[I’m preparing for mitral valve surgery in November 26, 2016. One of the instructions is to bring mementos with me. The best way to do this without hiring a moving truck (Diana’s suggestion) is to put some of what I would bring with me on this blog. I can then access it on my phone. That is my goal here]
Diana and I were married in June, 1992. We had just moved into a third floor apartment in South Evanston. Our Chicago friends winked at us, saying “Oh, you’ve move UP to the suburbs!” Courtney, who was still in high school, along with some of our Evanston friends looked askance at us saying, “Oooh, you’ve moved into the ghetto!” As we left the apartment after a pre-move-in inspection one, Diana and I basked in the warm morning sunshine, laughing at the wide variance in preconceptions and, looking at the surroundings about us, thinking that Courtney didn’t really know what “ghetto” was.
Nevertheless, the week before we moved in a teenager was shot and killed as she stood on her front steps a block from where we were about to live. Howard Ave., one block south, was the dividing line between Evanston and Chicago, historically where liquor stores lined up on the Chicago side, to take advantage of the trade from a dry town that had been the home base of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union.
Courtney and David were living with us, both trying to adjust to me, with varying, uneasy degrees of success, as their new father. The apartment was enormous. The two “official” bedrooms were supplemented by a sun porch in back that was well insulated and acted quite well as a third bedroom. In between the two bedrooms was a large dining room. The kitchen was a decent size, and a walk-in pantry, the pride of all these old apartments, supplemented the kitchen’s already generous cabinet space. But the living room, ah, the living room!
It seemed to us that the living room was the size of a football field. One side had a fake fireplace with a mantel and built-in shelves to the side. The end had a wonderful wall of windows overlooking Dobson street, the south end of the apartment. We divided the room so that almost half was a studio for Diana, with all her painting equipment carefully arranged. Jasper also lived in the studio area.
I inherited a hibiscus plant when I moved into Richard & Susannah Bray’s apartment down the street from Guild Books and Periodicals, and once Richard and Susannah had made their move to California. The hibiscus had not bloomed since we had met. From what I learned from Richard afterward, it had never bloomed. But when Diana and I married, we decided that Jasper was its name, and Jasper took it upon themselves to bloom, tentatively at first, but then prodigiously and with double blossoms. Jasper lived in the studio space, basking in the sunlight.
Courtney was taking a photography class at Evanston Township High School that year. She posed her mother in her traditional artist garb, developed the negatives and printed some photos. This photo was a result of that class and was taken at the time Diana was working on a big painting done in the aftermath of the Watts Rebellion of 1992. At the end of our double move from Lincoln Park (me) and Evanston (Diana) to our new place, we had returned our Elite Rental truck and were driving north on Western Ave. The tension in the air had been palpable. The news was filled with speculation about the announcement of the verdict: would the policemen who beat Rodney King be exonerated or convicted? The police were on high alert, even in Chicago, and as we drove home Diana remarked on the large number of cop cars she saw. Sure enough, as I drove through an orange light, we were pulled over. “Do you know why I stopped you?” “No sir.” “Let me see your driver’s license.” “Yes sir.” (I had already pulled it out.) He ran a check, while he told me I had gone through an orange light. He asked a few more terse questions and made sure that we were not part of some plot connected to Los Angeles, and let us go with a warning, there being much more important stuff for them to do. We breathed a sigh of relief, headed home, to find out that Los Angeles was in flames. The painting you see in the background of the photo is allegorical of Los Angeles, its rebellion, and a new world emerging from the flames.
Nelson Peery used to call Diana a Bolshevik, I think partly to tease her (because that was the last thing she thought she was), but partly to affirm his praise for her steadfastness, her willingness to fight for what is right. Part of that steadfastness is to focus on the task ahead to demand that it get done — demand it of herself or of others who are responsible. And so she took this print and added the speech bubble, and gave it to me. I have it at my computer to this day to remind me of my tasks, my assignments and her expectations!