Musings on music, sports, life in general from Quincy, Illinois.

Monday, July 17, 2006

I Luv Ludington

Just got back from a massive Michigan road trip, and I do believe I've seen the best Gus Macker Tournament yet.

Ludington is located on Lake Michigan about an hour north of Muskegon. It is a beautiful town with a huge summer tourist season, all because of that big hole in the ground full of water.

People around here just sort of give me a blank look when I tell them about Lake Michigan beaches. There's really nothing around here to compare it to — let's face it, swimming in the Mississippi River is like taking a toxic waste bath.

Anyway, Ludington has its Macker in a big park right in front of a mile-long beach near downtown. I had sound stage duty and I literally looked over the Top Men's and Top Women's Courts to see the beach and the lake sparkling under sunny skies. It was warm but we had a breeze the whole time, and the local organizing committee couldn't have been better to work with. Both Saturday and Sunday afternoons I jumped in the lake to cool off. On Sunday I took over a court after we had some parent troubles and I did five or six games with 13-14 year old boys and everybody was great. Before the final game I got my suit on and ran into the lake to cool off, then officiated the championship game and it was a beautiful thing.

To put it politely, the scenery was, uh, spectacular. And, like Forrest Gump puts it, "That's all I'm gonna say about that."

Man, I just had SO MUCH FUN. I got to run my mouth into a microphone and be silly and I actually got paid to do it ... actually there's a lot more to it, with such a big tournament we were busy making announcements ("Bill from Saginaw, your ride is leaving NOW" or "D-Town Baller to Court Red E NOW"). We charged $1 for birthday and good luck announcements, and we gave away more than $100 to the skate board park project and the HELP (Hands Extended Loving People) program. The vendors kept bringing us incredible food and I made friends with Chris Boykins and his Outlawz team from Lansing, great guys (and Pam, too!).

This tournament has 900 teams and 60 courts, similar in size to our Quincy tournament. That's a lot of volunteers and a lot of hard work to plan and execute a a big tournament. There were a few minor issues and the usual three or four idiots who made trouble, but I think playing by the beach has a calming affect and personally, except for one moronic parent, I didn't see anything out of the ordinary.

I was sad to leave the sound stage Sunday night. It was two of the best days I've ever spent, and I hope I can go back next year.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Sammy Remembered

Finished with my guitar parts tonight at The Copper Mine. Larry starts his guitar and keyboard work next week. I'm heading to Michigan tomorrow night after the H-W Demons softball game, working for Gus at the beach tournament in Ludington

Most of the time when I'm assigned to cover a press conference about an event, I just shrug my shoulders, get out my notebook and trudge over there.

Press conferences are easy ways to get all the media together in a controlled environment. They are great for the TV and radio guys but most of the time boring for newspaper reporters.

A few weeks ago Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan was in town to talk about a sex offender roundup in Adams County. Ten minutes after the press conference was supposed to start, somebody asked why we were still waiting. For the TV guys, of course! I suggested we get going, but Madigan looked at me and said, "Hold your horses. We'll wait for them."

So. I've been told to "hold my horses" by one of the top-ranking law enforcement officials in the state. I wear it like a badge of honor, believe me.

This morning I went to a press conference, and for once I didn't dread it, and it was a beautiful thing. The Sammy Fund is having its seventh annual event this October to honor Samantha Otte, who passed away at age 10 in 2000 from cystic fibrosis complications. Her parents, Chuck and June, decided to do something positive in her memory and the result is an annual event that raises thousands for children's activities in Adams County.

Chuck and June don't like the spotlight and would rather not have to deal with the media, but they believe in what they are doing and they do it with great humility, humor and love. (Chuck and June are in the Funions Hall of Fame, by the way).

They had a short presentation, handed out a fact sheet, thanked everybody profusely, and went on their way. And nobody told me to hold my horses this morning — the TV guys were only a few minutes late.

I admire and respect Chuck and June for perservering in the midst of great personal pain and tragedy.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Goodbye, 49 Carlton

In 1980, a family of seven moved from London, Ontario to Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Now only my father will be left in GR because my youngest sister, Charys, has decided to move to Denver, where her husband's family lives.

Can't say I blame her. She has a great husband, David, and two beautiful young children, Josh and Erin. They were the light in my mother's eye, and Grandma Hart took a piece of us when she passed on 14 months ago. Her death was especially hard on Charys, who we called the GR Kid because she was the last one in town.

So they are pulling up and leaving and it's a sad thing. The last time I saw my mother was at their house on 49 Carlton Street, during Christmas 04. It was our hub during her funeral and my place of refuge on road trips up north, and I will miss the porch and playing guitar with Josh, reading to Erin and hanging out with my brother in law and my sister on the porch.

I was there in May and as I pulled away for the very last time from 49 Carlton, the four of them were standing on the porch waiving goodbye, and that's a great memory to be left with.

I was feeling a little bit blue about it — also getting ready for a church meeting tonight, and I don't like church meetings — when I stumbled on this bit of 80s rock loveliness ....

If this doesn't take you back, NOTHING will!