Friday, July 7, 2017


 “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” Martin Luther King, Jr., “Strength to Love”

On HBO I watched “Loving,” about Mildred and Richard Loving and the Supreme Court decision, Loving v. Virginia (1967), which unanimously struck down state laws prohibiting interracial marriage.  The film begins with Mildred, nicknamed Bean, telling Richard that she’s pregnant and his deciding that they should marry.  There would have been no problem had they settled on a common-law arrangement, but Richard and Mildred truly loved one another.  Family members, including his mother and her sister, opposed the decision, but they got married in Washington, D.C., only to be arrested upon their return to Virginia and forced to decide between prison and exile.  For a time, they lived in Baltimore, but they missed country living and returned home.  Mildred, meanwhile, inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King and the 1963 March on Washington, wrote Attorney-General Robert F. Kennedy of their situation and he put them in touch with the ACLU, whose lawyers, led by Bernard S. Cohen, took the case to the Supreme Court.
 Lovings in 1967
Throughout, Richard Loving comes off as a simple, stoic, loving husband and good provider who dislikes publicity but accepts his wife’s determination to legitimize their marriage, both for themselves, their children, and others in their circumstances.  Turning down Cohen’s offer to be present during the high court’s deliberations, Richard said simply: “Tell them I love my wife.”  The most poignant scene, captured in real life by a Life magazine photographer, is when the couple are watching The Andy Griffith Show, with Richard lying on a couch with his head in Mildred’s lap.  When the credits ran, the actual Life photo appeared on the screen, and we learn that in 1975 Richard was killed by a drunk driver; Mildred never remarried and lived the rest of her life in the house Richard built for them.  Eliza Berman of Time wrote that the film “offers a glimpse of a simple life violently interrupted by a sheriff with a flashlight in the middle of the night.”
Heidi Pierce
On Facebook Jerry Pierce asked: Parenting dilemma: when a toddler bites your daughter on the cheek at daycare, do I bite the kid back? Begin a karate training montage with Heidi so she can seek revenge? Challenge the other father to a duel in the gladiator arena?   None of the parenting books I have address these options.  He's going to feel some Braveheart beat down if it happens again.”  The wound certainly does not look like a love bite.  In reply to Jerry, Peggy Seay wrote: “Don’t wait for again.  Take action now.”
Interviewed by IUN student Lauren Myers, Charlie Halberstadt (above) revealed that as a kid he played a version of pinochle called rook.  His maternal grandmother, a religious fundamentalist, rejected face cards due to the images of jacks, queens, and kings, so they played with a special “Christian” deck that didn’t contain face cards, just numerals. Charlie went on to play poker and developed a passion for backgammon.  One place he played was Another Roadside Attraction Restaurant, run by my friends Ivan Jasper and Tom Orr.   He eventually took up bridge on the advice of a church member who claimed it would keep his mind alert.
Crystal Nell (in middle)
Crystal Nell with partner Igor Savchenko, 2017 national mixed doubles champs

Charlie’s main partner Naomi Goodman, interviewed by Marissa Gallardo, brought up Crystal Nell, a Valparaiso High School grad and life master at age 38, as an exception to the stereotype of all bridge players being elderly.  Naomi told Marissa: “Crystal went to college, got married, had kids, and worked for Google. She played so well, her husband (who had a good-paying job) thought it worthwhile for her to quit working and concentrate on her bridge.  She plays all over the country and even flies in a babysitter to places like Houston or Seattle.  At present, she’s playing a bridge competition in Italy and claims to be the old lady at 38, so there must be younger players playing at a very high level.”
 bridge director Alan Yngve by Hannah McCafferty

from left, Terry Bayer, Jim Carson, Dottie Hart, Jim Carson

IUN student Hannah McCafferty wrote about her grandmother Mary and attended the Duneland Duplicate Bridge match on June 20 at Chesterton YMCA to get an glimpse at what was going on.  She took photographs and wrote:
I talked with a few people and listened to table talk associated with the game.  Prior to the start of the match, director Alan Yngve gave a lesson from a previous week’s hand, in which one player had nine trump cards.  Alan then described various ways to defend against the hand.  Chuck Tomes asked if I played bridge. My response was that I did not, but I knew how to play Spades and Euchre.  He replied that Duplicate Bridge is like Euchre on steroids.
Anne Koehler

Chuck Tomes told me about “The Devil’s Tickets” A Night of Bridge, a Fatal Hand, and a New American Age” by Gary M. Pomerantz. The title comes from what some religious fundamentalists nicknamed playing cards.   IUN system services librarian Anne Koehler, now vacationing off the Ionian Sea, found the nonfiction book for me at Marion County Public Library in Indianapolis.  A blurb summarizes its central event:
         Kansas City, 1929: Myrtle and Jack Bennett sit down with another couple for an evening of bridge.  As the game intensifies, Myrtle complains that Jack is a “bum bridge player.”  For such insubordination, he slaps her hard in front of their stunned guests and announces he is leaving.  Moments later, sobbing, with a Colt .32 pistol in hand, Myrtle fires four shots, killing her husband.
Two years later, defended by former U.S. Senator James A. Reed, Myrtle Bennett beat the rap.  While such shadowy celebrities as Wild Bill Hickok and Arnold Rothstein had been shot playing poker, Pomerantz could find no precedent for bridge causing a homicide.
 Myrtle Bennett
An offshoot of whist, popular among the European and American elite for over 200 years, bridge became somewhat of a craze during the “roaring Twenties,” along with mahjong, crossword puzzles, marathon dancing and flagpole sitting.  The person most responsible for the game’s popularity was Ely Culbertson, whose actions author Pomerantz follows closely.

At the Algren Museum in Miller Sue Rutsen directed a discussion of “The Texas Stories of Nelson Algren,” and the ten of us present recited “Kewpie Doll” (about a decapitation while pilfering coal off a freight train) and “A Place to Lie Down” (about ending up in jail for being with a black companion).  Sue gave me a copy of “Conversations with Nelson Algren” (2001) by H.E.F. Donahue, which includes accounts of the writer’s time in Texas riding the rails, working at a carnival and being incarcerated for stealing a typewriter. He told Donahue about a cellmate who had only one hand; the other was just a nub:
  He had a face that was very close to that of silent-movie cowboy Art Accor, and he claimed to be the brother of Art Accord.  Art Accord was a big man.  He had Art Accord’s face, but he was a very little man, and he was the boss of the place.  That is, he considered himself such.

There is almost no evidence of love or affection in Nelson Algren’s Texas stories.  The one seduction scene, in "The Last Carousel,” has carnival performer “Hannah the Half-Girl” forcing herself on the narrator:
  She barreled her head into me, spinning me backward, crashing me against the domino table as she bore her whole weight down on me.  The table collapsed above us in a cascade of dominoes.  I tried to push her off with my hands against her shoulders, but she pinned both my arms and slipped her tongue into my mouth.  That kiss drained my remaining strength.  She entwined her thighs against mine.  I thrust upward at the same moment that she thrust down.  She gasped wth pain that turns so quickly to pleasure.

Back at the condo, I noticed lightning bugs were out and fireworks still being shot off – it’s a Hoosier thing.  Reading my latest Steel Shavings, Nancy Cohen came across a reference to Scott Moore, her son-in-law’s dad, who played on an East Glen Park Little League squad with friends Frank Schmidt and Michael Martinez.  Frank recalled: “Every time we won, our coach would take us out to eat at Ricochet’s Pizza in Gary. They had the best pizza you’d ever taste.”  Frank’s parents, Robert and Japanese-born Shigeko, met while he was recovering from a wound during the Korean war.

In “Untrustworthy and Dangerous” Ray Smock wrote:
Vladimir Putin denied Russian meddling in our elections. Donald Trump says it was an honor to meet Putin at the G-20 Summit today. Our president denies that Russia was involved in undermining our democratic process (on some days he says it was probably the Russians, maybe others). There is one thing for certain. Neither of these men can be trusted. They both excel in duplicity, deception, and lies. And because they do, both men, each in his own way are dangerous players on the world stage.
Trump was the rank amateur at this meeting, knowing nothing of government or world history, and in office just six months. Trump was accompanied by another rank amateur in diplomacy, our Oil magnate Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, who was actually given a medal by Putin several years ago for helping Russia with oil deals.
Putin has taken the measure of 4 U.S. presidents and has been on the world stage as a leader for 17 years, with a long career before that as a KGB agent. He has seen American presidents come and go. There was no one in the meeting taking notes and all we will ever learn from this meeting is what Trump and Tillerson decide to tell us. Trump said it was a very, very good meeting. The extra "very" is suspicious. 
Oh, as a postscript: I will refrain in the future from calling what Russia did to our election process "meddling." To meddle is to muck about, to horse around, it has a playful sound to it that hides the fact that this "meddling" was an assault on the sovereignty of the United States and the sanctity of our free elections. It was a serious attack in a new kind of warfare designed to destabilize our democracy, as well as the election processes in other countries.

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