“A time for love, a time for hate,
A time for peace, I swear it’s not too late.”
Pete Seeger, “Turn! Turn! Turn!”
At the Gardner Center Ron Cohen introduced a documentary about legendary folk singer Pete Seeger. Beforehand we dined at the Bakery Café with him and Nancy, Linda Anderson, Barbara Cope, Bill and Pamela Lowe, and Chuck Gallmeier and Barb Schmal. The bar area was packed with Friday afternoon regulars that included attorney Scott King and retired Gary teacher Jim Spicer. Chancellor Lowe recently returned from meetings in Louisville and was pleased to learn that Jeff Manes recently interviewed his administrative assistant Kathy Malone about the Voices of Love community choir. Among Bill’s souvenirs was a Louisville Slugger bat, which he intends to put in his office near the Bruce Springsteen poster. I told my story about getting a call in the hospital from Bruce Bergland shortly after he became chancellor. When he called me Jim, I replied that friends called me Jimbo. Just then we lost connection, and I feared he’d hung up on me. He called back and ever since called me Jimbo, even though there were times when I’m sure he uttered something profane under his breath.
Ron had copies of “The Pete Seeger Reader” on hand that he co-edited with James Capaldi. He stressed that Pete’s primary purpose was educational, not only in teaching audiences songs but imparting their political message. Seeger also put out the classic book “How to Play the Five-String Banjo.” In the early 1950s his group The Weavers had a string of popular hits, including Lead Belly’s “Goodnight, Irene,” but then they were blacklisted. It would be nearly two decades before Seeger performed on TV. He sang “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy” on the Smothers Brothers show only to have it excised from the telecast. At Tommy and Dick’s insistence he appeared again without being censored. I recall the thrill of seeing Pete on “Sesame Street” teaching workers songs in Spanish to kids and having them sing verses along with him. In 1994 President Bill Clinton presented him with the National Medal of Arts. Other recipients included Harry Belafonte and Dave Brubeck. Roger McGuinn, formerly of the Byrds, performed “Turn! Turn! Turn!” at the ceremony. Seeger also wrote “If I Had a Hammer” and “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” The documentary had clips of Bruce Springsteen extolling Seeger and his monumental influence. Pete helped get his beloved Hudson River cleaned up and believed change has to begin at the community level.
A Sports Illustrated article on Martellus Bennett, like me a Pisces, quoted the Bears tight end explaining his sign of the zodiac, usually portrayed as two interlocking fish in this manner: “There are the downstreams; they just go with the flow and everything that happens. They’re just cool about it. Then there’s the upstream ones, the ones who try to change the world and do things differently from the way they were done. They’re not easygoing. I’m an upstream one.” So am I.
Time humorist Joel Stein declared 2013 “The Year of Not Trying Too Hard.” Pope Benedict resigned; the government couldn’t design a decent Obamacare website; 60 Minutes didn’t properly fact check its Benghazi story; and a gullible San Francisco TV station anchor claimed that the Chinese pilots of a downed plane were Sum Ting Won, Ho Lee Fuk, Wi Tu Low, and Bang Ding Ow. “Congress,” Stein wrote, “passed fewer laws than any other year in American history, including the 1970s, when members of Congress were high and sleeping with one another.” Then he added: “During all that laziness, the stock market soared, unemployment went down, the deficit was reduced, the Middle East became a little more stable, and a baby was apparently cured of AIDS. Maybe for 2014 we should just take a nice, long nap.”
Saturday I picked up a Philly Steak at Subway (8.75 plus tax) and grocery shopped at Jewel, which gives away stamps redeemable for dishware. Someone had left a bunch on my check-out counter, and I scarfed them up just ahead of another lady eyeing them. Sorting through my CDs in search of two from Phil Arnold, “Santa’s Songs” and “Christmas Blues,” I found a one he burned for me of 25 Fifties hits by the likes of Elvis, Ray Charles, Dion, and Fats Domino, plus one I hadn’t heard in many a moon, “Angel Baby” by the Originals. On a whim I called Phil, and we chatted about high school classmates and college football (he was about to root on Florida State, while I would be hoping for Michigan State to beat Ohio State). Alissa had gathered with several college friends to root for the Spartans, successfully, it turned out.
Spotting an in the Sunday Chicago Tribune article about the ten 2013 albums “that mattered most,” I was amazed that Parquet Courts, the band I’ll be seeing at Pappy and Harriet’s in January, at the top of the list. The author, G.K., wrote: “The wickedly funny yet pointed and often poetic lyrics nail the limbo between youth and adulthood.” I ordered a bunch of them from Best Buy for Christmas presents.
For his piano solo in a program Sunday James performed “Luigi’s Mansion” from memory. In the Nintendo game Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon the Mario franchise character attempts to capture ghosts in five haunted mansions with a vacuum cleaner.
There were some wild NFL finishes, including three TDs in the final two minutes in Baltimore’s victory over Minnesota and an apparent Steeler TD on the last play of the game nullified because part of the runner’s shoe touched the sideline. My favorite: the Eagles scored 28 points in the fourth to overcome a big lead by Detroit. I thought I had a good chance to win the weekly pool if the Bears beat the Cowboys. They slaughtered them on Monday night football, but Nick Barclay edged me out by a single point. Before the game brother-in-law Sonny called to say he’d be rooting for Chicago since their winning would benefit the Eagles.
Alysia Abbott’s “Fairyland,” is getting sadder and sadder as AIDS exacts a fearsome toll among the author’s father’s friends. Steve Abbott writes: “Come morning I’ll be the only good fairy left in Town.” During Alysia’s senior year at NYU she learns that her father, too, is dying and goes to care for him.
Some of Anne Balay’s critics pilloried her for using the children’s book “Nappy Hair” by Carolivia Herron, believing the term “nappy” to be derogatory toward African Americans, even though it won the Coretta Scott King Picture Book Award. A white teacher in Brooklyn who used the book in a class of mainly black and Hispanic children received complaints and even death threats from numerous parents. Reviewer E.R. Bird wrote: “I decided to check out the infamous ‘Nappy Hair,’ once considered so damaging by so few (and yet so vocal).” Another customer stated: “As a 23 year-old black feminist, I really enjoyed this book. The term nappy for my generation is not as degrading as people have made it out to be. As a child my mother told me that my hair was nappy and we celebrated it. I believe we need to teach our children to celebrate diversity. Hair texture is like skin complexion, it comes in a wide range, yet we are one people! CELEBRATE DIVERSITY!!!!”
Samuel A. Love posted a photo of Gary’s Midtown neighborhood, once a bustling, overcrowded neighborhood, now looking deserted. It’s nice being Facebook friends with IU South Bend Women’s Studies professor April Lipinsky, whom Sheriff Dominguez called “a jewel of a person.” A recent post mentioned her being broken-hearted over the death of her father-in-law, Glenn Smith. She passed on this story about him: “When he heard that Ken and I met in a feminist criticism course, his response, with a twinkle in his eye, was, ‘Oh, really? Which feminists were you criticizing?’”
Brother-in-law Steve Pickert wrote: “I went to the kids' place last night to watch the Critter (Nick) while they made pierogies. Well he wanted to go outside to shovel the snow. I was already sorry I bought him the toddler snow shovel. I left him in his pajamas and put on his fall hoody and socks and shoes and mittens (but no thumb in thumb hole). The idea was that he would get colder quicker and we could come in. I wore damp gloves and wet sneakers. It took more than 30 minutes for him to agree to go back in, the little Eskimo. If only there had been some wind we could have come in earlier. I did teach him how to shovel snow. Push the snow holding the shovel at the right angle and when the shovel was full flip the snow off. He kept lifting the shovel shoulder high to flip the snow, with me calling out, "too high...too high" and he laughed and laughed. I also taught him the shovelers’ chant: ‘shovel … shovel … work … work … work … ‘ and he laughed and laughed. The kids let me stay for dinner and they cooked up a few pierogies. Mmmmm … mmmm.’”