Monday, September 26, 2016

Into the Woods

“I was raised to be charming, not sincere.” Prince Charming, in “Into the Woods”
Lisa Woodruff Hedin, Michael Glorioso and Colleen Peluso; below, Troy Wendell

Dick and Cheryl Hagelberg, back from a Baltic Sea cruise, drove us to Memorial Opera House in Valpo for the presentation of “Into the Woods.”  Last year I saw James and Becca (as the Baker and the Witch) in a one-act version of the Stephen Sondheim musical, which had a happy ending that suited me just fine.  In Act II we learn that the characters are not as good or evil as they seem.  Prince Charming (played by John Peluso), for instance, seduces the Baker’s wife (Colleen Peluso).  The beanstalk giant’s widow kills several characters, seeking revenge on Jack.  The main point, I gathered, was be careful what you wish for.  My favorite character was Little Red Riding Hood (Danielle Scampini-Linn), a tough cookie who wore a cape made from the wolf’s skin.  She sang, Do not put your faith in a cape and a hood, they will not protect you the way that they should. And take extra care with strangers, even flowers have their dangers, and though scary is exciting, nice is different than good.”  From the third row I saw from time to time the baton of Maestro Troy Webdell, conducting a 14-piece orchestra in the pit.  As I gradually lost interest in following the dialogue, I came to enjoy the music more and more.

At West Beach a “Dunes Blowout” commemorated the fiftieth anniversary of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and the National Park Service’s centennial.  Among the performers were singer Patti Shaffner, the Emerson Jazz Tornadoes, and the South Shore Dance Alliance.  When we lived not far from West Beach I’d to go into the woods to collect firewood. The plentiful sassafras trees only survived a few years in the sandy soil and their logs gave off a pleasant aroma as well as little sparks.  Unfortunately, poison ivy was also plentiful and not always avoidable.  Terry Jenkins and I had a fort in the woods across the street from his house, where I first took a drag on a cigarette and almost choked.   I’ve been wary of woods since attacked and bitten by yellow jackets as a kid stumbling across their hive. When Toni and I were in the Poconos years ago, she enjoyed being temporarily lost in the woods while it made me uncomfortable.

Granddaughter Becca went to Chesterton’s football game (a loss to Portage) and then on Saturday to the homecoming dance.  Her date’s mother arranged for a photo shoot on Ogden Dunes beach beforehand.  When a high school senior, my job was to introduce the homecoming court during halftime of Upper Dublin’s football game.  I knew in advance that Wendy Henry had been elected queen and would be riding in the last convertible.  Unable to see very well, I jumped the gun.  Does anyone still remember – or care?
 Door Prairie Barn
Kaske House

Sunday’s Post-Trib highlighted Chicagoland suburban landmarks, including a half-dozen in Northwest Indiana: the Michigan City lighthouse, Lake County Courthouse in Crown Point, Valparaiso University’s Heritage Hall, Door Prairie Barn in LaPorte, Collier Lodge in Kouts (the only one not refurbished), and Kaske House in Munster, originally an inn and now a museum. It was acquired in 1986 by the Munster Park Board. Built in 1845 and originally named the Brass Tavern, it had six bedrooms, the tap room, a dining room and a sitting room.  Philip Potempa wrote:
  In 1864 the property, called, was sold by Allan and Julia Watkins Brass to Johann an Wilhelmina Stallbohm and renamed Stallbohm’s Inn, which featured the addition of a wire telegraph service.  The first news of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln was delivered to residents of the area after sent by wire to Stallbohm’s Inn.
  In the 1890s, when the business, and the health of the owners, declined, the inn closed.  Johann died in 1899 and Wilhelmina in 1901.  Their daughter, Wilhelmina Kaske, moved in with her husband and converted it into the family home.  In 1909, much of the original structure was destroyed by fire and had to be rebuilt.

Golf legend Arnold Palmer passed away at age 87, and Miami Marlons ace José Fernandez died from a boating accident.  The Cubs beat the Cardinals for win number 99 on a David Ross home run after Wrigley Field fans had given the 39 year-old catcher a standing ovation on his final regular season home game of his stellar career.  The Eagles surprisingly are 3-0 after trouncing the Steelers, while the Bears not surprisingly are 0-3.  The former made me a winner in the CBS office pool.  Also I won my Fantasy Football game despite zero points from tight end Rob Gronkowski while my backup, Zach Miller, garnered 19.  In fact, my bench outscored the Jimbo Jammer starters 110 to 89 despite being without a kicker or defense.

Rolling Stone ranked the top 100 TV shows of all time.  Runnerup, behind “The Sopranos,” was “The Wire,” which I had never seen.  The next four: “Breaking Bad,” “Mad Men,” “Seinfeld,” and “The Simpsons.”  “Curb Your Enthusiasm” made the list but not “The Big Bang Theory.”  I’d have put “Saturday Night Live” in the top five rather than ninth, as well as “Sesame Street,” just 31st. “The Wire,” I discovered, examined the flawed law enforcement system in Baltimore, where almost everyone was out to protect his ass, and the drug trade flourished in the inner city. The most interesting character is a black lesbian cop.  The series premier soundtrack included “Way Down in the Hole” by Tom Waits and “Love Is Strange’ by Mickey and Sylvia, a 1956 hit with a calypso beat.

By the end of 1956 Rock and Roll was here to stay.  Elvis Presley was churning out number 1 hits such as “Hound Dog,” a cover of “Big Mama” Thornton’s blues saga about a cheating man, not a hunting dog.  Teenagers were starting to prefer black singers such as Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Little Richard, and Ray Charles and groups such as the Spaniels, the Cadillacs, the Five Satins, and Frankie Lyman and the Teenagers over lame cover artists like the Crewcuts, the McGuire sisters and Pat Boone (shudder).  The novelty hit of 1956, “Stranded in the Jungle,” was first recorded by a black doo wop group, the Jayhawks, and then covered by another black group, the Cadets.  As Shirley and Lee put it in their hit record, “Let the Good Times Roll.”  Long live Rock and Roll.
 Louis VII, Conrad III, and Baldwin III at Jerusalem Council

After examining the Crusades from the Byzantine perspective, this week David Parnell concentrated on the Muslim point of view, using the twelfth century “Book of Contemplation” by Usama ibn Munqidh.  Muslim fragmentation enabled the First Crusaders to seize control of Jerusalem, Antioch, and Edessa, but mistreatment of their non-Christian subjects led to the rise of a defender of Islam, Imad ad-Din Zengi.  Forces loyal to Zengi recaptured Edessa, which in turn caused Pope Eugenius to call for another Crusade. King Louis VII and Holy Roman Emperor Conrad III enlisted.  Accompanying Louis was his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine, whose uncle was Prince Raymond of Antioch. Conrad’s army was annihilated at Dorylaeum in 1147 and the French army a year later at Damascus.  While in Antioch, Queen Eleanor evidently became overly intimate with Raymond, precipitating a rupture in her marriage to Louis. She wed the future English King Henry II and bore him eight children.  Imprisoned 16 years for plotting with her eldest son against her husband, Eleanor was England’s regent while son Richard I went off on the Third Crusade. Katherine Hepburn played Eleanor in “The Lion in Winter” (1968).

Robert Arnaud of Swiss radio interviewed me about the history of Gary after meeting with Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson and Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Chuck Hughes.  For the program Robert plans to dub my voice in French.  He promised to send me a copy.  I gave him “Gary’s First Hundred Years” and told him to watch Blandine Huk and Frederic Cousseau’s 2014 film “My Name Is Gary.”

I bought a 14-pound Columbia 300 Nitrous bowling ball at Ray’s Lanes.  The pro shop owner gave me good deal. He suggested a fingertip grip, but I stayed with what I was familiar with.  I plan to keep my 30 year-old, 15-pound polyurethane dinosaur in case I need it to pick up ten-pins.

Hillary Clinton took it to The Donald in the first presidential debate and, as Chris Matthews put it, “cleaned Trump’s clock.” Here’s what Ray Smock wrote:
  I have watched all the presidential debates since Nixon/Kennedy [but] have never seen anything like what I witnessed tonight.  [As] Steve Schmidt, the former campaign director for Republican John McCain, said, Donald Trump ran out of gas and degenerated into “incoherence and babble,” especially on national security. He was totally unprepared on the issues. He uttered nothing but campaign slogans and statements that said how bad off America is. The fact checkers will have a field day with his lies and misstatements of fact. He is totally in his own head and could not stop talking about himself and how successful he is. You could feel and taste his egomania. 
Hillary was Hillary. She was prepared. She studied up for the debate. She came with vast experience that Trump tried to denigrate. She did not cower before the bully who kept interrupting her. She smiled. But she also showed she could dish it out as well as take it. We don't expect our presidents to be shrinking violets. We expect them to have resolve, judgment, temperament, and confidence in their ability. She demonstrated all these qualities.
Cara Kelly wrote about her step-dad Brian Saule (above), who grew up in St. John.  He smoked his first joint in woods down from his house and hid bottles of liquor there that cops later confiscated.  Kelly wrote:
In 1981 Brian’s mother forced him to attend Andrean.  The 14-year-old freshman arrived with a home-made bull cut and Colorado work boots.  He tried several times to get expelled by fighting so he could be at Lake Central with his friends.  The first time he smoked marijuana was with his older brother, who had a fort in the woods.  The joint made him so messed up, he went home and started cooking meatloaf.  His mother and sister sat in the kitchen laughing at him; they knew something was wrong but weren’t sure what.  Instead of using the oven, he cooked on the stovetop. The meatloaf turned out very bad, but he still ate it.  When his step-dad got home, he was not pleased.
In 1982 Brian went to a sock hop in Andrean’s gym.  His friend Andy told the DJ it was his birthday, so the guy told all the women to form a circle and dance with hi, including the homecoming queen, Jackie. In fact, he and Jackie became friends because of this.  Brian told me, “I didn’t drive until I was 17 but my sister gave me my first car when I was 16, a 1977 Camaro. It mainly sat in the yard until I got my driver’s license, but I would sneak it out occasionally.  I used to have to take the bus to school.  They’d pick me up at St. Michaels Church in Schererville, and we’d take old Seventy-Third and cross a bridge.  It actually went down, and the road dipped down pretty far.  One day it was raining hard and water built up on the bridge.  The brakes failed and the bus went in the water.  A car was totally submerged next to us.  We ended up having to swim out; my cigarettes got wet, which was the most disturbing thing to me during this experience.  In the year book we were dubbed the Andrean swim team.”                                                                                     
1984, Brian’s senior year, he got his license, started dating, and went to the prom.  He had gotten over not being able to go to Lake Central but usually didn’t shrink from a fight.  He got into a confrontation with a new guy named Darren, who ended up his best friend.  He recalled: “Darren was talking bad about my friend Mike so I decided I was going to confront him but got nervous and backed down.  I tried to look intimidating, but he said, ‘You have something on your face’ and wiped off my face.  That very same day I missed my bus and asked Darren for a ride home.  He eventually said yes and that’s how we became best friends.” 
Miller kids from Andrean knew of a liquor store that had burned down, but tons of booze remained inside.  Brian and two friends loaded up a big Suburban with bottles whose labels were slightly burned and on the way home got pulled over by a police officer, but they didn’t get caught.  They hid the bottles in the woods near Brian’s house.  Cops found the booze and kept it for themselves.  Years later when he was friends with a St. John police officer, Brian noticed a liquor bottle on a shelf with a burnt label.  He put two and two together.  The booze was never reported missing, so nobody got into trouble.
In 1985, after graduating from high school, Brian went to Purdue Cal in Hammond but got sick and couldn’t finish the semester.  He worked at Marciano’s Pizza in St. John.  Across the street was a K-Mart.  On day 32 year-old James Koslow entered the store with a large gun and killed three people and wounded others before police officer Richard Conaway gunned him down
St. John in the 80’s was very rural.  There wasn’t much to do except go to a strip mall and then nothing but corn fields. Everyone wanted to be in everyone else’s business. In 1986 Brian had a shirt that said, “New Kids Suck,” a reference to the boy band New Kids on the Block.  That year Brian went to his first concert to see Pete Gabriel.
  In 1986 he turned 19 and his favorite pastime was going to Omni 41, the rolling rink, which my parents also hung out there a lot but had never met Brian.  “We all went to Omni 41. Tuesdays was ladies night and Saturdays was all night skate," Brian recalled.
  In an about face, Brian now claims he wouldn’t have wanted to grow up anywhere else, but when he sees people from the past they remind him of the stupid things he did with his friends.  Iit does make him feel nostalgic in a bittersweet way.