“I was feeling nostalgic for the days when
My thoughts dripped on to my head from the ceiling.
I remember the feeling.”
“Borrowed Time,” Parquet Courts
Off to California to see my mother and Parquet Courts, I spotted Scott King (former Gary mayor), Terry Bradshaw (ex-Steeler QB) and Max Putzel (former IUN German professor) lookalikes at O’Hare. Arriving in Palm Springs, I was relieved when my GPS worked in the Corolla I rented from Budget. Midge was at the Lucy Curci Cancer Center receiving a blood transfusion, something she seems to need for anemia every couple months. At Applebee’s server Natasha greeted me with a thumbs up and reported that daughter Sunshine was doing great but that her life has been a struggle. Because I was wearing a shirt that said Seattle, a couple postal workers started talking football playoffs with me. Actually the team I really care about is Denver because of Peyton Manning.
Scanning channels at my Hilton Gardens room, I found “Ridiculousness” on MTV, featuring videos of people maiming themselves doing stupid things. Every ten minutes or so came a warning telling viewers not to submit videos of dangerous stunts. Switching to CNN, I caught still handsome, 82 year-old “Pentagon Papers” snitch Daniel Ellsberg defending Edward Snowden as a patriot and warning of continuing NSA abuses. The biggest story, “Bridge-gate, threatens to derail Chris Christie’s Presidential ambitions as he gets sworn in for a second term as New Jersey governor.
Saturday Nephew Bob and wife Niki and arrived at my hotel in time for 45 minutes of hide-and-seek with cute kids Addison and Crosby prior to dinner at Outback Steakhouse. Twenty years ago when Bobby was at IU, I took him to the Bloomington Outback after a couple beers. Before we left, I said, “Another Old Style, Bobby?” For the rest of his college career, housemates repeated those lines to get a laugh. I woke up early so watched part of “Taxi” (2004) starring Jimmy Fallon, Queen Latifah, and four hot babes playing Brazilian bank robbers.
Sunday I checked into the Yucca Springs Best Western and enjoyed Denver’s victory over New England (Manning passed for 400 yards) before driving four miles to Pappy and Harriet’s in Pioneertown, where I had attended Cracker Campout 9 in September. Sitting at a bench near the TV, I struck up a conversation with several 49ers fans, including the son (Stephen) and daughter (Susan) of actor Dana Andrews, best known as returning WW II veteran Fred Derry in “The Best Years of Our Lives” (1946). Susan mentioned that her dad frequently jousted with fellow actor Ronald Reagan and was elected president of the Screen Actors Guild in 1963. Near us was a poster of The Donnas, and Susan, a schoolteacher, said that one band member had been her student. Stephen, an artist, lived nearby, was married to a former Pappy and Harriet’s employee, and until recently was known as the silver-haired break dancer. Joining us were movie production manager Matt Medlin and wife Lauren. His next assignment is a Jack Black film in New Orleans. They live on a boat, which piqued Stephen’s curiosity since he grew up taking weekend ocean excursions.
above, Matt Medlin; below, Parquet Courts
Opening for Parquet Courts was Destruction Unit, a loud punk band that seemed to play just one song, but it went on and on for about 40 minutes. The crowd liked them OK but went wild over Parquet Courts. I started out about six rows deep in a crowd directly in front of the stage, then moved directly to the left and had an unimpeded side view of the four guys. Closest to me was lead guitarist Austin Brown, looking very young; on the far side was Andrew Savage, who sang most of the numbers and was the most animated. They did most of the songs from their CD “Light Up Gold,” which was named one of Rolling Stone magazine’s top 20 albums. “Stoned and Starving” also made RS’s list of top songs. Pappy and Harriet’s has a giant screen near the bar showing the stage. I checked it out to give my ears a rest and then moved to where frenzied female punkers were twerking suggestively and touching each others’ butts. After the show I found the four Parquet Courts members outside cooling off and chatted briefly with them. They were friendly and appreciative of my superlatives.
The answers to two USA Today crossword puzzle clues that had stumped me were rhea (“three-toed flightless bird”) and asps (“they strike along the Nile”). The Jack Valenti memoir that was in Best Western’s lobby four months ago was still there, but “Huckleberry Finn” was gone. The drive back to Palm Springs Monday was scenic. Now that I know north from south and east from west, I’m finally pretty acclimated to directions and relaxed enough to enjoy the surroundings.
Midge and I had lunch at Applebee’s. She and Howard used to frequent one in Bradenton, Florida; she loves the Oriental chicken salad even though the half-portion is still too much for her to handle. Back at Mirage Inn we looked through a photo scrapbook that goes back to when she was a girl. Her dad, Elwood Metzger, is the only grandparent I really knew. His wife Stella died of pneumonia when Midge was 11. He subsequently dated Mary Hartung for several years, but she committed suicide after losing her job during the Depression. Elwood lost his, too, forcing him to arrange for Midge to live with Stella’s sister Ida and mother Grace. He was quite dapper but, according to Midge, never had a serious romantic affair after losing first Stella and then Mary.
The Hilton Gardens hot tub was refreshing but the pool water much too cold for a swim. During the day the temp reached the 80s and at night dipped into the 50s. During Happy Hour Applebee’s bartender Jeremy Martin took a photo of me with Andrea and said his goal was to run a food catering service. It being Martin Luther King Day, the postal regulars were no-shows, but I enjoyed meeting octogenarian Don Aicher, who splits his time between Seattle and Palm Springs and told me that 91 year-old Pirate slugger Ralph Kiner often can be seen at the local library. Kiner, who hit 54 HRs in 1949, had been my boyhood idol. My father was from Pittsburgh, but when we moved to a Philadelphia suburb, I switched team loyalties but still rooted for Kiner to do well. In 1954 he played right field for the Chicago Cubs, while equally slow Hank Sauer played held down left. Columnist Mike Ryoko nicknamed them the “Quicksand Kids,” in contrast to the Phillies “Whiz Kids.”
At the airport Tuesday I removed my shoes and placed my liquids and gels in a tray only to be told neither was necessary. TSA inspected my hands with a cloth and wouldn’t let me keep a yogurt saved from the breakfast buffet. With time to kill, I read essays from a book once belonging to Jack Gruenenfelder, “The Vintage Mencken,” edited by Alistair Cook. Mencken skewered poor William Jennings Bryan upon hos death shortly after the Scopes “Monkey” trial.
H.L. Mencken loved obscure words. In an article entitled “A Good Man Gone Wrong,” about murderer Henry Judd Gray, who was executed in Sing Sing prison in 1928 along with his lover Ruth Brown Snyder, he claimed that Gray yielded to Ruth’s “brummagem” (meaning vile or cheap) seductions. As passengers from the “Windy City” were de-planing, one said to several of us, “You don’t want to go to Chicago.”
The O’Hare airport bus to Northwest Indiana was two hours late. At Highland my car was engulfed in two feet of snow. Tri-State traffic was at a crawl, and it took about 90 minutes to drive 20 miles to Chesterton and home. My feet felt like ice cubes by then from digging out the Corolla, almost as bad as during the 2000 home invasion when I escaped from Dave and Angie’s cabin wearing just underpants and one sock and ran to Miller Village Apartments. Like then, I soaked them in hot water for a good ten minutes.
Wednesday, as James would say, I had a pajama day. I caught up on chores and watched a couple “Mad Men” episodes set at the time of the Birmingham Church Bombing of September 15, 1963. Betty’s maid listens to Martin Luther King speaking at four girls’ funeral service. Toni wants to read Jean Shepherd’s “In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash” to James, so I dug out our copy. At IUN Thursday 123 emails awaited, including an announcement that Henry Farag’s musical, “The Signal: A Rhapsody,” will be performed February 16 at Marquette Park Aquatorium. Great!
At lunch Thursday Chuck Gallmeier said that Steve McShane did a good job reading my and Paul Kern’s remarks about Jack Gruenenfelder at last Friday’s Faculty Org meeting that preceded a moment of silence for the old philosopher. Gianluca Dimuzio asked for a copy of the text to forward to an old colleague. They’ll be part of the minutes of the meeting. Jonathyne Briggs were talking about trivia games, including Balderdash, and I mentioned a Medieval dinner Dave Malham prepared for Rhiman Rotz 40 years ago as part of a course assignment and how afterwards we had lots of laughs playing what we then called the Dictionary game.
I emailed Roy Dominguez: “At its essence, I believe, Anne Balay's appeal of her tenure case comes down to this: Would a professor who is not a lesbian have been denied tenure for introducing students to the books "Nappy Hair" by Carolivia Herron and "The House You Pass on the Way" by Jacqueline Woodson"? Her Chair's main argument is that several black women claiming they were insulted by those books. Ironically, the authors are African-Americans and Coretta Scott King award winners. These books were used in an exercise where students were asked whether they’d be an appropriate choice for certain grade levels or environments; the complaining students were all failing, had misunderstood the material, and registered their complaint on the last withdrawal day in hopes of getting their money back. Instead of defending Anne, her superiors caved to complaints that had no validity. It is common practice for professors to discuss potentially controversial books (i.e., "Huckleberry Finn") in courses where many of the students are Education majors who might one day be confronting similar issues. If Anne were not a lesbian, would her use of these books have been held against her, indeed been the basis for denying her tenure? I am sure not.”