My Town Indy Redux

At its inception, I intended this blog to serve different functions, primarily and ad hoc to the main mission of showcasing my writing ability to potential employers or clients.

Lately, I’ve felt an intense need to comment on happenings in my community. Currently unshackled by an official position or title of note, I should be free to speak freely about various wrongs to right with a perspective as a citizen of this great city.

My friends will certainly tell you that I am not wont for opinion.

So, I’ll take my cue from a respected broadcaster from my childhood. Fred Heckman provided daily essays and commentary on WIBC (then on 1070AM) in a segment entitled, “My Town Indy.” Here’s what I wrote about Fred in a September 2002 Indianapolis Monthly article “Gone but not Forgotten”:

In 1993, veteran newsman Fred Heckman “retired” from his job as news director for WIBC, a station where he’d spent almost 32 years broadcasting. “There’s too much giving people what they want to know, not what they need to know,” he said in a December 1993 Star interview, citing the diminishing amount of hared news and increasing Hollywood gossip and fluff.

Heckman was in radio, of sorts, from the start. In the Navy during WWII and Korea, he was radioman focusing on cryptography. Back stateside, he bounced around to several stations before landing at the Indy AM powerhouse. Heckman was revered for his adherence to high news standards, and he demanded the same of his staff. His folksy remembrances in a segment called “My town Indy” became an audience favorite. he returned to WIBC in 1994 when Emmis Communications purchased the station and remained there until just a few month before his death.

While I have no pretensions that my commentary might even match his insight, I’ll proudly emulate a manner of constructive commentary, always with an eye toward making my city better.

So, look for my Circle City commentary here.

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Posted by on November 30, 2011 in My Town Indy Redux


Career Networking Step #1

OK, I know the steps of networking. I’ve been too reticent in using them up to now. I’m sick of navel-gazing introspection and quiet desperation, so I’m going step-by-step.

Career Networking Step #1: Tell your friends and relatives that you’re looking for a job.

Maybe it’s my misguided sense of good ol’ American self-reliant, pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps rugged individualism that has hindered my full-blown admission until now.

I’ve submitted, I’ve interviewed, I’ve second interviewed, I’ve anxiously waited, I’ve scoured job sources, I’ve met with career counselors, I’ve updated my LinkedIn page, I’ve revised and rewritten and customized my résumé. For months, I’ve been suffering this quiet desperation of being fully functional, willing, eager, and ready for employment, to no avail.

I’m tired of it.

So today, I stand up, raise my hand, and, like 9.1 million Americans or more, proclaim, “I need a job. I am a person of great skill and expertise, and your company or organization would be well-served by hiring me.”

I’ve been a helpful, capable, and knowledgeable resource for others seeking a career path.

It’s my turn to use my network.

Next: Career Networking Step #2: The person asks you, “What kind of job are you looking for?”

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Posted by on October 21, 2011 in Hire me Already!


10 Things About Me

Ten Things about Hugh Vandivier

1. I grew up on a farm in Franklin, Indiana, that my family has cash rented for more than a century. My brother and I are the fourth generation to run Midway Farm.

2. I went to Space Camp the second year it opened in Huntsville, Alabama, and I saw the third shuttle mission take off in Florida.

3. I am related to two Indiana governors: Ralph Gates, my mother’s uncle, and Roger D. Branigin, my father’s cousin.

4. My senior year at Wabash, I was student coach on for the swim team that placed 8th at NCAA Division III National Championships at Emory University.

5. I have visited Veere, my family’s ancestral home in the south of The Netherlands.

The port of Veere, a tiny village outside Middelburg in southern Holland.

6. At the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, where I studied media management, I interviewed Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, covered the futures markets in Chicago, covered Capitol Hill, and attended the White House 25th anniversary ceremony honoring the astronauts who first landed on the moon. 

7. I have driven cross-country to Arizona twice and have visited Oahu twice.

8. I have an older sister and a younger brother who both live in Washington, DC. I visit quite often and have attended the Millennial Celebration on the Washington Mall on New Year’s Eve 1999 and the ceremony for the National WWII Memorial. This last trip in August, I visited the new Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. I also have another older sister, who lives outside Sacramento, California, and a younger sister who lives in Jerusalem.

the new Me at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in August after the earthquake and hurricane!

9. I interviewed Hoosier author Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. in 2002 and spoke at the opening of his library in January 2011. (The interview and my story about getting the interview.)

10. I am editing and writing a biography on my father’s cousin Norman, who was lost of the Battle of Midway in WWII. I am writing a proposal for a book on swimming. I’m also tinkering with a short story, a novel, and a screenplay.

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Posted by on October 12, 2011 in Hire me Already!


Facilitating the Network

For the past four years, I have stepped in to help the chapter of Phi Delta Theta at Wabash College. So far, it’s been challenging and rewarding.

Lately, I’m starting to see some positive results.

The house passed a new scholarship program, is working on a new house cleaning initiative, and is developing new community service projects. They’re currently the second cleanest house on campus, they hosted a reception for the Phi Delt Trustees, and they just won the intramural football trophy.

The biggest improvement has come with rush. The house added a larger pledge class this fall to bolster its membership. We’re also working on refocusing our pledgeship and adding in a career component.

One idea I’m employing is to connect start the pledges networking now, while they’re still in school and still exploring careers and majors. I asked them for their intended majors and minors and current career goals, and I matched them up where I could with alumni willing to give them some advice.

Before I hook them up, though, I developed a way for alumni to learn more about them and to supply content to the chapter blog. Rather than write a short bio, which can get kind of boring, I asked them to bullet 10 things about themselves. These could relate to accomplishments, ambitions, family, hobbies, anything. To set an example, I wrote one up about myself  to give them an example.

It’s in the next post.

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Posted by on October 12, 2011 in Better Practices, Hire me Already!


On Loyalty

If I were writing myself into a Greek play, my tragic flaw could well be loyalty.

Jon Tumilson, a Navy SEAL, was one of 30 Americans killed in Afghanistan on Aug. 6 when a rocket-propelled grenade took out a U.S. Chinook helicopter. He was mourned at a service in Rockford, Iowa, attended by 1,500 family members, friends--and Hawkeye, Tumilson's dog.

Am I loyal to a fault?

A while back, The Diane Rehm Show featured Eric Felten, writer of the culture column “Postmodern Times” for The Wall Street Journal. (I would link to his column, but apparently the web person at the WSJ isn’t smart enough to provide a convenient link to all of his columns.) His new book, Loyalty: The Vexing Virtue sounds like an interesting read. One of his conjectures it that even in those instances where loyalty is justified, it often leads to conflict.

Is loyalty a bygone virtue, like chivalry? After all, no one retires from a company with a gold watch. Hell, I think in a very short time anyone retiring of their own accord after 50 years of service from the only company they have ever worked for might make national news.

Unless they happen to have been elected to Congress.

In this cynical world, can we still be loyal? Or do we inevitably end up feeling like cloying romantics, clinging intently to any shred of sentimentality of ideals that remind of us of our once bright-eyed days?

I think a lot about Indianapolis sports fans when I muse about loyalty. For a self-proclaimed “sports town,” we sure have some fair-weather fans. Anyone remember the Pacers? True—or maybe I should say “TruWarier“?—the antics of the team in the middle Aughts did a lot to drive away fans.

Now that Colts fans face a season without future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning, will we soon return to the days where we’ll have to beg fans to meet the attendance number so the game isn’t blacked out?

When Bob Irsay stole the Colts from Baltimore and whisked them to Indy via Mayflower trucks in the middle of the night, my dad bought season tickets. He finally gave up his Purdue season tickets out of frustration. As a non-alumnus, the University gave him worse seats each season he had them. Talk about loyalty.

A small group of DePauw fans remains in the end zone bleachers during the fourth quarter of the 47-0 loss to Wabash College Saturday at Hollett Little Giant Stadium in Crawfordsville, Ind. MARGARET DISTLER/THE DEPAUW

For the three or four games he’d take my brother and me to, I witnessed our fans, Colts fans. The majority came to the game straight from church, still in their Sunday finest. They would sit politely for three quarters and then file for the exits at the start of the fourth. At this point, the two lubricated guys sitting behind us would start chanting, “Oh, ye of little faith!”

Yes, the new Indianapolis Colts were terrible back then. At one point, our best offense was Rohn Stark…the punter.

So the team’s recent travails will truly test the mettle of our current crop of fans who insist on wearing their jerseys to work on Fridays like it’s Homecoming week back at Carmel High School.

I have to give it to the Detroit Lions. 4-0 and their stalwart fans deserve to relish in some success.

Maybe I can trace my recent crisis of faith to my longtime love of the Chicago Cubs. I mean, when you give up on your team in late June, just how loyal a fan are you? 103 year without a trip to the World Series, and “Wait ’til next year” loses its luster. At some point, you start feeling like an Old Style swilling yutz out there in the bleachers.

I’m also wary of any company any more that waves the chestnut: “We’re just like one big family.” It seems like some companies use loyalty as a salve to assuage the sting of longer hours, doing the work of two other departed employees, or the bonus that never comes.

Companies should be more realistic about loyalty. No, strike that. Employees should be more realistic about loyalty. When the company I worked for in 2001 downsized me, the very helpful woman with the outplacement firm—who my former company hired to “transition” us—said that “you should be loyal to your career, not to your employer.”

I’ll keep that in mind.

The bottom line: Yes, it’s good to be loyal. It’s a noble virtue. Just don’t be a yutz about it.

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Posted by on October 6, 2011 in Standup Philospher


Happy Birthday

Each morning, when I log into Facebook, I always check which of my friends are celebrating birthdays. Then, I post a birthday message on each wall. I try to customize it, especially if it’s a close friend or relative. If I’m a casual acquaintance or a long distant classmate, I’ll still post a simple “Happy birthday.” I never just type “HB” BTW.

I know a lot of people who don’t do this, and there’s certainly no Facebook custom or edict from Emily Post’s Netiquette. They just don’t want to bother with it. Some people even disable their wall for the day so that people can’t post messages on their birthday. And, yes, many people over the last true celebratory milestone age of 25* would rather not face their birthday each year.

For some friends, especially those who have moved away, it’s my once-a-year reminder to check in and see how they’re doing.

This daily ritual of mine didn’t begin when a preponderance of warm greetings encountered me on the last occasion of my birth. I’d rather think that these posts just reinforced it. But I don’t do this for the “give to get” mentality.

It’s just a nice, simple thing to do.

*Turning 25 is significant only in the fact that you can officially rent a car with less hassle and your automobile insurance rates usually decrease.

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Posted by on September 14, 2011 in Better Practices, Hire me Already!


A Decade of 9/11

I’m frequently loathe to pile on to the popular Zeitgeist, but it’s hard to escape reflection on the eve of a decade where one date, 9/11, carries so much significance.

Even in the flurried cacophony of remembrances, specials, and tributes.

On Thursday, I attended a reception for new faculty at Wabash. As I was speaking with Prof. Crystal Benedicks of the English Department and Prof. James Cherry of the Theater Department. Prof. Benedicks is teaching a freshman tutorial entitled, “9/11 and American Culture” to students who were 9 years old on that fateful day.

As we discussed the course, I shared a few pieces of media that resonated most with me.

The Falling Man

For most of us, we first heard about the attacks as “a plane hit the World Trade Center”as if some nut or novice caromed off one of the towers in an ultralight.

Then we turned on the TV to see smoke billowing out of the side of the north tower. Then, the  second plane slammed into the south tower as reporters fumbled to report live information. By then, the great majority of us saw the towers–first one, then the other–collapse in plumes of smoke.

But what most of us never saw was something so disturbingly horrific that it’s remained largely hidden since. For a few desperate souls trapped above the impact point in the towers, the Hobson’s Choice offered was a jump to their death.

For me, this one image (right) greatly disturbs and fascinates me, even now. It boils the loss of life of thousands down to just one person–one soul plunging headfirst to his death.

Tom Junod writes a haunting exploration of this photo, capturing a lone figure against a symmetry of the World Trade Center. His article, “The Falling Man,” in the September 2003 issue of Esquire stands as a pinnacle of excellence, emerging from the ruins of true journalism.

For the tenth anniversary, he revisits his groundbreaking piece.

25th Hour

If one person needed to write to offer a meditation on life in New York after the terrorist attacks, it had to be Spike Lee in 2003’s 25th Hour. The film displays the director’s talky style in foreground of the the physical ruins of Ground Zero, contributing to the theme of broken lives trying to heal punctuated by a wonderfully haunting soundtrack by Terence Blanchard.

When the main character, Monty Brogan, looks himself in the mirror, he unleashes a screed of xenophobic epithets unearthing the subterranean ugliness of a city facing itself as the dust settles. No one is spared in this rant. But we’ve seen this before from Spike Lee in his classic, Do the Right Thing,

I think more poignantly about this last scene, especially in the context of all who lost their lives on 9/11. Monty serves as a stand-in for the families cut off by history. “You all came so close to never happening.”

Except, unlike many people in the attacks, he has a choice.

Reign Over Me

Apart from my conversation with Wabash professors, my mind continued to ruminate on other movies and such.

Advance another few years and you find Mike Binder’s wonderful Reign Over Me, which casts Adam Sandler in a very dramatic role of Charlie Fineman, recovering from the loss of his family during the attacks, partially through the help of his estranged college roommate, played by Don Cheedle. Yes, Mike, the name of Fine-man, in all it’s Arthur Miller panache, wasn’t lost on me.

What Resonates, What Lingers

Ten years later, what resonates from the period, and what lingers?

Unless you personally know someone in the military overseas, most Americans can barely pop their heads up from their iPhones to notice that we’re still at war. It takes movies like The Messenger, the even better Taking Chance, and the courageous The Tillman Story to remind us of the later sacrifices.

The government’s newest department, Homeland Security, is well established and has already abandoned its color-coded terror alerts like the USDA’s last nutritional campaign.

Saving you, dear reader, from the boring details of my account of that day–frantic calls to a sister in Brooklyn and family in DC–and the days following.

Here’s what resonates in my memory.

I remember sitting dazed in a boardroom at Barnes & Thornburg downtown with other board members of the Indianapolis Association of Wabash Men recounting the morning and wondering why the hell we all showed up to a meeting that day.

For days after, you could tell which cable networks were owned by which media conglomerate. ESPN showed ABC coverage, MTV showed CBS coverage, etc. Two of the only networks showing regular programming? The Cartoon Network and Comedy Central.

I remember that, at a time when all professional sports curtailed their contests in addition to many universities, Wabash and Wheaton Colleges decided to play that Saturday, Sept. 15, 2001, at Hollet Little Giant Stadium in Crawfordsville. C. Jemal Horton expressed it best in his Sunday Indianapolis Star column:

“You still can play the game. You still can cheer. You still can believe. Even during the worst of times. Even while you grieve. The 3,034 fans at Wabash College lived that on Saturday afternoon. They were living witnesses who weren’t about to let the shedding of red-white-and-blue blood go unremembered. And that meant everything, since Wabash decided to go against most of sports America and play its college football game with Wheaton College.

“Thank God they decided to play the game. God bless them for playing the game.

In one community, at least, people were able to forge a smile and not feel bad about it. They were able to look around and see people just like themselves—people who had to at least try to see if this day could be an infinitesimal step toward a healing process that could take years.”

After a while, my friends and I felt stir crazy, so we went to watch Zoolander. I still think that a desperation to just be entertained enhanced that movie quite a bit. When Saturday Night Live finally returned on Sept. 29, Lorne Michaels asked Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, “Can we be funny?” to which Rudi replied, “Why start now?” I think it was that point where we all felt that we could be funny again. (Funny how you can’t access that clip online. Hmmm.)

While a resurrected Bon Jovi song seemed to find the Millennials, for me, it was Billy Joel, not ’80s Joel mind you. “New York State of Mind” seemed to capture the mood perfectly along with the Ryan Adam’s serendipitous release of “New York, New York” with a video shot the Friday before the attacks with the WTC prominent in the background.

What lingers most for me is watching that first plane cross a sky completely erased of all contrails when air travel finally resumed. I just stopped, frozen, watching it traverse the azure backdrop as if I was a child, fixated on an object through the bars of the crib, across the room, out of reach.

But what really lingers is that magnetic American flag on my car. Yes, it’s the same car, then newly used and just bought, now, beaten up by time and hail and circumstance. When I get a new car (soon I hope), I’m transferring Old Glory to the new bumper. Everybody started the refrain “We will not forget” again this week, just like they did for Pearl Harbor and the Maine and the Alamo.

I surely know I won’t.

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Posted by on September 13, 2011 in Cuture Shock, Media as Massage