Sorry, We're Closed

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

George Harrison's New York

Cecilia and I spent last weekend in New York City with our friends Rita and Rick, fellow Beatles obsessives. After hitting dance spots, restaurants, and record stores on Friday and Saturday, we went to the Dakota on Sunday hoping to pay our respects to John--and George, whose 64th birthday it would have been--at nearby Central Park's Strawberry Fields.

We showed up at Strawberry Fields about 2:00 p.m., and the storm that hit the Apple later that day was already rolling in. It was sunny, but chilly and windy. By the “Imagine” mosaic near the entrance to Strawberry Fields lay several bouquets of flowers and a birthday card for George which featured his picture.

A few hardy souls were gathered, some with guitars, but nobody was playing them. Rick and I had brought ours, and we sat on a bench, took the guitars out of the cases, and began to strum.

Rick actually didn't play much, as he had to leave for the airport to catch an early flight. It was really, really windy by 2:30 or so, and after playing just one or two songs one's hands were already like ice.

But soon, a few other musicians came by and sat with us, beginning to play. Despite having lugged guitars with them, they appeared to have been quite shy, and needed a little coaxing. A young man with a European accent took out his nylon-string guitar and played and sang...another fellow eventually came by with his guitar, and we had a nice little group going.

Our acquaintances Eric and Naomi, New Yorkers who've previously come to Chicago's Fest for Beatles fans, then happened on the scene...Naomi, who's a bassist, had brought a travel guitar and Eric had a snare, high-hat, crash cymbal, and tom-tom pad packed into a suitcase (which doubled as his kick drum!).

So we now had rhythm, which led even more people to listen to what was going on...then a fellow who Eric and Naomi knew arrived with a harmonium!

This added a whole new dimension to the adventure, as harmonium man provided a lovely drone that allowed us to play a wider range of material including “Within You Without You,” which was especially beautiful. I had chills, and not just from the weather.

What else did we all play? Let's see...”Don't Bother Me,” “Do You Want to Know a Secret,” “I Need You,” “I Want to Tell You,” “For You Blue,” “Nowhere Man,” “Here Comes the Sun,” "Long Long Long," "Cry Baby Cry," “Blow Away,” “My Sweet Lord,” “Beware of Darkness,” “If Not for You,” “Handle With Care,” “The End of The Line,” “Think for Yourself,” “If I Needed Someone,” “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”… I'm surely forgetting a bunch.

Soon, a small crowd had gathered. Passers-by stopped to listen, watch, and sing. More people laid flowers. Strangers were sharing music and good thoughts.

We all enjoyed this lovely session together until about 5:00 or so, when Ceci, Rita, and I had to leave for the airport. Eric, Naomi, harmonium man, and the others kept on playing as we departed with fond goodbyes.

Playing all of these fantastic songs in this lovely park was simply a very moving experience. The positive energy was strong, and propelled us all through the cold weather to share something very important--the gift of song.

Despite my frozen hands, it was just a fantastic afternoon, and one that once again reminded me how much I love the Beatles, and how much I miss George Harrison. But thank God that we can invoke his memory through his lovely music.

Please vote

...if you live in Chicago, let's use our franchise, huh? If only to keep the *#($*# from claiming some sort of 'landslide.' If he could pronounce it.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Wrigley Season Ticket 2007

I've spent much of the winter serving as editor for this book, which is available for pre-order here (It should be in stores any minute now).

I'm very happy with it, and if you're a Cubs fan, there is no better guide to the 2007 season. Pardon my hubris...but I'm extremely proud of the work all the authors put in, and how it all came out.

Thanks for your indulgence.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Chicago Tonight, 2/15/07

I'll be appearing on Chicago Tonight this evening at 7:00 CT on WTTW, Channel 11, discussing the subject of yesterday's blog--the decision to put ads on the outfield walls at Wrigley Field. Cheers.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


The Chicago Cubs announced on Wednesday that this season, advertisements for a brand of athleticwear would heretofore appear on the right and left field walls of Wrigley Field, stapled to the metal doors.

Not that we didn't already know this, but nothing's sacred anymore at Wrigley Field. Not with John McDonough in charge, anyway. Yes, John McDonough, a South Sider who instituted an irritating series of between-innings advertisments on all the Wrigley Field electronic scoreboards. John McDonough, who took a deal to rename the center-field bleachers after a brand of beer BREWED IN ST. LOUIS, as if Cubs fans didn't care about their intense rivalry with the Cardinals.

John McDonough, friend to cup-holder salesmen, sponsorship bozos, and hacks of all types. John McDonough, recently elevated from head of marketing to overall stewardship of the club.

Yes, let's hear it for McDonough, a man who'd sell tickets to the expulsion of his own bodily fluids if he truly believed that anyone would come to watch. And don't forget selling those cable rights!

It's not all McDonough's fault, of course. Beer ads were attached to the Wrigley Field center-field scoreboard in the early 1980s, to the disgust and disdain of press and fans. Those ads eventually disappeared, McDonough at that point playing the good guy. I guess it doesn't pay to be good any more, not with the team throwing tens of millions of dollars at replacement-level "talents" such as Glendon Rusch, Jason Marquis, and Mark DeRosa.

Of course, McDonough and the Cubs didn't sell ad space on the outfield wall as a RESPONSE to these multi-million-dollar doesn't work that way. McDonough sells first and allots money later.

And for these guys, selling is second nature. They simply see the dollar signs and do whatever it takes. To paraphrase something someone once wrote about Charles Schulz, the creator of Peanuts, who cheapened his characters by selling their images to any company who could afford to pay his fee, "You can't blame a salesman for selling out."

Therefore, the question is, is ANYTHING sacred to these people? What will come next year? We already have rotating billboards behind the plate. Will it be ads on the foul poles next year? Perhaps something etched into the center-field hitting backdrop? A big logo atop the scoreboard itself?

And don't worry. It WILL get worse.

This is just a little taste of what happens when you lay the stewardship of the Sistine Chapel in the hands of the community pimp.

Friday, February 09, 2007


Anna Nicole Smith died today.

People around the country are mourning her death, wondering how or why she died suddenly at age 39, trying to put her legacy into words.

Why in hell should anyone care?

The papers are full of obituary notices every day. But none of those people are mourned by anyone but their loved ones and friends.

I meaning no disrespect to Ms. Smith just because she died...many people do it every day, some of them possibly even related to us or just part of our lives.

But "we" didn't KNOW her.

So why do we pay attention? What, exactly, did she DO in her life that makes her someone that anybody but HER friends and family should have cared about?

Anna Nicole Smith was a media creation, a failed entertainer without the talent to do anything other than peddle oneself at a heavy discount. Someone that our collective persona should have forgotten about years ago, consigned her to the heap of self-obsessed attention junkies--you know, people who may need help, but also need to just get a job like the rest of us.

Someone foisted on the collective consciousness through the public airwaves and newsstands--foisted on us by powerful and cynical people who should know better (and care more) about what they're doing to this country.

Why did this country pay attention to someone who did things that we usually condemn in others? Why do we spend a second acknowledging these ridiculous public narcissists with nothing to offer but their own easily-sold abandonment of dignity, respect, or responsibility?

And more importantly, to paraphrase something Cecilia said to me tonight, "Why is it so important to anybody that SHE died? Why is it that we don't care about the people who starved to death today, or about the people who died in Iraq, or the children who don't have enough to eat. What about the 48-year-old guy, who probably had a terrible life, who died outside today in the cold?"

What indeed? Every day, people around the world suffer. REALLY suffer. People are injured by car bombs, blown apart by land mines, raped or tortured by people our government supports. There's not enough food. There's not enough clean air or water.

And we pay attention to the self-imposed miseries of a rich bottle blonde, a woman who married an elderly millionaire, posed for Playboy, and who, when her stock was low enough that she could never again trade on dignity, interested a television network in airing a fricking television show about her life that, for anyone who could stand watching, was absolutely intolerable in its unpleasantness, smug-self-satisfaction, and cheap exploitation.

Does anyone understand this? I don't.

Monday, February 05, 2007

February 5 haiku

Teeth-chattering chill.
Moon hanging as a banner,
Over the graveyard.