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.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

schipper's gone

i had the pleasure of working on another obit story last night. i was orginally set to go to saugatuck twp. planners when i got a call saying i'd be collaborating with sports on an obit story on ron schipper.

i had no idea who ron schipper was and had never heard of him. it doesn't help that i'm not a a big sports fan, so i would never have known he has one of the best winning records in division III football and 36 consecutive winning seasons. he coached at central college in iowa.

i took the task on with little knowledge. at first i was just happy not to go go to the planners' meeting. they average about five hours per meeting and i felt i would have had to have left before my item came up for discussion anyway.

once again the sports dept. helped me out and cam through with phone numbers of individuals who could comment on it. that was a good starting off point. i used three of them in my article. those thre led to two other people i also used.

schipper was retired but helped his son tim out in fennville. (tim's the head football coach there). i talked to the athletic dirctor tony petkus and he gave me good info and i got the sense that the fennville folks really cared for schipper and considered him a great asset to the practices and training.

then i talked to one of the players - lucas mcfarland. he spoke clearly and very articulately about schipper. then he said the two words i knew i wanted in my story lead. papa ron. he said everyone called him that. bam, it hit me like a wall. so when i finished the interviews and i began to write, the lead came rather naturally, which is unusual. sometimes it's the hardest thing to write.

\i also interviewed schipper's minister at christ memorial and the hope college athletic director. and dave herber, who's with an organization called parents for participation (a group trying to get two athletic programs at west ottawa). i got that name through rosemary ervine, west ottawa's superintendent.

alan added a comment from tim schipper that really gave the story a punch at just the right spot, too, when talking about the fennville program.

this story didn't come as easy as hank reest's story last week, but by the time i was done, i got a real good understanding of how loved and respected ron schipper was. what a nice way to be remembered by people after you're dead. some people really make a great impact in people's lives.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

the writing on the page

my friend rose e-mailed me friday night and told me she found a letter from the mid-1990s that she'd written to me but failed to mail. she said she'd get it to me some time. and, to be honest, i'd like to read it, bring back some old times and perhaps a few memories of the time.

she was commenting on the fact that those days -- handwritten letters -- are long gone and the callous on her writing hand is gone.

i got to thinking aobut her e-mail and comments afterward. it's something that most of us have transitioned from -- handwritten letters to e-mails. it's a logical transition. why not? we work on computers ow. typewriters are prety much obsolete.

i am guilty of writing e-mails now instead of letters. i'm ot exactly sure if the ransition happened quickly or not. i have plenty of letters from various friends ranging back to the early 1990s and up until before i married dawn. but the vast majority are from the early to mid-1990s. i got my first home computer in 1999 and i guess i started using it to send e-mails to people. it was quickly, after all. i could write a note to someone and get a reply within minutes, if they were at their computer at the time i sent the message. technology, it's great right?

well, yeah, it is. but i think that losing that callous (mine was on the last joint of the middle finger on my right hand), the thought behind each word (can't erase with pen, you know), the personal signature at the end, folding of the envelope and licking of the stamp, is all gone.

i used to love to write letters to friends. granted my handwriting is horrible (dawn says it's goten worse; i think it's from writing notes all the time at meetings an such). still, i found it exhilarating to write a letter. i'd usually write several pages detailing what had happened to me over the past month or so.

e-mails, as great as they are, seem impersonal. you can easily delete as you go or "select all" and erase an entire sentence or graph. and at the end i simply write roel. there's no fancy smancy shitty, eligible shitty signature. i miss signing off.

and sometimes we say we're too busy to communicate. man, e-mail is so quick. all yo uneed ae a few lines every couple of days to keep someone in the loop of your life. and yet, we fail to do it because we're busy or something. i think that when we have something really good and we have access to it, we simply accomodate into our lives and ...ah shit, i'm rambling and it's going nowhere. you get the picture, right?

anyway, to my friends who ever wrote me a letter, thanks. i still have a box full of them. every once in awhile, i run into the box and the letters and take a peek inside a few. talk about a blast from the past, man. i love it.

so hopefully i'll get rose's letter soon. the postal service needs a little business these days.