Monday, April 1, 2013

Easter Weekend

“There is no love sincerer than the love of food,” George Bernard Shaw

Nephew Bob Lane asked friends for their favorite food quotes.  I responded with Marie Antoinette’s “Let them eat cake” although it is doubtful the wife of King Louis XVI actually uttered those words of contempt for the poor during a time of famine.  Most other responses were from movies, such as “Food fight” (“Animal House”), “It’s wafer thin” (“Monty Python’s “The Meaning of Life”), “I’ll have what she’s having” (“When Harry Met Sally”), and “Your flaming hogballs sir” (“Top Secret – 1984”).

I was the only one in the theater to see “Spring Breakers.”  Roger Ebert effusively praised it, but it was pretty gross (and I’m not talking about the plentiful topless scenes).  Four coeds get hooked up with a drug dealer, Alien (James Franco).  Two realize they are in over their heads, but the other pair become stone killers, blazing away in the final scene against black gangstas with Britney Spears’s “Everytime” playing in the background.  The song’s first words: “Notice me.”

Old friend Paul Turk glibly announced his retirement from the Federal Aviation Administration after 14 years, adding: “Looks like there is some demand for my services out there (beyond being an assistant greeter at Wal-Mart or a school crossing guard), so I’ll still be out there once in a while.”  One friend wished him luck and passed on George Burns’s secret to longevity, “Keep breathing.”  David Castleveter wrote: “The FAA was lucky to have you despite your insanely dry humor and ability to speak in tongues.”  In January of 1965 Paul drove from Akron to Philly in a driving snowstorm to attend my wedding.
above, author Ben Clement; below, Dolly Millender with Merrillville students

I participated in Gary Authors Day at First AME Church’s Baber Youth Center.  On February 13, 1967, Richard Gordon Hatcher announced his intention to run for mayor in that hallowed hall.  As expected, more authors were on hand than non-participants, but I enjoyed talking with Dolly Millender, Ben Clement, and other writers whom I had not met before.  E.C. Central grad Nicholas Brady, whose horror story evoked O’Henry, said my son Dave was his favorite teacher.  Poet Ethel Walton Fields, a Tolleston grad, bought three Shavings issues and knew theater director Morning Bishop, featured in “Gary’s First Hundred Years.”  Thanks to volunteer Maurice Yancy, numerous Calumet Regional Archives displays highlighted aspects of the city’s history.  I traded books with several authors. “Unflappable” was a memoir Lisa DeNeal helped Carolyn Mosby-Williams write.  Carolyn’s mother was State Senator Carolyn Brown Mosby.  Attorney Tracy Coleman’s novel “Murder Capital” is about a lawyer who returns to his Indiana hometown and takes on the forces of crime and corruption.  Tony Lindsay’s “Fat from Papa’s Head” deals with young African-Americans facing fateful decisions at pivotal points in their lives.  He works with incarcerated youths and realizing the dearth of reading material available to them.

Many of the books were religious in nature.  In her poignant memoir “Pray for an Introduction to My Mother” Eunice L. Foley reveals that she received whippings, never knew who her biological father was, and was told she’d never amount to anything.  Her mother had 15 children but favored her foster kids, Eunice claims, rather than her own flesh and blood.  She refused to attend her daughter’s graduation in 1978, which took place 21 days before Eunice’s first child was born.  The book ends with this plea: “I really love you Mama, can you return it back?  Can you simply say it to me, ‘cause I’ll never take it back.”

Dujuan Eskew came by my table, wearing an IU Northwest basketball jacket and with two beautiful young girls in tow.  Wife Veronica turned out to be a former student who wrote about her grandmother Cora Crymes for my 1990s Shavings.  Cora and Johnnie Grimes emigrated to East Chicago from Midway, Alabama, in 1948.  Johnnie got a job on a labor gang at Universal Atlas; Cora became a maid at the Delmar Hotel in Chicago.  Veronica wrote: “They didn’t have a car, so both used public transportation, which was plentiful.”  Childless landlady Bessy Richards often took Cora’s three on outings to Riverview Park. Mrs. Richardson would tell hCora, “Now Ma’dear,don’t worry about the kids when you get home tomorrow.  I’ll have them with me, and we’ll be back whenever you see us get back.”  Daughter Mary Lou was Mrs. Richardson’s favorite.  Cora recalled that she “bought her roller skates and a doll almost as big as she was.”

A guy interviewed authors for a local radio show.  I mentioned becoming interested in Gary history while teaching a course on urbanization and said that “Gary’s First Hundred Years” was basically an update of my 1978 book “City of the Century.”  I gave credit to Dolly Millender for being both a historian and a stellar civil leader and plugged the Archives.

Toni made a ham dinner with all the trimmings for nine of us on hand Saturday.  Several dozen eggs got dyed, and then we played a traditional family game, seeing whose would crack when two collided.  In the evening while others competed in Wii, Phil, Dave, and I played pinochle.  After I won the first game, Phil, melded enough to win the second, only he needed to take a trick.  We shut him out and then on his deal he got the exact number of points to avoid being set and to pull out the victory.  We call failing to win a trick getting huncied, don’t know why.   I looked “hunce” up on the internet and discovered it can refer to an orgasmic gay male sleepover.

Carrol Vertrees’s Sunday Post-Trib column recounted imagining a “fresh day dawning” as he sang with a church choir on Easter.  The hymn was “Morning Has Come.” Jeff Manes interviewed Wirt grad Ron Kittle, a prodigious White Sox home run hitter who was 1983 American League rookie of the year. He was an ironworker like his dad before playing professional baseball and claimed that he “used to carry a pair of 50-pound boxes of welding rods, one under each arm, and run up 30 flights of stairs at the coke plant to beat the elevator.  People used to bet on me.”  Playgirl magazine supposedly offered him $50,000 to pose naked for its centerfold.  Now I’d do it for 20 bucks, he quipped.  As a White Sox, Kittle wore the same number as Jackie Robinson’s, 42.  Since then the baseball commissioner has decreed that no new players should be assigned that number.  Yankee pitcher Mariano Rivera is the only player still wearing number 42.

Kurt Vonnegut wrote a short story entitled “Shout It for the Housetops” about a character modeled after “Peyton Place” author Grace Metalious.  The narrator is a storm window salesman unaware of the notoriety surrounding her scathing indictment of small town’s mores.  The husband has been fired from his teaching position and the wife first wishes that she hadn’t published the potboiler only in the end to embrace fame and wealth.

Comcast offered Showtime free again, so I watched a documentary about Playboy publisher Hugh Hefner. The FBI hounded him for hiring blacklisted writers for his magazine and performers, such as Josh White and Pete Seeger on his TV show, opposing censorship, and advocating civil rights.  Some feminists, including Gloria Steinem, who posed as a bunny and then wrote about it, criticized him for portraying woman as sex objects.  To his credit Hef fought to overturn puritanical laws prohibiting abortions, access to birth control, and so-called “deviant” sexual practices by homosexuals.  In a John Updike novel a character comes upon a stash of Playboys and notices that as years go by pubic hairs and then slightly open vaginas come into view.

All Elite Eight games were blowouts.  Duke gave Louisville a battle early, but the tide turned after Louisville’s Kevin Ware broke his leg after jumping to block an opponent’s shot.  As teammates were recoiling, Ware yelled at Coach Patino, “Win the game, win the game.”  When Phil was around 14, a soccer teammate’s leg broke, and you could hear the crack all the way across the field.  I had no desire to see what either looked like and still squirm thinking about something similar happening to Alissa.  For nephew Bob it brought back “memories of my own leg going sideways” during freshman year at IU when hit by a vehicle while skateboarding.

Shortly before the third season of “Game of Thrones” was to air, I phoned nephew Aaron “Beamer” Pickert, a big fan.  He was preparing an appropriate meal for Kim, poppa Steve, and another couple.  I also wished Happy Easter to Midge in Rancho Mirage, Anne Balay in Miller, and Gaard Logan in Seattle.  Gaard and Chuck were with friends for the holiday who served lamb, something Midge traditionally cooked for Easter dinner.  On Facebook he posted, “This year, for April 1st, I’m not doing anything special.”  I don’t believe him, the old prankster.  Jerry Davich announced on the radio that Valpo mayor Jon Costas had resigned to take a job in Governor Pence’s administration.  I believed him for a while, gullible that I am.

Will Radell received news that he could participate in the 150-anniversary reenactment of the Battle of Gettysburg this summer.  He is really into that sort of thing.  Good for him.  One needs passions.  Mine is my blog, even more than food.  Opening day of the baseball season also makes the juices flow, and both Chicago teams are undefeated after winning their openers on great pitching by Samardzija and Chris Sales.

Condo neighbor Bernie Holicky invited me to a soiree he holds annually for Purdue Cal buddies, including historian Lance Trusty, who still has his sardonic wit despite being slowed by a bad back.  When I mentioned that Saul Lehrer had been on the 2013 IAH conference program, he replied that Saul will never retire but continue to teach till he drops dead.  Bernie put out great hors d’oeuvres and even had a premium brand of pale ale in the fridge.  Lance contributed to several Shavings issues, and I told him I envied his easy rapport with groups who had him speak on local history.

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