Chicago style summer relaxation.
Summer in America is a non-working period of time – to be more precise- it does not particularly tune you into the walking mood, very much alike in some Paris, London and other concentrations of the humankind. Chicago city in this sense is not an exception from the rule; it is only during the summertime when the city begins to demonstrate its second face, otherwise largely disguised. Therefore this is the time when the city is changing its image as a city of the big shoulders, the city that works for the new one that implies the resort city in which everyone is getting relaxed. Just like Sotchi, with Navy Pier instead of the embankment and the great lake of Michigan instead of the Black Sea.
Each and every day in summer here is scheduled – though the number of festivities and different events well exceeds a good hundred there are some sacred ones which you are not supposed to miss by any means, by missing them you would commit a great sin. Let’s take The Taste of Chicago for example, this annual festival of gluttony lasting for a whole week hitting the 4th of July, in Grant Park – the central city hang-out for the working people. And, of course, the Ravinia Festival, this one is primarily intended for music esthetics lovers, it comes in combination with picnic at the lawn.
As to the local patriotic day, I personally like it much more than the old domestic ones like the First of May or November the 7th (the First of May is more or less OK) when everyone enjoyed watching rigid military parades on the Red Square in front of the Mausoleum with all these cannons and tanks (I beg your pardon – there weren’t any tanks, however they would like tugging missiles across the square thus demonstrating the same Americans – look at us and tremble with fear, whenever you’d dare to try impose your god damn international imperialism we will do you right away).
Taste of Chicago is favored mainly due to its non annoying atmosphere, marked with animal like laziness – you can always drop by with the company or even by yourself, purchase food tickets and then – just walk through the crowd of fat black women and fat white men, you should grab as much food and beer as you can, get twenty or more cans of Budweiser (at American outdoor festivities you can get only Budweiser or Miller, at the best)) and then you should consume all this inside to make sure you have accumulated enough energy in your body for the evening; when the evening comes the first thing that you need to do -to obtain stripes and stars flags and go to see the fireworks. As the fireworks start you should take inside one or two more cans of Budweiser, wave with your flags and – the most important thing – you must shout – the louder – the better, solidifying with the rest of the people under the accompaniment of bursts and sounds of patriotic music. I hope you know which music here is the most patriotic – you are right, you’ve got it, - the overture on the theme of 1812 by the great “American” composer Tchaikovsky – they play it all the time. Once the fireworks are over you can mingle with the crowd that will be carrying you away from the park toward the city, just like on May the First. Back on Michigan avenue, you have the choice, depending on the circumstances, either 1) to hang out at a local bar for one-two more hours to supplement Budweiser with some Heineken or even Harp – it is not recommended however to supplement Budweiser with Tequila- or 2) after having an hour walk in the city to head directly for the parking – by the time the major traffic should disperse.
Besides tasting food, entertainment is also provided for the people so that people could get entertained culturally. What I like the most – free performances at Perillo Shell, the main summer stage in the city. That year the public was presented with the free concert by the British super rock group YES, one of the most concept minded in the history of rock’n’roll. Of course, I couldn’t miss such an event provided that for at least two years one Russian guy from Moscow named Igor Khoroshev has been paying on the keyboard. By the way this very fact is worth writing about separately – this was the first time in the history of the world show business when a Russian guy became a member of a truly distinguished rock group. The story related to this is the following. Igor was a student at Moscow conservatory or something and he was crazy about YES, Genesis and other titans of art-rock. Then, he got bored to sit in Sovok and he moved to the US, to Boston where he found employment at one company specializing in music software. The guy worked there making music software and practiced on the keyboard whenever he had the time hanging out with local musicians. Meanwhile he worked at studios recording his own stuff and once he got lucky. John Anderson, long time leader and vocalist in YES dropped by the studio to see one sound engineer – his buddy, this sound engineer gave him Igor’s tape (he was also Igor’s buddy) to listen. Anderson after having listened to the tape got so much excited about it – he almost freaked out- so he demanded Igor to come immediately. At the beginning Igor was asked to play a small background keyboard part during the group’s recording session at the studio while working on the next studio album. Igor realized that this was his golden moment and spent hours sitting at home learning the most difficult keyboard parts by YES – most of these tracks were recorded by no less famous group’s keyboardist Rick Wakeman. Later the following happened. The new all American YES tour was announced and the band was scheduled to play the first gig somewhere in California. The first show was sold out and two days before the show Rick Wakeman, also famous for being unreliable, all of a sudden played his next trick when he declared that he got bored with everything and he would not perform with the band, like saying –“fuck with your tour, guys, I’m gonna fly to Europe instead to relax and drink beer”. Truthfully Rick Wakeman would constantly play the same come and go tricks in the past – he became what Ritchie Blackmore was for Deep Purple – perpetual pain in the ass – on the other hands without them these two great bands would never have been possible. To cut the long story short they needed to get out of these dismal situation fast so they immediately started calling up Igor saying “ help us out, brother, come over as soon as you can. This is how Igor became the permanent member of the band.
On that night the band was truly rocking, to my great surprise most of the crowd was rocking too and at least half of the songs being performed on stage people could easily sing along with the band, it should be noted that the YES songs are not that simple – one can hardly sing them as some Kalinka-Malinka song.
Right after the concert I made my way backstage trying to catch up with Igor so that we both could spend the rest of the night sitting in a bar place talking about rock’n’roll but something bad happened – first, once the show was over the entrance to the whole back stage area was blocked by security people who would not allow anyone past the security line and, secondly, after I was able to find one friendly looking black security girl who took me back stage where there was a huge crowd of reporters and folks from the 97.9 (The Loop) rock’n’roll station, the main promoter of the YES show, so within half-hour I could not get a clear answer from anybody whether the Russian guy had performed or not. At the end, after long talks I ran across one fan whom I was able to spot right away by the old YES long play box sprinkled with the group members’ autographs – the fan as it turned out for more than twenty years had been collecting YES members’ autographs and to complete his collection he needed just one more autograph – by the band’s drummer. This fan knew everything indeed and he confirmed that Igor was on stage. Then, for long and to no avail I was trying to track down the hotel where YES musicians stayed at – to do this proved to be more difficult than obtaining the code for launching inter-continental ballistic nuclear missiles. On the street the YES touring crew members were packing all the gear into huge trucks being watched by one asshole dressed in black tea shirt whom I turned to with provocative question: “Are you, guys, with the band?” A suspicious “yes” slipped from his tongue followed by intimidating “ what do you need here? You’d better get lost fast.”
The whole evening was almost ruined. I walked slowly toward Michigan Avenue to the parking lot trying to distract myself from bad feelings. All of a sudden I recalled the city of the Big Apple as well as the bold heroes overcoming all the obstacles while pursuing their goals. In New York that year they hosted the ships’ parade, ships were coming from all over the world. So, besides numerous yachts, cruisers and even aircraft carriers there was a Ukrainian vessel proudly named “Batkyvschina”. The captain of this Batkyvschina Dmitro Birukovich, the true sea wolf in his sixties, turned out to be the real risky guy. On his former fishing vessel he left Kiev heading down Dniepr River. Since his journey had gained a lot of attention from the local media, it was on the next day after Batkyvschina left when the captain’s house in Kiev got plundered. At the lower Dniepr just before the Black sea the vessel was left stranded and part of its body was cut off. Despite all this the brave captain continued his way into the Mediterranean, where they were hit with brutal storms, the whole crew dying from the sea disease, then all of a sudden their satellite phone service was interrupted – our sailors left with just the radio. While in the Atlantic Ocean near the Canards archipelago the ship’s radio broke down and for sixteen days the vessel sailed across the ocean being completely cut off from any communication with the outer world. The US Coast Guard, worried by Batkyvschina’s disappearance, sent out SOS signals to all the ships in the area and also C-130 aircrafts to search for the missing boat. Somehow Batkyvschina was able to reach the American shore somewhere near Norfolk. They didn’t know what to do next – there weren’t any money left and they needed to get to New York. The whole ship was turned into sailing gift shop, thank to the captain’s foreseeing talents before setting on the way they stuffed the ship from bottom to the top with popular merchandise such as: artificial fur hats, tea shirts with McLenin sign and the hottest item was – a nesting doll set, the biggest doll – Bill Clinton, inside a little bit smaller – Monica Levinski, even smaller – Paula Jones, the smallest – the first lady (Hillary Clinton) and the tiniest of all – the doll with the picture of cigar on it. To cut the long story short they made it to New York successfully and even became the heroes of the day.
Cigar, - at this point my last traces of bad mood were almost gone – cigar – I repeated, laughing inside. That reminded me of one summer evening. I was sitting in a café place on Central in Highland Park getting ready to go to Ravinia festival to see either Doobie Brothers or Creedence Clearwater Revival – I don’t remember for sure, -sipping coffee and reading the fantastic report which was published on that day by every major newspaper. The day before one of my best friends, the journalist from Boston called me – his voice was trembling with ecstasy – “ My friend, tomorrow it’s gonna be a big sensation in the country – all the major newspapers including ours are gonna publish the detailed report about how Bill Clinton entertained himself with Monica Levinsky, as I said – nothing will be missed!!!
To tell you the truth, the report did carry me away from the very beginning; the most exciting part were about how Monica Levinsky was doing the blow job on the president right at the Oval Office and, of course, the highlight of the story when the president was putting a cigar into her cunt.
I called Ira, a good friend of mine.
- Can you imagine, he first stuffed a cigar into her cunt and then, he took it out, put it into his mouth and said:” Tastes good”.
- He said it right, he’s a normal man – Ira replied (She always looked at the things from the prospective of the professional nurse thus her views usually lacked unnecessary sentiments). He could hardly make it with his climacteric wife so our Jewish folks found the normal woman for him.
As my memory was flowing freely on the wings of reminiscences, I finally walked up to the parking, got back into the car and was on my way to the highway driving through the night city – gorgeous city skyscrapers were glowing with billions of lights. It’s interesting to note that at night the city looks one million times better than during the day, each time when the night arrives Chicago automatically acquires this magic look, it becomes unreal just like St.Petersburg on a rainy day. This is why I like driving through the city at night, on many occasions I used to drive when at night back and forth on lake Shore Drive just to watch, to get ultimately lost in this magic feeling of being surrounded by the unreal, non-existing world that did exist.
Within a couple minutes I hit 94 heading north leaving the city behind. – No, - I said to myself, - this evening should not end like this, I need a little bit more of shaking down, may be another glass of beer and I need some late night sound attack, I think I need some jazz before going to bed. Oh, tonight Trentier is playing in Northbrook, I should definitely drop by!
I got off the highway halfway and drove west toward Milwaukee Avenue on which Hilton Hotel stood. – Of course, tonight’s the last night, Trenton is gonna play with his band at the Frank’s place bar which is right inside Hilton. So I dropped my car at the parking lot by the hotel and rushed into the bar, which is on the left side – the good thing is that they don’t ask for the cover charge at the entrance. Oh Gosh! What was the night! At the beginning it looked like it was going to be a regular jazz gig filled with traditional evergreens being delivered in a slow, even a little bit boring manner. However slow kicking off was nothing but a shrewd camouflage outfit used by an ingenious 71-year-old singer Milt Trenier. When I sat at the bar stand and ordered nice French soup and more booze nothing predicted more adventurous following up to the slow prelude, some two hours later, as the midnight approached, the place was being turned into complete fun house. By the end of the show the night madness was rolling in full swing – the band as well as the audience apparently enjoyed themselves. Saxophone player Bubba was unceasingly freaking out by proving his saxophone to be the real multi-functional device of the new century. Honest to God, never have I seen such a picture with the guy drinking booze right out of his saxophone or doing the booze shower from the same musical gadget.
Milt Trenier whose voice capabilities may be falling short of the ones by Louis Armstrong remained truthful to himself – his skills of an entertainer are still second to none. The way he communicates with the audience is something of a true rarity – as long as he performs his songs he tries to make friends with everyone. To cut it short, for Trenier there is no stage at all, his stage is the audience that surrounds him. And the more you see him – the more you start missing him once he leaves the stage. On that night he played for four hours non-stop.
The night was done – I finally reconciled with myself – summer relaxation, Chicago style, went on.
Sergey Isakov, Chicago 2000-2002.