Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Stormy Days

 “We got department stores and toilet paper
Got Styrofoam boxes for the ozone layer.”
    “Rockin’ in the Free World,” Neil Young

Whenever I hear “Rockin’ in the Free World,” I think of Voodoo Chili performing it with Dave on vocals and Tim “Big Voodoo Daddy” Brush on lead guitar.  Today the words seem more relevant than ever, as Trump prepares to gut – or even eliminate, as some in Congress are proposing -  the Environmental Protection Agency.  One consequence, if the White House Office of Management and Budget has its way, is to reduce funds for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative from $300 million to a paltry $10 million. According to Todd Spangler of the Detroit Free Press, such action would decimate programs to improve water quality, restore wetlands, and keep Asian carp from entering Lake Michigan, where they'd wreak havoc on its ecosystem by gobbling up plankton.  Trump has been on the cover of Time so many times, Toni is ready to cancel our subscription.  As it is, she turns over the issues so she doesn’t have to look at that mendacious mug.
 Dave and Angie Lane, March 1998
Just when it looked like winter might pass without a major storm, Northwest Indiana got hit with huge amounts of lake effect snow exactly 19 years after a blizzard left us without electricity during the week Angie and Dave got married.  Even the motel where our out-of-town guests were to stay lost power initially.  We pretty much lived in our Maple Place fireplace room until power was finally restored.  An East Coast nor’easter, officially designated Winter Storm Stella, affected some 60 million people.
109th and Broadway; Post-Trib photo by Joe Puchek
 Stella hits Pennsylvania by Jerry Pierce

Spicers in Key West

On Facebook Elaine Spicer wrote of meeting future husband Jim:
            In February 1998, I moved from Lafayette to Miller, knowing only one person, C.D. Hullinger.  Five weeks later, after a week without power due to a severe ice storm, Saturday morning found me at the Marquette Perk barista heading to the only seat left at the counter. The seat was right next to a dude wearing a Wisconsin Badger knit hour of chit chat later we planned to see a movie that night, after the late afternoon movie an agreement to go out to dinner, a call the next morning about hanging out at his place for newspaper reading and breakfast, afternoon arrangements for me to come back for dinner. Fa-a-a-st forward 19 years!! Wow, and little did I know then that I was taking a tried and true bachelor off the rolls in Miller.
Tom Eaton replied: “I guess, when you’ve found the right person, you don’t have to mess around.”

Fourteen years ago, I asked students to keep “Ides of March” journals.  I kept one myself, as did several former students, including Fred McCoy.  The results in Steel Shavings, volume 36 (2005). McColly wrote:
  March 15: One local bar had a St. Baldrick event to raise money for a cancer foundation.  Both men and women were shaving their heads.  My boss was complaining about her NIPSCO bill.  She averages $50 a month and isn’t even home during the day. War propaganda is making everyone frantic.  The government claims we need duct tape and gas masks in case we are hit with nerve gas.  This is like telling kids to get under their desks in case the Russians start using nuclear bombs on us.  They aren’t going to save you.
I was in Bradenton, Florida, that day visiting Midge and stepfather Howard.  I went body surfing in the afternoon, and we dined at a classy place called the Sand Bar.  I wrote:
  The scallops reminded me of when I’d order them at Another Roadside Attraction in Wheeler.  Owners (and softball buddies) Tom Orr and Ivan Jasper both moved to the Virgin Islands after selling the place.  The good life, they though. Ivan’s in Fort Lauderdale now, running his own business.  Tom tried to sail the Atlantic, and his sailboat got totaled when a sub suddenly surfaced.  He’s a hospital administrator now.  Watched IU lose by one point to Illinois and then played Rummy Cube. He still has it together at age 95 and gets in nine holes of golf weekly. On the news: scenes of antiwar protestors in the streets, while Bush is in the Azores making final war plans with British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Post-Trib columnist Jeff Manes wrote about Jim Phares, who has restored 20 acres in Pine Township to wetlands. Phares said: Not everybody has this much land to work with, but when you do something like this, especially a wetland area, every little bit helps. I'm not tellin' anybody what to do with their property, but I drive by places where people are mowin' like three acres of grass. Why?”  On Facebook Manes posted this observation:
  I've never been defeated by a dish drainer yet. Those pots, pans, knives, forks and, spaghetti spoons will all fit one way or another.  The bad news is when Val comes home from work and tries to remove just one utensil from Mt. Kilimanjaro, they will all end up on the kitchen floor.
 Jeff Manes creation

My NCAA tournament brackets have all number-2 seeds reaching the Final Four, the same strategy I employed last year when I won the pool by picking Villanova.  I have Kentucky beating Arizona in the championship game.   Dave has picked Arizona, so it would be great if it came done to him or me, like in 2016.   I first leaned toward Duke but hate the Blue Devils too much to root for them.

I got a headache booking flights to California for Phil, Dave, and me to see The Head and the Heart at Pappy and Harriet’s in Pioneertown with nephew Bob.  The airlines advertise one price for round trips but then want additional money for all but the most impractical return flights. I finally booked three tickets for a nonstop flight to San Diego for about $550 apiece.  Flying straight into Palm Springs would have cost at least a thousand dollars more.  “Relative Surplus Value” by the Weakerthans begins, “Find the airport at 7 a.m.” – the time we’ll arrive at O’Hare if everything goes smoothly. The Canadian group also recorded “Elegy for Gump Worsley,” about an ice hockey goaltender who resembled the comic-strip character Andy Gump and one of the last players not to wear a mask. He played ten years with the lowly New York Rangers and then helped the Montreal Canadiens win four Stanley Cup between 1965 and 1969. Here are some of the lyrics:
He looked more like our fathers, not a goalie, player, athlete, period.  Smoke, half ash, stuck in that permanent smirk, tugging jersey around the beer gut.  He swore he was never afraid of the puck.  We believe him.  If anyone asks, the inscription should read, “My face was my mask.”
 Lorne "Gump" Worsley

Working on a crossword puzzle, Toni asked if I knew a famous baseball family in six letters, starting with “A.”  “Alomar,” I replied, knowing that catcher Sandy, Jr., and brother Roberto both followed their dad from Puerto Rico to the major leagues.  Roberto is a Hall of Famer, infamous for spitting on an umpire.

Indiana History student Artur Sorg interviewed someone who requested that his pseudonym be Bocephus, the nickname of Hank Williams, Jr., given to the country singer by his dad and also the name of Grand Ole Opry ventriloquist Rod Brasfield’s dummy.  Sorg wrote:

In 1952 Bocephus was ten, entering fifth grade, and had, in his words, “a spiked haircut with so much hairspray on it I could stack books on it!  I also had a rat tail hanging down my back and lightning bolts shaved into my sideburns!  That hair was as stiff as a board!”  Like many of his friends, Bocephus proudly wore a Michael Jordan jersey.  During middle school sports dominated his everyday activity, especially basketball. He recalled: “We pretty much lived at the local YMCA.  Hell, I even had swimming lessons there and weight lifting.” One summer Bocephus broke his ankle a week before the start of the Little League season. He recalled: “We were short a player one game.  Coach had no choice, I was going to play right field.  I was more than happy to hobble my butt out there.  Cast and all!  Naturally the other teams coach was instructing his players to hit the ball to the kid in the cast.  Which one finally did, it wasn’t a good hit, but the coach sent him to second base anyways.  I hopped over to that ball as fast as I possibly could and ended up throwing that kid out at second!  Dude, that’s stuff you just don’t forget!”  A year later, his  baseball season was again cut short due to appendicitis.  He said; “Well, I almost died!  Three dang days of lying in pain.  Mom finally took me to the ER.  They told her, if she would have waited another day, I probably wouldn’t have made it through the night.  Thing exploded inside me.  They did surgery right away.”
Excelling at cross-country, Bocephus recalled being asked to work out with high school players the summer before his freshman year.  “We were running around a local lake that summer and one of the upper classman dared me to run and jump off the end of a pier.  Without hesitation, I took a B-line straight for that pier and ran right off the end.  I guess, that event in particular, solidified my acceptance by the upper classman who were often dicks to the other freshman. I ran varsity the whole season as the number 2 runner on the team and won the largest freshman only race in the State.” 
Sophomore year Bocephus had stress fractures throughout the entire cross-country season and began to lose interest in the sport. “I was missing out on other things,” he said.  Bocephus got his license the following summer.  His parents bought him a 1987 Ford Bronco for $1,800 on the condition that he put gas in it and pay for the insurance and upkeep.  Bocephus found a summer job framing houses and said, “I figured I could make enough money to keep my car going all year if I worked hard all summer.  It seemed like everyone I hung out with out of school was in their early 20’s at this point!  I quickly began acting like I was, too.” He bought a new Polaris Scrambler 500 four-wheeler and found employment weekends working construction.
Bocephus recalled “We started throwing great parties almost every weekend down at my neighbor Joe’s place. Girls everywhere, 4-wheelers jumping the fire, trucks running through the mudbug.  I bet we had 100 kids there on prom night junior year.  Insane!  There were cars still parked in the field a week later.  We had no idea who they even belonged to.”  The result was that he struggled in school, even flunking one eleventh grade class.  Bocephus tried to mellow out a little his senior year.  “I started listening to Bob Dylan and Pink Floyd.  I had a tie-dyed Jimi Hendrix t-shirt, a pair of green corduroys, and one of those hemp necklaces.  Everyone thought I had become a stoner at that point!”  Bocephus occasionally smoked marijuana, but it never became a thing.  He pretty much stuck to alcohol.  He said, “There were Saturdays where I’d show up to work hungover, often still buzzed, on zero sleep, and put in 10- 12 hours.  If that doesn’t prepare you for the real world I’m not sure what would!” 
In the fall of his senior year Bocephus starting dating his future wife.  They had known each other for a while, but never really talked. Up to this point Bocephus hadn’t had a lot of girlfriends.  “I was always busy having fun!  Besides, my friends had girlfriends and I saw how much damn time they took up.  Bros before hoes was our motto.”  Bocephus described how he was smitten: “Two 17-year-olds, a couple beers, a kiss by the fire, well, you can imagine the rest. She was good for me.  She was a big reason I ended up graduating.” She even managed to drag him to their Senior Prom.  After high school Bocephus went to work and at age 19 bought his first home with his then-pregnant fiancé on 5 acres of land.  “I was a borderline alcoholic for most of my high school days,” he concluded, “but pretty much quit drinking at the age of 19.”

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