Wednesday, May 1, 2013


“Quiet water wears down a shore,” Serbian proverb meaning anything is possible with time.

In the P-T: IU Northwest officer Michael Trueblood, 22, sustained injuries when his squad car collided near Ridge and Van Buran with another vehicle as he was rushing to the scene where Gary police were pursuing a man in connection with a homicide investigation.  At lunch a fellow officer told me Trueblood had been released from the hospital and had not been seriously hurt, thanks to airbags having deployed properly.

Jerry Davich reported spotting a Johnson’s Farm produce billboard on Route 6 that read, “WE’RE SO EXCITED ABOUT SPRING, WE’RE WETTING OUR PLANTS.”  With the temp in the mid-80s the Apple Serviceberry trees in the library courtyard are in full bloom.  Many students have stripped down to shorts and t-shirts.

Michael Bayer posted this message from One Million Moms And Dads Against Gun Violence: “Why is it that a bomb used to kill three is considered a weapon of mass destruction, but an AR-15 used to kill 26 is not?”  On The Other 98% he found this: “If the war on drugs brought in more drugs, and the war of terror created more terrorists, can we have a war on jobs and money soon?”  Finally he forwarded a Surly Thor riddle: “What’s the difference between Iraq and Vietnam?”  Answer: “Bush knew how to get out of Vietnam.”

 “Kinky Boots,” based on a bizarre British film, received 13 Tony Award nominations.  Cyndi Lauper wrote the score, and the plot involves a drag queen who inherits a shoe factory and turns it into a success making fetish footwear.

In his dissertation about baseball in Indiana Harbor, John Fraire interviewed Fred Maravella, along with Ray Ramires the first coach of the Gallinas.  In 1937 he was serving mass at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church and working at the nuns rectory.  The church paid for the equipment and uniforms.  He recalled: You could tell from the uniforms that the Missionary Catechists or sisters wanted them to dress modest.  No shorts and limbs were covered.”

Mike Certa’s memoir opens with an account of the day he nearly froze to death walking to kindergarten at Edison Elementary in Gary.  After braving knee-deep snow and strong winds, he arrived late to find a snowdrift blocking the door.  Finally someone heard him hollering and rescued him, knocking him down in the process.  Here’s Mike’s description of what he was wearing during the ordeal: The 1950 version of snow protection consisted of a snow pants and snow jacket body suit combination that zipped from one ankle all the way up to one of my shoulders, a scratchy woolen scarf wrapped several time around my neck, a snow-suit-matching hat with ear flaps equipped with a chin strap that snapped on the opposite side of the hat, and a pair of black galoshes with dozens of snaps that had to be dealt with one at a time.  Because of all of the different clothing layers (did I mention long underwear for my legs, pants, undershirt, shirt and sweater?) and the inherent stiffness of the snow suit, once encased in this outfit, you tended to move like a mummy from a grade B movie.  (If you’ve ever seen how the little brother in the movie, A Christmas Story, is dressed, you know what I mean.)”

I congratulated IUN Diversity Award honorees Anna Rominger, Stephanie Smith, and Dana Alnahass, whom I had heard speak recently about the plight of Syrian refugees.  Newly appointed Director of Diversity, Equity, and Multicultural Affairs James Wallace was master of ceremonies, and Chancellor Lowe delivered eloquent, seemingly heartfelt, remarks about diversity meaning more than simply having a heterogeneous faculty and student body but included a respect for others’ viewpoints and a commitment to social justice and human rights.  I was impressed that he managed to utter the phrase “diversity, equity and multicultural affairs” several times without stumbling over the words.  I hadn’t seen Stephanie Smith in years but knew she had recently won the university’s scholarship award so she must still be productive.  She raved about how helpful Tim Sutherland and Steve McShane have been to her. 

While eating Swedish meatballs and veggies I talked with former History major Scott Fulk, whose favorite teachers were Paul Kern and Rhiman Rotz.  He recalled how upset Rhiman got if someone left his classroom early.  Once he even threw a woman culprit’s books out in the hall and locked the door.  When chair, I’d get complaints about his boorishness.  His defense was that such distractions made him lose his concentration.  He was a great showman, and most students loved him.  He was faculty adviser to a Muslim student organization and would have been proud of Dana Alnahass for earning the Advocate award and happy at the number of friends who attended the ceremony.

Though Anne Balay is pessimistic about her future at IUN, I am encouraging her to take her case to the Board of Review and ask for an extension on the procedural grounds that she was not given fair warning about her alleged teaching inadequacies.  If she agrees to seek advice and counsel on how to remedy these perceived deficiencies from classroom observers, there might be a possibility of success.  Many people have told her how unfair the process was and wished her luck at finding another position, but I firmly believe that in terms of diversity and equity the university would be much better off with her than without her.

For dinner James ate two hot dogs plain; no ketchup, mustard, onions or relish.  Recalling a scene from last week’s “Mad Men,” I told him how Heinz has a patent on the word “ketchup” so competitors call their product “catsup.”  Same goes for Kleenex and tissue and Jello and gelatin.  Bayer wanted a monopoly on aspirin but lost that one.

During the latest “Mad Men” episode, “The Flood,” the characters react to Martin Luther King being assassinated. Don’s son Bobby nervously peeled wallpaper from his bedroom and tried to escape into the fantasy land of TV sitcom reruns.  Instead of attending a vigil with Megan and the other two kids, Don and Bobby go see “Planet of the Apes.”  They decide to see it twice, and between shows Bobby asks a black janitor if he gets to see the movies free and then says, “Everybody likes to go to the movies when they’re sad.”  That night when he can’t sleep, he tells Don that he’s worried about his stepfather, who works for NYC Mayor John Lindsay and was with in Harlem when riots were breaking out, getting killed.  “Don’t worry,” Dan tells Bobby, “He’s not that important.”   I still remember that day vividly and feeling, not guilty but at a loss as how to react to grieving black people.  Joan’s awkward hug attempt with Dawn, Don’s secretary, captured that feeling perfectly.

A Michigander wants a middle school to ban use of the unedited “definitive” edition of “The Dairy of Anne Frank.  She didn’t like this description of Anne discovering her genitalia: “Until I was eleven or twelve, I didn't realize there was a second set of labia on the inside, since you couldn't see them. What's even funnier is that I thought urine came out of the clitoris.  When you're standing up, all you see from the front is hair. Between your legs there are two soft, cushiony things, also covered with hair, which press together when you're standing, so you can't see what's inside. They separate when you sit down and they're very red and quite fleshy on the inside. In the upper part, between the outer labia, there's a fold of skin that, on second thought, looks like a kind of blister. That's the clitoris.”

When in sixth grade, I was reading a school library book that contained the word “damn.”  I showed it to the teacher, who feigned shock and thanked me for pointing it out.  Now that’s something I’m not proud of – wanting to see Mr. Johnson’s reaction. 

Looking for light reading, I came across “The Lonely Lady” by Harold Robbins and found an “F bomb” before I’d finished a page.  I won’t tattle on old Harold, who dedicated the novel to “Valley of the Dolls” author Jacqueline Susann.  Before I had tenure I wrote an article about Robbins’s “A Stone for Danny Fisher” and Hubert Selby’s “Last Exit to Brooklyn” that the Journal of Popular Culture published under the title “Violence and Sex in the Post-War Popular Urban Novel.”  I found its first page in the Wiley Online Library.  I concluded of Robbins’s novel, set in the year 1944 and published in 1952: “To some readers the book provided an escape from their problems; to others, it was a nostalgic yet realistic journey into the recent past; finally, for many ethnic workers it wad a mirror of their self-identity.”  It was the basis (loosely) for the Elvis Presley movie “King Creole.”  Of Robbins’s subsequent potboilers, such as “The Carpetbaggers” (1961) and “Where Love Has Gone” (1962), I concluded: “His characters resemble the common man even as their bizarre exploits, fascinating sex lives, and heroic struggles exude an air of Walter Mitty.” 

Jeff Manes’s SALT column on campus CFO Marianne Milich, entitled “Woman works way up the ranks at IUN,” starts with the Serbian proverb “Grain by grain, a loaf.  Stone by stone, a castle.”  Her Serbian father was a millwright at Gary Works, her mother was Greek, and Marianne’s maiden name was Ziza.  Right before she was set to attend IU she decided to marry Andy Miich, an overhead craneman at Youngstown Sheet and Tube.  She worked part-time in the bursar’s office as a teller during registration and accepted a full-time position in 1984 when her husband was laid off.  She started taking classes after a talk with bursar Delores Rice.  Marianne recalled: I was in my 30s at the time, I said ‘If I go to school now, I’ll be 50 years old by the time I’m done.’ Delores replied: ‘What’s the difference? You’re going to be 50 anyway. You’ll have that degree; you’ll have that paper. It’ll make such a difference in your life.’”  She graduated in 1998 and then went on for her master’s degree.  At various times she worked at the bookstore, in financial aid, in computer services, before becoming head of accounting services and finally being appointed Vice Chancellor of Administration and Finance.  I told Barbara Cope about the article, she said she’d alert Delores Rice.

Marianne thanked me for suggesting her to Jeff Manes and told him that she was first hesitant to speak with him because she doesn’t like to draw attention to herself, but she hopes her story encourages others to get an education just as Delores Rice did for her.

How sad that the fascination for most observers of Gary are its ruins.  Even the Weather Channel website has an article called “Creepy Abandoned Churches” that contains a dozen photos by Kris Arnold of City Methodist.  In Spirits magazine Susan Lambeth’s “The City Made of Steel” describes winter wind peeking through sagging porches, peering through broken windows, “searching for remnants of prosperity only to find reminders of desperation.”  Only a few visionaries imagine the possibilities.

I had to travel to Schererville to see “The Company You Keep,” about SDS Weathermen 40 years after most went underground.  The film neither idolizes nor demonizes them but instead portrays them as idealists caught in the logic of the next step.  When peaceful protest didn’t end American involvement in Vietnam, they sought to bring the war home but did not deliberately intend to kill people.  But, as the saying goes, shit happens.  It was great seeing veterans Robert Redford, Nick Nolte, Julie Christie, and Susan Sarandon play old lefties.  Best line: Julie Christie telling Redford rationalizing their revolutionary goals, it wasn’t a dream, it was a possibility.  The movie reminded me a little of “All the President’s Men,” only instead of playing the young investigative reporter, Redford is the object of the hunt, not the hunter.

Mark Baer’s theater students directed and acted in six ten-minute plays. It was my first visit to Theater Northwest’s temporary facility near Grant Street, so a full house was on hand, doubtless including many proud parents.  In “Cover,” directed by Christina Biancardi, a guy wanted a friend to claim they were together the night before when in fact he was cheating on his girlfriend.  The friend complies, but the girlfriend doesn’t believe him.  Between each play actors and crew scurried to rearrange the spare set.
As interesting as the first four plays were, I still wasn’t prepared for how awesome Helena Campbell, above, and John Edwards performed in Rich Orloff’s “August Afternoon,” directed by Brandon Hearne.  Edwards was spot-on as a black businessman (preacher, I think) who brought an attractive young woman (parishioner or secretary perhaps) to a hotel for a tryst but couldn’t consummate the affair out of guilt even though she tried her best to get his mind on the business at hand.  She tells him that she has unfulfilled yearnings and that her mother spent a year in New York City before returning to her hometown and settling down. Beautiful, tan-skinned, and with a strikingly fit body, Helena had on a black bra and a dress pulled down to her waist.  At the end he leaves and she sits at the edge of the bed and puts her lace panties back on.  Then stares at herself in an imagined mirror, strips off the dress and smiles as if to convey the feeling that she’ll follow her mother’s example and do just fine in New York, L.A. or wherever.  After she and John took their bows, Helena turned to leave the stage and modestly covered the cheeks of her backside with her dress.  I predict a great future for both John and Helena; how fortunate Mark Baer must feel to be their mentor.

Sitting next to me was James Wallace, who told me he loved the class he took with Jonathyne Briggs a few years back, even though it was difficult.  The new Diversity director recently earned a Master’s degree from IUPUI and is working on a PhD.  I told him IUN’s best administrators are usually homegrown and that I hoped we’d stick around for some years to come.

May Day protests erupted all over the world – in Europe over austerity, in Asai over starvation wages, and in America mainly to protest present immigration police.  In Los Angeles protestors carried signs reading, “Stop deportations.”  In Seattle battles between police and militants broke out at nightfall.

1 comment:

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