12:12 a.m. July 31
I just returned from a fabulously intimate Dr. John set at the Black Orchid supper club on the North Side of Chicago. The hot summer evening was dedicated to Wardell Quezergue (pronounced 'quiz-air'), a cool breeze from the Crescent City.
The event took me straight to New Orleans.
You remember New Orleans, right? You'll hear about it again around Labor Day when the media goes Mardi Gras with all the 1 year anniversary stories on Hurricane Katrina, before moving on to other subjects. We in the media love anniversary stories. But the better stories are in the shadows.
Wardell is one of the behind-the-scenes cats whose arrangements defined hits like "Chapel of Love" by the Dixie Cups, "Trick Bag" by Earl King and Aaron Neville's righteous version of "Mona Lisa." He threw the feisty horns behind the Robert Parker classic "Barefootin' [recently reworked by Jimmy Buffett and Alan Jackson for the "Hoot" soundtrack] and put the Caribbean rhythms in the Dixie Cups smash "Iko Iko." Wardell, 76, flew to Chicago with his daughter Helen for the event. In a rare solo performance, Dr. John looked at Wardell from behind his piano and said,
"He changed the course of music......."
July 2006 Archives
12:12 a.m. July 31
11:45 p.m. July 26
Money magazine recently named Naperville, Ill. as one of the top two places to live in America. Naperville is a suburb of roughly 140,000 about 40 miles west of Chicago.
At the same time Naperville received this honor, the Bob Evans restaurant in Naperville closed down.
Both stories were front page news on the July 18 edition of the Naperville Sun.
Money magazine gave Naperville its props for its Riverwalk (think San Antonio in the prairie), Centennial Beach (a beautifully restored quarry that was a WPA project) and its top notch school system. I was a product of that school system. My parents still live in Naperville.
They are Bobheads, real Bob Evans regulars.
11:42 p.m. July 22
Pop-rock singer Gene Pitney died on April 5.
I was on the road and unable to weigh in on his obituary. Unless you're Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, news moves faster than when Gene was turning out the hits; "Town Without Pity" (1961), "Twenty Four Hours From Tulsa," (1963) "It Hurts To Be In Love" (1964) and "Princess In Rags" (1965).
In 1964 Gene even dipped into the songbook of spaced out rock savant Joe Meek, when he had a minor hit with Meek's cheery "Lips Were Redder On You." Check it out.
Gene died of natural causes in his hotel room after a show in Cardiff, Wales. I don't have any obit in front of me, but he had been all over the world. He knew the reward of travel was understanding the warmth of home.
12:23 a.m. July 15
The Lite House is too crowded.
The Golden Apple is too far.
Mickey's Diner in St. Paul is a good call, but when does the train leave?
Its hot. Chicago Avenue is sizzling like bacon.
Even the cats in the alley aren't screeching.
You can hear the dream jukebox from a distant diner:
Turn Here Travelogues: www.turnhere.com
Dave's World: www.turnhere.com/city/Chicago/all/Films/433.aspk
Crazy Horse monument: www.crazyhorse.org
Bob Dylan Stuff: www.expectingrain.com
Robbie Fulks Messages: www.robbiefulks.com
Chicago Postcard Museum: www.chicagopostcardmuseum.org
Sustainable Table: www.sustainabletable.org
Mustard Museum: www.mustardmuseum.com
In Search of the Blue Agave: www.ianchadwick.com
New Orleans: www.nomrf.org
11:30 p.m., July 10
Always come to a complete stop when you come to a stoplight.
On Monday I put the finishing touches on this weekend's Travel column dedicated to the charms of Mickey's Diner in St. Paul, Minn. The 67-year-old diner bookmarks the heartwarming Robert Altman film "A Prairie Home Companion," filmed entirely in St. Paul.
I had not seen the movie and felt I should before the story went to press. The film's thesis is how the cast of the popular radio show gathers for one last time before the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul is sold to a coldblooded Texas developer, played by one of my all time favorites, Tommy Lee Jones. There was no better place to catch this film than the storied Lake Theater in downtown Oak Park. I see several movies a year at the Lake and I always take Lake Street out of the city instead of trying to fight traffic on the Eisenhower Expressway.
11:03 p.m., July 9
I don't know anybody who doesn't like Milwaukee.
Chicago is surely Oprah and Milwaukee is Laverne and Shirley. I took a day trip across the border on Saturday to see my friend Paul Cebar and the Cubs, in that order. Much to my surprise the Saturday night Cubs game was a sellout, attracting more than 42,000 people to Miller Park. People were standing and cheering like the Cubs were in some kind of pennant race. What were these people thinking? Or drinking? It was pure fantasy. And campy.