“john the fisherman” – primus (1990)

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Last week, I went on a family vacation with my dad and two little brothers.  I hadn’t been on a vacation with them for a while, so this was something I was really looking forward to.  The plan was to go the Pensacola area and spend a few days there enjoy fun in the sun, see some sights, and spend time with one of my dad’s buddies from the navy.

I took a Greyhound bus to Louisville and, on the following day, rode down the rest of the way with my dad behind the wheel.  We made a stop in Montgomery, Alabama to stay the night so we wouldn’t be too tired once we arrived at our final destination.  We arrived in Montgomery during the middle of the afternoon, so we only had a few hours to visit places.

First stop with the Civil Rights Memorial Museum.  The centerpiece of the museum is a fountain monument outside of the museum.  It is a piece that honors and commemorates the people who lost their lives fighting for Civil Rights.  It was designed by Maya Lin who also designed the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C.  Unfortunately, due to construction, we couldn’t visit the monument, so we toured the museum.

The museum was rather small but was an appropriate and somber tribute to those who lost their lives for freedom and equitable treatment.  While there was information about notable figures like Emmett Till and Medgar Evers, the museum also featured over 40 other lesser known individuals who faced violent racist attacks.  The museum even had a section dedicated to the modern victims of white supremacist violence like Heather Heyer, the young woman who lost her life protesting the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017.

The next stop in Montgomery was the Dexter Parsonage.  This was the parsonage where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. lived during the 1950s.  I toured his home and saw how humbly he lived when he served as pastor.  In 1954, Dr. King received a threatening phone call in the middle of night.  To calm his nerves, he went to the kitchen and made himself some coffee.  As he sat his table, he was thinking about his recently born child and the future.  He meditated and listened carefully on what he should do.  In that kitchen, a voice told him to become an activist for civil rights and that is when he made the decision to become a voice for the movement.

The next day, we went to southern Alabama where my dad’s friend Vince lived.  Vince and his wife have lived for four years at a Yogi Bear-themed campground in rural Alabama just north on Gulf Shores and not far from the Florida border.

We drove back and forth between Alabama and Pensacola visiting the beach, walking around, touring the Naval Aviation Museum, and whatever else there was to do.  However, all this was leading up for why we made this trip.  Dad organized the trip to Pensacola because he wanted to go deep sea fishing.  And on the day before we drove back home, that is what we did…sort of.

Dad, the boys, and I all got up early and set out to docks where the fishing charter was to take a group of people to fish for red snapper.  We packed up a cooler of waters, snack packs, and other foods since we were going to offshore for about six hours.  When we arrived, we took our motion sickness relief pills, waited by the dock, and listened to the instruction and procedures for when we made it out to where the fish are.

Now, I had been deep sea fishing once before in Alaska when I was in middle school.  Some family friends were visiting and we went out to Seward to fish.  I don’t remember much about the experience, but I don’t recall us being that far out from the water, but I remember it was really gray out, the water was fine, and I caught some fish.  Though I cannot remember many other details, I remember it being a fun experience.  So, I felt prepared for this trip.

We boarded the charter and took up the front four spots on the starboard side.  When we set out, the sun was shining and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.  I was incredibly excited.  I really love saltwater.  I love the smell and feel of it.  So, I felt pretty cool standing along the railing, wearing some sweet prescription sunglasses, and watching the horizon.

As we continued away from the shore, I felt a fine sea mist spray up.  It was refreshing and really added a nice touch to my adventure on the open sea.  Then, that mist turned into what felt like a lite drizzle until it eventually felt like I was standing in the splash zone of a water ride at a theme park.  Now, I hate being wet when wearing normal clothes.  And I hate being wet in normal clothes in a humid and sunny environment.  You just feel really uncomfortable.  So, I took my stuff and waited in the cabin on a bench.  It is then that I noticed that the port side was bone dry.  We got it on the way out because of the direction of the waves, I thought.  They’ll get it on the way in.

I didn’t keep track of time because my cell phone was in a zip lock bag, but we spent at least an hour to get to the fishing spot.  I wouldn’t be surprised if it was actually closer to 90 minutes.  Either way, we were approximately 35 miles off the coast when we reached the fishing spot.

At this point, the waves were extremely choppy. Between the crest and trough of the wave, the difference was about six to ten feet and happening frequently enough where the boat rocked an entire wavelength in three seconds or so.  It was a consistent rocking that affected the boat on all sides.  Our side dipped so much that I thought we would take on water, but we never did.

I stumbled to my fishing station and sat down.  Everyone else were standing up to prep their rods and cats their lines.  No way in hell was I going to do that.  I did want to fall and get a hook caught in me, but my nose on the railing, or, more importantly, break my prescription sunglasses.  So, I sat on the bench and lifted my legs against the railing to brace myself.

Our bait were little fish (minnows, maybe?) that were cut in half.  I grabbed the head of one and jammed my hook through its eyes as instructed and cast out.  While I sat there and waited, I watched the waves because they were particularly mesmerizing.  The texture of deep sea water is fascinating and it you marvel at the display and power of the water.  Plus, I saw a couple of dolphins and that was badass.

I got a few bites and I rapidly would reel in my line just to be disappointed that I didn’t catch anything.  So, I would awkwardly bait my line again as the boat rocked and I kept legs up as a brace.  I went through this cycle a few times where I would feel a bite, reel it in to find nothing, and then cast out again.

All the while, I feel a sensation.  I remember watching a Henry Rollins special about a decade ago where he talked about riding the Trans-Siberian Express and hearing a little voice in the back of your head.  A voice that is associated with a very specific feeling.  A voice that tells you, you are going to vomit at some point.  That was the sensation I was feeling.  Even though my stomach felt fine, that voice in my head woke up and let me know what to expect at some point in the near future.  I had to prepare.

We spent about 20 minutes at this spot before the captain called for the lines to be reeled in so we could move somewhere.  The fish weren’t biting, so perhaps we would have luck elsewhere. Since I didn’t want to get soaked again, I made my way back to the cabin.  The voice in my head was getting louder now.  I didn’t know how long it would take before we reached our next spot, so I was determined to silence this voice before we stopped and continued fishing.

As the boat sped along to wherever it was going, I left the cabin and went to the port side.  The idea was that I was going to induce vomiting in a spot where my dad wouldn’t see and then make my back to my post and continue fishing.  My dad had this trip planned for a while and he was excited about doing it with his sons.  I didn’t want to disappoint him because I don’t know how much he spent and I didn’t want to crap out so early.

Even though I didn’t really eat much that morning, I had a surprising amount of vomit come out of my body.  I got out as much as I thought there was, went back into the cabin to wait until we got to the next spot, and sat down.  As soon as I sat down, I was back it again.  I still had some left in me.

After I was done with the second session, I felt for certain I was done.  So, I started to make my way back to my dad and brothers.  However, after a couple of steps, I thought Oh yeah.  This isn’t happening and went to lay down on a bench in the cabin.  Excluding the trip out to the first spot, I only lasted 20 minutes.  My plan now was to sleep through this awful feeling and not wake up until we were docked.

I did get some sleep, but I woke up at various moments and took in what little I could see or hear.  I remember seeing a deck hand apologizing to some people about the poor fishing conditions.  While some people were able to catch and keep some fish, others weren’t due to the choppiness of the water.  All the while, I’m resting flat and trying to anticipate the motions in some lame attempt to minimize my movement.

I turned my head to the right and saw my little brothers eating bags of chips.  I was incredibly grossed out by this.  For one, watching them eating nacho-flavored tortilla chips was weirding me out.  I had no idea how they were able to eat that junk and not get sick in these conditions.  And secondly, they were eating them with their bare hands.  Bare hands that were also touching the dead fish we used as bait.  Super gross.

During this state, we managed to stop at a few different places to fish.  How many exactly I don’t know, but a few.  At one point, I managed to get up and go to the marine toilet.  If you’ve never sat on a toilet in choppy water conditions, consider yourself luck.  The amount of relaxation you need to void yourself is not there, so you have really work at it.  It is a mental game for sure, but you’re also using both hands to brace yourself against two different walls to aid yourself as you attempt to feel relaxed enough to do what you need to do and leave.  And wiping yourself is no easier as you’re standing bent over with your face bracing a corner so your hands can do what they need to do.  It is an awkward experience.

I went back to my bench and tried to sleep.  I woke up later to see some weird looking schlubby teenager sitting by my feet and eating Pringles.  Now, I was already grossed out watching my brothers eat their chips with their fish fingers, but this kid was the worst.  Why?  Because he was eating salt and vinegar chips which are the most nasty and potent flavor of chip that there is.  I secretly wished he would fall overboard for committing the sin of eating hose nasty things so close to me while I was in this condition.

I kept slipping in and out of consciousness before I realized we were docking.  I got up and looked out the window.  The port side was still bone dry and I was thinking about how luck they were.  I stumbled out of the cabin and sat by dad.  I said I was sorry I crapped out so early, but I tried by best to participate.  He just laughed.  He got sick not long after me and stopped fishing too.  I had felt bad because he spent the money to do this and was excited about it.  He wasn’t worried about it because we tried it and now we know we don’t ever need to do it again.  Surprisingly, despite the water conditions and all the junk food they ate, the boys were fine.  One even managed to catch two fish, but they were too small to keep.  He was the only one in our group to do so.

I thought this was a funny story and I wanted to find a song about fishing to go with it.  Naturally, the first one that came to mind was “John the Fisherman” by Primus.  Though first released as a live version on 1989’s Suck on This, the studio recording was released the following year of their first studio album Frizzle Fry.

In the song, John drops out of school and shuns away the normal adolescent desires such as women to become a fisherman.  Years later, danger comes over the horizon and the ocean swells.  The boat is swallowed by the sea and John dies the fisherman he always wanted to be.

Preparing for this trip, I was imagining I was to be great at catching fish and couldn’t wait to show off photos of all the big and plentiful fish I caught.  Obviously, that didn’t happen.  In fact, the opposite happened.  I’m a terrible fisherman, but at least I didn’t get swallowed up like John.  I’ll leave that to him.

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“soul city” – the fleshtones (1979)

No one can ever accuse me of being a lazy person. Like everyone else, I have my lazy moments, but I’m not a lazy person. I work hard to achieve my goals.

Right now, I work a boring office job. I’m trying to change that. I apply to jobs in film or the arts that speak to my passion and interests. It is tough. Those kinds of jobs don’t open often, are horribly underpaid, or are just difficult to get. However, in my volunteer work, I find ways to keep myself actively engaged in the arts. And, on Monday, I had an experience that became a moment of pride for me and a milestone in my career.

The Music Box Theatre is my favorite movie theatre. I’ve written about it for a prior entry, so there is no need to discuss the history of it here. It is a great theater with a comfortable decor that has been my go to for interesting independent films, engaging panel discussions, and strange midnight screenings. I have a lot of great memories there.

In the history of my patronage at the Music Box, nothing may top the experience I had on Monday where I co-presented a film with the Chicago Film Society on behalf of Chirp Radio. We were there to show an original theatrical print of Urgh! A Music War in 35mm.

I have also talked about my discovery of this film in a prior entry when I did a post of “Total Eclipse” by Klaus Nomi. It is a rare concert film from 1981 that features a compilation of concert footage from various punk and new wave bands associated with I.R.S. Records. Bands like the Police, XTC, and the Cramps were given a chance to showcase a song live for the film.

It is a very difficult film to screen because of its distribution history. There are various cuts and rights holders depending if the film is for theaters, home video, or broadcast. Since it has a complicated distribution history, it is rare to see a screening of this film.

My role in Chirp Radio is to develop partnerships with arts organizations. I come from an arts background, specifically film, and it is a passion of mine. I had been wanting to do more events with film. And for some reason, I specifically wanted to do something with Urgh! I reached out to the Chicago Film Society to see if they would be willing to obtain the rights to screen the film and secure a venue while I would help promote the event.

They said they would look into it and I didn’t hear anything for about eight months. In fact, I kinda forgot about it. Then, in April, I got an email from them saying they were getting a copy and were screening it at the Music Box on July 16th.

I was elated when I heard the news. I couldn’t believe this film organization paid the money to get a film that came as a suggestion from someone they didn’t know. I felt a bit of pressure after that. If I was going to develop an ongoing partnership with this film organization, I had to make this event a success.

I would tell the programmer a few times since April that I was going to make this their biggest screening. It was my personal goal to do this. They were realistic in their expectations and told me that they had a few screenings that brought in about 400 people. However, I wasn’t going to have any of that. I was going to deliver on my promise.

In the proceeding months, I worked on all of the promotional materials Chirp would use to promote the event. I also relied on word of mouth and told everyone I knew. I talked about the event a lot and I know everyone was getting annoyed with me talking so much about it. But I didn’t care. I knew this was going to be a great event.

Why did I care so much about this event? Part of the reason why is that I love film and music. What better combination of the two than a concert film? However, I knew this film was rare and difficult to come across. Older audience members would have an opportunity to see it for the first time in over thirty years and younger audiences would have the opportunity to see it for the first time. And that was meaningful to me. All I really wanted was to create a fun experience for film and music lovers to share.

Though it was my goal to make it the Chicago Film Society’s biggest event, I was aware of the challenge. With it being such a rare and relatively obscure film, one of two things were going to happen: either a lot of people would show up because it was so rare or very few people would show up because it was rare and, therefore, unknown to them and not worth their time on a Monday night.

When Monday came, I was experiencing a crazy blend of emotions ranging between excitement and anxiety. I was sweating bullets walking all over the Music Box talking to friends and colleagues. The reason for this was that I was going to speak on stage about Chirp and the screening. This was my favorite theater and I was going to go on stage and speak to an audience. I knew they didn’t care what I had to say and I don’t have so much of an ego that I thought this event was about me. I was just giddy about being on that stage in some official capacity to speak about a film I wanted the audience to experience together.

On that stage, I spoke a little bit about what Chirp did. Then, I talked briefly about being both a music and film fan and I couldn’t think of a better film to screen than this one and how much I appreciated working with the Chicago Film Society. I’m sure I fumbled a bit, but it felt great to be up there.

As the audience settled and the curtain came up, the next 96 minutes were pure energy. The audience hooted and hollered at acts they loved. People clapped and sang along to the songs. Laughs were shared over the ridiculous and campy moments. Some people talked about the times they saw these bands perform live. The energy was intoxicating and it felt like I was attending a real concert.

After the screening, I talked with friends and colleagues about the film. Everyone enjoyed themselves and we shared our favorite performances and highlights. I didn’t speak to or see a single person who looked displeased or bored with what they just saw. I was happy and I left thinking about how wonderful the experience was. I got to present a rare film at my favorite theater. That’s a personal highlight for me. That may seem small for some people, but it is a memory I’ll always treasure.

The next day, I was on a Greyhound going through Indiana on my way to Kentucky. I opened Facebook on my phone out of boredom and to get a break from the book I was reading during the trip. Just a few minutes earlier, the Chicago Film Society’s Facebook page posted a thank you message to the Music Box, Chirp, and last night’s audience for making that screening their biggest event ever. I was over the moon and restless for the rest of the trip. I didn’t think that experience of presenting the film could be made better, but seeing that it became their biggest event made it even better. I am very proud.

As mentioned, I’ve already talked about the film in depth in an earlier entry to the blog. So, the song of the week comes from the pre-show that screened before the main event.

The Chicago Film Society went to a film archivist convention and saw some short films showcased. One archive organization recently created a new print of the music video “Soul City” by the Fleshtones. By the time the Chicago Film Society saw this, they had already secured the Urgh! print so this was a perfect match.

Produced in 1979, the music video for “Soul City” is a remarkable, hyperactive, and highly energetic piece of art. The band performs in a jerky, stop-animation motion while they rapidly flash off and on the screen with the background quickly changing colors.

The arts are my passion and it is a career I want to pursue. I currently work my average office job and apply to jobs as they open. And it can get frustrating because I’ve been at it for so long. So, in the meantime, I work as a volunteer in that capacity. It can get old sometimes. But then, I have to put things into perspective. Without that volunteer work, I wouldn’t have had the privilege to present such a rocking film and walk away with a feeling of accomplishment. This was certainly a milestone for me in what will be a rewarding career in the arts. This gave me so much hope and fulfillment that I have to continue no matter how hard it can get sometimes.

“be your natural self” – frankie “half-pint” jaxon (1940)

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I’m an avid reader and I’m always looking for new and interesting books that help me learn and grow.  I mostly read non-fiction which helps a lot.  However, the topics of those books are things that I may not be personally connected with.  Since I live in Chicago and know the city well, I’m trying to broaden my reading material by including more local authors.  I want to gain their insights into a city, culture, and way of life that I have in common with them.

This week, I’ve been reading The Boys of Fairy Town: Sodomites, Female Impersonators, Third-sexers, Pansies, Queers, and Sex Morons in Chicago’s First Century by local author Jim Elledge.  Elledge’s latest book is a history of gay culture in the Second City from the 1840s through the 1940s.  Based on a variety of sources, Elledge vividly portrays life in Chicago for the gay men who lived discreetly in order to pursue their passions and desires.  He profiles key individuals that add a slice-of-life context or who were valued for their historical contributions as well as provides context on various areas of the city that were hubs for the gay community.

Some of the men Elledge profiles in his book may not have been historically significant with very little information available about many of them, but they add a historical context to what it was like to live as a gay man.  Compared with today’s societal standards, your way of life was often misunderstood and mischaracterized (for example, a man who penetrated another man was masculine and, therefore, not a homosexual).  The types of queer men that received the most scrutiny were the ones viewed as feminine.  Female impersonators received the most trouble because their behavior was more visible than the type of queer man who dressed in a masculine man.  During the 1800s, a man who dressed as a woman could be imprisoned.

I’ve been living in Chicago for nearly eight years.  I’ve explored a lot of this city, but there is so much I still haven’t seen.  Not only that, but there is a ton of history to explore.  I have so much left to learn about the city from a modern context, but I also feel compelled to understand and contextualize its history as well.  Knowing many of the neighborhoods now in 2018, it is so fascinating to learn how different those same neighborhoods were during the latter half of the 19th century.

For example, consider the area north of the Chicago River.  The Near North and River North neighborhoods are home to amazing restaurants, condos, high-fashion shopping, hotels, and other qualities you would find in an affluent neighborhood. However, during the late 1800s, this area was a Bohemian neighborhood called Towertown.  In Towertown, gay men with little money could find cheap accommodations and live within a community where their non-queer neighbors were more tolerant of their way of life.  Many of these men were artists, performers, and transients who could, within societal reason, feel free to be unapologetically queer.  Female impersonators could walk the streets freely and other types of queer men could pursue sexual conquests at any of the local clubs.

Other areas of the city were profiled as well and had their own distinctive qualities.  In the 1800s, Chicago became a major railroad hub.  Young men from around the country could hop the trains and ride the rails away from whatever they were trying to escape.  Whether they were running from the law, abusive parents, or towns where their queerness was problematic, many of these young boys and men found refuge in Chicago.

In the West Side, where the railroads were serviced and operated, existed several hobo jungles where vagabonds lived and were serviced by the young boys coming off from the trains.  There existed an active queer culture among the hobos who occupied the rail cars and abandoned buildings in the area.  Even young men new to the city could make some money as prostitutes in the area.  Their quality of clothes wouldn’t get them business from the wealthier older gay men at State and Randolph, but they could scrape together a few dollars here and there to survive.

While the Bohemians of Towertown and hobos of the West Side contributed to the city’s colorful and varied tapestry of queerness, the real action was in Bronzeville.  Bronzeville, in Chicago’s South Side, is a predominantly African American neighborhood that was built up after many African Americans fled to the north from the south in what is referred to as the Great Migration.

Bronzeville was a haven for queer black men for a few reasons.  First, it allowed them to pursue other queer men without racial discrimination being a factor.  While white queer men in Towertown would preach free and open love for them as queer men, there were still lines drawn when it came to free and open love as far as black queer men were concerned.

Secondly, Bronzeville was also a very hip place to be because of the jazz and blues music one could see.  While white queer men would perform vaudeville and burlesque acts that were inspired by and derived from minstrel shows popular several decades earlier, blues and jazz were the exciting new art forms queer black men pursued at the beginning of the 20th century.

Of all the people profiled in the book, no one fascinated me more than Frankie “Half-Pint” Jaxon.  Jaxon was born in Montgomery, Alabama and referred to as “Half-Pint” because of his diminutive stature.  In the early 1910s, he started his career as a singer in Kansas City before travelling around the country to perform.  Eventually, he would find regular work in Atlantic City and Chicago with the latter becoming his home.

Jaxon’s performance style was unique.  He often sang with a high feminine voice and performed as a female impersonator on many of his records.  The best example of this is his recording of “My Daddy Rocks Me (With One Steady Roll).”  Originally written and performed by Trixie Smith seven years prior to Jaxon recording his version, the song is about Smith, a woman, making love with her man.  With Jaxon, a man, performing the song while imitating a woman with his signature feminine voice, the song takes on a whole new meaning that speaks to Jaxon’s queerness and queer culture.  Jaxon also says the word “daddy” more than Smith did, so it heightens the queerness.  In addition to the voice, Jaxon adds his own flavor by adding in various grunts and moans which leads many music historians to believe that this is the first recorded song to include an allusion to an orgasm.

The police and government officials in Chicago held varying views on queerness and vice in the city depending on external factors.  For example, the queer community received less raids during the Great Depression because they were spending money and boosted the economy.  Once that period was over, the city cracked down harder on vice.

With World War II looming over the horizon, the city and its police force began to take a strong stand against anything that was feminine or was anathema to masculinity.  As a result, more and more queer clubs were getting raided and shut down.  Reading the writing on the wall, Jaxon decided to officially retire from show business to avoid being arrested.

On April 17, 1940, Jaxon put his own feelings into one of the last songs he ever recorded.  “Be Your Natural Self” was a declaration of advice to his brothers in the queer community.  In the song, Jaxon declares his message that he wants queer men to be able to live freely and without apology.  However, he also cautions them and implores them to be careful.  It isn’t safe to be a queer man right now, so don’t flaunt your queerness openly.  Maybe someday you can do that, but now isn’t the time.  However, within the standards of society now, be your natural self the best way you can.

Not much is known about Jaxon’s life after he quit music.  He did work for the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. and was eventually transferred to Los Angeles.  However, the date of Jaxon’s death has been up for date which various sources citing his death date as either 1944, 1953, or 1970.

Society ebbs and flows with regards to what it tolerates.  Things are harder for queer men than for straight men, but how much backlash queer men have experienced varies over the years.  In the days of Jaxon, it was a career killing move to be discovered as a female impersonator.  Now, we have major television shows featuring female impersonators and drag queens.

Same-sex marriage is legal now, but that freedom might also be in trouble with Trump’s latest Supreme Court pick to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy.  A lot of progress has been made within the realm of LGBTQ+ rights, but there looms over the horizon groups of people and actions that could potentially reverse that progress.  While it has been fascinating to learn about Chicago’s gay community during the first 100 years of it being a proper city, but the discrimination that comes with that period is not something we need today.

“in the summertime” – mungo jerry (1970)

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Chicago during the summertime can be a really wonderful place.  There’s plenty to do and see while enjoying the sunshine.  You can walk along the lake, ride down the city’s bike trails, visit the conservatory or botanical garden, and so many more great activities that mean fun in the sun.  It is frankly impossible to be bored during a Chicago summer.

While summers in Chicago are fantastic, they can also be a point of anxiety for me and there are two reasons why that correlate.  The first being that since winters in Chicago can be rather long, I feel obligated to enjoy summer as much as I can.  While winter is certainly over by June, we still had days where the high on some days were in the 50s.  It wasn’t until the end of the month that we started to get decent weather appropriate for the season.  And I feel very compelled to schedule my days to involve as much outside time as possible because I don’t want to take the great weather for granted and especially after spending a lot of time during winter indoors.  Even if I don’t feel like going out for whatever reason, I make myself do it.

Normally, I’m a very busy person.  I work, have volunteer commitments, take music classes, etc. I have a very active life.  So, it is very rare when I have a Saturday where I don’t have some sort of obligation or responsibility.  This past weekend offered the rare Saturday where I had no volunteer commitments on the schedule.  In fact, nothing was on my schedule.  And while having a completely open day should be exciting, I begin thinking What am I going to do?

Getting in that mindset then leads me to explore all my options and possibilities.  Usually, left to my own devices, it involves picking a neighborhood and just wandering.  So, I try to decide the neighborhood, what there is to see, how much should I read, etc.  I start to think about all this free time and creating a schedule to fit it.  And it can be exhausting.  I’ve always been a very structured person, so just playing things by ear can be very hard sometimes.  I can do it, but it requires some level of conscious planning to make it happen.

Keep in mind that all this occurs before I even experience the free day.  And do you know what happens when I actually experience the free day?  It turns out to be really lovely and I wonder why I get so anxious about unscheduled free time and I get reminded that it is ok.  This past Saturday, I went to the gym, read by the lake, walked with a friend to get some beachside snacks, and listened to a Dvorak concert at Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park.  That is a pretty nice Saturday.

When I was talking with my friend about having a free day and worrying about if I’m using my time effectively, she rhetorically asked if there is a right or wrong way to spend a day like that.  I felt good spending time by the lake reading for a few hours.  Normally, I read on the train, during my lunch break, or inside if the weather is bad.  It was nice to feel the breeze, listen to the water, and occasionally people watch living their best lives in the sun.  It is such an uncomplicated way to spend time, but the simplest ways are often the best ways.

I was concerned about how to spend my day and I did go outside and have an enjoyable time.  I don’t have to spend every single second outside while the sun is shining in order to feel like I’m not taking the weather for granted.  However, having some time to think and talk with friends does reaffirm that there is no right or wrong way to enjoy something.  I was enjoying myself and that is what matters.  The thing to work on is to listen to the universe and not worry so much about “what ifs” and to enjoy the now.  Live more in the present.

The hot weather Chicago experienced this weekend also got me yearning for some sweet summer jams.  Of course, I have my favorites and preferences for when the mercury rises.  However, I also put out some feelers and got some great recommendations from friends at the community radio station.  While listening to these songs, I was thinking about the best summer jam.  Like how to spend a summer day, is there a perfect summer jam?  No, but this one is a contender.

Mungo Jerry released “In the Summertime” as their debut single in 1970.  Written and composed by Ray Dorset, the band’s lead singer, the track is a simple and fun skiffle song about carefree summer days.  In the summer time, the weather is hot and you’ve got women on your mind.  In the summertime, you do what you please and go swimming in the sea.  When you live by the philosophy that life is for living, it is not hard to always be happy.

For such a simple song, it carries a powerful message about living in the now and making the best of what is around you.  You don’t need a lot to have fun and be happy.  And, with the things life throws at you, the opportunity to have a carefree day with no responsibility is increasingly becoming scarcer.  So, just do what you please.  This weekend, I have another Saturday with no obligations (two in a row is unheard of in my world).  I’m going to make a promise to myself to not overthink it.  I’m just going to wake up and see where the day takes me.