It’s One of Them Days….

Preparing  for summer outings in the UP, I went to the US Geological Survey (USGS ) website to order the 25-30 7.5-minute topo charts I needed — at $8 a pop. Bought charts last summer from the same site, but of course I have no idea where my customer ID or password are, so I entered as new customer after two hours of filling the shopping basket, and then it spit me out because “another customer” (that would be me) has my e-mail address. Duh. And of course, no way to get out of my paradox or electronic box. I had gone head-first into the tar baby and could not find a way to pull loose.

But I have Irish blood. Stubborn. And sometimes even clever.

From previous research I know from another website  of a local Kalamazoo biz that sells Topos. I drive down there and the clerk says, “We only got local ones.”

I quipped, “You should make that clear on the website.”  Of course I could have called, too, but didn’t.

“BUT, sayeth the clerk with infectious optimism and the promise of fulfilling customer service, “We can order them for you!”

I said,” Okey doke.” He stepped out of sight and I heard a woman’s voice,  and he returned with a very in-charge white-haired lady of my age who said with mega shrillage and personal annoyance:  ” We can‘t order one. We gotta order five of each in order to order for you.”

I said, “Fine, forget it and change you damn web listing.”  They don’t want nearly $25o in sales, so be it. Turns out, I’m not so clever.

This has been a rainy, blustery day. This morning the muttsker and I walked to beat the rain. I was looking at something and he disappeared, which NEVER happens. Forty minutes of searching and no luck. I found some very fresh deer tracks, but not his but still figured he might have run off after a deer, then given up, and found some other sort of diversion.  I went home and got the truck. I pulled down a parallel road to a cul de sac in time to see him trotting west for home, yelled for him to to come to the truck, and he came. I have no doubt he was headed home. He drank an entire bowl of water and has quaffed several toilet cocktails to boot.

All day the talk on national public radio out of Ann Arbor  has been about not panicking people about avian-swine-human flu outbreaks, which might be or might not be a new flu, but probably is (or isn’t),  and idiots and dolts  are calling in to see if they should take their kids to emergency or call their doctors.  Yo, if you have to call a radio station to ask what to do about a sick kid, your kid is likely in deep doodoo.  The U.S. State Department (or some government agency allegedly  is advising people to skip non-essential travel to Mexico. Meanwhile the European Union, I think I heard, is advising Europeans not to come to US and we’ve had a grand total of 40 cases, all mild so far. What the hell is going on with this world? We’re becoming a bunch of whining, whinging wimps. And today is Barack Obama’s so-called “100- day Report Card.” I’m still getting email from his web organization (whose braintrust apparently considers me an ardent supporter) but nobody has ever answered or even bothered to acknowledge my one question to the then-candidate.I will say this: I like the President and  after 100 days, it’s nice to have a Pres with English as his first language and who seems to be actually engaged in doing as much as delegating like a cardboard MBA.v (I voted for neither Obama nor Dubya.)

Some days are real fun. Over.

Da Opener She Was Yesterday, Eh

Opening day of trout season, 2009. She come and she went. With apologies to Mssrs. Gilbert &Sullivan, a day-after elegy follows:

I am the very model of the trouter piscatorial,

I’ve information entomological, hotel and jook-joint-oracle,

I know the greatest fishers, and can quote their catches historical

Munoscong to the Paw Paw, in order categorical;

I’m very well acquainted with matters tautological

I understand exertion, both mental and rhetorical

About hatches of hexagenia, some claim I’m a bloody genius

With what I know about the bugs around us.

I know our mythic history, from Piscator to Wulff,

And can answer ten-row Sodukus, more difficult than golf.

I quote with much distinction Hammurabi’s Code

And sometimes even throw in for free an elegiac ode.

I can tell undisputed stories of trout from old Peru

And of the times when my state’s grayling lived outside a zoo.

And I know all of the Yoopers’ lyrics both comedic and so serious,

Not to mention coordinates of the dog star some sliderules call Sirius.

I can tie a hulluva  knot with nothing more substantial

than an ectomorphic strand of 8 X human snot

and if you dare to doubt me I dub your doubts  hysterical

To learn the stuff I know, school will not provide

You have to learn it on your own

to cross the great divide and learn how to side

between those who know and those who don’t

and those who will and those who won’t.

In the shortest possible  summary

With intent to avoid complex flummery,

I am the very model of the trouter piscatorial

And keep the secrets of my fish forever conspiratorial.

On opening day this year I stood beside a creek my friends call Hell

In sixty miles-per-hour winds, and hail the size of dumbbells.

I used a fly made by Beelzebub and had a 200-fish day

A fact you may find hard to believe  but lack the stones to bray .

I find veracity and versimilitude annoyingly exacting

I prefer the nitty gritty of fiction which needs no rigorous facting.

To say the least to end this piece

I will openly admit to this:

The names of places where we fishes

Like our favorite dames and lucious dishes

Should  live only in our memories

And go down  ta Hell withess.

Tight lines. Over.

Chasing Lord Stanley’s Cup (Not The One Made by Bike)

Okay, it’s not exactly lyrical, but it will serve to convey the emotions involved in this time of year…

This time of year the dog and I sit and wait

For the game to start…

It’s always our Red Wings… versus fate.

It’s hard to explain to the uninitiated

How mere 50-win seasons leave us wholly unsated.

It’s nice to win the President’s Cup I guess

But you’re labeled less than manly

If you exit early in the hunt for Stanley.

In hockey, there’s a special thirst

Quenched solely by finishing first

Not in the regular, grinding season

But in the playoffs that extend till June,

Stretching credulity, ( not to mention reason).

Each night the Wings strap on their skates

The dog and I sit in the dark

Ready to rant, rave, and bark.

With every face-off won or lost, and those

Damn third periods, when we’re well ahead

And our bloody players start hanging back

Like their heads are filled with the densest lead

and their coach is on crack!

Sun Tsu will tell you in the most emphatic ways

hanging back won’t win the day.

In hockey, as in war, the winner needs to attack to score.

You start coasting when you’re ahead

Sooner or later your team is dead.

So, if I was “in the room,”

Before the final stanza’s played,

I’d have some pretty concrete things

I’d feel compelled to say:

“Five on O and five on D, if you ain’t got the biscuit and you’re running late,

pick ‘em up,  put ‘em down and, skate, skate, skate!

They knock you down or you run out of gas,

get back on your feet and move your ass.

Their guy comes near our goaler’s crease

Turn that asshole into human grease.

Hook em, slash em, elbow their faces, boys

Them composite sticks you brandish ain’t no toys,

So get your butts out there and take to them the onslaught

But for god’s sake try to be professionals and don’t get caught.

We got twenty minutes left boys, between us and eternity

You lose this game tonight, youse might

as well have a sex change and take up maternity.

And if we lose, you won’t be flying home on Red Bird One,

you’ll be out there on the freeway, waggling your thumb.”

Through to the second round and Go Wings. Yo, attencion, Monsieur Ledge Bairnaird, dose pouvre fellows Les Habitants over dere Mon’real got that  accursed  boo-hoo flu again?  Or maybe they just choke and not get so far, eh?  Mais, I am only making the asking, I  am in now way making dose judgments of value …n’est pas? Capisce?



First 80-degree days of the year are being projected for days ahead.

We just got the report on the website’s first year, which totals 842,097 hits, and 59,283 visitors. Thanks to all of you  who dropped in for a look-see and to those of you who sent email via the site. Most importantly,  thanks to Christopher and Charlie for the site and its support.  And to Troy for all his help. If you have suggestions for other things you’d like to see on the site, or ideas  for improving navigation in the site, please drop us a note. Also, do me a favor and tell others about the site and the books.

As information, quite a few new paintings have just been inserted into the site. Those paintings not listed as in someone’s collection are for sale, but interested parties will have to inquire about prices.

New poems are up as well.

For Berkut fans, the novel will be published in Croatian sometime in the next year . When that happens, the book will be in 14 languages: English (which includes Canadian, eh?) ; Croatian; French; Greek; Hungarian; Italian; Japanese; Lithuanian; Norwegian;Polish; Portuguese; Serbian; Spanish;  and Swedish.  Interestingly, the novel was never translated into German, or Austrian.

The Berkut was published by Random house in 1987, and continues to attract reader interest two decades later, a reality I always find amazing. The book is on film option to Travis Wright, the writer of Eagle Eye.

Oh yeah, Saturday is the trout opener and the temps are being projected for high 70s, up to 80. I’m not going. Such nice weather would just ruin me for the future when it’s snowing on the opener. (Such logic is a raised-Catholic thing, too difficult to explain.) A friend in Marquette reports they got 12 inches of new wet snow this week, and an associate in Ontonagon reports three feet of white stuff  still on the ground. Now those kinds of reports are what I equate to the trout opener. We’ll be finding blue ice in shadowy cedar roots into July.

Next week, thanks to Dave Richey, the outdoor writing great,  I’m meeting with retired COs for a lunch and gabfest in Traverse City. Later that day I’ll conduct  a workshop, make speech at the State of Michigan”s Loleta Fyan Rural Library Conference, and sign some books. The theme of the meeting is “Small Libraries, Big Service,” and if you live in a small town you know what this means. Many of the smaller libraries I’ve visited around the state are among the most dynamic and progressive I’ve encountered anywhere, and continue to serve a critical function in helping keep small rural communities connected.

Other events ahead are listed on the site, but include these: May 11, address to the Traverse City Kiwanis, May 14, address to Friends of the Kalkaska Public Library; and May 18,  Barnes and Noble in Saginaw.

When I was a kid, (I was one, you know…)  we sometimes lived with my paternal grandparents in Rhinecliff, New York (about 60 miles north of NYC, on the Hudson River — directly across the river from Kingston).  My dad, (aka,the old man)  would be off to a new assignment, getting things set up for us to move and we would move in with Ma and Pop until the route got cleared. During those times I used to ride my bike or walk down to the Morton Public Library (across the square from Marian Conklin’s Sugar Bowl) to attend weekly sessions of Boys Club — which consisted largely of making useless gewgaws with jigsaws and band saws and other sundry tools. Not my thing.

I would invariably last about 30 minutes, then drift upstairs to the Morton library, which was located on the stage in a theater. The librarian graciously told me to look at anything I wanted, and I availed myself of that almost every week. I wish I knew her name so I could properly thank her. I am forever thankful, and I still don’t fool with jigsaws and other potentially maiming and crippling devices. But rural libraries have played an important role in my life, as they do in the lives of millions of other Americans. Next time you’re in your local library, in whatever setting, make sure you thank the librarians for all they do for all of us.

I also just ran across a website publishing writers’ six-word memoirs. I’m gonna work on mine and will share it when it’s done. Six words to sum up a life? That’s more than most folks get!

Enough drivel.  I must away!


Recalling Nudiustertian

That HAD to hurt...
That HAD to hurt...
"Say wha'?"
"Say wha'?"

The big word in the title is an antiquated one for “the day before yesterday.”

Ah, Shakespeare, our aulde Will. From The Two Gentlemen of Verona he writes, “to relish a love-song like a robin redbreast…” and nudiustertian it was rescue and relish.  As Shanny and I stepped on the deck there was a robin standing closeby, obviously stunned. I assumeit  he had struck the sliding glass door. I shooed the dog into the yard, got a towel and wrapped the befuddled robin.  Michelle next door babysits a little girl, who got to “touch the real-live robin” before I let it go. And I was hoping  he just gotten his bell rung, but it’s hard to diagnose bird ailments when you know nothing. And, of course, I released him before taking pix, or I would have shot one of him standing in my hand. That too would have made a nice photo, but when you’re a rank amateur like me, you never remember the camera until the opportunity is almost gone or is entirely gone. The French have a word for this, espirit d’escalier (wit of the staircase) meaning you think of the perfect retort or comeback a bit too late. Same deal with cameras and me. Still these are some  nice close shots of the visitor. I never knew robins had white eyebrows!

The day before the robin episode on one of our daily walks Mr. Shanahan disappeared into the woods and emerged carrying a freshly offed black squirrel, which he insisted on carrying all the way home, and depositing on the front porch. Neighborhood kids got a kick out of it and soon  Shanahan’s squirrel-grabbing prowess was making the rounds in the middle school. Hey you gotta take your fifteen minutes of fame where it falls.

Never a dull day, just a lot of dull moments, interspersed with some interesting ones.


The Brow!
The Brow!

Taxes, The Bird, and One Million Words

If you’re over the age of 50, you’ve all heard the song, Surfin’ Bird, which goes, “A-well now, everybody’s heard… about the bird.” It’s vat da Shurmans cull ohrworm, meaning earworm, a song that sticks in our minds and is repeatedly and compulsively repeated. BirdBirdBird….and it’s  one of those songs that’s always stuck in my soul, largely because of  rookie Detroit Tiger’s pitcher, Mark “The Bird” Fidrych, who passed away in an accident at his farm in Massachusetts the day before yesterday. He was 54 when he bought it.  Back in 1976 the United States was celebrating its bicentennial and my dad passed away [He was only 56], and that entire summer Mark Fidrych lifted Tiger fans and all of baseball by doing the unheard of —  playing the game with skill and enthusiasm — like a kid. he was pumped on joy, not steriods, and went 19-9 with a 2.34 ERA, and was American League Rookie of the Year. Injuries cut short his career short and he would end up playing only 58 games in the Show, but what a presence he was, talking to the ball, grooming the pitcher’s mound, pumping infielders’ hands after they made a good play. None of it was fake. He was like pressure bursting from a newly opened champagne bottle. News of his death saddened me.

Unt today I vill remind all us citizen slaves,  zat zis ist federal and state tax day.  Just sendt your soul and all your money unt treasure  to za company store — called za IRS.

On or about April 29, two weeks from now, the English language will contain an estimated 1,000,000 words. Having read this ditty  pulled me up short and I started looking for more information. Most of what follows is from various sources, mostly on the net, so take it for what its worth, which isn’t much. Even so, such things are entertaining to think about.

Scholars tell us The first known sentence in English dates to 450-480 CE (the old AD, right?) and was found on a gold medallion in England. The inscription reads: “This she-wolf is reward to my kinsman.” There is no indication if the alleged she wolf was human or canid and thus this oldest known English writing sample may in fact be of a literary bent with a very hot woman compared to a female wolf. Hey, I think I once dated one of her descendants: she certainly used to howl in the night. ISYN.

English, experts tell us is Proto-Indo-European and dates to 4,000 BCE (the old BC, right?). But there are no written English records before the 5th century.

I took Chaucer in Middle English at Michigan State. [Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote / The droghte of March hath perced to the roote…]The professor was a total fool and a (yawn) bore, so I stopped going to regular class, but one of the class requirements was a language lab where we had to practice speaking Middle English out loud. My grade going into the final was an E (the old F?), but my spoken performance got the highest mark in the class and I came out with a glorious D (the new C?). I used to practice Middle English while drinking beer.  Hey, a C was good enough for me, capisce? I didn’t go to college to score perfect grades or have a perfect attendance record. I went to live and learn, and open my mind. And I did three. I’m still like that.

Last week I read that at some point the largest English-speaking population on earth will be not in the U.S., but in China. Huh. Stats tells us that 25 percent of the world’s people already speak English. We know of course that English is the most dynamic of all languages, constantly expanding and growing, which is a good thing for writers and poets and not so good for students trying to learn the rules. English-speaking people who lived in 1300 CE would not be able to understand English speakers of 500 CE, nor English speakers of now, which is to say us. Huh! Yet scholars also tell us that  of the 10,000 words of English used in Chaucer’s day, 75 percent are still in use. Chaucer died in 1400 at about the age of Mark Fidrych, and my dad. Don’t know why I’m thinking such gloomy thoughts today, but there they are. [Perhaps federal tax filing day makes me think of death? Hey sun, get your butt out here where we can see you.]

The average educated English speaker (neither average, nor educated are defined) allegedly knows 20,000 words but uses about 2,000 a week. Had a thought: If we could only use a word but once in a lifetime, we’d have to be really selective and this would no doubt erase talk radio, which would be a very good thing. And screaming heads on Fox TV, Right?

Send your blood to the feds and think this all day long, “A-well-a bird, bird, bird, bird, the bird is the word, A-well don’t you know about the bird? Well, everybody knows the bird is the word!” (Repeat until certifiably insane and if you need a change, there’s always Bob Marley’s , “Whachu gonna do when they come for you, bad boys.”

Yo, pick your own earworm, but not your nose.

The dog and I are out of here.  Take no prisoners. Did I ever mention the red, white, and blue buttons I saw during Vietnam that proclaimed, “Kill a Commie for Christ?” Over.

Open Eyes in April

The Nishnaabe called April Pain-In-The Butt  Moon. In our part of the world it’s  totally unpredictable, sometimes proverbial showers, but more often the nagging dregs of half-hearted winter. Mays can be rainy like Aprils are supposed to be, or warm like Junes usually are. Global warming? Who knows? All that’s for sure is that one of these three months will be cold, rainy and ugly, which is our final payment on summer. With the trout opener only ten wake-ups hence I find myself writing poems, but the reality is I rarely bother with opening day because the weather is almost always el crapolino, and the water so cold I doubt the fish can focus on food. A garden hackle friend of mine uses spikes (larval maggots) on the opener. He keeps them in his fridge from February just for the first day of trout season. Never tried this but once stopped and asked at a bait shop, which was out of product. Just finished re-reading What the River Knows by Wayne Fields. It focuses on a summer on Cook’s Run in Iron County and it’s worth your time. Stones in the rock garden continue to multiply and there are two new deer skulls in bleach and water in the basement, giving the trip into the underground a slightly pungent aroma. Skulls are great subjects to draw.

The rest of the photos today are bits and pieces of April put forth in no special order, but in a smaller size to see how that works in the blog format.

"You're calling ME dirty?"
"You're calling ME dirty?"
Midnight,this... morning this...welcome to spring morning this...welcome to spring
skull on a branch
skull on a branch
Bernard Museum, Delton, MI
Bernard Museum, Delton, MI
Winter takes the juice from everything
Winter takes the juice from everything
Hairy vines
Hairy vines
Origami tree
Origami tree
Wooly worms are a fall phenom, right?
Wooly worms are a fall phenom, right?
After snow followeth yellow...
After snow followeth the yellow...

Spring Break & Dreaming of Fish

Dodecagon, west of Nashville
Dodecagonal barn, west of Nashville

Last week: Twice to the Lightning Stone Secret Spot, once to Rocky Gap County Park in Benton Harbor, two walks in Anderson Arboretum off M-43 in Kalamazoo, a jaunt in The Chipman Preserve southwest of Comstock, and a visit to the Gertrude McPharlin Baier Natural Sanctuary between Hastings and Nashville. We in Michigan are lucky to have so many places of natural beauty available to us. We ought to declare ourselves a toll state and charge $5 for every car coming across our border from Ohio, Indiana, Illinios or Wisconsin, and $10 for Ontario crossers.

Even visited a 12-sided barn in Barry County.  Twelve sides, twelve angles equals a dodecagon, eh?

Fish pix here for doers and dreamers.


Campbell Creek steelhead, Easter Sunday morning.
A colorado rainbow caught last week by my friend the Italian volcaness
A fine and gaudy Colorado rainbow caught last week by my friend, the Italian volcaness.

Lightning Stones and Stuff

Quick run to  Lake Michigan today to the lightning stone mother-lode.  A tad cold and windy, but the dog had a ball. The session at Schuler Books  in Okemos was fun last night. I’ve uploaded my presentation as a page entitled. Writer On Patrol. Good luck finding it. I can’t seem to move stuff into categories, but it’s there under that title. I think.


Okemos Tonight

Named for an Indian leader who camped his people nearby. The high school’s sports teams were (maybe still are)  called impolitically the Chiefs. [Just like Slap Shot, with similar colors!] Could be a Pot-name, or  Anishnaabe. I’ll be at Schuler’s Books tonight, 7:30 PM to talk not about Death Roe, but what it’s like to be a writer who works closely with DNR officers. This visit was originally scheduled for April 18, but got snowed out. I’ll post the presentation as a new page when I get back.

Presentation from Schuler Books:

Shanahan, the master hunter is coming along to provide in vehicle security. (Okay, it breaks his big heart to be left at home.)

My Portage Northern High School  Husky girls used to play Okemos  in a home-and-home soccer series ever spring,  and I remember a particular game when we had heavy rain and standing pools of water in front of our goal. No longer remember the score. Think we won, but what I remember is one of my captains coming up to me at game’s end and nodding at the muddy water and raising a questioning eyebrow.  This girl’s mom was pure Yooper [Lake Linden], her dad an MTU guy. While she was playing on one of my youth teams years before,  I had a player collapse, one of my toughest kids, a boy  who NEVER went down. I rushed onto the field to check on him, which in the namby-pamby world of soccer is verbotten without the referee’s invitation to enter the pitch. The referee, a Brazilian, ran over to me and began shouting for me to leave the field and tooting his whistle: Meanwhile, my player, destined to be my high school captain, was on the sideline screaming, “Punch his lights out, Coach! Punch his lights out! All these years later standing in the rain, I looked at her, nodded, and said, “Have at it, Ladies.”

The Okemos coach graciously opened the school so the girls could shower after the mud-bath. He and I just stood there and watched our  40 high school girls sliding and squealing  all over the muddy field like airplanes without landing gear.  Coaching girls soccer was fun and I was blessed with some great kids and players. Memories of that rainy day always give me a sense of warmth when I return to Okemos.

This also will be the first time back in Lansing with my Mom not there. She used to live just off Abbott Road in East Lansing, but two weeks after she died last May, her apartment building burned down.

The longer you live, the more experiences you have, many of them wonderful and buried until certain moments, when they pop up as little surprises to make you smile, or shake your head.