Wednesday, June 5, 2013

In Battle

“Battle reduces men to animals, so easy to begin and yet impossible to end,” Ken Hensley, from Uriah Heep’s “Lady in Black”

In the New York Times Sunday puzzle, I knew the answers for Hayworth (Rita) and Uriah (Heep), but Toni already had filled them in.  The latter, a character in Charles Dickens’s “David Copperfield,” was an insincere manipulator. In his LBJ biography, Robert Caro called the thirty-sixth president a Uriah Heep.  The British band of that name was one of Seventies heavy metal’s “Big Four,” along with Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, and Deep Purple. (photo of Rudy Clay by Sam Barnett)

Former Gary mayor Rudy Clay lost his battle with prostate cancer at age 77.  Dapper, health conscious, and known for mutton-chop sideburns and beginning his speeches by thanking “The Lord, Jesus Christ,” he personified Lake County politics and held multiple offices after losing his first election because opponents managed to put a Ralph Clay on the ballot to syphon votes away from him.  Reverend Jesse Jackson eulogized him as “smiling, styling, and profiling.”  While most of his plans for the city – a downtown plaza to replace the Sheraton, a land-based casino, a Michael Jackson theme park -  never came to fruition, Clay was an optimist and true Gary booster.  I sat next to Rudy at an event honoring Richard Hatcher, and all he ate were vegetables and salad.

In the latest “Game of Thrones” Daario Naharis, Jorah Mormont, and the Grey Worm helped Daenerys capture the city of Yunkai.  Unexpectedly a horrific massacre killed off three main characters.  Tom Wade, who has read the books, warned that there’d be episodes like this, and the title “Red Wedding” should have been the tip-off.  “Mad Men” took place at the time of the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago, and several characters watched the “Battle of Michigan Avenue, with the women and young men more horrified than Don or his corporate clients.

I waited 15 minutes outside a Bureau of Motor Vehicles facility before the 1999 Corolla passed the state emissions test.  Only Northwest Indiana is subjected to the procedure, even though most Region pollution emanates from heavy industry or trucks passing through on interstates.  The procedure used to be more onerous, taking up to an hour and requiring drivers to keep their right foot steady of the gas pedal for about a minute.  We’ve never had any trouble with Toyotas, but a Plymouth we bought used never could pass.  Fortunately, an option was having at least $50 of work done; if the reading improved the second time, the car passed.  After American Motors recalled our year and model for a certain defect, the Plymouth got through the inspection successfully.

In Traces C. Matthew Balensuela, writing about big bands at Indianapolis’ Indiana Roof Ballroom, uses as his primary document a “Jazz Door.”  Two Indiana Theatre backstage workers, John Young and Tom Kelly, complied a list of performances on a storage room door, including a rating system going from zero to four stars.  Balensuela focuses on a 1934 “Biblical Battle of the Bands” between Joe Cappo and his Egyptian Serenaders and the “Israelite” House of David Band, consisting of bearded musicians from a Benton Harbor religious cult. Angry at manager Thomas J. Devine for booking novelty acts, including a robot and fan dancer Sally Rand, Young and Kelly wrote “plain chicken-shit” next to the House of David band while awarding Cappo’s group three stars.
Bart Letica sent the Archives more photos from when he was stationed in China during WW II.  In one, dated January 1945, a Chinese boy is standing on a bomb cluster in need of repair (Bart’s job) wearing a head cover made from dog skin.  Herb Read gave the Archives a copy of a book about his parents prepared by Pia Lopez, entitled “Philo and Irene Read: A Partnership in Life and Dunes Preservation.” A dunes lover since 1907 and an officer in Chicago’s Prairie Club, Philo worked toward the establishment of Dunes State Park as well as a national park.   Both were charter members of the Porter County chapter of the Izaak Walton League.  Philo’s father Opie Pope Read was a newspaperman, humorist, novelist (“The Jucklins,” about a North Carolina farming family, sold over a million copies), and Chautauqua lecturer active in the Hyde Park-based Chicago Renaissance.   The only Opie I’d ever heard of was Opie Taylor, played by Ron Howard on “The Andy Griffith Show.”  The one Philo I knew about was Philo T. Farnsworth, inventor of the television.  Using Google, I discovered an abolitionist named Philo Carpenter, who was also Chicago’s first pharmacist. Philo of Alexandria 2,000 years ago attempted to harmonize Hellenic philosophy with Jewish theology. 

In the Archives prior to speaking in Steve McShane’s Indiana History class, Ron Cohen brought sheet music of “His Sacrifice,” a song written in tribute to Billy Rugh, the 41 year-old crippled Gary “newsboy” who died in 1912 after undergoing a skin graft to save a woman’s life.  Some 25,000 mourners – a number greater than the population of the six year-old city -  attended a tribute to him.  Ron also loaned me a copy of his friend Larry Colton’s “Southern League: A True Story of Baseball, Civil Rights, and the Deep South’s Most Compelling Pennant Race.”  It follows the Class AA Birmingham Barons in 1964, a year after Martin Luther King’s Birmingham Crusade and opens with 19 year-old Johnny “Blue Moon” Odom being stopped for no reason at midnight in his new Galaxy and a racist cop telling him, “This is Birmingham, Alabama.  It’s real important you stay in the nigger part of town.”  Gary Horace Mann grad Charlie O. Finley, owner of the Kansas City A’s, had recently signed Odom to a $75,000 bonus.  In 1946, while a superintendent at Kingsbury Ordinance Plant in LaPorte, Finley contracted TB.  While recuperating, he got the idea of selling group disability insurance to physicians, from which he made millions.

In 1963 my favorite player, Dick Allen, had been the first African American to play for the Arkansas Travelers.   He received death threats, and on opening day the leader of the Little Rock White Citizens Council held a sign reading, “Don’t Negro-ize Baseball.”  He lived apart from his teammates in the black section of town.  A catcher on the Macon Peaches, author Colson recalls his team stopping at a greasy spoon restaurant on a bus trip from Montgomery to Mobile and a waitress announcing, “Niggers have to eat out back.”  Manager Andy Seminick, described by Colton as “an old-school, barrel-chested, tobacco-chewing native of West Virginia who had once caught a World Series game with a broken wrist,” told his players to get back on the bus rather than make anyone submit to the humiliation.  Seminick was a childhood hero of mine and played on the 1950 Phillies pennant-winning team known as the “Whiz Kids.”

I met Anne Balay for lunch at IUN’s Little Redhawk Café.  She had a letter from University of North Carolina Press officially accepting “Steel Closets,” due out next spring, and one from Chancellor Lowe citing reasons she was denied tenure.  I’m sure it was hard for him to compose it since he supported her and appreciates her value to the campus.  Repeating her detractors’ claims, he inserted the word “reportedly” when saying they had brought these things to her attention.  It will be interesting to see what IUN’s Board of Review and possibly the EEOC decide concerning the documentation (or lack of) for these claims.

Chris Young has been selected to be the new director of CISTL, IUN’s Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning.  He’ll do a great job, but I worry that the university won’t replace him with another historian.  I have suggested to Anne Balay that she ask Chris to suggest ways for her to improve her teaching in terms of reducing the number of students who withdraw from her classes and winning over the small minority intimidated by her being an open lesbian.  A flyer advertising her summer Women in Culture class announces: “You’ll learn about women, equal pay, Obama, lesbians, your rights, sex, the family, work.  Expand your mind, share your story, come to class in drag.  This is a discussion and action based class, which teaches you to see your life in a whole new way.”  Good for her.  No retreat.  I’ll be there.

Just back from L.A., Anne is about to visit London for a week and plans to see a theatrical production of “Behind the Candelabra.”  She doesn’t own a TV, so I invited her to see the HBO movie at the condo when she returns.  The owner of Moonlite Bunny Ranch recently bailed out Liberace’s former lover Scott Thorson from a Reno jail.  Charged with identity theft and burglary, Thorson expressed his enduring love for Liberace and thought Damon “did a great job” portraying him.  At a premier party at San Francisco’s Castro Theater a drag queen named Libera-she showed up.
 Matt Damen as Scott Thorson

Elizabeth LaDuke’s visit to Fairhaven Baptist Church services was a success.  “I’m so glad I went,” she stated.  After I called them “True Believer hypocrites,” Ray Smock replied: “Those damn Baptists have been a pain in the ass since 1609.  They are the ones to blame for all this Born Again bullshit.  As a way-former Catholic who was baptized as an infant before I had free will, I can only say that it was far easier for me to forget all about religion after that than it would have been if some Baptist preacher had dunk me in a creek as an adult.”
Nephew Aaron Pickert, due to visit on Friday, reports that Fairbanks, Alaska, wasn’t totally dark at midnight.  He added: As I was picking up my rental car, they were going over the rules and I heard one I've not encountered before... it was, no smoking (obviously), no pets (not unheard of), no fish (wait what?)... only in Alaska!”

Special Events coordinator Linda Sharma mentioned that summer Thrills of the Grill will be without live music.  I’m not surprised, given how dead the place is, with crazy class hours and the plethora on on-line courses.  Checking out the IUN Community Garden, Fred McColly reported: “Beets are up in the bed with the hopi blue.” 
Democrat Frank Lautenberg, the oldest member of the Senate, died at age 89.  New Jersey governor Chris Christie called for a special election to replace him in October rather than have it on the November ballot when Christie will run for re-election even though the special election will cost millions of dollars.

Pittsburgh Dave Lane is upset over the Penguins losing the first two battles in their series with Boston.  I’d like to see Pittsburgh and the Blackhawks, up 2-1 in their series with L.A., in the Stanley Cup finals.
I listened to Dire Straits’ “Brothers in Arms,” adding it to my heavy rotation of CDs along with Daft Punk, The National, Steve Earle, and the Doobie Brothers.  I noticed “The Doobie Brothers” on the latest “Rolling Stone” cover but instead of the band members the photo was of the potheads in Seth Rogen’s new movie, “This Is the End.”

Nicole Anslover showed “The Best Years of Our Lives” to her “Hollywood and History” class.  Beforehand, students talked about primary sources they’d discovered about WW II.  One had found a clip from the 1941 movie “Buck Privates” of the Andrews Sisters singing “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” to soldiers seemingly having the time of their lives.  Studs Terkel interviewed Maxene Andrews for “The Good War,” and she recalled how tough it was to sing to wounded soldiers who had lost arms, legs or parts of their face.  The sobering 1946 William Wyler flick, which won seven Oscars, including Best Picture, follows three WW II vets as they return and try to cope with Midwestern small town civilian life.  I had forgotten that drummer Gene Krupa is in it momentarily and that Hoosier composer Hoagy Carmichael plays the uncle of a maimed sailor who lost both hands and wears hooks instead.  Critic Roger Ebert, who called “The Best Years of Our Lives” one of the all-time best, wrote: One of the movie's most famous sequences involves Fred deciding to leave town in search of work, and going to the airport. While waiting for his military transport flight, he wanders into a vast graveyard of mothballed warplanes. This scene is heartbreaking. Once Fred flew these planes, and now they, and their pilots, are no longer needed.”

In the fourteenth inning in Seattle the White Sox broke a 0-0 tie with five runs in the fourteenth only to have the Mariners tie the game in the bottom of the inning on a two-out grand slam.  Scoring two in the sixteenth, Chicago ended an eight-game losing streak.

No comments:

Post a Comment