Friday, December 23, 2011

Long Way Home

“There are so many wars that just can’t be won
Even before the battle’s begun.”

Most of our troops deployed in Iraq have concluded their long way home for Christmas. Bombs exploded throughout Baghdad yesterday, killing scores. The Shiite Iraqi government wanted us out (thankfully), so they’ll have to deal with disgruntled Sunnis without our help. The next domino in the Mideast cauldron appears to be Syria, whose president, Bashar-al-Assad, is responsible for the deaths of hundreds, if not thousands, of protestors. If a Republican wins in 2012, chances are we’ll be pulled into another war, perhaps with Iran. Admiral William H. McRaven, the SEAL team commander who organized the raid that took out Osama bin Laden and a runner-up as Time magazine person of the Year, praised Barack Obama as a steady, brave, knowledgeable commander in chief. I shudder to think what might happen if someone like Gingrich replaces him.

Because I work in IUN’s library as CRA co-director, I got invited (first time) to their holiday lunch. A highlight was chatting with Lois, former director Bob Moran’s secretary whom I hadn’t seen in years, and Jackie Cheairs, whose brother-in-law just returned from Iraq, hopefully for good, after multiple deployments. Because the vice chancellor wanted the library open even though the semester is over, Tim Sutherland ordered food from Strack and Van Til’s. The chicken and ham were good and the ribs tough, and the mashed potatoes a pleasant surprise. I ate so much I skipped my normal yogurt before bowling. At Cressmoor Lanes my Engineers won five of seven and would have swept the Dingbats had Bobby McCann not doubled in the tenth of the third game.

Upon arriving home, I was greeted by Phil and Diamond, out for his final pee of the evening. When the others retired for bed, I watched Letterman, who had John Huntsman on (he’d make a great Obama cabinet member). Dave worked two viral YouTube excerpts into his monologue, one of monkeys riding dogs and the other of a FedEx employee tossing a package containing a TV over a fence.

Thursday my nuclear family (Toni, Phil, Dave, and I) spent the day together. It was great. Normally Dave does not like music on while playing games, but he had no objection to The Decembrists, Arcade Fire, and Wilco. After Amun Re and Acquire, we played seven pinochle games. The guys were all smiles after winning the first two, but the old folks took the next four out of five. We finished with an abbreviated Texas hold ’em match.

Vandals have desecrated the Marquette Park Pavilion, which is undergoing a multi-million dollar facelift. Not only did they steal copper pipes, they started a fire inside and smeared graffiti on the walls. Dave and Angie got married there. Poor Gary. How many black eyes can the city survive?

Yesterday I paid $2.99 a gallon filling up the Corolla. Today the price had jumped to $3.39.

The Congressional fight over extending tax cuts and unemployment benefits appears over, with Republican House members apparently caving in the face of almost universal criticism, even from Senate Republicans. Judge Louis Rosenberg decertified Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White for fraudulently stating his residence. State Rep Charlie Brown, meanwhile, is stepping up his drive to ban smoking in public places in time for the Superbowl, taking place in Indy in six weeks.

Driving to the library on its last day open until January 3, 2012, I heard Supertramp’s “Take the Long Way Home,” which contains these lines: “When the day comes to settle down, who’s to blame if you’re not around?” I worked on the Maggie Comer chapter of “On Their Shoulders.” Like Marie Arredondo, she sacrificed so that her children might have an opportunity to fully develop their talents.

At Gaard Logan’s suggestion I Googled artist Bo Bartlett, who gave to the Tacoma Art Museum a painting entitled “Brooklyn Crucifixion.” A comely woman in a pink bathrobe is hanging by ropes that have caused her wrists to bleed. Flanking her are an artist and a bearded man who resembles Chain Potok whose novel about rebellious Hasidic Jew, “My Name Is Asher Lev,” inspired Bartlett. Gaard’s book club is currently reading the novel, which I had never heard of. Here’s a quote from Asher’s teacher: “As an artist you are responsible to no one and nothing, except to yourself and the truth as you see it. Do you understand? An artist is responsible to his art. Anything else is propaganda.”

On Facebook Pat Zollo mentioned getting together with Tom Curry, and we exchanged messages about Paul Curry, whose C130 was shot down in Vietnam. It caused me to shed a tear thinking about finding Paul Curry’s name on The Wall in Washington. It took a little time because I hadn’t realized Paul was his middle name. Terry Jenkins, whom I’m still close to, was probably Paul’s best friend and a pallbearer, I believe, at the funeral. When we were kids, the three of us were out with our sleds trying to catch rides on the back fenders of cars that stopped at a Summit Avenue intersection near Kirk’s Store. A police car came by, and Paul muttered, “Dirty copper.” The car screeched to a halt and the officer said, “What did you say?” Without batting an eye Paul replied, “Dirty rubber.” It made no sense, but the policeman said something like, “Well, watch what you say” and drove off. From then on saying “Dirty rubber” is an inside joke with us that evokes memories of Paul.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Concept

“She wears denim wherever she goes
Says she’s gonna get some records by the Status Quo.”
“The Concept,” Teenage Fanclub

On the sleazy reality show “Jersey Shore,” a hit with many young adults, there’s a character that calls himself The Situation. With that precedent I should call myself The Concept.

Friday an apparently homeless man was sitting outside the IUN library wrapped in two blankets. A half hour later, the blankets remained but he was gone. In contrast to cities like Chicago and Boston, you rarely see such scenes locally. About a year ago a beggar came into the cafeteria, but a campus cop quickly whisked him out. Former Chancellor Peggy Elliott told me this anecdote from the early 1980s: “One night I got a call from security around two a.m. An officer making his rounds had discovered two young children in the shadows near the fountain. They had been abandoned. The boy remembered he had been to a friendly place and somehow found his way, with his little sister, to the campus. A desperate child saw our campus as a refuge. Our investment in beauty and security brought us returns in ways we never could have imagined.” Could the man wrapped in blankets have been the same person 30 years later?

Fred McColly stopped by my “cage” after checking on his Native American garden. He needs a ground cover of four inches of snow to insure the survival of his winter wheat seeds. Daughter Sarah, one of my best former students and on the cover of my Nineties issue, is about to give birth.

I ate free courtesy of IUN for the third time in as many days: fried chicken and the trimmings, including Cole slaw and scallions with just the right texture and bite, at the Arts and Sciences Holiday party. Dean Hoyert gave a witty poetry recitation that began, “Twas the week of the finals,” a take-off on the 1823 Clement C. Moore poem “Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas” better known as “Twas the Night Before Christmas.” He devoted a stanza to excuses used by students petitioning for an incomplete: “My brother’s in jail and I have the flu, I had to work and grandma died too,” followed by the dean’s advice to “fail the transgressors” and “ignore the complaints, the whines, the begging.” He ends on this note:

“While most of our students are the best of our youth
There are some that can drive you to gin and vermouth!
In the end, teaching’s a calling, it’s honored, it’s right
Happy end of the semester and to all a good night.”

I sat with historian Chris Young, Vice Chancellor David Malik, and Fine Arts faculty Jennifer Greenburg, who has produced a unique photography book called “The Rockabillies.” At first glance the representations appear to be from the postwar period, but they depict modern day emulators of Fifties styles, from the pompadour haircuts and slicked back hair to the sounds of Buddy Holly and Carl Perkins. Prominent are tattoos, classic cars, period furniture, radios, comics and albums and, most striking, clothes styles harkening back to my high school days, including white bucks and saddle shoes. Curator Karen Irvine wrote: “By making photographs worthy of a glossy fashion magazine, Greenburg places the rockabilly’s nostalgia in a contemporary context, revealing a tension between the traditionalism and rebelliousness of their subculture.” Jennifer mentioned that a recent trend in museums is deleting explanations about the work. In an experiment for an Aesthetics class at Bucknell I showed a painting to different groups, telling some the piece was untitled, as was the case, and then making up titles. Except for art majors, most preferred a title.

Suzanna Murphy sent me a self-published book entitled “Stories from the Old Stone House” about her “grama,” who lived to be well over 100. She rode a horse, Old Sam, to her one-room schoolhouse. Old Sam returned to his stable on his own after dropping her off.

Charlize Theron in “Young Adult” plays Mavis Gary, a self-absorbed writer of books designed for teenagers who returns to her “hick” hometown hoping to lure old boyfriend Buddy Slade into leaving his wife and young baby. Diablo Cody, responsible for “Juno,” wrote the excellent screenplay and, so far as I know, coined the word “Ken-taco-hut.” Mavis hangs out in such places in order to pick up the latest “young adult” dialogue. On the drive from Minneapolis Mavis puts on a Teenage Fanclub tape, including her and Buddy’s song “The Concept,” which makes reference to the English “boogie band” Status Quo, whose number one UK hit in 1975 was “Down, Down.” At a bar Buddy’s wife sings “The Concept” with her band Nipple Confusion, sending Mavis into a jealous fit. After her inevitable comeuppance she goes back to Mini-Apple (as local wannabes still call the Twin city) sadder but wiser.

Saturday at Miller Pizza Joe Petras hosted the annual Men and Boys Holiday Benefit Brunch. Proceeds help maintain the Marquette Park playground. I sat with Tom Eaton, Ted Prettyman, and the Spicer brothers. Years ago, Prettyman ran for Miller Beach precinct committeeman against Dick Hagelberg and Mike Chirich and lost to Chirich by a single vote. Mike has remained in the post ever since. Purdue fan Jack Tonk and IU booster Matt Diltz were razzing each other, and George Rogge talked about getting all groups interested in the future of Miller Beach together. I invited Melvin Nelson, thinking Joe’s brother-in-law Jim Walton, on our bowling team years ago, would be there, but he was in Kentucky due to a family emergency. Joe announced that total donations in 21 years reached $5,000.

In an all-Indiana doubleheader Purdue lost to Butler on a last-second tip-in, while IU defeated Notre Dame in a grinder. Evening at the Hagelbergs featured southwestern chicken and two rounds of bridge.

Sunday I went two for four gaming, winning Acquire and Viking, then watched Seattle slaughter the Bears in another abysmal performance by their backup quarterback Caleb Hanie. If only they had Kyle Orton, cut from Denver earlier in the year, who led Kansas City to a win over previously unbeaten Green Bay. Dave and Angie teased me about going to Hawaii without them. I called Seattle Joe while listening to an Accept CD he had given me and talked about the awesome time ahead on the Big Island.

Monday I picked up macadamia nuts at Albanese in Merrillville and stopped at the Lake County Library. I gobbled up a rare copy of my Sports Shavings issue that was on sale for a quarter. A label on the inside of the front cover identified James Mulloy as the former owner.

Lunched at Gino’s with lawyer Tim Sendak, whose dad was Indiana attorney general for eight years. He provided me with great anecdotes about grandparents Jack and Annette, whom I will be writing about in “On Their Shoulders.” Annette was evidently a pool shark in London who paid for her fare to America from her winnings. When Jack wouldn’t buy her a car, she started a fur company and bought a Buick once she saved enough money of her own. At their summer place on the St. Joseph River, Tim recalled, Annette had a massive clock collection set at different times so that one chimed every few minutes. Apparently she didn’t like a quiet house. I ordered a delicious steak and portabella sandwich, half of which I took home.

Grandkids were in a school Christmas program. James played the xylophone and drums, and Rebecca sang with her fourth grade class. It was a mob scene getting in and out but fun seeing the kids shine.

Steelers-49ers contest in San Francisco was delayed due to a power outage (reminiscent of the 1989 earthquake during a Cubs-Giants playoff game), so I put on a Decembrists CD.

Time’s Person of the Year is The Protestor, a fine choice given Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street. Among its year-old RIP tributes are essays about actor Peter Falk (I loved “Columbo”) and “60 Minutes” commentator Andy Rooney, who was on the show 31 years, starting when he was 61. Like Walter Cronkite, he had been an ace World War II correspondent. His longevity reminded me of newsman Tom Cannon, who came to Gary in his 60s and commenced a new 30-year career highlighted by his “Flue Dust” column.

Republican officeholders, realizing that Newt would be a disastrous party standard bearer, are flocking to Mitt, who helped Letterman do the Top Ten list of things he’d like to say to the American people (number 9 was, “What’s up gangstas, it’s the M-i-double tizzle”). Newt’s 1994 Contract with America got him elected Speaker of the House, but his downfall was causing a government shutdown and impeaching Clinton for receiving a blow job when he was guilty of much greater moral lapses. Number 2 on Mitt’s list was, “Newt Gingrich, really?”

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Holiday Spirit

"Yeah I'm sorry, I can't afford a Ferrari,

But that don't mean I can't get you there.

I guess he's an Xbox and I'm more Atari,

But the way you play your game ain't fair.”
Cee-Lo Green

Tuesday I had lunch with cafeteria regular Alan Lindmark, about to retire but pledging to return occasionally. I got into a discussion with Jean Poulard, who admitted using a test question asking students to explain why JFK’s foreign policy was a fiasco. I argued that if Kennedy had taken the actions Poulard advocated in Cuba, Berlin, and Vietnam, it could easily have led to a nuclear war. Comparing him to Reagan, I concluded that while Kennedy used combative rhetoric at times due to political realities, his main accomplishment was to prevent the Cold War from escalating into war between the superpowers. In fact, after the 1962 missile crisis he took steps to move haltingly toward détente with Nikita Khrushchev.

A Ray Smock essay on the History Hews Network website entitled “Newt Gingrich the Galactic Historian” mentioned Newt’s fascination with Isaac Asimov’s “Foundation” trilogy and suggests that protagonist and psycho-historian Hari Seldon is his role model. The articles generated many responses, including this one that Ray particularly liked: “This article settles it, there is N.O.T.H.I.N.G. conservative about Newt Gingrich, he is just a power hungry totalitarian unprincipled fruitcake who will make life hell if elected just as sure as any 20th century communist or fascist dictator would.” I emailed Ray: “Thanks to you, I have spent hours on the HNN website, including perusing the considerable reaction to your piece. Michael Lowry said it well, calling Newt a pandering hypocrite who nonetheless has two useful political skills, the inability to feel shame and the ability to speak confidently even while uttering obvious falsehoods.”

I sent Vice Chancellor David Malik a proposal to fund Steel Shavings in return for my contributions to the Calumet Regional Archives. I wrote: “Since our conversation on making Steel Shavings magazine self-sustaining, I have been mulling over various options. The best course, I believe, would be to set up a fund within the Steel Shavings account to cover publications, travel, research, and special events. The cost, $11,000 (a sum equal to a single Summer Faculty Fellowship), would not only cover publication costs of future magazine issues (that’s where the lion’s share of the money would go) but allow for other activities associated with the Archives, including new outreach initiatives. In return for obtaining the funding, I would continue to serve as unpaid co-director of the Calumet Regional Archives, assisting researchers, collecting “treasures” (as Steve McShane refers to acquisitions), planning special events (such as bringing speakers to campus who have published books about the history of Northwest Indiana), and doing other useful tasks as befits my expertise as a regional historian. Since Steve McShane is the Steel Shavings account manager (21-601-72), he would oversee the expenditures, as could others in the chain of command, including the librarian and the campus chief financial officer. Even though I will be eligible next year to earn money for my services to the university, I believe this to be a better course than my requesting compensation for activities in connection with the magazine and the Archives. One way to proceed would be to allocate a one-time funding that would allow publication of volume 42 in the Steel Shavings series and then assess whether to include the item in future annual budgets. In addition, by not allocating the funds to me personally, the way is open for a successor to eventually become the editor of the magazine.”

Wearing to IUN’s Holiday Party an IUN polo shirt from when I worked the Porter County fair, I splashed much gravy on my turkey, mashed potatoes, and filling, had two cups of un-spiked egg nog, and chatted with retired professors Leroy Peterson and Mike Certa, among others. A deejay was blasted music at a volume that made conversation difficult, but I liked the selections and folks were line dancing. Immediately following “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” came Cee-Lo Green’s “Forget You.” I listened closely when it came on to see whether it was the x-rated version. JoAnn Hurak, who used to work for Purchasing, hadn’t heard that they phased out her office in favor of a centralized, all campus system. Her granddaughter used to live across from us at Maple Place, and both dogs that used to bark all night when she wasn’t home have since died. She mentioned getting a phone call from her old boss Murray Taylor from a nursing home but he hung up before she could get his address or phone number.

DeeDee Ige and Vernon Smith want me to be on a committee to study how to enhance IUN’s image within the Gary community. I’m happy to oblige. There was a time years ago when the administration sought to downplay being in Gary, but that hasn’t been the case for some time. Maybe I can push having an event honoring Thelma Marshall and bringing in Gregg Andrews, the author of the Thyra J. Edwards book.

Watched my teammates win game one in bowling and then at home put on the end of the Maryland basketball game. They beat Florida International, coached by former IU star Isaiah Thomas. Then I switched to the Blackhawks, who won an overtime shootout with Minnesota thanks to their young duo of Toews and Kane.

On Facebook Sam Barnett wrote: “The paper of this student who always reeks of cigarettes reeks of cigarettes. This one is staying at work tonight. My clothes reek so much after bowling that I keep my jacket in the garage and immediately strip down and throw my clothes in the laundry room.

Niece Andrea has invited me to come to the Big Island of Hawaii for a week in early January while she, her husband, and son Joe are there. Tom Dietz is going with me. It should be great.

Among those honored at the Retirement Reception were Alan Lindmark in Chemistry, Ken Schoon in Education, and two longtime staff members and really good people whose positions were phased out, Jan Taylor in Printing Services and Marianne Malyj in Purchasing. Also Donald Young, one of my top ten favorite students is stepping down as a police officer. When I interviewed him for the History of IUN Shavings issue, he praised General Stusies director Bob Lovely, Communication professor DeeDee Ige, and Chief Andy Lazar for their faith in him. He had funny stories about being hazed by veteran officers and interrupting lovers at the outer edges of the parking lots. He was also the first bicycle patrol officer and a really nice fellow. I had intended to say a few remarks about Don, but the program was set up basically to have only one person per retiree speak (although jean Poulard, as usual, got up and went on about how he and Lindmark are best friends despite their political differences). The police lieutenant who talked about Don started with what he said was an Elizabeth Taylor quote to her husband: “I won’t keep you long.” I told Marianne afterwards that I still recall fondly her singing “Taking Care of Business” at pro-Business Division Chancellor Dan Orescanin’s retirement roast.

John Davies presided over the annual Legends induction at the Welcome Center that honored four Medal of Honor recipients, four Nobel Prize winners, and the Jacksons. On the program to explain the selection process and then to describe why the Jackson Five were worthy of being inducted, Steve McShane introduced me as the area’s preeminent historian. Nice. On hand was the widow of Emilio De La Garza, who died in Vietnam and the brother of another Medal of Honor winner Danny Bruce. IUN Business professor Steve Dunphy did a good job talking about the four Nobel Prize winners, including biochemist Ferid Murad, born in Whiting, whose work with nitric oxide led to the marketing of Viagra. Thanks to Harry Vande Velde, of the Legacy Foundation, an excellent book about the all the Legends on the Wall has been produced for fourth graders. I took home two of them for the grandkids to take to their school.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Buzzer Beater

“We will fight for the cream and crimson
For the glory of old IU.”
“Indiana, Our Indiana”

The Education Division hd a retirement reception for Ken Schoon last Friday. Stanley Wigle and Paul Blohm got off some witticisms at his expense. When Mark Reshkin’s turn came, he quipped that he hadn’t realized the program was to be a roast. Ken was one of Mark’s first associate professors in the Geology department and taught in the East Chicago public school system for years before taking a full-time position at IUN. Elaine Morrow mentioned Ken’s loving relationship with wife Peg. In fact, he often comes to the Archives when Peg is working there to have lunch with her. The author of “Calumet Beginnings,” he has a new book called “City Trees” and is working on one about the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. On hand were Save the Dunes bigwigs Herb and Charlotte Read. Last Thursday the National Register of Historic Places listed their house, scheduled for demolition and vacant since September 2010, as “historically significant for its association with the efforts of citizen conservation groups to preserve the Indiana Dunes and create the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.” It remains to be seen whether the Lakeshore Superintendent Constantine Dillon will agree to save it and put it to use.

Saturday grandkids James and Rebecca performed with the Southlake Children’s Choir in a holiday presentation at Bethel Church in Merrillville. The group sang songs in several languages, and even the youngest kids appeared to know all the words.

IU’s basketball team upset the number one ranked Kentucky Wildcats 73-72 on a last-second three-pointer by Christian Watford. Kentucky had made easy layups the last few times down the court, so the Hoosiers were fortunate no time was left of the clock. The team has been bad for the past five years, and fans mobbed the players after the buzzer went off. Loudmouth announcer Dick Vitale kept saying Assembly Hall should be renamed in honor of Bobby Knight, whom he refers to as “The General” or Robert Montgomery Knight. Let’s hope not. As good of a coach as Knight was at one time, he was a pretty despicable human being. Vitale’s sidekick mentioned that those at the game will remember the scene the rest of their lives – probably not an exaggeration. Phil still recalls the campus celebrations his freshman year after IU won the 1987 NCAA tournament.

Saturday evening Nancy and Ron Cohen stopped over on the way to Fred and Tracy Traut’s annual holiday party. I had a very good time talking to the regulars and meeting some new interesting people – plus the food was delicious. Formerly in the Women’s Studies program, Tracy is planning to return to IUN for a master’s degree in psychology.

I won two of three games and should have triumphed in Acquire but Dave beat me by buying up more of the Imperial stocks. Tom Wade and I talked about the IU game on the way over to Dave’s, as well as the Romney’s latest Republican debate gaffe. He offered to make a $10,000 bet with Perry that his book “No Apology” didn’t contain an endorsement of universal health care. Critics are saying that the remark shows Romney is out of touch with common people. Republican strategist Mary Matalin called it “one more heavy brick in Romney’s backpack.” The main two things Romney had going for him was so-called electability and being a good debater, but Newt Gingrich appears to have stolen his thunder on both counts.

In Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas,” based on the 1954 movie of that name, the actor playing former private Bob Wallace at Valpo’s Memorial Opera House sounded quite a bit like Bing Crosby. One of the dancers had a daffy blond wig that others made fun of but that I thought quite sexy, given her sleek body and comely face. All nine performances were sold out, and the costumes, designed by Tracy Traut’s mother Martha Sass, were very elaborate. After the show six of us had dinner at a place on Lincolnway called 157 (its address), followed by coffee, tea, and goodies baked by Nancy back at our place. The Hagelbergs filled us in on the previous evening’s sing-a-long at Lake Street Gallery (sorry I missed Joyce’s chili). Today we missed Tanice Foltz’s cookie party. Tis the season of mucho social activities.

Learned that Bears lost 13-10 to the Broncos on two costly mistakes by running back Marion Barber. Glad I wasn’t watching the latest “Tim Tebow miracle.” As Jonathyne Briggs quipped, Jesus must hate Marion Barber, who went out of bounds, giving Denver enough time to tie the score, and who then fumbled when Chicago was in field goal range.

Not surprisingly, the season finale of “Boardwalk Empire” was bloody, with Nucky offing Jimmy and marrying Margaret Schroeder to avoid being convicted of murdering her abusive husband. At the end he is expecting to become rich from property holdings as a result of getting authorization of a highway to Atlantic City. When Nucky thought he was in legal trouble he deeded the property over to Margaret, who, in the final scene, donates it to the Catholic Church. After her daughter contracted polio, she saw it as a sign of God’s punishment for her sins and fell under the sway of sinister Father Brennan.

Terry Jenkins passed along a joke about two old friends at a bar. One pointed to a couple geezers across from them and said, “That’s us in ten years.” His buddy replied, “That’s a mirror, you dip-shit.” When we used to take Alissa places, I’d often point to an aged codger and say, “Who do you think is older, him or me?” Now the answer is likely to be me.

With my successful picks of Philadelphia, Denver, and Houston, I finished third in the weekly football pool, a point out of the money and three points behind three-time winner Kevin Horn. I’d have won had I selected the Giants over Dallas (my first inclination) or gone with my gut and had Arizona beating San Francisco.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Making Ammo

“I turn the music up, I got my records on
I shut the world outside until the lights come on.”
Coldplay, “Every Teardrop is a Waterfall”

The Indiana Magazine of History asked me to assess an article about discrimination against African American women from Gary who applied to work at the Kingsbury Ordnance plant in La Porte County during World War II. With revisions, it should be a first-rate piece. Making ammo was dangerous work, but the pay made it attractive to women whose opportunities heretofore had been very limited.

I picked up three packages of Opatki wafers at Nativity catholic church in Portage for Christmas Eve dinner. Toni sends one to her sister in Florida who can’t find them in Punta Gorda. At Best Buy for Christmas presents I purchased CDs by Wilco, Destroyed, Pink Floyd and Coldplay – two Chicago bands and two British groups.

Newt Gingrich appears to be bent on self-destruction to judge by some of the idiocies coming out of his mouth. I guess the man can’t help himself. His ad claiming he’s the one to unify America reminds me of Nixon drivel 40 years ago. Romney ads stress that he’s a one-woman guy, leaving unsaid that Newt is on his third wife. Newt seems to think the normal rules of the political game do not apply to him.

The Post-Trib’s front page Pearl Harbor story yesterday was of vets’ ashes being returned to the sunken battleships Arizona and Utah. Not many guys left; the ranks get thinner with each passing year. The anniversary of the death of John Lennon gets more airtime as memories of WW II fade.

I spent lots of time examining Gary city directories tracing Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Samuelson’s parents. According to sisters-in-law Judy and Anita, Ella, Samuelson’s mom, opened a restaurant called The Barbeque. It turned out to be in Chicago. Earlier she tried to make a go of a style shop in Gary’s immigrant ward, but it failed for lack of customers. Ella’s husband Frank was a druggist and a dreamer. The historian Robert Sobel wrote that he “was a moderate socialist and a middle class businessman, which was not a contradiction in that period.”

TRACES magazine sent me a copy of my Carlton Hatcher article to proofread. It will appear in the next issue. I couldn’t find my favorite paragraph, which I added after first submitting the piece, about Carlton helping a family of ten move from Iowa to Michigan City in 1926 in an old Hudson. With bags and boxes tied to the roof and fenders, two flat tires, several wrong turns, and numerous pit stops, the return trip took 24 hours. Hopefully there will be room for it.

Led by John Bulot, my bowling team won all 7 points against The Big Hurt. The rest of us had one good game each. Fortunately our opponents left a ton on ten-pins and, in the case of their two lefties, seven-pins. So it was more a case of their under-performing than we putting a big hurt on them. John pointed out an announcement on the bulletin board that Lisa Anserelli has the women’s high series for the year. “Jim Fowble was her teacher,” he said, referring to the owner of Cressmoor Lanes. Years ago, my league bowled on eight lanes and some of the best women in the Region on the other eight. I used to observe Lisa, who had beautiful form. Next to us a guy in a Cozumel shirt was saying “Way to go, Jimmy” whenever a teammate got a strike. After his strikes, Jimmy would do a little dance similar to someone shadow boxing.

Judge James Zagel sentenced former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich to 14 years in the slammer. The only egregious thing he was guilty of was being arrogant and full of hot air. The “crimes” were picayune compared to Dick Cheney, who profited from his clout to the tune of tens of millions. Letterman had some fun at his expense, saying his hair stylist should have gotten the death sentence and that Michael Jackson’s doctor-murderer got ten fewer years. Echoing the defense of slimeball accused child molester Jerry Sandusky, David claimed that in his plea to the judge, Rod said he really was not trying to get money for Obama’s vacated Senate seat, he was just horsing around. His Top Ten list of messages left on Blago’s phone included a future cellmate asking whether he preferred top or bottom and the warden wondering, “How much for your seat?” The implication was that pretty boy Blagojevich was in for unwanted some same sex experiences.

Went to the Northwest Indiana Symphony Orchestra’s seventieth anniversary holiday celebration with Cheryl Hagelberg, whose husband Dick was in the chorus. In past years the late Communication professor Jim Tolhuizen was in the chorus as well. The orchestra is a successor to the Gary Civic Orchestra, which gave its debut concert hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor, prompting conductor Arnold Zack to open with the “Star-Spangled Banner.” Perhaps for that reason current conductor and musical director Kirk Muspratt had “Battle Hymn of the Republic” on the program. The best number was an African song from the Congo that involved orchestra members stomping their feet and clapping. For one number youngsters from Protsman Elementary School in Dyer were featured in a number and were excellent. They got a standing ovation from folks who in all likelihood were their parents and relatives. We were in the fifth row in the mezzanine. Behind us were two kids. The girl was well behaved, but the boy was protesting loudly at his confinement. Out he went with a parent shortly into the show. After intermission they tried again with him but had to take him out minutes later.

On Gaard Murphy Logan’s recommendation I started a book, “Three Men in a Boat (to say nothing of the dog),” written by an Englishman, Jerome K. Jerome over 120 years ago. It made her laugh out loud, she said, and I can see why. It’s quite charming and clever, and the quaint language (i.e., turning leaves, meaning pages) enhances rather than detracts from the enjoyment. The narrator mentions coming across an ad for liver pills that will cure everything from ague to zymosis and after reading the symptoms of each, imagined he had every ailment except housemaid’s knee.

Monday, December 5, 2011


“You may say I’m a dreamer,
But I’m not the only one.”
John Lennon

I have been corresponding with economist Paul Samuelson’s sister-in-law about his parents as well as an intern at Duke University’s manuscript library, where his papers are. Frank, his father, moved to Gary in 1911 when the owner of Economical Drug Store wanted to go to medical school in Chicago. So they traded positions. Dr. Antonio Giorgi, whom I wrote about in “Gary’s First Hundred years,” had an office above the pharmacy, became good friends with him, and sent patients downstairs to have their prescriptions filled. In 1915 he delivered Paul, Frank and Ella’s second son, in his office and expressed the wish that he be named Antonio. The parents settled on the name of Giorgi’s son Paul and chose Anthony as the middle name in honor of the physician. Later when he obtained his birth certificate, Samuelson discovered that Giorgi had put down Antonio, not Anthony, as his middle name. The pharmacy flourished during the war years but encountered financial difficulties during the early 1920s. In 1923 there were more than two dozen drugstores in Gary, including several within eyesight of the Economical Drug Store

I saw “J. Edgar” starring Matt Damon as the racist FBI director (in FDR’s opinion, one of the two most dangerous people in the county during the 1930s and beyond, along with General Douglas MacArthur. Some of the scenes seemed contrived and inaccurate, in particular a depiction of the so-called 1919 Centralia Massacre that took place on Armistice Day. Wesley Everest fired on WW I vets only after they took a detour from and parade route and attacked Wobbly headquarters, while the film portrayed Wobbly “terrorists” shooting the vets as they were marching along the parade route. Everest was seized from jail and lynched, but Hoover never was concerned about radicals or blacks being lynched. In the film Hoover learns about JFK’s death while listening to a tape of Martin Luther King having sex in a motel room and supposedly informs brother Bobby about it in a single sentence and then hangs up on him. Concerning Hoover’s alleged homosexual relationship, in the movie second-in-command Clyde Tolson attacks J. Edgar when the latter says he’s thinking about getting married and then gives him a kiss on his bloody mouth. Judi Dench gives a chilling performance as Hoover’s controlling mother, and director Clint Eastwood is judicious in not turning Hoover into a mere caricature. Rather than a moral paragon, as Hoover sought to be remembered, he was a megalomaniac totally bent on advancing his power and image. Two things would seem contrived if not for the fact that they were true – Hoover never forgiving Melvin Purvis for catching bank robber John Dillinger and his loving the horse races because the track owners didn’t make him pay if he lost.

Knowing I am a Redskin fan, Ron Cohen gave me a “NY Review of Books” article on Thomas G. Smith’s “Showdown: JFK and the Integration of the Washington Redskins.” Owner George Marshall, who moved the team from Boston in 1937, was a notorious racist who had one part-Indian coach dress up in war paint and feathers for home games and commissioned a fight song that contained the line, “Scalp ’um, swamp ’um, we will take ’um big score.” JFK’s Interior Secretary Stewart Udall forced Marshall to integrate his team as a condition of using a new stadium built on federal land.

Herman Cain finally bowed out of the Presidential race by using a quote taken from a Donna Summers song, “The Power of One,” used in the 2000 “Pokemon” movie, to wit: “"Life can be a challenge, life can seem impossible, it's never easy when there is so much on the line. But you and I can make a difference.” Writing “No wonder he said he was a leader not a reader,” Ray Smock compared the statement to Newt Gingrich’s admiration for the Power Rangers, adding: “I don’t give a hoot about his affairs with women as long as they were consensual. The man was dumb as a post. The fact that people thought him inspiring and even smart makes me fear for the nation’s sanity. Thank God Pokémon, Power Rangers, computer games, or even movies were not around when Abe Lincoln was learning by candlelight.”

I traveled to Elkhart Saturday for former student Shannon Pontney’s wedding. The invitation had Jimi Hendricks on the cover and included musings by John Lennon. My first and best supplemental instructor and a big Voodoo Chili fan, she looked dazzling. The unique ceremony featured second district Congressman Joe Donnelly marrying her and Hodge (who works for him). They wrote their vows themselves and did a great first dance routine. Shannon used to work in Admissions, and several IUN personnel were at our table, as well as two artists, including Julian Alcantar, a talented “abstract evolutionist” who showed me some of his work on his IPhone. Most tables were named for rock stars like David Bowie and Steve Winwood, but ours was the Frida Kahlo table, named for the brilliant Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, a bisexual communist who was married to muralist Diego Rivera. The head table was named for Shannon’s dad Rich, who died a few months ago after a fall at work. I talked to Congressman Donnelly about his intention to run for the Senate in 2012 against either Senator Richard Lugar or his wingnut Tea Party challenger Richard Mourdock. He is friends with Sheriff Dominguez and was pleased to hear about his autobiography “Valor.”

Tom Wade won a trio of board games Sunday before I triumphed in Dominion, using a simple but remarkably effective strategy. Bears totally sucked in succumbing to the lowly Chiefs, 10-3, surrendering a Hail Mary TD on the final play of the first half. The game was utterly without any redeeming merit, as disgusting as poorly made porn.

A woman called to ask if I could tell her the name of a life insurance company on the northeast corner of Fifth and Broadway during the Fifties. Using a Gary City Directory I found the names of three on the second floor of the Marshall House Building at 21 East Fifth: American States Insurance, Bankers Life and Casualty, and the Thomas C Stimple Agency. She’s looking to locate a missing policy, and I wished her luck.

Thursday, December 1, 2011


“So-so’s how I’m doing if you’re wondering
I’m in a fight with the world but I’m winning.”
Avril Lavigne

At Wednesday’s emeritus faculty luncheon Chancellor Lowe mentioned that he’s been reading my blog entries in the latest Shavings magazine “Calumet Region Connections” and was impressed with my knowledge of rock music. Volume 41 is in part a chronicle of IU Northwest during his first year at the helm, and he is listed in the index 14 times. Becoming very polished with ceremonial duties, he seems interested in supporting student activities and expanding the number of faculty. In attendance were three retirees who attended IUN as students – Angie Komenich, Mike Certa, and John Ban. Former acting chancellor Lloyd Rowe, who got smoking banned on campus and approved 9 new Arts and Sciences positions during his brief tenure, was on hand. When I first spotted him, I thought for a moment it was my old colleague Paul kern. All told the 15 guests probably represented over 400 years of teaching experience. Fred Chary invited me to watch the Flyers-Rangers outdoor hockey game on January 2 at his house. Had chicken, mashed potatoes, string beans, something resembling ravioli, and salad. During the Q and A Ron Cohen asked his annual question about residential housing, Mary Russell inquired again about pedestrian safety crossing Broadway, and Jack Gruenenfelder wondered about the fate of Tamarack, condemned after the 2008 flood. It’s scheduled to be torn down in a couple months. We’ll see.

I had hoped that Bob Lovely would attend the luncheon and if asked what I’ve been doing lately (a question often posed by the host), was prepared to mention the Roy Dominguez autobiography “Valor” and how important IU Northwest was to his intellectual growth (and happiness – he met wife Betty on campus). Roy is still very appreciative that counselor Elsa Rivera had faith in him, Chief Andy Lazar urged him to become a state trooper, and Sociology professor Lovely was especially nurturing. Roy would sometimes attend his interesting special study sessions even though he already understood the material. I was disappointed when Bob, the best teacher on campus, moved into an administrative position in Continuing Education, but I’m sure he was very supportive to adults anxious about going back to school after many years.

I’ve been transcribing my interview with State Rep Vernon Smith, an Education professor and former Gary principal. His mother’s side of the family helped start Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church while his dad’s side was more worldly. Vernon characterized himself as having been a “momma’s boy” but said his dad, a plumber, would brag on him went he’d need something and go to the back door of one of his many watering holes.

In trying to track down info on the parents of Gary-born economist Paul Samuelson, I discovered that former presidential adviser Larry Summers was his nephew and that Samuelson’s younger brother Robert, also an economist, was also born in Gary in 1922, a year before the family moved to Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood. Samuelson’s background is similar to his protégé Joseph Stiglitz. The two Nobel Prize winning economists will be honored at a December 15 Wall of Legends ceremony at the Lake County Tourist Bureau Welcome Center.

Jose Villarreal inquired about my helping his family put together a book similar to “Maria’s Journey,” which his mother recently gave him. His Uncle Willie Vega is mentioned in the book, and the Vegas were very prominent in East Chicago’s Latino community. I suggested that if someone produced a manuscript, I could help with the editing and possibly suggest a publisher.

Nephew Joe told me to check out the band Demons and Wizards so I did on YouTube. Joe has good taste. I learned that the band’s name comes from a Uriah Heep album.

Indiana Magazine of History asked me to review an article about Black women workers at the Kingsbury Ordnance Plant, located in LaPorte County, during WW II. More than 20,000 people worked there. Glad to oblige. Sounds fascinating. In my “Homefront” Shavings (volume 22) Wanda Jones wrote that Esther Sanders worked there weighing powder for bullets, a very dangerous job. She wrote that Esther “wore safety shoes and a suit to protect her against powder burns.” A co-worker didn’t take her burns seriously and was under medication for them years later. Wanda continued: “While working, Esther often heard them testing bullets right outside. The mere sound would send chills down her back. In two years Esther’s salary rose to 95 cents an hour for a ten-hour day and a six-day week.”

I finally bowled a decent series – 470 – and the Engineers in a position round won two of three games even though opponent Liney Neal bowled more than a hundred pins above his average. Had I picked up just half my ten-pins, I’d have had a 500. When I started at Cressmoor Lanes, Liney was the only African American in our Gary Sheet and Tin league. Now there are about eight, all nice, friendly guys. We won the first game by two pins when their anchor Jim Fowble failed to double in the tenth despite throwing what appeared to be a perfect ball. We edged them in the third game after Melvin Nelson, struggling all night, doubled in the final frame.

Teammate John Bulat said he ate no turkey on Thanksgiving because when he was a kid, he had a pet turkey that his family slaughtered without his knowledge and served it for Thanksgiving dinner. Back home, I called bowling captain Bill Batalis about the good news and put on an Avril Lavigne CD (“The Best Damn Thing”) and the Letterman Show on mute. It was a repeat of when he made fun of Herman Cain’s campaign manager smoking and did a hilarious smoking pantomime.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton paid a historic visit to Myanmar (formerly Burma) and is meeting with Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who until recently had been under house arrest for many years.