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patterns of ink

How fruitless to be ever thinking yet never embrace a thought... to have the power to believe and believe it's all for naught. I, too, have reckoned time and truth (content to wonder if not think) in metaphors and meaning and endless patterns of ink. Perhaps a few may find their way to the world where others live, sharing not just thoughts I've gathered but those I wish to give. Tom Kapanka

Thursday, June 28, 2007


In our post-postal world, the word "attachment" has come to mean a document or picture that is being sent along with an email. We click on the paper clip icon and "attach" the digitally stored file to a digitally created note and with a single digit, we press the send button and our words and attachments fly through time and space.

Whether electronic or hard-copy, this is the easy kind of attachment—pages pinched and paper-clipped at the corners with little care, entrusted to the frail grip of an elliptical twist of wire.

The harder kind of attachments are ties formed in the pinches and corners of time and strengthened by the twists and turns of life. These attachments are bonds of affection and love. Ironically, they feel strongest at the thought of loss or when we sense the frailty of our grip. We enter such attachments voluntarily, eyes wide, knowing full well that we are embracing the responsibility to care and the need to be cared for. It’s a simple arrangement, but with such care can come a kind of fear so tangible that we are encouraged to cast these cares on Him who taught us how to care in the first place.

I woke last night at 1:00AM and spent the rest of the night and morning with a stack of old towels and Kip, our ten-year-old West Highland Terrier. He is very sick. Two nights ago, he inadvertently got into a small Ziploc bag and ingested some Advil pills. He “got sick” 15 times through the night. The next morning our vet informed us that Advil can be fatally toxic to dogs—especially to small breeds like a 14-pound Westie.

The doc gave him an anti-nausea shot and instructed us not to give food or water until his stomach had been settled for 24 hours. Unfortunately, Kip, was sick four more times through the second night. This morning I took him in for observation and an I.V. to prevent dehydration. They'll keep him for at least two days.

And so it was that two mornings before my daughter’s wedding—perhaps the most celebrated of human attachments—I had a house full of females in tears about their dog. Attachments come in all sizes.
Good news. The vet called a while ago to tell us Kip is doing much better. The news brought the first of the smiles we’ll share from now through this weekend of old and new attachments
... and the happiest sort of letting go.
.My 3 girls and little Kip. October, 1997

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Sunday, June 24, 2007

Final Daze before the Wedding

I’m not sure when this will be posted, but as I begin typing, it is exactly one week from this hour that we will be in the middle of a wedding. It’s 3:05PM Saturday, so in fact, by this hour the ceremony will be nearly over and my wife and I will listening to bagpipes playing the recessional (the groom is mostly Scottish). Then it's a hop across town for the meal and reception. I hope it's not a blur.

In comments but not a post, I've mentioned this week that my brother Dave is a videographer/film maker and that his house was nearly destroyed by fire on Tuesday. All things considered, they are doing fine, and he will still be "shooting" the wedding. We can't wait to see his family and all our extended family and friends this week. I’ll try to write about the wedding highlights after the fact [as I did about the engagement], but I won't be blogging much from now 'til then. My "Honey-do" list is multiplying. Each time I scratch a task off, I see two more added at the end. This "story" post is about an item that was added this week. Enjoy!
Last Oil Change and Car Wash

The age-old custom of the bride coming with a “dowry” still plays out in small practical ways, like having her wisdom teeth pulled a few months before the wedding, putting new tires on her car, and doing all the things that will give the new couple a jump start on financial independence as they start their life together. In that spirit, our bride-to-be mentioned this week that her car needed an oil change.

“That’s fine,” I nodded, “Just take it by the One Stop on the way home from work, and put it on our card.”

“Dad, I was hoping you’d drive my car today. If I do it they’ll try to sell me all that extra stuff, and I won’t know what to say.”

“You’re right. They will do that, but just say, ‘No, my dad will take care of it later.’ All I need now is my oil changed.”

“It’s not that easy, Dad. Pleeeeeeease? You’re better at saying ‘no.’”

“She’s right, Dad,” chimed Natalie, our twelve-year-old.

“Okay. I’ll drive your car, but how will you learn how to hold your ground in these situations if you never get any practice?”

“Thanks, Dad. Just think. In a few days, I'll be married and you won’t have to do these things for me anymore.”

I smiled. If all of Emily's blushing reminders of the approaching wedding were roses, I could fill a vase or two these past few weeks—I’m mindful of the thorns, those sad moments have been private and aren't about the wedding or marriage… but rather the turning pages of time. My wife and I are genuinely happy for them, and so her blushing reminders and counting down of the days continue to make us smile.

Later that day, after some shopping runs, my wife dropped off Natalie at my office. She wanted to go with me to change the oil. We went to the new place about a mile from the school.

This shop is better than most. The greeter serves you an ice-cold bottle of water as a uniformed team begins work underneath the hood and chassis, checks and tops all fluids, tire air, etc. All the while repeating commands to each other like the crew of a submarine during maneuvers. Then they show you your dipstick at the "full" line and hand you a coupon for their "Super Deluxe" car wash in the last bay of their building. It's an impressive five-minute show for $28.95—if, and this is a big “if”—if you can say no to all the extras. They start in right away with the extras.

“You could really use some new wiper blades. This one’s falling off.”

He was right. The rubber was dangling from the wiper arm.

“Remember, Dad. Hold your ground,” Natalie whispered.

“This is my daughter’s car. I never drive it,” I explained man-to-man as if men could never neglect such a thing. “I’ll fix that later. Thanks.”

“Good job, Dad. Can you really fix it yourself?”

“Of course, I can. I’ll do it right now.” And I did. She was impressed. Standing that close to the open hood, put me closer to the next pitch as the service guy opened the air filter housing. “You could sure use a new air filter," he said, "There’s all kinds of crud in here….”

“I think I’ll do that late…” The word later was interrupted when the guy pulled a dead mouse out of the air filter. I swear he held up a mummified mouse that died and dried inside. “Whoa! How’d he get in there?” I asked.

He held the dusty filter up toward me and rolled the folds like a small accordion. “We’ve got ‘er in stock, Sir.”

As he turned to drop the mouse in a 55 gallon drum of trash, my eyes met my daughter's gaze.

“Ah... I’ll pick up a filter later, but thanks for finding that mouse.”

“It’s your call, Sir. May I invite you to both sit over here in our lounge while we vacuum your car?”

Natalie came and plopped down in the chair beside me. “That was a close one. We'd better not tell Emily about that mouse.”

Other than emptying the mouse trap, they only had two or three other suggestions. I declined each with satisfaction, signed the receipt, and took the coupon for their automatic car wash. It wasn't easy, but I'd beaten the “add-on sales” gauntlet once again.

Nat read my smile. "You're good," she said dialing to our favorite radio station to sing along with as we waited our turn. Sitting there, it occurred to me that she did not have to come with me on this errand. She chose to.

Since school has been out this summer, Nat has hung out with me more often than usual. It reminds me of the days when she used to help me work on creative projects. Back when our profile picture was taken, she'd come into the room in work clothes and a nail apron and say her own special cheer: “We need a hammer! We need a saw! We need some wood!” And then we’d go build or fix something together.

Those sawdust times together tapered off when she entered Middle School, but they’ve come back in a different way. I think she senses the change this year brings to our home. Her oldest sister is getting married; her only other sister is going to Chicago for college next year. Maybe these thoughts have occurred only to Julie and me. All I know, is we’re enjoying more father-daughter time this summer.

I was thinking these thoughts as the green “Enter” sign cued us to roll up our windows and roll into the “touch free” wash.

The air conditioner in Emily's car has not worked for years, but it was a cost-prohibitive repair lost to the constant demands of our fleet of four cars. On scorching days like this one (near-90 degrees), riding in that car was like the old days with all four windows down, hair blowin’, radio blaring, and passengers reading lips or using make-shift sign language like luggage loaders on an airport tarmac. When the car is stopped, you pray for a breeze, and there was just enough wind outside the car wash to keep us comfortable. But as we rolled into the wash, we had to roll up the electric windows.

Natalie’s eyes widened as the eight-foot vertical, robotic, hydro-spray arm of the Super Deluxe Car Wash began circling slowly around the car. In the next five minutes it would do this five times. By the second spin, it was so hot and humid in the car that perspiration was dripping down my forehead. So after the spraying arm passed my window, I rolled both of our windows down.

“Dad, you can’t roll down your windows in a car wash,” she warned.

“Not in a regular car wash you can’t, but we can outsmart this one.”

The breeze felt great with just enough mist to be refreshing. Nat began to panic as the giant sprinkler arm rounded the right-rear corner. She pressed the up button on her door, and there went the breeze. As soon as the shower passed her window, I rolled it down again from my side. Just as it came to my window I quickly rolled it up… and down again as soon as the drippy suds roll down the glass.

“This is fun,” I laughed, but Natalie was not laughing she was watching the arm in her visor mirror and began rolling up her window.

“You still had a good ten seconds,” I coached. “We need you to keep it down as long as possible so we have a breeze. Watch. I’ll show you.” The washer rounded my bumper, but I didn’t raise my window.

“Dad, roll it up!” she screamed through a playful laugh, and just as the spray hit my rear-view mirror, I did. As the arm crept around the back of the car, Nat rolled her window up prematurely again so I rolled it back down only to have her roll it up again. It was a quick match of “push-me-pull-you” with the stakes admittedly higher for her, but I knew just when to raise the window, and that was truly my intent. Our laughing out loud and pushing the buttons against each other went on for ten-seconds or so.

In that brief ten seconds before the spray got to her window, my daughter and I learned something. We learned that fun doesn’t come in a package. It’s not sold by Mattel or Milton Bradley. It doesn’t need a yard-full of people or a day at the water park. Fun can be a father and daughter playing “dueling window” in a car wash. I looked at her laughing there and blinked. My mind took a snapshot of my little girl, eyes wide, jaw dropped, finger now far from the window button on her armrest, window not moving. It was as if time stood still.

We learned something else in that ten seconds. We learned that the small motor in a car door can’t be told to go up and down at the same time for more than a few seconds without declaring a stale mate. The snapshot that I thought had “frozen time,” was not a mental photograph at all. My daughter was petrified and the window was stuck half way down. We'd blown a fuse!

“Dad, roll it up!”

“I can’t! We must've blown a fuse. My buttons don't work anymore!” I laughed as the spray began blasting in at us.

What would you do if a wall of water was suddenly shooting in your open window? If you’re a smart 12-year-old girl, you pick up the floor mat at your feet and press it against the broken port hole.

"Good thinking!" I said, still laughing, and I grabbed the mat on my side to do the same.

“Dad, this isn’t funny!” Nat screamed.

“You’re doing great, Honey!” I assured, leaning over to hold a corner of the mat until the water passed. I was laughing because it was funny but also to let her know it was alright. What's a little water on such a hot day? I braced for the last pass of the robotic fire hose, "Come on, Baby! Hit me with your best shot!" I said with mock bravado, but the “spot free” rinse was more of a dog-leg sprinkle requiring little effort to fend off. I had Natalie climb through to the back seat and I huffed over the center console in time to block it on her side.

When the exit light came on, the car was clean and so were we. I climbed back to the driver’s seat and pulled slowly ahead. Nat stayed in back. Our eyes met in the mirror. She tried to look mad, but suddenly burst out laughing.

"You should see your hair, Dad. It's sticking straight up."

"Well, you're quite a sight yourself," I smiled. And she was quite a sight... and unforgettable picture framed in my rear view mirror.

Cost of a my firstborn’s wedding?—you don’t want to know. Price of a 50-cent fuse at an oil-change shop: $3.95. Getting soaked in that car wash with the daughter who will not be leaving home for many years… priceless.

Click here to see "You Make Me Feel So Young," my Natalie theme song.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Take in Life
There where the breaking waves
are thin and seep into the sand
and nudge the dregs and driftwood
grudgingly back to land
(as most things in the end return),
I walked alone along the beach
to comb my take on life
at the water’s farthest reach.
And then on up a ways
I saw what seemed to be
a gray-and-white forgotten rag
washed up and wrung out by the sea.

Closer up and looking down, I shuddered
at a gull whose lifeless wings beside
moved only with the foam.
Cocked high his head, bill open wide,
as if to laugh and take in life
and celebrate the trout
he'd swooped and nabbed and gulped
headlong*... until he figured out
his catch indeed was caught,
but in a way he hadn’t figured in.
There, beyond his gaping jaw,
still flapping was the fin.

His open eyes looked horrified
and left no doubt he knew
that sometimes what we take in life
is more than we can chew.
© TRK Patterns of Ink, Copyright, 2007
Yesterday was a sweltering 90 degrees as my youngest daughter and I worked outside. when we were done we closed the four-mile gap between us and one of the beautiful beaches along Michigan's West Coast.) The water was refreshing. Coming in and lying on the towel, I remembered the opening lines of that Destin post in May and these older thoughts from a walk on a different beach long ago.

In the summer of 1981, I strolled past the north end of Lighthouse Park in Port Huron and came upon a dead seagull with an eight-inch trout lodged in its throat. I didn't take a picture but never forgot the image and obvious untold story.

At first glance the poem's title suggests "feel good" thoughts about enjoying life to the fullest, and it is about enjoying life from the perspective that as we "take in" life we must be careful what we take in. The poem is new but it's based on a journal entry from the 80's entitled: "Things I've Learned from Dead Birds." Catchy, huh?

There were two other lessons: one about hundreds of dead starlings my family saw along the Pennsylvania Turnpike. They'd been surprised by a late spring snow and couldn't fly as fast and as high as usual. We winced each time one hit our windshield. For miles and miles, all the cars kept hitting them until we lost count of how many we saw. The other lesson was about a bird I saw stuck inside a pipe.

I was painting a clothes-line pole and saw a sparrow inside the narrower cross pipe. He'd had gone in headfirst easily enough and inched along until he came to the first of four eye-bolts that went through the pipe (to which the lines were tied). The bolt blocked his way, but the same feathers that glided smoothly forward would not let him go backwards against their grain. There was no way to turn around. Who knows how long he lived like that, staring at the small round light at the far end of the pipe until his eyes blinked their last.

Sorry if this post seems a bit macabre [which means "dance of death"], but we can learn from all three plights. Sometimes our circumstances are beyond our control—like a late spring snow, but often we're to blame for biting off more than we can chew or not avoiding the places we shouldn’t go that keep us longer than we wished to stay.

Note: For those interested in words and how they mean, in the poem's first "take" {line 7]
take is a noun [i.e. "perspective"]; in the second, in is an adverb modifying take (life being the object of the verb); and in the third, in is a preposition [i.e. “in life” modifying the verb] rendering a different meaning. I wasn't sure about keeping the last four lines because they limit the poem's meaning to my conclusion, I'll keep them for now. *HEADLONG means both "headfirst" and "without adequate thought ": RECKLESSLY

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Friday, June 15, 2007

Mannequins with Attitude

When I was a kid, I'd ride my bike up to Eastgate Center in Roseville, Michigan, and roam the toy aisles of a 5&10 called S.S. Kresge and a department store called Federals (which later burned down making room for the K-Mart that Kresge's became). Throughout my high school and college years, I suppose I shopped as much as the next guy, but sometime back around mid-life (after years of living in a house full of females), I lost the "thrill of the hunt" when it came to shopping. It became something to avoid if possible and endure when necessary.

Nowadays if you see me at a mall, I'm either wandering in an aimless daze or sitting at one of those upholstered "pit stops" where people consolidate their findings into the most prestigious bag and begin another lap. Me, I’m working on a different kind of lap—the one with my lap-top on it. Yes. I now write in malls. I shop for observations as I wait to see what my brood has bagged, and my wardrobe is none the worse to wear since there’s always something in the bags for me. I’m happy; my family's happy; it’s a pleasant arrangement.

With my oldest daughter’s wedding just two weeks away, I'm finding myself shopping more than usual. It started several weeks ago when I was fitted for a tux. On one of these delightful odysseys, I discovered a dramatic change. It probably began years ago, but it suddenly jumped out at me—Mannequins have attitude! Have you noticed?

When I was a kid, mannequins (or “peoplequins” as the industry no doubt now calls them) were pasty-peach-colored creatures made of some sort of plaster. These humanoid forms were forced into mechanical poses like the one Dorothy’s Tin-man is in as he murmurs “oil can” through his rusty jaw. Mannequin faces had a pleasant soul-less stare and painted grin that seemed to say, “I’m fake. Please don’t look too closely at me, but do look at these fine overalls I’m wearing. They're on the rack behind me.”

The female mannequins, if alone, seemed poised and friendly and if paired as mother and child, they were as matronly as June Cleaver. The brother and sister pairings looked like classmates eagerly heading back to school—right off the page of a “See Spot Run” Reader.

By contrast, today's post-modern mannequins tower over store guests like pouty models glaring out at the end of the fashion show runway. They don’t speak, of course, but if they did, their voice would be nothing like Dorothy’s or Tin-man’s—it would sound Italian or French—anything but Kansan as they whisper without looking your way: “I look great in this outfit, but then I look great in anything. I don’t think you should buy this—it wouldn’t look good on you. In fact, I think you’re in the wrong department.” If you think I'm misreading their attitude, go to window mannequins.com and click the word video. These mannequins seem starved for attention and sure that they will get it.

The old mannequins had no such conceit. They were plaster and had the dings to prove it. Each of them was as bald as a melon and at one time or another had spent entire shifts waiting for a wig during store hours. How petrifying! Not that the wigs were a big improvement—they clung to their heads like German WWII helmets—and they were just about as hard. (I once cut my finger trying to adjust the bristly bangs of a posed child whose wig was out of whack.)
To get a true picture of how bad mannequin hair was in the 50s and 60s, imagine taking your sister’s biggest doll and dipping its hair in a can a varnish then letting it dry on wax paper for a week. Peel off the doll’s head, and that was the basic style, sheen, and stiffness of mannequin hair. It was that incredibly bad hair that kept the old manikins humble, that made them whisper, “Please don’t look at me—look at the outfit. It will look even better on you. Or look at this pinafore my little girl is wearing. Cute isn’t it?—don’t mind her bangs. Some kid already tried to fix them.”

There’s another reason the old mannequins were humble, and since the vast majority of shoppers are women and the vast majority of mannequins are female, I’ll try to be discreet…. In the old days, if you happened to pass a manikin display during the changing of an outfit, the poor gal looked humiliated. The articulating joints were exposed and the arms were torturously contorted as clothes were wrestled on and off. The really old mannequins stopped caring long ago—sort of the way my 96-year-old grandma acts when she discovers the back of her hospital gown isn’t tied shut. “Is it drafty in here, Tom, or is it just me.” No harm done, because even at their most exposed moments, the old plaster manikins were about as anatomically vague as the portly patient in Milton Bradley’s “Operation” game. (You remember the guy, “Remove funny bone.”) This is not the case with the new manikins of the 21st Century.

Near the end of the excursion that prompted these thoughts, I was writing at a mall waiting for my wife and daughters to drop (as in “shop till ya”). Across the way, in the front window of some trendy clothing store, a young lady was changing tops on four shameless mannequins who just stood there casting sultry gazes at the young men passing by. The men smiled back as if they could hear their French accents through the glass. One girl yanked the hand of her boyfriend, “What?” he laughed, casting one more backward glance. Just then a group of young men with an eye for detail actually stopped to gawk. The window dresser nonchalantly turned her subjects' backs to the window and quickly finished the change. Only after the wolves moved on, did she turn them around to face the public once again. In spite of the drone of the mall, I'd swear I heard the plastic supermodels whisper to each other, “Don’t we look Mahvelous?”

It's sort of sad when you think about it. The need to be clothed has been replaced with the need to be noticed—not cared for necessarily... just looked at. The mannequin industry is the embodiment of this obsession. Millions of dummies are setting our pace, yet they seem so lost. We look to them to know how to look, but they don't look back... they seem to see right through us.

(Note: That last link one-step-beyond CREEPY. Be sure to check it out.
I have a growing "Honey-do" list to attend to between now and our joyous occasion on June 30. New posts may be scarce in the meantime, but read again and send a friend. =)
Revised former draft 2004. © Copyright: 2007

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Sunday, June 10, 2007

Pimp My Toad!

Photo by Paul Ouboter / Conservation International
From AP wire, June 4, 2007: A toad [atelopus toad] with fluorescent purple markings was discovered in the mid-2006 by Surinamese scientists Paul Ouboter and Jan Mol as they surveyed the remote plateaus of eastern Suriname, South America.
Full article here.
I should begin by saying I’m aware of the origins and distasteful connotations of the word “pimp,” and I don’t generally use the word. For a guy my age to say “it doesn’t mean that anymore,” is as ill-advised as insisting that “gay” still means “carefree and happy” because it meant that from the 1920’s to the mid-60s when the Flintstones ["gay old time"] Theme was written. I’m fascinated, however, with how words “mean” and equally intrigued that their meaning can change significantly over time or in an instant.
Two examples: I just Googled the word columbine, but the top entries had nothing to do with this beautiful blue bloom for which a school was named in Littleton, Colorado. Perhaps someday, my children’s children will think only of a flower when they hear the word columbine.
Example two: when we were kids, my brothers an I used to wear nothing but thongs all summer long. Especially when we were camping. Mom insisted we wear our thongs to the bathhouse. People would sometimes stare at us--I think it was that flip-flop sound they made against the soles of our feet. Sometimes we wore tennis shoes, but mostly we wore our thongs. My kids hate when I slip and call them that.

Words can change. The title verb “pimp,” for instance, has assumed a common "positive" meaning that has upstaged its origin. It no longer refers only to a vile, degrading, illegal enterprise nor to the way such entrepreneurs walk (strutting down the street of school hall as if rhythmically pushing aside waist-high wheat [circa 1970]).

At the turn of this new century, the verb “pimp” began meaning transforming something that was uncool into something cool—so cool it’s HOT, so hot it’s good, so good it’s BAD (in the good sense of that word). One could say that the word “pimp” has been “pimped” into a better word. My Grandma used to say of a creative friend who had a Be-dazzler, “She could make a silk purse out of sow’s ear.” Now she could say to a teen, “She could pimp a pig's ear into a purse.”

This new meaning is best illustrated in the title of the hit MTV show (which I’ve never seen) called Pimp My Ride, meaning “Please give my junky car an extreme make-over.” Each week’s show begins with a junky car that is artfully transformed into a cool hot rod with all the bells and whistles and “BLING.” The transformed car is more about show than speed—it’s about turning heads with the help of all senses. The end results include traveling "light shows" and powerful speaker systems that redefine "earth moving equipment."
Have you ever shared an intersection with these hidden speakers? It's annoying. The bobbleheads in all the cars start shaking. If you can't tell where that bone-rattling sub-woofers beat is coming from, just look for the driver who seems sort of... well, JUMPY... like a frog, which brings us back to the subject at hand....
When I was a kid I caught a green tree frog like this one and kept it all summer in a gallon glass jar. I named him Toby (“Awwwwwwe,” I hear you.)
Tree frogs are so cool because they have suction cup toes and can climb up glass and bedroom walls, but their neatest trick is changing colors to blend into their surroundings. The first time Toby did it, it freaked me out. This gray frog [right] is the same one on that green leaf to the left .

This is a "red-eyed tree frog. He and his friends in the next two photos live in the rain forests of South America along with that new species at the top. Seeing them makes me wonder if the common, plain colored frogs and toads are jealous of the "flashy" tree frogs? If they were hanging around down at some little froggy A &W by the swamp, don’t you think these tree frogs would kind of strut past the plain toads as if to say “Yo, check it out. I got BLING to spare.”
Wouldn't it be funny if there was a little froggy tattoo shop where the plain frogs and toads that don't dramatically change their looks went and pointed to a picture on the wall and said, "I want that lime-green job" or "I saw racing stripes you did on a toady friend of mine last week. Do you think they would make me look fat?"
On the other hand, maybe the plain toads aren't jealous at all. Maybe they think these fellas looked a little “carefree and happy.” (“Not that there’s anything wrong with that,” croaks a frog named Jerry.) When I first saw the AP picture of the "new species" at the top of this post, I thought the Discovery Channel had launched a pilot for a new show called "Pimp My Toad!"
Can't you just imagine the plain brown-paper-bag toad below watching that show, thinking, "That'll be the day I let my kid run around in a get-up like that. Hey, you guys, come get load of this toad." Then his family hops into the TV room and his daughters say, "We kinda like it, Dad," and the dad-toad's smile turns to a frown.
Seriously, though, we humans can’t complain. At least we are all content with our natural appearance. We don't care what people think about our "looks," and are not affected by the tone of our surroundings. Right? Okay, maybe not, but at least we all get some love and attention before we croak.
It's a beautiful Sunday afternoon here. Time to go "pump my ride." We're taking the bikes out for a spin!

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Paw Paw Yehaw! 'til Po Po Show
State Police End Wild Wheelchair Ride

Speaking of The Carpenters... You may have heard this story about a young man named Ben Carpenter on your local news or the late-night monologues, but since it happened just south of us here, I thought I’d throw up a quick post about it. [Did I just say “throw up” a quick post?—I’m sorry. There’s got to be a better way to say that.]

Imagine. There you are in beautiful Paw Paw, Michigan, (Apple Cider Capital of the Midwest). You're strapped into your motorized wheel chair and you venture up to the corner store to buy a pop. You rest the tall, lidded container between your thighs and motor out the door toward the crosswalk. There is a big semi waiting for the light to turn green, and you're still crossing as it does.

Unfortunately, the high hood of the truck blocks you from the semi driver's view as he pulls ahead in low gear. As if in slow motion, you're being run over as others watch helplessly.
Fortunately, the initial impact turns your wheel chair the direction the truck is moving—otherwise, you’d be tipped over and crushed.
Unfortunately, you're now being pushed down the road, and the trucker still doesn’t know you’re his new hood ornament. (To make matters slightly worse, your pop has spilled in your lap.)
Fortunately, the hand grips of your wheelchair become lodged so securely in the truck’s front grill that your wheels are rolling freely.
Unfortunately, the speed limit is 55 MPH and you're literally burning rubber as your wheels are shredded down to the rims.
Fortunately, several drivers coming the other way call 911 stammering,
"You aren't going to believe this, (but) there is a semi pushing a guy in a wheelchair on Red Arrow Highway."

Unfortunately, the State Police think it’s a prank call until they keep getting the same report, the last one from a woman in tears.
Fortunately, a nearby state trooper catches up to the truck and cautiously motions the driver to pull into a parking lot.
Unfortunately, by then you've been flying as if on the "cow catcher" of a locomotive for over four miles! Six hair-raising minutes flew in your face between the first and last 911 call.
Fortunately, as the dumbfounded driver is escorted to the front of his truck to see you hitched there with a spilled pop in your lap, you still have a sense of humor and say, "That was quite a ride!"

Thank Heavens he was alright! If that had been me, I’d be thankful for two things: first, that I was alive… and second, that I had a spilled container of pop to help explain why my pants were wet! Because with or without that pop they would have been!

I know this is not funny, but if you think back to many humorous scenes in film and TV--from Little Rascals to Seinfeld--there is a fine line between comedy and tragedy.

[UPDATE: The 21-year-old was unharmed. This event happened Wednesday, June 6, 2007 around 4:00PM EST. Details were sketchy at the original post time, but I've updated as it comes out. He was later on the evening news. He has MD and was very lucid. He thought he was going to die. His mother joked, "He's always liked big trucks, but he didn't have to get this close." There was no mention of citations or litigation.
Listen to the 911 CALLS HERE. See father's video INTERVIEW HERE.]

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Monday, June 04, 2007

My Confession from the 70's

I’m going out on a limb in this post and confessing something from my past that some may find very hard to believe. It's not that millions of people weren't doing the same thing in the 70's. It's just that some will be shocked to learn that I was hooked.

I’m sure others will simply say. “I never really thought about it, Tom, but why does this not surprise me? Youth is full of youthful indiscretions. So reading here that, during the turbulence of the 70’s, you’d spend hours in your basement "lost to the world" in this way is not shocking. In fact, I used to do the exact same thing.”

It’s true. I never tired of it… in the basement…in my brother’s car… or on my bedroom floor staring up at the ceiling. Eventually, I began mainlining the stuff into my head through a huge pair of headphones.

Yes, I was a Carpenters junkie. All albums, both sides. In fact, I learned tonight that I haven't fully recovered from those days and a dose of Karen still takes me to a sweet place in my mind. Some of you are gagging at the thought; some of you are not surprised at all; and some younger readers are wondering "Karen who?"
If you’ve been reading here for a while or if you browse the archives, you’ll know I had a very conservative upbringing (that I wouldn’t trade for the world, by the way). My parents deprived their kids of all sorts of depravity. Certain bands and types of music were forbidden in our house. All the heavy metal, drug-friendly, anti-authority, "hard/acid rock,” etc. of the day was strictly taboo.
Parenting is full of tough calls, and I’m glad Mom and Dad were willing to “dig in” on issues that 20 years later we’d all smile about. I survived, and my paper route/bus boy money went a lot further because my brother Paul purchased lots of [mostly] “Dad-approved” records. He had every Letterman album ever pressed on vinyl. A few Simon and Garfunkel and Bread albums slipped under Dad’s radar. My brothers and I lifted our Sears Ted Williams weights to S&G all the time (back when biceps mattered =).

When it came time, however, for me to plumb the depths of love and romance and guarded innocence, it was the sterling voice of Karen Carpenter that taught me everything I needed to know at the time.

A new invention called the cassette tape recorder had just hit the market. Mine had a built in mike that allowed me to take my brother’s stereo speakers off the wall and aim them at my tape recorder to make not-so-hi-fi recordings of all his Carpenters albums, complete with background noise from the basement.
I can't begin to explain the strange time warp I've been in this evening listening to these songs. Hearing this many of them in one sitting has taken me back to a time I'd nearly forgotten when feelings of love were new and thoughts of life loomed infinitely in front of me.
I began remembering specific scenes form life as this music played tonight. For instance: driving home at night with Dad up I-75 after dropping my sister and two brothers off at college. I was stretched out on the back seat listening to the Carpenters for hours. After the song "It's Going to Take Some Time this Time," Dad broke a long silence, "I liked that line about the young trees learning to bend in the winter time." I failed to grasp that he wasn't thinking about trees.

Ten hours before, he had left three of his five kids 700 miles from home, and we would not see them until Christmas. Kathy was a college Junior, Paul a sophomore, and Dave a freshman. I was a high school junior, and my little brother Jim was four. In three year's time, our 3-bedroom house had gone from over-crowded to quiet. I knew those years were hard for Mom, Jim and me, but I didn't learn until much later that Dad sometimes cried in private when it was "one more round for experience and [he was] on the road again."
I've added several "pick and choose" video Youtube links in red below, including a TV special that tells the story of how this brother and sister act went from “rejection” to “The Top of the World” and the end of the road. If you watch all of the links, it could won't last a a day, but perhaps you'll watch some now and come back some "rainy day" when you need a place to "Hideaway."As you watch, you'll wonder, “Were we ever really that innocent.” We must have been, because my friends and I alone didn't send these songs up the charts.

Maybe it's just me, but I miss Karen Carpenter. Next February marks 25 years since her untimely death. She would now be 57, and "for all we know" a "Superstar" in the middle of a come-back tour (like the one Barry Manilow enjoyed for over a decade).
"We've only just begun" to enjoy these "Songs for You." "Sometimes," it's nice to just sit back and imagine it's "Yesterday Once More" without "Hurting Each Other." Here a young Richard Carpenter explains to a live audience why their "layered" studio harmonies were not possible in live performances (or like this one on the Carol Burnett show). When Karen sang "Ave Maria" in this Christmas special it highlighted her natural ability to let a song sing itself. It seems like "Only Yesterday" that my brothers and I were playing air guitar to "Good bye to Love."
The closest current performer to come along who could "cover" The Carpenters songs may be 2006 American Idol runner up, Katherine McPhee, but even she lacks the easy flow of voice and genuinely wholesome quality of Karen Carpenter.
Bless you for clicking some links and watching an old friend make music. If you'd like to see the whole Carpenter story, here are seven sequential links to a televised tribute hosted by Richard Carpenter: Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4; Part 5; Part 6; Part 7.
This post dedicated to my brother Paul whose vast vinyl collection--from Gershwin to Garfunkel--added an unforgettable soundtrack to our lives.

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