Tuesday, April 25, 2006



Headwaters of Grand, just below Grand Lake in Jackson Co, MI

I have a new blog that chronicals our quest to paddle the entire Grand river this summer. Just finished my first post. View the new blog HERE

Friday, April 21, 2006




Another reason it is better to be a guy: Fatherhood. Let's face it. When your children grow up to be neurotic puddles of goo, who they gonna blame. Not you. Not dear old Dad who taught them how to fish and catch a football and bowl the ball down the middle of the lane. Who taught them the "pull my finger trick", and how to belch for maximum affect! Who let them sneak sips of beer when mom wasn't looking. Nope, when your kids grow up to be the bundles of neurosis they are destined to become, you can be assured one person will surely get the blame. MOTHER!

I have often wondered about this phenomenon. Let's face it ladies. From the second you grab your significant others bottom lip, and push that little bundle of joy into the hands of a doctor looking remarkably like Pudge Rodriguez positioned to dig a split fingered fastball outta the dirt, you begin the job of screwing up your kid's life. It'll take a couple of decades, but by the time your kids are out of college, they'll be every bit as neurotic and overwhelmed with guilt as you!

I have a couple of theories as to why this is:

Theory #1:
Women don't see the big pic. That's because they are too busy sweating the small stuff. There isn't any incident so small or insignificant that a woman can't (or won"t ) turn it into a crisis. Women hop from crisis to crisis like they are stepping stones across the river of life. And since no good mother would think of leaving their child alone on shore, they drag the kids from stepping stone to stepping stone along with them. Of course, eventually one of the little nose miners slips and fall in, and mother gets blamed for the trauma and humiliation of it all. Repeat this scenario a few dozen times, and your kids are ready to take their places in life as the neurotic piles of goo they were intended to be!

Theory #2: Women just don't know how to have fun! Of course, this isn't exactly true. Guys, you have probably all dated women who were tremendous fun. Women who were outgoing and funny. Who could match you drink for drink, dart for dart, shot for shot. Women who made no attempt to hide the fact they enjoyed sex, especially in dangerous places. Only one problem. No way in hell you could take a girl like that home to meet mom. So instead, you bring home someone prim and proper, with more hang ups than an elementary school cloak room. Someone just like mommy dearest! Of course, the sex is a bit mechanical, and disappears all together after the second or third kid. But you can console yourself with the fact that your sacrifice means your kids will grow up to be just as neurotic and pathetic as you! And when the day comes you suddenly remember all the fun girls, don't bother trying to look them up. They long ago discovered the other fun girls, and have no intention of ever hanging out with losers like you again!

At this point, you must be wondering what in the world inspired this rant. Well, here's the story.....

I stopped by the local coffee house this afternoon. The place makes wonderful cappuccinos and lattes, and the Columbia Supremo and Kenya AA coffees are as good as it gets. However, the decor leaves something to be desired. Best described as early teacher's lounge. Ever go in the teachers lounge when you were a kid? Every one was exactly the same. Furnished with heavy wooden tables and chairs like those in the library, only with a much darker finish. This was due to the ever present cloud of cigarette smoke that hung in the air. Smoke so thick, you could still see it when you returned from summer vacation. These tables had a unique, sweet smell to them, a combination of fifty years of cigarettes, spilled coffee, and overzealously applied Love's Baby Soft cologne, Old Spice, and Brut aftershave.

After I came back from my little trip down memory lane, I decided I needed something to read. The only reading material within reach turned out to be the local gay, lesbian , bisexual newspaper. In the hard news section, a headline caught my eye. GENE INHERITED FROM MOTHER STRONG INDICATOR OF SEXUAL PREFERENCE IN MEN. Think about it. Have you ever known a gay man who hasn't ended at least one argument by shouting through clenched teeth; "YOU'RE..... THE... REASON... I'M ... THE ... WAY... I... AM....., "MUH... THER! Well, now they have proof! Sigmund was right! "Ze muzzah, it's always ze muzzah!"

The STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS start tonight. The lovely Karen has been kind enough to offer to ease my poverty by the amount of two loonies when my Red Wings crush her Oilers!

I think the clear favorite in the east has to be New Jersey. Martin Brodeur is red hot, and the Devils are playing great D. My sleeper team comes out of the west. Look out for Nashville. This is a team with a lot of excellent two way players, and well above average speed. And they are riding the hottest goaltender in the league in Chris Mason. Nobody should touch Detroit in the West, but if somebody is going to, look for it to be the Preds.

My Predictions:

round 1
Ottawa over Tampa
Carolina over Montreal
New Jersey over NY Rangers
Philly over Buffalo

round 2
Philly over Ottawa
New Jersey over Carolina

round 3
New Jersey over Philly in 6

round 1
Detroit over Edmonton
Dallas over Colorado
Calgary over Anaheim
Nashville over San Jose

round 2
Detroit over Nashville
Calgary over Dallas

round 3
Detroit over Calgary in 6

Detroit over New Jersey in 6

Monday, April 17, 2006




Ever dream about your own death? I did last week. Let me tell you, it is horribly unnerving. And the dream was so weird...

I dreamt I was lying in my casket at the cemetery, watching my own funeral procession. At first, I was my current age. I saw my kids, and my canoeing buddies drive by. Then suddenly, I was a small child. My grandparents and parents drove up in a car. My Grandpa Clarke was driving and the window was down. I jumped out of my casket, ran up to the car and gave him a big hug and told him I loved him. Then the dream got really strange.

Suddenly, I was cleaning up the burial vault with my mom. Some of my old clothes from college were laying around. My favorite hat was there, but it was moth eaten. But my American flag overalls were there and appeared to be servicable. My mom suggested they might help keep me warm. She than got very indignant and said she was going to "talk to these people", because if they were gonna make people stay overnight there, they ought to at least allow you to build a fire to keep warm. Apparently, I wasn't supposed to die till Saturday or Sunday, but because the cemetery was closed on weekends, I had to stay there until I actually croaked.

The whole dream has really spooked me. I have known several people who dreamed about their own death, and died shortly thereafter. So needless to say, I am a little phobic right now.


The lovely Nic has tagged me with very simple meme. Your 10 favorite simple pleasures:

1. The Granddaughters. A constant source of delight!
2. Watching Red Wings hockey on the big screen with my kids. It's almost Stanley Cup time!
3. My canoe, a meandering stream, a marsh. Nothing more awesome than scaring up a crane, egret or heron just after sunrise!
4. Breaking open the ice cold Old Milwaukee's on a hot day in the middle of a stream, and just letting the canoes drift while you swap stories and savor cold beer. Yes OM is the official beer of the Michiana Canoeguysandgals.
5. Hearty food... Jambalaya. Brats on the grill. A pork shoulder or brisket barbecued.
6. Great music. Current constant listens... new albums by Pink, Willie Nelson, Little Willies, Ray Davies (former Kinks frontman), KT Tunstall. I don't ever remember a month where so many really great albums have been released so close together. I can't say enough about these albums, especially the one by Pink, and the one by Willie.
7. Live Celtic music and a cold Murphy's Red
8. A hot summers day and a Lake Michigan beach
9. A warm summers evening, a cold Molsons, and a Lake Michigan sunset.
10. A stary night, a campfire, egg coffee, pudgie pies, and s'mores.
11. Saturday morning breakfast at Micky D's with Ron and Bob

Tagged, any and all of you, my dear friends.

Rummy has obviously lost the faith of the military side of the Pentagon. He needs to go. We will never come up with a viable strategy to stabilize the situation in Iraq as long as the Rummy is running things. Problem is, he and Bush are so tied at the waste, Bush can't fire him without admitting his own failure. So we will just sit here and watch things deteriorate. Its only Dyngus Day, and April has already been the deadliest month this year for US troops.

Daniel Schorr had a great commentary on what happens when ideologues are allowed to run wars. Listen HERE.

Saturday, April 15, 2006



Tomorrow may be a big holiday in most places, but around here, the really big holiday is Monday. With apologies to Buffalo, South Bend celebrates Dyngus Day like no other city in North America! Dyngus Day commemorates the birth of Christianity in Poland (966 A.D.) in which Holy Baptism was administered to Prince Mieszko on Easter Monday, uniting all of Poland under the banner of Christianity. Here in South Bend, it is an all day orgy of beer, sausage, cabbage, boiled eggs, and especially, politics.

For seventy five years, it has been tradition here that politicians, from national to local, come visit the local taverns, ethnic and political clubs, and church halls to rub elbows and tip glasses with the masses. Political posters will festoon all of these establishments. Virtually every local politician, along with the governor, both Senators, a congressman or two, and a few people with national ambitions, will be trying to prove they're just regular folks. They'll be photographed eating sausages and cabbage, peeling eggs, an tipping beers with local factory workers. Dyngus day has become probably the single most important event in Indiana politics. It is where unknowns attempt to become known, and the veteran politician begins the chore of shoring up his base.

The amount of food and beer consumed on Monday will be staggering. Several tons of sausage will be boiled, as will truckloads of eggs. Every tavern, ethnic club, and Catholic church hall will pleasantly reek of the smell of cooking cabbage, boiling eggs, and sausage. By itself, the West Side Democratic Club will cook 1500 lbs of sausage. As will the PNA (Polish National Association). There will be big celebrations at MR Falcons, ZB Falcons,the Elks, the BK Club (Belgian). Politicians will frantically try to drive from church to ethnic club to political club and make the vain attempt to appear hungry, thirsty. and interested in the views of the masses.

Of course, South Bends finest will have their hand full. There will probably be more DUI's issued Monday than any other day of the year. And Tuesday, there will be gossip all over town about who got in heated arguments with whom, which pols can't hold their beer, and who was seen sneaking away from festivities with who.

Geezus, I CAN'T WAIT!
MoveOn.org is sponsoring a political ad focusing on our local congressman, Chris Chocola. He was caught "red handed" taking $80,000 from oil companies, then voting against bills that would prohibit those same companies from price gouging. The ads are very good and surprisingly effective. I know one woman who has been inspired to have red hand car magnets made. So soon, we'll be seeing red hands on cars instead of yellow or red, white and blue ribbons. Again, can't wait. You can view the ad here
We did another stretch of the Grand yesterday, and really bit off more than we could chew. Another long, incredibly meandering stretch of river. We covered about 11 miles as the crow flies, and probably paddled thirty, including crossing three lakes in a 25 mph head wind. With a couple of hours light left, a good three hours paddling to our takeout site, and one paddler in severe pain, we aborted our trip early and made John hitch a ride to get one of the vehicles. We made a rule, against the Curmudgeon's objections, that we will no longer canoe any unfamiliar stretch of river without dropping a bike or two at intermediate take outs along the way.

In a week or so, I will be starting a RIVERQUEST journal, where I can post a more detailed description of each trip, and photos.

Sunday, April 09, 2006



I must apologize to all of you who have visited in the past week. I realize I have somewhat neglected you. It was not intentional. It has just been an incredibly busy week!

Last Saturday was the annual river cleanup in South Bend, sponsored by the FRIENDS OF THE ST. JOSEPH RIVER. About 90 people showed up on a cold, drizzly day. Fueled by fresh baked warm scones and gallons of hot coffee provided by the local Celtic pub, these diligent workers managed to clean about three tons of trash from a three mile stretch of river from downtown South Bend to Darden Rd. on the far north end. A heartfelt thanks to all who shivered and worked so very hard! And a very special tip of the hat to Carol and Terry Meehan of FIDDLER'S HEARTH , who not only provided the fresh baked scones and coffee, but warmed us homemade soup, chili, and soda bread. And of course, plenty of Murphy's Red to wash it down with.

The rest of the week was spent preparing for what I am affectionately calling RIVERQUEST 2006! I built a new canoe seat, complete with backrest and footrest, for the upcoming adventure. The seat is hinged at the back for going under low lying objects, a feature which tuned out to be invaluable. Along with buddies Bob Owens and John Treacy, I made a brief test voyage up the St. Joe on Friday. We left from Leeper Park in South Bend and were almost immediately greeted by a somewhat perturbed Beaver. We encountered a couple of pair of Grebes heading north from their winters hiatus, along with a number of Wood Ducks, Mallards, Great Blue Herons, and Geese. The seat performed well, and was stowed, along with the canoes and gear, in preparation for Saturdays trip to the headwaters of the Grand.

The Grand River is the longest river in Michigan. From it's headwaters In Hillsdale county in southeast Michigan, to Lake Michigan, it flows 260 miles and drains over 5,500 square miles. It flows through 7 counties before reaching the lake. Our quest; to have covered all 260 miles by the end of the summer.

At 5:35 am Saturday morning, Bob's trusty old van rumbled up, and we departed for Homer MI, picking up John along the way. We met our friend Carol Wyble from Battle Creek at a little diner there, and after stuffing ourselves at the breakfast buffet, set off to drop the pick up vehicle at the take out site. Mission accomplished, but not before yours truly managed to get his fingers smashed in the van door. Fortunately, with the help of 800 mg of Ibuprofen, the fingertips went numb, so it didn't interfere with paddling. We put in at the headwaters about 11 am, with the air temp about 34 degrees. and a stiff 20 mph breeze. But it was bright and sunny, and by about 2, the temp was approaching 50.

The upper Grand meanders more than any stream I have ever been on. It passes through several very large marshes, where it is not uncommon to be paddling one direction, and have one of your canoeing partners pass you ten yards away going the other direction! I figure we probably paddled well over twenty miles to make six as the crow flies. These marshes are full of wild life, especially birds. We saw tons of songbirds, scared up a small flock of Sandhill Cranes (who make the oddest sound I have ever heard from a bird ), an Egret , Herons, numerous Red Tailed Hawks, and lot's of common water fowl.

Most of the objects in the way of our progress were man made. We had a few tree falls to pull over, and a dam to portage, but the biggest obstacle was the numerous homemade foot bridges that traversed the modest 6-10 ft span that is the headwaters. Most of these were high enough that you could lay down on the floor of the canoe and pass under (which is where the hinged seatback came in handy), but many you had to drag your canoe over. You can tell this stretch doesn't see a lot of canoes by the startled look on peoples faces as you paddled through their back yards, and all the excited greetings. Everyone wanted to know where you came from, how you got there, and where you were going. It was a lot of fun to talk and wave to folks as you passed by.

We didn't get off the water until about 7. By the time we got the canoes loaded, the gear stashed and our clothes changed, it was almost 9 pm before we arrived at a little bar in Union City MI for dinner. The special of the night was any piece of broasted chicken for 50 cents. I ended up getting 4 thighs and an order of fries. The thighs and the order of hand cut fries turned out to be huge. All four of us got four pieces of chicken, and fries. We had two pitchers of beer, and the entire bill was under 20 bucks!

We arrived home about 12:30, very weary and very full. I poured as hot a bath as I could stand, and proceeded to fall asleep. I woke about 3, finished bathing, and finally got to bed about 3:20. It was a very long, very enjoyable day.

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