“Other people want to keep in touch
Something happens and it’s not enough.”
“Other People,” Beach House
I’ve started listening to “Bloom,” the Beach House CD that I bought for myself. The “dream pop” duo of Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally has been around for eight years but only came to my attention two years ago with their “Teen Dream” album. Listening to “Other People” inspired me to phone high school friends Terry Jenkins and Barbara Ricketts. Terry is in touch with our chums Sammy Corey and Bob Jacobs, while Barbara filled me in on how Bruce Allen and Janet Stuart are doing.
For the first time in five years we didn’t get an Evite to the Trout holiday open house in Valparaiso. Maybe Tracy stopped having it like we ended our New Year’s Eve parties around 1980 after two people got into a fight and Toni’s high school class ring was stolen.
The university announced that geologist Bob Votaw’s wife died just a couple weeks after learning she had cancer. Bob is usually so upbeat, but he must be devastated. I drove from IUN through a heavy rain and had lunch at McDonald’s. Going back for a coffee refill was an elderly man frequently seen riding a bike around Chesterton. He was wearing a hat with earflaps. A woman inquired, “You didn’t ride a bike here, did you?” He replied, “It wasn’t raining that hard.”
Comcast is offering Showtime free for a month to entice customers to order it permanently. “Californication” “jumped the shark” in its fifth season. Gone is Karen’s ultra-nice black boyfriend; instead she’s married to a jerk. Daughter Becca has an utterly despicable boyfriend who people foolishly claim resembles Hank. One new character is a rapper movie star wannabe who hires Hank to help with the script.
I should have guessed the NRA wasn’t going to change its stripes just because 26 innocent kids and educators died. Spokesman Wayne LaPierre’s solution: armed guards in all schools. That didn’t stop the 1999 Columbine massacre. Also in the news: now that John McCain and Lindsey Graham torpedoed Susan Rice’s chances, Obama is appointing their friend, fellow Senator John Kerry, as Hillary Clinton’s replacement at the State Department. Rumors are circulating that Obama might name former Republican Senator from Nebraska Chuck Hagel, who endorsed him for re-election, to be Secretary of Defense. I’d like to see Jeb Bush named Interior Secretary, but it will never happen.
In D.C. there was a memorial service for longtime Hawaii Senator Daniel Inouye, who lost his right arm fighting Nazis. His Japanese-American 442nd Regimental Combat Team produced 21 Medal of Honor recipients, including 88 year-old Inouye. He was elected to the Senate in 1962 and played a prominent role in the Watergate investigation.
I wasn’t aware that Menard’s carried so many grocery items. Having obtained a ten-dollar-off coupon, Toni picked up a furnace filter plus various types of candy for the dozen or so Christmas stockings on the railing leading to our condo’s second floor.
Nick Mantis spoke to steelworkers about Jean Shepherd, The Times reported. Nick has about 800 hours of tapes from the Hoosier humorist’s New York City radio show and hopes to use them instead of narration for his documentary
At Anne Balay’s for dinner Friday we met her father (formerly a Yale librarian, who prepared a tasty sauce for the steamed broccoli) and sister (who lives in Alaska, five hours north of Anchorage), as well as the father and Anne’s girlfriends. Daughters Emma and Leah were on hand, as was Anne’s dog Sophia, who goes running with her. When her grandfather joked that clearing the table was women’s work, Leah decided he shouldn’t have any of her apple pie for dessert as punishment. Anne finally sliced him a piece after Leah went to bed.
“I’m a cool dude in a loose mood
Hey, what’s happenin’, huh?”
“Eugene, Crazy Joe and the Variable Speed Band
It’s fun to hear a cool old song for the first time. Traveling to Chuck and Barb Gallmeier’s to see his Christmas decorations and train set, I heard “Eugene,” as WXRT was highlighting the year 1981. Crazy Joe sings, “Uh, ah, I stick my hands in fans for fun.” Now that ain’t cool. In Chuck’s foyer is a fascinating display depicting Charles Dickens’s London. Surrounding Chuck’s train set were mid-twentieth century scenes of Fairmount, Indiana, where James Dean grew up, only Chuck integrated the Hoosier town with African-American carolers. A theater marquee advertised “Rebel Without a Cause.” After Dean’s mother died of cancer when he was nine, his father sent him to live with an aunt and uncle on a farm near Fairmount. He later told Elizabeth Taylor that a Methodist minister named DeWeerd sexually abused him when he was 11.
Both Chuck and I have articles in the forthcoming South Shore Journal that Chris Young is editing. Chuck’s deals with Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley, three Presidents assassinated in a span of just 36 years. Abe’s son Robert witnessed the deaths of his father and Garfield, and in 1901 had just arrived at Buffalo’s Pan-American Exposition when an anarchist shot McKinley. An elderly onlooker at the dedication of the Lincoln memorial in 1922, Robert was buried four years later in Arlington Cemetery.
Barack Obama was Time magazine’s person of the year. Runners-up included Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi, teanage Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai, Apple CEO Tim Cook, and Hibbs Boson discoverer Fabiola Gianotti.
Sunday we had 13 family members for Wigilia dinner, a Polish custom normally held Christmas Eve, only everything got moved up a day because of other commitments. Toni served “Heavenly Ham” and all the trimmings, including Beth’s specialty, cucumbers sliced paper-thin and onions in a creamy sauce. Phil and Dave traded stories about some of their high school exploits in Ogden Dunes with Beth’s brother Jimmy Satkoski. During the tree decorating Miranda and Tori vied to see who could place her name closest to the top. After the traditional “March of Presents” we played SOB (short for sonovabitch) and the dice game Perudo. Dave taught Perudo to his honors students and will be going to Spain with a group of them this summer. He beat me handily in the LANE Fantasy Football finals for his third championship in six years.
Phil brought a “Family Feud” DVD, dated 2007, and we divided into two teams. Some answers were quite unexpected. In the category “famous people with beards,” Fidel Castro was not an answer. O.J. Simpson was the most common response for “famous people arrested,” but civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks did not make the list, nor did PeeWee Herman (busted in a Florida porno theater). Instead answers included Martha Stewart, Kobe Bryant, and Bobby Brown, whose troubles with the law were more familiar to those surveyed early in the twenty-first century.
Monday we opened presents. Mine included Joe Boxer pajamas, strawberry preserves, gloves, cuff links, dress shirts, and a thousand-piece 1960s puzzle. While the young folks played Wii games, others played cards before taking off for Christmas Eve commitments elsewhere. Several friends sent holiday greetings electronically. Ray and Phyllis Smock used a 1968 photo taken at the University of Maryland of them holding a PEACE sign and looking very Sixties.
December 25 at the condo was relatively quiet. I finished Andrew Hurley’s account of postwar trailer parks. The most successful were Florida communities for seniors. Trailer life boosters never overcame the negative stereotypes associated with those communities. Many parks allowed no pets or children and discriminated against racial minorities.
While doing laundry I watched “Falling in Love.” While Meryl Steep and Robert De Niro are excellent, the dull script gave them little to do other than pine away at their fate and the two characters, both married, never consummated their affair. Boo, hiss! The only action involved contrived scenes where they are hurrying to catch a train or be on time for a rendezvous. Roger Ebert concurred that the film has “not one memorable line of dialogue, not one inventive situation, not one moment when we don’t groan at the startling array of clichés they have to march through.” Add to all this a manipulative and shameless denouement.
Wednesday’s houseful included Miranda’s boyfriend Derrick who proved adept at Perudo and Shooters. During the afternoon we all went to Inman’s Bowling Alley. I sat out since I bowled that evening and then couldn’t find the Corolla at first upon leaving. The roads were slick from lake effect snow; I passed several accidents on the way to Cressmoor. The Engineers took a game and series from No Weak Link. John, who carries a 159 average, rolled a 246 before settling back into his normal form. In the final frame he picked up a split only to throw his last ball in the gutter. We lost that game by 12 pins after Frank finished with an impossible split, his first of the evening.
Mike Nommensen’s Christmas newsletter contained the sad news that poppa Wally recently passed away. Our neighbors when we first moved to Northwest Indiana, the family in the winter converted their above-ground swimming pool into an ice hockey rink. Mike and brother Neil flowered in my 1979 History of Journalism course. Mike had a cartoon feature in the Northwest Phoenix called “Airin’ My Beef.” The character, shown from the back, had a towel on, hiding his butt from view but open in front to give his beef some air.
Thursday Toni cooked up kaibasa, pierogies, eggs, and toast, warmed up Angie’s homemade stolen, while I put together a fruit plate featuring strawberries and orange slices. In the afternoon the rest of the gang saw “The Hobbitt.” I stayed home with “Little Jerry Seinfeld,” who alternated between cuddling on my lap and checking to see if Alissa or Josh was back yet. In a 1996 episode of “Seinfeld” Kramer buys a rooster that he names “Little Jerry” and ends up putting him in a cockfight.
In the touching 2010 movie “Barney’s Version” Dustin Hoffman plays Paul Giamatti’s father Izzy Panofsky, who dies while having sex in a brothel. Angry at his wife, Barney screws a slut he met at a bar and is so fearful of catching a sexually transmitted disease it leads to the dissolution of his third and only fulfilling marriage. In the end Barney is a virtual vegetable with Alzheimer’s Disease. Old age is not for the faint of heart. On the soundtrack is J.J. Cale’s “River Runs Deep” and Leonard Cohen’s “Dance Me to the End of Love” and “I’m Your Man.”
Tim Russert’s son Luke, looking younger than his 27 years, has been subbing for Chuck Todd on MSNBC. Members of Congress are still posturing and diddling around despite the looming fiscal cliff. General Norman Schwarzkopf died of complications from pneumonia at age 78. “Stormin’ Norman” was Commander-in-Chief of U.S. Central Command during the Gulf War. His superior, President George Herbert Walker Bush, has been hospitalized with serious health issues. Also ailing is Hillary Clinton, who suffered a concussion after fainting from being weak from the flu and has a blood clot near her brain.
Robert Blaszkiewicz gave me a great CD of his favorite 18 sons of 2012. I was familiar with about half, including “Myth” by Beach House and offerings by the Avett brothers, Mumford and Sons, Alabama Shakes, Lumineers, Shins, and Grizzly Bears. He would have included songs by Bob Dylan and Neil Young, but
they were too long to fit.
Friday Toni organized a poetry reading. I chose “Too Many Daves” by Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel), a longtime favorite in the Lane household. It seems that Mrs. McCave named all 23 sons Dave, which made “things quite difficult at the McCaves’.” In retrospect she wished she had given them names like Shadrack, Blinkey, Stuffy, Stinkey, Putt-putt, Moon Face, Buffalo Bill, and Biffalo Buff. Toni selected “The Raven,” and James found a poem on line about the Mario brothers. Becca made up one herself, and Miranda read from “Romeo and Juliet” and even got Derrick to recite a line.
The five-day extended Halberstadt Game Weekend began, and Phil and I played a couple of board games with Tom Wade before joining nine others for Werewolf, which provided lots of laughs. One person is secretly designated the werewolf and a second is a werewolf cub. Each night while everyone is asleep they kill a villager, and then the group tries to figure out who the werewolves are (with the werewolves able to lie about their identity, of course). Depending on the number of players there are other village characters, including seer, idiot, witch, and so forth. Each game lasts just a half hour or so, sometimes less.
Sports Illustrated honored famous athletes who passed away in 2012, including Gary’s own Alex Karras and 82 year-old Purdue grad and Yankee great Bill Skowron, nicknamed “Moose” as a kid after his Polish grandfather gave him a haircut that resembled Italian dictator Mussolini’s. The seven-time all-star accumulated five world championship rings before ending his career with the Chicago White Sox.
Saturday our last houseguests – Phil, Miranda, and Derrick – left for Michigan. Back at Jef and Robin’s, knowing I’d be having a vegetarian meal later at Hagelbergs, I pigged out on delicious meatballs in a light sauce and managed to win a seven-player game of Seven Wonders despite barely knowing the rules. Sheridan had on a Halberstadt Game Weekend 1984 t-shirt that I had given her dad 28 years ago when Sheridan was a toddler. Cool!
At the Hagelbergs were sons Corey (with Kate) and Jeff (with wife Mei-Mei and her son Jeremy, who lived in China until a year ago. When we walked into the kitchen, where Jeremy was stirring a rice and veggies mix on the stove, he said, “Hi, Jim.” Impressive and nice of his mother to get him to do. Before dinner Jeff played classical music on the piano. The main course, which I loved, was potato pierogis with mushrooms and onions. Toni had bought books for everyone, and we received a gift of wine glasses plus a box of candy.
Saturday Night Live host Anne Hathaway, looking quite thin, having shed 30 pounds for her role in “Les Miserables,” somewhat resembled Emma Balay and was a hoot in a skit as actress Katie Holmes, Tom Cruise’s ex.
Sunday I was back at Halberstadts after watching the first half of the Bears game. They won but missed the playoffs because Minnesota edged Green Bay. I watched others play Agricola that looked interesting and then got in Say Anything. In one round we were to write down something inappropriate for a kid to take to Show and Tell. I scribbled condoms and was looking good until Brandi put down anal beads, which got picked. I made sure I was home for the Redskins – Cowboys contest. The winner would be NFC East champ, while the loser would miss the playoffs. Alfred Morris rushed for 200 yards (Yes!), and Tony Romo of Dallas threw three interceptions. Life is good. Robert Griffin III, though limping noticeable, even ran one in for as TD.
On the morning of December 31 The Times ran a lengthy story on page about my winning the Hoosier Historian award that contained a nice quote from Steve McShane. Sheriff Dominguez or Robert Blaszkiewicz may have had a hand in getting it in print. Garrett Cope called to congratulate me. Bruce Sawochka also said something when I bumped into him at Town and Country, where I picked up items not found elsewhere, such as Bobak Polish sausage and mango slices in a can.
Richard Barnes, who has a website “hhs59.com” about the city of Hammond and Hammond High School, saw the Times article and wants to include my blog address so his viewers can access it. Neat. He met me when enrolled in Steve McShane’s Senior College course. Also Jerry Davich wants me back on his “Out to Lunch” show next Monday.
The Hhs59 website contains a collection of photos by Oscar W. Boedeker (known as Bodie) depicting Hammond workers during the 1939s. Barnes discovered the glass plates in a Calumet Regional Archives collection. One shows a clerk at Washington Lumber and Coal Company measuring the amount of coal being loaded into a truck. Barnes wrote: “The coal was delivered to the home, dumped on the street or in the driveway. When you came home from work you had to shovel it into a coal bin. This required a coal shovel and a good wheelbarrow. It was a dirty, dusty job that you had to do often during the cold Hammond winters.” As a kid I recall piles of coal outside homes. In fact, our softball coach Lee Beers hired Terry Jenkins and I to transfer coal into his bin on several occasions.
In the afternoon Toni and I enjoyed “Guilt Trip” starring Seth Rogen and Barbara Streisand as his mother. It was funny and poignant despite a couple stupid scenes, including the Barbara eating a five-pound steak and later getting drunk in a bar following an altercation with her son. I was home in time for the conclusion of the IU game, a road victory against Iowa despite Jordan Hulls being shut out on 0 for 10 shooting.
The Hagelbergs picked us up and we drove one block to Sage Restaurant. Having ordered scallops the last time we were there, I went with an eight-ounce steak. Delicious. Back at our place, after two rounds of bridge, we went downstairs to show off our Christmas tree and put on music. Since Dick and Cheryl normally have dance lessons on Mondays, this would count as practice. After “Johnny B. Goode” and “Summertime Blues” from a “Best of 1958” CD, I slowed things down a bit with a “Big Bands during WW II” album featuring “Pennsylvania 6-5000” and a couple slow numbers.
As 2012 came to an end, fireworks lit the sky just east of us. News reports indicated Vice President Joe Biden and Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell had struck a deal that averted the country going off the fiscal cliff but postponed all the tough decisions for another day. Dean Bottorff’s Facebook photo of baboons captures my sentiments exactly.
Some 114 email messages has accumulated over the holiday (mostly junk but including clever Jewish humor from Steve Pickert). On Facebook Anne Balay summed up her year thusly: “Said goodbye to my mother, saw my first child's strength challenged and growing, watched my second child blossom, signed a book contract, and faced unexpected job problems. I'm grateful to the amazing people who share my car in the roller-coaster ride of life. Hang on . . .”