Friday, October 15, 2021

Friday, 10/15

I never really thought about it, but you know what? I don't have a lot of “stuff”.

One of my favorite George Carlin routines ever is about “stuff”--getting stuff, finding a place to put your stuff, and doing stuff with your stuff. But as I was running this morning I came to realize that for as much as I like that routine I really don't live it very well, if only because I don't have a lot of “stuff”.

Oops. My bad.

I spent part of my run doing something I often do, and that's letting my mind wander. And where it wandered was, to say the least, an interesting place. I actually spent part of my run trying to figure out what I have that might be worth something to other people if I should unexpectedly vanish off the face of the Earth. And it struck me, not for the first time, that I don't have a lot of “stuff”. Or at least I don't have a lot of stuff that people might consider as “stuff”. I don't have expensive toys, or expensive jewelry, or expensive pieces of property to leave someone. I'm not surprised; after all, I've never really cared about “stuff”, but it made me think.

And as we all know, that can be a dangerous thing.

Thinking about it, I realize that I don't accumulate “stuff” as much as I accumulate something much more ephemeral. I accumulate memories, and I accumulate experiences. I write. I take pictures and make videos. I give tours & programs. I do TV shows. And I travel. Or, at least I traveled when I could back in the Before Times. Apparently, I don't keep score in the traditional way, with a bigger car, a bigger house, and a bigger collection of “stuff”. Instead, I just look back on what I've done so far, and what I still want to do.

When I was young(er), I always wanted to have a lifestyle that was a bit out of the ordinary. Little did I know that I'd actually be able to, without even realizing it, do exactly that.

Weird how that works out, huh?

So I suppose I should apologize in advance to anyone who might materially benefit from my untimely death. You're not gonna get much. But what I hope I could pass along is this—you don't need a lot of “stuff” to live a happy, creative, and productive life. You don't need to accumulate everything you possibly can to leave your mark or to leave a legacy. I'm keeping my fingers crossed I can be a living example of that.

And a living example, I should point out, that hopefully has a lot more years of living--and experiences-- left.

Have yourself a great weekend!


Thursday, October 14, 2021

Thursday, 10/14

 Now I'm kind of embarrassed.

We've been shooting episodes of “High School Bowl” left and right and, as we've done for the seven years I've hosted the show, we have an interview segment in the middle of things. On one of the episodes we shot Tuesday I chatted with a young lady from Norway who wanted to live in the world of a certain Broadway musical. I made a joke afterwards, she laughed and answered the way I thought she would, and it wasn't until I woke up in the middle of the night last night that I realized I had made a big mistake.


The student wanted to live in the world of the musical “Heathers”, based on the 90s movie about a group of girls. The joke I made (and she answered) was actually about the film “Mean Girls”, another movie about a group of girls but nothing at all like “Heathers”. So I, once again, despite my supposed mastery of pop culture, blew it big time, and this time on TV.

As I always say, some days I amaze even myself. And usually not in a good way.

I think I mentioned a habit of mine off-handedly yesterday, about sometimes trying to shoehorn a joke in where a joke may not fit. This might very well be one of those instances; I could've just let her answer stand, and this all would have been avoided. But no...I had to go for the laugh, and look what I did.

I are a genius, apparently.

Now, I realize that 98% of the people watching the show either won't know I goofed or care that I goofed. And I'm thankful for that. But I know I made a mistake, and it was a mistake that could have been easily avoided if, you know, I had actually thought about it. But nope...

I didn't know the difference between “Heathers” and “Mean Girls”. For that, I will now go in the corner and feel shame.

Really, I will.


However, before I go into that corner and feel shame, I do have to wish one of the sweetest people in the history of sweet people a happy birthday! My niece Mallory (the one whose bookmark I take to Europe with me every time I go (at least when I'm able to go)) turns another year older today, and in keeping with family tradition really isn't planning much in the way of a celebration. However, she was kind enough to share some raspberry cheesecake bars with me yesterday as a way of marking the event, and I do appreciate that.

Happy birthday Mallory!!!!!


Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Wednesday, 10/13

 There are a ton of them in France. I wonder why there aren't any in the U.S.?

Because we haven't been able to travel anywhere outside of the US since (gasp) last decade I've been going through a couple of our trip blogs recently. And there was one that actually made me think, not because of the garbled syntax or the horrid attempts at trying to shoehorn in a joke where a joke probably doesn't totally fit.

What made me think? Well, in one of those blogs, I made the off-handed comment that you can't drive around Normandy without running into a memorial to the Americans who fought and died there during World War II. The exact phrase, in fact, was “you can't swing a dead cat without running into a memorial”. And it's true—everywhere you go, not only in Normandy but in most areas of France, you'll find a statue or a monument or a flagpole to a certain division or company that fought in that particular area. It's not surprising; after all, tens of thousands of Americans died liberating the land, and the French just want to show their appreciation.

That's fine.

And that's why a statistic I saw a few days ago made me scratch my head. In this country's very first war—The Revolutionary War—our biggest ally was France. In fact, over 7,000 French soldiers died in North America giving the U.S. its independence. Yet, as far as I know (and I could be wrong) there is not a national memorial to honor the sacrifices those soldiers made in liberating this country. The French have their memorials to Americans who fought in World War II, but we don't seem to have any memorials to the French who fought in the Revolutionary War.

I hope I'm wrong about that. I hope that someone drops me a note and lets me know that there is a memorial, even if it's in a little town somewhere in, say, Massachusetts. Then I will withdraw my complaint and admit to the world that I was wrong about something (because, as we all know, THAT never happens). But I have a feeling that there isn't one around. It might be because it was 245 years ago and any memorials have crumbled into dust. It might be that Americans don't even realize it or don't care.

I just think I know what the answer is.

Hopefully, I'm wrong. Hopefully, someone sets me straight. But if I'm not wrong and there isn't a memorial to the French soldiers who died on American soil, shouldn't there be? I mean, there are monuments galore in France to the Americans who fought and died there. Shouldn't we, at the very least, return the favor and thank THEM for helping us become a country?

Just one of the things you start wondering about when you haven't been able to go anywhere for a bit...


Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Tuesday, 10/12

 What is it with men these days?

You've probably uttered that on occasion recently. I know I sure have, and (last time I checked) I'm a man myself. But there's been an explosion of something I've noticed in the past year or so, all of which can be blamed on men. What is that, you ask? Well, I answer--

Just what is it with men and (incredibly) loud cars & trucks?

I'm being serious about this. I walk everywhere, and I live on a very busy city street. In the past year (maybe two) there's been an exponential increase of vehicles on the road either without mufflers or with some kind of noise enhancement doo-hickey on it. I always thought that was against the law—although that law could have changed—but it seems like every time I'm out or even every time I sit down to work on something in our living room I hear an insanely loud vehicle a few feet away from me.

And trust me—those vehicles are a joy to be around.

I'm not quite sure WHY someone would do that to a vehicle, unless they have a desire to be a pest to the general population and/or prove to everyone that they have a small...piston rod. But vehicles like that are everywhere you look (or walk) these days. And like I said—every single one of them I've come across the past year or so—and that's been a LOT—has been piloted by a guy. Sometimes there's a woman in the passenger seat. More often than not, the dude's alone in the vehicle. But whenever there's a loud vehicle there's a guy present.

As I said before, what is it with men these days? I mean, this is just me speaking, and I may be missing the whole point of car-casting your presence to the entire world. But what makes you think the rest of the world wants to hear how loud your car or truck is? Do you think the 99.9 percent of us woke up this morning and thought to ourselves “You know, I wonder how loud (fill in the blank) can get their car today?”

Let me give you a hint—I really don't think we DO wanna how loud your vehicle can get. So if it's at all possible, do you think you could either a). show a little common courtesy, or 2) use the money you'd spend on a noise enhancement doo-hickey and maybe, I dunno, buy the rest of us earplugs?

We, the general public, would appreciate it.

Thank you.


Monday, October 11, 2021

Monday, 10/11

I wonder how much money I could make doing even just one day a week?

Loraine and I had our usual Saturday this past weekend, albeit one where the temperatures were in the 70s in the middle of October.  We ran out to the Kaufman Sports Complex to kick a soccer ball around for an hour and a half, and then came back downtown to clean up and grab some lunch.  This was around 2, so it was way past a traditional "lunch hour".  Now, I don't know if was because the weather was nice and everyone was out enjoying it or if there was something going on in Marquette we didn't know about, but every place we stopped into and every place we called for takeout said they were filled up.

We ended up waiting until late afternoon and getting a couple of pizzas from Smelted, a truck parked at Blackrocks Brewery near where live.  But, I guess, such is life in 2021 Marquette.

As we all know and as most of us have experienced, there is a labor shortage these days, especially at restaurants.  Every single restaurant in Marquette has "help wanted" signs, some offering quite a bit more in the way of pay than food establishments used to.  Almost everyone is looking for experienced line cooks, and that's what got me to wonder how much money I could make doing it.  Admittedly, I have no experience in being a line cook, but I'd like to think I'm a quick learner and I'd like to think that I do know how to cook.

So if I ever need a fourth side gig, I'm guessing I could probably land one without too much effort.

Thinking about it, though, I realize that there are two other reasons why Loraine and I couldn't get lunch on Saturday.  One is because of the massive influx of people visiting the city in the past two years.  Last year everyone came to Marquette because it was one of the few places (relatvely) untouched by the pandemic that tourists could visit in Michigan.  And then this year the masses (and then some) continued to swarm into Marquette, even in mid-October.  All these visitors need someplace to eat, which has the unfortunate side effect of kind of crowding those of us who live here out.

And that, in a way, is connected to the other reason that popped into my head.  Despite the fact that downtown Marquette is home to amazing restaurants left and right, there aren't as many as there used to be.  I mean, think of five or six years ago when places like Upfront or the Marq or the Third Street Border Grill (& the Third Street Jimmy John's) were around.  They're not any more.  Plus, the New York Deli (one of our favorites) shut down a few weeks ago ahead of moving to a bigger location.  If any of those places were still around they'd be able to soak up some of the excess demand that's exploded among diners over the past few years.

I know that finding workers in the food service industry is almost impossible these days.  But if you could, having a few more new downtown restaurants open would, at least to me, seem to be a surefire money maker.

I don't write this to complain; I really do feel for not only the owners of restaurants these days, but also for the overtaxed and overstressed people who work in them.  Every single person to whom I spoke Saturday seemed almost apologetic about not being able to squeeze us in, even for takeout.  And it's not their fault, which is something I hope I got across to them after they were forced to say "no".  It's just a sign of the times, a sign of one of those periodic transformations in the way we live our lives.

Whether or not it'll be a good change is something that only time will tell.  But, if I ever need a few extra dollars or want to add "chef" to the list of garbage collector, astronaut, and media dork that I spoke of Friday, I know that I probably won't have to search very hard to make it a reality.


Friday, October 8, 2021

Friday, 10/8

Garbage collector, astronaut, and what I'm doing now. That's pretty much it.

Believe it or not I had someone at one of the Rotary meetings I've been making presentation to comment on that "Word on the Street" profile  of me that came out a few years ago. In all honesty, I had kind of forgotten about it. And when I did remember it it seemed like it came out a lifetime ago.

But apparently one person remembered it better than I.

Anyway, in that profile I came out of the closet as a lifelong space nerd, something that's no surprise to those of you who read these yet an apparent shock to some people. And because of that the person who brought up the interview wanted to know if I ever wanted to become an astronaut. After I got done laughing and saying “duh” to myself 28 and a half times, I started to to think. And as we all know, that can be a dangerous thing.

Did you know I only wanted to be three things in my life? It's true, which means I'm either the luckiest person on the face of the Earth or I really need to work on getting a little ambition into my life. I'll let you decide which it is.

According to my parents, when I was a real little kid I wanted to be a garbage collector. I was apparently transfixed by both the trucks that they used and the noise those trucks made. My mom, especially, says I would wait and look out the window in the morning when the garbage truck was scheduled to come, and then be all happy when they stopped and collected the trash. For the first five or six years of my life that's all I ever wanted to be.

Then I discovered space.

I probably spent, oh, the next decade or so wondering if I could become an astronaut...which, if I have to admit, is probably still a dream of mine. I know it probably won't happen, but if anyone has an extra quarter million bucks lying around and wants to buy me a ticket for one of Virgin Galactic or Blue Origin's suborbital flights, I wouldn't complain.

Really, I wouldn't.

What made me realize that I probably would never become an astronaut? Well, to be totally honest, it was math. Even today, when mission specialists and non-pilot astronauts abound, you still need to be smart. You need to be good at certain things like physics or biology or (ugh) math. You need to have a skill set that makes it worthwhile to send you up into orbit. And I don't have that sort of skill set.

Unless, you know, they need someone to be really sarcastic on the International Space Station for a few weeks. Then I might be at the head of the line.

So that brings us to the final of three things I wanted to be when I was growing up. I loved the media. When I was a kid I would take a radio at night and listen to clear channel AM stations throughout the country. I would be fascinated by TV shows, and how they're put together. And when I realized that my one true skill set in life—not math, not athletics, not being able to put a car together while blindfolded—was being able to get up in front of a microphone or a camera and perform, I was set.

And all these years later, I haven't had to pick out a fourth career choice.

Everything I'm doing now—radio, TV, history—all comes from that one skill set. It comes from me talking and me performing. And considering that I was a really shy kid, it's kind of astounding, when you come to think of it. I would've put good money on a bet that the 9-year old me would not have grown up to do what the adult me does. And there's not one point at which I can pinpoint the change from shy kid to “Jim Koski, Media Wh*re”; it just kind of happened over a couple of years, and before I knew it I could talk without thinking and work a crowd (perhaps my one REAL skill) like a pro.

Who knew?

So there you go. Yes, I DID want to become an astronaut. I just wasn't smart enough, just like I probably wasn't mechanically inclined enough to become a master garbage collector, either. It's a good thing that performing requires neither brains or muscle. That way, I'll (hopefully) never have to make that fourth career choice!


Thursday, October 7, 2021

Thursday, 10/7

 Three. There are three Rotary Clubs in Marquette, if you're curious.

As I had mentioned yesterday I made a presentation to a second Rotary Club in Marquette in as many weeks. I was actually a fill-in speaker, as their original speaker didn't make it, and seeing as how I had made the presentation to a first Marquette Rotary Club the week before, it was a breeze.

Now, how long until the THIRD Rotary Club wants to hear it, too?


The talk is one I've given several times this year, on exactly how Marquette has changed over the past 50 years. You see, it's kind of apt, because 50 years ago this December the last shipment of iron ore went out of Lower Harbor. For half a century now Dock #6 has sat silent, and that half century has seen a profound change in Marquette. No longer is it a dirty, grungy industrial city.   Now, it's a home to arts, education, medicine, and bike paths.

Lots and lots of bike paths, almost all of which were made possible because the train lines that ran through “old” Marquette made a perfect bed for them.

Just a few of ways the “old” Marquette has been radically transformed over the past half century? Well, the Coal Yard is no longer here. It went from this--

To this--

The old Roundhouse property went from this--

To this--

And so on, and so on. The transformation continues even today, as two old coal fired power plants are coming down in favor of beaches and other uses. It's a point I try to make in the presentation—Marquette has changed several times over the 172 years it's been around, but (at least in my opinion) the change has been the most profound in the past half century, during the lifetimes of most of us.

And if those pictures don't prove it, I don't know what does.