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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, October 26, 2010

Another Year, Another Yawn


Another birthday has passed without incident - no drama, no foolishness, no police or fire department presence. I guess I'm getting kind of dull in my old age.

Actually, I've been keeping sort of a low birthday profile for some years now. I think my last "big" one was when I turned 40. It was a work night, if you can call it work to hang out in a nightclub reviewing a show, and at the end of the evening I had "Happy Birthday" sung to me by one of my top three bands of all time, NRBQ. It's kind of hard to top that so I haven't even tried.

Middle-age birthdays are really in the No Big Deal category of life events anyway. After a certain amount of lah-de-dah - a card, a cake, a book - it's really just another day. That's the way it has been for me, anyway, and I don't mind. I know there are big celebrations coming if I just manage to hang on there.

The way I see it, your first 12 or 13 birthdays are all big deals - "Oh my goodness, look who's turning 4! 5! 6!" and so on. You get a couple of so-what years until you turn 16 ("Better hide those car keys, Dad!"). Then things slack off again until you turn 21 ("But offisher, it'sh my buh-birthday, honesht!")

From then on, the only birthdays that matter are the decade birthdays ("Lordy, lordy, look who's 40! Isn't it nifty? You made it to 50!" "You don't look a day over 75 - too bad you're 60!").

Then once you hit 80 or so, the whole thing starts over again ("My, my, look who's turning 84! 85! 86!")

I'm not much for birthday presents. I know some people place a lot of emphasis on loot but I got over that a long time ago. It was my 9th birthday, in fact.

My present that year was the Mattel Dick Tracy set - a toy Tommy gun and snub-nose revolver with shoulder holster. I was thrilled. It was just the thing to have around in case Mumbles, Pruneface, Flattop or any other Dick Tracy bad guys showed up on Gilmore Road. I couldn't wait to show my fellow neighborhood crime fighters.

My attention was diverted by the birthday pie-cutting ceremony (this was one of those years when I requested pumpkin pie for my birthday instead of my usual, a chocolate cake with caramel frosting). The niceties observed, I turned to don my holster and pick up my Tommy gun, only to find them gone.

Then I glanced out the front window to see my brother P.D. out there, demonstrating the smooth action of the machine gun while all the kids in the neighborhood passed around my pistol and holster for inspection.

P.D. had clearly overstepped his authority, so of course I threw a fit. Mom took swift action.

What happened? I got in trouble for being a brat on my birthday and had to spend time in solitary confinement while P.D., as usual, got away.

That kind of took the zing out of the whole presents thing for me. Besides, I may be dull, birthday-wise, but I am also patient. If it's presents I want, I'm content to wait for Christmas.

Just don't forget my cake. Or pie.

© 2010 Mike Redmond. All Rights Reserved.

Tue, October 26, 2010 | link 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

In The Wake Of The Wet Witch



Mister Calendar has turned another page and we now find ourselves careening headlong toward Halloween, or, as I have seen it called, the Halloween Season, which reflects the All-American notion that says you should never limit to one day what you can expand to 30.

I like Halloween. I really do. We're talking a nearly unlimited supply of fun-size Milky Way bars. What's not to like?

I'm not sure, however, that Halloween as it is practiced today is an improvement over the Halloweens of the Golden Age of Kidhood, the 1950s and 1960s.

It was a Total Kid Holiday then, maybe the only one on the calendar. Christmas and the Fourth of July were good, but you had to share them with grown-ups. Halloween, however, was all about kids, or to be more specific, kids, costumes and loot.

Over the years this changed. Halloween is now one of the biggest adult party night of the year, and a particularly debauched one at that. It's getting so you can hardly hear the kids yelling "Trick or treat!" over the clanking of the liquor bottles.

But back in the day (as we hipsters like to say, although you notice we never specify which day we're talking about) it was all about gangs of costumed kids roaming from house to house and extorting candy from the neighbors, and more. Remember, this was back in the days before the great Poison Snickers/Razor Blades In The Apples panic, so the bounty might just as well include homemade cookies, fresh peanut brittle and caramel apples, and (my favorite) popcorn balls.

Wow. It's been at least 40 years since I had a good popcorn ball. Where has the time gone? And why did it take the popcorn balls with it?

A good night's take would fill a grocery bag and would contain examples of every item on your dentist's most-hated list: The entire product lines of the Hershey, Mars, Hollywood, Peter Paul and Nestle companies; Tootsie Rolls in all sizes; taffy, Bonono Turkish and otherwise; licorice and lollypops, caramels and Cracker Jack, bubble gum cigars and candy cigarettes. Properly hoarded and rationed, a good Halloween haul could carry you past Thanksgiving and right to the time the Christmas candy began to turn up.

And then there were costumes. Costumes were actually kind of problematic for me. As Mom lectured to us every Halloween, we weren't one of those rich families that could afford to buy those Ben Cooper or Collegeville costumes-in-boxes every year. Mom made our costumes instead, insisting that a hand-sewn Batman suit was superior to some flimsy thing in a box that would be shreds before the night was over. Obviously, Mom did not know a thing about Halloween costumes.

We also handed down our costumes. My first time trick-or-treating I had to wear my big sister's old witch costume. With a skirt. I was so embarrassed I refused to lift my mask or even speak, lest anyone find out who I was. My sister took care of it, though, by informing one and all that her brother - a boy -- was wearing a girl costume.

I accidentally got even with her, though. I peed my pants and she had to take me home early. She was furious.

 For that reason I still count it among the better Halloweens of my life.

© 2010 Mike Redmond. All Rights Reserved.

Tue, October 12, 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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