Tag Archives: life

Hitting the Road

I’ve always loved traveling, no matter how short or long the trip.  This wanderlust has taken me on so many wonderful adventures over the years, and fortunately for me, so many of my best childhood memories were made hitting the road with Grandma Reid.  The woman just loved to go.  She rarely spent time at home, at least until age caught up with her.  In fact, she spent over forty years selling women’s clothing from a variety of catalog companies.  So many of her customers were housewives who lived out in Michigan’s Thumb.  She’d drive to her customers, bags and bags of clothing samples in tow.  She quit selling in the early/mid-1990s only due to the fact that she could no longer find a quality company to represent.  The last company she carried sold more home goods than clothing.  Unfortunately, the quality was nothing compared to the companies she worked for during the 1950s-1980s.  Even as a teenager, I loved to go clothes shopping with Grandma.  She had a way of helping you find the right fight and could be brutally honest if need be.  I learned to love the road and basics of business, at least in part, at my grandmother’s knee.  

During my preschool years, Grandma would pick me up from time to time.  At the time, I was used to her late ‘70s/early ‘80s blue Chystler station wagon, the same one that I tried to make Grandpa Reid promise to take care of as it was now his.  If you knew Grandpa Owen, it was a futile effort, even if asked by his adorable granddaughter.  I can still envision the station wagon parked underneath the old apple tree at the canoe livery – or as we always called it, the park – Grandpa napping in the backseat in the heat of a Michigan summer.

Then one day, I couldn’t find Grandma’s station wagon in the preschool parking lot.  Grandma’s new vehicle was one for the books.  She purchased one of the first Chrysler minivans, and what a vehicle it was!  I have no idea how many miles she put on the thing, but I do know that she replaced the engine at one point.  She finally totaled it in the early 90s in an accident on her way to one of my sister’s softball games.  That iconic tan minivan, when it was finally put to rest, represented the passing of an era.

What makes certain vehicles from our childhood so damn memorable?  I wrote a piece about my first car, which my mom drove for a large chunk of my childhood.  I could write something similar about my dad’s ‘77 Freewheelin’ Ford Bronco, his green Jeep Grand Cherokee that my sister inherited as her first vehicle, or even the lemon fullsize blue Ford van with the squealing fan belt that hung around the canoe livery forever – the one we drove to Florida to Walt Disney World.  It isn’t the vehicles so much as the journeys and times they represent.

Last spring, touring the Henry Ford Museum for the first time with my middle school students, I was taken back by a veritable wave of nostalgia seeing one of first Chrysler minivans (in this case, a Plymouth Voyager – almost identical to the first Dodge Caravans) at the end of a long line of evolving family vehicles.  It stopped me for a moment.  All it needed was a tan paint job/interior and Dodge badging to be Grandma’s minivan of my childhood.

More than anything, that minivan represents, at least to me, countless trips to the movies, Lutz’s Funland in Au Gres, putt-putt golf in Tawas, ice cream runs, and the Bear Track.  I think of the infamous trip to Kings Island in Ohio where Mom and Grandma tried to remain calm as we were caught in an awful storm.  We were parked, Grandma had her foot on the brake, and the van was still shaking.  How many trips to weddings, family reunions, and showers did I take with her in that van?  Last, but not least, we took Grandma’s van to the airport on our infamous trip to Aruba with Dad, Erica, Emily Lammy, Grandma, and Dean Gillette (Mom was too pregnant with Garrett to fly) for New Year 1991.  On the way home, something was wrong with the van, and we could only travel in 15 minute spurts.  I thought we’d never get home, but eventually, we arrived.

Grandma knew how to make any trip fun.  It wouldn’t be a summer adventure if we didn’t stop for ice cream.  On one such occasion, we’d stopped for ice cream after hitting a local amusement park for putt-putt and go-karts.  Per usual, Grandma had a van full.  In addition to my sister and I, cousins Michael and Linda were there as well, and I may even be forgetting someone.  As we are enjoying ice cream on the way home, suddenly my sister’s ice cream falls off of its cone squarely into Michael’s hand.  We had to pull over we were laughing so hard, especially Grandma.  Now well into our 30s and 40s, the ice cream incident is still mentioned from time to time.  Something about it was so incredibly funny, or as Grandma would say, comical.

Now, I’m the one who is rarely home.  I’m the one “running the roads” as my dad would say.  I hope to make the same kind of road memories with my niece and nephews as they grow up, but that is more my mom’s territory, for now.  I normally tag along in her car, playing navigator if need be.  Maybe one day they will reminisce about all the Buick Enclaves in our family at the moment (3 and counting) or Uncle Garrett’s Avalanche.  

At this point, I doubt my love of the road will ever die.  Thank you, Grandma.

Ringo Starr and His All-Star Band

When not singing Beatles or solo tunes, Ringo is behind the drums.

All-Starr-Band-in-Paris Ringo-Starr drums” by Jean Fortunet is licensed under CC BY 3.0.

This past Friday night, I had the opportunity to see Ringo Starr and his All-Star Band in concert in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan.  As far as I am concerned, when it comes to music, there are the Beatles and then there is everyone else.  The music I grew up with and loved, all of the 90s “alternative” and the 60s-80s pop rock, simply would not exist without the Beatles – at least not in the same way.  In other words, even though seeing Ringo in person wasn’t on my bucket list, it should have been.  It definitely should have been.

The concert itself left me pleasantly surprised.  There was “Yellow Submarine,” “Photograoph,” “Octopus’s Garden,” and “WIth A Little Help from My Friends,” of course.  Ringo didn’t even announce “With A Little Help from My Friends.”  He quipped that “if you don’t know this next one, you’re at the wrong concert!”  What a great way to end a concert.  All to be expected.

Instead, it was the strength of his All-Star Band that blew me away.  As a child of the 80s and 90s that grew up with 70s and 80s hits, hearing “Africa” and “Rosanna” by Toto, “Free Ride” by the Edgar Winter Group, “Who Can It Be Now“ and “Down Under” by Men at Work, among so many others, was just as much fun.  The sound quality and overall musicianship was far and away the best I have ever seen in a concert.  Then I realized that I was watching men in their 70s and 80s playing, not to prove anything, but to just have fun, truly in love with the music.  They were playing songs that have been around for decades, that they’ve been playing for decades.

The experience became so much more than the concert, though.  After the concert, we walked around a bit looking for the Legends diner.  As we wandered around, suddenly the back doors of entertainment hall opened and the tribal police escorted out the band immediately in front of us.  Everyone froze for a second and then gave them a resounding round of applause.  Even after they were gone, I waited a bit, hoping that Ringo would be following them.  Unfortunately, that was not the case.

Just as we were going to start our search for the diner once again, I did a double-take.  A Ringo look-alike – as in this man looked exactly like Ringo – was holding court and taking photographs with all who wished them.  Unfortunately, the line was too long, and I am nothing if not impatient.

While the experience wasn’t perfect – namely our seats weren’t quite what we were expecting – it is a weekend that I will never forget.  Saturday, I woke up to the news that Ringo canceled several appearances in his tour due to COVID.  I can only wish Ringo the best as he recovers.

2022 Ringo Starr and His All-Star Band Set List

Ringo Starr” by PVBroadz is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Cars We Love

A1989 Pontiac Grand Prix similar to my first car.
The only thing missing here is the luggage rack on the trunk.

Funny how certain cars from your past just stay with you.  Where do I even begin with my first car, my 1989 Pontiac Grand Prix, a perfect cheery red?  My love affair with that car began right off the lot.  My parents purchased the car brand new in Gladwin, MI in 1989.  It was the first proper car my mom had since my parents married in 1977.  After my parents married, they sold my mom’s car to help purchase buses, and the full-sized vans that replaced it doubled as a canoe livery vehicles in the summer.  She definitely earned that brand new car!  I think I was just as excited as she was – almost.  If anything, I inherited my love of cars from Mom.  I even went to the dealership with my parents, an exciting new experience at age 8.

By 1995, a friend of my parents, who owned the GM dealership in town, happened to drive over the latest Grand Prix model – again, bright red.  The Grand Prix had just been redesigned, and few people in Arenac County, if any, had it at that point.  Soon, Mom had another new car and the old one, later mine, went into the pole barn, waiting for me to turn 16 and earn my license.

During the fall of 1996, I spent hours detailing it, getting ready for when I earned my license in December.  I carefully drove it through the campground, practicing backing up and avoiding things like fire rings and electrical posts, carefully storing it back in the pole barn, waiting not so patiently.  My mom had taken great care of it, and now, it was up to me.

A few features of that Grand Prix still stand out.  1989, frankly, was the end of an era when it came to cars.  My Grand Prix was probably one of the last models that didn’t include air bags and CD players.  Instead, it had a futuristic 80s electronic dash and a retro tape deck.  Later, we had a five CD changer installed in the trunk.  I could not have asked for a more perfect first car.

After much heartache, stress, and tears – another story entirely – my dad took me to the Secretary of State on my birthday to get my license.  He even let me pick out a new license plate for my car.  I ended up with a centennial plate commemorating the 100th anniversary of the automobile industry.  Somehow, some of my best memories with Dad always seem to involve vehicles, whether cars, SUVs, minibusses, or big ole school buses.

Car and license in hand, I now drove myself and my younger sister Erica to school and around town.  The biggest issue, of course, became control of the radio for the entire 10 minute drive to school.  We didn’t fight much, but we did argue over music and sharing a bathroom on the daily.  That first winter driving, Erica and I experienced our first accident.  A fender bender that could have happened to anyone, we both freaked out as only young teenage girls can.  Fortunately, no one was hurt and the damage was easily repaired.

I kept that Grand Prix well into college.  In 2001, I drove it to and from my internship with IBM out in Rochester, Minnesota.  Alone, I will never forget driving home along US 2 across the Upper Peninsula (UP) of Michigan in late August with incredible views of Lake Michigan along the way.  It is still one of my favorite road trips.  That trip finally helped me to become completely comfortable behind the wheel.

The following year, after a year studying abroad in Ecuador and Spain, I spent six months living and working in Austin, Texas.  I had landed the co-op with Applied Materials at the same time I landed the gig with IBM.  As I already knew that I would be studying abroad the following academic year, I convinced Applied Materials to bring me aboard the following summer, June 2002.  By this point, it was time to replace the Grand Prix.

The original plan was to sell my car in Texas, fly home in December for my birthday and Christmas, purchase a new vehicle, and return to Michigan State for winter semester 2003.  Well, best laid plans rarely work out.  On July 24th, 2001, on my way to work at Applied, a moving truck turned in front of me.  I had had the green light, and he hadn’t seen me.  I slammed on the brakes so hard that I broke my big toe and the metatarsal on my right foot.  I ended up in a splint and, later, a walking cast, up to my knee.

The entire front end of the Grand Prix slid under the truck, stopping just in time.  If I had had a passenger in the front seat, he or she probably would not have made it.  All I could think of was how many times I had had my brother or sister with me, usually shotgun.  I walked away relatively unscathed.  My only other injury, other than a badly scraped left knee from the dash, was a deep cut behind my ear from the window molding.  Somehow, the safety glass held.

Thank God that car didn’t have air bags.  First generation air bags later gained a reputation for killing shorter drivers.  At 5’0, I may have ended up a statistic.  That Grand Prix that I’d loved for so long had saved my life.  It was the end of an era.

I ended up with another Grand Prix, of course – a 2002.  Yet, nothing I’ve owned since could ever top my first car, not even purchasing a brand new car on my own.  So many childhood, teenage, and even young adult memories – way too many to share here – wrapped up in one vehicle.  I’ve even dreamed about it.  I dreamed that, somehow, it was still stored in my parents’ pole barn, waiting for me to drive it again.

Another view.

Home Again

Fun sign on Grove Road, just before Crystal Creek Campground
Photo Credit: Lindsey Russell

These last few weeks have been eventful, and frankly, fun.  While my parents were in Ireland, I house sat for them.  First, I love my parents’ house.  It is comfortable and, next to my own house, is a space where I can just be myself.  Housesitting for my parents during the early part of the fall means checking our Crystal Creek Campground as well.  Crystal Creek is adjacent to my parents’ house.  In fact, the house – my home from ages 3 to 18 – sits behind our store.  It is hard to separate the two.

My favorite part of Crystal Creek Campground
Photo Credit: Lindsey Russell

There is something about the empty campground, with the promise of fall in the air, that gets me every time.  It is gorgeous and my favorite time of year.  I can’t help but think of all the time I spent playing in the campground as a child after the campers left for the season.  The land itself is forever a part of me.

Another view of my favorite part of Crystal Creek Campground
Photo Credit: Lindsey Russell

During the great shutdown of 2020, I lived with my parents.  It didn’t make sense for me to live alone at a time when no one knew how long it would last.  Those days were largely a challenge for a variety of reasons, but the campground helped.  Even though we had no idea when would be able to open up for Summer 2020, my parents and I spent time getting the campground ready.  It was something tangible we could do.  Mom and I picked up sticks and garbage daily while my dad and brother took care of most of the brush.  It gave me a new appreciation for the land and the river, especially after we had the 500 year flood in May 2020 and rebuilt to open in mid-June.

Crystal Creek Landing
Photo Credit: Lindsey Russell

But, home is so much more than just my parents’ or my home.  Last weekend, I had the opportunity to return to Michigan State’s unrivaled campus – the home of some of my best memories.  My brother, sister, sister-in-law, and I made sure my nephews and niece had a great first experience at Spartan Stadium.  While wonderful in many ways, unfortunately my niblings didn’t get to see the Spartans win.  Still, just being on campus brought back so many memories – the kind of memories that can only be relived when you’re home.

The view from Spartan Staduium, Saturday, September 24th, 2022
Photo Credit: Lindsey Russell

The Cottage

10 year old me, huge pink glasses and all, hanging out with Dad on the front porch of the “old” Buttrick cottage on Sage Lake. 1990

Lately, the cottage has been on my mind.  In Michigan, many families have a “cottage” or “cabin” Up North, however you define it.  Minnesota may be the land of 10,000 lakes, but Michigan actually has more, only outnumbered by Alaska.  As a true Michigander, I am drawn to water in all of its forms.  The cottage in my mom’s family, going back at least five generations, still plays an important role in our family.

Actually, there are two.  The “old cottage,” which belonged to my great grandmother, Leona Clara Forward Buttrick, otherwise known to her great grandchildren as Great (I wrote about her life in Family History), had character to spare.  Dating back to the 1930s or 1940s, the “old cottage” looms large in my childhood memories.  It was the site of numerous weekend get-togethers with extended family, particularly my Buttrick grandparents, cousins, and aunts (and their husbands).  Great spent most of her summers at the “old” cottage on Sage Lake, which made these early memories extra special.

Once Great passed away in 1993, it was decided that we needed a cottage closer to the lake, a new place to make new memories.  Thankfully, this cottage is still in constant use during the summer and still the site of countless family summer gatherings.  Still, there is something special about the “old” cottage, warts and all.  It is still there, largely unchanged, to be enjoyed by a new family.

If anything, I would have to say it was Great herself that made the cottage special.  She was always there, smiling and laughing.  She seemed to just take it all in, surrounded by her granddaughters, great granddaughters, son, and daughter-in-law, among others.  She always had a tin filled with Hydrox cookies for her great grandchildren and would look the other way while we snuck them.

It was a treat to spend the night at the cottage with Great.  I believe that my mom, sister, and I stayed overnight with Great at the cottage a handful of times.  I loved waking up near the lake, having toast with real honey from the comb and an individual box of cereal for breakfast.  The “old” cottage may have been located on a large bluff overlooking Sage Lake, making swimming and boating a workout, but the view was second to none.

As Great’s birthday was in late August, I vividly remember driving up to the cottage to take Great out to dinner.  Mom, Erica, and I pilled in Great’s huge seafoam green Caddy to take her out for frog legs, her favorite.  We all adored Great, but the relationship that my mom had with her grandmother was truly special.  It must have been for my mom to pack up her two little girls and drive over half an hour each way to take her grandmother out to dinner for her birthday.  I am so grateful for all the time I got to spend with Great. As I was 13 when she passed away, I knew her well  Not everyone gets the opportunity to know a great grandparent in such a wonderful, detailed way.

The thing about going to the cottage during my childhood was that it was a process.  Yes, there may have been times when I actually traveled to the cottage with my parents, but that is not what I remember as well.  What I will remember most is all the fun I had piling into my grandparents’ huge 1980s station wagon with my older cousins.  At one point, Grandpa B. owned one of those coveted wood paneled station wagons that had a rear facing seat.  Of course, as kids, we all piled in the “way” back.  My sister Erica, our cousin Abby, and I spent the entire 20 minute trip making up songs, playing silly finger-snap games, and hoping that we would be the “first one to see the lake.” Getting there was half the fun.

Actually, in those days, my parents presence at the cottage didn’t register much.  No.  The cottage was all about playing with cousins.  We would climb the tree in the front yard, create dance routines on the parking pylons and the torpedo towable, and swim.  There were trips to the pop shop and pontoon boat rides too.  Grandpa could never understand why I would always pick out baseball cards (normally Topps ‘87s) instead of candy at the pop shop.  I think it amused him.

Swimming and boating at the “old” cottage required a little planning.  The obstacle to lake access was a large, steep set of stairs.  If you were going down to the lake, you stayed there for a while.  If anyone was heading up to the cottage and planned to return to the lake, she automatically played waitress.  It wasn’t kind to head up without asking if anyone needed anything.  It is the one thing that I do not miss about the “old” cottage. If we weren’t down at the lake, we were hanging out on the large covered porch in the front yard, facing Second Ave., the lake behind.  This was the site of all of our games.

Of course, no description of cottage life would be complete without a description of the food.  For dinner, there was chicken, burgers, and hotdogs on the grill with plenty of sides and salads, you name it.  What really stands out, though, is so simple:  Grandma B.’s fruit platters.  Even us kids devoured mounds of fresh watermelon, cantaloupe, bananas, and blue berries.  As soon Grandma brought out the fruit tray, it was time to take a break from all the fun.

Then there was the cottage itself.  It was small and pine paneled with lots of windows overlooking the deck with the lake below, decorated in a mix of mid century cottage style.  Even though there were only two bedrooms, it never felt cramped to me as a child.  It largely smelled of fresh air and the lake, with Great’s Airspun powder lingering in the bathroom.  Overall, it is a place where I made countless memories that I will always carry with me.

I am grateful that my brother Garrett takes his kids to the cottage often.  For him, it is all about catching air on Sage on a wakeboard.  Both of his kids, both under 10, adore wakeboarding and tubing behind the speedboat.  Yet, I feel for Garrett.  He has little to no memory of the cottage atmosphere I just described – the one seared in my memory, the one that started it all.  While he definitely knew Great, she passed away when he was only two years old.  It saddens me because the image of how fiercely my toddler brother adored our great grandmother is among one of sweetest things I have ever witnessed in my life.  I’m just glad the cottage still lives on.  The cottage is still a place where cousins make memories.

BANNED BOOKS:  Looking for Alaska by John Green

I adore John Green, both as an author and as host of “Crash Course History” videos.  For those who don’t know, he is the best selling author of young adult hits such as The Fault in Our Stars and Looking for Alaska.  Even though I read The Fault in Our Stars well into middle age, it left a deep impression on me.  I discuss the influence in Dear D., Continued – Revisited, quoting the book.

Unfortunately, all is not well with John Green.  Last week I came across the article below discussing how Looking for Alaska is being challenged in his hometown of Orange County, Florida  You can read the article below.

John Green’s First Novel May Be Banned At His Old School

Frankly, this isn’t about John Green or Looking for Alaska; it is all about banning books.  I don’t care what anyone’s personal political views may be, banning books should have no place in the United States of America.  I love that libraries have Banned Book Week and have expanded on the idea.  Some of the best books I have ever read have been challenged over the years.  Personally, I believe that any good library should have something to offend everyone.  Outright banning of books is disgusting to me.

As a teacher, I do have to clarify something though.  Banning books in a library or even a school library is completely different from deciding which books are taught in the classroom.  While I believe that all students should have access to as wide variety of books as possible, parents should be able to have options if they have concerns regarding books their child is reading in the classroom.  However, one parent’s objections should not be forced on to everyone else.  Ideally, a resolution should be agreed upon by the teacher, parent(s), and administration.  Why do we have to make it so complicated?

That is about it:  My little political rant for the week.  I just hope that people come to their senses and realize that it is OK if not everyone views things the same way.  That is the beauty of living in a complex society.  We as a society need to relearn that we don’t have to agree on everything.

All Things Michigan

Lake Superior shoreline – Photo Credit: photosforclass.com

Here are a few Michigan-centric websites I’ve come across over the last week.

Check them out!

Mysterious Michigan

Lots of great paranormal stories set in Michigan.  Just in time for Halloween!  You can find my piece on The Witchy Wolves of the Omer Plains there as well.

The site started out back in 2006 as Michigan’s Otherside.

Amberrose Hammond – 

Amberrose Hammond is the woman behind Mysterious Michigan.  This personal site outlines her work, books, and much more.

Lake Fury

Ric Mixter and Dan Hall’s website discussing all things shipwreck on the Great Lakes.  I had the opportunity to hear Ric Mixter’s talk on the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald last week.  Absolutely fascinating.

Shipwreck Podcasts

Ric Mixter’s free and premium podcasts covering shipwrecks all over the Great Lakes (and beyond), the infamous and the not-so-famous.  You can also find a list of Ric Mixter’s upcoming appearances/topics.

Lake Superior beach gravel – Photo Credit: photosforclass.com

Marshall Fredericks Museum @ Saginaw Valley State University

“The Man on the Cross” mold on display at the Marshall Fredericks Museum at Saginaw Valley State University. The original sculpture resides at the Cross in the Woods in Indian River, Michigan.
Photo Credit: Lindsey Russell

The Marshall Fredericks Museum at Saginaw Valley State University (SVSU) is one of my favorite museums.  Considering its size, it is jam packed.  Over the years, I’ve visited the museum a handful of times, and I always leave inspired.  There is so much to see, and frankly, it is impressive to see the results of such a long and varied career in sculpture.  At one time, Grandma B. and I talked about the museum, and she said that she always wanted to visit.  Unfortunately, she never took the opportunity.  I can’t help but think of her every time I am there.

One of my favorite Marshall Fredericks sculptures is “The Man on the Cross,” which resides at the National Shrine of the Cross in the Woods in Indian River, Michigan.  I’ve seen it in person (the full-size mold resides in the art gallery at SVSU, see below), and it is something that one needs to experience in person.  I plan to go back at some point.  It is gorgeous and moving.

As I left class today (I’m currently finishing my English endorsement at SVSU), I decided to head over the museum.  It did not disappoint.  Following is a quick overview of different sections of the museum.

Main Gallery

The main gallery includes the original molds for many of Marshall Fredericks’ larger works, including “The Man on the Cross” (see photo below), interspersed with smaller models in various mediums.  All are on permanent display and make up the core of the museum.

The molds for the “Sinners and Saints” sculpture. The original resides in the Sinners and Saints lounge at the nearby Midland Center for the Arts.
Photo Credit: Lindsey Russell
Marshall Fredericks also sculptured many animals throughout his career. This frog is one of my favorites.
I believe the original ended up in a children’s garden.
Photo Credit: Lindsey Russell

The Studio

The museum has taken great care to replicate parts of Marshall Fredericks’ studio.  It is impressive, and frankly, there is something about this part of the museum that fascinates me.  You get to understand how he created such large sculptures and the work involved, including tools and studies.  It actually inspired me to write a post on Scrivener and the idea of a writer’s studio, which can be found here.

Display helping to recreate Marshall Fredericks’ studio. Photo Credit: Lindsey Russell
Another view of the studio. Photo Credit: Lindsey Russell

The Sculpture Garden

It is just a beautiful outdoor space with all kinds of bronze sculptures inspired by Marshall Fredericks’ work.  You can find other images of the sculpture garden here.

The “Night and Day” fountain that is the center piece of the sculpture garden.
Photo Credit: Lindsey Russell
Mowgli and Baloo in the sculpture garden.
Photo Credit: Lindsey Russell

A visit to the museum is certainly worth it.  In addition to the sections described above, there are also a couple of smaller galleries in the museum that hold rotating exhibitions.  You can find more information on the museum’s website.

Across the Universe (2007)

Liverpool Docks
Liverpool Docks” by wwarby is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

I’ve wanted to write about Across the Universe (2007) ever since I first watched it several months ago.  It is one of those movies that grabs you, not letting you go.  Just when you think you have it figured out, you start back at the beginning.  I’m afraid I won’t do it justice.

Let’s start with the facts.  First, it was a given that I would enjoy Across the Universe (2007) for the music and subject matter alone.  A musical using new renditions of Beatles’ songs that encompasses many of the major themes of the 1960s?  What isn’t there to like?  Never mind the actual film.  It was either going to be wonderful or something never to speak of again.

Next, the music itself is exceptional.  When it comes to Beatles’ music, I am normally skeptical when it comes to covers (with the exception of Joe Cocker, of course).  In this case, Evan Rachel Wood (Lucy), Jim Sturgess (Jude), and Dana Fuchs (Sadie) forced me to look at some of the Beatles catalog in a new way.  Not an easy feat.  There are several examples of this, but some of the ones that come to mind immediately are “It Won’t Be Long” (Evan Rachel Wood), “I’ve Just Seen A Face” (Jim Sturgess), and “Why Don’t We Do It in the Road?” (Dana Fuchs).  That is just for starters. The use of “Let It Be” (Carol Woods & Timothy T. Mitchum) as a hymn fits the scene(s) perfectly.

My feelings on the song “Across the Universe” have evolved as result.  While I’ve always liked “Across the Universe,” I would be hard pressed to even rank it among my top 25 or possibly 50 Beatles’ songs.  No joke.  The movie made me reevaluate.  While I enjoy the movie version of “Across the Universe,” the cover by the band Evanescence is now one of favorite songs.  It is haunting in the best possible way, not easily replicated.

Fortunately for us, the music is only the beginning.  All the principals not only can act and sing, but dance as well.  The choreography in Across the Universe (2007) is second to none and, along with superb costume and set design, make the movie.  It enhances the music in a way that is unforgettable.  The bowling scene that takes place during “I’ve Just Seen A Face” is so much fun and over the top.  While the first part of the movie is just that – fun and over the top – the choreography and music work together to tell a much darker story as the movie progresses.

While I won’t give away the plot, it is the plot itself that keeps me guessing, keeps me coming back to the movie.  When I finished watching Across the Universe (2007) for the first time, my first thought was:

What the heck just happened?  What did I just watch?

Frankly, its plot, or lack thereof, is both its strength and weakness.  While it isn’t as though it doesn’t have a plot at all, there are large swaths of the movie that leave you asking so many questions.  Much can explained away by implied drug use.  Now might be a good time to mention that Across the Universe (2007) earned every bit of its PG-13 rating.  Personally, I believe it should be more in the R category considering the violence, implied drug use, and sexual references/implications.

Implied drug use can explain away much of the plot issues in the movie, but it doesn’t explain everything.  For example, there are certain characters (namely Prudence, Sadie, and Jo-Jo) that I want to know more about.  They are that interesting, considering what we know of them.  However, I have yet to figure out the purpose of Prudence’s character.  She seems to just show up.

While it is easy to see all of these things as “flaws” with the plot, I have to wonder if it wasn’t intentional.  I’m not quite sure how the movie could have captured as much of the history of the ‘60s as it did without leaving so much to the viewer’s imagination.
As a Beatles fan, that is what is so fun about this movie.  There are so many references for fans.  My personal favorite is the Brigitte Bardot poster.  Supposedly all the Beatles had a huge crush on her.  Then, there are the characters themselves.  Jude, played by Jim Sturgess, looks an awful lot like a young Paul McCartney.  His character is even from Liverpool.  With some characters, it is obvious:  Jo-Jo is somehow a stand-in for Jimi Hendrix.  Others, it isn’t so clear.  For example, I want to peg Sadie as Janis Joplin, and yet, it doesn’t feel quite right.  In the end, the music, the choreography, the confusing plot, and the Easter eggs geared towards Beatles fans will keep me coming back.  If you like the Beatles at all, it is a must-see.  If I ever have the opportunity to see it on the big screen, I am there.  I’m not sure how I missed Across the Universe (2007) when it was first released.

To My Grandparents, Thank you!

My grandparents are never far from my mind (or heart), but over the last several days, they’ve been on my mind even more.  As my parents were preparing for a trip to Ireland, my dad asked me a little about the Irish ancestry on the Russell side of his family.  It is fascinating!  I didn’t realize that his grandfather (my great grandfather), Elijah (EC) Russell, was the son of Irish immigrants.  As Grandpa Russell passed away long before I was born, I happen to know the history of the Suszko and Buttrick/Hoffman sides of my family better.  Realizing that my ancestors on the Russell side made sacrifices for their descendants by leaving their homeland in search of a better life is humbling.

Grandpa Russell’s parents – Mary Jennie and Elijah (EC) Russell

Today also happens to be Grandparents Day.  My grandparents may no longer be with us, but I simply would not be the same person without their influence.  As a child, I somehow won the grandparent lottery.  Both my Buttrick and Reid grandparents lived close by and played a huge role in my life.  I spent my summers spending time and working with Grandma and Grandpa Reid.  They both taught me so much about life in general.  I’ve written extensively about their influence.

Grandma and Grandpa Buttrick’s house was always open to us grand kids and our friends.  They lived close to Standish Elementary, and we often visited after school.  As an adult, trips to Standish were not complete if I didn’t visit Grandma and Grandpa.  Even today, when I am running errands in Standish, I think of how nice it would be to be able to stop in for a quick visit.  I still miss the book club for two that I had with Grandma B.  I also think of all of those August trips to hunting camp in Kenton, piling in Grandpa’s station wagon or Suburban with our cousins.

There is so much more I could say.  I didn’t even discuss our “adopted” grandparents, our neighbors Joyce and Carl.  That is all together another subject for another day.  By the way, I didn’t post a picture of Grandma Buttrick for a specific reason.  She was a private person, and even though she is no longer here, she would hate having her picture here.

Even though I never knew him, Grandpa Russell’s legacy lives on in the canoe livery.  Grandma and Dad may have kept the canoe livery running after he passed away, but it was Grandpa Russell who started it all over 60 years ago.  In fact, all of my grandfathers were entrepreneurs in their own way – a fact I love.

So, to all of my grandparents, thank you!  Thank you for your love, guidance, memories, and so much more.

Love,

Lindo

Sugarfoot

Little Bo

Christmas 2004 – Left to Right – My sister Erica, me, and Grandpa Buttrick.

This is one of my favorite pictures, taken at our annual adult Christmas dinner at the Quality Inn in West Branch, MI.
Left to Right:  Owen Reid (my dad’s “step” dad whom we all adored); Grandma Reid; me age 17; and my brother Garrett, age 7.
Grandpa Russell; Twining, MI.