Monday, August 5, 2013

Summer Music Festival

“Summertime, soak up the sunshine with you
Feelin’ the breeze, take it with ease
Shake out the big city blues.”
    Girls, “Summertime”

Weather was perfect for Saturday evening’s Northwest Indiana Symphony Orchestra outdoor concert at Marquette Park. Beforehand I chatted with George Van Til (he calls me “professor”), Jim and Elaine Spicer (who recently moved her counseling practice to 430 Lake Street), Pat Cronin, and former mayor Scott King.  Lynn Rosen, a childhood friend of Phil and Dave’s, was visiting from New York City and delighted to see Phil for the first time in 35 years.  Dave was master of ceremonies at an event hosted by an East Chicago group called The Circle honoring retiring E.C. Central H.S. music director Leon Kendrick.  
above, Elaine Spicer's new digs; below, Becca and Dave

Before the concert John Cain, executive director of South Shore Arts and the Northwest Indiana Symphony, had nice things to say about Miller’s recent cultural revival and joked that, unlike Crown Point, where he resides, things were never boring.  The orchestra started in Gary (its first performance was the evening of December 7, 1941, hours after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor) and Maestro Kirk Muspratt mentioned that he has sought a Gary venue for 13 years.  A rock festival was taking place at the Aquatorium and a wedding at the Pavilion, and strains of rock music could faintly be heard on the knoll where we were gathered, but Kirk Muspratt seemed to remain in good humor.

The 19 musical selections, none overly long, included a polka, a tango, theme music from “The Wild, Wild West,” “Spider-Man” and “Rocky,” Verdi’s “”Overture to La Forza del Destino,” Brian Wilson’s “God Only Knows,” and Henry Fillmore’s “The Circus Bee” (the most up-tempo march ever written, Kirk remarked, and it certainly was fast).  Dick Hagelberg, our driver, commented that a hundred years ago some of the greatest musicians performed under the big top.  Fillmore, the “Father of the Trombone Smear,” was a circus bandmaster for several years and married exotic dancer Mabel May Jones.  When the orchestra had appeared in Hammond Friday, Kirk asked five Franciscan sisters what their favorite selection was, and they replied, “God Only Knows.”  I wonder, had they heard the Beach Boys harmonizing to what is an adolescent love song? Hence, the line “God only knows what I’d be without you.”

The 2007 CD “Album” by the San Francisco indie group Girls that Josh Leffingwell gave me at Christmas blends surf rock with a sort of garage band, psychedelic sound.  Lead singer and songwriter Christopher Owen was reared in the fundamentalist cult Children of God but escaped at age 16.   Founder David Berg encouraged members to proselytize through a method called Flinty Fishing – having sex with would-be converts.  He allegedly encouraged children to have sex with adults and each other.   Before forming Girls with Chet “JR” White, Owen played in a group called Holy Shit.  Owens quit Girls last year and released a solo album, “Lysandre,” in January.  The most famous song titled “Summertime” was the George Gershwin composition for “Porgy and Bess.”  Sam Cooke did a great version in 1957.  Then there’s the great Eddie Cochran hit “Summertime Blues,” where a Congressman tells a teenager, “I’d like to help you, son, but you’re too young to vote.”

Erik Larson’s “In the Garden of Beasts” is a page-turner, as critics often say.  When appointed Ambassador to Germany in 1933, William E. Dodd asked his (unhappily) married daughter Martha to accompany him.  One of her paramours was poet Carl Sandburg, 30 years her senior.  The old pervert wrote her: “I love you past telling I love you with Shenandoah hints to torment blue rain whispers.”  Martha also had eyes for Thornton Wilder, but the novelist preferred male lovers.   Detractors called the Ambassador “Phone Book Dodd,” alleging that FDR meant to appoint Yale law professor Walter Dodd but made a mistake looking up the name.
Dan Mason and hikers at Cowles Bog; NWI Times photo by Kyle Telechan

Environmentalists took part in a National Lakeshore event on the hundredth anniversary of a hike Henry Chandler Cowles organized for international scientists to a bog that would later be named for him. Ranger Dan Mason pointed out that Cowles Bog is actually a fen, the alkaline equivalent of a bog.  Both formed when glaciers retreated, but, unlike bogs, fens some of their water derives from streams and groundwater.

Jeff Manes’ Post-Trib SALT column, entitled “From civil rights protestor to environmental activist.”  Manes mentioned both Jack Weinberg’s “Don’t trust anyone over 30” quote and that the civil rights activist sat in a police car for 32 hours during the 1964 Berkeley Free Speech Movement while thousands surrounded the vehicle and conducted a rally.  Jack worked for U.S. Sheet and Tin and playing a key organizing role in the antinuke Bailly Alliance before joining Greenpeace.  Jack’s parents were Polish Jews who came to America shortly before Hitler invaded their homeland.  Most of their relatives subsequently perished.

We celebrated Dave’s forty-fourth birthday at Sand Dollar Court with spring rolls, a recipe Alissa passed on from Vee, a Korean-American housemate of hers at Michigan State who now lived in Chicago.  Before Phil left for Grand Rapids, we got in games of Acquire and League of Six.

In season two of the HBO series “The Newsroom” reporters investigate charges that Special Forces troops used sarin gas in a secret mission known as Operation Genoa.  The plot line is similar to Operation Tailwind, which took place in Laos in 1970.  American forces used chemical agent – either tear gas but possibly sarin -  against North Vietnamese troops and perhaps American defectors.  CNN broke the news in 1988, 18 years later, subsequently retracted it, and fired two producers, then got sued for wrongful termination and settled out of court.
above, Rene Matison, Michael Martin and John Miles; below, Matison with UNM alumni

Thanking me for my help on researching Gary track and field greats, Steve White wrote: “The Gary athlete culture seems to be unique to me – there’s a definite bond among them all, and no doubt that’s carried through all the way back to when they were competing against each other.”  Steve enclosed a photo of Rene Matison, member of the 1964 state championship Roosevelt team, posing with Froebel’s John Miles and South Bend Central’s Michael Martin.  Matison was a two-time All-American at the University of New Mexico, once finishing the hundred-yard dash in 9.1 seconds, and became a Human Resources, specializing in Labor Relations.

Myron Young shook my hand and praised my guest appearance in Chuck Gallmeier’s Juvenile Delinquency class, claiming I should come out of retirement and start teaching again.  Maybe, maybe not.  What I’d be ideally suited for is chair of the History and Philosophy Department.

Mike and Janet Bayer are moving from Vermont to a place near Indianapolis and are visiting us for three days.  I’m looking forward to political discussions and reminiscing about the Labor Day and Kentucky Derby parties.  They arrived around seven and stayed up till 11, way past my normal bedtime.

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