Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Cruisin' for a Bruisin'

    “Toby has been cruisin’ for a bruisin’ for 12 years, and I am now his cruise director, and my name is Captain Bruisin.’” Steve Carell as Michael Scott, “The Office
Kenicke, portrayed by Jeff Conaway in the movie “Grease” and by son Dave in the 1987 Portage High School senior play, utters the threat, “you’re cruisin’ for a bruising.’”  Kenicke is a member of the T-Birds and Rizzo’s boyfriend.  Making out with her in the back seat of his car, he takes out a condom, calling it his 25-cent insurance policy, only to find that it broke.  “How could that be?” Rizzo asks.  “I bought it when I was in seventh grade,” he replies.

Anne Balay and James MacGregor Halleman, a transgender millworker she interviewed for “Steel Closets,” are participating in an OutHistory conference in New York City whose theme is “Gay American History at 40.”  She posted: “Today my mom would have told me, ‘Anne, you’re cruisin’ for a bruisin’ but she never doubted I could pull it off.”  The phrase, often uttered facetiously, refers to doing something that will likely lead to an ass kicking.  Similar predictions of doom, according to Ernest Hilbert: “aiming for a maiming,” “angling for a strangling,” and “flirting for a hurting.”  On the other hand, according to Urban Dictionary, “oozin’ for a bruisin’” refers to a woman becoming aroused by a man’s physical attributes.
IUN’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA) hosted a forum on Child Abuse and Neglect.  Keynote speaker Renée Boynton-Jarrett (above), a pediatrician and professor at Boston University School of Medicine, discussed the long-lasting negative health effects of abuse, neglect, and other forms of childhood trauma, such as obesity and hypertension.  Carol Pool of Prevent Child Abuse Indiana asserted that a child is 15 times as likely to be abused if reared in the presence of domestic violence.  Like battered women, many young victims come to believe it’s their own fault.

According to Jacquelyn Guillermo, Amy Sue Nardi came from a broken home and endured a rough childhood.  Interviewed for an assignment by Steve McShane, Amy elaborated:
            My mother was always very abusive towards me.  She had lost my older sister Jessica to SIDS at 22 days old.  Depressed, she wanted another baby and purposely got pregnant with me.  My dad was married to another woman and my mom was his mistress for 5 years. She hoped he would leave his wife for her but he never did.  After I was born, she went through severe post-partum depression. My aunts at times tried to step in and help take care of us before my mom severely hurt us.  She’d beat me with a belt or punch or kick me or throw me up against a wall.  I’d lie to her, saying they were checking for bruises at school, but that only worked for so long.  In the middle of one beating I prayed that someone would come in and stop my mother. I was hyperventilating, and she kept yelling at me to shut the hell up and if I had listened, then this wouldn't have happened.  My stepfather’s dad tried to force himself on me when we were alone. When I told them what he had done, he denied it and claimed he was just tickling.  Years later I found out that my mom knew his dad was that way.
            Perhaps because of my home situation I often got in trouble at school. In first grade, for example, I drew my own name for Christmas grab bag.  I was very excited because I had given Papa Smurf as a gift.  When told I could not draw my own name, I got very upset and threw the toy I picked across the classroom.  The teacher put me in timeout during which time a boy gave me a toy ring but then took it back a few minutes later and gave it to another girl.  I marched right up to her, ripped it off of her finger, and put it back on mine.  Again, I got in trouble and the teacher called my parents. 
 above, Amy at 13; below Amy and Dennis
Amy’s husband Dennis Radolak had grown up in Northwest Indiana while Amy had lived in Gary and Hobart but mostly in Terre Haute.  Amy told Jacquelyn about meeting Dennis at a funeral in Lake Station in 1995 when she was 17 and he was 23:
  Dennis attended the funeral with a pregnant ex-girlfriend.  From the first moment I saw him I knew he was mine.   I noticed him constantly staring at me and I, of course, was staring back.  I was pretty bummed when I found out he had a child on the way.   That situation kind of put a damper on being with him. I found out that they weren’t still dating and had no intentions on getting back together.  Still, I didn't want to interfere in whatever they had going on.  At the dinner after the funeral Dennis asked where I bought my shirt, then walked away.  I was about to leave when he approached me and asked if I had a boyfriend. I said no and then he asked me out!  Our first date was June 2 and from then on we were inseparable.  
  I stayed with Dennis's Aunt Gail for the summer because my mom skipped town en route to Florida and didn’t take me with her.  When it came time to start my junior year of high school, Dennis begged me not to leave.  His cousin Shelly and I (Gail’s daughter) got an apartment and, instead of going to school, I went door-to-door selling newspaper subscriptions.  I soon had a falling out with Shelly, who spent our rent money instead of paying bills.  Dennis rented an apartment for us; we got engaged and married a year later. We lived in Schererville for 5 years.  During that time I got my GED.  When Dennis’s dad passed away, we bought his childhood home.  We still live there with our 3 children.  We have been happily married for 19 years.  I teach him to be more aggressive, and he teaches me patience. 
Unlike when we grew up, Dennis and I and our three children eat together and talk about our day and things coming up.  We ask our children to discuss anything on their minds.  Our children love being funny and making each other laugh.  July Fourth is the family’s favorite holiday aside from Christmas.  We buy plenty of fireworks.  Although church is not a thing we do on a regular basis we pray together as a family.  When my dad was alive, I had gone to church faithfully.  After he died my mother wanted nothing to do with organized religion.  I do not want my children to have the life that I did and try to give them have the most normal life possible. 
 Dennis Radolak with Matthew, Mason and Breanna
Paige Talian wrote about her mother Roberta Jean Hess, nicknamed Robyn, who had a tough life growing up. Her father Vernon would vanish for days, weeks, or even months without Paige’s grandmother ever hearing from him.  She’d get random phone calls in the middle of the night from him, slurring his words.  By all accounts, Vernon was a temperamental alcoholic and a loose cannon, especially when drunk.  Robyn’s mother eventually filed for divorce. After paying no child support and pretty much dropping out of Robyn’s life for over 20 years, Vernon made an effort to reconnect.  In a paper for Steve McShane Paige described what happened next:
Robyn was dating Dan (my father), and the young couple decided to move to Houston, Texas and accept Vernon’s offer to stay with him until they got a place of their own.  Big Mistake!  They crashed on the couch every night and lived out of their suitcases.  One night after Vernon and Dan were at the bar watching a baseball game, they came home enraged towards each other. Robyn came to find out that Vernon did not like the fact that she and Dan were sleeping on the same couch. My mother got defensive, stating “You were never a part of my life, and now all of a sudden you want to try and dictate my choices?”  At this point, Vernon and Dan were cussing each other out.  Vernon grabbed the eight-ball from the pool table and chucked it at my father. He ducked and it barely missed him, making a huge hole in the wall. Dan started to charge at Vernon, who reached into his pocket, pulled out a gun, and pointed it at Dan’s chest. My father froze for a few moments before saying, Just shoot me!”  Someone grabbed Vernon and pointed the gun away from my father.  My parents immediately packed their things and headed back to Hobart, where Dan grew up.  Before long, they got engaged and then married when Robyn was 27.
Robyn and Dan: with Robyn and Cory
On April 14 1992, my brother Cory was born.  One of Dan’s favorite beer brands is Coors, so Cory’s nickname is Cor.   I came along three and a half years later.  Cory ended up playing baseball and football the minute he was old enough, and my father got right into teaching me softball and basketball. I was a huge tomboy, wearing camo pants that you could unzip at the knee to convert to shorts and my brother’s old football jerseys with my hair all straggly and knotted up. I was always dirty.  Id try to keep up with Cory and his friends, playing tackle football and other rough sports with older boys. Those experiences shaped me into the person I am today.
My father was very competitive and expected my brother and me to be the best at everything we did.  The way that he went about it was not so great. He made us practice every day for hours on end and was really hard on us, just like a coach. As the stakes in my brother’s games got more competitive, so did my father and his temper. He’d yell at my brother for having a bad game or making an error and make him do drills all night. My mother began to confront him on the subject, which led to fights that affected all of our relationships with him. My brother became very depressed and anxious. I grew up with low self-esteem, something I still struggle with, but I don’t want to end up becoming the kind of person my father is. My parents are working on their relationship and are still together to this day.
Years after the Houston, Texas incident, I receive a call from a number I did not recognize. The caller-ID read NEVADA.  I was greeted by a raspy voice asking if it was the Talian residence.  Skeptical to disclose this information, I asked who was calling.  It was Vernon. My mother got on the line and spoke to him for close to 45 minutes. He explained how his longtime girlfriend had died and he was all alone, plus swore up and down that he was sober, which my mother instantly did not believe. He wanted to see the family. My mother, suspecting that he was running low on cash, said no.  He started sending birthday cards addressed to “Cody” (Cory) and “Hope” (Paige) but my mother remained adamant. My Uncle Brian, however, invited him to come for a weekend.  He took a shine to Brian’s nine year-old son Alex.  Sunday morning Vernon and Alex were nowhere to be found.  Frantic, Brian called the police, who located them a several miles away and brought them back, Vernon claimed they were just going for a ride, but Brian didn’t believe him.  Nevertheless, much to his wife’s chagrin, he did not press charges.
When my mother heard about this situation, she made up her mind to never let Vernon be a part of any of our lives. He tried to reach her but she ignored most of his calls. The last time she told him never to call again.  He then asked for money, and Robyn hung up on him.

Gary City Council will soon vote on whether to allow GEO Group to build a prison in Gary for undocumented immigrants.  Outraged by the possibility, Post-Trib columnist David Rutter wrote:
  Do you still have a heart and dignity, Gary?
Still have values you won't sell to the highest bidder, Gary?
What Gary's City Council might decide this week will define dignity. And perhaps it will clarify if talk of visionary hope means more than pithy euphemisms.
If anyone really wondered how GEO Group's band of corporate leeches operates in darkness, the once-hidden but now revealed “Memorandum of Understanding” with the Gary Economic Development Corp. speaks clearly.
GEO makes money from managing human suffering and a botched national immigration system. It's an ugly, crass business. No city with heart would tolerate it.
There is no way to assess GEO's record and not be sickened that such cynical foulness could exist in 21st-century America.
Don't know who and what GEO is? Then you've willfully decided to stay ignorant of its toxic mess.
But what's Gary excuse?
The “memorandum of understanding” with a nominally nongovernmental agency is essentially a payoff document created in secret.
In one of several stipulations, GEO agreed to fund a “public safety and service support impact fee” to the Gary Economic Development Corp. Not to the city. But to the agency. It would be $1 per day, per client, or an estimated $290,000 per year, based on a full occupancy of 800 beds.
As GEO profits one-by-one from hapless, trapped souls, the more Gary's citizens profit, or at least the Development Corp.
Do Gary's people want to profit by how many deportation-ready immigrants of color GEO can cram into its new $80 million, 24-acre prison north of the Gary airport.
The more the merrier financially. But this merriment is Sweeney Todd merriment, dripping in hemoglobin. And in this case, deception.
GEO often dangles the equivalent of 30 pieces of silver.
The extent to which GEO is willing to pay off Gary seems matched only by the development agency's desire to be paid off cheaply. But the secretly reached deal — to which the mayor was an unannounced but participating partner — does not benefit Gary, only the development agency.
No city with an ounce of dignity or self-respect wants a GEO prison. GEO seldom bothers thriving counties, only desperate basket cases, or municipalities with passive self-identities.
But the record of GEO running snake-pit prisons packed with violence, depravity and mistreatment is a matter of record. That record also includes $1 billion-a-year profit.
Niece Charlene Okomski-Quinn’s son Sean (above) has set off from Georgia on a three-month hike of the Appalachian Trail: destination, Maine.  Uncertain about his next career move after a sterling academic career, he will mull over future options as he attempts to fulfill the top item on his bucket list.

Robert Blaszkiewiez posted:
As you head to the polls today in Indiana, keep this in mind when the poll worker asks you for your ID. Indiana's voter ID law was passed to prevent voter fraud, however, no actual cases of in-person voter fraud could be cited by the state in its 2008 argument defending the law before the Supreme Court. The voter fraud case that was cited in Supreme Court arguments was the 2003 East Chicago mayoral primary. That race was overturned due to absentee ballot fraud, something that Indiana's voter ID law did nothing to address. So when you show your ID today, be confident that you're doing your part to prevent non-existent voter fraud. Happy Election Day!
Three times I needed to show my drivers license at Brummitt School polling station before penciling in my choices for Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton (President), Pete Visclosky (Congress), Julia Jent (Judge), Baron Hill (Senator), and John Gregg (Governor).  Although Bernie Sanders edged out Clinton, she picked up almost as many delegates and is the presumptive nominee. Republican demagogue Donald Trump buried Ted Cruz, who suspended his campaign.  After his father Rafael Cruz slammed him on the campaign trail, Trump brought up a National Enquirer claim that the Lyin’ Ted’s old man might have been with Lee Harvey Oswald in New Orleans shortly before JFK was shot.  There appear to be no depths to which Trump will not sink.  John Kasich also ended his campaign, no doubt worried that he’d be the next object of Trump’s ridicule.  I was happy to learn that Marissa McDermott trounced incumbent Lake County judge George Paras.

At IUN’s Calumet Regional Archives Sharon Haney was doing research in connection with the Gary NAASP’s hundredth anniversary celebration.  I showed her what I wrote in “Gary’s First Hundred Years” about Joseph Pitts, president of the chapter during the 1930s and again during the 1950s.  He initially joined over an incident of police brutality, he told Judy Smith in 1973 during an interview she conducted for a class assignment.  Pitts recalled:
  A group of boys were shooting marbles in a sand hill and a policeman drove up.  The youth broke and ran.  There were no arguments or anything.  The boy had not been there long and naturally was afraid of police cars and policemen; and when he ran, the policeman shot him in the back.  I became a member that day.
Pitts subsequently received death threats as he fought to desegregate a city playground and wading pool near 15th and Connecticut.  The parks department closed the facility for several weeks but then reopened it without fanfare to blacks as well as whites.

During the teachers tournament none of the Jeopardy contestants knew British prime ministers William Pitt, Neville Chamberlain or Harold MacMillan, pictured with JFK.  Once after a lengthy meeting President Kennedy offered to provide MacMillan with a mistress, allegedly saying, “I wonder how it is with you, Harold.  If I don’t have a woman for three days, I get a terrible headache.”  In Final Jeopardy nobody knew the two adjacent memorials (U.S.S. Arizona and Missouri) commemorating the beginning and conclusion of World War II.

Monday, May 2, 2016


“Don’t cry because it’s over.  Smile because it happened.” Dr. Seuss

Big weekend in Grand Rapids, Michigan: Phil graduating with an MBA and Miranda with a BA in Social Work from Grand Valley State University (GVSU).  Also: Anthony’s prom, and a planning session for Alissa’s bridal shower.  Arriving Friday afternoon, we had time to watch a few innings of Anthony’s varsity baseball game.  His Wyoming Wolves prevailed 7-3.
 above, Dean George Grant, Jr.; below Vox Vidorra

Granddaughter Miranda’s pinning ceremony for Social Work graduates took place at the ultra-modern Mars Hill megachurch, seating capacity 3,500.  Other than two crosses, there was little evidence of its religious purpose, although boxes of tissues were available for those susceptible to shedding tears.  Included in a slide presentation was a shot of Miranda in Ireland.  The indie quartet Vox Vidorra set the tone for the evening’s theme: serving humanity.  In the program was this statement by B.R. Ambedkar:
  A just society is that society in which ascending sense of reverence and descending sense of contempt is dissolved into the creation of a compassionate society.
Dean George Grant, Jr., told of being inspired by the books he discovered in his older sister’s collection by James Baldwin, Lorraine Hansberry, Ralph Ellison, and John Hope Franklin.  I told Miranda afterwards at Olive Garden that at my University of Maryland graduation, historian John Hope Franklin received an honorary degree, as did actress Julie Andrews.
 Phil and Miranda with President Thomas J. Haas and Toni and Jimbo

Prior to graduation at the Van Andel Arena (a hockey rink and concert venue where Disturbed, Rob Zombie and Pop Evil will be playing on May 18) Phil and Miranda had their photo taken with affable GVSU President Thomas J. Haas (nicknamed T-Haas by students).  Phil has worked with Haas on WGVU projects, and his assistant thought father and daughter graduating together would make a good story.  A Coast Guard graduate with a PhD in Chemistry from UConn, President Haas insisted on posing for several photos, including one with our entire group.  Receiving an honorary degree was the head of the W. K. Kellogg Foundation LaJune Montgomery Tabron, who spoke about diversity and inclusiveness.

The ceremony took about three hours, as all students had their moment on stage.  There would be an equally large mid-afternoon ceremony for Liberal Arts and Sciences majors.   We had a good view of the stage and sat close to a huge screen that provided candid shots of graduates, many of whom had decorated their caps.  Exiting the stage, most gave some gesture registering excitement and triumph.  Whenever there was a pause in the action, President Haas received a dose of hand wash spray.  Each year his right hand swells up from all the hand shaking.

That evening Miranda hosted a party.  Grandmothers Toni and Delia brought ample amounts of food.  Alissa’s mom Beth made delicious guacamole dip and lemon brownies.  Throughout the house were black, blue, and white balloons (GVSU has three school colors!).  In the room where music was blaring two guys were reading passages and gawking at the cover of a paperback copy of “Lolita” by Vladimir Nabokov.  Anthony and Laura in formal dress dropped in.  Anthony’s rented shoes didn’t fit, so they were on their way to fetch more comfortable ones. Alissa wanted musical suggestions for her August wedding reception, and both Phil and I chose ZZTop’s “Sharp-Dressed Man,” a number to which we do a routine, pretending to be playing guitars.  I also suggested something by Daft Punk and Steve Earle’s “What’s a Simple Man To Do?”  Gaard Logan told me that Steve’s son, Justin Townes Earle, is a successful singer-songwriter in his own right.
 Anthony asks Laura to prom; below, with Miranda

Sunday while the women were dealing with Alissa’s bridal shower venue Phil and I played several games of Lost Cities and then dined at Lindo Restaurante Mexicano, crowded even at 2:30 p.m.  The food was delicious and the service efficient.  As we were leaving, we noticed that over 30 people were waiting to be seated.  If I knew how, I’d post a rave review. 

I found time to read a few chapters of Richard Russo’s Mohawk (1986), set in a declining upstate New York mill-town around 1970.  About a third of the way through the relationship among the various characters started becoming clear. Though not as funny or compelling as my favorite Russo novels, “Straight Man” (1997) and “That Old Cape Magic” (2009), I’m pretty certain I’ll finish it.
Post-Trib columnist wrote about M to F transgender student Dakota Yorke (above), a Portage homecoming queen finalist who has identified as a girl from a very young age.  Davich wrote: “Last year, Dakota attended her high school prom sporting a tuxedo.  She hated it.  It fit her body but it didn’t fit her mind. Or her blossoming sexual identity.”  In the past Davich has championed lesbian Anne Balay when IUN unfairly terminated her and wrote sympathetically about IUN student Kaden Jakeb Alexander, who transitioned from female to male and whose name now is Kaitlyn Sowers.  Davich wrote:
  He has since undergone sex reassignment surgery to remove his breasts after months of injecting himself with weekly shots of testosterone.  If you met him today, you would never know he was once female.
  “The only thing that hasn’t changed is my show size,” he told me with a chuckle.
Davich added this postscript on Facebook: “My column on Dakota Yorke has already prompted readers to send me negative, hateful feedback, but it didn’t stop Dakota from being interviewed this morning on Fox-32 Chicago news, where she charmed the TV anchorwoman and likely many viewers.”
 Judy and Gene Ayers being interviewed at Temple Israel

In the Ayers Realtors Newsletter Judy Ayers described their new motor home’s maiden voyage to Brookhaven, Mississippi.  The purpose: to scatter the ashes of Bruce and Laura Mae Ayers, who had met when Gene’s father was stationed at a nearby army base.  Judy wrote:
  Laura Mae’s family, like many others in the area, took part in a program that extended their southern hospitality by inviting soldiers for Sunday dinner. Bruce signed up and showed up at the Shrader house one Sunday for dinner. Laura Mae didn’t much care for him at first. He arrived in uniform and on a motorcycle and in her opinion he was too much of a Yankee. However, she had three sisters who thought he was really something so he kept coming back for visits until he finally won Laura Mae’s heart. Since that is where and how their story began we all thought it would be more appropriate for them to be in Brookhaven than at our house wedged between Funk and Wagnalls Encyclopedic Dictionary and Roget’s 21st Century Thesaurus.
  In April the weather was springtime at its best, the motor home was fun to drive, and I had packed the refrigerator with homemade soup, salads, sandwich fixings, fruit, quiches, scones, and chocolate chip cookies. It took us about 14 hours and a few thousand calories each to get to Brookhaven.  A good part of the retail area of Brookhaven has moved near the expressway but there is still a small and very charming downtown area where next to the old train station there is a little park that was abloom with flowering trees and spring flowers. As we sat on a bench in the park we noticed a memorial that long ago had been dedicated by the townspeople to all the soldiers who served in World War II and that was when we knew we had found the right place for Bruce and Laura Mae.

My brother and I will be taking Midge’s ashes to a cemetery in Pennsylvania where Vic purchased four plots and is buried.