Drum Corps International: Big, Loud and Live 16

Wow…I haven’t written at length about Drum Corps since 2016.

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of going to AMC River East 21 and watching Drum Corps International’s production of “Big, Loud and Live!”

Ok, so first thing first….what is drum corps?

Well, here’s a taste of what it can look like:

Drum Corps is like a professional marching band.  In the Marching and Music Arts, Drum Corps are the major league.  They are the NFL teams of marching and playing.  They are independent organizations, from all over the United States, and yes, there are corps in other countries,  Drum Corps International (DCI) is the organization that brings all the corps together to compete.  DCI holds competitions all over the country in the summer, and these various corps travel all over playing to huge crowds, and the season, which goes from June to August, culminating in the DCI World Championships.

Here’s a clip that actually has me in it…this is from 2000.

And if you’re so inclined, here is a link to that show in its entirety.

This week is championship week, and last night was prelims. I won’t bore you with all the details, but in short, all the World Class Corps (there are various classes) compete in prelims, with the top 25 going on to semifinals.  From there, the top 12 from Semifinals go on to Finals, and finals night, a World Class World Champion is determined.

So I was a band geek in high school.  Did marching band all 4 years, and en route, discovered Drum Corps thanks to my band director.  In 1995, I went to my first live show, where i fell in love!  2 years later, I auditioned for and marched in my first drum corps, a group named Mirage out of Rantoul, Illinois, that had 24 members at our largest. Then in 1998, through a whole lot of luck, I auditioned and got into one of the premier drum corps in the activity, the Cavaliers Drum & Bugle Corps of Rosemont, Illinois.

I went on to march with the Cavaliers for 2 seasons, and was even fortunate enough to win a world championship with that organization in 2000. That’s the cavaliers in the clip above.  Awesome, right???

Drum Corps is still one of the best things I’ve done in my life.  I learned and experienced so much through the activity.  But also in 2000 I joined the Illinois Army National Guard, and for many years, I simply was too caught up in life to be a part of the activity in any way.  I did attend a competition somewhere around 2010, but that was about it.

And so over the past couple years, I’ve gotten more involved with the Cavaliers Alumni Association, and even played a performance with the alumni corps.  From there, I began paying more attention to the various corps, which is so much easier via social media.

This year, I ventured to my first live event in a decade, at Northern Illinois University.  It was amazing.  So many memories, I saw familiar faces, and I had a blast.  I felt young again…well, younger than I generally do day to day. And so, I was very excited to see prelims this year.

One thing you have to know about Drum Corps is that throughout the season, the shows the various groups do evolve.  They aren’t the same in August as they are in June.  Corps change the pictures, and what they do, sometimes they change music…it’s an evolution, to make the show the absolute best it can be, based on crowed reaction, and often times judges input.  So the youth who participate in the activity are constantly working to not only perfect a product, but sometimes, learn completely new aspects of it, in addition to traveling from city to city every night, sleeping on gymnasium floors, and doing 10-12 hour practices every day, often in the sun and broiling heat.

Looks amazing right? Well, Drum Corps is also an amazing subculture.  It has it’s own language, mores, customs, traditions, folklore, and the performers are often treated like rockstars by the fans.  I mean literally.  I remember having high schoolers run up to us after performances, and asking for our autographs, or to take pictures with us, or to simply gush over how awesome we are, and how much they want to be like us one day.

I did it.  The first show I went to in 1995, I begged to go out to the parking lot after the show, where all the corps buses, and trucks were, and I gushed like a school girl over members of the various corps.  “You guys are amazing!!!”  How do you do that???” I loved every performance I saw, but I particularly was enthralled with the Phantom Regiment, and their performance of a Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini by Rachmaninoff.  Here’s a look at that beautiful piece of art:

At the time, I didn’t even play percussion or a brass instrument.  I literally learned to play a horn, specifically a Contrabass Bugle, at my audition for Mirage.  Brief side story:

I wanted to be a snare player.  I received an audition packet, and literally got drum sticks and a drum pad, and taught myself, as best I could, to play snare drum.  When I showed up at the audition, we literally were lined up at 3 tables, approximately 12 foot long, that was wrapped in a layer of rubber…literally a drum table.

And we went through the audition packet, exercise by exercise.  For someone whom had no formal training playing drums, I hung on way longer than you would have expected.  I was a band geek after all (saxophone/trumpet/Drum Major…which has nothing to do with playing drums) and had gotten a few pointers from percussionists I knew.  But about an hour in, a super cute blond woman walked in.  She had the funniest accent I’d probably heard in my life up to that point, and said “Excuse me gentlemen (it was a room full of guys, including the corps director, who was a percussionist and former snare player for the Santa Clara Vanguard Drum & Bugle Corps), but we only have one Contrabass at this moment, and could really use another one.  Anyone want to play Contrabass?”

All eyes turned to me.  Even at my young age, I could already read the writing on the wall.  “Umm…I’ll try Contrabass” I knew it was at least give it a try, or wind up a cymbal player (which takes mad skill, don’t get me wrong).  So, shout out to Ms. Charlotte Rinkel (Labrosse), who showed me the light of being a brass player.

I literally was playing a scale by the end of that first day, which was the Friday after Thanksgiving.  By June, I was playing whole songs.  Because the corps was so small, I also played bells for a song, and conducted the ballad, Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most.

So that’s my drum corps background.  I am not a judge, or trained to be one.  I do however, know what I like, and I have a large background in enjoying the activity, even with my 20 some odd year hiatus.

I took notes on the corps performances, because I have a horrible memory. If you’re never seen drum corps, the notes wouldn’t make much sense to you, but I will attach pictures of my notes below.  Feel free to ask anything about them, and I’ll be sure to expand.


If you’ve never seen drum corps, you are missing out.  It’s great.  It’s fun. It’s something wholly different from most of the entertainment popular in our society today.  Even if you’re a person who likes going to the symphony, drum corps is a completely different beast.  So, I’d encourage you to check it out.

Tonight, 8/9/19 is semifinals
Tomorrow, 8/10/19, is finals.

You can actually watch both online, at Flomarching.  It’s not free, but it’ll be worth the money.  Hell, if you’re adventurous like me, you could drive yourself on over to Indianapolis Saturday afternoon and see it all live.

I have a work event Saturday afternoon unfortunately.

Here’s a bootleg video (don’t tell anyone) of what I think is the most entertaining show of this year, and also the 1st place prelims winner, the Bluecoats.  Their show is a Beatles show.  It’s amazing!!!! I also hope that they end up being the 2019 World Class Champions.  We shall see.


Some Thoughts For Action in the Face of Last Weekend’s Tragedies

I knew I would be remiss if I didn’t say anything in the wake of the tragic weekend we recently had.  I know that the news is talking all about the El Paso and Dayton shootings, but Chicago also had 7 killed, and 52 wounded…the worst weekend Chicago has seen in 2019.

However, I didn’t know exactly what to say.  I didn’t want to waste your time or mine simply complaining and moaning. I also didn’t want to spend a thousand words railing on the terrible response to the mass shootings given by President Trump, which I think was definitely the worst presidential speech I’ve witnessed in my lifetime.

And as I thought about it, I thought the best I could do was share some information on what you can do in the wake of this weekend to make your community safer.

However, let me also go on record as saying the following:

Now, if you want to help decrease gun violence, here are some solid suggestions.  Also, if you don’t live in Chicago and would like tips for your locale, please ask and I will point you in the right direction, or to the best person to ask.  We’re all in this together. Also, many thanks to the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence for these suggestions.

1) Tell your state senator to vote YES on SB1966 Fix the FOID: We need to close the loopholes in the Illinois FOID system that allow dangerous people to obtain weapons. The Fix the FOID law will expand background checks to all gun sales in Illinois and allow police to remove guns from a person who has their FOID card revoked. This bill is in response to the Aurora massacre and the Mercy Hospital shooting.Click here to tell your state senator to support SB1966 the Fix the FOID bill. 

2) Tell Senate Leader Mitch McConnell to call HR8 the Bipartisan Background Checks Bill for a vote: This bill would expand background checks to all gun sales and close the gun show/online sales loophole that allows people to transfer guns without background checks. In Illinois, we are at the mercy of states like Indiana that have lax gun laws and don’t require background checks on all gun sales. In fact, federal trace data shows that guns from outside of Illinois account for 60% of guns found at Chicago crime scenes. Illinois Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth support this bill, but Senator McConnell refuses to call it for a vote in the US Senate. Make your voice heard by calling Senator McConnell’s office today at (202) 224-2541 to tell him to call the bill.

3) Join the ILGVP Coalition: The ILGVP Coalition is a statewide advocacy coalition focused on stopping gun violence through policy change and public engagement. ILGVP coalition works with diverse organizations and creates a space for intersectional collaboration. To join the ILGVP Coalition please email info@ichv.org.

Right now, letting our voices be heard is the most important thing.  10 minutes out of your day is a small price.  Call everyday!

Also, educate yourself.  Learn the facts, the real facts, behind gun violence.  There are a plethora of resources out there…real resources, not NRA bullshit.

Well friends, I wish you a wonderful rest of the week, and may life keep you and your loved ones safe.  Until next time.



Let’s Talk About The Most Valuable Commodity

This morning, I received a message on Bumble from a young lady named Gina.  I’ve always been intrigued by Bumble.  If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a dating website in which once a man and a woman pair up, the conversation has to be started by the female within 24 hours.  I suppose I like the concept because it takes the pressure off of me.  So often I’ve paired with a woman on a dating site, and then send an opening message, simply never to get a response.

What is that all about?

And then you’re left wondering if you said something wrong?  Shared too much?  Not enough?  Too casual?  Not casual enough?

Sigh…on and on and on.

And so we chatted, and our conversation winded along a variety of topics, which was different than most of the interaction I’ve had on dating sites as of late.

She mentioned that she is a photographer, and she mentioned that she shot a wedding this weekend.  She then asked me if I was an old school dating style kind of person, to which I asked what exactly does that mean?

She said, “Seems like right now everybody’s doing the hookup and swipe, keep seeing what’s better out there and doesn’t focus on the present or the potential right in front of them. They jump in too fast.

She then mentioned that we are close to the same age, and surely I remember the days of picking up a girl on a date, calling them on the phone to ask them out, and hoping for a good night kiss.

I fully admit that I’m not that old school.  Perhaps I’m a hybrid.  I actually enjoy talking on the phone when I’m getting to know someone, although just about any other time I’m not much of a phone person.  I much prefer in person, or text.  Kind of hate the middle ground, and oddly enough, I never use Facetime. Does anyone use Facetime???

I wish I could get rid of my car, and I don’t think you can pick up a young lady on a bicycle for a date, so that doesn’t fit my M.O. So, maybe I’m not that old school in my dating. Hmm…

Beyond that, I’m not looking for a hookup, and I certainly have no problem investing time in someone.  Actually, that’s exactly what I want.  Someone who is equally willing to invest time, in me, and potentially in an us, as I am in them.

Is that a lot to ask for?

Well, I suppose it is.

A few years ago, I attended a keynote speech of the CEO of a million dollar company.  His presentation was about time.  He said that in the business world, time was the most valuable commodity to be dealt with. And even in the personal lives of people, I think that sentiment also rings true.

Time is so valuable.  And the greatest gift we can offer to each other is time.  So how do you give your most valuable commodity to a stranger?

I suppose that is the million dollar question.  Perhaps I’m simply barking up the wrong tree.  Where do you find the women who have nothing but time to offer.

Unemployment line?

You other daters out there, do you find that people are reticent to invest time in getting to know each other?  

Am I dating in McDonaldland? Are we all stuck looking for the BBD (Bigger Better Deal) and focusing on our careers rather than relationships? Are classic relationships becoming a thing of the past? 

Send help.  Send help now.

I Had a Date and It Was Great!

So, this marks my first post on dating since my triumphant return to WordPress!  Sound the alarms.

Actually, I want that club horn sound affect that lets everyone know that shit is about to get real.

Ah yes…now we’re cooking!

So last week, I had a date.

As I get older, my perspectives with dating have evolved, which is to be expected. And much like any great fool, just when I think I have a firm understanding of the whole dating game, something occurs that reminds me that, “You know nothing John Snow,” and I find myself back at square one, both still single, and shaking my head at my hubris.

I’m mature enough, and smart enough, now, to understand that true knowledge exists in knowing….say it all together now…

…that I know nothing. But I’m still trying to understand, and I’m trying to understand what works for me.

So, I met this young lady on OKCupid.  Now, let me tell you, OKCupid and I have a complete love/hate/kind of really hate, relationship due to a hacking incident that occurred back in October or so that they gave me no help with.  To make a long story short, I had to fully relinquish the account, at which point I deleted my other dating apps, and went on an extended hiatus from the dating game all together

And yes, I’m back.  My life hasn’t changed much.  Most women I meet are through professional dealings, and while yes, I do work with one woman I wouldn’t mind asking out, that shit is tacky, and much more importantly, the fastest way to end up in HR with a pink slip in hand.

Ain’t nobody got time for that.

And I gave up the club scene eons ago…and I’m not much of a bar person, and yes, I go “out” a lot, social events of every imaginable tone and shade, but I don’t feel like we live in that place anymore when you can walk up to someone and say “Hi, my name is Todd.  What’s your name?” That, to me, feels kind of out of place in this time and place. And so…OkCupid it is…

But this young lady, let’s call her The Writer, and I connected a few weeks back, 4th of July to be exact. We’ve been chatting via text since then.  Right off the bat it was obvious that she’s very intelligent, very active, very busy with work, and very thoughtful.  From the jump of our conversation, our messages were paragraphs, not the usual 2 word responses back and forth that just become tedious.  We had cute banter from the jump, and when a few days later we set a meeting date for July 15th, I was genuinely looking forward to it.

Well, life moves on, as do busy schedules, and we ended up meeting on the 18th.  Now, anyone who spends any length of time with me, knows that when it comes to dynamic decision making about things of fairly little consequence…I am 5 shades of useless.

After a few times of The Writer asking me my preference on things, I just laid it out there very honestly, “The answer to that question for me will 95% of the time be no, and if I have a strong preference or opinion, you’ll know before you ask.”

While some people say they don’t have a preference, when they really do, I actually don’t.  For me, it’s all clever.  I’m durable.

So we decided, or she decided as it may be,  on Cafecito, a cute cafe in the Loop.  It was a hot day in the city, so when I arrived first, I thought I’d find us a spot inside.  I was amazingly impressed, and pleased when she asked me “Can we sit outside?  I know it’s warm out, but I love it.”

Girl…talk dirty to me.  I’m one who genuinely enjoys seasonal weather.  I don’t love the summer, or the winter…I love it all, although fall is my favorite.  It’s hoodie and cuddling weather.  Put me in a hoodie, with a blanket, in a hammock with a good book and a cuddle buddy, and damnit, I’ll give you 2 thumbs up and a cookie.

So the plan was coffee and chat. Classic date.  We dove into conversation, while sipping our coffee, and enjoying the sunshine.  At no point, at least from my perspective, was conversation labored, or awkward. The Writer is an amazingly diverse personality.  She also works in the nonprofit industry, and does amazing work that I won’t talk about here, but it’s work that I’m amazingly intrigued and interested in, and she is doing the damn thang. She’s also bilingual, which I love, and makes me envious, which makes me think I need to actually put forth effort to learn a 2nd language (I wonder if I can make that a work goal for next year).  She’s well traveled, and worldly…

…and so, I’m just gonna go ahead and say it…

….she’s hot.  I mean, like, really hot.  Gorgeous.  Beautiful.  Of course, there is so much more to a person than what’s on the outside.  But, we’re human.  I’m human, and so much of our initial interactions are physical. We wouldn’t have been sitting on the patio of this cute cafe if her inner monologue was saying, “That dude’s face just ain’t right!”

I knew from her profile pictures that she was pretty, but when I actually saw her in person.

Aww damn!

If you’ve read anything about what I like, physically, in women, she had my 3 favorite features down pat:

  1. Eyes
  2. Lips
  3. Hair

No need to get into details now, but I had fun letting my eyes flow over the contours of her face as we chatted.

There were moments of silence, which often can be the death knell of a relationship before it’s even started.  But, those moments felt…alright. They felt ok.  There was one moment when we were kind of looking at each other, no words passing between us, and I took it in, just enjoying the moment, the air, the breeze, the sounds of the cars and the people in the city whirling around us, and me, at a small table, with a beautiful woman, just breathing, and then I asked the natural question that appeared between my eyes, and winded it’s way out of my lips,

“What are you thinking?”

Sometimes, that question is used to break the silence, but in that moment, it was a genuine curiosity. One thing I can say about The Writer is that I could pick her mind for days.

And as we were finishing our coffee, “Are you hungry?” she asked.

How would you feel about ordering dinner?”

So the plan of coffee and chat moved on to chatting over dinner, which I thought was a fabulous idea, and I’m ashamed to admit, I would never have suggested, because I feel like in this dating thing, I’m always grabbing at straws of what’s right and what’s appropriate, and so on.

Speaking of approriate, I brought The Writer a bouquet of flowers.  In our conversations, it had come up that her favorite flower is the peony. Which leads to a super funny story.

I asked my coworker Antonette if there was a florist near work, because I wanted to get flowers.  She said I should go to Whole Foods.

“But, will they have peonies?”

“Well, peonies are in season, so yes they will!”

And she was right.  But as I looked through their selection, it took me a few minutes to notice the little bucket labeled peonies was empty.  I continued looking for a few minutes before I said out loud “Damn…they’re all out of peonies.” At which point, an Asian gentleman standing a few feet away said “You’re looking for peonies too?  I guess we got here too late.”

That made me giggle. I thought since The Writer and I had talked for a bit, it was appropriate to bring flowers.  I didn’t think it would appear “too eager” or what have you.

But that sentiment got me thinking, and I asked myself, “What’s wrong with being eager?”  I think in a world where so many people want to be “cool,” being eager and earnest has gotten a bad rap.

It’s something I’ve thought about the past few days. I think a big part of what is wrong with the dating world is  that everyone wants to protect themselves, and no one wants to appear eager.

I’m a huge fighting fan.  Imagine a boxing or MMA match where the two participants spent 100% of their energy playing defense, protecting themselves, and no time extending towards the other person.

I feel like that’s what so much of dating is today.  No one wants to expose them self.  No one wants to bear the mark of being rejected, which can be a blow, both to the ego, and to the heart.

And I was reminded that that is not the attitude I want to have.  I want to put my all in to it.  If I’m going to be rejected, I’d much rather it for being eager and earnest. At least I’ll know I gave it an honest effort.  And so what if I get rejected?  How does the old saying go?

“It’s better to have loved and lost, than to have never loved at all.”

Yeah, I dig that.  And so, the first date with The Writer was a success.  Following dinner, we walked along Michigan Ave., and I walked her to her bus stop.  At one point, I asked her if it would be alright if I touched her.  Other than our initial hug, we hadn’t had any physical contact.  Not that I expected any, but I really wanted to touch her.

Is that weird?

She said it was OK, and I lightly grabbed her tricep, and pulled myself toward her, our arms and shoulders lightly touching.

The highlight of the night however, for me, was once we reached our destination, and were waiting for her bus, I asked her if I could ask a slightly inappropriate question.  Her face immediately changed, and she had a “I knew it.  Here we go!” look that made me giggle.  I then asked, “Can I touch your hair?”

She has an amazing curly, wild mane of hair.  She said it wasn’t inappropriate at all, but i know how women of color are about their hair.  I did touch it (it was soft), and we hugged goodbye, and scheduled a 2nd date, which won’t be for another week.  But we’ve messaged in the interim up to this point, and I look forward to more of that moving towards date #2, which I plan to do some research for, and hopefully plan something fun.

And so it goes.  It’s currently 12:07 AM and I work tomorrow/today, so that brings this show to a close.

Positive Interactions With Positive People

Sleep?  Who needs sleep???

So, the other night, I had an amazingly positive experience that I needed to recount.

I’ve been down the past few weeks.  Back to back injuries, feeling very listless in life…just feeling down.  That feeling was kind of encapsulated Monday night as I rode my bike to work that morning, which definitely aggravated my abdominal issue.

Made a mistake…my bad.

Biking home was worse.

I also wanted to get some laundry done.  I hate doing laundry in my building (so f’in expensive), but I definitely wasn’t hauling clothes anywhere, so I put a load in the washing machine, and headed to Whole Foods in Hyde Park.

I don’t often shop at Whole Foods.  It’s a bit rich for my blood.  But I remembered they have really good pizza, and at 2 slices for $6, the taste to price ratio was right up my alley.  It had been a long day, I’d had salad for lunch I was in the doldrums, and all I wanted was to eat and watch a movie while icing my abs.

You know how in those minutes, when you kind of feel at the end of the rope, is exactly when things never seem to go right?  Well, that’s exactly what happened when I got to Whole Foods.

The pizza was all gone!


There were no more slices.  The young lady working at the pizza bar was still making whole pizza, but that was it.

I didn’t want a whole pizza.  I shouldn’t have been eating pizza anyway, but I just wanted two slices of pepperoni.

I shook my head, and started towards the frozen food section.  And then I noticed the prepared foods/deli section next to the pizza.

As I said, I don’t often rock with Whole Foods, but I saw a sign that read,

1 Entree + 2 Sides = $9-$12

The young lady working behind the counter approached, and I said “Hey, how does this entree and sides deal work?”

And she walked me through it.  Pleasantly.  With a smile.  I don’t know if she could sense I was having a bad day, but she took the time to lay out all the options, and I was like “wow!”

In retrospect, I was suddenly way more excited about food than I should have been…but I think I was much more uplifted by her positive disposition.  So, I decided on cheese lasagna, garlic and parsley green beans, and smoked mozzarella pasta.

The young lady, Brandy, was tickled by my excitement.  And I was genuinely excited to some degree. I walked in to get pizza, and was walking out with a real meal.

“Wow.  I’m excited.  Brandy, you are the best!”

“Well thank you!”

“I think you’ll definitely be seeing more of me.  I think we’re going to be good friends!”

“I look forward to it!”

And with that, a positive interaction completely lifted my day.  My week.  It might have been my first genuine smile of the week.

I’m going to send a letter to Whole Foods to thank them for the amazing customer service that Brandy provided.  Having worked in retail, I know that small gestures like that really matter, and I know that it can sometimes be hard to offer that kind of human touch…but I was genuinely grateful.

I went home, warmed up my food, sat at the table, and had dinner, with a much lighter disposition.  And to add the cherry on top, the food was enough for two separate meals, one of which I’ll be having today for lunch.  #Winning

It’s so very true, that it’s often the little things that mean the very much.

Thanks Brandy!

So when was the last really positive interaction you had with someone?

Or, blow your own horn.  When was the last time you totally lifted someone else’s day?

Monday Morning Pick Me Up: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson

I feel like I’m in a situation that many people find themselves in in life.  I’m wanting to take my goals and desires to another level.  I wanna take my life to a new level.

I’m not a lazy person, and I’ve never been a person content with being stationary.  That’s not my bag, and I feel like I’m in a phase of life where I’m sitting…motionless.  It’s the worse feeling.

And so I decidedly, tacitly at first, and with more conviction as time has passed, to work and focus on my goals and desires and make them happen…or at the very least fail miserably, so I don’t have any doubts or questions about what could have been.

And I constantly remind myself of people who are successful, who are exactly where they want to be, and the many pitfalls and ton of hard work it took to get there.  I’m not afraid of failure or hard work…so here we are.

And away we go.


Reflections on the Take Action to End Criminalization, Detention, & Deportations Rally and March

I had the pleasure yesterday of joining my fellow Chicagoans yesterday in denouncing the current Immigration policy of the Trump regime, the southern border concentration camps, and the impending ICE raids here in Chicago.

It was a morning full of hope, full of amazing speakers, and while the mayor wasn’t there, I was happy to see she actually was out in communities talking with community leaders and the police about reaction steps to ICE raids.

When I let my emotions get the best of me, I draw a hard dichotomy between the right and the left. I like to think that in 2019, we can all agree that it is never ok to treat fellow humans like animals, but then, while marching, I had an “aha” moment. The highlight of the march for me, actually, was seeing marchers stop outside the ICE office at Clark and Wells, and then looking up and realizing that the inmates at the Metropolitan Corrections Center there were looking down on us. The people all started waving and offering sentiments of hope and upliftment.  That’s how we should treat people who’ve made mistakes, who find themselves in a bad way.  We should hope for their rehabilitation and upliftment…right?

I stepped off to the side, and thought while I don’t know how much “yard time” they get there, they were all spending it at the bars, looking down on us, waving and receiving waves back.

And it dawned on me,

“we treat people like animals everyday. Putting kids in cages is every day business.”

Sometimes I forget I guess. We put people in cages,  together, with little to no education, job training, counseling or rehabilitation, and then let them out with every metric telling us they are likely to go back in, and then we let people make millions of dollars off this cycle. That is as American as apple pie. And it’s fucked up.

The crisis of Trump immigration policy and concentration camps isn’t extraordinary…it’s an extension of business as usual.

We can do better, that I have no doubt. The fact that there were so many people there yesterday leads me to believe that I’m not the only person with those thoughts.

Resist. All day. Every day.

Finding America

I’m currently sitting in the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, listening to the Grant Park Orchestra present their Independence Day Salute under the direction of Grant Park Chorus Director Christopher Bell.

I never miss this concert. It’s such a pleasant evening, and I arrived late. I was worried.

In past years, the park has gotten so packed that they had to turn people away. But only 20 minutes before the start of the concert, there were seats to spare. I immediately wondered why, and 3 possibilities came to mind:

  1. The Trump Effect
  2. The Heat
  3. The Constant Threat of Rain

Now, when I say the Trump Effect, I mean the toxicity that he has infused to almost any sense of patriotism. My Facebook feed this week has been littered with variations of

“Fuck the 4th of July”

“What is there to celebrate?”

Ad nauseum

Well, I’m certainly not the most patriotic person you’ll ever meet. I don’t salute the flag, I don’t stand during the playing of the “Armed Forces Salute”, etc, etc.

But, I’m happy I’m here. We aren’t the best country in the world, and I don’t believe in the sense of “American Exceptionalism” that conservatives so desperately cling to.

We’re flawed. We’re a country founded by flawed men, smart men, but flawed, and they built a flawed place, based on a flawed set of laws and values.

That sounds like the recipe for the Titanic.

And as we have evolved as a place, and people, we find ourselves arriving in our current predicament, in a fight for the soul of our country.

We are at a strange nexus where we’re struggling for who we will be for the next odd 200 years.

Will we be a country that continues to subjugate and oppress people at every twist and turn?

Or will we be a country that reaches to more closely live the ideals that helped found this place:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Also, let’s not forget the next passage:

“That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Important side note: If you have not read the Declaration of Independence this year, today is the perfect day to do so.

We’re at a place where this experiment of American Democracy could potentially be falling apart.

I imagine the tension and schism in thought and ideology we see today is akin to what creates civil wars, to what causes countries to fall in on themselves.

But, what has made America the country that it is, is it’s durability. Our ability to endure the unendurable.

Yes there are concentration camps on the southern border of our country.

Yes the current President is a unintelligent boar who had to get help from a foe of the nation to win his seat.

Yes we still have rampant problems with racism, corruption, sexism, police brutality, white nationalism, and a list of other issues.

And yes, we will get through it all. I have no doubt about it. That’s what we do. That’s why no matter how bad the shit storm gets, our allies still look to us.

Yes, we feel like we’ve lost our moral compass, and yes, it feels like a dark time.

I remember some dark times when I was in Afghanistan. I remember the first time I felt the concussion in my chest of an actual bomb explosion. I remember the first time I heard a friend had died. I remember the first time I had to pull the trigger of my weapon…for real.

And yet, here I sit today.

We endure.

That’s what makes Americans who we are.

We push through, and sometimes with a little panache, although that just seems far away. We fight until we die. I imagine for some, those two options are scary.

Sorry sweetheart.

As my drill sergeants always said,

“Freedom ain’t free, and it ain’t certain.”

We are toiling to achieve it. Unfortunately, that’s part of the process too, but now the fight isn’t in some other place. It’s here, front and center here, and we’re all in it’s midst.

And so I sit here, and I’m not ashamed of the flags flying overhead, or what they stand for. They are a constant evolution…struggle…and in my mind, the state of the nation today is simply a result of too many people hitting the snooze button. But we’ll fix it. Of that I have no doubt.

Happy 4th of July.

So what are your thoughts on the 4th of July? Have your feelings changed on the holiday under the Trump regime?  How did you spend the day? Who had barbecue??? I’m freakin jealous. I’d love to hear all your thoughts in the comments!

Step 2, if you liked what you read here, SHARE IT WITH OTHERS!!!! 

Also, be sure to know every time I post a new entry by subscribing! Also, you can check out Reflections of a Chicago Life on Facebook.  I post a lot of articles and we can have some wicked discussions on there. Be sure to click “Like”. You can also check me out on Twitter, and see all the things I see around the city on Instagram, and it still bears repeating…it’s important to have


This post was created on an iPhone XR. 

You Can’t Win!

Without fail, every year the Millennium Park Summer Film Series is one of my favorite summer activities, and in 2019 it simply has not failed to deliver.

I mean, how could you go wrong? Huge movie screen you can see from like 200 yards away, a $2.5M sound system that makes seating choice fairly irrelevant, and the picturesque view of the Chicago skyline on all sides. It’s a no-brainer.

Yesterday was the presentation of The Wiz, the 1978 film of the musical based upon L. Frank Baum’s “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (Did You know the Wizard of Oz was written in Chicago?).” If you haven’t seen The Wiz, it’s an urban retelling if you will, much more soulful, with an all-black cast, featuring some of the biggest stars of the day, including Diana Ross, Nipsey Russell, and Michael Jackson.

Just to make it clear, the musical “The Wiz” was written by William F. Brown, who is white, and he hated the film adaptation.

I’m pretty certain that this was my first time seeing the Wiz as an adult (I’m assuming I last saw it when I was a teenager), and one of the moments of the film that absolutely captivated me was the musical number “You Can’t Win.”

Sung by Michael Jackson, whom received a boisterous ovation from the crowd when he appeared on screen, was originally written for the Broadway show, but was cut prior to opening night.

To quote Jackson himself,

“The song was about humiliation and helplessness – something that so many people have felt at one time or another – and the feeling that there are people out there who don’t actively hold you back as much as they work quietly on your insecurities so that you hold yourself back.”

I didn’t remember this particular scene at all, but you have to picture a woeful scarecrow, hanging on a pole in the middle of an empty lot, being teased by a pack of crows.

He begs to be let down, just for a little bit, to which they respond by telling him that his station in life is to be on that pole, and even if they let him down, he wouldn’t be able to walk anyway.

At that point, the crows insist that the scarecrow has forgotten the Crow Commandments, and demand he recite them.

  1. Thou shall honor all crows
  2. Thou shall stop reading all bits of paper and literature
  3. Thou shall never, never get down off of this here pole

Wait a minute!!! See, now this is where my adult brain kicked in.  “How sad is this???  My man has been bamboozled!”

Then the crows demand the he sing the crow anthem.

Now, as a fairly educated adult, I can see there’s a lot of subtext going on here.

Anyone who knows me knows that I like to research films, songs, whatever art.  I’m always interested in the back story of how a great piece of art came to be.

In the book Pimps, Wimps, Studs, Thugs and Gentlemen: Essays on Media Images of Masculinity, author and professor Dr. Elwood Watson spoke about this song at length,

“Daily, Scarecrow begs The Crows to liberate him so that he can pursue his quest for a brain, intellect development… The scene invokes African American experiences in the south and the ritual lynching of African American men. The Crows, however, have no intention of doing bodily harm to the Scarecrow – theirs is a more insidious violence… The Crow Commandments invokes the laws that forbid educating slaves… The Crows reinforce Scarecrow’s subjection at their hands through a song… that aims to disabuse Scarecrow of any aspirations toward freedom.

“The Crows are even more disadvantaged than Scarecrow because, unlike him, they are hopeless. The Crow’s chorus… reflects their disillusionment with their inability to realize the promise of upward mobility. The Crows are suspicious, and perhaps justifiably so, of optimistic political discourse that promise substantive change… The Crows, then, become symbolic of a potentially negative family dynamic, one that subjugates its members and does not encourage an exploration of alternative constructions of the self.”

Now it was funny that I heard this song yesterday, because just a few days before I read a quote that’s been in my craw ever since.

It was on the Instagram of Lilliluxe, a digital creator, that I follow on there.  Really pretty, and yes, that’s pretty much what 90% of my Instagram is, really pretty women.  The other 5% are friends.  Anyway, she said the other day,

“Personal story time… 🚨🚗 If you think there’s a better life out there for you… you’re right.
3 years ago I was at an all time low with depression living in Ohio and working in a corporate cubicle. I was earning money but the cost to my mental health was crippling. I was a sad panda that HAD to get OUT. My boss mercifully let me go and told me my contract would not be renewed. I started a Digital Nomad club in my city and started researching ways to make money online. I didn’t know how I would earn a living, but I knew that I wanted to be self employed and able to travel ✈️. I worked a few more corporate jobs, while continuing to model on the side. Little did I know, my modeling hobby that allowed me to express myself creatively and sensually, would eventually become my livelihood! 🇪🇸 Now, I am living in Spain, self employed, and haven’t stepped foot in an office in 2 years! I am grateful everyday for my life and for trusting that voice inside that said “There is something better for you” ❤️ Never ignore that voice!!”

After reading that, I immediately thanked Lilli.  I’ve been feeling in a rut as of late, and it was yet another kick in the pants I needed, and got me thinking.

How much negative talk do we succumb to?  How much negative talk do we impose on ourselves.  As Les Brown would say,

Yes Me!!!  Why not me?!?!?!

As I look back, I’ve lived out so many other peoples conclusions of who I am and what I should be doing.  That makes me sad as fuck.

But, today is another opportunity.  And I’m taking all the opportunities, creating doors, and making moves.

So step one is my podcast, which I’ve wanted to do forever.  Even if I get one listener, that’s more than I have today.

As an end note on The Wiz, To quote BroadwayBlack.com on an article on “The Wiz: Live”,

“In a New York Times articleThe Wiz playwright William F. Brown – who called the film version starring Diana Ross awful – discussed the song as being a “Black message song.” Brown, who is White, said: “But it’s all changed. Black people can win. And this is not a Black message show. It’s everybody’s show.” I think it’s pretty safe to say, that some Black people weren’t winning in the 70s. Should the thought be that Black people are winning in 2015, it might be necessary for some re-thinking. In light of the disturbing climate of race relations today, the song can take on a greater meaning when it is broadcast to millions of viewers.”

Brown no longer includes “You Can’t Win” in current incarnations of the musical The Wiz.  Which I vehemently disagree with, but to each their own.

See…all that thought from a night under the beautiful night sky at Millennium Park.  Oh yeah…it also rained most of the movie, and going into the last 1/3 of the movie, it started lightning and the movie was stopped.  However, up until that point, people were dancing and singing in the rain.  Now that’s the Chicago that I love.  A little rain don’t stop no party.

Are you a fan of the Wiz?   Have you actually seen the musical live?  Have you been to any of the films at Millennium Park this year? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments down below.  . 

Step 2, if you liked what you read here, SHARE IT WITH OTHERS!!!! 

Also, be sure to know every time I post a new entry by subscribing! Also, you can check out Reflections of a Chicago Life on Facebook.  I post a lot of articles and we can have some wicked discussions on there. Be sure to click “Like”. You can also check me out on Twitter, and see all the things I see around the city on Instagram, and it still bears repeating…it’s important to have STANDARDS!!

This post was created on an iPhone XR. 

Stop Me If You’ve Heard This Story Before

Stop me if you’ve heard this story before.
It starts with propaganda, demonizing the other, and convincing citizens that they are the root of all of your problems.

“We have people coming into the country or trying to come in, we’re stopping a lot of them, but we’re taking people out of the country. You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are,”

“These aren’t people. These are animals.”

“They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

Initially, there are cries for a wall.  While the government says that it is to keep the offenders out, just as many whispers insist that it’s to keep the citizens in.  But a wall is expensive, and time consuming.  Not exceptionally expedient to a leadership on a decisive timeline, and so it is decided that we have to lock the outsiders up, for undetermined periods of time, with little judicial oversight.
What separates these resulting camps from a prison (in the modern sense), outside of harsher conditions, is that it functions outside of a judicial system. The prisoners are not indicted or convicted of any crime by a court. Regular reports of deaths in the camps leak out, often involving children, as well as reports of sexual assaults, batteries, etc. The government brushes off the reports as overblown.
Eventually the name “concentration camps” emerges.
And then the jackboots start kicking in doors to round up more of these troublemakers and outsiders. Reports of citizens being asked to show their ID cards or papers at train stations float around.  The President says that city-wide sweeps will begin, and all of the outsiders will be detained and imprisoned.  We’ve had enough, and the reign of terror of these parasites ends today. 
It sounds like a fairly familiar story, but if I told you it was describing 2019 America, you’d call me a liar.
Donald Trump is by far the most despicable person this world has to offer at this time in history, and he’s dragging the rest of us down with him. 
To quote John Whitehead,

You persuade the people that the menace they face (imaginary or not) is so sinister, so overwhelming, so fearsome that the only way to surmount the danger is by empowering the government to take all necessary steps to quash it, even if that means allowing government jackboots to trample all over the Constitution.This is how you use the politics of fear to persuade a freedom-loving people to shackle themselves to a dictatorship.

It works the same way every time.”

How will you respond when the Jackboots arrive?

Aldermen, Activists Warning Immigrant Neighbors Of Reported ICE Deportation Sweep Starting Soon In Chicago

Are ICE raids a concern in your community?   Is it something your neighbors are talking about?  Is it something you and your family have to worry about? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments down below.  Also, the quotes at the beginning of this article are from Donald J. Trump speeches. 

Step 2, if you liked what you read here, SHARE IT WITH OTHERS!!!! 

Also, be sure to know every time I post a new entry by subscribing! Also, you can check out Reflections of a Chicago Life on Facebook.  I post a lot of articles and we can have some wicked discussions on there. Be sure to click “Like”. You can also check me out on Twitter, and see all the things I see around the city on Instagram, and it still bears repeating…it’s important to have STANDARDS!!

This post was created on a  HP Pavilion x360.
I hate this computer. I don’t want my money back from HP, I want an apology.