Thursday, September 29, 2005

"I'm Bare-Boned and Crazy... For You"

Dave Matthews' "Crash."

Unfathomably, gently gorgeous song.


...whispered latticework promises from someone who hopefully won't be so peculiarly new for long...

...being 27 and open to love's possibility, to chance, tipsy kisses, cold gusts up skirts, snowflakes on cheeks, being pushed on a long, link-chain, rubber seat swing next to Belmont Harbor...

My first months here, I tramped around a city that had a golden belt of possibility cinching it, listening to this song.

I do, I realize that at the same time, this lovesick anthem has whirred and clicked in the cd changer of every Kate Spade-ed female Loop-bound Account Manager who ever lived on Broadway and Surf and got groped in Tai's Til Four and thought it might be love.

But, yeah, it might have been for me too.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Magic Nose Goblins and Other Things I Loved About 1993

"On the Pulse of Morning"
Import Night
The Uptowner
Divine Hammer
Groundhog Day
Radiohead before they became Radiohead
Beavis and Butthead
Siamese Dream
Riverwest Stein
Finger Lickin' Good Y'all
UW at the Rose Bowl
Pasties and G-String, Beer and a Shot
Sidney Hih
The Beautiful and the Damned
Scary hot dogs in the side bar at the Landmark
Walt Mink
Oriental Drugstore
My little brown wool thrift-store vest over a white mens v-neck t-shirt
The Marriage of Bette and Boo
Brian Mitchell saying "My car was stolen and found over on 30th and Gibippy"
Exile in Guyville
More snow

Thursday, September 08, 2005

We Got Less Than Nothing

Okay, I have opened the floodgates.

Ouch! That was the wrong metaphor. But you know what I mean...

There is just too much being said--and not widely disseminated--out there to avoid sharing, musing. And to stop thinking.

In a speech Tuesday in Congress, our own freshman Senator from Illinois, Barak Obama, got to the heart of it:

And so I hope that out of this crisis we all begin to reflect - Democrat and Republican - on not only our individual responsibilities to ourselves and our families, but to our mutual responsibilities to our fellow Americans. I hope we realize that the people of New Orleans weren't just abandoned during the Hurricane. They were abandoned long ago - to murder and mayhem in their streets; to substandard schools; to dilapidated housing; to inadequate health care; to a pervasive sense of hopelessness.

This isn't political pontification. This isn't Reflex Liberalism, or its less diplomatic sibling, Knee-Jerk Reactionaryism (eg. "Bush doesn't care about black people"). This isn't even the unfathomably collossal fuck-up of FEMA and whoever actually has been running that organization besides two preppy former college roommates who are more accustomed to handling horseflesh and golfclubs than crises.

You and I saw it last week: it's real.

But that was Obama's conclusion. To start, he recalled his visit to the Astrodome in Houston:

...a conversation I had with one woman captured the realities that are settling into these families as they face the future.

She told me "We had nothing before the hurricane. Now we got less than nothing."

I urge you, read Obama's entire speech here.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

This Is Us Crying

I wasn't going to, but I am compelled to Blog About The Hurricane...

My obsession with the Hurricane Katrina coverage has been full-blown; last week I crammed chocolate-covered soy nuts for hours in front of the computer at home--after spending a good deal of workday gloomily surfing in the accounts of worsening destruction.

How is it possible that the catastrophe that nature wrought could so gruesomely downshift from hopeful recovery to horror to complete human demoralization? First I was aghast at the looting: in New Orleans, even blue-clad security guards trolled a sweaty Wal-Mart for free booty, pushing shopping carts piled high, for God's sake, not with food and water but with sneakers and GameBoys and tvs, while at the same time others in Nola clutched at the shingles of their roofs, some having torn holes through for escape, seeking rescue from the dirty, insistent water, and still others filled the soon-to-be hell on earth Superdome.

Finally, now--not immediately, not when they were told they would be, not until after thousands suffered like--well, there is no metaphor that can contain nor define that suffering--now they are being herded west and north, not a Dust Bowl Migration, but a sodden, saddened, soul-sickened Wet Bowl migration.

Then the violence:

Staff members at Children's Hospital huddled with sick youngsters and waited in vain for help to arrive as looters tried to break through the locked door.

That wasn't the worst of it. Accounts so harrowing I won't perpetuate it here.

But what do I know? Nothing.

This is what does make me want to yak:

Fame follows a $3,700 limo trip: It's been a busy week for Kyle Kogan and his family after they fled New Orleans on Sunday, just ahead of Hurricane Katrina on a $3,700 limousine ride back to Chicago. Kogan, whose first year at Tulane University was postponed last weekend, wasn't entirely pleased about the news media attention that followed, according to his mother, Carin.

"Kyle had a terrible headache from the phone constantly ringing," she said. "He said he walked out of one storm and into a media [expletive] storm."Chicago television news teams were there when the limo arrived at their first stop, father Marty Kogan's apartment in Chicago.

Since then, the Kogans received more that 80 requests for interviews, including one from MSNBC's Tucker Carlson, who landed a live interview by satellite Monday night

Ooooo, poor wittle Kyle has a headache from media calls because he escaped the hurricane that has killed thousands and destroyed the livelihood of more thousands who now won't even be able to afford a gol-frickin Greyhound bus ticket back to their city that won't re-exist until at least Christmas??

This is where news priorities were on Monday, Tuesday.

By Wednesday night, and by the end of vile Thursday, the media's dawning horror stretched from those shakily holding mikes in and by the fetid, swirling water, to the most stoic of talking heads back in the major urban studios. On, Jack Shafer observed the wrath unleashed by preternaturally handsome and calm Anderson Cooper against Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu:

Cooper suspended the traditional TV rules of decorum and, approaching tears of fury, said:

"Excuse me, Senator, I'm sorry for interrupting. I haven't heard that, because, for the last four days, I've been seeing dead bodies in the streets here in Mississippi. And to listen to politicians thanking each other and complimenting each other, you know, I got to tell you, there are a lot of people here who are very upset, and very angry, and very frustrated.

"And when they hear politicians slap—you know, thanking one another, it just, you know, it kind of cuts them the wrong way right now, because literally there was a body on the streets of this town yesterday being eaten by rats because this woman had been laying in the street for 48 hours. And there's not enough facilities to take her up.

"Do you get the anger that is out here? …

"I mean, I know you say there's a time and a place for, kind of, you know, looking back, but this seems to be the time and the place. I mean, there are people who want answers, and there are people who want someone to stand up and say, "You know what? We should have done more. Are all the assets being brought to bear?"

This story, amongst the thousands and taken from Maureen Ryan's media column in the Tribune, describes--still inadequately--the utter hopelessness that smothered that beautiful, brawling, beguiling city, and how it translated viscerally--again--to television:

Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard's appearance on "Meet the Press" on Sunday put everything into perspective, if, by that point, perspective was still needed. "Shouldn't the mayor of New Orleans and the governor of New Orleans bear some responsibility" for the tragic events in that city, host Tim Russert asked Broussard.

"They were told, like me, every single day, the cavalry's coming, been promised the cavalry was coming," Broussard shot back. "I have just begun to hear the hoofs of the cavalry… and we're almost a week out."

And Broussard wept, as veteran CNN correspondent Jeanne Meserve wept on Tuesday after hearing the cries of scared people trapped in their homes.

Through his tears, Broussard put a face on the tragedy. "The guy who runs this building I'm in, Emergency Management, he's responsible for everything," Broussard told Russert. "His mother was trapped in St. Bernard nursing home and every day she called him and said, `Are you coming, son? Is somebody coming?' and he said, `Yeah, mama, somebody's coming to get you.'

Somebody's coming to get you on Tuesday. Somebody's coming to get you on Wednesday. Somebody's coming to get you on Thursday. Somebody's coming to get you on Friday… and she drowned Friday night. She drowned Friday night!" At that point, Broussard was sobbing.

"I'm sick of the press conferences. For God's sake, just shut up and send us somebody."

Send us somebody.

Who was that somebody?

For some, humans, with arms reaching, carrying, comforting.

But not soon enough.

For others...angels.

Too soon.

It hasn't rained in over two weeks in Chicago. Maybe, since August 29 at least, we've been holding it in. When it does rain, we'll say, This is us crying.

Friday, September 02, 2005

It's Perfection and Grace: What's Not to Love about Steely Dan?

There's a couple of people walking a wiggly beagle outside the window right now--but that's beside the point. It's precisely the kind of scene you won't find in a Steely Dan song.

The top's down, palm trees nod overhead, we whoosh toward TJ. Glass-top tables and ice buckets puddling on a half-moon patio overlooking the sinful city.

Living hard will take its toll
Illegal fun
Under the sun, boys

My love for Steely Dan is both indefatigable and inevitably met with confusion and dismay.

I am alone in a Steely Dan-hater world. They are the ultimate players to hate.

Yeah, I mean you, all you player-haters.

I had thought SD was a sound my dad should check out--yeah, my dad.

"Those guys?" he said, sort of high-pitched. "Ah, hell, that one was just too scary to look at, I can't listen to him."

But no, Dad, Steely Dan's not to look at, it's to feel.

It isn't jazz, it isn't quite rock--it sure as hell isn't easy-listening. It's complex, it's syncopated, it's funky, it's just...escape.

I love a man who sings in an Aqua-Velva voice with Humbert-esque glee of girls who just started shaving, wearing high, tight shorts. Of the hallucinatory joys of tequila and the glitter of California mansions clinging seductively to desert mountainsides. Of sucking down scotch-and-waters in a palm hut bar in Antigua til blind, twisting a bitter peg in the hole of your broken heart.

Who are these outlaws? And where can I find them?

I'm a bookeeper's son
I don't want to hurt no one
Don't take me alive

Now, don't get me wrong, they truly are a couple of scary-looking mofos. Actually, nowadays they simply look like quasi-wealthy, fully-nerdy men in their late fifties. Like computer programmers, software guys, who started out in, say, '81 or '83, and, as we all know now, were wheelbarrowing cash up the street by '99. Or at least that's what they looked like the day I saw them on Rush Street a few summers ago. Well, I didn't see them, but my companions, my boyfriend at the time and our friend, did, because they stopped dead in front of Carmines after these mid-life crisis nobodies passed us, looked at each other, and screamed in unison like a couple of cheerleaders: "Steely Dan!"

Now, if these Glamour Profession wannabes can recognize Walter Becker and Donald Fagen (who never seemed to be clearly depicted on album covers or sleeves) on the street, it was worth checking out. Which I eventually, then obsessively did. I obtained Pretzel Logic through Gaucho by the end of 2001. At my workaday desk, I could envelop myself in tales of hard living, fast driving, faithless women, supple girls, and activities suspiciously resembling smuggling.

Endless nights and and bottomless drinks that would become watery memories during the car ride the next day. Afternoons stretching out on beaches where no one has a tan line and calls are made on phones ferried over on silver trays. Gauloises and Veuve Cliquot. Later, once the jet lands stateside, Bushmills and Marlboros.

I'll learn to work the saxophone
I'll play just what I feel
Drink Scotch whisky all night long
And die behind the wheel

One of the recent times I went home to see my parents, when my dad suddenly inserted an SD reference into the conversation in the car from the airport, slying saying, eyes on I-64, "Drink your big black cow and get out of here," I was vilified.