Celebrating 219 Day in Boston: The Region Rat in me
Last week on Facebook, I saw friends from my native Northwest Indiana posting stuff about “219 Day.” Of course I recognized 219 as the main area code for Lake County, Indiana, but I had no idea what this “Day” was all about. I would learn that 219 Day is a new “holiday” created by Hammond, Indiana mayor Thomas McDermott, Jr., mixing local pride with a little tongue-in-cheek. The first 219 Day was marked by a food, drink, and entertainment event that drew thousands to the local Civic Center.
The humor is in the logo. As you can see, a rat is a part of it. To explain, Lake County and the City of Hammond are located in the heart of what is called the Calumet Region, named for the Calumet River that flows through it. Denizens of “Da Region” have long been called “Region Rats.” So the Mayor (and/or his public relations team) incorporated said rodent into the overall theme.
Although Mayor McDermott caught some flak for including the little fella in the logo — apparently some of the more refined residents didn’t fully appreciate the association — on the whole 219 Day was a rousing success and will now become an annual event. Personally, I thought it was a clever way of saying, hey, we’re going to celebrate our region without taking ourselves too seriously!
In fact, when I saw folks posting stickers for 219 Day on Facebook, I contacted one of my Region schoolmates, Dave Woerpel, now Chairman of the Hammond Democrats and a close associate of the Mayor, and asked how I might get my hands on one. Well, not only did Dave send me a couple of stickers, but also to my surprise he sent a 219 Day t-shirt (“219 Day, It’s all about Da Region”), which I proudly show off in the photo above. It is a fitting addition to my leisurewear collection. Perhaps some Bostonians will ask for an explanation!
I left Indiana in 1982, bound for law school in New York City. For a long time I thought I’d never look back. But I have come to appreciate all the chapters of my life, and growing up in Da Region is an important part of it. Over the years I have kept in touch with a handful of people from Indiana, and now — often via Facebook — I have reconnected with folks I had lost touch with for decades.
So yes, I enjoyed the humor imbued in that 219 Day logo. But I also regard that t-shirt with genuine sentiment, a welcomed connection of my past with my present.
The joys of YouTube music videos
One of life’s little pleasures is getting lost in the world of YouTube music videos. I can watch some of these over and again. Here are a few of my repeat favorites:
If you need an energy boost, does it get any better than Duran Duran’s “Hungry Like The Wolf”? The early to mid 80s is one of my favorite pop music periods. On my iPad I have a music compilation of favorite songs from that time, and Duran Duran singles are prominent among them.
I spent a chunk of the weekend watching and re-watching the incredibly hilarious number from Mel Brooks’s “The Producers” (1967 movie version), “Springtime for Hitler.” With every viewing, I keep finding new things to laugh at. (If you know the movie, then the quick cut to Kenneth Mars at around 2:18 is a guaranteed crack up.) From the lyrics, to the choreography, to the crowd reaction, it is singularly brilliant.
“Carousel” is one of the darkest shows of the Rodgers & Hammerstein canon, and it also has one of the most beautiful scores. This London performance of the ballet scene with Louise and the Fairground Boy, featuring Dana Stockpole dancing to “If I Loved You,” is simply exquisite.
One of the very best opening movie scenes ever produced is that from Woody Allen’s “Manhattan,” set to George Gershwin’s lush, beautiful “Rhapsody in Blue.” It is a loving tribute to the Wonder City.
Cole Porter’s “Anything Goes” is one of the best shows ever produced. This Tony Awards performance of the title number, featuring the awesome Sutton Foster, is worth multiple viewings.
I love this Antwerp train station flash mob performance of a rocked up version of “Do Re Mi” (from “The Sound of Music”). It is so much fun to watch, over and again.
My favorite scene from my favorite movie: Gene Kelly singing and dancing to the title number is truly one of the most joyous scenes in the history of motion pictures. I first saw “Singin’ in the Rain” during a study break while in my first year of law school at NYU, a Sunday night screening at the legendary Theatre 80 on St. Mark’s Place. I knew before it was even half over that I was watching something special.
Olivia Newton-John singing “Magic” in 1980 on “The Midnight Special.” It doesn’t matter that she’s lip-syncing. How many of us had monster crushes on her? (If the comments are any indication, we still do.) Sigh, what a contrast to today’s voice synthesized pop tarts.
And finally, some (probably unintended) humor. It appears that Lawrence Welk had no idea that “One Toke Over the Line” was about smoking pot, not — in his words — a “modern spiritual.” I crack up every time I watch it.
I’ve been writing a lot about books over the past couple of weeks, and I’m about to inflict more of the same on you, dear readers. As I mentioned last week, I have decided to pare down my book collection, with a goal of donating or giving away some 500-750 books during 2016.
I also decided to put a little stamp of ownership on the books I’ve decided to keep. I recently ordered a pile of bookplate stickers, pictured above, from a quick-print mail order shop. I’ve wanted to do something like this for some time. While I’m at it, I’m starting to catalog these books into subject matter categories in a simple Word file.
The academic and lifelong learning geek in me likes the idea of having a personal library. Some of these books are relevant to my work, but a solid majority of volumes cover other interests. With non-fiction, history, sports, and politics are among my favorite subject areas. With fiction, I lean toward mysteries, suspense, thrillers, and stories with historical themes.
I keep telling myself that I’ll tackle more of the classics when I have more time, but I may be fooling myself, as I’ve been saying this for decades. While I’m willing to work through some pretty tough stuff for work and specific learning projects, I am not the most tenacious leisure reader! Which means that Shakespeare, Dickens, and Tolstoy, among others, inevitably fall victim to Stephen King or John Grisham. But they, too, will receive their bookplates, as I’m not giving up on them.
Books: The challenge of thinning out the herd
Four times a year, the City-Wide Friends of the Boston Public Library holds a used book sale at the Central Branch to raise monies for their support of the city’s public library system. Usually I stop by in search of bargains for my personal library. But I went to this weekend’s sale with another mission in mind: To donate a dozen of my books.
Yes, folks, although I continue to obtain new books at a regular pace, I am making a concerted effort to thin the herd. Inspired and guided by Japanese “tidying” expert Marie Kondo (author of the bestselling The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up), I am trying to pare down my book collection from around 2,000 to a more manageable 1,200 or so.
Kondo recommends decluttering by category, in roughly this order: (1) clothing; (2) books; (3) papers; (4) miscellany; (5) items of sentimental value. The first was easy. I sorted out my extraneous clothing in a few hours. Fashion — as anyone who knows me in person will attest — is not on my radar screen. I’ve donated several bags of clothes and tossed a lot of stuff that had been hanging around.
But now I’m tackling my books, and to be honest, it will take me the rest of the year to donate, give away, and otherwise reduce the piles of books in my possession. During 2016, I’ve culled about 100 books.
Why am I doing this? Well, as you can see from photos of some of my bookshelves below, my space at home has basically run out. (It’s worse at my university office.) But more importantly, I am facing the fact that I bought many of these books under a hazy assumption that I would have eons of time to (1) read even the books I’m only casually interested in, and (2) pursue a virtually endless array of writing projects. Now that I’m in my mid-fifties, I know that will not be the case.
Kondo recommends keeping only those books that bring us joy, but that’s an unrealistic standard for me. (Uh, books about workplace bullying and toxic work environments don’t exactly fit that description, but they allow me to do my job.) Instead, I’m simply asking myself what I’m likely to read, re-read, and use during the next couple of decades. I must make choices.
And so I will. It’s not easy; I do have emotional attachments to books. Most of the volumes in these photos are keepers, and many have been with me through multiple moves. But I am taking pleasure in giving away books that may be sources of enlightenment, entertainment, and enjoyment to others. There are a lot more to come.
I may complain, but I like having real seasons
Today, the Greater Boston region got its first really serious snowfall, enough to close the city’s public schools for the day. Although my university was open for business, we don’t hold many law classes on Fridays. Had it been another weekday, getting into town would’ve been difficult for a lot more of our students.
Here in Boston, two of the four seasons typically give us something to complain about. Summers can be brutally hot and humid, and winters can be brutally cold and snowy (and icy and slippery). Spring doesn’t last nearly as long as I’d like. Fall, thankfully, is a showpiece of a season in these parts and often prolongs until deep into November.
All things being equal, my favorite overall annual climate is that of the Bay Area in California. But if I’m being honest with myself, I still very much enjoy seasonal changes. I grew up in America’s midwest, where changes of season were part of the cycles of life. That would continue when I moved to New York City, though the contrasts were not as sharp. Since moving to Boston many years ago, however, seasonal changes have once again been more significant and vivid.
As today’s snowfall was coming down, it made for a lot of picturesque views. I was particularly taken by the scene outside the subway station near my home, with the snow sticking to the trees, plants, and lampposts. It all made for some good photos, one of which I share with you above.