WAITING ON THE WORLD TO CHANGE

For all of the 21st century so far, I have been looking for music with social relevance.  Yes, there have been a few songs, but not much in these two decades.  And who are the young writers contributing songs with meaning this century?  Neil Young, Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen, U2, Chicago?  

Those guys are still at it, but in this era of social unrest, you might expect more young voices to be heard.  Getting a good deal of notice in recent years is the heavy metal group, Disturbed, and their rendition of The Sound of Silence.  If you are thinking the title is familiar, it is.  They covered the Simon and Garfunkel hit to great effect. 

simon-garfunkle-greatest-hits-album-cover

Enter The Young, When Songs Had Meaning

There was a time I will describe as being from late Beatles up to pre-disco when many songs had a deeper meaning, that is to say, a “social commentary”.  The air was filled with thoughtful and thought-provoking lyrics.  Some will argue that these songs helped to sway a nation toward greater equality and away from a war of questionable merits.  For a while, many songwriters abandoned “Ooh baby, baby,” to write about war, race, poverty, inhumanity, and life in the ghetto rather than life on “easy street”.  This was an era in songwriting where the words were as important as the notes being played.

Here they come, yeah
Some are walking, some are riding
Here they come, yeah
And some are flying, some just gliding
Released after years of being kept in hiding
They’re climbing up the ladder rung by rung

Bob Dylan had been speaking to us for years, but suddenly so was McCartney and Lennon, then John Lennon on his own.  Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Carol King, Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen, Curtis Mayfield, Lou Reed, Marvin Gaye can all be added to a list that goes on and on.  There were some with just a few hits but a big social impact.

Enter the young, yeah
Yeah, they’ve learned how to think
Enter the young, yeah
More than you think they think
Not only learned to think, but to care
Not only learned to think, but to dare

My absolute favorite among the thoughtful lyrics were those done by a group called The Association.  They are probably best known for their hit songs “Cherish,” “Windy” and “Along Comes Mary.”  These songs are filled with clever rhymes and some unique wordplays.  “Cherish” taught me I could rhyme that word with “perish,” and I used it for a wedding lyric years later.

Yeah, here they come
Some with questions, some decisions
Here they come
And some with facts and some with visions

Of a place to multiply without the use of divisions
To win a prize that no one’s ever won

They also commented on society in songs like “The Time It Is Today,” “Enter the Young,” and the biting and rather haunting sounds of “Requiem For The Masses.”  This was filled with the symbolism of those that died for the red, white and blue as well as dealing with the issues of race (“Black and white were the questions that so bothered him, he never asked, he was taught not to ask, but was on his lips as they buried him.)  Yes, the same group that gave us “Never My Love” could come around again and whack you with a social message…hard.

Here they come, yeah
Some are laughing, some are crying
Here they come
And some are doing, some are trying
Some are selling, some are buying
Some are living, some are dying
But demanding recognition one by one

They did get recognition, along with many other such groups, if only for a moment in musical history.  Where are the meaningful song lyrics of today?  I wonder.

Not only learned to think, but to care
Not only learned to think, but to dare

I wore out this album as I found every song to be worthy of constant replay.  I was a teenager, I thought it was great.  All these years later, I still do.  I chose the video above as I could find no good performance video of this song. This one rendered the best sound.

Waiting on the World

It can be a frustrating experience waiting on the world to change. Will the younger composers of songs sing out on the current situation? Or will they see that as hopeless? Will they just wait their turn with the Sound of Silence? Must we continue to rely on the older generation for our social commentary in song? “We keep on waiting.”

And when you trust your television
What you get is what you got
Cause when they own the information, oh
They can bend it all they want
That’s why we’re waiting (waiting)
Waiting on the world to change

The Sound of Silence by Paul Simon 1964 Universal Music Publishing Group
Enter The Young by Terry Kirkman 1966 Beachwood Music Corp.
Waiting on The World To Change by John Mayer 2006 Reach Music Publishing

This article appeared one year ago on SERENDIPITY.

ROAD TRIP

Music For The Highway, by Rich Paschall

Did you skip vacation this year?  Flying to your destination may have seemed like a scary choice. With increased crowds, traveling through airports and on airplanes may not seem as safe as pre-pandemic. Perhaps you should opt for a road trip instead. There is still time and the fall colors await you. Are you ready to “See the USA in your Chevrolet?”

When I first became friends with my favorite French guy, who was here on a business internship, we took some road trips to see America.  We would gather up our favorite CDs for the highway and head off in musical style.  In subsequent years he has returned for even more adventure.  You probably plug your phone into a USB port and listen to a playlist.  I guess we are just old-fashioned.

72-Road-Oct-Home_01

Photo Credit: Marilyn Armstrong

Among my friend’s favorite American songs was a tune by America (the band), A Horse With No Name.  He knew it well before he arrived here, and I happened to own America’s Greatest Hits.  I thought it interesting a young French guy knew this 1970s song.  We had an odd collection between the two of us each time we headed out, but America was always included.  Certain songs now go with those great highway memories.

You may have your favorites.  Perhaps you and your friends have all taken parts for Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody.  Maybe you have other sing-along tunes.  There are so many individual tastes for what might make good road music, that you would think I could not come up with a top ten.  Ha!

Indeed it was difficult to settle on a list but I finally had to narrow down this favorite grouping to songs that mention roads, streets, highways, or cars.  We’ll save the other up-tempo tunes for another time.

It’s just like Summertime and The Heat Is On.  Hop in your Little Red Corvette, 409, or Little Deuce Coupe and Shut Up and Drive.  Whether you are cruising down Electric Avenue or traveling the Boulevard of Broken Dreams, just stay On The Sunny Side Of The Street and you will soon be able to say I’ve Been Everywhere and I Get Around.  No need to sing the Basin Street Blues, we have your road tunes.

10.  Route 66.  There was a popular song, recorded by many, named (Get Your Kicks on) Route 66, but the television series did not want to pay for it and commissioned another.  I picked the Nelson Riddle instrumental.

09.  Penny Lane.  Yes, the Beatles hit is in my ears and in my eyes.

08.  Takin’ It To The Streets.  The Doobies Brothers, 1976. Michael McDonald wrote it and was the lead singer.

07.  Drive My Car.  Yes, it is another one by the Beatles.  They’ve got the Beat, you’ve got the car.

06.  Rockin’ Down The Highway.  The Doobie Brothers hit the list again with another high-energy tune.

05.  Lake Shore Drive.  “There ain’t no road just like it, anywhere I’ve found.”  “Just slippin’ on by on LSD, Friday night trouble bound.”

04.  On The Road Again.  You can’t hit the road without Willie.

03.  Radar Love.  OK, it does not have a road or car in the title, but it is unmistakably a road tune.

02  Ventura Highway.  This America tune is among the ones I always heard on the road with my best friend.

01.  Take Me Home, Country Roads.  This John Denver composition is one of the great sing-along songs.  I think I sang it once or twice or…

Click on any title above or listen to all of them on my playlist here: Road Music.

You might also need our summer tunes playlist:  The Summer Wind.

A version of this article appeared last year on SERENDIPITY.  

TAKE SOME TIME TO REVIVE IT

Socially we are struggling with major problems. The government is still divided in the us versus them battle.  They should be working for all of us.  Chicago, the band, came back around to commentary through song. This article appeared last year on  SERENDIPITY. 

A view of America from Chicago, the band, by Rich Paschall

Chicago has been around for a long time. No, I don’t mean the city, I mean the band. In 1967, five guys from DePaul University recruited a sixth from Roosevelt University and started a band known as The Big Thing. Soon they recruited a tenor, moved to California, and changed their name to Chicago Transit Authority. In 1968 they released a self-titled, double album that included some of their biggest hits and led them down the road to a Hall of Fame career.  After the threat of legal action by the hometown transit authority, the band shortened its name and the rest is pop history.

Chicago Water Tower (Photo credit: Nicholas G. Mertens)

Their pop, rock, jazz-infused sound was groundbreaking.  In an era of bands that included a guitar player, bass player, and drummer, Chicago’s music majors were letting a trumpet, a trombone, and a saxophone lead the way.  It was a sound that led to more groups backed by horns.

As with many bands of the time period, they had their share of songs with social messages.  A war protest song (It Better End Soon), a song following the moon-landing (Where Do We Go From Here?), and political commentary (Dialogue, Part I & II).  They certainly did not rely on this type of song, but they were not afraid of them either.

As the decades rolled on they just may have relied a little more heavily on ballads and soft rock.  That’s why it is interesting to find that Chicago came back with another album, Chicago Now, aka Chicago XXXVI, with a heavy reliance on the type of horn sounds of their early years and commentary on the American scene.

America, America is free!
America!
America is you and me!

America, the third track on Chicago Now, was actually available for download long before the album came out.  With music and lyrics by founding member Lee Loughnane, it is not a throwback to another era, but a push forward for a band that has done something older bands are reluctant to do.  That is, put out an album of new material and social commentary.

The dream was fading before our eyes
Take some time to revive it.
‘We the people’ must start right now
Don’t expect our leaders to show us how
They don’t have a clue what to do
If they knew how to stop this slide
We’d have seen some signs by now
To turn back the tide.

Lou Pardini provides keyboards and lead vocals for this anthem.  The beauty of the chorus and its tight harmony is in contrast to the attack of Pardini on the verses.  At times he is almost at a growling pace as he delivers his lines and the song’s message.

We can’t keep havin’ you make our rules
When you treat us common folk like fools
It’s time to stand up for our rights
Put congress in our political sights.
Make them pass laws that help us all
The Founding Fathers echo
Will be heard in the hall
By the people, for the people, everyone equal.

Right now we probably need songs of social importance just as we had decades ago. We feel our leaders have gone astray again, and a strong message needs to be sent. Sometimes we can send that message in music. Watch the video below for the lyrics and yes, that is the Chicago skyline at the opening. What did you expect?

BODGES? WE DON’T NEED NO BODGES!

Last year I recounted a little episode I had regarding my airport badge. I work for an airline and at the time, they thought a badge was necessary.  I work at home.  This piece of my time appeared last year on SERENDIPITY

From the battleground, by Rich Paschall

You have probably quoted, or misquoted, the famous movie line. In fact, I would bet you have done it often. Do you know where it comes from? Have you seen the movie? If not, you have missed a gem.


“Bodges? We ain’t got no bodges. We don’t need no bodges. I don’t have to show you any stinkin’ bodges!”


The 1948 western film, The Treasure of Sierra Madre, stars Humphrey Bogart, Tim Holt, and Walter Houston. It was one of the first Hollywood films to be shot on location in a different country. They used many Mexican actors and extras. When our main characters are in the mountains prospecting for gold, a ragtag group who look like bandits comes across the Americans. The leader announces they are the police. This causes Bogart to say, “If you’re the police, where are your badges?”

Well if you want to know what happens next, you will have to check out the movie. In fact, I have not seen it for decades and need to watch it again myself. It’s directed by John Houston who also directed Bogart in The Maltese Falcon. Houston won an Oscar for Best Director for Sierra Madre. His father, Walter Houston, also won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. The American Film Institute named it one of the best films of all time.

I was thinking about this recently after I got an email from the Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA). That was immediately followed by an email from my employer, an airline I have mentioned to you in the past. The topic of these emails? Badges!

Technically I have an airport job, although I had not been to the airport since March 13. On that date, we were told to take whatever we thought we needed to do our jobs from home and not come back. Our group packed up and left.

 

The cargo building has a nice office that was remodeled at the end of last year. It is not near the terminal buildings and is in fact outside the fence along the east side. I had a very nice view of the east runway from where I usually parked my car.  Since the building is on the City of Chicago airport property, we of course needed airport badges!

My current “office” is a small table that is mounted to the wall in a corner of my kitchen. I guess it was meant for cozy little breakfasts since only two could sit there at a time. It is perfect for my computer because there is an outlet underneath the table and it is just big enough for what I need. It is not as big or as nice as the work station in the cargo building, but it is away from a public building where people come and go all day.

At home, I have not been expecting the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), or the CDA to show up in my kitchen to ask to see my badge. (“If you work for the airline, where are your badges?”) This is something that could happen at the cargo building and the TSA does make the rounds, as does US Customs and Border Protection (CBP). If you are in a building that handles air freight, they really would like to know you belong there.

The problem with the official airport badge is that it has an expiration date. Every year! All of the people who work in any capacity at one of the world’s largest airports must go to the Badging Office in Terminal 3 every year to get a renewal. My time was up. I needed a new badge Even if I work from my kitchen for the next entire year, I needed to renew in case the TSA, FAA, CDA, or CBP showed up one morning for coffee (or covfefe) and asked to see my badge.

If I said I was not pleased with the thought of going to the cargo building to pick up my papers (“If you work for the airline, where are your papers?”) and then to a passenger terminal to get my badge, I would understate the obvious. But at the appointed hour one Friday this month, I got ready to go with my backpack filled with pills, water, mask, hand sanitizer, picture ID, and stinking badge. Off I went on a trip I had not made in 4 months. I picked up the papers, chatted with a colleague a bit, and headed out.

I was told the Badging Office would not be crowded. That was true since they only let in a few people at a time in order to maintain the mandated social distancing. This meant we had to stand in a line in the hall outside. A long line. Fortunately, I got in the line before it ran all the way to the back wall where a cluster of people was milling about.  I kept 6 feet behind the guy in front of me, but the woman behind me kept creeping up close behind. We were both wearing masks, but even so.

The “gentleman” in front of me never turned around so I did not see his face. He was wearing a camouflage baseball cap with an American flag on the back. He had “salt and pepper” hair, and dressed conservatively like he would be going hunting afterward. After standing in line for 20 to 30 minutes we were near the door when a TSA agent came up to the “gentleman” and said, “Excuse me, sir, do you have a mask?”

“Mask? We ain’t got no mask. We don’t need no masks. I don’t have to show you any stinkin’ masks!”

The agent walked away but came back in a few minutes. I believe other uniformed people were lurking near the door when the agent said, “Excuse me, sir, step out of line.” I thought we were going to have some additional entertainment at that point and I was prepared for some video. The gentleman was given two options. They could get him one of those single-use masks, or he could leave. I guess there was a third option. You may have seen their TV show, Chicago P.D. (CPD).

When I was leaving I saw him in the waiting area. He had pulled the mask off his face and it was down around his neck. This sort of thing is the reason some of us prefer to just stay home. Now, if the CPD, TSA, FAA, CDA, or CBP ask, I have my stinkin’ badge.

IS IT WORTH COOKING?

The pandemic certainly hurt the production of the popular Buzzfeed series, Worth It. Last year, they found a way to film a few additional episodes trying to duplicate some of the food items they had tasted on the show. Late in 2020, after the below article appeared on SERENDIPITY, the crew filmed a few more virtual and/or socially distanced episodes which you can find on YouTube. At the beginning of 2021, they released their top ten cheapest or approximate 1 dollar items from past episodes. At the same time, Andrew announced their intention to continue the series at some point. It has not yet restarted. 

Worth It – Food, a review, by Rich Paschall

Buzzfeed Worth It

Last year I reviewed the incredibly popular Buzz Feed and YouTube series Worth It. The show finds its popular hosts, millennials Steven Lim and Andrew Ilnyckyj, traveling to three different restaurants at “drastically different price points.” They taste and review a similar item at each one. Along for the ride (literally) is sound and cameraman Adam Bianchi, who is often seen in the back seat of the car as they drive to each restaurant. At the end of the episode all three vote on the restaurant that was the most worth it at its price.

Over the past four years, they have produced seven “seasons,” the longest of which was 12 episodes. In 2017 and 2018 they won the Streamy Award (Dick Clark Productions, of course) for the Best Food Series. The show features two young guys interviewing restaurant owners and/or chefs and then sitting down to critique the food as an average person might do. The chemistry between the hosts is largely what makes this work. While many of the shows were filmed in Los Angeles or New York, they have been to other US cities, plus stops in Canada, Australia, Taiwan, Japan, and Korea.


Final 2019 episode

With a format such as the one described above, I am sure you can see the problem 2020 has presented to the series. How can you carry on when you can not go out to restaurants to eat? In fact, the hosts and cameraman are keeping their distance from one another. At the end of March, the team put all of Season Seven together for a Worth It Marathon in case you wanted to see one hour and 47 minutes all at once. At the end of May, Andrew and Adam presented some editing magic in the social distancing episode. They cut a new video of Steven and Adam in the car with Andrew as he drove around collecting take-out at three “drastically different price points.”  It’s a 3 dollar take-out to a 129 dollar take-out. He dropped off the food to the other two and Andrew and Steven reviewed them as always. It was a good concept, but it was not going to sustain a series.

With no end of the social distancing protocols that most people are following to stay safe, Andrew and Adam (remotely) have carried on with a new version of the show, Worth It – Food. Now Andrew will attempt to make in his own kitchen, a dish they have previously enjoyed at one of the restaurants in the series. Andrew picks the dish, interviews the chef from the restaurant online, and then sets out to make the same item himself. In between getting the recipe and making the dish, Andrew shops for the items. Not only does he get to make a restaurant favorite at home, but he also is able to explore “The Fundamentals of Why Something Tastes Good.”

Andrew proved to be an engaging host in the original series. He brings a good dose of curiosity and a heaping measure of humor. And yet, despite the public appearances and the hosting of Worth It and other shows, almost nothing is known about Andrew’s personal life. He is a very private person. Unlike other YouTube stars, he has no presence on other social media platforms. So the fact that he is filming new episodes in his own apartment adds to the level of interest.

Utilizing two stationary cameras, Andrew does his best to recreate the dish that has been described to him in the opening. Since Andrew is not a restaurant chef, consider the challenge the same as if you started out to follow a new recipe. He has been challenged by Adam to make dishes on a different Buzz Feed show, Eating Your Feed. That has not always gone well, but I digress. This time out…well, no spoilers for you. Along the way, you will be able to enjoy his efforts while he discusses (with himself) what he thinks makes the dish taste good.

Also, cut into the show might be some footage they had taken at the restaurant but not used in the original Worth It episode. Andrew’s first attempt is a pie that was not featured on their show. Andrew explains that their restaurant stops might include other dishes we do not see. Yes, they do eat more at the restaurant than the dish they have gone to review.

If this version of the show has staying power, it will be up to Andrew’s interview with the chef at the outset, his presentation of the recipe, and the quality of the final product. Like any good cooking show, he is giving you the recipe as he goes along so you can attempt it too. The rebooted series is off to a good start, but hopefully, they will be able to return to the restaurants again this year. In fact, that is the hope we all have.

See also: “The Right Food At The Right Price,” SERENDIPITY, May 26, 2019.

COMING OF AGE

A lot of us are still staying home as much as possible, so you might need to see some good movies. Here is my list of young adventures and young love. This ran last year at this time on SERENDIPITY.

My Favorite Films, by Rich Paschall

We all have to grow up and learn the lessons of life. Some are fun. Some are work. Some are terrifying. Many films show these various aspects of growing up. The movies may be a Risky Business or capture 400 Blows. They can introduce you to Harold and Maude or perhaps to Willie Wonka. You may find a birthday of Sixteen Candles while you are Pretty in Pink. You may find a Rebel Without A Cause or a Lion King. You could be on an island or just at A Summer Place.

As a boy, a teenager, and even as a young man I would identify with the younger heroes of the story, whether they were the lead character or not.  When I saw Swiss Family Robinson, I was more interested in the young son’s adventure (James MacArthur) than the parents who were trying to protect themselves while stranded on an island.  I was quite young at the time but remember it well.  If you saw Disney films in that era, you knew there was a young hero for kids to identify with, who might also own a dog or horse.  I loved those movies.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

As I got older I saw more mature themes.  Some are poignant.  Some are jubilant.  Some are sad.  Since there are so many great films in this category, I could not cut it to a top 10.  My “shortlist” had a lot of entries.  When I subsequently looked at some published lists, it reminded me of others.  There may be better ones that I have not seen, but these are my favorites from my local theater or living room screen.

Since you may be spending a lot of time at home this year, you may wish to add some of these to your playlist:

20. Mysterious Skin.  A young Joseph Gordon Leavitt is a teenage hustler.  This is not your “feel good” movie.
19. St. Elmo’s Fire.  The 1985 Brat Pack classic is about recent college grads.
18. Donnie Darko. The 2001 cult hit stars Jake Gyllenhaal as an odd teenager.
17. Good Will Hunting. Matt Damon is the young math wiz and Robin Williams is the therapist who tries to reach him.  Ben Affleck also stars.
16. The Breakfast Club. If you served high school detention on Saturday morning, you get it. A John Hughes classic film.

Ferris Bueller

Ferris Bueller

15. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Ferris cuts class and comes to Chicago with a couple of friends.  Matthew Broadrick is Ferris.
14. What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. A young man (Johnny Depp) and his mentally challenged younger brother (Leonardo DiCaprio).
13. October Sky. Based on the true story of a boy (Homer Hickam) who dreams of being a rocket scientist. Jake Gyllenhaal stars.
12. Big. Tom Hanks stars as the boy in a man’s body.  It is the best movie ever to try this film trick.
11. The Karate Kid. It does not matter which one you see (Ralph Macchio or Jaden Smith). Skip the sequels.

10.  The Last Picture Show.  A black and white film about life in a dead-end southern town.  The 1971 film stars Timothy Bottoms and Jeff Bridges, with Cybill Shepherd and Cloris Leachman.

09.  American Grafitti.  It’s the end of summer vacation 1962 and you are cruisin’ in your convertible and listening to Rock and Roll on the car radio.  You might be getting into a little bit of mischief as well.  The low-budget 1973 film was box office gold.

08.  Dead Poets Society.  High School seniors form a poetry society and learn to “seize the day” (carpe diem) from English teacher Robin Williams.  The setting for the 1989 film was an elite academy in 1959.  The film won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.

07.  Billy Elliot.  An 11-year-old boy in a poor northern England town ends up in ballet class one day while going to his weekly boxing class.  The coal miner’s son is in for a rough time but sticks with the dance class against his father’s wishes.  The film’s success led to the eventual Broadway play.

06.  Dirty Dancing.  “Nobody puts Baby in a corner.”  Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey get up close and personal on the dance floor in this 1987 film.  It’s forbidden love and hot dancing.  What’s not to like?

05.  Old Yeller.  A boy, his dog, and another Disney tear-jerker.  This one may be for kids but many of them will be crying at the end.  Is this a good lesson for kids?  Next, I suppose you will tell me Bambi’s mother is dead.

04.  Summer Storm (Sommersturm).  This 2004 German-language film follows the friendship of two boys on the rowing team as one learns his feelings for the other.  It was a winner at the Munich Film Festival among others.

03.  The Way He Looks (Hoje Eu Quero Voltar Sozinho). The 2014 Portuguese language, Brazilian film shows the difficulty of seeking independence for a blind boy who does not know the way he looks or if he will be attractive to others.  His life becomes more complicated when he starts to have feelings for another student.  Based on the amazing viral success of a short film, the feature was made soon enough thereafter to star the original three teenagers.  We talked about the development of this film in the article, In Another Language.

02.  A Separate Peace.  Like many of the above, I guess you might call this a “loss of innocence” story.  Based on the 1959 best-selling novel of the same name, the 1972 movie is set in World War II England at an all-boys boarding school.  The author is quick to point out there are no homoerotic implications.  “It would have changed everything, it wouldn’t have been the same story.”  It’s a love-hate relationship between friends.  I have not seen the 2004 Showtime film.

01.  Harry Potter 1-8.  It really is the greatest coming-of-age movie of all because it is actually 8 movies.  How fortunate that we were able to have the same young actors throughout the ten-year film-making odyssey.  It took all these stories for young Harry to become the man he needed to be to defeat the evil that confronted him throughout.  Daniel Radcliffe will forever be everyone’s vision of the boy wizard who grew up before our eyes.

Click on any movie title above to see the trailer.

See also: In Another Language, Watching Foreign Language Films, SERENDIPITY, August 29, 2021.

THE NEXT TO LAST STOP

This short story originally ran on SERENDIPITY.

The Inconvenience Store, by Rich Paschall

It was a peaceful summer evening.  The sun had just set.  The air was warm and the light breeze was refreshing.  Jorge had walked three blocks from his small apartment to the local convenience store for a Big Drink and Big Sandwich combination.  He had little food at home and did not feel like making anything anyway.  It felt good to take a walk on such a pleasant evening.  There was nothing quite like summer in the city.

There were a few others in the small store but Jorge paid no attention to them.  He went directly to the soft drink machine and then on to the Sandwich Stop.  After he made his selection, he noticed there was a bit of a commotion at the front of the store.

Three young men rushed in.  They looked like they were in their late teens or early twenties.  Two were tall and wearing white t-shirts and baggy shorts.  The third was a large guy wearing a black sleeveless shirt with some design Jorge could not make out and black baggy jeans.  The big guy was also carrying a machine gun or automatic rifle.  Jorge was unfamiliar with weapons and was not too sure.

Do Not Cross

Do Not Cross

“Don’t anyone move,” the big guy commanded.  “Don’t anyone make a sound neither, not a sound.”

One of the others told the cashier to give him all the money if he wanted to live, and the third thief looked down all the aisles to see if anyone was hiding or there might be trouble there.  The few people in the store had not moved.  The aisle checker then stopped at the cooler and reached in for a twelve-pack of beer, but paused like he did not know if he should steal it.

“Just take it,” the big guy shouted, “and let’s go.” He grabbed the beer and the thief at the counter only collected a small amount of money which he put in a backpack.

As they prepared to leave, there was a small whimper from the next aisle from where Jorge was standing.  In response, the big guy sprayed the aisles with bullets.  Jorge hit the floor.  There was a sharp burning sensation in his abdomen.  His head was groggy and he could not make himself move at all.  He slowly drifted away from the conscious world.

The cashier gasped and as the big guy got to the door he turned and sent a few shots in the direction of the cash register.  The convenience store worker had already hit the floor and shots went over the top of him and heavily damaged the display behind the counter.

As the thieves got to their car, the police were pulling up to the lot.  The cashier had set off a silent alarm when the trouble started and the response had finally arrived.  There was an exchange of gunfire as the young men were able to get in the car and out of the lot, with a squad car in pursuit.

police car

Two officers wearing bulletproof vests had their guns out and cautiously entered the store.  The cashier saw them in a monitor high on a wall and shouted, “Help them, help them.”

One officer carefully went around the counter to find the cashier lying on the floor.  He approached slowly with his gun pointed at the young man.  He had to be sure it was not a trick.  Finally, he helped the trembling cashier to his feet.

The other officer looked down the aisles and immediately called for medical attention for multiple victims.  He searched the aisles before going over to one of the victims.  By the time he checked to see if the first one was alive, more police were in the store and in the parking lot.  One ambulance came onto the lot closely followed by another.  A police officer outside was now obviously taking charge of the scene and ordering onlookers away.  Paramedics rushed into the store and observed pools of blood in two different aisles.  There was a lot of damage caused by the bullets of just one man.

The next thing Jorge was aware of feeling was the burning of his stomach.  It was the sharpest pain of his life.  His head was heavy and he could not open his eyes.  It seemed, however, that he was now lying on his back, rather than face down on the tile floor of the convenience store.  In his stupor, he could not tell where he was or even if he was alive.  He drifted off again.

Three adults were taken to The Resurrection Hospital.  It was the closest trauma center.  The Catholic hospital had become familiar with treating gunshot wounds.  It seems they saw someone every week who had been gunned down.  The victims may have suffered from a gang dispute, domestic violence, armed robbery, or were just innocent bystanders.  The increase of guns had brought an increase of gunshot victims to the Emergency Room.

Sometimes the medical staff could do little more than calling the chaplain to say a prayer.

Back at the convenience store was one more victim.  A ten-year-old boy was going to be taken directly to the morgue.  He would not whimper again.

ONE HIT WONDERS

In case you forgot last year’s golden anniversary celebration, here is our Top Ten countdown again. This list originally ran on SERENDIPITY

1970 Edition, by Rich Paschall

Everyone likes to get invited to the party, but imagine getting invited to just one party…ever. That’s how it must have felt for these 1970 rockers who climbed high on the rock and roll charts just one time. They may have had minor successes with other songs, but only one big hit.

In the summertime, when the weather is hot, You can stretch right up and touch the sky

A one-hit wonder is “an act that has won a position on [the] national, pop, Top 20 record chart just once” according to The Billboard Book of One-Hit Wonders. Some of these one-hit wonders have made a career out of it and are still going. Others have become just a footnote in rock and roll history. In order to celebrate the occasion, we have decided to throw a fiftieth birthday party for the following artists and songs. So come across those White Plains and watch out for those Five Stair Steps when you arrive. O-o-h Child, you will feel like a Mississippi Queen when The Rapper gets going. So, Ma Belle Amie, we want to see you movin’ and groovin’ to my personal Top Ten choices.

10. Tighter, Tighter by Alive and Kicking. Written by Bobby King and Tommy James (Yes, that Tommy James) the song was released in June and reached number 7 by August. Tommy James and the Shondells recorded it years later with little success.

09. Hey There Lonely Girl by Eddie Holman. This was released as Hey There Lonely Boy by Ruby and the Romantics in 1963. It did not chart. This version made it to number 2 on the Billboard 100.

08. All Right Now by Free. These English rockers scored with this one. The story is this was written by bassist Andy Fraser and singer Paul Rodgers after a particularly bad live performance.

Ride captain ride, Upon your mystery ship, On your way to a world that others might have missed

07. Ride Captain Ride by Blues Image. This was the only Top 40 hit for this American band. “As a storm was blowin’ out on the peaceful sea, Seventy-three men sailed off to history.”  That’s sort of like this song.

06. Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes) by Edison Lighthouse. The group was basically a studio creation. The song was number 5 in the US but went to number 1 in the UK. It has a similar sound to another one-hit-wonder that year. My Baby Loves Lovin by White Plains may have had the same lead singer. Tony Burrows did studio singing and is often reported as the real voice here. He did work on the song. You decide.

Honorable Mention: We would absolutely be remiss if we failed to mention Rubber Duckie by Ernie (of Sesame Street). Yes, he has been involved in many songs over the years, but alas, this was his only song to hit the charts. It seems the tune was so popular up and down Sesame Street that it was released as a single and climbed the pop charts all the way to number 16 by September of that year.

05. In The Summertime by Mungo Jerry. There actually is no “Mungo Jerry.” The band is named after Mungojerrie from T.S. Eliot’s book, Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. The song was written by lead singer Ray Dorset.

04. Montego Bay by Bobby Bloom. The song was co-authored by Bloom. It is written about a Jamaican city of the same name.

03. Spirit in the Sky by Norman Greenbaum. The singer claims to have written the lyrics in 15 minutes’ time. It was a popular tune on the AM radio rock stations in Chicago in early 1970. It reached number 3 on the US Billboard Hot 100.

02. Venus by Shocking Blue. The Dutch rockers topped the charts in nine countries with this tune, including the US.

01. Vehicle by Ides of March. The local rock band was a favorite in Chicago. In fact, they still are.  When I was in high school, they were playing “sock hops” at other high schools. When Vehicle hit in 1970 it was on the Big 89, WLS 890 AM on our radio dials ALL THE TIME!

To hear any of the songs above just click on the title. To hear them all, go to my One Hit Wonders playlist here.

See also: One Wonderful Moment, 1968 Edition,” SERENDIPITY, May 13, 2018.
Good Old Rock ‘N Roll, One Hit Wonders of 1969,” SERENDIPITY, March 10, 2019.

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?