I was reading a story the other day about the possibility of Detroit getting a Whole Foods. Yes, the city infamous for not having a Kroger may well be getting a Whole Paycheck. Anyway, the story quoted a regional operations director for the chain named Red Elk Banks.
Native American names aren’t unheard-of here, but they’re unusual. The Indian tribes around here were so well assimilated that the tribe members tend to have names like everyone else’s. But just for the hell of it, I punched Red Elk Banks into the big G.
And whaddaya know, he’s a son of legendary Native American activist Dennis Banks. If Wikipedia is to be trusted, the elder Banks had six children — Janice, Darla, Deanna Jane and Dennis James, born 1962-64; Red Elk, born 1970; and Tatanka Wanbli, born 1971. It’s not often that you see a social movement that drapes so neatly over a watershed like that. I like the difference between the 1970 and ’71 models, between an Indian name rendered in English and Indian name, period.
The reporter called him “Elk Banks” on second reference. That’s wrong, don’t you think?
One of my first encounters with the simmering temper of our own Kirk, who was for decades a powerful force for correct usage on the Columbus Dispatch copy desk, was when a reporter turned in a story from the Ohio State Fair. It quoted a native American named something like “John Yellow Bird,” followed by the phrase, “(his real name).”
Sometimes I think the next time I see Kirk he’s going to have one of those forehead calluses like the crazier al-Qaeda chieftains have, from praying so often. Only his will be from smashing his head against his desk. Although he’s mellowed considerably.
What’s your Indian name? (Speaking of ethnic insensitivity.) I claim …Nancy Chickadee. Lately Alan’s been working one of his industrious little projects around here, trying to attract more black-capped chickadees to our feeder. It’s been an enormous success, and last evening the dogwood was alive with all their yakking, which is not why Alan calls them Nancy-birds, but what the hell, I’ll take the name.
(He calls them Nancy-birds for their two-note song, which I’ve always sounds to me like your mother calling you home for dinner: Nan-cy…din-ner.)
I have to leave early today, and translate an intern’s story into English. I have but one bit of bloggage, thanks to my Facebook friend Neil Steinberg, who is walking down memory lane via the newly digitized Chicago Reader archive. He flagged one of his old pseudonymous Bob Watch columns, about Bob Greene, of course. It’s a goodie, Bob enjoying a baseball strike:
Bob has hied himself to Sarasota, Florida, where he wanders giddily through the abandoned White Sox training center, admiring a red hose, “faded to near-pink on the grass.” Other objects–a batter’s cage, a wooden picnic bench, a glob of paint, a bird–also catch his attention.
There are no seasoned athletes to make rude noises or hurl insults in his direction, and Bob likes it. “Baseball’s message is clearest during moments when there’s no one on the field,” he writes. The next day, he fingers blank jerseys and eagerly awaits the arrival of the nonentity scabs who will wear them in shame.
That guy had such a thin bag of tricks. Those observations of utterly mundane details — the hose, the bench — is vintage Bob. In some ways, I wish he’d write more often, so I could make more fun of him.
And in keeping with our recent discussions, Alan had lunch at a waterfront restaurant yesterday, and overheard this bit of conversation from a nearby table: “New-plane smell is even more intoxicating than new-car smell.” Oh rly?
See you Thursday.