Essays, Interviews, Observations, Pop Culture, Stories, and other Dodginess

March Madness Selection Sunday for Sirius XM

Posted on March 18, 2018

With the new Jeep I purchased in September came a one-year free subscription to SiriusXM.

I finally decided to hold my own “Selection Sunday” for channel favorites and scanning. Quite a few channels didn’t make the cut.

I may be one of the few SiriusXM listeners to delete the Beatles channel. Channel 18. You’re gone.

Also not making my cut are the following channels: Elvis, E Street Band, Grateful Dead, Tom Petty, Jam Bands, Jimmy Buffet and the country and blues stations.

Also gone are the 50s, 60s, and 70s channels. I kept the 40s one although I never listen to it. It’s difficult to find anyway. I also dumped that 80s hair rock channel. No Cinderella for me.

I was going to keep the 70s channel in the chance I’d hear Olivia Newton John’s “Hopelessly Devoted to You” but I nixed it. There is a special place in my heart for the song (“You have a heart? You deleted the Beatles channel!) since my friend Heather dedicated it to me in a her killer karaoke session awhile back.

Also gone are the Christian music stations, or any religious station for that matter, and Yacht Rock. In the rear chance I’m on a yacht, it is probably stolen. And I’d more likely to be listening to Ministry then something called Yacht Rock. Give me something called Battleship Rock.

My Final Four presents include 35 XMU New Indie Rock, 173 The Verge, which is similar to XMU, and Howard Stern 100. I’ll also either have channels 8 or 9 up there (80s and 90s) or 33 – 1st Wave.

On my computer/laptop and phone the SiriusXM app has a lot more channels. One I listen to is Cinemagic – film score music. Still waiting on some John Carpenter on that one. SiriusXM could also use a Depeche Mode channel.

This past weekend was mostly set to channel 28 The Spectrum because they were playing a lot of Irish punk rock because of St. Paddy’s Day.

As for traditional radio, even though I’m in a major city like Chicago, local station suck. If not SiriusXM at home or in the Jeep I’ll be tuned to Minnesota’s The Current or Radio Free Santa Fe.

Why Chicago doesn’t have great indie/rock stations like those is beyond me.



Words For Someone Who Died

Posted on January 16, 2018

Mickey’s Tavern in Chicago’s Bucktown neighborhood died a few years ago. One of its beloved regulars died in December.

I first met Dr. Pelz at Mickey’s when I moved to the neighborhood. It was my first night on the block and I headed over to the dive bar on Medill and Leavitt before my bags were unpacked.

It may have been Dr. Pelz who brought my first beer. It’s hard to tell. There was more than one free beer coming my way from longtime patrons who I would come to know well over the next few years.

Bill Pelz was his name but to me he’ll always be Dr. Pelz.

Dr. Pelz, a history professor at Elgin Community College,  hosted an annual Christmas party. About a day before the 2017 version, he had a heart attack and died.

“He will be sorely missed,” his obituary stated. It went on to talk about his life as an activist and prolific scholar and author. It didn’t mention Mickey’s. Says one of the lines in his obituary:

“Generations of young students in Chicago looked to Bill for inspiration, good humor, generous friendship, and political curiosity.”

I think you could say the same for young pubgoers at Mickey’s and other local establishments that Dr. Pelz frequented like the nearby Quenchers Saloon.

I had the good fortune of being treated by Dr. Pelz to lunch or dinner at various bars and eateries on the northwest side of Chicago. The owner, manager or workers at each one all knew him and treated him with respect and that of an old friend.

But most of my memories of Dr. Pelz were at Mickey’s. It’s where we saw semi-regular Mark, AKA “Mosquito” bring in three ladies once who may or may not have been Russian prostitutes. It’s where he gave advice to a friend of mine who was having his small bachelor party at my apartment. We had stopped at Mickey’s prior to the party where we drank until one of the strippers the best man hired entered and led us away.

Dr. Pelz was there when a van caught fire outside and filled the inside of Mickey’s with smoke.

He was there when I played Erasure on the jukebox. And not only was he at Mickey’s when I filmed an audition tape for one of the seasons of “Survivor” but he appeared on the video as well.

I once installed a new doorbell for him at his home.

A memorial for Dr. Pelz is being held January 28 at the American Postal Workers Union Hall in Canaryville.

Celebrating his life for an hour or two in a south side union hall. I won’t be able to make it. I already raised a pint for Dr. Pelz at Bob Inn in Logan’s Square the night he was supposed to have his holiday party. I’ll probably do the same the night of his memorial, either at Bob Inn or one of the other spots where Dr. Pelz brought inspiration, good humor and generous friendship.

Twerkin’ Urchins and the Russian Café

Posted on December 24, 2017

This past summer I was at the Pilsen Food Truck Social, enjoying a Chocrute Kabob from Dusek’s Board & Beer and reading Chicago reclusive author Clive Javanski’s latest essay, “Am I Some Kind of Asshole?” when Mosquito walked over.

Mosquito, also known as Monkey Wrench or Spider, is a longtime acquaintance who does work on my Jeep and many other friends’ cars. He’s our group’s mechanic. Mechanic of the assholes.

His hands are perpetually dirty but he gets the job done.

He doesn’t go on the Internet a lot but when he does it’s usually odd. Like the time when he found a dead mole in his backyard and was perplexed by it. He said he went online to see if moles have eyes.

Mosquito also likes to talk to girls online even when he’s not sure they are girls and sometimes he sends them money and other gifts . He does this even if they live in Ghana and the entire thing is probably a scam.

So Mosquito interrupts me on this wonderful food truck day while I was chatting up a brainy, long-legged Pakistani girl named Nyya who had cute nose freckles and was eating a Chorizo slider. We were talking about her studies at the University of Chicago, and how she can “smell math.”

“Holy cow,” he said. “My name is on a board in Russia.”

It’s fine. I knew I’d be confused about this.

Mosquito said he got a phone call from a woman in Russia. It was one of many he’s gotten lately. They all want money from him. They offer nude photos, their hand in marriage, or dirty talk. One wanted to send him her soiled panties. One time a man called, and asked Mosquito if he wanted a virtual hand job.

I met Aidan even later that night at my apartment. He had just written a new Christmas song, “Twerkin’ Urchins,” for our planned holiday EP.

I don’t know if it’s along the lines of the classic Christmas pop gem, “Merry Christmas Will Do,” by Chicago’s own Material Issue, but it has potential.

Aidan also had a bag of drugs with him. He said they belonged to one of his girlfriends, Cassie.

“Cassie’s drugs,” he said.

She left them at his apartment last night while they were writing songs together.  As he left my place to return the drugs to Cassie, I yelled out the door that it would make a good song title for the new record. “Cassie’s Drugs.”

As he ran down Medill Avenue he shouted “Cassie’s Christmas Drugs.”

“It’s a fucking holiday album,” he said.