Friday, December 31, 2010

Lady Rockford, Children At Your Feet

On a Thursday evening this past August I met my friend at the Oak Street Beachstro after work. It was late in the month, so instead of the brutally humid air, perfumed by pungent storm drains, that typifies early August in Chicago, the night was mild, gentle. September was just hours away.

My friend and I sat at a table from which we could watch the lake and the bristling palm trees that the Park District stuffed into dumpster-sized planters. The Beachstro is an open-air bar/restaurant that aims for a louche, Margaritaville vibe but still serves a market price filet and mixes Manhattans for the septugenarian retired bankers and anestheslogists and their preserved wives who live in the high rises overlooking Lake Shore Drive -- a world away from the metallic bikinis and Eighties cover bands just up the coast on the big fake boat at North Avenue Beach. A temporary sun deck perched on the edge of a manmade beach that's overshadowed by skyscrapers, it's, in a word, an anomaly. I like it because it is one of the few places one can sit next to the water in Chicago in a chair, at a table, and with a drink.

We met there a few times over the summer this year, a tradition we started in 2009 when my friend realized that her friend is the general manager there. That's a boon when you want to sip Coronas by the lake at Gold Coast prices. We'd been catching up for an hour or so, discussing, as she and I are wont to do, this road called life and its curves and potholes. We were chatting with the aforementioned manager, as direct and polite a guy as you'd expect to manage a restaurant at the crossroads of city beachfront and old money and nouveau riche, when a middle-aged British lady woman approached our table to speak with him. She was determined to express to my friend’s manager friend that the service at the Oak Street Beachstro was very good. Very good.

She had more to share than how much she enjoyed the salmon dinner, this fiercely positive Mrs. Londoner-now-in-Rockford, IL-who-is-really-an-Essex-girl (just like the famous chef Jamie Oliver "—well, he is an Essex boy," she told us). In fact, Lady Rockford ("that's what they call me," she told us) appeared with downright creepy timing: just after an almost-perfectly-round pink moon rose out of Lake Michigan, and just before an unexpected ten-minute fireworks display over Navy Pier nearby.

Once she vowed that the Beachstro's service was among the best she'd experienced, here or in England, it turned out that Lady Rockford was there to remind us of a few things. How gorgeous the night was, how we are leading charmed lives, how we are blessed here in America, because she has done food service work in the Ukraine (?) and they are really hard up over there, they have nothing, and we have everything. We are blessed! She was put out by her parents at age fifteen, you see, and so she went up to London and worked. She knows the value of work, learned it then, yes indeed, she did. Especially when she worked in the Ukraine, because let me tell you, they have it pretty bad in the Ukraine. Bad.

“I work hard. You work hard! I can tell you all work hard, and here you are, enjoying how hard you've worked in this wonderful place!” Her eyes looked into each of ours.

I started to get cold chills from the utter aptness of oracular oration, because just moments before, my friend and I had been discussing how towering mountains of bills and people who don’t get us are ultimately outweighed by the opportunities we have and the people who surround us who do get us and the joy within the continual task to learn to understand ourselves.

“Look around you,” Lady Rockford said, “just look at this. We have it good!”

So I did. I saw the moon gently lighting a path on the water, the river of headlights on Lake Shore Drive, the dark, trapezoidal Hancock Tower. I saw the palm trees springing out of their sturdy flower-filled planters, thriving there on the concrete, and I could hear the lake’s waves lapping at the manmade beach. I saw things made and placed where they don’t belong, but somehow still fitting there.

Then the moment dissolved, and refocused into a more typically absurd encounter with a garrulous stranger. Lady Rockford described her one spectacular U-turn in the middle of Michigan Avenue, which I think happened when her husband’s retina detached (?) and they had to go see the “amazing” doctor in Water Tower Place who was just “amAZING" and took such good care of him and that’s how Lady R learned to drive in downtown Chicago, don’t you know?

I'm not one to question good fortune (or I try not to be), and I think mysterious ways should be left to be mysterious, lest they be so dissected and diagrammed that they become normal. But as I rode my bike home beside the lake, still holding its moonpath to the horizon, with the city glittering behind me and the final fireworks winging overhead, I suddenly thought of how Emily asks the Stage Manager in the play Our Town, “do human beings realize life as they live it? Every—every minute?”

No, Stage Manager replies, "The saints and poets, maybe they do some."

But I think some of us ordinary human beings do. Not every minute, of course. And, actually, not even as the final minutes of a year tick away. I think it's a compulsory act, the December 31 realization, the kind of taking stock that happens before medical exams and weddings and living room furniture purchases.

But some of us maybe can realize in random minutes during the 14th or 9th or 36th week of the year, when the leaves on a tree are blown just so, or a toddler smiles in the airport, or when a chattering stranger and the moon and the fireworks and the manmade mountains inexplicably align.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Round And Round

Last Saturday morning I volunteered at Chicago City Farm. The opportunity surfaced via One Brick, which is a sort of clearinghouse for volunteer opportunities in Chicago. Delcared as "volunteering made easy," One Brick is ideally suited to folks busy or not sure where to share your time/talents with others. (Learn and do at

City Farm is an initiative of a Chicago urban reuse program known as the Resource Center (, located in what's probably the ultimate crucible of gentrification, along Clybourn at Division, where the easternmost block of the Cabrini Green public housing development meets the westernmost block of Gold Coast retail comforts (Starbucks, Dominicks). The last remaining once-ivory-colored Cabrini tower overlooks the garden; from its grilled windows, I imagine it is also possible to watch shoppers stroll into Starbucks for half-skim lattes and shaken iced passion teas and doggedly push carts teetering with groceries out of Dominicks. And I'd like to think that City Garden must look like a rare geode from up there, green shape encircled in a crust of dun-colored stone.

The sustainable vegetable farm produces thirty kinds of tomatoes alone. The bounty is sold to local chefs and at the Logan Square Farmers Market on Saturdays. There's also a brisk walk-up business on weekends, and there's even a honey-rich beehive. Explaining that the lot used to be a gas station, the lead farmer described how the vegetables, fruit, and herbs are all grown in composted soil that's essentially the decomposed leavings from the same fancy restaurants that do business with the farm. Dinner remains and kitchen scraps are collected by the Resource Center; the compost is trucked in from a sister location of the Resource Center. Everything operates on a cycle at the City Farm.

There's a kind of edible weed that we were told to not to pull called purslane. The small-leafed succulent plant has a, well, succulent look and is indeed succulent. I tasted a few leaves during the morning; purslane has quite a tang and a curious but not annoying gummy quality. Found the world over, the plant isn't actually a pesty or invasive organism. It's used in traditional Chinese medicine for infections and sores, and no less than ancient Roman philosopher Pliny the Elder revered it as a talisman, advising followers to wear it in amulet form to ward off evil. Thoreau wrote about dining off of it in his primitive cabin by Walden Pond. In fact, it's a companion plant, a beneficial weed. In my limited gardening-out-of-planters experience, I've basically pawed out anything that I didn't seed or plant in my garden, not knowing that beneficial weeds act many roles: repelling pests by masking the non-weed plants' scent with their own, or using that scent to attract needed insects; burrowing rootways for other plants to follow; directly plugging nutrients into the soil and providing extra moisture. With its thick spreading leaves, purslane creates low cover over the soil, engineering a "humid microclimate" for vegetation growing by its side. The City Farm farmer didn't explain all of this, since we had to get down to actually avoiding the purslane and pulling out the not-companion weeds. I'm glad I followed my usual Wiki-ddiction and looked it up, since I have been pulling purslane out of my own garden for years. Now I am going to top some salads with it. And even in a week, I think that leaving it in the sidewalk planters has given the flowers a late-summer boost.Or I perhaps I have just imagined that. Regardless, I like the idea that what's sprouting in my yard is the same stuff that's growing in Gdansk, Greece, and Gainesville.

Our work at City Farm cycled us around the lot, like a backward-moving clock. First, I and four others weeded a narrow row of chard which ran along the fenced edge of the land and overlooked an alley. SUVs splashed through the potholed passageway next to us as we picked and pulled. Then we were moved to rows of tomatoes on the southern half of the farm. By that time my hamstrings and quads were aching from squatting, so I sat myself down in the mulch and enjoyed the meditative repetition of pull-pile-throw, pull-pile-throw, and nibbled on purslane now and then. At one point I spied one of the other volunteers, a lanky dude who had biked there, probably (and yes, I am stereotyping) from someplace like Logan Square, chowing on handfuls of purslane. I imagined him rolling out of bed after a late night someplace west of Western, hopping on the bike, breakfastless and slightly dehydrated, for this opportunity-- something I might have done myself only a couple of years ago. This morning, however, I had had an English muffin and coffee at home, and brought a banana in my bag with my gardening gloves. Times have changed.

Next we were moved to carrots, and that involved more careful purging since the fringey tops of those plants were lush and delicate. By then, the sun was out and the work became more laborious and sweaty, but I was working more efficiently because I had identified the two major interlopers in the vegetable beds. The first I called grass because it was the same stalky stuff that would pop out of the lawn when I was a kid, the stuff that we'd put in our teeth and pretend to be hillbillies chewing stereotypically on a stem. The other was something else we prized as children playing in the yard, clover. At least it looked like the tiny plants from which I'd pluck white flowers and fashion long necklaces, spending quarters of hours--a lifetime at nine, ten--carefully knotting stem to stem.

Two men and a little girl came to examine and buy vegetables from the lead farmer. The sun moved into noon. The carrot weeding continued until the One Brick event leader called out to us. We need to pick a hundred beets for the next day's Logan Square farmers market, she told us. Does anyone want to help? I was ready to move on to a less mundane task by then -- procuring, not removing. Some of us scrambled over to the beet plot, where sixty or so had already been gathered. Make sure they're big, like this, we were told, "this" being the size of a large peach. I only unearthed apricot-sized beets, and so I didn't ultimately contribute to the harvest. But it felt good to seek and and gently ease something out of the ground rather than repetitively scan and yank.

We were led to another, more tangled tomato plot next. There weren't many ripe tomatoes there, but smooth green baubles were visible in among the riotous vines, and verdant rows of green leaves with magenta spines edged the tomato rows: radishes. Our farmer had explained that City Farm practices interplanting, where two different crops are grown together to maximize space and productivity. I realized that I have probably seen this happen on a larger scale on road trips through Wisconsin farmland and through Virginia and Kentucky, and Indiana -- maybe even around the 5 in California between LA and San Francisco. Barley, corn, and soybeans, squash, pumpkins, I've read, all can be interplanted. Here, we had to be careful not to pull radishes from their cozy soil nests. The tops grew together even more thickly than the carrots had over in their plot, and the weeds here grew in a confounding interweaving with the radish plants -- shoots, tendrils, stems and leaves of the heroic little protagonists sometimes indistinguishible from the invaders. Just as I approached a particularly Byzantine patch of good versus evil, we were called to gather by the farm's tent, where we could rest and sip water from an Igloo cooler. Our shift was over.

Though I felt some typical Type-A disappointment at leaving a task unfinished, I was ready for a cool drink and some lunch that was more than a few tart nibbles of purslane. It would have synchronous and, yes, symbolic to dine on what came from the ground in which I was just tugging and squirming. But I can't afford the money and time for a table at Frontera or the Ritz-Carlton dining room or any of the other restaurants that are supplied by City Farm , so I joined the One Brick group for some mediocre bar food on Wells Street. I had a salad that probably came from a bag.

Later that day, I weeded my own yard garden and planted a few fall mums to replace some summer perennials that had fried in the near-constant July heat. I nibbled on the tiny sheafs of purslane growing in the moss rose planter, and thought about my work that morning, its irreducible and earthy necessity, and the residents of that Cabrini tower watching the sunflowers near the western edge of City Farm sway in a breeze at dusk, and Logan Square couples and Bucktown moms, relaxed after brunch and coffeeshop visits, musing over one hundred beets at the City Farm stall at the Farmers Market, and how life goes into the ground, life comes from the ground, and goes back in, and out, over and over. And I thought about the triple-planted tomatoes and radishes and purslane, growing harmonionously in their neat muddy rows, helping each other to survive.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Now I've Been Crying Lately

This morning, this made me want to crash my head into the nearest firm surface.

This afternoon, this made my head all soppy and swollen with pride to share the name "American" with one WWII veteran from Maine:

Thursday, August 05, 2010

I'll Stand My Ground (And I) Won't Back Down

I've never attended law school, but I had to study and grasp how the U.S. Constitution works in high school, just like everyone else (I got out of U.S. history as an undergraduate. Oops). Of course, it's not like you hold a case and the Constitution up to a light bulb and then try to trace one upon the other. But to me, the ruling by Judge Walker makes complete sense. It was steeped, after all, in the most fundamental basis of scrutiny, rational basis review. Walker ruled that same-sex marriage cannot be legally distinguished from marriage between individuals of the opposite sex. See, it's a judgement call, and why should the government --or the government via the "will of the people," the "Props" of California, for instance -- be in the business of judging the fitness of citizens for marriage? If they were, shouldn't they not allow, I don't know, murderers to marry? Felons? Known abusers? People who are grumpy in the morning and should wake up alone?

“Moral disapproval alone is an improper basis on which to deny rights to gay men and women,” Judge Walker wrote.

Supporters and admirers of Walker's decision have been falling over themselves to say that he has created a pretty damn watertight legal case that will be difficult to dissolve as it wends its way to the Supreme Court.

Walker quoted the legal precedent that “fundamental rights may not be submitted to a vote.”

How can the right for two human beings to marry, no matter who they are or how many of the same kind of sexual organs are involved in the union, be anything but fundamental? What's being asked is access to what already exists:

"Plaintiffs do not seek recognition of a new right. To characterize plaintiffs’ objective as “the right to same-sex marriage” would suggest that plaintiffs seek something different from what opposite-sex couples across the state enjoy —— namely, marriage. Rather, plaintiffs ask California to recognize their relationships for what they are: marriages."

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

No Dark Sarcasm

So, I've not been very successful at posting every day. But the folks at Nablopomo (post-modern Nablo? ...nah.) have helpfully supplied me and other procrastinators/office droolers with a daily writing prompt.

Yesterday (yes, I am still behind, but I have no farking clue what day it is anyway) the question asked to discuss a film you've never seen, and why.

I've never seen The Wall. Yes, that Wall.

Do I need to? A complete analysis exists, after all.

Why haven't I seen it? Here's a list:

1. I didn't really like or care about Pink Floyd until 2005, when I finally bought Dark Side of the Moon.
2. Then, I couldn't get enough of playing Dark Side of the Moon, so I didn't think at all about buying The Wall.
3. Or watching it.
4. I was a seventh grader when The Wall came out. My favorite movies that year were E.T. and Grease 2.
5. As a seventh grader, I saw the video on MTV. It made me anxious, but worse than the anxiety that took hold of me when mean old John Houseman hollered from the small stage in his classroom as my parents watched The Paper Chase.
6. In video, those mushy-faced schoolchildren pointlessly marching and sliding on a factory conveyer belt and falling into a vat of who-knows-what, the mean old schoolmaster with his mortarboard shouting about pudding, all played under the overall menace of "Another Brick in the Wall" ... no, thank you, I'll just return to re-enacting the "Cool Rider" scene from Grease 2.
7. I did sort of like the end of "Another Brick in the Wall," however, when the suddenly not-mushfaced schoolchildren tear down the Wall, trash the school and apparently hurl the schoolmaster into a fire. But the uprising was only the main schoolboy's daydream. Damn.
8. In seventh grade I daydreamed about becoming a fashion designer. My happiest memory from that entire school year was drawing my fashions free-hand during Social Studies, discovering that I could do it without the aid of Fashion Plates.
9. I'm 99% certain that, eight years and hundreds of miles and dozens of prospective careers later, I had to be at Marquette University Theatre to work on or be in a show during the weekend The Wall played at the Varsity Theatre.
10. Thanks to theatre, I also missed the Peter Murphy concert at the Varsity Theatre, at which I understand ol' smiley Pete played for a full twenty minutes.
11. I'm pretty sure I was running the sound board for Our Town during that concert.
12. We got so adept at our cues during the OT run that we called them before stage manager Stephanie (the real stage manager, not the character Stage Manager) could call them.
13. "I think maybe the moon's getting nearer and nearer and there'll be a biiiiiiiiiiiig 'SPLOSION."
14. I know Our Town by heart. Ayup. Raght smaht fahm.
15. In Our Town, Thornton Wilder's thoughts on mortality and immortality are delivered essentially in the narration of the Stage Manager, who, near the end of the play, guides Emily into a talking graveyard.
16. In The Wall, Roger Water's thoughts on mortality and immortality are delivered essentially through the hallucinations of self-punishing character Pink, who, near the end of the film, is sentenced in a hallucinated trial by a giant talking butthole.
17. I realized today as I unwillingly thought about Lindsay Lohan's sentencing for violation of her probation, that I don't really like a lot of world the way it is right now.
18. But I'd better appreciate the here and now because someday there'll be a future in which I will long for here and now.
19. That came out kind of grim. Not unlike what I think The Wall is like.
20. Wait. Thornton Wilder said all of this much better in Our Town:

Emily: Do any human beings realize life while they live it? Every, every minute?

Stage Manager: No -- Saints and poets maybe -- they do some.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

How The Music Can Free Her, Whenever It Starts

Recently, I've been waking up with a different classic rock song of dubious quality in my head every morning. Today was “Everybody Wants Some!!" by Van Halen. Am I supposed to portend something portentous from this? Or is this rote repeat, this involuntary shuffle just the over-workings of an over-worked brain that absorbs overmuch culture throughout its waking hours? Do I hear the songs sometime earlier in the day, while doing something else, as I indulge in my daily addiction to obscure classic rock and pop and/or oldies internet radio stations?

I mean, I do listen for upwards of six, seven hours weekdays. My latest discovery/love is the self-deprecating ("It's radio sausage. It's great, but you don't want to know what went into the making of it!") Great Big Radio. This station moves from authentic and obscure oldiesness like Blues Magoos and Searchers to cheeseball crap you haven't heard in fifteen or more years like Marc Cohn and, I swear to God, Icehouse. GBR is not your run-of-the-mill classic-cock-rock-rock factory cranking out "Layla" and "Sultans of Swing" twice daily, each. Whoever programs this thing is totally putting in the hours, dude. And is sort of a crazy genius. But I digress.

So, as light dawns lately, lyrics and riffs that I've possibly heard in the preceding eighteen hours somehow nestle inside my cranial folds and grooves, only to spring out, as if activated by my alarm, in the early morning, and sing like a drunk showboat at karaoke night. Then the tunes spin mindlessly in my mind until I force something else into my auditory canals -- NPR, iPod, birdsong, something.

Maybe the content of my mysterious daybreak brain radio sets the tone for the day. Yesterday it played “Don’t Mean Nothin’” by Richard Marx. Just the refrain. No, the end of the refrain: “It don’t mean nothin’/No victim, no crime/It don’t mean nothin’/Til you sign it on the dotted line (DON’T! MEAN! NOTHIN’!/ DON’T! MEAN! NOTHIN’!).”

At the behest of the lion-maned crooner (of the Chicago North Shore, btw), I did try to cultivate some peace and quiet in mind, some p’s and q’s of that variety, to chill and not take anything lobbed my way too seriously. I mean, I think I have been having control issues lately. I am trying to control EVERYthing: situations, people, time, matter, water, animal, vegetable, mineral. I have been so serious -- and (probably as a result) so stymied. Massive storms rumbling overhead have thwarted my efforts, particularly yesterday. What do you do when that pedicure you are determined to get in a salon because, the night before in the kitchen, you made a mockery/mess of your own paint job, is foiled by tornado sirens blaring and shoes that are so wet you cannot even walk in them? You stay put in the subway tunnel and try a different, thicker shade when you get home, and calmly polish those piggies in the bathroom, not all hunched up over a chair, giving yourself a case of waistband gas. Going a day with bare toes is okay, not ministering to every inch of my sartorial self is okay, for cry-yi-yi, as they say in Wisconsin.



As with deep-sleep dreams, I really can't remember any of the other songs implanted in my head, but I know that they are of the same variety. Let’s see…there was…well. How about I just pretend that I had “Do You Believe In Magic” turning on the cranial turntable, because that’s what just popped into my mind. That would be a good way to start the day? Open to magic. Open to possibilities. “It’s Maaa-GIC!”

Or what if it was that Tarzan song? You know, the one that goes “Oh-oh ohwa ohwa ohwa oh-oh-oh!” “Tarzan Boy.” I just Wikipedia-ed it. Made by Italians: no wonder. And I looked up the lyrics, too.

Jungle life
I'm far away from nowhere
On my own like Tarzan Boy
Hide and seek
I play along while rushing cross the forest
Monkey business on a sunny afternoon
Jungle life
I'm living in the open
Native beat that carries on
Burning bright (William Blake reference? Nice!)
A fire the blows the signal to the sky
I sit and wonder does the message get to you?

And you know what? If my internal FM dial lands on this song, and it's rotating in my noodle tomorrow at 7 am (and this is likely, because it is a sincerely lousy song), well, message-wise maybe that's not a bad thing.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Paranoia, The Destroyer

I am despairing because I think the Internet is making me unable to write anything substantial any more.

In fact, I am fighting the urge to just turn this musing into a 30-word status update on ****ing Facebook.

I read, read, read all day long. Til the cows are snoozing in the barn while the horse is out of it. I read everything everyone else is out there writing. I feed, feed, feed my brain, on this one kind of grass -- but nothing seems to come out the other end. At least not as systematically and effortlessly stuff comes out of horses and cows.

Can't I

think, express, argue, amend, ameliorate, postulate, theorize, translate, propose, propel, excoriate, deny, flatter, exhort, proselytize, prophesize, pontificate, elaborate, discuss, dismiss, disseminate, delineate, respond, reiterate, retort, gab, communicate, create

in more than 30 words anymore?

Instead, today I read perpetuate the one, endless surf, reading this, a story very much about little preparation and much distraction ahead of time and a lot of blame and dissection of the matter afterward.

It worries me.

And so, I continue to prepare, prepare, prepare to... ?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Paper Tiger

"The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward."

--Amelia Earhart

Sunday, May 16, 2010

I've Got Believers Believing Me

The story behind my current Internet radio addiction, KCDX.

I like the thought of a lone radio tower transmitting an uninterrupted stream of comforting classic-rock gems from the middle of a desert. No commercials. No hype. No attitude. No humans. Just Rock & Roll.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

This Is Thirteen

After watching the surprisingly gut-stirring documentary Anvil! The Story of Anvil the other night, I've had creativity on my mind. Specifically, what one expects from a creative life. How do you live it? How do you bridle your creative impulses? How do you explode your sense of security? How do you bind the stable proton that's a workaday/watch-TV life with the free-wheeling neutron that's going, wheeeee, I'm gonna make stuff, I'm gonna be a star!

Lips (nee Steve Kudlow) is a sunny-tempered Toronto native and, some would say, heavy metal trailblazer as lead singer of Anvil. In the film, we watch Lips and his childhood friend and bandmate, stoic drummer Robb Reiner, struggle with this nucleus of creative self. At the same time they chase the heavy metal carrot, touring and recording their thirteenth album, This Is Thirteen, they are beaten by the stick of life. Lips and Robb have families, mortgages, jobs -- and an unshakeable commitment to make art, to rock and f**king roll til they can't no more.

And that begs the question, then, what is success? Anvil was on a fast-track to fame but poor management and subpar recordings (they released over a dozen albums since the early 1980s) stretched to a trail of business ineptitude, scrabbling promotion, and dreary day jobs. Nevertheless, Lips and co. -- Lips especially-- kept the fire of their imaginations stoked, even though they play genre of rock that's seen its heyday go, even in the face of a comically-inept tour of Spinal Tap proportions that's documented in the movie. Despite being considered too old to realize their rock and roll fantasy.

Anvil's dream is no fantasy, and no ironic experiment or gimmicky fourth act that was spat from a reality tv producer's cynical gullet. It's the real deal -- the same thing I thought when I came across this week's Internet-to-talk-show-couch sensation.

Twelve year-old (this is almost thirteen) Greyson Michael Chance expertly and dashingly raises the roof playing and singing a (yep) Lady Gaga song at a sixth-grade talent festival. First, somebody award a Bronze Star for bravery to this kid for performing a potentially swishy and punch-inducing number in front of a middle school assembly.

Moreover, Greyson -- by decades on the other side of success late-night crises of faith and unforgettable carousals in hotel rooms from Anvil -- has got it in his soul.

I'll let Lips explain what "it" is:

"I love to entertain – it’s in my soul. You’re in the same room as the people who love you. The foundation of this business comes down to the fans – the people that love you. Without those people you really are nowhere.

Reality is that we are not getting any younger. Time doesn’t move backwards – it moves forward. You run out of time. You’ve got to do it now.

Everything changes to something else.

Most important things – relationships. Where you have been. Experiences you have had.

Music lasts forever.

That’s the art.

That’s what's important."

...So sayeth the dude who used to play his flying-V with a female pleasure apparatus. Which isn't any more silly and savvy and profound than pounding out a stripped-down and de-popped pop ballad on a Steinway, oblivious to the breathless astonishment of tween girls.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Toys, Toys, Toys In The Attic

Today in 1970s Advertisements:

I totally had that See 'N Say. And maybe the baby doll stroller.

Now is when I should probably say a little something about birthdays, right, it being a month out from my own day that is my day.

A guaranteed happy birthday used to mean getting exactly what you asked for -- the See 'N Say, the baby doll stroller and the new baby doll. And maybe there were a few surprises (the shopping cart, too!?) thrown in.

A guaranteed happy birthday now? Hmmm. It means waking up feeling alright. Soft sunshine. Smiles from people you care about, and giving them back. Looking at the shimmering rush-hour traffic snaking up and down the city, but feeling languid inside, knowing you belong where you are, or that you are getting (inching, speeding, coasting, whatever) to where you belong.

Getting exactly what you asked for.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Morning Has Broken

Why is the start of a new day, that essential salve for the painful itch of bad days and being human, described with more or less violent imagery?

I sought out the etymology of the phrase ("look up," y'all--see yesterday's post), but first was blammo-ed in the face with some breaking hype--I mean, news (that is as relevant as the price of tea in China. Or guns in Texas).

I couldn't find anything really definitive, even in the Oxford Dictionary, and that was the OED database accessible only through a University login. "Daybreak" first appeared around 1530, as in some old dude writing " At daye breake, au jour creuer." So, did the French come up with it? Why does day "break." I've seen a few sunups and there's no crack, no forceful burst or acute expulsion of the our closest star.

Today, when this unhappy event and this other desperate act happened (on the heels of these earlier two events), I vaguely grasped how the start of a new day does not bring comfort or refreshment to some. For some, dawns do not break but rupture, not marking the start of forward action but the beginning of the end.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Wasted Days And Wasted Nights

I'm a week behind. But when aren't I? So, it's quite fine that I start a daily-blogging-for-a-month project six days late. I'm grateful that this nudge (they call it an "epicenter") even exists. It is time to exercise these muscles, and, much as one might dedicate oneself to build stronger triceps and traps, muscles that make the words go need to be strength-trained as well. Resistance and isometrics, in repeated (daily) reps, to...make the words go. Development of good form instead of recruiting of exterior muscle groups (thesaurus and Wikipedia), and controlling the weight of ideas, instead of allowing them to be huffed out in a workout flurry.

This month's theme at NaBloPoMo (which looks like stuff from the periodic table of elements to me) is "Look up."

I did several times today, mostly from the computer screen at a wall, or a person, or at nothing at all. On the way downtown, I looked up to the sky. Then I composed a sort-of haiku in my head. I chanted the words the rest of the bike ride so I wouldn't forget, and confirmed length (since I spent many months re-writing Moliere's Alexandrines, I instinctively go for twelve, not seventeen syllables) and wrote it once I got to a computer.

I saw three white objects in the azure sky: a jet, a bird, the moon.

So this counts. Day one (six). Done.

And now here's some Freddy Fender -- who, as an American-born Tejano superstar, might also speak out about things going on in Arizona these days, if he was around (R.I.P.).

No more of these. Thanks, NaBloPoMo!

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Whatever Happened to All This Season's Losers of the Year?

I realized today that I really need to finally, finally see Cheap Trick play live.

Even if it's amid the dusky trees and white wine/Crate and Barrel set at Ravinia.

Oh, to hear that sweet, sweet key change at the final verse while laying on North Shore grass in July!

Monday, March 01, 2010

She's Got Big Thoughts, Big Dreams

I lead a glamorous life in the big, glittering city.

I was thinking this on Friday evening as I strutted across The Magnificent Mile carrying a bag full of dirty lunchware and two furnace filters.

You Don't Own Me

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Oh What A World We Live In

Not only have these reliable but gross-tasting treats been brought crashingly into the SMS Text Era, your major American candy heart manufacturer (though the photo can't quite capture it) has started using some sort of computer program to inscribe the edible messages in an LED-kinda font.

So they look like they are lifted right off the screen of your Sidekick. Or, ur Sidkck.

Hold My Life

Though the sky was gray this morning, I happened to look up at a street-side tree near my office on Chicago Avenue at the right time. Someone nailed a couple of two-bys to each other, and to an upper branch to, apparently, cradle a nest, a fairly large one composed not just of twigs and raffia, but larger stuff -- we're talking sticks, branch-size stuff. This was a substantial homestead. In a neighborhood of smart highrise buildings thrusting plush condominiums up into the sky, this rustic penthouse suite fit right in.

I like to think that some tenderhearted (and weatherproofed) soul spied the nest teetering on the edge of disaster, and took steps to save it. There's been a lot of construction in the area, so perhaps a bit of scaffolding biffed the tree and dislodged the nest, or, I don't know, some crane action put the avian residence in peril. Whatever the cause, a Good Samaritan grabbed some leftover lumber (or perhaps made a Home Depot run) and a ladder and constructed a ballast so that whatever is living or will be living inside this nest will survive the winter.

While I'd be keen to get hold of a ladder myself and climb up to see what, if anything, is resting inside it, instead I'll be looking up when I walk toward work, in case one day, once spring gently envelops the city, a beak or a wing or a whole entire tiny bird might emerge from this delicate domicile.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

...I Don't Want To Fall In, Though

I do hope this adventurer will be alright and that this tale will have a happy ending. But I also couldn't help but immediately think of this song while reading that a climber fell 1,500 feet into the crater of the Mount St. Helens.

He fell. Into a volcano.

And You Shall Dwell in the Maze of the Mule Forever, Starchild

I didn't actually recall having seen the 1979 Disney space epic The Black Hole --and I definitely did, and it definitely was in the theatre, not later on incessant replays on a nascent HBO-- until hearing this unidentifiable P-Funk song the other day.

Only the Starchild Clinton and his alien et al could connect rump-bumping funk with terra incognita, the incalculable void, with -- Ernest Borgnine?? Sure, a black hole could be a, um, "vacant booty."

The movie itself doesn't merely jump on the Star Wars bandwagon (looking at you, original Battlestar Galactica). The first Disney film to garner a non-G-rating treads on more existential ground, depicting the space crew eventually and blindly descending into the eponymous black hole (that's no spoiler; c'mon) and possibly into heaven (or hell, or both); reading the synopsis brings Lost to mind, actually, with its push-pull between faith and fate, humans' superior will and the supernatural. I remember it being strangely quiet and weird for a space-age movie aimed at kids over nine like myself.

And while The Black Hole had the voice of Slim Pickens, it's P-Funk's presence that makes me go, What in the wide, wide world-a sports is-a goin' on here?

Monday, February 15, 2010

Look At The Moonless Night And Tell Me

I'll admit it: there's something right about walking in an evening snow shower and hearing that Dan Fogelberg song* no one knows you downloaded.

*it was for a show. I swear!

Monday, February 08, 2010

Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me

My grandmother, Charlotte Patricia Murphy Powell -- indomitably independent, confoundingly stubborn, endlessly supportive. Definitely unforgettable.