Saturday, January 28, 2017

Silence Is Not an Option

This is not supposed to be a political blog.

This blog is supposed to be about the wonderful people of Michigan and our arts, culture, and food. I've written personal essays about my travels throughout the state and nostalgic posts about fond childhood memories. I often sit down at my computer with a smile on my face as I write about a writer I interviewed, film I saw, or a vacation I took. It brought me joy to share these stories with friends, family, and a few loyal readers.

But today, I sit here scowling with thousands of indignant thoughts clamoring in my mind yearning to breathe free. In his first week in office, our president has continued to play off irrational fears while ignoring or openly attacking facts. I wasn't surprised by this because the content of his character lacks basic rational thought and human empathy. I thought I could grin and bear it. I even laughed at his ridiculous wall.

But the tipping point was his executive order banning refugees from seven countries based on nothing but baseless fear of Muslim refugees. Not only did he impose this reckless ban, but he entered his order on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Putting into words my disgust with our president's executive order is difficult, but necessary.

Two months ago, I wrote about the United States as the "shining city upon a hill," and how I feared we might no longer be that shining city with the election of Donald Trump. Deep in my heart, I hoped that Trump wouldn't be that terrible and was naive enough to believe the Republicans who denounced Trump's bloviating about a Muslim ban would stand up to him when the time came. Then it only took one week for them to cave. One damn week. As I write this, only a small handful of GOP leaders have spoken against the ban. The rest either praise this un-American ban or sit in appalling silence.

Our country is consumed by irrational fear. And, yes, it is completely irrational. The Cato Institute, hardly a liberal organization, conducted a study that found that the chance of being killed in a terrorist attack by a refugee is a 1 in 3.64 billion per year. Not one of the 9/11 hijackers was from the countries on Trump's list. But we are supposed to cower under our covers worried about the Muslim Boogeyman because fearmongering politicians tell us to. A president once told us that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. Now, fear is our greatest weakness.

Lady Liberty's lamp is no longer lifted beside the golden door, but at her side, nearly extinguished by the storied, xenophobic pomp of Donald Trump. Thanks to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, there is one small, glowing ember left that one court decision cannot save. Instead, we must raise our voices and let the collective breath of a brave and free people act as a great bellows that ignites her torch anew. And we must rise up and roar every time Donald Trump tries to use his powers to incite fear and attempt to restrict liberty.

Silence is not an option.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

My Favorite New-to-Me Places to Eat and Drink in 2016

As 2016 comes to a close, it's time to reflect on the most important things in life, food and drink. Although I have plenty of favorite restaurants that I visit on a regular basis, I do like to try new places, especially when traveling around Michigan. Here are a few of my favorite restaurants and bars that I experienced for the first time in 2016.


Tenacity Brewing

Tenacity Brewing
I visited Tenacity Brewing in Flint one afternoon this fall. It had just opened for the night, so I was one of only a few customers. The brewery is in an old firehouse along the Flint River, and it has a great atmosphere with a few different rooms and outdoor seating to sit back and drink. I tried a flight of beers and was impressed. The Farmer's Daughter IPA was very good, and their Oktoberfest was smooth. The highlight was their dark wheat, and I purchased a growler of it to go.

An empty flight
Bell's Eccentric Cafe

Bell's Brewery is the godfather of Michigan craft brewing. Larry Bell and his team started brewing in Kalamazoo more than thirty years ago, and Michigan's craft brewing revolution was born. Even though most of their brewing occurs in nearby Comstock, Bell's still brews on the original site in Kalamazoo, and they serve beer and food next door at the Eccentric Cafe.

Bell's Eccentric Cafe
Despite being a Bell's fan for years, I had never been to either of their breweries. The Eccentric Cafe lived up to my expectations. I had an excellent burger as well as a couple of delicious beers. After finishing my meal, I stopped at the Bell's General Store, which sells t-shirts, homebrewing equipment, beer glasses, beer (of course), and more. I picked up one six pack of the Oracle Double IPA and a mixed six pack of Bell's beers.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Things to Do with Kids in Marquette

My family visited Marquette at the end of August, and my two young daughters (age eight and four) loved everything about it. With its many parks and its location on the shores of Lake Superior, Marquette is a great vacation destination for kids.

Shiras Park and Picnic Rocks Park

When we first arrived in Marquette, we immediately headed to the beach. Even though my daughters are used to the warmer waters of the inland lakes near Detroit, they bravely swam in Lake Superior's cool water at Shiras Park's beach. We practically had to drag them out of the water because they were having so much fun. After they swam, we let them play on the playground at Picnic Rocks Park, which overlooks Lake Superior and is directly next to Shiras Park.

Presque Isle Park

A view from Presque Isle
The highlight of our trip was Presque Isle Park. Presque Isle is a 323-acre city park on the north side of town with several foot trails through its forests. My daughters managed to walk the roughly 2 miles around the perimeter of Presque Isle. They loved the views of Lake Superior and frolicking in the water by the Black Rocks as my wife and I took turns jumping from the cliffs.

Marquette also has a lot of indoor activities for bad-weather days or days when parents don't feel like dragging young children around nature trails. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

A Shining City Upon a Hill

"I lift my lamp beside the golden door."
On election night, many Americans were overjoyed to see Donald Trump shock the world with his upset of Hillary Clinton. I was not one of them. As someone who believes in treating all people with respect and loving my neighbor as myself, I could not vote for someone who has mocked and denigrated women, minorities, immigrants, and the disabled, especially when he would double down and not apologize for any of it.

Despite his repulsive behavior, I believe that most of his voters are not racist or sexist. Unlike me, they could hold their noses and vote for someone despite his bigoted comments and actions. Trump reached them and moved them in ways that Clinton did not. Republican politicians and pundits have tried to assure those of us who care about combating bigotry that Trump's words are just that, words, and that they will somehow be able to control him and prevent him from violating the Constitution.

In the two weeks since the election, we have Nazis hailing Trump, kids chanting "Build the Wall" at a middle school close to my home, and people painting swastikas and pro-Trump graffiti at a playground dedicated to Adam "MCA" Yauch in New York, and these are only a few of the hateful and racist incidents polluting our great nation.

While our fellow Americans are being terrorized by racist thugs, our president-elect is selecting a questionable cast of characters for important positions in his administration. Sure, Trump said, "Stop it" on 60 Minutes and disavowed one "alt-right" group when pressed by the New York Times, but, instead of making a real effort to denounce pathetic racists terrorizing people in his name, he has spent his limited grasp of the English language using Twitter to attack Saturday Night Live or the cast of Hamilton for asking Mike Pence to work on behalf of all Americans.

Martin Luther King Jr. said, "We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people." It does not matter that I do not think Donald Trump is a good person. Even if he were a good person, his silence has been appalling. But even more appalling is the silence of the Trump voters who voted for him despite his racist, sexist, and xenophobic statements.

If you think racism, sexism, xenophobia, and prejudice are wrong but voted for Trump because you believed in his business acumen, his support of the Second Amendment, his trade policies, his concern for the working class, or his promise to replace the Affordable Care Act with something better, then let him know when you are disgusted by his actions and words. Call out people committing hate crimes in his name as the Nazi white supremacists that they are.

These thugs are not the real Americans. Real Americans died on the beaches of Normandy to defend democracy and destroy fascism. Real Americans marched from Selma to Montgomery to secure rights that were supposed to be inalienable. Real Americans left their native lands around the world guided by Lady Liberty's torch and her plea to give her "your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be breathe free." Real Americans were arrested for casting a vote merely because they were women. Real Americans speak Polish, German, Chinese, Spanish, and Arabic as their native tongues. Real Americans built the railroads, the interstate highways, and the space program. Real Americans consecrated the hallowed ground at Gettysburg so that a "government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth."

President Reagan often described the United States as a "shining city upon a hill." In his Farewell Address, he described this city: "[I]n my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That's how I saw it, and see it still."

The shining city will continue to stand if real, decent, honest, and empathetic Americans raise their voices in opposition to hatred. If you held your nose when voting for Trump, stand up to him now by letting him know that he needs to foster an America "teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace." If we are silent, the rising tide of fear and hatred will flood the city, sweeping away democracy and extinguishing freedom's flame. But if we speak up, we will be that city radiating the light of freedom to the rest of the world.


Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Surviving the Capital City River Run Marathon

The start of the Capital City River Run Marathon
So I guess I'm running a marathon

In 2004 and 2006, I ran the Marine Corps Marathon . . . slowly. Since then my wife and I have added two kids to our family, and I went full-on dad bod. I found time to exercise here and there, but I never really got back to the fitness level I wanted to be at.

In December, I made a goal to run at least 20 minutes, or walk at least 30 minutes, per day. By early June, I had kept my goal and was increasing my running mileage to the point that running 10 miles was not too taxing. The farther I ran, the more I began thinking about my failures in the marathon.

I started reviewing training plans and looking up races in Michigan in the fall. Should I really try breaking that 4-hour barrier that eluded me in 2004? (In 2006, I had no illusions of breaking 4 hours, since my training was a diversion for my bar exam studies.) Did I want to wake up at, or before, dawn for months to fit my runs in before long days at work?

Yes, I decided I wanted to walk away from a marathon satisfied for once. I selected Lansing's Capital City River Run Marathon on September 18, and I made a training plan with a little more mileage than the ones I used in previous attempts.

Over the next three months, I did not miss a workout. I ran on vacation. I ran in the dark. I ran in the rain. I ran in extreme heat and humidity. I just ran.