Letters 05-23-2016

Examine The Priorities Are you disgusted about closing schools, crumbling roads and bridges, and cuts everywhere? Investigate funding priorities of legislators. In 1985 at the request of President Reagan, Grover Norquist founded Americans for Tax Reform (ATR). For 30 years Norquist asked every federal and state candidate and incumbent to sign the pledge to vote against any increase in taxes. The cost of living has risen significantly since 1985; think houses, cars, health care, college, etc...

Make TC A Community For Children Let’s be that town that invests in children actively getting themselves to school in all of our neighborhoods. Let’s be that town that supports active, healthy, ready-to-learn children in all of our neighborhoods...

Where Are Real Christian Politicians? As a practicing Christian, I was very disappointed with the Rev. Dr. William C. Myers statements concerning the current presidential primaries (May 8). Instead of using the opportunity to share the message of Christ, he focused on Old Testament prophecies. Christ gave us a new commandment: to love one another...

Not A Great Plant Pick As outreach specialist for the Northwest Michigan Invasive Species Network and a citizen concerned about the health of our region’s natural areas, I was disappointed by the recent “Listen to the Local Experts” feature. When asked for their “best native plant pick,” three of the four garden centers referenced non-native plants including myrtle, which is incredibly invasive...

Truth About Plants Your feature, “listen to the local experts” contains an error that is not helpful for the birds and butterflies that try to live in northwest Michigan. Myrtle is not a native plant. The plant is also known as vinca and periwinkle...

Ask the Real Plant Experts This letter is written to express my serious concern about a recent “Listen To Your Local Experts” article where local nurseries suggested their favorite native plant. Three of the four suggested non-native plants and one suggested is an invasive and cause of serious damage to Michigan native plants in the woods. The article is both sad and alarming...

My Plant Picks In last week’s featured article “Listen to the Local Experts,” I was shocked at the responses from the local “experts” to the question about best native plant pick. Of the four “experts” two were completely wrong and one acknowledged that their pick, gingko tree, was from East Asia, only one responded with an excellent native plant, the serviceberry tree...

NOTE: Thank you to TC-based Eagle Eye Drone Service for the cover photo, taken high over Sixth Street in Traverse City.

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Robert Downes

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Flutter of Wings

Random Thoughts Robert Downes You have to wonder if it was Detective Tom Heller’s guardian angel who put his finger in the barrel of the shotgun that misfired outside of a court in Montmorency County a couple of weeks ago.
Heller had a .20 gauge shotgun fired at his chest at point-blank range, and it failed to go off.
Don’t know if anyone heard the flutter of wings when the gun failed to fire, but it wouldn’t surprise me.
The Grand Traverse County detective was chasing Robert Becker, who had just been convicted of first-degree criminal sexual charges for molesting a 14-year-old boy. Upon hearing the jury’s verdict, Becker bolted from the courthouse and ran to his car with Heller and a sheriff’s deputy on his heels. Becker pulled a loaded shotgun from his car and fired at the detective, who wasn’t wearing his bullet-proof vest.
It’s easy to snicker at the idea of a guardian angel, but this case sure offers some food for thought. Many religions believe in some sort of protective angel, hovering around in the background like Invisible Woman Sue Storm of the Fantastic Four, ready to warn you away from the tainted chicken salad or the car flying through a red light.
Guardian angels are said to be especially attentive to children, keeping them from falling backwards down the steps and such. And some religions believe that the ghosts of ancestors step in from time to time to lend a protective hand. Or, as noted in the Encyclopedia Brittanica: “other spiritual beings that have been placated by sacrifices or other rituals, assist man in achieving a proper rapport with God...”
Of course, you only have to look in the weekly “News of the Weird” column in the Express to note that a lot of guardian angels must be sleeping on the job, if they really do exist. But in Det. Heller’s case, there is reason to believe that his supernatural sidekick deserves a departmental citation.
Thursday, July 5, 2007

Fear of Dylan

Music Robert Downes I’ve been a Dylan geek since my college days, when I found a stash of his songbooks in the attic of our student co-op. After learning to play a few on guitar, the lightning struck: Bob Dylan is the Bill Shakespeare of our time.
Since then, I’ve found that there are two types of people in the world: those who think that Bob Dylan is the cat’s ass, and those who just don’t “get” him and haven’t a clue as to what the fuss is all about.
Let me explain it to you. The guy has poetry in his bones. Old test-of-time stuff, riddled with a wry wisdom, like what‘s in the Bible. He‘s got the same thing Ernest Hemingway had: “A built-in, shock-proof bullshit detector“ that comes through in his music. He‘s a reed, channeling songs from a divine source, with his feet planted in America‘s distant past -- he hears echoes of the Civil War and the murmer of our country‘s soul. Listen to his radio show and you learn that Dylan knows most everything about American music that matters, and then some.
Thursday, July 5, 2007

Benjamin Maier Ceramics

Art Robert Downes Peer beyond the elegant storefront windows of Benjamin Maier’s gallery in downtown Leland and you’ll find a contemporary landscape of swirling colors, captured in clay.
The gallery walls are filled with Maier’s creations, ranging from Oriental teapots to vases, cups, dishware and stoneware pots, all imbued with a dreamy sense of style and color. It’s clear at a glance that Maier, 29, has a singular vision that brings out the best of what clay has to offer, draped in a sublime range of glazes and colors.
Maier’s celebration of the earth happened by chance. After graduating from Traverse City Central High School in 1996, he attended Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, completing a degree in political science with a minor in economics.
Thursday, July 5, 2007

Stuff I learned while looking up other stuff

Random Thoughts Robert Downes There were more horror stories in the Detroit Free Press last week about the continuing meltdown at Northwest Airlines. Of course, this meltdown has been going on for about 20 years now, so it’s just more business as usual for the airline which is one of our chief flight links here in Northern Michigan.
One story was of a passenger who waited more than seven hours for a 60 mile flight from Detroit to Flint that was eventually cancelled.
Thursday, June 28, 2007

Metal Master/Michael Dargis

Music Robert Downes Practicing six hours a day is nothing new for rock guitarist Michael Dargis, who approaches his art with the seriousness of a classical musician as the axe man with The Conspiracy heavy metal group.
Founded in 2001, the Traverse City-based band is releasing its second CD this week, “The Dark Journey,” which will be showcased at a release party on Friday, June 29 at Streeters’ Ground Zero.
For Dargis and his bandmates Jim Steele on vocals, Pete Henry on bass and Matt Richmond on drums, the album is the culmination of thousands of hours of painstaking practice with an excruciating attention to detail that suffuses every aspect of their act: from their stage show to their marketing effort, to the CD production values and presentation. They are perhaps the most professional band in Northern Michigan, even though their gigs are relatively few. Yet what drives The Conspiracy is far more than a hobby; it’s more like an obsession.
For Dargis, that means keeping up to speed with the machinelike precision of the current masters of metal while also trying to find his own groove in a genre that can be slavishly imitative at times.
Thursday, June 28, 2007

Are you a victim of ageism? Who isn‘t?

Random Thoughts Robert Downes Recently, we got to talking about ageism at the office -- meaning people who are discriminated against because of their age. A co-worker said she heard that Northern Michigan was a tough place to find a job if you were older -- even if you have far more skills and experience than a younger worker.
That’s no surprise, because it’s tough finding a job most anywhere once you’ve passed a certain shelf life. For instance, we took a pass on hiring an older worker for a position at the Express years ago. The job applicant had plenty of experience, but seemed to be mostly interested in looking for an easier job -- a place to coast until retirement.
Coasting doesn‘t move a business forward. We hired someone with less experience, but much more drive -- who happened to be younger.
So, memo to older job-seekers: use those streetwise years of guile and experience to look like two sticks of dynamite in an orange juice can, ready to explode with energy and ideas to solve every problem your potential employer might have to get past the roadblock of ageism.
Thursday, June 28, 2007

Iris Bahr

Features Robert Downes Few actresses have as many accomplishments as Iris Bahr, who’s managed to serve as a sergeant in the Israeli army, study neuropsychology at Brown University, and write a memoir of her travels in Asia entitled “Dork Whore.”
That’s in addition to appearing on television programs including Friends, Curb Your Enthusiasm and The King of Queens and starring in the 2006 film comedy, Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector.
But her biggest role is literally the one she’s starring in at present: playing the roles of 11 people who are the victims of a suicide bombing in a Tel Aviv café.
Bahr’s one-woman show, Dai (“Enough”) will be performed this Friday, June 29 at 8 p.m. at the Traverse City Opera House.
Thursday, June 21, 2007

Killing Che

Books Robert Downes Walk into any tourist t-shirt shop on the planet and you’re likely to find the brooding image of Che Guevera in his star-topped black beret, ready to enlist the wanna-be revolutionaries of the world into what is now little more than a fashion statement.
But in his day, Che Guevera was a young man who shook the world as one of a handful of guerillas who waged a successful revolution in Cuba with Fidel Castro. He was a 34-year-old idealist who dreamed of exporting the same revolutionary tactics to South America when he was gunned down by the Bolivian army working with the Central Intelligence Agency in 1967.
But who was Che? The fun-loving young doctor of “The Motorcycle Diaries,” or the communist icon who talked a good game of freedom, but was just as willing to crush Cuba’s free press after the revolution?
Author Chuck Pfarrer offers some answers in his first novel, “Killing Che,” which is based on the revolutionary’s own field diaries. That, and Pfarrer’s own background as a former Navy SEAL, which provides some behind-the-scenes insight into how the CIA’s covert campaign against Che may have gone down.
Thursday, June 21, 2007

Sleder‘s 125th Birthday

Dining Robert Downes When you stop by the party, be sure to kiss the moose.... and raise a toast to the 125th birthday of one of Northern Michigan’s best-loved destinations this Saturday, June 23 at Sleder’s Family Tavern in Traverse City.
Owners Deb and Brian Cairns are hoping for a turnout of 1,200 for their outdoor celebration, which will be packed with games, music, food and beverages from noon until 10 p.m. at the popular restaurant/bar on Randolph Street, just off Division.
For decades, Sleder’s has been a “must-do” destination in Northern Michigan. The place oozes history and tradition with wood-paneled walls packed with the taxidermy heads of wild animals. Not to mention its famous moose, whose leathery lips have kissed many a bonny lass and laddie, accompanied by ringing a bell. It’s no wonder Sleder’s is a perennial favorite of travel writers from all over the world.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Wouldn‘t you rather be shooting?

Features Robert Downes Tired of golf? Weary of fishing? Bored of biking? Maybe it’s time you did a little trap shooting to put a charge back in your summer.
Trap shooting is a blast, literally. Locally, shotguns start at around $400, but for $1,000, you can purchase a .12 gauge shotgun that’s been specially-configured for knocking clay pigeons out of the sky. The alternative is using your dad’s old hand-me-down to see if you like the sport.
Thursday, June 14, 2007

40 years ago: Memories of the Summer of Love

Random Thoughts Robert Downes When I saw my first real-life hippies for the first time 40 years ago, I thought they were the strangest critters in zoo.
One of my favorite things to do as a teenager in 1967 was hanging out at the Detroit Zoo. At that time, the zoo was free of charge and I used to spend summer afternoons there, walking the trails and observing the people and the animals.
People, frankly, weren’t all that colorful in a day when bluejeans were still known as “dungarees” and worn by farm kids. Style-wise, most Americans in the white middle class looked pretty much the same. For young men, there was the greaser look, the California beach boy thing, jocks with their varsity jackets, maybe a Beatle haircut here and there, or the fresh-off-the-farm look I was saddled with: white socks, penny loafers, dungarees and a short “Princeton” haircut that was the epitome of nerdiness.
Thursday, June 7, 2007

Get Smart

Random Thoughts Robert Downes Dagwood Bumstead still carpools to work, but outside of the funny papers, you don’t hear much about sharing rides these days.
But maybe Dagwood will have more company now that gasoline is somewhere around the $3.60 per gallon mark.
Since many of our readers weren’t even born when carpooling was invented, let’s take a drive down Memory Lane. In 1973-’74, the Arab countries launched an oil embargo against the U.S. to punish us for supporting Israel. The result was long lines at the pumps, with little gas to go around.
Thursday, May 24, 2007

Coffee Bean Cafe

Dining Robert Downes When a golden opportunity for a new coffeehouse surfaced on the west side of Traverse City, Jill and Tom Gibler were quick to act.
“We live just down the road, and when I saw workers breaking ground for a new plaza, I told my husband that this would be a great place for a coffee shop,” Jill remembers. “There’s a lot of suburban development going on here with plenty of traffic. And he got very quiet for awhile, and then the next day he was contacting the developers. It all fell into place for us.”
Now, the Coffee Bean Cafè is a reality, located next to the new Francisco’s
Market and Deli on Silver Lake road, just west of town.
Thursday, May 24, 2007

So long, Limbo

Random Thoughts Robert Downes was sorry to learn that the Catholic Church got rid of Limbo this spring, because I was planning to stop by there someday on my way to someplace better.
For you nonbelievers, Limbo was a place the Vatican invented hundreds of years ago as a sort of Lost in Space rest stop for folks too innocent to send to Hell, but not quite ready for Heaven.
Unbaptized babies went to Limbo. So did Eskimos, Hottentots and other nice pagan folks from out-of-the-way places who were denied the chance to hear about Jesus Christ by sheer geological barriers. Jews born before Jesus got in too.
Thursday, May 17, 2007

Tough times... what to do?

Random Thoughts Robert Downes There‘s a lot of pain in Northern Michigan these days as local agencies feel the lash of cutbacks in state funding.
The arts, foster care, libraries, mental health... People are hurting in our state due to Michigan‘s “structural deficit.” Meaning, the 25% of manufacturing jobs we’ve lost over the past seven years have taken their tax dollars with them, and chances are those jobs won’t be back anytime soon. We’ve lost some 330,000 manufacturing jobs here since 2000, according to the University of Michigan.
Even if those jobs come back, chances are it will be with the proviso of huge tax breaks, or less fruitful jobs in America’s new “service economy,” such as it is.
We hear brave voices, speaking on behalf of orphaned children, the mentally ill, the elderly and the poor. We understand the need for art, education, a pure environment, good roads, strong hospitals and all of the benefits of life here in Michigan.