Sawdust.

Join us today, friends, for another edition of…

…Tim Goeglein theater!

Actually, today’s episode doesn’t suck the way it usually does, which is to say it isn’t about his parents’ deep love of Jesus, his interest in an obscure operatic composer, or… no, I’m wrong. This column, about Hoagy Carmichael, is standard-issue Tim — overwritten, oversugared, over-Hoosiered.

Instead of ridiculing it paragraph by paragraph, let’s stack up the usual TimBits.

How many “one of the most” superlatives appear in the first paragraph?

Three:

…one of the most luminous of all American mid-century composers, one of the most beloved composers of the classic American popular music songbook, and one of the most unusual bright lights in a starry field.

In one paragraph!

Does the column claim a Hoosier connection to a well-known person, state that this individual is extricably connected to Indiana in some way and wouldn’t be the person he or she grew up to be without this background, and further, that it was always calling him or her home? Yes:

He was from old American stock and was born and raised just down the street from Indiana University in Monroe County. …Though most of his composer contemporaries were urbanites, Carmichael came from what was then still a very small town in the southern part of our state. He got back as often as he could, but in a large sense, he never left. You can see it in his music.

Does the column give a nod to non-Hoosier influences, but claim that, deep down, Indiana is far more important? Yes:

He was deeply influenced by Irving Berlin and Louis Armstrong; he venerated Duke Ellington and George Gershwin; yet his own music was sui generis. He loved jazz, especially in the years of his apprenticeship. The jazz influence is self-evident in many of the songs he wrote – “Rockin’ Chair,” “Old Man Harlem,” “New Orleans.” The dominant figure of his music, though, was his Hoosier upbringing: small-town and rural America, born of a family that did not have much money but gave to him a boyhood full of what he called “memories of solid things, warm and endearing things,” and these are what he celebrated in songs that will be played forever.

Is this Hoosier influence credited with something far, far larger, thus inflating the state’s value in the grand scheme of things? Yes:

The real him had a remarkable life: a brilliant songwriting partnership with the great Johnny Mercer, a film and TV career, but above all a giant place of reverence in the hearts of millions of Americans who needed and loved his music as America was emerging as the unchallenged leader of the free world. America and Hoagy Carmichael’s music came of age together. It all began in Bloomington in his living room under the tutelage of a mother who always called him Hoagland – “a boy with dusty feet coming into the cold parlor where stood the upright golden oak piano,” he later wrote. Southern Indiana was the center of his life and his aesthetic inspiration.

It’s too bad, but maybe it isn’t: Hoagy Carmichael deserves all the respect and accolade he received in his life and continues to receive in death, and Tim Goeglein can’t take anything away from him. Here’s something I wish he’d address in a future column: Why is Indiana’s role in all these artists’ lives to spawn them, give them a few soft-focus memories of childhood, and then chase them the hell out of town? The obvious answer — that Hollywood is in California and New York City is in New York and there’s not much in between — isn’t the entire one. Frequently embryonic great artists run off to those places at the first opportunity because they’re so uncomfortable in the fleecy cradle of their youth. Cole Porter was from Peru, Indiana, but can anyone see him spending a minute there once the train left the station? James Dean? Even Hoagy, with his love of black jazz and ragtime could hardly have been happy in a place where the Klan was still strong well into the 20th century and lynchings weren’t unheard of. (Never mind that both Dean and Porter were gay.)

The problem remains in places like Indiana, Ohio, Alabama, and dozens of places that wave farewell to their brightest young people, whether bound for careers in showbiz or software engineering, and wait until the kids make it big before claiming credit for them. Until then it’s “hey, queer bait.” I hear even John Mellencamp is taking abuse down in southern Indiana these days, for his failure to support the commander in chief.

Just wondering.

Friends, this is it for me today. Oh, wait: Something for Robert Rouse. See you tomorrow.

Posted at 11:27 am in Media |
 

32 responses to “Sawdust.”

  1. Julie Robinson said on November 5, 2007 at 12:14 pm

    Part of it is that creative people are always excited about trying something new and different. They crave unique experiences, especially when young, and that craving usually leads them away from home.

    At least that’s been the pattern for our 27 year old daughter. New is always more attractive to her than old. She is loving the big city life in Chicago and I’m sure she’ll never come back to small town life. I’m just happy she’s as close as she is.

  2. Halloween Jack said on November 5, 2007 at 12:26 pm

    Yep. Carmichael may have been nostalgic for his childhood, but that doesn’t mean that he’d have moved back to Bloomington given the chance; my own experience with nostalgia is that it’s increased by the difference between my memories and the current reality of the places that I lived in as a child.

    Not too surprised about Mellencamp’s rejection; if the Mason-Dixon line is extended west, it divides Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois into Great Lakes and Ohio Valley regions, and the latter are all effectively Southern, very red.

  3. brian stouder said on November 5, 2007 at 2:08 pm

    Why is Indiana’s role in all these artists’ lives to spawn them, give them a few soft-focus memories of childhood, and then chase them the hell out of town? The obvious answer — that Hollywood is in California and New York City is in New York and there’s not much in between — isn’t the entire one.

    I’d say that the “there’s not much in between” notion isn’t any part of the answer!

    Dorothy Gale leaps to mind; getting out and away is a universal impulse (despite the movie’s ‘no place like home’ ‘heart’s desire in my own backyard’ ending; the books send her and Auntie Em [et al] out of Kansas and back to Oz to live).

    Granted, if you’re a playwright or otherwise possess a huge amount of theatrical talent, then New York/LA is mecca; but if you’re a lawyer or a doctor or a planner or an entrepreneur, any larger city will do.

    If Cole Porter was born in Martha’s Vineyard or New Orleans or Seattle, I bet he’d STILL get the hell out of those places asap, and head for NYC – despite how welcoming all those places are

  4. ashley said on November 5, 2007 at 3:22 pm

    Brian, I disagree with your opine that Cole Porter would have gotten the hell out of New Orleans ASAP. He could have definitely made a living as a composer in New Orleans at the time. Not quite the same with Martha’s Vineyard, Seattle, or Peru Indiana.

  5. brian stouder said on November 5, 2007 at 3:29 pm

    Reading his compelling mix of corn-ball lyrics and urbane sensibilities – I don’t think LEWSeanna would have held him any longer than Indiana did….and if it had, (imo) only collectors of obscure 78rpm jazz vinyl would remember him

  6. Jeff said on November 5, 2007 at 4:15 pm

    HEY — no mocking of TimBits. They may be the finest thing Tim Horton’s produces since they changed their coffee blend (aaack, ptewwww; no wonder they started carrying flavor shots).

    Well, TimBits and Walnut Crunch sticks.

  7. Randy said on November 5, 2007 at 4:22 pm

    Because nothing says Indiana like “Stardust.”

  8. nancy said on November 5, 2007 at 4:33 pm

    New Orleans is one of those cities-away-from-the-coasts where entertainers find themselves feeling right at home. Harry Shearer is a permanent NOLA resident now. I heard someone, maybe Bill Maher, asking him how he lives there when so much of his work is in Los Angeles, and he shrugged and said, “Several non-stop flights every day, I guess.”

    I forgot the Manning brothers were from there. I wonder how life in Indianapolis compares. {Pause. Crickets.}

  9. LA mary said on November 5, 2007 at 4:37 pm

    It’s crap writing whether Hoagy would have made it in NOLA or not.

    “He was from old American stock and was born and raised just down the street from Indiana University in Monroe County. …Though most of his composer contemporaries were urbanites, Carmichael came from what was then still a very small town in the southern part of our state. He got back as often as he could, but in a large sense, he never left. You can see it in his music.”

    Feh. And now I’m hearing it in one of Harry Shearer’s smoothie announcer voices, like a voice over in a bad PBS documentary.

  10. nancy said on November 5, 2007 at 4:41 pm

    He got back as often as he could…

    …and died in California.

  11. brian stouder said on November 5, 2007 at 4:46 pm

    To judge by the news, it’s pretty easy to ‘die in California’…!!

    I just wanted to answer the ‘LA/NYC – and nothing in between’ provocation.

    As for the Colts – that bug never bit me. The billion-dollar public money grab they orchestrated provided the immunization, I think

  12. Danny said on November 5, 2007 at 4:47 pm

    I forgot the Manning brothers were from there. I wonder how life in Indianapolis compares. {Pause. Crickets.}

    Funny, I was listening to an interview on the Dan Patrick show a few weeks back and the QB (Seattle’s?) was saying that he wanted to go to Notre Dame, but instead ended up at Boston College and that in retrospect, it ended up being a good thing. I mean South Bend versus Boston. C’mon, no comparison.

  13. Danny said on November 5, 2007 at 4:54 pm

    As for the Colts – that bug never bit me. The billion-dollar public money grab they orchestrated provided the immunization, I think

    So true, Brian. I am soooo sick of billionaires holding cities hostage for public money to finance new stadiums. I say don’t let the door hit them on the way out. And this is a big reason why though I enjoy sports a good bit, I always keep it at arms length in my mind’s eye. It’s just entertainment with a bunch of billionaires and millionaires. And I suspect most of them would fail the test if put to the question of “are you a good human being?”

  14. MichaelG said on November 5, 2007 at 5:22 pm

    Hit the nail on the head there, Danny. The Maloof Bros (wealthy Vegas casino owners) are even now threatening to move the NBA Kings out of Sacramento if no new sports palace is provided them. They and the usual jock sniffing municipal lackeys are scrambling to find a way to finance it without going before the voters because they know full well that any ballot proposition is DOA. They want to move if we don’t pay for their new arena? Vaya con Dios.

  15. Kia said on November 5, 2007 at 5:28 pm

    I love this post. Also it makes me think of Dawn Powell, who went away to New York at about 17 and wrote several books about what wretched places she and her (near) contemporaries (including Porter and Carmichael) had fled. No, if you want to do something with yourself artistically you can’t stay in places like that, unless you are one of those genius freaks — I like genius freaks by the way — who can’t be separated from their natural setting, like Faulkner or Welty.

  16. LA mary said on November 5, 2007 at 7:19 pm

    “… genius freaks who can’t be separated from their natural setting, like Faulkner or Welty.”

    Or Billy Joel. He still lives on Long Island.

  17. Michael said on November 5, 2007 at 8:45 pm

    A number of reactions to this:

    1. Bloomington didn’t rename 6th Street to Carmichael Avenue when it came up before the City Council a few years ago. I don’t know why, but it seems relevant.

    2. Nobody in Southern Indiana rags on Mellencamp. Well. Nobody who counts — by which I mean Bloomington, which counts, and Spencer, which is Mellencamp’s home. He’s the boy that made good, but much, much more importantly for their loyalty, he’s the boy that went back home because he loved it. They might be uneasy about his politics, but they just do the Hoosier thing and avoid the topic. In his case only.

    3. Carmichael would do fine in B-town today. Just sayin.

    Oh, and the Colts — notice how Indy upped the tax on restaurant food to 6 cents on the dollar (from 5) “temporarily”, to pay for the Hoosier Dome (it’ll never be the RCA Dome to me, dammit.) Notice how that tax never actually went away?

    That’s all I need to know about pro sports.

  18. basset said on November 5, 2007 at 9:38 pm

    you mean Seymour, not Spencer.

    my mom worked in the city street department office at the time of Hoagy Carmichael’s funeral, which involved blocking off streets, redirecting traffic, so on and so forth… and used to tell stories about the street crew radio conversations that day, mostly along the lines of how they talked about “plantin’ that Hoagy feller.”

    a few years later, when we were plantin’ her, we saw Mellencamp coming the other way in his G-wagen as we were headed to the cemetery. he started to turn left, then stopped, most respectfully, and let the procession pass.

    now her headstone is maybe ten yards from Hoagy’s, right behind a doughnut shop off West Third. that’s Bloomington.

  19. brian stouder said on November 5, 2007 at 10:08 pm

    Excellent story, Basset

  20. joodyb said on November 5, 2007 at 10:08 pm

    best writing award:
    ‘The real him had a remarkable life’ –
    in or out of context, i don’t care who ya are, that’s just funny.

  21. alex said on November 5, 2007 at 10:49 pm

    I think Tim’s problem is that he’s trying too hard to emulate Betty Stein. For those of you unfamiliar with Fort Wayne, she’s an ancient society matron who churns out prodigious amounts of filler for the op-ed page of the News-Sentinel in which she reminisces about popular culture from seventy years ago for the benefit of the few ninety-somethings who might know anything about it. If I were a betting man, I’d lay money on it that Tim’s angling for her job and figures she’ll have croaked by the time his current gig with the Bush White House comes to an end.

  22. nancy said on November 5, 2007 at 10:54 pm

    I don’t think Betty’s been paid a dime for her work for maybe a decade. (Yes, really.) If he’s angling for that job, he must have a nice trust fund.

  23. basset said on November 6, 2007 at 1:54 am

    meanwhile, visitors leave money on Hoagy’s grave… not much, they just stick pennies in the cracks around the headstone. “Pennies from Heaven,” y’know.

  24. John said on November 6, 2007 at 8:00 am

    See the pennies for yourself! (Clicking on the second image gives you the enlarged version).

  25. Kim said on November 6, 2007 at 8:04 am

    Very nice deconstruction, Nance.

    Tim didn’t disappoint, because he provided yet more examples of mixing the senses: “You can see it in his music.” I would hear it, but that’s just me and I fled (was dragged) from a big midwestern city to a small southern one.

    Didn’t Tim leave Indiana? Is he now the prodigal son (not to give him any stupid column ideas)?

    His columns always leave me with the thought that the world would be a much better place if it were populated — or at least, run — entirely by people whose nativity was pure Indiana.

  26. Jeff said on November 6, 2007 at 8:40 am

    Kurt Vonnegut (may he rest in peace) wrote a nice bit in “Cat’s Cradle” about Hoosiers, and how you run into them wherever you go, from Boston to Barbados to Bombay; we may think our chief export is grain, but it’s more about the Orville Redenbacher’s roaming the world than the popcorn grown and shipped away.

    On the other hand, Orville kept a house in Valparaiso, and i can testify he spent time in it all his life because i sold him popcorn there as a Boy Scout — he thought it was a kick to buy his stuff back from us, and was as nice as you’d suspect from his TV persona to a runny-nosed kid with an armload of 5 lb. bags of corn.

    No bow tie, though.

  27. Jim said on November 6, 2007 at 8:46 am

    Make no mistake … Tim is waiting for Dick Lugar or Mark Souder to retire or kick off. In the meantime, keeping his smug face in front of the public is all free advertising for his future campaign.

  28. brian stouder said on November 6, 2007 at 8:55 am

    There is a nice Lincoln statue in the National Cemetery at Gettysburg, and it is covered with pennies! The young folks wanted to collect them, and of course we didn’t allow that(!) – but darned if I could answer the question ‘why do people want to leave pennies here?’

    For that matter – why do people throw coins into water? The fountain at the mall, the pond at Friemann Square, the monkey island at the zoo; they all draw loose change – for no real reason. (presumeably the money at monkey island supports the zoo; but what about the mall?)

  29. nancy said on November 6, 2007 at 9:02 am

    Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve finally found him — Brian Stouder, the last person in the world to hear about wishing wells.

    Oh, and re Tim: I assume that wherever the wingnut welfare train leaves him after January 2009, it will be somewhere in the D.C. area. And he’ll continue to write columns about how much he loves Indiana, and how he longs to live there again, and blah blah blah. And the seven or eight old ladies who still read my alma mater will sigh and say, “What a nice boy.”

  30. brian stouder said on November 6, 2007 at 9:15 am

    Wishing wells!! Hah! I never thought of that…..still, here in 2007, if the young folks and I are at the mall, and go near the fountain – Chloe will want some change to pitch into it, just to hear the tinkle and see the splash (I think!) – or because she sees others pitching coins in there.

    See – once again NN.c broadens my horizons (easy enough, presumeably, given how benighted I must be!)

    (Edit – style note: if madam Telling Tales keeps referring to us, her humble readers, as “friends”, I’m going to think she’s converting to Quakerism! Lately, the closing lines use this term, and this Goegleine deconstruction has it in the opener AND the closer)

  31. Danny said on November 6, 2007 at 9:36 am

    Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve finally found him — Brian Stouder, the last person in the world to hear about wishing wells.

    I about spit my coffee out when I read that one. Too funny.

  32. basset said on November 6, 2007 at 9:01 pm

    OK, now I have my headstone all picked out… one of those trumpet-bell-looking things you see at the mall, the one kids put coins into so they can watch ’em go round and round and round all the way to the bottom, where they become someone else’s property. make it out of Monroe County limestone and I’m all set.

    If you’re facing that Hoagy feller’s grave just as if you were taking the pictures, the rear wall of the doughnut shop is maybe thirty yards away on your left and back a little. or at least it was a couple years ago.

    meanwhile, Bill Monroe’s grave right under Jerusalem Ridge in Rosine, Ky. usually has several quarters on it… he was known for giving them to children.