Wednesday, March 20, 2013


“Every journey into the past is complicated by delusions, false memories, false namings of real events,” Adrienne Rich

I heard 29 year-old Canadian Avril Lavigne’s “Complicated” on an Oldies station.  What’s this world coming to?  Twelve years ago, grumpy old me didn’t like the way she spelled the title of “Sk8er Boi.”  What’s wrong with the correct way?  The Prince song “Nothing Compares 2 U,” covered by Sinead O’Connor, contributed to the trend, and tweeting has made it almost a universal practice among young people. 

On 80/94 a sofa suddenly came into view, lying in the middle lane.  I saw the truck ahead of me swerve into the left lane and was able to avoid the purple piece of furniture.  Fortunately nobody was behind me or I’d have had to come to a stop, not the best situation on a crowded highway.

Someone punked a TV weatherman, getting him to wish Hugh Janus a Happy Birthday.  An anchor got it and started laughing. The poor meteorologist finally realized that what he said sounded like “huge anus.”  Because of similar snickering, newscasters now pronounce the second syllable of the planet Uranus “ran” rather than “rain.”

On the eve of the President’s trip to Israel, Palestine, and Jordon, the media is still fixated on the pope and Sarah Palin’s comedy routine at the conservative CPAC conference.  She sipped from a Big Gulp (figuratively giving the finger to Mayor Mike Bloomberg and his attempted ban on sodas over 16 ounces), called Obama a liar, and compared him to Bernie Madoff (what an appropriate name for someone who made off with other folks’ fortunes).   She emasculated Karl Rove as someone paid millions to loser elections.  She delights so much in getting off zingers her bond with rightwing zealots seems almost carnal.  Senators Rand Paul and Marco Rubio garnered the most votes in a CPAC 2016 straw poll while Rep. Paul Ryan finished a dismal fifth behind Rick Santorum and Governor Chris Christie, who was not invited to the gathering because he committed the sin of praising Obama in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and in the midst of the 2012 election. 

The final reviewer praised Anne Balay’s “Steel Closets” and just had a few questions about methodology for the intro.  I asked whether some steelworkers embellished stories, and she replied, “Are you kidding?”  Clearly they did.  As with any oral historian dealing with memory, as distinct, say, from a folklorist, it raises questions how to handle such matters.  It’s complicated.

Feminist essayist and poet Adrienne Rich, who died last year at age 82, turned her attention to lesbian desire after separating from a husband who shortly thereafter shot himself.  Too bad he couldn’t adjust to changing times.   A friend of mine in a similar situation reacted in a healthier manner by satisfying his own sexual appetite.  Commencing an affair with Jamaican novelist Michelle Cliff, Adrienne wrote in 1976 in “Of Woman Born”: “The suppressed lesbian I had been carrying within me since adolescence began to stretch her limbs.”  In “The Floating Poem,” a paean to her lover she gushed: “Your traveled generous thighs between which my whole face has come and come – the innocence and wisdom of the places my tongue has found there – the live, insatiate dance of your nipples in my mouth – your touch on me, firm, protective, searching me out, your strong tongue and slender fingers reaching where I had been waiting years for you in my rose-wet cave – whatever happens, this is.”  Our new pope, meanwhile, opposes such like-minded people marrying or adopting children.
Steve McShane made 29 jpegs for my talk on Vivian Carter (above) and Vee-Jay Records that I will reprise both in his class and Jonathan Briggs’s class on the History of Popular Music.  Jonathan was lunching with the Chancellor and missed our normal Tuesday lunch at Little Redhawk Café.  Ron Cohen was speaking to Steve’s class on the Gary schools and said he and Nancy were having dinner with Sam Barnett and Nancy in Wing Wah at the time I picked up food Saturday evening.  He dropped off an 1120-page Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock ‘N’ Roll for me.  The Spaniels entry mentions that they started as Gary street singers and that “Goodnite, Sweetheart” was used as the closing theme in the 1973 movie “American Graffiti.”

First day of Spring and while flower buds have begun to rise from the ground, the temperature plunged into the single digits.  At least the weather is sunny and should remain so until I am in the air headed for Palm Springs.  Two people commented on my haircut.  I needed one as much for my ears, eyebrows and sideburns as for the hairs on the top of my head.

Trying out a new way to release the ball, I bowled practice games of 144 and 170.  Owner Jim Fowble refused my four dollars, saying, “On the house.”  Getting out of the car to check the mail, I waved to a neighbor and jammed my left thumb on the car door, drawing blood.  Just what I need right before my California trip, I thought.  It was much better, however, in the morning.  Checked to make sure my driver’s license hadn’t expired and discovered it had.  Whew.  Got it renewed; otherwise, I may have had trouble getting through airport security and renting a car.
A Jeff Manes portrait of my friend Henry Farag (above) was titled “Forecast remains sunny for Stormy Weather and founder.”  Manes concluded: “The indefatigable Farag brothers had a blue-collar work ethic instilled in them at early ages.  They personify Northwest Indiana.  At one time or another five of them worked in the mill like their father.  Henry told me he has no thought of retirement, that he’s loved doing what he does for a living from the start.  Could this be magic?”  Nice.

I watched an episode of “The Americans” that revolved around the 1981 assassination attempt on President Reagan.   After Secretary of State Alexander Haig said, “I’m in charge,” the Russians feared a military coup and that they’d be blamed for what crazed John Hinckley did.

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