“Feel like my soul has turned into steel
I've still got the scars that the sun didn't heal"
"Not Dark Yet,” Bob Dylan
In a shocking but brilliant development Bob Dylan became the first musician to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, joining American novelists Sinclair Lewis, Pearl Buck, William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, Saul Bellow, and Toni Morrison. To celebrate I put on Dylan’s 1997 CD “Time Out of Mind,” which contains “Not Dark Yet,” as well as “Dirt Road Blues” and “Tryin’ To Get to Heaven.” Humanities professor Christopher Ricks compared “Not Dark Yet” to “Ode to a Nightingale" by John Keats. Here is the third verse:
Well, I've been to London and I been to gay Paris
I've followed the river and I got to the sea
I've been down on the bottom of the world full of lies
I ain't lookin' for nothin' in anyone's eyes
Sometimes my burden is more than I can bear
It's not dark yet but it's gettin' there.
In David Parnell’s class I learned about Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I (1122-1190), known as “Barbarossa” (“Redbeard” in Italian). According to Wikipedia “Redbeard” can refer to a 1965 Japanese film, a British tactical nuclear weapon, a Belgian comic series, the Norse god Thor or the man considered to be the greatest medieval monarch, known for his political skills as well as battlefield feats. Barbarossa ruled over most of what now is Germany and northern Italy and once said, “It is not for the people to give laws to the prince, but to obey his mandate.” He heeded Pope Gregory VII’s call to join the Third Crusade, along with French King Philip II and English King Richard Lionheart, but drowned in the Silifke River in southern Turkey. Parnell quipped that by then his mane was probably grey or white although it’s possible he’d dyed it. He also speculated that Frederick may have fallen off his horse or had a heart attack upon entering the icy water; perhaps he just wanted to cool off and misjudged the river’s depth and was unable to rise to the surface due to his heavy armor. Having failed to save him either through negligence, cowardice or treachery, his knights stuffed the body in a barrel of vinegar in an unsuccessful effort to preserve it until it could be buried in Jerusalem. It never reached that destination. Barbarossa’s rotting flesh was interred in Antioch and his bones at a cathedral in Tyre, and his heart and inner organs at Tarsus.
Regarding Frankish political intrigue, Parnell said it reminded him of a Monty Python skit. When he mentioned that Hasheshi (whom student Brian Berger called potheads) assassinated Conrad of Monferrat upon his being chosen to rule Jerusalem, Berger shouted out, “King for a day!” That brought to mind a maudlin daytime TV show that had a nine-year run beginning in 1956; women would tell sob stories, and the studio audience determined the winner with the aid of an applause meter. Host Jack Bailey signed off by wishing he could make every woman a queen for every day.
Ron Cohen commented:
The TV show “Queen for a Day” did one show in Chicago, and my student Betty Radinsky won. Her dream was for her mother to visit from the Philippines, where Betty had grown up. Betty got lots of presents, which she wrote about in her family paper for my class. Betty had first married an American in the army in the Philippines, but the family went into hiding when the Japanese invaded. Betty and her one son went into the mountains, but her husband and other son (as I recall) were captured and killed by the Japanese. Betty was finally captured and survived the war in a prison camp, then married another American army officer, thus the Radinsky name, and they all moved to the U.S. When Betty graduated from IUN, she was introduced by the chancellor, with her whole family present. She used to bring me wonderful Philippine food.
My first beard, grown in grad school at Maryland, came in red. Cub pitcher Rick Sutcliffe got the nickname “Red Baron” (originally the nickname of a World War I German fighter pilot) because of his hair and beard. During the 1984 season the Cubs traded future Hall of Famer Joe Carter to the Indians for Sutcliffe, and he went 16-1 and won the Cy Young Award unanimously. Facing the Padres in a five-game series with the winner playing in the World Series, he won game one, hurling a shutout and hitting a home run. Because Wrigley Field had no lights, the commissioner’s office decreed that game five would take place in San Diego. Sutcliffe gave up four unearned runs in the seventh after a ground ball eluded first baseman Leon Durham (I’ll never forget it) and took the loss. Beards are now back in fashion, especially among closers. Former Phillies outfielder Hunter Pence, now with the Giants, has a red one.
I loaned Liz Wuefffel a half-dozen books on Gary for a Welcome Project display that will run three weeks at Miller’s Gardner Center, including several Steel Shavings issues. When she arrived at the Calumet Regional Archives, her hands were ice cold due to the 50-degree temp outside. Steve McShane added a couple more, including “Steel Giants.” Altogether the box must have weighed 50 pounds, but Liz insisted on carrying it herself instead of accepting help or using a cart.
At Hobart Lanes the Engineers took a game and series from Pin Chasers, who won game two by just 3 pins after they amazingly struck 7 times in the tenth, including Ruth Leach’s 3-bagger. Their clean-up bowler George Leach missed the headpin and seemingly left the 1-2-4-10 only to have the ten-pin fall at the last moment, allowing him to convert the spare. My new 14-pound Nitrous 300 ball got away from me a couple times, but I had more strikes than usual and used my old ball to pick up six and ten pins. Frank Shufran, who bowled a 213, brought me a dozen green tomatoes.
In southern California to play at festival at Coachella along with the Rolling Stones, the Who, Neil Yung, Bob Dylan, and Roger Waters, Paul McCartney put on a surprise concert at Pappy and Harriet’s in Pioneertown, where I’d always go while visiting Midge and where the band Cracker had an annual weekend ‘camp-out.” Talk about amazing! August brown of the Los Angeles Times wrote: “At every turn, this young writer thought about his mom, playing these songs on her hi-fi as a little girl in South Carolina. She never got to see a Beatle. I feel I know her better for seeing Paul here.”
Retired Math professor H. Leroy Peterson passed away at age 78. Like Ron Cohen and me, he started at IUN in 1970 and always returned for the emeritus luncheons and Holiday parties. He had a shock of white hair for as long as I can remember so it was a surprise to see old photo of him with long, curly black hair. A gentle soul, he liked to quote Dr. Seuss and Charlie Brown from “Peanuts.” We used to play poker at Lou Ciminillo’s house in Glen Park, and I’d help when he had trouble keeping the value of the chips straight. He grew up in Nebraska and Wyoming, went to school at Stanford and Oregon, and he made the Region his lifelong home. Leroy’s daughter-in-law Karen works in IUN’s Office of Fiscal Affairs. Ron Cohen, Mike Certa, and I represented former colleagues of Leroy’s at Geisen Funeral Home in Crown Point. His family wrote this fitting eulogy:
He was a man of great intelligence and heart, a scholar, a teacher, a mathematician, a man of letters, a man of great compassion, wisdom and impeccable integrity.
The Sixth annual Gary International Black Film Festival opened with a reception at IUN’s Savannah Center. Because the event is dedicated to patron Dolly Millender, who, passed away 10 months ago and, according to the festival brochure, “never missed a festival since our very first day,” I donated two dozen free copies of my latest Steel Shavings, which has a photo of the Gary historian on the cover. I persuaded George Van Til to come to the opening reception, and many people greeted him with hugs, including IUN administrative assistant Mary Lee, Urban League director Vanessa Allen and 411 (formerly Gary Crusader) editor Jackie Harris. Many beautiful dressed to the nines were in the house, which had a sweet scent of perfume. The opening night film by director Ava DuVernay of “Selma” fame is “13TH: From Slave to Criminal with One Amendment.” It examined the mass incarceration of African Americans and includes interviews with legal scholar Michelle Alexander, author of “The New Jim Crow,” and activist Angela Davis.