Wednesday, June 21, 2017

A visit with Janis Joplin in the foreign country of the past


     Janis Joplin sang at Ravinia. That seems so strange to me, to imagine the pride of Port Arthur, Texas, wailing "Ball and Chain" at the venue now given over to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, interspersed mostly with various low-key jazz groups and nostalgia acts such as Boz Scaggs and The Moody Blues.
     I don't know which feels odder, that Joplin performed there or that Republican Sen. Charles Percy was in the audience for the show in August 1970.
     Then again, the past is a foreign country, to quote a novelist nobody remembers. They do things differently there. I was transported to the alien land of late 1960s, early 1970s Chicago over the weekend by pulling down a book that had sat neglected on my shelf, "All Together Now," by former Sun-Times columnist Tom Fitzpatrick.
     Parts amazed. Did the paper really send him to Pennsylvania for three weeks — three weeks — to cover the rescue of a pair of coal miners? Did he really sit unnoticed in the back of James Rochford's car as the deputy police super-intendent discussed disarming a deranged Marine who had killed two Chicago Police officers? A sad reminder how little access reporters get to the police or fire departments anymore, and how much heroism is hidden because of it. Fitzpatrick is right there for six hours as firefighters soothingly cut a pair of teenage girls out of the wreckage after an Illinois Central train slammed into a local commuter train, killing 44 people in 1972.


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17 comments:

  1. So the word oriental is offensive and derogatory, who knew. It seems searching for western Asian rugs on ebay will severely limit your choices. Decorating ones home with Persian rugs and vases may be the way to go.

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    1. I can't remember where this distinction was made, but my understanding is that it's okay to describe a thing as oriental, but not a person. So you can have an oriental rug but a human being deserves to be described as more than just some exotic thing.

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    2. Sounds logical. That explains why it slipped under my radar, I would never referred to anyone as an oriental. Mr. Creosote, you are my main Occidenta!

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    3. Of course, we could always try talking to real "Oriental" people, and we'd find out that an amazing number of them have no problem with the term at all. Some of them, in fact, resent being called Asian, because it lumps them in with people they don't recognize as being like them. The activist groups will win this one, however.

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  2. That's been the case for quite a while now, Bernie.

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  3. What really struck me wasn't Fitzpatricks use of the N word back then but the very humorous in retrospect comment that the generation of kids then were "lost" somehow. If he'd only known that in another 10 years those kids weren't going to be looking down on their parents for their materialism but rather far surpassing it.

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  4. A quibble, but calling L.P. Hartley "a novelist nobody remembers" is a bit dismissive. Don't know about the novels, but his short stories are very good. I recall reading "The Go Between" with pleasure.

    I read a bit of Faulkner over the weekend. Full of the "N word." But how else to evoke life at that time and place. I remember thinking of Faulkner as being too wordy, but see now that he deserved his Nobel.

    Tom

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    1. Faulkner is a favorite author of mine.

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  5. One of things I love about Anthony Trollope's writing is his ability to describe his characters as loving, religious, patriotic, charitable, and kind despite that person's prejudices against Jews, Papists, Dissenters, Niggers (anyone with even slightly brown skin qualified in Trollope's day), and everybody with a lower social status. Trollope recognized the complexities of human nature -- that's why his books are so long even though their plots are usually basic and simple. Things haven't changed much in the last 150 years -- we still want everyone to agree with our views of the world and we resist changing our own views with every fibre of our being. If our fathers had colorful appellations for those who differed from us in any way, we resist the imposition of a prohibition on using such appellations. How silly! how shallow! -- you don't understand.

    John

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  6. Our kids don’t understand that we don’t mean anything by it when we call people ‘n—–s.’

    And this Foran would of course have understood it if some black person had called him a honky fascist bastard.

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  7. I arrived in Chicago in 1970. When people said "nigger", they meant it in the vilest way. It was the other words they sometimes meant and sometimes considered a harmless descriptive. Polock, wop, wetback,dp,mick and so many more I cant remember. A whole vocabulary of descriptive words Id not heard before. Because each word described a stereotype. And most didnt exist in the world I came from. When waitressing in a corner diner, had a fifteen minute discussion when a customer asked "what" I was. I didnt understand the question. I was obviously the waitress. The man took me back four generations of questions, "well, where were your grandparents from?" I understood by then of course, but ran him along the paternal line. Seven or eight or nine generations ago, someone came from England. The customer sighed in relief. Apparently I am not American, as I had believed. I am English. The early seventies in Chicago still rang with slurs. And people meant them.

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  8. That racial tags long intended to be slurs are no longer acceptable in polite, or other, society is all to the good. That their use in artistic and other representations of the past should be proscribed is ridiculous.

    In Trollope's day (and later) a popular saying was "niggers begin at Calais." That said, the Brits abolished slavery through Parliamentary action some thirty years before we managed it with a bloody civil war.

    Tom

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    1. Huckleberry Finn is a case in point. Prohibiting "nigger" would rob the book of much of its force as a morality tale.

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  9. I dont think that Conrads novella about the Narcissus needs to be retitled, or there should be fingers wagged at Samuel L Jacksons use of the "N" word in a comradely fashion towards fellow African Americans in movies like Pulp Fiction or use of the word " Indian" in Sherman Alexies works. Words known to be or to have been used pejoratively must be understood to not always be used that way. Tobthink and act otherwise is just too simplustic.

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  10. Or 12 yrs. a slave-as Stephen.

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  11. so refreshing to see a bunch of us regular white folk able to fully print slurs when talking about slurs or how words that once were slurs had different meanings before or after they were derogatory . nice to touch upon how we have slured one another and been slured. especially when recounting literature its nice to know there are some able to understand these are books to be read , recounted and recommended. thank you all and especially you Neil, even though the daily can't see its way clear to fully utilize all words that you saw no need to restrict your readers from an invigorating discussion

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  12. FME-sarcasm will get you nowhere

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