Archive for General

Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City by Gordon Young


If you call yourself a Michigander (or even a Michiganian, which isn’t nearly as fun), you have got to read this book. “Teardown” is by Gordon Young, a classmate of my sister’s at Flint Powers. Gordie is a writer who lives in San Francisco and of the author of the FlintExpats blog. He is a wonderfully skilled storyteller who does a beautiful job of capturing what it is like to be from Michigan, and specifically Flint. That odd sense of pride and disappointment — of having survived and grateful to be gone, yet still finding yourself caring and still connected to the community. It’s really a terrific summer read — hilarious, melancholy, hopeful.

Gordie is coming to Michigan this week for a book tour. Here’s a link to his site. There are also links there for places to go to buy the book. Make a point of coming out to see him. I plan to be at his Wednesday, June 26th visit to Barnes and Noble at Woodland Mall in Grand Rapids (6:30-7:30PM). Hope to see you there!

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Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City by Gordon Young

Fellow Flint Powers grad and current San Francisco Bay area journalist Gordon Young has written a new book about Flint, “Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City.” It’s available for pre-order on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Indigo. Click here for a post with details on Gordy’s site, FlintExpats. If you haven’t ever been to the site, do yourself a favor and have a look around — it’s wonderfully well done. It helps if you have some sort of ties to Flint, but there are insights and oddities there that don’t make it necessary. All the more reason to make me look forward to the book!

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Grandville Theater Fall Play: Noises Off

November 15, 16, and 17 at 7:00PM, Grandville High School Theater

(Please note the two Auchters in the cast.)


You Can’t Take It with You

Opening night was awesome! Grandville does an excellent job with this quirky, funny play.

Shows tonight and Saturday at 7:00PM. Click here for details:


Taming of the Shrew — Grandville High School Theater

Attended opening night last night, and it was fantastic! (The Shrew and the Haberdasher in particular) Shows tonight and Saturday at 7:00PM. Click here for details:


…and we’re back!

The Auchtoon! site is now alive once more. Did you notice it was down? You shouldn’t have. It’s summer — there are better things to do than checking blog sites. But apparently I managed to break it a week ago. Do you want to hear the specifics of what exactly happened? You do not. Summer or not, you have better things to do.

Suffice to say, technology is delightful when it works but a cruel sadomasochistic taskmaster when you make a well-intentioned and seemingly inconsequential mistake. A hat-tip to Andrew at 2G Techworks for finding the right safe word to release me from my bondage. And that’s about as far I think we should go with that analogy….


Cassaundra Jane

First of all, her name could be a bit confusing to those outside the family. Her name was officially Cassaundra Jane (with the “u” in purposely included to ensure it was pronounced “kah-sawn-drah” and not “kah-san-drah”). More typically it was Cassie, but more commonly it was Poo! (with the exclamation point purposely included because it seemed to fit). There were of course many related variations — Poo!Cassie, Poo!Dalolly, DaPoo! — and unrelated: When Atticus was little, he called her “Shnocky-head.” Nobody has any idea where that comes from or what it means, but it too worked. (I contend that her birth name was Stooart Loouise Pooskawitz, a Peruvian/Siamese Jew by way of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan born to a ne’er-do-well cad and a stinky lady of ill-repute on the mean streets of Flint, Michigan. The story I hope someday to turn into a questionable children’s book.)

Whatever you called her, my Cassie was a cat’s cat — smart, sneaky, strong preferences, particular, clean, elegant, opinionated, sweet, and kind of a butthole. It was okay that I called her a butthole when she acted like a butthole — she called me names much worse — but she didn’t especially care for the “butthole” song I would sing to her, although it is certainly a jaunty tune. For 20 plus years, Cassie was my workmate — I would work, she would sleep. To be fair, she did do some other things. She would also bathe loudly and go sit on my keyboard to demand my attention. In our old house, where my office in the basement with her, um, facilities, she would take a dump, which was always a good reminder for me to go stretch my legs while the room aired out. Over the years, whenever I came back to my office (whatever the reason), Cassie had this innate sense of knowing where I needed to be next. If I needed to draw, she would be curled up on my drawing chair. If I needed to be working on my computer, she would be curled up on my desk chair. Uncanny! Then I would feel absolutely horrible having to move her, which of course delighted her to no end. See? Kind of a butthole.

July 1990 my sister-in-law Ann and my mother-in-law brought Cassie to us. Jane and I had been in our first house all of two weeks and were not really looking to add anybody soon, but there she was. I fell in love. The first night we had Cassie, we put her in a room downstairs for the night. We thought she was too small to make it up and down the steps. The moment we closed the door, she started to cry and it broke my heart. So I slept on the floor with her that night. (Next night and most thereafter she was in bed with me and Jane.) Last Saturday, Cassie was failing. Jane had already spent the night with her Friday, so I slept in another room on the floor with Cassie. The beginning met the end. Sunday morning she was gone.

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Naybe He Got Runned over by a Tractor…

First, you should know that my daughter Natalina is advancing the fine Auchter tradition with Grandville High School theater and will be appearing as Andromeda in the Greek tragedy, “The Women of Troy.”  Performances are next week, Thursday, Friday, Saturday (November 18-20), each at 7:00PM at the high school. Click here for more details. Word on the street is that it’s gonna be impressive.

When you do come, you will be treated to a printed version of the above drawing in the program. Here’s the back story: In 1999 we moved to our current home, which happens to have a backyard that borders the Grandville cemetery. None of our children found this scary or even peculiar. In fact, we would often go for family walks — the headstones had an almost endless variety of words, letter, numbers, and these would generate all sorts of questions and educational opportunities.

One day four year-old Natalina was particularly interested in some of the symbols. “What are they for?” she wondered. Jane and I explained that these images generally meant something significant about the person — like a military veteran might have a flag to let people know he died in the service of his country. Natalina thought about this the way Natalina thinks about things — she says nothing as her beautiful eyes dart and swim. After a while we came upon a man who had images of farm equipment engraved on his headstone. Natalina asked what we thought they meant. We said, “Well, maybe the man was a farmer or he found joy in working the earth to grow things.” Natalina considered this for a moment and then offered helpfully, “Or naybe he got runned over by a tractor.” 

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Stellaluna Marie…

As long as I am going to share something very personal here in a blog post, I might as well go all the way and tell you this: Our cat Stellaluna was my potty pal. I generally start my day somewhere between 4:00 and 5:00AM, and the first thing I do after I drag out of bed is head to bathroom down the hall. I have to warm up to the idea of vertical, so I have a seat. That’s when Stellie (if she isn’t snoozing away with one of the kids) stops by to say good morning. She rubs and chats and brumbles. So I pick her up for a good skritching, and it isn’t long before she stretches her possum nose up to give a few kisses. Along about this time, our other cat Cassie (aka, Poo!) strolls past the door and throws us a “that’s disgusting and unsanitary” look, but then gets close enough for a few touches. After a minute or two, I put Stellie down, and she pads happily off. I take care of what I need to take care of, now fully awake. And happy because it is eminently clear: I am loved.

Stellaluna died Tuesday. She had congenital heart failure. It was sudden and horrible. I am certainly grateful for the seven and a half years of good health where she was her kind and sensitive Stellie self. (Nobody could enjoy a summer day quite like Stellie.) But you know what? I still feel cheated. I guess that’s normal when something or somebody goes too soon.

It’ll be okay. I feel bad — my whole family does — but we’ll work through it. It’s always difficult to lose something good, but it’s even more difficult to lose something special. I don’t expect that it will be very easy to find another potty pal.

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Kayaking for a Cause…

So since mid-May my friend Doug and his girlfriend Katey have been on a kayaking trip from Seattle to Alaska. They are doing this not only because they are adventurous, intrepid people, but also to raise funds for a righteous cause: Interplast, an organization that fixes cleft palates, releases debilitating burn constrictures (scarring), and helps uplift the developing world through education and empowerment.

So it has only taken me two months to realize, hey, this is the sort of thing that should be communicated to other people, maybe over the Internet, maybe in a blog…. Sigh. Still slow as ever on the social networking uptake. But link here to their Kayaking for a Cause website.


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