A Few Days in the Life (July 20, 2020)

July 20, 04:38

The Lincoln Line

This is my first time riding the train in business class. Coach was never a problem. But this is a nice step up.

I was finally smart enough to remember a neck pillow (thanks, Sis!), and these seats recline all the way back. I’m sitting in the very back, so I won’t bother anyone when I’m ready to sleep. And for the moment, I have the entire section to myself.

It won’t last, I’m sure. But it’s a pretty nice feeling as we pulled out of the station, right on schedule.

It’s my first trip to Chicago since last December. Nice to travel without worrying about a coat and other cold weather stuff. I’ll be there all week, with nary a gig in sight. That will be weird. But that’s not my mission. I’m hoping to find a new home.

How weird is it to say you’re used to being exhausted? I didn’t get to bed until 22:00, knowing my alarm would go off at 02:30. I’m a little sleepy, but the exhaustion from my last life doesn’t exist anymore. No more 80-hour workweeks. No more 14-hour shifts. They pushed me to the brink, and I got used to them.

I almost feel guilty wandering aimlessly around my home, in no hurry to do anything in particular. But, as I have been reminded, that’s what being retired is.

Buying a bicycle was a good idea. Bane (that’s what I’m calling him) is a “fat bike,” designed more for off-road and bad weather riding, like snow, mud, and sand. If I’m to live in Chicago, this will come in handy.

On the street, he provides one helluva leg workout. And I haven’t been on a bike with any regularity in at least 25 years! “Shock to the system” is a bit of an understatement. But I’m starting to get used to it.

There’s no gig to attend, and chances are the record stores will be closing early, assuming they’re open at all. I’ll have more than a little time on my hands. I brought a couple of books, and I’ll have the time to do some Bernie Worrell research.

Here’s to a relaxing — but hopefully productive — week.


In the end, there were six of us in this section, out of a possible 18. The Amtrak guys told me that business is slowly picking up, but they’re still running at only half capacity. Sounds like a good move for now.

I put myself in the very last row of the train. A first. I don’t even think I’ve done that on a plane, although I have been pretty close. So I had a new view.

I just started reading an article from Variety magazine, where they’re predicting concerts won’t return until 2022. I’d like to think that’s pessimistic, but as long as we have these COVID-iots living in denial, I’m afraid the estimate may be correct.

When did science become a BAD thing? When did the LEAST educated opinion — based on little to no research — become the thought process so many wished to follow?

These deniers moan and complain about their freedoms and rights like a virus gives a shit about them. We should be on top of this thing by now! Yet stubborn and stupid rules the day.


Just pulled into Union Station. The new adventure begins.


Room Without a View, Chicago

I am quite proud of myself. I left the train station, found the intersection I needed, knew which way west was, and walked to my bus stop without hesitation. Too bad my favorite potential home isn’t around here. I’ve got this area knocked!

There are three hotels in the immediate area. This is my second time staying at this one. Which means I have now stayed at each one at least twice. My room is a definite step up from The Closet, located a couple of blocks east. It’s still small, but it’s brighter, with better amenities and a bigger TV. Social activities will be limited, so that’s big.

Alas, there’s not much of a view. You can’t have everything, I guess.


Tanaka Ramen

I’m past the tourist stuff. Checked in, got brunch, a little gourmet popcorn, and back to my room for the afternoon. I’m in a hurry to do nothing. I’ll get out and about over the next few days.

Dinner has been marvelous.

When I appeared in a hurry to leave, the nice waitress encouraged me to “chill out” and hang around for awhile. It was good advice. A second beer was in order. But now it’s time to get moving again. One more errand, then back to the room.

This has been a nice, peaceful day.

July 21, 08:52

On line, Chicago

There’s a Trader Joe’s near my hotel. I figured it would be a good place to stock up on light snacks and such to keep from spending a ton of money every time I go out. I must say I was a bit surprised to see a line going down the block to get in yesterday. The plan was quickly scrapped.

Today I’ve gotten up and made it my first stop. There are still a couple of people ahead of me while we wait for the seniors to shop.

That’s fine. I’m not in a huge hurry to get in to anything. I’ll do some exploring later. The weather is too nice to stay in all day.


Room 331

There are a lot of lights in my room. My room isn’t that big. Yet there are lamps on either side of my bed (one of which illuminated the desk). An overhead light. A light over the little dresser on the other side of the room (which I’m pretty sure could be handled by the overhead light). The bathroom light (of course). And this lamp on the corner, presumably for reading. At home, I have two lamps on either side of my living room. That suits me fine. Go figure.

I have no point. I just noticed there are a lot of lights in here.These are the things you notice when you’re not being a tourist.

For all intents and purposes, I’m here on business. That doesn’t get started until tomorrow.


Room 331

I wasn’t in the best mood today. No particular reason. Just one of those days.

Fortunately, I got to hang out with my friend Erik Oldman this evening. He’s the guitarist for Sons of Ra. More importantly, we’re two music geeks who love talking that, baseball, and other things. It was a fun evening of record shopping and pizza.

I feel better.

July 22, 10:49

Room 331, Chicago


Waiting for the phone to ring, with my real estate guy on the other end. Waiting to hear when we will leave to find someone kind enough to allow me to live on their property.

It’s the kind of wait that can induce anxiety. And I’m feeling it, a little. It’s the kind of fear that leads to that most unproductive thought:

Maybe I should just stay where I am.

There’s something to be said for the status quo. Very little of it is good. The status quo is comfortable. It’s predictable. It’s familiar. But that doesn’t make it right.

Change is part of life. Change is necessary. Change is progress. Change is what’s next. I need change.

We all feel this fear. It’s normal. It’s human. I felt it before I joined the military. I felt it when I decided to get out. I felt it when I received my badge. I felt it when I gave it back 25 years later. There have been more than a few other moments. But in the end, you take the leap. Or you go nowhere.

I could stay in St. Louis, but I don’t belong there. Besides, the dominoes have already started toppling. The first was toppled when I decided to start burning sick time a month earlier than planned. The second fell when I actually started doing it. Then I started the paperwork. Then I actually retired. There’s no stopping them now.

I accidentally “elevator pitched” a business idea to Erik last night. It was more of a vocal thought. His enthusiasm surprised me. It opened up a world of possibilities that, for now, remains a thought process. Still, it’s a pretty cool thought.

All things in time. It’s definitely worth exploring.

But for now, I wait.




I looked at a couple of places. One I loved. The other had potential. A third place up and vanished in front of us. Real estate. Go figure.

Now it’s a question of making a group of very subjective people I’ve never met an offer they can’t refuse. Preferably without calling upon Luca Brasí. But if it comes to that …

I’m kidding. Probably.

July 23, 12:04

The Brown Line, Chicago

Woke up at 05:15 for absolutely no reason. I went to bed a little earlier than usual, but this shouldn’t have happened. Stayed awake for an hour before finally dozing off again. Back up a little before 9.

Been puttering about because I’m in no hurry. This seems to be a theme. Two planned visits today. One of them will hopefully involve my first major home stereo upgrade in more than two decades. I’ve been dreaming of this day. I hope it works out.

I’m trying a lighter, disposable mask today. My human contact will be minimal, and I don’t think I’ll do anyone any harm. It’s the same mask pretty much everyone else is wearing. So I guess we’re all in it together, eh?

I won’t give mass transit the time of day in St. Louis. I’d rather take a beating. I have ZERO problem with it here. It’s not perfect. Nothing is. But it’s a damn sight better. The toughest part is getting used to the waiting. Rush to catch a bus … wait. Hustle up the train platform … wait. I need to learn how to read the schedules.

I also have to get used to adding time to my commute. I could drive to today’s destination in 34 minutes, according to Google. Using transit makes it an hour-long trip. That’s fine. I’m in no hurry, and I’m not deeply fond of driving in Chicago. I can do it. I’d just rather not.


The Green Line

I can tell I’m getting used to being here. The splendor that is downtown Chicago’s architecture went past me unchecked while I thought of other things. I’ve seen it many times before. It hasn’t gotten old. I simply feel allowed to not think like a tourist.

My ankle is barking. Not as loudly as a couple of days ago, but it’s gonna be a Thing. As in “I should probably see a doctor” thing. I don’t have time for this.


Room 331

Mission (essentially) accomplished.

I made my way out to Oak Park — a wonderful Chicago suburb — and Oak Park Records, where I picked up a couple of items waiting for me. Allan I had a nice chat, and then I was on my way back to the city for the day’s main event.

I made my way to Decibel Audio, the absolute dream store for audiophiles. I stumbled across it by accident a couple of years ago, and walked out with a t-shirt. I found my dream receiver and turntable there a few months ago. Today, I set out to buy them.

I could feel the anticipation rising within me as I walked up North Milwaukee to get to the store. I envisioned some pleasant conversation with the employees, showing them what I wanted, and making arrangements to have it shipped. There would be more chit-chat, and I would leave the store with a big smile on my face, perhaps gazing at some bookshelf speakers as I strolled out.

I arrived at last. I went to reach for the door — only to see it was locked.

The web page told me they were open! Noon to 7! Alas, they were only operating by phone or email. I could feel steam coming out of my ears.

Nevertheless, I took a flyer and called the store. The guys were inside, but I couldn’t join them. I told them I knew exactly what I wanted. So Adam came outside and took my order.

My turntable was in-store. It will ship out late today or tomorrow. My receiver, on the other hand, is on order. It’s due in two or three weeks. It’s my bicycle all over again. But that’s pretty much the norm these days.

When all was said and done, I spent a good chunk of change, and walked out with the cartridge for the turntable I’ll have in a few days.

In a way, it’s almost funny.

A young woman made quite the impression on one of my train rides, to the point I had to talk her up on Facebook:

We’re on the “L.” She’s on the other end of the car. But she’s speaking so LOUDLY on her phone, the rest of us have no choice but to hear her. Apparently, things aren’t going well with Bill, the district manager at work.

It was all I could do not to get up from my seat, walk to the other end of the car, and plop down next to her. When she rudely asked me what the hell I was doing, I could say something like, “Well, since you’ve chosen to make me part of your conversation, I thought I’d come down here and chip in on what to do about Bill!”

Fortunately, my filter works.

Im sure things like this will happen again. I’m also certain my earbuds will become a huge part of my mass transit lifestyle.

July 24, 12:40

Union Station, Chicago

Everything ends. And so I am near the conclusion of this particular adventure.

I’m at the station ridiculously early because I have to leave again. One last bit of business. But I didn’t want to lug my bags all over creation to get it done. So, this is the drop-off stop.

I like my hotel. I was comfortable there. And the elevator always gave me something to read.

It never ceases to amuse me.

I’m getting better at finding my way. I only took one wrong turn, and it was on the “L” platform. So I added 40 yards to my walk. Oh, well.

Break’s over. Time to get moving again.


The Waiting Area

My ankle declared the last home tour a “no-go.” A trip to the Urgent Care — and most likely my orthopedist — is in my immediate future. In the meantime, my real estate guy will take video and send it to me.

Which means I’ll spend the next 3-plus hours here. At least it’s comfortable, and anything I need isn’t all that far away. This included a really tasty, remarkably affordable, and totally Chicago lunch.

I’m thinking about giving up meat again for awhile. This was a good way to go out.


I’ve been here for hours. But I’ve never felt bored. I’m sure the ability to be comfortable helps.

I haven’t accomplished as much as I hoped from a reading standpoint this week. But I haven’t done badly, either. In all honesty, the time I spent simply zoning out was needed. I’m still in transition, still adjusting to my new world. I was told it would take awhile.

I am looking forward to hopping on Bane again. I’m hoping we can take a ride before it gets too hot. I’d like that ride to be the start of most every day. Get the heart pumping and the blood flowing. Then I can attack the day.

One of my Facebook followers implied a little irritation with me posting about things other than music. I gently said that music may be a big part of my life, but my life is MUCH more than music. I don’t think that satisfied him. Well, too bad. That’s the way it goes.

My “social media consultant” (aka my teenage daughter) informed me that my pages would be more interesting if I gave people the chance to know me outside the musical context. That makes sense. It’s why this particular feature doesn’t feature a lot about music at times. That’s what the reviews and whatnot are for. This new chapter is taking me to interesting places. I like sharing that from time to time.

One of the things keeping me amused today is Neil Peart’s book Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road. It is positively remarkable, and I’m only a quarter of the way through it. It’s 18 years too late for a proper review, but I’ll post a few words on it all the same in the near future.


The Lincoln Line

It gets tougher to leave every time.

Each time I pull away from Union Station, Chicago feels a little more like home. There’s where you live, and there’s where you belong. I can definitely see the difference.

Why does Chicago feel like home? It’s more than the music scene. Given the time to think about it, it may come back to the end of my career. I spent 25 years doing my best to protect St. Louis. It’s embedded in my DNA now. That pull will always be there.

I feel no such tug in Chicago. No connections, no law enforcement-based relationship. I’m just a guy there. No one will be looking to me to spring into action. When there was a brewing disturbance in the hotel yesterday, I could walk past it. Not my table. Cop cars shoot past me and I have no idea where they’re going or why. And I don’t need to know. It’s quite liberating.

Chicago makes it easier to let go. And that’s precisely what I need.

The other part of my afternoon was checking out four new albums, mostly in the prog- or post-rock arena. All were good, and will be addressed in detail later.

The baseball season started today. Opening Day is sacred in St. Louis. We want it turned into an official holiday. I, too, worship at that church. But I’ve barely given it a second thought. I didn’t even know who we were playing (Pittsburgh) until an hour ago. This is the first Opening Day I’ve missed in years. I don’t remember the last one.

I desperately want to be wrong, but I just don’t see this season coming off as planned. The Bug is too mean-spirited. Too many don’t take it seriously enough. The country’s numbers are already headed WAAAAY in the wrong direction. How long before it hits MLB hard and has to shut down? I set the over/under at 18.5 days.

I’m so sure about it, I made a $50 bet with a friend. He took the over. I hope he’s right.


Recalling snippets of a dream I had last night:

Apparently, I was giving a third try to a relationship with my first fiancé. This had to be a dream, because under no circumstances do I want such a thing. Anyway, we’re talking to her parents, who present me with a set of keys. After a moment, I realize they’re car keys. I’m puzzled.

My fiancé tells me to look at the driveway. I look, but I’m not sure what I’m seeing. She smiles broadly and says, “It’s a brand new 2720!” I remember this because I have absolutely NO idea what that is. I still don’t!

Her parents smile broadly as this vehicle — sort of resembling a pickup truck — comes into mild focus. It’s yellow with black trim. A closer examination reveals Batman logos in more than a few places, and my name in a few others! Tacky is the kindest thing I can say about this paint job.

I don’t drive pickups. I don’t want one. I’m trying to find a diplomatic way out. “I can’t take this …” I hear myself say. Don’t worry about it, they respond. Everything is taken care of. It’s all yours. I keep shaking my head. The three of them just smile.

And I wake up.

I would be very curious to find out what that meant.

July 25, 00:37

The Lincoln Line (still)


Of all the times to run behind, it had to be when I’m scheduled to get home after midnight as is. Oh, well. What can I do?

At this moment, I can see downtown St. Louis. But that matters little. The line we normally use is out of service, and we’re competing with freight trains for the alternate lines.

Eleven minutes late. And counting.

It’s still a long walk. I’ll wait.


What is it about the last mile or so and trains? Why do the last bits take the longest to complete? I need to ask someone about that.

Not that it matters. I’m back in town.




You can follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (cirdecsongs) My book, I Can’t Be the Only One Hearing This: A Lifetime of Music Through Eclectic Ears, is available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other fine book dealers.

Want to have your album reviewed? Contact me at cirdecsongs@gmail.com


  1. Nice write-up…pizza…true Chicago Deep Dish? Lou Malnatis or Genos? or that so-thin-you-can-fold-it-over floppy, grease covered disaster affectionately know as NY pie?

    Oak Park is a great place…and here is the MOST important info you’ll need…The distance between Oak Park and Wrigley Field is 8 miles. The road distance is 11.1 miles. The best way to get from Oak Park to Wrigley Field without a car is to take the Green Line then switch to Red line subway which takes 49 min.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It was a thin crust from a pub Erik picked out. Decent, but not Chicago-style. My hotel was a mile-and-a-half south of Wrigley. I’ve stayed in that area many times. I’m getting very familiar with how to get there.


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