Monday, October 5, 2015

Ambiguous Liberation

“Liberation is not deliverance,” Victor Hugo

In a chapter entitled “Ambiguous Liberation” Molly Geidel, author of “Peace Corps Fantasies,” discussed how during the 1960s the Committee of Returned Volunteers, composed of former Peace Corps members, turned against the Vietnam War and by decade’s end was advocating the abolition of the very organization they once served, believing it was doing more harm than good to indigenous peoples.

In the Archives Friday were four Valparaiso Technical Institute graduates looking through our collection of their alma mater.  When I first spotted them, I guessed incorrectly that they were from SOAR (Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees).  I had an appointment with VU English professor Allison Schuette to show her how to make use of Gary city directories for a project tracing white flight during the 1960s and 1970s.  On my suggestion she first met with librarian Tim Sutherland to learn more about utilizing census data.  Then we toured Gary neighborhoods.
Allison Schuette
Driving through Glen Park on Harrison Street, I pointed out the house where Pop Pearson once lived.  The father of the kids’ Little league coach, he was one of many longtime residents who resisted family pressures to flee Gary.  We passed shuttered Lew Wallace High School, and I pointed out the once-viable Junedale and Morningside areas.  We passed the house where 74 year-old Ruth Pelke was murdered by several teenage girls – a deathblow for the area’s reputation.  Crossing Broadway, I drove by St. Joseph the Worker Church that was once the center of social life for the city’s Croatian population.  Heading south, I pointed out Michael Jackson’s neighborhood near Roosevelt School and well-tended homes on the West Side, including near St. Timothy Church and where former Mayor Richard Hatcher lives.  Passing through Tolleston, I located the house on Fifth Avenue where Valparaiso Mayor Jon Costas grew up and Dolly Millender now resides.  

Approaching Aetna, Allison and I ruminated about the many folks who had starter homes there in the 1950s, including some Allison has met from Valparaiso, former Post-Trib managing editor Terry O’Rourke’s family, and our good friends Jim and Kate Migoski.  Bowling teammate Melvin Nelson still lives north of the South Shore tracks in Glen Ryan subdivision.  Heading back to campus, I took Allison down Martin Luther King Drive and turned right on Twenty-First, pointing out 4 Brothers Market and the Delaney housing project across from a more recent one.  On Thirty-Fifth I pointed out the bungalow where Congressman Peter Visclosky grew up.  Next time, I promised, we’d go to the site of Wilco Foods, owned by Jon Costas’ parents, and to my Jay Street neighborhood that went from all-white to virtually all black in what seemed a matter of months.  We used to shop at Wilco on Miller Avenue, which became Ralph Foods before being boarded up, like the Dairy Queen across the street whose milkshakes I loved.

After 10 people were gunned down at Umpqua Community College in Oregon, Republican Presidential candidate Jeb Bush, pandering to Tea Party fanatics and the NRA, said, “Stuff happens,” adding: “The impulse is always to do something and it’s not necessarily the right thing to do.”  After being criticized for being “tone deaf,” Bush claimed he wasn’t referring to the Oregon tragedy.

On Saturday grandson James bowled a personal high 188.  IU put a scare on number 1 ranked Ohio State, losing 34-27 in a contest that came down to the final play, an incomplete pass in the end zone.  Had the Hoosiers scored, Tom Wade and I are certain that Coach Kevin White would have gone for the win and attempted a 2-point conversion.  That evening Dave was one of four finalists nominated for best East Chicago teacher of all time.

Sunday Patty Heckler invited friends and members of the orchestra formerly known as Rusty Pipes to a party at son Mike’s home in Hebron for.  A train buff, Mike actually had one in working order that folks rode around his property.  Due to the chilly weather, Mike kept a big bonfire going.  His brother Bob, a Merrillville H.S. science teacher who performs gigs at a Wrigleyville bar, sang and playing an organ and accordion.  Beforehand, Dave, Marianne Brush, and I tried to guess what his first number would be.  I thought it would be something by Lynyrd Skynyrd, his dad’s favorite band.  Marianne guessed correctly, but I was close.  Bob’s second number was “Sweet Home Alabama.”  Bob used to be in Voodoo Chili along with Dave and Missy Brush’s dad, “Big Voodoo Daddy.”

At the party was Tom Johnson, for eight years a football coach at Andrean along with Ted Karras, Jr., Brett St Germain, and Wally McCormack, who went on to become head coaches at Walsh University, Lake Central High School, and Portage.  Johnson had good things to say about linebacker George McGuan, one of the 59ers stars and the son of good friends of ours.  Johnson told me that when he heard Horace Mann High School was closing, he took his mother to her old alma mater in a wheelchair for one last look.  They were amazed how well maintained the building was and how respectful the students were to them.   What a shame a purpose for the jewel of Superintendent William A Wirt’s work-study-play progressive educational system could not be found.
                                       Harvey Jackson; photo by Jeff Manes
Jeff Manes interviewed Teamster Local 142 recording secretary Harvey Jackson, who played football and swam at Hammond Gavitt High School.  He told Manes:
  I grew up in Columbia Center.  It’s a housing project.  That area has changed for the better today.  The houses we lived in were all red block buildings.  My dad left when I was 2.  It was just me and my mom.  She was one of 14 kids from Decatur, Alabama.  She kind of migrated up here with her brothers who got jobs in the mill.
Paula graduating in 2001 being hugged by sister Rhonda Labroi and with Archbishop Tobin
The Post-Trib also ran a heartbreaking article by AP writer Sharon Cohen about Paula Cooper entitled “No Escaping Brutal Past.”  Paula took her own life after serving 27 years in prison for murdering Ruth Pelke.  She had a boyfriend, a job as a legal aide with the Indiana Federal Community Defender’s Office, and friends who believed in her, including Indianapolis Archbishop Joseph Tobin.  Nonetheless she felt unworthy of the love she was receiving and guilty over what she did as a 15 year-old.  While she ultimately learned to cope with life in prison, life on the outside proved too much for her to handle.  She was prone to fits of temper and may not have trusted her inner demons.  Before she shot herself, Paula bought a new outfit and wrote notes to her sister, mother, fiancĂ© LeShon Davidson, and close friend Ormeshia Linton.  In one of them Paula wrote: “This pain I feel every day … I can’t deal with this reality . … I must have peace, peace of mind, peace in my heart.”  At a memorial service Archbishop Tobin asked the “angels of God to lead her to paradise.”  So, so sad.
Legal Aide Paula Cooper, 2015

Thursday, October 1, 2015

In Our Element

“The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” Gil Scott-Heron

Chicagoan Gil Scott-Heron was 21 in 1970when he recorded “Small Talk at 125th and Lenox” on which “The Revolution Will Not be Televised” appears, a forerunner of hip hop and rap.  Critic John Bush called the album “a volcanic upheaval of intellectualism and social critique.”  Another cut is titled “Who’ll Pay Reparations on My Soul?”

Driving to Grand Rapids, Michigan, I thought of Seattle Joe Robinson while listening to ABBA’s greatest hits (good to sing along to, as we have done on road trips) and the Accept CD “Blood of the Nations” (good to stay awake to) that Joe convinced me to buy a couple summers ago.  My favorite cut, “Time Machine,” contains these lines:
Out beyond the rainbow, cross the milky way
Passengers without a choice, slowly turning gray
On through the night, shine on forever

Going insane as we ride the time machine

I arrived at Phil and Delia’s to find Anthony exercising in preparation for a soccer match.  From a certain angle he resembled Delia’s recently deceased father, Gonzalo “Gun” Soto, something I’d never noticed before. Tori’s new puppy, Luna, immediately affixed herself to me and never stopped shaking, as two veteran cats were doing their best to freak her out.  Miranda showed up in a dress after working at Hollister and interning at a nearby elementary school and before she was off to a Social Work seminar.  After Phil arrived, we took off for Tori’s high school volleyball game, where big sister Alissa joined us.  Recently promoted to varsity, Tori played great as a backcourt setter in a losing cause. It was quite cold at soccer, but I had brought a Michigan State hoodie Alissa had given me, which elicited comments from numerous Spartan football fans.  MSU is ranked second in the nation, trailing only Ohio State.  Back at Cherrywood Court, I had a bowl of Delia’s tasty chili and gave out jewelry and purses from Midge to remember her by, happy to be with my grandchildren. 
 Andy Grammer

Delia filled me in on “Dancing with the Stars,” which I haven’t watched since Sarah Palin’s daughter competed.  Zany actor Gary Busey is a contestant, as is once-shamed cooking show hostess Paula Deen.  Reality TV personality Kim Zolciak from “Real Housewives of Atlanta” suffered a mini-stroke while in rehearsal and withdrew.   Chaka Khan was one of the first to get eliminated.  The biggest surprise was National Guard Specialist Alek Skarlatos, who, along with two friends and a Frenchman, disarmed an armed attacker aboard a Belgian train.  Supposedly he had never danced before being selected to be on the show.  I predict he’ll be a finalist.  Delia showed me a music video of contestant Andy Grammer’s summer hit “Honey I’m Good,” which showed couples, including same-sex, indicating how long they’d been hitched. Two old folks had signs reading 72 and 73 years (they couldn’t agree).

Wednesday Phil, Delia, and I checked out Grand Rapids ArtPrize, starting at the Gerald R. Ford Museum.  “Men of the 14th,” a sculpture by Gary Arens, depicted his great grandfather and Henry Rochell, who died in battle at Bentonville, West Virginia, shortly before the end of Civil War hostilities.  At a museum fountain were Andy Sacksteder’s bronze figures “Reach” and “Splash.”  While checking out Justin La Doux’s “Troll Bridge,” Delia informed me that U.P (Upper Penninsula) Michiganders refer to those south of the Mackinac Bridge as trolls.  It was hot and crowded inside the museum, but I paused to admire Anni Crouter’s “Triple Play” depictions of tigers.  They reminded me of a watercolor drawing of two tigers by my mother that I gave Anthony.

Many artists were on hand answering questions and encouraging people to vote for their entries with handouts the size of postcards or business cards.  I had told Phil to keep me close to bathrooms, so at each stop he’d point out facilities.  Delia teased him, but I was thankful.

On a bridge above the Grand River was a unique installation entry by Jack O’Hearn called “The Camper.”  Inside were kitschy knickknacks - dolls, games, pictures, books - and kids inside digging it.  In the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel were several huge installations, including a heart one could walk through and a huge waterfall composed of different colored shaved wood. Nearby was the Lumber Baron Lounge, named for the city’s founders. 

Walking through an underpass, we came across Ruben Ubiera’s massive mural “In Our Element” that employed illustrations of veiltail goldfish in distress to symbolize the planet under duress.  In one graffiti-like frame Ubiera had written “The Revolution Will Not Be” followed by a TV set on which was the word LIES.  Ubiera, a Miami resident, told a reporter, “Having been invited to such a competition inspires and motivates me.  The city is gorgeous, the weather is beautiful, the people are amazing and young.  The food is out of this world.  I’m just hoping I can do something that the residents will be proud to have in their vicinity.”  He succeeded, and “In Our Element” is a top-20 finalist.

Our outing concluded at Main Street Pub in Wyoming.  My fried clams, fries, and salad cost just $9.99.  Since Phil had a free meal coupon, the total bill was under $30, including tip and a delicious brownie with whipped cream and ice cream with spoons for splitting three ways.

IUN Communication Secretary Dorothy Mokry’s mother, Serbian immigrant Soka Dragic, passed away.  Just last week Dorothy sent me a sympathy card and a Native American poem entitled “I’m Not Here” that contains these lines:
Don’t stand by my grave and weep
For I’m not here, I do not sleep
I am a thousand winds that blow
I am the diamond’s glint on snow
I am the sunlight on ripened grain
I am the gentle Autumn’s rain.

A “Just for You” American Greetings card from Chris and Myrium Young expressed the hope that I be granted “peace of mind and spiritual peace.”  It included this quote from Genesis 28:15: “And behold I am with thee, and will keep thee. . . .”

With crybaby Majority Leader John Boehner resigning, apparent successor Kevin McCarthy put his foot in his mouth gloating that the House Benghazi investigation accomplished its purpose in reducing Hillary Clinton’s popularity.  Ray Smock wrote that McCarthy “stepped in a big steaming turd of his own making even before he faces election as the next Speaker.  As Gene Robinson of the Washington Post said, it was one of those moments when a politician slipped up and told the truth.”

Inexplicably, while in America, Pope Francis met with Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis, who spent several days in jail for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.  She was with several dozen others, and apparently Francis was unaware of who she was.  Conservative Papal Nuncio Carlo Vigano, who arranged the audience, may have been looking for a way to embarrass Francis.  Ray Smock wrote:
  The Pope and the Church have not accepted gay marriage and I don't see them doing it anytime soon. The Pope asked us to pray for him. I will pray for him. Here is my prayer: “Dear God, Please help the Pope and the Catholic Church to accept all of Your creatures, all created in Your image, in all their social, cultural, and sexual variety. And, God, I could sure use a winning lottery ticket. Amen.”   It is the least this atheist can do.

By mistake I scooped up a Xeroxed page from “Incendiary Occupations” by Michael M. Seidman, about the 1968 Paris riots, that hopefully Jonathyne Briggs can do without.  While modern gadgets of social interaction were lacking, Seidman observed:
  Most students and demonstrators either owned or had access to a transistor.  An astounding 400,000 per week were reported sold during the May crisis. Protestors and barricade builders listened to the news, which boosted their spirits by showing that they were part of a mass movement that was rattling state power.  The mass-media spectacle could help propagate the revolt, but as Gaulists were to show at the end of the month, it could also promote the restoration of order.

Subbing for our bowling opponents, longtime league officer Judy Sheriff, carrying a 145 average, opened with three strikes, had a poor second game, and finished strong, as the Engineers dropped the third game and series but still garnered 4 of 7 points, no thanks to me.  Judy threw almost every ball perfectly but without much speed, often leaving a disappointing number of pins.