Saturday, January 30, 2010

A Little Something About Nothing


It’s time for me to write another entry in this blog – the problem is trying to figure out what I want to write about. It’s been pretty cold in Michigan these last few days. I could write about the weather, but there’s not a lot to say after you establish that it’s cold and I haven’t seen any dogs frozen to a fire hydrant to illustrate just how darn cold it is – so, pick another topic to write about, fat boy.

I could write about President Obama and his State of the Union speech. I said, I could, but I can’t because I didn’t watch it and the last thing I really want to write about is some speech. C’mon – there’s not a whole lot of difference between one State of the Union speech and another State of the Union speech – and even the Presidents who are giving these speeches are pretty much interchangeable.

Next topic.

Maybe I’ll browse through the daily newspaper and see if there’s anything happening locally that might be of interest to write about. Then again… have you see the daily newspaper here? The Port Huron Times Herald is not one of the nation’s best newspapers…it’s so bad…it makes those penny saver newspapers that every community has look like the New York Times…now that’s bad. Plus…there are not a whole lot of things happening locally that’s going to be of interest to anyone. I mean, let’s be realistic, I live in a rural community that’s near a tourist community that’s right across a lake from Canada… and it’s not even a really cool part of Canada either. (Yeah, there are some parts of Canada that aren’t cool and Sarnia, Ontario, Canada is one of them. I don’t see anybody disagreeing with me, so what does that say?)

So, what’s there to write about? I could share my recipe for sugar free sweet kettle corn popcorn. It’s easy to make and tasty as all get out. All you have to do is pop up a bag of popcorn in the microwave…and when you open up the bag…..pour a bunch of Splenda powdered sweetener (the Splenda that is granulated like sugar) and sprinkle some salt over the popped popcorn, shake the bag and then eat. Pretty easy, huh…do you think this recipe will get me a spot on a future episode of Food Channel’s “Chopped” or “Iron Chef America”? Not likely.

I know what I can write about – how about dumb web sites? How about this one -- what do you get when you combine everyone’s love for cats with the most despised man ever to walk the planet earth? You get --- How can you go wrong with a web site that asks you up front – “Does your cat look like Adolf Hitler? Do you wake up in a cold sweat every night wondering if he's going to up and invade Poland? Does he keep putting his right paw in the air while making a noise that sounds suspiciously like "Sieg Miaow"?”

Need a website that’s a total gas – then click on and marvel at an entire website dedicated to what came out of your ass that you always blame the dog for. It’s all here – There’s a link with thirty-one different examples of what kind of farter you are and a link to a piece about farting at work – which I’m sure that everyone who is reading this has done at one time or another. I betcha anything…you’ll probably go to the fart website before you go to a website with kitties that look like Hitler.

If web sites about farts and cats that look like Hitler aren’t your cup of tea – thanks to Google© you can find all sorts of weird and goofy websites and blogs dedicated to things like yo’ mama jokes, pictures of celebrity butt cracks and the dumbest things you ever done. Yup, all you got to do is type your favorite depravity in the Google© search box and within fractions of a second – you’ll have loads of stupid reading material and pictures to pass the time away in front of your computer. I’m sure, thanks to Google© , you can find detailed instructions on how to put in a light bulb, for those are light bulb challenged.

So, there you have it – a blog about nothing when you really don’t have anything to say and now that I have said what I was going to say about nothing – I think that I’ll go and take nap.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

An Open Letter To Local 4

Ok, Local 4 WDIV, we have accepted the fact that you are the big event television station in Detroit. When we want to feel like we know everything there is to know about the Detroit Auto Show – it’s Local 4 that we turn to. Local 4 – I’ll even go as far as saying that no television station in the Detroit area can bring us closer to the fireworks and the Thanksgiving day parade than you – and with that said I have but one request – class up your act a little bit and get the hell out of Haiti!

Local 4, there is enough tragedy and pain in Haiti right now from the earthquake. Please don’t insult this country and its people by using them as a back drop to promote your news team. It’s one thing for Dr. George to go to Haiti and help to heal the people – but does he have to do everything in front of the cameras? Dr. George’s reports aren’t enough – you literally have to beat the fact that he’s reporting from Haiti with the same thirty second promo running at least three times in one-half hour news segment that I watched recently.

And, it wasn’t enough for you to send Dr. George to Haiti – now Carmen Harlan is on her way to Haiti. Why? Is Carmen Harlen’s presence in this country really going to accomplish anything more than another “event” for your promotional department to exploit. Carmen Harlen is not going to ease the pain of that little boy or girl who’s parents were found underneath all of the rubble and are now buried in some mass grave. More mouths aren’t going to be fed and the clean up and rebuilding of homes, hospitals and schools is not going to happen any faster just because Carmen Harlen is there – so why send her? If it’s because you’ll be able to send back thirty second promos of her down there to air throughout the day – then you should be ashamed of yourself.

If you’re going to exploit this tragedy with promos featuring Carmen Harlen – what’s next? Can we expect Chuck Gadica forecasting a “cuddle alert” while feeding an infant left orphaned by the quake? Maybe you can do an “Earthquake Weekend At Bernie’s” during the sports – anything’s possible, right?

It's probably costing the news department at Local 4 a pretty penny to send Carmen and Dr. George to Haiti. It’s probably costing you as much or even more than what it would cost to have paid to have another local reporter in your newsroom -- like the ones that you have had to let go due to budget cuts – which is why you’re using your traffic reporters as anchors and reporters in your newscasts now.

But who are we to tell you how to do your business -- we're just viewers -- and you're just a local television station with another tragedy to exploit -- and you'll go to all ends of this earth to do it.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A Look Back At When Big 600 WTAC Went Country

Back in the 50s and 60s – There was no bigger radio station in the Flint and Mid-Michigan area than “The Home of The Good Guys – Big 600 WTAC”. The station’s line-up of disc-jockeys (Bob Dell, Peter C. Cavenaugh, Wild Willie, Gary Raymond, Johnny Cole, Bill Pearson, Ed Berryman and more) were the jocks you listened to on the radio and who you wanted spinning records at your high school sock hop or dance at the Knights of Columbus Hall. WTAC was so popular and was such a driving force in the life of mid-Michigan teenagers that makers of everything from soft drinks to pimple cream wanted to advertise on the station. WTAC was so popular that the calendars of the WTAC disc jocks were booked as much as a year in advance. In the 50s and 60s, if you wanted your event to be a success – you wanted a WTAC jock there spinning the records and entertaining the crowds.

What made the station different from other radio stations in the area at that time? All you had to do was look at the music play lists and you would get your answer. WTAC was more interested in blazing new trails and not following the safe and acceptable music trends of the era. While other stations played the safe pop acts like Bobby Vinton singing “Red Roses For A Blue Lady”, WTAC cranked up the decibels and was the first station in the United States to play The Who and that’s not all.

The same time that Motown was leaving its imprint on the music world – Michigan’s rock n’ roll scene began to make a lot of noise and WTAC was the station that people tuned in to hear groups like Ted Nugent and the Amboy Dukes, the Bob Seger System, Brownsville Station, Frigid Pink, Question Mark and the Mysterians, the MC5, Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels, Dick Wagner and The Frost, Terry Knight and The Pack, and Alice Cooper. It was because of WTAC influence that other radio stations across the country picked up on the music from these Michigan artists and made them hits in their area.

With a signal that beamed from Flint to as far north as the Mackinac Bridge and into parts of Canada, WTAC was untouchable in the 50s and through part of 70s and they took on all challengers – but like other AM radio stations in the country there was no way it was going to survive the arrival of FM radio. The beginning of the end for WTAC came when the Methodist Radio Parish sold their AM and FM station on Lapeer Road and one of the first things that the new owners did was to convince two of WTAC’s long-time disc jockeys (Bill Pearson and Bill Gibson) to join them. The station’s call letters were changed to from WMRP to WWCK and that began the change in radio listenership in the Flint area from the AM signal to FM.

There were other factors in WTAC’s demise other than FM radio. The people that owned WTAC – a out-of-town multi-national corporation who’s main business was making a well-known brand of lawn tractor – was getting out of the broadcasting business and they cut their operating budget for the station to a bare minimum. WTAC’s corporate parent had sold all of the television stations that they owned and had about sold all of their radio stations, but one – WTAC – and they were having a hard time getting buyers interested in what was a stand alone AM station in a market where more and more people were listening to their favorite music on the FM band.

The once unstoppable WTAC was seeing its ratings diminish with each and every new ratings book and they found it harder to get people to listen to rock n’ roll on the AM band in this new brand new FM world. Something had to be done to make the station more attractive to advertisers and to any potential new owners. It was determined under a new general manager – former radio and tv ad salesman Ray Nelson – that a format change would happen. With the approval of the station’s out-of-town corporate owner – WTAC would switch from a Top 40 radio format to country – directly challenging Flint’s long establish country music station – 1470 WKMF.

There were some at WTAC who didn’t think that the station should switch formats, but during a staff meeting with everyone in attendance, Ray Nelson assured everyone that it would work. And to those the people who didn’t like country music, Ray Nelson asked everyone to give it a chance, because he believed in his heart that before long everyone would love the music so much that they wouldn’t work for a station with any other format.

It was after that staff meeting that the real work on the format change began. Before any radio station can make a format change – you have to acquire a new music library – which can be expensive. When your corporate owner doesn’t want to dig deep to purchase a new music library – you have to make do with what you can get your hands on and that’s exactly what they did at WTAC – getting a few records here, there and everywhere, including from some of their listeners’ record collections..

For about a week before the date of the format switch – an emphasis was placed on getting the new country songs recorded on carts (which is how music at that time was played on the air by the jocks) and into the studio. You might find this hard to believe – but there was probably only two hundred songs at the most recorded on to cart for the jocks to play by the time of the format change. When you consider that most country songs at that time were about two and a half minutes in length – those two hundred songs would be repeated about eight hours – which meant that they had to get more music into the studios before the quick turnaround in the station’s music turned people off.

Everyone who worked at the station wanted to be there for that moment when the last rock record was played and the first country song aired signaling a change in format. It was with the start of Johnny Cole’s midnight to five am shift that WTAC switched formats to country with absolutely no warning whatsoever. You would have thought that there would have been angry listeners phoning the station to protest the change from AC/DC and Led Zepplin to The Judds and Dave and Sugar, but to be honest with you, the phones didn’t light up like a Christmas tree and there were very few angry listeners. Rock n’ roll radio didn’t die – it just switched over to the FM band.

On the night of the format change – Ray Nelson and the entire staff at WTAC had a party to celebrate and like all good parties – one or two people consumed a little more alcohol than some others. The late Gary Raymond was one of those people who had a little “too much party” and added to the confusion of the format switch. Having fallen asleep in his car in the station’s parking lot after the party – Gary didn’t want to wake up and go on the air for his shift at five am. After all of his years in broadcasting, Gary was afraid that he couldn’t be as entertaining playing country music as he was as a rock jock and he thought that his audience might not accept him as a country disc-jockey. It took a bit of work and a lot of convincing to get him out of his car and on the air – but once he did get on the air – he was the consummate professional – and was quickly accepted by the country music audience in the Flint area who grew up listening to him play rock n’ roll..

WTAC’s switch to country was not an immediate success, but it did make a bit of an impact. With WTAC playing country music (and on a much more powerful signal) WKMF had to work a little harder at keeping their share of the radio listening audience and they had to work hard to keep their advertisers, because there were some advertisers who made the switch to WTAC.

The switch to country didn’t last long though. The station was eventually sold and the format changed once again. Although it’s era as a country station was brief – WTAC’s switch to Country was a success. With no budget whatsoever for promotion – Country WTAC nipped mightily at the boot heels of WKMF and ate away at their total audience share. Who knows what could have happened had the new owners allowed the country format to continue? One thing is for sure – it would have made for some interesting Flint radio listening.

I was one of the people who is proud to say that he has worked for WTAC in not one, but three different formats, as the station’s continuity director and later the producer of Dave Barber’s Flint Feedback and Morning Magazine programs. And of all of the formats at WTAC – the country format was probably the most enjoyable to be a part of, thanks in large part because of the leadership of Ray Nelson. Everyone at the station worked hard and played hard and we cherished our victories because a lot of people didn’t think we had a snowball’s chance in hell of succeeding.

It’s been some twenty-eight years or more since WTAC switched from Top 40 – what has become of some of WTAC’s country jocks?

Jim Kramer (who was the program director for WTAC’s switch to country) is and has been the host of the morning show at WKCQ in Saginaw, Michigan.

Dan Richards has pretty much worked for every country station in Flint having worked for WKMF and WFBE and he still hosts what many consider one of the best country classics show on the radio today every Sunday night debut on WKCQ.

Downtown Ed Brown works for an online music promotion company called “All Access” and still keeps his on-air chops fresh doing as an oldies but goodies jock for a station in the south.

Dave Barber, who hosted “Flint Feedback” for two hours weekdays during WTAC’s Country period, is now the program director and host of “Capital Television” in Rhode Island.

And two of WTAC’s most popular country jocks are no longer with us – Gary Raymond, died along with his daughter, in a holiday fire in his home while still a disc-jockey at WTAC and a few years ago, morning man Big Bill Anderson (who joined the station from WKMF) died.

And WTAC – well – that’s gone, too. The building that it broadcast from was razed and the land it was on is now the site of one of Grand Blanc’s newest sub-divisions. The people who now own what was WTAC has changed its call letters to WSNL and the station is now the shining star in a group of faith-based radio stations of its corporate parent.

Monday, January 25, 2010

TV Frost Bites With Conan, Leno, Kimmel, Letterman and More

(Andy Dick in his "does my ass look big in this" orange jail jumpsuit)

Late Night Frost Bite: The last two weeks of late night television has been exciting to watch. Everyone knew that Conan O’Brien’s “Tonight Show” days were numbered at NBC, but it was how the network pulled the plug on the show and how the other talk show hosts reacted to it that made for interesting viewing.

First, NBC pulls the plug on Jay Leno’s 10pm fiasco and instead of just letting him walk (like they would any other star of any other show), they give Jay the option of doing a half-hour show in his old time slot and then they inform Conan O’Brien that his “Tonight Show” will begin at 12:05 (which would in reality make it the “Tomorrow Show”). How did Conan react? He informed NBC that he wouldn’t do the show if they pushed it up a half hour for he felt that to do so he would be participating in the destruction of a legendary TV franchise. So, now the ball was in NBC’s court and their next move was to fire Conan and rehire Jay Leno to do the Tonight Show once again and that’s when the other talk show hosts got involved in the controversy.

It has long been rumored that there was some bad blood between David Letterman and Jay Leno, but it never became more public than these last two weeks. Letterman has taken every opportunity he could to make fun of NBC executives and then went to work on Jay Leno with some stinging “inside baseball” comments that painted a picture of that Leno isn’t “Mr. Nice Guy” that he wants everyone to believe he is.

One of the more awkward moments over the last couple of weeks happened when ABC talk show host Jimmy Kimmel was a guest on the “10 @ 10” segment on Leno’s prime-time program the night after he did his entire show in Jay Leno make-up. During the writer’s strike of a couple of years back, you would have thought that Leno and Kimmel were the best of friends with each of them appearing on each other’s show – but the whole late night mess at NBC and what was happening with Conan changed all of that. Some of the responses to Leno’s 10 questions had the audience literally gasping and at one point it even looked as if Leno was getting pissed by what Kimmel was saying. At times it was even uncomfortable to watch, only because we usually don’t get to see emotions this raw being played out like this on national television.

Conan did his final “Tonight Show” on Friday and NBC will be re-running some of the programs that he did in the last seven months until their coverage of the Winter Olympics begin.

And Jay Leno – he’s going to be doing what any famous person would do when their career and reputation is damaged – he’s going to appear on Oprah this week. Will Leno be honest about his relationship with Letterman? Will he address his uncomfortable moment with Kimmel on his show? And will he address some of the mistakes that he made going to 10pm? About the only thing that we can expect from Leno’s appearance on Oprah will be that Oprah will throw more softball (questions) at Leno in one hour than your kid’s little league team throws in an entire week.

In the surprise that it doesn’t surprise you news department: Comedian Andy Dick was arrested this past weekend in West Virginia on two counts of felony sexual abuse for allegedly grabbing the crotch of a bouncer in a bar. Andy Dick was recently one of the celebrities “cleaning up their act” on one of Dr. Drew’s VH-1 Rehab shows and is no stranger to things like he’s being accused of doing in West Virginia. In 2008, Dick pleaded guilty to misdemeanor battery and pot possession after he pulled down a 17-year old girl’s top at a chicken wing restaurant. My prediction is that chances are pretty good we’ll be seeing Dick on Dr. Drew’s Celebrity Rehab next season – only because he doesn’t have the mojo in his career to warrant an Oprah appearance.

“What you say, Willard?” TMZ is reporting that Gary Coleman, the diminutive star of TV’s “Different Strokes”, was arrested this weekend in Utah on a misdemeanor charge of domestic assault. Like Andy Dick, Gary Coleman isn’t immune to a brush or two with the law within the last couple of years. He recently settled a lawsuit after he allegedly hit a man’s car at a bowling alley in Utah. Then Gary Coleman’s wife was arrested after an incident of domestic violence that was later chronicled when they both appeared on a 2008 episode of “Divorce Court”. And like me, you’re wondering, where’s Dr. Phil when it comes to someone like Gary Coleman….well, Gary’s career doesn’t have enough mojo in it to warrant a Dr. Phil appearance…but it’s big enough to warrant a mention here….what the hell.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Frost Bites #2 -- From Ringo To Doritos and More

Grandpa Rich's new coffee cup

Ringo Star…Yoko Ono….Doritos and Sliders….and Grandpa’s birthday cup that’s filled with love….In the dot-dot-dot tradition of late Detroit Free Press columnist Bob Talbert and Larry King’s old USA Today column – I bring you another edition of things rattling around in my head with “Frost Bites”.

I’m not biting Ringo and more importantly – I’m not going to buy it! The legendary Beatles drummer, Ringo Starr, has just released a new CD and he’s popping up on TV shows from “The Daily Show” to “The Jay Leno Show” to whet your appetite enough to go out and purchase it. It’s filled with stars galore – including fellow Beatle Paul McCartney who shares a cut on the CD with the ring’ed one…but even with star power like that…it doesn’t make this turd smell any sweeter. Critics have panned this CD and I can understand why if the rest of the album is anything like the song that he’s singing on these television appearances. The song is bad and Ringo, whose vocal abilities have always been somewhat limited, are being stretched to the point of making it uncomfortable for people listening to it to enjoy it. Ringo – do the world a huge favor to and live out the rest of your years on the residuals from the Beatles records and your cut from the Rock Band Beatles game and let kids from American Idol and elsewhere handle the music these days.

It should be noted that a few months back – I watched Yoko Ono and her son Sean do a guest appearance on the ABC morning show “The View”. Just seeing Yoko on the show is somewhat surreal – especially when you have folks like Barbara Walters and Sherry Sheppard asking her questions that don’t make her sound like a total whack job and then she and Sean performed a song for their new album. Needless to say, Yoko’s singing abilities haven’t changed over the years and my two dogs were literally nipping at my feet urging me to turn the channel over to Rachel Ray so that their ears could quick bleeding.

It looks like I’m going to have to replace my favorite coffee cup now. Being a creature of habit – for the last few years if I have had a cup of coffee or hot chocolate I had to drink it from my white WPHM coffee cup or I wouldn’t drink it all. On January 15th, I was surprised when my girlfriend’s son came over with our two grandchildren to present me with a birthday gift – a brand new coffee mug. Instead of a coffee mug with a radio station’s logo – I’ll be enjoying my coffee out of a mug that has a picture of the two cutest grandchildren on the planet today (or at least in the St. Clair County area).

A friend that I use to work with at WTAC in Flint now works for Frito-Lay as one of their sales/delivery persons and during a recent conversation about some of the products that he delivers – he told me that a new flavor of Doritos was about to come out – Late Night Cheeseburger. It took about three weeks or so after our conversation for this new flavor to hit grocery store chip racks shelves in the St. Clair County area. Naturally, I had to grab a bag as soon as I seen them and to be truthfully honest with you, I wasn’t all of that impressed with it. They don’t taste bad – but the aroma of the chips is somewhat off-putting. In my opinion, when it comes to Doritos newest flavors – Sweet Spicy Chili is the best.

Another guilty pleasure – the all you can eat slider hamburgers at Golden Coral. There’s just something about these tasty little burgers that when I see them at Golden Coral I will load up my plate with four or five of them – they are that damn good. So, imagine my disappointment when I went there on the night of my birthday and found out that they only serve them during the day.

And for my money – when it comes to pure fast food junk food that I can’t get enough of -- it's the Baja Fish Tacos at Long John Silvers. The people at LJS could add a bit more lettuce – but what really grabs you about these 99¢ tacos is the spicy sauce and the crunchy fish bits. The next time you drive by a Long John Silver’s – reel in two or three of these fish tacos and enjoy them for yourself – you’ll thank me later.

What’s more frustrating – A) You call a business or government office and instead of the phone being answered by a human – it’s answered by one of those robo-operators that supposedly directs your call to the person that you need to speak with. It’s nice when the robo-operator works – but nine times out of ten it directs you to someone who can’t help you and doesn’t have the time or patience to even give a shit. Or there’s B) You call a business – let’s say Verizon, for example – and their robo operator asks about the problem that you may be having with your phone or phone line before it directs you to a live representative – only to have you waiting on line for over an hour and fifteen minutes and being forced to listen to the on-hold music, which sounds like the theme to “St. Elsewhere”, repeat itself endlessly. I’ll choose B and maybe just maybe they can do something to clear up my phone line so that my dial-up internet service can stay online longer than five minute bursts. It’s moments like these that you just want to throw in the towel and shout out “what the hell!”

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Love Means Having To Pay For It....Literally

For the last thirty-eight years I have held a grudge against someone who I have never met and never will, because I just read that he died. Who is the person who I will forever hold in contempt? It was Erich Segal, the author of the sappiest novel in the world “Love Story” and the man responsible for putting the phrase “Love means never having to say you’re sorry” into American pop culture. (He should not have had such a full life – someone should have bitch slapped him then and there after making such a dumb statement.) Depending on what obit you read, Segal died of a heart attack in London on Sunday at the age of 72 or after a long struggle with Parkinson ’s disease, but as far as I’m concerned he was dead in 1972 because of that damn book.

For a minute, step with into Mr. Peabody’s Way Back machine and let me take you back to the early 70s when the book “Love Story” was published. There was no such thing as cable television with a Lifetime channel – a place where “Love Story” would fit right in – you just had this critically panned but incredibly successful novel. You literally could not go anywhere without seeing someone (mostly women) reading it, and even those who never read it knows that the twenty-five year old girl in the story dies in the end. The book was an all assault on commercial pop culture that was quickly followed by the release of the movie starring Ryan O’ Neal and Ali MacGraw.

I was in high school at Flint Northern during the period when the book and the movie “Love Story” were released and I guarantee you that this was one of those books and movies that I would not have anything to do with. Back in the 70s, I was reading things like Abbie Hoffman’s “Steal This Book”, Alex Haley’s “The Autobiography of Malcom X” and Eldridge Cleaver’s “Soul On Ice”. I was worried about getting drafted and sent to Vietnam right out of high school – so I was also reading books and pamphlets on applying for of conscious objector status should Uncle Sam want me. I had no desire whatsoever to waste my time with something like “Love Story”, plus let’s be real, a guy would be branded “a pussy” if someone were to catch them reading such a book.

Fast forward to June of 1972 and it’s time to graduate. I’m called down to the school office one morning for a meeting and I’m told that they won’t allow me to graduate unless I pay for a book that they said I checked out of the school’s library. Well, I never checked out any books from the school library – the books that I wanted to read I usually purchased them – so couldn't figure out where they had me with some overdue book. I explained that I never checked out anything from the library and they said that I did and that I wouldn't graduate unless I brought the book back in or that I pay (the full hardcover retail price) to replace it. What was the book in question? It was “Love Story” and needless to say -- I was pissed!

Someone, and I don’t know who, checked out “Love Story” from the school library in my name and never brought it back. Who would do something like that to me? Knowing that someone checked out “Love Story” and used my name is just about as damning to one’s reputation as reading the god-damn book and I curse Erich Segal for having written the damn thing. It cost me something like twelve dollars to replace the book and with a receipt that I paid for the book I was allowed to graduate.

Rest in peace, Mr. Segal, but remember I’m gonna come after you in the afterlife. You can expect to be strong armed for the twelve bucks that I had to pay because of your lousy book. I know its been thirty-eight years…but I hold grudges.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

You Can Take Me Out Of Flint, But You Can't Take The Flint Out Of Me

Paul's Pipe Shop in Downtown Flint

You can take me out of Flint, but you can’t take the Flint out of me.

When I moved to the Port Huron area from Flint some twenty years ago – there were a lot of things that I missed about my old hometown – first and foremost – The Flint Journal. When you live in Flint, you can bitch and complain about the newspaper, it’s only when you move to another town and it’s not delivered to your doorstep daily that you realize just how much you miss it. Back then, the Flint Journal had substance and girth compared to the ultra light Gannett owned Port Huron Times Herald – a newspaper with sections as large as ten whole pages. There were occasions when I would drive this store in the city of Capac (about twenty-three miles away) that carried the Sunday Flint Journal and buy a copy to take home to read. I kind of felt like one of those people who make a big deal about buying the Sunday New York Times and then dedicate their whole day to doing the crossword puzzle and devouring every page and article in the paper – except I was doing it with a Flint Journal….imagine that.

When I moved to Port Huron – I didn’t know a lot of people and some nights my entertainment consisted of coming home from work and eating what I call “a Flint dinner” while watching television. I didn’t have HBO or Showtime – just basic cable – but occasionally my friend (the late Jack Hood from Rainbow Video) would send me a box of screener movies that he had received that I could watch while eating dinner. This dinner was not a healthy dinner by any stretch of the imagination – but it was filling – and it was pure Flint. I would go to the local store in Port Huron and grab a the biggest package of Koegel’s polish sausage that I could find – fry them in a pan on the stove and would then plate it with the perfect Flint companion food -- Paramount potato chips (which were still available at the time). Now that’s a dinner!

Here’s another thing that I took for granted in Flint that I couldn't get in Port Huron some twenty years ago – bagels! I’m not talking about those Lender-like bagels that you can find in the bakery section at Meijer – I’m talking about real bagels like you use to find at Pumpernik’s when they were in business. What I would have given for one of those huge crusty bagels from Pumpernik’s with my morning coffee. Twenty years later, there’s still no place in the Port Huron area where you can purchase real bagels – so anyone who’s reading this where you can purchase real bagels – enjoy them and whatever you do -- don’t take them for granted.

You can’t write about memories of Flint without mentioning the one other item other than cars that Flint is known for – the coney island hot dog. About three months after I moved to Port Huron, I decided that I would go to lunch at the downtown coney island and I got into a discussion about coneys with the cook behind the grill there. The discussion about Flint coneys compared to Detroit/Port Huron coneys is similar to the pizza debate that people of New York and Chicago have over their pies. This cook would have nothing to do with a Flint-style coney, and if I remember right, he made some disparaging remarks about Angelo’s in particular. All I can remember is thinking was how much of a bastard this guy was – how dare he insult the Flint style coney – especially after you have eaten one of his runny ass chili slop dogs. Don’t let anyone disparage the Flint coney dog – they’re definitely in a league of their own!

A lot has changed in twenty years. The Flint Journal has been downsized to a three-day a week newspaper – but even at that – it’s still a better read than the Port Huron Times Herald. I no longer have “Flint dinners” – although I am able to have coney nights with my family – thanks to those big delicious bricks of coney sauce that we purchase from Abbott’s Meats just about every time we visit the Flint area. Then, there are the bagels – and there’s not a whole hell of a lot we can do about that.

The Flint Journal, Pumpernik bagels, Koegel polish sausage, Paramount potato chips and Flint-style coney islands. Some of them have changed. Some are gone. Some remain. Along with those items – there are other things about Flint that I have pleasant memories of that have shaped me into the person that I am today…such as: having my picture taken in the four for a quarter photo booth at Kresge’s, ice skating with friends at Whaley Park, seeing the movies “A Hard Day’s Night” and “Woodstock” at the Palace, buying my first FM radio at Montgomery Wards, and even bumping into my old high school classmate Melvin McCree buying lottery tickets at Paul’s Pipe Shop.

I have pleasant memories of being a child and checking out “A Cat In The Hat” from the library at Potter school, eating fish n’ chip dinners from St. Leo the Great on Friday nights, enrolling in the summer radio workshop at WFBE, learning road safety at Safetyville and cooling off on a hot summer day in pool at Kearsley Park.

I enjoy where I’m living today and the life that I have in the Port Huron area, but I can’t deny the impact that living in Flint has had on me. Ask anyone who has left Flint for other cities and other towns and I’ll bet you a dime to a Dawn’s Donut they’ve got stories, too…because it’s like I said earlier….You can take someone out of Flint, but you can’t take the Flint out of someone who’s lived there.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Yeah, It's My Birthday

It’s my birthday today. Wanna know how I know? Everybody’s telling me that it is -- that’s how I know. Just when I told myself that I was going to look at today just like it was any other day – everyone screws it up for me with happy birthday shout outs!

When I signed in on my FACEBOOK page this morning – what do I see? Happy birthday wishes from a good hunk of my FACEBOOK friends. Some sound sincere….some add a little humor to the “special” day and you know that there had to be one person out there that said something like, “It’s your birthday, Rich? I thought you were dead!”

Well, I can’t deny it….it is my birthday and its number fifty-six, can you believe it! Can anyone tell me how I got so old? It seems like only yesterday that I was a little boy who wet the bed and had a crush on the girl down the street. If I close my eyes, I can still see that little girl sucking the thumb on her left hand as she twirled her long straight blonde hair with the index finger on her right hand. We had a lot of good time’s together going round and round on the neighbor’s merry-go-round and playing pick-up sticks and jacks on her front porch. I can also remember how mad both of our parents got when she cut my hair on my front porch. Now she probably doesn’t remember who in the hell I am and probably forgot about that haircut not long after I moved out of that neighborhood…it was a long long time ago.

Celebrating another birthday is a milestone of sorts for me, because I came from the generation that told every one not to trust anyone over thirty. Somehow I managed to break that age barrier by more than a few years, but I never could figure how being over thirty didn’t make you trustworthy. I will admit that I was a little surprised to hit forty – because I thought when I hit forty that I’d be worm food in some gravesite at Gracelawn Cemetery in Flint, Michigan. Well, not only did I make it to my fortieth birthday – I’m four years away from kissing the age of sixty right on the lips…infuckingincredible

A lot of things happen once you get old and I’m not talking about all of the obvious things like your hair turning gray or falls out – there are other signs. When you get old – you’re given an unwritten license to bitch about the weather any time of the day or week. It’s all because your body aches and the pain alerts you in many different ways to when it’s going to rain, snow or sleet. Why the national weather service hasn’t harassed an old person’s capability to predict the weather is beyond me.

When you get older, it’s not only expected that you yell at kids who play on your lawn – it’s those little flourishes like shaking your cane or running out the door with your walker that gives you “old people street cred”. It’s also expected that once you get older that must drive at least twenty miles under the posted speed limit just to piss everyone off – especially the jerks in their high risin’ monster pickup trucks.

Let me take this time out to thank everyone for all of the birthday cards and well wishes on this my fifty-sixth birthday – but I must be going. The clock on the wall is telling me it’s time to go and take my meds (you do that a lot when you get old) and mix up a big birthday glass of Metamucil in my orange juice to really “get myself going".