Monthly Archives: September 2014

Rave: Whitecaps Baseball


The Detroit Tigers are in the post-season! I love baseball. On almost any given day, from April to October, you can catch a Tigers’ game on the radio. Baseball is the easiest game to follow without actually watching, thus making the activity far more portable. Weekends on the lake, weekends camping, nothing is complete without some Tiger Baseball in the background.

And, we love some Tiger Baseball! Growing up, it was an integral part of summer. My bachelorette party was held at a game. When we lived in Royal Oak, before our move to GR, we were mere minutes from Comerica park. Our first date as parents was to a spring game. Duck’s first months coincided with baseball season, I have fond memories of listening to games whilst snuggling with my new babe. Beer Bear’s very own doppelgänger is a former Tiger, Magglio Ordoñez. (For real, the resemblance is so uncanny, it inspired a radio-show contest).



It has been a sad fact that, since moving to West Michigan, we haven’t been to a single game. That said, we have had the opportunity to support our local team, the West Michigan Whitecaps. It has been great. They are a minor-league team for the Tigers, so we maintain franchise affiliation. Further, the tickets are cheaper, the venue is smaller, and the entire event is a family-oriented affair.


Last year, we took Ducky to her first baseball game ever. It was relatively inexpensive at $10 for two adult lawn seats. The ballpark was easily navigated, even with a wobbly toddler, and there were no restrictions in what you could bring in. (Ok, no outside alcohol, but we’ve been to stadiums that limit the size of your purse. Hard to haul all you need in a diaper bag then). Throughout the inning breaks, there was constant activity for the kids. Races, games, mascot fun. Afterward, we enjoyed a great fireworks display.


This season, we attended a couple of themed-games. First, Running Bear joined Duck and I for Star Wars Night. In addition to the regular fun, we met with several intergalactic fellows. Duckers also got her very own light saber. And, she fell in love with the mascots. And, of course, another fireworks finale.

#hansolohomerun #inagalaxyfarfarawaygame #usetheforceout #theempirestrikesout

Some weeks later, I took Duck to a special mom-daughter date: Princess night. Oh. My. God. It was awesome. The ballpark was positively filled with princesses! Little girls came in their royal finery, several Disney princesses roamed the concessions, we received tiaras and wands at the door. They offered “fantasy” photos complete with dress-up clothes and exotic backdrops. A cosmetics and hairdressing team was performing makeovers. And, fireworks.

#takemeouttotheballroomgame #partofyourworldseries #letitgowhitecaps #iwalkedwithyouonceuponadream

I am so thankful to have a great local option for some family fun, franks, and fireworks. We are looking forward to getting to know our other minor league teams, the Grand Rapids Griffins and NBA-Development team, the Drive.


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Readery: Ten Books That Changed Me

So, there’s a challenge floating around the internets right now. (Surprise, surprise). It’s titled: “10 Books That Changed Me.”  Most people who have posted used their ten favorite books. Or, as wisely observed by Alexis Kleinman (in the article here), the ten books these folks would like you to believe are their favorites, thus implying some inherent literary superiority and simultaneous pompous douchebaggery.

But, that’s not even the challenge, is it?  Setting aside the obviously problematic readery-one-upmanship, and resulting challenge duplicity, the list simply does not ask for ten favorites.

10 Books That Changed Me (and How They Did So):

1.  The Witches by Roald Dahl. In fourth-grade, our teacher read this aloud during storytime. She was a fabulous reader and, with accompanying voices and perceptive interludes, her enthusiasm was contagious. (Thank you, Ms. Powell). When she finished reading The Witches, I went to the library and classroom bookshelf and methodically read through the entire (children’s) Dahl canon. It was marvelous. I maintain that Roald Dahl offers some of the most imaginative children’s literature in existence. It is never mundane. It challenges wit and convention. And, my introduction to Roald Dahl led me to be a reader of varied tastes. I am as comfortable in the world of myth and sci-fi as I am in thriller and horror and romance. I attribute my forgiving treatment of genre to my early introduction to originality and Roald Dahl.
2. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. Allow me to be clear:  this is not one of my favorite books. Not even in my top twenty. But, I will forever remember this book as my introduction to Literature with a capital “L.”  In the summer before sixth grade, I was mired in a reading bog. I had read through the important children’s literature and I was perturbed by what was available as Young Adult fiction. Think: Christopher Pike, RL Stine. Essentially the same books with different cover art. I must’ve been complaining to my mom because she handed me a copy of Of Mice and Men. Steinbeck was an entirely new experience. And, I never looked back.
3. A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry. This is one of my favorite books. But especially because of how it affected me. The story is incredibly, incredibly sad. It’s about third-world poverty and loss and the human condition. Reading a story that generates such powerful and raw emotion?  Yes, please. There is no better outlet for grief and pain and devastation than floating away in someone else’s imagination. An imagination that’s rife with sordid imagery and inconceivable tragedy?  Even better. As I read this book, I gained a newfound sense of humility and a wiser sense of humanity. Such beauty in well-captured sadness.
4. The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams. It was the first chapter book I had ever read.
5. We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver. Another favorite. It is incredibly refreshing to learn that you can still be surprised as a reader. Shriver met with my exact literary aesthetic. Which I have been trying to define for years.  Furthermore, she wrote a beautifully composed tale. (Whoa, Kevin. Just, whoa).
6. Hamlet by William Shakespeare. (I know, I know. It’s a play. Don’t be a challenge-nazi). In my freshman year of college, I wrote my term paper on Hamlet. “Alas, Poor Ghost:  The Haunting of Elsinore.”  The paper examined whether or not Hamlet’s father’s ghost was malevolent. It was my first attempt at proper literary criticism. And, it seemed well-received. I even had the opportunity to present it at an undergraduate conference.
7.  Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You? by Dr. Seuss. When Ducky was just a wee babins, this was the book I read to her the most. Rhyme, repetition, sounds; it has a lot to offer for a little one.  I will fondly remember this as Duck’s First Book.  (Not to mention its reminiscent effect on my own childhood).
8. Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri. I read story after story after story. This compilation inspired my love, gratitude, and appreciation for short stories. They are such a unique challenge to an author. I love a novel, but my respect for short-story artists is immeasurable.
9. Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton. Having read the book and seen the movie, I had to reassess how I gauged the quality of film adaptation. Readers always seem to find flaws in adaptations based on fidelity. In other words, the movie sucks if the plot diverts from the book. But, honestly, I loved this book and I loved this movie. They were incredibly different in terms of story. Being able to ignore the nagging community that pans movies for plot divergence is a much healthier outlook on two entirely separate mediums.
10. Fahrenheit-451 by Ray Bradbury. I don’t know why, but I remember this book as being the first book that challenged my ever-present optimism for the future. I had read plenty of other stories that explored depressing future vistas. For some reason, this one stuck as the preeminent one. It’s hard (and important) to consider the fate of humanity and the extremes of which we are capable.  I would like to think that we humans are inherently good. Fahrenheit-451 challenged this thinking. It’s not in the recognition that the individual is capable of depravity. This is likely an obvious conclusion if you watch the news. It’s the imagined communal villainy that struck me. What a bleak outlook… And a jarring one. Bradbury: one. Katie’s naïveté: zero.

I’m sure I could list many more books that changed me, steered me in a different direction, etc. This sample is a fairly poignant reminder of what books are capable of. For me, at least, it has been an exercise in self-enlightenment. How about you?  What are ten books that left their imprint on your life?  What impacts have they had?  


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It’s that time again here in Grand Rapids! Art Prize!

One of my early 2014 favorites found at the Urban Institute of Contemporary Art, Bio Interloper by Crystal Wagner

Ok. There are literally hordes of visitors. Expect to find the buses, hotels, stores, streets running amok with people. Weekend trips downtown can be positively overwhelming.

But… The art. The experience. It’s absolutely unique. The city is littered with installations, paintings, sculptures, performances, and more. I don’t consider myself highbrow, cultured, or any other form of pompous windbaggery. I just enjoy a good wander. And so, with innumerable sights and destinations, Art Prize is the highlight of the Grand Rapids calendar.

I cannot recommend this weeks-long event enough.

Some favorites from previous years.

So, here’s the deal:
Essentially, hundreds of artists make agreements with local venues to display art installations during a three-week period. These installations can be anything from traditional sculpture and painting to contemporary performance and interactive pieces. The venues can be anywhere: restaurants, stores, hotels, parks, museums, the river. Anywhere. When the event begins, visitors become voters. Registering is easily done with the Art Prize smartphone app. Simply download and activate once you’re in the “grid” downtown GR. Each work of art is numbered with a five-digit code. Vote throughout the event for your favorite pieces. At the end, the winning artist is awarded a $200,000 prize. There are also prizes awarded to semi-finalists and special prizes awarded by the “jury” of proper critics. But, the coolest part for me is that we participate in the decision of “what makes great art.”

Another 2014 favorite, The Chimes They Are A Changin by Jenny Heissenhuber, on Oakes Street

In my experience, a couple things might make your experience a little easier:
1. The weekends are very, very busy. Some of the venues are practically sardine-cans. I suggest avoiding the popular venues on the weekends. The BOB, the museums, the Meijer Gardens to name a few. If you can, plan your visit during the week when you can have more time and space to yourself.
2. Moms and Dads of young kids: the above suggestion applies to you even more so. The first time we went, I felt my stroller being pulled in a different direction, simply as a matter of the crowd. It was terrifying for me. If you must attend during one of the overcrowded times, consider baby-wearing or using a leash. I know, I know. A leash? But, think of it as a third hand on your kiddo. Not a creepy restraint.
3. Another feature they offer that tends to make things easier: our local bus service, the Rapid, offers free rides to anyone who purchases the Art Prize armbands. For $5, you get 2 armbands so you and a guest can ride the buses fare-free during the event. With our award-winning bus system, you can park outside the hubbub and get a free ride in or out.
4. When possible, use the mobile app to register and vote. It’s much easier than going online or waiting in line at one of the registration sites. The only downside is that you would have to pay $2 to get the official map and guide, but I haven’t found it incredibly helpful yet anyway.
5. Divide your time and space. There is simply no way to see it all. But, you can get more out of your time if you divide the venues geographically. If you want to see the “must-see” venues, you will need to go to the GRAM, the KCAD, the UICA, the BOB, the GRPM,and the Gerald Ford. All those abbreviations aside, we have found our favorites in previous years in other locales. You can create an experience of your own. My family prefers the outdoor pieces, so we spend more of our time exploring the streets and parks. In fact, I’ve never seen the winning pieces before they were announced because we haven’t bothered to go in many of the major venues.
6. Bring refreshments. Water, snacks, etc. It’s a lot of walking. And, these early weeks of fall can be deceptively warm. Especially on the city streets. It’s not as though refreshments aren’t available on every street corner, but save some money for a proper meal and bring snacks and drinks for your meandering.
7. Speaking of proper meals, plan to eat during your tour. Grand Rapids is home to great restaurants and breweries that double as venues during the event. Stop in to Stella’s Lounge for a burger, San Chez Bistro for Tapas, Founder’s Brewery for a beer. Eat, drink, be merry.

Check out the Art Prize website for a more thorough look at the event.

An entry of my own. Duck in the Wild. Obvi.

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