Monday, March 23, 2015

Casual Friday

“I look like a casual, laid-back guy, but it’s like a circus in my head.” Steven Wright

Invited by Jerry Davich to be on the Lakeshore radio program “Casual Fridays” to discuss “My Name Is Gary,” I wore a crimson IUN t-shirt over a cream-colored, long-sleeved turtleneck, black slacks and Dr. Scholl’s sneakers.  Arriving at the studio a little before noon, Jerry and Karen Walker looked like they had just finished a jog or bike ride.  In shorts, Jerry has the legs of a long-distance runner.

Jerry opened the show by playing an intro by late Gary mayor Rudy Clay, noting that Rudy had refused, bless him, to read something else Jerry had written about being a part of white flight from Gary.  Karen then read a brief excerpt from Davich’s book “Lost Gary,” lamenting his hometown’s decline.  On the air I told of taking free Shavings copies to Jack Franklin, who’s on the cover, and Magnum Jamal, owner of 4 Brothers Grocery, pictured on the back.  I was describing how Samuel A. Love and I put Camilo Vergara’s posters of wall paintings he photographed with Martin Luther King in them when I hesitated several seconds before coming up with the word mural.   Otherwise, I think I shined. I mentioned that the orange cover Lori from Home Mountain designed was meant to evoke an ingot-soaking pit. 

I noted that IUN has been my academic home for 45 years and that my family is still in love with Miller and the Lake Michigan dunes.  Like the title of Frederic Cousseau and Blandine Huk’s documentary, I can say with pride, “My name Is Gary.”  I’m hoping Davich produces a sequel entitled “Found Gary” that features some of the proud, resilient folks who still reside in the much-maligned Steel City.  Describing my blog as instant history, I thanked Ron Cohen for being my fact checker.  Ron and Davich are in the volume 44 so often that in the Index next to their names I simply wrote, “throughout.”  Same with SALT columnist Jeff Manes and our friends Dick and Cheryl Hagelberg, whom we played bridge with over the weekend. 
 Jimbo and Bub; photo by Jerry Davich

Also on “Casual Fridays” was R.J. “Bub” Howard, owner of Bub’s BBQ in DeMotte, who brought along delicious, ample amounts of ribs, sausage slices, pulled pork, cornbread, and Cole slaw.  Bub cites the Italian half of his heritage for being responsible for his gregarious personality and love of food and credits black chefs in Kansas City with teaching him how to barbeque.  The process is long and arduous, but what makes each person’s recipe unique, he stated, is the sauce and the rub.  When Bub talked about watching customers’ reactions when first sampling his food, I interjected that I do the same thing after giving out copies of my magazine, like on Wednesday at the bowling alley. 

In high school I liked a girl whose last name was Bub.  One night I drove her home from a party.  She’d just broken up with a longtime boyfriend, and we did some serious necking in her driveway.  Soon after that, she was back with her ex, so I was left with regrets about being too cautious in pursuing her and fantasies about what might have been.

At Camelot Lanes James, tired from being in Dr. Leon Hendrick’s musical production in East Chicago the night before, as was Becca, still finished strong, as Bowling for Doughnuts increased its first place lead.  Charlie Jones, mentioned in Steel Shavings, couldn’t get over and wide (some might say weird) variety of subjects and the Index.  I made a mistake or two compiling the latter, I admitted.  Before computers I’d write names and page numbers on tiny pieces of paper and literally have thousands spread out on the floor before I was done.  Awesome bowler Charlie, Jr., who rolled a 524, told me he was studying Valley Forge in fifth grade social studies.  I grew up near there, I told him, in another place where the Father of our Country allegedly stayed, Fort Washington.

Toni and I sang Happy Birthday to five year-old San Diegan Crosby Lane, whom nephew Bob was driving to a Little League t-ball game.  If set up like in Indiana, teams don’t keep score and each side bats around for two or three innings without regard to how many outs they make.  Phil and Dave started Little League at age 8 and 10 respectively; before that, we played wiffleball in the back yard of 337 Jay Street in Miller.

On the roster of the San Antonio Spurs, coached by Region native Gregg Popovich, are players from eight different countries, including Australian aborigine Benny Mills.  Popovich likes players to know about each others’ backgrounds.  Last June 3, according to SI’s Alexander Wolff, he told the squad it was Mabo Day, named after an uncle of Mills who successfully challenged the law that deprived indigenous people of rights to their ancestral land. Popovich posts motivational sayings in the locker room in various languages, including Meriam Mir, spoken by islanders from the Torres Straight, including this one by urban reformer Jacob A. Riis:

When nothing seems to help, I go back and look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it.  Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that blow that did it – but all that had gone before.
 Melo Trimble

Wisconsin (my pick to win it all) and Michigan State (Alissa’s alma mater) are still alive in the NCAA tournament, but Indiana and Maryland bit the dust.  The Hoosiers’ absence of an inside presence doomed them.  West Virginia twice mugged Maryland’s best player, Melo Trimble, who returned only to be kneed by a teammate and forced to leave midway through the second half with a head injury.  My runner-up bracket pick, number one seed Villanova, also exited ignominiously. 

On the Borman Expressway Monday it suddenly started snowing and created near-whiteout conditions.  A total of five inches fell before the storm passed, wet, heart-attack snow, as some call it. I passed one car in a ditch and two facing the wrong direction that appeared to be fender-bender casualties.

I learned in Nicole Anslover’s class about Sherri Finkbine, in 1962 a mother of four and host of the Phoenix children’s program “Romper Room.”   Then she discovered that, due to having taken thalidomide pills, her fetus was deformed and probably wouldn’t survive at birth.  After her doctor recommended a therapeutic abortion, Sherri decided to talk to the press about her experience in order to warn others about the dangers of thalidomide.  It caused such a stir that Sherri was forced to travel to Sweden for the procedure.  She lost her “Romper Room” job and received death threats, but her shedding light on the subject led to feminists taking up the cause of legalizing abortions. 

Anne Balay has been offered a one-year visiting professorship at Haverford College in the fall, meaning she will likely sell her Miller house that she loves so much.  The situation is far from ideal, but at least she won’t starve. 

I spoke for ten minutes about Billie Jean King, after which Nicole showed a brief clip of the hoopla surrounding the 1973 “Battle of the Sexes” against 55 year-old chauvinist Bobby Riggs, whom King defeated in straight sets, 6-4, 6-3, 6-3.  A shot of a march for equal rights showed a woman with hairy armpits, like unshaved legs a bone of contention in some marriages (not mine) as well as feminist badges of pride.  Discussing the changing nature of marriage and the family, Nicole as an aside said that her fiancé would be happy to be a stay-at-home dad if they had children while she wouldn’t want to stop teaching.  One student said her brother-in-law is a stay-at-home but implied he was a lazy freeloader.  After class I told Nicole that the amazing thing about the family is the institution’s resilience.

Historian James Madison, thanking me for volume 44 and noting that I “continue to fail the course in ‘retirement,’ sought my advice on celebrating the 1816 Indiana Bicentennial and on a GLBT project that would be right up Anne’s alley.  Madison wrote: I’m co-chairing a new Indiana Historical Society committee formed to collect documents and images and conduct oral histories on GLBT Hoosiers.  It’s a fascinating beginning (who would have guessed a decade ago that this institution would take this on?).  We’re beginning in Central Indiana, but planning to move out into the state once we’re further organized.” 

Coincidentally, the March 2015 special issue of Indiana Magazine of History (IMH), which Madison used to edit, arrived, dealing with Indiana’s constitution.  Editor Eric Sandweiss added me to the editorial board a couple years ago. 

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