Friday, January 20, 2017

Rivers and Roads

“Been talkin' 'bout the way things change
And my family lives in a different state
If you don't know what to make of this
Then we will not relate
            “Rivers and Roads,” The head and the Heart

I’m fortunate that Dave’s family lives close to us and Phil’s just two hours away in Michigan, although during the winter lake effect snow can make the roads between us hazardous. The Head and the Heart is performing in Grand Rapids next month, and Phil’s working on securing a half-dozen tickets as a way of celebrating my seventy-fifth birthday.
 Where Alissa will be on January21

Better day: Ray Smock at Bill Clinton Inaugural, Jan. 20, 1993

There’s dangerous flooding in Texas and elsewhere in the South.  Twice while I attended Bucknell in the early 60s the Susquehanna River overflowed its banks with dire results.  My junior year, I was living, along with four fraternity brothers, in a private residence in Lewisburg and had just returned from working lunch at Women’s Cafeteria when I heard about the assassination of JFK. I thought of that event when a shot of Kennedy appeared in the movie “Forgotten Figures.”  If I force myself to watch Inauguration events on the evening news, I’ll flash back to what an eloquent speech JFK gave 56 years ago.  Ray Smock called Trump’s address “a dark and defiant speech, a gloomy vision of drug-addled and rusted-out crippled America.”

One of my Bucknell fraternity brothers, Jack “The Hawk” Nesbitt, lived not far from my hometown of Fort Washington.  I nicknamed him “Hawk” because of his prominent nose, and it stuck.  In fact, he liked the appellation.  His family had a swimming pool that I took Toni to on one of our early dates. One time I was on my way to Jack’s place, and the fog was so thick I could barely see two feet ahead.  At some point, I sensed trouble and put on the brakes.  The country road curved, and the car stopped not a foot away from a tree.  Whew!  Close call.  Jack and I both attended Virginia Law School, and Toni and his fiancée visited one weekend.  We booked a single motel room and worked out details so we’d each have some private time there.

Reporter Joyce Russell from the NWI Times interviewed Ron Cohen and me for a feature on the Calumet Region Archives, which the two of us founded over 40 years ago.  We gave credit to Steve McShane, who was on hand, for guiding its growth with professionalism and discussed the variety of holdings and that it has been used by scholars from all over the world. While in the Archives, Russell perused my history of Gary, “City of the Century,” for an article she’s working on about the Calumet Region during World War I.

Terry Jenkins’ daughters Melissa and Lorraine sent an email about my good friend’s operation entitled “Day one with a new bladder.”  They wrote: He said he would pay a thousand dollars for a 24-ounce diet coke, as he is incredibly thirsty. He is not permitted to drink anything for some days, as they don’t want to tax the new system yet. Also, diet coke is no longer on his dietary list. We may see a leaner and meaner Terry after all this!  He hopes to break out of the ICU Friday or Saturday. They had him stand up and sit in a recliner for most of today, which is better for his lungs. The nurses claim he is funny, so his wit and humor has clearly survived the procedure.”
 Terry Jenkins and Sam Corey


Terry, Sam Corey, and I had a “secret” fort in a clearing in the woods across from the Jenkins house between Fort Washington Avenue and Bethlehem Pike.  I had my first puff of a cigarette there.  Because it wasn’t far from a gas station, we built up a collection of oil cans (don’t ask me why?).  One time Mrs. Woodward, the mother of a friend, took us to an amusement park and on the way stopped for gas.  I spotted some “empty” oil cans and, thinking they’d be a nice addition to our collection, hid a couple on the rear self.  What a dumb move.  Wouldn’t you know, a residue oil leaked out of them. 
photos by Spencer Cortwright
Botanist Spencer Cortwright wrote:
  Happy mid-winter!  How do animals around here survive our lengthy winters when all seems so lifeless as in the prairie picture below?  There are a myriad of ways, but I want to share the "coolest" strategy.  Some frog species around here use cryogenics!  They pack their vital organs with glucose so those organs won't freeze, while lots of other parts of the body do freeze!  Then when spring comes around, they thaw, regain their color, and hop around looking for a mate!
 Samuel A. Love

City Methodist Church by Samuel A. Love

Samuel A. Love photographed Gary’s City Methodist Church and wrote: “Abandoned now but not forever.”  Gene Coleman replied: “Saw my very first Tamburitza concert there. . . was hooked and became an adopted ‘Hunky.’” Magdalena Gomez commented: “Pass this on my way home from work.  A true beauty, even in its current state.” April Cook wrote: “This place is freaking gorgeous.”  Indeed, it is.

Gloria McMillan, a University of Arizona lecturer who grew up in East Chicago’s Indiana Harbor, is seeking contributors of short stories for a book entitled “Children of Steel.” McMillan, a science fiction devotee, wrote these clever paragraphs one night when she couldn’t sleep:
            The fateful story of Old Man Gary-ssippi opens in a travel agency at the main port dock of Gary, Indiana.   The walls hold brand new brightly-colored signs.  On display are Post-industrial Adventure Tourism signs such as “Visit the Cavernous US Steel plant and see the hanging Kudzu!” and “Admire the flooded limestone quarry with paddle boats!” and, best of all, “Watch the thousands of bats take roost in the old Memorial Auditorium.”  Mayor Esmeralda Green is flabbergasted at the growth of global tourism to Gary in recent years, especially luxury and adventure-minded tourists who fly thousands of miles to be “Urban Explorers” and bring back their prey—photos-- with a camera and not a gun. At least she hopes not a gun.  She’s had it with that kind of adventure tourism.
          The two robots who staff the phones are quiet now.  Priscilla Jones, the only human in the Styleways Riverboat Tours of Gary’s new Saint Broadway Seaway that connects to Lake Michigan awaits the flood of calls after a TV blitz on all the Chicago TV stations.  The Army Corps of Engineers has recently dug the greatest civil engineering project in Midwest history opening a deep-water canal on what used to be Broadway Boulevard in Gary, Indiana.
Valkyrie River Cruise Lines holds raffles on various upscale magazines in the east for this novelty, tours of the almost depopulated Midwest.  One of the highlights of the adventure cruise is drone-kebabs.  Drones carrying shish kebabs fly over the open deck of the flagship Dillinger.  (Daily re-enactments of the famous escape from the Crown Point jail and the gun fight at Chicago’s Biograph Theater are part of the educational package.)  After the Dillinger show the drones precision drop their meaty cargo into the waiting hands of the pleasantly surprised passengers.  The customers will be told that a “mystery” main course is coming as they munch their salads.  One wit wanted to call this entré Lamb Amerstan, alluding to Stanley Ellin’s ancient story about the gourmet London restaurant whose secret pièce de résistance turned out to be people, but that was voted down.  These are family cruises, Priscilla admonished Garth, her ad writer.


The Electrical Engineers took two games and series from the first-place Pin Spinners. After two mediocre games, I converted a difficult 1-2-8-10 spare in the first frame of game three and finished with a 168.  I used my 30-year old ball successfully when I needed to pick spares on the right side.  Garnering four straight strikes, opponent Pat Turnham (below) rolled 200 game despite a couple splits.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Civil Disobedience

“I became convinced that noncooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good.” Martin Luther King, Jr.
 Post-Trib photo by Jm Karczewski
NWI Times photo by Sarah Reese
At a sentencing hearing before Judge Jesse Villalpando the “Whiting 41,” who were arrested last May for protesting at the BP Refinery and calling for a switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy, accepted an agreement where they’d each pay a fine of $110 and their cases would be dismissed in six months on the condition that they didn’t commit any new offenses.  Post-Trib reporter Becky Jacobs wrote:
Five at a time they appeared before Judge Jesse Villalpando to accept the agreement, which Villalpando called “outstanding” and “wonderful,” as he commended the defendants for their “good spirit” and jovial atmosphere in the courtroom.
        “The vibe in the courtroom could not be better,” Villalpando said.
Attorney Roy Dominguez, representing most of the defendants, told a crowd outside the courthouse afterwards, “I’m honored to be No. 42."  Demonstrators marched down Hohman Avenue to Hammond’s Federal Plaza, where they delivered a message to Senator Joe Donnelly, calling on him to oppose Donald Trump’s cabinet choices of Exxon Mobil’s Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State and Texas Governor Rick Perry for Energy Secretary. Leading chants of “You can’t drink oil,” Hobart attorney Joe Hiestand said, “I’m so glad to see small-town America doing this.  We can’t leave it to the cities as progressives. We have to do this kind of thing in small-town America.”  Jacobs wrote:
      In front of the federal building, with people inside peeking out the windows at the scene, the group performed a “spill drill.”  People held blue pieces of fabric to represent water, as people holding a pipeline circled the group.  The group put on black garbage bags to represent the oil spilling into the water, representing situations like the March 2014 processing error that dumped gallons of oil into Lake Michigan.
Over the long weekend Toni and I ate at LongHorn Steakhouse before playing bridge at the Hagelbergs with our monthly  group.  I watched magician Aaron Rodgers guide Green Bay to a 34-31 victory over the hated Dallas Cowboys.   We saw “Hidden Figures,” based on a true story about three women who in the early 1960s provided NASA with key mathematical data prior to John Glenn’s orbiting the earth.  Forced to use separate bathrooms and coffee pots, and forbidden to check out books from the white section of a Virginia public library, the women persevered against great odds with dignity.  It is unconscionable that their talents were undervalued and almost forgotten until Margot Lee Shetterly wrote the book upon which the film is based.  Toni is very well-read on the NASA space program but had never heard of Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan or Mary Jackson.  I also found on HBO the Coen Brothers’ satire “A Serious Man” (2009), about a Jewish professor beset with one problem after another. Richard Kind, so good as Larry David’s cousin Andy in “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” plays the pathetic Uncle Arthur.
 Richard Kind
Rep. John Lewis

MSNBC carried 76 year-old civil rights veteran  John Lewis’ Martin Luther King Day speech in Miami sponsored by My Brother’s Keeper, Inc. Beforehand, Republican Senator Marco Rubio said of the Georgia Congressman, We throw the word ‘courage’ around these days very lightly.  You are sitting in the presence of a true American hero.” Miami Herald reporter Patricia Mazzei wrote:
  “Never, ever hate,” Lewis implored the young men of the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project, the mentoring and scholarship program that hosted the breakfast. “The way of love is a better way. The way of peace is a better way.”
  Lewis covered the span of his life as a poor son of an Alabama sharecropper: picking cotton, raising chickens and dreaming of being a minister. His local college wouldn’t accept him because he was black, so he went to school in Nashville, writing to King along the way, who urged him to fight for admission — although he warned that it might cost his family their hard-earned 110 acres. “My mother was so afraid, my father was so afraid, that we could lose the land, our home could be burned or bombed,” Lewis said. “So I continued to study in Nashville.”
  “When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, we have a moral obligation to do something, to say something and not be quiet,” he said. “You must have courage. You must be bold and never, ever give up! When you know that you’re right, be brave.”
above, Cornell West; below, Faisal Kutty
On Martin Luther Day King Cornell West spoke at a Valparaiso University convocation, calling the civil rights leader “a prisoner of hope.”  Also honored for their contributions to diversity were History professor Heath Carter and Muslim law professor Faisal Kutty.  West told NWI Times reporter Jon Scheibel:
  I think it's always important to talk about love and justice, no matter what context, no matter what generation. There's no doubt now we're in the moment of Donald Trump. We need more truth telling, and we need more witness bearing when it comes to justice. We needed it under Obama, we needed it under Bush, we needed it under Reagan. We need it each and every generation. That's how timeless the message of Martin King is, how timeless his life remains.

With three days to go until the Trump inauguration, in an essay titled “The Leopard cannot change its spots” Ray Smock wrote:
All through the campaign the word was pivot.  When would Trump pivot from being a mad dog and start acting presidential. The pivot never came. Then once he won the election everyone waited for him to move from campaign mode to that of the leader of the free world, the symbolic and real head of state, the commander in chief, the unifier of the nation. He held a press conference that pissed off the entire nation and most members of his own party and frightened our allies around the world.
He refuses to believe he is not popular. Today he attacked the polls showing him to be the least popular newly elected president in the last half century. He says the polls are rigged. John Lewis, an American icon, says Trump is an illegitimate president and Trump blasts Lewis for his run down district, which includes the wealthiest and most diverse parts of Atlanta, including Emory University. Trump's attack on Lewis unleashed a torrent of Klan tongues including an elected official in Lewis's state of Georgia, who called Lewis "a racist pig" and his word for Democrats was "Demonrats."  This official apparently can't wait for Trump to get into office so he can put on his brown shirt and jackboots.
And everyone is now holding their breath looking for a statesman-like inaugural address that will be filled with vision, humanity, strength, and magnanimity. Is there something wrong with me to think we are expecting too much? Why do I think the speech will be about Him and how HE is misunderstood. Or why to I think He won't lash out at critics? Why do I think his best idea and his boldest vision might be to return Americans to the moon, because that idea worked for Kennedy and seemed really bold more than a half century ago. I am sure he will say somewhere that he plans to make America great again. He could start that process by resigning from office before he does decades of major damage. But that won't happen. He knows he is in over his head but he probably still believes he is right about everything.  Eisenhower once said that "only Americans can hurt America."  Which is another way of saying what Pogo said, We have met the enemy and it is us. We are in for Darth Vader America, not Luke Skywalker's version. We will be at war with ourselves again. It has already started. How long can it stay rhetorical, political, and cultural, without turning to actual war?  

I spoke to Steve McShane’s students about their oral history assignment to interview someone who lived in Northwest Indiana during the 1990s. I went over some dos and don’ts, mentioning mistakes I had made in the past, from pushing the wrong button on my recording device to not getting my interviewee to turn off his television.  I gave everyone copies of Steel Shavings, volume 45, and told them my intention on publishing their articles in a future issue.

At duplicate bridge Charlie Halberstadt told me that Helen Boothe, who plays in our group and must be well into her eighties, is planning to take part in Saturday’s Women’s March.  He assumed she was planning to go to Washington, D.C., like Alissa and some of her friends, but there is a rally scheduled for Valparaiso, which Toni will attend, and my guess is that is where Helen will be. Either way, hat’s off to her.