Monday, November 28, 2011

Thanksgiving Weekend

“Stand together, yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow
Not in each other’s shadow.”
Kahil Gibran

Wednesday Jeff Hagelberg and May May got married at the First Unitarian Universalist Church in Hobart. At the last minute I was asked to do a reading after Jeff’s Uncle Mark declined. The 12-line advice began and ended with the words “Love one another, but make not a bond of love.” In other words, give each other space. The reception was at The Patio in Merrillville, and I had delicious filet mignon, something not normally found on a wedding menu. Dick and Cheryl’s dance instructor worked with the married couple the night before, and they did great box stepping through the traditional first dance. Sitting next to George McGuan, a big Notre Dame fan, I mentioned that I’d be in South Bend over Thanksgiving and that host Fritz, was an officer with the navy ROTC program. He told me that Notre Dame might have been forced to close during WW II had not the navy instituted the ROTC program that trained 16,000 officers. That’s why Notre Dame still plays Navy in football every year, as a show of gratitude, he said.

Spent Thanksgiving at niece Lisa’s in Granger (near South Bend) with my family of 12 plus another 20 of Toni’s relatives and four dogs. My culinary contribution was cooking more than a dozen batches of potato latkes on Saturday morning from leftover mashed potatoes. Twenty-four hours later Toni cooked up ten pounds of potatoes that were quickly devoured . She boiled them for six minutes, cut them into chunks, and then fried them in oil. Got in a half-dozen games of pinochle (Sonny and I dominated) and two Texas hold-’em tournaments (winning $25 by finishing third out of 13). I sang “I Wanna Be Sedated” on a karaoke machine while Lisa’s husband Fritz played drums and Phil and Josh were on guitars. Everyone got along, and the various cousins enjoyed each other enormously.

Thanksgiving week-end group activities included kick ball and ice-skating at a Notre Dame rink. Fritz showed me some Brian Regan comedy bits on his IPad and I introduced him to Frank Caliendo doing George W. Bush and John Madden. He also put on a “South Park” commentary about the song “Tom Sawyer” that Rush used as an intro on a recent tour. Setting up his DVR for the Notre Dame-Stanford game, he mentioned that he had recorded 44 episodes of the Steve Colbert show.

Bears and Eagles were on at the same time Sunday – both lost. Afterwards I mellowed out and put on the 1992 CD “Copper Blue” by Bob Mould’s band Sugar featuring one of my favorite songs “If I Can’t Change Your Mind (Then no one will).”

Jeff Manes asked for suggestions for interviewees for his Post-Trib SALTS column and I suggested Chesterton Tribune editor David Canright, who was active in the anti-nuke Bailly Alliance and whose family has owned the daily newspaper for over a century. He thought his boss would nix giving a competitor space.

Sheriff Roy Dominguez is happy over the cover IU Press has selected for his book “Valor.” Merrillville History Book Club secretary Joy Anderson penciled me in to discuss the book next September.

For “Thank a teacher Day” Sam Barnett wrote on Facebook: “I say everyone in Gary and The Region should thank James Lane, who is truly a People's Historian. His method hugely influences my techniques, so as an imitator I am of course thankful!” How nice. I responded: “Thanks pal. I’m still sorry you weren’t my replacement when I retired.”

Vietnam vet Bruce Weigl was born in Lorain, Ohio, but could have been writing about Gary, Indiana, in his poem “Meditation at Pearl Street,” which refers to steelworkers “hunched in the predawn cold, caught in light from mill towers like search lights.” He writes of “gas flaming up blue and white from the open hearth” and slag heaps resembling “black desert by the lake.” He describes the “small company houses painted in pastels against the fly ash that came down on us like dogwood dust” and the “rough love” that bound families together despite the “chronic anger” such an injurious environment bred.

I set up an interview with State Rep Vernon Smith for tomorrow. His mother was one of the African-American students transferred to Emerson in 1927 so she could take college prep courses and then kicked out in the wake of a white student boycott of classes. Sixty years later she and others received diplomas as a belated recognition of the injustice.

I got my revenge against Clark Metz at Cressmoor Lanes, averaging 150+ for three games despite missing several easy spares while he struggled before finally finishing with a double. Last time when I paid the $12 he went out and bought a steak for dinner. Looks like hot dogs for you tonight, I told him.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Shame on the Moon

“Blame it on midnight,
Shame on the moon.”
Bob Seger

I spent a long weekend in Palm Springs, California, visiting my 95 year-old mother. We went to the Art Museum to see an Andrew Wyeth exhibit. More exciting was a Pop Art exhibit that included Andy Warhol’s “Brillo Pad Dress” and a Louise Bourgeois bronze of a spider hanging on the wall. John De Andrea did a very realistic nude figure reclining on her side entitled “Joan,” and Gavin Turk deposited what looked to be six trash bags in the center of a room in the aptly titled “Pile.” There were several Lichtenstein entrees, including “Roommates” from his Nudes Series. Less impressive were a Rauschenberg steel panel “Pegasits/ROCI USA” and a minimalist set of lines by Louis Morris entitled “Numbers 2-00.” If my dad had been with us, he would have shaken his head and said, “I could do that.”

Nephew Bob drove up from San Diego. His wife and kids were planning on coming but Crosby broke out in a terrible rash in what turned out to be an allergic reaction to penicillin. Saturday evening we ate at a restaurant called Shame on the Moon, also the title of a Bob Seger song. Evidently the owner has a companion restaurant called Blame it on Midnight. Three of us ordered filet mignon, and Bob noted that mine appeared to be about twice as big as his.

At a sports bar Sunday called Yard House, where they serve beer in thin glasses a yard long, all the NFL games were on at the same time. In a special kids section were TVs screening various cartoons. Some Dallas Cowboy fans were cheering when they scored on the Redskins, so when Washington tied the score we cheered and gave each other high fives. The Skins’ kicker missed a field goal try or I would have won the weekly pool against the other dozen guys. Bob has a great sense of humor, and I love being with him. He teased me about whipping me in Fantasy Football even though he forgot to replace two players on bye weeks.

My brother recently saw my old friends Terry Jenkins and Sammy Corey and they recalled summer poker games on our front porch at 209 Fort Washington Avenue. I’d go around on my bike washing cars in the morning, and we’d play most afternoons. My dad and I also played a baseball pinball game for hours on that porch, even making out lineups and keeping statistics. Vic was very good at releasing balls just enough to have them fall into the doubles slot. Depending on the batter, I’d go for singles and home runs.

Renting a Corolla, I used a G.P.S. device for the first time and found it pretty neat. It certainly was easier than reading Map Quest directions. Programming it, I couldn’t figure out how to go back if I made a mistake, so I’d turn the engine off and start over. I also used my cell phone numerous times, unusual for me. On the plane it seemed that everyone but me had an Iphone and skillfully manipulated their thumbs to scroll back and forth. Several were using kindle devices to read books. American Airlines had no TVs in sight, but several folks were watching movies on their laptops. With a strong tail wind we made it back to O’Hare 40 minutes early. Couldn’t finish the USA Today crossword puzzle, drawing a blank on a place where headroom is a problem (doorway). Toni finished it for me in less than a minute.

John Laue was in the Archives working on a book about the Indiana Dunes national Lakeshore communities displaced by the federal government, including Edgewater, our old neighborhood.

Forwarded to Ray Smock a cartoon from Beamer Pickert showing Freud with this advice: Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self-esteem, first make sure you are not, in fact, surrounded by assholes. I added that Republican candidate Jon Huntsman could use such counsel. He liked it and added: “It is clear that Huntsman is qualified but unelectable. Some say Newt is qualified but unelectable. I say Newt is not qualified on the prima facie obviousness that he is a colossal hypocrite and propagandist. The fact that he is a colossal hypocrite means he could get elected if all the true assholes vote.”

I talked to Steve’s class about postwar Northwest Indiana using my “Age of Anxiety” magazine. After students read excerpts of oral histories, I talked about trying to capture a balanced approach to Gary recent history in my “Centennial” history. Like with the Gary Roosevelt students last week, I talked about the “Hanging On, Bouncing Back” chapter, in particular the schools, and read a poem by former priest John Sheehan.

Caught the two-hour finale of “Dancing with the Stars.” Voted off first was the best of the trio, Ricky Lake. Then Iraq vet J.R. Martinez, badly burned when his Humvee hit a landmine, triumphed against over-rated Rob Kardashian. Lady Antebellum performed two songs, including “Dancing Away with my Heart.”

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Bouncing Back

Wednesday I talked to students at Roosevelt High School about Gary history and gave them copies of “Gary’s First Hundred Years.” I concentrated on the chapter dealing with 1981-1995, “Hanging On, Bouncing Back,” in particular the school days section. Several of the girls played varsity basketball, so I read a paragraph about someone who played on West Side’s team during the 1990s. SPEA professor Ellen Szarleta, the director of the Center for Urban and Regional Excellence, contacted me to do it and told me I had the students’ attention the entire time, no mean feat.

Former student Don Young brought noted artist and sculptor Murcie Poplar Lavender to the Archives. She wants me to look at a 500-page autobiography that she has completed. Thirty years ago she did an 8-foot sculpture called “The Steelworker” for a park near the mill but a truck subsequently backed into it and ruined it. Murcie and I were recipients of the Neal Marshall Award of Excellence six years ago, thanks to Don nominating us.

Historian Gregg Andrews sent me a CD of his group Dr. G and the Mudhens that is quite impressive. I especially liked “My Daddy’s Blues” (also the album title) and “The Things You Do.” I suggested the band try to be part of the Mammoth Lakes, California Bluesapalooza that my old high school classmate Flossie Worster is associated with.

My bowling slump continues although I had one good game and the Engineers won two points. Next to us were guys wearing System of a Down and Stone Temple Pilots t-shirts. I mentioned seeing Velvet Revolver (featuring three of the Pilots) at the Star Plaza. I’ll be off next week for Jeff Hagelberg’s wedding but hope to get in a practice session with Clark so I can come bouncing back.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Conjunction Junction

“When you have a choice like
This or that.
And, but and or,
Get you pretty far.”
“Conjunction Junction, What’s Your Function?”

Friday Tom Higgins delivered some “treasures” to the Archives, as Steve McShane likes to put it, and I gave him the Flight 33 production CD of the Hashima/Gary documentary we were both in. He told me how I could get in touch with football coach Hank Stram’s sister Dolly Berry. I called her and set up an interview.

Rebecca and James were in a production of “High School Musical Junior.” Because their school has no adequate stage, it was at Portage High. Rebecca had one of the leads and James did a terrific Elvis number. He and the entire cast was on stage for virtually all the musical numbers. Old friends Kevin and Tina were there as was Angie’s dad John. Angie was in charge of costumes and busy backstage. The songs deal with history (albeit, western expansion sans Indians), math, social studies, and grammatical parts of speech such as nouns, verbs, and conjunctions.

After shopping and library browsing Saturday I watched part of the Penn State contest to see how the school and the TV pregame handled the molestation revelations. “Happy Valley” is anything but. Some wanted the game cancelled, but what good would that do? An HBO documentary about the 1960 U.S. Open golf championship showed clips of JFK and Bandstand regulars dancing the Twist. Old veteran Ben Hogan faltered in the face of challenges from winner Arnold Palmer and 20 year-old collegian Jack Nicklaus. On the seventeenth hole Ben hit a nine-iron onto the green only to have the backspin cause it to roll off and into the water. Having survived the Great Depression and a near-fatal car accident, Hogan was not a gracious loser. Palmer looked far more muscular than I remembered him. He was my dad’s favorite.

Lori Montalbano invited me to the opening of the new IUN Fine Arts facility on Grant Street, which coincided with the department’s fiftieth anniversary. Good food was on hand, and I talked with Janet Taylor from Printing Services, who recently retired after 49 years, and Ken and Peg Schoon. Old student William Goldsby was there with his wife Sandra, who is on the Miller Beach committee setting up the Pop Up Art Happenings. Gary and Nancy Wilk arrived just as Dean Mark Hoyert was mocking Texas governor Perry’s latest gaffe; he claimed there were three reasons for holding the event and then pretended to forget what the third one was. Sitting with the Wilks was Chesterton artist/teacher Donald Whisler, who mentioned that Paul Kern was one of his favorite teachers.

After Dave won Amun Re, St. Petersburg, and Acquire, I triumphed in Stone Age, then watched the Bears rout of Detroit at the Hagelbergs. Cheryl served pork roll, pierogis, onions and mushrooms, and a yummy salad. Corey and girlfriend Kate arrived after working on their new house near Forest Ave. Home for “Boardwalk Empire,” which had some interesting twists. Gangster Jimmy Darmody’s wife Angela, for instance, meets a free-spirited novelist on the beach and kisses her at a party where there are dancers, artists, and other bohemian types. Meanwhile Nucky pretends to go into retirement and prepares to travel to Ireland, taking gangster Arnold Rothstein’s advice that it is sometimes best to bides one’s time until the odds favor you.

Retired air force colonel and IUN student John Starzyk asked me to recommend a book about U.S. Steel for a friend who is retiring. I told him about “Steel Giants” by McShane and Wilk and sent him “Gary’s First Hundred Years.”

I spent 90 minutes interviewing Hank Stram’s 86 year-old sister Dolly at her home. Hank’s mother Nellie, who opened up a restaurant in the Brunswick neighborhood (Ma Stram’s) after her husband died. It was a hangout for Edison students and had a jukebox of swing music for jitterbug dancing. After her second husband died, Nellie would visit Hank in Kansas City and New Orleans and take care of grandkids when he and his wife were traveling. She was known for making six-layer birthday cakes and would take a large stash of pierogis with her when she visited him. She lived just a couple blocks from us in Miller during the early 1970s, and Hank frequently visited. I met Hank at a sports banquet, and he was very gracious. One time Dolly drove him to their old Brunswick neighborhood, and they stopped to get directions from a Black man who recognized him. Hank took his Superbowl ring off to let the guy see it. Dolly was hoping the man wouldn’t take off running, but all went well.

I ran into former student Don Young in the parking lot and offered him my latest Shavings, which he appears in twice. He brought octogenarian Murcie Poplar with him to the Archives. An artist and sculptor, she wants me to critique a 500-page autobiographical manuscript. I told her I’d be honored.

At Theo’s in Highland for the History book club presentation of Gordon W. Prange’s Pearl Harbor book “At Dawn We Slept.” I mentioned that the author was teaching at Maryland while I was a grad student and that he treated Governor Joseph B. Poindexter more accurately than Walter Lord did in “Day of Infamy.” There were several old-timers there who remembered hearing about Pearl Harbor. One was at Soldiers Field watching a football game between the Bears and the Chicago Cardinals. I sat next to former Millerites Bob Selund and Judge Ken Anderson. It took about 45 minutes for the waitress to get individual checks to us. I had the house salad and rolls plus two Becks for $16.81, including tax and tip.

Vietnam Vet Jay Keck sent me a fascinating book of poems by Bruce Weigl entitled “What Saves Us.” I was familiar with one of his previous books, “Songs of Napalm.” In a poem full of memories about a father living near “the slag heaps of our steel city dying upon our dying lake” who beat his kid with a belt, the last verse goes: “He is home from the foundry, younger than I am now, the black dust from the mill like a mask; and he is bending down to me in the dusk where I waited on the steps of the bar for his bus; and the cathedral he makes with his fingers opens to a silver dime he twists before me and lays down into my hands for being good he says.”

In “Why We Are Forgiven” Bruce Weigl writes: “Men still make steel in the hellish mill though thousands are laid off and dazed. They do the shopping for their working wives and dream the blast furnace rumble. Mill dust and red slag grit is blood for some people.”

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Daddy's Blues

“He’d drag ass home from work
Lookin’ lot older than his years
And in those eyes I could see
My Daddy’s Blues.”
Doctor G and the Mudcats

Gregg Andrews, author of the Thyra Edwards biography, sent me a typescript Thyra’s sister Thelma Marshall did of her ancestors. In turn I sent him “Gary’s First Hundred Years” and asked whether he could speak on our campus in February during Black History Month. He said he was “thoroughly enjoying” the book but would be in Texas that month touring with a “swampy blues band, Doctor G and the Mudcats.” I looked them up on Google and found two YouTube numbers they performed live, “Rockin’ Rita” and “My Daddy’s Blues.” Gregg’s the frontman. They were quite good.

My dad, Vic, was a white-collar commuter living in Fort Washington, PA and working for Penn Salt, a corporation whose offices were in Center City Philadelphia. Like “Daddy” in the Mudcats song he was a Camel smoker and died young, at age 50 but he liked one stiff whiskey drink when he got home not Falstaff beer as in the song. He liked show tunes and crooners like Nat King Cole and Bing Crosby rather than Jimmy Rogers and swamp blues, but his job could get him down – on the road much of the years and pressured by Penn Salt to conform to proper dress and manners. Even when golfing Sunday mornings, his monogrammed polo shirt and slacks matched the others on the links of Manufacturers Golf Course. He taught me poker and other card games and we made up lineups and kept statistics for a baseball pinball game that we played for hours when we weren’t in the basement playing ping pong or outside shooting hoops or playing wiffleball (one game I could beat him in). He was really disappointed when I quit law school to pursue a doctorate in History but shortly before he died suddenly of a heart attack he confided to me with a wink that maybe it would be nice to have a doctor in the house. He and Midge were planning to build a getaway cottage in the Poconoes that he hoped his grandkids (whom he never got to see) would visit.

I voted straight Democrat at Brummitt School in Chesterton even though there was only one contested town council race. Gary officially elected its first woman mayor Karen Freeman Wilson and Portage voters unfortunately defeated its first female mayor Olga Velazquez. Driving the Occupy Wall Street Movement off the front page are about sex scandals involving former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky and Republican Presidential hopeful Herman Cain.

TerryAnn Defenser in University Relations came to the Archives to get my signature on a copy of “Gary’s First Hundred Years” that she intends to give a friend named Marty. She also got Steve to inscribe “Steel Giants.”

Retired Sociology professor Barry Johnston passed away. He was about my age and quite a stud when he first showed up on campus with long hair, a Texas accent, and riding a motorcycle. I played tennis with him and poker, and he was a very tough teacher and prolific scholar. At lunch Chuck Gallmeier talked about rooming with him when they’d travel together to Sociology conferences. I interviewed him while researching a history of IUN, and this is how he described being interviewed in 1973 by administrator Herman Feldman: “I had done a master’s thesis on hippies and the drug experience. In my vita I called it a participant/observation study. Feldman wanted to know how much participation I had done. I phrased my answer carefully. I had shoulder-length hair and a beard and was committed to an alternative lifestyle. I enjoyed being an intellectual but relished living life on the boundaries. I tried to answer Herman’s question honestly without leading myself into harm’s way.”

Last evening I bowled better than usual but the Engineers lost all three games, the last one by a single point despite our clean-up man David “Duke” Caminski rolling a 269. In the tenth he struck and then left a eight pin on a perfect hit.

I interviewed State Senator Earline Rogers for my “On Their Shoulders” project. Her dad Earl Smith, was a tremendous athlete in high school at Froebel who had to quit college when his mother’s health failed. Becoming a steelworker, he worked different shifts and would often come home angry over the way Blacks were discriminated against. It was his hope that all five of his children would graduate from college, and they eventually did. Earline grew up in a Delaney Housing Project home. Her mom was a good campaigner when Earline went into politics. Earline ran for mayor in 1995 and would have beaten Scott King had not a second Black candidate Judge Charles Graddick, not divided the Black vote. She got her competitive streak from her dad and would have been a good mayor.

I had great food at Asia Day in the Savannah gym. Former vice chancellor Marilyn Vasquez was one of the servers. There was a fashion show and other entertainment. During one musical interlude Tanice Foltz came up and started dancing with me. One woman got a dozen students to help her demonstrate examples of laugh therapy. Vice Chancellor David Malik handed out candy bars to folks who correctly answered questions about various Asian countries.

Chris Young’s student Elizabeth Laduke met me at the Archives to ask about the Elbert H. Gary statue downtown and the Michael Jackson monument in front of the house where he grew up. I mentioned that Judge Gary was no friend to African-American steelworkers and that there was a movement during the 1970s to change the city’s name to DuSable. I defended Michael against charges that he never did anything for the city and speculated that there might be a statue of his likeness in the future as fans continue to gather outside the house on special occasions.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Madura's Danceland

“Louie, Louie,
Me gotta go.”

At the Portage Library I came across the Summer 2011 issue of TRACES, which contained an article by Patrice Madura Ward-Steinman about Madura’s Danceland. Located at the once popular area of Hammond known as Five Points, Madura’s opened in October 1929 (right before the stock market crash) and stayed in business until 1967, when a fire destroyed the building. During that time big bands eventually gave way to rock ‘n’ roll shows. Among the photos used by TRACES is one of the Kinsmen posing next to a big crown. Governor Welsh asked the Indiana Broadcasters Association to ban their 1964 hit “Louie, Louie” from being played on the radio because of rumors that the lyrics were obscene. In fact, the FBI spent 31 months trying to find out what the garbled vocals were. Some claimed “gotta go” was really “grab her down low.” The song is about a lonely sailor pining for his girl, but dirty-minded critics mistook “On the ship I dream she there; I smell the rose in her hair” for “On that chair I lay her there; I felt my boner in her hair.”

Near Madura’s was Phil Schmidt’s Restaurant (known for its frogs legs), a gambling emporium known as the Big House, and Lever Brothers Plant. We ate at Phil Schmidt’s shortly after coming to Northwest Indiana. It closed in 2007 after 97 years in business, ironically a casualty in part of an overpass from Indianapolis Boulevard to Horseshoe Casino. Ward-Steinman also put out an Arcadia Press book about Madura’s; Steve McShane helped her with photos from our Archives collection.

“Tower Heist” was unrealistic and only moderately interesting, but I found Eddie Murphy quite funny as hustler Slide and Gabourey Sidibe (who starred in “Precious”) pretty sexy for one who must weigh well over 300 pounds. Ben Stiller is always fun when playing someone under duress, but Alan Alda was not a very convincing villain.

The new “Vanity Fair” with Johnny Depp on the cover has an interesting article by Nathaniel Philbrick about Herman Melville’s “Moby-Dick.” He includes this quote by the narrator Ishmael, the only survivor from the whaling ship “Pequod” commanded by the one-legged Captain Ahab, bent on revenge against the white whale responsible for the missing appendage. “There are certain queer times and occasions in this strange mixed affair we call life when a man takes this whole universe for a vast practical joke, though the wit thereof he but dimly discerns, and more than suspects that the joke is at nobody’s expense but his own.” “Moby-Dick” only sold a few thousand copies when first published, but it is now recognized as perhaps the greatest work of American literature.

Checked out “Wonder Girl” by Don Van Natta, a biography of Babe Didrikson, the greatest American woman athlete ever. She was the track and field star of the 1932 Olympics and excelled in basketball, baseball, and golf – in fact, in every sport she took up. Coming from a poor family living in Port Arthur, Texas, she was seen as a threat to the demure image of female athletes and by the establishment that ran amateur sports and, like Jim Thorpe, barred from numerous competitions because she had to earn money in order for her family to survive during the Great Depression. Sportswriter Grantland Rice championed her, but more typical was this snipt from the New York World-Telegram’s Joe Williams that “It would be much better if she and her ilk stayed at home, got themselves prettied up and waited for the phone to ring.” She won the woman’s Grand Slam of golf in 1950 and served as President of the LPGA for three years before succumbing to colon cancer in 1956 at the age of 45. Author Van Natta points out that Babe was the first woman to find success as a professional athlete. After Gertrude Ederle swam the English Channel, New Yorkers honored her with a ticker tape parade, but no lucrative offers followed and she died in obscurity.

I finally watched the excellent HBO documentary “Sing Your Song” about calypso singer Harry Belafonte. Inspired by Paul Robeson, he combined a successful singing career with a half-century of activism on behalf of civil rights and world hunger. For his trouble the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover had him under surveillance along with Martin Luther King and other activists. He was at the 1963 March on Washington when MLK delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. He risked his life traveling to Mississippi during Freedom Summer, 1964, and he organized celebrities to participate in the Selma to Montgomery march the following year. During the 1980s, like Gary mayor Richard Hatcher, he went to jail protesting the apartheid policies of the South African government.

We had James and Rebecca overnight while Dave and Angie chaperoned the East Chicago Central High School turnabout dance. I cooked pancakes and kielbasa for breakfast before gaming at Dave’s. I was one for four, winning Acquire. My football picks and Fantasy team fared poorly, and I fell asleep before “Boardwalk Empire” came on. Fortunately I can catch it on DVR.

Reporter Andy Grimm, who writes for the Chicago Tribune, interviewed me about Gary’s financial crisis. For several years the fear has been that the city would become insolvent and even might have to go into some kind of receivership or un-incorporate, if such a thing is possible. Now with a new state property tax in effect, it appears that other Indiana cities could be in the same boat. Andy wanted some political perspective concerning high and low points in Gary’s history. I brought up the 1930s when only federal help bailed the city out – what is drastically needed today. Another low point was 1995, when Governor Evan Bayh sent in state troopers to deal with the supposedly out-of-control crime, gangs, and drugs. Also that year Black voters were so pessimistic about the future that they helped elect white criminal attorney Scott King mayor, a man with almost no past record of civic involvement. The attitude among many was, well, we tried the Black Pride thing with Richard Hatcher and the reach-out-to-the-surrounding-communities approach with Tom Barnes, so maybe a white mayor will get attention and bring investment to the city. All the city ended up getting were an expensive stadium, a beauty pageant for a couple years, and casino boats that drained away more money than gained from tax revenues. The credit, if that is the right word, for the boats should go to the Barnes administration – their presence was one reason gaining control of City Hall had looked attractive to King.

I met Clark Metz at Cressmoor Lanes and bowled three games, another poor performance but maybe I learned a few things that I can put to use in the league Wednesday. After chicken, noodles, and corn on the cob, I watched the Bears win a close one against the Philadelphia Eagles, the league’s most disappointing team so far.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Being Gay in Israel

“Is it just destiny
Or is it just a game
In my mind, Sharona?”
The Knack

At the Robin Hass Birky Women’s Studies Room in IUN’s Savannah Center I heard two people talk on the subject of “Being Gay in Israel.” They were with a group called Hoshen, which is also the name of a sacred Hebrew breastplate and a word derived from the Hebrew word for beautiful. On the group website I learned that Hoshen is the Hebrew acronym for "Education and Change" and the education center of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender (GLBT) community in Israel. Israeli laws are evidently very tolerant toward gays except regarding marriage, which is governed by religious precepts and even discriminates against Jews marrying non-Jews. Someone noted that Tel Aviv is the third most popular gay party town, right behind San Francisco and Bangkok. One speaker, Irit Tzvelli, mentioned that the group works with schools and even does workshops with kindergarten teachers to be more sensitive toward kids with same-sex parents. Irit said she came out of the closet around age 24 and that her mother took it OK except that when she subsequently dated a guy, the mother was really hoping that she’d get married and have children so she wouldn’t be lonely when she got older. She subsequently bonded with another lesbian, but they have three kids via adoption and in vitro fertilization, so the old lady is OK with the situation. Several people from Temple Israel were there, including Rabbi Halpern and Robin Rich. I talked to one guy who was a History major in the early 1970s and took all of Ron Cohen’s courses.

After the talk Anne Balay, a student named Christine, and I had drinks at TGIF in Merrillville. Having recently moved from Hyde Park to Miller, Anne seemed unfamiliar with the commercial district along Route 30. Both she and Christine were teenagers during the 1980s, and we ended up talking about music and movies from that era. It seems like they were hot for some of the same women celebrities that I had found sexy, such as Joan Jett and Debra Winger. Coincidentally, one of Debra’s first movies was “Thank God It’s Friday,” the name of the restaurant we were at. I told them I loved Winger in “Reality Bites,” especially the scene in Seven/Eleven when they dance to “My Sharona.” I offered to loan Anne my “Reality Bites” soundtrack CD, which contains songs by Lenny Kravitz (“Spinning Around Over You”). Dinosaur, Jr. (“Turnip Farm”), and Squeeze (“Tempted”).

I’ve been asked by the director of IUN’s Center for Urban and Regional Excellence to talk about Gary history to a group of around a dozen high school students who are involved in an urban renewal project. For my trouble I’ll get to eat pizza. I said yes.

The Engineers bowled a team that was so good they had to give us over 200 pins handicap. In the first game, thanks to John Bulot rolling a 231, the Engineers beat them by over 160 pins.

Ron Cohen was in the Archives because, like me, he was going to a luncheon for IUN faculty who had published a book within the last two years. He informed the campus that Gary native and Nobel laureate in economics Joseph Stiglitz addressed the Occupy Wall Street protestors, telling them “"You are right to be indignant. The fact is that the system is not working right. It is not right that we have so many people without jobs when we have so many needs that we have to fulfill. It's not right that we are throwing people out of their houses when we have so many homeless people. Our financial markets have an important role to play. They're supposed to allocate capital, manage risks. We are bearing the costs of their misdeeds. There's a system where we've socialized losses and privatized gains. That's not capitalism; that's not a market economy. That's a distorted economy, and if we continue with that, we won't succeed in growing, and we won't succeed in creating a just society."

At the luncheon I sat next to mathematician Stela Pudar-Hozo and Health and Human Services director Pat Bankston. Pat mentioned seeing former chancellor Peggy Elliott at a charity function for Methodist Hospitals and that she is presently working in Texas. There’s evidently an index of retired university officials who can offer their services to fill in at universities that need interim administrators. Pat reported that she looked great and was as vivacious as ever. Pat talked about running unsuccessfully as a Republican for Porter County Commissioner. I told him that one local Republican I could vote for was State Senator Ed Charbonneau, who served with me on the Gary Centennial Committee. Mark Hoyert heard me and feigned shock that I’d vote Republican. I told him the last Republican I voted for other than locally was Pennsylvania Senator Hugh Scott in 1968, and I came to regret it when in 1972 he called George McGovern the Triple-A candidate for abortion, amnesty and acid. Disgusting. The last one he voted for was Maryland Senator Charles “Mac” Mathias, who clashed frequently with Nixon.

Eva Mendietta showed me the cover of the Spanish language version of her book about Catalina de Erauso, a former nun who posed as a man and had a swashbuckling military career during the seventeenth century. The shot was taken in the interior of the old, abandoned City Methodist Church.

Following the luncheon sculptor Neil Goodman, recipient of the 2011 outstanding scholar award, gave an informative lecture based largely on the pieces he did for IUN’s sculpture garden. Chris Young told me that two of his students who are giving a paper in two weeks on the Elbert H. Gary statue and the Michael Jackson monument want to interview me tomorrow or Monday.

I got a call from Ray and Trish Arredondo from Arizona State University, where they had given a talk to students who had been assigned “Maria’s Journey.” They were having lunch with old friend and co-editor of “Forging a Community” Ed Escobar. Small world. Ed filled me in on how his family is doing and invited us to visit them. The last time I saw him was in Indianapolis when we were on a panel together at a history conference. Ray and Trish said their talk went very well.