Thursday, April 27, 2017

Jefferson Park, or...

..."Jeff Park," as the locals call it, was the destination for last night's Urban Hike with Mike.

The five of us -- Jack, John, Michael, Alan and me -- left 1212 W. Flournoy at five o'clock sharp, as usual, and boarded the Blue Line train at Racine. About 45 minutes later we emerged from the "Jefferson Park Transit Center" (sounds more important than the plain ol' Jefferson Park Blue Line stop, doesn't it?) and walked the few steps to the Jefferson Park Grill where we had dinner. (FYI: the portions there are huge. One of my many rules of thumb is if there's a double cheeseburger on the menu it usually means that the single is too small. So I ordered it with a side of fries -- big mistake -- and it was enough to feed my whole family!)

As for the "Jefferson Park Transit Center," I remember a time when it was the end of the Blue Line. (That was before they had colors for the various el lines -- we had it rough, kids!) Before 1984, if you wanted to go all the way out to O'Hare, for example, you had to get off at Jefferson Park and catch a shuttle bus to the airport. It was a bit of a pain in the neck, and something tells me the Chicago taxi companies were behind delaying the extension. (Just a hunch.)

Jeff Park, on the Far North Side, is one of the 77 community areas that are officially recognized by the City of Chicago. Incorporated as an independent township in 1850, Jefferson Park was annexed by the city in 1889.

One of the most high-profile landmarks in Jefferson Park is the Copernicus Center, on Lawrence Avenue just south of the "Transit Center." (I guess everything up there is a "Center.")

The Copernicus Center is a cultural and civic center for Chicago's large Polish community. (While many Chicagoans think of the Windy City as the "biggest Polish city outside of Poland," it's actually a close second in the United States behind  -- again! -- New York.) The Center was built onto the old Gateway Theatre, which was the first movie theater in Chicago constructed exclusively for the "talkies."

The "Solidarity Tower" (above), with its matching facade, was erected atop the theater and modified to resemble Warsaw's historic Royal Castle. The tower is an exact replica of the castle's clock tower and its Baroque spire can be seen from the Kennedy Expressway.


At Lawrence and Milwaukee we turned left (south) and entered the community area of Portage Park, which actually has the largest Polish population in the Chicago Metropolitan Area according to the 2000 census. (It's also the childhood home of Francis Cardinal George.) So it should come as no surprise that this stretch of Milwaukee Avenue is positively loaded with Polish stores, including the Ideal Pastry bakery and Krakus Sausage directly across the street (which may or may not be closed). Krakus, as I'm sure you all know, was a legendary Polish prince, king and founder of Krakow, the second-largest city in Poland.

From there we continued on south, toward the area known as Six Corners. (I can't remember anticipating anything so much in my entire life; for several blocks banners along Milwaukee kept announcing "Six Corners." And at every intersection one of the guys would ask me, "Is this it?" "No," I would answer, "There are only one, two, three, four corners here.")

Just before you reach the Emerald City intersection of Six Corners sits the historic Portage Theatre, one of the oldest movie houses in Chicago. Opened in 1920 as the Portage Park Theatre (which you can still see in the picture above), it was the first theater built specifically for film (and not vaudeville) in the area.

After many iterations, the theater closed in 2001 only to reopen in the spring of 2006 as a single-screen, 1300-plus seat theater. It now hosts, among other things, the Chicago Silent Film Festival and the Chicago Polish Film Festival (surprise!) as well as live events.

When we finally reached Six Corners -- the intersection of Irving Park Road, Cicero Avenue and Milwaukee Avenue -- I was so disoriented (six corners is 50 percent more than the usual four, which I'm more used to) that we turned left (east) on Irving Park rather than continuing on Milwaukee as I had planned. But we're a resourceful bunch and discovered our (my) mistake a few blocks later and turned right (south) on Kostner Avenue, a charming residential street filled with pre-Depression era Queen Anne, Victorian and Italianate homes. The guys seemed impressed when I told them I thought most of the houses were about a hundred years old.

We were now in Old Irving Park, a neighborhood within the community area of Irving Park (I know, it's confusing). Originally a suburb named Irvington after the author Washington Irving, it was changed to Irving Park after someone discovered there was already an Irvington, Illinois. And in 1889 the community, along with the rest of Jefferson Township, was annexed to Chicago.

Just so you don't get the impression that Poles are the only ethnic group in these parts, during the 1990s Irving Park saw a dramatic influx of Serbian immigrants, and today there are several Serbian-owned cafes and restaurants along Irving Park Road.

We turned left (south) again on Milwaukee and walked past the massive Schurz High School. When I couldn't come up with its name right away (a senior moment?) I finally correctly identified it as Schurz, not Steinmetz. "Are you Schurz?" came the inevitable reply from my son. (Everyone's a comedian.)

The school is named after Carl Schurz, a journalist and Civil War general who was the first German-born American elected to the United States Senate.

The building, designed in 1910 by Dwight H. Perkins (who also did Lane Tech) and designated a Chicago Landmark in 1979, represents a combination of the Chicago and Prairie schools of architecture. The alma mater of such notables as former CBS executive William Paley and Hyatt Hotels founder Abram Pritzker, it's really quite impressive. While Schurz was originally built to accommodate 1400 students, it looks from the outside like it could easily house twice that number.

We turned left (east) on Addison, and before boarding the Blue Line again passed the Villa, which Mike Royko -- who grew up on Milwaukee Avenue -- dubbed the "Polish Kenilworth." A Chicago Landmark district, the tiny neighborhood contains many unique Craftsman and Bungalow-style homes fronting on boulevard-style streets. We had walked through here on one of our previous Hikes (in the dead of winter) but were too tired by this point to reprise our visit. So we hopped on the Blue Line again at Addison and made our way for home.

Next week is the 131st anniversary of the Haymarket Square Riot, and although the statue marking the affair has been temporarily moved to Union Park to make way for new construction at the corner of Randolph and Desplaines, I thought we'd pay a visit to this hallowed ground in the West Loop. (Weather permitting, of course.) Won't you join us?

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

All right, it's time for...

...another one of my pet peeves: abbreviated college nicknames.

I just noticed this young man got an offer to play football for Colgate University in upstate New York. Good for him! But when, might I ask, did Colgate start calling itself 'Gate? Ugh!

It's one thing for Alabama to call itself 'Bama or Mississippi to call itself Ole Miss, but when you start seeing things like 'Nova, for Villanova, or 'Canes, for the Miami Hurricanes, or 'Huskers, for the Nebraska Cornhuskers (formerly the Bugeaters), you've taken it too far.

What's next, 'Nois, for Illinois? Or 'Sota, for Minnesota? Or 'Sconsin, for Wisconsin?

Please stop.

Robert Pirsig, who wrote...

...Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, died at age 88.

Pirsig's obit in the Times is unremarkable, except maybe for this:

Mr. Pirsig maintained that 121 publishing houses rejected “Zen” before William Morrow accepted it. He was granted a $3,000 advance, but an editor cautioned him against hoping the book would earn a penny more. Within months of its release, it had sold 50,000 copies.

Mr. Pirsig was a college writing instructor and freelance technical writer when the novel — its full title was “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values” — was published in 1974 to critical acclaim and explosive popularity, selling a million copies in its first year and several million more since.

Even though I've never been able to finish Zen -- I've started it at least two or three times, getting farther and farther each time -- I feel like I should say something about Mr. Pirsig and his famous book. Why? Because Zen was one of my favorite high school teacher's favorite books. Jim Ryan assigned it to our English class in either 1974, '75 or '76, shortly after it was published. Pirsig, like Mr. Ryan, was a teacher who lived in the Twin Cities when he wrote the book. (Could the two have possibly known each other?)

Since Zen was required reading, I started it and quickly put it down when I got frustrated. (It's not a straightforward narrative.) But, as I said, I've picked it up a few times since and have gotten farther each time. I've read articles about the book, and Pirsig, and so now I understand better what he was trying to say. Maybe some day I'll even finish it.

But in the meantime I'll pause for a moment to mark Mr. Pirsig's death -- and Mr. Ryan's, who died a few years ago. (I guess this post is really about him.)

When I moved to Minnesota to start my junior year of high school in 1974 I had been an indifferent student, at best, all my life. I was a classic underachiever: I had very little interest in school, didn't read anything beyond the sports page of the local newspaper and was mostly a screw-off. But when I arrived in Minnesota from New Jersey (talk about culture shock!) I didn't know a soul, of course, and began to pay attention in class, do my homework, and actually care about school for the first time. And Jim Ryan was one of a handful of teachers at my new school who was instrumental in that transformation.

It was a unique time in my high school's history: Benilde, an all-boys high school (and David Carr's alma mater, by the way) had just merged with St. Margaret's, an all-girls school, when I arrived. (Benilde had narrowly avoided closing its doors altogether a few years before.) This was the mid-1970s, remember, and the school had a much more progressive approach to education. (It has since turned into a typically conventional Catholic high school; I hardly recognize it. You can read about my frustration here.) But the timing was right for me as I dropped my smart-ass attitude toward school and embraced learning for the first time in my life. I didn't go on to get a PhD or become a teacher or anything like that, but whenever I appreciate something a little loftier than, say, the Cubs' game, I can thank teachers like Mr. Ryan. I really wish I had said something like this to him when he was alive.

Monday, April 24, 2017

After almost a two-month...

...hiatus, my son and I resumed our "Western Avenue Project" yesterday where we left off on March 5. (Admit it: you didn't think we would finish.)

We left the house around 12:30 yesterday, picked up the Pink Line at Polk, and got off at the Western Avenue station, just north of 21st Street, at one o'clock. Thus we began our seven-mile hike down to St. Rita where my wife was to meet us with the car and whisk us off to Vito and Nick's Pizzeria on the Far Southwest Side.

We could tell we were in Pilsen, on the Lower West Side, by the mural that greeted us almost immediately after stepping off the el.

But it was fitting, I thought, that the first picture I took yesterday on Western Avenue itself (the mural was on a side street) was of the Anderson Brothers Storage and Moving Corporation, at the corner of 27th and Western. Like the very first picture I took on the first leg of our journey back on February 19, it's an example of light blue glazed brick on a background of beige brick.

This, as I mentioned before, was a common practice in Chicago in the 1960s, and though I don't particularly care for mid-century modernism, it's a favorite of Robert Powers, the author (and one of my idols) of the excellent blog, A Chicago Sojourn.

Continuing on with this mid-century modernist theme -- and jumping a few community areas ahead to Gage Park -- is this example of colored, geometrically indented glass blocks which Mr. Powers also wrote about extensively. Once again, not my cup of tea, but it seems to be a uniquely 1960s Chicago thing and therefore worth noting.

Before leaving the Lower West Side and entering McKinley Park, we passed over the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, which afforded this breathtaking view.

Also known as the Chicago Drainage Canal, it opened in 1900 in order to send sewage away from, rather than into, Lake Michigan. This was part of the effort to reverse the flow of the Chicago River, which as a layperson I still find positively amazing. (I thought only Superman could "change the course of mighty rivers.")

Since the Irish were famous for digging canals I wondered if any of my ancestors took part in the construction of this one.

And that in turn reminded me of the play The Irish… and How They Got That Way, by Frank McCourt, in which one of the characters reminisces:

We came to America because we were told that the streets were paved in gold. And when we got here we discovered that not only were the streets not paved in gold, they weren't paved at all. And -- what's more -- we were the ones expected to do the paving!

After crossing the bridge and just before entering McKinley Park, we noticed that Western Avenue -- inexplicably, as far as I'm concerned -- splits in two. (I swear I was not seeing double!) It's not as if one road goes north while the other goes south; no, there are two parallel Western Avenues until 55th Street. (That's about twenty blocks!) Does the world really need two Western Avenues? Isn't one enough? Or couldn't they just think of another name for the second one?

"What are we gonna call this other road that runs parallel with Western Avenue, boss?"

"I don't know; I'm tired of thinking up names for all these streets! It's Friday and I wanna go home. Call it, call it . . . Western Avenue."

"Huh?"

"You heard me! See you guys on Monday..."

The Western Avenue to the east is mostly residential while the other is more commercial. Since we knew we'd eventually want to stop and eat we chose the latter one.

A couple blocks later, between 37th Street and Pershing (39th), is the park containing a statue of the 25th president for which the community area is named.

John and I had been here before, in October, to see the house in which Ray Manzarek of the Doors grew up. (Yeah, and we're going to see Robby Krieger play at City Winery next month!)

Originally the home of Irish immigrants working on the Illinois & Michigan Canal in the 1830s, the area was incorporated as Brighton in 1851 and annexed by the city in 1863. Long the home of good working-class jobs in steel mills, brickyards and meatpacking plants, McKinley Park still has a number of hulking industrial buildings along Western Avenue that are remnants of an earlier era. I remarked to my son that for generations ethnic Chicagoans probably lived in this neighborhood and walked to work, but those days are long gone. I imagine the Irish, Poles and others began leaving the neighborhood in the 1950s as the jobs either moved to the suburbs or just disappeared altogether.



Jumping ahead, again, the Otto V. Stransky & Son Funeral Home and Body of Christ M. B. Church in Gage Park, and Yerkes Plumbing Hardware in Chicago Lawn, provide evidence for the old ethnic groups that once populated these South Side neighborhoods. Stransky could be Polish, Yerkes could be Lithuanian, and the Body of Christ M. B. Church looks to me like it was originally an Eastern Orthodox church of some sort. In any event, they stand out in neighborhoods that are now mostly black and Mexican.

Brighton Park begins at Pershing and extends to 49th Street. It took its name from the Brighton neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts, which was famed for its cattle market. Brighton Park was incorporated as a village in 1851 and annexed to the city in 1889. I snapped the picture above from the front of a private home or some unidentified business or something. It looks like a family sitting around a kitchen table with a birthday cake on it and a dog in the background. What that's all about is anyone's guess!

Just before we got to the end of Brighton Park at the Western Orange Line station at 49th, I looked to my right and saw this enormous piece of vacant land. I just had to take a picture because it's so at odds with everyone's image of an overcrowded big city. If there's one thing I've learned since moving back here three years ago it's how much available land there is! It's really a myth to think there's nowhere left to build.

After Brighton Park comes Gage Park, which goes down to 59th Street.

And it was time for us to have lunch! We found this Maxwell Street joint at 53rd Street and not a moment too soon. (John's stomach was growling.)

We were the only ones in the place (where was everybody?) and an almost Art Deco-style metal screen divided us from the two guys behind the counter. (Was it there to protect those guys from getting robbed? After all, the place is open 24 hours.) If you look really, really hard you can see bags and bags of onions piled up in the back. (Maxwell Street is known for grilled onions -- yum!) After eating we bade our two new amigos goodbye and continued on our trek.

Next came the community area of Chicago Lawn, from 59th Street to the railroad tracks at 75th, and I have to admit, things started getting a little dicey here. To the east of Chicago Lawn are the scary neighborhoods of West Englewood and Englewood. If you're one of those people -- like Donald Trump -- who thinks Chicago is a "war zone," Englewood is one of the neighborhoods you would have in mind.

I'm not sure I'd recommend this particular stretch of Western Avenue to just anyone; it's not for the faint of heart. (My wife couldn't believe we walked through here.) Even though Marquette Park is just a few blocks west and Chicago Lawn was once known as the "Lithuanian Gold Coast," there were no Lithuanians in sight on Sunday afternoon. (Let's just say it's not exactly Winnetka.) At one point, I think it was at 71st Street, there were about a half dozen guys just milling about on the sidewalk. They were probably harmless but we crossed the street anyway. What's the worst thing that could have happened? Honestly, I think they would have stared at us or called to us and maybe made us feel a little uncomfortable. But that's about it; I'm sure we were more of a curiosity than anything else. If you do try to walk the length of Western Avenue some day, though, my advice is just to try to look like the baddest mother****er in town and hope for the best. That's what we did and I lived to write this blog post. In truth, I don't think "bad" neighborhoods are anywhere near as "bad" as people think.

One building we passed in Chicago Lawn was this old brick structure with terra cotta trim. I thought it was absolutely gorgeous in the late afternoon sun. It looked empty -- perhaps a candidate for the wrecking ball -- but I loved it.

Look at the detail of that terra cotta! It would be a shame to lose it.

We finally walked under the railroad tracks at 75th Street and entered Ashburn, the home of St. Rita of Cascia High School.

It's such a large and beautiful school that I was surprised to find out it only enrolled around 600 boys. (Still no girls. Can you believe it?)

Founded in 1905, St. Rita moved in 1990 to what had been the campus of Quigley South, a seminary that had operated on the site since 1961. (I actually went to the old location at 63rd and Claremont Avenue on one of my Ray Manzarek pilgrimages. Can you believe that?)

I had been to St. Rita several times before for football and basketball games but always at night and never on foot. It's very pleasant during the day, and John and I found a shady spot in which to sit while we waited for my wife.

That's us walking to the car on 77th Street (the only picture I didn't take). Sticking to our plan, the three of us then drove the two miles or so to Vito and Nick's where my son and I regaled my wife with our adventures over thin-crust pizza and cold beer.

It was a beautiful day and we plan on tackling the last leg of Western Avenue, down to 119th Street in Morgan Park, soon. (Although my friend Kevin says we should keep on going, through downtown Blue Island. We'll see.)

So yesterday we passed through six community areas -- the Lower West Side, McKinley Park, Brighton Park, Gage Park, Chicago Lawn and Ashburn -- on the West, Southwest and Far Southwest Sides. Not a bad day's work.

Erin Moran, who played...

...Joanie on the sitcom Happy Daysdied at age 56.

While the show was a truly awful example of 1970s and '80s television, 'twas not ever thus.

People often assume that Happy Days was inspired by the movie American Graffiti, but it actually preceded the 1973 George Lucas film. According to Wikipedia (my emphasis):

The series' pilot was originally shown as "Love and the Television Set," later retitled "Love and the Happy Days" for syndication, a one-episode teleplay on the anthology series "Love, American Style," aired on February 25, 1972

"Happy Days" originated during a time of 1950s nostalgic interest as evident in 1970s film, television, and music. Beginning as an unsold pilot filmed in late 1971 called "New Family in Town," with Harold Gould in the role of Howard Cunningham, Marion Ross as Marion, Ron Howard as Richie, Anson Williams as Potsie, Ric Carrott as Charles "Chuck" Cunningham, and Susan Neher as Joanie, Paramount passed on making it into a weekly series, and the pilot was recycled with the title "Love and the Television Set" (later retitled "Love and the Happy Days" for syndication), for presentation on the television anthology series "Love, American Style." In 1972, George Lucas asked to view the pilot to determine if Ron Howard would be suitable to play a teenager in "American Graffiti," then in pre-production. Lucas immediately cast Howard in the film, which became one of the top-grossing films of 1973. Show creator Garry Marshall and ABC recast the unsold pilot to turn "Happy Days" into a series. 

I remember enjoying the pilot when it aired on Love, American Style when I was in eighth grade. (Watch the first few minutes here.) I was very much caught up in the 1950s nostalgia of the time -- why? maybe because the 1970s were in a bit of a hangover from the tumultuous '60s; and/or maybe I wasn't so happy with my own life at the time -- and I devoured things like this episode and American Graffiti. When Happy Days began in January, 1974 I watched it each week religiously. But even though I recall loving that first season, the show quickly devolved into a typically horrible 1970s sitcom beginning in the second year. I stopped watching it, but it's worth noting that not every crummy TV show starts out that way.

P. S. Anson Williams, who played Potsie, was born Anson William Heimlich. His uncle was Dr. Henry Heimlich, namesake of the Heimlich maneuver for treating choking victims.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Friday, April 21, 2017

Harry Huskey, a pioneer...

Harry and Nancy Huskey.
...in computer science, died at age 101.

Now, because of his gender, Mr. Huskey's name just narrowly misses being my Name of the Day. But the professor emeritus at the University of California, Santa Cruz married not once, but twice, and each of his wives, as well as his three daughters, would have had the ignominy of making my other list of the Most Unfortunate Name of the Day. From his New York Times obit (my emphasis):

He earned a master’s and doctorate in math at Ohio State, where he was a teaching assistant in geometry. His best student was Velma Roeth, and they later married. She wrote about computers and assisted her husband in creating computing centers in India and other developing countries. She died in 1991. His second wife, the former Nancy Whitney, died in 2015.

In addition to his son, Dr. Huskey is survived by three daughters, Carolyn Dickinson, Roxanne Dwyer and Linda Retterath; five grandchildren; and one great-granddaughter.

While there's no shame, of course, in a man being named "Huskey," it's not exactly an ideal moniker for a girl or a woman. Imagine his daughters on their first day of school each year:

"Hines, Joe?"

"Here."

"Hodges, Bill?"

"Present."

"Huskey, Carolyn?"

"Yes."

"Did I get that right? Carolyn Huskey?"

[Class erupts in laughter.]

Or, what if someone wanted to fix one of them up on a blind date?

"She's really nice, a great cook and a marvelous dancer!"

"Really? What's her name?"

"Roxanne Huskey."

"No thanks."

The good news, though, is that each of Huskey's daughters apparently got married, at least judging from their last names, so they didn't have to go through life with that "unfortunate" last name.

No, I think what must have been worse was the experience of his two wives. Imagine them after a few dates with Mr. Huskey.

"I really like him," thought one. "I could see marrying him some day. Let's see . . . Velma Huskey. Yikes!"

(As if Velma wasn't bad enough.)

So both of Mr. Huskey's wives had to live out the rest of their lives with the "unfortunate" last name of Huskey.

"I was thinking, Harry, what if I just kept my maiden name?"

Oh, well. (They weren't the only ones.)

Now, about the fact that both Mrs. Huskeys died before their husband is an entirely different question altogether.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Tomorrow is the 162nd anniversary...

...of the Lager Beer Riot in Chicago. (But you already knew that.)

According to Wikipedia, on April 21, 1855 Mayor Levi Boone, a great-nephew of Daniel Boone, renewed enforcement of an old local ordinance mandating that taverns be closed on Sundays. Boone, a Baptist and temperance advocate, believed that the Sabbath was profaned by having drinking establishments open on Sunday.

The move was seen as targeting Germans and Irish Catholics, who had immigrated to Chicago in large numbers during the previous fifteen years. (I'm pretty sure I had Irish ancestors in Chicago at the time, but I'm also pretty sure they spent their Sundays in church.)

On April 21, after several tavern owners were arrested for selling beer on Sunday, protesters clashed with police near the Cook County Court House.

Angry immigrants stormed the downtown area and the mayor ordered the swing bridges opened to stop further waves of protesters from crossing the Chicago River. This left some trapped and police fired at those stuck on the Clark Street Bridge. The riot resulted in at least one death and about sixty arrests.

The prohibition was repealed after Boone was turned out of office the following year.

Since the Germans in Chicago were largely concentrated on the city's North Side (and since we were just in Bridgeport recently), we decided to take our weekly Hike up there last night in remembrance of the riot.

We left 1212 W. Flournoy at five o'clock sharp, as usual, and hopped on the Blue Line at Racine and got off at Addison, which straddles the border between the community areas of Irving Park and Avondale. We then walked about a half-mile east to White Castle, at the three-way intersection of Addison, Elston and Kedzie.

Despite the current popularity of the movie The Founder, about Ray Kroc and McDonald's, White Castle was probably the nation's first fast-food chain. Founded in 1921 by Walt Anderson and Billy Ingram (how come there's no movie about them?) in Wichita, Kansas, the restaurants were built to resemble Chicago's own Water Tower, with octagonal buttresses, crenelated towers and a parapet wall. As you can see from the picture above the chain has updated the design a little. (The guys -- John, Eric, Alan, Michael and Jack -- were in too big a hurry to pose for a picture.)

After fortifying ourselves with a hearty dinner of sliders and fries we continued east on Addison, passing massive Lane Tech High School. (That's only one small section of the school. Why didn't I take a picture of the whole structure?)

Originally opened in 1908, Lane Tech is one of the city's oldest and largest high schools. The current location was completed in 1934 and, despite its name, is now one of the city's eleven selective enrollment schools that prepare students for college. Lane boasts among its alumni such diverse luminaries as Eric's sister, Tarzan actor Johnny Weissmuller, the ventriloquist Edgar Bergen, former Governor Rod Blagojevich and singer Francesco Paolo LoVecchi. Never heard of that last guy? He was known professionally as Frankie Laine. Where do you suppose he got that last name?

(If you want to read more about Lane Tech, click here and here.)

We then turned south on Western and east on Roscoe Street (that's a lot of directions!) to enter the tiny neighborhood of Roscoe Village.

But before I get into that, it's worth recalling Riverview Park, which stood on the patch of land just south of Lane from 1904 to 1967. The amusement park held an almost mythic place in my family's history and although I never got to go there I heard many stories from my older siblings about such rides as the Bobs and Shoot the Chutes, which I swear you could see from the Kennedy Expressway.

Roscoe Village, which I suspect was largely the creation of local realtors (I had never heard of it until the late 1980s), takes its name from the street which provides its "main drag." It's less than a mile long between Western and Ravenswood Avenues, but it has evolved into a charming commercial stretch filled with cool restaurants, small retailers and boutiques. (I remember one breakfast spot years ago at the corner of Roscoe and Damen -- long gone, of course -- which offered some sort of a discount to patrons who showed up in their pajamas.) After Damen the street turns decidedly residential until the Metra bridge which is painted "Welcome to Roscoe Village" on the east side and "The Village Within the City" on the west side.

It was time now to board the Brown Line at Paulina, which overlooks a bustling stretch of Lincoln Avenue. My son John mentioned that he volunteered at Rush Hospital with a woman named Paulina, which she pronounces "Paul-eena." He wondered aloud if Paul-eena lived anywhere near Paul-ina.

Eric suggested we try Jefferson Park for next week's Hike and I have to admit it's one community area we have yet to explore. Keep your fingers crossed for good weather!

The Name of the Day...

...belongs to Palmer Luckey, a virtual reality entrepreneur and notorious Donald Trump supporter.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Sylvia Moy, who cowrote...

..."Uptight (Everything’s Alright)" and "I Was Made to Love Her" among other songs with Stevie Wonder, died at age 78.

I'm not a huge fan of Stevie Wonder, but I always liked the song "Uptight." I never noticed until now, however, the irony of the phrase, "out of sight."

From Ms. Moy's obit in the Times (my emphasis):

Sylvia Moy’s arrival at Motown in 1964 coincided with the company’s concerns about the future of Mr. Wonder’s career. A year earlier, “Fingertips Pt. 2,” a mostly instrumental number that showcased the 13-year-old prodigy’s virtuosity on the harmonica, reached No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 and R&B charts.

But his subsequent recordings were not as successful, and Motown executives were uncertain what to do with him as he grew into adulthood.

“There was an announcement in a meeting that Stevie’s voice had changed, and they didn’t know exactly how to handle that,” Ms. Moy said in an interview after her induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2006. “They asked for volunteers. None of the guys would volunteer. They were going to have to let him go.”

Whether Berry Gordy Jr., Motown’s founder and patriarch, would have released an artist as talented as Mr. Wonder is debatable. But Mr. Gordy did not have to make the decision. After the meeting, Ms. Moy beseeched Mickey Stevenson, the head of artists and repertoire at Motown, to give her a chance to work with Mr. Wonder.

“Let this be my assignment,” she said she told Mr. Stevenson. “I don’t believe it’s over for him. Let me have Stevie.”

She said that she asked Mr. Wonder to play some of the “ditties” he had been working on, but she heard nothing that sounded like a hit. Then, as she was leaving, he played one final snippet of music for her and sang, “Baby, everything is all right.” There wasn’t much more, she recalled, and she told him that she would take it home and work on the melody and lyrics.

With the songwriting help of Henry Cosby, a Motown producer, “Uptight” was completed.

In the recording studio, though, there was no transcription of the lyrics into Braille for Mr. Wonder to read from. So Ms. Moy sang the words to him through his earphones.

“I would stay a line ahead of him and we didn’t miss a beat,” she said in a video interview in 2014 with Michelle Wilson, an independent producer based in Virginia Beach.

“Uptight” topped the R&B chart and rose to No. 3 on Billboard’s Hot 100. It also led to further work for Ms. Moy with Mr. Wonder and Mr. Cosby on songs like “My Cherie Amour” (1969), “Nothing’s Too Good for My Baby” (1966) and “I Was Made to Love Her” (1967), which included Mr. Wonder’s mother, Lula Mae Hardaway, as a co-writer. Ms. Moy said that Mr. Wonder’s title for “My Cherie Amour” had been “Oh, My Marcia,” but she gave it a French twist.

And:

After high school, Ms. Moy traveled to New York City to promote her songs but found no takers. One rejection from a record company executive stuck to her for decades. “You’re not a bad singer, but I want to give you some advice you can use for the rest of your life,” she recalled him telling her, “You will never be a songwriter.”

(Years later, she said, the same executive asked Mr. Gordy if he could buy out her songwriting contract at Motown.)

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

I've often thought...

...that everything is derivative, or, as Ecclesiastes put it in the Old Testament, "There’s nothing new under the sun."

So I guess it shouldn't have surprised me that the beginnings of both "Mr. Tambourine Man," by the Byrds, and "Light My Fire," by the Doors, both borrowed from Bach.

In the above video, Roger McGuinn explains at about 19:55 that he began the 1965 folk-rock hit "Mr. Tambourine Man" (which was written by Bob Dylan -- talk about derivative!) with a riff from Bach's "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring," which he, in turn, borrowed from Pete Seeger. (Is your head spinning?)

Meanwhile, Ray Manzarek, in this clip at about :50, also reveals he borrowed from Bach for the intro to the 1967 song, "Light My Fire."

(Slow news day.)

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Bruce Langhorne, the guitarist...

...who inspired "Mr. Tambourine Man," died at age 78. From his New York Times obit:

Mr. Dylan credited Mr. Langhorne with inspiring “Mr. Tambourine Man,” recalling in 1985 that the song came to him after seeing Mr. Langhorne arrive for a 1964 recording session with an oversize Turkish drum arrayed with bells. (“In the jingle jangle morning I’ll come following you,” Mr. Dylan sang.)

It's probably not "cool" to admit this, but I always liked the Byrds' version of this song better. (It's credited with being the first "folk rock" hit.) And I even had the privilege of hearing it live when I was a freshman in college.

A couple of guys in my dorm were going to see McGuinn and Clark. "Who?" I asked.

"Roger McGuinn and Gene Clark -- two of the original members of the Byrds. Wanna go?"

"Sure; I love the Byrds!" And thus followed my first-ever concert.

I'm sure they played "Mr. Tambourine Man," as well as "Turn! Turn! Turn!" and "Eight Miles High" (about air travel; what did you think it was about?). I saw them in 1977, just a year before the video above (although I don't remember Chris Hillman playing with them) so they probably sounded a lot like that. It was a small venue, we were "baked," as the kids say nowadays, and it was a great concert.

Friday, April 14, 2017

In case my last post...

...was just a little too pessimistic, allow me to give you another view: Everything will be all right.

How do I know that? Well, I don't. But consider the stock market since President Trump was elected. (There I go again, writing "President Trump.") I've been as bearish as anyone since November (and actually sold some stocks for the first time in my life) but have been proven as wrong as all those bond market bears were for eight years under President Obama. I still think I'm right -- kinda, sorta -- and I bet there will be a minor freak-out when the Dow dips below 20,000 in the not-too-distant future (probably a big, fat buying opportunity though), but the message the stock market has been sending (loud and clear) to anyone who will listen is: Pay no attention to that jackass in the White House; the economy is bigger than any one person. And that's probably true.

What else? Well, let's see. How about this? The president is incompetent. Why should that reassure you? Because even if the American public were on board with the Republican Congress (which they most certainly are not), Trump couldn't get anything passed anyway. He's really a walking, talking argument for the value of experience. (Pssst: This is why you should always call a plumber when you have a problem with your plumbing.) And as for Paul Ryan and the rest of the Ayn Rand fanatics in Congress, remember: Trump was elected because he promised more, not less, socialism. You know, universal health care and no cuts, er, "reforms," to Social Security and Medicare. No one likes to think they get stuff from the government, but they do. (Whaddaya know? Turns out people don't want to repeal Obamacare after all. I guess they like health insurance. Who woulda thunk it?)

What about the Supreme Court? Well, I'll grant you I was pretty irritated (still am) by the whole Merrick Garland - Neil Gorsuch thing, but I have to let you in on a dirty little secret: the Supreme Court follows public opinion. (It's not the other way around.) Come on, did you really think there was a "right" to gay marriage in the Constitution? No; but public opinion shifted so dramatically in recent years that -- voila! -- the Supremes found one in the fine print. What about Roe v. Wade? Won't the Court overturn it now? I don't think so. First of all, the "right" to abortion has consistently polled well over the years. Its opponents, like those of Obamacare these last seven years, are just more vocal and better organized. But, you watch: if it comes down to it even someone like Neil Gorsuch will vote in favor of keeping at least some abortion legal. Remember John Roberts and Obamacare? He could have struck it down easily but probably thought to himself one morning while shaving: "You know what? The ACA passed by a supermajority in both houses of Congress and was signed into law by the president of the United States. I'm not gonna overturn that. Hey, lookee there! I found something in the Constitution that supports universal health care. How about that!"

Now, I know what you're thinking: That's all well and good, but what about foreign policy? What if there's a crisis involving Syria, Iran or North Korea? And I'll grant you that's a legitimate concern. But I have a pretty good feeling that Trump, Rex Tillerson and Jared Kushner will all defer to cooler heads like Mike Pompeo, H. R. McMaster, John Kelly and James “Mad Dog” Mattis on the subject. (Oh, I can't resist: did you ever think one of the most responsible people in a president's cabinet would be nicknamed "Mad Dog"?) While I'm usually a big believer in civilian control over the armed forces, this is one time I'd rather have the generals in charge.

So, to summarize: the economy will continue to chug along just fine, thank you very much; no goofy right-wing legislation will be passed in the next four or eight years; and the Supreme Court will magically find ways to reaffirm what we all want anyway. And, even if we blunder our way into another Vietnam, Afghanistan or Iraq we'll survive it somehow. If there wasn't a nuclear exchange during the Cuban missile crisis there won't be one now. Even a goof like Kim Jong-un will back down in the face of Mutual Assured Destruction. (Funny how that works.)

Now, for the pessimistic part: Trump is the odds-on favorite to win reelection in 2020 (if he decides to run again at age 74). So no one, Democrats or never-Trump Republicans (are there any besides Evan McMullin?), should get complacent -- it's nearly always the incumbent's to lose. Remember that.

I used to laugh...

...at people, like Sarah Palin, who talked about "American Exceptionalism." I mean, come on, do people really think that the United States was somehow "endowed by its Creator" to be superior to all other nations? Isn't that kind of a childish notion? (I even read during Mitt Romney's run for the White House that some Mormons believe that the U. S. Constitution was "divinely inspired." Good grief!)

And then I woke up in the middle of the night recently and remembered who was president of the United States. And I realized, in that moment, that up until now I had also believed -- without even knowing it -- in American Exceptionalism. Like everyone else, I guess, I was raised to believe that the U. S. was the greatest country in the history of the world. Unlike Sarah Palin, though, I just didn't go around saying so. (I didn't have to; it was implied.) If you had asked me, at any point up until the evening of November 8 of last year, that someone as woefully unprepared and unfit for the highest office in the land as Donald Trump could be elected president I would have said, "No; it just couldn't happen. No one without at least some experience in government or the military (or a real businessman) could ever get elected. Without exception -- even George W. Bush, who was a governor and the son of a former president -- all of our chief executives in over 200 years have been at least minimally qualified to be president."

And then, somehow, a boob like Donald Trump managed to accidentally get himself elected and now we have to face up to that reality every day until at least January, 2021. (And I'd say more like January, 2025, as incumbents are really, really hard to beat. See: Bush, George W.) And, as a result, we not only have to admit that American Exceptionalism is a bunch of baloney, but that we all really believed in it until now.

I bring this up today after reading two pieces in the New York Times. The first is "Trump Learns Simple Issues Are Rarely So" (in the print edition), by Peter Baker, in which the author explains that President Trump (Gosh it hurts to write that!) was as unprepared for the White House as we had suspected all along.

Guess what, everyone: we're all stuck with this clown. And he isn't even as qualified as W. or Calvin Coolidge or even Millard Fillmore. So much for American Exceptionalism.

The second piece is by T. R. Reid, "The I.R.S. Could Be Your Friend." (Why are all the titles in the print edition different from those online?) The gist of that one is, many other developed countries collect taxes in a much more efficient way than The Greatest Country in the History of the World. Surprised? Well, if you read Mr. Reid's book on health care, "The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care," as I did, you might also come away with the feeling that the United States doesn't necessarily have the Greatest Health Care System in the World. But, but -- American Exceptionalism!

Turns out that not only do we not deliver health care as well or as cheaply or as thoroughly as other developed countries, but apparently we don't collect taxes as well either. Go figure.

And, I hate to tell you this, but it seems we don't always elect the most capable person to our highest office either. In fact, I can think of at least one time when we elected someone downright unfit for the office. Just like a child who finds out for the very first time that his father is not Superman,* I'm discovering that America just might not be all that different from, or better than, the rest of the nations in the world. (And, I have to admit, that stings a little.) Don't believe me? Just look at that picture at the top of this post.

Maybe the first step in achieving "exceptionalism," is admitting you're not all that exceptional in the first place.

* I think that moment came for my older son when he saw me fall into the reflecting pool in front of the library after a Notre Dame football game. And I was sober!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

This may very well be...

...my second-favorite picture of the weekend. That's my son and I comparing wedding rings. (My son has a wedding ring!)

Now you'd be forgiven if you thought we were comparing manicures instead. After all, we went out the day before with my other son and the father of the bride for our first-ever (and possibly last) pedicure. That's right -- pedicure. Whose idea was it? Well, my new daughter-in-law's of course. (On the drive over her father said, "Couldn't we just say we did this and go to a bar instead?") Why did she schedule it for us? I don't know; maybe because we don't play golf and she thought we needed some sort of male "bonding" experience on the afternoon of the rehearsal dinner. Did we enjoy it? I'd say the reviews were mixed. But I do know that all the women at the Polka Dot Nails Spa and Waxing in Thousand Oaks, California got a big kick out of seeing four grown men getting pampered on a Friday afternoon. (Were they laughing with us, or at us? No matter.) At one point I think one of us -- okay, it was me -- asked the crowd, "What's the matter? Haven't you ever seen four guys get their nails done? We're here every Friday!"

But next time I think I'll bring Frank Costanza with me.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

I feel a little like...

...the woman in this clip from Seinfeld, except that instead of "fiance" I'm trying to get used to the term, "daughter-in-law."

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

Before I went to California...

...last week I wanted to mention a piece I read in the Atlantic, "The Problem With Modern Philanthropy." It brings up a number of issues I've been thinking about lately and also reminded me of a post I wrote a little over a year ago.

The gist of the article for me was the question, "Who is more capable of spending your money wisely, you or the government?" 

Now when I read that line I have to pause for just a second and laugh a little to myself. There was a time -- before Barack Obama showed up on the national scene, before the financial crisis and before I lost my health insurance for a few months in 2008 (long story) -- when I was not a Democrat or a Republican, but a Libertarian. (That's right, with a capital "L.") 

Before I voted for Obama in the 2008 general election I cast my last ballot for a "libertarian," Ron Paul, in the Illinois Republican primary. (Life comes at you fast, doesn't it?) 

I grew up as a fan of Barry Goldwater and discovered Ayn Rand in my twenties. Really, I was a not-so-good-looking version of Paul Ryan long before anyone had ever heard of Paul Ryan. (That may explain why I'm so hard on the current speaker of the House -- there's nothing so fervent as the zeal of the convert.) But, to paraphrase Irving Kristol, over time I was "mugged by reality." When I consider the question now I have to respond by saying, "I'm not so sure."

From that piece in the Atlantic (my emphasis):

...philanthropy creates challenges in a democracy, argues David Callahan, the founder and editor of the website Inside Philanthropy, in his new book, "The Givers: Money, Power, and Philanthropy in a New Gilded Age." The gifts come at a time when government is shrinking, and when, in some cases, philanthropic dollars replace or supplant government functions. That can mean that it’s philanthropists who decide what scientific issues are researched, what types of schools exist in communities, and what initiatives get on ballots. “It’s great to have these new donors appearing on the scene at a time when government is being cut,” Callahan told me, in a phone interview. “On the other hand, there’s no question that with money comes power and influence.”

Or, in other words, rather than paying taxes, which support boring but essential things like Social Security and Medicare, philanthropists can donate $100 million to, say, a university's law school instead.

It reminds me of when I was the board president of a church a few years ago. It wasn't uncommon for a member to try to earmark their annual pledge for something "sexy," such as the music program. But, as it was explained to me, we couldn't allow that because no one would want to fund anything mundane like the electric bill. And it's hard to enjoy the choir in the cold and dark. No, we had to tell everyone, just hand over your pledge to us and we will spend it responsibly. (That's the kind of paternalistic thing that just drives Republicans and Libertarians nuts, isn't it?) But if you don't believe us, the budget is there for all to see. And if you don't like how we're spending your money, you can be on the board. (We'll even make you president -- trust me.)

Can you imagine any rich person leaving their money to the government? Of course not! Isn't it much better to have a building -- or a whole school -- named after you at your alma mater? (Or someplace like Harvard that you never could have gotten into?) Or to create something like the Getty Center* in Los Angeles? Who wants to give their money to something invisible like Social Security and Medicare? How boring! (Besides, people want something named after them.) But, really, just like my church example, what good is all this philanthropy if necessary government services aren't properly funded? Is it possible -- just possible -- that the government is, in fact, more capable of spending your excess money than you are? Is that really so crazy?

Boy, have I changed!

* That's the Getty at the top of this post. I've been there, and it looks really cool from the 405. But, at the same time, there sure are a lot of homeless people in LA. 

John Warren Geils Jr., of...

...the J. Geils Band, died at age 71. J. Geils was 71? Wow.

Known more for "Love Stinks," "Freeze Frame" and "Centerfold," I always liked this song, which I just learned was a cover of an old doo-wop tune by a Chicago group called the Marvelows.

This makes sense for two reasons. First, I've always been a sucker for doo-wop. And second, the group was formed in 1967 as the J. Geils Blues Band and covered many obscure R&B and Soul hits.

Ironically, "I Do" was only written by the Marvelows as a warm-up song, something to sing to prepare their voices, but it hit No. 7 on the R&B Singles chart and No. 37 on Billboard's Hot 100 in 1965.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

I think this is my favorite...

...picture from the weekend: my son's new father-in-law. I like that he's wearing sunglasses and is highlighted in the fading sunlight just before the wedding ceremony.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

I'll be in California...

...until next Monday, April 10, attending my son's wedding. (How about that?)

While I'm sure I'll still be posting random thoughts, observations and musings on Twitter, I doubt I'll be doing any blogging. (That would require sitting at my computer and staring at the screen, bored, and I doubt I'll have much time for that.)

So blogging should resume on or about Tuesday, April 11.

Monday, April 3, 2017

The Name of the Day...

...belongs to Jordan Team, a Republican and account executive at Qorvis MSLGROUP. (At least I think that's a person's name.)

The New Yorker cartoon of the day...

...is an oldie but goodie by Jack Ziegler, who died at age 74.

Richard Bolles, who wrote...

...What Color Is Your Parachute?, died at age 90.

Like many people, I've consulted What Color Is Your Parachute? more than once when contemplating my "career." I actually didn't find it all that helpful, although that may be more my fault than the book's.

I've come up with a few ideas of my own about careers in my thirty-six years in the work force since college and they mostly revolve around the question, "What do you really want to do?" Not, "What should you do, but what do you want to do?" And don't tell me what you think I want to hear. In fact, don't tell me at all; tell the mirror.

I feel like the most successful people I've known in life all love what they do and think and talk about it when they're not doing it. I realize many people just want to work at a job and come home to their family at night. There's nothing wrong with that. (The world needs worker bees.) But many talented people also work at tedious jobs that are just not fulfilling. And that's a shame. For them and for us. (Can you imagine if Bill Gates had finished Harvard like he was supposed to -- instead of dropping out to found Microsoft -- and gotten a job with a consulting company or an investment bank after graduation? I probably wouldn't be typing this right now.)

Many, if not most, people I find are somewhat embarrassed by what they really like doing. I'm not sure why that is, exactly, but I can say that when I was young I was a little reluctant to admit how much I was interested in politics. Why? I guess I thought it was some kind of immature indulgence on my part. Grownups were supposed to work at boring jobs in offices that they mostly hated. Maybe it's the Protestant Work Ethic (even though I was raised as a Catholic). That was the responsible thing to do. (If it was fun, it would be called "play," not "work," right?) Go to work, be miserable, but make enough money to support your family. And then die some day. Does it really have to be that way?

But how does one get at what one really wants to do? I've heard that you should ask yourself what you would do if you won the lottery (and money wasn't an issue). Not bad, but I usually ask people, "What would you do if everyone you knew (and therefore everyone who could or would judge you) were dead? What would you do then?" I really wish someone had asked me something like that when I was young.

In case you missed...

...Mark Cuban's famous tweet storm about President Trump last week, here it is in its entirety (lightly edited) and with my comments in italics:

1) Here is my take on Trump and Russia:

2) Russians have made him a lot of money buying condos and investing in his buildings and hosting his beauty pageant. That makes them his friends.

I've read that no respectable bank will touch Trump anymore so he's had to resort to doing business with Russians. And the Russian government, business community and organized crime are all intertwined. So it's messy. 

3) He ignored their backgrounds. But that's not unusual. Starbucks takes anyone's money and so do most businesses, including mine.

I've also read that Russian oligarchs who want to get some of their money out of Russia see Western real estate as a good asset. And Trump is happy to do business with them.

4) He spoke favorably about Putin to get his approval for Russians to get money out of Russia and into Trump deals. He saw it as easy money.

As for Trump's favorable comments about Putin, that's nothing new: some Republicans, including most famously Rudy Giuliani, have been saying things like that for years.

5) When Paul Manafort was recommended, he didn't vet him. He saw it as a win-win. Win the election, or open the door for more Russian business.

Trump was a political neophyte, of course, and was happy to have a veteran like Manafort come on board to take his campaign to the next level.

6) As people with Russian connections came into the campaign he had no clue that those connections were possibly being influenced by Russia.

I'll bet Trump didn't know or didn't care about anyone's connections with Russia. Like Al Davis, he was probably thinking, "Just win, baby." 

7) His lean campaign took direction from people he trusted and he followed those directions. He had no clue where the Russians fit.

He probably also thought -- like his friend Chris Christie with Bridgegate -- "What I don't know won't hurt me."

8) When Manafort got "hot" he got rid of him but the campaign approach had been established. Steve Bannon took it to the next level FTW (for the win).

9) No chance this is a DJT-led conspiracy. He isn't detail-oriented, organized or big picture enough to pull off any kind of conspiracy.

Agreed. This is something that "happened" to Trump, not something he engineered. One reason I think he's stonewalling is that he's embarrassed to have been used in such a way.

10) I think Putin recognized Trump's greed and took advantage by back-channeling coordinated misinformation in an attempt to influence voters.

Putin saw Trump as a "useful idiot."

11) Trump had no idea this was happening. He was doing what he was told to do. Stick to the script and read what was written for him.

Again, Trump was a political neophyte and listened to his "experts."

12) Because he didn't recognize or understand as it was happening he has no idea what to do now or how to respond. So he turns to Fox News.

I think Trump is covering up mostly to avoid embarrassment. Putin wanted the least qualified candidate to be president and that was clearly Trump. He's only finding that out now, with the rest of us.

13) That's what I think happened. Feel free to agree or disagree.

I can't find much to disagree with here. I would only add a comment or two.

First of all, I wish I could find where I originally read this (just days before the election), but it's a good question of which I don't have the answer: "It's hard to know what Donald Trump was trying to accomplish by running for president." (I think Ezra Klein wrote that, but I can't find it.)

What was Trump thinking when he descended that escalator?

Most people would answer something to the effect that the Donald was just trying to "bolster his brand" or improve his bargaining position for the next season of The Apprentice (that's what Howard Stern said). But one thing I think we can all agree on (including Trump, I'll bet) is that he never in a million years thought he would actually win the Republican nomination or the presidency. Maureen Dowd said it best when she wrote:

Trump shocked himself by shooting to the top of the Republican heap. It was like watching a bank robber sneak into a bank, only to find all the doors unlocked.

And it's true: the Republicans ran 16 -- count 'em, sixteen! -- Ronald Reagan lookalikes and the primary voters chose the one guy who promised them universal healthcare; that he would preserve, not "reform" Social Security and Medicare; that he would curb immigration and "build a wall"; renegotiate trade deals to benefit American workers; stop fighting wars of choice and start putting "America first" in foreign relations; and -- most important, I think -- "bring back your jobs." And the base of the party ate it up.

But being the competitive person he is (and probably contemptuous of everyone else in the race, including Hillary Clinton), Trump probably figured (after he was polling so well) something like, "Hey, I'm within striking distance of winning this thing. If everything continues to break my way I could find myself in the White House. And maybe I'd be good at it. After all, how hard can it be?"

Also, being the incredibly insecure person that he is (by nature, not nurture, I'll bet) Trump is highly sensitive to the suggestion that he got any help from James Comey or the Russians or anyone else. It's important to him to be seen as someone who jumped into the arena after a long and successful career in business and just plain beat the daylights out of all the professional politicians at their own game.

Like Mr. Cuban, I'll bet Trump had very little idea that the Russians were trying to help him win the presidency. It contradicts his narrative that I just laid out in the previous paragraph and points to something far, far worse: Putin didn't necessarily see Trump as a "friendly" president so much as one who was profoundly unqualified to perform the duties of the office. And that has to really sting the Donald's ego.

The bottom line for me: there are probably a ton of people associated with Trump's campaign that had untoward relationships with the Russians. And it will all come out in good time. (Some may even serve time in jail.) But Trump himself is probably more or less innocent; he was most likely a "useful idiot" for Putin. (Although he may be complicit in the cover-up.) The Russian leader wanted, above all else, to sow discord in the United States, his primary adversary. And the best thing he could do (and the worst thing for us) would be to help the least-qualified candidate in history get elected to the most powerful job on the planet. And I think that's probably what's motivating Trump the most to make this story go away.

So that's what I think happened. Feel free to agree or disagree.

P. S. I've been hearing reports on TV lately that Russia used literally "thousands" of internet trolls to plant fake stories about Trump's opponents and I'm beginning to believe they may have really swung the election for him, more so than even Comey. My wife, for example, watched some bogus piece on Hillary's health shortly before the election and was somewhat swayed by it. (And she's no dope.) And reports are that the vast majority of undecided voters broke late for Trump. So all these fake pieces had to take their toll over time. I mean, come on, how else do you explain that some people really thought Hillary should be "locked up"? (I saw a bumper sticker recently that said, HILLARY FOR PRISON.) That's crazy.

I really don't think it's too much to say that the Russians not only hacked our election but succeeded beyond their wildest dreams by installing the least-qualified candidate in the White House. And they're now laughing -- hard.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

The Name of the Day...

...belongs to Tarzan Vince, a Trump supporter who is "enrolled in a program called Tulsa WorkAdvance that trains mostly unemployed workers to fill well-paying manufacturing jobs." (He would have won even if his name had been Tarzan, Vince.)