Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Peaceful Easy Feeling

“I got a peaceful easy feeling,
And I know you won’t let me down
‘cause I’m already standing on the ground.”
         “Peaceful Easy Feeling,” Jack Tempchin, recorded by Eagles
Toni flanked by granddaughters Alissa and Miranda
The family celebrated Toni’s 72nd birthday at Applebee’s Saturday and with spring rolls Sunday, joined by Alissa and Miranda as well as Marianne and Missy Brush, who brought a cake and bottle of wine.  Missy went through albums that Dave and I didn’t want and picked out several, including one by the Eighties L.A. punk band X.  I learned that Missy’s dad Tim Brush (Big Voodoo Daddy) liked Jim Croce and the soft-rock group Bread (he and Marianne danced to “Make It with You” at their wedding).  Missy is a huge David Bowie fan, and she got so excited when I showed her my “Ziggy Stardust” album (“The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars”), that I gave it to her.  She was quite overwhelmed; when Dave told her she could get lots of money for it, she replied touchingly, “I’ll be buried with it.” 

I called Terry Jenkins to tell him I used a quote from “Stories of the Street” by Leonard Cohen, one of his favorite singers, in my blog and urged him to watch the Grammy tributes to Glenn Frey, Maurice White of Earth, Wind, and Fire, and David Bowie.  He told me that he took his daughter Lorraine to see him at a concert in Philadelphia.  Sporting a garish red pompadour, Lady Gaga did a ten-song Bowie medley, beginning with “Space Oddity,” and complete with psychedelic effects.  It was impressive, but I was hoping for a surprise appearance by Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger, Bono or Iggy Pop.  The Grammy highlight for me was ageless Jackson Browne singing “Peaceful Easy Feeling” with the surviving Eagles, including Don Henley on drums.  If Browne was 21 in ’69, as the “Running On Empty” lyrics indicate, he’d be just six years my junior.
Rapper Kendrick Lamar won five Grammys and performed “The Blacker the Berry (the sweeter the juice)” dressed as a jailbird in chains.  The final lines go:
So don't matter how much I say I like to preach with the Panthers
Or tell Georgia State "Marcus Garvey got all the answers"
Or try to celebrate February like it's my B-Day
Or eat watermelon, chicken, and Kool-Aid on weekdays
Or jump high enough to get Michael Jordan endorsements
Or watch BET cause urban support is important
So why did I weep when Trayvon Martin was in the street?
When gang banging make me kill a nigga blacker than me?
Conspiracy theories have sprung up over the death of reactionary Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia at a luxury Texas hunting resort.  Donald Trump couldn’t resist telling rightwing radio host Michael Savage, “They say they found a pillow on his face, which is a pretty unusual place to find a pillow.”  Some crazies are pointing the finger at Obama, while others suggest the Bush family poisoned him because he was about to implicate George W. in the September 11 attacks.  What hogwash.  Republicans vow to block any SCOTUS appointment until after the November election, even should Obama nominate a moderate.  They may regret the strategy.  Indian-American B.N. “Sri” Srikrishna, below, is a leading candidate.

Valerie Abalos Pettovello came across my blog and sought my help in corroborating a family story about her grandfather, a Mexican immigrant living in Indiana Harbor during the 1920s.  I told her that her best bets were two contemporary newspapers, the East Chicago Calumet News and El Amigo del Holgar.  With her permission I’m disseminating her email.  She wrote:
    My grandfather was in a bar when he got in an altercation with an off-duty police officer. Supposedly the officer pulled out his revolver and shot my grandfather in the stomach. He survived the gunshot. The family story is that the officer lost his badge over this. I would assume that this made the newspaper.
  My grandparents moved to Detroit after this and my grandfather died of pneumonia in 1942. My father was 6 years old when he died and remembers the gunshot wound very vividly.  
  The only record of this is family lore. I want to try to find an article or police report to find out what actually happened. 
  It had to have happened before 1930 because he is listed as living in Detroit in the 1930 census. The earliest he could have immigrated would have been 1924, because my aunt was born in 1924 and my grandmother stayed in Mexico until 1927. My guess is that this incident happened after she arrived (but I am not sure).
  My grandfather went by several names: Louis or Joseph Abalos or Avalos.

Seeing Kathi “Kat” Wellington at Portage Library on Saturday reminded me of a book she and 14 other steelworkers contributed to called “The Heat: Steelworker Lives and Legends” (2001).  In “Remembering What’s Important” she wrote about descending into a greasy pit under the roll line to wrestle pieces of scrap steel that had slipped off the conveyor belt with an old-timer nicknamed Moe.  Two other guys with them puked, the smell was so bad, but Moe had stuck earplugs up his nose, and a childhood accident had taken away Kat’s sense of smell.  Kat’s story concludes: “We all made it through our first turn in the mill. As we came out of the pit and into the sunshine, squinting from the dark, Moe laughed out loud and said, ‘Mole People!’”
In “The Heat” Joe Gutierrez (above), who appears in several Studs Terkel oral history volumes, authored “Alan Kepler,” which reminded me of John A. Fitch’s century-old article about steelworkers entitled “Old Age at Forty”.  Gutierrez wrote:
  Alan was 55 years old, but with his white receding hair and his slow walk, he seemed much older. His hands were gnarled with arthritis. He said he soaked them for hours in hot paraffin wax. Then he'd laugh and say it didn’t help much, but it took his mind off his knees, which weren’t much better. 

His back ached like all the old backs in the galvanize line, especially when he had to skim the heavy hot slag off the surface of the molten zinc melted to the 850th degree. The long, 90-pound iron spoons wreaked havoc on old tendons and weak, calcium-deprived bones 

  It all added up to pain, but Al never really complained. The guys who worked with him never complained either. Al did his job the best he could. But there was a lot he couldn’t do, and most everybody went out of their way to help him. He told me once that we go as far as we can go, then God takes us the rest of the way. 

  I never thought about that too much, until later.

Ron Cohen and I took over Steve McShane’s Indiana History class while his wife Cindy was having an operation.  Beforehand, Jonathyne Briggs saw me in a tie and dress shirt and quipped, “I see you got the dress code memo.”  For a split second I thought maybe he was serious.  Briggs is participating in an upcoming program at Northwestern.  I fear he has too much on his plate, having taken over the chairmanship of the History and Philosophy Department from Gianluca DiMuzio.

Before students arrived, O made preparations to show a 15-minute documentary on early Gary’s world-famous unit schools.  I began by talking about Gary’s antecedents, such as removal of the Potawatomi, the coming of the railroads that gave birth to Tolleston and Miller, the migration of Swedes, the Aetna Powder Plant, and the decision by US Steel to buy up 9,000 acres, including seven miles of shoreline, for Gary Works and an adjacent town.  I talked about remarkable progressive Tom Knotts, elected Gary’s first mayor despite the opposition of Steel forces, and his defeat in 1913, the result of bribery, intimidation, and character assassination.  After describing working and housing conditions for blacks and white ethnics, I discussed early residents I interviewed, including sports hero Johnny Kyle and the sons of pioneer Italian-born Antonio Giorgi and Serbian grocer Jovo Krstovich.  After I brought up the activities of Gary Neighborhood House, Ron explained how he and I rescued valuable settlement records after a fire gutted the abandoned building and water damage threatened to ruin documents dating back to Gary’s pioneer era.  In the second half of the class Ron discussed School Superintendent William A. Wirt, who had a rare opportunity to design, virtually from scratch, the Gary schools.  
 Dr. William A. Wirt
Ron Cohen loaned me Robert J. Norrell’s “Alex Haley and the Books that Changed a Nation.”  The reference is to “The Autobiography of Malcolm X,” which Haley put together from interviews, and “Roots: The Saga of an American Family,” which allegedly traced Haley’s family history back to Kunte Kinte, from a Gambian village in Africa, and spawned the most-watched mini-series in TV history.  Norrell wrote: “Haley taught us that families’ experiences actually composed the nation’s history.”  I agree.

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