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Doing Something New

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Music Is The Can Opener For My Soul

Music is important in my life.  Day in Day out, music is the art form my soul has chosen for comfort.  As many of you have read, my morning routine is the most important part of my day.  If I am able to experience a favorite “oldie” or have the joy of a new musical discovery in the morning, I am bound to have a blast off kind of day.  It has been like this for as long as I can remember.  One of the original “shock jock’s” was Larry Lujak on WLS 890 AM.  I would listen to Larry in the bathroom in the mornings back then, much the same way I still enjoy the WXRT morning show with Lin Brehmer… sorry Richard Milne.  If I were to give credit for this love of music, it would be to my father.  My dad loved music.  Some of his favorites were Tina Turner, Linda Ronstadt, Steve Winwood, The Doobie Brothers, and a ton of other really groovy bands from the 70’s.  My dad even loved Barbara Streisand, as her artistic talent surpassed his distaste for her politics.  Like most dads, there were a couple songs he played over and over and over and over.  One of those songs was Higher Love by Steve Winwood.  During my morning shave a few days ago, this blast from the past came on the radio.  I instantly thought of dad and the millions of memories which accompany this song into my heart.  Music is the can opener for my soul.  It gets to those places where feelings and memories rush at a rate no less than what feels like drinking water from a fire hydrant.  These moments can be overwhelming for this bipolar bear, but luckily, I have learned to handle them in a healthy manner.  This does not preclude me however from spending a good part of my morning wiping away the happy tears of joy that flow when I experience these intense moments.  Music may be the most universally experienced art form this world knows.  It touches more people than any other creative endeavor I am aware of and has the power to heal in ways we will never fully comprehend.  All that being said, I would like to share with you some of the music that has been touching my soul as we live through this pandemic together.  Being a Gen X’er, I of course will be making you all a “mix tape.”  I will call this Corona-cation 2020 NBFF’s (New Best Friends Forever).  While I do indeed still have a cassette recorder, I realize more likely than not ZERO of you have one of these relics of the 70’s and 80’s. I have included a link to the playlist I made on YouTube. 

I hope you enjoy the music and the story behind each song.

Leon Bridges If It Feels Good     

One of the best parts about being married to my wife is when we met, we already liked a lot of the same music.  This is key for me and not many 30 something professional women enjoy bluegrass and Justin Bieber. So when I found out wifey did indeed have a broad spectrum of musical taste, it attracted me even more to this once in a lifetime love.  Over the years there have been more than a few instances where we have heard a new song together for the first time.  From Mr. Bieber (we saw his premier on Letterman) to The Record Company (WXRT Morning Show). When we hear gems such as this, we look at each other and know that we have both filed the song away as a snapshot in time which neither of us wants to forget.  Wifey and I took a trip to Missoula, Montana, for the 2018/2019 New Year holiday.  My father-in-law lives in New Mexico with his girlfriend during the Winter months, so we were able to enjoy the holiday just the two of us.   As I mentioned, WXRT is our favorite radio station in Chicago, and I have listened for over 25 years. It’s very comforting when we go to Missoula and discovered “The Trail,” which plays 80% of the same music as WXRT, and the remaining 20% is music I wish they played here in Chicago. When in Missoula, wifey and I take a walk every morning about one quarter of a mile up the road to Bernice‘s Bakery. It is there where we spend about 30 minutes to an hour reading newspapers, drinking coffee, and enjoying fresh baked goods. One beautiful snowy morning, we walked home from Bernice’s and began getting our ski gear ready. I am one of those men who shaves his face every morning. And I like music when I do so. This morning we of course had The Trail on, and a funky little beat came on. This caused me to poke my head around the corner of the bathroom door.  As if on cue, my wife poked her head around the doorway of the kitchen at the same time, and we immediately smiled at each other. I said “this is a pretty cool funky little song.” She agreed and we started a session of kitchen dancing immediately.  Spur of the moment kitchen dancing is something I highly recommend. It feels silly at first, but then you let go and just have fun.

Bill Withers Lean On Me  

While Dad was a big influence on my love for music, his dad also provided me with favorite lyrical momentos as well.  Some of my favorite memories as a kid were with Dede (my grandfather) on Saturday mornings.  We did not have a standing weekly time or anything like that, he was way too busy.  What I remember is that we were able to see each other from time to time on a Saturday morning.  Most of the time we would be at my grandparents’ home for brunch.  When I was very small, I remember running into their home on Saturday morning and going straight to the bathroom to watch Dede shave!!  It was soooo exciting! From time to time we would get in the car and run errands together.  These memories are some of the funniest.  Dede was known to pull into traffic without looking.  When I was 10, there was noone I trusted more than both of my grandfathers, so I thought the honking I heard as we backed onto Ogden Avenue was hysterical.  I asked him, when I realized what the honking was really about, if he thought maybe it would be a good idea for him to look before he went into traffic.  Dede assured me if there was anyone who was going to hit him, “they would move out of the way.”  I don’t even know what to say about this kind of statement…other than Dede is one of the few people I have known who could say something like that and get away with it.  He was amazing.  Dede built businesses and had a lot of friends who did the same when they returned from winning World War II.  One of these friends had a company that was one of the earliest in the car phone market.  It was the early 80’s and this car phone friend made sure all of his friends had car phones.  It was the shit.  The handset was white, the numbers were red against the dark background, and there were two antennae protruding from the trunk.  One of our Saturday morning errands was to have his phone serviced. On one of these phone repair outings, he backing into traffic as usual, but this time he caused quite a ruckus.  When he saw the curious look on my face, he turned up the radio to distract me.  Coming through the speakers was Bill Withers belting out Lean On Me.  Dede started singing and I joined in even though I did not know the words.  Lean On Me is one of those songs everyone knows the first time they hear it…. as if it has been living inside us the whole time.  These are universal truths spoken to us through the prophets we call singer songwriters.  Dede was not the kind of man to belt out in song and this is the only memory I have of him doing so.  After my grandfather passed away, my grandmother gave me one of his books, “Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff… and it’s all small stuff.”  It is clear now backing into traffic without looking is small stuff.  I wish he were here today for me to lean on as we live through these days together apart, day in day out.  

Kygo/Whitney Houston Higher Love

This is a bit of a twister…but I guess a remix is just that, by definition.  Higher Love was no doubt the song my dad played more than any other by 10x.  I can tell you that he would have 100% loathed this version.  I found this version by accident just this morning and I love it so much that I am sure I have tested the envelope on the number of times a song can be played in a day.  Dad would be proud of the excess.  This song in its original form has been nothing short of vital in the shaping of who I am today.  It is not possible to hear a song so pregnant with meaning and not have it open the soul. From time to time I will listen to a song with new ears.  This happens as a result of life experiences shaping my perspective along the way and music accesses the part of me that is willing to see the world more empathetically and openly.  I bet I have heard this song with dozens of sets of “new ears.”  SO when I heard this remix version for the first time, I was hit with a huge flood of emotions.  First and as I said, I knew dad would hate the remix which made me laugh.  He was a silly guy and would have said Ace of Base was “a better song.”  It also made me think of all the people who are struggling right now to stay on their feet and how this song may inspire them.  It then occurred to me that there are people who are doing well individually right now, and this song may just introduce them to the humility needed to handle success when the world is heaving.  I was also hit with a huge amount of sadness for Whitney Houston and her daughter Bobbi.  She was an American Treasure.  It is a heartbreaking shame how those she allowed to be close to her and her daughter were nothing but leeches.  Whitney was never able to herself through our eyes.  As an addict, I never thought I was going to live past the age of thirty.  My fear was suffering the same fate as Whitney.  For as long as I can remember, I have played the tape of what my life would look like if I continued down my destructive path.  Death was the most likely outcome.  We can go deeper into that later, but let’s just say I am empathetic to Whitney in a way that only an addict can be.  The combination of all these factors, as well as the fact that there are always hot girls in Kygo videos, landed this classic on the inaugural Corona-cation 2020 playlist. Just a really good morning shower song. 

Greensky Bluegrass In Control

The lyrics really speak to me in this one.  I discovered Greensky Bluegrass about 10 years ago.  I have been a Deadhead for a long time and have always enjoyed going to shows and festivals.  I went to my first “Jamgrass” festival in 2012 in Nelson County, VA.  The Infamous Stringdusters host “Festy” every year and it is right in their own backyard.  After just a couple minutes on the festival grounds, I knew I had found my new favorite way to spend time and relax.  And I now have a rule that if I don’t have an assigned seat or can’t bring a lawn chair, I ain’t going.  This has suited me well and saved my hips and back a ton of pain and suffering.  The one exception is the annual guys trip to see Dead and Co. in Boulder.  I’ll suck it up for Bobby.  One thing has changed over the years as I continue to attend these events.  I don’t drink alcohol.  My regular readers know I quit drinking on September 3, 2004 and have been working on staying sober ever since that day.  Slowly, I am coming out of the “green closet.”  That is to say I am a daily cannabis user and live a life based on the 12 steps and other principals of sober living.  That side of the story is too deep to go into at this point, and rest assured, I will fill you in over time.  Greensky’s In Control is a song that exhibits the pride and new found freedom recovery has to offer.  It honors the struggles of the past while never dwelling and always feeling gratitude.  Even in the face of extreme uncertainty… “it could all be worth it though, how the hell are we to know…?”  This is a song I can hold onto for solid comfort and truth.  The lyrics express gratitude for chaos, which a recovering addict can access… it is what keeps him alive and In Control #dayindayout.

Maroon 5 Memories

Ok I know this is cheesy as fuck, like a high-grade Velveeta melted down with some government issue cheddar.  But hey, I am a sentimental guy and I really like this song and the memories my little modern family has built over the years.  Hell, these memories are the only thing we truly own.  No one can take them away.  I love printing pictures from my phone at Walgreens and putting them in photo brag books.  I will even stop what I am doing from time to time to just sit and page through a couple of books, smile, and yes, cry…a lot. When my daughters were little, this was exactly the kind of song we all would have belted out at the top of our lungs on the way to All About Dance practice.  Being a dad is simply the greatest joy and struggle of my life, day in day out, these little angels bless me in ways I can’t even fully understand…and I am grateful for all those Memories.

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Bedtime Thoughts

I thought I’d share a couple things as an inventory of the day. Many times I wake up with an idea about how my day is going to go. Most of the time it goes nothing like I had planned out. That’s why those first few hours of every day are so important to me. It’s where I build the strength to deal with the day’s adversities. I had a sort of shitty thing happen to me earlier in the day that could’ve taken things way off track. I’m happy to report it was handled with flying colors by everyone involved. I’m so grateful when I can look back and be proud that I handled the situation better than I would have thought otherwise. This takes a day in day out practice of radical acceptance. I’ve learned when I’m triggered or feel some emotional extreme, I need to pause and remember that there are about 1,000 different things at work in any given situation that I am totally unaware of and have totally no control over. I’m not perfect at this but when I do it, things go really really well. I’m going to get up tomorrow morning again at 4:20 and make pancakes for the Lincoln Park community shelter. This is my day in day out commitment to myself my family my community and my God. DIDO!!

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Day In Day Out

I am a hustler, plain and simple. I work a couple different hustles to stay busy and earn cash for my family. My career out of college began on the The Chicago Board of Trade trading floor. This was something I wanted to do for a long time and was excited to be starting off at the CBOT. I was a top performing clerk in the bond options pit and a small market maker (local) in the Dow Index Futures pit. When it became clear that trading was going to transition to screens, I decided to take my passion for the markets and trading to PaineWebber as a financial adviser. After a few years at what became UBS, I joined an independent firm, and managed assets for a small group of high net worth families until the crisis of 2008. I then decided to open a restaurant in 2011. It was a miserable failure, yet I would never take back this experience in a million years. We lost over $500,000 and their was a good amount of fraud on the part of the franchisor. We were able to recoup some of our losses but this was a very tough time, and it has taken me a long time to “recover” from that trauma… and that is exactly what it was. In addition to having my real estate license, for the last eight years I have run a residential snow removal business. Not only is this fun, but it is a good amount of cash in my pocket… every little bit counts… I never want to forget the real value of a dollar! And every time it snows, it pays the rent. I also do Spring and Fall leaf clean ups for my snow clients, my clients really do love having made life easier for them. It makes me proud to fill this role for a family. With that feeling of pride in mind, my absolute favorite hustle of the year are the Christmas Tree lots I own and operate. The lots are open from Thanksgiving until I sell out of trees, usually a few days before Christmas. This is my favorite time of year for several reasons. For many years I have been trying to come up with a hustle that requires little to no email communication. Email is not good for me and makes me very anxious. The good news is Christmas trees don’t send emails and 99% of my customers don’t send emails either. On top of that, I get to see families during what could possibly be the best hour of their year, picking out their family Christmas tree. What a blessing!!! While I enjoy the work 110%, it is a long month+ of working 15-18 hour days, seven days a week. I come home every night exhausted but I also get in really great shape, and put on a couple pounds of muscle weight from tossing around several hundred 20 to 100 lb. trees. I used to sell Christmas trees in high school for a farmer from Michigan, so I already had a pretty good idea of what I was doing. I will fill you in more on that journey later. Oh, and I can’t forget that I also have a private car service where I drive residents of a high end senior living facility to the airport, concerts and even overnight trips for family reunions that would otherwise require a flight that they would rather not take. Driving these folks are some of my best memories. Many of my private car clients are my grandparents’ age if they were still alive. I was extremely close with my grandparents, and this really warms my heart and puts me in a good mood.
As all this is happening, my wife Kimley also had her own recruiting company…. there will definitely be more on that later. For over 20 years she has built an amazing reputation as one of the best executive recruiters in the country today. She mainly works with creative companies, middle market PE firms and their portfolio companies, as well as firms in her home state of Montana. Kimley would very much like to have a base of clients out West for when we are able to make our move back to MT. Since starting her own business over 7 years ago, my role has been to support her in any way she needs and that I am able to execute. This has been anything from simple logistical support like getting snacks for the office to high level introductions to potential new clients. I also came up with my own creative ideas for how to grow and manage the business. Make no mistake, this was Kimley’s ship to steer. A number of years ago, she was working on a search for a water irrigation company, it occurred to me that this company was actually a cannabis company. The company did not realize this and Kimley had not thought of it in that way but she quickly recognized the connection between this company and how it fit within the cannabis ecosystem. I said “we need to start a cannabis search practice” within our existing firm. The leadership team agreed and our equity partner in this effort (her ex-husband!) was on board as well. To say that were excited would be an understatement. Over the next several months I started traveling to cannabis conferences and networking events, developing a network of cannabis executives and want-to-be candidates. Building this business one client at a time has taken several years but we have learned an enormous amount about this nascent industry along the way. When the 2018 Farm Bill was passed and hemp became legal at the Federal level, a whole new sector of the cannabis industry opened up… THE CBD MARKET!!! The medical and recreational cannabis business have a costly barrier to entry, and there are huge amounts of compliance and regulatory red tape. The CBD market on the other hand has literally no barriers to entry. To say they are low would be inaccurate as there simply are none. Anyone can buy a couple dozen bottles of what they think is CBD and sell it online, with no oversight or compliance whatsoever. This situation has opened the flood gates for bad operators to come into the market and continue to give this miracle plant a bad name which in no way is deserved. This being the case, Kimley and I started thinking there could be real value to bringing a high quality CBD product line to the market. This line would be made by a company that uses real world business practices, and offers their patients world class educational resources. We started off with the idea to do educational seminars for senior living facilities, which will still be one of our ares of eventual focus. Let’s remember that my wife and I are both entrepreneurs, and are usually on the same page regarding the risks we take. One of the greatest risks on which we agree is taking on investors/partners. I get this from my grandfather and Kimley gets it from her desire to avoid being told what to do, and wanting to keep a larger share of the pie for herself. I admire her for this perspective and she admires me for mine. So when I told her my plan for bootstrapping and self funding our CBD company, she was on-board. The cash we would need to launch this effort was going to come through selling original political and cannabis t-shirt ideas I have tied with my strong passion for Bernie Sanders and medical marijuana. Some of you know this already. The plan was for me to travel to the first batch of Democratic primary states, peddle my shirts, and promote my blog and e-commerce site. I went to Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, North Carolina, and my own home state of Illinois where Bernie held a “YUUUUGE” rally in Grant Park in Chicago. Traveling around the eastern half of the country selling t-shirts and campaigning for my candidate was not only one of the most educational trips of my life, but also the most fun. I will share more of those stories at a later time. I am a creative guy and have a lot of ideas, which can be very distracting at times. If I don’t have focus and constant reminders for what I am supposed to be doing at any given moment, I can get pulled in a lot of different directions. The result is starting other projects and getting nothing done. This has been the case my whole life but thanks to sobriety and therapy over the past several years, I have learned tools to help manage this and get shit done. And that is the whole point of this post. LIFE IS ABOUT GETTING SHIT DONE!!! DAY IN AND DAY OUT!!

One of my favorite authors is David Foster Wallace. Sadly, David committed suicide in 2008 at the age of 46, though not before he produced some of the best essays and fiction writing of the 20th century. As a result of being such a prolific writer, David was invited to give many college commencement address speeches. My absolute favorite clip of internet content is one of those speeches. In 2005, David Foster Wallace gave what I consider to be one of the most life affirming speeches ever given at an occasion such as a graduation. I have listened to his This Is Water address no fewer than 100 times. Davids’ words never get old and are the best way for me to remember that I have no idea what someone else is dealing with and that I need to have compassion in every situation. DFW dovetails these thoughts into some wisdom never talked about with young people… “And I submit that this is what the real, no bullshit value of your liberal arts education is supposed to be about: how to keep from going through your comfortable, prosperous, respectable adult life dead, unconscious, a slave to your head and to your natural default setting of being uniquely, completely, imperially alone DAY IN and DAY OUT. That may sound like hyperbole, or abstract nonsense. Let’s get concrete. The plain fact is that you graduating seniors do not yet have any clue what “DAY IN DAY OUT” really means. There happen to be whole, large parts of adult American life that nobody talks about in commencement speeches. One such part involves boredom, routine and petty frustration. The parents and older folks here will know all too well what I’m talking about.”

So far I have not been able to come up with a better description for adult life than “Day In Day Out“. When I heard this for the first time, it made sense. When one decides to finally make the leap into adulthood, there must be an acceptance that the rest of ones life will be filled with routine that never ends… trudging the road to happy destiny “Day In Day Out“. Children, jobs, aging parents, divorced friends, cancer, all become parts of your life…”Day In and Day Out“. Over fifteen years ago, I made the decision to get sober. One of the sayings we alcoholics rely on for comfort is “One Day At A Time”. As I see it, “Day In Day Out” is a much more intense and focused version of “One Day At A Time”. “One Day At A Time” is a reminder to breath and slow down… an invitation to wear life as a loose shirt. “Day In Day Out” is a reminder to get my ass out of bed, get going, and take care of the things I need to do. It reminds me this is the long road and will take three times longer than I think. “Day In Day Out” I will be required to do things that I absolutely do not want to do. It is also my daily reminder that life is suffering everyday, and I need to accept this fact as much as the happy and joyful moments of my life.  

As I have thought about this “Day In Day Out” mantra for the past several years, I have started to include it on some of my electronic correspondence signature as DIDO. I have written it down in several places around the house where I am likely to see it. I write it on bookmarks, post-it notes, the bathroom mirror in expo markers, and I never stop reminding my kids that life is just that, “Day In Day Out”DIDO. So, if I were to say what life is about…DIDO. For anyone who finds it difficult to understand the uncomfortable fact that there are lies we receive about life from our parents to protect our hearts, advertising to manipulate us, and society to control us, this will catch up with you at some point. If you’re lucky, it will be sooner versus later. It is YOU that I am writing for and it is YOU for whom I will be vulnerable and honest by sharing my experience. DIDO is going to be a “lifestyle brand” (I fucking hate that term and will be creating my own descriptor) dedicated to improving the best parts of ourselves, while at the same time learning to deal with the darkness we all have in order to live the most impactful life possible. DIDO