Thursday, July 23, 2015


“My advice to other disabled people would be, concentrate on things your disability doesn’t prevent you doing well, and don’t regret the things it interferes with.  Don’t be disabled in spirit as well as physically.”  Stephen Hawking  

Anne Balay’s lover Riva Lehrer spoke at Story Club in Chicago about interacting with those whose portraits she drew.  For a Risk Picture series she first interviewed subjects to form a "mutual vulnerability" and then, before she considers the piece finished, as a sign of “extreme consent,” asks them subject to add something to it.  Lehrer told Chicago magazine’s Jason Foumberg:
  I leave them all my studio supplies and say, ‘Do something to your portrait. Anything. I don’t care. You have to do something.’ They can cut it, burn it, erase it, draw on it. It’s a way of asking people to take on their own power of representation, but also for me to risk having something be ruined. I am very interested in ruin, as a disabled person. [Lehrer was born with Spina bifida].

Foumberg wrote, “If you’re lucky enough to be the subject of a Riva Lehrer portrait, chances are you’re famous for being a trailblazer in your field. Sitters have included Alison Bechdel, Hillary Chute, and Mat Fraser."  Cartoonist Bechdel (“Dykes to Watch Out For”) is married to painter Holly Rae Taylor.  University of Chicago English professor Hillary Chute co-taught a course with Bechdel on “Lines of Transmission: Comics and Autobiography.”   English actor Mat Fraser, in “American Horror Story: Freak Show,” created and starred in “Thalidomide!: A Musical.”  Since 2012 he’s been married to burlesque star Julie Atlas Mux.
 Lehrer with Bechdel and her Portrait of Mat Fraser

An “acclaimed portraitist, anatomy professor, and disability culture advocate, Lehrer, Founberg stated, “lectures on portraiture and power relations.” At her Edgewater studio she told Foumberg:
  Most of the people I work with have obvious physical impairments, like myself.  These are people who have gone through sometimes entire lifetimes of getting horrifying shit on a daily basis. If someone remarks on what you look like, it’s going to hook into thousands of comments that were unintentionally or intentionally painful. So, if someone hasn’t gone through that, who has been normative their whole life, or an attractive person without major problems, I think that they don’t have to weather what it feels like to be told that you are deformed, freakish, unacceptable, ugly, disgusting, whatever.

After Alissa broke a leg playing soccer several years ago, she referred to herself as temporarily disabled.  In all my years playing softball, my only trip to the DL was from pulling a hamstring running to first in a failed attempt to prevent a double play on a sharp grounder to short.  It really hurt, but I handled it better than the two times I drew blood, once with a saw cutting a Christmas tree trunk and the other due to an unexpected broken bottle in the recycle bin.

On AM 670 (THE SCORE) sports jocks Matt Spiegel and Jason Goff gleefully replayed an exchange between overnight host Les Grobstein and an irate caller who berated “The Grobber” for withholding judgment about Cubs rookie phenom Kyle Swarber until he sees how the slugger reacts to pitching adjustments.  Spiegel suggested phoning Les for follow-up.  “That is, if we can get him out of his coffin,” Goff joked.   After guffawing Spiegel claimed that they did not mean Les was a codger (he’s in his 60s) but rather like a werewolf, who sleeps all day after a six-hour show ending at 5 a.m.
New students with Flex Maldonado portraits in gallery

I had a delicious 4-dollar hamburger meal at IUN’s “Thrill of the Grill” on Student Orientation Day but had hoped for live music from Kinsey Report or the Crawpuppies.  Instead Gwen Stefani blared on nearby speakers.  I ate alone.  The only faculty member on the scene was an English professor who, out of deference to his boss, Anne Balay's nemesis, decided to avoid me – his loss.  As always, my 30 year-old Hawaii shirt that Kate Migoski originally made for Dave when he was dating daughter Suzie received several compliments.

NWI Times ran a 1907 Calumet Regional Archives photo of an African-American road crew that helped construct Broadway, Gary’s main thoroughfare.  If Robert Blaszkiewicz were still with the paper, I’d offer to provide in-depth captions for the historic pictures they feature.

Paul Kern summarized an essay in The Economist entitled “Reinvention in the rust belt” thusly:
The article presents a positive picture of Mayor Freeman-Wilson and is negative about the Railcats baseball park, and by implication the Genesis Center, arguing that revitalization through such projects has been proven ineffective.  It touts Gary's potential as a transportation center as the most promising strategy, citing the airport as an example.  It neglects to mention that Gary has been trying to promote the airport as a third Chicago airport since the days of Mayor Hatcher without much success.  Although they stress the importance of "anchor institutions" such as universities and hospitals, they do not mention IUN.  Although it cites plenty of grim statistics about Gary's decline, the article tries to strike a hopeful tone. 

The issue of The Economist that Kern referenced was in the IUN library’s magazine rack.  The piece included a photo of Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson with a rake and shovel in her hands and this startling claim: “Not long ago, after Gary lost more than half its annual budget because of a change in Indiana property-tax rates, city officials felt so bleak that they mooted a plan to cut services for almost half the city (and move everyone to the half that would still receive them).”  What a hare-brained idea!      
view along Dune Succession Trail, Aug. 11, 2012; photo by Jeremy Sell
Bill Carey brought to my attention that Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore made National Geographic’s list of top ten Urban Escape sites.  The article noted:
  A very high percentage of the nearly two million annual visitors to Indiana Dunes come simply to sunbathe or swim along 15 miles of sandy Lake Michigan shore. In itself, that resource makes the park a treasured getaway for residents of Chicago and nearby cities such as Gary and Michigan City, Indiana. Beyond the beach, though, trails wind through natural habitats of surprising biodiversity, with rare plants and butterflies living among the dunes, savannas, marshes, prairies, and woodlands. Miller Woods, Cowles Bog, Heron Rookery, and Lyco-ki-we are among the best trails for nature lovers, while the Mount Baldy Trail ascends a 126-foot dune for a panoramic view of Lake Michigan. Mount Baldy is a “moving” dune, pushed about four feet a year by prevailing winds. For a glimpse into the area’s past, visit restored Chellberg Farm, where three generations of a family of Swedish farmers lived.
Lake Street Bridge view of Marquette Park Lagoon; photo by Bill Carey

James spent the night because Becca had a late rehearsal at the Star Plaza for “Jesus Christ, Superstar.”  I made pancakes and bacon and, driving to his house, told him a Pet Detective story like old times.  He humored me and acted interested.

Arriving at the Archives was Jane Anneson’s “A Jazz Age Murder in Northwest Indiana: The Tragic Betrayal of Nettie Diamond.”  In 1920, three years before her death, wealthy widow Nettie Herkskovitz married Harry Diamond, a handsome lowlife 18 years her junior.  After taking out a life insurance policy on Nettie, Diamond shot her and their black chauffeur, William Armstrong, hoping to blame Armstrong for the crime, but Nettie lived long enough to point the finger at him in front of several credible witnesses.  The press portrayed Nettie as a gullible dupe, but she knew that Frank associated with gamblers, hookers, and bootleggers, was no saint herself, and enjoyed his dashing Rudolph Valentino-like air.  Found guilty, Diamond was electrocuted the following year at Michigan City prison.  Moments before the warden pulled the switch Diamond admitted killing Nettie but claimed it was due to an epileptic fit. 
Harry Diamond photos in Gary Emerson yearbook (1916) and in prison (1924)

Ammeson first learned about the case from her 94 year-old mother, who’d once been engaged to Nettie’s son Bernie from her earlier marriage.  Bernie subsequently changed his last name from Herkskovitz to Hurst and was Ammeson’s elementary school principal in Indiana Harbor.  Ammeson wrote that Mr. Hurst had often seemed to favor her, selecting her to be a nurse’s aide, for example, in the absence of the school nurse.  She wrote: “I was a ten-year-old allowed to take temperatures, clean wounds and even send a child home because she or he seemed ill.”

Newspapers during the “Roaring Twenties” gave great publicity to sensational murder cases such as Sacco-Vanzetti, Leopold-Loeb, Hall-Mills, and to subsequent trials that might go on for weeks, an opportunity, like later soap operas, to hook readers.  Press coverage of Harry Diamond’s crime and trial mirrored the 1925 “Poison Mother” case of a Gary woman, Anna Cunningham, convicted on scant circumstantial evidence, of killing several of her children.  Coverage of these paled compared to the sensational “Whoopie Murder Trial” of Virgil Kirkland, resulting from the 1930 rape-murder of 18 year-old Arlene “Babe” Draves.  As I concluded in “Gary’s First Hundred Years,” “at the expense of an innocent victim, Kirkland’s defense team exploited a sexist value system that held women accountable for being raped unless their virtue was proved beyond a reasonable doubt.”

I wrote Ray Smock:
Donald Trump is the George Wallace of our time, a pure demagogue whose statements about illegal Mexican immigrants mirror Wallace's segregationist rants of a half-century ago.  Just as Wallace courted the black vote during the 1970s when it became politically expedient, Trump would do the same thing in a minute if it were to his political advantage.  While Wallace was a canny politician, Trump, however, seems to be on more of a self-destructive path - let's hope, although part of me is enjoying the embarrassment he's causing the GOP.

Smock replied:
The question is, why hasn't Trump self-destructed by now? Now I will partially answer my own question. The media loves to hate him. They seem surprised that Trump sucks all the oxygen from the other candidates when, in fact, it is the media that would rather follow Trump than the 15 other candidates who seem boring by comparison. So we may have a long silly season before things start to get serious early next year when the primaries get underway.  Trump is a demagogue for sure, but I don't see him like George Wallace. I see him more like Ross Perot. A super-rich guy who talks so plain about his hates and prejudices that he tapped a vein among American crazies, of which we have plenty.  Trump's message is that the real fools in our country are to be found in the mainstream of both politic parties. He runs against Washington as well as the apparatus of his own party. Many find this aspect appealing--but for how long?

On “Final Jeopardy,” with the category “Colleges and Universities,” the answer was Brigham Young.  One contestant wrote Bringham Young with an extra “n”; the other wrote BYU.  The first answer was declared incorrect while BYU passed muster.  Go figure.  Often last names are sufficient, but when someone answered “Booth” to a question about the great nineteenth-century Shakespearean actor, 75 year-old host Alex Trebek demanded the first name to differentiate him from his brother, Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth.

For Steve McShane’s summer class Brittany Emerson wrote about working with autistic kids:
   May 26: Sitting by the window in IUN’s library, it is quite entertaining to watch students run back and forth between buildings in the rain.  I was just in that situation because I didn’t check the weather before leaving home.
      May 29: I work at SELF School in Valparaiso and planned a class party for David, who will be a high school freshman at Valparaiso in the fall. His two speech therapists, parents, the principal, and some other classrooms visited. David loves Mario and Luigi, so that was the theme. We had chocolate coins, Mario fruit snacks, and mustache cupcakes. We printed out photos of all the Mario characters and taped them around the doors and walls.  We had little mustaches and Mario hats for guests to wear.  This is a huge deal to us because most of these students won’t go to a general education school due to medical issues, severe cognitive delays, or major behavioral issues. Some teachers will not work with these types and give them the chance to excel with their regular educated peers.  Socialization is key to these children, especially those like David with autism. His sister was diagnosed with Asperger’s.
   May 31: Sage Restaurant is typically closed on Sundays, but the chef opened his doors today for members of the Organization for Autism Research or “OAR.”  Their main goal is to answer questions about the causes and cures for the autism spectrum disorder.  OAR also sponsors 5K’s and other races to raise funds for autism research.   Sage’s chef came to the table and described the dishes he prepared for us whose ingredients came from local organic farms.  I am also a member of Autism Speaks, Chicagoland Young Adults Chapter.  After the dinner event, I walked about a block to Valparaiso’s Central Park Plaza to participate in the “Revive Northwest Indiana” kickoff event with my church.  About 1,500 people participated; it was an amazing and unbelievable experience.
Central Park Plaza, Valparaiso
       June 7: My brother graduated from Boone Grove along with about 50 others compared to about 500 in my 2011 Valparaiso senior class.   This ceremony went a lot faster!   He is going to Bloomington in the fall for Accounting. He’s really excited about it as well as nervous. I am more comfortable commuting to IUN.
   June 9: I found a 1974 Valpo H.S. yearbook from when my dad was a senior. He was catcher on the baseball team and went to high school in three different buildings. The first is now the elementary school that I attended.  The second became Ben Franklin middle school, where I went as well.  His class was the first to graduate from the present school.
 June 15: My brother and I bought tickets for a Cubs-White Sox game. We try to go every year to a Crosstown Classic game and are huge White Sox fans. We have been to at least five games already this season.  We have been to stadiums in Pittsburgh, Cleveland, San Diego, San Francisco, Detroit, and Milwaukee. This summer we plan on going to Minnesota for a Twins game.
  June 16: My mother and I picked buckets of strawberries at Johnson’s.  My father freezes them for pies in the winter.  Yesterday he also concocted a homemade strawberry jam.  Then my mother and I went to the Blackbird Café. They have lots of coffee drinks as well as bakery and small menu items. The whole Valpo downtown experience is neat with many fun shops and places to eat. 
June 18: On TV I watched the Chicago Blackhawks parade and celebration for winning the Stanley Cup.  My brother went to the2013 rally.  That celebration was at Grant Park, but due to the rain, Mayor Emanuel declared that the damage would be too expensive to repair.  Many fans were mad because Solider Field could not accommodate everyone, as Grant Park would have.
June 20: My boyfriend and I are looking for a new house in Valparaiso. His son has autism and we are seeking better schooling for him.  We currently live in Chesterton in a big house in the country. My boyfriend likes our spacious yard and neighbors not being too close; he can even have bonfires. I’m looking forward to being closer to my family in Valparaiso.  We have seen some homes with potential but aren’t in a rush.
June 22: To celebrate Father’s Day my mother, brother, and I took my father to the Craft House in Chesterton; it has been open a little less than a year. My brother and I bought him a “Blackhawks Stanley Cup Champion” shirt and hat.  Then we all went to the Dunes to watch the sunset and walk around.
June 23: Despite a tornado warning, I never saw rain or heavy winds. The storms were south of us. My boyfriend works for NIPSCO in Gary.  He worked overtime due to the storm watch. I’ve asked him if he gets nervous working in Gary after dark because he works sometimes for 12 hours. He knows to stay out of some areas, but overall, he feels safe.
 June 24: I took Johnny, whom I babysit for, to Funflatables; a place full of different bouncy houses. It’s a really nice, new facility. Every Tuesday they have a “special needs open play” from 5:30 to 7:30. Johnny has autism. It was nice to see social interaction between Johnny and others. He wants to go back!

No comments:

Post a Comment