Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Fantasy


“There should be a place where only the things you want to happen, happen.” Maurice Sendak, “Where the Wild Things Are”
In the January 2014 issue of the Modern Language Association journal PMLA, eight authors paid tribute to Maurice Sendak, author and illustrator of “Where the Wild Things Are” (1963).  George Bodmer’s brief essay, “The Child as Artist,” quotes from an acceptance speech Sendak made upon receiving the Caldecott Medal a quarter-century after publication of his children’s picture book classic.  Sendak revealed that as a child he drew sketches of kids at play and, as an adult, noticed children doing much the same thing.  The reason for this, he concluded, was
“to combat the awful fact of childhood: the fact of their vulnerability to fear, anger, hate, frustration – all the emotions that are an ordinary part of their lives and that they can perceive only as ungovernable and dangerous forces.  To master these forces, children turn to fantasy: that imagined world where disturbing emotional situations are solved to their satisfaction.  Through fantasy, Max, the hero of my book, discharges his anger against his mother and returns to the real world sleepy, hungry, and at peace with himself.”

A recent teachers poll ranked “Where the Wild Things Are” their favorite children’s picture book, ahead of “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle and “The Polar Express” by Chris Van Allsburg, the latter a fantasy about Santa Claus taking a boy to the North Pole.  The only others on the top-25 list that I’d read were “Green Eggs and Ham” and “Curious George,” staples in the Lane household since Phil and Dave were toddlers.  A list of top children’s fantasies included Lane favorites “Chronicles of Narnia,” “The Hobbit,” “Harry Potter,” “Winnie-the-Pooh,” and “Charlotte’s Web.”

Choice sent me “Diplomatic Games: Sport, Statecraft, and International Relations Since 1945,” edited by Heather L. Dichts and Andrew L. Johns.  The most promising articles examine Chinese ping-pong diplomacy, Soviet-American Olympic basketball rivalry, and the 1980 “Miracle on Ice.”  The study of athletics was once considered a subset of social history, disparaged as “pots and pans” history, just as snobs in the medical profession looked down on dermatologists and traditional academicians considered children’s literature (“kiddy lit”) unworthy of scholarly treatment.  Now one can find sports courses in business, psychology, sociology, medicine, and literature curricula, as well as the field of international relations, as “Diplomatic Games” attests.
Carson Cunningham at Purdue and Carroll College
“Carson Cunningham and his Fighting Saints coming to Indiana,” a NWI Times headline announced.  A PhD in sports history from Purdue, whose mentor was the distinguished Randy Roberts, and author of books on Olympic hoops and minor league pro basketball, Cunningham starred at Andrean and Purdue and coached at his high school alma mater before becoming a head coach at Carroll College in Helena, Montana.  I arranged for Carson to teach summer courses at IUN and hoped he’d become the Redhawks coach.  He loves Montana and took his former Purdue coach, Gene Keady, fly fishing on the Little Blackfoot River.  
Between November 7 and 9 the Fighting Saints will play Purdue, Purdue North Central, and IUN (I’ll be there).  Cunningham told correspondent Al Hamnik, “We’re in the middle of a major rebuild.  I took over a team that was 2-25.”  His first year they went 9-19.  Cunningham added, “We have eight new players, seven freshmen, [including] kids from Madrid, Brazil, Idaho, Washington State,” as well as Montana.  Hamnik wrote:

              The cerebral Cunningham hasn't changed. His emails, for example, end with ‘Be like water, my friend.’   
Well, he's at it again in his second season as head coach at Carroll College, where the word ‘tardigrade’ is prominently displayed on practice jerseys at the NAIA school.
The tardigrade is a micro-animal with eight legs that can withstand extreme conditions like boiling water, extreme cold and nuclear winter, thrive in pressures greater than the deepest ocean trenches, and survive without food or water for more than 10 years.
Cunningham fancies it as the model for his team.”

Tuesday Leann Wright delivered my homecoming sweatshirt, and Steve McShane and I gave her a quick tour of the Archives.  The weather having turned rainy and windy, I put the sweatshirt on over my shirt before walking to the credit union.  At my request Leann emailed me the final segment of the video “We’re on a Mission for Philanthropy” starring Chuck Gallmeier and Chancellor Lowe as the Blues Brothers.  They lip-synched “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love” and had the letters ELWOOD and JAKE painted on their fingers.  Leeann is one of the dancers in the background.

I lost Fantasy Football by four points to Kira “The Cougar” Shifflett.  Had I not substituted QB Cam Newton for Tom Brady at the last minute, I’d have won by 3 points.  Furthermore, the vaunted Seattle defense got me a measly 2 points with no interceptions, no turnovers and just one sack against lowly St. Louis.
In “Last Words: The Final Journals of William S. Burroughs,” the introspective Beat novelist wrote: “You never loved anybody except your cats, your Ruski and Spooner and Calico.”  In a NY Review essay entitled, “The Dark Dreams of William Burroughs” Andrew O’Hagan asserted that the St. Louis-born author of “Naked Lunch” “struggled to perceive a soul in human beings – as opposed to a ghostliness – that could equal that of his cats.”  In “The Cat Inside” Burroughs wrote:

  “When Ruski was in the hospital with pneumonia, I called every few hours.  I remember once there was a long pause and the doctor came on to say, ‘I’m sorry, Mr. Burroughs’ . . . the grief and desolation that closed around me.  But he was only apologizing for the long wait . . .  ‘Ruski is doing fine . . . temperature down . . . I think he’s going to make it.’  And my elation the following morning: ‘Down to normal.  Another day and he can go home.’”
Reagan and Ann Sheridan in King's Row" (1942)

According to Rick Perlstein’s “The Invisible Bridge,” a visit by FBI agents in 1946 changed Ronald Reagan’s life.  Before then, he supported liberal causes and organizations later branded communist fronts by Red-Baiters. The agents convinced him to become an informant.  In the unreliable 1965 autobiography “Where’s the Rest of Me?” (a line from “King’s Row” in which a vicious doctor amputates his legs) Reagan wrote:
         “One said, ‘We thought someone the Communists hated as much as they hate you might be willing to help us.’  That got me.  It’s always a jolt to discover others have been talking you over. ‘What do you mean?’ I asked. ‘Well,’ he said, ‘they held a meeting last night.’ He described the house, gave the address, told me who was there, and what they said. I broke in. ‘What did they say about me?’ I demanded. ‘The exact quotation,’ he replied, was: ‘What are we going to do about that sonofabitching bastard Reagan? Will that do for openers?’”

After liberal Jane Wyman divorced Reagan, he, in his own words, “tried to go to bed with every starlet in Hollywood and damn near succeeded.”  Perlstein wrote:   “One of these starlets later accused him of what would come to be called ‘date rape.’  Sometimes he woke up in one of the bungalows at the legendary Garden of Allah hotel complex on the Sunset Strip not knowing the name of the women beside him in bed.”  Once Reagan fell under the spell of aspiring actress Nancy Davis, known to use her sexuality as a means of advancement, his roving days apparently ceased.

Perlstein wrote that Franklin D. Roosevelt employed the words “Rendezvous with Destiny” at his 1933 Inauguration when in fact the slogan first appeared in FDR’s 1936 Democratic convention acceptance speech.  Reagan, once an ardent New Deal supporter, borrowed the phrase on many occasions, most famously in a 1964 endorsement of Barry Goldwater that launched his political career.  Reagan later claimed, “I didn’t leave the Democratic Party.  The party left me.”  Perlstein points out that the Democratic Party during the John F. Kennedy administration was much more conservative than during the Roosevelt and Truman administrations.

Cassie Carpenter and Alyssa Larkin, from the group Creative Initiatives for Public Space, talked with Steve McShane and me about converting the abandoned Bell Telephone Company building in Glen Park (113 W. Ridge Ave.) to a community center focusing on the arts.  They were interested in the building’s history, which dates from 1941, when it housed people and equipment providing exchange services, according to Gary city directories. I suggested that they contact Jerry Davich and through him try to locate folks who worked there.  I knew Cassie and Alyssa, Chicago Art Institute grad students, from the Gary Vision Project, whose activities included collecting stories doing murals on the side of buildings.  Last week Samuel A. Love gave them a tour of Glen Park.
 Above, Samuel A. Love in his old neighborhood; below, Afrika Hardy

Police are combing abandoned homes in Gary, estimated to number between 8,000 and 10,000, in a grisly search for more victims of mass murderer Darren Vann.  What a nightmare.  The heinous crimes, national news the past couple days, are just the type of publicity the city does not need.  A Valparaiso company has offered to cremate the body of Vann’s first victim, 19 year-old Afrika Hardy, strangled to death in a Hammond motel.
Today’s Daily Beast led with Justin Glawe’s report, “Gary, Indiana Is a Serial Killer’s Playground.”  Referring to the abandoned homes where Darren Vann hid at least six bodies, Glawe added: “Even worse, it’s a place where women disappear without being missed.”  Glawe evidently was drinking in Bugsy’s Tavern, a biker bar at 45th and Broadway, when last evening’s news came on.  A woman told him she was uncomfortable because her kids walk by a house at 413 E. 43rd Ave. where the body of Anith Jones was found.  The owner of Bugsy’s, a former fireman, fought blazes at numerous sites like the ones where the bodies of victims were unearthed.  Glawe concluded: “The whole episode is shocking, confusing, newsy and depressing – a black eye for a town already sporting a fat lip and a broken nose.” Then he gratuitously added:
What can a politician do for a town that’s so fucked up that 10,000 abandoned houses are simply part of the scenery, where a killer can dump bodies seemingly at random without much fear of being caught, where only one of the three women so far identified as Vann’s victims had a missing-persons report out on her?”

Without any historical context one might conclude from Glawe’s article that citizen apathy and useless politicians are to blame for this tragedy.  In reality, residents are in mourning and Gary’s mayor for years has been doing everything possible to tear down homes abandoned first by whites and later by middle-class blacks.  If racism played a role in that out-migration, much more important were cynical corporate decisions and policies by downstate officials that left Gary’s city officials unable to combat crime and drugs or eradicate vacant properties that are the residue of poverty and unemployment.

For Nicole Anlsover’s class on World War II I displayed photos from my Calumet Region Homefront Shavings (vol. 22, 1993), including women war workers, visits by starlets Dorothy Lamour and Anne Rutherford, activities of the All-Out Americans, Shirley Franzitta’s pin-up picture sent to GIs she corresponded with (which produced a half-dozen marriage proposals), the Gary National Bank’s Servicemen’s Honor Roll of local casualties, and local sports stars Tom Harmon (two-time All-American running back) and middleweight champ Tony Zale, Gary’s “Man of Steel.”

Dave bowled in my place because I had a condo owners meeting.  Because the 32 units will likely need now roofs within 5-10 years we debated the alternatives of raising the monthly fees or having a special assessment later of several thousand dollars.  Fifteen years ago insurance paid for new roofs after a historic hailstorm.