Monday, October 16, 2017

Do Not Go Gentle

“Old age should burn and rave at close of day
Rage, rage against the dying of the light”
         Dylan Thomas, “Do not Go Gentle into that Good Night”
 Dylan Thomas

Watching the Cubs defeat the Nationals on TBS, I saw far too many commercials but took note when one by Goboldly (evidently a biopharmaceutical consortium) started out quoting the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas. “Big Pharma” can easily afford to bankroll the classiest of ads.  A Volkswagen commercial used nostalgia to attract baby boomers and their wannabies by showing VW buses at Woodstock with Joe Cocker singing “With a Little Help from My Friends.” A got a good laugh seeing Snoop Dog being touted as the upcoming host for a revival of “Joker’s Wild,” a quiz show Dave loved when a pre-schooler.  The Cubs triumphed in the finale of the five-game series thanks in large part to a successful pick-off play at first when a Nationals player took his foot of the base for an instant.  The camera showed manager Dusty Baker grimacing when the umpires announced their final decision.  Dusty managed the Cubs for four years, beginning in 2003 (the ill-fated year of Bartman) and, in my opinion, was unfairly blamed for things beyond his control.
 Dusty Baker with trademark toothpick

After three straight losses in Fantast Football, Jimbo Jammers got more points than any other team thanks to bid days by Jordon Howard, Carlos Hyde, Antonio Brown, Kirk Cousins, and the Ravens special teams, scoring TDs on kickoff and punt returns.  Cousins not only passed for 330 yards and two TDs but ran one in and rushed for a total of 26 yards.

Toni fell and aggravated her already injured knee but gamely went with us to Northside Diner in Chesterton for breakfast prior to gaming.  Dave’s high school classmate and friend Wayne Thornton did the outside mural. For the first time in many months we played Air Lords, a game that Evan Davis invented.  She also gutted out a trip Saturday during a day of record-breaking rainfall to Outback Steakhouse and then finished first in bridge, hosted by Connie and Brian Barnes, both my age.  On a bureau I spotted a birthday card highlighting the year 1942.  Most things had to do with the price of things or war news, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that one item mentioned the internment of over 100,000 Japanese-Americans.

Thanks to a DNA ancestry search, Helen Booth, a friend from duplicate bridge, discovered that she has two half-sisters.  Her father evidently deserted her family shortly after Helen was born and was never seen again. Back several generations ago, family secrets and so-called skeletons in the closet were not uncommon.  My great-aunt Ida M. Gordon, who lived with us while I was growing up, evidently got swept off her feet by a sharpie from Philadelphia who left her soon after they married.  Not only did I never ask Aunt Ida about him, I never even got the story of what happened from my mother.

Library staff member Anne Koehler asked me to proofread an upcoming Portage Historical Society bulletin. I thought she meant the entire thing but she was referring to an excerpt from my Portage Shavings issue that mentioned recently deceased Irline Holley being a founding member of the Portage Historical Society.

Ron Cohen’s son Joshua passed away, a gentle soul in his mid-40s.  We knew him well when he was a child before he moved with his mom to Indianapolis (once, setting off firecrackers on July Fourth with us, we feared he’d blown off a finger) and then again as an adult.  Whenever he’d see me at IUN or elsewhere, he’d flash a winsome smile and be interested in how I was doing.  Josh overcame some hard knocks before finding a good woman and a decent job and fathering two kids.  He had a fetching smile and a good heart, and Ron is taking the loss hard.
 Ben Edwards

Post-Tribune columnist Jerry Davich wrote a moving story about 11-year-old Ben Edwards, whose parents died last month as a result of a murder-suicide.  Michael Watkins apparently shot his wife, jewelry maker and artist Leila Edwards, owner of Wonderland Stained Glass and Ben’s Bodacious BBQ Bakery and Deli in Miller, and then took his own life. Speaking with Davich at the home of his maternal grandparents Edward and Donna Edwards, Ben asked that his photo be taken with pictures of both parents. He is a fifth grader at Discovery Charter School in Chesterton, where James and Becca graduated from, likes math and science, participated in spell bowl and chess club and hopes to become an engineer. Davich wrote:
   When Watkins' restaurant opened in January, Ben helped his father, working the cash register, taking customers' orders and selling his own homemade baked goods. “Cookies, brownies, cinnamon rolls, banana bread, lots of other stuff,” Ben recalled proudly. “He's quite the little chef," Anthony Edwards said. “He enjoys baking because of the science behind it.” Ben smiled again.
    His mother was a talented stained-glass artist and jewelry maker who taught her many skills to school students, curious friends and, of course, to Ben. “My mom taught me everything she knew,” Ben said. “Or I just picked it up by watching her.”

Tori was in her Grand Valley school’s homecoming court, and sister Miranda, a graduate, volunteered for the dunk tank.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017


 “Skyliner, skyliner, flying so freely
We seem to really touch heaven
Sunbeams all dance on your wings where the light falls
And then when night calls”
         “Skyliner,” Manhattan Transfer

Jimmy Beaumont, the leader of The Skyliners, died in his sleep at age 76 after a musical career spanning 60 years.  I’ve seen the Skyliners perform several times, and they were scheduled to headline Henry Farag’s Ultimate Oldies show at the Star Plaza next week, along with Charlie Thomas and the Drifters (“Under the Boardwalk”), The Marcels (“Blue Moon”), The Cookies (“Don’t Say Nothin’ Bad About My Baby”), and many more.  The Skyliners name came from the 1944 hit “Skyliner” by jazz saxophonist and band leader Charlie Barnet, who also recorded “Cherokee” and “Scotch and Soda.” It was initially an instrumental but was recorded with lyrics by June Christy in 1962 and Manhattan Transfer in 1997.
Charlie Barnet

Rock historian Joe Sasfy wrote: “Though There Goes My Baby by the Drifters is often singled out as the first vocal-group hit to employ strings, it was actually preceded by Since I Don’t Have You, recorded by the Skyliners, a white doo-wop quintet from Pittsburgh.  The song wedded Jimmy Beaumont’s soaring vocal and back-up harmonies to a gorgeous orchestral arrangement, resulting in one of the most beloved doo-wop ballads of all time.”  The song has been covered by everyone from Ronnie Milsap and Art Garfunkel to Stevie Wonder and Guns ‘N’ Roses (with a great guitar solo by Slash but without the spectacular ending.
“Since I Don’t Have You,” The Skyliners’ 1959 classic, has simple but effective lyrics, expressing sorrow over the end of a relationship that has left the person without hopes and dreams, plans and schemes, fond desires, happy hours, in short without anything.  It has an unforgettable, soaring ending.  In a 2009 interview Beaumont said, People still want me to hit that high note. I’ve lost a little bit, but I’d like to think not much. I’m not going to retire. People will retire me when they stop coming.”  He added: “I had been listening to all the doo-wop groups from that period — The Platters, The Moonglows. I guess just from listening it came out of me.”  Beaumont loved Rhythm ‘n’ Blues, and initially, when the Skyliners were booked into the Apollo in Harlem, some folks expected to see a black group.  He died in McKeesport, PA, where my dad grew up.  He took me there as a kid, got lost, and blamed the new one-way streets.
 Sean Virden

At bridge in Chesterton twenty-somethings, Sean Virden and Corey Himes, showed up.  Initially, people thought they were IUN students from Steve McShane’s class. They received a warm welcome, seemed to enjoy themselves, and held their own.  My best hand was making 4 Hearts against Chuck and Marcy. Facing a 4-0 trump split with 3 Hearts on the board, I had here losing Spades in my hand and a Spade doubleton in dummy.  It appeared that I’d either have to concede a trump trick to Chuck or lose a Spade trick.  Because I had a singleton Club, I was able to trump Marcy’s King of Clubs and then throw off a losing Spade on the dummy’s Queen of Clubs.  We were the only pair to make game on the hand. 

I congratulated Chuck and Marcy Tomes for a 70.83% game last week at Banta Senior Center. Barb Walczak’s Newsletter included this statement from Chuck, “Marcy and I had a very smooth game- no big errors.  We plussed 20 of the 27 boards and were on the correct side of the one-trick swing hands.  On the best hand of the game we got a zero when Fred Green bid and made a cold grand slam in hearts.  Kudo to Fred!”  The Newsletter listed Tomes, playing with both Marcy and Lynn Bayman, as the ninth highest Unit 154 September scorer.  Bold and clever Lou Nimnicht headed the list.  

Dan Simon, who often plays duplicate bridge with another former IUN professor, Ed d’Ouville, visited the Archives prior to being interviewed by student Salina Tejeda. Dan and I have been working on an article about Warren G. Harding, the first avid bridge-playing President. Elected in 1920 on a pledge to return America to “Normalcy” after the dislocations of a divisive world war, Harding was well known for White House poker games where bootleg whiskey and cigars were prevalent.  He also developed a strong interest in auction bridge (contract bridge was not invented until 1925) that in his last days in office became an obsession.  While on a cross-country train trip and four-day voyage to Alaska, he insisted that bridge players in his entourage, including Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover, indulge in marathon games from morning until after midnight.  The President was unnerved and unable to sleep due to news that scandals involving Attorney-General Harry Daugherty and Alien Property Custodian Jesse Smith, who had committed suicide two months earlier, were about to become public.   Hoover found the thick atmosphere of cigar smoke so unpleasant that whenever he was dummy, he’d step out for a breath of fresh air.  After Harding’s sudden death, probably brought on by stress, Hoover never played bridge again.  All taste for the game evaporated in the wake of those memories of Harding’s last days.

After a short stint at IUN, Simon taught at Notre Dame and with Francisco Arturo Rosales published an articlein Indiana Magazine of History  about the Mexican immigrant experience in East Chicago that Ed Escobar and I included i in our 1987 anthology “Forging a Community: The Latino Experience in Northwest Indiana, 1919-1975.” Concerning the preponderance of single men (solos) in the Indiana Harbor colonia during the 1920s, they concluded that the environment somewhat resembled a frontier town:
    Speakeasies and bars in private homes, serving bootleg or home-brewed liquor, sprang up along the west end of Block and Pennsylvania avenues. Houses of prostitution were numerous, providing one outlet for the many frustrations of the mexicanos. Some two dozen Mexican poolrooms provided another diversion for single men in the early years of the colonia. Violence was the natural result of such an environment. Fistfights, shootings, and knifings were common occurrences. For the most part, violence in the colonia was an intra-group phenomenon, often based on feuds which had their origins in Mexico. Immigrants from Michoacan, for example, continued feuds that had begun in remote mountain villages thousands of miles to the south.
There were, of course, more socially acceptable diversions. One was the cinema, which in its silent era transcended language barriers.    Many mexicanos patronized the city's several theaters, although they were segregated in some of them. It was also possible to take a train or bus into nearby South Chicago or Gary, where similar Mexican colonias, centered around steel plants, were rapidly growing. The transportation system facilitated travel along the shore of Lake Michigan and allowed for a great deal of interaction between the several colonias in the Chicago area.

Seniors from a half-dozen high schools visited IUN, and I took advantage of a Thrill of the Grill offering of hot dogs and chili. I was disappointed that East Chicago Central students weren’t represented.  I sat with several students from Thea Bowman Leadership Academy, as well as a friendly career guidance counselor who told me that the younger grades were taking PSAT tests and that she had two degrees from IUN.

Brenda Ann Love posted this remembrance:
    Ten years ago today, my grandfather died.  Because of my birth parents’ troubles, I was raised by my grandparents. My grandfather taught me so much, from how to change my own oil to how to play a mean game of scrabble. I inherited his work ethic as well as his stubbornness (though I often say that comes from my Grams).  What I miss most is his wisdom. Though he never graduated high school, having been born to a poor, large family in rural Kentucky in 1923, he was the wisest person I have ever known.  When things were tough for me, as they often were during the last years of his life as I was finishing law school, he used to tell me “it’s a good life, if you don’t weaken.”  When things get tough now, which they seem to do less frequently as I get older, I remember his voice clearly telling me, in his way, that everything will be ok.