A DIFFERENT WORLD

UPDATE: This article originally ran a year ago on SERENDIPITY.  Since then the airline I work for has reached about 30 percent passenger capacity. That is well short of last year’s projection. The effects of the pandemic linger on.  Some 767s were sold to a company that will convert them to cargo freighters. The airline will lease some back as another step in reinventing its business model.

Reinventing Ourselves, by Rich Paschall

When I was much younger, perhaps late teens, and throughout my twenties, I used to like to go down to State Street, “That Great Street,” in Chicago. It was alive in much the same way as Time Square and Broadway in New York were. And yes, just like NYC, our downtown had a somewhat seedy period, but that came later.

“On State Street, that great street
I just want to say
They do things that they don’t do on Broadway, say…”

I particularly liked to go downtown in December to see all the Christmas decorations. Marshall Field’s, the giant department store, had Christmas windows filled with mechanical people, trains, cars, and all sorts of moving parts to marvel at. I was just like the children gathered around the windows to get a good look at the displays. Our fantasy world was mechanical back then. Today it is video, but I digress.

Marshall Field’s at Christmas.  Photo credit: Richie Diesterheft

There was a time when I would plan to do my Christmas shopping, sometimes all of it, on Christmas Eve. I could arrive at the Red Line subway stop right in front of the historic Chicago Theater and go first to Field’s. I might not buy anything there because it was the most expensive stop, but if you went downtown, you had to go there.

After the visit to Field’s and perhaps a purchase of Frango Mints, off I would go to Carson Pirie Scott, Montgomery Ward’s, Sears, Wieboldt’s, Goldblatt’s, JC Penny. By the time I got to the last of the giant department stores, I would buy everything else I may have needed. Then I could go right out to a subway stop at the other end of State Street and head home. It was a marvelous adventure and has always brought happy memories of downtown at Christmas.

The stores are gone now. Every single one of them is gone. Marshall Field’s is now Macy’s. They have kept the Marshall Field’s plaque outside the building below the famous clock, so as not to upset the locals. They also have Frango Mints. These are the only throwbacks to those days. Except for that one grand store, the department stores of State Street have all been replaced by other businesses or torn down.

Times changed. They did not. Instead of transforming themselves for the future, they waited for the past to come back. It didn’t. I saw these great stores disappear one by one. Ward’s, Sears, Wieboldt’s, and Goldblatt’s all had large stores in our neighborhood. When Sears had the motto “Sears Has Everything,” they really did. From washing machines to stoves to clothes, that was our favorite store. Gone.

It is the same with many businesses. As motivational speaker Simon Sinek likes to point out, these are not unprecedented times. Major shifts in business have come before. This one is just “more sudden, absolutely. More shocking, absolutely.”

He gives several good examples we all know are true. The internet changed business. Some companies are surviving now because they have changed the way they work. In Chicago during a period of lockdown, one small clothing shop gave virtual tours of the store and video displays of the clothes. When delivery and pickup were available, people could tour the store online, pick out and pay for what they wanted, and drive to the business, where an employee would come to the curb to hand them their purchases.

Restaurants are gone for good after being out of business for months. Others survived by reinventing themselves as online products. They found their way to Yelp and partnered with Grubhub, Door Dash, Uber Eats.  Reinvention saved them.

Sinek likes to note that Starbucks did not put the local coffee shops out of business. They offered a newer version, and the old-time shops refused to change. Why would I go to a shop with an old worn-out sofa and year-old magazines, when I could go to one with the latest newspapers, a variety of beverages, pastries, and sandwiches, and importantly for millennials, wifi?

I work for a major airline that is operating at 5 to 10 percent capacity on any given day. Most of its fleet is grounded. It has lost 20,000 people from its workforce. Facilities around the globe go unused. Business disruptions and government regulations eliminated many flight destinations.

The airline industry believed back in March that they could regain 90 percent of their pre-COVID business by December. Now the hope is 50 percent. As the novel coronavirus continues to surge in certain countries, the USA for example, so the hope to recover your business any time soon is fading.

In 2012 Air Canada had launched Rouge, a subsidiary to more effectively compete in the low-cost tourist/vacation travel industry. It was looking at other growth opportunities to serve the ever-growing luxury tourist trade. Their business model was built around these expanding travel markets. That dream has taken off as the last flight from the battleground.

So what is a passenger airline with no passengers to do? The Canadian government is not going to hand the airline billions of Canadian dollars to help it through to the time when business returns to “normal.” The new normal is right around the corner and it does not look like it did in January.

They have to reinvent themselves of course. The 767 Boeing aircraft are being retired early. Accelerating this process for an older part of the fleet only makes sense. They were not being used anyway. Some of the planes had the seats removed to put freight on top, but this is a stop-gap measure. The main deck has no cargo door so this is labor-intensive. Other planes fill the belly entirely for cargo runs, but the seats are not removed. Mail, e-commerce partnership, and cargo and business charter runs are added to the new business model.

What about underserved areas of Canada? The airline has entered into a drone partnership. The initial run was to indigenous people who live on an island. There are many far-flung communities that can be served through a combination airline, drone service.

Without adapting and changing, airlines will die. Some already have gone under while others stay afloat through government bailouts. There are those, including a prominent orange so-called politician, waiting for things to go back to the way they were. We have news for them. It is not going to happen.

THE SUMMER WIND

Here are MY Top Ten Summer songs.  This list appeared last summer on SERENDIPITY.   

SONGS THAT CAME BLOWIN’ IN, by Rich Paschall


If you visited this space last Sunday, you saw the top Summer Songs as given by the musical genius, Brian Wilson.  Those may have been songs that evoked thoughts of summer for Brian, but some were a real stretch of the imagination to me.  I promised you songs that are really about summer.

Photo: Marilyn Armstrong

Summertime by George Gershwin is arguably the most beloved summertime song ever. Great singers from Billie Holiday through Janis Joplin recorded hit versions of the song. Originally written by Gershwin for the 1935 modern opera, Porgy and Bess, rock and opera stars alike have recorded it. Guinness World Records claimed it to be the most recorded song ever. I’m sure you’ve heard it and probably have a favorite version.

When the Beach Boys put out a new album for their 50th anniversary, they served up a perfect piece of nostalgia with Summer’s Gone, written by Brian Wilson. He took lead on the record and in performance.  Unfortunately, they did not do it throughout the anniversary tour and there’s only one fan video from the last stop I can find.  Therefore, this tribute through old and new pictures will have to serve:

Now, the countdown.

10. Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer, Nat King Cole, 1963.  If I heard it once, I heard it a million times (as the saying goes) while growing up.  I guess we must really have liked it. Cole was alive then and would turn up on variety shows to perform this.  Unfortunately, variety shows have disappeared.
9.  A Summer Song, Chad and Jeremy, 1964. They were part of the “British Invasion” and this was their biggest hit.
8.  Summer Nights, from the play and movie, Grease.  It was “the word” for John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John.  If you can look past all the people who killed this song in karaoke, it might still be a favorite.
7.  In the Summertime, Mungo Jerry, 1970  The song filled with odd sounds and rhythms was a mega-hit for the British group.
6.  Hot Fun In The Summertime, Sly and the Family Stone  This one was at the top of the Brian Wilson list.

5.  Surfer Girl, the Beach Boys  This early Beach Boys hit remained a fan favorite through the years.  Almost 50 years after first recording it, they could still perform the harmonies with ease.  Well, if not with ease, then at least with a lot of coaching by Brian:

4.  Summer Rain, Johnny Rivers, 1968  It didn’t make it to the top of the charts, but it is one of those songs that keeps getting played.  Now in his 70s, Rivers is still performing his many hits.

3.  Summer Wind, Frank Sinatra, 1966  Wayne Newton first recorded the song in 1965, but it is Sinatra who had a hit the following year.

2.  Summer Breeze, Seals & Crofts, 1972  Written and performed by Jim Seals and Dash Crofts.

1.  Summer in the City, The Lovin’ Spoonful, 1966  Released in July 1966, by August it was number 1.  The overplayed summer anthem included a car horn and jackhammer sounds to let you know you were in the city.

What are your summer favorites?

SUMMER SONGS

Since we are in the midst of summer, you might need a few summer songs. You may not agree with some of them so feel to add yours in the comments.  This article originally appeared on SERENDIPITY last summer. 

The Top 10 of a Musical Genius

From the time the Beach Boys hit the surf and the top of the charts in the 1960s, Brian Wilson has been considered a musical genius. His prolific songwriting propelled the careers of the original “Boys.” Their music remains popular to this day.

Wilson was not just trying to crank out rock and rolls songs for public consumption. He was trying to create a new sound, the “California” sound of blended harmonies and instruments. His obsessive work in the studio while seeking a certain type of perfection was both his strength and ultimately his weakness.

Brian Wilson

Today Brian is again touring, writing, and producing. His opinions on music are held in high esteem by songwriters everywhere.  Many, including Paul McCartney, Bono, James Webb (American songwriter), and Rolling Stone Magazine, consider Wilson’s “God Only Knows” among the best songs of all time.

So when Brian offers an opinion regarding rock and roll music, it usually garners some attention.  A few years ago he gave us a top ten list of his favorite songs of summer.  To no one’s surprise, a couple of Beach Boys’ songs made the list, but there are also a few interesting choices:

1. Hot Fun In The Summertime: Sly and the Family Stone.
2. In The Summer Time: Mungo Jerry.
3. I Get Around: The Beach Boys.
4. Be My Baby: The Ronettes.
5. California Girls: The Beach Boys.
6. Give Me Some Lovin’: Spencer Davis Group.
7. Hey Jude: The Beatles.
8. Honky Tonk Women: The Rolling Stones.
9. My Obsession: The Rolling Stones.
10. Mony Mony: Tommy James and the Shondells.

I don’t know how some of these songs were chosen for a summertime list, but it is Brian’s list so he can do as he pleases.  I am happy to modify it a bit. You can follow with your own list in the comments if you are so inclined. First of all, any song I have to look up because I never heard of it needs to go.

“My Obsession” by the Rolling Stones is an early hit that really offers little in the way of music and lyrics.  It is certainly forgettable in every way and a surprise on any list provided by Wilson.  Of course, we all have early rock favorites that will probably sound weird to anyone else.  So, I am kicking that one off the list and replacing it with one of the Beach Boys’ top hits of all time, Little Surfer Girl.

Next, I have to replace the overdone Hey Jude. While McCartney still uses this epic to kill 10 minutes of every concert, I think it is time to retire it. Seriously, have you seen any performance of McCartney, live or on television, that did not contain an overblown version of this hit?  I can not associate it with summer anyway, so I am replacing it with “Summer in the City” by the Lovin’ Spoonful.  Every oldies station will indeed play the heck out of this song from now until Labor Day, but I never tire of it. That’s my standard.

I like “Honky Tonk Woman” and “Mony, Mony” but let’s replace them with Summer hits.  Add Jan and Dean’s number one hit from 1963, “Surf City.”  With a similar sound to the Beach Boys, Jan and Dean successfully rode the airwaves on their musical surfboards for many years, cashing in on the California-style rock.  Another song I’m adding is “Saturday in the Park.” by Chicago — if for no other reason than to include a song from one of my all-time favorite bands, but will it make my Top Ten?

When I discovered Billboard’s list of the Top 30 Summer Songs I see there are a few more that could go on my list by the masters of their style, the Beach Boys.  Go forth and create your own list and enjoy the sounds of summer.

Yes, next week you will get my top ten summer songs that are really about summer. I know you can’t wait. Just sing Hot Fun In The Summertime until then.

THE BEST MAINSTREAM LGBT MOVIES

The Top Ten Movies For Pride Month, Rich Paschall

Our first outing, “In The Mainstream,” featured some of the best movies ever made, brought to you by the numbers 11 through 20. You will find the sequel today is equally exciting. Every one of these features to hit the screen is a gem and worthy of our Pride playlist.

We know you have been eagerly awaiting my countdown of the best LGBT movies ever made. It is important to point out that we should just say, some of the best movies ever made. They rank with the most entertaining and important features in cinema.

In fact, my number one pick was the best movie of 2005, but the Academy was not ready to bestow that honor on a film of this genre. If you see nothing else from the list below, be sure to see that powerful movie.

Now if you have refilled your bowl of popcorn, picked out a super gulpy size of your favorite drink, put a box of your favorite movie candy (Dots?) in your pocket you are ready to sit down to our 11 feature program. Number 8 is a multi-language, double-feature.

10. Kill Your Darlings. (2013) This time Daniel Radcliffe is Allen Ginsburg during the college days of some members of the Beat Generation. The title does not pertain to a murder that takes place involving one of the writers, but to those pieces of writing that you can’t quite improve. Dane DeHaan received critical acclaim as Lucien Carr.

09. Maurice. (1987) James Wilby stars as the title character in the Marchant-Ivory film based on the E.M. Forster novel. Set in early 20th century England, Maurice falls for Clive, played by a young Hugh Grant. The film picked up some film festival awards and an Oscar.

08. The Birdcage. (1996) This is a remake of the classic French-Italian film “La Cage Aux Folles.” (1978) In the American version, the setting is changed to Miami, and the movie stars Robin Williams and Nathan Lane. Do yourself a favor and see both versions.

07. Dallas Buyer’s Club. (2013). Matthew McConaughey picked up an Oscar for the true story of Ron Woodruff, an AIDS patient in the 1980s who smuggled in experimental drugs from Mexico to treat himself and members of the “Buyer’s Club.” Jared Leto picked an Oscar as well in a supporting role. Both actors lost a lot of weight to play their characters. The film picked up four other Oscar nominations and one more Oscar.

06. God’s Own Country. (2017) Never has a tough miserable life been so beautiful. A Yorkshire sheep farmer hires a migrant Romanian farmhand for the season. Gritty is the best description for this one. If the scenes between the two farmhands don’t put you on edge, the rough farm work will.  The movie picked up a long list of festival awards.

05. Philadelphia (1993). Bring a box of kleenex along with your box of popcorn for this groundbreaking film inspired by a true story. Tom Hanks is gay lawyer Andrew Beckett who is dismissed from his firm for being suspected of having AIDS. Denzel Washington is the homophobic lawyer who finally agrees to take his case and sue the law firm that fired Beckett. The A-list cast includes Jason Robards and Mary Steenburgen. Antonio Banderas is Hanks’ partner. Hanks won an Oscar, so did Bruce Springsteen for Best Original Song. Neil Young was also nominated for Best Original Song for the movie.

04. Love, Simon. (2018) Nick Robinson gives an excellent performance as a closeted high school senior searching for someone like himself while trying to keep a blackmailer at bay. The romantic comedy also stars Jennifer Garner and John Duhamel as the parents.

03. Call Me By Your Name. (2017). The scene is set in northern Italy in 1983. Elio’s father, a university professor, has a 24-year-old graduate assistant come for the summer to help him out. Timothée Chalamet plays 17-year-old Elio who at first disliked the grad student but slowly changes his feeling.  Chalamet was nominated as best actor for his outstanding job as the conflicted teen.

02. Milk (2008). Sean Penn is perfect in the role of Harvey Milk, the gay activist who was eventually elected to San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors. James Franco is a longtime boyfriend, Scott Smith. Emile Hirsch plays an energetic Cleve Jones. The film is historically important using archival film footage when necessary. Penn won the Oscar for Best Actor and Dustin Lance Black picked up one for Best Original Screenplay.  Highly recommended.

01. Brokeback Mountain. (2005) Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger, as Jack Twist and Enis Del Mar, spend a summer as sheepherders on the mountain, and a lifetime longing for a relationship they could not have. The film is set between 1963 and 1983 in the American West when they must balance love and fear. Anne Hathaway and Michelle Williams are their wives. The brilliantly crafted film picked up Oscars for Director Ang Lee, and Best Adapted Screenplay as well as Best Original Score. Gyllenhaal, Ledger, and Williams were all nominated. It was the best picture of the year but apparently, the Academy was not ready to vote for such a film. Highly recommended.

For numbers 11 through 20 on our list, head back to “In The Mainstream.” For a look at the trailer of any of the above movies, just click on the title. If you want to play all twenty-one and some bonus clips, click here.

This post originally appeared on SERENDIPITY here.

IN THE MAINSTREAM – RICH PASCHALL

LGBTQ in cinema, by Rich Paschall

We don’t need a declaration from an orange politician to know that June is the national Pride month. There may not be Pride parades this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the restrictions that followed, but we have a Pride list of movies for your viewing enjoyment. Stay home, save lives, watch movies.

For this list, we have chosen films that have made it into the mainstream of cinema. Most enjoyed wide distribution and many found commercial success. There are many award winners including some that received Oscars at the annual Academy Awards. You should be able to find all of these screen gems on DVD or online.

In some of these movies, gay issues are the main topic. In others, it is just a part of the storyline and not necessarily the main theme or focus of the film. I have seen all of the films on the following list, or I would not have included them. There may be many other commendable films that could easily be included. Rotten Tomatoes, the movie review site, has a list of 200 best LGBTQ movies of all time, although many are foreign films that would not be considered mainstream here.

However, I will start with an honorable mention from the foreign film category and offer you the critically acclaimed Brazilian film, Hoje Eu Quero Voltar Sozinho, entitled “The Way He Looks” for American audiences. The feature is based on the hugely successful 2010 short film that instantly went viral on YouTube. It now has over 8 million views and you can find it here, although I recommend finding the feature-length film.  The language is Portuguese. Both the short film and the feature have English subtitles.

Now grab your popcorn and be prepared to be entertained by some of the best movies ever made. A few are of historical interest, so you may learn a little history along the way. When I compiled the list there were 20, so I decided to rank them all.

20. Weekend. (2011) The British feature concerns two men who meet and spend the weekend together. After that…well, there will be no spoilers today.
19. The Children’s Hour. (1961). Based on the 1934 Lillian Hellman play, the film downplayed the whispered lie about a gay love affair between the two female teachers. Audrey Hepburn and Shirley Maclaine star. The film was nominated for five Oscars.
18. I Am Michael. (2015) The biographical drama concerns a gay activist turned Christian preacher. James Franco stars as the conflicted main character.
17. Dog Day Afternoon. (1975). Based on the true story of a bank robbery gone wrong, Al Pacino stars as real-life Sonny Wortzik trying to steal money for his transgender mate’s surgery. It was nominated for five Oscars, winning one.
16. I Love You Phillip Morris. (2009) Based on the true-life story of the con artist Steven Jay Russell and the man with whom he falls in love in prison. Jim Carrey gives a strong performance in comedy-drama.

15. The Crying Game. (1992) The tense drama is set during the conflict in Northern Ireland. A member of the IRA promises to protect Dil, the mate of a rival fighter. The film picked up six Oscar nominations, winning one for Best Screenplay. The story included an element most audience members did not see coming.
14. Mysterious Skin. (2004)  Joseph Gordon-Levitt in an early film role as a male prostitute. Set in the 1980s, the storyline follows two friends’ lives and their separate paths following a childhood incident. It’s not for the squeamish.
13. My Own Private Idaho(1991) The cult classic stars River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves as street hustlers and friends.  It picked up a variety of Film Critics and Film Festival awards.
12. Another Country. (1984) The British historical drama stars Ruppert Everett and is set in public schools in the 1930s. The story concerns the openly gay student, Guy Bennett, who is based on the real-life spy Guy Burgess.

11. Howl. (2010) James Franco stars as Beat Generation poet Allen Ginsberg. The experimental film style concentrates on Ginsberg’s poem of the same name and the 1957 obscenity trial that followed. The reenactment of the Six Gallery Reading in 1955, spread throughout the film, is often illustrated through animation. Franco also relives a Ginsberg interview where his comments about the poem and the trial are being recorded. Franco carries the movie as Ginsberg with his top-notch performance.

Like many good movies, we are ending with a cliffhanger. The top ten movies will be up tomorrow, but you can start on this list today. The above includes comedy, drama, and comedy-drama. There is romance and there is history. There is mysterious skin and there are mysterious people.

For a look at the trailer of any of the above movies, just click on the title. If you want to play them all and get a sneak peek at tomorrow’s list, click here.

I’LL BE WHAT I AM

As many states start to reopen, or in the case of red states stay open, I think I will be a little more cautious about jumping into the people pool, so to speak.  I got the vaccine, but I will hide out at home a little longer and listen to my pandemic playlists.  Last year, this one appeared on SERENDIPITY (teepee12.com), and we thought we would give you another opportunity to sing along.

A Solitary Man, Rich Paschall

When the “stay at home” orders dragged on from March to April and then to May, it seemed like we needed some music to fit the situation. Some were creating playlists and posting them online. Others were writing and recording new songs. With all this creativity at hand, I decided to jump into the fray with our own Pandemic Playlist.

A lonely seagull

First up was a post entitled Splendid Isolation, named after the song by the late Warren Zevon. I sat down to compile a song list that would seem to fit our unique situations. This led to a variety of topics and a very long “shortlist” for my Top Ten.  It was hard work watching all those YouTube videos but I knew, “I Will Survive.”

With the SERENDIPITY Sequester Songlist finished, I knew we were off to a good start, but I still had a lot of tunes tempting me to go again. Many titles contained a variation of the word “Lone.” You know, Lonely, Alone, Lonesome and things like that. There were Lonely People in a Lonely Town who were all Alone or possibly Alone Together. From a Lonely Boy to Mr. Lonely they knew how Only The Lonely could feel. This Quarantine list was Just A Lonely Boy, from the opening line of the Paul Anka song.

As I looked over what was intended to be a shortlist for a Top Ten Quarantine songs, I realized there were at least twenty more. No, I will not give you another Top Ten, just the best of the rest. It was hard to rank these as they are all good songs. The order could change at any moment, so remember, this is just One Moment In Time.

Solitary man?

8. Solitaire, Neil Sedaka.  The song was written by Sedaka and frequent collaborator Phil Cody. The Carpenters had a hit with it, so did Andy Williams. Sedaka recently stated on his YouTube channel that at least 60 artists have recorded it.  Despite the hits by others, it seemed best to let Sedaka do the honors. If you liked the old Sedaka songs then you are in luck. The prolific singer, songwriter octogenarian gives mini-concerts every weekday on YouTube during the pandemic stay-at-home orders.

7. All By Myself, Eric Carmen. Another singer, songwriter, Eric Carmen started with the group The Raspberries in the early 1970s and went on a career all by himself.  Carmen is a classically trained pianist and based this hit tune on Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2. The song made it to No. 2 on the US Billboard charts.

6. Boulevard Of Broken Dreams, Green Day. Some might consider this NSFW due to one of the words in the lyrics. The official video here has sort of garbled the word but you’ll get it. Radio play just took it out. Well, everything is screwed up. What else can I say? I am pretty sure that lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong is not related to Garry and Marilyn, but I never really asked. Any way Armstrong declares, “My shadow’s the only one that walks beside me, My shallow heart’s the only thing that’s beating.” He walks the boulevard alone.

5. Isolation, John Lennon. This one certainly has gotten popular since the stay-at-home orders. It appeared on Lennon’s first album following the breakup of The Beatles.  Recorded at Abbey Road studio, the album was released on the Apple label in 1970 to critical acclaim. Interestingly, Ringo Starr played drums on this track. Lennon is on the piano.

4. Dancing With Myself, Billy Idol. After that last one, I thought we should pick up the pace. If there is no one there to dance with, it is OK to dance with yourself. The song was originally released in the UK in 1980 by the band Gen-X with Billy Idol as the lead singer. The following year it was remixed and re-released in the US as a solo by Idol, who also co-wrote the song. Just remember:
“Well, there’s nothing to lose
And there’s nothing to prove, well,
Dancing a-with myself”

3. Eleanor Rigby, The Beatles. I don’t think there is anyone lonelier than Eleanor Rigby unless it is Father McKenzie of the same song. This 1966 release was quite a departure for the pop band. The song features eight string players, arranged by famed Beatles producer, George Martin. The song is about the elderly and the lonely. Only the Beatles could have had a hit with this one. “Ah, look at all the lonely people.”

2. One, Three Dog Night. Harry Nilsson wrote the song and released his version in 1968, but it was the Three Dog Night version the following year that became a hit. The repetition of the same note at the outset is meant to symbolize a busy single. If you make a call and get no one, then you are the only one. And as we all know, “One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do.”

1. Solitary Man, Neil Diamond. One of the best-selling singer-songwriters in the world, Diamond had a big hit with this one, his first solo release in 1966. You are likely familiar with a radio version with background singers and big production. It was a powerful interpretation. There was also a version recorded alone without the background singers. It sounded more personal as he changed “then Sue came along” to “then you came along.”  The ultimate message is the same. Until he finds the right person, “I’ll be what I am, A solitary man.”

These were the best ones that did not make my other Playlists. To hear any one of the above just click the title. If you want to hear all nine on the Solitaire Playlist, click here.  I added both versions of the Neil Diamond song, one from 1971 (above) from 2012.

See also: SPLENDID ISOLATION, Your Quarantine Playlist, April 26, 2020.
JUST A LONELY BOY, Lonely and Blue, May 6, 2020. (Lonesome Playlist)

JUST A LONELY BOY

Last year we had a number of quarantine playlists to help you through your pandemic blues.  You might now be emerging from your sequester days, but we will repeat this list in case you still feel like a Lonely Boy or lonely girl.  This Top Ten originally appeared on SERENDIPITY (teepee12.com).  

Lonely And Blue, by Rich Paschall

Are you lonesome tonight? Alone again, unnaturally? Feeling like Mr. Lonely? Lonely Is The Night these days so we thought it was time for our Lonesome List top ten. You can make a Journey to Ask the Lonely, but you will just be a Lonesome Loser. Those Lonely People will not have the music to sequester by.

Lonely town, lonely street

I Think We’re Alone Now, so I will give a shout-out to a Bill Withers tune. The Grammy-winning artist passed away recently at the age of 81.

We don’t want you to feel like a Solitary Man or that you are the only “One.” We can be Alone Together with these top hits.

10. Alone Together, Dan + Shay. The young Country stars scored well with this song and entertaining video, a 2018 release. I was going to put Alone Again, Naturally in this spot, but if you recall the 1972 hit, you know it was one of the most depressing songs ever written. I put it on the YouTube playlist if you must have it.

9. Lonesome Loser, Little River Band. Count this 1979 release as one among a string of hits by the Australian supergroup. It made it to number 6 on the US Billboard Hot 100.

8. I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry, Hank Williams.  This 1949 song by the Country Hall of Fame artist was one of his biggest hits. It is from an era before Country music started sounding more like rock or pop music. Plenty of “twang” here.

7. Lonely Is The Night, Billy Squier. Now let’s go 180 degrees in the other direction with this classic rock hit from 1981. Squier puts out some guitar solos for your all-alone moments.

6. I’ve Been Lonely Too Long, The Young Rascals. This 1967 hit is an oldie, but a goodie. The Young Rascals were later known just as The Rascals. Yes, we all get older, if we stay away from deadly viruses.

5. Lonely People, America. “Don’t give up until you drink from the silver cup, And ride that highway in the sky.” This was written as sort of a response to the Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby.” Interestingly, it was produced by long-time Beatles’ producer, George Martin.

4. Alone, Heart. This 1987 “power balled” is Heart’s biggest hit. Co-author of the work, Tom Kelly, sang high harmony on the studio recording. Lead singers are sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson.

3. Only The Lonely, Roy Orbison.  The 1960 recording was the first big hit for Orbison, who also co-wrote the song with Joe Melson. They had shopped the song around, offering it to Elvis and the Everley Brothers before deciding to record it themselves.

2. Mr. Lonely, Bobby Vinton. Recorded in 1962, the song did not become a hit until 1964. Vinton began writing while in the army. It is about a soldier waiting for letters from home.

1. Lonely Boy, Paul Anka. The prolific singer-songwriter recorded this when he was just 17 in 1958. He went on to write other big hits for himself and other stars. We knew you needed some early rock right about now. You Boomers should sing along. The rest of you can just enjoy this oldie.

Click on any song title to hear the song. For the entire Lonesome sequester playlist, click here.

See also: SPLENDID ISOLATION, Your Quarantine Playlist, SERENDIPITY, April 26, 2020.

 

AT THIS MOMENT

Karaoke Night, by Rich Paschall

From the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s, we spent a lot of time in adult drinking establishments singing various tunes to varying degrees of success. You did not have to be any good at it. You just had to have enough nerve to get up and sing out loud. The truth is, of course, that most people are not listening to you anyway.  They are having conversations with their friends and ordering another round of whatever is making them loud and somewhat obnoxious at their tables or at the bar. It is a lot easier when you realize that few if any are listening or even care what you are singing.

The first song I attempted was Born To Be Wild if my memory serves me at all after all these years of belting out songs I thought I knew. I had heard others do the song. I knew it was rather easy and within my limited vocal range. So I did it a number of times before I had the courage to move on to song number two.

We were friends with a guy who did Karaoke at a local bar. There were nights when I took over for him, either because he was busy that night or because he would rather sing and drink. Since I sometimes had to fill the gaps early in the evening when there were no singers, I learned to do a few other songs.  And remember, no one was listening anyway.

One of the girls who frequented the place wanted to do a duet. We settled on “You’re The One That I Want” from Grease. Nope, I can not sing it that high. Do I look like John Travolta? We did learn, however, that you can adjust the key on those old karaoke machines, so we drop it down 3 steps, and we both sounded a lot better.

After I had been helping out the karaoke host for a few months, a woman who tended bar on occasion asked me to sing “At This Moment.” I told her I didn’t know it. In fact, I thought I had never heard it before. She told me I should learn it. She was quite serious. Since she was bigger and tougher than I, it seemed like learning the song would be a prudent thing to do. The next time I saw her at the bar she handed me a cassette tape. She had recorded the song back to back so I would listen to it two times in a row each time I put the tape on. It was the only thing on the tape. I learned the song.

As time went on I learned a variety of other songs. There were a few I had in mind for those that wanted to do karaoke with me. It was a strange experience to have people I didn’t know ask me to sing with them, and some could not carry a tune if we put it in a bucket for them with a large handle attached. But I was always a good host and tried to team up a couple of mediocre singers so I would not have to join the fray. Besides, I thought I was creating friendships. If you want to practice, I have the karaoke version of the next song hereYou supply the vocal. If that’s too much, here it is with vocal:

We had our “go-to” duets and we also had our group songs for those who wanted to drag up their friends but didn’t know what to sing. “Bohemian Rhapsody” was not one of my choices, although many chose to kill it anyway. Instead of that, I would suggest certain Beatles tunes and this one was always popular:

There was a Frank Sinatra song or two I would like to sing if I got the chance, and someone else did not beat me to it.  “Something Stupid” was a good duet if someone actually knew the Nancy Sinatra part. I liked “Strangers In The Night” but I could never do it well. This one was better (and easier) for me to sing:

Some nights we were busy and I did not get to sing much, if at all. Sometimes I got the chance to entertain myself a lot. When the opportunity presented itself, I would close the show with “For The Good Times,” and they were good times.

Enjoy the music above and don’t forget to sing along, nice and loud.

This post originally appeared on SERENDIPITY (teepee12.com) here.

KEEP CALM AND STAY HOME – RICH PASCHALL

Last year as England and the United States were suffering not just from COVID-19, but also a lack of leadership at the top, the Queen of England took to the airwaves to address the United Kingdom. This post originally appeared on SERENDIPITY (teepee12.com).

A Leader Addresses The Nation, by Rich Paschall

It is not often that Queen Elizabeth II makes an official address to the United Kingdom. If you do not count her annual Christmas message, which is nothing more than a Season’s Greeting, she has not taken to the airwaves for an official speech to the nation since 2012. That was the occasion of her 60th Anniversary as the monarch. Prior to that, it was 2002 when the very popular Queen Mother had passed away. In fact, her latest address was counted as the fifth time in 68 years that the queen has spoken to the kingdom in her official capacity.

Surely we do not have to tell you the reason everyone was invited into the palace electronically to hear what the queen had to say. COVID-19 has hit England very hard.  By Friday the number of deaths had reached almost 9,000. It is less than half the total of the US, but quite considerable when you consider the size of the population compared to the USA.

The nation had to be instructed. The nation had to be put at ease. The nation had to be assured they were going to get through this.

Eighty years earlier, as a young princess, Elizabeth spoke to the nation during another battle for survival. Children were being evacuated from their homes in London in 1940 during World War II, to keep them safe from the bombing raids on the city. The nation, and especially the children, needed to be put at ease.

“We know, every one of us, that in the end, all will be well; for God will care for us and give us victory and peace. And when peace comes, remember it will be for us, the children of today, to make the world of tomorrow a better and happier place.”

It has once again fallen to Elizabeth II to speak to the nation:

I’m speaking to you at what I know is an increasingly challenging time, a time of disruption in the life of our country, a disruption that has brought grief to some, financial difficulties to many, and enormous changes to the daily lives of us all.”

She was not there to call attention to herself. She was placing no blame on those that were on the frontlines of the battle. She was there to praise their work and assure them they were appreciated:

“I want to thank everyone on the NHS frontline, as well as care workers and those carrying out essential roles who selflessly continue their day-to-day duties outside the home in support of us all. I’m sure the nation will join me in assuring you that what you do is appreciated, and every hour of your hard work brings us closer to a return to more normal times.”

She also wanted to call attention to those who serve their families and all the  nation by staying at home:

“I also want to thank those of you who are staying at home, thereby helping to protect the vulnerable, and sparing many families the pain already felt by those who have lost loved ones.”

She also did what a good leader would do in times of war. She assured the nation that they would be victorious:

“Together we are tackling this disease, and I want to reassure you that if we remain united and resolute, then we will overcome it. I hope in the years to come everyone will be able to take pride in how they responded to this challenge.”

And while the 92-year-old Queen was instructing the nation and attempting to keep them calm, where was the bombastic conservative Prime Minister of England, Boris Johnson?  He was being admitted to the hospital with COVID-19. Subsequently, he was moved to an Intensive Care Unit. Karma had caught up with him as it has done with others who thought this was little more than the flu going around. He was the politician who made light of the pandemic and even claimed to be “shaking hands continuously” with people in the hospital. His jokes are not funny anymore.

It is important to have a leader who shows confidence and seeks to not only instruct the nation but also to reassure everyone that everything is being done to win the battle. We do not have that here. We have someone who does not praise those on the frontlines, instead, he scoffs at them, belittling their efforts, accusing them of stealing masks and other equipment.

He gives little or nothing to states needing life-saving equipment while giving others, Florida for example, everything they ask for.  If you praise him and live in a state likely to vote for him, he will take care of you.  Others can die. He is not just corrupt, hoping to profit from the misery of his own nation, he is also evil. Pure evil, but I digress.

Let’s end with a positive message. Let us be reassured that there is a brighter day ahead and we will get through this darkness and find the light.

“Using the great advances of science and our instinctive compassion to heal, we will succeed, and that success will belong to every one of us. We should take comfort that while we may have more still to endure, better days will return. We will be with our friends again. We will be with our families again. We will meet again. But for now, I send my thanks and warmest good wishes to you all.”  – HRH Queen Elizabeth II

Sources: “Queen Elizabeth says ‘better days will return’ in rare and historic coronavirus address,” by Hannah Yasharoff, USA Today, usatoday.com April 5, 2020.
Queen Elizabeth II Coronavirus Speech Transcript,” rev.com April 5, 2020.
Britain’s Queen Elizabeth to make rare address to nation over coronavirus,” Reuters, cnbc.com April 3, 2020.
Coronavirus: 980 dead in UK hospitals in deadliest day of pandemic yet,” by Matthew Weaver, The Guardian, theguardian.com April 10, 2020.
Wartime broadcast, 1940,” Princess Elizabeth, royal.uk October 13, 1940.
Boris Johnson Kept Working, But the Virus Took Over,” by  , and , Bloomberg.com
Here’s Why Florida Got All the Emergency Medical Supplies It Requested While Other States Did Not,” by Lydia DePillisMike SpiesJoshua KaplanKyle Edwards, and Caroline Chen, propublica.org March 20, 2020.

OUR LOCAL BUSINESS

The Pandemic Legacy

The sad fate of local businesses is shown everywhere in the neighborhood. For Rent, For Lease, and For Sale signs can be seen in abundance within a few blocks of where I live. Yes, some of these businesses had failed already or would have failed, but there have been no takers for their empty storefronts and buildings. The Wall Street Journal recently stated “200,000 U.S. establishments above historical levels” closed permanently in the first year of the pandemic.  Many needed help they could not get under the previous administration.

On a recent trip to a neighborhood supermarket, I took my camera for some pictures along Montrose Avenue for about a mile east and half a mile west of where I live. I also grabbed one around the corner on Kedzie. Even if you are not from our city, you may have encountered the loss of local business as well. The is a part of our pandemic legacy.

Click on any picture above to go through the full size of each one in the gallery. Be sure to stop at SERENDIPITY for more on “Our Pandemic Legacy.”

Source: “Covid-19’s Toll on U.S. Business? 200,000 Extra Closures in Pandemic’s First Year,” by Ruth Simon, The Wall Street Journal, wsj.com, April 16, 2021.
See also: “Our Pandemic Legacy,” What We Learned So Far, SERENDIPITY, teepee12.com, May 9, 2021.