Monday, August 24, 2009

A Healthy Industry

What do you do for a living?

Doctor? Lawyer? Banker? Car Salesman?

CEO of a major pharmaceutical company?

It doesn't really matter.

Not really.

As you know, faithful readers, I am a musician, and these pages are dedicated to the life and lifestyle of the working musician. I write about the positive and the negative aspects of my occupation; the trials and tribulations; righteous treatment and minor indignities.

The good, the bad, and the ugly (cue the music.)

However, just like the majority of you all (from what I've observed, anyways,) the main thing on my mind these days is health care and how to overhaul this shaky-at-best industry. Hence the lag time since my last diatribe of demonstrative drivel.

I haven't had the heart or the muse by my side to say anything. It all seemed irrelevant.

Now, I don't want to bore you with the gory details of the 1000-plus page health care reform bill that is sitting at the crossroads of America's future. You can read it yourself if you want (hey,you'd have a leg up over virtually all of our so-called (non) representatives in government- kudos to you and your tenacity.)

Better brew a few pots o' joe. It's gonna take a while.

My intention here is not to convince you of anything within the bill. Personally, I'm in favor of "Death Panels". I think it makes life just a bit more spicy.

(For those of you who can't seem to find your sense of humor, that was a joke.)

Rather, as a living instrument of providing pleasure, entertainment, and a general diversion from your everyday worries and concerns, my purpose is to remind you that we are all in this together and nobody, I mean NOBODY, is better than anyone else.

Something that I've been hearing a lot of, lately, is the fact that some people think that what they do in life holds a level of importance that is higher than other peoples' paths. I assume you've been noticing it too.


"I do such and such and I've been doing it for so many years, and I work hard, and why should so and so deserve what I have because so and so only does such and such and that's hardly fair."

The American mantra. Our, gasp, religion if you will. Money money money. The solver of problems and the root of all evil. The purveyor of flat-screen t.v.'s and thirst quencher for the taxman.

The bounty that gave you "Cash for Clunkers". How cute. I love the pet names we give things. Right up there with the "Passenger's Bill of Rights".

So who's more "productive"? Better yet, who's worthy? That seems to be the question. Is it the brain surgeon? The Wall Street exec.? The garbage man? The gremlin who spends the day writing parking tickets?

Maybe it's the web designer. Or the librarian. Or the taxicab driver.

Or the person who volunteers at the food pantry.

Seems to me that they are all valuable in one way or another. They all do their job, presumably well, and they live their lives.

This certainly holds true with me. I'm a highly trained, highly skilled specialist. Sure, I can't repair your frontal lobe (nor would you want me to), but you probably can't play a shuffle worthy of the price of admission (which is becoming free in more and more places.) Sounds trivial? Sure, on some level, I suppose, but it's a valid point. I've worked long and hard to be able to do what I do. I do it at a high level, and that cannot be trivialized.

My point is that we should all be able to go to the doctor (or dentist or shrink or marriage counselor.) There are too many resources in our once-great country for anybody to be left behind (another cute title; another bureaucratic failure.)

None of us should have to be concerned about life-long bankruptcy should something bad happen to us. None of us should be concerned that we had a cold once as a child and now, as an adult, we have pneumonia and it's suddenly a pre-existing condition.

There should be no fear of getting sick because of the cost (you're scared enough, now that your coughing blood.) The premise is un-Christian, un-Jewish, un-Muslim, un-Buddhist, and unkind. This kind of attitude will inevitably lead to people just dying in the streets. You think I'm kidding? This is where we're headed. Who lives and who dies? There will be no "Death Panels" deciding fates like this. It will be your senators, congressmen, governors, and presidents deciding these things.

Indirectly, of course, but that will be the result nonetheless.

And then there will be a revolution, violent and ugly. It most certainly WILL be televised too.

The only solution to all of this, of course, is to eliminate the pairing of "health" with "industry". Our health is not a commodity to be bought and sold. It certainly is not to be compromised for the benefit of someones profit. That's a conflict of interest. The rub, if you will. If the "industry" is concerned about turning a profit above all else, then your health, and your health care, is compromised. It doesn't matter what the wording of the bill or law is. If profit comes first, then you and your family do not.


So the single-payer, government run system is the only choice we have. We cannot, in good conscience, "reward" and "penalize" people based on their so-called contributions to society. Everyone is different, we all make different choices. The American way (allegedly) urges us to do our best and be our best. We teach our children that "if you put your mind to it, you can do anything and be anything you want to be."

Life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and all that.

So it goes...

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Short Burst Series- Follow up Calls

Hello? Hello?

Did you hear that? Of course you didn't.

'Cause you didn't call me back.

One of the most annoying things that we musicians deal with is the lack of having our calls returned. Club owners, festival owners, wedding planners, etc., are regularly guilty of not calling you when they say they will. Even though their event is the largest thing going on in their worlds ("I've just been so crazy busy getting ready for the such and such event and I've only got 37 weeks left!) they, by and large, are not reachable by phone to take care of their own business.

Their own interests.

It's in our own interests, too, of course. We like to have dates secure in our calendar.

That translates to cash secure in our pocket.

Theirs too, presumably.

That being said, can anyone please tell me why, oh why, musicians would do that to other musicians?

As an aside, and obviously with some exceptions (a couple guys come to mind as of late, and you are hereby exempt from this rant. I'm happy to do that for you,) if you want to give me a gig, then give me a gig. Don't call to see if I'm available on that particular date and then tell me you'll get back to me because of some (irrelevant) extenuating circumstance.

I'm on the phone with you right now. Let's just take care of it. You needed someone and you called me. There must have been a reason for that, right?


If you must call me back, though (and I'm still willing to be available, hint hint,) then please do it. It was bad enough you had to waste your own time, for several days probably, getting the gig in the first place (incidentally, you still need a drummer.) Your fresh off of that particular minor indignity, so don't pass it along. Call me when you say you will, don't make me chase you down (it's your gig, remember? You should be so lucky that I'm the kind of guy that would stay on top of your affairs for my own interests.)

It's bad karma, and doesn't motivate me to spend a whole lot of time learning your tunes.

So it goes...

Monday, August 3, 2009

Be Happy and Gay- Market Days

The band (BMR4) played Market Days, yesterday.

Boystown, Chicago style.

What a good time! I gotta say, I can't recall a gig where the BMR4 Solid Gold Dancers actually showed up. (There's a reality show in there somewhere.)

The Halsted St. Market Days festival is one of the best in the city. Just like any of the various city festivals throughout the summer, there was a lot of food and music and vendors peddling their wares.

The difference between this particular festival and all of the others is that Market Days draws a truly diverse crowd. Usually, on the North Side, the "mighty whitey" reigns supreme at these summer fetes. Such was the case of an unnamed "retro fest" that was a mere block from the home of yours truly.

That really says something about Chicago. You see, we Chicagoans tend to think that our city is diverse and international.

Except we're not.

Sure, there are representatives from hundreds of other countries and cultures located in Chicago. There are many languages, a lot of interesting food, et al. But as I've pointed out in previous posts, Chicago is still very much a racist city.

At Market Days, though, you'd never know it. You get all kinds of people: gay (the dominating group, natch), straight, black, white, boys, girls, Latino, Asian, Democrats, "greenies", and even the usually-despicable Republicans.

Sure, they're welcome too.

And you know what? Everybody got along swimmingly (likely, the appearance of the Village People played a strong part in the harmonious vibes and good karma.) I didn't see any fights, I didn't notice any thick-necked frat boys being obnoxiously loud and, well, obnoxious. I didn't hear anybody complaining about activities that other festival-goers were indulging in (use your imaginations, you dirty dogs.)

I saw one guy sitting up against a street light and, um, napping. He was covered in dry puke; pretty sure it was his own. So he was obviously sitting there for quite a while.

Nobody hassled him, even (although we all had that, "Poor bastard," thought going through our collective heads, I'm sure.)

Even the police presence was minimal, it seemed (for Chicago standards, anyways.)

Isn't it ironic that the gay population (not only in Chicago, but all over,) an oftentimes persecuted group of people, throws the best parties (if you are of the gay population, I suppose you wouldn't call it ironic. Normal is probably a better word.) I mean, gay people party with reckless abandon. I don't think that any other group can claim that accolade any more. So long as blood is not drawn (unwillingly, anyways,) you can do what you want in the gay community. Nobody cares.

Everyone, seemingly, gets it.

I find it funny, for sure. After all, I'm in the biological white guy club, I just don't subscribe to a lot of "our" propaganda. Rules for having a good time? Do this, don't do that, can't you read the sign? Stay within the barbed-wire fenced in area? No smoking here? No drinking there? God forbid there's a little weed floating around. And aren't you just a little too happy? Please, you're an embarrassment.

This has everything to do with my profession of choice. As a musician, I've seen the changes in attitude over the last decade in terms of the people coming out to have a "good time". As a result, I've seen the results of the change in attitudes. When I was a young pup coming up through the ranks, most people still knew how to have a good freak out. Music clubs were full all the time. People came out eagerly (yes, yes, I know that it's always been tough to get people to come to your show) and regularly.

Regularly is the key word, I think.

Do kids even have fake id's anymore, or has everyone become just completely addicted to Guitar Hero instead of actual guitar heroes (or are you just petrified of having "youthful indiscretions" on your "permanent record"?)

Since the regularity factor is taken out of the equation, and since there are so many rules to follow, attendance has taken a steady nose dive. Clubs that were hoppin' are now scaling back, whether it's the money the musicians make, or just the number of days the club has music. A lot of festivals have cut their budgets, cut the number of days (hmmm, the Chicago Blues and Jazz fests come to mind,) or just quit altogether.

Sure, the economy is bad, but the laissez faire attitude of so-called party people is worse.

This is a big and diverse world that we live in. Don't forget how to have fun and be happy and gay. People certainly haven't in Boystown.

So it goes...