Tag Archives: bay city

…you weren’t here long enough.

19905403_10154873073733251_8429214582927218739_nSadly, our Bay City Central Class of 1988 has lost another of our classmates too soon. After nearly eight months of battling a brain tumor, Rehana Khan-Brown is now at peace. She died Sunday night, July 9, at her home in Bay City—just a few days shy of her 47th birthday—surrounded by family and loved ones.

I was casually friendly with Rehana in high school. Thanks to Facebook, we were able to re-connect and, over the years, shared common interests and commented on one another’s threads. Occasionally, we’d exchange messages back and forth; usually dealing with something politics-related we read and wanted to talk about it. One time she even said I should run for president. I’m reasonably certain she was joking, but the sentiment wasn’t lost on me.

The thing I’ve learned the past few days is just how many people’s lives Rehana touched. The outpouring of sentiment as she received on Facebook has been incredible to see.

I don’t pretend to be a close friend to Rehana. We were acquaintances, at best; certainly friendly with one another, but I’m way down at the end of the bench on this depth chart That being said, I’m glad I was on her team. We were a part of a larger collective that holds together pretty tightly to this day. My heart is with those who knew her best; her closest friends and family.

One thing I always appreciated about Rehana is she co-organized our one and only official class reunion. It took place in 1998. It is my sincere hope that someone—or a group of someones—can come together to plan a 30-year reunion.

Maybe that’s trivial (and certainly the least of our worries today), but I think Rehana would like that. After all, what better way to honor her than with a celebration?

Years ago, Rehana posted to my FB wall, “You’re my hero!” We joked about it at the time. I don’t recall the context of that statement at all. I’m guessing it had something to do with the upcoming general election. Anyway, it made me laugh; including her insistence I “just take the compliment.”

Truth is, she’s the heroic one. Faced with the battle of a lifetime, she gave cancer everything she had for eight months. She fought for her life. She fought for her family. To this day, I marvel at her strength and courage to stare into that diagnosis and choose to never give up. To put yourself through that sort of fight requires strength, love and courage that I can’t even begin to imagine.

If you’re looking for a hero, THAT is a hero.

Anyway…I’m very sad that we lost Rehana this weekend. My sincerest condolences go to her family; especially her kids. This isn’t about me, but I know what it’s like to lose a parent too soon. So…yeah. I feel for them the most.

You weren’t here long enough, Rehana, but you packed an awful lot of love and living into your nearly 47 years. We all should live a life as full as yours.

Peace be with you on your journey.

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fourth of july thru the eyes of a 70s kid.

No matter how old I am, my most vivid Fourth of July memories are of the family reunion parties on my mother’s side at my Uncle Cecil and Aunt Nora’s house.

All through the 70s and 80s, we’d spend every Fourth of July there, with pretty much every other relative on my mom’s side of the family. They came from all over the Thumb to Cecil and Nora’s house, which was decked out with an American flags…although I seem to recall it had only 48 stars on it (no joke). Back then, themed parties were not the ridiculous productions they’ve become today. You put up your flag, open your garage door, get some red, white and blue napkins and plastic cups and PRESTO! Instant party!

It seemed like HUNDREDS of people crowded into that yard every year, and it always felt like this was THE place to be on the Fourth of July! All my grandmother’s brothers and sisters were there with their families. My grandmother was one of about nine or 10 kids, so maybe I wasn’t exaggerating about that “hundreds” remark.

As kids, my brother Shawn​ and I would spend most of our time with our cousins playing jarts and other yard games. Nothing like throwing large, metal, missile-like darts at your cousins from 20 feet away, eh? What could possibly go wrong???

When we got older, we rode our bikes over to the house and would skip over to a nearby park to play tennis.The biggest topic of discussion for us: “Where are you going to watch the fireworks?” Bay City was and is legendary for its Fourth of July fireworks.

Everyone brought a dish and a huge buffet was set up in the garage with all the typical cookout foods: potato salad, pasta salad, some sort of Jell-O concoction, grilled hotdogs and hamburgers (or “hamburgs,” as everyone in Bay City seems to call them) and so on. When it came time to eat, you grabbed a paper plate, filled it with as much as you could carry and found the nearest lawn chair.

For a kid, it was great. We’d spend all day running around with next to no supervision, pretty much doing whatever we wanted…as long as we didn’t leave the yard. There were rows and rows of coolers filled with sodas and beers lined the driveway and it was all there for the taking (we were way too young to sneak beers).

When it got closer to dusk, we’d run around the yard with lit sparklers in hand. I’m sure someone had firecrackers, but I was all about the sparklers. I still remember vividly dropping one in the grass when I was about four or five years old and trying to pick it up from the wrong end. I only made that mistake once.

Back then, it seemed like the whole world stopped and spent the entire day leisurely celebrating the holiday. As I got older, those family reunions dwindled. Less people would make the drive to Bay City. Jobs got in the way and, well, people got older, more frail and just couldn’t make it. But for that stretch of time from about 1976 – 86, during my impressionable years, Fourth of July was a fun day I looked forward to as much as Christmas.

No matter what I do on this or any other Fourth of July, I’ll always think about being a kid at Uncle Cecil and Aunt Nora’s house. I really wish I had some photos to share from those days.

Happy Fourth of July, everyone.

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day 194: the day i went back (but only for a visit).

It was a short trip. It was a mostly unplanned trip; or, perhaps, a better way to describe it is it was a redirected trip. On Friday, day 194 since I moved to Las Vegas, I made my first trip back to the Midwest.

When I originally scheduled the trip, it was to attend a wedding with a girl from Michigan whom I was dating at the time. However, about two months ago, the girl decided “this isn’t going to work” and that was that. I suppose it’s self evident that I am no longer invited to her brother’s wedding, right? Rather than reschedule, I decided to fly back to Michigan anyway. After all, I hadn’t seen my brother in Bay City in six months. I hadn’t seen my mother in South Bend in six months. I decided to use this as a brief—very brief!—visit with family. And, to be honest, I sort of needed it.

I’ve been getting a little homesick lately. Don’t get me wrong. I’m very happy living in Las Vegas, but it’s tough to be so far away from family, sometimes; especially considering my grandmother died not too long after I moved and I was ordered to not come back for the funeral. Who gave that order? My grandmother. With the rest of the family’s blessing, I honored her wishes, but it wasn’t easy.

This weekend visit was a whirlwind. I was in Michigan for 22 hours (about two of them at the airport when I landed in Flint, which is a funny story I’ll tell another time). I spent Friday night with my brother and his buddy, Al, hanging out at Stretch’s Curve bar on the west side. I always enjoy going out to bars in Bay City because they’re always great, little dives. The people are friendly, the drinks are inexpensive and unpretentious and the decor is…well, put it this way: every bar in Bay City reminds me of the Warsaw on The Drew Carey Show.

My mother drove up to Bay City on Saturday with her little dog, Clover. We all spent the day house hunting with my mother, which was more fun than I expected. We didn’t take Clover with us. She stayed at my brother’s house. I think she was mad at me for moving away . It took her awhile to warm up to me.

My mom and I drove back to South Bend after house hunting and relaxed at her house. It was truly relaxing to lounge at her house for the night; almost too relaxing. I laid down on a love seat at 9 p.m. and fell dead asleep. I had thought about taking a drive around town just to see some old haunts, but I guess I was exhausted. I woke up in a pitch-dark room and struggled to get my sea legs. “It’s probably about 11, so maybe I’ll still hop in the car and take a ride,” I said to myself. And then I looked at the clock. It was 5 a.m. I was out cold for nearly six hours. That NEVER happens. I guess I needed the sleep. I guess I was happy to be back in South Bend.

Sunday morning was like so many other Sunday mornings in South Bend. I had a couple cups of coffee and then my mother and I went to Sam’s Club to buy salt for her water softener. We did brunch at Golden Corral (where I ate my weight in pulled pork) and then, about an hour later, my mother drove me to the airport and I came home.

The weirdest part of this trip: when I was at my mother’s house, I felt like I was never gone. Like the past six months didn’t even happen. Like it was all a blur, a dream or something. I don’t know how to explain it, but I was really “back home” for the day.

It’s nice to be back home now, in Vegas. I’ll probably head back to the Midwest in the fall or winter for a holiday (and spend more than 36 hours there!). It was bittersweet this time around, really. I loved visiting with people and being back in the Midwest, but I wasn’t there long enough to really enjoy it as much as I’d like.

A few errant observations from this trip:

Adventures in Flying.
Southwest Airlines was a great ride, although they really do cram us into their jets like sardines. But they made up for it with complimentary soft drinks and free TV on your iPad. Cute flight attendant, too, so there’s that. 🙂

Allegiant Air, on the way home, was also a comfortable ride. I like their seats just a little bit more than Southwest’s. I didn’t feel as crammed in (Kramden?).

What in the hell is up with people who try to bum rush from the back of the plane, cutting in front of people, so they can be the first one’s off the plane? Seriously, this is rude, awful behavior. And don’t try and tell me they were trying to catch a connecting flight. I saw this woman start making a move and thought she was going to cut in front of me (I was in 4C). Uh-uh. I’m having NONE of this, today, sister! So I halted her progress. She got no farther than Row 5. You’re welcome, rows three and four.

And this lady who was in such a hurry? Slowest damn walker in the terminal!

TSA’s New Testament
Getting through security at McCarran Airport is one part cattle stampede, two parts switchback lines and a healthy dollop of Charlie Foxtrot.

Usually. But it would appear the good people who run security at McCarran are following the new book, according to the Department of Homeland Security. The day I flew, passengers were not required to remove their belts and shoes. Talk about a pleasant surprise! Not sure if the changes are permanent, but on this day, at the very least, we were partying like it was 1995!

Sadly, it was not the same at Michiana Regional Airport. We were still mandated to dance barefoot (and nearly pantsless, for some of us without a belt!) before entering their peepshow booth and being inspected by some 20-something with a badge and a 22-inch waist (to go with his 22-inch chest). Apparently, South Bend’s airport observes TSA’s Old Testament. It’s so humiliating.

And no, I do not hate freedom, asshole. I believe in security measures. I simply believe in being smart about it.

One More Thing
I got on a scale for the first time in nearly six months and have lost 10 lbs. The most humbling part of it is, though, no one noticed. Translation: you’ve got more work ahead of you, boy. Get your ass on that treadmill!

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for tom jenkins: “…much love and peace to you…wherever you may travel.”

TomJenkinsIt’s funny how we sometimes react viscerally to the death of an acquaintance. Not a family member or close friend. Not even a neighbor or someone you talked to on a regular basis; rather, a friend-of-a-friend sort. The kind of guy or girl you’ve met and spoke with once or twice and of whom you thought kindly, while all your friends who knew that person well thought the world of him.

That’s the kind of guy Tom Jenkins was, to me. I didn’t know him. I don’t pretend to know him. He was a guy I met through my brother Shawn and his band of friends in my hometown, Bay City, Michigan. Tom was among the group of people who played a role in organizing and hosting the annual Hell’s Half Mile Film & Music Festival. As I understand it, Tom was in charge of booking the bands and handling the music portion of the festival.

I recall meeting Tom in 2011, at the music festival. He was standing near the stage at the Masonic Temple, taking in the band playing. He was wearing a Detroit Tigers baseball cap. While this detail may not seem out of place to my friends in Michigan, that image stuck with me. Perhaps living out of state and not seeing the familiar Olde English “D” very often made Tom’s headgear memorable. My brother, Shawn, introduced us. I shook Tom’s hand and remarked that he was obviously a Jenkins. Tom comes from a large family. Virtually half of Bay City went to school with at least one Jenkins, it seems. I knew his older brother, Rob, and remember Tom when he was a little kid. Those are some of my personal recollections of Tom.

In the three years I attended HHM, I watched the festival grow. Each year, the crowds got bigger, the movies got better and the quality of musicians who took the HHM stage got stronger. Tom’s signature was all over the latter.

During the 2012 HHM Festival, I recall going to lunch with my brother and a few of the event organizers. Tom was among them. Over lunch, they were talking over last-minute preparations for the evening’s closing event: the main stage concert at the Masonic Temple. For me, an outsider to this group, I had next to nothing to contribute to the conversation. But it was fun being a spectator, watching and listening to them pick on one another, goof off a bit and simply enjoy the moment.

A few weeks ago, we learned Tom was diagnosed with melanoma that metastasized to his liver. Serious news, no doubt. But he was fighting it through treatment. Family and friends created a donations site, where people could contribute to Tom’s fight and scheduled benefit events and golf outings to raise money for his cancer fund. I and many others gladly donated to his cause.

I wish I could tell you there is a happy ending to this story, but I can’t. Tom died tonight. He was younger than me.

I don’t know why, but Tom’s death is hitting me sideways. Perhaps because we are close in age, perhaps because there is a group of guys back home in Bay City—people I consider my close friends—who are heartbroken tonight by this news.

Hell’s Half Mile is about three months away and I’m sure Tom and others have been neck-deep in planning and preparation for it. The show will undoubtedly go on, but I have a hunch this year’s festival will be bittersweet and the stage will feel oddly empty without Tom hauling gear, checking mics and introducing the bands.

Since I am hardly one of Tom’s close friends and feel rather sheepish in even writing about him, it’s only appropriate to close with a sentiment from someone who knew him. Without permission and begging forgiveness, I’m going to borrow the words of my friend Jay Glysz, who wrote this of Tom on his Facebook page tonight:

“Godspeed and rest in peace, my brother. You were one of a fucking kind. Much, much love and peace to you…wherever you may travel.”

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great american holiday.

Fourth of July brings up most of my favorite childhood memories growing up in Bay City. The all-day cookouts at my Uncle Cecil & Aunt Nora’s house with my mother’s side of the family. The grown-ups drank a lot of beer. I drank a lot of soda. We threw lawn darts, played tennis at a nearby school, ran around with sparklers, ate cookout food. And later that night, my parents would take my brother and me to see the fireworks.

The older I got, the more I understood what we celebrate and why we celebrate every July 4th. But just now, I like to reflect on my childhood back in the 70s and early 80s at Uncle Cecil & Aunt Nora’s.

It truly is a great American holiday.

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