Sunday, November 24, 2013

A Night at the Rathskeller

Eighty years ago, a tiny little bar opened in Detroit Michigan. At the corner of Dakota Street and John R Road. Eighty years ago, it was a thriving neighborhood. Some rather large homes and apartment buildings surrounded the German Beer Garten themed Dakota Inn Rathskeller. Today, the feisty bar still, is packed every weekend. Which is more than can be said for the neighborhood.

Some friends had made reservations for a large group to invade the tiny restaurant for Saturday night.
Saturday morning, they had a few cancellations and asked if we wanted to join them. It's difficult for us to plan ahead and join these events so when we had nothing on the schedule, we joyfully accepted the invitation. It sounded like something that Edward would absolutely love and I'm always up for a new experience. So I transferred the coordinates to the cars' navigation system and we headed out. As we exited the freeway, we knew we were not in the best of neighborhoods. There was abandoned burned out houses to the right and left. Boarded up businesses lining the streets. The navigator informed me to turn and I was reluctant but obeyed. My fancy car was certainly out of place here and I began to worry. I had mixed feelings as we approached our destination. We spied the parking lot with a guard shack and a razor wire fence around it and were directed to the back of the lot to park our car. I felt uneasy that we were in a place that needed such security but at ease that it existed. Then even as we approached the front door to enter, I was wondering just what were we getting ourselves into. As we stepped through the door, we were transported out of run down Detroit to a small village in Germany. We squeezed ourselves into the table where our friends were already gathered and shouted over the other patrons to be heard. A man in lederhosen played song after song on the eighty year old Grinnel piano.

The schnitzel was amazing and the entertainment never stopped. Several times we all sang happy birthday to some patrons and the sing-a-long  was hilarious with a busty lady pointing out words on the wall for us to sing as the piano played.

After the sing-a-long we all stood up and sang God Bless America and Oh Canada - Because that's how we roll in a border town.

The beer was flowing, the wine was chilled. Good friends were having a great time.

This is taken from their website and I think it really captures what this third generation place is trying to maintain in the midst of devastation...
On April 2, 1935 Karl Kurz organized a group of regular customers and called them the Just Right Club. The purpose of the Just Right Club is to bring together regular male Dakota Inn Rathskeller patrons in a social atmosphere of friendship and Gemutlichkeit. The German word “Gemutlichkeit” means to “enjoy fully ones friends in a pleasant atmosphere.”

All in all, it turned out to be a great night. And who knew in such a bad neighborhood, there would be a nice eighty year old pub, having such great parties, every weekend. Perhaps there is hope for Detroit afterall.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Children at a Funeral

Explaining death to children can be a difficult situation. More often than not, parents and other adults get it wrong. The children end up even more confused than before.
I've witnessed nuns ushering children through the church and back to class while we were setting up a funeral. All the while saying things like; " It's part of life" or "We all die". Many times I'll see parents trying to quiet or calm children for a service. The child barely realizes where they are or why they are there. Parents will force children to sit quietly for a few hours before the service and expect them to continue their boredom throughout the service. Rarely, does any of this work and certainly doesn't explain to the children anything about death. Often I think they only bring the children because there is no one to babysit in such a situation.

I've even seen one child get upset in the middle of a service because she wasn't sitting where they always sit in church.

Recently, I found myself at an evening funeral at a tiny country church. When they remodeled the church a few years ago, they put in a single door at the entrance. With a step at the threshold, and five more steps three feet from the door, we had to carry the casket at the ends to fit through the door and then directly up the steps. On the way out we squeezed two pallbearers at each end and proceeded down the steps. As the preacher opened the door and we stumbled over the icy doorway, I was expecting to see my beautiful hearse with the door open and all the bright LED lighting illuminating the rear compartment. But what did we see instead? Two children! Climbing into the back of the hearse! The other men and myself were in need of setting the casket down and all we could do was yell at the kids to get out of the way.

My parents sheltered me from death. Even when my Grandfather died, we did not attend the funeral (for multiple reasons). We simply stopped going to his house. It wasn't until last year that I finally made it to the cemetery where he is buried although his death was over 30 years ago. And none of my siblings have ever been there either. We never said goodbye to anyone, we just never got to see them again.

I've recently run across this Sesame Street example that does an outstanding job of getting the point across to a child (or Big Bird) as to exactly what is going on. In it, the storekeep, Mr. Hooper has died. The writers decided to have the character die as well. >>This is how they handled it.....<<

Death is never easy and there isn't always a good reason.
But I feel that we need to educate our children better.
We don't need distraction toys in the lounge, we need to teach respect and honor.

How did you learn about death?
Did your parents shelter you?
Or were you faced with it head-on with no explanation?
What was your first experience like?

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Cell Phone Karma

As we begin any procession to the cemetery,
we walk the length of the funeral line and remind everyone to turn on their headlights.
This gives the procession a higher visibility and
aids in ensuring that we all get to the cemetery together
and safely. It is surprising to me
how many people don't know how to turn on their lights.
It seems that the more advanced our cars get, the more stupid we become.
We are doing our best to get everyone there safely and people look at us
like we're purple.

At the beginning of each service, there is always and announcement.
It may be the priest.
Or it may be the funeral director.
"Please turn off or silence your cell phones."
It is a simple request that shouldn't take more than a second or two
when everyone else is doing the same thing.
Inevitably, at some quiet point in the service, there will be a 
phone start ringing. It's usually an awkward tune as a ring tone.
Such as: Stayin' Alive.
Often the person is older and fumbles frantically to ignore the call.
A false sense of calm comes over them for a moment. Then the phone either chimes 
that they have received a message or worse yet,
starts to ring again and they answer it, telling the person at the other end of the line
that they are at a funeral.
At this point, they either get up and walk in front of everyone to the hall.
Or they ask for help to shut it off.
Then you will hear the "turning off chime". 

Is technology that difficult to understand?
Have we made things worse, by making things better?

Here's a little Funeral Cell Phone Karma for your enjoyment...

Sunday, November 3, 2013


It's a beautiful autumn day here in Southeast Michigan. 
We've been working hard the last few weeks.
So, we thought we'd take things easy today
and do stuff close to home.
We are fortunate enough to live in a very diverse and wonderful area.
Just a quick drive up the road is a very popular fall destination
for much of the Detroit area.

Blake's Orchard is a great place to take the kids.
They have a petting farm, haunted house,
and hay rides. You can pick your own apples or
choose a variety of goodies from their store.

Jams, canned fruits, salsas, baking mixes, candles and more. 

Of course there are fresh apples of every kind.

They make their own cider right there where you can watch.

So many flavors to choose from.

After making our selections, we got ourselves a cup of hot cider
and sat down outside to enjoy the fresh air.

We noticed that they've added a new winery and had to check it out.

After sampling a few glasses at the bar, we made our selections to bring home.
A Sweet Hard Cider,
Autumn Cranberry Wine
and Blueberry Fields Wine
will be served at our impromptu gatherings this fall
as well as some fresh, hot cider.

Since we were in the neighborhood, we stopped by
Achatz (rhymes with jackets) Pies 
and picked up a Dutch Apple Pie
for our friends and neighbors who just got married this weekend.

This is a local company that also ships pies across the country
(and even to Nova Scotia, for a price)
that was voted by Good Morning America
as having the "Best Slice" of pie in America.
These are all natural, locally grown ingredients,
hand made every day, pies.

Nothing is too good for our friends.
We are very fortunate to have such good friends in our life.

Gratefulness is the key that we hold in our hands to a happy life.
Because if we are not grateful,
then no matter how much we have,
we will not be happy.

I know Jerome and Jenny will be happy
because they are truly grateful for the love they have found.

And I am grateful to live in such an area of abundance
and beauty with good friends to share it with.