July 30, 2009
If you came to this site hoping to find a favorable article about Lloyd Blankfein, I feel sorry for you.
I just returned from a visit to my old home town, a little place up north called Chicago. Whenever I go back there, I like to check in with a woman I consider “The First Lady of Chicago Music”: Lonnie Walker — musician extraordinaire and owner of The Underground Wonderbar. If you enjoy blues and jazz, it doesn’t get any better than what you will hear from Lonnie and her band.
Back in the early 1980s, my then favorite “First Lady of Music” in Chicago was a nightclub DJ named Suzanne Shelton. She recently organized a 30th anniversary reunion party at the club where she worked: a bar named Neo. Back during the bar’s early years, Suzanne was cute. Today she is beautiful. At the party, she introduced me to her son, who is now just two years younger than my age when I first started hanging out at Neo in June of 1980. The nightclub eventually got a bit of exposure in a Robert Altman film entitled: The Company. The movie was about a dancer in the Joffrey Ballet (portrayed by Neve Campbell), who held a second job serving drinks at Neo. As the film reveals, one enters Neo by walking down a small alley running west from Clark Street. During the early years of the club, the alley walls were festooned with graffiti. One of the spray-painted postings was the statement: “Neo = Home”. For many of us, it certainly did. I met a few girlfriends there during the ten years after my introduction to the place. The last girlfriend I met there became my companion for five years. Those of us who returned to Neo last Friday, rekindled long-lost friendships and reminisced over the valuable relationships we had developed with so many people, some of whom no longer walk among us. I wasn’t the only one who flew in from out of town for the event. The club’s original manager, Tom Doody, now owns a resort hotel in Playa del Carmen, Mexico with his wife, Pamela. It’s called The Blue Parrot.
One old friend I enjoyed seeing was a fellow named Lloyd Bachrach. Lloyd started coming to Neo in the second half of the eighties and was recognized there as “The Guy with the Cane”. I remember many occasions when Lloyd would approach the DJ booth to chat with his old friend, Jeff Pazen, who spun records there. (Records were on the verge of becoming obsolete at that point). As Lloyd would approach the DJ booth, the faces on the kind-hearted people standing around that area revealed a degree of concern and an apparent decision to help convey Lloyd’s music request to the disk jockey. Before anyone could move, Lloyd placed his cane on the ledge atop the five-foot wall in front of the booth, grabbed the ledge, pulled himself up and quickly maneuvered around, 180 degrees, sitting down in front of Jeff to discuss girlfriend issues or whatever other subject was of interest at the time. The faces of the would-be Good Samaritans all revealed the same reaction: “Uhh … I don’t think I could do that.” For my part, I would stare down at my Cuervo Gold and tell myself: “I know I can’t do that — despite the assurances to the contrary coming from the stuff in this glass.” Rather than thinking of himself as disabled, Lloyd always perceived himself as differently-abled. This attitude eventually led him to become a motivational speaker, operating a business called: Yes You Can. Lloyd’s website features a video telling his life story. Given the current economic situation, I think Lloyd’s story is an important one, providing inspiration to cope with the adversity we are all experiencing, to one degree or another. His video reinforces the notion that we’re all hard-wired — perhaps by something genetic — to adapt, survive and thrive. The “survival instinct” is just at the core. The baby abandoned in the dumpster, who lives for a few days until someone finds her — the short kid who gets picked on by bullies but goes on to get a black belt — and the alcoholic on the curb, who sobers up to pull his life together on his own — they all find something within themselves to take control over their lives and succeed. I’m reminded of the old “nature vs. nurture” debate. When one lives in an adverse situation, can whatever setbacks he or she encounters ultimately be overcome by something in that individual’s nature? Lloyd’s approach seems to allow one to reach in and find whatever that is — to “unlearn” whatever mental processes became obstacles to one’s well-being and success. This process should be important to us — both as individuals and as a society.
At a time when America’s largest corporations rely on mass layoffs to create the illusion of prosperity for their quarterly earnings reports — it’s nice to know that there are people like Lloyd Bachrach, who help others to cultivate their better instincts. I’m proud to be his friend.