Tuesday, February 27, 2007

In the eye of the beholder

You may have read about Delta Zeta sorority at DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana kicking out all their black and overweight members. This is one of the most sickening stories I’ve come across lately, in a world full of sickening stories. These babes need to be humiliated and spurned.

Still, I remember how much I disliked fraternities and sororities when I was in college. To me it was evident they chose members based on looks, money, and other qualities that I couldn’t measure up to. My friends and I in Willkie Quad proudly self-identified as “GDIs” or god-damned independents.

Though there are certain parts of college I wish I could go back and do differently, joining a fraternity is not one of them.


Monday, February 19, 2007

Walkin' in Memphis

We spend most of our time at home in the country or our small university town, so E. and I were in need of an urban fix. Chicago is usually our first choice, but it’s been unusually cold lately, and we knew it would be worse if we went 250 miles further north. Why not head south?

That took us to Memphis, where we stayed at an artsy/lofty/quaint guesthouse called Talbot Heirs, just across the street from the famous Peabody Hotel—the place with the ducks in the fountain. It was a perfect location for an immersion into the city’s Downtown.

Friday night we had the requisite barbecue (and now I proclaim, Memphis reigns!) After that, we wandered in to the Blues Hall on Beale Street, a funky club dripping with history, where The Dr. Feel Good Potts Band played some of the best blues I’ve heard. We lingered there into what I thought were the wee hours. I was shocked when got back to our room and found it was only 10:45—but then it had been a long drive.

On Saturday we took the trolley to the National Civil Rights Museum. Walking up Mulberry Street, I kind of choked as I glimpsed the facade of the Lorraine Motel, an image that was seared into my brain in 1968 when Martin Luther King was gunned down there. The exhibits included a bus like the one Rosa Parks rode, a reconstructed Woolworth lunch counter and KKK robes. The displays tell such a troubling—yet inspiring—story.

I didn’t expect a great meal in a small city, but we both agreed Saturday’s dinner at Automatic Slim’s Tonga Club was among the best we’d ever had—anywhere.

I think my favorite experience of the weekend was buying a sweater and two shirts at Lanskys in the lobby of the Peabody. There are pictures on the wall of Mr. Lansky fitting Elvis in 1952. I asked the 80-year old guy waiting on me if that was him in the picture. “Yes,” he said. Then he went on to tell me he’d lived in Memphis all his life, and how much he loved his hometown. I told him that after just a couple of days there, I agreed it was a pretty great place.

On Sunday we had brunch with old friends Jeanne and Bill Goodrich who have retired back to their hometown. The experience was kind of “Old South” because men are required to wear jackets on Sunday at their place. Jeanne and Bill’s sunny, southern dispositions brightened our family’s lives when they were our next-door neighbors in Indianapolis in the 1960s and it was great to reconnect with them.


Monday, February 12, 2007

Not ready to make nice either

Huzzahs to the Dixie Chicks for sweeping the Grammys. Do they hold grudges? “Without going through what we did, we wouldn’t have been able to make this album” one of them said.

I spent the weekend with family in Indianapolis, and got into an argument with my brother-in-law about the war in Iraq while I was helping him wash the dishes. He broke a crystal bowl in the sink. I felt sad as I carried the shards out to the trash. This war has broken families apart just as much as it has Iraq. We should’ve been laughing and talking about the Colts Superbowl win, not trying to make each other right or wrong. Reflecting on it, I feel such certainty that the war is wrong. Even though I love my brother-in-law, I'm not ready to make nice either. Fucking George Bush.


Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Fan dancers

When my mom was moving into an assited living facility a few years back, we were sorting through her things and I found a box of mementos from my dad, who died in 1981. Among the items was a little notebook where he must have jotted down his thoughts on an almost daily basis. I never knew he kept the little book, and reading its tattered pages brought tears as well as smiles as I reconnected with him through it.

Dad always talked of his adventures, and one of his favorites was his first trip out of Indiana to the Century of Progress World’s Fair in Chicago. It was 1933, and as a 19-year old farm boy, he was quite taken with Sally Rand. Here’s what he had to say about it years later:

“People are funny.
Some object to the fan dancer;
Others object to the fan."

The quote made me laugh out loud. It’s so funny and pithy I can’t be sure if he thought of it on his own, or if he copied it down after he heard it from someone else. At any rate, I suspect he was one of the people who objected to the fan. Curtis Nolan was that kind of guy.


Monday, February 05, 2007

Indianapolis’ moment

Pro football is one of those things I never cared much about—until the Indianapolis Colts made it into the Superbowl. I couldn’t pull myself away from yesterday’s game, and was jubilant when the home team won.

All last week I read snarky comments from people in Chicago. The worst was “The RCA Dome is 188 miles from Soldier Field. Chicagoans say it’s more like they’re 188 years apart.” Well, now Indiapolitans have the last laugh.

One thing about Indianapolis is that it’s usually under the radar. Over the last 25 years, while other cities were struggling to reinvent themselves, Indy quietly built its reputation as a sports capital, and new venues started cropping up all over downtown. Suddenly, people started moving back into the city too; it became a very hip thing to do. The streets came alive almost overnight, and now there are theatres, jazz clubs, galleries and museums galore in interesting old neighborhoods. Still, the rest of the country persists in its view of the city as India-no-place. When we lived in Philadelphia, we had to listen to slurs and jokes about red-state hicks quite often. These from people in a town where kids get killed on their way to school.

When the Colts won, I wanted to get on the road immediately and drive to Monument Circle. The four-and-a-half hour drive from here meant that I wouldn’t get there until the celebrations were over, so I decided that would be silly. The Superbowl glow will keep Indy charged up for quite awhile. At least until the Indy 500 in May.