Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The literary makings of Hammer

Posted By on Wed, Mar 13, 2013 at 4:00 AM

My dad worked at the Rough Notes Publishing Company at 12th and Meridian streets. They produced publications for the real estate and insurance trade.

Upon the piles of scrap paper, my sisters would draw and color, and I would write. I found one of those sheets not too long ago. It described a fishing trip and a walk in the woods at my grandfather's cabin at a pretty lake, Lake Lipsi, in Wisconsin.

Our parents nurtured our family's love of reading and supplied plenty of books. My mom, a Harlequin romance novel fan, knew where to find the cheap used paperbacks. At The Book Rack, located in a tiny strip mall near Shelby Street on the poor, white Southside of my youth, I browsed the unwanted non-fiction paperbacks from the 1950s and 1960s: the Warren Commission report, all kinds of Watergate and JFK conspiracy books, the Autobiography of Malcolm X, stuff like that.

I also read Last Exit to Brooklyn and Naked Lunch before I got around to Catcher in the Rye and Sylvia Plath.

At the age of 10 or 11, I read a book written by Don Novello, also known as Father Guido Sarducci from classic Saturday Night Live fame. It was a series of real-life goofy letters written to politicians and large businesses and the responses.

I started writing letters on my IBM Selectric typewriter to many of these same people. "Hello, I am a 12 year old in Indianapolis," I wrote to Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, Hubert Humphrey and dozens of other politicians. I praised them, asked them a policy question and requested a photo or a copy of some report I'd read about in the newspaper.

And packages started arriving in my parents' mailbox, addressed to me. Mrs. Coretta Scott King sent me a handwritten letter. Jailed Nixon aide Bob Haldeman mailed me from the federal prison in Lompoc, Calif., where he was serving time on a Watergate charge.

I started to realize that when you write something and send it to people, most of the time they will reply. They're somewhat surprised that you are reaching out to them.
I kept writing, for small music newspapers in high school, the daily paper at IU, stringer work for the AP, the Star and the Recorder. That opened the door at NUVO for me in 1993.

When I started writing this column 20 years in the past, I was drawing upon what I learned from the books my mom and dad bought me and obtained from libraries. I had grown up during the transformation of my hometown from disrepair to big-league status.

It has been an honor and a privilege. I love Indianapolis and its people and am proud of them.

I have one final column to deliver, next week.

One more column to go, Indianapolis and we each are looking forward to it: It will be NUVO's 23rd anniversary issue and I want my part of it to be really good. We'll see how I go out next week.

That final column will be the first and last from my new permanent residence in the Alamo Heights neighborhood of San Antonio. There is so much beauty, culture and opportunity here. I miss Indianapolis already but am excited about my new home and my new job and its many challenges. All of the skills I have ever learned in my life are being tested here.

I love technical support and fixing things that are broken on networking systems. They're conducting those operations at a very high level at this center. We'll be hustling every minute we're on the clock and any successes we have will be earned. That's what I've wanted all my life and have never had until now.

Loose Ends and Shout-Outs:Attorney Matt Conrad of the GCH law firm in Indianapolis quite literally saved my skin last week. My rental application had hit a snag due to an untrue statement on a credit report. He found the documents to refute those false allegations and made it possible for us to move into our new home on Friday. He genuinely cared about helping. I endorse his law firm fully. A good guy.

The name of Mike Crowder came up on a Facebook conversation I had. Mike was one of my greatest friends growing up in Indianapolis. He became legendary for his ability to find good concert tickets and quality records. He worked at Karma Greenwood, the center of Indy's music community for many years and was a legend there, too.

Josh Lethig, aka Wudearnt of infamous Indy music fame, has been bothering me for a mention. I had planned to tell the story next week of how he threw a speculum into the crowd at an outdoor show at the Monkey's Tale, but I will have to find another story now.

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