Saturday, August 16, 2014

Living in the Real World

“The sting lingers after
For such a long time after . . .
Now it’s too late
The deck was already stacked.”
    “Living in the Real World.” Billy Rush

Billy Rush played lead and rhythm guitar for The Jukes, Southside Johnny’s awesome band.  My favorite song from the classic 1979 album “The Jukes” is “All I Want Is Everything,” the first cut on side one.

In Las Vegas the United Steelworkers (USW) passed a constitutional amendment to add sexual orientation and gender identity or expression to the categories of protection.  Mike Olszanski wrote:
“Martin Luther King said, ‘The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.’ History was made at the USW convention this week with a resolution extending human and civil rights protections to LGBT steelworkers.  The resolution was passed largely through the efforts of Dr. Anne Gladys Balay, formerly of Indiana University Northwest, whose book, 'Steel Closets,' interviewed LGBT steelworkers in the Gary mills, and inspired union members to demand protections for their brothers and sisters. Kudos to Anne, and all the USW members who stood up for justice. This makes the Union stronger!”

Anne Balay, feeling, in her words, “pleased and proud,” posted a copy of USW Resolution No 7 – Civil and Human Rights and wrote:
“Please share this link -- GLBT people deserve fair treatment at work, and the USW has committed to protecting ALL its workers. My book helped make that happen. If enough people share this, maybe it will get back to my former boss, and IUN will feel an ounce of regret for being less progressive than the goddamned steelworkers!”

The question remains: will idealistic resolutions produce meaningful attitudinal changes in the mill workplace?  Obviously, not if done in a vacuum or mere window dressing, but it is a necessary first step.  The good news is that the impetus for the USW resolution started from below in numerous locals, not only in Northwest Indiana but elsewhere.  The next step is for workers to come forth with grievances when mistreatment occurs and for union officers to take these complaints seriously.
As IUN prepares to start a new school year without the services of Anne Balay, I suppose the Old Boys (among my most loyal blog readers, I’m told) can gloat.  Anne is ready to move on mentally and end the torture of hearing unjust things bigots have said and written about her.  If my advocacy of her cause was for naught, at least my descriptions of her mistreatment are part of the historical record.  In short, there is no doubt in my mind that she was a victim of sex discrimination because she was too outspoken and not ladylike enough.  Rather than be judged on her record of teaching, research, and service, her enemies circulated specious rumors and innuendoes about her that poisoned the tenure and promotion process.  Studies have shown that assertiveness, while admired in male employees, is commonly seen in a negative context (as pushiness) in women.  The fact that she was an open lesbian magnified this phenomenon and elicited negative evaluations from a tiny minority of students.  Her detractors seized on these complaints, valid or not, as an excuse to deny her tenure.

Depressed about “living in the real world,” I chatted with high school classmate Mary Delp Harwood and college roommate Rich Baker about our trip east and the golden, olden days at Upper Dublin and Bucknell. Baker and I recalled nearly everyone on our freshman dorm floor although we were a little fuzzy on names.  I mis-identified Bill Munger as Ray Mungo (confusing him with the Sixties rebel and author).  Munger’s uncle was athletic director at Penn and got the two of us tickets to the 1960 NFL championship game between the Eagles and Packers.

According to Jay Winik’s “April 1965,” Confederate President Jefferson Davis was rather benevolent toward his slaves - tolerating no miscegenation, keeping families together, and trusting a black overseer to manage his Brierfield plantation.  Ironically, that deluded him into thinking such treatment was typical.  On the other hand, General William Tecumseh Sherman, liberator of thousands of slaves, loved the customs of the antebellum South and, in Winik’s words, “was a staunch a Negrophobe as any Southerner, which is to say an inveterate racist by today’s standards, and he despised the abolitionists with a fervor that matched that of any plantation owner.”  The main difference between the two was that Sherman loved the Union and fought secessionists and their Rebel foot soldiers to keep it intact.

Winik ends “April 1865” with a T.S. Eliot quote about April being the cruelest month and these words:
As flag-draped homemade coffins were lowered slowly into the ground; as tearful widows combed the remains of battlefields, lamps held aloft in one hand, turning over corpses to search for their husbands with the other; as bareheaded Americans everywhere trembled in the evening’s chill; as young wives hesitantly watched the road through their windows; and as exhausted, hungry, maimed, and brooding ex-soldiers limped their way to their homes, the nation collectively strode into a new era.”

The movie “Lucy” had three good things going for it: sexy Scarlett Johansson kicking ass, Morgan Freeman totally believable as a learned professor, and stunning visuals culminating in time travel back to the original Lucy.  The Korean villains were suitably scary, but the car chase (a pet peeve of mine) where innumerable vehicles overturn or crash was unrealistic and unnecessary.

Since 6 year-old Nathan Woessner got trapped in a huge sinkhole on Mount Baldy last summer, the sand dune has been closed to the public.  During the past week geologists have found several holes, which seem to appear and then vanish within 24 hours.  Chicago Tribune reporter Colleen Mastony wrote:
“Researchers point out that Mount Baldy is a fast-moving dune that shifts several feet a year.  Underneath, they’ve found the remains of a house, along with pots, pans and bottles.  They know there is a wooden staircase that once led to an observation platform, and they theorize that other structures might make the sand unstable.” 
Another apparent culprit: disintegrating trees.
 Susanna and Michael Guba

Steve McShane gave Glenn Karlberg, whose wife Cindy recently donated family materials to the Archives, a tour of our facilities, and then I took him to Diner’s Choice Restaurant in Hobart.  Connections Magazine recently expressed interest in publishing a piece I wrote about Cindy’s grandparents, Michael and Susanna Guba, and we discussed photo possibilities to go with it.  We have a Xerox copy of the Gubas but need a to find a way to enhance its quality.  Cindy read in my blog about longtime Gary furniture storeowner Albert Cohen and bought a chair from him for $15 that she still has.

Henry Farag reported that last Sunday’s presentation of “The Signal: A Doo-Wop Rhapsody” at the Acorn Theater in Three Oaks, Michigan, was a sell-out and that they’ll be an encore performance in October. WGN’s music critic urged Henry to think big, meaning Broadway as an ultimate destination.

Valpo History professor Heath Carter has penciled in my appearance for September 29 in his Fall course entitled “Hands on History: Civil Rights in our Backyard.”  I hope also to go on September 22, when the class starts studying Gary and former mayor Richard Hatcher may make an appearance.
 Mo'Ne Davis

Intriguing reasons to watch the Little League World Series tournament, include a black team from Chicago, Jackie Robinson West, representing the Midwest and pitcher Mo’Ne Davis from Philadelphia, who hurled a shutout in her first Series outing.  Teammates love Mo’Ne and have her back, her mother told reporters.  I also love watching the Venezuelans with their scrappy shortstop and baseball instincts well beyond their years.
For many months at Kids Stuff Play Systems Sean and Shannon Smith have been constructing a replica of Octave Chanute’s glider.  Saturday the Aquatorium Society raised the steel structure near where the statue of Chanute and not far from where his glider experiments took place during the mid-1890s.

Saturday Ron Cohen drove me to Fred Chary’s 75th birthday celebration.  As always, wife Diane had all sorts of goodies on hand, and Jean Poulard brought a huge bottle of champagne plus appropriate glasses for a toast (for good measure he added a French song after we all sang “Happy Birthday.”  It’s always fun to see Diane’s brother and former softball teammate Mike Kubiak, now a proud grandpa (he showed me a video of a six year-old hitting a golf ball) and still a fisherman.  The only time I’ve ever taken LSD was at a Porter Acres picnic where Mike had a huge salmon on the grill that seemed to my addled brain to be in pain.

What a pleasant surprise to see Milan Andrejevich (above) and Karen Rake, both treated rather shabbily when at IUN.  Milan was a History adjunct whose courses on Eastern Europe and terrorism were popular, but instead of keeping him on after Chary retired, his position got eliminated for no good reason. Now Milan works at Ivy Tech.    Karen Rake, who now teaches French at Valparaiso University, ran afoul of a snobby colleague who lost sight of what IUN’s primary mission should be: teaching and learning.  Karen was with a delightful gentleman named Dick Hutter, who once worked for CBS Records and was a County Lounge Friday regular who knew IUN characters Bill Staehle and Dan Orescanin and my friend Clark Metz. When he claimed that he and Karen met because he was looking for a dinner companion who was a good conversationalist, I quipped, “I’ve used that line.”  Kubiak, who had some Country Lounge stories of his own, chimed in, “That’s a good one. I might have to use it some day.”  Hutter was a good sport; I’d like to know him better.

As I was leaving, Fred gave me a copy of his new book “Chutzpah and Naivete: An American Graduate Student Bursts Through the Iron Curtain to Do Research in Bulgaria.”  He inscribed it, “To Jim, for fond memories and friendship over the years.”  He told me that my blog inspired him to take on the project.  I gave him an album of baseball highlights from 1980 when the Phillies won the World Series.  Back then we’d both try to tune in WFIL radio station in Philadelphia in the evening when sometimes we could get the signal and then call each other with updates. Thanking me for the record, Fred wrote that it “brings back memories.”

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