Friday, June 2, 2017


“Peel out the watchword
The man with the golden gun
Thinks he knows so much.”
         Tori Amos, “Cornflake Girl”

I returned the CD “Into the Pink” by Tori Amos to the Chesterton library, along with Elizabeth Strout’s “My Name Is Lucy Barton,” whose last words are reminiscent of Strout’s master-work “Olive Kitteridge” (2008). She wrote:
      At times these days I think of the way the sun would set on the farmland around our small house in the autumn. . . the sky lingering, lingering, then finally dark.  As though the soul can be quiet for these moments.
      All life amazes me.

I checked out “Vinegar Girl” (2016) by Anne Tyler, who also writes about strong women buffeted by life’s vicissitudes.  At the end of chapter 1 Kate leaves a brick colonial building near Johns Hopkins campus in Baltimore where vatios organizations had offices.  Tyler wrote: “She opened the front door and walked into the sunshine.  Two of the Christians for Buddha women were sitting on the steps with their heads together, laughing.”

With partner Dee Von Bebber I played duplicate bridge twice within a 20-hour span, first at Chesterton YMCA and then at Banta Senior Center in Valpo in an 11 a.m. game directed by good buddy Charlie Halberstadt.  I’ve been learning new conventions.  A Michaels cue-bid overcall is where you raise your opponent’s suit. For example, 2 Clubs over 1 Club or 2 Diamonds over 1 Diamond signifies having at least 5 Hearts and 5 Spades; 2 Hearts over 1 Heart or 2 Spades over 1 Spade signifies having at least 5 of the other major and an unspecified minor.  The rule of 16 comes into play when deciding whether to respond 2 or 3 No Trump to partner’s 1 No Trump: raise to 3 if your high card points and the number of cards 8 or over equals 16.   The rule of 17 pertains to whether or not to answer a partner’s pre-empt.  To do so, high card points plus number of partner’s trumps should be at least 17. Dee mentioned this to me after she opened 2 Spades and the player on my right bid 3 Diamonds.  I held singleton Diamonds and Spades, Ace, Queen, and three other hearts, and Ace, Queen, and four other Clubs.  After much hesitation (I was 4 points short of 17), I bid four Clubs.  Being void in Clubs, Dee bid 4 Spades and went down two.  To make matters worse, opponents playing 3 Diamonds got set.
 Charlie Halberstadt
Marcia Carson

Tuesday evening bridge winners Jim and Marcia Carson (we finished fourth for .35 of a master point) are planning a trip to Australia and New Zealand, which gave me an opportunity to describe Toni and my trips there.  In Sydney with Miranda we found a great Asian restaurant and went on side trips to the Eastern Highlands mountain range and the capital, Canberra, and in New Zealand we drove (on the left hand of the road) the length of the North Island from Auckland to Wellington, braving icy hairpin turn on mountainous Highway 1 and stopping at Lake Taubo near Tongariro National Park. On the way back to Auckland, we visited Rotorua, an active geothermal area featuring geysers and steaming springs.

In a NWI Times notice entitled “Newsletter gains archival status” was this mention:
      Housed within the vast collection of the Calumet Regional Archives at Indiana University Northwest, duplicate bridge's newsletters, American Contract Bridge League's monthly magazines and videotapes have become part of the history of Lake and Porter Counties in northwest Indiana. James Lane, Emeritus Professor of History at IU Northwest and co-director of the Archives is overseeing an oral history project with IUN students interviewing duplicate bridge players. Students' papers and tapes of the interviews will become part of the District 8, Unit 154, Northwest Indiana Bridge Collection.

My peony plant is starting to bloom, but most flowers are leaning on their side, so I cut a couple and put them in water.  They are beautiful but don’t last long.  The weather has been glorious, with temperatures in the high 60s and low 70s.  A woman at Wednesday bridge made a delicious desert with strawberries her grandkids picked from her substantial patch.  Sylvia and George, a couple living in the Valpo subdivision of Aberdeen, are involved in a fight over whether the board should purchase the golf course next to their home.  He believes it to be necessary because if it folds, property values will plunge. On the other hand, it will take an estimated half-million-dollars to bring the course up to speed.

Gary native Wayne A. Young, founder of Port of Harlem magazine was at the Archives researching ANCO (Anderson Company), once Gary’s third largest employer (after U.S. Steel and Budd Company) and manufacturer of windshield wipers.  The company moved its Gary operations to Michigan City before being bought out by Champion, which in turn was purchased by Federal-Mogul.  ANCO wiper blades are now made in Asia.  Young was surprised to learn that IUN’s library/conference center was named for ANCO founder John W. Anderson, who died in 1967 but whose charitable trust has benefitted the university to the tune of millions.
 John W. Anderson
Hemmings Classic Car reporter Jim Donnelly described how John Anderson made millions from an idea that came to him in 1925, two years after moving his automobile accessories company from South Bend to Gary:
Anderson was on a road trip to visit a potential distributor when it began raining heavily. His personal car was still fitted with the wipers installed when it was assembled. The blades were badly worn to the point of uselessness. At night, somewhere in the rural Midwest, Anderson found it impossible to locate a replacement set of blades. Consequently, he decided to diversify his business to produce replacement kits, with an eye on making them available wherever fuel or other common auto needs were sold. And so ANCO, all upper case by now, was born.
Today, it's amazing to contemplate that before Anderson's soggy-night adventure, nobody had seriously thought about meeting the need for good all-weather visibility in less-than-new cars. Anderson not only created the business of making new blades, but also a convenient and unforgettable way of marketing them.
Within five years, practically every single gas station and tire store in the United States sported one of the bright yellow ANCO boxes, with a chart to replacement blade sizes inside its lid, hanging from a wall someplace inside. It didn't take long before the owner of just about any light American-made vehicle could find and install ANCO blades whenever the ones in place began sliming and squealing. To move sales along, Anderson offered gas retailers and attendants a $5 premium for every 20 ANCO blade box ends they sent in, a novel promotion when it was new in the 1930s.
 Stormy Weather with Jay Leno
Ron Cohen showed up at the Archives, as he was speaking to Steve McShane’s class on Gary School Superintendent William A. Wirt.  At Miller Bakery Café a few days earlier, he ran into Henry Farag, whose group recently opened for comedian Jay Leno at an area gambling casino.  Ron brought me a copy of New York Review of Books, which contains Gordon S. Wood’s review of T. H. Breen’s “George Washington’s Journey: The President Forges a New Nation” entitled “The Inventor of the Presidency.”  Wood concludes that Washington succeeded in reconciling citizens to the new national government created by the Constitution but “did little or nothing to deal with the one issue that eventually shattered the Union he had devoted his life to creating and preserving.”  That issue, of course, was slavery.

Reacting to Trump pulling the U.S. out of the Paris Agreements, Ray Smock wrote:
     Trump follows our close allies Syria and Nicaragua in rejecting the Paris Climate Accords. Only three of the world's nations have rejected it. The United States led the effort to create these accords but our new bull in the American china shop just wrecked everything. Trump said he did it to protect the American people. Why don't I feel protected? From whom and from what is he protecting us by denying reality and being such a shit about it? Who benefits from this totally arbitrary 180-degree shift in American domestic and foreign policy?

In “The Incredible Shrinking President” Smock wrote:
President Trump gets smaller by the day. I say this even while personally he is getting fatter, perhaps because the pressure of the office has him binge eating. Maybe he hopes to become the “biggest” president ever. But let’s hope he never exceeds the weight of President William Howard Taft, who tipped the scales at 340 pounds.
       What is shrinking is the power of the president and his ability to get anything done. President Trump does not have the ability or the wherewithal to act presidential. Only part of this shrinkage is related to his image as an out-of-control buffoon who tweets in the middle of the night, but that is part of it. Image is important to a president, and Trump, the image master from reality TV, is flunking in his ability to look and act presidential. Just today he once again referred to Hillary Clinton as “Crooked Hillary,” in a tweet. Jokes abound about his late-night typo introducing the word “covfeffe” into our language. Reporter Chris Cillizza to say this is “all you need to know about Donald Trump.”

      Trump is shrinking because he does not trust anyone but a handful of people most of whom are members of his own family, who are complete amateurs with no experience in government. What arrogance must exist within this family to think they run something this big, this complex, and this important, while at the same time pretending that their own private businesses can go on without any conflicts of interest. It is impossible to make this up. He even has a private body guard because he does not completely trust the Secret Service. Yet this is where we are.

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