Sunday, May 17, 2009


I loved going to farm auctions when I was young. It was a good chance to mill around adults and have free rein to look through boxes and explore tables lined with stuff. I didn't have much interest in looking at tractors or kicking the tires on a Buick, but I did love opening the lid of a cigar box to see what treasures were waiting. And wondering how people could part with exotic things as salt and pepper shakers that looked like dogs or butter churns or old shop calendars. I could usually talk Dad in to bidding a quarter or fifty cents on a box of match books or stack of old magazines for me. Eating from the concessions trailer was also big news - and about as close as we ever got to fast food.

When I was older I realized that that farm auctions happen around life events: someone died, retired or moved to town. It took some of the fun out of it, but I've come to appreciate how the auction ties things together, almost like the funeral all over again. 

As sad as I knew it would be, I was looking forward to the auction of Uncle Cletus and Aunt Mary Alice's (she is at an assisted living facility in town) household goods. All of their grandchildren were coming to town. 

Dad and I drove up together in the rain and discussed what we'd like to buy. Dad really wanted one of the stainless steel stock pots and I knew that I wanted a rake or shovel or something that family hands held. 

Here is dad picking out his pot. The auctioneer was great and funny. I'm not sure whether it was the rain or the economy, but things were selling really low. 

My trusty rain boots came in handy, once again. Cass County got some crazy amount of rain, too much rain for the newly planted crops. 

Cousin Judi and her daughters Rachel and Brandi. 

Buck and Cousin Cynthia

I wound up with the Nativity scene. It was an accidental bid, but I'm happy that I have it. 

These safety glasses were in a box of treasures that Buck bought. 

Cynthia and I both had our sights set on these chairs - the one I got used to be in my great-grandfather's tavern. It is painted the same grey that my table and two chairs are. I wonder how many gallons of that utilitarian grey paint the Spitznogle's went through over the years - or maybe I just have the four things painted that color. The chair did have one minor problem. The legs were cut off about six inches, making it really short. I'm sure it was used for some chore and it made sense at the time. I also bought the double wash tub behind us. It will be a great drink cooler for backyard parties. 

Dad told us that his dad paid twenty-five cents for this "sled." That was dad's opening bid. Cousin Leo bought it. 

Luci, Sydney, Leo and Nina. 

I can't imagine how hard the sale was on "the kids." It was fun to have some laughter near the end. Dad and Nina were bidding on the same item. It turned out that Dad wanted the horse shoes and Nina a coat that was in the same lot, so they shared. There was a lot of trading going on. I bought a chair and Virgin Mary artwork. I really wanted the art and Angie wanted the chair - it was fun to be able to give it to her. 

I think all of the grand-kids and nieces and nephews that were there bought a garden tool. I got a potato fork and hoe.

Dad got the pipe organ parts and other miscellaneous church stuff. That screen is from a confession box. I was starting to wonder how we were going to fit all of our treasures in the Suburbian. Dad also bought several lots of lumber. 

At one point Dad bid fifty cents for something. The auctioneer told him he'd pay him the difference if Dad would bid a dollar. Here he is making good on his promise. 

Loading the truck was a little tricky. We stacked all of the lumber on the folded down back seat and wedged everything else in the back. There was no room for the pot so I held it the hour and a half home. 

Which was ironic, when I discovered my beloved MacBook was squashed under the load of wood. I'd worked on my column on the way down and left the computer in my bag on the front seat. At some point in the day, Dad decided it would be safer under a blanket in the back. He forgot about it, until I asked where it was. 

To my credit, I didn't yell or freak-out or cry, although I sure wanted to. But it was a long ride home with that damn pot rattling on my lap. And all's well that ends well. I'm writing this post on the laptop. 

For more photos click here

Friday, May 15, 2009


I am a writer for a nationally published music and film magazine -- Ghettoblaster.

I hate to sound so unenthusiastic - I'm thrilled, really I am. It just feels a little anticlimactic. I was dying to talk about it earlier, but didn't want to jinx it. I wrote the four CD reviews this winter, one of them references getting stuck in the snow. They are my first CD reviews, ever. I am not good at being critical -- I'm amazed by anyone who can put themselves out there, so I hate to say anything bad about them. Nor am I good at obscure references: they sound like a cross between Jumbo the Elephant and Cindy Brady during a category 4 hurricane. Huh?

When I turned my piece in I fantasized casually walking by the music magazines at Northside Newsstand and saying, "why look, the spring issue of Ghettoblaster is in." I'd flip through the mag and say, "hey, who is this on page 42?, why it's me!" And then I'd dance around the store like a total geek.

The newsstand was the place I went to see my first column in the Broad Ripple Gazette, it was where I went to grab the NUVO with my first article. It was where I went to run my hands over the stack of NUVOs with my cover story - and made Joe take six pictures of me holding the paper proudly.

In my early days of writing, pre-wireless Internet, I'd write in the cafe side. If the shop was closed, I'd park in front and transmit my columns from the truck. In fact I started this blog late one night parked outside.

My writing success was directly tied to the newsstand. I'd produce it there and I'd get to grab the tangible product from a rack inside just days later. I can't even link to all of the times I blogged about (and from) the newsstand, but it does have its own sidebar label.

The magazine process was a little longer. I submitted the piece in January for the spring issue. Knowing it would not hit the stands before April did not stop me from walking by the spot where issue 20 was standing up proudly in it's slot surrounded by Spin and Paste and No Depression almost every single day.

Then the unimaginable happened. The big magazine distributor for Indiana went out of business. And there was not much reason to keep the newsstand open without magazines. They announced it with a sign on the door. As you can imagine I was getting phone calls and text messages right way. I contact one of the owners and offered to put a piece in my column, to let them tell the story in their own words. Something I would have appreciated with the coffeehouse closed (This post ties the relationship of the coffeehouse and newsstand together).

I was stunned when M. said "No!" I pointed out that I could read the sign from the sidewalk, so it was public knowledge. In an exchange of heated texts he asked me not to write about it. Ultimately I respected that, even though every other publication and several bloggers (Kirsten wrote a beautiful tribute) did. After I backed off and examined my feelings (something I'm not good at doing), I realized that I considered the newsstand a continuation of the CATH era. One more thing to let go of.

The newsstand closed the first week in March. The News Cafe continues to flourish and has expanded in to the extra space. You can still buy newspapers, candy and smokes there. Just not magazines.

I combed bookstores and the only other newsstand in the city I knew of for the latest copy of Ghettoblaster, but with the distributor gone, no one else had it either. I finally subscribed to the magazine - after ten years of buying all of my magazines at the newsstand, subscribing to something seemed like a foreign idea.

The day it arrived in the mail seemed anti-climatic.

And I'll admit to being a little nervous. What if I sounded like an idiot? I looked at the Photo magazine (a Christmas gift from a friend) and left the Ghettoblaster in the envelope until the next day.

When I finally read it I was happy with the blurbs - and thanks to my dear brother-in-law, Ron for editing them. I listened to the CDs in lots of situations; work, in the truck and at home. I think I did a good job, managing to say nice stuff even if I didn't love the music. The rating system was hard for me, but I know that everyone can't go home with a trophy. I loved Horse Feathers and gave them the highest rating. The other three were good, but not gold star worthy.

I showed it to mom and we made fun of some of the naughty band names. It felt more real when Tammy and Cara read the magazine when we were out one night.

Getting their stamp of approval means a lot. The fact that we could be silly made it all the more fun.

And, not to jinx it, but I'm doing twice as many reviews and maybe a feature story or two for the next issue. Maybe.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

goals, goals, goals.

I've never been a goal setter and I think that is most of my problem. Oh sure, I'm good a short term goals - earn enough money to buy a camera, finish my column by the deadline, don't be late for work all week, don't punch anyone in the nose during a waitressing shift, don't snort in a committee meeting....but mostly, I suck at goal setting. 

Last year when I slogged my fat ass through the 500 Festival 5K walk (I was too out of shape to walk the half-marathon 13.1 mile race I'd signed up for) I vowed that I'd be in better shape the next year. I also thought it was be fun to highlight the 40 + bands that play along the route. It wasn't until July, when I needed a boost to get on a horse in Nebraska (and saw a photo of myself on that horse) that I came up with a concrete weight loss goal - 25 pounds. I almost fainted when I figured out that I had 25 pounds to lose! Me? Skinny kid Nora? Yikkes! 

I joined Weight Watchers online in August and it has been wonderful. I haven't been to a meeting but I faithfully record everything I eat and weigh myself at home. I reached the goal in March and have not gained any weight in the last three months. I would like to lose five more, but I'm pretty proud of myself.

I walked the Mini-Marathon in 3 hours, 42 minutes and reviewed and photographed all of the bands along the way. I had a blast! You can read my article here. Note my sports byline - wheee!

Now I need a new goal. Any ideas?

Friday, May 01, 2009

doris - 100!

My friend Doris turned 100 years old on April 27.

The neighborhood gang got together tonight to celebrate with pizza and presents.

Jeff and Doris

Jeff painted the Dogwood tree in Doris' backyard. Jeff used to live right next door (and I lived in Jeff's house for almost a year).

I love hearing her stories. I was able to take a lot of great notes.

Doris roller skated in her kitchen as a child, wearing her mother's skates, she'd also walk up and down the stairs with them on. Doris' dad was in the grocery business. She remembered two stores he ran. One was in Fountain Square on Sanders Street (very close to Second Helpings). She remembered a neighbor boy, Howard. One time they walked across several busy streets to get to the grocery store to retrieve a toy. Doris' dad could not believe they made it by themselves. In those days when people died the calling was at the home. A neighbor died and Doris and Howard picked a bouquet of dandelions and solemnly delivered them to the home.

When her mom died they were living above a store on Tacoma Street, so the viewing had to be at her grandfather's house. Doris remembers that house being at the corner of Michigan and Davidson streets.

Doris attended and boarded at the Saint Mary of the Woods Academy (now closed, there is a rule that a campus cannot house a high school and a university) from 1923-1927. There were very strict rules about dress - you could not walk though the Academy wearing pants. If they were horse back riding they would put a skirt on over the riding pants and drop the skirts at the door. If they were in a play cast in a male role, they could dress as a man but had to put a skirt over it.

In the pool they had to cover their arms and legs. They wore grey wool swimsuits and would put on white wool sleeves and black cotton stockings. After a few minutes the sleeves and stockings would be floating and the nuns would give up on having the girls wear them.

Doris' aunt and uncle took Doris in after her mother died. Her father remarried, but her stepmother would not let Doris live with them (hard to imagine now), so she stayed there. Her aunt and uncle adopted a foster child, Jimmy. He was adopted in 1914 or 1915 from the Sisters of Charity, who ran Saint Vincent's Hospital (where my grandmother and aunt lived and completed their nurse's training). She remembers the big wing-like hats and the light blue robes the nuns wore.

Jimmy had Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. They started noticing the symptoms in the first grade and he made it though his sophomore year of Cathedral High School. He never worked, but loved to ice skate and was part of a hockey team at the Coliseum. Doris remembers that Jimmy never liked to wear a hat, she finally got him to wear earmuffs when he was older.

Doris took care of Jimmy his whole life. He was alive when I moved in next door to them. He was suffering from dementia by then, on top of the FAS. Doris was heroic in her care of him. I was with them when he died. His funeral was full of laughter and stories. For years Doris had given Jimmy money to put in his envelope for offering at the church. The church secretary told her that for years Jimmy had written, "no thank you." Doris was mortified when she heard that! Neighbors told to Jimmy throwing trash and falling in to the mulch pit next door.

Doris had the full funeral package for him, including the viewing and a limousine to carry the family from the funeral home to the cemetery. Since most of Doris' contemporaries had died by that point I invited friends to come with us. My friend Kassie walked in to the wrong viewing at the funeral home, signed in and chatted with everyone before she realized she was in the wrong place. She got a thank you note from that family!

Christ the King Church has a great funeral ministry, proving singers and readers and people to attend the funeral mass. Doris' step-sisters were there also. It really was a lovely day.

And for the first time ever, Doris was living alone. She really thrived, gaining weight after the stress of taking care of Jimmy. She got her hair done every Friday, picking friends up that couldn't drive (you can imagine the crew, if Doris at 90 was the best driver) along the way. For a few years I was able to meet Doris and her gang for lunch. I need to dig out the photographs that I made poor Doris pose for in an old fashioned photo booth. It was a stand-up one and Doris had to stand on my stack of library books in order for the top of her head to be seen in the photos -- she was 4'11 at her tallest and I'm guessing that was in 1932. We both laughed so hard we were crying. I can't believe I made a then 93 year-old stand on a wobbly pile of books. Anything for the photo!

Doris moved out of her house six years ago and I'm ashamed to admit that I don't see her as often. Back when I worked at the coffeehouse I'd stop several afternoons a week. When I broke up with AVS, I sobbed and slept her sofa for days.

Doris is well read and up on current events. Swine flu was a big topic of conversation and it reminded Doris of the flu epidemic of 1918. Helen's grandparents died of the flu. It was fun to dive in to Helen's memories also. Helen was born in 1942 and was a teenager when Doris moved in next door. After Helen graduated from high school they often rode the bus downtown together. The street they lived on (Kessler Avenue) is now a major four lane thoroughfare. Helen remembers when it was not paved. The neighborhood kids would all gather on the only cement driveway on the street to skate.

Helen and Doris

Helen's mom, Bessie (who I also had the pleasure of meeting) was born in 1908. Bessie's uncle was a photographer in Fountain Square. We had fun thinking about the possibility that he photographed Doris when she was a child.

It was best Friday night I've had in ages.