“It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get up.” Coach Vince Lombardi
Saturday night, Angie and the kids were over to be with Michiganders Miranda and Sean, as was Becca’s boyfriend Ethan Harming. We played cards, and I pigged out on guacamole, washed down with a can of Candi Crushable, an APA from 18th Street Brewery in Hammond, compliments of Sean. Phil emailed a smartphone photo taken during a skiing trip with Josh. Miranda got everyone to sign pre-birthday cards for Toni and me. Cool dude Ethan, like me a Green Day fan, wrote, “Ya boi,” an expression that can mean your homie.
Next morning, I woke up, as usual, a 6:15, put coffee on, got the Sunday papers, and had grapefruit slices and raisin bran for breakfast. I watched a few minutes of CBS Sunday Morning with Jane Pauley for the news headlines (Trump egregiously tweeted that the “so-called judge” who blocked his immigration ban is endangering national security) until Miranda and Sean joined me. Before they headed to a Superbowl party at Phil and Delia’s, we ate at Sunrise Restaurant up the street. I had eggs, hash browns, and country fried steak with plenty of gravy, while the others ordered club sandwiches, fries, and salad. The bill, excluding tip, was under 40 dollars.
Charles Osgood and his successor Jane Pauley
I watched an out-manned IU basketball team lose at Wisconsin and the 1998 film Elizabeth starring Cate Blanchett, who was great, as was Richard Attenborough as adviser William Cecil. John Gielgud had a cameo as aged Pope Pius V, who promised absolution to anyone who assassinated the “bastard Queen.” One of his minions came close until found out and tortured by Royal bodyguard Francis Walsingham (Geoffrey Rush).
below, Marianne's Super Bowl party; photo by Toni Trojecka Lane
Armed with shrimp and a bottle of wine, Toni and I went to Marianne Brush’s Superbowl party. The many edibles included deviled eggs from Angie and delicious chili upon which I heaped scallion bits, sour cream, and cheese. I met Jerry Jordan Jr., an army friend of Missy and Tyler seriously injured a couple years ago when his reserve parachute opened while he was still in the plane, sucking him out but not before he conked his head, rendering him unconscious for a few seconds. His ribs are still sore.
Jerry Jordan, Jr.
Four friendly canines were on hand, as Missy works at a humane society and is a softy when it comes to dogs in need. The Schuyler Sisters from the original cast of Hamilton sang “America the Beautiful,” adding the words “and sisterhood” after “and crown thy good with brotherhood.” As Luke Brian was singing the “National Anthem,” Dave noted that in Las Vegas one could bet on whether or not the country singer would have on jeans. He didn’t wear blue jeans but, indeed, a black pair.
Marianne made bingo cards featuring advertisement sponsors, who supposedly paid $5 million for 30-second spots. My favorite was quite imaginative but, like many, didn’t mention the product until near the end. It opened with yearbook pages showing celebrities, such as Tina Fey, Jimmy Fallon and Missy Elliott, who came to life urging viewers to chase their dreams – which, implausibly, included buying a new Honda. “The Journey,” an ad for the Pennsylvania company 84 Lumber, featured a Latina mother and daughter overcoming numerous obstacles in their effort to reach America. The message: “The will to succeed is always welcome here.” Fox corporate honchos banned the ending, where mother and daughter encounter a wall but find a wooden door enabling them to fulfill their quest. The ad invited viewers to see the full video on 84 Lumber’s website. Millions did just that, causing the site to crash temporarily. Halftime headliner Lady Gaga did not disappoint during a 12-minute medley that featured several incredible costume changes. After singing the first verse of “God Bless America” Gaga broke into Woody Guthrie’s inclusive “This Land Is Your Land.” The gay anthem “Born This Way” highlighted the largely upbeat program.
Tom Brady with Lombardi trophy
What looked to be an Atlanta Falcons blowout turned into the biggest comeback in Superbowl history. Down 28-3, the Patriots, led by QB Tom Brady, tied the score in regulation and won 34-28 in overtime. With an 8-point lead in the final minutes Julio Jones made an unbelievable catch to put the Falcons in field goal range, but, inexplicably, his coach dialed up a pass play and QB Matt Ryan got sacked, taking them out of field goal range. That set up a 93-yard scoring drive highlighted by a circus catch on a deflected ball by New England’s Julian Edelman. After the game Edelman said: “It’s the microcosm of our life, our season. Mental toughness, believe, do your job, work hard and we’d be champions in the championship game.”
I was rooting for the Falcons because they’d never won the Superbowl and Trump was for New England, but I couldn’t help but admire the grit of 39-year-old Brady. Sacked five times and knocked down a dozen more, he demonstrated that he’s the best quarterback under pressure I’ve ever seen play. Suspended four games for his part in deflating footballs prior to the AFC championship the year before, Brady got the last laugh on Commissioner Roger Goodell, who, with crowd booing, presented him and owner Robert Kraft with the Vince Lombardi trophy. Kraft said: “Two years ago we won our fourth Super Bowl down in Arizona and I told our fans that was the sweetest one of all. But a lot has transpired during the last two years, and I don’t think that needs any explanation. But I want to say to our fans, our brilliant coaching staff our amazing players who were so spectacular: This is unequivocally the sweetest.”
In an email Esther Lewis introduced herself as a community builder for the Gary Downtown Emerson Spotlight and solicited my advice on developing a Quality of Life Plan for that area. The name sounded familiar, and, consulting my Steel Shavings master index, I discovered Lewis had written an autobiographical sketch that appeared in my “Shards and Midden Heaps” issue dealing with the contemporary history of adolescence in the Calumet Region during the 1990s. Here is the poignant final paragraph:
Michael was my first love. His sister had been my best friend since like birth, so he was like a brother. He’d ask my advice about girls. We’d talk for hours. One day I swallowed my pride and told him I liked him. He told me he didn’t want to cheat on his girl. He stopped calling me but then out of the blue we started going together. My friends thought I was above him, but I was most definitely in love; and he and I were sprung. Unfortunately, he got into a lot of trouble dealing and moved. Just like that, my first love was gone.
Walking to IUN’s Hawthorn Hall, I crossed paths with Performing Arts professor Mark Baer. With the temperature in the mid-50s and nary a cloud overhead, I said, “Glorious day.” He replied cryptically, “The sun will rise tomorrow.”
Bowling buddy Gene Clifford sent me an account of flying a P-51 Mustang in Kissimmee, Florida, on his eightieth birthday. He wrote:
While we were taxiing to the runway, the pilot informed me that he was not drunk, but just that the Mustang is a taildragger and you cannot see over the cowling, so you have to weave or fishtail as you taxi in order to keep from running off the taxiway.
With 2000 horsepower in front of you plus a 4-bladed prop, when the throttle is advanced it sets you back in your seat much more than a commercial airliner. I was well strapped in while wearing a parachute, which is required when doing aerobatics. I was briefed in the procedures concerning the parachute and my seatbelt, if we were to bail out in case of an emergency. The pilot would invert the Mustang after jettisoning the canopy and you were to just push off with your feet and get out of the cockpit that way. There was a 20-foot ripcord attached to the parachute so you were not to be concerned about remembering to pull the “D” ring to open your chute.
Once we reached about 3000 feet, the pilot informed me that the airplane was mine, so I grasped the stick and rocked the wings left and right and pulled the nose up and down to get the “feel” of the stick and just how stiff it felt as there was no hydraulic assist with this “Warbird” from the mid ‘40s. The pilot then asked me if I’d like to do some wingovers and I readily agreed. So, we then pulled the nose up to about a 40 degree climb and then let it slip off to the left as if you were sliding down a hill sideways. We did this twice to the left and twice to the right before leveling off at about 8000 feet above the ground.
We then proceeded to do a stall which is similar to coasting up a hill until you can’t go any farther and then there is a bit of a shudder as the aircraft breaks going forward and then goes onto a bit of a dive where we then did a 1 and ½ spin before leveling out. We then proceeded to do a 4-point roll in preparation to doing an 8-point roll which I had requested that the pilot flying with me be able to do so I could then die a happy man, just not during or immediately after the 8-point roll. All of these mild aerobatics were done by me controlling the stick but being walked through by the pilot in the front seat.
Our next feat of flying was to do a loop where we had to lower the nose of the Mustang to gain airspeed to 300 knots before raising the nose to start the loop. When doing a loop with the nose pointed down, you are seeing the trees and ground first then you start to see the clouds. Then all you see is clear blue sky before seeing the clouds again which were behind you. Then the trees and ground come visible again, while pulling about 4 G’s, which caused me to almost “Black out,” so I told the pilot to let’s level out for about 30 seconds while I get my head and eyes back again. He asked me what I had experienced and I told him that my peripheral vision was closing in on me, which was like looking down a tunnel. He informed me that I was starting to “Gray Out,” which meant that if we had continued to experience 4 G’s or more for another 15 or 20 seconds, I undoubtedly would have “Blacked Out.”
We encountered other aircraft traffic coming into Orlando as we were advised by the Miami tower so we did not have the opportunity to do the 8-point roll as I had wanted. It was about time to return the airport at Kissimmee as our hour of flying the Mustang was nearing its end. So, the pilot asked me if I’d like to land the Mustang, and I said “sure, if you’ll walk me through it.” So, we proceeded to do a “Downwind pass” over the airport at Kissimmee at about 500 feet, then did a steep lefthand break, and proceeded to land, which was a “Greaser” where you hardly felt the wheels touch the runway.
I can say for sure that this experience was a real kick in the pants. When you have that much horsepower in front of you, it’s like driving an INDY or NASCAR car.
You only turn 80 once in your life.