Wednesday, September 25, 2013


“Nothing ever becomes real until it is experienced,” John Keats
 Portrait of John Keats by William Hilton

Nineteenth century Romantic poet John Keats, who died at age 25 of tuberculosis, is most famous for odes (to a nightingale, a Grecian urn, etc.) but also left much-admired letters that Robert Giddings termed a “spiritual journal.”  Fanny Brawn, the love of his life, went into mourning for six years following his death.

Emma Dei showed me how to post things on Tumblr, namely a blog entry and YouTube video of Cracker’s “Low.”  The test will come when she’s not looking over my shoulder giving me directions. I found these lines on one of Emma’s sites, entitled “Mister john keats”: “While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day, and touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue.”  Most of my Dashboard entries are photos from a site called “klappersacks,” mainly 1950s ads, such as a “Vogue” model sitting atop an Impala convertible.

Anne Balay posted this Tumblr entry entitled “Bernard and Harassment”: As part of my research for Steel Closets, I interviewed a man who was hired into the mills in 1979, and has worked there since. He has been harassed almost daily for that long. Though he has filed countless complaints with his supervisors, the union, the ACLU and EEOC, nothing has ever been resolved in his favor. Sometimes he doesn’t even bother to file, knowing it’s futile. As he says, ‘I didn’t file a complaint or nothing, I didn’t say nothing, I just accepted it and went on. A lot of times the union and the company will punish you if you make complaints about something — especially if you’re a man – for being sensitive. You’re overly sensitive. I can’t count the times I’ve been whopped with that word.  As far as the steel mill goes, when there’s a complaint against another worker, you’re not supposed to testify against them, you’re just supposed to suck it up and let it go. The company and the union are in confidence together.’”

Jane Ammeson’s NWI Times article about Ron Cohen centered on his folk music research but also mentionied our collaboration on “Gary: A Pictorial History,” launching Steel Shavings, and founding the Calumet Regional Archives.  Ron praised archivist Steve McShane and plugged their South Shore poster book, “Moonlight in Duneland.”  A big booster of Miller and Gary, Ron touted the new Charter School of the Dunes facilities.  He’s served on its board for most of its existence.  “I thought what they were doing was similar to the early days of the Gary public schools,” Cohen told Ammeson, “so I was attracted to the idea.”

Chancellor William Lowe recently announced the appointment of a 25-member Board of Advisers.  Most are corporate leaders, including Garry Aloia of Mortgage Co. Management - a good choice.  I worked with Garry on the Gary Centennial Committee.  A union leader such as USW district director Jim Robinson would be a wise addition.  Other excellent selections: Vanessa Allen of the Urban League, Chuck Hughes of the Gary Chamber of Commerce, Gavin Mariano of HOPE (Hispanic Organization Promoting Excellence – a group former sheriff Roy Dominguez is active in), and former IU Northwest dean F.C. Richardson.  I’m glad at least one emeritus faculty member is on the board.  I myself don’t need to be on the Board to advise him – I do it all the time, sometimes successfully, other times not.

Mike Olszanski stopped by the Archives to discuss the District 31 Women’s Caucus with grad student Julia Berkowitz.  Oz told Julia how to find a PDF copy online of the 2000 Shavings issue we co-edited, “Steelworkers Fight Back.”   It quickly went out of print because Eddie Sadlowski, 1977 “Rank and File” candidate for USWA president, bought up hundreds for his buddies.  Archives volunteer David Mergl noted that I was wearing a shirt he had recently given me, one of many from Good Will that his wife insisted he jettison.

After lunch at Little Redhawk Café with Jonathyne Briggs, Brian O’Camb, and Emma and Anne Balay, Samuel A. Love, French documentarians Frederic Cousseau and Blandine Huk, and I went to 4 Brothers Market on Twenty-first Avenue to install Camilo Vergara’s MLK prints on the front of the grocery.  The Palestinian owner got into the spirit of things, urging customers to check out the display.  Frederic and Blandine filmed the installation and interviewed a half-dozen people.  Probably another half-dozen preferred not to be on camera.   A motorcyclist who slowed down to see what was happening speeded off when Blandine turned around to face him.  We gave the owner one of the prints; before we left he insisted that we take something to drink.  I’m hoping that Frederic and Blandine produce a short video similar to Donald Groff’s YouTube “Standing Witness” production of the “Poster-Bombing” at the abandoned Elgin Diner in Camden, New Jersey.

I purchased Sandra Cisneros’ “The House on Mango Street.”  The novel, first published in 1984, about a Latina girl, Esperanza Cordero, growing up in a Chicago neighborhood.  As was the case with “The Other Wes Moore” last year, many IU Northwest instructors are assigning it to their students.  Hopefully Cisneros will come to campus, as Moore previously did.
Big Wednesday doings in IUN’s Savannah Center.  For “The Clothesline Project” people were decorating t-shirts to raise awareness about gender violence (“airing dirty laundry”).  In two weeks they will go on display on a clothesline. 
Salsa lesson photos by Dominick Lopez
Salsa dance lessons were taking place in Savannah lobby.  At Kathy Malone’s urging I tried out steps with former student Mary Lee, administrative assistant to the Dean of Student Activities.  Deans and chancellors come and go, but Mary and Kathy bring continuity, excellence, and historical perspective to their duties.  Mary picked up the Latin dance steps much quicker than I.
In Savannah auditorium a panel discussion took place on the topic “Voices od Latino(a) Youth: Identity, Dreams, and Challenges.”  Moderator was radio personality Eve Gomez, above.  Four students talked about personal obstacles they faced growing up, including not knowing English, economic difficulties, and, in the case of one woman, her machismo dad wanting to keep her cloistered while her brothers were freer to go places and do things.  Because she had no accent and an excellent student, some classmates accused her of “acting white.”  A guy mentioned the importance of family dinners, where he was encouraged to report on their daily activities and heard stories about life in Mexico.  Chancellor Lowe stayed the entire time, but nobody thought to introduce him, unlike an event several years ago about gay teens committing suicide.  After summarizing the university’s anti-bullying policy, Lowe added that he had a more personal reason for attending – that his closeted brother took his own life.  There was nary a dry eye in the audience; I still get choked up when I think about it.

I went from the Latino panel discussion to a reception in Savannah Gallery celebrating a new edition of Spirits magazine.  Scott Fulk marveled that the publication has continued for 23 years and garnered honors virtually every year.  I chatted with Mary Lee, who lives on the south side of Ridge Road not far from Martin Luther King Drive and agreed to talk with Frederic and Blandine prior to their interview in the Archives with former Mayor Richard Hatcher.   Co-editor Alyssa Black mentioned that while most of the Spirits artwork was upbeat, the poems overall were pretty gloomy.  Typical is Dawnell Harrison’s “Ice Waves”:
The cold moon filters
A stark white light

Icy wave after icy wave.
The silent air thins

And thins in this anesthetized
Talcum night.

Birds have no songs here.
The ice on the lake freezes
The center of my pain.
In “The Great Taproot,” Dawnell claims that everything “is white and as sterile as a surgeon’s knife” in “my house of sorrow.”  Unlike most contributors, Dawnell, who lives in Idaho, is apparently not associated with IUN and left the editors no author biography.

In bowling I won our team’s highest-series-over average pot on the strength of an initial 189 and a double on the evening’s final frame.  With 12 games under the belt, my average next week will go up about 15 pins.  Before leaving I gave Bobby McCann’s wife a hug and she squeezed me tighter and wouldn’t let go until thanking me again for the latest Shavings.  Bless her!

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