Circus thrills

Keep the circus going inside you, keep it going! Don’t take anything too seriously, it’ll all work out in the end.” — David Niven

The circus is in town — and this year we didn’t miss it. Replete with flame throwers, dancing bears, the famous Liberty Horses, and Joseph Dominick Bauer’s death-defying “Wheel of Thrills” act, the 105th annual Detroit Shrine Circus didn’t disappoint. For two hours, Doug and I felt like kids again — and what fun it was to hear the other kids laughing hysterically at the tumbling acrobats and clowns. From the pungent aroma of elephant poop and cotton candy to the rowdy roar of the crowd … what’s not to love about the circus? The souvenir program says it best: “The Wonder! The Magic!” — Photos by Cindy La Ferle

Ghosts

A college campus is its own village, full of folklore and traditions and initiation rituals. Like a village, it has its haunted places, its ghost stories.” — Michigan author Laura Kasischke

It’s nowhere near Halloween, but here I am, waxing poetic about the supernatural. I just finished reading a new literary thriller, The Raising, and can’t stop thinking about “ghosts” and how we’re haunted by people and places from our past.

If Daphne du Maurier were alive today, this is the sort of novel she’d write. Part gothic suspense, part ghost story, it’s deliciously creepy and atmospheric. Set on the campus of a prestigious Michigan university, The Raising circles around a car accident that killed Nicole Werner, a straight-A sorority sister. Driving on the night of the accident, her boyfriend miraculously (or mysteriously) survived the crash. A year later, it’s rumored that Nicole has been spotted on campus. From then on, the goosebumps don’t let up.

Mira Polson, the cultural anthropology professor who teaches a seminar on the folklore of death rituals at the university, is among the novel’s most intriguing characters, giving the plot its much-needed weight and focus. Mira delivers some compelling — and well-researched — theories on our collective fear of dying and the dead. In contrast to Mira’s macabre obsession with her topic are the college students whose cavalier sexuality and cruel beauty drive the story to its end. (Most college students believe they’re immortal, don’t they?)  One caveat: If you’re a female student considering Greek life, you’ll think twice before stepping inside a sorority house after reading this one.

Award-winning author Laura Kasischke, who teaches at the University of Michigan in the MFA program, deftly moves back and forth between past and present, interweaving the back stories of her characters without muddling her plot or confusing her readers. She’s also careful enough to avoid the typical Stephen King horror cliches — though I see terrific possibilities for one heck of a spooky screenplay.

I agree with some of the reviewers who were a bit disappointed in the novel’s conclusion. Without revealing too much here, I’d hoped for a bit more closure on the “whereabouts” of certain characters, not to mention retribution for others. That said, life itself doesn’t always wrap up the way we’d like it to — and the ending of this novel didn’t spoil the experience of reading it.

It’s been a long time since I’ve picked up a book and couldn’t it put down, so I’m especially grateful to the indie bookstore in St. Joseph, Michigan, where I found this one on a “staff recommends” shelf. My only wish is that it had been released a little closer to Halloween. — Cindy La Ferle

“Ahhh” is for aromatherapy

If you want your life to come together, you have to start treating yourself better.” — Sarah Ban Breathnach, Simple Abundance

Like most women I know, I’ve always felt a bit guilty about taking time out for myself — especially if there are people or household chores in need of my attention. Self-pampering? I rarely book a facial or a massage unless I’m on vacation. And with my mother’s health crisis topping my list of responsibilities now, well, let’s just say it’s twice as hard to find free space on my calendar.

In this week’s Patch column, I explain how a nudge from my husband gave me a much-needed break from the stress of care-giving — without driving too far from home. I hope the column inspires you to spoil yourself a little, too. Click here to read it. — CL

— Photo by Cindy La Ferle for Royal Oak Patch.com; Douglas J Aveda Institute in Royal Oak.

Extra! Read all about it

Filmmaking is a chance to live many lifetimes.” — Robert Altman

Some people head for the golf course in their spare time; others play tennis or bridge. But Doug and I find our fun dabbling in the arts and on movie sets. Thanks to Michigan’s tax incentives — which we’re rallying to keep — the two of us have had the opportunity to work as extras in 16 film and television productions since the fall of 2009. (If you missed the column I wrote on the topic for Patch.com, here’s the link.)

Last week, we drove to Ann Arbor to play senior staffers on the campaign trail in George Clooney’s Ides of March. I can’t begin to describe the excitement Clooney brought to southeast Michigan during the filming — especially to swooning female fans. Of course, my girlfriends wanted to know if I got to meet him … or touch the sleeve of his jacket. The answer is no, but I did see him up close, since my role as an extra involved standing a few feet from him (and clapping vigorously) while he delivered a campaign speech on stage. Clooney was a class act, sharing his trademark charm and sense of humor with everyone on set. For photos of last week’s shoot in nearby Clawson with Clooney and Ryan Gosling, click here.

We’re featured in the new AARP Bulletin

Earlier this year, Detroit journalist Maureen McDonald asked if she could write about our foray into background acting. She pitched the idea to the AARP Bulletin (yep, we’re in that age group) and you can read Maureen’s feature in the online edition in the “Job Hunting” section. I know it’s a dubious honor to be featured as an “older adult” who works as a film extra, but hey, Doug and I enjoyed being mentioned and quoted. The story includes a sidebar with tips on how to get booked as a background performer. See you in the movies! — CL

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–Top photo: Doug and I dressed for a gala scene in the TV series Detroit 1-8-7.

Yellow Door Art Market

Art is the only way to run away without leaving home.”  ~Twyla Tharp

Two weeks ago, I wrote a column for a local publication on how to be a tourist in your hometown. Taking my own advice — and literally going the extra mile — I drove across town to Berkley, the city next door, and made a new discovery. Located on 12 Mile Road, the Yellow Door Art Market showcases the wares of more than 60 top-notch Michigan artists and crafters. From gift cards to jewelry to fiber art, there’s something to delight everyone at this colorful emporium. In fact, next time I need a gift, I’m heading straight for the Yellow Door.

During my visit, I noticed a display of books by Michigan authors. Later that week, I dropped off a review copy of Writing Home for the store manager. She phoned me two days later and invited me to hop aboard. So — yay! — I’m also proud to announce that copies of my book are now available at the Yellow Door Art Market. (Life Lesson #10: Never be afraid to ask, because sometimes you get a “yes” instead of a “no.”)

It’s always exciting to discover a new local business that supports Michigan artists as well as charities in our community. Next time you’re in the area and need cheering up, walk through the Yellow Door (or check out their official website). I promise you’ll get a lift seeing so much creativity under one roof. The store is located at 3141 W. 12 Mile Road. — CL