Monday, May 22, 2017

Roadhouse Blues

“Well, I woke up this morning, and I got myself a beer
The future's uncertain, and the end is always near.”
         “Roadhouse Blues,” The Doors

WXRT’s Saturday morning show was on 1970, the year I started at IUN.  I heard “Carry On” (Crosby, Stills, and Nash), “Let It Be” by the Beatles, “Lola” by the Kinks, "Midnight Rider” by the Allman Brothers Band, and Jim Morrison singing “Roadhouse Blues,” a number Dave’s band Voodoo Chili played at the Roadhouse Bar and Grill on U.S. 6 near Valparaiso, which recently changed its name to Icehouse.
Eve Bottando

I arrived at Miller Beach Farmers Market in time to buy a steak taco and hear a guy sing Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” and Merle Haggard’s “Okie from Muskogee.” Then Eve Bottando on accordion sang “Pennsylvania Polka” (It started in Scranton, it's now No 1, it's bound to entertain you, everybody has a mania, to do the polka from Pennsylvania”) followed by a warmly received Salt-N-Pepa number, “Shoop” (“Come and give me some of that yum-yum, chocolate chip, honey dip, can I get a scoop?  Shoop, shoop, ba-doop”).  I told Eve I was on my way to the Nelson Algren Museum, where she planned to make an appearance performing as Simone De Beauvoir.
Sue Rutsen, David Csicsko, and Richard Bales
Nelson Algren buying beer in Miller; photo by Art Shay
Simone and Nelson

A standing room only audience crowded into the Nelson Algren Museum at 541 S. Lake Street.  Co-founder (with George Rogge) Sue Rutsen read a letter written by a prostitute named Maggie that Algren befriended and helped get off heroin. The museum recently acquired a treasure-trove of letters, including a copy of a contract that offered Algren a mere ten-dollar advance on which the author scribbled sardonic comments about what a great negotiator he’d been.  Doubleday later advanced him $8,000 for “A Walk on the Wild Side” and then not only rejected the manuscript but demanded he return the money.  It was published in 1956 by Farrar, Straus, and Cudahy.  Kurt Vonnegut called Algren the loneliest person he ever knew.  The documentary “Nelson Algren: The End Is Nothing, The Road Is All” asserts that during the Red Scare the FBI and CIA succeeded, for the most part, in silencing Algren for being a champion of voiceless people and critic of the American ethos, where, in his words, “ownership and virtue are one.”

On display were photos by Algren's close friend Art Shaw, caricatures by David Csicsko, and such artifacts as the typewriter Algren used to write “The Man with the Golden Arm” (1955).  The main speaker was Richard Bales, author of the forthcoming “Nelson Algren: The Forgotten Literature,” which deals mainly with stories published in men’s magazines such as Cavalier, Playboy, and Rogue (other prominent writers who contributed to Rogue during its run between 1956 and 1967 included Hunter S. Thompson, William Saroyan, and Graham Greene).  Bales described the well-known Algren - Simone Beauvoir - Jean-Paul Sartre love triangle.  In 1929, long before the French feminist met Algren, Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre made a pact to be life-long soulmates but to allow each other “spring fever” flings. Algren, apparently not aware of the agreement, wanted to marry Simone and have kids, was not to satisfied to be with her a few weeks a year, ended the relationship, and deeply resented her writing about it in “The Mandarins” (1954).

On a museum time line, I learned to my surprise that Algren’s father and grandfather lived during the mid-nineteenth century in Black oak, Indiana, now part of Gary.  According to Bettina Drew’s “Nelson Algren: A Life on the Wild Side” (1989), grandfather Nels Ahlgren established a country store there and after it failed, tried farming as a squatter. Mary Wisniewski in “Algren: A Life” (2017) points out the long connection between Algren’s family and northwest Indiana.  In 1921, for instance, his paternal grandmother Jettie was a widow living in Hammond.  During the 1930s, twenty years before Nelson bought a cottage in Miller Beach, his sister Bernice and friends purchased one there.  Wisniewski wrote: “Northwest Indiana was Algren’s alternative home, outside of Chicago, his version of the country, and a green place of escape.  He always longed to be able to look out on a big body of water.”

At Notre Dame’s commencement, over a hundred students walked out in protest as Vice President Mike Pence began his address, which featured a vapid criticism of what he termed political correctness on college campuses.  The former governor had opposed admitting Syrian refugees into Indiana and signed legislation permitting Hoosier florists, caterers, and other small businesses to refuse to serve gays on religious grounds.  Luis Miranda, 29, told New York Times reporter Liam Stack: Of course we welcome and support free speech on campus, but commencement is not a moment for academic exchange or political dialogue. It’s a celebration of all of our hard work.  I have family who are directly being affected by his policies, so I felt like I needed to stand up.”
 Brooke Niksich; NWI Times photo by Joseph Pete

Megan Cary and Becca

I went to a Sectional fast-pitch softball game at Chesterton High School between Hobart and Portage because Becca was singing the National Anthem.  The Lady Brickies fell behind, 3-0, in the first inning but tied the score in the bottom of the seventh and won it, 6-5, in the eighth.  As a former softball pitcher myself, I enjoyed watching how the pitchers threw both fastballs and curves using a windmill motion.  A year ago, Portage defeated Hobart for its first Sectional title in seven years. Hobart will go on to play favored Chesterton.

Trump is in the Mideast trying to rally Sunni dictators against Iran – anything to undo an Obama accomplishment.  Here is Ray Smock’s summary of the past couple days:
      What leaks? Leaks no longer exist. What we have here is Niagara Falls, with Trump about to go over the falls in a barrel. Will he survive the fall? Stay tuned. 
      Steve Bannon is leaving to hide at the Heritage Foundation pretending to be a resident scholar. 
      And Jared Kushner is under investigation. 
      Comey will testify in public before the Senate Intelligence Committee in two weeks. 
      And why did Trump take his White House inner circle on his overseas trip? Where are the State Department people? 
      Finally, breaking news has Newt Gingrich's wife Callista as the new Ambassador to the Holy See. I hope the Pope requires 10,000 Hail Marys from her before he receives her. Whew!
Samuel A. Love conducted poetry workshops to Gary students and captured the enthusiasm on camera.
Alissa and Emily Agnello; below, Dominican street scene
dare-devil Alissa
 From Santiago, the second largest city in the Dominican Republic, where Alissa's taking a graduate course and staying with a host family that, in her words, make AMAZING food and practice Spanish with me and my two roommates, she wrote
      We visited Santo Domingo, had a tour of the colonial zone and learned about the history of the Dominican, from the time of the indigenous population (the Tainos) to the time of Columbus and his brothers, the African slave trade, etc. etc. It was so fascinating, and amazing to see a place that has so many cultures mixed together. The city felt very European but you could see influences from Africa, the United States, etc. In general, the people are so warm and friendly. We also met up with another GVSU group in Santo Domingo. The program director is actually from Santo Domingo so he and the group took us out DANCING...probably my favorite night so far.  A few of us stayed out all night and had to be dragged off the dance floor: I'm actually pretty excellent at merengue and bachata.  I was dancing with one guy and he asked me where I learned.  I told him I had taken a few classes. In return, I asked him where he learned, and he started laughing and said, “I'm Dominican.” 
      A saying here that I love:  When someone is perceived as being unhappy or a negative person, people will say, “That baby wasn't danced enough.” I've asked several people about it and they really believe it.  Dominicans say their rhythm and positive attitude starts from the time that they are babies and adults dance them around ALL the time! I love it!!!

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