Monday, August 27, 2007

You Hear the Most Amazing Things at "Little City Hall"

Broadway at Dusk 2
Originally uploaded by bridgeportseasoning.

You don't know if it's boasting, or if the the bloated old guy talking about what happened forty years ago under the 38th Street "viadock" was actually backing it up, but it was enough to let me surrender my Early Times to the ice and head to Mitchell's, where I and Our Man in Chicago proceeded to watch the White Sox bend over like good little submissives, drink good beer, discuss the DC and Marvel universes, and gawk at the bug-eyed beauty of Tracee Ellis Ross while watching Girlfriends reruns on the plasma screen.

Enjoy Dream Boogie, Mr. Smith.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Don't Expect This to Become a Habit

The South Fork
Originally uploaded by bridgeportseasoning.

Saturday, after snagging an interview with Willie Wagner of Honky Tonk BBQ, I dropped in at Skylark to see how Brian was doing. He had just landed a job there tending bar on Saturdays after about six months without a job, opening from 4-8 p.m. It isn't the best shift and doesn't take advantage of the full range of his managerial skills, but it's a foot in the door. A baby step, but still something.

Sitting at the bar were some old friends from HotHouse: Pierce, who used to run sound there, and Alton, who worked maintenance before he went full-time into social work. As is the case whenever four people with a shared history of employment gather in the same place, things eventually turned to HotHouse. In fairness, it would have anyway, but Brian is an obsessive type so the subject was broached rather quickly.

Brian came to HotHouse after a much-publicized firing from his old job, the California Clipper. This was back when the Clipper was a really cool place to hang, and Brian was a large reason why. I don't know the details of how he came to our attention, but he was well organized and able to walk softly while carrying a big stick while making the bar and wait staff a more professional group on the job. This was in stark contrast to the other managers we had, who often got drunk on the job or let their coke fiend friends have at the liquor inventory after a show.

However, almost from the start Brian and Marguerite were like oil and water. He'd try to implement some best practices for the staff, and she'd put the kibosh on it because it wasn't her idea of "best practices." She'd recommend friends of hers for a job on the floor or behind the bar (and by "recommend" I mean "she'd tell Brian to hire these people"). He couldn't bring himself to do it. He'd interview them, determine that they were already promised a gig by Marguerite - which effectively undermined his authority - but couldn't bring himself to actually hire them because they were "flaky."

Brian would bring in bartenders, waitresses, security and box office staff who "got" what HotHouse was about largely by telling them the truth: that they'd work for little pay and recognition for a boss who marched to the beat of her own drummer; but they'd get to hear some killer music they wouldn't find anywhere else in the city and work with people who were likable and somewhat professional. The instilling of a family dynamic into the front-of-house staff was almost all Brian's doing.

And I don't think Marguerite liked it one bit. Brian was a favorite whipping boy of hers, and she'd emasculate him at every possible opportunity. I mean, sometimes she's just castrate him in front of guests or people of influence who might have wanted to help the organization's non-profit mission. So, it wasn't surprising that, once the board of directors voted to suspend Marguerite, Brian was one of the first dancing on the grave. As the final note from that stage faded into the ether, Brian still believed that, even though the board made their share of mistakes, they got that decision right.

When we do talk, the conversation invariably comes around to HotHouse, then Marguerite. We've both been on the receiving end of her diatribes. Eventually, I learned to shake it off and get back to work. Like I keep saying, I don't hate the woman, in spite of it all. But with Brian, it's a personal matter, one that I'm not certain he can let go. It's almost like post traumatic stress disorder.

Get the two of us together and it does make for an interesting evening of war stories.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The New Order

"Ballpark" course (aka "dessert")
Originally uploaded by bridgeportseasoning.

Now that I'm freelancing more I'm learning to appreciate that what I'm doing is actually leading to an end. I find myself in front of my computer every day, writing query letters, pitching, replying to requests, accepting the assignments coming my way. But at the end of the day I have to take stock and remind myself that I haven't been futzing around all day.

I'm also accepting more invitations with the goal of networking in mind. Freelance is a hustle, and the aggressive are the ones who make a living of it. This photo - from a dinner at moto Thursday night - was an example of such. It was sponsored by Gourmet magazine, and I thought it would be an opportunity to meet someone who I could plant that little seed in his or her head.

It was a fun dinner, too.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007


Season 2 of "The Tick" is now out on DVD. Dig.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

"This Bud's For You"

Originally uploaded by bridgeportseasoning.

That was what Mike Lukowski said on stage during his benediction at the graduation ceremony for the Lane Tech class of 1987. Overall, the ceremony itself was one of those memorable occasions, not just because we were graduating, but for everything that went wrong during the ceremony. There was a threat of rain all day, and some of us thought there would be a chance the ceremony would be switched to the auditorium.

But it wasn't, and when the lightning started striking the WGN-TV parking lot about an hour into the ceremony, the students headed for the cafeteria, where we turned in our rain-soaked gowns for diplomas. My family, disgusted not only with the weather, but the behavior of the class (we were also tossing beach balls around and generally acting like, well, teenagers), left me to my own devices to get home. When I did, my Auntie Ann let me have it.

"Your cousin Danny - my SON - graduated from summer school and his graduation ceremony wasn't the farce yours was. 'Best and brightest', my eye!" She stated matter-of-fact. I replied, "Yeah, but I graduated on-time, with my class." Then I changed clothes and headed out to meet up with my friends at Ed Debevic's. I don't remember much of that evening, except that I think I wound up sharing a cab back to the Northwest side with Ralph Bonatz.

Last week, I received a package in the mail from the organizers of the Class of '87 20th Anniversary party, and it just made me feel old. Older than waking up with a screaming back; or looking in the mirror and wondering where the past ten years went, or the knowledge that I'm of an age where going out until all hours on a Saturday night is no longer a compulsory exercise. This time it's at a Holiday Inn in Skokie, and I don't see a re-hash of out 10th anniversary reunion. Back then, I was amused and genuinely surprised at how quick we all fell back to our regular cliques from high school. At the same time, fellow graduates I got to know after graduation were instrumental in bridging the gap between those cliques at the ceremony. Some of us - I include myself among that number - were still stupid enough to think that we had the world by the balls, and were living in some protracted form of adolescence.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

The Bar is Always Open

The Bar is Open
Originally uploaded by bridgeportseasoning.

So, in addition to everything else I have going on (the freelance, looking for a job, et al.) I made time Tuesday evening to head to Scoozi for a wine tasting/singles mixer as a personal invitation from master sommelier/"Check Please" host Alpana Singh. Now I used to dabble a little bit in online personals and mixers, but as I've gotten older I just don't do it. I'm usually preoccupied with professional and personal goals to worry about feeling lonely or looking for "the one", whatever that is.

I digress. Ms. Singh is utterly disarming with charm and personality. She told me, Rachelle, and Erin, "If a man can't get laid at a wine tasting, he can't get laid." This at a table with three working writers. We also got to meet her husband and a friend who "heart(s) Chicagoist" that I later allowed to Rachelle and Erin I thought was "kinda cute."

I also had to step in when this guy sidled up to Erin near the end of the tasting who was feeling the effects of a bit too much wine and was trying to be amorous. It's embarrassing to be ruddy and puffy and unaware that she's just not that into you. So I somehow worked into the conversation plans for the movie night in the backyard and told the ladies, "bring your boyfriends." Mr. Valentino picked up on that right away.

As we were leaving, Alpana said, "we should get together sometime soon and formally taste some wine." I replied, "Fuck that. Let's drink some whiskey sometime." We both know this guy Martin Duffy, who's a scotch ambassador. So I think this might be in the works.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

It's a Carnival Feeling Today

Originally uploaded by bridgeportseasoning.

So what can I do to top getting published? How about making the cover story for today's Sun-Times food section?

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to run and buy about ten copies for Mom and the family.