“Well, the night was failing
As the desert world began to settle down
In the town they’re searching for us everywhere
But they never will be found.”
Paul McCartney, “Band on the Run”
Paul McCartney decided to work in an exotic locale in which to record “Band on the Run.” EMI had studios in Lagos, Nigeria, so off the band went but not before drummer Denny Seiwell and lead guitarist Henry McCullough abruptly quit Wings. One evening while Paul and Linda were on a walk, five thugs robbed them at knifepoint and took cassettes of demos. Then a local performer accused Paul of coming to Africa to steal his Afro-beat style, forcing him to agree not to employ any local musicians. One day Paul collapsed in the studio, causing fears that he had suffered a heart attack. He quickly recovered, and the album is by far his best post-Beatles record.
What a weather contrast in Palm Springs, California. It was 35 with snow flurries when I boarded an American Airlines plane at O’Hare and 107 degrees Thursday afternoon as I drove to Mirage Inn. My mother (Midge) had fallen the night before and had a discolored forehead. She often doesn’t hear the phone or the doorbell and gets confused about times and days, but her long-term memory is still good. She recalled being in a college production of Ibsen’s “The Doll House.”
Twice we had lunch at Applebee’s, where Midge and Howard used to go (in Bradenton) after movie matinees. She likes the food, in contrast to the normal assisted living fare. Bartenders Natasha and Andrea greeted me warmly, as usual.
At Pappy and Harriet’s in Pioneertown I enjoyed bluegrass and country rock songs. Saturday was Shadow Mountain Band, and the seven-member Sunday Band played on jam night, opening with a rousing version on “Route 66.” Two octogenarians were dancing to the crowd’s approval, and a guy wearing a horse head entertained the predominantly gay male bar crowd.
Jimbo with Addy, Niki and Crosby
Nephew Bob’s family for the weekend despite fires that were wreaking havoc a few miles from their home in San Diego. I met them at Embassy Suites in Palm Desert just as a huge bus pulled up with college kids for a gigantic sorority party. After I played hide-and-seek with the kids, Addison wrote a note saying: “To Jimbo, you are very funny. Love, Addy.” A keeper. The pool was teeming with young bodies. After I left, things got so rowdy, the kids were scared to go in the water. Bob was able to get his money back and check them into another motel. The next day at Mirage Inn I gave Addy and Crosby rides on Midge’s walker until a woman told me I was scaring some residents. Most love to see kids and smiled at us, but some killjoy complained. Niki said it was par for the course.
I watched the timeless flick “Breakfast Club,” first time in many years. When the five teens serving Saturday detention start discussing sex, the nerd claims he balled a girl while visiting Niagara Falls and the Goth pretends to be a nympho. The hood baits the rah-rah, wondering if she was a tease or a slut. I didn’t recall the janitor being as cool as he now seemed. The asshole teacher asked what he wanted to be in high school and scoffed when he answered, “John Lennon.”
My last full day in California was quite tense. Midge got a call informing her that her doctor’s appointment was moved to Tuesday. My brother was in Tahiti, so I drove to the office and got it moved back so I could take her and still make my flight. Whew! Before I said my final good-bye, Midge’s friend, pushing 100 herself, promised to look out for her. At the airport was a dead ringer for Omar Farag. An Asian couple in wheelchairs were first on board but were able to get to the bathroom and deplaned without help. Was the wheelchair thing a scam or did they get special treatment because they knew no English? My plane landed in Chicago right before a lightning storm. On the airport bus were folks whose flight to South Bend had been cancelled. Dyring the drive home from Highland, bolts were lighting up the sky – scary but not as bad as the snowstorm I drove or through last time. At the condo were nephew Seattle Joe, his mom Andrea, and their four-pound miniature dog Murphy, traumatized by the thunder and lightning.
Commencements were taking place across the country. At Wake Forest Jill Abramson, fired as New York Times editor, gave an address about resilience. At Virginia Peyton Manning threw footballs to graduates. Student and faculty protests caused several speakers to cancel their appearances, including Condi Rice at Rutgers and International Monetary Fund head Christine Lagarde at Smith. Most pundits defended the students’ right to protest, but Olivia Nuzzi of The Daily Beast wrote: “God forbid these delicate students should be exposed to an idea with which they disagree.” I think those who withdrew should have shown more spine, like historian John Hope Franklin at my graduation from Maryland in 1970 while the university was under martial law. When radicals urged him to boycott the event, he replied that he deserved the honor and was coming. I’m glad he did.
IU Northwest graduation photos by Eric Markov; below, President McRobbie
At IU Northwest's ceremony Amanda Board tried to present IU president Michael McRobbie with my Steel Shavings magazine with Anne Balay’s “Steel Closets” on the cover, but the director of Alumni Relations prevented her, snatching it out of her hands as she entered the Genesis Center gym. Amanda wrote: “I really wasn't prepared for that. If I had known that was going to be a possibility, I would've put it inside my robe. I was pissed the entire ceremony because of that. I even left my seat right before it began to go find her and ask for it back.” A day later she told the lady, in her words, “that her behavior was extremely rude and I couldn't believe she'd have the audacity to snatch something out of my hands without even asking me first if I would hand it over to her. I'm furious about this. She told me that I know the rules, I know books aren't allowed. When in fact, I DON'T know the rules because I've never graduated from college before. So I asked her for a copy of the rules, which she didn't give me. Then I asked her nicely if she could give me the mailing address for McRobbie and she refused and told me to leave.”
Ironically, what Amanda wanted to do – hand something to McRobbie – would have been less disruptive than other protests that her LGBT group Connectionz had discussed – such as holding up signs or demonstrating wearing baklavas such as Pussy Riot employs. The over-reaction by the administration just stirred up a hornet’s nest.
below, Kirsten Bayer Petras between Divina Merrell & Jena Birch Fitzpatrick at Indy Motor Speedway
While I was gone, six Bayers slept overnight after a birthday party for Brenden and Rhiannon and a graduation celebration for Kirsten. The Berenstain Bears book “The Bike lesson” was a big hit with them, Toni reported. It was a favorite with Phil and Dave, our grandkids, and, truth be told, me, too.
Darcey Wade informed me that my great, great, great Uncle James Buchanan was the final Jeopardy question in the tournament of champions that asked which two secretaries of state were never married. The other was Condi Rice. She added: “And thanks so much for the latest issue of Steel Shavings. I am so sorry your friend Anne got royally messed up by some backwards redneck Indiana hick (actually Anne Balay’s nemesis lives in Illinois). Her story is compelling. Love the way you mix the heavy politics, history, mundane, music, parties, and daily thoughts. Good stuff. Thanks. You are the best.”
Cain wrote: “I’d never have thought that I might possibly make it into a publication with such an industrial name.” Commenting on a photo David Scalliol took of City Methodist Church ruins, Cain noted that his parents got married there and had him baptized there. John also sang in its children’s choir.
Among the 170 emails (mostly junk) awaiting my attention were Happy Birthday wishes from Samuel A. Love to the late, great Joey Ramone and a message that Brenda read him “choice bits” from Shavings while he enjoyed a treat. To an author, such news doesn’t get much better than that.