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Sunday, July 26, 2009

A new car! (and other ramblings)

So much for my great plan to write a post every day. Definitely not realistic, and probably for the better. Nobody needs to read about every mundane thing I've done every single day.

Taking a few moments to jot some things down. The wind is swirling threateningly outside my window as I write this, it feels as if a thunderstorm may be brewing. This is not good because I am planning to go outside and grill steaks.

It has been a rather eventful week. On Wednesday, I met up with my old college friend Tom F., whom I lived with in Capitol Villa Apartments (near the Michigan State campus) during the summer of '89. I had not seen Tom since about 1990, but we reconnected through the wonders of Facebook (probably THE best aspect of Facebook). Tom was on vacation (he lives in San Francisco) and came to Ohio and Michigan to visit friends and family. The two of us got together at the Peanut Barrel, a popular watering hold across the street from the MSU campus. The Barrel was much busier than I expected for a mid-week day in the middle of summer, so the only open table we found was in back, about two feet from the billiards table, so for much of the evening we had pool players practically poking us in the face with pool cues--plus we were sitting directly underneath a stereo speaker, making conversation difficult. Still, despite the non-ideal setting, we had a good time reconnecting. I was a little nervous because I hadn't seen Tom in so long, but the conversation (when we could hear each other over the din) was great.

On Saturday the 25th, we decided to take advantage of the "Cash for Clunkers" program and get rid of our (poor excuse for an automobile) 1997 Plymouth Voyager. Luckily, it has the largest engine of the '97 Voyagers, so it qualifies for the program. I'm thanking my lucky stars because the Voyager has a whole litany of problems that I don't want to address (because it would be a complete waste of money to do so): the transmission is shot, the brakes are metal-to-metal and barely operational, the air conditioning doesn't work, the right rear turn signal has scarcely worked since we bought if back in March 2008. (In fairness, we bought the thing for $3000 cash from Sundance, the local gi-normous used car emporium in the Lansing area--it's amazing the darned thing has lasted THIS long). We will be trading this lemon in for a 2010 Kia Soul, and I couldn't be more excited.

Well, that's all for now. I'll try and not be a stranger to this blog--but you know how that goes.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

"Hey baby, it's the 4th of July"

(So much for my attempt to write on every single day this month, I missed yesterday. Perhaps I should aim for every other day).

The title of this blog entry comes from the song "4th of July" by the great band, X. It's a song that's not so much about the 4th of July, but about a disintegrating relationship. The protagonist of the song is depressed, smoking a cigarette alone, while "Mexican kids are shootin' fireworks below." The joyful festivities mock his sadness. I love this song, and have always tried to play it on July 4 (but haven't done so in several years).

Did the usual 4th of July stuff--went to the beach, drank a beer, saw a parade, and saw some fireworks from the backyard of my house.

Returned home from Saugatuck, a cute (albeit trendy and ritzy) Lake Michigan coastal community. Hit the beach there, ate a late lunch at Chequers, a fish-and-chips joint in town that we like, and were also able to see the Saugatuck 4th of July party outside the window of the restaurant.

I always feel jealous when I'm in Saugatuck, which during the summer seems exclusively populated by wealthy denizens of Chicagoland, with their BMWs, sailboats, and cottages larger than my own house. I can't help but feel myself resentful of all these Illinois license plates invading our state. Part of me thinks, "Oh, I see how it is, your boring state doesn't have any good vacation spots, so you have to invade our turf." Shouldn't complain too much though, it seems that tourism is about the only economy my state has right now. Michigan may not have any money anymore, but at least we have our looks.

Came home late in the afternoon, feeling tired. My oldest son wanted to light sparklers in the early evening. I went outside with him for awhile until I was quickly devoured by mosquitoes.

The 4th of July is one of my least favorite holidays, I must confess, and no, it's not because I don't "love my country." Why must we celebrate the day by blowing stuff up? Is it typically American that we must honor our nation's birth by making loud noises, setting things on fire, and blasting fireworks skyward all day long? I don't necessarily dislike fireworks (I feel about them the same way I think of Brussel sprouts--don't seek them out, but they're okay if encountered), I just think they're overrated. My idea of great fun is not loading my kids in the car at 9:30 PM, fighting traffic to get to the fireworks display, prowling stealthily for a place to park, getting sucked dry by marauding mosquitoes, and having to endure hordes of the usual drunken louts and hooligans igniting their own loud, obnoxious, probably illegal and unquestionably dangerous fireworks while they're waiting for the real municipal fireworks to go off. The actual professional fireworks display we've come to see lasts all of a half-hour, then it's load everything back in the car, fight more traffic, and, once you're home, try to get your overly tired and cranky kids to bed. Call me an unpatriotic, misanthropic killjoy, but the 4th of July really does little for me.

Anyway, went out behind our house and saw some of the Meridian Township fireworks before the mosquito situation once again drove me back in the house. I'm happy to live in a location where I don't need to drive to the fireworks if I don't want to, so I was able to see enough (about 5 minutes worth) to satisfy me. My wife and oldest son stayed outside for the duration, God bless 'em.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Chilly day in Michigan

I've been seriously neglectful of this blog, so I've decided to not worry too much about how interesting my posts are, and simply write in here every day about SOMETHING, regardless of how trivial it may be. In fact, I'm going to attempt an experiment and make a concerted effort to write in this blog every single day for the month of July (and I'm not off to a good start because I missed yesterday, July 1).

Okay, talking about the weather is usually boring, and a sign that you don't HAVE anything to talk about, but it's unseasonably cold in Michigan today. It's been unseasonably cold for the last few days. Today's high temperature in Lansing was 58 degrees, yesterday's high was 61, and Monday was somewhere in the low 60s. The average high temperature for July in Lansing is 82. The average LOW temperature in July is the same as today's high. In typically freaky Michigan weather fashion, last week we had temperatures in the upper 80s and low 90s. As the expression goes in these parts, "If you don't like the weather, just wait 15 minutes and it'll change."

My oldest son is suffering from what the doctors think is tendonitis in his knee, which has been going on since early June. It's been rough, with him in agonizing pain about every four or five hours. He's been on a steady diet of children's Tylenol for a few weeks, and begins physical therapy this Monday. I hope we see improvement soon.

I'm reading a great book right now, Boy Alone: A Brother's Memoir by Karl Taro Greenfeld. It's his memoir of growing up with a severely autistic younger brother, Noah. Noah became something of a celebrity in the seventies and eighties when the boys' father, Josh Greenfeld, wrote a series of books documenting his (and his family's) struggle to raise Noah. Karl, who is now 45 years old, is finally writing about Noah from his perspective. I'm finding the book fascinating. It's good to be able to read about someone else's difficult life to put your own life in perspective. Thank heavens neither of my sons are autistic, it sounds like a heartbreaking experience. I'll take tendonitis any day.