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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, November 30, 2010

Burger And Fries With A Side Of Smiles


The other day I was reminded of something so important that I can't understand how I lost track of it to begin with.

I was getting dinner at that restaurant named after a group of Guys who number more than four but less than six. I got the usual, one of their exceptionally good cheeseburgers (with everything) and an order - well, they call it an order but it's more like a truckload - of the best fries I've had that weren't homemade. Oh, and a Diet Coke. Gotta watch my calories, you know.

(My friend Frank and I used to point to this as an example of just how stupid we humans are becoming. You see it all the time, too - someone ordering a 4,500-calorie cheeseburger and a bushel of fries, and the getting a diet soda to wash it down. Like that low-cal soda is really going to make a difference when you're already taking in enough fat, sugar and salt to stop your heart and three others besides.)

Anyway, I was sitting there waiting for the man to call my number when the music in the restaurant caught my ear. It was old school soul music: Marvin Gaye and Tammy Terrell, Otis Redding, Stevie Wonder, Sam and Dave, Aretha Franklin... you know, the really GOOD stuff.

And then I noticed something else.

Everyone in the restaurant - white, black, young, old, male, female, worker, customer - was enjoying the music, too. They were smiling, tapping their feet, softly snapping their fingers, and in the case of the true devotees, doing that thing where you stick your head out like a chicken in time to the music. This is known to musicologists as "doing that chicken head thing." It indicates that you are so in love with the music that you really don't care how ridiculous you look.

It hit me just how unusual that was - to have an entire restaurant, a well-mixed bag of people, all truly enjoying the same music.

I went looking for the manager and found myself talking to a bright young woman from Indianola, MS (that's B.B. King territory, for you blues enthusiasts), someone from the hip-hop generation who puts the store radio on the satellite soul station and keeps it there.

"I was raised on it," she explained. "It's what I like. It's from the heart."

That it is. And the great thing about hearts is they only come in one color.

You know, Berry Gordy founded Motown Records under a very clever motto: "The sound of Young America." Not young BLACK America. Young America. And it was.

Soul music tells stories of love and loss, heartbreak and glory, with immediacy and rhythm. And it is the flip side, if you will, of another of my best-loved genres, classic country music. In fact, during my days as a music critic I talked to any number of soul singers who loved country music, and country singers who loved R&B.

I guess it just goes to prove what Duke Ellington always said: "There are only two types of music: Good and bad."

There was good music in the burger joint, and everyone, as the saying goes, knowed it and showed it - smiling, snapping, doing that chicken head thing.

The hamburgers brought us to the restaurant.

The music brought us together.

© 2010 Mike Redmond. All Rights Reserved.

Tue, November 30, 2010 | link 

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

No baloney, just bologna. Fried.


Some friends and I are standing around wasting time when the talk turns, as it often does with men our age, to food.

Food has become our default topic of conversation, you see. We're all good friends and want to remain that way, so we stay away from politics and religion. We're in our 50's so we've come to terms with the fact that we don't know anything about women and never will, making it silly for us to pretend we do. For conversation that leaves cars, sports, music and food. We all drive trucks, not all of us are sports fans and we're all pretty much agreed on the music we like, so you see where we wind up.

So, anyway, we're yammering away about Foods We Used To Love when someone mentions an old favorite that gets a rare unanimous vote of enthusiastic assent. I am speaking, of course, of...

The legendary Fried Bologna Sandwich.

Among people of a certain age (mine) in a certain part of the country (this one), the fried bologna sandwich ranks as one of the top three sandwiches at all time, along with the bacon, lettuce and tomato and the peanut butter and dill pickle. OK, that last one is still open to some debate.

Anyway, the mere mention of a fried bologna sandwich will cause eyes to close in bliss as faces stretch into broad smiles of fond remembrance - Mom standing at the stove, turning the slices with a granny fork and then placing them, perfectly browned, onto a bed of soft white sandwich bread.

This is where we diverge. Some like our fried bologna served with a generous lashing of mayonnaise. Some prefer mustard. And some are purists like me, needing only the meat (ok, meat product) and bread to make their meal.

(A note: Although spelled bologna, the sandwich meat is always pronounced baloney. I think the spelling rule evolved as a way of separating those who are full of bologna from those who are full of baloney, which is something else altogether.)

Now, what's funny about this conversation is that while we all love fried bologna sandwiches, none of us are eating them. They are consigned to kidhood and memory, which is another way of saying "the era before we knew what exactly went into bologna."

For us, fried bologna is part of the Good Old Days Continuum, along with Mister Softee ice cream trucks, Bullwinkle cartoons and sandlot baseball.

Food is, of course, one of our strongest memory triggers, and we are heading into the season where memories mean so much to us. The smell of onions and celery sautéing in butter  transports me instantly to the farmhouse up home, and I am for that brief moment a boy waking up on Thanksgiving morning. A pan of baking gingerbread cookies and I am once again with my brother and sisters, each of us armed with a cookie cutter, fighting for territory on a rolled out piece of dough.

So it is with the mention of a fried bologna sandwich. It isn't really the food we miss. It's the time before we obsessed over fat and sodium, when the only things you had to worry about were your grades and whether that girl in Mrs. Shoemaker's class liked you like the guys said.

(As it turned out, she didn't. What a bunch of baloney.)

© 2010 Mike Redmond. All Rights Reserved.

Wed, November 24, 2010 | link 

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

There's something abnormal going on behind me


Looking back, I can see now that my first mistake was thinking I could have a normal day. My second mistake was thinking that I was just in for a routine doctor visit.

In Mike World, you see, the words "normal" and "routine" mean nothing. There is no such thing as a normal day or a routine doctor visit, which is probably just as well. I wouldn't know how to behave anyway.

So here's what happened: I got up bright and early to head to the office of my new doctor. Well, I call her new even though I've been seeing her for a few years now. Still, she is doctoring me in the wake of the legendary Dr. Shecky, the world's funniest (he thinks) physician, who took care of me for 20 years before he retired. It's going to be three or four more years before Dr. Buffy, so named because she is about half my age, will no longer be "new."

We talked about the customary stuff - blood pressure (excellent), cholesterol (excellent), weight (oops) - and then I mentioned that my right hip had been aching for a month or so. Buffy asked a few questions, did a little poking and prodding, and then decided I should get it X-Rayed, just to see if there was anything going on in there.

So off I went to the X-Ray office. I usually don't mind X-Rays, although as Rays go, I prefer Ray Charles. My hip was really starting to hurt, though, and it seemed like every time the attendant moved me she made sure to put me in a position where I got the maximum amount of pain for my insurance dollar. It hurt so much I even forgot to make the old "I think my eyes were closed" joke when she came out to change films.

I expected to hear from Buffy in a few days regarding the results. Imagine my surprise when my phone rang less than an hour later.

"Have you got some time to talk?" my doctor asked. "Oh, I just hate having to give people bad news."

Three times in my life I have had a doctor scare the bejeezus out of me. The first was when a cardiologist looked at my chart and said "This is very, very serious." The second was when Shecky told me he was changing all my prescriptions to suppositories. And then there was the call from Buffy, in which she basically said there was a tumor growing in my hip joint.

A half-hour later, I was back in Medical Land getting an MRI of my hind end, a claustrophobic's nightmare of a procedure that took about 45 minutes and, judging by the heat generated as the magnetic waves passed through my caboose, left my buns a delicate golden brown.

The result, apparently, indicates that the tumor is benign. Whew. But Dr.Buffy still recommends we go see Dr. Heiny Surgeon to get it removed because, to use the technical medical term, "you never know." So yippee for me. I don't have a malignant butt tumor but I still get to have surgery.

You had better believe I'm relieved. And grateful.

After all, now I know for certain what it means when you say your entire day was just one big pain in the rear.

© 2010 Mike Redmond. All Rights Reserved.

Tue, November 9, 2010 | link 

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Forbidden Fried Cake Is The Sweetest Cake Of All


Maybe it's the time of year. Maybe it's because they're forbidden. Maybe I simply don't have anything better to do with my time. But lately I have been obsessed with ...


Also known as Donuts, Do-Nuts, Sinkers, Hockey Pucks and Bagels for Gentiles.

I think this is mostly a seasonal obsession. After all, it is autumn, and is there any treat more autumnal than cider and doughnuts? You can make a meal of them if you add a side of candy corn (the plate should always include a vegetable.)

Cider and doughnuts were the main event as most of the Nice Kid Parties of my teen years. You know, the kids who got straight A's and belonged to the youth service clubs and organized nifty teen wing-dings with fun stuff like bobbing for apples and listening to Peter Paul and Mary records.

(Nice kids were not to be confused with preachers' kids, whose parties usually involved a lot of Grand Funk Railroad and everyone getting blasted on Budweiser and Boone's Farm. No doughnuts.)

Anyway, doughnuts have been much on my mind lately. I might also attribute this to my heritage, which includes some Mennonite roots on my mother's side. This is no big deal. In LaGrange County, where I'm from, it's the oddball who doesn't have a few Anabaptists perched in the family tree.

Anyway, despite the common belief that the doughnut was invented by Maine sea captain Hansen Gregory invented the doughnut by poking a fried cake onto one of the handles on his ship's wheel, the TV expert Alton Brown once said that doughnuts are more likely the invention of the Pennsylvania Dutch (see above under: Anabaptists) who came to this country seeking religious freedom, with nothing more than the beards on their chins, the bonnets on their heads and boxes of dessert recipes.

Either way, the doughnut has since evolved into a dizzying number of variants and offshoots, from jelly-filled to apple-spiced. These can be divided, however, into two main groups - yeast or cake.

Indianapolis, by all accounts, seems to be a yeast-doughnut city. I base this on years of experience watching people inhale them at various workplaces. I like them too, even if they are basically Wonder Bread with a glaze. And I do not use that phrase loosely. I once knew a man in Columbus, Indiana whose favorite sandwich was bologna between two yeast doughnuts.

I am fond of the cake doughnut, and in that category I feel the plainer the better. I don't need frosting and sprinkles or even a glaze on mine. I like a plain cake doughnut, slightly sweet without being cloying, with just a hint of cinnamon and nutmeg, perfect for dunking into a cup of black coffee.

Yes. I admit it. I dunk.

Or I would, were I allowed to eat doughnuts. They are on the "no" list along with just about everything else I like. As for the yes list ... let's just say that chicken and spinach lose their appeal next to a box of plain cake doughnuts from Long's Bakery.

Which, I have decided, is where I am headed. I'm only human, and autumn comes but once a year. Save me some cider and thank my ancestors.

© 2010 Mike Redmond. All Rights Reserved.

Tue, November 2, 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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