Day 543: Bean Blossom

Laetitia and her group spent most of the day in Brown County State Park hiking in Stony Lonesome, an appellation that aptly describes the area. It’s the title of a 1970s Indiana poetry magazine from nearby Bloomington and the name of another southern Indiana town.

Late that afternoon, the group arrived in Bean Blossom, an unincorporated town near Bean Blossom Creek, both of which were named for an area man of days of yore whose surname was Beanblossom. The small community is best known for its Bill Monroe Memorial (Bluegrass) Festival and for t-shirts that read “Beautiful Downtown Bean Blossom,” a parody of a favorite line from the 1960s television show Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In.

Laetitia wasn’t sure whether the story a local fellow told at happy hour was true or whether he was “pulling the leg,” to use a local expression, of the female tourist he was having a conversation with, but it didn’t matter. It made a good limerick.

Young Jeremy spoke of the thrill
Of finding a fresh new roadkill
On the streets of Bean Blossom
Be it groundhog or possum
For a stew he could eat to his fill.

Day 542: Gnaw Bone

Ask someone who has never been to Indiana about the state, and you’re likely to get a variety of opinions. Those who live on either coast in the United States view it as being somewhere in “flyover land.” In Paris, at least some of the French see it as “Indian country,” and there is a restaurant chain called “Indiana” that features Tex-Mex food, which the French seem to associate with Indians. Others who view it as flat Midwestern farmland would be surprised to learn that the southern Indiana is rustic and quite scenic.

Laetitia and her group began the day with a ride on the French Lick Scenic Railway and spent the rest of the day hiking and bird watching in Hoosier National Forest. That afternoon they reached their destination for the evening, Gnaw Bone, Indiana. The town’s unusual name appears to be a corruption of its original French name, Narbonne. Gnaw Bone is the home of Dances with Dirt, which sponsors rugged foot races. It also claims to be “The Flea Market Capital of the World.” Most of Laetitia’s guests were neither ultra-marathon nor flea market types. Laetitia had chosen Gnaw Bone because of its proximity to Brown County State Park, where they planned to hike the next day.

The converse of the old proverb, “It’s an ill wind that blows no good” is “It’s a good wind that blows no ill.” So it is that advances in new technology may prove to be a bane as well as a boon. This was the gist of a conversation at a table of several young men Laetitia overheard at happy hour. She distilled into the limerick of the day from the complaint of one of them who had just moved with his wife to Gnaw Bone from El Cajon, California.

A young wife from the town of Gnaw Bone
Talks incessantly on her cell phone
And does her husband vex
When she gabs during sex
With a friend who’s back in El Cajon.

Day 541: French Lick

As Laetitia walked down Raglan Road toward the Emerald Victorian in the early dawn hour, a curious thought crossed her mind from her recent tour of Cincinatti. She wondered whether Bailey and Hurst had found the Licking River. After she put a pot of Sumatran dark roast on to brew, she pulled Rude World from the library shelf and perused its index. She found Beaverlick, Big Bone Lick, and Knob Lick, but no Licking River. There was also French Lick, a name that had a familiar ring to it. When she searched her memory, she remembered meeting a couple from French Lick, Indiana, when she led a tour in Bay Minette, Louisiana. She recalled telling them she would tour their hometown when the time came. She checked a map and found that it was not far from Cincinnati, so she decided to go there today.

As she planned the trip to French Lick, Laetitia thought, “The French seem to have a penchant for licking.” The French phrase for what would be called “window shopping” in the United States, is léche-vitrines, which translates as “window licking.” What is now French Lick, Indiana, was the site of a trading post during the seventeenth-century, when the French occupied the American Midwest. The town’s name came from the French trading post and a salt lick that was close by. Later, a spa and casino was built around a nearby mineral spring that reputedly had medicinal properties.

After leaving Cincinnati, Laetitia and her group stopped at Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuge for bird watching before proceeding on to their destination. They were headed for French Lick Resort, where most of her group had expressed an interest in using the spa. When they stopped for lunch in a small-town storefront restaurant, Laetitia was close enough to overhear the conversation of several middle-aged women in a nearby booth who had heard wonderful things about the French Lick spa and were going there for the first time. The waiter for both Laetitia’s table and the ladies’ booth was a local lad named Rick who was in his late teens. When Sal, the loudest of the women in the booth, asked Rick if he knew the way to French Lick and went on to talk about the wonderful things she had heard about its services, he blushed and then smirked as he gave her directions. The conversation gave Laetitia the limerick of the day.

“Do you know the way to French Lick?”
Said Sal to a waiter named Rick,
“They say it’s nirvana.”
“No it’s Indiana,”
Said he with a smirk that was quick.

Day 540: Balazs of Glory

As Laetitia unlocked the ornate wooden door of the Emerald Victorian and started a pot of coffee brewing, she was in a good mood. This was another almost-day-off. She sat in a large, overstuffed chair in the library waiting for the sound of exploding steam to signal the end of the brewing process. As she looked at the paneled wall, she saw something she hadn’t noticed before. Hanging on the wall was a framed image of a circular image silkscreened in black on white glossy paper. As Laetitia looked more closely, she saw that it contained a cryptic message: “Transcend the Bullshit.” She went into the kitchen, came back with a steaming cup of coffee, punched the phrase into the Mind’s Eye computer, and found that Pacific Northwest artist Harold Balazs (pronounced “blaze”), created the image in the 1970s. The phrase is a favorite of his. The image is also found near the top of a large outdoor sculpture he did in Spokane called the “Lantern.”

Laetitia wondered why she hadn’t seen the silkscreen print before. She spent an hour or two in the library every day. Was it there before today? She had no idea what went on at the Emerald Victorian after she left. It was always spotlessly clean, and obviously someone came in daily and left a packet of freshly roasted coffee beans. She thought the materials in the library changed from time to time, but she wasn’t sure.

What is Balazs trying to tell us when he uses this slightly rude phrase, “Transcend the Bullshit?” Several bloggers attempted to describe what it meant to them, but to Laetitia the phrase seemed to defy definition. It is about trying to rise above the soul-numbing aspects of adult life? Is it about seeking truth? Is it what scientists try to achieve when they peer-review articles submitted to journals? Was it what journalists tried to achieve when they used to verify information before publishing it? On a personal level, is it any different from Joseph Campbell’s exhortation, “Follow your bliss,” or Jesus’ advice to his disciples in Verse 6 of the Gospel of Thomas: “Do not lie; and that which you hate, do not do?” Laetitia still had to write a limerick so she did, posted it, and went out to enjoy the rest of the day.

The art paragon Harold Balazs
Made designs that encrypted a phrase
Telling our human species
“Transcend bovine feces,”
Well, not quite, for I paraphrase.