Mishegas Master

My journal of life and those lives that surround & influence me, both positively & negatively

Tuesday, April 7

Until Further Notice, Everyday Feels Like Sunday




It’s been a very rough and harrowing three weeks since both President Donald Trump and Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker have decried this stay-at-home order. And people have been listening too, to some degree. Subway trains and buses are virtually empty, each time I’ve looked up and noticed, while on nightly walks around my neighborhood. Chicagoans are heeding the warning, as are most in our nation. Stay-at-home. Stay-cation. Stay-where-you-are. Stay-er. Stay-put. Stay-of-execution.
Reiterating, again, except for that daily walk the dog or walk around the neighborhood by yours truly, I for one, have been heeding the warning, except of course, when it comes to getting groceries/food or picking up medicine or routine doctor visits. But I wondered how worth it, it’s been when I have to go visit a doctor’s office, when the building in which the both the clinic and specialized doctors are housed, has new house rules.
And as a result, there are fewer cars on the streets during the day. Empty buses all day long through the late evening. Empty subway cars and commuter trains, looking ghostly. Empty sidewalks, save for the occasional dog walker, jogger or couple with baby stroller. All known forms of human life indoors. Business conducted virtually. Internet overload. Hoarding is the new norm.
Welcome to Covid-19, World Pandemic 2020, where, as Marc Smith, founder of Poetry Slam might say, “rules are meant to be broken.” Or in some cases, rules are made up as they go along, because they have no rules to begin with. Or the every popular statement, until further notice.
Are people paying attention to that? Until further notice, more than likely means, that there is no plan in place because no one bothered to think ahead in case of a disaster, such as a pandemic sprang up. And even if they had a plan in place, some places of business haven’t even practiced the plan and generally ignored it until the actual event occurred.
The lake is closed
Sid sports his mask from Chris Kondos Boutique
But then you know, there are such disasters as weather-related incidents as blizzards, tornados, hurricanes, earthquakes, spewing volcanoes, windstorms and flooding. And then there are other sorts of manmade disasters like fires, spontaneous combustion, world wars, mass shootings and pandemics. And strangely enough, most people listen and obey, that is until pandemonium breaks out, coupled with fear and paranoia and conspiracy theories a-plenty. All brought to you by the 21st century. Haven’t people learned anything yet?
One thing at a time though. When a business or someone within in the business is instructed to tell you, “Until further notice, “ what the fuck does that even mean? It could mean, that no one in upper management bothered to make a back-up plan in the event of a major disaster.
More than likely they have, but not on the level of that one had hoped they might have. And still I’ve been asking, what the heck does that even mean? I still don’t know. Well, it’s all a matter of interpretation and I can start with my own experiences, as most people can, but mine is as unique as the next guy.
I attend smaller more approachable and personal medical clinics, which is similar to the traditional free clinic. The doctors are far more reasonable than a regular office doctor, that one has to jump hoops through in order to get an appointment and even then, the appointment seems to only last for 10 minutes or less.
Shane Bugbee sports his cool mask
The traditional free clinic however, seems to have changed all of that, meaning I get to see and have a consultation with a doctor far greater than 10 minutes, more like 30-40 minutes, because the doctor’s time isn’t totally eaten up by corporation HMO/PPO paperwork.
Is going to a traditional free clinic any better than going to a more corporate medical doctor with better connections to specialized doctors and nurses? More than likely, yes, but since I barely get sick, though Covid-19 could change all of that, I probably prefer this method.
Besides, people in this day and age are self-medicating anyway and only seem to go to a doctor when it’s an extreme emergency. Self-medicating includes the medical marijuana crowd, something I’m not privy to speak about since I’m not a part of, though I am certain, friends of mine can speak on and over-the-counter medication like aspirin, cough syrup, allergy medicine, ointments, and medical supplies like bandages, and thermometers.
And of course, there’s the most traditional of all medication. Advice from friends, family, Internet forums and social media. Herein lie several challenges. Before my mom passed away, I always told her when I was under the weather, she advised me on what to do or get. She always felt empathic to my circumstance.
A lot of the time if I had a cold or flu, she recommended crackers/saltines and hot chicken soup, which despite legal ramifications and stereotypes aside, isn’t a tradition that didn’t start with the Jewish people, but more than likely from Chinese tradition, as far back as the 1st century, though like everything else, was adopted, hijacked, stolen or dressed similarly to look like their own, which is perhaps why, in both modern and contemporary times, the Jewish people are so closely associated with it. And still, I could be totally clueless.
And most all of my friends have been helpful, offering me lots of practical advice, which believe me is good for lifting my spirits up in these unknown days of blah. My family, which now, due to circumstances surrounding my mom’s passing nearly three years ago, consist of my younger brother Benjamin and my dad. I talk to Benjamin about one or two times a week either by social media or by phone and that seems to be all right for now and of course I speak to my dad nearly every night by phone.
My dad, since my mom’s passing, has certainly stepped up to the plate, which I rarely saw during the time of my mom’s life. Not that that’s a bad thing, but I guess since I relied more on mom than dad, I must have hardly ever noticed it. Dad seems funnier, snappier and honestly cares about me (not that he wouldn’t ever), although I do have to say that he nearly says the same words every time I speak with him, “You woke me up,” to which I respond, “Dad, my job as a son is to call you and wake you up.”
He cares a lot about my health and would much rather see me healthy than unhealthy, which I’ve experienced many times over, especially since this past winter, when I was struck with both strep throat and flu, shortly before and shortly after I traveled to and from Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania by way of Philadelphia and New York, to spend Uncle Mickey’s 70th birthday with Uncle Mickey and my friend, Grue, who lives in Philadelphia.
And then there’s my friends whom I’ve been checking in with almost everyday, from the ones in the almost immediate area, to other friends from around the world, most notably, Denmark. Denmark, as many of you might know, is like my second home away from home, besides New York, in the category of favorite places to be and also, I’ve toured there three times since 2010.
Irony is as irony does, but one thing is for certain, in Denmark, my friends are all the same, from grouchy callous Johnny Concrete, whom I asked if he was wearing a mask and gloves, went nearly ballistic on me. “Don' t be bloody daft!” He screamed at me in an email. Concrete’s approach seemed to have soften up this afternoon (April 5), when he calmly asked me “how are you holding up? What a difference a few days make.
Then, there are my friends Marcus and Elfie in Hemmed, longtime friends Pedro and Camilla in Aarhus, and Karsten in Harlev. They all seem to be holding up just fine, not paying attention to the mainstream news as much and just carrying on with everyday life.
They too, are receiving the national emergency texts like we are here in the United States, except theirs are coming directly from the Danish local police departments, as opposed to from their countries’ leaders, since Denmark is a socialist country and is ruled by both a prime minister and a monarchy (queen, prince, etc).  
Upon reading about other countries methods in the news, it is far worse. Enforcement of the law is serious business and authorities on the prowl and in charge don’t hesitate to enforce the laws and ordinances on the books and also, of course, apply the until further notice plan.
In Chicago, for example, mayor Lori Lightfoot closed all lakefront property, including adjacent parks, the downtown Riverwalk, Millennium Park and quite a few of the bike paths and trails. “It’s time to get serious folks, “ she was quoted as saying in press reports.  While most of the 50 states have stay-at-home orders, only yesterday on April 1, April Fools’ Day, coincidently, Florida’s governor decided well after three weeks into the pandemic, to do the same thing, luckily for him, not as many people have fallen ill, compared to the epicenter of New York, followed closely behind by Louisiana.
Other countries such as the Philippines, have in place, their own law and order, which is if people are caught outside gathering in groups of 10 or more, prepare to be shot at by police. No questions asked. In Germany, only two or less people can gather together. It was Denmark, however, that really seemed to lead the charge in the beginning, when the entire country decided to shut down completely, save for essential services including gas stations, medical personnel, police, fire, grocery stores and restaurants, that offer pickup and delivery services. They also closed their borders.
Other countries followed suit, including Holland, Norway, France and Germany. Almost immediately, every European country fell in line, followed by other continents and finally by North America. President Trump imposed a 30-day travel ban to Europe with certain restrictions.
The hardest hit countries it seems have been China, where the coronavirus began, followed by Italy and then America itself. Cites big, small and in between almost immediately adopted their own versions of lockdown. Primarily we, as citizens have been asked to stay home and only go out as necessary. Those who have jobs for the moment, work from home, for the 9.9 million plus workers now unemployed, life is a bit of a struggle.
The good news, is that the U.S. Congress and the U.S. Senate dropped their usual gripes long enough to work together and passed a major stimulus bill to the tune of 3.2 trillion dollars that helps bail out the airlines industry, major corporations, helps pay those out of work and provides a one time stimulus check for all Americans and working families, those on disability, veterans and everyone else for that matter. Quite frankly, this bill covers all its bases beautifully. Although checks are scheduled to be sent out by mid-April (2020), rumors have been spread that checks may arrive as late as December. To be honest, rumors don’t help anyone. All rumors do is fan flames and spread panic and fear and paranoia and worst of all, panic buying. That’s just plain wrong.
But what about all of the existing mental illness disorders that will rise out of the ashes as a result of this pandemic and be returned onto our nation? There are a lot of them, including in no particular order; depression, anxiety, false fear, paranoia, PTSD, sleep apnea, overeating, hoarding (think toilet paper), isolationitis (social distancing), screen dependency, photo-shaming, alcoholism, pill addiction, skin irritation (due to wearing latex or rubber gloves), skin hunger (think shaking hands, fist bumping, hugs, touching) OCD (think washing hands frequently, as recommended by the CDC) and many others.
If anyone stands to gain any ground here in terms of future business and finances, it will be the toilet paper industry, mental health professionals, soap manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies and hand sanitizer makers. Perhaps even President Trump and his cronies will make a buck or two also. 
And then there’s the hoarding aspect. In the past whenever there’s been a blizzard, we overbuy a lot of things. Milk. Bread. Butter. Water. Batteries. This time, oddly enough, the hoarding is a little altered. It’s still bread and water, as well as rice, ground beef, pasta and toilet paper.
 Toilet paper? Why the heck toilet paper of all things? Because toilet paper is truly the most quintessential human basic need of comforting ourselves in the simplest of ways. We sleep. We eat. We bathe. We shit. We piss. We use toilet paper. Not corncobs. Not leaves. Not baby wipes. Not paper napkins. Not Kleenex. Not paper towels. Just good old-fashioned fucking toilet paper.
It wouldn’t be the first time a toilet paper shortage was created. Back in 1973 during the oil embargo, which meant shortages of paper, gas and meat products among other things, Wisconsin Republican Congressman Harold Froehlich issued a press statement on December 11, 1973, in which he said, "The U.S. may face a shortage of toilet paper within a few months," and suggested to rationing toilet paper as a possible solution to fix the problem.
The district he represented included manufacturers within the paper industry. The press picked up on it and eight days later, on December 19, 1973, TV show host Johnny Carson stuck it in his monologue and told a live audience and close to 20 million viewers that there was a shortage of toilet paper. What he left out however, that it simply wasn’t true and it was only a possibility.
The very next day, December 20, 1973, consumers flocked to grocery stores and supermarkets in droves and hoarded rolls and rolls and rolls of toilet paper from store shelves. The hoarding continued nonstop for the next three weeks until January 11, 1974, when consumers began to see that shops were being restocked and that there was therefore no shortage.
What I have noticed though on public forums, especially on www.nextdoor.com, the many complaints of people, in particular, individuals in my area. The complaints range from too many people in grocery store aisles, open sex in public parks, restaurants not honoring special requests, residents worried about landscapers manicuring their nice suburban lawns, residents wanting to stop growth of plants and trees, people not isolating/social distancing themselves enough, photo-shaming and just general griping about the pandemic itself.
This troubles me greatly. And saddens me at the same time. I mean, we’re in the middle of a fucking pandemic and people are complaining about diminished services? Come on! It’s all a matter of manners. It’s apparent that politeness has flown directly out the window and straight into the abyss. As much as I abhor the idea of staying indoors and breathing the same air inside my airtight living space pod for as many hours, days and weeks as I have, I feel pretty darned lucky to still be alive. Quit your whining. Quit your bitching.  Quit being so negative. Stay positive.
The idea of using masks and rubber gloves to me personally, has become a great social experiment, especially the days that I take walks around my neighborhood, grocery store visits and riding city buses and trains to necessary places. Only within the last day (April 3), the CDC (Center for Disease Control) in Atlanta, Georgia has revised its recommendation of mask wearing to voluntary, meaning they are most likely giving into the possible conclusion that not a lot of people are wearing masks.
The CDC has also recommended that people wear cloth facial coverings and scarves as well. Hell, bandanas work too. And locally, a lot of people make them. Three people I can think of right off the bat are: Chris Kondos Boutique, a local dressmaker at 407 Linden Avenue in Wilmette. She’s giving them away one per customer.  The mask itself is made of basic white cloth and come in three sizes small, medium and large. They’re open from 9am to 5pm, Monday through Friday and their phone number is 847-256-0107. Be sure and call them before you get there. Way to go, Chris Kondos!
Next, my old friend and transplanted Chicago artist, Shane Bugbee, is making masks too. Per Bugbee, all of his masks “are aesthetically pleasing (to the eye) and include two layers of filtering material.” Each mask has been disinfected and bagged up individually. They are $25 PPD (which includes free shipping) The great thing is, that Bugbee will donate $10 from each sold mask to will go to other material to make masks and then given to grocery store employees! This guy is a hero in my view! A true mensch in every sense of the word, mensch. One million automatic punk points to Shane Bugbee!!!  You can contact Bugbee at: shanebugbee@gmail.com
Then there is a third person that has asked to remain anonymous, who lives in Evanston and hasn’t left her home since March 1. Her groceries she said, according to a post I read at www.nextdoor.com are being delivered to her by her sons. She prefers to just help out for the effort and wants nothing in return, even though many other community members have offered her money and food as payment, in exchange for her making masks. What a kind and generous lady. The world needs more ladies like her!
Watching President Trump over these past three weeks has been a real treat. Seeing a man pontificate on the state of a pandemic, first calling it a hoax and then deemed it as a virus that would soon be vanquished in a matter of a few weeks and then probably, I say probably lightly, realizing that this was no ordinary virus, sprung into action. For what it’s worth and more than likely, much to the chagrin to friends of mine, for the staggering amounts of criticism he’s harbored over the nearly four years he’s served as president, I’d have to say, his coordination of all events going forth, has been pretty decent, considering all that went before him.
It doesn’t make me a greater fan of his. Nor do I admire him as an individual. No sir. What I do admire is his ability to be able to move this crisis into a more manageable situation. Sure, he has handlers, assistants and others helping him out, but the bottom line is that he’s getting done what needs to be done. And that is commendable.
Having said that, he is the greatest performance artist of a president that we’ve ever had and furthermore, if you thought for a minute that the impeachment couldn’t stop him, I can almost guarantee that his lack of seriousness regarding the pandemic when it first approached the United States in January 2020 will make him a one-term president. His daily press conferences are unpredictable and if he doesn’t like a reporter’s question, he will often become belligerent and cantankerous and offer up his own opinion regarding the reporter, their question and refuse to answer it. The very idea of his boasting and bragging on how he and his administration have come in and saved the day is just sickening. Sickening. 
As I stated earlier, both the U.S. Congress and the U.S. Senate have dropped the attitudes and are working together, passing bills that will help bail out the United States. And then there are those doctors and nurses and emergency workers in hospitals and medical health facilities and treatment centers-the real soldiers on the frontlines doing battle to defeat this pandemic. And then there are those therapists, social workers, case managers, and others working at mental health facilities throughout the United States, helping those who can’t cope with this sudden change in our living situation.
 And there are those who are making masks (including the above mentioned) and other protection equipment to help out the battle. And then there are those everyday ordinary citizens like me, you, us and them, all stepping up to the plate, setting aside our differences in order to band together and defeat this formidable pandemic enemy, by just being ourselves.
But there is troubling news, per Forbes’ Lisette Voytko who has written, “when hospitals received the equipment they desperately need, many of them turned out to be faulty or expired. Elastic bands on N95 masks were rotting, while some masks were sized for children rather than adults.” Furthermore, “Then there's the persistent shortage of ventilators: Hospitals were having to double up patients on one machine, which could lead to "difficult decisions about ethical allocation and liability," according to Voytko.
Pretty disheartening, when anyone who has watched a Trump news conference within the last 48 hours, in which he clearly remarks that the 50 states “Were immediately meeting the needs of local facilities while the federal government continued to stockpile resources for these states.”  Followed by “hospital administrators were thrilled to be where they are.” (New York Times and VOX) Pretty contradictory if you ask me.
In a light-hearted way, we’ve found ways to amuse ourselves through social media. I’ll follow up this post with a similar post in the coming days. But the good thing is, that it is bringing some families and people together on levels that is considered pretty good. I’ll go more into depth in a follow-up post.
But just imagine being born into the world during a pandemic and being named after the virus itself! And that’s exactly what happened to a couple in India, whose wife gave birth to twins a girl and a boy to be exact and named them Corona Rose and Covid Bryant (when the name is shortened it sounds like, Covi Bryant, a tributary name to the late Los Angeles Lakes basketball player Kobe Bryant, who passed in late January in a California helicopter crash).  I’m always concerned when parents do that sort of naming, but that’s another opinion for another time.
This is after all what Americans do when faced with dire circumstances. We’re all in this together. United we stand, divided we fall. Teamwork will prevail. Nothing more and nothing less.
Strangely enough, when I spoke to my friend Morten Rahm in Aarhus, Denmark this past Saturday morning (April 4), he confirmed to me, what I’ve thinking about since we’ve fell into this pandemic exactly three weeks ago, that “everyday feels exactly like Sunday.”
You’re exactly right, Morten. You’re exactly right.

Monday, March 23

Remembering Paranoia After All These Years



It’s been one of those weeks and perhaps, I’ll be saying months soon enough, but for now, I’ll say weeks. As we pull into martial law or perhaps more appropriately, lockdown, in America, week one, I’ve already felt the brunt of it and even in the simplicity of writing an email to my Uncle Mickey, as simple as writing something in the subject line, in which I wrote something to ponder-a friend sent this to me tonight.
I guess even the strangeness of the message within the subject line set off alarm bells for the 109 elves working behind the scenes at Google during the day, enough so that Uncle Mickey told me that my email was marked dangerous and had subjugated the situation in his subject line, You’ve been hacked!
Of course I wasn’t. I was only expressing my feelings, as only I can. And it reminded me of a memory from long ago, from my first career as a newspaper reporter in the suburbs of Chicago. I was a late bloomer when it came to any career I had.
Slow learner in high school, perhaps but I did pick up speed once I hit college or undergrad and yet it took me 10 years to graduate. Tough times. It was pretty much looking for the right fit for college, work and lifestyle and not always in that order either. Five colleges in 10 years. Not bad, a couple of crash and burns, but finally I had gone to where I was supposed to have gone and made it and graduated.
My goal was to be first and foremost a journalist of some kind, be in print or radio, no money in either I was always told. And I’d been a journalist at the end of high school and a radio news director and print journalist along the way. My specialties were entertainment writing, features, investigative reporting and interviews. There wasn’t ever anyone I couldn’t make talk, while understanding, that I knew all the tricks of the trade.
By the time I had arrived at the Des Plaines Urinal (sic), in the fall of 1992, I had already made a south suburban village treasurer resign over a hidden felony record and later missing finances, yet also covered the first ever drive-by shooting, but had a ton of work behind me. That landed me in Des Plaines. My relationship with managing editor Toad Weasel wasn’t always friendly either. He was a hard-skulled character who I frequently disagreed with, never gave me bylines for good stories I had written, because his philosophy was that I had to earn them or more than likely I had to kiss his ass in order to receive my just desserts. Essentially the guy was a true asshole that didn’t give a damn about his writers.
To him, it was a family-owned mom and pop business, in which his father was publisher, his mother travel editor, his brother, in charge of advertising and him as managing editor. Everyone else was hired out as lackeys or lack-thereof. He always hired the best or the worst of reporters and had the shittiest of equipment, including the two by four pieces of lumber for a desk top, barely covering the four drawers consisting of our desks and the basic upon basic of Mac computers, and if it was broken because your screen froze and he didn’t know how to fix it, well, you sometimes had to wait up to four hours to type your story. Typewriters were considered obsolete to him, even in 1992, even though he had a Royal typewriter in his private office.
Weasel and I never saw eye-to-eye, that is for sure and one thing that made me particularly upset with him was his tendency to snoop around our personal lives and our personal files on our computers, which in his mind more than likely at the time he felt that since we worked for him, that all of our notes for stories, all of our scraps of paper we wrote on, the notebooks we paid for out of our pocket, belonged to him. This habit, which I am sorry to say, didn’t get him in trouble at that time, though should have, because in many ways, that was a violation of privacy, no matter how it was viewed or sliced. Take your pick, either or. Didn’t matter to him.
It was one of those early morning search junkets that Weasel conducted, as he always did before his newspaper staff came in for the day, nearly got me hung because of something I didn’t do. As I previously stated, he would go through our files and also at times, though our computer trash bins to see what were working on or doing, possibly stealing company time at least in his mind.
I always made it a point to make copies of my work, harbor it on a floppy disk and throw out what I didn’t need, so he couldn’t find any excess on my computer. He often offered the excuse that he did that as a way to save space on our computers, as computers back then only had 8 megs of ram.
One particular morning, I think it was a Wednesday. Weasel was digging through my computer files and he finds one titled “note to self.” In the morning when I arrive for work, I noticed that Weasel, the managing editor is just staring at me for over an hour until his assistant Tad Soyler arrives and settles in. Tad’s a big burly man and probably would have made a great wrestler or lumberjack. Tad walks over to my desk and says to me in a very low but concerned voice, “We need to talk.”
So, he brings me into the lobby and screams, “Toad was going through your files and he found this!” And he holds up the printed file that reads note to self and on the inside of the file, was a note written, “smile, the end is near.” And Tad, the assistant says in an alarmingly paranoid voice, “Do you know anything about this? Weasel thinks you’re going crazy!”
 I paused briefly and I tried to think about who would do this to me. Then it hits me. I seem to recall that my now-late friend, Mulligan Moose was always a practical joker. I met him in journalism school, during the last half of my undergrad college career. He was a year in back of me. We always hung out together. Went drinking. Horseback riding. Dinners. Roadtrips. Crazy driving that nearly got us thrown from his mom’s clunky station wagon one night. He would end up retiring by age 38, as a millionaire but would never enjoy it, as he died just months after retirement, in May 2003 as a result of a massive heart attack, just after taking a swim at a local YMCA.
He would come in often, as he knew one of the other overnight press technicians, talk to him and leave, just moments before Weasel would arrive that day. But for the sake of Tad, I told him that I didn’t know anything about it. Tad has also since passed away. God bless that man, Tad.
What made me think of that particular incident in my past life was that Weasel was always paranoid of things that never came true. But in his mind they were and that’s probably what mattered most. And seeing how far we’ve come with paranoia and fear, including 911 and now this fucking Covid-19 scare.
Paranoia is working overtime thanks in part to the local and federal governments, social media, mainstream media, alternate presses and websites and it has certainly impacted friendships of mine. I’m not used to watching my friends crack up so fast or as quick. It’s really terrible, but this is the new reality of the matter.
And I have a great feeling that after Covid-19 passes over our universe, paranoia and fear, will truly be the new norm.

Sunday, March 8

Botox Frankenstein Poetry Series>Scars (For Jessie)

Editor's Note-It's been a very long time since I have published poetry on this blog, Just as I have started posting essays, so I shall begin posting poems. And this poem, Scars, is the best way to start.
As always, enjoy.


Hidden away from the world, she confides in me her desire to love and be loved
How long it’s been since she’s kissed a boy for feeling like a broken toy on the ground scattered 
Strewn in pieces 
She is shy in my mind’s eye so submissive in suspicion 
I want to take her and cradle her and soothe her and kiss her and tell her the monsters are gone forever but I can’t 
For she is a space I cannot begin to understand or breathe, just imagining the horror of war
The bloodied faces, severed souls in two
And the care she applies to make them come alive, back when life was just happy and true
This need for oil, this need for lust, turns into rust and it’s so damn difficult to support the thinking of paranoia behind the brains of the old who send the young who do the damage and destroy their souls in the process
Power verses passion 
Money verses misunderstandings 
It’s going to hurt them all in the end 
Their future not hard to predict at all
I want to reach out and grab her and hold her in my arms and soothe her tell her to come home but I know I can’t do that 
I will only pray for her safety and her passion holds strong and the day that we meet I can sing her a song and that she'll laugh, live and love and leave behind the anger she once felt for a past she held hard like my hands, in our cradle of love

(Written March 7, 2020)


Friday, March 6

The Little Death


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A death of a loved one is not an easy dilemma to deal with. It comes in many forms however, not just human.
Having said that, I’d met Jim Gautier nearly 25 years ago in Chicago at No Exit, on a Wednesday night, during an open mic session. I’d been going to these sessions since 1988 either by myself or with friends, to read my poetry and/or just listen to other words. I had a habit in those days or bringing my tape recorder along with me to a session.
Being a reporter since the late 1970s for my high school newspaper and subsequently my college newspapers and radio stations and as a freelancer at that point in my career, I discovered that this was an easy tool to carry with me. And I had plenty of blank tapes in which to record with. Sometimes I would record other poets, make collections of their poems and give them a cassette.
On this particular October evening in 1995, I was with my band mate Lew Brickhate. We were part of the mix that night, playing under the band name, Joey The Tush Kangaroo. Oddly enough, that would be the night that I would meet four men, two of those men I would be roommates with two years later, but of those four men, two of those men would go onto influencing and shaping my career as a performer, by being a teacher, and a performance partner. Jim was one of those guys. Noam Paco Gaster was the other guy, who I would become lifelong friends with.
I don’t remember what Lew and I performed that night. It is on tape, most likely, and like all things, will be another story for another time, but Jim that night was on fire. He did a poem that left a burning desire within me, I can’t exactly recall the title at present, but I know it had a dizzying effect of a coked out mouse stuck in a maze.
Before Jim left Chicago, he along with Gaster and Mark Cohen, would appear at my venue I hosted at the Skokie Public Library in Skokie, Illinois. That was a hell of a night. Fire surrounded the library, so it was nearly impossible to get to the venue itself, plus it was bitter cold. Despite delays, we all had a great time.
Jim had such an intensity about him, beyond belief. That wasn’t lost on me. A few years later, I would visit him and perform/collaborate with him twice, first in Austin, Texas at the 6th Annual Austin International Poetry Festival in the spring and then later that year, I would visit him in Los Angeles for a week. It was my first time there and being on a bit of a budget and also wanting to see the “stars” I did exactly what most tourists do the first time visiting a big flamboyant city as Los Angeles; I became a tourist.
I remember taking some kind of Hollywood-like tour, probably by transit bus, walking around and later by car to see homes. Jim seemed to be all against that. I seemed to remember that when I was with him, he would scream out stars names as we’d pass their former or current homes, like, “Jack Benny, arghhhhhhh” “Mary Livingston, arghhhhhhh.” He wasn’t a fan of doing such stuff. 
I do remember, however, driving past James Woods in Beverly Hills, though. And walking up through the Hollywood Hills area and stopping to listen to some fat cat scream at the top of his lungs about the need to have better maid service for his 10 million dollar home. And being interviewed by Jay Leno on Melrose Avenue about my proofreading job at a bingo factory in Bellwood, Illinois.
Seeing Shannen Doherty walking down a public street, watching a television taping of Everybody Loves Raymond and winning a contest in between the taping, but never receiving a prize (I recorded that on audio tape too-ask me sometime to play it for you). And walking through Beverly Hills and past Whiskey A-Go-Go, where The Doors once held court nightly, The Rainbo Room and so many other iconic landmarks and places at the time. And reuniting with Lizzie. What a mistake that turned out to be! And going hungry and feet hurting night after night from so much walking. And going to so many jam sessions and poetry readings (all recorded on audio) with Jim and the many friends I met of his.
Jim lived in a modest apartment. Adobe-style flesh-colored with lemon and orange trees in the backyard. And that’s about all I remember of his living quarters. I want to say I arrived by train I think that first time, as I remember taking a lot of photos at Union Station. It was that rental car that saved us the last four days of my trip. It was a good goofy weird trip.
Even though I tried to keep in touch with Jim over time, it seemed nearly impossible. Lack of maybes or impossibilities in between the rust-coated physical and mental trails of dead ends stretched out over decades had most likely done us in.
But then one day, while perusing the internet during a research project, I decided to so a quick chance search I happened to have found him and saw how well I thought he was doing and also saw that he had a radio show called Jimmy's Potpourri on an internet radio station, KILL Radio, a community radio station in Los Angeles no doubt. I had some previous experience both as a programmer and as an assistant producer on community radio, having just finished a 13-month stint (2013-2014) on Q4 Radio in Chicago.
Arrangements were made and then lo and behold; I appeared on his radio show via telephone in December, 2015. He played a lot of my work on in between my appearance, which included a mix of Sid Yiddish And His Candy Henchmen, solo poetry work and Danish music I had subsequently recorded over a period of five years at that point. We played Chicago-based trivia games-we tied on technicalities and also in a dead heat. It was a good time. I had a blast and to be honest, at that point in my life, I had done a lot of radio, but nothing quite like Jim’s show, literally an extension of his personality. It was and still a quality I admire about Jim.
I saw Jim again in September 2017, when I briefly toured Los Angeles with a Chicago rock band for two dates and some grueling nonstop documentary work without a break. He came out to Molly Malone’s in West Hollywood. It was good to see him. I left the tour when an opportunity too good to pass up arose back in Chicago, so I flew home.
Sid Yiddish, KILL Radio, Los Angeles, California, Winter 2019
I appeared twice more on his program in 2018 and 2019 in person, while looking for other opportunities and visiting friends in Los Angeles. Both of those appearances would be with Eileen Weiner, a transplant from Virginia, (by way of Texas and Hawaii) but has lived in Los Angeles for some years. She’s a funny comedienne, singer-songwriter, poetess and writer. I had listened to a previous appearance of hers on KILL Radio and decided to friend her through Facebook. That was indeed a good move. Eileen is pretty personable and a sweetheart  in her own right. While I was there in 2018, Eileen would take me to the biggest Jewish graveyard in all of Los Angeles, namely Hillside Cemetery, near the 405 Freeway, where Al Jolson and many, many other Jewish entertainers are buried. We had a good time scoping out the graves and feeling the vibes within the crypts.
 2018 was a indeed a glorious year after visiting Los Angeles, which included a wild Danish/European tour that summer, appearances on TMZ, recording a future Sid Yiddish And His Candy Store Henchmen album and a performance at the Museum of Contemporary Art was the capper. 2019 wasn’t so terrible either. The trip-entailed game shows, talk shows, recording with my old friend Westley Heine for a future album and of course, reading short stories on KILL Radio with Eileen. Sure I had my ups and downs, but with the shit and shivers, came the grins and the shiver-me-timbers. It was a good feeling over all those past two years. I learned a lot.
And then most recently in 2020, I learned that Jim’s show would be coming to an end, pulling the plug as they say in radio, but not because of his show, but rather because of the station losing its lease. I listened to the March 1st show, the second-to-last program and it was beautifully done, well thought out and greatly produced. I will be appearing on March 8th program.
I have to say that I will miss Jim’s program greatly, because whether radio realizes it or not, they need voices like Jim to give community radio its rightful place in the world. When a radio station is unplugged, one million radio waves can be felt like a tremendous earthquake, with aftershocks to be felt for years to come.
Jim said on his program last week that one of the chief reasons he came to radio was to share his vast collection of music. Of that there is no doubt. Jim has a great knowledge of it and knows how to mix it up each and every time he broadcasts. I am hoping for the best for Jim and his news crew of one, John Glazer, that they will land somewhere relatively soon.
Back in 1999, I met Ornette Coleman backstage at Symphony Center in downtown Chicago. I told him how much I admired him and his work and he spoke up and said, "It's not about me, it's the about the music, man!" I however, believe it's a bit of both, so in that sense, Coleman would be half right and half incorrect, because Jim fits Coleman's words just fine.

See you soon, James Gautier. 




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Sunday, March 1

Death Comes In Threes-Part 1: Making Reservations


It’s been a rough week.
I have embraced and enveloped death at least three times. Death of a budding relationship, death of a close friend’s mother and death of a community radio station. I don’t always like starting my week out like that, but so it goes, so goes my nation. Each death symbolizes a small part of life that has been ultimately snuffed out.
In this segment, I’ll tell you about part one. Two and three will come later this week.
Budding new relationship. How I adored Kristine. Wrote 24 poems about her directly or indirectly related to her. From the start, she was running the show-in other words, she laid down the ground rules-boundaries, temporary state of flux, feeling each other out, quite literary too. It felt more like a FWB (friends with benefits) and there were catches. Major catches.  She was converting to another religion. And in order to date her, I had to convert too. She was long distance, so I had to be flexible and patient. And I was. Despite the long distance, five hours driving for her. She was in the middle of a divorce and fighting for full custody of two children. Kristine even asked me for attorney advice. She was very much in control. And maybe desperate.
Sid Yiddish And His Yeshiva Boys Two
But projection and conjecture on her part was bad. Not so good. She wasn’t totally to blame. I was too. I believed her and didn’t like being put on a short leash. I talked too much. Told her way too much too early. Trusted her easily. Bad move, because advantageously I was taken. And when she gave back, she gave back hard and good and soft and vengeful.  My phone blew up in her trunk one early morning while on the way to shul and I had to have it replace it entirely. I don’t think she cared.
I made a lot of the arrangements for us to have Shabbat dinners, visit Orthodox and Chabad halls. I remember one dinner in particular we went to. I tried to fit in and I thought I did. I was asked a lot of questions, as was she. And I answered them all. To her, that was talking too much.
As an observer I almost had to be a Jewish Quaker, in other words, be the dummy, Charlie McCarthy for all those over 70, on Edgar Bergen’s lap, who talked when Bergen threw his voice or moved the dummy, Charlie McCarthy. I wasn’t quite ready to be a dummy.
But I suspected that old stereotype Jewish joke fit me just fine. In case you don’t know it, it goes a little like this: “What’s the best job for a JAP (Jewish American Prince, usually it’s princess)? Making reservations.”
We met in the weirdest of ways, through social media, Facebook to be exact. During the latter half of December 2019, I have a habit of posting photos a lot. Similarly, like an art curator, who changes exhibits every few months. With photos it was the same principle. A lot of people don’t change their photos. Can’t imagine why. Oh well.
I had just posted a photo of myself with tefillin in a selfie with a couple of local Chicago Yeshiva boys. I’d been tefillined before by one of them and in fact, this past Friday during my week of death was tefillined by a familiar Yeshiva boy again. I can’t hide if I tried from them. Not that I want to of course, but anyway. Tefillin in layman’s terms is just this: a black leather strap with a small black box attached to it, containing a parchment with a prayer inside the box. Usually, when I see them is Friday afternoons-I see at least 10 of them, a minyan in fact. How ironic. Or maybe it’s in God’s plan of helping me get it all together.
 Whenever they corral me, I choose to be tefillined. And with them, I say a simple prayer in Hebrew that they repeat with me. I almost know it by heart in as many weeks that I’ve performed it. In early December, I had seen them first at a local Dunkin Donuts in East Rogers Park. I was with my friend Davina, we were playing Crazy 8s, I think and I saw one Yeshiva boy come in and as he was leaving, all I said to him was, “Have a good Shabbat.”
That’s all it took to get him to respond.
And then of course, the eternal question popped out; are you Jewish? I said yes and that lead to another Yeshiva boy who wanted to tefillin me. Davina had never seen this performed before and I had to reassure her a few times that these guys wouldn’t hurt me. I stepped outside, as she watched in bewilderment as they performed their mitzvah. Selfies followed and poof! They were gone. Onto the next Jew. 
A few weeks followed before I would see two familiar faces on the Morse el platform. The Yeshiva boys. I was heading south this time and they asked me if I wanted to be tefillined. This time I had said no, because I really wanted time to myself, which was the South Loop. They insisted and so I gave in. The great advantage I had going for me this time, was that I had an empty el car all to myself.
And so I was teflillined. And after that, they went on their way, as I did too. It was this particular experience however, when I believe I received one of the better selfies I had taken with these two guys. And so, when I posted the photo on my cover page in the early morning of December 15, exactly one week before my 58th birthday, I had no idea what was about to take place.  It didn’t take long for any kind of reaction to begin popping.
What turned out to be a catastrophe in the beginning ended as a blessing in disguise. A film guy I had been friends for a few years, based on a sketch he had made of me nearly 30 years ago, in a subway tunnel in downtown Chicago, after searching for and finding him on Facebook and asking him about it, we became fast friends. He saw my photo with two Yeshiva boys and it made him react caustically, a psychotic episode at best. Overreaction at its worse. Anyone who came to my defense that day on that particular day and over the course of the next few days, would be verbally attacked and threatened with the wrath of God. I’ve had previous experience with that situation before, so it wasn’t exactly new to me.
Between that film guy, and me I had promising career placement all lined up-a small part in one of his films and two of my Henchmen compositions within the film. I was a shoo-in at last for an indie award. But not to be. Being Jewish was my downfall to him. In the meantime, while all of this was going on, my friend Scott had tried to intervene on my behalf to see if he could get inside this guy’s line of thinking, but alas he was trumped too. Threw up his hands and posted his conversational threads with the film guy. On that particular day, Kristine was watching and waiting and then decided to direct message me. “Are you Jewish?” “Yes,” I responded. She showed up on my doorstep nine days later and so our relationship began.
In between that time, we romanced each other, ate and talked our way about all of our lives happy and sad and everything else in between. Most people think or at least tell me that romance is supposed to go on for a long, long time. Whatever that means and for some reason, I always get involved with the crazy ones, despite how they sell themselves off to me.
The doom to fail part came up quite early, when we had talked the first time she showed up on my doorstep. We had just been walking from my local city center. It was Christmas Day. I had found a $20 bill on the way home that afternoon. It was to the point, our deep conversations began. We talked about anything and everything. And I mean everything.
Being that she was in custody battle for her two children and in all likelihood she assumed somewhere in her mind that she would lose them, because she had told me, that her ex-husband had planned to testify that she was unfit to be a good mother, because of her varied mental illness, which for the sake of this conversation, will not be disclosed, but she did have one leg up on me, that of being hospitalized for inability to cope.
Her chief concern was that. And so she told me outright that she wanted more babies. I didn’t know how ready I was at that moment to hear that, because usually, that kind of talk takes place when you’re in solid and not the second day you meet someone. Also, she confessed she had been “stalking” my page for two to three years.
Stalking. That poses a problem. Or as my friend Grue says, “it’s toxic.” When I saw Grue in Philadelphia in late January, she told me as much as she cares about me and she does a lot, she didn’t want to hurt my feelings but did bluntly tell me, that the relationship I was having with Kristine, was toxic and it would be best to bail.
I saw the beginning of the end of our relationship in early February, while I was in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania discussing weather options with Punxsutawney Phil. Phil came through with his end of the bargain. An early spring. Meantime, Kristine came to Chicago on her own and stayed with the couple that we’d met a few months previously. I felt betrayed. Used. Used as her steppingstone in order for her to get where she needed to go.
When we talked the night I got back from Punxsutawney to Philadelphia, the conversation lasted for 14 minutes. I knew the end was near. The week after, she sounded chipper, but then, last week, we had a decent conversation and then she sprang it on me. Decided to put me in the friend zone and reminded me that it was all temporary. Simply put, she stated that she was had “no interest in “typicalness.”  I laughed quietly to myself and said, “Well, I’m very atypical.” She sneered back and said, “Oh, that’s for sure!” I stopped her in mid-conversation and asked her what she meant by that. She refused to answer. It was like pulling teeth. And then she switched the subject purposely and dug deeper into my personal difficulties.
So I thought about it and responded this way: “Stop projecting your anger onto me just because you are coming out of a bad marriage and leaving a bad husband and projecting all of his flaws on me, doesn’t make me the same person.”
Dead silence on the phone for what seemed like hours, but were indeed seconds. She wished me luck, as I did her and then, boom! Down went her receiver. I cried hot stinging tears for five minutes and then it was over. I was very sad, but knew I had to move forward. “At least you saw some action,” my friend Peter would tell me a few days later. I wanted more than just action with Kristine. I saw a lot  of myself crumble in those five minutes. But five minutes is all it takes to figure out what your next moves will be. And I perked up.
And that’s kind of the easy part. Kind of. Sort of. Not really though, because you damn well better believe if you’re going to switch-hit into another religion completely, that you will still be carrying all of your previous baggage with you.
Grue was right. Kristine was toxic.
She’ll make a fine Jewess to some poor schlub someday.

Saturday, February 29

Life In The Arts Part 2/ Elizabeth Thebazilly Review


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In the many decades that I’ve been a artist/performer, I’ve often asked friends, girlfriends and relatives to attend a performance of mine, be it an open mic, a local gig with my band or even the occasional art show. Most of the time, the response falls on deaf ears. And when the moment is ripe, I’ve heard excuses like, “Oh, I have to wash the cat this weekend” or “My favorite TV show is on tonight, so I simply can’t.” And then there are those, by way of social media the moment they see the posting, “I’m so sorry I missed it!” or “Why didn’t you tell me!” or “Please remind me when it happens again, will ya?” or “Call me on the day you’re on.”
I do agree in some certain sense that there’s only so many shows you can attend, so there is that, but the majority of friends and acquaintances that I have, have never seen a show of mine and most likely never will, unless it’s on video, which a majority of them are, in print, which some are and/or if you’re performing with me, you get to experience live/firsthand.
In a previous entry I wrote that art can be very subjective, very subjective and that is correct. Our own concepts of art can run the gamut from a simple watercolor of a circus clown holding a dog to a more complex piece of art like a Jackson Pollock, Picasso or Vincent Van Gogh. People are either going to get it or not get it and that’s perfectly fine.
And then there are the artists themselves, who don’t often support other artists unless they’re in the same show together. Because there are only so many hours in the day and well, like friends and acquaintances, they too have legitimate as well as illegitimate reasons not to attend. In grad school, we were encouraged to go to other cohorts’ shows, whether academic or non-academic. 
Social media is nice for keeping in touch, but unless you go out and experience the art show or performance for yourself, meaning the live experience of how it makes you feel at the time, as opposed to watching it on video later, than you never will know.
I have this belief in supporting as many in my cohort as possible if I know of a show that they are having in advance. I know that there are conflicts with what I just posted above, but it is true. Video should be used to record for posterity, which is what I’ve been doing solidly in one form or another since the late 1980s. I’ve been audio recording since 1980 and have a lot of archival material as a result. People shouldn’t rely on a posterity video to experience a performance or an art show. You need to be there.
Having said all of that as a preface, let’s dive straight into a review of the solo show of Kankakee, Illinois-based artist, Elizabeth Thebazilly, a painter in her own right. I saw her show, Dripping In Earth, the afternoon of Thursday, February 20, 2020, at the Yellow Elephant Gallery, 150 North Schulyer Avenue, in downtown Kankakee, Illinois, just 90 minutes south of Chicago.
It was a bitter cold morning, when I arrived via Amtrak-but I had a good look around the downtown area, had a bite to eat and hung out at the beautiful Kankakee public library for a good chunk of the day and wrote freely.
In the mid-afternoon, I left the warmth of the public library, went outside, crossed the main intersection and I headed over to the gallery and stepped inside the smallish space. It was indeed tight inside, half of the walls dedicated to art, while the floor space, dedicated to overpriced art trinkets and supplies. It was a bright, clean space. An elderly woman got up from her seat and asked me if I needed help. I told her no, that I had come to view the exhibit in the gallery, as she sat down behind the wall from where she had been and went back to her magazine.  
As I viewed what hung before me, I noticed what strikes me the most about the 20 pieces of artwork in Thebazilly’s work is just that; her artwork is striking, colorful and so very fluid.
(Pink Walls, Elizabeth Thebazilly)
In Pink Walls, there’s a futuristic colorful appeal in the painting itself. Sprinkled throughout the painting are a number of human and animal heads, torsos and faces. I don’t know specifically if those are intentional or not or perhaps my pareidolia (Pareidolia is defined as the ability to see faces inside inanimate objects; it’s often associated with religious phenomena) is just kicking in. In this particular painting, I do know that Thebazilly has the gift of drawing the soul in rapidly with wonderment and awe.
Golden Bonzai is an eye-opening beauty, with its curious use of colors, and again humanlike faces are dotted within the work, including particularly this time, bananas and vegetable line likenesses.
(Golden, Elizabeth Thebazilly)
It’s her work, Golden that really takes the prize. Elongated unstructured lines with an almost asymmetry warm sunny playfulness to the piece. It’s very sensual within every brushstroke of the painting inviting and alluring, to the naked eye.
Another standout includes The Caves, which is blanketed with a pleasing array of color, faces and bits of fabric thrown in, giving the piece an almost collage mix feel to it.
Her show ended on February 22. I do hope that Thebazilly shows her work at perhaps a bigger gallery with an extended stay in the near future. Her ability to craft a painting is astonishing! Her style is futuristically moderate with an eye for the abstract. She is an artist well worth the investment.
 As I left the gallery and walked over to the bulletin board covered in screaming for attention business cards, the few pipe-dream real estate flyers with promises of money, I noticed the elderly woman closing up shop, never saying a word, as she walked quickly passed me by in the hallway.
I bundled up, stepped outside, walked around a bit more, got some sandwiches for the train ride home, stepped inside a thrift store and briefly perused it and walked back to the library, where I was parked on the 3rd floor for the next few hours, freely writing and reading until the appointed hour came to walk over to the train station.
It was cold that night, as I waited outside on the train platform. A woman I didn’t know, who sat in a rickety older SUV waved toward me and invited me to wait inside her running vehicle. We talked about a lot trivial things that I don’t even recall, as she dragged on six cigarettes in between. The kindness of her offer left me with a warm feeling overall. I thanked her and hopped out of her truck, just as the train approached. With the wind against my backpack, and the air frozen as I spoke to another passenger waiting for the train, I knew my time in Kankakee was well spent.
I will be back sooner than later, Kankakee.
Promise.