Commentary

This is all commentaries on WVPE including Friday's Michiana Chronicles Feature and occasional one-time contributors.

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Michiana Chronicles: Protecting The Scene 2020

Mar 19, 2020
Jake Alexander

The clues are coming from all over the world. You see many of them yourself. When I couldn’t sleep one night, images popped onto my computer screen of Italian green-camo army trucks rolling in convoy toward an iron-gated cemetary that needed help because there were now more caskets than the mortuary staff could handle. A friend in upstate New York started a web page updating neighbors on which businesses in nearby Woodstock are still open and where a person can pull up to the curb for groceries, pizza, bread, even books. Woodstock.

If there was ever a time to hug a scientist, now is that time. But please don’t. Instead, try your favorite “Coronavirus Hello,” which I think is no longer supposed to be a elbow-bump (too close to the sneeze-catching crook of the arm).  So, maybe try some jazz hands, instead.  Hellooooo, you might say from a safe social distance, waggling your fingers winningly, to show gratitude for the humans who are working hard to save our lives, right this very moment. 

When I was 16 and people with whom I agreed burned the flag, and people with whom I disagreed used the flag as a weapon, my dad said to me, “It’s our flag, too.”

If I had a tattoo, that’s what it would say, “It’s our flag, too.”

Andrew Kreider

It’s a good day in our house.  I just received a new 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle in the mail.  It’s a Star Wars one, a happy conglomeration of posters from the first three movies – images large and small of Luke, Leia, Han, Obi-Wan, Darth Vader, the Death Star, the droids, aliens, light sabers, X-wings, Tie fighters, all the good stuff with no pod racing – everything jumbled up in a large pile of cardboard and dust, all the characters looking for their missing parts. This mess is going to take days to sort out.  I can’t wait.

Long ago my Grandmother Lutes said I should be a writer.  I’ll bet some of you have a grandma who said you would be a great writer, too. It is a typical beloved family member thing to say.  I wrote letters by hand in those days (Yup, I am that old). After the dinosaurs died out and we enjoyed the industrial age, I wrote a typed missive of a Christmas Letter to send to everyone including Grandma.

Michiana Chronicles: Birthdays, Snow Leopards, And Dog Groomers

Feb 13, 2020
Heather Miller Moriconi

Have you ever had synchronistic experiences that made you pause and examine life a bit more closely? I recently had several that reminded me of life’s interconnectedness.

Terry Chea / AP

In American myth, swamps are threatening places whose stagnant waters conceal alligators and snakes, if not slimy monsters like the Creature from the Black Lagoon. In Hollywood westerns, by contrast, the desert represents a hard, honest purity, a moral ground that tests the souls of individuals. In the desert, you can see for miles, everything is clear, but a swamp closes in around you. In southern chain gang escape movies, the swamp is something you fall into and can’t escape. The swamp is a popular image of the unknowable, the mysterious, and the corrupt.

Generally speaking, I go from the general to the particular in these rants, but this time, I would like to begin with the particular. I think that it will become the general though, because that’s the nature of human experience.

For a long time, and for reasons unknown to myself, I have had pity for Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg. Sure, she’s had a privileged life, and doesn’t seem to need pity, but for many years she has been the sole survivor of her nuclear family. It seems a lonely place. The cheese stands alone.

Michiana Chronicles: Flush The Toilet

Jan 23, 2020
Tony Krabill

Flush the toilet.

A vortex of water sucks away whatever waste you deposited there. Clean water rushes in to replace it.

The flush toilet, in my opinion, is one of the greatest inventions ever.

Ken Smith

In shedding season, the hair of our white cat practically glows on the maroon sofa, and the hair of the two black cats forms creepy shadows on the tan rug. If these critters had their way, the living room would never look presentable. Of course there are products that promise to pick up cat hair. We’ve tried the rollers of sticky tape that lift about 10% of the hair with each stroke of the device. We’ve filled many a vacuum cleaner bag primarily with cat hair. Our slipcovers come out of the washer and dryer clean but still flecked with hair.

April Lidinsky

How do we account for the sudden nostalgia for the "roaring" Nineteen Twenties? Maybe “roaring” seems like a welcome relief after years of “persisting.” It’s telling that we hardly know what to call these past two decades. The term “the aughts” never really caught on.  That word is rooted in a linguistic error, anyway, as writer Rebecca Mead has pointed out: “Aught” is a 19th century corruption of the word “naught,” which really means zero. “Aught” properly means “anything,” so the aughts were both nothing and anything, leading to the Twenty Tens … or were they the Twenty Teens?

When I turn the corner at the top of the stairs, there’s Kim, Kim Macon, the Development Director at WVPE, behind her desk and a computer screen, in her dimly lit office.
    

“Hi Kim.”
    

“Hey Sid.”
    

That begins my day at WVPE.
    

I’m not exactly sure what Kim does at the station. It’s my impression that she carries it around on her shoulders.

“Hi Kim.”

“Hey Sid.”

“Kim, I gotta ask ya, what is it, exactly, that you do here at WVPE?”

“I do a little bit of everything,” says Kim.

As I look back at the past twelve months, I realize that 2019 was the year of the bad joke.  In the middle of work, of play, of family changes, of national politics – the one constant for me was that I was always able to count on a bad joke to get me through the bad days.

And when I say bad jokes, at my age what I mean is not smut or sick political burns – no, for me what this means is just good old-fashioned “dad jokes.”  You know the ones – the kind of one-line groaners that you are embarrassed to hear someone tell.  I resort to these all the time. 

Heather Curlee-Novak

So I took a trip this Fall.  I have ventured all over the United States and also went to Cancun as is required for most young people mid winter.  Once, when I was way up north in Michigan for a work assignment, I ventured over the bridge to a Canadian Tim Horton’s. Then I went back across the bridge because it was late and I was tired.  I never had a passport.  I suck at geography.  Even as lovely church missionaries and Doctors without Borders and Peace Corps people head across the ocean to help other people in other countries, I was content here at home in Indiana.

Years ago, a friend of mine had a favorite menu item at a carry-out Chinese restaurant. The proprietors, who barely spoke English, had put their young daughter in charge of the register. The girl noticed that my friend always chose the same dinner. Once when my friend picked up her order, the girl smiled knowingly and said, “You like it!”

Oh Lord help me! There’s no sugar-coating the situation, I’m a blurter! If I hadn’t been quite sure that this is a bad thing, one look at our Dear Leader plunges me into the depths of despair over my situation. This blurting business is not a good thing: raucous laughter, streams of invective and unkind opinions really are best kept internalized.

Michiana Chronicles: Daffodils

Nov 27, 2019
Oli Scarff/Getty Images

It was an afterthought to take the daffodils. I was already backing out of the driveway when I noticed them in full bloom along the side of our house. I got out of the car and went inside to find scissors to cut them. Then I moistened some paper towels to wrap around their stems and placed all of that in aluminum foil. It was a three-hour drive, and I didn’t want them to wilt.

Michiana Chronicles: Invisible And Essential

Nov 21, 2019
PATRICK SEMANSKY / AP

Once in a while I get to spend a few treasured minutes with my father-in-law in his basement workshop. It’s a smallish room, tightly organized floor to ceiling and corner to corner with pegboards, shelves, and labelled bins. In there, you can smell his favorite pipe tobacco and the oil that keeps the motors free to spin. There’s a lifetime of tools on the pegboards, grouped by type and extending far beyond the obvious few screwdrivers and wrenches anybody might have, including several tools an English professor like me might not know the name of.

April Lidinsky

We’re only halfway through November, but this month already feels operatic in scale. To review, we’ve endured: elections and their roiling aftermath, the choppy waves of the impeachment hearings, the transit of Mercury, the full moon, and the sudden onset of polar-powered lake-effect winter. Sometimes, I’m with Meg, from Little Women, who groused, “November is the most disagreeable month in the whole year.”   

 

Sid Shroyer

The story is well known. In 1988, Sister Maura started the Chapin Street Clinic in a vacant garage, to provide health care for people who are uninsured. She nurtured its growth into a modern building across the street in 1998, and then lent it her name in 2006. Thousands of patients, and hundreds of volunteers and employees have benefited from her vision.

Andrew Kreider

I’ve been working on maps recently.  It all started with Lara Trump.  A few weeks ago she suggested that the average American would need to Google “Who are the Kurds, and why is America even over there fighting this war?”  I was righteously offended by this comment, until I realized that in my case she was correct.  I really couldn’t have shown you where Kurdistan was on a map.

 

Heather Curlee-Novak

It is not even 8:30 in the morning when she has stormed upstairs and I have slammed a door and bellowed that our fun plans for the day are cancelled.  I sit in the bathroom where I am hiding from her, fuming.  I am too mad to pray. I’m too mad to write.  I’m too mad to think in any kind of a reasonable straight line.

Michiana Chronicles: The Freedom To Be Angry

Oct 18, 2019
Jason DeCrow / Associated Press

As I watched in awe Greta Thunberg address world leaders on September 23rd, I was, like so many other people of the world, struck by her anger.  The unrelenting passion of her delivery.  The pureness of her voice that vacillated from yelling to cracking. Tears that, on occasion, pleaded to escape her eyes. Her firm resolve. Her stoic stance and unapologetic glare. Raw, unwavering anger. It sounded like freedom to me.

Michiana Chronicles: Ephemeral Harvest

Oct 11, 2019
Cynthia L. Holther

One day late last autumn, I strode in the house, flung off my coat and hollered, "Riely, do we know what time the moon rises?"

"Look on the mirror," he hollered back. We weren't mad-hollering; we were just excited. We'd hatched a plan to drive up to Lake Michigan for dinner at the Roadhouse, and then watch the Harvest Moon rise as we rode home.

The post-it note on the mirror read 7:19. Working backward, as is his wont, he proposed a well-timed schedule. I proposed, as is my wont, that we take the prettiest route possible.

I'm going to do something out of the ordinary by stepping in as a Michiana Chronicles commentator. Of course this is the Fall Pledge Drive, so maybe it won’t sound too different. WVPE has been a part of NPR since 1991. That's 28 years of service to the community. 

We weren’t original National Public Radio members; that started in 1970. Today, it's a news source heard by 40 million people each week.  No change was more significant than that infamous day in Sept. 2001 when the network audience doubled, and the network became less analysis of news and more live coverage…

New York State Sex Offender Registry / Associated Press

We’re told that public benefits create moral hazards because they make people dependent on the government, and there’s nothing worse (according to this common theory) than giving a poor person the sense that they don’t need to work for a living. But great wealth, which we too easily value as something to be desired in and of itself, presents a more dangerous risk to the democratic values we cherish as Americans.

Jeanette Saddler-Taylor

If you are a reader of either the books or newspaper column by Miss Manners, you may have noted that she uses a question and answer format: etiquette questions from readers: answers from Miss Manners. She prefaces her answers with the salutation, “Gentle Reader.”

Michiana Chronicles: Kitchens

Sep 13, 2019
Jean DeWinter

Kitchens are a big part of life. Embraced or shunned, neglected or over-indulged, have order or chaos. They’re small and cramped with little counterspace or spacious and roomy with pantries and cupboards galore. They’re rooms with great potential or activity or just used for meal prep. For me, a kitchen is possibility and contemplation, where my favorite people, things and feelings about them, converge.

Ken Smith

When I drive up to South Bend’s Civil Rights Heritage Center, west of downtown in the carefully restored Engman Natatorium, I like the tidy brickwork and the old-fashioned stone lettering with its elegant curves and flourishes. When I go there to hear a public talk, a open-mic poetry reading, or a film screening, I like even better the feeling of community that people have worked on there. I walk into the building sure that the folks filing in came to think and talk about making our community better.

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