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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, May 25, 2010

Sisyphus On The Grass, Alas


I have a question. Well, a lot of questions, actually, but today I'm only concerned with one.

Where is it written that our houses are supposed to be surrounded by nice, neat patches of grass, mowed to a short, even height and trimmed all around the edges so that every blade is in place?

For that matter, where is it written that we're supposed to have grass to begin with? Who made this rule? Was anybody else consulted or was it one of those unilateral deals? Was there a vote? Why didn't I get a ballot? Is this fair?

Oops. I guess that's more than one question after all. Sorry. At least they're all in the same subject area.

Maybe you can tell I'm not exactly wild about mowing the lawn these days.

For one thing, I'm having to do it about every three days. I'm not sure what's going on here, but the slightest bit of rain makes my lawn shoot up like bamboo. It even grows faster when there's only a chance of rain. In Kansas City.

It's ridiculous. I mow the lawn on Saturday. On Sunday the dog drops her chewie in the yard. By Tuesday she's out there sniffing and whining because she can't find it in the forest of fescue.

(Actually, I'm being generous when I refer to my lawn as fescue. I'm sure there's some fescue growing out there somewhere, as well as some bluegrass, but it's in the minority. Mostly my lawn is a crabgrass-chickweed mix, with a sprinkling of wild oat here and there, a smattering of weeds I can't identify, and a lovely scattering of dandelion for contrast.)

Mowing makes a homeowner a Sisyphus, except that he's not rolling a rock now, he's pushing a Lawn-Boy - with the full knowledge that what he does will only have to be repeated in a few days. And yet he does it over and over and over. That, my friends, is close to the definition of insanity.

And why does he do it? Because convention says he must. Because the neighborhood demands it. Because someone, somewhere declared that grass allowed to grow naturally to its full height was unsightly, never taking into consideration my point of view, which is we'll never know if that's true as long as we keep cutting the stuff.

You know, it's funny, but I just started thinking like this a few weeks ago. Last year, I loved mowing the lawn. It was comforting, in a way, to walk the laps around the yard, over and over, turning the tall grass into an even green plane.

Then again, the mower was brand new. You know how it is. You get a new mower - or, for that matter, a new vacuum- and you just go crazy with it. The lawn is neat as a pin. The carpets are immaculate. Then, after a while, the newness wears off and mowing and sweeping become again the same ho-hum they always were.

Which is where I found myself today, ho-humming around the yard with last year's mower, asking questions for which there are no answers and wondering what would happen if I just let the lawn grow into my own personal tallgrass prairie. And then the answer came to me:

I'd go broke buying dog chewies.

Tue, May 25, 2010 | link 

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Finally, A Final We Can All Pass. Maybe.

It's Finals Time at schools across the country, including the university where I am rumored to be something called a "teacher," so in that spirit I've prepared a little quiz.
The subject is ... Stuff.
Ready? You may begin.
1. There is nothing wrong with your life that can't be cured by:
a. A gazillion dollars.
b. A really good grilled cheese sandwich.
c. Penicillin and/or Prozac,
d. New underwear.
2. What the world needs now is:
a. Love, sweet love.
b. A really good grilled cheese sandwich.
c. A better class of occupants.
d. More cowbell.
3. Time is:
a. Of the essence.
b. On your side.
c. Running out, so call immediately.
d. Not a very good magazine anymore.
4. The best way to solve most of the world's problems is:
a. Sit down and talk to one another as people.
b. Sit down and beat each other over the head with shovels.
c. Serve everyone really good grilled cheese sandwiches.
d. Give up and start over on another planet.
5. If Abe Lincoln were alive today, he'd be:
a. Miffed to find himself on the $5 bill while Grant gets the $50.
b. Inclined to stay home instead of go to the theater.
c. Proud of the country, except for the fact that the Civil War isn't really over yet.
d. 201 years old
6. Complete the following quotation: "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask..."
a. What comes with the Grilled Cheese Basket.
b. For directions, you big wussy.
c. If you could hear the question one more time.
d. By making your final Jeopardy answer in the form of a question.
7. When faced with a problem, the best response is to:
a. Click your heels together and say, "There's no place like home."
b. Call my friend Frank, who is really good at problem solving.
c. Run as fast as you can the other direction.
d. Fall to your knees, hold up your hands, lift your face to the heavens and say, "My wallet is in my back pocket."
8. The end of the world:
a. Was actually a week ago.
b. Will probably involve frightening invaders from beyond the stars, such as Christopher Walken.
c. Will still not see the end of cockroaches and Keith Richards.
d. Is none of my business. I'm just a visitor here myself.
9. May in Indianapolis means:
a. It's also May everywhere else.
b. A mulch sale at Farm and Fleet.
c. Time to get out of town.
d. Someone named Andretti is going to be in a bad mood before the month is over.
10. All you really need to know about life is:
a. It's easier if you remember to breathe.
b. Is best if you're a participant rather than a spectator.
c. Is way better than the alternative, life with no chance of parole.
d. Is lived, quite happily, by people who don't have the tiniest fraction of the so-called success that is giving you ulcers, making your spouse crazy, alienating your children and making you old before your time.
That's it. If you want to know the answers, don't ask me. They're all to be found in yourselves. Now excuse me while I go make a sandwich. You know what kind.
© 2010 Mike Redmond. All Rights Reserved.
Tue, May 18, 2010 | link 

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Another haircut already? How times have changed.

I need a haircut. Again.

This is ridiculous. I just got one, what, a month ago? And now I have to get another? Sheesh.

Maybe you can tell I don't particularly enjoy haircuts.

As some of you know, I used to wear my hair long. Very long. Rock-and-roll long. Between-the-shoulder-blades long. Lost-on-a-desert-island long (although it was still shiny and manageable, with lots of bounce).

I used to gather it up and tie it back at work, which earned the enmity of a straight-haired female colleague, who sneeringly mocked my "perfect Debbie Reynolds ponytail." Tsk, tsk. Jealousy is so unattractive.

Of course, this was back in the olden days. How olden? So olden that long hair was fashionable and I was involved in the music business as a critic and performer. Also, dinosaurs roamed the earth.

Oh, what a manly mane I cultivated. Unlike today, it actually had color in it, and a hairline that began quite a bit south of the present location. Men admired it. Women adored it. And barbers hated it, which was fine by me. I felt the same about them.

I take that back. I didn't hate barbers. I just hated haircuts. This was my sole reason for wearing my hair long. I wasn't making a fashion statement. I just didn't want to get a haircut.

You see, I was traumatized in childhood (Bear with me. I'm a Baby Boomer. We ALL think we traumatized in childhood) by ...

My mother.

Also known as Lois, Peeler of Scalps.

Mom cut all the hair in our house, including the girls' and Dad's, but for some reason they got to have a little say in how their hair looked. My brother P.D. and I, on the hand, did not.

For years we wore the same haircut, a standard model in which the head was more or less shaved except for a little decorative sprig in the front. And it was administered with all Mom's usual loving tenderness:

"Sit still! Stop wiggling! Keep your head down! I said down! If you lose an ear it won't be my fault! Didn't I tell you to sit still? Now look what you made me do!"

(That last remark was in keeping with the McKenzie Law of Parental Infallibility, which states that all mistakes committed by parents are caused by misbehaving children. This can apply to anything from crooked furrows to lopsided bangs to maritime disasters.)

Mom attacked our hair with the gusto of a sheep shearer on piece rate and never, ever did we have anything to say about it. So when I finally got to start calling my own shots, I started with the hair. I grew it long and kept it there, except for when I had to clean up to get a new job. Then I would visit a barber. A not-Mom barber.

So it went until a couple of years ago when I took a job that required my hair to be short. Since then, I have been a slave once again to the tyranny of the shears. Plus, guys my age with long hair look kind of pathetic to me these days. I think it's a conspiracy.

Oh, well.

And now, if you will excuse me, I am off to you-know-where, even though I hate it.

You see, I hate unemployment even more.


Tue, May 11, 2010 | link 

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

What I Do Is Rico-Diculous


Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce you to Rico the lounge singer. People, Rico. Rico, people.

Rico exists only in the depths of my ridiculous imagination. It's the name I have given to this little voice inside my head that mocks me - persistently and hilariously - when I am at my second favorite job at the Indiana History Center.

I am a historical crooner.

That's what my boss tells me, anyway. I am more inclined to say hysterical crooner, in both in the hilarious and the nervous-out-of-his-gourd senses of the word.

Along with five other Indiana Historical Society employees, all of whom have genuine talent, I spend a few days each month in the Center's Cole Porter room, as swanky a nightclub as you are likely to find in the 317 Area Code.

I do not recall this being on the Kuder Career Preference Test I took in the eighth grade.

The Cole Porter Room is the society's lasting tribute to the great songwriter Cole Porter, who went from a boyhood in Peru, in Miami County, to international fame on the strength of such classics as "Night And Day," "Begin The Beguine," "I've Got You Under My Skin," "I Get A Kick Out Of You," and dozens of others. He was - and remains - in the highest echelon of American songwriters.

I've always been proud that I was born in Peru, too, although for some reason his name is the one on the signs going into town and mine isn't. I'm sure it's just an oversight.

Anyway, the room is decorated to involve a cocktail lounge like you've seen in old movies (minus the cocktails, of course, and the drunks). There's an elegant bar, a few tables. Photos from Porter's life decorate the walls. Some personal effects - his Tony award, a leather notebook, a silk handkerchief and the painting that hung over his bed - are displayed.

And then you meet the piano - a gorgeous grand with a computer inside, programmed to play Porter songs and to accompany singers of same.

This is where my talented young co-workers come in. They're all terrific singers, with big, expressive voices, sure of pitch and supple of tone. I have no doubt they could all go on to successful careers in music if they wanted.

And then there's me.

The days when I intentionally sang in front of strangers are long ago, long before the effects of Camel cigarettes and J&B Scotch began to produce a vocal quality I call "wind through the outhouse." Imagine Rochester from the Jack Benny Show singing "I Concentrate On You."

Rico, of course, is out of his imaginary mind with disgust: "You call that singing? That's not singing. That's a cry for help.

"Smooth it out, buddy-boy. Play it cool. Keep the microphone close and whisper. Swing it a little. If you can't sing, at least act like you can. You might fool someone."

It's a lot to put up with when you're trying to remember the words to "In The Still Of The Night."

But there's an upside. I get to wear a tuxedo. I get to meet lots of nice people. I even got to dance with a pretty woman once. And I get to listen to great music all day long.

You should come visit sometime.

Rico says do it the others are singing.

Tue, May 4, 2010 | link 

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