Friday, November 10, 2006
hustle Slang. to earn one's living by illicit or unethical means.
Fig. 1: lyric from Kevin Federline's "rap music concert:"
"My name's K-Federline/Ben Franklin's a good friend of mine"
Fig. 2: lyric from Kevin Federline's "rap music concert:"
"I got 50 mill. /I can do whatever I want "
Fig. 3: lyric from Kevin Federline's "rap music concert:"
I come tight with every rhyme/I built a kingdom down the street from Pepperdine/This marijuana got me heavily sedated/I'm Kevin Federline America's most hated (what!)
Friday, November 03, 2006
In the time-honored tradition of other blogs I admire (imitation=flattery, y'all), I hereby institute
PINK FLOYD FRIDAYS
Because what's better to ease you into the weekend than a Friday-morning spin of some Floyd?
I've never been a pothead, so I delight in chillaxing with the Floyd when the day is tastily stretched out ahead of me, weekday pressures are gone.
There was a period of time where anyone who came to my two-residences-ago coach house apartment was forced to listen to the interlude on the first track of Dark Side of the Moon where "Speak to Me" effervesces into "Breathe." Even in my crumbly attic apartment with the weird ceiling-stuccoed walls, you can just imagine Dark Side of the Moon being played up to the stars, as it was in 1972 at a launch party at the London Planetarium. Better that than synchronizing it with a DVD of The Wizard of Oz. I just don't think anything should interfere with the Floyd -- except perhaps embellishments of their own design.
Oh, and record scratches.
Next: Steely Dan Sunday!
Monday, October 30, 2006
I just heard this song.
While I do have a particularly pungent loathing for "American Pie" not only due to its exhausting length but some bad experiences with it involving microwave popcorn, a college dorm lobby, and twenty over-hormoned high school drama students, I truly heard the lyrics to this song just now, and--damn. It's gorgeous.
Maybe because I just saw Vincent yesterday at the Art Institute...
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
I love "But Anyway" by the Blues Traveler, despite the cloying harmonica and patchouli reek. It's got such a great groove. Whoever is their drummer is a pretty good drummer. And I heard them play it for the 7 minutes I watched them at Lollapalooza in August.
Good God, Allmusic tells me this song is from 1990!
Cripey. I was placing it at an entirely different time, say 96 or 97, round about the time the Bob Dylan's hot son was singing in the Top Ten in his leather jacket.
What's clear is that this decade has entered its second half, and I need to get into the first. Maybe I should start with, say, OK GO. That will get me up to at least 2002...
Thursday, October 12, 2006
I saw you again tonight, this time at the Damen station. I ran into a friend and as she and I walked down the east-side stairs, you came down the west. We were on the same train.
Tonight you wore a sporty Timberland-type coat and a backpack. But I knew it was you when I saw those eyes--and that tuft of hair that juts from the right side of your head.
I didn't see your cassette player and headphones; tonight, were you just listening to your thoughts?
Friday, October 06, 2006
Dear Emo Boy,
First of all, let me say that I like your tilted haircut.
You were reading a small paperback, folded over, like a Sixties or Seventies Penguin or Avon edition of something classic. It was slim enough to be Siddartha, but too small for Atlas Shrugged or Foucault's Pendulum. And I don't think Emo boys read Bukowski, that was really favored by the post-punk malcontent boys of my own era.
Because the thing is, Emo Boy, while I was struck by your ragged but clean boyishness, I recognized there's a Lake Michigan of age that laps our shores. I mean, the small paperback volume I have at home that resembles yours is The Awakening, which I would not have understood whatsoever when I was 22 and listening to Matthew Sweet's "I Thought I Knew You" when I wanted to really work up some sentimental anguish over something or someone, just like you probably listen to Joan of Arc sometimes and stare stonily out the train window instead of reading your novelette.
Would you mind that I like to sing along with circa 1988-90 George Michael?
But seriously, I think your book looked interesting, whatever it was (from Myopic?), and so handy since you could hold the door rail and read as we lumbered under Milwaukee Avenue.
After we both exited the train at Damen, I noticed the Walkman cassette player clipped to your studded belt. You listen to tapes! What were you listening to? It couldn't have been too sad because you seemed--without even knowing you--cheerful...? I don't want to scare you off or anything, but Emo Boy, I have so many tapes. I even purged like three-quarters of them, and they still fill a filebox to its brim. Maybe we could listen to tapes together sometime? I know, I know, there's probably very little in that box that interests you, maybe the New Order Power, Corruption and Lies tape that was a used copy even when I found it. Or The Dream of the Blue Turtles might just make you chuckle since I bought it the year you were born. Then again, if you are listening to tapes on a cassette Walkman, you must be listening to older stuff, because I don't really know if Jets To Brazil releases tapes, do they? I haven't bought a new album on tape since 2000, when you could still get them at that short-lived Coconuts on Damen. And, okay, I admit it: Kylie Minogue's Fever was the tape I bought there, maybe because it was less shameful the less money I spent on it--but have you ever heard that song? La-la-la, la-la, lala-la, la-la-la, la-la, lala-la, Can't Get You Out of My Head? It's fierce.
Anyway, maybe we listen to some tapes, I still have a stereo with cassette player...we can meet in the middle with some Bowie? Some "Moonage Daydream?"
You know, Emo Boy, when I was your age had our own Emo, and it was called Weezer. Well, they are still called Weezer, but I think they were/are Emo. What do you think? I mean, I think when I sang (and sing) along with "Say It Ain't So," it feels like what Emo should feel like, despondent but...literate, angry--but a rage mild enough to throw only a sentimentally-saved bouquet of dead flowers in the garbage.
Which is what I think I saw in your huge bear-brown eyes: intelligence, with a capacity for woe. Like in The Great Gatsby, how Nick can see Myrtle Wilson's "tremendous vitality" in her dead, gaping mouth when she's dead in the Valley of Ashes.
Now, that's something that actually sounds like Emo.
Maybe you can explain it to me over chai lattes at Earwax? Hopefully they will play the Police box set while we're there, and it'll mist with cold, grey rain outside.
Until then, I'm yours, wistfully,
Thursday, October 05, 2006
This afternoon, the sky over the lake looked like the Simpsons title sequence, little white clouds stippling the blue arc, all the way to Michigan.
I need to start carrying my camera around again. Once I empty the memory card of the 15 shots I took of seagulls in Virginia Beach.
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
This man, this man has a voice like cold mountain air--so good and clear it hurts. I mean, even the high note on "Wake Me Up (Before You Go-Go), when he cries, "I wanna hit that hiiiiigggggggh"--oo, baby, that's some good stuff, and I don't care who you want to grope in the dark and what you have in the felt-lined glove compartment of your Merc. "Freedom 90?" I pretty much collapse into paroxysms of joy when I hear that song. Here's a singer who in his tender twenties made the Daryl Hall's blue-eyed soul sound shit-brown.
Strip away the cheesy synth strings from "A Different Corner," and the accompanying mid-80s video with its all-white, my-baby-left-me-laying-on-this-chaise drama that David Brent aped in his own video in The Office--godalmighty, that voice. I'll let you YouTube that one yourself, because you need to hear this track from the Faith album, one that was somewhat overshadowed by the "I Want Your Sex" controversy (it was bleeped on pop radio in Kentucky to play as "I want your woo-woo") and the supermodels pouting and prancing in his videos.
Forget the gregarious jook-joint sidemen and the lazy old electric fan and the guitar he never plays, and listen to his mountainous frigging range:
Maybe what he needs is...a Father Figure.
Yeah, I said it.
No, no, seriously, George--why can't you set your monkey free??
Alright, I'll shut up now and go sing along to "Freedom 90" and shimmy around the computer again.
Thursday, August 24, 2006
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
Because only freaks phone a reputable place of professional business repeatedly every ten to twenty minutes, listen to the entire outgoing message, and then hang up without leaving a message on the voicemail.
And why would I want to talk to a freak, freaks?
*not in the surfer-slang sense but rather in Chris Isaak nomenclature
Thursday, August 17, 2006
Our solar system would have 12 planets instead of nine under a proposed ''Big Bang'' expansion by leading astronomers, changing what billions of schoolchildren are taught.Scientists have determined that there may be up to three additional planets in our solar system. But then they also can't seem to agree on what a planet actually. That's why over 2,000 astronomers are meeting in Prague to hold brainstorming sessions before they agree and vote on a universal definition of a "planet."
And theTribune explains that
The new definition, which will be up for a vote at the convention in Prague next week, states that a planet would be any star-orbiting object massive enough that its own gravity shapes it into a sphere, more or less.
Are they going to squint at some PowerPoint slides over coffee and Czech pastries? Speaking of coffee, isn't this all sounding a bit like a celestial Folger's commercial? "We've secretly replaced the fine nine-planet Solar System with twelve star-orbiting objects massive enough to shape itself into a sphere!"
So yeah, they are saying that if an "object" in space is round, then it's a planet. Objects that would qualify as new planets are the asteroid Ceres (obviously getting a helluva upgrade); 2003 UB313, the farthest-known object in the solar system that's nicknamed Xena (obviously discovered by a nerd or a lesbian, or both); and Pluto's moon, Charon. But wait a minute, hasn't Pluto's own identity as a planet been in question since--well, since we studied the Solar System in 5th grade and I made that planet Jupiter diorama by painting a styrofoam ball orange (with a spot of black) and hanging it by an unbent paperclip and fishing line inside a Kinney's shoebox painted?
What's next? More Gas Giants?
You know what? I'm just going to go on what Jack Horkheimer (thank God you're still alive!) has to say:
''The solar system is a middle-aged star, and like all middle-aged things, its
waistline is expanding."
Monday, August 07, 2006
Friday, August 04, 2006
200,000 people (30,000 of which will be sporting beards or boots, I would wager)
Zero chance in hell of getting me to go.
I'll spend the weekend with friends and pop in a few cds that remind me of my first Lolla, 1992, Alpine Valley (where the falafel was six dollars and the wait for a soda was an hour, and the Ministry mosh pit made a crop circle on the lawn).
And I'll remember this especially:
Thursday, August 03, 2006
This video is from 1980, and even against the digital pyrotechnics, hi-def hijinks, and teensy-tinsy fiber-optic filaments of today, it's arresting.
There's minimal camera tricks, which at the time consisted of the squiggly dissolves, rushing close-ups and split-screen cheesiness found in auto dealer and K-Tel commercials, and no crouching tigers, stomping supermodels, pretend espionage, "concert" sequences, or, actually, any musical instruments at all--not surprising from the Downtown-est of the big Downtown NYC groups that were finally lining their pockets with dead presidents in the 80s.
Just the knife-sharp surprise, needling anxiety, and thrumming regret of a life not-lived channeled only through Byrne's beany body bending and herky-jerking, making the busiest ode to idleness--one of my favorite songs, duh--that much better.
Wednesday, August 02, 2006
Fans were able to meet the meat Saturday night, when he came in a disappointing third place, behind Bratwurst and Italian Sausage. But because the new wiener (yes, I said it) has not yet been fully approved for the home game contest, El Picante (yes, that's his name) has been sent down to the minor leagues for
...wait for it
...wait for it
Friday, July 28, 2006
Lightning was a singer who entertained countless thousands of Wisconsin State Fair munchers and, back in The Day, hundreds of hipster (for Milwaukee) types like myself who'd heard about their jaw-droppingly cheesy and footstomping sets at Alioto's on Jackson downtown. Lightning, in fact, married his partner, Thunder, in a widely-recounted and fondly-remembered ceremony during a set break in front of their fans at the 1994 State Fair. I think I knew someone who knew someone who was there. Hell, everybody did.
Thunder sings the best of Patsy Cline with a sweet, clear treble, and expanded her repetoire to ABBA and some Blondie as more and more chain-smoking, Leinie's-chugging kids showed up to their Saturday (or was it Friday?) Alioto's gigs.
But it was Lightning, short and sequined, voice graveled just so by Pall Malls or Newports (I may be taking bloggers license because my memory is shoddy, but--someone back me up, dude smoked, didn't he?), inhabiting Neil Diamond and his sonorous repetoire so thoroughly that you'd be on your feet, jumping in the air, spilling your vodka-cranberry and shouting TODAY! TODAY! Toooooo-DAAAAAAAAAY! when he'd end the set with "America," stomping his Beatle boots on top of Alioto's formica bar. Lightning always had an endless supply of Bartz's Party Store costume scarves to hand out to all the pretty girls and drunk guys (cause Robert has at least one).
Oh sure, they opened for Urge Overkill at the Metro (which we called "Cabaret Metro" back then) in 1993--and, hey, simmer down, that's no small feat since that was the peak of Saturation's saturation, that "UO" rising like a nefarious spaceship not only over a perfunctory skyline on the album cover, but everywhere--and sang "Forever In Bluejeans" with Eddie Vedder at the Marcus Ampitheatre Pearl Jam show in '95, and--this just in--played to the real hipster kids at Danny's in Bucktown in Chicago. And the Sun-Times paid tribute to the man known on his South-side Milwaukee streets and his Vietnam vet buddies as Mike Sardina. But Lightning and Thunder were, way back then, and, because I felt such a surprising gasp and gloom at the news of Lightning's passing to that great America in the sky, always, ours.
God, next thing you know, the Pepperoni/Cannoli Guy's gonna go.
Friday, July 21, 2006
Thursday, July 20, 2006
I think some of my weakened heartseams (or, perhaps, there's a "god-shaped hole" there) were cauterized during that show. You know how that coming-full-circle thing works.
And maybe that's because it was as satisfying as the gentle summer collision of two of my favorite things--which is what I heard from the soon-to-be-jazzless WBEZ as I glided up my street at 2am that night after the show, Coltrane's "My Favorite Things"--could possibly be.
The way-past past was verged at that show, too.
In 1991, my first Summerfest (and first summer living on my own), John and Mike and I puttered down Lincoln Memorial Drive to the Fest in Mike's Festiva, a ladybug-sized four-speed that had made the trip from the Minneapple with nary a burble, but probably four tanks of gas (and in which, later that summer, we squeezed seven people--I know, I was in the hatchback with my roommate, God help us--and dragged rusty ass down 94 to Chicago). On that, my first Summerfest Fourth of July, though, XTC's "Earn Enough For Us" thumped from the speakers that probably cost as much as that Ford. I felt shimmeringly happy at that moment, I remember, the lake air coming in the windows, and a twelve-string guitar rolling out, sandwiched with my two best guy friends.
Which is yet another Favorite Thing.
Fifteen (!) years later, reunited with the Smiley-Face Fest under the Hoan Bridge in Milwaukee. And even though that's widely cherished (and ripped) as a bridge to Nowhere, a straight shot that carries traffic aloft over the Lakefront and Port of Milwaukee, and then dumps you into a flicker's nest of off- and on-ramps and dunes by Bayview, I realized that now it formed a circle for me -- still "loving rock n roll," the night, and guy friends.
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
He was born just yesterday at the Shedd Aquarium.
If only we all came into the world with--and kept--big, shy smiles like that.
And a teeny-tiny waterspout to toot when you're especially happy that the sun is warm.
You want to sing like John Lennon to him,
"Life is what happens to you
While you're busy making other plans."
...or busy looking at this cute photo. I can't seem to Step. Away. From. The. Photo.
Monday, July 17, 2006
Instead, here's a photo taken on Virginia Beach from December--New Year's Eve. It was about 60 that evening.
Today's the kind of day you curse the Great Chicago Fire of 1871: brick, true to form, holds heat, as in all day long, resulting in an excruciating night on sweaty sheets. I miss the fake-brick, stapled-on siding and clapboard charm of Milwaukee, where there wasn't a conflagration that decimated some 2,000 acres and 18,000 buildings and attendant paranoia that resulted in a city top-full of brick buildings.
Speaking of paranoia--well, let me first just say that I understand there's a need and we've a right to be concerned when excessive heat invades our typical tundra. I lived just 80 miles cooler than the Great Chicago Heat Wave of 1995, in Milwaukee, so I remember the brutality of the heat/humidity combo those early days in July (and how there wasn't a room in any motel, even flophouses, all the way out to Kenosha and Lake Mills) and how overwhelmingly underprepared the Upper Midwest was for this attack. Author Eric Klinenberg writes that
The heat wave was a particle accelerator for the city: It sped up and made visible the hazardous social conditions that are always present but difficult to perceive.Huh. That statement could be applicable to events of last year, if you replace the words "heat wave" with "hurricane."
Anyway, the "never again" mentality is of course justified.
But millions of Southerners endure worse heat over more days and months.
So I wear a small smile when I hear local forecasters intone doomsday-ingly about "heat indexes" and "cooling centers," remembering 12-hour days spent outside, playing--biking, trampoline, kick the can, roller skating, swinging, sloshing in the wading pool and ruining a circular patch of backyard grass-- in what were "heat indexes" that would make Tom Skillethead's head explode.
Current temps, July 17, 3:15 pm: Tom Skillethead: 93; Weather.com: 93 ("feels like 103"); Weather Underground: 96.3; Sun-Times: 94 ("RealFeel Temp 104"); NOAA (National Weather Service): 95 (heat index 108).
Thursday, July 13, 2006
Not this wasp
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
Funny how a person is there, and then they are not. Forming days as much as the movement of the sun, the inexorability of the lower-right computer clock, or the distant, serial roar of the El. Someone who's an indelible tincture--a Sharpie that leaked in a pants pocket. The petal-hue of a dried flower on the bookcase.
Then something happens. And maybe another thing, or four--one worse, one slightly better, one perplexing.
Then they're gone. Alto relievo, then bas-relief, matrix...concavity...trace... invisibility.
And the sun keeps moving, 1:46 PM changes to 5:02 PM to a week from next Wednesday, train cars glide and roar. One day one of those cars bucks a bit, a filly spooked by a crow, and people cry. Cups of coffee are drunk, Starbucks or Dunkin, rainclouds squinted at, hands held, puddles skirted, shotglasses clinked, snow tasted, oceansurf kicked, all-nighters pulled, chords remembered, chicken stir-fried, knots worried, eight-balls pocketed, uppercuts punched, mistakes made anyway, flowers pruned, cars rented, cigarettes stubbed, hard drives control-alt-deleted, resolve mustered, jukebox buttons pushed, lashes curled, dryers de-linted, brides dressed, ceilings stared at, scenes initiated, Franzes Ferdinanded, texts messaged, chips gambled all-in, thighs caressed, noodles slurped, five-minute calls called, street bumps biked over, caskets closed. New songs--digital kudzu--graft over old playlists, and there's a springy night when drive-thru fries in the car taste better than they ever have, ever.
I've seen these things, and more. And though there's a dry, smooth beach at dawn where feelings used to beat, I always thought I'd see...
Ummm, I don't think that sounds so cool after all.
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
I know it's about using smack, but it makes me feel like I'm in a smoky, dark wood-paneled bar with ornate brass fixtures somewhere below 14th Street. Except it will no longer be smoky, and I probably can't afford a place just below 14th Street. That's why this has to happen in 1973, when the song appeared on Piano Man.
I wonder if the line
"I did go from wanting to be someone
Now I'm drunk and wearing flip-flops on Fifth Avenue"
from Rufus Wainwright's "Poses"
is an homage to Billy's
"So you stand on the corner in your New English clothes
and you look so polished from your hair down to your toes
Ah but still your fingers gonna pick your nose"
...if only for the dawning thought in both, found on the most street cornery of cities, that what you want can ultimately, insiduously, consume what it is you want.
I wish I was going to New York this summer. It's time to find that mythic place in the Village and stare dreamily out a cab window at 4 am thinking "I'm in a New York State of Mind."
A campaign to save an iconic sign is in full swing.
Has anyone seen any 76 Balls around Chicago? I did see them in Los Angeles when I was there.
I guess I'd have felt the same way if the Kentucky Fried Chicken bucket signs were all pulled down in one fell swoop.
They're only signs -- but also landmarks of youth. The fried chicken bucket--summer Sunday night dinners at my grandparents, riding in the front seat of my aunt's royal blue VW Bug, probably around 1976, chirping up the street to pick up a chicken Bucket and a Barrel at the Kentucky Fried that's now a homegrown bar-food restaurant, an Applebee's pedigreed for the Chevy Chase set (who probably never appreciated the proximity but rather deplored the presence of a fast-food restaurant in their backyards).
I saw a bucket-KFC a couple months ago, also in Los Angeles. For a modern city obsessed with appearance, our ugliest but most cherished consumerist past is preserved a lot longer out there.
What I'd really like, though, is to find that Bucket font and use it.
Monday, July 10, 2006
The show, clever, esoteric five or so-minute shorts in which the famed musicians are distinguished from each other by really bad wigs, ran on the Channel101 website through, well, a couple of weeks ago. I just discovered it thanks to Chicagoist (which I read with teeth on edge because it oh-so-wobbily walks the line of annoying and edifying ).
Ironically, Channel101's creators are Rob Schrab and Dan Harmon, they of the Scud The Disposable Assassin comic, begun during the glory days of The Dead Alewives sketch troupe back in Milwaukee. I always thought what those guys did was cool, but the problem was just that--they were all guys. Maybe that's when the seed of my ambition to be a sketch-comic chick germinated.
Anyway, ironically-even-more, I actually like a lot of these artists. I mean, you must realize by now that I do enjoy some music that is universally regarded as craptacular [This phrase is hereby fully credited to J. Maravegias --Ed.]. I mean, I can get into some "99" by Toto. That piano breakdown at the end is pretty jive.
Profane, belligerent and giant-mustachioed John Oates (who calls his smooth-rock nemeses "California Vagina Sailors") had me howling during the early Yacht Rocks, but the final episode, "FM", which details the genesis of the singular Steely Dan contribution to the soundtrack for the 1978 film of the same name, as well as their feud with the Eagles, made me run to my shut my office door so I could expel a worthy cackle. Although Glenn Frey and Don Henley probably didn't noogie Walter Becker and Donald Fagen on a playground, there indeed was a lyrical fracas between the two AOR heavyweights--if you believe that "they stab it with their steely knives" is a response, slipped into "Hotel California," to the Dan's exhortation on "Everything You Did" to "turn up The Eagles the neighbors are listening." Yeah maybe the "steely knives" line is only about the "beast" (drugs? music industry?), but look at these two pairs of guys. They're all a-holes, in their own way. This was the best musical warfare since Skynyrd got cranked on Jack and wrote "Sweet Home Alabama" to flip off Neil Young.
I love that Donald Fagen speaks his own language. Except when he says "eat bat, prick."
Hmm, I've actually never looked at the soundtrack for FM, which all in all is pretty damn good.
At least to a craptacle-loving music fan like me.
Friday, July 07, 2006
Thursday, June 29, 2006
Okay, did anyone else love it when their local "Mix-FM!" station would play this song? Jut your knit-pants-clad hips around your room? Sing into a letter-opener and narrow your eyes at your toothsome reflection in the mirror? Then widen them in alluring fear as some classified info relating to subversive Eastern European anti-Communist activities was revealed to you by a fellow operative on a smoky-dark dancefloor somewhere between Budapest and Vienna?
Oh, just me, then?
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
Where else was I gonna hear this?
I mean, how could I forget? We are talking the Cro-Mag days of MTV here.
Aldo Nova, a Canadian one-hitter, Def Lepparded before those boys even got their legs into spandex, found the mousse aisle at the local druggists and set those Rickenbackers wailin'.
And who knew that a Les Paul could shoot a metal door-blasting laser from its neck?
Monday, June 26, 2006
I mean planting one's feet in real life, in someone's life.
The pleasure of snorting and laughing at my friends' responses to questions like, If you could go back in time, what is the one thing you would change about your high school career" has seduced me. Granted, this game-playing Friday night was in, what, February? (Oh, God, no; it was November. Now that is procrastinating). But my desire to know more about who my friends were before I knew who they are hasn't waned. I'll add to this myself, in the comments.
I'll just throw a random year out, with today's date.
So, where were you, June 26, 1986?
And, so as to not appear too nostalgic and I-love-the-80s, a random year: June 26, 1994.
Approximations, guesses, fabrications, exagerrations and fantasies welcome.
Thursday, June 22, 2006
The 99-year-old, two-lane red steel bridge over the river's North Branch will be replaced by a four-lane suspension and cable-stay bridge, the first of its kind in the city, said Cheri Heramb, the Chicago Department of Transportation's acting commissioner.Now while this is welcome news to those (including me) who detest navigating the Yuppie Hell Canyon (North Avenue between said bridge and Halsted) on weekends and rush hours, it is a bittersweet development. The report notes that
The existing bridge is one of the famed Chicago-style trunnion bascule bridges. The leaves are suspended on axles with counterweights--bascule means seesaw in French--and the steel trusses are noted for their curved profile.
What a fabulous description--there's something about a basic thing that, when it's named in French, transforms into another thing infinitely more enchanting. I mean, think of saying assistant instead of aide-de-camp, overthrow instead of coup d'etat, and "last show of the year" instead of season finale.
Apparently Chicago is known for the trunnion bascule bridge. No two are exactly alike, and others are found spanning the Chicago River downtown at Clark and LaSalle streets, and the world's second-longest is at Columbus Drive. The most famous bascule bridge is the Tower Bridge across the Thames in London.
Chicago's first bascule bridge was built across the North Branch at Cortland Avenue in 1902.
It's funny that the North Avenue bridge is being replaced, because the Cortland bridge has been recently rehabilitated. I live near the bridge; much of my routine travel spans that bridge -- to the grocery, biking to work, to the lakefront, Second City, the mattress store, Armitage Avenue to look for overpriced paper and plastic rings.
Florid name aside, I am fascinated by this bridge. There's a dedication plaque on either side, emblazoned with the name of a Chicago mayor whose father was also a mayor, assassinated in 1893 (a crime featured in the excellent Devil in the White City) and born in, of all places, Lexington, Kentucky, my own home. Carter Harrison, Jr., benefactor of the Cortland bridge, was elected in 1897 and served five terms, something his father probably would have done had he not met an untimely demise, shot after giving the closing address at the 1893 World's Columbian Exhibition on the South Side of Chicago.
A smaller plaque is found on one of the bridge's thrusts, a boasting reminder that the only thing Carter H. Harrison hefted to open this bridge was probably some scissors to cut a ribbon across its freshly-painted span in 1902. Apparently American Bridge Company was newly-formed in 1901, and soon monopolized the nation's bridge industry and manufactured steel as well. Kind of like the Clear Channel of the turn of the last century.
My favorite part of the bridge is the bridge house, about which I could find no historical information (Google, you tried). Maybe, then, it's just there to be enjoyed, a quiet, tree-shaded place to pause and soak up history buttressed by massive red steel wings.
Sunday, June 18, 2006
"Two Out of Three Ain't Bad," Meatloaf
"Stuck in the Middle with You," Stealers Wheel
"To Be with You," Mr. Big
Friday, June 16, 2006
Top Fourteen Things This Midwest/Southerner Noticed about Los Angeles
(brought to you for no apparent reason by Wang Chung)
1. Everyone drives like a 75 year-old Methodist going to church in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Sunday morning. Seriously. I made vehicular transgressions that would have gotten me honks and the Finger in Chicago. And then I did them to the peculiarly self-absorbed and timid drivers in Hell-Lay.
2. There are mountains! Real, honest-to-god, lung-constricting, neck-cricking mountains. That you can hike. You can drive a mere...hour (it's not "twenty-minutes-to-anywhere" San Diego), tie up your boots, adjust your water bottle, and head up an actual foothill-plus.
3. The uber-hip try to look "urban." Give it up, kids. You live someplace where your local hip coffeehouse is in the middle of an Albertson's parking lot. In spite of your aviator shades, buzz cut, safety glasses, leggings and vintage slouchy Dingo boots. You drive everywhere and tell me where your local sweaty post-punk-rock club is located (my guess: a El Pollo Loco parking lot).
4. Vietnamese food: super-super yummy. They got the Asian foods down, baby. I had the same beef pho at the same restaurant three times in twice as many days.
5. Addendum to #1: drivers stop for pedestrians to cross the street. Let me repeat myself: DRIVERS. STOP. FOR. PEDESTRIANS.
6. Beverly Hills was boring. It felt and smelled like old, rich people and Rodeo Drive looked just like St. Armands Circle in Sarasota, Florida (see above about rich, old people), just spread out in a straight line, not a circle. The stand-alone Jimmy Choo store looked cool, though.
7. I like looking at bougainvillea in person as much as I like to say it and look at the word. In LA, it's mostly the red variety.
8. Can you name a kid Bougainvillea? Or is that just too early 00's celebrity?
9. Yes, there has been some plastic surgery. Everywhere.
10. I like the palm trees with the pom-pom tops the best.
11. You can travel half an hour one way and hike, or thirty minutes the other direction and beach it. But if you plan to do both in an afternoon, better chug a latte (the most delicious ever EVER!) from one of the omnipresent Coffee Bean (full name: Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf--and no, I didn't see Nicole Richie there though US Magazine would have you believe she sleeps on a cot in the back room): traffic between these two ambrosial extremes is exhausting (see number one).
12. This city is not the celebrity ant farm I was led to believe it was (I'm glaring at you Defamer.com) I didn't see a single one--except that one woman biking in a hat and sunglasses along Venice Beach who might have been Marg Helgenberger.
13. Downtown LA is no downtown at all: it's skeevy and empty and steely-grey. The fabric district, on downtown's edge, is overrun with people and color, though.
14. The burrito is a popular food item. And it's universally advertised with a sad burro, a jaunty burro, a dancing burro, a jaunty burro dancing on an egg, or a bedroom-eyed burro.
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
I don't understand how people can blog everyday. My fellow (and everyday) blogger Justin from Schadenfreude blogs daily, and recently mused on the same topic. Then, of course, there's the gossip bloggers, those cyber virtuosos who (how?) post reams of text and celeb glossies daily. Oh, and are clever, too. Clever on command. Not when they are walking to get a Potbelly and then forget the so-damn-funny thing they wanted to say when back in front of the Dell flatscreen.
I imagine daily blogging requires the dexterity and determination of an athlete. Or, duh, a salary. Of course I have blabbed before (and will again) about how great it would be to write everyday, and for a living--yet when faced with the free, viable, no-brain, 24-7 opportunity to do so, and with a guaranteed audience of at least one free-porn spammer--I've managed a paltry couple-dozen posts in over a year. Factor in the reality that most of what I have written in general, outside of blogging, since the end of 2003 has been academic and typically involves an annotated bibliography and copious citations from Michel Foucault. You'd think I'd be slavering for an opportunity to say what I want, when I want, how I want--and not have to do it in 8 to 15 pages, double-spaced.
When I blog, I inevitably don't just write. I have to craft. And I am not saying "craft" to insinuate that I am toiling any harder than anyone else or aspire to or fancy myself as some Blogger Laureate. What I mean is, when I write, I am sighingly opening a new browser window, groaningly typing www.thesaurus.com into the address bar, and dizzying myself with the legion of potential replacements for "anger" or "deft" or "simulacre."
I have to make things harder than they have to be. But isn't that, in a way, a means of demanding (again, not aiming for loftiness) excellence? And I'll have you know I came thisclose to surfing Thesaurus.com for a better word than ""loftiness."
Perhaps my writing process mirrors how I shop. Unless I am struck by sudden inspiration and/or luck ($200 designer sandals for 35 bucks! Perfect words--like "choleric" that just pop into mind!), it's a long and winding road involving the investigation of every possible avenue until a decision is made. I mean, this is why both Ebay and thesauri are online, right, to provide the chance for all chances to be exhausted?
Maybe I should try to define my blog, then. Centrifuge it down to its essence. Well, folks, that would be the twin obsessions: music and words.
Wow, that's a wee bit sweeping--which is maybe why I don't touch this damn thing very often.
Or, maybe I need more persistent theme. A reportage. A project, like assigning myself a handful of terrible summer-season, prime-time network television programs to watch weekly and on which to comment, whilst monitoring the deadening of my motor and intellectual skills, and cagily making world-wise observations about culture-at-large.
But, no. I have a nice flower garden planted this year, and I'd like to enjoy it and good wine and friends, away from the t.v.
Yes, I think I'll blog as much as feels rigorous, and as little as feels seditious and exhilarating.
...And I wrote that without a thesaurus.
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
The Brewers' new digs in Milwaukee are see-wank.
Bernie the Brewer's still there, bedecked with a new, stiff yellow mustache. He still pops up at the top of a slide that's nestled in the right field corner when the Brewers homer, but he lands on a Home Plate instead of in a mug of beer (with balloons that pop out when he lands).
Too bad--but what other ballpark has everyone singing "Roll Out the Barrel" after beer sales have ceased for the game?
Friday, June 09, 2006
I can’t remember the first time I heard “The Best of My Love,” but it must have blared from my transistor radio, the one shaped like Yogi Bear’s head that dangled from a strap around my wrist as I roamed my big backyard. This was the summer of 1977, when I was given a big party in that yard for my seventh birthday, with twelve girls, streamered card tables posed awkwardly in the lumpy grass, and a pink cake topped with June strawberries. I wore two high pigtails and pink shorts and a smocked tank top, and, later that afternoon, my new Donny and Marie t-shirt, until my mom told me to take it off, didn’t I think it was going to get dirty if I got on the swing again? We played pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey and another game, some kind of ring toss with 16-ounce returnable Tab bottles, to the applause of my four aunts, three great-aunts, two grandmothers and my dad’s father, who always had a Manhattan in hand by four in the afternoon. My other grandfather was probably watching my five uncles and Dad play horseshoes, refreshing their beers from the cooler my uncle Kenny placed in the sandy grass right by the pit.
“The Best of My Love” broke onto the pop music charts right about that time, June of ‘77, sending The Emotions, sisters and singers from Chicago, up the Hot 100 over the next twenty-three weeks of what my family kept calling an awfully humid Kentucky summer. But I doubt that they—including my aunt Carol, who loved to go “disco dancing,” nor her husband Kenny—can recall hearing this song. And maybe you can’t, either. But that’s only partly why this song is my song.
In a black-and-white publicity still of The Emotions, the Hutchinson sisters, Sheila, Wanda and Jeanette, wear Thirties-style cloche hats and display an earnest, toothy friendliness that makes Donna Summer’s long, lipsticked and glittered face glower as if from a poster for a triple-X flick. The Queen of Disco released “I Feel Love,” the follow-up to her sixteen-minute orgasmic opus, “Love to Love You Baby,” in ’77. The first dance hit recorded with an entirely synthesized backing track, Summer’s ode to even more orgasmic joy didn’t hit number one, and I think the ersatz sound of “I Feel Love” is why—pop wasn’t ready for (to paraphrase Steely Dan) “the mechanized hum of another world.” With “The Best of My Love,” the number one song in the country in August and September 1977, the Queen was—at least until she released “MacArthur Park” the next year—dethroned by some fresh-faced girls who sang gospel as children, backed by live instruments.
Disco ascended to its peak in the year 1977, and didn’t start its inexorable slide into derision until well after the release of Saturday Night Fever at the end of that year, until every last high-pitched warble from that film’s soundtrack had drenched nation’s ears for the millionth time. In June of ‘77, during the week of my seventh birthday party, the feathery, tamborine-shaking boogie of K.C. and the Sunshine Band reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100, but only for one week. Yet “I’m Your Boogie Man” still plays—and is recognized almost thirty years later—in Dick’s Last Resorts and Bennigans and any bar that serves shots in test tubes. “The Best of My Love” just doesn’t resurface in TGI Fridays, and isn’t repackaged as today’s “smooth jazz”,” or really played anywhere outside of a smaller-market lite-FM radio station’s annual “One-Hit Wonder Weekend.”
That is, except when I need to hear it.
I believe in Jukebox Fate, whereby a song appropriate to the occasion or conflict at hand will play at the precise moment in need of emphasis—and not necessarily on an actual jukebox. Once, in a Chicago hole-in-the-wall that my beer-drinking friends and I favored one spring, I was dishing with a girlfriend about a bad breakup, and the lurid details were underscored suddenly and dramatically by Paula Abdul bleating “He’s a cold-hearted snake (look into his eyes)/Uh-oh, he’s been tellin’ lies.” And the song that’s pounded from nightclub speakers, pulsed in radio waves through my headphones, wafted from tinny grocery store p.a. systems with spooky precision just when I needed to hear it the most is “The Best of My Love.” The song is, cheesily enough, what’s best about love, it pulses on your skin in a way that Summer’s chilly metallic beats can’t.
It’s pure joy.
Before you argue that every song ever recorded since RCA Victor’s “little nipper” dog first put his fuzzy ear to that proto-record player is about love, I have to tell you—this song is different. The Hutchinson sisters’ disco ecstasy doesn’t peak like Donna Summer’s come-hither contralto or Thelma Houston’s aggressive plea of “Don’t Leave Me This Way.” The song explodes out of the gate, a high-strung thoroughbred, with a startling blast of horns—then a single, lazy guitar lick eases into a groove so low-slung it fits across your hips like a leather belt. Wanda confidently begins:
Doesn't take much to make me happyand make me smile
Never never will I feel discouraged
Cause our love's no mystery
She spreads the gravel in her voice where it counts, on “happy” and “love,” but is singing an octave above her range, as directed by Maurice White of Seventies R&B juggernaut Earth, Wind, and Fire, who composed and helmed the song in the studio. Wanda’s barely perceptible reach for the notes leavens the song, makes it hungry. Or, maybe its bliss springs from the sisters’ gospel roots, when they were, (presciently, I would say) known as The Heavenly Sunbeams, or from their anticipation of a star-flecked career guided by White (which didn’t happen). All I know is, what I hear is not only the joy of being in love with someone, but being in love with life, with oneself.
Goin' in and out of changes
The kind that come around each day
My life has a better meaning
Love has kissed me in a beautiful way
Wanda and her sisters keep that loping groove aloft with the chorus that may (or may not) spark your recognition of the song:
Whoa whoa, you've got the best of my love
Then their honey harmony, the laconic guitar, the bass line ambling like a staircase, horns bursting, clouds through sunshine, build to a single “oh!” on which Wanda hits a note of such singular, delicious flawlessness that I want to fling my arms open to hold it.
In 1991, Mariah Carey and her producers, C&C Music Factory, explained in interviews that the newly-minted pop diva’s number-one hit “Emotion” was inspired by “The Best of My Love.” Their flattery was so sincere that it was taken as imitation: The Emotions started a lawsuit which was apparently settled out of court, with no public statement issued. I can’t say I blame them: Carey’s workhouse attempt to capture the silky elation of “The Best of My Love” comes off as if she’s struggling to win a helium balloon-sucking contest—and sounds just as pleasant. Carey’s career, despite some ill-judged recordings, a self-congratulatory biopic, and ever-shrinking hem- and necklines, persists, while the Emotions disappeared even before the sun set on the Seventies.
So why did this hit become a one-hit? When The Emotions reigned 1977, there was no satellite radio, internet—FM was barely out of its adolescence. And charts meant airplay, not sales, and airplay wasn’t hastened as it is today, with backroom deals between executives who worked for the corporation that owned the record label, the radio station, and the concert venue down the street. In ’77, “The Best of My Love” was sewn into a collective summer consciousness: Fourth of July flags flapped in time with its beat, the harmonies skated over sunset-lit swimming pools, vodka-cranberries were flung onto disco club tables and spike-heeled feet scampered to dance floors as its opening horns blared. Even though I was barely seven, gravely worried whether I could wear my red satin shorts with the white piping under my Catholic school uniform for P.E. class, I must have felt those notes, ones that somehow became implanted in my senses during that summer before second grade. For everyone else, I like to think that once that summer faded, the song was firmly folded into the drawer of memory by the brassy sounds of our late century’s first blockbusters: Star Wars and Saturday Night Fever.
If you saw the film Boogie Nights, “The Best of My Love” just might tickle your memory. It’s the track that played under the masterful opening scene of the film, where director P.T. Anderson introduces not just the shiny disco club inhabited by his protagonists but a slice of 1977 in a single, giddily continuous camera shot: San Fernando Valley, clams on the half-shell and cold Riunite, designer roller skates, porn stars in owned—not rented—Cadillac Sevilles, blow and back-room hustling. But that wasn’t our summer in Lexington. We were in the heart of Central Kentucky, where the multifarious crises of the Seventies—gas shortages, inflation, Nixon’s crash-and-burn—were felt but didn’t defuse the explosion of in-ground pools, brick-and-balcony apartment complexes and ground-hugging ranch homes around the city’s “beltline” highway. New Circle Road hadn’t been new since my mother tossed her white graduation cap outside of her high school in early summer 1966, feeling, perhaps, the kind of swelling thrill in her heart that “The Best of My Love” would have wrought if the Hutchinson sisters had sung it then. But disco needed the early Seventies’ disillusionment and frenzied sexual tumult to catapult its god-awful gaud into the mainstream, so Mom had to jump and hug her girlfriends and, probably later on during that graduation night, do the Mashed Potato to Wilson Pickett growling “Tell me!” during the herky-jerk chorus of “Land of 1,000 Dances.”
Summers changed after 1977. I had been the only grandchild and niece to five aunts and six uncles, had experienced the rapture of getting Christmas and birthday presents from each of them, of every coo and paddy-cake clap and toddling step being celebrated and thoroughly recounted later. Everyone had my grade school photo, me posed, bangs brushed flat, in a Mickey and Minnie Mouse dress, in their wallet. Then my sister showed up less than two years later, and the first cousin arrived on the scene in early 1978—meaning that he was present at my seventh birthday party, for my aunt possibly knew she was pregnant when she clapped at my blown-out candles in June 1977, the last summer that was all mine. And while I can’t confirm that “The Best of My Love” was the soundtrack for that glorious, green Kentucky summer afternoon, at least I do remember exactly where and when I heard it again, whether it was indeed the second—or seventeenth—time.
I was dancing alone on a November Saturday night in 1998. I had just moved to Chicago barely two months before. A birthday dinner party of a friend-of-a-friend disbanded to the now-defunct Polly Esther’s, which was part of a chain of nightclubs that sprang up in the mid-90s, conceived by marketing executives who recognized the windfall the branding of “retro” would bring. Crudely outfitted with disco balls, tinsel curtains, Polly Esther’s even employed actors in full Tony Manero polyester glory to dance with the middle-aged women visiting the Big City from southwest Missouri or Ohio. I followed the buzzing group with a shrug; the person who had brought me to dinner left claiming a headache, and since I’ll dance to just about anything, it sounded like a good idea. My indifference turned to awe when I saw the club’s square-lit, multi-colored dance floor—yes, just like Saturday Night Fever. I didn’t drink, I didn’t talk to the other partiers, I didn’t really care when one of the hired-gun Tonys made me his unwilling dance partner for an hour—I just danced. When “The Best of My Love” played, I recognized it instantly, but what’s more, as I nestled my body in its intoxicating groove, felt it pulse on my skin, I knew it was the emblem of my new life in this exquisite city of concrete canyons and trees. As I danced, it was as if no one else could hear this siren’s song of living life, living it full and well.
Since then it’s cropped up on other dance floors, when my date hung uncertainly to the side and I, as soon as the song played, began to distinctly not care so much what he thought. Or elsewhere, like blaring out of someone’s car window when I’m trudging by, head stuck in bank balances or unfinished conversations or the cold-sweat dread of someday reaching middle age. I can’t remember exactly where else, but it’s there, the soundtrack of a future in which anything is possible.
Now, as I type, I skip a track ahead on my internet radio station. A blast of horns. Sunshine through clouds. My mother has always said, you’re always wanting more than you’ve got. The summer of ’77 surely wasn’t the first time she admonished me that way, but when I hear this song, I remember how to want what I’ve got.
Tuesday, February 07, 2006
This giant-ass gerbera daisy was revolving limpidly over the Mag Mile last night.
Did you know gerbera daisies were discovered in the Transvaal (South Africa) in the 19th century?
I don't know what this has to do with Saks Fifth Avenue, Garretts Popcorn, the Peninsula Hotel, or any other Boule Mich. outfits.
A daisy convention, conference on seminal South African botanists, or Laugh-In night at RL?
It's still not spring.
Thursday, February 02, 2006
I love the colors in the Loop when it's just dusk.
The angles there seem devastatingly sharpened.
You can have your Rockies, your capes, your Appalachians that farrow down to the gentle hills of Kentucky, your craggy sea-sprayed shorelines.
Sometimes geometry that's man-made is exquisite, too.