Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Heart of the Matter

“I’m learning to live without you now
But I miss you sometimes.”
         Don Henley, “The Heart of the Matter”

I saw Don Henley in Merrillville about a decade ago, and he ended the show with “Desperado,” one of the few Eagles songs he performed.  “The Heart of the Matter” is about the end of a relationship, but as I was going through a period of bereavement for my mother, certain lines hit me hard.  Even though Midge lived a long, full life and was content to die, her passing still leaves a void and I’ll miss visiting her in California.  As Ray Smock put it, “When my Dad died a few years ago at age 93, we knew it was coming but even so when it did happen, it was the shock of finality that hit me.”  Cousin Judy Barlow, whom I haven’t seen in 50 years, wrote: “I remember her as a lovely, gracious woman with a wonderful smile – a joy to be around.”

At Camelot, where grandson James bowled a 420 series, I ran into Anthony Forbes, Chris Lugo, and Kerry Smith from my old Sheet and Tin League.  Son Phil was in town for two Fantasy Football drafts; the first included me.  Selecting sixth and eleventh, my initial picks were running back Jamaal Charles and wide receiver Dez Bryant.  QBs Andrew Luck and Aaron Rogers went very early, and I picked up Drew Brees rather late.  Sunday Robert Blaszkiewicz hosted a 12-team auction draft that I stayed clear of – one league being enough for me.

Sunday I picked up tomatoes from a Panos Farms booth at Miller Market, and Tom Eaton and I ate tacos together.  The traffic along Route 12 was heavy both at County Line Road and Route 49, as the temperature reached 90 and carloads of families were anxious for one more day at the beach along Lake Michigan.  Fortunately, I knew to go to Tremont Road past the Charter School of the Dunes in order to avoid the bottleneck near the entrance to Dunes State Park.  I watched the Cubs complete a sweep of the Diamondbacks as Kris Bryant hit a monster HR.
above, Nelson Algren; below, Sue Rutsen and George Rogge, Post-Trib photo by Jim Karczewski

Jeff Manes interviewed Sue Rutsen about an upcoming event, “Take a Walk on the Wild Side,” about novelist Nelson Algren.  She explained:
  We'll start right here at 18th Street Brewery, have one beer, and then walk down Lake Street with the Miller Historical Society for a guided tour of downtown Miller. Docents in period dress will be stationed along the way to tell us about the shops, bars and other establishments Nelson and Simone [de Beauvoir] frequented during the '50s. Once we take a look at Algren's cabin from the street, we'll stroll over to Ono's Pizza House, which opened in 1953. Ono's is stuck in time. There's a party room in the back. The owner, Sam Rizzo, has period music and everything. We'll cap off the evening with beer, wine and tasty food.

Hailing from Minnesota and North Dakota, Rutsen lived in Bucktown, the same Chicago neighborhood where Algren grew up, until moving to Miller 16 years ago.  Rutsen mentioned that Algren earned a journalism degree from the University of Illinois but couldn’t find work during the Great Depression.  In Texas pumping gas, he got arrested for stealing a typewriter from a school classroom and spent six months in jail.  Rutsen met a woman from Beverly Shores who claimed to have had an affair with Algren.  The author of “The Man with the Golden Arm” and “A Walk on the Wild Side” was a notorious womanizer, drinker, and gambler – and not very good at the latter.

Singer Kanye West announced that he’ll run for President in 2020.  Donald Trump wished him luck.  ABC analyst Matthew Dowd can imagine both Trump and Bernie Sanders being the Republican and Democratic nominees for President.  While that’s extremely unlikely, so far the electorate seems fed up with all establishment candidates.  Tea Party billionaires and Fox news strategists assumed incorrectly that they could control the yahoos in their movement, who are rallying behind Kentucky County Clerk Kim Davis.  She went to jail rather than allow her staff to issue same-sex marriage licenses.  Mike Huckabee has offered to take her place in jail.  Anne Balay cautions against criticizing her looks and background, but I believe it’s fair game to bring up that she’s thrice divorced.

Commenting on the photo of the Huckabees and Davises, I said that the bib overalls on hubby Joe were a bit much – like he arrived after a day tending the back 40 acres.  Ray replied:
  Kim Davis’s husband is the best-dressed redneck I have ever seen. I particularly like the green visor straw hat. His choice of wardrobe is impeccably designed to offend city people and liberals. And he bears a strong resemblance to generations of overseers of black field hands.  While Grant Wood gave us “American Gothic,” the photographer of this picture has given us “American Jihad.”  I remember in grad school reading Albert Kirwan’s “Revolt of the Rednecks” about Mississippi politics from the end of Reconstruction into the 1920s.  There is a lot in that book that continues to play out in American politics. And the Kim Davis story is one of them, although hard economic times dominated Kirwan’s book, while Kim Davis pulls down 80 grand a year as a county clerk.
  The Tea Party feels betrayed by its own Republican party, just like the rednecks of Mississippi a 100 years ago felt about the Democrats, even though the circumstances were different. The fact that Trump and Carson, two total outsiders to politics , are garnering the support of those seeking to revolt against Big Government in general, a black President of the other party in particular, plus the failure of the Republican party to shrink government and accept America as a fundamentalist theocracy. It is no coincidence that the presidential candidate in the picture is a Bible thumping preacher and Elmer Gantry huckster. 
 Mike and Janet Huckabee; Kim and Joe Davis

Republican strategist Frank Luntz, architect of the 1994 Contract with America and credited with popularizing the phrase “Death Tax” in reference to estate taxes, has criticized fellow Republicans for referring to undocumented workers as “illegals,” the implication being than they are less than human.  During the 1950s, when large scale deportations took place, the government dubbed the program “Operation Wetback.”  Unbelievable, but then so is The Donald’s calling them rapists and criticizing Jeb Bush for answering a question in Spanish.

At IUN Carolyn McCrady was handing out announcements for a rally next Monday to demand the hiring of local union workers for the new Arts and Sciences Building project.  Carolyn is a tireless peace and labor advocate and loyal administrative assistant to Richard Hatcher.

Performing at the Thrill of the Grill, moved inside Moraine due to threatening weather, were Chad Clifford and Aaron Hedges of the Crawpuppies, who will open for Poi Dog Pondering at Saturday’s Valpo Popcorn Festival.  They played continuously from 11:30 on and at my request did Supertramp’s “The Logical Song.”   A woman in a Batman t-shirt mouthed the words to almost all the selections.  I sang the “Hip hips” to Weezer’s “Island in the Sun.” After a medley, Chad told the crowd, “We only know six songs.”  I shouted back, “Yeah, but they’re each an hour long.” He probably knows at least a hundred times that many, from Fifties standards to contemporary hits.   One pleasant surprise was a rendition of the Beatles’ “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown).”  Booking agent Omar Farag greeted me warmly, and at my suggestion Jonathyne Briggs brought to lunch guest speaker Andrew S. Baer, a Northwestern grad student whose dissertation, dealing with notorious Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge, is titled, “From Law and Order to Torture: Race and Police in Post-Industrial Chicago.” 

In Briggs’ seminar on 1968 youth rebellions Baer stressed that the so-called police riot during the Democratic national Convention obscured the more common racial nature of police brutality.  Following the notorious 1960 Summerdale scandal, involving police participation in a string of robberies, Mayor Richard Daley hired Superintendent O.W. Wilson to “professionalize” the Chicago Police Department, but the reforms did not end corruption or racism.  After the rioting following Marin Luther King’s assassination in April 1868, Daley was determined that his city not go up in flames again.  Thus, cops were on a short leash leading up to the convention, under orders to come down hard on “hippies, yippies, and dippies,” as Daley branded the protestors.  Hizzonor might not have been far from the truth when he famously said, “The policeman isn’t there to create disorder, the policeman is there to preserve disorder.”

I asked Baer about the Poor People’s Campaign Mule Train that police allowed to proceed down Michigan Avenue right before surrounding and beating demonstrators.  Daley’s underlings had issued a permit to Abernathy’s group while denying one to antiwar protestors.  When I brought up how agent provocateurs fomented violence to give protestors a bad name, Baer concurred that significant numbers had infiltrated the demonstrations from a half-dozen “Red Squads.”

My “Straight Outta Gary” t-shirt received a dozen compliments, including one from a young woman who took my picture and another who offered to trade shirts on the spot.  I told admirers about the vendor selling them at 24th and Broadway.  Drenched because I had left my umbrella in the Archives, I changed into a Grand Valley State shirt and bowled a practice game (149 despite an initial gutter ball) at Hobart Lanes with Dick Maloney.  Several Wednesday night veterans, including Dennis Cavanaugh and Duke Caminsky, will be in our Thursday afternoon league.

It’s back to school in Chicago, where students and their parents could ride public transportation free on the first day. In Grand Rapids Anthony started twelfth grade and Tori tenth.

On the long-awaited debut of Steven Colbert on “The Late Show” the host praised Dave Letterman after joking that he wanted to pay tribute “to the man who graced this stage for 22 years – I’m talking of course about Biff Henderson.”  The closing number was a rousing version of Sly and the Family Stone’s “Everyday People,” featuring blues legend Buddy Guy, Brittany Howard from Alabama Shakes, and Mavis Staples, who got her start at Gary’s Vee-Jay Records.

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