“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow Roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes 'AWWW!”
Jack Kerouac, “On the Road”
The World Cup match between Brazil and Columbia featured plenty of fireworks. The home team won, 2-1, but lost its star Neymar for the rest of the tournament. Kneed in the back, he suffered a fractured vertebrae. I blame the referee, who let the game get out of control, resulting in both teams delivering cheap shots.
After a fondue and crab legs feast for Becca’s twelfth birthday, Dave set off fireworks in our courtyard. Neighbors Jennifer and Lucas came out and lit firecrackers. Other displays were booming and lighting the sky in three directions; it was much fun and at times exciting, as a couple things appeared to veer off course in our direction.
The most spectacular fireworks I’ve ever witnessed was with Toni in Philadelphia. The finale went on and on, as the ground shook. Once friends were taking us by boat to see the Chicago display at Navy Pier, but a storm forced us to turn back. When the boys were young, our favorite site was Lake Station’s Riverview Park, but mosquitoes were a problem. Later we preferred the lakefront, where several folks spent huge sums of money trying to out-do their neighbors. Men can be very competitive.
National Geographic channel is touting a mini-series titled “The 90s: The Last Great Decade?” The tagline, featuring images of Kurt Cobain, Monica Lewinsky, and other celebrities, called the era “a time when bad behavior met good vibrations, and changes meant everything was possible.” Trite. Couldn’t the same be said of most any recent decade? The Eighties was the “Decade of greed,” but so is any age when big business is not closely regulated and lobbyists have their clammy hands in the shaping of legislation.
“Bodies of Evidence” contains an interview with gay Presbyterian pastor Charles Larsen, who, fueled with speed and caffeine, would spend four or five hours overnight in parks having sex. Public baths were even more dissolute – with orgy rooms and multiple partners being the norm. Larsen left San Francisco just a year ahead of the AIDS epidemic, which, before doctors properly diagnosed the disease, they called “gay cancer.” Once he met a parishioner in an adult bookstore, who said, “Well, I guess you’re human.” He replied, “Just keep your mouth shut.” In a park in Israel Larsen hooked up with a bunch of Hasidic Jews and recalled: “That was amazing – the black hats and the curls.” In 2001 Sandi Simcha Dubowski made a documentary about the hidden lives of orthodox and Hasidic Jews entitled, “Trembling Before G-D.”
“Mr. Cub” Ernie Banks made the cover of the “where are they now” Sports Illustrated beating out Hank Aaron despite 2014 being the fortieth anniversary of “Hammering Hank” breaking Babe Ruth’s all-time career homerun record. Asked about the Cubs blowing an eight-game lead in 1969 to the “Miracle Mets,” Banks cited an incident at Shea Stadium in New York where Don Young dropped a fly ball in the ninth, allowing the Mets to score three unearned runs to win 4-3. Afterwards Ron Santo lit into Young so, mercilessly that the outfielder left the dressing room. The incident split the team into factions, and the team was never the same, Banks claimed.
Banks, participating in an Old Timers game in 1982, witnessed 75-year old Luke Appling’s towering homerun against 61 year-old Warren Spahn, who’d won a career total of 363 games. The greatest White Sox of all-time, Appling was one of the four best shortstops ever, along with Cal Ripkin, Honus Wagner, and Banks (twice an MVP on a last-place team). In the book “In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash” Jean Shepherd wrote about going to the county fair with his family and coming across a gigantic quilt of the likeness of Appling, the “Old man’s” favorite player.
In a Chicago Tribune feature about Diana of the Dunes entitled “Quirkier by the lake” Stephan Benzkofer claimed that Alice Gray, a “skinny-dipping former socialite” (both exaggerations), got the nickname Diana, Roman goddess of the hunt, because she was known to be an excellent duck hunter. I never heard that one before.
Post-Trib columnist David Rutter railed against newspaper editors and publishers being voted into Indiana’s Journalism Hall of Fame, claiming it “defiles the basic idea of honoring greatness.” The two most deserving of enshrinement, Rutter believed, were World War II correspondent Ernie Pyle and Evansville Courier reporter Joe Aaron, inducted last year, who wrote a column five days a week for 30 years beginning in 1957. Rutter worked with Aaron and witnessed his death. “His heart took him as he sat in his newsroom office chair,” Rutter wrote. “A man of supreme symbolic heart was doomed by the real heart that failed him.”
Former Evansville Courier editor Tom Tuley wrote of Joe Aaron: “His columns could be humorous, pithy, nostalgic or sentimental, but each one came across as a personal conversation with the reader. Morning coffee with Joe was a daily and necessary ritual for thousands of readers in the Tri-State area. . . . He was, essentially, the face of the newspaper, and for many readers when that face vanished the newspaper was changed forever.”
On Sundays the Evansville Courier-Press has been re-running columns by Joe Aaron (above). One entitled “Time is a relative thing” mentions how fast time goes by when you are having fun but how slow the minutes tick by when you are stressed or bored. Describing sitting in a waiting room in 1965, Aaron wrote: “When you have read all the doctor’s ancient magazines and counted the ceiling tiles and inspected all the other people waiting, too, then there remains nothing to do but count the minutes as they pass – pass as if they were being engraved in marble . . . [or] mixed with molasses.”
About 30 folks came to the condo for a joint birthday party for James and Becca. Ribs, brats, shrimp, and hot dogs were on hand, along the plentiful side dishes and several deserts, including a cake, banana pudding, and a gigantic cookie. After most guests had left, Dave, Phil, Delia, and I played Acquire. Delia rarely plays but has a move named for her. What we call the “Delia strategy” involves placing a tile to make a company larger and then purchasing stock at the old price. Phil won after getting a big lead by being part of the first two mergers.
Ron Cohen chastised Jerry Davich after he ran a column about returning Vietnam Vets. Citing Jerry Lembcke’s “The Spitting Image: Myth, Memory and the Legacy of Vietnam,” Ron expressed disappointment that Davich “repeated the old canard that veterans were spit on and abused when they returned.” He added: “You might be surprised to know there is absolutely no proof of this having happened.” Now Davich wants veterans to confirm or disprove what Lembcke labeled an “urban myth.”
On Lakeshore Public Radio John Hmurovic discussed his Indiana Magazine of History article about “The Battle of Mineral Springs.” A hundred years ago, A. F. Knotts attempted to launch a racetrack and resort in Northwest Indiana a hundred years ago near present-day Porter. Governor Thomas Marshall sent troops to prevent races from taking place, ostensibly to prevent wagering although he turned a blind eye from gambling at French Lick, whose owner, Tom Taggert, was a power broker in the state Democratic Party.