Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Concert in the Park

Last Thursday night we treated ourselves to a concert at the gazebo in Speedway’s Meadowood Park. The TomKats, a blues-rock cover band out of Muncie, entertained a crowd of around 300 with a rollicking two-hour set. Children played and danced while their parents and grandparents chatted and noshed, and surprisingly few people hunched over their electronic devices.

Soon after the set started a boy about five stepped in front of the bandstand, transfixed by the blues he was hearing, and started playing air guitar. A girl about eight left her family of nine In front of us and joined him. As soon as she left, her mom and dad started using her chair as a table for pizza boxes, cups, and napkins. She started an air blues guitar solo, too. More children gathered, fascinated by the blues.

We all toe-tapped to some great medleys–-
“I’m Not Your Steppin’ Stone”/“Theme from Gilligan’s Island”
“R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.”/“That’s What I Like About You”/“Coconut”
“Hiway 69”/“Maybelline”/“Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On”
“Werewolves of London”/“Sweet Home Alabama,”
and many others.

The old Hank Williams/George Thorogood song  “Move It On Over” was a big hit with the kids. One song popular with the older set was “White Castle Blues,” which included the lyrics “Gonna eat them sliders, gonna pay your dues,” and the group easily medleyed this tune with “Hey Joe.”

“Tennessee Whisky,” “All Along the Watchtower,” “Folsom Prison Blues,” “Sweet Home Chicago,” “Takin’ Care of Business,” “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” ’Work with Me Annie,” “Sympathy for the Devil,” “Further on Down the Road”–-all the songs played by the quartet went down very well. A trio of girls used sticks for guitars, then flutes, then back to guitars, and a little brother joined them in dueling guitars for “Roadhouse.” Mindful of their young audience, the TomKats changed the lyrics to “Roadhouse” to “Well, I woke up this morning, I got myself a Kool-Aid” and earned appreciative chuckles from parents and grandparents.

A young woman was holding a five-month old when the baby dropped her pacifier on the grass. The mother, also tending a two-year-old as she stood chatting with a friend, nonchalantly picked it up and gave it back to her. “The dog licks it all the time,” she said. No problem.

Many people seemed to know each other, from the neighborhood, or from church, or from meeting at concerts in the park. When we received a few inquiring looks and smiles as if to say, “Do I know you?” we just nodded to the music and smiled back. We’re regulars at the park, too.

The audience was scattered enough that parents could keep their children in sight even as they ran around. It was good to see little ones romping barefoot in the grass, untethered. The nights I best remember from childhood are summer ones-–roasting marshmallows over the embers in the grill after a cookout, catching lightning bugs, playing “Kick the Can” and “Ghost” and running the streets long after the street lights came on. I can still see my dad sitting in the screened-in porch reading the newspaper as moths fluttered around the lamp, the hot humid day settling down into a cool evening.

It was a good night for those children to make memories, too.

Here is a link to the TomKats on Soundcloud:

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Some thoughts on my alma mater

After 132 years, my old high school is shutting down. Due to declining enrollment, the Indianapolis school board is consolidating seven local high schools into four. If it doesn’t become a charter school for at-risk kids (which appears unlikely), good old Broad Ripple High will probably be turned into condos like my old grade school was, a few blocks away. (Get your 1BR 1.5bath School 80 condo for only $135,000 today!) The buildings are in great shape and the area is bustling with shops, bars, and restaurants, so the board should get $7-8 million from the sale. Famous graduates include TV’s Dave Letterman (’65), Second Lady under Bush 41 Marilyn Quayle (’67), and Cleveland Cavaliers point guard George Hill (‘04).

Last week the school hosted an open house. Graduates of 2018 led tours of the complex so alumni and interested parties could see the place one last time. We had attended an open house in 1990 after Broad Ripple became a magnet school for the Arts and Humanities and our son Eoin was considering attending there (he eventually chose a Science and Math magnet elsewhere) but didn’t see much of the school then, and I looked forward to showing John some of the sights--the old gym with those marvelous hardwood floors, my locker (would my combination still work?), the chem lab, the cafeteria, the newspaper and yearbook offices--but very little was recognizable to me. What was the “new” section in 1970 is now the “old” section, and the most recent addition replaced the oldest and most interesting part of the complex years ago. (Sigh.)

We joined a tour group of ‘66 (a little before my time) grads until the talk of bad knees, malpracticing doctors, Zoloft vs. Prozac, and evil HMOs got to be a little depressing, so we struck off on our own.

I was able to show John the door I used to sneak out of to go sit in my car when I should’ve been in French class, the choir classroom where we rehearsed for Christmas shows, and especially the auditorium where some very talented students put on South Pacific and The Music Man (where I was on makeup duty) and the annual Ripples, student-written and student-produced skits (where I made costumes and hung out in some crowd scenes). Outside the auditorium, now named for beloved music director Gene Poston, hang some wonderful paintings--there’s one by Edward Hopper--gifts from classes gone by.

The tile on the stairs in the newest section looked familiar--did they keep the floors and build new walls around them?--but I noticed something missing throughout the complex--there were no clocks. At one time analog clocks dotted the hallways--I think there was one above every classroom door. All you had to do was look up to see what time it was. There’s no need for them in today’s digital age, of course, but I missed them, nonetheless.

Would my sister Louisa (’68) recognize more than I did? I think even my niece Miranda (’89 valedictorian) would have trouble--there’ve been two more renovations since she graduated.

After our tour we stopped at McDonald’s  for a sandwich. We were supposed to meet up with some of my classmates there, but no one showed. Some old farts came in, looked around for a second and left, but they couldn’t have been anyone from my class, could they? :)

Go Rockets!

P.S. John’s old high school, Northwest, is one of the three being closed, too, but in a different way--it’s being turned into a middle school. Go Pioneers!

Saturday, March 24, 2018

March 26 Birthday quotes

from Robert Frost (1874-1963), America's favorite poet:
A bank is a place where they lend you an umbrella in fair weather and ask for it back when it begins to rain.

A diplomat is a man who always remembers a woman’s birthday but never remembers her age.
By working faithfully eight hours a day you may eventually get to be boss and work twelve hours a day.

Don't ever take a fence down until you know why it was put up.
Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.
If society fits you comfortably enough, you call it freedom.
In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.
Forgive, O Lord, my little jokes on Thee, and I'll forgive Thy great big joke on me.
I'm not confused. I'm just well-mixed.
A liberal is a man too broadminded to take his own side in a quarrel.
Half the world is composed of people who have something to say and can't, and the other half who have nothing to say and keep on saying it.
Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self-confidence.
I had a lover’s quarrel with the world.
Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.
The reason why worry kills more people than work is that more people worry than work.
The ear is the only true writer and only true reader.
The best way out is always through.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Quotes from Adlai Stevenson II

Here are a few of the many quotable words of Adlai Stevenson II, Illinois governor, two-time Democratic Presidential nominee, and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations noted for his intellectual demeanor, eloquent public speaking, and promotion of progressive causes born Feb. 5, 1900:

Public confidence in the integrity of the Government is indispensable to faith in democracy; and when we lose faith in the system, we have lost faith in everything we fight and spend for.

Upon the plains of hesitation bleach the bones of countless millions, who when on the dawn of victory paused to rest, and there resting died.

A hungry man is not a free man.

It will be helpful in our mutual objective to allow every man in America to look his neighbor in the face and see a man--not a color.

It's hard to lead a cavalry charge if you think you look funny on a horse.

Journalists do not live by words alone, although sometimes they have to eat them.

Making peace is harder than making war.

My definition of a free society is a society where it is safe to be unpopular.

I offer my opponents a bargain: if they will stop telling lies about us, I will stop telling the truth about them.

It is often easier to fight for one’s principles than it is to live up to them.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

10 quotes to start the New Year

1. Be at War with your Vices, at Peace with your Neighbours, and let every New-Year find you a better Man.––Poor Richard's Almanac December 1775

2. Many years ago I resolved never to bother with New Year's resolutions, and I've stuck with it ever since.––David J. Beard

3. One resolution I have made, and try always to keep, is this: to rise above the little things.––Author unknown

4. May all your troubles last as long as your New Year's resolutions.––Arnold Glasow

5. He who breaks a resolution is a weakling; He who makes one is a fool.––F.M. Knowles

6. A new year is simply the turn of a calendar page––and a beautiful chance for us to turn over a new leaf.––Terri Guillemets

7. For last year's words belong to last year's language
And next year's words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
––T.S. Eliot

8. Drop the last year into the silent limbo of the past. Let it go, for it was imperfect, and thank God that it can go.––Author unknown

9. And now we welcome the new year. Full of things that have never been.––Rainer Maria Rilke

10. While angels sing with tender mirth,
A glad new year to all the earth.
––Martin Luther's Christmas carol for his little son Hans, 1535

Friday, November 17, 2017

Review of 199 Cemeteries to See Before You Die

I won 199 Cemeteries to See Before You Die (Black Dog and Leventhal) as a door prize in an online writer’s chatroom when author Loren Rhoads was a guest during Horror Month. I expected a breezy romp through grave sites of noted horror authors, famous murderers and their victims, and creepy cemeteries known for their ghosts and eerie happenings. What I received is an exquisitely executed travel guide that explores the beautiful and often strange ways we choose to honor our dead and preserve our history.

In a style that informs without being dry, Rhoads takes us on a respectful tour of monuments to the dead around the globe. Many are historic sites; others are poignant tributes to loved ones. Even famous tombs like the Great Pyramids and the Taj Mahal get a fresh look. From the ancient Kerameikos cemetery in Athens and the rock-cut tombs of Jordan to the Bob Marley mausoleum in Jamaica and the National Aids Memorial in California, each fascinating entry is meticulously researched and accompanied by a high-quality color photograph that makes you want to hop in the car or book a plane ticket and go.

This lovely book is one to keep on your coffee table.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Writers on Writing

Mark Twain had three rules for writing. The first was “Write,” the second was “Write,” and the third was “Write.” Here are some more of my favorite quotes about the craft:

There are three rules for the writing of a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.—W. Somerset Maugham

The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.—Thomas Jefferson

The letter I have written today is longer than usual because I lacked the time to make it shorter.—Blaise Pascal

Broadly speaking, the short words are the best, and the old words when short are best of all.—Winston Churchill

You don't write because you want to say something, you write because you have something to say.—F. Scott Fitzgerald

Hard writing makes easy reading.—Wallace Stegner

Everywhere I go I'm asked if I think the university stifles writers. My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them.—Flannery O'Connor

The wastepaper basket is the writer's best friend.—Isaac Bashevis Singer

I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil.—Truman Capote

Don’t try to be different. Just be good. To be good is different enough.—Arthur Freed