Michiana Chronicles

The Michiana Chronicles writers bring portraits of our life and times to the 88.1 WVPE airwaves every Friday at 7:45 am during Morning Edition and over the noon hour at 12:30 pm during Here and Now. Michiana Chronicles was first broadcast in October 2001. Contact the writers through their individual e-mails and thanks for listening!

The Wind Storm

Jul 25, 2014

For a couple of weeks we had a fool-proof conversation starter around the neighborhood:  “How’d you do in the storm?” The storm being the July 1st just after midnight blast of wind and rain that knocked stout branches out of grand old trees and brought them down on parked cars and utility lines and garages and the roofs of houses. So, how’d you do in the storm? We were pretty lucky.

Have you ever seen a movie, like a thriller or a horror film where you KNOW that person shouldn't go in the basement?  They kind of write the scene that way to get your adrenaline pumping.  Going into that basement just means they will never come back out of it.  I have one of these basements.   In my dark, damp, ugly basement Things Get Lost.   We call it Storing Stuff,  but really, if we are honest, we just Loose Stuff in our basement.  Down the rickety Needs Paint stairs are mildewed walls and a cold bare floor.  Is it just cold, or is it wet too?  I often idly wonder, but not for long.

It's 8 am on a Monday.  I'm standing in the lobby with three other guys, looking at a piano.  I check my watch.  We're under a time crunch.  In three hours' time, there will be a jazz concert in the ballroom upstairs, and they need this very piano.  Did I mention it was a grand?

Talk about serendipity! For over a year, I’ve been thinking to drive down and look at Peru, IN. (Only the natives are allowed to pronounce it “Pee-roo,“ I’m told.) When I finally quit procrastinating and toddled off to look at the website to see what things Peru has to offer other than the thing that I had in mind to visit, I was amazed to see that that very weekend was the annual festival of their famous native son. In the mode of sometimes-Indiana-surprises-me, some years ago I had learned that Cole Porter was from there and wanted to visit his birthplace.

My Yard is Biting Me

Jun 27, 2014

I dug up still another patch of backyard Friday and Saturday, and the same thing happened as last time. My forearms swelled up. For a couple of days I looked like Popeye the Sailor Man. Right now, although the swelling has receded, “I’m itching like a man on a fuzzy tree,” although the other symptoms associated with that song have not displayed. I guess it could be mosquitos, although I didn’t hear them around my ears or see them alight. This pest is maybe chainsaw-us vexans, its cousin hammerdrill-us vexans, or sneakuponus vexans.

Space Time Travel

Jun 20, 2014

In this summer travel season, when many of us return to places filled with personal history, here’s a meditation on the space-time continuum. The whole topic of revisiting is saturated with regret – witness E.B. White’s classic essay, “Once More to the Lake,” worth rereading in spite of his melancholy theme that returning to the lake of his youth is shadowed by loss.  The adult E.B.

Designing a Book

Jun 13, 2014

You can hardly find a college campus these days without its share of courses in creative writing. Novelists and poets instruct their artful students in the long history of literature and in its latest innovations. Guest writers give public readings in the evening to enthusiastic audiences. People line up at the end to buy books and have them signed by the very writer who composed them. The participants plainly think that something valuable, perhaps even magical, is going on.

Spring is now here and those fresh, balmy mornings on my tiny front porch have begun. We often eat breakfast on the front porch and dinner on the backyard patio. Being outside is so enjoyable, especially after that endless winter! With these warm Spring days we just drift outside to enjoy the sunshine.

Last week, my wife and I, feeling restless in South Bend, took a self-guided tour of the natural history of our region. We wanted to see the remaining local traces of the Grand Kankakee Marsh, the wetland that once dominated Northern Indiana the way the Everglades still dominate South Florida. Today the Kankakee River is almost invisible. It is a series of small canals (drainage ditches, really) running southwest from the “cooling pond” at the old ethanol plant.

The Funeral Home

May 23, 2014

It's early Friday morning and I'm sitting in the parking lot of a funeral home, eating a sweet roll from Dunkin Donuts.  Well dressed employees are arriving all around me  They stare quizzically.  I smile back.  I'm not here for them - I'm here for their wiring.

Last  night, I get a text from my boss.  Meet me tomorrow at the funeral home.  We need to replace some speakers in their chapel. 

"Wow! There are a lot of people in this community who are interested in grave-robbing. And lots of them are sort of old. That's pretty creepy­" That's what I said to history-buff, Larry, as we stood at the South Bend City Cemetery one recent Saturday. We were waiting for a program presented by the Center for History to begin. The plan was that Travis Childs from the Center for History was going to trot us around the cemetery in conjunction with the Saint Joseph County Library's "One Book, One Michiana" selection for 2014, Frankenstein, talking to us about local grave-robbing lore.

From the Ethereal

May 9, 2014

From the ethereal to the earthereal, the fun never stops. I woke up Monday morning with my arm hanging limp from my shoulder. A little body English would have swung it around in circles like a mean boy with his sister’s rag doll. Lit-tel story. Sunday I played bodhrán—the Irish frame drum—as I describe it, north-end-of-a-south-facing goat—to accompany a glorious choir, the St. Joseph Valley Camerata. I bought a new suit for the occasion! Know when the last time THAT happened? When I got married-1970.

That’s me … trying – ugh, so thunkingly – trying to remember how beauty works.  I used to be able to play Chopin’s Nocturne, Opus 72, Number 1 in C minor as if it were second nature – easily, beautifully.  I’ve felt hungry for its sadness and sweetness in my fingers these days, so I’ve cracked open my old music book.  Muscle memory is carrying me part of the way back to the song, but it takes more effort than I expected.  My muscles dimly remember, but my fingers are stiff, and a decades-old injury from a delicatessen meat-slicer has left my middle finger numb at the tip and fumbli

Crackpot Notions

Apr 25, 2014

Now that the sidewalks have cleared and like a happy cat the days are stretching into evening I find myself once again taking walks. For me as an introvert long walks are perfect for flicking off the cares of the day and musing on various crackpot notions. I wave to neighbors and get back to fine-tuning my crackpot theory about the American presidency, which goes like this:

Dear Mom

Apr 18, 2014

I am (almost) glad that you died when I was thirteen years old.   Last night John and I watched the movie "Everybody's Fine" where parenthood and life can go wrong and painful. Afterwards I went up to Libby's bedroom where she was finally asleep, and I lifted her up in to my arms, onto my lap and I held her and rocked her and cried into her soft, sweet neck.  Then I did the same with Portia.  Neither of them woke up, They slept the deep sleep of little girls and good living.  I thought of you.

Pages