From the monthly archives: "October 2010"

Me & Minette Goodman

Oct. 11, 2010

Let me take a minute to write about living in the moment.

Sunday 10/10/10 was a remarkable Indian Summer day in Chicago, something like the 11th straight day of clear blue skies. People were running around—literally-to soak up the sun. Even by dusk I saw folks from the Chicago Marathon strolling around north side streets with medallions around their neck. There always is a finish line, but no so much if you are truly in the moment.

My weekend was filled with thoughts from Chicago past. On Saturday night I began reading “Royko in Love,” (University of Chicago Press, David, a collection of 114 love letters the gritty-on-the-surface Chicago newspaper columnist wrote to his future wife between 1954 and 1955 while stationed in the Air Force. In his introduction, Royko’s son David write tht the tone was from “…the pain of self-doubt and the fear of losing what is so close, but literally so far.” Royko’s wife Carol died suddenly in 1979 of a cerebral aneurysm on Mike Royko’s 47th birthday. She was only 44.

“They say that a sincere love increases with time,” Royko signed off June 11, 1954, “So until tomorrow when I’ll love you more than I do today.”

Mike Royko with sons Rob (left) and David at the Chicago Daily News-Sun-Times Building in 1968. The Trump Tower stands at the old S-T site (Courtesy of David Royko)

While stationed in rural Washington state, Royko writes of his desire to go to the Edgewater Beach Hotel and walk along the lakefront. Edgewater Beach is a place that was special to my parents and in recent summers have provided scenes of my own. “I’ve never been to most of the so-called better places in Chicago because there has never been anyone that I wanted to go with,” the 21-year-old Royko writes.
I’ve been to that place.

On Sunday afternoon I dropped in on the ceremony to rename the Lakeview post office the Steve Goodman Post Office Building. The beloved Chicago singer-songwriter/Cubs fan knew he was living on borrowed time. He packed two lifetimes in one before dying of leukemia in 1984. He was 36. Eight days after his death the Cubs won their first post-season game since 1945 on a sun-drenched north side not unlike Sunday’s weather. This was not lost on me.

I was in a hurry to get to the wedding of Alice FitzGerald, the daughter of my friend Bill FitzGerald. But my compatriot Diane talked me into stopping at the post office. We slowed down. (I figured that a post office event probably wouldn┬╣t start on time.) While driving around in my timeless Pontiac of 104,000 miles we had been talking about this theme of not worrying about the future. The Goodman detour was a good call.

The dedication was playful and touching, illuminating Goodman’s spirit.
U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley introudced to the bill to rename the post office and I loved his comment about how our cars were getting towed by Lincoln Park Towing (a Goodman song topic) during the dedication. I was in such a good mood I didn’t lay all my issues about the 2010 Cubs on Cubs owner Tom Ricketts, who stood near me.

Bonnie Koloc tore my heart out with a searing take of Goodman’s “I Can’t Sleep (When I Can’t Sleep With You)” and Michael Smith and his wife Barbara Barrow delivered a weathered version of Smith’s “The Dutchman” that was popularized by Goodman. The crowd of more than 200 friends and family gently sang along on the chorus:

Let us go to the banks of the ocean/ Where the walls rise above the Zuider Zee.
Long ago, I used to be a young man/ And dear Margaret remembers that for me.

So the next gotcha moment was during Bill FitzGerald’s speech about the love of his daughter.
Bill was nervous and was overcome by emotion a couple of times during his comments. They were moments of truth.

He spoke how FitzGerald’s nightclub was being scouted for the 1986 Paul Newman film “The Color of Money.” The film’s art director Boris Levin liked FitzGerald’s because of “that baby” in the adjacent front apartment. That baby was Alice.

—I knew the bride when she rock n’ rolled (Photos by Diane Soubly)—

Bill stopped to compose himself and wiped a tear away from his eye. Like a shoebox full of snapshots sliding off a shelf, I’m sure a collection of moments overwhelmed him.

Scott Ligon’s wonderful Western Swing/honky tonk Western Elstons played songs like “Sentimental Journey” with former NRBQ bandleader Terry Adams sitting in on piano. Zak and Alice’s wedding song was the Beach Boys ballad “God Only Knows.” Love doesn’t exist in the future, which sounds like a Buck Owens song the band could have played.

—Western Elstons with special guest Terry Adams on piano—-

At age 80, Bill’s mom Margaret proved to be a fantastic dancer, Kate and Diane were keen photographers and guests played souvenir harmonicas with “10/10/10 Zak & Allice Kloska” inscribed on the side.

We danced, we drank and we toasted—not so much to the future, but to moments like these.

l to r: Cindy/Rosie, Diane, Dave, Bill Fitz

Salsa albums I bartered for before they got ripped off at the Bogota airport.

Oct. 6, 2010

People are scared of things they don’t know.

So for most of September I was the only white guy taking introductory salsa at the Dance Academy of Salsa & Modern Latin Dance in the Humboldt Park neighborhood of Chicago. The storefront studio is not far from my home and before my first lesson I circled the block with the windmilled apprehension of a first date.

But on my first visit I cut the rug with awkward Puerto Rican men, a fun Cuban woman, a shy Africn-American guy and an African-American woman who said I made her laugh.
I did not pursue further questioning.

I am half Dutch and a big part of my legacy is wooden shoes. And it felt as if I was wearing heavy butternut shoes as I tried to master the snappy 4/4 time of salsa. Let’s review: 1, right foot forward, hold on the 2, back left on the 3, hold on the 4. I suddenly discovered the balls of my feet.

I was heading to Cali, Colombia for a travel assignment. Located in the balmy western part of the country, Cali is the world capital of salsa. I had to know something. You don’t go to New York without a Sinatra song.

My instructor Miguel Mendez gave me confidence and claimed I progressed through each of my four lessons (at $15 a session). But just like close dancing or a long distance relationship, it was two steps forward, one step back.

I don’t even like mirrors. The academy is filled with full length mirrors so dancers can check themselves out. One tall beautifiul woman with stilletto heels always arrives for the advanced class at the end of our class. She never looks away from the mirror. I want to tell her that one of my favorite country songs is Lefty Frizzell’s 1973 hit “I Never Go Around Mirrors.” Maybe when we get to line dancing.

Then, “Dancing With the Stars” debuted as I left for Colombia.

I have never watched “Dancing With the Stars.” But on my plane ride I read about contestant Michael Bolton. Eech.! People have said I look like him. Now I think I dance like him, too. Bolton echoed my thoughts when he told U.S.A. Today what hurts as he dances: “My brain. The hardest part is grasping all the moving parts and executing in a fluid form.”

That’s my problem with salsa. I love the music, especially Tito Puente and
Joe Bataan. I worry about the steps I take. I think about my partner. I try to keep my head level.
Its like raising a family.

Many years ago my pal John Hughes and I learned how to dance the merengue with a couple of Dominican women in a rural bootleg bar outside of Santiago, D.R. We figured that out in one night. Its pretty much back and forth which we covered at my dance academy.
But I am becoming a willing participant is all things salsa. I learned how the “cumbia step” is deployed in Colombia, which impressed absoultely no one when I shared that factoid in Colombia. At the end of each hour long session Mendez sells tight fitting black salsa tee shirts and instructional CDs and DVDs. I forked over $15 for a 1/2/3/4 salsa CD which I’m sure thrills my downstairs neighbors. Fortunately, I did not lose that CD when my laptop and briefcase (with a couple of vintage salsa LPS) were stolen in the Bogota, Colombia airport just before I flew home.

I’m not that outgoing and salsa dance lessons are a good exercise to get me out of my comfort zone. My life coaches Colleen and Jackie at the Matchbox approved of this new turn in my life, probably since it will keep me away from their bar moaning and complaining. Now that winter is around the corner, I’ll probably continue with my salsa adventures. Watch out. I’m stepping out when I’m not stepping on your toes.