Feb 18

I learn more, know less, forget just as much: Memories

I was in the sixth grade when we heard the helicopter land. My school was on what was then a quiet little country road intersection, with a new interstate about a three-wood off the front lawn. It was a K-12 school then, and it was a school and a community hub in many ways. The only other development there then was on the diagonal lot, where a church was waiting for the exurb to grow, and the extra parishioners to come with it.

I think we were at lunch, and we heard the big thump thump thumping sound. It was a helicopter and it was low. We were due a new principal that day. The place had enjoyed the same woman running the joint for years, she’d become a favorite. (I believe she’s retired and living down at the beach now. Good for her.) This was a WPA school built to look like a prison, or a brutalish battleship, and we got a new chief, one full of fight. Or something. (She’s now a deputy superintendent at the state level.) So we thought this new person must be making a grand arrival. Thump, thump, thump, thump. A little much, we thought. Thump, thump, thump.

Now, we lived out in the suburbs of a suburb. It was quiet and peaceful. Twenty minutes this way, you were in a proper metropolitan city. Just beyond our front yard was the county line and then a whole lot of country. The setup was pretty grand, but on those old county roads you’d see more accidents than sheriffs or police, and we all knew where the helicopter landing plots were for medical emergencies. But that day we’d learned that the church across from the school was one of those pre-determined spots, too.

That helicopter, you see, wasn’t for the new principal, but for the flying ambulance. Across the open field from the lunch room and downstairs beneath the gym, a boy was on the floor just about bleeding out. He’d been changing from his gym clothes when a classmate apparently spun him around and stabbed him with a great big kitchen knife. I can still see the image of it from the television news later that night. A big, ghastly thing of a butcher knife. Meant for pot roasts, not for a 16-year-old boy’s chest. The doctors, we later heard, suggested that the guy was actually. A flinch this way, a hair that way, an entirely different story. The argument had to do with a basketball goal, but there was some longstanding thing going on as well.

Which, heck of a first day for the new woman, right?

The 15-year-old attacker was charged with murder. I’m not sure what happened with him.

And then in my junior or senior year a guy came off the street and onto campus to settle some score with a classmate. I didn’t see it, but the story went that that particular student was also very lucky, as he managed to somehow fight off an armed attacker. The details were always a little murky on that one. But another story was perfectly clear. In a second floor classroom one day that same year some kid was fiddling with a gun in his pocket and it went off. Somehow the bullet came through his pants, didn’t hit him and lodged in the floor. I distinctly remember this because that year I had a class in the room directly below it that semester. This guy apparently sprinted from the classroom, out the nearest door and threw the gun in the bushes. The gun, we heard, was never found.

These are stupid stories. The last two may be full of hearsay, to be honest. The first was very true; I remember it well. I knew the guy’s sister. There were other stories, and we lost classmates to horrible accidents. I was in a math class and heard someone come over the public address system in obvious tears to tell us that a boy in my grade had died from a gunshot wound. We knew he’d been clinging, I’m sure they told us the prognosis wasn’t the best. But we were still stunned. I’d played soccer with him for a year or two. Nice guy, talented kid. And then class carried on and a few days later I went to the funeral home and I’m sure said something foolish to his parents. It seemed like every year there was at least one fatal car accident to hear about, and you’d hear those helicopters every so often.

Ours was, by and large, a good school, a signature piece in the district, but we thought we’d seen and heard a lot. I have a hard time putting myself in those classrooms today, thinking what must it be like to have some story like that coming out of Parkland, Florida flooding the news. I have an impossible time imagining that in my old school, as I remember it. And I looked today at the young men and women I work with daily, just a year or two or four removed from their own high schools, and I am hard pressed to imagine how they would react to what we’ve seen and heard in the last two days. How could anyone know?

And so now we come to it: How does that shape those people? What is to become of them?

Feb 18

As it turns out, I know precisely what I was doing in 2005

My friend Zach Osterman, who is a sportswriter for the Indianapolis Star, a Georgia boy and a lover of Publix, came back on to to my little podcast today. We talked about sports, the Indianapolis Colts, specifically, and the coach that wasn’t the piece itself is a little older than I’d prefer, but its a good piece, and Zach is a thoughtful journalist and I like how he approaches the stories and especially how he wants to talk about the craft. I have always enjoyed that myself. So that’s fun.

And this episode is already one of the most popular ones of the show, so you should download it, or just use the player below, to see what all the cool kids are listening to:

I got home at a decent time tonight, because it is Wednesday and I can do that on Wednesdays. So I went to Menard’s, because you can buy anything there. I got a little paint and some lumber and now I have a weekend project. I’ll show it to you when I’m finished, provided it resembles my grand vision.

So as not to build any suspense, it is a small weekend type project. It’ll be put to use around the house, and it probably won’t be nearly as cool as some of the other projects. It’ll be utilitarian. But it might also look nice. Or the plan could go awry in any one of four or five different ways.

All of those outcomes will be fine, if I all of my fingers stay attached to my body.

We went out for Valentine’s dinner. We usually don’t do this, because we prefer to avoid all of the various amateur nights throughout the year. Usually we are celebrating our first officially unofficial official date this week.

[There was a group of six of us in graduate school, The Chess Club, and we’d all been running around together for several months by then. I just checked in on them all and they’re all doing great, by the way … And I still have my chess piece.]

[So on Feb. 13 there was a dinner party. I remember the date. We had something called excited chicken, which was tasty, and there was an ultra-competitive Trivial Pursuit game. The specific game and meal I recall from old blog posts. (And, reading things I was writing, you could really tell I was in graduate school at the time.) I also recall Los Lonely Boys was playing on our hostess’ stereo that night. But what was most important was the group figured us out before we had. Someone, or maybe several or all of them, decided The Yankee and I might actually be a couple, rather than two people. And we came to realize, hey, you know, they might be right. We’d arrived at that party together, rather than separately. And that’s how we come to find ourselves at the Japanese steakhouse tonight, give or take 13 years.]

So we figured, why not? Well, because it is amateur night. But that could be part of the fun, we figured. And it was!

Also, it turns out the Japanese steakhouse in town has just relocated. They’ve gone from one of those little buildings that orbits a strip mall to the actual strip itself. And, also, most of the waitstaff was brand new tonight, except for our server, and she was happy to bag on the new people who were sitting people randomly and without communicating new store developments and spilling soups and forgetting salads and what not.

Valentine’s Day week is probably not the best night to start a new staff in your restaurant, to be fair to those people. But there we all were. Us and the strangers you sit with at a Japanese steakhouse, exchanging good natured small talk and sharing knowing glances about the guy who spilled the soup, but did not clean it up, and then the latecomers to the table who managed to sit in an awkward fashion around the chef, making him really change it up as he launched zucchini at us.

And now back home to watch more Olympics.

Fun as that is, for my money, the Trivial Pursuit was better.

Feb 18

გთხოვთ, წავიკითხე მთელი რამ

One of the things I get to do is teach students how to use new equipment. And one of the areas that has become partly mine are the audio production booths. Can’t imagine why.

Anyway, WIUX, the campus radio station, which is very large, probably has a new group every other week that I get to show how to do this or that, and then we book them to do this or that in one of our production studios. I also get to tell them they can do these same things in their own studios, but that doesn’t offer a solution they like, somehow.

I get it, the production facilities on campus are nice. But if we knew what podcasts were back in my college radio days, I would have never let the booths in the station. Which, come to think of it, I spent an awful lot of time in those production booths anyway. And most of the gear here is much, much nicer than what I learned on. Part of that is the endless march of technology, and also the esteem of things. Indiana has put so much into the student experience and their production opportunities in The Media School that most places just can’t measure up. And I get to work there and learn all of the gadgets and play with them and teach them to others. So I get it. We have some super nice setups.

I was in one of those booths today with five students and I ended up having to pass out a few business cards. So I reached into my pocket and pulled out my business card holder:

One of the guys said “Whoever made that for you is a true friend.”

Well, I made it myself, so here’s to hoping!

It was a weekend project. I made three of them one evening. Different cuts, different stain patterns, and I rotate through them. Everyone thinks they are great, but they are a bit on the thick side and they could probably use a better finish. But they keep my cards from being bent.

I might try some more out of different materials, because there will, hopefully, be another evening that needs a project.

Today’s podcast was about a column about men’s basketball in Colorado. The program at Colorado State is a mess and a writer there has an interesting idea of how to get things cleaned up. At first, the story sounds exactly just like that. But the more you get into it, the more interesting it becomes, and the more interest this episode generated.

The analytics tell me that this little podcast is now truly global. Australia, Canada and Georgia (the country in Eurasia, not the 13th state) all registered downloads this week. I don’t know what the people in Georgia like the most about the program so far, but if they’ve found their way here, I’d just like to say this: I’ve listened to your anthem, Tavisupleba, and it is quite stirring.

If you haven’t had enough talking yet, here’s a show my sports crew produced for last weekend. It’s still steamy and the takes are still hot, as they say, so check it out:

What? That’s not how they say that? Maybe it should be. Have you thought of that?

Dec 17

A nice medium-run on old haunts

If you look way down this pedestrian lane, you’ll see The Yankee:

This is a mile-long bridge, and if it wasn’t for all of that chainlink, which is at times brings up feelings claustrophobic, and then absurdly pointless, it would feel meditative. It is a relatively new bridge. It’s only about 15 or so years old, already on its second name. It was originally the Patton Island Bridge, but now it is the more elegant, and historical, Singing River Bridge, which is the name the Yuchi tribe gave to the Tennessee River.

Most of the road traffic goes over this bridge, but it hasn’t always been that way, of course. Just a few miles away, there’s a dam.

This is a view from Wilson Dam, which was built between 1918-1924 and was later incorporated into the Tennessee Valley Authority:

It is a narrow, two-lane dam. It was always a bit intimidating when I was a kid. My mom and I would drive it, one of the last little bits of road on the two-hour trip to my grandparents. And she would tell me about how she learned how to drive on that dam, in the snow.

Well, I haven’t done that. But last summer I did ride my bike over the dam. And this weekend I ran over it. (On the sidewalk.)

It has less traffic now, because of the Singing River Bridge, but it is still narrow:

Here we are on the dam, midway through our run, still on the sidewalk:

The dam, named after President Woodrow Wilson, was put on the historic registry in 1966, and boasts the highest single lift lock east of the Rocky Mountains.

And here’s the Wilson Dam, once more, from the Singing River Bridge:

It was a seven-mile run, and it was fun, the weather was pleasant, and uncomfortable. I was beginning to think my shoes might be done. And after a three-mile run today, and checking the miles on this pair of Saucony, I decided it was official:

So, at 300 miles, on the nose, actually, I have to go shopping for new jogging shoes.

Elsewhere, there was plenty of family and visiting this weekend. Heading back out tomorrow for a few more days of work, and then more holidays.

More on Twitter and on Instagram.

Nov 17

And now, another installment of Storytime

The Yankee was out of town visiting with friends and family this weekend. It goes like this: her godparents have known her parents, individually for years. Her godfather and father grew up together. Her godmother and mother met in nursing school.

Now the two of them met at their friends’ wedding. They got married. Along came The Yankee and they became her godparents. The godparents had two daughters and The Yankee’s parents are their godparents. Now those young ladies are of course grown and have beautiful families of their own. They all got together this weekend.

The oldest of those kids was up for a story. So I found myself digging through, and passing along, photos last night.

Here are two now.

This first one is from the Cayman Islands. It was a graduation trip. We were off diving for a week and the locals helped us find a dolphin. He’d just turned up one day, they said, and was very social. They figured he might have been a part of a Central American dolphin venue, where customers likely interacted with him, but a hurricane had damaged where he lived and so he was back in the wild. But he enjoyed people. He didn’t like SCUBA divers, but he’d swim with you. And if you tried to out-swim him, he’d let you know who was boss.

But to swim with a dolphin, to pet and play with a dolphin in the wild, that was a terrific experience, just one small part of a great trip.

And here’s one of The Yankee and me:

It was one of our first family trips. My bunch went to Belize, where we did a lot of diving and horseback riding and exploring Mayan ruins. We didn’t see any dolphins this time, but I did get to catch a bunch of reef sharks by hand while SCUBA diving. (I’ll have to find those pictures.) That was another great trip. Even the snorkeling selfies were great.