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“Best Lodge by a Dam Site” — Official Shelbyville Moose Lodge 1294 slogan

The Shelbyville Moose Lodge was where my sister got that scar on her chin.

She and I talked about it last night, and neither of us could remember the actual event: Debra falling off the bar stool, blood flowing everywhere, Mom saving the day (or night) with a couple of butterfly Band-Aids. (“I probably should’ve had stitches,” Debra said, but I disagree: To this day, I’m convinced any wound can be closed with a butterfly Band-Aid or two.)

Debra must have been 3 or younger, and neither of us can figure out why she would have been left unattended, on a bar stool, for even a second. And where was I? How could I have missed out on all the action?

Still, this is our first recollection of the Moose … even though, technically, neither of us can actually remember it.

My most recent memory of the Moose is attending Roommate and Brad’s wedding reception there and catching the bouquet. Didn’t require quite as athletic a move as when I snagged the bouquet at Patti and Bob’s reception — that one included a spin around the pole in the middle of the room and, if I’m not mistaken, a leap over the gaggle of wannabe brides around me. (The irony of someone who never really plans/expects to be married — or, more precisely, to be legally married — being so proficient at bouquet-catching is something I can appreciate. Fully.)

Bobby referred to the Moose as Dad and Helen’s “second home.” I would certainly agree it was Dad’s “home away from home,” even during those rare times when he also visited the American or the Spigot. If I’m not mistaken, Dad was an officer at the Moose, and I’m certain he was editor of the local Moose newsletter.

My stepdad liked the place, too; in fact, the only one who didn’t appreciate it was my mom, and that’s primarily because she neither drinks nor smokes, so she didn’t like being around people who were drinking (including my dad AND my stepdad), nor did she enjoy smelling like an ashtray. Plus, who knows, perhaps she had bad memories of my sister doing a header off the bar stool?!

I liked the Moose. I liked getting free Cokes and playing pool and basically running amok, through the bar and up and down the stairs, chasing or being chased or playing hide-and-go-seek. I liked pulling tabs and playing bingo, back before someone came along and said you had to be 18 to pull tabs or play bingo — or maybe someone had already said that, but the Moose merely took a little longer to observe the rules, who knows? I liked trying to sneak a drink of Lucy Herrick’s “coffee,” which I later learned was laced with a wee bit o’ whiskey.

For many years, the Moose hosted post-Prom actitivies — which, again venturing into the realm of the ironic, were intended to keep kids from drinking alcohol. After the dance my sophomore or junior year, we went bowling for a while and then headed to the Moose to hang out for a bit of alcohol-free entertainment. Yes, it was possible to have a good time without getting drunk.

One time, our handbell choir actually went and performed a mini-concert at the Moose — and the people there LOVED us! (Of course, we were really good, back in those days; plus, who doesn’t love listening to handbells?)

I haven’t been to the Moose for more than 15 years, but I’m pretty sure I’m going to miss seeing it next time I drive on Main Street and take a glance down Broadway.

Yes, I’ve got some items to post, but now it’s bedtime and I’m too sleepy to do so. Despite the fact that — or perhaps because — I took a nap this evening, sometime between 6:30 and 7:30, mostly to celebrate finishing that DAMN special section and also because, heh, I was sleepy!

I want to write about the overnight fire that destroyed the Shelbyville Moose Lodge  because, of all the places I remember from my childhood, the Moose is one that I remember most. It was my dad and stepmom’s true “home away from home,” so I have plenty to say about it, good and bad. Mostly good, it seems; isn’t that what time does to memories, sometimes?

I also want to mention how much I am enjoying The Riches, my newfound guilty pleasure Monday nights at 9. (I kicked CSI: Miami to the curb … for the time being, anyway.) That, too, however, will have to wait until tomorrow. Or some other time.

Oh, and now I’m suddenly craving a glass of milk. Cold, cold milk. And of course I’m out of milk.

Jenn's Darkroom

So, last Friday, Jenn and Brandee dropped by to see me at the news office. And to pick up some supplies from Jenn’s Darkroom.

Now, it’s not officially Jenn’s Darkroom, but Jenn was the last person to serve as our darkroom technician/photo assistant before we went completely digital, so I figure she might as well get the dubious honor of having the darkroom named after her.

The place is a mess and smells kinda bad, mostly thanks to various toxic chemicals spilled on the floor and washed down the drain, but there are memories in that room, too. The first time I laid eyes on Jenn, she was standing in the darkroom. She’d started working there while I was on vacation or something, so she’d had a chance to meet everyone else but me by then … and I was the one who had the reputation of being a little, uhm, demanding when it came to my pictures.

(Perhaps my own demandingness in certain areas is one reason that I tend to adore that quality in others. Particularly women. Go figure.)

We were instant friends, though.

“You taught me everything I know about developing film,” she told me the other day, and I had to smile because I didn’t remember teaching her anything, other than following the time chart when it came to using different developers (Acufine for the film I pushed to 1600, D-76 for the 400).

Long before Jenn came to work at the news office, way before we even had a photo assistant, I spent hours in that darkroom. Back then, our paper came out late afternoons, Monday through Friday, and midday on Saturday; I’d come in after the football and basketball games on Friday nights and stay until about 2 a.m., developing film and printing pictures, just so I’d have everything ready for when I came in four hours later to put together Saturday’s sports pages.

I was a lot younger then.

I kept finding things I wanted Jenn to take with her, including some negatives of pictures she and Brett and I had shot of me and her and Brett, a few years ago, on some random Friday night.

Looking at Negatives

Much like last weekend when I happened upon Love Actually first thing Saturday a.m., this Saturday ended up being a good movie day, too. Mostly during early afternoon on a day that was far too cold for playing — or even venturing! — outside, I discovered that two of my “old favorites,” Frequency and Big Fish, were playing on USA Network.

I fell in love with Frequency not long after it came out. I’d been wanting to see it but hadn’t managed to when it was in the theater, so, one Saturday night, The Lovely and I rented it. I had no idea how much the plot device of modern-day John Sullivan being able to communicate with his father, circa-1960s Frank Sullivan, via Frank’s ham radio would remind me of my own father and his love of CB radios.

Dad — better known in those days by his CB handle, “The Hustler” — had just about every gadget imaginable as part of his “base unit,” a Cobra model something-or-something, call letters KCPO362, boosted by a 50-foot tower on top of his double-wide. He gave Debra and me a 3-channel walkie-talkie to start out with, then a mobile (car) unit and then one of his old bases when he upgraded to a new unit.

He would talk on that thing day and night. If we couldn’t get ahold of him on the phone, we’d try the CB — he was always around.

In Frequency, John Sullivan is a cop who’s a bit of a lost soul, in no small part because he has spent most of his life without his father, a firefighter who died when John was a kid. Once the two make sort of a “back to the future/time-space continuum” connection via the airwaves, though, they are able to change history: John basically saves Frank’s life by telling him to take a different turn during the formerly fatal fire. In doing this, however, they alter other events as well — among them, a rash of serial killings that John, a New York police officer, has been investigating.

All in all, this film is a very good drama, with a fair amount of intrigue mixed in.

Mostly, though, it slays me when Frank tells John he loves him, and John replies, “I’ve missed you so much.”

Big Fish, too, is one of those father/son bonding films. I saw this one during one of my January trips to Indy, and I have to admit, I was underwhelmed by my initial viewing of it. Then, sometime later, I watched it again on TV. And again. And then it all clicked.

Yeah, it’s kind of silly in parts, and it certainly helps if you’re a Billy Crudup fan (which I am, majorly) or a Jessica Lange fan (ditto!) or especially a Ewan McGregor fan (which I am not, necessarily, but I could be … and if I ever get around to watching Moulin Rouge, I’m sure I will be). And the part where Sandra Bloom gets into the tub with Edward and tells him, “I don’t think I’ll every dry out” … whoa. I am slain again.

Good flicks. Good weekend.

Another positive aspect was the Scrabble competition that went on between The Lovely and me. Positive because we had two oh-so-close games, Saturday and Sunday evening, and also because I have finally learned how to score — rather than merely be impressed with my clever use of letters. (Previously, I was a lot like a basketball player who was content to hit a 3-pointer from 30 feet, once a season, as opposed to a true scorer who took the ball to the hole as often as possible, hoping to get fouled every time for a chance to tally more points.)

Now watching: The last few minutes of this week’s Amazing Race All-Stars, mostly ’cause they’re whitewater rafting. Been there, done thatand fell overboard and lived to tell about it! (I was pushed, I tell ya. Pushed!)

I could always tell when my dad had been drinking.

His face got softer, somehow, and his eyes always looked as if they were a little happier. Yet sad. Tired. Watery. I saw him cry a hundred times or more when he was drunk but not once, that I can remember, when he was sober.

During some of my teen-age years, I preferred him drunk. He was easier then: Easier to get along with, easier to talk into letting me have the car. He always acted about half-mad when he hadn’t been drinking, until he got down about half that first vodka and Mountain Dew on the rocks. Then the sarcasm faded and his face relaxed. The buzz was on.

My grandma used to try to convince herself and us that he had “really quit this time.” And Debra and I would nod and agree, and lie, “No,” when she asked us if he’d been drinking last time we were down there. Just to make her feel better. We could tell he had been, though, even by his voice on the telephone — just like we could hear her shaking, over the line, by the in-and-out sound of the phone pressed up against her quivering face.

I used to wonder why he didn’t just give it up. Seemed like all alcohol did for him, aside from convincing him he sounded (and looked) just like Elvis, was make him cry when he thought about the things he shouldn’t have done (like leaving Mom and us) and the things he should’ve (like getting his degree in electronics instead of becoming a mail carrier, which he claimed he’d always hated — more and moreso when he got to the point of going in to work, hungover, every day).

I used to wonder why he didn’t love us enough to quit drinking. Seemed to me that love should have conquered all.

Part of designing my new bloggie includes placing widgets in the sidebar. (That sentence sounds incredibly techno-geeky, dontcha think?!)

Anyhoo, for now, I’ve decided I need to have a calendar there, right near the top of the page … because, let’s face it, I hardly ever know what day it is! (Ask Al or Michelle at work; they are constantly having to fix the datelines on my pages.)

In general, I like calendars. Granted, my desktop calendar at work is still on February 2006, and the ultra-cool calendar that contains neato sayings about journalism and the First Amendment and what-not usually gets updated only every couple of days when Chrissie drops by, but still: I like them. At the moment, I have four calendars at home — one with lighthouses, another with landscapes, one from the Old Farmer’s Almanac and a daily planner chock full o’ photos from the Audobon Society — and I even remembered to turn them over to February (2007!) already.

As for the calendar on my bloggie, I had to decide the day on which to start the week. And, at first, I had Monday because, well, to me, that’s the first (and usually the yuckiest) day of the week. However, every calendar I can think of has Sunday listed as the first day of the week, so I changed it to that.

And when I saw “SMTWTFS” at the top, I had to chuckle.

When I was a kid, a very little kid, my mom had a cloth full-year calendar hanging on the wall in the dining area. The calendar included every month of the year (probably 1971 or 1972 or thereabouts), along with a picture of apples or utensils or eggs or tomatoes or herbs or roosters or some other kitchen-related food/items, I can’t recall, exactly.

I do remember that I knew how to read by then because every morning, whilst eating Cocoa Wheats or toast and hot chocolate for breakfast, I would stare at the calendar, trying to sound out a word with no vowels — “SMTWTFS” — that appeared near the top of each month.

“Smuh-too-whut-fuss” was the best I could ever come up with … and I was pretty sure I’d never heard that word before.

I don’t remember the exact moment when it all clicked, suddenly, and that proverbial light bulb turned on right above my head as I realized those letters stood for the days of the week. It was, however, a moment that ranks right up there with the instant you learn how to tie (I did so whilst wearing my stepbrother’s bathrobe) or tell time or understand why 1 + 1 = 2 but 1 x 1 = 1 or something else that everyone else in the world already understands or knows how to do.

(For the record: A couple of years later when I had my first official eye exam, I tried to read each line of letters on the eye chart as one word, too. The optometrist made me stop and start over again, saying each individual letter out loud.) 🙂

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