Saturday, December 24, 2011

Two Years of Counting

It's been two years now since I added a hit counter to this blog and I'm pretty amazed at the results - especially considering how infrequently I put things up and how little promotion I do.

4,379 visits have been made since 12/24/09.

78% of people who click onto this blog come from the United States, but it has been visited by people from 79 countries, including Bulgaria, Jordan, Ireland, Russia, and Estonia!

I know that just because someone happens to click onto this blog for whatever reason doesn't mean that they actually read any of it, but still.... it boggles my mind.

I really like the idea of blogging, but I think this kind of blog - a personal blog - has pretty much been replaced by Facebook. In an amazingly short amount of time, blogging has begun to seem somewhat old-fashioned!

I say I don't have the time to blog, but I do find the time each day to visit Facebook. I scroll through all the recent status updates, maybe play a video clip or two, look at some photos, make a few comments, and play a few games of Scrabble. I wonder how much time that eats up?

If you're one of the few people who actually reads my posts, and especially if you've actually read this one: Best Wishes for a happy new year!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Marcel the Shell With Shoes on

Still too busy with schoolwork to blog. In the meantime here's something amusing:

Marcel the Shell With Shoes On is a stop motion animated short film about Marcel, an anthropomorphic shell. It is a collaboration between writer/director Dean Fleischer-Camp and writer/actress Jenny Slate.

The film premiered theatrically at AFI FEST 2010 where it was awarded Best Animated Short [2] and was an official selection of the 2011 Sundance Film Festival. It won the Grand Jury and Audience Awards at the New York International Children's Film Festival.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

November 22 1963

I was in 4th grade. A nun came into our classroom to tell us the President had died. My first thought was of Caroline. I was sad for her, and sad that she and her brother would have to move out of the White House. On the walk home that afternoon some boys said that the Russians would probably attack now because we didn't have a president.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Boblo Island revisited

I recently took a nostalgic trip back in time... I traveled to Boblo, a Canadian island in the Detroit River where I spent many happy days. Boblo was once an amusement park, and I have fond memories of  summer days there, from my childhood through my thirties.

I loved BobLo and like many Detroit and Windsor residents, I was saddened in the early 1990s when the amusement park closed and the rides were dismantled. A few years later when I heard the island was being developed as a private community of luxury homes I was outraged. Didn't Boblo belonged to all of us?

I thought I would never step foot on that beloved island again, but recently discovered  a car ferry that runs to the island from Amherstberg, Ontario. I was thrilled to learn that visitors are allowed to go onto the island and roam around. So, I gathered up a group of fellow photographers and we spent the day there seeing what was left to be seen.

Boblo Dock
This is how I remember the dock on the island. There were ferry boats that crossed the river from Canada, and big steam ships, the Columbia and the Ste. Claire, that came down the river from Detroit. Canadians used one side of this dock, Americans the other.

One of the best things about Boblo was the hour long boat ride to get there. There was music and dancing on the second floor of the boats - polkas and pop songs when I was a kid, disco in the 70s.

When I think of those boats I mostly hear them - the loud, deep bass of their whistles, the engines churning, the water whooshing by, the wind, seagulls, and so many happy voices. The boat ride was great, and then you were there. Boblo! It was so much fun to walk down that long, covered dock with the anticipation of the day's amusements ahead.

This is how the dock looks now:

I got a little teary-eyed when I walked down to the end of the dock, I was feeling nostalgic, and also sad for the way this place, so fond in so many people's memories, is just rotting away.

We went to Boblo at least once a year when I was a kid and a teenager. My favorite rides were the tilt-a-whirl, the scrambler, and the round-up. I preferred the the spinny rides to the roller-coasters. I hated the wild mouse and the bug, but I would go on the Sky Streak if I was feeling brave.

It's strange that I don't have any family photos of our trips to Boblo in the 60s and 70s. The camera was probably left at home so it wouldn't have to be carried around. I also think the camera wasn't taken along because going to Boblo wasn't like going somewhere on vacation, it was just Boblo, beloved yes, but somewhat taken for granted. Who knew that images of the amusement park we all knew so well would one day be so cherished.

Boblo was originally called Bois Blanc by the French - named for the white birch trees that covered the island. "Boblo" was the best that non-French could do with the pronunciation and the name stuck.

Boblo has a long history. French priests established a mission for Huron Indians on the island in the early 1700s. Blockhouses were built by the British in the 1830s. And the island was a stop on the underground railway for escaping slaves on their way to Canada during the Civil War.

In 1898 the Bob-Lo excursion line was born. The first steamer that took visitors to the island was called The Promise. The Columbia was built in 1902 and the Ste. Claire was built in 1910.

The early attractions were simple: a day on the river and a picnic on the island. There was a carousel, and a dance hall which was built in 1903. The dance hall still stands. Here's an old postcard image of what it once looked like:

And here is what it looks like now:

During its last years as an amusement park, the owners of Boblo turned the front half of this historic building into a food court and built an indoor roller-coaster in the rest of it. The outside is in pretty good shape, but the interior is in ruins. I've seen some heartbreaking photos of it online.

Most of what's left on the island is wildly overgrown and uncared for. Though I must say I was surprised at how much is still there at all. Here is the old restroom building:

And here is me inside the old restroom building:

The island was transformed into an amusement park in the 1950s. In 1961 the deck of a freighter was sunk into place to serve as a boat landing. This unique feature of the island is still there. It's covered with colorful rust, which I was happy to photograph.

Here's the old Dodgem car building

And here is part of what's left of the miniature golf course:

I took a photo of my sons playing mini golf on Boblo in 1993.
That summer was the last year of the amusement park's existence.

I'm glad that Boblo was a part of my sons' lives, too. We made several trips to the island when they were boys and I'm glad I bothered to take the camera along.

I took this photo of the island from the dock in 1986

Here i am with Jerry on the Sky Tower in '86.

The Sky Tower is still on the island and can be seen from miles away. It's a strange relic.

This is a photo of one of my sons (I don't know which) on the "Flying Dutchman" in 1993. As this ride spun around you could control the "sail" in front to make yourself sail outward and in. An incredibly simple ride, but one I loved when I was a kid. I wonder where the cars to this ride ended up when the park was dismantled and sold off piece by piece?

It was wonderful fun to spend time on Boblo Island again. What a shame the amusement park couldn't have been saved. Though it most certainly lives on in the memories of the millions who spent happy times there.

Thanks to Hear and Their at Flickr for vintage photos of Boblo

Monday, September 19, 2011

Weekend at Lake Huron

Fall is not my favorite season, but I sure do like these days at the very end of summer, when it's not quite Fall, but Fallish.

I spent the last weekend at a cabin on Lake Huron with my old writing group and the weather was gorgeous. A bit chilly... enough so that we needed a fire in the cabin, but a sweater was not required outside during the day.

It was sunny enough to walk barefoot on the shore, and one brave soul actually took a dip in the water!

As you can see, we are a very serious group of writers:

On my way home I stopped to explore the Tawas State Park and went for a hike to Tawas Point

Saturday, September 10, 2011

September 11th - Ten Years After

We will always remember where we were on September 11, 2001. We'll remember when we heard the news of the attacks, and where we were as the events of the next few days unfolded. And because of this we will distinctly remember where we were living and where we were in our lives at that time as well.

For me it was a significant and transitional time. I was living in Kalamazoo, in the only house I've ever bought on my own. I had recently quit a dull job to go to work for a struggling non-profit theater, and I felt continually stressed and worried about that.

BB and I were at the beginning of our relationship. My son, Justin, had just started a relationship with the woman who would become his wife. And both of my sons, who were 20 at the time, were living in my basement, working at a local movie theater, and not quite yet ready to leave the nest.

Justin and Maria were just at the beginning of their relationship when I took this photo of them in September 2001. They are now married and the parents of my two beautiful grandchildren.

Like many of my neighbors, I put our flag on display. Then I asked my son, Jerry, to pose for this photo. It's an ordinary snapshot, but I like the way it captures so much about that time for me: the house, my son, and the patriotism inspired by 9/11.

A lot has happened in the last ten years: I sold my house. Moved three times. Justin and Maria got Married. BB lost her job. BB got a new job. Jerry got married. Benny was born. Natalie was born. Jerry got divorced. I wrote a book, four short stories, several personal essays, and a blog. I discovered digital photography. Took thousands of photos. Went to the British Virgin Islands, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, New York City twice, Key West Twice, Cocoa Beach, Washington D.C., Copper Harbor, Chicago, The Bahamas, and Charlotte three times. Made new friends & got reacquainted with old friends. etc...

This photo that I currently use for my Blogger profile is now ten years old! It was taken outside of the Whole Art Theater in the Fall of 2001. I guess I could update it, but it's one of my favorite photos of myself. Since then my hair has gone almost completely white, and I've gained some weight, but I don't think I look THAT much older, do I?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Russell Industrial Center

I spent the afternoon at the fifth annual People's Art Festival at the Russell Industrial Center in Detroit yesterday. This is a huge industrial complex that's been turned into a community for artists. Very interesting.

Here are some photos I took while I was there:

This spray paint mural by the artist Kobie Solomon covers a 4000 sg. foot wall. It includes elements of Detroit's four sports teams, aspects of Detroit industry, and representation of creative activities at the Russell.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Friday Favorite Photo: Ben at the park

It's been a long time since I've posted a "Friday Favorite Photo," but I just had to put this one up. I think it's one of the nicest photos I've ever taken.

I was spending quality time with Ben a week ago in Kalamazoo and so we went to Milham Park to see the ducks. It was a beautiful day, not too hot, and Ben was happy when I told him he could go wherever he wanted and do whatever he wanted in the park.

I trailed behind as he led the way and ran around. We ended up going over a bridge and onto this tiny island in the middle of the flowing stream. The light was just right as he sat down on the bank to study the stream close up.

It turned into a day of discovery for Ben as I let him remove his shoes and socks and wade around. He found a big stick, got to stand on rocks, and was engrossed for quite a while watching leaves and twigs float away and under the bridge.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Puzzle Solving

The writing work I'm doing these days is like working on a challenging puzzle.

A lot of the puzzle pieces have already been put into place, but they're not necessarily in the the right place.

I am discovering a lot of pieces that don't fit and taking them out, while I am simultaneously working hard to fit new pieces in with the structure that's been built.

And I'm doing all this without knowing what the completed puzzle looks like. I have to work from instinct - there is no photo on the box to guide me.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Half way there

I am now exactly half way through my MFA program in creative writing. If all goes well I will have graduated by this time next year. And won't that be a wonderful thing?!

I will be SO glad to be done with this little adventure. But in the meantime there's lots of work to do. I'll be pretty busy from now until about April 22, 2012. That's the date the final draft of my thesis is due. A little over 40 weeks from now. Enough time to gestate and birth a human baby. Which you'd think would be plenty of time, but doesn't seem like it to me.

So if I don't post much in the next year, that will be a good thing. I really shouldn't be blogging. Or Facebooking. Or Flickering. Damned distractions.

I should stop blogging completely, but I know I'll want to put up the occasional photo or movie review. Nothing much. Just enough to keep it going. Keep it alive.

For now here's some photos I took on campus recently.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Photo Show

Tonight is the opening of the photo show that includes some of my work.

I've spent the last month with these photos laid out on my basement floor, arranging and rearranging them for hours. But it was time well spent since I'm pleased with the result, and looking forward to basking briefly in the spotlight tonight.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

What happened to Spring?

Just the other day i was going around the house opening all the blinds to let as much light in as possible so I could keep the furnace off. Today I had to close all the blinds in order to keep the house cool enough.

We had very little Spring this year and I was too busy for what little there was to have much of a chance to appreciate it. I've only spent two days working in the yard so far this season. But those were two GOOD days.

I don't miss gardening when I don't do it. But when I do I enjoy it so much I begin to wonder why I bother doing anything else! I begin to think I could easily give up all my other pursuits, activities, and hobbies, and do nothing but garden.

I hooked the hose up last week after doing some fertilizing and, as usual, the leaky connection between my hose and my nozzle - which seems to be a continual problem - dribbled down my arm and leaked onto my pants. I don't know if it's because I buy cheap hoses, cheap nozzles, or don't twist them on tight enough, but I always seem to have this problem.

I sighed deeply while the water dribbled, but couldn't have been happier. I thought about how lucky I am to have such a nice yard to work in, in such a nice neighborhood. In spite of leaky hoses and a chilly, rainy, busy Spring, I can't, as they say, complain.