12.26.2022 – brilliant sunny day

brilliant sunny day
cloudless December blue skies
but can’t see the cold

We were out and about on Christmas Day in the Low Country of South Carolina, it was a brilliant sunny day.

The December sky was a deep blue.

And it was COLD!

I was standing on the bluff overlooking the May River, thinking of the hot hot hot days in the past that I have stood there.

I stood there in the Bluffton Breeze that is always blowing across the river to the Bluff.

It was for the Bluffton Breeze that people moved to Bluffton South Carolina in the first place with many of the area families building summer homes here to catch the refreshing breeze off the river.

Standing there on this brilliant sunny Christmas Day, I felt frozen.

I felt frozen and it came to me that, you can’t see cold.

Or can you?

I was reminded of the Weatherball of Grand Rapids, Michigan, where I grew up.

The Weatherball was this giant stainless steel ball on top of a bank building in downtown Grand Rapids.

It changed color with the weather.

And you could see it from all over the city.

There was a little rhyme that everyone in Grand Rapids could recite.

Weatherball red – warm weather ahead

Weatherball blue – cold weather in view

Weatherball green – no change foreseen

And it worked, though maybe not in the way the designers designed it.

I what I mean is, take for example, August in Grand Rapids, a soupy humid month.

80 degree days with 90% humidity is the norm.

When I was kid and my family would drive into Grand Rapids from the west on Lake Michigan Drive and get on the freeway that came across John Ball Park, the entire downtown would open up in front of us like a panorama.

The city would be hidden in a thick, humid haze.

And shining in this swampy morass was the Weatherball.

Glowing a smoky red in the haze, somehow the Weatherball made it seem warmer, stickier and more humid.

In the winter time, we would go sledding on a hill at Crestview School.

Nighttime the sky would be crystal clear and Orion would stretch over and all around us, from the top of the hill, we could see the lights of the city.

And shining above on the lights was the Weatherball.

Glowing a bright light blue, somehow the Weatherball made it seem colder, crisper and more freezing.

Perception drove reality and you could see warm and you could see cold.

At some point, the Michigan National Bank that owned the building where the Weatherball was located (the letter M N B blinked just below the Weatherball) made the decision that the Weatherball had to come down.

Somewhere along the line, I met someone who told me that it was their Dad, as a brand new-in-town Michigan National Bank Vice President, made the decision.

This person told me that their Dad was told that the giant tower on top of the building was starting to sway and when it rocked in high winds, the roof of the building was showing signs wear and tear and there was good chance the Weatherball could come crashing down.

This person said that their Dad made the decision to take down the Weatherball and spent the rest of his career with Bank being known as the ‘Man who wrecked the Weatherball.’

He may have been one of the most, well, I was going to say hated but that is a too strong term, yet anyone who heard the story did hate the guy so I will say, one of the most hated men who figured in the List of Great Things Grand Rapids Lost.

Other things on this list include the Grand Rapids City Hall which is almost more famous for an incident during its demolition when a young lady hand cuffed herself to a wrecking ball.

A lesser know incident that took place during the demolition was that two guys took sledgehammers and made their way up to the old bell town of City Hall and with the sledges, range the City Hall Bell one last time.

You can see this bell to this day outside the entrance to the Grand Rapids Public Museum and if you look closely you will the surface dotted with circles the size of 50 cent pieces where the sledge hammers made contact.

I had done some research on that bell when I worked for the Local History Collections of the Grand Rapids Public Library and I remember talking about to Bob, one of the security guards at the Library who was retired from the Grand Rapids Police Department.

I told Bob the story of the guys with the sledgehammers and he responded, “Do I remember that I night! I was the first cop on the scene and I had to make my way through the half demolished building and up the bell tower stair way with no railing using a flash light! It was crazy! I thought I was going to fall of the stairs or that the place was going to come down.”

I told my boss, then City Historian, L. Gordon Olson, that we had to make a oral history interview with Bob but nothing came of it.

And speaking of Gordon Olson, he WAS the most hated man who figured in the List of Great Things Grand Rapids Lost.

It was Gordon, you see, as Assistant Director of the Grand Rapids Public Museum, who had the whale removed from the original Museum building on Washington St.

Around 1900, the Public Museum acquired a complete whale skeleton (the origin of which is a little murky but chances are it was purchased from the State of Florida when Florida shut down their pavilion at the Great Columbian Exposition in Chicago).

The whale bones were on separate stands and the Museum would pack the whole thing off the Kent County Fair in Comstock Park and wrap the bones in canvas so you could take the Jonah experience and walk through the whale.

When a new building was built during the depression, the whale was proudly hung in the main gallery of the museum until the late 1970’s when Gordon had it taken down.

Gordon told me that if ever he spoke anywhere at any city function or gathering, and that fact that he was the guy who removed the whale was mentioned, he would get booed.

The boos might have toned down once the new museum was built and the whale skeleton was restored but for anyone who grew up with the old museum and pitching pennies on the whale’s tail from the 2nd floor gallery, Gordon was not well liked.

Gordon told me that he was caught in a bad spot and that the whale bones had started disintegrating and falling to the floor and it was only a matter of time before some one got hurt.

The funny part of the story is that Gordon told me how a giant scaffold had to be built at some expense to remove the skeleton.

Gordon said that about a month after the whale came down and the scaffold removed, he noticed a guy walking around the gallery, looking up at the ceiling.

Gordon knew what he was looking for but went up to him and asked anyway.

The man did indeed ask if there had been a whale hanging there at one time.

Gordon told him yes and that it had just recently been removed.

The man nodded and then asked how did they take it down?

It turned out the man was the guy who had hung the whale in the first place.

He pointed out some ring bolts still in the ceiling and showed Gordon how the skeleton had been suspended in such a way that had ropes been tied up through those bolts and PULLED UP, the entire frame was designed to then unlock and be lowered to the floor.

As I said, the whale was saved and can seen to this day at the new Grand Rapids Public Museum.

I am also happy to say that when I worked at WZZM, a co-worker did some research and found that the original Weatherball was sitting in a scrap metal yard and the station was able to buy the Weatherball, have the neon fixed and the restored Weatherball returned to the Grand Rapids skyline from a cell tower next to the WZZM station.

Maybe on brilliant sunny days in December in South Carolina you can’t see cold.

But I know what cold looks like.

It’s light blue and glows in a clear colder, crisper and more freezing way than you could have imagined it.

And because of that blue light, the coldness is clear and colder, crisper and more freezing way than you could have imagined it.

And if you are in Grand Rapids, Michigan in December, at night and you look west, you can see it too.

7.19.2022 – rain starts today at

rain starts today at
one p.m. partly cloudy
expect thunderstorms

Woke up this morning in the traditional sense of the word to deep blue sky and sunshine here in the Low Country of South Carolina.

For new readers, its called the Low Country because itssssssssssssss low.

While I am in 3rd floor room, the ground floor is about 8 feet above sea level and the sea is less than a mile away.

My office is about 5 blocks from the ocean and a recent disaster assessment came back with the recommendation that having the corporate servers located in a basement room below sea level might not be the best idea.

The last two or three weeks, the Low Country has been stuck in a dismal weather pattern of overcast gray skies, 95% humidity and temps in the 90’s with thunderstorms possible at any time of day on short notice.

Understanding that living in the south and along the ocean, there are prices to pay.

But day after day after of this gray dismal swamp is starting to get to me.

SO it was with a ray of sunshine in my heart that my day was started by a ray of sunshine in my eyes.

Than I ruined it by picking up my dumb smart phone and checking the weather.

Rain by 1PM.

Hot.

Humid.

Expect thunderstorms.

CNBC’s annual ‘America’s Top States for Business’ study, which pays particular attention to quality of life, has recently ranked South Carolina as the fourth worst state in the nation to live in.

The report stated:

The ranking points to generalized, statewide issues bringing down the Palmetto State’s ranking regarding topics such as health care and resources, crime and voting rights.

With 2.19 hospital beds per 1,000 residents, according to Becker’s Hospital Review, South Carolina finished near the bottom for health care resources.

For the 2022 ‘Life, Health & Inclusion Score’, the state pulled in only 83 out of 325 points, scoring an “F” grade.

The study does provide some relief by listing air quality as a livability strength.

Weather otherwise was not included.

I haven’t lived here long enough to know if this is the norm or if this weather pattern is part of the world wide weather/climate patterns.

Problem is no one has lived here very long.

Population here is up to near 50,000 folks.

30 years ago, it was 900.

And those folks who you happen to meet who did grew up here don’t seem to be very much weather aware as you know, it’s just something that happens everyday.

I will say this is a resort community and has been for the last 50 years or so.

I find it difficult to accept that thousands upon thousands of folks would make the effort to spend a week here in July and August if, traditionally, it was all in an effort to spend a week under gloomy gray skies in hot humid conditions while waiting for it rain.

So its hot.

So its humid.

So its going to rain.

It isn’t snow.

And as I say to my friends who live in the land of Devil’s Dandruff, no one says you to live here.

6.29.2022 – like a low-hung cloud

like a low-hung cloud
it rains so fast all at once
falls and cannot last

Adapted on a rainy morning in the low country from John Dryden’s Palamon and Arcite or The Knight’s Tale – Book Three where the poet writes:

But, like a low-hung cloud, it rains so fast,
That all at once it falls, and cannot last.
The face of things is changed, and Athens now,
That laughed so late, becomes the scene of woe:

1.29.2022 – vivid picture to

vivid picture to
the imagination and was
worth thinking about

According to what I read and watch, a BOMB CYCLONE is heading for the East Coast of the United States.

Sounds awful.

Whenever bad weather is predicted I think of two things.

The first is that I am glad to be out of it.

That simple sentence, for me, has two meanings.

Living in the Low Country of South Carolina and yet to experience a hurricane, the weather here for the most part is what you might call salubrious (a wonderful word and I put it to you that if you can work it into your conversation today you will feel better) or favorable to or promoting health or well-being.

The proximity to an ocean that won’t go below 50 degrees helps keep most of any weather away that might include the word, “freezing.”

For the most part its warm or at least warmer here than where I grew in West Michigan.

Somewhere in my mind is a passage in a book of all old rich man, sitting in the kitchen of his mansion saying something like, “182 rooms and all I want is the warmest one.”

The other meaning to “glad to be out of it” for me, is that for 20 years I was in the news business and in the news business there is no business like the bad weather business.

After I was on the job about 6 months, creating and managing a website for a local TV station, I got a call that I needed to come up with a way to a list any school closings online.

This list also needed to be able to be updated by the schools themselves.

And if I could somehow figure out how to send out an email with the list of school closings to anyone who wanted it, that would be even better.

“When?”, was my response.

“Tomorrow”, was the answer.

Understand that just a little more than 20 years ago, none of this information was online.

There was no online.

The most fun of my job and creating an online news environment was that I never would say that something couldn’t be done because nothing HAD been done and we did not know what couldn’t be done so we did everything.

And somehow the next morning we had school closings online.

More recently I was involved with the online video streaming of news.

As EB White wrote on the News and weather, “radio [News] people, Nature is an oddity tinged with malevolence and worthy of note only in her more violent moments. The radio [News] either lets Nature alone or gives her the full treatment.

The full news treatment for News Online involved me a lot.

Weekends, after hours, all hours, I was up and online and making sure that the weather got the full treatment.

Now, I am glad to be out of it.

The other thing I think about is an essay, again by EB White.

In fact, it is the essay where that the earlier quote about Nature being an oddity tinged with malevolence comes from.

It is an essay of Mr. White’s that appeared in The New Yorker magazine on September 25, 1954 and is included in the book, The Essays of E.B. White, that you can read online at archive.org.

The title of the essay is, “The Eye of Edna” and it tells the story of Mr. White following Hurricane Edna as it came up the Atlantic Coast.

In 1954, hour by hour radio coverage of a hurricane was something new for Mr. White and the world at large.

I cannot read this essay without comparing the news coverage of 1954 with the news coverage of 2022.

What I think when I make such a comparison is that there is nothing new to the news here.

Mr. White tells how a reporter on the scene of the storm was asked about road conditions.

The hurricane rains and ocean storm surges had been predicted to wipe out local roads.

They were wet” reported the reporter, who, according to Mr. White, “seemed to be in a sulk.”

In the essay, Mr. White recounts his own efforts to prepare his home for the coming storm.

In the essay, there is this sentence, “The croquet set was brought in. (I was extremely skeptical about the chance of croquet balls coming in through the window, but it presented a vivid picture to the imagination and was worth thinking about.).

The oft-quoted-by-me writer Alain de Botton, used the phrase, I began word-painting.

Starting with the thought a hurricane and wind tossed trees and such.

Then add a croquet set.

Throw in windows, car windshields and maybe someone’s forehead.

Then thinking about how to paint scene this with words, I don’t think anyone could do better than “I was extremely skeptical about the chance of croquet balls coming in through the window, but it presented a vivid picture to the imagination and was worth thinking about.”

29 words and I can see it all in my mind’s eye.

I can see it in my mind and it never happened.

A vivid picture to the imagination.

Something worth thinking about.

12.7.2021 – where is orion

where is orion?
what equinox precession?
see that southern cross
?

When I was a kid, growing up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, me, my family, my friends and the whole neighborhood would go sledding at night in the winter time on the hill by our school, Crestview Elementary.

The hill wasn’t a mountain or anything but it was high enough and long enough to be the best sliding hill in the world for little kids.

Our neighborhood had been built on an golf course.

The mainstreet through the neighborhood, my street, Sligh Blvd., followed a more of less, east-west path of what had been a small creek and ravine through the middle of the golf course.

Even though my Dad had grown up on the North End of Grand Rapids and knew that the property had been a golf course, he didn’t realize what building a house along what had been an existing watercourse would mean.

But we learned and relearned every spring when our basement would fill with water.

This was really odd as there were no windows in our basement but there were two floor drains that were connected to the storm sewers.

You can figure out the rest of that story.

The streets that connected to Sligh and went north and south went up hill no matter which direction you turned.

Houses were built along these streets until you got down by our house and the developer must have decided that it was just to much of a hill and the land was left vacant and a public school and park was built there.

Our house was on the south side of the street.

On the north side, there was a single row of houses and then the school property started.

Crossing the street and passing that row of houses, we were at the bottom of the longest, widest hill on the North End.

And that is what we called it.

The North End.

There was even an NE on the street signs.

People from out of town thought that the NE stood for North East.

We all knew it was for North End.

Grand Rapids, had and still has, a North End, a South End and a West Side.

Back when we had a high school, we were the CRESTON POLAR BEARS because we were on the North End.

I recently had to answer some security questions at my bank and when the lady asked what my high school mascot was, she kind of paused and then said, “You are the only Polar Bears I have ever heard of.”

But back to the hill.

It was possibly the best sliding hill ever.

It was a wide, long, long gentle slope with few trees.

A fence ran along one side where there were houses that you had to worry about if you went of to the left, which was an attraction as that side of the hill was steep but then there was that fence at the bottom.

What you wanted to do was stay on the main hill and slide as far and as long as you could.

When conditions were right, you could slide forever.

There are a lot of things I remember about sledding on that hill.

There were always a bunch of kids up there.

There was a wide range of sliding equipment from sleds and saucers to toboggans.

The single bladed snurfer came along at some point.

Over the course of the winter the snow on the hill would get packed down into something just this side of ice in an ice rink.

When that happened, all the old fashioned sleds came out and you could fly down that hill.

Then someone would build a jump and we would all take our chances with that.

No safety gear, no helmets.

Kids started showing up in school with cuts and bruises on their chins that you got laying head first on a sled and speeding down the hill with your face inches above the surface, and you chin banging on the handles.

There was that long walk back up the hill that was the price for a really long slide.

There was the cold.

There was the wet.

Winter meant a lot of cold, wet and cold, wet wool.

I can feel it.

I can smell it.

But what really sticks in my brain were the stars.

I have rarely seen stars like the stars we saw as kids sledding on Crestview hill.

In my mind, it was like the winking twinkling stars in A Charlie Brown Christmas.

When I first saw Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh, I thought Mr. Van Gogh had stood on our hill in winter time.

History tells us that Starry Night was painted in June and in France, but I don’t buy it.

Mr. Vincent was here.

It is one of those time space continuum things that you understand if you stare at Starry Night long enough.

My Dad liked stars and he liked to point out stars to us kids.

I can hear him say, “That’s not a star, that’s Venus.”

I say it the same way to my Grandkidz

I listened enough to my Dad to know that the big cluster of bright starts over head was the Constellation Orion.

At some point in a night of sledding, you would get tired and lay back on the snow and look up at all those stars.

The feeling of insignificance in this world was overwhelming while at the same time you felt close to God and his creative genius.

This was deep snow for a ten year old.

It was welcome to stand up and look across the Grand River Valley to the heights on the other side of the river where a giant red K glowed in the dark marking the K Mart store on Alpine to bring you back into civilization.

Now I live in the south.

When I lived in Atlanta there was too much light to see the stars much.

Now that I live along the Atlantic Coast, I am getting reacquainted with the stars.

But there is something wrong down here.

I can’t find Orion.

I did find a couple of really cool websites that allow you to follow the night sky for your location.

My Dad would have loved that.

And from what I can learn, Orion can be seen down here, but it isn’t right up overhead but low on the horizon.

The problem there is that living in the low country, there are few places where you can get the elevation to see the horizon.

I can, of course, go over to the beach, but horizon goes off to the east and I think Orion is to the southwest.

And that got me thinking, am I far enough south to see the Southern Cross.

Always wanted to, maybe just because it is on both the Australian and New Zealand flag and maybe because of the song that was popular when I was in High School.

So into the google goes Can I see the southern cross in South Carolina.

The answer is no, but the discussion on the Wikipedia page was fascinating.

According to Wikipedia:

The bright stars in Crux [the Southern Cross] were known to the Ancient Greeks, where Ptolemy regarded them as part of the constellation Centaurus. They were entirely visible as far north as Britain in the fourth millennium BC. However, the precession of the equinoxes gradually lowered the stars below the European horizon, and they were eventually forgotten by the inhabitants of northern latitudes.

Saw that last line over.

However, the precession of the equinoxes gradually lowered the stars below the European horizon, and they were eventually forgotten by the inhabitants of northern latitudes.

Again.

The stars were eventually forgotten by the inhabitants of northern latitudes.

I don’t know why I didn’t know that.

That the stars themselves are in motion.

Well, no that’s not it, but that the earth relationship to the stars is in motion.

In another 4,000 years the Southern Cross will be back up here.

Not sure that I would trade Orion.

10.12.2021 – those lucky ones whom

those lucky ones whom
clocks no consequence, times true
emotional drift

Adapted from the line:

“The summer came and went quickly which is the nature of summer for people who are not children, those lucky ones to whom clocks are of no consequence but who drift along on the true emotional content of time.”

from The Summer he Didn’t Die – A Brown Dog Novella, by Jim Harrison

10.10.2021 – summer came and went

summer came and went
quickly, summer for people
who are not children

Adapted from the line:

“The summer came and went quickly which is the nature of summer for people who are not children, those lucky ones to whom clocks are of no consequence but who drift along on the true emotional content of time.”

from The Summer he Didn’t Die – A Brown Dog Novella, by Jim Harrison

Me and grand daughter Dallas

9.4.2021 – satisfying first

satisfying first
the needs for understanding
compassion respect

Adapted from the book, A Week at the Airport: A Heathrow Diary (2009, Vintage Books) by Alain de Botton, and the passage:

Yet it was more than a little disingenuous for the airline to deny all knowledge of, and responsibility for, the metaphysical well-being of its customers. Like its many competitors, British Airways, with its fifty-five Boeing 747s and its thirty-seven Airbus A320s, existed in large part to encourage and enable people to go and sit in deckchairs and take up (and usually fail at) the momentous challenge of being content for a few days. The tense atmosphere now prevailing within David’s family was a reminder of the rigid, unforgiving logic to which human moods are subject, and which we ignore at our peril when we see a picture of a beautiful house in a foreign country and imagine that happiness must inevitably accompany such magnificence. Our capacity to derive pleasure from aesthetic or material goods seems critically dependent on our first satisfying a more important range of emotional and psychological needs, among them those for understanding, compassion and respect. We cannot enjoy palm trees and azure pools if a relationship to which we are committed has abruptly revealed itself to be suffused with incomprehension and resentment.

Part of the series of Haiku inspired by from A Week at the Airport: A Heathrow Diary (2009, Vintage Books) by Alain de Botton. I discovered this book entirely by accident. When searching for books online, I will use the term ‘collections’ and see what turns up. I figure that someone who has taken the time to gather together the etexts of any one author to create a collected works folder is enough for me to see what this author might be all about.

In this case I came across the writing of Alain de Botton. I enjoyed his use of language very much. Much of the words he strings together lend themselves to what I do.

As for his book, I recommend it very much though written in 2009, it misses the added layer of travel under covid but still the picture of the modern airport is worth the read.

8.19.2021 – taking out the trash

taking out the trash
into the Carolina night
warm dark overallness

Karen Blixen as Isak Dinesen (or Isak Dinesen as Karen Blixen) wrote in her short story, “From the Forests and Highlands – We come, we come” about living in Africa that, “The chief feature of the landscape, and of your life in it, was the air. Looking back on a sojourn in the African highlands, you are struck by your feeling of having lived for a time up in the air.

Having lived the first 50 years of my life in the great state of Michigan, I say that the chief feature of the landscape was also the air.

The COLD air.

Living up in the cold.

It wasn’t an Alaskan, Jack London, type of cold.

But an annoying, I forgot a sweatshirt, my feet are cold, nagging type of cold.

Always there.

Always lurking just below the surface of the warmest days.

And taking over the night even in the middle of summer.

My weather friends tell me that West Michigan is the 2nd most overcast region in the continental United States.

50 shades of gray dreary damp unoutshone only by Seattle.

Gray, dreary damp cold.

I am not enamored of the somewhat cheerful term of ‘sweater weather’.

The term ‘sweater weather’ was created by realtors or Canadians who endeavored to present a picture of a fun, if cold, lifestyle.

I now live in South Carolina.

I was outside last night.

It was in the mid 80’s both temperature and humidity.

Walking outside the dark warmth closed around me like a blanket

The type of blanket known as a comforter.

And I was comforted.

Lest you think I had forgotten my roots, the cold weather of Michigan was much on my mind.

I left my apartment and walked first into the building common stairway.

This part of the building has South Carolina air conditioning.

South Carolina conditions its inside air much like the city of Atlanta but on steroids.

As far as I can tell, air conditioners are installed and the settings are locked into the lowest possible temperate and left on forever.

Someone wrote that one of the benefits of Great Lakes beaches was that even in summer you could dig a shallow hole and bury your beer to get it cold.

In South Carolina, all you have to do to cool your beer to is leave it in the hallway.

I walked into the hallway in my shorts, T shirt and flip flops and tried to breath.

In my mind, it was Michigan in February.

Congealed is not a pleasant word.

Then I got out of the hallway and into the night.

My mindset had shifted to Michigan Summer nights.

No disrespect to Bob Seger and his sweet summertime, summertime.

Even at its warmest in Michigan, you can feel autumn moving in.

I was ready for chill.

I was ready for thinking why didn’t I have a hoodie on.

I was ready for thinking why didn’t I have a socks on.

Warm, thick socks.

And then, I didn’t think those things.

I didn’t because it wasn’t cold.

It was warm.

A thick delicious warmth.

The dark was so deep I could touch it.

I literally stepped out INTO the night.

And there was a light breeze.

There always seems to be a light breeze at night.

Just enough to keep the air moving.

After all the reading I have done of sea stories and navy adventures, I should have had expected land breezes and sea breezes.

They are real.

When the sun sets and the land stays warmer than the sea, a light breeze comes in off the ocean.

It was a delight.

It was delightful.

I was full of delight.

I had to laugh.

I had to laugh out loud just for the sake of the delight in the dark warmth.

Ms. Blixen also writes, ” … you woke up in the morning and thought: Here I am, where I ought to be.”

I know what she means.

And while I can say that, I still have a hard time believing I am in South Carolina.

But be that as it way, here I am, where I ought to be.

Ms. Blixen also writes about Africa that, “Everything that you saw made for greatness and freedom, and unequaled nobility.”

Not that I can say exactly that about the South Carolina shore.

But I will say this.

Everything I felt in the warm dark overallness (so I made up a word) made for me, greatness and freedom, and unequaled, well maybe not nobility but can I say satisfaction.

And I was just taking out the trash.

PS – Yes the short story, “From the Forests and Highlands – We come, we come” is better known as Out of Africa but had I wrote that everyone would be reading my essay in the voice of Meryl Streep as she used it in the movie of the same name. A voice that not too outrageously had me waiting for her to say beyork beyork beyork like the Swedish Chef in the Muppet Show..