Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Plutocrat (The Ballad of Bruce Rauner)

Last weekend I wrote a song that mentions charter schools, the bourgeoisie and reproductive rights. It also name-checks Walter Payton, H.G. Wells and Arne Duncan.

Cole Porter, Doc Pomus and Gerry Goffin are likely rolling over in their graves.

Plutocrat (The Ballad of Bruce Rauner)

Some rich guys buy fancy cars
Some spend their money on old guitars
Some go in for private planes and boats

Well, I like houses -- I own nine
And I drink $6000 wine
And I'm tryin' hard to buy your November votes

Yeah, my wristwatch cost me eighteen bucks
I wear Carhartt clothes when I hunt for ducks
And I even drive around in a beat-up van

But I'm a straight-up, blood-suckin' billionaire
Who hates payin' taxes for Medicare
And I bank in the Cayman Islands anytime I can

So, Springfield, get out the welcome mat
What this state needs is a plutocrat
A slashin', burnin', union-bustin' guy

I'll hammer and shake that capitol dome
Like it's a grandma stuck in a nursing home
Hey, grandma, it's time to say goodbye

Well, I'm mighty proud of one thing I did
Tryin' to educate my suburban kid
I had Arne Duncan lend me a helping hand

He took my call without hesitatin'
Then my kid got a spot at Walter Payton
And I gave that school 250 grand

I want charter schools in every town
where the kids are poor and black or brown
You know I've even got a school named after me

And I could have sent my own kid there
But I'm a wealthy man, and it's only fair
That her school be largely white and bourgeoisie


Now I know it's become the latest craze
But I try not to talk about marryin' gays
Social issues bring my numbers down

Same is true for reproductive rights
I don't want to pick any needless fights
I'll be a blank slate until I win that crown

I've got my own economic plan
But like H.G. Wells' "Invisible Man"
The details . . . well, they're mighty hard to see

And I do my best to avoid the stage
If they want me to talk about the minimum wage
'Cause I’d rather have those people work for free


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Up With Hope, Down With . . . Soap?

When I got a message this morning to call my guitar-slingin' compadre Steve Doyle, I figured he either had a line on a tavern gig for us, or he wanted to share some updated injury information for this week's Bears-Dolphins game.

Alas, I was wrong on both counts.

Stevie wanted to talk personal hygiene.

An hour earlier, while he was getting his lovely daughter ready for another day at CPS's Beaubien Elementary School, he did what most of us grade-school parents do on a daily basis with our own kids. He reminded his second-grader to brush her teeth and wash her hands and face.

That's when something clicked in his daughter's head and she dropped her Thursday morning bomb: "Did you know we haven't had any soap in our school bathrooms this week?"

Stevie hadn't been aware of that fact, so he called the school's front office and confirmed it. He then reached out to me.

I called the school roughly an hour later. I was told that the bathrooms had been soap-free this week, but was assured that a new shipment of soap arrived late Wednesday night.

I was also told that no one in the front office wanted to talk with me on the record.

CPS has been hearing complaints from parents, students and principals all over the city this fall about school cleanliness issues.

These complaints, no surprise, come hot on the heels of CPS having privatized the management of its school custodial services. Tim Cawley, the district's Chief Administrative Officer and the mastermind of the janitorial privatization plan, heard an earful about school cleanliness at September's Board of Education meeting. He vowed that Aramark, the company that won the contract, would soon be "flooding the zone" to address those problems.

Maybe it's time to flood Cawley's phone line with audio snippets from The Jarmels' 1961 hit, "A Little Bit of Soap."

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Get Well Soon, Karen Lewis

Dear Karen,

My family and I send you our best wishes as you work to get yourself back in good health. I’m confident your hospital room is filled with flowers and Hallmark cards from your many friends across the country. We’re all pulling for you to get well soon.

I decided to go with this online get-well card. It's one that should be right up your alley because it involves Chicago labor history and features a former CPS student.

The student is my oldest daughter, Chelsea. She’s now 22 years old, and she recently started working as a teacher in France.

Back In 2007, when she was a freshman at Lincoln Park High School, Chelsea did a History Fair project about the Memorial Day Massacre of 1937.

While researching the massacre and its aftermath, she learned a lot about labor, power and workers’ rights. She even got to interview Mollie West, one of the people she portrayed in her 10-minute, solo performance.

As far as the History Fair goes, Chelsea’s performance was well-received. She advanced to the national finals and finished in the Top 10 in her category. For my money, however, the most important part of her learning experience that year took place over Memorial Day weekend, just a couple of weeks before she headed to Maryland for the national competition.

Chelsea was invited to perform her piece across the street from the site of the massacre, in a building that is now the headquarters of USWA Local 1033. She stood that Sunday afternoon before a packed house that included sons, daughters and grandchildren of people murdered 70 years earlier.

Chelsea gave it her all. I was there. She was great.

Here is a video of an earlier version of her performance, one filmed in a more antiseptic setting by the Chicago Metro History Education Center and posted on its YouTube channel a couple of years ago.


My family and I hope to see you back on the streets soon, my friend.



Saturday, October 4, 2014

The House of Stuart

I’ve deleted many, many episodes of his weekly television show from the DirecTV DVR box in my basement, but Marty Stuart continues to occupy most of the virtual real estate on that recorder. As of this morning, 66 episodes of The Marty Stuart Show, which airs every Saturday night on RFD-TV (Rural America’s Most Important Network), have survived my periodic programming purges.

Yes, I’m running out of disc space, but I can’t seem to pull the trigger and delete performances by Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives -- one of the baddest bands in the land -- jamming with folks like Tommy Emmanuel, Deke Dickerson, Vince Gill and Paul Franklin.

Tonight, however, I won’t need to sit in front of my basement TV to enjoy the music. The boys are back in town. One night only, Chicago. The Old Town School of Folk Music.

The joint will jump, but there’ll also be enough gospel music played to earn you a dispensation from having to attend church tomorrow.