Sunday, September 25, 2016

Wilbo Explores the Riparian Corridor of the Big Sable River, Preserved by the Work of Jack Shereda.

Sign posted on the Darr Road bridge over the Big Sable River honors a man of Free Soil, Jack Shereda, who lived from 1931 to 2010, attaining the age of 79. The wooden sign bolted to a wooden post has a simple message. I have copied the message here.

Jack was born in Free Soil and lived here most of his life. He was a true sportsman and cared deeply about the environment, wildlife and its habitat. He was a founding member of the Big Sable Watershed Restoration Committee. He was dedicated to the preservation of the Big Sable River as a fishing and recreation waterway.

Simple testimonials are the best testimonials. The river itself makes a testimony to this Naturalist. The bridge embankments are well rip-rapped with boulders and the river flows clean and cold and strong under the bridge. The riparian corridor has trees, grasses and shrubs still green and vital, early Fall before October's reckoning. The air is filled with the songs of fish food, crickets and noisy insects a tumble or a strong wind from becoming swimming bait for hungry trout. Jack did a good job on this sand bottom river with clear water. Now I must check under the bridge for signs of trolls.

Although too big for gulping by steelhead or brownies, these boulders have roundness and edges enough to twist my ankle and tumble me into the flow.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

On the Eve of His Birthday, Wilbo Takes a Long Walk through His Hometown, Waiting for the Bell Tower to Ring Midnight.

Last night, I set out for a birthday walk. Ten in the evening on the eve of my birthday and I intended to walk until my birthday arrived. I gulped two aspirin with a slug of Budweiser and set out towards Western Boulevard, the main street of Muskegon full of life. Smokers always partake near the doors of the Eagles Club. Didn't see Scully outside today, but I did see him as I left the Irish Festival Sunday evening. That time, I reported out to him, "Seamus Kennedy sang the benediction song again this year. He gathered up all the musicians he could find and sang, 'The Parting Glass'."

"Ah, that would be a fine song led by Seamus", answered Scully.

"Last year, Seamus sang the benediction song too. But he gathered up all the musicians he could find and sang the one that goes, 'And we'll all go down together'".

"Ah, that would be a fine tune too, led by Seamus", answered Scully. That's what makes Scully a mate. He always knows what to say.

Bowlers were knocking over pins inside the small alley inside the club. The bright lights of the alley caught my eye from the street. I continued my walk north on Western until I reached the Tipsy Toad, where the door propped open let in the night air. A man sat alone at the bar and nursed a whiskey. The waitress's face had a bluish glow from her iPhone screen. I passed by the doorway of Mike's Inn. I would be at Mike's Inn soon enough. I kept walking.

I studied a sign with a white arrow on a purple background. It read, "This way to a world without Alzheimers".  I kept walking, wondering what that was all about. I followed the arrow. I was going north anyways.

I've gotten pretty pretty brazen about walking right into Pigeon Hill's tap room and looking for friends. Even if I'm not drinking. More often than not, my housemate can be found, working on her lecture, enjoying the wifi. She has never failed to buy me a nice glass of Walter Blondale, a blond ale, or an Oatmeal Stout. But she was probably getting ready to sleep the night away on her sailboat, moored at a marina on Lake Muskegon. I spotted Jeff having a nice pint with his wife, Radie. Her name sounds like the word radiant, which she is. I filled up a biodegradable plastic cup with ice water, which the Hill gives away free. I didn't want to look like a beggar when I approached Jeff's table. And when I did, I slugged him on his massive right arm. "Jeff, you're a made man! I saw your chain mail jewelry in the gift shop of the Muskegon Museum of Art!" "Yeah, the museum just asked to see my work. I'm going to be in the next email blast". I slapped him on his powerful back, "You're moving up the ladder fast now". And I made my way out with my glass of water, which I drank on the bench set out before the union hall.

Poor Mary, I remembered. The County's leading Democrat and Hillary delegate had delivered a batch of Colleen LaMonte yard signs to the hall. And then I had buttonholed her. That was Tuesday night. I said, "Mary, is LaMonte doing enough? I haven't heard a thing".

"Well, Marcia is your State Rep, right?" answered Mary, LaMonte's campaign manager.

"Right as rain. But, it's like Holly Hughes the Republican incumbent has me on speed dial"

"We have crews going door to door nightly. We have signs all the way up and down Seaway".

"Sure, Mary, but is it enough. I hear nothing about LaMonte. And I have my ear to the ground. I am the canary in the coal mine. The Cassandra singing in the opera".

"I don't really want to argue with you, Will", Mary said to wrap up the chat.

"I don't want to argue with you either, Mary". "I'll let LaMonte know your concern personally".

"Thank you, Mary. Just trying to help".

Poor Mary, I was so tired and such a troll and she was so diplomatic. I drank the last sip of water and continued on my way.

I gave the Buster Keaton statue a slap on the back, and the cold bronze hurt my hand, serving me right. Keaton was a little shorter than me. The lights of the Frauenthal marquee had gone dark for the night although the lobby lights were bright. Patrons were exiting after experiencing, "A Murder is Announced". Twenty dollars to see the play or twenty dollars to see 'Heros and Villians', the next program of the West Michigan Symphony. I studied the poster in the window and thought, "Oh good, next Friday. Seventeen Hundred seats in the hall and Clara from the symphony fills them. Heck, she takes attendance". I smiled at this thought. How could one person keep it all straight? And yet, the leader of the symphony came of age on the Mississippi River in LaCrosse. She probably trained her mind by memorizing the schedules of barges and paddlewheelers on the river.

I usually slip into the Holiday Inn for a free coffee from the urn by the door. The lobby looked crowded with people and I wasn't dressed well enough to be a wedding crasher. So I ducked into Unruly to score a bag of popcorn. I didn't see a person I knew and I glanced at all the faces. A DJ was doing the Sir Mix-A-Lot thing at a pair of turntables, accessing vinyl from milk crates. A chalkboard sign promised a free folk band on my birthday night. "Say, if a friend took me to Hobo's tonight, I could score a free ribeye. Two for one on your birthday". And I made a mental short list of who to call. Next Friday, payday too, Unruly promised beer for breakfast. Not free but okay.  I thought, "Who keeps track of all these great events"? I took my popcorn outside and sat on a metal bench donated by a man named Gary and his wife, right in front of the distillery that a man named Michael and his wife were installing. The two had just put in place a Brunswick bar in wood, with all the fine moulding and gingerbread finely restored and refinished. Opening day must be drawing close.

The lights remained on in the new bus station and a man waited for a bus outside. So I went inside and checked the slots for forgotten change and scored enough for a free large coffee. I had just sipped once on the brim when a bus driver strolled into the lobby. "Hello! Hello! You must leave immediately. The doors are about to lock automatically". I thought about waking up on my birthday morning in a bus station, a pleasant thought. It wouldn't be the first time. I took my coffee out to the passenger benches. I sipped slowly.

She boarded the West Sherman bus, and called out to me, "Do you need a ride, sir"? "No, I'm good. Thank you".  And she closed the bus door and took her single passenger on her route. I thought about a joy ride that would end at the farmer's market in Muskegon Heights. Nothing awaited now but a party store to sell me a que to drink in good company at the corner of Broadway and Center. I thought to myself, "Any place is a birthday party on a birthday eve, right"?

I sipped my coffee and studied the brick exterior of the Social Security building. "I'm not old enough for social security yet. Do I have twelve years to go? Fourteen?" I studied the arch leading into the Old Indian Cemetery and thought, "I'm not ready for the big sleep either". And I slowly sipped my coffee, alone with my thoughts, awaiting the first ring of the Hackley Bell tower chiming midnight. If one counts the toll of twelve for midnight, one must hear the first one to get the count right.

When I came to, I had a coffee stain on my lap. I'm not sure the tower chimed three times or five times, but I knew I was fifty-three years of age.

I was pretty sure it was a coffee stain. I had brushed the empty paper cup onto the ground.

The Jingyun Bell, cast in 711 during the Tang Dynasty. 247 cm high and 6,500 kg. On display at the Xi'an Bell Tower in Xi'an, PRC. Tourists can ring the bell for a fee.

24 October 2007

Photographer BrokenSphere

Thursday, September 22, 2016

On Thursday Evening, My Street Became a Torrent for Ten Minutes.

Support "Stop, Drop and Write" essays in Muskegon.
I like the street where I have lived for two years and a half. The street has grown intimate to me and yet has secrets. Tonight, as I cycled home from the class at the art museum, the gutters of Seventh Street gushed with water. Yet, no deluge fell from the skies. The sky appeared clear and blue, a classic September sky for the first day of Fall. The two men who sell Felt bicycles and fix bicycles for the neighborhood children got curious. I was sitting on my stoop and the pair marched up Seventh Street hill to investigate. I had noticed the roostertail of water at the hill's top and drew my own conclusion. The two wanted to talk to the man by the white City of Muskegon truck. The mechanic with the glasses pointed to the corner with just a touch of glee, "Look at it. Look at it go around the corner. Drains can't keep up with it". Yes, a puddle was growing at the corner of Seventh and Clay. The two continued up the hill and the water slowed.

On the way back, I waylaid the mechanic. He keeps an eye on bicycles that pass the corner where the CityHub store stands. He stands on the concrete porch of the two story brick building that once housed Carlson's Grocery in the last century. He can diagnose a bike's problems as it rolls on by his station. 

A few days before, he called out to me, "Your rear tire has a slow leak". 

I stopped and protested, "Naw, that tire still had air after the winter". 

"Let's find out" and he produced a bike pump and attached it to the nozzle. 

"See! It's twenty pounds. You have a slow leak". 

"I don't think so. I did a bad job of filling the tire earlier". 

"Fair enough. Tire is at sixty pounds. Keep an eye on it".

So I had to report when he walked back down the hill after talking to the man by the hydrant. "Hey, that tire is still rolling nicely". 

"Okay, so it's not a slow leak. But you got to add air every week".

"Okay okay okay okay. So did you want to run and play in the gush of water from that fire hydrant".

"No way. The maintenance guy was flushing the system. That hydrant was spewing twelve thousand gallons of water a minute".

"It would knock me flat", I concluded.

"And no bike helmet to protect your head".

"Good point".

The flood had become nothing more than a wet street glistening in early fall early evening sunshine.

Friday, September 16, 2016

At Downtown Market, Wilbo Explores the Delicious Food Offerings of the Indoor Vendors and Enjoys the Deck with a View of Homeless People.

Aug 23, 2016 1:34 PM

While in Grand Rapids Saturday, I motored over to the Downtown Market to see if farmers were selling farm goods at this market at Ionia and Wealthy Streets too. I couldn't imagine why anyone would sell at Downtown Market over the vibrant Fulton Street market, but I had to see for myself. Instead of fielding farmers under the long roof, the market had invited master sand castle makers to carve statues out of sand. Two masters were putting on finishing touches as I strolled up, and a pair of bartenders had set up an outdoor bar with a full range of call liquors. So maybe no farmers at all will drive up their trucks to the stalls? The space worked well as an outdoor exhibition space, the long roof sure to keep the rain from ruining the sculptures. A sandbox on the side flocked with children learning sand sculpting techniques. I stepped into the main floor bazaar, and felt overwhelmed at the range of vendors, everyone from Sweetie-Licious, bakers of award winning pies, to Slows Barbecue, a transplant from Detroit's Corktown district. The space occupied by Social, a high end restsurant, had an expensive feeling. I asked if the moss wall had been installed by Ashley Liebler, an artist active on Division Street. The hostess didn't know but testified, "Guests love to walk up and pet the moss". The Downtown Market lacks the history of the old markets in downtown Montreal or Toronto. Downtown Market had better design and more salubrious vendors, but it will take decades to accumulate the gravitas of the Canadian markets. I was reminded of Ferry Plaza in San Francisco. It's hard for landlocked Downtown Market to compete with a maritime port with ships arriving hourly from Sausalito, Tiburon and Oakland. Downtown Market has proximity to the bus hub and a major freeway and yet doesn't feel connected to either. Signs placed by ArtPrize a few years ago show, ironically, how far a walk one must walk to reach other Grand Rapids districts.

The second floor had the feeling of corporate offices, door after door leading to incubator kitchens, lacking the busy, hopeful feeling of the Culinary Institute of Michigan in Muskegon, always flocking with student chefs seeking skills. In the greenhouse, plants on irrigation hoses awaited buyers. It reminded me more of the garden center at Kmart than a teaching greenhouse. Among the plants, I found a program left over from a wedding and reception held on the second floor last weekend, an impressing production detailed on the hand made paper. Families dined together on the outdoor terrace, sharing selections picked up at the food court below. The terrace planters hosted apple trees with fruit almost red enough to pick. Viewing the parking lot of porous pavement and Heartside Park from the terrace, the diners could hardly make out the homeless woman sleeping on the grass, meaning right on the grass. Homeless men sat together on the benches, talking and smoking. At the park pavilion, volunteers gathered with the homeless for a celebration picnic, catered by Buist Community Engagement. The volunteers from a church on LaGrave Street had staffed a foot spa for the homeless one day a week all summer, giving the homeless hope one mani-pedi at at time. I remembered. Jesus had washed his disciples feet before he was betrayed, and the foot spa volunteers of LaGrave church might have begun their mission with the Gospel of John, Chapter 13. I hadn't thought of the Bible story in a long time.
 — at Downtown Market Grand Rapids.

 "The Sands of Victory", a ten ton sand art sculpture by Natalia Kamenskaia

The Day of the Second Annual Burning Foot Beer Festival Made for a Bad Day for Rain. So We Ignored the Weather Until it Sent Sunshine.

Aug 27, 2016 9:47 AM

Despite a cloudburst pummeling the roof of the barn of the farmers market, Steeple Hill has continued to sing. Lead singer Dana Bowyer has dressed for a much warmer day, and despite a leather jacket around her shoulders, one can detect a shiver or two. The number of open stalls might be greater than usual. Yet, the farmers, like the band, stands their ground, delivers the goods. Friends and I have talked about the weather as we met under the market aisles. It's a horrible day for rain, worse strong rain. At Heritage Landing, the Shoreline Jazz Festival awaits showtime. The lineup has touched the phenomenal, and includes Bob James. Hate to see rain messing with that celebration. Over on the beach, Pere Marquette Beach on Lake Michigan, the tents of Burning Foot await in a circle for hopefully four thousand patrons. These are not tents for shelter but tents for covering the pour stations. Burning Foot needs the sun to hot up the sand. Traditionally, beer festivals push it and serves during rain if lightening is absent. "When it rained, they poured", said a review in the Michigan Beer Guide about a festival near Thompsonville years ago. That festival had a big festival tent where everyone could stand, drinking in dey clothing. One friend said the rain might clear by two. I hope so because Burning Foot starts at Three and Shoreline Jazz Festival is mostly an evening show.

As Steeple Hill finishes a cover of "Let it Be", by the Beatles, the rain slows to a trickle. Jeremy the photographer has busily carried his prints indoor to wipe dry with a damp cloth. A small children protected by a yellow Wellington rain jacket dances in a puddle upon the market floor. Only a few steps of pure joy until mother finds her hand and leads to drier cement.


In a Park of Downtown Hastings, Michigan, Wilbo Discovers a Woman Who Makes "What Once Was Old New Again".

Aug 28, 2016 10:53 AM

I've gone "sailing" the state in my Trailblazer, looking for story. Heading south-east of Grand Rapids, I crossed into the county seat of Barry County, Hastings Michigan. Part farm town, part center of government and part insurance center, Hastings today celebrates on the courthouse square with a festival of fine arts and crafts. On the main street, locals have fielded a car show of antique, vintage and custom cars. Near the courthouse fountain, Victoria Alt has raised her white tent for her second outdoor show, exhibiting a collection of jewelry boxes transformed by her art and imagination. Her creative breakthrough began when her daughter asked to paint a bedroom wall turquoise. Then, daughter's jewelry box no longer matched the room. Mom understood, and with paint and wallpaper, Mom executed all of her daughter's suggestions to arrive at a perfect, one-of-a-kind jewelry box that matched the room again. As goes Victoria Alt's motto, "What once was old is new again". Alt began picking through the thrift shops of Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Battle Creek and Lansing, paying up to ten dollars for a jewelry box in good shape. Now the boxes await by the scores in her garage, work room and basement. She has yet to find two jewelry boxes alike. That's a cool fact when one considers Jewelry Boxes were manufactured in multiples. She draws her daughter close during the cleaning and planning steps. Her daughter divulges fresh and current words to stencil upon the old wood, #YOLO but hold the #Tubular. The two think what colors of paint, what wallpaper themes will work with the box. Then the artist takes a drive for groceries or maybe to the school, and the scheme arrives to her mind unbidden. The results on sale in her tent speak for themselves and leave one a little speechless. One is reminded of the intuitive magnificence of Tyree Guyton on the Heidelberg Project in Detroit or the independent vision of Reb Roberts, Sanctuary Art Gallery. Given time, the work could become as famous as that of Howard Finster. That said, nothing on display here would be inappropriate in a young girl's room, so a sense of design dominates. Hoping people will just start giving her jewelry boxes, sparing her travel time, gas money and ten dollars a box. She'll happily talk with your favorite young one to pay perfect a jewelry box just for her. Reach out through the Facebook page.
 — feeling amused at Hastings Summer Festival.

She Wade in Park Lake and She Got Her Feet All Wet, But Her Clap Clap Wasn't Wet Yet.

Last night, drizzle pock marked the smooth waters of Park Lake and I walked into the warm waters for a swim. I waded out to chest deep and stopped when sand ran out and my feet sank into marl. Clean marl has little to harm feet and might be as good as a mud bath pedicure. I freaked about leeches. I had a leech fasten onto my hand one summer at Camp Tapico, and I stood shaking my right hand frantically on the Three Birches beach of Grass Lake, screaming, "Leech, leech, leech, leech, leech"! A camp counselor arrived from out of the birches and calmed me by taking my right hand in his hands. Then he lightly flicked the leech with his forefinger. Leech started crawling. The mouth had yet to fasten, chomp and draw blood. He plucked it off and dropped the spineless thing in shallow water. I watched in fascination as this animal swam in two inches of water, floating like a cloud, changing shape. I had spotted a snapping turtle earlier that week, a week of camping at the now "surplus" scout camp. Leeches had found a way to fasten on the legs of the shelled creature, catching a ride and a bloody meal. I knew what a leech could do. Today, I speculated what a leech could do if it bled me, Colonial American medicine. Lower my blood pressure could it? I turned on my back and began my back stroke, raindrops catching in my eyebrows. I tried to cast my imagination back more than nine decades when Park Lake awaited children from Bath School, walking with lunch buckets, enjoying an end of the school year picnic. Webster Road now surmounts a freeway before arriving at the surprisingly wild urban lake. A woods of many untouched acres on the south shore buffers the lake from the sprawl of student apartments. That woods might not be in public hands yet. A man pulled into the parking lot and put in his kayak. He made a quick paddle to that wooded shore where Lotus blossoms still flowered among the expanses of lily pads. He knew where to go to fish, a big net at ready, a flag almost rising from his stern. An unlit Coleman lantern on his bow told me he was out to reach his creel limit. I admired his strong, sure paddling, guessing he had rowed crew for Michigan State. That's when a Labrador Retriever splashed into the shallows. A woman followed her Lab, up to the ankles. An old campfire song sang itself in my memory, "She waded in the water and she got her feet all wet. But her who hah wasn't wet yet". "Stop that", I told myself. "Can't I take you anywhere, self? Besides, who hah isn't the word. Two claps go there. I'm not Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade from Scent of a Woman, already? Al Pacino would want me to mind my manners". She said "Hi"! "Thanks, I'm not drowning. No need to send the doggie out to rescue me". I am chronically joking. It's a disease, I swear. She laughed. The yellow lab set about retrieving fish from the lake waters rich with fish. The dock by Kathy's Pier Delight passed over waters teeming with pounder blue gill, bullheads and lunker largemouths. Kids had tossed fish food off the dock all summer long until August 28, the last day of the season. Pedal boats rented for five dollars an hour awaited a worker to put the plastic crafts away. The yellow lab had plenty to keep his mouth and paws working. "Funny," she said. "He won't chase a stick. Won't catch a frisbee like Zeke the wonder dog. But he's wild about fish. He catches nothing". I was passing a few days in Bath absorbing the local lore. So one talks to locals if one wants lore. I point to Kathy's Pier-Delight and asked, "Do you think that's a cupola on top, like the one in Bath's memorial park"? "Could be. That's a new building designed to look like an old building". Later that night, a red bulb lit up; the cupola looked like a lighthouse. "Kathy has a picture of the old dance hall that jutted out over the lake waters. There's a few posts still left on the edge of the swimming area". "Did it burn down"? All the pine dance halls burned down. Most of the pine resort hotels went with them. The Michilinda Lodge made it to the Twenty-First century before fire took it. Dance halls popped up everywhere in the Great Lakes region, from Port Stanley Ontario to Saugatuck, even Fruitport, Michigan. No sprinkler system, one tossed match from a pipe smoking arse was all it took. During the Depression, fire popped up in downtowns and forests with uncanny frequency. Tommy Dorsey and many traveling big bands had entertained at the Park Lake Pavilion, dancers arriving by interurban rail, the rails torn up when cars made public transportation look bad. Surprise, the Park Lake Pavilion went up in flames. "Kathy's has photographs framed on her walls". "She's closed for the season. I will check the internet". We talked about the lake and Lansing until the sky filled with rosy hues. The yellow lab had failed again to catch a lunker betwixt his paws and tiredly made little lunges into the darker waters. "I have to walk him home and towel him off. I once had to take him to the vet because he wore himself out. I thought he was deadly sick". "You're a great dog mom. Thanks for taking care of your fur baby"! "Wow, turn around and look at the waters now". I turned aroun in the water, now warm as bath water, and the sun had turned the wavy surface magenta and gold. I was mesmerized and thought to myself, "I shall never leave these waters even when they freeze. She has yet to see my feet. I am a merman". When I turned to say,"Yes, you are right. It's splendid", I found that woman and dog had left an empty beach.


Historic Photograph of Park Lake Dance Pavilion

On the Thursday Before Wheatland Music Festival, The Farmers Market in Bath Delighted with Music and Fresh Foods from the Farm.

The session has met Thursday, late afternoon to early evening, all through the warm months. A man with a long, white beard took roll informally, finding out that many of this circle have headed up north already, catching a week's camping before Wheatland in Remus opens its doors to folks. The men and women talk about simple topics, like being stung by a bee and needing an emergency visit. One reports that the low, squat blue apartments by Park Lake had one unit raided by law enforcement, meth making shut down. Raid went down just last week. Food is passed around, a selection of cherry tomatoes, a plate of cookies. When the chat runs thin, the next musician gets to lead a song, the lead going in a circle. The rest trail in the same key and tempo. The music sounds composed but the song arises spontaneously. The session might be as old as the farmer's market, now celebrating its sixth season. The grass under the white tent has worn thin and yellow from regular use.

A young woman serves as the market master, setting out signs on the roadway to help visitors find the market, raising tents for the check-in desk and craft counter, allocating tokens to users of double-up food bucks. She has plans to volunteer soon down in Appalachia, working with a team to keep coal companies from blowing up mountains for the carbon beneath them. A farmer of poultry will soon have pheasant for sale. Right now, he has Cornish Game Hens and stew chickens, hens that laid a lifetime of eggs. A woman who teaches for a religious school in Ithaca sells produce she brought from the farms of her students, honey in large jars and hunks of honeycomb, apples off the tree this morning and pints of what remains of this year's bumper crop of blueberries. Many blueberry farms have let go their picking crews and let "you pick" customers work over the bushes. Not all varieties of apples are for sale, she explains, mostly Zestars and Honeycrisps. Wooden crates of apples await tomorrow's first run of the press up in Ithaca. A cooler full of frozen gallons of cider has to sell today; last year's cider must make room for this year's juice. She'll stop visiting markets next week when her classroom calls. A farm in St. John has a table of garlic items, including a pill bottle of cloves to be taken for the high blood pressure. She assured me that it worked. Many customers kept coming back. I bought a slice of gluten free apple pie baked by a woman living on Park Lake, blending Pink Lady and Gala Apples. A woman has almost sold out of egg rolls and spring rolls, and my purchase drew down her stock even more. Out of the nine vendors under tents, she packed up first. A lady has sold off her last crate of the season's sweet corn, and I had no place to roast the last dozen I passed upon. I mean, I rarely cook in the kitchen when I stay at an Air B&B situation. So goodbye sweet corn because I was afraid to ask for kitchen privileges.

My mother baked Kolache at Christmas time, little twists of pastry stuffed with apricot or prune jam. At the tent of a man selling Kolache and Polish Sausage in a stunning array of flavor, a woman saw me balancing pie, egg rolls and a few apples in my hand and she called me over. "Put those in this bag". "I'm good", I said. She held the bag open and said, "Do you really know"? She kept the bag open and waited. Her arms shook with palsy. Remembering how mom's hands and arms shook the last time she cooked for me, I placed my items in the bag she held open. I thanked her. "She's a great, great Grandmother. Listen to her", advised the sausage maker, probably her son.

Wilbo Wonders Why Pigeons Are Sitting on the Pavement Like Sitting Ducks.

Is a disease afoot that causes pigeons to sit on the sidewalk when flying away is clearly the right act? Last night at Four in the morning, I had to drive around a pigeon standing on pavement at Second and Stocking in Grand Rapids. My passenger, who announced himself as an ornithologist, stepped out to catch the bird. Despite the his stealth, the bird fluttered off in an awkward flight. Today, near the Hackley Bank Tower in Muskegon, a pigeon on the sidewalk just looked at me as I walked past, turning to follow my progress. I gave the pigeon three feet and even stepped onto Western to give the bird space. I have no idea who was that self-proclaimed ornithologist. He studied undergrad at Albion, had a first name with an African spelling and dined with his doctor at Grand Coney. He wished me peace and shook my hand about four times. He didn't return to the car after attempting to rescue the pigeon. He walked the last mile to his home. At least no drunk cruising up Stocking will make road kill squab of it, thanks to him. He would puzzle on the issue of the docile pigeon with me if we talked again.

Maybe these are overfed pigeons? Last night near Tres Cuigini, an Italian restaurant of immaculate reputation, possibly the owner tossed bits of bread to pigeons as night arrived, bits he pulled off a scrap, the end of a loaf. Maybe I should carry stale bread, a loaf awaiting in my fridge one month old. It has dried but has yet to mold, an achievement for supermarket bread.

A pigeon has flown off in strong flight toward the Cheese Lady building.


On the shores of Lake Lansing, it Was a Morning for Boats That Raised Questions.

Taller blades of grass have a bead of dew each near tip. Bead of dew clings below the grass tip a distance set precisely by physics. Mist has burned off the lake that an hour ago had no visible shore across the water. Now it is possible to see a line of lakefront cottages, tear-outs holding a place for trophy homes sure to be built. My professor of poetry lived in one years ago. He invited us out for an afternoon of wine and verse and only one member of the class showed. She soon joined the ranks of ex-girlfriends when I joined again the league of the dumped. Maybe this made for an unforgettable lesson in poetry. A pontoon boat has put in the water but yet has to leave the dock. The motor roars to life for a minute, stalling when the captain asks that motor to move the boat. The crew counts a father, a mother, a grandmother and a grandfather. One and only one grandson doesn't mind the decision to stay moored at dock and tuck into the picnic basket. Artie, the grandson, counts the bluegill that rise to gulp breadcrumbs chummed on the lake, feathered by a steady, light breeze that chills my left cheek. It would be a good day if the pontoon were a sailboat. "The boat is sick", explains the captain to the boy. As the captain has observed, the county has no one assigned to collect a put-in fee and the family has Lake Lansing to themselves. So why not stay at the launch dock. The guy who quickly put in a kayak doesn't count, the owner of two bikes he keeps in his white van. Maybe he lives in the van down by the river, traveling from watershed to watershed, living to cycle and kayak his way across the country, a retirement pursuit. The aluminum fishing boat filled to the gunnels with lake grass has been hauled home by its owner, who had to replace two wheels on his trailer that went flat while he harvested weed. I looked at the sargasso he had collected as he hooked trailer up to his truck. It wasn't water milfoil he had pulled from the waters the way volunteers eradicate garlic mustard by hand at Fenner Arboretum. I had to ask. Maybe he was mulching. "That smelly weed is going into my warehouse". I offered to help him get his trailer hooked up but he said, "I got this. I'm good". The unknown owner has yet to collect a Sunfish sailboat pulled up on the sand. I spotted the craft in the mist when the park opened at Six this morning because its captain had left the sail up. Sailors rarely leave a sail up and make a ritual out of dropping their sails and folding the canvas. Spiders, unlike sailors, leave up their canvases. Between the posts of the wooden fishing dock, a web had been strung, a final hammock for unlucky flying insects. A breed of tiny mosquito found in Lansing has attacked my ear lobes and elbows quite effectively, abdomens filling with blood before there's time to swat, but not yet this morning. I didn't see any no see-ums sucked dry by spiders in the mist webs and nothing would have made me happier. The sun has burned away an overcast, partly cloudy making for wave shadows and sun dappling of the shade.


Italian full-rigged ship Amerigo Vespucci in New York Harbor, 1976

Rear Admiral Harley D. Nygren, NOAA Corps (ret.) - NOAA's America's Coastlines Collection