Tuesday, July 14, 2015

It's Obvious

       “So we starve all the teachers

And recruit more Marines

How come we don't even know

What that means, it's obvious.
And the walls are coming down

Between the eagle and the dove

You don't have to be a hippie to believe in love.”
         Joe Jackson, “Obvious Song”
Joe Jackson’s 1990 CD “Laughter and Lust” leads off with “Obvious Song,” whose lyrics remind me of Elvis Costello’s “What’s So Funny About Peace, Love, and Understanding?”  “Laughter and Lust” contains such gems as “Hit Single” and “Stranger Than Fiction.”  The final song, “Drowning,” is about contemplating lost love as time slips away:
       There's laughter as I drown
       Like so many lost before me
       Damned by lust and gone to hell
I discovered two Obvious magazines, one Brazilian, the other devoted to style and fashion.  These seem obvious to me: public universities should be free; America needs a progressive income tax without loopholes; workers deserve a minimum wage of at least $15 an hour; tough EPA regulations are necessary to prevent corporations from polluting the environment; Latino immigrants have enriched America.  Hopefully Bernie Sanders’s candidacy will force Hillary Clinton to get on board with the progressive wing of her party.

Highlighting Valparaiso’s Shakespeare in the Park festivities was a live performance of “Hamlet,” but midway through the play the rains came.  With Angie at a wedding in Texas, Dave took James and Becca to a 49 Drive-in double feature (“Minions” and “Inside Out”).  The place was packed, and it took forever to leave due the lack of adequate exits, Dave reported the next morning at gaming (I was one for 4, prevailing in Amun Re thanks to being able to play 3 power cards).

Though I haven’t been to Subway in weeks, server Danielle recalled that I liked my 6-inch cold-cut on an Italian roll, with oil put on first.  She knew what ingredients I wanted, including extra onions.  On TV: Cubs salvaged one victory in their three-game White Sox series, thanks to Jake Arrieta, who hurled a complete game and homered.  Comcast was offering free season series premieres, so I caught an episode of Showtime’s “Masters of Sex.”  Like “Mad Men,” it seemed very true to the spirit of the 1960s regarding relationships between the sexes.  Critics have panned the second season of HBO’s “True Detective,” but Rachel McAdams, Colin Farrell, and Taylor Kisch are quite compelling, and the plot is more understandable than season one.   A special treat is David Morse playing a guru charlatan.
 Rachel McAdams in "True Detective"

Anne Balay has left Miller, following closing on her house.  She thinks the buyers (the Renslow sisters, daughters of Al and Meg, whose wedding I attended at Club SAR 40 years ago) intend to keep the outside colors that some neighbors thought too garish.  On the phone I told her to visit and added my usual salutation, “You know, I love you.”  She replied, first time ever, with “I love you, too, Jimbo” and chuckled when I thanked her for saying it.  Anne educated me more than anyone since historian William H. Harbaugh turned me into a liberal at Bucknell and Staughton Lynd taught me to study history from the rank-and-file perspective, in other words, from the bottom up.

At Gino’s Steakhouse in Merrillville for a book club get together I ordered my normal BLT salad and an MGD.  By mistake the waitress brought me a glass of Zombie Dust from Three Floyd’s Brewery in Munster.  After I took a sip, I noticed an empty bottle of MGD in front of someone else, whose beer was lighter in color than mine.  I enjoyed the pale ale but limited my intake to a single glass.  Sitting with former judge Lorenzo Arredondo and attorney Michael Bosch, I mentioned having interviewed Arredondo family members for a project called “Pass the Culture, Please.”  Lorenzo, like me, will soon be attending his fifty-fifth high school reunion.  Sitting nearby were Brian and Connie Barnes, also, who re-connected at a high school reunion.  Jerry Davich, age 53, wrote about everyone (but him) looking so old 35 years after graduation.  On the other hand, I expect Upper Dublin classmates who return in October to look great, grey hair and bum knees notwithstanding.
S. S. McClure

During discussion of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s “Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism” I intended to restrict my comments to highlighting the accomplishments of the founder of McClure’s magazine, which published articles of exposure by such muckraking journalists Lincoln Steffens, Ida Tarbell, Upton Sinclair, and Ray Stannard Baker.  New York Times reviewer Bill Keller wrote: “The writers of McClure’s became the shock troops of the progressive movement, ‘putting faces and names to the giant corporations (to quote Goodwin), shining a bright light on the sordid maneuvers that were crushing independent businessmen in one sector after another.’”  The Irish-born Samuel S. McClure graduated from Valparaiso High School while living with a Dr. Cass, allegedly the richest man in town, who provided room and board but no money for a winter overcoat.  “Speed was my overcoat,” wrote McClure, who worked for the Valparaiso Vidette as a printer’s devil and is in the Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame. 

After presenter Michael Bosch revealed that TR was a prolific letter writer, I mentioned perusing his papers at the Library of Congress while researching Jacob A. Riis.  TR corresponded with an amazing variety of sources: reformers, Harvard professors, labor leaders, as well as politicians and enlightened businessmen.  Ken Anderson wondered what if Roosevelt hadn’t been president.  There would have been a Progressive Movement, I asserted, but not such a rapid (and unfortunate) rise in imperialism, a subject author Doris Kearns Goodwin did not investigate in an otherwise outstanding popular history.

In just a few days my “Tom Higgins R.I.P.” blog became the second most read entry ever, eclipsed only by “Singing Sands,” which dealt with nineteenth century Swedish immigration to Miller and novelist Nelson Algren’s summer adventures in a cottage near Lake Michigan with French feminist Simone de Beauvoir and other lady friends.  I wrote Betty Higgins, Tom’s widow, expressing my profound admiration for a true Region legend and asking for a copy of a photo I saw at his wake of Tom with his sailboat.

Edwin Whitlock, writing from Hawaii, confirmed that in 1981 he suggested that Gary be named DuSable because, in his words, “Elbert Gary was anti-labor and Jean DuSable, Gary’s first non-native resident, was a true hero.”  The idea ran into opposition from Dr. Margaret Burroughs of Chicago’s DuSable Museum, who feared it would undermine having DuSable recognized as the father of Chicago.  Mayor Hatcher, Whitlock recalled, “felt it would be tantamount to an admission of shame of the name of Gary.”  So he dropped the proposal.  In 2011 Whitlock met with then-mayor Rudy Clay, whom, he quipped, “very much reflected Gary’s African-American community, a transplant from Mississippi driving a red and white Cadillac El Dorado.”  Regarding my latest Steel Shavings issue, Whitlock said, “Good to see Dolly [Millender] and Sparky [Cohen] are still around.  Please give Dharathula and Ron my fond regards.”
above, Gordon Parks; below, "American Gothic, Washington, D.C." by Parks

In his class on Still Photography Samuel A. Love focused on Gordon Parks (1912-2006), best known for Life magazine pictorial essays but also a novelist, composer, Renaissance charactor, and ladies man.  Like Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans, Parks worked for the Farm Security Administration.  Previously, though a complete novice, he talked a women’s clothier into letting him photograph his models.  He was so nervous he double exposed all but one of the photos.  When he first came to Washington, D.C., his superior, Ray Stryker, sent him to a certain restaurant and then to a theater.  Denied entry, Parks learned the harsh reality of segregation in the nation’s capital. Sam had students double-expose photos on purpose in homage to Gordon Parks. 
After class 18 year-old Latrice Young told me she’ll be working at an Episcopal summer camp for children of incarcerated parents.  The theme of the current Journal of American History’s is “Historians and the Carceral State.”  The volume includes an article by former IUN professor Edward J. Escobar, my co-editor of “Forging a Community: The Latino Experience in Northwest Indiana.”

Tom Wade coaxed me into playing duplicate bride at Chesterton YMCA, assuring me that everyone was friendly.  That proved to be true, and I already knew Judy Selund, Charlie Halberstadt, and Chuck Tomes, the latter a former Portage math teacher and softball umpire when I played as well as a referee of youth basketball games.  In eighth grade Phil started the season on the B team bench, as the coach favored taller kids. Chuck, on hand to referee the A game, was near me when Phil executed a fast break to perfection with a bounce pass to a teammate.  “That was sweet,” Chuck said; “that’s my son,” I told him, flush with pride.  The following game Phil was promoted to the A squad.  Chuck reminded me that his grandfather, Reverend O.E. Tomes, appears in “City of the Century” and introduced me to wife Marcy, who grew up near Lew Wallace and whose parents lived in the classy Ambassador Apartments on Gary’s near west side.  I was there once, in the early 1970s, to interview Rabbi Garry August.

T. Wade and I finished in the middle of the pack.  One  hand I wish I could play over: Tom bid 3 clubs, indicating a long suit but less than opening count.  I had 22 points and 5 hearts, led by an ace, king, queen.  I bid and played 4 hearts and went down one.  With six trump out against me I played my top three rather than finesse, but there was a 4-1 split.  With a singleton queen of clubs in my hand and an ace and six little clubs on the board, I led the queen and played the ace when the player on my left didn’t lay down the king.  I figured, wrongly, if she had it, she’d cover an honor with an honor, normally the proper play.

On Facebook was this post from my friend Robert Blaszkiewicz: This morning, I'm thankful for the amazing journalists that I've had the pleasure of working with these past 21 years. I'm overwhelmed and feel lucky to have the support of so many family and friends. And I'm looking forward to writing the next chapter. -30-.”  The NWI Times lost a true professional, and I’ll be cancelling my subscription.  The newspaper racket really sucks.  It’s obvious that in an ailing industry the cash nexus trumps everything.  As the Post-Trib’s Jerry Davich put it: “What? Why? When? Where? How? Sorry, as usual, just questions from me... unlike you, who always had the answers. I'll miss you and I haven't worked with you for nearly a decade.” 

In journalism the number 30 is a sign of completion.  Ivan Cohen replied to Robert: “Never -30-.  Just a jump to another page.”   Music critic and Lakeshore Radio personality Tom Lounges spoke for many when he said: “You are a wonderful journalist and top shelf person Robert – one of my favorite editors over the years who was always fair and professional.”  I second that emotion.  Robert gave the Times his best effort for two decades, and management gave him 6 hours to clear out his workspace.  That Robert could write such a gracious goodbye shows what a class act he is. -30-.

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