Saturday, October 17, 2009

Gary Indiana, Gary Indiana, Gary Indiana

Just when I thought things couldn't be worse ... I was sent to Gary, Indiana.


The only thing I knew about Gary was that song from The Music Man. Seemed like a quaint place with Marion the Librarian and a couple of trombone players hanging around. 

Turned out ... Gary was the armpit of the United States.

Don't know about today ... that was 37 years ago. And by the way I'm sorry if I offended anyone who lived in Gary ... but you're probably used to it.

Now ... I had never been around really cold weather or snow in my life before. Closest thing to snow in New Orleans was under Mr. Bingle's cone head. I was a true southern boy. Didn't own a pair of gloves, heavy coat or long underwear. AND, I always assumed snow was white. Not so in Gary. It was black. That was the color of the snow in Gary. And it stayed black and on the ground forever.


The way I remember Gary, Indiana was that it had steel mills, Michael Jackson's house and one main street with a bunch of alleys. I lived on one of the alleys and the Catholic Boys' School that I was assigned to was on THE street. The school ... by the way was run by a tough old nun named Sister Rosalie who rapped students knuckles with her ruler to keep attention in class.

Prior to that, there was a priest who was the Headmaster for 20 years and apparently was the kindest, best natured man on the planet. But, he was murdered the year before I arrived. He had stopped at a traffic light and a group of thugs pulled him out of his VW and beat him to death. Can you imagine? He's a priest ... no money ... not bothering anyone.

Just my luck ... I leave the juvenile detention center in Camden and arrive at gang central in Gary.

One morning when the temperature was below zero I jumped into my Plymouth Valiant (the one with the push button transmission ... remember those?) Actually before I got in ... I had to scrape the ice from the windshield first. No gloves ... light weight coat ... no hat. I shivered as I turned the key in the ignition and it sputtered. I kept turning and it didn't start. I noticed my hands on the steering wheel after a while ... I could see them but couldn't do anything else with them. I think I cursed but I had trouble moving my mouth so it probably sounded something like: "Ohhh shvyttrgcvhg".

Not sure how ... but I somehow got back in my apartment and laid my hands on top of the old radiator. The feeling returned to my fingers sometime during the Nixon administration. I decided that I couldn't teach that day so I called the school and left a message and just to make sure I left a note tacked on the outside of my apartment door.



It read: "To Whom It May Concern: If I have been found dead inside this apartment ... please inform Sister Rosalie of St. Christopher's School that I will not be teaching today and will try to get a doctor's note."

2 comments:

Ann@ACH said...

Ah, yes...Gary, Indiana. One of those places that - as a kid growing up in the burbs of Chicago - I was sworn to NEVER, EVER verture near. It's still an armpit but without any steel mills or appreciable employment opportunities other than the Michael Jackson freakshow tour industry....
So glad to see you're still writing!!! And isn't there some sort of justice in the fact that a former teacher is raising funds for a major university? (At least it doesn't have nuns running it).
A

Joel Momberg said...

Thanks Ann!