Monday, January 31, 2011

Takin' It to the Streets

“Take this message to my brother
You will find him everywhere
Wherever people live together
Tied in poverty’s despair.”
“Takin’ It to the Streets,” Doobie Brothers

“Takin’ It to the Streets” is a Sixties reader that Nicole Anslover used in her class and also the name of the 1976 Doobie Brothers album as well as the song. During the chorus are lines such as “no more need for runnin’” and “no more need for hidin’.” Steve Martin, my favorite Seventies comedian, was a riot singing about “funky King Tut.” Unfortunately Egyptian treasures of antiquity are in peril due to turmoil near the Cairo Museum. So far two mummies have been destroyed and looters have broken into at least ten display cases. Shades of Baghdad after the Americans invaded. Rioting in the street has been a daily occurrence for the past week. Crowds are demanding the ouster of 82 year-old Hosni Mubarak, who has been in power since the assassination of Anwar Sadat in 1981. Students were the first to take to the streets, but Muslim groups are trying to take charge of the protests. The U.S. has given billions to Mubarak’s government, much of it probably ending up in a Swiss bank account. The unrest started in Tunisia, whose president was forced to resign, and has spread to other Middle East nations such as Jordan. Young people have communicated via Twitter and the Internet.

“Smithsonian” magazine has an article about the reissuing of Samuel Eliot Morison epic naval history of WW II. He spent three years aboard ships to capture firsthand the tribulations and exhilaration of battle. Previously he had sailed routes Columbus had taken 460 years before in researching “Admiral of the Ocean Sea.” The article mentioned that he believed historians should write for the masses, not just each other but that his famous textbook co-authored by Henry Steele Commager, was demeaning toward African Americans, at least in the early editions. Here’s how Morison explained the significance of the Battle of Leyte Gulf, which basically rendered battleships obsolete: “When ‘Mississippi’ discharged her twelve 14-inch guns at ‘Yamashiro’ at a range of 19,790 yards, at 0408 October 25, 1944, she was not only giving that battleship the coup de grace, but firing a funeral salute to a finished era of naval warfare. One can imagine the ghosts of all great admirals from Raleigh to Jellicoe standing at attention as the Battle Line went into oblivion, along with the Greek phalanx, the Spanish wall of pikemen, the English longbow and the row-galley tactics of Salamis and Lepanto.”

Had lousy luck in bridge Saturday night but won all five games Sunday morning thanks to an astounding run of luck and (in Stone Age at least) Tom and Dave underestimating my chances. We didn’t play Egizia fortunately, yet another ancient Egyptian board game where players build monuments requested by the pharaoh, but Tom let me take it home to study. Dave’s softball captain stopped by to give him a shirt commemorating their championship season last summer. Coincidentally I was wearing an Eagles shirt with “Doc” and the number 55 on the back, my age during the 1997 season. IU gave slumping Michigan State a fight before losing by a single point. Students and cheerleaders had signs and pictures honoring gymnast Kathryn Mahoney, who fractured a cervical vertebra while vaulting in practice last month, leaving her paralyzed from the neck down. What a horrible thing.

Alissa broke her leg while playing soccer. A guy twice her sixe stepped on her. Her boyfriend Josh took her to the ER. Toni is going to Michigan with food, pajamas, and other things for her. Alissa will need surgery Thursday. She had been all set to get her own apartment. Miranda put a photo of the foot on Facebook. Alissa’s spirits are good, but she refers to herself as disabled.

Book contract from IU Press arrived in the mail for Sheriff Dominguez and me to sign. I finished making the changes he requested and added paragraphs about the “Honeybee Killer” from our interview last week. Gunman Gary Amaya shot several people in both Illinois and Indiana after asking his victims if they knew anything about caring for honeybees. He was later shot and killed while attempting to rob a tanning salon. In a note Roy called me a good man and a godsend, adding: “None of this would have been possible without your guidance and awesome patience.” Nice.

Former student Kass Stone, now living in London because of his girlfriend and working as a tutor, reports: “I have written a book, “A Zen master in Oz.” It does not purport to be a text on the Dharma or anything. I just had a dream at a Zen retreat once about a Zen master in the Emerald City. It's silly fun with bits of insight as far as somebody this early in my practice can provide it. A Zen master falls through a closet and ends up in Oz. Princess Ozma is in a deep depression and as a result a kind of dissatisfaction has spread amongst the Ozites. An egomanical, right-wing, Munchkin radio host has fostered an anti-Ozma uprising that threatens to destroy Oz. How can the Zen master help? The answer can only be found in the book, which would have been released about a year go through a small publisher with illustrations by popular Oz artist Dennis Anfuso. Financial difficulties arose so I chose the Kindle route in order to get the story out there and maybe generate interest in a slick, fully illustrated paper version.”

Traded anecdotes at lunch with George Bodmer about locking keys in your car (it happened to me twice in six months ten years ago) and not being able to recall where you parked your car. Once he was late for a talk at DePaul and had to walk in concentric circles in the pouring rain before he found the vehicle. The key to life, Kurt Vonnegut taught us, is to become an old geezer gracefully. I’ve tried to learn from older mentors like Tom Higgins and Carroll Vertrees, who are still writing.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

American Hoops

“Excuse my charisma, vodka with a spritzer
swagger down pat, call my shit Patricia
Young Money militia, and I am the commissioner
you don't want start Weezy, 'cause the F is for Finisher
so misunderstood, but what's a World without enigma?”
Lil Wayne, “6 Foot 7 Foot”

On the cover of “Rolling Stone is Lil Wayne, covered with tattoos, naked to the waist, with underpants showing and pants so low I doubt if he could walk ten steps. The article is subtitled “Out of Jail and On the Loose.” His current hit “6 Foot 7 Foot” sounds like pure gibberish, but what do I know? One YouTube critic claimed the title refers to something that went up his ass at Rikers Island, adding “Only 13 year olds and homos listen to this trash.” In the flick “No Strings Attached” Adam (Ashton Kutcher) berates his goofball dad Alvin (Kevin Kline) for listening to Lil Wayne and trying one of his drugs of choice, purple drank, containing codeine and promethazine. Finally got around to listening to The Damned Things CD “Ironiclast” that nephew Joe gave me. The best song is “We’ve Got a Situation Here,” but I have no idea what it means. The group contains former members of Anthrax and Fall Out Boys. The latter started out in Wilmette, Illinois, and had several huge hits, including “This Ain’t a Scene, It’s an Arms Race” in 2007.

The Chicago Bulls will have a starter, Derrick Rose, in the NBA all-star game for the first time since Michael Jordan retired. His sheer athletic ability and charisma on the court are the talk of the town now that the debate about whether Bears quarterback Jay Cutler should have gutted out his injury in the loss to Green bay has died down. Some of Cutler’s critics are real Neanderthals.

Sports historian Carson Cunningham inquired about teaching possibilities at IUN. The former Purdue basketball star teaches at DePaul but lives in Ogden Dunes and coaches at his high school alma mater Andrean. I suggested he look into whether there are openings in the summer and that it would be great if the History Club invited him to talk about his book “American Hoops: U.S. Men’s Olympic basketball from Berlin to Beijing.” I talked to Diana Chen Lin about teaching possibilities and to IUN’s athletic director about inviting him and his team to a Redhawk game. Carson emailed: “I appreciate you taking the time to look into the matter. I think all your suggestions are of interest. I know IUN is interested in one of our players at Andrean so, at a minimum, I'll contact the athletic dept. about going there to catch a men's game with him. Doing a guest lecture about American Hoops would be awesome. And I'm definitely up for a summer gig, were one to arise.” I talked with Ken Coopwood, who promised he could come up with $200 in Diversity funds for a lecture that would emphasize matters of race in the composition of teams since 1936. If we could hold the event on the day of Homecoming, that would be great. The women’s basketball team plays at 5:30 and the men at seven, so 4 p.m. seems ideal. I’ll have to inform Marketing. Chris Sheid recently quit to become editor of a newspaper in Arizona, but his assistant Emily Banas is very competent.

I thanked Suzanna for reminding me about the State-of-the-Union address and told her I thought the President was great. I enjoyed watching the Republicans squirm when forced to applaud. I’m glad Obama made a commitment to immigration reform and keeping the main features of the health care plan. Alissa can stay on her dad’s plan until age 26 in necessary. On this the centennial anniversary of Ronald Reagan’s birth and thirtieth anniversary of his first taking office, Newsweek had an article contrasting Obama’s “took a shellacking” reaction to the midterm elections with the Gipper’s sunny take on Democratic gains in 1982. Ron Reagan claims that his dad had Alzheimer’s Disease in his last months in office. Bill Maher quipped that if he were alive today, he’d be drummed out of the Republican Party. They treat his memory like the Bible, he said, never reading it but always waving it.

About 20 folks commented on Jerry Davich’s article about Anne Balay and her “Steel Closet” project. Darcy actually took me to task for suggesting the idea to Anne, arguing that steelworkers’ sexual orientation is their own private matter. Calling herself Anon., she concluded: “I do find Ms. Balay's work to be intrusive and frankly unnecessary and demeaning. And I think historian Jimbo Lane was out of line in even suggesting it to her.” One blogger questioned whether Anne was really a lesbian since she had two kids. A couple people criticized the mention of Encompass, the Lake Station gay bar, claiming that homophobes might target it. Someone recalled a “Simpsons” episode about a gay steel mill, and several people brought up the subject of showering with gays. Anne was pleased at the heavy response, including interview leads despite a couple of crank calls. Here’s what I sent to Davich’s blog under my full name: “Point number one: To argue that studying gay and lesbian steelworkers is not a legitimate research topic is shortsighted, to say the least. Point number two: It is important that people know that there are gay bars in the Region and that patrons can go there without being hassled. Point number three: The "Simpsons" episode about a gay mill was quite hilarious.” Knowing when to ride with a good story, Davich included an update in his latest column, “stirring the ever-boiling pot regarding homosexuality,” as he put it. He quoted one angry caller who told him: “Who the hell cares about gay steelworkers? Keep them in the closet where they belong?”

Having enjoyed Sue Miller’s “The Good Mother” (despite the main character losing custody of her four year-old daughter after her boyfriend let her touch his penis), I picked up “Family Pictures” (1990), about the Eberhardts, who have to deal with an autistic child. Back in the 1950s parents often blamed themselves when their child was uncommunicative.

Bowled great in spite (or maybe because) of a two-week layoff, rolling games of 188, 151, and 191, as the Engineers took five of seven points. Frank Shufran bowled a 267 in the third game to finish with a 672 series. Beforehand, Charlie, a 75 year-old opponent, was badmouthing Obama. I said something defending the President, and he asked me why my hair was so long. I didn’t want to make a scene so I quipped that I thought my hair was one of my best features and that it might not grow back if I shortened it. Right about then, Nick came up and said he’d seen my name in the paper. I replied, “Oh, in the Jerry Davich article about gay steelworkers?” Melvin later told Charlie I was a History professor, and he was thereafter very friendly toward me. Delia’s Uncle George was finally back bowling after having fallen off a ladder last year and seriously injuring himself.

Interviewed Sheriff Dominguez for two hours about his last months in office, including the Honeybee Killer Case (as the press dubbed it) about a killer who talked to his intended victims about taking care of bees before shooting them. The initial suspect was a policeman, but the real Honeybee Killer, Gary Amaya, was killed while trying to hold up a tanning salon. The Sheriff is opening a law office with his nephew and is hoping to do volunteer work with a local veterans center.

Talked to Steve McShane’s class about the importance of journals in connection with the Ides of March assignment they’ll be doing for him. I gave everyone free copies of volume 35, featuring journals from 2003 and read excerpts from Joe Hengstler’s and Nikki Clemons’. Both were memorable characters. Joe was in the band Planetary Blues, which I heard play at Mark O’s. They were good but started so late Mark vowed never to have them back. Nikki talked about her Serbian grandparents and, on her mother’s side, her hillbilly relatives. Commenting on a 1979 project she was researching for my class, Nikki wrote: “Three-Mile Island sparked anti-nuke protests around the world. President Jimmy Carter claimed a rabbit had attacked him while he was fishing. “The Dukes of Hazzard” premiered on TV, and hit songs included “Devil Went Down in Georgia by the Charlie Daniels Band. The hostage crisis in Iran started in November and went on and on.” A “Rolling Stone” article about Carter mentions many of these same events. Students seemed pleased I intended to publish excerpts from their journals. One student asked if he could use slang expressions. I told them that there was no single way to do a journal but that they should write about their passions as well as stuff pertaining to their family and community history. Steve Curry, who took a class with me two decades ago, read the lines of Jarrett Vaughn in a clear, booming voice.

Monday, January 24, 2011


“The little cockroach, the little cockroach,

I saw him just the other day 

I like him best when, he takes his things and 

He gets his friends and moves away.”
La Cucaracha

Our week in Cancun with Jim and Kate Migoski on the Mayan Riviera was fabulous. We stayed at a five-star hotel complex, La Gran Bahia Principe (our villa was at the Coba but we were able to use the facilities at the other two hotels, Akamal and Tulum). The all expenses paid Apple Vacations package included food and drinks, and we had plenty of both, beginning with mimosa at breakfast and ending with a bailey’s Irish Cream nightcap. In addition to the regular buffets we went to a special barbeque and three luxury restaurants, Brazilian, seafood, and Mexican, the latter serving mango daiquiris and featuring a mariachi band whose repertoire included “La Cacaracha.” We frequently encountered iguanas sunning themselves on the sidewalks. Between meals we went to the beach or a pool (our favorite contained three unheated whirlpools that were a perfect temperature by midday), played cards (Quiddler and Uno mainly), and read (the hotel furnished a 12-page USA News and I finished Sue Miller’s 468-page novel “The Good Mother”). Nightly entertainment included a circus act, a Broadway review, Latin night, and a Lip Sync special with fantastic dancers backing up Madonna, Cher, Michael Jackson, Queen, Justin Bieber, and the Black-Eyed Peas. Most shows started with a contest featuring volunteers from the audience. Probably half the guests were Canadians happy to be in a tropical climate where the temperature reached the mid-80s. We went to a special fiesta featuring traditional Mexican dances. A photographer dressed us up in ponchos and sombreros, stood us next to a live donkey, and gave us a guitar and a rifle to pose with - unnecessary stereotypes, Toni thought – but we purchased a picture without frame for $13. Inside was a mechanical bull that I declined to ride, waiters offering free shots of tequila, and games such as Pin the Tail on the Donkey.

Over 3,000 employees, most of Mayan ancestry, work at La Gran Bahia Principe. Melchor Loria, who had been so helpful the year before, was now a manager and greeted us as a long lost friend. He arranged an earlier time for us (seven rather than 9:30) at the Brazilian restaurant. His girlfriend Josie was also a big help getting our airport transportation confirmed. Airport security bordered on the ridiculous. At O’Hare a rude TSA agent patted me down after my artificial knee set off the alarm, exclaiming “Jesus Christ” because I hadn’t put my wallet and glasses case through the security scanner. Arriving in Cancun, we went through two lines, first to hand in a Declaration form and then to go through customs. Leaving Cancun, we not only went through a full screening but at the gate agents looked through our carry-on luggage and again patted us down. Our flight to Chicago was delayed 90 minutes, supposedly because the plane was late arriving due to de-icing problems at O’Hare. I joked with a guy in a Chicago Bears jersey about making it home in time for the NFC championship game the next day against the Packers (I had watched the Bears victory over Seattle on a station where the announcers spoke Spanish). Lo and behold, he and his wife sat down in row six next to Toni (seating for couples were either window-middle or aisle-aisle, the latter being our preference). It was freezing cold in Chicago, but driver Mike picked us up within minutes with a white stretch limo. We actually prefer a town car, but the limo was stocked with beer. Unlike previous returns to Maple Place when we found the road treacherous, the electricity out or the furnace not working, our condo was warm and cozy. Good to be home. A week was just the right getaway time.

Learned that Dave’s gig at Clancy’s bar the night before was a success, with many friends in attendance. Phil went to a Harlem Globetrotters game with Anthony and Delia. I placed calls to Suzanna and to Gaard (back from Florida), as well as nephews Bob and Joe (while listening to the Flotsam and Jetsam CD he gave me). In Sunday gaming I eked out a win in Acquire and more than doubled everyone else’s score in Dominion, opting for a simple but effective game plan. Dave’s new medicine may leave one susceptible to leg cramps called a Charley Horse. In fact, he got one last night. Vic used to get them often; they are painful, and when I get one I think of the old man. The Hagelbergs had us over for a ham dinner (served at halftime of the Bears disappointing loss to Green Bay) and bridge. Dick recently broke a leg cross-country skiing at the National Lakeshore. Rather than call for help on his cell phone he trekked a mile to his car, using the skis as crutches. In the Sunday P-T Jeff Manes led off his column on woodcarver Sidney Spoor with these lyrics from an obscure song by Vic McAlphin: “Spittin’, whittlin’, telling lies/ Drinkin’ an R.C. and eatin’ Moon Pies/ Singin’ ‘Mabel on the Hill’.” I don’t know where he gets them. Spoor, who retired from LTV Steel ten years ago at age 56, told Jeff: “I’ve seen too many guys work until they’re 65, then drop dead within the first year of retirement.”

Jerry Davich’s Monday’s P-T story, headlined: “Wanted: Gay, lesbian, bisexual steelworkers,” has a great photo of colleague Anne Balay, who discussed her oral history project “Steel Closets.” She mentioned having interviewed 45 steelworkers but that only 17 signed her consent form. Davich wrote: “Balay got the controversial yet fascinating idea from Jim Lane, the longtime historian at IUN, who simply asked her about the issue. She ran with it.” Anne believes it’s a little easier for women steelworkers because male co-workers already assume you’re a lesbian even if you are not and are more comfortable around them than gay men. Anne sent the article to friends, saying, “Check This Out!” The Internet posting didn’t include her photo though.

Steve McShane asked me to talk to his class Thursday about his assignment of keeping journals in March. I’ll suggest emphasizing a theme, such as interpersonal relationships, work, school, hobbies, passions, and the like. Steve also wants me to help compose a letter of recommendation endorsing civil rights pioneer A.B. Whitlock’s nomination to the Steel City Hall of Fame. In 1921 Whitlock became the first African American to serve on the Gary City Council. He fought against segregationist efforts to prevent blacks from attending Emerson School. Among his business interests was ownership of the Gary American, a weekly newspaper that he put out. Whitlock is a deserving inductee, and I’ll be glad to do it. Maybe someone will nominate me one day. At the Gary library are plaques honoring all the inductees, ministers, politicians, and sports stars aplenty but nary a historian. In our letter, which Steve composed, we wrote: “His eloquent speeches during the Emerson School strike of 1927 instilled pride and strength in the African-American community during that difficult racial conflict. Here is an excerpt from Councilman Whitlock during a city council meeting as Gary leaders debated a resolution to build a school at 25th and Georgia, then a desolate, swampy vacant area, for Gary’s black students: ‘If the City Council passes this ordinance, it’s sowing a bad seed. Think of tomorrow when a more dangerous situation probably will arise. We probably won’t be around here when the trouble starts, buy mind my word, its coming. I couldn’t think of supporting this ordinance and be loyal to my people and their interests.’ Mr. Whitlock’s actions were not limited to politics. He also became very active in Gary civic affairs, as a founder of the Calumet Chapter of the Indiana Civil Liberties Union. Indeed, the Chapter recognized him by establishing the A.B. Whitlock Award for outstanding contributions to civil rights and civil liberties, presented at the Chapter’s annual meeting.”

Ray Boomhower has a splendid article about former Congressman Jim Jontz in the current issue of TRACES. Jontz first won office in 1974 at age 22, defeating Jack Guy, who had been House majority leader, by a scant two votes. During the 1970s Bailly Alliance fight to stop construction of a nuclear plant of the shore of Lake Michigan, then state legislator Jontz was a staunch ally and kindred spirit. Though representing a Republican district, his hard work on behalf of farmers, laborers, women’s, and environmental issues made him, in Boomhower’s words, “the people’s choice.” He was truly an honorable public servant. When criticized for calling Eugene Debs his hero, Jontz replied that the Socialist leader championed women’s suffrage and the eight-hour day. An indefatigable campaigner, Jontz once rode his sister’s rusty Schwinn bicycle with mismatched tires in seven Fourth of July parades in a single day. In 1986 he defeated reactionary state legislator Jim Butcher to represent Indiana’s Fifth Congressional District. He served three terms before losing to jerk-off Steve Buyer. Jontz looked a little like Huey Long and was a populist without the Louisiana demagogue’s dark side. He ran against Senator Richard Lugar in 1994, a hopeless cause but one that allowed him to discuss issues of interest to him plus enjoy the whirligig of campaigning one final time. After he died of colon cancer in 2007, Lugar noted that “he provided great inspiration, launched the careers of many outstanding individuals and made a profound impact in each of his endeavors.” In 1995 he was arrested during a protest against timber cutting in Oregon’s Siskiyou National Forest. When his parents, crusty Hoosiers, took umbrage, he told them that at least he was wearing a coat and tie. Siskiyou is near Ashland, Oregon, where old acquaintance Jim Quinby and his band Smoky Red often play at the Wild Goose. Until recently I had never heard of Siskiyou National Forest. Now I’ll probably hear about it all the time.

A 79 year-old associate faculty was talking at my cafeteria lunch table with two young women who appeared very interested in meeting his wife and going to a restaurant with them. Could that be me in ten years? Sometimes I regret that I didn’t open myself up more with students – although I am friends with quite a few.

I received a long note on Facebook from Ann Bottorff, Dean’s daughter, who would visit summers when Dean and Joanell lived next to us on Maple Place. She and brother Richard were Phil and Dave’s age and would play together. We exchanged Christmas cards with her until a couple years ago. I commented on her reference to music and she replied: “I'm glad to hear you like 'The National', I think that “Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers” is a great album. Although, it's probably best not to listen to that album too many times in a row - a little depressing. I've (actually Chad did) discovered a new group called 'Loch Lomond' - I think they are out of Portland and are a bit folksy (and probably not that new) they've got quite a few songs on YouTube (“Wax and Wire” being among my favorite).”

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Memorial Services

“Astronaut, come over to my house
I’ll pour some tea for us, one sugar or two
Your hand is right in front of me.”
Beach House

I’ve been watching the videos of Baltimore indie group Beach House on YouTube. Robert Blaszkiewicz included their “10 Mile Stereo” on his CD of favorite songs of 2010. One critic called their genre “dream pop,” and Parisian Victoria Legrand has a great sultry voice that makes one think of old memories, kind of like Owl City’s “Ocean Eyes.” Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who lies gravely wounded from a would-be assassin’s bullet, is married to astronaut Mark Kelly. In the paper was a shot of his hand clasping hers in the hospital. Mark is a veteran of three space missions, and twin brother Scott is also a NASA astronaut. President Obama spoke eloquently at a memorial service for those shot in Tuscon. On the other hand Sarah Palin delivered a pitiful rant claiming she was a victim of blood libel. Whether she knew it or not, the term dates from medieval times and refers to anti-Semites claiming Jews used the blood of Christian children in their religious rituals. One critic called her usage perverse.

Toni and I attended the viewing at Edmonds and Evans Funeral Home in Chesterton for neighbor Joe Harrison. Photos showing him at all ages as a vibrant person were on a continuous computer loop. He was in the navy during WW II. Wish I had met him before his health declined. Several condo residents were there, including Leo and his wife, but no old friends. After all he was 85 and lived other places most of his life. Probably some came later or to the Wednesday mass. The prayer card contained these words from St. Francis: “Where there is hatred, let me sow love.” Easier said than done but still a noble sentiment. Afterwards, Toni said she wanted a party if she went first, no solemnity or open casket.

My “Retirement Journal” arrived on Suzanna’s birthday. She wrote: “You have captured life in a mason jar, so to speak and I find that, like little lightning bugs, the writings light up my room with slips of wit and humor and insight and oops - I'd better skip that one. (throw that bug out). What a great project. I have worked on a similar but less far reaching project - a story of my life just for my kids and grandkids. I do have to be careful what I say about their fathers... very delicate territory there. I want it to be a positive narrative of overcoming difficulties, not a harangue, a joyful writing with hope at the end and a sense of overriding spirituality not temporal carnality.” I think my carnal references are why she wrote “oops.” My initial email to her got a “yikes” in response. She is Amish and claims she hasn’t flirted in 20 years. I asked her whether our summer romance will be in the memoir, and she indicated it will.

I interviewed Sheriff Roy Dominguez (first time in two months) about his recent trip with brother Hector to south Texas. The purpose was to reconnect with his roots and contemplate the meaning of his life as we put finishing touches on his autobiography. He suggested a possible alternative title to “Spirits from the Field” – the single word “Valor.” In Spanish it means value or worth in addition to the English connotation or courage or gallantry. The Press wants something in the subtitle to connect the book with Indiana History, so I suggested “From Tex-Mex Roots to Lake County, Indiana, Sheriff.” He was pleased with the offer from IU Press and borrowed O’Hara’s new Gary book to show his wife since his will be the same size and format except with photos. He talked about an Uncle Pablo who was a dozen years his senior and a family protector because nobody dared mess with him. A stroke eight years ago, left him seriously impaired, and Roy found it sad to see this once virile man hobbling around with a cane. Pablo’s brother Saul also looked after the Dominguez siblings, especially when their mom visited her husband in the Harbor.

The cafeteria is so crowded at noon, it being the first week of the semester, that students have taken over what usually serves as the faculty table. We are left to fend for ourselves. I found Bill Dorin by himself at a table with students. He had seen me come in and stayed around to keep me company. English professor Alan Barr had just left the chair I plopped down on. I had a sloppy Joe and applesauce plus chips and star cookies from home.

Chris Young sent me a link to his just-published article in “Federal History” on “Proclamations and Founding Father Presidents.” The journal also reprinted a speech former Senate historian Richard A. Baker delivered at the University of Maryland (both his and my alma mater) highly critical of how the upper body of Congress is constituted and operates. One might scoff at on-line journals, but they are the wave of the future and can incorporate color photos and graphs (as Chris Young’s did) easier than printed periodicals.

Ray and Trish Arredondo sent along a glowing review of “Maria’s Journey” from Forum, a genealogy magazine. Concerning the chapter introductions that I wrote to provide an historic backdrop to the narrative, reviewer Carol Becker concluded: “This feature gives excellent context and extends the value of the book beyond one family’s story, in effect making the Arredondo’s story an illustration of the history of which they were a part. Chapter 6, for example, is about the family’s move to Safe (Indiana) Harbor, where father Miguel found work at Inland Steel after trying jobs in Texas and Pennsylvania. The introductory paragraph for the chapter tells about the city, its incorporation just a few years’ prior to the Arredondo’s arrival, and the steel mill.”

Took notes as secretary at a condo board meeting held to discuss organizational considerations a week prior to the January general meeting. President Ken Carlson opened proceedings by asking rhetorically, “Who is in charge?” The answer: the board is basically the governing body of the association. Then he turned to the “Assigning of Responsibilities” and noted that the designated persons need not be board members. The others concurred. As a result, former president Jamison Menacher will oversee Lawn Service and Leo Rondo will continue to supervise General Maintenance. Craig Henderson offered to be in charge of Painting, Marcia Gaughan will continue to deal with Snow Removal issues, Bernie Holicky will take primary responsibility for Publication (a quarterly newsletter), and Ken, Bernie, and Phil Chase will share responsibility for Insurance. Regarding Communication, I as board secretary will send minutes of meetings to board members soliciting additions and corrections and then pass on the final version to court directors to disseminate any relevant information to residents. After much discussion of the spring and fall cleanup and criticism of past practices, it was decided to re-hire HORSES for the spring (subject to formal approval at next week’s meeting) but to hold off making any commitment for the Fall.

Ron Cohen showed me his new book on the letters of folk music scholar Alan Lomax. He loaned me the current issue of Mojo magazine with a young-looking Bob Dykan on the cover and an article about mutual friend Izzy Young, who as proprietor of the Folklore Center helped launch Dylan’s career. On November 4, 1961, Izzy booked Dylan into Carnegie Hall’s Chapter annex. Only 52 people came and Izzy lost about $300. He recalled a half-century later: “I wasn’t too impressed by that first concert anyway. He looked nervous the whole time, doing this Ramblin’ jack Elliott routine, jumping around the stage, shaking his boots. He practically fell off the stage! The concert wasn’t that good, but he did have some interesting songs.” In “Chronicles” Dylan describes the Folklore Center as “the citadel of American folk music” and Izzy as “an old-line folk enthusiast, very sardonic . . . and always rattled about something or other. In reality, a romantic. To him, folk music glittered like a mound of gold. It did for me, too.” While we were in Sweden, we stayed with Izzy, an old beat poet, and he wrote a haiku for Toni.

Ron gave me a copy of the January 13 issue of New York Review of Books that contained a blurb from the Norman Mailer Center about week long summer creative writing workshops at Mailer’s home in Provincetown, Massachusetts. I wrote project director Jessica Zlotnicki offering to teach a couple workshops on the topic “Keeping a Journal for Yourself and Posterity.” I sent along three Shavings magazines that include journals, including the “Ides of March” issue, my 2000 “Survival Journal,” and my “Retirement Journal.”

Spotted former IUN student Todd Deloney and Steve McShane assembling an exhibit commemorating the twentieth anniversary of a demonstration that led to the university observing Martin Luther King Day to be a holiday. At one point it started pouring but Deloney, President of the Black Student Union, remained outside getting drenched. Chancellor Peggy Elliott finally convinced him that if he came inside, she’d work to make his goal a reality. She was true to her word. Thereafter, a memorial service and meaningful tributes to King’s legacy took the place of regular classes. I called Chris Sheid in Marketing, and he came over to snap pictures and interview Deloney. When I returned from lunch, they were still deep in conversation. Steve told me later that Chris got a dream job offer in Arizona and will soon be leaving IUN. He will be missed.

Purdue Cal professor Ezekiel Flannery was at the Archives researching the history of dietary habits in the area going back to the days of Native Americans. I told him about Fred McColly’s research paper on starting an Indian vegetable garden and about Cultural Anthropology professor Michelle Stokely’s work concerning Indians in Indiana. Ezekiel lives in Miller and asked to buy my Shavings issue on Tales of lake Michigan and the Northwest Indiana Dunelands, which he came upon, I believe, at the Dunes State Park reading room. I told him it was officially out of print but found a copy for him.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Crossing the Bar

“Oh I’ve finally decided my future lies
Beyond the yellow brick road.”
Elton John and Bernie Taupin

A memorial service for William F. Neil took place at United Methodist Church in Valpo. Among the items on display was his distinctive, dark red University of Chicago cap and gown. Ron Cohen and Fred Chary attended, as did his Friday lunch companions until recently Keith Lorentsin and Jack Greueenfelder. Retired Nursing faculty Hazel Malone Geologist Mark Reshkin came, as did Rick Hug from SPEA, the only non-retired IUN representative. I shared memories of Bill taking me to Miller Beach when I first came for a job interview and got everyone laughing mentioning his reference to the “Yellow brick Road” during a faculty meeting and Paul Kern saying afterwards that he was surprised Bill was familiar with Elton John’s album. George Thoma’s daughter mentioned Bill once arrived at their house playing a bagpipe and that her dad called him Sweet William, also the name of a flower (Bill loved to garden) and the nickname of a commander of the victorious royal forces loyal to George II in the 1746 Battle of Culloden, William of Marlborough, Duke of Cumberland, who defeated “Bonnie Prince Charlie.” Memory cards showed Bill in his WW II uniform; on the back was Alfred Tennyson’s “Crossing the Bar,” which contains these lines: “And may there be no sadness of farewell when I embark.” Methodists loved to eat, the minister quipped, and indeed the sumptuous feast included roast beef, mashed potatoes and gravy, a string bean casserole, salad, rolls, and a dessert selection that included cherry pie. I skipped dinner that evening.

A crazed gunman shot Congressman Gabrielle Giffords in the head and killed six people near a grocery store in Tucson, Arizona, where Giffords was greeting her constituents. She is a moderate Democrat and thus a target for Tea party fanatics. Sarah Palin campaigned for her opponent Jesse Kelly and included her in her notorious crosshairs map as someone people should be gunning for – or as Sarah put it, “Don’t retreat, instead RELOAD.” Kelly termed one of his events “Get on target for Victory in November” and explained, “Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office. Shoot a fully automatic M16 with Jesse Kelly.” One victim was the granddaughter of former Phillies manager and Cubs G.M. Dallas Green, born on 9/11/01, who was third grade class president and interested in how government works.

The first posting on Ray Smock’s blog “All Things Congressional” is entitled “Amending the Constitution in an Era of Bad feelings.” The number of proposed amendments is normally between 100 and 200 per session, including the perennial Balanced Budget and Flag-Burning Ban proposals. He predicts an increase given the November election results. The Republican-controlled House of Representatives spent two hours on its first day of regular business having members read the constitution out loud. They did some editing to cleanse the document of references to slavery. Ray posted his reaction on Facebook: “The next thing you know the same people that took Injun and the "n" word out of Huckleberry Finn will be selling a Reading Version of the Constitution that leaves out any mention of servitude or slavery. We can skip the 13th Amendment altogether because it reminds of unpleasant things in our past.”

Despite the snow Saturday, the Hagelbergs picked us up for dinner and the theater. At Pesto’s in Valpo were numerous students all dressed up for a formal dance. One table contained all girls. My sea bass entree had a topping similar to a crab cake. The Chicago Street Theater production “Route 66,” featured Beach Boy-type songs and made references to cities along the famed highway between Chicago and Los Angeles, including St. Louis, Flagstaff, Amarillo, and San Bernardino. Interspersed between skits were simulations of half-century old radio commercials extolling the virtues of vintage cars. The four-man cast sang Jan and Dean’s “Dead Man’s Curve.” Ironically, in 1955, two years after the song was a hit, Jan Berry was severely injured in a car accident in Los Angeles not far from the real curve. Years ago, we saw Jan and Dean at the Star Plaza. Jan was still suffering from the after effects of the accident, but other musicians covered for him. We purchased season tickets for the upcoming year; productions include “Chicago” and “Nunsense II.”

IU Press has accepted Sheriff Roy Dominguez’s autobiography for publication. Roy just returned from Texas and thanked me for my part in bringing it about. It will come out as a trade paperback similar to the Paul O’Hara book Gary: Most American of American Cities.” Having finished it, I am very impressed at its organization, analysis, and readability. When doing my research, I was like a sponge, soaking up information from as many sources as possible. That seems a fitting description of author O’Hara as well, in the best sense of the word.

I triumphed in three of four games (Amun Re, St. Petersburg, and Dominion) and would have won Acquire were it not for a stupid move, merging Tower into Continental even though I didn’t need the money and Dave had more Tower stock. He made a couple smart moves that made him first in Continental, the largest company. Watched the Eagles lose to the Packers. David Akers missed two field goals and Michael Vick was intercepted in the end zone to seal Green Bay’s 21-16 victory. Taking the trash out, I noticed activity at neighbor Sue Harrison’s condo. Husband Joe had passed away. I offered condolences and met her five middle-aged offspring. They had Chinese food and wine but no beer (Indiana still being dry on Sunday) so I brought a dozen cans over from our place. Joe has been ill for some time, but Sue was still taking it hard. How overwhelming it must be. In their safe Sue found instructions on how to handle certain things after he passes away.

Dave met me for lunch. He brought 30 East Chicago Central students to IUN who have enrolled in college courses. It being the first day of the semester, the cafeteria was packed. George Bodmer gave me a folder containing prints of his recent wood engravings and etchings. Toni will enjoy them. I congratulated IUN Lady Redhawks coach Ryan Shelton on the team’s victory over Robert Morris in which center Sharon Houston scored over 30 points. He and Dave talked about the E.C. Lady Cardinals being guests for a forthcoming game. Around 1:30 a dozen of his students wandered into the cafeteria saying that their instructor never showed up. I took David to the Communication department and learned that the instructor’s mother died the night before and his Speech class was cancelled for the entire week. Dean Hoyert and professor Ige helped sorting things out.

Professor Joel Rhodes of Southeast Missouri State University emailed: “Happy New Year! I did a review for your "Brothers in Arms" in the Indiana Magazine of History a couple of years ago and you graciously sent a couple of additional volumes. Thank you. I'm working on a new book project about the 1960s as seen through the eyes of American children and wanted to see if your students had ever run across oral histories like this? I'm collecting stories from people born between 1956 and 1970 about growing up in the United States during the 1960s in order to understand the meaning of “the sixties” from the perspective of children. More specifically I'm interested in how historical events between Kennedy’s inauguration in 1961 and Nixon’s resignation in 1974 impacted preadolescents based on their particular developmental age and ultimately whether this unique perspective on “the sixties” has had any impact on them as adults. In the first year I've collected almost 600 personal recollections from all over the country and was wondering if perhaps you or your students had ever interviewed folks from this generation?” Joel’s previous books on Vietnam protest and Missouri railroad magnate Louis Houck are excellent.

I replied: “There are a few references in my Sixties Shavings to younger people. Fort example, concerning the JFK assassination Steve Brown wrote: “What struck third grader Susan Brown as odd was the principal praying over the intercom. That was unprecedented.” There are numerous references to perceptions of race. For instance, Jim Cavanaugh wrote: “In December of 1966, nine year-old Bob and his grandmother took a bus downtown (Gary) to have lunch, do some window shopping, see a movie, and buy Christmas presents at Goldblatts. On the ride home two black teens starting goofing around in the seat directly behind them. When one bumped against his head, Bob turned around and received a dirty look and sarcastic laugh. When the bus stopped at the Midtown intersection and the rear door opened, one of the youths suddenly hit Bob in the back of the head and the other spat on his coat. He started crying, and his grandmother screamed at the driver, who was sympathetic but unable to do anything. That was the last time Bob ever rode a bus downtown. For a few years following the incident, and sometimes even later, he dreamed of catching those youths and killing them.” I sent Rhodes a copy. He offered to buy it, bit I said I only had a few copies left but that he could borrow it for as long as he needed it.

Gave my “Age of Anxiety” presentation to the Merrillville History Book Club. Radio and TV personality Tom Higgins heeded my invitation to show up and brought a photo for the Archives of a crowd in line outside the Palace Theater in 1958 to see Victor Mature in “China Doll.” He preferred not reading lines from his memoir of being at Horace Mann High School, so I had him recite a paragraph by Louis Vasquez. When someone brought up Wells Street Beach, Tom mentioned growing up near there and that a prostitution czar lived in a fancy house by the lake that Frank Sinatra would reach by speedboat when performing in Chicago. Somebody asked about murdered Lew Wallace teacher Mary Cheever, and Tom mentioned that there is a plaque honoring her at the First Presbyterian Church, which unlike City Methodist is still in good shape. Tom enjoys adopting the persona of a comedian on occasions such as this but was charming and mingled afterwards with the group. He asked about Phil as he always does and bragged about a couple other Channel 56 interns who went on to better things in the industry.

Niece Andrea sent a New Year’s card that expressed appreciation that Joe and I were pals. Told Joe that “Teutonic Terror” by Accept rocks. One verse goes: “Lighting the torches, setting the stage. You get what you ask for right in the face.” Looking ON Demand for “Hung,” an HBO series Ron told me I’d like, I came to a selection of late night shows that included “Cat House,” “Pornocopia,” “Taxi Confessions,” and “History of Pornography,” the latter with host Katie Morgan, a porn star with a breathtaking body who appeared totally nude and pretty much shaved in contrast to the full bushes on display in scenes from old stag films.

Derrick Rose put on a sensational performance in a Bulls win against the Pistons, highlighted by a one-handed alley-oop slam dunk. There hasn’t been this much excitement over a Chicago basketball player since Michael Jordan.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Gary, Indiana, Gary, Indiana, Gary, Indiana

Gary, Indiana, as a Shakespeare would say
Trips along softly on the tongue this way-
Gary, Indiana, Gary, Indiana, Gary, Indiana,
Let me say that once again.
Gary, Indiana, Gary, Indiana, Gary, Indiana,
That’s the town that knew me when.”
Meredith Willson, “The Music Man”

IU Press sent along a complimentary copy of S. Paul O’Hara’s new book “Gary: The Most American of American Cities.” Unfortunately, it first came to our old address, so I had to pay $2.38 postage due. In the acknowledgements the author thanked Steve McShane and me for our advice and criticisms of early drafts and seems to have made improvements along the lines we suggested. He included, for instance, a critique of the hour-long episode on Gary in the Peter Jennings series “In Search of America” and quoted from “Gary’s First Hundred Years” Mayor King’s conclusion that “it was a predetermined hatchet job as well as similar objections from other residents. In the footnotes are numerous references to my Gary books, as well as Steel Shavings and my Tony Zale article in TRACES. Except for the absence of photos, save for the front and back cover (both from the Calumet Regional Archives), it looks good. O’Hara mentions that the unspoken joke in “The Music Man” is that while confidence man Harold Hill convinces River City rubes that Gary was a center of high culture, most in the audience knew that “Gary’s real products were steel, smoke, crime, and vice.” The subtitle stems from the era of World War I when the largely immigrant population proved their patriotism with sacrifices both on the battlefield and in the steel mills. In “City of the Century” I mention that the Gary Evening Post first used the phrase “Most American of American Cities” in an article about a huge parade on April 28, 1917, when 30,000 marchers demonstrated their support for the war. The newspaper concluded: “Some people have been wondering if there is any spirit of patriotism in Gary, but after the tremendous, the unprecedented demonstrations of Saturday night, no one will ask that question again.” O’Hara’s meaning becomes apparent in Part Three, entitled, “The Very Model of Modern Urban Decay.” He opens the book with this quote from Perry Miller, a native Chicagoan most remembered as a colonial American intellectual historian: “We may venture that even more tragic than any classical or Shakespearean drama is the crisis of illumination when man realizes, much too late for any last minute panaceas, that he is unequal to the task for dealing with a universe of his own manufacture. Gloucester in ‘King Lear’ blames the gods that kill us for sport, as wanton boys do flies. But whom do we blame for Gary, Indiana?” Then to underscore his main point, O’Hara quotes Rabbi Garry Joel August: “Gary is America. Every city is Gary writ large or small.”

Bill Staehle passed away at age 78. I last saw him at the Patio, looking quite thin but still with a keen sense of humor and interest in local happenings. He was Gary’s city planner in the early 1960s when A. Martin Katz was mayor and headed Model Cities under Mayor Richard Hatcher. He had a house near the beach in Miller and taught in IU Northwest’s SPEA division. Chancellor Peggy Elliott first hired him to be a lobbyist in Indianapolis and fundraise, things he was very good at. In an interview used in “Educating the Region: A History of Indiana University Northwest,” Peggy said, “Bill also took care of our Foundation accounts. I delegated the distribution of our small student emergency fund to him. Sometimes the needs were so simple or serious they would break our hearts to hear about. The dollars didn’t last long, but I doubt Bill ever turned down a request. When there were no more dollars, sometimes he would tell me and we would fund the need ourselves. More often Bill just reached in his own pocket. We will never know how many times he did that, but he made all the difference for many students.” When Bruce Bergland first became chancellor a decade ago, Bill took him to Bobby Farag’s St. Patrick’s Day Party. I was surprised to see them, but it was totally in character. Like President John Ryan, Bill believed that university officials needed to get out into the community in order to best do their job. Coincidentally, Gary’s present urban planner, Chris Meyers, was at the Archives researching a Frank Dudley painting that once belonged to the Gary Historical Society and now is in the possession of an Indianapolis museum.

Got an email from Chris Sheid that there will be a memorial service for Bill Neil Friday at United Methodist Church in Valparaiso. I briefed his assistant, Emily Banas, on details involving Bill’s 40 years of service to the university. Emily showed me an obit from an Atlantic City, New Jersey, newspaper that mentioned his service as a bombardier during WW II and that he was a talented bagpiper. I heard him play at his and Mary’s fiftieth anniversary celebration. At my retirement party he said I was one of his good hires and signed a book he gave me on America during the twentieth century, “To a fine gentleman and a scholar.” After I first arrived for an interview in 1970, he picked me up at the Hotel Gary and before dropping me off at a motel in Miller told me what an excellent retirement program IU had. I didn’t much care at the time but am thankful for it now. In an announcement that went out to the campus community Emily included this quote: “Bill was in high school during the Great Depression, and he'd mentioned to me once that if it wasn't for this university, he probably wouldn't have had the opportunity to go to school," Lane said. "While fighting in World War II he had a near-death experience, and, at that point, he decided to dedicate his life to teaching, and to a school that gave people with backgrounds similar to him an opportunity for a good education.”

Two memorable memorial services involving IUN faculty were those for Robin Hass Birky, who died last year in an auto accident, and Gary Martin, a SPEA professor whom Sheriff Roy Dominguez appointed to be his police chief. He died during a motorcycle run to raise money for fallen policemen’s widows when a vehicle rammed him from the back. Afterwards, officers from all over joined the motorcade to the cemetery.

Greg Lasky, whom I met at the Trauts’ Christmas party, thanked me for “Gary’s First Hundred Years.” He mentioned that his grandfather moved to Gary from Minnesota in 1940 to work at U.S. Steel, adding: “I frequently talk to others about the history of Gary, and this is a great reference. We must get together again over coffee. I love all kinds of history. Our idea of a honeymoon was to go to colonial Williamsburg. Call me any time.”

The cafeteria cashier charged me a quarter for the fried onions on my hamburger – first time ever. What’s with that? George Bodmer asked if people have asked me not to mention them in my blog. The answer is no, but not everyone knows about it despite Google. As a veteran editor, I am pretty good at self-censorship. George has enjoyed what I have written about him, I think. I told him I try not to get too personal, especially concerning family members. We talked about “Black Swan,” which had me gasping out loud at a few bloody scenes. Someone whose daughter likes ballet was thinking of taking her before George told her about the lesbian and masturbation scenes. Barbara Hershey is creepy good as the controlling mother of Nina (Natalie Portman). In one scene Nina is pleasuring herself when to her horror she spots her mother asleep in a chair across from her.

Jonathyne Briggs is worried that his Historiography seminar might be cancelled due to low enrollment. He had planned to have students keep “Ides of March” journals. Once he asked his class to keep journals for a single day. After reading them, he said, “Didn’t any of you eat or go to the bathroom?” The point being, historians are naturally selective about what they include in their narratives. Chris Young said he was sorry to have to miss Bill Neil’s memorial service but added: “I am happy that I had the opportunity to meet him on several occasions – thanks to you.”

Received my first Smithsonian, which my mother gave me for Christmas. I read with interest Paul Theroux’s article “The Trouble with Autobiography.” The 69 year-old travel book author (“The Great Railway Bazaar”) agrees with Rebecca West, who wrote: “Everyone realizes that one can believe little of what people say about each other. But it is not so widely realized that even less can one trust what people say about themselves.” If one must write about himself, Thoroux concludes, he recommends turning it into a novel. He concludes: “I think I would find it impossible to write an autobiography without invoking the traits I seem to deplore in the ones I’ve described - exaggeration, embroidery, reticence, invention, heroics, mythomania, compulsive revisionism, and all the rest that are so valuable in fiction.” Which of these, I wonder, have I succumbed to in my blog? Reticence at times and revisionism, but in the case of the latter the purpose is to add perspective and delete irrelevancies and wordiness. Lord knows, I’m wordy enough as it is.

In bowling the Engineers’ winning streak came to an abrupt end against a team whose bowlers all averaged well over 200. One of them, John Gilbert, reminisced with me about our softball playing days. He’s a drywaller, and the recession has cut significantly into his income. A guy on another team turned 40 and his wife, parents, siblings, and kids were at the alley with balloons and a cake. I managed to snag a piece at night’s end.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Year's End

“The Christmas tree is ready
The candles all aglow
But with my baby far away
What good is mistletoe
Oh oh Santa, hear my plea
Santa bring my baby back to me.”
Elvis Presley

December 23: Christmas songs are dominating the airwaves. My favorites are by girl groups like the Crystals and Ronettes and, of course, Elvis. The tune for “Santa Bring My baby Back to Me” is almost identical to my favorite Presley song, “Wear My Ring Around Your Neck,” but without the classic drum roll at the end. Toni put on two CDs Phil Arnold gave me, the 2003 edition containing “Santa Songs” (the most famous being “I Saw Momma Kissing Santa Claus”) and 2004’s “Christmas Blues.” It snowed, but fewer than three inches, so no plows came to the condo. Shoveling was no problem though, compared to Maple Place. A year ago our driveway was a sheet of ice several inches thick. Cards arrived from old girlfriends Mary Delp Harwood and Suzanna Dienna Murphy. The latter contained a “Child’s Christmas prayer” written when Suzanna was 14. It gives thanks “for the goodness in people” and expresses the hope that “music last forever as thy precious gift – a gem unsurpassed.” I recall Kurt Vonnegut saying something similar in a secular way. Janet Stuart Garmen’s card contained neat reunion photos, including one of me, Nancy Schrope, and Eddie Piszek in deep discussion. Visited my Archives “cage” for the last time until the library re-opens in ten days, then picked up Christmas Eve dinner at Heavenly Ham on Route 30, all pre-cooked and sliced.

December 24: Everyone but Delia was at the condo for Wigilia dinner. Beforehand we decorated the tree and had the march of presents. Beth made delicious cucumber salad, and the ham and trimmings were great. We all took a wafer of the Opatki, and kissed as we traded pieces. Supposedly the Polish custom includes promises to forgive each other’s slights or sins. Played two SOB games before calling it a night.

The year-end Time RIP section contained a striking photo of Lena Horn, the sexiest woman alive when she was entertaining troops during WW II, surpassing even “Red Hot mama” Sophie Tucker. Once she performed for black soldiers and then cancelled the following show because it was a segregated, whites-only audience. On “Sanford and Son” Redd Fox called her simply “The Horn.” Other RIPs included TV personality Art Linkletter (“kids say the darndest things”), writer J.D. Salinger (“The Catcher in the Rye”), actor Dennis Hopper (“Easy Rider”), bandleader Mitch Miller (“sing along with Mitch”), soul singer Solomon Burke (“Everybody Needs Somebody to Love”), pitchers Bob Feller (Indians) and Robin Roberts (Phillies), Secretary of State Alexander Haig, and Cherokee tribal chief Wilma Mankiller. One story contained this famous Virginia Woolf quote: “On or about December 1910, human character changed.” A sage remark. Will the same be said about 2010 a hundred years from now? Columnist Joel Stein mentioned that Masculinity Studies is the in-thing in academia, part of the larger category of race, class, and gender studies. Color me old-fashioned, but I prefer a meaty biography like “Colonel Roosevelt,” which I recently finished. If ever there was an ideal candidate for “masculinity studies” scholars to psychoanalyze, it was TR, whose favorite son died in World War I. Another comported himself so heroically, it was almost as if he wished to die in battle to satisfy his father’s expectations (like Joe Kennedy). A third son suffered grievous wounds, took to drink, and later committed suicide.

Christmas: Present opening began around 8. Among other things I got jars of premium jelly and a CD of Dave singing and playing acoustic guitar. Toni cooked up pierogies from Chicago; the potato and meat ones were more popular than the sauerkraut and the plum ones (that I had requested). Dave’s family brought an endless variety of Wii games, including my favorite, bowling. Ping pong, basketball (shooting three pointers) and sword play were also popular. Toni got Stephen Hawking’s new book, “The Grand Design,” which concludes that the Big Bang did not need a creator to spark the universe’s birth. We posed for group photos that hopefully will be in our next year’s Christmas card. Diamond kept turning his ass toward the camera. Nonetheless, it was great to have him despite all the dog hair he spread. On one walk he and our neighbor’s dog thoroughly sniffed out one another.

On “Broadway Empire” the boss of an over-zealous federal agent says, “You’re a prohibition agent, not Bulldog Drummond.” The first Bulldog Drummond novel appeared in 1920, the year portrayed in the HBO series. Ronald Coleman subsequently played Drummond in the movies. For years a Chicago crime reporter, John Drummond, used the nickname Bulldog. Once he interviewed me at the Archives for a story about Gary.

December 26: Made ample pancake batter for the crew and sliced up kielbasa. Post-Trib did a feature on Sheriff Roy Dominguez looking back on his eight years in office. Reporter Chelsea Schneider Kirk wrote: “His two terms were marked with the purchase of a $2.2 million helicopter, the rebirth of the Lake County Animal Control Center as a no-kill facility, and the settlement of U.S. Department of Justice’s civil rights complaints with the Lake County Jail.” The Times recently ran a cartoon implying that Roy and Hammond mayor Tom McDermott were both happy that Evan Bayh wouldn’t be a gubernatorial candidate in 2012. I’m not so sure. Bayh might have asked Dominguez to be his running mate. Watched the NBC Sunday talking heads (among them Tom Brokaw and Doris Kearns Goodwin) talking about the Tea Party movement and Obama’s success getting things from the lame duck Congress. It won’t be so easy in January when republicans take over the House. Anti-union conservatives blame public employees pension funds for the states’ financial problems; the real villains are corporate CEOs that rake in millions off the backs of the working class. Thanks to On Demand I’m almost caught up on “Broadway Empire” episodes. At the 1920 Republican convention in Chicago, Nucky learns that gangsters shot his brother the sheriff. He persuades strongman Jimmy to return with him and also takes along nominee Warren G. Harding’s mistress Nan Britton and her baby in order to keep her out of the limelight until after the November election. Harding and his evil campaign manager Harry Daugherty are portrayed realistically, as is Jersey City boss Frank Hague. In football the Bears continue to surprise, defeating the Jets 38-34. Had a good gaming day, winning Ingenious and SOB.

December 27: Bought blueberries for those (me included) who like them in their pancakes. James prefers tiny chocolate chips. My nose started running, the first sign a cold was on the way. We had dinner at the Hagelbergs and traded presents. I gave Dick and Cheryl “Steel Giants” by Gary Wilk and Steve McShane. Corey had almost bought it for them. We played bridge afterwards. David and Phil had been out with Robert Blaszkiewicz watching football the day before, and Robert burned CDs of his top 20 favorite songs of 2010 for all three of us. He knows as much about current trends as anyone I knew and since we have similar tastes, I was very excited. I had heard about half of them, including songs by New Pornographers, Spoon, and Arcade Fire, and loved many of the others, especially Titus Andronicus’ “A More Perfect Union” from the New Jersey punk band’s album “The Monitor” (its theme is the Civil War). Amazingly the song begins with someone reading this Abraham Lincoln quote, first delivered to the Young Men’s Lyceum in Springfield Illinois in 1838: “'From whence shall we expect the approach of danger? Shall some transatlantic giant step the earth and crush us at a blow? Never! All the armies of Europe and Asia could not, by force, take a drink from the Ohio River or set a track on the Blue Ridge in the trial of a thousand years. If destruction be our lot, we ourselves must be its author and finisher. As a nation of free men, we will live forever, or die by suicide.” At the end is a recitation of abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison’s famous declaration that he won’t be silenced.

December 28: a ho-hum day of chores, reading, TV watching. One channel looked back 50 years to when JFK was running for president, Fidel Castro was solidifying power, and Negro College students were sitting-in at Southern department store lunch counters. I graduated from high school, dating Suzanna in the summer, caught a horrific case of poison ivy working for a sadistic gardener, and went off to Bucknell, where I roomed with Rich Baker, who went on to marry the sister of our dorm resident, sophisticated Fred Bechtold. He called me Lanezer, and I called him Bakes. We’re still in touch. Re-watched a couple “Curb Your Enthusiasm” episodes where Larry brings home a racist dog and where he questions how a Japanese kamikaze pilot could still be alive. Daughter-in-law Beth and her mom Donna dropped in with Christmas presents Beth had mailed from Portland but were late arriving. I got a handsome long-sleeved t-shirt that says “Portland, Oregon.” Donna admired the quilt in my room downstairs. I pointed out the French erotica that enhanced its estimated value to around $1,400. Thanks to On Demand I sampled the sitcom “Community” that debuted a year ago. The Chevy Chase character, a creepy, seven-times-married, bigot, joins a Spanish-class study group at Greendale Community College. The catchy theme song, “At least It Was Here,” is by The 88, an L.A. group that the Post-Trib’s music critic ranked as one of the best new bands of the year. Am mulling over three New Year’s Eve possibilities, parties at Brushes or Horns as well as game weekend. There’s also a chance we’ll be watching James and Becca. With the temperature in the forties snow has totally disappeared, and with none predicted travel won’t be a problem.

December 29: Winless gaming at Dave’s; after a Burger King stop saw the Coen brothers “True Grit.” The portrayal of the old West much more realistic than in the John Wayne flick of 40 years ago. Matt Damon was a hoot as Texas Ranger LaBoeuf and Jeff Bridges, who played The Dude in the Coen’s “The Big Lebowski,” fit the part of Rooster Cogburn perfectly. The Coens’ retained much of the dialogue from the Charles Portis novel; Rooster’s adversary Ned, for instance, tells him, “I call that bold talk for a one-eyed fat man.” The most amazing performance was by 14 year-old newcomer Hailee Steinfeld, who beat out thousands of others to get the part of a strong-willed girl who wants to revenge her father’s murder. Having time to kill, sneaked into “Little Fockers.” The funniest parts I had already seen in the coming attractions or TV commercials. At Cressmoor Lanes learned that Tommy Pleasant had been released from the hospital a day after his collapse and then died on the way home when his aorta burst. He was 69, my age. Neither his son nor his cute granddaughter were at the alley, no surprise there. I rolled a 499 series, and for the second week in a row the Engineers won all seven points. Talked to Mike Dacey in Hawaii and filled him in on Terry Hunt and other old Porter Acres softball teammates. He expects to retire in a couple years and perhaps relocate to Las Vegas.

December 30: Got my toenails cut at a shop near the condo for ten dollars as opposed to five at Portage’s L.A. Nails. The Asian lady finished in five minutes, but it still is a good deal. It seemed more a family place than L.A. Nails, where the young women looked like they’d fit in at a massage parlor – not that I ever complained. Talked to Bob and Niki; Addison came to the phone and called me Uncle Jimbo. Bob lost to Phil in the Lane FANTASY League finals even though Michael Vick had a mediocre night Monday in a loss to the lowly Vikings. Also wished Clark Metz a Happy Holiday. Channel switching, I came upon Meryl Streep in “Before and After,” about a teenager who runs away after accidentally killing his pregnant girlfriend after she attacked him. The movie was only average, but Streep milks every scene without apparent effort. Playing the teenager was Edward Furlong, who five years earlier (1991) played John Connor in Terminator 2: Judgment Day and three years later was Hawk in my all-time favorite Detroit Rock City.

Spent more time at Halberstadt Game Weekend than usual, Friday until ten, Saturday from one till ten, and Sunday from noon till four. Peak attendance, around three dozen including children, occurred Saturday afternoon. The food was great, with a highlight being Patty and Evan’s well-seasoned pork loin. My contribution was Cole slaw from Jewel. I learned two interesting new games, Ra (different from Amun Re although based in ancient Egypt and invented by Germans) and Lemming Mafia (easy to learn, quick to play and a delight). At one point we were about to start a game when Jef saw that Angie was done playing with the kids. He invited her over, even though he had just finished explaining the rules. As he often says, the main point is to interest people in learning new games. The two games I won were Wits and Wagers (you bet on who has the closest guess on seven questions) and Roll Through the Ages (a dice game I’d played a few time before). I was partners with Sue Halberstadt in a game similar to Trivial Pursuit, only teams guess people, things or events based on a sequence of clues. We were heading for victory except that we landed on a stupid chute, knocking us backwards. Still it was fun. The winners were John Hendrick, who comes each year from Wisconsin, and Charles Halberstadt, who took photos of the proceedings. In a journal John wrote down every game he played and how he did. Otherwise, he told me, the weekend would seem like a big blur. Jef and Robin started the tradition in 1977, the year they were married; my first one was four years later when Jef took my Sixties class and invited me. Back then Pit was popular, we played Diplomacy, and both Scrabble and bridge were played. Ay midnight Saturday we played murder, where the lights go out and the one drawing an Ace kills someone off. After a scram the detective says, “One, two, three,” turns on the lights and interrogates people. Only the murderer can lie. After a few years charades replaced murder, but people still speak of it fondly.

Twenty-two year-old granddaughter Alissa dropped in to see Toni on her way back to Grand Rapids after spending the weekend in Chicago with four friends. Unfortunately she was gone when I got home. WXRT’s Lin Bramer had a “Lin’s Bin” bit on being 22 during our current hard times. Expect rejection and interrogation, he said, playing a clip from “The Graduate” when Dustin Hoffman’s father asks what he is planning to do with his life. Lin said, “You’ve never been stronger in spirit or weaker in certainty.” Calling 22 year-olds part of the boomerang generation, he labeled the crossroads they faced both a beginning and the beginning of the end (of youth, freedom, and the burdens of adulthood).

Year’s end: I received an email from Chuck Bahmueller, whom I haven’t seen in 15 years. He thanked me for my account of the Upper Dublin reunion and mentioned being close to “a Chinese couple for whose presence in the US I am responsible.” He added: “I will continue to be second father to a partially disabled former world champion cyclist who suffered a grievous brain injury in a crash many years ago; and also helping as best I can his Mexican-American girlfriend and her two kids, 12 and 14.” He works for a think tank and frequently flies to China and Hawaii – lucky man. Former student Andy Bodinet wrote that he was working on an MA in Rhode Island and hopes to be a high school Social Studies teacher. He inquired about Horace Mann School. I replied that it closed down a few years ago and that there are only three Gary public school left, West Side, Roosevelt, and Wallace. Emerson School for the Arts moved into Wirt, scattering Miller kids elsewhere. Bowman Charter School started up a few years ago, siphoning off students from the other schools. Roosevelt seems to be on its last legs.

Brazil has its first woman president, Dilma Rousseff, once jailed and tortured while the country was under military rule. She had been chief of staff for her popular predecessor, Lula da Silva. Her Workers Party also controls both legislative houses. Since the U.S. has cut down on its meddling into Latin American affairs, the democratic process has brought numerous left-leaning governments into power. Good!

Nephew Joe Robinson sent me three speed metal CDs, including “Blood of the Nations” by Accept, a band that started more than 30 years ago and had success in 1983 with “Balls to the Wall.” My favorite cut is “Rolling Thunder,” not specifically about the Vietnam bombing raids by that name but some of the lyrics fit (“Ground is trembling, night’s exploding . . . . Can you hear the rolling thunder shakin’ the world tonight”). Rather than play all three CDs in one listening, I plan to break in one a week for my listening pleasure.

Jeff Manes is looking to interview a China-American for his SALT column. I suggested Diana Chen Lin, but he’s hoping to find a Northwest Indiana resident. His last Salt was Robert Bailey, who works for Sojourner Truth House in Gary. His first charity work was helping his mother, Post-Trib reporter Lori Caldwell, distribute food and presents as part of the Newspaper Guild’s Christmas Neediest program. Santa’s helpers delivered baskets throughout Northwest Indiana, but Bailey and his mother took the Gary addresses. Asked why, he told Jeff, “My family has Gary roots. Gary has some of the nicest people I’ve ever met – absolute salt-of-the-earth gracious people. This is my spiritual home. Some of my happiest moments of my life occurred while riding around Gary delivering food baskets with my mom.” Nice to read positive things about Gary residents. A recent article about 54 murders in 2009 and residents not cooperating with police led to a spate of ugly Qucklies. Sam Barnett was quick to point out the typo in the headline about “Gary Homocides.” Anti-gay Freudian slip perhaps? Dean Bottorff, formerly headline writer for the Sunday issue, would be smiling if he saw it.

Dave Barry’s “Year in Review” satire is entitled, “Why 2010 made us sick: Between the endless health-care debate, an unstoppable oil slick and ‘Jersey Shore,’ it’s a wonder it didn’t kill us.” Other subjects Barry mines: Lindsay Lohan going in and out of rehab, the late night NBC fiasco pitting Cinan O’Brien against Jay Leno, the Toyota recalls, the sound of vuvuzelas at the World Cup, TSA’s high-resolution scanners, Christine O’Donnell’s “I am not a witch” TV commercial, and Bristol Palin on “Dancing with the Stars.”

To Do list: If IU Press accepts Sheriff Dominguez’s “Spirits from the Fields,” I’ll interview him a few more times and make final revisions. I’m hoping to get many folks at IUN to keep journals during the “Ides of March” and put together a composite social history for a future Shavings issue. I’ll begin my term at condo board secretary and hopefully become better acquainted with my neighbors. I expect to travel to Cancun, California, Florida, and perhaps Europe and to keep playing bridge and going to the theater with Dick and Cheryl Hagelberg. Blessed with good friends and family, most of the time, like my stepfather Howard Roberts was fond of saying, “I’m a happy man.”