Am glad that I did because, among other reasons, Jim whipped up a super meal of potatoes, asparagus, and filet mignon -- all cooked just right. Later we drank a number of his specialty vodka drinks and started telling stories of old times including one I'd like to forget: If a student brought candy or a soft drink into my class, for punishment i would confiscate the contraband and eat or drink right in front of the student's face, usually evoking, to my delight, outrage and chagrin. But after lunch one day Joan Heyman, fran Freeland, and some of their friends cavalierly sauntered in late, annoying me considerably. Joan also carried in a coke can which I angrily grabbed. I took a huge swallow and then had to rush out of the classroom to spew forth a mixture of coffee grounds, coke, Tabasco, jalpena peppers, and slime mold. I have been had by students many a time but rarely as badly.
After leaving ESA Jim graduated from Washington University in St. Louis, picked up an MA, and has had jobs too numerous to remember all over the country. But right now he teaches motorcyle safety and takes care of the house and son while Michelle, the primary breadwinner, slaves away in the basement administering conference calls between clients and her company, headquartered in Seattle.
After Jim and I walked his son to school and Jim cooked a huge breakfast, I Drove most of the day to Minneapolis on highway 94 through the farmlands of Wisconsin dotted with well maintained barns and silos and well contented cattle. Winter will be coming soon
Stayed with John and Jill Maraist. When I arrived, John fixed a number of Old Fashionds for Freddie Bowie and me, after which I remember having dinner with them, but that's about it. Both of them have remarkable credentials: Freddie , a Davidson alumnus and track star,received his doctorate at Berkeley in chemistry. Of Mr. Begnaud, he says, "I would run through a wall for him.". Recently married, Freddie now works in a consulting firm. He wants to combine some business with his academic background to eventually start his own company.
John received his doctorate in Germany after graduating from Tulane. After teaching in Australia, he left academia to join a start-up firm doing technical work so arcane that I cannot begin to explain it. John, perhaps the smartest student whom I've ever taught, once wrote a journal his freshman year entitled "A Mathematical Proof of the Existence of God. " which converted me from agnostic to believer.
After cooking me a cardiacally unfriendly but delicious breakfast, John took me around Minneapolis. We spent several hours in the Museum of Art looking at a 1964 my freshman year in high school) exhibit with narcissistic interest, and spent a lot of time looking at a show of a really good argentinian painter named Kuipcha (sp?) who uses maps and stadiums as starting points for his ideas, then wandered around the waterfront. The Mississippi comes through Minneapolis, which was a thriving mill town, until fairly recently producing more flour than any other town in the United States. A dam across the river allowed merchants to channel the water through sluices that drove the waterwheels. Below the dam we could see boats moving up and down through several locks and John pointed out the new bridge built where the old one had collapsed into the river two years ago carrying unlucky motorists to their watery deaths. That night, at a sports bar, John, Jill, and I watched the New Orleans Saints send the Minnesota Vikings to their grave. Couldn't be sweeter.
After a late breakfast at a local crepe restaurant with Jill and John, I departed on highways 94 and 32 for Racine, Wisconsin, to visit Charles Barousse and his wife Claire. I would like to point out that since entering Iowa I have seen trees, a few at first in South Dakota, more in Nebraska; but after i crossed the Mississippi at Davenport, the vegetation looked familiar to my accustomed-to-southeastern-foliage eyes However, the pastoral beauty of Wisconsin lived up to the claims of its most ardent admirer, Laura Kolar.
Charles and Claire live right on Lake Michigan which stunned me with its size and might. It's like the ocean, with big waves rolling in and water as far as the eye can see. Charles, who will defend his PhD thesis soon, has taken a job with a start up company specializing in speech recognition. Claire helps out with legal issues relating to patents, and they both hope to strike it rich. At the least, Charles says that he will gain the equivalent of a post-doctoral experience. Charles and Claire's apartment, littered with various musical paraphenalia --trumpet, cd's, LP's, keyboards, guitars -- brought back memories of his days as bass guitarist for the Hekatomic Cherries, a loud, aggressive highschool punk band that had its heyday in the 90's but still maintains a legendary status among certain devotees in Acadiana.
Drove into Chicago, on the south side, near Soldier Field (where the Bears play) and Chinatown, to stay with Mary Anna LeBlanc. Also met her fiancé, Matt, who's a physical therapist. Louisiana memorablilia dots Mary Anna's apartment, indicating her plan to return to her native land soon. After a long, complex discussion involving culinary compromises (Anna Mary hates Middle Eastern; i hate hamburgers and pizza), we decided to have dinner with s number of alumni at Le Bouchon, an obviously French restaurant in one of the trendier parts of town. Attending were Charles and Claire, Anu Gupta Desai (a doctor in NYC visiting her husband who works in Chicago, John kramer (working with the National Trust for Historic Preservation) and his partner ( an architect), Casae Hobbes (studying library science at the university of Chicago) and me ( a homeless nomadic herdsman) . On Charles' suggestion most of us repaired to a well-known bar called the Maproom afterward The dinner party enjoyed the food, the drink, and each other's company very much.
Had lunch with Stanton Valentino and Emma Arcenaux (beginning her studies at the Art Institute of Chicago) at a dive but a very good Taco place near DePaul University where Stanton has just started as a freshman. To my chagrin Stanton insisted on paying for lunch but at my insistence he also
made a kind donation to the Tates-Tutwiler Scholarship Fund. Admirers of Stanton will be happy to know that he has barred the door to the behemoth of conformity with his brighly dyed yellow hair and a ring through his lower lip But I actually spent most of the day with Emma visiting the Museum of Art, being stunned as always by Grant Woods' "American Gothic," the photographs of Cartier-Besson, and Edward Hopper's"Nighthawks," Later we walked through Graceland Cemetery, where the robber barons of the Industrial Age -the Fords, the Sullivans, the Palmers-- built monuments to the themselves. One notable exception , Cyrus McCormic--who grew up, by the way, on a farm near my hometown of Lexington, Virginia-- only has a simple gravestone to mark his passing. However, he did demonstrate his Scotch-Irish thrift by buying up a whole acre of land --at a bargain price --for the interment of future generations of McCormicks.
That night I had dinner at a good Thai restaurant in downtown Chicago with Michelle Lock Erics, Elizabeth Lock, and Michelle's daughter Tayler ? a very pretty and funny high school senior. Michelle, a nurse, and Elizabeth (an executive at Mars (yes! The candy company) are both married with childrenbal but Elizabeth has a long road ahead of her in child raising whereas Michelle, with an earlier start, has just about finished.
Meant to visit the museum of Contemporary Art but ended up spending lunch at a Palestinian restaurant and most of the day with Mary Hibbeler who teaches English at the University of Illinois in Chicago. Mary has a sunny, airy house with even a yard on sort of the northern side of Chicago near the Ukranian section of the city. Later, I met Brian Sims for a beer at the ?? Before dining at Arturo's (a Mexican restaurant on the north side) with him, Mary Anna, Elizabeth Brown (just graduated from ULL and just arrived in Chicago in search of a job), and my niece, Elizabeth Rogers (in Chicago on business). Brian, married now with two children) "manages" five schools in Chicago, teaching principals how to do their jobs in blighted urban areas. After leaving ESA, Brian received a Masters degree at Stanford, met his wife Gretchen there, and then began teaching in ghetto schools in New Jersey and in California. Eventually he took a job as a principal in a failing Chicago public school and developed a program of improving the quality of education in at risk schools, a program that president Obama is heavily relying on to further his educational goals.
Reluctantly, I left Chicago, regretting the people and places I had not seen or not spent enough time with. I drove back to Lebanon, Indiana, mostly on interstate 65, retrieved the bus (still without electricity, except for the headlights), had a good lunch with Mary Painter (my quondam roommate's (Will's) wife), and headed on interstate 70 through Indiana and Ohio towards Pittsburg. Camped at Madison Lake State Park in honor of the famous Madison Miller. Unfortunately the womAn in charge shared none of Miss Miller's charm
As I cruised by. said "Goodbye, Columbus" in memory of Philip Roth's great novel of youth, then
much later turned off to drive towards a swath of northeastern Ohio and western West Virginia on highway 22 before crossing the Ohio River into a piece of West Virginia and entering Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. This is coal minining country, real Appalachia with all its beauty and poverty and for the first time on this long trip I felt right at home, having grown up and taught in country just like this before coming to ESA. Looking for Jackie Plauche Cagley '85 I drove through Pittsburg rush hour traffic in the rain only to find that I had gone to the right address but to the wrong zipcode. My phone which i also use as my GPS, also died at this point. As I tried desperately but in vain to turn around on a narrow street a car full of hoodlums appeared, threatening with vile profanity to kill me. Fortunately, just as i had grabbed a tow chain and the situation began to really deteriorate, a kind citizen showed up, helped me turn the bus around, and led me to a gas station where another kind young attendant saw my distress, charged my phone behind the counter, gave me a banana and a cup of coffee, left a line of customers to point me in the right direction, and explained the details of my route. Since it was raining heavily, was night, and the windshield wipers did not work, driving to Jackie's house continued to be no fun, especially after I sideswiped some object, leaving the right outside mirror flattened against the side of the bus. Finally I made it but had one last test of backing the bus into jackie's driveway in total darkness, fortunately guided by her and her husband Richard and her five-year-old son Micah, who had waited all day for the bus to arrive and had cried when he feared that I and the bus (which interested him a lot more than me) would not appear.
Jackie and her husband couldn't have been nicer during the whole visit and for once I was able to remember the names of some alumni children: Noah, Jonah, Micah, and Michelle. Notice also that the boys were named in the same sequence that the biblical characters appeared.
Spent the early part of the morning talking to Richard, after which Jackie drove me around showing me Shady Side Academy, the most prestigious private school in Pittsburg; a local mansion from the robber baron days; Michelle and Jonah's school, Micah's school, and the cross country course where Noah, also a swimming star, runs. Then she took me to meet Eddie Barry, who lives not far from the Carnegie Mellon Institute on a cobblestone street. Eddie, a sort of land man, puts deals together for oil and gas companies --especially relating to shale properties which are the hottest thing going these days.
After lunch Jackie drove me back to her house where I took a profound nap and then headed out towards Maine, where I need to be on the 22nd to meet my family who are flying in for a wedding. I drove up highway 28 to interstate 80 where I headed east. For the next couple of days the road took me through the most beautiful countryside that I have seen since leaving the West, but in this case immaculately kept up farms and beautiful deciduous forests just beginning to don their autumn foliage.
However at this point I should know better than to enter a state park campground after dark in the bus on a magnificent autumn weekend. Of the 170 possible spaces 170 were filled --although the campground host thought that she had given me the last space. After waiting for about 30 minutes for an idiot who blocked traffic while filling up his RV with water in the middle of the driving lane, To my annoyance found an RV already in my spot Unable to locate the owner, I angrily backed in, with a hostile line of cars behind me, only to gently sideswipe an SUV, thereby adding to an already chaotic situation by causing swarms of campers to emerge with unjust commentaries. Luckily, the man parked in my spot decided to leave even though he also had proof that the spot belonged to him. After his departure I locked myself in the bus and poured myself a stiff drink but was unable to go to sleep for a while because of the raucous noise caused By a group teenagers about 50 yards away.
It turned out that the rowdy teenagers were, irony of ironies, about 20 Amish boys and girls having a big time. The girls, wearing blouses revealing nothing, long "prairie" skirts, and either scarves or those little caps in their hair, giggled together a lot and were as cute as they could be.
Loafed around all morning reading a book by Ian Fraiser called "the Great Plains" and watching the Amish teenagers until I finally summoned up the energy to leave. Continued on interstate 80, then took interstate 81 north, then connected to interstate 84 east. Beautiful all the way. Nothing but Incredible forests turning gold and red and farms on a rolling countryside that challenged but did not defeat the energy of the bus.
Picked up a hitchhiker on the way to Albany, New York. If he had not been so boring I would have taken him further but instead dropped him off, feeling guilty, and found Land of Glory State Park just west of the New York state border. Much better situation with nicer people, less of a crowd, and no craziness. BTW I found out the next day that it was probably the hitchhiker who stole my credit card and made himself $500 richer at an ATM machine.
As I write these words, a flock of robins, migrating undoubtably to Louisiana gathered bugs around the campsite. I will be following them down very soon.
Later, pushed the bus along interstates 80 and 81 (through the rest of Pennsylvania) 84 (through New York State and Connecticut and part of Massachusetts), 495 (through the rest of Massachusetts), and finally 95 (up into New Hampshire and Maine) -- 400 miles today and made it to South Portland, Maine, where I'm staying safe in the bosom of the northern side of my family. The southern side will arrive in a few days and we will have a big old time.
My only long stop of the day was at the New Hampshire State liquor store, right across the border from Massachusetts. Since New Hampshire has no sales taxes and since they discount the liquor, it's probably the cheapest place to buy legal alcohol in the world and thus the store is always packed with customers filling up their shopping carts, getting ready for a big time. There's an exit off the interstate solely devoted to this store; and just so you don't have to turn around and go back in case you mised it, there's another exit to another store six miles down the highway. Last year I stopped here to supply the ingredients (rum, bourbon, brandy, champagne, etc.) for the artillery punch that I make for the alumni Christmas party but alas, my friends and family consumed all of it by September.