Monday, May 5, 2014


“You’re a tomboy
It must be pretty tough.
You’re a tomboy
Oh, you can’t hide it enough.”
    “Tomboy,” Romantics

Milan and Marsha Andrejevich introduced me to the Romantics, a power pop band I saw live at Valparaiso University a quarter century ago.  “Tomboy” appears on the album “National Breakout,” which I had on recently.  A guy is trying to “make her mine” and tells the tomboy, “Changing roles is your obsession.”  Nothing wrong with that although the admirer hopes to change her.

In my youth tomboys liked to compete in sports and climb trees, rather than play with dolls.  Kathleen Birchler fit that mol.  At Fort Washington School she once beat up a bully a grade ahead of her.  During the pre-feminist Fifties parents tried to curb tomboy behavior as daughters approached puberty.  Now we celebrate athletes such as soccer star Mia Hamm, tennis ace Vanessa Williams, golfer Lydia Ko, and jockey Rosie Napravnik.  Gender identification being a continuum, our culture should celebrate the diversity of personality types.  Teenager Anne Balay loved Bruce Springsteen, got married, had two kids, and at age 31, after undergoing disappointing relationships with men, finally acted on her attraction toward women.

Janice and Jerome Grskovic invited me to an end-of-semester party for Education faculty and families.  They own several acres in Michigan City and have a well-used bluebird house.  Occupants bring their offspring back for a visit, and the next generation carries on the tradition.  When hawks teaching their young to hunt go after small birds, Janice tries to shoo them away.  Rochelle Brock, back from a sabbatical in Barcelona, discussed he recent threats to UTEP and rued Anne Balay’s termination.  I was hoping Vernon Smith would be there so we could discuss the upcoming Froebel School historical marker ceremony.  Attorney Mike Halpin, my former National Lakeshore neighbor, was rooting for Uncle Sigh in the Kentucky Derby while I pulled for Vicar’s in Trouble ridden by Rosie Napravnik, hoping to be the first woman to win the big race.  Uncle Sigh led most of the way but faded to fourteenth. California Chrome, a 5 to 2 favorite in the 19-horse field, won while Vicar’s in Trouble finished dead last.  A glue factory may be in his future.
Karren Lee and Larry Lapidus
At Gardner Center Larry Lapidus introduced a documentary about abstract expressionist Jackson Pollack, who studied under Thomas Hart Benton, admired Native American sand painting and the Mexican muralists, and worked with huge canvases set on the floor, pouring paint onto the surfaces.  Like Beat writers and jazz aficionados, he was part of a self-destructive macho, anti-establishment postwar scene.  Like James Dean, the rebel without a cause, Pollack died when, drunk, he crashed his car.
Cindy Fredrick informed me that sculptor and critic Gordon Ligocki died in January.  Ligocki once wrote a favorable review of a show featuring Toni’s drawings based on sayings (“old saws”) that her mother Blanche employed when the situation fit.  Ann Fritz organized a memorial event at IUN in his honor that was well attended.  Gordon constructed pieces out of recycled items that he’d salvaged.  His friend Dan Erickson, who met Gordon when he taught at Ancilla College, wrote a song for him entitled “Beautiful Sky” that contains these lines:

“He could make a masterpiece
Out of garbage from the street
He taught us all things unwanted
Help to make this world complete.”

Judy Ayers inquired about the Dale Fleming drawings in the Archives for a summer exhibit featuring Miller Beach artists and photographers.  In the spring Ayers Realty Newsletter her column, “Farm Woman Raises Turkeys, Chickens, Judy” mentions a Mother’s Day blouse that 11 year-old Judy and kid sister Jane bought at Vossberg’s store on 607 Lake Street.  A 1959 Gary City Directory revealed that Vossberg’s was next to Jack Spratt’s Ice Cream Cone Shop. Down the block were Leech’s Tavern, Dorsi’s Women’s Clothing, Emil’s Barber Shop, Stack’s Appliances, Miller Tavern, Miller Hardware, Singer’s Pharmacy, Glab Paint Store, and the Miller branch of Gary National Bank.  Across the street were Tittle’s Grocery, Ben Franklin Five and Dime, Dune’s Gift Shop, Julia and Art’s Tavern, Dietrich’s Castle Restaurant, Don’s Shoe Service, Safari Shop Sporting Goods, Stump’s Insurance Agency, Ayers Realty, Kool-Vent Aluminum Awning, and the office of dentist Gordon French.  Miller Beach was thriving.

Dick Hagelberg drove four of us to Memorial Opera House Sunday to see Stephen Sondheim’s “Company.”  Set in 1967, the musical dealt with a guy turning 35 with commitment problems.  Lead actor Michael Snider (Robert), was outstanding, as was the entire cast, but the plot was rather lame and the musical numbers pedestrian. There were scenes of dope smoking, copulating, and making portentous statements when drunk.   Halfway through the first act a white-haired couple nearby became disgusted and left in the middle of a scene.  They should have stayed; act two had several nice production numbers.
 Becca Lane, back, second from right; photo by Eve Landsman Wierzbicki

Toni was in Illinois for Becca’s dance recital so Barbara Cope went with us and to Sage Restaurant afterwards.  She grew up in Culver, Indiana, where their father worked at the military academy as a custodian.  The leftover food he brought home helped the family of seven get through hard times.  Barbara and Garrett, who died a year ago next week, were Gary teachers and founding members of Little Theater Guild.  Toni, arriving just as we were finishing our meals, was pleased I had a “doggie bag” for her.
Sensational White Sox rookie first baseman Jose Abreu had 10 HRs and 31 RBIs in April and made ESPN’s “Top Ten” highlights when he couldn’t get a ball out of his glove so he tossed both to the pitcher covering the bag.

Monday’s recipients of Steel Shavings, volume 43, were Biology professor Spencer Cortwright, Labor Studies mainstay Mike Olszanski, former SGA president Larissa Dragu, and English professor Pat Buckler, like Anne egregiously denied tenure.  In turn I received a copy on Buckler’s new book “Bloody Italy: Essays on Crime Writing in Italian Settings.”  One chapter dealt with books based on “The Monster of Florence,” a serial killer who preyed on couples parked on Lovers Lanes and mutilated his victims.  In the Preface Buckler wrote: “As crime writing has become more popular and titles have become more numerous, scholars have begun to recognize the value of the genre not only to readers but also for the serious study of literature in the university.”  That may be true elsewhere, but evidently not to the senior male members of IUN’s English department, who terminated her despite a sterling record.  When he wished her well, Buckler told Chairman George Bodmer that he reminded her of a Dickensian character and left him to guess which one.

Hollis Donald of Physical Plant distributed a poetic piece congratulating IUN students getting ready to graduate.  “You’ve got bragging rights,” he declared and passed on these words of wisdom:
“Life can be so beautiful, like flowers in full bloom;
On the other hand, it could be a sad heart blinded by gloom!”

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