Hot Air: Scouting The Town

I went for a drive through the Indiana University campus and around Courthouse Square yesterday evening about 30 minutes before sunset.

I wanted to see what the city of Bloomington looked like under our quasi-lockdown. I haven’t wanted to do so up to this point because I was afraid it’d depress the hell out of me but for some odd reason I felt up to it yesterday.

So, nothing’s really open. Stores selling merchandise, by and large, are closed. Restaurants are closed to eat-in customers and a few have signs out front reading, “We’re open for to go,” which I consider an almost endearing way of putting it. Never, I would think, have those words been arranged just so until now. It may be the line for us to remember these days after we work our way out of this mess.

A lot of teenagers were out, riding skateboards or playing tennis or simply wandering aimlessly. By a lot, I mean perhaps nine or ten clots of two to four kids keeping each other company and, sadly, breaking all the social distancing rules.

On 7th Street between Indiana Avenue and Fee Lane, I saw one couple, apparently graduate school aged, walking and talking. The guy was on the sidewalk and the woman was walking along the curb, clearly maintaining a good eight or so feet of distance between them. I at first wondered if that’s really what they were doing so I went around the block and passed them again. Sure enough, he was keeping to the sidewalk and she the curb. They were grinning and gabbing to such an extent that I thought it might have been a date, an early one where the two are trying to get to know each other and trying to impress and amuse each other. In a way, I hope that’s what really was going on; they’re so drawn to each other that they had to get together even during this health crisis, but they’re both responsible enough to keep their distance.

Then, I turned south on Jordan Avenue. In front of the Musical Arts Center a couple stood very close to each other. She had a surgical face mask attached to her ears but it’d been pulled down, exposing her mouth. He wore no mask at all. They were so close, I figured one or the other was about to go in for the kiss. This time I didn’t go around the block to see what they’d do.

Perhaps the whole emptiness thing should have depressed me or would have depressed me otherwise, but the sunset was so glorious, vivid azure blues streaked with whites and oranges with a thin brushstroke of red here and there, that I couldn’t help but feel elated. Directly across Jordan from the almost-kissing couple was a bed of brilliant yellow daffodils. And every time I’d turn toward the east, the golden sun sinking in the west would be shining off windows and and metal surfaces turning the city into an amber kaleidoscope.

I wouldn’t have been able to take that drive on a rainy or merely overcast evening. It would have been too sad.

Nelms, Again

Charlie Nelms at Indiana University in 1988.

So, I’m starting my run of rebroadcasts on Big Talk this afternoon. This week and next I’ll feature my January, 2020 two-part interview with Charlie Nelms, a university chancellor, diversity pioneer, education consultant, and former child of the backwoods of Arkansas. One of eleven children, his parents were sharecroppers who instilled in the family a deep love of books and learning.

Tune in today and every Thursday at 5:30pm on WFHB, 91.3 FM. Then come back here tomorrow for the podcast link for the previous day’s show.

Blood From A Turnip

You might think it odd that I haven’t savaged President Gag much during this COVID-19 crisis.

Normally I’d be prone to blame him for anything and everything, up to and including the temperature being too low in the morning. I’ve been hard as hell on him since he became the Republican Party frontrunner in early 2016. (BTW: Let me repeat that and add to it — He was the goddamned Republican Party frontrunner — and then he won the presidency on a technicality! Jesus, it’s been four years already and I still have to type that stuff out to believe it.)

But I’m laying off him regarding the coronavirus. There’s a reason for that

Donald J. Trump, heir to a fortune, grifter, bully, kid (and adult) who never learned to play nice, serial bankruptcy claimer/philanderer/liar, and crypto-racist (except when his racist bleatings were all too overt) could never — and should never — have been expected to be the calm, steady, forceful, caring leader who’d guide us through the scariest hour this holy land has experienced in a generation.

Who among us would ever expect Li’l Duce to convey the message that he feels our pain, or it’s morning in America, or ask what you can do for your country? The man is utterly incapable of communicating empathy, sympathy, kindness, or concern. The reason for that is he’s very likely utterly incapable of feeling those things.

Look, I wouldn’t get mad at Sally the Dog because she couldn’t help me finish the morning crossword puzzle. I wouldn’t go online to rail that she’s let me down. And I certainly wouldn’t hold out any hope that she’ll suddenly see the light and help me with some clues tomorrow morning.

None of us should ever have expected or even hoped for the current president to be the rock upon which we rely in these dark days.

So no, you won’t see or hear me criticizing the president for his performance during this ordeal. Everything else he does remains fair game, though.

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