Jul 17

Visiting the middletown*

Wrapped up the week and then hopped in the car and turned north. And I drove through clouds and rain for about two hours.

Here’s my before view:

And after the rain, when I was off the highways and moving between now-flooded country roads, this is the after view:

I met up with The Yankee and her friend, Anne, at a pizza joint. And then we drove over to a hotel near Muncie. She’s doing the Ironman 70.3 tomorrow. I’ll be schlepping some of the gear and trying to stay in the shade. But the ladies will have a great race. Anne’s husband Bill and I will be grilling hamburgers. So it should be a nice Saturday all the way around.

*Middletown was the name given to Muncie in a series of 1920s sociological studies. The name was meant to disguise the city — the people there eventually figured it out — and to suggest a typical small town America, in a conceptual sense. And that is all the sociology you get from my seat in a Best Western. More here Monday. Perhaps check out Twitter or Instagram between now and then.

Jul 17

She is the original multitasker

What does this image have to do with anything? I’m so glad you asked, because there is an answer and you will find that answer, and be intrigued by the premise behind it, just below this now ancient comic strip cell:

I’m returning to the dabbles of a long-ignored section of the site, Aubra’s Books. It started with a Bible, and then five other books. And now I have all of my grandfather’s textbooks and magazines and things. So I have a few boxes of great mid-20th century illustrations and advertisements to check out. Some of them I’ll scan and upload, of course. Today I’m sharing a few pages out of a couple of notebooks. And you can find them, including that comic, here. I also have a few images from an old English and science text here.

I haven’t touched this section of the site in years, so now I’m wondering if I should redesign the site. I had to re-work a few things tonight, so I hope not. But, style being such as it is …

To distract us from that, there’s this. On campus right now there is a group called the Mandela Fellows. They are 25 of Africa’s young leaders from about 20 countries, taking on a six-week academic and leadership program. I’d met a few of them last week.

Today, however, I had the chance to sit down with four ladies who are taking part in the fellowship. They are recording a few podcast-ish shows about their experiences and today I did a little board op work for them.

It’s an easy thing, it involves two buttons and a few mixers on a board. You could do it blindfolded, and they made it easy. But the ease of it let me hear some of their stories, and listen to them talk about their work back home, which they are all very passionate about. There’s a dean and a journalist and some activists that you might say are similar to our social workers.

To hear them talk about their work, and what they see here, and what they want for their communities, is moving. I hope they’ll show me where they post the conversation, so I can share it with you here.

Tonight, dinner with an old friend from out of town. He has some family here and he makes a visit every summer and his aunt and uncle are nice enough to share him with us for a few hours. It wasn’t nearly enough time to catch up completely, but plenty of time to consider our next two or three meetings.

Between one of those, and a bicycling trip we recently dreamed up, our next two vacations may be spoken for.

Jul 17

Happy Fourth

Hope you had a lovely day of it, he said while waiting for all of his neighbors to stop demonstrating their mastery of a modern application of ancient chemistry. I don’t suppose it would do any good if I went out there and asked them to stop, since it is after 10 p.m., would it?

Anyway, we woke up, packed the car, had a nice little barbecue lunch with my mother and grandfather and got on the road. And there we stayed for the entire afternoon. It is a drive. And so here are some pictures, and all of them will age better than fireworks.

Since you like rainbows, here is one we saw on Friday, somewhere in Kentucky, or perhaps Tennetucky:

And this is probably, technically, the same rainbow. I find it hard to keep them straight, especially when I am moving around. It emerged from the same storm system so, at the very least, the two were cousins:

I was talking about genealogy yesterday, because my grandmother and I were reading old names and dates and such on Sunday. She was sharing pictures, and here are two of them. This is my paternal great-grandfather, a man I never knew:

This picture hangs on a wall at my grandparents’ house. Its one of those things you pass by and don’t really know until you ask about it, I guess. I know exactly four things about the man. But, The Yankee says she sees where I get my hair. She has said about that man’s son, my grandfather, and she’s usually right about most everything, so it is a safe bet.

On the same side of my family, this is my other paternal great-grandfather:

My grandmother, his daughter, believes our hero is the young man on the right. He died before I turned three, so I don’t have any memory of him, or his wife, my great-grandmother, who died just a bit later. I do, however, see a few particular pictures of them a lot. They are an older couple, he has a flattop and she also looks just so. They are handsome and they look kind and welcoming. That’s the man I see in my mind’s eye. But this guy, with the wide hat, he looks like an interesting fellow too.

I wonder what we’d think of people we know if we’d had the chance to meet them in some other place in their lives …

Meanwhile, this is a time-traveling hipster:

The caption says this is a sesquicentennial anniversary for a Tennessee county, and that the photo was taken in 1959. The book was published at the turn of this century and, thus, the only logical conclusion is that this man is a time-traveling hipster.

Truly, that’s the last great frontier of Internet conspiracy theories.

Anyway, back to today. The view while driving back to the house, somewhere in southern Indiana:

Allie is a great traveler, but this drive gets to everyone after a while:

There is a great deal of scenery to enjoy in the trip. First there are hills and pine trees and the occasional hardwood of Tennessee, and then all of the trees of Kentucky. In the last third of the trip:

All the barns and corn and silos and corn you can enjoy. And I do enjoy the views a great deal.

Traffic was light. Everyone was where they needed to be. It only rained for about half an hour and we got home just in time to unload the car, have a late dinner and watch today’s stage of the Tour. Tomorrow, it is back to work and email and journalism and recording things and getting back to the routine, here, as well. Meanwhile, there’s always Twitter and Instagram for you.

Jul 17

Catching up

We are wrapping up a trip to my folks, a four-day visit to the ancestral stomping grounds, and I do mean ancestral. I’ve been brushing up on a few branches of the family tree. Turns out there are parts of my family that have been in northwestern Alabama when the state was merely a territory.

We arrived late Friday, just in time to go to sleep. Woke up Saturday and had a casual day of it. After church yesterday we spent the afternoon with my grandmother. She gave me another branch of the family tree to look into. And then we went to a nearby cemetery and found the grave of my great-great-grandfather.

Apparently, no one knew where he was buried. I figured it out online from a few hundred miles away, thanks to the Internet. After about six minutes of walking through neatly mown grass in the twilight I found the actual marker. You can’t miss it, really. I’m not sure how no one in the family knew. The marker just has his first and middle initials rather than his full name, though, so I suppose that’s part of it. Anyway, there he is, marked by a stone that tells the tell in just seven letters and a few numbers. He died more than a half-century before I was born. He was younger than I am now. He probably worked harder than I ever will. And there, next to him, is his wife, my great-great-grandmother, who died 24 years before I was born. I don’t know anything about them, otherwise, or, today at least, what their parents names were, but I’ve at least proven they existed. I’ve driven by their cemetery all of my life and didn’t know they were there.

Today was a pool day and a cookout day and a dodge the rain day. We went for a quick bike ride and then helped cleaned and then entertained the kids and then jumped in and out of the pool and ducked thunderstorms. I taught a three-year-old how to swim, sort of. It was a fine day, all told, then.

And we’re back here, as well! Back to the old Monday through Friday schedule. And here are a few June pictures to wrap up the month before … well, July 4th … when we’ll be … pretty much stuck in the car all day … So, yeah, enjoy some pictures!

This is a flower on campus that I walk by regularly. There’s really nothing special to it. I was trying to get the ants to cooperate with my phone’s almost-focal length. But I think the pollen became more interesting in the end:

We rode our bikes a fair amount, of course. This is a picture we took on our anniversary, actually. I thought it was nice of The Yankee to slow down and let me catch up:

She’s a nice person like that.

Allie is hard at work, just so you know:

I took this shot the other night at 8:50 p.m. There is a summertime advantage of living so far to the west in the Eastern Time Zone:

Later, that same night, I took this picture:

It is a fine perk, really.

Jun 17

Happy anniversary to us

We were standing in the heat. We were with my family and hers. Her friends and mine. Someone was going to have to travel so we made them all travel. And everyone was there, in Savannah, where we’d taken our first trip, across the street from “our tree” and the place where we’d also gotten engaged. We had everyone sitting outdoors on the hottest weekend of the summer — you couldn’t reserve a space in August, I figured, because people would melt — and they were there for us.

My uncle was down there at the end of the aisle. He’d promised to tie us in a knot we wouldn’t easily get out of. I walked down and stood beside him. Then The Yankee came down on her father’s arm and she was smiling to light up the world.


Now we’re in front of everyone and I remembered that it would have been nice to say something profound and special to her parents, but how do you say in a whisper, in a moment, that you’re going to try your absolute hardest to spend all of your time watching out for their daughter and trying to make her laugh? How do you tell two people all the things you want them to hear in a single sentence? And how do you look back among the small group of people who have traveled from many points on the map and thank them for taking their time to be there? How do you apologize to them, with a wink, for the heat they are sitting in?

My uncle, he’s delivering this lovely service, and it is just perfect because I’ve heard him preach a little, but mostly sing my entire life. I can pick out his voice in a crowded church of singing people from the back of a room and now he’s putting words to thoughts about what I’m supposed to do with all of my days to come.


Almost all of our two small families are there, and the fullness of that is such a special and lasting thought. In all of this time and in all of my sentiment I can’t get the importance of that down in a statement. Our friends, meanwhile, are live-tweeting the thing. Everyone is waving a sandalwood folding fan. There’s a string quartet over there to the left playing a set list that she’s picked out and there’s a candle to this side that is probably just melting in the radiating Savannah summer heat. Later, our friends will say I turned white, but it was the heat and the wool as much as the moment. That heat defines most everyone’s memory of the day, because every wedding has some kind of character.

She’s saying a part and she’s tearing up a little and I whisper something about taking her time. Like she needs this advice. This is one of the strongest, smartest people I know and this platitude is silly even as I say it, but there should be no rush here. There is rushing aplenty in our lives and we’ll get to all of that eventually and sometimes you should just take your time more, and that ceiling fan hanging inside the tent is doing nothing.


Now it is time for the kiss and I did something funny and our friends and family chuckled and then the ceremony was complete and we went back inside and into this fancy restaurant attached to the mansion where we got married. We had a lovely dinner where I learned what it means when they tap a knife on a glass. We went outside for night photos and it was somehow hotter and muggier. The festivities went long into the night.

And they’ve gone far into the years that have followed on adventures with our friends and families and at home and abroad and in all the big and little and pleasantly unexpected and perfectly predictable parts of life. Eight years of laughter and a relationship that gets better all of the time. We were standing in the heat, and our relationship just gets warmer.