Monday, June 03, 2002
This past Saturday.

This past Saturday was June 1. It seemed that the saved dollars of a gazillion dads and moms were in play as weddings seemed to be the order of the day in the Chicagoland -- I loved that word when I was a kid listening to WLS (Art Roberts) way back when it was Top 40 and "Clear Channel" meant something other than some front for Rupert Murdoch -- that day.

The hotel I'm staying at seemed to be hosting receptions for a large fraction of that gazillion. One particular reception in the atrium seemed to go on for a while. They had a two-man band who were stand ins for the Svenge (sp?) brothers (SCTV, you remember?): one guy played snare drum and trumpet, the other a MIDI accordian. The MIDI accordian almost never sounded like an accordian: it was almost always controlling some synthesizer patched to sound like a way cheezy organ.

The tune selection was pure Chicago: Multi-ethnic, multicultural in the truest, most all-American, "a quilt, not a melting pot" fashion. "When Irish Eyes Are Singing," "Roll Out the Barrel" ("everybody polka!"), "That's Amore." Okay, multi-ethnic, multicultural in a kind of post-WWII way that could've used a little African-American and Mexicano (especially given that this was in Chicago) or other Latino influences, but that still was moving to this one who appreciates just what an accomplishment even that level of assimilation was.

Chicago is, of course, one of the great multicultural American cities. They were showing some PM Magazine-esque local show last night about the taping of "Wheel of Fortune" here, and they were doing a shpiel on Pat Sajak, local boy done good. (Sajak was the weatherman in Nashville years ago, and that's why he got Dan Miller, who if I remember correctly was flopping at his gig as local newsguy in LA, but who had been the local anchor in Nashville, as his sidekick during his short-lived foray into late-night teevee.) The local host asked him if his old neighborhood was still the same, and Sajak replied, "Si."

But one should absolutely not deny the incredible strides that have been made in resolving racially- and ethnically-based issues in the USA. We've come so far as a nation since the necessary actions of the civil rights movements as well as the riots of the 60s. It's impossible not to see that progress here in Chicago.

I can remember visiting my aunt and uncle who lived here when I was a young one (early teens). He was a native; she was a native of East Tennessee. They were of a generation that wasn't the least bit ashamed about decrying things like interracial marriages. I just have a very striking memory of my uncle (who's 97 years old, and who I love dearly, but who is from another time) telling me how awful such relationships were.

We may not have made a perfect world, and clearly there are yahoos -- religious fanatics in particular -- that have to be dealt with and made to understand that they do not have the option of destroying the freedoms we have worked responsibly to create and to maintain. But we have made slow and steady progress in making this a better world to be in regarding matters racial and ethnic based -- and gender, too. We still have room to go regarding sexual orientation, but there is no reason to believe that we won't improve that situation, too.

So keep believing and keep working and keep smiling.