News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Stephanie Salter

June 1, 2010

STEPHANIE SALTER: Roundup of mini-columns, columnettes, items and observations

TERRE HAUTE — From time to time, it’s good to sift through the collection of notes scrawled on the backs of envelopes, gasoline receipts and my hand. Here are a few that don’t quite make a whole column, but I want to share:

City Council – If an extraterrestrial being stumbled into the Terre Haute City Council’s chambers during a meeting, it would have no choice but to conclude one of two things:

1. This is a city populated only by white males.

2. Females and people of color are allowed to live here, but they have not yet won the right to vote, own property or expect peer representation in their government.

Folks, it is 2010. Almost 10 percent of the population of Terre Haute is black. Another 3 percent is Asian or Hispanic. Most glaring, clearly half of the city’s population is female. And yet we can’t get a single, solitary non-white, non-male human entity on a nine-member council?

This isn’t about quotas or that now-dirty term, affirmative action. It’s about operating in reality. Like too much of city and county government, the Terre Haute City Council has never come even close to parity for women citizens. But to have zero women with a seat at the most powerful city governing table is shameful, not to mention bizarre.

A perfect opportunity to slightly mitigate this ridiculous imbalance presented itself when Turk Roman vacated his 2nd District position after a jury found him guilty of impersonating a police officer. What a great time for a caucus of Roman’s fellow Democrats to actively and enthusiastically seek a competent and qualified member of the underrepresented half of the population.

But no. Three candidates were considered for the job: white gents all. The most depressing part? Five of the 11 caucus members who chose from among the three white males are women.

Party chairman Joe Etling: Can you get your people thinking at least late-20th century?

Kudos – You see them walking the city’s streets, wearing their office clothes and sneakers, some with iPods in their ears, some monitoring their progress on pedometers or even little heart-rate measuring devices. They are people who are doing something besides griping about their weight or their need for better cardiovascular fitness.

Blowing a car horn in celebration likely would startle them, so let us all just wave, give a thumbs-up or smile in their direction as we pass by – and look to them for inspiration to get our own butts in gear.

Memorable sign – Hanging on the fence recently of an old cemetery on Erickson Street in North Terre Haute: A hand-painted black-and-white sign that beckoned “YARD SALE.”

Contented kids – While riding my bike somewhere on North Eighth or Ninth Street one hot afternoon, I heard splashing water and high, little voices calling out the near-universal swimming pool chant, “Marco! … Polo! Marco! …Polo!”

Slowing down, I peered between houses and trees to find the players of the game. In the back yard of a neat, modest home, I saw two kids about 4 or 5, moving around an inflatable wading pool that was, maybe, 5 feet in diameter, at most.

Don’t anybody tell them they’re not rich.

Internet perspective – One night not long ago, as I settled into clean sheets in my comfy bed, I wondered, “How many nights have I done just this, laid my head upon a pillow and surrendered the day?” Someday, I thought, I will have to do the math. And then I fell asleep and forgot all about it.

A few days later, my Aunt Linda forwarded an e-mail with a nifty link that instantly calculates your days (and nights) on Earth. All you do is click on the year, month and numeric day you were born.

Bingo. Up comes your span, so far, in days, weeks, months and number of leap years. In case you never knew or forgot, the calculator tells you what day of the week you came into this world and what day your next birthday will fall upon. It also reminds you how far along you are in this year.

You can access the site, which of course is free, like 98 percent of the Internet, at

Suffice to say, contemplating the total number of days you’ve been here can be, at once, humbling and gratifying. If each day were a dollar, I wouldn’t have much money. But each day was much more than a monetary unit. Each was a tidy, temporal circle in which much untidy living went on. (Especially in college.)

The mind-blower, for me, is to think that the days on the early end of the tally were exactly as long as the days are now. Each 24-hour cycle ran its course, then took its place in line. And yet, my perception of those long, seemingly endless kid days versus these speed-of-light senior-discount days couldn’t be more opposite.

When you’re a kid, no one tells you “carpe diem,” because the diem seizes kids and pulls them along. Somewhere, though, as the numbers start piling up, you comprehend that it’s now the other way around. You see the importance of “seize the day,” and – if you’ve learned anything in the thousands of 24-hour packages you have amassed – you try hard to practice that advice as best you can.

Stephanie Salter can be reached at (812) 231-4229 or

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