“Everything Strange and Unknown” by Joe Meno – selection #33 of Deal Me “IN” 2016


The Card: ♥3♥ Three of Hearts

The Suit: For 2016, Hearts is my suit for “Stories from Indiana magazines and Literary Journals”

The Selection: “Everything Strange and Unknown” from “Booth” a journal published by Butler University in Indianapolis. (this story is from October 2015)  You can read the story online at http://booth.butler.edu/2015/10/09/everything-strange-and-unknown/

The Author: Joe Meno (picture from Wikipedia) is based out of Chicago, visit http://www.joemeno.com/ for more info on his writing.

 

img_6202What is Deal Me “IN” 2016? I’m glad you asked! Before the start of each year, I come up with a list of 52 stories to read and assign each of them to a playing card in a standard deck. Each week, I draw a card, and that is the story I read. By the end of the year (52 weeks), I’m done, and ready to start a fresh deck. (For a more detailed explanation of the Deal Me In challenge, see the sign up post. For a look at my deck of cards/storylegacy project seal of approval 2roster click here.) Since 2016 is my home state’s bicentennial, in this year’s edition of my annual Deal Me In challenge, I’m reading only stories that have an Indiana “connection” of some kind. Deal Me “IN” is also now officially endorsed as a “Legacy Project” by The Indiana Bicentennial Commission.

 

Everything Strange and Unknown

“Everything becomes hilarious after my wife, Samantha, says she’s in love with a ping-pong player. Suddenly, everything seems like a joke.”

This story is the first person narrative of Paul, a young man whose wife – as you know from the quotation above – has left him for a “ping-pong” player.  Not even a “table tennis” player, as practitioners of that game as a sport prefer to be called. The reader also quickly learns how clueless Paul is now that his wife has left him. For instance, he tells us he has “three or four” kids (what?!  which is it?) and that “The hardest thing is their schedules. All these children have these places to go, at these different times of the day.  Some of them go to school, some don’t, but who can keep track?  Let’s be honest; mistakes have been made.”

After a bit, it seems Paul may actually “find love again” when he meets one of his kids’ music teacher, Nicole. Frankly, she’s not that much more on the ball than he is. She has delusions of grandeur involving starting her own business as an entertainer at children’s parties – specifically for children who are afraid of clowns, and the extent of her preparation has been to have 1,000 business cards printed. Somehow the two hit it off and go on an absurdly funny date.

Well, there’s not a lot more to this very short story than Paul’s  painful-to-read attempts to adjust to his new life. And Nicole, in my opinion, is probably his best shot at finding love again, but he’s well on his way to blowing that by the time the story ends.

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♫ Personal Notes:  You don’t get too many opportunities to see serious table tennis on television, but the recent Olympiad was one of those rare times, and I did catch a little of it.  Also, my dad was serious player and even had a rating at one time in the USTTA.  Growing up, we had a “ping pong” table in the basement, and later a folding one we kept in the garage and periodically wheeled out into the back yard. My brothers and I had many spirited competitions, but the most memorable games to me were the doubles matches we’d play against my mom and dad.  Mom wasn’t as serious a player as the rest of us, and with my dad being clearly better than ALL of us, those teams made a doubles match a fairly even contest. Although the story above might not have been my favorite of this year’s Deal Me “IN” challenge, I am thankful that it led me to resurrect these memories of playing table tennis in the back yard growing up. 🙂

As my 2016 Deal Me In entries have gone so far, this may be the funniest one yet (though, honestly, I think this has been the only one thus far for which that was the primary intent. Vonnegut’s “Next Door” and Marian Allen’s “It Came from Burr County” are two others that come to mind that have made me laugh. :-). This was also the last of my 2016 stories coming from  Butler’s “Booth” journal.

What are some funny short stories that YOU have read lately?

 

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“The B-29s” by Ernie Pyle – selection #32 of Deal Me “IN” 2016


The Card: ♠8♠ Eight of Spades

The Suit: For 2016, Spades is my suit for “Indiana related short non-fiction stories”

The Selection: “The B-29s” from “Last Chapter” a collection of “dispatches” from late World War II, particularly from the Pacific.

The Author: Ernie Pyle should need no introduction. An incredibly popular reporter of the war from Dana, Indiana, it’s sad to think, while reading these reports, that he would be dead within a year of writing them. He was killed by a Japanese bullet on Iwo Jima in April , 1945.

img_6202What is Deal Me “IN” 2016? I’m glad you asked! Before the start of each year, I come up with a list of 52 stories to read and assign each of them to a playing card in a standard deck. Each week, I draw a card, and that is the story I read. By the end of the year (52 weeks), I’m done, and ready to start a fresh deck. (For a more detailed explanation of the Deal Me In challenge, see the sign up post. For a look at my deck of cards/storylegacy project seal of approval 2roster click here.) Since 2016 is my home state’s bicentennial, in this year’s edition of my annual Deal Me In challenge, I’m reading only stories that have an Indiana “connection” of some kind. Deal Me “IN” is also now officially endorsed as a “Legacy Project” by The Indiana Bicentennial Commission.

(Above: a B-29 hard at work)

The B-29s

“I’ve always felt the great 500-mile auto race at Indianapolis was the most exciting event – in terms of human suspense – that I’ve ever known. The start of a B-29 mission to Tokyo, from the spectator’s standpoint, was almost the same as the Indianapolis race.” – Ernie Pyle

indy 500 1940

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(above pictures from: https://www.dc3dakotahunter.com/blog/marianas-the-b-29s-fixed-aircraft-carrier/  and indystar.com)

I didn’t really know anything about B-29s before reading this piece. All of my “experience” from movies and television dealt with the B-17 “flying fortress” and not the B-29, whose nickname, by the way, was “Superfortress.” Pyle writes of it that it was “unquestionably a wonderful airplane. Outside of the famous old Douglas DC-3 workhorse, I’ve never heard of an airplane so unanimously praised by pilots.” His descriptions of the missions and especially his first-hand accounts of their Indy 500-like – and literal -“flying start” were thrilling and gave me a new appreciation for the crews and ground support of those planes.

The missions that he witnessed started at Marianas (also where the photo above was taken), where the writer happened to have a nephew stationed. Their primary target on the missions was Tokyo itself, which was about a 14-hour round trip. I found it particularly interesting when he related that this time during the mission when they were en route or returning was almost as challenging as the, relatively speaking, brief time over the target and when they were fighting off the enemy’s defending fighters and anti-aircraft. Often, planes were damaged and effectively “limping” home. How stressful must that long flight home have been, wondering if you could indeed make it back without having to “ditch” in the open Pacific.

Speaking of ditching, Pyle points out that it was a much more hazardous process there in the Pacific rather than in the English Channel, where it was more likely for rescue operations to be successful due to the relatively small size of that body of water. On the missions Pyle describes, a damaged plane, especially one whose damage caused it to lag behind the rest, would usually have a “buddy” plane assigned to help pinpoint the location if indeed they did end up having to ditch. The pilots and crew told Pyle that one of the hardest parts of flying missions was the helplessness they felt when one of the planes in their group was damaged. There wasn’t much they could do to assist, even though they were “right there” in the air next to them. It’s not like they could loan another plane one of their four perfectly functioning engines. As Pyle reminds us: “There is indeed a fraternalism in war that is hard for people at home to realize.”

One of my favorite passages dealt with the food the airmen ate and those who prepared it for them at their base. But Pyle also relates that “most of the boys got packages from home. One kid wrote and told his folks to slow up a little, that he was snowed under with packages. Jack (Pyle’s nephew) had two jars of Indiana fried chicken from my Aunt Mary. She cans it and seals it in Mason jars,and it’s wonderful. She sent me some in France, but I’d left before it got there. Jack took some of his fried chicken in his lunch over Tokyo one day. We Hoosiers sure do get around, even the chickens.”

I’m kind of sad that this is the final Ernie Pyle piece that I’ll read for Deal Me “IN” but, like I’ve said previously, I’ve now fortified my library with additional writing by Pyle, and a biography of him that I’m also looking forward to reading.

♫Personal Notes: One of my all-time favorite movies is the classic “Twelve O’clock High” starring a young Gregory Peck. It’s definitely worth a watch if you’ve never seen it, and I was reminded of it while reading this week’s story. I think it did a good job of capturing the “anticipation” of those on the ground waiting for their comrades to return, and counting the planes as they got back, praying the same number returned that took off. Sadly, there were usually fewer planes landing than had originally taken off.

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(above: At the end of the film, Gregory Peck sits “catatonic” the entire time the mission is in the air…)

“A Conversation with Tim O’Brien” by James Hanna – selection #31 of Deal Me “IN” 2016

The Card: 4♥4 Four of Hearts.

The Suit: For 2016, ♥♥♥Hearts♥♥♥ is my suit for “Stories from Indiana-related Magazines and Literary Journals”

TheSelection: From 2014″A Conversation with Tim O’Brien” from Butler University’s “Booth” journal. I found this piece in the journal’s online archives, when I was specifically searching for selections to include in “Deal Me IN”  Read it for free online here.

The Author: James Allan Hanna, now a member of the English Faculty at Indianapolis’s Cathedral High School, teaching American Literature and Creative Writing. He’s also a former assistant editor of “Booth.”

 

img_6202What is Deal Me “IN” 2016? I’m glad you asked! Before the start of each year, I come up with a list of 52 stories to read and assign each of them to a playing card in a standard deck. Each week, I draw a card, and that is the story I read. By the end of the year (52 weeks), I’m done, and ready to start a fresh deck. (For a more detailed explanation of the Deal Me In challenge, see the sign up post. For a look at my deck of cards/storylegacy project seal of approval 2roster click here.) Since 2016 is my home state’s bicentennial, in this year’s edition of my annual Deal Me In challenge, I’m reading only stories that have an Indiana “connection” of some kind. Deal Me “IN” is also now officially endorsed as a “Legacy Project” by The Indiana Bicentennial Commission.

“A Conversation with Tim O’Brien”

“These days, of course, vets returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are endlessly told, “Thank you for your service.” I suppose it’s meant to be a corrective to our understanding of the mistreatment of Vietnam vets. In fact, I hear those words myself quite often – “Thank you for your service.” But it gives me the creeps. I don’t want to be thanked for killing people, for participating in the deaths of three million Vietnamese. Moreover, the folks who say “Thank you for your service” – even with the kindest intentions – have not the slightest idea about what they’re thanking me for. And on top of that, they don’t want to know what they’re thanking me for. They don’t want to hear the ugly realities.” – Tim O’Brien

If you haven’t already heard of Tim O’Brien, you should probably go buy his famous book, The Things They Carried, and read it soon.  In fact, it’s way more important that you read that instead of this blog post so go ahead and come back later to read this; take as long as you need.

Done? Okay, welcome back. 🙂  Though much of this interview was focused on questions about the writing process rather than the author’s published works, O’Brien’s anti-war sentiments still shine through pretty brightly.  One passage in particular that grabbed me was when he elaborated on the “utter waste” of it all:

“The older the get, the more I – I hated war to begin with, but I’m more and more that way now.  There’s so little worth killing people for. And Vietnam is a glaring example of the utter waste of it all. I mean, look, we lost that war.  And yet who in this country goes around forty-five years later thinking, “Oh dear, what a catastrophe! My life’s a nightmare! I’ve lost all my liberties! Dominoes toppled all across Asia! Communists landed in San Francisco! Nobody thinks such stuff. NOBODY!

and, later:

“Right now, at this instant, American tourists are bicycling up and down Highway One in Vietnam. American high school and college kids are eating noodle soup on the streets of Hanoi. American businessmen are cutting deals in Saigon. Three million dead Vietnamese, about 60,000 dead American boys, and now no one in this country devotes a waking thought to the fact that we lost that war. On a personal, daily basis no one actually cares. And if no once cares, why did we go through all that horror and brutality in the first place?  Three million dead people, and we don’t give it a thought.”

That’s a staggering perspective on the Vietnam War, isn’t it?  I’ve read The Things They Carried several times now and recommend it often when people pay me the compliment of asking if I have any ideas for “what they should read next.”  I usually describe it as a very powerful book. After hearing the author speak a couple times now and now reading this conversation, I think the word “powerful” still applies.

It’ll only take about 15 minutes to read this piece, and it would be time well spent. Just click the link in this post’s header to read it online.

♫Personal Notes: I’ve had the pleasure of briefly meeting author Tim O’Brien a couple of times myself, mainly due to his relationship with the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library in Indianapolis, of which I am a member and, through this blog, a supporter myself.  He’s not an imposing man physically, but his words carry a lot of weight, and his presence somehow commands respect.  Just last month, he was in Indiana to speak at an event as part of the “Vonnegut Sessions” series.  He was interviewed briefly by two local fellow wordsmiths, then fielded a bunch of questions from the audience. He was engaging and self-deprecating, admitting “he hates this” when referring to his speaking in front of an audience, saying “I’m a guy who spends most of my days sitting at home in my underwear in front of a computer,” and that “I own one suit, and you’re lookin’ at it!”

(below: O’Brien, in middle with cap, listens to a question from the audience at July 15th’s “Vonnegut Sessions” event at the WFYI studios. Photo by moi.)

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When the event ended, while chatting with some other audience members, I learned one of them had helped sponsor the event by being the high bidder on a “coffee and conversation” with O’Brien. (If I had known about that in advance, there may have been a different kind of war – a bidding war. 🙂 ) Also, the person who was the top bidder was local artist Greg Perry (also a writer gpwrites.com), who created the famous Landmark for Peace sculpture commemorating Robert Kennedy’s speech in Indianapolis the night Martin Luther King was slain. (pictured below, from wikipedia)

Landmark_for_Peace_Memorial

The Devil and James Whitcomb Riley by Jason Roscoe – selection #30 of Deal Me “IN” 2016

The Card: ♥10♥ Ten of Hearts.

The Suit: For 2016, Hearts is my suit for stories from “Indiana-related Magazines and Literary Journals”

The Selection: “The Devil and James Whitcomb Riley” from Mythic Indy, an anthology of “New legends, fairy tales, and myths about Indianapolis.” I have a couple copies of this anthology, one signed by many of the authors, which I received since Bibliophilopolis was one of many sponsors of the project, and another, now more beat up copy that I carry around with me, reading a story here and there… The story may also be read online at Punchnel’s Magazine where it was originally published.

The Author: Jason Roscoe. This story is the first of his work that I’ve read, and I don’t know much about him, but he operates a website http://basementrejects.com that includes reviews of many tv series and movies. It is where I found the mysterious gas mask photo of him(?) above…

img_6202What is Deal Me “IN” 2016? I’m glad you asked! Before the start of each year, I come up with a list of 52 stories to read and assign each of them to a playing card in a standard deck. Each week, I draw a card, and that is the story I read. By the end of the year (52 weeks), I’m done, and ready to start a fresh deck. (For a more detailed explanation of the Deal Me In challenge, see the sign up post. For a look at my deck of cards/storylegacy project seal of approval 2roster click here.) Since 2016 is my home state’s bicentennial, in this year’s edition of my annual Deal Me In challenge, I’m reading only stories that have an Indiana “connection” of some kind. Deal Me “IN” is also now officially endorsed as a “Legacy Project” by The Indiana Bicentennial Commission.

James_Whitcomb_Riley,_1913 (1)

The Devil and James Whitcomb Riley

“‘I must have my story.’

‘What happens if I refuse?’

‘Bad things. Very bad things.'”

Stories have power. That’s something I’ve come to appreciate more and more ever since I started blogging about them back in 2010.  Many authors have written or spoken about this as well. I remember in particular an author event at Bookmama’s Bookstore a few years back that featured Indiana author James Alexander Thom. He was there to talk about a book of his on the “art and craft” of writing historical fiction and talked about how stories around the campfire by ‘primitive man’ were the start of everything. Stories about what a hunter found ‘the next valley over’ (or whatever) were the birth of geography. Stories about certain plants that eased certain pain or injuries became the birth of medicine. And so on, and so on. I don’t want to spoil an upcoming Deal Me “IN” post, but I have on deck an interview with author Tim O’Brien (The Things They Carried) where he shows a respect for the power of the story as well. James Whitcomb Riley had a reputation as one of the greatest storytellers of his time. A reputation that also made him known, in this story anwyay, to the Devil himself!

Shortly after his death in 1916, Riley’s spirit, “at rest in crown hill cemetery” is accosted by a strange voice, one that he knows, deep down, is that of the Devil.  The Devil demands that Riley entertain him with a story and, perhaps for the first time in his life – er, perhpas I should say “existence” – Riley’s “got nothing” and can’t quickly come up with one. The Devil gives him a year to come up with one and he does. Satisfied, the Devil decides to make this a recurring contract, one that Riley eventually tires of, prompting the interchange quoted above.  The year he refuses, 1945, something bad happens. Something very bad. Nuclear weapons are used for the first time in human history. Riley’s ghost blames himself and keeps his end of the bargain up going forward, but to what end?

It’s not clear, but to this reader – by the end of this story – Riley’s annual storytelling is perhaps beginning to have a “good influence” on the nature of the Devil himself. Now THAT is powerful indeed! Maybe the denouement is best captured by the final paragraph of this story:

“Next time you’re in Crown Hill Cemetery on a cool spring day and you think you catch something out of the corner of your eye – a shimmer or an old man – and you feel a chill down your spine, remain calm.  Just lie back on the grass, and know that you are safe in the hands of a master storyteller. Close your eyes and listen closely and perhaps you’ll even hear a story that could charm the Devil himself.”

This is the final story from “Mythic Indy” that I’ll be reading for this year’s short story project, but there remain several stories in the collection which I have yet to read “at large.” Maybe I’ll save some for a future year’s iteration of “Deal Me In.”  I recommend picking up a copy of this book check out http://www.secondstoryindy.org/2015/09/pre-order-mythic-indy-and-support-second-story/ online for details or maybe check at Indy Reads Books bookstore Next time you’re in downtown Indy.

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Above: The burial site of James Whitcomb Riley, at the top of Crown Hill cemetery.  It’s the highest point in Indianapolis (for you trivia fans out there).

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♫ Personal Notes: The Indianapolis home of James Whitcomb Riley (above, from Wikipedia) is now a museum, in the downtown”Lockerbie” neighborhood.  It’s just a few blocks away from the location where one of my book clubs meets (the Rathskeller – you should try it sometime if you’ve never been) and after this month’s meeting, eight of our members adjourned to an afterparty featuring a walking ‘ghost tour’ of the area.  This event was sponsored by the Indianapolis Marion County Public Library in conjunction with one of the books (dealing with “haunted Indiana”)  in their summer reading program. The tour itself – though I found it very interesting – provided few true frights.  The Riley home was the last stop on the tour, and we learned that some visitors have reported seeing the ghost of “The Hoosier Poet” on the grounds.

(below: one of my awesome book clubs at a recent meeting at the Rathskeller; I think we set an attendance record that night) 

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“Peyton Manning – Champion: This Doesn’t Happen Very Often” by David Hoppe – selection #29 of Deal Me “IN” 2016

The Card: ♠J♠ Jack of Spades (found one with a bit of a “Colts Blue” thing going on 🙂 )

The Suit: For 2016, Spades is my suit for “Indiana-related Short, Non-fiction Works”

The Selection: “Peyton Manning – Champion: This Doesn’t Happen Very Often” from the book of short essays, “Personal Indianapolis.”

The Author: David Hoppe. He has lived in Indiana since 1980 and is a contributing editor and regular columnist for the Indianapolis alternative weekly magazine, Nuvo. Find out more about him at his website: http://www.davidhoppewriter.com/index.html – you may also see and read some of Hoppe’s recent work at http://www.nuvo.net/blogs/Hoppe/

img_6202What is Deal Me “IN” 2016? I’m glad you asked! Before the start of each year, I come up with a list of 52 stories to read and assign each of them to a playing card in a standard deck. Each week, I draw a card, and that is the story I read. By the end of the year (52 weeks), I’m done, and ready to start a fresh deck. (For a more detailed explanation of the Deal Me In challenge, see the sign up post. For a look at my deck of cards/storylegacy project seal of approval 2roster click here.) Since 2016 is my home state’s bicentennial, in this year’s edition of my annual Deal Me In challenge, I’m reading only stories that have an Indiana “connection” of some kind. Deal Me “IN” is also now officially endorsed as a “Legacy Project” by The Indiana Bicentennial Commission.

 

“Peyton Manning – Champion”

“He grew up in New Orleans and came of age in Tennessee. Who would’ve guessed that Peyton Manning had so much Hoosier in him.”

Okay. Full disclosure time. I’ve been a pretty rabid Indianapolis Colts fan ever since their relocation in 1984. I suffered through some horrible seasons with them early on, saw some brief glimpses of the glory possible (the Ted Marchibroda/Jim Harbaugh-led run to the almost Super Bowl in 1995, then finally in the 2006-07 season got the payoff with our only Super Bowl win. In the past ten or twelve years I’ve been a regular attendee of the games and have been a season ticket holder for most of that time. SO… I was really interested to read this piece by writer David Hoppe.

I enjoyed Hoppe’s describing how “a certain alchemy” can occur between a (great) athlete and the city he represents. And his claim that a “true champion” like Manning goes beyond even that. He lauds Manning’s charity work, his ability to “make teammates better” and his self deprecating humor, on continual display through tv commercials or even a Saturday Night Live appearance (a classic!)

This piece was written in early 2012, when the handwriting was beginning to appear on the wall that Manning’s time in Indy was likely coming to an end (“unceremoniously by injury”). The decision to let Manning go and draft Andrew Luck was divisive to Colts fans in Indiana. Many felt he “deserved better” or saw it as another opportunity to denigrate our somewhat troubled owner, Jim Irsay, for “letting him go.” Those of us fans who have an understanding of the NFL beyond the personal, emotional attachments that surround players who are your favorites knew that the “Manning, Out – Luck, In” transaction was likely more the result of circumstances beyond both sides’ control.

Hoppe also talks about how his (now-adult) son he grew up during Peyton’s tenure in Indy. His concluding remarks pretty well sum up the way many in town came to terms with the changing of the guard:

“My son also knows that this is the way things go. Change happens, usually in ways we can’t control. You get used to it the best you can and try to look forward to what comes next. Losing a champion, though, is tough to take.”

Agreed, but I also feel the future is bright for the Colts, with the potential of having two superstar quarterbacks back-to-back. Still, though, for Peyton’s last visit here in November of 2015 (as quarterback of the Denver Broncos, where his NFL career enjoyed what must have been a truly gratifying Indian Summer) I, as always, donned a Colts jersey for that game, one that I rarely wore in the past because “everyone else was wearing it” -one featuring the number 18…

♫ Personal Note: (actually, most of this entry feels like personal notes!) Our new quarterback is also great – even literarily speaking. Did you know that he has a public, on-line book club?! I’m not kidding! Check out http://www.andrewluckbookclub.com for the details. As Terrell Owens would say, “That’s my quarterback!”

Image below from andrewluckbookclub.com (I read both these books and have read 5 of the 6 selections he’s come up with so far.

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Schliemann in Indianapolis by Michael Martone – Selection #28 of Deal Me “IN” 2016

The Card: ♦10♦ Ten of Diamonds.

The Suit: For 2016, Diamonds is my suit for “Contemporary Writers with an Indiana Connection”

The Selection: “Schliemann in Indianapolis” from “Fort Wayne is Seventh on Hitler’s List: Indiana Stories” I own a hardcopy, purchased at Bookmama’s Bookstore in Irvington (Indianapolis)

The Author: Michael Martone (picture at left from IUpress.typepad.com). Last year I was quite impressed with “Winesburg, Indiana: A Fork River Anthology” which he edited, and I had heard of this volume through the grapevine so it found a place on my Deal Me “IN” roster. He was born in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and is currently a professor at the University of Alabama.  I just noticed this week that he is teaching a one-day class at the Indiana Writers Center this fall.  Maybe I will try to attend…

img_6202What is Deal Me “IN” 2016? I’m glad you asked! Before the start of each year, I come up with a list of 52 stories to read and assign each of them to a playing card in a standard deck. Each week, I draw a card, and that is the story I read. By the end of the year (52 weeks), I’m done, and ready to start a fresh deck. (For a more detailed explanation of the Deal Me In challenge, see the sign up post. For a look at my deck of cards/storylegacy project seal of approval 2roster click here.) Since 2016 is my home state’s bicentennial, in this year’s edition of my annual Deal Me In challenge, I’m reading only stories that have an Indiana “connection” of some kind. Deal Me “IN” is also now officially endorsed as a “Legacy Project” by The Indiana Bicentennial Commission.

 

Schliemann in Indianapolis

“No one must know the real purpose of my presence here.”

I really liked this one! It was almost a custom-written story for me, as someone who has read The Iliad of Homer multiple times and even minored in Classics at Wabash College right here in Indiana.  But I guess I should check first, do you know who Heinrich Schliemann is? He was a famous “Bulldozer Archaeologist”/Treasure Hunter of the 19th century, whose claim to fame was the discovery of the ruins of ancient Troy in Turkey.  Until his time, the going opinion was that The Iliad was largely a work of fiction and that there was no actual “Trojan War” that it describes.  Well, many parts of it may be still be fiction, but Troy was a real place – one Schliemann was convinced he could find and actually did. He also “excavated” the classical ruins of Mycenae in Greece, famously digging up the gold “Mask of Agamemnon” and making the massive “Lion’s Gate” of that city (drawing, from Wikipedia, below) famous.

At this point you may be wondering why on earth there would be a story titled “Schliemann in Indianapolis.” The fact is, Schliemann did spend time in Indianapolis in 1869. He was here because he had heard that Indiana was a good state to get a divorce in – something he was desperately seeking, since he married hastily in his youth and later learned to his chagrin that his Russian bride shared none of his Classical interests and refused to let their children accompany him on his travels.  Martone’s story is the manuscript of an imagined journal that Schliemann kept during his time in Indiana’s capital, where he was waiting for a tenuous legal process to make his divorce official…


(I still have the title story from this collection waiting to be drawn in this year’s Deal Me “IN” project & I’m looking forward to reading it (and the rest!) as well.)

We get to see the city of Indianapolis in its early years through the eyes of a wealthy European: “The city was built overnight. It is the newest of cities in the state, evolved from nothing save a swamp. There was not even an Indian village on the site. No one had lived here before. It is an example of parthenogenesis and pride. I am taken by this. Here are a people who build cities for no other reason than that the locations are geographical centers of arbitrarily decided government regions.”  We also get “As a general rule, classic literature is despised here owing to the universal enthusiasm for acquiring material wealth; thus classical education is at a low ebb.” Easy for you (who was born wealthy and retired at thirty-six) to say!

Clearly, the Schliemann of this story has little, if any, residual affection for his first wife.  When reading letters from her where pet names are employed, he thinks, “Sometimes it is a curse to know all the different names for a thing. Husband. Wife. One longs for the dead tongues and a world that does not change.”

Part of the drama in this story is the danger that Indiana’s liberal divorce laws may soon change before Schliemann has time to finish his petition, etc. It seems a current cause celebre had raised public awareness about some potential unfairness or injustice to a woman being divorced (gasp!), and Schliemann has many anxious days praying that a change in the law would be delayed sufficiently for him to complete his “business.” This gives him a glimpse into the workings of the Indiana legislature, about which he shares his thoughts: “After all, I am very glad to have got an insight into the doings of these people’s legislative assemblies, which presents democracy in all its roughness and nudity with all its party spirit and facility to yield to lateral influences, with all its licentiousness. I often saw them throwing paper balls at each other and even the speaker.”

While all this is going on, Schliemann is also actively trying to  procure a new, more “acceptable” bride, enlisting the aid of a clergyman overseas. He has a laundry list of qualities that he requires and this part of the story feels really creepy to a modern reader. His self-centered-ness truly knows no bounds. He even proclaims,How like noble Paris I feel, choosing among the goddesses.” ‘Oh, that poor girl’ was all I could think…

♫ Personal notes: I was wholly ignorant of Schliemann’s time in Indianapolis until a few years ago, when I attended a special program exploring his time here at the Indiana State Library. Fortunately, this was after I became a “book blogger,” and I can refer you to that story by linking to my post from long ago. See here if interested. Also, there’s one final “personal note” that I’d like to share. The Schliemann of this story shares how the city was built on what was once swampland and frequently complains about the temperature, once saying: “On account of the humidity, the heat is unbearable and oppressive.” Some things haven’t changed in Indianapolis in the last 150 years….

 

Men From Mars by Ernie Pyle – Selection #27 of Deal Me “IN” 2016


The Card: ♠4♠ Four of Spades.

The Suit: For 2016, Spades is my suit for “Indiana-related Short, Non-fiction Works”

The Selection: “Men From Mars” from “Final Chapter” – a collection of “war reports” from the Pacific Theater in World War II. My copy was printed in 1946, and I found it at Bookmama’s Bookstore in Indianapolis.

The Author: Ernie Pyle should need no introduction. An incredibly popular reporter of the war, who was from Dana, Indiana, it’s sad to think, while reading these reports, that he would be dead within a year of writing them. He was killed by a Japanese bullet on Iwo Jima in April , 1945.

img_6202What is Deal Me “IN” 2016? I’m glad you asked! Before the start of each year, I come up with a list of 52 stories to read and assign each of them to a playing card in a standard deck. Each week, I draw a card, and that is the story I read. By the end of the year (52 weeks), I’m done, and ready to start a fresh deck. (For a more detailed explanation of the Deal Me In challenge, see the sign up post. For a look at my deck of cards/storylegacy project seal of approval 2roster click here.) Since 2016 is my home state’s bicentennial, in this year’s edition of my annual Deal Me In challenge, I’m reading only stories that have an Indiana “connection” of some kind. Deal Me “IN” is now also officially endorsed as a “Legacy Project” by The Indiana Bicentennial Commission.

(You don’t make it onto a U.S. Postage Stamp unless you were one of the greats!) 

Men From Mars

“Marine Corps blitzes in the Pacific had all been so bitter and the men had fought so magnificently that I had conjured up a mental picture of a marine as someone who bore a close resemblance to a man from Mars. I was almost afraid of them. I did find them confident, but neither cocky nor smart-alecky. They had fears, and qualms, and hatred for war the same as anybody else. They wanted to go home just as badly as any soldiers I’ve ever met. They are proud to be marines and they wouldn’t be in any other branch of the service, yet they are not arrogant about it.”

This piece chronicles Pyle’s time with a company of the First Marine Division on the island of Okinawa. Initially, he’s sharing hillside dugouts with the grunts, fending off rain, fleas, and, with less success, swarms of mosquitoes that were unrelenting. (“Okinawa mosquitoes sound like flame throwers…”) Calling himself “the world’s choicest morsel for mosquitoes” Pyle relates that “every morning he woke up with at least one eye swollen shut.” Most of the “Japs” on their part of the island had fled or were dead if they remained. A few captures of unresisting stragglers occurred, though.

(above: the island of Okinawa. I have to confess I’ve always imagined it was a much smaller place – maybe I’ve been confusing it with Iwo Jima? – but it’s quite a significant piece of land)

Eventually, the company Pyle was with “settled down” for several days in a small village. Pyle writes that “It’s wonderful to see a bunch ofAmerican troops go about making themselves at home wherever they get a chance to settle down for a few days.” and shares some nice tales of their interaction with the local civilian population: “A good many of the Okinawan civilians wandering along the roadside bowed low to every American they met. Whether this was from fear or native courtesy I do not know, but anyhow they did it. And the Americans, being Americans, usually bowed right back.” I liked that.

Pyle also writes that before he started this tour in the field, several officers had asked him to try to get a sense of “just what the marine spirit is” and indeed, that is the one branch of the service that has always seemed to have a special mystique about its members. He mentions that, in peacetime, it was more true that only a certain type of soldier was attracted especially to the marines but that, at the time of his writing, the mix of recruits was more homogenous with the rest of the service as more manpower was needed to fill the ranks. He writes of the composition of the corps that:

“It had changed, in fact, until marines looked to me exactly like a company of soldiers in Europe. Yet that Marine Corps spirit still remained, I never did find out what perpetuated it.”

(above: Okinawa today [pic from expedia.com])

♫ Personal Notes: As in the other piece of Pyle’s that I’ve read for Deal Me “IN” 2016, he often gives the hometowns and addresses of the rank and file soldiers he writes about.  In this work there were two who were from my home town of Indianapolis. The address of one marine, Charles Bradshaw (nicknamed “Brady”) was on a “Holmes Ave.” which I had to look up. I had even considered being ambitious enough to go see what the house looked like today. Before I went that far, though, I googled him and was quite saddened to find him on a list of “NAVY DEAD” from a newspaper archive at the Vigo County Library.  He’s the first name listed in the screenshot below.  Kind of a sobering reminder that these were real lives that Pyle was writing about and that many of them didn’t make it back alive. R.I.P. Corporal Bradshaw.

My brother served in the Marine Corps in the ’80s, but was never deployed to where he saw any combat.  I still have a camo mini-duffel bag he gifted me that I used for decades for carrying around my chess equipment to tournaments. When I ‘came out of (chess) retirement’ last summer, it did too. Pictured below (note my lucky “Mockingjay” pin – a more recent addition. 🙂 ) from a recent tournament.

camo bag with pin

I also spent “countless hours” on afternoons after school during grade school watching re-runs of the tv show “Gomer Pyle, USMC” on WTTV – something my parents didn’t approve of, as that show was just “silly” – which it seems to me now as well, but at the time, all I knew about the Marines was from watching those episodes.  I remember especially liking the shows where they went on maneuvers and wore battle fatigues and helmets.  Do YOU remember that show?

(Oh, yeah, the title of this piece reminded me of a book that was quite popular back in the 90s… No, I never read it, and yes, communication with the opposite sex remains largely a mystery to me… 🙂 do you remember this book?  Did you read it?)

Autumn Full of Apples by Dan Wakefield – Selection #26 of Deal Me “IN” 2016

The Card: ♣6♣ Six of Clubs.

The Suit: For 2016, Clubs is my suit for “Stories by ’Legendary’ Indiana Authors”

The Selection: “Autumn Full of Apples” first published in Redbook magazine. I own a copy via the 1966 edition of the “Best American Short Stories” anthology series.

The Author: Indianapolis native Dan vonnegut lettersWakefield, whose novel “Going All the Way” may be his most famous work. He also edited a recently published collection of Kurt Vonnegut’s Letters. Another favorite, recent read of mine was his novel Under the Apple Tree, which I heartily recommend. I’ve also had the pleasure of meeting him briefly on a couple of occasions at the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library. Wakefield has also, just this year, had a city park in Indianapolis named after him. His website may be found at http://danwakefield.com

 

img_6202What is Deal Me “IN” 2016? I’m glad you asked! Before the start of each year, I come up with a list of 52 stories to read and assign each of them to a playing card in a standard deck. Each week, I draw a card, and that is the story I read. By the end of the year (52 weeks), I’m done, and ready to start a fresh deck. (For a more detailed explanation of the Deal Me In challenge, see the sign up post. For a look at my deck of cards/storylegacy project seal of approval 2roster click here.) Since 2016 is my home state’s bicentennial, in this year’s edition of my annual Deal Me In challenge, I’m reading only stories that have an Indiana “connection” of some kind. Deal Me “IN” is now also officially endorsed as a “Legacy Project” by The Indiana Bicentennial Commission.

 


Autumn Full of Apples

“Our year began those days in the hot blaze of fall, the sun was still bearing down too hard and moving back from summer’s rule reluctantly, wanting still to be king and hating to watch his green work burn away into yellow and red and finally turn to smoke. Footballs exploded off practiced toes, lockers came clicking and rattling to life in the school’s long sealed and musty halls, and a gold blare of brass rose up to the windows from the marching band, reborn again.”

Wow. How’s that for scene setting? Though I’m more than a generation or so younger than Mr. Wakefield, this quotation reanimated vivid memories of my own school days when the new year of school was just beginning. And I’d never really thought about it before, but when you’re that age, the more natural “New Year’s Day” is indeed the first day of school. A day of new beginnings, a blank slate on which to write new accomplishments – or failures – perhaps also a chance for new friends and adventures. Wakefield captures that sentiment almost perfectly in this short story.

It’s the story of the narrator, Dan, and his new love, Katie Deane. They meet when she stumbles in the school hallway, dropping her Algebra book. Dan, all chivalry, picks it up and hands it to her, trying to ease her awkward feeling of clumsiness “I drop things all the time,” she says. “Well, that’s okay. Everyone does.” Although there are references earlier in the story to “last year’s girl,” it seems that Katie is Dan’s first “true love” (I know, whatever that means), and they go through some of the stereotypical ‘courtship rituals’ of that era.

The clock is ticking on the wondrous autumn of this story, though, just as it has each year on all autumns in the real world. Is the life of Dan and Katie’s romance linked to that of the short season, or will it endure? At the conclusion of this story, my money’s on the kids…

(above: I found an appropriate “Autumn six of clubs” at http://worldsedge.deviantart.com/gallery/39568425/Playing-Cards )

Reading the story a second time to prepare for writing this post, I realized that some readers may find the story too syrupy sweet or too idyllic to be believed, but I didn’t feel that way at all and enjoyed it to the fullest.

Personal notes: ♫ I love literary coincidences and there was a big one related to drawing this card and reading this story. It so happens I read it the same week as one of my book clubs was meeting to discuss Indiana author Ian Woollen’s great book, Uncle Anton’s Atomic Bomb. In looking online for more info on Uncle Anton, I found an article written by Dan Wakefield (here if you’d care to read) himself. It turns out Woollen (who graciously drove up from Bloomington to join our book club’s meeting – hopefully I will post about that event soon also) is the nephew of Wakefield’s high school girlfriend, Kithy Woollen, upon whom the character of Katie Deane in this very story is based(!)

With this post I’m now halfway through the 52 stories of Deal Me “IN” – If you have any “calendrical” expertise, you may have noted that I should be closer to having published 32 or 33 posts by now.  Yes, I’m slacking.  I have, though, now gotten through a rough stretch at work and now have also put some other stuff behind me, so hope to pick up the pace over the next couple months to get back on schedule.  This is also the first year (out of six) where I’ve committed to posting about every single one of my fifty two stories, and, as usual, I may have overestimated my stamina here. 🙂
Note: Wakefield pic above found at hoosierhistorylive.org

The Boyhood of Christ by Lew Wallace – Selection #25 of Deal Me “IN” 2016

The Card: 2♣2 Two of Clubs.

The Suit: For 2016, Clubs is my suit for “Stories by ’Legendary’ Indiana Authors”

The Selection: “The Boyhood of Christ” first published by Harper and Brothers of New York in 1888. I found a copy online at https://archive.org/stream/boyhoodofchr00wall#page/n135/mode/2up which includes some great illustrations, a couple of which are included below.

The Author: Lew Wallace – one of the most famous Hoosiers of the 19th Century. Diplomat, Civil War general, and author of the epic, best selling novel, “Ben-Hur” (you may have seen the reasonably successful 1959 film version with Charlton Heston)

img_6202What is Deal Me “IN” 2016? I’m glad you asked! Before the start of each year, I come up with a list of 52 stories to read and assign each of them to a playing card in a standard deck. Each week, I draw a card, and that is the story I read. By the end of the year (52 weeks), I’m done, and ready to start a fresh deck. (For a more detailed explanation of the Deal Me In challenge, see the sign up post. For a look at my deck of cards/storylegacy project seal of approval 2roster click here.) Since 2016 is my home state’s bicentennial, in this year’s edition of my annual Deal Me In challenge, I’m reading only stories that have an Indiana “connection” of some kind. Deal Me “IN” is now also officially endorsed as a “Legacy Project” by The Indiana Bicentennial Commission.

The Boyhood of Christ

For week 25 of Deal Me “IN” I drew the two of clubs. In my version of the Deal Me In challenge, “deuces are wild” so I get to pick an “at large” story, preferably staying within the theme of the suit. Why did I choose this story? Well, partly because when I first announced my bicentennial version of Deal Me In December, I was scolded (good-naturedly, I presumed) for not initially including anything by Lew Wallace in a so called “Legendary Indiana Authors” category. Point taken, I made a mental note of it. So when the wild card came around, off I went in search of this lesser-known work of the author of Ben-Hur.

I was actually quite charmed by this story, even if the title is somewhat misleading (we don’t learn much more about the actual boyhood of Christ than is available in the scant scriptural references, but that doesn’t turn out to matter). The setting is at an estate when an evening dance for young people is taking place. Two young girls break away from the group and seek out “Uncle Midas” (a thinly disguised fictional version of Wallace himself) in hopes of him “telling them a story for Christmas Eve,” the occasion of the party. Wallace describes them as no longer girls, but not quite young women, and that “for persons so young they were well read, and could talk about great events and take delight in hearing of far countries.”

Aerial picture of study from: http://www.ben-hur.com/

The young auditors settle into Uncle Midas’s study (not coincidentally, also a fictional approximation of Wallace’s actual study – now a museum in Crawfordsville) to hear his story about The Boyhood of Christ. Uncle Midas explains how there are some stories not found in scripture that they may have heard, and relates some from the apocryphal “The First Gospel of the Infancy of Jesus” for his listeners. Ending these stories, he says of this gospel that “The book has its place on my shelf along with other religious curiosities, such as the Koran and the Mormon bible.” – Not sure how the Muslims and Mormons would feel about their faith being relegated to the status of “curiosity”(!)

Throughout his storytelling, Uncle Midas tries to give his young listeners an excuse to return to their party rather than continue to humor him by sitting through an old man’s storytelling. In spite of this, His audience continues to grow as the other young people at the party join them – at first to lure the initial two girls back to the party – but later finding themselves becoming rapt listeners as well. At the end, in a final plea, Midas says that “the band” (er, I mean the fiddlers) must be anxiously waiting their return, but:

“‘You are mistaken, Uncle,’ said Nan.

‘How so?’

‘The Fiddlers are here too, and have been for the past fifteen minutes.’

‘Oh! Very well; I am content with my short triumph over them. Good-night to you all.’

Thereupon the company went to him one by one; the boys shook his hand and thanked him and the girls kissed him. And the music and the dance went on until the holy-day stole through the windows.”

I DID say it was charming, remember? 🙂

image

I also loved an earlier passage  where the author describes how Uncle Midas (i.e. Wallace) has prepared to spend his retiring years:

“Uncle Midas had led a busy life; he had been a lawyer, a soldier, an author, and a traveller; he had dabbled in art, diplomacy, and politics; and, like most men so diversely occupied, there had never been a day in which he had not promised himself to let his mind say to his body, ‘Thou has served me well, and carried me about for much teaching, and I have profited much; now, O good servant, take thine ease; the gathered fruits are waiting, and I alone will continue to labor.’ At length, noting the coming of his mid-afternoon of life, he determined to make the promise good. Towards that end he built the study, and tied it to his house with the conservatory, reserving the shelves for those other and higher associates which, in their cloaks of cloth and gold, would also wait for him, and, being called, begin talking in a manner the cleverest tongue cannot attain…”


Illustration –  Mary teaching Jesus the alphabet

Playing card image found at: https://playingcardcollector.net/2013/07/18/kashmir-playing-cards-by-printissa/