I became familiar with the name James Alexander Thom at age 12, when my mother handed me Follow the River, his novel about the true ordeal of Mary Ingles, the white woman who was kidnapped by Shawnee Indians in 1755 and then made her way home with the Ohio River as her guide.
The book resonated with my mother and me -- it was such a powerful testament and tribute to one woman's strength and courage -- and from our multiple readings, the paperback cover fell off at one point. I know my mother ended up buying a new copy later, but I still have that one worn copy on my shelf in my childhood bedroom at my parents' house.
At every turn we hear how things are so much better for the LGBT community. People say that they feel safer, and we hear that many students seem to think that all is well. We also know that there are civil rights and legal protections laws being enacted in various cities and states across the country, and polls seem to support an overall improvement in acceptance of lesbian and gay folks and their families.
While we certainly don't want to discourage anyone, we always keep in mind that students and others of us are currently safe within the walls of an accepting university and academic community, and other employment venues are not so accommodating. And there are still more states without protections and partnership sanctions than there are with them.
Hence, being the skeptics that we are, we wonder if all is as good as it seems on the surface.
When IU senior Brian M. Frange came to IU in 2004, the improvisational comedy group Awkward Silence was born. Frange, along with six other IU students, performs every Thursday at 9 p.m. at the Indiana Memorial Union.
"Improv is all made up on the spot," Frange said, "but there are a lot of rules that must be followed."
Frange teaches his cast that to form a strong bond with one another and to perform well, everyone must give "relentless support, no matter what somebody does onstage," he said, "and consider every idea the best you've ever heard."
Sanae Sentissi, the owner of Casablanca Cafe, moved into the blue house at Fourth and Grant streets before the area became known for its ethnic restaurants. But no matter where she lived, she couldn't completely take herself away from Morocco.
Her husband at the time helped some of their friends open Puccini's, another ethnic restaurant on Fourth Street. After he quit working at Puccini's, they opened Casablanca in 1994, bringing a taste of Morocco to Fourth Street.
Sentissi was one of the first on Fourth Street to share ethnic culture through cuisine, helping make the tree-lined avenue the ethnic restaurant row that Bloomington knows today.
"There was only Siam House back then," she says.
Ann Kreilkamp isn't the hunched old hag most people think of when they hear the word "crone."
In fact, it's this unappealing image of aged womanhood that Kreilkamp - a spritely, bespectacled woman with short, frenzied hair and seemingly boundless energy - is bent on doing away with.
Next year, the Bloomington resident will launch Crone: Women Coming of Age, a semiannual publication dedicated to declaring and exploring the ways and wisdom of advanced womanhood.
"The crone is that part of us that is wise, and is authentic, and has learned from experience," says Kreilkamp, who has a Ph.D. in philosophy from Boston University and now lives in Bloomington.
Indianapolis is home to an extraordinary, off-the-beaten-path museum on the grounds of what was once Central State Hospital - the city's sprawling Victorian-era institution for the mentally ill. The Indiana Medical History Museum (IMHM) is the site of what functioned as the hospital's pathology unit for decades.
In an effort to reverse the inertia of deeply entrenched beliefs and mores regarding 19th-century psychiatry, Dr. George Edenharter, visionary and Central State superintendent from 1894 to 1923, established the pathology building in 1895.
"Dr. Edenharter was very aware that science was the wave of the future for psychiatric care," explained IMHM executive director Virginia Terpening. "The plan was to use the science and laboratory method and other means to try and figure out the causes of mental illness. This was very much 20th-century, cutting-edge psychiatry."
Blood, sweat and tears. That is what the orchard bees are after, and there's plenty of it to go around. For Andy, Amy, Grace and Willa it comes with the territory. They are the Hamilton family - the owners of Musgrave Orchard and the suppliers of fresh produce to the Bloomington community.
Day in and day out they work with one another. Pressing cider, selling goods, picking vegetables and taking care of animals mark
the minutes and hours on the clock.
Their goal is simple, and, as Andy likes to put it, they are "just trying to keep an old business alive."
Since the 1930s, the days have been long and the hours have been short for those who work at Musgrave Orchard. Lester Musgrave originally owned the farm during the Great Depression. Eventually, his son Robert gained control and sold the property to the Hamilton family four years ago.
For several years, I've wanted to attend the famed late-night showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I can't tell you why exactly, but there was always something appealing about dressing up like a nutcase and throwing toast at a movie screen, with die-hard fans shouting and singing along to every campy line.
Well, I finally popped my "Rocky" cherry. Granted, it wasn't a midnight showing, but I dressed up, I threw things, I yelled the appropriate lines during the movie -- and I had one hell of a time. Decadent doesn't even begin to describe it.
In case you don't know the story, The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a two-hour long, 1975 camp-fest starring Tim Curry as the transvestite scientist Dr. Frank-N-Furter who hosts a stranded couple in his mansion one rainy night.
I had never been to a pow-wow, but I'd heard plenty about them. Most of what I'd been told could be roughly summarized in three words: fun, but fake. I'd always been attracted to Native American culture, its philosophy, its worldview, its simplicity. I was eager to experience it, curious to know if I could still feel it alive. So, when I arrived at the Crossroads Competition Pow-Wow at the Monroe County Fairgrounds in Bloomington, I was both excited with anticipation and dreading what I could find.
The first thing I heard was the sound of the flute - magical and ethereal, it emitted a simple, peaceful melody, the long notes almost trance-inducing. I followed its sound, mesmerized. And then the magic broke, for I found myself in an events pavilion - bright fluorescent lights shone uncomfortably above my head, and the concrete floor felt unnatural beneath my feet. It was supposed to rain, so the pow-wow was moved to a rain site. We hadn't had a good rain for more than a month.
Ten hours before Hoosier football kick-off and the beer was already rolling in. As the emblazoned T-shirts worn that day by a contingent of IU coeds accurately proclaimed, "Win or Loose, We're Gonna Booze."
And so began another season of IU football and a tradition of tailgating that involves unlimited binge drinking, general lawlessness and, strangely enough, IU's annual Youth Football Day.
Kids attending Youth Football Day probably didn't make it into the Binge Pit though. It's that anything-goes stretch of turf next to 17th Street and Memorial Stadium that on game day resembles a macabre version of spring break at Panama City Beach.