Halloween Hijinks

I hope you all had a fun Halloween. We started celebrating the scary holiday by attending Halloweensteen, a Bruce Springsteen tribute concert performed annually by Chicago native singer/songwriter Michael McDermott. It appears to be a beloved Chicago tradition that I had never heard of before with many repeat attendees. Now I know why. The show exceeded our expectations. There’s a big difference between a bunch of local musicians forming a tribute band to mimic an artist’s music and a professional musician like McDermott assembling other professional musicians to interpret and perform another professional’s songs.

Our seats were outstanding. The last time my wife and I were at the excellent and classy Park West concert hall, we stood and swayed through a show by Brit pop-rocker Dave Edmunds. However, my wife has knee issues worse than me, so I called ahead to check and see if we could be guaranteed seats. Well, not only were we provided seats, but they were just off to the side of the stage on a padded bench in a handicappped section. We had a great view.

There was a bit of a problem as drinking progressed at the 2+ hour show. I’ll explain.

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For One Night, I Was Young Again

There was a time when I thought nothing of going out at 10PM to start my night out. These days, if it is dark out, regardless of the actual time, even during a solar eclipse in the middle of the day, I want to go to bed. Last week, I was experiencing some anxiety about heading into Chicago on a work night to go see a punk rock concert with my son. It seemed so wrong on so many levels for someone my age.

But I sucked it up and drove to Chicago during rush hour. To my surprise and relief, I made it on time! My son advised me we were going to take a bus. I had never ridden a Chicago Transit Authority bus. In fact, we were supposed to take the very bus that was half a block away and about to leave. We ran, and I felt young and fast once again as we caught the bus. My balky left knee not only held up, but it felt better than ever after the short sprint. As we entered the bus, I wondered how many altercations I would be in as we rode. I had prepared for the evening by not shaving for a few days in a futile effort to look tougher. As it turned out, we didn’t get in even one scrape, although I swear a matronly grandmother gave me the stinkeye as I snagged the last open seat before she did.

We had a casual, relaxing meal before the concert, but my anxiety rose again as we walked to the concert hall. This would be a concert by the Australian punk trio The Chats. If that name sounds familiar, you may have been one of a couple people who read my post about their latest release. I figured I would be the oldest in the concert, but it turned out there were plenty of olds at the show. Being a senior with hearing loss was probably good. The Chats were loud. Take a listen.

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Yesterday Was a Weird Day

I started yesterday with a Wordle that I swore I had solved in 2 … then 3 … then 4 … then 5 … then 6 … then nope.

Was I becoming cognitively impaired, or was it just bad luck guessing? Any regular reader of this blog will choose the former. I even harbored thoughts of it as I got word that yet another of my cousins who is my age now is showing signs of dementia. But I chalked it up to bad luck guessing and got ready to continue my career in the cinema.

No, I wasn’t hired as an usher at the local Megaplex. I had a paying gig as a film extra playing a funeralgoer at Graceland Cemetery. Not Elvis’s final resting place in Graceland in Tennessee as I had originally thought, but Graceland Cemetery in Chicago.

Traffic was light and I made it to the Chicago cemetery faster than Google said I would. I parked and had a distance to walk to the chapel where the filming would take place. That’s when I hitchhiked for the first time in my life.

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New Music for Old Rockers – Chatting You Up

It was the early 80s and punk music was fading fast. Even The Clash had evolved into incorporating more diverse genres in their music as evidenced by 1981’s “This is Radio Clash” and 1982’s “Rock the Casbah.” Did they sell out? No, but they did change with the times … except not so much in concert. They were still a nasty punk band live. I recall my boss at the time telling me about attending a Clash concert in 1982 at the Aragon Ballroom, affectionately called the Aragon Brawlroom by Chicagoans. Back then, you would want to wear old shoes to any concert there as there would be puddles of beer and urine throughout the space. Anyway, my boss told me that he was close to the stage and was spat upon by The Clash. My reaction at the time was, “Lucky.”

Fast forward to the 2020s, and I swore punk was dead and buried. Oh, sure, there were supposedly some punk banks still around, but I didn’t think they really had embraced the punk sound as defined by Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, The Ramones, and early Clash. For me, punk was RIPing, until I heard The Chats.

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Where am I Concerting Next?

Not consorting, which sounds more fun, but concerting, which I define as the act of going to a concert. Merriam Webster may disagree, but what the hell does he know? He still owes me for drinks that one night as we argued the merits of gerunds until the wee hours of the morning.

Anyway, I enjoyed hitting the road with my youngest daughter a few weeks back to catch a Lumineers/Caamp concert followed by a Lord Huron show. The 4th of July weekend is typically a good time to see a free concert in the greater Chicagoland area. I had hopes for a show at Frontier Days in suburban Arlington Heights. Tonight they feature Ace Frehley of Kiss. Could be fun, but I am attending a “dance concert” in Chicago that my middle daughter is in as part of Noumenon Dance Ensemble. So, I can “kiss” seeing Ace Frehley goodbye.

On Saturday night, Jason Scheff, who had a cup of coffee with the band Chicago, is performing at Frontier Days. We have a neighborhood party starting in the late afternoon that should extend well past the point of when Jason Scheff takes the stage in Arlington Heights to a chorus of “Who?”

Finally, 4th of July Eve brings that vocalist Steve guy from Journey to the Frontier Days stage. No, not Steve Perry with the great voice and all the hits. This will be Steve Augeri who took over vocals for Journey and accrued no hits after Steve Perry left. Steve #2 singing the hits made famous by Steve #1 will keep me from making the journey to Arlington Heights on Sunday night.

But I do have an upcoming free concert on my calendar.

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Walking in Chicago

If you listen to Fox News or Trump, you would think that walking in Chicago is impossible without being shot, but it is actually a lovely city to walk. According to CBS News, as of February this year, Chicago was only 28th on the list for most murders per capita among cities in the US, virtually tied with Birmingham in Republican Alabama. Of the 27 cities with higher per capita murder rates, 14 are located in Republican-dominated states like Alabama, Louisiana, Arkansas, Indiana, South Carolina, Florida, Tennessee, and Missouri. So, if you ever get to Chicago, take a walk and see the city.

Friends of mine did just that the other night. I have no idea how far they walked from their parked car to City Winery, but they ended up at a Marc Cohn concert. You probably remember Cohn from his memorable hit song, “Walking in Memphis.” Such a beautiful song.

Now if that was my signature song (I wish!), at some point in the song I would sing, “Walking in (insert city name I’m performing in).” Audiences eat that up. I was surprised to hear he didn’t sing a random “Walking in Chicago” at least once. Maybe that’s why Cohn played to hundreds at City Winery rather than 60,000+ at Soldier Field on the lakefront with a laser light show and smoke machines.

As I reflected on my friend’s concert experience, it amazed me to realize that if not for a lack of musical ability, an abrasive singing voice, and a low aptitude for songwriting, my friends may have been listening to me in concert at City Winery rather than Marc Cohn. So close.

I’m Not L’oven This Weather

It’s been cold here. A blogger I follow recently referred to such bitter cold as Brass Monkey Weather. We’ve had our fill of brass monkey weather recently in the Chicago area. Just yesterday, we endured temps of -14F/-25C. During weather this cold, I like to use our oven as much as I can. After I am done with the oven, I open it a bit and let hot air (not from me) flood the kitchen. I love that feeling of warmth enveloping me. But I can’t anymore since my dog set himself on fire. He’s ruined it for me, because now we have these on the oven.

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Open Water Swimming Was Closed

As you must know by now (since I post constantly about it), I am swimming across Lake Michigan this summer, primarily via laps in our small backyard pool.

Out of sheer boredom, I have been trying to schedule some open water swimming. But Saturday, my attempt to actually swim across the actual Lake Michigan was actually rebuffed as Lake Michigan was actually closed! Actually! I took our youngest daughter to stay with our oldest daughter on Saturday for a sister-bonding sleepover, and we stopped at beautiful Montrose Beach in Chicago on the way for a quick swim.

Montrose is a beautiful urban beach, complete with sand dunes. But on Saturday, it was closed because of a brisk wind from the northeast creating some dangerous riptides. I still wanted to give it a try. Where were the “my body, my choice” anti-vaxxers when I needed them to back me up?

Anyway, we walked and relaxed a bit on the beach instead of swimming. I had already gotten some laps in my pool, and after a half mile on Sunday (that’s 175 laps!), I find myself here in Lake Michigan.

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Is Chicago Dangerous?

In my real life, I have a customer who is terrified of Chicago. I’m guessing he listened to Trump and Fox News as they have framed Chicago like a war zone. My customer would always warn me about staying away from Chicago. We love to visit the city, and have never felt in danger. Chicago is truly one of the great cities in the world. I finally told my customer in no uncertain terms about what a wonderful city Chicago is, and I haven’t heard anything about Chicago from him since then. Good! If I want to hear lies, I’ll tune in directly to Fox News.

Look, Chicago is a big city, and murders happen, mostly with guns coming from deep red Republican Indiana. Damn Hoosiers! Chicago has almost 2.7 million people within its city limits including my 2 oldest children. They live in a neighborhood that 30 years ago was dangerous. Now, that neighborhood is absolutely delightful … except for the rats. The rats chewed through wiring in my son’s car, and my daughter has seen rats in her apartment’s basement while doing laundry. I noticed this rat-related sign during our last visit to see our kids in Chicago.

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Shirts Off, Chicago!

Summer has arrived early in Chicago with temps around 90F/32C this weekend. And you know what that means – shirtless driving! Come on, it’s easy. First step, take off that shirt.

And then jump in your car and start driving or riding.

Flags are totally optional.

Ladies are welcome to participate, too. Just stay legal …

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Lollapalooza Coolness Test

Lollapalooza returns to Chicago in 2021 after being Covid-cancelled in 2020. The line-up for the 3 day music festival has been released. I heard on my transistor radio that you can tell how cool you are by how many rows down the Lolla poster you can recognize acts.

Editor’s Note: The mere fact that this idiot is listening to a transistor radio negates any potential coolness gained by knowing music performers.

Hey, you pompous ass, what am I supposed to do? I suppose you want me to listen to the radio on my phone.

Editor’s Note: YES!

On my new flip phone?

Editor’s Note: Ugh, never mind.

As I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted, the word I hear is that you can consider yourself moderately musically cool if you are familiar with music acts in at least the top 7 rows of the Lolla poster. Let’s take a closer look at those first 7 rows. I have identified the acts I know with red boxes around them.

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The Return of Me & Live Music to Chicago or How I Almost Made a Huge Mistake

On Good Friday last week, we took a drive to meet our oldest daughter on Montrose Beach in Chicago on Lake Michigan. It really is a beautiful beach. How can a beach in a city of millions of people be beautiful? I dunno, but take a look for yourself.

On our way there, we passed an interesting and familiar sight. I swore I had seen something similar to this on Twitter …

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Emily Can Rot in Paris

Deep dish pizza is kind of a Chicago thing. Is it healthy? No. It’s a round disk of tomatoes & sauce on top of a glob of melted cheese packed inside of a delicious crust. Add meats and veggies to taste. There is no more delicious crust than Chicago’s own Lou Malnati’s pizza. It took me a couple of pies before it hooked me. Now, no other deep dish pie comes close for my taste because of the Malnati’s crust. Here’s a pic of a Malnati’s slice/complete meal.

But apparently there’s someone in Paris that disagrees about the deliciousness of Malnati’s pizza. Someone named Emily. Lurking about on Netflix. Here’s the headline …

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Juneteenth

June 19th, known as Juneteenth, marks the anniversary of the official end of slavery in the USA in 1865. It only took a nationwide Civil War for Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 to be enforced across the USA by 1865. I often joke that we should have let the Confederacy secede. I really don’t want anything to do with the Southern USA. But the Civil War freed people that were kept in bondage as property, so it was a noble and necessary fight. Here we are, 155 years later, and we still limit freedoms in the USA based upon the color of one’s skin.

I grew up in an all-white Chicago suburban neighborhood. I rarely saw black people except when watching Chicago Cubs baseball on WGN TV. I treasured an autograph from Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks, for decades. He was my first hero, and he was black. But in late 1965, 100 years after the first Juneteenth, Dr. Martin Luther King moved to Chicago. He was prominent in the local news for the rest of 1965 and all of 1966, leading peaceful equal rights marches through Chicago’s streets. I got a chance to see him in the summer of 1966.

I was 8 years old at the time. My father had passed away over the winter. It was just me and an overprotective, grieving mother in our family home. We were spending a day on the East Side of Chicago with extended family. How can Chicago have an East Side when it is built on the western shore of Lake Michigan? The East Side is down on the Indiana border where the land starts to curl east under Lake Michigan.

Southeast Side

 

It was a truly awful neighborhood built around now-defunct steel mills in which my maternal grandfather toiled until he died while in his 40s. I always knew when we were getting close to the East Side because I could smell it.

I was one of the younger cousins, and my older cousins who lived on the East Side decided to go see a King march in the area. I followed along just to be with my older, cool cousins. There was no way I could get lost. I was part of a huge throng of white people moving in one direction. I didn’t notice the rocks, bricks, and bottles in their hands until they started throwing them at marchers. I don’t know if my cousins threw anything. I don’t recall throwing anything. It didn’t seem right to me. But I stayed there and watched. That was wrong.

Now I am the father of 2 black young adults. I almost didn’t make it. My mother just about killed me when she heard I was at the march. Not because it was wrong to be there as part of an angry white mob, but because I could have gotten hurt.

My mother advised me and my wife against our first adoption, mainly because the child was black. We had to train my mother not to use racial slurs that she thought were endearing. But I will give her some credit. She loved all her grandchildren.

My mother is now gone, and her black grandchildren are adults that recently marched in a Black Lives Matter protest. The protest was eventually ended when tear gas cannisters were launched at marchers. Is it progress that it was the police lobbing projectiles at marchers? Is it progress that the projectiles were cannisters of tear gas and not glass bottles, bricks, or rocks? We should celebrate 155 years of Juneteenth, but also understand that we still have many years and a long way to go until all are fully free.

 

 

 

Jesus Visits the Second City

Chicago is a world-class metropolitan area, despite New York snobs looking down upon us as “The Second City.” I feel privileged to have lived in various suburbs within a short car ride of Chicago my whole life. One of the suburbs I haven’t lived in is Forest Park. It is close to Chicago as you can see here …

Forest Park

Although I have never lived there, it appears that Jesus does. Take a look …

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New Music for Old Rockers – Special Old Music Edition

So this show came to town last night …

WhiteAlbum_600x600.jpg

Again. It was here a couple months ago and sold out. Last night it sold out thanks to me and a couple friends being in the crowd. We were intrigued by the concept, but were glad our seats were by the emergency exit, just in case the show was a train wreck, and we did think that was a distinct possibility. I was especially skeptical of the inclusion of Jason Scheff who provided bass and vocals for Chicago in the 1980s when Chicago was cranking out sappy love songs.

Boy, was I wrong.

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A Reason to Love Chicago

I am grateful for living my life in the Chicagoland area for many reasons. Winter weather is not one. However, one reason is that we have Lake Michigan, a huge body of water to enjoy, with zero sharks. Take that, ocean lovers! But another is that Chicago is politically cool, sometimes in subtle ways. I was listening this morning to WXRT, still the world’s greatest radio station that you can listen to at wxrt.radio.com, and the big news they reported at 8AM was Trump’s stop in Chicago today where massive protests are expected to cause major traffic disruptions. I would be there except I am preparing to protest a local issue tonight. Anyway, the Trump visit news was followed by this set of music.

  • American Idiot by Green Day
  • Fighter by Joseph
  • Creep by Radiohead
  • Immigration Man by Crosby & Nash
  • Is She Really Going Out With Him by Joe Jackson

When I tweeted the DJ to ask if he was making a political statement, he replied that he was just “rockin’ Chicago.” Sure. Keep rockin’, man.

Concert Concerns

Lollapalooza is one of the great annual music festivals in the world, taking place over 4 days on Chicago’s beautiful lakefront over the summer. Lolla Tip: Don’t wear flip-flops. It can get swampy even if it is not raining at that specific time.

Lollapalooza swampy.jpg

That may not be all rainwater. And if it does rain, well then, just go with the flow …

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Weather or Not to March

I have been on weather-watch all week. Saturday is the day of the Women’s March, but this year there is not going to be a march in Chicago. Leave it to the local progressive women to organize one in the town next to mine.

women's march

Crowds of 500 to 5,000 are expected. How do you plan for that wide of a range? Will there be enough hot chocolate? I was tagged as being an able-bodied male who could act as a march marshal. They obviously haven’t seen my body. And shouldn’t we call a march marshal a marchal?

I was not thrilled when I saw early in the week a Saturday forecast of temperatures in the low twenties (F) plus a blizzard. Predicted temps are now in the high twenties and the blizzard may be Friday night. We may wake up to this Saturday morning.

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Radio > Streaming

My oldest son thinks I’m crazy, but not for the many legitimate reasons that exist that can be used to make a solid case to question my sanity. He thinks I’m crazy because he can’t understand why I enjoy radio more than just streaming songs off a playlist. This post is for him (and maybe a set-up for a new recurring blog feature in 2019), so I hope you will enjoy it, too. We have lots of words and clickable links to come.

I love music. It has been an important part of my life since I was little. I’m not sure how that happened. I have almost zero musical talent and I swear my guitar winces whenever I pick it up. As for my voice, I regretfully admit that I have a voice made for pantomime. Regardless, I have written and arranged songs over the decades. These days I wisely stick to writing lyrics, although I always seem to have opinions about the arrangements. Here’s a favorite song of mine that I released with friends in 2017, and more info about our music is available at www.sunsetsrising.com. Looks like we’ll be releasing some new songs in 2019.

I think streaming is fine. When my son gets into my car, he’ll plug his phone in and stream new music for me that he thinks I may like. Sometimes he’s correct, and I do my best to forgive his grievous breach of automobile etiquette that clearly decrees that whoever drives controls the radio. It is the law.

I streamed (music, in case you were wondering) when we had a houseful of guests for Christmas Eve. I like my quirky Christmas songs, so I made sure my playlist had these holiday classics:

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