Category Archives: Indianapolis 500

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“The optimist thinks this is the best of all possible worlds. The pessimist fears it is true.” — J. Robert Oppenheimer

FOR THE BIRDS

Steve the Dog and I enjoyed the last of the really pleasant dusks of the season at Lake Monroe Thursday.

We go to Cutright and Paynetown three or four nights of the week to watch the sunset. Well, I watch the sunset — Steve is too busy sniffing every surface he can put his snoot near.

I got a special treat Thursday when two magnificent Great Blue Herons took flight together across the water from the direction of the Paynetown ramp all the way toward Mellencamp’s manse.

The birds were so close to the surface of the water that the tips of their wings occasionally plinked up a bit of water as they flapped.

Starting Friday, though, the lake area became a madhouse, meaning similar solitary sightings will become far rarer for the next three months or so. The campgrounds were overflowing, the trailer lots were packed, the shores were lined with fisherbeings casting their lines — I think I saw one woman reel in the man who was fishing next to her.

Of course, it’s the Memorial Day weekend but the summer season seems to be getting off to a chaotic start, what with a couple of knuckleheads wrasslin’ and horsin’ around until one of them drowned.

On a more pleasant note at an apparently less perilous lake, some people have seen one or more Brown Pelicans at Patoka Lake, about 50 miles south of us. Here’s a photo taken May 12 by Amy and Noah Kearns:

A week later, a fellow named Jim Sullivan snapped some glorious shots of the bird:

Who knows? Perhaps the pelican or one of his kin will make the trek up to Lake Monroe this summer. I hope so — toward that end, Steve the Dog and I will continue to run down to Cutright and Paynetown despite all the wrasslin’ and all the people trying to snag each other with their fishing hooks. He’ll sniff, I’ll keep my eyes open.

BEAUTY

Just in case you’re one of those Luddites who believe everything created by science and industry is the handiwork of the devil, I submit this:

The Golden Gate Bridge opened 75 years ago today.

It is not only a triumph of humankind’s engineering prowess but of our capacity to create art.

ALL THE LUCK

How about that Dario Franchitti? If I’m him, I play the lottery. He won the Indy 500 yesterday, he’s one of the most successful IndyCar drivers in the world, he’s a charming and charismatic personality whom the TV talk shows love to have on, he’s loaded, and he’s married to the scrumptious and very cool Ashley Judd.

Hi Honey, I’m Home!

Some guys, huh?

ME TOO

Not that I’m lacking in the luck department. Here’s the latest on The Loved One. We purchased our first riding mower the other week.

We let it sit in the garage for a while, mainly because we were afraid to touch it. But by and by the lawn started looking rather rainforest-y so T-Lo gave the word, Let’s crank it up.

Sure, honey, I said, at which point I turned on my other side and fell back into a delicious snooze. Next thing I knew, I heard T-Lo pushing the contraption out of the garage to the driveway where she could fill its tank and try to turn the engine over.

Our New Hot Rod

I hauled myself up off the sofa and went to help, which is code for watching her do the work. She eventually dragged me into the process, though, and between the two of us we had the thing running within a half hour.

Okay, I said, it works. Let’s put it away now.

T-Lo had other ideas, though. She began mowing the front lawn with a demonic look on her face. Within minutes, she was handling the thing the way Dario Franchitti wheels his IndyCar around the Brickyard.

You sure you don’t want me to do it? I yelled over the roar of the engine. She gave me a look that implied I’d get myself bloodied if I tried to get her off it.

Now our lawn is the envy of the neighborhood. BTW: I was fast asleep again before T-Lo was finished.

HONOR

Memorial Day. All the radio and TV stations as well as the newspapers and websites are chock full of stories about how wonderful we are because men have been willing to die for our holy land.

When I was a kid, I drank that brand of Kool-Aid. It was easier to believe it all then. The fellows who fought in what Studs Terkel dubbed the Good War, were still around, many of them in the latter parts of their prime. My own daddy-o was drafted in 1945 and was just about to get an all-expenses paid trip to the South Pacific when the Army Air Corps dropped the Fat Man on Hiroshima. He was lucky.

A Hundred Thousand Died So I Could Be Conceived

Memorial Day was a celebration of brave humans who sacrificed their lives so Fascists and Nazis and Imperialists wouldn’t take over the Earth.

Since then, though, it is these Great United States, Inc. that has become the empire. Thankfully, we’re not Fascists or Nazis despite what some overwrought drama junkies care to believe. Still, we often bully our way from one end of the globe to the other.

Korea, Iran, Guatemala, Cuba, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Nicaragua, Grenada, Iraq, Somalia, Bosnia, Afghanistan, Libya, Pakistan — we’ve been racking up the advantage miles for some 70 years now.

Nam

Some of our little adventures have been noble. Well, noble-ish. Trying to stop the warlords of Somalia from slicing up the people there, or helping put an end to the Qaddafi crime syndicate were quasi-admirable decisions. Throwing the Taliban out of Afghanistan was good. Curbing Serb and Croat bloodlust in Bosnia had to be done.

But ousting the democratically elected president of Iran for the benefit of British Petroleum? Bucking up the corrupt petit-tyrants of Vietnam? Those were the acts of the world’s biggest bully.

American men and women lost their lives in many of those follies, too. They died because we weren’t so wonderful.

The truth is every nation demands its people die for it. Wehrmacht soldiers were just as willing to offer up limb or future for the cause as some farm kid in Iowa.

If we really wanted to honor people like Miles Craig or Ron Kovic, we’d demand our elected leaders knock off the bully-boy games.

Ron Kovic At 1972 Anti-War Rally

The truth is, though, we don’t give a shit about Miles Craig or Ron Kovic. We’re more concerned with drinking the Kool-Aid.

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“There is less to this than meets the eye.” — Tallulah Bankhead

IT’S A MIRACLE!

So, this little old guy named Boshkov walks into the Book Corner yesterday while I’m holding court.

There are about five people clustered around the check-out counter in a semi-circle, listening to me tell them the tallest of tales, the most dramatic of which is about how the docs are going to slice my eyeball open tomorrow morning and implant a hunk of plastic where my old lens used to be.

I tell them I’ve been virtually blind in my left eye for a couple of years. Then I confide that maybe, just maybe, I shouldn’t have been driving all this time, considering I’ve been a cyclops for so long. Dan the Jeweler tells me there was an early, two-time Indy 500 champion who was actually blind in one eye. The rest of us marvel at this and reaffirm to each other how important it is to have binocular vision when driving, for perspective and all that, you see.

Tommy Milton, Half-Blind Speed King

There’s a lot of nodding going on and then one of the women remarks what a brave trouper I am, facing such a gory procedure. I give her the old “Aw gee, me?” treatment, although her comment is what I was after in the first place.

Meanwhile, the little old guy Boshkov is standing just outside the semicircle, waiting patiently with a few bucks in his hand, listening.

“Oh my gosh,” I say, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to keep you waiting.”

He tells me it’s quite alright as he walks up the counter. He lays his few bucks down to pay in advance for Sunday’s New York Times. I ring him up and check his name off on our reserve list.

“Pardon me for eavesdropping,” he says in a courtly, old European manner, “but did I hear you say you were having eye surgery tomorrow?”

“Why, yes I did,” I say.

“Cataract?”

“Yup.”

“Believe me. I’ve had it done. It’s nothing. Don’t be afraid,” he says.

Which I’m not, although I’m also not thrilled he’s revealing this inside information to my audience.

“It’s Nothing.”

“You see,” he continues, “you’ll be able to see again.” He points to his own eye. “It’s a miracle!”

Now, the crowd turns to him and congratulates him. Well, hell, I suppose I can share a bit of the glory. Finally little old Boshkov tells us he has to be buzzing off. He turns to leave but then halts, turns back to me, and iterates, “It’s a miracle!”

Well, tomorrow morning is now today. My miracle day.

I’m due at Doc Grossman’s Eye Center of Southern Indiana at 9:45am. Dr. Joe Mackey will be handling the switchblade. I’m lucky if he’s half my age. The profile of him in the slick, glossy pamphlet for the Eye Center says he’s recently married. He probably had to get parental permission to do so.

He’d better be good. When I saw him a couple of weeks ago, he came thisclose to saying he can do this procedure in his sleep. I hope he’s awake, regardless.

Mackey

I should be out of the place by noon.

I may or may not add to this post after I get home, depending on how wonderful I feel, thanks to the substances they’ll have doped me up with prior to carving up my eye.

If I’m too blissed out, I’ll see you tomorrow.

Fingers crossed for a miracle.

THESE EYES

The Guess Who hit from my favorite year, 1969.

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