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Rumilluminations September 2011
By: Esther M. Powell
Posted on: Thu, September 01 2011 - 11:10 am

September 30, 2011                           Valparaiso, IN

Three cheers for Warren Buffett!

It's time more superrich people step up to help out the country, especially after the country stepped up to help out them!

Oh, yeah, maybe they would be just as rich if they were living in another country.

But maybe not.  And the rest of us don't want to be just as poor as if we were living in a third world country!

Count your blessings, citizens!  and be Godlike by showering blessings on those below you in between your pleasures.

Even I can do a little of that.  And I make less than Warren Buffett's secretary!

September 29, 2011                             Valparaiso, IN

We saw Adam's Rib last night.  Thinking it must have been made before World War II (partly because I heard no reference to the war) I was speculating on how the war affected the social standing of women.  That film seems more radically feminist than recent flicks!

Now I find out that the movie was released, anyway, in 1949.  So what happened to us? 

My partner thinks it was still the war, and that the fifties were part of the backlash of the war.  In his reading of history Paul Johnson makes the case that strong military action and focus seems to result in a diminution in the rights of citizens, especially women.

Whoopee, another anti-war argument!  (As if war isn't an anti-war argument against itself on the face of it.)

September 28, 2011                            Valparaiso, IN

I forgot to mention some of the wildlife we saw in and around Madison, IN.

In addition to the four-foot black snake we saw along the path (I heard later that even a dog couldn't move him.  Was he sick?  Had he eaten so much he couldn't move?) on our walk that ended at the Madison Hospital we saw deer grazing on the lawn.

When we drove through Hanover College we saw the same bold activity on the part of deer.  Maybe we could hire some deer to shorten our grass!

Right in the town we came across a fairy-like group of golden dragonflies flying around at the edge of someone's property.  I never saw so many in one group before.  What is a crowd of dragonflies called?  A dragoon of dragonflies?  Too military.  A dance of dragonflies?  I like that one better.

Madison has a lot of cats, but never fear.  The ones we saw did not fit under the category of wildlife.  There certainly seemed to be more cats than dogs.

Oh, and we saw an end-of-the-season praying mantis.  For something that is supposed to be common, they are not very often spotted by us.

This turned out to be a town visit.  Considering that, I think we had some pretty good sightings!

September 27, 2011                               Valparaiso, IN

I got my dates last week confused - sorry - but I'm not going to try to rectify that now.  I'll just have to remember to bring a little calendar along on my next trip.

Here we are in Valparaiso, but I'm not going to stop talking about Madison, Indiana!

The Chautauqua Art Festival started out soggy on Saturday but by noon or so it cleared up and we actually got some sun.  This was a good one, with puzzle boxes and wooden bowls (are practical wooden kitchen items still called "treen"?) and weavings and paintings and mobiles and stained glass and enough interesting and beautiful items that I could have easily spent a thousand dollars or so if I had had it.  I hope somebody did for the sake of the vendors and us.  It would be a pity if these colorful street fairs went away.

We did spend an extra couple hundred on badly needed shoes at a wonderful shoe store on Main Street near Mulberry.  This owner is making noises about quitting the business in spite of his increase in sales over the last couple of years because he is in his mid-sixties.  Want to buy a successful business?  Make a reeaaaally good offer!

After looking at the art fair for a while we decided a matinee would be good.  Crazy, Stupid Love was showing in the downtown theater a block and a half from our hotel.

But it was already 1:30, matinee time!  We walked fast, figuring we would miss the ads and a couple of previews.

Not to worry.  There was no one there, and they hadn't started the movie at all.  So for six dollars a ticket we got a private screening in-plexes have per viewing room in new theaters.

Captain America was showing in the balcony.  This movie house has two offerings at any one time.

Later we went down to the river and had an inexpensive meal of German food at one of the food booths at the fair.

I'll probably think of more to write about later, but this is the last installment of our personal antiques road show (the antiques being us, ha-ha!)

September 24, 2011                               Madison, IN

We figured out today that one reason Madison is so charming is that the ugly strip part of town is at a different level from the old town area.

Now, please don't get offended by my calling any part of a town ugly.  If the word offends you, maybe I'll use the word "stressful" instead.  Streets with small shops are often charming.  The strips with at least three lanes huge signs at all levels batting at your eyes are stressful.

Plus the lower level of Madison has the river, which lowers your blood pressure a few points just looking at it.

Yesterday we walked around Madison, getting very cordial help at the Jefferson County courthouse, the historical visitors' place by the old railroad depot, and the shoe store!  (There is an awesome shoe store a little west of Main and Mulberry - on the south side of the street.)  These people, especially Diana Hand, went way beyond the call of duty in addressing our needs.

The weather, on the other hand, has not.

Yesterday it was great.  We walked up Walnut Street and down East Street.  This is a part of town known for its population of free blacks and underground railroad activities.  Pretty discouraging to read that there was still plenty of racism rampant in this town to fuel illegal violence against the inhabitants.

We walked up and down the Ohio River on the wonderful river park walk.  This is a great little town for walking because everything (except workout machines!) is handy.  There is even a hospital down here. 

But today, the first day of the Chautauqua Art Festival, it is rainy.  How discouraging for the artists and artisans!  Nevertheless we will head out and see what we can see.  I'm told people set up their wares and are prepared for the rain.  Never let it be said that we are less adventurous than they!

Street art shows are not new to me, but this promises to be something spectacular, with several hundreds of participants from all over the country.

September 21, 2011                               Madison, IN

Yesterday we decided to walk the Heritage Trail again, the walk which ended up last time with our infamous struggle along the edge of Highway 7 back into town.  We felt lucky to have survived!

This time we saw what looked like a grizzled old groundhog munching along the side of the road on the way to the trail.  On the trail itself, an old man told us about a black snake lying right across the path ("four or five feet long and a couple inches above the trail.")  It was still there when we came along.  Its head was up, but the rest of it was stretched full length (at least four feet) with bumps along it which looked like its last dozen dinners. 

It did not trouble itself to move as we went by, and we didn't trouble it, either.

Where the path goes along an old railroad track we got deflected onto the track instead of the path.  Up and up we went.  Sure, we knew we had made a mistake, but I wasn't too worried.  If worse came to worse, we would come across the driveway of the Madison State Hospital complex, and walk back the opposite way we had come before, two years ago.  At least we wouldn't have to walk along highway 7.

We saw some tall wild flowers.  The sun was shining and the sky was blue.  But after a while we noticed there was less of it.  The railroad disappeared under big rocks which had obviously fallen from high canyon walls on both sides.  Some of what we went through might have been blasted out by the railroad, but some striated limestone made a mini natural ampitheater.  In one area where the rocks made the danger of being squashed seem most immanent, young people obviously made a point of hanging out.

"Do not enter" we we warned.  Some names, and the comment, "Fuck the police."  (I didn't see that one, but my partner did.)

We read the verbal clamor as we clambored over the rocks.

Whew!  Were we ever going to get out of this alive?  If we got crushed under a boulder, would our bodies be retrieved, or would someone just come along and sign the rock?

It looked sunnier up ahead.  Maybe our walk, which was beginning to feel like a thirst ordeal, was heading toward known territory.

Well, no.  But we could hear that Highway 7 was nearby, so we knew it wouldn't be long.

Then we saw the driveway I had been waiting for.  Gee, when we crossed it last time I didn't notice what a deep ditch it spanned!  Luckily it wasn't long before my partner spotted an egress and we climbed up - to Highway 7!

Dang!  We went through what seemed like a homeless person's hangout (luckily unoccupied) and walked along 7 again.  This time we only walked a few feet, then onto the driveway and around the grounds of the Hospital and down Heritage trail.

One of these times we will manage to hike the 1.4 miles of the trail in both directions.  On the other hand, there was a mysterious flight of stairs up along the west side of the railroad tracks... I wonder where those lead?

September 19, 2011                               Madison, IN

Yes!  We are on the Ohio River, site of my great-grandfather's family's fund-raising barge ride of a century ago!

Have I told you that story?  Well, it is too long to tell here, but my great-grandfather, a minister and missionary, used stereopticon (my spell check tells me this is not a word, but I think maybe it is just archaic) slides of Chile and weekly musicales (performed by his family with Sears-bought stringed instruments) to raise money for Armenian refugees.

They started from Aurora Indiana on a rebuilt barge they called the Ugly Duckling.  I have seen a picture of the abandoned barge in what looks like a cornfield where it was found in a book my great-aunt Cathy wrote, The Story of O.  (Hmmm, come to think of it, maybe that is the beginning of my belief in the power of O.)

Their journey ended here in Madison.  That is why I first came to Madison five or so years ago, and I'm really glad I did.  It is a charming town (you should see the charming garden cum statue across the street from the public library!  Reminds me of Key West.)

We have a "room" (really a suite) at the Central Hotel on Mulberry Street with a "kitchenette" (really a kitchen with all the adventure of an old castle, with blocked off doors and mysterious cupboards.  The moldy stairs as you take your first few steps up from the street do not bode well, but inside our "room" it is just fine, if you don't mind old.  Believe me, at $200 for two for a week, the price is right.

The Central Hotel was the setting for the movie "Some Came Running" from the novel by James Jones, which, I must confess, I have neither seen nor read.  I will try to catch the DVD and report on it sometime.

The Madison courthouse, which had recently lost its tower the last time we were here, is now gleaming in the rainy weather.  It looks great!

The library here is having its big used book sale here (as, incidentally, Valparaiso is also this week.)  There is also an art show happening Friday through Sunday, so if we are around (or if you want to be) there are some added attractions.

Now to throw off this rain! 

September 16, 2011                                Valparaiso, IN

Sometimes I think that conservatives and GOP members who say they don't want to pay hospital bills for those who aren't "prudent" enough to live a life that gives them health insurance - sometimes I think that the only reality for these people is financial.

Why should I join a health insurance organization and pay high premiums for all the people who are imprudent enough to be smokers?  Grossly overweight?  Risk-takers?  Maybe it is more prudent for me to avoid such programs.

How about a health insurance company that doesn't spend its money imprudently on ridiculously pompous buildings?  How about a health insurance company that doesn't waste its earnings on people who "evaluate" claims and attorneys to try to weasel out of paying on claims?

How about a health insurance company that has a low base rate for below-average weight skinny people and then pro-rates policies depending on each five-pound increment the policy-holder adds?

How about having the "prudence" to really try to take care of yourself so that you don't get sick?

Financial health is not the only kind of health.

Sure, rich people might live longer than poor people, but they sure have a lot more unhealthy temptations!

How about quality of life?  Isn't that worth more than mere time?

I'm not sure I want enough money (or health insurance) to keep myself alive wheezing down the street hooked to an oxygen tank.

September 15, 2011                             Valparaiso, IN

Does September sap your soul?

Does September zap your soul?

Does September put a number on you - the concentration camp tattoo of school?

When I accept an assIgnment, am I agreeing to a task that is meant to make an ass out of mIself?

Does September squeeze all the fun out of me?

Does it make me go to extremes of conscientiousness instead of streams of consciousness?

Would you rather hear me rant or nonsensicalIze?

Or neether or nIther?

Allow me to assume my Response-abilities.  Will I then no longer be an ass?  Is assuming like exhuming?

Is it possible I am trading summer's popsicle for being too solipsical?

Ay, I'm going in zany circles!  Or zany in circles!

September 14, 2011                              Valparaiso, IN

In our book club the other day, one of our members said she didn't understand why people wouldn't keep their money in the bank.  I said I could understand it - you never know if a bank will fail!  And is the Federal Reserve guarantee much better?

Well, the bank goblins must have heard me because the very next day I got a statement from my Oregon bank (the account of which I left open in case someone (like the state, which happened to me in New Mexico) took it into his head to give me money!)

For six years my account had languished with a $6 balance.  I felt bad about it, so I decided to put a thousand dollars in it a while back.  A sign of good faith, I thought.  I figured someday I might live in Corvallis again, and be able to deposit more money - maybe even enough to make their services worthwhile to them as well as me.

The bank instantly charged me a "dormant service charge."  Talk about rewarding what should be considered good behavior (money coming into their coffers) with bad consequences!  Why didn't they just take my paltry six dollars and close out my account long ago?

But oh well, it was only five dollars.

Last month I needed money and wrote a check.

This month I got my first statement in months:

"May 4  Dormant Service Charge    5.00-

Jun 3  Dormant Service Charge     5.00-

Jul 6   Dormant Service Charge     5.00-

Aug 3  Dormant Service Charge     5.00-"

Bam!  Bam!  Bam!  Bam!

For the privilege of making a deposit and writing one check, I have now paid a total of $25.

If they had sent me a notice in May about that fee, I would have shut down the account immediately.  As it is, they got to sink their batty fangs into me for another $15.

Needless to say, I have written a check for my balance and deposited it in my so far inoffensive local bank.  A teller here tells me that these dormant service charges are the result of a federal law, so BEWARE! 

If they charge another "dormant service" fee that makes me overdrawn with this check, I'm going to put the name of the bank right here!  (Sputter, sputter, fume fume.)  (Okay, here's a hint.  In my experience, one should avoid banks whose names invoke a Pavlovian patriotic response.) 

As far as I'm concerned, the "individuals" from whom I have to protect my bank accounts - are the banks!

September 12, 2011                             Valparaiso, IN

Are you a reader?  Join a book club!  You may be surprised at how much you can enjoy a kind of reading you gave up on long ago.  Or maybe you will just reinforce your earlier decision that science fiction just isn't for you.  At least you will have gotten out of your comfort range - and stretching is soooo good for you.  (Oh, well, maybe not so good for words!)  Try coming by Valparaiso Public Library at noon and join the discussion about Zeitoon!

Are you a dancer?  This Saturday evening, and most other third Saturdays of the month, we have a contradance with live music at the new YMCA on Cumberland Crossing Drive.  What's a contradance?  Maybe kind of a contrary reel would be a good nutshell description.  You are welcome to come and find out!  No partners or previous experience necessary.  (We need $5 at the door to help with expenses, though.)

Both of these groups are comprised of congenial and enthusiastic people, but we could use more participants.  You will be greeted with appreciation if you come - I guarantee it!

September 10, 2011                          Valparaiso, IN

Alas, our country is becoming obsessed with extreme scenarios.

Death, while dramatic, is a small portion of a total life, yet it takes up a huge percentage of our air waves and brain waves.

Much of our entertainment (mine included) centers around death, especially violent death.

Well, maybe we do not watch and read about murders because we have blood lust.  Maybe, to the contrary, we feel that we, unlike the unhappy victims portrayed, are blessed to have a second chance to live a life that does not inspire others to murder!

In our own lives, let's not to think in terms of ultimate solutions like the death penalty or shooting up a bunch of innocents in mindless revenge.  (Or "final solutions" to race relations!)

Life is what takes all the intelligence, fortitude and patience we can summon up.  Live a little!

September 9, 2011                              Valparaiso, IN

My partner, working as a chef, was told by one of the owners of his restaurant in Stowe, Vermont, that he should throw out a bunch of soup every once in a while just to show his staff who was boss.  He never did it.

My daughter, who was working in a Kentucky Fried Chicken place in Los Alamos, New Mexico, was traumatized by an owner who would have a fit if someone dropped a piece of chicken, then on another occasion, flung a whole trayful of chicken on the floor in a rage.  I don't know if he showed he was boss.  For sure he showed he was an ass!

I like to think that the U.S. is the kind of place where employees don't have to put up with that kind of power play, that kind of stupid wasteful inequitable behavior.

Is this psychology of power in the workplace really common business practice here?

September 8, 2011                              Valparaiso, IN

I doodle with my arrow around the margins of my page.

Unlike the old days when I doodled with my pen, it leaves no trace.  No signal betrays my potential for schizophrenia, as the cursive doodle similar to the cursive f is supposed to do.

The cursor taps impatiently, waiting for my next signal, the way I used to tap my foot impatiently, anxious for instructions from above.  (Not Above, merely above.  No dove, but maybe I dove into my subconscious!)

The blank space in front of me is not nearly so demanding as in days of old.  It is partly filled up with icons (not religious ones!), instructions, and menus (not, alas, edible offerings!)

Nevertheless, the blank space is there, requiring some action.  Ax on!  Back in those days someone had conquered a tree, and I must put pen to pulp and conquer it all over again.

Now I put my virtual type on a virtual page; my words fly around the world like a dove!  No, faster!

September 7, 2011                            Valparaiso, IN

We tend to think of generations as twenty years or so, and that is true, but it may not be for long!  In a few years, maybe thirty years will be the average time for one generation.

Why think in terms of generations, anyway?  It is really just an artificial construct based on overlapping family realities.  My grandparents may have been as old as your parents, so what is my generation, anyway?

My partner, while studying history, tried to imagine how many lifetimes it would take to span from the year 1600 to 2000.  Giving each lifetime a good ripe old age of eighty years, he figured it only takes five lifetimes to span the four hundred years between 1600 and 2000!  That is mind-boggling.

If you consider the cross-fertilization of ideas, the telling of stories from one generation to another, and political voting and activism, it is no wonder it takes so long for the world to change.

Socially, that is.  In the realm of science, especially inventions (which, if they are cool, wait for the permission of no one) it is not hard to imagine a hand-down of extreme progress.

Let's see:  Galileo teaches someone born in 1600 about the facts that the earth is round and the earth travels around the sun.  Then Newton teaches someone born in 1680 about gravity and the motion of bodies.  In 1760 someone is born who manages to meet Ben Franklin and learn all he knows about electricity.  When he dies in 1840, someone else is born who sees electricity being practically used - and the invention of the automobile and airplane.  By the year 1920, when that person dies and another is born, we are in the lifespan of the beginnings of the computer age - not to mention Einstein's development of the theory of relativity!

All within the total lifespans of five eighty-year-olds, who have been talking for four generations about politics, science, literature, biology - more and more things, really, as the centuries have passed.


September 6, 2011                               Valparaiso, IN

Do you think it is true, that if you hear a lie often enough you start to believe it?

Do you think that a picture is worth a thousand words?

If these things are true - maybe a fake image is worth a thousand lies!

September 5, 2011                               Valparaiso, IN

In the sixties we had a lot of "consciousness raising" groups.  It was a fine idea, and exposed us all to some new ideas and different points of view, but I guess consciousness expanding would be a better term for what I see happening.

Not only do we raise our consciousness to see more of what is happening in the world, we lower it to see more of what was previously unconscious in our behavior.  We learn more about history and we project more into future possibilities.  All those activities make us more conscious.

The more I learn about aspects of existence - real existence - to be aware of, the more any spiritual concerns that don't apply directly to our own relations to those around us (both near and far) seem like displacement activity.

The study of "the nature of God" makes for a great escape from real activities in the real world.

God is real?  If He is, He is.  Or not.  But either way, whiling away time on examining Him is a waste of energies and attention better spent on the real world.

Or, on second thought, we all have our escapes.  Just don't try to make yours, you who are obsessed with "God", a virtue.

September 4, 2011                              Valparaiso, IN

When I am in distress, am I pulling my hair out?

Is a buttress a lock of hair, well... you know where?

Do stresses have anything to do with tresses?

If you are not supposed to trespass, does it mean not even by a hair?

Is a trestle so called because, like a tress, it hangs into the air?

How come nobody ever says, "Today my tresses are messes!"

September 3, 2011                                Valparaiso, IN

It's unprecedented in my memory of this country's weather that we have such inundation of both the Atlantic and the Gulf coasts at the same time.

This afternoon we had thunderstorms, but whether they were related to what is washing the South, I don't know.  Probably not.

We traveled in Vermont so recently that it is hard to imagine it flooded and hurting.  Among the towns hard-hit in that state was Brattleborough, which we passed through as part of a lovely drive through the state on what Least-Heat Moon calls "blue highways."

Our house here in Valparaiso is less than a half-mile from one of the continental divides (so we learn from an information board in front of Thomas Jefferson Middle School) which may account for the rarity of flooding in the neighborhood.  We do have an inflatable kayak here at home, but I don't have much hope it would be very safe in a runaway debris-studded flood!

Well.  On a lighter note, I must report that I wrote yesterday about what I thought might be a pineapple flower, and found out today that it is a pineapple lily!  There are a great variety of these, evidently, that hail out of Africa.  I have not seen one in the petal yet, but look forward to it, and to seeing what they smell like.

The pineapple plant that bears fruit comes in a plethora of varieties too, if the websites with images can be believed.  Some of them seem as if they would bear fruit two feet long!  Not so practical for American markets, I guess, but great for a family reunion.  Might be kind of hard to refrigerate it, so everyone would have to eat with abandon!


September 2, 2011                             Valparaiso, IN

Yesterday I was visiting theforumsite ( and saw a wonderful picture of what appeared to be a pineapple plant in bloom!

Loving plants and flowers as I do and loving pineapple as I do, I am completely mystified that I never have thought or wondered about a pineapple in bloom.  Maybe the fruit looks so much like a pine cone that I thought the flowers might be insignificant.

If that was a pineapple I can assure you that the flowers are by no means insignificant.  They are so impressive that I would love to see a whole plantation of them. Walking along a road lined with flowering pineapples is now one of my ambitions.  I'm hoping their scent is as sweet as their fruit!

Meanwhile, pineapple plantations are far away, so we must content ourselves with the scrumptious color combination we saw yesterday provided by the monarch butterfly (was it from our own milkweed plantation? heh) and mauve double Rose of Sharon up the street. 

The goldfinch that just loves our big clump of Echinacea, though its blossoms are ragged and fading, deserves mention too.  We see him almost every day.

But, ah, now I am beginning to wonder about - banana blossoms!

September 1, 2011                                  Valparaiso, IN

My dad used to brag about being a snob.  "Yes, I'm a snob, and proud of it!"  He was speaking about music, I believe, and what he was willing to listen to.  That's okay, to each his own.  I don't believe, however, that he would have rejected people with different taste.  He used to say rock music was boring, so I played Jethro Tull to him and he admitted it was "interesting."  He still wouldn't listen to it on his own, I'm sure.  No blame.

But our family was also snobbish about language.  How many people lost rapport with me instantly, in my youth, because of grammatical mistakes?  I was taught (maybe only by example) to consider myself superior to people who did not speak good English.

Consequently, I assure you, during my entire undistinguished career in low-level positions, I spoke the Queen's English!

Now, of course, I realize that snobbery on the basis of good grammar is just as foolish as snobbery on the basis of financial standing or clothes sense.

How about a snobbery of the heart?  Only good-hearted people are eligible to enter the intimate circle?

Oh, yeah, the good-hearted folks are too kind for such an exclusionary practice!

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