Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

In January of 2012 my soul mate of 42 years passed away after nearly 12 years of living with severe disabilities due to a stroke. I survived the first year after Don’s death doing what most widows do---trying to make sense of my world turned upside down. The pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties are well documented in this blog.

Now that I’m a "seasoned widow" the focus of my writing has changed. I’m still a widow looking through that lens but I’m also a woman searching for contentment, friends and a voice in my restless world. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. I say I just write about whatever passes through my days---the good, bad and the ugly. Comments welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Saturday, June 1, 2019

The Water Lecture and the Idiom Lover


A group of high roller developers are ‘pulling out all the stops’---an 1800s idiom that makes little sense today unless you own a pipe organ---giving presentations around town to drum up excitement for a river redevelopment plan---not along the river, but in the river. They plan to remove five dams and put in its place large boulders to turn a two mile stretch of the river that runs through our downtown area into a place where people can kayak. Yes, kayak at a cost 45 million dollars. Although I’d already made up my mind before going to the lecture that I was against the project, I decided I should go so I could at least bad-mouth it with a little knowledge-based attitude before running around like I’ve got a bee in my bonnet. That ‘bee idiom’ is from the 1500s and I think we all know what that means.

I figured if they were going to be spending that much money sooner-or-later they’ll be coming to the tax payers with their hands out. Surprise, surprise. The guy who put on the presentation said they have it 75% funded already through grants and private money pledged from the city’s big wigs. (He didn’t say it, but I can smell the Betsy DeVos family money in the mix. I am reminded of their family money four times a day as their helicopter flies too close overhead going to and from their home on Lake Michigan and their private, roof top heliport downtown.) Development along the river bank to make new parks is not part of THIS 45 million dollar project, but I’d bet my soul that a millage for new parks will be proposed down the road when they’re finished playing around in the water. 

What I learned is it's a waste of breath to bad-mouth “the river for all” project because it’s a done deal. They’ve been working on this project for five years getting the permits and jumping through the environmental hoops, getting an Army Corp of Engineers study and those from the EPA and the DNR and like it or not, the project will move forward with no public vote. It starts soon and will take between five-six years to complete. The first thing they will do is build a “floating dam” to replace another dam that is preventing the invasive Sea Lamprey from spawning upstream. Sea Lampreys are a major problem in the Great Lakes and there is an international treaty that covers trying to keep them from spawning in our streams. The whole idea of the ‘floating dam’ is that it can be lowered when it isn’t spawning season so kayaks and canoes can get downstream. Once this new dam is in place they will remove the five existing dams and some of the sea walls that controls flooding. All this so we can---and I quote---“create a more exciting river experience for everyone.” Yada, yada, yada.

I live upstream from this project and already we get a ton of spring flooding along the river as they do in the downstream communities but the man/child who gave the lecture assured us all that the DNR would not give them permits to revamp the river if more flooding were a possibility. Supposedly there are five-six other towns in the USA that have taken on similar projects with rave reviews. Where does all that federal and state grant money come from that we can throw it around like confetti? 

“As the late Doris Day’s signature song says, “Que será, será, whatever will be, will be, the future's not ours to see...” But in this case the future’s not hard to see. And my crystal ball tells me that the moneyed people are quietly buying up old buildings that front the river so they’ll be able to sell them to the county at a hefty profit down the road when the city fathers start talking about putting in a park system along the river. Wouldn’t want those kayakers not to have a place to have a picnic---I’m not making that up. The guy showed us an illustration of a future beach to pull up kayaks with picnic tables and tiny people meticulously drawn in colored ink.

Ya, I know, we wouldn’t have places like the fabulous Central Park in New York City without the visionaries in past centuries. We do need visionaries and I didn’t moan and groan when a wealthy owner of a grocery store chain here in town spearheaded a project with a gift of $300,000 that bought up 42 miles of abandoned railroad beds and paved them for walking and hiking trails. That project was accomplished with 2.9 million dollars in federal and state grants. I welcomed that project because nearly everyone who could breathe can and does use those trails which just goes to show that most of us will get behind a visionary project if we see something in it for us personally. But my kayaking days are over---actually they never started but that's beside the point. I'm too old to want to learn how to shoot the rapids like they claim the Native Americans could do in that stretch of the river back before the dams were added to help the timber industry bring logs down river to the furniture factories that our city was once famous for world-wide.

‘Shoot the rapids’, by the way, is probably a 20th century idiom invented by people who don’t mind scaring themselves half to death while whitewater rafting out West. Try as I might I couldn’t find the origins of that phrase but it’s close to the 1920’s ‘Shoot-the-Chute’ which was the name of an amusement park ride in which boats went down a steep incline to a pool at the bottom.  ©

 
The photo above was of an annual raft race that my husband, me and assorted friends entered 4-5 years on the same river they want to reinvent. The races were discontinued after someone died and too many people got hurt. It was a lot of fun but very dangerous because so many people spent the day drinking and playing in the hot sun and water. We had a ten man Navy surplus survival raft that we turned into things like a giant turtle or a sea creature. The bottom line: when they build the rapids back into the river people will come and a 100 years from now people will thank the visionaries who took on this project. Sometimes we all have to look at our pasts to see the future---in other words the bees have left my bonnet.
Our survival raft and two of our friends

35 comments:

  1. I know dam removal is ongoing on many rivers across the country but mostly to help fish and other wildlife not for kayakers. I suspect they are hoping for an economic boom as you suggest. Love the photo of your survival raft!

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    1. The speaker did mention how the natural boulders would help the fish thus helping the Great Lakes because they create better spawning areas for fish, especially Lake Sturgeons. I think his whole speech would have been better if he had talked more about that and less about the kayaking.

      We did have fun in that raft. We used to have a small lot on the river so we could launch it away from all the crowds and we had decorating parties before the race.

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  2. All I can say is stupidity. Some nut job brought this up and someone probably said Ya, lets do it. Rich people enjoy wasting our money. But of course, we're just people that have no control. See ya Jean.

    Cruisin Paul

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    1. One thing I should point out is that all those dams are over 100 years old and probably would need to be rebuilt at some future point anyway. So the more I think about it the more it doesn't sound so crazy. HOWEVER, that guy who was in charge of public relations for the project accented the wrong benefits, especially given the place where he was talking....a senior hall.

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  3. What a very interesting topic! He sure wasn't thinking of his audience (my thoughts exactly)! VERY important in giving a presentation .. on just about any topic. It's hard for me to vote on new taxes or bonds but especially with such a big price tag ... because it seems like the project usually comes in at over twice the original number. And two weeks later, you're right, they will want to add parks and kayak rental facilities and .....

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    1. More interesting than I thought it would be. He briefly talked about the endangered mussels in the river around all the dam foundations and how they'd have to have divers move them before dismantling the dams, then when the project is done divers have to move them back.

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  4. I love to kayak but think you are right and he dwelt on the wrong benefit from the project. That would only serve a small niche of the population.
    Didn't know you had Betsy for a neighbor and got to watch her comings and goings. Your survival raft looked like fun.

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    1. Oh, yes, the DeVos family has quite a history in the area. They do some good things like support a children's hospital and a huge annual art fair and buy up ancient Bibles and scrolls for the Christian College, but they are also known for wanting to destroy the public school system so we can have all religious charter schools. Back before they were rich I knew a lot of people with basements full of Amyway soap the couldn't sell because they got caught up in their pyramid scheme before the government made them quit. They stills sell that way but now the government makes them buy back products if individuals decide they can't make a go out of selling Amyway to their friends. (Big court case.) People who knew them before they became rich don't like them much.

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  5. Back in 2004 they were going to put in a similar whitewater park on the Mississippi in Minneapolis. They billed it as bringing the Olympics to the Twin Cities. They tried more for the whitewater rafting than kayakers. The biggest pushback was; 'Who in their right mind is going to want to play in a polluted river?' It never got built.

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    1. That came up in the Q&A. They supposedly tested our river many times and it was clean enough for people except for on tiny place where they found lead from an old factory dumping that they are going to clean up. I would imagine that's where some of the big bucks is being spent. Developers sure can have some crazy ideas like the Olympics to the Twin Cities.

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  6. Hey, thanks for posting that picture of Ron and me with the raft. Fun times on the river. Sure wish I still looked like that. Vicki

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    1. In our mind's eye you still look the same, Vicki. I had a bathing suit just like yours only in a different color. I didn't get to go on the raft as many times as the rest of you because I had weddings to service. By the way, I still have that suit but I couldn't fit in it if my life depended on it.

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  7. Interestingly in our little town, the business folk have been wanting to promote the river for canoes and kayaks. We already have races on the river a couple of times in the spring and they want to promote it more for recreation. All I could think of was liability issues and if someone got injured or died and how that would effect all their plans. Sadly, I think they have big dreams. We live in the foothills of the Adirondack mountains and there are so many lakes and rivers that trying to draw people to one is not going to work.
    Regards,
    Leze

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    1. I wish someone would have thought to ask about liability and paying for water patrol crews because you know they're going to need them. But IT IS interesting that river reconstruction for canoes and kayaks seem to be trending. Here, I know a kayaking club first approached the city about it.

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  8. Welcome to the real world of "nothing-we-can-do-to-save-ourselves-almost-every-day" news. We here are promised that in the near future we will have new-ish type planes based nearby that are (gasp) pretty much promised to (very adversely) affect our hearing as they fly to and fro, back to try again, over & over ......most especially the hearing of "children and adults" may be shot to pieces. It's too late to protest, we're told. It's a done deal. Cheers.

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    1. Wow, that's terrible! I wonder what regulator was bought off on that deal. They've undone so many environmental and safety regulations in the last two years that I guess I'm not surprised.

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  9. Oh, Pat here again. I made a mistake ~~ should have said that we're pretty much promised that the hearing of children and the
    ---> "ELDERLY" may be affected by the sounds of the new planes to be
    based here. Let's hear it for THE ELDERLY !!
    may be affected by the sound of the new planes based here. Let's hear it for the ELDERLY !!

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  10. May I submit a correction to my earlier post ~~ "adult" should have read
    "ELDERLY" (citizens of our little community who've been told that planes to be based here will surely affect our hearing !!

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    1. Been there, done that...wanting to correct comments I've left. I'd be SO ticked If I lost hearing because of a plane! Hearing effects the quality of our lives and relationships.

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  11. Well, it all sounds good but like you said, someone is going to be making money off this deal. When it comes to big projects like this, nothing much seems to get done in this world unless it lines someone's pocket somewhere. If the rest of us can get some enjoyment out of it, that just becomes part of the sell-job. Oh boy, if I sound cynical it's because I'm at that age where I've seen/heard it all already.

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    1. Cynicism is a learned response and we have every right to feel that way. Like you said, at our ages we've seen this movie before.

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  12. Trouble is... the roads are falling apart and they are building a kayak run. When there are zillions of areas not all that far from your spot and mine that can provide that. But getting there is a royal pain because you go through pothole hell as soon as you get in the car. And yes, you have private funding, at least in part, but still... I think you are right about the sale of buildings on/near the river. But at least your city is prospering. Our capitol here is a bloody mess. Don't start me. And up north doesn't feel like up north anymore, just a Walmart extension of down state. But I DO want them to do all they can to get the Asian carp and other invasive species out of the water. That money I don't mind seeing spent!

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    1. I agree. We don't need a kayak run. There is one five miles from where I live. The big money people have been building new condos and rentals downtown like crazy, within walking distance of our our Medical Mile for those who work there. Just added a dog park in the center of town, too.

      We have grant money available for this kind of project, why not grant money to fix the roads? The newest proposal of a 50 cent gas tax would kill our tourism.

      Did you know that we are already putting something in our river waters to keep the invasive species from spawning? Makes you wonder how safe it is to play in the water and safe for water fowl. During spawning season they test the water for their invasive species eggs---has to be done for our treaty with Canada.

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  13. Way to many zero behind the dollar sign I lost count.
    Coffee is on

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  14. Don't know enough about the area to comment.
    But I hope you get what you want and need there.
    As for you and Don, you both sure look good and like you're having fun!

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    1. Since I started writing this post, I've come around to believing that it MIGHT be the right thing to be doing---to be putting the rapids back in the river. BUT only because all those dams are over 100 years old and will need major work or replacing sooner or later. Plus the purpose they served no longer exists. It's the sticker shock of what stuff like that costs that gets me!

      That wasn't me and Don in the photo, you speed-read the caption wrong. They are good friends. LOL

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  15. I guess it's time someone else had their turn at some fun along the river. Bringing in new and younger people and their money can rejuvenate a dying area. I agree that it's tough when developers call upon taxpayers to fund parts of their pet projects, though.

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    1. There is so much building going on in our downtown area, it isn't funny. They just opened a new hotel with a target market of the Millenniums. They will enjoy their view of the river.

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  16. Kayaking's getting big around here -- for photographers and fishermen as well as people who just enjoy paddling around. Of course, we have so many bayous and bays, it makes sense. For one thing, it reduces the pollution and noise from motors somewhat, and it does make it possible to visit areas where power boats are banned. There's a wonderful group in Galveston that's restoring land on the bayside of the west end of the island. They're called Artist Boat, and they lead kayaking forays into the back bays, sometimes combined with art workshops, photography, ecological education, and such.

    Your project sounds more like the San Antonio River Walk. They walled in the river where it flows through town, and then developed shops, hotels, and galleries alongside. It's too crowded for my taste, but it's quite popular, and it's brought gazillions of $$$ into town. You can't do anything but sit next to it, though. Water sports belong to other towns, with other rivers.

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    1. I've seen the San Antonio River Walk and agree it's too crowded. Our river is much wider than theirs. Returning things to their

      Eco-friendly states makes sense for the future of the planet like what they're doing in Galveston. Kayakers in general must be well organized environmentalists. They are the ones who led our project since day one.

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  17. I can understand your frustration. There is so many parks and federal lands the Prez wants to sell or junk up with pipe lines and yet the Gov will give these humongous grants to pretty up what is working already. Now if you said new dams were needed to protect the people from flooding, then I'm all for it. But I think you are right. It is just to make contracts available to the rich company owners to set up things for the 1% to become even richer.

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    1. The rich always get richer, no matter what. We have towns still in our state where the water is not safe to drink yet they aren't dropping grants into fixing the problem.

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  18. Maine has had dams coming down for years, mostly to make it possible for the endangered Atlantic salmon (the wild fish, not the farmed ones) to swim upriver and spawn. The idea of using dams to keep out invasive species was new to me.

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    1. Before the lecture I knew invasive species were trying to get up our streams but I didn't know we already treat the water to kill their babies. An extensive program is in place for looking for the babies and how far up they get.

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