Monday, May 15, 2023

DAY 31: Paper Weight

Thirty-one days ago I started this blog. I've shared some stories. I've punted a few times. Now I think I'm going to scale back. The digital footprint will always be out there waiting to be picked up and polished by some future readers mining the internet for nuggets the way my family walked the shores for bright, shiny stones.


Every rock has a story. Open the pewter ice bucket and I'll tell you one. --Me

DAY 31

Sunday, May 14, 2023

DAY 30: Industructable--or Not


Day 30: InDuStRuCtAbLe

Back in the 80s I was a member of the Oakland University competitive forensics team. We didn't compete against other universities and colleges to see who could solve a crime the fastest, although that does sound rather interesting. Forensics in this arena is a combination of competitive speech, interp, and debate activities. 

I was an okay competitor. I had done an event called Radio Broadcasting in high school. I had thirty minutes to cut a news broadcast, one story of which was scrambled and I had to make it make sense. Collegiate-level forensics had some similar categories like Duo, Poetry, Prose, Informative, Oratory/Persuasion. It also had exotic events like After Dinner Speaking, Rhetorical Criticism, and Improv Pairs. Sometimes tournament directors ran special events. I decided to give Sales a try at the Wayne State University Invitational. 

My product was a rubbery, pink-headed, stretchy stress reliever. The toy belonged to my high school girlfriend's brother. I asked if I could borrow it for a weekend to use for the competition. 

The thing about a forensics tournament is you have no idea how the judges are scoring you. All you can do is your four preliminary rounds then wait for the posting sheets to go up announcing who was in semis. The cut off is usually the top twelve with contestants ceded by placement into two sections. You compete again and about an hour later, they post the top six finalists. I was shocked when I made semis. I was flabbergasted when I made finals, partly because I was only okay as a competitor, partly because my speech was a bunch of humorous anecdotes about stressful life as a college student, and partly because the product I'd built up as an indestructible aide to take out your aggressions upon, split apart the last morning of the tournament.

It was February. In Michigan. Negative temps. My pink-faced, rubber-headed, stress nerd froze in the few minutes we went from the car to the competition building. It was like holding a shot put or a softball-sized rock. There was shrinkage and it slipped from its plastic base. The frozen toy hit just the right corner of the car's bumper and split open. 

I had my fourth prelim in the morning. I had put an adhesive bandage on the cut. It wasn't too bad. Semis were posted and I made it and by the end of the round, I could see the goo inside starting to seep out from under the bandaid. I tried running cold water over it, why I do not know. One of the girls on the team said I should take it outside and freeze it in case I made it to finals. Then we all laughed because I never made it to finals.

The sheet went up. I saw my name. I ran outside. No coat, and stayed there as long as I could before my coach told me to get to my room. I think what saved me in the final round was the ad-libbed line, "Virtually indestructible unless you're competing in an experimental event at an invitational event in Detroit in February when it is minus ten outside and your stress nerd freezes then splits open when you drop it getting out of the car."

I took second. A career was born.


When a torrent sweeps a man against a boulder, you must expect him to scream, and you need not be surprised if the scream is sometimes a theory.

Saturday, May 13, 2023

DAY 29: Angry Anglers

DAY 29: Angry Anglers

I took my son and the three sons of my wife's friend from school over to the park one afternoon. Paint Creek runs through the park. We were on our way to the playground and the creek was at the bottom of a hill in a little valley. I suggested we use the restroom because it was too far away from the playground to run them over there each time one of them had to go.

We went into the restroom. Two on the wall, two in a stall.  The boys divided and conquered and ran from the building before I could finish. I hurried and of course, saw none of them outside the door. They ranged in age from six to nine and there were four of them. 

I walked to the edge of the ravine and there they were, standing on the banks of the Paint Creek river, throwing large stones into the water while a couple of anglers practiced catch and release. They weren't too happy with the boys. I used my teacher-voice, corralled the group, and got the kids to the playground. 


“Civilization began the first time an angry person cast a word instead of a rock.” ~ Sigmund Freud

Friday, May 12, 2023


Day 28: Fast Day

The day slipped past me.

I worked on a short for an anthology. It took all of my creativity.

Now it's almost 11:00 p.m.


What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others. Pericles 


Thursday, May 11, 2023

DAY 27: Painted Rocks

 My mother became known for her landscape paintings. Mostly she painted trees. She had a little bit of the Bob Ross in her paintings only without the mountains. She used oil paints. Her collectors were our neighbors. She wasn't very good with portraits or people, though she did place third in an amateur art show at the GM Tech Center with a picture of Jesus wearing a crown of thorns.

When I was in college, I took some of her discards with me to decorate my apartment. My roommate and I had a gallery showing of her work and asked the guests to name the paintings. Young Innocent with Giant Duck Footprint is now part of a collection in the Museum of bad art. Variations of Bleak has been lost.

For a long time, my mother painted scenes on rocks she then gave as gifts. The last one I remember seeing was an oval flat stone with the Charlevoix Nuclear Power Plant painted on it. Apparently, rock painting is a big thing.


As with other phases of nature, I have probably loved rocks more as I studied them.--John Burroughs

DAY 27: Painted Rocks

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

DAY 26: Rock in the Tree Tops

 Today an old squirrel nest crumbled in a tree in my backyard. A bunch of bird eggs were in it. Doesn't feel like it's part of a squirrel's diet. I'm thinking a raccoon tried moving into it. Just what we need. It's probably hanging with the coyotefox running around the streets.


Sticks and stones,  my man, not Styx and Stones.--The Big Bad Coyotefox

DAY 26: Sticks and Stones

Tuesday, May 9, 2023

DAY 25: My Precious

During one trip to the property, I found a piece of red agate. The rock was just inside the waterline. Had it been up on the sand I probably would have skipped over. Most stones dry dull and gray in the sun. To find a stone's luster, we would lick a finger and rub it over the stone in several spots. If that didn't work, we dipped it in the lake. Most of the time we walked the thin beige line, that border between lake and rocky shore. Socks came off but shoes went back on when rock-wading. I spent many an afternoon with damp shoes.

The piece of agate I found was about the size of the tip of my thumb.  I'm going to say it was a candy apple red that darkened from the opaque front to the tapered back. Concentric lines along the face formed almost perfect rectangles that appeared to recede into the stone.  My mother took one look at it and snatched the stone from my hand.

Though we were not completely familiar with the Tolkien trilogy, we had seen the Ralph Bashki animated version of The Hobbit on television and the pseudo-live action animated version of Lord of the Rings, also by Bashki. In that moment along the shores of Lake Huron which could have been the banks of Belegaer, my mother was Schmiegel. Hunched over, hair blowing in the wind, a wet cigarette smoldering between her pale lips, all she lacked was a slurpy, breathy, squeaky declaration.

"My precious."


Stand by the grey stone when the thrush knocks, and the setting sun with the last light of Durin’s Day will shine upon the key-hole. ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

DAY 25: My Precious

DAY 31: Paper Weight

Thirty-one days ago I started this blog. I've shared some stories. I've punted a few times. Now I think I'm going to scale back....