Friday, May 23, 2014

Say It Ain't So

“Don’t need someone to lean on.
I know that there’s an open door.
But if I’m faced with being replaced,
I want you even more.”
    “Say It Ain’t So,” Hall and Oates

According to legend, a young boy begged Shoeless Joe Jackson to “Say it ain’t so” regarding the Chicago White Sox deliberately fixing the 1919 World Series against Cincinnati at the behest of gamblers.  A new book by Donald Gropman pretty much proves that Jackson (who hated the nickname “Shoeless Joe”) was an innocent dupe.  After being approached to participate in what became known as the Black Sox scandal, Jackson warned owner Charles Comiskey and even tried to sit out the games.  He batted .375, hit the lone series home run, made no errors, and threw out five base runners from the outfield.  Nonetheless, Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis, beholden to the owners, unfairly banned him for life.

Nephew Joe Robinson from Seattle hadn’t heard that his favorite duo, Hall and Oates, were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  Beginning in 1975 the blued-eyed soul brothers scored six number one hits over ten years, including “Rich Girl,” “Private Eyes,” Maneater,” Out of Touch,” “I Can’t Go for That,” and my favorite, “Kiss on My List (of the best things in life).”  Pottstown, PA, native Daryl Hall sang lead vocals on most songs, but one exception was a cover of the Phil Spector-produced Righteous Brothers hit “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin.’”

When Joe comes visiting, we listen to music down in my “man cave,” as Toni calls it.  At Chesterton library we found a greatest hits CD by Hall and Oates and one by Gin Blossoms that he subsequently, unlike me, thought rather lame.  I had forgotten my library card.  The librarian needed a photo ID, so I was taking out my driver’s license when she said could take my photo then and there.  She never did look at my license to confirm who I was.  Meanwhile, Joe’s mother Andrea, with her four-pound dog Murphy in tow, spotted the “free book” shelf and found three to her liking, including a novel about Marie Antoinette.  We joked about the sign warning patrons not to return these books.
 above, Toni and Jimbo with Joe and Andrea: below, Andrea with hubby Nick Licata

At Porter Beach at the end of Waverly Avenue it was very foggy and about 30 degrees lower than inland.  Lo and behold, I spotted Discovery Charter School school buses.  Grandson James was digging a huge sand hole while Becca was in the dunes playing a version of Hunger Games.  Andrea let Murphy run around on a leash and collected smooth stones that had washed up on the shore.

Joe and I watched the Cubs lose to the Yankees despite Valpo native Jeff Samardzija’s seven shutout innings.  The former Notre Dame football star is winless for the season even though he has the league’s third best ERA.  As Cubs announcers have reiterated for weeks now, “Unbelievable.”  Then we watched, stunned, as the Blackhawks, leading 2-0 late in the second period, yielded six straight goals.  Brother-in-law Joe Okomski called, to tease me, I thought, but, no, he’s rooting for Chicago now that the Flyers have been eliminated.

Chesterton Tribune reporter Kevin Nevers thanked me for mentioning him in a flattering manner in Steel Shavings and passed on sympathies to Anne Balay, unjustly denied tenure.  A similar situation involving Wittenberg University’s English Department caused Nevers to leave academia.  Nevers called one senior member a dogsbody – a word I’d never heard before meaning lackey or toady.  I can think of faculty at IUN that fit such a description.  In the British Royal Navy, dogsbody referred to junior officers called on to do chores that senior officers wanted to avoid.

Nevers wrote: “Newspaper writing is disposable, most folks don’t even look at bylines (hell, I don’t myself, usually), so when I started this gig 17 years ago, I pretty quickly had to get over the writer’s natural desire for praise.  It doesn’t mean I don’t like to hear it.  But I rarely do.  So thank you from the bottom of my heart.  It’s funny you were drawn to my piece on [Vietnam POW] John Borling.  I actually threw myself into that one, enjoyed writing it, and still think it’s probably the best thing I’ve done in the last couple of years.  But at the time it just died on the page.  Nobody said anything about it, the sheer silence was stunning, and I confess to being surprised by that.  It gladdens and heartens me to no end that you enjoyed the story.”

After Paul Kern and I published our social history of IU Northwest, “Educating the Calumet Region,” I expected a big campus reaction, some criticism but also praise, especially after distributing copies to many faculty and administrators.  Instead the sheer silence was stunning.  On the other hand, at an oral history conference an overflow, appreciative audience enjoyed my paper, “The professor Wore a Cowboy Hat (And Nothing Else): Ethical Issues in Handling matters of Sex in Institutional Oral Histories: Indiana University Northwest as a Case Study.”

Nevers offered to buy me lunch at The Red Cup in downtown Chesterton in return for, in his words, “the remarkable achievement that is Steel Shavings.” I’ll take him up on that and maybe bring Anne Balay and Amanda Board along. 
NWI Times photos by Jonathan Miano

Principal Phyllis Allison, retiring from John Simatovich Elementary School in Union Township after 41 years, got a surprise helicopter ride on her final day.  Students and staff formed the number 41 and waved to her.  I’ve never been in a helicopter, which I associate with Vietnam, and have no desire to do so.

Indiana governor Mike Pence has started campaigning unofficially for the 2016 Republican Presidential nomination, sucking up to multi-millionaire fat cats.  He has been a disaster for public education, attempting to lower certification standards and disassociating the state from Common Core.  One fellow Tea Party ignoramus in Florida, State Rep. Charles Van Zant, claimed that Common Core’s aim was to “attract every one of your children to become as homosexual as they possibly can.”

Thursday, Joe and Andrea’s last evening with us, Angie and the kids and Lisa and Grace from South Bend joined us for a ham dinner with all the trimmings.  Phil’s family will be arriving for the weekend, culminating in a Memorial Day picnic at Lisa and Fritz’s place.  I can’t wait to see granddaughter Tori, leading scorer on her school’s soccer team.  Earlier she had played basketball and volleyball.  Last year she had been able to squeeze in cross-country.                  
                                                            (photo by Alissa Lane)
Former student and Gary police officer Todd Cliborne asked to use me as a reference.  He’s a finalist for a position as Director of Campus Safety at Manchester University.  I last saw him at my retirement party; his daughter must be of college age by now.

Earl Jones has designed a dual enrollment course for the Gary School Corporation entitled “The City.”  It will concentrate on the social, economic, and historical development of American cities with focus on Gary.  One of the required books will be my “Centennial History” entitled “Gary’s First Hundred Years.”

The season finale of “The Americans” took an unusual twist.  The Russians were hoping to recruit the children of Elizabeth and Philip, who told them to leave Paige and Henry alone or they’d be done working as spies.  On the other hand, Elizabeth seemed intrigued by the idea.  So we shall see.  Unfortunately sexy Nina seems on her way back to the motherland.  If so, I’ll miss her.

Michael Bayer passed along a BBC report about a recently unearthed document about the Allied Command wanting the liberation of Paris in August of 1944 to be a whites-only celebration.  Free French commander Charles de Gaulle wanted Frenchmen to the lead march.  General Eisenhower’s chief of staff, Walter Bedell Smith sent him a confidential memo stating: “It is more desirable that the division consist of white personnel.”  Because almost all French divisions were integrated, the black soldiers were replaced by troops from other units.

In “As I Knew Them,” the memoir of James E. Watson (July’s book club selection) the Hoosier Senator (1916-1933) mentions that although Republicans were the dominant political party for more than a half-century following the Civil War, temperance was an issue that hurt them at the polls, enabling future vice-presidents Thomas A. Hendricks and Thomas R. Marshall to win Indiana gubernatorial races in 1872 and 1908.  Factional feuding also hurt the GOP, and Watson describes a vitriolic speech Half-breed James G. Blaine made about Stalwart leader Roscoe Conkling, who allegedly strutted like a turkey gobbler.  After someone compared Conkling’s skills as an orator and party leader to the recently deceased Maryland Congressman Henry Winter Davis, Blaine exclaimed: “The resemblance is great!  It is striking.  Satyr to Hyperion, Thersites to Hercules, mud to marble, dunghill to diamond, a singed cat to a Bengal tiger, a whining puppy to a roaring lion.  Shadow of the mighty Davis!  Forgive the profanation of this jocose satire.”  Conklin never forgave him, and the enmity cost Blaine the Presidency in 1884.

Gordy Fine Art and Framing Company in Muncie is featuring Corey Hagelberg’s woodcuts, including one I hadn’t seen before.

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