The Great Blizzard of 1978

One of my favorite internet stops is the Cubby-Blue blog by Tim Souers.  Tim is an excellent artist, a passionate Cubs fan, and a creative genius.  Three days ago he posted illustrated instructions for making Banoffee pie. Part of the process calls for whipping your own whipped cream.  This led to my posting the following story in the comments.


A long time ago…it was my first year out of Indiana U., living in married housing (my bride still being in school) and working as a supervisor in one of the dorm cafeterias.

The Great Blizzard of ’78 arrived. I walked to work through snow up to my armpits. Given the weather few (if any) other full time employees made it in. But the student workers were available. My job was to trim the menu to what the student workers could prepare without the help of full time staff.

The desert menu called for zebra pudding which is chocolate graham crackers lined up on edge with whipped cream in between and then cut on a diagonal. The whipped cream was made on site. I gave the student the go ahead to make it and a bit of instruction (not quite the blind leading the blind…a few gallons of whipping cream and a bunch of sugar in the floor mixer and whip til it peaks).

A few minutes later I returned to see how it was going. We shut the mixer off and checked if it peaked and it just about did and I said “another minute” and we turned it on and I turned around from that huge bowl full of white fluffy whipped cream to some paper on a clipboard on a stainless steel table and talked about something or other.

I turned back around and the bowl was no longer full of white fluffy whipped cream. No, it had collapsed and was now a smaller (but still large) quantity of butter.

No zebra pudding was served that day and the desert/pastry chef had less need of butter or sugar for a couple of weeks.

I Guess Sports Are Not So Important After All

The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette ran an article recently noting that Indiana University ranks in the top ten among all U.S. colleges and universities in private-sector gifts and grants in fiscal year 2010 (who’s fiscal year is not clear, seem like there could be several different ones involved).

Given that I attended I.U., I think this is pretty cool.  I must admit I find it a bit hard to believe, but hey, who am I to say.

The really interesting part of this is that I.U. has achieved this level of  gifts while both the football and the basketball teams suck (there is no other way to say it).


Yesterday I slept late.  Late even for me.  So I ate a late, light breakfast and made it through most of the afternoon without thinking about food.  By suppertime I was hungry.  I could feel the emptiness of my stomach.  I was reminded of the first time in my life that I felt hunger.

I was 21 years old.

I had stayed at Indiana University in Bloomington for the summer to take a couple of classes.  I believe the dorms were all closed for the summer so I sublet a trailer and spent what amounted to a mostly miserable summer.  I took a couple of classes, but I did not get a job so I was dependent on money from home.

I should point out that the U.S. Post Office routinely scanned the mail from my parents to me.  If the scan revealed a check to be in the envelope, then the letter was shelved for a few days before delivery.  When no check was present, the letter arrived in my mail box the day after it was mailed.  I know this makes me sound like a conspiracy nut (which I’m not despite my belief that Oswald did not act alone) and a bit paranoid (but when everyone is out to get you, you won’t care what you sound like either).

Anyways, checks always seemed to take awhile.  Added to that was the problem that I spent my money poorly.  I blew it on, gulp, comic books and Coca-Cola.  There, I’ve admitted it.  Sad but true.  I have boxes of comic books in the garage to prove it.   Don’t worry, I already gave the few that had any value to my son.

Anyways, I was dimly aware that I managed my money poorly, so I tried to delay asking for money as long as possible.  At one point that summer, I went though my money quicker than usual and so I delayed the call home longer than usual.  And just to keep the roll going the Post Office shelved the letter longer than usual.

I ran out of food.

If you’ve read this far, it is probably not a surprise to you that I grew up in a reasonably well to do household and that my existence had been somewhat pampered (in spite of the part time job throughout high school) up to that point.  As a result, I had no clue that I could have found some one willing to feed me (at least, I assume that is true).

The only edible thing left in the trailer was Cool Whip.  I ate that.

I was beginning to feel a bit weak and I dreamed of stacks of pancakes, of which I am not all that fond.

And I thought about how I had never experienced hunger before.  Sure, I had used the word, but only in the sense that it seemed everyone used the word:  it’s been three or four hours since I ate so it is time to eat so I am hungry.  That was all the word meant to me, that it was time to eat.

After a few days, the check arrived and I still had the strength to buy groceries.   For some reason, the urge to eat pancakes had passed, so I spared myself that.

And despite yesterday, I have never felt true hunger since.

Knock on wood.   (I always hit my knuckles on my head with that phrase since one can never be sure of the composition of objects that once upon a time were reliably wooden.  I do not doubt the woodenness of my head).

A Time I Spoke Stupidly

I can not believe I did not think of this a couple of days ago.

My senior year at Indiana University (1977), I managed a job as a part time supervisor in the MRC/LLC dorm cafeteria.   There were a few less than kind things that could be said of me back then (and to this day?), but the pertinent info for this story is that I was a bit of a fascist in so far as that means I did not yet understand that rules were meant to be broken.

I was a hard ass, always trying to enforce every rule at all times.  It is not beyond the pale that students were making fun of me behind my back (I don’t think they were, but it’s possible).

Of course, the students, being college students, pretty much never heard of a rule that they didn’t think existed so to be broken.

In spite of that set up, my memory of that job is not dominated by conflict between me and everyone else.  In fact, I only remember a couple of times that things got out of hand.  Once was when some students were attempting to smuggle food out of the cafeteria to eat on the ride home.  In my memory, one student attempted to toss a bag of food over my head to another student waiting outside the dining hall.  I intercepted the bag, but the activity led to the door (a beautiful old wooden door) sustaining some damage.

I do not remember what led to the second incident.  I remember a couple of students on the other side of the counter and I was becoming exasperated with whatever the situation was.  After some “discussion”, I finally said “You people!”, meaning “students.”  The problem was the students I was talking too were African-American.

They understandably reacted a bit negatively to my statement and asked what I meant by it.  I responded “Students.”  One of them started accusing me of bringing race into the discussion and I promptly replied that I was not the first one to bring up race.  Apparently my sincerity shined through because they let it go pretty quickly (more quickly than I deserved…I may have been sincere, but it was still stupid of me).

I’m just happy that for talking stupidly I did not have to pay the penalty of having to drink a Bud Light.  Gaaa!


I have always been amazed at how easy it is to see a face in what is really a random “pattern”.  Clouds, tree bark, weird textile prints are just a few examples of where a “face” can be found.

Back in the mid-seventies, when I was attending Indiana University, an artist visited campus. (Well, probably a few artists over the years I was there, but I was only aware of one).  I do not remember his name, but I do remember watching him do his thing in the hallway of the student union.

He had a table set up displaying a collection of recent drawings.  They were very small, maybe three inches square and there was probably fifty of them.  All but three or four were faces.

His schtick at the time was taking a small piece of paper, laying a couple of conte pencils on the paper, placing another sheet of paper on top, pressing his hand on the stack and rotating his hand.  This resulted in some random marks on the paper.  Then he would look at the random marks, see a picture and add a line, some definition, etc. to bring the picture out.

One can see why so much of his work turned out to be faces.

He did a demonstration while a group of students watched.  He stacked up his paper and conte, rubbed it with his hand, and presented us with the raw “drawing”.   I clearly saw a small stone cottage with a garden in front and a stone wall in front of the garden with a gate on the right and a path to the cottage door.   He asked the opinion of the attractive girl standing next to me who saw, surprise, surprise, a face!

Today Althouse linked to Accidental Mysteries which has a post about a French artist who makes faces out of toilet paper tubes.  I find them more impressive than the artist I saw at IU thirty some years ago, even if too many of them look like a George Bush.

My Time to Waste