A Little Bit of This, A Little Bit of That

Mid-winter musings by columnist Gerry Boylan.

It’s midwinter in Michigan, which means most of us are toughing it out through the grey February days. Some of us are planning an escape for a few days of sun as balm to prepare us for March, which is sure to play cat-n-mouse with spring, as it always does.

That’s why we Michiganders are so resilient, we roll with the punches our fickle weather delivers, as we wonder what’s coming next. I was traveling on business a couple of weeks ago and when I called home and asked what the weather was like, the lovely Kathy’s reply was, "We nearly had four seasons in one day.  It was over 60 degrees in the morning, started raining in the afternoon and 40 degrees, sleeted in the 30s by evening and was down in the 20s and snowing by night."

Backyard ice rink

This capricious weather can wreak havoc on the traditional winter custom of making a backyard ice rink. As I’ve written about before, I was a second generation backyard rink artist. I learned from my Dad how to stand in the yard at midnight with a hose in my hand and an icicle on my nose, watering the backyard into a sheet of ice. 

Other than an occasional problem, the rink was a welcome outdoor, winter ritual.

(Definition of a problem: trying to flood the rink unattended, with the hose pouring water for a forgotten three hours into a backyard with slant toward the street and the water finding it’s way to the thoroughfare, resulting in a frozen road. It cost me $200 in rock salt to eliminate an icy Lake Forestdale and subsequent spinning cars.)

There are some fine backyard ice rinks in Royal Oak, including the one at Chris and Chris Buchanan house.  Chris has a self contained rink, with boards and a single sheet of plastic to hold the water intact until frozen. This has the added benefit of holding the water when we get a day or two of Spring/Summer in midwinter. This is an outstanding ice rink!

He also has retrofitted his riding lawnmower into a mini-Zamboni, taking the neighborhood rink to an entirely new level. (Alright, I made that last part up, but a backyard Zamboni would be cool, wouldn’t it?)

In today’s age of endless indoor entertainment via computers, video games, etc., and pre-planned activities, it’s refreshing to see kids out on rink shooting pucks and doing figure skating pirouettes as the snow falls around them.  That’s the plus side of a Michigan winter.

Bad behavior on the rise

One of my mid-winter symptoms is that I tend to get a little cantankerous and my pet peeves bother me just tad more than usual. Maybe it’s just me, but in my business travel, rudeness seems to be on the rise. It just seems that whether it’s the jostling during the cattle run around the gate area before a flight, or ignoring the flight attendants pleas for passengers to put their small bags under the seats, or the safety instructions to turn off all electronics, folks just seem to be saying: oh, those rules don’t apply to me, do they?

I was chatting with a personable flight attendant and she confirmed that bad behavior was on the rise. She said that as result, her IHP days are on the rise.  I asked her if that was some kind of aviation acronym.

“No, not really. It means I’m having an I Hate People day. Don’t get  me wrong, I know I’m in a service industry, but after a few flights in a row where the crew is ignored and worse, I just smile and call it an IHP day.”

It’s not just in airports and planes, there’s an element of self-entitlement that I see more and more that plays out in selfish, un-neighborly behavior.  Instead of a we’re all in this together outlook, there is a get the heck out of my way, I’m way more important than you attitude.

It’s probably just the mid-winter blahs, right?

Winter reading

I wonder if those of us that live with a winter climate read more books than the sunshine states?  I tend to read more this time of year, usually following my sister Maryanne the Librarian, winter reading list. If you’d like to get a copy of the list, send me an email and I’ll forward it your way.

I can recommend a book that normally would not be in my reading wheelhouse .  It’s a  novel titled Playing Nice by Rebekah Crane.  Rebekah is the daughter of Syd Masson Schnurr, a Huntington Woods native, who lives in Cincinnati.  It’s a Young Adult genre book and if you’re looking for a gift for a teenage/young adult reader, it would be a great choice.  Rebekah is a gifted young writer and this is five-star first effort. The book can be found on Amazon.com.  The link is below.

I recently reported on reaching a landmark birthday and one of the best parts was receiving gifts from my children.  One gift was a “Communicate with your Father” breath spray.  You simply offer the breath spray to your adult child before a conversation and it promises the following: Action verbs drawn from the world of sports and classic rock when asking for financial help! Simple words understood by Dad’s everywhere, like job and rent! Sidestep conflict with the agility of a Kung Fu master!

That is a gag gift, right, Joe?

I also received a very touching gift in the form of a soundtrack of my life. My four children put together a song track of my life. A cd with liner notes explaining why the songs were included, ranging from tuck-in songs when they were little (Molly Malone) to family themes songs (Heart of My Heart) to age-inappropriate (Rent, Leroy Boy) to musicals we saw together (Gypsy, etc.) to jazz (Take 5.) I was blubbering after first paragraph of explanation.  I do love my sentimental children.

It’s a Monday in February, let’s go!

Gerry Boylan is the author of the novel Getting There and the short story collection Gerry Tales. Both books can be found at Amazon.com

Playing Nice link: http://www.amazon.com/Playing-Nice-Rebekah-Crane/dp/0985895659/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1360542119&sr=8-1&keywords=playing+nice+rebekah+crane

Shannon Crepeau February 11, 2013 at 02:39 PM
I'm missing our backyard ice rink this year, now that my son is turning three, we might have to start an ice rink tradition of our own!
Elvis Tomaszycki February 11, 2013 at 09:08 PM
My dad used the whole 25 x 25 foot backyard as a rink, including a swingset on the side- so on the downward glide when swinging you would let go and fly into the neighbors garage- But on skates!!! - it was a blast!!!- we actually made a game out of it- The game was called " Who can stop before they fly into the neighbors garage?".
Gerry Boylan February 11, 2013 at 09:35 PM
A flying Elvis on skates...a Royal Oak sight to behold! I can see it now, Elvis!
Glenn LaRose February 13, 2013 at 10:05 PM
Gerry - this prompted some good memories - used to skate accross the street with Rob Palmer (NHL) a bunch. But -- l'll take my day out on my kayak in 85° in O'Town more often than not. Great note - thanks -- G (I used to have) Money


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