Monday, June 28, 2010

He Gone!

The latest Sports Illustrated has L.A. Laker Kobe Bryant celebrating his fifth NBA title (just one less than Michael Jordan) on the cover. There’s a story about a tiny “Cinderella” baseball team from Illinois, the Macon Hawks, that reached the 1971 state tournament championship, along the way defeating schools with 20 times the enrollment. Their coach was a hippie type who used unorthodox motivation methods, including playing the “Jesus Christ Superstar” soundtrack during warm-ups. In the state final inning the Hawks were losing 4-2 with one out and a man on second. The next batter hit a line drive and the centerfielder threw out the base runner at the plate. The coach, of course, should have held the runner on third since it was not the tying run, but in the excitement of the moment goofed.

The latest Rolling Stone issue, with Lady Gaga on the cover, contained a sensational article about General Stanley McChrystal, in charge of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan. It contained critical comments from he and his staff about President Obama and his inner circle. Obama ordered him to the White House and accepted his resignation. As Chicago White Sox announcer “Hawk” Harrelson exclaims when an opposing team’s batter strikes out, “He gone!” Obama replaced McChrystal in a seemingly brilliant stroke with General David Petraeus, credited with turning the Iraq quagmire around. The downside is that the President seems to be backing away from his pledge to start withdrawing from Afghanistan within 12 months. Could we be so stupid, in the face of Vietnam and the Soviet fiasco in Afghanistan, to think we can nation-build?

Tom and Darcey hosted a summer Game weekend at their new Chesterton home. I arrived shortly after five to find Jef Halberstadt and Evan, Patti and son Aaron engaged in games with Tom and Brady, so I had an Italian beef sandwich with yummy potato salad (a darcey specialty), chatted with Darcey, and checked out how she plays Scrabble on-line. Darcey joined us for two games of Wits and Wagers (she is the undisputed champ), and I finished second in two other games before leaving shortly before midnight. Son Dave, who came late, stayed till four a.m., he later told me. Had so many other social events not been taking place, I’d have been there all weekend.

Toni and I went shopping and she worked putting the condo basement in shape while I watched the United States lose a World Cup match to Ghana in overtime. In the afternoon we went to a high school graduation party for Melissa “Missy” Brush, who plans to study to be a veterinarian’s assistant. Why not be a veterinarian, I suggested, but that’s expensive. We gave her money plus MGMT’s CD “Congratulations.” Before his untimely death Missy’s dad Tim was the heart and soul of Voodoo Chili, and Missy sometimes sang a few numbers with the band. At bars Dave would introduce her by claiming it was her twenty-first birthday. If the places didn’t serve food in a special section, she wasn’t supposed to be there.

In three performances over the weekend James played two parts in the play “What a Knight,” a musical comedy put on by M and M Productions in Hobart. As Earl Axminister in King Arthur’s court, he wore a curly wig. He was great, and 15 of his fans, including the Michiganders, were in attendance. Afterwards, we went to the Great Wall Buffet in Portage and chowed down on Chinese food - all we could eat for nine bucks each for adults and half price for kids. Needless to say, we got more than our money’s worth.

West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd passed away at age 92, having been elected to an unprecedented ninth term. A towering figure, he was “the king of pork” when it came to funding projects in his home state. In 2003 he was almost alone in blasting the Bush administration for invading a country without just cause. At lunch
George Bodmer mentioned writing him a note thanking him for his opposition to the act of American aggression. My friend Ray Smock, formerly historian of the House of Representatives, is director of the Robert C. Byrd Center for Legislative Studies at Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. I expect to receive an eloquent email from Ray on Byrd in the near future.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Moving Day

Moving day has finally arrived although we will be returning to our house on the hill for the next month or so. Another storm knocked down two big trees yesterday but at least we still have power (knock on wood). The Hagelbergs six blocks away were not so fortunate. I think Mother Nature is trying to tell us something. Yesterday I received an email from Vanessa Wilke, who grew up in our house before moving to California in 1966 at age 12. She is sorry to hear (from my blog) that the federal government will soon be tearing it down. She recalled the Bernstin house being gone last time she visited and added: “The Grandma, Ruby, watched me after school everyday. I rode Bus 14 to Crisman School. There were 3 young boys at their house. That's where I watched the T.V. coverage of Kennedy's and white T.V. of course.” I forwarded Vanessa’s email to John Laue, who is putting together a book on people who lived within the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.

Alissa, in Rome last time she emailed, is now on the “incredibly beautiful” Greek island of Santorini. She reports “Spent the day on the black beach yesterday. Going to see a famous sunset at the tip of the island and to see the red beaches today. Volcano island trip tomorrow and going to the hot springs. Hopefully cliff jumping at some point.” She’s amazing.

Nephew Josef Robinson arrived in Indianapolis, where he’ll stay with niece Michele and Tom Dietz. Next week I am taking him to French Lick for three days. I always buy him three CDs, and he sent me a wish list of albums by far-out metal bands such as Nevermore, Hypocrisy, Eternal Tears of Sorrow, and Norther. He also included “Greatest Hits” by the Psychedelic Furs,” a band I also like. If I can find it, I’ll go with that plus new ones I think he’ll like by the Stone Temple Pilots and LCD Soundsystem. After he’s finished downloading the songs he likes on his IPod, he sells the CDs on Amazon, so if he’s not happy with my choices, no big deal.

Finally a day I did not have to drive Rebecca through a thunderstorm. As usual, I made up a story about “Rebecca’s Pet Detective Agency.” In the episode Maggie and Sammie help Becca find a newborn puppy in a blind woman’s broom closet.

Darcey Wade just finished a book called “Sh*t My Dad Says” by Justin Halpern. The author started out on Twitter, and things skyrocketed from there. He made the best-seller list, and a CBS series is coming up starring William Shatner as his old man. Since every other word the old man is quoted as saying has Sh*t or F*ck in it, a cable station would seem more appropriate. Meanwhile the condo got wired for Comcast yesterday. The package includes phone and Internet. We’ve never had cable or direct TV, believe it or not, but I’ve enjoyed Comedy Central and MSNBC at motels and will try not to become too addicted to the sports channels.

Toni and I had lunch at Flamingo’s with old friends Pat and Ruth Tyler, who moved to Birmingham, England over 30 years ago. We visited them in 1988 when I gave a talk on “Steelworkers Tales” at Oxford University. He taught Psychology at IUN and she would host an annual combination Easter/Passover meal. They were on their way from Michigan to Chicago with Pat’s older sister Eileen (who loves to folk dance) and brother-in-law Dutch, an old lefty organizer. He was friends with our buddy Ken Applehans, who lived a block away from Flamingo’s, so we talked him into joining us.

I reprised my “Age of Anxiety” talk in Steve McShane’s class about the Postwar years in Northwest Indiana. Since I had had students read Ryan Maicki’s reminiscences the first week of the semester, they were used to the routine and did great, frequently chuckling at the stories. I told them how it was common back then for the Board of health to quarantine entire families when a member came down with a contagious disease. One father slept in the basement and went in and out through a window in order to get to work.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Two volumes of Magill’s Literary Annual arrived containing 2,000-word reviews of the best 200 books of the year, including mine on “Sweet Thunder” (a biography of boxer Sugar Ray Robinson by Wil Haygood) and “Passing Strange” (Martha Sandweiss’ opus about geologist Clarence King living a double life as a black Pullman porter). I corresponded with Sandweiss about whether she thought King’s fascination with black women sprang from his childhood memories of a devoted nursemaid; she doubted it although she noted the theory had been put forward by another biographer. I came upon interesting reviews on books about Lincoln, Darwin (the biologist and the “Great Emancipator were born on the same date, and their mutual hatred of slavery changed the world), Ted Kennedy (author of the memoir “True Compass,” who is on the cover, 1848 (year of Revolution), and the late, great John Updike’s poems in a volume called “Endgame.” Starting when he turned 70 in 2002, he’d sum up his life in sonnet form. Aging had long been one of his major themes. Writing about a harrowing plane ride, he concluded: “Age I must but/die I’d rather not.” In 2007 he penned these lines hoping his talent wouldn’t dim: “Be with me, words, a little longer/ you have given me my quitclaim in the sun.” He moved to Tuscan, played much golf, and noted seeing skeletons of dead cactuses that stand in “mute mobs” in the desert. A volume of Updike’s short stories called “My Father’s Tears” also got reviewed. Reviewer Laurence Mazzeno wrote that Updike “approached his craft with a sociologist’s understanding of middle America, a psychologist’s insights into the workings of the human mind, a theologian’s perception of humankind’s struggle with faith and morals, and a poet’s gift for language.” Concerning Updike’s tendency toward personal musings, Mazzeno quotes from his 1969 poem “Midpoint”: “Of nothing but me, me/ . . . / I sing, lacking another song.” Sort of like me. If this blog should morph into another Shavings, I’ll subtitle it “Wretched Excess.”

Thursday’s retirement reception was not just for Chancellor Bergland but also honored psychological counselor Ray Fontaine and photography professor Gary Wilk, two good men. A Sixties divinity school grad, Ray was a sex therapist before coming to IUN. Starting off with puns involving Freud and Jung, retired Sociology professor Bob Lovely quipped that he once asked Ray for advice and, emulating Cher’s reaction to Nicolas Cage saying he loves her in “Moonstruck,” he slapped him and said, “Snap out of it.” I lamented losing my favorite cafeteria lunch companion, although I said I hoped he’d follow my example and return frequently. While most faculty talk shop and grouse at the administration, Ray preferred more elevated conversations. Once, at the other end of the table from me, he heard me mention theologian Paul Tillich, got up, sat down next to me, and asked, “What was that about Tillich?” In his remarks Ray was gracious, witty, and urbane and jokingly thanked Neil Goodman for naming a Echo Garden sculpture (“Ray”) after him.

I was tempted to mention Gary Wilk’s tour of duty in Vietnam. He was a cook and out of harm’s way for 12 months so he re-upped for three more so he’d be eligible for an early discharge immediately thereafter. Then came the enemy’s Tet Offensive, and Gary found himself under fire virtually every day. His Vietnam experience convinced Gary to pursue a career in photography rather than settle for a more “practical” career path. His Fine Arts colleagues Neil Goodman and David Klamen covered most of what I would have said, specifically how patient he is with students and how great his book Steel Giants, which he did with Steve McShane, is. Gary got an email of congratulations from Paul Kern, who recalled the interesting conversations when they bumped into each other in the Tamarack Hall men’s room.

Chancellor Bruce, more composed than on Tuesday, was presented with a lamp and a rocking chair as well as the traditional clock. I told about how ten years ago when I was in the hospital he called me “Jimmy.” I said that my good friends call me Jimbo right before our phone connection went dead. He called me back, referred to me as Jimbo, and has been calling me Jimbo ever since. Executive Secretary Mary Lee mentioned how compassionate Bruce was after Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Ernest Smith’s stroke, visiting him in the hospital and keeping him on as a trusted adviser. Vernon Smith recalled how Bruce called him his first week on the job and wanted a tour of Gary. Bruce was a stickler for things starting on time, and Neil Goodman had a funny story about being late to a social function because he put his kid’s bike in the trunk of the car on his wife’s dress on the way to a sitter with such disastrous results that they had to stop and buy a new one, causing them to be 45 minutes late. Medical School director Pat Bankston talked about going to Country Lounge on Friday afternoons with Bruce and other campus bigwigs who called themselves “The Sharks.” One day longtime state representative belittled their pretensions, saying, “You should be called the guppies.” Country Lounge has long been a Region watering hole. Bangston quipped that one former chancellor picked up a liver disease there. Back 30 years ago Chancellor Danelo Orescanin put in two-hour lunches mingling with area politicians and talking up the university. Often upon returning to campus, he’d ask his secretary to decipher the phone numbers and messages on his place mat. Dan could hold his liquor and had, as one area politician put it, a “good line of bullshit.”

I got a thank you card from Lisa Hartlund for my Gary book. Her dad grew up on Tyler Street and enjoyed the references to his old neighborhood. I also sent a copy to Anne Balay, who wanted to read my account of “Women of Steel” who fought against sexist practices in the mill after women were hired in large numbers following the 1974 Consent Decree.

Fred Chary gave me on videotape a documentary about the Philadelphia Flyers teams of the Seventies, the co-called “Broad Street Bullies.” It brought back memories of enforcer Dave “Dutch” Schultz and “Golden Boy” Bobby Clarke. I fell asleep before the conclusion of the NBA Finals game seven. I didn’t care whether Los Angeles or Boston won. The first half was sloppy and low scoring, with both teams shooting poorly. I found out from all-night SCORE jock Les Grobstein (“the Grobber”) that L.A. prevailed, giving Kobe Bryant his fifth ring (one more than Shaq, he exulted) and Coach Phil Jackson his eleventh. Good news: the Cubs, White Sox and Phillies all won.

David and Angie held a joint birthday party for James (10) and Rebecca (8) at Lisa’s Gymnastics. Seventeen kids had fun playing with the equipment. Afterwards I attended a retirement party at Ray Fontaine’s snazzy place in LaPorte. I gave him volume 1 of Magill’s Annual (my two pieces are in volume 2). I talked with several of his golfing buddies, as well as faculty members Neil Goodman, Vinod K. Vinodogopal, Michele Stokely, Iztok and Stela Hozo. Stela was wearing a black Purdue t-shirt that her daughter gave her; I had on an IU Northwest shirt I got for working the university booth at the Porter County Fair. Former colleague Roberta Wollons was a surprise guest, flying in from Boston. Chuck Gallmeier recalled how in a Faculty Org meeting I warned the chancellor that if he tried to ram through a 12-hour faculty teaching load he’d have a revolt on his hands. I heard through the grapevine that Bruce later mocked my remarks, saying to lackeys, “Ooh, I’m really scared.” He didn’t pursue the 12-hour load for everyone, however.

We’ve been without electricity since a storm came through on Friday. Ron Cohen is in the same boat. Bummer! We spent all day Sunday at Dave and Angie’s. Son Phil and granddaughter Victoria had come in for the birthday party, and we played board games and watched the U.S. Open. Dave’s former band mate Hans Rees stopped by with his two kids, one of whom is named Graham, and mentioned that thanks to me he became a Graham Parker fan and recently got to meet the British singer (“Passion is no Ordinary Word” is the best song ever) at a concert. Toni and I saw him at Chicago’s Vic Theater with Terry and Kim Hunt, and he ended with a smokin’ Sam Cooke medley. Tiger really sucked and still finished only four strokes back. Ditto for Mickelson. Irishman Graeme McDowell was the first non-American to win since 1970. Toni stayed the night, but I went home, lit a couple candles, and went to bed at nightfall.

Monday A.M.: still no electricity and I had to drive through another storm to take Becca to dance class. I called the National Lakeshore and the secretary to the superintendent assured me they had contacted NIPSCO about our not having power. Before picking Becca up Angie brought Victoria to the Archives. Tori loved my 27-inch computer screen and showed me how I could have things on YouTube fill up the entire screen. She played the musical video “Boom Boom Pow” by Black Eyed Peas and “Fireflies” by Owl City. Sheriff Dominquez brought interesting photos in for us to scan, and then I just got to the cafeteria before closing for a hot dog before running off to Best Buy to pick up a computer that Toni bought yesterday. George Bodmer was at the cafeteria and mentioned that his father-in-law was over for Father’s Day, saw one of Toni’s drawings called “Four Seasons,” and thought it was great. George is teaching a drawing class once a week to homeless people.

Monday P.M.: Toni and I took the computer and two TVs to the condo. Before going to Angie’s for tacos I drove home and came upon four utility company trucks working along County Line Road. I arrived home to find a light on. Yes! The stove clock indicated that the power had come back on less than five minutes before.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Bruce Bergland

I picked up granddaughter Rebecca for her dance class to find a third dog at their house, a male bulldog that Angie is tending while Dave and another teacher (the owner) took high school graduates to the amusement park at Cedar Point in Ohio. The dog tried to dominate Sammie and freaked out Maggie, who was under a bed, and tries to hump James’s leg. Angie had him caged when I arrived. On the way to IUN I made up a Pet Detective Agency story starring Becca, Maggie, and Sammie.

Chancellor Bruce Bergland’s Retirement Reception was an elaborate affair, with all kinds of entries and hors d’oevres, at least a dozen different desserts, and free beer. George Bodmer thanked me for sending him Richard Russo’s “Straight Man” and was delighted to discover the main character to be, like him, an English professor. Stela Pudar-Hozo praised my shirt, a Christmas present, I told her, from my mother. She jokingly asked if my mother helped me buy all my clothes. I told her how in 1980 she didn’t like what I was planning to wear to my twentieth high school reunion and went with me to purchase a pin-stripe suit.

Former IU trustee Fred Eichhorn came up for the reception from Bloomington with wife Judy, who worked for the university when I first arrived in 1970. Fred was responsible for the “zero tolerance” policy that led to basketball coach Bob Knight’s dismissal after “The General” laid his hands on a student who had baited him. Chatted with state representatives Charlie Brown (his campaign posters, borrowing a line from Peanuts creator Charles Schulz, claimed “He’s a good man”) and Ed Charbonneau, who when on the Gary Centennial Committee helped secure $10,000 toward publishing “Gary’s First Hundred Years.” In turn I donated a thousand copies to schools and libraries. The committee had first approved it but then under pressure from one member wanted to divert almost all their funds toward constructing a sculpture. As the publishing deadline approached, Charbonneau assured me that if the committee didn’t give me the money, he would out of his own pocket. Fortunately, it didn’t come to that. Ed asked if I had put out any recent Shavings; I got his address and promised to send him my last two. Bobby Farag was on hand wearing a sharp Hawaiian shirt. His golf course was wiped out in the September 2008 flood, and I told him I really miss it. Bob's brother Henry wrote "The Signal: A Doo Wop Rhapsidy," which I published as volume 32. Bruce came to one of Bobby’s St. Patrick’s Day parties with Bill Staehle (who was also in attendance) early in his regime.

Chuck Gallmeier, speaking as Faculty Organization president, mentioned that he didn’t always agree with Bruce’s policies (an understatement) but respected his openness and dedication to the university. Women’s basketball coach Ryan Shelton gave Bruce an autographed basketball plus a part of the net from the team’s tournament win. IU President Michael McRobbie mentioned how Bruce set in motion discussions that culminated in a Shared Vision for the campus. He also presented proclamations from the governor naming Bruce a Distinguished Hoosier and a Sagamore on the Wabash (I got the first when I retired but not the second). Gary Mayor Rudy Clay praised the chancellor’s commitment to the city and, citing budget restraints, presented him not with a gaudy gift but a navy blue cap with Gary, IN, on the front. Bruce’s wife Cynthia and son Todd spoke; both claimed that they weren’t used to speaking to audiences but were quite moving and eloquent. When it finally was Bruce’s turn to speak, he was quite emotional. Mentioning, for example, the flood of two years ago and McRobbie’s quick response to the crisis, tears came to his eyes, causing his wife to admonish him to “Stop the flood.” Taping the event were my FACET oral history partners Aaron Pigors and Tome Trajkovski, who also put together a video biography of the outgoing chancellor.

On hand, copies of the university’s 2009 Annual Report put together by the indefatigable head of marketing Chris Sheid. He is so modest his name was nowhere on the document despite the fact that he took most photos and wrote the polished text. In a section on Publications Chris replicated the cover of Steel Shavings, volume 40, which he described as “a personal journal Lane has kept since embarking on his retirement in 2007. Despite the personal nature of the work, the periodical touches on a wide variety of interesting subjects related to Northwest Indiana, past and present.” Then he quotes me thusly: “The journal is consistent, I believe, with the overriding purpose of this series – to record everyday life. Over time, Steel Shavings has undergone numerous transformations but has consistently emphasized the social history of the family, that most fragile but resilient of institutions.” If that wasn’t enough of a pleasant surprise, Chris also included in a different section a photo of a boy holding up my Shavings volume on the history of IUN, “Educating the Region.” He had won it in September 2009 at the Fiftieth Anniversary celebration. Wonder if he’d have preferred a Frisbee or t-shirt. I emailed Chris my appreciation and congratulated him on an outstanding job.

I’m adding two more quotes when I have Steve’s students read excerpts from “Age of Anxiety” next Thursday. The first is by Ed Wistosky, who in 1948 moved to a house located next to a grocery store whose garbage attracted rats. One night he heard splashing and squealing. A rat was trying to get out of their toilet. Ed shut the lid and his wife boiled a pot of water. They scalded the rat and flushed the carcass back down the toilet. Rose Frisk went to a strip club in Calumet City with her husband and another couple. She recalled: “ A woman who I bet wweighed 300 pounds got on the stage. She had boobs down to the belly and was slinging them over her shoulder. Lord have mercy. I will never forget that as long as I live.”

In his Post-Tribune column Jerry Davich wrote: “Anne Balay, an assistant professor of English and gender studies at Indiana University Northwest, is conducting research on gay and lesbian steelworkers, who are closeted, as you could imagine if you've ever worked in a steel mill (which I have). Balay contacted me after reading my recent column on this region's third annual gay pride parade -- the column that attracted so many (differing) comments. Balay attended that parade with her gay student club at IUN, and she agrees this region is quite homophobic (obviously), and also that gay and lesbian NWI residents need to be more visible. But she's also interested in the work lives of gay and lesbian residents, and she's seeking such people to talk with -- confidentially of course -- with no names used or identifying info in her eventual book, she said. She asked if I could get the word out, so if you're interested, or know someone who may be, contact Balay at or 980-6575. Anne thanked me for suggesting she get in touch with Davich and added: “It all adds up to an interesting section about why this region is so uptight about queers.”

The Henry Clay biography “The Essential American” by David and Jeanne Heidler mentions my great great great Uncle James Buchanan several times. In 1824 the then Congressman tried to get Andrew Jackson to name Clay Secretary of State in return for the Kentuckian’s support when the election was thrown into the House of Representatives. Jackson supporters claimed the meeting was at Clay’s initiative, but Buchanan, a Jacksonian, acted on his own. Later Clay called Alabama Senator William Rufus King a coward, which led to a duel because of King’s sensitivity about being thought of as gay because of his suspiciously close relationship with fellow bachelor James Buchanan, whom he roomed with. The authors compare Clay after the 1844 Presidential defeat to James K. Polk to a milk wagon horse unable to change his habits – or in his case unable to give up his quest for the Presidency.

I don’t usually read the daily comics but came across the phrase Occam’s Razor in the comic strip “Non Sequitor.” Citing the axiom that the simplest explanation is almost always the correct one, a character proceeds to do just the opposite when confronted by a conundrum. I first became familiar with reading Richard Russo’s “Straight Man.” The main character, Hank Devereaux, has a dog named Occam who loved to greet visitors by placing his nose in their crotch.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Corrupt Bargain

Henry Clay helped John Quincy Adams win the election of 1824, which was decided in the House of Representatives when nobody had a majority of electoral votes. Each state had one vote, meaning that the lone Congressman from Illinois, who followed Clay’s advice, had the same importance as the entire New York Congressional delegation, which seemed evenly divided. The vote of Stephen Van Rennselaer was crucial. He was undecided until Clay got to him. Later Martin Van Buren spread the apocryphal story that Van Rennsalaer was praying for guidance when his eyes spotted an Adams ballot and took it as a sign from God. Followers of Andrew Jackson never forgave Clay, whom Adams subsequently appointed Secretary of State, dubbing the affair the “Corrupt Bargain.” Clay would have preferred Adams, bargain or no bargain, but the appointment was the biggest political mistake of both Adams and Clay’s careers. Adams’s administration was a failure, and Jackson remained a lifelong enemy. On one occasion Adams attended a play with his wife, and he was greeted first by tepid applause and then the crowd sang one of Jackson’s campaign songs, cheering and stomping their feet lustily. This was the second and final time House members selected the President. In 1801 Aaron Burr, supposedly Thomas Jefferson’s running mate, arranged for the electoral vote to be a tie but failed to persuade the Federalists to support his scheme. Georgian William H. Crawford would have been the 1824 frontrunner had he not been blinded and nearly paralyzed after being given an overdose of lobelia for a disease called erysipelas.

Lake County Sheriff Sheriff Dominguez has decided to ask Hillary Clinton to write an intro to his autobiography. They got along famously when she campaigned in Indiana during primary season. He is still going to solicit one from Senator Evan Bayh, his longtime friend and mentor. Steve McShane and I scanned numerous family photos, including one with brother Hector and Roy’s parents taken in Texas when he was about six wearing suspenders and holding a cat. Ron Cohen talked to Steve’s History of Indiana class for two and a half hours straight about the Gary schools, the subject of his book “Children of the Mill.”

The Blackhawks parade attracted approximately two million celebrants to downtown Chicago, according to some estimates. The hockey players, many in their early 20s, looked really young (most had shaved off their playoff beards). During the ceremony old timers Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita, and Tony Esposito were introduced, and Kris Versteeg did a rap song that contained these lines:

“Every time, I dive in my pool 

It’s hard to be humble 

While I do a breast stroke 

Through an underground tunnel

And come up, on the other side

In a jacuzzi

Being greeted by two girls

That are wearing my Jersey!

They give me lots of hug’s and kiss’es

And they ask me what my wish is

And I say go an get your friends

Cause there is gonna be a party.

Young Versteeg took a lot of heat on various websites from rap purists, but it was in good fun, like the “Superbowl Shuffle” that Bears football players did a quarter-century ago.

On Saturday WXRT featured 1993, one of my favorite years in music. One set contained songs by Belly (“Feed the Tree”), Cracker (“Low”), Smashing Pumpkins (Today”), and REM (a cover of the Tokens’ “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”). I used to try to stay up until 2:30 a.m. Saturday to catch JBTV with legendary rock icon Jerry Bryant, which featured videos and live appearances by alternative groups. One time Belly lead singer Tanya Donelly was a guest host. Chicago bands often showed up, such as Urge Overkill, one of whose members called himself Blackie Onassis.

England and the United States playing to a 1-1 draw in the World Cup opener for both. U.S. goalie Tim Howard was great while the English keeper misplayed a shot that, according to the announcer, your average high school stopper would have saved. Audible throughout the match was a constant drone from horns called vuvuzelas. They became popular in South Africa (host of the games) during the 1990s, and their popularity spread to Latin America as well. They are frankly annoying, and some folks want to ban them from the stadiums. Good luck. Might produce riots.

Sunday I gamed (went zero for four) and attended a tenth birthday party for James. The food was great, and Darcey Wade brought her specialties, deviled eggs and tuna noodles, to everyone's delight. I was at an International Oral History Association conference in Istanbul when he was born. The conference often coincided with World Cup play, and I recall the bedlam the year son Phil and I were Rio De Janeiro. In the afternoon the rain held off, and I won four straight croquet matches against Dave, Tom and Brady Wade. Normally my son and Tom are my equals, but I was on fire. Once poison I’d knock them out from very far away. As I told Tom in a rehash, it’s not the equal of winning a straight set tennis match or pitching both ends of a softball doubleheader sweep, but it beats shuffleboard. It reminded me of a horseshoes triumph at a Glen Park Eagles pig roast. Tykey and I beat all comers for over an hour. A tournament was scheduled for later in the day (I couldn’t stay for it), but as I was leaving I noticed that Tykey had crossed out the name of his original partner and substituted mine.

I drove Becca to an IUN Kids College class on Hip Hop and Jazz Dance (she loved it) and afterwards showed her around campus. She loved my computer, obtained as the result of a bargain I worked out with FACET director and Vice Chancellor David Malik. On Facebook we found photos of her posted by Dave, Angie, Delia, and Miranda. I had time to check my emails. From Barcelona Alissa wrote: “Glad you checked out Air and Hot Rats!!!! What Gaard said (not all life is wasted on the young and Alissa is proving it. You go, girl) actually just made my day, I shared it with the girls and they felt the same way. LOVE YOU!!!!!!!!! “ From San Diego niece Niki added: “Alissa sounds very cool! I really like her already. Please bring her to meet me. I have an idea where she gets her super coolness from..... Jimbo and Toni!” Terry Jenkins chipped in: “What a fantastic way to travel - big step up from hostels since you get to meet the locals in their own homes.” Suzanne wrote: “That was a great story from your gran daughter.” Becca and I had lunch at Burger King, purchasing a total of five value meal items for five bucks plus 35 cents tax. After I dropped her off, I bought a 32-inch Sylvania TV at Target on sale for $329. Toni gave me a high five when I brought it in the house.

Got a collect call from Cook County jail in Chicago. Before I was asked about accepting the charges I had to listen to an interminable message, all the while wondering if someone I knew had gotten in trouble, perhaps for drunk driving. Finally a stranger came on the line – a wrong number. Toni said I shouldn’t have agreed to accept the charges.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Stanley Cup

The Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup finals in six games, their first championship since 1961 (icons Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita were youngsters), on an overtime goal from a tough angle by young stud Patrick Kane. At first there was confusion over whether the puck went in the net, but the replay left no doubt. I had been rooting for the Flyers and would have loved the series to go seven games, but I’m a Blackhawk fan, too, and enjoyed the celebrations afterwards. Sightings of players and the Cup itself have occurred ever since the charter flight landed in Chicago late last night. Lord Stanley’s Cup dates back to 1892, when the Governor-General of Canada had it made to reward the top amateur team. It weighs about 32 pounds, and hockey has a nice tradition where everyone on the team can take it anywhere he chooses for a day. WXRT has been playing the Hawks’ unofficial theme song “Chelsea Daggers” by the Fratellis (like the Ramones, the last names of all members of this Scottish alternative band are Fratelli). Jon Fratelli sang between the second and third period of game 5, pretty interesting since what they play at the games is the instrumental hook. The words, in fact, are risqué (i.e., “I was good she was hot . . . gave me gear thank you dear bring your sister over here”). Toni’s sister Mary Ann emailed her daughters before the game to get their Rosary out. The Flyers were warriors and did Philadelphia proud. The Conn Smythe trophy probably should have gone to goalie Antti Niemi, but since it clearly was a team victory, perhaps it was appropriate for captain Jonathan Toews to receive it.

After Henry Clay’s son Theodore had an accident that resulted in a blow to the head, doctors performed a procedure called trepanning that involved drilling into the skull to drain fluid from the cranium. Theodore suffered from uncontrollable fits and then dementia, no thanks to what now seems to be a barbaric procedure. While in the Kentucky legislature Clay jousted with a Federalist relative of Chief Justice John Marshall, climaxing with a duel with pistols. Each fired three rounds; Clay suffered a slight thigh wound.

I sent Jerry Davich’s Post-Tribune article about Gary’s Gay Pride parade, whose theme was “Free To Be, Me,” to Anne Balay. She contacted him about publicizing her oral history project “Steel Closet.” He promised to mention it on his blog and perhaps in print. He has a big blog following, including my buddy Darcey Wade. Anne is attending the two-year anniversary bash at Sappho’s Salon featuring controversial feminist guest performer Holly Hughes. I learned on Google that Holly was one of the so-called NEA Four, to wit, as I told Anne: "Hughes, a New York performance artist, was penalized for having allegedly stuck her hand up her vagina–a gesture that, however mutually rewarding for audience and performer, occurred during a federally funded performance, which the NEA felt violated its obscenity rules." Anne replied: “Doesn't she know there's daemons in there?!?!? Great quote!” I had to look up the meaning of “Daemon” and learned that in Greek mythology they are spirits, both good and evil, such as love (or lust) that lie somewhere between the mortal and the divine.

Alissa emailed from Barcelona: “Hola! Since I wrote last I have been couch-surfing (online network of travelers who stay on people's couches rather than hostels/hotels). It is the best thing since sliced bread. I honestly had no idea how much I would love this. We have had 3 hosts- a guy named Nabil in Paris, a woman named Beatrice and her two children in Rouen, and now 2 guys & 2 girls in Barcelona. Without even having met us, Nabil bought us all tickets to a concert (Air & the Hot Rats- Air did the soundtrack for the movie 'The Virgin Suicides') Very cool. Took us to all these places around the city that tourists don't go to. Had picnics (Parisians are obsessed with picnics) and saw a night view from a church overlooking the city. Beatrice is who I want to be when I grow up. She hangs out with an ex drummer of some French punk band from the 80ś and once sold her car so she could afford to travel through Africa. She lives in a small town in France where no one watches their children because it is so safe. We almost kidnapped her son, Melchior because he is the cutest little French child in the world. Gonzalo, Lu , Caro and Koldo are pure bohemian awesomeness. They own almost nothing. Everything that they do have in their home was salvaged from days when rich people throw out their old things. Their living room is a constantly changing mural because everyone they meet adds to it so they can remember the people who pass through. We wish we were half as cool as these people but they seem to really like us. We’re making them dinner tonight even though we leave for our hostel today.” The adventure continues. Toni and I were in Barcelona two years ago with Jim and Kate Migoski, and Toni almost had her purse snatched in a hotel lobby. The city was dirty, but I had a good time walking down Las Ramblas and gawking at the street performers. Big Jim and I posed with a garish woman in a fat lady outfit.

Mitch Lenyo wanted advice on going back to school, perhaps to pursue an advanced degree in history. He worries that his writing skills are deficient. He’d like to be a lawyer but the cost of law school is astronomical. Several times he’s expressed interest in moving to Hawaii, something I did in 1965 after quitting law school and getting married. I emailed back: “I am always reluctant to advise students to attend grad school unless they really enjoy research; also the job market is very tight in that field. You'd be a good high school teacher and might consider IUN's Urban Teacher Education program (UTEP). I still think establishing residency in Hawaii is for you. You could look into the cost of law school, the need there for teachers, etc. IUN just started a Masters program in Liberal Studies that involves developing writing and research skills.”

Someone from the university approached me who hoped I could be an unofficial adviser to IUN’s newspaper, the Northwest Phoenix, reading copy beforehand to make sure nothing scandalous gets published. I declined and replied that doing that can be a slippery slope, as I learned in 1979 when I held a similar role while teaching a course on the history of American journalism. Some people blamed me for things in the paper and saw me as a power behind the throne. For that reason I left all final decisions on what went in to the editors, John Petalas and Joe Salacian. Plus I don’t believe in censorship.

Former Education professor John Ban brought 30 seniors to the university to learn about the Archives and Region history. I did my audience participation “Age of Anxiety” talk that had worked so well at the Chesterton (Duneland) Historical Society. I resisted a temptation to add anecdotes about a guy in Hammond who found a rat in his toilet bowl and about a woman who attended a burlesque show in Cal City. One stripper was so obese and large-breased that she could swing a boob over her shoulder. A Steel Shavings subscriber among the seniors asked if I regretted being so personal in my “Retirement Journal.” Another, Dolores Armenth, told me she’s in my Fifties issue, having been interviewed by one of my students, Angela Grizzle. I actually used three photos of Delores in volume 23. She told Angela Grizzle that cigarettes cost 25 cents a pack and that “my friends and I had to look in the encyclopedia to see what men looked like without clothes.” She added that “sex was acceptable between engaged couples, but most young people I knew had sex with only one person during high school.” Before my talk I told an anecdote about Ban defeating me in a ping pong tournament and then withdrawing due to a bad back. I told John that I wanted to bring back former Faculty Organization chairmen to gavel to order meetings in the coming year. He chaired the Faculty Org three times during the 1980s and thought it was a fine idea. He mentioned graduating from high school in 1950 and going to work in the mill, where people told him to get an education and don’t be stuck working such a dirty job. I love running into people ten years older than I who are vibrant and intellectually active. Tom Higgins, whose memoir of being at Horace Mann and going to Ted’s Drive-In got laughs, is another role model. Located where Routes 12 and 20 came together near Aetna, Ted’s had waitresses dressed like drum majorettes who’d sometimes dance if you gave them money for the juke box.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Vanilla Twilight

My new favorite Owl City song is "Vanilla Twilight," about someone who misses an old lover ("When I think of you, I don't feel so alone"). It contains the line, "Cold nostalgia chills me to the bone." I take that to be a reference to unpleasantries, but I associate nostalgia with Happy Days. Speaking of which, on Facebook Leelee (Minehart) Devenny shared some fifth grade memories, including two (sledding at Molly Schade’s estate, dances at the Fort Washington firehouse) that I had to think about before recalling them myself. Others (Ambler movies, dance lessons with Mrs. Surgner) brought back vivid snapshots in my brain. Our teacher that year, believe it or not, was named Mrs. Bytheway. I replied: “I have great recollections of Schady Acres, including studying for Mr. Cicak's Civics final around a large table and having a laughing fit when someone mentioned how Cicak smelled like a cigar. The gym at Fort Washington School is where I learned the box step. Ten years ago (the day of the fortieth reunion) Terry Jenkins and I visited the school, reconstituted as a Montessori facility. Principal Sue Cameron (married to Jimmy Coombs) let us in. The place looked great, with the big windows letting in lots of light, but the gym seemed really tiny. My parents participated in theater productions on its stage. Coached by Mrs. Bytheway, Terry and I did a duet for a holiday pageant. Terry recalls that we were to sing "I'll Be Home for Christmas," but it was changed to "This Is My Father's World" because of sensitivities towards families with members fighting in Korea. The best thing about Ambler movies was getting Italian zeps (hoagies) afterwards; once Vince Curll ate an entire hot pepper in a single bite.”

On Thursday I bowled for the first time all summer. After a 195, I tailed off and finished with a 480 series, a little under my average. Clark Metz beat me by striking in the final frame, meaning that I paid the nine bucks for our six games. In “The Audacity to Win” David Plouffe talks about Obama’s embarrassment when the press reported that he bowled a 37 (with a tie on, no less) campaigning in Pennsylvania. He had only finished six or seven frames and groused that he easily could have broken 50. His campaign organizations distributed background reports to newsmen about John Edwards’ $400 haircut. Hoping to publicize Hillary’s seeming unconcern about jobs being outsourced to India, they found a quote where she said while in that country that she should be called the Senator from Punjab because she is such a friend. When Obama found out the staff had circulated a document titled “Hillary Clinton, D-Punjab,” he was furious and ordered the negative campaigning to cease. Concentrating on caucus states, where delegates were not necessarily awarded by statewide proportional representation, was crucial to defeating Clinton. Even though Hillary won New Jersey by a margin of ten percent, she only picked up a net of 11 delegates while Obama that night picked up a net 12 in Idaho. In the general election when self-described rogue Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin claimed that Obama was “pallin’ around with terrorists,” a reference to Obama’s casual relationship while a Chicago community organizer with onetime Weatherman Bill Ayers, Plouffe wanted to hit McCain hard for being implicated in the 1980s “Keating Five” scandal, but Obama nixed the idea. Again they had a clear view of the electoral map and saw Colorado and Pennsylvania as keys to victory. Hence Obama’s outdoor Denver acceptance speech and Scranton (PA) native Joe Biden on the slate.

On Friday 16 year-old teen idol Justin Bieber performed four songs on the “Today” show, including “Baby,” “Somebody to Love,” “One Time,” and “Never Say Never” (the new “Karate Kid” theme song. Teens had started camping out two days ago, and there were lots of hearts throbbing by the time he was through. Backed up by African-American dancers, he did mini-raps in the middle of pop fare. From time to time he seemed to come close to putting his hand on his crotch in mimicry of real rappers but I may have been imagining it. He seemed like a good kid not too stuck on himself in his interactions with the Today anchors. Also on the show were “Get Him to the Greek” co-stars Jonah Hill and Elisabeth Moss, looking pudgy and homely respectively and nothing like Hollywood idols.

I interviewed Sheriff Roy Dominguez, first time in weeks. Regarding last month’s primary for Lake County sheriff, he speculated that had he endorsed Colonel Richard Ligons two weeks sooner, the underdog might have won. Tom Philpot dismal fourth place showing hurt Ligons because he and winner John Buncich were essentially going after the same votes and a close race between the two might have allowed Ligons to pull an upset. Responding to rumors that Evan Bayh might run for governor in 2012, Roy put the odds at about 30-40 percent and said he’d not run against him and would be honored to be his running mate if he did. Bayh was one of three Veep finalists, along with Virginia governor Tim Kaine and, of course, Joe Biden. I encouraged Roy to ask Evan (or maybe his father Birch Bayh) if he might write an introduction.

Enjoyed “Get Him to the Greek” with Russell Brand reprising his raunchy role of sexy rock star Aldous Snow from “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.” Colm Meaney, who played Chief Miles O’Brien on TV in “Star Trek” TV (both in “Next Generation” and “Deep Space Nine”), is a hoot as his estranged, debauched father. Sean P. Diddy Combs almost steals the show as the head of a company putting on Snow’s tenth anniversary comeback performance. The tubby Jonah Hill gets to have sex with two groupies, but one almost gets him stuck in a toilet and the other stuffs a dildo in him before he can stop her.

I picked up a biography of Henry Clay, three-time Presidential candidate and the greatest statesman of the first half of the nineteenth century, sometimes known as the “Great Pacificator.” With considerable hyperbole, Clay’s handlers portrayed him as an orphaned “Millboy of the Slashes,” forced to ride through swamps (slashes) to a gristmill. In truth his mother quickly remarried, and the family was affluent enough to own slaves. Clay was very quick to emulate those he admired, whether it was great orators or teachers with good penmanship. His beautiful handwriting allowed him to become a clerk in Richmond, where he acquired an addiction to card-playing. The account of the young attorney arriving in fast-growing Lexington, Kentucky (named in honor of the revolutionary battle) reminded me of young William Jennings Bryan (The Great Commoner) moving to Omaha, Nebraska, or Gary, Indiana, during the 1920s. All three cities were less than 20 years removed from their pioneer days.

Steve McShane’s daughter Maureen got married Saturday, and during the reception we sat at a table with Tim and Cathy Sutherland as well as Ron and Nancy Cohen, who drove us. At one point the deejay asked all married couples to dance and then started eliminating people according to how long they’d been married. At 45+ years Toni and I were the second-place finishers. Sunday I watched James while Dave and Angie attended the East Chicago Central graduation and Toni was at the condo. We played two card games, Sleeping Queens and a version of Squabble Slam that Toni invented. James was quite good at spelling new words he made from letters on the cards he was dealt.

Hoosier John Wooden, the greatest college basketball coach of all time, passed away at age 99. Times reporter Al Hamnik and Post-Tribune veteran John Mutka, had nice columns about him, mentioning how his two greatest players at UCLA, Kareen Abdul Jabbar and Bill Walton, kept in almost daily touch with him. Among the epigrams he was famous for was this advice: don’t mistake activity for achievement.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Gay Paree

Granddaughter Alissa arrived in Paris and started off her group email, “Bonjour family.” She relates: “Speaking rudimentary French to people as Dad advised and everyone has been ridiculously helpful in response. This couple we met on the train actually took Jen and I in hand and wandered around the train station trying to find someone who spoke English. And all I was able to really say to them was 'phone' 'call' 'hotel' 'merci merci merci!' Went to the Eiffel tower and wandered the city today. Skipped going up the Eiffel with the girls (waiting to go at night) and wandered by myself in a huge garden. Spent last night at the hostel bar (because it was raining) playing cards and drinking wine with some hilarious French and French-Canadians dressed as Sesame Street characters Bert, Elmo and Cookie Monster.” Replied: “Sounds like the adventure is continuing. Twenty-five years ago I took a train from West Berlin to Paris and found myself drinking beer with some rowdy Australians. They suggested I hang with them at a place where they were headed that sounded like a bordello, but I declined. I wandered around for 12 hours and then took an evening train to Amsterdam. So, chicken that I was, I missed out on some potentially memorable experiences, but then again I was married. At one point I was in a part of the train station where all the turnstiles were facing the opposite of how I wanted to go. I ended up jumping over one and then shrugging my shoulders and muttering an apology to a man looking at me from a booth. Keep enjoying life. Au revoir and love, Jimbo”

Daughter-in-law Delia sent me a really nice Facebook photo that I’m in from Alissa’s graduation from Michigan State. Wish I knew how to add photos to my blog. Someone told me it is very simple, so I must look into it, even though some guys might regard that as gay. I recall reading somewhere that it was a certain person’s opinion that “Gay” had been such a wonderful, expressive word meaning happy or carefree that it was too bad it had taken on a pejorative context to a majority of Americans by referring to homosexuals. I don’t see it as a negative word, and in fact I read that Paris tourist bureaus are using the phrase “Gay Paree” to market the “City of Lights” as a desirable vacation place for gays.

Toni and I made the rounds getting our address changed to the Chesterton condo, starting with the license bureau. Then after a stop at Allstate we found the county auditor’s office after a delay caused by too faithfully following MapQuest. Everyone was helpful. Did yard work in the afternoon at the old place, finished Vonnegut’s “Fates Worse Than Death” and enjoyed his words of praise for antiwar prankster Abbie Hoffman. After some Chinese leftovers and Darcy’s Memorial Day potato salad watched the Flyers’ exciting overtime victory with Clark Metz. An expert cook, he served me two delicious barbecue chicken legs. Childhood chum Terry Jenkins sent me an email right before the game, but since he usually tapes games because of his early bedtime and watches them in the morning, I dare not reply to him yet unless I was very cryptic. Home from Clark’s around 11, I phoned West Coast buddies Joe Robinson and Gaard Logan, but neither had watched the game nor cared to hear about it.

Suzanne has completely recovered from the sudden illness that landed her in intensive care. She wrote: “I went into Amish country today and visited in the home of one of my Old Order Amish friends. She is very sweet. She bakes on Tuesdays and I came away with some yummy goodies. I will be going to a large annual benefit auction on Saturday. There will be about 100 horse and buggies there and they will auction hundreds of quilts and great items. I got a kerosene lamp last year.” I replied: “I bowl with a teammate (Frank Shurfan) who quilts. He took it up after going to various shows with his wife, also a quilter. When my mother moved to California, we inherited a quilt that had belonged to her second husband Howard. We had it appraised (the estimate: $1,400) and discovered it dates from the 1880s.” The appraiser called it a crazy quilt and pointed out patches from France that contemporaries would have considered pornography. That’s part of what made it so valuable.

I met with Aaron Pigors and Tome Trajkovski of Instructional Media Services to discuss how to put the French Lick interviews on DVDs. I hope to combine excerpts of them with footage from sessions and the installation ceremony into 3 to 5-minute spots that might run on Hoosier PBS stations. While doing an hour-long documentary is beyond our capacities, the shorter clips could work, I think.

In the news: Joe Jackson, Michael’s father, is in Gary touting a massive multi-use project estimated to cost investors an estimated $300 million. It would include a museum, arts center, golf course, hotel, and theme park. Unfortunately, Michael Jackson’s estate is not on board with the plans and Michael’s old man is hardly trustworthy. Mayor Rudy Clay arranged for much valuable land near IU Northwest, including Gleason golf course, to be turned over to the investors at no cost. It’s doubtful any of these plans will see the light of day. While in town Joe participated in the unveiling of a plaque at the old Jackson homestead.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

No Filler

Post-Tribune music critic Bob Kostanczuk wrote a feature on Gary rapper Freddie “Gangsta” Gibbs, whose music video of “The Ghetto” from his CD “Str8 Killa No Filla” includes various local scenes, such as Embassy Liquors and the Village shopping center. One line goes, “Fed my daily appetite for destruction, now I’m rebuilding.” Checking Freddie’s website, I found that you can hear both clean and dirty versions of his raps. Here’s a sample of the latter: “"Every rhyme that I spit, real shit, cuz it's just another day in my life. Niggas betta keep the vest, tech aimed at my testicles, they gonna be vegetables, they gonna respect the flow, til I'm gone!” Say what?

Checked the latest issue of “Vanity Fair” while at the library, which features a pictorial essay of World Cup soccer players naked except for jockey shorts designed to go with their country’s uniform. One article arguing that Norman Mailer’s misogyny prevented him from achieving literary greatness quotes him as saying Congresswoman Bella Abzug’s voice would boil fat off a New York City cab driver’s neck. An article on White House state dinners included 1985 photos of John Travolta dancing with Princess Di and President Reagan trying to cut in while his wife was slow-dancing with her lover alleged Frank Sinatra (see Kitty Kelley’s unauthorized biography of the former First Lady). Ulysses S. Grant held the nation’s first state dinner for Hawaiian King Kalakaua, destined to be stripped of power when white sugar planters forced him to sign the “Bayonet Constitution.” I checked out “The Audacity to Win” by Obama’s campaign manager David Plouffe, who writes in a pedestrian style but candidly about mistakes that occurred along the way to the nomination – such as not doing a background check into loose cannon Rev. Jeremiah Wright (on the eve of Obama’s declaration of candidacy in Springfield, IL, Rolling Stone magazine ran an embarrassingly strident interview with the pastor, who was cut from the program at the last minute), becoming complacent after the Iowa caucus victory, and not trying harder to knock Hillary out of the race in Texas.

Picked up Kurt Vonnegut’s “Fates Worse than Death,” a humorous collection from the 1980s that frequently refers to his turning into an old geezer. He skewers the Reagan administration and the corporate interests who so easily manipulated the President. Observing that novelist Nelson Algren supposedly gave feminist Simone de Beauvoir her first orgasm at a Lake Michigan cottage in Gary, IM, as documented by her biographer, Vonnegut quips that “the only first orgasm I ever gave anyone was myself.” His masterpiece “Slaughterhouse Five” was censored because a character says, “Get out of the road, mother fucker.” He claims the happiest he’s ever been was in Finland coming upon ripe, frozen blueberries in the permafrost and having them melt in his mouth. Vonnegut’s an environmentalist (at the rate we’re killing the planet, he predicts we’ll all eventually go belly up like guppies in a neglected fishbowl), a pacifist, and believes everyone needs an extended family. Prior to speaking in Vonnegut’s hometown of Indianapolis, John Updike prodded him for background information. Vonnegut told him that other Indy native sons included Dan Quayle, Steve McQueen, Charles Manson, and cult leader James Jones. Manson and Jones, of course, preyed on others’ need for an extended family. Vonnegut claims he can’t stand to read his own writings, unlike me, who enjoys rereading my reviews, magazines, and other publications.

Sunday I played board games (first time in two weeks) and then attended a birthday party at Brenden and Becky Bayer’s. I promised to send “Brothers in Arms” to a Vietnam Vet who is related to Becky and the father of a former student. Someone gave three year-old Rhiannon a musical potty chair, believe it or not. Grandparents Janet and Mike, old friends, were in from Vermont. Mike had on a Progressive Party t-shirt (the progs, party members are called) and might be a candidate for state auditor. I had tried to get him over to watch the Blackhawks-Flyers game the night before (my Flyers lost 6-5), but he begged off.

Monday: outside activities at Tom and Darcey Wade’s Memorial Day picnic, including croquet, got rained out, but Tom still grilled burgers, dogs, and brats. Wee got in several games of ping pong and Wits and Wagers, in which everyone answers a question, such as in what was the polio vaccine first available or what is the highest elevation of Mount Everest, and everyone writes down an answer and then can bet on any answer, including ones own. The hardest questions have to do with what percentage of Americans think this or that, such as that they are smarter than the average person their age. Home in time, despite holiday traffic, to catch the opening face-off of what three hours later resulted in another one-goal Flyer loss. They are playing great, but Blackhawk goalie Niemi was unconscious.

Tuesday: I had lunch at Country Lounge with Anne Balay, who asked me to read her book proposal, entitled “Steel Closets: Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Steelworkers in Gary, Indiana.” She mentioned that Mary Margaret Fonow’s “Union Women: Forging Feminism in the United Steelworkers of America,” makes numerous references to my work on “Women of Steel.” Fonow is head of Women and Gender Studies at Arizona State, where old pals Ed and Gayle Escobar teach. Ed and I co-edited a book about Latinos in Northwest Indiana called “Forging a Community.” During its production he nicknamed me “Il Duce” because I was so relentless in getting him to stick to our deadlines. After we left Country Lounge our waitress ran out to my car with my left-over meat loaf. Driving back to IUN along Thirty-Fifth, we passed several black teenage guys whose hands appeared to be protecting their crotch. Maybe, like in the lyrics of local rapper Freddie Gibbs, they felt a need to protect their manhood.

Concerning my efforts to document the social history of Hobart, Fred McColly quipped: “When does the destruction of Hobart's reputation begin? I am up for is a sordid little burg, entirely too smug for its own good...a reality check will annoy the boosters, but they are delusional anyway and need to be disabused of their illusions.” Love it. He mentioned passing the old Dixie dairy building and other abandoned houses and factories and wondered whether anyone has “inventoried the wreckage of Gary’s economic decline.” He added: “I know the changes at U.S. Steel, like the removal of the rolling mills because of the continuous caster have been well documented, but what about the mid-range of failed industry and commerce?” Good question. Speaking of Dixie Dairy, years ago I bowled against some of their employees, and when something good happened, they’d interlock eight fingers, keep their thumbs vertical, and say, “Udders Up!” Found out on Facebook that Fred’s daughter Sarah, like the old man also one of my best students, recently got married.