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, December 03, 2005

sinterklaas...a hit this year

i was dreading this year's sinterklaas event, especially after last year's fiasco in front of the holland museum. sinterklaas for you non-dutch folks is a dutch tradition that has carried on to our little town. although, the tradition has not been around here that long.

anyway, i have a story about last year's experience, which was the opposite of this year. this year, the short parade went down eighth street to the market place near the civic center. dennis and i, the dynamic duo, headed out,bundled up and headed to the hordes of people. i missed the old guy (complete with white beard) on his white steed and his helper zwarte piet (dark peter) running around the stret.
it happened so quick, i missed the old guy and freaked when people started walking west on eighth street.

anyway, i caught up to this woman walking with her kids and got some good comments from he. later, at the market place, i snagged two more adults and a teenage girl. my mission complete, i headed back to the office a couple of hundred yards away and wrote the story -- this time from the angle of it being the first sinterklaas to head to and end at themarket place. quite content, the story was done with no hesitation. (then i finished up another weekend story involving a boating mystery on lake huron. but that's for a different day.).

last year, though, was a different circumstance for me. the it was my first sinterklaas and didn't know what to expect. it was dreary, drizzly and cold. i was quite accustomed to the michigan cold. i was taken aback by the amount of kids and parents on the street. as a reporter, sometimes too much (as in people) can hinder the process of interviewing. i prefer to have fewer people, making my job easier. but when there is a thousand, it works against me. dumb, i know. but that's how i feel.

anyway, the parade would start on eighth street and head south on central ave. to centennial park, where sinterklaas and our king would light the lights at the park. it's a grand event. very nice to see and experience.

so i am surronded by tns of kids, snow on the ground and cold. i grab a family who's dutch and came from out of town for this event (they've come for years to experience it). then i head off to the museum where the old guy is inside to meet with the kiddies. i am outside the museum trying to talk to them and the parents.

here's where it gets really unfunny. and i will preface it by saying i'm wearing a blakc leather coat and a black hat over my head.

my cell rings and it's jim hayden saying in a hurried voice not to panic but that there's a policeman on his way to talk to me about talking to kids. someone reported a guy talking to kids and pretending to write notes, saying he worked for the paper. when they heard the call over the office scanner, they knew it was moi by the description.

i could have left and in hindsight, i should hve gotten the hell out of there quickly and would have made it back to the office before (insert harrison's white ablum song title here) arrived. but i was being diligent and professional and stayed since i didn't have a really good quote. i finally got one. i finished. but i notice the police car behind me and the guy taps my shoulder.

he wants to see my ID. i show him and tell him i work for the paper. he said i should have an work ID. i didn't have one. what could i say. he took down my info and sid i should have had one and left. i took off, furious and cussing.

i could't believe some twat called the cops on me. if they were so concerned, the person should have approached me. i couldn't write because the ink in my pen is frozen due to the cold. legite excuse. i pretend so that the kids don't freak when they see the little recorder underneath my note pad. now, i don't care so much. it's cold and there's no pretense. also, anyone could forge an office ID if they wanted to and pretend to be a reporter. i know that if i didn't have to be out there working (since i don't have children), i wouldnt' be there.

so for a year, i had been dreading this year's sinterklaas. no heed. it was sweet.
but i still can't shake the fact that someone thought i was there to check out the kids. that's really creepy. sometimes i wish i knew who the person was so i could approach him or her to ask why it was done.

oh well, long live sinterklaas and zwarte piet!!

dad update

caled my parents. dad had several tests done this week to see where the cancer was and how the chemo had worked or if it had spread.

turns out he has only one tumor of the four or five that he had in his liver that's still there. the others have shrunk or disappeared. however, since he still has that one tumor, he will have two more weeks of chemo. the doctor was a little upset because he should have had these two weeks of chemo before taking the two tests to see about the cancer. in addition, the oncologist said he should have been off the chemo for at least a month before having the tests performed on him so the chemicals would be out of his body.

next week he's going to have several more tests - on his brain and spine. also to check what's going on in there and to see if any cancer has spred in there.

i was pleased to hear that the tumors are mostly gone. but i was still saddened that he has to go through more chemo. he's had it bad these past six to eight weeks. i wish it was over and he'd get the Ok to discontinue the treatment.

i still find it hard to believe or grasp that my dad has cancer. its' really fucked up. i know my family isn't immune to anyting. of course, you always think it's someone else's family. that's a bullshit statement.

we'l see what's ahead and meet it head first.

Friday, December 02, 2005


my thursday night turned from an in-the-office working on a weekend story to rushing to get information on this zeeland missionary who was kidnapped in haiti thursday morning.

it was a mad rush at the office immediately after hearing the tidbit around 5:30 on the tv news. after a series of wrong numbers and information, krista suggested i call
channel 8 news (since they had the story). i did, got through to christine, a producer, and then forwarded on to jam, the reporter. he gave me the info and i called, setting up an interview with amber snyder an hour later.

phillip snyder had been kidnapped by unknown people, along with a child he was bringing back to the US for eye surgery. snyder is a missionary who works in haiti with an organization he cofounded called GLOW Ministries.

after securing the interview, things calmed down. however, the weather was nasty outside. snow blowing, roads icy. dennis and i were set to go. after driving back and forth down central ave. in zeeland with the snow falling and blinding, we find the house.

we conducted the interview in the basement while amber changed her six-month old son and her uncle dennis looked on as we talked. she described the details of how she got the call from phillip telling her he was OK nd he loved her. she had no clue he'd been kidnapped until she asked him. he said yes. he'd been shot in the arm, too.
kidnappers want $300,000.

twenty minutes later, we were back in the car and heading back to the office. dennis was still cranky (as he drank a root beer) because the second briefcase he'd bought that day wouldn't open. he had his computer and other stuff inside. he was furiuos and frustrated and couldn't stop thinking of it. it was both comical to see him going back to the subject of the briefcase and tough to see him. i can dig his frustration, especially if all my shit was inside it. after some discussion, we headed back to the office. afterward he was off to office max to get the thing ripped open. will he buy another briefcase? stay tuned folks.

back at the office, it took me quite awhile to put the story together. i wanted to write someting good and with certain stories it's hard to get into it for fear of screwing up (the family rejected an interview with AP, saying we were going over). by 10 i was done with the article and satisfied. krista said there was a wire story about the incident from haiti with comments from a police commander in haiti. she added it into the story. i also talked with congressman hoekstra and placed comments byhim in the article. overall, it was informative and well-written.

as of today, noon, snyder was still held captive. amber was convinced he would return safe and only a matter of when. she got my number and would call when the time came. that would make a good article, nice follow-up.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

end of an era

yes, it's true. tom van howe of wood tv 8 has retired. wednesday's 11 p.m. newscast was his last in his vast 35-year news journalistic career. he's giving it all up for...becoming a skipper. capt. tom as he called imself on air.

we've been privvy to tom's on-air escapades over the past month, getting glimpses of
tom in his heyday on the front line of journalism.

boy, it was a lovefest wednesday night. everyone was gushing and loving.
the small group of us sat in the office, teary-eyed and clutching our chests.
no more malaprops, stutters, fumblings, uhs and uhms, glancing down at notes and everyting under the sun that ou can think of not to do on air.

we will miss you, tom. cheers, old buddy.
we still have suzy and that's some consolation. we'll keep watching.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

parade of lights

holland had its annual parade of lights (uesday) where folks
and cars are lit up (folks with lanterns) and cars with lights.
they all go down eighth st. and down through the market place (a new
thing now).

dennis and i rush down there, scooting over people and avoiding the cold
weather, trying to look for this 87-year-old woman on one of the
floats. we went back and forth and couldn't find her. she was on entry 22.
we went to entry 35 and then went back and found ourselves at entry 5.
we gave up. dennis had to snap some photos because the parade had started.

i went into panic mode. i always do at these events where there
are hundreds of people (maybe a thousand????) and then i try to interview
one or two and i don't get lucky. it's happened where i strike out and i'm
struggling to find some good quotes.

it's tough. i find that i need to feel out the situation or the person. bad vibe, then i don't talk to them. it happened with the first person i stood next to. walked away. the second, third and fourth individuals it worked and i had my stuff as the parade went by.

i never talked to the 87-year-old. dennis laer told me she didn't ride
the entire route. she was dropped off at warm friend (retiremetn home) in downtown. oh well, they don't always work.

one parade down, one to go on friday. my dreaded sinter claus on friday. there is a story behind this one from last year's sinter claus. but i will tell the not so funny tale friday night after this year's event. i'll weight them against each other. although, i don't see how this year's could be worse than last year, short of me being arrested.

note to self: take the sentinel id badge.