Friday, May 26, 2017

Pretty Good Year

“They say you were something in those formative years
Hold onto nothing as fast as you can
Well still pretty good year
Maybe a bright shiny beach is gonna bring you back
Maybe not.”
            Tori Amos, “Pretty Good Year”
At Chesterton library, I picked up the CD “Under the Pink” by “Cornflake Girl” Tori Amos (above) and ran into former IUN vice-chancellor John Black, whose grandchildren, like Becca, go to Chesterton schools.  I gave him Steel Shavings, volume 46 (I always have a spare in the car), which mentions him in connection with a dinner party at Odyssey Restaurant hosted by Lloyd and Sharon Rowe after a campus talk by former Chancellor Peggy Elliott. For years, John found me money for Shavings or else I might have had to abandon publishing it.
 Pres. Bill Clinton rooting for NCAA champ Arkansas
In 1994, the year “Under the Pink” was released, Bill Clinton was president but the Republicans captured control of the House of Representatives.  Green Day’s “Dookie” came out, but Kurt Cobain committed suicide.   Nelson Mandela became President of South Africa, but civil war waged in Rwanda.  Romário led Brazil to a World Cup victory, but a strike cancelled the baseball season.  “Pulp Fiction” was a big hit, and so was “Dumb and Dumber” – a guilty pleasure movie.
Toni and I saw Alien: Covenant, which had me gasping a few times.  Michael Fassbender played a dual role both as the hero and villain in this the fifth sequel to the 1979 original, and I enjoyed Danny McBride, usually in comedies, as Tennessee, a character that reminded me of cowboy pilot Slim Pickens in Dr. Strangelove. 
 Lassen Hotel in Cedar Lake, built in 1895
Cedar Lake Historical Association executive director Julie Zasada invited me to an afternoon seminar on preserving local history.  A few months before, I had helped the organization obtain a Humanities Initiative Grant.  I offered to speak on the “Cedar Lake during the Hard Years: 1930-1970.”  Either the program was already set or perhaps the subject was unappealing or too controversial; at any rate, I never heard back from Ms. Zasada.  Twenty years ago, some Chamber of Commerce types criticized my Steel Shavings issue on Cedar Lake because, in their stupid opinion, it contained unflattering remarks about Cedar Point Park, a blue-collar neighborhood where many homes had originally been summer cottages.  Former student Bob Petyko, who accepted the nickname “Lake Rat” as a badge of pride when he attended Crown Point H.S., described growing up “real poor”:
        There were eight of us.  Whenever my dad lost his job, we’d get kicked out of the place we were living.  Then we’d move to another house.  We used to put our furniture on wagons or sleds.  We’d be like gypsies going through the neighborhood.  We liked to move in the winter because it was easier to push the stuff.  All the neighborhood kids would help us.
We lived in this one house that had a little lean-to addition where I slept.  Once it snowed, and the roof caved in.  At that time, we had a bed and a Christmas tree out there. My mom took a sheet and thumb-tacked it up along the doorway.  We spent the whole winter like that.  I imagined myself like Abe Lincoln living in a three-wall cabin.  It would be windy, and that sheet would flap around. We were a blue-collar family.  Dark blue.  We didn’t have hot water.  When we flushed the toilet, we had to go to the lake to get a bucket of water to make it work.

As I was getting off the elevator on the first floor of IUN’s Anderson library, someone said, “Hello, Jimbo.”  It was former chancellor Bruce Bergland, back to attend the funeral of Randy Jacobs’ widow.  He knew about Ernest Smith’s recent passing, and I complimented him for making Smith a vice chancellor after he made a remarkable recovery from a stroke.  Having a purpose probably added years to his life.  I told wife Cynthia how Bruce phoned me in the hospital after I was the victim of a home invasion and after calling me Jim, I told him my friends called me Jimbo.  He has called me that ever since.  I gave him volume 46 and noticed afterwards that his name was in the Index in a paragraph about Mark McPhail resigning at Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs.  I wrote:
  One can only speculate about this shocking development, reminiscent of the revolving-door fate of McPhail’s predecessors during the Bruce Bergland regime.  I admire McPhail greatly and hope he was not a victim of an old-boy network that in the recent past has depleted the university of several talented academicians, including Jerry Pierce, Julie Peller, and Anne Balay.
Chancellor Bruce Bergland in 2011 
While putting together a history of IU Northwest with Paul Kern 15 years ago, I interviewed Bergland about the university’s relationship with other regional campuses. He said:
       When I started talking about cooperation with Ivy Tech and Purdue Cal, skeptics feared we’d lose students to those institutions. It didn’t happen.  In the long run, by developing a good working relationship with Ivy Tech, I expect that we’ll receive a growing number of decent students.
       Some people believe a single first-rate institution would be best for the region, but it isn’t going to happen, so we have to play the cards we were dealt.  We need Northwest Indiana to work together and end the Balkanization that has kept the region in the doldrums.  If people see IUN leading the way in terms of modeling cooperative efforts, it will change negative perceptions of us as an institution in trouble.  Instead people will begin to say, “There’s good stuff going on there.”

In class Steve McShane showed my videotaped interview with Newsletter editor Barb Walczak as students prepare to interview duplicate bridge players.  Beforehand, the main points I emphasized were to clearly explain your purpose and make sure to do a follow-up for additions and corrections.  I pointed out that I never asked Barb her age and talked too much, as pregnant pauses can lead to valuable further information.  Since the class is presently studying pioneer Gary, I touched on diaries and memoirs located in the Archives by early residents Albert Anchors, Harry Hall, and Margaret Seeley – gems of social history about early Gary.

One bridge hand I’d like to bid over was against Chuck Tomes, who opened one Spade.  I had 16 high card points and had planned to bid a No-Trump but only had a useless Spade doubleton, so I doubled.  When my partner bid a Heart and jump to game.  She had just four hearts to the nine and five high-card points and went down one when trump split 4-1.  I should have bid three hearts and left the decision whether to bid four up to her although Tomes insisted he’d have done what I did.

Vietnam Vet Ron Jackson, interviewed by Sandra Forbes a decade ago, heard I’d published her paper and wanted a copy for his family. I was happy to send him my “Brothers in Arms” Shavings issue (volume 39, 2008).  Jackson served with a marine combat engineers unit known as the “Thundering Third.”  Forbes wrote:
       He saw a lot of action and was wounded when hit with shrapnel during an artillery barrage. He saw the blood but was in such shock he didn’t feel anything.  He also caught malaria. One of his duties was to work with “tunnel rats.”  One came out with a laundry ticket that American soldiers used.  “You didn’t know who was Vietcong among the local civilians,” he said.
       Jackson worked with Montagnard tribesmen whom, he said, didn’t like either Americans or Vietcong.  They’d cooperate if their chief told them to but otherwise resisted being relocated or having their lived interfered with.  He said they lived very primitively but wore gold jewelry and bracelets.  Ron said he got along well with the children and old people but wished he knew their language so he could have known what they were thinking.
 Cubs Anthony Rizzo and John Lackey
Following a 7-2 home stand, the Cubs headed to L.A. dressed like characters in the movie “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy” (2004).
 Gary City Hall and Lake Co. Courthouse

On Saturday Vista worker Alex Koerner will conduct two Gary Preservation walking tours of eight downtown sites: Gary State Bank, Lake County Courthouse, Union Station, Gary Land Company, City Hall, Genesis Towers/Hotel Gary, City Methodist Church, and Gary Post Office.  Evidently the Palace Theater was deemed too unsafe to include on the two-hour tour.  Hopefully Alex will take them past where Memorial Auditorium stood and mention community events that took place there.

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