Wednesday, October 31, 2007

I can quit anytime I want. Honestly, I can...

When it comes to buying clothes for myself - not counting motorcycle riding apparel - I'm notoriously cheap.

I say this as a defense for my recent spending binge at Dillard's Clearance Center, because I feel kinda guilty about letting myself be drawn back there on a daily basis.

But looking back on what I've been wearing for the past few years, I notice that about 95 percent of the time, I'm in jeans and some kind of BMW rally or dealer t-shirt. I imagine some people think that's the extent of my wardrobe, and they're pretty much right.

If you took away all of my BMW-related shirts, I'd be down to a handful of Willis & Geiger and denim shirts, all of which have been worn and washed so much that they're coming apart at the collars and elsewhere.

Likewise, I was down to about four pairs of jeans - some of them threadbare. I recently had to throw away my favorite pair of Timberland shoes because the right sole was separating from the upper part of the shoe.

Fortunately, the packing process unearthed a nice, broken-in pair of Columbia shoes that still have lots of wear left in them and still look presentable. I have no idea why I stopped wearing them and stuck them into one of my armoire drawers, but I'm glad I rediscovered them.

My problem was that if the occasion demanded semi-dressy casual attire, I was pretty much screwed.

So when the opportunity to buy really nice and normally expensive department store casual clothes at insanely discounted prices presented itself, I went a little nuts.

Maria, who loves to indulge me whenever I get the notion to buy clothes, has been more than supportive.

And, after all, in our new life here it would be bad form for a newspaper managing editor to be publicly embarrassed by a husband who dresses like a bum.

So tell the folks at Dillard's Clearance Center that I'll probably be in again today.

Happy Birthday, Steve!


My son Steve is 37 today.

He says he just found a gray hair on his temple. It runs in the family. I was completely gray by my early 40s. There are worse things.

Here's Steve with his gorgeous daughter Lisa.

Oh, yeah. It's Halloween.

Sitting in my car at McDonald's and I see this apparition coming at me across a field.
Gave me pause until I remembered it's Halloween

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


Imagine living in a house with no furniture. Or more to the point, a house without a chair, couch or stool - where the only way to sit down is on the fireplace hearth or the back steps or the toilet. Or if you're really desperate for a proper seat, you can go into the attached garage and sit for awhile in a car seat.
That's how it's been here in the new house since we moved in on Saturday. Maria is a floor-sitter, but I inherited the Flora inflexibility and find sitting on the floor excruciatingly uncomfortable.
We've been sleeping on an air bed, so I'm getting all of the floor time I can stand.
So we eat, talk, compute and think on our feet.
We decided we can't wait for our furniture to arrive Thursday and Friday, so we started looking for a couple of lawn chairs.
I shopped at Lowe's and Big K-Mart yesterday, but came up empty. Lowe's home & garden shop is devoid of summer stuff and full of Christmas crap.
We went to the Super Wal-Mart after lunch today and found a small cache of lawn furniture in a corner. We settled on these glamorous $16 models and I'm finally comfortably seated on our screened back porch watching the dog explore the yard and enjoy this fine sunny autumn afternoon.
I did another drive-by shopping raid on the Dillard's Clearance Center this afternoon and picked up five pairs of pants - four pairs of corduroys and a pair of cargo pants - two turtleneck pullovers and a rugby shirt with a combined list price of $413 for 8 cents on the dollar.
This is scary because I'm turning into a freaking shopaholic. I go shopping while Maria works. Sounds like a serious role-reversal, doesn't it?

Remembering a mentor and a friend

I got an e-mail Saturday while driving down to Arkansas from Lonnie Miller, one of my best friends back from my school days in Delphi, Ind.

The e-mail asked if I was going to post something about Dick Laughlin at


So the next day when we stopped by Maria's apartment to haul a carload of her stuff to our new house, I connected my laptop to her Internet hookup and went to the website.

Holy crap! Laughlin died Sept. 5 dick01and they had a memorial celebration for him on Oct. 15. I guess my ties with the Delphi crowd have gotten pretty loose, because I would have liked to have been able to attend.

Dick Laughlin was band director (the entire music department) at Delphi from my eighth-grade year through my junior year. And he was unquestionably the most influential teacher in my formative high school years.

Delphi was Dick's first teaching job after he graduated from what was then Indiana State Teachers College in 1958. He was only 22, so he wasn't that much older than his students and his arrival marked the first time any of us had seen a teacher who seemed to have the same enthusiasm and values as our generation. Not finding anyone interesting his own age in Delphi, Dick quickly took to hanging out with his students.

And he had flash and style. He drove a white Buick convertible with red leather upholstery. He was quite clearly the coolest person we'd ever seen and we reveled in his flamboyance, even down to the pink rhinestone-encrusted eye patch he affected. And anytime I think of him on the podium or in his office, I see him with a click-type ballpoint pen behind his right DickLaughlinear.

For the first couple of years, Dick lived in an couple of rented rooms in the upstairs of an elderly widow on Franklin Street. He had a Fisher console Hi-Fi that he eventually had converted to stereo and introduced those of us who were interested - me, for sure - to grand new musical vistas and the world of jazz in particular.

Were it not for Dick Laughlin, I would never have had a complete Dave Brubeck collection, anything by Dizzy Gillespie or Thelonius Monk or Charlie Mingus, or a subscription to Down Beat magazine. And I probably wouldn't have known anything about Dimitri Shostakovich if Dick hadn't made me research and write a report on the Soviet composer as penance for some infraction in junior high school band.

Delphi High School's music program was lackluster before Dick Laughlin showed up. He quickly instituted a series of winter and spring concerts, made drastic improvements in the marching band and, among other things, recruited me from the trumpet section to Sousaphone in marching and concert band. He also created a swing choir called Top Twenty, made up of the top 20 vocalists in the school (I sang bass in Top Twenty my sophomore-through-senior years), and the dance band (I played third trumpet) that performed at concerts and even played a couple of low-budget proms at other schools.

He inspired a lot of us to major in music in college. I went to Dick's alma mater, Indiana State, with the intention of majoring in music. I quickly discovered that I was way out of my depth, not having the background in music theory that students from larger high schools brought to State. I wanted to be a musician, but I just didn't have the natural talent for it. My love for music, then, made me an avid listener and collector, something I like to think bore fruit in the musical careers of my two sons. They grew up on a world filled with music. There was music playing almost every waking hour in the house, in the car, wherever. And when Sean and Steve showed an interest in music, I did whatever I could to support and encourage their growth.

Somewhere around 1960, Dick got married to a girl he had dated in college. Her name was Carol and she was a music teacher in nearby Monticello at the time.

I think the marriage lasted about a year and through the experience, Dick came to terms with the fact that he was gay. This was at a time when gays - especially small Indiana towns like Delphi - kept their sexual preferences in a very deep closet.

If my parents figured out he was gay, they never said anything to me about it or discouraged me from hanging out with him. He was always welcome in my parents' house and my parents treated him as something between a peer and a contemporary of mine.

Needless to say, we were all devastated when he decided to go back to Indiana State for a teaching fellowship. Dick's popularity made him an incredibly hard act to follow. His successor, a little guy from Nashville, Ind., named DeWees, made a game attempt, but I think he knew he was working with Dick Laughlin's musical legacy.

I remained peripherally aware of Dick's career in the late '60s and beyond. I think the last time I saw him was around 1972 or '73 when he came to my house to pick up a caricature of himself that had been drawn by Indianapolis News artist Ron Schwartz and that had appeared in The News in connection with Dick's work at Beef & Boards. We lived a few blocks from each other in Indianapolis for probably 20 years, but had virtually no contact.

I'm still processing the news of his death at 71. It's hard to digest, especially since my memories of him are of a musical force of nature in his 20s with a world of possibilities laid out before him.

He wrote some very complimentary and flattering things in my high school yearbooks and I'd quote from those if I could, but unfortunately they're in a SmartMove vault somewhere between Indianapolis and Brookland, Ark., at the moment. Maybe later, if I find something worth adding.

Even though Dick Laughlin hasn't been a presence in my life for nearly 45 years, it's hard to realize that he's really gone.

Good thing the angels have choirs.dick03

Monday, October 29, 2007

Not a toy

In the Jonesboro Public Library parking lot. It's a late '60s model, I think. Definitely newer than my '65.


Thank God McDonald's warned me that my coffee is hot and that the plastic bag that held my parfait spoon and granola can cause suffocation.
I'm sure that's how I avoided scalding and suffocation for all of these years.
No warning on the stir stick about poking oneself in the eye, though. Sounds like serious liability exposure.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Hey, Lauri!

Sunday morning shoe-shopping at Kohl's.

Oops, forgot the pic

One of the new shirts.

Yeah, this is pretty cool

After almost seven years in a cell phone dead zone, I'm almost giddy over having such a great signal in our new house that I can call and blog at will.
That's especially convenient right now because we have no land line or wired Internet connection.
The dogs are absolutely joyful at having the run of the house and a big fenced yard after weeks of being confined to kennel and kitchen, going for walks on a leash and capped by a gruelling nine-hour car ride jammed into the same kennel.
My shirt, BTW, came from Dillard's close-out store where I picked up about $635 worth of new shirts for something like $85.

Pete likes his new home

Pete, doing what he loved to do at Pearlsend - sit with his back against the back door and study his surroundings.
It doesn't quite feel like home to me, but neither does Pearlsend. And I've only been here about 12 hours and there's no furniture.
Maria is enjoying the spa tub immensely.

Saturday, October 27, 2007


On my way to Arkansas with the dogs behind me.
Approaching Champaign on I-74.

Hello Dalai

daligeorge The Dalai Lama spoke at Purdue University yesterday.

When asked how to bring peace to Iraq and the Middle East, he offered a straight-up, "I don't know."

Asked about his impressions of President George W. Bush, he said, "In spite of my disagreement with some of his policies, as a person,I love him. We immediately became friends. He's a very nice person."

Breakfast at Denny's

I was up with the dogs at 4:40 a.m. Since I went to bed about 8:30, I had enough of sleep and was ready to get the day started.
With coffee maker, coffee and cups packed, I had a warm beer while taking a last soak in the hot tub about 5:15.
Now I'm at Denny's in Lebanon, finishing a proper breakfast with a headful of last-minute details before I head for Arkansas with the dogs.
The UPS guy should arrive to collect the last vaults about 11 a.m. Then we're off to our new home.

Friday, October 26, 2007


Here's one of the UPS seals they gave me to affix to vaults, once they have been loaded and locked for shipping.
The first four are loaded and scheduled for pickup today. They're sending another three out, along with 25-30 more furniture pads, but I find it hard to believe that we're going to need 10 of these things to ship all of our stuff.
Nevertheless, there is still a bunch of furniture and boxes in the house to be loaded today and if things are not packed tightly and judiciously, we could eat up more than the three empties that are sitting in the driveway this morning and maybe slop into some or all of the three that are presumably on their way here.

Breakfast, sorta

I awoke this morning to realize I had very few breakfast choices and nothing with which to eat.
All of the dishes and silverware are packed. I have soymilk, but the cereal is packed, as is the box of Sweet 'n Low packets, which also rules out making coffee to drink from the go-cup I held out.
So I drank a bit of soymilk, slurped down a cup of peach yogurt and washed it all down with the last bottle of Bar Harbor Blueberry Ale.
Now, all that remains in the fridge is beer and Coke Zero, which will go into a box and travel to Arkansas with me tomorrow.

Obeying my dog

It's 4:55 a.m. and I've been up for about an hour, prodded out of a sound sleep by the incessant barking of my older dog, Ruthie.

Ruthie is having a difficult time with the chaos surrounding our move. Confined to her kennel, next to Pete in his, she barked pretty much nonstop all morning yesterday while the packers worked in the house.

I finally went to the vet's office and got some dog tranquillizers for her. We've used them before and a half of a tablet usually does the trick. The drug kicked in after about a half-hour and she was reasonably calm the rest of the day.

Then, about 3:30 a.m. today she started in, barking and yarking and clawing at her kennel door. I lay in bed hoping she'd calm down, but by 3:50 it was obvious that this was going to continue until I responded. So I got up and got dressed and took both dogs out to the back yard where they peed.

Now, I'm wide-freaking-awake, beginning what will be my last full day in this house as a continuous resident. I'll be back in a week or so to finish up the fix-up and clean-up work preliminary to putting the place on the market, but when I roll out of here with the dogs sometime around mid-day tomorrow, I will consider myself an Arkansas resident.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Four down, three to go

The packers have completely filled the first four vaults and, since the weather has turned cold and drizzly, are spending the rest of their day here packing boxes.

In the meantime, I've been dragging stuff to the curb that we have no need for in Arkansas. A lot of it probably never should have come into this house in the first place because it spent the last six years unused and in the attic.

Passersby have been obliging, carrying away most of the items I've set out, including:

  • An octagonal end table
  • An old desk
  • A large BMW carry-all with a broken zipper, thanks to Northwestern Airlines' baggage handlers
  • A kitchen chair
  • Three big brass lamps
  • A metal office cabinet
  • My mother's two-tier round curio table
  • My mother's old Samsonite suitcase
  • My parents' telephone table with a gray princess phone
  • Other odds and ends

Nobody has bitten on the cross-country skis or the old breadmaker that looks like R2D2.

Thanks to Lauri for the inspiration, my fixit guy is going to cover the place where Pete the Aussie savaged the wallpaper in the back foyer with wainscoting. He figures one sheet of whitewash beadboard will cover the entire back door area. It will be a very elegant fix - one that will dress up the area significantly. He's going to have his guys come late tomorrow after the packers/loaders will have made most of their trips out of the back door.

Maria had initially planned to keep her apartment for another week and begin sleeping in the new house Thursday when our bed arrived.

Then she discovered that a queen-size air bed costs about as much as a week's rent on the apartment. Plus, when you're done, you have an air bed to show for your investment. So she'll make that purchase and, instead of waiting until next Wednesday to head for Arkansas, I'll roll out of here with the dogs in the Subaru as soon as the UPS truck collects the last three vaults on Saturday morning.

And then there were seven

The packing and loading crew was supposed to be here between 8 and 9 a.m. They're late.

But the three additional shipping vaults were early - a day early.

When I took the dogs out for their morning walk about 7:30 a.m., I was startled to see a UPS flatbed truck idling at the corner and loaded with three SmartMove vaults.

I consulted with the driver and we concluded it made the most sense for him to drop the three that were supposed to be swapped for the four on site tomorrow and go back empty.

That way, the packers and loaders have no chance of running out of loading space today and may be able to accomplish more than they would have under the original plan.

Of course, this means UPS has to make two trips to pick up all of the vaults, since they can only haul four at a time, but that's their problem.

My trick today is to get as much stuff into the vaults as possible while leaving the materials I need to work on the house and survive here.

At the same time, I did some frantic check-writing and bill-paying and made sure our important payment books and checkbooks will go into the laptop carrying case, rather than disappear into a vault for God knows how long.

A neighbor just knocked on the back door to ask how things were going and, in the course of the conversation, it became clear that his real reason was to ask if our hot tub is for sale. I told him it goes with the house, since we want to do whatever we can to sweeten the deal.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Camo shoes

Marked down to $10 at Dillard's clearance shop. She bought 'em on a lark.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

It's almost home


We've closed on the house and we're another day closer to living in it, but it's hard to feel like an Arkansas homeowner now that I'm back in Indiana.
I stopped at the new house on the way out of town to drop off a TV, some shirts and a vacuum cleaner and to drag the trash can in from the street.
The previous owners were nice enough to vacuum the carpets and clean the floors, so there won't be much for us to do before our furniture arrives.
The packers and haulers come to our Thorntown house Thursday and Friday and the vaults are scheduled to be shipped to Arkansas next Tuesday, arriving a couple of days later.
I'm going to bed early tonight because I have a doctor's appointment at 9 a.m. tomorrow and the rest of the day will be spent getting things ready for the packers/haulers.
I spoke with son Steve while driving home from Arkansas this morning. He said they've accepted a buyer's offer on their Cincinnati house and their furniture and belongings are on their way to Las Vegas. Steve flies out on Friday and Nicky and Lisa will follow a couple of days later. They have a six-month lease on a rental house while they search for a more permanent place in Vegas.foyer01
While talking with Steve on the cell phone, I missed the Boomland exit where I'd planned to gas up the Subaru. I continued on to Cairo, Ill., with the fuel warning light glowing brightly. Cairo is one of the most depressing towns I've seen in a long time - a Main Street lined with failed businesses, gas stations with bags over the pump nozzles. I bought $5 worth of gas at a ratty station at the edge of town, which got me 30 miles up the road to a real Citgo station where I filled the tank. That fill-up got me to Crawfordsville, Ind. The Subaru averaged 24.12 mpg on the drive home, which is not bad for an SUV, but nowhere close to the 33+ mpg I got driving the del Sol down to Arkansas.
I shot a few photos while at the house, most notably these of the front door and the foyer.

Monday, October 22, 2007


We are now officially residents of Arkansas.


Maria woke up with intermittent severe back pain this morning, which altered our plans for the day.
We've been hanging out in the waiting room of an immediate care facility most of the morning.
We're scheduled for the final walk-through of our new house in 39 minutes and she' now in an exam room waiting for a doc.
We also have to get a $110 cashier's check before our 4 p.m. Closing.
Never mind getting the utilities changed over. That may have to wait until tomorrow, delaying my return to Indiana.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Hey, Lauri!

Shoe-shopping at the new mall.

In Jonesboro

Inspecting yard sculpture.
Now we're at Barnes & Noble, where Barry Manilow is on the sound system.

Rolling south on I-57

The Tuscola, IL McDonald's drive-thru is closed. Crap.

On the Arkansas run

I-74 west of Danville, IL at dawn. Heading for Jonesboro in the del Sol, listening to A3 on the iPod.
And yes, the odometer really does read more than 201,000 miles. It's a 1994 model and it has been the most trouble-free, low-maintenance car I've owned. Other than some transmission work around 1998 and a new muffler (which has been replaced twice for free under a lifetime Honda warranty), it's required no major work.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Flash bulbs and flak jackets

In the continuing media coverage of Britney Spears self-destructing, the latest bulletin has it that she accidentally ran over a paparazzo's foot while exiting a Beverly Hills parking garage.

What caught my eye in the oh-so-glib Reuters report was this paragraph:

Spears was exiting a Beverly Hills parking garage in her white Mercedes convertible as flash bulbs popped. Video footage showed an unidentified photographer in a flak jacket falling to the ground as the car apparently rolled over his foot but he quickly got up.

Flash bulbs? Nobody uses flash bulbs anymore, especially not the paparazzi who need fast-cycling electronic flash to get the money shots.

And in the next sentence, we learn the guy was wearing a flak jacket. A flak jacket, for the benefit of Reuters writers and editors, is body armor - originally designed in World War II to protect U.S. aircrews from anti-aircraft (called flak in German) shrapnel. This is not an item found in a paparazzo's wardrobe.

Viewing the video of the incident on, I see the photographer was actually wearing an Army surplus camo field jacket.

Sorta calls into question all of the other descriptive narrative, doesn't it?

Here is a flak jacket (actually a vest):


And a camo field jacket:


You are now smarter than the Reuters entertainment writer. But then you probably were before you read this.

Storm thoughts

The power went out last night as a thunderstorm rumbled through town.

I was sitting in the parlor with the dogs. They were gnawing on big bone-shaped dog treats and Pete was sticking close to me because he's terrified of thunder and lightning.

And then everything went black.

It was a little surprising, since the storm we'd seen in the south on a dog walk a few minutes earlier didn't seem that close or that violent. I supposed lightning hit a transformer some miles away and the sudden imbalance caused our local power grid to fail. But I'm just guessing because I have only a sketchy understanding of how that stuff works.

So I sat in the dark with my dogs and looked out at the storm through the big arched living room window. With the exception of the occasional set of car headlights, I was seeing a thunderstorm exactly as it would have appeared to the original occupants of our house back in 1903. I don't know why, but it was a good feeling to see this old house with a slightly different perspective and to see, however dimly, how it looked and felt to that family a century ago.

It's a wonderful old house and even though I've cursed it as a "money pit," it remains one of the finest homes in this little town. Certainly, it's one of the best-built, since it was built by the man who owned the local sawmill. He had his pick of the best lumber and used it wisely for the structural and decorative components. When we moved in, the previous owner had carpeted the downstairs and her dog and cat had used the area as a toilet. We dragged the dripping carpet (ack!) to the curb, spent hours pulling the staples out of the floor and had the original quarter-sawn oak floors refinished by one of the best wood floor guys in central Indiana.

With this week's work to replace the stairway and upstairs carpet, we can say that none of the previous owner's ratty, animal-stained carpet remains in the house.

Despite that and the $30,000+ kitchen remodel, the new roof, new deck, hot tub, electrical service upgrades, porch repair and countless other improvements we've made, there are still lots of things to do here. But that's the nature of an old house. We're tried to remain true to the original style of the house, while bringing it up to date.

What this all adds up to is this: I'm looking forward to moving into our new home in Arkansas. I think it will be very comfortable and low maintenance and we'll have more time to do the things we really like to do.

But as Maria said the other day, we'll never again own a house with this much character and style. It was in its day, and maybe still is, a mansion by Thorntown standards and if the original owners can see us, I hope they think we did right by their house while it was in our care.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

It's dog walk dog

Pete likes to control Ruthie on our walks by grabbing her leash.

What? No "Stormy Weather?"

Attention, Weather Channel fans.

The first-ever album of music from the Weather Channel's "Local on the 8s" is now available on

The Weather Channel receives lots of inquiries from viewers about jazz played while the local weather report is shown, so the decision was made to release a CD of selected "8s" music.

As you can see, it's titled The Weather Channel Presents Smooth Jazz. Click on the image to visit the listing for the CD.

Here's the list of selections:

1. Mildred's Attraction - Joyce Cooling

2. Shakin Up The Shack - Dave Koz

3. Bab Bad Simba - Paprika Soul

4. Viaduct - Four 80 East

5. Santa Monica Triangle - Jeff Lorber

6. Ocean View - Pieces Of A Dream

7. Windows - Chick Corea

8. Simple Pleasure - Jeanne Ricks

9. Holding Hands - Ryan Farish

10. Wait A Minute - Mark Krumowski

11. Sidewayz - Najee

12. The Gift - 3rd Force

The real Wayback Machine

If you're old enough, or a fan of classic TV, you know about Mr. Peabody and his boy Sherman from the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show.

Mr. Peabody, a dog savant, built the Wayback Machine, which transported him and Sherman back in time.

You may be surprised to learn there is an Internet Waback Machine, that has been capturing and archiving web pages since 1996.

Go to and click on Internet Archive at the bottom of the page. Then, you can enter the URL of pretty much any web page that's been on the Internet since 1996 and see one or more copies of it, captured and archived at various times during its lifetime.

I was pleased to discover that my long-defunct web site is archived there. I maintained it until I got married and moved out of the Iquest ISP area in May, 2001. I finally let the domain name lapse a few years ago. I see it now is held by someone selling motorcycle and parts.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

More floor work

You never know what you'll find when you start digging into things in a century-old house.

We've been constantly amazed at how many odd things - modifications, remodels, idiotic half-fixes - can happen over the history of a house like ours.

The floor covering guys are back this morning, tearing out dog-stained and ugly carpet to replace it with something that will be more appealing to would-be buyers.

When they removed the brown Berber carpet running up the stairs kitchenstairs2from the kitchen, we discovered a layer of goofy linoleum with a pattern that looks like a photograph of tan carpeting.

We also found that the upstairs landing has the same fine old hardwood flooring as the other bedrooms, albeit in need of refinishing. Although there is luan or plywood in the office, I suspect there's good hardwood under that too.

If we weren't hell-bent on getting this project done as quickly and inexpensively as possible, I'd put all of the hardwood floors back to near-original condition. But the object of the game is to have a house that shows well. We can mention the hardwood floors to whoever buys the place and let them decide whether to take on that project.

In the meantime, the dogs are in their kennels in an upstairs bedroom with the door closed. I'm waiting for the workers to get all of the nails and staples out of the steps before I take them out because I don't want any hurt paws.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The ancestral home (one of them)


This is the farm where my dad grew up, along with eight brothers and sisters. As far as I know, he was born in this white farmhouse.

The place is on Carroll County Road 700 South about 2 miles southwest of Cutler, Ind. Google Maps says it's 40.445904, -86.532164.

This aerial photo was taken in the late 1940s or early '50s and ran in one of the weekly Delphi, Ind., newspapers as part of a "where is this?" series. The view is from the southwest of the property. According to most recent satellite photos, the woods in the background is almost all farm fields now.

My dad lived here from his birth in 1910 until sometime in the 1930s when he moved to Delphi to serve as deputy county treasurer under his father who was appointed, then elected to the post.

I've never been in the farmhouse, but my uncle Joe - dad's older brother by 10 years - owned the farm directly south across the road from this one from my earliest recollection until he retired to Florida about 1965 or so. I can recall visiting Uncle Joe and Aunt Cassie at a time before they had an indoor toilet and when they still used an old crank-style telephone on a party line. (It occurs to me that "party line" may be an unfamiliar term for younger readers. It was a shared telephone line where each home had its own distinctive ring pattern: two longs and a short, or three shorts, etc.)

This subject comes to mind because the process of moving to Arkansas has me thinking about the fluid concept of "home." My father had maybe four homes - five if you count the nursing home where he died - in his 87 years. I've only been around 62 years and can count at least 10 places I've called home - more if you count college dorms and Air Force basic training - and the Arkansas house will make 11.

It's been probably seven years since I drove past the farm in this photo and it occurs to me that I may never see it again. So it goes. I've got the photo.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Unfortunate resemblance

Our new home is just down the road from Goobertown.


Goobertown, Ark. It's a real place with a general store and everything. And it's also home to the Goobertown Christmas Tree Farm.

For the uninitiated, a goober is a slang term for a peanut. The Christmas tree farm sign features a goober in a Santa Claus hat, with mittens and boots. (See photo above.)mr-hankey-howdy-ho

But the jarring thing about it is that the Goobertown Christmas Tree  Farm goober bears an unfortunate resemblance to South Park's Mr. Hanky, the Christmas Poo.

I doubt that we're the first people to notice it, but it's worth noting.

This is the most-visited post on my blog because people looking for Mr. Hanky stuff on search engines end up here. As long as you're here, click on the header at the top of this page and look around. You're bound to find more fun and/or interesting stuff. And please feel free to click those little ads at the bottom of this and other posts. I get a few cents for every click and it helps support my blogging habit. Thanks!

Feeling vindicated

I still have hundreds of old vinyl phonograph records and the crates filled with them are among the heaviest, most unwieldy non-furniture objects to haul down from the attic and into the Smart Move vaults in our driveway.

I'm sure my wife would love to see those albums kicked to the curb and not make the trip to Arkansas. But there is a hell of a lot of music there that has never been available on CD or from the iTunes store or any other online MP3 source.

It's stuff I'm loathe to part with, especially since I learned that I can buy a USB turntable and MP3 conversion software for a little more than $100. And, the software will filter out the hisses and pops and other surface imperfections from a vinyl album.

And I was further encouraged today when I discovered an Aug. 29 Gary Krakow column on MSNBC, in which he wrote that vinyl albums are making a comeback of sorts among serious audiophiles.

"LPs," Krakow wrote, "contain close to 100 percent of the uncompressed music information as originally recorded. CDs contain only about half of that recorded information. And compressed music files are left with only a small percentage of the information that's on a CD."

The reason most people can't tell a difference from an LP to a CD to an MP3 is that most of the information that gets eliminated when music goes digital involves frequencies that are outside the normal range of human hearing. Presumably, you dog can discern digital from analog much easier than you can.

Turntable sales, Krakow says, are on the rise again and Circuit City has more than 10,000 LP titles on their website, even though you can't buy a vinyl album in any of their stores.

I don't think anyone seriously expects the pendulum to swing all the way back to the analog side, largely because of the extreme convenience of digital music from the standpoints of storage, marketing and delivery. But I do feel somewhat vindicated in hanging onto my record collection that includes discs that go back as far as 50 (yikes!) years.

Now the challenge is to carve out the time to digitize all of that music so I can put into Shuffle rotation on my iPod.

lps This is about one-third of the collection.

TM Flight School


While I wait for a call-back from Smart Move customer service, I'll share another one of those group photos that turned up while I was packing stuff from our home office.

This is circa 1978 or 1979 and I'm the first guy in the back row.

I was on the final stage of the Transcendental Meditation Sidhi Course at Maharishi International University (I think it's the Maharishi School of Management, now) at Fairfield, Iowa, and we were learning the last set of sutras, or formulas, which included the one for levitation, or "flying."

The framed portrait in the center of the group is of Guru Dev, who was Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's teacher and the one to whom Maharishi gives all credit for the TM program.

My recollection is that it was a two-week program and it represented a couple of accomplishments for me. First, I achieved the first step of levitation, known as "hopping." Second, I quit smoking once and for all.

We did our flying in a large room, wall-to-wall with foam pads. Mostly, it's an inner experience in which you feel a sense of lightness. Outwardly, it looks like people just hopping around in a cross-legged sitting position. I never saw anyone actually hover and critics argued there is nothing paranormal happening here at all. Maybe so, maybe not.

But just sitting here and reflecting on the experience, I feel a certain light-headedness and am suppressing the impulse to hop.

Practice of the TM Sidhi program, in those days at least, meant spending upwards of 90 minutes, twice a day, in meditation and flying. I lapsed a long time ago and haven't done the full program in at least 15 years, maybe 20. I've even forgotten most of the sutras and the order in which they are invoked.

Maharishi encouraged us Sidhas (those who practice the Sidhis) to do our meditation/flying programs together as often as possible and in a large a group as possible. The group practice was supposed to generate a superraidiance effect - a positive influence on the environment of far greater power than if we were all doing the program at home at whatever times fit our personal schedules. Presumably, cities where there were large numbers of Sidhas flying together experienced lower crime rates and generally less environmental stress.

So when this photo was taken, I was a True Believer and was convinced that TM and the Sidhi program were going to change the world. Maybe they did and we just didn't notice. At the very least, we got a pleasant period of rest twice a day. And, since TM is incompatible with recreational drug use, it helped us all stay straight and out of jail.

Implementing Plan B

From the Smart Move website:

Professional Moving Assistance
Need help with your move? Smart Move provides both full-service and partial moving assistance. Depending on your needs, you can enlist moving professionals to pack, unpack, load and unload select items or all your assets.
Full-Service Moving Assistance

  • Professional packing of all your assets
  • Loading and unloading
  • Unpacking your assets at your new home or office

Partial moving assistance includes any combination of Smart Move’s full-service offering. You can schedule professional moving assistance when planning your move with one of Smart Move’s moving specialists.

I'm wise enough to know when I've taken on too much in the interest of saving money. I left a voicemail with the Smart Move people a few minutes ago, asking for a call-back and saying we need to adjust the schedule and add some services. This the ones listed above.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Before I became Catholic

Dredging up old memories is an inescapable consequence of packing for a move.

This one goes back 47 years to when I was 14 years old - about a month shy of my 15th birthday. I was raised Presbyterian and my parents regularly sent me off for a week of church camp every summer. The venue of choice was Camp Pyoca (Presbyterian YOuth CAmp), just south of Brownstown in southern Indiana.

I enjoyed the swimming and boating and hiking and checking out the girls, but the religious stuff was pretty much wasted on me. I wasn't much interested in spirituality at the time.

That's me in the second standing row, second from the right with the glasses and horizontal stripes, looking pretty damned confident, if I do say so. The girl covering my left arm in the first standing row was Ann Ohlrogge from West Lafayette, Ind., who would become my girlfriend for part of my high school years. Ann's father was an agronomy professor at Purdue. Her brother John followed in dad's footsteps and was teaching college level agronomy in Michigan the last time I checked. Ann graduated from West Lafayette High School in 1963 along with Larry Parker, who now lives three houses south of me and also rides a BMW motorcycle. Ann went on to Earlham College, a Quaker-founded college in Richmond, Ind. She married a banker and is now a Presbyterian minister and counselor in suburban Chicago.

The only other person I recognize in this photo is Martin Burkle, who graduated from Delphi High School in 1962. He's the guy in glasses, third from right, first standing row. I have no idea what became of him, but I could probably find him with Google, since his is a pretty uncommon name.

I Googled Pyoca and see that it's still in operation, but I don't recognize any of the buildings in the facilities photos.

Plan B

The overwhelming business of getting all of our stuff to Arkansas has forced some changes in plans.

As planned, Maria drove back to Indiana early Saturday - she left about 3:30 a.m. her time and rolled in her about 2 in the afternoon. And she left about 9 a.m. today, but she didn't swap cars with me as we had originally planned.

Her son Austin and one of his friends and I thrashed around with heavy, unwieldy loads all day Saturday and much of today and only now have furniture covering the floorspace of all four vaults.

At one point, it looked like we were going to have to jettison my $1,800 armoire because it just wouldn't fit into one of these vaults. Then, after much measuring, swearing and poking and prodding, we managed to remove the massive top from the piece and Austin and his friend sweated it into a vault on its side.

It didn't take long for Maria to recognize that I'd taken on an impossible task, given the time frame and the amount of stuff.

She proposed - and I agreed immediately - that she not swap cars with me - and take as much of our fragile electronic stuff, including my main computer, back to Jonesboro today in the Subaru.

In the meantime, she said it's not worth killing ourselves just to have all of our stuff in the new house within days of taking possession of it. Instead, she said we need to re-negotiate the pickup dates with the hauler and pay to have someone come in and do the packing and loading. I'm cheap, but I'm also smart enough to know when I've taken on an unrealistic challenge and I'm not in a hurry to have a heart attack or wreck my back.

So first thing tomorrow, I'll be on the phone to the SmartMove folks in Colorado and set up a more realistic timetable with some assistance - probably on the Jonesboro end as well as here in Indiana.

In the meantime, I just got a call from a guy interested in Morgan's drum kit that we advertised in the paper over the weekend. I'll be delighted to get that out of the house and I'm sure Morgan will be happy to have some cash.

Friday, October 12, 2007

The machine that changed my life

r100rs85shsmall Taking a break from packing and hauling to reflect on this photo of me on my fourth motorcycle, taken about this time of year 25 years ago.

I believe my son Steve was the photographer - his brother Sean had started his freshman year at Indiana University a couple of months earlier and was in Bloomington.

This is my first serious BMW motorcycle, a graphite gray 1981 R100RS, and it introduced me to the world of transcontinental touring. I'd had three other bikes - a 1970-something Kawasaki KE185, a 1971 BMW R50/5 and a 1978 Kawasaki KZ650, working my way up the displacement ladder from 185cc to 500cc to 650cc and finally to the full liter.

In its day, it was the coolest looking motorcycle in the world. At least I thought so. Because of U.S. restrictions, the speedo only went up to 85 mph. Above that speed, you consulted the tachometer and interpolated. I know I had it above 115 mph on U.S. 50 in Nevada, riding with Tim and Linda Balough to the BMW Motorcycle Owners of America national rally at Laguna Seca racecourse near Monterey, Calif. That was the next summer after this photo was taken - July, 1986 to be precise.

I was never the same after that trip.

Guess who the Nobel Peace Prize Committee wants the Democrats to nominate...

varv Now that Al Gore has won - actually co-won - the Nobel Peace Prize, he joins a select crowd of scam artists like Jimmy Carter, Kofi Annan, and Yasser Arafat.

What the hell? If this makes Hillary twitchy, I'm all for it.

Kudos to my former Indianapolis News colleague Gary Varvel for this great cartoon. Gary toils in the vineyards of The Indianapolis Star these days and continues to make us old Newsies proud.

Getting it right, six years too late


The new vinyl is down in most of the kitchen and it looks pretty damned good.

Kevin Brewer of Brewer Custom Floors and More of Avon is doing the work. His crew foreman told me yesterday that the reason the old vinyl didn't hold up - the seams kept separating - was because the drug-addled morons who installed it didn't staple/nail down the underlying luan properly. Just for the record, we paid more than $3,000 to Home Furniture in Lebanon, Ind., for that wretched job in the spring of 2001. The owner, Steve Smock, sent the same bunch of dopes up a couple of times to re-seal the seams and they always opened up again because the luan was moving around under the vinyl.

I had a feeling we were in trouble when one of Smock's workmen confided to me that he (the workman) was a recovering heroin addict.

Anyhow, we're well on our way to having a house we will truly hate to leave thanks to Kevin and his guys. They're nailing down the luan in the upstairs bathroom right now, preliminary to putting down the same pattern of vinyl there. It replaces a really nasty, stained tan carpet.

bath1 The new bathroom floor. Ignore the crappy cabinet, woodwork and wallpaper. One thing at a time...

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Seven years of living life on my terms

Today is the seventh anniversary of the day I walked away from my job as education reporter in the Metro North Bureau of The Indianapolis Star.

I hated The Star, mostly because it survived at the expense of the paper I gave my working life to - The Indianapolis News.

news87I started at The News on Feb. 6, 1967 and remained a Newsie through the staff merger with the sister paper, The Star, in 1995 and until the bean counters killed The News on Oct. 1, 1999.

The News was an evening paper and had all of the demographics and trends working against it. We had a smaller staff and a smaller budget than The Star, yet we routinely beat them to stories. When they got there first, we did it so well the next day that people forgot where they'd seen it first.

We liked to tell ourselves that we were, reporter for reporter, editor for editor and photographer for photographer, better than our counterparts at The Star. When the staffs were merged in '95 and we found ourselves working alongside The Star people, we were startled to discover - with a few notable exceptions - how right we had been to feel superior.

I started my career at The News on the City Desk as a rewrite man, that is I spent my mornings taking information from our police reporters and turning it into coherent stories. The rest of the day was spent rewriting press releases, working on news stories or feature stories. Later, I spent a couple of years as a makeup editor, often laying out all of the inside pages of the paper, then supervising the printers in the composing room as they assembled the pages. This was in the days of typewriters and linotype machines. That's pre-computer to you pups. I was in the last generation of newspaper people to work with what came to be called hot type. Computer generated newspapering with offset printing is called cold type.

I returned to the city room to join the staff of the State Desk, which  meant I covered anything outside of Marion County, in which Indianapolis is situated. As suburbia advanced into the surrounding counties, the paper's focus shifted to covering issues in those counties and the State Desk became the State-Suburban Desk. Then, in 1985, Managing Editor Frank Caperton decided we should further exploit the suburban market by creating special zoned editions - special sections devoted to the counties to the north, west and south. That meant the creation of three one-man bureaus. It came at a time when an arrogant twit had weaseled his way into power in the city room and seemed hell-bent on making a lot of good people miserable. Being on the State-Suburban Desk, I was out of his direct line of command, but it was still disturbing enough to motivate me to apply for the North Bureau chief position. I spent the next 10 years developing sources, cultivating a cadre of correspondents and covering events in Boone and Hamilton counties.

When the decision was made to merge the staffs of The News and The Star, I got folded into an expanded bureau as education writer. The papers went through a series of leadership changes, requiring many of us to reapply for our jobs multiple times - always a morale-building technique.

Then, in January, 1999, Publisher Eugene S. Pulliam died at the age of 84. Gene Jr., as we called him - his father was Eugene C. Pulliam, one of the founders of Sigma Delta Chi, the Society of Professional Journalists - grew up with The News. As a boy, he was an Indianapolis News carrier in Lebanon, Ind. He vowed The News would not be sold or closed while he lived. It only took the bean counters eight months to kill The News once Gene Jr. was gone.

Next came another round of management reshuffling against a background of greedy scrambling by Pulliam heirs to sell off what was left of the life work of Gene Jr. and his dad. I was already wanting out by the time it was announced the paper was being sold to Gannett.

It didn't take long for Gannett's management-by-fear style to suck the last remaining fun out of my job.

So when my mother died on Oct. 5, 2000, she gave me the golden parachute I needed. The day after her funeral, I read her will, consulted with my attorney and concluded I didn't have to do this anymore.

The next day - Oct. 11, 2000 - as I was driving to work, I called Maria on the cell phone and told her I was thinking about quitting.

"I dare you," she said.

So when I got to the office, I sat down at my desk, called Human Resources and told them to cash me in, I was done, as of today.

I asked the woman if I would suffer any consequences of not giving two weeks' notice.

"Do ever expect to need a job recommendation from us?" she asked.

After I stopped laughing, I assured her that I was confident that a 34-year career would speak for itself.

She noted that I had turned 55 a few months earlier and was eligible for early retirement with a reduced pension. OK, so I'm retiring.

Now, seven years later, I'm still waiting for the panic attack that never came. It was one of the most liberating experiences of my life and I suspect my example helped a few others make the jump as well.

Back in October, 1999, we held a wake for The News at the Fourth Estate, a huge recreational facility the Pulliams had created for News and Star employees and their families on the northeastside of Indianapolis. (Naturally, Gannett closed it and sold the land to developers.)

Here are some photos from that evening:


Here I am with longtime friend and Newsie Skip Hess.


Maria with Skip and author/columnist/raconteur/musician Mike Redmond.


Skip with The News' mascot Herman Hoglebogle.

news27As fate would have it, this photo collage mural of famous Hoosiers in the old News City Room, followed me to Thorntown. Gerry LaFollette (left), bought it at an auction of Indianapolis Press Club furnishings and donated it to the Thorntown Public Library. Gerry's family was from the Thorntown area. The guy on the right is Bill "Moose" Roberts who, like me, came to The News from the Tipton Tribune.

Paralyzed by progress

The flooring guys are at work in the kitchen, having moved the stove ) into the dining room (on some kind of supersmooth skids that did not scar the hardwood floor), along with the three parts of the Sellers cabinet.

Their truck has my car trapped and all of my hand truck paths to the vaults are blocked, so I can't go get more boxes and I couldn't haul them to the vaults if I had them.

The dogs are in their kennels in the storage barn, none too happy to be kicked out of the house by strangers.

Clown suit required


I was clearing out the kitchen this morning in anticipation of a floor covering crew coming at 9 a.m. to replace the vinyl flooring.

Gathering up the clutter, I found a copy of Road Runner magazine that I hadn't yet taken out of the plastic mailing bag. The cover photo was a front-on view of a motorcycle I didn't recognize, but the look struck me as strange.

So while I waited for the floor crew - they're 48 minutes late at this moment - I paged through the magazine and discovered the bike on the cover was the 2008 Victory Vision.

I realize there is no accounting for taste and there are doubtless a lot of people who think this bike is just what they've been waiting for.

But to my eyes, this is the most absurd looking motorcycle I've ever seen. They should call it the Victory Hallucination - a ponderous 800 pounds of absurdity that looks like something out of a 1930s Buck Rogers comic book.vv2

Or maybe the designer didn't go far enough with the '30s streamlined look. Here's my suggestion.

There aren't many motorcycles I would actually be embarrassed to be seen on, but the Victory Vision is at the top of that list.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Sweating in the cool October air

Looks like it's over. The hot weather, that is.

Indianapolis had a record 91 degrees on Monday, followed by a slightly cooler day yesterday and now today is overcast and cool. It's 2 p.m. and my porch thermometer reads 50 (that's 14 to you up in Canada, Lovisa).

We had an uncommonly long stretch of gorgeous crystalline warm October days over the last couple of weeks that seemed like a gift. Unfortunately, I've been so busy that I only noticed them in passing - no chance to get out on a motorcycle, since both of our bikes are in Arkansas.

I've been boxing and hauling books down from the attic today, thumping down the stairs with 100-pound loads on the big hand truck I bought the other day. After unloading about a dozen such boxes into one of our shipping vaults, I am having second thoughts about wanting to take the entire freaking library to Arkansas.

I'm going to be a bit more judicious about what goes into the next bunch of boxes. After all, Maria's parents enjoy trading in used books...

Well, back to the attic.

What can a poor boy do...

I just discovered a copy of the picture sleeve of the Rolling Stones' "Street Fighting Man" was recently offered at auction for $15,000.


Until now, I was feeling pretty good about having sold mine for $4,300 about 12 years ago.streetfightingman

"Street Fighting Man" is the rarest picture sleeve (paper envelope for a 45 rpm single) in the world. At last report, fewer than a dozen were known to exist.

I bought mine at a record store in downtown Indianapolis before London Records recalled them because of the supposedly inflammatory photo of cops beating antiwar demonstrators.

Hell, for all I know, this picture sleeve being offered for sale in Europe could have been mine. I sold my copy to a guy named Manfred in Austria.

I've still got about 500 pounds of vinyl albums up in the attic that will make the move to Arkansas.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Under Pressure

I'm pressure washing the house this morning.
This is my first experience with a pressure washer, so I'm proceeding gingerly. I put the softest nozzle on, lest I damage the vinyl siding.
It does a pretty spectacular job with its 3,500 psi blasts of water, pressureblowing away the green moldy crud growing on the north side of our house.
It also does a credible job of stripping away loose paint on porch railings I hope to get painted in the next few weeks. I did notice, however, that it also can splinter the surface of bare wood if I get the nozzle too close.
This would be a very cool thing to own, but the $1,300 pricetag makes a $64/day rental much more attractive.
I took a break about 10:15 a.m. for a cup of coffee to find the phone ringing. It was Maria, asking me to call the bank in Jonesboro and straighten out an misunderstanding about the purchase price of our new home and exactly that our down payment will be.
I've got that sorted out so now it's back to playing with the pressure washer. Gotta figure out how to get up on a ladder without having it sink into the soft wet ground and without the recoil of the pressure washer knocking me off my perch.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Two steps forward, two steps back

  I wasted most of a day waiting for the vaults to be delivered - the ones that were supposed to be here between 8 a.m. and noon.

The truck showed up about 3 p.m., which is when I had told the tool rental guys I would be by to pick up a pressure washer. I realized I was going to be late and called them at 2:30 to say I'd be in sometime before the closed at 5:30 p.m.

So then I drove up the street to my in-laws' house to borrow their pickup truck. But some morons delivering the two halves of a modular - read trailer trash with a foundation - home had the street blocked. So I had to take about an eight-mile detour to reach their house from the north and, naturally, I found myself behind a loaded grain truck as I approached the modular home clusterfuck from the fleetwoodnorth. Somehow the truck and I got by the house-half blocking the street and I got into their driveway, got into their pickup truck and headed off.

I got the pressure washer without incident. Two guys had loaded it into the bed of the truck by the time I finished the rental paperwork. The older guy opined I would need help unloading and loading it. But I'm working alone in this venture, so when I got home I manhandled the beast out of the back of the truck and endeavored to lower it to the ground without wrenching every muscle in my back. I think I got it done, although my back is a little sore now, some five hours later.handtruck

Then it was off to Lafayette and the Home Depot for a hand truck. The one I wanted was in the garden section which, of course, was cordoned off, while some rookie forklift operator very nearly dropped a pallet of eight gas grills from a height of about 20 feet. I got the one I wanted, threw it into the back of the pickup truck and took it home, then returned the truck.

Later this evening, I decided to do something useful, so I dragged the hand truck to the attic and loaded it with boxes of books that had never been unpacked from my move to this house in 2001. It was then that I discovered there was no air in the pneumatic tires and the tires were threatening to come off of the rims under the heavy load.

By now it was 10 p.m., I was drenched in sweat from the heat sink of whotouran attic, and I was in no mood to go out to the storage barn and screw around with the air compressor in the mosquito-infested dark.

So, to quote Pete Townshend in the Who's performance of My Generation and Cry if You Want during their 2007 tour, "Fuck it!"

I've kenneled the dogs for the night and will now sit down to watch TV with a very large rum and Coke Zero.

Yeah. Fuck it.