Friday, September 27, 2013

Good Lucky

One day I’ll jump out of my skin
I’ll shake the sky like a hundred violins,”
    Sandra Cisneros, “The House on Mango Street”

In the introduction to “The House on Mango Street” Sandra Cisneros wrote about her mother, Elvira, coming from Chicago to San Antonio to visit her and after seeing her office, exclaiming, “Good lucky you studied.”  Her mother had encouraged her to study hard and follow her dreams, despite her husband’s desire that Sandra settle down, get married, and have kids.  With a full moon overhead, the two fell asleep on yoga mats on Sandra’s office rooftop.  Elvira draped her leg over her daughter’s – the only time, Sandra wrote, she showed outward affection.  After Elvira passed away, Sandra thought of her every time there was a full moon.

On the Lakeshore Radio (89.1 FM) website I listened to Anne Balay’s impressive appearance last week on the Steve Walsh show.  While most gay steelworkers are closeted, five went through a sex change while at the mill and have been raped, beaten, and had their cars damaged.  Some workers get harassed even if they aren’t gay but don’t appear masculine enough in their mannerisms so are under suspicion.  Showering is a big issue with men but not the women, Anne reported.  In addition to the 40 who signed the IUN-approved consent form, Anne talked to many others off the record.  Once she gained workers’ confidence, most loved to talk about their lives.  Host Steve Walsh is to interview some of the steelworkers (if they’ll “break out of their closets”) and do a piece with Anne for NPR.

Oxford University Press offered Jonathyne Briggs a book contract for “Sounds French,” his manuscript about French music, especially the punk scene, during the 1960s-1980s.

I received about 70 junk emails overnight compared to the normal eight or ten.  Culprits range from medical billing companies and time-share hucksters to online culinary schools and info about overstocked auctions.  I was offered a free smokeless electronic cigarette starter kit.  No thanks!  Augie Reyes from IUN Tech Services advised me on how next to proceed.

I sent Ray Smock a Dr. Seuss-themed satirical cartoon about blowhard Senator Ted Cruz’s meaningless 21-hour pseudo-filibuster on the Senate floor, asking: “Will he become another Huey Long or Joseph McCarthy?”  Ray promised to share the cartoon with friends and replied: The Cruzer certainly is the demagogue of the hour. These guys used to come out from under rocks in rural America, among the uneducated. They were usually limited to tent revivals and state politics. Now they come out from under rocks imported from Canada by way of Yale and Texas and are spread across America and the world via electronic media that has no driving force other than instant titillation. The more I find out about Ted Cruz the smaller he gets. I can understand a Huey Long coming out of the Great Depression.  And I can understand how McCarthy exemplified the worst aspects of the mass American disease of anti-communism.  Marginalizing Ted Cruz will not end the paranoia, the racism, the fundamentalism, the perverted populism, the excessive moralism, and the blind ideology of the tea party zealots and their tools in Congress and in numerous state legislatures. This idiocy has always been a part of the American experience. Sometimes we are better at keeping such sentiments at bay. But not now. The Tea Party and the Non-Tea Party Republicans who are afraid of the Tea Party are out in great numbers threatening the already tattered fabric of American society and politics. They grow and prosper on the cynicism and the anxiety that all of us have in varying degrees for various reasons about our government, our economy, and our culture. And the new and disturbing wrinkle is that the zealots are backed by some of the wealthiest industrialists and hedge fund wackos that use rabid populism to keep national politics diverted from major issues like regulation of banks and industry and global warming. They tap the anti-government sentiments of gun owners, anti-abortionists, bible thumpers, homosexual haters, and any group they can enlist to keep progressivism from re-emerging as a force in American politics.”
 Mary Lee, Frederic Cousseau, Blandine Huk, Jimbo; photo by Steve McShane

Frederic and Blandine intervened Mary Lee in the Archives after Mayor Hatcher cancelled because his driver’s wife was in the hospital.  Hatcher re-scheduled for next week, which might have been for the best since the interview with Mary lasted close to an hour and they had an appointment with an old jazz trumpeter lined up for 4 p.m.  I gave credit to Mary, assistant to the Dean of Student Services, and Chancellor’s Assistant Kathy Malone credit for keeping the university afloat while administrators come and go.  She paid me the ultimate compliment, telling Frederic and Blandine, “He doesn’t see color.”  That’s true most of the time, especially with her.

I duplicated copies of Camilo Vergara’s Nation article for the Archives and Frederic and Blandine and took the magazine itself to Magnum Jamal, owner of Four Brothers Market, who gave me a nice red pen containing the grocery’s name and address. The piece had an illustration of the print we gave Magnum, a mural by Cornell McKennon that adorns South Park Liquors on the corner of South Avalon Boulevard at Fifty-first Street in L.A.  The rendering includes the dates of King’s birth and death at age 39 and this quote: “I HAVE A DREAM that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed.” Magnum liked that McKennon signed the mural and even included his phone number.
 E.C. Central tennis team photo by Ahmad A. Muhammad

East Chicago Central’s tennis team defeated Lake Station to go 11-6 for the season leading up to Sectionals.  Dave played all seniors, and the number two doubles team overcame six match points in their comeback win, something a kid who rarely plays should remember all his life.  Singles ace Fabian Garcia wrote: What an emotional night for me it was my last season game.  We are a family the tennis team that is and we will never be separated!”

Filmmaker Chris Sautter wants to interview me for a documentary about Region Red Scare victims.  George Malis, several of whose family members were brave Lefties during the 1940s, told him about me.  I sent him “Gary’s First Hundred Years,” which contains information on the subject, and invited him to the Archives. Sautter promised to mail me a film he did about East Chicago Mayor Robert Pastrick, entitled “The King of Steeltown: Hardball Politics in the Heartland” (2001).  He has an interview lined up with Ed Yellin, hounded by HUAC for once having belonged to the Communist Party USA. 

In the late 1940s Yellin was part of the CP’s colonization program to place young members in basic industries after the CIO expelled communists from its ranks.  At U.S. Steel for eight years before pursuing a college education, Yellin eventually earned a PhD in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Illinois.  Although he quit the CP in 1956 following the Soviet Union’s suppression of the Hungarian Revolution, in 1958 he received a subpoena to testify before HUAC.  Citing the First Amendment, he refused to answer questions, as did three others, Al Samter (once a poker buddy of mine), Victor Malis, and Robert Lehrer.  In 1960 in Hammond District Court Yellin was convicted of four counts of contempt of Congress, but three years later the Supreme Court by a 5-4 vote overturned the decision.  Though denied fellowships during the ordeal, Yellin had a productive academic career at the Einstein College of medicine in NYC.

After a dinner of chicken, baked beans, and fried green tomatoes from Frank Shufran’s garden, I walked to Bernie Holicky’s to discuss condo business and then ran into neighbors Pith and John, had final closing last week and expect to be out of their unit by Sunday.  Phil told me that grandson Anthony scored the first goal in his soccer team’s 3-0 win over an archrival.  I fell asleep during “Rachel Maddow” – not her fault but Republican threats to close down the government are a broken record.

Jerry Davich reported that on this date 59 years ago Steve Allen hosted the first “Tonight” show.  Nick Mantis, who is working on a documentary about Region bard Jean Shepherd, commented that Steverino, who listened to Shepherd on WOR, suggested him as his replacement on in the late 1950s. NBC, Mantis said, “went with Jack Paar instead, deciding that Shepherd was too caustic and unconventional to host a network show.” 
Friday Ron Cohen brought me a couple magazines he’s done with, and I had Steve McShane take a photo of us, the Archives’ two founders.  Then it was off to the movies.  Arriving early for “Rush,” I sat through the first 25 minutes of “Don Jon,” an embarrassingly bad flick about a guy who pleasures himself while watching porn.  Even the prospect of Scarlett Johansson and Julianne Moore appearing later couldn’t tempt me to stay.  The sex scenes in “Rush” were more traditional and tasteful, and the grossest parts involved treating a driver’s burns following a fiery crash.  What was cool about the two 1976 Formula I rivals was that they were based on real drivers, Niki Lauda and James Hunt, and that both were sympathetic.

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