Activate!

Welcome to mid-2021. A lot of water has passed under the bridge, to coin a phrase.

I finally got around to updating the engine of this site as one of my final COVID-era projects. I was hesitant to push the button out of fear that the rusty WordPress installation would fall apart as soon as I stepped on the gas. Yet all seems okay so far.

Now for some final tweaking.

In the meantime, enjoy a photo of my Hamilton Jazzmaster in front of the Chicago Theater.

Presto-Change-o

We bought a new canopy for our gazebo, and take a look at the effect it has on the color of everything on our patio.

These photos were taken within 30 minutes of each other, and I didn’t do any Photoshop wizardry on them. Nice effect, I think.

(For those of you who came here via Google-Fu, this is a Target Madaga Gazebo, Style #L-GZ136PST-7. This canopy came from Garden Winds, and is in the “terra cotta” color. The replacement canopy fits perfectly {both top and bottom sections} and it seems very well-made.)

Active Recovery

I wrote this piece as my submission to the the3sixfive project. It was published today on their site, and I’m presenting it here to you.

“Active Recovery” is what personal trainers call it: that’s when you follow a particularly intense training period with one that’s a little easier on your muscles, giving you the chance to recover without losing momentum.

I was halfway through my early-morning bike ride in Busse Woods when I dialed down the intensity to catch my breath. In a moment of clarity (this was at 5:45 AM and I was still an hour away from my first cup of coffee, so this is significant) I realized that the idea of the “active recovery” is as much a part of my everyday life as it is to my workouts.

Last week, I left my position at a company where I worked for six years. For most of that time I was in a role that had me on the phone with London at 2:00 AM, in the office in Chicago at 6:30 AM, and on the phone again with Asia at 7:00 PM. I was the guy you’d see on the train with a Bluetooth in his ear and occasionally saying “Can we get back to the issue?” If there were a corporate-equivalent “26.2” sticker I certainly deserved to have dozens of them splattered on the side of my briefcase.

When I resigned to accept a role at a new company I decided to take a week off in between. And true to form I’ve been getting up with my alarm at 4:30, only now my race is to the forest preserve instead of Metra. While my wife is at work, I’m managing the details of the family reunion we’re hosting this weekend, catching up on my not-for-profit work, and fixing things around the house. So while I’m not spending this week fire-walking through the corporate world, I’ve turned to family, home, community, and the pedals of my Specialized Allez to recharge.

On Monday morning I’ll be at a new desk with a new phone number and a new company name on my business cards, and I’ll be ready for whatever challenges come my way, thanks to my Active Recovery.

The rest of my morning ride went beautifully, and I even set a new personal record.

Morning Greenery

Since it’s been so dry here in the Chicago area, I’ve been up every morning around 5:00 am watering all the plants around the house. We put in a bunch of new stuff out front and it would be a shame if it all dried up.

This is what the ornamental grass along our driveway looked like early one morning. It was so peaceful to be out there at that hour, and when I saw the way the water was clinging to the blades of grass I had to get the camera.

Chicago Board of Trade

There are only a couple of weeks during the year when the sun shines on the façade of the Chicago Board of Trade Building at the angle you see here. I happened to have my camera with me the other morning, so I captured it.

With the morning sun shining at this angle, you can really see the detail on the statues and carvings on the front of the building. Here’s a close-up:

I have a long history with this building: my first job in downtown Chicago was here (in 1986) and for a while I had an office on the 11th floor (next to the clock, to the right as you see it here) that looked up LaSalle Street. I spent many long hours, late nights, weekends, and holidays here. I was even involved in evacuating the building during the Chicago Flood of 1992.

Currently, I work across the street from the CBOT, so I get this view every day.

Here’s another shot of the building that I took on the morning of Bike the Drive, complete with eerily empty streets:

Preparing for the Summer

We usually wait until mid-May to set up the patio furniture and put the canvas on the gazebo, but we had a small window on Sunday morning where we were able to get it done. So why not set the video camera up and do a little time-lapse?

This entire operation took about an hour, and you’re seeing it in under a minute.

Right after we got everything in place, it started pouring and didn’t stop for several hours. At least we’re ready for when the nice weather starts.

Emitt Rhodes – Farewell to Paradise

Today’s clip is “Farewell to Paradise” by Emitt Rhodes.

Rhodes is most often referred to as “the one-man Paul McCartney,” because he wrote, performed, and recorded his music entirely on his own in his garage studio. And yes, his music absolutely has a mid-60s-to-mid-70s McCartney sound. He’s been a cult favorite since his debut album came out in 1970, and legions of ProTools- and GarageBand-equipped home musicians have recently embraced him as one of their own.

A blogger at mog.com named Spike_1 wrote a great review of Rhodes’ last album, 1973’s Farewell to Paradise, which also serves as a nice introduction to the artist and his music. I suggest starting there if you’re interested in learning more.

I came into “Farewell to Paradise” via, of all people, Vic Damone, who did an easy-listening version of the song in the early 1980s. Despite the sugary arrangement I found something truly haunting about the tune and the lyrics, and I had to learn who was originally responsible for the song. Once I did, I was down the Emitt Rhodes rabbit hole.

The song is a lament and a lullaby, with feelings of both sadness and hope. You may find that once it gets in your head you won’t be able to let go of it, and knowing that every sound in this recording is the product of one guy will impress you.

Here are links to the Emitt Rhodes best-of collection at iTunes and Amazon.

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