Monday, June 23, 2014

Out and About

“Dig me out
Dig me in
Outta this mess baby
Outta my head.”
    “Dig Me Out,” Sleater-Kinney

At the library I picked up a Wheezer CD that contained “Island in the Sun,” and “Dig It Out” (1997) by Sleater-Kinney, a Nineties “riot grrrl” group.  They sound something like a cross between The Donnas and Sonic Youth, two of my favorite bands, and have a feminist and anti-establishment perspective. 
Saturday I attended a picnic at Wicker Park in Highland sponsored by the LGBT groups Rainbow Serenity and Out and About Northwest Indiana (great name).  I passed out copies of my Steel Shavings with Anne Balay’s book “Steel Closets” on the cover and met two of her former students, Brandon Wagman (who raved about the course he took with her despite getting a low grade) and Karen Renee Bevil (who took every class she could from her and was shocked she’d been denied tenure).  I sat with a retired steelworker who worked 33 years at Inland (now ArcelorMittal) and was a proud member of Local 1010.  He loves cruises and was looking for a companion to accompany him.

On the way to Gardner Center to see Jeffrey Baumgartner’s exhibit, “One a Day, 30-in-30: Impressions of Miller,” I stopped by 18th Street Brewery for a glass of Bitch Hands pale ale.  The joint was hopping, with a live band in the next room.  One guy’s t-shirt had an image of Jeff Bridges as “The Dude” from “The Big Lebowski” and the word “Abide.”  Another guy wore what appeared to be a Tanzania soccer jersey.  A third shirt advertised “Pliny the Elder” (a beer made by Russian Brewing Company in California).  Baumgartner was eager to discuss his Miller paintings, despite the fact that he’d be performing the one-man show “Barrymore’s Ghost” a few hours later.  Almost half the paintings, priced around $600, had already been sold.  My two favorites were renderings of the Farmers Market with Old Miller School in the background and the cabin writer Nelson Algren and French existentialist Simone de Beauvoir shared 60 years ago.  Somebody should fix it up and open it as a bed-and-breakfast.
IU’s Board of Trustees approved plans for constructing a $45 million Arts and Sciences building at Thirty-Fifth and Broadway.  It will be a shared facility with Ivy Tech, contain a 500-seat auditorium, and hopefully spur the redevelopment of the entire area.

Post-Trib columnist David Rutter’s colleague, David Kraemer, once accused him of “species arrogance” because he killed any bugs or varmints that found their way into his house. Recently, however, Rutter took mercy on a bumblebee, trapping it in a cup with a slice of cardboard and then setting it free.  Bumblebees are one thing, but this morning I swatted a fly that had been tantalizing us for 24 hours with no remorse.  Toni won’t let me kill spiders but despised thousand-leggers who’d occasionally show up in our Maple Place bathtub.
above, Brian J. Sullivan; below, soakies
A Center for Visual and Performing Arts in Munster summer exhibit, curated by John Cain, was entitled “Baby Boom or Bust! Iconic Imagery by Brian J. Sullivan, Memorabilia from an Atomic Childhood.” the place was packed because of a children’s play and outside activities in progress.  To our delight, not only were Sullivan’s Pop Art paintings on display but also artifacts that Cain had amassed over the years, including lunch boxes, Barbie dolls, woodcuts of Jackie and JFK, games and toys, and “soakies” – bubble bath containers featuring all kinds of cartoon figures.  One wall contained dozens of paint-by-numbers renderings, a hobby that was the rage a half-century ago.  When I told Cain that a portrait of Jesus appeared to be staring at one of a naked Marilyn Monroe, he replied, “So you noticed that, eh?”   He mentioned losing numerous items when his basement recently flooded, including an essay he wrote at age nine for a class assignment about John F. Kennedy.

In a brutal denouement the U.S. World Cup team surrendered a goal to Portugal with just seconds remaining.  With his team down 2-1, Portugal’s superstar Cristiano Ronaldo executed a perfect cross to Silvestre Varela, who headed the ball past keeper Tim Howard.  A victory would have clinched a spot in the round of 16.  While the U.S. can still move on with a tie against Germany, the team let a golden opportunity slip through its grasp.  Meanwhile, female Olympic goalie Hope Solo spent the weekend in jail after an altercation with her sister and nephew.

After I sent Ray Smock an anecdote from James Watson’s “As I Knew Them,” about Congressman Samuel Sullivan “Sunset” Cox, the former House historian found out how Cox got his nickname – a fitting one given that his first and middle initials were S.S.  In 1853 Cox penned a flowery essay entitled “A Great Old Sunset.”  One of his contemporaries, Congressman David A. De Armond, got nicknamed the “Whangdoodle from Missouri.”  In British folklore a “Whangdoodle” is a whimsical gremlin.  William P. Brannan in a sermon parody referred to a place “where the lion roareth and the whangdoodle mourneth her first-born.”

A Republican loyalist, James Watson got along with many Democratic colleagues, especially conservatives such as Champ Clark, known for his rich and racy sense of humor.  The Missouri Congressman and House Speaker from 1911 to 1919 would have been the 1912 Democratic Presidential nominee had William Jennings Bryan, whom Watson disliked, not reneged on his promise to support him.  Clark and Indiana Rep. Charles Landis frequently traveled the Chautauqua circuit together, debating issues of the day so often each pretty much knew what the other would say and was ready with a clever reply.  On one occasion Landis was unable to keep his scheduled appearance and asked Ohio Congressman Charles H. Grosvenir to substitute for him.  On the day in 1907 Grosvenir left the House, having been defeated in the Republican primary the previous year by Albert Douglas, Clark delivered a eulogy made reference to that debate, noting that General Grosvenir “went right after me in a knock-down-and-drag-out fashion without any Chautauqua frills on I, and the truth is that I never got such an unmerciful drubbing in all my life.”
Alyssa Black reported that she got her first short story, “Kathleen Malone: Genius Detective,” published on a site called “Mad Swirl.”  Given Alyssa’s love of cats, I wasn’t surprised to find a feline named Maggie in it.  The main character is a strong-willed nonconformist, as is Alyssa herself.

Of the 15 people honored at IUN’s retirement reception, about half didn’t bother to attend, including Labor Studies professor Thandabantu Iverson, a wise and caring individual under-utilized during his years at the university.  Another no-show whom I had hoped to see was Angie Stojanovic in Admissions, a 40-year veteran who mentored so many young people, both new employees and students, including my good friend Shannon Pontney.  Retired Math professor Lary Schiefelbusch showed up because a member of his congregation was being honored, and former campus policeman Hank Sanko was there hoping to congratulate Fay Howard for her many years of service working the night shift. Those retiring represent more than 300 years of institutional experience that will be sorely missed and impossible to replace.  Most will probably never set foot on campus again.

I had looked forward to Dean Mark Hoyert’s witty introductions, and he didn’t disappoint.  Since secretary Dorothy Grier left, he lamented, there’s nobody to shield him from nuisance complaints or tell him what to do with green sheets and other forms.  Normally Dorothy and Diane Robinson would plan going-away parties, and Hoyert claimed it took a subcommittee more than a week to organize theirs.  Mark Uncapher did an equally good job eulogizing Jackie Coven.  Before their arrival, the attitude of most computer support services personnel was, at best, begrudging.  Now, to a person, they are friendly and helpful.  Jackie mentioned that as a military wife, she’d held numerous positions before coming to IUN.  At one someone left a briefcase with a bomb inside; at another a mentally disturbed person entered armed with a gun.  Then, she deadpanned, “I came to a really crazy place.”

With the incessant rain still coming down, I heard REO Speedwagon’s “Ridin’ the Storm Out” on WXRT as I drove home.

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