I’ve always enjoyed those newsletters some send for Christmas. This year, I decided to create my own.
I’ve always enjoyed receiving these Christmas letters from those who bother to write them. So this year I’m trying my hand at it, seeing if I can bore you silly with recountings of some of the antics Kathy and I pursued over this past year. While it may seem we’re nuts for travel and sports (we are), home is what we love best, and from the hearth of Harbal we toast you this greeting.
So that’s Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. That’s Fritz, our stuffed. wolverine, in the foreground. He says “Go Blue”.
No bowl for the COVID-afflicted Wolverines, so the year started quietly. A planned trip to LaJolla fell victim to COVID, heralded by a call from the AirBnB saying we couldn’t come because of the lockdown. COVID would screw up a couple more California attempts, Spring Break, a trip to London to see Eric Clapton at Royal Albert Hall, and one to Edinburgh after Christmas ’21 to take in Hogmanay. But we still managed to have some fun.
No fans could get into Crisler, but Juwan’s boys gave us joy nonetheless, dominating play en route to winning the Big 10 championship and missing the final 4 by a bucket.
Dr. Schlissel cancelled spring break, so Kathy took her “well being” day and added a few more for a long weekend in Clearwater Beach. My brother John, his wife Karen and son Ian live in Clearwater. The highlight was our assault on the breweries of nearby Dunedin; what a fine way to pass a sunny Florida afternoon https://theviewfromharbal.com/2021/03/03/drink-down-dunedin/
Kathy takes joy from the non-revenue sports. Girl’s basketball makes sweet sixteen and woman’s gymnastics wins the national championship, their first ever. Kathy has players on both teams. A student of hers from 2 years ago was last performer at the gymnastics meet and her score nailed down the championship, as Kathy watched real time from the big screen on our dining room table – same one she teaches over – this time crying her eyes out.
Last weekend in March it was off to Santa Fe, which Kathy’s brother Bob would be vacating after 20 years. We met Bob’s lawyer friend Ana who’s moved from medical liability to “medical freedom”, aiding those finding themselves on the wrong end of COVID restrictions. So even with Bob gone, we’ll have friends when we go back.
It was a year for golden anniversaries, and April 17 marked 50 years since I broke into Hill Auditorium to see Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen for the first time. Since I have all their records, all it took was the suitable intoxicants and two triple cheese side order of fries from Krazy Jims to make a proper celebration. Too much fun https://theviewfromharbal.com/2021/04/17/two-triple-cheese/
Once commencement was finished, it was time to push west. We would meet up with June Rodgers, my late friend Sam’s https://theviewfromharbal.com/2020/01/12/goodbye-sam/, https://theviewfromharbal.com/2020/01/14/see-sam/ widow, for a few days at Garden of the Gods Resort. I got to know Colorado Springs as a kid visiting my Uncle Bob, but am only starting to appreciate the place as an adult. The year before, we’d spent a couple days in Broadmoor’s Cloud Camp, high on Mt. Manitou. We’d looked down at Garden of the Gods and several campers were going there next. Glorious red rock, Pike’s Peak views, mountain air, great food and excursions into the city for a Skirted Heifer https://skirtedheifer.com/, a walk around Manitou Springs with drinks from all, and a dinner train through the Royal Gorge stoked that Rocky Mountain high.
Back 2 weeks with Memorial Day a week away, we took the train to Chicago to stay in the South Loop for jazz, food, and good times
Deb and Jeff from St. Louis weren’t with us in Chicago this time, but we’d been planning an escape to Lake Michigan for a while. We found Tony, a 747 pilot who rents out his luxury beach house when he’s away flying, giving us a beautiful week on the beach at South Haven. When Deb and Jeff went South, we continued north on a leisurely voyage home with friends and family through Macatawa, Muskegon, Grand Rapids, and Stanwood.
All Kathy was expecting was a little birthday party. I wasn’t able to keep the entire cat completely in the bag as I planned a much bigger event, so she knew it was going to be at our favorite spot, Dominick’s. The retirement party a year clearly exceeded expectations https://theviewfromharbal.com/2021/07/17/wasnt-that-a-party/.
Fewer than two weeks would pass before it was time for my big event, another “golden”, the 50 plus one reunion of Vicksburg High’s class of ‘70, preceded by a few days seeing some obscure Kalamazoo sites, like the Frank Lloyd Wright designed Parkwyn Village and “Kalamazoo’s Stonehenge” out by the ballpark. I’d helped with the planning, finding “lost” classmates, and in the process assembled a mighty database. I’d been running monthly Zooms since the reunion had been postponed a year ago. Old friends are the best friends, and it sure felt good to be among a whole bunch of them.
Another week and it was time for the Big California trip, finally happening. NoCal for family and friends, drive down the coast through Carmel and Santa Monica to La Jolla, with a week on Windnsea Beach.
September marked some welcome returns: students to campus and classes, and 110,000 of our closest friends to Michigan Stadium to watch our Wolverines start what was going to become a very special season. Harbaugh’s team was running the ball like a young Bo’s would.
I managed a quick day trip to the ‘burg to see friends and classmates Forrest and Sandy take their places at the winner’s table at the Tournament of Writers.
Executing this year’s road trip, we headed to Muskegon for a couple nights on the beach before boarding the ferry to Milwaukee, tarrying there a night, then onto Madison where the Badgers awaited, although I don’t think they expected what hit them. We hadn’t won there in 20 years, another way this season is different.
On a trip that had been in the works since February, it was back to California, this time to Novato, in Marin County, home of rich old hippies, to see what’s left of the Lost Planet Airmen. Enough to approach Too Much Fun. One of my good ol’ Barnes’ buddies Dave practices in nearby Petaluma, so we met up, even for the weekly “safety meeting” he holds with some of his misfit friends in the back room of the hardware store one of them owns. Made it to Pescadaro to be with the fam https://theviewfromharbal.com/2021/10/21/nocal/
We hadn’t been to Chicago for a while and with Penn State away, that second weekend looked good. We landed in a different neighborhood – Lakeview, between Lincoln Park and Uptown – plenty of eateries and watering holes, but nicely residential. We found a new jazz spot – Le Piano – and were both made to lay under the piano while being played to. When we walked up to the bar Saturday that the Alumni Association said hosted game viewing parties and found it closed, a nice young man in an Oklahoma sweatshirt directed us a mile down Clark to Duffy’s, which was wall-to-wall maize and blue, all several decades our juniors. After a half of standing, we headed back to our loft to enjoy the dominant second half. Two train rides the next morning and we were in Hyde Park for breakfast and services at the magnificent Rockefeller Chapel, thankful for yesterday’s victory and grateful for God’s blessings.
From today’s perspective it’s easier to say we felt something would be different about this year’s version of The Game. Naah, we were expecting to get creamed, like usual. But that’s not what happened! The best highlight video was put together by some kids https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ak9Uxtntfk&t=3s. The song playing in the background is the one they play ever 3rd quarter, to which the kids go nuts. It’s “Mr. Brightside” by the Killers, which features a gloriously decadent video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gGdGFtwCNBE, first released in 2003 and judged by UK radio stations Absolute Radio and XFM as “song of the decade”. It certainly has staying power with the young folks nearly 20 years on. Maybe it’s the reason they don’t play “Sweet Caroline” in the 3rd quarter any more. Hassan Haskins runs o.k. to it. Indianapolis brings us closer to to what could be very special. In Bo’s days ,the Big 10 championship was the pinnacle, and now we are there. Those 6 touchdowns finally convinced the annoying boring Hawkeyes they couldn’t beat us. Now comes the heady exercise of ratings and rankings as we ascend into the college football playoffs. I’ll be happy if Aidan Hutchinson gets the Heismann. Our TV viewing is locked into New Year’s eve and Orange Bowl, so our New Year’s date may be abrogated. My butt will be in the couch and not on LIVE’s dance floor.
December is quiet time in Ann Arbor. We have 20 events slated for the month, only half sports related. We even have a New Years Eve date, headed to LIVE on First to hear “Invasion”, a bunch of boomers who play (well) the songs of the British Invasion. Kathy might even get me out on the dance floor as we usher in 2022.
The grind goes on for Kathy, with one half-time term left as she satisfies her 20 years at the U, waiting the time she can return to her children’s books, sewing, gardening, and time as an adjunct research scientist in the Department of Aerospace Engineering. Bob happily has not answered the 8AM Monday clinic call for 3 years, amusing himself this year by cranking out 11 peer-reviewed publications (with 2 additional under review), 6 books (& a chapter), 7 YouTube uploads, and 112 posts to his blog (so far this year).
Merry Christmas to all and wishes for a Big Blue New Year