Saturday “VIBEttes”…..Corn a’plenty?

 (c) Photo by Vincent J. Kern — 2008 — Copyright and All Rights reserved

Kindling collected from a neighbor’s May camp-cleaning and a “vintage” wicker fireside box-seat  was found at our Squaw Beach getaway a month ago when we arrived to perform ours last month.


No one particular Vibe today, just a bunch of “Vibettes” from the week. It seems that after another long, intense and busy week at work the Vinman’s noggin is working in smaller snippets:


Man, folks out here in semi-rural Livingston County are trying to grow corn in places never before planted! It’s not even knee-high yet, but high enough to distinguish as a new cornfield in places I drive by routinely.

We’ve got lots of cornfields and land out here in Pinckney, MI just northwest of Ann Arbor but far fewer than 10 years ago when the land began to host housing developments in the real estate boom, now crashing. A number of spots that were just acres of raw land waiting to be sold are now turning into the golden crop of corn.

One new plot in particular, is just next to the Barnstormer, a local bar and grill located near and the intersection of M-36 and US23 and host to numerous weddings and banquet gatherings. Driving by, I thought about how smart a planting it was with the price surely to be inflated even more now with the flooding in Iowa.

We don’t get many floods destroying crops in these parts, but we have other dangers: In this case, I can just see a bunch of drunken best-men and bridesmaids frolicking in the cornfield next door when the crop is high enough to get lost in.

Field of Dreams? Who knows. But it brought back a recurring though someone put forward a couple of years ago to help the city of Detroit. Why not develop Urban Farming in Detroit’s unrecoverable housing wastelands that sprawl parts of the city? Some of the most fertile soil in is this part of the state and the theory has it that if the land is used for productive farming, folks will eventually return and rebuild the housing in a more relevant and useful manner. How long? Who knows? But I know it won’t happen in my lifetime.


Sad thing is, even if someone put forth a no-brainer-miracle-idea in Detroit these days and even offered to fund it nothing would happen. We read today in the Free Press that the FBI is investigating the City Council (and may have possibly already pursued wire taping) in a sluge reclamation project. So far, just anonymous sources and no comments by anyone except one of the Council members who acknowledges talking to the FBI but says he is not a target.

Kwame and his cronies are not the only problem this city has. Nothing good or bad will move through the political machinery of this city for a long time. It’s paralyzed on more fronts than we could imagine.


I got lucky.  A colleague who has also beceom a good friend who lives about halfway along my monster-mileage (57) one-way commute has been my commuting partner for almost a year now. And a couple of months ago, we invited a third person who lives just a few miles from me making a commute for each of us almost a full trip’s worth.

Yes, it saves money. By my calculations, just once a week saves me about $14.00. We’ve managed more than that and in fact got pretty regular for awhile.

But let me tell you, it isn’t as easy as one would think. There’s a whole new routine to be met. Arriving on time requires some easy precision timing. Leaving is dependant on who has to stay the latest and can everyone live with that. The tendancy is to say “sure, I can always find work to do.” But the reality is that sometimes after 5 p.m. and a long day you are just ready to go home. And if you’re fortunate (as I am) to somewhat dictate your own schedule, trying to “find” work to do can sometimes be tedious.

Then there’s the shopping/workout thing. For me, at my best, I can manage at least two and often three or more good early mornings in the gym. Up about 5:15, into the gym and working out (at my midway point of the commute) by about 6, done (including a decent sauna) and at work by 8 or 8:30 or so.

Balancing all of that is tough. I had to take a week off (thought I’d get to the gym, but didn’t) and all I managed to do was reclaim some of my personal time on the drive (which is amazingly important) and do some shopping for quality food to eat at work instead of the high-fat cafeteria stuff.

So, as with everything else, it becomes a matter of prioritization. With gas the way it is, the commute must remain in some form, but how often? We’ll see.

– 30 –


The Milky Road, or is it?

Does technology threaten or enhance reality?


Explanation: Inspired during a visit to Fort Davis, Texas, home of McDonald Observatoryand dark night skies, photographer Larry Landolfi created this tantalizing fantasy view. The composited image suggests the Milky Way is a heavenly extension of a deserted country road.

I use Netvibes to aggregate the content I need/desire on a daily basis and one of my favorite RSS feeds is a daily astronomy photo and explanation. Seeing the beauty and vast space we (really) live in opposed that which society would have us believe we inhabit opens my morning mind and reminds me how insignificant and  fleeting things that bother or innundate us with negativity truly are.

It spurs my spirituality.

Usually, the photos are taken through the Hubble telescope, an observatory, or one of NASA’s roving spacecraft carousing our solar system. They are always fantastic renderings of space and time. But the photo above is a composite of two actual pictures (description above, too) made into one artistic rendering of what could very well be a realistic site.

Except, it’s not.

And that always gives me pause and reminds me of the first time in my journalism career that technology made it easy to do this on computers, unseen and undetected by readers and consumers. At the Daily Californian in El Cajon, California we went to an AP Wire-photo desk and tossed the little blue box that had been churning out black and white photos on film paper via a satellite up-link. On this day in 1992 we had been live with the new digital service (which was essentially a very slow PC-based system that allowed thumbnails to dynamically populate images for downloading. I recall that the average photo took about a minute to render on the screen when one called it up to look at.

I also well recall the day that a group of senior citizens were visiting the paper and I was demonstrating the new technology. They were fascinated, enthralled and stood awestruck as we watched a new photo image right on the screen from top to bottom as it came in. As the top portions filled in, it was obvious it was of a human as the hair and top of the head imaged in. To make a long story short, the photo wound up being a bikini-clad Victoria’s Secret model who had achieved some celebrity status for one thing or another.

The men were cheering each digital sweep placing more and more of the image on the screen, a few of the women laughed and realized that in the universal context of things it was actually pretty ironic. And, of course, a couple of folks were quiet as they’d ever been for whatever reason.

But, I digress.

Shortly after digital photos began to replace film and darkroom development of journalistic endeavors, there was a hubub about a newspaper that eliminated an overhead wire from an upward-looking photo. The wire landed right below the boxers’ crotch in the photo and ran downward through the photo. Even left in, it would not have presented an image that was open to interpretation, it plainly looked like just an overhead wire. But the photo editor airbrushed it from the photo and cloned in similar bytes so it appeared it was not there.

In the discussion of ethics that ensued, the AP showed (and we did our own experimenting about) how easy it would be to do things with digital editing like move a ball approaching a first baseman’s mitt on a close play nearer to (or further away from) and even into the fielder’s glove which would change the reality of the the actual event.

And that’s the rub. Any changing of reality could be perceived as questionable, but we learn through our lives to fudge the lines a bit — especially when art is involved.

So I wonder this morning — as I once again pause on a contrived photo — how will this affect our youth over time. And what standards will their children have for such things? Just in my short time on this spaceship Earth, our children are literally born with the aptitude and chance to use software to create anything. And in another post, I will try to link these thoughts to the future of journalism but it’s Sunday.

And today, I choose to accept this photo for what it is: accurately-presented as a mixture of two images to create one worth seeing, acknowledge its beauty and save it for the future. But tonight, when I enjoy my weekly sojourn into galactic music and relaxation time I will definitely not use the photo as a guidepost upon which to steer this planet. For we would wind up completely off course and drifting aimlessly out of control on our collaborative journey at about 17,000 MPH through space.

Before the ballgame…..



(c)Photo by Vincent J. Kern — 2003 — Copyright and All Rights reserved


Almost 20 minutes to game time the third baseman finished his requisite stretching, sat on the field on a perfect summer evening and looked around.He had arrived in this town three days earlier and played two games in Detroit so far. Tonight would be the last before heading to Baltimore in the morning for another set. But right now, as the ground crew in maroon shirts took to the infield to prepare it for nine innings of ball, Eric Hinske just sat on the plush grass of Comerica Park and gazed at his surroundings.


If he knew I was there at the edge of the field, he didn’t let on. Perhaps it was that a camera is such a familiar site to him or perhaps he knew I was after candid shots and he understood the framework that is required for candor in art. Maybe he was thinking of his girlfriend or wife and was oblivious to the few people in the ballpark so far.

I have been where he is in so many ways. Although never a professional athlete, I have played baseball and hockey at very high levels in my younger days. I have traveled professionally and found myself sitting on a plush grass carpet preparing for the next game. And as I snapped photos on that perfect summer night last week I wondered how it really would have been if my dream of being a Major League ballplayer had come true.

Eric Hinske and the ballplayers were giving heavy vibes that night and I was there to feel and record them. And on I wondered, who is this guy who now is being published on the web? What do I really know about the man behind the image — a piece of personal art?

Here’s a few things I can tell you about him: He’ll be 26 on August 5 and was born in Neenah, Wisconsin. He’s 6’2″ and weights 225 lbs. is hitting .249 with 39 RBI and 6 Home Runs and he earns $600,000 a year playing baseball for a living.

Surprisingly enough, that’s near the minimum salary for baseball players.

But I’m not writing tonight about money. It’s about the looking around.

When was the last time you had a chance or took the time to really look around? I don’t need to describe it, you know what I mean.

Out of the blue a couple of days ago came the story about the Iranian twins who were joined at the skull and were about to undergo surgery to separate them. They never knew the simple pleasure of looking into each other’s eyes without a mirror or picture. They had separate professional desires but one bowed to the other’s preference hoping to pursue her own after the operation.

The government of Iran paid the $300,000 cost of the surgery and so yesterday it started. And today, on my drive to work I had to flip my pager to find news — I needed to know how they were enduring and needed to know now. I read the three sentence brief that they had both passed away and minutes later my wife called to ask if I had heard.

I spent the rest of the day looking around.

I looked closer and softer at all of the human life that surrounded me. I marveled through my office window at the local NBC affiliate’s helicopter taking off and landing as it does routinely five or six times a day across the street. I read the paper about how the nation of Iran had adopted these twins as national figures and how a whole country grieved for two of its own. Everyone had hoped………

But sad as it was, the looking around provided clarity. A few days ago, I watched Eric Hinske prepare to go to work. How different is he than anyone else? Surely not much.

He probably left the ballpark that night, got some dinner after work and retired to his hotel and checked in with his loved ones before nodding off to sleep and preparing to do it again the next day.

Another day to look around.

Will the REAL 8 Mile Road Please Stand Up,

Please Stand Up, Please Stand Up,

‘Cause All You Other Roads are Just Imitators………

It was the first summery warm and sunny day of the summer and I had been invited to golf with a lifelong friend at Plum Hollow Country Club at 9 Mile Rd. and Lahser in the city just north of Detroit. About a 20-minute drive from my downtown office near Joe Louis Arena, the MGM Casino and the Detroit River and I would be in golf heaven with a dear friend.

I’ve made the drive before several times, and have been on that stretch of road since I was a kid. But now, it’s nationally renown thanks to Marshall Mathers’ story about the real Slim Shady, Eminem. So, naturally, when I drive on the road now I think about all Mathers is trying to say and how Detroit is portrayed versus what it really is and all I’ve known it to be in the decades I’ve lived and worked here.

So, on that day, I hit the Lodge freeway and shot north from downtown to the 8 Mile exit and the beginning of miles of strip clubs, nail boutiques, eyeglass centers, industrial office buildings, fast food joints, auto supply stores and food centers divided by a boulevard upon which high-wire electric wires that run from one side of the county to the other.

And I needed cash for the day.

Once before, on the same route a year earlier, I needed water or Gatorade so I stopped at a small white food center called the Food Center (picture). AS I drove, I recalled it had an ATM so I looked for it again and pulled into the parking lot crowded with noon-time customers, spotted the big ATM letters on a sign by the automatic doors, parked and walked inside.

There were old men standing along the walkway inside the store just talking. There were blue-collar workers standing in line buying quarts of beer to go with lunch. There were old women shopping, and only a few heads turned in surprise at a middle-aged white man in Dockers and a golf shirt strolling in to their world like it was business as usual. My childhood experiences and five years as a minority in an inner-city scrap yard and years in New York city allow me to feel safe and comfortable almost anywhere and I think people sense that.

I took off my sunglasses and smiled at the few people along my path, my eyes darting around for the ATM that was advertised on a sign outside the door. Nothing in the usual spot, so I walked around the register line and got deeper into the store.

“Where is the damn thing?” I wondered, “I know it’s here somewhere…..maybe I better ask someone.”

And as I turned I saw the big orange Lotto sign and register on a counter of its own with a 20-something young woman behind it with her head in her hands and elbows on the counter. I walked towards her thinking she must have been tired or bored from lack of customers, but as I traversed the 50 feet she didn’t move or even look up — at anyone.

Quietly, I walked to the front of the counter and in as low and soft and friendly a voice so as not to intrude excused my self for interrupting her and asked if there was an ATM in the store.

She raised her head above her hands revealing big black eyes, teary, sad and wet.

“Huh?” she managed as if anything else would hurt profusely.

Those eyes…..those sad wet eyes….I looked directly into them and tried to pull the sadness from her. “I’m sorry, miss are you ok?”

“No, I’m not.” she said softly and directly but unashamedly, too. And she looked at me with a “your move” kind of look. I took the challenge to try to make her smile, just wanted her to feel better.

“Well, I don’t know why you’re not ok, ” I said with my best brotherly smile, “but a pretty woman like you should always have a smile on her face and I’m sorry you’re sad.”

She just continued to look at me….almost like she didn’t hear me or it just didn’t register.

“Anyway, miss,” I said still smiling, “could you please tell me where your ATM machine is, I just can’t seem to find it.”

And with all the softness and sadness of someone who had just lost her puppy and then was told their other dog had left home, she looked at me and only slowly and concisely said five words so perfectly sad, as if she was revealing exactly what was wrong……….

“They stole it last week!”

I said thank you and that I hoped she felt better, but by then my head was swimming from it all. Moments inside my own movie, things of my life all coming together to reveal deep meanings and answers social mysteries all wrapped up in a few short moments.

I can’t tell you how deep it was for me….that would be like a lifeguard on a beach telling you about every grain of sand, but I can tell you it was a powerful scene.

What is 8 Mile? Look at the pictures above again…closely. Notice the chipped paint on the old building, the parking lot filled with all American-made cars, the trucks and the road. It’s a combination of things you have to live to really understand. It’s people with good souls who can remain sturdy under tough circumstances. It’s folks who don’t leave when the going gets tough as so many folks did when they fled Detroit in the 60’s and 70’s. 8 Mile is folks who look out for each other and don’t rely on others to come and save them.

8 Mile Road is a road in your city — the one transitory spot where white meets black, where upper meets lower, loaded with drive-throughs, drive-by’s and just plain drive to survive. It’s the road that has it all — a microcosom of your local culture all mixed together in one spot.

What 8 Mile is not is a carnival of suburban hip-hoppers running around like Slim Shady. The psuedo suburban hop-hoppers are likley so protected from anything south of 8 Mile (except for parents taking them to Red Wing Games and such) that the urban world is only known to them through Eminem and other rappers.

But at least they’re getting a glimpse of a certain reality.

Long after Eminem and the movie 8-Mile are out of vogue and forgotten about, Food Land and the real 8 Mile Road will still be there.

And with it all our challenges as humans and all of the stories that never are told.

Next: The Vinman comments on Eminem’s two shows in Detroit this weekend — the only venue he chose in North AMerica to end his world tour.

Same bat blog, same bat blog channel……….

(c) Copyright Vincent J. Kern — 2003

All Rights reserved


(c) Copyright Vincent J. Kern — 2003   All Rights reserved


I’VE HAD A STRANGE FEELING for some time that unexpected things were around the corner. A few weeks back I wrote about the intense feelings of quiet and laying back with watchful eye that were invading The Vinman’s vibe. I wrote then that I sensed something around the corner and if you read about my recent adventures in the Upper Peninsula with dam breaks etc., there’s no need to fill you in. Usually, these feelings make me think bad things are about to happen, but as I reflect on the strange mysteries of the last few weeks I find that mostly some pretty cool unexpected finds have come my way and mostly they are mind-opening.

Crossing the Mackinaw Bridge from the lower to upper peninsulas is always an unexpected and mysterious five mile journey no matter how many times one has done it. A small plane crash into one of the towers in the dead of winter once kept me from returning from Northern Michigan University to Detroit to be the best man in a friends wedding in 1979. When I was younger I used to be afraid that the wind would blow our car over the bridge and down into the depths of Lake Michigan….ahhhhhhhhhhhh! Not afraid of that any more, but last week as I drove across I was thinking how we think we have tamed the forces in our environs only to be stopped in our tracks hours later by the burst dam.

If not all, most of the Great Lakes froze over completely this year. I know it was the first time Lake Superior froze solid in more than 20 years or something like that. So when we got to Big Bay I saw something unexpected and something I’d never seen before — ice in the bay in May. The picture above was taken last Friday and I imagine some of this stuff is still there today even though temps have been in the 60s and 70s since then. The whole bay usually freezes, but the ice is always gone by the time I arrive for my spring cleaning in May. Not this time.

I didn’t expect to work as hard as I did all weekend either.

After four hard days in the gym, one rest day and then another hard day I figured I’d rest the day of the drive and work mildly hard the other three. Instead I pushed myself physically because I could. That’s the only way to explain it. I think it was partially to take my mind off the disaster we witnessed but I also felt strong. A six-mile power walk one day followed by two days of intense raking and leave hauling, chain saw cutting and log disposal left me not sore but so physically tired I could not move in my bed once I got there.

The fresh oxygen was so invigorating I wanted to stay and do physical labor in my black leather work hat, flannel shirts, hiking boots and jeans for days. I could feel my muscles working and growing and saying “Vinman, you think you want to be a Voyageur? Buddy, you couldn’t hack it, the Voyageurs do this 12 hours a day, bub!”

I didn’t expect to enjoy the work, but I did. And I didn’t expect my sister to be such a mountain woman. She not only cut the mustard in terms of her work ethic, she worked better than most guys I’ve ever shared a rake with. There was no stop in that lady. I think we impacted my mom and dad to the point where they tried to do more labor than they should have, but hey you can’t ever let your offspring toil away while you just watch can you? Next year, I’ll have to insist they pull up a chair and supervise.

On my trips to and from Marquette to buy new chain saw chains, etc., I bought two Eminem CDs……..MAN, I didn’t expect what I heard. I know 8-Mile, hell I lived it too only I was deeper in at 6 Mile in a scrap yard, no mamby pamby auto factory like the move……..But still I didn’t expect the honesty and truth I heard from the dude. Once one gets past the vulgarity (which for me because of the scrap yard was a no-brainer) there’s a lot of heartfelt stuff in that rap. Unexpected.

My niece loaned me her digital camera and I didn’t expect it to function so well or to be hooked on the ease of use. Now, I am primed to buy one so I can snap off photos at will. Was damn glad I had it to chronicle the flooding and I have provided my photos to the newspaper I work for…I’ve had plenty of my photos published before but it’s been awhile. Only thing is Mr. Newsman here was taking photos for himself not knowing I should have increased the resolution so they could print. I wasn’t even thinking of giving them to the newspaper until I returned home. That was an unexpected bonehead move by The Vinman. And I didn’t expect how easy it would be to download the photos when I got back. Bing, boom, presto, there they were first thing Tuesday about 15 minutes after I got into my office.

Last but not least, tonight I think I have found the most unexpected bowl I’ve ever purchased (not that I’ve bought many). If my E-Bay bid comes through (I’ve set a good high price on it), I’ll write more about it. But The Vinman wants to keep it to himself right now so the millions of readers to VV (hah, hah) don’t jump in on it and steal it.

And I’ve added a couple of sites to my bloglist unexpectedly, too. VermilionX- House of Ill Refute and Bohemian Mama are two women who write with different styles on different topics but with equally talented finesse. Unexpected finds — like gold in the side of a mountain.

I’m a lucky man to be living in such times.

Like wild dreams, unexpected new friendships, unexpected finds, vibes that make us fanciful and free, the unexpected can be sublime. But one has to learn to go with it and breath in every minute. Because if one is looking the other way in a stressful direction it’s easy to miss.

May something unexpectedly good happen to you tonight, tomorrow and every day.

Quick Photo Update:

This is where The Vinman was for the last few days. I am back now, and will post more on this adventure. But for now contrast the picture above to the picture below…….

The Vinman was also here…….

(c)All Photos Copyright Vincent J. Kern — 2003All Rights reserved