Friday, May 3, 2013

In Transition

“Life is pleasant.  Death is peaceful.  It’s the transition that’s troublesome,” Isaac Asimov

Periodontics specialist Michael Hayduk, a former student, credits me with helping him to write and microbiologist Bill May for preparing him for the rigors of graduate school in dentistry.  In 1982 I published Hayduk’s “Chesterton in Transition,” in a Shavings issue (volume 8) devoted to the 1920s.  During that decade the town’s population rose 25 percent from 1,804 to 2,231, and electricity came not only to urban homes but to over a hundred farms as well.  Hayduk found that Chesterton Tribune ads demonstrated the effect of technological change on consumer demands.  He wrote: “Whether it was Nichols Drug Store touting Kodak Cameras, Dille and Morgan hardware praising Pyrex Glassware, the E.G. Isbey Company selling combustion furnaces, or Rexall Drugs offering nitrogen and tungsten electric light ‘globes,’ the emphasis was on the wonders of science.”  Increasingly, Chesterton experienced traffic jams; and after completion of Dunes Highway (U.S. 12) eateries, motels, service stations, and roadside shops sprang up to cater to tourists.  From time to time Porter County Sheriff W.F. Forney raided suspected speakeasies along that route.

Accompanying Hayduk’s article were clippings from the Chesterton Tribune, including one pertaining to a New York Central Railroad “Death Crossing” on Calumet Road in the heart of downtown entitled, “Shall It Occur Again?” Hayduk explained: “After a woman was killed by a train in January, there were editorials advocating better safety precautions.  Then when a beloved milkman was struck fatally in May, the outcry increased.  Finally, after three Chicagoans died at the crossing on July I, the New York Central replaced the incompetent guard with a new man and added warning bells and gates to ‘Death Crossing.’”

I received a nice thank-you card (for volume 42) from Chesterton Tribune reporter Kevin Nevers, who appreciated the glowing praise on my blog for his recent article on a pilot who spent over five years as a POW in Hanoi. Nevers left a college teaching position 20 years ago to become a journalist and is pleased when he gets occasional assignments to write stories that rise above the humdrum of everyday life and have enduring importance.  He is very skilled at his craft.  What a treasure trove for Calumet Region historians is the Chesterton Tribune.  A hundred years from now scholars will come across articles by Nevers and likely regard them as nuggets.  The 50s scene on Newvers’s thank-you card shows a man comforting his wife, who burned their dinner.  Pointing to two bottles of Schlitz on the table, he says, “Don’t worry darling, you didn’t burn the beer.”

The season finale of “The Americans” was fantastic.  In addition to the main plot, Granny revenges the murder of her former lover, Nina decides to become a double agent for the Russians, Philip and Elizabeth reconcile, and in the final scene Paige appears about to learn the truth about her parents as Peter Gabriel’s 1980 hit “Games Without Frontiers” plays in the background.  I look forward to another season of Cold Warriors “dressing up in costumes, playing silly games,” and, to quote Gabriel, “hiding out in tree-tops shouting out rude names.” 

I had lunch with Chuck Gallmeier and Bill Dorin, first time I’d seen Bill since he suffered a heart attack eight weeks ago.  He had the good sense to call 911 when the symptoms struck as he was getting ready to drive to the university.  The three of us shared stories about the trials and tribulations of being a department chair.  Chuck used the term ethically challenged to describe one adversary, which I thought clever and appropriate to the point he was making.
 above, Marquette Perk; below, Al with Ethan and Jason

Al Sasak passed away, Janet Bayer informed me.  He apparently didn’t want friends to know he was ill, and there was no obituary. I understand there was a small, unofficial gathering to remember him at Marquette Perk, which he and Alice had founded.  We first met Al when son Jason played soccer in a league with Phil and Dave.  For many years their lamb roast was a summer highlight for friends and Miller neighbors.  Al would be up all night tending the spit, and there’d be a plentiful supply of premium beer on hand to go with the meat and guests’ dishes.  Like Robin Halberstadt, he had been an independent computer trouble-shooter, and they worked on several projects together.  A curmudgeon (when he got his back up) with raccoon eyes, he was a good man.  I always enjoyed his company and regret not being able to say good-bye to him.

Neighbor Dave Elliott burned a Hot Tuna CD for me of bluesy numbers, including “Keep On Truckin’.  The band’s name allegedly came from a fan who yelled out “Hot Tuna” after hearing a line that went, “What’s that smell like fish, oh baby.”  The original group formed in 1969 as a side project for Jefferson Airplane members Jack Casady and Jorma Kaukonen.  Other musicians have come and gone, but those two are still truckin’.

The Bulls lost critical game six at home in their series to the Nets.  Kurt Hinrich and Lual Deng were too ill to suit up; Nate Robinson had the flu and was throwing up on the bench during a break; Joakim Noah was hobbling with plantar fasciitis; yet they still only lost by 3 points.  They started fast but slowed down in transition as the game wore on.  Meanwhile Derrick Rose, looking fit as a fiddle, was still sitting out the season.
 Merrillville student Jordan Reaves delivers placemats to Maxim restaurant, P-T photo by Jeffrey Nicholls

Focusing on a community effort called the Thriving Neighborhood Program, Jerry Davich wrote about attempts by Merrillville students and school officials to celebrate diversity rather than to fear it.  In transition racially, Merrillville High School’s minority population has climbed from 14 to 84 percent in 15 years.  Nonetheless, according to Davich, it was “the only large minority-majority Indiana school to recently receive an ‘A’ grade from the state.”  A video has been produced and placemats distributed to promote what boosters have dubbed “The Merrillville Advantage.”

At Sage Restaurant with Toni, Angie, and the grandkids, I ordered soup, salad, and crab cakes, parts of which I traded for a pizza slice, ravioli, and a bite of sea bass.  There was a nice Friday crowd.

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