Tuesday, September 19, 2017


“We've had three big ideas at Amazon that we've stuck with for 18 years, and they're the reason we're successful: Put the customer first. Invent. And be patient.” Jeff Bezos 
Jeff Bezos

Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson approved an expenditure of $9,555 for an advertisement in the New York Times business section looking to persuade Amazon.com to build its second headquarters in the city of Gary.  Though admittedly far-fetched, Amazon coming to Gary would create approximately 50,000 high-paying jobs, more than the steel mills yielded in their heyday.  Some area leaders have criticized Mayor Freeman-Wilson for not coordinating her plans without them; of course, any plan that the Northwest Indiana Forum or the Northwest Indiana Planning Commission devised would surely not be for Gary.  The ad, addressed to Mr. Jeff Bezos, Chief Executive Officer – Amazon, stated:
      Recently, you announced that you were looking for a new community partner. Conventional wisdom says based on the qualifications outlined in the RFP, I would not make the grade. But that is because you don’t know about my natural assets - my location 30 miles from Chicago at the population center of North America, three class one rail lines, an international airport, the port, a commuter rail line that get people to Chicago in less than an hour and four interstate highways in a state with a pro-business environment. And land? Jeff, I have all the land you need.
      I know locating to me may seem far-fetched, but “far-fetched” is what we do in America. It was far-fetched for 13 scrawny American colonies to succeed against the might of the British Empire. Far-fetched to land a man on the moon. Far-fetched for a business selling books out of a garage to succeed in business and philanthropy. Like Amazon, I am, once again, both a game changer and a unique opportunity. We can strike a mutually beneficial deal that changes the course of my future as well as the families who live here. There are so many people who have counted you, me, us and the people of Gary out.
The ad refers to a port.  Mayor Freeman-Wilson recently asked me to serve on a newly formed Gary Port Authority as part of a plan to develop the Buffington Harbor area into a facility similar to nearby Burns Harbor, which supports nearly 40,000 jobs and brings almost $5 billion in economic activity. Unfortunately, after first expressing my willingness to serve, I discovered that members must be Gary residents.

Born in Albuquerque and a Princeton graduate, Jeff Bezos, 53, quit his Wall Street job at D.E. Shaw investment firm in 1990 to start a virtual bookstore named after the meandering Amazon River in Brazil.  In 1998 Amazon began selling CDs and videos and later expanded into clothing, electronics, and other consumer items.  Ten years ago, Amazon marketed the Kindle, a digital book reader.

According to Mark Cartwright in Ancient History Encyclopedia, in Greek mythology the Amazons were a race of warrior women noted for their courage and pride who lived at the outer limits of the known world.  Descended from Ares, the god of war, they were a women-only society where men were welcomed only for breeding purposes and all male infants were killed. In legend, the Amazons burnt off their right breast in order to better use a bow and throw a spear.  Amazon queen Penthesilea allegedly aided the Trojans but was killed in battle by Achilles, who supposedly fell in love with his victim when he removed her helmet. 

James started bowling Saturday, so he slept over.  I made pancakes and bacon, took him to Inman’s, where he rolled a 400 series, not bad for first time bowling in almost four months.  Then, joined by Dave, we had lunch at Culver’s, resuming a weekly tradition. At Fest of the First along Lake Street in Miller, an event organized by First Precinct committeeman Michael Chirich, the Wirt/Emerson Jazz Ensemble put on a splendid show. I ran into old friends Al Renslow and Gene Ayers and chatted with Samuel A. Love, Kate Land, and Corey Hagelberg at their poetry project booth.  They are opening a storefront on Miller Ave., so I gave them copies of four recent Shavings.  That evening, Dave brought over Chinese food from Wing Wah, and we watched a rerun of the 2017 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction program. The show opened with Electric Light Orchestra performing Chuck Berry’s “Roll Over, Beethoven” and closed with Eddie Vedder and other inductees jamming to Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World.”  David Letterman was hilarious subbing for Young, who had been scheduled to introduce Pearl Jam.
 Wade Davis

Dave Letterman

Sunday the Bears were so awful, I switched to the Cubs, who completed a sweep of the Cardinals thanks to Jason Heyward’s three hits, including the game winner. Eddie Vedder was in the crowd.  Wade Davis picked up a third straight save, striking out former Cub Dexter Fowler, who earlier had tied the score on a three-run HR.  While the Packers-Cowboys game was in progress, I called nephew Bobby, my Fantasy Football opponent.  We were both undefeated, but I needed Ty Montgomery to outscore Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott to have a chance.  The Green Bay running back had a huge game, and we ended up in a tie.
Betsy DeVos at Gary charter school 
Ruth Needleman protests DeVos visit; Post-Tribue photo by Kyle Telethon

Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos visited two Gary charter schools operated by GEO Foundation in Indianapolis as part of her “Rethink School Tour.”  In reality, it should be called a “Screw Public Schools” tour.  At 21st Century Charter School Raven Osborne obtained a bachelor’s degree a couple weeks before graduating from high school.  One has to ask: what kind of a collage experience was that?  A headline in The Nation says it all: “Betsy DeVos Is Helping Education Profiteers Rip Off Students.”

I spoke to an IUN Minority Studies class on the history of Gary, first pointing out photos in Steel Shavings, volume 46, which I gave each of them, and then tracing Vivian Carter’s life and career as Roosevelt grad, deejay, record store owner, and co-founder of Vee-Jay, America’s first successful black-owner record label.  Half the students were from West Side High School; none seemed to have heard of the historic National Black Political Convention that took place at their institution 45 years ago.  Before I played Vee-Jay hits by the Spaniels, Dells, Dee Clark, and Gene Chandler, only one or two people said they’d heard of them.  After I played “Goodnite, Sweetheart,” “Oh, What a Night,” “Hey, Little Girl,” and “Duke of Earl,” a few others acknowledged having heard the songs, probably in commercials or movie soundtracks.  Afterwards, teacher Miriam Jiles thanked me for touching on the Chicago Defender in luring Southerners to the Chicago metropolitan area and pointing out that the Gary schools under Superintendent William A. Wirt had been world famous. Both are subjects of student projects, she said.

As I was leaving the library/conference center, I noticed a sign mentioning a “Coffee and Conversation” session Chancellor Lowe was hosting in the Little Redhawk Café.  Unlike most previous ones, dominated by administrators, two students and a new adjunct in Sociology were engaging the Chancellor in meaningful interchanges.  Library employee Gwendolyn Gross, who always greets me (and others) with a warm hello, told of being with her four-year-old grandchild a few weeks ago when Lowe spoke with them.  Later, spotting the Chancellor’s portrait in the lobby, the girl exclaimed, “That’s the nice man who talked to me.”
 Chris Kern at Gyuukaku's in Chicago
 Chris Kern wrote:
Last night I finished the first part of Henry Adams' history of Thomas Jefferson's administration. A lot of what's in there sounds very familiar -- you had a President accused of sympathy with foreigners, threats of secession (from New England!), an undeclared war against Muslims, fake news, concern over the national debt, an attempt to amend the Constitution to remove judges, accusations that judges were overruling the people's will, complaints of executive overreach, and the Vice President shooting someone.
Barb Walczak’s Newsletter congratulated navy veteran Mike Briquette (above) on becoming a life master.  He described learning bridge by buying a book by William S. Root, taking lessons from Alan Yngve, who taught him a system called “Demand Minor,” keeping a bridge diary, and observing top players such as Joe Chin, Dave Bigler, and Yuan Hsu. 

I gave a very rudimentary bridge bidding lesson to Steve McShane’s students, explaining that one needs 13 points to open and that in evaluating your hand, count Aces as 4, Kings as 3, Queens as 2 and Jacks as 1, then add 3 for a void, 2 for a singleton, and 1 for a doubleton.  Otherwise, pass.  I said to bid one of a suit if holding between 13 and 19 points unless you have 16 or more with even distribution and in that case bid 1 No-Trump.   Over 20 points, bid two of something.  Regarding partner’s responses to an opening bid, I recommended passing with under 6, bidding 1 N-Trump or two of partner’s suit if holding 6 to 8 points, and a different suit if holding 9 to 12 – otherwise, raise the bid with 13 or more points in your hand. I didn’t get into second bids or scoring – that’s for another day. The students were initially confused that bids didn’t correspond to how many tricks one needed; for instance, to make a one-bid, required winning 7 tricks. 

At bridge, Dee Van Bebber and I finished a little above average.  I blew a slam bid by failing to ask for Aces. The most interesting hand had Dee opening 1 Club; I bid 2 No-Trump with 15 high-card points – Ace, King, Queen, ten of Spades, Ace, Queen, deuce of Diamonds, four Hearts to the ten, and two little Clubs.  Dee rebid Clubs, having seven of them to the Ace, King, plus a King of Diamond.  I bid 3 No-Trump, and she passed.  The opening lead assured me 4 Spade tricks.  Since Dee only had one small Heart, I decided to take 9 tricks off the top rather than take a chance on our opponents leading Hearts.  It turned out to be a flat board, with all North-South teams garnering 600 points (we were vulnerable), only most couples ended up making 5 Clubs, which had the same value as 3 No-Trump.

It’s been so warm – even in Michigan – that Alissa and Miranda went to the beach at Saugatuck Dunes State Park, where we attended the wedding of Brianne Ross and Emily Hubbard a year ago at Dorr E. Felt Mansion.  My two granddaughters found hiking trails from the estate to Lake Michigan.