Mel Reynolds: The Mighty Have Fallen

There was a time when Mel Reynolds was one of the most promising young politicians in Illinois.

That was before he was sent to jail for having sex with a 16-year-old underage campaign worker. That was before he became a registered sex offender in 1995, forbidden to live within 500 feet of a school. That was before he was charged with failing to file income tax returns from 2009 through 2012. (Each count carries a maximum sentence of one year in prison or a $250,000 fine on conviction.) That was before he was found to have child pornography, tried to sabotage the case against him, and was sentenced to 5 years in prison.

In 1997, Reynolds was convicted, while serving time in prison, of 15 counts of illegally raising campaign cash and defrauding banks out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. For that, he got 6 and 1/2 years in prison.

He served 2 and 1/2 years in state prison and was then transferred to a federal prison, but in 2001, Bill Clinton commuted his sentence hours before leaving office, at a time when Reynolds had 2 years left to serve.

In 2003, Reynolds made several attempts at a political comeback, running against another sterling example of rectitude, Jesse Jackson Jr. in the 2004 Democratic primary. That failed. Ten years later, Zimbabwe would deport him from that African country on charges that he had sexually explicit photos and videos on his mobile phone, in violation of a censorship law…in Africa! Although the charges were reduced to a misdemeanor visa violation, he was sent packing and came back to the U.S., where, on July 31st, while leaving the Dirksen US. Courthouse in Chicago, he was trying to find a place to spend the night.

Reynolds was able to secure a court-approved place to stay on an emergency basis and was ordered to appear in court at 2 p.m. on Friday with a more permanent address. Asked by reporters who he was talking to on his cell phone, Reynolds declined to answer fully, saying only, “This is a one-night deal,” and, of the charges of failing to pay taxes for four years, “The narrative has been that somehow I didn’t pay my taxes. I didn’t file.  By going to trial, this is going to set the record straight.” Mel Reynolds is 63 years old, claims to have a “very sick” daughter in Africa, and is a convicted felon.

Maybe he and Jesse Jackson and Anthony Weiner can start a club aimed at “Redemption” (the sign in the background of the old campaign photo.).Mel Reynolds

 

Third Day at Sea: Rome

Our first day at sea was spent cruising. Day two found us in either Pisa or Pompeii after docking in Naples.2015-07-21 15.17.05

On day three, we docked in Civitavecchia, Italy at 6 a.m.2015-07-23 15.03.10

Two hours later, our tour of the city left by bus, facing a one and 1/2 hour trip to the city from the docks (and a one and 1/2 hour trip back). (I just LOVE those early morning tours!)2015-07-21 15.14.48

Mainly, we drove past the sights that Rome conjures up, because the wait time to get inside the Colisseum, for instance, was 2 hours. (Only later, after our return, did I learn about the passes one could have purchased in advance that would have let you cut to the front of all lines, but they were primarily for 2 and 3 days, which would not have worked for those of us on an 8 and 1/2 hour tour of which 4 hours was spent on a bus).2015-07-21 15.16.02

After the extensive, exhausting trek through Pompeii (Day 2), the bus was quite welcome in the 100 degree heat. It was also very humid. 2015-07-21 15.31.52

I did some shopping with a fellow tour member, Deborah Matthews of Washington, D.C., and we were able to find a leather goods shop for souvenirs. We also tried the delicious dessert that our tour guide, Luisiana, went on and on about, calling us “my family” and using the phrase “you must know” to mean, “you should be aware that.”2015-07-21 18.35.27

I enjoyed seeing the area where the chariot races took place in “Ben Hur,” and the window from which a new Pope is announced. We were told by our guide that visiting the Treasures of the Vatican Museum would take at least a week and getting in to see the Pieta or anything in the Vatican requires extensive security, (plus, you have to be wearing something that covers both your shoulders and your knees.) Since my husband had on shorts, that was probably out in the first place.2015-07-21 14.48.16

I spent a period of days in Rome way back when, so the failure to be able to tromp around some more in 100 degree heat didn’t bother me at all.

Barcelona
Barcelona

Lollapalooza in Chicago, 2015

While in Chicago to take delivery of 2 new couches,  I attempted to enjoy Paul McCartney “live” from Grant Park, about a block away. It should have worked (it has, in the past), but, instead of live streaming Sir Paul, Gary Clark, Jr.’s set was shown and the Twitter-verse burst out with protests that a talent like Paul McCartney was allowed to be upstaged by someone nobody knew and very few cared about. (The big performer on Friday, July 31, 2015, was McCartney)

On Saturday (today), there was a face-off between Sam Smith on the stage farthest from me and Metallica on the Samsung Galaxy Stage closest to me. At least both were streamed “live” as promised by www.RedBulltv.com.

If you like Florence and the Machine, she plays on Sunday night at 9 p.m. (until 10 p.m.) to close out the festival. At 3 p.m. “Moon Taxi” from Nashville will play, friends of the daughter.

Absolutely perfect evening weather, so far, although a bit hot during the day.

Pompeii: Buried in 79 A.D.

`We arrived in port at Naples and some went in to Naples (reporting  it 2015-07-20 19.51.38a fairly dirty and not-that-attractive industrial city). Our guide, Carmine, carefully explained the lay-out of the city, including the small doors (approximately 4′ 9″) where gladiators were housed. (One of the corpses found during the excavation was a wealthy woman who had, perhaps, paid to spend the night with a gladiator, which was a common occurrence.)2015-07-20 19.37.24

We opted to visit ancient Pompeii, a city that was buried by the volcanic ash from Mt. Vesuvius in 79 A.D. The inhabitants of the city did not die from lava, but from rocks thrown by the volcano and from the gas.

2015-07-20 19.22.03

Many, in fact, left the city after the initial eruption only to return and die there at night. August 24, 79 AD was the date of the eruption. The violence of the eruption was such that the top part of the volcano collapsed, forming the present broad caldera.2015-07-20 19.34.21

The eruption devastated the entire coast between Herculaneum and Stabia for 3 days and the description of it has come down to us from letters written by Pliny the Younger and sent to Tacitus, to describe for him the death of his uncle, Pliny the Elder, the Admiral of the Fleet of Misenum.2015-07-20 20.00.39

Pompeii remained buried under a layer of ash more than 6 meters deep for more than 2 centuries. In fact the white house pictured at the bottom of this post was the residence of the man who bought the land, not realizing it was the former site of the disaster, which buried alive thousands of people. The house is to be preserved as it was. 2015-07-20 19.40.27

A display of the discoveries made by archaeologists centuries later were on tour at the Field Museum about 5 years ago. It is also true that some of the excavators died from pockets of gas trapped underground, during their excavation.2015-07-20 19.45.45This tour lasted only 4 hours, but was rated a 3, which meant lots of walking in 104 degree heat over uneven surfaces and uphill, with little or no shade.  We also had to hop on stones to cross ancient Pompeii streets, which was a little bit like the ice floe scene from Uncle Tom’s Cabin, hopping from ice floe to ice floe. This was done because ancient Pompeii had no sewer system and residents used the stones in the middle of the open-air sludge to keep from having to wade through human feces.2015-07-20 20.13.12

Birthday Cruise to Italy, France & Spain Concludes

 

The Norwegian "Epic" (holds 6,000 travelers).
The Norwegian “Epic” (holds 6,000 travelers).

Our trip to Spain, Italy and France began with a journey on Lufthansa to Munich and Barcelona. Then we set off on the ship pictured above, which held roughly 6,000 people (5,000 tourists and 1,000 staff) and is the 4th largest at sea.

I would have posted as we traveled to Pompeii, Rome, Florence, Cannes, Monte Carlo, Monaco and Mallorca, but I only had the wireless on the ship to use, so I could not upload the pictures, which I’ll do now with some comment, for my first post(s) since the “Rolling Stones” on the Fourth of July in Indianapolis.

I am still recommending to one and all that they celebrate their birthday MONTH, not just their birth day. If you live to be 100, that only gives you 100 days of specialness. If you live to be 100 and celebrate the entire month in some small way, you exponentially expand your chances for fun (100 x 31 = 3100).

Give it some thought. It doesn’t have to be a BIG celebration (although this one was); it could be something as simple as having a Starbucks or a massage or some special “perk” that you allow yourself to enjoy.

So far, it’s been working out well for me, and I will conclude by listening to Paul McCartney sing from 7:45 p.m. to 10 p.m. at Lollapalooza in Chicago and by taking delivery of 2 new couches there.

My thanks to all who wished me well on my “day(s)” and please be aware that I hope you have as happy a day/week/month as I have had.

Rolling Stones: Indianapolis Speedway, July 4th, 2015

RS2The daughter and I did a Road Trip for my Birthday Month: Indianapolis, Indiana, for the Rolling Stones Zip Code Tour. In addition, her friend (Jesse Keys) got us VIP passes up front and met us (at our Uber car) with a golf cart, saving me a 5-mile walk after my July 1s leg surgery (squamous cell cancer).

Mick1
It was a TREMENDOUS show: 3 full hours. 50,000 cheering fans. Here are a few pictures.

Keith&Ron
Thanks, Stacey!

KeithCrowd020

New Documentary “Amy” Is Heart-Wrenching, Tragic, and Oscar-worthy

 

Amy Winehouse died on July 23, 2011, at age 27.  She died 17 years after another famous self-destructive lead singer, Kurt Cobain, killed himself, causing some to dub this coincidence “the 27 Club.”

In a new documentary, “Amy” that premiered in England on July 3rd and in the United States on July 10th, directed by Asif Kapadia and produced by James Gay-Rees and Universal Music, we learn “the story behind the music” from home video footage and interviews with those who knew Amy best—including Amy, herself.  It is a compelling and oh-so-sad look at one of–if not THE—greatest songwriter of her generation. The film debuted at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival.

The singer’s own song lyrics, projected onscreen, and her own interview statements, provide us with a murky picture of what led to her premature death. She described herself as a happy child until the age of 9, when her parents separated (her father, Mitch, moved in with his girlfriend).  Amy continued to live with her mother, Janis, and to visit her father and his girlfriend on weekends, but Janis, by her own admission, was not a disciplinarian. (“I wasn’t strong enough to say to her: Stop!”) Amy’s father, Mitch, whom she idolized, was not around to say “no” and her behavior from age 9 on seems to be a classic case of “acting out.”  Anything she thought would displease or shock her parents or other adults, she did—whether it was tattoos, piercings, her hair, her style of dress, her make-up, her promiscuity, or her eventual fatal infatuation with drugs and alcohol.

Amy came by her love for jazz legitimately, as many of Winehouse’s maternal uncles were professional jazz musicians and she was encouraged to listen to the greats.  Amy’s paternal grandmother, Cynthia, was a singer, and Amy calls her “the strongest woman I ever knew.” Her Nan’s death in 2006, when Amy was 23, hit Amy hard, at a time when other problems were rapidly building in her complicated life.

In one interview by Garry Mulholland of “The Observor” Amy, when asked about fame, replies, “I don’t think I could handle it.  I think I’d go mad.”  Indeed, there were suggestions that she may have been manic depressive and she suffered from bulimia. She was prescribed the anti-depressant Seroxat after her father left home, when quite young.

From the time Mitch left, Amy was a “Wild Child” and in various sorts of trouble.  Although it is not mentioned in the documentary, there were several charges of assault leveled against her. Even Amy admitted to sometimes hitting husband Blake Fielder-Civil, and one of her songs suggests that “You should be stronger than the woman.”

The entrance of Blake Fielder-Civil into her life seems to have been one of the worst pairings of two troubled people in history.  It echoes the Sid Vicious (the Sex Pistols) murder of his girlfriend Nancy Spungen.  The murder, in this case, was much more insidious, as Fielder-Civil introduced Amy to the worst of the drugs she experimented with and played fast-and-loose with her heart,  breaking up with her to return to a former girlfriend ( inspiring “Back to Black”) and deciding, while in prison on drug and assault charges, to divorce her.  Amy was betrayed by almost ever significant male figure in her life in one way or another.

After Fielder-Civil left her, briefly, to return to his previous girlfriend, Amy wrote, “Now my destructive side has grown a mile wide.”  Fielder-Civil reveals to the camera that, at the age of 9, [the same age as Amy when her father deserted her], he had attempted suicide. Amy is quoted repeatedly saying, “I write songs because I’m fucked up in the head.”

Amy’s father Mitch seems a bit too eager to profit from his daughter’s popularity and to springboard his own entrepreneurial efforts, sponging off her fame and fortune.  The film makes a point of confirming that her father DID say she didn’t need to go to rehab, and the narrator obviously feels it was one of Amy’s last chances to turn her life around.

Amy’s final “Duets” partner, Tony Bennett, is interviewed and says that Amy sensed that she was going to die young; he also gave her huge props as a true Jazz singer.  They are shown in the recording studio working together. It is obvious that Amy is nervous at performing with one of her idols.  Her record of 5 2008 Grammy Awards for “Back to Black” and many other British music awards cements her influence as one of the most important songwriters of her generation. (Amy had to perform via video; she was not allowed to leave the country and enter the U.S. because of drug use charges.)

A change of managers also appears to have been a change for the worse.  Her original manager, Nick Shymensky, became a close friend, starting with her when he was only 19 and she was 16.  Amy left him to go with Metropolis Music promoter Raye Cosbert, who put her on the road when she was ill and overbooked her for performances when Amy would, sometimes intentionally, sabotage her performance, as when she was forced to travel to Serbia to sing. It is related in the documentary that Amy was physically carried to a limo, unconscious from a night of hard partying, and put on a private plane to take her to the concert, where she subsequently refused to sing when called to the stage. [My daughter saw her during a Lollapalooza performance during this period and said she was “a mess.”] On the bright side, she had a great working relationship with record producer Salaam Remi, with whom she shared the Grammy for “Back to Black.”

When asked about the onerous nature of fame, [for which she was ill-prepared], Amy said, “If I really thought I was famous, I’d go and top myself, because it’s scary.  It’s very scary.”  She also says, at one point near the end of the film that she would happily trade her singing talent for the anonymity of being able to walk down the street without being hassled by fans.

After Amy’s Grandmother Cynthia (Nan) died on May 5, 2006, when Amy was 22, things seemed to spiral downward for the singer.  She had a seizure on August 24, 2007 in Camden and medical personnel said, “Her body can’t keep up with this.  If she has another seizure, she’ll die.”  Amy was told to swear off drugs, which she attempted to do and, apparently, had done at the time of her death. Her lung capacity was at only 70% (Mitch told the press she had signs of early emphysema) and her heartbeat was irregular.

However, when Amy was “off” drugs, she substituted abuse of alcohol, drinking heavily. In fact, it was alcohol poisoning that ultimately killed her, combined with the effects of years of drug abuse and bulimia. The film states that the level of alcohol in her system at the time of her death was “45 times the drunk driving limits,” although another source listed it as 416 mg. per 100 ml (0.416%), which is 5 times the legal drunk driving limit.

Her bodyguard at the time said, “This is someone who wants to disappear.”  Amy began to unravel in public.  She couldn’t escape her fame.  As her bodyguard put it, “She needed someone to say no.  She just needed support.”

“I cheated myself, like I knew I would. I told you—I’m trouble—you know that I’m no good.” With two of her romantic interests (Alex Claire and her former husband Blake Fielder-Civil) having sold their stories to British tabloids, the feeling is that everyone, including dear old dad, wanted to ride the gravy train as long as possible. This is a must-see documentary, if only for the wonderful music (original score other than Amy’s songs provided by Antonio Pinto).  It is useful as a cautionary tale, if nothing else, and I can’t believe it won’t garner Oscar nods, come spring.

Ultimately, as Amy predicted in song, “My odds are stacked. I go to black.”

Glen Campbell Documentary on Alzheimer’s Hits Home

My father had Alzheimer’s disease. He knew he was losing his memory as early as his 65th birthday, and he took me aside to tell me that he was divesting of all trusts where he was the trustee and trying to “get out from under” all obligations, because he was losing his memory.

When I tried to pooh pooh his concerns, telling him that all older adults lose a step or two in terms of memory, he was insistent that this was more serious. “I can feel it inside my head, Con. I know it’s more than that.”

Not long after, he went to the post office in the family auto, went inside to get his mail and walked home, leaving his car running in the street outside, keys still in it. The postmaster called our house and said, “Uh…John. Your car is outside. You left it running and it ran out of gas. Maybe you can come get it?”

I remember when I drove my mother and my father to the Mayo Clinic to the emergency room, because my father’s colon cancer was getting worse and he had no pain pills nor any medication for sleeping through the night. He was getting up in the night and falling and he broke his ribs, a painful (and unnecessary) injury

When we got to the Mayo Clinic, I was told to drive my ailing father directly to the emergency room, which I did. The scenes with Glen Campbell being asked, “Who’s the president, Glen?” “What day is it, Glen?” and other such mundane questions, instantly took me back.

Alzheimer’s is a brutal disease. Ultimately, the patient no longer has the ability to understand things that are said to him or here. Language ability can become profoundly impaired. Patients can forget family members and not recognize them. Somehow, that musical skill if it’s activate can help the brain globally if it is activated in Glen Campbell’s case.
Documentary:
They’re giving Glen Campbell Arracept which is causing him to become horny, apparently. (My dad was given Arracept, and that was 1986.)
His wife says: Depending on how you look at it, perhaps there’s an “up” side to Alzheimers (she says he is after her 4x a day after they double his Arracept.)
(I remember that my dad took Arracept. He said it made him feel “fuzzy.” He didn’t like the feeling at all. He also tried to “joke” his way out of questions which he couldn’t answer, like, “Who was our first President, John?”
Statistic mentioned: 115 million Alzheimers patients around the globe.
Last year, $140 billion was spent on Alzheimers in the U.S.
$600 billion will be needed by the time all baby boomers retire. The (D) Senator from Massachusetts is championing the governmental effort to get more funds for Alzheimers research.
May 12, 2012, Campbell played at the Library of Congress. Bill Clinton is talking about his knowledge of Glen Campbell as being from Delight, Arkansas, which is near Hope, where Clinton grew up. Clinton urged more dollars for bio-medical research. “This tour of his may be more of his enduring legacy than all the music he made.”
The film shows him playing the Hollywood Bowl and Boston and the Ryman in Nashville.
Words of one song his daughter sings:
“Daddy don’t you worry: I’ll do the remembering.”
Cal, Shannon and Ashley are the 3 children he had with Wife #4.
“This was a man with a mind like a steel trap and he couldn’t remember my name,” says his longtime bus driver.
 Bruce Springsteen talks about his grandfather dying of it.
Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chili Peppers lost his father at 70 from Alzheimers.
Brad Paisley’s grandmother and great grandmother both had it.
Kathy Mattea (musician) said her mother regressed and thought she was a young girl again.
Glen’s wife, Kim:  “I don’t want to see him stop being an individual. I don’t want to see him degenerating. I don’t want to see Glen in that condition. I think it’s better to die from something else.”
Brad Paisley would like someone to “find that gene and turn it off before I’m 70,” (he’s now 40) as he has a high probability of inheriting the gene.
Glen’s long-term memory is great, but his short-term memory is what is degenerating. He remembers things from way back, as did my own dear departed father.
Kelli Campbell is another daughter (old) and Debby Campbell-Cloyd is another (older). They look to be at least in their forties or fifties.
There is a scene where Glen has something wrong with his teeth. He won’t go to the dentist and is belligerent about it. “I’m telling you, Man.” He is acting very loud and belligerent about something stuck in his teeth and is using a large knife to try to pick it out.
Campbell is shown in bed before a show he is to do at Carnegie Hall. He looks absolutely exhausted (Concert #113).
The Art Institute of Chicago had him come perform. He had a really hard time performing anything at that dinner.
His wife, Kim: “This is not a fun illness. It’s a challenging illness to deal with every moment of their lives. He can’t find the bathroom in his own house.”
His wife says, “Every day is a challenge for me.” She describes it as “intensely sad. Generally, he clings to me. I’m his safety blanket. He wants me around all the time.” (This was like my mother and my dad).
They (patients) become paranoid and begin to think that people are stealing from them. Glen becomes convinced that his best friend is stealing his golf clubs. (My dad became convinced that he was being held prisoner against his will, Also, some become delusional and see things, which my dad also did, although he was on heavy-duty pain medication for colon cancer, so the pink snakes he saw on the baseboard of his bedroom might have been from pain medication.
(Nov., 2012): After Chicago, the frequency of bad shows began to increase. They wanted to go out on a high note. “We’ve reached a point where he’s not capable of doing it.”
His wife: “That tour was crazy when he was offstage because he didn’t want to stay in the hotel room. He went around the hotel pressing everybody’s doorbells because he thought they were elevator buttons.”
 By the time they got to Napa (the last show) they knew they had to stop the tour (it was Show #151). His son said, “It’s too bad he doesn’t  even know it’s his last show ever.”
His daughter (Ashley) testified before Congress to try to get more funds for Alzheimers’ research and more-or-less broke down while testifying.
This was a good documentary, but it hit very close to home, for me, as I watched Glen Campbell try to joke his way through questions he can’t answer.
James Keach, Stacey Keach’s brother, directed the documentary and Jane Seymour, his wife, is listed as a producer. Three of Campbell’s children (2 boys and his daughter) back him up onstage and mention of Campbell’s prominence as a member of the famous “Wrecking Crew” that played on records by almost all big groups (including the Beach Boys) is mentioned. Having just seen the Wrecking Crew represented in the film “Love & Mercy” about Brian Wilson, it was an interesting and important documentary that makes you hope you have Tony Bennett’s genes and not Glen Campbell’s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Hellfire & Damnation III” Offered for 99 Cents on June 27, 28; July 4, 5, 6

As part of a KDP promotion, the third book in the Hellfire & Damnation series will be reduced in price to 99 cents on June 27, June 28 (in other words, tomorrow, Saturday, and the next day, Sunday) and again on July 4, 5 and 6.

The third installment in the short story series organized around Dante’s “Inferno” and the 9 Circles of Hell, you can read more about the entire series and see trailers at www.HellfireAndDamnationTheBook.com.

 

 

 

Bette Midler Plays United Center on June 18, 2015

Bette Midler peered out at the crowd of all ages and said, “It’s nice to see so many of my fans are still able to drive at night.” I laughed out loud. Bette and I are contemporaries, and there is much truth in her meant-to-be-funny remark. Later, when she said that a new Apple Watch was “the first step on the road to douche-baggery,” I laughed loudly again from my seat in the rafters, as my son had just received his watch in the mail that day (a prize from his work, PSI Metals of Germany, for creative thinking on a “brainstorming” competition.) Bette sported a short pink number with lots of sparkly bits at the hem, neck and sleeves for the opening numbers and went through a few costume changes, but nothing like Cher, for example. Her final outfit onstage was a red, glittery sequined number that was quite form-fitting, and the 69-year-old looked good in it. (She said, “Don’t I look good?” as the concert opened.) Bette worked in all the favorites I wanted to hear the most, especially “Wind Beneath My Wings” (from “Beaches”) and “From A Distance.” Her encore number, with 8 musicians backing her on trombone, saxophone, cornet, percussion, etc., a la Bruno Mars’ band, was “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B.” If I had any criticism of the night, it would be that Bette didn’t resurrect “Delores Del Lago, the Toast of Chicago,” except in some flashback photos, which I will post if I can. If you see a seam down the middle, that is because these were images flashed on the large screen backing Bette. The two side screens did not seem very large, another minus if you were as far away as it was possible to get and up high. (Thank heavens for my 30 zoom). From here, I’m going to try to post photos, which may or may not work out, for me, but where there’s life, there’s hope, and you’re getting this from someone diagnosed with (borderline) diabetes and cancer (squamous skin) in one week, so I’m hoping.