Monday, May 18, 2015

"The Thrill Is Gone"

“I’m gonna pack my suitcase
Move on down the line
Where there ain’t nobody worried
And there ain’t nobody crying.”
“Every Day I Have the Blues,” B.B. King

Blues legend Riley “B.B.” King, whom I saw perform at the Star Plaza 20 years ago, died at age 89.  King will be laid to rest in Indianola, Mississippi, near the plantation where he was born.  In Memphis Sam Phillips produced King’s earliest records; his first Billboard Rhythm and Blues hit was “3 O’clock Blues,” recorded in 1952.  After touring with the Rolling Stones in 1969, he won a Grammy for the song “The Thrill Is Gone.”  In 2012 B.B. performed “Sweet Home Chicago” at the White House as President Obama sang along.

At Front Porch cabaret in Valparaiso in front of an enthusiastic audience, classical guitarist Peter Aglinskas deftly performed an interesting variety of compositions, including songs by Deep Purple, The Doors, and Michael Jackson.  He did most of the arrangements himself and spoke of the great loss of B.B. King to the music world.  Several young folks taking guitar lessons (perhaps from Front Porch owner Chad Clifford of the Crawpuppies) were in the audience. Spotting Garry Aloia and wife Marge at a table near the stage, I joined them at his bidding.  While my student 40 years ago, Garry wrote about his Italian-American grandfather Frank Aloia, a foremen for the Pennsylvania Roadroad and father of eight.  I mentioned Frank Aloia’s efforts to survive the Great Depression in “Gary’s First Hundred Years.”  Garry told Marge, “It made the paesanos very happy.”

Having playing classical guitar for 40 years, Aloia (above) was pleased to discover that Aglinskas teaches at IUN.  When Aloia went to purchase Peter’s CD “South Shore Soul,” I introduced them to each other.  Garry worked with me on the Gary Centennial Committee and is chairman of Chancellor Lowe’s Board of Advisors.  I asked if Garry had worn a cap and gown at graduation Thursday; indeed he had. 

Both son Phil and grandson James will be in Washington, D.C., this weekend, Phil for a Business and Politics graduate class and James on an eighth grade trip.  Toni and I visited Alissa on her twenty-seventh birthday.  Earlier in the day she had breakfast with her dad before his flight.  Her mom Beth arrived shortly after we did, and we had a Mexican meal at a downtown Grand Rapids market.  Alissa will soon be joining Miranda in Ireland, where her younger sister is fulfilling a Grand Valley State Social Work course.
 Miranda Lane (front, second from right) in Ireland

Jerry Davich had a book signing at Barnes and Noble for “Lost Gary.”  Mark Neely, whom I recall fondly, commented on Facebook: Had a great teacher of many classes at IUN. His name was Dr. Lane. He taught a very cool class in the Summer called the United States in the 1960's. One day he wore an army jacket with peace signs all over it and brought all of his old 45's and entertained the class. I loved History so much that I majored in it accidentally with a Marketing and Management double major. Anywho, Dr Lane was an expert in the history of Gary.”  Nice.

An article by Neely appears in Steel Shavings, volume 12 (1986), so he must have been a student about 20 years ago. He wrote this about Burdick General Store in Chesterton:
  [It] was a popular meeting place for local farmers.  It served as a post office and carried such diverse products as horse harnesses, trinkets, candy, kerosene, ice cream, and other sundry items.  Farmers would sometimes trade 8-gallon jugs of milk for what they needed.  A Chicago-bound train would pick up the milk.  Eggs and butter were exchanged and picked up, too.

With about 20 minutes to go during the final episode of “Mad Men” we briefly lost power, and in the aftermath my TV went blank.  Fortunately the one upstairs in the living room was fine.  I got a panicked call from neighbor Marcia Gaughan, who hurried over.  Unlike many series conclusions, it ended satisfactorily, especially regarding Joan and Peggy.  In a dream sequence at a yoga retreat Don imagines young people singing “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing (in Perfect harmony),” like in the iconic 1971 soft drink ad. The implication: Don came up with the idea and will go back to advertising, perhaps in Joan’s new firm.
 AP photo by John L. Mone

In Waco, Texas, two rival motorcycle gangs, the Bandidos and Cossacks, engaged in a shoot-out at Twin Peaks Restaurant that left nine dead.  Police arrested 170 bikers and are holding them on million-dollar bonds.  Evidently a fight started in a Twin Peaks bathroom and spilled into the parking lot.  Waco was also the site of the 51-day siege of the Branch Davidian compound that resulted in 76 deaths.  Maybe there’s something in the water there.

Thrilled I wanted to print excerpts from her journal, Stacey Lynn Henry (above, left) emailed: “What a privilege.”  Stacey includes a touching anecdote about an IUN police officer interacting with her seven year-old niece:
March 16: I went to my sister’s to celebrate my niece Arianna’s seventh birthday. I remember not too long ago she was in my sister’s stomach.  When my sister was pregnant, she lived with my parents and me in a small trailer.  As Arianna got older, I would take her to the lakefront and throw bread to the ducks as she watched from her stroller. Sometimes when the bread was gone, ducks would get really crazy and walk toward me, hissing.  I’d grab the stroller and take off running. It was so much fun, just the two of us. Even to this day we have a special bond.
A couple of months ago I took Arianna and younger sister Aneysia to feed the ducks.  Once again, when the bread was gone, they began to hiss and waddle after us.  I shouted, “Run for your lives, the ducks are going to eat us.” Arianna started laughing and took off, but Aneysia just stood there and began crying.  I had to pick her up and run, not an easy task, especially when a mob of ducks is on your heels. I wonder what they would have done had they caught us; but then again, better not to know!
Arianna’s birthday celebration was at my sister’s new apartment in Merrillville. After dinner Arianna asked if I’d take her to the Dunkin Doughnuts on Broadway for a chocolate doughnut with sprinkles. Of course, I said yes because I am her Auntie and give her whatever she wants. After we got her doughnut and my iced latte, I took her to see Indiana University Northwest.  She just stared at it in amazement.
After a small tour around the campus, I noticed a police officer across the parking lot. Arianna has had bad experiences with police.  She has been around a lot of crazy things and has seen way more than kids her age should be exposed to. About 6 years ago, my father was sent to prison; shortly thereafter my mother started dating this man and moved in with him. From that time, I had nowhere to go. I spent a lot of time hopping from one house to another and staying the night with different friends.    It has not been easy for my siblings either. I decided to take that opportunity to show Arianna that police are helpers and are good, not bad!
After introducing myself and Arianna to the officer, he soon had her talking like she was his best buddy. He gave her a little junior sticker badge and asked to take a picture with her for their website, to show him reaching out to the community. She told him that it was her birthday, and he gave her a five-dollar bill. She was so happy! I hope that no matter what experiences she may go through from now on, she will always remember the nice police officer from Indiana University Northwest.
March 20: I am just so eager to make a difference in this world and in the life of children.  I am now renting a room and living with a family from church. They are wonderful people. They call me their red-headed stepchild.
March 30: The family I live with gave me money for Christmas to paint my room and buy a new bed set. They wanted me to know that I was welcome in their house and that they want me to stay in school and make a better life for myself.  Once a spare room, the white walls of the room I occupy are all messed up and have black dirt on them. It has taken me three months to have time to paint it, and I am so excited for what it will look like when it is done drying. This was the first time I ever had my own room.  My Mom and Dad became foster parents when we lived in a small house in Hammond.  One time they took in one of my cousins, and I shared a room with her and my older sister. They were two of the messiest people and ridiculed me as a neat freak.  One day after I cleaned the whole room, they made a big mess. I packed my stuff up and slept in our tiny laundry room. I took one of our small cots in there and made it my new room. I always did the laundry, kept my cot made, and even decorated it a little bit. Even to this day, my sister will make fun of me for that, but I have no shame in what I did.  They also called me a Jesus freak because I’d attend this small church by myself and go to this little youth group.  At home, I would wake up in the laundry room, make my bed, and put my Bible in the middle of it. The Ten Commandments hung on my wall, and a small teddy bear leaned against my pillow.
At school I was always the loner and often bullied. I can remember the names of my only two friends. My own sister even shunned me in school except to have my back.  She was tough!  Miss Popular! She had a lot of friends and no one messed with her because they knew that she was not afraid to sock them in the face.  If she caught people picking on me, she would step in, and you can bet that they never tried picking on me again.
Other than at IUN, African-American Sabrina Crawford’s impressions of Gary are rather bad: unplowed streets, a flat tire due to a pothole, servers screwing up her order at White castle on Broadway, a train stopped in the middle of Broadway, and abandoned buildings in various stages of decay.  Nonetheless, Sabrina felt safer in Gary than in Chicago or further south in Indiana, where she encountered overt hostility.  In a journal she wrote:
March 2: I commute back and forth from Chicago twice a week in order to attend class at IUN.  I had a brief stint of staying in Indiana with a friend of mine in a two-bedroom place in Hammond that cost just $800 a month. Both she and I worked in the downtown Chicago area and would hop on the train to work or carpool. When she got a new car, she got to put cute IU plates on the front.  Her taxes were cheaper. She didn’t have to deal with a stupid city sticker.
March 3:  Every time I drive to class I get off of the skyway at Broadway, I always wonder, what in the hell happened to Gary.  It seems that Gary doesn’t have any snowplows or maybe the city just cannot afford to use them?  The streets were ridiculous and I had to stop extra early at every light or sign. 
March 5: So I catch a flat while on the way to class. What joy. Waiting for Triple A is always fun on the side of the road.

Stewart House Better Baby Club

March 6: Reading about the Stewart Settlement was touching. It provide – programming, educational and recreational, for not just the youth but adults as well in order to develop a sense of neighborliness and togetherness that seems lacking in the African American community today.
March 10: Today on Broadway, I hit what had to be one of the worst potholes ever. In Chicago, if you hit a pothole bad enough and it does damage to your vehicle, you can submit a claim to the city and be reimbursed.  Broadway is horrible. The whole entire street from when you get off of the skyway and head towards the university is raggedy. How do you expect people to want to visit or move to your city when they might fall though a pothole/vortex to another universe?!!!!
March 14: I filled up my tank when I went to class on Friday. I was initially down to like a fourth of a tank and 25 bucks later it was full. It’s Saturday and I still have a hefty amount of gas left. Cheap gas is one of my favorite things about going to Gary, besides school of course.
March 17: I call Gary, “Baby Detroit.”  I remember the first and only time that I went to Detroit, the place looked desolate. You can tell that it was something that was once great and a mighty downfall occurred.  The downtown area of Detroit looks like something out of an old western film, where tumbleweeds are blowing around. There were still bums lurking around, begging for change from whatever person they happened to see walking around the area. There was one person that I saw performing with his boom box – dancing for money.  Last winter, I hit a pothole so bad that within ten minutes of me getting on the expressway, I had a horrible flat with a bent rim. Sometimes you can’t tell which streets are one ways in Gary. There are fields where there are yards and yards of uncut grass and overgrowth. Why doesn’t anyone do anything about it? At least make it look like it doesn’t belong in the scene of a horror movie. So many houses are abandoned or if someone lives in them, they look as though they should be abandoned. One of the buildings was starting to be tore down and it looks like whatever company was tearing it down, just stopped, so there is a building that is half torn, half standing, in the downtown area. The Genesis Center looks okay, I guess. Rick Ross, a famous rapper, did a concert there not long ago.  I remember a film that we watched in class mentioned how the Miss USA pageant was held there in an attempt to bring life and finances back to the city.  There are few restaurants, mostly fast food joints that look like shacks themselves – White Castle (sigh), Dominoes, J J FIsh, Churches, and a couple of other random places like Rallys.  There are cleaner establishments to dine at a few streets up, heading back towards Chicago, where the city actually looks like a city with live people and not something out of the walking dead.  At Safe and Sound Senior Citizens Social Club there was a shooting there last year.  Besides Michael Jackson’s old house, what is there.  Driving past the Gary Airport, I see a few private planes from time to time, but the place is depressing as well.
March 24: A train crossing Broadway just stopped and didn’t move for 20 minutes. You have got to be kidding me.

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