Monday, January 11, 2016

Yesterday in Gary

“There is no law of progress.  Our future is in our own hands, to make or to mar.  It will be an uphill fight to the end, and would we have it otherwise?  Let no one suppose that evolution will ever exempt us from struggles.”  Dean William R. Inge

Dolly Millender's 1967 volume “Yesterday in Gary: A Brief History of the Negro in Gary” opened with quotes from Dean William R. Inge and Sir Thomas Overbury (“The man who has nothing to boast of but his illustrious ancestry is like the potato - the best part under ground”).  The quotes make clear Millender’s theme that progress only comes with struggle and transcending what came before.  I love that Millender’s title “Yesterday in Gary” emphasizes the connection between past and present. 

At an IUN function Dolly Millender came up to Fred Chary and me and took our picture for a book about Gary legends.  Flattered, I introduced her to F.C. Richardson, who in 1969 helped bring about IUN’s Black Studies program, one of the nation’s first.  I told Dolly that he was a true legend, something that induced a chuckle from my former dean.  Her death caused me to remember Garret Cope, who several times had invited Dolly to speak at Glen Park Conversation gatherings at IUN.  Garret always had everyone introduce themselves, and, more than once, when it came around to him, said, “I am Barack Obama.”  The syllables would roll melodically from his tongue, and there’d be a twinkle in his eye.  I’ve speculated on why Garret did this and believe he saw the President as a kindred spirit and American hero who represented the possibilities of overcoming prejudice and transcending race.

Sadly, some bigots regard Obama as a usurper, similar to the enmity Richard Hatcher faced after he became mayor of Gary.  Recently Obama got choked up during a speech about curbing gun violence as he recalled the 20 young children massacred in 2012 in Sandy Hook, Connecticut.  Then he added: “And by the way, it happens on the streets of Chicago every day.”  Unbelievably, Fox news contributor Andrea Tattaros suggested the President might have had a raw onion under the podium to induce the tears.  Has she no shame?

Also passing away over the holidays was Archibald McKinlay, 88, a NWI Times columnist who wrote a pictorial history of East Chicago and “Reejin Archetypes,” which contains several chapters based on information from “City of the Century” and Steel Shavings issues.  He was mainly interested in the distant past, before superhighways destroyed the polyglot nature of Lake County industrial cities, whereas my concentration has been on the post-World War II years.  Arch, who resembled Papa Ernest Hemingway, founded Cattails Press and published a book Steve McShane and I edited entitled “Skinning Cats: The Wartime Letters of Tom Krueger.”  This excerpt from “Reejin Archetypes” illustrates his breezy style.
  One moment there was uninhabited swamp and wasteland, the next a thriving civilization with its own ineffably alloyed race babbling with all the tongues of the world and discharging the richest, most exotic culture imaginable: the homing place and time for a million divinely-guided, divinely-hindered wanderers, adventurers, expatriates, and miscellaneous folk on the lam – all driven by sweet tooths that hankered for milk and honey.
  Now there are mainly artifacts.
 Roosevelt Allen

In the news locally: Gary Works steelworkers have been sent ballots and will vote whether or not to ratify a contract agreement negotiated by their union.  Also Lake County Commissioner Roosevelt Allen, Jr., a 1965 Gary Roosevelt grad and former funeral director, died unexpectedly, a true gentleman, friend and foe agreed.
Brixton, England mural
David Bowie died after an 18-month battle with liver cancer.  Bono asserted that his influence in England was as huge as Elvis in America.  Marsha Andrevich turned me on to Bowie, and nephew Chad Donahue had all his albums.  He sang about being an outsider and taught listeners that they could reinvent themselves.  Madonna claimed to be devastated and to owe her self-confidence to him.  Ditto Iggy Pop.  Jerry Davich wrote: “Long live the Thin White Duke, Ziggy Stardust and decades of influential music that ushered so many profound ch-ch-ch-changes to the rock and roll world.”   New York Times writer Jon Pareles added:
  Angst and apocalypse, media and paranoia, distance and yearning were among Mr. Bowie’s lifelong themes.  So was the penchant for transgression coupled with the determination to push cult tastes toward the mainstream.

A threatened snowstorm didn’t stop bridge with the Hagelbergs, Tom Eaton, and Pat Cronin and dining at Miller Bakery Cafe followed by desert back at Tom’s.  Sunday Dave, Tom Wade, and Brady Wade arrived for gaming, and after Toni fed us cheeseburgers we kept an eye on IU’s impressive win over Ohio State and the NFL playoffs (disappointing losses by Minnesota and Washington).  Dave and I were huge Skins fans until his prime interest switched to his Fantasy teams. 

I’m a sucker for Will Ferrell movies, and “Daddy’s Home” contained a few funny moments as he played stepdad Bred Whitaker competing with cool Dusty Mayron (Mark Wahlberg).  At a father-daughter dance (similar to one I went to with Alissa when Phil was away at IU) Brad gets carried away and takes off his shirt, then realizes he was the only one to do so.

In Sports Illustrated is a poignant article about former Redskin tight end Jerry Smith, whose pro career spanned 12 years, beginning in 1965. While Smith didn’t talk about being gay, his teammates suspected but accepted him as a brother.  Quarterback Sonny Jurgensen, my favorite player of all time, was one of many teammates who visited him in the hospital as he lay dying of AIDS in 1986.  Smith idolized Coach Vince Lombardi, who died of cancer after bringing respectability to the Redskins my last year at Maryland and had a gay brother.  Coach George Allen called Smith the best Redskins tight end ever. When asked if he knew Smith was gay, Allen responded, “Heck, yeah.  He was one of the happiest guys on the team.”
 Voodoo Daddy (r) with Dave (guitar), John Shearer (drums), and Bob Heckler (organ)

Marianne Brush posted photos of late hubby Tim on Facebook and wrote: “Happy Seventh Anniversary in Rock ‘n Roll Heaven Big Voodoo Daddy!  I love and miss you every day.  Hope you are rocking out!”   We all miss him – he had a huge heart and ready smile and was the most nonjudgmental person I ever knew.

Sunday’s NWI Times Forum section contained IUN professor Chris Young’s article about a “Life Review” exhibit at the Abraham Lincoln Heritage Museum in Lincoln, Illinois. Young wrote:
  The museum guest is welcomed into the state box at Ford’s Theatre and is seated behind Lincoln, his wife, and their guests. One sees the shadowy John Wilkes Booth approach the president, hears the roars of laughter, and anticipates the terrifying shot.
What follows is a simulation of what might have gone through Lincoln’s mind during the subsequent nine hours and nine minutes left of his life.

I have long believed that one remembers past experiences in direct proportion to how enlightening (or traumatic) they were.  In “The Lost Landscape: A Writer’s Coming of Age” Joyce Carol Oates concluded:
  Emotion is a sort of flash photography – if you feel something deeply, you are likely to remember it for a long time.  But where emotion is not heightened, as in most hours of what we call our “daily” lives, memories fade like Polaroid pictures.  The memoirist is one who has impulsively picked up a handful of very hot stones – and has to drop some, in order to keep hold of others.
Anne Balay

Valparaiso University English professor Allison Schuette sent along an announcement about Anne Balay’s upcoming talk on February 18 at VU’s Center for the Arts.  Honored by VU’s Cultural Arts Committee as the 2015 Dr. Betty Berzon “Emerging Writer,” Anne, the announcement states, “presents in Steel Closets powerful stories of the intersections of work, class, gender, and sexual identity in the dangerous industrial setting of the steel mill.  Through the powerful voices of Northwest Indiana steelworkers, Steel Closets provides rich insight into an understudied part of the LGBTQ population.”

The Final Jeopardy question asked the origin of the line: “But Flynn let drive a single, to the wonderment of all.”  Easy: “Casey at the Bat,” the baseball poem by Ernest Thayer.  All three contestants nailed it.

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