Friday, May 19, 2017

Alpha Wolf

“For the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf in the pack.” Rudyard Kipling, “The Jungle Book”
Tori with family

Granddaughter Victoria received a “Champion of Character” award in a ceremony that Toni and I attended.  Two years ago, the two Wyoming schools, Park and Rogers, combined, and the new nickname decided on was “Wolves,” so winners (male and female tenth, eleventh, and twelfth graders), received t-shirts with the designation “Alpha Wolf.” We arrived an hour early, were fed lunch and, along with the other five families, kept out of sight in a tent near where the outdoor ceremony took place.  When winners were announced, families went out to greet them.  Tori claimed she had no idea she’d win until the testimonial mentioned that she had three siblings and loved her cat. 

It was quite moving to see fellow students and teachers embrace Tori.  A teacher from five years ago marveled at how, in her words, she’d “made a complete 180.”  “That was my hoodlum year,” Tori joked.  Actually, she got in trouble for standing up for other students in a way administrators claimed was mouthing off.  Toni told Tori that such gumption was evidence of a strong character now being honored by students and faculty. At 12 she wanted to grow up faster, but now she is comfortably self-confident and enjoying being 17.

Tori’s English teacher also received an “Alpha Wolf” award. Evidently, each day she tells students that she loves them.  On the morning after the 2016 election she and Tori, both bitterly disappointed, comforted one other. Tori’s class read J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye.  My dad’s name was Victor and one reason her parents got sold on Victoria was because they liked the nickname Tori, like Tori Amos, who in 1994 recorded “Cornflake Girl” on the album “Under the Pink.”  Like Tori, my dad was very loyal to family and friends, had a strong sense of fair play, and was quite competitive playing cards and sports.  Tori is captain of her school soccer team and has played varsity volleyball and basketball.

Because Tori’s award was a surprise, we stayed at the downtown Grand Rapids Holiday Inn the night before and dined at Luna’s Restaurant, which billed itself as serving “Reasonably Authentic” Mexican food, with Phil, Sean and Miranda, and Josh (wife Alissa is in the Dominican Republic for a graduate class).  Josh confided that the first day after Alissa left, he enjoyed pigging out watching sports on TV but misses her.  In 11 days he’ll join her for a week at a Dominican resort.  Josh drove past us the house they are purchasing in a primarily Polish neighborhood close to downtown Grand Rapids, with several ethnic restaurants and clubs nearby.  Alissa is Polish on both her mom’s and Toni’s side, and at Christmas brought delicious pierogis from one of the stores.  Our house-warming present will be central air.
 Alissa in Santo Domingo

Back at the Holiday Inn bar, I ordered a local craft beer on draft with a coupon I’d gotten as a Gold Card member.  Alas, it only covered 12-ounce bottles, soI settled for a LaBatts.  In the tiny hotel library, I found “Buffalo Lockjaw,” a novel by Greg James about a young man returning to his decaying hometown on Thanksgiving and visiting his mother, who has advanced Alzheimer’s.  The book opens with this sad quote from Flannery O’Connor’s “Wise Blood”: Where you come from is gone, where you thought you were going to was never there, and where you are is no good unless you can get away from it.”
 Upper Dublin classmates greet Wayne Wylie (right) at Guiseppe's (April 2017)

Grade school buddy Wayne Wylie posted: “My Mother Beatrice Wylie Detwiler was a member of the Jarrettown church for 99 years and very active until the last 10 years or so. She Walked the Walk and gave much more than she ever received. The last 3-4 years she was in an Alzheimer's facility so we lost her twice and no it did not make it easier for when she passed.”  Home alone with Toni being in Indy to see “Kinky Boots,” I gave Wayne, recovering from a close call with the Grim Reaper, a call. We shared stories about his mom, who fed me fresh corn on the cob I picked from their field when I’d stay overnight in the summer.

Crown Point Mayor David Uran is demanding an apology from the producers of NBC’s “Chicago P.D.” after a May 10 episode portrayed the Lake County Hub City as racist. An African-American athlete was arrested for rape after having consensual sex with a white girl and then killed upon his release.  The Mayor called it “very bizarre” and added, “We never had a case like that here in Crown Point.”  According to NWI Times reporter Rob Earnshaw, the Crown Point arresting officer was portrayed “as a sexist buffoon.”
 Barbara Walczak

To Steve McShane’s summer students I described their oral history assignment, interviewing a duplicate bridge player.  None knew how to play bridge. I gave a two-minute summary and showed them Newsletters that contained not only club results but photos of Halloween and Christmas parties, biographies of newcomers, and, inevitably (given the number of players in their 80s and 90s), obituaries.

At Chesterton YMCA Dee Van Bebber and I tied for second (behind Jim and Marcia Carson) in an eight-couple match, good for .48 of a master point.  We got off to a great start, setting a contract down four doubled for 800 points; then Dee made five Clubs doubled and re-doubled for a plus-1,000 after being dealt ten Clubs!  According to former Math teacher Chuck Tomes, the probability of being dealt 10 cards of a suit is 1 out of 250,000.  My worst hand was a three No-Trump bid by opponents Chuck and Marcy Tomes.  Dee’s opening lead was a Heart. On the board were the Queen and three others.  I held the King, Jack, spot and, when Chuck played low, took the trick with the Jack.  Holding six Spades, I led one to the board’s bare Ace. I probably should have returned my partner’s lead, but, I figured, even if Dee had the Heart Ace (which she did) and then led a third Heart to my King, I didn’t have a fourth Heart to lead to her.  Rather than take the first three tricks, setting up the board’s Queen, I hoped we could set the contract if Dee got in and led another Heart, but Chuck proceeded to take 11 straight tricks, leaving us with low board.  Chalk it up to my being used to party bridge, where overtricks are unimportant compared to stopping game bids.

While Chesterton players belong to the American Contract Bridge League (ACBL), director Alan Yngve informed me that several Calumet regulars are members of the American Bridge Association, formed in 1932 at a time when African Americans were excluded from most bridge events.  In 1967, the ACBL amended its by-laws to declare that nobody should be denied membership because of race, color, or creed.

Barb Walczak accepted an invitation to visit the Archives, where her Newsletters will be preserved.  After Steve’s ten-minute tour, I interviewed her with the help of IUN Media Production Specialist Jaclyn Smith.  Walczak was born in Gary, and her dad was a cook at a U.S. Steel hospital where ill and injured employee got treatment.  The family lived on site for two years before moving to New Chicago.  Barb graduated from Hobart H.S.  She never played card games, except for War, until college in Bloomington.  She taught fourth and fifth graders in Hammond for many years and now lives in Munster.  She has tried to give bridge lessons to young people, but schools have refused to give her much support.  She took my picture for a future Newsletter story about the Archives’ duplicate bridge club holdings.
David Clemmons on left

In the Jeopardy teacher tournament, David Clemmons won a semi-final match despite being in the hole after the first round.  The History teacher knew all the answers in the category “1917” and went for a “true daily double” on a question that asked for the author of King Coal.   Upton Sinclair’s socialist novel was written in reaction to the Colorado coal strikes and the infamous Ludlow Massacre.  Clemmons went on to win the $100,000 prize after betting everything in the Final Jeopardy category “U.S. Cities.”  The question asks which city is back on the list of 50 most populated after dropping off it for ten years.  The answer was New Orleans, depopulated after Hurricane Katrina.  Another contestant knew the answer but didn’t bet anything, no doubt to her regret.

Regarding Trump’s latest self-inflicted wound, Ray Smock wrote:
       President Trump tweeted today, that “With all the illegal acts that took place in the Clinton campaign and Obama Administration, there was never any special councel appointed. (The president misspelled counsel.) Then he tweeted, “This is the greatest single witch hunt of a politician in American history.  The president needs a lawyer to tell his client to quit tweeting while under investigation. Trump’s public statement that FBI Director James Comey was dismissed to stop the Russian probe has the appearance of obstruction of justice, a very serious crime
        If a witch hunt is underway in Trump’s mind, it does not surprise me that he has declared it to be the greatest in American history. Trump loves to see himself in superlatives. The “greatest” witch hunt could turn out to be the “greatest” investigation of wrong-doing in American history or the “greatest” failure of a presidential administration in American history.

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