Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Staying Alive

“Life goin’ nowhere, somebody help me
Somebody help me, yeah.
Life goin’ nowhere, somebody help me
Somebody help me, yeah, stayin’ alive.”
Bee Gees

Ron Cohen gave a copy of “The Nation” that features an article entitled “That Seventies Show” by Rick Perlstein, the author of “Nixonland.” The title is from the popular sitcom that debuted in 1998 and ran for eight years, launching Ashton Kutcher’s career (he played a dingbat). In his upcoming book Perlstein plans to call 1973 the Year Without Christmas Lights because the energy crisis prompted many communities to forego their holiday decorations. Perlstein praises Jefferson Cowie’s “Stayin’ Alive: The 1970s and The Last Days of the Working Class.” It was an Age of Compression, a Decade of Limits, Judith Stein concluded in “Pivotal Decade,” when capitalists eschewed productive investment in favor of financial speculation with common people the losers. Meanwhile, many Democrats de-emphasized economic liberalism in favor of social issues and identity politics. In the wake of Watergate few pundits at the time predicted America’s shift to the right within a scant six years. As Perlstein notes, in 1980 “blue-collar workers didn’t vote themselves a raise; they voted themselves Ronald Wilson Reagan.” In the Nation’s Letters sections readers took offense that Howard Zinn, Noan Chomsky, Dorothy Day, and Fanny Lou Hamer were left off the list of 50 most influential progressives of the twentieth century.

A big “Saturday Night Fever” fan, I was happy to see John Travolta and Tony on the Nation cover along with Gloria Steinem, Archie Bunker and various political figures. The movie soundtrack made disco mainstream, and “Stayin’ Alive” is upbeat despite some of its lyrics. As the Bee Gees sing in their trademark falsetto, “I get low and I get high, and if I can’t get either, I really try. Got the wings of heaven on my shoes, I’m a dancin’ man and I just can’t lose.” Merle Haggard’s mournful dirge “If We Make It Through December” captured the sense of things falling apart and became the unlikeliest hit with lines like, “Got laid off down at the factory, and their timing’s not the greatest in the world, and my little girl don’t understand why daddy can’t afford no Christmas here.”

The Post-Trib Quickly column contained several criticisms of Rich James Thanksgiving column where he lists among his reasons to be thankful that he didn’t grow up to be a Republican and that Sarah Palin is throwing the GOP into a free-fall. On the lighter side he was thankful for red meat and gin and tonic, dill pickles and radishes, crickets and fireflies. One killjoy chastised him for not thanking the troops overseas protecting his freedoms.

Toni and I drove to Kmart in separate cars and brought home four dining room chairs that were on sale. They only had the floor models left, so we took them. I gassed up Toni’s Camry on the short ride home. She helped me order Rolling Stone (RS) subscriptions for Joe in Seattle and Bob in San Diego. Toni spent the rest of the morning removing dog hair from the rug, couch, etc. At lunch looked over a Time retrospective issue entitled “What Really Happened, 2000-2010.” It mentioned the Y2K scare on the eve of the new millennium and criticized the Supreme Court’s partisan, nonsensical 5-4 decision giving the 2000 election to Bush. A section entitled “Instant Icons” featured Elian Gonzalez (now 16 and living in Cuba), Paul Bremer (Bush’s clueless czar in Iraq), Jessica Lynch (wounded in Iraq whom the army tried to portray as heroic), antiwar demonstrator Cindy Sheehan, and Katrina scapegoat Michael Brown (“Brownie’s doin’ a heckuva job,” Bush claimed, all evidence to the contrary). In a column entitled “A Careless man” Joe Klein had reviewed Bush’s memoirs, concluding that “We struggled to recover from the thoughtless carnage of his tenure.” One letter to the editor thought it unfair that an accompanying photo showed Bush with a book in front of him upside down.

Diana Chen Lin gave me an inscribed copy of her book on Peking University that I’ll pass on to Jeff Hagelberg and his friend Mei Mei. In return I plan to give her “Maria’s Journey” and inscribe it, “To my good friend, whose journey was as remarkable as Maria’s.” She came from Beijing to study at the University of Chicago around the time of the 1989 Tianamin Square protests.

At lunch talked about baseball free agents with Alan Lindmark. He thinks Derek Jeter’s long Yankee career is at an end because he wants much more than the $45-million over three years that New York id offering. I mentioned that the Phillies were experienced similar problems with their star rightfielder whose name eluded me. I half-hour later I emailed him that I was talking about Jayson Werth. His response: “Do you remember or cheat and look it up.” “Cheated,” I admitted.

IUN’s Diversity Planning unit brought Dyer resident and Holocaust survivor Miriam Webster to campus. Born in Poland, she lived with her family in the Warsaw ghetto in a single room. Her parents gave $5,000 to a Christian family to take Webster, and they eventually died at the Treblinka Nazi prison camp. Holocaust survivors are a dying breed. A couple years ago, son Phil went with two survivors to Nazi death camps in Poland and Lithuania and won EMMYs for documentaries he made about their return to the horrific scene of their childhood. In one “Curb Your Enthusiasm” episode Larry’s rabbi asks if he can bring a survivor to a dinner celebrating Larry and Cheryl’s tenth anniversary. Larry’s dad, played by the great Shelly Berman, brings his friend Solly, a Holocaust survivor, only the rabbi’s friend was a young guy who had been part of the cast of the reality show “Survivor.” The two get in a big argument over whose ordeal was worse.

Emailed Sand Creek Court One condo residents that Tom Coulter is taking over as court director since I have become board secretary and that a container of salt for our court is next to his garage door and adjacent to mine.

LeeLee sent along two paragraphs to add to the saga of the missing tiara. I told her good job and added that the project is growing like Topsy, an expression I picked up from Cedar Lake historian Beatrice Horner that comes from the Harriet Beecher Stowe character in “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” I added a couple paragraphs of my own, inserting LeeLee and I both into the story: “In high school LeeLee was popular with all factions. She had a full laugh that was contagious and was known for asking teachers questions when she didn’t understand something, a frequent occurrence in science classes. Her dad was the treasurer for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and she liked to say that there were only two other Democrats in the entire town. Her senior year when sit-ins were taking place in Greensboro, North Carolina, she told the Captain that she sympathized with the black students being arrested for sitting at the department store lunch counter attempting to order a cup of coffee, as was their constitutional right. Because of her, the Captain began paying close attention to news reports about Civil Rights protests. In the spring when John F. Kennedy began campaigning for the Democratic nomination for President, she proudly wore a JFK button and talked the Captain into doing the same.

“LeeLee picked up the Captain in North Hills, and off they went, finding plenty to talk about, both current events and stories about the “old days.” They drove through New York without incident, but after they crossed into Vermont the weather changed drastically. Snow began falling, the roads became slippery, and deer seemed to dart out from the woods at every turn. Finally they reached Sissy’s place. A sign at the driveway entrance said “Awaken Cottage,” reminiscent of the “Schady Acres” sign at her childhood estate. This little home was not as grand, but a beautiful yellow cottage sat on acres of snow-covered land. The scene reminded LeeLee of Santa’s North Pole home with smoke billowing from the chimney and red berry holly bushes lining the entrance. Lights were on inside, and the Captain had a warm feeling of anticipation as he rang the bell.

“Sissy was prepared for their arrival. The fireplace was glowing and warming the room nicely; the coffee table was filled with spicy cookies, cheese and crackers and hot mulled cider filled their mugs. There was the aroma of turkey soup cooking in the kitchen. The three of them sat in front of the fire and talked about the old times and their pleasure at re-meeting so many good friends at the 50th reunion party. Sissy was so touched by so many people sharing their stories about Molly that there was a sense that she was among them, drinking her usual Sprite. Sissy went on to say she had no idea who or why someone would send her the tiara. With that the Captain started to get down to business. He tried taking fingerprints of the package and letter, but it seemed everything had been wiped clean. He examined the note, trying to figure out whose writing it might be. The letters were slanted to the left, leading him to conclude that it had to be written by a lefty.

Jimmy was only person LeeLee knew for sure was lefthanded. He was fond of telling how when he was three years old, his right arm had gotten caught in an electric clothes wringer, forcing him at that formidable age to eat and draw with his left hand, a habit that stayed with him when he started writing. Jimmy had sent LeeLee a long account of reunion weekend that she pulled up on her computer for the others to read. It was very complimentary toward Molly, mentioned Wendy in a positive light, and contained no hints of resentment toward her. The Captain then took a good look at the tiara. Lo and behold, it looked different from the one in the yearbook that Wendy wore at her coronation. Perhaps someone went out, prompted by the sight of Wendy’s tiara, and bought it after meeting Sissy at the reunion. Crowns are easy enough to find at Party Supply stores. If so, in that case they’d be no closer to finding the missing tiara.

“Sissy had a theory that the box came from Louise. At the reunion dinner Louise had told Sissy how nice she and Molly had been when other kids teased her on the playground of Fort Washington School. They’d pretend to flee when she’d come near them. One day, finding her alone and in tears, Sissy and Molly told her not to let the bullying get to her. At age 68 Louise walked with a cane and had debated whether or not to attend the reunion after learning that her two closest friends, Kathy and Lynn, couldn’t make it. She told Sissy,” Seeing you again, I’m glad I came.” Sissy told LeeLee and the Captain, “Louise was too sweet a person to steal anything, but maybe she bought this other tiara. I did say something to her about a shrine for Molly.”

Monday, November 29, 2010

Thanksgiving Weekend

“Yeah I'm sorry, I can't afford a Ferrari,
But that don't mean I can't get you there.
I guess he's an Xbox and I'm more Atari,
But the way you play your game ain't fair.”
Cee Lo Green

Took cherry cobbler and beer to Tom and Darcy Wade’s after watching New England defeat the Lions with Phil. It’s the first Thanksgiving in memory that we did not spend with the Bayers (Kirsten in St. Louis recently had a kid and Brenden had to work), and Phil and Dave’s families ate with Delia and Angie’s families. On hand was Darcy’s affable brother John, whom I had played crochet against at a summer picnic, and his two attractive daughters Annie and Jackie, both in their early twenties. The food was delicious, especially the gravy and small onions in a white sauce. Normally I have white meat, but I took a piece of dark meat off the turkey after John carved it up and it was so tender I went with more of it. As Brady quipped, once you have dark meat, you rarely go back to white. Brady tried to get a game of Wits and Wagers going, but everyone enjoyed conversing so much, he didn’t get any takers. Darcy asked me if I’d seen the Cee Lo Green song “F - - - You” on YouTube and then showed it to me in her room. Cee Lo, one of the two members, along with Danger Mouse, of Gnarls Barkley, also put our a tame version of the song called “Forget You.” One line in the song, “I pity the fool,” was Mr. T’s trademark saying in “The A-Team.”

On Black Friday (the nickname derives from it being the year’s biggest shopping day) Jef Halberstadt hosted gaming. I took cole slaw and potato salad, which went well with Robin’s turkey casserole. I had a very good day starting with a five-player win in Amun Re despite bidding too much for a property that I erroneously thought would get me bonus points. I barely lost Roll Through the Ages to Tom but won Stone Age for the first time ever by concentrating on huts and men. Learned a new Rio Grande game, Dominion, voted 2009 German game of the year, where players take actions to expand their kingdoms. The play involves buying three types of cards (Action, Treasure, and Victory). The only cards that you score at the end are the Victory cards, but if you acquire them too soon, it works against you. On one’s turn there are three phases, Action, Buy, and Cleanup. The second time I played it I won, barely edging out Dave. Back home a SOB (short for sonuvabitch) games was in progress, and at various times I filled in for Phil and Miranda (the eventual winner).

All the grandkids spent the night, so I made pancakes and kielbasa for the crew. James and Rebecca’s choral group performed Christmas songs at the mall, and we all went to hear them. Each had a duet, and neither showed any stage fright. They were very professional. Later in the day we went to Tina Horn’s surprise fortieth birthday party. The Map Quest directions were screwed up, so we spent a few miles on a dark road, passing over an un-gated railroad track and coming upon a one-lane curve (a sign advised honking first) before finally finding the Hacienda restaurant. We’ve been close to Kevin Horn’s family since he and Dave were in high school together, so it was great to see everyone. There were ten Lanes (Dave was announcing a basketball game and Delia was off with her family) among the 40 guests. Phil and I split a steak fajita meal. When the hot sauce came, it reminded us of the “Curb You Enthusiasm” scene we watched together where Larry is having dinner with a sex therapist who mentions how hot sauce makes the climax of oral sex much more enjoyable, so he douses his meal and then has such severe reaction (coughing, sweating, and chugging down glasses of water) that she leaves in disgust. Back home Alissa won both card games, SOB and Oh Hell. She told an anecdote about hearing ZZTop’s “Cheap Sunglasses” in Prague, thinking of the concert we attended together, and turning her friend on to “the greatest old band in Texas.”

With the grandkids and Phil still at the condo I boiled eggs and cooked bacon to go with Toni’s pierogis and cleaned up afterwards. Ten year-old Victoria left early with Delia because of gymnastics practice. Miranda made the varsity basketball team and Anthony, who has a girlfriend who evidently talks to him on the phone for hours on end, is a starter on his eighth grade team. After everyone took off I raked leaves and watched the Bears defeat the Eagles in their best game all year. Eagles wide receivers Jackson and Maclin were on my Fantasy team, while quarterback Michael Vick and running back Sean McCoy were on my opponents’. Unfortunately my guys didn’t do much and I lost to Phil, falling into a tie for sixth place. I’m in danger of not making the playoffs.

“Rolling Stone” gave the Harry Potter movie a mediocre review, claiming that like a padded bra, it “is all tease, zero payoff.” The one thing the reviewer (like me) liked was the animated interlude that explained the legend of the three Deathly Hallows. The magazine’s main feature was listing the favorite songs of 50 artists, including Pete Seeger (folk songs such as Leadbelly’s “Midnight Special”), Debbie Harry (CRGB-ere punk such as the Ramones’ “I Wanna be Sedated”), Patti Smith (Bob Dylan love songssuchas “Isis”), Rod Stewart (Sam Cooke songs like “Cupid”), and Elton JohnNew pop classics like The Killers’ “When You Were Young”). My favorite was Bruno Mars, whose album is called “Doo-Wops and Hooligans” and features the hits “Just the Way You Are” and “Grenade.” The Hawaiian-born Mars, part Puerto Rican and part Filipino, listed such Fifties classics as “Speedo” by the Cadillacs, “Sh-Boom” by the Chords, “Years on My Pillow” by Little Anthony and the Imperials, and “I Only Have Eyes for You” by The Flamingoes. There is a close-up feature on Wavy Gravy called “The Last Hippie” and Ozzie Osbourne’s advice column, where someone complained that his mother-in-law was always talking about her husband’s failures in bed. Ozzie wrote: “No one in his right mind wants to think about their father-in-law’s pork sword, or how good he is at swinging it between the sheets.”

Jeff Manes did a SALT column on 94 year-old lefty Lydia Grady, who was fighting for civil rights in Gary during the 1940s and provided a place for Obama volunteers to stay in the spring of 2008. Jeff started with a Paul Robeson quote, and Lydia mentioned that when Robeson sang at the Reverend L.K. Jackson’s church after the school board forbade him to make an appearance at Gary Roosevelt School he was at her home and serenaded her two year-old daughter with a rendition of “My Curly-headed Baby.” I interviewed Lydia for my Postwar issue “Age of Anxiety.” Manes asked Lydia about the 1945 Froebel School Strike, and she answered, “I got thrown in jail over that one; I’d been in Gary like one day. I had just gotten out of the service. I told the [white] kids who were striking, ‘This is not why we had a war.’” Manes ended with Jim Hightower’s criticism of moderates: “The only thing in the middle of the road is a yellow streak and dead armadillos.”

I decided on a new ploy for the enduring saga of the missing tiara. Here’s the latest paragraph: “By this time, word of the theft had spread to most of Wendy’s old classmates. She had sent LeeLee, Jimmy, Connie, and Janet Facebook messages that friends of theirs soon learned about. The mystery quickly became a topic of much speculation. Awaiting Wendy’s arrival home was a telephone message from LeeLee containing amazing news. An anonymous person had mailed a package to Molly’s sister. Inside was a tiara and a note in capital letters saying, “For the shrine to Molly, the true queen of our school.” Sissy did not have Wendy’s phone number or address and had asked LeeLee to find out if she should mail it to her. Instead, after talking briefly with LeeLee, Wendy decided to ask Captain Cardinal to look into the matter. She thanked Sissy profusely for getting in touch with her, and asked her not to throw away the package or the note that accompanied the tiara. Learning of this latest development and that Wendy was willing to pay for him to visit Sissy in New England, the Captain recalled how much he had liked Molly in high school. During a party at her house Molly’s mother had told him she was one-eighth Cherokee. “So am I,” the Captain had said. “Maybe you and Molly are related,” her mother replied. Indeed the two seemed to share a bond that transcended casual friendship. At the reunion Sissy had told the Captain how much Molly had liked him. He was struck by the strong family resemblance between Sissy and her mother. Visiting her would be a pleasure. He placed a call to LeeLee to get her phone number and see if she could go with him and make the arrangements.”

Talked to Michael and Janet Bayer about their Thanksgiving without the Lanes. The one thing Michael insists on is turnips, while Janet needs cranberry jell from a can as opposed to fancier stuff. She bragged about a dish she made with persimmons. Gaard and Chuck spent Thanksgiving with eight or nine friends. They never had kids but are very close to a god-daughter. A great cook, Gaard reported that she had good luck with a spice cake recipe that she tried out only the blackberries threw the consistency off slightly. Tanice Foltz invited us (via an email Evite) to her annual cookie exchange party. Maybe I’ll look into persimmons cookies.

Ron Cohen came across an “adults only” 1995 comic book for sale on eBay called Jimbo about hillbilly punkers exploring unknown lands. The ad invites readers to “Turn on, tuni in, drop out, and pick up this groovy underground comic from the days of free love, drugs, and rock and roll! This is issue #1 of Jimbo, the comic from artist Gary Panter.” Wonder if there was an issue #2. Panter’s work has appeared in Rolling Stone magazine, and he has reprised the punker in the graphic novels “Jimbo’s Inferno” and “Jimbo in Purgatory.” Ron also sent me a New York Times article about a photo taken of Abraham Lincoln exactly 150 years ago, the first showing him with a beard. Previous presidents were clean-shaven, but only one man, William McKinley, would serve as president in the next 50 years without facial hair.

In the news: the U.S. and South Korea are conducting war games off the coast of North Korea despite heightened tensions in the area. Dead from pneumonia at age 82 is actor Leslie Nielson, most famous for his roles in the comedies “Airplane” and “Naked Gun.” His most famous line, in reply to someone saying, “Surely you can’t be serious” was, “I am serious, and don’t call me Shirley.” Also dead of prostate cancer, former Gary Police Chief Thomas Houston, shackled to a hospital bed while serving a 41-month sentence for violating the civil rights of burglary suspect Victor Adams. In 2008, shortly after Mayor Rudy Clay appointed the 40-year veteran Chief, he came home from a funeral to find his home burglarized. With two others he burst into the house of Adams and kicked him after handcuffing him.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Go Johnny Go

“Deep down in Louisiana close to New Orleans, 

Way back up in the woods among the evergreens.

There stood a log cabin made of earth and wood,

Where lived a country boy name of Johnny B. Goode.

He never ever learned to read or write so well,

But he could play the guitar like ringing a bell.”
“Johnny B. Goode,” Chuck Berry

There’s a site of famous people who went by the name Johnny. If fictional characters counted, Johnny B. Goode should be on the list along with Johnny Appleseed. I’d also nominate comedian Carson, singer Cash, quarterback Unitas, and actor Depp. There’s a Famous Johnny’s Comedy Club in Kansas City and Famous Johnny’s Pizza Parlour in San Bruno, California. Ain’t the Internet great?

Toni and I saw “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” with Jeff Hagelberg and girlfriend Mai Mai followed by dinner at Appleby’s. We’ve known Jeff, the son of old friends Dick and Cheryl, since he was a kid. An accomplished pianist, he gave us a CD one Christmas of original compositions. Before his high school prom, Toni gave him dance lessons. She put on a Time/Life compilation of 1958 hits, including fast songs like “Johnny B. Goode” (“some day your name will be up in lights” - I still know the words by heart) and slow ballads like “Just a Dream” by Jimmy Clanton. They visited Purdue in West Lafayette in the morning and encountered traffic on the way back but joined us inside the theater just as the feature was starting. I have seen the previous installments but haven’t read J.K. Rowling’s books. I knew the main characters, including arch villain Lord Voldemort, but the plot nuances escaped me. The best I could make out, four Horcruxes (the first being as locket) need to be destroyed. The three “hallows” or sacred objects include a resurrection stone, a wand, and an invisibility cloak. The latter allows the wearer to escape Death. Cute little elf Dobby gets killed by Bellatrix Lestrange, played delightfully by Helena Bonham Carter, leaving some in the audience (but not me) teary-eyed during the maudlin burial scene. The English accents seemed more pronounced than in former episode, so much of the dialogue went over my head. Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and Hermione (Emma Watson) have a simulated nude scene together but they seem to be wearing silver paint and no private parts are revealed.

Mai Mai is from Beijing and a grad student at Boston University who met Jeff on line. She seemed interested at Appleby’s in hearing about my history activities and 1994 visit to China. I told her about Alissa’s senior class trip and mentioned Diana Chen Lin’s book about Peking University, subtitled “Chinese Scholarship and Intellectuals, 1918-1937,” which might be a nice Christmas present for her and Jeff. Diana said she has given most of her copies away but will look for one.

At a condo board meeting we approved the budget for the upcoming year. As secretary, I had to pay attention to details about the cost of grass cutting, mulching, painting, plowing, insurance, and the like. One owner filed for bankruptcy, so no monthly dues ($175) is coming in from her. Another owner is three months behind and often pays partial amounts rather than the entire $175. I frequently got us back on subject or calling for a vote.

On the “Dancing with the Stars” finale (they can really drag things out, but, hey, it’s the top rated show on TV) Christina Aguilera sang, “Show me How You Burlesque” from her new movie with Cher. Would anyone recognize her without the tons of make-up she wears? Bristol was first eliminated and then Jennifer got the well-deserved victory over Kyle Massey. Turned to the Bulls-Lakers game and was impressed with Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah but was in bed by the time the contest ended (a 98-91 Laker win).

Darcy invited us for Thanksgiving dinner. I promised to bring cheery cobbler, an easy to make dessert using cherry pie filling, canned crushed pineapples, white cake mix and butter.

Purdue Cal student Zachary Davis wanted information about the history of the Region for his own edification and a possible film documentary. I told him about the Archives and offered to mail him “Gary’s First Hundred Years.” Who can turn down a freebie unless they suspect strings attached? Heard from Suzanna, who has been having heart trouble. She has been working hard on Christmas presents and wrote: “This year I made gifts for my daughters and grand daughters and that took quite a lot of time. I did a cross stitch for Melissa, a quilted table runner for Rebecca, crocheted scarves for Jenna and Sarah and a bonnet and scarf for Shelby, a crocheted purse for Darien and a painting for Christina and a crib blanket for Shyanne.” She apologized for not having anything exciting to report, but I cherish just being in touch with such a sweet person.

Post-Trib columnist Jeff Manes wrote a nice tribute to Lowell historian Dick Schmal, who died recently. For years Schmal (the name is the same as Chuck Gallmeier’s wife Barb) wrote a Pioneer History column, inspired by his predecessor Timothy H. Ball, who wrote the first history of Lake County. Schmal was particularly interested in places largely forgotten with the passage of time such as the ghost town of Conrad near Lake Village or Baum’s Bridge near Kouts, once used by members of hunting lodges. Cedar Lake had a local historian, Beatrice Horner, whose work was similar to Schmal’s and whose research was invaluable when I began researching the history of that remarkable community.

Mary Delp Harwood thinks Wendy had a different crown on from the one she wore in 1960. If so, maybe it is valuable, with real diamonds worth stealing. LeeLee suggested that I incorporate the coincidence that her nephew was crowned Homecoming King the night of our reunion. So here’s the lasted installment of the Mystery of the Missing Tiara”: “Before meeting with Wendy, the Captain leafed through his old yearbook looking for possible clues. Coming to the page dealing with the Homecoming Queen’s “coronation,” he studied the crown atop Wendy’s head, as she danced with boyfriend Vince. It looked different from the tiara Wendy had at the reunion. Was it possible that Wendy had purchased a new, expensive crown and that it was worth more than its mere sentimental value? The captain also arranged to have lunch with Myrna and Mary to see if he could eliminate the African Americans as suspects. Both dismissed the theory that they harbored any resentment as absurd and told him that Wendy had been very friendly at the reunion. After examining Myrna’s nametag, she exclaimed, “Myrna!,” and asked how she was doing. She recognized Mary, the lone black student in her College Prep classes, and recalled how Jimmy used to get in trouble in Latin class turning around to joke with her. The Captain also contacted Nancy, after learning from Myrna that she was compiling a CD of reunion photos, including a cell phone video showing the tiara passed to LeeLee, Christine, and Flossie, three of the most popular girls in school, as well as a fourth person the Captain didn’t recognize. It was Louise, whom classmates used to tease unmercifully after she mentioned winning a baby beauty contest. Nancy recalled seeing Louise at breakfast sitting alone near Wendy’s luggage. Could this be a clue to solving the mystery, the Captain wondered, or another dead end? Getting out his old yearbook looking for further clues, the Captain noticed that LeeLee’s maiden name was the same as the last name of a present student at Upper Dublin who had been crowned Homecoming King on the same night as the reunion dinner dance. The following night there had been a dance at the high school honoring the new queen and king. Is it possible, the Captain wondered, if the missing tiara had been given to one of the honorees as a joke?

“Wendy agreed to meet the Captain at a tavern in North Hills, the community where most of their black classmates came from and some still lived. The jukebox contained mostly recent rap hits and soul tunes but included a few old standards such as Big Mama Thornton’s original rendition of “Hound Dog.” On hand were sisters Mildred and Theresa as well as Myrna and Gloria. Behind the bar was a faded clipping from the Captain’s gridiron days at Upper Dublin, showing him in the backfield with one of the legendary Cottom brothers who later married Mildred. Wendy arrived wearing a colorful outfit that resembled an African dashiki and gave everyone at the Captain’s table big hugs. They all expressed sorrow at her loss and said they’d do anything they could to help solve the case. Pat Z made a surprise appearance and assured everyone that his practical jokester days were over. He had recently talked with Judy G, who had been on Wendy’s Homecoming Court and wanted her to know how much she admired her grit. Wendy was so overwhelmed by the warm vibes that when Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode” started playing, she got up and started dancing a jig, which soon morphed into a twist when others joined in. Pat even did an imitation of Chuck Berry’s duck walk that had everyone in stitches. The evening was complete when Wendy found “Tears of a Clown,” her favorite Motown song, on the jukebox. She was wailing away by the time Smokey Robinson got to the lines, “Just like Pagliacci did, I try to keep my surface hid.” Afterwards she stifled an impulse to brag how she saw the Leoncavallo opera about clowns, “I Pagliacci” in 1992 in Milan, Italy, on the hundredth anniversary of its original opening.”

Finished a draft of my review of Kate Buford’s biography of Jim Thorpe for Salem Press. I start out with this quote from King Gustav V at the Stockholm Olympics, 1912: “You, sir, are the greatest athlete in the world. I would consider it an honor to shake your hand.” Then I write: “Winning the pentathlon and decathlon in Sweden was the highlight of Jim Thorpe’s athletic career, and he never fully recovered from having the medals capriciously stripped from him in 1913 despite an Olympic rule stating that disqualification must occur within 30 days. His alleged transgression: having received a few dollars playing for a semi-pro baseball team, commonplace among collegiate contemporaries. Native American Son examines in depth the triumphs and tragedy befalling an enigmatic, mixed-blood Indian icon whose hero was Sac and Fox chief Black Hawk. Uncomfortable with the celebrity status thrust upon him, Thorpe was “a gentle person,” according to Buford, “intelligent and funny, with many flaws.” In this balanced, meticulous treatment by the author of Burt Lancaster: An American Life, fascinating details unfold concerning Thorpe’s three marriages and his relationship with Carlisle Indian Industrial School coach Glenn Scobey “Pop” Warner and New York Giant manager John “Little Napoleon” McGraw. Both nurtured his talents but exploited him for selfish purposes. Thorpe shined during a five-year career with the Canton Bulldogs, an original National Football League team, and was a charter inductee into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. An alcoholic in later life, Thorpe died a pauper shortly after being named the world’s greatest all-around athlete of the first half of the twentieth-century. International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Avery Brundage stubbornly rebuffed efforts to reverse the 1913 decision, saying, “Ignorance is no excuse.” Thorpe deserved better from a nation that did not recognize Native Americans as citizens until 1924 and from the Olympic movement he had helped nurture. In 1982, 29 years after his death and ten years after Brundage’s retirement, the IOC reinstated Thorpe’s awards.”

Bowled a 497, and the Engineers won five points out of seven. Our captain, Bill Batalis, filled in admirably for Robbie, and Melvin broke out of a slump and finished with a 200 game, well over his average. John Gilbert, an old softball teammate came over to wish me a Happy Thanksgiving and said he just missed an 800 series with two games in the 270s. I call him Johnny, and he calls me Paw since I’m the only person other than his father who ever called him Johnny.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Somewhat True Story

“You can tell my feet to hit the floor

Or you can tell my lips to tell my fingertips

They won't be reaching out for you no more

But don't tell my heart, my achy breaky heart.”
Billy Ray Cyrus

Toni and I took grandkids James and Rebecca out to dinner up the street at the Sunrise Restaurant (the fried clams were delicious) and then to Valparaiso High School for a performance of “The Somewhat True Story of Robin Hood.” The tagline: what would happen if Monty Python and Mel Brooks collaborated to tell the story of the hero of Sherwood Forest? The director knew Rebecca, having played Miss Flanagan in “Annie.” The kids had seen the play the night before, so they were prepped to laugh at all the funny lines. At their insistence we sat in the front row. A high school girl next to me did not seem self-conscious at being near an old geezer. I was impressed with the young people both in the audience and on the stage. I especially liked the actor who played evil Prince John, a tall, thin olive-skinned guy in a wig who resembled a young Ozzie Osborne. There were frequent modern references, including a Dungeon of Demise scene where Robin is tortured by being forced to listen to Miley Cyrus songs all night. There’s even a reference to her old man’s syrupy hit “Achy Breaky Heart.” James loves Miley’s Hannah Montana TV show and enjoyed the music, seemingly unaware or unconcerned that the references were a put-down. A couple years ago, “Vanity Fair” published controversial photos by Annie Leibowitz of Miley, including one of her with bare midriff lying on daddy’s stomach. Since then the 18 year-old (as of tomorrow, the thirty-seventh anniversary of JFK’s death) has been in a coming-of-age movie, “The Last Song,” and scored a hit with “Party in the U.S.A.” whose lyrics include, “Noddin’ my head like yeah/ Moving my hips like yeah.”

With Dave free Friday evening, we got two gaming sessions in over the weekend. I won a single game, a come-from-behind victory in Acquire thanks to securing (in a brilliant maneuver when Tom was talking concession to Dave) the most shares of Continental, the largest company. Tom Wade introduced a dice game called Roll Through the Ages that involves acquiring cities and monuments and avoiding disasters. It plays in about a half hour and will threaten to replace Stone Age (which Dave is tiring of) in our heavy rotation.

I got Toni to watch the “Car Pool Lane” episode of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” where Larry picks up a hooker in order to make a Dodgers game. He tries to sit next to Marty Funkhouser, played by Bob Einstein, who years ago as Super Dave Osborne frequently appeared on David Letterman. Supposedly a stuntman on the order of Evel Knievel, the stunts would inevitably misfire, leaving him grievously injured but still with a lightly pained but deadpan expression (still a trademark of his as Funkhouser). Earlier, Larry purchased marijuana for his father who has glaucoma from Jorge Garcia, the overweight survivor on “Lost.” When Marty’s car won’t start after the game, Larry gives him a ride to the airport and asks him to hold his jacket (containing the reefer) while he goes to the bathroom. He comes out to discover Marty being busted.

Janet Edwards talked to the Ogden Dunes Historical Society about Alice Mabel Gray, dubbed Diana of the Dunes by the press. Earlier in the week Edwards, who lives in St. Louis, addressed the Duneland Historical Society in Chesterton. In July Chesterton hosted a Diana of the Dunes Festival. A recluse from Chicago, Alice lived in a shack near Lake Michigan and myths grew up about a beautiful young maiden skinny-dipping at dusk on summer evenings. I wrote about her in my Gary book, and for my Tales of Lake Michigan issue artist Dale Fleming did a sketch to go along with a story about sightings of a ghostly woman running along the beach naked before disappearing into the lake. Well-educated, Alice quit her job in Chicago with the Astro-Physical Journal because she was frustrated at the lack of opportunities for advancement by educated women. Her favorite saying was Lord George Gordon Byron’s “In solitude we are least alone.”

Tina Horn needed help for a paper on women in World War II. I suggested she focus on “Region Rosies” and gave her “Gary’s First Hundred Years” and lent her my World War II Shavings issue (volume 21), officially out of print. Tina’s Purdue North Central instructor, Alex Kendall, was a visiting professor at IUN a few years ago and evidently spoke highly of me. Coincidentally a former student of mine in Steve McShane’s History of Indiana class is doing a paper on Willa Brown, a trained pilot from Chicago who recruited Gary residents to become Tuskegee Airmen during WW II. A statue honoring those pilots at the Marquette Park Aquatorium is next to one of Octave Chanute, whose glider experiments nearby paved the way for the Wright brothers’ flights.

LeeLee sent a newsy email about old classmates. Dave Seibold wrote her frequently while at Bordentown Military Academy (mainly lamenting the lack of contact with females), and she gave the letters to him at the reunion. Nancy “Sissy” Schade loved seeing old flame Jay Bumm. LeeLee concluded: “Thinking what might have been so many years ago, I doubt she was the only one reliving those carefree days.” LeeLee suggested that I send the tiara mystery to several other classmates, but I want to go slow to make sure Wendy doesn’t think we are mocking her, which we certainly are not. Here’s my latest paragraph: “Captain Cardinal could think of several possible scenarios to explain the missing tiara, all of which seemed highly unlikely. First, in her excitement at mingling with old classmates, Wendy might have misplaced it. Second, a stranger stole it, thinking it was valuable. Third, a classmate might have pilfered it, but in that event, who? There had been no African Americans on the Homecoming Court, which had caused disgruntlement at the time. Might Mary or Myrna have succumbed to an old wound stemming from that slight? Many Italian-Americans had thought Judy G. deserved the crown. Judy did not attend the reunion, but two of her best friends, Marianne and Betty, did. So did the younger sister of Molly, beautiful, immensely popular, and 50 years ago the odds on favorite, who had passed away six years ago. Might Sissy have acted on an uncontrollable impulse? Suzi, the only other finalist at the reunion, did not attend the morning breakfast and in any event seemed not the envious type. Male suspects? Jimmy and Ray had been best friends with Vince, whom Wendy dated in high school. Did either have some old bone to pick, perhaps feeling that she had come between Vince and them? Buck and Pat had been outrageous practical jokers in high school. Could they have pulled one final prank for old times sake? Might John J., the last person in the vicinity of Wendy before she left the Hilton Gardens, have harbored a grudge over the fact that nobody from his Fort Washington neighborhood had been nominated for Homecoming Queen? The Captain made a mental note to bring up these names at his upcoming meeting with Wendy and see if she had any other leads. Maybe her husband had taken it from her bag, intending to add precious gems and surprise her with it at a later time. No, he would have fessed up to that by now. One thing bothered him: why Wendy was going through the time, trouble, and money (he did not come free) to solve this mystery.”

Traded emails with Paul Kern due to the death of Bill Neil, who hired both of us. He recently read Bill’s memoir about his WWII service and exchanged letters with him about it. Paul bragged about recently making a hole in one during a golf tournament. I replied: “I recall how excited my dad was when he got one. A few years ago my brother discovered the scorecard in a desk of my father’s that he inherited.”

Bob and Karen Reller sent a newsletter about their eight-week “pilgrimage” to Israel along with a Thanksgiving card that wished their friends not only a happy Thanksgiving but also a “joyous holiday season” (a neat idea that gets rid of the need for Christmas cards). On the cover are photos of their grandchildren, Quinn (a girl) and brew (a boy). They arranged their Mideast trip so they would be in the Holy Land during the seven-day feast of Sukkot, during which time people take their meals in structures covered with tree branches in commemoration of the 40 years Israelites wandered in the dessert after their exodus from Egypt. They spent two weeks in Jerusalem with friends and another two at Beth El kibbutz, founded almost a half-century ago by German and Canadian Christians, as part of a “Hands to the Land” leadership program. I called them up and filled Rel in on reunion highlights.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Jim Thorpe

“The great Jim Thorpe was Indian pride
The athlete of the century cast aside
They took his medals right out of his hand
And buried nuclear waste on Indian land”
“Jim Thorpe’s Blues,” Terri Hendrix

Salem Press sent me a review copy of Kate Buford’s “Native American Son: The Life and Sporting Legend of Jim Thorpe.” It looks like a definitive biography. Buford describes Thorpe as “a gentle person, intelligent and funny, with many flaws” – among them, a serious drinking problem. Both a victim of prejudice and at times his own worst enemy, Thorpe was named the greatest all-around athlete of the first half of the twentieth century, easily outpolling Babe Ruth. He deserved the honor. Winner of two gold medals at the 1912 Stockholm Olympics for the pentathlon and decathlon, he was stripped of those titles by self-righteous American officials (even though the statute of limitations had run out and international Olympic officials weren’t demanding such action) because he had received money for playing on a semi-professional baseball team, something that Ivy League college players did all the time. The whole concept of amateur status was a vestige of upper class snobbery; in fact, in ancient Greece Olympic athletes competed for valuable prizes. Thorpe later played major league baseball and football. In 1983, thirty years after his death and following the retirement of President Avery Brundage (an insensitive racist who once said, “Ignorance is no excuse”), the International Olympic Committee reinstated his titles. Buford’s book dispels several myths resulting from racist stereotypes, such as that Thorpe was such a natural athlete he didn’t even train or that he refused a private meeting with the Swedish monarch and said, “Thanks, king,” at the awards ceremony. In addition to the Terry Hendrix song, Bill Reiter and Fat Back Caine also recently produced “Injun’ Jim Blues,” a tribute of sorts but told from the perspective of someone begging for money to buy wine. One line goes, “Man, I used to be the kind of guy that you hoped your son would become.”

Author Kate Buford formerly produced a book about actor Burt Lancaster, most famous for the kissing scene on the beach with Deborah Kerr in “From here to Eternity.” A flaming liberal rumored during the Red Scare to be a commie, he opposed the Vietnam War and supported antiwar candidate Eugene McCarthy in 1968. He won an Academy Award for portraying the evangelist preacher Elmer Gantry and also played a prisoner in “Birdman from Alcatraz.”

It was at the 1912 Olympics that Hawaiian swimmer Duke Kahanamoku won a Gold medal in the 100-meter sprint. Eight years later he repeated the feat at age 30. Four years later he finished second to Johnny Weismuller, who went on to play “Tarzan” in the movies. I saw Kahanamoku, also a surfing legend, shortly before he died in the mid-Sixties while living in Hawaii. A restaurant near Waikiki that bore his name was where Don Ho and the Aliis played at that time. Kahanamoku served as sheriff of Honolulu for 30 years and was treated with much more honor in his later years than Thorpe. Buford writes that in 1941 a New York City establishment, Hubert’s Museum, whose main attraction was a flea circus, paid washed up athletes Jack Johnson, Grover Cleveland Alexander, and Thorpe to greet customers and be available for autographs.

In response to my last blog posting Michelle Stokely thanked me for changing my reference to Comanche Chief Quanah Parker from “half-breed” to “mixed blood.” Jim Thorpe was also of mixed blood, approximately three-eighths Sauk and two-eighths Potawatomi. Michelle thanked me for mentioning the the article about the World War II pilots adrift at sea in “Vanity Fair,” which she included in a care package a female soldier in Afghanistan. Darcy Wade informed me that bloggers on Post-Trib reporter Jerry Davich’s site, called “Observations from the Edge,” were buzzing over his reaction to the question, is the survival of Gary vital to the health of the Region? After claiming that he had long hoped for the best for his hometown, Davich had written: “We had better hope not, because I don’t see Gary rising out of its depths any time soon.” One guy responded, “Great attitude, jerk.” Another called the city of Gary “the White elephant in the room.” Someone identifying himself as “Escape from NWI” wrote, “Gary needs NWI, NWI needs Gary. If you want all of NWI to turn into a classless, suburban strip mall, with no culture, no identity, and not a distinguishable feature, so be it. It is going to take the death of a bigoted, narrow-minded generation of people to turn Gary around.” A couple years ago Davich did a humorous column about communities’ misleading welcome signs. He suggested these realistic alternatives for Miller (“Where Property Taxes Finally Caught Up to Us”), Hobart (“Salvador Dali Did Our Zoning”), and Ogden Dunes (“We Have a Guard House and We’ll Use It If Necessary”). A blogger suggested this for South Haven: “We have Valpo addresses, Portage schools, Wheeler phone numbers, and all the vandalism you could ask for.”

A journal accepted Chris Young’s article on presidential proclamations that I helped edit for him. In the spring he is team-teaching a course on the American presidency with Nicole Anslover. Hope to sit in on it occasionally. I composed the following paragraph in the hopes of getting faculty to have their students keep journals next semester: “I have decided to reprise my “Ides of March 2003” Steel Shavings issue (volume 36) by publishing journals written in March of 2011. In addition to asking previous contributors to once again keep journals, it would make a good class assignment. Students could become published authors and contribute to the documenting of the contemporary social history of the Calumet Region by providing intimate, personal accounts of their daily lives. To gear the assignment to course themes in 2003 I had students in my History class about the 1970s make observations based in part on what they read or saw on TV shows depicting that era. Similarly, Chuck Gallmeier asked students in a Sociology class about the Family to make references to family dynamics. A course on Religion and American Culture would lend itself to ruminations on church experiences. Fine Arts majors could keep a photo journal with captions. In fact, plentiful photos would be a welcome addition to all papers. The Women’s Studies Gender and Sexuality course offers numerous possibilities. I’ll make available copies of volume 36 so that students might get some idea of how others have handled the assignment. Let me know if you think this assignment might work in one or more of your classes. Should students not want their names used, they can provide pseudonyms. I’d be happy to attend your class to explain the project and the historical value of journals. The journals should be typed, in Microsoft Word if possible, to make editing easier.”

Steve McShane, who will have his Indiana History students keep journals, recently put a display about Latinos in Northwest Indiana in the Library/Conference Center lobby. Among other things, it includes a facsimile of the “Maria’s Journey” book cover, an Arredondo family picture, photos of Mexican Americans coerced into getting on a repatriation train during the Hoover years of the depression, a photo of Lake County Sheriff Roy Dominguez with Hillary Clinton, and Seventies flyers from Latino protest groups. Steve mentioned that John Davies thought I’d make a good speaker at Vivian Carter’s Wall of Fame induction, but I suggested they get an African American instead or maybe Tom Higgins, who worked at WWCA when she had her radio program.

Wendy likes the idea of the tiara mystery story, and both she and LeeLee contributed to this paragraph: “Wendy was uncertain when the tiara disappeared. Saturday morning before riding to the airport she attended the reunion breakfast in the lobby of the Hilton Gardens, leaving suitcases near the front door. When her town car arrived, the driver waited patiently as Wendy said her final good-byes. He then took care of her baggage all the way to airport check-in. Back home, her regular limousine driver secured them from baggage claim. It was only when she went through her suitcases the next day did she realize the tiara was missing. She was certain that she had put it in her Louis Vuitton French bag, a gift from a dear friend. She had intended to carry it on the plane, but with a shopping bag full of presents for her grandkids and a purse bursting with reunion souvenirs, the expensive bag was out of her sight for a few hours. The airline representative may have assumed that it contained valuables and, if criminally inclined, could have alerted a partner. But who would take the tiara when much more valuable items were among the belongings, including the bag itself, worth at least a thousand dollars? Or had someone back at the Hilton Gardens already snatched the tiara, a jealous classmate of Wendy’s, perhaps? That was what she wanted Captain Cardinal to find out.”

I enjoyed “Morning Glory” despite finding the plot about a young producer saving a network rival of “Today” and “Good Morning America” to be rather unrealistic. Rachel McAdams, splendidly daffy in “Wedding Crashers” and “Sherlock Holmes,” played a bright workaholic. Harrison Ford was a hoot as the reluctant veteran newsman whom she recruits to be co-anchor with always-worth-watching Diane Keaton, who calls her “Gidget” and raps with 50 Cent and DJ Whoo Kid on “Candy Shop” (“I’ll take you to the candy shop. I’ll let you lick the lollipop”) a true highlight. One verse goes, “I melt in your mouth girl, not in your hands, ha ha.”

Among the flurry of emails regarding condo business was a call for a board meeting. I was able to get the day changed from Wednesday to Tuesday, so I can still bowl. Leo Rondo is hosting it, and I’ll be taking notes as secretary for the first time.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

California Trip

There’s nothing in the world so sad
As talking to a man
Who never knew
His life was his for the making
Ray LaMontagne, “Old Before Your Time”

Nephew Bobby and wife Niki invited Toni and me to stay at their apartment in San Diego during my trip to see 94 year-old Midge. He’s a big Ray LaMontagne fan, and “Old before Your Time” is from Ray’s new CD “God Willin’ and the Creek Don’t Rise.” Though I don’t feel old before my time, my feet start barking – from a combination of bunions and arthritis – after being cooped up on a plane for four hours. Bob and I have given each other CDs for Christmas, and he has turned me on to some great music. He gets all his tunes off the Internet now, so I’m thinking of giving him a Rolling Stone magazine subscription. Bob and Niki are fantastic parents to two year-old Addison and 8 month-old Crosby, named for the Pittsburgh Penguins hockey player and nicknamed T-Bone. Record producer T-Bone Burnett recently worked with Elton John and Leon Russell on the critically acclaimed CD “The Union,” but Addie thought it up, inspired by a character on the TV series “Imagination Movers.” T-Bone Crosby is a blues musician who asks the Movers for ideas for songs. The name fits Crosby to a “T.” The kid has expressive eyebrows, rarely cries, and gives great hugs. We saw him crawl for the first time, mainly using his hands in an effort to reach Wheezy the cat. When Addie calls me Uncle Jimbo, it sounds like Jaybo – Alissa’s pet name for me, one I treasure. Addie tried my bacon and orange slices, and we put felt pieces on various characters in a book Toni gave her for Halloween.

Niki reluctantly let Bob and me take Addie on an overnight road trip to Palm Springs. My mother’s assisted living facility, Mirage Inn, is down the street from the Betty Ford Clinic (on Amazon one can buy Betty Ford Clinic cocktail napkins – I kid you not). On the way we sang “B-I-N-G-O” (“There was a farmer who had a dog and Bingo was his name”). In the Mirage Inn dining room Midge showed us off before we proceeded (Bob driving the rented Corolla at Niki’s insistence) to my brother’s new place at the Trilogy development in La Quinta. Addie loved kicking around a soccer-sized ball decked out to look like a pumpkin. Except for one brief moment, she never cried to go home despite being taken out of her normal routine. After she went to bed, we played a game with dominoes that went from zero up to twelve dots. On the first move you could play as many dominoes as possible on your row. After that you could only play once but on anyone’s row. If stuck, you drew one; if it didn’t play, you kept drawing once per turn until you or someone else played on your row. My mother was a hoot, never quite comprehending the rules and attempting to play on places that weren’t open. On Sunday morning we played with electronically guided boats on a pond near the sixth hole of the golf course. We had to keep quiet when golfers reached the green or people shushed us.

I wanted quarterback Tom Brady, on my Fantasy team, to do well in the Steelers-Patriots game but also rooted for Pittsburgh to score, quickly if possible. They lost badly, much to Bobby’s chagrin. Brady got me 32 points, spearheading Jimbo Jammers’ come-from-behind victory over “The Powerhouse” (Anthony’s team) for my first win in four weeks. Sealing the deal were my wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, beneficiaries of Michael Vick’s unbelievable day against the Redskins.

At Bob and Niki’s found Amy Sutherland’s “What Shamu Taught Me about Life, Love, and Marriage: Lessons from Animals and Their Trainers.” The main message: reward good conduct and ignore bad behavior – in other words, positive reinforcement. After studying how trainers dealt with animals, Sutherland applied those lessons when her husband left dirty clothes in the bathroom or procrastinated. Like behaviorist psychologist B. F. Skinner, she recommended breaking down tasks into small steps (going from A to B). Sutherland wrote the book prior to Sea World trainer Dawn Brancheau drowning when “killer whale” Tilikum dragged her by the ponytail under water in front of horrified spectators during an event called “Dining with Shamu.” At Sea World in Ohio four year-old Alissa was picked from the crowd to “pet” Shamu. When the master of ceremonies asked where she was from, she answered, “America.” Phil found “Shamu 1993” t-shirts on sale for fifteen bucks and instead bought one saying “Shamu 1992” for half the price. He still has it, I believe.

During Addie and T-Bone’s afternoon naptime I watched parts of “Rudy” (unrealistic in its scenes where the Notre Dame practice squad walk-on finally gets to play against the wishes of Coach Dan Devine because other players threaten to revolt). Also caught the Farrelly Brothers’ “There’s Something about Mary” and roared when Ted (Ben Stiller) gets busted for peeing in the woods where gay guys were having sex and attacked by a dog on speed. I’d had forgotten the funny closing outtakes where cast members lip-synch to the song “Build Me Up Buttercup.”

The day after we arrived at Lindbergh Field, San Diegoan John Tyner, a 31 year-old computer programmer, refused to submit to a full-body scan. When a TSA official was about to give him an alternative groin check, he warned the man not to “touch my junk,” adding, “I don’t understand how a sexual assault can be a condition of flying.” Tyner recorded the encounter on his cell phone, posted it on the Internet, and is enjoying 15 minutes of fame. At O’Hare I had a full body scan and as a result didn’t have to submit to the normal pat down that is the inevitable result of having an artificial knee. Leaving San Diego, the Advanced Imaging machines weren’t being used and my pat down seemed more invasive than in the past. I kept quiet though.

Bought “Vanity Fair” with Cher on the cover for the flight home. Inside was a fascinating excerpt from “Unbroken” by “Seabiscuit” author Laura Hillenbrand about Louis Zamperini, adrift at sea for 47 days after his plane went down in the Pacific Ocean due to mechanical failure. Amazingly, he stayed alive by occasionally catching fish, trapping rainwater, fighting off sharks, and ducking into the water under his lifeboats when strafed by a Japanese plane. The piece ends with Zamberini reaching an island controlled by the Japanese. The book goes on to detail the two years Louis spent as a prisoner of war. Freed at war’s end, Zamberini battled alcoholism before becoming an inspirational speaker and is still active at age 93. Author Hillenbrand suffers from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and has only left her house twice over a two-year period. What a pity.

Vanity Fair also had an interview with Dick Cavett. It’s hard to believe he is only 73 and hosted his own talk show starting at age 32. Just a year removed from college, he became a writer for Jack Paar and was responsible for the line the first Tonight Show host used to introduce a voluptuous movie star: “Here they are, Jayne Mansfield.” I recall seeing Janis Joplin talking to Cavett about intending to go to her tenth high school reunion and show those assholes who had looked down at her and Daniel Ellsberg lamenting that high schools didn’t teach about the 1937 Memorial Day Massacre. I was tuning in when Norman Mailer almost slugged Gore Vidal for comparing him to Charles Manson. Cavett was glib with the interviewer and quoted George S. Kaufman’s advice to sample everything but incest and folk dancing. Apparently Cavett suffered for years with depression, but at least it didn’t keep him home all the time like poor Laura Hillenbrand.

We had paid for a town car to drive us the final leg home, but the company sent a stretch limo because of a recent drop-off. Home in time for the last half of “Glee” (one of Toni’s favorites) and “Dancing with the Stars,” which I put on mute while listening to David Grey except when Annie Lennox and Enrique Iglesias performed. The latter sang his hit “I Like It” while regulars did a sexy dance. Incredibly, Brandy got the boot and Bristol, embarrassingly bad, remained. Darcy expressed disbelief that the “stuffed cow” is still on. I told her that it was such a travesty that even Bristol looked embarrassed that she is still alive.

Among the hundreds of emails awaiting me was one from Ray Smock, part of a group supporting the opening of Richard Nixon’s secret testimony before a grand jury investigating Watergate. I responded, “Good cause, almost up there with the petition to get Keith Olbermann back on the air.” MSNBC had suspended Olbermann for donating money to three Democrats running for office. Ray wrote: “I’ll sign any petition to get Keith back. I hear he’s coming back next week.” True, after hundreds of thousands clamored for his reinstatement. Reading my Quanah Parker review, Anthropologist Michelle Stokely wrote, “Am a bit disturbed by your term “half-breed.” The more appropriate term is “mixed blood.” Hope that can be changed prior to publication as it is a bit insensitive.” To be politically correct I made the change even though the author used “half breed” and “mixed blood” is, I believe, a modern term not in usage while Parker was alive.

Fred and Tracy Trout (a former student) sent an Evite to their annual Holiday Bash in December. Thirteen people, including Dean Mark Hoyert and wife Cindy O’Dell of the Psychology department have RSVPed. Another 35 (me included) have yet to respond. Ain’t the Internet wonderful?

Suzi Hummel Slack provided lines for “Captain Cardinal and the Mystery of the Missing Tiara” that I included in this latest paragraph: “Weeks earlier, seeing Wendy decked out in a formal gown for a charity event, a granddaughter called her Snow White. The nickname caught on, sometimes shortened to Snow. When the granddaughter convinced Wendy to join Facebook, as a joke she called herself Snow White and put on the tiara for her profile photo. Several classmates got a chuckle from it during the ensuing flurry of Facebook messages and suggested she wear the crown at the reunion. Suzi, a runner-up in the voting for Homecoming Queen, wrote: “Why not surprise our beloved classmates with the sight of the actual tiara? Imagine how they would feel knowing you had carried it with you all over the lands during your multi-faceted careers and marriages! Fifty years of caring for it and keeping it in tip-top condition. Only a Queen would have the stamina to sustain the effort.” Wendy kept the tiara under wraps during the reunion dinner and confided to Suzi that she was getting cold feet. Won’t it look like I am conceited, she wondered out loud. Put it on, people will get a good laugh, Suzi urged. Sure enough, during the group photo, classmates were smiling and giving Wendy high fives. On an impulse she passed it around and told others to try it on – a bad idea perhaps.

Fred McColly is upset over policies at his workplace, including cutting back hours, freezing wages, instituting stressful “just-in-time” production policies, and renting billboard space along a fence that fronts I-65. He’s a great diarist, and I’ll ask him to reprise his “Ides of March” journal in 2011.

At lunch Alan Barr summarized a Nova episode on last evening about Stonehenge. Scientists have analyzed DNA traces on the remains of those buried there 5,000 years ago. “I guess you didn’t see ‘Dancing with the Stars,’” I quipped. In fact, his wife made him put on the final five minutes to find out who was eliminated. Anne Balay mentioned not owning a TV. Her daughters actually let her get away with that.

In the news: House Democrats elected Nancy Pelosi Minority leader, 150-43, despite her being easy for Republicans to demonize. Most Democratic Congressmen defeated in the last election were from normally Red states. Those remaining tend to share her liberal political philosophy. If she still is a liability in 2012, she can step down. Rush Limbaugh recently suggested that if African-American House Minority Whip James Clyburn loses a leadership fight with Steny Hoyer, he could always emulate Morgan Freeman in “Driving Miss Daisy.” That way, Limbaugh chortled, “He gets to keep the car. He gets to go everywhere she goes. He’s not in the back of the bus. He’s in the driver’s seat, and she’s in the back being chauffeured. Solved problem.” What racist drivel. Concerning Elton John reviving Leon Russell’s career, someone wrote to Rolling Stone that he could now almost forgive him for singing at Rush Limbaugh’s wedding in July for a million-dollar paycheck.

Struggled all night in bowling, then finished with three strikes in a row and shouted, “Let’s go four.” In other words, it took me 30 frames to figure out what I was doing wrong. Our newest teammate, John Bulot, shot a 616, patiently picking up spare after spare until he caught fire in the third game. At home there was a phone message from Jack Gruenenfelder. As I feared, Bill Neil had passed away. I composed this brief announcement for distribution: “Former Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs William M. Neil recently passed away at age 90. Plans are underway for a memorial service in his honor. After the university moved to its present location in Glen Park, Neil was acting director for the campus for two years. The longtime chair of the History Department graduated from Gary College, the forerunner of IU Northwest before attending the University of Chicago, where he eventually earned his PhD. A pilot during World War II, Neil started his teaching American History when the university was located at Seaman Hall in downtown Gary. His students recalled that he was a polished lecturer who usually spoke without using notes.”

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Let's Go

“I don't want to hold her down
don't want to break her crown
when she says, ‘let's go.’”
Ric Ocasek of The Cars

Picked up David Gray’s “Foundling” at Best Buy for $9.95, including a bonus CD of eight extra songs. Only trouble was it skipped or got stuck in two places, so I returned for another. It reminded me of when I bought the Cars’ 1979 album “Candy-O” and the needle stuck on the first song, “Let’s Go,” which was my favorite. I took it back to Hegewisch Records (a great store in Merrillville), got a replacement, and it messed up in the very same place. Same thing with the second replacement. It took me four trips before I got a good one. By that time the manager was getting a little suspicious. One line in “Let’s Go” is: “She’s got wonderful eyes and a risqué mouth.” For the longest time I thought Cars bass player Ben Orr was singing “whiskey” mouth.

Am finalizing preparations for our trip to California. Did a map Quest from the San Diego Airport to Bob and Niki’s house and got a confirmation number for our Hertz Rent-a Car, a Corolla. One can even get boarding passes online up to 24 hours before a flight. Got a haircut, now costing twelve bucks (up from ten). It was Anna’s off day, so I went with Lee Ann, just back from 15 years in a small Nevada town, telling her I only wanted a trim but to take about an inch off the back since I would be seeing my 94 year-old mother.

Old quarterback Kurt Warner got voted off “Dancing with the Stars,” leaving just one guy (Kyle Massey) and three women (Jennifer Grey, Brandi, and no-talent Bristol Palin). On the web site “Small Screen Scoop” some suspect a conspiracy to keep Bristol on the show in order to boost ratings. Jessica Rae posted this explanation: “Something is keeping Palin on the show and whether it’s sympathy votes, Alaskans, Republicans who want to support the Palin family, genuine fans of this underdog, or even pranksters, it’s getting frustrating. More than that, Bristol Palin seems smart enough to have realized that she’s upsetting the balance of the show, and might actually wish she’d be booted. For now, she’ll dance another day. And we can only hope it’ll involve another animal costume. Hell, maybe it’s a group of furries that is voting her through every week. That theory is as likely as some others.” A furry is a fan of a fictional animal character (or characters belonging to a certain species) who likes to dress up like a bunny, cat, dog or whatever. On the internet are fanzines, furry conventions, chat lines, meet-up groups, anime, and (naturally) furry porn.

LeeLee liked my opening paragraph for “Captain Cardinal and the Mystery of the Missing Tiara” and wondered if I had sent it to others. She added one of her own, ending with these words: “In anticipation of the reunion, Leelee searched through boxes of memories, found dried corsages with dates and names attached, pictures of prom dates, and one special picture of Wendy receiving the coveted crown.” I gave LeeLee the go ahead to involve others and sent her my latest addition, to wit: “Captain Cardinal had been a classmate of Wendy’s. In fact he was a sports star who scored the winning touchdown the night Wendy was crowned Homecoming queen. Because he was African-American, they traveled in different social circles, but she was always friendly toward him and had a certain gleam in her eye that gave off a hint of flirtation. Back then, however, the taboo against interracial dating was too strong for him to have entertained the idea of asking her out. After high school he became a Philadelphia police officer, eventually rising to the rank of captain in the robbery division. After 20 years he accepted a position as chief of security at his old high school. On his uniform he put a patch denoting the school mascot, a cardinal, which soon earned him the nickname among students of Captain Cardinal. He took it as a term of endearment, and didn’t discourage people from calling him that. As a joke at the fiftieth reunion, he wrote “Captain Cardinal” on his nametag in part to see if people would recognize him. He and Wendy chatted briefly, but still he was surprised a few days later to answer his phone and hear her voice on the other end of the line.” Captain Cardinal resembles Percy Herder, a sports star who after graduation worked for Upper Dublin’s physical plant department. Still looking like a stud, he was singing the praises of Viagra.

Wednesday seems to be the new “Taco Day” at IUN’s cafeteria. It’s my favorite meal, and one only costs $1.25, including adding a generous topping of lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, and sour cream. The English department was out in force, including my buddy Anne Balay, whom I tried to convince to have her students keep “Ides of March” journals. Jennifer Greenberg, Gary Wilk’s replacement in Fine Arts, seemed interested. Maybe students in her Photography course could put together pictorial journals. Chuck Gallmeier mentioned that seven years ago his Sociology students in a course about the family did a great job and were very proud when the Shavings issue came out.

Ay bowling Rob, who goes on frequent cruises, was talking about the engine room fire that left the “Carnival Splendor” stranded at sea without power. The three thousand passengers and twelve hundred crewmembers were down to a diet of fruit and raw vegetables until spam and cans of crabmeat were airlifted in by helicopter. Tugboats are hauling the ship to San Diego, and it is due to arrive the same day as us. I rolled a 495, and the Engineers took two out of three games.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

City Methodist Church

“Let me take you down, ’cos I’m going to Strawberry Fields
Nothing is real and nothing to get hungabout”
John Lennon and the Beatles

A history teacher at Wheeler High School asked Brenden Bayer’s daughter Megan what “Strawberry Fields Forever” has to do with Vietnam. Written in 1967 for “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, it is a psychedelic journey that on the surface seems on the surface to be a nostalgic memory of a garden where Lennon spent time during his childhood. Written at a time when America was rapidly escalating the war, some people believe that the Strawberry Fields refer to the bloody battlefields of Southeast Asia. Rich Cohen, reviewing Keith Richards’s book “Life” for Rolling Stone magazine, quotes the Rolling Stones’ guitarist as saying, “The Beatles couldn’t fill in all of the spots on the charts. We filled in the gaps.” His relationship with Mick Jagger isn’t too different from how Lennon’s was with McCartney. Asked how he can still play with someone from whom he’s grown apart, Richard replied, “When you break a bone, you take time to heal, then be careful never to break that same bone in the same place again.” On a lighter note WXRT has been featuring David Gray’s new song “A Moment Changes Everything,” which contains these lines: “The years spent running parallel to everything that might have been.” They also have his older “Babylon” on permanent heavy rotation, it seems. I might have to purchase his new album “Foundling.”

Got a flurry of emails from Flight 33 producer Steffen Schlachtenhaufen detailing final arrangements for my 3-D interview at City Methodist Church. He mentioned having read my blog (other “regulars” include Darcy Wade and Ron Cohen) and took my suggestion that his team also interview lifetime Region resident and longtime radio and TV personality Tom Higgins. He has written about Froebel School, produced a documentary about Memorial Auditorium, and has vivid memories of the Palace Theater and other “ruins” to be featured in the “Abandoned Planet” episode. I recall watching “House of Wax” starring Vincent Price, in three dimension at the Ambler Theater when I was 11 or 12 years old, and being transfixed during the fire scene.

Spent an uneventful Saturday shopping and football watching (Indiana University’s woeful squad almost beat seventeenth-ranked Iowa, but a wide receiver dropped a certain game winning touchdown pass in the end zone). “The Accidental Tourist,” based on Anne Tyler’s novel, was on the premium channel Starz. William Hurt plays Macon, the neurotic writer of travel books for the person who hates to travel. As Roger Ebert wrote in a rave review a quarter century ago (I Googled it), it begins on a note of emotional sterility “and the whole movie is a journey toward a smile at the end.” After Macon’s son is killed, his marriage falls apart and he takes up with Muriel, a quirky but lovable dog trainer played winningly by Geena Davis. His control freak wife, played by Kathleen Turner, tries to win him back. He’s tempted but ultimately decides she doesn’t need him as much as Muriel and her son. Director Lawrence Kasdan also worked with Hurt in the equally brilliant movie “The Big Chill.” Legendary composer John Williams, who did the score for “Jaws,” “E.T.’” “Star Wars,” and many more, wrote a hauntingly beautiful soundtrack.

Due to the time change (fall back), we got in an extra board game, Shark, which I won. I tied T. Wade in Amun Re, stupidly failing to add a slice to go with my pyramids. Bears barely defeated the 0 and 7 Bills. At the Hagelbergs had Chinese food from Wing Wah and finished second to Toni in bridge. Before bed read what I had written about City Methodist Church in “Gary’s First Hundred Years” in preparation for Monday’s shoot. William Graham Seaman not only raised money for the magnificent Gothic church (persuading U.S. Steel Board Chairman Elbert H. Gary to donate money for the Skinner Organ) and adjoining community center, he also helped raise funds for Methodist Hospital and Stewart Settlement House. He hoped to institute a tradition of interfaith and interracial services but during the Depression, when it proved hard to pay for what he had built, church members got him replaced by someone less liberal and public-spirited. During the Forties and Fifties the community center was home to Indiana University’s Gary Center, forerunner of IU Northwest.

City Methodist Church has weeds growing from the roof and sunlight showing through gaping holes in the walls. On the floor were shards of wood and stones, some broken chairs and other remnants of a vanished age. In 1974 while researching a history of Gary I attended church services there, and the attendance was down to about 50, almost all white-haired members who had probably moved to the suburbs. Greeting me was Steffen’s brother Andy (the associate producer), director Laura Verklan, and the camera crew. Shifting sunlight required everyone to move or shift angles every ten minutes or so. My United Steelworkers of America tie clasp reflected too much light and had to come off. So did my glasses, surprisingly since they are tinted. Laura asked general questions about Gary’s history, the steel mills, the ethnic influx, racial change, and reasons for the downtown decline before quizzing me on the church and other ruins, such as Memorial Auditorium, that they later planned to film. Sounds from outside – busses, children’s laughter from the charter school across the street, a horn honking – caused me to have to repeat some answers, something that I once hated to do but by now I am used to doing. Members of the crew were obviously professionals who treated me with respect. During one break in the action head cameraman Ken Stipe suggested I use my hands more – my natural style is to wave them around and I had been consciously trying not to do that – but, hey, this was 3-D. I joked that I could do a little soft shoe if they wanted. At the end they had me walking around staring at the walls and ceiling. I felt slightly off balance without my glasses on but handled it to their satisfaction. Tom Higgins arrived just as I was leaving and joked about getting the heat turning on. Although it was a mild day for November, inside it was cold enough to turn Laura’s hands almost into icicles.

A friendly guy stationed at the IUN cafeteria entrance to make sure folks don’t abscond with food that they didn’t pay for wears various nametags of lawmen such as Joe Friday from “Dragnet” and the comic strip character Dick Tracy. Monday it read Sheriff Dominguez, about whom he knew almost nothing. After lunch I stopped by the Anthropology Club Dollar Book Sale and found a rare Steel Shavings issue of Henry Farag’s “The Signal.” There were a couple copies of my Vietnam issue, probably from the freebies I distributed in Nicole Anslover’s class. Bob Mucci said that Shavings issues always go fast, so I dropped off some other issues.

Attended a lecture by IU Northwest artist David Klamen, who was the first recipient of an award for distinguished scholarship. I sat next to Political Scientist Marie Eisenstein, whom I met for the first time at Friday’s meeting with Chancellor Lowe. Directly in front of us were Chris Young and Mark Hoyert, whose size difference (Mark is huge) reminded me of when I posed next to Ed Escobar for a photo to go on the back cover of our book on Latinos and I looked like a midget. In his opening remarks Chancellor Lowe said that it was occasions such as this that make university life so rewarding. David showed reproductions of his work covering his days in college all the way up to recent stuff. He has done an amazing variety of works, but there are certain threads that run through all of them. In his work, he said, he tries to answer the question, how do I know what I know? During Q and A I asked if teaching at IU Northwest for 25 years had influenced his art. He pondered that for a few moments admitted that his inspiration mostly comes from books or childhood memories, but then he talked about several students whose originality and artistic talent almost blew him away and that his interactions with students was a really important part of his life that indirectly affected his art. His entire presentation came off as sincere. He was erudite without being pretentious and made numerous witty asides that caused Marie and I to glance in each other’s direction and smile.

LeeLee Minehart thought that the saga of Wendy’s missing tiara might make a great mystery. I sent her the following as a possible opening paragraph: “The tiara had set on the top shelf of Wendy’s imposing China closet. It was the first thing many people noticed when they entered the formal dining room. On either side were dolls from Wendy’s childhood. Most looked like ragamuffins or well-worn stuffed animals, but on its side as if sleeping was a beautiful princess doll. The lower shelves contained serving dishes, plates, cups, saucers, a sugar bowl, and other items passed down through generations. Looking somewhat out of place on the bottom shelf were a shot glass and beer stein. The tiara had been moved a dozen times during Wendy’s long and eventful life, and for years had been out of sight and almost forgotten. Then with the purchase of the China closet it seemed to have gained a permanent resting place – until Wendy received notice of her fiftieth high school reunion and came up with an idea.”

Ruminating about the 3-D shoot at City Methodist Church, I wondered about the accuracy of what seemed to be the premise – that the Gary ruins are analogous to a time in the future when the planet is devoid of life. Writer James Goldin will compare (and hopefully contrast) Gary ruins with those on Hashima Island, formerly site of a Mitsubishi Motors coal mining operation. It was the most densely populated place in the world until completely abandoned after the coal mine shut down in 1974. I found photos of “Japan’s Rotting metropolis” on a site called Viceland Today. What seemed truly remarkable about the neighborhood bordering City Methodist Church were the signs of activity so near the rotting hulks of old buildings. Inside the church I could still sense the grandeur of the place. How tragic that the throwaway society we live in doesn’t have more respect for its past.

Sent my review of “Empire of the Summer Moon” to Magill’s and summarized the story of Quanah Parker and the Comanches in this way: “A violent account of the Southwest’s most feared warriors and the half-breed chief who guided them to glory during their last desperate days on the Texas Plains and then made a remarkable adjustment to reservation life.” I started with a eulogy Quanah gave at a 1910 ceremony reinterring his mother’s remains at an Indian mission: “Forty years ago my mother died. She captured by Comanches, nine years old. Loved Indian and wild life so well, no want to go back to white folks. All people same anyway. God say. I love my mother.” By and large my review was positive, and in the final paragraph I wrote: “Employing an occasionally hyperbolic and overblown journalistic style, Gwynne occasionally reveals ethnocentric biases in the use of such loaded words as squaw, primitive, and savage. Though he admires many aspects of traditional Cherokee culture, his detailing of atrocities, particularly toward women, seems at times unnecessarily sensationalistic. That said, the author’s narrative is entertaining and his facts generally accurate, impressively so concerning the topography of the Southwest.”

In the news: In India President Obama endorsed that country’s bid to become a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council. Conservatives are spreading lies that his Asia trip is costing the taxpayers millions. He is now in Indonesia and but might have to curtail the trip due to the volcanic eruption of Mount Merapi, which has killed hundreds and the clouds of ash have interrupted flights. Twice before he cancelled trips to the country where he lived as a boy for four years because of pressing domestic issues.

Friday, November 5, 2010

History Matters

“In our darkest hour
In my deepest despair
Will you still care?
Will you be there?”
Michael Jackson

At Cressmoor Lanes the Engineers again won one of three games. Thanks to five strikes I rolled a 202, then struggled the next two games. New bowler John has a 169 average but finished with a 606 series. Joined members of another team in a conversation about favorite live concerts. Mine included Warren Zevon, the Kinks, Bob Dylan, ZZ Top, Moody Blues, and the B52s. One guy saw Michael Jackson and the Jackson Five at the Houston Astrodome playing to a crowd of 70,000. Michael rarely came back to his home town of Gary, but brother Tito visited Lew Wallace High School in 1995 with sons Taj, Taryll, and J.T, who were in a group called 3T. Their song “Anything” was on the soul charts that year and was a big hit in Great Britain. Their “Didn’t Mean to Hurt You” was on the “Free Willy” soundtrack. At the assembly most questions to Tito were naturally about his brother Michael, whose “Will You be There” opens and closes the “Free Willy” soundtrack but like “Didn’t Mean to Hurt You” is about a woman, not a whale. Michael probably felt as trapped at times as Willy, with folks gawking at him and his peculiarities. The New York Post unfailingly referred to him as Jacko, as in “Rhymes with Wacko.” I think Michael’s serious problems in terms of becoming addicted to medication started when his hair caught fire in 1984 while doing a Pepsi commercial. Keiko, the whale who played Wiily, was eventually released into the North Atlantic Sea but didn’t do well and died of pneumonia soon afterwards.

A camera team from Flight 33 Productions is coming to Gary next week to film in 3-D locations that that, in their words, have fallen in hard times” for Discovery Channel’s “Abandoned Planet” series. Steffen Schlachtenhaufen wants me along to provide historical perspective and sent me a list of possible sites, including Union Station, Memorial Auditorium, City Methodist Church, and the Palace Theater. Froebel School was on the list but has been razed so might not fit in with their plans. Since someone lives in Michael Jackson’s childhood house and it’s been spruced up since his death, it’s not on the list. I suggested that they solicit radio and TV personality Tom Higgins and Stormy Weather founder Henry Farag to join us. Henry is working on a song about Vivian Carter, whose company Vee-Jay records is on Steffen’s list. One line goes, “Soon the curtain came falling down, all silent in the steel town.” I also talked to scriptwriter James Goldin and promised to send him “Gary’s First Hundred Years.” He was curious about why the downtown commercial district collapsed so suddenly and why Black entrepreneurs didn’t replace the fleeing white merchants. Before hanging up, he said he had enjoyed my recent blog entries. Interesting.

Indianapolis documentarian Nick Hess is researching a project relating to the Bailly Alliance, the antinuclear movement that got construction stopped on the power plant at nearby Burns Harbor. I mailed him the issue I did with Jim Newman, who was one of the interveners in the legal fight against NIPSCO utility company.

IU Northwest’s largest faculty merit raises (averaging about three percent) in years had led to grumbling from those on the low end. From what I could tell, the people who got big raises deserved them. One person wanted to bring up his gripe with Chancellor Lowe when he had breakfast Friday with my old department, but I talked him out of it. Our guest was eager to talk about old research projects, including Irish migration to Liverpool, the nineteenth-century Irish constabulary, and the Irish War for Independence, 1919-1922. Jonathan Briggs and Jerry Pierce noted that they cover aspects of Irish History in their courses on the Middle Ages and terrorism. I know they’d love to have Lowe make a guest appearance. As faculty members talked about their current scholarly interests, Nicole Anslover mentioned she was finishing a book about America’s Vietnam policy and then hoped to explore the modern office of vice-president. Lowe told her that while at Metropolitan State in Minneapolis he had talked to Walter Mondale a few times and believed that Mondale functions as Vice President under Jimmy Carter helped transform the office into one of importance. Of course it depended on who were first and second in command. When Dan Quayle was Bush the First’s Veep, the office regressed to where it wasn’t worth (in John Nance Garner’s words) a bucket of warm piss). Told Nicole I’d send her my review of “Dropping the Torch” about the 1980 Olympic boycott.

Jay Bumm appreciated the reunion photos and quipped: “Who are the old guys in the group shot?” I replied that I thought we all looked good. LeeLee reported that four American Airlines baggage handlers were charged with stealing valuables and wondered whether they made off with Wendy’s Homecoming tiara. She thinks it would make a good mystery story. Pretty funny. Emails from classmates are tapering off as people (to paraphrase Connie) are coming down from Cloud Nine. Hopefully Nancy Schrope is receiving many photos. Very few have been posted on Facebook. I got a request to be Facebook friends with Lyana Wade, Tom's daughter who lives in Russia. I've met her just twice, once when we went to the beach along Lake Michigan and she got a bad sunburn. Most of the postings on her site are in Cyrillic although we have several American friends in common, including several Halberstadts.

I really like Robert Downey, Jr., and Zach Galifianakis, the stars of “Due Date,” but the film does not match up well against the classic “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles” to which it aspires. Toni would have hated it. The crash scenes are unnecessary and the dog masturbating is much too gross, but there are some undeniably funny scenes, especially when the unlikely pair visit a pot dealer played by Juliette Lewis. On the drive home it started snowing, just lake effect flurries at first, but within hours more than an inch had fallen. Our condo, I fear, is within the snow belt that gets hit hard when cold winds blow off Lake Michigan.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

2010 election

“She used to have a carefree mind of her own
with a devilish look in her eye
Saying ‘You can call me anything you like
but my name is Veronica’”
Elvis Costello

The other night granddaughter Rebecca came down to what Toni calls my man-cave to call me for dinner. I was listening to “Veronica,” so we danced together until it was over. Becca is a great mimic, like her mother Angie, and would do any move I did almost instantaneously. Paul McCartney co-wrote “Veronica,” which is about Costello’s aging grandmother who suffered from dementia (one line goes, “These days I’m afraid she’s not even sure if her name is Veronica”). It is also about the fleetingness of youth and the ravages of aging, as Veronica “sits in her favorite chair and she sits very quiet and still.” Veronica was also the sultry dark-haired love interest in the Archie Comics series. Growing up in the era of Marilyn Monroe when gentlemen and teenage kids were programmed to prefer blondes, I fancied Betty.

The dreaded day finally arrived after weeks of being bombarded with TV attack commercials and doom and gloom predictions of a Republican landslide. Toni and I voted for the first time at Brummit Elementary School about a mile from our condo. I voted straight Democratic, not knowing all that much about local candidates. Congressman Pete Visclosky was a shoo-in despite recent revelations concerning his biggest former campaign contributor, and on the other hand the Democratic candidate for Senator, Brad Ellsworth, had no realistic hope to defeat Republican Dan Coats, even though slimeball Coats moved away from the state after his first stint in the upper chamber and became a lobbyist for big corporations. The super rich have hoodwinked a majority of the electorate into believing that Republicans will be fiscally responsible despite lusting to extend tax breaks for those making more than $250,000. Republicans picked up at least 60 House seats, the biggest Democratic setback since 1938 (also hard economic times). Stinkpot John Boehner will replace Nancy Pelosi as House Speaker. Since the Democrats will retain control of the Senate, the Republicans will undoubtedly continue to be the party of NO and, as Minority leader Mitch McConnell put it, make the defeat of Obama in 2012 their top priority. As Susan McGrath wrote, “such a short-sighted bunch, these people of the USA.” Senate-elect Marco Rubio, the 39 year-old Cuban-American, was honest enough to say, with blond wife Jeanette at his side, that the result was not an endorsement but rather the last chance for the Republican Party. At least wingnut Sharron Angle lost in Nevada to Harry Reid and Sarah Palin-endorsed Tea Party goof Joe Miller (he with the perpetual three-day beard) is losing to write-in candidate Lisa Murkowski in Alaska. Unable to stomach the election news (even Obama’s old Senate seat went Republican), I switched to “Dancing with the Stars” and watched impressive performances by Taylor Swift and Rod Stewart, augmented by the show’s dancers. Palin’s daughter Bristol is still alive, as the more talented Rick Fox got the axe. I was sure he’d last longer than the other jock, soulless Kurt Warner. Former basketball player Fox was once married to the luscious Vanessa Williams, a fox herself.

Commenting on the so-called rise of the Tea Party, Fred McColly wrote: “Tonight is supposed to be another version of populist rage and I cannot help but feel sorry for anyone who actually believes that the Tea Party can actually overcome Hamiltonian government by special interest...these people are not going to be a majority in the Republican party, much less Congress. They were going to march on whoretown and turn it on its ear...except they can't. So what can they do when they get to the capitol, or the state legislatures, or the governor's mansion, or city hall and discover this besides become obstructionist?” Fred predicted that “the foul slide into the 2012 campaign” is about to begin. Have to agree with him.

At a planning meeting for the December 9 Wall of Legends event I strongly recommended that Henry Farag and original Spaniel Willie C. Jackson be invited to speak on behalf of honoree Vivian Carter, the founder of Vee-Jay, the first major African-American record label. Others the committee recommended were State Senator Earline Rogers and an area deejay from the era of the Fifties. The other honoree, Purdue Calumet professor John Maniotes, was a pioneer in the computer field. At the meeting the daughter of Maniotes suggested that a good finale might be a song or two from the Spaniels since her dad is a doo-wop fan. That would be great but, as I told John, they normally receive a couple thousands dollars per performance and it probably would be tacky to expect them to sing for free. So it probably isn’t practical unless it happened in a spontaneous way or if they’d accept a modest honorarium.

Toni’s sister Mary Ann informed me that Sonny’s friend Harry died recently. A 79 year-old former Korean War vet, he was a gentle soul whose eyesight had gotten so poor, he gave up driving a car and took a golf cart to his job as a grocery store checker. Once a cop stopped him as he was crossing the highway at an intersection and warned him not to do it again. With no other way to get to work he asked Sonny for advice. Sonny told him the cop was a jerk and to keep going to work only try to avoid the cop if possible. Harry liked to take donuts to guys who congregated in the park. It evidently was a gay hangout. One day the cops raided the place and detained Harry. He had done nothing wrong, so no charges were brought against him. Still, his name got in the paper, and it was embarrassing for him. Again Sonny stuck by him and gave him good advice.

Monday, November 1, 2010


“I was working in the lab late one night
When my eyes beheld an eerie sight
For my monster from his slab began to rise
And suddenly to my surprise
He did the monster mash.”
Bobby “Boris” Pickett

All weekend WXRT was playing Halloween music. The holiday lasts longer and gets more fanfare than when I was a kid. In Fort Washington we sometimes went out the night before (Mischief Night) and soaped windows or set fire to pumpkins on front porches. Mr. Illingworth would hide among the trees in his back yard to thwart anyone venturing onto his property. Occasionally police cars on patrol would threaten to interrupt our fun. Sammy Corey once set off a cherry bomb in an incompetent Math teacher’s mailbox. In the Detroit area people called it Devil’s Night. In Indiana a favorite practice is teepeeing the trees on someone’s property with toilet paper. Thankfully our condo was spared any such mischief. No zombies or coffin-bangers arrived, as my favorite “Monster Mash” verse put it, to wit:
“The scene was rockin’, all were digging the sounds
Igor on chains, backed by his baying hounds
The coffin-bangers were about to arrive
With their vocal group, ‘The Crypt-Kicker Five’”

On Friday local merchants gave out candy. Before hitting Valparaiso’s commercial district James and Rebecca stopped over dressed like Phineas (from the Disney Channel series “Phineas and Ferb”) and Dorothy (from “The Wizard of Oz”). Trick or tricking took place Saturday in Chesterton and Sunday in Portage, so the kids made out like bandits on both nights. At Maple Place we hardly ever had anyone come to the house except the Bayer and Hagelberg kids when they were young, but at the condo more than a hundred kids showed up, more young teens than tots. Hardly any wore masks, but most had a costume of some kind, even if just a funny shirt or a wig. A couple kids actually said “trick or treat” but not in a threatening way. One neighbor asked James to perform a trick in exchange for a treat and he told a joke. About half our neighbors were home; all but one of the others had their lights out so kids wouldn’t waste their time knocking on their doors. Among our candy were packages containing three malted milk balls. Stalker’s store sold them four for a penny. When I was a kid, neighbors often invited us in to guess who we were. In our Michigan subdivision not only were the houses real close together but most people were newcomers and just passed out candy without guessing who we were. One year when Phil and Dave were young, I dressed up, too, as a western bandit, and ended up with more loot than they did. Around that time there were stories about razors hidden in food and warnings only to accept commercially wrapped items. Probably was what is called an urban myth.

My Fantasy team sucked, what with three players on bye weeks and Donald Driver getting hurt the first time a ball got thrown to him. If it not for Tom Brady, the Packers defense, and Marcus Colston of the Saints having a good game (finally). I’d have been slaughtered. I picked up Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch, and he rushed nine times for seven yards (for a total of zero points). Had I stuck with Ryan Mathews at running back I actually would have won. During commercials and dull parts of games I finished the book about Quanah Parker, who finally appears more than halfway into the narrative but had a remarkable life,

Old classmates still buzzing about the reunion. Wendy Henry Wellin thanked me for having urged her to go. Pete Drake wanted to know who else was in his car when the Abington Cop accused him of hitting another vehicle (Ron Hawthorn for sure and maybe Joe Ricketts and Skip Pollard, I answered). Alice Ottinger Corman wanted to know if I had Jay Bumm’s correct email (she was one of the people snapping a photo of him, Chris Koch, Pete Drake, and me). I called the phone number in the booklet and got wife Betsy, who gave me their home email address. Lee Lee Minhart Devenny reported on her get together with Suzi Hummel and Susan Floyd and how they compared notes on how everyone looked. Talked with Susan on the phone (Terry Jenkins gave me the number but told me not to tell her where I got it) and then sent this email: “I guess I am still on a high (on Cloud Nine is how Connie Heard put it) from the reunion. I would have loved to been at Lee Lee’s to hear the descriptions of the affair. When you mentioned your daughter’s History specialty, it reminded me that Bob Robinson, one of my bowling teammates, who is in his seventies, spent a weekend recently in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, attending a retreat having to do with the 1040s. Three historians gave presentations, one on politics and world events, one on music, and the third on food and fashion. Thinking about food in the Fifties, in addition to the appearance of franchises like McDonald’s one thing I recall is the absence of Mexican restaurants. In fact, when I went to California in 1965, I was struck by the presence of them there. Speaking of food, classmate Eddie Piszek, whose father founding Mrs. Paul’s frozen fish, told me his old man started out peddling crab cakes in the Kensington section of Philadelphia (where my wife Toni grew up) after coming up with a recipe he thought superior to others. From that humble beginning came a fortune from fish sticks.”

Perused online reviews of Nathanial Philbrick’s “Mayflower,” about the Plymouth Colony of English Separatists who left Leiden, Holland, in 1620 to go to America. The Pilgrims arrived in November and half the original colonists died. They wouldn’t have survived had not been for help from Indians (yes, there really was a Squanto, or Tisquantum, who in 1614 had been kidnapped, taken to Europe, learned English, and served as their translator but ended up distrusted and probably poisoned by Wampanoag Indians). King Philip’s War erupted 55 years after their arrival at Plymouth Rock, claimed thousands of lives, and basically doomed the Indians that had co-existed with colonists for over a generation. The book’s title is misleading since the book goes up to 1691 when Plymouth was absorbed into Massachusetts Bay colony. A tear later came the Salem witchcraft trials.

Received the latest edition of the Ayers Realtors newsletter, which contains community announcements as well as property listings (the “Asian Inspired Ranch” built by Pat Lee that intrigued me is still on sale for $269,900). A column by Judy Ayers describes a plane, train, and boat trip through New England and Nova Scotia. She included a recipe for Blueberry grunt (biscuity dumplings smothered in blueberries sweetened with sugar and cinnamon) obtained from her Halifax guide.

Reviewed “Dropping the Torch: Jimmy Carter, The Olympic Boycott, and The Cold War” by Nicholas E. Sarantakes. Hope Choice doesn’t find it to be too much of a summary and not enough of a critique. Because I am not to exceed 200 words, I probably won’t be able to include as introduction this description by wife Margot of why Allan Wells of the United Kingdom won the 100 meters dash by a nose over Silvio Leonard of Cuba. She explained, “There is a Scottish tradition of banging heads in the pubs on Saturday night when looped. It’s called nutting. You try to get your forehead down and break the other man’s nose. That must be the training that won it for him.”

Got an email from former student Brad Smith, who played basketball for the IU Northwest Redhawks a couple years ago. He’s married, has a kid, got an MBA and hopes to go on get his PhD. He had wanted to go into the army Rangers, but fortunately those plans got derailed. Here’s what he said about his subsequent basketball career: “I have played in several semi pro leagues since I left IUN. Some I did very well in and some marginal. I averaged over 20 ppg in my last season for the "Southern Indiana Generals". I made a mighty $700 as the player, coach and general manager. And out of that I had to pay refs and expenses.” I replied: “Congrats on marriage, the baby, and getting an MBA. Maybe it isn’t so bad that you are not a Ranger. If you need a letter of recommendation for a PhD program, let me know.”

Had lunch with English professors Alan Barr, Doug Swartz, and Allison Fagan (whom I had not met previously). None went to the Chancellor’s installation, Alan claiming he looked stupid because of his size in a cap and gown. Allison was very young-looking and attractive, with a little silver loop adorning the bridge of her nose. She recently got her PhD and plans to go through the upcoming ceremony in order to, in her words, please her parents. That prompted me to tell about wearing a peace sign at my PhD ceremony at the University of Maryland in 1970, much to my mother’s displeasure. I also mentioned attending nephew Bobby’s graduation party in Bloomington. He and his housemates were skipping the ceremony, I had learned in advance, so I brought a cap and gown and blank diploma and midway through the party put in on. Saying “By the power vested in me,” I presented him with the diploma. He rolled his eyes at first, but all the parents had their sons put on the cap and gown for photos, so it what I did was a hit.

Ron Cohen dropped in to the Archives after talking to Meg Renslow DeMakas’s students about the history of the Gary school. He brought a page from yesterday’s Post-Trib that contained an article by John Laue criticizing the National Park Service’s decision to demolish all residences in the Edgewater section of the national Lakeshore, in contrast with the Golden gate Recreational Area in San Francisco, which provides lodging for visitors. He wrote: “With the park not having attractive overnight accommodations, it isn’t surprising that most travelers pass through Northwest Indiana without stopping to see what this area has to offer beyond cheap gas and cigarettes, fireworks and casinos.” On the same page war an article by peace activist Carolyn McCrady entitled “Iraq war still on, and costs mount.” It claims we still have 75,000 mercenaries there in addition to 50,000 troops who are in harm’s way. The cost of deploying one soldier for a year is $390,000, she pointed out; and in addition to the 4,420 soldiers who dies, another 32,000 returned with physical wounds and untold thousands with emotional damage. Her piece ends with the Thomas Jefferson quote that “the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.”