Monday, November 18, 2013

November Storms

“I dreamed that there was a point to life and to the human race
I dreamed that I could somehow comprehend
That someone shot him in the face.”
   Lou Reed, “The Day John Kennedy Died”

Time has a cover photo of JFK in Dallas riding in a limousine moments before his death.  An article recites the various conspiracy theories, including even the allegation that LBJ had a hand in the foul deed but then debunks them even though a majority of Americans do not think Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone or was the lone gunman. 

On the cover of Rolling Stone is the late great Lou Reed, whose father worried that he was queer and submitted him to electric shock treatment.  On a tribute page REM’s Michael Stipe said, “Every single child of the 21st century who is not square owes him a moment of reflection and thanks.”  Reed helped induct Dion Dimucci into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and once told him, “The only fear I have is living in Suburbia.”  I put on Drella, the Lou Reed and John Cale CD about Andy Warhol, while reading about their days at the Factory with Velvet Underground.

Saturday Toni and I did the first of our two Thanksgiving food shoppings (next week: ham and perishables) and after several months accumulated enough Jewel stamps for six free dinner plates. 

I finished Will Schwalbe’s “The End of Your Life Book Club,” finding the later chapters slightly disappointing.  Rather than containing much commentary about the various books Schwalbe and his critically ill mother read, it’s mostly about her brave front in the face of declining health.  All there is in the chapter on Elizabeth Strout’s “Oliver Kitteridge,” a novel I read on Gaard Logan’s recommendation, is that the strong-willed main character reminded Will of his mother.  I did, however, find this arresting quote from John Updike’s “My Father’s Tears” about attending fifty-fifth high school reunion: “The list of deceased classmates on the back of the program grows longer; the class beauties have gone to fat or bony-cronehood; the sports stars and non-athletes alike move about with the aid of pacemakers and plastic knees, retired and taking up space at an age when most of our fathers were considerately dead.”  The last two words imply that old folks are dead weight – but they are important consumers. Rather than see themselves as old and lame, Updike adds, the reunion attendees see old friends and acquaintances that remind them of school recesses, high school dances, and other memories. 

Schwalbe passed on this riddle from an “All in the Family” episode: A father and son are in a terrible car accident.  The father dies instantly and the boy is taken to an emergency room, where his life is in jeopardy.  The doctor on duty says, “I can’t operate on my own son.”  How can that be?  The answer: the doctor is his mother.
Evelyn Passo

Enjoyed a fine beef tips meal at Miller Bakery Café with Toni and the Hagelbergs.  In the house were Herb and Evelyn Passo (proud to report their eldest was in his final year of law school) and George and Sue Rogge (I asked if they threw an 11-12-13 party like on 10-10-10, 11-11-11, and 12-12-12; they hadn’t).  Afterwards we attended Larry Lapidus’ Gardner Center presentation about maestro Arturo Toscanini.  A staunch anti-Fascist, he refused to perform in Germany or his native Italy while Hitler and Mussolini were in power.  During WW II he arranged a composition combining the national anthems of the four European Allied powers, including the Soviet Union and ending with “The Star Spangled Banner”.  The crowd of about 50 applauded at the end of the piece.  Wine and desserts from Angela’s Pantry were a nice touch.  I told Miller Beach Arts and Creative District organizers Karren Lee and Cindy Fredrick that I was speaking about “The House on Mango Street” at next March’s book club meeting, and they promised to try and come.

University of Illinois fired tenured Engineering professor Louis Wozniak, 75, who had allegedly harassed students after failing to win a teaching award and taped them without their knowledge.  He was told to not put certain information having to do with a private conversation he had with a student on his website but did so anyway.  He might have survived that problem except that he sent an email to a hundred graduating seniors, whom he called his “adorable GKs” or grandkids, in which he said: “If you return to visit and see me, please don’t ask if I remember your name.  Just tell it to me up front.  I only remember names of the GKs I’ve had sex with.”  As it is, he still gets to keep his lucrative pension and picked up about seven years of free money while being on paid leave.  That’s what universities tend to do to deviant faculty – pay them not to be around for a certain amount of time.  Wozniak is probably laughing all the way to the bank.

Sunday started out so mild Toni gardened and I walked around the block, admiring what’s left of the fall colors.  Then a fierce storm blew into the area after devastating tornedos struck downstate Illinois.  The Chicago Bears game was delayed two hours and high winds left 50,000 Northwest Indiana households without power.  Our lights stayed on, but the TVs and telephones were out for two hours.  I listened to the Bears overtime win over Baltimore on the radio.  After our phone service was resumed, I wished brother-in-law Sonny Okomski a belated birthday number 75 and talked about the Eagles moving into first place with a win over Washington.  Sometimes he tapes games, so I was careful not to give anything away until I knew he’d watched it.  
Joseph "Sonny" Okomski with grandkids Bella and Ben on 75th birthday

Alyssa Black showed me her poem “Baby’s Venom,” inspired by Toni Morrison’s “Beloved,” about a girl named Ella.  Alyssa wrote: “The things that hold adults back,/ things like consequence/ or that dull, old man’s fear/ don’t deter her from her goals./ She has an agenda./ She doesn’t care if you like it.”  Sounds like Anne Balay, whose boss didn’t like her agenda.

Nicole showed Sixties students a 15-minute clip about the antiwar movement between 1969 and 1971, culminating in the Vietnam veterans against the War protests.  It had clips of two Nixon speeches where he warned of America becoming a weak, pitiful giant and claimed that others couldn’t humiliate us but we could humiliate ourselves.  A weak, pitiful giant is what the war did to LBJ and eventually Nixon himself.  Throughout his life Nixon had suffered humiliations, from being turned down by the FBI and New York law firms to being shunned by Ike when vice president and then losing the 1962 California governor’s race.  Ultimately Vietnam led to Watergate and the humiliation of Nixon being forced to resign the Presidency.

Anne Balay is allowed to have an attorney with her at her upcoming Faculty Board of Review meeting, and former Lake County sheriff Roy Dominguez has agreed to help her.  Since the main allegation against her is that she “taught to an agenda,” I think it important to get a clarification as to what constitutes teaching to an agenda (feminism?) and if that ipso facto is forbidden or covered under academic freedom.

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