Wednesday, September 09, 2020

Uh, Just Some More Madness

I actually had been working on a blog post, with words and stuff, but it's kinda been forestalled. So to keep you up to date, here are the additional Madness tournaments I've coordinated on Facebook:

And just now underway: 

Monday, August 03, 2020

The Madness Just Won't Stop

To date, on Facebook, I've created and overseen a dozen "Madness" tournaments, à la the NCAA Basketball Tournament known as March Madness. I actually started them in March as something of a substitute for the frenzy.

Several past posts have shown previous tourneys, but here are the latest three, now completed.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

The Remarkable Alternate Universe of Emitt Rhodes (1950-2020)

On April 17, 1970, Paul McCartney--having a week prior announced his departure from the Beatles and essentially, to the public, breaking up the best rock band ever--released his first solo album, titled simply McCartney

I was only 18 months old at the time, so can only imagine the hubbub of "PAUL QUITS THE BEATLES" headlines coming amidst contentious scheduling conflicts with the release of not only the last official Beatles' album, Let It Be, but also Ringo Starr's solo debut, Sentimental Journey.

Stung by John Lennon's private departure from the Beatles the previous fall, it was a rather audacious move for the 27-year-old McCartney, who was for 7+ years officially half of rock's greatest songwriting duo--although in the Beatles' latter years he and John largely wrote separately.

Paul would record the McCartney album at home and, excepting some minor contributions from his wife, Linda, played all the instruments on it.

Though McCartney sold well--going to #1 in America before ceding that spot to Let It Be--and contained some gems ("Maybe I'm Amazed," "Every Night," "That Would Be Something"), it was far from a masterpiece filled with the type of ear candy brilliance Paul regularly wrote with the Beatles.

By the end of 1970, George Harrison (All Things Must Pass) and John Lennon (Plastic Ono Band) would release solo albums that were--subjectively, though in the minds of many--superior to McCartney.

So too would a handsome 20-year-old, who had left behind a band he fronted, The Merry-Go-Round, and within his parents' home in Hawthorne--the same SoCal burg that birthed the Beach Boys and their transcendent songwriter, Brian Wilson--played all the instruments on what would be his official, self-titled debut album:

Emitt Rhodes

Now, certainly, we can agree that Paul McCartney was--and remains--an insanely great pop songwriter, possibly the best ever.

And we might also agree that, while it has its moments, his 1970 solo debut album is lesser than releases that year by not only John Lennon, George Harrison and The Beatles but also Van Morrison (Moondance), Neil Young (After the Gold Rush), Derek & the Dominoes (Layla and Assorted Other Loves Songs), Creedence Clearwater Revival (Cosmo's Factory), The Kinks (Lola Versus Powerman), Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (Déjà Vu), Simon & Garfunkel (Bridge Over Troubled Water), James Taylor (Sweet Baby James), Randy Newman (12 Songs), Elton John (Tumbleweed Connection), David Bowie (The Man Who Sold the World), Led Zeppelin (III) and likely records by Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Pink Floyd, Traffic and many more.

So, hey, no one bats 1000.

But take a listen to this; a prime cut from Emitt Rhodes called "Fresh as a Daisy:"

Doesn't it sound McCartneyesque?

And if you're intrigued, take a listen to Rhodes' entire solo album, which I culled from a longer retrospective on Spotify.

Now, to be clear, regardless of the "Paul is Dead" rumor that surfaced a few years prior and which I enjoyed exploring about a decade later, I'm in no way suggesting that Paul McCartney was Emitt Rhodes, or ever recorded in his name. (Or vice-versa.)

Nor am I saying that, in the whole scheme of things, Emitt Rhodes was as anywhere near as great or important a musician as Paul McCartney.

That would just be stupid.

But maybe I'm amazed that in the year Macca (McCartney's nickname) officially ended the Beatles in order to put out his solo debut on the day he wanted, a little-known musician--Emitt Rhodes did go to #29 on the Billboard charts so wasn't completely ignored--who sounded rather similar released a solo debut album that was even better.

I don't know if its apt to use the term "alternate universe" or "alternate reality" or "crazy coincidence" or "unknown treasure" or "hidden genius," but I'm fairly certain that there are insanely gifted people living among us whose talents will barely be known.

In this, I'm not referencing--necessarily--supremely talented co-workers whose true gifts are never tapped (nor even much shared) while toiling in mundane jobs, though I've known many.

And though I don't rule out the possibility, I've yet to see evidence of X-Men type mutants, or unrevealed superheroes.

But I swear a college friend of mine who never played organized prep sports could throw a baseball 90 MPH, serve a tennis ball at 120 MPH and hurl a football 80 yards on a rope. I'm sure he's not the only one.

Once I attended a party where talented musicians were jamming, then one dude showed up in a well-worn Honda Civic and routinely tossed out guitar solos that sounded every bit as good as prime Clapton.

And I have to assume that there are professional or Olympic-caliber athletes who perhaps don't even know their own talents, and/or will never be "discovered."

So Emitt Rhodes, who passed away on July 19 at the age of 70, just fascinates the fuck out of me.

Oddly, news of his death reminded me that I had once heard of Rhodes and his unlikely brilliance, but then forgot about him.

Having worked in creative environments for much of my career, frequently on a short-term, freelance basis, I've had the pleasure of knowing many skilled musicians, painters, filmmakers, comedians, actors, authors, etc., etc., who had other day jobs.

At one stop, where I actually wound up twice, I got to know a guy named Todd, a copywriter by day and also a singer/songwriter under the guise of Hop on Pop, with which he's made a few albums. (At the linked Bandcamp page, check out "Here" from the Chicken on a Bicycle album, among other fine tunes.)

Todd is also probably the best-versed musicologist I know, at least in rock realms.

Over lunch one day, during a gig that for me last 2 weeks, Todd told me about Emitt Rhodes and his brilliant first album. He may have even played something for me.

I was impressed, enough to note Rhodes in my iPhone's Notes app, but the debut album wasn't readily available on Amazon--it still isn't--and if on Spotify was perhaps part of The Emitt Rhodes Recordings 1969-1973, as it remains.

So I came to know of Emitt Rhodes, but not really his music, and essentially forgot about him.

Until late last Sunday, when I saw a post on Facebook--not from Todd--about the passing of Mr. Rhodes.

Obviously, I wasn't the only one who found him a fascinating footnote in rock history.

In 2009, a fan and filmmaker named Cossimo Messeri had made a documentary about Rhodes titled--as others had referenced him--The One Man Beatles.

Within the past week I found the 54-minute film on Vimeo and enjoyed it, but it seems to have been taken down. 

It showed Rhodes--residing in a friend's home in Hawthorne, across from his childhood home and parents until they passed--older, heavier, bearded, speaking of his having depression, but with a Brian Wilson-like innocence, NOT bitter regret. 

And still a gift for knocking out a catchy tune. 

The Bangles, Michael Penn and noted producer Keith Olsen are among the notable Emitt Rhodes fans interviewed in the documentary. And although I didn't know it until this week, in 2016 Rhodes released Rainbow Ends, a new solo album featuring contributions from Susannah Hoffs, Aimee Mann, Jon Brion, Richard Thompson, Nels Cline of Wilco and others. 

Somewhere in this long piece I should probably have mentioned that Rhodes initially played drums in a band called The Palace Guard, that The Merry-Go-Round had some nice tunes and minor acclaim in the late-1960s and--in part due to legal & financial troubles with record companies before & after going solo--his last album prior to Rainbow Ends came in 1973. (Find his Wikipedia entry here, AllMusic bio here and several fine tributes since his passing, including this one from the L.A. Times.)

I should also note, as several of the obits of Emitt Rhodes did, that director Wes Anderson used one of the debut album tracks, "Lullabye," significantly in his 2001 film, The Royal Tenenbaums.

Anyway, so far I've mainly (re)focused on Emitt Rhodes, the rather obscure 1970 solo debut that, IMHO, matches that of Paul McCartney. Or probably even surpasses it.

But from a listen to Rainbow Ends and some songs Rhodes was shown tinkering with in The One Man Beatles, it seems clear that his prodigious pop songwriting talent wasn't just a long-forgotten fluke. Or something that just went away, as he seemed to.

Even minus the proverbial pot o' gold at the end, Emitt Rhodes' alternate universe seems to have legitimately covered quite a spectrum.

And clearly, there is so much untold brilliance than can conceivably be found and savored, perhaps just biding its time somewhere beneath the surface.

Or unwittingly walking among us.

Monday, July 06, 2020

Mourning the Passing of Nick Cordero (1978-2020)

Although I go to -- or at least used to go to -- a bunch of theater, in Chicago and occasionally on Broadway in New York, my database indicates I'd only seen the musical actor Nick Cordero once.

That was in the jukebox rock musical Rock of Ages, in Chicago in 2010. But I have followed news of his critical condition at the hands of COVID-19, and was quite saddened to learn of his passing yesterday.

So to serve as a Facebook cover image, I felt compelled to make this. (The actual GoFundMe link can be reached here)

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

And Yet Even More Madness

See this post to understand why I'm posting the latest completed tournament...

...and the opening bracket of the current tourney:

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Ours Go to 11: Volume 38, Coolest Concerts Attended

In my previous post--inspired by the coronavirus pandemic precluding my seeing the Chicago Cubs play the St. Louis Cardinals in London, as I was scheduled to--I compiled a list of the most Notable Games I have attended.

Initially I was intending to cover Regular Season and Postseason/Exhibition games in separate lists within the same post.

But recollecting, researching and writing about just the Regular Season games of note wound up taking up a full afternoon.

So I promised to cover Playoff Games in a subsequent post.

Ostensibly, that would be this one.

But today, June 17, is a date that stands out in my mind for some memorable concerts I've attended.

So it seems apropos to do this:

The Most Memorable Rock Concerts I've Been To 
These shouldn't be construed as "the best" concerts, and while I'll include plenty of Bruce Springsteen, I won't let him fill the Top 11, even though he easily could. (This includes leaving out Springsteen on Broadway.)

1. Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band - June 17, 2000 - Madison Square Garden, New York
The Boss is my favorite; I don't think there's ever been a better live rock performer. To date, I've seen him 50 times, including 10 shows on his 1999-00 reunion tour with the E Street Band. This one was amid a tour ending 10-show soldout run at the world's most famous arena. Via the on-sale, I was able to snag a ticket in the 10th row center (over-the-phone from Chicago). And the show was as great as I could've hoped.

2. Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band - June 15, 2013 - Wembley Stadium, London
I've seen Bruce many other cool places, some noted below and also the now-demolished Giants Stadium in New Jersey, where I attended 7 shows across 3 tours. But seeing him at Wembley, in London, on an European jaunt, was extra special.

3. Nirvana - October 25, 1993 - Aragon Ballroom, Chicago
During the concert, Kurt Cobain opined that the sound sucked. "Smells Like Teen Spirit" went unplayed. And in a post-show interview with Rolling Stone's David Fricke, Kurt said, "I’m really glad you could make it for the shittiest show on the tour." Still, though my memory isn't great, I can acutely remember being absolutely blown away.

4. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers - June 17, 1981 - Rosemont Horizon, near Chicago
My first concert attended of my own volition. The Loop radio station presented it as a "Free Show" and I was able to get a pair of tickets by waiting at Flip Side at Lincoln Village mall. Being only 12, I had to be accompanied to the show by my dad. We didn't always get along, but this was a cherished memory.

5. David Bowie - May 25, 1990 - Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles
In March 1990, at the age of 21, I moved from the Chicago area to Los Angeles, settling in the poorer section of Encino in the San Fernando Valley. After having missed out on seeing him in Chicago in 1983 and 1987, I made a point of seeing the "Thin White Duke" at Dodger Stadium. It was my first show in LA, and one I went to by myself. Can't say I recall all that much, but have never forgotten Bowie opening with "Space Oddity."

6. U2 - April 29, 1987 - Rosemont Horizon
Technically, this wasn't my first time seeing U2 live; note #11 below, the previous year. But during my freshman year at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, U2 had become--with the release of The Joshua Tree--"Rock's Hottest Ticket" as proclaimed on a TIME magazine cover. With just one show at the Horizon, getting tix seemed daunting, but via the Jam (Productions) Ticket Club, I got two choice seats on the floor.

7. The Rolling Stones - September 16, 2002 - Aragon Ballroom
As with most of the artists on this list and many others, I've seen the Stones a bunch of times. But just by simple luck I was able to buy, for $50 each, tickets when they opted to do an intimate show at the Aragon among bigger Chicago venues as well. The setlist was actually a tad esoteric, so it isn't the "best" Stones show I've seen. But it was quite cool, and Bono even showed up onstage to duet on "It's Only Rock 'n Roll (But I Like It)."

8. Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band - September 7 & 8 - Wrigley Field, Chicago
My favorite artist at my favorite place in the world, twice. 6-1/2 hours of sheer joy. I even touched the Boss on Night 2, which isn't as creepy as it sounds.

9. Pearl Jam - July 9, 1995 - Marcus Amphitheater, Summerfest, Milwaukee
At the height of their popularity, Pearl Jam scrapped most of its tour due to refusing to play venues with tickets sold through Ticketmaster (with hefty surcharges). But they played Chicago's Soldier Field (should've gone but didn't) and two gigs as part of Summerfest. I went to the latter.

10. Paul McCartney - June 8, 2019 - Lambeau Field, Green Bay
I've seen the great Beatle many cool places--Wrigley Field, Le Bercy arena in Paris, Miller Park Milwaukee, Busch Stadium St. Louis, in Tulsa, OK and more--but even for a devoted Chicago Bears fan, there was something special about being on the tundra of the Green Bay Packers home stadium. And still playing nearly 3 hours, Sir Paul was awesome. 

11. Amnesty International Conspiracy of Hope tour featuring U2, The Police, Peter Gabriel, Bryan Adams, Lou Reed and Robin Williams - June 13, 1986 - Rosemont Horizon
A remarkable lineup, and my first time seeing any of the performers. U2 was incredible; The Police, who had reunited for the tour and were terrific, still shouldn't have followed them as the closing act.

Some others

- Jeff Tweedy (of Wilco) with student musicians - March 21, 2009 - Private residence. A close friend's family hosted a special benefit performance. 
- Foo Fighters - March 29, 1996 - Riviera Theatre, Chicago. My first Foo.
- Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band - July 17, 1984 - Rosemont Horizon. First-time seeing Bruce live; life-changing.
- The Smashing Pumpkins - April 10, 1999 - St. Andrews Hall, Detroit. "The Arising" tour briefly reunited the original Pumpkins for the last time. There was no Chicago show, so I went to Detroit for a small club gig. Would see a bunch of shows the next year on the then-final tour, including in Paris.
- R.E.M. - October 21, 1986 - Chick Evans Field House, NIU, DeKalb, IL. Early in my freshman year; I got up to the first row. It made me a fan for life.
- Radiohead - August 15, 2003 - Parc Jean Drapeau, Montreal. A Canadian air travel blackout on the day of the show forced me to fly to Burlington, Vermont, take a bus, find my hotel and take the subway to reach the show at a huge park on an island. I think I missed two songs.
- Vote for Change Tour - Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, R.E.M., Bright Eyes - October 3, 2004 - Cobo Hall, Detroit. After seeing Pearl Jam at a VFC show the night before in Toledo, where Neil Young showed up, I caught two more of my all-time favorites in Detroit. No Neil, but John Fogerty and the Dixie Chicks made appearances.
- Aretha Franklin - September 3, 2017 - Ravinia Festival, Highland Park, IL. The legendary Queen of Soul was really terrific in her last Chicago appearance, my only time seeing her.
- Robert Plant - October 2, 2014 - Riviera Theatre, Chicago. I love Led Zeppelin and have seen Plant many times, including twice with Jimmy Page. But there was something just goose-bumpnig and mind-blowing about this particular gig.
- Material Issue - May 7, 1991 - Palomino Club, North Hollywood, CA. Living in L.A., I caught wind of this Chicago trio getting buzz from their debut album and went to see them at a long-famed country music venue. In 1994 I was back in the Chicago burbs and went to a Material Issue CD signing, where I mentioned having seen them at the Palomino, which seemed to impress them. Sadly, singer/songwriter Jim Ellison took his life just a couple years later.

And also...

- Stereophonics - December 11, 2003 - Cubby Bear. Hung out with the band afterward.
- AC/DC - Various - Always awesome
- Arcade Fire - Various - Likewise
- Buddy Guy - Several times - Buddy Guy's Legends
- Zwan - April 12, 13, 2002 - Double Door. Sheer joy in hearing new material ahead of the album.
- Midnight Oil - October 23, 2001 - The Rave. First time seeing a legendary band I long loved, in a small venue.
- The Who - July 21, 1989 - Alpine Valley, WI. My first-time seeing The Who was almost scrapped when a friend bailed, but my mom accompanied me. She would do so again for the Rolling Stones a few months later. 
- Coldplay - March 12, 2003 - Eagles Ballroom, Milwaukee. A relatively intimate setting for how big they had already become, and the band was fantastic. Would then go see them at the Hollywood Bowl a couple months later and not be nearly as impressed.
- Stevie Wonder - June 28, 2008 - Petrillo Bandshell / Taste of Chicago. Just a "Wonder"ful communal vibe, especially when the entire lawn did the "electric slide."
- Soundgarden - January 29, 2013 - Riviera Theatre. As with the other times I saw them, they were bone-crushingly phenomenal.

There are dozens of other shows that I could easily have included here, so no slight meant to any artists, shows, venues or individuals with whom I may have attended.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Ours Go to 11: Volume 37, Notable Games Attended -- Regular Season

Had things proceeded as scheduled, last night--June 13, 2020--I would have watched my beloved Chicago Cubs play a regular-season, Major League Baseball game against their Arch rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals.

Rather than at Wrigley Field or Busch Stadium, this game would've taken place at London Stadium at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London, England.

Hopefully it will be rescheduled for 2021, or as safe, and I will be able to plan a different European jaunt and attend.

But theoretically, it would be a once in a lifetime event, to see the Cubs play in Europe.

So for now, I will draw upon my memory banks--and perhaps even more so, ticket stubs--to list some of the most notable, memorable and/or cherished games I've attended across various sports.

It seems a bit unfair to loop together regular season and playoff/exhibition games, so here I'll focus only on the former, and will follow up with a subsequent post covering the latter.

But this is quite inexact. I've been fortunate to attend many games over the years, some at the gracious invite of friends, relatives, bosses, etc. How I attended, or with whom, isn't a criteria I'm much considering, but I remain extremely grateful to those who treated me, joined me, traveled with me, etc. 

I recall very few outcomes or specific happenings within games, and while I've been to games at 40 different major league baseball stadiums, vary rarely do the venues factor into the choices below. I was also a vendor at several Chicago games between 1985-89, which I'll include in some cases, but sparingly.

Perhaps inadvertently, I'm leaving out several Cubs vs. White Sox games I attended, and mostly won't include games I went to in order to see all-time greats--Cal Ripken Jr., Ken Griffey Jr., Barry Sanders, LeBron James, Allen Iverson, etc.--or to observe pre-game ceremonies or get promotional items.

And as I feel apt, I'll lump a few games together. 

The Most Memorable Regular Season Games I Was At

1. April 18, 2007: Chicago White Sox vs. Texas Rangers - Mark Buehrle No-Hitter
It was a freezing evening game at U.S. Cellular Field that I attended with three friends. I would've happily left at any point the Rangers got a hit, but they never did. Sox won 6-0.

See video within article
2. August 8 / 9, 1988: Chicago Cubs vs. Philadelphia Phillies / New York Mets - Lights at Wrigley
The first night game at Wrigley Field never officially happened, as after 91-year-old Harry Grossman flipped the switch on 8/8/88--I was there as a vendor--Mother Nature stalled the game in the middle of the 4th inning. Fortunately I was back the next night for the first official night game at Wrigley, against the Mets. Cubs won 6-4.

3. September 6, 1998: St. Louis Cardinals vs. Cincinnati Reds - Old Busch Stadium, St. Louis
Incidentally, Long Gone Summer, which chronicles Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa's home run chase of 1998 premieres tonight on ESPN. I attended this late-season game in St. Louis as McGwire sat at 60 HR (Sosa was at 58). However I may feel now about both stars presumably juicing, the atmosphere was electric then. McGwire did not homer (nor did Sammy on the day), so nothing noteworthy happened in this game, it was just cool to be there. Over the next two nights, against the Cubs at Busch (I wasn't there) McGwire hit HR 61 and 62, tying and breaking Roger Maris' longstanding record. He finished the year with 70 HR; Sosa 66.

4. January 2 & 24, 2003: Chicago Bulls vs. Washington Wizards - United Center
I saw Michael Jordan play in person about 10 times across his career, mostly with the Bulls. Some of these games are noted below. But after he unretired to play a final two seasons with the Wizards, I had a ticket for a 2002 game at the UC in which he didn't play and also unwittingly bought a fake ticket for his final game at Madison Square Garden in New York in March 2003. But I did attend his first and last visits to the Jordan -- err, United -- Center in the 2002-03 season. He had a combined 21 points, but so what. I cheered loudly.

5. June 17 / 18, 2000: New York Yankees vs. Chicago White Sox, Old Yankee Stadium; Boston Red Sox vs. New York Yankees, Fenway Park
On a brief East Coast jaunt highlighted by seeing Bruce Springsteen at Madison Square Garden, the next afternoon I would see the White Sox clobber the Yankees 17-4 on my second ever visit to the original Yankee Stadium. I would then take a train to Boston, where my sister Allison lived, and the next night we went to a game at Fenway, my first at the venerable home of the Boston Red Sox ballpark. The Yankees won 22-1. I don't know if any other team has had a 34-run loss to win swing in 2 days.

6. September 8, 1985: Chicago Cubs vs. Cincinnati Reds, Wrigley Field - Pete Ties Ty in a Tie
Before he would disgrace himself for getting caught betting on baseball, Pete Rose became the Hit King by surpassing Ty Cobb's 4,191. On a Sunday in Chicago, late in my first season as a vendor, "Charlie Hustle" tied Ty--he'd surpass him Wednesday in Cincinnati--in a game that would officially end in a 5-5 tie. Per #2 above, Wrigley didn't yet have lights.

7. March 1, 2014: Chicago Blackhawks vs. Pittsburgh Penquins, Soldier Field
I went to a handful of Hawks games during their dynasty era, including a Stanley Cup Final game. But this outdoor "Stadium Series" game at Soldier Field was really cool, especially as it was freezing. And it was also my first chance to see the Penquins' superstar Sidney Crosby live in person. The Blackhawks won 5-1 in front of nearly 63,000 fans.

8. June 7, 2003: Chicago Cubs vs. New York Yankees - Wrigley Field
Roger Clemens aiming for career win #300 vs. Kerry Wood. The series marked the first Yankees visit to Wrigley since 1932. Cubs won 5-2 but game marred by a scary injury to the Cubs' Hee-Seop Choi. 

9. March 9, 1985: Chicago Bulls vs. Utah Jazz - Chicago Stadium
First time I saw Michael Jordan in person. He scored 28 but the Jazz won 111-105, led by Darrell Griffith's 40 points. Orlando Woolridge had 35 for the Bulls.

10. May 2, 2000: Chicago Cubs vs. Houston Astros - Wrigley Field
Kerry Wood's return to action after more than a year on the Disabled List. He went 6 innings for the win in a 11-1 Cubs victory, and also hit a 2-run homer.

11. November 26, 2011: Chelsea vs. Wolves, Stamford Bridge stadium, London
My friend Paolo was in London on business, staying in a corporate flat, so I visited him. Though I had seen some great international soccer stars play in Chicago, I'd never been to a game--of any kind--in another country. Paolo is a huge fan, of soccer and Chelsea, so we went to Stamford Bridge and got tickets from a "tout" (i.e. scalper). It was a fun experience; Chelsea won 3-0. I can't trace who scored goals, but notables on Chelsea's roster included Didier Drogba, Michael Essien, John Terry, Frank Lampard, Daniel Sturridge, Fernando Torres and Ashley Cole.

A few others

- September 5, 1983: White Sox v A's - First-place Sox won 11-1 enroute to playoffs. Went with my childhood (and still) pal Jordan; Floyd Bannister started.
- August 6, 1984: Cubs vs. Mets - First-place Cubs beat second-place Mets (with Dwight Gooden starting) 9-3; taken by summertime boss, sat 1st row behind Cubs dugout
- April 8, 1999: Blackhawks vs. Rangers - Wayne Gretzky's last visit to Chicago. The crowd and the Hawks gave him a great salute.
- April 14 (or 15), 1981: White Sox vs. Brewers - I remember my took me and a friend to a game right at the start of the Sox first season with Carlton Fisk (alongside Greg Luzinski). April 14 was opening day, but the 15th would've been a much easier ticket. I don't have the stub or much recollection, but do recall my dad being pickpocketed on the L.  
- February 15, 2000: Bulls vs. Lakers - Phil Jackson's first visit to the UC as Lakers coach on a title-bound team with Shaq and Kobe. Lakers won 88-76
- November 26, 1991: Bulls vs. Clippers, LA Sports Arena - Living in L.A. from 1990-92, I convinced a colleague to accompany me to see Michael, who scored 23 in a 116-79 Bulls win.
- December 9, 1995: Bulls vs. Bucks, Bradley Center, Milwaukee - My friend Mark and I went up to Milwaukee early in the Bulls' 72-win, 4th ring season. Adorned in black uniforms, the Bulls won 118-106; Michael had 45.
- Various dates, 1990-92, 1996: Cubs vs. Dodgers, Dodger Stadium - I don't recall any game in particular, but it was always fun to see the Cubs in L.A., when I lived there and on a return visit.
- March 30, 2014: Fluminense vs. Vasco de Gama, Maracana, Rio de Janeiro - The famed Maracana had been reconfigured down from a 200,000 capacity to 80,000 and wasn't even 1/4 full for this game, but it was still fun to attend.
- September 11 / 12, 2005: San Francisco Giants vs. San Diego Padres, SBC Park - As noted above, I've been to many baseball stadiums, and my favorite beyond Wrigley is the Giants' home on the Bay. And while I hated Barry Bonds, even in real time, the game on 9/12 marked his first of 2005 after 4 straight MVP seasons. So it was kinda cool.

Monday, June 08, 2020

Documenting the Madness That Was

In mid-March, with the Coronavirus pandemic prompting the cancellation of the NCAA College Basketball Tournament, commonly referenced as "March Madness," I created a substitute bracket I called Rock Madness.

Purely to entertain my Facebook Friends, the tournament allowed people to vote on matchups to determine the winner of each game, and eventually overall.

I can't say it went viral, but was popular enough among my pals to beget--to date--seven more tournaments now completed, with Novel Madness (above) being the latest.

In multiple Seth Saith posts, I've shared tourneys in progress, and as finished, but thought I'd capture all eight to date in this one. I wouldn't mind doing a tournament of Famous Painters, but don't know if Facebook interest warrants it. So if this is it, the Madness was mad fun. While it lasted.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Pithy Philosophies #43

Seth Saith:

Until those within the power structure are made to feel uncomfortable, or even afraid, nothing will change.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Tripped Up: Oh, the Places I Won't Yet Go

As recently as three months ago--having finished making my reservations on Feb. 21--today was supposed to be one of "those days."

If everything proceeded as planned--which obviously they haven't--I was to board an American Airlines 8:55pm flight at Chicago's O'Hare Airport, which would have me in London on Sunday morning.

Although I've gone on many fascinating overseas trips, there really is no getting used to the palpable thrill of doing so. 

And after getting through British customs and taking the Tube to my hotel, I would've spent the remainder of Sunday and a good part of Monday rummaging around my favorite tourist city in the world.

The chances of making a 3pm curtain for a West End musical would've been iffy, and I didn't notice much playing I haven't seen, so perhaps a walk along the Thames or a visit to the National Gallery would've filled my afternoon.

I've been to London several times and was planning to spend a few days there later in the trip prior to flying home from Heathrow, so in addition to checking out the British Museum for the first time since 1993, I was considering spending Monday taking the Tube (London's erstwhile subway system) to some random stop and just seeing what I might find.

Then, though I had delightfully visited Italy in 2002--going to Rome, Venice, Florence, Pisa, Siena, Naples and Pompeii--this Monday I was to fly from London to Pisa and check into a hotel across the street from the Square of Miracles, home to the Leaning Tower, Cathedral and other splendors.

Tuesday morning, my close friend from Chicago, Paolo--who since September has been off adventuring and, from February on, living in Florence as part of a planned semester of study--would meet me at my Pisa hotel.

We'd revel in the Pisa landmarks, hang out for a few days in Florence--home to some of the best art anywhere--including a likely side trip to Rome (if we'd want to;), then go our separate ways for awhile.

I was booked to fly to Athens, long having dreamed of seeing and photographing the Parthenon. From there, I'd spend a couple days among the blue domed roofs on the island of Santorini.

Assuming no hiccups, I was then slated to view the wonders of Istanbul, including Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace.

On Paolo's longstanding recommendation, I would also for the first time visit Berlin, home to moving memorials, grand museums and a presumably buzzing modern culture.

I'd then fly to Glasgow, where Paolo was to be hanging out with his effervescent Scottish girlfriend, Sharon. After a day or two checking out Charles Rennie Mackintosh architecture/design and perhaps some of the renowned Highlands, the three of us would trek down to London, where Paolo & I had tickets to see our beloved Chicago Cubs play an official game against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Having never seen Stonehenge in person, I was planning to take a day tour before flying home--through Boston, with enough time for the Freedom Trail and some chowda--on Monday, June 15.

Pretty damn exciting.

Seeing a dear friend with free digs a stone's throw from the incredible Uffizi Gallery, Pitti Palace, Palazzo Vecchio, Michelangelo's David, Duomo, Ponte Vecchio bridge and lots of gelato.

Re-checking out other places I've loved: London, Pisa, Rome.

Undoubtedly having my mind blown by the history and beauty of Athens, Santorini, Istanbul, Berlin and Glasgow.

Spending some quality time not only with Paolo but Sharon as well, who I tremendously enjoyed meeting last summer when she visited Chicago.

Having the once-in-a-lifetime experience of seeing the Chicago Cubs play in London.

Reliving my Spinal Tap memories at Stonehenge.

Heck, it seems a rather small blip in the overall scheme, but I was truly enchanted by the thought of seeing the historic Ishtar Gate and sublime bust of Nefertiti, both held within Berlin museums.

And oh, the food, all the glorious food.

But alas, it's not to be, at least not today, or any yet rescheduled time in the future.

Yet how can I complain?

During a time when at least 5,000,000+ people worldwide have been contaminated by COVID-19, with many becoming desperately ill--including, sadly and scarily, Sharon, who now appears to be out of danger but still far from recovered--and over 342,396 individuals have lost their lives, I've been fine.

Knock on wood, but my mom's been fine. My sisters and extended family have been fine.

A 97-year-old dear family friend tested positive but, more than two weeks on, has not shown any symptoms.

As far as I know, my friends and their families have escaped the harshest possibilities.

Paolo certainly was worried sick about Sharon--and instead of studying Italian art and taking a deep dive into Florence has been on lockdown for nearly 3 months--but there too the story is thankfully better than it could've been.

So boo-hoo, I'm not flying to London tonight. I won't be seeing Pisa, Florence and all the rest, including many first-time sights.

Sure I'm disappointed, and honestly somewhat bored in my day-to-day existence.

But though I'm not a religious person, my recent prayers have all been answered to date.

And one day, when as many lives as possible have been saved, in part by true heroes, in part by those willing to patiently stay home and wear a damn mask at Walgreens, God-willing I'll take a trip along the above lines.

And even if not, oh well.

I've been fortunate, to travel to various European locales, some multiple times. Plus Australia, Israel, Egypt, India, South America, Japan, Mexico, much of the U.S. and elsewhere.

I've attended hundreds of shows across various idioms, and even saw my Cubs win a World Series (with a few games in person).

More importantly, I've been blessed with beloved family and many fantastic friends.

As my hero Bruce Springsteen--who for the record, I've seen 50 times in concert and met once--used to say as he led into "Born to Run":
"Nobody wins unless everybody wins."
So this isn't a time for celebration.

Many around the world--or just Chicagoland--are still in a fight for their lives, one they weren't expecting at this point in time.

And several will sadly lose.

But I'm quite glad, and so grateful, that those I know and love are well.

Let's hope it stays that way, for all who you know & love...

...and far beyond.

The rest of it--including Europe--can wait.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

And Still the Madness Goes On

I know these don't make for the most exciting blog posts, but the "tournaments" have been going over well on Facebook. So it seems apt to share them here, if only for posterity's sake.

Here's how Jukebox Madness played out. (See this post for the opening version.)

Then came Broadway Madness, as it began and then ended.

And today I introduced a rather compact Comedian Madness: