Empty Bowls and Louie, Louie


Last night I had the privilege of helping at a Portage Schools event called “Empty Bowls.” Children from all of our Portage Schools art classes (elementary through high school) made bowls to represent the plight of the hungry and last night people came to Portage Northern High School to buy the bowls by “donation.” It took a heap of effort on the part of the community’s art teachers and their students to make this happen.


(That we live in the world’s richest nation and have to worry about poor and starving people among our ranks I won’t even get into, except to say that  as a statement about our nation, it is in my opinion a disgrace.)


My job last night was that of a a human doorstop (they gave me a job they thought I could handle), and when I finally walked into the high school cafeteria the tables were filled with a mind-blowing array of colorful, creatively shaped bowls — reflecting the influence of the teachers and the creativity of their students. Best of all, a student band was playing Louie, Louie, which immediately lit my fire and even drew a few tears of nostalgia.


In my long-ago college days at Michigan State Louie, Louie was pretty much our anthem. Bill Haeger, my lacrosse teammate and friend, and I used to go to the Coral Gables on Wednesday nights because we knew the live bar band would rip on Louie, Louie. Beer  and sweat would flow, and the music would be loud.


So I found something comforting in knowing that all these children, who live in a world of skateboards and blackberries and cell phones and You Tube and stuff I don’t have a clue about..these same kids are learning to create with ceramics and glazes, and some bandmaster is teaching them Louie, Louie. Who woulda thunk it?


By the way, Louie Louie was recorded almost simultaneously by two Portland bar bands, Paul Revere and the Raiders, and the Kingsmen. There then was a battle of the two versions and that of the Kingsmen eventually triumphed, and of course the whole song’s legend is tied to the allegations that it was filled with hard-to-hear dirty words, which made the song a slam at the “man.”  The FBI, under Hoover, conducted a 30-month investigation into the song, which just assured its place in history. For the record the song is about a conversation between a sailor and a bartender named Louie and it’s about the sailor missing his girl. The lyrics are in Pidgin English which make them a little hard to follow for some folks. The FBI in fact concluded that they could not ascertain with certainty any of the lyrics.  (And we’re surprised they couldn’t put two and two together before 9-11?)


But here you go:


Louie, Louie, oh no

Me gotta go

Aye-yi-yi-yi, I said

Louie Louie, oh baby

Me gotta go.


Fine little girl, she waits for me;

Catch a ship across the sea

Sail that ship all alone;

I never think I make it home.


I’m sitting here with a huge grin as I see the lyrics and remember the alleged “dirty” ones that went with the tune. What really adds to my feelings is that my lacrosse teammates from Michigan State will be getting together for our 45th anniversary at the end of march and we will gather, where else? At the Coral Gables.


I sure hope there’s a live band that knows Louie Louie, or at least a jambox with a disk, or whatever that stuff is called. I can’t think of anything neater than a bunch of men in their early to mid sixties, many with replaced hips and knees and other body parts sweating away on the dance floor mumble-shouting, “Louie, Lou-EYE!”


Some day I hope the students who turned out the bowls for the hungry will have similar memories and can look forward to similar reunions.  Oh yeah, Empy Bowls? Word is they made about $4,000 for the hungry here in town. Some days, life feels pretty damn good, eh? Let’s take it on outta here now. Let’s go!


I like to make up words and experiment with vocabulary.  Here’s a few from my notebooks:

Alfalfadil: A botanist’s experiment.

Amnesia nervosa: A disorder brought on by the inability to remember what is making you nervous or upset.

Beard: Prosthetic device for the chinless.

Been-to-Badge: Metaphor for business travel experiences.

Blonk: A wonk’s blog.

Bobology: Study of bobos (flunkies).

Brainscotting: A way to dress up the appearance of your mental capacity. It doesn’t actually increase capacity or function; it just looks nicer.

Camelotion: What politicians sell along with their notion of Camelot.

Doltocracy: Ruled by dolts.

Escape goat: The one scapegoats hate.

50-proof wilderness: Meaning 100 percent.

Geckosystem: Something to do with advertising.

Geniteal: A certain body part shaped like a certain species of duck’s head.

Grank: Particulary gruesome serial murders.

Guilt pangst: Fear of pangs, stabs, twinges of regret and guilt.

Ich bin ein troutenkacher”: Need I say more?

Italianaut: Ethnic astronaut. e.g. Malaysianaut, Kenyanaut, etc.

Kevorkianstan: Michigan.

Kinkfest: Gathering of weirdos.

Latinolandia: Latin America or its nordamericano approximation.

Nibleis: Hawaiian flowers you can snack on.

Noms de palmes: Names written on your hand with a ballpoint pen.

Pumpupism: Committed to pushing iron.

Pontimaniac: One who jumps dates in back seat of his auto.

Quintesilly: The ultimate in silly.

Sangst froid: What goes on inside when you look like you are keeping your cool under fire.

Scoldrums: The funk you feel after being chewed out.

Sinuously erotic: All the moves – and then some.

Snowcabulary: A subject deserving its own language.
Vidiot: Someone who knows or believes only what they see on TV.
Virtual surreality: The Bush Administration.
Vomelet: An egg dish served by Aeroflot.
Weinerphile: Hot dog aficianado/ connoisseur.
Wimpotence: Symbolic gonadal hypertrophy.
Zambody: That guy that drives the you-know… zamboni?
Zambooty: Zambody’s butt, eh?


Random Thoughts

Green dolphins lose their color in the boat. With people, it’s vice versa.


I once heard camping by street people  in SF described on NPR as a nuisance crime.


Why do we call quarry “game?” It’s anything but for them.


My sometime fishing partner, a Native American: Howls-When-Hooked.


Music you’ll never hear: Composer John Cage’s 4 –33, which is four minutes and thirty three seconds of silence, divided into three movements.


Earth’s temperature increases .03 degrees F during the full moon.


“…wooing a trout is almost precisely akin to the slow and patient seduction of a proud and reluctant woman.” Robert Traver  (John Voelker)


The most difficult task in dressing flies is pulling their wee hairy arms through the sleeves.” MacMillan Distillery Fly Fishing Calendar.


Never been lost, but I’ve been bewildered a time or two.” Attributed to Dan’l Boone…by me.


Hoppertunity.” July-Aug-September grasshoppers.


Peeshing & squeaking: Method to attract birds. First, make sucking-squeaking sound with your mouth. Then suck the back of your hands. Called PS. Not known why birds respond, but they do. At least those that can hear.


It takes only 20 minutes for squirrels to forget where they’ve stored nuts. They ought to be glad they don’t have to remember where they put their keys


Inexperienced anglers carry too much gear. That’s me. Some days I feel like an aged Sherpa, humping K-2.


June 11-19, 1993 was proclaimed Dairy Goat Awareness Week and the proclaimation signed by then Governor John Engler. Apparently the goats and the governor both thought a week had nine days?


MAA = Master Asshole Award. There are numerous candidates.


Steering wheels in American cars and trucks are on the left. In boats, they’re on the right. Howzcome?


Interview I heard on public radio about High On Kalamazoo Air Show: “It’s a way to honor the people who fought wars so we could have air shows like this.” Say what? Okay, I guess technically he’s right.


I want to write the test of the user’s manual for a Jack Kervorkian handgun: “For Suicide Only. Not for recreational purposes. Do not stand in front of windows or mirrors. Put barrel in mouth. Squeeze trigger once. Repeat as needed.  And if able.”


Celts called trout a “fish of wisdom.” And the Irish, Welsh and Scots kept trout in their wells for good luck.


Native Americans, I was once told, preached to trout. Me too. No dice.


A yoctosecond is the smallest designated unit of time. .230 second.


“Miracle” Remembered

I believe tomorrow is the anniversary of the US Olympic hockey team beating the Soviet team in Lake Placid in 1980, and then going on to win the gold medal.  The game against the Soviets still defies logic and serves as a shining example that in any one-time contest, the outcome can swing either direction. Greatest game I remember in any sport. My second choice? The Kalamazoo Wings of the IHL beating a top-line Russian club 7-6 in Kalamazoo. The Kalamazoo coach and Herb Brooks were colleagues and friends and both of them students of Russian hockey. Obviously they were also good students. In any event, on a gray day it’s nice to sit back and remember a fine moment in sport that picked up and perked up the entire country for a while. Wonder if we’ll every have such a moment in politics or political leadership to have a similar effect?

Walking Cold

We’re ten days into February, the amount of daylight is getting longer and the winter is now pretty much on the downside, relatively speaking. Historically we will be snow-free by the end of March when the high school boys basketball finals are played. Some more snow can fall after that in April, and even into May on occasion, but by the end of March, hard winter’s pretty much run its course, and our minds start turning to steelhead and the late April trout opener. This being so, it was difficult today to think about fish. The temperature was pegged at 3 degrees all day, with 20 mph winds, chill factor around minus-18/20. Even the dog looked at his feet and up at me to make sure we were really going for our walk. People who live in snow country learn to adapt and to roll with winter’s punches. It doesn’t hurt that the equipment and clothing we have now surpasses anything we had as kids. The good news today:  No other people were out, just the way we prefer it. This evening I finished reading Howard Frank Mosher’s North Country [Houghton Mifflin, 1997]. It’s an account of a driving trip novelist Mosher took all the way across the northern extremes of our country, looking for and finding similarities in those who choose to live in such harsh and demanding places, including our own U.P. It’s a read worth your time.

Signs That You Don’t Have a Life…

Some years back (we shall not be specific here) I sat at Theo and Stacey’s Restaurant one lunch time with my friend and colleague Cheryl Dore and we decided to come up with some philosophical thoughts to help people diagnose the quality of their lives. I’m still waiting for your next batch, Cheryl.

But I’m thinking we should share some of what we came up with.

A couple of Baker’s dozen tonight. More some other day.

You Don’t Have a Life:

1)   If your last meaningful relationship was with your couch.


2)   If a genie grants you three wishes and you start with, “I wish this sort of thing wouldn’t happen to me.


3)   If you drink to forget and then forget to drink and end up remembering anyway.


4)   If your reason for not smoking is to keep your breath fresh and you haven’t had a date in seven years.


5)   If you look at friends with bad marriages and think they’re lucky.


Continue reading “Signs That You Don’t Have a Life…”

An Imbed’s Lessons

A DNR PR person once labeled me the DNR imbed – the term used for journalists who went along with troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. In the ridealong role I have made a few observations over the past half-dozen years.


1)      Green and gray are colors of substance, not gender.


2)      You are not the first to wear green and gray and you owe it to those who went before you to uphold traditions of professionalism and dedication; you will not be the last to wear green and gray, and you owe it to those who follow to set standards worthy of emulation.


3)      Game wardens don’t just drive on crappy roads. They love crappy roads.


4)      If they haven’t gotten their truck stuck, they’re probably patrolling the wrong roads.


5)      A clean truck probably means an inspection is coming, or the captain is going to be riding with you tomorrow.


6)      The probability of having to haul someone to jail is inversely proportional to how far away the jail is, that is, the further the jail, the more likely you’ll have to transport a prisoner.


7)      Backup in some counties is a theoretical construct – like Santa Claus, or the Tooth Fairy.


8)      Suspects who repeat your questions are trying to buy time.


9)      Baseball caps worn backwards, or sideways, are a pretty reliable  signal that business is about to be done.


Continue reading “An Imbed’s Lessons”

Say It Ain’t So

Okay, the Over Bowl 42 leads me to only one conclusion. The Manning FAMILY has won two more super bowls than the Detroit Lions. Good night. I need another beer.

There Ain’t No Word For “Super” in Most Languages, Dudes

Okay, it’s a big day in some U.S. households —  not  so much in this house. One statistic from history says a lot: Super Bowl-42, Detroit Lions-0. That’s right, el skunko, zippo, nada. The game’s been played twice at Michigan venues, but Lions players, like the rest of us mere mortals, presumably had to pay to get in. Over 42 years ,the Lions have won a grand total of one playoff game, back in 1991, I think. That’s it, uno, so forgive us Michiganders if we’re not getting worked into a frenzy for the game, whose pre-game drivel  more or less began tonight and will culminate at game time tomorrow evening.

Super Bowl. Praytell, what kind of name is this? Most languages don’t even have a word for “super,” unless you go to second or third definitions or options, like the words “over” or “above.”  [Note, in the Lions offense of recent years, second or third options have meant fumble or interception.] The Over Bowl, or Above Bowl? Talk about verbal music. Headline: Janet Jackson’s Boob Pops Out at Over Bowl? Now that would be super.

Okay, let’s take the word “over” and see what turns up.  You’re on your own for pronunciation. Finnish? Ylapuolella Vati. Swedish? Ovanfor Skal. The word “super” actually comes from Latin, so if we were in the heyday of the Roman Coliseum we might be waiting for the kickoff of the Exsuperantia simpuvium, the Sacrificial Bowl. Which reminds me: In most Coliseum spectacles and games, the competitors, e.g., Christians, Outlanders, Someone, gladiators, animals — were expected to die. Even the winners could be executed if they didn’t perform up to the emperor’s or fans’ satisfaction. Thumbs down, sorry old chum, “Off wi’ ‘is bloody ‘ead.” [Okay I realize this is not Latin direct  to English but it’s sort of Cockney, I like the sound of it and I’m on a roll here.

Continue reading “There Ain’t No Word For “Super” in Most Languages, Dudes”

Big Snow Memories

We had our second snow day in three days today and recently “celebrated” the 30-year anniversary of the legendary 1978 blizzard. I decided to query some of my own pals, who had not been in Kalamazoo back then, by sending along some photograpahs of that event.

Reg Bernard, my old hockey teammate and fishing partner, just sent the following post: “Dear Joe, A vivid reminder of the week I left home in Fort Wayne to drive to Benton Harbor to visit one of my plants. I got caught in the snow and was stranded for four days and finally snuck out of Michigan to follow a Civil Defense vehicle to the Indiana state line and then I drove on to Fort Wayne with a escort of a CD jeep. Was caught by the Michigan State Police near Kalamazoo and escorted back to Benton Harbor with a warning that I would be put in jail if caught on the I-94 again.

I wanted to get home to Fort Wayne and made numerous phone calls and thankfully had the ear of some fantastic local county-by-county CD people who said ‘meet us at such and such road and we will escort you on to Indiana and pass you on to the next county person and jeep.’

Continue reading “Big Snow Memories”