Tuesday, September 20, 2016

What a Trip

“Eight miles high and when you touch down
You'll find that it's stranger than known
Signs in the street that say where you're going
Are somewhere just being their own.”
         “Eight Miles High,” The Byrds

Passing IUN Chancellor Bill Lowe carrying a heavy tote bag coming from a workout at Savannah Student Center, I quipped that if he instituted Casual Fridays, he wouldn’t need to haul it around.  He replied in an email: “Thank you for your concern, but even if it was Casual Friday (which it pretty much is for everyone else) I would still have to wash the gear I use in the Fitness Center every so often.”  Several faculty were in the lunch room because of an afternoon Faculty Organization meeting at which Chuck Gallmeier received a plaque honoring his eight years as president. His successor, as he had hoped is a woman, Susan Zinner from SPEA.  Chuck is having back surgery, so I offered to cover his classes, but he’s got others lined up.  He wants me to talk to his students about oral history but hopes to be there when I do so.  “I’ll introduce you as Mr. IUN,” claimed the ever-tactful Gallmeier, ten years my junior.
above, Chuck Gallmeier; below, Susan Zinner

It’s been quite a ride so far for the 2016 Cubs.  After a slight slump prior to the All-Star game, the team ran away with the NL Central division and is poised to win 100+ games.  Last week fans paid up to a thousand dollars a ticket hoping to see them clinch.  They went away disappointed, but the magic number was reduced to zero when St. Louis lost a couple hours later on the West Coast.  Next day manager Joe Madden rested most starters, but the subs, including 35 year-old rookie Munenori Kawasaki, scored two runs to tie the score in the ninth, and in the tenth Miguel Montero belted a walk-off home run.  

Many fans stayed around for the post-game celebrations, including several guys with white facial hair and Joe Madden-style sunglasses.  Singing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” during the seventh inning stretch was 74 year-old former catcher Randy “Hot Rod” Hundley, who starred for the Cubs for eight years beginning in 1966.  In 1971, my first full season watching the Cubbies, he sustained a knee injury, and the team floundered.  Broadcaster Jack Brickhouse kept saying, “Wait till ‘Hot Rod’ returns,” eventually counting off the days.  After Hundley finally played in mid-May, he collapsed running to first base.  I’ll never forget Brickhouse crying out as if in agony, “Hot Rod’s down!  Hot Rod’s down!” He didn’t play another game all season.

At Inman’s for grandson James’ first week of bowling, I talked with former teammate Chris Lugo’s granddaughter Angel, whom I’ve known since she was a toddler. She’s starting on a master’s degree in Psychology at Adler University in Chicago, named for Alfred Adler (1870-1937), a family and group counseling pioneer.  Afterwards, Dave, James, and I had lunch at Culver’s.  My choice a pot roast sandwich; James opted for chicken tenders, Dave for a chicken salad. 
at Fest of the First: above, Mike Church; below, Haus of Polka

Saturday afternoon I went to Fest in the First, organized by Gary’s First District Precinct Committeeman Michael Chirich along Lake Street in Miller.  Highlights included performances by the Wirt Drum Line and Emerson-Wirt 20-piece jazz ensemble, who call themselves the Tornado (during the 1970s Emerson’s basketball team was the Golden Tornado).  Tom Eaton was manning an MCC table; Eve Bottando was playing the accordion. I bought two Hillary 2016 buttons from a vendor for five bucks.
Bri with Emily and Alissa & Vy

On a beautiful September afternoon Toni and I attended the outdoor wedding of Brianne Ross and Emily Hubbard at Felt Mansion in Holland, Michigan.  Bri, a former MSU housemate of Alissa’s, had presided at her and Josh’s nuptials a few weeks before, and we had met Emily at the reception afterwards.  The friend who married them mentioned that same sex marriage was illegal in Michigan until last year.  The service featured a “Black and Tan” beer blending ceremony (Bri manages a microbrewery in Grand Rapids), and the couple jumping over a broomstick during the recessional, an African-American custom dating from slave days. Singer-guitarist Rachel Effin Gleason performed “I Want To Hold Your Hand” during the bridal party processional and “I Will Wait for You” during the recessional. 
Felt Mansion and portrait of inventor Dorr E. Felt

Felt Mansion was on a large estate called Shore Acres Farm purchased by Chicago Dorr E. Felt, the inventor of innovative adding machines.  His Comptometer was the first to perform all four mathematical functions and the Comptograph capable of printing receipts.  Built in the 1920s in a Georgian Revival design that emphasized order (a fetish with Felt), the mansion contained 25 rooms, including a paneled library (I found an original set of “The Life and Letters of Walter Hines Page,” Woodrow Wilson’s Ambassador to the Court of St. James) plus a widow’s walk on the roof where Felt could observe his entire summer estate.  Sadly, wife Agnes died in 1928 just six weeks after the family moved in and Dorr Felt himself 18 months later.
Lady Ace Boogie

After a chicken dinner 200 mostly young people partied, first in the third-floor ballroom and then outside with rapper Lady Ace Boogie and a great DJ who claimed his name was Dean Martian (like the “Rat Pack” guy, he told me when I complimented him) and played electronic versions of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” and the Trammps’ “Disco Inferno.”  I imbibed Centennial IPAs from Founders Brewery in Grand Rapids, danced few times, and otherwise enjoyed the lively scene, especially the dirty dancing.  Bri’s dad sang “Bridge Over Troubled Waters” and boogied admirably.  Someone asked if I had any drunk paper, and when I expressed puzzlement, added, “You know, zig zag.”  I couldn’t help her out. We had a room at a nearby Best Western in Saugatuck.   Bri and Emily were staying up the road (Blue Star Highway) in Douglas at Dunes Resort, billed as the “Midwest’s Favorite Gay and Lesbian Resort” and featured in a documentary son Phil produced and directed. 

Interviewed for the NWI Times feature “First Job,” Gary mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson recalled that at age 14 she earned minimum wage ($4.75 an hour) pulling weeds and collecting litter in a Neighborhood Services summer work program.  She also was a reading tutor at Roosevelt School under veteran English teacher Sadie Shropshire, who, in her words, “demanded perfect diction and grammar.”   Whenever called on to speak, Freeman-Wilson said, she remains thankful for Sadie Shropshire’s “insistence on excellent communication skills.”  Receiving a paycheck, the Mayor said, gave her a sense of autonomy:
  I spent my earnings on school clothes.  I recall a pair of blue platform shoes that my mother believed were not “practical.” I took my earnings to Milgram’s shoe store at the Village Shopping Center and bought these magnificent shoes for school.

I compared weekends with Jonathyne Briggs, who attended an academic conference at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo and visited the Studebaker Museum in South Bend.  I told him I could recall seeing Studebakers on the road and admired their design.

Here are excerpts from a paper by IUN student Valerie Cohs written for Steve McShane’s class:
The 1980’s were years filled with drugs, alcohol, parties, and music for Dizzy Harrison (name changed for privacy). His t-shirts reflected Dizzy’s taste in bands, favorites being Black Sabbath, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Stevie Ray Vaughan, whom he saw at the Holiday Star. In the early 80’s Dizzy’s father passed away and the family struggled financially.  One day they came home to an eviction notice warning that they had only a few hours to grab their belongings.  Eventually Dizzy’s mother opened The Grilled Onion in Cedar Lake serving hot dogs, polish sausage, French fries and other grilled foods.
Dizzy talked his mom into taking him to a lake in Illinois to purchase pot; little did she know he planned to purchase LSD as well. Later that night when the acid kicked in, a friend farted, and it smelled exactly like the KFC they had eaten earlier that day.   He laughed so hard his ribs hurt. Dizzy stated, “What a trip that was.”
Dizzy loved the Fairgrounds in Crown Point and Kiddy Land in Schererville, with its arcade games, batting cages, go-carts, and other fun activities.  The only problem was Dizzy and his friends still did not have any money.  For money they’d take turns stealing from a nearby department store and return the items 
Dizzy’s stepfather’s son would steal from him.  Dizzy started going home only to shower and change every few days or so.  He often hung out at a friend’s party house, recalling: “We called the mother and grandmother ‘Wacky’ and ‘Packy’ - you can only imagine why.” Dizzy began collecting beer cans. He’d find interesting ones on the side of the road while hitch-hiking, at parties with his friends, or when friends saved one for him.
  One day Dizzy went to his sister’s friend’s party and got angry because there was no beer.  He stuck Quaaludes in the guy’s fish tank.  Next day Dizzy’s sister told him about how her friend was crying because all his fish had mysteriously died. 
  Dizzy loved Papa’s Deli on the Crown Point square.  “Papa’s had the best gyros,” he recalled; “I couldn’t get enough of that place.” 
Dizzy’s freshman year at Lake Central he got suspended for fighting and getting high.  Another time he was kicked out for being drunk on rum.  Five people he knew committed suicide, including his younger brother.
One day Dizzy and a friend were hitch-hiking when an old man offered them a ride. Dizzy noticed he had a joint in his hand, so he asked if he could have a puff.  The old man said “grab your own” and opened the glove compartment to reveal at least 20 joints.  He and his buddy each grabbed a joint. As they reached their destination, the old man yelled for them to take one more for the road.  Another time he hitched a ride with a man who offered him a beer. When Dizzy threw the cap out the window, the old man grew livid and threatened to beat up him for littering.  Dizzy swore to never litter again. 
At the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago Dizzy went to see Outlaw and Molly Hatchet.  The concert was full of hicks and the guy Dizzy was with started smart-talking people and got beat up.  Just as Dizzy favorite band was about to come on, the guy needed a ride to the hospital and offered him 5 joints, which was a big deal at this time.  Dizzy looked at the wounded jaw and said “All right, let’s go.” 
What turned Dizzy’s life around was he met the girl of his dreams, who taught him some good habits and tolerated his bad ones.  They had a kid and are married to this day.  Although claiming to hate northwest Indiana, Dizzy remains a Region rat.

What a trip indeed!  I’d love to meet Dizzy.  As a child of postwar America, I came of age with Rock and Roll and turned 40 about the time Dizzy was experimenting with drugs and alcohol. I took Dave and three of his friends to see Black Sabbath at Rosemont Horizon (now Allstate Arena) that Dizzy may have attended, and I couldn’t find my car in the Crown Point Fairgrounds parking lot when we stayed after dark at the Lake County Fair.  As one who frequently hitched rides when his age (a practice rarely seen today), I enjoyed Dizzy’s vivid hitch-hiking stories.  In eighth grade at Barnum Junior High in Birmingham Michigan, I had an adding machine class.  At the beginning of class we’d all coordinate our machines to make a loud noise.  Realizing the futility of trying to stop us, the teacher went with the flow and came up with witty rejoinders.
 Jef, Jordan, Sheridan, Chuck and Robin Halberstadt
Jef and Robin Halbertadt are back from a trip to the Black Hills.  Robin, battling pancreatic cancer, looks radiant.  What a trooper my former student and longtime friend is.

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