Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Rahm says you play you stop crying about it

Some residents of Chicago are up in arms over the 'nickel and dime' increases that are to result from Mayor Emanuel's new budget. The Mayor could have taken the easy way out and just raised taxes across the board. What is he supposed to do to try and pull the city out of the mire of debt brought on by past administrations? Paying more for anything right now is the last thing anybody wants to read about in the newspaper or hear about on the evening news but it is the reality. I wish I could come up with a plan that would fix all the economic woes but my theatre arts degree doesn't quite qualify me or aide me to do so.
But I do have some opinions on the matter...

Fines are going up if you don't keep your yard neat and you park illegally. If you don't do what you are supposed to do you will be fined a heftier sum than last year. Obviously you could afford to pay those fines last year because you did those things. You broke laws. You let that abandoned lot you picked up as investment in a dilapidated neighborhood get all overgrown and trash ridden because you were too lazy to go out there and keep your sh*t tight. Now you have to straighten up the property and get rid of the rats that have invaded your yard and the property of the neighbors who might live nearby or you will pay the city a fine. Good show, Mr. Mayor!!

If you don't park according to the way the law is written you will have to pay more. So park the right way and don't worry about it. If you push the issue and maybe duplicate a residential zone parking sticker 4 times in one week, you could get caught. (My record is 3 times in one week!) You get caught; you pay up. Where is the wrong in that?

Here are my two favorites: fines go up for vehicles impounded for arrests and parking in handicap spots. There should be no limits to these fines. If you get caught driving under the influence you should pay at least 5000 dollars to get your car back. So what if it takes you a year to pay it all off in order to get your car back. You don't deserve to drive anyway. You put other peoples' lives in danger. Chicago has a wonderful public transportation system that you should have taken home after you drank 8 pints of stout at the office Christmas party.

If you park in a handicap spot, even if it's for 5 seconds just so you could run in and return that movie to the red box you should be caned as well as fined 500 dollars (or whatever the current fine may be). If you drive your grandmama's car to Game Stop and she stays home but you use her placard to park in a handicap spot then you should be fined, caned, and have your car impounded for an arrest. Don't cheat the system and you do not have a thing to worry about. If you do decide to go for it, well, I hope your wallet is thicker than mine. Are you that lazy that you can't walk from the far end of the parking lot to the store? Liter and parking in handicap spots rub me the wrong way. I don't think there should be any limits to the fines imposed on people who break these two laws. Laziness is a great reason to jack up the fines.

People are also fretting about raising the taxes on alcohol and tobacco. Raise those taxes all you want I say. Neither of those are necessities; they are luxuries. If you want a six pack of Bud then a little pinch of Skoal after that is your choice so don't bitch about paying the price, whatever it is. If you don't like it go have a can of "pop." Oh, "pop" is taxed too. A delicious can of Dr. Pepper is not needed to make it through the day. Water will suffice and it is better for you; but who needs that...

Eli Mongrel and Arthur Brown have to have special licenses if they are to remain in tact and reside in homes within the city limits. That's the law so it has to be followed or I'll get a ticket walking them through the neighborhood. They have their nuts licenses. (Thank God they are Gracie's dogs so she has to pay that stupid fee.)

The election of Mayor Emanuel is by no means akin to the Second Coming. There are the red-light and speed cameras. Those means are just plain totalitarianism. There are some police officers who get so comfortable in their jobs that they gain a tremendous amount of weight and therefore are unable to police the city at 100%. Can these select few effectively patrol the streets and enforce the new curfew rules? Hell no; they can't catch some speedy crumbsnatchers but they can sit behind a hedge and run a radar gun. Dehumanizing law enforcement is flat out wrong. What's wrong with assigning police officers to spend a majority of the time near schools? Is it that much more cost effective to put in cameras rather than have a human element in sight of children, parents, and perps?  The Mayor would do the city a better service by getting rid of machines and improving his methods of communicating with the Chicago Police Department.

Cities and states are in turmoil. There is no way around having to suffer the consequences other than expatriating. For the most part I am a fan of Mayor Emanuel. While not perfect, and what politician is, he is looking at alternative resources to collect money for the city. He is going to penalize people for trying to beat the system. Good! That is where the money should come from. I have broken many a law in my time EXCEPT for parking in a handicap spot. The thought has never crossed my mind. Each time I pushed the envelope, well most every time, I knew that if I got caught I, and my parents, would have to suffer some consequences. (Sorry again, Mom.) Mayor Emanuel and the city of Chicago sure missed out on me not growing up in Cook County. I'm sure a few roads in Virginia and Maryland were re-paved due to my indiscretions. I am confident that all the rule breakers in Chicago will rise to the occasion and some of those potholes on North Avenue will be paved in the very near future...or Mayor Emanuel will take his family to Barbados for Christmas.

Monday, November 28, 2011

I'd do it all over again tomorrow...or maybe the day after

Before the game even started I was threatened. I was threatened with a four-hour tailgate, unlimited chicken tenders, a case of Victoria beer on ice, and plates of chocolate-iced brownies. In my past I have never been known for my stamina when it comes to staying awake past the tailgate. I have missed many a game-winning drive due to the fact that I just can't hang. While revelers run through the streets celebrating a victory by the home team I have slept soundly in the back of a Buick or a Tahoe with Sharpie graffiti all over my face. These days it's different; there are kids around. One must act one's age. For most of Saturday into Saturday night I did pretty well. I maintained my composure during the tailgate and enjoyed meeting some new people and catching up with old friends. Then it came time to go inside the stadium. I felt the possible effect of the Victoria's as I weaved through the other thousands of people heading in the same direction.

The threats did not stop once everyone was settled into the skybox overlooking Williams-Brice Stadium. Plates of wings, mac n cheese, and cookies stood next to handles of Mt. Gay rum and Glenlivet scotch. Trying to maintain my wits grew even more difficult. At least there weren't any kids around. The young ones were with their Grandfather allowing the group a few minutes to cut loose. I took advantage of the situation and went with the Glenlivet. A younger and dumber version of me would have gone with the rum. That always proved to be disaster in the past. My big-boy pants hadn't fallen off yet.

As I stared out over the stands watching the pre-game festivities my buddy Daniel's wife Laura came over and stood next to me. I thought she was going to ask how I was doing or catch me up on some fun stories about Carlysle and Ellie but the look on her face told me something completely different. I wondered what I had done wrong. Before I could speak up Laura pointed a finger at me and narrowed her eyes in an almost threatening manner. "Whatever you do do not take your eyes of that {cart}." I looked over and somebody was pushing a cart out on the field. The cart was not as appealing as the cheerleaders being tossed in the air but as a guest in her home, needless to say, I obeyed.

Amidst all the electricity in the air before a South Carolina vs. Clemson football game it was hard to remain focused on the rickety old cart being dragged around by a couple guys who looked like they had taken part in the larger end of a Makers Mark bottle the night before. When Laura wasn't looking I let my gaze travel all over the stadium because what I was witnessing was incredible. There is nothing like an SEC football game. The enthusiasm of the fans draws you in and the talent of the players seals the deal. When the cart reached the middle of the field, out of my periphery, I saw Laura point at me again. I watched as smoke poured out of the top of the cart and the intensity of the music increased. Everyone in the stadium, including me, waved a white towel over their head. After the crowd reached "frenzy" level the curtains surrounding the cart dropped and out of nowhere appeared Cocky, the Gamecocks mascot. "Frenzy" went up a notch to "berserk." And it was awesome...

There cannot be a better experience in the world than putting on Cocky's outfit then running around the field and through the stands at Williams-Brice Stadium. Cocky points a wing and people go crazy. Taylor Swift has to spend hours writing a song to do what Cocky does with the lift of one furry spur. I was ready to do cartwheels in the skybox.

When I arrived in Columbia I didn't have much energy. Such was no longer the case once the game started. I felt like I could keep on tailgating and enjoyed a nice scotch or two during the first half. Being a much wiser par-taker these days I switched to beer for the second half. However, things might have caught up with me a little bit since no one else dropped a beer during the 4th quarter and broke glass all over the floor by the buffet. Then there was the part where my navigation skills faltered and nine-year-old Ellie Bug had to lead me by hand out of the stadium. It was near midnight and I was still doing fairly well but maybe the F-bomb in front of the kids and Doc on the drive home wasn't a very good idea. I think Daniel and Laura understood my excitement not being used to such an experience and were able to cut me some slack. They did say I brought South Carolina some luck and would be invited back. I think they were serious...

So it's Monday and it's time to get back to the grind. Getting the equilibrium back proves to be quite difficult this morning. Most of last week was spent in the car so I feel like it is only now that I can sit back and reflect on all that I have to be thankful for. There is a lot. All the people that have put up with me are at the top of the list. One day I will buy you all some sandwiches but for know let me just say an honest and most heart-felt thank you for all that you all have done. I could say more but I think it might be time for a nap. Go Cocks!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Downward Spiral Continues

Traffic has come to a standstill on one of the busiest streets in Chicago. Southbound Michigan Avenue has been shut down by those who wish to Occupy Wall Street. People sit in their cars and tap their steering wheels in frustration. They clench their jaws and grind their teeth unaware of the root canal that will take away their vacation money in a few years. Children wait at home for their mother or father to return from work. Meals need to be made, medicines need to be administered, and help is required for homework to be completed. Not everybody who went to work today holds a membership card to the 1% Club. Some of those people on their way home sit on some form of public transportation because they cannot afford a car. At 6:35 pm they sit and they wait. Their day has been long. Their hands hurt. Hope for a better existence died out long ago yet they continue to trudge back and forth to work because they have to. People we don't even know exist depend upon the employed member of society to work the 40 hour work week. Every penny in that paycheck has already been spoken for. These are the people suffering tonight.

Those lucky few of the 1% left the office around lunchtime if they even showed up at all. Ivanka Trump recently posted a picture from the Bahamas to her Twitter account. Tough day at the office for that entrepreneur. If you are rich enough to be in the 1% you can afford to work from home. If you are a 1%-er you aren't anywhere near the occupied streets tonight.

Today's Inner  Monologue of the 1%-er:
Streets are blocked by angry people who didn't go to work today...I guess I'll go out to the mailbox get the Wall Street Journal send out a few emails then go to the club for lunch. Oh well. But damn...I did want to stop by Macy's and pick up a few cashmere items. I guess I'll do it next week after the streets have cleared. (pause to watch a few minutes of Fox news) Wow, it looks cold outside but I need to find out what trends might affect the market today.
(Press intercom button here) "Rochester"
(voice filtered through intercom) "Yes, sir?"
(Press intercom button again) "I'm ready for my paper and some coffee."
(voice filtered through intercom) "Yes, sir. Right away, sir."

What is this protest doing for America? Voices have been heard but what is getting accomplished? In my humble unemployed opinion the wrong people are being affected by the rabble. Those that wish for their voices to be heard might want to pull out the writings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. one more time and re-read his essay on nonviolent resistance. Take his words to heart, put them into action, then see what reaction results. Every action has its consequences and how far these consequences extend reach further that most of these protestors have the ability to foresee.

I feel terrible for the hard working people just trying to get home tonight. Those occupying the middle of Michigan Avenue obviously have no concern for others. There is a greater good that has become lost upon those marching down the street. Greed has ruined this country but it is not an excuse to ruin the evening of the undeserved. Show me the video of the person struck in traffic raising their fists in solidarity or beeping their horn with glee and I will erase every word of this opinion. For now though, it feels good to pop off...

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Am I Barrel Aging Too?

Over the years my friends and acquaintances have chided me for having no palette when it comes to choosing beer for any and all occasions. While packing for a NASCAR race in Charlotte, NC my boss handed me a hundred dollar bill with the one condition being that I couldn't spend it all on Budweiser. He and others who were accompanying me on the excursion had been spending evenings and an awful lot of their per diem on beers with words in their titles such as: Lambic, Dogfish Head, Dopplebock, and Lagunitas. To thirty-eight-year-old me this was a terrible waste of money. At 42 I might be starting to see the light as my tastes have expanded and now include some of those fancy labels that require a steady paycheck (or should) to enjoy.

A few weeks ago a rep from Chicago Beverage came to the Old Town Ale House and dropped off a six pack of tasters from the Argus brewery, which is located on the south side of Chicago. The names on the bottles were all weird and those of us doing the tasting had a hard time keeping track of what was in the yay and nay column. Four of the beers were under consideration. One wasn't bad but the final candidate, which was some wheat mess that tasted like spit, was immediately discarded. The winner was the Argus Pegasus IPA. This fine beverage now has its place in the cooler at the Ale House and sells for a bargain price of five dollars. The people who try it love it. I tried it and loved it. That is when I started to notice a change or as my friends have put it - a long overdue maturity. Ever since the Argus tasting, I have been turning my nose up at traditional flavors that have so dutifully quenched my thirst for quite a few years.

The first time I ever tried beer I loved it. The first time I remember trying it was at Pope's Tavern circa 1977. One afternoon my parents took me along to see a musician friend of theirs named Drew who attended our church. My step father ordered a bottle of Budweiser. It came with one of those hourglass pilsner glasses that you hardly ever see in bars anymore. When my step father poured the Budweiser into the glass my mouth started to water. This small ordinary act had a big effect on an eight year old boy from the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Tiny bubbles rose through amber colored liquid that seemed to glow as bright as the sun. To put it simply I was captivated. I asked if I could taste the beer. Thinking like most parents would my stepfather agreed and pushed the glass my way. I stood up in my chair and grabbed that fine hourglass shape with both hands then gently put the rim to my lips. The carbonation sensation mixed with the smell of barely and hops hit me in all the right places. I tipped that glass up as high as I could and tried to drink the whole thing down as if it were a sippy cup full of apple juice. This caused quite a commotion because the next thing I remember was the glass being yanked out of my hands and beer spilling on the table and my Garanimals. The waitress rushed over some towels and my step father said: "I didn't think he'd like it." Even Drew, in the middle of a song, laughed at the scene I had just caused. Ooops.

My affinity for America's best-selling lager stuck. It is one of the longest lasting relationships I have ever endured. However, tastes have changed and Budweiser just doesn't do it for me anymore. Maybe when the warm weather returns things will go back to normal but for now sitting back on the couch when all the items on the to-do list have been crossed off requires something with a little more attitude, something a little more distinct.

Yesterday I went up to Binny's Beverage Depot and had some fun in the craft beer aisle.

My afternoon was spent enjoying the fruits of my labor. After a recent conversation with the Chicago Beverage rep I followed his recommendation and opened up a bottle of Southern Tier Imperial Mokah. I like a flavorful cup of coffee in the afternoons but after an incredibly productive day I went with a coffee-flavored stout instead. The Mokah tasted like hedonism and set the stage for an incredible siesta with one bottle at 1 pint 6ounces having 11.2% alcohol by volume. I wish I had let it sit in the fridge a little bit longer because I drank it a few degrees too warm. The first sips were delicious but has time went on (this heavy beer was probably meant to last from a kickoff to a halftime) I had to drink faster than I would have liked as the beer started to get closer to room temperature. My gaffe at the chilling process did not make for a bad experience at all with the Mokah. I look forward to putting another bottle in the fridge quite soon.

In the evening I opened a bottle of Dogfish Head My Antonia which is labeled as "a continually hopped imperial pils." This beer is more my speed. If it was more of a bargain price I would keep a steady supply in my fridge. This beer was light yet packed a fine-tuned hoppy flavor and boasted a bouquet that made me breath deeply before every sip. This 1 pint 9.4 ounce bottle disappeared before the first commercial break of Mad Fashion and I was sad to have made it disappear so quickly, but at least it made Gracie's choice of nighttime television palatable. Never again will I go into a store and walk out with only one bottle of My Antonia unless I only have ten bucks in my pocket.

Another tasty choice I tried recently is Hinterland's Luna Coffee Stout. I found the best flavor was achieved exactly the opposite way of the Imperial Mokah. The first sips right out of the cooler had a little too much bite but as time went on, after one episode during a marathon of House Hunters International, the flavors settled down and tasted more authentic to the brew master's intention. The beer was much lighter and I could still maintain my charming personality after three pints and six episodes of HHI.

All three beers will have a return engagement to my refrigerator but the clear winner is Dogfish Head's My Antonia. Those folks over there in Delaware have really done some spectacular brewing. I look forward to trying more of their wares. For now I need to close and hit that to-do list because there is a whole shelf full of craft beers left over from yesterday that need taste testing. Who's going to come finish up the bottles of Budweiser way in the back?

Friday, November 11, 2011

That Was Close...

Everyone has those kind of moments, the ones that make you stop in your tracks and take a deep breath and say a little prayer of thanks that harm did not come to you. I am not talking about the car almost sideswiping your Ford Taurus station wagon on the interstate where you think you might have gotten hurt moments; I'm talking about the did that just really happen moments.

Up until Wednesday of this week I have had two moments in life where I thought I was going to die. Then Wednesday happened and I have a hard head so I probably would have escaped death but there could have been serious injury.

When I was in high school I did not always make the best decisions. On one particular afternoon I decided to partake in all kinds of fun. A large group of us had gathered at a spot in downtown Lynchburg, VA that people from school called Nam. It was an old concrete truss over railroad tracks near a popular pizza joint. Nam was very convenient. It offered plenty of free parking and a wild variety of overgrown vegetation to keep our illegal activities from the local police.

Late in the day my head wasn't too clear and I probably wasn't following OSHA rules for hanging out on a ledge with paraphernalia. Someone told a story that made me break into hysterical laughter and when I did I took a step backward. My right foot landed on a pocket of air and my leg followed. I turned to my left and saw the wide eyes of the one person who saw what almost happened just before I felt a sensation under my foot and against my back. Believe you me, even as high as I was, I felt the downward force of stepping off into 30 feet of air. However, the downward force was halted. My shoulders lifted up and my right foot found purchase on the ledge. Immediately I felt sober and embarrassed. I put a finger to my lips so Bobbi wouldn't say anything. The look on her face went back to normal and I took a seat against the wall as if nothing had happened. I will never forget the look on Bobbi's face or the subtle (but not so subtle) sensation as Someone pressed the "up" button instead of "down" and all the momentum in life changed.

Instance Number 2 occurred in Costa Rica. In 1994 I traveled there to learn how to surf. The first day in I went out amidst chest-high surf. Anyone who surfs and might be reading this is already thinking 'what an idiot' and they are exactly right. I got caught inside a set of waves without really knowing how to duck dive too well. The surf worked me over as if I had never swam across the Tred Avon River, ran a 4.8 40 yard dash, or picked an obnoxious fraternity a#%hole up over my head and slammed him on the ground when visiting the Univeristy of Richmond. Wave after wave pushed me under water. Breaths were hard to come by but I was doing all right for a while. 'A while' was too much time. I grew weary quickly. One time I popped my head out of the Pacific Ocean and saw one of the other campers looking at me horrified and he started turning his board around to come back and save me. Then came another wave and under I went.

I'm not afraid to admit that in certain situations I can panic with the best of them. This was not one of them. The last time I went underwater I resigned myself to let the ocean have me. I had no business being out there so I had some heavy dues to pay. I kicked with my feet to try and reach the surface but I had no idea which way was up. No matter how many times I tugged on my leash I could not grasp my surfboard. I shrugged my shoulders and thought 'oh well.' My chest was tight with a desire for air and I had to let go. I opened my mouth and took a deep breath of that disgusting Pacific Ocean swill. It didn't hurt. Nothing in that moment hurt. It was a long and peaceful time underwater. The sunlight was gone and so were the bubbles. Then came sand hitting the bottom of my feet. It felt as if someone had unraveled a flying carpet of earth at just the right moment. I pushed off and broke through the surface as the other camper came over and yelled at me to get back to shore.

Getting back to shore was a chore. My arms could barely hold on to the surfboard. I was too tired to paddle so I went back underwater to try and push off the ocean floor and propel myself back in. My flying carpet of earth had vanished. Where had it gone? My foot found no traction. Once again I was floating in deep water but at least I had my surfboard under me and I wanted to paddle in the direction the waves were traveling. Back on the beach I sat and looked out over the ocean, my eyes focused on the distant horizon and my lips moved in a constant prayer of thanks.

So for years things had been good. The wild days are behind me. Now I tend to think through adventurous situations and I almost always wear a helmet. Who would have thought walking a mongrel through Lincoln Park would hold me in my tracks and make me consider my place in life for several silent minutes.

The wind gusts were reaching 30 knots on Wednesday. Eli looked so handsome with his fur all blown out by the wind. We walked along a freshly paved path over by the zoo and I thought about going to the lake to see if there were any waves but it was getting near time to open the Ale House so we stayed close to home. I was admiring Eli and thinking about getting my camera out of its dusty bag to start making photographs once again. Suddenly I felt a sting on my wrist then something smashed into my right thigh. What followed was the sound of one solid bit of matter hitting another solid bit of matter. I don't know any other way to describe it. I turned around and saw an eight-foot-long branch that was about six inches thick lying on the path just behind me. The fungi from the bark left a stain on my thigh. The wind was so loud I didn't hear it snap from the top of the aged tree we passed under. I stood there for quite some time looking around to see if anybody else had witnessed what just happened.

Ninety seconds later an elderly couple came up over a small berm, smiled at Eli, then kept walking. From the north came some person bundled up in a medium-puffy coat who kept on their way as if I didn't almost just get seriously injured. No one was around this urban space to share my experience. Eli kept looking at me wagging his tail as if saying 'let's go!' I was almost maimed and no one can verify it! Much of my prayer of thanks was for the fact that Eli's leash was tightly wrapped around my wrist so if I had been knocked out he wouldn't have been able to escape unless he chewed my arm off!

Fortunately, favorable Eyes were upon me. I firmly believe such. I like to think it was my father who caught me and propped me back up on the ledge at Nam. Only one Higher Power could have unraveled the ocean floor to help a foolish young man make it back to New York to graduate from Columbia and make his mother happy after years of thorough and complete disappointment. Everything happens for a reason; at least it sure does so in my life. In a few years I might be able to look back on Wednesday and understand why I was only a little bit bruised. I cannot dwell on the "why."One must move forward from the kind of moments I described but one must move on with proper perspective. I think I am doing so. Today I am still giving thanks. Things are as they are and that is just great because as things are they are really quite wonderful!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Turn Out the Lights the Party's Over All Good Things...

The novelty has worn off.

There hasn't been a sighting in quite sometime and everyone seems to be quite okay with it.

Street Jimmy has been absent from Wieland Street.

Early in the summer he was told by members of the 18th District to scram out of Old Town or be arrested. Residents of the area had grown weary of Street Jimmy's rather aggressive demeanor as he would seek handouts from all who passed by. And it was the right thing to do. Even those with a high tolerance level for his antics were having their giving spirits numbed by his lack of appreciation and sense of entitlement. Eventually, Street Jimmy decided not to listen to the cops who were trying to keep him out of jail. He did a few months. The out of sight out of mind period changed a lot of attitudes toward Street Jimmy. It was rather pleasant not having to deal with him on the street and especially inside the bar.

Street Jimmy thought he deserved more than he received. Crack can have that affect on the mind. His thinking, while being rather askew to begin with when I met him, became intolerable. I started losing patience with him when he decided to pick and choose which jobs he would do for people. He certainly was ready to run to the store and fetch a Coke Zero or duck into Starbucks for a Grande Dirty Chai with two shots but when it came to shoveling a foot and a half of snow off the sidewalk Street Jimmy was nowhere to be found. He would show up to help move furniture only after the bulk of the work was done. The words he would use to describe himself as being "tired of being tired" were those of your typical addict - they were fiction. Winter offered him limitless opportunities to make money. Twenty bucks was too much when five would do.

People would listen to him talk. His monologue was delivered with emotion but truth wasn't part of the foundation. Street Jimmy's delivery was need based. Words words words always words and never any evidence to back up those words. His actions always moved him toward the dealers on Sedgwick Street rather than toward rehab or the shelter. This summer many people commented on how pleasant it was not having him around. When Gracie said it, it held the most weight with me. Her tolerance level of Street Jimmy was on "Mother Theresa" level. However, one can only take so much.

A few weeks ago he got out of jail. That was a fun day. We celebrated with him as he strode around the bar all smiles and health after amassing many days of 3 hots and a cot. He had just had his picture taken with former Chicago Bear Richard Dent and was rather pleasant to be around. I got him a few articles of clothing and  Grace sent him on a run to grab us some lunch. He even confessed to hitting the pipe that same day, which we all shook our heads at and laughed about. Unfortunately, the good times were short lived. By day two the snarl was back when he wouldn't get the handouts he thought he should receive. That did it for me and maybe for some of the folks who wear blue and carry silver badges because he has not been seen in a few days. Nobody is at all upset about it...except for one person.

There is one person left who he can still get over on. This particular lady constantly stops by the bar and asks whomever is behind the bar to relay messages to Street Jimmy. She is worried about him because she thinks people set him up. Other miscreants ask Street Jimmy to hold their drugs for him and that is why he gets arrested. She did say that she thinks he "might" smoke a little marijuana and drink every once in a while. Yesterday she came him and asked me to tell Street Jimmy to come see her. I said I would, but I also had had my fill of this nonsense. I told her that said could probably find him on Sedgwick Street trying to purchase some crack. "Oh no, he doesn't do that!" she said storming out of the bar. That poor woman...

Nobody wishes any harm to come to Street Jimmy. Actually, some people do and it is hard to argue against that. He had a real good thing going around Wieland Street but his crack-addled mind lost him that territory. He was a watchdog, a wheelbarrow, and at times a worthy companion. Now he is a crack addict and nothing else. I hope there might be some humanity left in him and a Higher Power can yank it out of the fog in his soul because once upon a time there was a diminutive boy who had trouble saying certain words, in fact a lot of words. Said boy went trick or treating through a South Side neighborhood with his mother who held a gun in her hand to keep them safe. Now that boy is a machine who's level of survival rivals anything our Armed Forces can produce, but his existence is for a sole purpose in this life. How much more can he take? I have no idea and I don't care to think about it for another minute today.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Branching Out to Dine on Words

I readily admit that my cultural tastes are rather narrow. As a child, for me to dine on anything that did not come out of mother's kitchen Americana was usually the result of a grave threat. Foreign movies were sleeping pills and foreign literature just wasn't Hemingway. My parents did their best to expand my horizons, but early on I knew what I liked and saw no need to go beyond tuna fish for lunch, Miami Vice on Friday nights, Star Wars on Betamax, and Beverly Cleary for a good weekend read. At 42 I am much improved as my horizons have greatly expanded to include a love of many cuisines, subtitles, Neruda, and Katy Perry. I know Ms. Perry is an Americana but she is amazing isn't she?

I have many people to thank for kicking me in the seat to venture out of my comfort zone. In Fredericksburg, VA, Craig Lovett introduced me to sushi for the first time and I immediately went nuts for the stuff. Japanese food led me to Thai food, Thai food led me to try Indian food and a few cases of hospitalization-worthy food poisoning later I am starting to tolerate Indian food again. These days I hardly ever eat full on American food unless I am stuck in Yemassee, SC for two and one half weeks.

Forgive me for rambling as I am fighting the flu after paddling on a cold-a** Lake Michigan without wetsuit booties and can barely think straight but let me get to my orginal intent: Haruki Murakami (There is a study that says cold feet have a direct correlation to the functions of the nose and the nose is the cradle of all that is not well with my world.)

Despite all Grace's trips to Walgreens for Diet Canada Dry Ginger Ale, orange juice, and strawberry ice cream, my suffering lingers. The garbage on television offered no relief to the tightness in my face and head. I turned to the written word when a package arrived on my doorstep from Barnes and Noble. Inside was "1Q84" by Murakami and another Inspector Rebus paperback by Ian Rankin. I knew I had ordered a Murakami novel but I wasn't sure which one. For almost a year I have been trying to decided which one to try first. One bad novel and I will put an author back on the shelf forever. Last night I opened "1Q84" and 3 pages in felt a sensation I had not felt since "The Captain's Verses," "Cold Mountain," and "The Stones of Summer." Let it be said that without Pablo Neruda I may have never sought out any author who did not copy his or her original words down in the King's English.

In contemporary literature there are few works that reach deeply and touch a person's soul. I mean this literally. A fine read is the mixture of all the words into the mind, which are then ingested into one's emotional capacity and spread warmth throughout the body like tomato soup on New Year's Day morning. This latest work by Murakami does so and I am only a few pages in. I have not been excited about continuing a read for some time. This isn't just entertainment like so many books being downloaded today (I am reading the hardback, no Kindle for me!), this is an example of the craft of writing. The work that must have been put into this novel is evidenced early on. Strength of syntax rivals any work I have read in the last five years. Each word is placed in it's proper order as if no other word could take it's place. This is a novel executed with care. There are too many Stuart Woods' on the best sellers list belittling the capabilities of our minds.

I hope I am not jinxing myself. A little research has shown me that Murakami can get heavy into the outlandish and that is what turned me off of Garcia Marquez. But what the future holds for this novel and my tastes will be determined shortly. The point is I am truly thrilled to be touched by literature once again. Maybe the flu has tightened my head to the point of delirium? That's okay. For now I am going to enjoy the ride. "1Q84" holds a tremendous amount of promise.