I can’t believe this will be the tenth trip over there.
Our grand adventure begins tomorrow, the trip we’re taking
to Germany with both sets of our parents, and for me this’ll
mark a bit of a milestone. It’ll be the tenth trip I’ve
taken to Europe, which means that, among other things, now
I’ll NEVER be able to afford to retire!
(Inside joke between me and my long-time travel partner, if
We leave tomorrow morning from Marquette, spend four hours
in Chicago before flying to Philadelphia, and then spend
four more hours in Philadelphia before heading to Frankfurt,
which is a marked change from what we usually do (fly to
Chicago, spend 8 hours playing around downtown there, and
then fly to Europe). I don’t know if it’s because we’re
flying into Frankfurt or if because American’s merger with
US Airways means that they feel like routing more traffic
out of Philadelphia, but that’s what we’re stuck with.
And then, of course, once we get into Frankfurt around 10am
local time Thursday (which would be 4 am over here) we meet
Tony the Tour Guide and
Loraine’s parents, who are actually flying over today, and
get the whole thing started. We then spend nine days doing
whatever we darn well feel like (or at least what Loraine
tells us to do) before we head back from Munich on the 13th.
If you’ve been following these trips before, you may
remember what joy it is coming home from Munich. We have to
get up at 4 in the morning local time (which is actually 10
pm in Marquette), fly to London, then to Chicago, and then
finally home, where we should arrive a mere 23 hours after
waking up in Germany.
You know, I may make fun of airline travel and let the snark
flow freely on occasion, but when you consider that less
than a century ago it took months to do what we’ll be doing
in 23 hours, I guess you can’t complain!
At least, not too much.
This will be the last “regular” blog before the trip. If
you come back here tomorrow through the end of our journeys,
you’ll have to click on a link that sends you to
our trip blog. It’s funny;
on the trip blog site, I can tell where the people who read
it come from everyday, and you’d be amazed by the amount of
people who visit here first.
The first trip blog should be up Thursday night German time,
which will be Thursday afternoon U.S. time. I’ll post a
link to it on
my Facebook page, so if
we’re friends, you’ll find out about it there, as well. It
should be a fantastic trip, and a chance to spend some
quality time with the people responsible for me actually
being here to write these things, my mom & dad.
I think I'm gonna need a vacation from my vacation.
Actually, let me clarify that just a little bit. I think
I'm gonna need a vacation from preparing for my vacation.
After all, when I leave for a week and a half it's not like
I can just leave for a week and a half. Nope; I need to
make sure that everything is set and ready to run while I'm
gone, so I have to spend many weeks before I go just to make
sure things are ready when I do go. Add to that the fact
that high school sports season has started on
our ESPN station and
everything needed to be set up for that—and new employees
had to be trained in on how to do it—and by the end of the
weekend I was ready just to head to Germany a few days
Not that I would've actually been able to do it, but I
would've been ready to do it. Thankfully, there's a
I'm not complaining, though. Nope, if I'm gonna complain
about anything, I'm gonna complain about the fact that, as
seems to happen every time I go to Europe, the weather here
is turning nice and hot. Just as I'm getting ready to
Happens every time.
No, seriously. It does happen every time, or at least
almost every time. I've gone to Europe nine times now, and
on at least seven of those occasions the weather here has
turned nice and hot and sticky just as we leave. And there
have been several years, just like this year, when the
summer up to that date had been kind of cold and/or wet
and/or gloomy. Then, as soon as we head across the
Atlantic, it gets nice.
So there. Don't say I never do anything nice for you!
I'm pretty sure that this is just a giant coincidence, much
like the “Tuesday” weather phenomenon we've had in Marquette
this summer (where Tuesday, for some strange reason, has
been the coldest day of the week for eight out of the past
nine weeks). I'm pretty sure that it's just a giant
coincidence that it heats up when we leave. I'm pretty sure
Mother Nature doesn't have it against me with some bizarre
form of meteorological practical joke.
I'm pretty sure about that.
Oh well...I can't complain. After all, I'm going to Germany
in two days! Once I'm there, all the work I had to do
beforehand will be worth it, and (with any luck) the weather
we have over there will be just as nice as the weather I've
left for you. And if it's not? Well, I'm still in
Germany!! I'll just have to eat an extra piece of chocolate
or strudel, and it won't even matter.
Now, back to getting ready to go. Hope your Monday treats
I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but if you’re a
business with a
Facebook fan page, like we
are, Facebook does not send your message out to all of your
fans every time you post one. Nope; messages that we send
out are often only sent to four or five percent of the
people who’ve “liked” us, and if you want to guarantee that
more people see it, Facebook will be more than happy to
accept scads of your money to make sure that happens.
Nice racket if you can set it up, apparently.
However, there are ways to get more people to see your
posts, and one of them is by getting your fans to either
“like” or “share” your posts (which, you must admit, is kind
of hard to do if no one can see it in the first place).
Facebook then tells you that you have (and I’m not making
this up) an “engaging post”, and makes sure that more people
see it. Who knows...if that happens, you might approach
having almost ten percent of your total fan base getting
your story on their news feed.
It’s like a Christmas miracle, only it’s not at Christmas
and it’s not a miracle.
Anyway, I notice that every time I put a picture on our
station Facebook site it seems to get a little more
“engagement” that just text-only posts, like the ones we put
up every Monday soliciting suggestions for that week’s
upcoming “Throwback Thursday”. So as an experiment this
week, I added this picture—
on the usual Monday post, along with a little joke abut “Mr.
Sunflower” looking forward to song suggestions. And you
know what? When I checked the post the next day, it showed
that it had been viewed by almost three times as many people
as a normal “Throwback Thursday” post. Wednesday, I did it
again, this time letting people know what “Mr. Sunflower”
was going to play the next day, and once again, news feed
numbers almost tripled.
So there. I guess we now know what you need to do it you’re
a business that wants to get your Facebook stories out to
more of your fans. Use “Mr. Sunflower” as your, uhm, “spokesflower”.
Seemed to work for us...at least until Facebook finds out
and finds some other way to make sure people don’t hear what
we have to say!
On that note, I hope you have yourself a fantastic weekend.
Looks like the weather won’t suck, so I may have to put off
final packing for the trip just long enough to play out in
the sun. After all, by the time we get back, snow may be on
the ground (at least the way this year has been going). So
I’m hoping to take advantage of it as much as I can!
Because I have to go to a funeral and go meet with the
police this morning (two entirely unrelated things, by the
way. And no, Mom, I'm not in trouble!) I'm gonna leave you
with something I wrote five and half years ago, but
something that I'll be doing again in two and a half weeks
on the way home from Germany.
Tomorrow, nothing to do with funerals and cops. Promise!
Now, I mention this because Loraine and I just bought the
tickets for our next trip to France, the one scheduled for
this October. And, of course, if you’re flying to or from
France, you spend a LOT of time staring out of airplane
windows...nine hours, in fact, on the trip back.
And that’s how I know about the algae.
When you leave France, you have about 45 minutes to look out
the window and see land; England and Ireland, to be
specific. Then for four, four and a half hours...nothing.
You can look down and see the north Atlantic. Sometimes you
might see icebergs, sometime you might see waves so big
that, at 35,000 feet, they appear as little white dots, but
mostly you see nothing but water.
Until, that is, you hit Canada.
When you enter Canadian airspace, you first fly over the
Labrador Peninsula, which is nothing but desolate, barren
rock. For half an hour, you stare down at a vast landscape
of nothing-ness; if you were an alien being exploring the
planet for the first time, you’d probably assume that the
planet was devoid of life.
And then you see the green.
The first few times I flew back from Europe, I was intrigued
when I noticed that, about half an hour after crossing over
land, the ponds and lakes sitting on top of the Labrador
rocks looked a little green around the edges. Then I
figured out what it was. . .it was algae building up around
the shores, much like algae builds up on lakes around here.
After over 5 hours of seeing nothing, it’s the first sign
that there’s still life on the planet.
A few minutes later, some of the rocks appear green, as
well, indicating either moss or algae has started to cling
to the rocks. The green increases over time, until you see
something you thought you might never see again--
As with the algae, I had no idea where the roads led during
my first few flights. Then on the last few flights, I began
to notice the roads leading to complexes, complexes that I’m
guessing are mines, or research facilities, or military
facilities. Soon, the roads begin to branch off into other
roads, and along those roads you soon notice more green.
The roads are cutting through grass. And soon, the roads
begin to cut through trees. And then a small town or two.
And before you know it, you see more roads, more trees, more
towns, and then the pilot says you’re crossing over Sault
Ste Marie, Michigan, and entering the U.S.
All a mere 8 or so hours after leaving France, and just an
hour and a half after you thought you’d never see a sign of
If you’ve ever wondered how you kill those 9 hours on a
plane, that’s how I do it. And that’s how I’ll be doing it
again in a mere 9 months.
Wow. I was actually funny once!
With a week to go before we leave for Germany, I've been
spending a lot of time putting together the things that need
to air while I'm gone. And because the program director in
me refuses to allow my afternoon personality to be off the
air for a week and a half, we usually air “best of”s that
I've recorded and saved throughout the years. The past few
trips they've been phone calls with listeners; after all,
that's mostly what we do around here. But this year, I've
dig really deep to see what I could find.
And I found some comedy bits.
The bits are what are know in the biz as “blackout bits”;
just little 20 or 30 second items to run going into or out
of a commercial break. And what with humor being a VERY
subjective thing, I'm sure that there are many people out
there who would take exception with my referring to them as
“comedy” bits. But I've found nine or ten “comedy” bits
that I put together somewhere between 10 and 15 years ago,
back when I was doing “comedy” bits, and you know what?
I, at least, don't think they're half bad!
I was in my phase of doing “comedy” bits while I was also in
my phase of listening to a lot of old-time radio. A lot of
the radio I was listening to at the time were the master
comedians, people like Jack Benny and Fred Allen and Jim
Jordan in his character of Fibber McGee. The one thing all
of these master comedians had was impeccable timing. They
knew how to tell a joke, and they REALLY knew how to sell a
joke. And while I've always thought my sense of comedic
timing was a little better than the average person, it was
nowhere near that of Benny or Allen or Jordan. So while I
was listening to all of these classic comedians, I was also
trying to see if I could preach what they were practicing.
Hence, the “comedy” bits.
Most (but not all) of them revolved around the fictional
“Yooper TV Network”, and some of the, well, Yooper-centric
shows the network might air. The shows might be Yooper
reality shows, or Yooper dramas, but it was a way to make
fun of what was going on in pop culture at the time while
still making it relatable to people who live up here.
At least, that's what I tried.
As with everything in life, I kind of got away from doing
the “comedy” bits as the years went by. I don't know if
they were too much work or if I just had a limited amount of
ideas and used them up, but from what I can tell the last
one was put together in 2007. So it was interesting to dig
them out and listen to them again, a reflection of where my
mind was almost a decade ago. For some, I remembered them
like they were yesterday. For others, I'd totally forgotten
about them. And one of them, in particular, actually made
me laugh when I listened to it again.
Wanna hear it?
As I've written in here many times before, humor is a very
subjective thing. All I know is that it made me laugh when
I listened to it. Your results may vary.
So for the week and a half I'm gone (actually, just seven
days on the air, thanks to Labor Day). You may be hearing
things like that on the air. And even if you don't make you
laugh, think of it this way—it'll at least be a window into
my brain, at least they way it was a decade ago.
One of the things I love about living in Marquette is that
you never know what you’ll see, what you’ll hear, or what
you’ll come across. When you live in a city full of artsy,
creative individuals, that artsy-ness and that creativity
quite often bubbles to the surface. And over the past few
weeks, what has bubbled to the surface is one really good
I don’t know who the trombone player is; I don’t know where
he or she lives, and I don’t know if she or he is a
professional at the instrument or just dabbles. But what I
do know is this—every few days, especially when it’s nice
out and our windows are open, and always with no warning at
all, we’ll hear someone play a trombone. There’s no other
music and no other musicians; there’s just the trombone and
its player, serenading our neighborhood with a soulful
rendition of Magic’s “Rude” or their take on a jazz
classic. They’ll play the one song, and then stop, leaving
me to think two things—
One, that trombone player is really, really good. Their
tone is great, they’re obviously well practiced in their
technique, and their style really lends something to some of
the works they perform. Like I said, they’re really, really
The second thing I wonder about when I hear them? Who are
they, why are they playing outside, and why do they stop
after only one song? Okay; technically those would be the
second, third, and fourth things I think, but still, I
believe you get the idea. I mean, has the person playing
been practicing indoors, and just wants a little fresh air
before they call it a night? Do they enjoy serenading the
neighborhood, and have spent all day practicing the one
piece to get it just right? Or do they just get bored, and
in between social media status updates or chapters of a book
decide to give their lungs a workout?
Inquiring minds want to know!
I am in no way complaining; after all, like I said, the
trombone player is quite good, and it’s much better than
some of the other sounds you get to hear in our neighborhood
when the windows are open (and I’m thinking of you, guy who
lives a couple of houses behind us and loves his leaf blower
just a little too much). It just makes me wonder what’s
behind the impromptu performances, and whether they’re for
our benefit, or if our enjoyment of it is just a byproduct
of whatever the mystery trombone player happens to be doing
at the moment.
Alas, I may never know. And with winter soon to come, our
windows will be permanently closed, and the trombone
concerts will be replaced by the sound of snow blowers and
ice scrapers. So I guess I’ll enjoy the performances while
In a way, it's kind of like we lost our grandmother.
Loraine and I received some sad news over the weekend; our
friend Jeanne Fletcher passed away at thee age of 94.
Jeanne was the sister of Elwood Norr, the subject of
Loraine's first book, and over the years we'd visit Jeanne
and just chat abut everything under the sun. It's like we
were part of her extended family, and we'll miss that.
Not only did Jeanne loan Loraine the letters and pictures
that her brother had sent home from the Army before he died,
but she helped me study Marquette history from a first hand
point of view. She grew up in both the Piqua Location in
Marquette, the area that's now centered around McClellan
Avenue, but, for a time, with aunts who lived in Ishpeming,
as well. Then when she married Al, the love of her life,
she raised her family in South Marquette, where they owned
Fletcher's Market for many years.
If you've ever been on tours I've given in the Piqua or in
South Marquette, some of the stories you've heard were
In fact, right before I gave my Piqua neighborhood tour a
couple of years ago, we convinced Jeanne to hop into our car
and drive around the area, where she regaled us for over an
hour with tales of what the area was like when she was
growing up, and just how much things have changed in the 80
or 90 years since. She was an invaluable resource, and I'll
miss picking her brain about stuff like that.
Of course I'll also miss her bread, too. Every Christmas
I'd bring over a huge plate of those cookies I make, and in
return she'd give us a loaf of whatever she'd made for the
holiday, be it saffron bread or almond bread or one of the
other breads she knew how to expertly whip up. The past few
years she wasn't able to get around well enough to bake, but
that's okay. The loaves she had given us over the years are
things I hope to one day try. I'm sure they won't be as
good as hers, but I'll give them a try.
And in a way, Marquette radio has lost a comrade, too. You
see, when Jeanne was a child, she was a “star”. The aunts
she lived with in Ishpeming had her take singing lessons,
and she had her own weekly show on Marquette first radio
station, WBEO (which eventually became WDMJ). Because
everything on radio back then was live, and there were a lot
of hours in a day to fill, radio looked everywhere for
entertainment. And one of the places they found it was in
the form of Jeanne. In fact, even all these years later,
she still has a cutout of a newspaper ad from the early 30s
mentioning that “Little Jeanne Norr” would be on the air the
next Sunday afternoon for the listening pleasure of the
After all my years in radio, even I'VE never received
anything like that!
I think, though, the biggest way in which she'll be missed
is the soft spot she had in her heart for Loraine. When
Loraine was writing her book, I don't think Jeanne fully
grasped what was going on, because when Loraine presented
her with the first copy, hot off the presses, Jeanne said,
and I quote, “I didn't know you were writing a real
book”! While I think it was hard to read the whole book,
especially the parts about her brother's end, I know she
cherished the fact that Elwood's memory was being kept alive
and now shared with the world. And when Loraine had a book
signing right after the release, she invited Jeanne,
featured prominently in the book in her own right, to the
signing, where she was a more popular draw than even the
author, and where she signed copies the book as “Fatty”, the
nickname given to her by her brother while she was pregnant.
She was a cool lady. And she will be missed. So thanks for
being part of our lives, Jeanne, and sharing everything that
you shared with us over the years. The world won't be the
same without you.
Because I'm hoping to sneak in one last half day today, I'm
gonna re-purpose something I wrote for our upcoming trip
blog. It'll probably
actually be new to most (if not all) of you, so I don't feel
TOO guilty about doing it. A little guilty...sure.
But not too guilty.
Have a great weekend...and I hope YOU get to enjoy the sun a
Another year, another adventure. But at least this time,
we’re not going alone!
As you can tell by the latest title of the blog page Loraine
and I are heading back to Germany this year. This time,
though, it’ll be a little different. It won’t be a research
trip so much as it’ll be a vacation, and we’re bringing a
cast of characters along with us, a cast where you’ve
already met some of the members and a cast where other
members come from a galaxy far, far away.
This is a trip that we’re taking with both sets of our
parents, a trip very similar to the one we undertook way
back in 2006 (before, apparently, trip blogging was
invented). We’re going all throughout Southern Germany,
Bavaria, and even into Austria, all in the capable hands of
Tony the Tour Guide.
Big round of applause for Tony who, if you remember the last
we were in Germany, had to
translate for Loraine during a news conference with the
mayor of Weissenfels. I don’t think he’ll have to worry
about that this time.
Anyway, aside from Tony, here’s your cast of characters, in
a picture from that trip nine years ago—
You know Loraine, and you know me. Next to me are my
parents, Chicky-Poo and Dar (or, to those of you slightly
more respectful than their oldest child, Chick & Darlene).
They’re both retired after a career running several
successful auto repair facilities. My mom has taken up
check out her work HERE,
while my dad does whatever my mom tells him to do. Oh, and
he’s a monster at pickle ball, too. Then on the far
right-hand side of the picture are Loraine’s parents, Betsy
& Floyd, who live downstate in a little place called Reese
(sadly, not the home of the world famous peanut butter
cup). They do a lot of traveling themselves; in fact, once
we’re done with our trip in Germany they’re staying on to
take a cruise through the Adriatic Sea.
So watch out, Zagreb!
Like I said, we’re also taking along two passengers from a
galaxy far, far away. You may recognize them in their
But they’re representing two members of Loraine’s family
who’ve been going through some tough times recently. Boba
Fett is the stand in for Loraine’s nephew Jeremy, a “Star
Wars” fanatic who’s been waging a very good fight against a
form of childhood leukemia the past year and a half. And
Chewy? Well, he’s a stand-in for Loraine’s brother Joe, who
unexpectedly lost his wife at the end of May. We figure
that both of them deserve the chance to get away and deal
with something other than the things with which they’ve been
dealing, so we’ll be taking pictures of their stand-ins at
some of the places we visit.
And where will we be visiting this time around? Well, the
first part of the trip consists of seeing places we’ve never
been before, and the second part going to places we’ve
enjoyed in the past and now want to share with our parents
(and Boba Fett and Chewy). We’ll start by flying into
Frankfurt, where we’ll then spend the first few days of the
trip tooling around the Black Forest, staying in places like
Heidelberg and Tubingen. We’ll follow that up by driving
through the Alps, seeing a few castles and a whole lot of
mountains. We’ll then zig in to Austria, spending a day in
Zell-am-See, before zagging back into Germany for a few days
in this place—
This, of course, is Berchtesgaden, home of amazing views,
wonderful places to hike, the greatest Rewe store on the
face of the Earth, and, well, Adolph Hitler’s summer
getaway. But we won’t hold that against the place; after
all, it’s become a large part of the tourist trade there.
From Berchtesgaden we spend a day in Seebruck, which is on
Lake Chiemsee, also known as “The Bavarian Sea”, before
heading to Munich for a day or two in, among other places,
The Englischer Garten.
All this is before we and my parents fly back to the U.S.,
Loraine’s parents prepare for their invasion of Croatia and
Bosnia, and Tony tries to recover from everything we’re
bound to put him through.
Why are we going this time? Well, it’s Germany. It’s a
chance to travel with Tony again. And it’s a chance to not
only spend a lot of quality time with our parents, but to
also show them some of our favorite places over there. And
who knows—in the places we haven’t been yet, maybe we’ll
discover a few new favorites!
The adventure starts September 2nd, so if you haven’t yet,
make sure your virtual passport is up to date and ready to
go. Because, after all, time (and tooling around Germany)
waits for no one!
They're flowers. Can't you just leave them alone?
When Loraine & I were out Sunday taking the pictures that
graced this blog yesterday, we were shooting a few outside
of a home on Fourth Street in Marquette. While shooting,
the lady who owns the home came out, and thanked us for just
taking pictures of the flowers. Why? Well, because a few
people who've walked by don't take pictures of the flowers.
They take the flowers themselves.
I don't know why she came out to talk to us. I don't know
if she wanted to keep an eye on us to make sure we weren't
stealing her flowers, or if she honestly wanted to thank us
for photographing them. But what I do know is that the
activity at her home is just one in a string of pieces of
flower “vandalism”, for lack of a better word, that's been
spreading across Marquette this year. From the doofus who
destroyed Phil's flowers in the downtown Pocket Park to the
people who were caught digging up entire plants in front of
the condos across from Lower Harbor Park, it seems like no
plant in Marquette is 100% safe these days.
And that's just not right.
After hearing this latest story of vandalism, Loraine was
reminded of a comment a Marquette cop once made on an
episode of “Campus PD”, something along the lines of “if
it's not chained down someone's gonna take it”. And while
the officer was referring a drunk college student walking
away with a traffic cone, he spoke the truth. My landlords
have had to (literally) chain down the patio furniture on
their front porch, lest someone walk away with it. A few
years ago I had an ex-neighbor give me a call to tell me
that someone had walked off with an 8-foot long, 100 pound
plaster panther that was on her front porch. And, of
course, it seems like if you have a flower bed in your front
yard, you may wake up one morning to find it gone, with
whoever took the plants just leaving a big hole in the dirt
as a “thank you”.
I don't wanna go on in here once again about respecting
other people and their property; I've done it enough in the
past that if I do it again I might be veering a little too
close to Cranky Old Man ™ territory. But if anyone who's
ever stolen something from someone's yard or is thinking of
stealing something from someone's yard is reading this—which
I highly doubt, because you guys are WAY too nice to do
anything like that—just think of it this way. How would YOU
act if someone took something from YOUR yard?
Then don't do it.
Okay; I'm off my soapbox for today. And since the lady who
spoke with us was nice enough to allow us to take pictures
of her flowers (a great display, by the way), the least I
can do is show you a picture from it!
That, however, is neither here nor there today. Nope;
today, we take care of the request from daily blog reader
Linda in Marquette, who last week wondered why I hadn’t
posted many flower pictures in here so far this summer. As
I explained to Linda last week, it was because I hadn’t
actually taken many flower pictures so far this summer. I
did, however, promise that if it was nice out this past
weekend that I’d try to snap a few.
And Linda (and everyone else), just for you, Loraine and I
forced ourselves to head out in the sun on Sunday to take
those pictures, Loraine scouting the flowers and me taking
Don’t worry; it wasn’t too much of a sacrifice on our part.
Really, it wasn’t!
One thing I really noticed while shooting the flowers,
though, backed up an observation I think I made last week.
The weather this summer, cold & wet, then hot & dry, then
cold & wet again, seems to have wrecked havoc on many
people’s flower beds. Everywhere we went we saw dead or
dying flowers, pedals falling to the ground way too early,
or leaves & stems drooping under the weight of the weird
For the most part, it was not a pretty sight. However, the
other part of the most part WAS quite a pretty sight, so for
everyone who asked, here you go!
I especially like the bee on the last one. Like I said,
while we couldn’t find as many flowers as usual, we tried
our best. And I do have to thank Loraine for getting into
the spirit of it. She doesn’t like hot weather nearly as
much as I do, but she was a trooper in walking up & down the
streets of Marquette, looking for nice flowers. Just how
hot was it?
(ps—if you’d like to see larger size versions of these
pictures, I put them (and a few more) up on a Facebook photo
Just click HERE and you
should be able to check them out, whether you’re my Facebook
friend or not. And if you’re not...
Was it something I said?? 8-))
(pps—Tomorrow, something we discovered while shooting these
flowers. And it’s not a good something at all.)
(ppps—I apologize for all of these PSs in the past few blogs.
I don’t know what’s gotten into me!)
Oh well. I guess we’ll just call it an experiment that
Those of you who’ve been reading this even occasionally the
past few years know that I like to take my vacation a half
day at a time, on days when it’s nice & sunny & warm. But
because May was so cold this year, and because June was
filled with unexpected events like having to go downstate
for a funeral, I’ve been forced to use up my vacation during
the 10-week span between the Fourth of July and this week.
And in order to fit things in, I had to go against my usual
habit and schedule full vacation days ahead of time,
ostensibly to give myself a few three-day weekends, but
without knowing what the weather was like.
And that’s where I failed.
Well, I shouldn’t say that I failed, so much as Mother
Nature failed me. There’s a reason I usually wait until a
day or two beforehand before choosing when to take time off,
and that’s because more than a day or two beforehand you
don’t know what the weather’s gonna be like. Scheduling
vacation days a week or a month or even months ahead of time
means you’re at the mercy of whatever happens. And in my
case, three of the four Mondays I took off were cloudy,
rainy, cool, foggy, and/or any combination thereof.
Not exactly ideal vacation weather, at least for me.
Oh sure, I enjoyed having a couple of three day weekends.
Those are always nice. But to take days off during the
summer and not be able to play outside in the sun...well,
that just doesn’t seem right. It probably says something
about me and my strange psyche, but part of my brain thinks
that taking a day off when the weather’s yucky is just as
bad as being at work. Of course, the other part of my brain
is telling that part to shut up and enjoy the time away from
the station, but the first part of my brain keeps looking
out the window, wondering if the sky will ever clear.
Sometimes, it’s not easy being me. Really, it isn’t.
Now, though, that’s pretty much over. Aside from (perhaps)
one more half day, a half day that hopefully will appear
when the sun is out and the heat is plentiful, I now have to
hunker down and get ready for a couple of things—high school
sports season on
our ESPN station, and
making sure everything is ready to go when WE go to Germany
in 15 days.
Those days when we’re in Germany are also vacation days that
I scheduled ahead of time. Only, in that case, I won’t
consider them a failed experiment...no matter what the
weather is like. But I don’t think I have to worry about
that too much. Germany’s been a lot warmer and a lot
sunnier than usual this summer, and it looks like it could
stay that way while we’re there. Who know...maybe it’s
Mother Nature’s way of making it up to me for the Mondays
I’ve taken off here!
(p.s.—good news from my sister Melanie. After almost a week
of being away from home, her cat Magoo, the one I wrote
about last week, returned home in the middle of the night
Sunday night. They’re now one big happy family again!)
(pps—for daily blog reader Linda in Marquette and everyone
else wondering if I did take a few flower pictures over the
weekend, guess what? You’ll see them tomorrow!)
Today, the weird restaurant story.
We took Loraine's sister Melanie to one of our favorite
restaurants last night, one of the “107 Things to Love About
Marquette County”, Sol Azteca. The food is great, the
people are great, the view is unparalleled, and we have a
soft spot in our hearts for it, if only because Loraine & I
were the restaurant's first ever paying customers.
No, seriously. We were. They took our picture and had us
sign a dollar bill and everything!
Obviously, we've been there a lot. We've been there as a
couple, we've been there with friends, we've been there with
people from out of town...basically, we've been there a
lot. And in all the times we've eaten at Sol Azteca, and
that's probably in the dozens, one weird thing has occurred.
We have never seen anyone we know there.
I'm not kidding. Between me and Loraine, we know a lot of
people, especially if you count the nodding “hey, I know you
from somewhere, right?” type of acquaintances you make if
you're in the public eye. So it's not like we're hermits;
we DO know a lot of people. Yet every time we've been in
Sol Azteca, when we look around, every single face is
And it's not just us. We've been there multiple times with
my friend Deanna who, I swear, knows everyone who's ever
lived in Marquette. Yet even she will look around and
comment that she doesn't recognize a soul (excepting, of
course, us). And if SHE has gone in there without seeing
someone; well, then, I don't feel so bad.
But it's still weird.
Now that I've written about it, of course, we'll be
bombarded with friendly faces the next time we're in there.
And that's okay; much like the string of cold & wet Tuesdays
we've been having this summer, it's just one of those
strange things I notice. It doesn't mean anything in the
scheme of things, and it's probably just a very long string
of coincidences, but still it struck me a weird.
Who knew, right?
I'm taking another long weekend, so there won't be anything
new here Monday. Back Tuesday with more; hope you're able
to make the most of out what, at least here in Marquette,
promises to be a warm summer weekend!
Here's your Jim & Loraine Fun Fact ™ for today—we both have
sisters named Melanie.
Okay, it's not THAT much of a Fun Fact ™ so much as it's an
interesting coincidence. And it's also an interesting
coincidence that we're dealing with them in different ways
this week. I've written about my sister Melanie in here
many times before, whether it's about her going back to
college after raising her daughters, or about those very
same daughters and their occasionally exasperated mom.
Well, my sister's household also consists of a bunch of
cats, and, sad to say, one of them is missing.
Magoo seems to have slipped out of my sister's house on the
west side of Marquette a couple of days ago, and hasn't yet
been found. Posters have been put out, Facebook posts have
been shared, and the Lost Pet Network has been utilized, but
as of this writing, no luck yet. So if you'd send a few
good thoughts the way of my sister, her kids, and her cats,
I'm sure they appreciate them.
That's one Melanie. The other Melanie, Loraine's sister, is
up visiting for a couple of days, taking some much deserved
time off from the job she loves so much (and it's a pity
sarcasm doesn't travel through the written word very well).
She'll be up for a few days to see the sights, and spend
some time with her husband.
Even though she's never been married.
Okay; let me explain. When we were downstate for the
funeral of Loraine's sister-in-law a couple of months ago
Melanie and I were sitting near each other in the funeral
home while she talking with someone who'd shown up to share
their regrets. This someone, a friend of Loraine's brother
Joe, knew that one of Joe's sisters was married to a guy
from Marquette. When she found out that I was from
Marquette and sitting near one of Joe's sisters, she just
assumed that we—Melanie and I--were married. We did
eventually set her straight (and I took it as a compliment
that she thought I was young enough to be married to someone
who's almost 20 younger than I am), and still laugh about
it. And that's why Loraine's never-married sister is up
here to, among other things, see her “husband”.
Tomorrow, the story of a local restaurant to which we're
taking Loraine's sister, and the very weird thing we've
noticed about it.
Going there and coming back are two entirely different
Three weeks from today Loraine, my parents, and I will leave
for our little getaway in Germany, meeting her parents and
Tour Guide in Frankfurt for
a week and a half of fun. We're looking forward to it,
they're looking forward to it, and it should be a grand time
Of course, to get to Europe and back you have to fly. You,
in fact, have to do a LOT of flying. And as I've been
getting ready to go I've come to realize that the flight
there is a whole lot different than the flight back. And
On the flight over, you're excited. You're full of
adrenaline. You're ready to start a new adventure. And
because it's an overnight trip, you try to sleep a little.
It doesn't always work, but even if you lay there for a few
hours with your eyes closed, that's most of the flight over.
But on the way back, not so much. Your trip's over, and you
just want the flight to go as quickly as possible. But
because of the way the schedule goes, it's a daytime
flight. You can try to sleep, but it really doesn't work.
It's just one very long flight in the middle of one very
long day with several flight. This year, for instance,
we'll leave London around 11am and get into Chicago at 2pm,
which makes it an 8-hour flight. This is AFTER flying from
Munich to London, and before we fly from Chicago to
See? Not quite as exciting as flying into Frankfurt to
start a new adventure, is it?
Over the years, I've developed a system to try & get me
through the long flight to the U.S. You know how you have
to pack a lot of toys for kids on a car trip? Well, for the
flight home, I basically do the same for myself. I always
take the newest Vanity Fair magazine and save it for the
flight home. I get a bunch of logic puzzles from a
great website so I can do
them during the flight (and this year, I even remembered the
answers for them, too, unlike (ahem) last year). I also
stick a couple of 5-part episodes of the old radio show
“Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar” into my iPod. All that is
shoved into my backpack before we leave, and isn't touched
until our flight home is in the air. Between all that, a
few meals, whatever magazines the airline has in the seat,
getting up to stretch a few times, and (assuming the person
in front of me doesn't lower their
seat) writing the final blog of the trip, I can usually make
it through a loooooong day.
Of course, then once we're in Chicago (and through Customs)
we have five hours to kill before our flight to Marquette,
but at least you can wander around an airport and kill a
little time that way.
However, I'd prefer not to think of the flight home just
yet. I'm ready for it and my backpack is packed for it; I'd
just rather not think about it yet. That's a month and a
day away. It's the flight over that's the important thing
right now, and that's a mere three weeks from today!
I received a note from daily blog reader Linda in Marquette,
who noted that I haven't done something that I usually do
every year. Says Linda--
“Hey Jim: How come you haven't put up your annual album of
flower pictures yet? I always look forward to seeing what
you come up with”.
First of all, thanks for the note Linda. As always, I enjoy
hearing from each and every one of you, so keep those
e-mails coming! Second of all, looking back I notice that I
really haven't taken that many pictures of flowers this
summer. In all honesty, I don''t think I've taken many
pictures at all, flowers or not, this summer, which is
something I really do need to rectify. And third, and
perhaps most importantly--
You guys aren't sick of flower pictures yet?
Well, Linda, while I haven't shot a lot of flower pictures
(yet) this summer, I hope these make up for that fact.
There are only three, because (believe it or not) I think
that's all I've taken this year. Yes, me, who usually takes
hundreds too many pictures of flowers during any one year,
has only taken three non-lilac flower pictures this
summer. But what I lack in quantity...
I've noticed that purple seems to be a dominant color in
flowers in Marquette this year, for whatever reason. If
nothing else, these (few) pictures seem to back that up.
There you go, Linda...sorry I haven't gotten to them yet
this year, and sorry there are so few of them. I tell ya
what—if the forecast holds and it's really nice out this
weekend, I'll grab a camera and shoot a few more. After
all, I can't be a flower-slacker, can I?
I had an uneventful weekend; aside from watching hundreds of
mountain bike riders come across the finish line at the
To Shore covered in mud, I just chilled
and complained a little about the clouds. So, I guess, it
was a typical weekend in that respect.
However, two things occurred that were anything but typical,
the first being that I signed a couple of papers
guaranteeing that I'll once again be the host of “High
on Public TV 13. I mean, there was never any question about
the matter—I want to do it, and the station, amazingly,
wanted me back—but until the “I”s are crossed and the “T”s
are dotted it's not official.
Well, I can now say that it's official. Taping starts at
the end of September, and the first new show airs at the
beginning of November. So you have until then to break your
The other thing that was anything but typical? Well, just
one of those dinner table conversation between me and my
(much) better half. Unlike me, Loraine grew up exposed to
classic country music. She's a Top 40/rock girl through and
through, but she does know a little about old country
music. She told me about a song from the early 70s with one
of those stereotypical early 70s song names, and, of course,
me being me, I got it all wrong, so much so that I was
walking around our apartment convinced that the name of the
song was this--
“You Ain't Women Enough To Be My Man”.
Now, you'd think that I'd be intelligent enough to realize
that my version of the song title doesn't make a lot of
sense; at least, it wouldn't have mad a lot of sense when
the song came out in the early 70s. But no...I just
wandered throughout the house repeating the title over and
over, driving my dear wife insane to the point that she had
to pull a reference book out to show me that the title of
the song is NOT “You Ain't Women Enough To Be My Man” but is
instead what she told me it was originally--
“You Ain't Women Enough To Steal My Man”
Well, that's pretty much the same, isn't it?
I have no idea why I heard it as “You Ain't Women Enough To
Be My Man”; of course, I have no idea why I hear half the
things I hear and think half the things I think. And in my
(pitiful) defense, I don't know much (if anything) about
country music from the early 70s. The song title probably
COULD'VE been “You Ain't Women Enough To Be My Man”. It's
almost as good as something along the lines of “You Don't
Have a License (To Drive Me Up The Wall)”. But, as often
happens, I was mistaken. I was highly mistaken.
Fortunately, I have Loraine around to set me straight.
Even if I do think that “You Ain't Women Enough To Be My
Man” would be a pretty good country music song title.
So with apologies to Loretta Lynn and to my dear wife,
here's the song in its original form and with its correct
title, if you're curious--
Hopefully, one of these days I'll actually get something
like this right!
That's a thought that always pops into my head anytime
Finish-Line Announcer Jim makes an appearance, as he will
tomorrow at the
Ore-To-Shore. I mean,
there are people coming across the line all the time,
usually in groups of three or four. Their names pop up on a
computer screen and then are replaced by names from new
people coming across the line right after the first group.
That only gives me a second or two look at the name, decide
how I'm gonna pronounce it, and then spit it out.
So to whomever gets their name mispronounced tomorrow, I
apologize in advance. I really do!
Actually, after 15 years of finish line announcing at both
the Noque and the O2S, I feel fairly confident that I'll get
many more names correct than I'll screw up. Practice, after
all, does help, and I've had plenty of practice over the
years. But I think I've also had good training in the
matter in another way. After all, I used to host a telethon
on TV, a telethon where I'd have to read pledges from people
throughout the U.P. And if you can correctly read names
from throughout the U.P., I'm guessing you can read names
from anywhere in the world.
So wish me luck!
If you have the chance, you should make sure you get to one
of the mass starts for the race tomorrow in Negaunee.
They're like nothing you've ever seen; each has over 1,000
riders getting their race underway at the sound of a gun and
a trumpet. It takes over five minutes for all of them to go
by, and it's just an amazing sight. The Soft Race race
(with, ahem, a dork announcing the start) begins at 9 at
Lakeview School, while the Hard Rock gets underway at 945 in
Trust me—you won't be disappointed!
And with that, I have to head to work to put together a
couple of CDs of music to play during the festivities. Have
yourself a great weekend, and like I said, if you have the
chance, check out part of the race!
Over the past few years I have made it a point to record &
watch part or all of four TV “talk” shows. There were days
when I would watch the first two or three minutes of the
program, and there were days when I watched the whole show.
But after tonight, I guess I won't have to worry about that
The four shows were “The Late Late Show with Craig
Ferguson”, “Late Night with David Letterman”, “Olbermann”
and “The Daily Show”. Ferguson went off the air in December,
Letterman in May, Olbermann last month, and now tonight is
Jon Stewart's final “Daily Show”. Every single “talk” show
in which I've been a fan over the past decade has now, over
the span of eight months, disappeared.
In a strange way, I'm thinking Jimmy Fallon is glad I've
never watched his version of “The Tonight Show”!
Actually, I'm pretty sure I had nothing to do with the shows
going off the air. I'm pretty sure that Ferguson, Letterman,
and Stewart didn't get together and decide to retire just
because I was a fan, nor do I think that ESPN decided to not
renew Olbermann's contract just to get back at me for not
watching anything other ESPN show. Nope; it's just one of
those weird coincidences...four really smart shows all going
off the air with a year of each other.
I guess the thing that I'm missing (or will miss) about the
shows is that they took for granted you knew something.
Watching them required that you read something other than
People magazine or had twice daily visits to TMZ. With
Stewart, it required a knowledge of politics to get all the
jokes; with Olbermann, it was old-time football, while with
Ferguson you had to know everything from obscure 18th
century literature to “Foyle's War” (a great British TV show
of the past decade). Most talk shows are mindless, and while
all of my favorites have been from time to time, they more
often than not assumed that you'd done a little intellectual
And now, they're all gone.
But that's the nature of life, right? Things change, time
marches on, and the world into which we enter is a whole lot
different than the world we eventually leave. So thank you,
Jon Stewart, for being a part of the nature of my life for
16 years. As with the others, it won't be the same without
you on my DVR every night.
I have come across two very strange facts, facts that don't
necessarily make any sense, at least when you look at them
together. Here they are--
90 percent of people say that reclining seats should be
banned on airplanes because of the discomfort they cause
when someone in front of you slams their seat into your
knees. Yet 70 percent of people say they recline their
I’m certainly in the 90%. I’ve certainly complained enough
about the morons who sit in front of me and then, with no
warning, slam their seat back into my knees, causing me much
wincing in pain and causing everything that may have been on
my tray table to go flying (including, once the very laptop
upon which I’m writing this). Because of the discomfort it
causes other people I’m fully in favor of banning reclining
seats. And that’s why I never recline a seat in which I’m
Unlike, apparently, 70 percent of people who fly.
I don’t get the disconnect. I don’t get how 90 percent of
people can be in favor of something 70 percent of them
actually do. I’ve never claimed to know much about math,
and I’m sure some old high school teachers of mine can back
that up, but even I know that 90 percent doesn’t go into 70
percent in any sane, rational way.
But then, we ARE talking about air travel, and when have the
words ‘sane” and “rational” ever been used to describe
modern air travel?
Another number the survey tossed out was that 33 percent of
air travelers said someone’s reclined seat caused them major
physical discomfort during a flight. I’m certainly in that
33 percent, and that’s why I will never recline my seat
during a flight. I don’t want to cause someone else to be
uncomfortable. I mean, I know what it’s like when someone
does it to me. Why would I want to do it to someone else?
And that meshes pretty closely with the 30 percent of people
who say they don’t recline their seats. So why do 90
percent of air travelers think it should be banned?
Once again, I don’t get it.
This is also another one of those areas in which I prove
that I’m not really a man, despite what my DNA seems to
think. Almost all of the people who say they don’t recline
their seats are women; men, on the other hand, have no
compunction about whamming a piece of hard plastic into
someone else’s very soft knee. And after having devoted a
(very small) amount of time in thinking back on the matter,
I believe almost every occasion on which I’ve been
inconvenienced by a reclining seat back it’s been by a guy.
Not every time, but a large majority of the times. Men. .
.what are you gonna do with them?
I don’t pretend to have a solution to all of this, except
for airlines to give everyone enough legroom to safely lower
seat backs, and we all know THAT’S never gonna happen. I
just found it interesting that 90 percent of people are in
favor of banning a problem that 70 percent of them
contribute to. To paraphrase a great philosopher, humans
are on occasion, illogical, this being one of those
occasions, I guess.
Never in a million years did I think I would find 600 years
I was doing some research online over the weekend for an
ongoing project of mine when I took a little detour. I don’t
quite remember how I became detoured, I just know that I
was. And once I was on the detour I realized it was
something kinda special, and just kept clicking on links,
and clicking on links, and clicking on links.
This is what I found.
In 1440, a guy named Thomas Bosworth was born in
Cottesbrooke, England. He had a son named Robert in 1470.
Robert had a son named William, born in 1500 in
Leicestershire, England. William had a son named John, born
in 1530. John had a son named Edward, born in 1565. Edward
had a son, also named Edward and also born in
Leicestershire, born in 1589. Edward had a son named
Jonathon, born in 1613, who went to a strange land called
“America” and ended up in the Plymouth Colony.
Yes, THAT Plymouth Colony.
Jonathon had a son also named Jonathon, who was born in the
Plymouth Colony in 1636. Jonathon Jr. had a son named
Ichabod, born in Swansea, Massachusetts in 1676. Ichabod had
a son named Henry, born in 1710. Henry had a daughter named
Sarah, born in 1746. Sarah married a guy named Daniel Jones,
and they had a son they named Daniel, born in New Milford,
Connecticut, in 1769.
I realize this story is getting biblical in its naming of
names. But hang in there.
Daniel Jones had a son named Cyrus, born in Plattsburg, New
York, in 1802. Daniel and his wife Phoebe had a daughter
named Helen, who was born in 1829. Helen married a guy named
Augustus Niles, and they moved to Michigan, where they had a
son named Arthur, born in 1855. Arthur had a son named Lew,
born in 1884. Lew had a daughter named Dorothy, born in
1915. Dorothy had a daughter named Darlene, who married a
guy named Chick, who had a son named Jim.
You know...me. That Jim.
Somehow I managed to stumble onto an almost 600-year history
of one branch of my family tree. Lew Niles was my
great-grandfather, a piano tuner who died when I was barely
out of diapers. While in Park Cemetery a few days ago I
wandered past his grave and noticed that there are two other
Niles buried near him. That’s what I was looking for on my
“detour” Sunday; trying to find out if I was related to
those two Niles buried near my great-grandfather.
I had no idea I’d be going all the way back to my (deep
grandfather in the process.
Aside from the names, of course, I know nothing about the
people who kept popping up on
the site I found, a list
that had been put together by a descendant of the Bosworth
family. I think the fact that this branch of the family tree
came from England was lucky; after all, I haven’t come
across much about the German or Irish or Swedish or Finnish
or any of the other nationalities that went into make me.
Also lucky was the fact that someone had gone through all
kinds of work to find this out, and had then stuck it on a
site that allowed you to keep clicking on links without
asking you to sign up and pay a king’s ransom to find out if
you are, indeed, related to a king.
The fact that I had a relative born at Plymouth Colony? Just
a bonus. A cool bonus, but a bonus nonetheless.
So the next time you’re doing something on the web, and all
of a sudden find yourself taking a little detour you didn’t
plan to take, you know what? Follow it for a link or two.
After all, you never where—or when—you’ll end up!