Monday, June 5, 2017

Miller Beach

"Sand dribbles from my billfold
On the bar of the beach café
Two men in hardhats at the end of the bar
Talk coho fishing and steel mills
And order another beer."
         “Indiana landscape,” Gilbert Laue
 Gilbert Laue with Dot and son John, 1953

Gary’s lakefront community of Miller Beach is my spiritual home, and I spent most of the weekend there.  The Beach Café is no longer the hot spot it once was but still serves perch on Fridays and beer on tap at its ample bar.  I ate lunch with historians Ron Cohen and Heath Carter at Captain’s House on Miller Ave. and dinner there a day later with my bridge group.  Owner Angela McCrovitz is a master chef, the helpings are generous, and the prices are unbelievably reasonable.  
Angela with Robin Rich and Rebecca Hansom; NWI Times photo by John J. Watkins
Laue’s “Indiana Landscape” poem concludes:
On the beach
sandpipers still skitter at the wave-lap
barefoot boys still find perfect-disk crinoids
perfectly center-pierced by 10,000 years of water-wear
at the water’s edge
boys’ dogs still cool their bellies in the cool water
and slurp long drinks from the great lake
as if the dunes had not been spoiled by man.

At Dick and Cheryl Hagelberg’s Miller home within sight of the lake, I went outside to see their garden, and Toni warned me about deer ticks.  Indeed, deer come right up to their house, bringing the tiny lyme-disease carriers.  In fact, Dick found one on his upper arm that Toni excised with tweezers.  Last year, Cheryl had a mild form of lyme disease from one of the black-legged buggers.  Two things I don’t miss about Miller: deer and raccoons. In bridge Tom Eaton and I started with a round of 1,430 points, and he edged me out for first place by a mere 30 points.  Playing against Toni, who finished third, I bid 4 Spades, and she went 5 Hearts. I doubled and she made it with an overtrick to spare; her partner was void in Spades.

Sunday, after board games with multiple-winner Dave and Tom Wade (who will fly soon to Russia to see his new grandchild), I went to Miller Beach Farmers Market for a steak taco and to learn details about open mike afternoons because Dave has expressed an interest in performing, perhaps with James and Becca.  They take place on the third week of every month, and sets last approximately 20 minutes.  On stage when I arrived was Nevada Mike, performing the Men at Work number “Down Under,” followed by Jim Croce’s “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown,” and a medley that included “That’s Alright, Mama” and “Folsom Prison Blues.”  Realtor Gene Ayers told me about efforts to save Ming Ling’s Restaurant, the oldest commercial building on Lake Street and originally Doc Bowers Drugs in 1910.  The interior is in bad shape due mainly to roof damage, and Ayers estimated that it would take $250,000 to refurbish it.  Some folks want it to become a permanent landmark; others favor razing it to make way for a sculpture garden and parking lot.  Famous for its egg rolls, Ming Long’s was a popular watering hole before Miller Bakery Café opened.  My friend Clark used to go there Friday evenings and lay bets on college football games.  The next day, he and his bookie would settle up, and he’d place bets on NFL contests.
above, ZorZorZor at Ming Ling's
 "Blurred" by Kay Rosen

I ran into Bud and Kay Rosen, our closest friends during the 1970s.  Bud, who grew up on Gary’s Northside and whose father was a florist, claims I was the one who first told him about Saturday Night Live.  Kay, like Toni, is an artist, and we both were subjects in some of her pieces. In one we and Bobbie Galler are walking in and out of adjacent doors.  In another, we are switching seats.
Samuel A. Love posted: "The Calumet Artist Residency Executive Board"
At the Calumet Artist Residency booth, I confessed being unable to come up with a single original line to add to the citywide cooperative poem.  Corey Hagelberg introduced me to a guy whose contribution was a single word: Frogs.  Eureka: I can submit Tadpoles, Toads, and Toadies.  Several years ago, Corey and Kate Land created a sculpture garden next to his dad’s playground business, Kidstuff Playsystems.  In fact, they envisioned the site, located near the railroad tracks, expanding into a cultural center.  What I’d really like to see in downtown Miller is a bicycle and walking path near the railroad tracks from Lake Street going west past their sculpture garden.  Near the poetry tent, someone had carved out an inviting-looking nine-hole chip and putt course similar to one Phil and Dave designed on Maple Place encompassing our yard and the vacant lot next door, where Dean and Joanell Bottorff once lived.

In reply to my thoughts about Miller Beach Dean Bottorff replied: “Thanks for bringing back some memories of Miller although my memories are somewhat different (Did I ever tell you about the time when I was in a Miller bar and there was a bunch of bikers in there trying to shoot the second hand of a clock? Maybe not.) Anyway, thanks for changing Joanell's name. In more than 40 years together, she's never changed her last name to mine ... maybe she's waiting to see if this deal works out. Great story!”

Working on a crossword puzzle, Toni asked if I knew a knuckleballer named Phil. Easy: Phil Niekro.  More difficult was two-time Wimbledon winner Lew in four letters.  I first said Head, but, mulling it over, changed my answer to Lew Hoad, an Australian who, I subsequently learned on Google, won back-to-back Wimbledons in 1956 and 1957.  Aussies dominated men’s tennis during the 1950s, winning the Davis Cup four out of five years beginning in 1952.  In 1954, the U.S. prevailed, led by Philadelphian Vic Seixas.  In 1955, I watched Hoad win a Davis Cup match against Italian Nicola Pietrangeli at Germantown Cricket Club.

Legendary sports journalist Frank Deford died at age 78.  Sports Illustrated reprinted Deford’s gracefully written “Confessions of a Sportswriter,” (2010), which contained this insight on interviewing: “there’s an instinctive flirtation built in.  It is really only what you learned to do on a high school date.  It’s ‘What kinda music do you like?’ taken to a somewhat higher level.” Deford strove to carve out a middle path between “Gee Whiz” mythmaking and “Aw Nuts” cynicism.
 Ariana Grande and fan at Manchester Hospital

Two weeks after a suicide bomber killed 22 people at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, and less than 24 hours after another terrorist outrage in London, tens of thousands attended Grande's One Love Manchester benefit concert, whose guests included Katy Perry, Justin Bieber, Pharrell Williams, Miley Cyrus, and Coldplay.  When Chris Martin sang a cover of the Oasis song “Don’t Look Back in Anger,” the Manchester band’s frontman Liam Gallagher joined him on stage.  Performing the Judy Garland standard “Over the Rainbow” accompanied by a children’s choir, Ariana Grande choked up for several moments before triumphantly singing the final chorus:
Someday I'll wish upon a star
Wake up where the clouds are far behind me
Where trouble melts like lemon drops
High above the chimney top
That's where you'll find me
Oh, somewhere over the rainbow way up high
And the dream that you dare to, why oh, why can't I?
Toni and Cathy at Emma and Stephen's wedding; photo by Chris Balay
Ron Cohen called to compare notes on the weekend.  After I left Captain’s House, Heath Carter told Ron he hopes to return often to Miller Beach and expects us to be guests when he teaches a Spring course on civil rights in Northwest Indiana.  Ron loves to gossip about parties I wasn’t invited to, and at Larry Lapidus’ he met Anne Balay’s former housemate Cathy, whose company Toni and I enjoyed at Emma’s wedding.  When Ron said, “You must know Jim Lane,” Cathy replied, “I’m not sure, but I know a Jimbo.”  In case Anne’s detractors or their toadies are reading this blog, here’s a riddle:
Q: When is it time for professors to retire?
A: When they forget whom they’re feuding with and why?
Sadly, that time has not yet come.

A strong north wind created waves that reached the southern shores of Lake Michigan.  Seagulls hovered nearby and Chicago’s Loop was visible, as were steel mills to the west, as I picked up smooth rocks on the beach and looked in vain for ancient crinoids.  Despite warnings of dangerous undertows, two intrepid folks with body surfing boards were catching waves.  Youngsters shrieked as they ran into the cold water.

William Allegrezza’s “The Stray Gulls,” from “Step Below: Selected Poems, 2000-2015” goes:
the stray gulls are silent,
but working at their circles
they approach the cool
shadow of your body
inverted to white and deep
in the barren streets lining
the sand.  our sickness
releases the smoke echoes
at last. rain and leaves
and like the butterfly
frightened in sleep,
i taste solitude through
the creaking stone and
go barefoot to the altar’s ear.

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