These are the thoughts of a Texas transplant in West Michigan who makes his living as a newspaper reporter by evening, and a struggling novelist by day.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

pumpkinfest part 2

attended my last day at pumpkinfest friday. thoroughly enjoyed it. as with many events i cover, i'd enjoy them much more if i was simply there as a spectator instead of reporter.

still, i attached myself to this woman and her niece. i usualy try to find someone to focus on when it comes to an event that has a lot of stuff going on. well, this woman was participating in the pumpkin pie eating contest for the first time at age 39 most of the event is for the kids, but there's a 15 to adult category. her niece had participated in one of the kids' categories.

it seems he adults have more fun than thekids. they're right over the kids' backs egging them on, cheering, hooting. one mom even said, 'lick your chops.' cracks me up.

again the weather cooperated. so cool out, even cold for me. but it didn't deter anyone from having fun.

the purpose of the pie eating was to eat one slice of pumpkin pie the fastest. that was good. it would have been gluttonous to have attempted an entire pie and failed and let it go to waste.

last year i focused on pumpkin seed spitting and that went on again this year but decided against doing the same story again for a second year. i'm gld i didn't do it. give it a little mixture.

olivia, who was in the office late last night, beganlaughing for her end of the office and said, 'i love it' to me. she liked my story lead, which was a stake of on the movie 'fight club,' with the whole what's the first rule of fight club thing. my lead was the first rule of pumpkin pie eating is no hands. the second rule of pumpkin pie eating is eat all the pie. i'll admit, it was funny, and i dare say, a little clever? heh heh

Friday, October 07, 2005

pumpkinfest part 1

i was assigned to go to zeeland to write something up about the pumpkinfest they have there. i had no angle and was sorta hesitant about writing something. the main events are friday (pumpkin seed spitting and pumpkin pie eating). but i went out there with dennis and thought i'd see what i'd get.

the weather cooperated. it was hot, at least for MI this time of year, yesterday and the thought of being at the pumpkinfest with hot weather bummed me. but lo and behold, the cool weather blew in wednesday night. it was perfect out there. felt like real fall with a wind tunnel being formed by the downtown buildings and wind coming out of the west with a vengeance. (last year when i covered the pumpkin seed spitting contest, it was nice and toasty).

but upon arriving i found my story. kids were running everywhere and decided it might be a "kids' day at pumpkinfest story." and i sorta went that way. but i focused on the tractor pull for kids. they would get in a miniature tractor and pull a tailer with weights in a large container. the weight went up to 250 pounds. i centered my story on that. it worked out. i weaved in some color and some quotes from other kids doing other activities and it came together quickly back at the office (it had to because i also have to watch "survivor" because of gary hogeboom, who's sort of a local and i have to write a brief every week he's on it).

i really like pumpkinfest. i'm glad zeeland has it. it gives the kids and parents something fun to do during this weekend. and tha's cool. got to get in all the fun you can before winter sets in. i think that's one of the reasons people hae lots of fun stuff and events during the fall.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

the fire part 2

this is the first time i have had two back-to-back articles in the paper about fires. i was ready to head off to a meeting in laketown when the scanner sounded that there was smoke coming out of a residence on river and 19th st.

peg freaked because her house in on that block. she gave me a ride over. turns out it was a house about three down from hers on the corner of the cul-de-sac. still, they gve no address on the scanner, so she was unsure.

this fire was very minor compared to the one tuesday night. this one was a house and there was one renter living downstairs. fire appeared to have been caused by the dryer. the guy left it on while he went out for coffee. fire damage was limited to that laundry room area.

it was a relatively easy story to write. this one made page two. but dennis' photo made the front. it was a good shot.

when i found out it was a dryer fire, i became a little nervous. i get freaked about that kind of fire. i dunno why. i guess because i hear about too many of them. dennis said he's going to get renter's insurance now. i think yesterday's apt. fire really hit home, especially since a lot of these folks lost their entire belongings.

got plenty of thumbs up from the first fire story. krista, olivia and jcr said they liked it. jim t. even stopped by and said i did a good job pulling iit all together. had all the right elements in it.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

the fire

i went to the scene of a fire for the first time in ages. it was an apartmetn building. i arrived yestrday afternoon to find part of the builidng on fire and it spread up to the top floor (eventually destroying three units).

it wasn't chaotic as i expected, which is usually the case with fire scenes, with fire engines pumping water, motors running, people are a blur, lights flashing, and smoke and flames distracting. the victims were standing together behind yellow tape and i made my way towards them. they watched as their homes burned. one girl, only 17, was on her way to work in fifteen minutes, when she saw the flames. all she had left was a plastic bag containing a change of clothes and some money. in the other hand she had a cordless phone she used to call 911, the connection no longer working.

there were quite a bit of latinos and i was able to talk with them easily enough. they were forthcoming with information. but i always feel like a buzzard swooping in to get comments. it's my job and it's expected but i still feel crappy about it.

but the human spirit amazing me. some of the people were talking quietly, some laughing and chatting with each other. the one girl i talked to gave me the most emotonal reaction when she saw a firefighter being pulled out of the fire and placed on a tarp and his equipment yanked off his face. he was Ok.

the fire was cut down but after 30 minutes flared up again. it took almost two hours before it was stamped out. the fire departmetns were there until nearly 11 p.m. the fire started at 5 p.m.

when i left the scene at neary 7, i was penetrated with smoke. i dunno if it was wind coming our way or simply the fire being put out, but the smoke was as thick as fog.

sad stories at the scene. the young girl i talked to lost her fish, computer and pretty much everything. another lady said she's diabetic and lost her meds. a man said this was the second fire for him in less than a year. everyone has a different story to tell at the scene. none is good.

the story, after having talked to residents, the apt. owner and the fire chief, was writen fairly quickly. i was happy with it. got a thumbs up from jh. that's always cool.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

the waiting game

after calling linda last night, the news is worse. but did i expect it would be better? i guess not. when i spoke to her earlier in the day, she and arnold were at the hospital (she had an ob/gyn app.). she told me sandy and aunt patsy came out after seeing uncle gocha and sanday was really crying. she didn't know why then. i called again last night and she said it was because my uncle was no longer responsive, as he had been before. now, he was unable to move his right arm or leg or even smile with his right side. apparenty his body was no longer moving and he had gne unconscious. i guess even though the situation may seem hopeless, if he's still moving and responding, he shows signs of life and doing things we all do. but reality sinks in once he stops doing that.

my aunt finaly broke down yesterday and cried. but linda said she's still telling othes to be careful and take care. sandy is a mess and michael doesn't want his dad to die.

and, in the meantime, all they can do is wait until his brain shuts down, which would then shut down others organs in his body until his heart goes. and all my family can do is watch as he dies.

several perspectives on this. dawn said that when her dad died, or before he died, he slipped into unsonsciousness. his body took two to three days to shut down but his brain was already gone. she said that after he went unsonscious, her dad, the man she knew, was already gone in her mind and all that was left was the body waiting to catch up to the brain.

krista told me that the added days gave the family time to say goodbye when her grandmother died some months ago. the days helped the family cope with the inevitability of death and provide them with the opportunity to say what they have to say to her. i guess that is the one plus of not dying in one "fell swoop" (as a colleague 0f mine recently wrote in an article). and when the time finally comes, you would have said everything you need to and the heart is clean.

as for my uncle, we'll see how it goes the next few days.

Monday, October 03, 2005

uncle gocha

bad news still continues on uncle gocha. the last report tonight was docs gave me five days to live. as sandy said earlier, it's a waiting game. docs can't go in and his brain continues to swell.

it's a sad situation, completely helpless. bobby, michael and sandy and anut patsy have to sit and watch while their father and husband slowly dies.

it's funny that i was thinking similar things earlier today and yesterday when i found out about my uncle. linda and sandy had talked about the luck our family is having, with eli, mine and dad. it seemed like our family was cursed or that somebody had put some spell or something on our family. something was happening to each brother and sister in the family. this was a conversation they had some months back. i thought about this during the weekend. linda brought it up tonight. and now it's sandy's dad, too. the men in that generation are having a rough go right now. and of course mine, too. i dunno why. perhaps it seems worse because for so long, there had been nothing, no one had gotten seriously ill. then in 13 months four of the siblings get sick -- two with strokes and two with cancer.

so weird.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

music and the mind

linda called this morning, early for me, and i was a littel nervous. then she said i've got bad news. my stomach sunk. thought it was dad. but no, it was not him. it was uncle gocha. he'd had a stroke. a bad one.

after spending the day with the family at the hospital, the info isn' great at this point. two blood vessels burst in his brain and there was bleeding. but the docs didn't want to go in and relief the pressure and drain the blood because of his health and age. so the blood is spreading. can't operate.

he said he didn't want to be a vegetable and if it came to this, to remove the respirator. that must be a tough call. but i guess wishes are wishes.

this is rough. dad's family isn't having a good year. first, eli has a stroke sept. 3, 2004, then mine's breast cancer and masectomy in february. dad's cancer in june and now this.

this one differs from eli's blood clot because the docs removed it before it burst. this one they didn't have a chance to get to it in time. the next few days will be crucial.

tonight, with thoghts of my uncle in mind, we headed off to grand rapids. we had purchased tickets a few months ago to see randy travis in concert. such a good show. he sounded like he does on cd. rich deep voice. laugh if you will but we do enjoy our musical variety. (i'm still trying to convince dawnie to see iron maiden if they should ever come to GR, but i doubt she'll ever see them with me. it's cool. not her scene.)

very subdued audience. probably the most subdued crowd at a concert i'd been to. but they were into the show, clapping, hooting and yelling out stuff like 'we love you randy.' still, the only show where i've sat down through the entire show. not bad. now we can mark off randy travis off our must-see list.