Friday, May 22, 2015

Leaving Gary

“There's a trick to the Graceful Exit. It begins with the vision to recognize when a job, a life stage, a relationship is over - and to let go. It means leaving what's over without denying its value.” Ellen Goodman

It looks like Anne Balay is really leaving the house and community she loves so much to take a position at Haverford College in the Philadelphia area.  She also was awarded a research fellowship.  Anne isn’t the first and won’t be he last to say, in effect, “Good-bye, Gary” and hopefully will come back to visit and perhaps lecture at IUN once her troglodyte enemies are gone. They are outnumbered by her many sympathetic friends on campus cognizant of the unfair way she was treated.
Miller Woods hike, photo by Samuel A. Love; below, Jerry Davich talks to Merrillville sixth graders
Samuel A. Love grew up in Glen Park, moved south withis family but now resides in Miller and is active with Gary grassroots organizations.  Jerry Davich grew up in Miller, lives in Portage, but since embarking on the “Lost Gary” book project has been revisiting childhood haunts.  I lived within the Gary city limits for five years when my family moved from Ross Township just south of the city to 337 Jay Street, a neighborhood that went from almost all white to virtually all black in the space of 18 months.  Then we lived a block east of County Line Road within the National Lakeshore for 35 years before buying a condo in Chesterton.  Working at IU Northwest, I haven’t left Gary and will always have a spiritual attachment to the place, “Steel City,” I consider my hometown.

Retired English professor William Buckley lives in Crown Point but retains a carrel at IUN’s library.  “He recently composed “This Is the Place.  This Is the Point (Steel City, 2015):
It’s too heavy, the way we do our dreaming here,
the way we drive on streets  in Lake County.
  dreaming where we’d like to dream
  by the shore of Lake Michigan
the way hearts are reluctant to meet there.

Dreams are easy in tested rooms of Northwest Indiana,
  as if lures of oceans and mountains
  should not be where they are
by their cold nights and invitations.

Our places here are shouting places,
  under our sulfurous clouds
  and in our intense mill rooms
by the hissing lip of Lake Michigan.

This is the place.  This is the point:
  in “The Region,”
we have our inner space for dreaming
  while gulls adjust to our sandy winds
and deer browse in our windy grasses
and where the sudden crunch
  of quick waves
  pound on our beaches
reflecting the sound of our mills, in the night.
A bus driver leaving Gary’s Majestic Star Casino had a mishap resulting in his vehicle dangling precariously off the side of a bridge.  No passengers were on board, and the driver was hospitalized with undisclosed injuries.

I talked to Steve McShane’s Summer I students about keeping journals that would emphasize family and community history.  I told them that the Newberry Library “Encyclopedia of Chicagoland” was a good source for towns and cities and that “Peopling Indiana,” published by Indiana Historical Society Press, contained chapters on most ethnic groups that settled in the Region.  Giving students copies of my 2007 Steel Shavings on the 1980s, entitled “The Uncertainty of Everyday Life,” I suggested that they show relatives the popular culture pages as a way of getting them to elicit memories.  I encouraged them to utilize photos and noted that not only did students take pride in being published authors, their families also enjoyed seeing the articles in print.  I pointed out the value of social history and the efficacy of recording contemporary events, saying the history encompasses every meaningful thing that happened up to this instant. 
 statue in Gary's Marquette Park

Just as explorers such as Lewis and Clark kept journals of places they visited, I wanted them to could think of theirs as explorations into the past.  I told them that in 1673 Father Marquette kept a journal when on an expedition with Louis Joliet to find the mouth of the Mississippi River that took them through Northwest Indiana.  Laying unread for nearly 200 years in a Jesuit archives in Montreal, the journal contained valuable observations on Native American tribes that resided in the Midwest prior to the arrival of Euro-Americans.

Pointing out other sources, I read to the class excerpts from “Gary’s First Hundred Years” about geological features of the Region relating to the receding glacier, “leaving a succession of sandy beaches across Lake County where mastodons once trod.”  Between 2,000 and 3,000 Lake Michigan’s southern shoreline approximated its present boundaries.  I noted that James Madison’s “Hoosiers” makes use of up-to-date scholarship regarding Native Americans, the first wave of which probably crossed the Bering land bridge from Asia over 10,000 years ago.  Madison concluded: “While these initial settlers altered the environment as they hunted and gathered, they accommodated their lives more fully to the natural world than did later arrivals.”

I selected this passage from Ken Schoon’s “Calumet Beginnings,” in order to demonstrate how historical interpretations evolve over time:
  It is generally agreed that the name Calumet is a French substitution for the Indian name for the river.  What that word was or, what it meant, has been debated for over 150 years.  Early maps had more than a dozen spellings in French and English.
  In 1945, geographer Alfred Meyer noted that it may have meant “little reed” or “pipe of peace” (pipe stems were made of reeds).  Father Marquette described peace pipes called calumets in his journal of 1673.  Others ascribe Calumet as a corruption of another Indian word meaning “a deep, still water.”
  More recent scholarship has uncovered another meaning.  In a 1696 manuscript written by Jesuit missionary Jacques Gravier, researcher John Swenson found that the oldest recorded Indian name for the river was Kinoumiki, meaning “ship that draws a lot of water.”  Had the Indians seen a ship on the Calumet River?  It’s possible, says Swenson.  The Calumet River was much larger in the days before various drainage ditches diverted much of its waters.  And the French explorers certainly had the means to build ships.  LaSalle himself had one built on the Great Lakes in 1678-79.  Called Le Griffon, during its brief life, it sailed on Lakes Erie, Huron, and northern Lake Michigan.
Brandon Grubl scores against Chris Diehl, 12-4-2013, NWI Times photo by John Smierciak
Brandon Grubl was the leading scorer for the IUN Redhawks in 2013-14 and set a school record with 49 points against Kuyper College.  His journal had a surprise ending:
March 2: As I was on my way out the door, I smelled something burning in the kitchen. I went to investigate and discovered our garbage can in flames. I carried it out the front door and threw it in the lawn because there was about 8 inches of snow on the ground. I picked up some snow and put the fire out. In my panic I accidentally pick up a burning piece of plastic.  I quickly buried my hand in the snow to stop my finger from burning.  My left pointer finger was black and I had to scrape off the burnt plastic on it. The incident left me with some nasty blisters. My mother must have thrown a match in the garbage can. After class I had an intramural volleyball game at IUN. Our team has won the tiny tournament two years in a row. Tonight was just the second regular season game. We dominated, winning 25-5 and 25-13.
March 9: My volleyball team won to go 2-0, but it wasn't easy. We didn't play very well tonight but a win is a win. Leaving for home, I wasn't very smart. I blew two stop signs on Ridge Road and got pulled over.  The female cop wasn't very amused by my act of confusion that I blew two stop signs.  Luckily she only gave me a verbal warning.  The ride from Gary to my home in Valparaiso generally takes 40 minutes, and instead of cutting it down by a minute or two my stupidity delayed the trip.
March 14: I worked out and then I went to Valparaiso University to play basketball on their outdoor courts. It's the first time I have played since before I had surgery 7 months ago. It felt really good. The weather cooperated, and it was nice to play outside. I went to a bonfire at my brother’s house, and a few of my friends were there. We just sat by the fire, had some good conversation, and relaxed.
March 30: At IUN we had our first spring basketball workouts today.  I was dying. Having surgery and being out for six months has killed my conditioning. I am ready though and excited for next season.  The team has some new players, and I am excited to see what we can achieve.  Also tonight was another intramural volleyball game. We won our semifinal match pretty easily and play the championship in two weeks. 
April 1: Holy cow it was nice out today, in the 70s and sunny. I started the day by eating an amazing breakfast. Then I stopped at the gas station and bought a ten-dollar scratch off lottery ticket. Guess what - I won $2,500 and was freaking out. I checked the ticket multiple times and even asked other people to look at it. It was real, and I won that money. Later I received a text from my first love and high school sweetheart. We dated for two years starting when I was 17, and I thought I really loved her. We had our ups and downs like any couple does. I went off to Elmhurst College about an hour and a half away. She was a senior at Morgan Township.  Everything stayed smooth until after she graduated high school.  She wanted to start a fresh life and be single in college. She broke up with me and broke my heart. I have been thinking about her ever since and constantly wondering “what if.” Well, she wanted to meet up, so I took her to Olive Garden. The chemistry just picked up where it left off. She talked about trying things again slowly. I could not have been happier. This has been the best day of my life!  APRIL FOOLS! I didn’t win any money on a scratch off, and my ex who broke my heart sure as hell didn’t text message me. It was just a normal boring day. However, I did tell the truth about something: it was sunny and in the 70s. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015


“There's something quite peculiar
Something shimmering and white
Leads you here despite your destination
Under the milky way tonight”
“Under the Milky Way,” The Church

It was a surprise – to me at least – how many journals from Steve McShane’s class mention going to church.  In fact, several students attended or participated in Easter pageants.  Though raised a Lutheran and confirmed a Presbyterian the year we lived in Michigan, I am not a churchgoer myself.  Accompanying Toni to Catholic services in Lewisburg, PA, 52 years ago, I’d chuckle noticing hell-raising jocks I washed dishes with at Bucknell’s Women’s Cafeteria lined near the confessional.  Married in a Roman Catholic cathedral (St. Adelbert’s in Philadelphia), Toni and I had Phil and Dave baptized in Hyattsville, MD, mainly to please grandmothers.  When Dave was ten, we were at a Little League coach’s Catholic wedding and he suddenly jumped up and joined communicants near the altar. I’ve attended funeral services for Rhiman Rotz and Garret Cope at Episcopal churches in Gary and been to Bar and Bat Mitzvahs at Temple Israel in Miller.  If forced to pick a church, mine would be Hobart Unitarian, where I read lines from Kahlil Gibran’s “The Prophet” at Jeff Hagelberg’s wedding.
 IUN Latino Leadership Conference attendees; photo by Jesse Johnson

First-generation student Monica Rostro wrote:
March 5: I’ll be 22 in two weeks.  When I was 15, I wanted to be 21 – well, not any more.  When I turned 21, I went to bdubs (Buffalo Wild Wings) and Gayety’s for ice cream.  I’m not really into drinking but regret not doing something more exciting.  People think I’m younger than I am, but I don’t mind.
March 7: The IUN Latino Leadership Conference that I helped organize attracted high school and college students from throughout Northwest Indiana.  The keynote speaker was really inspiring.  I missed out on the food and music but heard they were great.
March 11: Sometimes I want to drop out of college and work at McDonald’s.  At least I wouldn’t have to worry about assignments or exams.  My parents are my motivation for staying in school.  I am the youngest of five children but the first to attend college.  It was scary, but I’ll get through and graduate.
March 13: Since it is Lent and Friday, I cannot eat meat.  I want BBQ ribs but instead will be having shrimp, they only seafood I’ll eat.  I have practice at church to prepare for Holy Week.  I gave up candy for Lent.  I was also going to forgo chips but weakened.
March 14: In Mexican households Saturdays are devoted to cleaning the entire house. As a reward my parents buy Birreria, which is goat meat.  Sometimes they buy Carnitas (braised pork served in tacos) with salsa and avocado on the side.
March 15: Being Catholic, I go to church every Sunday.  I sing in the choir and play the guitar.  Even though I play religious music, I try to come up with my own arrangements. 
March 16: Spring break started.  I have no plans other than to see my best friends.  They are cousins, and one goes to IU.
March 17: My friends want to have a mini-party for my birthday.  We went to the stores and bought a few things.  This is going to be exciting.
April 3: My birthday went well.  I had an amazing time with my friends.  Today is Good Friday.  We went through the streets of East Chicago and replayed what Jesus went through before he died on the cross.  It was really cold outside but worth seeing how the youth group put together the play.  It was impressive.
April 4: During mass dozens of people were baptized or confirmed.  You saw little girls in pretty white dresses and boys in white tuxedos.  I was baptized as a baby but remember my first communion and confirmation.  For years I did not like Sunday School.  My parents forced me to go.  Then once I was 15 I was in plays and took guitar lessons.  The teacher came from Guadalajara, Mexico.  I have been in choir for about eight years and am thinking of talking to the priest about starting a youth choir.
April 5: For Easter my family had a cookout and Easter egg hunt for my nephews and nieces.  They were fighting over eggs, which was pretty hilarious.  They are wild and squabble but then play like nothing happened.  I am grateful for the family God gave me.
 Becky Romero in red skirt and elsewhere

Becky Romero wrote:
January 28: I go by Becky, not Rebecca, because when I was younger and I would get in trouble, my mom would use my whole name, and it always freaked me out.  I come from a big family. I have three sisters and one brother: Susan, Gina, Hector, and Sarah, who is my fraternal twin.  I am older than her by 44 minutes.  My parents moved to the U.S. from Mexico when my mom was 22 and my dad 20.  Beginning in the summer of 1993 (when my sister and I were one year-old) my parents would drive to Mexico every couple of years, until 2004 when, due to fears about the Mexican cartel, we’ve been flying instead.  Even though my dad was a steelworker in Gary, we lived in Chicago until 2005.  My sister Gina was dating a gang member. As soon as my dad found out, we moved to Indiana. When my dad discovered they were continuing to see each other, he sent Gina to a school in California, where she stayed with my Aunt Sandra.  She finished high school out there and came back home afterwards.  My sister being gone was very hard because I loved her. She not being at home was depressing, but it did her good, and she still thanks my dad to his day. 
January 29: My parents are old school. They expect us to not leave the house until married.  My brother is engaged to a girl named Hadassah.  Gina is dating a guy named Rich who goes to our church, First Church in Hobart.  It is an English-speaking Pentecostal church.  Rich treats my sister with respect and loves our family.  My sister Susan has been dating a guy named Ethan on and off for 6 years, and they have had some ups and downs.  They haven’t gotten married yet because Ethan doesn’t have a job and Susan is taking care of school loans.
February 2: The first boy I liked, Michael, was very immature. He would make gross jokes, didn’t treat girls nice, and had a negative attitude toward church.  I later met Robert through a church youth event.  He was talented and played the drums and the piano. He had a good sense of humor but was boastful.  A part of me was also scared to date because I saw all the heartbreak that my sisters dealt with and I just didn’t want my heart to be broken.  Then I met Esai.  I was all about this guy.  I started talking to him when I was 19; he was four years younger. We were friends for two years but had feelings for each other. We talked so much it was great. I literally had butterflies in my stomach every time I would read his next text message. We flirted but it was innocent flirting without inappropriate comments or creepy stuff people do.  He was so respectful and, we both have strong values of waiting for sexual pleasures until marriage.  But the relationship ended last year.  The age difference was a main factor, and he’s going to school in California. The first time he held my hand I got so nervous and my hands got sweaty. It was nerve-wracking but wonderful at the same time. I thought he would pull away but instead he held my hand longer.  I wish it didn’t have to end but unfortunately it did. So forgetting about the feelings I had for Esai was hard: not being able to see his face, to hear his beautiful voice singing to me, his contagious laugh, or just simply snuggling on the couch watching The Mighty Ducks on Netflix, while he held my sweaty hands.  Even though I don’t talk to him anymore, I have wonderful memories to look back on. Someday I’ll find someone to love again and it will be beautiful. One day a guy will find me and just swoop me off my feet. Until then I’ll finish my schooling and get a career.
February 3: When people find out that I have never kissed a guy, they’re so surprised; but I’m not going to kiss someone until I stand at the altar getting married by my pastor. I never really understood sexual jokes and hate how people say “Oh, don’t say that in front of Becky! She’s innocent… We don’t want to taint her.” It bothered me when I was younger but now that I’m older I’m thankful with what God has saved me from.  I have never drank, smoked, or done anything sexual. To live a holy, pure, life is what I strive to do. I give most of my time to God and ministries of the church.
March 19: Today I turned 23.  People always tell me that I look younger than I actually am. When I was younger I hated it, but as years pass I’m starting to appreciate more.  People came over my house; we ate cake and just hung out - overall a good day.
March 20: I work at a daycare where I get paid minimum wage. My car is sitting in my parents’ driveway because it’s not working again. It’s a 2001 Hyundai Santa Fe. I’ve had good memories in that car but can’t wait until I can afford a better one. Like the saying goes, “Patience is a virtue.”
March 30: A really good friend called me from Japan. She is teaching Japanese children English. I think it is awesome She is planning on staying for three years so I want to visit her. It would be a great adventure. I met her in high school; I didn’t know she lived in my neighborhood until I met her younger brother on the bus.
April 2: I spent most of my day brainstorming about my friend Falon’s wedding coming up in July.  Last year she moved to California to go to a bible college. She also got engaged to a boyfriend that she’s been dating for 2 years.  I’m so excited to be her bridesmaid!
April 4: I went to a baby shower for a friend from church.  They revealed the sex of the baby when they brought out a blue cake.  It was pretty exciting because she already has a daughter.

Irving Hernandez composed these journal entries:
March 1: I woke up on my friend’s couch with head pounding from a hangover kicking in from a night at Mood’s Pub and Grub in Portage that ended for me when I blacked out. I made it to Flamingo’s Pizza in Miller for my 5 to 10:30 shift.  We had a couple of rushes, but for the most part it was rather show.  At 10:30 I got my free drink and headed home.
March 2: At IUN’s Fitness Center at 11, I got in my cardio and worked out my chest prior to my 1 o’clock class.  For dinner three of us went to Texas Roadhouse.  My friend’s cousin had taken 7 Xanax a week ago and crashed his car.  One or two can mess you up, so I was surprised he could even walk.  At six we headed to Camelot Lanes for “Dollar Bowling.”  I ordered a $6-pitcher that the substitute bartender took like 20 minutes to pour.  I bowled just one game and drank the rest of the time.
March 6: I started a second job as a cook at Mood’s Pub.  It was beyond easy, but another new guy got all bitchy because I used his knife to chop up lettuce.  I hadn’t realized he had brought it from home.  I shook my head at his lame ass, but he turned out to be not so bad.  After work a friend convinced me to go back to Mood’s, where I spent too much money and blacked out.
March 10: My friends call me the human dumpster because of my appetite.  I took the 6-pound challenge at Kelsey’s and didn’t eat anything all day.  I finished four pounds in an hour, the time limit, and felt like a loser even though the steak wasn’t cooked properly and seemed extra chewy.
March 15:  I hit up Chicago with friends since Indiana doesn’t sell alcohol on Sundays.  We walked around downtown discreetly drinking our “forty’s” and had a hell of a time.
March 16: My nephew and his mom visited from Chicago. We went to the park, hit up the Portage boardwalk, and ended up at Chuck E Cheese.  Work at Flamingo’s was busy since on Mondays it’s 25 percent off on pizza and calzones.  Afterwards at a friend’s I got pretty hammered.
March 17: On St Patrick’s Day we bought a case of Keystone Light and played the drinking game “baseball.”  It’s like beer pong, with cups and ping pong balls, except you consume twice as much beer. Well, I didn’t make it out that night.  I was gone by eight.
March 19:  We hit the bars on the Crown Point square.  I blacked out before we left the first bar.
March 22:  I went to church in Chicago with my nephew and his mom.   Afterwards a group of us went to Olive Garden (endless salad and rolls) and then back to church to watch folks practice the Easter drama about the crucifixion of Jesus.  People were cracking jokes the whole time.
March 26: My friends and I refer to Thursdays as Jags Day.  We try to finish a gallon of J├Ągerneister as fast as we can before blacking out.  It was glorious.
March 28: At Mood’s the morning crew had not stocked up, so I was running back and forth from the kitchen to the freezer.  A live band was performing, so we were busy; I embraced it and before I realized, it was time to head out.  Sadly my friends did not want to get wasted, so I went home.
March 29: I made it to church in Chicago around 10:50, only 20 minutes late.  Afterwards my nephew, his mom, and I went to Texas Roadhouse and then back to church for his practice on the Easter skit. Later my nephew and I watched Wrestle Mania.
March 31: To recap the month of March, I worked a lot, had a Spring Break full of drinking and blackouts, and went to church with my nephew.  I fell for a girl at work but was turned down – it hurt, but I’m over it.  Now I’m trying to finish the semester strong.

In a Sunday Washington Post crossword puzzle, the clue was “former Shea players” in 8 letters.  Mets and New York Mets didn’t fit, but, voila – the answer was the Beatles, referencing a 1965 concert where fans screamed so loudly they drowned out the Fab Four.  On Jeopardy the “R Rocker” category answers included the Ramones and Romantics – inspiring me to get out the Romantics’ “National Breakout” album featuring “New Cover Story” and “Tomboy.”
 J.D. Salinger in 1952

Joanna Rakoff’s memoir “My Salinger Year” is about working for an agency that served reclusive novelist J.D. Salinger - ”Jerry” to insiders.  Rakoff quotes Salinger’s “Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters”: “It was a day, God knows, not only of rampant signs and signals but of wildly extensive communication via the written word.”  One of the author’s jobs was to reply using a form letter to the amazing amount of fans –primarily teenagers and World War II veterans – who wrote him, even though it was common knowledge they’d never get through to him.   Many were in a style similar to Salinger characters, especially Holden Caulfield and Franny Glass, using words like phony, crap, and goddam and phrases like horsing around and depressed as hell.  Knowing Salinger despised publicity, actress Winona Ryder successfully bid on a Salinger letter at a public auction and tried to return it to him. Told there were no exceptions to an agency rule decreed by the author himself, Rakoff was ordered not to forward it to Salinger.  Initially dismissing Salinger’s output as dated Young Adult literature, six months into her stint, Rakoff read them virtually nonstop one weekend and realized why they were so beloved by young and old (and many in between).  In time Rakoff became comfortable speaking to “Jerry” on the phone and even met him once.

The Blackhawk’s triple overtime win over Anaheim was the longest in franchise history.  It began at 8:15 local time and ended at 1:07 a.m.  Since Indiana bars must close at 1, patrons at one establishment watched outside through a window.

Times business editor Joseph S. Pete quoted me in an article about the settling of the 93-day BP Refinery strike in Whiting.  After USW district director Mike Millsap declined to write a short essay on the state of the Northwest Indiana steel industry for an Indiana Bicentennial book, I recommended Pete, who is an expert on the subject and would be happy to do it.

Jerry Davich had successful book signings at Barnes and Noble and Reiner Center.  Kara Gullickson Graper emailed him that reading about “Old Hunkies” in “Lost City” made her think about 87 year-old Velmir Gurgevich, who managed a pharmacy at Fifth and Virginia in Gary.  She wrote that Vel shared a room with a brother 15 years older who spoke no English. In the 1930's, according to Graper, Vel “taught his older brother broken English while learning broken Serbian. He improved his Serbian because many of his older pharmacy customers also couldn't speak English and he would have to call his mom at home to help tell him how to say certain things.”
 Jerry Davich

Learning that Remarkable Book Shop in Merrillville will host a “Lost Gary” book signing, I persuaded the owner to sell copies of “Gary’s First Hundred Years.”  Years ago, he sold dozens of Ron Cohen and my “Gary: A Pictorial History.”  He’s going to offer them on Amazon as well.  He recently bought books from Purdue Cal history professor Dick Van Orman’s widow.  Van Orman hosted a radio show, and some volumes were autographed, including one by Staughton Lynd.
 houses on West 46th Avenue in Glen Park neighborhood of Morningside 

Driving through Glen Park, I detoured through the once exclusive Morningside historic district south of Forty-Fifth Avenue between Lew Wallace and Broadway.  Most houses appeared to be occupied and kept up.  When VU Welcome Project co-directors Allison Schuette and Liz Wueffel (below) interviewed me yesterday concerning possible Gary neighborhoods on which to study when they expand their website, I had three suggestions: Michael Jackson’s old digs, Ridge Road east of Broadway, and Morningside.