Friday, September 11, 2015


  "Oh my heroes, my brothers, where have you gone?
There is something in the air, something is wrong.
Where is my father, my mother, my sister, my lover?
Have you all gone over to the other side?"
         “We’re Leaving,” DeVotchKa

Niece Andrea turned me on to DeVotchKa, whom she saw at a Seattle concert.  The name is Russian for “girl,” and the Denver group plays multiple instruments and music ranging from gypsy punk to indie folk rock.  Most famous for scoring the “Little Miss Sunshine” soundtrack, the band 15 years ago played at burlesque shows starring the classy Dita Von Teese.

A total of 2,996 countrymen left this earth 14 years ago, and America hasn’t been the same since.  It was this generation’s Pearl Harbor.  As Norman Mailer wrote of 1968 in “Miami and the Siege of Chicago,” paraphrasing novelist John Updike, perhaps God had withdrawn his blessing from America.  In 1968 the deaths of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy put the nation, Mailer wrote then, on the edge of revolution and nihilism.  The 9/11 attacks produced a needless war in Iraq and an endless “War on Terrorism.”
above, Dita Von Teese; below, Andrew Kapocius, photo by Erika Rose

I wore a red shirt similar to what IUN’s Physical Plant staff has been wearing for years.  Spotting Grounds Supervisor Tim Johnson watering plants by the library, I expected to joke that I was reporting for duty since it was such a nice day.  To my surprise he had on a blue shirt and explained that the new Facilities director had the staff switch to fire resistant clothing – an upgrade.  Walking across campus, I noticed a well-dressed man picking up bits of trash.  I guessed correctly that it was Andrew Kapocius, hired to replace the retired Joe Pellicciotti as Executive Director for Facilities and Operations.  He was friendly, downplayed collecting litter (as if to say, anyone would – or should – do the same), and laughed at my red “physical plant” shirt anecdote.  His duties include fire prevention and overseeing the new Arts and Sciences Building Project, so Kapocius will undoubtedly face confrontations from protestors who want more local union workers hired.  Let’s hope he’s skilled in conflict resolution; he seems a seasoned veteran.

I’ll conclude my remarks for Midge’s memorial service with a tribute to the Brookdale Mirage Inn staff.  Initially she compared the place unfavorably to her previous residence in Bradenton, Florida, Freedom Village, but before long made friends and settled in, winning a Wii bowling tournament and attending Happy Hour with hundred year-old buddy Shirley.  She appreciated the friendly workers who did her laundry, filled her hummingbird feeder, served her meals with a smile, and helped her in and out of her wheelchair.  She loved dining hall manager Corey and the young women at the front desk who helped check her in and out when we took her for dinner.  I’ll miss my visits there but cherish memories of giving Bob and Niki’s kids Addie and Crosby wheelchair rides up and down the hall and of characters such as the 101 year-old lady with the nice legs who went to the casino Fridays or the friendly guy at the head of the men’s table who was a big Ohio State fan.  I’ll miss the salad bar and BLTs on toast I usually ordered or reading David McCullough biographies in the library while Midge was having her hair down at the salon.  I cannot remember Midge ever complaining about the staff or vice versa.
 Soderquists; NWI Times photo by John Luke

I have mixed feelings about the government putting Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist on trial for using campaign and Food Pantry money to support a gambling habit.  What he did was wrong, but the amount of graft was miniscule compared to what lawyers commonly get for a day’s work.  Soderquist was too ashamed to declare bankruptcy and feared such an action would end his political career.  The family’s addiction left him deeply in debt; otherwise I’m certain he’d have paid back whatever wasn’t a legitimate expense.  The heartless Feds even tried to block his defense team from calling to the stand sympathetic character witnesses. 

VU History professor Heath Carter invited friends to a book-signing celebration at Four Fathers Brewing for “Union Made: Working People and the Rise of Social Christianity in Chicago.”  Oxford University Press announced:
While historians have often attributed the rise of the Social Gospel to middle-class ministers, seminary professors, and social reformers, this book places working people at the very center of the story. The major characters--blacksmiths, glove makers, teamsters, printers, and the like--have been mostly forgotten, but as Carter convincingly argues, their collective contribution to American Social Christianity was no less significant than that of Walter Rauschenbusch or Jane Addams.  
Reviewer Jackson Lears wrote, “‘Union Made’ persuasively documents the working class origins of Social Christianity among Protestant and Catholics alike. It also makes clear that the decline of this Social Gospel tradition has left us increasingly vulnerable to the conscienceless capitalism of our own time. Reading it reminds us of what we have lost.”

Chris Young published an article I proofread for him in the prestigious Journal of American Studies, entitled, “Memory by Consensus: Remembering the American Revolutionary War in Chicago.”  Two statues were erected during the early 1940s, one of spy Nathan Hale, the other of George Washington and financiers Robert Morris and Polish Jew Haym Salomon.  Young concluded:
Although the Chicago River that separated the two statues could serve as a symbol for the sharp political division that separated [patrons Robert] McCormick and [Barnet] Hodes, the American Revolution provided a set of uncontested and uncontroversial ideas and images that could be used by different groups or individuals to discuss their visions, concerns, and values.

Donors gave the Archives two new rich collections pertaining to the history of the Gary schools, one about Tolleston High School and the other on Roosevelt principal H. Theo Tatum.

At afternoon bowling I was half-expecting codgers with walkers, but at least half were younger than I and in better shape than most younger bowlers at Cressmoor.  At Paul Kern’s Florida community, The Villages, there’s a “Super Senior” league for bowlers over 70.  A Chicago radio station played 50s songs, characterized as “real oldies” until ratings tanked.  The Electrical Engineers won our first game.  Going into the tenth frame, we were slightly ahead, but Faye, leading off for Members Only, doubled.  We all marked (I picked up a 4-7 for a spare), but their clean-up man, a 200 bowler, needed only to mark for them to win.  He left a 1-2-4-5 and only picked up the 1-2-4 on an apparent good hit.  Bob Robinson, after two games barely over 100, rolled a 201. 

Leaving for California, I lament the absence of nonstop flights from O’Hare to Palm Springs this time of year.  The choice of times sucks – either 5-:05 a.m. (impractical due to no airport bus service that early) or 3:30 p.m. through Phoenix, arriving at my destination after dark.  Dave offered to accompany me, but I told him I could handle things alone.

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