Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Civil Rights Hall of Fame

“Sometimes I can't believe it
I'm movin' past the feeling and into the night”
Arcade Fire, from “The Suburbs”

The band Arcade Fire has the number one album in America. Despite being from Canada originally, where arcades were probably an integral part of youth culture, they played several free concerts on Barack Obama’s behalf. “The Suburbs” mentions “all of the walls they built in the 70s” to keep minorities in their place finally falling. One can hope.

CRA archivist Steve McShane, IUN librarian Tim Sutherland and I met with Richard Gordon Hatcher to discuss the Civil Rights Hall of Fame. The former Gary mayor has been attempting to launch such a project since 1981, the year archconservative Ronald Reagan took office, signaling the demise of Great Society model cities initiatives. For $50,000 the Gary school board is making available the old Bannaker School (now occupying the former Kennedy-King middle school in Miller). It will take millions to refurbish it as the temporary quarters for the Hall of Fame until a new facility is built next door. For years The Post-Tribune has insinuated without proof that contributions have been wasted. Most of the pledged money came with strings attached – such as construction begin within five years.

Wanting the Hall of Fame to have an archives and library, Hatcher sought our advice on how best to proceed. We believe the best course to be a partnership that would have archival materials stored in our temperature and humidity controlled stacks. I recommended that a Gary room highlight the city’s role in “the movement.” After all, Hatcher became the nation’s first Black mayor as a result of a grassroots movement that overcame an entrenched political machine. The Archives could provide exhibits. Ever since Hatcher left office in 1987, we have been after his papers, which remain warehoused in his garage. He seemed receptive to our ideas, but we’ll see. He’s very deliberate. Some years ago I spent a many hours interviewing Hatcher at his home on a book project that never materialized. I wanted it to be autobiographical while he envisioned a series of essays along the lines of Cornell West’s “Race Matters.” I used much of the material in Steel Shavings magazine, for a book about Black Mayors, and in putting together “Gary’s First Hundred Years.” Now 77 years old, Hatcher is still sharp as ever though somewhat hard of hearing. He went through life with one eye, so being a little deaf should be no big deal. He’s one of my few political heroes, a Sixties militant yet willing to work within the system. With Hatcher was Hall of Fame board member Lamar Taylor, to whom I gave a copy of “Gary’s First Hundred Years.”

Indiana Historical Society Press sent four more copies of “Maria’s Journey.” I gave one to Minority Studies professor Raoul Contreras in hopes he’ll adopt it in his course on Latinos in America. Looked into how to get The Post-Tribune to do a feature on it. Rich James suggested contacting columnist Jerry Davich, adding: “I would like to read ‘Maria’s Journey.’ I heard over the years that she was the glue to the family. And of course I followed the careers of the Arredondo brothers. They are all different.” On the NWI Times website discussion page some joker who calls himself “mytwocents” dissed the book as one-sided and wondered how much the authors paid to have it published. I replied: “I suggest you read the book and reconsider your criticism. John Bodnar, the foremost immigration in the country, would not have written the introduction, nor would the Indiana Historical Society Press have published it, unless it had historical value.”

William J. Lowe, IU Northwest’s new chancellor, held two “town hall meetings” to defend making the staff basically punch a time clock (logging in and out) and provide details on a shuttle to and from the Village shopping center at Grant Street, the site of art and theater classes as well as additional parking. Being officially retired, I opted not to attend. Wonder what faculty and staff thought of him. In 1970, I befriended a Psychology professor named Frank Lowe. His wife invited me to a surprise fortieth birthday party, and Frank seemed pissed that his wife called attention to his age.

I sent John Laue, in town working on his book about residents who lived within the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, my “Last Hurrah” account of our final weekend in our old place. He emailed a typescript of our interview. This paragraph makes reference to a traumatic incident of ten years ago when Dave, Angie, and I feared for our lives. Three armed robbers held us hostage for 90 minutes (see Steel Shavings, volume 33, “Life in the Calumet Region during the Year 2000”): “Our relationship with the National Park Service has always been pretty good. Over the years, we’ve had minimal dealings. We might see a ranger car once a week or even less. One time, a tree fell down on our driveway, and a ranger came by and helped remove it. There was a cabin down the street from us—we called it the mystery cabin until a couple moved in whom we befriended. When they got divorced and moved out, it started to deteriorate. They ended up giving us the cabin after we paid the back taxes. My wife Toni spent a lot of time and money fixing that place up, and my son and his wife moved in. In the year 2000, there was a home invasion that caused Dave and Angie to move elsewhere. Later that year, we found a dead body on Maple Avenue a block down from us, the result, authorities suspected, of a drug deal gone sour. Other than those two incidents, we’ve always felt safe and secure. It’s rare that we see a car come up this road. Paul and Lauren, who bought the leaseback to the cabin, have dogs whose barking discourages folks from walking up the road.”

Bowled a 529 series, including a 200 game, on opening night of Sheet and Tin league play (one more sign summer is nearly over). Clark Metz beat my score by six pins, opening with a 217. Pressed into service because Rob was on one of his frequent excursions, 82 year-old Bill Batalis bowled above his average, enabling the Electrical Engineers to win 5 of 7 points. Despite the dismal economy, we had a full house of 16 teams. A friendly Latino guy who hadn’t bowled in years expressed surprise that our team was still in existence.

In an episode of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” entitled “Club Soda and Salt” (a formula for removing stains), Cheryl has a male friend named Jeff who Larry is convinced is trying to get in her pants. In her car Larry discovers a tape of Al Green songs Jeff’s given her, including “Be With Me.” In the final scene wine gets spilled on the front of Cheryl’s dress, and Jeff is groping her as he administers club soda and salt.

Toni finished the August 8 New York Times Magazine Sunday crossword puzzle (one answer was Fabian, the one-named Fifties teen idol) whose cover story by Daphne Merkin, “My Shrunk Life,” dealt with going through 40 years of psychoanalysis, starting at age ten. Merkin uses anthropologist Clifford Geertz’s phrase “thick description” that I first heard from Chuck Gallmeier when he was touting the value of Steel Shavings magazine.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Last Hurrah

“All we’re asking for
One more last hurrah”
Justin Currie of Del Amitri

Note: the above quote emulates how Jeff Manes opens his Post-Tribune “Salt” columns.

Two dozen Lanes and Okomskis (12 of each, including Joe, Lisa, Michele, and their families) gathered at Maple Place for one final weekend before the federal government comes in to return the property to nature. It seems such a waste to tear our place down, but it’s not like we didn’t know what was going to happen (eventually) when we purchased it. Except for one mattress losing air overnight everyone seemed relatively comfortable. Alissa arrived after a photo shoot for a Grand Rapids magazine. Earlier in the week she used Miranda as a shoe model. Dave put in a 16-hour day at East Chicago Central H.S., what with tennis practice and announcing the football game (a win over Hammond High), but showed up Saturday. The Michiganders brought Diamond, and I took the “old pea brain” to the Miller Village Apartments across County Line Road, where children flocked around and petted him after assurances that he did not bite. After meeting Diamond, Lisa and Fritz were sorry they didn’t bring their dog.

The weather cooperated, enabling many hours at the beach in the water (Lake Michigan is at its “warmest” this time of year) and roaming through the sand dunes. The youngsters also explored the woods around our house. Nickolas found a frog at a pond in the ravine, and other scavengers brought back rocks and bottles. My assignment was breakfast, dishes and restocking the refrigerator. Toni took care of most everything else. While Jackie shopped at the mall with Miranda, I showed the rest of her family the condo after stopping at Subway for Garrett’s fast food fix. They were fascinated by the nineteenth century quilt with the French erotica. Saturday was Demolition Derby night in Joliet, Illinois, something Tina did with her family as a child. Sophia, first up both Saturday and Sunday, conversed with me about her sports and school activities. The woman who took her class photographs grabbed kids heads and yanked them into place, she claimed, demonstrating with her hands and facial expressions. In fourth grade, Nickolas is studying Indiana History; I promised to send him issues of TRACES magazine. Since people wanted bricks from the garden box as mementoes, Toni got a chisel out to separate the cement used to hold them together. The weekend’s most popular games were Shooters (played with dice) and S.O.B. (a card game that rewards patience). Joey and I played pinochle against Toni and Philip featuring several wild hands. One time we called trump and only got three points in the play. In the first game we went set by a single point or would have won. In the second, trailing badly, we took all 12 tricks one hand and then pulled the game out when I got a run, even though Phil and Toni held me to 12 points after the meld (bidding 29, I only needed ten).

In addition to the many photo opportunities, Phil shot a video featuring everyone doing his or her thing for ten seconds, and the next person starting with the same pose as the predecessor. It was similar to 30 years ago when brother-in-law Sonny did a funny bit that I emulated about eating cheerios (one of Sonny’s arms is bigger than the other due to childhood polio). Reminiscing about previous visits, I told anecdotes about when Toni’s mother Blanche would visit. Once during a scavenger hunt, she sprinted up Maple Place and our driveway in a vain attempt to beat out Dean Bottorff. During the long goodbye Tori said that I was an awesome grandfather. The Lane Fantasy Football League draft is coming up shortly, and Anthony vowed to beat my ass. Everyone survived in apparent good health despite the poison ivy in the woods and numerous tumbles down the steps. We’re all meeting up for Labor Day weekend in 12 days at Fritz and Lisa’s in South Bend. It’s Notre Dame’s opening football game against state rival Purdue, and we may be tailgating beforehand. Toni’s sister Mary and Sonny will be flying in for the occasion.

“Rolling Stone” profiled rock legend Chuck Berry, whose classic hits include “Maybelline,” “Rock and Roll Music,” “Johnny B. Goode,” and “Roll Over Beethoven.” He spent three years in reform school for stealing a car and another three for bringing a 14 year-old Apache girl across state lines for immoral purposes. Sued for allegedly taking photos of women who were using the bathroom, Berry sang the praises of “My Ding-a Ling” (his only number one hit) even though music critics treat the 1972 novelty song as an embarrassment. In a “Simpsons” episode a kid starts to sing it in a talent show and the principal gets him off the stage after the first line. In “Cadillac Records” starring Adrien Brody as Leonard Chess (who gave his stable of Black recording artists flashy cars but insufficient royalties), Mos Def plays Chuck. BeyoncĂ© is a spectacular Etta James. The 2008 movie pays tribute to Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf as progenitors of rock ‘n’ roll. Berry had serious character flaws, but there’s no denying his musical genius.

Finished Updike’s “Terrorist.” Jewish guidance counselor Jack Levy talks Ahmad out of blowing up the Lincoln Tunnel. Started “Matterhorn,” which Ron Cohen loaned me. It has a vivid description of a lieutenant returning from his first patrol in the jungles of Vietnam and extracting leeches from his body.

There’s a fresh “Curb Your Enthusiasm” On Demand called “The Nanny from Hell.” In it Richard Lewis claims he invented the phrase “The Blank from Hell” (as in “the date from hell”). Thanks to that episode Lewis now is in the “Yale Book of Quotations.”

In the news: the government recalled a half billion eggs. Chief culprit Jack DeCoster is, to quote George du Maurier, a bad egg, a habitual violator of state and federal standards according to Food and Drug administrator Margaret Hamburg (what a name). In sports: White Sox finished a four-of-six road trip five games behind the Twins (Les Grobstein calls them the Twinkies on his SCORE overnight show). Cubs were atrocious against the Braves, who maintained a two-game lead over my Phillies, who won a weekend series from Washington on the strength of shutout performances by Roy Holladay and Roy Oswalt. In manager Lou Paniella’s final game, the Cubs succumbed 16-5, the identical score as their opening day loss to the Braves. Lou cried when he took off a baseball uniform for the final time, supposedly to care for his ailing 90 year-old mother. He got the Cubbies to the playoffs twice, but they went 0-6 thereafter. A class act, he deserved a better fate. For all the money G.M Jim Hendry wasted, Lou never had a good leadoff man.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Board Meeting

I’m thinking of becoming secretary of the Sand Creek condo board if nobody else wants to do it and if I can find someone to replace me as Court One director. In the future, should someone choose to write an oral history of our condominium, the notes would be a good supplement. Last night’s meeting was just over 90 minutes long and more organized than last month’s two and a half hour marathon. The main purpose was to set a date for the annual picnic – unfortunately it will take place on Sunday, September 18, the same afternoon that I’ll be talking to the Ogden Dunes Historical Society, but I’ll be able to be there for the last 90 minutes. Here’s my notes – pretty prosaic compared to when Rhiman Rotz was composing them in the guise of fables for IUN’s History Department (his best effort dramatized a turf battle with Afro-American Studies as a medieval gathering of lords dealing with threats upon their kingdom; I was James, the Earl of Lane and he was “this lowly scribe Rymannus Scriba”); if I get the post, I’ll try to emulate him just a bit:

Craig Henderson conducted the Sand Creek Courts board meeting because President Jamison Menacher was in Wisconsin and unable to attend. Craig mentioned that the post office reproached him for stuffing unstamped materials in people’s mailboxes, so in the future he will send announcements by email and also telephone board members if he does not get email responses from them.
Regarding the recent painting of condo units, it was agreed that in the future the painters should be responsible for removing wasp and hornet nests while doing prep work.
Leo reported that he has purchased trees to replace those in Court one near unit 415 that came down during last month’s storm and that they will be planted next week. He also submitted a bill for the drainpipe extensions installed at unit 409 to prevent a reoccurrence of basement flooding. He subsequently noticed that the mowers had moved them and not put them back properly, so he did it himself. Craig reported on the landscape estimate to install window wells (one each) in units 407 and 409 as well as bring in dirt to improve the grading and then seed the area. The board approved accepting the estimate. The work should take place in early September.
There was discussion concerning a pick-up truck that has been parked from time to time in a Court one visitor’s space. There is a by-law prohibiting commercial vehicles, but Craig pointed out that the truck in question is a fleet vehicle rather than a commercial vehicle, so the board for the time being took no action in the matter.
The owner of unit 409 asked whether he could close up his skylights if unable to prevent them from leaking. The board decided that since owners are responsible for maintaining their skylights, he could do so as long as he used matching shingles and obtained the approval of four Court one residents on a Form B Alteration Request Form.
The annual picnic will take place in Court three on Sunday September 19 from 4 to 7. Each court will be requested to bring something (i.e., dessert, salad, etc.).
Election of officers will take place at the October general meeting. Board directors will urge people to volunteer.
Prior to the fall pruning, directors were asked to survey their courts and will be notified in advance when the work will take place so that they and other interested parties can be on hand.
Because Jamison was not present, discussion of whether to continue with mulch or switch to rocks was postponed. Jamison has promised to look into the condo insurance policy to get clarification about the $5,000 deductible issue and see whether we can do better.

New Jerseyites Joey, Tina, Garrett and Jacklin Okomski arrived after a stay in Florida. They rented a car at O’Hare and drove to their favorite pizza place in Chicago before arriving at our old place, soon to be demolished. In the past before flying home they’d buy half-cooked pizzas, but management has stopped taking such orders. There’s just one bed and a single TV left at the old homestead, so most of our expected guests will be roughing it. So far UNO has been the favorite game played.

A reader wrote in to The Post-Tribune’s Quickly column about vandalism being rampant in Chesterton. I think our condo is safe (knock on wood), but soon after the Wades moved into their new house, a group of teenagers did some nasty things to their car and property. It sounds like something the police need to take seriously.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Kids Are All Right

I took Toni to see the R-rated “The Kids Are All Right,” which lived up to its hype, we both agreed, as the best movie of the summer. Annette Bening (Nic) and Julianne Moore (Jules) are very realistic as lesbians whose teenage son Laser and daughter Joni (named by Nic for Joni Mitchell) get in touch with Paul (Mark Ruffalo), their common sperm donor, a really cool co-op farmer and restaurant owner, an action that upsets the family dynamics in a variety of ways. Jules is trying to start a landscape business and goes to work on Mark’s backyard. There’s a great scene where she is bent over and he admires her thong panties under her work clothes. They end up in bed on her initiative, which, when discovered, threatens his burgeoning relationship with the kids. I understand that some lesbians (although not my friend Anne) don’t like that the two women like to watch gay male porn in bed to get aroused or the heterosexual affair (when Jules first takes a look at Paul’s penis, she makes a sound as if to say, “Where have you been all of my life?”). Some think Nic is portrayed as the heavy, but all the main characters are portrayed sympathetically, albeit with flaws. Joni has a friend who acts like a slut and Laser hangs around with someone who is reckless, out of control, and insulting if Laser questions his judgment. Both “kids” in the end resist being mere followers, and the implication is that their transition into adulthood, though never easy, will go all right and that at some point Paul will come back into their lives.

Watched the Coen brothers’ zany 1987 comedy “Raising Arizona” on cable. A young childless couple, H.I. and Edwina McDunnough (Nicolas Cage and Holly Hunter), kidnap one of Nathan Arizona’s quintuplets. When asked by a policeman to describe the kids’ pajamas, Arazona says, “I don’t know – they were jammies! They had yodas ‘n’ shit on ’em.” Questioned by a suspicious FBI agent why he changed his name from Nathan Huffheins, the furniture storeowner says, “Would you stop at a store called Unpainted Huffheins?” My favorite line of Nathan’s: “If a frog had wings, it wouldn’t bump its ass a-hoppin’.” Pure Coen brothers. I also caught the end of “The Insider,” about a tobacco industry whistle blower who comes under attack and how CBS News caves in and shelves the planned “60 Minutes” segment out of fear of a lawsuit. Christopher Plummer does a nice imitation of Mike Wallace.

At a White House function celebrating the onset of Ramadan, Obama declared that Muslims have the same religious freedom as anybody else, including the right to build a mosque on private property near “ground zero,” the site of the 9/11 tragedy. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who had been my choice for Barack’s running mate, applauded Obma’s “clarion defense of the freedom of religion.” Predictably Republicans, led by Sarah Palin, are trying to make political hay over the issue. The President didn’t actually say whether or not he favors the mosque being at that location. Palin is demanding a clarification, but Obama has emphasized that it is a local matter. As John Updike wrote in “Terrorist,” “racism, a dozing giant, lulled by decades of liberal singsong, [is] stirred anew.” The novelist was referring to WASP airlines passengers reacting to being stopped and searched by black and Hispanic TSA inspectors. One of the main characters in “Terrorist” is from Philadelphia and recalls with nostalgia the display windows in Wanamaker’s department store and Frihofer bread. One sign of decline: pencils made in China with useless erasers. Updike paraphrases Ralph Waldo Emerson’s comment on dying, that at least you’re done with the dentist.

Won two of four board games and might have triumphed in Stone Age but for a stupid move. Tom and Dave play on line, while I am still a novice. We opened Brass, set in England at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, and played half a practice game. Players build such things as cotton mills and coalmines and then try to sell their products. I was totally confused but kept the game so I could read the rules. On YouTube I found a two-part instruction video. The title of the game is from the English expression, “Where there’s muck there’s brass (meaning money).”

The Northwest Indiana Times ran my “Maria’s Journey” article as the lead story in Sunday’s “Lifestyle” section, using three photographs, including the cover photo. In another Maria is flanked by her ten offspring with a photo of her late husband Miguel in the background. A headshot of Maria appeared on page one of the front section along with a blurb on where readers can find the full story. At my suggestion they included excerpts from IU historian John Bodnar’s introduction. The key to Maria’s measure of success, we both agreed, was her resilience. Ray and Trish Arredondo were thrilled and bought multiple copies. Thanks to The Times’ website people can comment and discuss it. Karen T wanted to know why the children spoke Spanish at home. I replied: “On page 63 of “Maria’s Journey” the Arredondos write: “Miguel insisted that the children speak only Spanish in his presence” because of his dream “that he and his family would eventually return to his homeland.”

I learned that FACET founder Eileen Bender suffered a fatal heart attack. Her daughter found out from my blog that I had interviewed her last December and requested a copy. Aaron agreed to burn two DVDs for the family.

I ran into former vice-chancellor of academic affairs Kwesi Aggrey in the library/conference center hall along with his wife and youngest son. After a warm hug, Kwesi mentioned that they had placed flowers at Robin Hass Birky’s gravesite and that they were headed to Savannah Center to take photos at the Robin Hass Birky Women’s Studies seminar room. He has hired several IU Northwest faculty or administrators since taking a job in North Carolina and I jokingly asked whether he was on a recruiting trip. He told me he received the “Retirement Journal” Steel Shavings issue I sent him. In it he comes off smelling like a rose. In five or six years when our new chancellor reties, Kwesi would be the perfect successor.

“Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” with Michael Cera was so terrible I walked out and into “Eat Pray Love,” which was very slow moving until the Julia Roberts character hooked up with Javier Barden (Felipe) in Bali. I wouldn’t recommend it, but perhaps any movie would pale after “The Kids Are All Right.” I almost chose to see it a third time when “Scott Pilgrim” took a turn toward the ridiculous.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Lillian Holley

Lake County Sheriff Roy Dominguez invited Toni and me to the dedication of a Memorial to Women in Law Enforcement (the first of its kind) as well as the dedication of the Lillian Holley Resource Center in Crown Point. Several hundred people were on hand including county surveyor George Van Til and prosecutor Bernard Carter. Bette Roberts waved us over to where she and George, a retired IUN Political Science professor, were sitting. In character as always, George had a Purdue cap on and introduced me to former Crown Point mayor Dan Klein. Bette motioned Post-Tribune columnist Rich James tp join us, but he declined, adding that he talked with me a few days ago. Before the program an honor guard procession included the sheriff’s department pipes and drums unit. Keynote speaker Barbara McConnell, chief deputy prosecuting attorney, mentioned that Lillian Holley assumed her duties just 13 years after ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment allowed woman to vote. Upon becoming FBI director in 1924 J. Edgar Hoover forced out the three female agents and no others were hired until after the closeted cross-dresser’s death in 1972. Deputy chief Lessie Smith thanked Chief Marco Kuyachich for mentoring her when she became the first woman SWAT team member. Sheriff Dominguez, resplendent in full uniform, introduced dignitaries, honored guests, including retired woman officers, and members of Lillian Holley’s family, as well as his wife, daughters, brother Jesse, and 85 year-old mother Inocensia, who (he said) danced the electric slide at her recent birthday party.

Lillian Holley became county sheriff in 1933, a day after her husband Roy, the incumbent, was shot and killed attempting to arrest a farmer who murdered a neighbor in retaliation for cutting down a tree. She was in office when bank robber John Dillinger and a second prisoner named Herbert Youngblood escaped from the Crown Point jail and then took off in her V-8 Ford. Dillinger later bragged that he used a “toy gun” carved from a wooden washboard and darkened by shoe polish, but in all likelihood his attorney provided him with a real pistol. Two jail officials were later indicted for abetting the escape but were found not guilty. In the aftermath of the escape Sheriff Holley said, “If I ever get John Dillinger back, I’ll shoot him in the head with my own gun.” FBI agents saved her the trouble, gunning him down in front of Chicago’s Biograph Theater after being tipped off by Gary brothel madam Anna Sage, the “Lady in Red,” who had been threatened with deportation if she refused to be a stool pigeon (the FBI deported her anyway). In my centennial history of Gary I have a photo of Holley taken when Dillinger was first extradited from Arizona. It appears that county prosecutor Robert Estill and Dillinger had their arms around each other. In disgust Indiana State Police Captain Matt Leach called it the “petting party picture.” Estill claimed the pressure of space caused him to grasp the outlaw involuntarily, but it ruined his career. Holley retired from politics in December of 1934 and lived to the age of 103.

John Updike’s 2006 novel “Terrorist” is about a Muslim high school student named Ahmad who envisions his classmates as devils seeking to separate him from his faith. I’ve shied away from reading it until now. It’s a vehicle for Updike to rant against the amorality and hedonism of modern American youth. As Ahmad sees it, “girls sway and sneer and expose their soft bodies and alluring hair. Their bare bellies, adorned with shining navel studs and low-down purple tattoos, ask, ‘What else is there to see?’”

In the news: Taliban Afghanis executed ten modern day missionaries who were providing medical and eye care to villagers in remote areas, claiming they were Christian proselytizers. As LSD experimenter Clare Booth Luce said, “No good deed goes unpunished.” Republican gubernatorial primary victor Linda McMahon is a former executive for the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment). She’s a middle-aged hottie (what some would call a MILF) who might be more formidable than one might think. If Jesse Ventura could become governor of Minnesota, anything is possible. Former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens, who sought pork barrel funds for a “bridge to nowhere,” died in a plane crash. With a career in Congress’s upper chamber spanning over 40 years till felled by scandal, he was the longest-serving Republican Senator ever (South Carolina racist Strom Thurmond served longer but was a Democrat until 1964). Third season “American Idol” winner Fantasia Barrino overdosed on aspirin and sleeping pills. America has a new folk hero, Jet Blue flight attendant Steven Slater. After an altercation with a passenger, he screamed obscenities over the loud speaker, grabbed a couple beers, activated the emergency chute, slid down it, muttered “there goes 28 years,” and left the airport. In other words, “Take This Job and Shove It” – as country singer Johnny Paycheck put it. The passenger supposedly had left her seat early and struck him in the head pulling down her bag from an overhead compartment, then cursed him out when he asked for an apology). He was allegedly having gay sex when a fully armed SWAT team apprehended him at his home. Bail was set at a paltry $2,500. Tens of thousands of fans are coming to his defense. A co-worker said, “It’s something we all fantasize about.” On Facebook Slater has 131,529 friends and counting.

Evidently the way that “On Demand” works for TV series is that four repeats are changed every week or so. In one that aired in 2001 Larry David has floor seats to a Lakers game and inadvertently trips Shaquille O’Neal. Learning that “Seinfeld” was Shaq’s favorite show, he takes tapes of all the episodes to his hospital room. The two end up watching “The Contest,” famous for the cast using the euphemism “master of my domain.” Jerry, Kramer, Elaine, and George bet on who can keep from masturbating the longest after George’s mother caught him in the bathroom with a copy of “Glamour” magazine. Kramer succumbs almost immediately due to a beautiful woman walking around naked in an apartment across the street. Elaine’s downfall was running into JFK, Jr., at a fitness club. In the series finale George admits that he cheated after seeing the silhouette of a voluptuous nurse giving a patient a massage.

Finally located a theater in Michigan City that is showing “The Kids Are All Right.” – as distinguished from the Who song and 1979 film “The Kids Are Alright.” It’s supposed to be the best movie of the summer. The plot revolves around a half brother and sister finding their lesbian parents’ sperm donor (played by Mark Ruffalo). I saw Ruffalo in “Shutter Island” earlier in the year.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Maria's Journey

At the suggestion of a condo association member, I did some weeding in an area adjacent to Court One where the Sand Creek Estates sign is located. You could hardly see it, the vines had grown so tall and thick. Hundreds of shoots had sprung up from the roots of two trees, and I also tackled wild rose bushes whose thorns hurt like hell if I wasn’t careful. By the time I finished, I had worked up a good sweat (I read somewhere that sweating cleans out the pores). One neighbor asked if I was planting marijuana, and I replied that it would be an improvement. We have poison ivy in an area near our condo. I sprayed the leaves thoroughly; hopefully it will dry up and fade away. All through high school I played in the woods and never caught poison ivy. Then the summer I was dating Suzanna I worked on an estate and got it all up and down my arms. I never appreciated poison ivy-free limbs until then.

Ray Arredondo gave me six copies of “Maria’s Journey,” and it looks great. On the cover is Maria, age 14, on her wedding day with her mother, who arranged the marriage. Ray and Trish first got the idea for the book from a project funded by the Tri-City Mental Health Center during the late 1970s called “Pass the Culture, Please.” As the project’s oral historian and consultant, I interviewed Maria at length with Ray serving as translator. Trish writes: “Although the family had a long history of oral story-telling, Ray was astounded at how much information was gleaned in these directed interviews.” I conducted a group interview with family members at a Saturday breakfast that included beans, tortillas, eggs, chili, and menudo. The final product was a narrated slide show. Thirty years later Ray and Trish showed me the manuscript. I was so impressed I agreed to edit it and help them locate a publisher. In the Afterword they praised my “excellent suggestions, much appreciated encouragement, and formidable editing skills, which readied “Maria’s Journey” for publishers’ eyes.” That was 26 months ago, and it was worth it.

Today I contacted Robert Blaszkiewicz of the Times, and he will pitch an article I put together about “Maria’s Journey” as a Sunday feature. He also turned my piece over to Olga Briseno, the editor of their Spanish-language publication Viva, and she seemed very excited about it. I told Ray and Trish that they should try to get on Oprah, and they are working on it. So far the family members who have seen it think it’s terrific.

Shannon Bayer, who I’ve known since she was a baby (her mom Janet and I once kept her outside sledding until she almost got frostbite), was in from Boston with a friend, Lana, whom she met in law school. We had breakfast at the Sunrise Restaurant down the street from our condo, joined by Shannon’s sister Kirsten, in from St. Louis with 18-month old Nicholas and six months pregnant. We had a great time, and they gave a thumbs-up to our condo. Kirsten had to leave for the five-hour trip home, but Shannon and Lana joined us at the Star Plaza for Rebecca’s final performance in “Annie.” Perhaps because the reviews were so positive, a huge crowd of over 1,300 people was on hand, including our friends Dick and Cheryl Hagelberg. The four of us went to Appleby’s afterwards and then got in 24 hands of bridge. When we left the theater, Becca was still signing autographs.

Fred McColly just finished volume 21 of his journal about being among the last of a vanishing breed of American industrial workers. Fascinated with anthropology, he is tending a Native American garden on campus. He recently connected on Facebook with an old Greek-American girlfriend named Andrea who also was a student of mine and, he claims, “was like all my girlfriends in those days madly in love with you.” As flattering as that sounds, I don’t believe it. I never messed around with students and with one or two exceptions don’t recall any of them acting like they had crushes on me. Students know what professors are “on the prowl,” and I was never one of them.

Old friend Bob Reller needs our new phone number and address. I have been putting off going through our book and calling people. Bob told head planner Connie Damon he will miss our reunion because he’s touring the Holy Land for a couple months starting next month. He has become very religious since going through a couple near-death experiences. Connie was pleased I located Rick Hoopes.

Phil called to tell me his soccer team beat their arch-rival to win the championship. Down 3-2 at halftime, his captain moved him from midfielder to attacker and he scored twice in the 4-3 win. He said that the winning goal was one of the sweetest of his long career. He also finished putting his FACET footage from the French Lick retreat on a CD for me. Hopefully we’ll see the Michiganders on Labor Day if not before.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Spicy Seasoning

Cut Dave and Angie’s grass, then met Toni at the old place and put out trash, including an ancient computer. Last weekend Phil and Dave picked out old record albums they wanted. Left behind was “Love Goes On” by Alda Reserve. Where are the band members now, I wonder? I used to play the album a lot and decided to keep it. One is selling on the Internet for $5.99. After a trip to Goodwill watched the White Sox beat the Tigers despite closer Bobby Jenks giving up a game-tieing, three-run HR in the bottom of the ninth.

Ray Arredondo called from Indy and will bring me a copy of “Maria’s Journey” over the weekend. He predicted I’d like how it turned out. It’s in paperback and sells for under 20 dollars. I’ll write something for the Post-Tribune or Times once it’s in my hands. In the forward I observed: “Mexican family dynamics traditionally were patriarchal, with wives submissive but providing emotional sustenance for household members. Self-sacrificing but with an iron resolve, Maria was nobody’s pushover. A practical woman, she believed that God helped those who helped themselves (“A quien madruga, Dios le ayuda”). Home was her domain. Husband Miguel administered corporal punishment with his belt, but she was quietly in charge and could wield a broom when necessary. If Maria favored the sons, the motive was to instill them with self-confidence. Upon the birth of a boy, celebrants would exclaim, “How nice, another work check for you!” (“Que bueno, otro chegue para ustedes!”). Daughters accepted the house rules until they got married and moved out. As powerful as were the forces of assimilation, the Arredondos, in the words of youngest son Lorenzo, preferred ‘the spicy seasoning’ to ‘the melting pot’ and retained a strong ethnic identity. Though unique, Maria’s life story exemplifies the resilience strangers in a new land needed to confront successfully life’s vicissitudes. Indeed, she represents women in all stations and situations in life who have provided the determination, courage, and persistence needed to hold their families together.”

Met with our neighbor and a representative of the condo association to deal with water problems behind our unit and flooding of the neighbor’s basement. A landscaping company submitted estimates for the problems, so hopefully the board will act without delay. Since I’m on the board, I’ll push for it.

Met Dave’s family at Kelsey’s. Thursday features crab legs: all you can eat. Like a curmudgeon, I complained at the lateness of the hour and that we had to wait a half hour before being seated, among other things. We picked up Darcey Wade, and Tom met us there. A 22-ounce Harp’s Ale cheered me up considerably. I had delicious filet minion. I was skeptical about how often they’d bring refills of crab legs for Dave, Angie, and Toni, but the waitress kept plates coming and even asked if they wanted more when we were among the last customers in the place. Toni said the crab legs were cooked just right and with Old Bay seasoning would have been perfect. While at the University of Maryland, we, the Smocks, the Rumbles, and the Goldfields would pig out on several dozen crabs seasoned with Old Bay. It turned out to be a very enjoyable evening, and I toasted Dave, wished him 41 more good years, and said he was one of my two best friends.

The Senate confirmed Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan with just five Republicans breaking with their “Just say no” colleagues, including Hoosier Dick Lugar (once Nixon’s favorite mayor, that’s how long he’s been around). A California federal judge struck down a law banning same sex marriages. The case is certain to go to the high court, where Scalia and company still have a 5-4 majority.

Sam Barnet passed on a George Carlin rant that he found on YouTube. The real owners of America, Carlin says, are greedy business interests who control the politicians and the media and don’t want people to be well informed or capable of critical thinking. As Carlin put it, “The game is rigged, and nobody seems to care.” YouTube is ubiquitous; Rebecca is even on it singing a tune from “Annie.” Sports Illustrated highlighted four of the most widely watched sports shorts that included a college player sinking a length-of-the-court shot with .6 seconds left to win the game and an autistic kid inserted in the lineup at the tail end of the final home game of the season and swishing six three-pointers. One three-minute segment of a rookie sports announcer making a fool of himself has received over 4.5 million hits.

Connie Heard Damon is planning Upper Dublin’s reunion needed an address for Ricky Hoopes. Knowing his first name was Warrick and with the help of Google, I tracked him down in Eagle, Idaho. He was a big, handsome guy. I called a company that listed him as president, and a secretary answered, I asked whether “her” Rick Hoopes was about 67 years old. “Oh no,” she replied, “I’m sure he’s much younger.” Sure enough, it was Rick. As teenagers we played wiffleball in his back yard; his mother was real nice and attractive to boot. He sent me an email and I filled him in on Pam Tucker, who lived near him and recalled Rick driving his car up and down by her house. His parents sent him to a private school, hoping it would lead to college. Instead (I believe) he opened up a landscape business. I hope to hear more from him.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Tangled Up In Blue

We always did feel the same,
We just saw it from a different point of view,
Tangled up in blue.
Bob Dylan, from “Blood on the Tracks”

Retired crime photographer Dick Wylie donated his self-published book “Life and death Thru the Lens” to the Archives. His father was a Gary patrolman during the 1930s and Forties, and at age 16 Dick started taking photographs for the Post-Tribune. As he put it, “While most of my high school classmates were enjoying beer parties, dangerous pranks and fast cars, I was photographing grotesquely twisted bodies of other teens, their lives ended suddenly. His photo of a trapped truck driver made the AP wire, a really big deal in those days. One of his photos appeared in Life magazine when he was 20. It’s a really gruesome book; one chapter is called, “Hurry, Dick, Her Head’s About to Fall Off.” He does include some great photos of celebrities visiting Northwest Indiana, including Ike, JFK, RFK, LBJ, and Senator Paul Douglas at the Indiana Dunes, which he helped preserve. There’s also a page devoted to shots of John Baratto, who overcame polio and became an East Chicago Washington basketball coaching legend.

Heard Dylan’s 1975 classic “Tangled Up in Blue.” He makes reference to a woman reading lines from a thirteenth century Italian poet. People have speculated that he meant Dante or maybe Petrarch, who wrote “Love Sonnets” in the fourteenth century. On tour during his religious period Dylan substituted Biblical verses. He told an interviewer he was referring to Plutarch, a Greek who lived more than a thousand years before the 1200s. WFYR’s “Ten at Ten” focused on 1965, when the cross-fertilization of the Byrds and Beatles produced the jingle-jangle sound of “Mr. Tambourine Man.” Dylan, going electric, moved from finger-pointing folk to more introspective Beat-influenced lyrics. And let’s not forget Sonny and Cher’s “I Got You Babe” and Bobby Fuller’s “I Fought the Law.”

I told Suzanna about “Maria’s Journey,” the book by Ray and Trish Arredondo that I edited. I am waiting breathlessly for an advance copy. The Mexican-American matriarch endured an incredibly hard life and reared a remarkable brood of 11 children that included a union president, school principal, sports star, judge, county sheriff, and other leading lights. Suzanna replied, “My all time favorite film is El Norte about two young people fleeing Guatemala and the persecution they suffered there as part of the Indian population going through Mexico to travel to "The North" expecting a paradise and finding.... It was just heart rendering. I will never forget it. All these narrow minded anti immigrant bigots should see it but maybe nothing will change those people’s hearts.”

The Michiganders returned home from their “Annie” weekend, to discover that vandals had wrecked their outdoor basketball post and net. Why would someone do such a thing? In the news: fired from his job at a liquor distributorship for stealing beer, a guy in Connecticut killed eight and wounded several other former co-workers. Before taking his own life, he called his mother to tell her to stop smoking. She’s probably a chain-smoker now thanks to his foul deed. Gun control anyone?

Went to see Steve Carroll in “Dinner for Schmucks,” a forgettable knock-off of a French farce. Angie made spring rolls for Dave’s forty-first birthday. Becca, who had an evening rehearsal, was wearing a Ramones t-shirt. Watched a “Curb Your Enthusiasm” where people keep barging in on others because there is no lock on the bathroom door. “Seinfeld” had a couple similar episodes involving George, including the famous “shrinkage” episode. Years ago at the beach in Saugatauk, Michigan, I went to use a portapotty and inside was a naked fat lady changing out of (or into) her bathing suit.

Monday, August 2, 2010


Cressmoor being closed for the summer, Clark Metz and I met at Ray’s Lanes, whose proprietor Mark Milsap is one the area’s premier bowlers. Mark’s brother wagered a dollar that I’d lose to Clark. Nine pins down, I got six strikes in the third game to win series by 12 pins. Clark vowed to get revenge next time.

Tom Wade and I were planning to watch Dave play singles in the Post-Tribune tennis tournament, but rain delayed his match so the three of us got in three board games. Dave won them but lost his match 6-4, 6-4 to a top seed.

Saturday was opening night for “Annie” at the Star Plaza. Rebecca played the part of orphan Molly. The Radisson was offering rooms for $69, and we had five of them for the various relatives. From the opening line through numerous musical and dance numbers Becca was fantastic, a natural. Afterwards, the cast came to the lobby, signed autographs, posed for pictures, and received bouquets. Among Dave’s friends who came were Missy and Mary Ann Brush (sporting a new tattoo honoring deceased hubby Tim, “Big Voodoo Daddy”) and an E.C. Central grad who is going to Harvard. The play, based on the comic strip “Little Orphan Annie,” takes place during the Great Depression, and characters include President Franklin Roosevelt and cabinet members Harold (Ickes) and Frances (Perkins). Annie doesn’t have a red Afro until near the end. Daddy Oliver Warbucks adopts her upon discovering with the help of the FBI that her parents are dead. Producer Charlie Blum, also the Star Plaza CEO, makes a cameo appearance as radio host Bert Healy. We saw Blum do a terrific job as Henry Higgins in “The Music Man.” A week ago he had a pool party and sleepover for the entire cast. Rebecca loves him. We were on the Gary Centennial Committee together and his advice was to plan things that have “sizzle.” He’s really good for Northwest Indiana.

All the kids loved the motel. Toni had to halt an ice-throwing fight near the vending machines. We were a party of 18 for the breakfast buffet (Lisa’s husband Fritz Teuschler, a Navy Commander who is the executive officer of the ROTC program at Notre Dame, was playing golf). The night before, Fritz stopped at a service station after taking his mother to Midway Airport, and someone asked if he was a gym teacher at Crown Point High School. He replied, “No, I’m from Indiana,” thinking he was in Illinois, but in fact he was in Indiana. The indoor pool had a cool waterfall. Second cousins Tori and Nickolas tousled in the pool and seemed enamored of each other. At that age (around ten) I had a crush on Judy Jenkins. Smiling broadly, Michelle’s daughter Sophia came to me with a beach ball and a big smile on her face and, as in French Lick, we tossed it around. Oliver joined in and twice took a tumble on the pool’s slick periphery. I told his dad to keep an eye out for swelling on his right arm, but Fritz said, “He’s a tough kid; he’ll be OK.” Grace got out of the water and gave him a hug, wetting the front of his clothes. Unflappable, he said, “She likes to do that.” On the way to see our condo Fritz had a Grateful Dead tape on and said he’d seen the band about ten times, mostly during college. Oliver thought the music was all right but preferred the Beatles. Fritz said he knows the words to most Beatles songs. Fritz and Lisa loved our poster called Ronald Reagan’s world that portrayed the Soviets as the bad guys and California as God’s country. The Northeast was the land of “welfare bums” while in the South lived “real Americans.”

I started “Impeached: The Trial of Andrew Johnson and the Fight over Lincoln’s Legacy.” Author David Stewart previously wrote “The Summer of 1787,” when the Founding Fathers defined “impeachable offense” in a deliberately vague way. Alissa noticed the book while we were at the hotel pool and wondered if any other President besides Clinton had been impeached. I told her that Nixon resigned over Watergate before the full House voted on articles of impeachment that had been approved in committee. I am enjoying the character studies and examples of the overheated rhetoric. Senator Charles Sumner hardly ever spoke extemporaneously and rehearsed speeches in front of a mirror. Congressman Thaddeus Stevens was born with a clubfoot and insisted that his mulatto housekeeper, Mrs. Lydia Hamilton Smith (rumored to be his mistress) be called Mrs. Smith. Before being sworn in as vice-president Johnson took three stiff gulps of whiskey and then launched into a totally inappropriate and incoherent speech. Secretary of State William Seward was almost stabbed to death the night Lincoln was shot. The Henry Kissinger of his time, he sucked up to Johnson, who, Carl Schurz wrote, “bites at all about him like a wounded and anger-crazed boar.” Stewart emphasizes the bribery and corruption in Washington during that time (members of the Whiskey Ring paid handsomely to ensure that revenue agents weren’t replaced). With widespread betting on the outcome, gamblers were handing out bribes. Senator Edmund Ross of Kansas, heralded by John F. Kennedy in “Profiles in Courage,” was a grafter beholden to a notorious Indian trader. The impeachment process, although flawed, allowed the country to avoid resorting to arms during the constitutional crisis.

Rabbits ate the spinach in Suzanna’s garden. We often saw bunnies at Maple Place, but they didn’t bother our herbs and sorrel. Deer wreaked havoc on our flowers and shrubbery, however. Suzanna sent a neat photo of her four daughters and a bluegrass music website. In the Seventies we went to bluegrass festivals with the Mike and Janet Bayer.

“The Onion” newspaper spoofed Al Gore splitting with wife Tipper, who had been a critic of heavy metal albums. There’s a photo of him in a Megadeth t-shirt reaping the benefits of a bachelor life style. Gore is quoted as saying, “For the first time in three decades I get to play the kind of music I like without someone nagging me about what a bad influence it is. And I get to crank it up as loud as I want. It sucked because we always had to listen to garbage like Carly Simon and Lyle Lovett all the time. That stuff is lame, man. If it doesn’t have big balls and bigger riffs, get it out of my stereo.”
Reporter Andy Grimm, who’s now with the Chicago Tribune, called in connection with an article he’s working on comparing corruption in Chicago and Northwest Indiana. I told him the absence of a healthy two-party system might have something to do with it as well as the need in the past for Democratic candidates to raise money running against the corporate-funded Republicans. I told him that I wasn’t entirely comfortable with the stereotype of “corrupt Lake County politicians” since the two politicians I know the most about, Mayor Richard Hatcher and Sheriff Roy Dominguez were honest and civic-minded. In fact, the things the two Gary officials (Clerk Katie Hall and Township Trustee Dozier T. Allen) most recently convicted did were relatively small potatoes compared to more sophisticated gimmicks employed by others, such as funneling business to one’s old law firms. Our whole system of campaign funding invites corruption.