“The work environment can be a hostile place. It shouldn’t be.” Jeff Manes
Jeff Manes titled his SALT column on Anne Balay (above, at home), “Woman’s book explores gay steel mill workers.” As Anne stated after reading it, “Jeff used to work in the mills and totally gets it.” Anne lives in Miller and told Jeff she runs several miles every morning, either along the lake, in the woods or on Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore property. “There is a little lagoon,” Anne said, referring to a parcel owned by the Shirley Heinze Land Trust, “very close to my house that we visit every evening. It has snapping turtles, beavers, fish, deer. It’s like a nature preserve right in the middle of the city.” Anne talked mostly about her upcoming book “Steel Closets,” mentioning that’s the mill work environment is hardest for transgender steelworkers but that all closeted gays experience isolation. When Jeff asked her about teaching at IUN, Anne replied, “I’ve taught American literature, children’s literature and writing for seven years. They didn’t retain me, so I have to leave at the end of the year – no tenure.” Anne didn’t elaborate on the specious reasons why, but as Betty Villareal commented on Facebook after reading the article: “IUN is nuts to let you go.” I concur.
The Post-Trib’s front-page story, entitled “PROJECT SPURS HOPES, FEARS,” dealt with redevelopment plans for University Park, an area in Gary’s Glen Park neighborhood including IUN and Ivy Tech and stretching from Grant Street to Interstate 65 and from 80/94 to Ridge Road. True to form, the newspaper accentuated the negative, raising concerns by “skeptics” at a meeting held at the Gary Christian Center that existing businesses would be displaced and that the grandiose vision, to quote reporter Christian Nance Lazerus, will “go by the wayside like many previous plans, including a Jackson 5 museum and a land-based casino.” On the other hand, Indiana General Assembly has allocated $45 million for a building at Thirty-Fifth and Broadway that IUN and Ivy Tech will share, and a feasibility study is underway for a teaching and trauma hospital at IUN. HUD money will allow for the demolition of 70 derelict structures, Commerce Director J. Forest Hayes announced, adding: “This is an opportunity waiting to be properly leveraged.”
In Anne Balay’s Gender Studies class we discussed sexuality, including Pat Califia’s article “UnMonogamy: Loving Tricks and Tricking Lovers.” Reared a Mormon, Califia was once a lesbian but now an F to M transgender person. He argues that our culture should embrace non-monogamy, adding, “Monogamy is not wrong for everybody, but damn few of us are capable of complete fidelity.” I brought up the point that in the late Sixties and early Seventies many couples claimed to believe in the concept of an Open Marriage, where partners would be free to pursue other relationships without it destroying the marital bond. It might have sounded good in theory, but it almost never worked. In fact, almost all our friends from those days ended up divorced. Anne mentioned that most “second wave” lesbians like herself are “serial monogamists,” going from one monogamist relationship to another, some lasting a few weeks, others for years. She joked that what lesbians bring to a second date is a U-Haul – in other words, they’re ready to commit to living with their new lover.
As class was ending Anne’s two daughters and several friends appeared. On a scavenger hunt, they needed a professor to deliver a five-minute talk on how to revive the telegraph business. I obliged them, saying that telegrams got a bad rap when associated with informing loved ones during WW II that a soldier died or, in more recent years, bringing news that a son or daughter was in trouble and needed money wired to them. On the other hand, singing telegrams were once fun and could be re-introduced and expanded upon.
Cassie Carpenter of the CIPS Gary Vision Project heard about plans to exhibit Camilo Vergara’s photos of Martin Luther King murals and wants to meet with me and discuss working together on events. I replied: “We are honored that Camilo Vergara wanted to have his prints of the murals in Gary. Installation will take place August 24 at the Gardner Center in the Miller Beach neighborhood. I am planning an event for August 28, the actual 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. We're thinking about having a reception Saturday August 31 that perhaps you'd be interested in partnering. Maybe we could get Mayor Freeman-Wilson and former Mayor Daley there.” Mayor Daley is a distinguished fellow at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy and has taken a special interest in the Gary Vision Project. I designed a flyer for the August 28 event, and Ryan is improving on my amateurish effort.
Indiana Magazine of History has asked me to review Robert M. Lombardo’s “Organized Crime in Chicago: Beyond the Mafia.” The tentacles of the Al Capone gang reached into Northwest Indiana, and I’m hoping Lombardo, a Chicago police officer for 28 years, including 12 with the Organized Crime Division, explores that subject. In the preface Lombardo writes about growing up in a Chicago neighborhood where the “Outfit,” as it was called, was part of everyday life and that his great uncle Frank belonged to its North Side Crew. Lombardo recalled Ross Prio, head of the North Side Crew, visiting the grocery where he worked: “His visits to our store were right out of the movies – bodyguards, black Cadillacs, and five hundred-dollar suits.” A sociologist and criminal justice professor, Lombardo received a PhD from the University of Illinois, Chicago after writing a dissertation entitled “Recruitment into Organized Crime: A Study of Social Structural Support of Deviance.”
above, Robert Lombardo; below, Dan Gesmond
Dan Gesmond came across my blog and discovered that I published his article, “Culinary World,” 12 years ago in my Nineties Shavings. He’s presently a grad student at Northwestern but has an apartment in Chesterton, so we’re planning to get together. Dan worked at Indian Oak Inn as a busboy and then as a banquet cook, where he learned to cut vegetables “so efficiently I could have a conversation and never once look down at the cutting board.” Then he took a job at the Spa, back then one of our favorite restaurants, but found the cooks so cruel and immature he returned to Indian Oak until offered at job at Brio inside Blue Chip Casino. After graduating from high school, he enrolled at Chicago Cooking and Hospitality Institute while continuing at Brio. Dan wrote: “On New Year’s Eve 1998, I ended my culinary career. I was burned out from the physical exhaustion of driving back and forth from Chicago and sick of smelling like food even after a shower. I was ready to move on but with knowledge that will last a lifetime.”
In his Memoir Mike Certa recalls observing a hawk outside his bathroom window one winter day while getting ready to go to work at IUN: “Just below me, no more than four or five feet away, a large brown and white hawk was sitting on the big evergreen bush. It was an amazingly beautiful and powerful bird. I could see every feather on its body. That bush is very thick, and small birds often make nests down inside the closely packed branches. I could hear the small birds chirping away like mad as they burrowed down deeper into the bush. The hawk could hear them too. Suddenly the hawk dived down into an opening in the branches. It was if he were a sea bird diving down into the water and was trying to swim down to a fish. The hawk disappeared below the outer foliage completely. For a moment or two all I could see was the agitation of the branches as the hawk tried to get down inside of the bush. Finally, the hawk popped up on the other side of the bush. It looked as if it were surfacing to get air. Of course, it had all of the air it needed, but its dive into the bush hadn’t worked. It was too big to force itself down to where the small birds were hiding. The small birds didn’t know that of course – I could hear them chirping away like mad. Every few minutes, the hawk would attempt another dive into the foliage, each time coming up empty. Between dives, it would sit on top of the bush and smooth its feathers. It was quite a display. After six or seven tries, the hawk opened its wings and flew to the top of our backyard fence and sat there watching the bush. It looked as if it were waiting for a smaller bird to make a break for it. None did. The hawk stayed there for several minutes. Then it finally flew away.”
William Least Heat-Moon
Chris Young’s South Shore Journal article, “Minding the Realm: William Least Heat-Moon and the Blue Highways of Public Memory,” discusses a 14,000 mile trip Least Heat-Moon took around the United States in 1978, during which time the scholar whose ancestors included Irish, English and Osage Indians sought to connect with his country’s past. One evening, Young wrote, “when the stars ‘shone with a clarity beyond anything I could remember’ he felt that he was ‘looking into—actually seeing—the past.’ Looking to the light emanating from Betelgeuse of the Orion Constellation, which was hundreds of light-years away, he mused that it showed the ‘star that existed when Christopher Columbus was a boy’; the same star that ‘burned when Northmen were crossing the Atlantic.’” Later in a Newport, Rhode Island tavern, Young continued, “Least Heat-Moon conversed with a patron about the changes then underway on the once gritty, seedy, and sailor-laced Thames Street. When Least Heat-Moon asked the man about the loss of history that came with development he remarked simply and flatly and cynically, ‘American History is parking lots.’ It does not take much of the imagination to see Least Heat-Moon, who had once walked Thames Street and frequented its taverns as a sailor while serving in the United States Navy, nodding his head in agreement.” Young argues that monuments are efforts at public memory but tell us as much or more about those responsible for them as the people or events they are meant to memorialize.