Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Movie etiquette needs to be relearned by modern audiences

We live in a wonderous age. Having the ability to watch Hollywood feature films in the comfort of our own homes on 52 inch plasma screens in high definition with Dolby surround sound is a revolution for cinema lovers. Especially because many of us grew up only being able to see films in the theatre - in the dark ages before there were video tapes, DVD's, video on-demand and pay-per-view.

And if we wanted to see a film a second time, we had to pony up the cost of another ticket at the box office, or wait years before the rights to the film were negotiated by one of the three (count em, three) television networks for replay on the Sunday night movies. This surely gave us respect for the art and pleasure of watching films in the theater.

Fast forward 20 years. Now, we don't have to see a movie when it's released in theaters. We can wait until the DVD release, and watch the movie whenever we want, with the kids and the dog running around, the dishwasher running, the phone ringing, and the notebook computer on our laps while we text our friends on our cell phones.

This is far from the proper environment to watch a film, though.

I prefer the movie house, the golden temple of film, where crowds sit in silence as the lights fall, the sound swells to a crescendo, and the film flickers brightly onto a giant screen, pulling the viewer into a total "film experience." We're no longer in our homes, with familiar surroundings and easy distractions. Our sole purpose is to enjoy the film - and maybe a slightly salty or sugary snack.

But unfortunately, the line between the movie theatere experience and the home movie experience has blurred in the last decade or so.

As the father of three, I rarely get to go to the movies anymore. I am forced to wait for cable or rental releases. That's the price I must pay at this stage in my life. But when I get the chance, I take the opportunity to actually go to the theater, which still undeniably remains the best place to actually watch a film.

I have to admit, however, that the last few times I went to the theater, the experience has been tainted by those who don't understand the rules.

Case in point - I went to see "Beowolf" in the 3D Imax format, because that's the best format in which to see this particular movie. I paid the $12, got a fine seat, and prepared to enjoy myself. I researched the movie online ahead of time, read the reviews, went to the website and saw the trailer, and knew what to expect.

The family next to me did not bother to do their homework before plunking down their ticket money. First off, they brought several young children with them - one couldn't have been more than two-years-old. For those of you who haven't seen Beowolf yet, I won't spoil anything if I tell you that Angelina Jolie, while merely animated, is completely nude in the film, with only sparse liquid effects covering her, shall we say, "mommy parts." And it doesn't look like a cartoon at all. Ten minutes into it you forget you're watching a computer generated character.

The lead character of Beowolf is also naked, with some Austin Powerish effects used to hide his, well, "daddy parts" tastefully and cleverly. Still, there are sexual references in the film, as well as monsters literally tearing men in half in full view. This isn't Shrek, and it isn't a Disney film. It's animation for big people.

Not the type of film I would take my children to. And you can be sure that they jabbered, and cried, and gasped, and complained for the ENTIRE LENGTH of the movie. And they had plenty of questions about the adult things that were happening on the screen. It wasn't only bad for the kids, it was bad for those in the audience who were distracted by the presence of innapropriately aged children.

Another experience I had recently was in a different theatre - I can't recall which film - it's really irelevent to the major infraction which was committed there. Here's what happened.

Just as the fifteen minutes of previews were ending, and the film was finally starting, someone's cell phone rang. First off, this guy is a total idiot for not turning it off. And granted, it is a mistake that anyone could make - once.

But here's the kicker. Instead of turning it off, or hitting ignore, the guy actually TOOK THE CALL RIGHT IN HIS THEATER SEAT. I couldn't believe it. He started talking to the person in his normal phone voice right there in row three, seat two. Just as the entire audience collectively groaned, I opened my mouth to say something, since the guy was sitting just a few rows below me and to the side.

But thankfully, someone else beat me to it. A rather burly gentleman behind me said something to the effect of "turn your g*& damned phone off now or I'm coming down there."

It was awesome. The guy stopped his call, put his phone away, and didn't make another peep.

I wonder what would have happened if he would have kept talking? A part of me almost wishes this would have happened so I could find out, but then I would have missed even more of the film's opening dialogue.

Then there was my most recent movie experience. This was during the film, "No Country for Old Men," a fantastic flick that I would recommend to anyone. You totally get sucked into the plot, gripping the edge of your seat as you hang on every scene of the film, waiting to see what happens next.

That's why, when the rotund woman behind me felt the need to react to each and every aspect of the story, I was dissapointed and annoyed. Every country witicism that Tommy Lee Jones uttered was to her the single most hilarious piece of scripted dialogue ever imagined. Each time a person was shot, maimed, or received a paper cut on screen, she gasped as if she had just personally witnessed the Manson murders. And for some reason, each time they showed a dog that was injured or dead, she let out an obnoxious, loud, "aaawwwwwwww."

I almost - biting my tongue several times - gave in to the urge to jump up onto my chair and shout at the top of my voice "ITS JUST A FREAKING MOVIE LADY!" each time she pulled her shenanigans. But I didn't, and she continued her annoying display for the remainder of the film. I still enjoyed myself, but would have had a far better time without her in the gallery making her comments.

What I'm getting at here is that there are different modes of behavior for watching a film at home as opposed to the movie theatre. At the theater, please turn off your phone (I leave mine in the car). Also, keep your mouth shut unless your pants are on fire, or you're having some type of seizure and need medical attention.

At home, though, feel free to eat dinner, text your mom, yell at the kids, and discuss the finer points of the film's wardrobe with your dog - beacause that's the apropriate place to do those things, not at the cinemaplex.

I will thank you, and movie fans everywhere will thank you.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Yankee Lady lands in Manistee (MNA Sept. 07)

Associate Editor

MANISTEE — “There she is, that’s the old girl,” said Manistee WWII veteran Carl Carlstrom as he stood on the tarmac at Manistee’s Blacker Airport watching the B-17 bomber, “Yankee Lady,” land on Friday afternoon.
With a bit of a late arrival, a crowd of more than 150 people — some veterans who flew aboard the B-17 or other planes such as the B-24 Liberator or B-26 Marauder — had built up a heightened sense of anticipation of the legendary aircraft’s arrival.
Carlstrom, garbed in his B-17 hat and T-shirt, had probably been anticipating this moment more than the rest, as he was about to once again fly aboard the plane that had taken him to the brink and brought him home again more than 16 times during the second world war in the Meditterranean Theater of Operations.
“Many times I feel that the Almighty had His hand around my shoulder, or I wouldn’t be here,” said Carlstrom, who served as a flight engineer aboard a B-17(G) Flying Fortress stationed in Fogia, Italy.
As an enlistee in the Army Air Corps at the age of 19, in 1942, Carlstrom said “...that’s what I wanted — I wanted to fly.”
But Carlstrom hasn’t flown in a B-17 for more than 60 years, since October of 1945, by his recollection.
“I never thought I’d get to fly in that plane again,” he told his wife, Norma, after he received a call telling him that Martin Marietta of Manistee was going to host a flight for him aboard the Yankee Lady as part of the festivities for the opening of Blacker’s new airport terminal.
Along with nine other lucky passengers, Carlstrom was able to fly in “the old girl” one more time, earning him the envy of some of his old flight crew when he rejoins them in Indiana next month for a reunion. Three other members of his 10-man crew are still alive.
“We were lucky that only one of our original crew didn’t make it back,” said Carlstrom. “They split us up on our first mission — they never let an entirely green crew fly together — and our navigator’s plane got hit.”
Carlstrom saw his navigator’s plane get hit and spin it’s way down in three pieces. “You always watched for chutes, but we didn’t see anything.” Two men did manage to make it off of that plane, however.
Seeing the Yankee Lady touch down and taxi up to the assembled crowd, Carlstrom reflected on those who had been lost.
“It makes you realize how brittle a thread life really is,” he said, as he periodically reached into his back pocket for a handkerchief to wipe his moistened eyes.
Carlstrom, nicknamed “Swede” by his fellow crewmembers, still remembers how much fuel the B-17 took, oil levels, RPM’s during various parts of the flight, air pressure and other readings. “These things were hammered into us every day. We had to know every last nut, bolt, and wire on that ship,” said Carlstrom. “The crew depended on the flight engineer to know everything — their lives depended on it.”
“You’re a flying mechanic, you do what maintenance you can in flight,” said Carlstrom. “You’re responsible for the welfare of that airplane.”
While the historic airship was on the ground before take off, Carlstrom was able to walk around the entire plane, and through the interior, from the rear hatch to the cockpit, and even sat in the pilot’s seat for a while — a position he’d been in before.
During the war, Carlstrom would run up the engines to test them, and even get to fly the plane, or get “stick time,” as the pilots called it, during training missions or when they were “out in the open,” he said.
“Hirsch, our pilot, told the crew that every one of us would get some ‘stick time,’” said Carlstrom. “He said the Swede will get the most stick time, because he knows the ship the best. If a round gets both the pilots, he’s the logical man to bring her back.”
Some of the targets his group bombed were in Vienna, as well as other Austrian targets, and some in Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, northern Italy, and southern France. Over the course of 16 official missions aboard the “Miss Enid” and other B-17’s, the flight engineer worked to hold his aircraft together while bombing targets such as bridges, airfields, aircraft factories, ball bearing factories, and refineries.
Out of all those missions, living in tents and taking off from pre-fab airstrips in Foggia, Italy, Carlstrom said that the men he flew with became a tightly knit group.
“Your crew was like family. They were close,” he said. “You didn’t allow yourself to get close to any of the other crews. You didn’t want to get to know them. Then, if another ship blew up, you were just glad it wasn’t you.”
Watching Carlstrom, it was easy to see that at times his thoughts turned to that era, when he was so young and taxed with such an important job. And he surely must have thought about those he served with, the ones who came back — and the ones who didn’t — and how he was one of the lucky ones.
Years later, someone asked Carlstrom, “weren’t you worried?”
“Don’t pay to worry,” said Carlstrom. “Either they’re gonna get you, or they’re not. We had ships come back with their whole vertical stabilizer shot away, so they had no rudder and the pilot was steering with his engines. They were a rough airplane — they took an awful lot of punishment. We came back one day with 200 and some odd holes in one ship, and not a man scratched.”
His survival against unfavorable odds is why Carlstrom, now 85-years-old, feels he had the arm of the Almighty around his shoulder, and why he is so modest about his time in the service.
Several people came up to Carlstrom on Friday, thanked him for his service to our country, and shook his hand. He simply nodded, and told them, “we did what we had to do,” and proceeded to answer their questions about what it was like to fly during the war.
Carlstrom had the same answer for those who tried to label him and the other men of his generation as “heroes.”
“Some say we’re heroes, but I say ‘no.’ We were just a bunch of highly trained kids trying to get a job done and trying to stay alive doing it,” he said.
With WWII veterans dying at the rate of 1,200-1,500 per day, it was a chance for a couple of old vets to have one last look at a piece of their past, for a whole new generation to be exposed to a working historical monument, and meet the men who lived to tell about it.
Cean Burgeson can be reached at: cburgeson@pioneergroup.net

Jo Dee Messina is ‘Unmistakable’ (MNA Sept. 07)

Associate Editor

MANISTEE — Country artist Jo Dee Messina, who came to fame in the mid-1990s, and is best-known for her kiss-off songs, like 1997's "Bye Bye," 1999's "Lesson in Leavin," and 2005's "My Give-a-Damn's Busted," is coming to Little River Casino Resort’s new event stage Sept. 23 at 7 p.m.
“We’re excited to start elevating the level of acts we can bring to the area,” said casino general manager Jim LaPorte. “We have a beautiful facility that we look forward to sharing with the community and our customers.”
Based in Nashville, Messina will make her way to Michigan as part of a week long road trip which will bring her to Ohio, then up to Manistee. She says that the way she combats the stress of the road is to maintain a set schedule.
“There’s definitely a system,” says Messina. “If you don’t get a system down, forget it. Each day has a schedule to it that’s pretty consistent. I get up, get something to eat, have some coffee, go for a run, come back, go to the gym, go back to the venue, get some food, get a shower, do sound check, take a nap.”
An avid runner, Messina is doing the Chicago Marathon Oct. 7. “This is my second full one, I’ve done a couple of half (marathons),” she said.
This isn’t her first trip to perform in Michigan. “I’ve got a great fan base up there,” she says. She likes northern Michigan, despite the fact that it always seems that she ends up performing here when it’s cold out, and hasn’t had much of a chance to enjoy this part of the state during the summer months.
This time, the weather may work to her advantage. It’s so warm in Nashville, she thinks she’ll do some of her long runs to prepare for the marathon in our more mild climate. “We’ll run at some point up there,” she said.
Her drive on the running course is matched only by her passion for performing and producing music. With the release of her most recent album, “Unmistakable,” Messina steps firmly into the front ranks of country singers. An album that displays both her songwriting prowess and her abilities as a co-producer, “Unmistakable” is above all a showcase for one of the genre's most remarkable and distinctive voices.
Messina describes herself as “a girl next door,” and prides herself on the fact that she has been able to maintain a level of success in her career. “People say, ‘oh, that’s Jo Dee, she’s consistent, she’ll be around, she’s been around, of course she’s going to do good work,’ Messina says of her fan appeal. “A lot of people have said that to me. A lot of the press, too.”
"She is a great singer," says Chris Ferren, one of four co-producers who worked with her on the project, "but I guess I didn't know how great until I worked with her." It was a sentiment echoed across the board. Dann Huff, who co-produced several cuts along with Jay Demarcus of Rascal Flatts, calls her "obviously, a great singer" as well, and Jerry Flowers terms her "the best vocalist I've ever worked with. No matter what you ask her to do, she can do it, and do it better than what you wanted. She sings from her heart and it's just amazing every single time."
Unmistakable is the sixth album in a career that has brought the Massachusetts-born singer to the heights of the genre she has loved since she was a little girl. She’s sold five million albums, had nine #1 singles, earned two Grammy nominations, in addition to awards by the CMA and ACM, and seen her albums go platinum (Burn) and double platinum (I'm Alright). The latter made history, as three consecutive singles reached the #1 spot for multiple weeks on the Billboard singles chart, making her the first female artist ever to earn that distinction.
Messina promises that she’ll bring a nice mix of her old and new material to the Little River Stage on Sunday. “I’ll do a lot of the hits for everybody, and we trickle in the new stuff,” she said. “The new stuff’s been getting a great response. It’s been really rewarding. Usually, I’m afraid to play new songs, but people are hooking onto them by the first chorus, so it’s like ‘wow, we’ve got some catchy material, here.’”
   "I believe in my heart this album is going to be the biggest yet," she says, "because so much of my creativity is in it, and in the midst of your creativity is when you're most in tune with God. There's so much of it on this record and it came so effortlessly. I can't wait to see what people think.”
Tickets for the show are available now in the Odawa Trading Post gift shop or online at Star Tickets Plus: www.starticketsplus.com.
Messina wants everyone to know that her performance is what she calls “a show for everybody. There’s definitely something in there for everybody — whether you’re having a good day, bad day, falling in love or out of it.”
Cean Burgeson can be reached at: cburgeson@pioneergroup.net

‘We build, we fight’ (MNA Sept. 07)

Manistee’s Karl Wagner remembers his days as a WWII Seabee
Associate Editor

“The Seabee recruiter came through Manistee and said, ‘you better sign up with me before the army catches you,’” said 92-year-old Karl Wagner. “That’s how I happened to get in the Seabees.”
It turned out to be a fortuitous move on his part. “I had a second class rating right off the bat, which was twice the pay of a private in the army.” Wagner entered the service in September of 1943.
The history of the United States Navy Seabees in World War II begins with the Dec. 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. After the attack and the United States’ entry into the war, the use of civilian labor in war zones became impractical. The Navy therefore created Construction Battalions (from which the abbreviation C.B. became Seabees).
The official motto of the Seabees is "Construimus, Batuimus" – translated into English as "We Build, We Fight." The Seabees have several unofficial mottos as well. Their best known unofficial motto is the simple phrase "Can Do!", featured on much of their promotional material, including the well-known recruitment posters of the era.
After training, Wagner was shipped via troop train to Pleasanton, Calif., then to a port city called Hueneme. “That was the port where they say 90 percent of war material went from overseas,” said Wagner. “The Seabees had a big camp there.”
Here, Wagner’s battalion was divided in half, with his half eventually finding themselves on a tiny island 100 miles from the southmost tip of Japan. “They took us in on LST’s (landing ship, tank) to Ioshima, where Ernie Pyle got killed.”
Wagner was on the island the day that the famous war journalist died. “They said that he was in a jeep with an army officer, and they were shot at, so they got into a ditch there, and Ernie Pyle, after a while, he looked up over the ditch, and a sharpshooter killed him.”
Ioshima had other claims to fame as well. “The island was only about two and a half by five miles wide, and maybe six miles from Okinawa,” said Wagner. “Ioshima was a pretty important island, that’s where the Japanese surrender plane came. They came to Ioshima in a little Betty bomber (Japanese G4M airplane). It wasn’t very big. MacArthur had a big C-54 plane to take him over to the peace talks. We saw all of that.”
While on the island, the main job of Wagner’s Seabee unit was to construct buildings, roads, and airstrips, all while living out of tents. Seabees in the Pacific Theater of Operations earned the gratitude of all Allied fighting men who served with them or followed in their wake. Their deeds were unparalleled in the history of wartime construction. With eighty percent of the Naval Construction Force concentrated in the Pacific, they literally built and fought their way to victory.
“We saw a lot of suicide planes. I remember once, a Jap plane hit these two ships, and put them in flames. It was sad,” says Wagner. “There were Jap suicide planes that demolished ships, and a couple of days later, they would come back and hit ‘em again. One anti-aircraft gun,” he remembers, “shot the engine right out of the fuselage of one.”
Wagner only remembers one man from his unit being seriously wounded. “I’ll tell you, those Japanese planes would come over the island with their bombs, sometimes pretty low. There was one chief standing in the doorway of the sickbay, and they said he got his leg shot off, so he was shipped off.”
Although Seabees were only supposed to fight to defend what they built, such acts of heroism were numerous. In all, Seabees earned 33 Silver Stars and 5 Navy Crosses during World War II. But they also paid a price: 272 enlisted men and 18 officers killed in action. In addition to deaths sustained as a result of enemy action, more than 500 Seabees died in accidents, as construction is essentially a hazardous business.
In the North, Central, South and Southwest Pacific areas, the Seabees built 111 major airstrips, 441 piers, 2,558 ammunition magazines, 700 square blocks of warehouses, hospitals to serve 70,000 patients, tanks for the storage of 100,000,000 gallons of gasoline, and housing for 1,500,000 men. In construction and fighting operations, the Pacific Seabees suffered more than 200 combat deaths and earned more than 2,000 Purple Hearts. They served on four continents and on more than 300 islands.
Towards the end of the war, Wagner’s unit moved to the slightly larger island of Okinawa. The Seabees' task on Okinawa was truly immense. “They said there were 49 or 50 battalions of Seabees on Okinawa,” Wagner recalled. “We put up roads on that little island. They had coral pits — it was kind of whitish coral — and they’d put that on the road, and go over it with big V-8’s and heavy rollers, and when they got done, it was just like blacktop, only it was white.”
While on Okinawa, Wagner’s unit also survived a typhoon. “They told us to secure our tents. The next day, ninety percent of the tents were blown down,” he said. “But not mine.” Each 16 foot by 16 foot tent housed four men. “Three of the fellas didn’t want to stay in that tent during the night.” But Wagner had used his construction skills to reinforce his tent during the storm, and came out of it unscathed. “That typhoon was something else,” he said.
On the agrarian island of Okinawa, whose physical facilities a fierce bombardment had all but destroyed, Seabees built ocean ports, a grid of roads, bomber and fighter fields, a seaplane base, quonset villages, Air Force ready rooms, tank farms, storage dumps, hospitals, and ship repair facilities.
Nearly 55,000 Seabees, organized into four brigades, participated in Okinawa construction operations. By the beginning of August 1945, sufficient facilities, supplies, and manpower were at hand to mount an invasion of the Japanese home islands.
It was an invasion that, fortunately, would never come. On Aug. 10, 1945, after the invasion of Manchuria by the Soviet Union and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan's leaders at the Imperial conference decided, in principle, to accept the uncompromising terms the Allies had set down for ending the war in the Potsdam Declaration.
Wagner returned to Manistee in December of 1945 and resumed his normal life, reunited with his wife after a two-year hiatus, and raised his four children.
When asked whether he enjoyed his service, he says jokingly what many other fighting men of the era say, “Did I like it? I had to like it.” Like 16 million other American men and women, he simply did what he had to do.

Monday, September 17, 2007

A fly on the wall (MNA Sept. 07)

Associate Editor

I shook hands with President Clinton once, met movie and TV stars when I worked in Los Angeles, and have interviewed celebrities and politicians alike.
But last Friday, I felt a little out of my league.
Through a good friend, I was able to squeak my way into the top booth at Centre Ice during the second day of Red Wings training camp in Traverse City. In that lone suite the arena boasts, I stood with some of professional hockey’s elite.
On my left was Ken Holland, the Red Wings general manager, and arguably one of the best GM’s in professional sports. To my direct right, stood Red Berenson, former Stanley Cup winning professional hockey player, professional hockey coach of the year, and current coach for the University of Michigan hockey team, who’s brought his team to the NCAA tournament in each of his last 17 seasons.
To my right was Bob McNamara, former Notre Dame goaltender, and championship-winning general manager of Detroit’s AHL affiliate Grand Rapids Griffins. Next to him was Mike Babcock, Detroit’s head coach — enough said. In front of me was Jimmy Paek, assistant coach for the Griffs, the first Korean to play in the NHL and have his name engraved on the Stanley Cup, and who also holds the honor of listing both Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky as teammates. The rest of the group was made up of scouts and other notable Wings’ staff.
The true kicker was this; as I made my way from the inner suite — where a breakfast of eggs, ham, and pancakes was lovingly cooked up for guests to enjoy — to the outside rink viewing area, a quiet, unassuming man with a baseball cap, held the door open for me. He’d been looking out the window of the suite at the veteran players and prospects as they ran their drills below.
When he turned away from looking out of the window, only then did I realize who he was. “Played much golf lately, Mr. Howe?” asked my friend. “No, my shoulder’s been bothering me,” he said.
As we passed by, I said “hello, Mr. Howe,” and he held the door for me. GORDIE HOWE held the door for ME.
As I occassionally glanced at the hockey legend, separated from me by only a thin pane of glass, I wondered what he was thinking as he watched Holmstrom, Datsyuk, Lebda, Chelios, Draper, Zetterberg, and the others glide effortlessly on the ice, putting perfect passes on the tape, and shooting the puck for the corners along with the rookies and prospects who were desperately trying to make the last few spots on this year’s roster.
Did he wax nostalgic? Did he wonder how they would have stacked up in his day? Was he imagining what it would be like for him to play the game today, with shoot-outs, trapezoids, and collective bargaining agreements?
Oh, how I wanted to ask him these questions — but my sensibilities took control of me, and I left him alone. Just being able to say my hushed “hello” was fine with me.
I want to emphatically thank my friend, who allowed me a tiny glimpse at the inner workings of the Red Wings’ front office, but I won’t mention his name — so he isn’t inundated with requests by other die-hard hockey fans.
Because, last year when I went to training camp, or Hockey Town North as they call it, I went on a press pass. I had a good time, got to talk with staff and players, and felt that I had a fine experience.
But it in no way compared to being in the booth with the company I had found myself in on Friday.
Even though I was a guest of the management staff that day, I still went down to the main level to pick up my press pass, in case I needed it later. It was then that I realized how well-off I had it.
While I was down there, some self-important twenty-something with a “press relations” badge scoffed at me when I asked where the press kits are. “I don’t know,” he told me.
I walked around and looked for someone else who might know, and they directed me back to “Mr. P.R.” again, so I went back and this time asked him for my press credentials.
He said, “oh, I didn’t know that’s what you were looking for.”
Why the hell did he think I was asking for a press kit, then?
At that point, Mr. P.R. started to grill me on sports reporting etiquette like I had just fallen off the turnip truck. “You know that you can’t go certain places right?”
“Yeah, I’ve been here before, I think I can handle it,” I said.
“And you can’t just walk into meetings.”
I started to imagine my hands tightening around Mr. P.R.’s neck.
“I think I can handle it,” I told him as I yanked my media credential out of his hand. Then I quickly tucked it into my pocket so nobody could see, walked out of the door, and up the hill to the back of the building, where I slipped in through the emergency exit and back to the suite with Ken, Mike, Red, Bob, Jimmy and Gordie.
As I looked out over the sheet of ice where the Wings were running drills, I saw all the other media guys milling around with their tape recorders, reporter’s tablets, and their video and digital cameras. All I could think was how that could have been me — and I was truly thankful once again for the opportunity, and the access, I had been given.
For a hockey fan, and as a journalist, it was the opportunity of a lifetime, and I relished every minute of it as I listened, speaking very little, and merely took it all in. I was a fly on the wall, enjoying every nuance of the discussions between the coaches, management, and other staff about the players and prospects, golf, food, fly-fishing — but mostly pure hockey talk — that went on in that inner-sanctum.
When it was over, it all seemed like a dream. A very good dream. One that I will re-visit again and again.
Cean Burgeson can be reached at: cburgeson@pioneergroup.net

Making the team (MNA Sept. 07)

An interview with Red Wings General Manager Ken Holland
Associate Editor

There are two rituals each September for the Detroit Red Wings — training camp in Traverse City, and golf.
Golf has become one of the preferred off-season activities for many hockey players, and the boys who wear the winged wheel, along with management and staff for the team, are no different.
I had the opportunity to talk with Red Wings General Manager Ken Holland Wednesday at Arcadia Bluffs over a bowl of soup and a Sprite while he waited for his tee time, and he let me in on why golf and hockey have a connection, and why he and other Red Wings players and staff make the trip down to Manistee County.
“I love golf, and Arcadia Bluffs is as good a golf experience as anyone can have,” said Holland. “Between the setting of the golf course on the lake, and the people, that’s why we come here. We know (course manager) Bill Shriver, and all the people, all the staff here, are incredible hosts and hostesses and treat us beyond incredible.
Holland enters his 11th season as general manager and his 25th year with the Red Wings’ organization. He is arguably the most successful general manager in all of professional sports over the last ten years. He was at Arcadia Bluffs enjoyed a day off between the prospect camp which ended Tuesday, and the general camp, which begins today.
Holland explained why players are drawn from the ice to the links. “The motion of shooting the puck is a similar motion, and professional athletes are competitors, that’s how they get where they are. You compete with yourself, you compete with your opponent, you compete with the golf course, so there’s a lot of competitive aspects to golf that hockey players like.
“It’s also an opportunity to build relationships,” said Holland. “You spend four hours on the course. Whether it’s just a friendship, or sometimes you come out and it’s a working environment.”
According to Holland, about half to three quarters of the Wings’ roster play golf, depending on who is currently on the team. And some of them apparently play as well on turf as they do on the ice.
“Who would be the best really depends on the year,” Holland said. “On the current team, we have a lot of guys who are probably nine, ten, eleven handicaps — Osgood, Draper. Brett Hull was a plus one. Ray Whitney was a scratch golfer. Manny Legace was a one or a two handicap. There’s been some good players.
And of course, I couldn’t sit down with the Wings’ GM without asking him about his expectations for training camp, which I’m sure is on his mind as he plays his rounds of golf in Arcadia each September.
“Our record in the prospect (games) was one win and three losses,” he said. “You like to win, but the most important thing at the prospect tournament is to evaluate, and we had four real good games to evaluate. We lost 3-2 to Atlanta, 3-2 to the Rangers, we lost 5-3 at the end, basically 4-3 to St. Louis, and we beat Tampa Bay 3-1. So, all the games were close and competitive.”
Training camp is about looking for new talent, and this year is no different, said Holland. “We were very happy with some of our young defensemen, Jonathan Ericsson played really well, and Jakub Kindl. I think it was a positive first week, with some nice surprises.”
Main camp focuses more on some of the veteran players, so Holland is really looking for a few of the guys to step up and help fill some of the gaps left from the exit of a few big names after last season. “We pretty well know 20 guys on our team,” Holland said. “We know 12 NHL forwards, we know 6 NHL defensemen, we know our two goalies. With Robert Lang and Todd Bertuzzi and Kyle Calder gone, there’s some opportunities for our players who are competing for ice time — what’s their role? Are they going to be a top-six forward, are they going to be in the second power play?
“There’s some opportunities. We’re going to carry 22 players, and we’re anxious to see, how close is Jimmy Howard in goal? How close are some of our young defensemen? Like Jonathan Ericsson, Jakub Kindl, Derek Meech, Kyle Quincey.
“We’re bringing in some veteran defensemen on tryouts. Brent Sopel played in the NHL a number of years, Jassen Cullimore, Brad Ference. One of those guys is probably going to make our team on defense.”
Up front, Holland said they’ll look at Igor Grigorenko of Russia, Matt Ellis, from their Grand Rapids affiliate team, the Griffins, and Aaron Downey from Montreal. “They’re going to be fighting for the last forward spot,” he said.
The rest of camp is about finding some new talent, and cultivating some old, according to Holland. “Everybody knows the Datsyuks, and Zetterbergs. We know those guys are going to be on the team, we know what they can do.” A big question is how the existing players will size up this season, he said. “Can Val Fillipula take a step forward this year? Can Jiri Hudler take a step forward this year? We need some of the younger players to step forward.”
He also said that changes in the collective bargaining agreement have changed the way they put their team together. “You used to go out and have a good team, and add to your team. That doesn’t happen anymore. If you’ve got a good team, you’re hoping just to hang onto it,” said Holland.
“We had a good year, we lost some of our players. Now we need internally for some people to step up, and that’s what we’re looking for. Can Mikael Samuelsson, Dan Cleary, Johan Franzen, can they build off the great playoffs they had for us last year and take a step forward in their career? The opportunity’s there for somebody.”
Wing’s front office staff will spend the next week trying to answer many of these questions — and it won’t be easy. It never is. But Holland actually hopes that it’s a hard decision, because that means he’ll have a lot of talent to pick from.
“There’s two ways to look at a hard decision: one, nobody steps up and we don’t know what to do, and two, we have a lot of people playing well, and it’s a hard decision because everybody’s playing well. Hopefully it’s the latter.”
And with that, I let the Red Wing’s front office mastermind finish eating his chicken soup so that he could make his tee time.
There are nine exhibition games in the general training portion of camp, and Holland said that all nine of them will be used to evaluate who will be rostered for the 2007-2008 season. For some players who already have cemented their spot on the team, it’ll be a good way to work out the kinks and rustiness that the off-season layoff brings. For others, it’ll be the chance to prove themselves worthy of playing for one of the best franchises in the game.
Cean Burgeson can be reached at: cburgeson@pioneergroup.net

Life is the moments ‘in-between’ (MNA Sept. 07)

Associate Editor

In this drive-through, online, wireless, digital, surround sound, super-sized, high speed, direct billed, no-interest, instant messenger, instant gratification lifestyle we’ve developed, it’s easy to fast forward through life, and to gauge ourselves strictly by our accomplishments.
But life — real life — is lived in the day to day, nine to five existence.
It’s lived in the little moments in-between, the footnotes to greater things. Gratification doesn’t come from punching the clock on another day, week, or month. It comes in unique moments, like seeing your newborn child’s face for the first time, a smile from your wife after the pain of labor has subsided, and the look on people’s faces when they renew their relationship with the miracle of life.
These little moments, or side excursions, make life livable – as long as we remember to live in those moments, those golden instances that fade too quickly if we let them.
How easy is it to forget what’s important? Family, friends, having a little fun once in a while…
It’s pretty damn easy.
Until something comes along to remind us why we enjoy living. Why we try. Why we find the reason to smile, or laugh, or enjoy ourselves.
And we once again renew our faith in the value of life, re-evaluate what’s important, and try to set out once again to live like we once promised ourselves we would.
I’ve experienced moments like this several times. Most notably on Wednesday, March 24, at 10:30 a.m., Friday, April 13, at 3:15 a.m., Thursday, Sept. 1 at a time that is now unremembered. On each of those days, a miracle occurred. A miracle that occurs every day in every corner of the world – hell, in every corner of the universe for all we know.
On each one of those days, I met my children for the first time. Two through the miracle of birth, and one through the miracle of sacrifice that comes from adoption. Those moments are about new life, the continuation of life, the perseverance of humankind.
They’re a lot bigger — and a whole lot heavier — in the scheme of things, than worrying about the little things, like a promotion at work, bills, or rush hour traffic.
For these children, five months, three years, and eight years old, the whole world lies ahead. Anything can happen. They can live to do anything they want to do. The possibilities are endless.
You can’t put a price on that.
It’s easy to take these life changing moments for granted, but we do ourselves a great injustice if we do. Those who are truly happy, are the ones who seize the moment, seize the feeling, and revel in it. This sounds corny, and cliché, and that’s why we refuse to realize it.
Because too often in life, we fast forward through the new beginnings, the fresh starts, the arcs in the story line.
We rush through the little moments to get to the next great part of our existence, but the living of the little moments suffers, and is forgotten, or the significance of these little slices of real life are lost.
When I was eight, I only wanted to be 10 — so I’d be in the double digits. When I was a teenager, I just wanted to be 16 so I could drive a car. Then I counted down the days until I was able to go to college, then marked the calendar until graduation, getting married, having kids, buying a house…until there was no living in the now, just marking time until the next level was achieved.
At every step, I’ve been working to make it to the next step, because every next step, I thought, would finally make me the happiest. All the while, I should have realized that I was already happy, and I should have appreciated what I already had.
Life isn’t in the next step. It isn’t necessarily what’s around the corner. Life has to be lived in the here and now, in the daily grind, in the evening meal, the little league game, helping the kids with homework, sharing a movie with a spouse, even cleaning the house or doing yard work.
These little moments “in between” are what we’ll wish for years from now, and what we’ll miss when it’s too late. Not the promotions, the monetary windfalls, the toys and houses we buy, or the prizes we win as we travel along in this plane of existence.
Because the joy in life is the new birth, the laugh shared with children, the shared experience with a best friend, a birthday party, a hockey game, or a half hour in the park throwing the frisbee to the dog.
And once these moments are gone, these little “life vignettes,” they can’t be recaptured with videotape, film, or on a digital hard drive.
They’re gone before you know it.
That’s why we have to live for today, and recognize what’s important.
It’s the journey, not the destination that counts.
Cean Burgeson can be reached at: cburgeson@pioneergroup.net

'The Gambler' comes to town (MNA Aug. 07)

Little River opens new entertainment venue
Associate Editor

MANISTEE — In a starched white shirt — cuffs unbuttoned — and jeans, he strode onto the stage to cheers and applause from a grateful sold-out crowd Saturday night at Little River Casino Resort. Many call him “The Gambler,” but it was no gamble when the resort decided to make Kenny Rogers the first act to grace the stage in their brand new state-of-the-art 1,700 seat entertainment venue.
It also wasn’t a gamble to invest in the newest expansion project for the resort, if Saturday’s attendance was any indication. The parking lot was full, and cars leaked onto the manicured lawns of the casino property. Also alive with the buzz of the evening were the busy gambling floor, hotel, and restaurant venues.
With increased competition from a newly remodeled casino to the north in Petoskey, the Odawa, and another brand new casino to the south in New Buffalo, Four Winds, Little River has stepped it up another notch in the type of all-around entertainment they can offer with their own newest construction project.
“It’s absolutely beautiful, it’s exceeded our expectations,” said Larry Romanelli, the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians’ Ogema, who was in attendance at the concert, along with members of the tribal council.
Little River has always had a reputation for customer service, and the Ogema said that this was part of the success of the continually growing property for the past eight years.
“What we want to do is keep our friendly atmosphere, our hospitality,” he said. Romanelli also spoke of the way growth at the casino ties into the rest of the area. “We want to grow along with the community, and I think we’re going to do that with this (latest expansion).”
Some at the casino and tribal government level may have had some reservations about putting more money into the newest phase of construction at the casino, but some minds have been changed now that the project is completed, and they can actually see the results.
“There’s always those questions in the beginning, whether we should do this or should not,” said Romanelli. “I think obviously, it was the right thing to do, not just for tribal members and the casino, but also for the community.
Offering more than just a gaming floor is part of the strategy to compete in what is now becoming a more saturated casino market in the state of Michigan. “We knew there was competition coming,” said Romanelli. According to the directors of the casino, that’s why the winter garden, with a flowing river and real plants and trees was also added, in addition to the performance stage. “We not only have that now, we have this expanded place for people to enjoy themselves. It’s not just the gambling, it’s the atmosphere. It’s the whole ambiance — trying to keep people happy, in an enjoyable place — and I think we’ve accomplished all of that.”
Feedback for the inaugural show from the public was good, according to Little River Casino Resort Marketing Director, Tiana Burgeson, who was pleased with how the evening turned out. “Everybody loved the new facility,” she said. “We sold several tickets afterwards for the upcoming Jo Dee Messina and Clint Black concerts, and we had a lot positive comments — I couldn’t have asked for a better opening night.”
Cean Burgeson can be reached at: cburgeson@pioneergroup.net

The ‘flying mechanic’ (MNA Aug. 07)

Associate Editor

“Many times I feel that the Almighty had his hand around my shoulder, or I wouldn’t be here,” says Carl Carlstrom, who served as a flight engineer aboard a B-17(G) Flying Fortress over the skies of Europe during the second world war.
As an enlistee in the Army Air Corps at the age of 19 in 1942, Carlstrom said “that’s what I wanted — I wanted to fly.”
He had no idea that this choice would eventually find him 30,000 feet in the air, amid 1,000 pound bombs — one of them “hot” or armed — while he manually cranked open the airship’s malfunctioning bomb bay doors.
“I had gone back through the ship to check everything over, and went back through the bomb bay. There was an air leak in the bomb bay, and one of the propellors (on the bomb) had backed itself off. I immediately got back to the flight deck and called the pilot and bombardier and said, ‘we’ve got a hot one aboard.’ If nobody touches it, everything’s okay, if anyone touches that fuse, it’s bye-bye blackbird,” said Carlstrom.
“We hit the IP, that’s the initial point where you begin your bomb run, and the bombardier called and said, ‘bomb bay doors coming open.’ I said bomb bay? They’re not opening. He said, ‘the indicators say they’re open.’ I told him, ‘I don’t give a so-and-so what the indicator says, they’re not opening. I’ll have to get out and crank ‘em open.’”
So, Carlstrom stood, one foot on either side of the slowly opening bomb bay doors, the bombs behind him, a hot fuse less than two feet from his back, while he cranked open the doors by hand — with nothing but clouds between him and the ground, 30,000 feet below.
“All I could think is that if the ship lunges and I come back and hit that fuse, we’re all history.”
Carlstrom, nicknamed “Swede” by his fellow crewmembers, performed this death defying feat without a parachute — he was too big to fit into the cramped space while wearing one — and with a thick carpet of enemy flak blanketing the skies around him. He described what the flak was like at times.
“Going over Vienna, that was one of the toughest targets in Europe, Vienna had 1,100 and some odd 88’s settin’ there, and they could bring them all to bear at one time. They put up a wall of flak that looked like you could walk on it. You’d see that formation in front of you going into that wall of flak and you’d know that’s where you’re going — because you gotta get through there to drop those eggs.”
The flak wasn’t the only problem to contend with as Carlstrom labored with the malfunctioning bomb doors.
“So the bombardier called ‘bombs away’ and he said ‘bomb bay doors coming closed.’ I looked back and said, ‘they’re not coming closed.’ So, I got back out there and started cranking them shut, and I felt something hit my arm. I paid no attention and kept cranking, and something else hit me again. I turned and looked back and the radio operator was throwing spent 50 caliber brass at me and motioning for me to get back.”
While Carlstrom labored to close the doors, he had expelled hot breath from the discharge port of his oxygen mask. Mixed with the cold, thin air at bombing altitude, a beard of hoar frost had formed on Carlstrom from his chin to his waist. “The radio operator was afraid I was freezing up. The average temperature at that altitude is 70-80 degrees below zero,” explained Carlstrom.
Once the doors were cranked shut, and he returned to his station on the flight deck, the crew of the B-17 still wasn’t in the clear. “I looked, and four of the (oxygen) indicators had dropped to zero. I called the pilot and said, ‘Hirsch, you and I are the only two that have got oxygen, we just took a hit in the junction box.”
The crew now concentrated on getting back home alive and in one piece.
“Once the bomb run was over, the pilot would say, ‘we’re done working for Uncle Sam, now we’re working for ourselves.’ So he dropped down to 17,000, where you can live a long time without any oxygen. We had no more than leveled off, than our gunner called, ‘two unidentified fighters at nine o’clock.’”
Besides being briefed that there would be heavy flak on the mission, his air group — the 15th Air Force, 301st Bomb Group, 352nd Bomb Squadron — had been told there would be heavy fighter opposition. “I picked up the glasses off the flight deck and looked out, and said, ‘well fellas, its a couple of P-51’s, but keep your eyes on ‘em.’
Carlstrom knew that the Germans had taken Allied planes which had been forced down, rebuilt them, and used them to sneak into formations and shoot down bombers before. To their relief, this time, the P-51’s were friendlies who had heard about the B-17’s problems and came to escort her home.
“It’s a wonderful feeling when those ‘little friends’ come out to help you,” said Carlstrom.
He was recommended for the distinguished flying cross (DFC) for his efforts that day.
“You’re a flying mechanic, you do what maintenance you can in flight,” said Carlstrom. “You’re responsible for the welfare of that airplane.”
More than 60 years later, Carlstrom can still tell you how many gallons of fuel or oil the old girl took, how many RPM’s (revolutions per minute) the props would spin up to on take-off and in flight, and what the mercury readings, or atmospheric pressure was on the aircraft during different portions of the flight. “When you’ve done something 1,000 times, you remember it,” he says.
Some of the targets his group bombed were in Vienna, as well as other Austrian targets, and some in Hungary, Checkoslavakia, Yugoslavia, northern Italy, and southern France. Over the course of 16 official missions aboard the “Miss Enid” and other B-17’s, the flight engineer worked to hold his aircraft together while bombing targets such as bridges, airfields, aircraft factories, ball bearing factories, and refineries.
Out of all those missions, living in tents and taking off from pre-fab airstrips in Foggia, Italy, Carlstrom only had an ominous feeling about one.
“I got up in the morning with the feeling I didn’t want to fly, there was something wrong,” he says. “It’s the only time it ever happened. We were going to hit a railroad bridge in Austria, and we got up a little over 10,000 feet, and one by one, three of our turbos — thats our superchargers — started to malfunction, so we had three engines that weren’t puttin’ out what they should.”
They fell out of formation in an attempt to jettison their bombs in the snow-covered Alps, but decided to keep their payload and continue, since they were only 45 minutes away from their bombing run.
“By then we were a mile behind the formation,” Carlstrom says. ”And we had been briefed on heavy fighters and flak. On that mission we didn’t have a bombardier, we had a togglier aboard. And that togglier was good. He laid five of ‘em right right down the length of that bridge — five 1,000 pounders.”
“We were also camera ship that day, so we got a good picture of where those bombs hit.” Coming in alone, and after the rest of the formation had already made their bomb run, Carlstrom’s plane didn’t have the protection of the rest of the air group or any fighter escort.
“The rest of the formation got the devil shot out of them, and we never saw one puff of flak, because as soon as the formation was gone, the gunners packed up and went home. We were so far behind, we had no opposition. They hit it — but they didn’t get the hits that we did.”
“Being camera ship, just before we hit the Adriatic Sea, we broke formation and started dogging it for home to get those films in. A couple of 38’s (P-38’s) came in to follow us in. They had been hearing about our problems. All of the sudden they rolled, and I could see a freight train. They strafed that train, and here and there another car would blow up. When they got to the engine, it was one big puff of steam — and that’s all she wrote. Twenty minutes later they were sitting back up on our wing, giving us the sign — scratch one freight train.”
Years later, someone asked Carlstrom, “weren’t you worried?”
“Don’t pay to worry,” said Carlstrom. “Either they’re gonna get you or they’re not. We had ships come back with their whole vertical stabilizer shot away, so they had no rudder and the pilot was steering with his engines. They were a rough airplane — they took an awful lot of punishment. We came back one day with 200 and some odd holes in one ship, and not a man scratched.”
His survival against unfavorable odds is why Carlstrom, now 85-years-old, feels he had the arm of the Almighty around his shoulder, and why he is so modest about his time in the service.
“Some say we’re heroes, but I say ‘no.’ We were just a bunch of highly trained kids trying to get a job done and trying to stay alive doing it.”

Thursday, August 09, 2007

‘Just great movies’-an interview with Michael Moore (MNA Aug. 07)

Moore’s northern Michigan film festival continues to grow
Associate Editor

MANISTEE — Regardless of how you feel about filmmaker Michael Moore, you cannot doubt his passion for film. “I’m concerned about film literacy in this country,” he told the audience Thursday at opening of one of the panels at the Traverse City Film Festival. “That’s why we’re here. To help save one of America’s few indigenous art forms — the cinema.”
And there’s a large following of people who must agree with the documentary filmmaker. Over 70,000 festivalgoers attended the Fest in 2006, and even more are projected for this year’s final tally. “We’ve almost doubled what we did our first year, and we’re only in our second day,” he said on Thursday. The festival ends on Sunday.
Also increasing this year, in order to keep up with the demand, is the number of screens, number of screenings, and types of movies.
“We’ve added a new venue, the Lars Hockstad auditorium,” said Moore. “And we’ve added midnight screenings, Friday and Saturday horror movies. And we have our first full-length animated feature we’re showing here, a Japanese animated film. We’ve got a number of new things like that this year.”
The other venues for the festival are the open space outdoor cinema, the historic State Theatre, the City Opera House, and the Old Town Playhouse.
The lineup of films and panels brought to northern Michigan this time around held something for any flavor of filmophile. Among the highlights are screening of children’s and Native American films, a selection of cult-favorite horror films playing at special midnight showings, a select screening of classic films, including a 40th anniversary celebration of “The Graduate,” and a screening of “The Bridge on the River Kwai,” in honor of its 50th anniversary. There is also the regular diet of independent films, documentaries, and other gems folks might have missed which the festival is showing to audiences who will surely appreciate them.
Guests of the festival include Doug Stanton, whose novel “In Harms Way,” is under development at Warner brothers, festival board director and also director of the film “Hotel Rwanda,” Terry George, Larry Charles, who worked on “Seinfeld,” “Mad About You,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” and “Entourage, as well as last year’s most talked about film, “Borat,” director of the Michigan Film Office, Janet Lockwood, Moore’s wife and producer, Kathleen Glynn, Emmy award winning journalist John Laurence, Academy Award nominated director/producer Brett Morgen, film critics Chris Borelli and Tom Long of the Toledo Blade and Detroit News, independent film actress Gretchen Mol, and Oscar winning director/best supporting actress nominee, Christine Lahti, who the festival awarded this year’s Michigan Filmmaker Award.
Panel discussions with guests included talks on humor in dark times, a panel of film critics, discussions of the documentary form, a special panel on Moore’s film “Sicko,” and one entitled “Will it Play in Traverse City?”
The success of the festival and its growth seem to point to an answer of “yes” on that last question. The Traverse City Film Festival believes that people love to go to the movies, but the movies these days don’t seem to love the people, according to their mission statement. In addition to movies, Moore seems to love the people, too.
He sits in on the panels, and screenings, and asks his own questions. When people stop him on the street or talk to him after a panel discussion, he doesn’t have the Hollywood aloofness that so many other stars are afflicted with. He dresses like a regular guy, talks to you like a regular guy, and if you were from another planet and hadn’t ever heard of Moore, you would have no idea upon meeting him that he has single-handedly brought the form of documentary film into the mainstream, and is worth millions of dollars.
And more importantly over the past three years, he has brought what is becoming a growing film festival to his home state of Michigan, and included us among the Sundance, Telluride, and Cannes crowd — albeit on a slightly smaller scale.
But this smaller scale doesn’t detract from the importance of the film festival to northern Michigan. Their mission is just as important as that of any other festival, to show great movies that both entertain and enlighten the audience; movies that seek to enrich the human spirit and the art of filmmaking — not the bottom line of the studios which produce them.
Places like Traverse City, and Manistee for that matter, with neighborhood movie theaters, made going to the movies the most popular form of entertainment in the world — long before the age of the multiplex. But according to Moore, and the other architects of the TC Film Fest, something of that magic has been lost, and they are seeking to reclaim it.
That’s why they created the festival, and have the goal of giving the public “just great movies” for about a week every year in August.
And there’s no sign of the festival slowing down any time soon. “I think we may add a day or two next year,” said Moore. “Just to accomodate all the people who want to see movies. And I think we’ll have more and more filmmakers wanting to come here — from all over, and the midwest.”
Cean Burgeson can be reached at: cburgeson@pioneergroup.net

Passing down the finer points of golf (MNA Aug 07)

Associate Editor

Recently, my son was introduced to the most frustrating sport on the face of the earth — golf. I hesitated to let him learn, because I wasn’t sure I wanted to submit him to the pain and agony — mixed with periodic moments of glee — that only golf can bring.
But, my son is a true sports-lover, and an avid athlete, so I relented and let him go to golf camp. Unfortunately for him, he enjoyed the camp, and the sport.
So, after his two weeks of lessons, I took him to Manistee National to golf what they call the “short set.” Marked by gold stakes at around 150-220 yards, or shorter for the par 3’s, this is a fantastic way for young golfers to get acquainted with the game, without getting frustrated about shot distance.
But of course, there was some frustration on Reidar’s part, as he whiffed a few times, took a few big divots, or overshot the greens on his chip shots — just like the big boys do. Better that he start to experience the exasperating aspects of the sport early, so he knows what’s in for him, I figured.
The short set, while a good teaching tool, is also a stellar way for dads to lower their scores for nine holes and work on their short games. You can be sure that I put that score card on the fridge for everyone to see. Of course, I don’t let anyone know that I had the benefit of playing a distance roughly half of the fairway for the majority of the holes. It was dad and Reidar’s “little secret.”
As a father, it was a joy to teach my son the finer points of the game. No, I’m not talking about grip, stance, club selection, or any of that stuff. The golf pro taught him that in camp.
I’m talking about how to yell “fore” when you hit a wicked slice towards the tee box on the next fairway, where a foursome is getting ready to hit. Or how tipping the woman driving the beer cart will assure she’ll stop again to re-beer you when she comes back around.
There was also the lesson in how to improve a lie with your foot, by kicking the ball out of the woods or other identified “hazard.” My son particularly liked the method I taught him for getting out of the trap, with the patented “baseball throw” method.
And, as usual, there’s the sometimes creative scoring method. He picked up on that one quickly. It seems that shaving strokes is something golfers do almost inherently as part of their genetic code.
More serious lessons were part of that first round, though. Teaching how to tend the flag, let the person whose ball is away hit first, being quiet and courteous when other golfers were hitting, replacing ball marks and divots, and knowing where the cart can and cannot drive, for example.
The sport holds ancillary lessons, as well.
Golf, however much we sometimes hate it, is a lesson in discipline, manners, and gentlemanship. I’m not sure that last one’s a real word, but it fits what I’m trying to say. Etiquette is really the proper word.
The reason I like golf is simple. You hit 10 bad shots, then one good one. That one good one gives you such a thrill that you can then make it through the next 10 bad shots — albeit sometimes with the urge to throw your $200 driver into a water hazard.
But it must be an enjoyable experience overall, because I keep coming back.
Golf is also relaxing, often times peaceful and scenic, and a good opportunity for golf partners to just talk, far away from the hectic pace and frenetic activity of everyday life. I made sure to point out to the little man that the game wasn’t just about hitting a white ball around a course for a few hours.
So, yeah, I’m going to be a little corny here and say that my son Reidar and I did a little male bonding on the golf course on that sunny July day. But it’s a day I’ll never forget — our first round together — and I hope there will be hundreds more like it in the years to come.
Cean Burgeson can be reached at: cburgeson@pioneergroup.net

Friday, July 13, 2007

Why we keep some friends but not others (MNA July 07)

Associate Editor

I have known my best friend for over 30 years. We’ve kept in touch despite what parts of the state or country we’ve lived in, throughout each stage of our lives since grade school.
That is a long time to maintain a friendship, and it has had every chance to falter, fail, or fall to the wayside, but it hasn’t.
With email, cell phones, and instant messenger, it isn’t so hard to keep in touch with those we care for -- or so it would seem.
There are friends I had in high school, or college, or in other cities I’ve lived in, that I have since Googled and can no longer find.
Some of these are friends I saw every day at work, or even roomates I lived with for a couple of years.
And forget about finding old friends of the female persuasion. Most change their last name when they get married and become almost impossible to track down.
So what makes us keep some friends but not others?
What is the glue that holds some friendships together, but doesn’t bind them all?
There appears to be different classes of friendship. We have the one best friend, or group of good friends, the ones you would take a bullet for or hide a murder weapon for if asked, and then there’s whole other classifications of friends.
There’s the work friend, who, you might hang out with once in a while, or get a beer with after work, but once you get a new job, the tie is lost and you dont’ really talk anymore.
There’s the high school and college friends who tend to move away, move on, and lose touch, scattering into the wind like dry leaves after graduation.
The friends who tend to drop off of the radar the fastest are the “friends of a friend.” These are acquaintences who we only know through someone else. Occassionally, we hit it off with one of these folks, and they graduate to a friend first-class, but usually they fade away once the mutual friend you both share moves on.
This is similar to the friend through marriage. These are the people you hang with because they are your spouse’s friends, or the boyfriend/girlfriend of your friend. If you want to chill with your buddy, you have to endure their romantic partner, whether you like them or not. Break-ups or divorces end these acquaintences quickly.
What really gets awkward is when you hit it off with this third party friend, and continue to stay friendly once the relationship is over. Divorce the spouse, and the friends go with him/her.
I guess the big questions is: What makes us keep in touch with some people, but not make the extra effort with others?
With me, it’s often a three strike process. I move to a new town, maybe share a few phone calls or emails with a friend from the old town, and once they don’t return a call or an email three times, they fall from the frequent friend list.
Pretty soon months and years pass, and they’re ancient history.
My really good friends will call back, and I will call them back. It just isn’t worth the effort to keep up a one way friendship.
There is an exception to the three strike rule, however. We all have those friends who are just lazy, or scattered, who aren’t really good at getting back to us, but once you do connect with them, you both feel as if you’ve never lost touch. These friends require extra care and feeding, and patience, but usually are worth it.
That old saying really does apply. Good friends can go a long time without speaking or seeing each other, and just pick right up where they left off.
So, the answer to why we keep some pals and lose others really boils down to how much we want to work to keep in touch, and how worthwhile it is. And how good we feel when we keep in touch with them.
So, if you haven’t touched base with a friend in a while, call, or email, or instant messenger, fax, or do whatever you have to do to keep the lines of communication open.
Don’t let them fall into the abyss of ex-friendshipdom. It’s a lonely place, populated by old work friends, friend of friends, and other assorted characters who didn’t cut the mustard.
Cean Burgeson can be reached at: cburgeson@pioneergroup.net

The river lets you get away from it all (MNA July 07)

Associate Editor

Canoeing. The word doesn’t look right. It totally breaks that rule about dropping the “e” before adding “ing.”
Or maybe the word just looks strange because it’s been so long since I’ve actually done it. That’s why I jumped on the chance to take part of the Forest Festival canoe tour of the Big Manistee River on Tuesday.
I figured I already had a canoe that wasn’t being used, so why not?
You see, I’ve had a canoe for almost 13 years, and I can count on one hand the number of times I have actually put paddle to water while sitting in it. We received it as a wedding gift from one of my wife Tiana’s dads (long story). At the time, we were kind of land-locked, living in an apartment in Lansing. So the canoe lived at my mother-in-law’s house for a while.
Then we moved to Washington D.C. The canoe stayed behind. A few years later, we moved to Los Angeles. The canoe stayed behind. Somehow — and I don’t recollect how — the canoe moved around on its own. I think it was at my other father-in-law’s house for a while, and then somehow ended up at my parent’s little piece of land on Little Platte Lake in Honor. There wasn’t even a house there back then, just land. I think we had it with us when we rented a house on Little Platte, too, but its all fuzzy now. For at least the last eight years, it has sat overturned on the bank of Little Platte Lake, awaiting some action.
What I’m trying to impart is that the canoe moved around a lot, and saw very little paddle time. Which is odd, because I used to take a canoe trip every June with my father and some other father/son duo’s as a kid. We canoed rivers all over the state — even the U.P. We would research which rivers were the fastest, or most challenging, and off we’d go the first weekend of June each summer to tackle ‘em.
We would always camp out, and spend a whole day on selected waterways, racing each other, tipping each other over, and generally doing that male bonding thing that we guys do. We even canoed a river with all of our camping gear once, camped overnight in the middle of nowhere just at the river’s edge, and then got up the next day and did it all over again.
That ritual of canoeing went on for years, until we reached college age. I don’t think I’ve been in a canoe with dad since. My wife and I went a couple of times while we were dating, and that was the last canoe trip for me. And as I recall, they were all good times.
So it really surprises me that I went so long without hitting the river again. I guess jobs, kids, and the other time restrictions imposed by a 21st century existence sometimes crowd out simple, enjoyable activities like a good float down a lazy stream.
Fast forward to Tuesday, when I convinced sports editor Matt Wenzel to come with me for a paddle session. I tried to practice canoeing by myself on the lake once a few weeks ago, and the front of the canoe tilted up at an alarming angle, making it difficult to either steer or see. So I needed some weight in the front.
That’s where Matt came in.
He made better conversation than a bucket full of rocks, and could pass back treats from the cooler to me. Plus I found out he makes a darn good spotter/steerer.
I’m proud to say we had zero collisions, and not even a single close call. Pretty good, considering we were out of practice. I suppose canoeing is like riding a bike. Once you’ve got it, you never lose it.
For two city boys, who weren’t even sure where the boat launch was initially, it was nice to just float, make simple course corrections once in a while, and enjoy the trip. We saw a couple of big birds, fish, what looked like some sort of river mammal who swam right in front of the boat, and some fishermen and other assorted gawkers along the shore (see Matt’s column.)
The trip was quiet, serene, and un-cluttered with the auditory graffitti of daily life. No television, radio, traffic noise, or telephones ringing. For a few hours, we unplugged from the world, and reset our brains.
Seems like everyone could stand to do that once in a while.
Cean Burgeson can be reached at: cburgeson@pioneergroup.net

Thursday, July 05, 2007

My favorite running partner (MNA July 07)

Associate Editor

My three-year-old yellow lab’s name is Gunnar. But his name should be tow-truck.
I’ll explain.
I have been an on-again off-again runner for over 20 years. I’ve done one marathon -- probably my last -- and a couple of triathlons, along with several 5K’s and 10K’s to round things out. I wouldn’t say that I’m a great runner. I’m not fast, and I don’t ever win my age group.
But I enjoy running, and it makes me feel good. So I try to run a couple of times a week when the weather is nice. And I also like to exercise Gunnar. He gets plenty of exercise during bird hunting season, but the winter leaves him a little chunky. It just isn’t fun to take him outside for a walk during the bitter, cold, northern Michigan winter. So, it only made sense that I drag him along on my 5K workout runs.
Usually, he keeps up with me just fine. With his boundless energy and four legs, he stays just a bit ahead of me, sometimes pulling at the length of his leash. The only time I ever outlasted him on a run was when I foolishly took him on a five mile run. About halfway through, he just gave up and sat down. I tried to pull him along, but he refused to move his little legs. He was like one of those stubborn old mules in an old Laurel and Hardy film.
It turns out, he isn’t completely destructible. He can get tired. He does get overheated.
But at the 3.1 mile distance I usually do, he is a fantastic running partner. And a good motivator too. That’s why I said I should re-name him tow-truck, because when I’m dragging a little bit, maybe because I didn’t get enough sleep, or I ran the first half of my workout too fast, or simply because I’m not in the mood to run, he tows me along.
Gunnar keeps pressing on, keeps those paws pounding the pavement, and looks back at me with a “c’mon, man, put it in gear” kind of look. And that gets me going again.
He does exactly what you want a good running partner to do. He helps me through the rough spots.
There are some days when I really don’t want to work out, and I see him sitting by the door with that drooly perma-grin that says “where are you going? We’ve got work to do, partner.” I try to ignore him, but the guilt overcomes me more often than not, and we at least go on a brisk walk if we can’t make it for a full running session.
I’ve run with friends, co-workers, and in running clubs -- but the best running partner I’ve ever had is a furry yellow guy with a Scandinavian name who used to eat his own poop when he was little.
In fact, the only drawback to running with him is the occasional, shall we say, by-product, that I have to clean up after him when the run is over. But I suppose it’s the price to pay for his friendship, and his companionship.
So, as long as he is able -- and I’m willing -- I’ll continue to use him for motivation to exercise, and I’m sure he’ll continue to follow me out the front door and down the driveway for our two or three time per week running sessions. You’ll see us out there, along the side of the road -- sometimes with me pulling him along, other times with him pulling me along.
Mostly with him pulling me along.
Cean Burgeson can be reached at: cburgeson@pioneergroup.net

Monday, July 02, 2007

The girl, the motorcycle — and the rest is history (MNA June 07)

Associate Editor

About 14 years ago, I was blissfully unaware of how a motorcycle would change my life forever.
Single and working my first job as a legislative aide at the state capitol, I had few cares in the world. The rent on my tiny, slightly furnished studio apartment was relatively easy to meet each month, and the only other bills I had were a small monthly fee for the privelege of driving my Geo Tracker, and payments on a $500 credit card balance.
My days were spent toiling away at my little government job, and the nights were wasted on cheap beer and free bands at any one of East Lansing or Lansing’s assorted taverns. It was at one of those beer gardens that a mutual friend introduced me to a cute, curly-haired girl on a noisy Thursday evening.
After a few minutes of light conversation, the time came for us to part ways, and I felt the courage to ask her out slipping away. Then she said something that made my ears perk up.
“I have a motorcycle — you should take a ride with me,” she said.
That’s when I knew I had to get to know this girl better. How cool is a chick with a motorcycle? I got her number and asked her out a few days later.
If you haven’t guessed already, that motorcycle chick eventually agreed to become my wife, Tiana. We’ll celebrate our lucky 13th wedding anniversary in August.
The funny thing about her saying I could take a ride with her was that she hates riding with someone on the back of her bike. You see, my wife’s somewhat of an independent spirit, especially when it comes to the cycle. I can remember only a few times (maybe two) that I actually got to take that ride she promised.
So, the only way I could really ride the bike was by myself — if she would let me. And she wouldn’t let me until I took the state certified motorcycle class and passed to get my motorcycle endorsement. Which I did.
And then I got to ride the bike.
When we were first married, we were flat broke. College bills, credit card bills, and all the costs associated with starting a new marriage kept us poor but happy. With finances tight, that old Yamaha of my wife’s became our second car.
Rain, shine — or even snow sometimes — one of us would ride the motorcycle to work, while the other drove the car. Until one day we finally had enough money to buy a second car. So the motorcycle sat.
And sat.
The demands of work and other diversions of life kept us from even taking pleasure rides on the bike. That’s when Tiana was offered a job in Washington D.C. It didn’t make sense for us to take the bike with us, so we sold it.
When two guys showed up at our door to pick the cycle up, it wouldn’t even start anymore. It had done it’s duty. The machine which had opened the door to our relationship moved on to greener pastures.
We went years without buying another motorcycle. Despite moving to Washington D.C. and later Los Angeles, we both kept our motorcycle endorsements current on our drivers’ licenses, hoping that one day we might again eventually buy another bike.
It wasn’t until over 10 years later that I got a call from Tiana while she was down in Detroit on a business trip. “I’ve found a bike and I fell in love with it. Can I get it?” she asked.
How could I say no?
So we became the proud owners of a 1989 Harley Davidson Sportster. It had a flashier paint job than our old bike. It was 1200 cc’s compared to the old Yamaha’s 550. I’ll admit, it’s a cool bike.
With gas prices soaring, I like to ride the cycle to work now. Six dollars worth of high-test gas will last me weeks. And it’s a blast riding down the road with the wind in my face, my shirt blowing back, and nothing but sunshine and road dust between me and the rest of world.
But I have to admit, I wonder sometimes, what ever happened to that old Yamaha. Is it sitting in a junkyard or backyard somewhere, rusting and unused? Or is it in someone’s garage, lovingly cared for and enjoyed by an owner who somehow senses the magic and history the bike had for a couple of it’s owners from over a decade ago.
I like to think the latter.
Cean Burgeson can be reached at: cburgeson@pioneergroup.net

“It has to be up to you” (MNA June 07)

Associate Editor

“We decided, I’m going to go into the service because I had the feeling that I was needed.”
This is what Louis Shapiro said, and what many veterans of World War II say when asked about their choice to enter military service.
The other part of “we,” was Shapiro’s wife, Annette, who told her husband when he said he was considering entering the army “I can’t tell you what to do. I can’t tell you to go or not to go, it has to be up to you.”
It was a decision that the couple made together, which would separate them for almost three years, while Louis went off to the war in the European Theater as a Sergeant. There, he had the task of keeping tanks and other machinery repaired for Allied troops.
He says his training was for “repairing anything from a watch to a shaft for an artillery piece.”
So, like many other citizen soldiers, Shapiro had to leave his wife of a year and a half, his family, and his civilian job in an auto supply/auto machine shop, and go off to support the troops who invaded Normandy.
“We went down to the depot, all the family there — I felt very sad. And here I am going all alone, don’t know what I’m going to do or what, and I got on the train,” says Shapiro.
Once in the army, his experience wasn’t limited to repairing machinery, though. In training, one of the guys in his company asked, “Hey Sarge, would you like to go for a ride in this tank?” to which Shapiro replied, “Sure, show me how it works.”
“Now, I’m going to go up in the turret,” the soldier told him. And off went Shapiro behind the wheel, at breakneck speed on the base’s test track, with the other soldier up top.
“So I was really traveling along there, and I’m talking to him. Man, I’m hitting bumps and everything else,” says Shapiro. “And I’m not getting an answer, and I look up there, and all I see is eight fingers hanging onto a ledge.
“I had hit a bump and knocked him out of the turret.”
“I finally got it stopped and he come in — I hate to tell you what he said to me, but he wasn’t very happy.”
Once he finished with training and shipped off to Europe, Shapiro’s unit was tasked with supporting the 3rd Army, moving with trucks filled with all manner of machinery. “We could make anything that we wanted, and it traveled with us and our company. Our company was on its own quite a bit, many miles at times from headquarters. And so we were able to do a lot of service for the different organizations.”
His unit did more than just maintenance. They performed other tasks such as re-tooling rotors for jeeps, and even made a new screw shaft for a large piece of artillery.
But Shapiro’s unit was also assigned to guard Fort Jean Darte, an underground fort left over from World War I, which the Germans had used to manufacture airplane parts. Twenty soldiers from his unit, Shapiro, a lieutenant, and soldiers from other units, went into the subterranean fort with eight foot thick cement walls to protect it from falling back into German hands.
He recalls that the fort was littered with the remains of cart horses which the former German inhabitants had eaten when they ran out of food. Sleeping on straw which was originally for the horses, the American soldiers had to contend with rats which “were bigger than cats,” according to Shapiro. His unit remained there until after the Battle of Bulge.
While at the fort, one of the soldiers picked up an anti-tank mine and tried to open it. It was a gruesome occurrence which Shapiro says “has never left my mind.”
Another memory burned into his mind was from Dachau, which his unit camped only four miles away from shortly after the war ended.
“There were a couple little girls that were in the prison camp that had come out and I had visited with them, and they’d speak a little bit of English, and they were so swelled up from malnutrition. I was fortunate enough once in a while to get (them) food from home or some rations that I didn’t eat.”
When his service was over, and Shapiro finally was able to go home — he almost lost his paperwork. Catching a ride to a train in an ambulance converted into a mail truck, the driver allowed him to sleep on the mail bags in the back. The driver woke Shapiro when they arrived at the station.
“I got up and thanked him. And meanwhile I had forgot and left all my records on his truck. I said ‘oh man, I’ll never get home now.’”
In an attempt to get his paperwork back, Shapiro enlisted the help of an MP, who took him to headquarters. In talking with the MP, he discovered that he had grown up in Easton, only eight miles from Owosso, where Shapiro was from.
The Michigan born MP was able to help him track the records down to an office at headquarters, and found a major who retrieved them from a desk. By luck and a joint effort, the two had managed to find his valuable ticket home.
Shapiro never saw the MP again, despite living less than 10 miles away from each other back in the States. “In all my days here in Michigan and at home, I tried to find him and I never could find him.”
It wasn’t the only face from back in Michigan he would see on his journey home. “Believe it or not, as I was on the deck (of a ship) and we were going home, here was an officer, up on the top deck, that I knew was from Lansing. His name was Bernie Friedland. I hollered up there and he hollered back. He said ‘I’ll get home before you. I’ll tell your folks you’re on your way.”
After arriving at Camp Attlebury, Ind., Shapiro caught a ride to Detroit in an old Plymouth — from a guy who was charging for rides — where his wife was waiting for him with her sister, whose husband was also in the service.
“I got to the house and there was my beautiful wife standing there to greet me. I can see her as though it was yesterday with her hair done way up high, and she was just as pretty as a picture.”
“And that,” says the humble Shapiro of his war experiences, “that’s about it.”
Cean Burgeson can be reached at: cburgeson@pioneergroup.net

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Fishing for answers (June 07 MNA)

Associate Editor

Lake Michigan is the main tourist attraction for Manistee in the summer because of its spectacular sunsets and inviting beaches, but also because of the fantastic sport fishing opportunities to be had on the big lake. So it’s no surprise how protective the fishermen can be, who make Manistee their main port of call.
What has local fishermen concerned these days is the entry of a new type of fishing out on the lake this summer — because the waters of Manistee are in a state of change with commercial fishing now underway, as a venture by the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians.
• • •
This business expansion will have five commercial fishing boats operating out of Manistee, and when completed, it is hoped it will bring up to 100 jobs to the area for tribal and non-tribal people alike. Currently, the operation employs about 25.
The structured fishing coalition is made up of commercial fishers from the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians and is based in Manistee, but also operates out of Ludington and Muskegon, fishing the waters of Lake Michigan from Grand Haven north to Arcadia as part of what is known as the Treaty Fishing Zone, established in the 2000 Consent Decree. They are also proposing to fish in the intertribal waters that extend north from Frankfort across to Escanaba.
“We want to protect our rights as tribal fishermen,” said Don Stone, who, along with his sons, was key in getting an accord created and presented to the tribe to fund the operation. “It’s something we had all along that’s never been taken away from us, and traditionally our people supported themselves — made their livelihoods and existence — on fishing in one form or another.”
The president of the Manistee County Sport Fishing Association, Kevin Hughes, and Howard Vaas, representing Manistee Area Charter Boats, were part of a recent meeting held with the commercial fishermen to educate the public about the venture.
“Our biggest concern is safety,” says Hughes. “They have their right to fish out there, but our concern is being able to fish and not impeding the safety of recreational fishermen.”
Hughes is optimistic so far.
“They’re doing a good job of trying to mark (the nets),” he said.
Regardless, many sport fishermen are worried that the public may steer clear of fishing in the area due to a fear of the nets, and the perception that it may be less safe to troll the waters where they are set.
“The professional guys like ourselves, we’re pretty knowledgeable and have good navigation equipment,” said Hughes.
“But I’m concerned about ma and pa — and the guy that comes from Rogers City, or the the guy who comes from Harrisville. A lot of those people came to Manistee last year because their fishing (Lake Huron) wasn’t so good. If all of the sudden people are scared to go out there because of the net situation, that’s not good for the whole economy.”
That’s why all of the fishermen seem to feel that the proper education of the public is key to the success of the situation.
And that’s one of the prime reasons for participation in a running dialogue of the sport fishermen with the commercial fishing operation — to gain information on how the nets used by the tribal fishermen will be marked, mapping procedures planned so that the charter captains would know where the nets are located, and an update on the posting of GPS coordinates of the nets on a Website and in other public places to assist local fishermen and boaters.
The tribal fishermen have promised to pass all of this information along. An agreement was also reached on posting information on the nets themselves, and assisting recreational fishermen to learn how to navigate safely around nets.
“They say they want the spirit of cooperation,” says Hughes. “And I think we’ve had that. We’ve had some good dialogue. Time will tell. The bottom line is, rhetoric is fine, but action speaks louder than words.
“We’re just taking a wait and see policy; see how well they’re marked, and are they trying to share the fishery. We’ve got to be able to have some coastline to troll out there unimpeded. I’ve been urging my members to be patient, to give it a chance — we should be able to co-exist.”
And the commercial fishermen say that they can and will work to co-exist. In 2000, the Little River Band agreed not target any fish that is caught by sport fishers (i.e., trout, salmon); and not to authorize the use of large mesh gill nets in Lake Michigan from the Manistee/Benzie County line south to Grand Haven.
They are, however, allowed to keep a certain amount of this “by-catch,” (non-targeted fish) legally, if they choose to do so.
“We’re trying to catch whitefish,” said fisherman Ken King, who is also a consultant to the fishing operation. “We’re not trying to catch brown trout or steelhead. I can count on one hand the number of salmon I’ve caught, and I’ve been fishing for 20 years. It’s not what we’re in business for. We’re just honest guys trying to make an honest living.”
They also say they don’t want to push sport fishermen out of their favorite spots if at all possible.
“We had set nets up in a place called ‘The Barrel,’ just outside of Arcadia. We had one of the charter boat captains come in and explain to us that was a favorite area of fishermen,” says Don Stone.
Stone decided to pull his nets out of that area as a result of the information.
“We’re not going to be setting there anymore,” he said. “If we had known ahead of time, we wouldn’t have set there.”
The commercial fishermen say that they want to work with others as much as possible, and to ensure that the fishing is managed properly.
“A methodical approach to commercial fisheries, in respect of charter, and what we do — everyone’s going to have a certain amount of responsibility to maintain the (fish) herd,” said Levi Stone.
“And that’s our job as individuals, not to abdicate too much, but to take enough to earn a living off of and leave enough so that it’s there for the next guy. Once there’s human intervention, you have an obligation to manage it.”
The trap net operations are limited to 12 nets per boat and the small mesh gill net operations are limited to 24,000 feet of net per operation. Tribal trap net fishers are only allowed to target and retain whitefish (19 inches and larger) and menominee. Small mesh gill net fishers may only target and retain bloater chubs.
The fishers are required to release all other species back to the lake. Commercial trap net fishers are required to observe a spawning closure from noon on Nov. 6 through noon of Nov. 29 of each year to protect the fish stocks. All trap nets must be either removed from the water, or tied closed.
Tribal Natural Resource Department director, Jimmie Mitchell, has volunteered to take responsibility over the commercial fishing program, which includes monitoring the fishing activities and mandatory catch reports. “Tribal fishing with nets is culturally inherent to our people,” Mitchell said. “Fishing in this old way has been fraught with controversy over previous years, but fishing is central to our identity as Indian people.”
And the fishermen themselves feel that they are doing their best to make the situation work for both sides.
“By going above and beyond the required markings, and marking every single amount of rigging we have on that net, we’re doing the best we can to avail them (other fishermen) of what’s there,” said fisherman Levi Stone.
“I think they (the public) need to be educated on the gear, and how the gear works,” said fisherman Mike Kerborsky, another consultant for the project. “So they can have an understanding of what’s going on out there.”
Some fishermen who are familiar with netting operations and how to navigate them even fish near the nets, the commercial fishermen say.
“Once they get familiar with them, they love them,” said Levi Stone. “There’s a guy in Ludington who just tears it up in tournaments fishing around the nets.”
CPO Mike Jensen of Coast Guard Station Manistee believes that the net markings are adequate and he hasn’t seen any problems, so far, with the operation.
“We were out there the other day, and it seemed to me that they were marked well enough that I wasn’t getting into danger with them,” said Jensen. “I know that the tribal police monitors (them) — they have regulations set in place for what type of markings they’re supposed to display — so I know they’re enforcing that. To me, it seemed adequate.”
“At night, if there’s no retro (retroreflective tape), that might be another story,” Jensen said.
He added that crabbers on the ocean do not use retro tape, and it sometimes can be a problem with fishermen running at night with the crab traps.
“Comparatively speaking, these (here in Lake Michigan) are fairly well marked,” he said.
Some fishermen who have spoken out about the situation see running their lines in low light conditions with nets in place as a major safety concern.
“You can’t fish in the dark, even if they’re marked, and some of the best fishing is right at dawn,” says Ken Glasser, who has been fishing in Manistee for years, but cancelled his plans to fish over Memorial Day weekend because of the netting, and says he won’t come to Manistee at all this year to fish.
“I’m just not coming...and taking that kind of risk. I’ll go somewhere else. They’re in places where we fish, like in the shelf, and up to the north. Once the nets are gone, I’ll think about coming back — if there’s any fish left.”
Dan Agnello, of Jackson, feels the same way.
“I’ve been going up to Manistee for 27 years, and if those fish nets are there, I’m not going to go fishing there,” he says.
It is these types of comments that are frustrating for the commercial fishermen, and the association leaders alike.
Don Stone promises that information and education are a primary goal of the new venture. To aid in this, the commercial fishermen are planning to set up nets within the next few weeks for the public to view on dry land to see them first-hand, and invite the public to stop by and visit.
Stone has also extended an invitation to anyone wanting more information about the operation to contact him at 398-9805 or come by the office on Washington Street in the Good Thunder Motorcycles building. The fishermen can also be found where they dock their boats near the S.S. City of Milwaukee.
“We have captains, a few of them, stop in...to chitchat and see what’s going on and stay informed, and that’s real helpful,” said Don Stone.
“Because if we stop talking and everybody starts feeding on misinformation, innuendo and rumor, then that’s where the problem begins. As long as we can keep talking and keep the lines of information open, then it’s going to be better for everybody.”
Cean Burgeson can be reached at: cburgeson@pioneergroup.net