“I play Bobby Dylan. A young Bobby Dylan.”*

Oh where have you been, my blue-eyed son?
And where have you been, my darlin’ young one?

Darlin’? Young? Blue-eyed? Heh. But I’ll tell ya.

I’ve been in Illinois, hanging out with The Little Punk for a week. I’ve been ramblin’ the countryside, watchin’ raunchy (but R-rated) sequels, playing Connect Four, Battleship, Jengajam.

I’ve been to Aurora, hometown of excellent host Wayne Campbell and a bigger city than I’d expected. Did not see Stan Mikita’s Donut Shop, though.

I’ve been on Route 34. U.S. Route 34. They were building a water tower.

I’ve been hitting that Lincoln Highway. (I thought you knowed.) Though it no longer exists, in theory I’ve been hitting that 66. (Way down the road.)**

I’ve been to Joliet, Chicago, Crest Hill, Plainfield, Shorewood, Channahon (home of the Flighty Plucks), Naperville (sister city to Nitra, Slovakia, home of a couple of guys you might remember), Tinley Park, and Steak and Shake. And, coming and going, to the Tim Hortons in Meriden.

Oh what did you see, my blue-eyed son?

I saw the Finger Lakes from the air. First time for that.

I saw a funky-looking airport in Indiana, with one north-south runway and one east-west runway, which were separated rather than crossing each other.

I saw a funky-looking development in Indiana, too, with the homes in five or six concentric circles.

I saw a ton of movies with my brother, some for the first time (Best in Show, The Iron Giant), some for the umpteenth (the original Clerks).

I saw the Navy Pier, sort of the Boardwalk of Chicago. We had lunch at the branch office of the Billy Goat Tavern. Get your “cheezborger, cheezborger” jollies in; I went looking for the picture of Mike Royko.

I saw Lockport, home of the Illinois and Michigan Canal, which linked the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico. The towpaths are walkways now. The old office is a neat museum, complete with guided tour. An old warehouse and office building is a three-story exhibit gallery and restaurant. Worth the trip.

And I saw Clerks 2. Raunchy. Disgusting. Offensive. We saw it twice. Hilarious. And plenty of heart. Worth your time, if you can handle the raunchy, disgusting and offensive.

And what did you hear, my darlin’ young one?

With my brother and his buddy Steve, I went to Tinley Park and the SomeKindaBank Center last Wednesday to see Journey and Def Leppard. Through timing and cash, we got seats in the 10th row, smack-dab in the center. And darn if they didn’t put on a heck of a show. Journey, I know the hits at least, and you best believe I was singin’ along with “Don’t Stop Believing” (yeah, me and a few thousand White Sox fans) and “Separate Ways.” The dude who replaced Steve Perry is out sick, but the guy who filled in for the dude who replaced Steve Perry wasn’t bad. (The drummer, who I take it is relatively new, was an even better singer, at least on the songs he got.) And they were into it. And so was Def Leppard, with whom I’m infinitely less familiar but enjoyed no less. They threw out their cover of Badfinger’s “No Matter What” early and had me hooked. And then I couldn’t hear for about 24 hours, but who cared?

I hit AM/FM on my rental car and heard Real Oldies 1690, WRLL 1690 Berwyn, and might have a new favorite radio station. They’re playing stuff I’ve never heard before, stuff I haven’t heard in years, stuff I never thought I’d hear on the radio. (Bobby Darin’s “Won’t You Come Home Bill Bailey.” That kind of stuff I never thought I’d hear on the radio.) They played an Elvis song about once an hour, and many of those were Elvis songs I had only heard about. The best part was my brother just found it by accident, too. We were just about to tell each other about it when we realized we were talking about the same little expanded-band station. There’s a surprising amount of repeats, but you know what? They’re repeating songs I haven’t heard in a decade.

Oh what did you meet, my blue-eyed son?
And who did you meet, my darlin’ young one?

(Yeah, I laugh about that, too.)

I met Catherine, from Jefferson City, who was flying for the first time in a long time after visiting a friend in Middletown. Over Lake Erie, out of nowhere, Catherine leaned over and said to me, “Know what this reminds me of? ‘Flight 93.'” I choked on my ice cube.

I met Kong, my brother’s hamster. She likes stale Honeycombs. She only appeared after TLP went to bed. Go figure.

I met my brother’s buddy Danny, who lives upstairs and with whom he’s worked for a long while. I’d heard all the stories but never met the guy. It was good to meet him and hang out with him and Matty and their buddy Calvin. They’re in a fantasy baseball league at work (which ends in August so the football freaks can focus on that. Don’t ask), and lots of checking and dealing takes place on my brother’s computer. That’s where I logged on last Tuesday to reserve a hotel room for nights when TLP had to work. And that’s where I saw an e-mail that looked awfully weird. At first glance, it looked like something out of The Onion, written by someone with way too much knowledge of the Islanders’ organization. But it was truth. Hey, Charles Wang said it back on June 8, the bit about all the esteemed gentlemen reporting to him. Can’t make it any clearer than what’s happened this summer….

And what’ll you do now, my blue-eyed son?
And what’ll you do now, my darlin’ young one?

I had this song in my head last Tuesday morning. It’s kinda my default “indignant at the world” song, like Green Day’s Insomniac is my “ticked at the world” album. (“Always move forward; going straight will get you nowhere.” –Billie Joe Armstrong. But that’s not what I came to tell you about.***) And it kinda fit something for coming back from vacation. And it kinda fit the mood in which I left. These past two years have turned me around, flipped me over, bashed in my head, taught me about love and heartache. And that’s just on the ice….

But you know what? I’m a reporter, not a columnist (though this li’l forum offers a bit more flexibility). It’s worth reminding myself of that every now and then. I don’t have an opinion; all I have are facts. My fanboy feelings about the operation of the industry I cover? They don’t matter.

But sometimes, when the good parts are far away and you don’t see the good people enough, and you’re stuck dealing with odd times, those fanboy feelings sneak into your mind too often. They wear at you, especially when you can’t and don’t spill them the way you want. Can’t be helped.

And then besides that, the faces change. Guess things happen that way****. The newbies will get a fair shake, because they deserve that. The last newbies got the same fair shake and earned our respect.

So what’ll you do now? Same as before. Be vigilant, as corny as that sounds. Lay it between the lines***** if necessary. But tell the story, in its best available version. And in about 70 days, it’ll all be on for real.

And I’ll tell it and speak it and think it and breathe it…
But I’ll know my song well before I start singing
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard,
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall.
Bob Dylan

*-Phil Ochs
**-Woody Guthrie
***-Arlo Guthrie,
op cit.
****-Johnny Cash
*****-Peter, Paul and Mary

Michael Fornabaio