Archive for the ‘Blog-o-mentary’ Category

Tom Starland: An Interview With Myself – Part III, with questions and answers by Tom Starland

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

Twelve years ago, back in the year 2000, I came up with an interesting idea – I would interview myself so I could address some issues on my mind. No one else in the media seemed to be interested so why not do it myself. My ego isn’t that big that I wasted space in our printed papers to include such a self-serving piece, and they were too long to include anyway. So they were posted only on our website (www.carolinaarts.com) – where they are today (Archives – Special Features), and every once in a while someone comes across them and really learns something about this paper and me – if they can get through it all. In reading back over them I have to say, if anything I’m consistent. My opinions have stayed the same on most of the subjects covered, although some of the subjects have gone through major changes or disappeared all together.

The first interview dealt with a lot of the paper’s history. Tom Starland: An Interview With Myself, with questions asked by Tom Starland was offered in May/June 2000. You can read it at this link (http://www.carolinaarts.com/600tominterview.html).

The second interview dealt with a lot of frustrations about how bad things in the visual art community were – in 2006. Tom Starland: An Interview With Myself – Part II, with questions asked by Tom Starland was offered in March 2006. Things were bad, but who knew the bottom was going to drop out in 2008. You can read it at this link (http://www.carolinaarts.com/306tominterview2.html).

A lot has happened in the six years since the last interview – the economy went to hell, funding for the arts has been under attack, we stopped printing our paper and became an electronic publication, and we got a new President. And, a lot of things have stayed the same.

So in our 25th year of covering the visual arts in the Carolinas, first in Charleston, SC, then the State of South Carolina, and finally in 1997, both North and South Carolina – it’s time for the third interview to take its place in an issue of Carolina Arts.

Q: Are you a little surprised that we are doing this for a third time, considering the bridges you burned in the first two interviews?

A: The biggest surprise is that they still couldn’t find anyone better than you to do this. Or, were you referring to the fact that we have made it through 25 years of publishing an arts newspaper?

Q: I see we are going to have the same banter of the first two interviews.

A: Smart-ass questions deserve smart-ass answers. And, in response to your first one – yes, I am surprised that no one has replaced us in covering the visual arts in the Carolinas. Some have tried or think they will, but they have a rude lesson to learn. And I’m happy to let them learn it.

The main problem is that there is not enough profit in covering the visual arts in the Carolinas while we are still in business and in 25 years we’ve learned to deal with that reality. And, yes I’m surprised we made it through the last six years – which have been a nightmare of change – a changing market, a changing medium, change, change, change.

Q: I take it you don’t like change?

A: I hate all change unless it is easy and benefits me. Who likes change that is bad? We’ve had enough of that in the last six years. If someone told me I had to change the font we use in the paper – I’d hate that, just for the sake that it is a change of what I’m used to, but if they said it would double our readership and be as easy as resetting something on my computer – I still would fight it, but eventually would embrace it, but I wouldn’t like it. First because if it was that easy to double readership by changing a font – that would make me feel stupid for not doing it long ago. Second, because it didn’t take that much effort to change for the better. But, not all change is that easy.

Q: So what changes have been good?

A: Well, the big change of not printing the paper and going online with an electronic version of the paper was hard, but it turned out to be the best change we ever made – next to starting out years ago picking Apple computers to work on. Our readership has gone from a possible of 10,000 (the amount of papers we printed each month) to an average of 100,000 downloads of the paper each month.

A lot of credit for these downloads go to the people and organizations which help us distribute the paper to their e-mail list and friends and contacts. They help spread the paper beyond our reach.

Not printing the paper has saved a lot of trees, landfill space, and money. Although entering our third year online, we are still paying off our printer for previous printings of the paper before 2010. We are also saving a lot on transportation cost, but I feel a little cut off from the art community we cover by not delivering papers to it every month. And, the time spent delivering that paper was consumed in more time spent on the computer covering more areas of the Carolinas. We’re operating a lot more green then before and that’s good for the environment.

We are also able to publish the entire paper in full color vs. a color cover and the rest in black & white or in the end just black & white like we started. I never liked covering the visual arts in black & white. The paper also has active links in it so that readers looking at ads can click and go to the advertiser’s website or click a link from an article and go to a website.

Our ad rates also went down while the size of the paper stayed the same. Which was good for the art community as a whole considering the decline of the economy and arts funding in the last six years.

Q: So what changes were bad?

A: All of them. Like I said I don’t like change. The biggest complaint we have comes from people still stuck in the 20th century. They say they like to hold a paper in their hands to read it. They say they have trouble downloading the paper which takes less than a minute on most modern computers with any decent internet service – other than dial up. And, now they say there is too much to read.

Most of these complaints are really about people not being able to deal with technology. I understand, I feel their pain – I’m one of those people. I have to be dragged kicking and screaming to try something new. Linda, my better half, is an adventurous explorer when it comes to the computer. She enjoys telling me of things she discovers that can really make a difference and I have to be embarrassed into trying them – which turn out to be really cool things – real time savers. I hate it when she does that, but I also love the new tricks. They’re amazing.

So these folks who have a hard time adjusting to the new technologies – I know what they’re going through, but they are going to be left behind as the world changes – if they don’t change. Besides holding an iPad or any of the new tablets in your hands is a great way to read any book, magazine or newspaper.

Look, some of these folks who ask where they can get a printed copy make the mistake of saying they used to pick it up at some gallery or art space, but in the last few months it’s been hard for them to get by these places. We haven’t printed the paper in two years. These are not regular readers we need to be concerned with – apparently they didn’t read it that often to begin with.

The other change that is bad for me is the fact that doing this new paper and all the components that go with it – our three blogs, Facebook and now Twitter – has me chained to my computer. We’re providing more information than we would have ever dreamed of in a timely fashion – sometimes within minutes of receiving info from someone on the blogs and Facebook, but it all takes a lot of time to process. And, we are now covering all areas of the Carolinas that we hear from when we used to only cover areas where we got advertising support.

Now that’s a policy I’m still wrestling with. Ever since we began we have fought against being just another “you pay, you play” publication. You know what I’m talking about – a publication which only includes info about the people who buy ads. I’ve always felt that by including everyone, it makes the paper more interesting and informative. When we were printing the paper and delivering it we had to restrict our coverage to areas where we received advertising support and areas near those places. We did include everyone who sent us info on our website once we launched it in 1999.

When we went totally online and didn’t have to print the paper or deliver it, we decided to include everyone the same, but as the amount of info increases we find ourselves doing a lot of work including areas (some very large areas) with little or no support coming from those areas. When it gets to the point that we can’t handle it all at the expense of those who do support us – we may have to make some cuts of those areas. And, that day may be getting closer and closer.

You see, there are a lot of folks who think the media has to cover them as a service to their readers or at least that’s what they hope. They think that by sending the media a press release and saying, “Thanks in advance for helping us spread the word on this important event,” is all they need to do.

Q: I hear and read you asking people to send you info all the time. Is that just a ploy to get them to eventually advertise with you?

A: I know it’s the stupidest thing I do. I want to cover everything and do encourage people to send us info about their exhibits – that’s the focus of the paper – exhibitions taking place in the Carolinas – commercial and non-profit. It’s my Catch-22 (Google it folks).

I want Carolina Arts to offer the most informative and inclusive coverage of the visual arts in the Carolinas, (which we do already – but we want more) but time is limited and we are a business. We can’t do it all for free – all the time.

Q: So you do hope people who are sending you info will advertise or as you would put it – support the paper.

A: You will never get a cold call from us asking you to advertise. We have no advertising sales staff. Yes, we hope the light bulb will go off in people’s head eventually when they tell us how we are providing such a wonderful service to the community that they will one day support us with advertising. They could just send us piles of money, but I’m not holding my breath. Advertising gives you something for your money. Each month we send out an e-mail to those who have advertised with us if they want to again. Eventually people are taken off if we don’t hear from them again.

As far as the time factor goes, here’s the deal. I can process a well written press release in minutes and prepare an image sent in a few more and it’s ready to be placed in the paper. After 25 years you get a system down pat. What takes time is when people send you a mess that is incomplete and you have to go back and forth collecting the info they should have sent to begin with. Some articles take weeks to process. I don’t mind that when it comes to supporters, but it’s a pain when it’s coming from folks who are not. And they seem to always be the most drag on my time.

We expect more from people who are being paid to do this – it’s their job, but we are often disappointed, and we cut those who are beginners some slack, but eventually expect them to catch on, but you’d be amazed at how little people can remember from month to month – year after year. And then there are those special few who actually read the paper, study it and deliver their press releases exactly the way I would have processed it. Folks, their stuff goes in the paper first and is always in the best spots – if there is such a thing.

But getting people to send us info about their exhibits is the frustration that never seems to change. It’s the biggest problem in the visual art community – a lack of communicating and when they do – a lack of knowing how to do it in a professional and timely way. And that goes across the board – commercial galleries, non-profit art spaces and art museums. Some of the worst are colleges and universities – which have better resources at hand to do this job.

Q: I can tell you are tired of this subject by the look you are giving me. How did you like The Hobbit?

A: You are a hobbit.

Q: So how’s your relationship going with the SC Arts Commission?

A: You are a stupid hobbit. Ask me something that matters.

Q: So what do you think is next?

A: Well, you got me there. I have no idea what change will come next. I just know I won’t like it already and probably after years of doing it – what ever it is – won’t understand how it works. And, The Hobbit was great.

Q: What would you like to see happen in the future?

A: I’d like to be able to tell my computer what to do. That’s probably already possible, but either too expensive or to complicated for me. But, that would be nice.

I’d like to get more coverage and advertising from areas we never hear from. I know exhibits are being offered everywhere, we just never hear about them and the people who are presenting them probably think no one wants to hear about them, but I do and I think our readers do too.

Every once in a while I get some free time to do some research on the internet and you’d be amazed at the great exhibits that are taking place around the Carolinas in places that rarely get regional coverage – much less local coverage. I feel sorry for those art spaces that are in the area of coverage of a major city – which has a bunch of non-profit institutions presenting exhibits. Try getting coverage for the little guy when space in most publications for the arts is shrinking and these big institutions are always pleading for local coverage. Oh, it happens when a big name artist is showing in a smaller space – that’s news to these papers, but what about the talented local artist? There’s no room for them in arts coverage in major publications.

Some would say that’s the natural process of survival. The cream will rise to the top, but that’s a bunch of bull droppings. I know a lot of talented artists who will never get their spot in the sunlight, and a handful of less than talented artists who always seem to get their 20 minutes of fame -over and over.

And, I could get rich if I just got a dollar for every time someone asked me “why” I was including this or that exhibit. I collect $5 in my head for every time they ask why I placed that same article next to their’s. It’s a dog eat dog world out there when it comes to media coverage. And some what it to be an exclusive club with restricted membership.

Q: Yet you say you have to beg for people to send you info.

A: There’s the rub. We’re still living in a world where print media coverage is still on top. Who know’s how long that will last – I don’t know, but that space is getting harder to come by. There are a lot of folks out there that don’t think an online publication is worth anything.

Don’t get me wrong, I know coverage in our paper doesn’t compare to a local gallery space or artist getting coverage in a local publication that all their friends and neighbors will see. That’s an exciting occasion, but it also stops at the extent of that publication’s coverage – which is limited. An article in our paper has regional coverage which for an artist and gallery has the potential for growing their market. Coverage in our publication might get you a future show in another region of the Carolinas or a visit from a traveler who takes home some works off your gallery’s walls.

For folks under 30 – online media and social networking is their way of life, they don’t know much of anything else. For folks over 30 – it’s all so new and change is coming too fast for many of them. And, for most people the older they are the more they cling to the old ways. But, more and more older folks are seeing the light and are making the leap into the future and finding an amazing world out there. We’re hoping more and more of those folks who say they loved the old Carolina Arts will one day find us online and discover we are better than ever and that turning pages on a tablet is easier then re-setting the clock on their old VHS recorder.

But getting back to the subject at hand – we offer a great opportunity for any art space that presents exhibitions to get coverage in our paper. And, for the time being – it’s free. All you have to do is get the info to us by deadline. I’d tell these folks all about how they can get the info about doing that on our website at (www.carolinaarts.com) under the heading “How the Paper Works” – a phrase I’ve written and spoken a million times, but they’re probably not reading this. At least I hope they haven’t been reading our paper all this time and are still not sending us info.

Q: What else do you hope for in the future?

A: Beside computers that do the work when you tell them what to do and for people to promote their exhibits in Carolina Arts? Well, how about Star Trek style transporters, and non-fattening, vitamin enriched, ice cream? I’m ready for that kind of change – where’s that?

Oh, I got one. I wish someone, preferably Apple would come up with something that replaces Facebook. If Apple does it I hope it works better then them trying to replace Google maps.

Q: Well, I was thinking more about the visual arts.

A: Do I get three wishes – that kind of thing?

Well, I wish more people would buy art and buy it at galleries, art fairs, artist’s studio tours, and even online and say they did it because ofCarolina Arts.

I wish Americans would realize that funding for the arts is like the government funding other industries – like corporate farmers, energy companies, and the defense industry. Stop using the arts as a political whipping post. And, the arts should stop wasting some of the money they get from the public by giving the money to artists who insult the public.

And, I guess my third wish would be that I wish the SC Arts Commission and Carolina Arts were BFFs.

Q: The SC Arts Commission keep popping up. What’s that about.

A: Is about me pulling your chain and making people read on hoping I’m going to drop a bomb on them, but I’m not. Like a lot of folks my age, my Momma told me that if I couldn’t say anything nice about someone – don’t say anything at all. I don’t really want to be BFFs with them, they have enough of them already.

Q: Any closing statement?

A: Ya know, here’s another change. So much that I’ve talked about in these three interviews has stayed the same that there’s no reason to go over them again and again. But, here’s an answer to a question a lot of folks have asked me.

If I won the lottery tomorrow and they gave me $300 million in take home cash, the first thing I would do is call my cousin Joyce, who I promised would be my first call, and no I would not go back to printing Carolina Arts. I would definitely spend some money making it a better online publication, but I would not go back to print – ever. This is the future.

And don’t call me again for one of these interviews until another six years passes. I want to be surprised as to where we are then.

Adventures in Michigan – Reunion or Bust – Part 1

Sunday, August 29th, 2010

The Setup

They say you can never go home again. Well, someone said it and they must of messed up, as I’ve gone home several times with no problems and this year had planned a major trip back to Michigan, my state of origin. I’d say my home state, but since I have now lived in South Carolina longer than I lived in Michigan, I think old SC will have to be considered my home state. After 36 years here I’m still coming to grips with that notion, but that’s another story.

What that person should have said is – Oh, you can go back home, but it will never be the same. At least those things you remember will never seem the same and since no place stands still – there will be a lot of different things there. And, if I learned anything on this trip – my memory for the past is just not what it used to be and is surely not as good as some people’s. I know I said this a lot – “I don’t remember that.”  I’ve been telling Linda, my better half, for years that I’ve got “old timers” disease and now after this trip I’m sure she believes me.

Well anyway, this trip was to be a reunion with some old high school friends, which included a few cousins. At least that was my plan. This idea was hatched last February when a few fellows from high school got together at a friend’s home down in Merritt Island, FL, next to Cocoa Beach. One guy came from New Orleans, LA, two came from Saginaw, MI, I was coming from Bonneau, SC, and a fifth friend came for a day from a town 50 miles or so away from Merritt Island. Others from Michigan just couldn’t fit the trip into the time frame we came up with. So, at that gathering we planned a summer trip up to Michigan – closer to many other old high school friends – hoping more people could get together.

We had done this in the past when pretty much this same group of guys came to Charleston, SC, and we rented a place out at Folly Beach on the Atlantic Ocean. It took me years to live that gathering down. And it’s just getting to the point where I can show my face on Folly Beach again. It’s a good thing we’re a lot older now.

My friend (Jim) (no last names – to protect the innocent – right) who organized the Florida gathering took the lead in getting this reunion organized. A few friends in Michigan said they couldn’t, wouldn’t, be on the organizing end of anything. A big breakthrough came when we visited one of my many cousins on another trip to Florida when we learned that she (we’ll call her Joyce) and her husband (Rick) had been spending summers up at Higgins Lake in Michigan – the middle of the lower part of Michigan. So we had a southern contact that would be up north by the beginning of Summer – this was progress. There was a State Park at the lake where we could have a gathering – if people actually came.

As things turned out, after all our efforts to find some folks and get them on board for the time frame we selected, it ended up that our trip was going to be in three or four locations – pretty much the folks we had planned to see and even (Jim’s) plans changed at the last minute and he ended up in upper New York state. We’re now planning to try and get folks together in two years – hoping that will give them time to get organized and make it happen. But if it doesn’t – it doesn’t.

And, at this point I want to state that this trip wouldn’t have been possible without the generosity of our three hosts in Michigan. They treated us like royalty. We hope to one day be able to return that generosity.

For the purpose of keeping these entries as short as I can, I’m going to break this trip up into 3 1/2 parts. But, those who know me know – nothing is short once I start talking or writing.

So one evening after we finished our August issue of Carolina Arts after Linda got off work at her other job at 7pm, we packed up the car and headed north up I-26 to I-40 and then hopped on I-75 in Knoxsville, TN. From there it’s a straight shot up to Michigan – except for Kentucky and OMG Ohio. A drive that is so boring it takes forever to make it through that state. But, I drove straight through for 19 hours – with one unscheduled stop in Berea, KY, at the Kentucky Artisan Center which I’ve already written about.

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Of course we stopped at a million rest stops in-between. We crossed the border into Michigan about 5pm the next day and once we got to Ann Arbor we were headed West on I-94, going through Jackson – I had a relative who was the warden at the State Prison there – then Battle Creek – where most of your breakfast cereals come from – then Kalamazoo – where I attended my last years of college at Western Michigan University (I never finished, with just one more semester to go – that’s another story) and then on to South Haven, MI, on the shores of Lake Michigan.

South Haven – Our First Stay

When we arrived in South Haven we got lost. Google maps sent us in the wrong direction. Get this folks. I stopped the car and called for directions. Does this make me any less a man? After 19 hours of driving I was ready for this trek to be over.

When we got to my cousin’s home we parked that car where it stayed put for days. We’ll give my cousin the name of (Rocky) and his wife (Sandy) – like the waters of Lake Michigan turn rocks into sand – lots of sand.

After a tour of their home and a little unloading of the car they drove us into South Haven to the Riverfront Park – catchy name – the Charleston, SC, area has three of them (Riverfront Parks that is). This park sits along the Black River which runs into Lake Michigan. It’s a favorite place for folks there to walk along and watch the sunset.

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We see lots of sunsets on Lake Moultrie at home, but this lake is a little bigger – there’s no seeing across to the other side. From South Haven, looking across the lake your left eye is looking at Illinois and your right eye is looking over at Wisconsin. There aren’t many places where you can do that.

We have to stop the story for a little geography lesson. Lake Michigan is 307 miles long by 118 miles wide, with a maximum depth of 925 feet, but the average depth is 279 feet. The lake has 1,660 miles of shoreline – largely of sand and pebble beaches touching four states: Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin and Indiana. Now that’s a big lake. The Great Lakes – Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario, form the largest group of freshwater lakes on Earth by total surface and volume.

It was here (back at the Riverfront Park) that our host learned how easy it was going to be to entertain us – at least me. We later learned that everyone was planning art adventures for us. They wanted to show off the arts in their area or thought that’s all we were interested in since we do an arts newspaper – wrong. We get enough of that at home – everyday. Parading through a bunch of art galleries and art museums was the last thing I was interested in – I was on vacation. Linda and I also determined that this was the longest we’ve been away from South Carolina and our business – ever or at least in a long, long time. So we wanted to get away – far away – as much as we could.

So here’s the deal. After the sunset on the walk back to the car I see fireflies and go nuts. They’re (my cousin and his wife) amazed at my excitement. We used to see fireflies in our backyard when we first moved to Bonneau, but after we cleaned up the jungle in our backyard – we never saw them again. We’d have to go up to the mountains in Western North Carolina to see fireflies, and I can’t remember seeing any on my nighttime delivery trips of Carolina Arts. So, this was an occasion. Everyone soon learned that we had no formal plans to see anything, do anything (with a few exceptions) – we had come to visit them. But we saw and did plenty.

At this point I think it’s a good time to mention the temperatures in Michigan. The highest it ever got while we were there was 84 degrees, and there was little humidity – except when it was raining. Some days it never got above 74 degrees and one day it was cool enough to put on light jackets – well Linda got cool. I was born in Michigan. I only wore a coat for a few hours when it was raining.

In South Carolina we had been having months of 95 + degree days with lots of humidity. It was going to be hard going back and it was. The heat is still turned on here. But as someone said in Michigan – at least you don’t have to shovel heat. They had a point.

After we got back we talked a little bit, but then we crashed – we had been up well over 24 hours at this point – it was time for bed.

My cousin and his wife have a backyard that is half garden, half wildlife preserve – they were feeding birds, squirrels, and chipmunks from miles away. There was always something going on back there to watch. And, we spent plenty of time out there – as it was nice enough to do so. Back in SC – I don’t go outside unless I have to in the Summer. Their backyard also backed up to a cranberry bog – which was interesting. I’ve never see one of those before. Now, I can check that off my life list.

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The next day we went back to the downtown area for a tour, first by car and then by foot. The homes along the lake shore were mostly owned by folks who lived and worked in Chicago – at least the big places. This seemed to be a theme all along the eastern side of Lake Michigan – which is all sand dunes, and I guess considered to be the best side of the lake. I saw the same thing in Maine when I was there. Most of all the land along the coast was being bought up by people from Boston and New York City. It’s the same way at our lake in Bonneau – politicians, judges, teachers, business moguls, lawyers – they all live along the edge of the lake. Little folks like us have to live on the other side of the road across from them. Of course when one of our neighbors explains that his breakwall cost more than his house and he’s replaced it twice – I always tell him I’m happy to be where we are. It seems that the more money you have, the more troubles you have. And, a lot of these folks staying in the big houses in South Haven are only there during the summer. But the town looked really nice with a lot of the old homes being restored.

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When we got to main street, which wasn’t named Main Street, it was inevitable that we would come to an art gallery and end up inside, but I wasn’t ready for what we would find there. I’m walking around and pretty soon I see a painting and mention to Linda – “this sure looks like an Eva Carter painting”. She agrees and the next thing we do is turn it over and Eva Carter’s name is on the back, but this is not an Eva Carter painting.

Eva Carter is a world famous painter from Charleston, SC. We’ve known her since the days we began our arts newspaper, we have some of her work in our collection and we know her work doesn’t go for $650 – not a painting this size. My cousin and his wife (Rocky and Sandy) were amazed that I could identify a painter’s work by sight and so was I as I didn’t expect to see it in this gallery. I took a picture of the painting without anyone from the gallery seeing to deal with this later. You see, we should have stayed out of art galleries – now I had a duty to preform when we got back home.

I’m not going to mention the gallery, they probably don’t even know they are helping rip off an artist. I later learned from Eva that this has happened many times to her now – it’s the price you now pay when you’re an artist who creates works that are popular all over the world – people rip you off and there’s not much you can do. If you catch someone, it might cost you more to stop them and even if you do, someone else will pick up right behind them. If someone wants to rip you off these days – they can do it. There are plenty of people willing to pay less for a ripped off copy of good art.

I guess the only benefit, if you want to call it that, is that now works by Eva Carter are sold all over the world. She gets reports from friends all over who run into works where they shouldn’t be, but if you want an original Eva Carter you’ll have to get one from her. And, you’re going to have to pay more than $650, but you’ll be getting more than a $65 poster mounted on board or canvas. The good thing is – this is only happening to a few images – but, over and over again. Buyer beware!

As much as you try sometimes you just can’t get away from your work.

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We had lunch that day at Joe’s Bar & Grill (I’m not making these names up.) where (Rocky and Sandy’s) daughter, (Laura) worked. I had two foods on my list of things to do – eat Michigan cherries and lake perch. They had perch on the menu and I ordered it. Oh man, oh man, if there is anything I miss from living in Michigan – it was fried lake perch and it tasted exactly like I remembered on the first bite. I later learned from (Rocky and Sandy’s) daughter (Laura) that these perch were not from the lake. I’m like – what? Apparently restaurants can’t serve perch from the lake because of the mercury levels. So where do these perch come from? She didn’t know. And, what about all those perch people are fishing for in the lake and taking home and eating? She (Laura) said she didn’t know.

What’s this world coming to when you can’t get Lake Michigan perch when eating in a restaurant in a town on Lake Michigan? This would have been perplexing until we found ourselves in a Wal-Mart and they had cherries, but the cherries were from Washington state! We were in Michigan, one of the biggest producers of cherries and Wal-Mart is selling Washington cherries. Go figure.

I learned on this trip that my cousin (Rocky) had become quite a cook, which was a bit of a surprise to me, but very good news – we were eating very well. I’m including a photo of one of the meals we had – it looks like something you would see in a magazine. We ate really well the whole trip. But, one of the things I learned about folks in Michigan I guess I never really knew when I lived there was that folks in Michigan are nuts about ice cream – not just the kind you buy in the grocery stores – the kind served by people who make it themselves – hand scooped.

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One afternoon they took us to Sherman’s Dairy Bar. If you’ve ever been to South Haven you probably were taken to Sherman’s. I’m glad we were taken, but this was just the beginning of one of the themes of our trip. Sherman’s is the type of place where you get a number and wait and when you get your ice cream – you may have to wait to sit down and eat it. Well, you’ll start eating it the second you get it – or you’ll be wearing it. They believe in giving people their money’s worth and more. They want satisfied customers and they get them every time.

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Another highlight of our South Haven visit was going to see the movie,Inception, at the Michigan Theatre (really, I’m not making these names up). It’s just $3.50 for first run movies, and if you buy one of their popcorn buckets for $2, you can enjoy popcorn at every movie you go to there after for $.50 – and drinks were just $.50. Boy, I wish we had one of those kind of movie theatres in the Charleston area. The Michigan Theatre is one of those small town restored theatres right downtown – not a big multiplex outside of town.

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The 13th Hour

Back in high school, my cousin (Rocky) and I were in a rock and roll band – we lasted a couple of years before our own Yoko broke up our band (another tragic story of fame and glory cut short), but (Rocky) has kept up with his guitar playing, while the last time I played a guitar, I was playing The Beatles Rock Band game with our son. But, today, (Rocky) plays on Sundays for Jesus. On our last full day there, we went to one of the services at First Baptist Church in South Haven. This was one of those modern multi-media services – we have them in our area, where going to church is more like going to a concert. The minister did a power point presentation for his sermon. It’s not the kind of church I went to as a youth, but if I was a church goer – I could get used to this kind of church.

On our way out we were spotted as someone new and a member of the welcome committee made sure we left with one of their welcome packages – which included a copy of the church’s cookbook and a mason jar full of ready-to-make brownies. We had them a week or two after we got back home. (Rocky and Sandy) kept trying to tell the person we would be a 1,000 miles away in a week, but it didn’t matter to them – they wanted us to feel welcomed – and we did.

The last event of our stay in South Haven was a private, after hours, visit to the training center at the Pailsades Nuclear Power Plant, just south of South Haven where (Rocky) works. He keeps the equipment running for the test they do to see how prospective employees would handle themselves under the pressure of something suddenly going haywire in the control room. We got to see a run through of all the bells, buzzers, and flashing lights going off – in case someone spilled a Pepsi on the control panel  or something like that.

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(Rocky) got his training in the US Navy and he assures me nuclear power is safe and I believe him. It’s one of the only things France has gotten right. We need a Nuclear America and we can send all our waste to Iran – they seem to want nuclear stuff for some reason.

Early the next day we were headed north to Interlochen, MI, to visit an old high school friend (Pati) and her husband (Jim) who had just moved back to Michigan from Minnesota, where they had a fairly large maple syrup operation. But that’s Part 2.