My Son’s Poltergeist

Last year my son, Ian, went on a job search after completing his Masters in Library Science. He was already employed in Nashville, TN so was able to take time to look for a good fit. Like all job searches, there were frustrations. He was hired by the University of Akron and started his new job as an assistant professor in Bibliography, Physical Sciences Librarian in July 2012. He was a good fit for physical science library since he also has a masters in chemical forensics.

In June, his family of four started planning the move to Akron so he could start work in July. The move also included selling a home in Nashville and buying a home in Akron, OH. At the time, his wife Carol was unemployed so the burden of most of the moving fell on her. By July, they were in a one bedroom apartment on a short term lease with most of their belongings in storage. The house in Nashville sold and they bought a house in Akron.

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I looked at it a realized it was reminiscent of one of his childhood homes. It was beautiful and they got to move in in October.

I was finally able to visit at Thanksgiving. The four day November weekend gave me some extra time with them. The drive is so much easier than the previous drive to Nashville. Nashville was a ten hour drive and Akron was a mere three hour drive. I usually arrived in Nashville completely exhausted. Akron was a piece of cake.

It is a multi level house. Not a simple split level, the house has five levels like many houses built into hills. My room was not in the original house. The previous owners had added the room with a den underneath with another bathroom. As I was shown to my bedroom, my son informed me that every one had fallen so far except his wife Carol. So, I was warned. Let me just say that to get to my guest room I walked through the living room and up a step, then left and up five steps, left up four steps and right up four steps.

When I came downstairs, Ian showed me where he had fallen. My first day in the house, I was very careful and noticed that the tricky spot where most of the falls had taken place was where the stairs in the living room went to different levels. The living room had a step at one end leading to three different locations. That one step was a different size than the other steps. So, I was good. I was doing all the different stairs with ease within a day. I was confident I would have no problems if I just made sure I looked where I was going.

And it was all ok until Saturday when I fell . You know the moment when you realize there is no recovery and the fall is inevitable and then the landing. Ooof…

I stayed where is was…..right at the tricky spot and only had a bit of pain in my shoulder. I was hotdogging. I had tried to skip a step. I still could not believe it, I felt as if I had been thrown down the steps. Well. I just joined almost everyone else in the house.

I drove home after the weekend and the pain got worse. I found I now had tendonitis in my upper arm. I went to physical therapy and slowly got better. I finally returned to visit in late April. My granddaughter had moved into the former guest room because she said her room was too scary. She heard noises at night. For the weekend, I got the room back and my granddaughter slept in her parents room.

This time I was extra careful at the tricky spot. That is, until 4:00 a.m. one morning when I just had to go and had two bathroom choices. One choice took me past the entire family…down three steps…walk five steps….up three steps…walk four steps…up 3 steps…to the bathroom. Or, I could go downstairs and not disturb anyone.

Down three steps…turn…down four steps….turn down five steps…..turn and to the bathroom……whomp and on the floor…that last step and I forgot. This time no injuries. and I was on the floor again, I just could not understand how I got there. I intellectually reasoned that I had missed a step, of course. And again, it was a shock.

I decided jokingly that the house must have a poltergeist. She will accept you but only after you have been there a few times. The next time I go, I hope she will welcome me.

The picture below is of one of the original occupants of the home in the late 1920s. Maybe she is the one….

 

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The Funhouse at Motor City Wine

Each Wednesday, Motor City Wine hosts the Funhouse in downtown Detroit. I sometime want to hear their particular modern, funky jazz. They recently won the Detroit MUsic Award for the best Modern Jazz Group in 2013.

Motor City Wine is a small wine boutique in downtown Detroit. It is one of those places with parking at a premium since it is is on Woodward Avenue, Detroit’s Main Street. I have found a place to park that has been working for about a year so parking is not an issue for me. I parked my car and walked around the corner and to the door about fifty feet away. In winter, since smoking is not allowed in bars, I usually have to walk through a group of smokers huddled by the ashtray. But, it is spring and the tables have been set out for the season so getting to the door is easier. After opening the door, I climbed the steep stairs lead to a room painted in a dark red glossy paint. The wall color is broken by the many displays of wine against the walls. The proprietor is already opening my blood orange soda and pouring it in a glass. And the band is already playing. It feels good.

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The Funhouse was put together by Skeeto Valdez and plays modern, funky jazz. The group won the best Modern Jazz Award for 2013 from the Detroit Music awards. The group changes from time to time. I hate to see someone go but, when someone new arrives the music undergoes a subtle change. Each time the change is unpredictable. This time, the funk got amped. The group for the last few months has been Skeeto Valdez (dms), Kris Kurzawa ( gtr), Phil Whitfield (keys) and Takahashi Io(bass).
Skeeto is she driving force of the group.

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Kris Kurzawa, guitar, is one of t he best jazz guitars in Detroit. The group performs many Kris’ compositions.

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Both Philip Whitfield and Takahashi Io are relatively new and both have a heavy dose of funk.

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Last night was one of those nights I just went with the flow. The music moved me and I sank into it with abandon and felt at ease with the world. It was just what I needed.

The Bomb

The evening started as a typical weeknight evening in February. The rainy season was just ending so most evenings were cool and damp. For those of us in Berkeley, CA winter was “the rainy season.” David, my boyfriend, was out for the evening at a political meeting, one of many in Berkeley in that era. Char, my six year old daughter, was sleeping and my dog Stoney was by my side. I was planning on an evening of reading and studying for my classes at UC Berkeley.

The house we were renting was an older small brown-shingle quite common to the Bay Area and a part of the area’s charm. The house was close to the center of downtown. It was near the Civic Center Park also known as Provo Park. The city library and my daughter’s school were within easy walking distance. The only drawback to the house was that it was located right across the street from the Berkeley Police Department. It was also an asset since we thought our house was less likely to be burgled. Since we were both politically active, we enjoyed the irony of living there.

In reality, it made no difference in our daily lives. The front porch was shaded and covered with vines so thick that we couldn’t see the street or the police station through the front windows even in winter.

The interior of the house was perfect in my eyes. The main room had a large bay window at one end that brought the morning light in through leaded glass windows. There was fireplace at the other end of the room to warm the evenings. Around about half of the room there was red oak wainscoting with a plate rail. There were built in bookshelves on both sides go the fireplace mantel. A worn burgundy print Persian carpet covered most of the floor. The couch which was really a daybed was covered with an orange striped Indian bedspread. Our prize possession was a worn, comfortable leather chair with an end table next to it by the fireplace. It was and ideal place to read. It was the usual orange crate casual favored by students in 1970.

That particular evening in February, I was sitting in the living room in a nightgown and robe listening to Earth, Wind and Fire and finally hoping to catch up on my reading for class. The blazing fire in the fireplace was taking the dampness out of the air. Stoney moved to the fireplace to warm her old bones and was lying there contentedly. Our two cats were roaming throughout the house. They occasionally draped themselves across the mantel to catch the warmth from the fire.

I had a cup of coffee on the end table and thought this would finally be the evening I would get all caught up o my reading. I got up to refill my coffee cup when there was an explosion so deafeningly loud that all the windows in the house rattled. Stoney jumped up and braked frantically. The cats fled towards the back of the house. I dropped my coffe cup spilling the last drops on the rug.

I stood in the middle of my refuge from the world not knowing what to do. My blood felt frozen in my veins. Everything stopped for a moment.

Next, I ran. I am not sure what possessed me, but I ran to the front door. I threw the door open and raced to the street. All the street lights were still on. The Berkeley Police Department had all its lights blazing looking pretty much as usual. I looked up and down the street and could see nothing to explain the explosion. There was no smoke or fire. I did see about six of my neighbors also out on the street and in various stages of dress. All the dogs in the neighborhood seemed to be barking or howling.

“What happened?” asked Nancy, my next door neighbor.

I came back with “I don’t know.”

Then, Barb, another neighbor, yelled, “Where and what was that?”

None of us in the middle of the block had any idea of what happened. We all began to turn to the police department as we heard shouting and yelling. We saw about fifteen Berkeley policeman racing out of the police department. They all had there guns drawn and were running every which direction, waving their guns wildly. Some ran to the front of the station; one ran towards the bushes. And one ran back inside. They all looked just as scared as the neighbors.

Then, we were all shaken by another explosion accompanied by a thunderous roar. It was so much louder this time since we were all outside. All of the neighbors who were still on the street, turned and ran back to our homes as if we were one body and slammed our doors. I still had no idea what had exploded or where it was. I could hear the sounds of activity and chaos outside. There was yelling and sirens. And I was still in the dark.

Being in the dark has never been easy for me. I remembered having seen two of my next door neighbors outside. So, I went out the back door after checking on my sleeping daughter and walked through an opening in the hedge to get to my neighbor’s house. I knocked on the door and heard a muffled squeal.

“Who’s there?” Barb asked.

“Marsha.” I said.

Barb peeked from side to side to see if anyone was with me and opened the door. We found after a short conversation that neither of us had a clue as to what had happened. I asked her if she wanted to come over. I couldn’t stay with her because of my sleeping daughter. Barb decided to stay in her home. So I crept back through the hedge to my house.

At that point, any pretense of studying or reading was out of the question. My mile was racing a mile a minute with nowhere to go. And worst of all, for me, I didn’t know what had really happened. I believed some bombs had exploded. I didn’t know if anyone had been hurt or who had done it.

I went back to check on my daughter and she was still sound asleep. I checked the clock and it was only 9:00 p.m.. I began to busy myself around the house. I picked up the coffee cup from the rug and wiped up the spill. I got another cup of coffee and it tasted terrible. I felt as if I had been up for two days. I decided to go out on the front porch to see if I could see anything through the vines. After all, curiosity only kills cats. The vines that covered the porch made it impossible to see anything. Stoney came out to survey her domain and after a brief inspection, returned to warmth of the fire.

I followed her back inside to wait for David to come home. He has planned to be home early. I began to wonder where he was. I called a couple of friends and found he was not there. The friends lived far enough away so they had not heard the explosion. We talked about the new faction of SDS(Students for a Democratic Society) called the Weathermen and the “Days of Rage” in October of 1969. A police station in Chicago was bombed. We knew they were planning on bombing government buildings and wondered if they were the ones. They seemed to think it would change things. We had discussed terrorism and knew it hadn’t ever worked. I told them I thought a couple of bombs had exploded. All I could do was wait.

Another cup of coffee didn’t appeal to me so I took the cold coffee to the kitchen and got a beer. I hoped the beer would calm me down a bit. I tried reading and couldn’t do it. I decided to turn on the TV with the hope that I could find out what had happened on the 10:00 p.m. news.

At last, I heard someone walk up the steps on the front porch. I heard a knock on the door so I knew it wasn’t David. After checking through the window, I opened the door. Two vey large cops were standing on my doorstep. One wanted to know if I had heard or seen anything before the explosion. The other asked if I had seen a stranger in the area who looked out of place. I really hadn’t. I mentally wondered what would look out of place in Berkeley… may a pinstripe suit. They were able to tell me that an explosion had blown up to police cars in the police parking lot and there were no injuries.

They told me they would be searching the yard. It scared me to think the bomber could be in my backyard or my crawlspace without me knowing about it. They noticed my reaction and told me to lock all the doors. They said the neighborhood was sealed and nobody could get in the neighborhood or out of it. With that bit of information, I know at least one possibility for David’s delay.

After the cops left, I looked out the bay window to a yard lit by moonlight and the beams of two flashlights moving around the yard. It was upsetting to think of being a prisoner in my own home.
My yard got an all clear from the cops.

Another sound on the steps andI was on my feet and checking to make sure the front door was locked. This time it was David. He had been stopped at the end of the block. Both he and the car had been searched. The cops hadn’t found anything. One did make the comment that if they really looked and they were sure they could find something. He had been held at the end of the block until the block got an all clear.

I told David about my evening and all that it happened. For the next week, everyone on the block was searched whenever we left the block or came home. They never did find the bomber and no one claimed immediate credit for it. After some time, the bombing was attributed to the Weather Underground. All I can remember is how scared I was.

The Marcus (Not) Elliot Quartet at Cliff Bells

I went to Cliff Bells in Detroit tonight, May 28, 2013 to hear some jazz and have dinner. It was billed as the Marcus Elliot Quartet, but I knew that Marcus was on tour.

Tonight the quartet was Michael Malis (keys), Stephen Boeghold (drums), and Jeff Pedraz(bass). They were joined by Vincent Chandler on trombone. The scheduled bass player was Ben Ralston. He had a car accident on the way to the gig and totaled his car and was not hurt. they called Jeff and he filled in for the first set. Because of the delay, everything was an hour late.

I walked in towards the end of the first set and not the beginning of the second set. I have to admit here that trombone is not my favorite jazz instrument. I will also say that Vincent Chandler is one of the best. The best song they did while I was there was “Caravan.” They did a good job but I am still not sold on trombone in jazz as the only horn in a group. And this is only my uninformed opinion. i will say overall given the scare the musicians had, this was a good evening. My attitude is probably is best expressed in an old joke:

What’s the difference between a frog crossing the street and a jazz trombone player crossing the street?
The frog may be on his way to a gig.

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And the dinner…..

I wasn’t very hungry and ordered the House Charcuterie Board. I haven’t eaten there for long time and was not impressed. I heard they were better. The plates had been stacked in the refrigerator. I am sure they were covered. But, the olives had a crease in them. The grapes were squashed and definitely not juicy. The various meats were congealed and plastered to the plate. I got less hungry. I asked for the top plate. It was marginally better although since the meats were cold, they were still plastered to the plate.

Sometimes it is a partial miss.

My Favorite Dinner

I decided about a year ago to spend more time cooking and making the best meals I could for myself. The quality of my meals have gone up and now I really enjoy the process.

The meal in the picture is grilled salmon with a lemon caper sauce, wilted spinach and baby carrots dusted with curry sauce.

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It tasted so much better than it looks. One of the things I like about this one is the wonderful aroma especially from dusting the carrots with curry powder. I’ll have to get better at photography

Walter White Quartet at Cliff Bells

I went out to hear some jazz on Saturday night, May 25, 2013. My original plan was to go to Bakers Keyboard Lounge in Detroit to see Phil Denny. Bakers is the oldest jazz club in the world and has had it’s ups and downs in the last few years. They do have great sound and have so many wonderful jazz players coming through the place.

A Facebook page said they were sold out so I called and they said they were accepting walk ins for the 10 pm show. I know a couple of musicians who were backing Phil Denny so I decided to go. When I got there, there was a line waiting to get in the door. I joined the line. I was standing behind a woman wearing so much perfume, I tried to stand downwind. I know they were going to flip the room between shows so I had thought there would be seats. On the inside, it is crowded. The sight of a long line was not reassuring. I also know the room has a lot of seats that are not good. While I was in line, I saw a musician I knew and I told him that it was this show or Walter White Quartet at Cliff Bells, another jazz club in the entertainment district of Detroit. Given the situation, he suggested Cliff Bells and the Walter White Quartet. I was all too ready to agree knowing I would not get a decent seat at Bakers.

So, I got in the car and drove down to Cliff Bells. I had good parking karma and found a spot within 50 feet of the front door. I arrived towards the end of the first set but could see it was a good decision as soon as I walked in the door and heard the music.

I got a great table right in front of the stage. During the set break, they were correcting sound issues they had during the first set. The sound guy is not humble and I was amazed to see him actually try to get the sound balanced. I got my usual club soda and lime and watched the sound show while waiting for the second set.

Tonight the Walter White Quartet consisted of Walter White (tpt), Gary Shunk (keys), Sean Dobbins (drums) and Miles Brown (bass). They started out with a song names “Kayak” which I had not heard before. I have only been going out for 6 or 7 years and am still learning so much, it was a good start.

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The next number was “Midnight” from the 1930’s as an homage to a young lady in the audience having her 30th birthday. It was not the usual. The next number was “Moanin” and if this was the only song they did, it would be enough. They did it so well it was a highlight for me. The other songs in the set were “Always and Foreever”, Walt’s Waltz and Nica’s Dream.

One of the best things about the quartet is how well they created a good energy. Walter White is so much more than good technique. He has found his voice in the trumpet, you can hear him in the music. There were some things he was doing that I haven’t heard before and I enjoyed it all. All the musicians had there own unique voice and yet they brought it together to create something very special. It is so much fun to see musicians who are having fun, enjoying what they do and giving everyone an evening to remember.

Bonnie Houdini….the great dog escape artist

Bonnie’s Latest Escape

Bonnie, my 13 year old silky terrier, has been an escape artist from the very beginning. She is normally a nice companion dog. She chooses the escape as the only time to ignore any commands from me. Early on, she decided escape was a great, lovely game and ignoring me was the best part of the game. She has had one especially traumatic (for me) escape, but, more about that later.

About two weeks ago, she had her first escape of this year. All the old giving chase emotions sprung fully blown in me as she ran out the door with the thoughts of here we go again rushing through my head. Since she is 13, it turned out to be a ghost of her former glorious, for her, escapes.

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She made the dash when I had the back door leading to the open garage door wide open. I had been gardening and seem to get so very focused on gardening, I forget about my adventurous dog. She fled with a stuffed plush chipmunk clutched firmly in her teeth. The game was on.

She dropped the chipmunk in the driveway, looked back and headed down the street. This time, she ran down about two houses, stopped and turned. She was checking to see if I was about to give chase. She ran back the other way. Again, it was about two houses. I was just not into the game this time. I have tried this before so many times over the last few years. I grabbed my car keys just in case the chase went on fo r a few blocks. My neighbors have seen me following her in my car a few times a year waiting for her to get tired. This time she did a couple of runs by me up and down the street.

My neighbor, two houses down and across the street came to her door while I was doing the slow walking half- hearted chase. My neighbor and her kids have been staunch helpers for years. They have chased and helped me squeeze Bonnie into a corner for capture.

As usual, with my not very serious chase, Bonnie continued down the block. This time she went more slowly. I only had to do the wild wave in front of oncoming traffic once. Bonnie is so small that I am always afraid in this situation that drivers just cannot see her. Finally Bonnie stopped. I walked up slowly behind her not saying a word while she sniffed at some unknown fascinating scent on the ground and picked her up.

I am not sure why she stopped. It could be because I wasn’t playing the game. Maybe she was scared since she is losing her sight a bit. I have noticed that when I come home she has to inspect me before her exuberant display of joy at my homecoming. It could be that she didn’t hear me behind her. Only she knows. So, it does seem as we grow older that she is slowing down faster than I am. However, I can’t become complacent ….it is spring here and she may just be building her summer racing legs.