Thursday, September 5, 2013


“Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests, snug as a gun.” 
    “Digging,” Seamus Heaney

Ron Cohen sent me a copy of a column Gary-born economist Joseph E. Stiglitz wrote for the New York Times on how Martin Luther King shaped his life’s work.  The night before the 1963 March on Washington, he wrote, I had stayed at the home of a college classmate whose father, Arthur J. Goldberg, was an associate justice of the Supreme Court and was committed to bringing about economic justice. Who would have imagined, 50 years later, that this very body, which had once seemed determined to usher in a more fair and inclusive America, would become the instrument for preserving inequalities: allowing nearly unlimited corporate spending to influence political campaigns, pretending that the legacy of voting discrimination no longer exists, and restricting the rights of workers and other plaintiffs to sue employers and companies for misconduct?”  Stiglitz concluded: “I turned 70 earlier this year. Much of my scholarship and public service in recent decades — including my service at the Council of Economic Advisers during the Clinton administration, and then at the World Bank — has been devoted to the reduction of poverty and inequality. I hope I’ve lived up to the call Dr. King issued a half-century ago.  He was right to recognize that these persistent divides are a cancer in our society, undermining our democracy and weakening our economy. His message was that the injustices of the past were not inevitable. But he knew, too, that dreaming was not enough.”

Ariel Castro, who held three young women captive for a decade in Cleveland, hanged himself with a bed sheet in his cell.  Good riddance, Charles Halberstadt wrote, to a monstrous coward.

Thrill of the Grill at IUN’s library courtyard didn’t seem the same without live music.  I invited historian David Parnell and Communication professor Natasha Brown to join me but they had previous plans.  Selecting a burger with grilled onions and potato salad, I sat with Tanice Foltz and a couple downstate women from central Purchasing.  After mentioning how busy she was, Tanice asked me to be Chair of the Sociology Department, a job being thrust upon her.  I don’t think I’d enjoy trying to control Bloom, Shanks-Meile, Gallmeier and you, I quipped.

In addition to dedicating his “Memoirs” to family members and friends, Mike Certa added 1950s comedy writer Jack Douglas (“My Brother Was an Only Child,” “Never Trust a Naked Bus Driver,” “A Funny Thing Happened to Me on the Way to the Grave,” “Shut Up and Eat Your Snowshoes,” “The Neighbors Are Scaring My Wolf”), whom he calls “a kindred soul, whose off-kilter outlook on life mirrors mine.”  Douglas was a comedy writer for Red Skelton, Bob Hope, Woody Allen, Jimmy Durante, and Jack Paar and a frequent guest on late-night shows hosted by Paar, Dick Cavett, and Johnny Carson.

James Mlechick, in Steve McShane’s Indiana History course, was doing research in the Archives.  In a 1999 journal entitled “Ten Weeks of Boredom” that I published in the “Shards and Midden Heaps” Shavings James noted that gas was $1.49 a gallon and wrote on this date 14 years ago: “I awoke at 9 for 10 o’clock mass at Blessed Sacrament at 41st and Garfield.  Found out I may be teaching sixth grade of C.C.D., which is for children who do not go to Catholic school.  YUCK!  I like eighth grade better.  I went home, ate Kentucky Fried Chicken, pretended to be happy singing “Happy Birthday” to my brother-in-law, whom I gave 20 dollars, and worked a 2-8 shift at Strack and Van Til’s.  I could have gone home at six.  No business.  I had cold pizza because the air conditioning was on.”  According to Steve’s roster, James still lives in Glen Park.

I finished a draft of my review for Indiana Magazine of History of Robert Lombardo’s “Organized Crime in Chicago.”  A paragraph that got deleted explained the derivation of such terms as “red light district” (railroad workers frequently left lanterns hanging outside the brothels they frequented), “bootleg” (the practice of hiding flasks in one’s boot), “speakeasy” (where one spoke softly when ordering alcoholic drinks), and “underworld” (areas beneath raised saloons where thugs lurked).

Engineers won all seven points from Never a Doubt to remain in first with a record of 19-2.  I won the above-average pot thanks to a 179.  Only game one was close; we pulled it out by all marking in the tenth.  Bowling on the adjacent alley was John Redmond, owner of Valpo Muffler.  His son has a social studies teaching degree from Purdue but can’t find a job, so he is working at the muffler shop.  Teammate Bob Robinson met Geology professor Robert Votaw (below) in church when both had usher duty.  Robbie looked him up in Steel Shavings, volume 42, and found four entries.   

Robbie is attending a senior hostel weekend in Wisconsin; the topic is the 1930s.  I recommended Erik Larson’s “In the Garden of Beasts.”  As we were leaving, Shannon McCann gave Melvin and me big hugs, a weekly ritual with Melvie but my first time, because of my Shavings gift the week before.  A teammate borrowed ten dollars and promptly spent most of it on two rolls of five dice at the bar.   Not to worry though - he’s good for it.

Pre-Dental Medicine student Christopher Sicinski sent out a call for dentists to contribute supplies for underprivileged children.  Dr. John Sikora, an IU grad, gave Toni a box of toothpaste, floss, and others supplies that I took to Sicinski’s liaison, Dr. Ernest Talarico at the Dunes Medical Professional Building.  Nice effort.

Fred McColly checks regularly on the University Park community garden, which, he said, has been yielding large amounts of cucumbers and cherry tomatoes, among other things.  Recently he dug up the last of the russet potatoes from a backyard plot, bringing the seasonal total to almost 40 pounds.  Fred’s son Seamus was having lunch with Alyssa Black, who was in Anne Balay’s Gender Studies class with me.   Alyssa is assistant editor of Spirits magazine and taking a poetry class with William Allegrezza.  Several of Anne’s students wrote descriptions of how she taught to help with her tenure appeal.  One person asked: “What is wrong with the system when this is necessary?”  In an abstract promoting “Steel Closets” Anne wrote: “One narrator, who called himself Fred, told me:  ‘I look around at all my friends and co-workers who stay in the closet and I think they’re lily-livered cowards.  Then I think about what’s happened to me and I see why they do it.’  Ironically, the same could now be said of me.  I was an out queer English Professor, ran the campus Gay Straight Alliance, and helped many queer students through academic, familial and personal challenges.  Though I met every written qualification several times over, I was denied tenure this spring.  No out queer person has ever been given tenure by my University but I thought my case might be different, since my record could simply not be questioned.  Wrong.”

I have started doing research into the life of Saul Maloff, an English professor at IU Northwest who was a victim of the Red Scare.  Because he had once been active in leftwing groups that the government deemed subversive, trustee Ray Thomas put pressure on Director Jack Buhner to fire him.  When President Herman Wells backed Thomas, Buhner, in his own words, “asked Maloff to tell me straight the full story so that I’d know how to defend him.  He refused to level with me.  I’m sure he had his reasons, but I was not prepared to go to bat for him on blind faith alone.  It was a very upsetting experience.  Maloff’s wife had a nervous breakdown.  It was an infringement of academic freedom, but the only one that occurred under me.”  Maloff, whom Buhner described as a brilliant conversationalist, subsequently taught at Bennington College in Vermont and became Books Editor of Newsweek,

In a review of Robert Rakove’s “Kennedy, Johnson, and the Nonaligned World” by Englishman Matthew Jones in the Journal of American History I came across a word I’d never heard of – scupper – meaning to thwart.  It’s similar to scuttle.  Both words can also refer to a small hole on the deck of a ship, although scupper is a drainage opening and scuttle an orifice large enough for a person to get through.

Chancellor’s assistant Kathy Malone invited me to a reception for Indiana Black legislators that is taking place in the lobby where the Vergara prints of MLK murals are hanging.   French filmmakers Frederic and Blandine went with me.  They are also interested in going to a service at St. Paul Baptist Church, where Kathy sings in the choir.  Earlier in the day they went to McBride Hall and spoke with steel union officials.  The first person to greet us was SEIU official Lorenzo Crowell, who started speaking French when learning that Frederic and Blandine were from Paris.  Urban League director Vanessa Allen and legislators Earline Rogers and Charlie Brown were friendly and provided them with cards so they could interview them later.  When I brought up the recent retirement banquet for Earline’s brother, Gary Athletic Director Earl Smith, she mentioned that Wallace Bryant was among the many former basketball players who returned (in Bryant’s case, from California) to honor him.  Earline added that “Big Wally” lived with her family when in high school, and the seven-footer would play tag with her little girl, who Bryant saw for the first time in 35 years at the banquet.

A nice spread was on hand at Gallery Northwest for the reception, including beer and sliced beef tenderloin sandwiches.  I introduced Frederic and Blandine to Chuck Gallmeier (who promised to have them over to a party) and Mark Hoyert, who told a story about his grandfather, who, according to family lore, was a steelworker for less than one day.  From West Virginia, the man left home rather than work in the coalmines.  In Ohio he hired in at a steel mill and witnessed a co-worker fall into the heat and vaporize.  Production didn’t even stop.  At his first break, Mark’s grandfather left the plant and never went back.

The NBA season opened 23 minutes later than scheduled due to lightning in Denver.  My Fantasy QB Peyton Manning threw for a record seven TDs, getting me off to an excellent start against Anthony, who nonetheless had drafted Wes Welker, recipient of two of the scores, as a wide receiver.

No comments:

Post a Comment