Friday, May 22, 2015

Leaving Gary

“There's a trick to the Graceful Exit. It begins with the vision to recognize when a job, a life stage, a relationship is over - and to let go. It means leaving what's over without denying its value.” Ellen Goodman
"Will Philadelphia have this?": Anne Balay
It appears Anne Balay is really leaving the house and community she loves so much to take a position at Haverford College in Philadelphia.  She also was awarded a research fellowship.  Anne isn’t the first and won’t be the last to say regretfully, in effect, “Good-bye, Gary” and hopefully will come back to visit and perhaps lecture at IUN once her troglodyte enemies are gone. They are outnumbered by her many sympathetic campus friends cognizant of her unfair treatment.
Miller Woods hike, photo by Samuel A. Love; below, Jerry Davich talks to Merrillville sixth graders
Samuel A. Love grew up in Glen Park, moved south with his family but now resides in Miller and is active with Gary grassroots organizations.  Jerry Davich grew up in Miller, lives in Portage, but since embarking on the “Lost Gary” book project has been finding pleasure revisiting childhood haunts.  I lived in Gary for five years when we moved from Ross Township just south of the city limits to 337 Jay Street, a neighborhood in Miller that went from almost all white to virtually all black in the space of 18 months.  Then we lived a block east of County Line Road (and took shit about it from Miller lakefront snobs) within the National Lakeshore for 35 years before our leaseback expired and we bought a condo in Chesterton.  Working at IU Northwest, I haven’t left Gary and will always have a spiritual attachment to the “Steel City,” I my spiritual hometown.

Retired English professor William Buckley lives in Crown Point but retains a carrel at IUN’s library.  One of his poems will be in an Indiana bicentennial book.  He recently composed “This Is the Place.  This Is the Point (Steel City, 2015):
It’s too heavy, the way we do our dreaming here,
the way we drive on streets  in Lake County.
  dreaming where we’d like to dream
  by the shore of Lake Michigan
the way hearts are reluctant to meet there.

Dreams are easy in tested rooms of Northwest Indiana,
  as if lures of oceans and mountains
  should not be where they are
by their cold nights and invitations.

Our places here are shouting places,
  under our sulfurous clouds
  and in our intense mill rooms
by the hissing lip of Lake Michigan.

This is the place.  This is the point:
  in “The Region,”
we have our inner space for dreaming
  while gulls adjust to our sandy winds
and deer browse in our windy grasses
and where the sudden crunch
  of quick waves
  pound on our beaches
reflecting the sound of our mills, in the night.
A bus driver leaving Gary’s Majestic Star Casino had a mishap resulting in his vehicle dangling precariously off the side of a bridge.  No passengers were on board, and the driver was hospitalized with undisclosed injuries.  What was he thinking, I wonder, the moment he comprehended the blunder.  A couple weeks ago, a guy drove off the end of Cline Avenue Bridge due to an obsolete GPS.  Could something similar have happened?

I addressed Steve McShane’s Summer I class about keeping journals that emphasized family and community history.  I told them that the Newberry Library “Encyclopedia of Chicagoland” was a good source for towns and cities and that “Peopling Indiana,” published by Indiana Historical Society Press, contained chapters on the many ethnic groups that settled in the Region.  Giving students copies of my 1980s Steel Shavings, entitled “The Uncertainty of Everyday Life,” I suggested that they utilize the popular culture pages as a way of getting family members to elicit memories.  I encouraged them to include photos and noted that both students and their families enjoyed seeing the articles in print.  I pointed out the value of social history and the efficacy of recording contemporary events, emphasizing that history encompasses every meaningful thing that happened up to this instant and that years from now, historians may profit from coming upon their publications. 
 statue in Gary's Marquette Park
Just as Lewis and Clark kept journals of places they explored, I told students to think of theirs as explorations into the past.  In 1673 Father Marquette kept a journal when on a Mississippi River expedition with Louis Joliet that took them through Northwest Indiana.  Laying unread for nearly 200 years in a Jesuit archives in Montreal, Marquette’s journal contained valuable observations on Native American tribes that resided in the Midwest prior to the arrival of Euro-Americans.

I read excerpts from “Gary’s First Hundred Years” about geological features relating to a receding glacier, leaving a succession of sandy beaches across Lake County where mastodons once trod.  Between 2,000 and 3,000 Lake Michigan’s southern shoreline approximated its present boundaries.  I noted James Madison’s  use in “Hoosiers” of up-to-date scholarship regarding Native Americans, the first wave probably crossing the Bering land bridge from Asia over 10,000 years ago.  With considerable understatement Madison concluded: “While these initial settlers altered the environment as they hunted and gathered, they accommodated their lives more fully to the natural world than did later arrivals.”

I selected this passage from Ken Schoon’s “Calumet Beginnings,” in order to demonstrate how historical interpretations evolve over time:
  It is generally agreed that the name Calumet is a French substitution for the Indian name for the river.  What that word was or what it meant has been debated for over 150 years.  Early maps had more than a dozen spellings in French and English.
  In 1945, geographer Alfred Meyer noted that it may have meant “little reed” or “pipe of peace” (pipe stems were made of reeds).  Father Marquette described peace pipes called calumets in his journal of 1673.  Others ascribe Calumet as a corruption of another Indian word meaning “a deep, still water.”
  More recent scholarship has uncovered another meaning.  In a 1696 manuscript written by Jesuit missionary Jacques Gravier, researcher John Swenson found that the oldest recorded Indian name for the river was Kinoumiki, meaning “ship that draws a lot of water.”  Had the Indians seen a ship on the Calumet River?  It’s possible, says Swenson.  The Calumet River was much larger in the days before various drainage ditches diverted much of its waters.  And the French explorers certainly had the means to build ships.  LaSalle himself had one built on the Great Lakes in 1678-79.  Called Le Griffon, during its brief life, it sailed on Lakes Erie, Huron, and northern Lake Michigan.
Brandon Grubl scores against Chris Diehl, 12-4-2013, NWI Times photo by John Smierciak
According to Brandon Grubl’s journal, the highlight of an otherwise humdrum month was watching his Duke Blue Devils win the NCAA tournament. Grubl, the leading scorer for the IUN Redhawks in 2013-14, set a school record with 49 points against Kuyper College.  His journal contains a surprise ending:
March 2: On my way out the door I smelled something burning in the kitchen. I went to investigate and discovered our garbage can in flames. I carried it out the front door and threw it into about 8 inches of snow on the ground. I grabbed some snow and put the fire out. In my panic I accidentally pick up a burning piece of plastic.  I quickly buried my hand in the snow to stop my finger from burning.  My left pointer finger was black and I had to scrape off the burnt plastic on it. The incident left me with nasty blisters. My mother must have thrown a match in the garbage can. After class I had an intramural volleyball game at IUN. Our team has won the tiny tournament two years in a row. Tonight was just the second regular season game. We dominated, winning 25-5 and 25-13.
March 9: My volleyball team won to go 2-0, but it wasn't easy. We didn't play very well but a win is a win. Leaving for home, I wasn't very smart. I blew two stop signs on Ridge Road and got pulled over.  The female cop wasn't amused by my act of confusion that I blew two stop signs.  Luckily she only gave me a verbal warning.  The ride from Gary to my home in Valparaiso generally takes 40 minutes, and instead of cutting it down by a minute or two my stupidity delayed the trip.
March 14: I worked out and then went to Valparaiso University to play basketball on their outdoor courts. It's the first time I have played since before I had surgery 7 months ago. It felt really good. The weather cooperated, and it was nice to play outside. I went to a bonfire at my brother’s house, and a few of my friends were there. We just sat by the fire, had some good conversation, and relaxed.
March 30: At IUN we had our first spring basketball workouts today.  I was dying. Having surgery and being out for six months has killed my conditioning. I am ready though and excited for next season.  The team has some new players.  In intramural volleyball we won our semifinal match pretty easily. 
April 1: Holy cow it was nice out today, in the 70s and sunny. I ate an amazing breakfast. Then I stopped at the gas station and bought a ten-dollar scratch-off lottery ticket. Guess what - I won $2,500 and was freaking out. I checked the ticket multiple times and even asked other people to look at it. It was real, and I won that money. Later I received a text from my first love and high school sweetheart. We dated for two years starting when I was 17, and I thought I really loved her. We had our ups and downs like any couple. I went off to Elmhurst College. She was a senior at Morgan Township.  Everything stayed smooth until after she graduated high school.  She wanted to start a fresh life and be single in college. She broke up with me and broke my heart. I have been thinking about her ever since and constantly wondering “what if.” Well, she wanted to meet up, so I took her to Olive Garden. The chemistry just picked up where it left off. She talked about trying things again slowly. I could not have been happier. This has been the best day of my life! 
APRIL FOOLS! I didn’t win any money on a scratch-off, and my ex who broke my heart sure as hell didn’t text message me. It was just a normal boring day. However, I did tell the truth about something: it was sunny and in the 70s.

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