“No time to marry, no time to settle down; I’m a young woman, and I ain’t done runnin’ around.” Bessie Smith
The HBO movie “Bessie” about Blues legend Bessie Smith, starring Queen Latifah, was well worth watching, no matter that critics found it somewhat flawed. From beginning to end we meet a character who refused to take crap from anyone and slept with whom she pleased, man or woman. As she proclaimed in a 1923 recording, “Tain’t Nobody’s Bizness If I Do.” At a party hosted by Harlem nightclub frequenter Carl Van Vechten (Oliver Platt), poet Langston Hughes (Jeremie Harris) warns Bessie to clean up her act. Instead she ends up throwing a drink in Van Vechten’s face when he makes a reference to his book “Nigger Heaven.” The supporting cast was brilliant, especially Mo’Nique, who captured Ma Rainey so thoroughly one longed for her to be in every scene. At one point she tells Bessie the secret of singing the Blues: “It’s not about people knowing you. It’s about you knowing people.” My only quibble was the lack of mention at the movie’s conclusion of Smith bleeding to death in 1937 at age 43 due to an auto accident. Afterwards, record producer John Hammond circulated a false rumor that a white hospital had refused to treat her injuries.
After reading Joanna Rakoff’s “My Salinger Year” I checked out “Franny and Zooey” and was blown away by the scene at Sickle’s Restaurant when Franny visits boyfriend Lane for a college football weekend. Salinger brilliantly captured what guys like me were like during the Eisenhower era – worried about appearances, caught up in one’s own desires, and clueless about the needs of the opposite sex. Chain-smoking cigarettes, Franny finally opens up to Lane about her disillusionment with academic life and interest in spiritualism (telling him, “in the Nembutsu sects of Buddhism, people keep saying’ Namu Amida Butsu over and over again”). Rather than feign interest, all Lane could do is retort, “You’ve got a goddam bug, today – you know that?” In exasperation Franny stared “at a little warm blotch of sunshine, about the size of a poker chip, on the tablecloth.” What is so devastating is that Lane isn’t an especially bad guy – just bewildered at his girlfriend’s mood.
Saturday at European Market in Chesterton I met three of my closest friends from the 1970s, Ivan Jasper, Omar Farag, and Dave Serynek – former students and Porter Acres softball teammates. We ended up at our condo for lunch and shared memories of wild and crazy times and characters from the past that enriched our lives. All three looked great. Serynek participates in bicycle rallies; Ivan is a golf pro in Florida; and Omar just returned from trips to Brazil (for Carnival) and Hawaii. While Ivan was outside having a smoke and chatting with Toni, who was gardening, Serynek was explaining to Omar details about signing up for Social Security. Harsh reality indeed.
Sunday I hung out at Porter Beach and visited Miller Market, where I purchased a delicious taco and said hey to IUN professor Eve Bottando, who was with a vendor selling homemade soap. Suppose you are invited to a party but weren’t told it was the host’s birthday, Eve casually said, then added: “How fortunate if you happened to have a bar of homemade soap with you.” I complimented her on her seamless sales pitch. In the NWI Times Business Marketing columnist Larry Galler had identified two contrasting sales techniques: the dreaded “limpet” (in zoology a snail with teeth used to attach to surfaces) character who won’t leave customers alone and the politely persistent helper who creates a relationship with potential buyers that keeps the door open for further communication.
We stayed in Northwest Indiana throughout the Memorial Day weekend, dining Monday at Bartlett’s and then playing bridge with Hagelbergs. They had just returned from an overnight trip (eight hours each way but they’re pluggers) to southwestern Pennsylvania to tour Fallingwater, the historic house Frank Lloyd Wright built in 1935 for department store mogul Edgar Kaufman. We talked on the phone with Alissa, at Newark International Airport awaiting a flight to Dublin to join sister Miranda, who had been in Ireland with other Grand Valley State Social Work students on the historic day when by referendum over 62 percent of voters supported legalization of same sex marriage. Also both son Phil and grandson James reported on their separate trips to Washington, D.C.
above, Miranda Lane in Ireland; below, Phil Lane in D.C.
On Charles Osgood’s CBS Sunday Morning Laura Palmer, author of “Shrapnel in the Heart: Letters and Remembrances from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial,” discussed the often overlooked work able-bodied vets are doing to aid their less fortunate brothers. News coverage of Memorial Day ranged from parades in Crown Point and Portage to interviews with Battle of the Bulge survivors. And this oddity: ancestors of a seaman killed at Pearl Harbor and buried with his comrades at Punchbowl crater in Honolulu who for some reason want his remains returned.
Some would say I’m not a true Hoosier because I missed “The Race,” the Indy 500, won by Juan Pablo Montoya. Bowling buddies Melvin Nelson and Jim Migoski used to attend time trials every year, and Kirsten Bayer has continued the tradition with friends (and this year sister Shannon). Tony Panepinto, on Phil and Dave’s Little League 30 years ago, was there with good-looking women, Katelyn Nicole and Kristen Zellers, below, on each arm.
I managed to stay awake for two more unique overtime games in the epic series between the Blackhawks and the Anaheim Ducks. On Saturday Chicago had a 3-1 lead before yielding three goals within just three minutes, before finally prevailing. Two days later they fell behind 3-0 within the first ten minutes but tied the game with two Jonathan Toews goals in the final minute, then lost just 45 seconds into the extra period.
I learned from his student journal that Jeff Griggs is a huge Blackhawk fan and attended two games within a month. He wrote about spending a night in Chicago at the W Lakeshore Hotel:
February 19: We left about 2:30 and took 80/94 to Lakeshore Drive, making the trip in less than 90 minutes. At the hotel we were greeted like famous people rather than just a 21 year-old taking his girlfriend on a little vacation. We took pictures of our room and the scenery from the window of Lake Michigan and Navy Pier. It was like something out of a movie. We put our stuff in proper places and before getting ready for dinner, we had to break in the room. We went to the Cheesecake Factory, whose ceiling looked like it was made of a gold chocolate that was about to drip on us. We stared at each other like it was our first date, and I fell even more in love with her. We had an amazing meal that left no room for dessert, but we couldn’t leave without cheesecake so we ordered two pieces to go. I had never gotten a check for two people that was so steep, but it was worth it. Back at the hotel we relaxed and broke in the room some more.
February 20: The bed we slept in together was the most comfortable thing ever. I called for my car, and we were off to the Blackhawks Store and then the Chicago Auto Show. At our first stop was interactive software that allowed you to take a picture with your favorite Blackhawk. I took like four, and my girlfriend bought a hoody. At the auto show we discovered we couldn’t use her dad’s discount for parking so paid the full price and then grabbed some pricy food. In the exotic cars section I spotted my dream car, a Lamborghini Aventador. My girlfriend got to sit in a Chevy Cruze. We arrived home in time for my brother Alex’s birthday party. We had gotten him a Marian Hossa shirt plus a hat I received at a recent Blackhawks game for being one of the first ten thousand fans.
above, Albert Shane; below, Robert Parker
When Albert Shane is feeling overwhelmed by work, school, and life in general he tells himself he has to POR – push on regardless – a saying used by his mentor, Portage History teacher Robert Parker, as he explains in his journal:
March 1: My brother started his Purdue Calumet intramural basketball league with his fellow golf team buddies. He is a notorious trash talker and bragged that he was going to start raining threes and score 30 points. Needless to say, he struggled throughout the game and was held scoreless.
March 5: One of my closest friends is moving away from Indiana. We took one more trip to Taco Bell, as has become a tradition. I am going to miss my friend.
March 8: Game day once again for my brother and the “golf boys” at PUC. After the first week, you would think he would be less cocky, but you would be wrong. As the game got closer, his mouth would not stop jabbering about how well he was going to play, and that the last game was a fluke because he was nervous, and the other team had better players. This proved to be a preview of things to come sadly. The team ended up losing by slaughter rule once again after they fell 40 points behind. The opponents looked like an NBA team compared to these guys. Most were from East Chicago. One even played in high school; almost all the others were on soccer teams.
March 16: Spring Break has been a major disappointment. The original plan was to go to Panama City Beach with four friends, but they all pulled out, so my Spring break has consisted of studying and working. A second cyst has formed on my wrist and has caused serious pain to the point where I made a doctor’s appointment.
March 26: I received new assignment in every single class. This put a serious damper on my nightly plans. I have to POR, however, as this is an acronym of Robert Parker, a former teacher of mine at Portage; it means push on regardless, as he used to say. He is a big reason I am now a History major. He was very outspoken and never forgot a single name; he could pick you out of a crowd and call you by name. From what I heard, this is his final year. This actually does disappoint me. My dad and uncles all had him, and then my brother and I had him as an Advance Placement course.
April 2: My baby cousin Bradley went to see the Easter Bunny at Bass Pro Shop. The line was insane, almost circling the entire store. It took nearly an hour and a half to get a couple pictures done with a guy in a Bunny suit that I could have put on like I have the past two years. The most work was keeping this eight month-old boy entertained. Luckily, we all survived the crying baby and went out to eat in the restaurant in the store.