Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Big Chill

“It’s a cold world out there.  Sometimes I feel like I’m getting a little frosty myself.” Meg (Mary Kay Place) in “The Big Chill

A winter storm has hit areas north and west of us, and the temp has dropped 30 degrees since yesterday, but predictions are for the snow and ice to mostly miss Chicagoland.  Let’s hope.
 Drew Fox; NWI Times photo by John J. Watkins
I read two interesting articles about the rejuvenation of Miller Beach in Gary.  One had to do with plans to construct a 150-bed hotel called Dunes Inn on five acres of property near the end of Lake Street that had been the location of a charter school.  As Ron Cohen noted, no hotel in Northwest Indiana presently offers patrons immediate access to the beachfront.  The other concerned a micro-brewery, 18th Street Brewery, opening near Lake Street and Miller Avenue.  Owner Drew Fox said, “I want to give something that’s positive to this community.”  NWI Times Correspondent Rob Earnshaw quoted George Rogge as saying, “This will be a corridor in the Miller Beach arts district.  That’s how we’ll get ourselves together.”  Fox expressed his appreciation for Rogge’s support by naming a year-round IPA beer Rogge Racer.

At the end of Nicole Anslover’s final class of the semester she and several students thanked me for my participation.  She asked students to summarize Sixties legacies in two or three words.  Answers included liberating, questioning, and violence.  My contribution: conscious-raising.  I said that if I could use five words, they’d be “Let it all hang out.”  In contrast to the repressed Fifties, when most people tried to fit in and act normal, young people spoke out, experimented with new lifestyles, and sought freedom from societal restraints.  That was exciting and intoxicating but also dangerous, and could end in tragedy for some protestors, runaways, and drug users.  Steve Abbott thought he had found the perfect environment when he moved to post-Stonewall San Francisco, but he and most of his friends succumbed to AIDS.  I wanted to bring up the quote, “I’d hate to think it was all just fashion” but couldn’t come up the appropriate movie title.  Neither could Marla Gee, sitting next to me, but after class she emailed: “The Big Chill”!!!!”  Of course.
 Riva, Emma, and Anne
Samuel A. Love and Anne Koehler spread the speech I gave in support of Anne Balay on Facebook.  Several dozen people responded, including Charles Halberstadt, who wrote: “Best status I’ve read this year.”  I even heard from high school classmate LeeLee Devenney, who said, “I do believe Mrs. Vandling would give you A++++ for that speech.”  Anne’s friend Riva Lehrer said, “Proud of the toughness and smarts and dedication of all involved.”  While I’m pretty satisfied with what I said, I wished I’d have gone into detail about a Gender Studies topic concerning transgendered people in prison.  I knew very little about the subject, and we learned about CeCe McDonald, a male-to-female transgender who went clubbing, looking somewhat like a drag queen with a wig, lipstick, high heels, and the like.  Passing a bar, she and friends were insulted, hassled and harassed until a fight broke out.  She stabbed a guy who accosted her with a broken bottle, and he died.  She accepted a plea bargain of second-degree manslaughter and got sent to a men’s prison.  Whether that was fair produced lively discussion.  Perhaps the one student who wrote, “WEIRD” on her course evaluation (all the others were very positive) was not so much criticizing Anne per se but just referring to the content. 
above, Ce Ce McDonald; below, Shannon Gibney
April Lipinsky forwarded an article from Slate entitled “The Discomfort Zone” about Professor Shannon Gibney of Minneapolis Community and Technical College, who was reprimanded for discussing structural racism in a manner that made three white complainants uncomfortable.  Tressie McMillan Cottom wrote: “Elevating discomfort to discrimination mocks the intent of the policy, but that’s not the whole of it. By sanctioning Gibney for making students uncomfortable, MCTC is pushing a disturbing higher-education trend. When colleges and universities become a market, there is no incentive to teach what customers would rather not know. When colleges are in the business of making customers comfortable, we are all poorer for it.

Ron Cohen mentioned that the campus is considering gender-neutral bathrooms, as least for the new building.  The idea would be that they’d be for one person and lock from the inside.  Ron suggested, in his words, that the campus can have restrooms open to all, as they do in France and other European countries, but it appears IUN will not be on the cutting edge of sexual/gender liberation any time soon.”

I had introduced Ron to April Lipinsky while we were outside the conference room where the Faculty Board of Review met.  She was interested in the history of IUN I had with me, and I showed her the section on the History Department during the Seventies.  Dave Malham is quoted as saying: “There were a whole bunch of young Turks from good universities.”   Bill Neil had hired all of us and, after becoming Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, had picked fellow U. of Chicago graduate Jim Newman, like him about 20 years older than the rest of us, to be department chair.  Neil recalled: “Jim Newman really liked being chairman and wanted to stay on, but a couple members engineered a plan to have the position rotate every four years or so.”

The way I remember it, Fred Chary, John Haller, and Ron Cohen were for rotation because they wanted more emphasis given to research in terms of salary increases, travel stipends, and the like.  Paul Kern and I were perfectly fine with Newman, an affable, laid back colleague, but a majority voted for rotation and Chary succeeded Newman as chair.  Neil and Newman accepted the change gracefully, outwardly at least, although when the department subsequently wanted to hire a woman Latin Americanist rather than a third Europeanist, he vetoed the recommendation, arguing that there wouldn’t be adequate enrollment to justify the position.  So we hired a male Renaissance/Reformation man, Rhiman Rotz.  At a retirement party Ron threw for me, Neil said: “Jim was one of my good hires.”  He had said the same thing when Paul Kern retired.  For all I know, he said the same thing about the other “Young Turks.”  Or he might have still been harboring a trace of resentment.

Jeff Manes started out his SALT column about Hammond art gallery owner Dave Mueller with the Jean Shepherd quote about “shards and midden heaps of the past” containing nuggets of what life was like in the distant past.  Paul Henry’s Art Gallery was once a hardware store founded in 1887 by great-grandfather P.H. Mueller, a German immigrant. Mueller recalled the days when downtown Hammond was a shopping mecca, before people moved to the suburbs and shopping malls went up in Woodmar and River Oaks.  He hopes the downtown can become viable commercially again and hosts an Thursday Acoustic Night featuring live music and a potluck dinner for five dollars.

Ken Schoon is thinking about doing a book on Scandinavians from Porter County.  I showed wife Peg my history of Portage Shavings and told her about the transcripts of oral histories of old-timers housed at the Portage Public Library.  Many early settlers were from Sweden, as was also the case in Miller.

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