SHIP CROSSING

I’m heading to Chicago Saturday, and may get held up at the Ewing Avenue Bridge for a ship crossing.
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SOUTH BEND CUBS

Nothing could be finer than to enjoy a South Bend Cubs game, complete with post-game fireworks, in the friendly confines of Four Winds Field, with two dear friends, John and George. Such was my Wednesday night. Yes, the Cubs fell 5-2 to the Peoria Chiefs, but we saw fireworks during and after the game, and the drive home was a summer night’s breeze.

How could you not like a team with a mascot named Stu?
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DOWN BY THE RIVER

(Niles, Mich.) To reward ourselves for our successful visit to the Niles Dental Clinic Tuesday, we took a stroll along the nearby Saint Joseph River. What is it about lazy, old rivers on lazy, old summer afternoons? Hmm. Nothing could be finer. Except that lady in the diner singin’: “Supper time in the summer time!”

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A HERO OF THE AMERICAN PEOPLE

Life with Charley:
by Charles McKelvy

The byline that lit my literary fire.

I screwed up.
Hey, I did an “ISU” a few weeks back when writing about my literary exploits at ISU, or Illinois State University, in Normal, Ill.
I tantalized you by stating that I had won first prize in a university-wide literary contest. But then I said I could not find said literary magazine. Lost to the ages, as it were.
Well, my dear wife Natalie did a deep dive the other day into our “books and papers.” Lo and behold, she held up a copy of the I.S.U. TRIANGLE from 1971 for me to behold.
“I know you’ve been looking for this,” she said.
“Oh, yes, oh, yes.”
“Well, guess where it was?”
“No clue.”
“Up on the top shelf of YOUR closet, carefully wrapped in plastic for posterity.”
I kissed her, thanked her, and cried for joy.
Alleluia, already!!!!
So, better late than never, right? This is the right time to share what I wrote back in 1971 to win first prize in the essay division, for “A Hero of the American People.”
I will share the piece in its entirety with you in just a few inches, but I first must explain the circumstances that inspired the piece.
A high-school friend’s father worked for the phone company, Illinois Bell Telephone, and he secured us a couple of summer jobs at what Ma Bell called South Coin.
That was this complex near 79th St. and Vincennes Ave. on da Sout’ Side of Chicago. It served as a collection-point for all the coins collected from that once-ubiquitous device known as a pay phone.
Remember pay phones?
Anyone?
Someone?
All right, in the Dark Ages, far before smart phones, there existed this thing that hung on the walls of bars, restaurants, beauty parlors, bus stations, and even Midway (now International) Airport in Chicago. You also found them in phone booths, and, yes, those booths could hold a whole lot of college students. And, yes, many of them, in my experience, were quite odiferous.
So, in the course of my collecting coins for Illinois Bell’s South Coin division, I had official occasion to visit a tavern or two. The appearance of “the phone guy” was often an occasion for celebration, because everybody and his brother had lost “fifty cents in that stupid phone.” That was true because once the coin-box in the base of the phone was full, the little spring-loaded door on top would not close; coins then backed up the coin chute. I know that’s way more information than you wanted, but I wanted you to know that I was inspired to write the following after being hailed as “the phone guy” at just such a South Side tavern.
So here, without further ado, is “A Hero of the American People” by Yours Truly:

Sometimes, I guess, the so-called “generation gap” disturbs me. For instance, I have been spending the glorious months of summer 1970 working as a pay-phone collector for Illinois Bell in Chicago. Really, you would be amazed how I get around during a typical day of collecting dimes, nickels, and slugs. What I am trying to say is, I, a twenty-year-old college student hanging on to a summer job, come in contact with, and am forced to deal with, hardcore members of that “older” generation. You know, really scary guys like truck-drivers, longshoremen (yes, there are even some in Chicago), construction workers, and, worst of all, drunks in bars. Drunks in bars! Wow, they are the ones who really scare me.
This is where my story is supposed to begin, but kindly excuse me while I ramble on a bit about myself. Like I was saying, I am young and a bit wary of adults. An irrational state of mind, I imagine, but recent events really alarmed me. Kent State, Jackson, hard-hat demonstrations, and so on. Now my hair, by current campus standards, is not exceptionally long—you can see most of my ears and almost all of my neck. Granted, my forehead tends to be camouflaged at times, but what can you expect from a kid who is trying to identify with his peer group? Continuing, I sport long sideburns and, when the shadows fall just right, a “bushy” mustache.
Sorry, back to my story, which incidentally is true.
Feeling self-conscious about my youthful appearance, I parked my truck alongside a curb on West 63rd Street and studied the address on my computerized collection card. “This must be the place,” I breathed aloud. “I’ll bet it’s full of red-necks and right-wing nuts just waiting to draw and quarter me.”
Gulping, I grabbed an empty coin-receptacle and ventured across 63rd Street. I realized that I would have to fight the upcoming battle of the generations alone, but continued on my assignment.
Head held high, face frozen in an indignant scowl, I invaded the stronghold of my enemy.
Sure enough, I was faced with a drunk in a bar. Really, the guy was everything I feared he would be. He had a crew cut, his left arm was disfigured by a garish tattoo, and his face was tied up in a hostile, “I hate you, you young commie punk” scowl.
A passive black bartender stood wiping glasses with a towel. He said nothing. The drunk at the bar said nothing. I managed a hoarse, “Ah, I’m here to take the money from your phone.”
My adversary sat frozen in a position of concentration. He eyed me intently and then his glazed eyes shifted to my bell-bottom pants.
“I lost fifty (expletive deleted) cents in that phone, buddy. What the hell are you gonna do about it?” The drunk’s voice was firm, and yet it was pathetic.
The bartender added, “Yeah, that thing took two dollars from me. ‘bout time you came to fix it.”
Warming just a bit, I said, “Hang on a second, and I’ll see if I can’t get your money back.”
Sure enough, there was at least ten dollars worth of overflow money lodged in the coin chute. After I carefully counted the money, I refunded two dollars to the bartender and fifty cents to his customer.
Although the president of Bell Telephone had never personally told me that refunding change to people in strange bars was regarded as being consistent with company policy, I figured that the public-relations benefit was well worth the $2.10 in refunds.
Money works magic, I guess, because not only did I feel good after giving some away, but the drunk grabbed my wrist and asked me to join him for a drink.
I almost said that I couldn’t drink while working, but I was too thirsty to refuse, especially since he was buying.
“My name is John,” my new friend explained. “How about you?”
“Charley,” I muttered, careful not to include my last name.
John, or Jack, as he apparently liked to be called, had red hair—although it was turning white in spots—a narrow face, wandering eyes, and puffy hands. Considering it was Wednesday mid-day and the guy was smashed, I concluded that Jack was an alcoholic. (Hey, takes one to know one, right?)
“You know something, Charley, I’m da best engineer in this whole (expletive deleted) city,” Jack stated, sending a fine spray of saliva into my face. “That’s right,” he added, “you can ask Dicky Daley. You wanna know something?”
“Yeah,” I replied engagingly, rapidly losing my fear of the man.
“I designed the subway system of Chicago. Not only that but I drew the plans for the Dan Ryan, the Calumet, and the Kingery Expressways.”
I knew old Jack was putting me on, or putting himself on, but I could see in his eyes that he had to. Occasionally, I spoke about myself and my job. I even made up a wild story about my experiences in the navy, and said I was 24 to keep things straight with the bartender.
At the mention of the military, Jack grew solemn and distant. “I was in the WAR, and I’m damn proud of it.”
“What did you do?” I asked.
“I was in the Pacific—an Army Air Corpsman. You know, pal, I won the Silver Star.”
Jack stopped speaking, looked despondently at his empty glass, and broke into tears. “And—and now I’m a (expletive deleted) bum—you know, I live in a flophouse down the street. A (expletive deleted) flophouse. But I still have that medal.”
Jack grasped my wrist desperately. I tried to tell him with my eyes that I believed him and that I respected him for what he had done.
“You know, Charley, my brother works for the phone company. He’s in charge of all the coin phones in the whole (expletive deleted) city of Chicago. He’s your boss’s boss.”
“Maybe he could get me a raise?”
Jack’s eyes brightened. “I want you to call my brother. His name is Frederick. But I call him Freddy. He’ll always be little Freddy to me, because he’s my baby brother. You tell him you saw his (expletive deleted) of a brother.”
Jack took a beat, looked beseechingly into my eyes, and continued: “But don’t tell him where you saw me. He offered me money, but I couldn’t take it. I don’t want him to think I’m some kind of drunk. I’m the best engineer in the whole damn city. Just because I’m sittin’ in a bar, don’t think I ain’t.”
“I believe you, Jack. I really do.”
“My other brother, he went—“ Jack paused to collect his thoughts. He gulped a breath and added, “He went to fight in Korea. They brought him back in a box.”
Tears once again rolled down my friend’s face.
Trying to divert Jack’s attention, I asked him to tell me more about his experience in World War II.
He complied.
“I was on the plane that bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”
Jack was once again overcome. “I only did what I was ordered to do. I did what they told me. How the hell did I—how could—the captain’s in a nuthouse—and look at me. Look at me, a hero of the American people.”
I looked, and I was disgusted.
I looked again, and I was moved to tears.

(Present self to past self: “Great story, young man. Stick with it, because you have a whole lot more writing to do.”)

Peace and love.
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FLORAL TRIBUTE

The begonias have been doing so, so much better since the resident plant whisperer, Arthur Anderson, ministered to it.
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HOOD ORNAMENT

Flyboy works hard to keep our engine mouse-free.
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TENT CATERPILLARS

’tis the season for tent caterpillars. Go for it, guys!
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LIVESTOCK REPORT

With our rather relaxed approach to modern lawn-care come the critters. Yes, we have earned a buck or two in the process, or lack of process. See if you can find him in the first photo.

Where’s Bucky?
Here’s lookin’ at you, Kid.
Flyboy the guard cat seemed oblivious to Bucky. Just as Bucky was indifferent to Flyboy. That’s our livestock report for this final Friday of July.
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PRESSING ON

Life with Charley:
The “Duneries” Press on
by Charles McKelvy

Last time, I promised a tale about how we founded our self-publishing venture, The Dunery Press, on a napkin at a Chinese restaurant in Toronto in 1988.
Remember?
Well, we certainly do, because our (doing-business-as) Dunery Press informed our writing lives for decades. And, to a lesser extent, it still does.
Allow me to explain:
I married a real literary star when I linked up with Natalie DeViney on August 13, 1977. Not only was she a reporter for a Crain Communications’ publication, Pensions & Investments, but she went on to write for the business section of the Chicago Tribune. She earned an MBA at her alma mater, the University of Chicago, while working as a reporter. Then she went on to write two books:
first, Pension Fund Investments in Real Estate, published by Greenwood Press in 1983, and then a novel, Where’s Ours?, which Academy Chicago Publishers inked in 1987. That love-of-my-life was one smokin’ writer, I’m tellin’ ya.
Me?
Not so much.
Oh, I went to writers’ conferences and worked the connections I made there. And I went to New York and pitched my wares to literary agents, publishers, and magazine editors.
Nada.
Well, I did secure the services of a leading literary agent; at her behest, I began writing a multi-generational saga set against the blazing backdrop of Chicago history. Beginning, of course, with the famous fire of 1871. I hammered away on that monster on my aging Smith-Corona portable and sent off chapters, and, well, I got nowhere fast. The agent wasn’t buying it, and she sure wasn’t selling it.
Fizzle, fizzle.
And then, of course, I had a front-row seat to my wife’s literary triumphs, in both non-fiction and fiction.
Was I jealous?
Yes, of course.
But I was also interested to see my dear wife had to do almost all of the marketing for her two books. She enlisted my aid, and we managed to get both books the notice they needed to generate sales.
But not enough, apparently, because Natalie wasn’t invited back to write more books. She was not a bestselling author, and her publishers knew it.
She was frustrated; I was furious.
Then we took one of our winter train-trips, in 1987-88, from Chicago to Quebec City and back. We rode some great trains, celebrated Christmas in Toronto and New Year’s in Montreal, and were enjoying a yummy dumpling-dinner in Toronto’s Chinatown on the last night of our trip when The Dunery Press was born.
Correct me if I’m wrong, Natalie, but this is how I remember it going down:
So, as we feasted on our steamed dumplings on a freezing Canadian night in early January 1988, we seized our literary destiny and put it all out there—on a napkin.
We had taken to calling our cottage in Harbert, Mich. “The Dunery” for its being nestled in the dunes of Lake Michigan. So we decided to call our self-publishing venture—drum roll—“The Dunery Press.”
We worked out the numbers on that napkin and decided to publish our first book—my collection of short novels and stories, Chicagoland—that very year.
And we did.
You may vaguely recall reading all about it in The Beacher some years ago.
For a snapshot of The Dunery Press, I would refer you to The Beacher’s archives, and to an article written about us by a former Los Angeles Times reporter, the late David Kinchen. Writing for his own publication, Book Notes, in 2012, David Kinchen wrote:
“I received a letter from Natalie McKelvy the other day saying that the Dunery Press that she and her husband Charley McKelvy started in 1988 is still in business. It’s in Harbert, Michigan, Berrien County, just down the highway from South Haven, Van Buren County, where I was born,
“Why ‘Dunery?’ Because Harbert is smack dab in the middle of the gigantic sand dunes that run across the bottom of Lake Michigan from east of Gary, Indiana all the way up past the Michigan line, almost to Benton Harbor . . . I met Natalie in Los Angeles in the 1980s when she was a free-lance business journalist. She had just written a technical real estate tome (Pension Fund Investments in Real Estate). Since real estate was my beat at the Los Angeles Times, I reviewed it for the Real Estate section.”
And, yes, David Kitchen gave Natalie’s pension-fund book a glowing review. Then then he wrote:
“Anyway,Natalie and Charley McKelvy, both born in 1950 in the Chicago area, are great writers. I’ve reviewed thousands of books over the past several years, and believe me, when I say they are great writers. I mean GREAT (sorry, Tony the Tiger!) The best writers in the world have come from Chicago. There’s something in the water that produced people like Ernest Hemingway, Nelson Algren, Carl Sandburg, David Mamet—and Natalie and Charley!”
Well, thank you, Dave. We are so glad to have known you and to have had the pleasure of your company at the newsroom of the Los Angeles Times when we took our Amtrak tour of the Wild West in 1989. You took us to lunch that day in downtown L.A.; you said you would do all you could to promote our little Dunery Press. And you did. And, for that, we are most grateful.
We continued publishing our fiction after our meeting; in 2015 we veered into remembrances with my recollections of my father, James McKelvy, titled Life with a Laryngectomee. Despite our mighty marketing efforts that book, along with the rest of our books, did not leave the earth’s orbit.
Oh, we had some near misses, most notably Natalie’s 1990 anthology of short fiction, Party Chicks & Other Works.
The popular book club known as Quality Paperback Book Club, or QPB, put Party Chicks in their catalog after one of their editors discovered Natalie’s book at a bookstore in a coastal town on the Atlantic. We reckoned we were on to a breakout bestseller when they wrote in their catalog: “Party Chicks and Other Works is a rare find for QPB—cutting-edge fiction from the small press that the author runs with her husband in Harbert, Michigan. The three novellas and one epic poem in the collection are marked by a gritty realism that stems from McKelvy’s training as a Chicago Tribune reporter and the unpretentiousness of her roots in Middle America. The title story follows Mary Frances Barton on her dangerously sexual, calculating path from Kankakee, Illinois to the heights of hairdresserdom in Chicago, L.A., and London.”
Thank you, QPB, and thank you for ordering more copies of Party Chicks in anticipation of sales.
Well, not so fast, Dunery Press, because our distributor in Texas refused to send QPB the books.
WHAT?!?
Oh, yes, oh, yes.
They gave us some mealy-mouthed reason for not filling the order, and that was the torpedo in the engine room for The Dunery Press. We listed to port and took on water. But our rudder still worked; we sailed slowly forward, publishing additional books and reaching out to our far-flung band of loyal readers.
We last published in 2015; now we have reverted to guerilla wordfare, meaning we email our latest literary efforts to a select, on-line readership.
Some are suggesting we harness the vast powers of the Internet for a big rebirth of The Dunery Press.
Maybe.
But we’re both 71and tending more and more to rest on our literary laurels.
Stay tuned, and don’t forget we have a Remington Quiet-Riter manual typewriter on standby.

On Standby:

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CHRISTMAS IN JULY

Nothing says Christmas in July better than this hand-motioned photograph of Christmas lights from my archives.
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KAL-A-MA-ZOO!!!!

We had a great view of Kalamazoo (Michigan) with our dear friend, Mary Lober, on Saturday. More photos to follow. Natalie is shown about to enter the Kalamazoo Institute of Art or KIA.
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JULY FADE-OUT

Only one more week of July. Let’s enjoy every colorful moment until we find ourselves on the home stretch of summer.

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STANDING BY

We’re living in uncertain times, so Mr. Remington is standing at the ready.
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THE WRITES OF MARRIAGE

Life with Charley:
The Writing Life with the Writing Wife
by Charles McKelvy

The honeymooners in August 1977. A friendly stranger took this of us in the Apostle Islands of Lake Superior.

So, I left you wondering last time if:
A. I would win the heart of the fair Natalie DeViney, and
B. If she would land me a job at Crain Communications, Chicago, perhaps covering something exciting, like modern plastics.
Well, A for sure, and, as for B, let’s just say that I did leave the City News Bureau of Chicago, in early 1977, for a reporting job at the Chicago Tribune’s suburban insert, the Suburban Trib.
In fact, I was racing a deadline at the Suburban Trib’s Hinsdale, Ill. bureau, when Natalie called from Crain Communications to say: “YES!!!!!”
Yes, of course, to my proposal of matrimony.
And, yes, we were wed at the First United Methodist Church of Evanston, Ill. on Saturday, August 13, 1977. Fittingly, the ceremony was delayed by the tardy arrival of a City News friend, who was to read a Shakespeare sonnet for us. I will not embarrass him by mentioning his name; I will say that he was red-faced when he finally appeared and rationalized his tardiness by saying he was “covering a weather story.”
Seems there could have been a tornado, or two, on our wedding day. And City News, of course, would be right on it, right?
Well, after the infamous “weather delay,” our wedding proceeded apace, complete with our being piped out of the chapel by the recently deceased Chicago Tribune reporter, William Wallace “Bill” Currie, in full Highland dress. Yes, Bill Currie was my “clout” at City News. He was the alumnus who put in the good word for me with the editors and thus enabled me to land a job there, after much persistant calling.
So there we were, a pair of newlywed writers, setting out on the grandest of literary adventures together.
I was already drifting into the roiling waters of fiction; I took the big leap in the fall of 1978 when the Tribune Company, of all institutions, made it possible.
What happened, you see, was this:
Natalie was offered a job as a business reporter at the “Big Trib,” the Chicago Tribune itself, at 435 N. Michigan Avenue. She had all the credentials the Tribune sought in a business reporter, years of reporting on pension funds for Crain Communications, and a BA in History from the University of Chicago. Natalie was, and is, one smart cookie; the Tribune gladly snatched her up.
But then my boss at the “Little Trib,” or the Suburban Trib, got wind of Natalie’s good fortune and made a call or two to the “Tower.” Suddenly, the Tribune was rescinding Natalie’s job offer on account of their nepotism rule. It seemed that my editor at the Suburban Trib couldn’t go downtown and work at the Big Trib, because her husband, whom she married after they were both employed by the company, worked there. Plus, she definitely didn’t like my attitude, especially when I cheekily referred to the Suburban Trib as “the world’s greatest insert,” a snide reference to Colonel McCormick’s insistence upon labeling his newspaper “the world’s greatest newspaper.”
Natalie, being smarter and better abled in journalism, was to have been paid a better salary at the Big Trib; she really wanted to go there. And I was really tired of driving forever and ever to cover the dismal doings of distant suburbs.
So I got this news flash one night after tossing and turning the whole matter over in my head: “McKelvy leaves Suburban Trib staff.”
“What if,” I said to Natalie, “I resigned from the Suburban Trib and you took the job at the Tribune? You’d be happy, and I bet I could get on unemployment and use that time to write the novel I’ve always wanted to write.”
“You’d do that?”
“You betcha. In a heartbeat.”
So, a few heartbeats later, I tendered my resignation at the Suburban Trib. I blithely informed my ashen-faced editor that I was sure she wouldn’t contest my claim for unemployment benefits. She knew we had a really good legal case against the Tribune Company; we knew there was no way we wee Davids were going to go after that big, old Goliath in court, so we called her bluff.
She bit, tersely saying: “We won’t contest your claim.”
And they didn’t.
So, while Natalie went off every morning from our third-floor apartment at Lill and Racine Avenues in what is called the “DePaul neighborhood of Chicago,” I dusted off my trusty Smith-Corona portable typewriter and banged out my first novel, Out of a Box.
All I remember of it was that it was highly biographical and a hoot to write. And, no, I don’t have the manuscript in my files. Truth be told, I don’t know what I did with it. Perhaps I even burned it in the fireplace of our next apartment, just east on Lill Avenue. It was no great work of wonder, but it unleashed in me a pent-up urge to write short stories and novels and plays and fictionalized accounts of life with Charley.
And that’s what I’ve been doing ever since the fall of 1978.
But I really had to work on Natalie to bring her around to the joys of writing fiction.
She stubbornly resisted for the longest time, insisting there was no money in writing fiction.
Indeed, there wasn’t. And, indeed, we made almost all of our money from our day jobs as journalists and freelance business-writers. Who knew, for example, that I would have a hidden talent for promoting mutual funds offered by Kemper Financial Services in Chicago? When our client there asked how I did it on such a consistent basis, I simply said, “I channel Bob and Betty Barrington,” Barrington being a wealthy suburb of the city. I put on my novelist hat every time I sat at the keyboard and cranked out copy, becoming one with those archetypical surburbanites I had fashioned in my head. I wrote to them, for them, and with them.
And thus we were able to buy our little “dump in the dunes” in Harbert, Mich. in October 1986 and move here full-time on June 27, 1987. Friends in Chicago said we’d be back in six months, but that never happened. Not that we don’t love Chicago and visit the Windy City often, but we’re a couple of stay-in-Michigan writers who are happily living the literary dream, together, one page at a time.
And, yes, we have been publishing our own fiction since 1988 when we founded the Dunery Press on a napkin at a Chinese restaurant in Toronto. But that’s a tale for another time.

The recently deceased William Wallace “Bill” Currie piped us out of the church on August 13, 1977.
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ON THE SOUTH SHORE OF CHICAGO

I returned Sunday to the Chicago neighborhood of my early childhood: South Shore. Specifically, I checked in at the South Shore Cultural Center for a brief trip to the “necessary room.” It was ready and waiting, and, after a wee winkle, I took a moment to admire the wonder of the place. I remembered many happy visits in the early 1950s when it was known as the South Shore Country Club. Now, it is under the good, orderly direction of the Chicago Park District, and the place was busy on a Sunday morning as serious golfers set out on a lovely little nine-hole course that stretches all the south shore of Lake Michigan. I never played the course as a little kid, because, of course, we weren’t members of the South Shore Country Club. But we visited often as guests of members, and I remember watching those adults swing those clubs of iron and wood at little white balls. I also remember enjoying horse shows at a lakeside arena, and I fondly remember a formal Christmas dinner as guests of my father’s boss at General Refractories Co. The ghosts of the past and the golfing goblins of the present combined in my head Sunday morning to make this seventy-something senior a whole lot less senile.

Thanks for providing an old guy a place to pee on a Sunday morning.
Lookin’ good on a Sunday morning.
Headin’ north, along a golf course with good lies along the lake.
aeThis guy was leading me north to Lake Shore Drive.
Passing in review on the way home.
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A MATCH MADE IN THE NEWSROOM

Life with Charley:
The Write Woman
by Charles McKelvy

Here we are on our honeymoon in the Apostle Islands on Lake Superior in August 1977.

I left you in the lurch last time, didn’t I?
Yes, I was about to meet the love of my life, the fair Natalie DeViney, in the editorial offices of Crain Communications, in Chicago, in November 1976.
Remember?
I certainly do, and now, as I continue this mini-series on my life as a writer, allow me to boldly state IN BOLD FACE JUST HOW MUCH MEETING NATALIE HAS MEANT TO ME, BOTH AS AN INDIVIDUAL, AND, AS AN INDIVIDUAL WHO SIMPLY MUST WRITE.
I am not overstating the case by presenting that last line in bold-faced uppercase. Not by a long shot, because I was 26 at the time and working night and day, mostly nights actually, for the City News Bureau of Chicago. I was living on work, work, and more work, with some sleep, lots of liquid refreshment, and copious quanities of fast-food thrown in for good measure.
What I lacked in my misspent youth was the love of a good woman.
I had had some near-misses, to be sure, but as Thanksgiving 1976 fast approached, I did not have a successful love-life to add to my gratitude list.
So enter my former City News colleague, Vince DiPaolo.
Vince—whom we dubbed “the Dip” at City News, where we happily assigned one another silly nicknames (mine, of course, was “Good Time Charley”)—had gone forth from our 24/7 news-factory on the 12th floor of that stately old building at 188 W. Randolph Street to write for one of the Crain Communications family of fine publications, Modern Healthcare.
Believe me, when somebody left City News for greener pastures, you stayed in close contact and bugged the heck out of her or him for admission to that organization. So even though I didn’t know diddly-squat about medicine, or so-called health-care, I reckoned that a move to Modern Healthcare would be a definite step up for this young reporter, plus a big, big increase in pay and reasonable daytime working-hours, plus benefits.
So as I labored in the City News vineyard harvesting the grapes of Windy City wrath for our major media clients, I bugged the heck out of departed City News reporters, especially Vince DiPaolo.
But they all kept coming up empty, until one day old Vince (he was a bit older, I suppose) phoned me with an unusual proposition: “There’s a woman at my sister publication, Pensions & Investments, who wants me to fix her up with one of my City News buddies. And since you’re always calling me for a job-lead, I thought I’d call you with a romance-lead. You interested?”
Hey, I thought, if this’ll lead to a cushy job at Crain Communications, I’ll go for it. So to Vince, I said, “Sure, sign me up.”
So Vince DiPaolo, the matchmaker from Modern Healthcare, signed me up to meet his colleague, Natalie DeViney, at the editorial offices of Crain Communications on a cold, damp Friday just before Thanksgiving, in 1976. I was due to work the “mid-watch” shift on the rewrite desk at City News that evening, so I opted for a mid-day meet-up with a woman Vince described as “good-looking but something of a women’s-libber.”
Fine with me, as I enjoyed the company of intelligent, liberated women. “Sounds great,” I said. “I’ll be at your office before noon to meet her.”
“And we’ll go to lunch,” Vince said, adding, “it’s on me.”
Hey, when you’re hauling in all of $110 a week at City News, you jump at a free lunch, any time you can. So, in review, I was looking at:
A) a free lunch at a signature restaurant,
B) a possible job-lead at either Modern Healthcare or Pensions & Investments, and,
C) oh, a chance to meet someone new and different.
Hey, I wasn’t doing so well on the dating front at that point, what with my nightly working hours and lack of spending money, so I was willing to give her a look.
And so, when I stepped off the elevator on what I hoped would be the lucky 4th-floor, I was immediately met by a beautiful woman who was red-faced with rage. “Where have you been?!?” she screamed at me.
Taken aback, I merely moved my mouth and prayed that something appropriate would finally come out. But it didn’t because I was too flummoxed to say anything. All I could do was turn around and hit the “down” button at the elevator. If this harpy is Vince’s idea of a blind date, I thought, then I’m outta here.
But then Vince himself hurriedly appeared at my side, and loudly whispered, “That’s not her. You’ll see her in a second.”
“Well, then, who is this?”
“Oh, Vince said, “she thinks you’re a messenger from City Bonded and that you’re late with the delivery she’s expecting. Isn’t that right, Elizabeth?”
The fair but furious Elizabeth backed off and allowed as to a case of mistaken identity. After all, I was a big old boy with a black beard and was wearing my infamous “rat coat,” or faux Air-Force parka; sure, I could have passed for a City Bonded messenger. Actually, any self-respecting City Bonded messenger would have been loathe to pass for me.
While this queenly Elizabeth went back to her cubicle to phone in a complaint to City Bonded, I heaved a huge sigh of relief and said to Vince, “So you’re going to get me a job here after this, right?”
“Dream on,” Vince said. “We’re not hiring right now. But I think you’re going to like Natalie. You ready to meet her?”
I shrugged and allowed Vince to tug me into the inner office, where up jumped the most beautiful, the most vivacious, the most amazing woman I had ever seen: The one and only Natalie DeViney.
I was, as Vince’s Italian ancestors would have said, Colpito da un fulmine. Yes, “struck by lightning.”
Who knew, right?
I certainly didn’t. All I remember about that free lunch I enjoyed with Natalie and Vince at Gino’s East was Vince saying, “I’m feeling like a third-wheel here.”
Yeah, Vince, you were. Because it was love-at-first-sight for both of us. Natalie knew she was love-struck because she couldn’t eat a forkful of her caesar salad; I knew I was head-over-heels for her because I couldn’t get enough of my eggplant parmesan.
And do you think those two smitten journalists were destined to be wed within a year and consigned to a wonderfully weird writing-life together?
Tune in next time for all the details.
(to be continued)

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CERMAK AND WENTWORTH

Natalie and I used to head here every Saturday for dinner. Joe Rochetto and I passed by last Saturday on our way home from the Monastery of the Holy Cross in Chicago.
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RETURN OF THE NATIVE

(Chicago, IL) Joe Rochetto made a triumphal return to his native Bridgeport on Saturday. He is shown here in he heart of Palmisano Park. He remembers when this was a quarry.
Joe says the climb was worth it, considering the view from the hill.
The view from the hill in Palmisano Park.
The prairie was in full bloom.
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BACK TO THE BEGINNING

(Chicago, IL) As Joe Rochetto and I were cruising north on South Shore Drive on Saturday afternoon, I mentioned that we were directly east of the apartment building in which I spent the first six years of my life. Joe said, “Want to see it?” I said, “Sure.” And so he hung a left and before we knew it, I was staring at the stately, six-floor apartment building we referred to in the early 1950s as the Fairhaven. I was immediately taken back to the two apartments we occupied in that building on the corner, and I remembered taking my brother for elevator rides. Yes, those were the days of passenger-operated elevators, and I mastered the art of piloting those elevators when I was all of four. Yes, I became something of a terror in the Fairhaven, not only when I commandeered the elevator, but when I tore around the halls on my tricycle. And, so you know, the Fairhaven was within easy walking distance of Rainbow Beach, where my father taught me to swim. So imagine the flood of memories as we paused at the corner for a look at that stately building that appeared to have some vacancies. Hmmmmm.

We had an apartment on this face, and on the side to the left. I liked the view from this side the best.
Heading north in South Shore toward 71st Street. I knew this intersection well as a kid.
A view of the skyline from South Shore. The buildings were much smaller when I was a kid.
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RARE SIGHTING

Looks like we’ll have to travel to Chicago’s Palmisano Park if we want to spot an elusive Black-Crowned Night-Heron. This is the first one either of us have seen for years. They just don’t seem to turn up at our pond in Harbert, Michigan anymore. My friend Joe Rochetto spotted this one July 10 on a rainy afternoon in his old neighborhood.
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A GREAT RIDE ON THE GREAT NORTHERN

Travels with Charley:
Travel by Great Northern Railway
by Charles McKelvy

Alas, I never did see the goat.

“Looks like we’ll travel by train.”
Those were the memorable words of my scoutmaster for the Boy Scout World Jamboree 1967 at Farragut State Park on the shores of Lake Pend Oreille in the Idaho panhandle.
I was 17 that year, and I was so done with boring, old train travel. I was so much the modern jet-setter who could tell the difference between a Boeing 727 and a Boeing 707 at a glance. The distinctive 727, of course, had three aft engines, and the 707 had four, wing-mounted engines. And when I traveled I expected to hop on a 727 or 707 and be in Philadelphia or San Francisco in time for dinner. No more slow-poking across the countryside on some old rattle-trap of a rusted-out train. Train travel was for squares, daddy-oh!
And it sure looked in the spring of ’67 that our “Host Corps” troop of scouts from around the Midwest would—gosh darn it!—have to fly to the World Jamboree due to a threatened railroad-workers strike.
But then the labor dispute was settled, and our scoutmaster, an executive for a major Michigan manufacturer, was happily announcing that we were back to our original plan. We would take the “Great Northern’s greatest train, Empire Builder, from Chicago to Seattle for a side trip and then back to Idaho for the Jamboree.” And then, of course, back to sweet, home Chicago on the Builder.
Our scoutmaster said it was fitting that we should travel in style, because we were specially selected members of the elite Host Corps charged with “hosting” troops from abroad at the Jamboree. By virtue of my two-year struggle with German at Morgan Park High School in Chicago I was assigned to host a troop from West Germany. (Yes, there was also an East Germany back then, but they were commies and thus were not sending troops to the United States.)
“The days of the great passenger trains are numbered,” he said. “So this is a great opportunity for you lads to experience the best of America before you play hosts to visitors to our great land.”
And what better way in which to see our great land, and certainly that great swath between Chicago and Seattle, than aboard Great Northern’s Empire Builder?
None better, I can assure you.
I can assure you that yours truly, and his new Builder buddies, immediately discovered that the best platform for discovering America was in the front seats of the full-length dome lounge.
We staked our claims before the Builder had sped through Hinsdale, Ill., and we were so mesmerized by the unfolding panoramas that we had to be torn away for dinner in the diner and sleep in the sleeping car.
And, wouldn’t you know, but our Builder bound through the most majestic scenery of the entire journey on Sunday morning. Our scoutmaster had reserved the dome lounge for our religious observances, first the Protestant prayer service and then Catholic Mass. My new best friend, Dave Moody, and I stayed for both, claiming that we wanted to be truly ecumenical. All I know is that we were closer to God and to the beauty of His creation as we gazed at the Rockies from our front-row seats.
And, yes, I confessed to my innermost self that I could be both a jet-setter and a choo-choo-cuckoo. Fly when needed, but always opt for a scenic train ride when offered, especially on a legendary liner like the Empire Builder.
Outbound, we took the Builder to Seattle where we “camped” downtown in a hotel and rode the exciting new monorail to the Space Needle. From Seattle we took a day trip by ship to Victoria, British Columbia for a tour of North America’s most English of cities. Alas, we were not properly attired for high tea at the Empress Hotel, but they did allow our band of knobby-kneed Yanks to look in on the proceedings.
On our way back to Seattle we spotted a pod of killer whales, or orcas, and then after another night in a hotel we took the eastbound Builder to Sand Point, Idaho, where we were met by buses for transport to the Jamboree.
So much needs to be said about our life-changing experiences as hosts at the World Jamboree that I am going to save all that for next time. Except to say that I learned more German in those two weeks than I did during those two years in classrooms at Morgan Park. For example, when I greeted my troop from Bavaria, their scoutmaster cheerfully informed me: “They don’t speak a word of English.”
And so I soared like an adler, or eagle.
Also, I will tell you next time of the moving visit some of us made to the Israeli campsite for Shabbat. Mind you, the Jamboree occurred just weeks after the so-called Six Days War in which Israel defended itself from a coordinated attack by Egypt, Jordan, and Syria. All of the Israeli scouts were veterans of that war of survival. But more on that next time.
Now we have to board the eastbound Builder in Sand Point, in the dark, for a brief trip to Glacier National Park. We were warned at Glacier to beware of grizzly bears; I and another scout already knew what to look for because we had accidentally gotten between a momma grizzly and her cubs while hiking up a trail on the far side of Lake Pend Oreille. Don’t ask, and I won’t tell, but, thankfully, I am here to tell you about it, lo, these many years later.
The Great Northern Railway inaugurated the Empire Builder in 1929 to honor company founder James J. Hill and to serve the national park the railroad had lobbied to create. So, of course, the Great Northern served us a delightful day’s worth of Glacier National Park. What was not to like, right?
That night, we caught another specially chartered train that was full of homebound Boy Scouts of America.
Our wise scoutmaster opined that we were riding “a troop train full of troops.”
They fed us cafeteria-style in a galley car that had seen service during World War II, and they deposited us safely, and on-time, at Chicago Union Station, where we departed chanting rugby songs we had learned from a neighboring Australian troop at the Jamboree.
Some 12,000 scouts from 108 nations had built friendship for ten days in the Idaho sun, and we had gotten there in style and comfort on the farthest thing from a rattletrap—the Great Northern Railway’s Empire Builder.

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A BUCK FOR A GOOD MOWER

We didn’t have to spend a buck for a good mower because we have a buck who is a good mower.
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OUT TO SEA

That’s Yours Truly heading out to sea on Tuesday with his new $5 goggles and $45 tow-float. Both passed sea trials with flying colors. (Natalie McKelvy photograph)
This is as far as Natalie was willing to go. She doesn’t like getting sinus infections from the lake. I don’t blame her as I have had the sniffles ever since my swim in the lake Tuesday.
The open-water swimmer’s launch pad.
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LIFE WITH CHARLEY, cont.


The Writing Life, part three
by Charles McKelvy

Seeing Chicago at “See Level” on the River Walk.

And so they sent me forth from Illinois State University in 1972 with a B.S. in English-Journalism.
Just in time for the war in Vietnam, right?
Right, and I did write a novel titled Holy Orders about how this writer dealt with that issue. Alas, it’s no longer in print, but odd copies are still floating around out there, so you can plug in, if you so desire.
But no need to really because the long and short of it was that I kept writing throughout, first as a student at Seabury-Western Theological Seminary in Evanston, Ill. Yes, right across Sheridan Road from Northwestern University where a childhood friend, Dave Casey, was attending the famous Medill School of Journalism. I hung out with Dave and his journalism pals more than I did with my fellow seminarians. Hey, my calling was suspect from the start, because old Uncle Sam had been calling me, and, well, you catch my drift away from the draft, I’m sure.
And, I’m sure you’ll be highly amused to know that I did end up in the U.S. Navy as—drum roll—a Journalist Second Class.
So, there I was hiding out at a seminary across the road from the school I had so longed to attend. Yes, to study journalism at the highly touted Medill School of Journalism as my Beverly buddy Dave Casey was doing. Alas, Northwestern deemed me unfit for admission, as did the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps. I had hoped to work my way through Northwestern as a naval cadet, but my test scores were not up to snuff.
So off to Illinois State University, where, I am happy to report, I received a fine education in writing and reporting, particularly for the yearbook and student newspaper.
But I was nonetheless jealous of my friend Dave and his fellow journalism students, and I wanted to go them one better, if such a thing were even possible.
Well, turns out that I not only dazzled them, but myself as well, when I queried the Chicago Tribune Sunday Magazine in 1973 about a possible feature on the locally famous Platt House in Morgan Park/Beverly. We kids had played army games in the house’s wooded back-acre, and we all knew that the house had been a “station” on the Underground Railroad before the Civil War. I walked past the Platt House (now known as the Hopkinson-Platt House) twice a day for four years when I attended Morgan Park High School. I knew that the current owners, the Platts, were University of Chicago folk who were forever hosting foreign-exchange students and had a fire circle behind the house for evening discussions.
That’s what I pitched to the Tribune magazine. They swung at my fastball, and I went back to Morgan Park/Beverly and interviewed Mrs. Platt. I wrote a draft on my trusty Smith-Corona portable typewriter and hand-delivered it to the editors at the magazine.
They liked it enough to walk me through two rewrites, and then they published my piece in the Sunday paper and paid me handsomely. My journalism pals at Northwestern were emerald-green with envy. I mean, who was I, some nobody nobody sent, from “I Screwed Up,” or ISU, getting published in the Chicago Tribune Magazine?!? It just wasn’t right.
But I was all right with it, all right.
Why?
Because that whole experience was a pearl of great price for a young writer. I learned then and there that the one who gets published isn’t necessarily the one who goes to the fancy “J-School” or has the serious street-creds. No, the writer who gets published is the writer who persists and works and rewrites and jumps through whatever hoops the editors set before him.
That’s what I did, and so I got myself a mighty fine byline in a mighty respectable Sunday newspaper. Complete with beautiful photographs by a Tribune staffer.
I saved that article for the longest time; I just did a thorough search through my archives and, sadly, I came up empty. So I can’t excerpt it here for you now.
But I did come up with another of my feature stories that was only published after persistence and a willingness to follow an editor’s suggestions. I speak of a piece I wrote for Travel & Leisure magazine in 1987 titled, “Chicago by Water, a boat’s eye view of that celebrated skyline.” As with the Chicago Tribune Magazine, I began with a query, promising the editors an insider’s look at, well, at that boat’s- eye view of that celebrated skyline. Hey, I been aboard the Wendella for enough field trips and watery dates to know the ins and outs of seeing my native city from the river and the lake. Easy peasy, right?
Well, the editors said they’d be willing to take a look at my submission; they took one look at my golden words and decided I needed to put more of myself in the article. They noted that their renowned magazine was known for its colorful writing, so they bid me be more colorful, creative, and just plain personal the second time around.
So I followed their advice, gave the piece another run through my word processor, and fired off the rewrite, via modem. (Remember modems?)
Well, you already know from a former paragraph that I struck paydirt and got myself published in the widely read Travel & Leisure magazine. That was a highlight of my freelance-writing career; I always took comfort from it whenever I missed the mark with another publication. Can’t win ‘em all, right?
But I was right there in the August 1987 edition of Travel & Leisure, and I’ll do the next right thing by closing this chapter of my writing life with the opening paragraphs of my published piece. And please bear in mind that the names of some of the principal buildings have since been changed. Now, please enjoy my published work from so long ago:

Sure, Chicago has its share of big-city problems, but you’d never know it looking at the skyline from Lake Michigan. There are days out on the lake when the buildings seem simply magical. As you look west, from a vessel cruising by State Street and Madison Avenue, your vision is framed on the left by the Sears Tower and on the right by the John Hancock Building. Both are towering, black and a bit ominous, but they set off the wonders that lie between the graceful First National Bank Building, the Standard Oil Building, and, of course the city’s lovely green doormat—Grant Park.
From the lake you can watch the sun set behind Chicago, silhouetting its architectural treasures and setting the lake ablaze with flames of red, orange and yellow. The effect changes with the weather, the season and the moment, but it’s always wonderful.

I then went on at some length to describe the various tour-boats available to the public and even did a ride-along on the Fort Dearborn with the Chicago Architectural Foundation, noting:

This excursion is especially recommended for those without sea legs; it plies the Chicago River, which never gets rough. Passengers sit in comfortable chairs on one of the two decks and watch a parade of architectural landmarks, including the Merchandise Mart, once the world’s largest office building; the Sears Tower, still the world’s tallest building; and Helmut Jahn’s State of Illinois Center, with its controversial design.

The Sears Tower, of course, is no longer the world’s tallest building, and at press time it was called the Willis Tower, but you catch my drift as I drifted up and down the Chicago River’s main channel and about two miles up both the North and South Branches. We passed under a total of 51 bridges; I learned more about Chicago architecture on that cruise way back in 1987 than I could ever have gleaned from any number of textbooks.
So, the point of this portion of my writing life is to show (not tell) that the writing bug that infected me back in elementary school fully infected every cell of my body by young adulthood. I was a writer through and through by the time I first met the love of my life, the fair Natalie DeViney, in the editorial offices of Crain Communications, in Chicago, in November 1976. That never would have happened had I opted for a career in baseball, banking, or butchering at the Union Stockyards. But that’s a story for next time, isn’t it?
See you then.
(to be continued)

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COMING ATTRACTION

With the explosive 4th of July holiday weekend being deposited into the memory bank, my thoughts naturally turn to winter. Labor Day is but nine weekends away, and then the gales of November will come early and soon the big lake we call Michigan, will start to freeze over. All will be blue, white, and very, very, very quiet! Ah, winter. Something to look forward to.

No picnic at the beach that day.
Hard to do some decent body surfing in this.
Branching out at the beach, in winter.
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SKY FLOWERS

The Baroda Fireworks never disappoint, and they were right on point last night with a 4th of July Eve spectacle. A spectacle to end all spectacles. And we who are blessed to live in Berrien County, Michigan were thrilled to watch the annual show.

Th-th-th-that’s all, folks!
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GOOD, ORDERLY DIRECTION

Mary Lober (right) charts our course for home in her kitchen in Otsego. She steered us clear of I-94, and we had a beautiful drive home to Harbert on the back roads of southwest Michigan.
We changed drivers in beautiful, downtown Hartford.
I snapped this one while Natalie was navigating us southward on Park Road, in Sodus.
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A PLAINWELL PROMENADE

We joined our dear friend Mary Lober for lunch at her house in Otsego, Michigan on Wednesday. And for clarinet lessons with her grand-niece Alie. Alie, by the way, is making amazing progress and will do well when she plays with her middle school band this fall. Then, after we took Alie home, we headed for Otsego’s twin city of Plainwell for a walk along the mighty Kalamazoo River. And with all the recent torrents of rain, the river indeed was a ragin’.

Mary Lober (left) and Natalie McKelvy decided to go around, due to flooding.
But this guy was content to take his shoes off and wade on through.
A flying carp in Plainwell contemplates the ragin’ Kalamazoo River.
A mural celebrating Plainwell life and work. I could have modeled for the guy on the right.
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BIRDSONG

That’s me playing my song, “Birdsong” for the Berrien Birding Club in June 2019.
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RIDERS ON THE STORM

(Berrien County, Mich.) We hit some heavy weather during our weekly Monday shopping trip to north county. The only thing missing was Jim Morrison singing: “Riders on the storm.”
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