Thursday, December 26, 2019

When Christmas Is Finally Over

You are left with a hollow feeling after all that relief that you pulled it off. You fight the desire to watch A Christmas Story one more time or Bing in Holiday Inn or White Christmas. The tree is beginning to lose its needles and your bank account has been hollowed out...and still you just cant quite believe its all over. And there is some loss there. A door closing on some distant past that you as an adult can only get a glimpse of a few times. Sometimes, almost never.

And it is like being a kid again. Christmas is one big look back to when you were young, Your own children experience it as a first time but for all the adults it is a well trod road that ends on December 26th and then finally when all the ornaments and decorations are packed away for the next year. And maybe it is all the old Christmas movies that does it or it is as simple as putting the brakes on our very important lives for just a day and that's when those memories move in and you remember getting a first bike or loved ones who have passed or just the simple pleasure of being in your home and feeling for once this is enough.

But it ends. And like that incredible lookback at simpler times that is most Christmas Movies it is a nostalgia trip into your own simpler, younger self that lurks behind that adult trying to get all done all the time. So you cant help but feel wistful that it all went by once again too fast and that maybe next year you can slow it down and enjoy it more, but Christmas has its own timetable and it is but once a year and so the best we can do as we leave the attic or the basement and turn off the light on all those memories is know that in twelve months we can do it all over again. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Dont Let America Age You

The irony of our hope I did before I get old culture is that it makes people old before their time. Our marketing colossus the United States of Mass Media pushes out pictures of the young while relegating the old to the drug commercials that are mystifying in their names and what ailments they cure. But we are typed very quickly. You are either young or old in America and if you doubt this then wait for the AARP flyer to descend even as you slip through your forties. But it is more insidious than that.

American culture demands everyone remain young. Just watch the digitally altered faces of Robert Deiniro and Al Pacino on the Irishman. Old actors who are extremely famous nead not apply unless they can be turned into twenty or thirty somethings.The frustrating view that everyone is young until they are old is that everyone ages at different rates and different ways. People do not magically turn grey and appear in commericals of retirement homes or 55 plus active living communities playing tennis or sitting on a porch swing in octogenarian bliss. Moreover people go about their lives, some showing their age and many who seem blissfully unaware they have crossed the cultural boundary dividing the vibrant young from the parked and decrepit old.

But America for all of its young ethos cannot deal with people aging. They are either performing herculean plastic surgery (see Jane Fonda or Dolly Parton) or they have a walker. The middle group is largely absent from our culture. That would be the youth cultures greatest victim, adults who grew up and no longer look like they are still just ten years our of college. Uh...they are called adults. You know those people in the old movies smoking cigarettes, having drinks, and sex, and everything else that young people have. So you really are as old as you feel. Just turn off the television showing all those drugged up old people and those vibrant young people. And then just live your life. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

What Did they do to Robert Diniro in the Irishman?

Love the gangster flicks. The Untouchables. Once upon a time in America. So I settled in for the Irishman, Scorsese new epic on the Hoffa era of gangsterism. So there is Deniro looking old in a nursing home telling his story. Well, he is old so it fits. Maybe not nursing home old but seventies old. And so he flashes back to his twenties and there is Deniro again. Only he is no longer old. He is digitally young now. He looks like someone inflated his forehead and nailed his eyes down into two slits. But they left his body intact after some padding around the soldiers.

So now Pacino and Deniro can play any role in the world. No longer will actors have to act their age. Just watch Helen Mirren in Catherine the Great. They worked hard on those camera angles there. But back to Deniro who is now driving a truck as a twenty something man and he bumps in Joe Pesci who looks old but that is his real age. So the digital Deniro and flesh and blood Pesci talk and then Joe delivers the line well young fella or young man. How about well, digital man. None of it really works. The suspension of disbelief gets tied up into the android that is digital Deniro

Forget the retread of every Deniro face and action. It is like watching a lot of old Deniro movies played by the new digital Deniro. But he is done in when he has to climb some rocks to toss away a gun and the digital Deniro moves like an old man. He is slow, stiff, and you can almost see him reaching for his back. But you know what, that moment was at least real. 

The Death of the Book that Didnt Happen

Oh it was supposed to go the way of the IPOD. You know the book. It was over. We would all be listening to or reading our books on kindles and those anachronistic tombs would be just hanging around the shelves waiting to start a good bonfire. But...but...it didn't happen. Wait a minute. You mean the economics behind ripping a .99 cent song or spotify didn't apply to books? Come on. People are driven by economics and convenience and it surely is cheaper and easier to download a book than lugging around a pound and half of books in your backpack. So...RIP book.

But then it didn't happen. Maybe it was the college class of advanced fiction or intro English that tipped me off.   I told the students on the first day. Yes you can download the books if you want. How many people have kindles? Crickets. How many people download books to their computers. Crickets. Wait a minute. The vaunted eighteen year old tech savvy demographic was not behaving. At least not for the pundits and doomsayers of books. Then sales of ebooks flatlined and I started doing back to back book signings in Barnes and Nobles around Chicago. I mean lots of them. Twenty or so around the holidays and then I got my second shock.

My books are not discounted. I am not Tom Clancy and my publishers decline to break the price on my hardcovers. So my books cost around 32.00 or 36.00 out the door. People didn't blink. They didn't even ask the price. They just bought and bought and bought. No sign of the Kindle or Nook anywhere. I sold 24,000 dollars worth of hardcovers last season....so why didn't the damn book die? Well...people who read are different animals than those who rip songs from the Internet. Also, we work on our computers. Yeah that thing we lug around and haunts us in our sleep to the point we have to get stoned or take a drink to calm our jazzed brains does not lend itself to pleasure. And reading is pleasure.
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Now there are those who say well virtual reality will replace the book eventually. Yawn. Forget about the research that says when we watch something our brain just about goes to sleep and that words are about the only sparks that conjure up a scene in the tabula rasa of our brain. Virtual reality replace books. Sure it will. Just like we all drink lattes and have tattoos and ear rings and live in urban areas and have sleek new phones and cars. Not. Most people shop at Target. Pay the mortgage. Hope their kids have a better future and if they have a moment for a good story and have a book they will read that over just bout every other delivery device So lets hear it for that old thumbed and yellowed bit of parchment between  the covers. Long live the book...the book....the book. 

Monday, September 9, 2019

Finally The Paperback Release of Al Capone and the 1933 Worlds Fair

Al Capone and the 1933 World’s Fair: The End of the Gangster Era in Chicago is a historical look at Chicago during the darkest days of the Great Depression. The story of Chicago fighting the hold that organized crime had on the city to be able to put on The 1933 World's Fair.

William Hazelgrove provides the exciting and sprawling history behind the 1933 World's Fair, the last of the golden age. He reveals the story of the six millionaire businessmen, dubbed The Secret Six, who beat Al Capone at his own game, ending the gangster era as prohibition was repealed. The story of an intriguing woman, Sally Rand, who embodied the World's Fair with her own rags to riches story and brought sex into the open. The story of Rufus and Charles Dawes who gave the fair a theme and then found financing in the worst economic times the country had ever experienced. The story of the most corrupt mayor of Chicago, William Thompson, who owed his election to Al Capone; and the mayor who followed him, Anton Cermak, who was murdered months before the fair opened by an assassin many said was hired by Al Capone.

But most of all it’s the story about a city fighting for survival in the darkest of times; and a shining light of hope called A Century of Progress.


Paperback Al Capone and the 1933 Worlds Fair

Friday, September 6, 2019

Television Has Ruined Football

I went to the Bears opener with the Packers. What a show. The Air force parachutists, the fireworks, the smoke, flames, the screaming fans. The voltage in the stadium was incredible. National television was there in force with all the interviews and cameras and talking heads. It was amazing. The National Anthem was amazing. The monstrous flag was amazing. And this was the biggest rivalry in the NFL. Then the game started. You know the outcome, but here is what I found amazing. The game is so slow. Not because of the players but because of television

A few plays and then a switch of sides and then everyone stands around and waits. And while you are watching the two hotdogs race on the big screen or a Veteran walk out or a race between two cars the players just stand around with nothing to do. Minutes pass. The players stand around the stadium gets quiet. Oh right. Commercials! Those things that at home give you a chance to get more dip, another beer, hit the bathroom. For the fan at the game it is dead time and for the players, it is an interruption to the game.

I know. Its great that television is there but I watched the momentum wither away. It is incredible how slow professional football has become because of this electronic medium. Television does not try and keep up with football, football slows down to television time. The intensity of a college football game is explosive and even on the opener when the Bears got behind the fans became quiet and every time the Bears started to move the game went cold with challenges, timeouts, and then just for nothing but to make sure all those sponsors get their commercials in.

And yes the Bears lost. So maybe this is just sour grapes but it sure seemed like every time the train started to roll, it ran out of steam.  Or it went to a commercial. 

Friday, August 23, 2019

Leaving For College

You know it has been coming for a year. Yet you never really recognize the day will come. One month. One week. One day. Then she is saying goodbye to the dog and you wait and hear her sniffs that blend with your own. Then you have the drive up to Michigan that is like a family vacation. You want it be that way. You push it from your mind even as you enter the university and make your way to her dorm. Now you are unloading her belongings in the cart. You are the cheery dad doing the physical stuff you do best. Your wife is already arranging her room and you step back and everyone is in their roles one last time.

Then there is a walk around campus. At twilight you look up at her dorm and pick out her window and you know that is where she will look at life now. That window is her new home and you will not be there with her. But there is still time. There is the dinner where the seafood is not quite up to Chicago standards. You joke around with her as you always do and then in the hotel room you watch Ace Ventura and you both laugh laying together on the bed. You always had the same quirky sense of humor.

But now it is morning. You go do down and try and eat something but your appetite is gone. A trip to the Walmart for last minute items. You see other parents looking like zombies with their kids. No one wants to go to this final wake for parenthood. But then you go back to the dorm and unload the bags and now...now there is nothing left to do or say. You cannot talk and hide behind your sunglasses. She hugs your wife and then she hugs you twice. And you murmur I love you. Something you never said enough. And now you are walking down the hallway. If you can just make it to the stairs you will be good.

And then you do and you walk to the car that is now minus one person. And you start the engine and pull out and you leave your daughter behind. And now you just cry and cry because your heart is broken and there is nothing you can do. Your daughter  has just left for college. 

Books by William Hazelgrove