwoods. But we *rarely* see them near the cabins. I personally have *never* seen one. I’ve seen bear scat up on the ridge. That’s the only part of the dream I can remember except for something about doing the dishes (of course) and having to constantly go outside to get dirty wineglasses. Dodging the bears, of course. Whose whine, what whine, where the hell did we dine? And why did I end up with all the dirty glasses? And then there was another crazier dream that I can’t remember at all now. That is probably a good thing. (These were not prescient dreams, my best beloveds, just plain weird.)

And then I woke up and took my daily 0-skunk-30 walk. The walk that usually exorcises whatever bizarre dreams I’ve had. The walk I have been taking *every* morning since Mouse was in about 8th grade. I don’t even want to think about how long ago that was. It was *spooky* this morning. What is that? Is there something standing there in the woods? It was dark and cold and windy. And the Newspaper Jeep was careering around like nobody’s business, flashing its flashers, “get outta my way”. I usually love when it’s dark when I take my walk. I love feeling like I’m invisible. I love the cold. It clears my brain (and probably my sinuses). Today was just weird. None of the “regulars” were out there. Not that they are usually out on a Sunday morning. It’s a somewhat different crowd then. The Newspaper Jeep is a familiar sight and so it should’ve been a comfort except that it is scary enough from the get-go. By the time I got close to home again, the sun had apparently come up because it was sort of light out and things got less spooky.

I dragged the GG out to “urban hike” on the trails down by Barton Dam. After I made bacon. Nothing like a bacon and cheerios breakfast! (Oh, I don’t mean mixed together!) I figured the GG would want to check on his birdhouses. No occupancies yet but he realized that he accidentally mounted one on a dead tree, so that one will have to be moved. We do have birds in some of the houses hanging on our house. We decided that the reason the park folks have decimated so many trees is probably because they were ash trees and are therefore dead/dying by infestation of the Emerald Ash Borer. Anyway, then we drove along the river down to the new little park on Zeeb and walked those trails. Where we found the loverly skunk cabbage in the photoooo.

It turned into one of those kind of ugly March days that we get here. Gray and chillier than it should be for the temperature. I spent way too much time slodging around on the Internet with one device or another, taking breaks to put together some CPP (the non-purple kind, thank you very much) and do other *little* chores. The GG energized a bit today after spending yesterday just a wee little bit under the weather. He insists it was not because of the droppa grappa he had at Gratzi the night before. Whatever.

We’re getting rain now with rumbly thunder in the distance somewhere, which is a bit weird since it isn’t even 40 degrees here right now but radar shows megatons of rain coming our way. Oh, and now there’s lightning.

Good night. Did anyone else have bizarre dreams last night? I decided to attribute mine to the full moon and maybe the equinox has something to do with it too? A couple of facebook friends experienced the same kind of thing. Chloe Belle claimed to also (sorta) but I think “he” was just harassing me. Or at least I *think* Chloe Belle was commenting in the male form. You never quite know!

“I can’t figure out how every drawer in your house is filled.”

Saturday, March 19th, 2011

Yes, that’s what happens when you invite your mother to spend the Christmas holidays with you. She goes around your house and looks in all the drawers. Don’t worry, I am laughing so hard right now, I can hardly type this. At least she didn’t arrive with white gloves on!

Anyway, I was on the phone with The Commander today and she reminded me, again, that all of the drawers in my house are filled with junk. I think she’s blocking the junk that’s in the Landfill Dungeon because she didn’t say anything about that. I couldn’t even find a blasted *pail* down there today! And then she said, “You should have a garbage garage sale.” Oh… Sigh… I wish… We have had exactly *one* garage sale here at the Landfill in the almost-27 years we’ve lived here. Fortunately the GG did most of the people-type interaction because I have waaaayyyy too much social anxiety to survive a day of interacting with a bunch of strangers picking through my stuff!

I need a friend. Somebody to help me sort stuff out and sit with me to help with the dern schmoozing and just, I dunno, cheer me on. I mean, I have a lot of friends but most of them are either work friends or they are far-flung. Cousins, in-laws, and people like my Sam. I have friends here on the Planet but I can’t think of one person who would be exactly the right person to call up and ask for help doing a garage sale. Like my old friend Vicki, who used to live over on Duncan. We used to walk into each other’s houses without knocking. I walked with her every day for years and we worked together on all kinds of school volunteer type prodjects. Like the Forsythe Middle School Science Fair. She was the mastermind and schmoozer. I masterminded the data involved in running that large event. With Excel spreadsheets on my strawberry iMac. Alas. She divorced, moved, remarried, etc., etc., and I don’t see her much any more. Like all of the other Haisley Mafia mooms. They have moved or at least moved on to other things. As I have. Oh, we are still friends. We just don’t see a lot of each other any more. They work and so do I. We are all successful and we are all happy.

I keep thinking that when I spend a weekend here at home on the Planet Ann Arbor, I will clean and get rid of junk. I want to. But I also need time to recuperate from my loverly job. I need some “meeeee” time on the weekend. It isn’t like I didn’t accomplish anything today. It’s just that it was all keeping up with maintenance type stuff. Getting grokkeries, doing laundry, cleaning the refrigimatator and the Blue and Only Bad Bathroom, vacuuming areas that I can vacuum without moving a whole bunch of crap out of the way and back again. I did a lot today but somehow I didn’t feel satisfied with it because I didn’t make any progress on de-hoarding. Well, except that I went to the Jackson Rd. Meijer this morning and did not buy *anything* that wasn’t on my list. Note to self: get the toilet paper out of the Ninja’s trunk and put it in the Blue and Only Bad Bathroom. Er, hopefully the toilet paper made it *out* to the Ninja’s trunk from the grokkery store because I just noticed that it is not in the Blue and Only Bad Bathroom…

Criteria/criterion (this is for Gene, who is my aunt and my dad’s only surviving sibling): I love to have spelling/grammatical/syntax errors in my blahg corrected. Really. I am not kidding. I care about this stuff! I agonize over definitions and little grammatical things enough that I will look them up. But I still screw up sometimes a lot. Sometimes I catch myself. Sometimes not. In this particular case, I was totally oblivious! Love you Bubs!

P.S. Yes, that is the obligatory photooo of one of the first crocuses coming up in my yard here on the Planet Ann Arbor in the Great White North. This happens every year but somehow it always seems important to note.

The Porter Repot

Friday, March 18th, 2011

Or should I have titled it “Repotting the Porters”? Our friends the Porters have been joining a whole bunch of other hard-working, middle-class professionals in Lansing (the Great Lake State’s capital) to demonstrate against our new governor’s policies and tonight, we watched a number of little videos they took of the action. I’m not going to repot report on their trips except to say that the protests were orderly and peaceful. This baggy old kayak woman, who has never had anything to do with a union, is supportive of this protest but she still has complicated thoughts about all of these very complicated issues and she is not gonna talk about them tonight. It’s Friday night and…

I haven’t been inside the capitol building in Lansing since I was a kid. We went there a few times when we visited The Commander’s brother, who lived in, well, not sure whether he lived in Lansing or East Lansing or somewhere in between. I still remember the house. I thought it was the most beautiful house on earth then, although now that I think about how to describe it, it was really just a well-kept contemporary-style ranch type thing. Much nicer than The Landfill but I’ll bet that if I found it today (and I probably could) it would look like a regular house in a nice but not very fancy neighborhood. Anyway, we would visit the capitol building in Lansing because my uncle Austin worked there. He worked as the director of what is now called the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. If you drive north through the Great Lake State on the I75 SUV Speedway (and on US127 too), you will see his name on a highway sign. What do I remember about the capitol building? The glass floor, of course! Is it on the second floor? I think so. And the third and fourth floors have balconies that look down on the glass floor, I think. I saw that glass floor on our friends’ videos tonight. Note to self: go back over there and check that place out!

Tonight? We veered from our habitual ‘hattan and dinner at the Old Town barrroooom to eat at Gratzi. Thanks to our friends’ mad reservation-making skills (and a cancellation), we snagged a loverly table on the balcony next to the window. I have been to Gratzi once before (yeah, I know how ridiculous that is). I had a very weird experience there the last time. It was NOT due to the staff. They were wonderful then and they were wonderful tonight. It was the people I was with that other time. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.

Walked home, took a shower, and am now facing the question of what can I get done around the Landfill this weekend… It would help if I could figure out where to start. Sigh…

Love y’all,
Kayak Woman

Speak s-l-o-w-l-y, I’m blonde

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

EMF redux… Sorry, I know some of you are probably sick of reading as a baggy old kayak woman who is woefully under-educated about politics and governmental budgets and all that stuff tries to make her way through the labyrinth. But this came in to my email box this afternoon. (Uh, hey A2.com, this is an *important* story, so I am puzzled about why I couldn’t just type your url into my browser and find a link to it.) In short, the Great Lake State is cutting what amounts to $15 million (or maybe $21 million) from the Planet Ann Arbor public schools budget for the next year. (Correction: I meant to say we will have a $15-$21 million budget *deficit* next year. My bad.) If I have it right, that’s around twice as much as our school district was expecting.

So if I have it right, a number of years ago, funding for our schools was much more locally controlled. That was perceived as unfair and I don’t totally disagree with that perception. We shifted much of our funding over to the state. (Right? Help me out here.) Now. Housing prices are in a tailspin (thank you very much all you investment bankers, what do you do for a living, again?) and property tax assessments are going down along with them so our school revenues are down anyway (roight?). Add to all of that the standardized testing and unfunded mandates from the fed. No Child Left Behind anyone? I doubt that the Planet school district will ever fall into the clutches of an EMF but I can’t help thinking that there are districts in our state who will lose so much money via the budget cuts that they won’t be able to operate and will thereby be assigned an EMF.

I get that local boards are not always that good at handling money. Over the years (when I have been paying attention) our school board has been known to do some incredibly ridiculous things. Just a couple of those things… 1) After years and years of whining about not having any money, we somehow found enough cold, hard cash to build a third huuuuge new comprehensive high school. 2) Our loverly school board has decided to pay our next superintendent upwards of $250K a year. Folks, the superintendent’s office here has a revolving door. What are we paying these people for? What the heck are they doing? I think for the most part we are paying big bucks for our superintendents to put things on their resumes.

There is a dilemma (or two or three) here. We need to have school boards (and administrations) who are financially responsible. But we also need to let local communities have some input into how their schools are managed. The important stakeholders in this equation are the teachers and the students. It seems as though those people are being left out of this argument with the state budget and legislation. There has to be a better way.

Now. An EMF might be a good idea for the Planet A2 city council but this s-l-o-w blonde will try to tackle that one on a later date.

Okay. Today. When I got to work, I took today’s photooo right next to my parking place. There were still some crusty old snowbanks and the pond was iced over but, as I walked from the Dogha to my office building, my ears were filled with a cacophony of birdsong. Ducks, geese, red-winged blackbirds, killdeer… The Admiral (my fave great blue heron) is still at Suzie’s in Fla, I guess. This afternoon, the baggy old gals on my work team “bonded” by taking a walk through the parkland that surrounds our building and the adjacent neighborhood. At the time we walked, the small ponds had no ice but the big ponds were still pretty much covered. By the time I left work at the end of the afternoon, the ice was pretty well reduced.

Howww nowww browwwn cowww

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

Emergency Financial Manager’s salary? Robert Bobb, Detroit Public Schools, $450K or thereabouts. No, these people do not work for free. I am not trying to say that an EFM is always a bad idea. I don’t even think (I don’t think) that $450K or thereabouts is an inappropriate salary for an EFM. In the city of Daytwa, anyway. Kalkaska or Rudyard or Helmer, I am not so sure. (Disclaimer: Those are all small, beautiful Michigan cities/villages that my memory happened to dredge up in a pinch. I have no knowledge of their school systems and I mean no offense to any of them.)

The thing that has me worried is that I’m not sure the EFM legislation has been thought through. I have more questions than answers. Who decides which school districts (and municipalities too) are failing to the point that an EFM is needed and by what criteria? What criteria is are used to select the EFM? I admit that I have not read the legislation. Is there an app for the State of Michigan’s government? Because I do not get a decent local newspaper any more… But that would be… Oh, you know, a whole ‘nother entry…

I have had a lot of issues with the public schools over the years. Can you say bureaucracy? I don’t get along with bureaucracy very well, although I am pretty dern good at figuring out rules if I absolutely have to… This business of hiring an expensive superhero to swoop in and fix things is not new. Like when we hired an expensive district administrator to close the long-standing so-called racial achievement gap going on here on The Planet Ann Arbor. This is a medium-sized (?) city with a large university right smack in the middle of it. People who haven’t visited the Landfill Dungeon use words like “upscale” and “progressive” to describe our city. And yet, we have a sizable population of folks who live in poverty or just on the edge of it and their children *generally* struggle in our schools. (Other kids do too but they have helicopter parents and that would be a whole ‘nother entry…). I don’t know what this administrator did exactly. I never heard that she did much of anything. She left after a couple years. Maybe she parlayed that job into something bigger and better for her. Good for her but maybe not for whoever she’s working for. Yes, I was annoyed by that whole thing.

Guess what? We still have an achievement gap. The achievement gap (in my not-so-humble opinion) is an economic problem, not a racial problem. One of the sad facts of this matter is that a higher percentage of our African-American kids are likely to live in poverty. But other kids do too and many of them have trouble with school. They change schools frequently as their families move or are homeless or whatever. They are tired because they don’t get to sleep until late because people (their parents?) are partying in their house or wherever they are living. And then they wake up the next morning and there is no food in the house and no one to feed it to them. Or maybe they don’t wake up on time because their parents didn’t wake up either.

I dunno. We have a lot of problems going on in our beautiful Great Lake State. I do not think that EFM’s can solve all of them. There has to be a better way…

Today? It felt like spring. Ice is finally melting on the ponds near my work. Waterbirds are staking out their nesting territory. I saw two swans flying as I drove in this morning. Don’t take me toooo seriously. I’m struggling to figure life/politics out. I sure don’t know it all.

Good night,
Kayak Woman

Pressure Crack

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

That thing there on the right is a pressure crack (or part of one). It is a little nerveracking (I *think* that “nerveracking” is correct) when you are walking across a frozen lake and encounter a pressure crack. Am I on (in?) a subduction zone or not? *Not* to make light of the recent earthquake. Actually I think that’s what made the Uncly Uncle and I think of it.

As you might know by a post earlier this week, we walked across the lake to get breakfast at Little Boots, not drinks at the Pressure Crack Pub. The PCP is a fine establishment featuring karaoke and dancing. And, as the Twinz of Terror will tell you, you’d best not make even accidental eye contact with any of the women there because they will very likely ask you to dance! The Twinz are quite awkward when girlz besides their accomplices show a certain kind of interest. And that is a good thing.

Yes, I am feeling a bit better today. Actually, I was really okay yesterday. Just weary. I think Margaret has it right (yesterday’s comments). We *are* in a lot of caca right now. Everywhere. Maybe that’s why Chico’s thinks that brown is a color? The Great Lake State has been there for years. And problem solver/creative thinker is not *usually* synonymous with politician. I actually think that our newly elected Republican governor *has* problem solving skills (please don’t hit me until you hear me out) He is a businessman who has been involved in efforts to facilitate small businesses here on the Planet Ann Arbor. He is *not* a Christian conservative (or if he is, he doesn’t promote himself as such). I don’t vote for professed Christian conservatives. If I get it right, he had a lot of bi-partisan support during the election. In full disclosure, I was tempted to vote for him. After some deliberation, I voted for the Dem instead.

But. As Pooh said in yesterday’s comments, no way did the people give this guy a mandate to install emergency financial managers to the extent that he seems to want to do this. There was no talk about this during his campaign (of course). Now. Do we sometimes need emergency financial managers? I dunno. Maybe. Our school boards are what they are. I have seen the Planet Ann Arbor school board do what I think are some egregiously stupid things (but that would be a whole ‘nother blahg). This stuff would all be better if we were all paying attention. Attending meetings. Asking questions. Making our elected officials wiggle when they don’t have answers. But we don’t. I don’t. I’m dern taaarred when I get home from work. I don’t know where to go from here, but we all have to start paying more attention, in this case to local governmental boards. So that we can tell them en masse when they are making a horrible decision and maybe avoid the downslide into the clutches of an emergency financial manager.

Good luck to J&D in Lansing tomorrow and I love you too, Isa.

Caesium (CS), atomic number 55, 55 protons/electrons, 58 neutrons, alkali metal

Monday, March 14th, 2011

Or is “cesium” the preferred spelling? I prefer caesium. I used to love to draw diagrams of atoms (seems like I mentioned this just a week or two ago…). Protons and neutrons in the nucleus with little orbiting electrons. I don’t think we ever got anywhere near atomic number 55. I don’t think we ever got much past atomic number 8 or so.

Anyway. I am not going to talk about caesium today. I don’t really know that much about caesium but that’s not why, exactly. I’m not going to talk about caesium today (or anything much else) because I am on *overload* today! News overload, that is. I can’t process Japan. It kind of reminds me of that computer game, The Sims. I’ve never played it but I think we had it on one of our old Apple desktops and I can remember the Beach Urchins playing it with the Rogoski kids one ugly, rainy Christmas vacation. And I think I can remember that there were crying noises of some sort when billions of people were killed. I can’t do anything to help Japan, except for send money, I suppose. Talking about it doesn’t do much to help. We can’t prevent earthquakes or tsunamis from happening. Horrific? Yes. But Japan will get back on its feet. I know I sound callous but, really, there’s not much a taarrrred old baggy old kayak woman here in the Great Lake State can do besides keep on slodging on.

What else? When’s the last time any news came out of Lybia Libya? The news out of the middle-East has taken a back seat to the news out of Japan. Horrific bus crashes. National politics? State politics? Government shutdown? Union busting? Tax the rich? Tax the poor? Tax credits to corporations? Cut education spending (again)? Cut the earned income credit? I dunno. Spin it this way. Spin it that way. My head is spinning with the inflammatory rhetoric on all sides. Sometimes I feel like we are all chasing our tails. I want all sides to sit down and pick these issues apart to find some common ground and some sort of vision for the future. Talk to each other as people. I know that’s not going to happen. Today, news stories were repetitive (at best) or depressing (choked back tears listening to a National Petroleum Radio story in the Dogha this afternoon about Japanese folks finding (or not) relatives). I am done. For today anyway.

Just don’t take your shoes off!

Sunday, March 13th, 2011

Please don’t. I’m talking to Mouse here, in case you didn’t know. She and her friend Lairi the Rake just walked over to the Haisley playground to relive their childhood, I guess. They met in about kindergarten and their friendship has survived over the years. Even though Lairi’s family moved out of the neighborhood into a different middle school district. And even though Mouse won the lottery to attend our beloved alternative Communist Martyrs High School. But then. Wouldn’t you know? Mouse and Lairi the Rake both ended up at Kalamazoo College and even shared a dorm room sophomore year. They both live here on The Planet Ann Arbor now and tonight they are hanging out over at the Haisley playground.

I hope they don’t take their shoes off. And leave them there. Actually, Mouse and Lairi stirred up quite some bit of trouble back in the early years of their friendship but I’m not sure that Lairi was ever involved in any of Mouse’s Shoe Removal escapades. As in, hey it’s 45 degrees, I don’t need no stinkin’ shoes. Probably the most egregious of these escapades was when The Commander sent some money for me to buy the Beach Urchins new sandals as a gift. It was enough money that I took them to Jacobson’s and let them pick out some beeyootyful suede leather sandals with multi-colored straps. 25 dollars a pair. It was all fine until the Beach Urchins were running around over at the schoolyard with some neighborhood comrades and Mouse came home with bare feet! It was way more than 45 degrees that day but still. I walked stormed over to the schoolyard. No sandals anywhere. I looked inside the back door. Bingo! Sort of. A chair with *one* of Mouse’s sandals. Alas. The door was locked. The next morning, I retrieved that sandal as soon as the custodian opened the door. A couple months later, Mouse’s other sandal was unearthed in the woods. Note to moom (and Grandmoom): buy cheeeeeep sandals for kids. And so I did. Nowadays Mouse buys her own shoes and I can assure you that she is more careful about her clothing now. Much more careful than her old tired moom.

We walked across Houghton Lake today. “We” meaning the Twinz of Terror and yer fav-o-rite blahgger. They made the same journey two weeks ago and I felt too sick (garden variety cold virus) then to walk with them. I am glad we got up there this weekend and had another chance! I didn’t remember to turn on my iPhone pedometer app until we were (I’m gonna guess) a quarter mile out but I think we did 4-1/2 miles on the ice. Except it wasn’t really what you would think of as ice. Not like walking on a skating rink. The ice on Houghton Lake is about 15 inches right now (an educated guess by the GG). It supports pickup trucks and the like. On top of the ice is a varying amount of snow. Average three inches or thereabouts. Every step involved sinking into that snow. Or not. One inch. Two inches. Three inches. More in some places. Very hard walking for someone who is accustomed to urban hiking. Skis may have been better. Or not…

We ended up right down the street from Little Boots restaurant. How did we do that? Absolutely wonderful place where we love to get breakfast. (Still missing Ron’s Restaurant though.) The Lord of Linden and The Beautiful Kathy just happened to be there too, so we caught a ride back over to the Group Home with them. An easy trip down the southbound I75 SUV Speedway. Shower? Yes! Feeling great, like I actually got some exercise today!

P. S. That second photooo is where we made landfall today.

Bag-snagger desperately needed at mile market marker 47!

Saturday, March 12th, 2011

No, I do not text while driving. Unless I am crawling along at 4mph. Actually, I don’t even do it then. Actually, texting while driving is illegal here in the Great Lake State now. Uh, I have been known to take a picture while driving. This morning? I wasn’t driving and we were not crawling. The GG was driving and we were bumpity-clumping along at a high rate of speed heading north when I spotted a huge ripped up plastic bag stuck in a tree on the right side of the road.

Whenever I see a ripped up plastic bag hanging out in a tree next to the freeway I think, “Get a bag-snagger, quick!” Years and years ago, I read a fascinating article in the New Yorker about a couple of guys who went around retrieving plastic bags out of trees. A lot of them were reduced to tattered pieces of plastic, like the one I saw today. Others had all kinds of wondrous goodies in them. I’ll leave that to your imagination. Five years ago, I drove to the beauteous city of Daytwa almost every day throughout the month of February. My dad was incarcerated in the Henry Ford Hoosegow having his smashed pelvis reconstructed and my moom was living in an apartment on the hoosegow campus for the duration. When she wasn’t sleeping on a chair in his room. I was their lifeline to the outside world during that time. And every day, I would get to, oh I dunno exactly what mile marker it was, 22 maybe? on M14, and there was this huge ripped up plastic bag hanging out with a couple of trees on the right side of the freeway and I would say, “Bag-snagger needed!” I said it to myself because I was almost always the only person in the car.

We were not planning to travel this weekend. Eco Car is going on at the EPA this weekend and I figgered the GG would be working and I would be moom-alone. Turned out that the GG didn’t actually need to go into work today. The Lord of Linden and The Beautiful Kathy arrived at Houghton Lake yesterday. We saw their van on the HL webcam while we were at the Old Town Barrrroom last night and we made a snap decision to get up early and head north today. And so, here we are. It is beautiful here, as you see by the big sheets of ice that have pushed their way up the seawall. The lake is still frozen solid but it will thaw within the next couple weeks.

We are also watching — with somewhat subdued horror — the unfolding nuclear disaster in Japan. Looking out on our own beautiful frozen Houghton Lake makes us feel secure. Sort of…

Love you all,
Kayak Woman