Friday, June 6, 2014

The World I Know

“Has our conscience shown?
Has the sweet breeze blown?
Has all kindness gone?
Hope still lingers on.”
    “The World I Know,” Collective Soul

Evoking D-Day, Steve Spicer wrote: 70 years ago in these wee morning hours folks all over America were awakened by family, friends and neighbors telling them, ‘It's started.’ The largest amphibious landing in history was underway in what would determine the fate of the war. Little commerce would occur today. People were glued to their radios praying for neighbors, loved ones and the fate of the day. Casualties were heaviest on Omaha Beach where the Americans landed, but overall there were about 9,000 casualties, about 3,000 were fatalities. Never forget. Eleven months later Hitler would kill himself in his bunker.”

The Post-Trib’s Jerry Davich interviewed several WW II vets while NWI Times reprinted moving columns by Ernie Pyle.  In Normandy, 70 years after the hellish battle, President Obama spoke eloquently about the sacrifices that changed the course of history, and survivors stood at attention, or, if in wheelchairs, raised their arms for the French, Canadian and American national anthems.  Sadly, few of them will live to see the ceremony ten years hence.

In Scottsdale, AZ, Cindy Karlberg, spotted Ivan Jasper’s name on my blog.  Having dated him 34 years ago, she wrote: I was around 21, working in a store called Jeans America at Southlake Mall.  He was about 8 or 9 years older but I thought he was a dream.  Ah, to be so young and naive again.”  Ivan took her to an Edward Hopper Exhibit in Chicago.  Cindy thought him “the coolest, most sophisticated man I had ever met.”

Ivan was quite a charmer and a big influence on my life.  He took history courses with me on Immigration and the Sixties and asked me to be on Porter Acres softball team.  I was their pitcher for 8 years until he moved to the Virgin Islands and the team broke up without his leadership.   I attended his wedding and many parties at the hotel along Route 30 where he and Sandy and Tom and Karen Orr lived.  They introduced me to the free and easy counter culture lifestyle of the Seventies.  Those were the days!  He was like an uncle to my two sons and every few years returns to the area and looks me up, along with mutual friend Omar Farag.  I thought of Ivan at last Saturday’s Shoes concert.  I played him “Present Tense” while we were both very mellow, and he bought a copy.  Right before he moved away, he gave me numerous albums, including that one with the wrapper still on.  He’d never played it.  Since mine was almost worn out, I was thankful.

Cindy is a big fan of WXRT and still listens via computer.  On the way to work I heard “Over the Hills and Far” (Ivan was big into Led Zeppelin), “The World I Know” by Collective Soul, and “Crossfire” by Stevie Ray Vaughan, who died 24 years ago, along with three members of Eric Clapton’s band, when a helicopter leaving Alpine Valley Music Theatre in East Troy, Wisconsin, bound for Chicago, crashed.  Collective Soul, from Stockbridge, Georgia, is best known for the song “Shine.”

Construction on 80/94 has slowed traffic considerably, with weird lane configurations hazardous to bad drivers.  One car was swerving so much, probably a drunk despite the early hour, that I feared he’d hit the concrete barrier or trucks in the adjacent lane.  They were giving him wide berth.  As I was exiting at Broadway, I spotted a large snapping turtle in the right lane, hopefully able to retreat before getting squashed.

Former Hammond pastor Jack Schaap wants a judge to reduce his 12-year sentence for having sex with a 16 year-old, claiming the girl seduced him.  First Baptist mega church spokesman Ed Lapina told the NWI Times: “We stand with the court on the judgment.  The girl had a tough past.  She came here for help and that should have been our goal.  It should have been (Schaap’s) goal.  That didn’t end up happening.”  On Facebook Tony Rose quipped: “Maybe the courts can help him avoid being victimized again by castrating him.  They can use the rusty old knife that’s hanging in my potting shed.”
Jane DeGan in front of Phyllis Schwaiger (in big hat) 

John DeGan donated to the Archives a treasure trove of his mother Jane’s photos.  One, dated 1935, is of young Jane’s dress-up birthday party.  Elaine Falk came as the Queen of Hearts.  Brother Tom Krueger’s WW II letters from the Pacific formed the basis for Steve McShane and my book “Skinning Cats” (a Seabees construction battalion reference to driving Caterpillar machinery).  A train buff, John DeGan is active with the Hoosier Valley Railroad Museum in North Judson, IN

Jackie Gipson stopped by my cage after using IUN’s outmoded law library a floor below me.  She and Floyd live across from Wirt Emerson School; neighbors have complained that teachers and staff park on their street in a way that obstructs traffic.  During our walk through the Archives Peg Schoon asked Jackie, “Are you getting the ten-cent tour?”  “That’s all I can afford,” she joked.  Jackie was a lecturer in SPEA until, like Anne Balay, male chauvinists got rid of her because she wasn’t deferential enough and made waves.
Robert Blaszkiewicz forwarded an article about James Buchanan vetoing the Morrill Act.  Subsequently signed into law by President Lincoln, Buchanan’s successor, it established land-grant colleges.  Unlike today, Democrat Buchanan was a strict constructionists while Republicans then favored a broad interpretation of the constitution.  Robert mentioned that my great-great-great “Uncle Jimmy” was not portrayed in glowing terms.  He virtually never is, although LGBTs, rightly or wrongly, now claim him as one of their own.

Former student Aja McGee sent me a LinkedIn friend request.  Trouble is, I virtually never go on it.  My Eighties Shavings contains Aja’s article about legendary Tolleston marching band director Willie Horne.  His young musicians performed all over the country and won national competitions.  McGee wrote: “He took members to see the Grambling and Florida A & M bands perform.  The high-energy performances left them in awe and inspired them to work even harder.”  Horne compared his students to flowers, saying: “Some will bloom in the spring, some in the summer, some in the fall, and even some in the winter.”  McGee wrote of Horne: “His motivational and fund-raising skills were such that one year his entourage included 285 band members, pompom girls, flag bearers, and majorettes.”
above, Bourke Cockran; below, Charles A, Towne

James E. Watson’s memoir “As I Knew Them” contains an anecdote about rival New York Congressmen W. Bourke Cockran and Charles A. Towne, prima donnas who each believed himself to be the most eloquent House orator.  After Cockran spoke for nearly two hours introducing his colleague, Towne told a Democratic audience that he was reminded of an incident that took place in a Minnesota village where he once lived: “A man owned a hog which he kept in a pasture in one corner of the town. Every morning and every evening he drove this hog entirely through the town out to his home where he lived in another corner of the town, fed him, and then drove him back to the pasture.  This finally excited the curiosity of people, and one day someone asked him why he did such a thing, and he responded that he simply took him out there to feed him.  ‘Well,’ said the inquisitor, ‘but it takes so much time to do that.’  ‘Oh, well,’ answered the owner, ‘what the hell is time to a hog?’”  Then Towne, without a further word, sat down to uproarious applause, earning Cockran’s everlasting enmity.

Jerry Davich touted my noontime radio appearance thusly: On today’s jam-packed Casual Fridays radio show, we chat in the studio with region historian James Lane to talk about his latest ‘Steel Shavings,’ which captures the sights, sounds and events of Northwest Indiana in great detail.  We’ll also talk with 18-year-old Keon Brown, the heralded hero who rescued a female motorist after she suffered a seizure and crashed into his family's East Chicago home. Keon, who reacted like a veteran firefighter more than a high school senior, will tell Lakeshore listeners his story and how the incident has changed his life, including an appearance on the ‘Ellen’ TV talk show.” 

Discussing D-Day, Jerry asked whether I thought memories of WW II would soon fade.  I believe the Pearl Harbor attack and the Holocaust will continue to be etched in public memory, as well as the pure evil of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis.  Already, however, many think we fought, not Germany but the Soviet Union, which suffered 9 million casualties compared to our 400,000.  Putin deserved to be at the ceremony and in fact talked briefly with Obama and the new Ukraine president Petro Poroshenko.  I labeled what I do contemporary social history and credited as inspirations seventeenth-century diarist Samuel Pepys and Ray Smock, who kept a journal while House historian.  I brought up “Steel Closets” and Anne Balay unjustly denied tenure, concluding that it was time for misogynists in positions of power (in her case, in the tenure process) to resign or be replaced.

Keon Brown, who came off as charming and self-confident, mentioned having been in East Chicago Central’s choir but not that he’d been captain of the football team.  Heading to IU, he hopes to get an advanced degree in Criminal Justice, join the FBI, and one day be mayor of East Chicago.  I watched the YouTube highlights of his appearance on “Ellen,” and he said the hostess was very friendly and even danced with him and his mom during commercial break.

The Cubs won their fourth in a row.  After blowing a 3-0 ninth inning lead, the key hit being former Cubbie Reed Johnson’s 2-run, game-tying single, Anthony Rizzo hit a walk-off HR in the thirteenth.  They and the Phillies now have identical record, ten games under .500.

Rebecca shined in Toni’s Dance Academy recital at Portage High School entitled “Rags to Riches.”  The song lyrics were too materialistic for my taste, but that’s just me.  Showing versatility and terrific skill, Becca danced hip hop to “Million Dollar Bills,” jazz to “All About the Green,” contemporary to “Poor Man’s Son,” tap to “We’re Rich,” and executed turns and leaps to “Counting Stars.”  A three year-old cried throughout two numbers (her folks hopefully won’t buy the CD).  One dad whooped and hollered so boisterously his daughter gave him dirty looks and stuck her tongue out at him as she left the stage.  At the end of the show, while others had bouquets of flowers for their girls, he tossed her a bag a potato chips.  She refused to pick it up.  The person next to me was scandalized, but I loved it.  The star of the show was high school senior Paige Snider, graceful, lithe, beautiful, and, according to Becca, very friendly and a great mentor.
 Above, Becca Lane (holding flowers); below, Alissa and Miranda
Miranda turned 20; Toni and I sang to her as she was en route to “The Fault of Our Stars,” about two young cancer victims.  Alissa wrote: “I’m so proud of the strong, beautiful woman you have become.”

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