Monday, September 28, 2015

Just Friends

“The only way to have a friend is to be one,” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Whenever Jeopardy has a category about nineteenth century authors, it’s almost certain that either Emerson or Henry David Thoreau’s name will show up.  Only slightly less frequently are Harriet Beecher Stowe (“Uncle Tom’s Cabin”) and Herman Melville (“Moby Dick”).
At IU Northwest Thursday three programs occurred simultaneously at midday.  Motivational speaker Chaz Pitts-Kyser (above), author of “Careeranista: The Woman’s Guide to Success,” conducted a session sponsored by James Wallace’s Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs entitled “The Only One in the Room.”  The term could apply to a woman, an African American, or, in her case, both.  A Student Affairs “Soup and Substance” discussion of Andrew Carroll’s “Operation Homecoming: Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Home Front, in the Words of U.S. Troops and Their Families” took place in Savannah gallery, featuring speakers from Veterans’ Life Changing Services.  I elected to attend a Brown Bag event organized by Chris Young’s Teaching and Learning Center (CISTL) to hear Vice Chancellor Mark L. McPhail speak about “Rhetorical Warriorship.”  The intriguing title reminded me of the African-American street-corner practice of “doing the dozens” or trading trash talk.  Arriving early, I told Chris Young, “You’re the only one in the room,” a take-off on the title of Chaz Pitts-Kyser’s workshop.  I don’t think he got the reference.
Mark McPhail (above) has specialized in both Communication and English Composition, plus he holds a black belt in martial arts.  A traditionalist when it comes to composition pedagogy, he is critical of so-called expressionists more interested in the process of discovery than grammatical standards.   I asked what he thought of primary school teachers who encouraged kids to write with little regard for correct spelling or grammar.  Not much, he replied.  He once taught a class that combined writing and martial arts.  For the first hour “warriors” did physical exercises; then they’d write 50-minute essays that McPhail critiqued with, as the expression goes, a fine-toothed comb (to get rid of nits in one's hair), seeing that they followed proper principles of rhetoric and rewarding those who did it with flair.   McPhail impressed me as someone who cared deeply about academic standards.

At Hobart Lanes the Engineers won two of three from Just Friends, a team that included Doris Guth, John Gonzales, a guy who danced a jig each time he struck, and Dennis Cavanaugh sporting a 195 average.  Thankfully it’s a 100% handicap league.  In my best game, a 157, I left four ten-pins and converted only one.  I’m still getting used to the synthetic lane surfaces.  In the final frame 83 year-old Frank Shufran doubled to win the third game for us.
Walking from the parking lot a couple hundred yards ahead of me, Associate Director of Development Leeann Wright (above) asked if I were going to the library and waited for me.  She vowed that this year’s IUN Philanthropy Week will have even more sizzle than last year, when Chancellor Lowe and Chuck Gallmeier dressed up as the Blues Brothers.

On a beautiful Friday afternoon Dave Serynek took former Porter Acres softball teammate Paulie Van Wormer and me out on his boat on Lake Louise in Valparaiso.  When he first asked if I wanted to go out on the lake, I thought he meant lake Michigan. We passed kayakers and a water skier, and I gaped at waterfront mansions that had to be worth millions.  We reminisced about the time 13 of us went to the Bahamas and some of the characters we used to party with.  Paulie reported on the death of 76 year-old James “Fat Cat” Clemons, a member of the Wanderers Motorcycle Club.  “I’m surprised he lived that long,” Dave said.  Paulie refuses to work on Veterans Day and, expressing dissatisfaction with both Democrats and Republicans, claimed he was going to vote for the Libertine Party.  Pretty funny. He reported that 13 cyclists died during the August rally in Sturgis, South Dakota.  Over 150 crashes occurred.  The number of DUIs was down, however, just 220 compared to 257 a year ago.
 Sturgis, South Dakota
Dave returned a David Burner biography of Herbert Hoover and is reading Jean Edward Smith’s “FDR,” considered the best one-volume book about the four-term, thirty-second President.  Dave noticed my University of Kwa-Zulu-Natal t-shirt that I had purchased in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, during a 2002 oral history conference.  One highlight was a performance of a couple dozen young female Zulu dancers, who were topless, to the considerable discomfort of some feminist scholars.  For the outing I had worn a Hawaiian shirt on top of it, inspired by James’ example for theme dress week at Portage High School, but left it in the car since it was so warm outside. 

At Camelot Lanes Saturday to watch James bowl, Kevin Horn invited us to son Kaiden’s fourteenth birthday party.  It turns out the Horns live in Sherwood Forest just blocks from Dave and Barbara Serynek.  Previously they lived two doors down from Paulie Van Wormer, who ten years ago was my horseshoes partner at a party Kevin hosted. Small world.

President Obama made the cover of Rolling Stone because of his trip to Alaska to dramatize the effects of global warming.  The first President to visit the Arctic Circle, he expressed regret that he couldn’t spend two weeks in America’s “Last Frontier State” like Warren G. Harding did in 1923.  What he didn’t mention is that Harding died shortly afterwards.

IUN Biologist Spencer Cortwright provided this campus nature news:
  I recently found a discarded hiking boot in the prairie north of campus.  I tossed it on the sidewalk along Broadway to ensure I'd remember to throw it out, but out of the boot popped a prairie vole!  It didn't want to leave the boot, so I thought there must be young inside the boot and sure enough there were (see picture below), one of which ran around outside the boot (see picture).  It got back in the boot and the boot was replaced in the prairie.
Voles eat grasses, roots, seeds, and some insects.  They are food for hawks, owls, foxes, coyotes, snakes, etc.
Later in the year, when the young are out of the house, I'll finally get rid of the boot.  But for now it's not Mother Hubbard in the boot, but Mother Vole and her young!  I should actually say Mother and Father, because prairie voles have just about the highest fidelity in the realm of mammals!

Sunday routine included gaming with Dave and Tom (we each won a game), a spaghetti dinner with Dave’s family, and football on TV.  The pace of NFL games, given the endless commercials, coach’s challenges, and record number of penalties, is painfully slow.  Dave and I were switching channels to catch three games simultaneously, and as often as not, there were stops in the action of all three of them.  To make matters worse, the Bears were beyond awful, getting shut out and ending each possession with a punt, first time that happened in franchise history.  Toni and I, excited by the discovery of water on mars, were looking forward to observing a lunar eclipse, but clouds obscured the phenomenon.  In West Virginia, however, Ray Smock photographed the event.

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