If this is a dream, please don’t wake me. I’m still in absolute shock. In a welcome break from the nightmarish reality show billed as the Presidential election, the Chicago Cubs delivered the feel-good story of the year– their first World Series Championship since 1908. And everyone, it seems, has a Cub connection at the moment. Here’s mine:
I can’t say that I’ve worshipped the Cubbies ever since I first held a baseball, whenever that was. To be honest, until the early 1980s, I’d rather watch paint dry than attend a ball game. That’s when I moved to a neighborhood only a couple of blocks from Wrigley Field. I learned the meaning of “friendly confines” when I saw the 102-year old shrine not just on game day, but almost every day.
And I learned how to enjoy baseball. I had just conveniently launched a freelance writing career in the summer, and there were plenty of slow days. If the weather was nice, I would stroll over to Wrigley and plunk down $2 (no typo!) for bleacher admission, which was always available. I’d bring sunscreen and a good book, and enjoy a beer or three stretched out somewhere along the ivy-covered left field wall. It hardly mattered whether the Cubs won or lost when you could converse and sometimes even play catch with the outfielder, and resort to “Right field sucks!”– “Left field sucks!” taunts with other Bleacher Bums when things really got boring on the diamond. And there was always Harry Caray, hanging out of the press box at a death-defying angle as his booze-soaked, gravelly voice led us in “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”
Then in 1984 the Cubs shocked everyone by winning their National League division. Though the clinching game was out of town, my Wrigleyville neighborhood erupted with the wildest party I’ve ever witnessed. Among the thousands of screaming, hugging, beer-soaked revelers being jerked in every direction was a blind musician I knew. When I marveled at his daring to tread this social earthquake zone, he shouted, “Are you kidding? They may never do this again!”
And they didn’t– that year. After demolishing San Diego in the first two games of the league championship, they tanked the next three in spectacularly Cub fashion. It wasn’t the first or last time that happened over an interminable 108 years. But now there is joy in my old neighborhood because: CUBS WIN! CUBS WIN! CUBS WIN!
As for me, recently playing a Halloween party edition of the DeForest Farmers Market, I showed up as—guess who? (one kid said George Washington) Considering that Abe was no matinee idol, I hope I wasn’t TOO convincing!
Just got back from a journey to Colorado and in the words of Willie Nelson, “Sometimes it’s heaven, sometimes, it’s hell, and sometimes I don’t even know.” Heaven: Autumn in Rocky Mountain National Park, punctuated by not only golden aspens, but hundreds of rutting, trumpeting elk. (maybe Trump should check it out) Hell: The sick display at a machine gun (yes,machine gun) shooting range outside Colorado Springs. Great place for mass killers to hone their technique.
Fortunately all my friends and relatives– including my daughter who moved to Denver this summer– occupy the heavenly realm of the Centennial State, and Jude and I had a ton of fun.
Last night at local PaintBar Madison I achieved a musical career milestone– I received top billing over “$3 BEER”. In Wisconsin, that’s saying something! Since I’m very goal-oriented, I’m now shooting to be billed above Bloody Marys or margaritas.
On the other hand, perhaps I should not get a big head– I’m worth $3 less than a beer!
It’s hard to find appropriate words to describe Muhammad Ali. Along with the Beatles he was the “Fab Five” of most important people to me during my Wonder Years, besides my parents and grandparents. Not since John Lennon’s assassination in 1980 have I been so saddened by a celebrity passing.
I can’t say I was a huge boxing fan, but Ali transcended sport and about everything else in the 1960s. As a teenager developing my own social conscience during those turbulent times, Ali’s refusal to serve in Vietnam– at the expense of three years at his boxing peak– gave countless young people like me the strength to stand by our convictions in the face of “establishment” policy. His razor-sharp commentary, once famously aimed as hilarious insults toward his early opponents, distilled sentiments of those outside of power when he observed, “I ain’t got no quarrel with no Viet Cong. No Viet Cong ever called me a nigger.”
We all know how he came back to become “The Greatest of All Time,” then faced a more formidable foe for more than three decades as Parkinson’s ravaged his body. Besides all the legendary moments, I’ve enjoyed hearing “regular” peoples’ accounts of how Ali touched them in some way. Many years ago when I wrote a magazine article on a pilgrimage to Graceland, one of the estate’s administrators told me that of all the famous people who visited the Elvis shrine, Ali impressed her the most. Instead of being ushered straight in like other celebrities, Ali said, “I can wait in line like everyone else.” For a couple hours he queued up with the masses, probably a more vivid memory than whatever they saw in the mansion.
One of his later quotes is among the most meaningful to me: “Now the things that once were so effortless – my strong voice and the quickness of my movements – are more difficult. But I get up every day and try to live life to the fullest because each day is a gift from God.” Those final words are on my 86-year-old Mom’s fridge magnet, and keep her in the ring for another round.
After the first round of voting, the Madison Area Music Association (MAMA) just announced finalists for the 2016 MAMA Awards– our version of the Grammys. My tune “Ukulele”– inspired by my grenddaughter Harper Rose– is through to the fiinals for Children’s Song. If you belong to MAMA, please vote for me! If not, you can become a MAMA member and help put me over the top, while supporting a great cause that purchases instruments for needy kids and supports underfunded school music programs. Here’s how:
1) go to www.themamas.org 2) Click on “Awards” at the top of the home page 3) Next page, click on “MAMA Awards” and scroll down to “Vote” 4) Next page, click on “Fan Membership” and join for only $5 (again, this goes directly to charity). After you’re joined you’ll be invited to click on a page to vote. Click on the Award Category “Children’s Song” on the left, then vote for “Ukulele—John Duggleby” You can also hear my song by clicking on the name. Any questions, shoot me a cybernote.
For the price of a frappelattewatever, you can give deserving kids the gift of music and, conversely, demonstrate that folks who qualify for AARP membership (like me) can still write meaningful songs. Thanks, and rock on!
Elephant love, as practiced by these passionate pachyderms I met in the bush of South Africa– does life get any sweeter? Unfortunately they didn’t, um, consummate the moment—now THAT would be a picture! I just returned from a month in a continent of miracle and wonder, so much more than I can begin to express here. All I can say is “Twalumba!”– “Thank you!” in Swahili.
Whatever floats your spiritual boat, I wish you tidings of comfort and joy today and throughout 2016.
Holy tailfeathers! I’m featured in the Nov./Dec. article of Our Wisconsin, a pretty well known and regarded magazine here in Cheeeseland. They took something I’d written on myself (focusing on my singing chicken persona) and edited it, adding even more corny chicken puns than I’d thought of! I have to admire someone with that kind of talent—we’re birds of a feather!
Here are a few personas of my late, great, Otis– Samoyed of 1,000 Disguises. They are from my new book “Oti’s Odyssey: A Rescue Dog’s Tail”. If you’re in interested in a copy of this saga of rescue, rehab and redemption, give a cybershout to email@example.com!