All posts by Rob Darnell

Remembering Pam Markgraf

Well, tonight is a night of many beers and loud music. I started with Poison’s Nothing But A Good Time and that went into Nirvana’s Smell’s Like Teen Spirit, and then some Bon Jovi and AC/DC. Now I’m on The Cars and pretty much sticking with them. I may have mentioned before that The Cars are the first band I ever got into. I don’t know what my first words were, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they were “Here sheee COMES AGAIN!!!”

The Cars, man! They’ve been a favorite band of mine since I was a toddler.

For the last hour or so, I was thinking to blog about The Car tonight. I was working it up, getting the words in my head, putting together the best way to tell you about The Cars and why they are so special to me.

But then my thoughts drifted to Pam Markgraf. Maybe it had something to with Benjamin Orr dying from cancer in 2000. Or maybe it’s because I once showed Mrs. Markgraf a song I’d written that was OBVIOUSLY inspired by Just What I Needed. She’d thought it was the funniest thing.

So, I guess I’ll blog about The Cars another time. Tonight I want to remember Pam Markgraf.

Who was Pam Markgraf?

Probably none of my friends who went to Lapeer West know who the hell I’m talking about. Pam Markgraf was sort of a special education teacher at West. Most of my friends from West, who I still have contact with, didn’t have Special Ed classes.

I never did figure out what was so special about Ed or why the whole class was named after him, but a few of my classes during my first and only year at West were Special Ed classes. I was at West for my ninth grade year only. The next year I went to Michigan School for the Deaf.

Pam Markgraf taught the Special Ed classes I was in at West. I credit her as the reason I’m still writing stories and novels. She was very supportive of my work. Before she was a teacher, she had worked as an editor for a publisher.

First, she had one of my stories published in this analogy the school put together each year. Then she had The County Press publish something I’d written. I didn’t even know the thing was in the newspaper until my dad’s cousin Greg called our house to talk about it.

I don’t remember what the piece in The County Press was, but I remember my dad showing it to me after he talked to Greg. I probably downplayed it, as if it weren’t a big deal. But you know The County Press goes a long way. Though it targets the multiple thousand people in Lapeer County, I heard people as far as Texas subscribe to The County Press.

Though I’m embarrassed that my first novel was read by anyone, Mrs. Markgraf was the person who read it. She made a lot of notes in it. I’d written the thing during my ninth grade year. It was what I did instead of homework. It sucked, but now I kind of wish I hadn’t burned it.

My fondest memory of Pam Markgraf was few years later. She was one of the founders of a program called Teamwork, a program that’s purpose was to help people get jobs. I was on board with the program. I’d done some janitor work and stuff like that.

One day I was in Mrs. Markgraf’s office. She was telling me that it’s important for me to look people in the eye. when I talk to them. I was explaining why it’s so hard for me to look people in the eye, and then I remembered a joke that my brother had made at some point. I said to Mrs. Markgraf, “Looking people in the eye is like-” I lifted my head and looked her directly in the eye “–Oh, hi!”

For about fifteen minutes she was laughing out of control. She was actually pounding on her desk in effort to get her laughter under control.

And I remember the time I was in the kitchen. It was probably not long before I moved out of my mom and dad’s house. My mom came in and told me Mrs. Markgraf died from cancer.  

Pam Markgraf had been a very lively person and she had a great sense of humor. I think she’s the reason I keep this train on the track. It was nice having someone like her believing in me.

Off they go

I’d been saving boxes over the last several months, because until we closed there were no guarantees that I wouldn’t have to move. Tomorrow’s the first garbage day since I became owner of this house. I can get rid of the damn boxes now.

Rick Vito at the Pix

Last time I was at the Pix, E.T. was still phoning home. I don’t know if they show movies there anymore, but I hear they have a lot of small concerts. They have a thing called Blues Fest, which I think runs through a weekend each year. Tonight they kicked off Blues Fest with Rick Vito and his band.

I admit, I never heard of Rick Vito before I saw a Facebook post from the Pix about a month or two ago. I found out that he had played with Fleetwood Mac for a time. I have heard of Fleetwood Mac, but I really don’t know if I’ve heard any of their music. I guess Vito has played with other musicians and bands I’ve heard of, but I don’t know if I’d heard Vito himself.

I wasn’t sure if I’d like his music, but I wanted to give him a chance and I’m glad I did. I was pleased with the music. Some of the songs were so beautiful, they almost put me to sleep. There were rockabilly songs too. But the band kept to the theme, Blues Fest.

Sly Mongoose, by Tobias S. Buckell


The new threat is the Swarm. They are zombies, but a little different than the zombies of the Walking Dead. The Swarm can speak, and think, but the goal is pretty much the same. The Swarm will bite you, infect you and turn you into one of them.

Pepper crash lands on Chilo and warns the people that the Swarm is coming.

Sly Mongoose is the third book of Tobias S. Buckell‘s Xenowealth series. I enjoyed Crystal Rain and Ragamuffin a great deal, but I felt Sly Mongoose was a major improvement. I’m guessing Buckell had a better grasp on the craft, or least the series, when he went to work on Sly Mongoose.

The writing is very good, easy to read, an excellent flow. The world building dazzled me and the scenes were interesting. I’m not saying Crystal Rain and Ragamuffin didn’t have all that, but I feel it’s better done in Sly Mongoose.

If I was to rank the three Xenowealth books that I’ve read, I’d say that although I enjoyed Ragamuffin, I didn’t like it as much as Crystal Rain, and I liked Sly Mongoose far more than I liked Crystal Rain. Even so, I recommend you start the series with the first book and work your way through. It’s action-packed science fiction and it’s fun.

Calls and Stuff

I heard that next deer season, baiting won’t be allowed. So, maybe I should try deer calls. I used to think learning to use calls would be like learning to play a harmonica, and I’m a very shitty harmonica player. But last year, during the spring turkey season, I successfully called in a turkey with a push button call and a gobbler shaker.

So, now I think it’s not quite so hard to make the right sounds and rhymes to draw in a wild animal. The only reason I didn’t get that turkey is I was thinking too much about how well they see. Though its back was to me for a minute or more, I took too long to pick up my gun. The turkey changed its direction and walked through some trees.

Maybe I could’ve gone after it, but I thought another turkey might come along. Also, I’m not sure how fast turkey run or how well they hear. I just know they have amazing eyesight and no sense of smell. I didn’t get another chance because I only made it out once that season.

I might go out for the next turkey season, we’ll see. But my passion is deer hunting. I have not experimented with deer calls yet. If you have any recommendations on which deer calls I should try, drop a comment.