The sad case of Michael A. Harnett

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UPDATE (Tuesday, October 7):

I apologize to Michael Harnett’s friends for my harsh words. They came out much worse than I intended when I was trying to get a point across. I felt bad afterwards, plus strangers and my own friends alike have pointed out the faulty commentary in my blog post. I stand by the fact that this could have been prevented, but I am truly sorry for rubbing salt in the wounds. Thank you to those who called out on my bullshit. I appreciate your honesty.

**

Monday, October 6

As I’ve expressed on social media, everything about the Michael A. Harnett case pisses me off. This is a scenario that could have been easily prevented and this young man died for no good reason. I have theories, not to mention questions, in regards to this horrific death. But let me first tell you my side of the story:

It was around 6 p.m. or so when I went on Facebook and saw that one of my acquaintances Anne Russell (@annemruss on Twitter) had posted – and kept posting – pictures of a police-taped off scene on campus. It took me a moment before it dawned on me that there was possibly a body in the pond by the gazebo. I checked what @cmupd, @CMLIFE and what other accounts were saying on Twitter, but eventually, impatience and curiosity got the better of me so I hauled ass to the scene. Like many others, I tried to get a peak over the blue tarps, snapping pictures and waiting. And waiting. It was unbelievably quiet. Even the reporters and photographers who spoke with the authorities and bystanders did so in hushed tones. Right as they were pulling the person out of the water, the school’s clock tower hit seven and rang its bells. It was a true Gothic moment.

News sources:

CM Life – “Man found dead in Fabiano Botanical Garden”

Morning Sun – “CMU identifies drowned man”

CMUPD press release – “Body of 18-year-old Dearborn Heights man found on CMU campus”

Theories and thoughts

This young man went missing after a drinking spree with his friend on Homecoming weekend and apparently drowned in the pond. I suspect foul play, or in the least, negligence and pure utter stupidity. Harnett was an insulin-dependent diabetic, which means he shouldn’t have been drinking in the first place. Why the hell would his friends let him drink if they knew he was diabetic? I’m not ignoring the fact that Harnett was 18 and considerably an adult and he should have know what his body can’t take so he definitely made a bad decision. But why wouldn’t his friends show more concern? Perhaps they thought it wouldn’t be so bad so they let him drink and they forgot about that little detail as the night went on, feeling young and setting the world on fire.

Nevertheless, friends are supposed to have each other’s back. Always and everywhere. I don’t see how you wouldn’t know that your friend is diabetic and that drinking is most likely a lethal choice. What kind of friend lets you jeopardize your life? What kind of friend doesn’t go looking for you if you disappear at two in the morning? What kind of friend lets over 12 HOURS pass by before alerting the police? If my drunk friend went missing, didn’t answer my texts and phone calls, and still was nowhere to be seen the next day, I would be losing my shit. From my understanding, the police weren’t even alerted by his so-called friends, but it was Harnett’s father who called them at 2:15 p.m. and then gave them the contact information of his son’s friends. That’s when these “friends” did something about the situation.

Another thing that upsets me is the blatant fact that this poor guy lied in the water for 14 hours before anyone found him. It doesn’t become bright until 8-ish nowadays and I know Sundays tend to have less foot traffic, but are you telling me that people walked passed that pond and no one noticed there was a dead body in the water? No one saw him in the middle of the day? Are people so self-absorbed in their own lives and busy playing with their phones that they don’t notice something so despicable? Or worse yet, did people notice and just not care or wonder what or who was in there?

It sickens me to think that we live in such a society. Harnett was the same age as my little brother; it could just as easily have been him dead in the water. Again, this could have been so easily prevented if someone had pulled their head out of their ass. I think one thing we can learn from this is choose your friends more wisely, because even if you drink too much or do something dumb, there are people watching out for you.

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Leaving Summer for Senior Year (And thank you)

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Mount Pleasant is one of those places that wears fall well: the red- and orange dyed trees, the rain-soaked streets, the pines that appear greener, piles of hay by the farms near the highway, the vast yellow and brown fields, the crumbled leaves on the grass. It’s such a beautiful period of the year. Too short also if you ask me; fall is my muse. Not to mention that cider mills and corn mazes break out over the area, along with the new cinnamon and pumpkin spiced items on the coffee menus. Then you get to wear scarves and boots and long coats.

The aftertaste of summer still resides in the southern part of Michigan. As an autumn woman, it feels like traveling back in time, similar to visiting the parents over the weekend, which is a somewhat weird experience you never get used to. Even if you’ve gone to college for three years. It somehow stopped being “my” house once I started living in the dorms and now I feel more like a very welcomed guest. I suppose I could explain this concept in more detail, but the reasons behind my reasoning are largely personal. What I mean is that when you switch from complete independence to returning to your roots every now and then throughout the year, you find yourself in a middle stage where you’re someone’s kid and they expect you to follow the rules under their roof. At the same time, they expect you to take off at some point and see what those wings are for.

This semester is fascinating, because it’s my last fall here in Mount Pleasant. Unless I do decide to teach English courses, then I wouldn’t mind coming back – but only when I’m older and after I’ve had my fair share of adventures. Anyway, another fascinating aspect is the fact that I’m taking six courses, working part-time and meeting with people who are helping me figuring out post-graduation. It’s a testing time as I do my best managing my assignments, sleep hours, moments to eat, and most importantly, moments to talk and laugh with friends. I find it so pleasantly surprising that I handle it with such optimism; the naive girl who moved into the Towers three years ago would have had an emotional breakdown weeks ago.

College is in a way an intellectual bootcamp. A few things I’ve realized recently is that I’ve conquered several issues I carried with me from high school: fragile self-esteem, stage fright, an unpredictable stutter and fear of talking to strangers. Since freshman year – through risks, success and failure – I have beaten those four opponents and I have never felt so free. I have found my voice. I have grown in character. I have become more politically aware. I have improved my writing and I have a clear sense about my career prospects. No matter how difficult this semester will be, which I surely as hell know it will be, it feels damn good knowing that I can accomplish anything I put my mind to.

So wherever I’m going to find myself next fall, it will be just as exciting and challenging as college; probably even better.

Henry David Thoreau

 

Extra message for followers:

I’ve been silent on this blog for a long time, partially because it hasn’t been as apparent to me anymore what I should discuss with the world and partially because I don’t have a clue how much I should open up on cyberspace. I’ve used Twitter and my Facebook page a lot more for short commentary on news and stuff, however, in regards to this blog, which exists for longer messages, I haven’t made up my mind on its purpose.

I used to share personal matters that might be relevant or even helpful for others; I used to talk about things that amused me or made me angry; I used it for my journalism class to comment on worldly events and current issues. The only thing of interest left is talking about my novel, its progress and my potential writing career. I want to do more, though. To those who read my posts and who have checked back these past months, I would like to say thank you. For giving me your time and for listening (well, reading).

Cheers

Robin Williams: In Memoriam

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Depression is a silent disease in your heart and mind. It can devour your hope, stomp on your intuition, and relinquish the fire in your chest. To anyone who hasn’t gone through depression, it might be difficult to understand. I wish Robin Williams could have looked at anyone in his inner circle and grabbed onto them like a lifesaver. That could have kept him above the surface, maybe even long enough for him to find reasons to stick around. My thoughts are with his family.

Rest in peace, Mr. Williams. May your spirit find its way safely back to shore.

[1951 - 2014]

"Dead Poets Society" (1989)

“Dead Poets Society” (1989)

 

Lessons and Mistakes in the Workshop

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Back in the spring when I handed over the first two chapters of my novel to my fellow creative writing peers, I got a stomachache that lasted five days. Professor Doyle mentioned in the beginning of the semester that we should keep our stories below 30 pages. I was handing them a manuscript consisting of 32 pages, plus it was barely even double spaced (1.5 inches). It felt as though I was putting them through hazing, but it needed to be done. I wasn’t getting efficient reviews from the four people I’d asked to read my stuff (one of which was my mom). A “Oh, it is good” hardly helps.

Many published authors have said that one must keep their stories secret until they’re completed and ready for the public eye. I feel like such a rookie, though, and I am desperate for criticism. There were several points in those chapters that I felt uncertain about and I had to know what was clear and what was confusing or illogical.

Having your work picked apart and studied by other people always feels like going through brain surgery without the pain killers and the medication that puts you to sleep. There is only the paralysis and the itching sensation of being wide awake. At the end of it all, I was glad the professor and my classmates ripped the chapters apart, because it wiped away my doubts and I returned to the dorms with several handy ideas. I felt invigorated! I also needed a strong cup of coffee.

(found on Tumblr)

(found on Tumblr)

 

Important things to remember during the workshop

Now that you’ve heard this anecdote, I’d like leave you with some thoughts I’ve gathered from these academic experiences.

Everyone sitting down in that classroom has a different kind of imagination, taste, depth, passion, many/few interests and (hopefully) a style of their own. (By the way, when I say ‘depth,’ I mean how far they might go in using metaphors, symbols, foreshadowing, et cetera, and if they have a moral or message in their pieces.) What you all got in common is that you’re learning. Sure, there might one or two writers who are absolutely amazing and you wonder why they’re not famous yet. Others might write predictably or stupidly. Regardless, everyone has the chance to improve and grow.

* Be fearless and even if you are afraid, run into the fire. Most great writers suffer a little in the process. And remember, even after your work is done and published, some will still complain about something or other. So you might as well do your best, turn in the script and see what happens.

* Listen to your peers. Respect that people have their opinions. Take some advice in consideration, dismiss some advice. It’s up to you to do what you will.

Don’t be a dick about it when you give out critiques and suggestions. Just don’t.

* Don’t become defensive or hurt. Remember that your peers aren’t in your head and they judged the piece by itself. If you failed to convey an idea or emotion, or whatever the fault might be, you have the chance to fix it later.

Whatever your literary taste might be, leave it out when you read someone else work. Whether science fiction or historical fiction or whatever genre isn’t your cup of tea, it doesn’t matter. Read the damn thing, write down what’s good, bad and ugly, and get over yourself.

If you’re a “grammar Nazi” like me, or if you do everything in your might to mix it up in your writing, please avoid growing irritated by the typical ‘porcelain skin,’ ‘cold as ice,’ the mistaken there-their-they’re (oh my God) and other details that might come up. I’ve seen this so many times. It’s funny how young writers think they’re so clever when they are just re-inventing an expression that has existed for centuries. It might seem petty, but as Sherlock Holmes once said, “To a great mind, nothing is little.” The details — or lack thereof, if you’re a minimalist (cool) — put your piece in a whole other light. My advice is that you take a deep breath and write some suggestions in the margins.

Participate! PARTICIPATE! Go to those sessions with something to say, and make sure to have both admiration and critique up your sleeve. Certain people hardly say a peep, which bugs me. I view workshops as literary discussion; the piece we’re talking about just happens to be done by an amateur. It doesn’t make it less substantial, though.

* Have fun in the workshop. Yes, you’re here to do a job, but you are in the same boat so try to be friends (or friendly) and relax.

Copies of the manuscript I gave to my peers.

Copies of the manuscript I gave to my peers.

Before I wrap this up, I would like say thank you to the good men and women who took time out of their busy day to read my stuff. Your advice helped me immensely, and thanks to you, this novel has moved forward much more smoothly and I’m still keeping some things in mind as my protagonist tackles her challenges. And thank you to those who continue in assisting me.

Well then. Back to the workbench.

The Animals in my backyard

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Written by a college student on her summer break (and who doesn’t have much else to do).

 

At 4:30 every morning, as the sun begins to rise, the birds break into song. They seem to feel the day approach even when clouds cover the sky. One morning I stirred awake briefly from the thunder growling and heard rain patting on the bedroom windows. My sleepy eyes observed the water pebbles running down the glass, noticing how peculiarly dark it felt outside. Then I squinted and returned to my hazy dreams, faintly hearing the birds’ muffled yet eager peeps and tweets. It is hardly a quiet suburban neighborhood with all these different singers performing in the trees and on the sidewalks.

We receive daily visits from the American Robin, Northern Cardinal, Eastern Towhee, Yellow Warbler, Tufted Titmouse, Brown-headed Cowbird, some swallows, Black-capped Chickadee and I think some others, but I’m not sure which. We’ve had one Red-winged Blackbird, an American crow and a Cooper’s Hawk coming by several times. I remember one afternoon when my parents and I were sitting in front of the house, we saw the hawk circle downward and suddenly swooping after a Robin. Not idea who won the battle; they flew away so quickly and out of sight, the predator close to his prey’s tail.

My drawing of a black-capped Chickadee.

My drawing of a black-capped Chickadee.

There is one Mourning Dove who’s been hanging out around our house since May. For some time, she lived in the rain gutter right by my brother’s window. She raised two kids there. Whenever we stuck our heads out the window to look at her, mommy dove and her little bird kids would freeze. They didn’t so much as twitch. I think she lives somewhere else now, but you can still hear her clearly when she sadly coos and hoos.

On a happier note, we got a humming bird couple eating from the red and yellow flowers. I have only seen Missus Hummy, but my mom and dad have been fortunately enough to spot Mister Hummy, too. Beautifully green, black head, sparkly red chest and smoothly waving his bottom tail to maintain balance.

Not every animal is a cutie, though. There is one hot-tempered small squirrel hanging out in our yard. I’ve nicknamed him Azog — after the pale Orc from The Hobbit, you know — because he has a serious Napoleon complex and sputters at everyone. He also looks different from the other squirrels; he is solid brown all over save from his belly and throat which are covered with white fur. For a small fellow he has managed to stretch his territory all around our yard, occupying all the trees and fighting and/or chasing other squirrels coming nearby. He sputters at birds and us, too. He’s tried to sneak into our house several times — we leave the backdoor open — and we’ve had to scare him off. Once he hopped to a tree, climbed to a branch above our heads, and he angrily looked at us and snarled at me and my brother. Crazy bastard. Plus, a few days ago after a harsh-winded storm had pulled through the neighborhood, we heard Azog having a fit when he realized one of his “highways” had blown off. Earlier we had watched him clean this longer branch hanging between two trees from its twigs and leaves. He had used it a lot to get around and it’s funny how the storm destroyed “his property” and how mad he got.

Finally, I want to tell you about Sparks, the baby deer that has used our neighbor’s yard as a daycare. Mama deer has left it there several times and a couple times in our yard, too, under a spruce. We haven’t seen him for a week now, but before she decided to leave him someplace else, we’d see Sparks almost daily since the end of May. He is so adorable and curious. We think the mama is pretty young, because sometimes she has appeared to have forgotten where she left her baby. Small deer don’t evaporate any smell. Cool, huh? That leaves the moms opportunity to go off on their own for a while, to eat or sleep or something, while the babies remain hidden and safe. Sparks has gotten up many times, though (impatient I can imagine) and explored the area.

"Sparks." Copyrights belong to the family Palm.

“Sparks.” Copyrights belong to the family Palm.

What creatures do you people have roaming outside your house? I don’t know about you, but I find it fascinating how animals go about their day like nobody’s business.

 

Father’s Day 2014: The Greatest Man I Know

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1995

1995

 

This wonderful man has taught me so much about love, friendship, work ethic, owning up to your mistakes and responsibilities, humor, morals, marriage, choosing your battles, and hundreds of other important life lessons. I’m proud to have such a kind, funny and compassionate dad. Happy Father’s Day!!

 

 

 

From the writer’s suburban home

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I write to you once again, my friends, after a long moment of silence.

I have purposely avoided watching or reading the news lately. I’ve focused a lot of my energy on writing (and been surprisingly productive). As a young journalist, it’s a lazy gesture on my part and as a citizen of the Earth, egocentric. For a while, though, I felt exhausted by work and by the troubles of my social life so I didn’t feel like listening to the stories outside the quiet suburbs. My summer has so far been largely filled by the sounds of peace: a vast range of bird songs, lawnmowers, hoses washing driveways, the clunks of garden shovels digging in dirt, sprinkle systems sizzling, that toddler Molly ringing the bell on her three-wheeler, and so on.

It’s been selfish of me to not show interest, but I can only take so much worldly bullshit. There’s too much bullshit. Think about it.

Young girls in Nigeria getting kidnapped. Planes crashing. The military controlling the government in Thailand, Egypt, and God knows where else. A psychotic, women-hating man stabbing his roommates and shooting innocent people on the streets. Murders and missing people being reported on Fox 2 News Detroit every single day.

General Motors recalling hoards of cars just because they wanted to save money on fixing the problems in the first place. They saved 50 cents per vehicle. My mother better not lose her job just because some morons made bad decisions. Anyway, my point is, why is it so damn hard for people to be kind and helpful to each other? And how hard is it to be honest and willing to act morally and responsible? This pointless cruelty and ignorance is so beyond me. 

And as you surely saw, even when I try to avoid the news, they still reach me. It is impossible to overlook facts, especially with a Twitter and Facebook account. I follow/like several news sources after all. I wish had some wisdom to contribute to this observation, other than the “can’t we just be friends?” attitude. I suppose the questions I previous asked are something to think about at least. Moving back home has once again forced me to consider how small I am compared to everything else in existence. I got little money and even less power to bring positive change on a large scale. I am only a writer with tales and poems to offer, and hopefully some neat messages regarding friendship, chivalry and curiosity.

Some favorite books.

Some favorite books.

Mother’s Day 2014: The hunter and my friend

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Happy Mother’s Day! This is a picture of my mom when she was training our dog Mascot. She taught him how to track and several other disciplines. I’m almost as old as she was here (23). Wish I could say I could hunt, like she already knew how to do then, too. Fun fact: she was five months pregnant with Simon when she shot her second bull moose; 8 pointer, I think.

I love this woman beyond belief, and I am so grateful to have such a great friend and role-model.

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October 1987

Why I’m Running the Boston Marathon Again

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authorajpalm:

BOSTON STRONG

Originally posted on TIME:

I never considered myself a runner, but five years ago my best friend Brad called to tell me he had cancer. Brad was always the fit one, and I decided running could be a way for me to support him and raise money for his cause, the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge, which benefits the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. Before I knew it, I had signed up for my first marathon: the 2013 Boston Marathon.

The evening before the race my family walked down Boylston Street to scope out where they should stand during the marathon. We decided the area by the finish line would be too packed, and so they chose an area further back. When we passed the medical tent, my 14-year-old daughter said to me, “Dad, I hope you don’t end up here.”

The marathon was tough, but when I reached the 20-mile mark, I remember thinking to…

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