Recently, I realized that I mention my hometown extensively without providing many details. Unfortunately, many readers – even seasoned Michiganders – might have no idea where Omer, Michigan is. It is just under an hour north of Bay City. If you take the 188 Standish exit off of I-75, you will likely end up on US 23 north in Standish. Omer is the next small town, approximately 7 miles north on US 23. A bridge over the Rifle River, a caution light, and a set of railroad tracks are all landmarks to let you know that you have traveled through the city.
Being from Omer, Michigan isn’t for the faint of heart. For decades, the city of Omer has held the distinction of being Michigan’s smallest city, boasting a population just shy of 300 souls. Living in a small town does not come without its hazards. Nothing remains private for long. Both of my parents grew up in the area as well, with both of their families having ties to the area going back generations. Growing up attending Standish-Sterling Community Schools, not only was I a teacher’s kid as my mom spent most of her teaching career at Standish Elementary, our family business, Russell Canoe Livery, meant that my family was well-known in both Omer and Standish. In fact, Omer has no school, aside from a Head Start program aimed at preschoolers. When Omer’s school burned down in the early days of the 20th century, it was never rebuilt.
Sadly, despite its location in the heart of Arenac County and its one-time status as the county seat, little remains of a once thriving city. Today, the Arenac Country Historical Society works to preserve the Old Courthouse, the lone remaining structure to tell Omer’s cautionary tale. During the early part of the 20th century, roughly 1905-1918, Omer experienced a series of natural disasters (namely fires, floods, and tornadoes) that nearly destroyed the city. Throughout the 80s and 90s, the local diner, first known as Cody’s and later Ziggy’s (now a Dollar General), had disposable placemats outlining Omer’s history, including the natural disasters.
Originally named Rifle River Mills, Omer’s identity has always depended on the Rifle River. In the late 19th century, lumber from dense northern Michigan forests traveled rivers such as the Rifle to the sawmills in the south, namely in Bay City and Saginaw. In fact, our main location in Omer, our smaller campground, is the remains of an old mill pond. In fact, it becomes easy to imagine the pond if you look at the current topography of the campground. Today, the Rifle River is used exclusively for recreational purposes – fishing, canoeing, kayaking, rafting, tubing, and more. One day last summer, I saw two young girls in bathing suits walking down Carrington St. carrying their canoe. It is forever frozen in my mind as the most “Omer” thing I’ve ever seen in my life.
Today, Omer is home to three campgrounds, two of which are also canoe liveries, Russell Canoe Livery and Campgrounds, Inc., being the largest. In addition, Omer is home to Meihls Mechanical, a self-storage business that is continually growing, Dollar General, the Sunrise Side Senior Center, a library attached to city hall, a post office, a small park with basketball hoops and playground, the Old Courthouse, and not much else. While not exactly thriving, the city itself looks better than it has in decades, closed Rob’s Auto and Greg’s Market aside.
Today, Omer is relatively well known for two things: the local sucker run and witchy wolves. The sucker run deserves it own post. As it will be starting soon, stay tuned. My piece on the witchy wolf legend, dating back to right after the US Civil War, can be found here. Omer will never be perfect, but it will always home.
Paul McCartney and Wings – Give Ireland Back to the Irish (1971) (Video)(Lyrics)
(Written March 19, 2023)
Paul McCartney never disappoints, and “Give Ireland Back to the Irish” can be considered a perfect demonstration of the breadth and depth of his talents. This past winter, December 2022 to be exact, The 7” Single Box Set hit stores. This monster encompasses 80 seven-inch vinyl singles dating from his Wings and solo careers, spanning over 50 years of musical history (1971-2022). Easily retailing for hundreds of dollars, the idea works as vinyl continues to come roaring back thanks to collectors and the lack of a better medium. What could be better than listening to music the way it was originally intended? As I have no vinyl collection and my days of collecting physical music (my CD collection in the 90s, early 00s) are long over, it never occurred to me to find the collection digitally. Fortunately, that is precisely what I did, and for that, I am grateful. “Give Ireland Back to the Irish” shines in the collection as the gem it is.
Rediscovering my favorite Wings hits, along with Paul McCartney’s extensive back catalog of solo work, made listening to The 7” Single Box Set a guilty pleasure. “Give Ireland Back to the Irish” definitely caught my attention. First, I had forgotten how much I love the song. It also hit me how easy it is to forget that Paul McCartney can actually rock all on his own, silly love songs aside. I still consider it among the best protest songs of all time.
Then there is the significance of the song. Growing up in the 80s and 90s, I devoured the news daily. I learned about “the Troubles” at a young age, and it is still something I will never understand. Hatred between Catholics and Protestants? It didn’t make sense. Differences of opinion and belief? Yes. Hatred? No. It went against not only everything I had experienced as a child in my daily life, it also went against everything I had been taught to believe.
First, my father’s extended family is roughly half Catholic and half various Protestant denominations. While my family and I belong to the Methodist church, my paternal first cousins were raised in the Catholic Church. As a toddler, I attended cousin Nicole’s first Communion. When my Russell grandparents married in 1943, my Protestant great grandmother, Dad’s Grandma Russell, supposedly didn’t originally like the idea of her youngest son marrying a Catholic.
Next, Standish, Michigan, the site of my entire K-12 education, is largely Catholic. I spent my early childhood watching my classmates attend Catechism on Wednesday evenings. My Catholic classmates knew my beloved Joyce – my neighbor, babysitter extraordinaire, and adopted grandmother – from 3rd grade Catechism as she taught Catechism for nearly three decades. I watched in envy that spring as the Catholic girls dressed up as miniature brides to make their first Communion. Later, as an adult, Mom shared with me that she’d felt the same way watching her Catholic best friends make their first Communions decades before.
Finally, our neighbors were Catholic. Not only were they Catholic, they were the most devote Catholics I’ve ever known. It is no secret that my brother, sister, and I adored Joyce and Carl. On Saturday afternoons, Joyce could often be found ironing all of the linens about to be used in Mass later that evening. Earlier in my childhood, my parents actually used to go out from time to time on Saturday evenings. Joyce could babysit, but there was one catch: my sister Erica and I would be attending Mass with her family, as would our brother Garrett years later.
Much to my Methodist grandmother’s amusement, her Catholic friends would comment on seeing my sister and I, dressed up and on our best behavior, in Mass with Joyce and her family, looking cherubic. Erica and I may have attended the local Catholic church more than our Methodist church in our earliest years. Those Saturday evenings are among some of my best memories of time spent with Joyce, Carl, Carla, and Joelle.
Even as a young child, I recognized the cognitive dissonance required for me to hate Catholics. It would have meant hating many of the very people closest to me throughout my childhood – friends, family, teachers, etc. – solely based on religion. Considering my paternal grandmother’s Ukrainian/Polish heritage, it would almost demand some level of self-hatred. I will never even begin to understand.
Supposedly Paul McCartney’s family was a mixture of Catholic and Protestant as well, which would explain “Give Ireland Back to the Irish.” Even given his level of fame, the song took a certain amount of courage to write and record, particularly in the aftermath of the Beatles and the formation of Wings. The lyrics say it all:
It seemed appropriate to share a beautiful song by an Irish band on St. Patrick’s Day. I fell in love with the entire album when it first came out, even though it wasn’t exactly the music I was into at the time. It certainly has held up.
I hope to revisit Ireland one day. I only spent a long weekend in Dublin while studying abroad in the United Kingdom, and yet, it left a deep impression on me. I have yet to travel anywhere where I felt so at home.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day! More to come on Ireland in the week ahead.
I wish I could convey to today’s teenagers and young adults how much freedom we had in the late 1990s/pre-September 11th, 2001. I consider myself fortunate to have grown up just enough to enjoy all that that time period had to offer. Those years, roughly 1996-2001, still loom large in my life. What a soundtrack I could create for that time! Morcheba’s Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day would feature front and center. It is upbeat, optimistic, and fun in a way that is sorely missing today. The video is infectious and fits the song perfectly.
I don’t remember exactly when I first heard the song, but it will always remind me of my summer in London. My freshman year at Michigan State, I had no doubt that I’d study abroad. The only questions that remained were: when, where, how, and why. I settled into life at Michigan State with my mom’s experience studying abroad in the United Kingdom in the ‘70s firmly in the back of my mind, oblivious to the profound impact it would all have on my life.
From all the stories I grew up with, I could tell that studying abroad loomed large in my mom’s college experience. It’s clear that she loved every minute of it. Interestingly, I’m not sure if it would’ve happened without my dad. When my mom wanted to marry my dad before graduating from Central Michigan University, my grandparents handled it brilliantly. They suggested that she study abroad before she married. I don’t know if she would have taken that step otherwise. I’m just glad that she did and shared those stories with me. I doubt she knows the extent to which they inspired me.
Spring semester 2000, the professor in my freshman literature class passed out a flier for a short term study abroad program in the United Kingdom that summer. Even though I would be taking another literature course I didn’t necessarily need, I’d be able to finish up my required humanities credits. A summer in London sounded perfect. I couldn’t sign up fast enough. In the end, I would spend five weeks in the heart of London (Bloomsbury) and one week in Glasgow, Scotland. For the first time, I would be away from my family and the canoe livery for an extended period of time during the summer.
It’s funny what I’ve taken away from the entire experience. First, I became an addict. I became addicted to studying abroad. As soon as I returned to Michigan, I knew that I wanted to spend at least one full semester studying abroad. I hadn’t given up Spanish just yet and spending a semester (minimum) in a Spanish-speaking country seemed a foregone conclusion. The width and breadth of Michigan State University’s Office of Study Abroad did not make it easy – or maybe a little too convenient. The choices seemed endless. I couldn’t make up my mind between a semester in Caceres, Spain or Quito, Ecuador. Ultimately, I didn’t have to choose. With my parents’ blessing and plenty of scholarship opportunities, I did both. In the end, I participated in five separate study abroad programs through Michigan State and three alternative spring break programs in Mexico (two in Merida and one in Puebla). The two study abroad programs not mentioned above were short term programs studying business in Mexico (one in Monterrey and one in Merida). I could not have asked for a better education. I like to think that it all started with that summer in London.
When I finally returned to campus, I landed a position as a peer advisor in what was then called the Office of Study Abroad on campus. I spent my time working in the Office of Study Abroad helping students plan their own study abroad experiences. To this day, it is the best job I’ve ever held (Russell Canoe Livery exempted, of course).
In addition to becoming an addict, my experiences in London and Glasgow left me with the sense that I could take on just about anything. I grew up in Michigan’s smallest city, Omer, Michigan. Attending one of the largest universities in the United States, Michigan State University definitely resulted in culture shock, and yet, it was nothing compared to what I experienced living in London during that time period.
In essence, London and Glasgow represented an awful lot of firsts in my life. For the first time in my life, I had easy access to world class museums and theatres. In fact, the program I completed focused extensively on the Arts and Crafts movement. Not only did I have the opportunity to visit the Victoria and Albert (the V&A), we often visited various exhibits as part of class. One free weekend, I explored the Louvre with friends, traveling to Paris via the Chunnel shortly after it opened. I also experienced all the pomp and circumstance of the British monarchy as the Queen Mum turned 100 years old that summer. A closeup I’d taken of a Bobby while witnessing the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace didn’t win the Office of Study Aboad’s photography contest, but it did end up in their catalog for the following year. I still have the catalog and countless memories.
Every time I hear Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day, I am instantly transported back to that time in London, to the 19 year old I once was, so many opportunities unfolding before me for the first time. I can imagine myself rushing to catch the tube to class or the V&A each morning from Russell Square Station. I envision myself catching the train to Bath after a failed attempt to spend a weekend of adventure in Wales or heading to the airport to spend the weekend in Dublin. I can’t think of anything more powerful than the ability of music to transport you back to a time and place.
Have you ever fallen so in love with a place that you still dream about it years later – and you fall so in love with your memories of that particular time and place that you instinctively know that reality will never come close to what you remember? It can happen. In 2002, I fell in love with Austin, Texas. In reality, I fell in love with a time and place that no longer exists.
It started out innocently enough. When I began planning my year abroad – one semester in Quito, Ecuador and another in Caceres, Spain – I knew that I would also need to make plans for the summer after Spain. I lucked out. The spring of my sophomore year at Michigan State, I landed a position as a paid intern at IBM in Rochester, Minnesota. I must have been on a roll that semester because I also landed a paid co-op opportunity (6 month contract) with Applied Materials (AMAT) in Austin, Texas. Ultimately, I accepted the position with IBM and asked Applied Materials if I could pursue the co-op opportunity the following summer/fall. They said yes, and I left East Lansing for a series of adventures that would take me away from campus for over a year and a half. I was well on my way to pursuing several of my dreams at once, including a career in tech.
My time in Austin did not start off well. When I arrived in June 2002, I didn’t know anyone. I ended up subletting my first apartment from a UT student. It was OK, but my only roommate in our four bedroom apartment spent all of her time with her boyfriend. Often the only trace of Carly was the reeking skunk smell of pot. Soon, things would change.
The first week or two at Applied consisted of orientation classes and touring facilities in what’ve been loving termed bunny suits. What I loved about AMAT was their place in the tech industry. We didn’t make the chips; we made the machines that make the chips. After a long day of orientation, an engineer I’d just met, Melissa, asked if I wanted to go get a drink and have dinner after work. Little did I know just how much she would impact my time in Austin.
Melissa and I became fast friends over dinner. Once I began describing my experiences studying abroad in Ecuador and Spain, she began telling me about her former coworker at Motorola, Andy, a fellow engineer. She thought that we should met, and frankly, I think she was trying to set us up. There was only one catch: Andy was currently exploring Machu Picchu in Peru and wouldn’t be home for some time. It would be worth the wait.
In the meantime, on July 24th, 2002, on my way to work, a huge moving truck made a left-hand turn in front of me when I had the green light. He hadn’t seen me. In the accident, I broke my big toe and the metatarsal. The molding on the driver’s side door of my car also sliced me behind my ear. If I had had a passenger, he or she probably would not have survived. In the aftermath of the accident, things somehow came together. My mom flew out to Austin to help me find a lawyer and a new car. She couldn’t believe how well I knew the city even though I had only been there just over a month. I had to help navigate in the days before Google Maps due to my cast.
By the time I had a walking cast, all bets were off. I quickly found out that the six month sublease I’d been promised was really only for three. Livid, I needed a new place to live within a few weeks. In the end, I found a much better place to live just in time thanks to Applied Material’s internal listings. The months living with Karen and her toddler son were great. It was almost as if I had the good fortune to live with a fun aunt for several months. Things were finally looking up.
In all the chaos of the accident and moving, I finally met Andy. We ended up on a blind date at the type of place that could only exist in Austin – Flipnotics. The first floor was a quirky retail t-shirt shop. The second floor included a restaurant/bar with a small performance space for live music. We were there for the music. I wish I had a video of Andy’s face when I opened my car door. He was horrified to realize that I had a walking cast up to my knee and that he had invited me to a venue requiring climbing a large set of stairs. Fortunately, we hit it off right away.
One of the best things about Austin, then and now, is the live music. It isn’t called the live music capital of the world for nothing. Andy was the perfect companion with whom to check it all out. It turns out that as a hobby Andy had a radio show – ATX Live – on the local co-op radio station KOOP. Soon I would met his friend and manager Cheryl. Andy would later serve as president of KOOP for several years. It isn’t every day that a man you admire and respect introduces you to someone who soon becomes one of your best friends. That is precisely what happened.
Over the next few months, Andy, Cheryl, and I had numerous adventures. I admit, I had a huge crush on Andy by this time. Cheryl did her best to try to get us to end up together, but it wasn’t meant to be. However, the fun I had that late summer and fall are never to be forgotten. The three of us attended the first Austin City Limits Festival in Zilker Park. Cheryl “conveniently” couldn’t join us the second day. The antics that took place that weekend are stories in themselves that belong with other songs. At the end of the festival, Andy and I ended up at a favorite local restaurant called Shady Grove. As it was within walking distance of the festival, we had to order takeout and eat/drink on the lawn, it was that crowded.
Later, Andy had LASIK surgery, and unfortunately, it didn’t go as planned. He ended up blinded for a week. As it was near his birthday, Cheryl and I threw him a party at his house once he regained his sight. I finally got to meet a bunch of his friends, coworkers, etc. It ended with Andy having to smooth things over with local cops late in the evening. Our “dress to be seen”/birthday party was a complete success.
As Halloween approached, Andy asked if I wanted to go to a house party hosted by local musician Chelle Murrey. Once we arrived, I dressed as a gypsy and Andy dressed as Zorro, Andy told me that he had a surprise for me. It turned out that a Beatles’ tribute band were going to play at the party, and knowing that I was a Beatles’ fan, he wanted me to have the opportunity to check them out first. I will never forget it. I bought Chelle’s CD that evening, and even though the music hasn’t quite held up, it will always remind me of Austin.
Shortly after one more party – this time a birthday/going home/Christmas party for me in mid-December at Karen’s house – I had to pack up my new-to-me 2002 silver Grand Prix and make the long journey home – alone. I arrived back in Michigan right before my birthday and Christmas. A year and half and a thousand adventures later, I would be returning to Michigan State in January 2003 to finish my degrees. I would graduate in May 2004. I never wanted to leave Austin behind.
On December 15th, 2002, a cold, foggy day in Austin, I left, listening to Chelle Murrey, trying to keep it all together. Austin represented everything I wanted after graduation – a good job, great friends, beautiful place to live, and for the first time in my life, a social life that actually felt like me.
My senior year at MSU, I did everything in my power to land in Austin. I made it to second round interviews with both Dell and Applied Materials. Unfortunately, my manager at AMAT left a few weeks before I did. He didn’t even get a chance to do my review before he left, that was left to someone I had only known for a week. In essence, I had no one on the inside fighting for me. Only half of the engineers and supply chain grads were hired. Sadly, I wasn’t one of them.
I did put my time back in Austin to good use, however. I met up with Andy and finally told him how I felt. In essence, he told me that he viewed me as a little sister. He explained that he was at a completely different stage in life. At 22, devastated doesn’t begin to describe how I felt. Looking back, I completely understand where he was coming from at that point. At 29 and about to finish his MBA, he already owned his own home and was established in his career. I still needed to finish undergrad.
It is funny how I should have seen it coming. He bought me a cowgirl hat at the Austin City Limits Festival because he was afraid I was going to fry otherwise. As cold weather set in, he warned me about trying to drive on ice in Texas. In essence, I may know how to drive on ice being from Michigan, but others in Texas do not. My dad would have been impressed.
Today, Andy is married and still lives in Austin, now owning his own business. I’d love to track down Cheryl. I have a feeling that if we were able to catch up after all these years, it would be as if no time had passed at all. The only person with whom I am in contact is Karen, who keeps reminding me from time to time that Austin has changed – and not for the better.
In essence, this is a love letter to the Austin I knew in 2002. Some of my favorite landmarks and haunts, namely Flipnotics and Shady Grove, no longer exist. I still follow AMAT and the semiconductor industry. How could I not after 2020? The Austin City Limits Festival has grown beyond all recognition. I can only imagine how the city has changed and evolved. I just hope that it is still as weird as I remember and remains a welcoming place for young undergrads trying to find their place in the adult world. Those memories of Austin will always be a part of me.
There are one hit wonders, and then there are one hit wonders that reside on Grammy nominated albums. While I’ve never been a fan of award shows, even the Grammys, I did pay some attention to the Grammy albums that came out each February as a teen – just in case there was something I’d missed the year before.
I don’t remember when I first heard One of Us, but I immediately fell in love with the song. It was the perfect song to belt by yourself in your car when you think no one is watching. Half the fun of getting your driver’s license as a teen is the anticipation. I couldn’t wait to be the one behind the wheel, belting whatever I pleased.
Growing up, the only thing better than waiting to get my license was waiting for my older cousin Abby to get hers. We are only ten months apart in age and grew up together. We shared a first Christmas at Grandma Buttrick’s house in 1980 – and every one thereafter until Grandma passed away in 2014. Now, at Christmas, we bring the party to Abby, even in the middle of blizzards. We did elementary school, junior high and high school, and even college together. We, along with her older sister Emily, studied supply chain management at Michigan State. Freshman year, she was my ride home. Safe to say, my childhood would have been much different without Abby J. She was very much the older sister I never had.
In February 1996, the Grammys were over, we were celebrating all of the February birthdays at Aunt Robin’s house, and Abby was just about to turn 16. Her first car was similar to mine. I ended up with my beloved ‘89 red Grand Prix and hers was a white ‘88. Both of those cars ended up saving our lives.
I don’t remember specifically what Abby received for her birthday, aside from the car, but we ended up listening to One of Us on the CD player she had had installed in her car. There is nothing to compare to giggling in the back seat of a car with your older cousin and younger sister singing along to a great song at top volume. This image of the three of us singing One of Us with as much emotion as we could muster continues to haunt me. In a few months, everything would change.
The day started out normal enough. A typical beautiful early June day not long after school ended for the year, it was to be my first day of driver’s ed. I had just enough time to down a bowl of Honey Bunches of Oats before Mom was to return from the gym and drop me off at the high school.
I met Mom in the kitchen after I heard the door to the garage open. I knew immediately something awful had happened. Mom couldn’t stop crying, and generally, Mom wasn’t a crier. On the way home from the gym, she had heard that Abby had been involved in a tragic car accident. I don’t know for sure, but I have the idea that she heard it on the radio on her way home. However it was reported on the radio, it made it sound as though Abby was at fault. That certainly wasn’t the case. In reality, Abby was hit head on by a drunk driver. Another car had been immediately in front of Abby and swerved out of the way of the drunk driver, leaving Abby with no time to react. Tragically, the other driver died.
Abby was OK but certainly not unscathed. Once she was home from the hospital, I remember visiting her with my mom, sister, and brother. My younger brother Garrett, 5 at the time, made her laugh so hard that he had to stop. It made her stitches hurt. He still has that effect on people.
My intention here isn’t to tell Abby’s story as I could never do it justice and it isn’t mine to tell. Instead, it is to finally admit just how deeply Abby’s accident affected me. Keep in mind that her accident happened on my first day of driver’s ed. Shortly after learning the true story of the accident and that Abby would be OK, I was sitting in a classroom listening to the driver’s ed instructor talk about her accident. I wouldn’t feel comfortable behind the wheel for years. It would take two road trips well into college – one to Minnesota and one to Texas – to make that happen.
In the end, Abby and I joined SADD (Students Against Drunk Driving) the following school year. She went on to suffer braces all over again and became class president her senior year. Eventually, we both ended up at Michigan State. It is thanks to Abby, who still didn’t feel completely comfortable driving the expressway, I learned the back roads home from State.
Everyone always seemed to chalk up my issues behind the wheel – fear, basically – to Turner Syndrome (TS). Most women with TS do not get their license on time due to depth perception/spatial issues. Fortunately, I’ve learned how to deal with those. No, it was my fear and anxiety after Abby’s accident. One of Us will always take me back to a much simpler time.
Ah, Michigan State and all of my Alternative Spring Break (ASB) memories in Mexico. Some of my best ASB memories involve W.M., and one in particular, November Rain by Guns N’ Roses. It takes me back to nothing less than the most romantic evening of my life.
I met him at the airport as we headed to Merida, Mexico for a week of working hard doing volunteer work and playing even harder. I was listening to Here Comes the Sun, ready to relax in the Yucatecan sun in the middle of a busy, crazy spring semester, and here was this guy – our site leader for the week – chatting me up. He flashed me this great smile and asked me what I was listening to at the moment. We bonded over George Harrison.
It didn’t take us long to become friends. By the end of our first day of volunteer work, we were hanging out eating pizza and drinking Mexican beer, getting lost in deep, meaningful conversations. I had lost my grandfather almost exactly a year before – at age 20, the first real loss of someone so close to me – and I was happy to find someone who understood. That was the thing – W.M. and I should have had everything in common.
A year ahead of me, he studied marketing and Spanish to my supply chain management and Spanish. No wonder we had found one another. Later, the only time I actually met up with him on campus in East Lansing – or the United States for that matter, and for lunch no less – he told me all about his semester in Quito, Ecuador. I don’t remember if I had already decided on a semester in Ecuador, but after hearing about W.M.’s experiences there, it was a forgone conclusion.
I’d love to say that this story is a college romance that ended well, but that simply wasn’t the case. Instead, it is a story of friendship spanning years, countries, cultures, and continents that didn’t end so well. It is also a story of unrequited love on my part. I fell. Hard.
The thing is that I was never going to change my plans for anyone, muchless a man who hadn’t shown the least bit interest in anything more than friendship. We left it as friends and that was it. We were both driven with much to do. That is, until Spain.
Fast forward nearly two years, and I was in the middle of my semester abroad in Caceres, Spain. I’d resigned to myself that W.M., unfortunately, wanted to remain friends, nothing more. Then I received the email. The week before Valentine’s Day, I receive an email from him stating that he had landed an internship in Madrid – an easy train ride away – did I want to meet up? Did I!
In the end, we spent a fun weekend in Madrid hanging out. He booked me a hostel near wherever he was living. We spent Saturday hanging out, eventually ending up at the Hard Rock Cafe and a beautiful park nearby. We talked for hours. Too good to be true, right? Right. When he walked me back to the hostel and didn’t even so much as kiss me goodnight, I wept.
In 2004, I returned to Mexico and ASB as a site leader myself. Now a senior, I juggled interviewing for full-time positions in Texas with classwork along with all of my extracurricular responsibilities, including ASB. As a result, I had to fly into Mexico City on my own and take a bus to Puebla to meet up with the rest of the group. I don’t remember exactly how it happened, but W.M. got ahold of me once again. Would I like to meet up for dinner in Puebla one evening? He happened to be working in Mexico City at the time.
Beyond confused, I, of course, said yes. I had no idea what to expect. Why would this man take a bus at least two hours each way just to spend the evening with me? He knew no one else in the group and the plan was just for the two of us to meet up. We were friends, but seriously, what else was going on here?
I met him in the zocalo, or town square, and we quickly found an outdoor table at a local restaurant. In my mind, the only thing better than Mexican food is authentic Mexican food. The cuisine in Puebla tops them all. Pollo en salsa mole anyone?
After watching the sunset over an incredible authentic Mexican dinner, a little red wine, and the ever present great conversation, W.M. and I somehow found our way into the Mexican equivalent of a dive bar. Now, I am not much of a drinker, but I love the atmosphere in dive bars from time to time. This one happened to be perfect.
I never really did see any sign advertising the place, but I could not have had more fun. W.M. and I ended up holding court with a group of Mexican young men roughly our age. We, two gringos who spoke Spanish who happened to end up in this cool unadvertised bar, stood out. In fact, they thought we were married. So, in this ambiance, we all start singing along to November Rain – very poorly. It is still among the most romantic nights of my life – and he never even so much as kissed me. Yet, there was at least enough chemistry between us for people to think we were married.
That was the last time I ever saw W.M. In 2008, I looked him up on Facebook, and unfortunately, it ended up in a political argument that ended our friendship. I still have no idea how he could have attended the same business school as me, and yet not understand the impact government can have on business, good or bad – small business in particular. Time had not treated him well. In fact, Diego Rivera comes to mind. I recently watched Frida and it all came flooding back, much to my amusement. The passion between Frida and Diego gets me every time.
Over the years, I’ve tried and tried to capture our friendship in writing, and I’ve never been able to do it well. I once even brought an effort for critique, and the reaction of the men in my writing group still cracks me up. Every last man in our group believed him to be gay. All I have to say is this: If he is indeed gay, he didn’t know it himself at the time. The last I knew, he had a Mexican girlfriend and lived in California.
I can’t help but think of him every time I watch Casablanca, particularly the line “We’ll always have Paris.” Indeed. We’ll always have Merida, Madrid, and Puebla.
Good ol’ Night Court. I have to admit: I’ve been a fan as long as I can remember. Growing up in the ‘80s rocked and that included TV. My favorites were The Cosby Show, The Wonder Years, Cheers, and of course, Night Court. Something essentially slapstick quirky just resonated with kids. I largely tuned in for all the zany characters and the craziness that befell the cast. Keep in mind I was all of 11 when it went off the air.
My mom remembers that my favorite character was Dan, which rightfully left her a little concerned. That is not how I remember it at all. Yes, I loved to laugh when Dan quite rightfully got himself into trouble every episode, but my favorite characters were Christine and Harry. Just like everyone else, I wanted them to end up together. The bailiffs – and I mean all of them going back to Selma – were great too. I suppose that is what bothers me most: Night Court never seemed to get the proper sendoff or recognition it rightfully deserved. What endears me most about Night Court is the fact that it never tried to be something it was not. We just loved it for the campy, quirky, crazy show that it was. Anything could, and often did, happen.
This is precisely what gives me hope for the reboot. Going by what I saw in the first two episodes, Night Court isn’t trying too hard. Is it perfect? No. I want to know what happened to Christine, Max, Roz, and Bull. Christine especially deserves a mention considering the “ending” of the original series included both Harry and Dan professing their love for her. While Harry decided to remain a judge and turndown several incredible job offers, he and Christine acknowledged their feelings for one another. At the end of what should have been the last episode (altogether another story that only highlights issues with the ending), Dan decides to resign as assistant DA and follow Christine to Washington, DC. Harry is told this, and immediately exclaims “My Christine!”
In the first episode of the reboot, Harry’s daughter Abby moves to New York to become the new night court judge, taking over a position her father held 30 years ago. She is just as idealistic as her father. She also happens to look as though she could be Harry and Christine’s daughter. Almost immediately, the public defender in her court quits and she looks up Dan. Given the “ending” to the original series, Dan most assuredly would have asked after her mother if indeed Christine was her mom. We only know that Harry is her dad. Sadly, much of the original cast has since passed on, including Harry Anderson (Harry Stone), Markie Post (Christine Sullivan), and Charles Robinson (Mac Robinson). If I have one hope for the new reboot, it is that they find subtle ways to allude to the earlier show/cast. They do a wonderful job of doing so in the case of Harry and Dan. As of yet, no one else is mentioned.
I admit, I wavered as to whether or not I was even going to watch. Then I learned that John Larroquette (Dan Fielding) was instrumental in getting it made, and the new cast consists of fans who grew up with the show much as I had. The first two episodes are off to a solid start. We will see if it will find its own niche. I will say that the creators of the reboot did an incredible job of keeping the vibe of the old show (the dingy old courthouse in particular) while “updating” things a bit. The new bailiff, Donna Gurgs, somehow channels both Roz and Bull at different times throughout the show. There are tons of nods to the ‘80s in new show, my favorite being the mural of the Golden Girls – a stupid silly plot point that could only take place in Night Court.
I recently watched some of the earliest episodes of the original Night Court from season 1. It is clear that it took a while for the show to hit its stride – a few years, in fact. The reboot definitely has potential, and I am reassured that it is in the hands of fans of the original. Do not be afraid to check it out. It is currently streaming on Peacock.
Ah, My Girl! I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know or love the song. I think it comes with being a girl who grew up in Michigan. As much as I love the song, it is the movie My Girl (1991) that holds the most memories. Per usual, Grandma Reid took my sister Erica and me to see it in the theater.
At that point in 1991, I was 10 years old and could relate to Vada. I happen to be roughly the same age as the protagonists (Vada and Thomas J.), and frankly, I could see myself becoming fast friends with Vada. She loved to write, had a great sense of fashion, and seemed like a lot of fun. I could imagine us dishing about our crushes as only preteen girls can. I felt for her when Thomas J. died.
After the movie, we headed over to KMart where my sister and I purchased a Temptations/Four Tops CD to share. The fact that we “shared” a CD highlights just how young we were. For the record, my sister and I have never had the exact same taste in music. I can think of only one other CD that we both purchased later on in our teen years. It wasn’t so much that our musical taste varied that much, it is just that we were very different teenage girls. Some of our best arguments were over what music to play in the car on that all-important 10 minute drive to school.
My Girl is timeless. It represents my love of Motown and will always remind me of the movie and a simpler time in my life.
The King of Pop. It is difficult to explain to younger generations just how big Michael Jackson was in the early 1980s. He was everywhere. The Beatles, of course, were bigger in the 1960s, but I fail to think of anyone (or any band) bigger than Michael Jackson in the years since – with, of course, the exception of Madonna, who was just as big as the Queen of Pop during the same time period.
Similar to Madonna, Michael Jackson’s hits immediately take me back to my earliest childhood memories. My love of MJ’s music, once again, has much to do with the influence of my older cousins. I distinctly remember my mom giving my cousin Nicole a Michael Jackson doll for her birthday. As a preschooler, I was envious! There is even an adorable picture of Nicole and I sitting on Grandma’s lap, Nicole proudly hugging her new Thriller album.
Unlike the cloud that hangs over Madonna’s legacy, there is little question that Michael Jackson’s music holds up. I noticed it the summer of 2009 right after his death. All of a sudden it was cool to rediscover MJ’s hits, his questionable legacy suddenly forgotten. I can’t help but wonder if the same will happen with Madonna upon her death.
Then there is Thriller itself. The album, the song, and music video itself – in reality, almost a short film – are still fun to revisit. As a child who loved the macabre and everything to do with Halloween, I adored the video. Learning as an adult that VIncent Price lent his incredible voice to the video: Priceless. In my opinion, Thriller is one of the best music videos ever made.