Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Making His Bones

“I made my bones when I was 19, the last time the family had a war.”  Sonny Corleone in “The Godfather”

The phrase “making his bones” essentially means establishing one’s credentials or bona fides.  The expression gained popularity when James Caan as Sonny Corleone in “The Godfather” (1972) uttered those words as a euphemism for making his first kill.  In that same movie Alex Rocco, playing a Jewish casino owner in Las Vegas, told Michael Corleone (Al Pacino), “I’m Moe Greene.  I made my bones when you were banging cheerleaders.”
above, Alex Rocco as Moe Greene; below, Nathan Cobbs

I almost didn't vote in the Chesterton election because we’re in the fourteenth district and, according to my favorite Chesterton Tribune reporter Kevin Nevers, the only contested race was for fourth district councilman, where Democrat Scot McCord, 61, squared off against 31 year-old Nathan Cobbs.  Nevers wrote:
McCord has been a municipal official for a quarter of a century, serving a short time on the Park Board and a very long time on the Utility Service Board.  Cobbs is only beginning to make his bones.

Unbeknownst to me beforehand, I could cast a ballot in all district contests, not just my own.  At Brummitt Elementary School election officials swiped my driver’s license and had me sign a device similar to one used by IU Credit Union rather than a big book like in the past.  As usual, I voted straight Democrat. McCord lost by a single vote, 399-398.  Had the squeaker gone the other way, the sticker, “My vote counted,” would have had added meaning.  McCord was gracious in defeat but lamented that over 92 percent of Chesterton residents didn’t bother going to the polls.
 photo by Samuel A. Love

Samuel A. Love attended a rally protesting Agri-Fine Corporation, manufacturers of livestock feed from vegetable oil and water discarded by oil refineries, polluting the Calumet River and spreading petcoke dust throughout a residential neighborhood.  The area often smells like rotten eggs or decomposing corpses.  Resident Liz Morua called the situation “unbearable – you really don’t want to be outside when you smell it.”
Jeff Manes interviewed 77 year-old Salvatore “Sam” Rizzo, owner of Ono’s Pizza in Miller.  In 1953 his mother and aunt bought the place when it was a hamburger and hot dog joint called the Beach Box.  Rizzo’s dad, the son of Sicilian immigrants, grew up in Glen Park and worked in a Gary Works metallurgical lab. His mother, Rizzo recalled, “worked in the fish department at Goldblatt’s.  Later she worked in the produce department at the A & P at Ninth and Massachusetts.  She also worked at the ammunition factory – Kingsbury – during the war years.  Yeah, Ma was a worker.”  In 1962 the family converted the Beach Box into Ono’s Pizza, named for Sam’s Uncle Onopio Penzato.  Rizzo told Manes: “We were going to name it Sam and Ono’s Pizza, but we didn’t have enough room on the sign.”

Cleaning out her mother’s house, Judy Ayers discovered a box containing her old Tiny Tears doll and a photo of herself at age six in front of Dr. Walfred A. Nelson’s Lake Street office – where Judy subsequently worked as a nurse for 31 years.  Suffering from a sore throat and ear-ache, Judy had taken her doll to Dr. Nelson hoping he’d check her ears and throat, too.  On the back of the photo was this note:
  Never doubt the intentions of a strong-willed little girl.  Those intentions plus steadfast encouragement from Dr. Nelson surely has something to do with you doing just what you always said you were going to do – become his nurse.  I don’t know why we had a camera with us on this day, but I remember you insisted on having your picture taken as we left the office after an appointment and before we had to go back the same day after the garage door came down on your head.

 New Zealand’s All Blacks, led by Dan Carter, won the 2015 Rugby World Cup, dispatching the Australian Wallabies, 34-17.  Prior to the match the All Blacks, as has been their custom since 2005, performed the haka, an ancestral Maori dance involving grunts and facial contortions.  Once a traditional war cry, the haka also has been part of welcoming ceremonies and occasions such as funerals, with women and children joining in. Sports Illustrated columnist Steve Rushin tweeted from rugby’s ancestral home: “Lots of research at Cabbage Patch pub in Twickenham.”  Rushin’s SI article began:

        At first glance the Rugby World Cup is the greatest celebration of national stereotypes since It’s a Small World opened at Disneyland.  Italian fans came dressed as pizza slices, Welshmen wore sheep’s clothing, Aussies arrived in striped prison jumpsuits, and every French fan was reduced to a beret and a baguette.  Step up to a stainless-steel urinal trough at a stadium in England or Wales over the last six weeks, and you saw English knights dropping chain-mail trousers, Tonga supporters parting grass skirts, and kilted Scotsmen farting through tartan.
 photo by Steve Rushin

Neil Goodman will be retiring in a year or two and moving to California.  The new Arts and Sciences Building Fine Arts quarters will lack a casting furnace, much to his chagrin since he won’t be able to teach what he knows best without a furnace.
Cara Lewis

Around campus posters touted a spring Queer Studies offering, Representations of Gender and Sexuality in Literature.  The notice claimed it will count toward fulfillment of IUN’s Diversity requirement, something new to me.  Instructor Cara Lewis, whose field is twentieth-century British literature, was a magna cum laude Harvard graduate who majored in History and English.  Her University of Virginia PhD dissertation was titled “Beyond Ekphrasis: Visual Media and Modernist Narrative.”  The word “ekphrasis” originated in ancient Greece and refers to a literary description of a work of art.  Lewis has written about the novel “To the Lighthouse” (1927), based in large parts on author Virginia Woolf’s examination of her parents’ relationship.

The latest Calumet Regional Archives acquisition, “Record Paradise,” is a fictionalized memoir by IUN grad Joni Jacques, who grew up in Gary during the late 1960s.  On the dedication page she thanks professors Lori Montalbano, Robin Hass, Cynthia O’Dell, and Regina Jones for their help and encouragement. Joni referenced The Border Gary’s red light district:
  Some of the most beautiful women I ever saw were on the Border.  My mom said they were working girls.  I didn’t know what that was but I told her if she ever wanted to work, I was pretty sure she could get a job down there because she was pretty, too.  She looked like I had slapped her.  I asked my grandmother why my mother got mad at me for telling her where she could secure gainful employment.  She explained to me what a working girl was and she and my grandfather had a big laugh about it.

Joni Jacques frequented the State Theaters, where Roy Dominguez worked as a teenager after being hired by a Greek lady named Tula Kalleris.  Both Dominguez and Jacques went to West Side in 1969, the year the school opened.  In “Record Paradise” (the name of a record store) Jacques wrote:
  The State Theater was on Sixth Avenue; its design was Art Deco.  It was owned by a mysterious little white lady who always wore black head to toe, smoked incessantly and had the most beautiful gold charm bracelet I ever saw.  It looked like it weighed a ton.  She would walk through the lobby before each movie and then would disappear into her office like a little ghost.  She was fascinating.
 1936 Gold medalists; Joe Rantz, second from left; kneeling is coxswain Bobby Moch

 I’ve been reading Daniel James Brown’s “The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.” The crew, from the University of Washington, defeated elite Ivy League squads before besting the British, Italians, and favored Germans. The author met Olympian Joe Rantz, whose daughter Judy took Joe’s gold metal from a glass case and let him handle it.  Brown wrote:
  While I was admiring it, she told me that it had vanished years before.  The family had searched Joe’s house high and low but had finally given it up as lost.  Only many years later, when they were re-modeling the house, had they finally found it concealed in some insulating material in the attic.  A squirrel had apparently taken a liking to the glimmer of the gold and hidden the medal away in its nest as a personal treasure.  As Judy was telling me this, it occurred to me that Joe’s story, like the medal, had been squirreled away out of sight for too long.

No comments:

Post a Comment