Search This Blog

Friday, September 30, 2005

Last Minute Gig

I got a call from the manager of our local blues bar in Evanston, Illinois. This weekend is the second anniversary celebration of Bill's Blues Bar; the headliner is the world-famous Eddy "The Chief" Clearwater. Well, Eddy is sick and can't make it. I have been asked to front Eddy's band for a few numbers this evening. Bill is calling around trying to find other front men/women to sit in at the last minute. This is not good - the crowd will be expecting the Chief and they are going to get a motley crew of nobodies.

This will be an edgy evening. I hope that it all works out.

A Theory of Stupidity

I found this essay to be quite interesting and entertaining - The Basic Laws of Stupidity. Read it and laugh (or cry, depending on your mood).

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Action of the Monroe Street Bridge

I am coping with my Rita-related unease by focusing on specifics. I have friends in Houston; my business partner grew up in Texas and has lots of friends in South Texas. It is hard to watch a catastrophe approach and have no way to stop it.

So I am shifting my attention to local stuff in Chicago's great Loop to keep my hurricane anxiety down. If you don't know downtown Chicago, the major train stations are just west of the Chicago River, a bit outside of the Loop. The Union Pacific Metra station is at Canal and Monroe; Union Station (more Metra and Amtrak) is at Canal and Adams. The bridges over the Chicago River that lead to the train stations are prime real estate for panhandlers, street musicians, and pamphleteers. One of the top "bucket drummers" in Chicago has staked his claim to a spot in the middle of the Monroe Street bridge. I usually don't tip the bucket drummers - they are mostly loud and annoying - but this guy has style. He plays a medium tempo funk beat in 4-bar spurts, then breaks to shout out messages. I will try to write out what I hear when I cross the bridge:

"boom crack booma booma boom crack..boom crack booma booma boom crack..boomcrack booma booma boom crack..boom..THANK GOD ITS FRIDAY!..boom crack booma booma boom crack..boom crack booma booma boom crack..boom crack booma booma boom crack..boom..LET'S GO WHITE SOX!!"

That's the general idea. The Bucket Beater also makes brief observations about the people passing by, which he shouts out during the breaks (example: "Nice Dress, Baby!!"). Sometimes he shouts out something with a religous theme (example: "Just Love Jesus"). His energy level is high and he grins ferociously as he pounds and shouts. You just gotta tip a guy like that.

Outdoor bucket drumming season is winding to a close - when the temps drop, the buckets go away. Chicago's policemen are fond of rousting the buskers and panhandlers - a group of beggars are suing the Chicago Police Department, claiming harassment and violation of free speech right (yikes! Pleas for spare change is convered by the First Amendment?). On some days, my favorite Bucket Beater is absent, having been sent packing by Chicago's Finest. There are many folks on the street that should be rousted, but not the Monroe Street Bridge Bucket Beater.

NOLA Evacuees

My eldest daughter's boyfriend hails from New Orleans - he grew up in Chicago, but he still has lots of family in NOLA. A group of them have evacuated to Skokie, Illinois, where Patrick's mother lives. I stopped by to visit them recently - three befuddled people, lives upended by Katrina. Two out of the three happened to be on vacation, visiting friends in Cincinatti when the storm hit. The third family member stayed in New Orleans, got flooded out of her house, got stuck in the Superdome, moved to the Houston Astrodome and finally was put on a plane to Chicago. She arrived the day of my visit. Mary (not her real name) is a 50-something woman, fairly heavy, an insulin-dependent diabetic with bad hips and knees. She had that "hundred-yard stare" usually associated with infantrymen after the battle is over. Mary was trying to play cards with the family, but gave up and found a dark room where she hid. I think the Superdome experience will be with her forever.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

NOLA - A Native Remembers and Reflects

A professor in Pittsburg wrote a lovely reflection on New Orleans, her home town. Hit this link and read this - this woman has passion for the Crescent City.....

Help New Orleans Musicians!

Here is an e-mail I received today from "Roots and Rhythm," a great outfit that keeps obscure and excellent blues, jazz and old rock music available for fanatics like me. I appreciate the list of saved NOLA musicians; I encourage all music lovers to donate to the musician relief agencies listed in this message:

Dear Friends,

We've all watched with horror the devastation wreaked on Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama by Hurricane Katrina and particularly the ongoing tragedy in New Orleans. It's hard to imagine the American musical landscape without the contributions of so many musicians from the Crescent City. And that musical heritage continued until a week ago when the levees broke. Now there are hundreds of musicians left without a job or a home and it may be a very long time before they are able to work again, if ever. There are also musicians whose whereabouts are unknown and may number among the dead when we learn the whole story.

We thought it appropriate to pass along to you some information about musicians that are known to be safe and also let you know ways in which you can help musicians directly.

Firstly - here is a list of musicians that are known to be safe, courtesy of Mary Katherine Aldin of the Post War Blues mailing list:

Jeffrey "Jellybean" Alexander, Steve Allen, Kevin Allman, Brint Anderson, Theresa Andersson, James Andrews, Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews, Johnny Angel, Christine Balfa, Marcia Ball, Lucien Barbarin, Mike Barras and family, Rebecca Barry, Bruce "Sunpie" Barnes, Dave Bartholomew, Harold Battiste, Jamal Battiste, Russell Batiste, Tab Benoit, Beausoleil (Michael Doucet and all band members), Doug Belote, Better Than Ezra, Terrance Blanchard, Eddie Bo (plus sister Veronica and his band), Bonerama, Big Chief Monk Boudreaux, John Boutté, Lillian Boutté,Tricia "Sista Teedy" Boutté, Alonzo Bowens, Russ Broussard, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, Jody Brown, Maurice Brown, Wendell Brunious (Preservation Hall Jazz Band), George and Nina Buck (Palm Court Cafe), Henry Butler, Grayson Capps, Big Al Carson, Ricki Castrillo, Topsy Chapman, Alex Chilton, Evan Christopher, Jon Cleary, Rick Coleman, Harry Connick, Jr., Cowboy Mouth, Susan Cowsill, Davell Crawford, Jack Cruz, Dash Rip Rock, Jeremy Davenport, Theryl "Houseman" DeClouet, Dirty Dozen Brass Band (all members), The Dixie Cups (but lost everything), Big Chief Bo Dollis and the Wild Magnolias, Michael Dominici, Fats Domino, Rockin' Dopsie & the Zydeco Twisters (all members), Dr. John, Snooks Eaglin (and family of 12, all nowhomeless), Lars Edegran, Nancy Edwards, Joe Espino & New Orleans Brass Potholes Band (all members), Charlie Fardela, Jack Fine (of the Palmetto Bug Stompers), Pat Flory & Donna, John Fohl, Frankie Ford, Andy Forrest, Gina Forsyth, Pete Fountain, Derrick Freeman, Jonathan Freilich (N.O. Klezmer All-Stars), Bob French, Peter Fuller, Funky Meters, Galactic, Katrina Geenen (WWOZ dj), Banu Gibson, Steve Goodson, Tim Green, John "Papa" Gros and all members of Papa Grows Funk, James Hall, Tony Hall, Jeff Hannusch, Corey Harris, Leigh "Lil' Queenie" Harris, Duke Heitger,Clarence "Frogman" Henry, Corey Henry, Andi Hoffman, Kenny Holladay, Peter Holsapple, Hot Club of New Orleans (all members), The Iguanas (all members), Burke Ingraffia, Benny Jones Sr., Leroy Jones, Dave Jordan and family, Kirk Joseph, Jerry Jumonville, Chris Thomas King and family, Joe Krown, Julia LaShae, Joe Lastie (drummer, Preservation Hall Jazz Band), Tim Laughlin, Washboard Chaz Leary, Bryan Lee, David Leonard & Roselyn Lionheart (David & Roselyn), Herman Leonard, Lil' Rascals Brass Band, Li'l Stooges Brass Band, Eric Lindell, A.J. Loria, Jeremy Lyons, Ronald Markham, Ellis Marsalis, Jason Marsalis, Steve Masakowski, Irvin Mayfield, Tom McDermott, Humberto "Pupi" Menez (and aunt Caridad Delatorre), Charlie Miller, Charles Louie Moore, Deacon John Moore (band members unknown), Bill Morgan, Tom Morgan, Chris Mule, Kenny Neal, The Neville Brothers, Charmaine Neville, Ian Neville, Ivan Neville, Kevin O'Day, Anders Osborne, Joshua Mann Paillet (owner of A Gallery for Fine Photography), Stevenson Palfi, Earl Palmer, Panorama Jazz Band, Joshua Paxton, Michael Pearce, Spike Perkins, Dave Pirner, Renard Poche, Pocketfoxx, George Porter Jr., Dirk Powell, Shannon Powell and family, Gloria Powers, Wardell Quezergue, Quintron & Miss Pussycat, The Radiators, Jan Ramsey & most Offbeat staff, Rebirth Brass Band (Kabuki unknown), Herlin Riley, Marcus Roberts, Coco Robicheaux, John Rodli (New Orleans Jazz Vipers), Biff Rose, Brent Rose and family, George Rossi, Wanda Rouzan, Dixie Rubin, Kermit Ruffins, Scott Saltzman, Mark and Will Samuels (Basin Street Records), Ben Sandmel, Jumpin' Johnny Sansone, Marc and Ann Savoy and family, Alexandra Scott, Mem Shannon and the Membership, Derek Shezbie, James Singleton, Johnny Sketch, Michael Skinkus, Robert Snow (New Orleans Jazz Vipers), Steamboat Willie, Sally Stevens, Armand St. Martin, Brian Stoltz, Marc Stone, Bill Summers, Ken Swartz, Irma Thomas, Dave Torkanowsky, Rick Trolsen, Allen Toussaint, Willie Turbinton, Johnny Vidacovich, Rob Wagner, Mark Walton, Walter "Wolfman" Washington, Melissa Weber, Raymond Weber, Mike West, Dr. Michael White, Marva Wright, June Yamagishi

Here is some information on how you can help the surviving musicians - from the Jazz Foundation of America:

(Message from Wendy Oxenhorn Executive Director at the Jazz Foundation
of America)

Two Organizations helping the musicians in New Orleans:

We are directing folks to the New Orleans Musicians Clinic (NOMC) which has the names and addresses of so many musicians in New Orleans, and are working now to find them and find temporary housing for them in schools etc.

But let us remember...

... it will be the Jazz Foundation who will be called upon to provide
money to the musicians for first month rents and security deposits on new
apartments and relocations. As well, we're going to try to get instruments replaced.

Please let your contacts know if you think they can help, ask them to
email me.

** New Orleans Musicians Clinic (NOMC) **

This is a fantastic hands on organization who has the names and addresses of
so many great musicians because they have them all coming to their FREE health
clinic all these years and now, they are the ones who are tracking down the local musicians and finding them shelter.

They can be contacted at

They are the New Orleans Musicians Clinic and know the whereabouts of the local musicians down there.

Contact: Kathy Richard directly at 337 989-0001

Send donations to:
NOMC Emergency Fund
funds will be distributed by:
SW LA Area Health Education Center Foundation, Inc.
103 Independence Blvd.
Lafayette, LA 70506
desk: 337-989-0001
fax: 337-989-1401

The New Orleans Musicians Clinic is determined to keep Louisiana Music Alive!
It is our beacon to soothe our souls. We want to relocate our New Orleans musicians
into the Lafayette/ Acadiana community where they can remain a life force! But most of them have lost everything... we must help them rebuild their lives.

They can't access any of their NOMC accounts. They desperately need money to fund these efforts.

** Jazz Foundation of America **

We will be addressing the longer term needs of these jazz and blues artists who will have just lost everything.

We will be raising funds and distributing money for the musicians to get a new
apartment or room for rent: by giving a first month's rent, possibly more, for
them to start over, a place to live. (This is what we normally do on a daily
basis for musicians across the country who become sick and can't pay their rent,
we also keep food on the table and get employment to hundreds of elderly musicians
through our Jazz in the Schools program. Our operations normally assist 35 musicians
a week.)

As well, we will be attempting to help New Orleans musicians by replacing the thing that matters most and the only way they can ever work again: their instruments. To those who lost their instruments, like drummers and bassists who could not carry their heavy equipment, and guitarist with their amps, we will be making an effort to work with manufacturers and music stores to replace those instruments for as many as we possibly can.

Remember, New Orleans was only “New Orleans” because of the musicians...

Send donations to:
Jazz Foundation of America
322 West 48th Street 6th floor
NYC 10036

Director: Wendy Oxenhorn
Phone: 212-245-3999 Ext. 21

go to: and click bottom right corner of page where it says “instant pledge”

Thank you, from our hearts.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005


The floodwaters of New Orleans are slowly receding as the massive pumps start up. Of course, Lake Ponchatrain will turn into a massive toxic cesspool when all the brackish water from the streets of New Orleans is pushed back over the levee. The mayor of NOLA is predicting 10,000 fatalities. The price of crude dropped to $66/barrel due to releases from the strateigic oil reserve. The finger-pointing blame game is picking up momentum (seems to me that everyone from all levels of government can assume some of the blame for this tragedy). For the first time in my lifetime, the U.S. is accepting foreign aid!!! From Bangladesh, among others!!!!

My 9 year old started fourth grade at a new school today. I saw her off this morning. I was dazed and fuzzy as I waved good-bye to her - the Gulf Coast disaster and unrelated mundane nonsense caused me to sleep fitfully last night. My mind was flopping like a fish in a boat. My dazed state has continued as I sat in my Chicago Loop office trying to be productive. I actually was productive, but it was a huge effort.

And to add to my sense of spaciness, Bob Denver died.
I am a baby boomer; Gilligan meant something to me, as did Maynard G. Krebs. Yes, they were fluffy, inconsequential TV creations, but they put my whole family in a good mood for 30 minutes each week (not an easy achievement, believe me). Bob Denver was 70 years old - not very old by today's standards. He will live forever in syndication.

At least Fats Domino survived Katrina and is safe. Like so many residents of the Gulf Coast, he has lost everything. Allen Toussaint also got out and is in New York after being evacuated from a flooded NOLA hotel. The music has been silenced in New Orleans for now - washed away by the evil storm.

Monday, September 05, 2005

The Lyrics to a Great Song about NOLA

Louis Armstrong and Harry Connick, Jr. both have versions of this marvelous old song........


Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans?
And miss her each night and day
I know I'm not wrong because the feeling's
Getting stronger the longer I stay away

Miss the moss-covered vines, tall sugar pines
Where mockingbirds used to sing
I'd love to see that old lazy Mississippi
Running in the spring

Moonlight on the bayous
Creole tunes fill the air
I dream about magnolias in June
And I'm wishin I was there

Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans?
When that's where you left your heart
And there's one thing more, I miss the one I care for
More than I miss New Orleans

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Katrina, NOLA and NYC

I have been in New York since Wednesday, August 31. Monday and Tuesday were days filled with bad news about Katrina, but the true nature of the catastrophe didn't really become clear to me until Wednesday. My older brother lived in New Orleans for several years in the 1970's; I came to know the town then when I visited him. I have returned often since that time, but not recently. As a jazz and blues fan, I worship the musicians that have emerged from New Orleans and Mississippi. The Meters, Louis Armstrong, the Marsalis family, Slim Harpo, Professor Longhair, The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Dr. John (Mac Rebennack), Harry Connick Jr., Terrence Blanchard, Allen Toussaint, Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews, Anthony "Tuba Fats" Lacen.....the list could go on forever for me. I have been trolling the web, looking for news on the living people on this list. Most of the current "bigger name" musicians got out with the evacuees (Dr. John is playing in Detroit this weekend), but some were trapped. Fats Domino was pulled off a roof top. I am sure some NOLA musicians perished. Many things have been lost - one blues musician acquaintance of mine escaped, but has lost all of his equipment, recordings and his home. New Orleans music is part of the spiritual world and cannot be destroyed by a hurricane - it will continue. And NOLA will rise again - I read in the New York Times this morning that the French Quarter has not flooded. But what carnage and sadness!! I have sent money, and want to do more.

After a few days of pursuing my investment banker career, my family joined me here in NYC. Connie loves this town - she would like to live here once the girls are grown and gone. It is heaven for a visual artist - so much art is here, and so much inspiration for art is here. Sarah and Amanda are another story - the busy-ness and urban landscape are not to their liking. We attended a bat mitzvah on Saturday - Amanda's best friend was the bat mitzvah.

I did a lot of walking on the streets of Manhattan this week - walking and thinking. New York seems to be cleaner and calmer than it was during my last visit. The infrastructure seems stronger - I saw three street cleaning vehicles this week, and everyone seems to be washing down sidewalks and picking up trash. The social connections appear solid. In NOLA, much of the infrastructure and social connections were washed away by Katrina. I feel ashamed of what has happened, what is still happening. The money for beefing up the levees was cut from the Federal budget even though this catastrophe was clearly forseen by many people (I read the Times Picayune series in 2002 on the aftermath of a Category 5 hurricane on NOLA, and they had everything right). I think this is worse than not protecting against the 9/11/01 attacks - flying jets into buildings hadn't happened before; hurricanes on the Gulf Coast are regular occurances that can be anticipated.

Here in NYC, there are certainly race and class divisions, but the city is humming along, mostly too busy to worry much about that stuff. I have had pleasant conversations with lots of people, ranging from wealthy private equity investors in the Chrysler Building to raggedy homeless fellows on 3rd Avenue. But when a major calamity strikes and all those with money flee, the ones that stay left behind are usually poor - black and/or elderly. The ignored sub-structure of society becomes visible when the super-structure gets stripped away. NOLA is huge example of this.

They say that good things can come from tragic events and it is often true. So maybe New Orleans and the Gulf Coast will get better protection from hurricanes. And maybe the poor folks will get more attention from U.S. society. Right now, I am hopeful but not optimistic.