As I just wrote to many dozens of my dear friends: I hope you and yours had a joyful and bounteous Thanksgiving. With the large avian consumed, what can it mean but It’s Christmas! Kathy and I invite you to review some of our adventures of 2022 in our attached Christmas letter.
Yes, it’s Christmas letter season, and here’s ours, in case you’re not on our e-mail list.
With Christmas ads and decorations coming at us before Halloween, what can be the proper time to send out a Christmas letter? Kathy and I still try to observe proper Holiday decorum, cutting down our tree day after Thanksgiving and waiting to put up the lights till after we’ve beaten Ohio State. If I finish this before then, out it goes.
So, here’s how our year went.
We were supposed to start the year in Scotland, celebrating Hogmanay, their New Year’s blowout, instituted when Mary Queen of Scots forbid Christmas celebrations in 1561 as they were too pagan (https://theviewfromharbal.com/2021/12/31/hogmanay/). COVID put the kibosh on our 9-day trip as a 10-day quarantine would have been required. We’ll do it this December. We took our pleasures closer to home, mainly with sports. In a recurring theme, we had to cancel out of a trip to Santa Fe to see Lucinda Williams because COVID. We did see an ancient Gordon Lightfoot (80) in Royal Oak.
COVID couldn’t crush my Bulldogs as we took the train to Kalamazoo to dip down to the ‘burg to see our boys almost take those pesky Eddies of Edwardsburg, old friend, and teammate Dan Walters at my side. For our Valentine’s Day date, Kathy and I finally made it to the Blue Llama, Ann Arbor’s outstanding jazz club (https://theviewfromharbal.com/2022/02/15/blue-llama/).
We endured February till flying to Tampa for a week on Madeira Beach. Spring Break, doncha know, Kathy’s last. While there, we saw a magnificent performance by Rodney Crowell at Capitol Theater in Clearwater. We executed much of the Gulp Coast craft beer trail, for which we’d eventually collect our bounty in October.
Marked the second anniversary of Governor Whittmer’s first COVID lockdowns. We celebrated by gathering up from house and cars all of our masks, throwing them in the fireplace, dousing them with torch fuel, and setting them ablaze (https://theviewfromharbal.com/2022/03/11/burn-on-ii/). It was a magnificent conflagration.
We haven’t missed them.
We saw a lot of music, from Darryl Hall/Todd Rundgren in Cleveland, Lucinda Williams in Ann Arbor, to James McMurty back in Cleveland to gypsy jazz guitarist Stephane Wrembell back home at the Blue Llama. A quickie trip to the ‘burg around Tax Day didn’t turn out as planned. We were supposed to meet up with some folks at the Distant Whistle then go take in the Paw Paw baseball game. It rained, so we were stuck at the Distant Whistle with folks that included my 87-year-old former basketball coach Tom Horn and his lovely wife Vickie. That’s Coach next to me and Dan Walters next to Coach. Sweetie, Vickie, and Rhonda opposite
We subsisted on subs from Franco’s and lots of Distant Whistle’s product.
In Ann Arbor, that means graduation ceremonies. These were to be Kathy’s last, emotional events. So, a week later I whisked her off to California. Our time in the Bay Area got us to her brother Bob’s “commitment ceremony” in the woods near Pescadaro, featuring my nephew Skyler wearing a white horse’s head galloping in bearing the rings. That Friday, we got to go to Petaluma to participating in the “Safety Meeting” conducted by my old Barnes buddy Dave in the back room of Macelli’s hardware store. The next morning, we were off to San Diego for a week on Windnsea Beach, this time in a place that wasn’t “steps from” but “on the beach!” See our view.
And at Windnsea, the audio can surpass the visual.
Kathy finally got her official retirement party. Nothing like last year’s blow out at Dominick’s, but the people important to her showed up and said nice things. When her dean joshed would she like to come back and teach a class or two, Kathy replied “bite me!”. She still came home with a nice chair and now we have a matching set in our living room (https://theviewfromharbal.com/2022/06/01/michigan-chairs)
In our previous trips to Kalamazoo, Kathy grew fond of the many topiaries in little Bronson Park. She befriended the groundskeeper who referred her to River Street Flowerland where she could learn the art and purchase one of her own. Kalamazoo is the bedding plant capitol of America and River Street is ground zero. One industrial greenhouse looks pretty much the same as the other, so only Kathy’s eagle eye found the topiary place. She found a nice 3-part sea serpent – whom she later named Cecil (remember him and Beanie?) – and learned to care for it.
I used the time to go cross town and have lunch with some old ‘burg classmates. I spent more time with Hooch and Marsman than Kathy did with Cecil, so she was waiting for me when I got back. Unfortunately, my arrival was announced by the crash of a truck smashing my Patriot.\
Befuddled by the endless greenhouses, I thought a poke into the intersection might point the way. Instead, I ended up in Bronson’s ER. Just a cracked vertebra that would heal, and now we had the excuse to get the 4 door Wrangler softtop we’d been wanting.
We still managed to make a Detroit weekend outing the next week, taking in a Tiger’s game with my brother and my favorite nephew, watching our boys rise up and devour my Torontan baby sister’s faves, the Jays. We rested up the rest of June to get ready for what was to come.
Mom had lobbied for it for at least a couple of years. She was set to turn 90 this mid-July and wanted to celebrate that big day in Ireland. With 25% Irish Kathy sharing that birthdate and about to see 64 – still needed and fed – it was a no-brainer to join this family outing with my two tall sisters. We alighted in Shannon, spent nearly a week by the sea in Dingle, headed to Kilkenny where parties would be held in a fine hotel by the park and then a castle. The girls posed the day after the second party still wearing their party hats.
We left shortly after from Cork, carrying 10 bottles of fine Uisca bethea, of which the most expensive would be confiscated in Orlando after being assessed as a possible bomb
We learned at the end of the month from Singapore Airlines that the credits we had from flights we’d booked but later cancelled a year and a half ago would expire at the end of August. Thus, begat a mad scramble search for suitable Asian destinations.
Except for a quick trip to Kalamazoo for follow up on my broken back, we were going to rest up. Then came an e-mail that the first of 3 celebrations of the life of the late Commander Cody was set to take place in Troy, outside of Albany. It took less than 2 hours to make the arrangements and 2 weeks later we were there. There would be 2 more.
It was almost Too Much Fun. You can read more about it here (https://theviewfromharbal.com/2022/08/28/rock-dont-cry/).
We had almost 3 days to rest up for the trip to Phuket (“poo-ket”) Thailand. It took almost that long to get there. We enjoyed the food and especially the big animals.
As we rested up from Thailand, Sue Casanova (Mrs. George Frayne a.k.a. Commander Cody) announced Celebration of Life II, to take place in Mill Valley. It was a short trip, but one that allowed some time with Jimmy & Janet and kids plus two great concerts. Bill Kirchen, our good friend, and the Commander’s former lead guitarist, played in Novato before the COL, which wasn’t as good as the first as it featured more of the folks who joined up with Commander after the Lost Planer Airmen broke up. We did get to have dinner with Bill and wife Louise beforehand, though. Super treat.
Home nearly a week and a half, we spent a couple days in Grand Rapids then came back and boarded the train for Chicago where we’d spend a week.
Chicago was highlighted by dinner with Tom Schnitzer, my lab mentor during fellowship and the person who introduced me to Kathy. Forever grateful. Our evening at Le Piano in Rogers Park was a wild time (https://theviewfromharbal.com/2022/10/02/le-piano/).
In a week and half, we were off to Florida, where we’d spend a week in our house right on Madeira Beach, mostly sitting on the porch watching the waves roll in and the pelicans and dolphins go by and wait for the day to end.
Shutesie and his young bride (VHS ’73) stopped by for a couple days of nonstop fun.
Home long enough to see the Spartoons roundly thrashed and …
…catch the wonderful Karla Bonoff at the Ark. Then we were off to New Jersey. New Jersey? We like to do one football road trip a year, and this year the stars aligned for Piscataway. New Brunswick, which is where Rutgers U (birthplace of college football) actually is, is quite nice. The game was entertaining, much the way the spectators at the Colliseum felt about the lions. You can read more about it here (https://theviewfromharbal.com/2022/11/07/an-evening-in-piscataway/)
A week and a half back, we were off for the Land of Enchantment. We’d meet up with June in Santa Fe, a place she knew from working with late husband, and my dear friend, Sam at Los Alamos many years while Kathy and I had visited her brother Bob there many times. We didn’t do much other than sit around our very nice AirBnB, talking, drinking, and eating my cooking. A morning stroll to the lot across from Kaune’s grocery where sat the the coffee cart for our caffeine choices plus a hot donut fresh out of the fat our only regular outing. Good for all of us, I think.
So, it’s home for a few breaths before a quick jaunt to DC for Puck’s – Kathy’s NASA boss -retirement party and while there a meet up with some cousins I haven’t seen for over 40 years. Mid-month will find us in Chicago for all the Christmas wonder and several concerts, then home for our own Christmas until we push off for Edinburgh 4 days after that. Happy New Year.