Facing Procrastination…

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I am a procrastinator. Sometimes I put things off until the last minute. I meet deadlines. I am on time when I go places. But, the things I do not want to do stay there waiting for me to do them when it is something I must do.

At work the other day, I met another procrastinator. I could not believe that someone would wait for three years after the fact to find out where something had gone wrong. All of the systems on the Internet where I look for information are geared to this year. Looking in the past is a phone call. We were on hold for over a hour. After a five minute chat with a harried angry person at the call center, we got a partial explanation and another number. After a very short wait time on the second call, we got another number and knew what had happened.

The client told me the problem has been happening since 2008 and the reason we were working on 2011 was that it was the only copy of work he could find. The precipitating factor was a demand for payment from 2011. All the time I was talking to the client, I was thinking how could someone put things off for so long. I asked if he had tried to resolve the problem. He replied that he had tried it once.

I could not believe it until I thought about some of the things I have on the back burner. Some are really quite old. I was looking at another version of myself.

Work and….

Yesterday morning I faced one of my most difficult situations, the dreaded three hour business meeting. It was really a training session for the change my job goes through for summer. A lot of it was new and I had to call a customer and tell her that a previously uncharged service now has a charge. She was upset. When I saw her later in the day, she thanked me for the call. Things like that make work go better. Another customer thanked me for helping them. So the day ended well and I remember the good things about my work.

I was very tired but decided to get a little music and went to Northern Lights Lounge to hear the Mike Jellick Trio.

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Mike Jellick, Miles Brown, Jesse Kramer

The place was packed this week so I sat in way in the back. The music was a little harder to hear and gave me a different perspective. I really like funky jazz and Mike does not have much funk. But, his wild, creative innovative style is absolutely captivating. And I heard it again tonight. It is so good to find I have a little more breath than I thought. I’ll be exploring a bit more.

Detroit: A Tale of Two Cities

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The Renaissance Center in background on left and blighted home in foreground right

Last night when I was going to Detroit for some music, I ran into a freeway maintenance shut down and a forced reroute off the free way and into an unfamiliar neighborhood. My car has 167,247 miles on it and I worry that it may break down. For the most part when I go anywhere, I am on main roads where I feel safer. The reroute took me through a reminder of how life looks to some Detroiters.

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For others, life looks different.

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City services are delivered unevenly and it has been that way for as long as I can remember. Right now, because the city was deemed by the state of Michigan to be financially unviable, Governor Rick Snyder appointed an Emergency Financial Manager(EFM) Kevin Orr. The EFM has been a practice in the state for several years and several cities have gone through the process. The EFM has complete control over city functions during his stay in the city.

In my opinion, one of the major problems is that the city council is elected at large. Most of them live in one area of Detroit. I’m sure you can guess which of the two neighborhoods depicted above is the primary neighborhood of the city council members. This issue will be somewhat resolved with the next election when for the first time in years, almost all of the council members will be elected from districts. The mayor, Dave Bing (former basketball star), has not been able to change the situation. According to some Detroit residents I know, he patronizes black owned business on an extremely infrequent basis.

They are beginning to cut some costs. The city council members and the mayor have had personal drivers paid for by the city. That no longer have that perk. The EFM does have it.

When the EFM has control, the city council and the mayor are not allowed to pass laws or perform any normal governmental tasks. Complete disenfranchisement. Today the second city council member quit. He will begin working for the EFM within the month.

There was not really much interest in the EFM amongst the people that live in the suburbs until Mr. Orr mentioned that all the art in the Detroit Institute of Arts was up for grabs. A Van Gogh, anyone? It did make people pay attention. The retires of the city may have their pensions cut significantly. Now, they are paying attention.

It is so true use that the city is in a financial mess. It has been going on for a long time. So long, there is enough blame to go around. It has been a case of ” kicking the can” down the road. I’m glad people are paying attention now. I hope people will learn from this and continue to pay attention even when there is not an obvious cri sis.

RJ Spangler Trio at the Cadieux Cafe

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When I decide for an evening of music at the Cadieux cafe, I choose carefully. It is a 45 minute drive to get to the Eastside of Detroit for me. It is a casual music venue and has no cover charge. The format for the evening is for the first set to be the band set and open mic after the first set and is a common set for Detroit.

I left home in time to arrive for the first set. Every thing went well until I got halfway through the Lodge Freeway part of the trip. The road was being closed to do midnight roadwork. The cars were being funneled off the freeway. This sort of situation always causes the idiot driver to emerge and act like they are the most important car in the world. I got to the right lane and prepared to move slowly. When the line started, I did not know exact why there was a line. In fact, it was not clear until I could see cars making the exit. I could only see the flashing lights and flares at first. At the first entrance to the freeway, some cars were turning and driving up the on ramp. There was the usual passing on each side and cutting in. I just moved slowly letting an occasional car in.

We got off the freeway in a part of town I did not know. Then a street sign and I got my bearings and figured out how to get there. I was about twenty minutes late and arrived in a slightly frazzled state of mind.

The music had not started yet. Bill Heid who was the keyboard player had not arrived. The RJ Spangler trio was contrived for this event and was RJ Spangler(dms), Bill Heid, ( keys) and Ralph Tope(gtr). Bill Heid is well known in Detroit and plays hard bop, soul jazz and blues. Over the last few years, I have seen him several times. I ordered the hot wings and waited.

It usually comes off as a visit with old friends rather than a gig. I only started going out about eight years ago so the history is not there for me. The trio lead with “Psyops” and “Cease the Bombing”. His comments were mostly recalling a Detroit of a bygone era with all its faults and glories. When he sang “Night and Day”, he felt obligated to comment on Cole Porter’s sexual orientation. His singing voice is rough He has an old timey blues style. As the set went on, he asked Russ Miller(sax) to join. On one song, he mentioned that RJ used brushes and commented about how unusual it was. I see both brushes and mallets used frequently so I guess it may be uncommon amongst his usual venues.

The music was very good and I got to hear some tunes I don’t usually hear. The ride home was uneventful.

Back to Work

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Saturday was my first day back at work for a while. I am semi-retired and work on and off during the year. I provide a service to clients. I work in more than one place so walking in on Saturday, I walked into a familiar office to work with two people I has never worked with before. It is always a bit stressful to learn how to work with someone new.

This time the person who was supposed to answer phones forgot that was his job. He is really an ok guy. We have different approaches to how to handle things. We can learn from each other. The other person is quiet and will take time to know.

The actual work was slow and give me time to slide back into getting used to the job again.

I didn’t go out on Friday since I was meeting a new manager and coworkers. I wanted to look fresh and alert. I will be going out tonight.

Northern Lights Lounge…..6/19/13

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On Wednesday night, I made my usual trek to Northern Lights Lounge to hear the Mike Jellick Trio. This time, it was the original trio for about the first time in five weeks with no substitutions. The original trio is Mike Jellick(keys), Jesse Kramer(dms) and Miles Brown(bass).

I got there at 9:00 p.m. a little before they started. With the original trio, the music tends to be a little more polished since they are more used to playing together. For the most pat, I like jazz a little on the funky side. Mike has been classically trained and is not as funky as most of the musicians I like. The quality I like in Mike is his incredible innovative play.

I met a couple of friends. I ordered an appetizer. I usually order the beef nachos and changed this time to the lava wings. They were very spicy and hot. The heat was just on the edge of being too hot. They were very good. Next time I order the wings, there will be no fries.

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When Dorothy arrived, she ordered the beef nachos to share with Judy. They were not able to finish the plate. It is a really large portion. They did enjoy it.

20130621-085413.jpgDorothy on left and Judy to the right.

The music for the first set when only the band plays was, as usual, great. There was a little “Caravan”. At the point, it think where will this caravan go and I just close my eyes and go with the music. I mentally went to a lush, green tropical jungle, a musical safari rather than caravan. scot came over and wee talked about it and had a good time.

We stayed for the open mic second set this time. This open mic was well organized. Mike intermixed numbers featuring beginning players with the more experienced players. One of the things I like to see is how well Mike mentors the beginning players. As they come to his side of the stage after a sole, he talks to them encouraging and teaching. Most of the musicians really like playing here. This time, one musician who had not been here before, went up on stage in the middle of a number to replace Mike on keys. He is an older and competent musician and is used to be able to do that. Mike did call him up for the next number. He played loudly during others solos to the point that another good musician went back to her seat after her solo. He ran over the younger player and discouraged solos by anyone. What a jerk! Mike came back after a couple of numbers. For the last number, a vocalist sang “Misty”. One of the five most overdone songs in Detroit.

We left after the seconds set. The high from the first set remained.

My Battle With My Dulcimer

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Each Tuesday I have a dulcimer lesson and I get thrown back into a place previously not visited often. I am a beginner. I am incompetent. I usually do things where I have a bit of competency. So, I choose to look at the lessons as a good things. I am doing something new.

Tuning the dulcimer has gone from being an utter nightmare to being doable. Progress.

As I get older, I want to keep on learning and doing new things. About four years ago, my father died. This is one of the most precious lessons he taught me.

Thunderstorms and Firecrackers

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My thirteen year old dog, Bonnie, has always been sensitive with sound. She is a silky terrier and like most silky terriers, she is very active and alert. She is also a very cuddly lap dog.

I got her in April of 2000. I soon found out that she shook in terror at the sound of thunder. She also barked furiously when she heard thunder. The sequence was thunderclap, ensue barking, thunder stops and a shaking dog remains.. I decided and it was a decision since I do not read doggy minds that Bonnie believed that her barking stopped the thunder. I tried to look at it from her point of view. Thunder, bark and thunder stops and shake to get ready for the next thunder. She was a powerful little doggy. This was not so bad during the day. At night it was not good for sleeping. I made the mistake of letting her sleep on the bed so could comfort her. She is still on the bed. During storms, she began to lay on top of my head shaking.

The fireworks reactions soon followed. Fireworks are a traditional way to celebrate the Fourth of July. They are readily available in Michigan and somehow the celebration sporadically starts in June and seems to go until late summer. Since fireworks noise is brief, her reaction is just shaking with fear.

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When she was a younger dog, the behavior was extreme. As she got older, it began to moderate. It was still strong enough to hinder my sleeping at night. Whenever there was a thunderstorm, I still woke up with a dog on my head. And it seemed as if she was stuck on with Velcro. On warm summer nights, having a warm, hairy dog on my head was not a good feeling.

About a year ago I bought a Thundershirt for her.

Last night, we had the combo. Firecrackers were going off a couple of doors down down the street in the evening and they were followed by a thunderstorm. I held up the Thundershirt and she stood still so I could put it on her. She now knows that it makes her feel calm. After it was on her, she collapsed to the side and went to sleep. Her only storm/fireworks reaction now is that she wants me between her and the window.
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The Start of the Summer Concerts in Detroit.

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Beatrice Buck Park in Paradise Valley across the street from the Carr Center

Each summer in Detroit, there are so many outdoors concerts of all genres in Detroit and all the suburbs that each evening and weekend the choices are abundant. This last weekend, my two top choices were Jazzin’ on Jefferson or the Carr Center was starting the Summer in the Park series in Paradise Valley Beatrice Buck Park. Yesterday was an homage to Duke Ellington with five different groups, each with a different approach.

I have been to Jazzin’ on Jefferson for the last few years and decided on a change of pace and went to the Carr Center offering.

First, just a little bit about Detroit history. Both Paradise Valley and Blackbottom were neighborhoods on the near east side of Detroit known for their contributions to blues and jazz in the 1930s to 1950s. The Virgil Carr Center is in the building one known as the Harmonie Club which was in the Harmonie Park. The Harmonie Club was built in the Beaux Arts style and is being restored by the Carr Center. When Duke Ellington came to town, he would have played in the clubs either in Blackbottom or Paradise Valley. The park is now a peaceful oasis of green surrounded by historical buildings built at the turn of the last century.

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I arrived to hear the group that was starting at 5:30 p.m. comprised of Buddy Budson(keys), Ibrihim Jones(bass) and George Davidson(dms). There were two vocalists, Ursula Walker and Shahida Nurullah, who alternated on the songs in the set. It didn’t start on time. Just as they were about to begin, I felt a raindrop. No one else seemed to have noticed. Maybe it was a dew drop from the trees. Any of the audience would have been willing to sit through the occasional drop or two but the sound guys just have a vision of all the electronics getting wet.

So, they moved the concert inside. In the case of a concert, moving inside for the audience is just walking across the street. There was so much more to it than just the walk. All the sound equipment had to be set up again. Chairs for the crowd had to be brought to the new concert room so we could sit. One of my friends came in so I sat with her. Finally, at 6:15 p.m. The set began.

I liked the way Buddy Budson handled the program. There were twelve songs in all. The only one done without a vocalist was “Take the ‘A’ Train” which was the signature tune of the Ellington orchestra. He talked about each song a little. Also, who composed the tune, who wrote the lyrics and when it was written. When Shahida Nurullah sang a song, she did the intro. They did all the well known tunes like “Caravan”, “Perdido”, “Satin Doll”, “Sophisticated Lady” and for me, the show stopper sung by Shahida was “It Don’t Mean a Thing(If It Ain’t Got That Swing)”.

It was a composition written in 1931 which was officially 3 years before “swing” was a style. Shahida did a great job with the tune. In truth, when I hear her is it almost always an experience to remember. Her voice is magnificent. She can take a tune, look at it and then sing it with such emotion that she drives the emotion of the song into the audience. With “It Don’t Mean a Thing”, the whole audience was responding with cheers and you could feel the joy. On the other hand, she also sang “Solitude” and the sadness of feeling alone was there and almost palpable in the room.

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Shahida Nurullah

My friend and I were both hungry by the end of the set. She suggested going to 1917 American Bistro where there was jazz with the meal. I knew two of the musicians. Both Charles Greene and Ralph Armstrong are really good. I knew it would not be the usual since this was dinner and I guess I expected dinner accompaniment music. We got there when they were on brake so we got a table and ordered. I had been here before and liked the baby backed ribs and got them again with sautéed spinach and smashed potatoes. I was going to take a picture and for got until I was half way through the meal.

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The meat just fell of the bone and he sauce had just the right amount of spice. The spinach was sautéed in garlic butter and tasted both sweet and slightly acidic. The smashed potatoes are a rough version of mashed potatoes with the skins included in the dish. I took a lot home. And the owner comped us a free drink. I had a cranberry juice.

The music had a lot more body than most dinner music. As I looked around though, I saw that the dinner crowd was actually listening to the music and pushing the guys for more. They played “What’s Going On?” Which is one of the most played Detroit summer songs. After eating, I just listened to the music and enjoyed.

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Left to right: Charles Greene (keys), Chet (dms) and Ralphe Armstrong

When the guys took another break, I noticed a man on the other side of the restaurant sitting next to two life size dummies. They are almost life like. They look like two older ladies gossiping together. At a glance, through the window, they can look real. He was talking to the dummies, shaking his finger at them and having quite the conversation. I took a picture.

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He turned around …the flash….took a look at me and we both burst out laughing.

Another friend showed up and I decided to go home. It was late and my dog hadn’t been fed. Charles Greene walked me to my car. He makes sure I’m safe. What a gentleman!