Sunday, April 24, 2016

NFL Draft Town's back; hide the silver

Last year, Mayor Rahm Emanuel managed to persuade the NFL to bring the extravaganza that is the NFL Draft to Chicago.  With the NFL Draft comes Draft Town, an annual fanfest.  He gave the NFL all kinds of stuff they wanted like security and ease of access and in return, the NFL couldn't charge for admission to Draft Town.  They've only ever done this in NYC and they charged $25 for the privilege of attending.  The cost to those attending last year and this in Chicago is exactly zero.

As reported last year, I went.  It was about 42ยบ, windy, and very, very sunny the day I went with a coworker.  Because of the way they set it up, the setting sun was blinding people 50% of the time.  There was very little swag -- I think we scored free yogurt and a pen -- and there wasn't that much to do if your very soul hadn't been tattooed with the spirit of the NFL which I figured out quickly was the case for me.

The City of Chicago has been busily closing streets and building Draft Town.  It takes less time to put together either the Taste of Chicago or Lollapalooza.  It reroutes bus lines and city traffic and even though it's open for just three days, it hangs around for three weeks.  It is a supreme clusterfuck.

So what does the City get out of it?  No, seriously, I want to know.  People come to Chicago to go to Draft Town so parking garages, hotels, restaurants, shops all benefit.  What does the City of Chicago get out of it?  We're famously broke.  Chicago gets no money from the State of Illinois due to the -- I am not lying -- lack of budget from July of 2015.  Governor Bruce Rauner, an ex-CEO who is used to getting his way, and the lawmakers, politicians who are used to compromise -- cannot agree on a budget so money is not to be had until they can agree.  We give all kinds of crap to the NFL; besides Draft Town, what benefit is there to the City of Chicago?

Hide the silver.  The NFL probably wants that, too.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

It's your responsibility

This week I heard a news item about Donald Trump.  He said two of his children, Ivanka and Eric,  had called and apologized.  They'd failed to register to vote so they wouldn't be able to cast their votes for him in the New York Presidential Primary.  He said he understood; they're busy people.  He didn't want to guilt them out.

I do not understand.  These are grown adults.  Why weren't they registered to vote before this?  Did they think voting was something only common people do?

My parents were from Poland.  They met in Nazi Germany when they were both guests of the German government, working as slave laborers near Ulm.  They certainly weren't given the opportunity to vote there; in their native Poland, there weren't many opportunities either.  They came to these United States of America in 1946 and became citizens five years later, which was the amount of time they had to wait in those days.  As soon as they became citizens, they registered to vote.  They didn't miss an election after that.

When we were little, our parents took us into the polling booth with them so we could see what voting was like and experience democracy in action.  Detroit, where I grew up, had curtained booths and small levers that were moved down for your candidate.  When you wanted to cast your ballot, you grabbed a large-handled lever and moved it from one side to the other.  That reset the levers and cast your ballot and opened the curtains for the next voter.  My sister and I loved the voting booth; we found it thrilling.  I felt like I was witnessing something important, which I was.

When you look at the website of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services,  seven rights as an American citizen are listed; one of those is the right to vote in elections for public officials.  One of the listed nine responsibilites is to participate in the democratic process.   This means voting.

Voting is a right that was won for all citizens through various fights over almost two centuries of American history.  There are over a billion people in the world who aren't given the option to vote.  Think of China.  Then think of North Korea.  Dear Leader didn't get there because he was elected by the people.  His daddy was a dictator and so was his granddaddy.  Running a dictatorship is the family business, just like business is the Trump family business.

So what went on in the Trump household when Ivanka and Eric were kids?  My parents were from very humble beginnings and talked to us about current events and civic duties, responsibilities, and rights.  We were a very middle class family and my parents worked very hard to get ahead.  My sister and I vote.  Ivanka and Eric, ages 34 and 32, respectively,  had every opportunity children of privilege might enjoy yet simply hadn't bothered to make the effort to register to vote, something that costs nothing but means so much.

I would suggest they be ashamed of themselves but I'm not sure they're introspective enough to understand the concept.

For all y'all in America, it's your right.  Be responsible and take advantage of your right.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Monroe Blue Line Tenors

Jackson is a major changing point on the Blue Line in Chicago.  People can change to the Red Line via underground walkway and it's right by U.S. government offices.  There are plenty of businesses in that part of the Loop.  There are better perfomers at Jackson because of the sheer volume of foot traffic.

Where I work, I can get off at either Jackson or Monroe; each works for a quick pre-work visit to the post office.  There are a couple of entertainers I've never seen at Monroe.  Each gentleman is not unique in his looks.  One is quite thin, the other is quite average.  Each one is in the age range of 50-68.  Each one has a lovely, clear tenor.

I saw the thin man about four months ago.  My day had been utter crap and when I got to the platform, there he was, singing from a songbook that might be called "Popular Songs for Tenors from the Last 50 Years of American Music."  He was singing "Cheerleader," a particularly cloying song by the Jamaican singer called OMI.  I hate that song, yet the thin man, accompanied by a single maraca, was making it sound happy and not annoying.  I've heard his version of "Stand By Me" and I have been wracking my brain trying to figure out what the third and fourth songs were.  He was singing like he was on stage in some small club and I was happy to hear him.

The average man is a more recent arrival.  He showed up on a Thursday night about three weeks ago, offering a selection from the Ink Spots, "If I Didn't Care."  He did care and believe me, if he didn't care, it felt like he cared and you'd have a hard time convincing me otherwise.  That was the only time I've seen him but I hope I see him again.  He and the thin man hit all the right notes and share all the right feelings.  We're not on the CTA platform any longer.  With the Monroe Blue Line Tenors and the Gorilla and the Spud from last week, we're in some comfortable setting and the appreciative audience and I are all immersed in their performances, and for just a moment, I smile.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

The Gorilla and the Spud

The Jackson Blue Line station in Chicago has its share of entertainers.  The young electric guitar head banger, the Red Line Band, various gospel singers, oldies singers.  No one can compare with the gorilla and no one -- no one -- can compare with the spud.

The gorilla is a man in a gorilla suit.  He puts on the suit, comes down to the Jackson Blue Line station and dances.  He's often just going through the motions unless there is the perfect storm of a song he likes and someone tosses a tip into his bucket.  Then he puts it all out there, feeling every note, every beat, every word.  A combo of popping and locking and bumping and turning and then he does it again.  In a gorilla suit.  I can't decide if he's a coward who couldn't do what he's feeling without the costume or if he's the bravest man in the city who dresses as he feels and then dances how the costume bids him to dance.  I imagine him very happy inside that suit.

 No one is happier than the spud.  The spud's a middle-aged man of average height with the body of a stubby Idaho baker.  He is an interpretive dancer.  The first time I saw the spud was during rush hour in the late summer.  There was another musician but I can't remember what the music was because once I saw the spud, nothing else mattered.  He used his space.  He felt the music.  He moved his arms and rotated from the waist.  He used the staircase that leads to the Red Line.  He flowed down a few steps then turned to step back up, lightly touching the arm of an older, taller man who was not feeling the music and wasn't enjoying the touch of the spud.  Just when I thought there might be shouts, the spud flowed ahead on the platform, again feeling whatever music the musician was sharing. 

Once in the morning the spud was at Jackson offering his artistry.  I was annoyed because I couldn't stop and enjoy the performance as I have to work for a living.  A third time, spud and some friends -- also spudlike -- were playing Whitney Houston songs, all feeling it, all flowing around the platform, all swaying and rotating from the waist, their arms moving above they heads to the magic they were feeling.  The train was not coming that night so I saw them perform two or three songs, and after one, the spud cried out, "We miss you, Whitney! Why did you have to die?"

Then the next song started and it was felt deeply and interpreted with love.