Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Reasons to Be Cheerful

OK. I admit it. It's not all climate change deniers and distracted drivers and a government hellbent on sucking Wall Street's penis to the exclusion of legislating and leading in a semi-responsible way.

There are, in the words of the immortal Ian Dury, reasons to be cheerful.

1.) I was able to locate a liquor department stocking New Belgium Brewing Company's Frambozen, a brown ale and raspberry concoction far better-tasting than you might be inclined to believe.

Upon my first taste of the stuff, I wasn't especially impressed and relegated it to the “interesting” category. But by bottle number-six, I was on the verge of proposing marriage.

So yes, I search high and low for Frambozen at Christmastime. You should, too.

2.) The New York Knicks are 5 and 27. The Los Angeles Lakers 10 and 21.

Nothing like seeing the league's most-dysfunctional franchise continue to flounder under its Hall of Fame slash opportunist GM. The realization that former GM Isiah Thomas couldn't make things any worse than they already are at Madison Square Garden is staggering.

And the Lakers? I confess to getting a kick out of watching the league's most-entitled team suffer the ravages of old age and free-agent defection. 

As a card-carrying member of N.C.F.K. (Never cared for Kobe), I'm not shedding many tears at the sight of Bryant starring in the role of former superstar hobbled by injuries and in the twilight of his career.

True, the record will show that Bryant scored more points than M. Jordan, but another will show that insofar as championships were concerned, the Black Mamba did less with more.

3.) The 2014/15 Chicago Bulls, custodians of a tidy 22 and 10 record which places them atop the Central Division.

After impressive victories over Memphis, Toronto and Washington and another Christmas Day over the Los Angeles franchise formerly known as contenders, the Bulls appear to be rounding into shape.

Best of all, Derrick Rose looks like his old self, driving the lane and giving the once-anemic offense options. With free-agent acquisition Pau Gasol playing like he's in his mid-twenties and the bench once again full of characters ready, willing and able to defend and even pad leads, the Bulls look awesome and formidable.

4.) Finally, there is the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

I don't see much live music anymore, which is mostly a byproduct of my limited income. But even if things were different, I'm still not sure I'd be plopping down three-hundred bucks to see the likes of 2014-era U2.

So as an early X-mas gift to my mate, I bought a pair of tickets and we made the trip downtown to Orchestra Hall to see the CSO play a program featuring Haydn (93rd symphony), Strauss (Don Juan) and Beethoven (7th symphony).

Let me first say that classical music benefits more than any other when heard live. I'm still waiting for the recording that captures the transparency and richness of an orchestra in full flower.

Whew.

Of course, great seats don't hurt. Neither does a little Ludwig Van (as Alex in A Clockwork Orange was wont to call the estimable Mr. Beethoven).

Without the vocabulary and experience of a seasoned listener, I'll just say it was wondrous, with textures, sounds and melodies that enchanted and excited and got my soul righted.

More than any other piece performed that night, Beethoven's seventh was an orgy of mood and sound, fully animated by what is still one of the world's leading orchestras. I was agog.

And a post-concert walk through Millennium Park, with its backdrop of skyscrapers and Christmas lights, was a silent night-styled treat. It was the perfect coda to an evening of powerful music.

So life could be worse.

I remain grateful for Stand 'N Stuff taco shells. Express check-out lanes. The chime that goes off when I leave my headlights on. The fact that I am not legally or biologically related to anyone named Kardashian. Elizabeth Warren. And the continued functioning of my overworked and much-abused ears.

But life could be a great deal better, also. Which is what I'm hoping the next calendar holds for me and you.

Happy New Year.

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