Back to the Classroom, Slide Projectors, Mountains & Mole Hills

Four years ago, my intended formula for this blog was pretty simple–pick a form of media (TV show, movie, billboard, cat footprints) and let it take you down a path or two.  But the last path I took was in August, before I returned to the high school classroom for my 26th year.  Being in an office setting since 2012 certainly gave me more physical and creative energy for activities like blogging as well as producing a documentary series, but it also pulled me a bit away from some basic reality-check questions that I’ve always enjoyed from teenagers–beyond “Can you give me passing grade and a pass to go home?” The days following Election Day produced some poignant conversations for this English major turned video production teacher–with just a minor in US History. Q.  How can the losing candidate can have 3 million more votes–and what the hell is an Electoral College? It’s certainly a… Read More…

From Detroit to the Bulge: Priceless Snapshots of One Soldier’s Journey Across Europe

Before he was selected in WWII’s first draft for 18 year-olds, Detroit’s Lawrence Dupuis didn’t know the value of being color-blind.  “They would take me up in the aircraft and I could detect where the landscape had been disturbed and camouflage was laid down.” His cartooning skills were even put to use, although someone else would have to color the wall-sized illustration below:  “This drawing was painted on the stage of the Great Dunmow Airport Building that was to be used as an all-purpose room by the 8th Air Force who were to take over the field.  They sent over a sergeant to check the work which he would color later.  I don’t remember how I got involved but I do remember spending my nights after supper–for a month!” “I got called down to the chiefs one day and he informed me that I was to go to London to be a part… Read More…

New Podcast: Fathers, Daughters, Wedding Songs & Horse Racing with Ladd Biro

Ladd Biro has loved music and been a performer his entire life–but never wanted to be a starving artist either.  For 40 years he has worked in the entirely non-9-to-5 world of the track–and been in bands and created albums. He contacted Kevin Walsh about creating a music video for “In Days Gone By,” a song that a friend of his wrote for his niece’s wedding–dedicated to the special relationship between a father and daughter. Ladd joins Kevin as they discuss: The world of horse-racing Loving music–and keeping it as part of your life The creation of “In Days Gone By” Raiding photo albums of family and friends The universal appeal of daddy/daughter dances What makes a band work Mars and Venus–and editing a video for both Ladd’s album, Transition, from Roscoe Records Check out the video of “In Days Gone By” on YouTube.

“Let Jim Run His Own Funeral” – Irish Laughter Through Tears

At the end of the 98-hour day that my father died, it surprised me that the hardest part wasn’t hearing “He didn’t survive surgery,” but instead having to tell others–the slow pressing of numbers of the phone, knowing that someone’s life is going to be changed right after, “Hi Kev.  What’s up?” In a strange twist of fate that afternoon, my three sisters, Katie, Colleen and Maureen were all en route to Detroit Metro within an hour of one another.  When they had left Chicago and New York, after our call from the hospital, they knew only what we were told—“Dad’s been in a bad accident—he’s in surgery.”  By the time they were air-born, my mom and I were told of his passing and taken upstairs to see his body.  My mom’s friends Anne and Betty volunteered to drive us to the airport so we could meet the girls—we were cutting it close, so we just hopped… Read More…

Pomp and Circumstantial Evidence: What’s in a Smile at Graduation Time?

I hadn’t seen this smile from my son in a long time… As you might expect, we don’t dress this formally around the yard most days. It was prom night last Thursday and Aidan and his date Katie had just finished twelfth grade two days earlier. And, aside from the $200+ to rent the tux, we also got this pretty rare expression thrown in with the shiny shoes. In fact, perhaps the last time we’d seen that smile was right before Aidan started his career as a student… We were heading down to Indianapolis to visit some friends and stopped at a rest stop to find one of those trees that you’ll spend the rest of your life just walking by. I grabbed Aidan and stuck him up in the branches and you’d think he’d just been taken to Disney World. One of my favorite Mark Twain nuggets is: “Why… Read More…

No Snow-Days at the Detroit Zoo: A Winter’s Afternoon with a Camera and a New Gadget

Dig through your parents’ photo albums.  If you’re from the Detroit area (or ever visited someone there in your childhood) there’s probably one of these shots somewhere, for example, the bear-pit where you used to be able to toss marshmallows, in the days before ursine diabetes… My mom was there twenty-two years earlier… The same day they were posing in front of the zoo’s signature water tower where my Uncle Larry (standing) perfected his sneer/smile to be seen fifty years later as a “Grumpa.” And perhaps the most recognizable family photo-spot in the park… In fact, you can Google “Detroit Zoo Fountain” and get a couple thousand family pictures like mine–some snapshots are even for sale on eBay… I hadn’t been there in five years–after all, the Detroit Zoo is nearly four miles from my house and I only drive by it every day.  But it was going to hit… Read More…

“Brotherly Love” is Ironic? I’ve Never Heard That.

(Mike Schmidt, arguably the greatest third baseman to ever play the game, a career Phillie and a hometown hero.  In this photo, he’s in comic disguise to hide from Philly fans.) Look up the phrase “philly fan” in the online “Urban Dictionary” site and you will see adjectives like “obnoxious,” “juvenile,” and “unruly.”  It can be rough for visitors to our sporting events…well, it can be rough for home teams as well (see Mike Schmidt above), but visiting teams and their fans know that Philadelphia may be a great place to live, but you don’t want to visit. To a great extent, the reputation of Philly fans are over-rated. Are they full throated?  Yes.  Obnoxious?  Sure.  Homicidal?  You bet.  But if you’re wearing an opponent’s jersey and happen to visit The Link (Lincoln Financial Field, home of the Eagles) or Citizens Bank Park (home of the Phillies), there’s a decent… Read More…

“Go! Go Fast! Hide Them!” – My Father’s Guns

About eight months ago, my granddaughter, Mara, was quite interested in family history and asked for more details. I said I would write but just couldn’t seem to do it. Fast forward to two weeks ago and I go to a poetry reading–mostly new writers, talking about their lives, easy to understand and with no rhyming. At the reception, I ask how they do it. “It just comes,” they say.  Hard for me to imagine. Then one woman suggests I make it like I’m writing a letter to someone. I think of my granddaughter. The next morning I wake up thinking in poetry phrases about my father’s guns.  Later in the day it all came out, fully-formed. ******************* My father had three guns. Cold, hard revolvers all. Passed from his grandfather, a policeman. They were always around, teamed with ammunition. We brothers learned to shoot them all. It was no big deal,… Read More…

Save The Dates!

On October 11, 19-something, I got a call from an old college buddy. October 11 is apparently National Coming Out Day, a significant day in the gay community when LGBT people come out to someone close to them who doesn’t know.  I was shocked–I had no idea.  We had talked about girls for hours over beers and “za.”  (transl. pizza).  To help process the information, I called another friend, who was apparently sitting next to his wife when the phone rang. Me: “Mike, does the date October 11 mean anything to you?” Mike: “October 11th? No, what’s special about that date…OUCH…yeah, it’s my wife’s birthday.”    Most of us have heard by now about Eugene Han and Kirstin Davis, a married couple who will not likely ever forget their wedding anniversary.  They were on a date in a movie theatre in Aurora Co on July 20th, 2012 when a crazed… Read More…

ID Those Old Snapshots! The Orson Starr House and “Lots of Love, Lois”

You don’t meet that many women named Lois–perhaps Superman was kryptonite to that name after the 1940s.  But today I met one and was immediately reminded of another–someone I’d never met but I’m sure I’d like her. As a family historian, I’ve always been grateful to the long-gone folks who took 30 seconds to identify people on the backs of their snapshots.  In the large shoebox of Brownie pictures I inherited from my grandmother, most with no notations (since it was obvious to her who they were!) I enjoy this note the most. 89 years ago, Lois even took the time to double-over the ink to be sure it came through clearly.  She seems fun and perhaps a bit scattered–not everyone’s slashes go in two directions and not all dates have a period, but the flip side of the picture seems to bear out my armchair pschoanalysis… A middle of leaf-covered yard is… Read More…

Kid-with-Fish Picture: Leon, Jerry and a Free Ticket

There’s something very romantic and nostalgic about a kid holding a fish–especially if it’s a first-catch. There’s that mix of pride, fear and joy that is far different than you find with most any other kid-meets-creature encounter.  Far different than the parent holding a camera shouting: “Nope.  Go back to where you just ran over that worm with your bike.  Get down on your hands and knees and smile!” It’s nothing like stepping on a spider or worm-steamrolling–both instances are necessary for sanity or unavoidable just after a rainy day…or one of my more vivid bits of cruelty as a child–Ray-of-Death with a magnifying glass and a pedestrian ant. And I’ve been that parent.  When we’re on the dock and accidentally actually catch something, it’s a big deal!  “Go get mom,” I would holler to the other kid.  “Have her bring her camera or phone or something!”  And there we… Read More…

Father’s Day Legacy: Jim’s Love of “Now”

I was doing some vital, long-forgotten yard-work in 1995 when my neighbor Beth yelled across the street, “Happy Father’s Day!” It took me a minute to realize she was talking to me.  Aidan was already a day or two over-due, so officially the greeting was premature.  But I smiled and realized that she was right.  I was in the club.  And someday, if I did things right, my kids would dread that holiday, as much as I did.  Jim Walsh was impossible to buy for and it didn’t help that his birthday fell on June 28th, so we needed to double our futile efforts as soon as school got out. I have taxing memories of Saturday odysseys through the sporting goods and office-supply aisles of  K-Mart trying to find something, anything, for my dad.  And when I  was wrapping up the golf-score clicker, the “World’s Greatest Dad” trophy,  the back-scratcher,… Read More…

Disney’s Bid for World Domination

   A world domination planning session? Walt Disney had an insidious plot astounding in its evil audacity. It was a plan for world domination so complete, it rivaled the greatest plans of Lex Luther, Ernst Blofeld or even Dr. Evil. Using an ever-expanding cast of animated characters, led by a giant, falsetto mouse, charged by a driving beat devised by a group aptly named They Might be Giants, Disney’s plan was to attack the American populace at its weakest point, its children. Capturing the hearts and souls of these impressionable children was the first and necessary step in ultimately seizing control of the minds, and more important, the wallets of people all over the world. Soon, like a cult derived from a science fiction novel, Disney’s reach spread into Florida, Los Angeles, and then Europe. A quick visit to one of its indoctrination centers referred to as “Epcot” will make it… Read More…

“The Meanest Mom on the Block” – Misdiagnosis of a Four Year-Old

You wouldn’t know she would win the award to look at her–the picture of innocence at 22 years.  She even took pains to perpetuate the illusion, showering me with exotic presents like wooden mallets and fancy ribbons, my favorite chocolate cake, even my cousins Pat, Sharon and Susie standing by as witnesses on my second birthday. I can see it so clearly now; I was already on my way out–like the crooked candle on the right.  Somewhere out of frame, lurked my upgrade–the 1966 Katie. And in two years it would be official; the election results would be in. Ann Walsh, by unanimous decision, would be voted the “Meanest Mom on the Block.”  Apparently, when she was informed of the official tally she was reduced to tears.  My misdiagnosis of my mother’s parenting style came back to haunt me in a tattered album that I’d pretty much ignored most of… Read More…

Lawn Kayaking: Distractions and Default-Settings

  We were at Aunt Cathy and Uncle Steve’s house in 1999.  The kids and their cousins were enjoying a kayak ride through the lawn, courtesy of their Aunt Claudia, who always shared in the unique moments of her nieces and nephews. We always laugh that the perfect gift for a baby shower would be an abandoned car.  Just stick it in the backyard and you’ll never need to assemble that expensive play-structure or worry about broken necks on a trampoline. Some children’s barbers actually give their victims a giant ball of masking tape and by the time the kid is finished de-sticking his hands and re-sticking the ball to his face, the chair or his mom the haircut is done.  New barber shops for tots have the same idea. In Detroit, a local chain has made some pretty good money using this tactic for guys in what has become known… Read More…

Tiger Stadium: What Makes a Ballpark

  I’ve often wondered about the emotional hitching post that is a ballpark.  And when anyone says “ballpark” we all know that it’s not referring to any other sports field besides baseball. I only live a few miles from five little league fields that I spent five summers of my childhood praying that the ball wouldn’t be hit to me in right field.  (That, of course, was in the final two innings, when the coach decided it was safe to take me off the scorebook.)  After a brief try at second base where I smoothly fielded a grounder and sent it sailing fifteen feet over the first baseman, into the startled bleachers, I decided that the slower-paced outfield was probably my calling.  Unfortunately, with the leisure of right field came its lunar surface that could easily send the ball to the right, left, straight up, between my legs–or worse, right… Read More…

The Bobber: A Life of Crime Diverted

It was a great fishing hole only a few blocks from our house in a suburb of Cincinnati.   My dad was transferred by Ford from Detroit and we were all still getting used to having so much nature around.  Crayfish and creeks were scarce in Detroit, but “craw-dads” were numerous in the “cricks” just down the street. There was a reservoir and a public park that offered a ledge where we took our gear on Saturdays.  I wasn’t having much luck but the kid next to me was.  Searching for the rationalization for my poor angler skills, I noticed that the other seven year-old had something I didn’t.  His bobber was red and white, while mine was yellow and orange.  That had to be it.  Apparently, the bass responded much better to the floating red plastic on the surface compared to the floating orange plastic on the surface.  Forty-one… Read More…

The Three Things Babies Don’t Want You to Know

This is Sophie, my two year old daughter, in a diner in Davie, Florida. I posted this photo on Facebook with the caption, “Go Eagles!” In an act that took me 30 seconds, I enlisted my innocent two year old into my plan to annoy as many Dolphin fans as possible. Raising my three girls has been a pleasure not just because I find ways to express my fundamental obnoxiousness, as important as that is. It’s also a joy for all the reasons everybody talks about—unconditional mutual love, having at your constant disposal little balls of indescribable cuteness, the pride in self-perpetuation, blah blah blah. But there are effects of parenthood that nobody tells you about, effects that you should be warned about before taking the leap into parenthood.  So, in the style of Cracked.com (without the sense of humor), here are the secrets babies don’t want you to know: 1. They… Read More…

“Cobbler and the Cowboy” — My Grandma’s Poetry

  66 years ago, this poem was proudly cut from the newspaper and placed in a scrapbook.  My grandmother, Melanie Vier McAleer died just two and a half years ago at the age of 94–an accomplished woman by any standard, winning a national doubles championship in tennis for women over 70. But her greater love, one that stayed with her through her entire life, was poetry.  She was a regularly featured writer in Detroit papers throughout my mom’s childhood in the 1940s and 50s.  Her whimsical style and clever insight into the human condition was spot-on.  I remember being flattered as a 12 year old to be asked to illustrate some of her children’s poetry about animals–one of them a squirrel. It was always a dream of hers to meld her two loves into one–a book of poems about tennis.  Her son Joe and I put ourselves on this task… Read More…

Getting Rid of Old Photos: Confessions of a Packrat

Logic has to end somewhere.  Sure it all worked in theory.  Representing the years from our marriage in 1992 and our purchase of a nice digital camera in 2005 we somehow stopped creating nice photo albums–perhaps the same reason we took all those pictures–two kids.  It’s not often you hear parents of a four and two year old say, “Wow, they’re finally asleep.  Let’s scrapbook!” But we kept snapping those pictures and getting the film developed.  We’d pick up the envelopes and negatives, look through them, mail a few off to relatives and put the envelope promptly in a box. The box soon spawned another box–a bigger banker’s box. And they both sat patiently in our basement storage room for another eight years while the electronic cousins of these boxes filled up with photos on my computer’s hard drive.  Everytime I was dragging out the Christmas decorations, those two basement boxes… Read More…