Monday, November 7, 2016

Say It with Love

“I’ve decided to do what I can
To find the kind of man I really am.”
         “Say It with Love,” Moody Blues
 Robert Pastrick

I’ve been listening to Moody Blues CDs ever since seeing them at the Star Plaza.  I called George Van Til to thank him again for arranging it.  He reported on the funeral of East Chicago mayor Robert Pastrick, at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church.  Pastrick was elected in 1971, the same year Van Til won his first contest. Lake County public officials past and present paid their respects, including several, George quipped, who’d done prison time. Columnist Rich James called Pastrick “the best politico,” writing:
  As one of the longest serving mayors in America, Bob could pick up the phone and talk to virtually anyone, including presidents.
I suspect there was a good deal of symbolism in that he was buried four days prior to a presidential election. My guess is that he sensed the end was near and voted absentee.
Bob lived for elections. Those running for office locally coveted his endorsement, especially since he was Lake County Democratic chairman almost as long as he was mayor. When he was chairman, precinct committeemen worked for the party, not just for themselves.
In the eyes of some, he walked on water. Others said that’s only because he couldn’t swim.
Regardless, he had the ability to pick himself up after his critics dragged him through real or imaginary political scandals. He came through them all pretty much unscathed.
One of those was the sidewalk affair prior to the 1999 mayoral primary. Critics said the project constituted the misuse of casino tax revenue. To Pastrick and his supporters, it was a beautification project that happened to coincide with an election.
The sidewalks were prominent in the “King of Steel Town” documentary on the 1999 mayoral primary between Pastrick and Stephen R. Stiglich, who once served as Bob’s police chief.
It was explained the sidewalks ran down a city block, although they bypassed the house with a Stiglich sign in the yard. That’s how politics worked in Indiana Harbor. And, opponents shook hands after the votes were counted.
Even more than politics, Pastrick loved East Chicago. He worked tirelessly to keep the city alive as jobs in the steel industry were drying up.
Sometime after Stiglich had died in 2005, I asked Pastrick if he missed the guy everyone call Stig.
“I pray for him,” is all he said.
I suspect there are a lot of former and present East Chicagoans praying for Bob Pastrick today.

Attending the Cubs World Series victory parade and Grant Park celebration were an estimated five million fans – both die-hard and fair-weather varieties, not that there is anything wrong with the latter.  It was the largest peaceful gathering in American history, nearly doubling crowds celebrating the Red Sox 2004 victory.  The 1974 victory parade for the Philadelphia Flyer attracted 2 million fans, including my nieces Charlene and Andrea.  Afterwards Sonny Okomski, their dad, wrote an eloquent note justifying their absence from school.  Manager Joe Madden branded the Chicago spectacle Cubstock and wished Woodstock performer Richie Havens was present.  Anthony Rizzo got emotional thanking catcher David Ross for teaching him how to be a better person. Referring to Ross retiring, Rizzo, his voice breaking, said “He’s going out a champion forever.”

At Gardner Center Jeff Manes pressed me into service to read lines of IUN poet William K. Buckley, who doesn’t drive after dark, and Ono’s Pizza owner Salvatore “Sam” Rizzo, who died a few months ago.  Miller participants included Ron Cohen and Steve Spicer. Two people were victims of polio as kids, one from an Ecuadorean village and the other from the Small Farms neighborhood of Gary. Field Museum entomologist Jim Louderman brought along live specimens and warned that civilization would collapse within three years if bees became extinct.  Scientists know what insecticide is responsible for the drastic decrease in the bee population, but the U.S. government has not forced companies to halt production. Louderman worked for nearly 20 years in Chicago’s South Water Produce Market and once opened a load of California grapes that contained hundreds of black widow spiders. It had not been fumigated, Louderman said, adding:
  Black widows can’t actually kill a healthy human, but the venom is really strong and the bite I excruciatingly painful and will cause muscle cramps and convulsions.  It can last up to two or three months.  The good news is, if you get bit by a black widow, you’re not going to die.  The bad news is, you’d wish you would.

Steve McShane put up several displays for IUN Homecoming, and I handed out Steel Shavings to alumni. One person recognized a photo of poet Kirk Robinson, a guest in William Allegreeza’s class, as his kids’ soccer coach.  Intern Victoria Morales was soliciting interview subjects for the university’s bicentennial oral history project.  I recruited Betty Villareal, a member of the university’s alumni association, and Victoria bagged a former Math major and interviewed him later that afternoon.  I told Chancellor Bill Lowe that I was impressed he could walk around greeting people while balancing his luncheon plate.

At bridge following a meal at Miller Bakery Café Dick Hagelberg got Tom Eaton to turn on Saturday Night Live while we were having chocolate cake, ice cream, and raspberries.  Cubbies Dexter Fowler, David Ross, and Anthony Rizzo sang “Go, Cubs Go” with Bill Murray and appeared in a skit about a grandmother who collapses while getting a lap dance.

With two days to go before the election Ray Smock wrote:
            Were Americans so incapable of telling the difference between entertainment and complexities of actual governance that someone like Trump could rise up to contend for the presidency with not one speck of political experience? Have the people of this country become so jaded as to believe that our political problems can only be solved by putting a bull in the china shop just to see how much damage he can do?
And was the American media, which used to be called the American press, or the Fourth Estate, so taken with Trump as someone who brought ratings and vast amounts of money to their corporate bosses that they, like moths to the flame, corrupted the system even further by their infatuation with this monster? Trump was never properly vetted by the RNC or by the American press.
Recently Chris Matthews of MSNBC gave one of his campaign diary commentaries saying Trump was on to something and giving further legitimacy to the worst example of a demagogic fascist ever to run for the American presidency. Sure Trump is on to something, the same something that snake oil salesmen have been onto since time began: the exploitation of the real problems facing ordinary people in this country and around the world. That does not mean that he has value as a serious candidate. Or that we should give him a serious look.
This failure of the Fourth Estate, not just of Chris Matthews, but the whole industry, will be analyzed for decades to come. We have got to take a hard critical look at all of our institutions and see how they can be strengthened in ways that preserve American democracy, what little is left of it. It is worth fighting for. If it isn't, then every noble thing that has ever been said about the Great American Experiment in Government means nothing.
 Francis of Assisi

The Fifth Crusade failed due to greed, ignorance, and division amongst its leaders.  Hoping to capture Cairo, the Crusaders camped on a dry canal and were trapped when the Egyptians opened the floodgates.  David Parnell pointed out that in 1219 St. Francis of Assisi earlier went on a fool’s errand of trying to convert the Egyptian sultan al-Kamil to convert to Christianity and thus bring the hostilities to a peaceful conclusion. Francis once stripped naked in order to demonstrate his renunciation of all worldly goods.  He was known to preach to birds and is considered the patron saint of animals. 

With Steve McShane showing photos and playing music I spoke to about 80 folks at Valpo University on Vivian Carter and Vee-Jay Records.  The crowd chuckled when a described flamboyant general manager Ewart Abner as sporting an earring and bringing a Great Dane to work.  When it came time for questions, a woman said, “Can we hear more music?”  Nice.  Asked how I got interested in Vivian, I mentioned an IUN weekend conference Ron Cohen organized on Vee-Jay and editing Henry Farag’s “The Signal: A Doo Wop Rhapsody.”  Afterwards, Post-Trib sports columnist John Mutka introduced himself, and a Korean War veteran told me he that in the 1950s he put together a radio show in Michigan City featuring doo wop music.
 Leymah Gbowee of Liberia
I picked up a copy of the VU student newspaper “the torch” and found an article about the appearance on campus of 2011 Nobel Peace Prize recipient Leymah Gbowee, who in 2002 during the Liberian Civil War helped organize the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace, bringing together thousands of Christian and Muslim women to peacefully protest the policies of President Charles Taylor, later charged with war crimes.  She titled her talk “Mighty Be Our Powers.”
 Flight Paths co-director Liz Wuerffel
Another torch article discussed the Welcome Project exhibit Re/Framing Hi/Stories currently at Gardner Center, which includes the Flight Paths project on white flight from Gary to Valparaiso.  Co-director Allison Schuette told reporter Clarice Tweeten:
  I have gone through a lot of different feelings throughout this experience.  Fundamentally, I am different for having done this work, especially in terms of where I feel I can be.  Gary is much more open and welcoming to me than I would have previously thought.  This isn’t a place that’s off limits. It’s a living, vibrant place.  I think that’s really powerful, having a story you thought you knew get told to you in a new way – that helps you see the world fresh.

In Fantasy Football I edged out nephew Dave Lane thanks to acquiring tight end Jason Witten out of necessity since both my tight ends were on bye week.  His tight end Jimmy Graham had a great game, but my wide receivers, led by Mike Evans, got me 31 points while his yielded only nine.  My quarterback Eli Manning faced the Eagles, whom I was rooting for, so I had mixed feelings, not wanting them to score but, if they did, hoping it was via a TD pass from Eli.
On election eve Ray Smock posted this moving essay, entitled “Last thoughts before election day":
              Hillary's rally in Philadelphia on the eve of the historic election of 2016 was something that resonated with me on so many levels. Just before she came on stage I got a phone call from an old dear friend in Indiana, Professor Emeritus James Buchanan Lane,  a classmate of mine from grad school days at the University of Maryland. Jimbo wanted to share his anxiety over the election. He wanted so badly for Hillary to win big because he, like me, saw Trump's campaign as an abomination of everything good about America. He, like me, was shocked by the descent of the Grand Old Party into the abyss of demagoguery.
Professor Lane is a descendant of his name sake, President James Buchanan, considered by most historians to be the worst president in American history. Jimbo thought more kindly of his distant uncle who tried to find a way to appease the South from seceding from the Union while he was still in office. But as Lincoln would later say, "And the war came." It seemed inevitable that the nation, so divided over slavery could not stop what was coming. That war had been coming for a long time. Its price was so high that we have not gotten over it yet.
I watched Hillary's rally with its large crowd assembled on the historic mall in front of Independence Hall, where this nation began. That place is special to me as it is to many Americans. When I worked for the House of Representatives, I helped arrange a special session of Congress held in Independence Hall to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Congress in 1987. More than a decade later I was a historical consultant to the magnificent new museum built there, the National Constitution Center. I am one of those Americans who feels like I am on hallowed ground when I am on Independence Mall in Philadelphia or standing on the Mall in Washington DC surrounded by the great monuments to our amazing nation.
I know that Hillary Clinton should become the first woman ever elected to the presidency. This is more than a symbolic step. But I did not vote for her because she was a woman. I voted for her because she respects government and knows how it works. She appreciates what this nation stands for. Donald Trump is a pretended patriot, the kind of fool the Founders themselves warned us to avoid. It is Democracy itself that is at stake in this election. The big question we have to decide with our votes is to we want to wallow in hate and acrimony and tear down our nation, or do we want to build it up and make it work for all of us. All the rest, the party labels, the issues of the campaign, mean little if we make the wrong choice about what path we will try to follow.
My friend Jimbo Lane said to me on the phone tonight that he wanted Hillary to win big so that America speaks loudly and clearly to all future politicians that the low road is not America's way. He wanted this for all Americans and for the whole world to see that America is still a beacon in a troubled world.

Hillary Duff took flack for dressing up on Halloween as a pilgrim accompanied by Jason Walsh dressed as a Native American.  She has since apologized to anyone offended.  I have Hilary Duff’s 2005 CD “Most Wanted,” containing “Beat of My Heart,” on heavy rotation with the Lumineers, Replacements, Moody Blues, and a “Best of 1958” compilation that includes the Impressions’ “For Your Precious Love.”  In my VU talk I stated:
             Vee-Jay attracted aspiring harmony groups from around the country as well as in the Chicago area, including the Impressions, (formerly the Roosters) featuring Jerry Butler and Curtis Mayfield.  Butler’s group performed more than a dozen numbers for Calvin Carter (Vivian's brother) at the company’s audition studio without apparently making much of an impression.  When Calvin asked if they had anything else, they sang the gospel-influenced “For Your Precious Love.” 
Butler recalled: “As we got into the song, Calvin’s eyes lit up.  He shouted, ‘That’s it!  That’s it!  That’s the one.’”  Then five guys walked in, the Spaniels, and Carter had them perform it again.  For a moment Butler feared they might be secretly recording the song and preparing to steal it for Pookie Hudson’s group.  Instead Ewart Abner brought out contracts for them to sign.  Soon afterwards the Impressions recorded “For Your Precious Love” at Chicago’s Universal Studios.  Carter rushed an acetate to Vivian, who opened her WWCA show with it.  “For Your Precious Love” became a smash hit, earned the group a gold record, launched the careers of Curtis Mayfield and Jerry Butler, and is one of the greatest songs of all time.
Like many black musicians, Mayfield and Butler grew up members of church choirs and were influenced by soulful gospel music.  Mayfield did the soundtrack for the 1972 movie “Superfly,” including th single “Freddie’s Dead.”  In 1990 he was paralyzed from the neck down when lighting equipment fell on him, he died in 1999.  Jerry Butler – “The Iceman” -  still performs occasionally.


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