May 24th, 2007

Quill3

Murder nearby

I am told that there was, up until a few days ago, a tall, dreadlocked fellow who could be found most days standing near the corner of State and Madison selling newspapers. I must confess I never took note of him, even though that intersection is exactly one block from where I work. CC tells me she saw him there many times, as his normal stretch of sidewalk was a 20-second walk from the entrance to the school at which she teaches, though she never bought a paper from him.

You might be thinking, based on the title of this posting, that Mr. Dreadlock had met with an untimely demise, but no, he is still very much alive, though his days of selling newspapers appear to be over. Apparently, his roommate walked in on him a few days ago and found him in the act of stabbing a young woman to death. The medical examiner counted 62 separate wounds, so he appears to have continued stabbing well past the point of the poor woman’s demise.

The woman was a student at the school where CC teaches. She was new in town and, perhaps more importantly, new to big city life. She apparently had no close friends in Chicago and one can imagine that she may have been naïve enough to be talked into this fellow’s apartment. Some of these psychos have a talent for identifying vulnerable individuals and gaining their trust.

CC reports that many of the students have been understandably traumatized by the incident. For me, it is a sad reminder that even here in the noise and glare of the Loop, there are some very dark and quiet corners that force us to be vigilant.
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Coping With Success

I suppose May is destined to be a bittersweet month for the rest of my life. Today, if you weren’t aware, marks the second anniversary of my mother’s death. In addition, May 14th would have been Kathy’s 51st birthday, except that she passed away on the 4th of July four years ago.

But I’m going with the adjective “bittersweet” rather than “sad” because there’s a lot about both of those women that I can be very happy about. For starters, I have the fact that I got to be close to both of them, and I know that I’m a better person for that circumstance.

I won’t get into all the details of why this came up, but I’ve been thinking lately about something Kathy said during her time in L.A. She had a lot of success out there – TV and radio shows, national commercials, getting her writing published in various places – and she would have had a whole lot more success had her health permitted her to work more steadily. Once, when she and I were in the middle of a couple-hours-long phone call on my nickel, she observed that it was not when things were going badly that one found out who one’s friends actually were. Rather, it was when things were going really well.

That seemed counterintuitive to me on the face of it, so I asked her to explain herself. She told me that when she was out of work or ill, there was no shortage of people willing to do things for her, or to call and check in on her. But when something exceptionally wonderful would happen, e.g., when she would land a role on a network TV show, she found that there were people she considered as friends whose jealousy was such that they didn’t have the time of day for her. They couldn’t bring themselves to even wish her well upon hearing the news, so taken up were they with their own frustrations. Understand, Kathy was not the sort of person to rub other people’s noses in her success, and she happily celebrated the successes of her friends, so this was a hard lesson for her in the human nature of certain humans.

I still maintain, though, that there are people whose friendship and loyalty come through the strongest in times of adversity. But in the L.A. show business world of large and fragile egos, I will grant Kathy a curious point that had not occurred to me prior to her articulating it. And, as I have come to learn, such attitudes are not purely the province of show business types. I have seen it happen – and maybe you have too – where the reporting of a personal success causes a friend to heap pity on themselves over their own lack of success before they can even utter a word of congratulation.

Now, as ever, Kathy gives me things to think about and challenges me to expand the borders of my world.
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