Monday, December 11, 2017

My Own Pattern

“Over the line, can't define what I'm after
I always turn the car around
Give me a break, let me make my own pattern”
         “Shattered (turn the car around),” O.A.R.

Before taking off to Grand Rapids, Michigan, for a weekend celebrating granddaughter Alissa’s graduating with a master’s degree, I picked up a 12-inch Philly steak at Subway for $7.49, including the senior discount.  When I counted out 49 cents in change, I said to the cashier, “You must hate it when old people do this.”  “We can use the change,” she replied tactfully.  With construction finally completed on the Tri-State, the trip took just over two hours.  Alissa and Josh had cans of Miller Highlife in the fridge and cooked up two kinds of pasta from Trader Joe’s.  
Since the graduation ceremony started at 10 A.M. the following day, I retired around 10:30 (what would have been 9:30 back home). Beforehand, due to their road being a snow route, I had to turn the car around and park on the other side of the street, then repeat the procedure the following evening.  Josh said that violators sometimes get ticketed but evidently not towed even though the avowed purpose of the ordinance is to facilitate snow plows.

Even though it was a mid-year graduation Van Andel Arena was filled to near-capacity and the ceremony took almost 3 and a half hours since each graduate got to walk across the stage. The retiring provost ended her speech with a reference to the GVSU nickname, telling the graduates, “Anchors up, Lakers, it’s time to sail.” President Thomas Haas (T. Haas), ever the good sport, allowed tolerated students taking selfies with him as they received their diplomas.  A dozen of us grouped at City Built Brewery, which featured Puerto Rican fare, including delicious beef tacos.  Josh’s company had designed City Built’s website, so we were treated like royalty. Afterwards, back at the house, we pigged out on two cakes Beth had bought, one with lemon slices on the top and the other, chocolate with whole strawberries on top.  I was surprised the green stem and leafs had not been removed, but Toni said that was for folks to hold while eating them.  Also, they supposedly kept the fruit fresher.

Josh was playing music from Spotify and mentioned that at work he often plays Spanish songs because he can’t understand the words and therefy isn’t distracted while doing work. Alissa told us that this spring, she will be making a presentation in Miami on strategies to bring about diversity in campus overseas programs.  I told her about a section in my 2017 Steel Shavings entitled “Campus Diversity” where I quoted from Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s autobiography “My Beloved World” and Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion in Fisher v. University of Texas (“considerable deference is owed to a university in defining those intangible characteristics, like student body diversity, that are central to its identity and educational mission”).

Josh had brought home bagels from Panera, and I found one with brown sugar for breakfast.  Before leaving Sunday, I also had a bite-size piece of lemon cake with my coffee.  It had snowed the evening before, and I was chagrined to discover no sign of my ice scraper.  Fortunately, Alissa had a spare that she gave me. The day before, white-out conditions prevailed on the stretch of I-94 where northwest Indiana met southeastern Michigan, but on Sunday the sun was out and the highway clear of snow.
Jayne Bartlett as Ralphie with cap and glasses and with Parker family cast members

Two hours after we arrived home, Dick Hagelberg took us to “A Christmas Story: A Musical” at Memorial Opera House. As usual, the cast was outstanding. JJ Boylan, who’d played Jean Valjean in “Les Miserables,” assumed the role narrator Jean Shepherd, and Leann Wright, who’d worked in the alumni office at IUN before taking a job at VU, was Ralphie’s mother. I didn’t realize until intermission that the character brilliantly playing Ralphie was a girl, Jayne Bartlett.  Douglas DeLaughter as The Old Man was properly dour until the final scene at the Chinese restaurant after the Bumpus hounds devoured the Christmas turkey when things got warm and fuzzy.  I’m certain acerbic Jean Shepherd, who categorized his satire as anti-nostalgic, would have been horrified.  I had hated the final restaurant scene in the movie version, and the musical was even worse in terms of Chinese stereotypes. In Shepherd’s original story, which appears in “Wanda Hickey’s Night of Golden Memories and Other Disasters” it’s an Easter ham that the dogs consumed.  The Old Man’s rage did not quickly abate; in fact, he went to war with his hillbilly neighbors until one day they vanished. Here is Shepherd’s account of the Old Man’s reaction to the hound attack:
  Finally, he spoke in a low, raping voice: “All right! OK!  Get your coats.  We’re going to the Chinese joint.  We’re going to have chop suey.”
  Ordinarily, this would have been a gala of the highest order, going to the chop suey joint.  Today, it had all the gaiety of a funeral procession.  The meal was eaten completely in silence.

We topped off the afternoon with dinner at Parea’s across the street from the theater.  Both Connie and Brian Barnes and the Hagelbergs ordered a Saganaki appetizer, which the Greek owner set aflame at our table.  My beef tips and mashed potatoes were go good, neither Toni nor I needed a doggie bag- -a rarity.  I was home in time to catch the exciting end to the Eagles victory over the Rams, tempered somewhat by an injury to QB Carson Wentz.  Football is a brutal sport, and players are a play away from suffering career-threatening injuries.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

South Shore

“Never weather-beaten sail more willing bent to shore.”  Thomas Campion
"Stormy Weather" by Dale Fleming
The century-old South Shore was originally one of three commuter rail lines linking Chicago to suburban communities to the north, south, and west.  It is now operated by the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District (NICTD) although freight trains still use the South Shore nameThe local baseball team that began operations in 2002 was officially named the Gary SouthShore RailCats in a bid to draw fans from throughout the area.  Calumet Region industrial cities originated on the southern shores of Lake Michigan, part of which has been preserved through incorporation within the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Transportation played a major role in the development of Northwest Indiana, not only freight and passenger trains but ore boats and streetcars that linked Region communities as well as horse-drawn conveyances and, eventually, automobiles. At present Burns International harbor handles more than 2.6-million tons of cargo annually.

The Times has published the third volume in its pictorial series “Memories Along the South Shore,” subtitled “More Than 125 Years of History in Photographs.”  It contains contributions from a dozen libraries and historical societies, including a hundred or so photos from IUN’s Calumet Regional Archives.  Many illustrating the city’s past ethnic diversity appeared in Ron Cohen and my pictorial history of Gary. In the Foreword, Doug Ross wrote: “In the broad sweep of human history, 125 years seems like the blink of an eye.  But, for Northwest Indiana, it’s a vast part of our history.  Hammond, the largest city in the Region, wasn’t even incorporated until 1884, and it’s one of the oldest.”  According to the 2010 census, Hammond’s population was estimated to have surpassed Gary’s by about 600, making Ross’s rather pejorative swipe at the “Steel City” technically correct. Ross gave special mention to the 1917 Dunes Pageant that highlighted the unique beauty and heritage of the south shore dunes.  As Danish-born landscape architect Jens Jensen eulogized:
  Magic are the Dunes where they meet the sea that bore them. There is an ocean-like grandeur in the broad stretches of beaches; the waves, chasing one another in madness, pitch high; the west wind roars and the sand blizzard rules; seagulls fill the air like giant snowflakes.  Then the Dune country is in its making; and a giant dram is enacted.
Jens Jensen in 1943
 among those hiking the dunes in 1916 was Stephen Mather, below

Included in “Memories Along the South Shore” are shots of Prairie Club members in 1916 hiking the dunes, including Stephen Mather, who became the first director of the National Park Service.  It’s an impressive volume, although it could have used more labor history shots and fewer photos of visiting celebrities and politicians (are two full pages devoted to a 1972 appearance by racist George C. Wallace at Hammond Civic Center really necessary?). 
Hatcher in 1983 and (below) 1972
There’s a great photo I’d never seen before of Mayor Richard Hatcher addressing protestors opposed to President Ronald Reagan’s invasion of the island nation of Grenada in October of 1983.  I was amazed to find one taken at a 1972 antiwar rally, where Mayor Hatcher was addressing the crowd, which included sons Dave and Phil.   Toni was there, too, but not in the picture, I recognized Joe Norrick, Monica Johnston, Julie Chary, and Karen Farabaugh, an IUN student and friend who was carrying a sign with the letters FTA, meaning “Fuck the Army.”  
"Therese Dreaming" by Balthus
Thousands have signed a petition requesting that the Metropolitan Museum of Art remove the 1938 painting “Therese Dreaming,” claiming that it objectifies women.  By that standard, many others would also have to go.  So far, the Met has refused, arguing that it presents a teachable moment.  Time’s Person of the Year: “The Silence Breakers” who launched the movement against sexual harassment.  None of the five on the cover was one of Trump’s numerous accusers. One might quibble over the inclusion of glamorous singer Taylor Swift on the cover, who had her bare ass grabbed under her skirt during a photo shot, motivated, no doubt, by the desire to boost sale, but the feature story does mention how poor, working women are perhaps sexually exploited worst of all.
Democrats have pressured 88-year-old Congressman John Conyers into resigning, and many, women especially, are calling for Senator Al Franken to do the same. On the other hand, the Republican National Committee is financing Alabama pervert Ray Moore’s campaign, the result of pressure from the President, but Republican Senate maverick Jeff Flake sent a check for a hundred dollars to Moore’s Democratic opponent Doug Jones with the hand-written explanation “Country over Party.”

Lighthouse basketball coach Marvin Rea and teacher Kelly Nicole Bradley died in a five-vehicle pileup on I-65.  Rea’s vehicle was stopped due to another accident when a Chevrolet box truck plowed into him, crushing his car between it and a flatbed trailer.  Rea was a teammate of Glenn Robinson at Gary Roosevelt and Purdue.  He had coached Theo Bowman Academy to a pair of state championships before being fired on specious ground by charter school honchos envious of his popularity.

I was able to miss bowling so I could attend IUN’s Holiday party, whose menu featured, among other things, vegetarian egg rolls, two types of chicken, cheese balls, fruit and veggies.  The History Department was well represented, and a choir composed of a half-dozen women and Ken Schoon (showing off impressive facial expressions and hand gestures, entertained.  When they sang “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” they added the words Kwanzaa and Hanukkah to the following two lines.  Chancellor Lowe noted that more people were in attendance than at his town hall meeting and added, straight-faced, that he might mention some enrollment and budget figures.  After a pause, he said, “Or maybe not.”

The 2017 South Shore Wall of Legends inductees are Tuskegee Airman and educator Quentin Smith and billionaire businessman Dean White.  The Tuskegee Airmen as a group had been selected ten years ago, so Smith’s inclusion was a surprise, but he was a towering figure who remained active in the community until shortly before his death in 2013 at age 94.  Earline Rogers recalled walking into English class in the fall of 1951 and observing him begin writing a sentence with his left hand and completing it with his right hand.  She told Times reporter Joyce Russell: I never again ran into a teacher like that.  He was innovative.”  John Davies, founder of the South Shore Legends Project, said that Smith was a hero both in war and peace: “He bravely defended our nation, stood up against segregation, and unselfishly served as a civic leader, educator, and mentor.”