Friday, March 17, 2017


 “If they give you ruled paper, write the other way.” Juan Ramón Jiménez (below)

Ray Bradbury used the above Jiménez quotation as the epigraph for Fahrenheit 451 (1953), about a future authoritarian regime that burns all books (the title refers to the temperature in which they catch fire).  Bradbury was not only concerned about book-burning during the Red Scare hysteria but worried that the mass media conditioned people to become uninterested in literature.

In the hallway of IUN’s library/conference center Corey Hagelberg and Samuel A. Love put together a window exhibit displaying Calumet Regional Archives holdings of poetry books and magazines, including volumes by John Sheehan and William Buckley and issues of IUN’s award-winning Spirits literary magazine in connection with their “Gary Voices” project, funded by Legacy Foundation.  They are organizing poetry writing workshops and are soliciting contributors to submit a line for what they call a “public poem” about the city of Gary.

Preparing for a talk to a “Gary Voices” poetry team about my research into the social history of the Calumet Region, I took a close look at one of my favorite poems, James Hazard’s “Parents in Whiting, Indiana” and found a reference to Nobel Laureate Juan Ramón Jiménez (1881-1956). Jiménez’s poem “Oceans,” published in “News of the Universe: Poems of Twofold Consciousness,” edited by Robert Bly, brings to mind my friend Tom Orr’s sailboat being struck and sunk by a submarine off the coast of Spain:
  I have a feeling that my boat
has struck, down there in the depths,
against a great thing.
                    And nothing
happens! Nothing...Silence...Waves...

    --Nothing happens? Or has everything happened,
and are we standing now, quietly, in the new life?
Bly translated Jiménez’s “I Am Not I” for the anthology “The Winged Energy of Delight” (2005):
     I am not I.
               I am this one
walking beside me whom I do not see,
whom at times I manage to visit,
and whom at other times I forget;
the one who remains silent while I talk,
the one who forgives, sweet, when I hate,
the one who takes a walk when I am indoors,
the one who will remain standing when I die.
James Hazard 
“Parents in Whiting, Indiana” is about James Hazard's immigrant parents, who had a tumultuous relationship, exacerbated by drinking.  One night, Hazard wrote, “my parents came in slugging each other.  He towered, drunk and breathing through his nose, told me I’d have to be the man of the house now and gave me money.  I was shaking in my pj’s and my mother blamed him, which seemed about half right to this brand new man of the house.”  He and his sister, Hazard’s poem concludes, “hatched fantasies us dispossessed and dismembered in goddam Whiting where we’d been given false names and left on an unlucky doorstep with grownups who locked the door and loved us and made our lives so dangerous.”

Steel Shavings, volume 46, arrived from my new printer, The Papers, Inc.  It looks great and contains two of my favorite poems, Robert Buzecky’s “Steel City, Stone City” and William Buckley’s “Night Shift,” the latter about rollerbladers circling Crown Point courthouse while “cop cars cooled their engines by the Triple Play Saloon.”  My “Editor’s Note” opens with poet John Sheehan’s remark that: “Between wisdom and folly ain’t much difference, and when we are not afraid to be fools could be when we’re wise.” 

Over the years, the content of Steel Shavings issues has varied, but the emphasis has remained the social history of Northwest Indiana and featured work by IUN students, most recently journals and oral histories.  Volume 46 includes papers Steve McShane’s students wrote about teenagers coming of age during the 1980s. The next issue will include memories of the 1990s, including this paper by Karl Lugar, who interviewed Guy Rubalcaba, a Mexican-American who grew up in the Black Oak area of Gary and attended Grissom Elementary, Lake Ridge middle school, and Calumet High School. 
Guy Rubalcaba on guitar and cycle
Lugar wrote:
In school Guy was subject of daily bullying as he did not subscribe to the “grunge fashion” of the day.  After ignoring his tormenters to no avail, he did fight back on one occasion, and the bullies moved on to other targets of opportunity.  Guy’s favorite teacher, Mr. Joe Portman, grew up “dirt poor” and sympathized with kids in similar circumstances. He delivered food baskets to the community, while serving as the school’s work-study coordinator and truant officer.
Guy received a hand-me-down 1987 Chevrolet Monte Carlo from his brother, his first of many.   Once Guy received his driver’s license, he liked to hang out weekends at Johnsen’s Blue Top Drive-In in Highland.  It was there that he learned of the infamous Cline Avenue drag racing scene, which he became a part of, learning that not only must a car be fast but it must be handled well to win.   Gus and his father spent many hours in his dad’s auto body shop repairing and repainting cars. Some were for customers; others were resold. His mother worked in the steel mill and instilled in Guy the value of hard work and self-motivational skills.
              Guy’s love for music came from his father, who played Stevie Ray Vaughn, Otis Redding, and other rock and soul music in the body shop. Guy played guitar, starting at age five, and secured an audition for his band at the high school talent show.  Unfortunately, Calumet's assistant principal suspended one of the members for tardiness the day before the audition, ruining their chances. Guy later formed “Voodoo Prophecy” and toured the Chicago “Rock Box” bar scene. He also started a record label and signed several artists before tiring of the scene.  
              Guy has a multifaceted personality that is like removing layers from an onion: each is unique and unveils a different side of him. He was married briefly and is devoted to his two kids.  He has never taken drugs, or consumed alcohol, as he witnessed what those did to other peoples’ lives and wanted to avoid becoming a statistic.  Since the nineties, his life has taken wild turns that led to his becoming manager of a gentlemen’s club. 
in foreground, Boricuas Phil Vera and Larry Ramirez (holding shoes); Below, Tom Crean in loss to Wisconsin
At Hobart Lanes, after observing that my ball was not carrying, Gene Clifford gave me a couple tips and I finished with games of 151 and 183.  Nearby, Delia’s uncles’ team, the Boricuas (meaning Puerto Ricans, especially those living in the U.S), were wearing green “Irish” shirts for good luck.  Folks were discussing the ouster of IU basketball coach Tom Crean after a very disappointing season, as well as news reports that an IUN women’s volleyball coach had been fired and charged with sexual battery. According to published reports of the criminal complaint, the former coach at Bishop Noll, hired a year ago and not on IUN’s faculty, got in a play-fight with a 17-year-old referee, first smacking her on the butt and then kissing her against her will.  Stupid move and bad for the university’s reputation! 
 David Levine view of TR

In a New York Review of Books essay praising Stephen Kinzer’s “The True Flag: Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain, and the Birth of American Empire,” Jackson Lears wrote about America's continuing legacy of imperialism:
         The protection of foreign investment remained wrapped in the rhetoric of exceptionalism, which intensified after the United States emerged from World War II as the most powerful country on the planet.  Throughout the cold war and its successor, the war on terror, the exceptionalist creed maintained the international double standard – the willingness to pursue policies deemed intolerable elsewhere, the inability to imagine how Americans might react were other nations to behave as the United States does.

         The True Flag captures the tragic impact of American hubris: the concentration of unchecked power in the executive branch, the corrosive impact of secrecy ion public debate, the insulation of decision-making in unapproachable bureaucratic hierarchies [with] catastrophic consequences, from the counterinsurgency campaigns in the Philippines and Vietnam to the chaos arising from “regime change” in Iraq and Libya.

1 comment:

  1. Where could one read "Parents in Whiting, Indiana"?