Right place, right time

As I recall, a warm winter day, 2007, in mountainous rural Arizona a few miles from the border to Mexico, I was enjoying a quiet morning ritual.  Coffee at the aptly named local cafe, the Gathering Grounds, the fresh brew originating from the third world; East Timor, Sumatra, or Nicaragua, all promised to be ‘fair trade’.

Lessening the carbon footprint, I bring my own, sizable plastic mug.  It makes me feel good.  Keeps the overpriced java hot, while I embrace the delusion that I’m leaving the earth a better place.   And I get free refills.  The generic mug has a benign black and white overlay, WMH, embedded within a cross.  I like it, a garage sale purchase for a dime, the summer before in the upper peninsula’s Pickford, MI., not far from Stalwart.

From across the room a lone young man, early 20’s, approaches my table.  He is neatly dressed in the khaki brown uniform of the U.S. Border Patrol and asks, “excuse me, sir, may I join you ?”

“Sure, son, have a seat”.  It was clear to me,  he did not intend to ask for my passport, photo ID, or suspect that I might be transporting illegal substances.  Anglo geezers aren’t in the cross hairs of the BP….call it ethnic indiscrimination if you like.  Or reality if you don’t.  We shook hands, his right hand in a cumbersome cast.  He had been crying.

He wanted to know if I was from Michigan and I explained, no, actually Indiana, however, we do spend the summers on the north shore of Lake Huron in the eastern U.P.  and why do you ask ?

His story began to gush.  Growing up in Sault Ste. Marie, jobless after graduation from LSSU,  he joined the border patrol hoping to get stationed nearby at the Canadian border.  A plush, low-risk assignment.  The BP instead sent him to be trained near Ajo, AZ, a desolate desert outpost near the Mexican state of Sonora.  He had nearly severed a finger the first week, caught on a cyclone fence, pursuing illegal immigrants.  In the second week he discovered the remains of a fifteen year old girl, a victim of dehydration and hypothermia.  In the third, a fellow rookie had been shot in the thigh by a drug trafficker.  His fluency in Spanish limited, he had no concept of what he had gotten himself into, had never been away from the “Soo” and as evidenced by the tears, was a desperately homesick kid.

From halfway across the room, he had recognized the logo, WMH.  With no formal training in psychiatry, I thought it might signify Why Men Hurt.  No, he quickly informed me, it’s the War Memorial Hospital, and his Mom, an RN, had worked there for years.  He lived just east of Ashmun Street, the main drag, and before long he was smiling, telling me how he and his friends would jump off the bridge and swim in the canal.  And in the winter play pickup hockey games on the ice.  And how here it was February, 70℉, people wearing short sleeves, can you believe it?

Below, the Ashmun St. bridge, in the dead of winter

Yes, I knew the bridge, had been to the SooLocks, and my favorite saloon was the Antlers, renowned for those walls and ceilings covered with the dessicated body parts of deceased wildlife.  And where else can you enjoy a slice of Venison Pie ?

You couldn’t wipe the grin off his face as he nodded, “yeah, mine too”.

He had to return to duty.  We parted with a handshake, never exchanging names, and by his enthusiastic departure, I was certain he would never forget the encounter.  I know I haven’t.

And now, five years later, I’m enjoying my morning coffee from the same ten cent mug.  In the distance, a passing freighter, the DeTour Reef lighthouse, and less than 100 feet away, a pair of nesting sandhill cranes select insects for breakfast.

Funny, how a garage sale purchase can transport you to the right place, the right time.











Yappy Hour, Reigning Dogs

dateline: Jackson Center, Ohio

Alumapalooza III

A new feature in the cascade of events for this unique rally; an hour for dogs to share their owners with other owners.  The owners, far more discreet than their beloved pets, are content to ‘talk’ without resorting to the mandatory sniffing of each other’s private parts.  Maybe next year.


Dozens of high-end breeds; dachshund, weimaraner, beagles, greyhounds, Scotties…..and a crowd favorite, the bulldog on the skateboard.  Boogeying down Bambi Lane.


Some fast, aloof, intelligent, powerful, miniscule, or alert, and others, rescue dogs like our Jack, the result of hasty, unplanned dog sex.  A dog’s eye view of the party.


Jack is considering accepting donations for his favorite cause, a national system to counter the dreaded wave of kanine kidnappings (think amber alert).  Seen below maintaining a vigil by his box trailer, to discuss strategy with other potential victims.


Among the dogs, few disappointments other than the absence of the corgi, favorite of writers, Graham Mackintosh (Pili) and A/S Life’s own Bill Doyle (Tasha).  However an unconfirmed rumor, started by a Welsh Terrier of ill repute, speculated that the lady below was planning to attend Alumapalooza IV in 2013.


Also, missing, not a single Lassie, as seen in this low-res file photo from 1955.


Lynn and I plan to adopt a collie puppy this year, a female, and we’ll name her Melon.  Like the movies of her forbearers, she will become melon collie and that will be sad.



Olamacare…. for the Dalai

dateline: Rochester, Minnesota

subject: celebrity sighting

For a serious health issue and a passing year, within the aura of the world’s finest medical center, my wife Lynn and I have become woven into the fabric of the Mayo Clinic.  Two million patients a year, from the hindsight of Nebraska to the Himalayas of Nepal, arrive in rural Minnesota seeking ‘treatment’.

In the interim, having traveled every subway tunnel, public and private, seeking out employee shortcuts, and unmarked elevators, this writer, ever vigilant, has dissected the bowels of the system….which brings us to today’s subject.  The Dalai Lama.  Yes, that Lama, Tibetan leader and symbol of kindness and magnanimity.

Known to have visited the clinic before, usually on a yearly basis in the month of April, his highness (a.k.a. Lhamo Dondrub to his close friends) is now a sprite 76 y/o.  An internet search revealed that he planned a brief appearance in Los Angeles on April 21st, and was scheduled to be in Chicago on April 25th, where His Holiness will participate in the 12th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates.  If you are like me, not a Nobel Laureate, as least not yet, then you, too, did not receive an invite.   Sooo….where would old Lhamo, during this 3 day vacuum, be on the 22,23, and 24th?  Welcome, fellow sleuths, to the underworld of InsightOut where yellow journalism and bogus reporting run amok.

Imagine that you are in the Kahler Grand Hotel, an 85 year tradition of catering to the rich and famous ( both Rick Santorum, deposed presidential candidate, and the Ambassador to Syria were here in March), and you, casually dressed in a crisp Ralph Lauren® shirt, a pair of baggy Chaps® jeans, both purchased at Goodwill®, one hole in the knee, with an official looking lanyard, pretend to be “lost” in an unmarked basement corridor.  When, suddenly, you are confronted by a contingent of foreign looking security personnel and a pleasant older chap in an orange bathrobe and really spiffy spectacles;


The clinic, parochial and private, is protective of their patient population.  No press conferences, no release of confidential information, celebrity visitors are veiled in gauze-like  anonymity.  I join this crew, ascending in a very slow freight elevator, replete on three sides with olive green collision matting, and arrive at the first floor destination to be greeted by a handsome man, believed to be physician representative of CEO, Richard Noseworthy M.D.

I am unceremoniously shunted away from the entourage into a sea of Chinese students, one, a quite attractive young woman who pulls me aside.

“Did you just get off the elevator with his holiness ?”

” Well, yes ”

Did you get to talk to him ?”

” Of course”

What did you say ?”

“In a brain freeze panic, only the standard Mayo questions came to mind, so I blurted out,”

  • spell your first and last name
  • your date of birth, month, day, and year
  • and do you have insurance ?

As if mistaken for Mayo personnel, he gave me a buddha-like smile, tilted his head reverently, and in a hushed tone, replied,



July, 6, 1935

“I believe so”







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