I have an afternoon of grading and a Berries practice tonight, but I haven’t checked in for a while, and thought I might drop by.
I spent yesterday afternoon on campus, catching a basketball doubleheader, as our men’s and women’s teams faced their nationally ranked counterparts from Lincoln Memorial U of Harrogate, TN. Some years ago, I was a member of the review team that visited LMU when they asked to be admitted to our athletic conference, and it seemed like a solid place, but I may have been biased because of the presence of one of my favorite fast food places nearby. The school traditionally has strong basketball programs (not surprising, as they have a genuinely spectacular arena, one that many larger schools would envy), and as I said, this year is no exception.
The games followed a similar pattern. Newberry jumped out to large early leads, only to attempt to weather furious comebacks from the visitors. The men’s team was unable to hold its lead, but the women were able to ride out the storm and notch their second win against top-10 teams this year.
I sat in my usual area, one seat to the Newberry side of midcourt, but things were a bit livelier than usual. LMU brought a fair-sized contingent of fans, and two of their men’s players (both doing redshirt years) were a couple of rows behind me, encouraging their teammates, doing friendly trash talking, and generally having a good time. It bugged some of the older Newberry supporters, but I actually thought it was fun having them there, and bantered with them a bit, scoring a point when I noted that we had beaten them earlier in the season, and another when I pointed out that one of their bigs — a 6’8″ guy with long dreads — looked like women’s star Britney Griner. “Oh, man,” one of the players laughed. “That’s what we call him!” And later, when the result was still in doubt, I turned back to the kids and said, “Win or lose, this has been a good game, and a good time.” They agreed, and as they left a few minutes later, I wished them a safe trip home.
The crowd for the women’s game was thinner, but fortified by concession stand nachos, I stuck through that one as well — I have students on each team, and try to see both teams when I can. The officiating was kind of wobbly, which led to a fair amount of jockeying from the Newberry faithful — not all of it good-natured, alas. At one point, a call went against LMU, and one of their fans jumped up and started berating the ref. I hollered over, “Hey, we don’t like him either!” It got a laugh. As I made my way to the exit after the women had completed the upset, I congratulated our coach, and I could hear the kids celebrating in the locker room. It’s a good sound on a late Saturday afternoon. Or anytime.
Last night was the 70th birthday of Berries guitarist (and former director of the college library) Larry Ellis, so after being home for a few minutes, I headed to his birthday party.
Or thought I did — I had misplaced my invitation. When I got to his house, I saw the cars of family, friends, and band members, and the lights were on, so I went up and knocked on the door.
No reply. So I tried again. Nada. So I tried calling on my cell phone. No reply. So I tried ringing his son-in-law (Berries guitarist and Mondoville alum Lex Martin). Not only is there no answer, but the power dies on my phone at the end of the call. So I knocked again. Nothing. But I’m nothing if not stubborn, so I kept trying for a while, and finally went home, briefly charged my cell phone, and texted still another Berry and asked where things were going on. At a house on a cross street, as it happens, about 40 yards (and quite visible) from Larry’s place. “Didn’t you see the tiki torches?”
“Um.” So I made it back — an advantage to living in such a small town is that we’re all close together — and sure enough, there were the torches. I got there in time for the second half of the celebration, and a good time appeared to be had by all. So happy three-score-and-ten, Goofy Foot, and I’ll see you at practice tonight. I can probably remember where that is.
While all this was going on, Mrs. M was in Greenville, where she met up with my niece –my brother’s daughter — who was up there visiting friends. I had already committed to Larry’s party, so I couldn’t go, but I learned that my niece is doing well, and working on a degree that will qualify her to teach English, which makes me smile. I also learned that my brother is doing reasonably well in Kentucky. He’s considered a model prisoner; he’s taking a variety of classes, including one in sign language, and serves on various committees, such as an inmate grievance board and apparently some others. My niece saw him a bit before her 21st birthday a few months back, and they talk pretty often.
While his facility is primarily a way station where prisoners stay before being sent to their permanent assignments, Mike is one of about a hundred or so who are permanently billeted there, and of that small number, he’s one of only three lifers. But he seems to have settled in, and I hope he’s as comfortable as he can be.
People ask me from time to time about Mike, my feelings toward him, and my thoughts on his incarceration. We don’t talk, and haven’t spoken since shortly before his trial — indeed, I doubt we have much to say. But I don’t wish him further ill or suffering. He’s my brother, and I love him and he’s experiencing what I think are appropriate consequences for what he did. His absence creates gaps for the people who loved and love him, and I feel sorry both for them and for the knowledge that his actions led to that absence, and I can only imagine it would be far worse to carry that knowledge about myself, as he must.
My brother will turn 47 next week. His sentence — and his life, and mine, and his daughter’s life — continues.
Mrs. M took advantage of the run Upstate to visit a Whole Foods, which doesn’t exist in Mondoville, and she brought back soy “ice cream” sandwiches for the Spawn (who became fond of them as a dairy-allergic child) and a pint of Graeter’s ice cream for me. Graeter’s is one of the culinary treasures of my Greater Cincinnati days, and one of the high points of my life here in Mondoville was when I discovered a supermarket in Real City that carries both Graeter’s and canned Cincinnati-style chili. The Spawn came down here a few minutes ago, and debated consuming one of her “ice cream” sandwiches before breakfast, opting instead to be mature and eat her oatmeal first. I face no such dilemma, having eaten my ice cream last night. So on the one hand, I’m less mature than my teenager. But on the other, it was quite good.
The Berries will be back at Art Bar next weekend, and we’ll be debuting a couple of new tunes, so we’d love to see you there, or failing that, at the Soundbox in March or back at Art Bar in April. Gig reports will of course follow.
On the writing front, I managed to cross another item off my bucket list last week, when I joined the Mystery Writers of America. I’ve wanted to be a member for decades, but only if I could qualify as a full/active member. Associate memberships are available for fans and friends of the genre, but I felt like I should “earn my way in.” And now I have — or at least I officially will when the board confirms my membership in March. And I’ve already received a token of membership:
But as I said in the afterword to Broken Glass Waltzes, no one really writes alone, and I’m thankful for the folks who have encouraged me to keep doing this stuff over the years — other writers, friends, teachers, and these days, Mrs. M and the Spawn. I think of them all when I look at the pin.
Alas, these papers and exams will not grade themselves — I know; I’ve tried to let them — so I’d best close. But what would one of my potpourri entries be without a bit of music? So here’s one from a guy who started his rock career as a drummer for a garage combo called the Iguanas, from whom he derived his stage name as he became one of the more fabled front men in rock history. This is probably my favorite of his songs, and it frequently puts me in the mood to write. So with a rhythm section composed of Soupy Sales’s kids, here’s “The Passenger.”
See you soon!