Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Hard Times in America

“Got no food in the kitchen
I can’t afford the rent
I had some money yesterday
I don’t know where it went.”
         Willie Nile, “Hard Times in America”
The 2015 Imagine concert series lineup at Memorial Opera House in Valpo will include Willie Nile, a folk rocker from Buffalo, New York, who moved to Greenwich Village in 1971 and hung out both at CBGB’s (to hear Television, Patti Smith and the Ramones) and Kenny’s Castaway on Bleeker Street.  His best songs, such as “One Guitar,” stress the need for peaceful protest against economic and racial injustice.  Another verse from “Hard Times in America goes:
         “They say it’s getting better
But those of you in this house
You know as well as I do
That’s just a load of crap.”

Last week the Smithereens played to a sellout crowd at the Opera House.  Other 2015 bookings include Bottle Rockets and Roger McGuinn.  I was disappointed the Shoes aren’t making an encore performance.
 Beulah Bondi in "Wagon Train," 1961

In 1896 seven year-old Valparaiso native Beulah Bondi performed the title role of “Little Lord Fauntleroy” on the Memorial Opera House stage. The VU grad had a memorable stage, movie, and television career.  Four times she played the mother of James Stewart, most notably in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” and “It’s a Wonderful Life.”  The white-haired grand dame appeared in episodes of “Wagon train” and “The Waltons.”  She died at age 91 from complications after tripping over her cat.  Other notables who performed at the Opera House were John Philip Sousa in 1898 and the Marx Brothers in 1919.
 photo by Jerry Davich

In The Price of Inequality Gary-born economist Joseph Stiglitz fears that America is becoming a society of haves in gated communities and have-nots who “live in a world marked by insecurity.”  He wrote:
At the bottom are millions of young people alienated and without hope. I have seen that picture in many developing countries; economists have given it a name, a dual economy, two societies living side by side, but hardly knowing each other, hardly imagining what life is like for the other. Whether we will fall to the depths of some countries, where the gates grow higher and the societies split farther and farther apart, I do not know. It is, however, the nightmare towards which we are slowly marching.”
Riots have resumed in Ferguson, Missouri, after a grand jury failed to indict the cop who killed Michael Brown.  County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch, whom critics charged with being in bed with the police rather than building a case against Officer Darren Wilson, made the announcement at the worst possible time, after dark.  Rather than employing the National Guard at appropriate spots, police presence was inadequate to stop looting and arson.  Angry protestors flipped over police cars, setting some on fire.  Demonstrations broke out from coast to coast, most peaceful but sometimes accompanied by the blocking of traffic.

A New York Times editorial noted: President Barack Obama was on the mark last night when he said, ‘We need to recognize that this is not just an issue for Ferguson, this is an issue for America.’ The rioting that scarred the streets of St. Louis County — and the outrage that continues to reverberate across the country — underlines this inescapable point. It shows once again that distrust of law enforcement presents a grave danger to the civic fabric of the United States.”

In the Post-Trib Jerry Davich wrote, “I kept staring at the first police car set afire in Ferguson, Missouri. . . .  I couldn’t take my eyes off the roiling inferno in a city I never knew existed until three months ago. The live video feed showed what most Americans expected to see after the grand jury findings were announced.”  Sadly, his readers seemed divided along racial lines on whether Michael Brown’s killer was culpable or just doing his duty.
Writing in New York Review of Books about Kwame Anthony Appiah's "Lines of Descent: W.E.B. Du Bois and the Emergence of Identity," Nicholas Lemann reiterated the importance of the two years Du Bois spent studying in Germany.  Supposedly the idea for "Souls" came from philosopher Johann Gottfried Herder and the concept of "double consciousness" from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.  His mustache and goatee emulated Kaiser Wilhelm's and his dandified manner and dress the German academicians of that time, who were analyzing themes that became Du Bois' life's work: nationalism, race, folklore, culture, and community, as well as the role of intellectuals in society and the contours of the welfare state.  Noting his considerable character flaws, Leman added: "He led a life of feuds, firings, resignations, and ruptures.  He wasn't an easy man.”  Too bad Du Bois couldn't find common ground with black leaders whose views differed from his.
Ray Smock, who recently published a biography of Booker T. Washington, agreed that Dubois could be an obnoxious  snob. He wrote:
“Nobody ever said great men have to be great guys to have a beer with.  Du Bois’ saving grace, as far as history is concerned, is that he made an important transition from pure academic to public intellectual, to protest against Jim Crow.  Booker T. stayed an educator, a political boss, but never made the transition to public protest, which was needed.  I like them both for who they were. Neither of them was able to undo Jim Crow, but they both tried, each in his own way. Since Du Bois lived 50 years beyond Booker T., he was a survivor as far as history was concerned, leaving Booker T. in the past as an Uncle Tom.”

Lemann’s W.E.B. Du Bois essay mentions the protests in Ferguson, which have been ongoing since Michael Brown’s death on August 9. The shooting provides, he wrote, “a vivid example of the continuing need for a politics of protest of the kind that W.E.B. Du Bois engaged in his whole life.”
above, Joe Gutierrez; below, brother Mike in Vietnam
Joe Gutierrez wrote a guest NWI Times column about the government’s seeming indifference to his brother Mike’s health problems.  Exposed to Agent Orange while a medic in Vietnam, in 1987, he was diagnosed with stage 4 squamous cell cancers.  Mike has had numerous operations and by 2009, Joe wrote, could no longer eat or drink. He survives by nourishment from a tube inserted into his stomach. But few are aware of his condition, because he doesn’t let on.”  Still the government has turned a deaf ear to his disability requests.
 Willie and Beverly Jackson

SALT columnist Jeff Manes profiled retired Inland steelworker Willie Jackson.  Married 39 years, Jackson proudly announced that all five of his and Beverly’s children are college graduates.  Jackson grew up in Gary’s Small Farms neighborhood, a nice place to live until the Kangaroo gang moved in.  At Calumet High he played basketball for legendary coach Chris Traicoff.  In 1969, Jackson’s senior year, he was sixth man on a team that went 18-3.  Having worked in the coke plant, Jackson stressed its injurious environment, telling Manes:
“It wasn’t just the fatalities that happened in the mill.  It was the cancer.  Kunnie, Weasel, O’Connor, Willie Holland had to retire because of the cancer.  [They’re all] gone now.  For years, we didn’t wear respirators. Guys would heat up their lunches wrapped in aluminum foil on the coke oven doors with that yellow toxic gas just floating around their food. We washed our tools with benzene. I’m thankful I got out in one piece.”

The Jacksons live in Hobart near Maria Reiner Center.  Willie told Jeff: I do the treadmills, lift weights, shoot baskets and play chess. Me and Beverly took Spanish lessons there. We did Zumba, too. It costs $25 a year for seniors who are residents.”

Claiming that he tried not to run up the score against Savannah State en route to a 87-26 victory, Louisville coach Rick Pitino explained: “I tried everything.  We played four white guys and an Egyptian.”

Visiting the Archives this week were VU students Christina Crawley (researching Roosevelt School) and Tori Binelli (examining the Valparaiso Builders Association papers).

New neighbor George and his sister stopped in for a drink, and I showed them our finished basement.  He is expecting 11 guests for Thanksgiving, as are we. They were surprised the layout of our condo is so different from his.

Against a team of 200+ bowlers that were short a man, I struck the first two frames and we were holding our own.  Near the end of the fifth frame, at the last possible moment, Jason Schieffer, the best bowler in the Region, who wasn’t on their eight-man roster, replaced the blind and proceeded to roll games of 258, 259, and 275 – taking all the fun out of the competition.  It was legal but not very ethical.  Marv, the only friendly opponent, had on a Tuskegee Airmen jacket and said he flew one of the two planes that participated in the dedication of the Aquatorium statue a few weeks ago.

I finally got to give Duke the photo I took of him with Kalene Runions and Kerry Smith a Camelot Lanes.  He told me that before he left hat day he gave Kalene raffle tickets he had bought, and she won $96.

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