tasty bytes from China

July 2013
« Jun   Aug »
Couch Crashers
Filed under: General, Culture
Posted by: @ 8:49 am

So, Jeff and I are still crashing on the couches of friends and loved ones across the United States, displacing their pets and uncovering long lost TV remotes between the cushions. For a while, I was on the sectional in Lincoln Park.  Next, I moved onto a Chippendale camel back in the burbs. 
My hosts even placed a small tin of chocolates on the needle point pillow.
Anyway, their eighty pound German Shepherd didn’t like where I was sleeping. Along with whining, he dug through my luggage and sniffed out the tin of Trader Joe’s chocolate covered espresso beans.
The omnivore  gulped down the beans, which are toxic to a canine’s system.
Now somebody needs to explain to me how a creature that can eat poop, fish bones, dirt, and kibbles made out of ground chicken parts can get deadly ill from a small tin of free-trade chocolate covered beans?
Anyway, after discovering the unplanned binge, we had to act fast.
My host called the equivalent to K9-911 and found a quick cure. We had to get her eighty pound pooch to consume hydrogen peroxide, which would make him urp up the chocolate beans.
So with a stick wedged between her dog’s back jaws, a cup of hydrogen peroxide was splashed down its throat, which was er uh, about a cup and a half too much.
Within moments, the German Shepherd hacked a blend of mocha foam and white swirls all over their manicured lawn. I mean, who wouldn’t? If you think of the havoc hydrogen peroxide does to your hair, just imagine what it does to your innards. While the quick action saved the pooch, the hair coloring irritated his lungs.
He still had to go to doggie hospital for an night of observation.
The German Shepherd  is now back home sleeping on his couch  and I’ve moved onto the loveseat of my brother in-law in Southern California.
While my couch crashing was free to me, it ended up costing my hosts a pretty penny in vet fees.
So remember, don’t leave chocolates on the pillow of your guests.

1 comment
Top Ten Things I Can do in Chicago but not China
Filed under: General, Culture
Posted by: @ 10:58 pm

10. Exit from the front door of a bus without getting yelled at
9. Find a Petoskey stone
8, Drink a local brew with the Colonel
7. Do yoga in English
6. Lick the juice dripping down my arm from a Flamin’ Fury purchased at Green City Market
5. Log onto facebook without first connecting to a VPN
4. Take in the fresh smell of a homeless person. The amount of destitute people in Chicago is staggering.  Over 105,338 Chicagoans are homeless, a 12% increase from last year. -
3. Choose between Cuban, Mexican, Greek, French, Vietnamese, Japanese, Chinese, Italian or American  cuisine on just one block of Broadway
2. Sit –no squat—on a public john
1. Get hit with a $50 vomit clean up fee in a taxi.

1 comment
Crossing Over
Filed under: General
Posted by: @ 12:10 pm


My mom’s crossing over to the final frontier.

You might call it the great sequel, part two, the next lag
of life’s journey, but she calls it heaven and Mom definitely has one foot
inside the pearly gates.

What do I mean?

Even though I traveled over eight thousand miles to spend time
with my mom at our family’s cottage in Charlevoix, she prefers to carry on a
conversation with my dad, who’s been dead for fifteen years.

That’s a real blow to my ego.

It started the other night when my Mom saw my father
standing next to the dock.

“There’s Dick!”


“You’re father, Ginger.”

“Dad? Where do you see him?”

“Over by the dock. Let’s go get him.” Mom was waving him
down, the fat under her arm wobbling in the wind.


But instead of saying,  “There’s no one out there”, I decided to go
along with my mother’s vision, knowing that the exercise would do her good.

As her top dragster walker approached where my dad was
supposedly standing, mom  was
disappointed that he wasn’t there. “That’s funny, I thought Dick wanted to stay
for dinner.”

“Maybe if you cooked pot roast, he would have stayed.”

“Maybe a  hippopotamus?”

We turned around and walked back then watch more episodes of

The next night, Mom set requested I put an extra plate at the

“Who’s the extra plate for?”

“Your father. How about giving him a call to make sure he didn’t get caught in the snow.”

“Gee, I didn’t know they got phone service in heaven. Do you
know his number?”

“It’s the same one he had in Grand Haven. Call him!”


“All right.”Knowing that I couldn’t bump my mom from the
topic, I had to think of a way to all him without the help of a medium and
without burning minutes on my summer burner phone. I spotted an over-sized TV remote
that  resembled an old school cordless model squeezed between the rustic cushions. I
pushed in Dad’s old phone number and handed it back to my mom.

Mom put the faux phone up to her ear. “I think his number’s been disconnected.”

Mom has other invisible visitors who show up from all eras
of her life. Friends from nurses training. Her older brother and sister. Moses and other
wise guys from the Bible. Most of them are faces and friends who have passed
away, except for Wolf Blitzer.

Does she really see them? Are they calling her into heaven?

I don’t know.

Unfortunately, most of  her visitors show up around 3 in the morning. Last week,
there was a big prayer meeting followed by birthday party where she sang a few
rounds of happy birthday.

I decided not be concerned until she asked me to cut the

And yes, she did.

Meanwhile, I’m in Grand Rapids where they celebrated Gerald Ford’s 100th birthday yesterday, passing out slabs of free cake at the Gerald Ford museum.

He’s been dead since 2006.

Party on!


comments (0)
HIP Hip Hooray!
Filed under: General
Posted by: @ 11:22 am


My first novel.

I believe there is no such thing as fiction. It’s just
reality spun together differently. And HIP is the spinning on mine.

HIP is the collision of things close to my heart: urban
teens, old folks and travel. The result is a streetwise caregiver who hides heroin
in the diapers of old folks in an international drug smuggling scheme that
starts in Detroit and hangs a left in Bangkok.

I started writing HIP last year while living on the flip
side (since I knew I wouldn’t master Mandarin, I decided to use my time writing
a novel instead). I joined the mass of indie authors who are rewriting the rules
of the industry by publishing it on, saving a few trees in the

The quirky caper starts in Detroit when a young parolee,
Haman Brookes, is sentenced to work at an old folks home. His street smarts
come in handy, breaking up brawls in the dining hall, spotting cheating scams
at the card table, even bumping attendance to the HOW TO POOP workshops. But
when Haman’s drug hustling friends catch wind that he is chaperoning a few
oldies to Bangkok for affordable hip surgery, their wheels start turning. They
create a scheme to have Haman hide heroin in lining of their adult diapers.
What isn’t planned is the amount of work it takes to care for a group of eighty-four
going onto five year olds.

HIP-spiration I
got the idea to writing HIP from a few things. The first being mother. Writing
this quirky caper helped me deal with the stuff that could drive my sisters and
self crazy, from finding her hearing aids in the laundry basket to filling up pill
boxes with pharmaceutical All-sorts. Maybe you can relate.

Haman Brookes,
the streetwise care keeper and his financially strapped friends, get their
fictional DNA from splicing together details of various teens I have met in
urban youth ministry. Dealers, users, hustlers, drop outs, prostitutes, inmates
and out-mates. Many have evolved into extraordinary youth pastors.

Detroit locations
like the Packard Building bring local flavor to the pages. Patrick, my Detroit
born and raised brother in law, snapped this photo.


Bangkok locations such a Sukhumvit, will open readers eyes to a whole new world.


The extraordinary Inga-lise Dahl designed the cover of HIP
from her flat in London (since she was a quarter of a world away, didn’t
shoot me in the process). Inge picked a dragon-headed cane for the symbolic visual,
since chasing the dragon is slang for
heroin addiction (追龙). The term originated in
China. I would’ve known that, too, if I studied the dang language.

Crystal Maust gave me encouragement by reading one of the
earlier versions and she’s still my friend anyway.

You can purchase HIP at Smashwords for your kindle, apple or
any other electronic tree-friendly device. Please pass the word!

Rated PG13: adult language, brief geriatric nudity.

comments (0)