IT’S (STILL) A WONDERFUL LIFE

https://www.wonderfullifemuseum.com/museum-brochure/

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RIVER VIEW

Looking south along the Saint Joseph River from the Grant Street Bridge in Niles, Michigan. The river begins and ends in Michigan, but makes a “south bend” into Indiana.
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DENTAL DRIVE

I took this along Warren Woods Road Friday while driving to a dental appointment in Niles, Michigan. This was just west of Buchanan.
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SHY WOODLAND CREATURE

Flyboy likes to be in the lead when we go for woodland walks.
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TIME BALLOON

This message from the recent past arrived on our beach in the New Year. Gracias, amigos.
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‘ROUND THE BEND

Here I am going ’round the bend on LSD. Actually, I was driving northbound on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago on Sunday and was as clean and sober as a church mouse.

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LAST LOOK AT CHRISTMAS

I got one last look at Christmas Sunday at the Monastery of the Holy Cross in Chicago where the tree was still up and the spirit of Christmas was still alive. We begin “celebrating” Christmas, or, to be politically correct, the “Holidays,” on or before Halloween, so why can’t we continue the celebration at least until Valentine’s Day. We had a neighbor when I was growing up in the Beverly neighborhood of Chicago who would happily keep her live tree watered and displayed until Valentine’s Day because she loved Christmas so. So, Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!
The Monastery of the Holy Cross.
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LEGENDS OF LOWE AVENUE

When you think of Lowe Avenue in Chicago’s historic Bridgeport neighborhood, you automatically think of the Daley family, as in Richard the First and Richie the Second. Think again. Think of the legendary Rochetto family, and specifically of opera legend Giuseppe Rochetto.
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UP A TREE

Flyboy has decided he is really a squirrel.
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SPROUTING SKYSCRAPER

Willis Tower appears to be sprouting from Palmisano Park in the Bridgeport neighborhood of Chicago. I’ll be there Sunday to see if it has grown any taller.

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RED RIVER VALLEY

(Harbert, Mich.) That old cowboy love song, “Red River Valley,” came to mind the other afternoon when I took a stroll down to the mouth of what we locals “the Creek.” I played it this morning, and I encourage you to look it up and do the same. A lovely, old American tune, if ever there was one.
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PINING FOR THE MOON

The moon got stuck in the pines late, last year.

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OPEN-WATER SWIMMING

My fitness goal for 2021 is plenty of open-water swimming in Lake Michigan, once the lake warms sufficiently. (Oh, there is also that “No Salt/No Sharks” thing to consider.)
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TRAIN UNDER THE TREE

This is as close to having a train under the tree as we could come this Christmas, but we thought it was a hoot. Thanks, Kori.

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LAKESHORE LIMITED

(Harbert, Mich.) With the limited amount of real winter allotted to us this dark winter, I realized I had better strap on my trusty pair of Tubbs snowshoes and head on down to the lake, in the New Year, no less. So I did just that on Saturday when there was actually enough snow to make it enjoyable. The forecast for this first week of 2021 calls for above-freezing temperatures during the daylight hours, so the snowshoe opportunities are literally melting away. Meanwhile, there is the trusty e-bike warming up in the shed. Expect a winter bike report later this week. Now, here are some photos of my expedition, by snowshoe, down to the lake and back.

Flyboy won’t mind when the snow melts.

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SNOW LEOPARD

Flyboy isn’t really sold on this whole snow thing. Still, he ventured forth Saturday in search of dry land.

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RETREAT FROM WRITING

Time to dust off the pocket notebook.

A Writer’s Retreat

(12/28/2020) I am retreating from writing, for a while at least.
And what’s in a while, but seconds, minutes, hours, days, and—perhaps—even weeks?
However, I do not think it will be weeks before I am writing again, which is to say filling my handy Filofax Pocket Notebook with purple prose.
Days?
Probably.
Why?
Because I gushed and gysered in 2020, beginning with I AM FLYBOY, and then all those so-called Pocket Books, or novellas written originally in my pocket notebook. (Yes, the one with the refillable pages, and, yes, I am well known to my friends at Farney’s Pens for ordering more refills.)
Yes, in 2020 I cranked out enough Pocket Books to produce a proper POCKET BOOK.
Hmmm.
Maybe I could crowd-fund just such a book?
Nah.
Nobody is going to give me money to print a book of fiction.
Not going to happen, is it?
Well, think about it as I begin thinking about writing THE MAYOR OF SKID ROW.
And, now that I’m thinking about it, I don’t think you’re going to have to wait too many days to see my opening salvo.
(to be continued)

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USS RESOLUTE

(01/01/21) Hey sports fans, forget about Notre Dame getting creamed by Alabama today, the real sports news was at 8:30 a.m. EST when I swam a mile in lane 2 at the South Shore Health & Racquet Club in St. Joseph, Michigan. On New Year’s Day, no less. And, you’ll notice, without a face diaper.
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A CHRISTMAS STORY FOR THE NEW YEAR

Thanks, Santa!

Santa’s New Glasses
by Charles McKelvy
Once again, in 2018, I bowed to my time-honored custom of taking the train to downtown Chicago just before Christmas as a Christmas present to myself.
My mother took us downtown from Beverly on the South Side on the Rock Island Railroad every year on Christmas Eve to have breakfast under the tree in the Walnut Room in what was then Marshall Field’s, and a good habit formed.
So, when we moved to Michigan in 1987, I adapted and took either the South Shore from Michigan City or Amtrak from Saint Joseph, Mich. on or before Christmas Eve. “Gotta get downtown at Christmas” has been my mantra, and it certainly was on December 23, 2018 when I happily boarded Amtrak’s Pere Marquette in Saint Joe for a non-stop journey into Chicago along the southern rim of Lake Michigan.
I was relaxed and ready for a light-filled day in Chicago when the train arrived, right on time, I might add. All I had to do was scoop up my coat from the overhead luggage rack and I was good to go a-caroling in the Windy City. But, as I fetched my coat, I noticed that someone had left a pair of glasses up there. What to do?
Well, among other things, what I did was write the first draft of the following story with my Santa Pen from Christmas 2017 on the return trip that evening. I tuned it up on the computer, of course, and now I am ready to present:

Santa’s New Glasses.
The man in the Santa suit left his glasses on the seat as he got off the train.
The man behind him, a harried bank executive named Hank, noticed and said: “Hey, Santa, you left your glasses.”
Santa turned, smiled, and said, “You keep them. Those are my new glasses and they make my eyes hurt. I’ll stick with the old ones, despite what Mrs. Claus says. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a rather tight deadline to meet, and—“
“Happy Holidays, Santa,” Hank the bankster said, in his dull, calculating, bank-executive voice.
“How about Merry Christmas? Just this once.”
Hank considered the man in the Santa suit and decided he did look the part, so he said, “All right: Merry Christmas. But it’s not politically correct, you know.”
“I know. So I repeat: Merry Christmas, even though it’s still two days away. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be off.”
And he was—the man in the Santa suit, that is.
Hank the bankster figured the guy was working one of the last remaining department stores in town and gave him a limp wave. Then he considered Santa’s so-called new glasses. Ray-Bans. Nice. And no-lines. Doctor says I should wear no-lines, if I were to wear glasses, that is. But no way in—
The conductor appeared and said, “Problem here, sir?”
“No,” Hank said, “just talking to myself. Seems Santa gave me his new pair of glasses, and—“
“Santa?”
Hank pointed. “Yeah, he—“ But the man in the Santa suit had slipped away. Didn’t seem like he had it in him, but, yes, he had disappeared. Along, Hank supposed, with his eight, tiny reindeer. “Anyway, Happy Holidays.”
The conductor smiled tightly and said: “Same to you.”
Then, for whatever reason, Hank decided to put on Santa’s new pair of glasses. In no time flat, he was rocketed into the fourth dimension of existence and could see clearly into the conductor’s soul. He thus saw a man beset by a host of personal problems he never shared with his passengers.
“Did I just wish you Happy Holidays?” Hank asked.
“Yes,” the conductor said. “Most people do this time of year.”
“Well,” Hank said, taking the conductor by the arm, “I meant to wish you the merriest of Christmases, and I mean that from the bottom of my heart, and I pray that you will find the peace of mind and financial stability you are so desperately seeking.”
The conductor staggered from the warmth of the normally cold passenger’s words. How did he know? All he could say was a hoarse: “You see clearly now, don’t you?”
“What?!?”
“Santa’s new glasses. You’ve been given an amazing gift, and right in time for Christmas. Wear them wisely, my friend, and a Merry Christmas to you and all those you hold dear.”
Hank shook his head in agreement, dabbed at the tears running down his cheeks, and bounded off the train, ready to see clearly into the soul of whoever appeared in his path.
And the first was that obnoxious pile of rags that camped outside the station every morning and evening and belligerently accosted each and every passing passenger for money. Hank had, on numerous occasions, wanted to kick in her remaining teeth, but he hadn’t wanted to scuff his hand-tooled Italian shoes.
But now he was seeing her through Santa’s new glasses, and what he saw was a battered old soul who had been cast off by her family and literally driven out of her chosen profession in the healing arts, and who was barely surviving at the mercy of complete strangers.
Hank stopped.
Hank melted.
Hank stared, deep into her eyes.
She blinked, and then she said: “Your arms aren’t the same length. Anybody ever tell you that?”
“What?”
“Hold out your arms.”
Hank held out his arms, and she took them. “See, this is your taking arm, and it’s long and strong and powerful.” She shook it for emphasis. “You’re a taker, not a giver.” Then she took his other arm and said, “And this shriveled-up little stub is your giving arm. It’s an alligator arm, all stubby and useless and all. All the years you’ve been walking right over me, you’ve never so much as given me a dime, let alone even a smile.”
Hank was indicted by her bitter truth. But now that he could see and hear her clearly, he reached into his wallet and gave her more than money. He gave her his doctor’s private number. And he told her his services, which he knew would be considerable, were on him. And then he gave her more than a little walking-around money, and then he did some walking around the big city himself, seeing tender souls at every turn, and seeing, with the aid of Santa’s new glasses, that every soul deserves to go to heaven, even before they die.
Yes, he called in sick that day and many days after his Christmas vacation, but he was never ever sick of Christmas again, even in the middle of July.

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MEMORY OF MOM

For “Auld Lang Syne.” I interviewed my mother, the late Hannah McKelvy, for StoryCorps, in Chicago, on July 3, 2013. Mom gave us the narrative of her wonderful life in Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Michigan, and I was able to share it with the family this Christmas.
Interview in progress.
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SEEKING A SOULFUL SUNSET ON THE SUNSET COAST

Natalie sought a soulful sunset Monday evening.
And this is what she saw, here in Harbert, Michigan.
There was quite a show before sunset, as well.
The best part of the show is the afterglow.
We wreathed the long, winter’s night with Christmas colors.
Last post before home.

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THE LIGHTS FANTASTIC

The lights of Little Glendora Road (near Buchanan, Michigan) were simply magical this year, and the freshly fallen snow certainly helped.
A stop in Baroda to see this happy fellow.
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CHRISTMAS NAP

Flyboy says: “I ate too much for Christmas. Wake me up in the New Year.”

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DREAM CHRISTMAS

We celebrated a quiet Christmas here in Harbert, complete with a Zoom gathering with family, Mass at Saint Agnes, complete with some clarinet music from me, and an opera with our friends, Arthur and Joe. Oh, yes, we had a dusting of snow for special effect.
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CHRISTMAS ATTIRE

Wearin’ o’ the green and red for Christmas. The MP stands for Morgan Park, as in class of ’68, Morgan Park High School in Chicago.

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MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!!!

A satisfied selfie on Christmas Eve.

I accomplished my birthday goal by swimming 70 lengths of the 25-yard pool at the South Shore Health & Racquet Club in Saint Joseph, Michigan on the morning of Christmas Eve, 2020. Originally, I was going to swim the distance on my birthday, May 7, but, as you all know, that COVID thing got in the way. When the health club reopened recently to limited activity, including solo swimming, I got back in the surf and did some serious solo swimming. I told myself: “Self, you’re going to swim 70 lengths on Christmas Eve to celebrate another milestone in your life, 15 years of continuous sobriety.” So I did it this morning, even though it meant going to bed last night at 9:30. No binge watching for this old swimmer. No way. I had a goal to make, and make it I did, and, yes, I got mighty tuckered at the halfway point and was talking myself out of my foolish, vainglorious goal. But then I thought of my late father, James S. McKelvy, who died in 1985 at the age of 67. Dad taught me to swim as a wee laddie in Lake Michigan at Rainbow Beach in Chicago, and in the Atlantic Ocean at Ship Bottom, New Jersey. So I said to Dad: “Dad, swim with me.” And he did. You couldn’t see my tears because I was wearing goggles, but they were real, and they really helped defog my goggles. And, yes, I did an extra length so I could say I truly swam a mile on Christmas Eve, for my anniversary. A mile, as all you public school students know, is 1,760 yards. Merry Christmas, y’all!

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A STORY FOR CHRISTMAS EVE

I wrote this all by myself, just for Christmas Eve.

GIFT TO SELF
a Christmas story
by Charles McKelvy

“So,” My said to Self, “what are you going to give me for Christmas this year?”
“I don’t know,” Self said to My, “what did you have in mind?”
“Well,” said My, “We did turn 70 this year, didn’t we?”
“That we did, Old Friend. So you want 70 of something for Christmas? Is that it?”
My looked at Self in the mirror and smiled. “What I want is to swim 70 lengths to celebrate our 70th birthday this year. What say you to giving me the gift of fitness this Christmas so I can successfully swim 70 lengths of the 25-yard pool at the health club?”
“But we already belong to the health club,” Self said. “Actually, we get a free membership through our Medicare insurance. Silver Sneakers, right?”
“Silver Sneakers, indeed. How could I forget? Sometimes—pardon the pun—I’m not MySelf.”
“Hah hah,” Self said, forcing a laugh. “But speaking of forgetting, you don’t remember my name half the time.”
To which My replied, “But you’re only half a name. The second half, not to make too fine a point on it. Of MY name.”
“YOUR name?!? Where would you be without Self?”
“Selfless.”
“Touché.”
“All right,” My said to Self, “enough of this idle chatter. Where were we? With regard to Christmas presents and all?”
Self replied to My, “You were suggesting in your inevitably roundabout way, that you wanted me to somehow enable you to swim 70 lengths of the pool in honor of YOUR birthday.”
“OUR 70th birthday,” My said to Self.
The same old Self shrugged at My in the mirror and said, “I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for a nap. All this talk about swimming nearly a mile in that cool pool on a cold, winter’s day is making me really tired. Care to join me?”
“Do I have a choice?”
“Not really.”
So I took MySelf off for a nap, and for Christmas Eve, I had MySelf a merry little splash, belatedly celebrating, by MySelf, my 70th birthday. Yes, by swimming 70 lengths of the pool at the health club.
That’s not quite a mile, but maybe My will get together with Self and talk me into swimming an extra length or two, to make it a mile.
I will have only MySelf to blame.

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SNOW MACHINE

This sign along the Kal-Haven Trail explains a lot about what is about to happen on this side of Lake Michigan, beginning on Christmas Eve.

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TRAVEL BY WATER

This is not our natural environment, ice or no ice.

We are not meant to travel by water.
We are land creatures, and, as such, we are designed to walk upright and gather our nourishment from the land.
But we clearly evolved out of the water, because we are forever drawn to it.
So no wonder we go forth in the cold, dark days of winter and change into swim suits and willingly travel by water in indoor pools. Hey, some hearty souls even go so far as to call themselves polar bears and run happily into ice-bound lakes and rivers.
Why?
Why this madness?
Why do we want to travel by water when the fish are clearly laughing at us, and the dolphins are dancing rings around us?
When there were circuses to be enjoyed, we used to laugh at the clumsy attempts by seals to behave like land mammals. So, of course, they guffaw in seal when we enter their salty domain on surfboards and get mistaken for them by great white sharks.
I pondered all of this the other day as I swam some long, slow distance at the South Shore Health & Racquet Club in St. Joseph, Michigan.
There are no fish in the pool—at least that I am aware of—but, if there were, I know they would be laughing their gills off at my clumsy attempt to be a sea creature.
I am no more a creature of the sea than an octopus is a mountain climber.
Come on, land-based folks, we are landlubbers, pure and simple.
Ask any seasick sailor where she would rather be: on a storm-tossed ship out in the middle of the ocean, or home in bed with a fire dying peacefully in the hearth.
Hmm.
Such were my thoughts as I hit the wall and turned back to do another lap.
Why am I doing this?
What sort of creature do I think I am?
I could be making three times better time on deck, even in deck shoes.
Yeah, I told myself, but you like it.
You like travel by water.
Why?
Just because you were a big fan of Flipper on TV, doesn’t mean you are some friendly dolphin that always comes to rescue its stupid landlubber pals.
You’re a human with no webbing between your fingers and toes. You could swim all the long, slow distance you want and never give a goldfish a swim for its money.
So why?
Why abandon a warm bed, get dressed, drive through the wintry darkness, get undressed, throw on a swim suit, and jump into a cool, chlorinated swimming pool and swim laps before first light?
What’s this all about?
Why, Chuckie Boy, are you doing this?
Stroke, stroke, bail, bail.
Hmmm.
Another turn.
More of the same, with fogged-up goggles, no less.
And then it hit me.
Loud and clear, and right from the ‘60s of my misspent youth:
IF IT FEELS GOOD, DO IT!
And so do it I do, and I will continue to swim long, slow distance as long as it keeps feelin’ good.

If it feels good, do it!

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SILENT NIGHT

Here’s some Christmas travel music. Please arrive safely.
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