Friday, May 31, 2013


“The subdivisions have no charms to soothe the restless dreams of youth,” Rush, “Signals”

The only subdivisions I’ve lived in were Beverly Hills, Michigan, in 1955-56 and Ross Township (now part of Merrillville) in 1970-72.  Neither was charming, and in the latter case, many neighbors had recently moved from Gary and were fearful of blacks and apprehensive of my beard and long hair.  Neighbor kids would ask Phil and Dave if Toni and me were married.
Jonathyne Briggs posed with someone in a Darth Vader outfit at Soldier Field.  A friend joked that he had run into half of Daft Punk, whose new CD of electronic music tops the charts and landed the French duo of Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter on the cover of Rolling Stone.  The name stems from a negative review of their first album, recorded with Phoenix guitarist Laurant Brancowitz, under the name Darlin’.

Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek died of cancer at age 74.  In 1993, 22 years after Jim Morrison passed away, Eddie Vedder sang lead vocals when the group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  I heard “Light My Fire,” featuring Manzarek’s unforgettable solos, on WXRT while on the way to Jewel.  Another pleasant surprise was saxophonist Cannonball Adderly’s “Mercy Mercy Mercy.”  It contains no words, but the sax says it all.

In “The Shackles of Power” John Dos Passos notes that cantankerous John Randolph of Roanoke contracted mumps in his youth, which left him with undeveloped testes, a high-pitched voice, and beardless.  After one brother died, his fiancé gave birth to a stillborn baby.  Another brother disposed of the body, was caught, and indicted for murder.  Though Thomas Jefferson’s cousin, John Randolph broke with the president for supposedly abandoning States Rights and became the leader of the “Old Republicans” or “Quids.” In his will he freed the slaves who had supported him all his life.

On Memorial Day weekend Michele and Tom Dietz brought Seattle Joe Robinson up from Indy along with Nicholas and Sophia.  Hoosier born and bred, Tom had been to Indianapolis Motor Speedway earlier in the week for Festival Parade Day and has attended “The Race” several times.  Veteran Tony Kanaan, one of four drivers bunched together when a caution flag was lifted with just a few laps to go, rushed ahead of Ryan Hunter-Reay just before a crash caused another caution flag to keep the cars from passing one another during the final two laps.  It was a lucky break for Kanaan, finally winning the 500 in his twelfth attempt.

James and Becca stayed the entire weekend, making a total of nine sleeping at the condo Saturday night.  Dave and Angie brought chicken and mashed potatoes left over from the E.C. Central prom, and Toni made ribs.  The potatoes came in handy when I pulled breakfast duty and made latkes (I also had requests for hoecakes).  Dave got his hair cut short for the occasion. (below, Dave with Maria-Isabel Gomez)
In a walk around the block the kids and I encountered numerous friendly dogs and passed by several men mowing lawns.  We passed a basketball around, Nicholas and Sophia managing the feat while on push scooters.  They also got in beach time before the rains came.  Starting home on Monday the Dietz’s ran into traffic on 80/94 and detoured onto Route 12.  At County Line Road they decided to check out our old place almost three years after we left it.  Why hasn’t it been torn down?  Lack of funding?

On Tuesday Joe, Toni, and I watched the Liberace biopic “Behind the Candelabra” starring Michael Douglas and Matt Damon as his young lover.  In this day and age it is hard to imagine that most of the pianist’s fans didn’t realize that he was gay.  While there was no frontal nudity, director Steven Soderbergh included scenes of Daman mounting Douglas from behind and of Liberace greeting bedmate Scot in the morning by saying, “You’re up” and then going down on him.  Later they visit a porn emporium, and Scot pukes upon discovering that Liberace is making use of a glory hole.  As portrayed in the film, Liberace clearly loved Scot but sought variety and dumped him when another young protégé caught his eye.  That said, there were plenty of funny moments and the actors were mesmerizing.  Joe and I loved it while Toni found it somewhat disturbing.  I only wish there were more performance scenes.

Joe got into the basketball and hockey playoffs, rooting for the Pacers against the hated Heat and cheering on the Blacks Hawks as they overcame being down three games to one to the Red Wings.   Watching the 2013 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction show, Joe marveled at Rush’s performance and later found a five-CD box set at best Buy for $19.95.  I picked up Daft Punk’s “Random Access Memories” and the new National CD “The Trouble Will Find Me,” featuring Matt Berninger’s baritone vocals.  On Joe’s last evening, we ordered pizzas from Sage Restaurant and attended Dave’s rehearsal with Blues Cruise.  Joe loved playing with the lively Bush family dog and particularly enjoyed the band’s rendition of Queen’s “Fat Bottomed Girls.”  Missy and Dave sang several songs together, including a Cracker tune I hadn’t heard them do before, “Eurotrash Girl.”  Brittany Shearer, bass guitarist on several numbers, has been playing roller derby on a pro team that plays their games at Camelot Lanes.

On our ride to Greenwood, just south of Indy, Joe and I listened to ABBA (a tradition ever since three years ago when we went to French Lick) and Rush’s 1982 effort “Signals.”  Joe has a terrific ear and picked up most of the lyrics.  Greeting us were Nicholas and the Dietz family dog Chloe. On Science Channel I learned how soy sauce is made, a process that takes months.  After squeezing the liquid from layers made of soybeans and wheat the leftovers are used as cattle fodder. 

Finding a Smithsonian magazine I perused Nathaniel Philbrick’s article about the Battle of Bunker Hill, which took place a year before the signing of the Declaration of Independence and was the bloodiest clash of the Revolution.  Among the 1,500 dead was Dr. Joseph Warren, who held off the British during their third assault on Breed’s Hill so that other could escape.  In the evening we rooted for the Pacers and booed when Miami’s goon Chris “Birdman” Andersen mauled Tyler Hansbrough and was not kicked out of the game.  It was close until Lebron James took over in the third quarter. Andersen was subsequently suspended for game six.  Michele and I chatted about family matters. She lamented that most folks in their subdivision were conservative but has found congenial companions at a 6 a.m. exercise class.  Her family is pushing for them to move to Florida when their kids are out of high school in seven years, while Tom wants to stay in Indiana.  Hope they remain Hoosiers.

Driving north in the rain Friday, I listened to a couple Top 40 stations (rare for me) and recognized Justin Timberlake (“Mirrors”) and Taylor Swift (“22”).  I heard Macklemore and Lewis (“Can’t Hold Us”) for the first time and a new single by Avril Lavigne, “Here’s To Never Growing Up.”  I’ll drink to that.

In the Archives for the first time in a week, I opened a hundred emails, including news that Alissa and Josh had arrived in Amsterdam.  He posted a photo of hundreds of bicycles parked at the central train station.  They are now in the Paris district of Montmartre, known for its nightclubs and the white-domed Sacred heart Basilica.  Josh reported: That first night we met up at a bar with hundreds of couch surfers having a trivia night; they told us many cool places to go and will be helping us around town this week.  Yesterday we went to the top of the Eiffel Tower and just as we were leaving at sunset it began sprinkling and a rainbow circled the top of the tower; it was incredible. We also had our first "real" Parisian meal at a small restaurant with a bottle of wine, a baguette and goose, duck and smoked salmon.” 
 Alissa in Amsterdam and with Josh at Montmartre

The latest Traces contains articles about the Great Flood of 1913 inundating Indianapolis and the founding that year of the Woman’s Press Club of Indiana.  A hundred years ago, women couldn’t join the all-male Indianapolis Press Club.  Charter member Juliet Strauss wrote a column for the Indianapolis News as well as one entitled “The Ideas of a Plain Country Woman” for Ladies Home Journal.  She advised: “When trouble comes, meet it, get along with it the best you can, and then let loose of it.”  In the “Black History” section are articles about an unsuccessful Indiana Underground Railroad escape attempt and the tragedy of Sergeant Thomas Brown, so traumatized from seeing comrades used as canon fodder by racist commanders during the Battle of the Crater near Petersburg, Virginia, that he died eight years later in an insane asylum.

IUN is offering a Public Speaking summer course online.  WTF?  Responding to Vice President Applegate’s latest email, I expressed the hope that he might make it his mission to facilitate the launching of innovative regional campus pilot programs, especially in the liberal arts (what distinguishes IU from Purdue and the former state teachers colleges).  I wrote: “The legacy of your distinguished predecessor, John Ryan, was to free regional campuses from overburdening bureaucratic controls.  Yours, I hope, will be to help make individual campuses laboratories for experiments that, if successful, could be adapted by others.”  Two recent campus initiatives, the Liberal Studies masters degree program and the Center for Urban and Regional Excellence, were well intentioned but suffered from inadequate funding.  I concluded: “I know money is tight, but perhaps you have the resources or wherewithal to seek grant money for system-wide pilot programs, including Threshold Summer.” 

On Facebook Jonathyne Briggs wrote: “Ten years ago, I lost my dad.  I miss him every day.  Make sure to hug yours, if you can.”  Unfortunately Vic died of a sudden heart attack at age 50.  Still recall the shock upon hearing the news late at night while a grad student at Maryland.  Jerry Davich noted that Allegiant Airlines is ending service from Gary Airport after 18 months of twice a week flights to and from the Orlando area.  Sad.  Pittsburgh Dave Lane passed along the front page of a Minnesota newspaper that he found amusing.
Archives intern Elizabeth LaDuke brought in delicious brownies with icing on the top.  She’s doing a Sociology paper on the fundamentalist Fairhaven Baptist Church, located just a couple miles from us, and plans to attend a service on Sunday.  She was somewhat apprehensive, but I told her people will probably be friendly.  Each Sunday Fairhaven buses bring ghetto kids to the church from Gary, supposedly promising them Big Macs.  Elizabeth discovered on my blog that I liked Arcade Fire and recommended the band Grizzley Bear.

Lake County Sheriff John Buncich hired Michael Chirich as a security guard for work-release prisoners.  His crew recently cleaned up at the Gary park where Froebel School once stood.  He wears a uniform and carries handcuffs but no lethal weapon.  Having taught 30 years at Calumet High School, he’s seen everything and mentioned that the prisoners are well-behaved because if they screw up they’ll be back in a cell rather than getting outside and living eight to a room in a decent facility.

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