"The blog has made Glab into a hip town crier, commenting on everything from local politics and cultural happenings to national and international events, all rendered in a colorful, intelligent, working-class vernacular that owes some of its style to Glab’s Chicago-hometown heroes Studs Terkel and Mike Royko." — David Brent Johnson in Bloom Magazine
“It has always seemed strange to me… the things we admire in men — kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling — are the concomitants of failure in our system. And those traits we detest — sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism and self-interest — are the traits or success. And while men admire the quality of the first, they love the produce of the second.” — John Steinbeck
MY KIND OF TOWN
The Loved One and I rolled into town in the fall of 2009.
I didn’t know what to think about Bloomington, Indiana. I’d never even visited the place. If you’d have pushed me, I might have recalled hearing its name during the glory days of Bobby Knight.
Other than that, all I knew when we moved here was Bloomington’s just a place in Indiana.
Uh, This Guy Did His Hollering In Bloomtown Or Someplace
To be honest, I was a little wary of relocating here. Maybe even depressed. Heck, the place is a half hour away from the nearest Interstate. I’d spent much of my life in places like Wrigley Field, which can seat nearly 60 percent of the entire population of Bloomington.
Most Of Bloomington Could Fit In Here
I recall telling myself not to slip into thinking this was nowheresville.
And then, like a lightning bolt, came the news that Elinor Ostrom had won the Nobel Prize for Economics.
Bloomington‘s Elinor Ostrom.
I read all about Ostrom the day that news broke. The little girl with a stutter who came from a poor family. Went to Beverly Hills High. Got the bug to go to college there. Followed her husband to IU where he’d landed a teaching gig. Worked with him to develop innovative theories on resource management and green economics.
The first woman in history to win a Nobel in economics.
How cool, I thought, she’s from my new town.
Elinor Ostrom provided me with my first taste of civic pride here.
I never got a chance to meet her which is too bad. I’ll bet she was a hoot. According to the papers, she spent the last days of her life battling pancreatic cancer. I’m glad she at least had the chance to enjoy being a Nobel laureate for two and a half years, until she died yesterday morning.
She didn’t know it, but she welcomed a guy here in the fall of 2009.
Bloomington’s no longer my new town. Just my town.
WHAT TO DO, WHAT TO DO
THE SLOW WHEELS OF JUSTICE
My town turns out to be a little bit like my old town. Public officials get sloppy with their morals and ethics and the next thing you know, prosecutors are sniffing around.
Monroe County Prosecutor Chris Gaal filed a request Monday for a special prosecutor in the Amy Gerstman case. Gaal can’t handle the case himself since both he and Gertsman are Democrats. The county auditor is in hot water for using credit cards issued to her office for her personal use.
It’s about time.
The only thing I can’t figure out is why it took so long for anybody to threaten action against Gerstman.
I thought sure she would resign her post after news of her using county credit cards to buy groceries and even pay her kid’s tuition at a private school broke in January.
Gerstman’s breech of ethics was at the very least plain dumb. It’s also quite possibly criminal.
I get the feeling Gerstman might have avoided the spectacle of a criminal investigation had she quit six months ago. After all, she was trying to pay the dough back.
Happier Days For Amy Gerstman
There has been no public outcry for her ouster which can be attributed to one of two possible causes:
Bloomington is an unusually forgiving town
Bloomington doesn’t give a damn
I’m not putting my money on reason number one. That is, my money which Amy Gerstman is supposed to be monitoring with great care as the county’s fiscal watchdog.
Don’t get me started on the rest of Bloomington’s and Monroe County’s elected officials who have remained mum during this whole affair. Two or three of them have whispered to me that, well, this is really a small town and nobody wants to badmouth anybody else.
Two or three of them also have said Amy Gerstman really needs the job. She’s got a family to support, after all.
Perhaps the main difference between my new town and my old town is my old town’s excuses were better.
“I have a total irreverence for anything connected with society except that which makes the roads safer, the beer stronger, the food cheaper, and the old men and the old women warmer in the winter and happier in the summer.” — Brendan Behan
Yep. The man has (or, more accurately now, had) an albino wallaby named Kimba.
Typical Albino Wallaby
A week ago today, Ron Young let the critter out in his fenced backyard and, next thing he knew, Kimba had taken a hike. Well, actually four hours later, the animal took her hike.
Wild creatures can figure out many ways to escape a fenced enclosure if you give them four hours. Hell, if I left Steve the Dog out in a fenced yard (which we don’t have) and came back four hours later, I’d find the yard empty save for a pair of fence cutters dropped in haste on the grass.
I mean, Steve likes me and The Loved One well enough, but the allure of out there is irresistible. And this is a pampered hound who looks at me as if I’m from the moon when I suggest he go outside in a light mist to do his business.
“I Like Youse Guys But Gimme Half A Chance And I’m Outta Here.”
Anyway, Young is a former director of the Evansville Zoo. You’d think he’d know better. And not just about leaving an animal unattended for such a long period of time.
Just having a non-native animal in Southern Indiana seems rash to me.
Wallabies, I’ll hazard to guess, don’t want to be here. Were we to give the macropods a vote in the matter, it’s a good bet they’d overwhelmingly elect to stay in Australia, New Zealand, or any of the nearby Oceania islands they inhabit.
Which reminds me of an egregious example of humans introducing a non-native species to a strange geographical environment.
A wealthy goofball named Thomas Austin brought a couple of dozen cute little bunnies to his estate in Victoria in 1859. He’d wanted to shoot at them for fun and games. See, rabbits had never before lived in Australia and a man can become bored blasting away at the same old 755 different species of reptile as well as countless platypi, echidnae, kangaroos, koalas, wombats, emus, kookaburras, dingoes, and other mammals and birds native to that land.
Apparently, Austin never bagged his limit because the surviving bunnies did what bunnies do — that is, they bonked and bonked and bonked until they’d essentially taken over most of the continent within forty years.
You might say, So what? What can cute little bunnies do to a continent? The answer: devastate it.
The hundreds of millions of rabbits who now hold sway over the entire landmass have eaten so much foliage that exposed soil and land erosion is now a major problem in many huge swaths of Australia. Not only that but a significant number of plant species have now gone extinct, thanks to the voracious rabbits. And since the plants have disappeared, at least two mammals species, the bilby and the bandicoot, have essentially vanished.
When I was a bartender at Club Lago, an Italian restaurant in Chicago, one of our cooks was a funny man named Chico. He loved to concoct new dishes using only the stuff that was leftover in the kitchen at the end of the night. He’d serve up plates of the scrumptious stuff to the waitstaff and me after we’d locked the doors.
Occasionally, a new hire might ask before digging in, “What’s in this?” To which Chico would swiftly reply, “Just shut up and eat.”
I found his directive to be sensible and easy enough to follow.
Not that Chico was worried we’d learn he’d been dumping toxic substances into his skillet or pot. His philosophy was if you really love to eat, just eat. The act of consuming comestibles should be enjoyed without worry or fear. Eat!
Admittedly, one might want to question the company that whips up, say, Spam. A wise person wants to know how many species have sacrificed their lives for that rectangular hunk of “meat.”
But Chico’s dishes were made of fresh vegetables, succulent seafood, lovingly-stirred sauces, and prime meats. Just shut up and eat.
Which brings me to a recent study that indicates the food fetishists of this holy land — thousands of whom seem to have settled here in Bloomington — ought to try to hew to Chico’s axiom.
Apparently, according to the study, people tend to think a food is more nutritious, is safer, and is more pure only because it carries labels like “fair trade,” “natural,” or “organic.”
It’s called the “health halo” effect. And it’s pretty much bullshit.
Yeah, It’s Natural — But It’s Still Junk Food
Now, the organic designation is defined by federal law. It means simply that the grub you’re jamming into your mouth is reasonably free from certain prohibited substances like dangerous pesticides or controversial additives. The organic designation in no way affects the taste or nutritional quality of a food. It’s conceivable, for instance, that Hormel Foods could apply for and receive the USDA’s approval to slap the organic logo on its cans of Spam.
“Fair trade” and “natural,” on the other hand have no legal definitions. I could market cow flop tomorrow, calling it “all-natural” — which it is — and be well within my legal rights. And making sure some Colombian coffee growers get a fair price for their crop doesn’t make my cup of joe any different from yours.
Still, the study found that people will go so far as to believe a piece of fair trade chocolate contains fewer calories than one not marketed under that label.
So, yeah, we’d like to make sure we’re not screwing the world’s farmers to death because we need to stuff ourselves with sandwich cookies. And it’s good to know there isn’t a cupful of Red Dye No. 3 in that package of Jujubes.
But let’s try to be reasonable. Just shut up and eat.
WHO ARE THE KARDASHIANS?
For the longest time, my mind has refused to retain information about the Kardashians.
The gray mass inside my cranium is like that. It has also prohibited me from understanding basic economic precepts for many long years. For example, I’d ask somebody what the national debt is. Not how much it is, but what exactly it is, as in its definition. Financially savvy pals would explain it to me in excruciating detail and I’d nod my head as if I were taking it all in.
But — swear to god — ten minutes later all those words and ideas would have spilled out of my ear and onto the floor, only to be mopped up by the bartender or busboy at whichever saloon or restaurant I’d just had my lesson in.
Not Even IU’s Nobel Prize-Winning Economist Ellie Ostrom Can Help Me
Same thing with the Kardashians. I must have asked at least three dozen different people through the years who the Kardashians are and why this holy land knows of them.
And every time the knowledge imparted to me simply departs my brain, leaving no forwarding address.
When it comes to the national debt, I feel bad about my ignorance. But I’m proud of my Kardashian stupidity.
Duh, I Dunno
Apparently, many others in the Great United States, Inc. also are less than enthralled by the K-clan. This despite the fact that all corporate news outlets must record and recount the family’s every muscle move.
Now I don’t feel so out of touch. On the other hand, who the hell is The Situation?
Um, Uh, What Was The Question?
Right off the bat, I’m not advocating the use of heroin. Lemme put it this way, back in the days when I and my circle were willing to ingest anything for a high, the very idea of heroin scared the bejesus out of me.
I’d met a young woman when I was about 23 years old. She never missed a chance to extol the wonders of heroin. I asked her what it was like. Her eyes turned dreamy and she said, “It’s the greatest feeling you’ll ever know. After heroin, sex is nothing.”
I vowed at that moment never to try it — and I never have.
Eric Clapton waged a well-documented, years-long battle against heroin addiction. He’s been clean for nearly forty years. But his heroin-free output includes such treacle as “Tears in Heaven” while his “White Room” with Cream was recorded at the height of his horse ride.