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Monday, June 27, 2005

Bad Biking

When the weather warms up, I leave the confines of the YMCA and get my exercise via long bike rides. It is great to push the old Mongoose to maximum speed in the early morning. There are terrific bike paths along Lake Michigan in Evanston; I generally bike about 15 miles on weekday mornings; 20-30 on Saturdays and Sundays. I am no Lance Armstrong - I look like a dork on my 10-year old cheapie mountain bike, plain old shorts and a t-shirt (no tight Lycra for me, thank you). During my morning jaunts, I see "real" bikers on their $4,000 racers with clipless pedals wearing the full colors of a Tour de France team member. They whizz by me and snicker quietly.

I was banging away on Saturday and suddenly started to hear a clicking noise - one click for each spin of the wheels. I stopped and looked at my rear tire - somehow I managed to pick up a safety pin! My tire was hissing angrily. I turned back and rode it until the tire was totally flat, then walked the dog home. Lousy ride.

I repaired the tire and was back out slammin' it this morning. It was early and I was riding on the sidewalk to escape a section of bad road in Wilmette. There is one crook in the sidewalk that creates a little blind corner. I cruised around the corner, and met another bicyclist coming toward me rapidly. It was perfectly bad timing - there was no opportunity to avoid a wreck. We each had about 0.1 second to react. We collided and hit the ground in a tangle of arms, legs and bicycles. Since we fell on the grass, we weren't hurt badly - we weren't really going all that fast. But I bent the rim on my front tire. I tried to ride it home, slowly. This painful effort was terminated when my front tire exploded - a nasty sound it was, echoing like a rifle shot down Sheridan Road. So I had another long walk home. Bad biking this week thus far.

As I sat at my desk today, delayed reaction injuries began to appear - stiff neck, sore back, achy knees. I may let the bike sit in the garage for a week or so - go back to the stationary version at the Y. I have yet to blow a tire or have a wreck on the Lifecycle (but if anyone can do it, I can).

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

A Stupid Way to Die

Evanston, Illinois is a mixed up community. We got Masters of the Universe pouring out of Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management and down-market scufflers from the western neighborhood by the high school. Every once in a while, these two divergent communities intersect. At the intersection, in a bar called The Keg, there was an explosion early Sunday morning.

Hard to believe that some 18 year old ball-bouncer dodged the ID check and got into The Keg with his pop gun. Ah, The Keg never was too careful about checking ID's, so I shouldn't be surprised. After several drinks (I assume), this young punk decided to stand up to a 22-year old African American guy - an unwed father out for a late night party. Words led to blows, and the ball-bouncer pulled his gun and shot the unwed father to death. Yet another stupid murder in the good ol' USA - one kid dead and another kid lost. May God have mercy on their souls.

The deal went down while a crowd of richy rich white Kellogg grads were in the ol' Keg celebrating their matriculation into the high cognitive class of business achievers. They got to watch the bloody drama. Hey, this is a little piece of education that ain't available at the B-School, boyz and girlz. It is brutal down there at the lower rungs of the ladder. People die over diddly-squat - an insult, a sexual come-on directed at the wrong young woman. Learn your lessons, Kelloggers. These are the people in our American mass market. Makes me want to light a candle.

So here in Evanston, we have a new reality - young people drink, get stupid, and blow each other's brains out. What a nice suburb we have here!

Friday, June 17, 2005

Narcissistic Entitlement

The word "narcissism" comes from the character made famous by the Greek poet Ovid. We all remember Narcissus, who fell in love with his own reflection. In the story,a girl named Echo falls in love with Narcissus and gets rejected. The story makes it clear that Narcissus is only able to love himself and not others. Conversely, Echo completely loses herself in her love for Narcissus and has no sense of self at all - she just ends up repeating everything that she hears. At the end of the story, Narcissus tells Echo, "I would die before I give you power over me," and Echo responds, "I give you power over me." Both Narcissus and Echo die because their love is unattainable. Like many of the Greek myths, this story has "legs" due to its universal applicability - many of us cannot find a balance between ourselves and others.

"Narcissitic Entitlement" is a psychological term that has been around for a while. There are lots of people that bang through life with an inflated sense of personal entitlement - people that believe thier rights trump everyone else's rights, people who never apologize or concede anything. Folks afflicted with narcissitic entitlement are obsessed with collecting on all debts they feel that they are owed, and they are owed a lot by many people. People with narcissitic entiltlement syndrome never forgive and never forget. They usually ignore the needs and viewpoints of others.

I am pretty sure that narcisstic entitlement is becoming a common condition. It seems to be extremely contagious - entire groups of people can quickly get infected - all the members of certain religous groups, political parties, economic classes. Some of my clients have this affliction. I think the guy my eldest daughter dates also suffers from this - at least a little bit.

Do you know anyone who is obssessed with being treated with respect and fairness, quick to take offense, always externalizes blame, views forgiveness as moral weakness and insists on repayment for any perceived transgression? These are often the type of folks that work themselves into that state of righteous rage where any behavior is justified.

This is a nasty approach to life.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Quick Plug for the Mystery Band

Mr. G and the Mystery Band will be playing at Bill's Blues Bar on Friday, July 1. Bill's Blues is located at 1029 Davis Street in Evanston, Illinois (telephone # 847-424-9800). This is a rare event - the Mystery Band appears only once a month. The July version of the Mystery Band will be suh-weet:

Twist Turner on Drums: Twist has played with most of the legends of the blues, including Junior Wells, Buddy Guy, Sunnyland Slim, Eddie Taylor, Jimmy Reed, etc. etc. Whew!!!

E. G. McDaniel, Bass: Son of the mighty Floyd McDaniel; has played with Eddy Clearwater, Byther Smyth, Junior Wells, A.C. Reed, etc. etc. Whew again!!

Brian James, Keyboards: Currently holding the keyboard slot with the Lonnie Brooks band, plays with Chico Banks, Delbert McClinton and a host of others.

Anthony Palmer, Guitar: One of the top blues guitar players around - currently playing with Matthew Skoller, has played with Luther Allison, Otis Rush, Joanna Connor and many others.

Your correspondent, Mr. G, will blow the harp and sing a bit.

If you read this and you live somewhere near Evanston IL, come on out and party with the Mystery Band!

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Steve Guyger

Steve Guyger - Philly Harp Star (Photo by Alex Cuevas) Posted by Hello

Little Arthur Duncan

Little Arthur Backstage at the Chicago Blues Fest (Photo by Alex Cuevas) Posted by Hello

Piano Willie

Piano Willie and Mr. G. (Photo by Alex
Cuevas) Posted by Hello

Gorging on Music

The second weekend in June is Blues Fest weekend in Chicago. The Chicago Blues Festival is allegedly the largest free blues music festival in the world. I was there - I gorged on the music for days; just finished up last night.

The first weekend in June was the Chicago Gospel Music Festival, which I missed. The thunderstorms discouraged me from attending - I hate standing out in an open field in the pouring rain. Well, the thunderstorms didn't last, of course, but once I delayed my departure for the Gospel Fest, family tasks filled up all available space in the weekend. But I did see Nick Moss and the Fliptops on Saturday night (June 4) at my local blues bar. Mr. Moss and his crew are solid, energetic players - traditionalists with an edge. Nick cuts an imposing figure on stage - he is large and in charge, with his tatts and his blistering guitar. He also has a very hot young player in his band - Gerry Hundt, a fine guitarist and excellent harmonica player (and yes, he plays bass, too). And to add to the Fliptops' cache, they have the amazing Piano Willie O'Shawny. Piano Willie is a deeply retro guy - he's got the conked hair, the tight white t-shirt, the wiry frame. I ran into him at Blues Fest and we snapped a picture, which I have posted for your review. Willie is no spring chicken, but he can pound the keys. So Nick Moss and the Fliptops served as my warm-up for the blues fest.

On Thursday afternoon (June 9), I stood out in the mid-day sun to watch Tommy McCracken. Every fan of big blues-belting male vocalists should run to Chicago and catch this man's act! He works very hard and delivers a song like very few others. And he has some cool dance moves, too! He's 6 ft. 2 in. and meaty; he is a multi-racial stewpot of a man. He worked hard out in the ninety degree/ninety percent humidity Chicago summer weather. I felt honored to be in his presence. The man is 66 years old and still kicking it.

On Friday, the Fest hit its high points for me. First, the amazing Robert Lockwood, Jr. held forth for ninety minutes, playing and singing a range of jazz-tinged blues with his large band. He had the "hot set," meaning he was in the mid-day sun. Robert is a powerful performer. He is only 90 years old, so we should get to enjoy him for a few more decades ;-). This man is in fantastic mental and physical shape for a nonagenerian. He still has a lot to say; his music is deep. His version of "Big Leg Woman" is now my all-time favorite. I talked to him after the set, and he was cracking jokes and waving his arms around like an enthusiastic youngster. Robert is one of the last of the original bluesmen still standing - along with Honeyboy Edwards. Lockwood took guitar lessons from Robert Johnson, fercryinoutloud! He played with Little Walter Jacobs, Sonny Boy Williamson II (aka Rice Miller), Sunnyland Slim and a host of other legends - he was probably the top session man in Chicago during the glory years of the blues. He took off for Cleveland in the 1960's and still lives there.

Over on the Front Porch Stage during and after Robert Lockwood's set, a marvelous blues family gathered to celebrate the life and music of their deceased partriarch, Eddie Taylor. The stage was crowded with Taylors - Eddie Jr., Larry, Brenda, Edna and Demetria. Their dad was one of the builders of the Chicago blues. He invented Jimmy Reed's sound with his subtle shuffle and tasty solos. In addition to the Taylor kids, a number of Eddie Taylor disciples were on stage - Little Arthur Duncan uncorked several tunes and re-created the '50's blues world with his keening vocals and earthy harp. Steve Guyger, a massively gifted blues harmonica player from Philly, added energy and zest to the tunes.

On Saturday, I was tired. I also had been a bad dad and husband, so I needed to re-connect with my wife and kids (who are incredibly kind to tolerate my blues addiction). But The Smoke Daddy on Diversey had it going on during Saturday afternoon and evening - pig roast, $1 Buds, and hours and hours of harmonica blues. Oh, yas man! I had to be there. Scott Dirks was the MC - he is a great harmonica player and a scholar of the blues harmonica (he literally wrote the book on Little Walter). Scott brought up a parade of players - Big Al Blake from California, Steve Guyger (see comments in preceeding paragraph), and local heroes Shoji Naito and Big D. The evening entertainment was the Billy Flynn Band. Billy is a nice feller from Green Bay, Wisconsin who has blues blood and blues guts in his lanky middle-aged white body. He has true reverence for the Chicago blues traditions. He brought Bob Stroger with him, so we had the honor of hearing this giant of the blues bass guitar for a few tunes. And Steve Guyger also took the stage with Billy and really stretched out, playing the truest blues harp I have heard in ages - maybe ever. Steve's vocals were authentic and impassioned. To add to the fun, Cathi Norton sang and Joe Filisko played some harp. I left the Smoke Daddy at 1 a.m., completely sated.

Sunday was a day for rest. I went to church, we had a barbeque.

Last night, I went to Joe Filisko's advanced blues harmonica class. This is a group of blues harp zealots, a cult led by Joliet Joe. We are studying the intricacies of "Sixth Position." No, this is not a martial arts move or a page from the Kama Sutra - it is a very different way of approaching the harmonica in a blues setting. So we played, we studied, and we went to the bar for beers after class.

I must now re-engage as a good investment banker and family man, let all of this music settle into my system.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Job History

Here is a list of jobs:

1. Manager of a hot dog stand.
2. Investment banker in a 3-man partnership.
3. Greenskeeper on a municipal golf course.
4. CEO of a failing healthcare software firm.
5. Head of corporate development, marketing and communications at a big finance company.
6. Salesman for an equipment leasing company.
7. Park maintenance man.
8. Trombone player in a band that supported a funky little circus.
9. Associate Director of Admissions for a graduate business school.
10. Commercial banker for major midwestern pharmaceutical firms.
11. Singapore-based Asia-Pacific manager for a small financial institution.
12. Singing, harmonica-playing front man for a blues band.
13. Night manager at the UC Berkeley Student Union Building.
14. Manager of a healthcare industry lending group.
15. Leader of a start-up business focused on investments in alternative energy and cogeneration projects.
16. Night Grill Man at a Jack In The Box burger joint.
17. Independent consultant.

This motley collection of occupations is my job history. The longest time I have spent in one job has been about 6 years; the shortest time - one week (I didn't do well as a night grill man at Jack in the Box).

Sometimes it is a curse to be saddled with a short attention span; sometimes it is a blessing. When you keep starting over, you lose momentum. But if you keep your feet moving, you are harder to hit. I prefer to keep moving.

Friday, June 03, 2005

On the Cusp

There is an old joke - "Question: What is the difference between a harmonica player and a large pizza? Answer: A large pizza can feed a family of four." This joke applies to most musical pursuits, I am afraid. Early on, I decided that I did not have the stomach for the battle that most professional musicians fight every day. A top performing player generally does not receive compensation from the market that is commensurate with the talent and effort expended by the musician. Only a few make it, and I think there is a significant oversupply of musicians relative to market demand for musical talent. So I switched my college major from music to economics, followed up my undergrad degree with a MBA degree, and embarked on a banking career. I am in my 27th year of that career - time just flows like a river.

For the past year, I have been a partner in a small investment banking boutique in Chicago. There are only three partners - no other employees. We have one client that pays us a fee every month, so we have our expenses covered. In order to make decent money, we have to do deals. We have three deals on the cusp right now. The first is a deal we have been working on since last summer. We have been retained to sell a company; we have a buyer lined up, and we are trying to push things along to close. It is hard slogging, but I think we are going to get it done. The second deal is a prospect that we have been working on for about six months. We are negotiating our engagement letter right now. We have hit a snag. I hope that we work through this, because this company will sell readily to a hungry market. The third deal isn't really a deal - it is a consulting assignment with a very large company that could turn into a long term relationship. We have reached agreement on economic terms; now we have to work through the legal language with the attorneys. If we close on all three of these deals, we will have a fat year. If they all fall apart, we will be in a bit of difficulty.

Everything is hanging on the razor's edge, which is making me a bit edgy. I am waiting for other people to take action; I can't push too hard lest I annoy my counterparties; neither can I be too passive. Finding the right balance requires patience and luck. It stretches the nerves a bit.

Well, it is Friday evening and time to wander over to the train station - the 6:00 PM Union Pacific North Line train will take me home to my happy family. I can get my nerves unstretched by immersing myself music - and this weekend offers fabulous possibilities. The Chicago Gospel Festival is happening this weekend! Solomon Burke is the headliner tomorrow night!!! Business matters will be forgotten while I hang at the Gospel Fest.