The Halloween Parade

A Well-Loved Neighborhood Tradition

There is a Halloween tradition that has gone on in our neighborhood for more years than I can count. The Wilde Elementary Halloween Parade. In the past, this yearly event has always taken place on Halloween. But now for some reason, it has been moved up to the Friday before Halloween. Maybe so more parents can bug out of work a day early to see it. Seems like a good excuse for a three-day weekend.

Anyway, this parade is near and dear to my heart. As it is to all of us who live along the route. The Warren Cousino Marching Band (travel version) leads the way, as class after class of costumed kids march by my house. I am instantly transported back in time to when my two boys would be marching in that same parade. It was always a challenge to pick them out of the crowd. Prior to the parade, I would quiz them to find out what their friends were wearing. That way I would be able to spot them more easily in the gaggle of happy, laughing kids.

One year, my wife and I were attending a Halloween Party, and I had purchased a Darth Maul mask, cape, and double lightsaber. I decided to give the paraders a treat. I got dressed as the evil Star Wars villain and performed my best lightsaber moves as they passed by. The kids were thrilled to see me and I did my best to give them a good show. I’m sure the teachers were all thinking, “Who’s this bozo?” I spotted my son Kevin and waved. He pretended not to see me. I waved my lightsaber in the air and yelled, “Kevin!” One of his friends said, “Kevin, isn’t that your dad?” To which he replied, “I have no idea who that is.” Ahh, so it begins! Happy Halloween, everybody!

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The Personal Rainbow

Looking For The Pot Of Gold

On my way home from work one day, I saw something pretty unique. It was a very hot day with a few clouds, but it was mostly sunny. The clouds were very low in the sky and it looked like it was raining off to my left. Suddenly, I saw a small vertical rainbow, with very intense colors. Here’s the interesting part. I had my sunglasses on that fit over my eyeglasses. My wife calls them my Stevie Wonders. The weird thing is, without those sunglasses on, the rainbow was virtually invisible. However, once I put them back on, the rainbow popped right into view.

It made me wonder. How many other magical moments like my rainbow pass us by in life without us really noticing? I was thinking about this yesterday during my morning walk. On the next block, there is a huge tree we can see clearly from our kitchen window. The leaves on that tree usually start turning red and gold before the rest of its surrounding neighbors.  A preview of coming attractions.

As my hound dog and I made our way down that street on a crystal clear morning, that red and gold tree was lit up by the rising sun. The rest of the suburban forest was still in the shadows. It was a moment where I half-expected to hear a choir singing, “Aaaah, Ahhhhh!” Like the rainbow, I felt like it was a vision that was reserved just for me. I thanked God for that beautiful sight on a beautiful morning. As we finished our walk, I kept my eyes open for more Personal Rainbows.

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Why Do Sports Matter So Much?

After All, It’s Only A Game

It’s been another Rivalry Week here in Southeast Michigan (I can never say that without sounding like Elmer Fudd). The Michigan vs Michigan State trash talk has reached epic levels. This leads me to ask the question, “Why do sports matter so much?” I can understand if you are an alumnus of one of these schools. However, people like me, who never attended either school, can be rabid fans as well. For the record, I am pulling for Michigan tomorrow. Crazy stuff always seems to happen in this game, so we’ll see what happens. (Michigan won 21-7, boo-ya!)

I used to let my obsession with our local sports teams eat me alive. The Red Wings, Tigers, Pistons, and of course the pitiful Lions, all had the ability to drive me crazy. My wife would hear me screaming at the TV from the other room, and I could almost hear her roll her eyes. Then one day, I had an epiphany and I realized I was taking it all way too personally. How could something like a last-second goal, that beat the Red Wings again, affect my life in any way? The answer was, of course, it couldn’t. I ceased to care about any of our teams,  It took many years, but I have finally kicked the habit. However, I still root for Michigan Football and Hockey. Hey, I’m only human.

I remember the day I stopped caring about the Lions.  It was December 30, 1995. The Lions were heavily favored against the Eagles in the playoffs. After the Cryin’ Lions were down 21-0 on four plays, it hit me. Why am I getting so upset over this? Life’s too short! So I turned off the TV and took a nap. After I woke up, I went outside, raked some leaves, and enjoyed the cool fall evening. The freedom of not being a slave to the outcome of a silly game was liberating. Don’t get me wrong. I still occasionally watch a game with my wife, but I don’t block out three hours of my life to watch the Tigers lose in dramatic fashion, again. It’s really liberating. Give it a try. There’s a whole big, beautiful world out there! Go spend some time in it!

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Losing Your Peace of Mind

Once Lost, It’s Hard To Get Back

A couple of months ago, my locker was broken into at the local community center gym where I workout. Thankfully, the perp didn’t take my wallet or phone, but he did get two credit cards and a debit card. This robbery introduced me to the mechanism of the justice system as it pertains to these sort of crimes. After filling out an incident report at the community center and a police report, I began the process of trying to shut down my cards before the crooks could use them. Since they had about an hour head start, it was a lost cause.

After notifying the credit card companies and the bank, I started contacting my other financial institutions as well. Although only three cards were stolen, I still had to get replacement cards for anything else that was in my wallet. Just in case they were compromised. Needless to say, it was a big pain in the butt. Thankfully, I wasn’t out any money because of my quick response to those businesses, but I lost something more important than money. My peace of mind. Ask anyone who has had this sort of thing happen to them. The feeling of not being safe lingers.

When I write these articles, it’s usually very early in the morning. During the summer, I like to open all of the doors to let in a nice cross breeze. While it’s still dark, I type away in my recliner, with the front door wide open and unlocked. I never gave it a second thought. The morning after the break-in, I was writing as usual, when a creepy feeling came over me. I got up and locked the screen door. I know from a safety perspective it just makes sense. However, from my standpoint, they didn’t just steal money from me. They stole my peace of mind, and that’s much harder to get back. But I’m working on it. Live your life, but be alert. As that great philosopher, Benny Hill once said, “Be Alert! We need all the Lerts we can get!” Thanks, Benny. I needed a that!

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Bring On The Leaf Show

Enjoy It While You Can!

The other day as I drove into work, I noticed the leaves were finally starting to change. It’s about time! That’s one of the few benefits of working thirty-one miles away from home. A lot of freeway driving, alongside some very colorful trees. However this year, along with most of the country, we’ve had an especially brutal summer. This has resulted in a late color change all over the nation. I was watching the Iowa vs Indiana game on Saturday, and all I saw were green leaves! It was October 13th for crying out loud!

When I was a kid, I never gave much thought to the Autumn Splendor. My focus was always on Halloween, that and palming off leaf-raking duties on my younger brothers and sister. It wasn’t until I was much older that I really started to appreciate Mother Nature’s Fireworks Show. Now, a whole industry has sprouted up around the annual event. There are bus tours and festivals that never existed when I was a kid. Throw in the Oktoberfest that have sprung up, due to Michigan’s Craft Beer industry, and the Leaf Show has become quite an event here in Michigan.

As I have mentioned before, Fall is my favorite time of the year. Even though collecting all those little pieces of art can be a chore, it’s one I gladly take on. The smell of wet leaves is a scent I eagerly anticipate during the dog days of Summer. Add in the smell of wood smoke from neighborhood firepits and I am in heaven. Once I’m done with all of the raking (for the weekend), I love to grab a couple donuts, a hot mug of cider, and hop into my favorite recliner with a good book. Oh Fall, where have you been? We’ve missed you! It won’t be long before the wind and rain strip the trees bare, and November’s chilly fingers start to creep down your spine. So get out there and enjoy the show while you can!!

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The Magic of Halloween

It’s Just Around The Corner

I wish I could say it feels like Halloween is just around the corner, but this week hit a high of 83 degrees.  Can somebody get ahold of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and ask her to drive a stake into this horrible summer already?!  It’s had more comebacks than Jason or Michael Myers. It’s really hard to enjoy hot cider and donuts when they cause you to break out in a sweat!  I guess there’s nothing we can do about it but soldier on, and pray for a cold snap. Anyway, it’s now Thursday, October 11th, and Linus will soon be prepping his pumpkin patch with sincerity for the arrival of that Magical Gourd.  

I have to admit, I’m as big of a sucker for Halloween as I am for Christmas. I don’t go overboard with lawn decorations, mainly because I realize, unlike some of my neighbors, that we still have to mow the lawn until December.  That said, on Monday I pulled out what decorations we do have and put them up. I like to go the spooky music route when it comes to Halloween night. The latest advancements in Bluetooth Technology have turned this into a breeze. In order to spook out the neighborhood, I used to have to park one of my giant stereo speakers on a milk crate in front of an open window. Now I can get the job done with a speaker the size of a Snickers bar. You gotta love technology! Throw in some motion activated strobe lights, and welcome to Creepytown.

When I was a kid, Halloween blew my mind. For one night each year, virtually every house on the block was handing out FREE CANDY!  The idea that I couldn’t possibly get to all of it drove me crazy.  Once upon a time, on that magical night, my friends and I concocted a plan to ride our bikes from block to block, hitting as many houses as possible. However, the logistics of such an operation became problematic. Where do we park our bikes so some other kids don’t steal them for their own candy spree? They could wind up dumping the bikes blocks away, and we would lose valuable candy-collecting time looking for them. That hiccup prevented us from executing a brilliant plan. I still think about what could have been. Candy all the way until Easter!! Ah, to dream. Happy Halloween, everyone!!

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( I saw this on YouTube and I couldn’t resist sharing it.  I calling “Winning Halloween”)

https://youtu.be/w4HeYgR0RUc

The Musical Time Machine

Where We’re Going, We Don’t Need Roads

I have always been fascinated by how music can transport you back to a specific time or event in your life. Not just the Top 40 songs, but the little-known tracks from obscure artists. One hit wonders you haven’t heard in years seem to have this mystical power. Sometimes you might not even like the song. It’s just stuck in there like a Memory Earworm, and it just won’t let go. That tune will forever be associated with a certain time in your memory. We all have at least one song that’s our personal DeLorean, allowing us to hit 88 MPH within a few notes.

I remember hearing The Tide Is High (Blondie) when I was at the top of a ski hill, getting ready to set a new land speed record. Hearing that reggae-style island music as I was preparing to rocket down the peak has always stuck with me. Jack & Diane (JC Mellencamp). I was dating a girl at the time, and whenever we hopped in the car, it was always playing on the radio. Funny thing is, neither of us particularly liked the tune, but it became “Our Song” by default. Turn Up The Radio (Autograph) is a great 80’s Hair Metal jam that takes me back to lost weekends at CMU, visiting my buddies Joe and Roy. Good times! Of course, Chapel of Love (The Dixie Cups) from our wedding, and also being serenaded by the Mauve-Tones! Don’t Forget Me (When I’m Gone) (Glass Tiger). After our wedding, it was playing everywhere in Hawaii and became our honeymoon theme song.

That’s the fun stuff, but there are also songs that instantly lead to sadness and tears. My mom used to read the Wizard of Oz to my son Jeffrey. So now, whenever I hear Over the Rainbow, I immediately lose it. Music has the power to transport us in time, but can also help us through some rough patches in life as well. Nowadays, every woman has a Breakup Playlist, full of songs that will help mend her broken heart. I’m sure some guys do as well. Not necessarily a playlist, but a particular song that gets them through a rough breakup. Music has many qualities, and the power to transport us time is just one of them. So grab your phone, find one of those songs, and then push Play. When your DeLorean hits 88 MPH, say hit to Marty and Doc Brown for me.

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Runners

I Don’t Get It

Honestly, what’s wrong with these people? I’m sitting on the balcony of a condo in Destin, Florida. The sun is up, and it looks like another beautiful day in paradise. From my 5th floor perch, I notice an endless stream of runners who are trying to get in their exercise before the heat of the day becomes too much for them. At last count, I saw about 12 of them running by this morning. What has always bothered me about runners is that they all look so freakin’ miserable. Poster Children for Physical Fitness? I think not!

Think back, have you ever seen a runner who actually looked like she was having a good time? To me, they all look like they’re on the verge of a heart attack or they’re having some sort of physical breakdown. I’m reminded of Stephen King’s short story The Long Walk. It was a precursor to Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games. Contestants walked as far as they possibly could and the winner received fame, fortune, and food for life. The losers are all shot when their pace falls below a certain speed. Lovely. And, like The Hunger Games, The Long Walk was being broadcast LIVE! Sounds like Must See TV in the Stephen King Universe! In my mind, the contestants in The Long Walk all look like your average runner. They all have that wild look in their eyes that seems to say, “Remind me again, why am I doing this?”

My wife and I are walkers or bike riders. When we are down here in Florida, we like to take a morning walk so we can enjoy the palm trees and the beach. We say, “Hi” to our fellow walkers heading in the other direction. It’s hard to say, “Hi” to a runner, who has his headphones on, and looks like he’s having an aneurysm. In my opinion, the only time you should be running is if you’re being chased by a 300-pound lineman, trying to get away from a natural disaster, or Jason is behind you with a chainsaw! When a runner passes away, I wonder if they bury him in his running clothes, with that pained look on his face. As if to say, “Hey, I’m dead! But don’t I look good?” No, you really don’t. To each, his own. I’m sure I don’t look like I’m having a ball on the elliptical at the gym either. So, run on runners. Just remember, Father Time catches up with all of us in the end.

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Coat Wars

Choose Wisely

Here in the Detroit area, we have just suffered through the 5th Hottest Summer on Record, and Summer’s not giving up yet. However, in general, temperatures have FINALLY started to cool down. Even with Fall taking control, there are still periods of warm weather during the week. Here in Michigan, we call these spikes in temperature Indian Summer. There are some official weather rules when it comes to describing an Indian Summer. Something to do with a killing frost. For me, it’s when the air turns cool, but the sun hits you sideways, roasting you like a chestnut. The end result is the Indian Summer effect.

This also results in another effect I call Coat Wars. When you leave for work in the morning, your breath is frosty, and it’s a chilly 40 degrees. You dress appropriately, with a mid-Fall jacket. Don’t get me started on jacket types. I could do an article on those alone. Anyway, in the morning, you were dressed perfectly for the current temperature. However, when you head out for lunch, Mr. Indian Summer has paid a visit, and the temperature has shot up to 73 degrees. When you leave work for the day, you completely forget about your mid-Fall jacket in the closet. You think you’ll be fine without it, but it’s 52 degrees by the time you get home from work, and you’re freezing your chestnuts off!

There is a meme making its way around Facebook these days. It depicts how people in Michigan dress at this time of year. It ranges from a bathing suit and flip-flops to a full parka, with hat and gloves, and back again. When I dress for my morning walk, I will know by the end of the block if I chose wisely. Running through the Goldilocks Test by the time I hit the corner. Too hot, too cold, or just right? Life is full of little victories. Something as simple as picking the right coat, jacket, sweater, or sweatshirt can be a challenge. There is an art to it, but if you choose wisely, it can make your day.

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