You really have no right to write about how great a party was unless you’ve got a good hangover from it. I had that thought as I dragged myself out of bed this morning. With that biologic memory of last night’s blowout fading as we crept into Saturday afternoon, I figured I better get cracking before the rest of ‘em do the same.
Planning started way back in February. That’s when Kathy announced that, after 32 years attached to the U (22 with a paycheck), she’d be cutting the cord and hanging ‘em up at the end of winter term. All those years of service deserved a proper retirement party, and I wasn’t going to rely on the School of Kinesiology to throw one, especially as their hatches were then still battened down by Mr. Corona. Right from the get go, I figured that party for a twofer, having it on her birthday in mid July, when surely we’d be over our viral syndrome. It would be at our very favorite place in town: the outdoor court at Casa Dominick’s, complete with the statue of the little boy peeing into the fountain. Plenty of time to collect names of folks from all walks who studied with her, played with her, worked for her, or were taught by her once upon a time. I’d sprinkle in some of my friends who knew us both, always liking her better, of course. Knowing I’d need some help, I convened a “committee” composed of her boss the associate dean Tom, fellow doctoral student Marvy, and fellow student, bridesmaid, and the woman who hired her to teach for a year that turned into 10, Pat Van. We’d assembled a healthy half hundred or so by St. Paddy’s day, so the first announcements went out. The list was fluid, and I kept adding to it right up to the week of the party. I wasn’t for sure about the date yet, so these first ones were just a warm up. Having learned how some people hate batch e-mails https://wordpress.com/post/theviewfromharbal.com/1311, I took care to send each invite individually. That made it even more fun, as with each transmission, I’d get to remember the person to whom I was sending it, some I hadn’t thought about for decades. Only one person didn’t have an e-mail, so I sent a snail-mail letter to 5 time Olympic diving coach Dick, with whom Kathy had coached in the early 80s when she convinced Stu that he could use an assistant coach for the women’s swimming team, which eventually won 5 Big 10 championships under Stu. Why let an All-American backstroker go to waste? Her colleagues and students were far flung, from California to Boston to Florida and most stops in between. Of her two bosses at NASA, one had been to space many times but was planted on terra firma now, mostly, while the other was building a better way to get there. The was a smattering of past and present star Wolverines. There were plenty of professors, a few (medical) doctors, and even a one-time chancellor of the entire California State system. Fortunately, we both knew a few normal people we could invite. I began asking Richard, owner of Dominck’s, about access to his courtyard. He’d been closed since ol’ Gretch slammed the door on bars and restaurants April before last. Even though that courtyard would have been tailor made for outdoor dining, he was so worried about COVID that he never considered it. In March he asked me to call him back in April, when he told me to check in when he opened sometime in May. He didn’t. Kathy and I would take the kilometer walk from home to check status of ol’ Richard’s place, but it was always closed and quiet, with no signs saying when it might be otherwise. We satisfied our cravings for an outdoor beer going to the open air Garage Bar on Church, a couple blocks east. While sitting there on a late afternoon in early June, who would walk by but that skinny gray old hippie Antoine, Richard’s busboy and a good buddy of ours. We pumped Antoine for all he knew, which was plenty. They’d be opening sometime after the 4th. When I asked him about having something there July 16th – I’d thrown myself and my support staff a retirement party there 2 summers previously after I’d had so much fun at the one my Division had for me there – he pulled out his cell phone, punched it, handed it to me and lo and behold I’m talking to Richard. So the cone of silence had been broken, but I kept the talk low enough all Kathy learned is that we were going to have a party there on her birthday. I think she did hear me give the crowd estimate at about 40, but later said she figured I’d misspoke as there was no way we’d get 40 people to her birthday party. She remained pretty much in the dark, just where I wanted her, right up until party week when a couple hints trickled out from guests whom, apparently, I had not properly briefed. With a date, time, and location set, it was time to send out the specific announcement, which looked like this:
Come help her celebrate!
Yes our K.C. may not be retiring just yet – couple half-time terms for a proper victory lap and those bennies yet – but the party seemed like such a good idea when I proposed it last St. Patrick’s Day, I decided to throw it anyway. Hey, it’ll still be her birthday! Richard Devarti co-operated by lending us his courtyard at Dominick’s, even though we’ll be in the middle of art fair.
So now just the facts, ma’am:
Who: Kathryn Irene Clark M.S, Ph.D., M.S, our KC
What: A party! Celebrate her birthday, and her retirement from the U. Sure, it won’t happen for another year, but she’s officially stated her intention!
Where: Casa Dominick’s N 42 deg 18 min
812 Monroe Street W 83 deg 42 min
Ann Arbor, Michigan 48104 Alt 840 ft msl
sandwiched between the law quad to the north across Monroe, the B-school to the east right across Tappan, and right next door to Medical Marijuana Tournaments & Creative Rec LLC (walk-ins welcome)
free parking for U retirees and holders of at least a blue pass in the B-school parking structure nearby on Hill. Otherwise try the side streets south of Hill. Or park distantly and take a nice walk.
When: July 16, 2021
4 – 8 P.M. EDT
Why: because we love her!
Hope to see you there! If you’re really planning to come, please let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org so I can give Richard a head count. That way, he’ll have enough beer. And sangria.
Bob Ike (Mr. Clark)
Confirmations, and a few regrets, flowed in after that. I think I sent out that announcement at least 2 more times. Another apparent COVID casualty was the Ann Arbor Art Fairs, an annual debacle when hordes of out-of-towners descend onto our town to buy overpriced knickknacks from vendors lining our blocked off streets. All those people have to eat and drink, so local restauranteurs love the event. Good townies get the hell out of dodge. Even though the beautiful paper art picture that hangs above our fireplace came from art fair, we haven’t gone for years. I’ve learned to avoid the trap where I’d end up springing for a hunk of jewelry for her from art fair, into which the birthday I’d forgotten up to then conveniently falls. Without art fair to snarl traffic, eat parking, and crowd courtyards with tourists, our afternoon at Casa Dominick’s would be more comfortable and peaceful.
When ol’ Gretch announced that indoor dining restrictions would be lifted as of July 1st, we knew we had a green light. After a couple of walk bys well after the 4th found a still closed Casa, we began to get nervous. When Monday of party week found a similar façade, we were relieved to see a round pizza cardboard posted to the right of the door saying they’d open on July 13th, tomorrow! That capped a pretty good Monday that started with my excuse of needing a new computer charging cable to get me out of the house carrying the bongo board I’d give to Marvy to bring into the party. One of the guests would be #23, who before he racked up more yards than any Wolverine running back before him was a freshman in Kathy’s Motor Control class. She used the bongo board to demonstrate balance, and #23 was an ace at it. He remembered that class, and his performance, well and was pleased he’d get another chance to show it and was flattered when I wrote I’d be asking him to autograph it.
Art Fair weather is usually pretty predictable: beastly hot and humid, punctuated by a drenching thunderstorm or 2, usually brief. Thanks to Climate Change, this week was cool and the rain predicted was to come without ‘bolts but would last and last. As I made menu choices and other arrangements with Richard on Thursday, he assured us we’d be fine on the second floor covered deck (we were), even without the pissing boy, which he said he had named Oscar in honor of his postman. He did warn me that he had no mechanical conveyance to transport guests to the second floor. Thus, any so sufficiently impaired to preclude a stair climb, before or after the party, would need to be carried. Even though there would be some pretty creaky folks in our crowd, I figured they could all negotiate a flight of stairs, at least at the beginning. I sent out one last e-mail that evening, batch this time, but using “BCC”, passing on the detailed traffic and parking snarls the city had been so kind to delineate, announcing the sign in book (not for contact tracing!) and name tags that would await them and also giving them a peek at the menu choices I’d made.
As I carried Kathy’s cappuccino to her still in bed Friday morning as I sang Happy Birthday, we couldn’t help but notice it was pouring rain, just as Weather Underground had predicted. I set about tying up what were more loose ends than I’d anticipated. She didn’t know there was to a hard start to the party, but by 3 was getting antsy to go. 3’s the magic time as that’s when my retiree pass will get me into any University parking structure, including the big one at the B-school two blocks from Casa. I wasn’t finished yet, so I said we’d leave around 3:45 and we did. We hit the door right at 4, Richard sitting at a receipt and notebook covered table by the bar. He pointed us upstairs where a few pitchers of beverages and Pat Van and husband John awaited us. I poured a glass and set about setting up the welcome table. That morning, I’d found in our shelfful of blank journals, ledgers, and notebooks the perfect spiral to hold our guests’ signatures.
Not only has Kathy worn her share of share of Speedos en route to her All-America and after, Stu, the coach she worked under, left coaching to be marketing executive for Speedo. Fortunately, she’s never made me wear one.
There were two more things for the guests: the name tags, of course, and 3 piles of our business cards. We weren’t aiming to sell anything – although Docere can claim 8 books: her scientific writing text (1), her 2 children’s books (2,3), and my 5 Amazon/Kindles (4-8) along with 6 multimedia posts (9-14) – just give the guests a memento and a way to contact us.
This wasn’t one of those surprise parties where the place is packed with guests before the guest of honor arrives to be shocked by a boisterous “surprise!”. Yesterday afternoon, the surprises just trickled in, one after the other. Vic! Katerina! #23!! Austin (her 6’11” TA) watch your head! And after several more, all the way from Tejas taking a break from building space capsules, Puck!, an inveterate Domer wearing a green Lockheed Martin Orion shirt, but carrying a similar one in blue for Kathy, just her size. She’s wearing it today. The crowd really was from all walks, and we found all sorts of things to talk to each other about. #23 and I discussed 70s era medical practices vis-á-vis the Bo/Dr. Anderson affair before Joel my medical historian friend stepped in to carry the conversation who knows where. My aerospace accountant high school friend Rod, who now runs a home improvement business, found common ground with the men who designed (Gary) and rebuilt (Brian) our house in ’04-5. Katerina and I shared stories of our ill treatment by the U at the ends of our careers. My high school friend Jim, who like Rod and his wife Chris, came all the way across the state for this, could always talk to anybody, even me, and did. He found my outspoken Romanian colleague Elena fascinating and texted me this morning he wants to have her children. Matt might have something to say about that. Although the crowd was heavy with academics, they were from many different departments and schools. Much Kinesiology, of course, but also Physiology, History, Internal Medicine, Rheumatology, Nursing, and even another institution (Washtenaw Community College). All were so siloed, hearing what each other was up to was usually an eye opening experience. A special bunch had started, and sometimes spent, the bulk of their lives in the water. It made for a choice group picture. Left to right, there’s Vicki (Dick’s daughter, an Olympic caliber diver in the early 80s, her younger brother Bruce a silver medalist in ’84), Stu (4 year All-America (breaststroke) Michigan letterman in swimming and also water polo, and 5 time Big 10 champ as womens’ coach), Kathy (women’s ass’t coach ’81-3), and Dick, NCAA champion diver and winner of the national trampoline title as a U of M student, he coached the U of M Diving team ’58-’02 and USA divers in 5 Olympics (’64, ’80,’84, ’88, ’92).
There was no formal program. Undisciplined multiple simultaneous conversations were the rule and all the music this party needed. #23 never got to demonstrate his bongo board prowess, let alone sign it. Nurse Therese, who got to know Pat Van through John her husband, a fellow Spartoon who lived in the same dorm as Therese, just not at the same time, learned that Pat had some prepared remarks about Kathy, as I knew beforehand. Pat has done this sort of thing for decades, usually delivering her remarks about the retiring in rhyme. Pat was sorry to tell me she had so much to say about Kathy that prose was the best she could do this time. It would be a shame for the crowd not to hear it. Therese had to point this out to me a couple of times before I tapped the glass, not knowing if it would quiet this crowd. But it did, just like at any wedding. Pat said her piece, which was touching, moving, heartfelt, and thorough. I doubt that anybody in the crowd knew all that about Kathy. I even learned a few things. Here’s what Pat said:
“Kathy Clark, AKA KC, came to A2 in 1981. Little did she know of the various ways her student jobs would one day lead her to preparation work with NASA. As a volunteer swim coach, she worked with the one-day-to-be legendary team of Kimball, Isaac and Urbanchek. (PAUSE) She also baked fragels and bagels at the Famous Bagel Factory. The most interesting early work experience was as a U of M nighttime security guard. Armed with only a flashlight, she walked the corridors of empty buildings to reach various check points to confirm all was safe. Her collection of unique work experiences were likely helpful preparations for adventures such as riding NASA’s “Vomit Commit”, taking off and landing on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier, and, of course, her history as a collegiate All American swimmer which led to her ability to pass the swim test she would need to fly with a Navy pilot to have access to the ship.
KC had the “honor “of teaching a freshman requirement science class. Some of her students did not make the job easy. They might not have liked the class or were only remotely interested in the topics. I expect this experience helped her to achieve the finesse to speak to international scientists and politicians during her years at NASA.
I met KC in 1984. I was just starting as a non-traditional grad student and was trying to find a mentor for one of the classes I was assigned to teach. Back then many grad students were required to teach activity classes. One of my classes, Dance for Fitness, was a mystery to me. Someone suggested I meet with KC and directed me to Tim White’s where she was conducting research. As I walked into the lab and proclaimed who I was and that I wanted to locate KC, Dave Geenan nicked the carotid artery of a rat they were operating on – whereupon blood spurted everywhere. I immediately exited the lab with the lame comment that I’d catch up with KC later. Well, we eventually did meet. (PAUSE) And a friendship blossomed.
During the time KC was earning her PhD, she was introduced to her now husband, Dr, Robert Ike. They were married in October of 1986. I was a member of the wedding party and, although the weather was inclement, the event was spectacular! For some 30 plus years, KC and Bob have parked at my house during home football games. Now that’s friendship! Through the years, we’ve met many of their family members and KC and Bob watched our son grow up.
While working to complete the requirements for her PhD, KC created an experiment to send pregnant rats into space on one of the missions to the Space Station. NASA took notice of her abilities, although they nixed the idea of creating an image of a pregnant shuttle. She rose through the NASA ranks to Chief Scientist for Human Space Flight and Senior Scientist for the Space Station. Her knowledge of space and space travel made her an ideal companion for us to share a trip to the Smithsonian’s Spence Museum. While she and I were walking around the museum, KC was explaining the various exhibits to me and I suddenly noticed that she had attracted a following group of tourists who were eager to learn the various details she was sharing with me. Fun day.
During his reign as governor, John Engler appointed KC to the Michigan Tech Board of Trustees. Not being someone who wastes time, KC has also become an author, served on many educational societies and acted with UMs “Talk to Us.” She’s a pilot, and has returned to UM to teach some required courses, Scientific Writing is part of MVS curriculum. Along the way she earned an MS in lunar geology.
KC’s success has come full circle. She and I have even been occasionally known to consume an adult beverage in this very establishment. (PAUSE)
Happy Birthday KC. I look forward to your true retirement in 2022.”
More talking, drinking, and eating and eventually the tables were bare and the deck was empty except for Puck, Brian, Elena, and Matt. It was only 8, but dark. Puck, with my assistance, had secured an AirBnB somewhere in Tenure Town (Burns Park). We drove him there. His flight back to Dulles was too early to allow a breakfast meet up, sadly. Then somehow, our Patriot got us home, leaving but one tire rut under the pine tree.
Despite my admonition to guests “No presents! Your presence is gift enough” there was loot to be gathered from the table as we left. Many touching cards, the one from Rod containing perhaps the best gift of the night, a raffle ticket for a trip to space on Virgin Galactic https://www.omaze.com/. Several bottles of wine, of which we drained maybe 2 in the afterglow. Perhaps accounts for this morning’s brain activity. All in all, it was just like the Irish Rovers first sang a year before Kathy hit AA (but Tom Paxton wrote it) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h-KDSxqJ_0o
Next year, we’re going to do it all over again, when she “really” retires.
1. Clark KI. Scientific Writing. An Online Book. Dubuque IA: Kendall Hunt, 2019. Available at https://he.kendallhunt.com/product/scientific-writing
2. Auntie KC. Skycat Goes to the Moon: A Skycat Adventure Series Book. CreateSpace Independent Publishing (Amazon/Kindle: 10/13/12). ISBN 1460967305. Available at https://www.amazon.com/Skycat-Goes-Moon-Adventure-2012-10-13/dp/B01K15DFNM/ref=sr_1_3?dchild=1&keywords=%22Auntie+KC%22&qid=1626556621&sr=8-3
3. Auntie KC. Skycat Goes to the Moon: A Skycat Adventure Series Book. CreateSpace Independent Publishing (Amazon/Kindle: 12/12/17). ISBN 1981394346. Available at https://www.amazon.com/Skycat-Goes-Ann-Arbor-Adventure/dp/1981394346/ref=sr_1_5?dchild=1&keywords=%22Auntie+KC%22&qid=1626556961&sr=8-5
4. Ike R. The Accident. Amazon (Kindle) 2021. Available at: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B095BS8VRJ
5. Ike B. Lost in the Ozone…Again! The Commander, his Boys, and Me. 50 years and Counting. Amazon (Kindle) 2021. Available at https://www.amazon.com/Lost-Ozone-Again-Commander-counting-ebook/dp/B096KY4Z4D/ref=sr_1_3?dchild=1&keywords=Bob+Ike&qid=1624277207&sr=8-3
6. Ike R. Musing through a Pandemic. My year and a half with Mr. Corona. Volume I. about Mr. Corona. Amazon (Kindle) 2021. ISBN: 9798530730. Availalble at https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B098LML34S/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i3
7. Ike R. Musing through a Pandemic. On the sidelines. Volume II. Interpersonal relationships. Amazon (Kindle) 2021. ISBN: 9798531225023. Available at https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B098QZJMLW/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i2
8. Ike R. Musing through a Pandemic. On the Sidelines. Volume III. Indulgences. Amazon (Kindle) 2021. ISBN: 9798531231062. Available at https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B098LY1J8X/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i0
9. Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen. John Sinclair Freedom Rally performance. (from Ten for Two, premiered 4/1/72. Produced by John Lennon and Yoko Ono). Posted to YouTube by RW Ike 3/3/21. Available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DZ21BHiSlJ4
10. Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen. Seeds and stems again blues (from Ten for Two, premiered 4/1/72. Produced by John Lennon and Yoko Ono). Published on YouTube by RW Ike 3/4/21. Available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eb_Bz4SssxM
11. Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen. Jailhouse Rock. (from Ten for Two, premiered 4/1/72. Produced by John Lennon and Yoko Ono). Posted to YouTube by RW Ike 3/4/21. Available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w0rYQ97fJBU
12. Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen. Everybody’s doing it (from Hollywood Boulevard, premiered 4/25/76. Produced by Jon Davison). Published YouTube by RW Ike 3/4/21. Available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YI73MfmDYSM
13. Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen. Hot Rod Lincoln. (from Ten for Two, premiered 4/1/72. Produced by John Lennon and Yoko Ono). Posted to YouTube by RW Ike 3/19/21. Available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c8TeHA4UL_8
14. McCoy SS, Ike RW. Labial salivary gland biopsy by Dr. Sara McCoy (silent). Posted to YouTube by RW Ike 7/17/21. Available at: https://youtu.be/O7hxT6OLfH0
Is there a better place in all the world?