“The past is gone
But something might be found
To take its place.”
“Hey Jealousy,” Gin Blossoms
The Valparaiso Popcorn Festival began in 1979, inspired by Hoosier Orville Redenbacher having opened a seed corn plant nearby in 1951 with Charlie Bowman. Redenbacher moved to Colorado in 1990 and died five years later at age 88 suffering a heart attack while in a Jacuzzi and subsequently drowning. Two years ago Cracker headlined the festival’s main stage; this year’s main attraction: Gin Blossoms.
Steve McShane asked me to be on a panel at the Calumet Heritage Partnership’s fall conference in October about using archives and other heritage resources to discover new perspectives. The venue is the Pullman State Historic Site, which I’ve never visited, so I said yes.
After getting Kathy Malone’s permission, I prepared to give away 70 copies of my latest Shavings, which includes information on Gary legislators Vernon Smith, Charlie Brown, and Earline Rogers. I transported them on an Archives flat cart and found the long greeting table filled. Not wanting to cause trouble, I left the cart in front of an easel on which the day’s agenda was printed. Some jerk-off wanted it moved; no problem, I put it under another easel containing a poster with photos of the participating legislators. I left for 15 minutes; when I returned, the cart was across the hall next to the bathrooms where very few people would notice it. The jerk-off, who moved it, claimed the Channel 56’s film crew needed the space unobstructed. In frustration I went over to the cart, picked up a half-dozen magazines, and slammed them down. It made quite a bang, to my surprise. I left to cool off and 15 minutes later found the cart in a perfect place at the near end of the table where traffic would pass on the way in and out of the conference center. A young lady I hadn’t met before with the Black Legislative Caucus was nice as could be. The Channel 56 cameraperson, a former student of mine, told me she hadn’t requested that the cart be moved and was planning to interview legislators away from the table and easels. Once the 70 magazines were in full view, they went fast; I gave them personally to Earline Rogers and Charlie Brown, pointing out where they were mentioned.
I took Chris Young to see the Camilo Vergara display, his research field being public memory. In Savannah Center we ran into a Purdue Cal Education professor, LaVada Taylor Brandon, who teaches social studies methods and is interested in oral history. We directed her to the Dunes Building, and I promised to send her my Shavings issue on Vietnam Vets from the Calumet Region.
Samuel Love arrived at noon to help me take down the Vergara display. I kept two prints to take to my history book club meeting Monday. The topic is Martin Luther King’s autobiography, edited by Clayborne Carson. The rest Sam will install for the Midtown black party at 24th and Massachusetts. Sam and I discussed using YouTube segments as classroom aids. For a class on America since 1900 he found You Tube especially valuable at illustrating past musical trends.
Jim Morrow of the Lake County tourism board visited the Archives in search of the “petting picture” where John Dillinger had his arm around the shoulder of Estes. Maurice Yancy copied one from my Gary book. I did him one better, giving him a copy of volume 41 that had the photo in it.
Mike Olszanski posted a Facebook notice about Anne’s forthcoming “Steel Closets.” Labor Studies professor Thandabantu Iverson commented: “Dr. Anne Balay's work is groundbreaking. She helps us to learn about the subjugated lives--the experiences and daily strategies of resistance--of working-class men and women who are all too often ignored because of their sexual orientations. Dr. Balay challenges us to think more expansively about working-class identity and the urgency of building human rights struggles as working-class struggles.” Good old Thandabantu! IUN’s minority faculty are rallying around Anne.
A landscape company has been seeding a lot across from IUN’s library where an apartment formerly stood. Someone evidently peeled out on it, leaving an ugly rut. I told a guy tending the grass that I couldn’t believe someone could be such a jerk. He replied, “I’m surprised more people haven’t done it.”
Because I’ve been so busy, I’ve been falling asleep in front of the TV. One night I left the downstairs fridge door open. When Toni discovered it the next morning, she told me it was time to defrost the sucker. The next I left ice cream out all night after taking a few spoonful’s before bed. Gotta watch myself.
WXRT played a 1980 Clash song, “Pressure Drop,” I’d never heard before in a set with Lonnie Brooks’ “Sweet Home Chicago” and Warren Zevon’s “A Certain Girl.” It wasn’t up to their normal brilliant standards.
Paul Kern just finished reading Tony Judt's Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945 (2005). He wrote that Judt, who died three years ago of Lou Gehrig’s disease, “is especially strong on Eastern Europe. During the Cold War, American historians were afraid to tell the truth about Eastern Europe for fear that they would look like McCarthyite fellow travelers and so they viewed the fate of Eastern Europe with colossal indifference. Now a new generation of historians - Timothy Snider, Anne Applebaum, Jan Gross, Marci Shore, and Judt - are writing compelling histories that make clear the tragedy of Eastern Europe in the twentieth century.”
above, Alicia Nunn; below, Frederic, Blandine, Councilman, Ron Matlock, Jimbo, photo by Maurice Yancy
For Saturday’s Central District Organizing Project’s Midtown Block Party Samuel Love put the Camilo Vergara prints of murals along the front yard fence, and he had more photos of MLK on the clubhouse itself. On hand were filmmakers Frederic Cousseau and Blandine Huk, who had attended a Gary/Southshore RailCats game the night before with Dick and Cheryl Hagelberg. I introduced them to Gary activist Alicia Nunn of Grant Street Theater, Ron Matlock, who is on the Calumet Township Board, and a youthful looking Councilman-at Large Ron Brewer. Frederic and Blandine interviewed a woman from Miller who spoke fluent French and got some good photo opportunities. Archives volunteer Maurice Yancy introduced me to a woman he’s known since third grade. A man from Miller bought a large produce box of free fruit, which hit the spot on the hot afternoon.
It was drizzling on the way to the Popcorn Festival, but the rain held off and I thoroughly enjoyed the music of the Gin Blossoms and local band par excellence the Crawpuppies (whom South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority CEO Speros Batistatos called Crawdaddies). After one long medley, Chad Clifford of the Crawpuppies joked, “That’s all the songs we know.” He brought his young sons out to help with the chorus to “Hey Jude.” I was pleased the Crawpuppies performed several original songs. I ran into old softball teammates Mike Kubiak and Dave Serynek and ended up in the first row with Marianne and Missy Brush and had a nice conversation between acts with Missy’s fiancé Tyler Arcuri, an EMT who asked how things were at IUN and, like me, hopes the state legislature will authorize a badly needed trauma center near the university.
The Gin Blossoms, from Tempe, Arizona, were quite good although lead singer Robin Wilson kept urging the audience to clap their hands above their heads and wanted them to sing the choruses to “Hey, Jealousy” rather than just do the damn song himself. The original lead vocalist Doug Hopkins committed suicide in 1993 shortly after recording “Hey Jealousy,” and the band didn’t even perform his other big hit “Found Out about You,” incidentally my favorite Gin Blossoms tune. The band’s name, I learned, came from the caption “W.C. Fields with gin blossoms” in Kenneth Anger’s “Hollywood Babylon,” which was making fun of the comic actor’s bulbous nose and ravaged face. At one point Robin Wilson jumped off the stage and gave high fives to folks in the front row. Mike Heckler had a glass of beer in his hand and when their hands met, the beer spilled all over Wilson. He looked shocked but he might have instigated the contact.