“‘The time has come,’ the walrus said, ‘to talk of many things: of shoes and ships – and sealing wax – of cabbages and kings.’” Lewis Carroll, “The Walrus and the Carpenter”
The Shoes, my favorite power pop band, still feature Gary Klebe and John and Jeff Murphy, who started playing together 41 years ago in Zion, Illinois. Drummer John Richardson has been with them over 20 years and has also played with Gin Blossoms and Goo Goo Dolls. “Present Tense,” their 1979 album on Electra, made Rolling Stone magazine’s top 20 list, and the Shoes followed with “Tongue Twister” (1981) and “Boomerang” (1982). Some attribute the band’s name to a John Lennon reply to why the name Beatles; it could be any name, he joked, even the Shoes. At a St. Patrick’s Day gig 24 years ago sponsored by WMET (“the Mighty Met”) at a club near O’Hare Airport I chatted with Gary Klebe before they went on.
James, Dave, Jimbo, Phil
Phil came in for the Shoes concert. Because Robert Blaszkiewicz had a wedding reception, James went, his first concert ever, not counting Dave’s Voodoo Chili and Blues Cruise gigs. We couldn’t get Tom Wade to join us while he was over for gaming (Phil won Acquire; I prevailed in Amun Re). He has been a Shoes fan ever since Don Price turned him on to them. First stop was Red Robin for burgers. Warming up the Valpo Memorial Opera House audience prior to the main event was former student Chad Clifford on acoustic guitar. He did mostly original compositions but also a Beatles number and “Slip Slidin Away” by Simon and Garfunkel, whose lyrics are pretty depressing (about a father separated from his son and a woman who lies in bed and thinks of “things that might have been”). When Dave was a member of LINT in the 1980s, Chad’s band Digital Hair was their competition. I heard them when they were the warm-up act at a Romantics concert at VU.
The Shoes exceeded expectations. John, Jeff, and Gary harmonized beautifully and rocked out on the up-tempo numbers. Dave couldn’t believe how good their voices still sounded or how great the drummer was and sang along to several numbers. For the encores we moved from the fifteenth row up to the front, and after the finale Richardson gave a ten year-old his drumsticks. Dave yelled out “Hate to Run,” our favorite song, which they didn’t play, and John Murphy turned toward us and gave a rueful expression, as if to say, “we hate to run, too, we had a great time.” Hopefully this can be an annual tradition, just like the Smithereens, who are returning in November.
On Sunday Phil and I watched Peter Gabriel perform with an African band to open the HBO broadcast of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Then, belting out Linda Ronstadt classics (she was too ill with Parkinson’s to attend) were Carrie Underwood, Bonnie Raitt, Emmylou Harris, Sheryl Crow, and Stevie Nicks. While munching Toni’s steak sandwiches, Phil got to talking about Little League memories. Once he was on third with two outs and the score tied in the bottom of the final inning, the count was 0-2 on a weak-hitting batter. As the catcher tossed the ball to the pitcher, Phil broke for home plate. Coach Vince Panepinto shouted “Noooo!” The ball beat him, but Phil’s hook slide evaded the tag and won the game. I countered with a Porter Acres softball highlight. On second base with two outs in the seventh, I tried to score when Dave Serynek hit a sharp single to left. Third base coach Ivan Jasper put up the hold sign, but I kept running. A good throw would have nailed me, but the ball took a bad hop, and I slid in safely to win the game. Ivan was pissed but couldn’t argue with the result.
After a salmon dinner at Hagelbergs we played bridge, the first time in a while, and got home in time for the Blackhawks series finale. They scored the first two goals but lost in overtime, in heart-breaking fashion, but to the much deserving L.A. Kings. Having won two Stanley Cup championships in the past three years, the Blackhawks have done the city of Chicago proud.
Cheryl Hagelberg wanted information about previous owners of their house, which they bought from Dr. Paul A. Alfano in the mid-1970s. Using Gary city directories, I discovered that it was built around 1940 and that Edward L. Jacobs lived there for about a decade. He evidently sold it to Chris Zahiralis, from whom Alfano purchased it around 1958. While I couldn’t find anything by Googling the name Paul A. Alfano, there is a Paul P. Alfano practicing anesthesiology in New York who may be related to the Gary physician. A 2008 obit for Chris Zahiralis mentioned that he went to high school in Gary, had a football scholarship to Valparaiso University, and supposedly moved to California in 1952. Since he is still listed as owner in 1957, perhaps he had renters for a few years.
In the IUN cafeteria were two Education professors, Matthew Benus (whose field is science) and Glenn Lauzon (social studies). Benus ran into Mark Reshkin, Lee Botts, and Ken Schoon at a Shirley Heinze Land Trust function on Saturday, and I told him about the Friday “Shifting Sands” Friday event. Lauzon is researching the history of 4-H Clubs in Indiana and wrote a book entitled “Civic Learning Through Agricultural Improvement: Bringing ‘The Loom and the Anvil into Proximity with the Plow.” Steve McShane had a copy in the Archives, and it contains information on nineteenth-century Hoosier county fairs.
Vic and I, circa 1943
California cousin Susan Stone, whom I barely know but deeply respect, wanted information about my dad, Victor Cowan Lane. Born in 1916 in McKeesport, PA, he was a Pitt grad and chemist for Penn Salt Company in Easton, PA, where he met and married Midge. I came along in 1942 and my brother in 1945. In 1950, transferred to Philadelphia, Vic commuted from rural Fort Washington. My first memories of him are on a donkey in a charity softball game and fidgeting with TV rabbit ears at the Bradford’s. He and Midge continued to see their cool Easton friends, especially during summers at the Poconos, where the Zelkers had a cabin. Vic loved to bowl, golf and play poker, sometimes around our dining room table with him and his buddies smoking cigars (to Midge’s chagrin). He was a steak-and-potatoes man, but two foul-smelling dishes he liked were beef kidneys and liver and onions. He usually cooked week-end breakfast and grilled outside in warm weather. A Camel smoker (except when he caught a cold and switched to Kool menthols), he liked a stiff bourbon on ice after work. In the summer he made delicious gin and tonics and loved Rolling Rock beer from Latrobe, PA, hometown of his beloved Arnold Palmer. He was an avid Yankees fan and especially admired herd-nosed rightfielder Hank Bauer, a former marine.
As far as our relationship, it was pretty close, considering it was the 1950s. Our worst fights were when he bought barber utensils and tried to cut my hair. We played a baseball pinball game (I kept statistics) and ping pong, basketball, wiffleball, a game based on baseball where we threw a rubber ball against the side of the garage. He taught us many card games and did not like to lose. In sales during the 18 months we lived in Michigan (1954-1955), he did much traveling and often returned with sample cigarette packs the airlines handed out. He was a chlorine expert, and Penn Salt dispatched him to train derailments and other chemical spill accidents. He invented something that would have made him wealthy had not Penn Salt claimed ownership of the patent. Shortly before his sudden death in 1967, he and Midge bought property in the Poconos (where we frequently spent two weeks with the Jenkins family) and were planning to build a vacation house.
Vic loved to visit his brothers Jim and Tom and sister Aurie, and he was an avid Pitt football fan. The only times my brother heard him curse was when the referees made a bad call against the Panthers. During one game against Notre Dame he ranted that the refs must be Catholic. I recall him once using the word “crap” and arguing with Midge that it was nothing wrong with the designation. A rock-ribbed Republican, Vic would get red in the face when, home from Bucknell, I’d criticize his idol Ike. He never hit me or even came close. He was deeply disappointed when I quit law school but ultimately respected my decision to pursue a PhD and teaching career. The last thing I recall him saying to me is, “It will be nice to have a doctor in the family.”
Cousin Susan replied: “ Reading about your Dad, I was struck by the similarity to my Dad - both smoked Camels, played cards, But my Dad tinkered with everything, not just rabbit ears. In mid-life, Dad became an alcoholic, which also may have run in his family. According to him, his Grandfather James B. Lane spent all his time at the Gentlemen's club and seemed to have stopped working early. Mother told me our Grandfather, Dick Lane, never touched a drop of liquor until he was in his 60's, stating he said that in his family the men couldn't hold their liquor so he wasn't going to risk it. The stories I heard in McKeesport about Dad's brother, Uncle Jim, were that he was so good at holding his liquor that one of his roles in WWII was to negotiate with the Russians. They expected the American to drink with them while they talked. and the other officers became incapacitated. Uncle Jim would drink a large amount of cream right before he met with them, which I guess slowed down absorption. I knew Uncle Jim when he was 60ish and he drank but it did not seem to be a problem, just something that brought him pleasure.”
Susan’s mention of Uncle Jim triggered my first memory of him – visiting us in Easton wearing a military uniform, probably right after WW II ended. During the Depression he had left home and traveled to San Diego, California, where he eventually became a top Chicken of the Sea executive. When I was 12, his family visited and we took them to Valley Forge. I was in awe of his beautiful daughter Judy, probably a year or so older than I and sophisticated but down-to-earth. Toni and I stayed with Uncle Jim and Aunt Tut for a few days in January 1965, after we got married and drove across the country before flying to Hawaii. I beat Uncle Jim in gin rummy (he may have let me, something Vic never would have dreamed of doing), and he took us to an exclusive revolving restaurant atop a skyscraper.
President Obama traded five Taliban prisoners held at Guantanamo for Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, a POW for five years who left his base in Afghanistan while on guard duty. Some in his squad considered him a deserter, and prior to his disappearance and capture, he had expressed disgust at the “self-righteous arrogance” of American war policy. As expected, Senator John McCain and other Republicans blasted dealing with the Taliban.
Vietnam veteran Jay Keck has had some horrendous experiences with Indiana’s V.A. system, which, according to him, ranks at the bottom in terms of care and benefits. If Republicans are really serious about fixing the long delays those seeking help face, they’ll support a bill sponsored by Senator Bernie Sanders, Chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee. It would allow veterans to seek care outside the VA and forgive college loans for doctors and nurses who go to work for the agency.
Here are some verses of Jay Keck’s “Suicide Soldiers”:
WE’RE SUICIDE SOLDIERS WHO DIE ALONE
WE’VE LIVED THRU WAR, NOW WE DIE AT HOME
WE’RE SUICIDE SOLDIERS WHO LOVED THIS LAND
NOW WE DIE AT OUR OWN HAND
. . . .
WE’RE SUICIDE SOLDIERS WHO WILL NOT BEG
FOR THE BENEFITS WE EARNED LOSING ARMS AND LEGS
WE’RE SUICIDE SOLDIERS WHO WERE DRIVEN INSANE
FIGHTING A WAR MANY THOUGHT IN VAIN
Keck ends with this plea: “Dear suicide soldiers, please don’t die, try and get help, try and get by.”