Category Archives: Charlotte Zietlow

Hot Air: Worth Fighting For

Many thanks to Ron Eid, the big boss over at Limestone Post. Many, many thanks. I’d kiss him if these damned masks wouldn’t get in the way.

Eid and the Post today are running a lengthy excerpt from the book, Minister’s Daughter: One Life, Many Lives, by Charlotte Zietlow with Michael G. Glab (me, natch). This partial chapter of the book covers the year the Zietlow family spent in Czechoslovakia. This was in the immediate aftermath of the Prague Spring and the subsequent invasion of the country by hundreds of thousands of Warsaw Pact soldiers. The liberal reformers who’d chafed against harsh, Soviet-style communism were rounded up and “re-educated.” Many of their civilian supporters were punished and even killed.

During the Zietlows’ year-long sojourn, Charlotte was reminded that American democracy and freedoms — warts and all — were worth fighting for.

Once again, Minister’s Daughter, is out on the market (although with the current printing business slowdown, hard copies have yet to hit the streets. Give it a week or two more before the book — y’know, that thing made of paper and ink — becomes available. Hell, I’m still waiting for my own case of comp copies.

For now, you may pre-order the book at the Book Corner (812.339.1522), via Amazon (if you want to enrich Jeff Bezos et al any more), anywhere you can buy e-books, or through me at glabagogo@gmail.com.

Meanwhile, enjoy the excerpt.

King Of The United States

It’s ironic Charlotte’s recollection of living in a repressive nation for a year should come out now. Many believe — me among them — that this holy land is fast slipping into its own brand of repression. Hell, people are wondering if Li’l Duce will even honor the results of the coming presidential election should he lose to Joe Biden.

As an American, I’ve been through a lot, including the traumatic annum 1968 as well as the horrible 9/11 attacks. Somehow, we pulled through ’68. Our responses to the WTC et al tragedies, though, contributed mightily to our perverted state of democracy these days. After the bunny-rabbit-scared Congress passed the Patriot Act and otherwise gave Pres. Bush carte blanche to botch the geopolitical stases in both Afghanistan and Iraq, we’ve become a nation perpetually at war both overseas and within our own borders. In fact, many police departments around America have become occupying forces, their newly recruited officers (since 2001), seeing themselves as action movie characters, clad in armor, packing automatic weapons of war, and driving around in armored military vehicles.

Too many young men watched “reality” shows like Cops and became tumescent over the idea that they, too, could bust down doors in the middle of the night to protect the citizenry from…, from…, for chrissakes, who the hell knows what?

Anyway, here we are, wondering if the presidential election will even mean anything this year. We found ourselves with a grifting, unprepared, incurious, neo-fascist ideologue as president in 2016 and now we face the distinct possibility he and his congressional and Supreme Court lickspittlers will declare him king of the United States.

BTW, there once was a King of the United States. His name was Garfield Goose and he reigned weekday afternoons on WGN-TV, Ch. 9 in Chicago in the 1950s and ’60s. Truth be told, I don’t know whom to take more seriously, Gar or President Gag. I suppose it would be the latter, considering the self-declared ruling fowl was a goddamned puppet and the self-important orange warthog is in actuality the Commander-in-Chief of this nation.

Garfield Goose, King of the United States.

One question remains: where, oh where, is this country’s Alexander Dubček? Or, even better, our Václav Havel? Instead, we’re stuck with a ruling class all cut from the same bolt of cloth as the character played by Frazier Thomas, an enabler to a megalomaniacal puppet goose .

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Life Is Beautiful, Now And Then

A final note: the sky is putting on a fabulous show each night this early fall with a waxing moon being chased by Jupiter and Saturn. I set up my astronomical binocs last night at the Paynetown peninsula on Lake Monroe and zoomed in on the three orbs.

The moon was a tad bigger than half a disc with its craters and mountains at the terminator line standing out in spectacular relief. I shifted the specs a tad to the left and focused on Jupiter and was able to make out its disc as wall as its four Galilean moons, one to its immediate right and the others to its left in a line. Then a few degrees further to the left I caught Saturn with its easily discernible rings.

A few people fishing or just hanging out in the peaceful, cool early evening came up and asked me what I was looking at. I let them peer through the binocs and they were uniformly awed. One young woman told me her name was Hailey and she’s always wanted to see, therefore, Halley’s Comet. “But I’ll be 86 years old when it comes around again,” she said, a touch ruefully. “Don’t worry,” I told her, “you’ll make it.”

A note: I didn’t have the heart to tell her Halley is pronounced differently than Hailey.

Edmund Halley, pronounced HA-(as in cat)-lee.

Back From The Dead

The Pencil, that is. This global communications colossus has been lying in state since early July and for weeks, even months, before that The Pencil was on life support. But, yea, a miracle! Here we are — you, me and The Pencil — in the midst of the weirdest, goddamnedest year most of us have ever experienced.

Some of us, to be sure, have experienced at least one other similarly novus annos singulos (all you medical and law students ought to get this one forthwith); that would be the heart wrenching, trauma-inducing 1968. Of course, you have to be one of the oldest bats among the populace, as I am, to compare the two, experientially. Somehow, our nation held itself together in the wake of that fateful year. Will the same outcome play after this one? I ain’t makin’ no bets, babies.

On the streets of Washington, DC, April 1968. [Bettmann Archives]

Anyhow, here we be, you and me.

And in the midst of all the horrifying happenstances, revelations, realizations, knee-jerks, and preps for the coming end times, here’s a smidgen of good news. Actually great news, if I may be permitted to crow.

The book, Minister’s Daughter: One Life, Many Lives, is out and available for you to whip out your wallet and unload $17.95 plus tax and shipping & handling in order to groove on its literary genius (if I do say so myself). It’s the memoir of Bloomington’s treasured political doyenne, Charlotte Zietlow, written by her and me.

Minister’s Daughter has been a project six years in the making. Yep, Charlotte and I first sat down with our voice recorders in August 2014, even before the Chicago Cubs had won a World Series and the nation somehow fell under the spell of a repulsive grifter who promises to turn the world’s last remaining superpower into a tinpot banana republic. It’s been that long but, I daresay, worth the wait.

Charlotte got cooking in the political sphere in 1960 when she, too, fell under a spell, in her case to a young, handsome, inspiring senator from Massachusetts named John F. Kennedy. “Kennedy made me feel as if I could make the world better,” Charlotte remembers. She goes on to add: “We just thought: Here’s this man, he was vibrant, exciting. There was a lot to be hoped for.”

Ha! Hope. What a quaint concept. And isn’t that a damned shame? Yeah, there was a time when people actually had hope. In 1960, humans were on the verge of rocketing off into space, curing cancer, inventing flying cars, building the first lasers, and reading for the first time — it’s true — Green Eggs and Ham. It was a heady time. I won’t bother to recount all the horrors humanity visited upon itself that same year because, y’know, why kill the buzz?

Despite humans being humans and doing their usual utmost to kill, maim, and otherwise wreck the day of their fellow species-mates, 1960 was a time of great hope and wonder. A rich man’s kid whose daddy-o demanded nothing less of him than to attain the presidency of the United States of America represented this holy land’s dynamic, vigorous, boundless future. Natch, he had the top of his head blown off a few short years later but still…, well, loads of people dreamed of better days to come as they listened to Kennedy’s endearing Boston accent and gazed, dewy-eyed, at his tanned, sexy face.

Charlotte was one of them and she’d go on to serve as a Democratic Party field volunteer through three presidential elections and numerous state and local races before spending a year, with her family, in communist Czechoslovakia. There, in the old Slovak capital Bratislava, she learned to cherish even more her beloved American democracy after witnessing the repression, the dream-killing visited upon a nation that dared to challenge the Soviet juggernaut. Czechs and Slovaks were punished, brutally, and many were disappeared after Warsaw Pacts tanks and hundreds of thousands of Eastern Bloc soldiers tromped down the streets of Czechoslovakia’s cities.

Prague Spring

“What we had,” Charlotte says, “was something worth fighting for.”

If you’d like a test drive, keep an eye on the Limestone Post as an excerpt from Minister’s Daughter specifically recounting parts of the Zietlows’ stay in Bratislava runs soon.

If you’ve no need of a teaser and want to cop the tome right now, feel free to put in your pre-order at the Book Corner (812.339.1522), on Amazon (even if Jeff Bezos doesn’t need any more of your dough), through me at glabagogo@gmail.com, or wherever you buy e-books.

Hot Air, Back Again!

One Woman’s Life In Several Hundred Pages

Phew. It’s been three months since my last post here. Wow. Been doing a lot of scribbling on the Charlotte Zietlow book. Right now, the bulk of it is at the local FedEx Office store being photocopied and collated. It’s a thick stack representing 81 years of Charlotte’s life — and one and a half years of mine.

So, the project’s sorta finished. We just need it edited and a coda chapter or two tacked on at the end to let the world know what lessons Charlotte has learned in this life and how you too, if you follow her lead, can became the Grande Dame of a small-sized Indiana city.

It’s been so long since I’ve hung around these precincts that the whole WordPress platform has become almost alien to me. The WP geeks redesigned the dashboard and just writing this post up is taking twice as long as it normally should because I’m busy looking for things like the italic button.

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Oh Yeah, There It Is!

Anyway, the world has been spinning along, bumpily, frighteningly at times, exhilaratingly at others, without me helping the mass of humanity negotiate its path through fate and the solar system.

Somehow you’ve managed not to blow yourselves to smithereens, not that there aren’t plenty of members of Homo Sapiens sapiens doing their damnedest to accomplish just that.

So whaddya need me for?

The more important Q is, what do I need you-all for? Simple answers; to read me, to nod your head, to roll your eyes, to tell me I’m full of horseshit, to alert the FBI to my rabble-rousing, to marvel at my deep insights, to titter at my bons mots, and to send my daily hit count through the roof so that movers and shakers’ll think this blog carries a tad of weight around these parts.

I’m excited. How about you?

What’s (Been) Goin’ On?

I was listening to one of my fave albums in the car yesterday eve, Marvin Gaye’s brilliant, anthemic What’s Going On, released — believe it or don’t; although you’d better because it’s true — May 21, 1971, a Friday. That’s 44 flippin’, freakin’ years ago, babies! The gist of the disk is the return of a Vietnam War veteran to this troubled holy land. He fought for…, well, for something in Southeast Asia and when he got back home he found the entire nation ready to pick sides and whale the bejesus out of each other. He learned, too, about the scourges of drug addiction, poverty, systemic and institutionalized racism, and even the nascent threat of environmental disaster.

Well whaddya know, nothing’s really changed in those 44 years, has it? Only, I suppose, that the threat of environmental disaster is no longer nascent — hell, the Marshall Islands, f’rinstance, are in imminent danger of going completely underwater should the average global temp continue its annual rate of rise. The nation of 70,000 populating 29 bars of sand and coral over a million sq. mi. of the south Pacific already is rapidly losing land to the rising ocean.

Marvin Gaye created one of the most stunning, gorgeous, compelling song cycles of the pop era, warning us about the world of shit we were falling into. And guess what: We didn’t pay a whit of attention.

Here we are, well into the 21st Century and our highest-profile presidential candidate is a nativist, xenophobic, Know-Nothing, boor whom gazillions of Murricans are enthralled over because he “speaks his mind” — this despite the fact that his every utterance is prima facie evidence that he lacks one.

trump

The Ugly American

Cops are gunning black guys down and municipal officials are standing on their heads to cover it up.

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The New Nixon

Anti-abortion zealots are shooting people for the stated purpose of “saving lives.”

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Life Saver

Religious fanatics are pumping lead into co-workers and friends because god has instructed them to pull the trigger.

151207153146-san-bernardino-shooting-suspects-radicalization-fbi-david-bowdich-bts-nr-00004017-large-169

Godly

Fer chrissakes, even a US Supreme Court Justice has suggested that maybe black people ought to stop trying to get into top-flight universities and just settle for mediocre ones because, y’know, they oughtta go where they belong.

justice-scalia

Don’t Go There

Protesters are in the streets, the deck is stacked against blacks, whites feel they’re the real victims of racism, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, and “what about this overcrowded land, how much more abuse from man can she stand?

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Talk On The Street

How in the hell have you-all refrained from blowing this planet to smithereens? Well, I’m back on the case now, pretty much, save for an occasional break here and there to put the finishing touches on the Charlotte book.

Of course, if you expect me to save the planet, you’re hanging on by the thinnest strand of hope imaginable. But as long as we’re tumbling down the rabbit hole together, you may as well pay heed to The Pencil and we’ll all have a laugh or two along the way.

 

Hot Air

Madness Men

Boss Sandberg yesterday asked me if I plan to watch that debate featuring Republican candidates for president — in an election that is still some 15 months off.

I responded forcibly; “Fk no!”

The genteel clout-meistress recoiled as if from a big furry bumblebee. I don’t blame her. For her part — after she regained her equilibrium — City Council maven Susan Sandberg sez she will watch the gabfest, mostly for the laughs.

Padded Room

The Green Room For Tonight’s Debate

Me? I don’t see any hee-haws coming out of tonight’s projectile word vomit fracas. Not when the participants, as a rule, look unkindly upon undocumented immigrants, women who abort their fetuses or who use birth control, folks who are poor, anybody will an al- preceding their surname, unarmed dark-skinned men who get shot up by cops, school teachers, environmentalists, climatologists, liberals, and other grave threats to our holy land.

I don’t care to spend the lion’s share of my evening watching my proxies being insulted, degraded, and vilified.

Mainly I don’t want to be made mad. I’m using the term in a dual sense here. The ludicrous hoo-ha emanating from the face holes of the likes of Donald Trump and Mike Huckabee will not only spike my choler level, it will drive me to some brink of mental delirium. I can just see myself pounding across the kitchen tile, the libels and defamations of white men who possess near-negligible levels of intellectual acuity and even less empathy for their species brethren and sisteren echoing in my memory.

Poor old Sally the Dog just might hoist herself up and plop her front paws on my fragile nethers — a habit The Loved One and I have found impossible to break in her so far — and she’ll be rewarded with a thunderous outburst of foul verbiage and barking that’ll cause her to afford me a wide berth for the next few days.

Sally’s a good mutt otherwise and I’d feel awful for treating her in a manner more appropriate for Scott Walker.

So, no, I ain’t watching. Sure, you go ahead and watch. Like S. Sandberg, I’m sure you’re blithely anticipating it being as innocuously comical as one of those old-time Dean Martin roasts. I’m willing, though, to put good money down on this proposition: the debate tonight will boil your very blood — as well as your lymphatic fluids, the perspiration on your forehead, and whatever other fluids and sauces you have circulating through and around your bod.

Again, it’s a year and a quarter until the 2016 general election. If you’re made jowl-flappingly mad this early in the game, think how many holes will form in the lining of your stomach by a year from Nov.

For your own health and and your house pets’ safety and comfort, take my advice: do anything other than switch your flat screen on to Fox News this eve. Not that you should ever do that, but tonight especially. Your stomach will thank me.

Still At It

Charlotte Zietlow and I are covering the first year of her term as Bloomington City Council president in our memoir project these days. That is, her memoir with me as her pro scribe. This is by explanation why my posts here have become so infrequent of late. Just in case you’ve forgotten.

Get Together

Here, chill out on these gentle tones from the Youngbloods, summer of 1969 vintage:

Citizens Ask: Where Is Big Mike?

Writer Missing — Foul Play Suspected

Members of The Electron Pencil’s private security force have fanned out across Bloomington and are employing their fearsome talents in an effort to locate Big Mike.

From "The Set-Up"

Alright, Pal, Where’s Big Mike?

The controversial columnist and gossip-monger has been missing since May, although this communications colossus has received the occasional post from him, slipped over the transom at EP World Headquarters, in the intervening months. Rumors abound, including one that Big Mike staged his own kidnapping in hopes of garnering publicity.

We at The Electron Pencil suspect foul play. Talk on the street has it that one Charlotte Zietlow, former city council president and county commissioner, has tied Big Mike up and is holding him as a ghostwriter for her memoir.

THIS JUST IN! — A communique was delivered to the EP late this afternoon. Apparently written and signed by Big Mike, the message confirms he’s is being held by Zietlow. The note, in part, reads:

I am safe so far. Mrs. Zietlow wants the police kept out of this. She promises to let me go as soon as the book is finished. She means business!

We believe the message to be authentic. The staff at The Electron Pencil, thousands strong, have signed a plea to be delivered to Mrs. Zietlow, calling on her to hold Big Mike until he produces a top-notch memoir. Should he fail in that simple task, the staff adds, she can fit him with a pair of cement overshoes and dump him in Lake Lemon for all they care.

Cement Overshoes

Big Mike Wears Size 11 EE

Hot Air

A Recommendation & A Remembrance

Hey, while I’m still off ghosting the great Midwest memoir, you might fill the void left by my hiatus from these precincts by clicking on over to Doug Storm’s Common Errant blog.

He’s not as deranged as I have been about this whole blogging dealio, inasmuch as he slaps a post up every week or so as opposed to nearly every day. That’s cool; what Comm Err lacks in quantity, it certainly makes up for in quality.

Anyway, I’m still still plugging along with Charlotte Zietlow on what’ll surely be the greatest hey-Ma-look-at-me tome since The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant. That groundbreaking book came up yesterday at Paul Zietlow’s memorial service, attended by half the population of Indiana as well as dozens of visiting academics and bonhomies from around the nation. One of Paul’s eulogists told the tale of the late IU English prof’s deep infatuation with the Grant bio, a book he’d discovered after he’d retired and thus was free to read for pure pleasure. The old bird — I think it was David James — said for the next six months the former Civil War general and 18th President of the United States was a constant companion whenever the two chums would get together for lunch or a meeting.

Grant

Lunch Companion

That’s a good story, one of a man completely in love with reading. There’s no finer or more respectable paramour than a book. And here’s another anecdote, one that gets to the very heart of the beloved prof who occasionally wept when he read poetry to his classes, earned kudos and awards for writing when he was a Yalie, and was a tireless advocate for social justice and local good-works orgs. It’s told by Paul’s daughter Rebecca.

One day, Paul had his little granddaughter — either Zoe or Alice, I forget which — in his lap. The kid wanted her shoes off so Paul helped her slip them off. Next thing you know, she wanted them back on. Paul helped her slip them back on and tied their laces for her. Being a kid, she wanted them off again so Paul helped her get them off again. And, of course, she wanted them back on again and…, you know. This went on for times innumerable, Rebecca remembered through her tears. Maybe it was a half dozen times — maybe a dozen. In any case, Paul patiently and lovingly helped his little granddaughter on and off with her shoes, never once complaining or attempting to give little Zoe or Alice the brush.

Of all the things Paul Zietlow accomplished in his life, that might have been the most defining.

Be Patient

It’s Alive!

Ave. I want you to know The Pencil’s still alive, albeit in a state of suspended animation.

Suspended Animation

[From “The Stars Are Ours,” Andre Norton, 1954]

All my keyboard clackings these days are focused on writing — yes, actually writing, not just researching, woohoo! — the Charlotte Zietlow book. Damn, it’s fun! Sometimes I think the reason I’m alive is simply to get inside people’s heads and help them them tell their stories. That’s basically what I did at the Chicago Reader for some 20 years.

Anyway, I’ll get back to The Pencil as soon as I’m finished with the Charlotte project. BTW: Don’t ask me when that’ll be.

Okay. Carry on.

Hot Air

Priorities

Pencillistas, tragically, have been clutching their throats and gasping for oxygen the way proto-land animals did a billion or two years ago when they first emerged from the primordial soup. That’s because this beacon of knowledge and yuks has been silent since last week.

Smith

[Image: Chris Smith]

I’m on a real writing bender these days, pounding out the first draft of the Charlotte Zietlow book.

Truth be told, despite rioting in Baltimore, the US Supreme Court mulling the future of same-sex marriage, a devastating earthquake in Nepal, refugee boats overturning, and sundry other traumas and sadnesses, I’ll be absent from these precincts for the very foreseeable future, clacking away at my keyboard while the clacking is good.

Natch, I’ve got plenty to pontificate about right now but I’ve gotta be somewhat disciplined, elsewise I’ll never get the Zietlow tale committed to this 13.3-inch (diagonal) LED-backlit glossy widescreen display with support for millions of colors.

So, loyal followers of this nonsense’ll just have to get along w/o me for the nonce. [Hah.]

BTW: As long as you’re a subscriber to this communications colossus you’ll never miss the next post, whenever it may be. [And, hey, it could be tomorrow — although I doubt it, but still.] An enquiring mind might wonder: How does one subscribe? Simple. Lookit this graphic:

Subscribing

Click This And Never Worry Again

Can you follow directions? Cool.

Don’t Miss This

Here’s yet another direction to follow. Tomorrow night head straight to Bear’s Place at 7 o’clock to catch the next installment of Nell Weatherwax’s Storyzilla shebang.

N.W. is the master-ess — Mistress? Nah, that sounds weird — of the story performance genre in these parts. You say you’ve never been to one of her monthly extravaganzas? Then you can get in for half-price (tix are $10.00 — $5.00 for -Zilla-virgins).

Weatherwax/Newcomer

Weatherwax (L) And January Storyteller Carrie Newcomer

What a lineup this Nell-dame has assembled for this month’s Work It!-themed show. Labor guy Joe Varga, fashionista McKee Woods, and canary Krista Detor will share their stories, as will — as always — Weatherwax herself. And if that isn’t enow,  how’s about some music by singer w/ a guitar Rikki Jean as well as the terpischoral stylings of Darrelyn Valdez and the Triple Threat Dancers?

Go to Bear’s Place. Have fun.

Hot Air

By The Book

A quick one today because I was very lazy this AM and then I had my regular afternoon book writin’ session with Charlotte Zietlow. BTW: The Zietlow memoir is coming along fabulously. We’re working on her 1974 campaign for US Congress right now. Phew — 41 years ago — Charlotte looked like a kid, for pity’s sake!

Here’s a sneak preview of some pix I’ve taken of items from her vast treasure trove of files and images:

Window Card

 

Window Card

Tri-fold Pamphlet

Tri-fold Pamphlet

H-T Front Page

Good News, Bad News

In the above Herald-Telephone piece, Charlotte is anointed the coming star of the Democratic Party in Indiana because she ran such a strong campaign against well-known state senator Elden Tipton. She’d only decided to run in February for the May primary and whupped the bejesus out of four other Dems, including Mayor Frank McCloskey’s chosen candidate.

Man, this stuff is fun.

Sanders Speaks

Bloom magazine threw its second Book Club bash yesterday evening at FARM Bloomington’s Root Cellar Lounge. Just like the first one, featuring author Michael Koryta, last night’s soiree packed the house.

Scott Russell Sanders talked about how he came to write Divine Animal, the book selected by Bloom boss Malcolm Abrams. Frankly, I haven’t read it yet — my queue of books is about as tall as Sally the Dog standing on Steve the Dog’s head. But believe me, Divine Animal‘s in the stack now.

The audience peppered Sanders with Qs for a good hour and a half. He explained precisely when and where he got the idea for the book, how the characters came to him, and his process for letting the characters tell their stories to him before he writes them all down.

This Bloom mag Book Club is the atom bomb, I’m telling you.

You wanna get in on the next one? Okay. The third Book Club selection is Young Titan, a biography of a youthful Winston Churchill penned by Bloomington’s own top-notch Anglophile, Michael Shelden. We’ve got a big order in at the Book Corner so you can start buying it later this week. So far, our two best selling titles for 2015 have been Koryta’s Those Who Wish Me Dead and Divine Animal. We oughtta pay Malcolm a salary.

The meeting for Young Titan will be Tuesday, June 9, 5:30pm, at Finch’s Brasserie.

Here are some snapshots from last night’s get-together:

Abrams/Sanders

Malcolm Abrams (L) & Scott Russell Sanders

Here’s something I hadn’t known: A teenaged Sanders had a choice between studying physics at Brown University or accepting a basketball scholarship at another school. He chose physics, natch.

Karr/Stoll

Author Julia Karr & Her Friend, Caren Stoll

Karr just finished writing the first draft of the last book in her Young Adult trilogy featuring teen Nina Oberon and her travails in a near-future dystopia. Book one was entitled XVI (or Sixteen, for those of you who don’t recognize Roman numerals) and its sequel was Truth. The third has no title yet; Karr’s only begun revisions and corrections within the last few days.

Sanders

Sanders Tells His Tale

The title of Sanders’ book comes from a line written by Ralph Waldo Emerson in his essay, “The Poet.” Emerson’s line reads:

As the traveller who has lost his way, throws his reins on his horse’s neck, and trusts to the instinct of the animal to find his road, so must we do with the divine animal who carries us through this world.

Sanders & Fans

Sanders Chats With Fans

Alright, get going on Young Titan.

Hot Air

The Book, Revealed

Here’s how much that mysterious book to which I’ve been referring of late has entered not only my consciousness but my subconscious: I woke up all of a sudden this morning at three o’clock with the outline to Chapter 1 in my head. It was magic, I tell you.

So, I got up and wrote it down.

And now that I’m actually, y’know, sorta writing the damned thing rather than just gathering material for it (which is why I’m on hiatus from the daily chore of penning this blog), I figure I may as well reveal officially and for the first time in a public setting what it’s about.

Since August I’ve been working with Bloomington’s beloved political maven and dowager, Charlotte Zietlow, on her memoir.

April 2009

Charlotte Zietlow

For those of you who don’t know Charlotte, she’s the very embodiment of South Central Indiana’s Democratic Party. She and a cadre of similar newcomers and boat-rockers smashed Bloomington’s Republican Party hegemony back in the early 1970s, turning this from a one-party town into…, well, another one-party town.

I met this delightful woman back when I first arrived in town. Margaret, the owner of the Book Corner, intro’d me to her. “You should know this person,” Margaret whispered to me the first time I saw Charlotte flounce into the store.

Charlotte, then as now, cut a dramatic, dynamic figure. She still runs around town like a 25-year-old — she turned 80 last year — wearing her trademark big floppy hats, her handmade artisanal jewelry, and her flowing scarves.

April 2014

Charlotte With Marc Tschida & County Prosecutor Chris Gaal

More than four decades ago, she and the other Democrats transformed this town and county from a strictly Republican stronghold. Strange as it may sound, up until that time many college towns were exclusively Republican. Then the majority of them flipped with the rise of political activism in the 1960s and the 18-year-old vote in 1971.

Anyway, her story is that of a determined, ambitious young woman who grew up in an era when there were precious few role models and mentors for young women. Her mother never failed to remind her that she was “independent” — and that was no compliment. She was a brilliant student, earning her PhD in Linguistics from the University of Michigan. When she looked for work, she applied to the CIA and the State Department. She got interviews at both places and was told twice that she could have been a great spy or diplomat but that, more practically, she’d make a terrific wife of one instead. She was enraged by those interviews but not hindered in her will to do something in the world other than keep house.

She began her political career ringing doorbells for JFK in the summer of 1960 in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where she and her husband were working on their doctorates. Their studies brought them to Mainz, West Germany, and Bratislava, Czechoslovakia, where she saw first hand the crushing effects of a demandingly conformist culture and a police state. When she got back to America, she was determined to make sure that the voice of the people would always be heard and that powerful special interests would always be resisted.

She was a city council member, a county council member, and ran for Congress in the late 1970s. Democratic women here see her as a leader and an inspiration. She still serves on countless civic boards and has had the ear of the mayor, the governor, and our district’s Congressional representatives through the years. The county named its courthouse after her a couple of years ago.

Sept 2009

Charlotte With Mayor Mark Kruzan

So, we’re writing her memoir. At least one publisher is extremely interested in her story, having asked her to do it years ago. I harangued her for a couple of years to get going on it (with me helping her, of course). Then, one day last summer, she said, “Michael, are you serious about this?”

“Serious as a heart attack,” I said.

“Good,” she said. “Let’s get to work.”

It’s been exciting and fun. If you don’t know her yet, trust me, you’d love her. By the way, she’s also a crackerjack chef. She and a business partner opened a boutique kitchen supply store called Goods for Cooks in 1975 on the west side of Courthouse Square. (They’ve since sold the business but it’s still thriving.)

Charlotte and I have been laughing and crying together for five months now as she tells me of her life, the digital recorder catching every word, every guffaw, and every sniffle. As I gain a more complete picture of her years on this mad, mad planet I’ll be crafting the story of an ambitious, caring, important human being who today rightly serves as a role model and a mentor to women young and old, here and elsewhere.

Stay tuned for further progress reports on the project. And stay tuned, too, for the return of my (almost) daily screeds and screeches here.

Peace, love & soul.

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