Thank God It’s Back!

In late February my housemates and I were returning from somewhere when all gasped. “Oh my God it’s gone!” The existing McDonald’s franchise had been removed. Gone. As if an alien force had zapped it into electrons. I chatted up a manager at another McDonald’s store to find that the South Madison Street Store was being rebuilt and remodeled and it would be back in mid-May.

Reconstruction seemed ruthlessly efficient. Every time I turned around they were making major progress, rebuilding from the ground up. They opened this morning at 12:01 am. We pondered actually walking down there, but by that time I was dead to the world and so was everyone else.

I wouldn’t be too snobby if I were you. This is a low income neighborhood, and I’d much rather spend money on a salad at Mickey D’s than the alleged brown salad sold at the Kmart. McDonalds might have the only vegetables for miles when Kmart leaves in about a year.

The interior is the sophisticated dark super graphics the chains has been favoring of recent. The footprint of the store seems to be slightly different, a bit wider and longer. The kitchen is much larger, the McCafe hidden behind a wall to quiet the riot. (One of the reasons why I can’t stand Starbucks is the noise of all those expensive coffee making machines. McDonald’s is often worse.) The overall flow was good.

The usual suspects were there, the unemployed (moi), the elderly, blue-collar guys at lunch, kids having French-fry tantrums, coffee drinkers staring out at the traffic. I had my usual – a large drink, two McChicken sandwiches, a side salad with ranch. I treated myself with cookies.

For many people the local McDonald’s is a place to hook onto the Internet, since they offer free WIFI access. I’ve used it before, marching down Madison in the morning cold with my laptop to my office. You see people studying, or poring over reports for work, catching up on email. This McDonald’s is not just a place to eat, it’s an extension of living rooms and our lives.

Ultra Music Festival Miami

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The Fortunate Warrior watched the Ultra Music Festival Miami streaming over the internet. When I was pricing out this trip – that is, when I thought I might be able to afford attending this festival – I realized it was going to be very expensive indeed. One clue was that hotels were sold out ninety days before the event in downtown Miami, where the event was being held. A single three-day event pass general admission cost about $500 – a VIP pass would cost $1000 – per person. So for everything this festival chalked up to about $3000 at least for the entire 3-day event.

It would have been worth every penny.

Of all EDM festivals this one is the mothership, originally intended to anchor the end of the Spring Music Conference, a gathering of music business professionals. Not long ago it was a single day. Last year it expanded to two adjacent weekends. The City of Miami hated this, so this year it was back to a single weekend. (The site is not ideal in many ways. It’s in a narrow park between the ocean and Downtown Miami, requiring a major thoroughfare to close for this big event.)

There is a wide generational gulf between myself at 54 and the typical attendee in their 20’s. Add the subcultures that comprise EDM and I have a tough time writing about this, even though I watched rather than be present. Even so it was an intense and moving experience. EDM is a spiritual movement within a political movement within a musical movement – the flags, the joyous music and crowds of people, the chant “EAT SLEEP RAVE REPEAT” tells me something deeper is going on. There is a shift in consciousness going on – and not drug induced, as some in Miami city government have decried. This event is an initiation.

The crowd is savvy, chatty, patriotic (national flags are everywhere) in a “we are the world” mode, slutty, vulgar, sexual and yet enlightened. Ultra cameramen dive into the ample cleavage of the many, many voluptuous women on hand, some wearing only pasties with blinking LED’s of the Ultra logo. Look for the blonde in a white bikini on the shoulders of some hapless dude, slapping her ass as she looks back into the camera. Boobies rules here.
Considering that there are seven stages and nearly 300 DJ’s performing it must be tough to make choices. Few of the names you would recognize, (many are Dutch). An American group, Kruella, based in Chicago, comprised of two sisters and a male friend talked the main state audience down to sing a ballad – a first for Ultra. Some of the performers were very young, one from South Africa had just turned 17, flying in to Miami to do this set, then, whisking back to the airport to fly to another festival in Brazil. There are live acts as well as DJ’s.

I don’t know. Bro Safari was a twisted torrent of sound! This unruly music ate the stage, the DJ, the audience, the camera – hungry fucking music! It explains why I have bite marks on my left arm. Jack U — made up of star DJ’s Diplo and Skrillex…, well, how do I characterize their set? The music was a prowling party animal, such ravenous noise, ripping off my ass and bludgeoning me bloody with it. The audience packed so tightly up front that individual motion was impossible- if one person moved many others would have to move with them. When the DJ’s exhorted the audience to jump, acres of them did. Dancing was a frenzy of ecstasy, an odd physical worship of motion and sound, possessed of a maniacal god. Disjointed polyrhythms are fun, with no real melodies, often punctuated by exhortations of the DJ.

It was draining just to watch, often dancing around my small room prowling and jumping and pacing.

Darkness at the Heart

The Fortunate Warrior has had a tough year, especially a tough autumn. Many things have gone askew. The world that I imagined has degenerated into a base plain of blight.

For many years I have held Indianapolis in my heart, but only after experiencing Chicago have I realized that Indianapolis is a stage set for visitors. The monuments, the vast buildings, huge facilities, the new construction and the codependent need to be told by outsiders about how good we are means that for people who live here the city is an inadequate place. Schools are warehouses of the young, poor schools for the poor, poorly taught and administered. Public safety is inadequate as crime ravages this place. Transit is not about moving around but about waiting. The city does not like people who move and will not empower those who want to. Transit is for the poor, period. Why do they need to get around? Economic development is all about making the big bigger and not about small businesses which provide employment to many.

Even the lady, Victory, I have sometimes begun to see as a harpy, a sadistic woman who would rather see the dead piled on her steps rather than hold her light up to help us. There is no illumination. The people of this city are fodder for her sacrifice.  To this woman the only good light must be the fire of burning bodies in the night. Perhaps it is time to remove this woman and her tower and use the emptiness to heal us. It might be the only thing left.

So the Fortunate Warrior is in despair, darkness in his heart. I am in a place where I need to ask for help. What I fear is that no one will. Maybe it’s true that it really is up to me after all.

Walk in the Rain

I am not afraid to walk in the rain. In bad weather I get squirrelly, cabin fever sets in, I get dressed for weather and head outside to see the clouds, feel the wind and the rain. I’m the madman on the Monon Trail when the only other tracks are skis, mine are the only boot prints in a foot of snow, at 18 below.

Or the man who evaded the command to shelter when tornadoes threaten – to see and feel the glory of the wind again. I was 7, the car drove through a cyclonic wind filled with grit that stripped the paint off the car, the sound like static, the calm of traversing the eye,  then seeing the whirling column receed at speed through the back window.

So, yes, I like weather. I got an early ride into McDonald’s to swim in rich WiFi, the ground wet, the sky afire with lightning. But coming home I was a pedestrian, so when the rain quit, still threatening, I set out the mile to home.

The puddles were big, the gutters high with runoff as cars were polite to me, dodging drowning drenching water, though sometimes I had to retreat deep into a yard or parking lot when a bus or truck simply could not get over. I skipped a trip to Kmart because wet groceries are icky and complicated to handle.

Sometimes I have to take one for the team. I could not get around a vast ocean of a puddle, so waded in, about mid-calf. I began to giggle. This is the fun part.

My hat protected my glasses from the rain. The rain increased as I approached the bridge crossing Pleasant Run. A rain-born waterfall laughed below. Workmen littered South Pennsylvania Street – did the rain bring them out? – digging deep to find a broken drain, another set removing the remnants of a tree. Not long after, I was home, shoes drying by a heater, dry clothes, the laptop dry, safe in its case all along.

On My Walk

I have now walked down the same streets enough that I’m not seeing them any more. Autumn has realigned my perceptions.

Pleasant Run from the Madison Street bridge, looking west:

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Southern Street – Garfield Park is on the right:

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Autumn color:

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My Aching Back

Late last week I had just finished a long stint at the Garfield Park Library Branch when a tall, younger man came up to me and asked me for change. I told him I didn’t have any. Then he asked for the laptop I was carrying. I turned and walked away from him as fast as I could – running was impossible.

I don’t think I was in any real danger. The man’s speach was real odd, and I think he was trying to impress the hottish blonde he was with. But my trip home along Southern was done at record speed, and laying on the floor felt so good after I removed the laptop case.

This is only one of the reasons why I’ve been using the McDonald’s on Madison for WiFi. The price of admission is buying something, and I have encountered genuinely demented people along this path, or questionable ones around the strip bar across from Kmart. But the walk is much shorter, and all of my wireless devices work better.

I’m taking a class on Coursera from Stanford Medical School entitled “Writing in the Sciences”. The instructor is a clinical statistician and is one of the most engaging writing teachers I’ve ever met. She confirms that my writing and editorial ruthlessness is well within bounds, and that my values are confirmed. Not that matters much now.

I’ve been playing email and phone tag with a recruiter and his needs for specific kinds of information in order to present me to a client and prospective employer. I think Nelson Bolles is right – the resume that gets you hired is the correct resume. The recruiter didn’t much care for the hard-won two pager that came out of meetings with WorkOne’s resume guru, but preferred the five pager with all they guey detail. This is what good recruiters do – understand the needs of the client and what needs to be done for hiring to happen.

The Good Party

I got home late, tired from standing for several hours. I had gone to a friends house for a pitchin dinner. The food was great – way too many of my fellow invitees are great cooks.

I went for the conversation. So many interesting people. People travelling, retiring, finding new gigs – chatting with them gave me perspective and some hope. There is an end to what I am going through, a change of attitude, cool and refreshing like the night.

The house was beautiful, the backyard manicured to within an inch of It’s life. I was envious of the home office. Reminders of travels were everywhere. I look forward to the day when I can own a house again.

It was also wonderful to see and chat with so many old friends. Sleep came easily to me that night relaxed from the party.