Stormy Weather

“Don’t know why there’s no sun up in the sky, stormy weather…its raining all the time.”

Remember that old saying that April showers bring May flowers? This year April was warm like June, May was cold and June has been Storm Month. Don’t know if this is due to global warming or just one of those years but it has been bizarre.

This past Wednesday night was the second major storm in the Chicago are in less than a week. In fact, Wednesday had two distinct storms. In the morning I was heading in earlier than usual. The sky’s were overcast when I left the house at 6:15.  30 minutes later I have 2 miles to go on the highway before my exit the sky turns black and sheets of rain pour down. I can barely see the road and cars are going 60-70 miles an hour.

Later that evening a second front rolled through that made the morning seem sunny. High winds, a funnel cloud touched down just west of the city and more sheets of rain. This went on for hours. I was supposed to meet a friend for birthday drinks but the commuter trains all came to a stop for over an hour due to the weather. Large branches, eve several trees were down in some areas. Stories abounded about how the worst of the winds had blown lawn furniture down the block and had even taken off a few roofs.

So how was my drive in the next morning? It was a beautiful morning. Bright blue, cloudless sky. Temps in the low 80’s. It was a gorgeous.  If you had slept through Wednesday there is no way one could be living this day and had any idea that the gods had been angry 24 hours earlier.

Now it is Sunday morning. It was darker than normal from the moment I awoke. Then the sound of thunder came…well thundering down. Moments later form nothing came more sheets of rain. I just stared at it through the window. It was glorious in its own way. Just as I thought it could not rain any harder, it did. Twice I could hear the sound of the rain change and become more intense.

This went on for 30 minutes. Then gone. There is still a river of water running through the street outside my home so I know it happened. The sky looks as if it will happen again.

Nothing left to do but listen to the sultry sounds of Lena Horne.

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Worn Out

Many in my family are showing signs of wear.

My Mom is not happy. She seems angry that she is physically and mentally not what she was. She is not adjusting to the nursing home/rehab facility she is in. She claims the other people who have been there awhile hang together and do not include her. She is tired of not being home, of being bed ridden or sitting in a wheelchair and, I am guessing, being bored. She said to me that she was not made to live this way.

My step dad needs some time off. He is with her all day, every day. It is tiring just to be sitting around. Not much new to talk about after the first 800 hours or so–which is roughly how long she has been hospitalized. Yet he won’t leave her side.

My brother shows up 5 days a week and has a 3 hour round trip commute. He is crabby, angry, frustrated and probably more than a little sad.

It is getting to me too. Between long work, travel and the weight of my mom, I am sullen, crabby and ready to crack far too often. I could barely bike on Sunday. It took over 4 hours to finish 44 miles. I had no energy from the first pedal and barely was able to drag my sorry ass back home. I can’t believe that my annual century ride is in less than 5 weeks. At this rate I may have to seriously consider a lesser distance. We will see what the legs feel like in a few weeks.

We are all singing the blues.

 

Unexpected Theft

I had my Blackberry and iPod stolen from my briefcase yesterday. I was in an all day meeting attended only by other people from my company. I left my case near my chair. The pocket with my stuff was unzipped. I wandered around the room a lot so my case was often unattended but always near other colleagues.

I assume the company will pay to replace the Blackberry but now I need to spend for an iPod. I already have too many things to spend money on.

I feel violated. I’m bummed.

My Funk-y World

I have been sitting at the computer writing little postettes because I am avoiding writing what I feel. I am, and have been for awhile, in a major funk.

This is not depression, just funk. Big difference. But I can’t seem to shake it. I am bored at work. So bored that even though I am not “making my numbers” this quarter I am not working my butt off to change this. Or to do all the not billable things I have wanted to do for awhile.

Besides work, I feel like an old man. O.K. 51 going on 52 is not the end of the world. Even if it was I should be doing all I can to enjoy the time. Live for today and all that.

I the world I grew up in you are responsible for yourself. That means it is up to me to stop wining and to change things. Get a new job, a new hobby, something. The thing about funks is that it leads to inertia. Lots of time spend doing little, watching TV–damn that TIVO– not even dreaming enough let alone doing enough.

So there, its out. I guess that I am hoping for a bit of confession to make the feeling go away. 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10. No. Nothing yet. Maybe tomorrow.

(I never did care for that song. Grumble. Grumble.)

This is more in-line with my mood.

The Joys of Sex— Much Better Than Air Travel

plane.jpgAwful travel last week due to brutal storms in Chicago but exacerbated by poor airline service. Some lowlights.

Spent 4 hours at O’Hare Wednesday night trying to make St. Louis for an early Thursday meeting. Sitting in the lounge watching sheets of rain come down punctuated by the periodic lightning bolt gave me a good indication that I may not be leaving Chicago that night. However, United still had two planes scheduled to go.

I left the comfort of the lounge to check on my plane. It seemed that every time I checked the monitor the time and gate changed.  After over half an hour, my flight disappeared from the monitor. Not a good sign. Usually however, they post “Cancelled”. Back to the airport lounge where the line to talk to someone was only 6 people long. I had passed the main service area where the line snaked forever. Poor bastards thought I.

My line wasn’t moving so I tried the premier service phone number. Other than confirm that my flight had been cancelled the Premier Service couldn’t do anything for me. I finally got to a person and was told the last plane was still planning to go and there was space. Unfortunately it was 2 concourses away and leaving in 25 minutes. Off I ran. Caught up to another runner going for the same plane. Every time you think you have it bad you meet someone having it worst. This woman had flown in from Zurich– yes Switzerland– and had not slept for a long time. I guided her to the other terminal. Guess what? Flight canceled.

The only flight that would get me to my meeting on time was the first flight out the next day. The terminally uninterested person at the counter could only confirm a flight that would be leaving too late but had me on standby for the one I needed. Headed home to get 4 hours of sleep before doing this again. On the way called United to confirm the standby status. This woman was able to confirm a spot on the flight I wanted but without a seat assignment. Still risky but a step forward.

Last seat on a small plane but on the plane the next day. The bathroom just behind me reeked for the entire flight. Joy.

Made it back to Chicago on the plane scheduled earlier than mine but delayed until mine was going to leave anyway. Those of you bored with this story but still reading for some unknown reason probably think it is mercifully coming to an end. Wrong. I still need to make White Plains, NY that night. 4 hours in the airport, lunch on my lap sitting in one of the few open seats. 2 hours late to NY. Gate changed 3 times with little in the way of announcements from anyone working for United. Met lots of people with flight stories. All were willing to share. Each story worse than the one before. Topped by the teenager who had been in the airport for 19 hours.

Coming back the next day I did catch a break. Got on an earlier flight. I need to describe the White Plains terminal for those that have not been there. Unlike any I have seen and I have seen many. Another time perhaps.

BTW the title has no particular relevance to this story. It just hit me and I thought I might attract a few new readers. Sex sells.

FitzGerald’s American Music Festival

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Another reason why you wish that you lived in Chicago.

FitzGerald’s has been bringing music to Chicago for 30 rears. For the last 27 it has hosted its American Music Festival, 4 nights of wall to wall music during the 4th of July weekend. If you love music, this is the place to be.

There are two stages, one outdoors under a tent and one in the main music room. You can also listen to acts doing acoustic sets in one of the other bars. Music begins about 1pm and ends around midnight. The acts on the two principle stages overlap so that you can be reveling in music for the full 11 hours. And what music it is.

We went Sunday- a beautiful summer day- and though we could only stay until 8 (it was a work night) we heard seven acts. The musical forms included rock, country rock, big band, rockabilly, blues, gospel and a group that included a fiddler/singer guitar player with a stand up bass that was hard to categorize. Although all of the music was great, I will share my thoughts and pictures of two of the bands.

We had heard Anna Fermin’s Trigger Gospel a few years ago. We were smart enough to buy her CD Things to Come which is rated as a 48Facets “Got to Own”. Trigger Gospel’s  music is original, spirited and Anna has a unique voice that should not be missed. One of the only things better than the CD is the live performances. I tried to capture this with my digital camera but the sound quality sucks. The link to Things to Come brings you to one of the album tracks and though it is not one of the better ones, it is worth a listen.

Bill Kirchen is known as the King of Dieselbilly for his penchant for songs about trucks and cars. I could hear Bill sing and wail on his guitar before I could see him on stage. The man epitomized the high energy fast hands rocker. I was a bit surprised to see a white haired man in his sixties. Nothing seems to be slowing him down. His best known song is Hot Rod Lincoln performed when he was in a group by the name of Commander Cody.

When a group was done they would often just mix in with the crowd and enjoy the other musicians. Sometimes one would be called onto the stage by another. The crowds were just having fun. Toe tapping, clapping and even dancing would often break out. Everyone there seemed to just be having fun. 

My only regret was that I could only attend one of the four nights of the American Music Festival. Music, biking, writing and hanging out makes up my perfect life. Sunday was a little slice of near perfect.

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Bluesfest 2007

One of the great summer festivals in Chicago is Bluesfest. Chicago started out a few decades ago with JazzFest and over time added fests for blues, country, gospel and salsa music.

My wife and I took in a few hours of Bluesfest on Saturday– after spending time at the Printers Row Book Fair a few blocks away. (I told you that June in Chicago was outstanding). The setting is spread over much of Grant Park, a beautiful area just off the lakefront– that would be Lake Michigan for the geographicaly impaired. There is a mainstage at the bandshell and numerous side stages.

We started at one of the side stages that was featuring blues singers that doubled on the harmonica. Picture a sunny day, people of all ages, races, sexes, creeds, etc. numbering in the hundreds enjoying great music. The area around the stage was an open grassy field. People were on blankets, in chairs, just sprawled out on the grass, standing or dancing. I love people watching in this type of setting. Here are a few of my favorites.

Oriental guy. In his mid fifties, with a a mustache and goatee. Semi serious look on his face.  Dressed in bermuda shorts, a buttoned down short sleeve shirt, black socks with dress shoes and a straw hat. Camera strap around his neck with the camera at one hip and a fanny pack on the opposite one. Everything perfectly in place while he looked perfectly out of place.

Dancing 20 year olds. A pretty girl and a good looking guy in their very early twenties. He was taking her through some swing dance moves in rythm with the music with cigarette in mouth. Occasionally they would stop and kiss. She was clearly into him. He was clearly into dancing. My bet is one night together and she never hears from him again.

Tall Dancing Guy. Must have been at least 6’6” with short cropped brown hair and brown goatee and long arms. Tee shirt and shorts. He had the dancing feet. He was light on these feet and they were moving with the music. Watching just his feet was entertaining enough. Add in this long torso and arms and this would have been a YouTube chart topper if I only had a camera.

ZZ Top Guy. Enough said.

Last there was the man sitting on the grass in front of where we were standing. He had one leg straight out and one bent. My wife whispers in my ear that it takes all kinds. Look at this guy’s shorts I am told. I see nothing out of place and just as she is about to point “it” out she laughs and says, “oh, that’s his foot”.

All sorts of people, a delightful presummer day and wailing harmonicas backed by rythm guitar, bass and drums. Bluesfest in Chicago.