I had Sunday lunch at Lance Mannion’s rooftop aerie in Fort Wayne many many years ago, back when Lance was an assistant professor teaching freshman English at Ball State. Among the guests were a couple of his colleagues, and one told a hilarious story that Lance now has zero memory of:
A third English department colleague was having lunch at a McDonald’s in Indianapolis. He had just bitten into his Big Mac when a woman approached him and said, shyly, “You’re John Updike, aren’t you?” The guy telling the story mimed the action perfectly — the sandwich held to his mouth, the glance up at the woman standing next to the table — and the English professor’s reaction, which was to put the burger down, wipe his hands on a napkin, chew a bit to clear his mouth and then reply:
“Yes. Yes I am.”
The woman, needless to say, was delighted. John Updike! Eating at a McDonald’s in Indianapolis! What are the odds? About the odds of a man misidentified as a famous writer being an actual English professor with a deep familiarity with that writer’s work, that’s what, because he carried on a conversation with the woman for several minutes. She said things like, “I know most critics say (this book) is your best, but I always liked (that book) better,” and he replied, slyly “This is just between us, but (that book) is my favorite, too.” It turned out she had a copy of one of his novels with her, and presented it for signing, which he did, along with a warm personal note. By the time she excused herself, I’m sure she felt she’d had a Celebrity Brush With Greatness for the record books, the sort of thing you hope for when you spot one of your heroes out in the wild and almost never have. Now that we’ve entered a time when everybody has a blog, I’m Googling “‘john updike’ + mcdonald’s + indianapolis” to see if maybe that woman is sharing the story, but so far the only references I get are to Lance’s blog, when I prompted him to tell the story a few years back, and my own, when I alluded to it. It’s sort of suspicious that Lance had no memory of this story; I recall it bringing the house down that day, and now I’m wondering if it’s just a figment of my imagination. No. My imagination isn’t that inventive.
Some prime bloggage today. I have something you journalists are going to love. The rest of you will love it, too:
Rotary-dial phones! Those old modems with the cups! You’ll notice one of the participating papers was the Columbus Dispatch — that’s because the service provider for all this was Compuserve, based there. I can still summon the sight of the copy editor whose job it was to handle the upload, and Kirk will remember his name, but I don’t. I sent this to someone this morning, who replied: It’s like a slasher movie; THE INTERNET’S IN THE HOUSE!!!! GET OUT!!!! IT WANTS TO KILL YOU AND YOUR PROFESSION. Man, I’ll say.
Eric Zorn at the Chicago Tribune sends me a lot of love, and I don’t send enough of it back, but it’s not guilt that prompts me to recommend his bloggage of Blago, which has been truly inspired — from an over/under estimate on use of the word “people” in a particular interview (he set the bar at 23, which turned out to be waaaaay low, as the guv dropped the p-bomb 73 times), to this analysis of yet another set of pet phrases. This particular public embarrassment was made for blogging, and you could do far worse. Go see Eric today.
In the Department of Other Shoes, I hesitate to link to this because it won’t mean anything to readers outside of Detroit, and those who know about it don’t need the prompt, but: As usual, the sex scandal is only the appetizer for the money scandal, as we are finding out in regard to city administration. This place makes Chicago look like Minnesota.
Short shrift today, but we’re in the midst of another snowstorm — it does, literally, look like Minnesota at the moment — and I have to go deal with it. New question: Will the snowblower fling the dog poo from the driveway, left there because the snow’s too deep for the little guy to find his usual grassy spots? I’ll keep you posted.