Friday, June 17, 2011

carbondale illinois is a contentious town, being far enough south to believe it's southern, yet still be in a northern state surrounded pretty much by rivers that feed in from northern places. i mention this because i used to think the rowdy drinking was due to these northern hard-drinking kids who'd come down here, go to school, then find their drinking was getting in the way of their education, or maybe the other way around, and then they'd let people have it or go around picking fights at various bars until they got thrown in jail or found some real trouble. and sure, that accounts for a lot of it, but there's also this north-south treachery, i think it's been going on for many years, and a bunch of drunken college students doesn't change the fact that it's been a hard-drinking, treacherous area for as long as anyone can remember.

i was in the john a logan museum one day, and it's actually in the next town over, and john a logan by the way is our local hero, born outside of murphysboro in the town of brownsville, original county seat of jackson county, our county, and someone right there at that museum had the audacity to suggest to me that john a logan was actually a traitor, should have been on the other side, but sold out to the highest bidder, which in his case happened to be the north. well that story is somewhat believable, since this really is a southern area, and if he was born around here he might have had local pressure to side with the south along with everyone else, but what do i know, i'm not from around here. another time i was at the jackson county historical society, which is right across the street from the john a logan museum, but supposedly these two places do not get along, even though they are the only purveyors of history in the entire area. so i asked them, how come the town of brownsville, original county seat of jackson county and birthplace of john a logan, lies in the hollow out by the big muddy river, and is covered by trees, entirely unmarked, sold by one farmer to another for hunting rights a few years back, and the rest of us don't even know where it is? well, the guy said, every time they put a bronze plaque on the road somebody would steal the plaque, presumably to melt down the bronze and get a couple pennies, and they got tired of wasting their bronze.

a friend told how she moved to town, and she lives on gray street so i tease her about her shades and about how life is not all black and white, but anyway she was rattled the other day when she found out that somebody had broken into the house next door and robbed it. but then it turned out that the landlord had locked somebody out for not paying their rent, he'd changed the locks, and they were just breaking in to get their own stuff back out of the place where they used to live. it's the kind of place where a fair number of people just are tired of taking it all the time and don't have much to lose by fighting. i'm sure those folks paid the price or whatever, with years of explaining to some judge why that wasn't breaking and entering, but as i told the story around town sympathy seemed to be with the people who lived there, who just felt that they shouldn't be treated that way.

the first of the sunset concerts was last night, and i took the youngest son up, parked in a university lot, and carried him on my shoulders up the hill to the concert where hundreds of locals stood around and listened to a funk band. unlike many concerts, the music was pretty good, and well done, though funk isn't my favorite, and like many concerts, having young children means sometimes you do what they want and not what i want which is to listen carefully. in any case the sunset concert is an interesting mix of people, hundreds of locals, the hard drinkers, the survivors, the free folks come out of the woodwork some of whom haven't cut their hair in a few years. you look in their faces and you see portraits of survivors over hard times, getting bounced around from place to place and once i talked to an old friend and basically heard a story like that, which made me want to stop starting up with people and just listen to the music. this particular concert was on the campus as the first one always is, and the graceful old buildings and trees make a background basically for what is always quite a show. you occasionally get some fights at these things...a lot of people start their drinking long before the concert and some never actually quit their drinking and just haul off upon seeing someone who, perhaps, they owe money to. you never know, in any case, nobody's going to tell you the whole story.

it's the kind of weather where these storms keep passing through, and they dump hard rain on the place and cool the place off a little, and then you think they're done but you check the wind and it turns out there is absolutely no wind, nothing, not west to east as usual or even unusual, no nothing, like the storm might just change its mind and come back. and sure enough this often happens, so yes it's true the tornado season is pretty much over, with its huge fronts and walls of huge storms ripping through towns and all, and now we just have these thunder-boomers which get real dark or drop buckets of rain in minutes, all so bad you have to pull over, or just take a breather and watch it for a minute as it literally pours down out of the gutters. but then it's over and the sun comes out, steamier than ever, like there's really not going to be much of a break from this for quite some while. i saved a turtle while i was on my bike; he was in the road, quite a young fellow, and i thought, the road is just too darn hot, i'm getting you out of here, before your hot little feet get you all confused and you stay in the road a minute too long. this is a place on sunset that i've taken to calling the sunset strip, not because of any businesses, actually it's just one long very green park, mostly soccer fields, but the turtles are mostly looking for these mulberries in this one house's back yard across the creek there. the price of the mulberries, i guess, is that you have to cross the road. sometimes they don't make it.

on campus they renovated the library so this old abe lincoln head statue was moved from a kind of enclosed hallway to a wide-open, light filled place near the front door directly behind the coffee shop. now this abe has a very shiny nose because apparently for many years students have been walking by it, rubbing his nose to get luck on a test, so they say, and all that rubbing has made that bronze nose very light-colored and smooth, and now the difference is that because that entrance-way is so light filled, and airy, and open, that now you can see that shiny nose for miles, very clearly. so while i'm getting a cup of coffee i ask the lady working there if people really rub his nose all the time. oh sure, she said, they do it all the time. you ever see anything else? i ask her. yes, she says, this morning some guy came through here, and smacked him in the nose, and then walked away.

so there you have it. i'll never know why, whether it's deep-seated hostility to the union cause, and all that four score and twenty years ago stuff, or whether it's just a drunken kid, got set back by his finals, felt a little betrayed by the supposed good-luck bearer who didn't quite pan out, and just had to lash out.


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