“We feel poor for the empty spaces. “Feelings,” Nanette Hamilton
Pressure built for President Obama to bomb Syria in retaliation for the Bashar Assad regime evidently using chemical weapons against civilians, even though it would be for largely symbolic reasons rather than affect the outcome of the civil war. Republicans were poised to criticize anything he did, so he asked Congress for authorization to act - a brilliant move politically in the short run, but one that could have dire consequences if the legislators push him to act too belligerently. Here is Ray Smock’s take on the situation: “We are about to attack another country, one we haven't attacked before, and most of Congress is still off fund raising and the president is on a three-day swing to Sweden. I don't get it. This may be our first Ho-Hum War. Have we gotten this casual about war? And the joint chiefs told the president, you can wait to attack, it won't make any difference. And the resolution before Congress actually uses the phrase "tailored" response. Welcome to the age of boutique warfare. THE US MILITARY: WE MAKE WARS TO FIT ANY OCCASION. AND WE GUARANTEE YOU WILL LIKE THE FIT. Try one on today!”
At lunch Business professors Anna Rominger and William Nelson informed me that divisions were pressured into offering 50-minute MWF classes. Most faculty are not pleased. I thought the parking lot seemed crowded for a Friday.
At Michael Jackson’s well-maintained boyhood home at 2300 Jackson preparations were underway to celebrate his birthday despite sweltering temperatures. A couple from Maine asked where I was from and seemed disappointed when I answered “Gary.” Michael’s mother waved to the crowd; Prince and Blanket greeted fans and signed autographs. Neighbors under a tree were playing “Billie Jean” and other “Thriller” selections.
On Ron Cohen’s recommendation I watched a documentary about Jewish sprinter Marty Glickman, dropped at the last minute from his relay event at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, probably the work of anti-Semite Avery Brundage. Glickman went on to become a pioneer basketball announcer. When the 1950 point-shaving scandal involving numerous college teams broke, the press, to Glickman’s chagrin, focused on CCNY, in part because it contained Jewish and black players.
After trailing 5-0, the Phillies beat the Cubs 6-5. Interim manager and former Chicago Hall of Fame second baseman Ryne Sandberg got a rousing ovation from the Wrigley crowd.
I met Corey, Kate, Frederic and Blandine for breakfast at Jonathan’s Pancake House in Miller. The French filmmakers had arrived the night before. They gave me a knife and with an Eiffel Tower logo that came with many accessories, including a toothpick and tweezers. They expressed interest in going to a RailCats game although they warned that they know nothing about baseball.
I paid my respects to the Suliches at Edmonds and Evans Funeral Home in Portage. A huge crowd was on hand to pay their respects, including soccer teammate Mark Mario and Coach Bob Laramie. Mark’s dad looked like he was in denial while the pain on his mother’s face was palpable, like something unimaginably ghastly had scarred her to the core. In high school Phil was buddies with daughter Tina and mark’s widow. The truck driver who killed Mark claimed he’d stepped into the right lane on 80/94, but who’s to know for certain. One false move, a life is snuffed out, like when on Route 49 a truck running a red light killed Robin Hass Birky. Artist Larry Kaufman died when a farmer’s tractor clipped his car, causing it to flip over, supposedly because Larry had drifted across the center of the two-lane road. The farmer was the only witness, so is that what really happened? In Hawaii in 1965 I walked in the path of a moving bus. Toni screamed and I literally used my hands to push away from the side of it. Life can be fleeting and unforgiving.
I drove to South Bend for a Lane and Okomski family weekend. The Dietz’s came up from Indy, Phil’s gang drove down from Grand Rapids, and Dave’s crew arrived shortly after we did. Niece Lisa’s husband Fritz retired from the navy after 25 years, showed us a citation signed by President Obama, and joked that he could now have a joint. Lisa bought champagne and cupcakes for a midnight celebration. I asked Fritz whether he had been subject to random tests as a Notre Dame ROTC director, and he said yes, sometimes he’d come to work and discover it was a “piss in a bottle” day.
I had quite a run of luck, winning two three-handed pinochle games against Phil and Dave and then partnering with neophyte Josh to win four of five more. That evening I finished fourth in a ten-player Texas hold ‘em and then beat out Alissa to win the nightcap, which lasted until 2:45 in the morning. The key hand was when I went all-in against Fritz and got a flush on the last card to beat his three Kings. I had stayed in with two pair but ended up with five diamonds.
On Saturday Toni made golumpki, and Tom Dietz grilled hot dogs burgers, and chicken Sunday. In annual kickball game, featuring youngsters (including 25 year-olds Josh and Alissa) versus adults, Delia skinned her knee at first base and Dave popped something diving to catch a ball. Inside I watched “Reign Over Me,” about Charlie Fineman (Adam Sandler, of all people) who lost his entire family on 9/11 and subsequently quit his job and isolated himself from all past relationships. College roommate Alan Johnson (Don Cheadle) tries to help him out of his depression. Sandler gets off some great insults; for instance, he calls a psychiatrist named Nigel who pretends to be a Bob Seeger fan but doesn’t realize “Silver Bullet” and “Seeger System” were his bands rather than names of albums “shrink wrap.” The soundtrack includes “The Birds of St. Marks” by Jackson Browne and two versions of “Love, Reign O’er Me” - by Pearl Jam and The Who.
Grace, Becca, Tori, and Sophia (dolled up in a blond “Twisted Sister” wig) performed a song and dance number with an Andrews Sisters number playing in the background. Anthony told a funny anecdote about beating his gym teacher in Ping-Pong. The guy had posted his 20-0 record on the board, and Anthony had him replace the zero with a one. The coach claimed the loss was a fluke, so Anthony beat him a second time and changed the one to a two. I told about how mad my old man got when I got beat him in Ping-Pong and one-on-one basketball. Toni chimed in that I slammed Ping-Pong shots against 80 year-old Midge and all she could say was, “Oh, my.” In my defense I only did it a couple times, just to demonstrate my capabilities.
Season three, episode one of “The Sopranos” opens with Tony strolling down his driveway for the newspaper with his bathrobe open, perhaps to show disrespect to the federal agents he knows are keeping an eye on the house. The scene is repeated twice more. Carmelo and hot friend Adriana are taking tennis lessons, and the new female instructor has the hots for Adriana so bad she basically ignores Carmelo. An FBI agent observing them through binoculars can’t get his eyes off Adriana’s lithe body and ass.
Spike Lee’s documentary “Four Little Girls” opens with Joan Baez’s “Birmingham Sunday” as the camera scans the gravestones of Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing victims Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Cynthia Wesley, and Carol Robertson. Alabama governor George Wallace bears some responsibility for the damnable deed, exploiting the legacy of Dixie racism in full flower 50 years ago.
Returning from Old Mission Peninsula near Traverse City, Michigan, neighbor Gina gave us cherry tomatoes from her ample garden. She and her husband stayed in a cabin owned by retired professors and filled with art pieces and interesting books. A deck provided an excellent view of the lake at sunrise. It might be nice to rent it for a couple weeks next summer.
My luck at cards continued at bridge with the Hagelbergs. Sunday evening I participated in the LANE fantasy draft, selecting last but then with the first pick in the second round. Phil picked wide receiver Calvin Johnson just ahead of me, so I settled for running backs Marshawn Lynch and Alfred Morris. Pleased that Peyton Manning and Brandon Marshall were still available, I gobbled them up on picks number 24 and 25. After drafting two more wide receivers (Reggie Wayne and Greg Jennings), I got highly regarded tight end Tony Gonzalez, the Texans defense, and kicker Justin Tucker of Baltimore. Not bad, but much depends on injuries.
Over the weekend Steve Spicer took photographs during a walk through Marquette Park. Brenda and Samuel Love visited Detroit, where they found the MLK murals at the abandoned Michigan Building in the downtown intersection of Clifford and Bagley.
After picking up the prints of Camilo’s MLK murals from Corey Hagelberg at the Gardner Center, I installed the show on easels across from her gallery in the lobby of Savannah Student Center Ann Fritz’s invaluable help. Frederic and Blandine joined Anne Balay, Brian O’Camb, Jonathan Briggs and me for lunch at Little Redhawk Café. Given Jon’s scholarly interest in French popular music and Frederic’s having been in the New Wave band Suicide Romeo, they found much to talk about. I asked my colleagues what they would be teaching about at 1 p.m. Brian’s Literature students will be reading poetry by Irish Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney, who died over the weekend. Anne was analyzing a science fiction novel, and Jon was talking about Jean Jacques Rousseau’s Enlightenment views on sex.
After a tour of the Archives and the campus, I drove Frederic and Blandine past 4 Brothers grocery, the abandoned gas station where Camilo Vergara shot a photo of kids playing basketball, McBride union hall, and Buchanan Street in Glen Park where a city agency rehabbed an abandoned house and is offering it for sale. They were amazed at all the churches in Gary, from large structures to storefronts. I’m trying to arrange with Alice Bush for Frederic and Blandine to meet local SEIU members. I suggested a visit to the Majestic Star casino, whose employees are demonstrating over unfair labor practices. New owners want them to assume their health insurance costs and reduce their hours to 30 a week.
I bowled practice games with Dick Maloney in order to convince him to come off the DL for the good of our team. At first he kept losing his grip on the ball, but Cressmoor Lanes owner put tape in the thumbhole, and he did so well he’s ready to rejoin the Engineers.