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Welcome to Mike Redmond's home on the Weird Wide Web!

Greetings, Earth People. I'm Mike Redmond. Not the baseball player. Instead of making you guess the rest, I'll just go ahead and tell you who I am and what I do.

  • I'm a newspaper columnist -- formerly the feature columnist for The Indianapolis Star (back when you could call it a newspaper). I bailed out of the place about two years after Gannett bought it, and I still count that as the best decision I ever made. My creditors don't always agree.
  • Now I write for papers around Central Indiana, a magazine or two, and this site. I'm also a public speaker, a teacher, an historical (as opposed to hysterical) interpreter, a farm tour guide, and occasionally, when I can be talked into it, an author. They're all my favorite jobs.
  • This is where you'll find my online column, posted every Wednesday, unless I get ambitious and post it Tuesday. But don't count on it.
  • This is also where to look for news about speaking engagements, new jobs, friends, and stuff that strikes me as interesting. I'll probably throw in a few recipes, too. I get wild like that sometimes.
  • Take a look around. Let's have some fun.

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

This Spring I Am Having A Vine Old Time

Forgive me if I seem a little giddy. I can't help it. Something really gid-inducing happened.

My wisteria bloomed.

I know what you're thinking: "This man is easily amused." Either that or "Of course it bloomed, you moron, it's Spring and that's what flowers do in the spring - they bloom."

Well, it's not quite that simple.

Let's start with the plant. Wisteria, which many mistakenly believe was named for Owen Wister, author of "The Virginian," is a flowering vine that actually comes from the same plant family as peas. The flower stems flow down from the vine in a sort of cone-shaped cascade of sweet-smelling blossoms. The vine can grow to enormous lengths and will, over time, develop a tough, woody trunk. Meanwhile, the green shoots grow extremely fast and have been known to pull down trellises, engulf small animals and camouflage entire neighborhoods.

What it does not do readily is bloom. At least, mine doesn't. I'm beginning to think the name, Wisteria, is actually from a Latin word that means "I'll bloom when I'm good and ready and not a second before."

I've lived here 12 years. In all those years I have seen this plant bloom once, and that's now. And before you begin carpet-bombing me with gardening tips (not that I don't appreciate them) let me tell you I have followed every wisteria tip I could find. I have trimmed it back severely in July and again in February. I have severed some of the roots. I have fed it all the appropriate fertilizers. I even removed a trashy silver maple that was blocking the sunlight (and, coincidentally, threatening to fall on the house).

I have done everything short of burying a white chicken at midnight, under a full moon, while chanting "Farley Farley Farley" and dancing the Charleston. Nothing.

I would explain my plight to fellow wisteria owners. I use the word "owners" instead of "lovers" because I found quite a few whose frustration dwarfed my own. Generally, this was because they had once known the delight of a blooming wisteria and now hoped in vain for a return engagement. At least I had the advantage of never seeing mine in bloom. You can't miss what you haven't known.

Usually, they suggested all the things I mentioned above, including the one about burying the chicken. When I would explain that I'd done all those things, they would sort of give me an apologetic smile and a shrug. It almost became like a secret handshake for wisteria victims.

Which gets me to this year and the morning last week when, out of the blue, or to be more accurate purple, flowers appeared on my wisteria. Real ones. Attached to the plant and everything.

Talk about happy. I grabbed my camera to record the event. I called my mom. I even made an announcement on Facespace in which I said something about never knowing I could be so pleased by a vine.

Of course, I don't know why it happened, why it decided to grant my wish after 12 years. I wasn't systematic in working with it. I just tried everything. Almost. See above under "white chicken."

I've been told this is a great year for flowering trees and for wisteria. I agree. They're everywhere and they're beautiful. And this, too, might explain my giddiness.

Hay fever medicine does that to me.

© 2010 Mike Redmond. All Rights Reserved
Tue, April 27, 2010 | link 

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

I'm Just Not A Shady Guy

I have a problem with sunglasses.

My problem involves the fact that I can very seldom find any I like, and when I do, I invariably lose them or break them, usually within a few days of purchase.

You Freudian analysts out there will, of course, interpret this to mean that I really don't want to wear sunglasses at all, probably because my mother forced me to eat Cheerios, or something like that. I think that could fairly be called "overanalyzing the situation."

Mostly I think it's just a case of me being kind of clumsy with them. OK, very clumsy.

"Just buy cheap ones," my friends have said. "That way, when you lose them or break them, you can just go buy another pair. No big deal."

Obviously they have never dealt with sunglass clumsitude on a scale like mine. Case in point: The other Saturday, I had to swing by Target to buy some sunglasses to replace the ones I left somewhere. Then I went out to run errands. Two hours later, at a Farmer's Market, they fell out of my shirt pocket and on to the floor, where I promptly applied one of my size 11 Red Wing work boots, the left one, to them. And so I also stopped at Target on the way home.

"Get some expensive ones, so you'll take better care of them," my other friends have said. Once again, bad idea. When last seen, my $350 prescription sunglasses were riding around in the back seat of a taxi cab in Omaha. By themselves.

I've only had one pair of prescription sunglasses I did not break or lose. I still have them, in fact. They're left over from my rock and roll days when I went to the optician looking for drama.

"What are these?" I asked, pointing to a pair of Ray-Bans.

"Those are the Roy Orbison models with standard lenses," said the bored hipper-than-thou clerk. What is it about these people who think selling sunglasses makes them cooler than everyone else? At any rate ...

"Can they be made darker?"

"Sure. How's this?" she asked, holding up a smoky gray lens.

"Too light." 

"This?" A darker lens.

"Still too light."

"Well, that leaves this," she said, holding up a piece of glass so opaque it might as well have been onyx. "We don't recommend them, though, because they're so dark. They're called the Stevie Wonders."

"Perfect," I said.

So that's what I got: The Roy Orbison Autograph Models with the Stevie Wonder Option Pack (talent not included).

And as I said, I still have them, although I can't use them. Number one, my prescription has changed. Not that it would make much difference. They weren't kidding about these things being dark. They're so dark as to be useless. You would have to be standing in the Sahara at high noon to see your hand in front of your face.

Oh, well. There are lots worse problems to have, I'll grant you. Not that long ago, I could hardly see at all, day or night. Adding "sunglasses" to the budget is short beer compared to being blind.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I must go. I need to go to Target. You know why.

© 2010 Mike Redmond. All Rights Reserved.

Tue, April 20, 2010 | link 

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Say Cheese! Oh, wait. You ARE cheese!

Just back from vacation. As they used to say in my hometown paper, The Hooterville World Guardian, a good time was had by all and refreshments were served.

About those refreshments ... I noticed something on this trip that puzzled me. Every time I sat down to eat, someone at a table nearby would produce a camera and start flashing away, paparazzi style. No, not at me.

At their food.

I'm not kidding. Every single meal - and I ate a lot of ‘em - someone would be aiming a camera - cell phone, point-and-shoot, single-lens reflex - at their plate. Didn't matter what it was, either. From a hamburger and fries to a lobster dinner, they all got the "Say CHEESE" treatment. Including the cheese.

Now, I have been a photographer, and I have done food photography for newspapers, but I've never photographed my own food. In fact, the whole idea seems just a little weird to me. And for a guy who knows weird as well as I do, that is saying something.

Maybe it's because I am half-McKenzie, which means that my veins are coursing with the blood of a people who remember every meal they have ever eaten. I am not kidding. Come to one of our family reunions sometime. The top three conversational topics are What I Am Eating, What I Have Eaten, and What I Hope To Eat Someday. When do we have these conversations? While we're eating, of course.

Of course, we have our favorites - the classics, if you will: Grandma McKenzie's fried and braised squirrel; fresh hams with their crispy crackling skin and rich, tender meat (generally preferred to roast beef, in part because hogs paid a lot of McKenzie mortgages); glorious new asparagus, unburdened by sauces; morel mushrooms, one of the signs that truly we have a Benevolent Creator who wants us to be happy; and desserts of all descriptions. All are remembered fondly, recreated faithfully or anticipated hungrily. Usually when we're standing in the buffet line.

I also have keen memories of restaurant meals, some of them almost 50 years old, from simple hamburgers at a drive-in in Huntington to lobster ravioli at an Indianapolis restaurant that closed before I was able to go back and make sure I hadn't imagined the entire thing, to boudin sausage eaten at a small chrome-legged table in a shack added onto a gas station near Lafayette, Louisiana. They are as alive in my memory as if I had eaten them yesterday.

Which brings up an interesting point. Why is it that I can remember all these meals from long ago, but am not entirely certain about what I might have had for dinner last night?

This points out the value of taking photos of your food, at least for those of us who have a few thousand miles on the odometer. Don't remember what you ate? Look on your camera.

I've talked to some people about their food photos, though, and I don't think that's exactly why they do it. I think they're using the photos as more of a visual diary, which is actually kind of cool. And useful. No more arguments over whether the pizza was with pepperoni or sausage. Now you'll have conclusive proof.

Which gets me back to what I ate last night. I just remembered. Canned tuna.

No photo necessary.

© 2010 Mike Redmond. All Rights Reserved.

Tue, April 13, 2010 | link 

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By the way -- everything on this site is Copyright 2009 by Mike Redmond. If you copy it without my permission, I will hunt you down with either my dog or my lawyer. I'll probably go with the dog. She's smarter.

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