Monday, August 8, 2016


 “The beauty of the soul shines out when a man bears with composure one heavy mischance after another, not because he does not feel them, but because he is a man of high and heroic temper.” Aristotle

William K. Buckley wrote “Composure” after visiting West Beach within the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.  It was in “Collecting Life,” published by Taos Press in 2011:
I walk the dunes of Lake Michigan and collect
                          smooth stones
            gull feathers   and bird bones
              if the shape metaphorical
                                      or beach glass
              if the color passionate
as if natural debris
could give                     a soul
as if collection
could deliver
I bend down
on this beach
                                      and break
to pick up pieces of the Earth
in their explanation
                                      for the sanity of death
Bones   Glass   Stones   Feathers

Collecting is taking
                          those thefts we have made
                                      from others
today I shove in my pockets
              returned letters   stone given to me
they expose
                          my wish
                          for composure
              before the undertow

My new computer finally arrived.  Affable Salman Iqbal, who installed it, will graduate at summer’s end.  He started out a Chemistry major but has switched his emphasis to computer information systems to become more employable.  Walking across campus, I ran into Peter Aglinskas, who will be teaching a Fall course on Music for Film, which I intend to audit. It might be a good idea to cross-list it with the Liberal Studies MA program.

Nephew Beamer Pickert, wife Kim and five year-old Nick arrived for a long weekend in time for a fondue and lobster feast Toni prepared for Dave’s birthday.  They had planned to spend a night at a motel but made the journey from Emmitsburg, Maryland, in one day.  Dave’s family postponed a trip to Great America because the temperature was in the mid- 90s.  I taught Beamer Lost Cities, and he came within 3 points of beating me.

Friday at West Beach was the first time Nick had been to one of the Great Lakes.  He mingled well with other kids playing in the sand and along the shore and collected a bucket full of smooth glass and rocks.  Like Phil and Dave many years before, he enjoyed running toward seagulls and watching them take off at the last moment.  For a late lunch we stopped at Depot Dog for Chicago-style hot dogs. The owner keeps the surrounding area meticulous.  I complimented the normally gruff guy, who was manning the cash register.  He beamed and said, “Thanks, I appreciate that.”
 Hagelbergs and McGuans with Mitch Markovitz

At Lake Street Gallery Dick Hagelberg and George McGuan had an unveiling of a South Shore poster they had commissioned from Mitch Markovitz for their Miller-based playground company.  Nick, who is quite affectionate, embraced Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson and hugged Judy Ayers a half-dozen times.  In the most recent Ayers Realtors Newsletter Judy wrote about a road trip to Nashville, where it was “hotter than a pepper sprout” (a lyric from a Johnny Cash/June Carter Cash song). Judy wrote: There must have been a dozen places to buy cowboy boots and therefore boots outnumbered flip flops even in the 99-degree heat. Every once in a while I personally noticed young ladies wearing boots and very short and strapless dresses that made me wonder if one of them could have been whom Tobey Keith refers to in his song about a girl who was a preacher’s daughter and had been baptized in dirty water.”
A First Friday block party was taking place up and down Lake Street.  Eve Bottando was playing the accordion and singing “Hotel California” as we passed the Nelson Algren Alley on the way to Miller Bakery Café.  I introduced John Laue, in from California for the month, to Mayor Freeman-Wilson.  A street person who had gone to school with Karen had attached himself to her, but she handled it with aplomb.  The Bakery Café was hopping, and we exchanged greetings with Jim and Elaine Spicer and Bob and Henry Farag.  I ordered my usual, steak salad, and a pale ale from 18th Street Brewery, now located sadly in Hammond rather than Gary.
 Grace Teuscher selfie with Jimbo and Beamer

Saturday we drove to Evil Czech microbrewery in South Bend for yet another Dave birthday celebration.  The buffet lunch included small helpings of a variety of foods, and one could go through the line multiple times, as we all did.  Dave had discovered the place during a teen bowling tournament.  Our party of 20 included the Horn and English families whose sons Kaiden and Andrew bowl with James as well as niece Lisa Teuscher and her daughter Grace, who was eager to meet Beamer's family.  In marching band, Grace has been practicing 5-6 hours a day, including outside about half that time no matter how hot and humid it is.  Their fall program features numbers by Peter Gabriel, guaranteed to impress middle-age judges.  Mature beyond her years, Grace interacted with kids and adults alike and after I inquired about her life, asked me what I was doing.  Impressive.

Alissa and Beth arrived to make preparations for Beth’s dad’s 80th birthday party the following day. Dave’s family was on hand for a pork roll dinner, and we got in Acquire (Beamer’s second time playing) and Tsuro, an intriguing tile game of Beamer's that takes just 15 minutes to play.  Sunday morning I made potato latkes, scrambled eggs and Polish kielbasa for Beth, Alissa, and the Pickerts before they all took off.
above, Sean Manaea; below, Blake Pierogi in middle

The Cubbies won their seventh straight.  Oakland's starting pitcher, Sean Manaea, grew up in Wanatah and pitched on Andrean’s 2010 state championship team.  Many Cub fans in the Oakland Coliseum were standing as closer Aroldis Chapman struck out the final batter with a 104-mph heater.  In Rio Chesterton’s Blake Pieroni won an Olympic gold for being part of the 400-meter freestyle relay team.  He swam in the preliminary round, but Michael Phelps took his place in the final.

In “My Cold War” (2003) by Tom Piazza a professor who teaches the Cold War from a deconstructionist perspective has a mid-life crisis.  He says:
History, I thought, was what saved you from extinction.  It conferred meaning from outside.  It had been my escape.  But obviously history was equally capable of extinguishing the individual – that, in fact, seemed in many ways to be its true job.
Looking back on the death of his father, he ruminates: “There it all goes, up the chimney.  One more life gone – the memories of World War II dance music, the Depression, Queens, Brooklyn, the early days of radio, whatever private sex experiences he’d had . . . all gone.”  He compared aging to “heading downriver toward the great Waterfall, the roar growing louder in the distance, leaving nothing behind on the shore.”   He called Bob Dylan singing “I ain’t gonna work on Maggie’s farm no more” with a rock band at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival an iconic moment when Dylan declared his independence from the “Old Left.”  In Delano’s view only the surfaces of history were real: “the understructure is what is provisional and gets blown away with the wind.  The surface is what endures and is where we must look for meaning.
Post-Trib columnist Nancy Coltun Webster quoted (and photographed) former judge Richard Maroc in an article about pioneer Region resident Joseph Bailly, who arrived in Porter County around 1822.  Maroc’s grandparents, like fur trader Bailly, were from Canada.  Maroc told Webster, “Fur trading then was like the oil business today.”  A fellow history book club member, Maroc once reported on a fictional account of Joseph and Marie Bailly, “Wolves Against the Moon,” which, he told Webster, got him started researching the Bailly family.

NWI Times columnist Marc Chase chastised Democratic Senatorial candidate Evan Bayh for acknowledging former eight-term East Chicago mayor Robert Pastrick at a campaign rally in Hammond.  WTF?  To have done anything less would have been rude and just plain stupid. Pastrick held office for 33 years, but his reputation was tarnished by the so-called “sidewalks-for-votes” scheme whereby the city spent about $24 million in public money on driveways and sidewalks, supposedly to win over voters prior to the 1999 primary.  Pastrick never was charged with a crime but forced to declare bankruptcy after a partisan civil suit brought by Republican Attorney-General Greg Moeller on some bogus racketeering charges.  I’d like to see Marc Chase do a similar piece on Republican candidate Todd Young's supporters; some, I’m sure, are more nefarious than Pastrick, a decent man and master at winning the loyalty of blacks and Latinos as well as white ethnic East Chicagoans.  When the widow of a good friend hoped to succeed her husband in office, Pastrick reluctantly supported a Latino candidate to satisfy that significant constituency.
I met George Van Til for lunch at Beach Café.  He gave me a photo that an inmate took of us when I visited him in Terre Haute.  He hopes to do some political consulting, something he’d be great at.  We talked about politicians he has known, including “Hollywood Bob” Pastrick.  Nobody could work a table or deliver a eulogy like Pastrick, he declared.  I countered by mentioning former Gary mayor George Chacharis, who had a legendary memory for names.  I once saw “ChaCha” go from table to table at Jackson’s Steakhouse in Miller, seemingly knowing everyone in the room, including me, who had interviewed him for “City of the Century.”  The last time Van Til had been to Beach Café was at a luncheon Richard Hatcher had arranged with black officeholders who owed him a debt of thanks. Despite a bad heart, balance problems, and high blood pressure, Van Til survived prison by keeping his composure despite inane regulations and humiliations at the hands of guards programmed to disrespect inmates. The day of his release, wife Patti picked him up with Van Til’s dog, who went wild with joy in the parking lot.
Bob Satkoski (with Alissa) hams it up at 80th birthday party

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