Life Replays: Those Sailing Scenes on the Great Lakes

Ain’t talkin’ ’bout love
My love is rotten to the core
Ain’t talkin’ ’bout love
Just like I told you before, yeah before

Alex Van Halen, Edward Van Halen, Michael Anthony, David Lee Roth

Some songs trigger replays or even fantasies. Van Halen‘s Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love is one that places me on any number of Michigan’s infamous beaches; playing in the sand and surf while drinking Bell’s Oberon on a hot, sunny, beautiful, summer day.

With the approach of summer and vacation from school I thought it appropriate to announce a temporary departure from my College Life Replay Mini-Series. Instead, I will share glimpses at summertime childhood memories.

My Dad is a Sailor

Sailing the Georgian Bay at 10 months. kateschannel

Before marriage and children, my dad purchased Veliero, a 32-foot Galaxy. He raced and cruised Veliero from Bayview Yacht Club until 2009 when he sold it at age 80. His love for spending breezy, sunny afternoons sailing the waters of the Great Lakes took hold of me before I learned to walk and talk. I was only 10 months old when he secured me to stern in my baby walker for a sailing trip to the Georgian Bay.

As my sister and I matured, my dad took us on countless day trips as well as some lengthy cruises to escape the summer heat and humidity. He only expected minimal help from us. So, we learned the benefits of being pampered passengers rather than expert crew. Our job was to feel the splash from the waves while riding on the bow, take a snooze while sunbathing, read a book, eat all the snacks, or to entertain guests who had been invited to join us. When I look back through my collection of childhood memories, those sailing scenes on the Great Lakes rank at the top. Here are some of my faves.

Getting hosed in the buff in Grand Traverse Bay. My mom, dad, sister and I were into week one of a three-week cruise of Lake Huron and upper Lake Michigan during the summer of 1978. On this given day we had just dropped anchor off the Grand Traverse shoreline near Charlevoix and we were going to have some play time on the beach. I was eight, my sister was five. While getting our dingy ready to row ashore, my dad says mom is preparing a big surprise for us. My sister and I exchange glances; and then start trying to guess the surprise. Screw going to the beach. We want the big surprise. That’s all we can think about.

We should have known better. First, our Dad likes the beach. But, not when it’s crowded with other children. He prefers quiet walks on the beach at sunrise or sunset while looking for Petosky stones. Second, my dad’s preferences for spending quality time with his daughters included teaching us how to row the dingy around a peaceful inlet or looking for fudge shops while we were in port.

After spending a half-hour at the beach with us, my dad gives into our eagerness and rows us both back to the boat. There my mom ambushes us on the stern. She orders us to strip. Then, douses us with a few buckets  of ice-cold lake water and soap while my dad uses a couple towels to give us cover from eyes of fellow boaters.

David Lee Roth centerfold in Tiger Beat magazine. My sister and I were settling in for the night. It had been another fun-filled day on our three-week cruise during the summer of 1978. She was thumbing through her Tiger Beat magazine — our intro to tabloid celebrities — checking out John Schneider (Bo Duke), Scott Baio, Ralph Macchio, Ricky Shroder and some of the guys from Menudo. Whatever I was reading seemed to dull as I watched her flip the pages. Finally, she let me have a turn. There, in the centerfold  was David Lee Roth; all blond and hairy in a hot pink, rainbow-striped body suit. Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love.

Using the head during a severe thunderstorm on Lake Huron. Going to bathroom while battling rough waters requires above-average balance. On this particular day, our time at sea started calmly but with overcast skies. No big deal. But, soon enough, we were in the midst of a heavy downpour along with thunder, lightening and strong winds. No port was in sight. My mom had just cautioned us not to touch any metal when duty called. The mast went right through the head. Usually, this provided extra balance support. But, grabbing onto to it would have been like a death sentence. Somehow, I managed. It’s interesting. When you’re 8, 9 or 10 there is little fear about anything. I knew all would be okay. Dad was at the helm; and he was a very competent sailor.

Drip castle mania in Lexington. When in port, my sister and I spent many afternoons on the beaches building drip castles. To make these one must have the utmost patience, some sense of design, imagination, focus, and the ability defend against creetons seeking to destroy.

One overcast afternoon we found ourselves in Lexington, which is north of Port Huron. We ended up at the beach and began creating. Three boys entered our domain. Their interest appeared to be friendly and non-threatening. We splashed in the lake with them for some time; and then showed them how to create drip castles. What transpired was a masterpiece. Too bad I don’t have pictures.

Then, in minutes, the three turned into monsters. They and some other beach creatures combined forces of evil, picked up their big hairy feet, and ran full-force into our beautiful, carefully-constructed drip city. Our great hall of justice, imperial palace and spa were smashed to oblivion. Drip city streets lay in ruin. Needless to say. My sister and I were pissed. After some choice words and gestures, we told these fools to scram or else. They scrammed.

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College Life Replays: Print Journalism Lesson #1 — Go For It!

The 1989-1990 Western Herald editorial team. All are/were creative forces. Sports Editor, Jim Jensen, is deceased, but is a key reason why I love football so much. Comic Credit: John Fountain, Fountain’s Pen, the last strip for the 1989-1990 editorial year.

If you hear the song I sing,
You must understand
You hold the key to love and fear
All in your trembling hand
Just one key unlocks them both
It’s there at your command

C’mon people now,
Smile on your brother
Ev’rybody get together
Try and love one another right now
Right now
Right now!

—  Written by Chet Powers

Go For It vs. Play It Safe

Faunce Student Services Center (the Bird Cage) on WMU’s Campus. Photo Credit: wmich.edu

I was about four weeks into my freshman year as a print journalism student at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Mich., when I saw the ad in the student newspaper, Western Herald. It invited aspiring journalists to an orientation meeting at the Herald offices located in the basement of the Faunce Student Services Center — called the Bird Cage by faculty and students — on the western edge of WMU’s main campus.

Originally, I planned to stay away from any extra-curricular activities until sophomore year. In response to seeing this ad, the rational, play-it-safe side of my brain said, “Don’t go. Get a grip! Focus on studying and adjust to “college” life.”

My intuition said, “Go for it! Why wait?”

Herald Office/Bird Cage location in proximity to other buildings on campus. Many of these did not exist during my years there (1989-1994). Photo Credit: wmich.edu

So, at the date and time stated in the ad, my intuition and I walked into the Herald offices. We listened with great interest to the editorial team talk about the various sections of the paper. All needed for more writers. Prior journalism experience wasn’t necessary. Bonus!

I knew taking the opportunity to write for the Herald was as vital to my professional success as acing all of my classes. There isn’t coursework out there that surpasses the experience one gains from practicing what will be expected in the newsrooms around the globe. Student newspapers at both Central Michigan University and Michigan State University wouldn’t have even glanced at freshmen-level, inexperienced writers.

As I left the Herald offices that afternoon, I heard the The Youngblood’s rendition of Chet Power’s Get TogetherI would later associate this song along with Elton John’s Rocket Man and Depeche Mode’s Personal Jesus with time spent in the Herald offices during fall and winter semesters. There I conducted interviews, wrote and edited copy and learned the inner-workings and politics of a newsroom.

During the long trek back to Ackley-Shilling, I felt pride swelling in my chest. For once I had taken a risk. I listened to my gut; and went with it. My first story assignment for the Herald was stowed in my backpack. I had decided to begin my Herald experience with the arts and entertainment section. Later that evening — using the press release and accompanying information — I wrote a draft to use while typing the story into the computer when it was due back in a couple days.

Goldsworth Valley 1: Ackley-Shilling. Photo Credit: wmich.edu

As promised, I returned to the Herald offices with my what I thought was a completed story. I typed it into one of the MacIntosh computers reserved for the paper’s writers in the Herald’s copy room. Upon keying it in, I let the A&E editor know I was finished. Within seconds, he told me it was a great re-write of the press release, but not what the Herald needed as a finished piece.

The story needed more details as well as quotes from the sources listed on the press release. They were closely connected with the piece I was writing and would give depth to the story. As I listened to the fair, but telling critique, obtaining the said quotes and details meant picking up the telephone, punching the phone numbers in, and talking to people.

One of the MacIntosh dinosaurs in the Herald copy room in the early ’90s. Photo Credit: One of my fellow Herald alums.

Those who know me today, might be trying to stifle a giggle at this admitted bought of shyness. But, it’s true. Up until that day, I hated calling people on the phone — I was not well acquainted with — to ask questions. This particular situation was pushing me to ask experienced media and public relations professionals relevant, intelligent, and quote-producing questions. Gulp!

Well, I couldn’t just sit there looking at the phone. I needed more details and some good quotes. The A&E editor was counting on me; I couldn’t let him down. Plus, I wanted more writing assignments. After three successes, I would receive payment (beer money) for each story the Herald printed.

“Go for it,” I said to myself. “Think about attending Bud Light keg parties instead of the ones offering Natural Light.”

So, I made my list of questions and called my first source. After that, each time I needed to make over-the-phone or in-person interviews, the whole Q&A bit became easier. In fact, my ability to swallow my fear and forget my anxiety that day prepared me for what I would do later in my career as a writer. I had deadlines to meet, this is what was required, and I would do my best.

To me, the success stories in the creative world are all about going for it; and taking risk. Those creative forces — writers, filmmakers, actors, photographers, artists, designers, stylists, painters, chefs, etc. — who inspire me all push the envelop to evolve, develop their talent, and achieve their goals.

Some of those creative forces worked right along side of me in the Herald offices in the Bird Cage. But, you’ll have to wait until next week to obtain a glimpse of who they are.

College Life Replays: The Drop-Off and Wrong Way Home

Remember when the days were long
And rolled beneath a deep blue sky
Didn’t have a care in the world
With mommy and daddy standing by
When “happily ever after” fails
And we’ve been poisoned by these fairy tales…

Bruce Hornsby  and Don Henley

It must be the time of year. Proms, graduations and summer vacation are a mere seven weeks away. That’s 42 days, folks. All this looking forward sentiment actually has me looking backwards.

Western Michigan University

Western Michigan University (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Nostalgia hit me back in March. A favorite vintner and business owner, Gerard Giacona (Filipo Marc Winery), chatted with me about his son’s anticipated graduation from Eisenhower High School; and his son’s plans to study journalism at my alma mater, Western Michigan University.

Then, last week a number of my fellow and extremely distinguished j-school peers began swapping memories on Facebook. The stories being shared about the years we spent as writers, editors, business managers and advertisers for the Western Herald, the student newspaper, took me back to September 1989, which was the start of my freshman year.

The Drop-Off

My parents had just dropped me off and helped me move into my 12- by-12, dorm room. For the next seven months I would be living at Ackley-Shilling, a residence hall in the Goldsworth Valley 1 segment of WMU’s campus. There was no telling what stories would unravel in the seven months that followed.

Illustration Credit: Western Michigan University, http://www.wmich.edu

Kalamazoo — my adopted city — offered a diverse mix of neighborhoods to explore; Ackley-Shilling sounded more like a foot disease than home, and no parental supervision meant freedom.

Wrong Way Home

After three weeks of learning the WMU/Kalamazoo party scene, my roommates and I earned a coveted invitation — from the hot guys on Ackley’s sixth floor — to a mega keg party. Some wannabe-Greeks hosted these lovely brew fests at their fake frat house on Lovell Street near Waldo’s Campus Tavern and Kalamazoo College.

At midnight a roommate, a couple sixth-floor friends and I cut ourselves off from the Milwaukee’s Beast (sorry Best) keg. The four of us exited the party and started to walk back to Ackley, which was to the west. Unfortunately, a collective decision was made to go east.

Photo credit: Google Maps

This flirty stroll was expected to take approximately 30-minutes or so to complete. One hour later we were wandering Kalamazoo’s downtown pedestrian mall, garden hosing, and cop dodging. Our walking tour also included a stop at the infamous Burger King — on South Westnedge — where Elvis Presley was allegedly sited after his passing.

More scenes from freshman year are coming soon. My 40-year-old memory can only remember so much. But, you can be sure, future scenes will include post-game riots during WMU-Central Michigan Homecoming weekend, Bonus Fries at Maggie’s Campus Cafe, and the student-lead, sit-in following an incident where a professor allegedly bit a student.

Flurries of Flashbacks and Winter Fun

Flurries dance outside my windows. Like a child, I am eagerly watching them stick to the ground. I am hopeful inches will  accumulate for worthwhile playtime in the chilly air.

'70s winter memories at "The Rink".

Flashbacks from childhood in my parent’s backyard play in my head. I see longtime friends — still at ages 6-11 — sledding and skiing down our “bunny” hill. Snowballs zing through the air. School work and classes escape our thoughts for a couple hours of friendly, neighborhood snow wars. Then, there are the scenes from the  dormant veggie garden that served as an ice rink for several years. No one paid for ice time to perfect hat tricks, figure-eights or crack-the-whip skills.

For those of you who follow national weather news, the suburbs just north of the “D” have been without significant snowfall during much of this winter season. Christmas Day looked and felt more like Easter with bright sunshine and 40-plus temperatures. Then, two weeks ago I played 3-on-3 with some girlfriends and their children; outside on the driveway; with temps near 50. That’s unheard of in early January.

We have been loving this flirtation with spring-like weather. But, when I heard my neighbor rev his ride-on mower, I new something as amiss in the Mitten. I started to long for the crisp, cold air; and the snow. What if this was the winter without a snowman, sledding or taste-testing snowflakes?

Despite my fantasies about living it up in some tropical locale all winter long, I don’t think that scenario would ever last in reality. Don’t get me wrong. I get cabin-fever crazed like most of my neighbors; and plot escapes to the tropics. But, just the same, I have lived in the north since birth. I have adapted to finding outdoor fun in all four seasons.

There is fun to be had when the snow flies that just isn’t existent in the Bahamas or Hawaii. Also, my love for spicy rum isn’t limited to spiking smoothies, cola or juice. It’s a fantastic additive to warm-up drinks such as hot cider, chocolate and coffee.

Life Replays: Remembering 2nd Grade

Last night I attended Open House at Issa’s school. She began second grade, Tuesday. My second-grade year began 32 years ago at North Hill Elementary, which is in the Rochester Community Schools District and to the west of where I currently reside.

What has me recalling those days when I was nearly eight? Issa’s teacher asked parents to recall and share two different memories — favorite subject and favorite memory– from second grade. We didn’t have to speak in front of a classroom full of peer parents. Whew! But, we did write these memories — in marker —  on big, yellow sheets of paper plastered to dry-erase boards at the front of the classroom. So, the teacher has us all on record.

Fave Subject in 2nd Grade

Remember that shopping mall scene in A Christmas Story? Ralphie waits in Santa’s lap line for hours. He wants a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas; and Santa is his go-to-man for making his dream reality. When it’s his turn, his mind goes blank. This happened to me as I approached one of the big, yellow sheet on the dry-erase board. I settled on a subject and and stepped forward to write. Then, I froze. What was my favorite subject in 2nd grade? That was ions ago. It certainly wasn’t math. Yuck! Science bored me. The pressure was on to remember. I had to write something. So, like Ralphie, I went with the first subject that came to mind; spelling. I was and am a strong speller. But, my fave subject was and is writing.

Fave Memory

This one was easier to recall and share. In fact, I was delighted to admit my fave memory is one Issa will appreciate and relate to. My favorite memory was taking an afternoon field trip in the spring to a pond at a church that neighbored my school. I attended this church growing up. Our mission that day was to catch toads, frogs, salamanders or any other creature that resided in the pond. So, there we were with nets, buckets and other items necessary for making successful captures. We were going to take our finds back to the classroom for further study and examination. Science is Issa’s favorite subject; and she very much enjoys learning all she can about amphibians, reptiles and insects. We are regulars at several local nature centers and at our neighborhood pond.

Check this out. Two years ago, a former second-grade classmate shared our class composite on Facebook. Now, I am sharing it with you. Can you guess which one is me?

kateschannel -- Kate -- Aug. 27

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