Tag Archives: north judson

Nostalgia & Novocaine

After high school I left Indiana, where I had lived my entire life. Soon afterwards, I discovered the books of Kurt Vonnegut, who was also from Indiana.

Vonnegut, who died four years ago this week, taught me many things in his writings, including that a body of water near the town where I grew up had the name Lake Maxinkuckee, and was not named Culver Lake like I had always believed. Vonnegut used to vacation at Lake Maxinkuckee as a kid.

Vonnegut, who was born into a prominent Indianapolis family in 1922, seemingly knew everything about the area he was born, and somehow worked Indianapolis into nearly every book.

I, on the other hand, knew next to nothing about my town, despite having lived there for 18 years.

This realization was brought home again to me last week as I was sitting in a dentist chair. While waitingfor the novocaine to take hold, I read from a book about Gene Autry called Public Cowboy No. 1 by Holly George-Warren and was shocked to see the town of North Judson, Indiana – my town – mentioned inside.

It turns out that at the height of the Depression, the singing cowboy came to the Gayble Theatre, our tiny movie house, and played a show that night before the featured film. 

It may not sound like a big deal, but I had never heard this story (or for that matter, had never seen my micro-community’s name in print). I would have thought this tale would have been regaled by at least one overalls-wearing old timer at every fish fry, high school basketball game, and tractor pull.

I’ve been feeling a bit nostalgic since, and thanks to the web, I’ve learned more stories about North Judson this past week – both good and bad – than I did during all the years I lived there.

I found out that in 1889 a world lightweight boxing championship took place in an opera house in Judson. It ended in a draw after a match lasting over four hours and 64 rounds.

And on a darker note, I also learned that the KKK once marched down Main Street in 1923, and someone, presumably a Klan member, blew up the Catholic parsonage that same year.

It’s also triggered memories of the Gayble, which was a brick 488-seat Tudor Revivalist gem, where I saw my very first movies on screen.

One of my goals is to return to Indiana for an extended period of time so that I can make a documentary about the places that Kurt Vonnegut mentions in his books.

If this ever happens, I plan to make it back to North Judson, to find the site of the opera house (which I never knew existed), and to have my heart broken at the vacant lot where the Gayble once stood (it was demolished in 1999).

If it’s summer when I make it back there, I may even take a dip in Lake Maxinkuckee … now that I know it’s real name.

(Speaking of Gene Autry, I will be giving tours later this month at Melody Ranch, Gene Autry’s old film lot, for Santa Clarita’s Cowboy Festival.)

Eight Really Bad Days

The following blog post was written between 8:00 AM and 9:00 AM.

There are bad days, and then there are “Jack Bauer” bad days.

Just a few hours ago, my wife Kimi and I completed watching the last four episodes of the eighth and final season of the hit show 24.

I have always been intrigued by the inconsistencies in people. I once had a friend who was a loving and kind mother who always looked for the good in others. But each night she would relax by turning on any slasher movie she could find.

I have inconsistencies of my own. I fancy myself a civil libertarian who is appalled by the thought of government-sponsored torture, especially when that government is my own. That being said, I love 24, which is centered around Jack Bauer’s fictional Counter Terrorist Unit (CTU), where torture is all part of a day’s work.

Each of the show’s seasons are plotted in real-time around a major threat to national security, where agent Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) and his fellow CTU agents must do whatever it takes to save the nation during a 24-hour day.

This includes killing, lots of killing. I had no idea how much until I found a great web site that chronicles all of the deaths that took place during the show’s run. The number is truly astounding. Are you ready for this?


That is not a typo – over the course of eight seasons, 13,628 people lost their lives on 24. This averages out to just over 1700 people per day, which is roughly the size of my home town of North Judson, Indiana. (Which means that in eight seasons the equivalent of eight North Judsons disappeared. I am glad this didn’t happen, just as I am glad there aren’t eight North Judsons.)

To be fair, most of these killings took place at one time, when despite his best efforts, Jack Bauer was unable to save the day.

That was back during Day 6 when at 9:58 AM, 12,000 residents of the city of Valencia, California were killed by a suitcase nuke. As much as I love 24, I’m not willing to die for it, which is likely what would have happened if life imitated art, since we live only a few miles from the fictional ground zero.

So if we take away those 12,000 casualties, the killings drop to an average of just over 200 per day, or about 8 an hour. That’s still a lot of killing. What’s even more astounding is learning that 175 of these deaths came from the hand of “good guy” Jack Bauer.

Kimi and I don’t watch shows on television, and only saw 24 on DVD. (I can’t imagine anyone being able to wait all week for the next episode.) That’s why even though the show ended its run months ago, we are only now seeing how it all turned out.

It will take us some time to work through our withdrawal from Jack and Chloe O’Brian and the adrenaline rush of 24 episodes of real-time drama.

But I think we’ll survive, because Season Two of Mad Men is on its way from Netflix.



08:59:59 …