29 March 2009

not good for man to be alone

Since Friday-the 20th-I have been a bachelor. The wife and kids flew off to Florida leaving dad/hubby behind for Spring Break. It was planned some time ago that I would be taking the youth group on a missions/service project that turned into a "local" trip. Very local. I figured I would be able to get a lot of work done....because I had a lot of work. I didn't.
This is what the temporary bachelor's life looked like:

About 25 hours of work
4 additional pounds-not the good kind
2 loads of laundry with sorta like colors
Dinner with my folks because mom felt sorry for me
Six pizzas...not all eaten by me
Supper out at 10:00pm
Lunch at 2:30pm
Chips-n-salsa, nearly every night
3 Woodchucks
1 bottle of soft red from Olivers of Bloomington
Uninterrupted listenings to Prairie Home Companion
About 15 hours of community service, volunteered
One cigar
12 movies with the guys
One rockin' concert
Exercise equipment left out
Birdwatchin with the Birdman
New jeans, shirts and protein shake mix
No reading, except for a new Mens Health
A chili dog
Staying up past midnight way too much
Wearing tank-tops almost exclusively
Carrying on a brief conversation with myself
3 coffees with buddies
A few hours of basketball
15 hot wings
Having more than 1/4 of the bed

I was most impressed with my movie intake: Max Payne, Never Back Down, Role Models (2x), Evolution, Black Sheep, Caddy Shack, Band of Brothers, the Mummy, Scorpion King, 300, and Hancock. While I had some good times, I'm awfully glad my wife and kids will be home in a few hours. I miss 'em, even though I've kept pretty "busy". I think I understand now why God decided it was not good for man to be alone. Adam had gone on too many pizza & movie binges.

23 March 2009

bypass for a bypass: spending big $$ in Indiana

We conservatives like to talk about government waste. I once again feel justified in calling myself a conservative based on the "which President are you" test on Facebook; I scored a Calvin Coolidge with Reagan compatibility. I was praying it wouldn't show up Clinton and scare away my measly 150 FB friends.

Back to government waste. Well, here in Indiana we're set to spend hundreds of millions of dollars creating a new U.S. 31 bypass to bypass the original bypass that was created in the mid-50's. I can't fully blame Mitch, this was started long ago....but with all the stimulus and toll road money floating around these days, it's Mitch that got this puppy moving.

I won't argue that it will improve safety on the stretch between Plymouth and South Bend. But then, so would doing a number of other things on the existing road alignment. Maybe even enforce the speed limit....whoa, there's a novel thought. And I really don't see the economic benefit to this, except for crappy cardboard box service businesses that are sure to follow the new interchanges. Which, had they not permitted that in Kokomo, we wouldn't be talking about that $100+ million dollar bypass.

As I drove down 31 last week and saw the earth moving equipment out along the roadway creating overpasses, and the famous "Major Moves" signs.....I couldn't help but think how incredibly wasteful this is.....if you want to call me old-fashioned or non-progressive, go ahead, but if all these new road construction projects (shaving 15 minutes off my drive to Indy! yeah, buddy!) are all that they are promoted to be.....then why is it Indiana-the Crossroads of America-with an existing web of roadways that are fully functional-lags so far behind the rest of the country?
the c. 1885 Dr. White Farmstead in North Township, Marshall County, slated to be razed for the 31 bypass

The new roadway will be within eye-shot of my folks' house and border grandad's farm. The original 31 project displaced our family business forcing a relocation to a less than economically desirable situation. The new roadway will displace a multitude of homeowners and possibly put the final nail in the coffin of the small towns of LaPaz and Lakeville. It will wreck havoc on quiet farms, deplete tillable and wooded acreage, cause some 100+year old farmsteads to be razed and will cut off important emergency access from some homeowners. It relocates wetlands from Marshall County to Elkhart County and will create headaches for travelers into Plymouth....and the illustrious county commissioners are rolling over on these important issues with the far-fetched idea that an interchange 3 miles north of Plymouth will provide a much needed "beltway" around the little city of 10,000. Foolishness. Especially when you consider five miles of new roadway will have to be constructed by them.

But hey, we're all conservatives here, right? So some how, some way, we MUST be able to justify all this big spending in Indiana. Could someone justify this for me? Please?

21 March 2009

green again

An unusually warm St. Patrick's Day was a welcome surprise as our family tradition of corned beef and cabbage supper was enjoyed before hand with a quiet stroll through the woods. A sure sign of spring was the flooded little depression in "the circle of trees". And it was great seeing a little green coming out of the ground too.

Some traditions begin out of necessity. Our family had always had corned beef and cabbage served with boiled potatoes and carrots at the truckstop every March 17th. Gramps particularly liked it because the beef was tender enough to gum, and he could basically suck up the cabbage leaves. Gramps had no teeth. When I was a wee lad, he had a couple of stubs in the front of his mouth that were removed about the time I entered college. He refused dentures. So he gummed everything the last 8 years or so of his life.

Where was I? Oh yeah, so when we closed the truckstop I asked my mom where I would get corned beef and cabbage for St. Patrick's Day (since my wife won't touch the stuff); mom relented and now we've had it every year for the last 13 years. Mom does it up right, with shamrocks and gold glitter.....I suppose it satisfies that 50% of Irish blood in me. Mom insists on cooking a couple of former truckstop meals including the famous chili, vegetable beef soup, and swiss steak. Knowing that I'm a bachelor for the next 10 days, mom called and said she'd fix swiss steak for me later this week.....I think she believes I can't take care of myself. That may be proven true in a few days, I've already become a movie junkie and stayed up too late.

16 March 2009

life at what point?

Last week it was announced that President Obama would lift the ban on embryonic stem cell research. I let out a long sigh. The sanctity of life issue is really pretty complex. Most people want to believe it is not by simply saying this, or abortion, is murder. Well, it is. But unless we’re willing to engage in further discussion on the topic as a nation, we are never going to make right the wrongs. We will only become more entrenched on each side.

The embryonic debate made me dig a little deeper in this issue. Stem cells can be harvested from embryos 4-5 days after the egg is fertilized. The “harvesting” occurs from embryos that would otherwise be discarded by fertility clinics. I searched a little on line to understand the arguments on both sides. I should also say much of what impacted me came from a Catholic site. I do believe we have cheapened life to the extent that we do not understand the actual miracle of life being created. Abortion ends life…. so does the destruction of embryos…. so does war….. so does violence in our streets….. as does starvation…. homelessness….. the list goes on. Research indicates that embryonic development to human tissue actually can save or extend life.

The question becomes then, is destruction of life justified? We believe it is in war. So, why not in the destruction of embryos? Hey, Christian Republicans out there….. I’m asking you the question! I probably find it most eye-rolling that when Republicans are confronted with the financial and policy failures of our own party, left with little defense against bad Obama policy, we immediately insert the abortion issue as defining our righteous cause. It seems that we forget our Christian ethics when arguing policy until we’re backed into a corner and need to justify our cause.

I think what begins to infuriate me in the abortion, and now embryonic stem cell debate, is the hypocrisy that is found in the church, and in the GOP. Churches like to get their congregations into a fervor over petitions and picket lines against abortion. It’s easy to do, takes very little time, and hey, who wouldn’t be against murder? But if the church really had an interest in ending the cause of abortion, with an army of compassionate Christ-followers, it would have ended some time ago without the Supreme Court lifting a finger to overturn Roe-v-Wade. If Christians would be more concerned about mentoring young men and women, in healing and strengthening families, or being there for kids with just one parent at home, and less about signing petitions or being self-righteous and judgmental, I believe the abortion issue would be behind us.

Am I against embryonic stem cell research? I am. I am afraid that it further erodes respect for life. At which point do we begin to harvest organs or make judgment calls on life that seems of “no value”?

I believe there is a deeply spiritual context to life, outside of science & biology. I believe just as God created Adam, the creation of any human is a miracle. I believe that a spirit & soul is breathed into man to be able to communicate with God. I have to believe that this happens at conception. I also understand, from reading the Old Testament, that a man’s life giving force is also considered sacred and not to be lost or wasted. This adds additional reverence to our humanness, as we come to understand being made “in God’s image”.

I want abortion to end, just as I also want our general irreverence to life to end. But unlike the average Christian in America, I want to ask President Obama what I can do to reverse the trend of abortions in America. I don’t want to yell and scream about murder…..I really want to stop it before it ever comes to that.

Don’t think that I am soft on this issue. I have a much deeper understanding of what it means to lose a tiny life than what most people do; a much deeper appreciation of the hurt than what most petition signers ever will, when I saw my little one who would never be called by name.

12 March 2009

Mt. Hope, part 2

While there certainly is a part of me that finds mausoleums a little on the creepy side, the architectural execution is usually quite phenomenal on these little monuments. Those at Mt. Hope Cemetery in Logansport are no exception. And with the variety of styles found there, make it a near text book study for the architectural type. Many people do not know that the origin of mausoleum construction is traced to the tomb of Mausollos, King of Caria of the Persian Empire. Because the King loved everything Greek, he brought Greek's finest architects to design and construct the tomb in the 3rd century, B.C.. Alas, the King died before the completion of his tomb and so his ashes waited in an urn before being placed into the little temple. Once it was finished it was considered one of the seven wonders of the world.

Is it any wonder that most mausoleums today reflect classical Greek styling with highly detailed columns, bases and pediments? And further, often have depictions of urns? Mausoleums reflect the wealth of the individuals interred and simply put, the more mausoleums in a city cemetery, the greater reflection of wealth in that community. Logansport's Mt. Hope clearly reflects a period of considerable wealth in the city.
The Sellers Mausoleum has a simple design with column capitals reflecting the "Temple of the Winds" design while the Barr Mausoleum has an ornate gated entry, lotus flowers creating simplified Corinthian capitals, acanthus leaves and an urn crowning its pedimented entry.

Two unusual mausoleums are side by side, Crismond and Murdock, at the main entry to the cemetery. They are unusual because of their vaulted roofs, integration into the hillside and because of their Italianate villa designed pedimented entry.
Probably my favorite is the Barnheisel Mausoleum because it was executed in my favorite American style, Art Deco. The archetypal deco foliage inspired gates and the "Exposition-style" pilaster capitals are all trademarks of the style and executed beautifully.

The Flanagan-Osborne Mausoleum has probably the best executed set of doors in a great green patina and wreath and lion head door knockers (not sure why you'd knock?) The side by side, well articulated Fisher and Himmelberger mausoleums have perfectly executed classical elements with Himmelberger using the earlier Doric order and Fisher using the later Corinthian style.

One somewhat less than remarkable monument is the Price Mausoleum. I'm not certain if style or financial concerns drove the restraint of architectural detail on this building. The use of limestone ashlars rather than the more typical granite would lead me to believe it was a cost issue, although, and I did not record the date, it does have more of a mid-20th century flare about it.

11 March 2009

Done with winter!

Mother Nature is such a tease. As the temps continue to fall from 65 degrees last night, to 20 degrees this morning (and falling, with spits of snow forecasted)....I've realized that despite my love for a good snow storm, I'm done with it all this year!

The up side: despite all the rain and flooding here in river city.....the basement is dry. But the kids are home.....because it is too dark in the morning (thanks Mitch!) to send the kids to school with the potential for flooded streets and sidewalks.

08 March 2009

Mt. Hope

Old cemeteries have long held a place of importance to me. Maybe it was my interest in genealogy that first caused me to take note as I made long, long drives just to wander aimlessly in the cold through the grass reading stone after stone looking for that one of my great, great, great, great...well, you get the point.

Then we had this professor in architecture school who introduced us to the idea that cemeteries were once considered more of a park for remembering. They were made to be beautiful, quiet places in communities not for the dead, but for the living to stroll through and reflect. This is too often not the case in our Midwestern culture, really our American culture in general. But there are some cemeteries here in Indiana that evoke that park-like atmosphere. Crown Hill in Indianapolis is probably the premier cemetery created as a memorial park for many famous past Hoosiers. But recently I came upon a small city cemetery that could be Crown Hill's rival.

Mt. Hope Cemetery, high above Logansport's north side, was located across the street from a building I needed to check on this past Thursday. The architecture quickly got my attention, so I drove across the street and spent nearly the next hour walking through the cemetery taking pictures. Mt. Hope has a beautiful stone arch entry at the base of the hill, through which you are greeted by one of the more impressive war memorials I have seen. The drives continue up the main hill and through the wooded hilltop that has a variety of other smaller hills crowned with massive granite obelisks. The Catholic portion of the cemetery had cross after cross in a wide variety of styles on its east side and a number of highly ornate mausoleums were located to the north and west. Interspersed were a number of other highly unusual grave markers including specific locations for Elks and Knights of Pythias members to be buried.

Hopefully this and the upcoming posts on Mt. Hope won't present too morbid of a picture. I thought I would focus on a few of the types of monuments found here in upcoming posts. For now, just some general perspectives. And if you are in the Logansport area, visit Mt. Hope on Pleasant Hill Road and do so before the trees leaf out.....the view down on the church spires in the city below is fantastic.

06 March 2009

Best (only) Man in Grass Creek

Over the years I have had several opportunities to travel Highway 17 between Logansport and Plymouth....probably the first was a warm spring day more than 12 years ago when I decided to take a leisurely drive back to the office on a Friday afternoon in my Mustang with the windows down and radio cranked on country. Since then I was hooked on this little section of road with its 90 degree curves, high variety of fence post corner markers and the three little towns of Grass Creek, Kewanna and Burr Oak.

Of particular fame is Grass Creek. A tiny little town of maybe 100, set along the banks of, what else, Grass Creek. Highway 17 joins up with Highway 114 at the south edge of town, creating a short east/west jog that runs through the town before 17 heads north again. At both the east and west ends of town are two 90 degree curves in the road with the first on the east end angling around a small dairy farm with cows grazing right up to the edge of the road against barbed wire on old wood fence posts. Rather a nice welcome to Grass Creek.

Beyond an old grain elevator, one church, five small commercial buildings and a beautifully restored depot at their small town park........there isn't much there. Which is why, I think, in 1999 it got the attention of film producers to create a very rurally inspired comedy called "Best Man in Grass Creek". Spout.com, calling it a zany comedy about male marital jitters, has this review: Three years after being left at the alter, Adam (John Newcombe) still cannot make it through a wedding ceremony without becoming violently ill. His friend and editor Jimmy (John Hines) makes a deal with the struggling cartoonist; he will find a buyer for Adam's comic strip if Adam acts as best man for his wedding. Reluctantly agreeing, Adam follows Jimmy and his bride-to-be (Grace Phillips) to small-town Indiana to attend his nightmare dressed in white.

The beauty of the film is that it was shot almost entirely around the Cass and Fulton County area, using restaurants and farms as settings. The movie had special premieres throughout this part of the state, including at our downtown theater in river city. It was a sold-out, black tie affair with giant search lights and red carpet on the sidewalk. A former co-worker, who was from the Grass Creek area, attended the event with us and was quick to tell us whose farm each scene was shot at. Go out and rent it....it is a great snapshot of Hoosierana.

As I once again had the opportunity to take a leisurely drive up Highway 17 yesterday, I was reminded again of the film and stopped to shoot a few pictures of my own in Grass Creek. And when I got home I told my wife that I think I wanted to move there. Architecturally speaking, the buildings aren't much, although impressively preserved inside......I was describing how we could set up house in the two-story one, use the garage next door for our car and a giant playroom for the kids and then I could open up my studio across the street in the old hardware and she could open up a diner in the building next door. Since they're all vacant, I figure the owners would sell and in this market, I could buy them at rock-bottom prices.

Then I could call myself the best man in Grass Creek......quite possibly the only man in Grass Creek. My daughter thought that I might even make mayor!

03 March 2009

Greater Things......

Late in 2007 my heart was stirred with the realization that my traditional approach to making change in my community would always be inadequate because the root cause of troubles in river city will never be addressed with policy or politics. Root issues in river city have created a community consumed by bigotry and pride, self-righteousness and greed. And we need to be free.

As I began to pray for these root causes I came to understand that so many are found first in the church, in the Body of Christ in river city, and without a change at that level we can never expect God to work through us. That's when I began to see the awesome potential in getting a group of guys together once a month to pray specifically for river city and the issues we face, and for change to happen in our churches first. Guys from all churches. This was stirred up again recently as I struggle with how inward focused our churches are becoming. And so now, I want to go back to what I feel was a God-inspired idea to bring guys together to break down walls and find that there are "greater things" God can do.

Christians like to quote 2 Chronicles 7:14, when referencing the utter moral decline in the United States:

14If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

But I want to draw your attention back to "MY PEOPLE". God was calling His children to humble themselves, pray, seek His face and turn from THEIR ways. If His children did this, God would bring healing to their land. So if we take God at His Word, we need to understand that the change for greater things begins with US. Stop playing the blame game in the political realm. Christians need to blame themselves for the corruption & greed so prevalent today.

I offer this passage and Isaiah 58:12, for our role as God's children in your community.

12And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in.

I am anxious to begin pulling these guys together...some of you reading know I have already contacted you about this once before. I believe that God does have greater things to offer river city than what we know or understand. But I believe He is looking for us to "stand in the gap" with prayer, seeking to resolve issues by drilling down to the core. I am ready for Greater Things than settling for politics, pride and poverty to mark us as a community, aren't you?