Hot Air: All Clear! Uh, Wait A Minute…

I have never, ever seen both the Paynetown and Cutright accesses to Lake Monroe so packed as they were when I left them a few minutes ago.

The combination of the first really glorious day of the spring — brilliant sunshine, just a few high clouds, and the temp sitting at 78º as of 12:53 pm — with Gov. Eric Holcomb’s announcement yesterday that the state will embark on a five-stage reopening culminating in no restrictions by July Fourth indicated to more people than I could have guessed that the COVID-19 lockdown is dead and gone. It is to be hoped the emphasis will not be on dead.

More. State Road 446 on the way to the lake was jammed to the point where I could imagine I was back on the Kennedy Expressway at 3:00pm on a typical Friday.

And another thing: an unusually large number of boats displayed fluttering American flags on tall poles, some of the craft festooned with two and three big banners. It was reminiscent of the weeks immediate following 9/11 when even non-jingoists like me plastered American flags, decals, and pins on our homes, cars, and — in my case — motorcycles. My conclusion? Scads of Hoosiers see America and freedom a hell of a lot differently than I do.

I hate to be a buzz killer but this morning and afternoon’s revels look to be merely preamble to, perhaps, the mother of all epidemic spikes. We’ll see. I hope I’m wrong.

Not Quite SR 446 [Image: Chicago Tribune]

I’m Innocent, I Tell Ya!

In any case, you may be wondering why I was at the lake. Truth is I’ve been going to the lake pretty much every day since the lockdown began more than six weeks ago. I either drink my coffee and eat my breakfast there, packing my crossword puzzles and whatever book I’m reading at the moment, or I wait until later in the day and go down to watch the sunset. I maintain prudent social distancing, never getting out of the car, and keeping my mask and disinfectant wipes within easy reach all the while. And so it was today: me with my peanut butter (crunchy, natch) and strawberry preserves sandwich and thermos-ful of joe (honey and soy milk added). Today’s book: volume two of Robert A. Caro’s magisterial biography of Lyndon Baines Johnson, Means of Ascent, covering his time as a Congressguy from Texas’s 10th District. It’s my second run through the tome.

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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the 1960s gave us three remarkably complex and fascinating characters: LBJ, Richard Nixon, and Bobby Kennedy. The three of them combined enormous strengths with tragi-comic weaknesses. Nobody today even approaches them as compelling characters, not even Li’l Duce, who’s not so much interesting as he is repulsive.

I can’t wait for Caro’s fifth volume, covering the latter years of LBJ’s presidency, to come out. Caro long ago announced he planned to have the book finished and on the street by 2013. The old bird (Caro, that is; he’s 84) is still plugging away on that manuscript. At last report, he was working on Johnson’s shepherding of Medicare and Medicaid through Congress as well as LBJ’s relationship with Bobby Kennedy, a real-life libretto if there ever was one. Shades of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, I hate to say it, but I dearly wish Caro…, well, stays alive to complete his opus.

Back to Lake Monroe. I’ve never felt my daily treks there during this COVID crisis were in any way risky, either to myself or others. Nor was today’s jaunt. I remained in the car even as many hundreds around me gathered and gamboled in the sun. Fingers crossed today’s merriment won’t be the Carnival before their dolor.

There. I feel better.

Big Talk

Did you miss Thursday’s Big Talk? No sweat! Here’s the podcast of my interview with Henry Leck, founder of the Indianapolis Children’s Choir, world-renowned expert on young people’s voices, and now that he’s retired from the ICC and Butler University, a painter. His work is hanging in the Bloomington Arts Alliance’s ArtBeat gallery in the College Mall, reopening sometime between now and Independence Day.

Big Talk airs every Thursday at 5:30pm on WFHB, 91.3 FM.

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