Modern media only rarely note the deaths of the pioneers of local media, especially in Indianapolis. When Joe Pickett, a radio titan of the 1960s and '70s died recently, the only notice of it in the daily newspaper was an obituary paid for by his family. Other reporters haven't received even that much.
Not so in the case of Bob Carter, better known as WTTV's Sammy Terry, late-night horror movie TV host and icon. On Monday, Facebook feeds and local media websites were full of stories commemorating the incredible life of a man who not only frightened two generations of children but who also helped build Channel 4 into one of the best independent television stations in America.
Anyone of a certain age who lived in Indianapolis knew about Sammy Terry. Every Friday night, he'd appear in a purple cape and heavy white makeup, introducing B-grade horror films with a fiendish laugh, aided by crude special effects. For more than 25 years, he emerged from a prop coffin at the start of each show, conversed with a toy spider dangled from a string and commented upon the movies featured on his show.
In real life, Carter had a master's degree in broadcasting and for a time was in charge of news and sports programming at Channel 4 at a time when the station was one of the most influential and powerful voices in Indiana.
It's difficult to explain to modern audiences just how powerful TV and print outlets were in the era before cable TV and Internet media. From the 1950s until the early 1970s, Indianapolis had exactly four TV stations: Channels 4, 6, 8 and 13. Depending on where you lived in town, you might not even have that many choices.
But if you wanted to watch TV, you watched one of those channels or you didn't watch anything at all. Cable TV didn't arrive in Indianapolis until the late 1970s. If the president was giving a prime-time speech, which presidents back then did much more often, Channel 4 was the only station that was Nixon or Jimmy Carter-free.
Reception of the over-the-air signal varied in quality from neighborhood to neighborhood. Channel 4, for example had its transmitters and studios at 3490 Bluff Road, on the far-Southside, where I grew up. But if you lived in, say, Carmel, you might not even be able to see Channel 4 as anything but a dim screen of static and ghosts.
Because there were so few stations, each had a much larger audience than they do now, in proportion to the population. Unlike other Indy stations, which had much of its day and nighttime programming provided by the big broadcast networks in New York, Channel 4 had to create all of its content locally, augmented by whatever shows it could purchase from syndicators.
So Carter and his colleagues were forced to be creative.
They responded by building a mini-empire based around serving the community. A typical day of programming started at 6 a.m. or so with the national anthem, followed by live talk shows, old movies, syndicated TV shows, news and sports before signing off at midnight or 1 a.m. with another playing of the national anthem.
The station's employees were drafted into becoming on-air personalities. Besides Carter, Bob Glaze, a smart young Hoosier boy who could play a little guitar, was given a cowboy hat and became Cowboy Bob. Channel 4 acquired the rights to airing Indiana Pacers games and achieved giant ratings with them. Its news operation was first-rate as well.
The proliferation of cable TV, along with the extinction of local ownership of stations due to Reagan-era deregulation, killed off the concept of live, local TV dedicated to serving the community as well as making a profit.
Compounding that injury, since stations such as Channel 4 ran on such a shoestring budget, very little of its programming survives. Most of the videotapes with Sammy Terry, Cowboy Bob and the legendary ABA Pacers were erased decades ago, leaving no proof that they ever existed. But they did and their memory lives on.
Mr. Carter was a kind man, appreciative of his audience, fiercely proud of his work and a private man. He deserves great credit for being a key member of a staff that created some of the best independent programming in the nation as well as being arguably the most memorable local TV personality next to David Letterman.
Scientists estimate that radio waves travel at 300,00 kilometers per second, which means that Sammy Terry's shows are still traveling through space, awaiting a resident of a distant planet with the proper equipment to pick up the signal. I hope these beings, whomever they are, appreciate the love and hard work that went into all of the programming of Channel 4's golden days, especially Bob Carter and his TV persona, Sammy Terry.
Rest in peace, Mr. Carter, and thank you for your years of service to the people of Indianapolis.
After a 23-year association with this newspaper, and 20 years of delivering a weekly column, the time has finally come for me to say goodbye to all of NUVO's readers and the city of Indianapolis, my beloved hometown.
It feels like I've been saying farewell in print for months, because I have been, but I promise it ends this week. I'll be gone as a weekly presence in print but will contribute the occasional article or blog piece to this newspaper.
I'm sitting in our new, sunny living room in the Alamo Heights area of San Antonio, tapping away my last NUVO column on my phone as my wife takes a Saturday afternoon nap. Mozart's Piano Sonata No. 8 is playing.
Back in 1993, when I began writing this column each week, I hoped it would be successful. I wanted certain people to like it, certain people to be apathetic to it and for a certain segment of the population to be completely and utterly outraged by it.
By those standards, if no other, this column has been a staggering success, exceeding my highest expectations.
If I had known in 1993 that the column would run for two decades and terminate due to my moving to Texas after being promoted to a good job with a Fortune 500 company, I'm not sure whether I would have reacted with happiness, terror or disgust.
But here I am, working in a six-floor office building in Texas and signing off in print in Indy. It's been a good run for which I am profoundly thankful. It ends on a good note on the 23rd anniversary of the newspaper you're holding in your hands or seeing on a screen.
My professional career in journalism and writing goes back even further, to the late 1980s, where I worked for the Indianapolis Recorder and the Noblesville Daily Ledger, two very different places culturally. I covered dozens of metro counties council and zoning meetings for the Indianapolis Star and the sadly deceased Indianapolis News, as well as high school sports for the great Associated Press.
It's been a gas. In my 27-year career as a professional staff and freelance journalist, I have spoken with James Brown, Kurt Vonnegut, Yoko Ono, John Updike, George Clinton, Tony Bennett and Elvis Costello. I've breakfasted with Claire Danes and lunched with James Earl Jones and Steve Wilkos.
I've covered hundreds of speeches featuring notable and historical people: Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Nelson Mandela (twice), Allen Ginsberg, Dan Quayle, Bill Clinton (5 times), Jimmy Carter, Ted Kennedy, Ralph Nader, Gerald R. Ford, George Bush Sr., Dan Rather, John Waters and hundreds more.
I've been to at least 700 Pacers home games at the Coliseum, Market Square Arena and the Fieldhouse. I've seen the legendary players of the ABA Pacers and have been present when Reggie Miller was draining threes. I covered the 2000 NBA Finals and chatted with Shaquille O'Neal and Jesse Jackson in the Lakers' locker room. I hung out with Mark Cuban when Dallas came to town.
I've seen almost every single one of my musical heroes perform in person except John Lennon and Mozart. Prince, James Brown, Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, Roger Waters and hundreds more. For years I was paid to go to concerts, which is more fun in theory than reality.
And every week since 1993 I've done this column. I've written it on planes, trains and buses, in hotel rooms and in the back of cars doing 90 mph on the interstate. It's been a constant presence. Most of the time I've enjoyed it but sometimes it's been a drag. It's very cool to have the privilege to say whatever the hell you want in print, but when you're setting the alarm for 5 a.m. Monday to get up and write a piece in less than two hours, it most certainly feels like work.
Unlike most writers I know, I don't keep any of my old stories or clippings, so it's hard to review my columns and choose a favorite. The ones that stand out in my mind are the ones where I either told a story of injustice that needed telling or where I cracked myself up with my comedy.
Several times I've written reviews of vending-machine food in the style of a snooty restaurant critic. For some reason, that makes me laugh. I also have enjoyed the book reviews I've written that ignore the book's content but focuses on its physical properties: the quality of its paper, the strength of its binding, the readability of its font, etc.
I also have enjoyed relating personal stories of my life in Indianapolis. Here's my final one, taken from one of my last days before leaving town.
I was walking down Ohio Street in front of the federal courthouse, minding my own business and listening to Mozart. Something hit me hard, similar to when someone pats you on the back especially hard. Except it wasn't my back, it was my left leg and my foot was pinned underneath the wheel of a motorized wheelchair driven by a 60-year-old white lady with an artificial leg. "Oh my gosh," she said, "Are you okay?" "Not really," I said. My foot felt like it was on fire and I was afraid she'd caused serious damage.
She apologized profusely and I hobbled off. I thought, "Bitch, you may have only one leg but you have two eyes and they both work"! Once I was at my desk, I inspected the damage: A chunk of flesh the size of a JFK half-dollar had been gouged out the side of my foot.
I've never even heard of that happening before. The strangest things always happened to me in Indianapolis.
I'm just about out of room but have a last few thoughts before signing off. I apologize to anyone in my personal life in Indy that I've mistreated in any way. My life hasn't always been as upbeat as it is now and I've burned some friendships along the way. I deeply regret that.
But I don't apologize for standing up for the workers, the underprivileged and the voiceless. I don't apologize for promoting a liberal or socialist agenda. History has and will continue to prove me right on that.
Two of the people most responsible for shaping my attitudes and urging me towards excellence are no longer with us. Harrison Ullmann, NUVO's editor from 1993 to 2000, fought to get me a weekly space in the paper and helped me craft my prose. My mother also shaped my philosophy of standing up for the underdog. She died on Christmas Eve 1999 and Ullmann passed away a few months later. I still miss them but feel their presence in my life.
So instead of being a controversial local columnist and minor local celebrity in Indiana, I am now a hard-working union man in Texas. I'm grateful for the change and the opportunity for a fresh start. It feels good.
My last words as a print columnist are these: Thank you for reading, whether you've supportive of me, vehemently against me or were apathetic. I'm humbled by the opportunity I've had. Thank you Kevin McKinney, thank you Jim Poyser, thank you NUVO. May God continue to protect and bless the great city of Indianapolis, the state of Indiana and everyone who lives there. I'll never forget any of you. Goodbye.
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.
This week in 2003, Hammer recalled "The End of an Era," eulogizing Mr. (Fred) Rogers, "just about the last purveyor of moral values in a media saturated with vulgarity," a man who "told people to be nice to their neighbors and that helping someone is a reward in itself."
I'm reporting again from San Antonio, Texas, where I am in the midst of approximately three months of training for my new job. Without going into too much detail, and violating the non-disclosure forms I've signed, it involves analyzing large Internet systems and how and why they break down, then fixing them.
My new colleagues were all superstars in the cities from which they came. I have 20 years of tech support under my belt, most of it with Macintoshes, and I'm working as hard as I can to keep up with this information. I know I'll get there.
I'm still staying at an extended-stay hotel in a room not much bigger than a college dorm room. By the end of this week, we hope to have a lease signed and have a lifetime's worth of possessions transported from Indiana to Texas. It won't feel like home until my wife gets here.
Meanwhile, my prolonged farewell tour for my longtime NUVO readers continues.
I don't really have any kind of profound knowledge to impart. I didn't in 1993 and I don't now. I do, however, know that there are universal truths that remain unchanged. Republicans try and rob you of your real freedoms under the guise of protecting other alleged "rights," such as gun ownership and tax avoidance. When that doesn't work, they steal elections. They did it in 2000 and 2004 and will do it in 2016 if we allow them to do so.
I know that to be a fact. I know also that water is wet, honey is sweet and that Jesus is Lord. Those are about the only facts I know; everything else is opinion and speculation. And if there are folks out there who've consistently read me for 20 years, they know that pretty much all I ever had to offer was opinion and speculation.
That makes it tough when I am asked, as I was by Dave Lindquist in The Star or even by my editor at NUVO, Rebecca Townsend, about my favorite pieces and columns of the 1,000 I've done since 1993.
The trip I made to cover the funeral of Richard Nixon in 1994 was a memorable event. I stood in line for hours and hours to file by the closed casket of our 37th president and spoke with dozens of fellow mourners. Watching President Clinton dedicate the Kennedy-King memorial at 17th and Broadway also was a great memory. And seeing my beloved Indiana Pacers during their great playoff runs of the 1990s also stands out in my memory.
But I suppose I don't conceptualize my writing as anything other than ephemera, things that were relevant at the time they were written but lose their usefulness, if any, after a few weeks. Certainly they are not worth preserving for any purpose other than nostalgia.
I know some journalists who obsessively keep scrapbooks of every story they've written. I admire them for their dedication of purpose but that's just not me. Of the 400 square feet of stuff we will soon be moving from Indy to San Antonio, there isn't a single copy of NUVO or a single clipping of any of my stories.
It would be great to have all those stories at my fingertips and point to my brilliant interviews with Yoko Ono or Tony Bennett or any of the other legendary figures I've been privileged enough to interview.I fear, however, that I'd be buried under a blizzard of interviews with the bass player from Matchbox Twenty or a metal band from the Eastside.
I'm pretty sure that there are thousands of readers out there who've enjoyed my writing over the years. I've heard from many of them over the past month. I appreciate their support. And, to my slight surprise, I'm still hearing from my detractors, people who think that my opinions suck, that I myself am a bad person and I serve no tangible purpose on this earth.
I can dismiss most of them, seeing as they are armchair commentators who use terms like "Obummer" to describe our president or who question any political viewpoint that doesn't square with the propaganda they consume from Rush Limbaugh and Fox News.
Others are disgruntled musicians from a decade ago whose bands sucked. A lot of local musicians, at least when I was covering the local scene, had nothing better to do than drink and get on the Internet to trash anyone who didn't share their viewpoint that they themselves were musical talents on a scale of John Lennon or Kurt Cobain.
I can tell you that their bands sucked then and they would now, if these musicians were sober enough to get off their couches and play again. So do I have any regrets? Hell yeah, I do. Do I have any regrets about speaking my mind? No. I have one set of buttocks and two testicles and those folks are invited to kiss any or all of them.
Almost finished up with this gig; I have a few things left to say before my time here in print is up. Thanks for reading.
Living in San Antonio is awesome. I'm three weeks out of Indy, undergoing intensive training on various network and diagnostic tools for my new job. Some things are kicking in for me. I really am in Texas, a really beautiful part of it. In a few weeks, I really will be trained on this new job and will then actually have to do it all day, five days a week.
I get all of that. The unknowable parts include almost everything else beyond. The city itself is amazing. It really is as advertised: Friendly people, good food, nice weather, beautiful River Walk, all of that. The job seems very difficult but manageable. I will have lots of help from my 150 peers, team leads and managers.
If you don't know where you are going in a new city, then you are not lost. Any road will take you there. I haven't even scratched the surface of this widely spread-out city but already I have found wonderful new places near my office: old-school diners, a handy snack bar on the college campus next door and lots of shops.
I'm smiling every day, even if I'm more than a little anxious about how it all plays out. Already I feel my beloved hometown fading into the rearview, although I'm not quite through with it yet. After 20 years of writing this weekly column, I have another month to go as I bid an extended farewell to this newspaper and the city of Indianapolis, which I adore so dearly.
My last few weeks in Indy, I walked around on my own personal farewell tour of downtown and the buildings. Some, like the Murat, are old friends; some are newer ones that I grew to love. I see in the skyline of Indy many of my own hopes and aspirations, and some of my own failures and flaws reflected back at me.
I have a special fondness for One Indiana Square, the former Indiana National Bank building at 211 N. Pennsylvania St.
When it was finished in 1970, standing a proud 36 stories, it was the tallest in the city. It remained so for another dozen years, the years in which much of what is great about Indianapolis was built or planned. It's nothing special architecturally, just another rectangular 1960s box of a building, like hundreds around the world.
But its completion was another small step in the rebirth of downtown Indianapolis, which was one of the few cities to do its urban-renewal programs in a smart manner. Downtown Indy is now the engine for a lot of jobs that wouldn't have existed if we'd gotten it wrong in the '70s.
Indianapolis achieved a rate of growth and revitalization that was the envy of the United States. There were a few missteps by city leaders along the way but their choices were solid for the most part.
I'm not exactly sure when things started going wrong, but I track it back to the Stephen Goldsmith and Bart Peterson administrations, when city government's competence turned to arrogance and then to corruption. By the time Greg Ballard became mayor, he'd inherited a system so broken and so desperately lacking leadership that he can rightfully escape blame for whatever happens to the city.
Indianapolis could not now summon the political will and boldness that Dick Lugar and Bill Hudnut and local business leaders exhibited in the 1970s. Our politicians right now are in the business of corporate welfare, shoveling taxpayer dollars to our local sports teams and hoping that the money isn't going to be missed.
Help is on the way. The economy is stronger, thanks to President Barack Obama and his economic policies. I'm living proof on how someone can be elevated into the middle-class after years of barely keeping my head above water.
What was great about the president's State of the Union speech last week is that he has finally started pushing a fairly ambitious liberal agenda supported by the majority of Americans. His opponents, formerly known as the majority, are gnashing their teeth because their worst nightmare has come true. He's an unapologetically liberal president, our first since LBJ, and he has more than 50 percent of Americans supporting him.
As I wind down these weekly columns after two decades and who knows how much hate-filled email and online posts about me, the liberal agenda I've espoused for 30 years is now the majority viewpoint. America is heading down a track to socialism that won't easily be stopped as long as there are national elections.
So to the person who wrote online that they couldn't figure out why I hadn't died from a heart attack yet, but wished I would very soon: My EKG looks good. My blood sugar and blood pressure are under control as well. I'm not going anywhere except to the bank to cash my check.
And Obama really is going to do everything you're afraid of. You're welcome.
Greetings from South Central Texas. I'm writing this from my temporary home in San Antonio, where I began intensive training for my new job last Monday. Everything has gone well so far, knock on wood. The weather has been great, my new coworkers are friendly and helpful and our training instructor is, quite literally, world-class at what he does.
I have this new job due to the fact that President Barack Obama's economic policies have stimulated the economy and freed up capital for well-paying jobs such as the one I have. I'm feeling good about things. Everything is going to be all right.
One of the reasons I accepted this promotion, besides the obvious financial benefits and increased job security, is so that I can finally shed the low-paying and high-stress burden of being Steve Hammer, the crazy liberal local newspaper columnist and resume the role of being Steve Hammer, the helpful coworker, good husband and friend you can count upon.
But I'm not yet rid of the role of crazy liberal writer. I have five or six more pieces to deliver before I bid farewell to the job of weekly columnist. And since I've already been paid for most of them, not only do I have to deliver these columns, I also have to try and do as good a job as possible with them.
Even in Texas, former Indy coworkers who preceded me here have been asking me questions about this column. Will I continue it? Will I miss it? Will I find it difficult to be a liberal Democrat in deeply red Texas?
The answers are no, no and no. It has been an honor and a privilege to write this column every week since 1993. It has also been an albatross around my neck for 20 years. Hunter S. Thompson was wrong about many things, but he was correct when he compared writing for newspapers with being a prostitute and having sex with lots of strangers. It's only fun when you're an amateur, he said.
Old whores don't smile very much, he noted, and neither do old reporters and columnists. I will not miss the weekly grind. I will also not miss being recognized on the streets of Indy, even though I try to make myself as invisible as possible in public. The picture that has accompanied this column for seven years is a depiction of me trying to look as unlike myself as is humanly possible.
And, as longtime readers and personal friends alike will tell you, I clearly do not care what other folks think about my views. I've never claimed to be 100 percent correct in my political or personal philosophy. I've been moderately successful at being a columnist because I am sincere, occasionally outrageous and sometimes humorous.
But the reactions from readers don't affect me one way or another. I've gotten literally thousands of nasty emails and letters from readers and my columns have provoked at least one bomb threat to the NUVO office. I've also gotten as many compliments, so it evens out. As long as my editors a) don't hate my stories enough to make me rewrite them and b) send me a check that clears the bank, whatever else happens doesn't matter that much to me.
Insults don't diminish my sense of self-worth and compliments do not overly inflate it. I have written this column because I am passionate about the things I believe to be true. And for the check. Because Indianapolis media outside of NUVO is generally so bland and generic and devoid of real personality, I have stood out from the rest of the dreary pack.
I am not a prose stylist in the way my friend David Hoppe is a master craftsman of words. Nor do I have the gracefulness of Dan Carpenter of The Indianapolis Star. I have looked at them with admiration because they are almost surgical in the precision with which they assemble their columns. They wield scalpels. I come at my columns holding a chainsaw, baseball bat and sawed-off shotgun. There is room in Indianapolis for both approaches.
Having said all that, when my run with NUVO is over in six weeks, I will feel a small bit of sadness that I won't be able to provoke violent reactions among thousands of tea-bagger conservatives in the Hoosier state. Their hatred fuels me to live a better, more productive life. And the readers who simply think I suck, well, I will miss them too, because for all of my life people have said I suck at what I do and I nevertheless keep pressing on.
Right now, not only do I feel the pressure of learning a new, extremely high-level job, I feel the clock ticking on my career as a newspaper columnist. I have so much yet left to say before I'm done and I've already out of room this week.
As always, thanks for reading. See you next week. God bless.
Since the announcement I was leaving Indianapolis appeared in NUVO and in a story on indystar.com last week, I've been flooded with emails, text messages and Facebook posts that almost exactly reflect the reaction I've gotten from readers for the past 20 years.
My favorite reaction came from a reader of David Lindquist's very well-done story on me at indystar.com: "This will help the city's ranking." That commenter gets a +1 from me for brevity, accuracy and wit. Another: "Hammer's incoherent ramblings won't be missed." Fair point.
Other commenters, while claiming to despise me, nevertheless brought up stories they didn't like that I'd written 15 years ago. They trashed the music coverage that I stopped doing seven years ago. I haven't written a single story on local music since 2006, but some readers are still pissed off. People have long memories in Indianapolis.
The story by Lindquist meant a lot to me. Dave came to town in 1998 after The Star's previous music writer, Marc Allan, moved on to other assignments. I was prepared to make fun of this new guy Lindquist but had to stop after meeting him and talking to him.
He's exactly what a good journalist should be: dedicated to accuracy, funny and with good intentions toward every assignment. We slogged through dozens and dozens of shows together, many of them at what was then called Deer Creek Music Center. Sometimes the shows were amazing, but most of the time they were average, boring performances by superstars or ex-superstars, interesting only to their most-passionate fans.
People think that getting free tickets to 100 concerts a year is a really cool thing, and it is. But until you've actually dragged yourself out of the house and driven through traffic to attend those 100 shows, you don't realize that it's just another job.
Interviewing James Brown and shaking his hand in 1996 was one of the great experiences of my life. So was watching Prince perform at the Convention Center with Chaka Khan and members of Sly and the Family Stone. Pearl Jam at their peak was an awesome band.
But having to see Fastball, the Black Crowes, Britney Spears and 'N Sync? Not so much. It sure feels like work when you're trying to write a piece on the opening act to 'N Sync or interviewing the bass player from some national jam band.
Lindquist and I put in some hard miles together and the fact that he's still doing it is a testament not only to his skill and dedication but his mental stability. Dealing with musicians gave me a perforated eardrum, mental illness and a substance-abuse problem that took me the better part of a decade to shake.
But I take great exception to the adjective he applied to this column. He called it "left-leaning." I also was angered by a list of "the most liberal reporters in Indianapolis," allegedly put together by members of the Tea Party of Indiana and posted on indianabarrister.com.
I finished in 10th place. TENTH! I feel like my career has been in vain if I only rank as Indy's 10th most-liberal reporter. Friends, not only am I "left-leaning" and "liberal," I'm a straight up socialist with Marxist-Leninist tendencies. Matthew Tully of The Star, who ranked first on that list, never advocated the nationalization of the oil industry. Jim Shella of Channel 8, who also is supposedly more liberal than me, never called for a workers' revolution to topple the George W. Bush regime. I did both of those things.
What would it have taken for me to reach No. 1? Kidnap Patty Hearst? Lead a sit-in at Sen. Dan Coats' office until a Peoples' Commission on Truth and Reconciliation pays reparations to the descendants of slaves and the victims of Reagan-era predatory capitalism?
Man. Do I need to pay membership dues to the Communist Party USA? Will that bump me up the list? Clearly, I have been ineffective so far.
There were also laudatory words for me from at least one of my heroes, Dan Carpenter of The Star, who has been the writer to whom all those aspiring to greatness must be compared. The man is a living legend and an oasis of sanity in our city's media. His kind words sincerely warmed my heart.
But it was the compliments from the people who know me best that really touched me. I received so many words of praise from my co-workers in Indianapolis. Many of them thanked me for being so helpful, so friendly and so positive.
This marks a change in my life, being described as friendly, positive and helpful. I wasn't always that way. But my job downtown, where I started working in 2007, changed that. I showed up to work every day. I almost always played by the company rules. And I tried to help as many people as I could.
My coworkers, all of us proud members of the Communications Workers of America, are folks just like you and me. Some are single moms coming off public assistance and determined to lift themselves and their children out of poverty. Others are older folks who, like me, found themselves in their 40s, jobless and with little hope.
They helped me as much as I helped them. I've got six or seven more columns left before I leave the pages of NUVO for good, but I'm out of time for today. We'll talk more in the coming weeks.
On Jan. 16, I received a phone call and an email I had been looking forward to for months. It was from a hiring manager at the large telecommunications company where I am employed, making me a formal job offer for a senior technical support position that I, and 700 other applicants, had applied for in November.
I accepted the job. As a result, this weekend I will board a plane and arrive in San Antonio, Texas, leaving behind Indianapolis, my beloved hometown, for a few years at minimum.
I've signed so many non-disclosure agreements and deal with so much proprietary information at my job, some which would expose me to civil and even criminal penalties if disclosed. As a result, I'm not sure what I am legally allowed to say other than I will be a high-level technical support analyst in the network operations division of my company and, with overtime, could be looking at as much as a $70,000 a year raise over what I earn now.
I'd turned down two such job offers in the last year. But with President Obama safely re-elected, and the economy picking up steam, accepting the offer and moving to Texas seems like the best move for me and my family at this time.
As a result, after consultation with my NUVO family, I will cease writing this column by the end of March, at which time I hope to return to Indianapolis to celebrate my new life at a party with my friends, family and you, the readers who have meant so much to me over the past 20 years.
Columnists of any kind rarely have a 20-year run in print media. Either they get fired or they take better jobs or they simply get burned out. I am proud of the fact that only a few writers in Indianapolis have equaled my two-decade stint in print — all of them legends.
That degree of longevity puts me, by that measure only, in the same league as Dan Carpenter of The Indianapolis Star, Deb Paul of Indianapolis Monthly and my mentor and hero, the late Tom Keating, whose daily columns in The Star from the 1960s through the 1980s inspired me to become a writer and have my own voice be heard.
When I started doing this column in 1993, there weren't very many unapologetically liberal or progressive voices in the local media of Indianapolis. And there certainly weren't any outrageously provocative figures ready to challenge The Star's conservative coverage or mock the Hoosier State's pompous politicians.
Sometimes my outrageousness cost NUVO readers and, just as importantly for any newspaper, advertisers. It is to Kevin McKinney's credit that, as editor and publisher, he has never once censored any of the nearly 1,000 columns or 3,000 stories I've written for this newspaper.
I still have eight more columns to write for NUVO, so this isn't a goodbye. It's just an announcement of breaking news in my life. I'm very excited to see what challenges San Antonio and my new position have in store for me. Being selected over so many applicants is humbling to me and I'm eager to start my life over in a new state, albeit a very scary and Republican one.
I've watched the Zapruder film of JFK's assassination enough to know how they treat liberals in Texas so I am rightly concerned for my safety. Since I'm no Jack Kennedy, I'm pretty confident that there are no Lee Oswalds laying in wait with the back of my skull visible in their rifle sights.
Prior to my departure from the Indianapolis office of my company, I sent a lengthy email to my coworkers, some of whom are discouraged by working in an ever-changing environment for not a whole lot of money. To answer their most frequently asked question, I told them I don't know why I was picked for this lucrative new job and they weren't.
I concluded the email with this thought, which, despite its excessive capitalization and boldface type, honestly reflects my views, not only about my job but about America — still the greatest country in the world in terms of freedom and opportunity:
"If you play by the rules, act with integrity and show up to work every day, you WILL get a shot at a better life. Whether you make that shot depends on how well you've prepared for it. You are here because you were selected over of hundreds of other applicants who also wanted to work here. The company believes in you; it spent thousands of dollars training you. Your manager believes in you; his or her own job is dependent upon your doing well. Your friends, family and coworkers believe in you; they love you and want you to do well. The only other thing is to BELIEVE IN YOURSELF."
I'll have much more to say in the next eight weeks, but I'll be doing so from San Antonio, Texas, where I'll be busy at my new job and trying to turn the state Democratic.
Until then, as always, thanks for reading and may God bless you all.
Inauguration Day has always been a holiday for me in a way others celebrate the Super Bowl or another big event. This year was no different. I had the day off work and ate a delicious breakfast before settling in to watch it all on TV.
It was an important day for America, even the 47 percent of the electorate that didn't vote for Barack Hussein Obama in November. It marks the official recognition of the will of the people. Elections have consequences. Obama now has the chance to finish the job he started, with much more fanfare, four years ago.
The ceremonies were moving and the music and speeches were excellent. Most stirring of all was the speech by the president. In terms that should be clear and convincing to all, he outlined a progressive agenda for the nation along the lines he promised during the 2012 campaign.
It was an historic speech, one, which despite its initial mixed reviews by TV pundits, will resonate for many decades after he leaves office in 2017. "Preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action," he said, attempting to draw an end to the era of Ronald Reagan's "you're on your own" policy of governing.
It was a line that many commentators overlooked during their instant analyses, but its importance is difficult to overstate. For more than 30 years, Reagan and his successors have tried to convince Americans that government action is always a problem instead of a solution to any given crisis.
Even Bill Clinton famously declared that the "era of big government is over." Of course, neither Reagan nor Clinton nor any other president in the last 80 years actually believed that line of nonsense. Reagan fought tirelessly to destroy the labor movement through government action. He also used the power of the government to redistribute wealth from the lower and middle economic classes to the richest Americans.
What Obama promised, both in his campaign and his second inaugural address, was to use the power of the presidency to enact laws to right economic wrongs, to level the playing field and give every American the opportunities guaranteed in the Constitution.
When equality is denied to any American, it diminishes our entire nation. So the president quite pointedly included gay and lesbian Americans among those whose rights must be protected. He spoke of the needs of the elderly, who worked their entire lives in good faith under the assumption that Social Security would be around when they needed it.
He addressed the ongoing injustice in our electoral system. No citizen should have to overcome unreasonable obstacles or wait endlessly in line just to vote. That these problems still exist almost a half-century after the passage of the Voting Rights Act is ludicrous. He is correct that these issues must be addressed.
He acknowledged that today's extreme partisan climate is not an excuse for inaction.
"We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate," he said, in a comment directly aimed at those whose only purpose is to obstruct progress.
After the speech was over, Fox News pundits were in shock at what they saw as a combative tone from Obama. It was only combative in the sense that this president, aided by his loyal vice president, intends to act aggressively to preserve peace abroad and usher in a new prosperity at home.
That prosperity is coming. For some of us, it's almost here. The economy will continue to expand and grow. Politically, the president will use every ounce of political capital to further a progressive, inclusive agenda. He will have successes and he will have failures.
But, and this is what conservatives should fear the most, this president will have the support of a majority of Americans behind him. The coalition that re-elected him last year — young people, Latinos and African-Americans — will back him all the way. There is no home for them in the Republican Party. They are unwelcome in the Tea Party movement, which by this time has been exposed as the ignorant, gun-waving hillbillies they are.
To the extent that the president's speech was a rebuke of the Reagan philosophy, conservative Americans have every right to be alarmed. They have run the show and dictated terms of engagement for far too long.
Obama tried in his first term to accomplish the dismantling of the Reagan-Bush legacy. He achieved this only in part. During the next four years, with the backing of a solid majority of the public, he intends to be more successful.
This is bad news for the conservative movement but great news for America. I'm confident that the president will get it done. There is too much at stake for him to fail.
All of these lengthy stories and columns I've been reading about the end of Mitch Daniels' two terms as Indiana governor have made me realize just how much I will miss him.
In fact, one three-part series inspired me to write my own remembrance of the Daniels years in a style I have become accustomed to over the last eight years.
Note that the following is a work of parody. All of the quotes were made up, as were almost all of the events it describes. It is not intended to mimic the work of any individual journalist, pundit or TV talk show host but rather all of them.
Immediately after his successful campaign for governor in 2004, Mitch Daniels found himself riding his RV one last time. The vehicle, made famous in TV ads showing him traveling the state listening to ordinary Hoosiers, had one not-so-minor flaw: Its toilet was notoriously unreliable. The stress of a long campaign, not to mention the weight of the buttocks of hundreds of big donors, media men and party hacks who used it, had permanently rendered the potty unusable.
And so it was that, once again, the RV pulled into a small town convenience store so the governor-elect and party could relieve themselves. As Daniels zipped up, the occupant of the urinal adjacent to his spoke up.
"Excuse me," the man, who was wearing a red-and-white flannel shirt, said to Daniels. "I've heard about your RV. You can't use it anymore."
"You heard right, friend," said the man about to become Indiana's 49th governor.
The man began washing his hands. "The way I see it," he said, "that's what you're going to do to this state. You're going to ride around Indiana for the next eight years until it's us, not you, who doesn't have a pot to piss in."
Years later, the boyishly handsome Daniels remembered the story and laughed. "People always think that politicians, whether Republican or Democratic, aren't going to do what they say. But I told that man I keep my promises. He's right. He doesn't have a pot to piss in. The business where he worked closed down after spending all the state money we gave it. He barely can eat."
There are many ways in which to interpret the administration of Mitchell Elias Daniels Jr. One could say he stripped the state of many of its most valuable assets and sold them on the cheap to foreign businesses. Others might note that he ravaged the state just in time to parachute to a lucrative new job free of even the minimal scrutiny of the state's media.
Still others can point to Daniels and say that he was a man wise enough to understand he would lose convincingly to Barack Obama and to stay out of the 2012 presidential campaign.
Yet others, particularly those who have covered the Statehouse for too many years, look at the tenure of Daniels with an admiration bordering on sycophancy. They take a look at his record of almost complete lack of positive achievement and see in it the makings of legend.
From 2004 to 2012, Daniels enjoyed unprecedented success at accomplishing nothing while making a national name for himself with frequent 10,000-word speeches and articles full of quasi-intellectual, mostly incoherent words about "restoring America's greatness" and "earning the peoples' respect."
Looking back with pride, Daniels says he once went through back-to-back-to-back interviews with Fox News, Politico and CNN without saying even one thing of substance. "It was so tough," says the governor, whose tanned features and stately physique earned him more than one backward glance in the White House gym men's locker room during the second Bush era.
"I ran out of things to say while I was talking to Politico," Daniels says, "and so I found a booklet on how to assemble a Craftsman table saw and read from that for five minutes. I just threw in phrases like 'right-sizing' and 'future-gripping.' They loved it. Said I was almost as exciting as Tim Pawlenty."
It was exactly that kind of dogged Hoosier determination that melted the hearts of the members of the Statehouse media, a small but important corps with connections to some of the least-watched TV shows and infrequently viewed political websites.
His predecessors were all hounded by the media for minor infractions but the passionate nature of the media's love for Daniels ensured he would not be seriously bothered by any allegation, at least from the media.
"I guess we always knew he was strip-mining the government," says one shy reporter over coffee at a downtown Starbucks, "but, coming from his mouth, in those adorable, cleverly phrased sound bites, I guess we didn't care."
The reporter adds, "Daniels did what we can only dream of. He really did wreck state politics, laughed about it and then found a better-paying job destroying another institution. His name will live forever."
On the November day in 1992 when the Subic Bay U.S. Naval base closed in the Philippines, hundreds of red-light district workers of many genders stood at the dock, waved handkerchiefs and cried as the final American servicemen departed forever, never to come back to the bars, massage parlors and cheap hotels as patrons again.
So it shall be between the Statehouse pundits and Mitch Daniels. His departure signals the end of an era not unlike the one mourned by the Filipino B-girls in Subic Bay. There's a new governor in town, and he intends to take a wrecking ball to whatever Daniels left of the state government.
But in the hearts and minds of those who were there, the Daniels years will stand out as a magical time where nothingness and lack of achievement were glorified to a level never seen before. It is the legacy of an amazing politician.