Wednesday, June 11, 2014


“Oh I got the news this morning, yeah, the doctor told me so
They killed me in Vietnam, and I didn’t even know.
Oh the doctor said I got some time, trying to be kind.
I’ve never been a radical, but this has changed my mind.”
    “Agent Orange Song,” Country Joe McDonald and William West
Spraying Agent Orangefrom Huey Helicopter  in Vietnam

The British were the first to use Agent Orange, against Malaysian nationalists.  Americans in Vietnam employed the herbicide primarily as a defoliant in operations euphemistically code-named Ranch Hand.  Planes carrying the canisters with orange stripes on them often put on their fuselages the logo, “Only We Can Prevent Forests” (a take-off on the Smokey the Bear slogan about preventing forest fires).  As Justin Reamer wrote:

A plane flies over me,
And a huge chemical
The color orange
Comes into the field,
And the foliage above me
Begins to shrivel and die.
 . . .
Agent Orange took my voice,
So I can no longer laugh or sing,
Or talk to people like I used to,
But instead just be me.

American military officials claimed the herbicide was harmless even though studies indicated otherwise.  Manufactured by Dow Chemical and Monsanto Corporation, Agent Orange contained deadly Dioxin and was responsible for a million Vietnamese dying or suffering from debilitating diseases or deformities, what the Pentagon dubbed “collateral damage.”

Jay Keck wrote about his host of health problems resulting from his service in Vietnam in an essay entitled “Die Hard, Cry Hard.”  Born January 20, 1947, he joined up a month shy of turning nineteen.  Jay wrote: “Before I went to Vietnam, one of our buddies contracted spinal meningitis [and] we were quarantined 30 days.  I got to Vietnam August 12, 1966, [and] started out guarding the Chu Lai airstrip.  I volunteered for M-60 machine guns on August 30.  We flew to Cam Lo near the DMZ to rescue a group of marines.  We got to them after practically running the last 10 miles as the NVA was shooting our choppers out of the sky.  We got to them September 18.  On the next day we sent out 10, 4 dead, 3 wounded.  September 22 we called in supply and medevac choppers.  I was medevac’d to the USS Repose, where I was treated for malaria.  After 32 days in recovery, I joined my outfit at Chu Lai; then came monsoons and Agent Orange.”

Transferred to Da Nang as part of Operation Dixie in the spring of 1967, Keck was on patrol when a boobie trap went off.  He recalled: “It blew off my left heel boot.  Three big pieces of shrapnel [hit me], one behind the left knee, one striking a nerve in my buttocks, one in my left arm, plus I suffered hearing loss and a concussion.  The ammo packer behind me, Donald Dollarhyde, an Indian from Oklahoma, caught a piece of shrapnel in his face but was OK.”

Departing Vietnam that September, Keck, after 30 days leave, reported to Camp LeJune in North Carolina, and became a victim of corporate greed.  He explained: “Last spring they settled a claim where a company poisoned our drinking and well water for over 30 years, [causing] 15 cancers including [to] our nervous system.”  In addition to suffering from PTSD, Keck is half-blind, 50 percent deaf, battling cancers and other maladies caused by Agent Orange, yet jokes, quoting from The Who’s musical “Tommy,” that “this deaf, dumb, and blind kid sure plays a mean pin ball.” 

Keck hopes Middle East veterans get better health care and respect than his generation did.  One can only imagine their horrendous physical and psychological wounds.  The rash of recent suicides is but the tip of the iceberg.  And for what?   The so-called War on Terror was like Vietnam in that the more we meddled on foreign soil, the more citizens of those countries where we put boots on the ground despised us.  Rather than furthering the national interest, the purposes were to extend the political career of George W. Bush and increase the profits of Big Oil and Halliburton. 

In the news: veterans can now obtain prescriptions for medical marijuana in states where pot is legal.  Also: a California judge has ruled that laws protecting tenured teachers are unconstitutional because, in his opinion, they deprive poor and minority students of a decent education.  While burnt-out educators remain in the classroom for emoluments, this decision will further cripple teacher unions and disparages veteran teachers, including many who have dedicated their lives to helping poor and minority students.

Cindy Karlberg’s parents left Gary when she was just fve.  From Gary City Directories I discovered that in 1957 John and Ruth Ellen Ledwitch resided at 2509 W. Eleventh Ave. John's occupation was listed as driver.  In 1962 they lived at 839 King on the far west side, and John was employed at Calumet Marine and Supply.  He was the only Ledwitch in the directories (indicating his family probably wasn't from Gary), but there were a dozen Gubas, Cindy’s mother's maiden name.  

Cindy reports: “I was told that Ledwitch is Russian.  My mother's family was Czechoslovakian.  My mother was the youngest of many children.  I recall that I attended Ivanhoe School for kindergarten.  We only had one car so my mom would walk me to school.  Also, my last Uncle was Aurel Mailath.  His family owned a motel on Route 30, I think in Valpo.  They also made soda pop and owned a pharmacy in Glen Park.  His brother was shot by some drug addicts in the 1970s, although I could be way off on the date.  It may have been ten years in either direction.”

Located at 5700 W. Fifteenth, Ivanhoe School, named for the Sir Walter Scott novel about a twelfth-century Saxon nobleman, was one of two-dozen that Gary Community School Corporation listed as vacant in response to a 2011 state law requiring that they be made available to charter schools for purchase or lease at the price of one dollar.  

Thanks to the above link provided by Anne Balay, I listened to my rant on “Casual Fridays” about Anne’s being denied tenure because she was an open lesbian and too opinionated, a trait tolerated and even praised in male professors. I referred to “the horrible shame of it all” and labeled it the most unjust, egregious decision I’ve seen in my 44 years affiliated with IU Northwest.  My time got cut short because the day before, the Lake County Sheriff’s department requested 15 minutes to talk about a work release program for prisoners being in danger of termination.

Jerry Davich, after buying a hot dog at the venerable Arman’s, lamented that two other Miller landmarks, Wilco Foods and Dairy Queen on Miller Avenue, are boarded up.  Against all odds, Glen Park Dairy Queen is still in operation.  Once when Dave was about 8, we ran into former mayor George Chacharis at Wilco bakery.  When we got to the checkout counter, Dave was holding a bag of delicious but expensive bakery cookies that “he nice man” had surreptitiously purchased for him.  Davich related a cute story about being falsely accused of shoplifting.  Wilco morphed into Ralph’s Foods, but the handwriting was on the wall.  Like others, we ceased shopping there except in emergencies or for items that we couldn’t find elsewhere, such as canned hearts of palm.

Despite daily efforts to unsubscribe from spam sites, the unwanted emails continue to proliferate.  It reminds me of a “Game of Thrones” scene where the Lannister brothers bring up their imbecilic brother, who spent his days squashing bugs. 

Henry Farag has lined up dates for “The Signal: A Rhapsody” in Three Oaks, Michigan and Munster, Indiana.  Both venues attract Chicagoans and hopefully will land the musical a gig in the Windy City.
Chuck Gallmeier flanked by IU president McRobbie and IUN chancellor Lowe; below, Dean Mark Hoyert

Chuck Gallmeier carried the historic IU Mace during commencement.  After Edwin C. Marshall tired of attending regional campus ceremonies, the honor fell to the Faculty Organization chair.  President McRobbie’s aide kept a close eye on Gallmeier and warned him never to let the 30-inch ebony club, entwined with gold bands and collars, and topped by a gold eagle and 12 jewels, touch the ground.  Photos of him are in the IU Northwest Now graduation gallery.

While I don’t believe in horoscopes or the significance of zodiac signs, it is interesting how many civil rights activists (Medgar Evers, James Meredith, Ida B. Wells, Nelson Mandela, to name a few) and feminist pioneers (Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Emmeline Parkhurst, Annie Oakley, Helen Keller, Amelia Earhart, Pearl Buck) are cancers, born between June 22 and July 22.  Its symbol is the crab, like some Cancerians, with a tough exterior but soft inside.

The new issue of William Buckley’s online Sylvia Plath journal is due out in August.  In Little Redhawk Café I filled him in on how Anne Balay is doing now that she is no longer welcome at IUN.  She is keeping a stiff upper lip and enrolling in truck-driving school.  He sighed and told me that the English Department unanimously recommended tenure and promotion not only for her but for Pat Buckler, also shown the door by their chairman, whom they had opposed for re-appointment.  Payback is a motherfucker.  I guess Sylvia Plath had it right when she wrote in “The Bell Jar,” “If you expert nothing from anybody, you’re never disappointed.”  On the other hand, I expected so much more from those in power on my campus and in Bloomington.

Music instructor Peter Aglinskas thanked me for volume 41, adding: I am enjoying the publication immensely and love your freeform approach to weaving contemporary and historical content together into a very personal tapestry.  I must admit, you had me hooked from page one, as the ‘Squeezing Out Sparks’ album was one of my faves from the Summer of '79, 'Passion is No Ordinary Word' being my favorite track.  The crunchy Les Paul riffing by guitarist Brinsley Schwarz is also hard to beat.”  “Passion Is No Ordinary Word” is also my “fave” Graham-bo song.

Eight of us celebrated grandson James turning 14 at Ponderosa Steak House (his choice), still in business like when we moved to Miller 40 years ago.  Back them the customers were mainly truckers or, like us, families on a tight budget.  Now the clientele included numerous elderly men (pensioners as Brits would say) eating by themselves.  When their kids were younger, Dave and Angie would go on Tuesdays, when those under 12 ate for free.  They’d order two steak buffets, pig out on the buffet, take the steaks home, and the bill would be under $20. 

According to Jeff Manes, Jeffrey Baumgartner, who is doing 30 Miller paintings in 30 days.  He’ll show the work at Gardner Center, where he will also be performing a one-man play entitled “Barrymore’s Ghost.”  A recent resident, he thought painting such things as the Father Marquette statue, Ono’s Pizza, dunes scenes, and the like would be a good way to get to know Miller Beach.  He might want to do one of Anne Balay’s house.  Manes started off the piece with this Barrymore quote: “You can’t drown yourself in drink.  I’ve tried, you float.”

My computer wouldn’t accept my password, so, with the help of IT technician Augie Reyes, before I could access it, I needed to change it.  Part of the procedure involved answering three questions from a group I could choose from.  One was my brother’s middle name; another, to my surprise, asked my favorite board game (Acquire).

After Victoria Woodhull and Tennessee Clapfin (“The Scarlet Sisters”) were incarcerated and abandoned by most suffragettes, they moved to England and married wealthy men.  Woodhull repudiated many of her earlier outspoken views on marriage and free love, while Tennie continued to agitate for women’s rights.

1 comment:

  1. we lived on 12th ave. between Marshall and Taney until August of 1958. My parents decided to move to Hobart after my brother was involved in a series of fights at Tolleston High School. My father actually grew up in Hobart where the family lived in a series of houses my grandfather built on Pennsylvania street ( family lore says he built house serially as relatives from Jasper County coming north to industrial jobs moved in on him ). Fred J. was a city councilman and that career was the source of my father's ( and , by extension i am sure, my ) distaste for politicians. My memories of Tolleston exist but are very dim early childhood ones. a drive through the old neighborhood in the mid 90s revealed the distortion of dimension childhood memories provide. in an odd twist i have spent most of my adult working life in Gary...industrial dinosaurs die hard.