Saturday, July 19, 2014

Uncivil War


“The GOP is a football team that’ll do anything to win,” Richard Linklater.

I sent a note to Ray Smock saying that the difference between the two (right) wings of the GOP is that the crazies (read Sarah Palin) want to impeach Obama while Speaker John Boehner’s troops just want to sue him.  Characterizing Boehner’s “chickenshit” move as an outrageous campaign ploy that should be laughed out of court, Ray wrote:
What this means is that before the House breaks for the fall campaign season they will spend floor time laying out the case against Obama. Everything they hate about him will be on display. It will be Obamacare, the Keystone Pipeline, Benghazi, foreign policy, Obama’s use of executive orders, the whole ball of wax. Somehow from all this they plan to craft a lawsuit that has enough specific charges for the federal court to consider it without puking first.

So the Republicans have settled on a plan short of impeachment to keep feeding red meat to the base through November. The base has been bombarding House Republicans asking them why they haven’t impeached the President yet. So this is their answer. They are going to sue his black ass. Let it all hang out, the hatred, vitriol, and the big smear.  Will we ever see again a civil government in America, where we focus on our real enemies in the world and quit destroying one another?

Boehner is taking a page from Newt’s playbook from the 1980s by using C-SPAN to spread the case against the president. Every House Republican will get a chance to stand up and condemn the president and pound the table so the home folks will know that their guy or gal hates the president.  The fall campaign theme for Republicans is that whatever is wrong with America it is the President’s fault.”
Working on Dunes Highway
Dick Meister and Ken Martin donated a copy of their pictorial history of Ogden Dunes to the Archives.  In 1923 by Samuel Reck and Colin Mackenzie headed a group that purchased 500 acres from the estate of Francis Ogden.  Samuel and Anne Reck built the first full-time residence on land overlooking Lake Michigan.  Due to the lack of roads, the most mode of transportation was horse and wagon.  In 1925 twenty landowners successfully petitioned the Porter County commissioners to incorporate as a town.   Three factors were crucial to the shoreline community’s success. During the 1920s the construction of Burns Ditch waterway drained land suddenly available for development.  Second, business magnate Samuel Insull purchased and improved the Chicago, South Shore and South Bend electric railroad.  Finally, a new Dunes Highway (U.S. 12) linked Porter County to Chicago and Michigan.

Chris Young lent me Jay Winik’s “April 1865: The Month That Saved the Nation.”  It looks well written and deals with the final days of the Civil War, including the Union victory at Petersburg, the capture of Richmond, Southern plans to launch guerrilla warfare, General Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, and the beginnings of Reconstruction.  The author, a former senior staff member for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, witnessed civil wars in Cambodia, Central America, Africa, the Balkans, and elsewhere, and sought to learn, in his words, “how a young and still embryonic America avoided the terrible and tragic fate that has beset so many other countries.”   Nonetheless, more than 700,000 Americans died to preserve the union, and the price of sectional peace was the abandonment by Republicans of former slaves when they became a political liability.
 Winslow Homer's Defiance


In a New York Review of Books essay entitled “Our Monstrous War,” Civil War historian James M. McPherson wrote: “Disease was even more lethal than combat.  Fetid water, poor and insufficient food, bad sanitation, clouds of flies and other insects, extreme weather, and primitive medical knowledge caused dysentery, diarrhea, typhoid fever, pneumonia, malaria, and a host of other maladies that carried awat twice as mant soldiers as did fighting.”  Lice and chiggers were ubiquitous; no soldier escaped the misery they caused.”

Dave Serynek asked me to recommend a biography of Rutherford B. Hayes.  There were several to choose from, believe it or not, but the one I found most interesting was by Harry Barnard, whose “Eagle Forgotten” on Illinois governor John Peter Altgeld, is one of my favorite books.  Like Altgeld, Hayes was pretty much forgotten when Barnard’s volume first appeared in 1954, despite his being a Civil War officer, three-time Ohio governor, member of Congress during Reconstruction, and dubious winner of the most disputed Presidential election in American history.  As Thomas Wolfe quipped about Hayes and Harrison: “Which had the whiskers. Which the burnsides; which was which?”  Again quoting from Wolfe’s essay “From Death to Morning,” Barnard hoped to portray Hayes as a man “torn, as we have been, by sharp pain and wordless lust, the asp of time, the thorn of spring, the sharp, the tongueless cry,” and who sought “new lands, the promise of the war, and glory, joy and triumph, and a shining city.”  Heady, ambitious stuff.

Despite the horrors of war, Colonel Rutherford Hayes relished the opportunity to prove his manhood in a just cause.  At South Mountain a musket ball fractured his arm, taking him out of action for two months.  Once he drew his pistol on a soldier about to flee from the battle and threatened to kill him if he didn’t fight.  Barnard wrote: “The soldier fought and lost his life, after which Hayes said that he had given the man a hero’s death instead of a coward’, and what could be better than that?”
 Volunteers in Indiana's Ninth Regiment


On Friday Will Radell spoke to youngsters participating in a week-long Civil War camp, as well as several parents, staff members, and guests, including recently retired Education professor Paul Blohm.  I arrived at Westchester Historical Museum to find in in a woolen Union uniform next to a tent held up by tree limbs.  Speaking as if he were a member of the Ninth Indiana Infantry Regiment, he mentioned how it was composed mainly of volunteers from Northwest Indiana and their contributions during the bloody battles of Shiloh and Gettysburg.  The kids had many questions, especially about his musket (that at best could only get off three shots a minute) and bayonet, rarely used by soldiers, who preferred to use the other end as a club during hand-to-hand combat.  For one thing, if you stabbed the enemy, the bayonet might get stuck in him.  Describing re-enactments, Will said that some “hard core” participants refused any modern amenities, but he always took bug spray and sunblock with him.

I watched the 1998 update of the Charles Dickens novel “Great Expectations starring Ethan Hawke and Gwyneth Paltrow, with, as a special bonus, Anne Bancroft and Robert DeNiro.  Like the Dickens story, a young orphan becomes a successful gentleman due to a secret benefactor.  Paltrow as Estella was stunning in scenes where she poses naked for Hawke and later seduces him.

The second reception in three days featuring Corey Hagelberg’s work, this time with wine, beer and food prepared by Cheryl and Kate, was a big success.  Many Millerites attended, including Gene and Judy Ayers, George McGuan, Robin Rich, Marty Bohn, and Bill Carey, whom I hadn’t seen in years and didn’t recognize without a beard.  Corey told Toni that her art was a big influence on him growing up.  We have several of his pieces that he’s given us over the years and decided to buy one of the woodcuts on display.  Samuel A. Love posted great photos showing Corey’s new salvaged art as well as his woodcuts. 
Kay Abraham and Ish Muhammad with Toni and Ann Fritz in background
Shortly after we arrived home, six guests arrived for the weekend, Mike and Janet Bayer, daughters Shannon and Kirsten, and Kirsten’s boys Dane and Nicholas.  It didn’t take the kids long to acclimate themselves.  As Kirsten said, they are like sharks, never still.  Or tornadoes.  I stayed up until one in the morning and eight hours later cooked eggs, sausage and potato latkes for everyone.
John Fraire, above, whose article on baseball teams in Indiana Harbor appeared in the last Indiana Magazine of History, invited me to a reception in Crown Point.  The purpose was to introduce his new bride to his Midwest friends and relatives.  During the 1970s I was good friends with his brother Rocky, who recently sent me a novel her wrote about steelworkers.  I was flattered to be asked and took along a copy of Ray and Trish Arredondo’s “Maria’s Journey,” for which I and wrote the Afterword and edited.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Dust My Broom


“I’m a get up in the mornin’
I believe I’ll dust my broom.”
    Robert Johnson, “I Believe I'll Dust My Broom”

Funky Mojo Daddy, featuring Kenny Kinsey of Kinsey Report and the dynamic Nick Byrd, played at IUN’s midday Thrill of the Grill.  They did funky renditions of blues classics, such as “I Believe I’ll Dust My Broom” (recorded by Robert Johnson in 1936 and a 1951 Rhythm and Blues hit by Elmore James), with long, improvisational instrumental detours.   Angie, James, and Becca joined me for grilled burgers and hot dogs, as did Chris and Myriam Young and daughter Marianna, who is in Ryan Shelton’s basketball camp.  Ryan stopped by our table and conversed with Marianna, who was initially shy but then found her voice after Ryan said she was one of his star participants. This is Ryan’s sixth year running the camp, and from his interaction with Marianna it was obvious he has a great rapport with the hundred kids.  Some of Ryan’s players help out. Marianna has a photo of the Lady Redhawks in her room, along with one of Patrick Kane.  She, like her dad, plays ice hockey.
above, Marianna Young; below, Maurice Yancy
On my advice Archives intern Maurice Yancy took in the music at the library courtyard, and Mojo Daddy did not disappoint.  At the Taste of Chicago Blue Bunny exhibit Yancy posed holding a giant spoon and with an IUN bag at his side in what appears to be a huge container of ice cream.

Producer Omar Farag, responsible for booking Mojo Daddy, said Chad Clifford of Crawpuppies would be performing in a month or so.  He told me Mojo Daddy would be playing with reggae legend Jimmy Cliff at Festival of the Lakes at Wolf Lake in Hammond and he offered me VIP passes to see Blues Traveler and Sugar Ray there on Friday.

Since I started following high school sports during the 1970s, NWI Times writer Al Hamnik has been entertaining readers with far-out comparisons.  Concerning Carmelo Anthony’s flirtation with the Bulls prior to re-signing with New York, Hamnik claimed the Knicks star “can score points faster than you can ring up a Kid’s meal at The Golden Arches.”

NWI Times columnist Marc Chase reported that convicted felon Roosevelt Powell, who served two years for conspiring to defraud Lake County of nearly $60,000 in a real estate scheme, won a $1.4 million judgment against the county for fees he earned recovering delinquent taxes.  Even though the treasurer’s office has 37 employees and an annual budget of $1.8 million, Chase points out that they pay out huge commissions to attorneys who do their work for them.  This practice goes on in other county offices as well.  Chase concluded: “Politically connected third-party consultants – not just tax collectors – are siphoning millions in county money every year for performing the work of a legion of county workers and elected officials already on the government payroll.”  Instead of going after this type of “honest graft,” the U.S. Attorney concentrates on trivial cases like indicting county surveyor George Van Til, who asked an employee to pick up his tuxedo at the cleaners.
Joe D'Amico and Lisa Newhuis at Marquette Park; NWI Times photos by John Luke

The so-called summer Polar Vortex produced large whitecaps along the Lake Michigan shoreline as NWI Times photographer John Luke captured at Gary’s Marquette Park.  They reminded me of Hawaii.  In 1965 I body surfed at an isolated Oahu beach not realizing how powerful the waves were until violently knocked straight down.  I escaped, sore and with a face full of sand.  Similarly several Region residents and visitors drown each year from being caught in riptides on days like this.
Dolly and Naomi Miller, photo by Jeff Manes; Broadway Street construction crew, 1907 (CRA)
The Post-Trib website carried numerous photos of early Gary from the Calumet Regional Archives along with Jeff Manes’ interview of 94 year-old Dolly Millender.  Dolly told about getting a Bicentennial grant to start the Gary Historical and Cultural Society (GHCS).  Needing the approval of a skeptical City Council, during her presentation she decided to sing a song she wrote based on the Woody Guthrie tune called “Gary Was made for You and Me.”  With her were IUN professors Fred Chary and Nick Kanellos.  As she sang about the dozens of nationality groups that chose to settle in Gary, she recalled, “Fred’s little boys were beating away on sticks and Nic was playing the guitar.  He could really play.”  Dolly’s group met Sundays across from IUN at Jenny’s CafĂ©, owned by union leader Larry Regan, a GCHS board member.  Dolly recalled: “If the Lithuanians were going to tell about their culture, Jenny would cook Lithuanian food.”  And so on.      

I gave away copies of Shavings, volume 42, with a photo of Corey Hagelberg’s “In the Garden” woodcut on the cover after he told me the piece was part of his Savannah Gallery show.  I loved his recent work done with scraps of salvaged materials.  Surprisingly, given that it’s summer, a large crowd was on hand, including family (Kate, Dick, and Cheryl Hagelberg), friends (one from as far away as Indianapolis), Fine and Performing Arts faculty (drawing instructor William Hafer brought his entire class), Millerites (Steve Spicer, Carolyn McCrady, among others), and Gallery Northwest regulars, including Chancellor Lowe.  I talked quite a while with curator Gregg Hertslieb from Valpo U’s Brauer Museaum of Art, who bought several Shavings issues at IUN Bookstore.  Coincidentally, Jerry Davich did a piece today about a show at Brauer featuring octogenarian Eleanor Lewis.  Steve Spicer showed me a Selfie from last Friday’s Gardner Center event of him with Ron Cohen.

 At Ken Carlson’s for a condo owners meeting I spotted Eric Metaxas’ biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his bookcase along with several books by David McCullough.  I hadn’t known about Bonhoeffer until Pam Kosenka’s book club presentation in January.