Friday, June 11, 2004

Good word

"Of all the various kinds of sexual intercourse, this has the least to recommend it. As an amusement, it is too fleeting; as an occupation, it is too wearing; as a public exhibition, there is no money in it. It is unsuited to the drawing room, and in the most cultured society it has long been banished from the social board."

--Mark Twain, "Some Thoughts on the Science of Onanism"
Still jerky after all these years

Aeons ago I blogged affectionately about Jamerica, the Jamaican restaurant around the corner.

I just wanted to report that after a long absence I stopped in recently for some takeout jerk pork, and my affection for the place endures. The reggae still churns there, and the food is still tasty. And owner Martin Deacon remains a Willy Street stalwart. Literally: pleasant days find him enthroned on a lawn chair in front of the restaurant, and cronies often join him there. I'm not sure if he remembers, but we were introduced ages ago, and I always greet him by name when I pass. He generally nods and smiles and says something like, "OK mon OK." Which is charming.

However, I did learn from my recent visit that Martin has drastically scaled back his grocery operation. It's no great loss, I suppose--I never did buy any Carribbean canned goods there. But I took comfort in knowing I could. Most disappointingly, Martin no longer carries soup mix that is, as I reported two years ago, Cock Flavoured.

The grocery shelves have become a kind of storage area for papers and cardboard boxes and the like. These lend a drabness to the restaurant's otherwise colorful clutter. I take it as a bad omen when eateries start using the public areas for storage. In its latter days the Badger Candy Kitchen, the splendid, now-shuttered downtown diner, began using several of its formica booths as filing cabinets. Not a good look.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

The darkness

Terrible reports like this one about Reagan's mental decline fill me with sorrow for him and his family and friends, and for everyone affected by Alzheimer's. What a horrible disease. How can a person just not be there?
Separated at birth?


Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Going to a go-go

I enjoyed this article on the Chicago Sun-Times' web site about live-music venues in the Windy City. I'm interested in the experts' opinions of sound quality in various rooms, but mostly the article reminded me of all the great shows I saw over the ten years I lived in Chicago. I was much more invested in going to hear live music back then, and I managed to hit all but a handful of the venues the article lists.

Inevitably, the article omits several outstanding venues, like Symphony Center, the Atheneum, Ravinia and, of course, the University of Chicago's Mandel Hall.

If you're curious, here's who I saw, and where (in a couple of cases I saw not a band but a musical or opera):

Abbey Pub: Tim O'Brien, Peter Rowan

Allstate Arena: the Highwaymen

Alpine Valley Music Theatre: Haven't been! But my brother, my mom and I are going to catch the Dead there this summer

Aragon: the B-52's, the Cult, Jane's Addiction, David Byrne

Arie Crown Theatre: Pete Townshend

Auditorium Theatre: Showboat

The Chicago Theatre: Miles Davis

Congress Theatre: Verdi's Falstaff

House of Blues: Never been. Can you believe it?

Metro: Pylon, Robbie Williams, Hunter S. Thompson

Old Town School of Folk Music: Peter Rowan, Bill Monroe, the Osborne Brothers, Ralph Stanley, J.D. Crowe, Del McCoury, Richie Havens, Hot Rize

Park West: Leon Redbone, Reverend Horton Heat

Riviera Theatre: The The

Rosemont Theatre: Never been. I'm not even sure where this place is

Soldier Field: The Beach Boys (Chicagofest 1983)

Tweeter Center: Farm Aid 1998, Elvis Costello, Lollapalooza 1991

UIC Pavilion: Phish

United Center: I saw the Bulls play in the old Chicago Stadium a couple of times, but I still have not set foot in the UC

Vic Theatre: Liz Phair

Where is love?

The World's Greatest Lovers' debut at the Crystal Corner last night went well. We played rather more Hank Williams and rather less Abba than we'd like to in the long run, but overall I'm pleased, especially given how little we rehearsed. In the absence of much in the way of exciting new material, I repeatedly put myself on autopilot for such hoary Ken Burns favorites as "Family Tradition." Lots of Hometown Sweethearts regulars were there, and a number of Junkers and #1 Dad fans also made their way out, including some people I hadn't seen in ages.

I was pleased to sing the old country stuff, but I was more excited about the new-wave covers we performed, songs like Elvis Costello's "Radio Radio" and Talking Heads' "Stay Up Late." People seemed surprised to hear David Byrne's lyrics coming out of my mouth. What can I say? I'm a fan from way back.

And we did get an Abba request. Abba is definitely on the docket.

My favorite moment came during a set break, when a man squeezed my exposed bicep (I was wearing a W.B. shirt) and told me I should work out and get cut, like when I was 18. Eh?

Monday, June 07, 2004


I felt like I was in high school again. This weekend Ronald Reagan was all over the tube, and the imagery took me straight back to adolescence--I was ten when Reagan was elected president, 18 when he left office.

The pictures looked very fresh, I think because by the time Reagan became president, in 1981, the major news organizations had switched from film to videotape. I can't quite explain why, but old news film and old news tape provoke subtly different reactions in me.

A number of Gipper* images linger strongly from my television watching Saturday and Sunday, but for some reason the most vivid is from about 1984: President Reagan wearing a brown suit. People still wore brown suits in 1984?

* Not surprisingly, footage from Knute Rockne, All American was inescapable this weekend. If you haven't seen it, I must tell you that whatever your feelings about football or Ronald Reagan, that is one terrific movie.

Sunday, June 06, 2004

Dropping of bricks

I've been reading Dick Cavett's 1983 book Eye on Cavett (New York: Arbor House), which he wrote with Christopher Porterfield. It's a sequel of sorts to the quirky memoir Cavett (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1974), by the same team, and I must confess the latter is one of my very favorite books.

Eye on Cavett has a chapter called "On the Dropping of Bricks," and in it the famously garrulous talk-show host argues that there's no such thing as coincidence. He offers as evidence several occasions on which he and others have unintentionally said precisely the wrong thing to precisely the wrong person--have dropped a brick, as it were. In one example, Cavett meets a stranger on the beach. Making conversation, Cavett says something scathing about a "currently popular volume of humor that was being made into a Broadway musical" (105). The stranger then reveals himself to be the author of said volume.

Okay, it's funnier in the book. At any rate, I can say from my own experience that he's right: this happens to me way too often, and I suspect the gods are punishing me. I'll tell you about a couple of times.

In the first, I was sitting in on the first meeting of a college course in psychiatry. As it happened, also sitting in was Liz, an acquaintance I was, in my painfully shy way, considering asking out. After the lecture, the psychiatrist professor told us the class was full and we would not be able to enroll, so we left disappointed. In a fit of sour grapes--it was, I admit, mostly show--I tried to make a joke about the prof, something I thought my friend would find irresistibly witty, something along the lines of, "Psychiatrists are a mental illness."

She replied, "My father is a psychiatrist."

In retrospect, I wish I had then made an Electra joke.

The second anecdote is timely, and it takes place at a dinner party (dinner parties are, no pun intended, like Petri dishes for this sort of thing). At one point, apropos of what I'm not sure, I regaled the group with this feeble bon mot: "Ronald Reagan was as great a president as he was an actor."

A woman I had just met replied incredulously, "I didn't come here to be insulted." It turned out her father had been a high-ranking official in the Reagan administration.

Let these be a lesson to me: stop trying to be funny, at least about people's dads.