Search This Blog

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Linda Twyman - Murdered

For the second time this year, residents of Evanston, Illinois are shaking their heads over a killing in our town. In June, a couple of angry young men fought in a bar and one got shot to death. The murder of 43-year old Linda Twyman is much more disturbing to settled, middle-aged people like me - she was stabbed to death in her own apartment. For my wife and me, this was also a blow close to home - Linda is our neighbor and we knew her personally.

Linda was a kind-hearted single mom that struggled to pay the rent and raise her daughter. She wasn't a rich person - Linda didn't own a car when we knew her. She sent her daughter (now 20 years old)to the local Catholic school even though she didn't have much money for tuition. Her ex-husband moved to Oregon, so she was really on her own as a single parent. She loved to travel and became a travel agent in order to incorporate that passion into her work life. Linda was a lovely, "normal" person who worked hard to have a decent life. She was always on the early train to her job in downtown Chicago. She had a smile for everyone she met. Her boyfriend is serving in the National Guard, currently posted to a base in Wisconsin.

The Evanston Police haven't announced any suspects. It may be an act of random violence - quite unsettling for all of us in the neighborhood (Linda's apartment is a five-minute walk from my house; my wife is opening her art gallery around the corner from Linda's building). So the tragedy is increased by this feeling of fear and uncertainty - what type of evil beasts would do this and where are they now?

Linda had many friends in this community. She is mourned, and we are wary of strangers now.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

My Lost Friend

I was at the local blues club last night, and it was rocking. Eddy "The Chief" Clearwater was holding forth, carrying the crowd higher and higher. The house was packed; people with dough were making the liquor flow. It was a scene that we don't see often enough here in Evanston - a large group of people, enjoying live blues music and a few beverages.

I was watching the door while the proprietor hit the men's room, taking cover charges. My old friend, "Duke," crossed the street and came to the door. We go back over seventeen years; we worked at the same company for eight years. He is a good man, a family man looking after a brood that includes a son with "special needs." And as he walked into the joint with his four buddies, I could tell that he was toasted. I also remembered that, for the past couple of years, Duke has been toasted everytime I have seen him after 7:30 p.m. Duke greeted me enthusiastically and called for drinks. He set up shop with his friends at the back of the club. Over the course of the next ninety minutes, Duke got deep into his cups. I looked up from my conversations with neighborhood acquaintences to see Duke hitting on younger women (in spite of their horrified reaction to his drunken state) and watched him flail about on the dance floor.

The Chief ended his fabulous set of blues and retro rock and roll at about 11:30 p.m. After the band left the stand, Duke decided that he needed to make an announcement over the P.A. system. He staggered up on stage and turned to face the audience, clutching a microphone. He started to speak. He swayed. Then - BOOM! - he fell backwards into the drum kit, upending cymbals, snare and tom-tom. Duke is a big man - six foot five and about 250 pounds, I would say - so it was hard to pull him to his feet. It took three of us to get him untangled from the drums and off the bandstand. I grabbed the designated driver in Duke's posse and told him to get the guy out of the club and to his house in the 'burbs. So Duke essentially got bounced out of the blues club for being a drunken idiot. I am sure he woke up this morning with no recollection of his tumble - he was working on an alcoholic blackout last night.

As I pulled at Duke's arms, trying to get him off the floor of the stage, he looked up at me. The look in his eyes chilled me - the look of a desparate, lost person. I left the club shortly after Duke was hustled away, and slipped into bed next to my lovely wife. I couldn't sleep - couldn't sleep. Yes, Duke has slipped into a bad state; he needs help for his alcohol abuse. And I thought about my own consumption of booze, and the way it pervades most social settings that I frequent.

I stayed away from all forms of alcohol today.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Thanksgiving in E-Town

E-Town is chilled this Thanksgiving Day - the coldest Thanksgiving in our region since 1956. The wind is whipping around, up to 40 mph. gusts. Twenty degrees feels like zero degrees when that wind hits you in the face. The sun is out and the landscape looks brittle. We had a dusting of snow on Tuesday night, but it was warm enough on Wednesday to burn it away.

I hosted the blues jam at Evanston's local blues club on Tuesday. The house was full, and a few musicians didn't get to play - they were pissed off. Being the jam host is a pretty thankless job. I refuse to let anarchy reign on the bandstand, so some folks don't like me. Hey, I can live with that.

My extended family celebrated Thanksgiving early this year - my adult son was in town for a visit last weekend, so we hosted 23 people to dinner last Saturday night; turkey and the trimmings. I am the cook on Thanksgiving and I smoked a 27 pound "free range" turkey on the Weber grill. Our dinner tonight will be roast beef - we have been eating turkey every day this week and we need a change.

As I fiddle around my kitchen cooking turkey soup and reading recipes, I realize that I am living a privileged life. My dear Mexican-American wife sometimes refers to our situation as "a cushy white-ass life." She is correct. We are distributing some desserts to the local soup kitchens today, but that is a pittance, a symbolic gesture. I am not sure whether I am feeling gratitude or guilt for my fortunate circumstances.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Katrina Benefit at the Morseland - a Review

The Katrina Benefit at the Morseland went pretty well. A large crowd was in the house, each contributing their $10 for the cause. My daughter, Lizz Gillock, did a fine set of jazz vocals with Joel, her acoustic guitar player. He was a real talent, playing a metal-body Resonator guitar and sounding like Charlie Christian. Lizz covered lots of standards (Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered, etc.), then threw in the "Tin Man's Song" from the Wizard of Oz ("If I only Had a Heart"). Lizz nailed the tunes - intonation perfect, lyrics delivered with the right emotions, scat singing was hot. I loved it.

The quality of the Mystery Band set was mixed – we had a couple of special moments, but I fumbled a few things. The best moment came when my bass player, E.G McDaniel, surprised me by kicking off the O’Jays tune, “For the Love of Money.” Mr. G and the Mystery Band had never played this tune before, but I said, ”Yeah! Let’s do this thing.” It worked very well, and the crowd went wild. So this tune is now in our set. Generally, I think we should do more R&B. I ain’t no soul singer, but with a band like the Mystery Band, we can pull it off.

I also stayed late at the Morseland to hear the hip-hop set, and my eyes were opened. A white guy fronted a live hip-hop group. I could only make out every 4th word he was saying, but he was good. And his band was awesome – acoustic bass, keys, guitar drums and sax/flute. I have never heard jazz flute combined with a rapper before – it sounded extremely cool and fresh. The band "sampled" Clifford Brown and Coltrane rather than snipping stuff from the R&B guys. The rapper’s name is Verbal Kent. I now have a new interest - finding the quality in the world of hip-hop. It ain't all about 50 Cent and his gangsta hoo-hah.

It was a long night, but a fine night. It was a great mix of music.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Katrina Benefit at the Morseland Cafe in Chicago

My eldest daughter's boyfriend traces his roots to New Orleans. He has organized a benefit for the victims of Katrina. The benefit will be held at the Morseland Cafe in Chicago's Rogers Park neighborhood. The date is Saturday, Novemnber 5; start time is 8 pm, suggested donation is $10 (I think). Mr. G and the Mystery Band will play along with my daughter, the jazz singer, and various funk and hip-hop artists. Here is a link that provides the details.