Monday, March 9, 2015

Spring Forward

“It is so small a thing to have enjoyed the sun, to have lived light in the spring, to have loved, to have thought, to have done.”  Matthew Arnold

Best known for  “Dover Beach, Matthew Arnold was a contemporary of fellow Victorian poets Robert Browning and Alfred, Lord Tennyson.  His rather pessimistic perspective is evident in these lines from “Stanzas from the Grands Chartreuse”:

Wandering between two worlds, one dead
The other powerless to be born.
With nowhere yet to rest my head
Like these, on earth I wait forlorn.
below, Clay County (Kansas) Courthouse by Charlie Riegel
As spring finally nears, we’ve had a break in the weather.  The sun has been shining and, thanks to daylight savings time, doesn’t set until well after dinner, although it is a drag for it to be dark outside when I get up around 6:15.  With the temperature in the 40s, our courtyard, resembling an ice skating rink just a few days ago, is now dry except for meltage from mounds of snow left by plows.
“My Name Is Gary,” Steel Shavings, volume 44 (2015), arrived, looking awesome with a cover featuring a man filmed by Frederic Cousseau and Blandine Huk tipping his cap while seated in front of Roosevelt Service Center at 300 W. Twenty-Fifth Avenue.  The orange and black background simulates a steel ingot hot off an assembly line.  So far, everyone who’s seen it is impressed.  At Camelot Lanes to watch James bowl (he had an above-average 417 series), I gave copies to Chris Lugo and John English, whose families are in it.

The Oral History Review will publish a paper Anne Balay wrote about the role “Steel Closets” played in persuading the United Steelworkers of America to resolve to protect LGBT steelworkers.  The Oral History Association should hire her to speak at its October conference.  Anne wrote on Facebook: I try to remember, in moments when my continued unemployment makes me panicky and scared, that scholarship does matter, and my work helped people in real, material ways.  Lets keep the fire burning, because so many people are struggling right now.”  Miriam Frank commented:

 “Let's keep the furnace blasting. USW represents more than 1 million members in steel and in dozens of other industries. You and the LGBT workers who activated for that constitutional protection for sexual orientation were insuring fairness for today and for the future of the union.”

Toni and I saw “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” rather silly and redundant, as most sequels are, but still worth the price of admission thanks to Maggie Smith and Judi Dench, especially when trading insults.  After Dench (as Evelyn) quips that Smith’s hearing must be going, Maggie (as Muriel) replies, “Yeah, along with your backbone.”  When Maggie claims she’s older and wiser Dench says, “Nineteen days older,” only to be told, “That’s the entire lifespan of a wasp.”  Afterwards we arrived at Longhorn Steakhouse just ahead of the normal Saturday evening mob.   Dick and Cheryl’s “2 meals for $29” came with a desert, two humongous pieces of cake with 2 scoops of ice cream and whipped cream, enough for the four of us and cake left over.  Sunday Tom Wade and Dave came over for gaming (I was 2 for 4), and I feasted on leftover “Flo’s filet.”

Weekend sports events were disappointing.  In high school sectionals Munster upset East Chicago.  Then IU lost at home to Michigan State, as Yogi Ferrell missed a free throw with 2 seconds left that would have tied the game.  The depleted Bulls lost to San Antonio, and the Black Hawks failed to score a single goal at New York.  I’m glad I didn’t watch either contest.  Both Chicago teams will make the playoffs, when the games really count.

Jonathyne Briggs discussed the 1968 Paris riots and called on me to shed light on contemporary developments in America.  He talked about the staging of subversive “Situationalist” stunts (similar to guerrilla theater antics of YIPPIE! pranksters Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman) aimed at drawing attention to the absurdities of modern society.  When someone used the phrase “Keeping up with the Joneses,” Jon added that, meanwhile, the Joneses were trying to keep up with the Smiths.  Then, in an aside that probably only I got, he added that it’s hard keeping up with the Smiths, meaning the defunct band.  Morrissey and Johnny Marr, however, have stayed active.

In Nicole Anslover’s class, discussing teenage girls who came of age during the 1960s, I read the recollections of Betty Julkes, a senior at Gary Roosevelt during the fall of 1965, and she recalled that her mother never said anything negative against white people but that her voice “would become very proper in front of a white person.”   I drew laughs when quoting Laurie, who identified with hippies, describing the late Sixties as a time of exploring different ways to have sex.  She and her friends “compared notes and discussed new techniques with friends,” she said, adding:  “Experimentation was practical because you could avoid marrying a guy who was a dud in bed.”

Nicole played and discussed songs starting with the Shirelles’ “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?”  It is about someone going all the way with a guy but worried that she won’t be loved and respected in the morning.  Nicole compared Leslie Gore’s “It’s My Party” with the more assertive “You Don’t Own Me,” which Gore, who died recently, once called a “pre-feminist squeak.”  We heard Janis Joplin’s “Ball and Chain” and a bluesy version of “Woodstock” by Joni Mitchell, performed in 1970 after the “Age of Aquarius” dream got shattered at Altamont and the home of Sharon Tate.  Nicole ended, appropriately, with Aretha Franklin’s anthem “Respect” and Helen Reddy’s “I Am Woman (Hear Me Roar).”  Great class, and the students ate it up.
I checked out a “Quilts” reception for Sarah Nishiura at IUN’s Gallery for Contemporary Art.  Presenting an impressive array of abstract pieces, the personable Nishiura mentioned that the large quilts took several months to complete.  Curator Ann Fritz inquired as to my favorite.  I pointed to one in shades of brown.  Almost all guys like that one best, she said, adding that women tend to prefer the brighter pieces.  Like her grandmother, who made quilts during the Great Depression from ordinary cotton fabric, Sarah Nishiura often makes use of men’s shirts found at thrift stores.

Seve Spicer posted a photo of the gym at Emerson School, closed now for nearly a decade.  Jerry Davich could have used it in his "Lost Gary" book.
Jerry Davich wrote a Post-Trib column about East Chicago Central government and economics teacher Veronica Garcia.  Class valedictorian 19 years ago, she returned to her alma mater and advises the Spanish Club and National Honor Society.  Garcia, whom students call “Senora,” told Davich: “It’s harder to be a student here today than it was in my day.  Classes are more rigorous, and there are more outside pressures for these kids.”

At Gino’s for a history book club gathering, I passed around Nicole Anslover’s book on Harry Truman and announced that at our May meeting she will not only discuss the book but say a few words about Bess Truman, whom she spoke about on a C-San series on First Ladies.

Guy Fraker discussed his book “Lincoln’s Ladder to the Presidency,” which argues that the friends and political contacts Lincoln made while an Illinois lawyer was a key stepping stone to securing the 1860 Republican Presidential nomination.  Traveling the Eighth Circuit was quite arduous in antebellum America and involved fording rivers on horseback, traversing muddy roads, riding through all prairie grass, and sharing bedbug-infested beds in taverns.  By all accounts, Lincoln thrived in that environment, establishing credentials not only as a talented attorney but witty storyteller and crafty politician.  Fraker has visited the small towns on his route and taken pains to see that historical markers making reference to Lincoln are kept in good repair.  I asked Fraker whether he agreed more with historian Mark Neely, who wrote that for Lincoln to have been a successful politician, he needed “to escape the habits of thinking like a lawyer,” or with Frank Williams, who wrote that the skills of a good lawyer – meticulousness, zealousness, rhetorical expertise – served him well in the political arena.  A practicing attorney for many years, Fraker took exception to Neely’s conclusion.

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