Hot Air: Signing, Singing, Soaring

Signs Of The Times

Had a brief pre-coffee chat w/ one of the folks running for Bloomington city council this AM. This person — let’s call her/him Tyler — says the incumbent s/he’s running against is playing dirty pool. The incumbent, sez this challenger, is getting a bunch of apartment building owners to put up yard signs (for the incumbent) on their properties.

The challenger doesn’t like this because, s/he asks, “What about all the people who live in the apartments? Do they all support the incumbent?”

Turns out the practice is not illegal nor is it much frowned upon in casual conversation among pols. Still, the challenger says, “When people put yard signs up in front of the homes, you know that’s the voice of the person who lives there.”

Fair enough. I pointed out, though, that businesses — restaurants, specialty shops, taverns, etc. — put up candidates’ signs all the time. That’s no guarantee that the business owners’ employees want those candidates to win.

You’re looking for every edge you can get, I guess, when you’re running for office.

Eyeless in Daytona Beach

I love this story. In 1915, some smart alecks came up with an idea for a prank. Send an airplane up and have someone therein drop a baseball from it. Then see if a catcher could actually, y’know, catch it, down on the ground, a few hundred feet below.

Interestingly, it doesn’t matter how high the airplane would be because, as all us post-Galileo humans know, objects reach a terminal velocity when falling. So it’s not as though if the plane were 15,000 feet high the ball would end up speeding down to Earth at thousands of MPH.

Anyway, the two smart alecks recruited an old catcher named Wilbert Robinson, who by then had become the manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, to don his catcher’s gear and try to catch the pelota while the team was in spring training at Daytona Beach, Florida. The plane went up, circled overhead, Robinson craned his neck, looking straight up in the air, pounded his mitt, and got ready to gather the spheroid in.

BTW: the people behind the prank were future Hall of Fame manager Casey Stengel, one of the game’s most storied characters (he’s famous for aphorism and malapropisms like “The key to being a good manager is to keep the five guys who hate you away from the five guys who haven’t made up their minds yet,” and “They say some of my stars drink whiskey but I have found that those who drink milkshakes don’t win many games”) and noted aviatrix Ruth Law Oliver. She would go on to set a distance speed record by flying from Chicago to New York State, some 590 miles, the next year.

Wilbert Robinson, a fireplug of a man at 5’8″ and 215 pounds, watched the object drop into his mitt from an original altitude of 520 feet. It hit the leather with a sickening splat. Robinson screamed, “Help me lads! I’m covered in my own blood!”

The players and reporters who’d gathered around to watch the stunt roared with laughter. What Robinson hadn’t known was Oliver somehow had forgotten to bring a baseball up with her in the plane. Thinking quickly, she’d grabbed a grapefruit from her brown bag lunch and dropped it instead. Naturally, it exploded when it hit Robinson’s mitt and thereby splattered him not with his own blood but grapefruit juice. Some of the juice had got into his eye, resulting in stinging pain. Robinson thought the momentum of the “baseball” had put his eye out, the poor bastard.

Another version of the story has Stengel convincing Oliver to drop a grapefruit rather than a baseball even before she’d gone up. I prefer the other story.

Robinson took the prank in good stride. Hell, he was probably thrilled to realize he hadn’t lost an eye or several pints of blood. Acc’d’g to lore, from then on Robisnon referred to airplanes as “fruit flies.”

And people wonder why I still love baseball.

Artful Dodgers

I had a ball Tuesday night at Art Night. It’s a semi-regular gathering of hippies, young and old, at a rented loft space around the corner from the old hobby shop at College Ave. and 4th St.

Led by Travis Puntarelli, the gang sprawls out on the floor or sits at a mismatched collection of tables to draw pictures or write poetry while musicians of various ages regale them with song. Puntarelli, of course, is one of Bloomington’s premier songsters. He plays a variety of instruments including guitar and keyboards. One woman played a type of squeezebox that I’ve never seen before. It was fairly simple, producing mainly a continuous key tone.

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Among the performers, our town’s favorite gadfly, Marc Haggerty, strummed a few tunes on his acoustic guitar and a young woman named Daisy warbled some heavenly songs, including old folk chestnuts and some lilts that would have sounded right at home in the shtetl.

As far as I can gather, the thing takes place every other week. Puntarelli et al rent the space per night from the building’s owner and they doll the place up for each occurrence.

It’s another of the 1,625,380 reasons why Bloomington’s a special place.


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