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Day 6: Back Home in Indiana October 27, 2006

Posted by Bill Carroll in Chemistry, DePauw, Extreme Farewell Tour, Indiana, national chemistry week, Purdue.
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October 26, 2006

Hotel Allegro, Chicago IL

11 PM

I think Bill at WGREthe closest thing to the feeling of waking up at home is waking up in the town I went to college.  I walked, and sometimes crawled its streets for four years.  I woke up this morning in Greencastle, Indiana, just as I did regularly for four years in my youth.  Many of  the buildings at DePauw haven’t changed in the thirty-five years since I stopped actively living there or the hundred before I got there; even so there have been great additions and more are on the way.

WGRE FMNow, to be fair, I seldom woke up as early in those days as I did this morning because I had an early breakfast with Professor Jeff McCall, with whom I roomed for a semester my senior year.  Today Jeff is a media expert and sought-after pundit.  And to think, I knew him when.  Jeff set me up for an interview with campus station WGRE where I was once program director, and helped him get his introduction to radio.

Bill and Percy JulianAfter breakfast we went to the Percy Julian Science Center, where the department of chemistry and various other sciences is housed.  In the center is the ACS Chemical Historical Landmark honoring the synthesis of physostigmine by DePauw graduate Percy Lavon Julian, one of the first African-Americans to receive a PhD in chemistry in the US and a giant in the field, both scientifically and business-wise.  He achieved that synthesis in Minshall Lab, which was built in 1901 and demolished nearly 75 years later.

I took my first three years of chemistry in Minshall Lab.  That anything was synthesized there ever is a miracle in my eyes—I certainly couldn’t.

Bridget Gourley, Chair of the Chemistry Department, was my faculty host, and I was invited by Connie Shim on behalf of the Chemistry Club.  There were about thirty students there, and I regaled them with stories of how I was pretty much lucky to graduate at all, given how much fun I had.  I was exaggerating, but not much.  I also tried to leave them with some thoughts about managing their careers in a world of globalization—pretty much a short review of the Chemistry Enterprise in 2015 report.

Indiana is cold and rainy this week.  We left Greencastle for points north after a brisk, damp walk.  Soon it would be time for lunch—time for us to get back on the McD Monopoly program that we missed out on yesterday.

We bought supersized everything—not to eat it, mind you, but for the game pieces.  We are slowly sneaking up on the victory that will certainly be ours, now lacking only one of the pieces for each of the top money prizes that will write our names in the annals of Project SEED forever.  No jokin’, as they say at Red Hot and Blue, we’re smokin’.

When we arrived at Purdue, Jessi Fautch quickly led us out to the Klondike Elementary School, home of the Fighting Nuggets.  Care to venture a guess about the school colors?

NCW Experiments at Klondike Elementary (Home of the Fighting Nuggets)The ACS at Purdue and the Purdue chapter of Iota Sigma Pi took on this project.  Klondike is a great school and we saw about 60 really sharp third graders.  Kurt Keyes, Gianna Starck and Kelly Hutchinson did a marvelous job of making salt dough with all these kids.  The synthesis kind of got away from one of the groups, which had to repeatedly retitrate the water and flour to get the right consistency.  This eventually resulted in a rather larger ball of dough.  Klondike also has a nice little garden where there are memorials to a couple of former teachers.  They also have a couple of goats in the garden as well.  I doubt there is symbolism.

NCW SpecialAll of West Lafayette is celebrating NCW, and I have to congratulate the Purdue department on its public outreach.  Notice the day spa that is advertising an NCW special.  After a fast tour of the Purdue department by Mildred Rodriguez, we headed toward Chicago.  Lots of guy discussion: cars; sports; occasionally cars; sometimes a little sports. You know.

Speaking of cars, we’re in a Ford Explorer, following on our Chevy Equinox, we continue our celebration of National SUV Week.  We sit about 15 feet above the road, in full command of all we survey.  And it has a really good turning radius too.

On the way, we stopped in my home town of Crown Point, Indiana.  I wanted to show Sal around a little, but at the same time see I wanted to check the development progress of our old farm.

Regular readers in this space will remember that last year at this time we had sold the property and 50-year contents of my parents house.  I told you then how strange it was to see it empty, and in the rear view mirror.  Some work has been done to prepare the area for development; the house is still standing, but the inside has been stripped of hardwoods and fixtures; windows have been broken out by accident or vandalism, and it generally looks similar, but somewhat tired and bruised.

I didn’t feel as badly about it as I thought I would.  It was almost like viewing a beloved relative at a wake.  You know the identity of the body there, but stripped of a soul, that’s not the person you remember.  I remember Christmas after dinner, noisy with children and loud with relatives conversation; the smell of my mother’s baking; breezy summer evenings on the porch.  And I realized that stripped of its soul, it’s not the house I remember.  Amazingly, I felt nearly nothing.  It just was.

So we headed toward Chicago in our eighteen-minus-fourteen wheeler.  Somewhere at the farm I managed to get a stick jammed in the undercarriage, and we had to turn the radio up so we couldn’t hear it scraping the ground.  We got to Chicago, and the stick is still making that noise.

We’re staying at the Hotel Allegro downtown because that’s where our first appointments are.  This is a new old boutique type hotel; kind of hip, kind of homey.  Fireplaces and alternative music in the check-in area.  I’m not sure I fit here unless, remembering Huey Lewis, it’s hip to be square.  We had dinner in the bar and watched the game.  At 8:30 there was room at the bar; at 11, it was packed with people about the age of 30.  This is not my tribe.

What’s in the player:  Sal’s Salsa Sampler.  Sal brought along a CD of music with a strong Latin beat—some Shakira, some old Marc Anthony, some Enrique Iglesias some Santana.  Not too surprising from Sal, the drummer.

It’s also comforting to be in Chicago, a great city.  Tomorrow is Walter Payton High.

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