Category Archives: Dave Hoekstra

Hot Air

Criminal Behavior

This day, 49 years ago, Alabama state state troopers and Selma city police kicked the living bejesus out of a large group of people who had the nerve to violate the Deep South’s most cherished and rigidly reinforced system of laws.

That is, Jim Crow.

Led by folks like John Lewis, now a Democratic member of US Congress from Georgia, that group of people wanted to be allowed to vote. That urge, in the Deep South in those days, was more heinous than the urge to molest a child or assassinate a president. Lewis, for one, paid for his depravity by getting his skull broken by a trooper’s nightstick.

Today, the benighted Right has more subtle methods of prevented dark skinned Americans from voting.

Storytellers

So, as expected, Rand Paul is the darling of the CPAC wingnuts again this year, winning the ultra-conservative fap fest’s annual straw poll of fave prez candidates.

And, in a shocker, coming in third was the fabulist, Dr. Ben Carson, whose claim to fame is his bestselling book, America the Beautiful, a treatise that informs us that this holy land is really heaven on Earth and things like poverty, racism, sexism, and any other purported sins of our nation are commie lies.

These two guys are the Tea Party wing of the GOP in a nutshell. While telling us this is greatest, most perfect nation in  the history of all humankind, they warn us that it’s populated by a bunch of lazy, immoral, dependent-on-gov’t, Hollywood-liberal-loving, crypto-socialist takers.

Paul/Carson

Darlings

I believe the psychologists and psychiatrists of the world would call that type of personality schizophrenic.

A Real Storyteller

Above all else, Dave Hoekstra is a Cubs fan. That alone makes him, in my eyes, a human being worthy of esteem.

Add to that, though, the fact that he’s spent the last 29 years telling stories about Chicagoans. He was more Studs Terkel than Mike Royko. He wasn’t going to raise his morning readers’ blood pressure by exposing an outrage perpetrated by a petit tyrant in some city office. He didn’t tackle the broad and terrifying issues of the world. No, he simply went out on the streets of the city and met its residents.

And then he told us their stories.

More, Hoekstra was the only white media being I can think of who’d talk to and write about black people who weren’t exclusively drug dealers or street prostitutes or somehow being terrorized by a soulless, racist world. He introduced us to black people who were, well, people.

Hoekstra also intro’d us to musicians, entrepreneurs, poets, lawyers, salespeople, weekend athletes, and all the other occupations and vocations people can be. If you wanted to know the city of Chicago, you read Dave Hoekstra.

Hoekstra

Dave Hoekstra

Now, no more. The Chicago Sun-Times, in yet another in an endless series of cost-cutting moves, has laid off a pile of people. One of whom is Dave Hoekstra.

That’s it. You give an outfit 29 years of your life and, boom, they tell you to take a hike because, well…, because shareholders’ needs are paramount to all things. (I’ll ruminate more on that in tomorrow’s post).

Hoekstra’s pushing 60. He’s not rich. He plods along, financially, just like you and me. And now he’s out of a job. A job he is great at. A job he did admirably and consistently for three decades. A job he ain’t got anymore.

You say newspapers are dying? This is one good one reason why they should be.

[BTW: You want to know how much of a Cubs fan Hoekstra is? When the Cubs opened the 2000 season in Tokyo, as part of a Major League Baseball effort to expand the reach of the game beyond international boundaries, he flew to Japan to catch the game. That’s a fan.]

Your Daily Hot Air

There’s A Riot Goin’ On

It’s an anniversary of sorts. This day, 43 years ago, Sly and the Family Stone was scheduled to play at the old Grant Park Bandshell, just north of the Field Museum on Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive. Tens of thousands of people showed up for the free show, many of them, no doubt, veterans of the street violence that had beset the city over the previous couple of years.

S&TFS

Sly And The Family Stone

In April 1968, there’d been the Martin Luther King riots and, later that month, an unprovoked police attack upon peaceful anti-war protesters in the Loop. Toss in the Democratic National Convention in August, the shooting war between the local Black Panthers and the cops throughout the spring and summer of ’69, and the Days of Rage in October, and you’ve got some battle hardened folks who likely were present that day on Chicago’s lakefront. That is, both uniformed and not.

S&TFS had disappointed their Chicago fans three times already in 1970, repeatedly cancelling shows at the last minute. More specifically, Sly Stone had let ticket holders down. See, Sly had fallen in love with cocaine and PCP, going so far as to carry around a violin case stuffed with the illegal drugs. He’d come under the influence of certain members of the LA Black Panthers who told him he should make more revolutionary-oriented music and to get rid of the white members of his group. Sly also hired a mobster and his drug dealer to be his bodyguards. He became paranoid, convinced that his bandmates were conspiring against him.

All in all, Sly’s life was going to hell and, natch, his productivity suffered.

[MG Note, April, 2018: A reader points out that Kahn and Rufus (or Ask Rufus) was not the opening act (see comments). Unfortunately, I can’t find my original source although I recall it being a dependable one. For the sake of good journalism, let’s ignore the Kahn/Rufus part of this story unless someone else out there can cite a good source for it.]

But all might be forgiven that July afternoon in 1970 because Sly et al would be playing for free. The lead-off act was the West Side funk band Ask Rufus, who’d been playing recently with a dynamic new singer named Chaka Khan. She’d eventually become a member of the group and go on to make gold and platinum reords and win Grammy awards.

Khan

The Young Chaka Khan

 

Even as Khan and Ask Rufus were playing, the crowd (estimates range from 40-75,000 people) pushed forward, threatening to overtake the stage. Tempers became short, the cops on hand got antsy, the late afternoon sun grew hotter, and — wouldn’t you know it? — Sly and the Family Stone was late. Many in the crowd wondered if the band would blow them off yet a fourth time.

Next thing anybody knew, a riot broke out. The police unleashed their dogs and unholstered their service revolvers. Chicago Sun-Times columnist Tom Fitzpatrick wrote the fighting was worse than that during the ’68 Convention. According to Khan, the helicopter carrying Sly and his band neared the bandshell and when Sly saw the mayhem, he directed the pilot to turn back.

Photo by Gene Reynolds

The Wrath After Khan

Other reports have it that the Chicago police stopped the car carrying the band as they were heading to the Bandshell, leading to their late arrival.

BTW: Topflight newspaperman Dave Hoekstra has a neat little piece about the riot and Chaka Khan in today’s Sun-Times.

Anyway, the Bandshell riot seemed to be one of the mournful codas of the Sixties. along with the Kent State and Jackson State killings, the Manson Family, and Altamont. All the dreams and dynamism were swept away in orgies of drugs and violence.

I wanted so much to be part of the counterculture back then but I was a tad young for it. I wanted to protest the war, work for social justice, push for civil rights, and hang with all the cool hippies.

Maybe I was lucky.

Vandal In Chief

So, somebody splashed green paint on the statue of Lincoln at his eponymous Memorial. Many people think it was actually nail polish. And, it seems, everybody has an opinion as to whodunit.

Lincoln Vandalism

Photo By Scott Applewhite/AP

You know how this works. Depending on what side of the fence you stand, you know in your heart it was someone on the other side who did it.

I so very much want the perpetrator(s) to be Right Wingers, Me Party-ists, or fans of Ted Nugent. Better yet, George Zimmerman.

The other side, of course, wants the vandal(s) to be my people. Some already are saying that because the paint-or-polish is green, it’s got to be those crazy eco-maniacs. You know, tree-huggers and owl-lovers.

So I went to The Blaze, the interwebs home of the likes of Glenn Beck and other yipping hyenas, to see what the zeitgeist is on that side of the sanity demarcation line. And — whaddya know? — they’ve got the villain sussed!

Well, of course, the person to blame for this outrage is none other than that noted Gay Commie Abortionist from Kenya.

From The Blaze

Now you know.

A Family Affair

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“Whether women are better than men I cannot say — but I can say they are certainly no worse.” — Golda Meir

IT’S DOWN TO YOU

Wait a minute!

You mean to tell me that the average woman still is making about 77 cents to the average man’s dollar?

And the Senate and the House aren’t in any particular hurry to rectify the situation?

Here’s a personal message to my friends who possess different plumbing than I do:

Do something about it! Because men sure as hell aren’t gonna do it for you.

Would it be so godawful for women to stage a Euro-style general strike for, say, a day or even two after congressional Republicans, as expected, squelch the Paycheck Fairness Act?

DO NOT FORGET

Click the logo to find out what’s going on in Bloomington today.

GOT ENOUGH?

I’m not against people making piles of dough. I dream about it and, most likely, so do you.

But when is the pile big enough? Does the job that Cigna CEO David Cordani does warrant a paycheck that amounts to more than $50K a day?

What talents bordering on magic does he bring to the office that would impel his company to devote that much of its financial resources to him lest he up and work for somebody else?

And who else would pay him that kind of dough?

All I know is, I have a friend who visits a food hub once a month. Each time she visits, she is able to load up a single bag, for which she pays nothing. Some months, she’ll haul in several Marie Callender’s frozen dinner entrees. Other months, she’ll have a couple of boxes of granola bars among her swag.

She does this because she has to.

My friend is hardworking. The outfit that employs her would suffer if she left. She has certain talents that are unique.

Yet she doesn’t make $50k in two whole years.

Maybe I just don’t get this whole economics business.

A MIGHTY HOT DOG MAN

Dave Hoekstra of the Sun-Times points out that the guy who brought Paul Bunyan to Cicero, Illinois, has died.

Hamlet Arthur Stephens ran a hot dog joint called — what else? — Paul Bunyon’s [sic] on Ogden Avenue, once designated US Rte. 66, for many years. He got hold of a nearly-20-feet-tall fiberglass statue of of the legendary woodsman in the early ’60s and had an even more outsized hot dog built to be cradled in the big lug’s arms.

I used to pass the statue regularly back in the mid-’70s when I had a girlfriend whose family lived in nearby Berwyn. It always bugged me that Bunyon was misspelled, but now I learn that Hamlet purposely replaced that A with an O so he wouldn’t be sued for copyright infringement.

And the funny thing is, the towering man — yep, even taller than Bloomington’s own Tall Steve — wasn’t meant to be Paul Bunyan in the first place. He was one of dozens of similar such statues created for gas stations and car repair shops. The story I always heard was that Cicero’s big guy originally had a muffler in his mitts.

Anyway, I was saddened when I learned that the hot dog gargantuan was taken down nearly ten years ago, back when I still lived in Chi. Paul Bunyon’s had closed and had been replaced by a Mexican restaurant.

Coincidentally, a scant two weeks ago the local newspaper for tiny Atlanta, Illinois, ran a piece about area volunteers cleaning up that town’s biggest “man.” Yep, it was the same statue that for some 40 years had beckoned hungry drivers to pull off Ogden Avenue and stop in for a wienie or two.

BTW: here’s the makeup of the traditional Chicago hot dog:

  • Boiled Vienna or David Berg tubesteak
  • Steamed Mary Ann brand poppyseed bun
  • Yellow mustard
  • Chopped onions
  • Tomato
  • Relish (the weirdly neon green kind)
  • Hot peppers (optional)
  • Dill pickle wedge (optional)
  • Celery salt (optional)
  • French fries placed alongside the dog and the whole package wrapped tightly in paper

Putting ketchup on a dog in Chicago has always been considered tantamount to perversion. Here’s a confession: I always took my dog with nothing but mustard and ketchup. A guy told me once that I clearly wasn’t a real Chicagoan when he heard me order my frank thusly.

Perhaps that’s why I left the city.

The Pencil Today

THE QUOTE

“Some people ask the secret of our long marriage. We take time to go to a restaurant two times a week. A little candlelight, dinner, soft music and dancing. She goes Tuesdays, I go Fridays.” — Henny Youngman

VI WILL VIE

Hoosier Dems are going all in for women this election year.

I’m all for it.

Gubernatorial candidate John Gregg is putting his money on Vi Simpson, the Indiana Senate Democratic  Caucus leader, as his running mate on the Democratic ticket. He’ll make the announcement today.

Vi And Her Guy

Simpson joins the state’s Ninth District Congressional candidate Shelli Yoder on the November ballot.

It’s a gamble and it’s a good one.

Indians has been turning monochromatic (red) since Barack Obama squeezed out a narrow victory here in 2008. Senator Evan Bayh retired and was replaced by retread Dan Coats in the 2010 election. Congressman Baron Hill got the thumb that year as well and watched altar boy Todd Young fly to Washington.

The Dems need to turn to their ace in the hole — women — to reverse that trend.

Neither Shelli Yoder nor Vi Simpson will strike rural voters as wild-eyed, radical femi-nazis — that is, of course, unless said suffragists have been so conditioned by the Fox News gang to see all those to the left of John Birch as loyalty risks, traitors, and saboteurs.

Democrats have no hope of ever luring those voters away from the GOP.

I’m not deluded enough to think Indiana may turn touchy-feely liberal Democrat any time soon (or even later) but the Dems must put up a better fight than they have of late.

Even Obama’s surprising victory here owed more to the upset stomach that the Bush/McCain/Palin bunch induced in the voting public than anyone’s great desire to see an almost-liberal take the White House.

But, jeez, folks — if even the People’s Republic of Bloomington can’t put a Dem in its own Congressional seat then these precincts truly have become a one-party monolith.

TERPSICHOREANS

My old man came from the generation that knew how to dance.

No matter how paunchy, tubby, clumsy, or homely a guy who grew up during the Great Depression was, the minute a wedding band would strike its first chord, he could jump up and sweep his equally awkward wife across the dance floor as if he were a combination of Gene Kelly and Jack Kennedy.

They’re Playing Our Song, Jackie

It never ceased to amaze me that Dad and all my uncles could become as smooth as silk when the music started. I mean, I knew these these guys wore black socks with their slippers at home, that they were more adept at producing a variety of different flatulent tones than cooing sweet nothings in their brides’ ears, and that the simple act of getting up out of the La-Z-Boy was for them akin to scaling a medium-sized mountain.

So how could they also be these fabulous dancers?

Old Joe Glab could also swing a shoe to a polka tune like nobody’s business. Polka dancing demanded a certain level of physical exertion that in other circumstances would be guaranteed to strike Dad and all his peers immediately dead from myocardial infarct.

Yet he and his contemporaries could polka all the night long.

When I was 21 and 22 I could undulate my hips to funk or disco five nights a week. I could pogo to punk with the best of them. But at some indeterminant point in my life, I lost the ability to dance.

I learned this dramatically one Friday night about a dozen years ago. I went out on a date with a hot tomato divorcee named Robbie. She and her ex were big-time art dealers in Chicago. We had dinner, then she suggested we go out dancing. Cool.

So we zoomed up to Joe Shanahan’s uber-trendy Smart Bar near Wrigley Field. I’d spent many a long night gyrating and sweating to the likes of Alison Moyet and Rick James there in the mid-80s so I figured I could still reach back and put the good moves on.

I Could Ride The White Pony With My Eyes Closed

We dashed out on the floor and started in. Robbie acquitted herself quite nicely — I, on the other hand, felt as though I’d suddenly turned into an epileptic. I could no more keep to the beat than a Mormon.

I looked around and saw all these kids half my age slithering the way I once could. Some of them, I have to admit, were eying me critically. As in, What the fk?

It felt as though the DJ was aiming a spotlight at me. Come to think of it, he may have been. Of course, I became even stiffer and more dopey.

More kids started staring at me. I was certain they’d go home that night, fall asleep, and then wake up with a start, horrified at the memory of what they’d seen. Worse, I could imagine them imagining that Robbie and I would go home later and, ugh, have sex. (We didn’t.) I’d scarred the poor kids for life.

How could I lose it all so quickly? And why were Dad and his generation able to keep it well into their 60s and 70s?

Life is unfair.

I’m reminded of all this because Dave Hoekstra of the Sun-Times Facebooked the news that Chicago’s polka king, Eddie Blazonczyk, died yesterday.

Just about everybody from the dancing generation is gone now.

Soon — very soon — the only males left in the world who can dance will be those under the age of 30.

Did I mention that life is unfair?

VIRAL PIE

Yet another reason why the interwebs is (are?) the greatest single invention of mankind.

Without my connection to the faux/real world, I would never have known this pizza joint ever existed:

Me? I wanna go there, eat a slice, and then stand outside the place scratching at the corner of my mouth. Imagine the looks on people’s faces as they drive by.

Yeah, I’m deranged.

Anyway, BuzzFeed has ten more such iffy trade monikers. Go there and laugh.

The Pencil Today:

SAVINGS BE DAMNED — VOTE CENTERS ARE A NO-GO

The race went according to form yesterday. The lone Republican on the Monroe County election commission ixnayed vote centers.

Commissioner Judith Smith-Ille said hell no to the proposed plan which would have replaced the county’s 90 voter precincts with a smaller number of strategically located vote centers.

Smith-Ille: No Means No

The vote center plan would have made it easier for voters — including IU college students — to cast their ballots in next year’s presidential beauty contest. It also would have saved tons of dough and streamlined counting and reporting procedures.

Smith-Ille shook her head and said she was worried about how people in wheelchairs and such would get into the centers.

Me? I’m guessing it has a hell of a lot more to do with keeping those pesky college students away from the polls — especially since they tended to vote Democratic in 2008.

On the bright side, this GOP gambit is a refreshing change of pace. Republicans invariably embrace anything that saves cash. Perhaps my Republican friends are getting help for that particular addiction.

If so, keep up the good work, guys. We may yet bring you around to supporting costly things like social services, education, health care, and other human needs.

JANUARY JONES MOVES ON

Sad news from the world headquarters of WFHB radio. News hound extraordinaire January Jones is out as News Director.

The Real January Jones

January and I spent many an afternoon pounding out stories for the 5:30PM Daily Local News. She worked herself ragged transcribing countless (and seemingly endless) city and county meetings for CATS Week. Often she’d show up in the newsroom running on an hour or less of sleep.

She took over the News Department after Chad Carrothers was kicked upstairs to the General Manager’s chair. The transition was as seamless as could it be.

Assistant News Director Alycin Bektesh will watch over the operation for the time being until Chad and the board can name a permanent victim…, er, replacement.

Alycin Bektesh

CRUEL TO BE KIND

Dave Hoekstra, Chicago Sun-Times columnist and denizen of that legendary watering hole, The Matchbox, hit me with a nostalgia stick in the middle of the night.

Sun-Timesman Dave Hoekstra

I couldn’t sleep so I went online, natch. Flipped through Facebook and found a post from him linking to one of the great pure pop songs of all time. “Cruel to Be Kind” by Nick Lowe.

Lowe was a member of the Stiff Records stable of coolness. He and Dave Edmunds (“Girls Talk”) were part of the advance guard (including Elvis Costello) of what would become the British post-punk invasion.

The song was power pop at its finest. And the video perfectly captures the feel of the early art form. People are actually having fun in it, albeit sort of a clunky, nervous, what-am-I-supposed-to-do-next kind of fun.

When I DJ’d the overnight shift at WUIC, the University of Illinois-Chicago‘s station, I would play “Cruel to Be Kind” at least once every single airshift.

And to prove I’m not dead yet, I listened to and watched the vid five straight times at around 1:30 this morning. Thanks, Hoekstra!

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