It was a rather eventful Saturday. I got up per usual at 4am and on the way to WJOB stopped at Munster Donut for a large black coffee. It might be the last place in America where you have to wear a mask to get waited on. The guy parked next to me in an SUV the size of a small house had to forage through his backseat for rag to strap across his face. He grumbled through a piece of cloth as he opened the glass door.
"Hmmph," I said, which is the universal mutter to get out of an uncomfortable situation.
We are in transition. You might have to put on a mask to buy a dozen doughnuts. But for most of Indiana, you would never know there's a pandemic. It might even feel as if there never was one... like at yesterday's Purdue-IU game. Alexis and I watched Purdue beat IU 69-67. Then we sat through Senior Day festivities for Sasha Stefanovic, who hails from Crown Point. Sasha gave a great speech, thanking the university, his parents, grandparents and "The Paint Crew." Then... after a victory and a ceremony, 10,000 Indiana people (I won't say "Hoosiers") filed out of Mackey Arena into a 75-degree sunny day. You woulda thought you were in a suburb of Orlando.
But you're not. You're in Indiana. And on a summer-like day in central Indiana - after a long winter and long Covid - it felt good to have sun shine upon your face. Purdue won. Seniors were lauded. Students gathered on frat house lawns, playing horse shoes and drinking from a keg. No one - NO ONE - wore a mask to buy a large black coffee.
... On the way back, Alexis and I stopped by Gamba Ristorante in Merrillville.
"We're just stopping on our way home from Lafayette to buy a gift certificate. Any way we can sneak in for a quick bite to eat?" I said to Benny's daughter at the hostess stand.
"We are totally booked, Jim. I'm so sorry."
Alexis and I stood for a sec... waiting.
"Aw, what the heck. Follow me."
She sat us in the lounge. Alexis and I did what older couples do - we split an appetizer, salad and bowl of Risotto. It was quick and it was excellent.
... I dropped Alexis off and went to Flat Rock Tap in Hammond to watch "Thrown Together," a band led by Lake County Commissioner Jerry Tippy (R). He had texted me that he would play some Grateful Dead if I stopped by. So I did. They played an excellent rendition of "Uncle John's Band."
I wound up talking to North Township Trustee Adrian Santos (D), by far the most entertaining elected official I ever made fun of. He was with a couple of his buds from East Chicago, and if there's one thing about EC jamokes, they can take a jokes. And dish one out, too, which is refreshing.
... This brings me to the topic of political correctness, which I've been attending to for more than 40 years - long before it was politically correct to worry about what's politically correct.
As an undergrad at Berkeley living in what my wife calls "the commune" but what was really a "cooperative," I was sitting in the "veggie lounge" where only vegetarian food could be served... and I was watching the Purdue vs. Texas football game with a few people I did not know.
At some point, Texas ran for a long touchdown. The analyst, a guy with a Southern accent, proclaimed it one of the greatest runs he had ever seen. He went on and on about how clumpy Midwesterners were gonna have a hard time keeping up with a fleet-footed backfield from west Texas.
The other five people in the room were either Texas fans or sympathizers. Like most places I went in California, I was the only person from Indiana. One fan in an orange shirt was especially loud. He would hoot - "Whoo-hee. Whoo-hee" - every time Texas made a good play.
Purdue fell behind. The announcer with the southern accent droned on about the superior coaching abilities of the Texas staff.
"Who is this hillbilly," I blurted out. "He doesn't know what the hell he's talking about."
You would have thought I dropped my pants and bent over. The room fell silent... except for the guy with the southern accent on TV. Finally, the guy in the orange shirt turned and said - "That is an unfair statement."
"'Hillbilly' is an offensive term. To drop that monicker on a person just because he or she has a southern accent amounts to ridicule," said the guy - in a southern accent.
"My mother has been dealing with this prejudice for 30 years. She is a leading law scholar at the University of Texas, but whenever she goes to a conference outside of the South, nobody takes her seriously.
"It's as if she knows less because she speaks 'hillbilly.'"
That was my first exposure to political correctness. I've been struggling with it ever since. Who amongst the three or four of you doubts that I'm gonna say something someday that is offensive to someone? I might even be "cancelled."
... That should do it for tonight. This may seem like a long journal entry, but by my standards, it's not. I have been writing a journal for 43 years. It's the process that counts. For most of those 43 years, I would write furiously for an hour or so... then scrunch up the paper and throw it away. It's psychobabble. I do it mostly in the middle of the night these days. I used to make fun of all of my aunts and uncles who complained of waking up and staying up. But I have become my aunts and uncles. After a certain age, we all split entrees and have trouble sleeping. Right now my sister Jennifer, aunt Irene and uncle Charlie are all staring at the ceiling or drinking coffee at the kitchen table... waiting, like me and maybe even like you, for the dawn.