What came first – the chicken or the egg(nog)?

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Tonight, from 8:30 to 9:30 is “Earth Hour”, an international event organized by the World Wildlife Fund.  The event asks you to “join hundreds of millions of people around the world and turn off your lights for one hour to show your commitment to climate change” … nearly 60,000 people have committed at the WWF site already.

Well, the climate is a’changin’ here on our planet, that’s for sure, and the past two years Mother Nature has given us plenty to yak about, especially during the Winter.  We’re already a week into Spring, and while I was running errands this morning, the snow flurries were flying and it was freezing.  Yikes!

On my “to do” list, I scratched off taking the Winter coats and hats to the cleaners for a couple of more weeks at least.

I parked a good deal away from the grocery store to get some fresh air and add some steps to my trip.  Then, I racked up another two miles from shopping and schlepping groceries from the car into the house.  Today the miles driven and walked are the same for 2015 – 46 miles to date.

The store was bursting at the seams with Easter goodies and paraphernalia, even though folks were bundled up in heavy coats, and warm wool hats and gloves.  The frosty temps seemed absurd once you saw the array of pastel frilly dresses for young girls and the brightly colored baskets, towering white chocolate bunnies and foil-wrapped eggs sitting on vibrant shades of plastic Easter grass.

At 24 degrees, with a wind-chill of 12 degrees, who can think of next week’s big holiday, no matter how many treats you tossed into your cart?

Those Saturday shoppers and their peeps crowded around the aisle where those sweet and sugary marshmallow “Peeps” were displayed.  “Peeps” continue to corner the Easter market and have squeezed out the other seasonal items, even the perpetual favorite – jellybeans.  There were boxes and boxes of pastel marshmallow chicks and bunnies, sure to please every palate.  And, if that sticky marshmallow sweetness isn’t your shtick, you can always buy “Peeps” cupcake wrappers and cake decorations.  Did you know that now you can even get “Peeps” Easter milk which is inspired by these marshmallow treats?  If your kids swigged down a glass or two of marshmallow eggnog, or chocolate marshmallow milk, they’d be bouncing off the walls for sure.

Tomorrow afternoon, the City-sponsored Easter egg hunt will take place, hopefully not at the same time as the one or two inches of snow the forecasters are now predicting.  That’ll put a kibosh on this annual event.  Can you imagine the little nippers scrambling around Memorial Park in the snow, clutching their baskets and taking a booted foot to part the white stuff and find those plastic eggs packed with treats and fast-food coupons?

At least the tall guy dressed in his furry bunny costume and posing as Peter Cottontail will be warm.

Perhaps the parents, as they clamber to get up close with their cameras, will make some warm and fuzzy memories to share with friends and family as well.

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Not all ad men are “Mad Men”.

03-25-15

Though I cancelled my cable and haven’t parked myself before a TV for many years, occasionally I hear sound bites or follow the online chatter about the AMC cable show “Mad Men”.

I worked in an ad agency for 18 months after graduating from Wayne State University in June of 1978. The show “Mad Men” would have you believe that all ad men are ruthless and self-serving like Don Draper.

Having been immersed in the world of advertising for that year and a half, that’s not really a true statement … not for all ad men anyway. A couple of special ones stand out in my mind, but one in particular who held, and will always hold, a special place in my heart. He was a mentor to me and a friend as well.

Back in ’78, as a sentimental, stars-in-my-eyes recent college grad, I soon found that writers and art directors, even producers, were rather a transient bunch. While they seemed content on the outside, inwardly they were still seeking the ultimate arena in which to use and exhibit their creativity. They were wont to update their résumés and pack up their typewriters or easels and markers and take off in a heartbeat. I can’t tell you how many going-away luncheons I attended during the 18 months at Young & Rubicam as our 40-person department dwindled.

I wrote this post this morning as the rain incessantly pounded the windows and the wind blew gustily. A walk was out of the question for me. That’s okay because I had a story to tell anyway.

A blogging buddy in my Patch.com group recently wrote a poem and accompanying post on the topic of friendship. I read it, then commented about keeping in touch and renewing old friendships, even after decades had passed. Since joining Facebook back in 2009, I’ve reconnected with several high school friends after many of them were scattered to the four winds.

That impromptu online chatter with Jeanne Claire Probst got me thinking about the plethora of people that I’d lost touch with through the years. I jotted down a few of their names and told myself that when I got a chance, I would indeed see if these folks were on Facebook or Twitter, just to see what they were up to and possibly renew old ties.

Social media was not around for some of these old schoolmates, coworkers or travelling companions, and the letters and cards dwindled during the years, so I’d lost track of many people. So, it seemed like a good idea to reconnect with the past and let the decades just fall away in doing so.

However, treading onto the far reaches of the internet to make those connections ended up being a rather painful foray when I discovered that a beloved boss passed away on March 10th, a mere two weeks ago.

His name was Gerald M. Apoian, but he was just plain old Jerry to all who knew him.

He was my first real boss after I graduated from college and ventured out into the real world beyond the diner, where I worked while I attended school. Hoping to rise through the ranks to a junior copywriter position someday, I joined the advertising agency Young & Rubicam in the Summer of 1978 as a secretary.

Jerry was not my only boss since I worked for a team of copywriters and art directors.

But he was my favorite of the bunch.

He and I had both graduated with degrees in Mass Communications. His was from Michigan State.

Only he had landed a job in that chosen field and I did not. But, it was not for lack of trying. There weren’t even opportunities after my WSU internship. I worked for a wire service writing “shorts” or little blurbs about Detroit for six weeks, which was required to graduate. Though I scoured the newspapers for a job, even as a stringer at $0.25 a line, I heard the same thing over and over: “the market is flooded with reporters due to the Watergate scandal – you’ll have to use your degree elsewhere” … sigh.

If I close my eyes, I can see Jerry in my mind just like it was yesterday though it has been 35 long years. I see him hunkered in the corner of his office, hunched over the typewriter, his thoughts conveyed through those long, nimble fingers as he typed fast and furiously, the bell signifying the push to the carriage return was in order.

Jerry’s typewriter, a rickety old black Royal, was tucked in the far corner of his small office, right next to the window. He’d be banging away on that typewriter, with a cadence and speed that would just as easily match mine as I sat at my desk outside his office, my own fingers flying over the keyboard of my bright blue IBM Selectric typewriter.

Occasionally, I’d hear him ripping out a sheet of yellow foolscap paper from that Royal typewriter when a thought was aborted and soon that piece of paper was crumbled into a ball and tossed into the circular file, or sometimes littering the floor with others. Then he’d open the drawer for another sheet of paper which he’d quickly roll into the platen before the next thought escaped his mind; in seconds he’d be typing along at breakneck speed once again.

Soon, he’d run out of his office clutching his draft, eager to have me retype it on official bond Y&R script paper, to be presented to the creative group, and eventually the client.

He was a character and full of life and fun.

He had a wacky laugh, a long and loud howl that would erupt from that mustachioed mouth whenever he thought something was really funny. His laugh was infectious and could bring a smile to your face.

He had a shock of wavy auburn hair that he slicked back, but that was prone to frizzing out when it rained.

And then, there were those unusual-looking eyebrows that looked like two bristly caterpillars, half-hidden behind his horn-rimmed glasses.

He was a big guy, with admitted love handles that hung over the waist of his blue jeans, but were camouflaged by the beige safari-type shirts that he liked to wear.

His buddies called him “Large” but I called him “Grade A” to his face and laughingly suggested others use that moniker as well. I do believe I made him blush sometimes.

He didn’t just write the commercial scripts but went on scene with his sidekick, his art director, Larry Carroll. They would fly to California to oversee the shoots with the likes of Hal Linden touting the Newport, and who could forget Ricardo Montalban and his smooth voice as he caressed that Chrysler Cordoba’s Corinthian leather? It was Jerry who wrote the scripts for those commercials that were so well known in the late 70s. When the shoots were finished Jerry used to fly to New York to finalize and produce the commercials as well.

But things were not so rosy when Y&R lost the Chrysler account in 1979. It was a black day indeed as we were one of three advertising agencies that serviced Chrysler-Plymouth; one day President Lee Iacocca decided he wanted new blood creating ads for his products and he fired all three agencies.

We were several months without a major account before landing the plum Lincoln-Mercury business. But, as mentioned earlier, advertising folks are prone to bouncing around from one agency to the next, and the ranks of the Creative Department soon dwindled. Jerry stayed, but Larry strayed to another agency. Then Jerry was paired with a new art director named Dan Hughes. He was nice enough but the magic of the new duo’s relationship was not the same.

And other things were not the same. The new client wanted control of all the shoots and post-production taking most of the creative control away from Jerry.

There was a large lack of morale in the Creative Department and around the ad agency in general.

Before the loss of Chrysler, there were often long lunches with our whole department at “The Pontchartrain Wine Cellars” and ice cream Hummers at “The Chop House” to celebrate a completed ad or just for the heck of it.

There were impromptu guitar sessions where the creative honchos sat around collaborating on scripts and storyboards and playing their folk guitars … their version of “Classical Gas” was one of my favorites.

But, when there was work to be done we all hunkered down and did it.

To boost morale, Y&R formed a baseball team and we had that to preoccupy our minds and fill the voids for our friends who had left. Jerry told me to volunteer to be the editor of the new company newspaper. He worked tirelessly with me, shooting pictures, laying out the first issue and even going to the printer with me. He was somehow determined he should be my mentor and help me along up the corporate ladder to aspire to advance beyond the typist position that I currently had.

Then one day Jerry asked me to come into his office and announced he was going to J. Walter Thompson. Before I could interject “can I come too?” he said “no, I’m sorry, but I can’t take you along” … I was heartbroken and refused to go to Jerry’s going away party, knowing it would be too painful for me.

As friendships or relationship go, especially in the workplace – well you win some and you lose some. Sure we kept in touch for awhile. We talked a few times on the phone to catch up about business after he left, but this was long before social media keeps the world in touch at your fingertips or just a mouse click away. E-mail and cellphones were all non-existent back in 1979 – to ordinary people anyway.

After a year or two, even Jerry’s creative Christmas card which in the past featured his writing and Larry’s photos, failed to show up in my mailbox anymore. So much for Jerry’s description of a Summer sky as “marshmallow pies and blueberry skies” or Larry’s exquisite photos. Jerry moved to New York and I’m sure Linda Schaub became the furthest thing from his mind.

I’ve thought about contacting him through the years just to touch base and say “hey”, especially since having the World Wide Web at my disposal. Jerry got semi-famous and was “Google-able” with an e-mail address, but I resisted reaching out, thinking perhaps he would be disappointed that his mentoring had stopped dead in its tracks and I’d not pursued a writing career. I left Y&R a few months later and began a career in the legal field in February 1980.

So, I never tried to contact Jerry, but I thought about him through the years from time to time.

I know he went on to bigger and better things; he directed films – won some awards at Cannes Film Festival and worked tirelessly with a company named Advertising Production Resources, or APR, his last job. I read all these achievements last night.

The funny thing is, I was concerned that he would be disappointed in me and gave that more consideration than my parents who paid for my whole college education. Perhaps that is because my father often told me “I could have bought your mother a mink coat and myself a Cadillac or a T-bird with the money I spent on your college education” and every time my father said that, it hurt, but in the end I shrugged it off.

But, yet I didn’t want to disappoint Jerry.

Funny how your priorities get all screwed up like that sometimes.

So, last night I noodled around Facebook and Twitter looking to find Jerry and Larry and to catch up with them, if they were so inclined.

Jerry was not on Facebook, but on Twitter as my search revealed a memorial fund in his memory. A memorial fund?! I opened the link, and my eyes misted up and I am sure I must have said “oh my God – oh no” over and over while my brain processed that information.

I exited out of the article, as if that would make the story untrue.

Then I went back and re-Googled and re-read the story a few more times and an obituary notice as well. Yes, it gave his birthdate which I knew, and the picture above. Yes, it was so.

On Facebook the APR, which he was associated with, said his death was unexpected and left his colleagues reeling in disbelief.

I was in shock as well, decades after I’d wished him goodbye and good luck and he said “there is no good in goodbye” … well, 35 years later it is even more painful.

So, of course I wonder now why the h*ll I didn’t reach out and say “hi” before this?

Maybe I could have sent him the link to my blog and said “will this pass muster; will this do because it’s probably not what you hoped for, but it is me and my life and my meanderings?”

He might have laughed heartily at that question and said “you did okay kiddo – you’ll be fine” just like he told me so many times before.

(Image of Jerry Apoian from Snipview.com)

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I froze my buns off this morning.

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Good thing this is not one of those years when we have an early Easter and the kids are off school this week. It was barely in the 20s when I bundled up and left the house for my walk.

I was determined to go despite the dithering by Mother Nature as to this March weather.

The temps are up – the temps are down. One day it’s warm, and the next day you freeze. Wednesday will be in the 60s with rain most of the day.

The old gal is indecisive to say the least.

I am not a feminist by any means, but I have to admit that I usually take exception when someone utters the phrase “it’s a woman’s prerogative to change her mind” … it doesn’t seem complimentary in the least to women.

But I have to admit … Mother Nature has been pretty ambivalent this past few weeks.

On this frosty morn, as I trekked to the border of Wyandotte and Lincoln Park, I noticed the mishmash of holiday décor in the neighborhoods where I walked. There were still some Halloween pumpkins and Thanksgiving turkeys adorning the landscape and lots of Christmas decorations as well. Hearts and cupids for Valentine’s Day and leprechauns for St. Pat’s Day are still hanging around, but very few Easter decorations.

I don’t have my Easter wreath up either because it is so cold that the big fuzzy bunny sticks to the screen door and his flattened face is not such a good look to the outside world.

The cold air made me hungry despite my over-sized portion of oatmeal I had this morning. After I returned home, while eating a container of Greek yogurt, I was wishing I was eating something warm and tasty instead. It got me thinking and soon I was remembering hot cross buns from my past – way back in Canada. After we moved here to the States, every Easter my mom would bemoan that the American hot cross buns lacked the oomph of their Canadian counterparts, like a liberal saturation of allspice, nutmeg and cinnamon as well as a bounty of candied fruit. In our family, we always gave up sweets for Lent, so that when we were allowed to indulge our sweet tooth once again on Good Friday, hopefully the treat we had long hankered for, lived up to its expectations. Good Friday was always the entire day off from work and school so our breakfast treat was oven-toasted hot cross buns, slathered with sweet butter and topped with English sweet orange marmalade. The smell wafted through the house and somehow those long weeks of going without sweets were quickly forgotten.

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I rebooted my brain at the Park earlier today …

03-22-15

That’s because today was the long-awaited return to Council Point Park. Unfortunately the trip back in early February was marred by mounds of snow and not a very doable walk at all.

I slipped out the screen door quietly on a still Sunday morn.

But soon the silence was broken by the unmistakable screech of a seagull traversing the morning sky. And, what a gorgeous sky it was … a pinkish palette mixing it up with hues of pale gray. While the morning sky certainly didn’t rival the recent Northern lights, it was peaceful looking.

I watched the seagull in that serene sky. That big bird almost blended in, but for its bright yellow bill which was moving up and down with each screech. Was he telling me that my presence had interrupted his train of thought, or, was he calling to his brethren that there were goodies galore in the street? Well, I don’t “speak seagull”, but I know on the weekends the cross-streets are often littered with drinking cups, or fast-food wrappers and bags, the remnants of a carload or two or three making a midnight foray to Mickey D’s and then tossing the dregs from that trip into the street.

He kept circling overhead and I was glad he was not a buzzard as I might have worried. After all, I thought I looked perky enough, having dragged out my pastel pink sweat suit in an effort to look Spring-y looking and I donned a grayish-colored London Fog jacket, neither particularly known for their stylishness, but I was comfy. In fact I briefly mused that I resembled the sky at that particular moment, though in my fascination with Mr. Seagull’s gliding and swooping maneuvers in the pink-and-gray-tinged Heavens, the sky seemed to be lightening up quickly and becoming blue.

The screeching continued and I tried to tune him out as I walked along. After all, this walk was not only to pump the heart and lift my soul, but to reboot my brain as well.

Finally, he soared higher until he was a mere speck in the sky which was now a robin’s egg blue with a few puffy clouds which resembled cotton balls and they scurried quickly across the ever-changing canvas.

A mere 24 hours after seeing the robin enjoying his ablution in that puddle of water in the street, I came upon him once again. I watched him fly down from the tree, hop over and pause by “his puddle”, where I think he was perplexed by the icy glaze. I watched the antics from afar, and when he saw the thin veil of ice, he angrily pecked a hole in it with his beak and soon the thin slivers of ice just parted and floated away down the street. Like before, he plunged right into the icy drink and I figure it was like diving into a Slurpee. He made me cold just watching him since it was below freezing with a wind-chill in the 20s.

My feet were on auto-pilot as I wended my way through the neighborhoods enroute to the Park. I kept crunching down on rock salt that was still on sidewalks and streets, and there were chunks of asphalt that the City had piled into potholes and it had been dragged everywhere. A few industrious gardeners had already fertilized their lawns, and those nuggets that had escaped from the spreader were all over the sidewalk.

I arrived at the Park and there was only one other walker. We stopped and greeted one another, then went our separate ways.

I had a welcoming committee of sorts – a few squirrels who saw me and bounded right over. I wanted to believe they remembered me from last year, rather than seeing me as a mere meal ticket, but I pulled out my Ziploc bag and treated them to some peanuts and so they were happy.

The robins were plentiful, hopping and bopping around, and a cute little Downy Woodpecker flitted from tree to tree while I walked along and delighted me with his drilling practice which reverberated through the Park since it was so quiet and peaceful.

A pair of geese decided to stir up some commotion just as I walked by and I sidestepped them just a bit, then the pair walked over close to the trail and one started hissing and flapping his wings loudly. They had been sitting down and suddenly got a little too rambunctious for my liking, but they were harmless.

It was windy and there were alot of ripples in the Creek on the side that is more open, and on the opposite side, there were still patches of snow along the marshy edge and in some places, ice covered parts of the water. The ice appeared to be so thin, that it looked like the skin that forms on the top of pudding within a matter of minutes.

As I peered through the bulrushes I saw a beautiful male wood duck. I recognized the crest and the colors right away. He was nibbling on some dried-up reeds and I was sorry I didn’t bring my camera with me to capture his photo. I thought he was all alone, but then a drab-colored duck swam up next to him, probably his mate. I wondered if they had migrated from a warmer state and this was a stopping place for them, or if they’d spent the Winter here in Michigan.

Next, I rounded the bend and a group of mallards were preening themselves and looking for food as evidenced from several duck tails sitting straight up in the water.

I finished my first loop of the trail for the year and headed home, and though I was cold, I lingered just a little longer, happy to have some sunlight on my face.

I passed a huge bush filled with buds, probably a forsythia, and then it did my heart good when a few minutes later I saw a group of snowdrops under a big tree, their blooms weighing down the tiny plants.

At that moment, I decided that all the technology in the world cannot surpass the miracle of these plants, bushes and trees which re-emerge every Spring after a brutally cold and snowy Winter season, especially like those temps we endured for nearly two months.

Those tiny snowdrops are just a preview of coming attractions.

I am glad I made the trip and rebooted my brain today – my system status is now A-OK.

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Woo-hoo … Spring is finally here!

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Today marks the first full day of Spring.

I decided I must get myself back into a regimen in conjunction with the walking, but it has been so difficult after several months of being sedentary – no, make that almost sloth-like, which was pitiful in lieu of the 565 miles I walked last year.

Sure … I said I’d go downstairs and ride the exercise bike every morning, which sounded good on paper and made for a terrific New Year’s resolution. Every morning that alarm would ring and I’d consider the idea – really I would. But, the thought of peeling off my warm polar fleece jammies and traipsing downstairs to the cold basement in shorts and a tee-shirt versus curling up as content as a cat under the covers – well, you do the math on how many bike rides I took.

So, no more excuses, and now I need to atone for all those mornings that I stole a few extra ZZZZs and merely trudged out like an automaton to run the car, which trip substituted as the exercise for the day.

This morning I forced myself to be up and at ‘em, and ready to go and hit the three-mile mark if possible.

However, first I had to resort to a trick with the alarm clock to get me bouncing out of the bed, like it was a warm Summer day. Instead of a snooze alarm, I have two alarm clocks, set about 15 to 20 minutes apart. You might recall one of them broke when we had to spring ahead a few weeks ago. My new alarm clock, a different model, has a rather obnoxious ring to it. It is loud and would wake the dead. So, I put that one in the kitchen last night, and when the first alarm went off this morning, I hightailed it to the kitchen to shut the second alarm clock off, and then just stayed up. Perfect! I was feeling smart to have come up with this plan, rather than just rolling over for forty more winks and falling asleep again.

I headed out, and, just as I closed the screen door behind me, I shot a glance at my next-door neighbor Marge’s big thermometer – yup, the needle rested right at 40 degrees, just like the weatherman said. Nice! Marge is hopeful that Spring has sprung because I noticed her two gliders out on the deck, complete with pillows. Now, that’s a positive attitude. The squirrels and birds, however, are left scratching their respective heads, wondering where she will strew their goodies now?

It was windy out but that is the way March is supposed to be, right? March is all about those winds, followed by April showers and the promise of May flowers. It was also quite humid this morning and wet patches were all over the streets and sidewalks. Someone close by was burning wood in their fireplace and the smell seemed to carry and land on my clothes and stayed with me the balance of my trip.

The snow has not all melted and every so often, in bushy areas where the sun can’t reach, there is an occasional pile of snow. The rest of the landscaping is rather lackluster with brown and yellow grass and bare trees and bushes everywhere.

The chalk artists have already been out – those youngsters wielding a big, fat pastel stick which gets whittled down quickly once they start drawing on the bumpy sidewalk. I saw some chalk drawings with flowers that resembled hippie VW van artwork circa the 60s or 70s. There were also alot of pictures of stick people with no clothes on – brrrrrrrrrrr.

Those pastel chalk sketches were not the only telltale signs of Spring on my walk today. I also saw the perennial harbinger of the season, robin redbreast, who crossed my path soon after I left the house. He spied a puddle at the end of a homeowner’s driveway and hopped over there, eager to try it out. Into the puddle he plunged, and squatted down until his full body was immersed in the murky water. Then he flipped his wings and water droplets flew everywhere. There was mud in the street, so his bathwater wasn’t the cleanest, but he was content and splish-splashed away, totally oblivious to my presence. Seeing that robin, I made a mental note to start coming up with a plan to keep the pesky robin at my house from trying to build a home in the coach light since he and I have an annual battle over his nest-building the entire month of May.

I decided to walk to the border of Lincoln Park and Wyandotte, a familiar route when I first began my walking regimen. I paused at the bridge over the Ecorse Creek, which separates the two cities, and looked for ducks and geese. There were about a dozen or so, and they were tucked away on top of the occasional patches of snow which outlined the fringes of the Creek. They appeared to be roosting there, but a few brave souls had paddled out into the Creek and were enjoying a cold swim.

On my return trip, I took a different route and saw a sign of life in a dirt garden at a corner property. Since the last time I passed by this house, someone had raked the leaves and yard debris from the garden, exposing dark green shoots, which were already about 2 inches high … they will be tulips one day if the snow or icy temps, or even the bunnies, don’t zap ‘em first.

I came home with a little spring in my step after my brush with Mother Nature’s visible signs of this newly minted season.

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Spring bling

03-20-15

I’ve called this post “Spring Bling” because crystals and diamonds are on my mind today. No, not that pretty Swarovski crystal, but instead crystals of snow, those beautiful frilly flakes, that were supposed to be fluttering down to the ground in the early hours of this, the first day of Spring. But yeah – the predicted snow flurries never materialized here, so I guess those intricate crystals whirled and twirled their way to parts unknown – probably Boston. So, with crossed arms and tapping a foot, I await Spring which doesn’t officially arrive until 6:45 p.m. (which is not soon enough in my humble opinion).

I set out for a walk on this cold morn, with the earworm of the day, “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond.

Neil Diamond is in town tonight. It’s been déjà vu all week for me. Every time I heard a snippet of one of his most-famous songs it took me back … way back … and suddenly I was awash in the memories and the music, just like it was yesterday.

When I was a teenager, I had the biggest crush on Neil Diamond, he with the dark wavy hair, brooding good looks and mellow voice. I loved all his songs and never tired of listening to Neil singing “Solitary Man” – I wanted to pat his hand and say “there, there” or maybe “wait for me – I’ll make it right for you” … all wishful thinking on my part.

Though I had a collection of 45s, my very first record album was a promotional LP gleaned from cereal box tops back in 1972. The double-sided album entitled “It’s Happening” featured The Supremes on one side and Neil Diamond on the flip side. I had my favorites “Brooklyn Roads”, “And the Grass Won’t Pay No Mind” and “Long Gone” memorized in no time, and I played them so often, it’s a wonder the needle still stayed steady in the grooves of the vinyl.

I saw Neil Diamond twice, but it was many years ago.

The first time I saw him in concert was in the Summer of 1976 with a group of college chums. We had lawn seats at the former Pine Knob Music Theatre on a beautiful June night. It didn’t matter if you were up close or far away, he stirred the crowd and everyone jumped up and swayed as one while they sang to “Forever in Blue Jeans”.

The second time was in Detroit at Joe Louis Arena. It was April of 1983 and Neil kicked off the “Heartlight” tour not far from where we worked. He was here for five shows; we were there for the first night. I went with two co-workers who had a similar affinity for Neil Diamond’s music and we splurged and got great seats. It promised to be a perfect evening and my birthday was that week so we celebrated with a special dinner beforehand.

Though the memories of each of those concerts lived on long after Neil Diamond exited the stage, the remembrance of the concert in Detroit still leaves me a little sad.

The above picture is appropriate for Flashback Friday and this post. It was taken on my sixteenth birthday. Some friends of the family were invited to dinner at our house and they brought a card, a cake and a corsage. To commemorate turning “sweet sixteen” my parents bought me a pretty gold filigree ring. There was a diamond set in each of the two loops in the letter “L” which signified both the April birthstone and the first letter of my name. I opened the jeweler’s box and excitedly slipped the ring onto my finger, but it was so loose I removed it immediately lest it slide off my finger and get lost. I didn’t even include that gift in the picture but it was sitting on “display” on the table. I went with my parents the next day to the jewelry store to have it sized. I treasured that ring and wore it everywhere, with no other jewelry on my hand until I got my high school and college class rings.

The evening we attended the Neil Diamond concert in Detroit, it had been a chilly Spring day. It was downright cold in the large auditorium and my hands were cold. I remember pulling my coat around me, and putting my gloves on briefly, but soon removed them when everyone kept giving their favorite singer a standing ovation. But, one of those times that I was fervently clapping to keep up with the rest of the concertgoers, to my horror, my ring flew off my finger and disappeared into the crowd. “My ring” I cried out to no one in particular, but who could hear me? The music was loud, the speakers cranked to full capacity and the crowd noise was deafening as they crooned along together to so many tunes they knew by heart.

During each concert, Neil Diamond took very few breaks – a few shirt changes and that was it. So, having trained my eyes on the very seat where the ring appeared to have bounced off and landed, my friends and I went to search for it after the concert was over. Down on hands and knees in the dim auditorium, we searched under and around each seat in that area, but my ring was not to be found. We went to report it missing, hoping that the janitorial staff would find the ring and return it to the front office so I could retrieve it.

Ever hopeful, I even called into the J.P. McCarthy Show on WJR the next morning, hoping J.P. could pull some strings and have someone scour the seating area with extra diligence. I lamented that I’d lost a diamond at the Neil Diamond show, and through that clever wordplay, I appealed to any of the listeners who might be attending one of his concerts over the next four nights at this venue. Well, J.P. listened to my story then said “anybody out there who can help this young lady out?” The radio station took my name and address, but my ring was never found.

The old adage is “a diamond is forever”, but sadly, in my case, I was only borrowing mine. I’ve always wondered if that ring was ever recovered or if it languishes, still wedged in a little crevice, nook or cranny somewhere, just waiting to be discovered someday.

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It’s a day for shamrocks and shenanigans.

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Well, I left the house with a spring in my step, after listening to an assortment of Irish tunes in the wee hours of the morn. But, all the mirth and merriment immediately stopped short once I stepped beyond the screen door where I verified that, nope – Spring had not yet arrived despite that balmy and beautiful day we enjoyed yesterday. Old Man Winter refuses to let this season go from his manly grip, and will probably hold on ‘til the bitter end when we exit Winter and welcome Spring on Friday. The wind was gusting and it was blustery and John McMurray, WJR’s weatherman had mentioned that our Michigan weather mirrored that of Dublin, Ireland today.

I’m still keeping the walks somewhat abbreviated for now because I basically had to start my walking regimen from scratch since more than a month had passed since my last long jaunt. I’m not yet ready to travel to Council Point Park for even one lap, which is 3 ½ miles altogether round trip, and, I doubt the snow and ice have disappeared from there anyway. I will set my sights on three miles by the first day of Spring – hopefully anyway.

As I passed beneath some still-bare and gangly looking trees, I heard a bird or two cheeping as if to call out “Top of the mornin’ to you lass” so perhaps they, too, had a sense of the usually festive mood of this holiday. I still had “The Unicorn Song” coursing through my brain and out my ears, having heard snippets of it as I flipped up and down the dial on my stereo headphones while eating breakfast and trying to get my Irish on. As I walked along, I failed to see a unicorn, nor a single green alligator, so I suppose most of those gators are either relegated to the front of the Lacoste shirts or running rampant on the golf courses in Florida these days. There weren’t any long-necked geese flying overhead either, and, if there were leprechauns toting a pot of gold, they were absent as well.

I was glad I didn’t totally abandon my hat for the season – well, you know me … too many years of riding the bus, and I don’t always give up the gloves nor hat ‘til May Day sometimes. But, the wind kept trying to whisk my hat off my head and I shivered a time or too and felt like doing a jig to warm up. But, in the end I didn’t want to ruin my credibility, with someone thinking perhaps I’d slurped down some Irish coffee instead of Nescafe in my cup. So, no … the Irish whiskey didn’t make me frisky and any wiggling around might have been attributed to that second cup of coffee I shouldn’t have had before departing on my walk.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day one and all.

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