Monday, February 28, 2011

All That Jazz

“Don’t you tell me I’m not the one
Don’t you tell me I ain’t no fun.”
“We Belong Together,” Randy Newman

Rather than attend the Indiana Association of Historians conference in Indy, I saw Becca in “Annie” again and went to a fourth birthday party at Riverside Park Clubhouse in Lake Station hosted by the family that cleans our condo. The Mexican food was delicious and augmented by barbeque chicken legs prepared by an African American named Willie who lives not far from our old house but on the Miller side of County Line Road. Except for a young deejay playing music at a level that made conversation difficult and occasionally putting on rap songs that weren’t age appropriate, we had a good time.

Tom Wade went to Madison, Wisconsin, to be part of Saturday’s huge demonstration at the state capitol, joining fellow gamer John Hendricks. He found the solidarity among unions, young people and other supporters inspiring. It reminded him of Sixties rallies, with music, fiery speeches, and a feeling of optimism despite Governor Scott Walker’s attempts to screw public employees. A pizza parlor was handing out free food nonstop as fast as they could make it thanks to donations that came from all over the world, including Egypt. Stopped to see ailing Ken Applehans, and we agreed that the capitalist bastards are their own worst enemies.

Sunday after gaming I went to a program at the Marquette Park Aquatorium having to do with the history of Gary. Greg Reising wrote a script simulating a WWCA radio show circa 1958 with various Millerites playing the roles of Mayor George Chacharis (George Rogge with fake nose and eyebrows), feminist Simone de Beauvoir (Karren Lee), radio host Vivian Carter, and others. It was pretty funny. Gene Ayers played himself at age nine reading a commercial for Ayers Realty. The highlight was Mike Carson of Emerson School as cool deejay Jesse Coopwood and mentioning various Black groups playing at jazz and blues clubs and the Miramar Ballroom. Then he, Garrett Cope, Jr., and Kevin Gatlin played a jazz number, followed by the entire cast singing “Gary, Indiana, Gary, Indiana.” Gary had some great venues a half-century ago, featuring legendary performers like Jimmy Reed, Jerry Butler, Lionel Hampton and the Staple Singers.

There weren’t any big surprises on Oscar night, and I agreed with the choices for the big awards, especially Christian Bale. The song category didn’t much interest me, but it was fun seeing Randy Newman accept the award for his work on “Toy Story 3.” And I was happy Trent Reznor won for the score of “The Social Network.”

Monday Sheriff Roy Dominguez made final changes in his autobiography “Valor: An American Odyssey from Texas to Gary, Indiana.” I emailed the chapters to IU Press and after Steve burned CDs of the manuscript and the photos, sent them off to assistant editor Nancy Lightfoot. What a great feeling.

The Post-Trib’s Jerry Davich recently asked for ideas for columns, and a racist suggested one on how an influx of blacks threatens to wreck the city of Portage. Coincidentally, we started subscribing to the Chesterton Tribune, a community newspaper that nevertheless carries more world and national news than the Post-Trib and has more of a liberal slant.
The Canright family has owned and operated the paper for more than 80 years. The first issue we received had an excellent article about the protests in Wisconsin. In contrast, an editorial in The Times criticized Hoosier Democratic legislators for fleeing the state to prevent a right-to-work bill becoming law.

Heard from cousin Tommi Adelizzi about news of the Lane side of the family. She’s upset over how unfairly great, great, great uncle James Buchanan is treated. Historians generally rank his Presidency as a failure – down there with Grant, Harding, Nixon, and W. I replied: “Philip Klein’s “James Buchanan: A Biography” is generally fair to “Uncle Jimmy.” Also John Updike wrote a long, fascinating essay about him as the preface to his published play “Buchanan Dying.” Since most historians believe the Civil War inevitable and even necessary to eradicate slavery, it seems inconsistent to then blame Buchanan for not preventing it. Even Lincoln wisely waited until Southern troops fired the first shot at Fort Sumter.”

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Winter, Winter

“The season rubs me wrong
The summer swells anon.”
“Down By the Water,” Decembrists

More snow on the way threatens to put the kibosh on plans to attend the Indiana Association of Historians conference at the Indiana History Center. Theirs is plenty going on locally, however, including “Annie” co-starring Becca and a program at the Miller Beach Aquatorium. Even a couple inches will set a local record for snow in February.

The Decembrists finally have a number one album, “The King Is Dead.” “Down By the Water” has an REM feel, and a song I heard on the way to work, “Why We Fight” seems especially relevant in these days of unrest in the Midwest and Mideast. Now the Indiana Democratic legislators have left the state to prevent passage of right-to-work legislation. The ride to IUN seemed never to end. First traffic came to a halt on 80/94 near Ripley due to construction. I managed to get off and take Route 20 to U.S. 65 but found the ramp to 80/94 west closed. Circling back to Fifteenth Avenue, I drove to Twenty-First and then Georgia, past Four Brothers Grocery, which was advertising “Buy phone minutes.” Up the street was a market advertising “Free Phone.” On the next block was a Baptist Church with depictions of Black angels on the windows. The potholes were unbelievable – poor Gary, so broke and saddled with an uncaring governor who won’t even authorize funds to fix main arteries such as Martin Luther King Drive and the Cline Avenue Bridge.

Bowled two wretched games and then finished with 208 (converting a 5-7 split and a tough spare in the tenth), helping the Engineers win two games and series by a meager 6 points. While things were going south, I thought of one friend with lung cancer, another the victim of a frivolous lawsuit, and a third being screwed at work and realized my struggles weren’t that important. Called Bill Batalis with the good news and listened to WXRT while watching Lettermen with the sound off. His and Paul Schaffer’s gestures are funnier than what they actually say. Dave kept mimicking someone smoking a joint. He kept making fun of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, who has unleashed a bloodbath in an effort to remain in power. The Top Ten list were ways to mispronounce his name and included Qudaffy Duck, Mouthful of Taffy, Mallonar Cookie, and Milli Vanilli. When musical guests Mountain Goats performed, I turned the sound up.

A reporter called the Archives wanting information about the 1969 Firefighters strike in Gary. Donor Milan Opacich was a firefighter then and we have clippings about the strike in the Post-Tribune collection. A woman called wanting the name of a restaurant located near Fifth and Broadway in downtown Gary in 1965. Someone who badly needs an operation is trying to find her father whose name she never knew. The guy evidently met her mother there. With the use of a City Directory I located an L and N Restaurant. Because the unknown father supposedly was prominent, I mentioned that many successful attorneys, doctors and businessmen had offices in the Gary National Bank Building on that corner. The woman admitted that her search was analogous to finding a needle in a haystack, but she thanked me profusely. Perhaps she should interest Post-Trib columnist Jerry Davich in writing a column about her search.

Got several dozen Facebook birthday greetings. Good old number 69; one more year and I’ll be a septuagenarian.

Nicole Anslover and Chris Young invited me to their team-taught course on the American Presidency. The topic was civil rights during the administration of Dwight Eisenhower, and I was impressed on how seamlessly Nicole handled the interaction from students (Chris leads discussion on Tuesdays when they discuss the early Presidents). Almost everyone participated, including four African-American guys who seemed very knowledgeable about Black history. Eisenhower was unsympathetic toward integration of the races but reluctantly did his duty to uphold the law when Arkansas governor Orval Faubus defied the Supreme Court by preventing black students from attending Central High School. The 75 minutes went by fast, and I even offered some analysis a couple times. History Club president Heather Hollister said, “Hi Jimbo.” Loved it.

Meg Renslow DeMakas donated some interesting materials to the Archives. When she was teaching fourth grade in South Haven, she had students put together booklets containing Region folklore similar to the Foxfire project where students documented Appalachian culture. In fact, Meg had Foxfire founder Eliot Wiggington speak at her school. Meg has started a Family Folklore Foundation and also gave the Archives several children’s books that she’s written that include references to Northwest Indiana.

Director of External Relations Tim Weidmann invited me to Country Lounge to talk about former Economics professor Leslie Singer, whose daughter wants to start an endowment in her father’s name. Leslie started teaching when the campus was located downtown and didn’t retire until he was in his mid-seventies. What a memorable character. He had a great art collection, and his wife was herself an artist. The daughter fondly recalls coming to campus when she was a kid and watching her dad lecture as if he were on stage. In fact, Leslie wrote, directed, and acted in avant garde theatrical productions. One time during rehearsal he fell into the orchestra pit and broke his pelvis. One of his plays was very existentialist. Several scenes took place in a bathroom. Behind doors the audience would see bare legs and hear sounds of flushing.

Attended a condo board meeting to plot strategy regarding a unit whose owner defaulted on her mortgage and declared bankruptcy. The place has been vacant for some time and in foreclosure, and the association theoretically is owed about $3,000 in back payments. An attorney was pessimistic about the chances of recouping that money, but if the bank holding the mortgage purchases the condo at an upcoming sheriff’s sale, at that point we should be able to start collecting the $175 monthly assessment. Host Bernie Holicky had a couple Harriet Rex Smith paintings in the living room. She did many duneland watercolor landscapes before moving to Oregon. Neighbor Tom Coulter and I went together, and he expressed interest in purchasing the foreclosed condo as an investment. I got home to watch the end of the Bulls’ exciting win over the hated Miami Heat. New Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel was at courtside. Back home got serenaded over the phone by the Michiganders, then got a call from JR that her house caught fire in the kitchen and that she and Floyd are at a motel. The insurance company has been great, she said, but it will probably be three months before they are back in the house.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Head Full of Doubt

“There’s a darkness upon me that’s flooded in light
In the fine print they tell me what’s wrong and what’s right.”
Avett Brothers

On his way from New York to Michigan Tom Horvath dropped by with wife Sirrka and young kids Annika and Julius. Earlier they visited Donna and Bob Satkowski, daughter-in-law Beth’s parents. Joining us were Dave Joseph (“Sly”) and Angie and the kids (Dave was bowling). Sly taped the Grammys but hasn’t watched it yet. I told him about Dylan performing with Mumford and Sons and the Avett Brothers, who also did “Head Full of Doubt, Road Full of Promise.” Some think it is about a guy coming out of the closet. I had last seen Tom at last year’s LINT reunion concert. When LINT performed in teen clubs 25 years ago, Tom and I would start dancing to get the crowd up; at the reunion concert he again pulled me up to get the ball rolling. At the band’s first reunion concert in the Portage Holiday ballroom after their freshman year in college Toni and I provided nonalcoholic drinks, figuring those over 21 could go to the bar across the hall. Without asking our permission but seeing a chance for tips, waitresses began taking orders but then told the cop on duty that customers were buying drinks for underage companions. Suddenly a policeman was asking Sly for his i.d. “It’s out in my car,” he replied. “Then go get it,” the cop snapped at him. I expected Sly to take off, but he came back with a driver’s license with his photo and the name José Gomez. The cop looked at it and said, “O.K., José.”

Closed the car door and banged it against my shin. I had decided to go inside and pack yogurt and cookies and had inadvertently gotten in harm’s way. I half expected a bloody gash when I lifted up my pants leg. It hurt like hell for a few minutes, but I only slightly broke the skin. Stupid move similar to when I sliced open my ear in Grand Rapids tripping over a trash container. I left IUN early after it started snowing. The Tri-State was stop and go with at least a half-dozen cars in ditches or involved in fender benders. I tried to stay in the middle lane, but a car ahead of me was going at a snail’s pace and a truck was bearing down on me. I moved to the left lane and for a second skidded slightly. Shudder! Made it home safely. Caught the end of a Black Hawks President’s Day matinee game, a 5-3 victory over the Blues to get them back in the NHL playoff hunt. Feared I’d been indiscreet recently, but it was just my imagination. Sigh of relief – head’s no longer full of doubt.

For school James is reading “Scat” by Carl Hiassen, one of my favorite authors. Young Nick and Marta lead an effort to investigate the disappearance of biology teacher Bunny Starch during a field trip to Black Vine swamp in the Everglades. Villainous oilmen are bent on destroying the environment and killing an endangered panther. After Nick’s father returns from Iraq missing his right arm, Nick binds up his own arm so they can learn to be lefties together. The book combines humor, mystery, and ecological awareness. Darcey Wade originally turned me on to Carl Hiassen’s books and commented: “He ranks right up there as the greatest author ever. His adult books are even better.”

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Rockin' in the Free World

“There’s a warnin’ sign
On the road ahead.”
Neil Young

Before I gave the eulogy paying tribute to Bill Neil at IUN’s Faculty Organization, retired historian Fred Chary gaveled the meeting to order and mentioned the cohort of “Young Turks” that Bill hired between 19655 and 1972 – Ron, Paul, Rhiman, Fred, and I - being mainstays of the department for 35 years. Since I was going out afterwards to Three Floyds Brewery in Munster with colleagues Jonathyne Briggs, Jerry Pierce, and Diana Chen-lin, I stayed for the entire meeting. The main agenda item was revising the promotion and tenure guidelines. Alan Barr explained the proposed changes, which included faculty having less recourse to appeal negative committee votes, something Alan said he had opposed in committee. After Barr argued that Research and Teaching are by far the most important component in the process and disparaged certain guidelines in the Academic Handbook, Ken Schoon rebuked him in a passionate appeal to allow faculty to be able to make a case for near excellence in any or all three categories of research, teaching, and service and that the latter is especially important in departments such as Education, SPEA, Business, and Nursing. With the vocal backing of many in the audience he concluded that faculty who won’t follow Handbook guidelines should disqualify themselves from serving on promotion and tenure committees. Schoon, the author of “Calumet Beginnings,” has impeccable research credentials, so his arguments were not self-serving. Still angry about a colleague having been denied tenure despite his obvious worth to the campus, I stifled an impulse to get in my two cents worth. Fortunately an appeal process was available to him.

The reviews for Three Floyds Brewery were either five-star raves (“great beer and food”) or one-star disgust (at the rude waiters and doorman). I’ve heard ads for a service that gets rid of unwanted negative comments about one’s business – Three Floyds should look into it. While our waiter wasn’t exactly friendly, he was efficient. Anne Balay and two other young English lecturers joined us as well as Sociology professor Kevin McElmurry, who lives in Miller and praised realtor Gene Ayers for helping him find a house. Anne mentioned going to last year’s Oral History Association conference in Atlanta and meeting Alessandro Portellli. We sampled each other’s beers, and I had two delicious Alpha Pale Ales. By the time we left the place was packed, with more folks in the lobby and outside waiting for tables. Diana was so sweet to come and so complimentary about the Neil eulogy that I gave her a hug as I left and told her I loved her.

Took a short nap before heading to L.F. Norton’s in Lake Station to hear Dave sing with Blues Cruise, featuring Bruce Sawochka and prodigy named Steve, who wore a Joe Perry “Have Guitar Will Travel t-shirt and clearly relished playing with his former teacher (Bruce) and jamming during a break with Dave on Neil Young songs. Introducing “Rockin’ in the Free World,” Dave said it was one of “my dad’s” favorites and dedicated it to Marianne, whose late husband Tim (“Big Voodoo Daddy”) played a scorching lead guitar on what had been Voodoo Chili’s signature song. Fred McColly graced us with his presence, as did Robert Blaszkiewicz, who works for The Times and is helping me obtain high quality photos of Sheriff Dominguez. He is very impressed with 29 year-old Pete Buttigieg, the Democratic candidate for state treasurer last year who is running for mayor of South Bend. He’s a comer, Robert predicted. I danced with Lorraine Todd-Shearer, Marianne Brush, and Angie and talked with Ken Gagliardi, a Hobart policeman and old classmate of Dave’s who bowled with us in a mixed league (Sunday Night Rowdies) several years ago. On Facebook Lorraine wrote: “Saw the band tonight, great. I need Steve’s last name, he is talented to say the least. Get some Aerosmith in you set list, you can tell that kid wants to let it go!”

Following an exchange of Facebook messages with Lorraine, hubby John Shearer requested that we be friends. I confirmed. Meanwhile a couple dozen others have requested that we be friends, including several people I don’t recognize, but I’ve held off adding them because I send so few Facebook messages. If I didn’t get an email notice that someone had commented about me, I’d almost never check my wall.

Teachers and steelworkers in Indiana and Wisconsin are protesting en masse against proposals by Republican governors to pass right-to-work laws and prohibit collective bargaining by public employees. Old friend Alice Bush, divisional director for SEIU Local 73, was on the cover of The Post-Tribune addressing angry comrades at McBride Hall. “This is an orchestrated effort on the part of the powers that be in this country – a well-placed, well-planned all-out attack on all of us who are working people,” she asserted. Another photo showed a grey-haired, bearded middle age worker identified as Dario Llano. Twenty years ago I had a student by that name who wrote about his father growing up during the Sixties. It has to be either the father or son, I wonder which. Indiana governor Mitch Daniels has been trying to bust teachers unions for years. Wisconsin governor Scott Walker rode to victory three months ago with Tea Party support and his attempts to railroad anti-union legislation into law has caused to Democratic legislators to flee to Illinois to prevent the necessary quorum. Tom Wade is thinking of joining demonstrators at the state capitol in Madison. Talking with Sheriff Dominguez on the phone, I expressed gratitude that he was making common cause with public employees; organized labor will remember those who stood by them in this hour of crisis.

Kids in the “Annie” cast performed a couple songs at Southlake Mall. Because the girl playing “Annie” was in Wisconsin, Rebecca, her understudy, got to be Annie, complete with red wig. During the “Tomorrow” number she was holding a dog on a leash. Right at the end the dog bolted from the stage. Angie posted the performance on Facebook.

Anne Balay wanted to meet gay and lesbian steelworkers at Leroy’s Hot Stuff, so I joined her and three friends Saturday. We listened to the band, C 4, for a bluesy set and then moved to the restaurant side where we could hear each other. I told Anne that I wished the band had played a good rock ‘n’ roll number so we could have danced.

Tom had a good day gaming, winning three of five. My lone victory was in Stone Age by a mere three points. I bought two double hut cards that Tom needed more than I and played a starvation strategy, concentrating on purchasing huts.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Boys Are Back

“Friday night they’ll be dressed to kill
Down at Dino’s bar and grill.”
“Boys Are Back in Town,” Thin Lizzy

Thin Lizzy is literally coming back to town, Chicago that is. Even though founding member Phil Lynott is dead, two old stalwarts are still around and the word is that they still smoke, having added a member of Def Leppard. “Jailbreak” still gets me going, especially in “Detroit Rock City” when the teenagers break out of school to attend a KISS concert.

Hardworking Savannah Gallery director Ann Fritz launched a new show of Patty Carroll’s work entitled “Anonymous Women.” The colorful pieces look like female shapes shrouded in fabric only they are, I believe, computer generated. I need to examine them more closely. They have interesting titles, something I appreciate.

A relative of Glen and Helene Roames discovered online that the Calumet Regional Archives has 600 pages of their letters in the Carl Krueger Papers written to Helene’s sister Catherine Krueger while in occupied Japan and Korea after World War II. Archives volunteer Maurice Yancy is Xeroxing copies. Catherine and Carl’s son’s wartime letters formed the basis for Steve McShane and my book “Skinning Cats: The Wartime Letters of Tom Krueger.”

Friday night Dave will be playing with Bruce Sawochka’s band Blues Cruise at L.F. Norton’s in Lake Station. I’m urging colleagues to come. We’re going to Three Floyds brewery in Munster following a Faculty Organization meeting where I’ll deliver this eulogy to William M. Neil (1910-2010):

“In 1937, with his family lacking the money to send him away to school, Bill Neil started taking classes at Gary College, the forerunner to IU Northwest, located at Horace Mann High School. Working a day job as a bank messenger, he attended class between seven and nine p.m., and after three years earned an associate degree. At a session of the 2008 Arts and Sciences Research Conference Bill told of meeting Mary, his wife of 65 years, at a Music Club function there. He won a scholarship to the University of Chicago, but a year later WW II interrupted his studies. While serving as a bombardier over occupied Europe, he decided if he got out of the war alive, to pursue a teaching career at the university that had made his higher education possible.

“In 1948, the same year Indiana University took over Gary College, Bill was hired to teach a course at what was then known as IU’s Gary Center, located at the Seaman Hall annex to City Methodist Church in downtown Gary. After he received a PhD from the University of Chicago, he was hired full time. In 1956 he helped draft the first constitution for the Faculty Org and then became its first elected chairman. In an interview Bill recalled the cramped quarters at Seaman Hall: “The library was separated from the student lounge only by steel shelving. Education offered a course on the Elements of Play there, and beanbags used to come sailing over the shelves into the library. We were across from a bookie joint. I’d look out the window and see all these people coming and going.”

“When IUN moved to Glen Park in 1959, Neil became acting director after Jack Buhner went on a two-year sabbatical. During the 1960s Bill built up the History Department to a size greater than today. Starting in 1969 he served as Dean of Faculties for four years before returning to his first love, teaching. He was one among equals in a department dominated by young Turks he himself had hired. Once after he’d used the phrase “follow the yellow brick road” at a meeting, Paul Kern, missing the “Wizard of Oz” reference, said to me, “I’m surprised Bill is familiar with Elton John. He retired in 1985 but was a frequent guest lecturer in Paul and my History classes. He returned to the Faculty Org 11 years ago to deliver a eulogy honoring President Herman B Wells and again last year as part of the festivities “Celebrating Fifty Years” at IU Northwest’s present location. He was a gentleman and a scholar, an avid photographer and gardener, and an inspiration to countless students and colleagues. At a recent memorial service in Valparaiso his children proudly displayed photos of Bill in his WW II uniform, wearing his maroon academic robes, and playing a bagpipe. Bill, you great Scotsman, we miss you.”

At the annual Darwin Day mini-conference put on by the Anthropology Department, I heard David Klamen talk about whether belief in both God and evolution are reconcilable. He gave arguments on both sides and let members of the audience decide for themselves. He made the point that atheists (i.e., David Hawking) and fundamentalists (Moody Bible professors) are in agreement that they are irreconcilable.

Sheriff Dominguez brought a couple boxes of newspaper clippings to the Archives, and we went over last minute additions to his autobiography.

The same team that beat the Engineers a week ago during position round swept us again. We lost game two by five pins; I rolled a 184 and barely missed a double in the tenth. The opposition’s final bowler doubled and then gave the ten-pin the finger when he only had nine on the final ball. Melvin Nelson bowled his best series of the season, 534, but the other team kept stringing strikes and were way above their average.

Traded emails with Karren Lee, who had sent photos of her latest grandchild to her friends. She mentioned that she’ll be reading an excerpt from Simone de Beauvoir at an upcoming Aquatorium event. I wasn’t asked to participate despite the success of my Jean Shepherd reading last year. It takes place the same afternoon as the final performance of “Annie,” so it is just as well. Karren asked how we like Chesterton, and I responded: “We miss Miller, but it was so nice not to be on top of the hill at our old place during all the snow storms. Condo living definitely has its advantages.”

Monday, February 14, 2011


“Well, I try my best
To be just like I am
But everyone wants you
To be just like them.”
Bob Dylan, “Maggie’s Farm”

Saw “The Musical of Musicals (The Musical)” with the Hagelbergs at Memorial Opera House in Valparaiso. It was a parody of composers’ work, including Rogers and Hammerstein (“Oklahoma”), Stephen Sondheim (“Sweeny Todd”), Jerry Herman (“Hello, Dolly”), Andrew Lloyd Webber (“Phantom of the Opera”), John Kander and Fred Ebb (“Chicago”), and concluding with “Done,” a spoof of the song “One” from “A Chorus Line.” The superlative four-person cast included Michelle Gustin-Craig and Zach Gibson, who were in “Annie” with Rebecca, and Tom Serra, who starred in “It’s a Wonderful Life” (both kids were in it). In the audience waving hello was “Annie” producer Charley Blum. Afterwards we went to Don Quijote Restaurant whose owner greeted us effusively and gave us free after dinner glasses of port.

While we finished 12 hands of bridge, I put on the Grammys, which opened with a rather lame tribute to Aretha Franklin. Christina Aguilera got all her words correct but almost fell on her face. Lady Gaga’s number began with scantily clad dancers bringing her out in a large egg shell. My favorite moments were Bob Dylan singing “Maggie’s Farm” with two fabulous folk rock bands, Mumford and Sons and the Avett Brothers (who were playing like they had died and gone to heaven) and Arcade Fire performing “Month of May,” being presented the album of the year award by Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson, and then closing the show with “Ready to Start.” The CBS censors went into action a couple times while Eminem and Dr. Dre were rapping but just once when Cee Lo Green slipped in the “F” word” to his sanitized “Forget You.” All the network morning shows commented on Mick Jagger making his first live Grammy appearance, but none explained why: he was honoring soul singer Solomon Burke. Letterman’s top ten list imagined such developments as (accused shoplifter) Lindsey Lohan leaving the awards show with a bulge in her pants and Lady Gaga and Lady Antebellum teaming up to form the supergroup Lady Antegagum. Instead of inane banter many introducers did what they do best – sing. John Mayer, Norah Jones, and Keith Urban, for instance, did a tune of ailing Dolly Parton.

Carson Cunningham thanked me for providing an opportunity to speak at IU Northwest and meet, in his words, “a neat group of people.” Hoping to get him into the department, I sent Dean Mark Hoyert a $1.6 million Grant Proposal to hire five new tenure-track faculty over five years for our fledgling Master of Liberal Studies program to facilitate launching concentrations in such areas as Sports in Society, the Ecology of Northwest Indiana, the American Presidency, Gender Studies, and Cultural Diversity Studies. If we got financing (perhaps from the Lilly Foundation) and I became director, Carson would be my first hire and then I’d set up a committee to assess the merits of proposals.

Michiganders were in for the weekend, and Phil played two games with us. He won Acquire and had an apparent big lead after the first round of Amun Re but left himself too short of money and finished a distant third to Dave and Tom. I had the most pyramids and temples but couldn’t draw power cards plus finished last in money.

Tim Cuprisin, president of the Lake Michigan chapter of the Carpatho-Rusyn Society, is planning a centennial event for three former Gary churches now located in Merrillville. Sometimes known as Ruthenians or Carpatho-Russians, they emigrated from a region around present day southeast Poland, northeast Slovakia, and western Ukraine. Former East Chicago mayor Robert Pastrick and Congressman Pete Visclosky are of that ethnic background. Famous Americans of Ruthenian background include pop artist Andy Warhol. I gave Cuprisin Steve’s number and will try to set something up.

Putting the finishing touches on Sheriff Dominguez’s autobiography, I am now sold on “Valor” as the main title. It is what Roy wants and is a quality he most embodies.

Suzanna wants to work in India at a center that Mother Teresa founded. Her daughter Melissa has visited Calcutta and lived in India for a year. It’s a noble goal, but I hope she goes there to visit first before committing herself.

Friday, February 11, 2011

American Hoops

“One day my mama bought me a basketball
And I loved that basketball
I took that basketball with me everywhere I went
That basketball was like a basketball to me.”
“Basketball Jones,” Cheech and Chong

When the boys were young I’d sing “Basketball Jones” to them at bedtime, complete with gyrations and exaggerations as I adlibbed verses to “Football Jones,” “Soccer Jones,” and the like. They loved it. One of their classmates, John Panepinto literally took a basketball with him wherever he went and in the late 1980s became a starting point guard at Portage. I’ll have to ask Carson Cunningham, a hoops child prodigy, whether that was the case with him. One Cheech and Cong verse goes: “I even put that basketball under my pillow/ Maybe that’s why I can’t sleep at night.”

In preparation for Carson’s speech, Vickie ran off flyers designed by Ryan Shelton, and IUN History Club president Heather Hollister distributed them at Tuesday’s Taste of Soul (lake effect had me snowed in). Vickie also emailed announcements via ListServe to all faculty, staff, and students. Student Life director Scott Fulk ran off 11 by 18-inch posters and put one, along with a copy of Carson’s book on the history of the U.S. Men’s Olympic basketball team from Berlin (1936) to Beijing (2008), “American Hoops,” in the Homecoming glass case. I gave a poster to the bookstore to display and put ten others up at bulletin boards. At lunch Wednesday I talked up the event. Chuck Gallmeier said he’d come and was buying the book. I sent special emails to the History faculty and Chancellor Lowe, who replied: “I am traveling back from Indianapolis tomorrow afternoon, to be in time for the Homecoming games, so I will hope to be able, at least, to stop in on the talk. My wife and I are big-time basketball fans and a guy with whom I went to high school played on the 1972 Olympic Team in Munich. So I will look forward hearing Mr. Cunningham’s talk.” I’ll introduce Carson after Ken Coopwood says a few words about Diversity Programming. Gallery director Ann Fritz is taking care of the seating arrangement and will have a table out where Carson can autograph books.

FACET administrator Kim Olivares was pleased I want to do more interviews at the May retreat. I sent her CDs containing the 15 we did last year, and “can’t wait to see them.” Last spring before her interview she said, “Pardon me, I’m lactating.” There’s a new director replacing David Malik, who remains IUN’s Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs. I’m hoping Chuck, who announces the Redhawk games, talks Malik into attending. Because my bowling teammates are Purdue fans and remember his great career at their alma mater, I suggested that they come. I bowled a 525, including a 215 in the final game. With six strikes in the first eight games I had a shot to beat my career high of 232.

“Angles,” the Strokes new CD, is their first in many years, and WXRT is playing a single critics are raving about entitled “Under the Cover of Darkness.” It is about a broken romance, but two lines capture the public apathy over Americans in uniform dying in Afghanistan: “And they sacrifice their lives/ In our land are all closed eyes.”

Linda Kreuger asked me to pick up unsold copies of “Brothers in Arms” that the Post-Trib was selling a couple years ago because they’re renting out half the first floor to another company. They are down to a staff of 40 compared to hundreds during the 1970s when I’d take my weekly Gary history column to managing editor Terry O’Rourke, who invariably called me prof and liked to discuss military history with me. Instead of bustling like in the old days, the newsroom was virtually empty when I arrived on the coldest morning of the year.

I taped Sheriff Dominguez’s explanation of why he thought “Valor” a good main title for the autobiography, rather than his original idea, “Spirits from the Fields.” I promised to put together a Table of Contents and make his latest revisions. He hoped IU Press would consider putting the book out in hardback. I asked Linda Oblack about it and she said she’d try to arrange, in her words, “a split run.”

At lunch a political scientist complained that his chair wrote a negative annual report, which he passed around, alleging from student comments that his sarcasms about Obama, women, gay marriage, and bilingual phone messages turn off potential majors. He contended that he separated his course content from these expressions of rightwing opinion, but I am skeptical. I argued that the report was constructive in its criticism, but I think he intends to bother the dean about the matter, something he apparently does with regularity. Reminding colleagues of Carson’s 4 o’clock program, I suggested that a “Sports in Society” concentration might enhance the A and S division’s fledgling Liberal Studies Master’s Degree program. Chuck said he could teach a Sociology course, and Mark Hoyert suggested one in Sports Psychology. Other future possibilities: Gender Studies, Cultural Diversity, and The Presidency. Chris Young regretted that he’d miss Carson because he’d be in Chicago attending a speech on early American History. He might go to Indy for the IAH conference though.

Getting ready for Carson’s talk, Gallery director Ann Fritz had table, chairs and podium set up, and instructed me on how to turn off the lights and lock up afterwards. My introduction mentioned Carson’s academic credentials as well as his basketball prowess, and I related how when he was in elementary school he’d compete on Ogden Dunes’ outdoor court against high school kids, including my sons. Carson concentrated on matters of race in connection with 1948 and Don Barksdale (the first Black men’s Olympic basketball player), 1956 and Bill Russell (who revolutionized the center position), and 1960 and Hoosier Oscar Robertson (who reinvented the point guard position). About two dozen people showed up, including Chancellor Lowe, Athletic Director Charles Gary, a couple people who knew Carson, a man whose daughters were playing in the 5:30 game, old faithfuls Ron Cohen, Chuck Gallmeier, and Steve McShane, and several Redhawks players and coaches (but nobody from the History Club or department). Asked whether he “still got game,” Carson nodded in the affirmative and said he can still dunk and go one-on-one with his players at Andrean.

Asked what players he most emulated, Carson named two Black point guards, Georgetown’s Michael Jackson and Syracuse’s Sherman Douglas. He credited playing Biddy Basketball in Gary with honing some of his skills. Phil and Dave played in Miller under Coach Ron Hentz, who they called the “White Shadow” because of his resemblance to a star of a sitcom by that name. One team from Aetna had guys who looked to be two or three years too old. A former West Side High School coach on the sidelines barked at any referee who dared make a call against his son. Afterwards, Gallmeier told Carson that his father had been a sports reporter and that IU Coach Bobby Knight once objected to something he said and shoved him against the wall. Carson said that he and his mom had been to Bloomington on a recruiting invitation and when they saw Knight berate a player in a physical fashion, his mom told him, “You’ll never play for that man.” Carson took some pleasure recalling that his Purdue team beat IU in Assembly Hall. He regretted time didn’t permit his talking about the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City; maybe I can arrange a return trip.

Carson stayed around to chat with Chancellor Lowe and Athletic Director Gary, who worked at Purdue while Carson was the Boilermakers’ starting point guard. Sticking his head in the gym, he remarked that the SteelHeads frequently practiced there when he played for them. After graduating from Purdue, Carson also played in the CBA, Estonia, and Australia.

Anne Balay was at the women’s contest, a rout of Moody Bible Institute led by six foot four inch Sharon Houston, who had an intricate way of readjusting her uniform trunks each time she re-entered the game, almost like there was a penis in there. Struggling to blow up a long, phallic-shaped balloon, Anne said she was having erectile dysfunction. Directly across from us in the stands was Chancellor Lowe and wife Pamela, like us admiring the form of the women athletes. It reminded me of when Terry Lukas and I were across from each other at a Mr. IUN contest involving muscular male body builders. At halftime I got in line behind Gary Boys and Girls Club kids for a rather unhealthy meal of chili, chips, burger, and brownie. The Men won easily also in the nightcap.

Page proofs for my TRACES article on Vee Jay Records founder finally arrived with only two needed corrections, both so minor they were taken care of in a quick exchange of emails. The magazine is using many illustrations, including album covers featuring Jerry Butler, Gene Chandler, Dee Clark, and The Beatles.

Attorney Donald Evans asked me to be on his radio show, promising me a free meal beforehand. I told him I could talk about my Shavings series and the Ides of March project. I promised to give him several issues, including one I co-edited with James Newman about the fight to stop construction of Bailly Nuclear Plant. Attorney Ed Osann, whose interview is in it, was his mentor. Ron Cohen appeared on his show talking about the history of folk music.

Monday, February 7, 2011


“If you’re ever in a jam, here I am
If you’re ever in a mess, S.O.S.”
“Friendship,” Cole Porter

Found the 2010 BBC production “The Special Relationship” On Demand, about Tony Blair and Bill Clinton, quite intriguing. Even though Dennis Quaid didn’t look much like Mr. Bill, he had the voice and mannerisms down perfectly. Michael Sheen was a dead ringer for the Prime Minister, and Hope Davis (Jack Nicholson’s daughter in “About Schmidt”) nailed Hillary. The movie opened to the music of Indiana-born Cole Porter’s “Friendship” and closed with Conway Twitty singing “Lonely Blue Boy.” Most interesting are the references to 1990s trouble spots Northern Ireland and Kosovo. Blair started out as a huge Clinton admirer and stuck by him during the Monica Lewinsky farce, but, ever the realist, embraced clueless Bush after the disputed 2000 election. One actual clipping of Bush and Blair at Camp David shows the new President with his ever-present smirk answering a question about what the two had in common. “We both use Colgate toothpaste,” clueless W. replied.

Toni put together a shrimp dish for Marianne’s Superbowl party. Picked up the Hagelbergs and arrived in plenty of time to watch Christina Aguilera butcher the “Star Spangled Banner.” Lorraine Todd-Shearer and I staked out good seats directly in front of the TV and next to each other. The Black-Eyed Peas did a credible job at halftime, and the entire production was excellent with even a guest appearance by Slash. The game was exciting, and I was rooting for Pittsburgh mainly because of former IU star Antwaan Randle El. Antwaan made two nice catches, but they should have gone to him more and perhaps thrown in an end around pass play. The Packers deserved to win, especially in view of injuries sustained during the season and game itself (most notably Charles Woodson). Marianne organized several betting pools, including 25-cent chances on the subject of the next ad (the Hagelbergs won twice with “car”). Food was delicious, especially Angie’s chili. Marianne mentioned seeing my name in the paper in connection with the gay steelworkers project and mentioned that she and Tim had been to Encompass with a gay friend. Maybe after Dave’s band Blues Cruise finishes playing at LF Norton’s in Lake Station on February 18, we’ll go there afterwards. The two bars are real close to each other.

“Today” spent more time on the commercials (reputedly costing $3 million per 30 seconds) than the actual game. My favorite showed a young man taunting a pug dog with a Dorito who gets squashed when the dog runs through the windowpane. Most portrayed guys as puerile and contained gratuitous violence. Everyone was surprised at the paucity of beer ads (the Budweiser Clydesdales appeared fleetingly and without me noticing). The best ad was for Volkswagen. A four year-old dressed up as Darth Vader pretends to use the power of The Force. After his dad comes home, he stands in front of the car and is startled when he seems to have locked the vehicle, not realizing dad had pushed the button from inside. With the strains of “Lose Yourself” in the background, Eminem appeared behind the wheel of a Chrysler in an impressive ad showing gritty scenes of Detroit, climaxing with a ride down Woodward Avenue past the restored Fox Theater. When I lived in a Detroit suburb in the 1950s, I was in awe the first time on Woodward Avenue with its dozen or more lanes.

Elton John is on the cover of Rolling Stone, and among the top ten CDs are new issues by Gregg Allman and Social Distortion. The main story is very critical of General David Petraeus cozying up to warlords in Afghanistan.

I sent emails to veteran sports reporters John Mutka (Post-Trib) and Al Hamnik (Times) inviting them to Carson Cunningham’s talk Thursday. Here’s what I wrote: “In connection with IUN’s Homecoming this Thursday (February 10), I have arranged for former Andrean sports star and current coach Carson Cunningham to give a talk on his book tracing the history of the U.S. Men’s Olympic basketball team. It will take place in Savannah Center Art Gallery prior to the Women’s and Men’s games. In my opinion IU Northwest is on the cusp of a new sports era, and I believe you would not only enjoy the events but would be uniquely qualified to report on them. Hope you can make it.” Carson also offered to notify some of his “sports journalist buddies” about the event.

Ran into adjunct faculty member David Turpin in the cafeteria, who is teaching two Business Ethics courses for the History and Philosophy department. Each time faculty joined us and learned what he taught, they made jokes about the ethics of business (“must be a short course,” one said). Chancellor Lowe walked by; must remember to invite him to Carson Cunningham’s talk.

Friday, February 4, 2011


“Pay no min to what they say
It doesn’t matter anyway
Our lips are sealed.”
The Go-Go’s

The day after Toni left for Michigan to be with Alissa a blizzard hit that dropped 20 inches of snow on the area and left the area virtually paralyzed for three days. Newscasters made numerous references to the Blizzard of 1967, which caught the Region by surprise whereas meteorologists had this one tracked down to the hour it would hit various parts of Chicagoland. Some newscasters were treating the snowfall like a contest and hoping we’d set a record. With winds over 50 miles an hour and thunder and lightning threatening power sources, I was glad to be in the condo with electricity rather than back on Maple Place. IUN closed early on Tuesday and didn’t reopen until Friday. Dave’s school and many others were still closed on Friday. We did manage to do some gaming Thursday, however, even playing Inca Gold with Rebecca. Someone Dave works with was stuck on Lake Shore Drive for 12 hours after an accident involving a bus snarled traffic.

Home alone, I read Richard Russo’s “Empire Falls” (for the second time), played lots of music loud (including guilty pleasure Hillary Duff – I love her version of the Go-Go’s “Our Lips Are Sealed”), watched ice hockey on TV, kept up with the demonstrations in Egypt, and placed calls to old friends as well as to ascertain how Alissa was doing. She had a successful operation Thursday to remove bone chips in her leg and said she was feeling no pain. In fact, the leg was so numb the day after she couldn’t feel anything at all. Learning on Facebook that Ray Smock’s seventieth birthday was coming up, I chatted with him about how he was dealing with that milestone. Terry Jenkins barely made it home to New Hope from New York City and then was without power for 13 hours. I told Seattle Joe Robinson he should try to find Alda Reserve’s “Overnight Jets.” Any time one is feeling blue it’s only an overnight jet to take you to some exotic place. One line sung over and over is “Land on the dunes,” a reminder of where we were living during the blizzard of 1979. Sire Records, founded by Seymour Stein, put out the album “Love Goes On” as well as other releases by New York punk groups such as the Ramones. One hostile critic called Alda Reserve the poor man’s Doors (similar to Southside Johnny being a poor man’s Bruce Springsteen), but Alda rocks more than the Doors ever did.

Finally got to catch up on arrangements for next Thursday’s talk by Carson Cunningham. Ryan Shelton put together a nifty flyer that History Club members are going to start distributing on Tuesday as a Taste of Soul event. Ay the Archives Ron Cohen filled me in on Trivia Night at the temple last Saturday. Ruth Needleman put together a team and when they lost complained that there weren’t enough labor history questions. Steve McShane and Mark Hoyert both live in Valpo and complained about all the shoveling they had to do.

Nancy Schrope Bunch sent classmates a CD compilation of photos from the reunion. Her note said: “Jim Lane made a blog of his experiences at the Reunion. It is really funny and worth reading.” Nancy went on to mention how to access it. Phil Arnold liked it enough to put an excerpt on his web site. People look old with the exception of old girlfriend Mary Delp Harwood.

The university was giving out free sandwiches that had been bought for high school visitors only the aftermath of the blizzard cancelled the event. Many area schools, including East Chicago Central, still haven’t re-opened. I grabbed a ham and cheese, intending to have it for dinner, but I got a call that Toni had arrived home and so had spaghetti instead, first warm dinner in five days.