Category Archives: Charlotte Zietlow

Talkin’ Up The Talk

Big Talk has been a thing on Bloomington radio for a good eight years now.

I remember that first Big Talk, recorded in the cramped live air room at the WFHB studios in January 2014. My guest was Nate Powell, the noted cartoonist who’d illustrated the first volume of Rep. John Lewis‘s graphic novel memoir, March. (Lewis, Powell, and writer Andrew Aydin went on to produce two more volumes of the trilogy.) Lewis, of course, was the famed civil rights activist who served 33 years in the United States House of Representatives. Elected to the House 17 times from whatever district in Georgia the statehouse had mapped (or, probably more accurately, gerrymandered), Lewis previously had been a high ranking member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and had been famously bashed on the head by an Alabama state trooper during the 1965 Selma voting rights campaign. His skull was fractured and he feared at the moment of impact that his life was about to end. The march he was participating in that particular day became known as Bloody Sunday.

Nate Powell was a popular graphic novelist who’d already written and/or illustrated nearly 30 books including Swallow Me Whole, Any Empire, and The Silence of Our Friends. He’d won the Ignatz and Eisner awards for best original graphic novel for 2008’s Swallow Me Whole.


WFHB’s archives no longer go that far back so here’s the raw recording of that first Big Talk feature with Nate Powell:


My second Big Talk guest ever was Charlotte Zietlow, the beloved (by most) and legendary local politician and activist who, with a motley crew of political outsiders including future Congressperson Frank McCloskey, transformed Bloomington from a Republican-led town to one run by Democrats in 1971. It’s remained that way ever since. That Zietlow guest spot began a relationship between her and me that only grew stronger as time passed and resulted in the publication in September 2020 of our book, Minister’s Daughter: One Life, Many Lives.

Look for it in your local bookstore or online.

At the time of the Powell, Zietlow, et al interviews, Big Talk was an eight-minute feature on WFHB’s Daily Local News. It would go on that way for the next two and a half years, with a lengthy gap in 2016 for me to get the crap kicked out of me by lymph node cancer. As I recovered from chemoradiation therapy and got stronger and regained the 80 pounds I’d lost during treatment, I realized I wanted to take that radio spot to the next level and so applied to WFHB’s News and Public Affairs Committee for a half-hour slot in which I could make Big Talk a stand alone program.

The then-News Director, Wes Martin, did all the heavy lifting for me in that effort and I was thrilled to learn my new show had been approved. So, in August 2017, I aired my very first 28-minute Big Talk, with guest, Adria Nassim. Adria, too has become a friend. She writes a regular column for the Bloomington Herald-Times detailing life for people on the autism spectrum.

Alex Ashkin (R) with his recent guest, Wally Ouedraogo, co-owner of The Inkwell on Woodlawn.

Since then, Big Talk has aired weekly, every Thursday at 5:30pm, with a re-broadcast every Friday at 11:30am. Last year, I even recruited a semi-regular co-host, Alex Ashkin, a dynamic fellow I’d met hanging out in the Soma coffeehouse on Grant Street in downtown Bloomington. Alex is a lot younger than I am (and that I’d care to admit) and that’s the reason I asked him to come aboard. I’d been starting to feel as though the program needed a fresh voice, someone from a different generation and lifestyle who’d bring in a whole new slew of guests. He’s done just that.

Big Talk has put more than 250 guests on the airwaves here in South Central Indiana and, for that matter, on the internet around the world. Our most recent edition featured Kathy Loser, former librarian for the Monroe County Community Schools Corporation and current board member of the Monroe County Public Library. Kathy has strong opinions about…, well, everything, but especially about books and efforts by well-funded political activists trying to ban or restrict reading materials in school and/or public libraries. Like many — or even most — Big Talks, this edition was timely inasmuch as there appears to be a new wave of banning/restrictions around the country, most prominently the McMinn County, Tennessee dustup that came to light last month.

Books, Libraries, Reading, Banning: Kathy Loser

Anyway, all this is my way of crowing about my radio program. Thanks a lot for indulging me. And thanks even more if you tune in to WFHB, contribute to the station, or listen to podcasts of Big Talk.

Hot Air: Football & TV, A Sacred Union

Just a week ago last night one of this holy land’s cultural touchstones celebrated its 50th anniversary. Hard to believe for a lot of people of my generation (and older) but Monday Night Football first aired on ABC-TV September 21, 1970. Since then the network television colossus has presented somewhere in the vicinity of 700 football games.

Joe Namath Calls the Signals During the First Monday Night Football Game.

Funny thing was, no network really wanted any part of it. NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle went begging to the three main networks at the time — CBS, NBC, and ABC — and came away with an empty hat. None of the nets wanted to mess up its regular prime time schedule, especially on a Monday night when middle class America began settling in for the week in front of their TVs after work. ABC in 1970 was the lowest rated of the three networks so Rozelle hammered hard at it. He told ABC honchos he was prepared to sell the idea of prime time football to the Hughes Television Network, an independent entity dreamed up by wealthy loon Howard Hughes who’d envisioned it as a fourth player in the coast-to-coast TV scene. Just a couple of years before, Hughes had tried to purchase a controlling stake in ABC and was rebuffed, leading him to want to stick it to the company. ABC, afraid it might even be overtaken by the nascent Hughes operation, grudgingly signed a contract with the NFL and threw together a trio of booth announcers, a novel idea. for the first game.

One of those announcers was a lawyer from New York City named Howard Cosell, a loud, annoying, tell-it-like-it-is kind of a guy who’d ridden the coattails of a young Cassius Clay. In 1960 Clay (later, Muhammad Ali) won the heavyweight boxing gold medal at the Rome Olympics. Cosell’s announcing of his subsequent professional bouts made him as famous as the fighter. Cosell’s Wikipedia page describes him thusly:

Cosell’s style of reporting transformed sports broadcasting in the United States. Whereas previous sportcasters had mostly been known for color commentary and lively play-by-play, Cosell had an intellectual approach. His use of analysis and context brought television sports reporting closer to “hard” news reporting. However, his distinctive staccato voice, accent, syntax, and cadence were a form of color commentary all their own.

Funny thing was viewers hated Cosell. I mean they despised him. Many Monday Night Football tavern parties turned into Cosell bash-fests. One bar owner in Denver even sponsored contests to allow a weekly winner to throw a brick through the TV when Cosell appeared on the screen.

Ali Attempts to LIft Cosell’s Toupee off His Head.

Monday Night Football creator and executive producer Roone Arledge realized viewers’ antipathy toward Cosell just might draw even more of them. Rather than axe Cosell, Arledge instructed him to be…, well, more himself. The more Cosell played Cosell, the more people tuned in. Eventually, Monday Night Football became the most watched prime time show on television for many years.

It’s a bizarro world story, one that would be inconceivable even a year before it began to play out. But the country had just emerged from the topsy-turvy Sixties, an era when many cherished American institutions were mocked and discarded. So, tens of millions of male football fans — as well as their girlfriends, wives, and sisters — tuned in to see if they could get in on the hate orgy.

Nearly Half of All NFL Fans Are Female.

And that’s another shibboleth Monday Night Football laid to rest — that the gridiron game was solely played for the pleasure of men. Before Rozelle, Arledge, and Cosell, the game was played on Sunday afternoons to a TV audience almost exclusively male. The term “football widow” described women who couldn’t get their husbands to do anything other than park themselves in their dens and watch the Giants or the Bears or the Colts. After the trio worked its magic, football watching became the province of a more balanced gender viewership.

Me? I’ve never given a good goddamn about football, either the pro or the college game. Oh sure, I know who the great stars were and occasionally have enjoyed watching highlights of pigskin wizards like Joe Montana or Lawrence Taylor but ask me who won what game yesterday and I’ll sit there with a blank look on my face.

In fact, The Loved One and I had a tradition every Super Bowl Sunday of driving down to Jasper, Indiana to have a cone at an old-fashioned ice cream shop on the west side of the square there. Sadly, that ice cream parlor — I seem to recall it being named Libby’s — closed down before the 2020 Super Bowl so we’ll have to come up with a new tradition.

Anyway, we could do that because the streets of America are pretty much deserted on Super Bowl Sunday afternoon and evening. It’s as though we have the whole nation to ourselves.

Truth is football is the quintessential American sport. And only the Hallmark Hall of Fame drama anthology program has run longer on prime time television.

Charlotte’s Memoir

Copies of Minister’s Daughter: One Life, Many Lives, by Charlotte Zietlow and me have begun to arrive at the Book Corner. The book’s flying off the shelves so far. Call the store at 812.339.1522 or email me at to order your copy today.

And you can always cop an e-book copy via Amazon. But, really, wouldn’t you rather have a good old hard copy in your hands?

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

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, 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.

Screen Shot 2015-12-10 at 10.31.55 AM

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.


The Ugly American

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

Screen Shot 2015-12-10 at 12.22.32 PM

The New Nixon

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


Life Saver

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



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.


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?

Screen Shot 2015-12-10 at 12.15.34 PM

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.


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


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.


[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:


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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 (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.

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