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Columns > Randy Ray - Peaches En Randalia

Published: 2008/02/26
by Randy Ray

Chicago, he sang, that line between what was and what really should be

Peaches En Randalia #24

2002>roadmap snapshot
Chicago is a good walking townthat is, when the place isn’t living up to its Windy City moniker. We take the medium-sized length trip down to the pier and notice about a dozen couples, single natives and wayward touristsall those that wander are not lostand the master shot p.o.v. looking back towards the city is spectacular and daunting. The streets seem like any that one would find in a metropolitan area but these streets hide some dark tales that even a Bogartish film noir would find too haunting to present. Indeed, Chicago is best viewed from the water as it all seems to fit into place. Many citizens originally arrived in America via the water and there is nothing quite like the view of a metropolis than from liquid’s edge as one wonders what could save this complex Chicago city from its historical fate as a place so corrupt that even Detroit shudders in the distance.

1928>historical precedence
I’m listening to Ramblin’ Thomas from his 1928 Chicago blues recordings and he’s setting the beaten-dog, devil-may-care stone work for the foundation that would become Robert Johnson. But then you knew that, right? Just like you knew that the Daleysthe same family that towered over Chicago for decades in corrupt, nepotistic infamy, the same family run by Mayor Richard J. Daleya perversion of elected’ power and a neutered dog posing as a human beingordered the police to keep a tight rein on the party for the peeps, worker’s party factions, anti-fascists, peaceniks, free thinkers, hippies and freaky visitors to the Midwestern city for the 1968 Democratic National Convention.

And they did.

I returned [to Aspen] from Chicago and told everybody to vote for Nixon, as the surest means of seizing the Demo party from the hands of croakers like Daley and [Texas governor John B.] ConnallyI got punched in the stomach by a cop’s billy club when I tried to cross the bridge from the Hilton to the band-shell in Grant Park. – Fear and Loathing in America, September 10, 1968, Hunter S. Thompson

Umphrey’s McGee is on the final night of their three-night run at San Francisco’swait for itlegendary Fillmorethe house that Bill Graham built and the Grateful Dead dignified. The Chicago band has finally hit its stride during a heady weekend of numerous collaborations with local and visiting musicianseveryone from the opening OM Trio members to TLG’s Josh Clark to Lesh and Particle musician, Steve Molitz. If LEGACY was my 2007 theme then, certainly, COLLABORATION is the word for 2008. It will be a part of everything I write from Jan-Dec and, quite frankly, it isuhan odd word but I’ll use it, anyway_relieving_ to see Umphrey’s assume their jam throne and act like a band at the peak of their improvisational powers while sharing their stage with others.

1928>It’s good songs, stupid.
I’m so lonesome, lonesome, I don’t know what to do
If you didn’t have no good woman, you’d be lonesome, too
I’m goin’ up to country
Baby, I can’t tell you – So Lonesome, Ramblin’ Thomas, Chicago, 1928

1968>“You bring the hate; I’ll bring the pizza.”
The “mass of white youths” failed to materialize in Chicago on October 8 [a little over a month after Chicago’s Democratic National Convention] for what was now known as “Four Days of Rage.” The two or three hundred people who showed up in Lincoln Park to “bring the war home” were almost all students and ex-students, equipped with helmets, goggles, cushioned jackets, and medical kits, armed with chains, pipes, and clubs, the men outfitted with jockstraps and cups. They had convinced themselves, and aimed to convince everyone else, that the movement was precisely the nightmare which the police had fabricated a year before. – The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage, Todd Gitlin

2002>Chicago>Russia>Chicago>San Francisco>Sis & Me
The Russian restaurant in Chicago was warm and inviting and we ate a plate of various seafood that was the size of an extra large pizza platter. We also drank about a dozen samples of Russian vodka and better than the shitty swill I had tried before with various Americanized brands; hence, my affiliation with whiskey instead of the clear serpentine liquid; although, a union that would eventually need to cease and desist. We, also, by a weird, unknown synchronicity, stayed at the Palmer House while in Chicagothe last place my mom had dinner before leaving her home and taking the train ride to the San Francisco Bay Area where my youngest sister and I were born, setting in motion our own tapestry which extended from the Windy City to the City by the Bay.

2008>Arriving somewhereall my designs, simplified
I’m reading about Barack Obama and the Illinois senator is continuing to take the high road in the current volley of subtle attacks from the Clinton family two-pronged attack. Don’t get me wrongI think Bill Clinton was one of the best presidents since FDR but I don’t quite think the same of Hillary Clinton, at least not compared to the Obama juggernaut. If one were to equate it to rock n’ rolland one should if one is writing for a site labeled Jambands.comObama is the Beatles of what could be America and Clinton is certainly the Stones of what it really isAmerica, a powerful force that offers equality to various people with their mixed bag of cultures and yet, one can’t quite get past that little unethical Native American dispersal issue. Meanwhile, Barack Obama is such a profound example of what America could be that one sees almost a little bit of Grateful Dead in him, regardless of Messers. Lesh, Weir and Hart’s endorsements. Huh? Obama represents an iconic figure who could unite a various and beleaguered band of misfits into rising above the collective mediocrity to become something much larger and good.

If that ain’t Chicago, as well, sitting in the middle ground between the terrible beauty and relevance of New York and the gargantuan splash and zither of El Lay, I don’t know what is, man. Chicago is a good walking town but can it be the town that isn’t known for the blues, bootleg whisky, corruption and the convention that damn near killed America? Can Obama seize the Demo partysomething mentioned in Hunter S. Thompson’s September 10, 1968 letter to Allard K. Lowensteinback from the sick tyrants that have so often polluted the waters of the Party for the People? This is all supposed to be about you and me, isn’t it? We matter, don’t we?

And, you know, we doarriving somewhere, in between yesterday and tomorrow.

_- Randy Ray does not live in Chicago but loves its curves, music, poetry and people. He does work here and also stores IT at

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