Vonnegut in Indianapolis

 

This dice mug reminds me of Kurt Vonnegut's artwork. - tangledpasta.net
This dice mug reminds me of Kurt Vonnegut’s artwork. – tangledpasta.net

By Mary Anna Violi | @MaryAnnaVioli

Last week I traveled to the Indianapolis area. It felt liberating to spend time with family Monday through Friday during a non-holiday time. My dear sister-in-law and I zipped around having fine adventures. One place I had longed to visit was the Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library in downtown Indianapolis. The Mayor of Indianapolis declared 2017 the Year of Vonnegut, in Vonnegut’s hometown. Each month events related to the writer and artist take place in various venues across town: http://www.vonnegutlibrary.org/year-of-vonnegut/.

We set out on Tuesday morning with high expectations, all of which were met.It is a wonderful museum, full of light to cheer visitors, and with a knowledgeable tour guide full of Vonnegut lore. We learned several facts about the Vonnegut family, too: Grandfather Bernard Vonnegut was an architect who designed several prominent buildings in Indianapolis: The Athenaeum, The Fletcher Trust, and the Indiana Memorial Union [IMU] on the campus of Indiana University [IU] Bloomington. I spent a lot of years on the IU Bloomington campus, unaware of Kurt Vonnegut’s family connection to the IMU. Kurt was a prisoner of war [POW] during World War II, held captive in Dresden, Germany during the bombing of Dresden. He survived by hiding in a meat locker in the slaughterhouse where he was held prisoner. When Kurt returned to the United States still a soldier, he went to his family home, on leave for Mother’s Day in 1944. He soon learned his mother had committed suicide the night before.

First editions of Vonnegut’s work such as Slaughterhouse-Five, based on his POW experiences in Dresden, Breakfast of Champions, and my personal favorite, Cat’s Cradle, are housed in the museum. Other works abound in the museum such as an impressive online resource of all Vonnegut’s work, created several years ago by a group of Ball State University students under the aegis of their professor. So It Goes is the annual Journal of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library. The typewriter on which Vonnegut wrote his books, plays, and poems is one of the more intriguing holdings; he never did compose his work on a computer. Equally enthralling were his original works of art on the museum’s walls. Two tickets also on display were to a speech he was to have given at Butler University several weeks after his 2007 death. While I had seen some of Vonnegut’s art, as well as letters of rejection at the IU Lilly Library on the Bloomington campus, the museum in Indianapolis proved a further treasure trove of Vonnegut’s work, of his family, and of the wonder that was Kurt Vonnegut. His messages of tolerance, acceptance, and peace ring true today.

Ciao for now.

Memorial Day Rain

 

Memorial Day at my parents' monument - tangledpasta.net
Memorial Day at my parents’ monument – tangledpasta.net

 

By Mary Anna Violi | @Mary Anna Violi

The rain awakened me this morning.  The loud “plunk, plunk, plunk” of fat raindrops on the patio furniture refused to abate so I could further indulge my drowsiness.  Once again I had slept through the clock radio blathering of NPR informing me of tragic events, violent acts, and other random tales from around the world.   I rouse myself out of bed to escape hearing about the latest act of depravity

Yesterday we had mulled over attending the annual Memorial Day parade in our town.  It’s a humdinger of a parade:  Colorful and lively with our hometown high school band playing joyously as we cheer and applaud along the parade route.  It reminds me of The Music Man. Yet on this soggy Memorial Day morn, the parade will not materialize.  As a former band member myself, I understood how much effort went into the parade, and how local folks counted on the parade.  I felt a twinge of sadness as Mother Nature put the kibosh on today’s festivities.

The day before we had decorated my parents’ monument.  The Veterans had already placed a U.S. flag next to my father’s name.  Shortly after my father’s death seven years ago, the Veterans fastened a large plaque to the back of the pale pink marble headstone acknowledging his military service during World War II.  The monument was installed twelve years ago after my mother’s sudden death.

The sedum I had planted several years ago and the sedum I planted last autumn with my Houston friends Juliet and her husband Mark, himself a Veteran, looked strong and vibrant.  The grossly overgrown shrub that Mark had furiously whittled into a tall narrower shape exuded renewed health.  Now we hung two small hanging baskets of cheery red geraniums onto the ornate trellis next to the headstone.  We brushed off grass clippings the caretaker’s lawn mower had tossed onto the foundation.  We picked up bits of Nature’s debris scattered around the site – twigs, weeds, and leaves.  We performed the same acts for my late uncles’ monuments next to my parents’.

On Decoration Day, as it used to be called, my father used to tend the graves of his in-laws, and that of the grandfather-in-law he never knew, but who, like my father, was an Italian immigrant.  A profusion of red, white, and pink impatiens annuals carpeted the grounds of our departed.  My father nurtured the sandy soil, treating it regularly to prod it into growth.  His was the green thumb of the quintessential Italian gardener.  My own genetic makeup lacks the green thumb gene; consequently, I plant perennials instead.

At least there are bright red geraniums and glossy green sedum, an American flag, and a perimeter swept clean surrounding my parents’ monument.   Thus on this overcast Memorial Day, come rain or shine, I laud our Veterans and the work they do.  Thank you.

Ciao for now.

Veteran’s Day, With a Dash of Panache

When my father was drafted into the U.S Army in during World War II, he posted a sign in his shoe shop window announcing that the business would be closed until he returned from the war.  Papa had been in the United States for ten years, having arrived on Ellis Island in 1933 from Southern Italy.

Ellis Island
Ellis Island (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Why did you come here during the Depression?” I used to ask him.

“It was-a still-a okay to work in-a the United-a-States-a.  Italy no gotta nothin’ in-a 19-a-33.  It was-a hell-a,” he told me.

Papa was first sent to Texas for basic training.

“It was-a hell-a in-a that heat,” he observed.

Farm land in Texas panhandle near Amarillo, Te...
Farm land in Texas panhandle near Amarillo, Texas. Santa Fe R.R. trip (LOC) (Photo credit: The Library of Congress)

He was then transferred to Louisiana.

“Oh, my achin’-a back,” he lamented.  “It was a swamp-a and-a humidity to kill-a horse-a,” he remarked.

Louisiana Swamp
Louisiana Swamp (Photo credit: MSMcCarthy Photography)

“Why did you have to go in the Army?  You served in the Italian Army,” I argued.

“Listen-a to me-a, Honey.  It’s a honor to serve-a you country.  America is-a my-a country.  My-a country-a need-a me.  I go-a to-a the Army, ” Papa solemnly said.

Patriotism was a duty as he saw it.

During the Vietnam War, I attended a Big 10 college where anti-war demonstrations were common.  When I locked horns with Papa over the Vietnam draft dodgers, he was unmoved.

“I no-a say this-a war is-a right.  Soldiers-a die, and that’s-a bad.  But we-a in it and that’s-a that.”

I loved my father dearly, even when we differed in our attitudes about U.S. foreign policy.  He had an unshakable faith in the country that allowed him to realize his dreams of work, family, and college-educated children.  He proudly voted, he loyally served his city, his adopted country, his church, and his family.

U.S. Flag
U.S. Flag (Photo credit: vmf-214)

Papa was a true patriot.  He was a hero who never let me or anyone else down.  On this Veteran’s Day, Papa, I can still hear your voice ringing in my ears:

“God-a Bless America!

And all of Her Veterans.

Ciao for now.