The Best Laid Plans …

Another year has flown by, and it’s safe to assume that many of us did not have the 2021 we were hoping for. While we were to emerge somewhat from the lockdowns and self-isolation, COVID refused to completely release us from its grip, making things more challenging by way of mutating and becoming variants of the original virus.

A vaccine was made available, yet there are more than a few not interested in taking it. For people who took the time and made the effort (myself included), this has proven beyond frustrating. Even as I write, the Omicron variant is attempting to obtain a worldwide foothold, affecting far more of us than we would like.

Personally, my first full year in Chicago has fallen short of expectations on many levels. Not just because of the pandemic, but because of an aching back that has seen me visit general practitioners, physical therapists, pain specialists, and neurologists. To say nothing of the other serious health issues that cropped up (or, more likely, had been there and ignored while I put the finishing touches on my career and the transition to the next life) and had to be addressed BEFORE any work could be done on my back. I won’t go into detail beyond saying I am now 40 pounds lighter, hopefully and counting, and things are back to where they should be.

This year was supposed to be the start of my second “career,” which I put in quotation marks because I do not expect to make a great deal of money from my efforts. My ambitions were vast and multimedia oriented, with the belief that I would firmly establish myself as part of Chicago’s music community, to say nothing of developing a solid presence and (hopefully) following, courtesy of the World Wide Web. At my most optimistic, I will say that I stumbled mightily out of the gate.

My back pain could be so debilitating, walking became an adventure. My running joke was that I was awarded a finite number of steps a day before my back declared that I would be spending the remainder of that day on my couch, focused on little more than trying not to be in pain.

Some days, I could putter around my home cleaning and cooking, eventually making my way into my office to get a little music work done. By the end of the day, I was fried. Other days, I would get no further than the bathroom and back in the morning, and my back would essentially announce that I was done for the day where mobility was concerned. When stepping up on a curb becomes an adventure, you know you have a pretty serious problem.

No doubt this injury had a serious affect on my life outlook, which brought things to a grinding halt more often than not. Things have gotten better since, but I am WAY behind where I want to be and what I want to be doing. The many plans and goals I had have seen themselves pushed back time and again because, once again, all I wanted to do was not hurt.

I still have a ton of records to listen to and review. But pain can take the enjoyment out of listening to music, which is more than a little irritating. I’ll be spending more than a little time making a concentrated effort to catch up before the year ends. It won’t be easy, but the effort will be made.

The year wasn’t a complete loss. I made my way to a few concerts, though obviously not nearly as many as I would have hoped for. People were often required to show proof of vaccination before entering venues, a requirement I had ZERO problems with. I showed my card with enthusiasm, but I couldn’t help but put a side-eye on a few people. Though for what it’s worth, I’ve never heard any grumbling at the shows I attended.

Jaimie “Breezy” Branch

I was also able to get out every now and then on Bane, my bicycle. I live incredibly close to Lake Michigan, and the Lakefront Trails. My rides there have always been enjoyable. By simply crossing a bridge, I am able to put the city and the dangers that come with riding there aside, and the only traffic I had to deal with came from runners/walkers and other bicyclists. The views I could take in were nothing short of breathtaking in their own way.

Biking along the lakefront

The only downside was the ache in my back that often came the next day. It was almost like a hangover, with my alcohol in question being the bike ride rather than something I drank. But to be honest, the misery was often worth it, even though my plans to make it to the gym around the corner have been put on hold for now.

I’m doing what I can to push past the disappointment that came with 2021, and try to push my ambitions toward 2022. But this time, I know to temper those ambitions based upon how I’m feeling from day to day. But taking the time to write something — anything — every day will be a good start. As a matter of fact, I’ve already started it. Hopefully, the other things will flow behind it with minimal fuss.

We’re headed into our third year of COVID. Concert venues (those that remain anyway) are doing what they can to stay open. I will do what I can to make it to the shows. There are a couple of big ones coming down the pipe. Let’s hope they’re able to stay on the calendar.

With a little luck, my back issues will be resolved. And after recovering from whatever needs to be done, I can get back on Bane and make my way to the Lakefront with regularity, along with dropping by the gym a couple of times a week to tighten things up. If I’m really lucky, I might even find my way to the golf course, where I can make use of the brand new driver my sister got me as a retirement gift, yet I have never swung.

Plans are great, but these times are not really built for extensive, long-term planning. Nothing is really set in stone as long as we remain in the midst of a pandemic. The best plan I can make for the coming year is to take things one day at a time. Small accomplishments add up, and things will get done as the days go by. It’s the best I can do.


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. I’m currently working on my next book, The Wizard of WOO: The Life and Music of Bernie Worrell.

Would you like to have your album reviewed? Contact me at


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