Getting My Grinch On: Christmas has arri

Getting My Grinch On: Christmas has arrived, like it or not. http://www.michaelwithiam.com

Getting My Grinch On

Thanksgiving is two weeks away, so I suppose I should give in to the inevitable. Christmas season is here.

It’s really been here since the end of September, but so far, I’ve been able to ignore it. Or at least bury its arrival deep enough in my brain that I didn’t have to deal with it.

Two nights ago, however, as I drove home from work, Christmas crashed through my defenses in a most unpleasant way:  a local radio station has started playing Christmas music 24 hours a day.

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Gorilla Glue?

Under the category, “What was she thinking…?

I glanced up from my magazine, drawn by the sound of a woman’s voice speaking sharply to someone just outside the door. A few seconds later the voice walked through the door, directing two young boys – I guessed 4 and 6 – toward the receptionist’s desk.

I returned to the magazine I was reading, but couldn’t help but listen as she loudly announced to the receptionist that her son had cut his forehead on the edge of a screen door.

“How long ago did this happen, Ma’am?” the receptionist asked.

“About half an hour ago. He was bleeding all over the place.”

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Hurricane Tracking

A few snippets of what dodging Hurricane Irene has been like:

Wednesday night: Decide not to evacuate based on the National Hurricane Center forecast, which has shifted the projected track to the east and over the ocean for 48 hours.

Thursday ,7 am: Uh oh! The NHC’s projected track has changed overnight. Now the eye is again passing over Virginia Beach. Rethink everything.

Thursday, 8:15 am: Arrive at work. Find my office overtaken by balloons, signs, and paper streamers. Oh yea, it’s by birthday. My team has bought breakfast – yum!

Thursday, 2 pm: No change in the track. Now to find a hotel that takes dogs.

Thursday, 3:30 pm: Hotel in Richmond booked. “Pets are family too.”

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Birthday Surprise

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So…

Today is my birthday, and when I arrived at my office my team-  Angela, Melissa and Martha- had decorated it thoroughly, with help from several of our associates at Amerigroup. The best part might well be the chocolate cake from Sugar Plum Bakery. I also learned that balloons behave quite strangely when filled with M&M’s.

Discovering the Writer in Me

Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, during the late 1970s, I made a living of sorts writing for The Ithaca Journal, a small daily newspaper in Upstate New York. It was a Gannett-owned paper, published six days a week, in a time when newspapers were the primary source of news and information in small cities throughout the United States.

The sports editor there was a veteran of 35 years in the newspaper business named Kenny Van Sickle. He hired me the summer between my freshman and sophomore year in college to work the evening sports desk and cover a high school football or basketball games on the weekend.

What he didn’t fully explain to a naïve sports fan who found writing easy was that most of those nights I’d work alone, answering phone call after phone call until 11 pm or later from high school coaches or their appointed student manager or parent “volunteer,” with information about their games. Then, the writing would start. I’d  pound out as many as 25 pages of double-spaced text, all heavily formatted with special symbols to talk to the “computer typesetting machine.” before I could go home, sleep a couple of hours, then wake for class the next day.

He never tried to explain to me that I would come to know the phone number of many, many bars and other haunts where these people, even some of the students,  could be found when they didn’t make the phone call I was expecting and needed to be tracked down for the information I sought.

I doubt he could have known how much I’d love the work and the writing and everything that went with it.

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Terry Habecker Journal’s Coach of the Year

Terry Habecker Journal’s Coach of the Year

By MIKE WITHIAM

Journal Writer

This article appeared in: Sports, The Ithaca Journal, Saturday, December 23, 1978 – Page 13

Experience has mellowed Terry Habecker. The very successful Ithaca High soccer coach has let time be a teacher, and he has learned his lessons well.

Habecker guided the 1978 Little Red soccer team to a perfect 24-0 season, which it topped off a little more than a month ago by winning the first ever Class A (large schools) state championship. During the past two years, Ithaca has compiled a 46-1 record, and it will open the 1979 campaign with a 31-game winning streak still intact.

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Running threatens to surpass tennis as ‘in’ sport

Running threatens to surpass tennis as ‘in’ sport

This article first appeared in Leisure Magazine, The Ithaca Journal, Saturday, July 1, 1978 – Page 3

By MIKE WITHIAM

Jogging isn’t just jogging anymore.

First of all, it has a new name.  Running is the proper noun; jogging is for the old and fat.

This sport has become the new national, irrational religion, with as many as 20 million Americans running, and more joining the race every day.

Running threatens to surpass tennis as the “in” sport, and a sub-culture has grown up around it that includes jogging outfits, books (two best sellers) and magazines, among other items. And the marathon runner, once thought of as a harmless aberration, is now looked upon with almost God-like admiration.

Runners swear by all that is sweaty that running is the best thing that ever happened to them. They sleep better, eat less, feel fitter and insist that work is less work.

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Good morning, out there. This is:

Good morning, out there.  This is:

Bosco Bleinerman

Audrey Backbiter

Rick Marlow

Coslo Maneater

J.J. Regan

This article appeared as a feature in the Finger Lakes Living section, The Ithaca Journal, July 15, 1978

By MIKE WITHIAM

Journal Staff Writer

Ithacans who listen to WTKO radio weekdays between 6 and 10 a.m. are treated to the adventures not only of local and national newsmakers, but a host of fictional characters as well. There’s adolescent bumbler Bosco Bleinerman, tyrannical station manager Coslo Maneater, loveable gossip Audrey Backbiter, and space detective Rick Marlow.

Behind this array of male and female celebrities in WTKO’s “semi-humorous interludes” is a single person, morning man J.J. Regan.

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Please be Advised

This piece was awarded First Place in the Essay category of the 2010 Ithaca College Literary Writing Contest.

“Please be advised your son is missing in action.”

“Please be advised your son has been killed in the service of his country.”

My grandmother lived 100 days past her 100th birthday and I will never know how many times she told her stories of delivering telegrams with grim, terrible news during World War II.

She was a small woman in physical size, but so strong. She commanded attention and respect when she entered a room, and her straight, direct way of speaking held your focus like a laser beam.

She was a railroad Station Agent, one of millions of women who did “men’s” work during the war. Receiving and delivering telegrams was one of the many duties she performed, but one task stood out from all the others.

“I hated that job,” she’d say, starting her story again. “But I was the only agent, so I had to do it.

“The whole town always knew something was up because I’d lock the station up at a strange hour.

“I knew people were looking out their windows, wondering ‘who this time’ as I drove away.

“I knew almost everyone of them,” she’d say, shaking her head slowly, her eyes sad. “Damn town only had 500 people, but every family had someone off to war.

“I had to get the sheriff to go with me”, her eyes locked on mine, and seeing something clearly from years ago. “Couldn’t be alone in case something happened.

“The family’d see you coming up the walk and open the door before you got there.

“You had to read the telegram to them, then make them sign for it.  Weren’t allowed to touch them—“ her voice trailing off.

“How the hell you supposed to do that?” she’d ask, anger and indignation in her voice. “Neighbors. Friends. Not touch them, help them?”

She’d smile her catch-me-if-you can smile and lean toward me.

“I broke that rule a lot.

“Damn govinment,” she’d say, sitting back and slapping her thighs with hands. “What do they know?”

“Hated that job.

“But I always thank God I never had to take a telegram with my name on it,” she’d say, voice quieter, like a secret was being shared. “Always worried one day I’d get one about Al Jr. when I was alone at the station. Wondered what I’d do if I found out him that way.

“But he made it home”, her voice strong again. “I had it good”.

There was always a tear in her eye when she finished.

“Get me a damn cigarette!” she’d bark, getting you to look away so she could wipe the tear from her cheek.

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