9.11.2022 – suppose there always

suppose there always
gonna be April 7
it just hid there like

In the 1991 book, Rivethead : tales from the assembly line, by Ben Hamper, (New York, NY : Warner Books 1991), a book about life and work an the GM assembly line Flint, Michigan, the author tells the story of the day he suffered a mental and physical breakdown on the job.

Mr. Hamper wrote: “I suppose there was always gonna be an April 7, 1988. It just hid there like a heartless sniper behind the diesel haze and the minute hand. It knew my name. It knew my brain. It could smell fear a mile away. Its aim was true.”

Crossing the Rubican.

At the crossroads.

Day of Decision.

Days that stand out.

April 7 was that day for Mr. Hamper much like September 11 is that day for this country and maybe, much of the world.

Not much of a stretch to write, I suppose there was always gonna be an September 11, 2001.

It just hid there like a heartless sniper behind the diesel haze and the minute hand.

It knew our name.

It knew our brain.

It could smell fear a mile away.

Its aim was true.

Waiting now for life to return to normal after covid but it is hard to return to normal when normal isn’t there anymore.

A lot of normal went away on September 12th.

9.9.2022 – declare before you

declare before you
that my whole life long or short
devoted to service

On her twenty-first birthday, 21 April 1947, Princess Elizabeth was with her parents and younger sister on a tour of South Africa. In a speech broadcast on the radio from Cape Town, the Princess dedicated her life to the service of the Commonwealth.

portrait by Annie Leibovitz

I was struck by much of the this simple speech.

A speech written and made with no idea, I am sure that anyone was thinking of another 73 years of service yet to come.

There are some really good lines here.

When she said at age 21, “I am sure that you will see our difficulties, in the light that I see them, as the great opportunity for you and me,” I want to say if you only knew.

Here is the full text:

On my twenty-first birthday I welcome the opportunity to speak to all the peoples of the British Commonwealth and Empire, wherever they live, whatever race they come from, and whatever language they speak.

Let me begin by saying ‘thank you’ to all the thousands of kind people who have sent me messages of good will. This is a happy day for me; but it is also one that brings serious thoughts, thoughts of life looming ahead with all its challenges and with all its opportunity.

At such a time it is a great help to know that there are multitudes of friends all round the world who are thinking of me and who wish me well. I am grateful and I am deeply moved.

As I speak to you today from Cape Town I am six thousand miles from the country where I was born. But I am certainly not six thousand miles from home. Everywhere I have travelled in these lovely lands of South Africa and Rhodesia my parents, my sister and I have been taken to the heart of their people and made to feel that we are just as much at home here as if we had lived among them all our lives.

That is the great privilege belonging to our place in the world-wide commonwealth – that there are homes ready to welcome us in every continent of the earth. Before I am much older I hope I shall come to know many of them.

Although there is none of my father’s subjects from the oldest to the youngest whom I do not wish to greet, I am thinking especially today of all the young men and women who were born about the same time as myself and have grown up like me in terrible and glorious years of the second world war.

Will you, the youth of the British family of nations, let me speak on my birthday as your representative? Now that we are coming to manhood and womanhood it is surely a great joy to us all to think that we shall be able to take some of the burden off the shoulders of our elders who have fought and worked and suffered to protect our childhood.

We must not be daunted by the anxieties and hardships that the war has left behind for every nation of our commonwealth. We know that these things are the price we cheerfully undertook to pay for the high honour of standing alone, seven years ago, in defence of the liberty of the world. Let us say with Rupert Brooke: “Now God be thanked who has matched us with this hour”.

I am sure that you will see our difficulties, in the light that I see them, as the great opportunity for you and me. Most of you have read in the history books the proud saying of William Pitt that England had saved herself by her exertions and would save Europe by her example. But in our time we may say that the British Empire has saved the world first, and has now to save itself after the battle is won.

I think that is an even finer thing than was done in the days of Pitt; and it is for us, who have grown up in these years of danger and glory, to see that it is accomplished in the long years of peace that we all hope stretch ahead.

If we all go forward together with an unwavering faith, a high courage, and a quiet heart, we shall be able to make of this ancient commonwealth, which we all love so dearly, an even grander thing – more free, more prosperous, more happy and a more powerful influence for good in the world – than it has been in the greatest days of our forefathers.

To accomplish that we must give nothing less than the whole of ourselves. There is a motto which has been borne by many of my ancestors – a noble motto, “I serve”. Those words were an inspiration to many bygone heirs to the Throne when they made their knightly dedication as they came to manhood. I cannot do quite as they did.

But through the inventions of science I can do what was not possible for any of them. I can make my solemn act of dedication with a whole Empire listening. I should like to make that dedication now. It is very simple.

I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.

But I shall not have strength to carry out this resolution alone unless you join in it with me, as I now invite you to do: I know that your support will be unfailingly given. God help me to make good my vow, and God bless all of you who are willing to share in it.

What can anyone say but the quote the Queen when she quoted Rupert Brooke (an English poet known for his idealistic war sonnets written during the First World War), saying, “Now God be thanked who has matched us with this hour”

Now God be thanked who has matched this lady with this hour.

As Big Bill might have said …

I saw her once;

she was a goodly queen.

She was a woman, take her for all in all,

We shall not look upon her like again.

9.1.2022 – ask smoking or non

ask smoking or non
but wait, where does that seat us
after forty years

I was thinking about my Mom this past week.

Hard to believe that it was 9 years ago at the end of August, 2013, that she died.

It is almost more difficult to believe that she had lived the last 25 years of her life without my Dad.

Difficult to believe because in my mind, my Mom and my Dad were a couple, a couple together in my memory.

My family was lucky enough to have had a summer place on Lake Michigan.

This place played a large part in our family.

Yet when my Dad died, my Mom was ready to sell it.

To her, she told me, that was her place to be with Dad and without Dad …

This place on Lake Michigan was a cottage, or so we called it, that had to be winterized as well and prepped for summer early in the springtime.

I started going along with my Dad to close it as well as open it up so I could take over these chores.

I learned where the well was and how to turn off the pump and drain the pipes in the fall as well as prime the pump and fill the water tank in the spring.

At some point, I started taking a week off in the spring and I would stay out at the lake by myself and get the water turned on, the furnace going and do any painting or other small repairs that might be needed.

What I really did was make a pot of coffee in the morning and sat either by the water or if too cold (this would have been Michigan in May), next to the big picture windows looking out over the water and read all day.

One year in the middle of week, my Mom and Dad drove out from Grand Rapids, Michigan, where we lived to drop in on me.

There were also happy to have a cup of coffee and sit and look out over the water as we chatted about eveything and nothing.

Then my Dad suggested lunch.

I knew what that meant.

He wanted to go to local hamburg joint named Russ’.

It was bad English, but everyone called it ‘Russes’.

It had started in Holland, Michigan and we stopped there often when we were out that way and back in the 1980’s it was starting to expand and open locations in Grand Haven and Grand Rapids.

I knew my Dad wanted to order a hamburger they offered called the Big Dutchman.

Somewhere in Grand Haven there was a street sign near a school that said STOP – ALLOW CHILDREN TO CROSS.

Someone had taken a Russ’ bumper sticker and stuck it on the sign so that it read, STOP – ALLOW BIG DUTCHMAN TO CROSS.

My Dad would drive out of his way just to pass that sign and laugh and laugh.

It helps if you grew up Dutch and in West Michigan.

So off I went to Russes with my Mom and Dad.

And so the moment began.

Back in the 1980s, people smoked in public but it was popular if not required by law, that restaurants offer no smoking sections.

It didn’t matter if it was one big room, restaurants would say this side people can smoke and this side people can’t.

They all breathed the same air but there it was.

Russes tried to accommodate non smokers by building on new additions to their restaurants that would at least put smokers and non smokers in separated rooms.

My Mom liked non smoking.

My Dad liked service.

As we pulled into the parking lot of the restaurant, my Mom mentioned that she would prefer to sit in the non smoking section.

My Dad said that he had no problem with non smokers but that the location of the no smoking section at this location was down, back and around the corner from the kitchen.

“I will not sit back there.” my Dad said.

“Might as well as sit in Death Valley. No waitress goes back there.”

My Mom said that maybe things had changed and the non smoking section might have been moved to the front.

My Dad turned off the car and got out and said, “I am not sitting in Death Valley.”

Russes was the place to have lunch in Grand Haven and it was packed.

We had to wait for a bit and then the hostess called our name.

“HOFFMAN?”

From the name we were in the Dutch Club.

We walked up and the hostess asks, “Smoking or non?”

“Non smoking, please” my Mom answered.

The hostess grabbed three menus and asked to follow her.

My Mom and I walked off but my Dad held back and watched.

We walked down a long aisle between tables to the back of the dining room and turned right to go around the kitchen back to the no smoking section.

“Lorraine!”

“Lorraine!” my Dad YELLED.

We stopped and the hostess looked back.

My Dad was now running up the aisle and waving.

“Lorraine,” he said, at one of those moments where the entire restaurant went silent.

“I am 65 years old and I do not have to sit where I don’t want to sit. I will not sit back there.”

My Mom looked at him and then asked, “Where do you want to sit then?”

My Dad pointed at the first empty booth, still with some dirty dishes, and said, “Right there.”

My Mom looked at the hostess who was quick to say sure we could sit and sat my Dad did.

My Mom and I slid in the other side of the booth and the hostess removed the dirty dishes and handed out the menus.

My Dad picked up the menu and held it up high so he could read it through his bifocals.

I heard he say something about Death Valley then he said, “I think I’ll order a Big Dutchman.”

I bit my tongue to keep from saying something about stopping to allow Big Dutchman to sit where they want.

My Mom looked at me and I looked at my Mom.

She caught my glance shrugged with her eyes and held back a laugh as well.

My Mom was known for her hospitality.

My Mom was known for her laugh.

My Mom was known for her smile.

Once in Church when the Pastor was preaching about spiritual gifts and the fact that some folks had certain gifts and said something along the lines of the gift to always be smiling and happy in the way that if you SAT next to that person, you began to smile and feel happy.

Then the Pastor paused and said if you want to know HOW to do this .. go sit next to Mrs. Hoffman … and FIND OUT HOW SHES DOES IT!

My Mom sat across from Dad at Russes.

“Oh Bob,” she said.

They had been married 40 years.

My parents and sister Lisa at the lake with a cup of tea

8.3.2022 – not surprised nor leap

not surprised nor leap
in imagination from
sunlight to shadow

Then welcome death and be by death benignly welcomed.

Or so says Conrad Aiken in his poem, When You Are Not Surprised.

I am surprised by an election where my home town lined up with the former president.

The voters in my home town tossed out this one feller who did everything right except to say the former president should have followed almost 250 years of American Democratic precedence and quietly left office.

And I am surprised.

Guess I am not ready to welcome death.

Mr. Aiken, a one time Poet Laurate of the United States is buried near here in Savanah.

His grave is marked by a marble bench.

Carved in the bench is perhaps a fitting epitaph for this country.

It says:

Cosmic Adventurer – Destination Unknown.

Here is the complete poem, When You Are Not Surprised.

When you are not surprised, not surprised,
nor leap in imagination from sunlight into shadow
or from shadow into sunlight
suiting the color of fright or delight
to the bewildering circumstance
when you are no longer surprised
by the quiet or fury of daybreak
the stormy uprush of the sun’s rage
over the edges of torn trees
torrents of living and dying flung
upward and outward inward and downward to space
or else
peace peace peace peace
the wood-thrush speaking his holy holy
far hidden in the forest of the mind
while slowly
the limbs of light unwind
and the world’s surface dreams again of night
as the center dreams of light
when you are not surprised
by breath and breath and breath
the first unconscious morning breath
the tap of the bird’s beak on the pane
and do not cry out come again
blest blest that you are come again
o light o sound o voice of bird o light
and memory too o memory blest
and curst with the debts of yesterday
that would not stay, or stay

when you are not surprised
by death and death and death
death of the bee in the daffodil
death of color in the child’s cheek
on the young mother’s breast
death of sense of touch of sight
death of delight
and the inward death the inward turning night
when the heart hardens itself with hate and indifference
for hated self and beloved not-self
when you are not surprised
by wheel’s turn or turn of season
the winged and orbed chariot tilt of time
the halcyon pause, the blue caesura of spring
and solar rhyme
woven into the divinely remembered nest
by the dark-eyed love in the oriole’s breast
and the tides of space that ring the heart
while still, while still, the wave of the invisible world
breaks into consciousness in the mind of god
then welcome death and be by death benignly welcomed
and join again in the ceaseless know-nothing
from which you awoke to the first surprise.

Conrad Aiken, “When You Are Not Surprised” from Collected Poems. Copyright © 1953 by Conrad Aiken. Reprinted with the permission of Brandt & Hochman Literary Agents, Inc.
Source: Collected Poems (Random House Inc., 1970)

5.25.2022 – time of shame, sorrow

time of shame, sorrow
some senseless act of bloodshed,
yet it goes on … why?

Back on April 5, 1968, then Senator Bobby Kennedy said in a speech at the Cleveland Club:

This is a time of shame and sorrow. It is not a day for politics. I have saved this one opportunity to speak briefly to you about this mindless menace of violence in America which again stains our land and every one of our lives.

It is not the concern of any one race. The victims of the violence are black and white, rich and poor, young and old, famous and unknown. They are, most important of all, human beings whom other human beings loved and needed. No one – no matter where he lives or what he does – can be certain who will suffer from some senseless act of bloodshed. And yet it goes on and on.

Then the Senator asked a question.

Why?

He then asked, “What has violence ever accomplished? What has it ever created? 

Whenever any American’s life is taken by another American unnecessarily – whether it is done in the name of the law or in the defiance of law, by one man or a gang, in cold blood or in passion, in an attack of violence or in response to violence – whenever we tear at the fabric of life which another man has painfully and clumsily woven for himself and his children, the whole nation is degraded.

Yet we seemingly tolerate a rising level of violence that ignores our common humanity and our claims to civilization alike. We calmly accept newspaper reports of civilian slaughter in far off lands. We glorify killing on movie and television screens and call it entertainment. We make it easy for men of all shades of sanity to acquire weapons and ammunition they desire.

Two months later on June 6, 1968, Senator Kennedy was gunned down in Los Angeles.

Whenever we tear at the fabric of life the whole nation is degraded.

It would be great to think that since we created this mess, we can fix this mess.

Too many people with too many guns.

I am reminded of the story of the founding of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

In the 1870’s, as the Canadian Pacific Railroad was being built, the folks who ran Canada were aware of the colorful stories of the lawless American west.

Dodge City and Tombstone.

Wyatt Earp and Wild Bill Hickcock.

Billy the Kid and Jesse James.

The folks saw the possibility of such an environment taking root as the the Canadian West began to be populated once the CPR was in service.

Their answer was to beat lawlessness with the law and the RCMP was created and in place once the railroad was completed.

When the trains started to run and the desperadoes showed up to rob the trains and the banks and fight in the barrooms, they found that in the trains and in the banks and in the barrooms the Mounties were already there.

For us?

No one – no matter where he lives or what he does – can be certain who will suffer from some senseless act of bloodshed.

Why?

Too many people with too many guns and it is too late.

That train left some time ago.


5.24.2022 – caring deeply and

caring deeply and
passionately, really, has
gone out of our lives

Roger Angell has died.

Born in 1920 and the son of Katherine Angell White (which made him the step son of EB White), Roger Angell wrote about baseball for the New Yorker Magazine for as long as I can remember.

To say, though, that Roger Angell wrote about baseball is much like saying Michelangelo painted ceilings.

There was so much more than that to what Mr. Angell wrote.

The focus, the reason for the writing was baseball, but the words were brought together in ways that were magical and poetry.

It was after the 1975 World Series, the famous game six that was won by the Red Sox on a home run in the bottom of the 12th inning, late, late at night in Fenway Park, that Mr. Angell wrote:

What I do know is that this belonging and caring is what our games are all about: this is what we come for.

It is foolish and childish, on the face of it, to affiliate ourselves with anything so insignificant and patently contrived and commercially exploitative as a professional sports team, and the amused superiority and icy scorn that the non-fan directs at the sports nut (I know this look — I know it by heart) is understandable and almost unanswerable.

Almost.

What is left out of this calculation, it seems to me, is the business of caring — caring deeply and passionately, really caring — which is a capacity or an emotion that has almost gone out of our lives.

And so it seems possible that we have come to a time when it no longer matters so much what the caring is about, how frail or foolish is the object of that concern, as long as the feeling itself can be saved.

Naïveté — the infantile and ignoble joy that sends a grown man or woman to dancing and shouting with joy in the middle of the night over the haphazardous flight of a distant ball — seems a small price to pay for such a gift.

Mr. Angell was a not so much a sports reporter but a baseball commentator.

Each year, it seems to me now, he would write an essay that previewed the upcoming season, then an essay or too on the season so far and then an essay recapping the season just finished.

These 4 or 5 essays over the course of a year all appeared in the New Yorker Magazine.

Written a leisure with thoughtfulness beyond anything but appreciation, Mr. Angell could bring each and every game he covered to life though it had been over for some time.

I was 8 years old when the Detroit Tigers won the World Series in 1968.

It wasn’t until years later that I was able to understand and appreciate what when on in that World Series, the dual between Denny McCain and Bob Gibson and the slow turtle-and-the-hare story Mickey Lolich pitching his way to 3 World Series wins, and I got those stories from reading Roger Angell’s account in an essay titled, “A LITTLE NOISE AT TWILIGHT.”

But like the Persian Rug with the missing knot so it wouldn’t be perfect, Mr. Angell did make mistakes.

I always felt somehow privileged that I caught one.

But to this day, I am not sure if the error was Mr. White’s or his editor.

Here is the passage in question?

Can you find the mistake?

The scene is late in Game 7 of the ’68 Series between the Cardinals and Tigers.

The game is in St. Louis and the series is tied 3-3.

Mr. White wrote: Still no score. Summer and the Series were running out. Gibson had permitted only one base-runner in the game, and here were the Tigers down to their last seventh inning of the year. Gibson fanned Stanley, for his thirty-fourth strikeout of the Series, and Kaline grounded out. At three and two, Cash singled to right. Horton hit to the left side, and the ball went through for a single. Northrup lined the first pitch high and deep, but straight to center, where Curt Flood started in, reversed abruptly, and then stumbled, kicking up a divot of grass. He recovered in an instant and raced toward the fence, but the ball bounced beyond him, a good four hundred feet out; Northrup had a triple, and two runs were in. Freehan doubled past Brock in left, for the third.

It is right there in plain sight.

For me, it made Mr. Angell more human and that much more great.

Roger Angell has died.

This is when I quote John O`Hara on the death of George Gershwin.

I don’t have to believe it if I don’t want to.

5.4.2022 – enhanced use of force

enhanced use of force
deescalation training
so who but the Lord

Deadly force “is always the last resort” and that philosophy, as well as de-escalation training, needs to be ingrained into the department’s policies, Grand Rapids Police Chief Eric Winstrom told The Detroit News Tuesday.

So starts an article in the Detroit News with the headline, “Grand Rapids police need enhanced use of force, de-escalation training, chief says” by Leonard N. Fleming.

The words, enhanced use of force, de-escalation training, strung together in a line, the syllables clicking in a row like the sound of the wheels of a train over gaps in the tracks, grabbed and held my attention.

The article details the efforts of the Police Chief of Grand Rapids, Michigan (where I grew up) to address publicly the death of Patrick Lyoya, 26, who was shot in the back of the head by officer Christopher Schurr on April 4 following a tussle on the ground … after a traffic stop.

Mr. Fleming quotes the Chief as saying, “From what I’m hearing from the community, a real vocal part of the community is there’s no rebuilding trust. You’ve got to build it because it was never there.

Chief Winstrom said that on April 26th, 2022.

In 1947, in the magazine, Poetry, Langston Hughes published this poem.

I looked and I saw
That man they call the Law.
He was coming
Down the street at me!
I had visions in my head
Of being laid out cold and dead,
Or else murdered
By the third degree.

I said, O, Lord, if you can,
Save me from that man!
Don’t let him make a pulp out of me!
But the Lord he was not quick.
The Law raised up his stick
And beat the living hell
Out of me!

Now, I do not understand
Why God don’t protect a man
From police brutality.
Being poor and black,
I’ve no weapon to strike back
So who but the Lord
Can protect me?

We’ll see.

The title of the poem is ‘Who but the Lord?

A footnote in the “The collected poems of Langston Hughes” (Knopf, 1994) says that the last line was added when the poem was reprinted in the book, The Panther and the Lash.

That was in 1967.

That last line again?

We’ll see.

I gots no real standing as a social critic so I will take refuge (hide) under the cover of saying I am only a social commentator.

I just hold up the mirror and you can see what you want to see.

The Rev. Al once said something along the lines of, “You can use a mirror to reflect yourself or you can use a mirror to correct yourself.”

You’ve got to build trust because it was never there.

We’ll see.

1.11.2022 – miss me a little

miss me a little
but not for long and not with
your head bowed low

Adapted from the poem, “Let Me Go” –

by Christina Rossetti (5 December 1830 – 29 December 1894).

Here is an excerpt.

When I come to the end of the road
And the sun has set for me
I want no rites in a gloom filled room
Why cry for a soul set free?

Miss me a little, but not for long
And not with your head bowed low
Remember the love that once we shared
Miss me, but let me go.

For this is a journey we all must take
And each must go alone.
It’s all part of the master plan
A step on the road to home.

When you are lonely and sick at heart
Go to the friends we know.
Laugh at all the things we used to do
Miss me, but let me go.

Lots of things, on this anniversary of my Dad’s death back in 1988, come to mind from this poem.

I think my Dad would have wanted to be missed, for little while, but not with a head bowed low.

There was too much fun in our lives to hang my head.

1967? Me and my Dad on VACATION – well, that is how he dressed on vacation

We had a place out on Lake Michigan and every spring we would go out to repair any winter storm caused damage.

Usually this involved the whole crew of my brothers and brothers-in-law and a lot of building and digging.

One spring when I was back from college, my Dad took me and drove off to the lake with a plan to pick up a load of lumber that we would need later when everyone else could get out there.

We got the lumber at Lappo’s in Spring Lake, Michigan and drove to our place where I unloaded it.

I had a little more muscle I guess in those days.

As I unloaded my Dad looked over the deck we had built on the edge of the sand dune overlooking the lake.

It leaned back in one corner and had a couple of loose boards but otherwise was in good shape.

With the lumber unloaded Dad told me to “go get a bucket.”

Which meant one of the buckets we used at the beach for a tool box.

I knew he wanted a bucket with hammers, nails and a level.

We always used a level when working on decks or steps more so we could always say, “We used a level” no matter how the project turned out.

We also always used Grip-Tite nails, that ones that made noise when you hammered them in, ping ping ping, rising in pitch with each hammer blow.

I set the bucket down and took my jacket off and laid it on the deck.

It was warm in the sun.

When I brought out the hammers and nails, Dad positioned himself against the low corner of the deck with the level on the deck and he lifted the corner of the deck until he could see that he had it level.

“Put a nail in here,” he said, indicating a place where the deck brace lined up with the deck post.

And I did.

Never did something I had learned in 7th grade shop class or any class feel so good.

Dad pointed about 4 inches away from the first spot and said, “And here.”

And I did.

It went right in, straight.

ping – Ping – PING.

“Put another one in,” he said.

After about 5 nails, he got up on the deck and bounced a few times.

“Good,” he said.

Then he pointed to the loose deck boards.

“Pound some nails in there.” he pointed.

And I did.

“Good!” he said.

He walked back and forth on the deck, testing it, trying to make it sway.

Satisfied, Dad sat down on the bench that was built into the back of the deck.

I picked up my jacket and pulled two cigars out the inner pocket along with a small cigar cutter and some matches.

Dad looked at me and before I could ask, he held out his hand for a cigar.

He stripped off the wrapper and held out his hand for my cigar cutter and when the cigar was ready, he turned towards me.

He leaned over and I held a match out cupped in my hands.

Once Dad had his cigar properly lit he sat back on the bench.

I sat next to him in the spring sunshine, warmed by the sun, but cooled by the breeze off the lake.

Two guys and two cigars with troubles, like the cigar smoke, drifting away.

Dad took a few puffs, then gestured at the repaired deck with his cigar.

“We do good work!” he said.

And we sat and smoked.

It was kind of solemn, sitting by the big still lake.

We did not feel like talking loud.

And it seemed like nothing happened to us at all.

Yes, I stole that from Huckleberry Finn.

So what?

I will miss my Dad a little.

I will miss my Dad a lot.

But with my head bowed?

Nope.

Never.

No way.

That wouldn’t be right.

We had too much fun.

We had too much.

1.1.2022 – opportunities

opportunities
move on, never wanted to
was living MY dream

Robert Wayne Hendrickson (1933 – 2021)

Some years back when I worked at WZZM13 TV in Grand Rapids, Michigan, it was announced that the old Ottawa Hills High School Building, a building that currently was home to Iroquois Middle School, would be demolished.

At the morning news meeting, possible story lines about Ottawa Hills were brought up and I said that someone had to interview my Uncle Wayne.

The story was assigned to a very young Steve Patterson, now a national reporter with NBC News.

I got with Steve and called my Mom to get Uncle Wayne’s phone number and Uncle Wayne agreed to meet Steve at the old building for a walk through and interview.

My Uncle Wayne was known to the world as Robert Wayne Hendrickson.

(For some reason, my Mom’s family used that Southern tradition of family members using middle names within the family.)

Robert Wayne Hendrickson or Bob Hendrickson or Coach Hendrickson was Ottawa Hills High School.

While my Mom went to South High School in Grand Rapids, by the time her brothers started the 7th grade in school, the districts had changed and they went to Ottawa Hills.

While at Ottawa Hills, Uncle Wayne was an athletic wonder.

According to the stories my brothers told me, in basketball, he could lay up with either the left or right hand and was pretty much unstoppable.

The story was that Michigan wanted him but in those days there weren’t athletic scholarships and beside, he wanted to get married, so he went to Hope College in Holland, Michigan.

After college, he got a job teaching and coaching at Ottawa Hills.

He would stay there until he was retired at age 60.

Uncle Wayne was quoted in the Grand Rapids Press, “Ottawa Hills was my life from age 13 to age 60, with the exception of my four years at Hope College. When I returned as a teacher, my old teachers helped me so much. They wanted me to start calling them by their first names but I was never able to do it. Before I was old enough to start school there in the seventh grade, I would watch the high school teams on the practice fields and want to be a part of that. What a great break for me to spend so much of my life at Ottawa Hills. I had opportunities to move on, but I never wanted to go. I was living my dream.”

The dream included winning two Michigan Class A State Championships in 67-68 and 68-69. 

Each year, there was parade and celebration on the south end of Grand Rapids.

As the Coach was my Mom’s little brother, we went to see the parades from the vantage point of the front porch of the Coach’s house.

I was only 8 years old and after the 2nd parade, I figured these things happened every year.

We got to see the trophy’s up close.

I have never won a trophy in my life but that’s okay as any other trophy that I could have won PALED TO INSIGNFICANCE when compared to those trophies.

Also there with the trophies were the nets.

I have watched countless teams cut down basketball nets after big games.

Maybe of all sports traditions this one is the most special to me because of seeing those nets laying there.

Silent objects speaking volumes.

There were all sorts of stories of my Uncle as a Coach.

Those championship teams in the late 60’s were integrated teams.

I think that was unusual for the time, maybe inevitable but new.

Back in those days, BEFORE THE DUNK was made illegal, the story was that my Uncle Wayne’s team had a dunk DRILL in warm up.

His team would line and one by one they would dribble in and BA BOOM, BA BOOM, BA BOOM, they would dunk dunk dunk.

I was told that the backboards would be swaying and the crowd screaming.

And the other team watched.

Watched in disbelief.

Those games were over before they started.

My brother tells a story about a game against our high school on the North End, Creston (Ottawa was on the South End) and Uncle Wayne came off the bench, yelling at the refs.

My brother says, and as I remember it, this was in the OLD Creston High School Gym, where the basketball court was kinda wedged into a space surrounded by bleachers, my brother said the crowd just went crazy yelling at Uncle Wayne.

Uncle Wayne spins around and GLARES at the crowd.

And the crowd shut up.

Years later, Uncle Wayne happened to be at our house when we were watching a Piston’s game.

He stood there watching the end of the game and started coaching.

Never took his eyes off the screen but kept saying out loud how much time was left as the seconds ticked off on some click inside, he called all the plays, so it seems to me, and narrated how the Piston’s would win the game before it happened.

Uncle Wayne, to me, was bigger than life.

He was one of those guys who filled a room with his personality and physical presence.

I remember that I when I went to Creston, the Creston Basketball Coach, Jim Haskins, was my biology teacher.

Mr. Haskins told me once how the first time his team played Ottawa he watched that team run out on the floor and then their Coach came out and HE LOOKED SEVEN FEET TALL.

Mr. Haskins just stood there shaking his head.

Uncle Wayne knew it too.

He once said to me that, “Uncle Paul is the only one I know who makes me feel smaller.”

Uncle Paul, who also played basketball in the City League and at Hope, was 6′ 11″.

So Steve Patterson goes out on assignment to interview Bob Hendrickson.

Later that afternoon, Steve got back to the building and he sought me out.

“HOFFMAN,” says Steve.

“Your Uncle! …”

“Is a LEGEND!”

“Yes,” I said, “I know.”

Late on New Years Eve, 2021, I got email that, back in Grand Rapids, my Uncle Wayne has died.

I seem to say this often, but I say it because it is true, that in a era when experts mourn the lack of role models, I got more than my fair share.

My Father, my Grand Father, my Uncles; Wayne, Carol, Paul, Bud and Jim, my brothers; Paul, Jack, Bob, Tim, Pete, Steve and Al and even all my brothers in law.

I don’t know, maybe God knew something and made sure I had lots of help.

Love them all and proud of them all.

Proud to be a part of their family.

Proud of my Uncle Wayne.

Very very said to hear that my Uncle Wayne has died.

He was part of my life and part of what made my life.

Like Alistair Cooke when Duke Ellington died, “I don’t have to believe it if I don’t want to.”

12.22.2021 – it meant daring to

it meant daring to
disagree it meant to just
have an opinion

Trailblazing cultural theorist and activist, public intellectual, teacher and writer, bell hooks, has died of kidney failure aged 69.

She authored around 40 books in a career spanning more than four decades.

The function of art is to do more than tell it like it is – it’s to imagine what is possible.

“In the world of the southern black community I grew up in, ‘back talk’ and ‘talking back’ meant speaking as an equal to an authority figure. It meant daring to disagree and sometimes it meant just having an opinion,” she explained.

For a child, to speak when not spoken to was to invite punishment, so was a courageous act, an act of risk and daring.

It was in that world that the craving was born in her “to have a voice, and not just any voice, but one that could be identified as belonging to me … Certainly for black women, our struggle has not been to emerge from silence into speech but to change the nature and direction of our speech, to make a speech that compels listeners, one that is heard.”

bell hooks once wrote, “Now when I ponder the silences, the voices that are not heard, the voices of those wounded and/or oppressed individuals who do not speak or write, I contemplate the acts of persecution, torture – the terrorism that breaks spirits, that makes creativity impossible. “

The terrorism that breaks spirits.

That makes creativity impossible. 

bell hooks continued, “I write these words to bear witness to the primacy of resistance struggle in any situation of domination (even within family life); to the strength and power that emerges from sustained resistance and the profound conviction that these forces can be healing, can protect us from dehumanisation and despair

The strength and power that emerges from sustained resistance.

The profound conviction that these forces can be healing.

I did not know her writing as a Kid but I tried to live it.

Hard to believe she was just 8 years older than I am.

If I have a grave stone, please carve on it that, “fought against the terrorism that breaks spirits, that makes creativity impossible.

Yeahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, well.

bell hooks was born under the name, Gloria Jean Watkin, but wrote under the pseudonym bell hooks – a name she adopted in tribute to her maternal great-grandmother, styling it in lowercase so as to keep the focus on her work rather than on her own persona.

Ms. hooks roamed around the academic world and landed of all places in Berea College in Berea, Kentucky, a school that has a long history in our family.

Berea College has it roots back in 1855 when a one room school dedicated to anti-slavery and to advocate of equality and excellence in education for men and women of all races.

1855?

1855!

This school grew into a private liberal arts work college in Berea, Kentucky.

Berea College charges no tuition; every admitted student is provided the equivalent of a four-year scholarship.

It has a full-participation work-study program in which students are required to work at least 10 hours per week in campus and service jobs in any of over 130 departments.

About 75% of the college’s incoming class is drawn from the Appalachian region of the South and some adjoining areas

Some of the work study programs are in crafts, woodworking and weaving.

Items that they make are for sale in the College store and now, online.

Somewhere along the line my family picked up a skittles games – kind of a 18th century pin ball machine that was the size of a cedar chest, that was made at Berea.

My Dad always talked about it but how he knew about it I do not know.

I know we stopped there at least once or twice

And I have ordered items from their catalog for my kids.

I carry a walking stick those students made.

I use a cherry-wood rolling pin those students made.

If you go, you can tour the work shops and watch the wood workers and weavers.

It seems to me that once my Dad watched a weaver for a bit and noticed something.

He leaned over and whispered in the ear of the young lady who was working the loom.

She stopped.

Looked.

Got up and ran off to get help.

I looked a question at my Dad.

“She wove her cloth measuring tape into the rug”, my Dad said.

From the beginning Berea was different.

Berea College was the first college in the Southern United States to be coeducational.

Berea College was the first college in the Southern United States to be racially integrated.

With a Curriculum Vitae that includes Stanford, Wisconsin and USC, I guess it makes sense that bell hooks, the person who said, “The function of art is to do more than tell it like it is – it’s to imagine what is possible” would end up here.