Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Marathon Terror

“You never need an argument against the use of violence, you need an argument for it,” Noam Chomsky

Two explosive devices set off near the Boston Marathon finish line killed at least three people and left 150 others injured, many critically.   Among the dead was eight year-old Martin Richard, there to watch his dad compete.  No reputable group has claimed responsibility for the outrageous action, and authorities are not ruling out any possibilities.  On the one hand, police detained a Saudi immigrant hurt at the scene and obtained a search warrant to examine his apartment.  On the other hand, the event was held on Patriot Day, which rightwing survivalist groups hold dear – in fact, the Oklahoma City bombing took place on that day 18 years ago.  The last mile of the marathon, where the blasts occurred was dedicated to the memory of Newtown victims, which might have alienated some deranged gun nut. The consensus, which I agree with, is that nobody should jump to premature conclusions.  IUN flags are at half-mast.  Beth Roche of Highland suffered a serious leg injury from the blast; she was on hand to watch daughter Rebecca compete.
above, Beth Roche on stretcher; below, Megan Cloke leaves flowers at Martin Richard's home 

Jerry Davich wrote: Remember when explosions were strictly accidental?  On this date in 1947, an explosion on board a freighter in port caused the city of Texas City, Texas to catch fire, killing almost 600.”  Kirsten Bayer-Petras posted that sister Shannon “is safe in Boston and as a true Bayer child is waiting out the mayhem in a bar.”  Correcting herself an hour later, she said, “They closed the bar.  Shannon is walking home.”  Soon later, after reporting that police shut down the restaurant, declaring a state of emergency, Shannon wrote: “Home safe, thanks for all the good thoughts.”

Indiana Landmarks asked me to review the text for a historical marker that will go at the site of the former Froebel High School.  In addition to the marker itself, the director sent about seven pages of footnoted explanation regarding the importance of what some called “Gary’s immigrant school,” built in 1912.  My only suggestion was to explain that Superintendent William A. Wirt wanted the school named for progressive educator Friedrich Froebel, the nineteenth-century German pedagogue who created the concept of the kindergarten.

Richard Russo’s memoir “Elsewhere” had somewhat of a surprise conclusion.  After the author’s mother died, his daughter showed symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder.  Russo immediately read everything he could on the subject and sought immediate professional help for his loved one.  Then it hit him: his mother displayed the same symptoms for many years, yet he never thought to seek help for her so was left with that guilt.  His mother often called him her rock, but he was also her enabler.

I started Elizabeth Strout’s “The Burgess Boys” about two brothers, a self-confident successful attorney and a lovable, big-hearted loser who when four years-old accidently released the brake of a car that ran over and killed their father.  Their nephew Zach throws a pig’s head into a mosque where Somali immigrants worship.  Evidently a similar hate crime took place in real life in another Maine city similar to Strout’s fictional town.

James and Becca spent the night because Angie was responding to a medical emergency regarding her mother.  When homework is done, James likes to watch things on the computer (frequently laughing out loud – LOL), while Becca retires to the guest bedroom to watch a little TV.  The day before, following Toni’s directions, they walked to Sage Restaurant a block or so away and paid the receptionist cash for two carry-out meals (pizza and seafood pasta) and an order of mussels.

I gave women’s basketball coach Ryan Shelton a copy of volume 42, thanked him for his help laying it out, and told him there were photos of him and star player Sharon Houston inside.  He was pumped from learning that Portage High School star Nicki Monahan is coming to IUN.  Phil and Dave played youth soccer with Grant, her dad.  She was Post-Trib player of the year and winner of The Times three-point shootout.
Nicki Monahan with Times managing editor Paul Mullaney; photo by Jessica Koscielniak

In Little Redhawk Café I ran into Alex Carajewski, whom I had talked to when he had been passing out leftist literature a few days ago.  It turns out he was a student of Jonathyne and knew Anne sister Emma.  I suddenly recalled a time a few months ago when Emma was eating with us and decided to join this big, handsome guy at the next table.

Long day at the office, so I delivered seven Shavings issues to Lake County Public Library, then attempted to purchase Phoenix’s new CD.  Best Buy didn’t have it yet, so I settled for Steve Earle’s “The Low Highway.”  Not sooner was I back at my cage when Anne Balay needed a ride to an auto repair shop in Miller.  When the owner learned from her jacket that she had been a mechanic, he offered to hire her.  “Maybe I’ll need a job in a year,” she said.  Later she posted this message: Six of my best, hardest working students ever will get awards [tomorrow] at the Honor's Tea. Congratulations, women, and thanks for your contributions to my life and scholarship. I'll be there, with my camera.”

Frederic Cousseau got me in contact with an “anti-folk” punk musician in his 20s named Johnny Travant, who formerly lived right on the border between Gary and Merrillville.   One of his songs is titled “(I Hate) This Town,” while his rendition of “Gary Indiana” starts out as a profane version of the “Music Man song and contains lines such as “I hear the cops a-comin’, rolling down the street.”  He took me up on my offer to send him “Gary’s First Hundred Years” and wrote, “Many of my songs are inspired by Gary and I still draw from that inspiration.”

At 5:45 was my Vivian Carter and Vee-Jay presentation to Steve’s class, and Kate and Corey Hagelberg were surprise guests.  Corey had talked about coming with Sam Barnett, but Sam came down with a bad cold.  Compared to what I said in Jonathyne’s History of Music class, I was more loosey-goosey when it came to doing little dance moves and added information about Gary’s Central District, which was thriving in the mid-Fifties, in part because the steel mills were booming and so many blacks were forced to within the confines of its boundaries.  A woman had met Vivian when she worked in the Township trustee’s office and confirmed that she had a very distinctive voice.  When I played “Dimples” by John Lee Hooker, someone noted that the opening riff was used in a recent commercial.  Steve identified the sponsor as Viagra, drawing laughs.  Afterwards there were several questions about Michael Jackson, and I pointed out that his dad knew the Spaniels, sang with them, and probably was inspired to dedicate his life to having his sons make it in the music business by the Spaniels’ success.

 At 7:00 DeeDee Ige hosted a Communication Week event entitled “Speaking for a Change.”  Chancellor Lowe gave the decent-sized audience a greeting that included his take on the importance of communication skills.  A quarter century ago, keynote speaker Todd Deloney, led a campaign for IUN to honor Martin Luther King by cancelling classes, sometimes marching alone but also organizing non-confrontational vigils and demonstrations.  DeeDee mentioned that she and Lori Montalbano included the action at the beginning of their Communication textbook.  Then Junifer Hall talked about how her mother, Representative Katie Hall, sponsored the federal legislation making Martin Luther Day a national holiday.  Also on the agenda: a screening of Alex Semchuck’s documentary on Gary entitled “Stagnant Hope.”  In one segment he compared the Palace Theater in its heyday when thousands would pass through its ornate lobby to its ruined state today, which his camera crew vividly captured.   He used a half-dozen snippets from his hour-long interview with me.  I came off well, and when I claimed that IUN was the city’s greatest resource and advocated making Thirty-Fifth from the university to Gary Career Center an academic corridor, Ana Osan, sitting next to me, touched my arm and nodded in agreement.

Back home, I listened to Steve’s Earle.  I especially liked cut 11 on “The Low Highway,” “21st Century Blues.”  Next came a bluesy Melanie Mason CD Dave Elliott burned for me.  A Rolling Stone article about Florida’s pernicious Stand Your Ground Law left me outraged.  Jordan Davis was gunned down in Jacksonville, Florida, by someone who later claimed he felt threatened by young blacks who wouldn’t turn their rap music down when he pulled next to them.  He shot into the car multiple times and then fled.  Religious and by all accounts a good kid, Davis was the only son of middle class parents.  Jacksonville rapper J City recorded a tribute to Davis and Trayvon Martin, who also died at the hands of a trigger-happy white guy, that begins: “I done lost some people don’t deserve to be gone.”

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