Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Limber Jim

“All literature is gossip.”
Truman Capote

Calumet Regional Archives buddy Steve McShane took wife Cindy on a surprise vacation to the Keys for their thirtieth anniversary. They had no honeymoon because he was a struggling grad student then. Part-time assistant Peg Schoon was holding down the fort. On sabbatical, husband Ken was on hand researching a book on the dunes. The week before, he had visited Save the Dunes mainstays Herb and Charlotte Read at their house that the government is forcing them to abandon. They are hoping it can be designated a historic landmark because important meetings took place there involving Senator Paul Douglas and other luminaries that led to creation of the National Lakeshore. Meg Renslow and her daughter stopped by. Meg is teaching an intro course for future Elementary school teachers and was considering a field trip for them to the Archives until we told her that eventually they all will be taking Steve’s course on Indiana History, a subject covered in fourth grade. The daughter is doing a documentary on Hoosier Gene Stratten-Porter, the author of “A Girl of the Limberlost” (1909) and many other romantic novels and Anne Balay’s favorite author of children’s literature. A building at Purdue Cal is named for Stratten-Porter, an avid wetlands preservationist (Limberlost was a swamp until drained to make way for “progress”) who died in California in 1923 when a streetcar struck her vehicle. A restoration project begun in the 1990s has reclaimed Loblolly Marsh, covering 1,500 of the original 13,000 acres of Limberlost Swamp. The name derives from a man nicknamed “Limber Jim” who got lost in the swamp. There are two variations of the story: in one the man is never seen again; in the other Limber Jim makes it home. Loblolly is from a Miami Indian word meaning “stinking river.”

Wish I were Limber Jim. I popped something in my right arm bowling and pulled a shoulder muscle from nothing more strenuous than sneezing.

IUN’s cafeteria was serving beef tacos, which went well with Darcy Wade’s potato salad. Chancellor Bill Lowe joined our table and told Jim Tolhuizen that he enjoyed last evening’s Northwest Indiana Symphony Chorus presentation at the Horseshoe Casino. He added, to everyone’s surprise, that he had never been to a casino before. Zoran Kilibarda mentioned that he recently became an American citizen, and I told the group of my plan to get former Faculty Organization chairs, including John Ban, F.C. Richardson, Fred Chary, and George Roberts, to gavel open the monthly meetings. One person at the table groaned when I mentioned Richardson, but F.C. was a real bulldog in fighting for what he believed in, including launching IUN’s Black Studies program (one of the first in the country).

Started Truman Capote’s “Music for Chameleons,” a volume of short stories written during the 1970s. It is dedicated to fellow gay playwright Tennessee Williams and employs elements that Capote used in his so-called nonfiction novels. In the title story dozens of chameleons come out of the woodwork when a lady in Martinique plays the piano. Capote, a true craftsman, characterizes writing as “a noble but merciless master.” I read is “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and started “In Cold Blood” (about a murderer) but couldn’t get through it – too gruesome. “Esquire” during the 1970s published a gossipy piece that later appeared posthumously in “Answered Prayers: The Unfinished Novel.” Among the Capote quotes on Google, I found this: “Life is a moderately good play with a badly written third act.”

Sheriff Dominguez flew to south Texas to interview relatives about their memories of when his family came north. The material might make a fitting epilogue to his autobiography, “Spirits from the Fields.” His Uncle Saul brought them to Northwest Indiana a half-century ago in his pick-up truck and felt so lonely on the trip back that he broke down and cried at times, he told Roy yesterday on the phone. Roy wrote a Guest Commentary” for “The Times” taking the town of Winfield to task for reneging on their promise to pay the sheriff’s department $100,000 in return for police protection. Incorporated as a town in 1993, Winfield never created a police force or town marshal as required by state statute, instead depending on county officers to patrol their community for free and boasting that their “tax rate is the lowest in lake County.” Dominquez warned that if his office did not receive the $100,000 good faith payment, all patrols and nonemergency services would cease. Good for him.

Salem Press sent a copy of the published version of my review of “Roots of Steel: Boom and Bust in an American Mill Town.” Parallels with Northwest Indiana are obvious. As is my custom, I started with a quote:

“I became a union man at my father’s knee, and I’ll be one till they put me in a box,” Manuel Alvarez

Deborah Rudacille, whose previous books dealt with animal rights (The Scalpel and the Butterfly) and transgendered Americans (The Riddle of Gender), returned to her childhood neighborhood in Dundalk, Maryland, a blue collar suburb of Baltimore, and produced an elegy to a vanishing culture. For more than a century Bethlehem Steel’s Sparrows Point plant symbolized the triumph and travail of industrial capitalism. With the advent of unionism in 1941 laborers secured a significant stake in the system. Jessie Schultz, one of over 50 interviewees, recalled: “It was a dangerous job. But if it wasn’t for Bethlehem Steel, I wouldn’t have what I got today.” Workers had to cope with a racial and ethnic pecking order, shift work, asbestos, noxious pollution, and a harsh workplace environment that drove many to drink (as her dad’s sidekick, the author recalls coaxing bar patrons into giving her coins for the jukebox).

Though certainly no utopia, those days seem idyllic to old-timers, who regret the loss of solidarity among neighbors and union comrades. Now, to quote Judy Martin, there is homelessness, overcrowded soup kitchens, and “everyone is afraid of opening doors.” Rudacille blames the “bust” not only on automation but on management shortsightedness and greed. Still it was counterproductive in the long run for unions to have pressed for employer-funded health and retirement plans rather than national health insurance and adequate Social Security pensions. Starting in 2001 with Bethlehem’s bogus bankruptcy, Sparrows Point changed corporate hands five times in eight years, with the inevitable downsizing and huge profits accruing to speculators. When Roots of Steel went to press, the mill, whose patriotic workers helped win two world wars and fueled the mid-twentieth century prosperity, was in Russian (OAO Severstal) hands.

I should have had the last line read, “in the hands of Russian capitalists.”

Monday, September 27, 2010


“We’re half way there
Livin’ on a prayer”
Bon Jovi

There’s a wedding reception scene in Richard Russo’s “That Old Cape Magic” where the guests are dancing to Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” and belting out the chorus. The song is about an out-of-work laborer and waitress girlfriend who supports him. One line goes, “You live for the fight when it’s all that you’ve got.” Like Jackson Browne’s “Running On Empty,” “Livin’ on a Prayer” captures the fragility of life during an age of stagnation. It was St. Therese of Lisieux who said, “More tears are shed over answered prayers than unanswered ones.” Bon Jovi was huge in Turkey when I was there ten years ago. Griffin, the main character in Russo’s novel, is a teacher/screenwriter in his fifties whose marriage is unraveling. On the dance floor he realizes he is getting old and wishes he were only half way there. He says “I’ve been hurtin’” instead of ibuprofen” and meets an old lady whose salty vocabulary includes “rat bastard” and “fart hammer.” Russo invents great minor characters including a fun-loving English lesbian couple and moronic twin brothers-in-law Jason and Jared (all the siblings' names begin with “J,” causing Griffin to nickname father-in-law Harve, who called his wife Jilly-Billy, “Jarve”).

We are gradually getting to know Chesterton, similar to easing into Portage after we moved to Maple Place. The old downtown has a certain charm. It started to develop after the Lake Shore and Michigan Railroad came through the area in the 1850s. First called Coffee Creek and then Calumet, the name was changed after the Civil War to avoid confusion with Calumet, Illinois. There’s a Peggy Sue’s diner and an old-fashioned drive-in restaurant called The Port. We skipped the Oz Fest festival last weekend but plan to subscribe to the Chesterton Tribune, which has been in existence since 1884, comes out five days a week, and whose editor David Canright was active in the Bailly Alliance and is a kindred spirit politically. The intersection of 49 and Indian Boundary is much easier to get through than it first appeared, and we’ve run into people we know at the Sunrise restaurant up the street, such as Richard Whitman, who taught at IU Northwest and dated a good friend of ours back in the Seventies before taking a job with the U.S. Geological Survey.

The temperature had dropped 30 degrees from the day before, and it felt like autumn. Toni and I shopped at Chesterton’s European market, where we have gone for bread several times in the past but not this year despite being so much closer to it (we’ve been so busy). Our friend Mario and his family had a booth, and we purchased four huge burritos to serve when the Hagelbergs came over for bridge for just $22. We split one for lunch, and it was delicious. Our neighbor Tom recommended some pastries, and we bought four for dessert. I was the big winner at cards for the second time in a row.

A shot of lovable lefthanded slugger Jim Thome graces Sports Illustrated similar to the initial 1954 cover of Eddie Mathews. Thome broke in with Cleveland and played for the Phillies and White Sox before Minnesota gobbled him up for next to nothing at the beginning of the season after Chicago to their folly was uninterested in re-signing him. He has hit 589 career homeruns, including 25 this year, and his slugging percentage is among the best in the American League.

Jeff Manes’s Sunday column was about Archives volunteer Maurice Yancy, a 71 year-old bachelor and according to the headline the headline a “world traveler [who] feels at home in NWI.” The ninth of ten children, Maurice put together a family genealogical booklet and often provides useful information to scholars researching Gary. Legendary teacher Frankie McCullough helped him overcome his stuttering condition, telling the 11 year-old that the problem was not that he was stupid but that his brain was working faster than his lips. Within a year he had stopped stuttering. Manes used this quote by former Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall: “None of us got where we are solely by pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. We got here because somebody – a parent, a teacher, an Ivy League crony or a few nuns – bent down and helped us pick up our boots.” Maurice claims he is not bitter about the past but gets frustrated when young blacks complain that the white man is keeping them down. He told Jeff, “That’s part of losing the battle. If you believe it’s like that, it’s like that. I’ve never believed that it’s like that.” Maurice should be happy with the article and handsome photo of him.

Went zero for four in gaming, edged out in Amun Re and St. Pete by a single point, but won my Fantasy match against previously undefeated grandson Anthony despite having the second lowest score among the eight teams. Thank heaven for Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson, primary target for surprise sensation Michael Vick. My running backs and other wide receiver (Marques Colston) sucked and tight end Visanthe Shiancoe got injured in the first half. Unfortunately for Anthony, Steven Jackson left the game in the second quarter and Shonn Greene of the Jets only rushed for 36 yards. The Jets defense, normally the best around, only got him six points. Alone in first place at 3-0 is Pittsburgh Dave’s girlfriend Kira Shifflett; the rest of us wonder how much she depends on David in her decision-making. NBC’s evening game was in Miami, and Marc Anthony and Fergie sang the national Anthem.

In the news: with search warrants in hand an FBI SWAT team raided antiwar groups in Chicago and Minneapolis claiming to be looking for evidence linking them to terrorist activity. Sounds like a flimsy story to me, a way of harassing those opposed to the Afghanistan fiasco. Bob Woodward new book "Obama’s Wars" clearly shows that the President chose to compromise with his generals by insisting on an exit strategy rather than break with them. Shades of JFK and LBJ in Vietnam. Arab American Action Network attorney Jim Fennerty told reporters, “The government is trying to quiet activists. This case is really scary.” Members of The Committee Against Political Repression are protesting in front of the FBI’s Chicago headquarters.

A crew from HORSES landscapers put in a window well plus some dirt and grass seed in back of the condo. Darcy Wade called with an offer to give us some of her famous potato salad, leftovers from a neighborhood party. We picked it up on the way to ACE Hardware for dirt and a shovel in which to transplant hostas. The guy who waited on me asked if I would be watching the big game that night. “Yes, go Bears,” I replied. They beat the Packers to remain only one of three unbeaten NFL teams. The others, equally surprising, are Kansas City and Pittsburgh (without QB Ben Roethlisberger, suspended for violating the league’s personal conduct policy after allegedly accosting a 20 year-old coed in a Georgia bar).

Friday, September 24, 2010

Michael jackson

“Sit down, girl!
I think I love you!
Get up, girl!
Show me what you can do!”
Michael Jackson, “A B C”

Connecticut filmmaker David Gore interviewed me at the Archives for a documentary about Michael Jackson. At the Jackson ancestral home a couple cousins wanted money in exchange for allowing him to film. He asked me to summarize Gary’s history up to 1969 in a few minutes. I may have been too negative in describing the city as a polluted, segregated (till the mid-Sixties) blue-collar mill town. In an email thanking me he wrote: “I think it went very well even though I didn’t ask many questions. I was pretty pooped and still angry about my morning encounter.” I told him I’d heard the Jackson 5 finished second in a Roosevelt High School talent show to a bunch of popular jocks who did a silly bit and then got the most applause. Gore had heard the story before, but Michael’s father Joe denied it ever happened. Omar Farag told me that the Jacksons played at his West Side prom. Joe also booked them into some unsavory clubs in Gary’s Central District. There’s an apocryphal story that Diana Ross discovered them at a 1967 fundraiser for Richard Hatcher during his successful run for mayor, and that’s how they came to be signed to a Motown contract. Even though Michael never did much for his hometown after he moved to California, I have never held that against him. What, after all, have I ever done for Fort Washington, PA.

Sandy Appleby sent me a DVD of the Pass the Culture, Please project that we worked on together 30 years ago. It included excerpts of an Arredondo group interview I did at a family meal. Ray and Trish were to show excerpts prior to their talk at the Hammond library. The original finished product was a narrated slide show. Unfortunately when I played it on my computer, it stuck in various places. To make matters worse, while trying to remedy the problem, I must have hit a function key while my Microsoft Entourage email program was on, and it messed up the setting. Technician Velate Sullivan saved my butt, as she has done so many times in the past. When I played the DVD on the Archives TV and DVD player, it worked fine.

Kimberly Palmer complained that Robin Henig’s New York Times magazine’s August cover story on 20-somethings infantilized her generation by leaving the impression that they are too dependent on their parents. In a more positive vein Bill Dingfelder wrote: “Like many baby boomers, I took the college, career, marriage and children route with barely a detour or reflection. I love my life, and I have few regrets, but to follow a path so mandated by external pressures and internal expectations perhaps cheapens the essence of ‘choice.’ In contrast, many adults in their 20s are making thoughtful life choices that exemplify flexibility, creativity and courage.” That’s an apt description of 22 year-old granddaughter Aliss, the love of our lives. At her age I somehow got the courage to quit law school and go to Hawaii to start grad school.

Karren Lee is looking for items worth at least 50 dollars for a silent auction to benefit Nazareth Home in East Chicago that serves as a foster home for medically challenged kids. I donated a framed poster of labor leaders Jim Balanoff and Ed Sadlowski from their 1977 campaigns to become president and district director of the steelworkers union plus perhaps someone will want a set of Steel Shavings, volumes 31-40.

Watched the “Curb Your Enthusiasm” episode where Larry buys marijuana from actor Jorge Garcia, who played Hurley (the fat guy) on “Lost.” It’s for Larry’s father, who has glaucoma. Given a choice between hydraponic weed (grown indoors) for $500 or schwag for $200, Larry settles for the low grade stuff, then picks up a hooker on the way to a Dodgers game so he can use the fast lane on the expressway. After the game the three of them light up a hydraponic joint that the hooker had on her, and his dad can suddenly see well enough to realize that the lady in his living room is a prostitute.

In the news: Facebook went off line for four hours, allegedly causing widespread panic among young people. PBS censored a “Sesame Street” appearance by Katy Perry with the tickle-me puppet Elmo singing “Hot ‘N’ Cold,” supposedly because she showed too much cleavage. The video is YouTube and was played on all the morning shows. If Katy had been singing her hit “I Kissed a Girl,” I could understand the fuss, but the scene did not even deserve a PG rating. Katy had even cleaned up the lyrics from being about sex to a game of chase.

How am I supposed to play with you?

You're up and you're down

You're running around

You're fast and you're slow

You're stop and you're go.
G-rated version of Katy Perry’s “Hot ‘N’ Cold”

Robert Blaszkiewicz from the Northwest Indiana Times asked me to fact check a piece about Lake County mayors who have been convicted of a felony while in office. This was in anticipation of a guilty verdict against East Chicago mayor George Pabey, accused of using city funds and workers to refurbish a house in Miller. It’s pretty petty compared to the huge sums mayors “legally” give favored law firms; but being of Puerto Rican ancestry, Pabey should have known that his every move would be scrutinized, especially since he postured as a reform candidate when he ousted longtime mayor Robert Pastrick. I met Pabey when I was with Clark Metz at a political function in Glen Park. He took out a large bill and bought a round of drinks for everyone at the bar. Gary’s Greek-born mayor George Chacharis was convicted in 1963 of income tax evasion as part of a plea bargain that resulted in charges being dropped against others. Chacharis had received kickbacks from contractors doing business with the city but later told me that those things happened before he became mayor while working for Mayor Pete Mandich. Chacharis and Pabey were simply playing the game the way others before them did, but both made enemies in high places.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


“Dream as if you’ll live forever,
Live as if you’ll die today.”
James Dean

Tuesday: Had lunch with Paul Finkelman, at IU Northwest to deliver a lecture comparing the nefarious Arizona immigration law to the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act. Chris Young having ordered me a roast beef sandwich box lunch, I joined other History Department members as well as Chuck Gallmeier and Jack Bloom from Sociology and Social Work professor Frank Caucci. Bloom got into a heated discussion with our guest over Middle East foreign policy. Afterwards, Finkelman wanted a tour of Gary, so with Chris Young driving I showed him Roosevelt School, Michael Jackson’s home (we saw floral bouquets and a monument dedicated a few months ago), the field where Froebel School once stood, the ruins of Pennsylvania train station, Memorial Auditorium, and City Methodist Church, and attractive new public housing sites located not far from abandoned buildings overgrown with weeds. Noticing the boarded up storefronts in the once thriving Midtown area, Finkelman said Gary’s devastation reminded him of East St. Louis, Illinois. Passing by the old jazz district, I recalled a student who played drums in a band inviting me to a club near Seventeenth and Broadway. One Saturday night in 1971 Toni and I took her sister Sue and husband Charley, a Philadelphia cop to it. We were frisked at the door and the only white people in the place, but everyone was friendly. Around eleven the bandleader introduced the Duke and the Duchess, adding that he meant no offense to “our blue-eyed soul brothers and sister (meaning us).” The couple stripped down to skimpy loin cloths and did some dirty dancing that would have put Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey to shame. For years Sue and Charley teased us about the Duke and the Duchess.

Paul Finkelman needed a space to prepare notes for his talk, so I took him to the Archives. Sheriff Roy Dominguez, there to be interviewed about his honoring of women police officers, gave him a miniature badge. I gave him my Gary book as well as Earl Jones’s “Central District Tour” booklet. Sheriff Dominguez is traveling to his hometown in south Texas and hopes to interview relatives, including the uncle who brought Roy’s family to Northwest Indiana in a truck. His account of the trip might make a good epilogue or else add to the early chapters.

At four I caught Chuck Gallmeier’s Glen Park Conversation talk about “Gravers” who gather at the sites of such iconic figures as James Dean, Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, Jim Morrison, Natalie Wood (who drowned in 1981), and Michael Jackson. On the anniversary of Rudolph Valentino’s death in 1926 at age 31 mourners still show his silent film “Son of the Sheik” (which has a controversial scene where he ravishes a vamp) on the side of his crypt. In the small town of Fairmount, Indiana, Dean lived with his aunt and uncle after his mother died of cancer when he was nine. “Deaners” tend to be uncomfortable talking about his bisexuality, Gallmeier related. He talked of examining poems, letters, drawings, and other items left at his gravesite although he does not open envelopes marked CONFIDENTIAL or FOR JAMES DEAN’S EYES ONLY. Since the family throws away stuff every couple weeks, Chuck said he doesn’t consider himself to be a grave robber. This weekend the James Dean Festival in Fairmount will feature a car show, lookalike contest, memorial service, dance contest, and viewings of his three films, “Rebel Without a Cause,” “East of Eden,” and “Giant.”

Hosting the Glen Park Conversation, Garrett Cope was his usual charming self, asking Ron Cohen and me what we were working on and introducing Chancellor William Lowe and a former student who picketed to get the university to honor Martin Luther King Day after it became a national holiday. He was with a group outside the library when it began pouring. Everyone else went inside, but he remained with his placard. Several people tried to get him to go inside, including Chancellor Peggy Elliott, who placed a call to Bloomington and then promised the young men that instead of holding classes a year from then, IU Northwest would honor King’s legacy. Within a year all eight IU campuses followed IUN’s lead, thanks to that young man’s grit.

Chuck’s excellent presentation ended just in time for me to catch Chris Young’s introduction of Paul Finkelman, who traced the history of immigration law. He contrasted what Arizona wants to do with state personal liberty laws passed during the 1850s to protect northern blacks against being kidnapped. He argued persuasively that an open immigration policy would allow the government to track newcomers and ridiculed Arizona Senator John McCain for flip-flopping on the issue in order to fend off a rightwing primary challenge. Both his grandparents were technically illegal aliens, Finkelman said, because one entered through Canada fearing his poor eyesight would cause officials at Ellis Island to reject him and the other lied about his age and entered therefore under false pretenses. He was passionate in claiming that the Taliban want to expunge our freedoms, which threaten their sexist, anti-intellectual, fanatic way of life. During Q and A an old Trotskyite professor made a long rambling anti-Bush diatribe. Finkelman finally interrupted to say that he could respond in one word, yes, then after a pause added, “Or maybe, better yet, Duh!” He went on to say that just because George W. Bush was an idiot didn’t mean that he was always wrong and even a clock that had stopped recorded the correct time two times a day. He was great. Ron Cohen knew him and had roomed with him at a history conference. Heather Hollister and the History Club provided refreshments for the surprisingly large crowd.

Chris Young emailed: “Thanks for the great tour of Gary. I really enjoyed it. I've been meaning to ask you for one since I arrived in NW Indiana. I loved the way you talked about Gary.”

Indiana Magazine of History had a very positive review of my “Retirement Journal,” calling it a fitting culmination to my social history of the Calumet Region series. In the same issue appeared a glowing review of Steve and Gary Wilk’s book “Steel Giants,” which contains historic photos of Inland and U.S. Steel. Put in my review requests for Magill’s Literary Annual, including a biography of Justice William J. Brennan and one called “Fall of the House of Walworth: A Tale of Madness and Murder in Gilded Age America. My top choice was “Empire of the Summer Moon: Quannah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Tribe in American History.” Don’t know much about any of the three subjects.

Fell asleep shortly after David Hasselhoff was voted off “Dancing with the Stars.” A guy from the reality “Jersey Shore” who calls himself The Situation barely survived.

Wednesday: We turned over the keys to our old house to Ranger Anthony Sutphen, who praised Toni for what a splendid job she did readying the house for the government to take it over. A caring person, he is going to help an elderly lady two blocks down move a 1,300-pound rock that originally came from her childhood farm. Sent to Iraq with his Air Force National Guard unit during the Gulf War, Sutphen believes his health problems stem from exposure to depleted uranium while on combat missions. Last stuff to go were our mailbox and toaster oven (to Goodwill) and concrete blocks from our screened-in porch (to Angie’s).

Got Clark to bowl for me since I’m still feeling the effects of my shoulder injury. I stayed to watch and have a couple Leinies on draft. A few years ago while serving as consultants to an industrial heritage museum, Steve McShane and I toured the Leinenkugal Beer facilities in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. Clark bowled a 529, and the Engineers won five of seven points, losing the third game when lefty Al Burns rolled a 269. Delia’s Uncle George was also on the DL, having broken three vertebrae (among other things) during a 12-foot fall from a ladder onto concrete. He's fortunate to be alive.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Great Balls of Fire

“I chew my nails and I twiddle my thumbs
I'm real nervous, but it sure is fun
C´mon baby, you're drivin' me crazy
Goodness, gracious, great balls of fire!!”
Jerry Lee Lewis

At age 74 Jerry Lee Lewis has a new album out called “Mean Old Man” that features an all-star cast including Mick, Keith, and Ron of the Rolling Stones plus John Fogarty and Slash helping with “Rockin’ My Life Away” and Ringo and John Mayer joining in on “Roll Over Beethoven. The two best moments, however, are Jerry’s piano solo in “Miss the Mississippi and You” and Solomon Burke singing on the “Railroad to Heaven” number.

I decided to concentrate really hard when several “Jeopardy” categories were right up my alley. I nailed the “Cleveland” questions about Standard Oil (Rockefeller’s company) and James Garfield (assassinated President buried there). The “Quotations” answers John Brown and Zachery Taylor were easy for me. In “Sports” I recognized Celtic Bob Cousy and baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth. In “The Eyes Have It” I knew crime boss Meyer Lansky and eyesore. Champ Roger Craig, who has won almost $200,000, including a record $77,000 on a single show, didn’t have to bet on the final question, he was so far ahead. The category was “Rivers” and everyone, including me, knew the answer: Tigris and Euphrates.

At Chicago’s Apollo Theater four of us saw “Million Dollar Quartet,” about the night in 1956 when Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, and Jerry Lee Lewis jammed at Sam Phillips’s Sun Records studio in Memphis. The show opened with the entire musical cast performing a rockin’ “Blue Suede Shoes.” Lance Lipinsky, the actor who played Jerry Lee, played a wild piano on “Great Balls of Fire” and captured the flair and passion of the young “killer,” who jeopardized his career by marrying a 13 year-old cousin. Perkins, portrayed as resentful of Elvis, was scheduled to do “Blue Suede Shoes” on “The Perry Como Show” but got injured in a car accident on the way to New York City. Elvis subsequently recorded the song, which many people erroneously thought was the original. It was common then for several people to cover the same song, and versions by white performers usually outsold rhythm and blues originals. Elvis’s early hits “That’s All Right, Mama” and “Hound Dog” were first recorded by black artists Arthur Crudup and Bib Mama Thornton. Sam Phillips discovered in Elvis a white performer who admired black music and, in his words, just “goosed it up.” In the play he contemplates an offer to follow Elvis to RCA Victor but in the end fears it would destroy his creative freedom. Too bad for Elvis because he never matched the passion of those first Sun recordings.

After the play Dick Hagelberg drove us to a fancy fondue place. Our waiter, a Second City intern, hopes to break in as a comedy writer. Jeff Garlin, who plays Larry David’s agent on “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” got his start there, as did many “Saturday Night Live” regulars. Yoni and I went there in the Seventies and recently enjoyed one of their touring troupes on a Mediterranean cruise. Ivan Jasper opened a fondue restaurant in the Bahamas after he and Tom Orr sold Another Roadside Attraction (now an Argentinean steak house), but it was a block or two off the beaten track and didn’t make it. Before he left the area, Ivan gave me some of his albums, including one by the Shoes in pristine condition. He’d heard mine while stoned and then hardly ever played his own.

Got in four games with Dave and Tom (winning St. Petersburg after obtaining an early Mistress) before the condo association picnic. Mary and Craig Henderson had positioned tables and chairs near or in their open garage in case it rained. Toni’s macaroni salad received praise, and I enjoyed our neighbor Tom’s potato salad with a Sloppy Joe. About 20 people attended, mainly those active on the board. Bernie Holicky, formerly the librarian at Purdue Cal, has been to the Archives because of his interest in trains. I had to leave early for my talk to the Ogden Dunes Historical Society but while changing caught the end of the Bears game, an upset 27-20 over Dallas. After a Cowboys field goal, a desperation on sides kick failed. Led by Michael Vick, the Eagles also won – barely – by three points over Detroit.

About three-dozen people greeted me at the Ogden Dunes Community Church. A Post-Tribune notice claimed I’d talk about Gary during the 1940s and 1950s, so I began my “Age of Anxiety” talk by mentioning that historians generally divide those 20 years into three periods, World War II, the Postwar, and the Eisenhower Fifties. While the years between 1945 and 19523 are often treated as a mere transition period, events unfolded that had a profound impact on American society. I had 18 people read excerpts from volume 34 that often drew nods of recognition. What got the biggest laugh was Rose Frisk’s account of visiting a Calumet City strip joint. A woman recalled having Marie Edwards as a teacher at Lew Wallace and being yelled at by principal Verna Hoke. A William Wirt High School grad recalled people throwing things at civil rights activists when they tried to desegregate Marquette Park in 1949. Sports historian and Andrean H.S. basketball coach Carson Cunningham read quotes from Hampton Hinton how 15 year-old bride Tip made him soup: “It was a pot of water with about three beans and a handful of rice in there. When it started boiling, you could see nothing but the water. Every now and then a bean floated to the top. She wasn’t but 15, and her mother had done all of the cooking.”

Retired attorney Clyde Compton saw Art Daronatsy’s photo in the magazine, and we talked about his passion for social justice. Art accompanied Richard Hatcher South during Freedom Summer 1965, and they photographed Jim Crow signs in courthouses and restaurants. The 1964 Civil Rights Act had supposedly made segregation in public places illegal, and gathering evidence of noncompliance put their lives in jeopardy. I sold all six copies “Gary’s First Hundred Years” and took orders for several more. Next month’s speaker wrote a book about Alice Mabel Grey a.k.a. Diana of the Dunes. One woman in attendance has an article in TRACES about Dale (Dalia) Messick, who created the comic strip about glamorous, adventurous reporter Brenda Starr. I mentioned that I’ll have an article on VeeJay Record Company founder Vivian Carter in a forthcoming issue.

“Dancing with the Stars” commenced with Sarah Palin’s daughter Bristol performing Randy Newman’s “Mama Told me Not To Come.” In an office suit similar to what her mother wears she stripped it off to reveal a skimpy red dress that did little to flatter her big legs. Even though she was mediocre at best, she’ll probably last fairly long. First to go will likely be Michael Bolton or David Hasselhoff. The favorite is “Dirty Dancing” star Jennifer Grey, who waltzed to an Otis Redding song from the 1987 movie that reminded everyone of when she danced with Patrick Swayze, who died one year ago.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Ides of September

Talked to Steve McShane about his students keeping journals. He thought the assignment would work better in the spring, so perhaps I’ll reprise what I did in 2003 and put together an issue entitled “Ides of March.” Dr. R.J. Bills phoned from Madison, Mississippi, requesting my latest Shavings. The former Gary resident received past issues from his daughter and read about volume 40 (the “Retirement Journal”) in the September 2010 issue of Indiana Magazine of History.

Professor Kenneth Kincaid is using “Forging a Community” in his course on Hispanics in America at Purdue North Central and wants me to speak on campus on October 28 as part of Hispanic Heritage Month. I suggested doing it with the Arredondos, and they liked the idea. So did Kenny, as he calls himself. The other main speaker, Valparaiso law professor Bernard Trujillo, will talk about immigration policy. I had suggested Sheriff Dominguez, but Kenny had already lined the person up. A Latin Americanist by training, Kenny seems enthusiastic about learning about Latinos in Northwest Indiana in general and “Maria’s Journey” in particular.

Toni found half-century old reel-to-reel tapes from our families when we lived in Hawaii (long distance telephone calls from Honolulu in 1965 were prohibitively expensive and reserved for only the most dire or special occasions) and from Bucknell fraternity brother Dick Jeary of a band called The Naturals. The threesome, playing at a Sigma Phi Epsilon Homecoming party, substituted suggestive lyrics to songs such as “Peanut Butter” and “Stick with Me Baby.” The threesome had that Everly brothers harmony sound and hailed from Dick’s hometown of Rochester, New York, I believe. Tome is checking to see if our old Panasonic model in the Archives takes an attachment that would convert them to regular audiotapes.

Helped Angie unload items from the old house. Back home, when I buzzed open the garage door, a chipmunk trapped inside scurried into a rolled up rug. Thought I had gotten rid of him but later spotted him scampering back into the rug. I lifted one side near the door, and out he went. Toni fears he’s looking for a place to spend the winter. He is cute.

On “Curb Your Enthusiasm” after seeing Larry sing “Sewanee River” at a karaoke bar, Mel Brooks impulsively offers him the starring role of Max Bialystock in “The Producers.” Larry subsequently manages to piss off a pregnant lesbian (suggesting the names Wang and Tang, a disabled man in a wheelchair (in a parking lot altercation), his agent’s wife (disparaging the shirts she designed), a doctor’s office receptionist (balking at signing in), a doctor (using his telephone while waiting for him to show up in the examination room), and Ben Stiller (refusing to shake his hand after Ben sneezed into it). The funniest gags, in fact, involved snot and drool. On YouTube were more than a dozen “Curb” bits, most showing run-ins Larry had with women or authority figures.

Bowled poorly and pulled a shoulder muscle midway through the third game. Gutted out a 178, and we had a chance to win after Melvie struck out in the tenth, but their clean-up guy doubled and Frank left a ten pin on a perfect hit or we’d have won. The original name for our team, dating back to 1950, was Test Engineers. Bill Batalis was a charter member and became captain in 1952. Bob Sheid noticed the back of my old Eagles softball shirt read “Doc” above the number 55 (my age in 1997, my final season) and asked why. Coach Terry Hunt, a student of mine, called me by my professional title, while a few others called me “Doctor J,” like with the incomparable Julius Erving. Most just called me Jimbo.

IU Northwest Chancellor William Lowe spent a good hour at the Archives with Steve, Librarian Tim Sutherland, Ron Cohen (my off-again, on-again co-director), and me. I think he was impressed with our show-and-tell performance. Maybe when he meets with the History department in a couple weeks or at the upcoming emeritus lunch I’ll urge him to persuade former Mayor Hatcher to do a course on Black Mayors with enough resources to bring some of them to campus. Discussing the origin of the word Hoosier, someone mentioned that during a bar fight during the pioneer era, someone shouted out, “Whose ear?”

Connie Heard Damon sent me a list of classmates planning to attend the reunion, including childhood friends Jay Bumm and Chris Koch, whom I haven’t seen since. “Jaybo” played drums at numerous parties and had an ancient “beater” car, while Chris was starting quarterback in tenth grade (Bobby Fad took over the job the following year) and was always good for laughs while driving around. To get to his house I’d walk across Fort Washington Avenue, pass through the Roberts front and back yard, go through a patch of woods next to the Bobby Gertsnecker’s, cross Summit Avenue, and I’d be there. Down the street was Joe Pollard’s house, while Jay lived a half-block away in the other direction. Connie’s list also included “Not heard from” (i.e., Rick Hoopes and Freddie Fluck), “Not coming” (including Gaard, Rel, and good friend Vince Curll), and “Maybe” (among them Suzi Hummel and Skip Pollard).

Connie told me that Eddie Piszek hasn’t been feeling well and gave me his cell phone so I gave him a call. We reminisced about playing Babe Ruth League ball on a team that Ronnie Hawthorne’s dad coached (Mr. Haw-thee-haw we called him). Eddie’s father started Mrs. Paul’s, lived on an estate, and had a chauffeur who took us to various functions before we could drive. Eddie said, “Remember how you, me, and Lee Shriner (a name I hadn’t thought of in 50 years) used to fight over Judy Jenkins?” I passed that line on to Judy, and she replied, “It’s nice to hear I had men fighting over me.” I responded: “Well, you had boys fighting over you, at any rate (the men came later).”

Voted by email to approve having the condo association pay handyman Jason a thousand dollars to fix woodpecker holes and rotting boards at numerous condo units. The landscapers who were supposed to install a window well still haven’t shown up.

The annual picnic took place in the Savannah Center gym. Years ago, it was an outdoor picnic, at places like Woodland Park and Hidden Lake with beer on hand as well as spouses and children. One year it took place at a water park. The food was great (hot roast beef sandwiches with all the trimmings plus vegetarian lasagna), and we didn’t have to wait until after openings remarks to be served like when Bergland was around. Chancellor Lowe introduced me to his attractive wife Pamela, and I suggested that after he gets settled he might consider putting together a readings seminar on Irish History (his field) open to both faculty and students. He chuckled but then said that every History curriculum should include Irish History. With Bruce gone, more faculty attended than in recent years, but many just ate and ran – some perhaps with one o’clock classes. Not much was going on other than calling out winning raffle numbers (prizes were tote bags filled with IU paraphernalia), but that might have been just as well because in past years loud music made conversation difficult. Chris Young and Jonathan Briggs introduced themselves to the Chancellor and invited him to lunch next Tuesday for guest speaker Paul Finkelman, who later in the day will be lecturing on “Fugitive Slaves and Undocumented Aliens: Is the Arizona Immigration Law a Replay of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850?”

Monday, September 13, 2010

Ready to Start

"Now I'm ready to start, my mind is wide open." Arcade Fire

Always think of colleague Rhiman Rotz, who died nine years ago, on Nine/Eleven. MSNBC replayed without commercials a “Today” show tape from nine years ago when the Twin Towers and Pentagon were attacked. Until the second plane struck, Matt Lauer and Katie Couric weren’t certain whether it was the work of terrorists or an accident. When the first tower collapsed, they were speechless for a couple seconds. People leaped to their death rather than be incinerated, but you can’t see it, nor was there mention of it during the telecast. Nobody knew the extent of casualties or that people on the upper floors had called their loved ones to say goodbye. On the way to class that morning I learned about the Flight 93 plane going down in western Pennsylvania, supposedly after passengers stormed their captors (one of them allegedly said “Let’s Roll”). Conspiracy theorists speculate that an American fighter plane shot it down, fearful that its destination was the White House. I talked to my students about previous shocks such as Pearl Harbor and the Kennedy assassination, even though what happened was unprecedented. One guy asked that I cancel class or put on the TV, and I responded that anyone could leave who so desired. At “Ground Zero” they still read off the names of the 2,700 casualties. Looking back, it’s inconceivable that 19 Arabs with knives could cause such carnage.

Inside Town and Country throngs were lined up waiting to meet Dan Hampton, a standout defensive lineman on the 1985 Bears, who went on to win the Superbowl under Coach Mike Ditka and defensive genius Buddy Ryan. “Danimal” looked tanned and handsome. He was among the players honored at Soldier Field on opening day. The Bears won when an apparent TD catch by Calvin Johnson was ruled incomplete due to an idiotic rule even though he had both feet down in the end zone and landed on his butt before the ball came out of his hand. The 1960 Eagles were honored prior to Philadelphia’s opener against Green Bay. Quarterback Norm Van Brocklin would be 90 if still alive. His favorite receiver, Hall of Famer Tommy McDonald, was one of 22 old-timers on hand, as was warrior Chuck Bednarik, who played center on offense and linebacker on defense. Thanks to a dorm-mate whose uncle was athletic director at Penn, I was at the 17-13 win over Vince Lombardi’s Packers. Bednarik tackled Jim Taylor near the goal line on the last play of the game. The current Eagles wore throwback uniforms but lost their QB Kevin Kolb to a concussion and the game by seven points despite heroics from Michael Vick (back in the NFL’s good graces after serving time for being connected to a dog-fighting ring). Redskins beat the hated Dallas Cowboys after an apparent last-second tying TD was called back because of offensive holding. My Fantasy opponent “Pittsburgh Dave” (to distinguish from my second born) had both quarterback Matt Schaub and wide receiver Andre Johnson. Fortunately most of Houston’s 38 points came on the ground; at the end of the day I was only down eight points with both running backs still to play in Monday’s doubleheader.

The Vietnam novel “Matterhorn” dramatizes a fragging incident; soldiers kill an unpopular officer by throwing a grenade under his bunk while he is sleeping. At the end the main character realizes that the North Vietnamese won’t quit unless annihilated and that the war is hopeless. Seeking something more pleasant, I picked up Richard Russo’s “That Old Cape Magic” for a second read. The protagonist is the son of two English professors, serial adulterers who bemoaned being stuck at a Hoosier state university. I like that the chapters have titles such as “Slippery Slope” – a cliché I often use. Urged the Portage librarian she should order “Maria’s Journey.” She had seen the newspaper piece and wrote down the information.

Responding to Toni’s notice on the Internet about free appliances, two men carted away our old stove and washer, plus many logs for firewood. One with a full beard and hair longer than mine said he was helping his daughter get her life together. A woman took our old TV and converter box. Dave and Angie rented a U-Haul and with Tom Wade and John Teague moved the piano and other heavy items. The night before, I won both games of Inca Gold (which Jef Halberstadt taught us), which we taught to James and Becca, but got shut out during our normal rotation of Amun Re, St. Petersburg, Acquire, and Stone Age.

A Times article by Marisa Kwiatkowski called “Reality Stranger Than Fiction” documented wacky “off-the-wall” 911 calls. Panicked parents have sought help when willful children have refused to go to school. Police have dealt with runaway pigs, horses, and ostriches. Jackie Gipson, identified as an IU Northwest professor even though she quit in August (tired of departmental bullshit), told the reporter that people are more likely to ask for help in nonemergency situations when they have a positive image of law enforcement officers. On the other hand, she concluded, “Where you feel police show up and you are the target of harassment, you are much more reticent.” Jackie was a brilliant student who graduated from Valparaiso Law School before becoming a lecturer in the School for Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA).

Suzanna’s eye surgery was a success, and she went to a Blues Festival in Sharon, PA, which started out with a solemn 9/11 dedication. She recalled our going on roller coaster rides at ancient Willow Grove Amusement Park (it was around when my mother was a kid. Our boys liked to go to a place in Merrillville (was it called Merriland, I wonder?) that had little roller coasters.

Laughed during “Going the Distance” at the antics of the male lead’s buddies, played by Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis, but the plot was pretty pedestrian and the sex jokes (involving dirty phone talk, pubic hairs on a dining room table, and dry humping) rather lame. Drew Barrymore, as always, was intriguing as Jason Long’s love interest and a “thirtysomething” trying to balance adult responsibility and remaining a free spirit. The granddaughter of actor John Barrymore, Drew was in “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” and has hosted “Saturday Night Live” six times, including in 1982 at age seven.

At the Patio to discuss the impeachment of Andrew Johnson, during a debate about whether the Senators were motivated by idealism or were corrupt, I argued that lawmakers did what was in their best political self-interest and defended Thad Stevens against those for claimed he was vindictive. Who wouldn’t be against rebels who caused a half million people to die and wanted to force freedmen back into virtual slavery. Ray Arredondo showed up and sold three copies of “Maria’s Journey,” which the group will discuss in March. On the way home, when the Ravens-Jets broadcast went to commercial, I heard Arcade Fire’s “Ready to Start” on WXRT. It repeats the line over and over, “If I was yours, I would, but I'm not.” I only needed nine points to start the Fantasy season 1-0 but sweated out subpar performances by Ray Rice and Ryan Mathews barely won 65-62. Will need to do better next week against Pittsburgh Dave’s girlfriend Kira who has Aaron Rogers, Tony Gonzalez, and Anquan Boldin (on her bench but after last night’s showing ready to start).

Friday, September 10, 2010

Delusions of Grandeur

With my good friend Clark Metz leading the way with a 511 series, 25 pins over average, the Electrical Engineers won all seven points Wednesday, improving our record to 10-11 (the first week we lost two points due to a clerical error). We lucked out in the second game, winning by two pins when the opponent’s team captain failed to double in the tenth. We were a hundred points under average, but they did even worse. It looked like we’d lose game three when John Gilbert (a former softball teammate and state dart champ) regained his normal form with a 221, but we all bowled over our heads in the final frames. I doubled in the eighth and ninth, spared in the tenth by knocking down a six pin, and struck on my final effort, leaping in the air as the ball went in the pocket. “No excessive celebrating,” good-natured opponent Terry Kegebin quipped. He had kept up a clever line of patter throughout the match. Called captain Bill Batalis, who left after game one, when I got home, as is my ritual if I have any good news to impart. Emphasized my 182 in the third game and Dick Maloney sandwiching a 117 between his two 200+ games. With the league having gone from 100 to eighty percent handicap, we don’t have much hope of finishing high in the 16-team standings, but, hey, after three weeks one can harbor delusions of grandeur.

“Phrase Finder” website traces the origin of “delusions of grandeur” to an 1882 court case where Stephen Cooper accused brother Henry of suffering from that disorder because the successful tailor falsely claimed to have opened a Parisian department store and unveiled grandiose plans for expanding the family business in new York City.

Terry and Gayle Jenkins congratulated us on the condo move and claim to be looking forward to our visit in October. Terry’s father Ted was either an electrical or mechanical engineer. I have no idea what either one entails, but he was probably good with a slide rule (like the Sam Cooke song, I don’t know what a slide rule is for but do know a few things about History). Ted was one of the coolest WW II generation people I ever met, a stud really. He loved sports cars and always had the nicest Christmas tree in Fort Washington. Phoned Bob Reller to wish him good fortune during his trip to the Holy Land and told him I’d fill him in on the reunion after he returns.

In the IUN parking lot History and Philosophy Chair Gianluca Di Muzio was attempting to carry three ample files plus several handbags. I took the files from him and we talked about department matters on the way to his office. He plans to invite Chancellor William Lowe, a historian, to the next departmental meeting. On Jerry Pierce’s office door was a sticker reading “I followed by the symbol for clubs in cards and then Zombies,” I think in reference to the movie “Zombieland,” which he loved. In other words, “I club zombies.” Coincidentally heard the Zombies’ “Time of the Season.” It contains the line “What’s your name, who’s your daddy?” In 1999 IU coach Bob Knight exploded when Northwestern fans chanted “Hoosier daddy?” to disparage an IU player who had fathered a child. Chauvinist Knight was no one to talk. Eleven years before, in an interview with NBC’s Connie Chung, he uttered the despicable remark, “I think if rape is inevitable, relax and enjoy it.”

Bumped into 83 year-old Garrett Cope, still working for Continuing Education, who looked gaunt from a recent bout with the flu that caused cancellation of Senior College. Too bad, many folks look forward to it each August, and I get a kick from interacting with them during my annual guest appearance. A researcher in the Archives said that from the back I look like Stephen King. My hair is the longest it’s ever been; must be the novelist’s style, too. The School of Business hosted a noon courtyard cookout with free burgers, chips and pop. Behind me in line were faculty members Anne Balay and Patrick Bankston (who never thanking me for “Gary’s First Hundred Years”). It was a cool September day, so coeds were revealing much less flesh than last week when low-cut blouses were common and tattoos prominent despite the bare midriff look having apparently declined somewhat from past years.

My starting Fantasy quarterback Tom Brady was in a car accident but apparently emerged uninjured. Substitute QB Donovan McNabb is banged up, so just in case for insurance I picked up Derek Anderson of the Cardinals (formerly from Chicago and St. Louis, the team that is). With Larry Fitzgerald as his primary receiver Anderson should put up big numbers when Arizona plays the Rams should I need him. The NFL season kicked off between New Orleans and Minnesota in the Superdome. Three of my Fantasy players competed. Minnesota tight end Shiancoe was a pleasant surprise, but kicker Longwell sucked and few balls went Marques Colston’s way. Drew Brees is so popular in New Orleans that some call him Bresus. Minnesotans consider Favre a savior although under pressure he is prone to throw interceptions, and last evening was no exception.

The condo picnic in Court Three will take place from 2 until 5 on September 19, when I’ll be speaking to the Ogden Dunes Historical Society. Initially told it would occur from 4 to 7, I hoped I could at least make the last half. Court One has been asked to bring salad or chips. Toni will go by herself, but maybe the affair will still be going on when I get home. Landscapers replanted the two trees in our courtyard after expanding the holes like they should have in the first place. In a flyer distributed to my neighbors I announced my intent to run for board secretary and hoped that, if successful, someone would volunteer to replace me a court director. Sue Harrison seems willing.

Ron Cohen wants me to accompany him to Michigan State in two weeks when he gives a talk there, promising to drive and pick up the tab for lunch. We’ve had fun going to the Labor History Workshop seminar in Chicago, but a round trip to MSU in one day would mean five hours in the car.

Suzanna can’t see out of one eye and is having surgery. Concerning our relationship a half-century ago, she wrote: “I thought back then I was really only on a very superficial level with you during that summer romance and never let on of my serious side. After you broke up with me I immersed myself in my classical piano study. I practiced piano maybe six hours a day. I ended up playing for the whole school several times, such things as Chopin's Revolutionary Etude, Rachmaninoff pieces, Liszt's Un Sospiro and others. I was always writing, and thinking and going to art museums in Philly and all sorts of things not typical of high school. When I was a young married chick, Joe and I gravitated toward the hippie culture and my parents sent me a letter that they disowned me! That was sad because I was not a participant in the bad stuff, just the music and brotherhood stuff and the image.”

During the sexist early Sixties some guys were threatened by signs of intelligence from their girlfriends. The AMC series “Mad Men,” which I’m into thanks to On Demand, vividly demonstrates how men treated women as sex objects to be discarded when they reached a certain age and didn’t take them seriously. Hopefully things have improved since then. I wrote back to Suzanna, “I don’t think you ever were superficial, and that is meant as a compliment. Toni loved going to art museums growing up, and being from north Philly got to them by public transportation. I can’t believe your parents disowned you. Hopefully they recanted. In grad school at the University of Maryland, I came home with a beard. On previous visits my mother always bugged me to attend church with her but not with me looking like a hippie. I had a bunch of hippie softball teammates in the Seventies, and did we ever have some great times.” Tom, Ivan, and my Porter Acres teammates, I can’t thank you enough.

Oscar Sanchez, Roy Dominguez’s chief of staff, called to say that jpegs of the sheriff with Bill and Hillary Clinton were on the way electronically. IU Press has sat on the manuscript for almost nine months. Indications are that they like it but no final word. They forwarded glowing comments from a reviewer, who praised its readability, predicted that “it will captivate readers from all walks of life,” and called it a significant addition to the literature on Indiana’s Latino history. The reviewer concluded: “The author traces his family’s experiences in America, principally Texas and Northwest Indiana, from the nineteenth century to the present. The narrative describes many struggles faced and dealt with by the Dominguez Family to achieve the ‘American Dream.’ Roy Dominguez freely announces his plans to run for the Indiana governor’s office, and he wants readers to get to know him through the pages of Spirits from the Fields. He believes that his core values—family first, public service, and patriotism—will guide him well if he wins the state’s highest office and that he will be an effective and compassionate leader because of those core values. Throughout his autobiography, he seeks to convey how his parents’ commitment to sacrifice and hard work provided him with opportunities for a better life and how he has tried to emulate their example. “My goal has been to explain to people the inspiration of my passion for life and public service,” Dominguez notes, and goes on to state that ‘holding public office is meaningless if the public servant is not helping others.’ As his parents often said, ‘It’s always about the people,’ and Mr. Dominguez repeats that statement throughout the manuscript, emphasizing how it has fundamentally guided his public (and private) life.”

I am considering publishing my blog entrees for 2009-2010 as volume 41 of Steel Shavings, perhaps in combination with student journals from Steve’s class. Call me delusional but I believe my activities as a Region historian merit documenting. Who knows, the Arredondo family might appear on Oprah, and Sheriff Rogelio Dominguez may become governor of Indiana.

Checked out “Machete,” starring craggy-faced Danny Trejo and directed by Robert Rodriguez, because Robert De Niro and Lindsey Lohan were in it. It was originally a fake trailer for “Grindhouse,” which Rodriguez did with Quentin Tarantino. Lindsey plays April, a slut daughter of the main villain who makes porn movies for her web site, including a three-way with her mother June (in her next movie Lohan will play “Deep Throat” porno star Linda Lovelace). De Niro plays a corrupt Texas state senator playing on racist fears of border “Infestations.” Other actors playing villains include Steven Seagal and Don Johnson from “Miami Vice.” Cheech Marin, currently in the finals of “Celebrity Jeopardy,” played a priest who ends up crucified by the bad guys. The movie is over-the-top violent but campy, with the heroes being illegal aliens. All in all, I was entertained although I closed my eyes a few times when the hero was wielding a machete. Best line of the movie: “Machete don’t text.” But later he does.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Modern Man

“Like a record that’s skipping
I’m a Modern man.
Feel all right and the clock keeps ticking,
I’m a modern man.”
Arcade Fire

Returned home alone for Marianne Brush’s end-of-the-summer party. She loved the Arcade Fire CD I gave her in lieu of bringing a dish and played it over a loud speaker after retrieving it from Missy, who had gone off with boyfriend Tyler to listen to it in the basement recreation room. I especially recommended song #3, “Modern Man.” Inside I watched part of the Notre Dame – Purdue game (an Irish victory in Coach Brian Kelly’s debut). Came across a Voodoo Chili photo album with pictures of Tim in various wild outfits and several shots of me singing with the band or dancing. Shed a tear conjuring up all the good memories. Couldn’t get anyone to toss beanbags and wished Dave were with me. Last year he played and sang for a couple hours with old Voodoo Chili band mate John Shearer on drums. Had a nice chat with John’s wife Lorraine, whose daughter Ashley was showing off her engagement ring. I pigged out on guacamole and chips. Back at the condo I battled a persistent fly until mellowing out and adopting a “live and let live “ attitude toward the pest. The latest On Demand “Curb Your Enthusiasm” episode featured a rapper named Crazy Eyes Killer who gets engaged to Cheryl’s best friend until she learns about his philandering as a result of his bragging to Larry about liking all colors when it comes to cunnilingus. The funniest moments involve Larry having a pubic hair stuck in his throat.

Ray and Trish Arredondo mailed me press releases for “Maria’s Journey” plus a copy of Viva Magazine whose cover story was my article about the book. One side was in English, and the flip side was in Spanish (“El recorrido de Maria: Libro profundiza sobre la vida de la mission de una mujer decidida a proporcionarle una vida major a su familia en los Estados Unidos”). Very cool. The publication used all three Times photos, including the cover shot of Maria and mother Rita, from whom she inherited her iron resolve.

Diamond, who came down with the Michiganders, greeted my arrival back in South Bend at noon Sunday. Like two weeks ago there were 12 Lanes and 12 Okomskis only instead of the Jerseyites Sonny and Mary were up from Florida and Toni’s nephew Kyle brought girlfriend Laura. Tom discovered Oliver, Nickolas, and Chloe under a tree by the seventh tee selling golf balls. My sons beat Sonny and me two out of three in pinochle; my revenge came in Texas hold ’em. After finishing second to Dave in the first game, I staged a miraculous comeback in the nightcap. To begin with, I barely escaped elimination when Lisa went all in against me with aces and queens. Dealt an ace five and with a second five in the flop along with a deuce and three I needed a four or five on the final card and got the latter, beating Lisa’s two pair with trip fives. After Dave knocked out Fritz, only the two of us remained. Phil was long gone, having had lousy cards. Dave had 80 percent of the chips until the key hand of the night, one he insisted I misplayed though I beg to differ. Starting with a king five of diamonds, I bumped the first bet. After a flop of two aces and a queen, Dave made a hefty raise. I called, guessing from his previous check that he didn’t hold an ace and was trying to bully me into folding (the same thing I’d have done in his shoes). If he held a king, the worst I could do was a tie. The only cards that could beat me were a queen or a pair. He went all in because he had a queen. I threw in my remaining chips and learned to my dismay that only a king could save me. Sure enough, the last card was a king. Suddenly others who had been knocked out started to take notice. After another big hand went my way thanks to two threes in the flop, Dave was on the defensive, sensing that I was on a hot streak. Taking a chance, he went all in with two face cards. Able to absorb a loss, I took a chance with an eight and nine of clubs and got two more eights on the flop. He couldn’t believe it. We both ended up with full boats, only his was six high and mine eights over sixes. Game over. First place money was worth fifty bucks.

On Labor Day morning Dave cooked “dirty” scrambled eggs (with ham and onions) and Polish sausage slices. Sitting around a table out back, Mary texted Garrett in New Jersey at my request, asking if he liked Arcade Fire, and explained her version of why grandson Sean “defriended” her and, adding insult to injury, told her, “That’s why Facebook isn’t for old folks.” She had defended Sean after someone had teased him, but he thought she over-reacted. He recently made Florida State’s track team as a long distance runner. Sonny joked about his brushes with death (his heart stopped for 20 minutes once, and on another occasion he was in a coma for 32 days) and his seven attempts to join the army despite a withered arm from having polio as a child. We all gathered on the front lawn, and neighbor Mr. Smith interrupted his lawn mowing to snap pictures from three different cameras. One might be our Christmas photo. Grace, with “Okomski eyes” just like her mother and grandfather, latched onto Kyle’s leg not wanting him to leave, then showed off for his benefit by tousling with her dad. Kyle and Laura followed us to the condo, and we had dinner at Appleby’s. Afterwards, at Porter Beach I pointed out Chicago’s Loop on the horizon and steel mills to the right and left. A Chicago suburbanite who grew up two blocks from the beach and returns every Labor Day promised to let the Archives make a copy of her childhood diary. Our first adult overnight guests, Kyle and Laura did some exploring and returned with a six-pack of Blue Moon from Wise Way, which Kyle drank with orange slices.

Received emails from Trish and Ray (needing jpegs for a “Maria’s Journey” website), a neighbor (complaining about how ugly the new trees look), Suzanna (thanking me for being there for her when she was a “grumpy old bear), and filmmaker David Gore (wanting to interview me for a documentary on Gary native Michael Jackson). I sent out a “Maria’s Journey” article to ‘O” (the Oprah magazine) and fellow Maryland grad student David Goldfield, editor of the Journal of Urban History. In Sweden, he recently mentioned me in the acknowledgements of his Civil War book, “America Aflame,” and looked forward to reading what I sent him when he returned to Charlotte (he teaches at UNCC). Toni, Kyle and Laura weren’t at the old house but located them with my cell phone (which I almost never use) at a fireworks warehouse. Flamingo’s wouldn’t let us in for lunch because Laura is only 19. Indiana has absurd liquor laws (why Flamingo’s restaurant area is different from Appleby’s is beyond me). We ended up at Wing Wah, where I ordered the Mongolian beef dinner.

We checked out an exhibit about shipwrecks at the Indiana Dunes State Park, located not far from our condo. I’d only ever been to the park a handful of times, mainly to visit people camping there, such as Herb and Evelyn Passo and Bob and Judy Selund. Of the 3,000 Lake Michigan sinking, about one-tenth occurred in its southern basin, including the J. D. Marshall in 1911. It had over 500 tons of sand on board when its hull sprang a leak while anchored a half-mile off shore east of Michigan City. We viewed some of its remains, including a huge cast iron propeller and a huge wrench. A sudden squall capsized the ship, and four crewmembers drowned. The nature center had other exhibits of interest, including one documenting how the park was created in 1925. Outside one window were bird feeders that attracted yellow finches, hummingbirds, mourning doves, nuthatches, and other varieties. There were models of predators, including a huge turkey buzzard similar to a pair I saw land in a tree near our Maple Place house. In a reading room I found “City of the Century” but no sign of my Shavings issue on “Tales of Lake Michigan and the Northwest Indiana Dunelands.” We drove to the old bathhouse and gawked at the large white cap waves, but with wind gusts reaching 45 miles per hour the sand was blowing around and stinging our exposed skin. Back home while Laura rested in preparation for her driving the first leg of the drive back to Philadelphia, we taught Kyle the dice game Shooters. He caught on right away. What a sweet guy. Toni’s youngest sister Donna died of cancer when he was a year old. His girlfriend Laura Schmitt did well in a situation that could have overwhelmed many 19 year-olds.

In the news: Terry Jones, a dimwit pastor of Dove World Outreach Church near Gainesville, Florida, is threatening to burn copies of the Quran unless he gets a message from God or President Obama ordering him not to do it. He has less than 50 parishioners but has received worldwide attention, and Muslims abroad have burned his likeness in effigy along with the American flag. General David Petraeus has warned that his action will put our troops in Afghanistan at risk, but the loony reverend appears to be relishing the attention.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Labor Day Begins

"That long black cloud is comin' down
I feel like I'm knockin' on heaven's door."

Starting with a Bob Dylan quote from “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” Jeff Manes wrote a great SALT column about Chris Christian, a cook, rock musician for the band Pegasus, and old hippie whose father, Chris Hristodoulou came from Greece in 1904. Growing up in Gary’s Horace Mann district, Chris told Manes, “When I was in seventh grade, we were the first school to be one-third white, one-third black, and one-third Latin. By ’72 there were only about five white kids left at Horace Mann.” Fired from Inland Steel in 1980 after caught playing poker, he moved to Seattle and then Alaska. He recalled, “I was climbing Mount Si when Mount Saint Helens blew; I watched the Northern Lights, man. And I got to do stuff like that when I was young and could really enjoy it, man, not as a tired-out, hunched-over retiree.”

Reached Fritz and Lisa Teuscher’s impressive house in Granger IN near South Bend in under an hour with a trunk full of pillows and blow-up mattresses plus rye bread and a pot of golumpkis (stuffed cabbage rolls). It being cool and windy, Toni’s sister Mary, up from Florida, had a sweater on and was shivering. Eight year-old Grace offered me what she described as a mint Oreo cookie only she had replaced the insides with toothpaste. Living right next to a golf course, younger brother Oliver had scrounged hundreds of golf balls from the rough and sells them for a quarter or half dollar, depending on the condition. Sonny was watching a replay of yesterday’s 12-11 Phillies victory on, featuring a nine-run inning climaxed by Chase Utley’s grand salami. Afterwards, looking for the news, he came across “Sonny With a Chance” on Disney Channel. “They stole my name,” he quipped. The Dietz family poodle Chloe did lots of barking, which did not bother the Teuscher’s mellow dog Jack. Nickolas and Sophia found a climbing tree to their liking and were near the top in a flash. While others visited Notre Dame’s football stadium tunnel, Fritz and I went to his country club links. He hit some great shots on a very windy day. I mainly rode around in the cart but did try a few pitch shots (nothing to write home about) and putts (most went past the hole, but I sank two fairly long ones). Told Fritz about the time in the Bahamas when ten year-old Dave accompanied Ivan Jasper on a round of golf. He let my son drive the cart and he overturned it but was unscathed. Ivan warned him not to tell us under threat of death, and we didn’t learn about the incident until 25 years layer. At the seventh hole Tom, back from the Notre Dame tunnel, replaced me and played the final 11 holes with Fritz.

Looked over Laura Ingraham’s “Obama Diaries,” which Mary was reading, and found it patronizing and prejudiced (Stephen Colbert slammed its “hideous, hackneyed racial stereotypes”). Ingraham’s main criticisms of the President are that he doesn’t wear his religion or patriotism on his sleeve and that he’s too full of himself (takes one to know one). She portrays Vice President Biden as a vain lecher who, after ogling Columbian pop singer Shakira, writes in his diary, “Honestly, if they all looked like this hot tamale, I’d tear down the border fence myself.” Washington Post reviewer Steven Levingston notes that Laura can’t decide between satire and polemics and by flip-flopping from one to the other “only leaves a ruinous imbalance” and “causes her to squander her literary deadeye on vapid hyperbole” such as her concluding statement that “this is freedom’s last stand.” Pu-leeze! Freedom for the rich to avoid paying their fair share of taxes.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The American

At the Patio Trish and Ray Arredondo filled me in on their marketing plans for “Maria’s Journey.” Lotte Meyerson, who moved from Miller to Asheville, North Carolina, some years ago after a long career as a community organizer, is setting up numerous appearances. Sandy Appleby, whose “Pass the Culture, Please” project was an inspiration for the book, has made a DVD based on the original slide show. Roy’s brother, Judge Lorenzo Arredondo, was sitting at another table showing off the book to lunch companions. So far the family loved it. Had delicious crab cakes and salad, and we toasted the book’s successful publication with merlot. I told them I’m working on an article for Oprah’s magazine “O.” Noticed that Barnes and Noble had a dozen copies of “Maria’s Journey” in the “Local Interest” section.

Picked up two copies of the Arcade Fire CD “The Suburbs.” One is for Mary Ann Brush in lieu of a dish for her end-of-summer party. I’m a product of suburbia although the street where I grew up wasn’t part of a development like when we lived in Beverly Hills, Michigan, for a year. There’s an Arcade Fire line that goes, “In the suburbs I learned to drive.” I was able to get a learners permit at age 14 and test my dad’s patience driving through our Michigan subdivision.

George Clooney was terrific in “The American” as an assassin hoping to retire after one final assignment. Slow-moving, brooding, and without the car chases and special effects bullshit that characterize most Hollywood products today, it was directed by Anton Corbijn, best known for directed music videos for Depeche Mode, Nirvana, and U2. Critics have mentioned its pensive, low-key foreign film feel to it, including the full frontal nudity (Violante Placido as a prostitute with a heart of gold is stunning) and symbolism in the form of an endangered butterfly. Clooney is about the only American in the movie. There is nothing cute about Clooney’s portrayal of Jack, but I was still rooting for him till the very end.

I’ve been emailing back and forth with Judy Jenkins, my first girlfriend, about beautiful Alice Ottinger (Ockie), her best friend in high school, whose father was Fort Washington’s police chief. He once found Toni and me parked in the Van Sant farm driveway. Alice is evidently coming to the reunion (her first), but Judy doesn’t think she’ll make it. She doesn’t like to fly and worries that she won’t know anybody (there an Arcade Fire line, “All my old friends, they don’t know me now”). On summer Judy and Ockie returned from a trip having learned about French kissing. Another time Judy kidded Alice about having a dark hair growing on one of her fingers. It’s amazing what irrelevancies one remembers. I took Alice to a dance in eleventh grade, doubling with Dave Seibold. At the 2000 reunion I reminded him that he followed us up onto the Ottinger porch afterwards and wanted a kiss from her, too. It being years later, I was trying to be humorous, but he looked crestfallen and apologized.

Heard from Suzanna for the first time in over a week. Feeling blue and waiting for muggy August to end, she revealed herself to be a Pink Floyd and Moody Blues fan. Told her I used to wear out the album “Dark Side of the Moon” in the Seventies and catch the Moodies whenever they come to Northwest Indiana. Heard Eddie Cochran’s 1958 hit “Summertime Blues” on an Oldies station and turned up the volume. Still know the words by heart, including the cynical response from the Congressman: “I’d like to help you, son, but you’re too young to vote.” Vince Curll and I attended an unforgettable “Cavalcade of Stars” concert in South Philly sponsored by radio station WIBG featuring Eddie and Gene Vincent, two wild and crazy rebels without a cause or a clue (to invoke James Dean and Tom Petty).

At bowling Robbie (Bob Robinson) gave me a copy of IUN’s 2009 annual report that contained an article about my “Retirement Journal” and a photo of volume 40’s cover. Bowled slightly under my average but edged out Clark Metz so didn’t have to pay.

Spotted Anne Balay in the archives looking for books on steelworkers and gave her a big hug. She turned me on to the “Homer’s Phobia” episode of “The Simpsons,” which originally aired in 1997. Mad genius “Hairspray” director John Waters did the voice for gay antiques dealer John, whom Bart takes a shine to. Homer becomes uneasy when Bart starts wearing Hawaiian shirts and dancing in a woman’s wig and takes him to see a steel mill, not realizing the muscled-up workers are all gay and that the factory at night turns into a disco. C+C Music Factory’s song “Gonna Make You Sweat” plays during the closing credits, which include a dedication to American steelworkers reading “Keep reaching for that rainbow.”

Fantasy Football drafts are upon us. I was with Dave at his computer with my rankings cheat sheet in hand. There are eight teams this year (up from six), so the available talent was slightly diminished. Drafting third after Chris Johnson and Adrian Peterson were gobbled up, I took running back Ray Rice even though my sheet recommended Maurice Jones-Drew ahead of him. I also got Charger tailback Ryan Mathews and quarterback Tom Brady with Donovan McNabb as a backup. My top two wide receivers are DeSean Jackson and Marques Colston. Not bad.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Sissy Bounce

On the fifth anniversary on Hurricane Katrina doubts remain about the Army Corps of Engineers “improvements” made on the levies protecting New Orleans. One thing for sure: “The Big Easy” is still rocking. According to a July issue of New York Times Magazine, at a gay and transgender club (at least after midnight) called Sports Vue, when “sissy bounce” rapper Big Freedia performs, women come on stage to join the six foot, two inch transvestite and gyrate, according to author Jonathan Dee, “in the most sexualized way imaginable, usually with their backs to her, bent over sharply at the waist, and bouncing their hips up and down as fast as humanly possible, if not slightly faster. Others assumed more of a push-up position, with their hands on the floor, in a signature dance whose name is sometimes helpfully shortened to ‘p-popping.’” There is also a song by Ludacris by that name, with the “p” short for pussy.

After an investigation The Post-Tribune reported on Tax Increment Financing (TIF), a gimmick that has helped refurbish blighted areas in Gary and other Region cities. When property values rise in a designated area, such as the Small Farms neighborhood on Gary’s west side, the tax revenue goes into a fund used to generate new investment. The program is lucrative for favored developers and has financed worthwhile projects, but it deprives city governments of tax revenues. Like with charter schools, which in the short term can be beneficial but reduce funds for existing schools and undercut teachers unions, the jury is still out on whether the long-term verdict will be favorable. IUN’s Chancellor Lowe and Mayor Clay should work to make Glen Park a TIF location.

Locally: Willie Burnett, a 62 year-old Vietnam vet, was bludgeoned to death walking home from a party shortly after dark – another black eye for Gary, the city I love and often mourn for. IU Northwest is beginning the Fall semester with a record number of students, yet the perception still exists among timid souls that the place is unsafe. Some parts of the Glen Park neighborhood are but not the campus. Poet John Sheehan wrote in “Leaving Gary”: “I came to identify so much with this ill conceived steel mill mismatched city; this scapegoat of our confused society . . . this enchanted place where 1906 and after have not completely destroyed the woods and swamps and dunes of centuries . . . O Gary, heart of our mixed up country, I love you now and forever.” I second that emotion as Smokey Robinson crooned.

In NY Times Magazine former addict Margaret Woodruff describes visiting the spot where the body of country singer Hank Williams was found in 1953 after he overdosed – Burdette’s Gas Station in Oak Hill, West Virginia. Bob Dylan cites old Hank (Hank Williams, Jr., achieved some renown in his own right) as a major influence. Norah Jones covered “Cold Cold Heart” and “Don’t Know Why” on a CD that Jojo Robinson played on the way to French Lick between Megadeth albums.

A former student, working in an Ennis Montana, nursing home, has so many aches and pains at the end of a day that he’s looking into getting a medical marijuana card. Indiana will probably be the last state to allow such a thing. Hoosiers still can’t buy alcohol on Sunday. California appears ready to legalize and tax its lucrative cannabis crop. Right on! Prohibition didn’t work 90 years ago either.

Two replacements for the downed trees from the July storm finally arrived. The landscapers apparently didn’t dig the holes deep enough or take out the old roots. Hopefully I can delegate this problem to others on the condo board. After all, I’m no tree expert. I continued to press Marva to succeed me as Court One director should I be elected board secretary.

Using FACET interview excerpts, Aaron Pigors finished putting together the rough draft of a CD entitled “Indiana University: Dedicated to Excellence in Teaching and Learning.” The intro will incorporate action footage Phil took of sessions in French Lick. Approximately 30 minutes long, it could go on the FACET website and be shown at the 2011 retreat along with one paying tribute to founder Eileen Bender. Should David Malik step down as director, we might produce a third one on him.

Recovering alcoholic Glenn Beck’s “Restore America” Lincoln Memorial rally on the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech was a cop-out. All the unbalanced FOX talking head talked about was religion (he’s a Mormon who claims divine inspiration) and honoring our troops. He cautioned attendees against having placards accusing Obama of being a socialist, Nazi or Muslim – in other words, revealing their true colors. Samuel Love on Facebook called the rally “vague, moist, and undirected – the Waterworld of white self-pity.” Now Beck admits he was mistaken to call Obama a racist. As one commentator noted, he’s playing the role of wolf in sheep’s clothing. A recent poll revealed that one out of five Americans believe the President to be a Muslim. Prejudice trumps intelligence every time.

After losing four straight at home to Houston (one in 16 innings after Jimmy Rollins tied the score in the ninth with a two-out, two-strike HR, Philadelphia swept the Padres in San Diego over the weekend. Brad Lidge balked in the tying run in the ninth on Friday, but they won in 12. The end of Saturday’s game was on ESPN since the Twins 1-0 victory was over so quickly, and I saw Lidge get the save with Dave, over for gaming. Sunday the Hagelbergs hosted a cookout and bridge.

Laura Kittle, who works in Marketing and Development and is married to former White Sox and Wirt High School slugger Ron Kittle, sent me a copy of a 2006 publication entitled “Miller Memories,” edited by Don Carlson. The late, great local sports legend Wally McCormick contributed a touching introduction. Recalling old haunts, including Miller School, Marquette Park, Carr’s Beach, and Miller Bakery, where sweet rolls cost 25 cents a dozen, Wally concluded: “The community of Miller will never leave the hearts of those of us who grew up in a spot that seemed close to heaven. And as we moved in the adult world, the closeness and yes, the love for the life we lived, proved once again that Jimmy Stewart was right. Wasn’t it a wonderful life!” I’ve never met a sweeter man than Wally. The best referee in Northwest Indiana at all levels, whether it be sandlot softball, middle school basketball or high school football, he could de-fuse any situation with a quip. Wally had me on his TV show a half dozen times and mentioned me in the acknowledgements.

Received emails from old softball teammate Ivan Jasper (who in July tried to pull off a surprise visit but found the Maple Place homestead deserted) and this request from Rebecca Zorach: “I am a collaborator of Sam Barnett's on AREA Chicago (actually, I edited his interview with you for the last issue!) and I have a question for you. Have you ever had anyone in your oral history interviews discuss the construction of the "Chicago Picasso" sculpture? I understand it was done at US Steel in Gary. I'd be interested to know if there were any reactions to it among the workers, and also what the racial composition of the workforce would have been (in 1967). Any suggestions for people to talk to would be much appreciated! Thanks for any help you can give.” We have material about the statue in the Archives, so I told her to contact Steve McShane.

Told Ray and Trish Arredondo that I nominated Maria for the Lake County tourist bureau’s Wall of Fame and sent a copy of “Maria’s Journey” to Jerry Davich. They want to show me press releases at lunch Wednesday when we have a marketing brainstorming session at the Patio.

Broke my computer glasses frames and got an estimate of $189 to replace them from Vision Point. Found an optician in Highland, Bill Johnson, who fixed me up for thirty bucks.

Among the flurry of Facebook messages concerning Upper Dublin’s upcoming fiftieth reunion: Wendy Henry may attend for the first time ever. Phil Arnold is iffy because wife Bev might need another operation. Just learned that Judy Otto died. We had fun at the 2000 reunion and traded Christmas cards ever since. Sometimes she’d sign them “Crazy Otto,” the title of a Fifties song. We’ll also miss Molly Schade, a beauty who did not have a conceited bone in her body. Younger sister Nancy, whom everyone called Sissy, was part of our gang. It would be nice to open the reunion to friends from other classes, such as my buddy Terry Jenkins. What I’d give to see Sissy again.

All combat troops are out of Iraq. In a televised speech the President acknowledged his disagreements with Bush but added that nobody doubted his predecessor’s support for our troops nor his concern for America’s security. Republicans were less charitable, carping that Obama didn’t give enough credit to the so-called surge. What temporarily improved the situation at the time of the surge were diplomatic maneuvers (essentially bribing Sunni leaders to abandon terror tactics), but the internal situation in Baghdad has deteriorated in recent months.