“Mama Mia! That’s a spicy meatball.” 1969 Alka-Seltzer commercial
Would the spicy meatball ad be considered demeaning toward Italians today? Actually in 1970 the Italian American Anti-Defamation league, led by mob boss Joseph Colombo, threatened a boycott of Alka-Seltzer unless the company ceased using the ad. Spaghetti and meatballs isn’t even an Italian dish. If meat and pasta are part of one’s meal, the two are served separately. “Mamma Mia” is also the name of the musical based on Abba’s songs.
My introduction to Italian food was a hoagie shop in Ambler and classmate Tony Tucciarone’s mother’s delicious homemade bread. My mother made spaghetti and meatballs, but I don’t recall having pizza until eighth grade at Paul Turk’s house in Michigan. The closest thing to a fast food place in Fort Washington was a “frozen custard” stand – a predecessor to Dairy Queen.
The hottest, spiciest meal I ever had was in Saudi Arabia. A couple taking my three-week Intellectual History course invited me to an Indonesian restaurant. After one bite, I seriously wondered how I’d ever finish the food. Fortunately, one of the side dishes was yogurt. A similar experience occurred when a couple in Amsterdam took me to an Indonesian eatery, but this time friends ordered a dozen dishes like one might do with tapas or Chinese food and I had a chance to suggest some less than extra-spicy items.
Paul Kern (above) enjoyed in my new Steel Shavings, “Calumet Regional Connections, 2013.” Among the memorable characters we both taught were Fred McColly, Sam Barnett, and Charles Mubarek. Paul wrote: “Lori Montalbano and Marianne Milich were two students whose subsequent careers I enjoyed following. I was sorry to hear that Lori has left IUN. I never met Tom Eaton, but I used to see him at basketball games. Like me, he stood out. No matter how hot the gymnasium, Tom never took off his coat. Your story about the spicy food at the Asian festival reminded me of the time Rhiman and Brenda [Rotz] cooked some African and Indian food and brought it to the International Affairs Club. I sampled everything and for days afterwards reeked of spicy food. It was not just my breath. My entire body smelled. But it was all delicious.”
Scott Skiles guarded by Darryl Scott; below, Renaldo Thomas and Coach Ron Heflin accept runner-up trophy
Like me a high school basketball fan, Kern recalled traveling to the 1982 state finals at Market Square Arena in Indianapolis with colleague Carl Allsup and former student Al Sterkin, writing: “We went in Carl’s sporty little car and Al curled his long body up in the hatchback and rode all the way to Indy and back that way. Roosevelt lost a heartbreaker in overtime to a Plymouth team led by Scott Skiles.” Skiles scored 39 points and hit a miracle 22-foot, last second shot to send the game into overtime. The Plymouth Pilgrims won 75-74 in double OT. Earlier in the day Gary Roosevelt’s Renaldo Thomas sank a last-second shot to defeat previously unbeaten Evansville Bosse.
Unbelievably (or maybe not) blowhard Rush Limbaugh ridiculed First Lady Michelle Obama for holding a sign expressing concern for the hundreds of Nigerian girls kidnapped by the terrorist group Boko Haram. Jon Stewart laid into him on “The Daily Show.”
Here are two poignant thoughts from Jay Keck’s “The Sand Soldiers”:
“Soldier, soldier, you have our backing.
Something us Vietnam vets are still a lacking.
Soldier, soldier they say ‘War is hell’
We’ll be here to help you and make you get well.”
A letter by Mike Olszanski to the NWI Times about “Steel Closets” contains these sentiments: “This compellingly readable and long-overdue study explores the lives of forty Northwest Indiana LGTB steel workers at the mills in Gary, East Chicago and Portage, in their own words. It is unbelievably poignant and powerful. As a long time steelworker and past president of USW Local 1010, I believe this unique work needs to be widely read, especially by workers and union representatives. I had no idea the torment some workers are forced to endure on the job, simply because of their sexual orientation. Anne’s book has ended our ignorance. Now it’s up to us to change things, for the better.”
The university was quite deserted Tuesday although I noticed Chancellor Lowe’s car in its spot by the library. At noon I spotted him on a bench in the courtyard and commented that it had turned chilly. Having been in meetings most of the morning, he said he needed the fresh air. “That’s why I couldn’t be an administrator,” I replied, “I hate meetings.”
I fell asleep prior to Patrick Kane’s overtime goal eliminating Minnesota from the Stanley Cub playoffs and got the news from Les Grobstein hours later. After mentioning that Tommy John would appear on the SCORE later, he added that John pitched seven seasons for the White Sox before traded to Los Angeles for my favorite player, Richie Allen, prior to the 1972 season. Allen was the AL MVP that year and probably saved the franchise from being moved to another city. John suffered ligament damage in his left pitching arm in 1974, and a surgeon replaced it with a tendon from his right forearm. After what still is called Tommy John surgery, the Hoosier pitched in the majors for 14 more years.
Marla Gee invited me to her graduation party at Gelsosomo’s Pizza in Crown Point, but because I’ll be going to California, I invited her to lunch instead. She’s very busy but asked for a rain check and was very touched that I gave her the new Shavings. Having sat next to me in Nicole Anslover’s Sixties class, she appears in it a half-dozen times. Since she is attending Valparaiso Law School in the fall, I also gave her a copy of “Valor” by Roy Dominguez, which has a chapter on his being a law student there.
Dilvo Ristoff’s “John Updike’s “Rabbit at Rest”: Appropriating History” contains this Updike quote: “My fiction about the daily doings of ordinary people has more history in it than history books.” Hopefully future scholars will say something similar about my blog and magazines. “Rabbit at Rest” takes place in 1989, and Ristoff has chapters on how the novel weaves in contemporary airplane accidents, the end of the Cold War, the debt crisis, the fear of AIDs, the war on drugs, and feminism. Ristoff concludes: “Rabbit’s all-pervading fear of death in the eighties is, thus, also the fear that the days of his and America’s empire are gradually coming to an end. . . . He realizes that America, like himself, is no longer ‘the big cheese.’”