Thursday, August 30, 2012

All the Things

“Over and again, last call for sin
While everyone’s lost, the battle is won.”
    “All the Things That I’ve Done,” Killers

Mitt Romney let it be known that he listens to The Killers, whose lead singer, Brandon Flowers, is Mormon.  He didn’t say what his favorite Killers song is, but I’d bet, if he really listens to them, that it is not “Mr. Brightside.”  Probably more like “Read My Mind,” which contains the line, “Slippin’ in my faith until I fall.”  Running mate Ryan claims he’s an AC/DC and Zeppelin fan.  What unctuous phony baloneys.  In an email mentioning how Ryan’s speech pandered to the evangelicals in his party, Ray Smock wrote, “The Republican Party has a writhing poisonous snake in its hands and does not know how to let go without being fatally bitten.”  I replied, “I like your reference to the poisonous snake in the Republican party’s hands.  It reminds me of a scene in “The Campaign” (which unfortunately I can’t recommend wholeheartedly) where Will Ferrell as Cam Brady has a snake in his hands at a fundamentalist church, gets bit, and lets out a string of profanity.”

Too bad Hurricane Isaac didn’t cause cancellation of the Republican convention.  Keynote speaker Chris Christie made a pathetic attempt to sound self-righteous (as the New York Post succinctly put it, “Fat Chance”) while Anne Romney made a shameless pitch to win over suburban stay-at-home moms.

Back with the Tuesday lunch regulars at IUN’s Redhawk Café, Anne Balay mentioned how many women faculty we’ve recently lost and its impact on the Women’s Studies program.  I suggested to Nicole Anslover that she develop a course on American Women Diplomats and she thought it a good idea.  My next pitch is for Diana Chen-lin to work one up on Chinese Women’s Place over the Ages.

Paulette Lafata-Johnson called to say the IU Alumni Association will co-sponsor a December book signing at Lake Street Gallery and pay for refreshments.  I also worked with Raoul Contreras and Scott Fulk on involving Latino students in the Soup and Substance event with Sheriff Dominguez coming up on September 19.

Sam Barnett’s t-shirt illustrates the continuing war on public school teachers.  Due to Indiana governor Mitch Daniels draconian policies, there are just three non-charter public high schools, Wallace, Wirt-Emerson, and West Side, left in Gary.  The Chicago teachers union gave a ten-day strike notice and there’s so sign the other side is interested in compromising.  The last Windy City school strike, 25 years ago, lasted 19 days.
        Mayor Freeman-Wilson greets Prince and Paris Jackson, NWI Times photo by Jonathan Miano
Michael Jackson’s three kids joined festivities at their dad’s boyhood home on what would have been the King of Pop’s fifty-fourth birthday.  There was also a special exhibit in Miller at the Marshall J. Gardner Center for the Arts.

In our season opener the Electrical Engineers won 5 of 7 points thanks to David “Duke” Kaminski’s 639 series.  I had many splits and finished 4 pins below my average.  Two people mentioned my appearing on Jerry Davich’s radio show.  Thanks to new “no smoking” legislation I did not come home reeking of cigarettes.  Chris Lugo, whose granddaughter Angel came to Cressmoor Lanes when a pre-schooler, reports that she is in twelfth grade and was offered a softball scholarship.

Country singer Danika Holmes sang at the Thrill of the Grill, outside in perfect weather.  She was quite soulful and African Americans in the audience seemed to dig her.  I purchased her CD ‘”Living Your Dream,” which has the outstanding song “How to Be Beautiful,” which contains the line, “Find the good in life, let your words be kind.”  A lyric in the title song goes, “May you have a strong foundation when the winds of changes shift.”

On this date 70 years ago humorist Will Rogers wrote, “California always did have one custom that they took seriously.  Everything big enough to spread a double mattress on is called a ‘ranch.’  Well, up here in these mountains where there is lots of fishing, well every house you pass they sell fishing worms, and it’s called a ‘worm ranch.’  Well, I always did want to own a “ranch,” so I am in the market for a good worm ranch.”

Monday, August 27, 2012

Inimitable Ones

“I’m older now
But still runnin’ against the wind.”
    Bob Seger

At a celebration of Emma Balay’s graduation from college, I gave her money and a history of New Zealand because next week she will travel there to be an extra in a “Hobbit” movie.  The producer was looking for elves, and after submitting a photo of her face, she received enough money to fly to Auckland and then take a train to Wellington. I mentioned some of our New Zealand adventures of 18 years ago, including driving across the north island in June, which was winter in the southern hemisphere.  Some hairpin turns were quite icy, and, going down hill, logging trucks often appeared in the rear view mirror going dangerously fast in order to make it up the next incline.  In Wellington we stayed with an oral historian and his wife, who still sends us a Maori calendar every Christmas.  Emma, adventurous and a real charmer, plans to try her luck in Los Angeles after the two weeks of filming.

At the party was an affable neighbor named Bob who brought grilled salmon that he had caught in Alaska.  Around 7:30 we watched (and in Emma’s case participated) as he fed bread to snapping turtles of all sizes that swam over to a pier that he had built at the edge of Long Lake.  He had carrots for beavers that had built a lodge nearby.  Anne took four year-old Own out in a paddleboat.  Owen has so much fun he didn’t want to leave the boat.  When we lived near County Line Road, we’d see turtles crossing the road to get from one stretch of Long Lake to another; occasionally well-intentioned Samaritans would try to help them, not realizing they could lose a finger if they weren’t careful.  I had no idea that there was such a sizeable lake a block from Anne’s place, which looked radiant with its fresh coats of purple paint and chartreuse shutters.

I’m a couple hundred pages into “Drood,” whose narrator, Wilkie Collins was an opium addict, minor writer, and friends with Charles Dickens, the inimitable one, as he liked to be addressed.  In the novel Dickens becomes obsessed with a shadowy character named Drood and seeks him out in an underground labyrinth called Undertown, populated by opium addicts and cadaverous kids.

Astronaut Neil Armstrong passed away at age 82.  A true hero who resisted profiting from his celebrity status, he said, famously, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” when he became the first person to walk on the moon.  In his excitement he neglected to say “a man” rather than just “man.”  The Apollo 11 pilot was a Purdue grad and taught at the University of Cincinnati after leaving NASA.

The White Sox have won six in a row after getting swept in Kansas City.  Saturday catcher A.J. Pierzynski got ejected and his replacement Tyler Flowers homered and got a key bunt single.  Sunday Flowers hit a two-run HR right before the rains halted action to give the Chisox an abbreviated one-run victory.

Phil came from Michigan for two Fantasy Football drafts.  In my eight-player league I drafted fourth and since the three best running backs were already gobbled up, got Aaron Rogers on the first round followed by wide receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Andre Johnson.  Adrian Peterson was still available in the fourth round, fortunately, and Trent Richardson in the fifth.  After snagging tight end Vernon Davis, I took the Giants’ runner Ahmad Bradshaw for insurance.  Last season my top two running backs were hurt most of the year.

The inimitable Chris Mathews went on a rant against Republican National Chairman Reince Priebus, claiming that Mitt Romney played the race card in joking about his birth certificate being official and over false claims that Obama ended the work requirement for welfare recipients.  When Priebus opined that Obama’s policies were influenced by European socialist ideas, Mathews retorted that Keynsian fiscal policies have influenced every president since 1932 and that Teddy Roosevelt advocated national health insurance a hundred years ago.  Obamacare, of course, was modeled after Romney’s Massachusetts program.  It was great TV theater, especially the embarrassed looks on everyone else’s faces.  For once it even silenced loudmouth Joe Scarborough for several minutes.

My Fall class got cancelled.  I offered to teach it gratis to three Liberal Studies grad students, but for some idiotic reason it couldn’t retain its original number and had to be designated a directed readings course, only the three women weren’t eligible to take directed readings courses until they completed other requirements.  If the Liberal Studies program has any chance of success, it needs to be more flexible and take advantage of emeritus full professors like myself willing to donate their services.

During the first week of class the Office of Diversity puts out little signs around campus with various inspirational quotations.  Many are trite or hokey, but I noticed one by, of all people former Calumet High School basketball coaching legend Carl Traicoff that goes, “All progress involves change, but not all change is progress.” I’ll have to remember that if the Republicans manage to steal the election like 12 years ago in Florida.  Traicoff, a Lew Wallace grad, was a fierce competitor whose teams commonly had no player taller than six feet.  It was almost as if Traicoff preferred it that way so when his team played larger schools, it was like David versus Goliath.  He was sui generis, one of a kind.  Inimitable.
Twelve year-old Tori, mourning Diamond’s death, wrote: “When I look back in life, I want no regrets.  So I’m gonna take every risk I can and do whatever I want so I can look back and say yupp I did those stupid crazy things that people want to do but never do.”  I replied, “Make sure those stupid crazy things aren’t dangerous to your health or safety.”  She answered, “Course.”

Dick Maloney and I bowled a practice game in preparation for our league beginning on Wednesday.  In the first two frames I converted splits and finished with a 159 despite throwing a gutter ball on a spare.   Turned up the volume on the car radio for a song that makes reference to aging by the inimitable Bob Seger and his Silver Bullet band.  Home for delicious meat loaf and corn on the cob. 

Friday, August 24, 2012

Friday Rules

“Pretty soon now
Y’know I’m gonna make a comeback.”
    “I’m the Man,” Joe Jackson
Journeyed to Michigan to watch grandson Anthony “Lights Out” Lane star in defeat in freshman soccer.  I was so proud of him for not getting demoralized once his team got down a couple goals to a far superior opponent.  He’s his father Phil’s son, that’s for sure.  Afterwards Alissa and Josh Leffingwell, who looked tan from kayaking last week, joined us at Chili’s across from our hotel.  They have a new Prius whose doors open and whose engine starts when one has the key nearby.  Phil cracked up describing scenes in the 1987 comedy “Raising Arizona.”  My favorite character was Nathan Arizona (T.J. Kuhn), whose baby gets kidnapped.  When a cop asks him to describe what he had on, he says, “I don’t know – they were jammies!  They had Yodas and shit on ‘em!”  When an FBI agent asks why he changed his name from Nathan Huffheins, he replies, “Would you shop at a store called Unpainted Huffheims?”  After he gets the baby back, Nathan says, “All right, boy, I guess you got a reward coming. Twenty-five thousand dollars. Or, if you need home furnishings, I can give you a line of credit at any of my stores. In fact, that's the way I'd rather handle it. Tax reasons.”  Frances McDormand and John Goodman also shine in supporting roles.
Earlier Phil and Delia had dropped Miranda off at her Grand Valley State freshman dorm.  Phil admitted to misting up.  Miranda texted that she hoped we could visit, and we were planning to do so but she was tied up most of Thursday with orientation functions. 

Chris Young enjoyed the Traces article I gave him on Underground Railroad sites in Indiana, including one in Merrillville.  Since many escaped slaves crossed the Ohio River from Kentucky, there were numerous stations where guides took fugitives for safety on their way to Michigan and then Canada. 

Writing on August 24, 1917, from a picturesque French village frequently shelled by Germans, John Dos Passos wrote in a diary, “Death, that should come tranquilly, like the dropping of an over ripe pear, brimming with sweetness, why should it come in the evil shriek of a shell?”

No undergraduates signed up for my Topic in History course on Diaries, Memoirs, and Journals.”  It was saddled with a 400 number at the tail end of the course offerings, and after five years I had no following among current majors.  I’m looking into teaching the three grad students for free.

Referring to the Russian punk band whose members received jail sentences for a brief anti-Putin demonstration, Ray Smock wrote, I'd like to see a reporter ask Romney what he thinks of the Pussy Riot situation. I'll bet the guy would blush and stutter. I think we should bring Pussy Riot to America and let them work their magic with our politicians. The Tea Party would act just like Putin, and want them in jail.”  It would be great if protestors with masks like Pussy Riot wore descended on Tampa, where the Republican convention starts on Monday. 

I emailed Ray: “The Tampa police are preparing like it is 1968 in Czechago.  Let’s hope a hurricane hits and gives them something to do.  I notice that Mike Huckabee is scheduled to speak at the convention, even though he has come out in defense of Rep. Todd Akin, but that Romney has shied away from inviting the “going rogue” pitbull Sarah Palin. Romney’s handlers told a Denver reporter that she couldn’t ask the candidate any questions about abortion.  Romney’s latest excuse for not releasing tax returns is that is he does not want to brag about how much he has given to charities, albeit, Mormon ones.  I suppose I’ll watch the repugnant Republicans next week just to see how Mitt the Shit is being marketed as a kinder gentler version of himself.  While (to paraphrase Lindy Boggs) Romney himself may not be as bad as I think he is,” he is beholden to really dangerous folks.

“Hit and Run” had several things going for it, including Kristen Bell, who played Sarah Marshall in “Get Him to the Greek,” and Tom Arnold, who was a hoot as an inept federal marshal.  In one scene Kristen and her boyfriend think they are entering their motel room only to find a half-dozen naked aging swingers inside.  Later the bad guys do the same thing. I didn’t notice whether they were with different partners.

I met Ryan and Henry Farag at T. J. Maloney’s in Merrillville to discuss marketing Henry’s “The Signal” as an Ebook.  Ryan will design a website that will have links to Henry’s Canterbury Productions and the Calumet Regional Archives.  We’re hoping that it will be the first in a series that will include other former Steel Shavings publications such as “Tales of Lake Michigan” and Louis Vasquez’s “Weasal.”  Ryan was wearing a clever t-shirt purporting to be from a Saudi Arabian travel agency touting such activities as boating, fishing, hunting, and camping in the woods.  I told him about playing a round of gold on a course that was all sand except for the greens.  You carried a square of AstroTurf to put under your ball when it was in the fairway.

The final song on Joe Jackson’s “I’m the Man” album, “Friday,” is about a former flower child now stuck in a crap 9-to-5 job.  To her Friday, pay day, is a “magic day (when) bells will ring and you’ll go out and play, spend your money, pass the bottle.  Friday rules.”

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Lake Michigan Sunset

“Power politician leaning to the right
Baby’s got a trust fund
That she’ll want to go off like that.”
    Rogue Wave, “Lake Michigan”
Anne Balay posted a photo of a Lake Michigan sunset with Chicago’s Loop in the background.  Out of view are steel mills whose fumes add to the orange glow.  Hope to be on Miller Beach Saturday to celebrate Emma (the painter) Balay’s graduation from college.  Microsoft used Rogue Wave’s song in an ad for its MP3 player Zune, and Rob Kardashian waltzed to “Lake Michigan” on “Dancing with the Stars.”

Steve Pickert posted nine remarks that NBC Olympic commentators would like to take back.  My favorite is the anal retentive dressage analyst who noted, “This is really a lovely horse and I speak from personal experience since I once mounted her mother.”  At the rowing medal ceremony an announcer’s Freudian slip went, “Ah, isn’t that nice, the wife of the IOC president is hugging the cox of the British crew.”

Ron Cohen got me invited to a “meet and greet” event In Miller featuring Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Gregg.  Hosts Michael and Susan Greenwald’s house had a great view of the lake.  Hosting a bridal shower for her daughter, Nancy kicked Ron out of the house so he came from the latest “Bourne” movie.

In a TV ad Gregg introduced himself as a folksy guy with two first names from the small town of Sandborn.  Stating that most political ads are silly, he showed three old friends, Frank, Jerry, and Hobo, who used to “loaf around” at Sandborn’s Blue Jay Restaurant until Hobo got cancer, so now they loaf around at Hobo’s house.  Gregg’s final words: “It might seem like a small thing, but I want to keep Indiana a place where people look out for each other.” An aide gave me a “Gregg for Governor” bumper sticker featuring a big blue mustache and a brochure entitled “I’m John Gregg” that stated, “Some people think that I should shave my mustache, but I’m not going to change who I am to run for Governor.” Let’s hope.

On hand were Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson and Ogden Dunes State Representative Karen Tallian. Another former colleague, Charlie Brown, introduced the former Indiana State Assembly Minority Leader as a fighter and referred to an anecdote in Gregg’s 2008 autobiography “From Sandborn to the Statehouse” when the two of them gave Governor Evan Bayh a dressing down for abandoning his support for a bill based on expediency. Gregg quipped that the last mustachioed Indiana governor was Thomas R. Marshall a century ago but that one had to go back even further to find a United States Congressman who became governor, the only reference to his troglodyte opponent Mike Pence.  Marshall once expressed the wish (during the disputed mayoralty election of 1909) that Gary would fall into Lake Michigan. Gregg argued that people from southeastern Indiana feel the same way as Region folks, that politicians in Indianapolis don’t have their best interests at heart.  He asserted that if an important artery linking Indy to Carmel needed repairs, it wouldn’t be neglected or forced to be a toll road like happened to the Cline Avenue Bridge.

I asked Gregg why his election material makes no mention of his Democratic Party affiliation (something that annoyed George Roberts) and added that up here we’re proud to be Democrats.  He replied that he was seeking support from moderate Republicans and following the practice of previous nominees, who recognized that there are more Hoosier registered Republicans than Democrats.  Perhaps he could benefit from literature targeted for Lake County voters that stresses his being a Democrat.  I gave Gregg a copy of “Valor” and told him former Sheriff Roy Dominguez would help in any way he wanted.

Sunday after cooking eggs and kaibasa, I won two of four board games (Acquire and Union Pacific) and then edged out Dick Hagelberg in bridge before dining outside at Popolano’s in Chesterton.  I had the pot roast meal with two bottles of Brooklyn Ale.  Alissa called, excited over a weekend event connected with her new job at Grand Valley State.  One summer she interned for IUN Marketing director Chris Sheid, something she had that on her résumé that gave her a notch up on the more than hundred other applicants.  We’ll see her Wednesday when we attend grandson Anthony’s freshman soccer match.

Chris Young showed me how to post messages and syllabi on IUN’s OnCourse system.  Only three students have registered for my Fall class so far.  Oops.

Back on WVLP as Jerry Davich’s only guest, I got in a plug for “Valor” and mentioned that Jerry is in “Calumet Region Connections” (Steel Shavings, v. 41) nine times, in connection with columns he’s written on such topics as the passing of veterinarian Doc Okone, WW II casualty Irwin Fann, and Anne Balay’s search for gay and lesbian steelworkers (which created much controversy, something that newsman Davich welcomed).  He recently wrote about a Valpo teen dying of a heroin overdose and asked whether I thought drugs were as prevalent in the suburbs as in cities.  Speaking not as an expert, I said that starting in the Sixties, drugs seemed to be everywhere.  Davich told Facebook readers, “Cedar Lake was once a Midwest tourist destination?  Al Capone (gang members) once used to hide out in the Hotel Gary? Richard Hatcher was a political scapegoat for Gary's demise? This is what you missed on today's "Out to Lunch" radio show with special guest James Lane, local historian, author, and all-around fascinating guy. The show will be re-aired this Thursday at noon.”  Kim Hunt responded: “Doc Lane is a fantastic guy AND a great historian.”

Talking to Steve’s two Senior College classes about the Region during the Roaring Twenties, I ran into Veronica Rollins, who took courses from me 40 years ago.  After she mentioned her name, I remembered her.  Also in attendance was Morning Bishop, whose Theater Playhouse I wrote about in “Gary’s First Hundred Years” as an example of positive things going on during the 1990s despite the city’s economic woes.  Born, like me, in 1942, she moved from western Pennsylvania to Gary in 1967, the year Richard Hatcher was elected mayor, with six kids and a husband who deserted them soon afterwards.  After she called into WWCA’s “Talk with the Mayor” show, Hatcher got her a job at Metro Corps and she later became a substance abuse counselor at Gary Drug Treatment Center.  While working on a degree at IUN, she took Performing Arts courses with Garrett Cope.   The Morning Bishop Theater Playhouse started out as a children’s YMCA group. Her vision and doggedness enriched the lives of countless residents.

The Republican establishment is calling for Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin to resign after he claimed on TV that “legitimate rape” doesn’t cause pregnancy because in those cases a woman’s body shuts down.  Of course, the statement, which Akins has partially retracted, ignores the fact that 32,000 pregnancies occur each year as a result of rape.  Akin’s views on abortion are virtually identical to Romney’s, and running mate Paul Ryan co-sponsored a bill with Akin that would have provided abortion funding only in cases of “forcible rape.”  Let’s see Romney try to weasel out of this one.  I predict a backlash among Tea Party fanatics if Akin is forced off the ballot.  Akin’s opponent is Senate incumbent Claire McCaskill, a former prosecutor who specialized in sex crimes and knows Akin’s comments are complete bullshit.

Ann Balay posted this advice: “There’s one thing women’s bodies can shut down, and it’s called the Republican Party.”

Ray Smock repeated something told to him by Lindy Boggs, who served 18 years in Congress following the death of her husband, House Majority Leader, in a plane crash. She said "In politics the party you vote for is never as good as you expect it to be and your opponents are never as bad as you think they will be."  Ray continues, “She was one of that last generation of House members who made friends across the aisle. But her thought is a realistic one and a practical one. During campaigns we demonize one another and then most of the time figure out how to get things done after the election no matter who wins. This has been the case through most of our history.  I do think Lindy's point is harder to swallow in these times of continuous campaigns and never-ending demonizing.”

I checked out “Drood” by novelist Dan Simmons, which deals with the last weird years of Charles Dickens.  Normally I shy away from books that take liberties with historical facts, but Gaard Logan’s book club loved it.  The first few pages remind me of John Updike.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Simple Song

"Come and sing a simple song of freedom
Sing it like you've never sung before
Let it fill the air, tell the people everywhere
We, the people here, don't want a war”
    Bobby Darin, “Simple Song of Freedom”

I finished Bill Pelke’s excellent book, “Journey of Hope: From Violence to Healing.”   It took eight years for him to persuade prison officials to authorize a visit with Paula Cooper, who was serving a 60-year sentence for murdering his grandmother; during that time they had exchanged dozens of letters.  In 1994 the Discovery Channel aired a documentary entitled “From Fury to Forgiveness” that included an interview with Paula at Women’s Prison in Indianapolis.  She had said that she wanted to look Bill in the eye and be sure he had forgiven her.  When they finally met, Pelke gave her a short hug, stepped back, looked her in the eye and exclaimed, “I love you and have forgiven you.” 

In an email to Pelke I praised his efforts, both his words and deeds, and told him it was interesting to come across the name of folksinger Charlie King in the book.  I first met Charlie in the late 1970s when he performed at an anti-nuke rally protesting NIPSCO’s plans to build its proposed Bailly plant.  One of his songs on the album “Somebody’s Story,” “Acceptable Risks,” was about a soldier named Paul Cooper who died of leukemia after being near a 1950s atomic test at Yucca Flats.  One line went, “It wasn’t what they told you, it was what they didn’t say.”  At a party afterwards I bought the album and he signed it, “Songs are the soul of our struggles, good times and bad.  Carry it on.”

About ten years ago King, by now a greybeard but still idealistic, performed at IU Northwest thanks to the efforts of Ron Cohen and Linda Anderson.  I was not surprised that he enlisted in the cause to end death penalty executions. Someone posted a YouTube clip of Charlie singing “Simple Song of Freedom” (written by Bobby Darin, of all people, in 1969, whose image is in the Rock and Roll puzzle James and I have been working on) at a 2009 School of the Americas Watch peace vigil.  The original purpose of Americas Watch had been to protest our government training Latin American military officers connected to rightwing dictatorships.  King usually performs with fellow protest singer Karen Brandow.
Jane Ammeson, reviewing “Valor” for The Times, read in the afterword that I first learned about Roy Dominguez’s fascinating background at Casa Blanca after a Latino Historical Society meeting.  She emailed: “It's one of my favorites though I always thought the best was El Patio. It was a family tradition of sorts to play cards and have Mexican food on Christmas night (after the large turkey dinner earlier in the day) and for us, it was a given the food would be from El Patio on Main Street.  One blustery cold Christmas night, my daughter, who is Korean, and I went there to pick up our food and there were the usual elderly Mexican men sitting at the counter, drinking coffee.  One of them looked at my daughter and started speaking to her in Korean.  Turns out he'd fought in the Korean War.  I thought only in The Region could you walk into a Mexican restaurant in the only building still inhabited on the block on Christmas night and run into someone of Hispanic descent who speaks Korean.  It was such an Indiana Harbor moment. I was so sad when I drove to El Patio and found that it had been torn down. I wonder where all those old guys are now and the waitresses who had been there forever and who always called me chica which for a woman of my age is a compliment.”

On “The Newsroom” Jane Fonda, of all people, played the gutter-mouthed Fiona Lansing, CEO of the parent company that owns “News Night.”  Worried that the show had been exposing the Tea Party as less a grassroots movement than a front for multi-millionaires, Fiona tells the Sam Waterston character, “I got where I am by knowing who to fear.”

I’ve been reading Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s “A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on her Diary, 1785-1812.”  Ballard lived along the Kennebec River in Hallowell, Maine, and delivered 812 babies, the last at age 77 a month before she died.  Her diary, expertly analyzed by social historian Ulrich, is a priceless primary document for social historians, touching on sexual matters and family squabbles as well as the place of women and the state of medicine during the post-Revolutionary era. 

California storyteller Beth Nord visited the Archives seeking info about women steelworkers.  Before she arrived, the lights went out in the entire building.  Then the Internet server shut down, which rendered all phones useless.  Since I had told Beth to call me if she needed help with parking, I went to the front entrance of the library just as she pulled up and asked if I were Dr. Lane.  Beth grew up in Miller, her dad was a steelworker, and she worked in the U.S. Steel mailroom one summer.

I showed Beth my Traces article entitled “Indiana Women of Steel” as well as what I wrote about the District 31 Women’s Caucus in “Gary’s First Hundred Years.”  Both make use of quotes from Valerie Denney, who worked as a millwright at U.S. Steel’s Gary Sheet and Tin mill.  She almost called off the interview because of a bad cold. I also used the material in papers for oral history conferences in Turkey and Australia.
Nephew Bob send a photo of him in front of a 1936 San Diego Historical Society marker reading “Lane Field (under construction) Pacific and Broadway.”  My Uncle Jim moved to California during the depression and made a fortune in the tuna fish packing business before becoming a part owner of the San Diego Padres when they competed in the Pacific Coast League.  I thought Lane Field was named for Uncle Jim, but evidently the former racetrack was named for longtime owner Bill “Hardpan” Lane who moved his club to S.D. from Los Angeles, where their name had been the Hollywood Stars.  Ted Williams led the Padres in 1937 to their lone PCL pennant.  Uncle Jim was an associate of C. Arnholdt Smith, who bought the team in 1955 and was awarded a major league franchise for his club in the late-1960s before selling the team to McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc.

A Moscow judge sentenced three members of Pussy Riot to two years in prison. Outside the courthouse police beat several protestors, including chess master Garry Kasparov.  An NBC news anchor said he could not say the name of the punk band, but the New York Times and Wall Street Journal had no such qualms.

Vice Chancellor David Malik announced the creation of Chancellor’s Professorships to be awarded distinguished faculty who have demonstrated meritorious performance in the areas of teaching, research, and service.  Meg Demakas emailed that she wanted to nominate me.  I told her I’d be honored, but then after reading the fine print she concluded that she wasn’t eligible to nominate me and that I, being officially retired, probably wasn’t eligible to receive it.

In honor of Bill Pelke and victims of injustice I popped a beer and put on the Indigo Girls’ 1999 CD “Come On Now Social,” which contains the song “Faye Tucker” about the first woman executed (by lethal injection) in Texas since the Civil War.  Governor George W. Bush rejected pleas for clemency from religious leaders around the world.  The third verse of “Faye Tucker” goes: “Well the minister wants you to live now, and the governor wants you to fry; and whatever it was that you thought might occur, they got something else on their minds.”

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Runaway Train

“Wrong way on a one way track
Seems like I should be getting somewhere
Somehow I’m neither here nor there.”
    “Runaway Train,” Soul Asylum

In the middle of the night on June 22 1918, the engineer of an empty troop train fell asleep and his locomotive smashed into a Hagenbeck-Wallace circus train near Hammond, knocking over kerosene lamps and causing a fire that killed 86 people and injured more than a hundred others.  Based in Peru, Indiana, Hagenback-Wallace at the time was the second largest traveling circus, surpassed only by Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey.  Among those who later performed for Hagenback-Wallace were lion tamer Clyde Beatty, clown Emmett Kelly, cowboy Hoot Gibson, and comedian Red Skelton.

Tuesday morning fire ravaged an apartment near Purdue North Central in Westville.  Fortunately nobody was hurt. Former softball teammate Terry Hunt and his family live three units down from the blaze; Terry's son Travis captured several vivid shots.
From Anchorage, Alaska, Bill Pelke sent me a copy of “Journey of Hope: From Violence to Healing.”  The moving memoir contains a foreword by Sister Helen Prejean, author of “Dead Man Walking.”  The grandson of murdered Bible teacher Ruth Pelke, Bill fought successfully to prevent Paula Cooper, 15 when she and others stabbed their victim to death, from being executed in the electric chair.  In a chapter entitled “The Epiphany in the Crane,” the former steelworker described imagining his “Nana” with tears flowing down her cheeks and discerned that, in his words, “they were tears of love and compassion for Paula Cooper and her family.”

I mailed Pelke a copy of my 80s Shavings, entitled appropriately “The Uncertainty of Everyday Life,” which includes an article Bill wrote entitled “Forgiveness,” where he describes writing and visiting Paula and working successfully to get her death sentence reduced.  The issue includes a memoir by Stephanie Ledbetter entitled “School Days,” about being a student at Lew Wallace, where some of Ruth Pelke’s assailants attended. Ledbetter wrote: “The despicable crime brought shame and humiliation to the entire student body and staff.” Kids from other Gary schools dubbed Wallace “Murder High” and “Terminator Institute.” She added: “Jokes were going around that students took course, entitled Firearms 101 and Stealing Cars 101 and an honors course in Felony Crimes.  It took about three years before the teasing and name-calling died away.” 

Visiting the Archives were two researchers interested in information about bank robber John Dillinger and Captain Matt Leach, who headed the Indiana State Police during the 1930s.  I showed them “Gary’s First Hundred Years,” which mentions that both the “Lady in Red” Anna Sage and the prisoner Dillinger escaped from Crown Point with, Herbert Youngblood, were from Gary.  No doubt that’s who they were looking up in the Gary city directories strewn about near them.  FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, jealous of any potential rival who might steal his thunder, pressured Indiana officials to fire Leach in 1937.  Leach and his wife died in a car accident 18 years later.

As Clark Metz’s guest I attended the annual “Hunky Hollow Athletic Club” benefit steak cookout on behalf of cerebral palsy research at St. Elijah in Crown Point.  A tradition dating back a half-century, it originated at Country Lounge, which became known affectionately as “Hunky Hollow” when it was a hangout for prominent Eastern European politicians connected to the George Chacharis political machine.  In attendance were former East Chicago mayor Robert Pastrick, Lake County sheriff John Buncich, and Lake County treasurer John Petalas, the latter a former student who was surprised to find being mentioned in Roy Dominguez’s “Valor” (confirming Roy’s assertion that his autobiography is the hot topic of conversation at the Crown Point government center).  Petalas helped arrange a meeting between Roy and Buncich in an unsuccessful effort to have them patch up their differences prior to the 2010 Democratic primary).  Having been active in politics for many years, Clark knew quite a few folks, most of whom appeared to be in their seventies or eighties.  One asked Clark what he was up to, and he deadpanned, referring to his weight, “About 210.”

Enjoying the food, sunny weather, and overall atmosphere was George Rogge, whose insurance company goes back three generations.  He mentioned being with 98 year-old realtor Bruce Ayers the day before he died, along with 50 other friends and family members and that Bruce was sharp and witty until the very end.

Tending bar was Gary Reed, who wrote an “A” paper for me on the subject of gay and lesbian life in the Region.  I got his address and promised to send him the Shavings issue containing my “Retirement Journal” where I make mention of his and other students’ oral histories.

On “Jeopardy” nobody knew that Errol Flynn wrote “My Wicked, Wicked Ways” (someone guessed Charlie Sheen) or that Woodie Guthrie penned “Bound for Glory” (one wrong answer was Bruce Springsteen). Everyone passed on who recorded “Pumped Up Kicks” (Foster the People).  “Final Jeopardy” was a killer: the only sisters nominated for Best Actress in the same year.  I thought the first contestant nailed it with Lynn and Vanessa Redgrave; the two others had no clue.  The answer, going back to 1941, was Olivia de Havilland for “Hold Back the Dawn” and Joan Fontaine, who won for her role in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Suspicion.”  De Havilland, who appeared in eight movies with Errol Flynn, including “Captain Blood” and “The Adventures of Robin Hood,” later won Best Actress Oscars for roles in “To Each His Own” (1946) and “The Heiress” (1949).

Monday, August 13, 2012

Amish in my Heart

Trying to do the right thing
Play it straight
The right thing changes
From state to state.”
  “Without a Trace,” Soul Asylum

Soul Asylum’s greatest hits has moved into heavy rotation on my CD player, thanks to “Black Gold” and “Without a Trace,” along with Collective Soul.

I tuned in the Olympic Men’s soccer final to root for the Brazilians against Mexico and found them down a goal after just 29 seconds.  Losing 2-0 with two minutes left, a Brazilian named Hulk scored and then with just seconds left Oscar mis-directed a header that would have tied the score.  And who says soccer isn’t exciting?  The Mexicans mugged Brazilian prodigy Neymar whenever he had the ball, picking up several yellow cards but no red ones.

After scrambling some eggs I went to Duneland Library and asked for them to order “Valor,” then checked out the latest issue of Vanity Fair.  In an interview National Public Radio’s Terry Gross repeated the advice of Mel Brooks to hope for the best but expect the worst.  I once looked forward to Esquire but detest its format.  The only memorable thing in the new issue was this joke: a grasshopper enters a saloon and the bartender says they have drink named for him.  “Oh, you have a drink named Steve?” the grasshopper asks.  At European Market I bought two yummy tacos from the folks who clean our condo twice a month.

Meg Grandfield Demakas was selling her children’s books at Lake Street Gallery during Pop Up Art in Miller.  Years ago, the IUN Education professor put on plays with our kids, and in a volume entitled “Hot Potato Poetry” she included an ode to her a high school teacher who inspired her to follow her muse.  Other titles include “Captain Jeb: Pirate Cat” and “Jeb Joins the Circus.”  Up the street at the former Miller Drugs were displays organized by Corey Hagelberg that included work by him and other Ball State alums.  Both Meg and Corey make use of Region themes and scenes in their work.
For the finale of “A Century of Music” in Highland the weather was perfect, a good crowd was on hand, and the performers shined.  In addition to “American Pie” and “Babe” solos Dave did a duet of “Don’t Stop Believing” and was in several other numbers in addition to scrambling around making sure the correct mikes were on.  Even though he got home late, Dave won two out of three games Sunday morning before attending tennis player Ashley Pabey’s graduation party.  In Amun Re Tom was way ahead after the first round, so I challenged him for most pyramids on one side and Dave edged both of us out with two power cards to our one.

Sunday while watching the PGA tournament, won by Rory McIlroy by a record eight strokes, I read an excellent afterword by Henry Farag for his autobiography “The Signal” and finished a manuscript my high school girlfriend Suzanna Murphy sent me entitled “Amish in My Heart.”  It describes her childhood friendship with a neighbor woman who cared for her after World War II while her father was in the Philippines and her mother had cancer and bouts of schizophrenia.  Now 65 years later Suzanna is living a simple life among Amish and Mennonite friends.  I told her she should get someone to help her market the story as an ebook.

On HBO’s “The Newsroom” Jeff Daniels plays anchor Will McAvoy and Sam Waterston his hard-drinking, compulsive gambler boss.  It looks promising.  Will’s ex-girlfriend MacKenzie, hired to be his new executive producer, is determined to emphasize quality over ratings.  The premier dealt with covering the 2010 BP oil spill.

Monday I appeared on Jerry Davich and Karen Walker’s “Out to Lunch” radio show at WVLP in Valparaiso.  Beforehand I chatted with Gregg the engineer about eccentric IU Northwest professor George Roberts, who helped him get into grad school and was his most unforgettable teacher. Jerry had recently visited Reiner Senior Center in Hobart and learned that I been a hit talking about the postwar “Age of Anxiety.”  After they asked me to compare those years with the present, I then brought the subject around to Latinos in the Region and “Valor: The Odyssey of Roy Dominguez.”  The 35 minutes went quickly and then the subject changed to a dress shop that suddenly closed, leaving brides who had paid for wedding dresses high and dry. 

Davich invited me back for next Monday’s show and “tagged me” on his Facebook page, thanking me for sharing my “wit, wisdom, and extensive knowledge of NWI history.”  Nice.  Next time I’ll talk about my latest Shavings, “Calumet Region Connections,” in which Jerry appears nine times.  Michele Gerke-Burton wrote Jerry that she loved my class so much she took a second one, adding, “He had crazy curly longer hair back in the day.  It was great.  He is a super hip top notch prof.”  Thanks, Michele.  Hope she tunes in next Monday.  In 1987 she wrote an article about June and Bill Fletcher that I published in my “Age of Anxiety” issue.  Due to a postwar housing shortage they rented a tiny two-room Hammond apartment until finding “a four-room shell” in East Gary (now Lake Station, but that’s another story) that “they finished themselves right before their third child Teresa arrived in 1949.”

Friday, August 10, 2012

Duke of Earl

“As I walk through this world
Nothing can stop the Duke of Earl.”
   Gene Chandler

Gene Chandler, who recorded the 1961 smash hit “Duke of Earl” for Vee-Jay records, is still performing at age 75.  Born Eugene Dixon, he is a real trooper, taking the stage complete with cape, top hat, monocle, and cane.

Closer to home 98 year-old Miller realtor Bruce Ayers died earlier in the week, and the Post-Trib obit mentioned that he was a great ballroom dancer who taught a nurse how to cha-cha the day before he passed away.  A couple years ago he enrolled in Steve McShane’s Senior College class on Northwest Indiana history, and had some great stories when I talked about the postwar period.  His son Gene told me that he loved the class.

At Country Lounge IUN’s CURE director Ellen Szarleta and I discussed the on-line South Shore Journal that Chris Young is editing and that I am hoping to put out as a special Shavings issue that would include the out-of-print “Lake Michigan Tales” issue.  She was excited to hear about “Valor,” so I gave her a copy.  Scholar John Trafny, in the archives researching a pictorial history of Glen Park, saw it on display and purchased one.  John has published Arcadia book of Gary’s East Side, West Side, and Polish Community.

On this date in Philadelphia, “The City of Brotherly Love,” a public hanging took place.  Samuel Breck noted in his journal, “Vast numbers of well-dressed and delicate looking girls were hurrying to the scene, and those who would weep over a sick bed could stand in the scorching sun for hours to see a hearty men strangled.”

Nephew Beamer sent me a package inside a priority mail container along with money and instructions to send it to his friend back east with a fake return address on it.  That way the friend won’t know who sent it to him.  I followed his instructions and emailed him, “Mission accomplished.”  His letter thanked me for helping with “this little surprise” and reported on his toddler son having “mastered about a dozen animal sounds including pigs, cats, dogs, horses, bears, ducks, and we’ve even thrown in a zombie for good measure.”

Despite a dark sky and predictions of a storm we went to Highland for Dave’s musical variety show. Right before he was to sing “American Pie” the rain came the proceedings came to an abrupt end after 45 minutes.  We did see him in two numbers, however, including a rousing Beatles medley.  Driving home on 80/94, I was reminded of a recent Jerry Davich article about septuagenarians voluntarily ceasing to drive.  My night driving leaves something to be desired although I’m OK on routes familiar to me.

Home for charismatic Usain Bolt’s historic Olympic 200 meter race.  He’s the only athlete to take Gold two Olympics in a row in both the 100 and 200 sprints.  In fact, Jamaicans finished one, two, three in the 200.  Earlier I tuned in for the live telecast of the USA women’s team’s 2-1 victory over Japan.  Near the end I was rooting for Japan to tie it up, and they almost did.  
Phil watched the game at a restaurant with his family and when Miranda posted a photo on Facebook, his old coach Bob Laramie commented, “Yea America.”

On the J.J. Cale CD that Dave Elliott burned for me there’s a version of Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup’s “Mama Don’t Allow” that included the line “Mama Don’t Allow No refer smoking around here.”  I had Letterman on mute while listening to Cale until Tom Waits came on and performed “(Maybe Things Will Be Better in) Chicago” from his 2011 CD “Bad as Me.” 

In selecting a running mate Romney’s choice was between bland (Tim Pawlenty, Ron Portman) or bold (Mark Rubio, Paul Ryan). Since he is slipping in the polls, I thought he’d be smart to select Cuban-American Rubio.  The Florida Senator, who introduced legislation to exempt Olympic medalists from paying taxes on bonuses promised them, might have helped Republicans with Hispanic voters.  Instead Romney went with Wisconsin Congressman Ryan, a Tea Party favorite who has proposed drastic cuts on entitlement programs.  The contest will offer voters a real choice between unvarnished capitalism and a continuation of the welfare state.

I had high hopes for the new Will Ferrell movie “The Campaign,” where he plays a sleezy North Carolina Congressman facing a challenge from a nerdy rival played by Zach Galifianakis.  Turns out the funniest scenes I had already seen in the previews.  After about an hour a switched to “Hope Springs” and thoroughly enjoyed Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones a an old married couple being counseled by Steve Carell as Dr. Feld.  Jones is a revelation playing a crusty curmudgeon set in his ways until his wife threatens to tear his comfortable world apart.  Streep attempting to give him oral sex in a movie theater is worth the price of admission.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


“I’ll see everything through
I’ll do anything I have to do.”
    “A Girl Like You,” Smithereens

Bill Pelke thanked me for my blog comments about the Paula Cooper story and her maturation in prison following conviction for the murder of Bill’s grandmother Ruth.  Pelke is president of “Journey of Hope . . . from Violence to Healing” (also the title of his book) and ended his correspondence with this message: “The answer is love and compassion for all of humanity.”  I told him his work is very inspiring and suggested he deposit his personal papers, including letters to and from Paula, in the Calumet Regional Archives.  A retired steelworker, Bill lives in Alaska but comes back to the Region periodically to see family members.  He likes my Archives idea and is sending me a copy of “Journey of Hope.”

I dropped off a copy of “Valor” with Communication department secretary Dorothy Mokry to pass on to Raoul Contreras, faculty adviser to ALMA, the Latino student group. ALMA will co-sponsor Roy Dominguez’s appearance at September’s “Soup and Substance” event at IUN’s Savannah Gallery.  Coincidentally 40 years ago the Dominguez family moved into a house in Glen Park where Dorothy grew up. 
“Valor” website guru Manuel Corazzari passed along a draft of a poster advertising the book.  Looking up Corazzari’s name on Facebook, I came across a YouTube clip of him proposing to girlfriend Lori at the Fort Lauderdale Airport baggage claim area.  He even had a mariachi band on hand, and Southwest Airlines employees passed out champagne after Lori said yes.

I purchased four tickets to a September Smithereens concert at Valpo’s Memorial Opera House. I couldn’t find any Smithereens CDs at Best Buy but purchased a Soul Asylum’s greatest hits CD for $6.99 that includes “Black Gold” and “Stand Up and Be Strong.”  The Smithereens, who rocked out at a Hobart Jaycees fest, are a New Jersey power pop band that’s been around since around 1980 and got their name from the Yosemite Sam line, “Varmint, I’m a-gonna blow you to smithereens.” The grouchy, hot-tempered Looney Tunes character bore a resemblance to Hoosier Red Skelton’s character Sheriff Deadeye.
The most recent Connections: The Hoosier Genealogist, an Indiana Historical Society publication, contains an article by Jeannie Regan-Dinius entitled “Escaping Slavery: Indiana’s Underground Railroad Connections.”  It includes a list of 31 historical markers noting abolitionist activity, including one in Lake County, the “First Physician Marker” in Merrillville. I passed the magazine on to Chris Young, whose students are researching historical markers.

ABC evening news led with the sentencing of the schizoid who shot Gabby Giffords and killed six others.  He got life imprisonment as a result of a plea bargain.  A headline in the background read “Judgement Day,” with the word judgment misspelled, perhaps purposely, perhaps not. There is worldwide outrage over three Russian feminist punk band members – Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Yekaterina Samutsevich, and Maria Alekhina -  receiving three-year sentences for “hooliganism” after they took over the pulpit in Moscow’s Christ the Savior cathedral for less than a minute and performed a song and dance poking fun at Vladimir Putin.  They’ve been incarcerated since February and, according to the prosecutor, got off easy because they had no previous record and two are young mothers.  For shame!

I’ve been working on the syllabus for my fall history course on diaries, journals, and memoirs.  The biggest question is whether to have the class read the six books one at a time or several simultaneously.  I’m leaning toward the latter.  So far just two students have registered.  I need at least 15 to prevent the class from being cancelled.

After Brady Wade mentioned that 93 year-old Pete Seeger appeared on last Friday’s Colbert show, I checked it out on the Comedy Central website.  Pete talked about his great-grandfather having been an abolitionist, his father a socialist, and his having once belonged to the Communist Party.  Then he sang “Quite Early Morning” whose lyrics included the hopeful prediction that it is darkest before the dawn and the exhortation to “make those freedom bells keep ringing.”  What a beautiful man.

Jerry Davich confirmed that I’ll be on his noontime radio show Monday to discuss, hopefully, the history of Latinos in Northwest Indiana and “Valor.”  It remains to be seen how many other guests I’ll share time with, but I’m looking forward to it.  Jerry wrote, “My co-host, Karen Walker LOVES NWI history.”
 South Bend photographer Jon Gilchrist was in the Archives researching City Methodist Church, which he has used as the backdrop for some unusual compositions.  He ran across a former custodian with interesting stories to tell and is considering a documentary on the once-proud building.

I ran into neighbors Dave Elliott and Sue Harrison picking up the mail and told them I was planning to pop a beer and listen to the J.J. Cale CD Dave burned for me.  Born in 1938, Oklahoman Cale pioneered what became known as the Tulsa Sound, a fusion of blues, country, jazz, and rockabilly. He wrote several songs that others have turned into hits, including “After Midnight” and “Cocaine” that Eric Clapton covered.  After a spaghetti dinner enhanced by neighbor Gina’s home-grown tomatoes, Dave, Tom, and I gamed till near midnight.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Triumph of Love

“Suddenly I'm alive.
Given to singing a bit too loud,
Shedding my Aristotelian shroud,
Scrapping the various vows I vowed,
And quivering head to toe.”
    “Love Won’t Take No for an Answer”

Phil arrived for Dave’s birthday (August 4 is also Barack Obama’s; at 51 he’s eight years older than my son).  At Angie’s we had spring rolls with peanut sauce, a recipe from Alissa that she learned from a Michigan State roommate.  After heating rice paper wrappers, you added shrimp, raw veggies, rice vermicelli noodles and a few other ingredients.  Angie made a delicious cake and, at Dave’s request, a small cherry pie.  A storm forced cancellation of the Highland outdoor musical show Dave was scheduled to be in.  Many of his students had planned to attend.  We were disappointed, but at least Phil got to see Becca and James in “The Music Man.”

Sunday Phil joined Dave, Tom and me for gaming and won Acquire handily.  After I edged Dave out in Amun Re by a single point, he returned the favor in St. Pete. Dick Hagelberg drove us to Memorial Opera House in Valpo. “Triumph of Love,” based on an eighteenth century farce by Pierre de Marivaux, enjoyed a three-month run on Broadway in 1997.  I fought off yawns the first act, but the second was lively and quite ribald, and the performances outstanding.  The best song was “Love Won’t Take No for an Answer.”  Carly Blaine was especially fetching as Corine the hot-to-trot sidekick of cross-dressing Princess Leonide (Kyrie Anderson), who is plotting to for the hand (and more) of Agis (Michael Ohm). (Below)
With the temperature a comfortable 80 degrees we dined outdoors at Lucretia’s.  I needed doggie bags for most of my spaghetti and veal meatballs.  During bridge back at the condo I bid and made a small slam with Dick as my partner.

Turning on the news to get a White Sox score (they defeated the Angels thanks to A.J. Pierzynski’s fifth HR in as many days), I learned about the senseless attack by a white supremacist on a Sikh temple outside Milwaukee that left six worshippers dead before police killed the former army veteran Wade Michael Page.  The FBI is investigating whether this was a case of domestic terrorism.  Sikhs are mainly from India and not even Muslims.  Traditionally they do not cut their hair and wear turbans in public.  Women may also wear scarves called chuni.  On a more uplifting note NASA’s $2.6 billion Curiosity rover landed safely on Mars and started sending back photos.

Now that we have HBO again I watched a documentary about LGBT activist Vito Russo, who like many of his friends died of AIDs in 1990.  With a supportive family, he was a spokesperson for many Gay Rights organizations, including Act Up.  A film buff, after much research, he produced “The Celluloid Closet” and gave frequent illustrated lectures based on his book.  In many silent films gay characters appeared in a positive light, in contrast to depictions in later Cold War-era films.  By all accounts Russo was a sweet guy who struggled to keep the LGBT movement united.  Russo hosted a Public Television show “Our Time.”  Comedienne Lily Tomlin who “came out” during an interview with him.  Tomlin’s most famous characters developed on “Laugh-In” were condescending telephone operator Ernestine and precocious five year-old Edith Ann.

Having lunch at the Redhawk Café, I read an article in Atlantic by Isaac Chotiner about English humorist P.G. Wodehouse, whose most famous characters were the foppish aristocrat Bertie Wooster and his ingenious servant Reginald Jeeves.  Poking fun of class-conscious Brits, P.G. invents such comic names for his characters as Millicent Threepwood, Catsmeat Potter-Pirbright, Pongo Twistleton, Gussie Fink-Nottle, Boko Fittleworth, Stilton Cheesewright, J. Chicester Clam, and my favorite Cyril Bassington-Bassington.

The Vietnam Moving Wall came to Sharon, PA, and Suzanna Murphy did a crayon rubbing for me of the name of our mutual friend Paul Curry, an air force lieutenant whose plane went down in 1969.  I hadn’t realized he was 26 years old when he died.  He loved flying planes and must have volunteered to serve in that dirty war.  When I visited The Wall in D.C., I had trouble locating Paul’s name at first because his first name unbeknownst to me was Wendell.

Discovering that “Beasts of the Southern Wild” was playing at a Schererville theater just minutes away from where I needed to be at six o’clock, I checked out the highly acclaimed film starring six year-old Quvenzhané Wallis as Hushpuppy, who lives with her ailing father Wink in a southern Delta area ravaged by a flood.  Highly symbolic and very moving, the movie contained a cast of true characters who preferred independence under awful hardships to the protection of government aid officials.  With more than an hour to kill afterwards, I checked out “The Watch,” an atrocious, creepy comedy with three of my favorite actors, Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, and Jonah Hill, fighting aliens whose brains are in their big dicks and who can only be killed by blowing away their genitals.  Enough said, but I laughed out loud a half dozen times despite myself.

In preparation for a meeting at Pepe’s in Schererville with Roy Dominguez, I had lined up dates and times for two IUN appearances where we’ll discuss “Valor.”  One is Garrett Cope’s Glen Park Conversation and the other is a Student Life noontime affair called Soup and Sandwiches.  I’m also hoping the Alumni Association will sponsor an IUN book authors evening at Lake Street Gallery in conjunction with December’s Pop Up Art.  On hand at Pepe’s were Roy’s wife, two daughters and grandson plus numerous friends and advisers, including Oscar Sanchez, Lisette Guillen-Gardner, and Manuel Corazzari.  Sitting across from me was Louisa Montemayor, who reminded me she had written an article about her grandmother that I published in my 1987 “Latinos” Shavings.  After dinner and a discussion of strategies for marketing the book, Roy and I signed copies of “Valor” for everyone.  Since I emphasized that Roy was the sole author, I wrote “Best Wishes” and my name at the beginning of my afterword.

Louisa Montemayor’s article, entitled “Night School,” mentions that Estella arrived in Gary in 1953 at age 33 from a farm in San Benito, Texas, after her husband found work at U.S. Steel.  Unable to read or write English, her life initially, according to Louisa, “consisted of staying home and taking care of her husband and seven children.  She did not venture out by herself; the only time she went anywhere was with her husband Enrique.  She did join St. Anthony’s Catholic Church and the Socieda Mutualista Mexico and felt secure when she participated in activities with people who spoke Spanish.  In 1957 Estella enrolled in a class at Froebel High School that taught Spanish-speaking adults how to read and write the English language.  Several of her neighbors attended class with her.  Afterwards, she was very proud of her accomplishment. Being able to read allowed her to see the world through different eyes.  Now she could venture out into the city without her husband.”
                                                            (Estella Montemayor, age 18)

Friday, August 3, 2012


“Heart’s terrain is never a prairie
But you weren’t wary
You took my hand.”
   “Continuous Thunder,” Japandroids

“Celebration Rock,” the brilliant new CD by Japandroids, the duo of guitarist Brian King and drummer David Prowse, starts and ends with sound of fireworks or thunder.  In between are eight power rock selections reminiscent of the Replacements. Robert Blaszkiewicz, who turned me on to them, promised that one of their songs will be on his “best of 2012” list.  My candidate, “The House that Heaven Built,” concludes, “If they try to slow me down, tell ’em all to go to hell.”  I wonder if Chris Kern has heard them.  He’s living in Japan and most of his Facebook posts are in Japanese.

If Sheriff Dominguez was wary of me at the onset of the two-plus years we worked on his autobiography, he never let it show.  The excellence of the end result redeems that faith, I believe.  More copies arrived from Indiana University Press.  I am setting up several university appearances for him.  Times writer Jane Ammeson interviewed both Roy and me about “Valor.”  I mentioned how Jesse Villalpando a quarter-century ago instilled in us the importance of documenting the contributions of Latinos to the heritage of the Calumet Region.  Jane co-edited a pictorial history of Miller Beach and is related to Dan Simon, author of an article I used in “Forging a Community” about Mexican immigration to East Chicago.  In short, Jane has an appreciation of “Valor’s” importance and is a perfect choice for doing a special feature on Roy’s autobiography.

Anne Hathaway as Selina the Catwoman stole the show in “The Dark Knight Rises.”  While Christian Bale as the caped crusader shows signs of age, she is strong, witty, clever, and blows away the villainous Bane. While the general mood of the film was bleak, there were a few campy moments, such as Bane commenting on the lovely voice of the kid singing the National Anthem before he blows up the football stadium.

Anthony Rizzo, acquired from the Padres last year, is the latest “great white hope” to join the Cubs.  Since called up from Iowa, he is hitting over .300 and has had several game-winning hits. I spotted a student wearing a Cubs shirt with “Rizzo” and “ 44” on the back, undoubtedly the first of many if he doesn’t fade like so many previous phenoms.  Meanwhile, Chicago management has traded Dempster and Maholm, the team’s two best pitchers.

Because Chick-fil-a president Dan Cathy spoke out against gay marriage, some activists are calling for a boycott of the fast food chain.  In Merrillville a crowd showed up Wednesday in support of Cathy’s first amendment rights, or maybe they were simply homophobes.  I have no plans to eat at Chick-fil-A and don’t fault gays for taking their business elsewhere.  Recently the Boy Scouts of America reaffirmed its position of excluding gays, something more worth getting worked up about than the views of a greasy fried chicken mogul. 

I declined Jerry Davich’s offer to call in to his radio show Monday, preferring instead to appear in person.  He said he had already booked several other guests and that he was less interested in Roy Dominguez’s “Valor” than my views on other historical issues.  Having sent him an electronic copy of my afterword where I tried to make clear that the autobiography was a significant and original contribution to the social, ethnic, and political history of Northwest Indiana, I responded: “Let me know if you’d like me to appear in person on a future show to talk about the importance of documenting the Latino experience in the Calumet Region.”  Jerry replied, “Sure, Jim, let’s go with the following Monday.  Thanks for your patience.”  So a week from Monday it is.

Writing up minutes as secretary for the condo association board, I included this innocuous paragraph about Wednesday’s meeting: “Concerning the planting of shrubbery near the Easement behind Units 401 and 403, it was agreed that the board should comply with the assertion of Robert Lovell, Utilities Superintendent for the Town of Chesterton, that the proposed arborvitae should not encroach within eight feet of the cement easement.  In order to allow for growth of the shrubbery, the board voted 5-0 with two abstentions that they should be planted at least 11 feet from the cement easement.”  What I left out is that we have been having raucous disagreements over this for several months and that the eleven feet was a compromise that Leo Ronda and I orchestrated after much strident debate.

Gabrielle “Gabby” Douglas, nicknamed the “flying squirrel,” captured gold in the women’s all-around competition, edging out Russia’s Viktoria Komova. Gabby, Jackie Gipson told me, has Gary connections.  Her mother Natalie attended Roosevelt High School, and her grandparents, Theodore (a retired steelworker) and Nadean Hawkins, still reside in the Steel City.
“A Century of Music: 1910-Present” debuted Thursday at the Main Square Gazebo in Highland.  Dave, in charge of the sound system, sang “American Pie” and “Babe” and was in a Beatles medley that allowed him to give out shine on the chorus to “Hey Jude.”  It had been a stressful day, with a folder containing about 50 jpegs mysteriously disappearing from my computer.  It will probably take ten or 20 hours to track them all down, but, oh well, nobody died.  So it was relaxing to be outside attending such a good show with family and friends, including Robert, Maryann, and Missy.  The opening number was “Danny Boy,” one of my father’s favorites.  Youngsters loved “YMCA,” especially after being invited to join the guys on stage dressed appropriately in gay apparel as an Indian, construction worker, cowboy, cop, and biker.  The final number featured Stephanie Panchisin, dressed like Katy Perry, singing “Firework” with the entire cast joining in.  

I enjoyed seeing “The Music Man” for the second time even more than last week, especially because James didn’t have a conflict with “Bard in the Park” and could be in the final scene with the boys’ band.  In one scene Amaryllis (Becca) teases Winthrop (Lucas Reinhart) about his lisp, which becomes less pronounced as the play goes on because of Professor Harold Hill (Charley Blum) giving him more confidence.  I got home in time to see Jimmy Cliff performing “One More” on Letterman.