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07/29/13: Warning: this can be seen as one of those "get off my lawn, you kids" style rants.
      The main story in today's Arts section really hit home with me. The reporter was complaining about people chatting while performers are on stage, trying to entertain the crowd. Stephie and I have been seeing this type of behavior for years. The first time I noticed this phenomenon was at a Hothouse Flowers show at the House of Blues. We staked our spot near the back of the room, and noticed it was a little noisy during the opening act, one guy and his guitar, but figured the crowd would calm down for the headliner. We were thrilled when the band came on the stage carrying acoustic guitars to play an unplugged show, but were soon horrified to find that we could not hear the band because of all the chatter around us. Stephie took to yelling at people to shut up, but she got in return were dirty looks. A girl near us said "Well, this is a bar, you know." I replied, "Yes, it is. But do you you usually pay $35 cover charge to go to a bar to talk?" She just turned up her nose and went back to her conversation, completely ignoring the band.
      Come to think of it, the problem goes back even further. I used to be a big fan of Jimmy Buffett. Saw him several years in a row at the late, lamented Poplar Creek Music Theater. Soon after Stephie and I started dating, he was booked to play Tinley Park. (I think it was called the World at that time. What'ss it now, the First National Bank of the United States of America Savings and Loan Amphitheater?) He had Little Feat as an opening act, and I was a big fan of them as well. This might have been the first time they came through the area after reforming, and I was excited to see two of my faves on one bill. Unfortunately, the pavilion was sold out by the time I found out about it, but I figured that lawn seats would be the next best thing, right? Wrong.
      We arrived and planted ourselves where we had a decent view of the stage. There was some rowdiness in the crowd, but that was to be expected, I thought, because it was the lawn. The lights went down, Little Feat hit the stage, and we could barely hear them over the din of the crowd. There must have been maybe 10 people on the lawn trying to listen to the band. Everyone else was laughing and drinking and carrying on. We tried to get closer, but even at the front of the lawn we couldn't hear a thing.
      After Little Feat left the stage and the lights went up, the crowd got louder. It had rained that week, and the middle aisle turned to mud, which people used to slide down the lawn. It didn't get any better (or quieter) when Buffett's band hit the stage. We left in disgust after three or four songs. Haven't been to see him since.
      Since the Hothouse Flowers debacle, we've only been to House of Blues a few times. Each time we get there way early, plant ourselves arms reach from the stage, and stay there the whole time. This has served us well, but when I took Stephie to see Gino Vannelli, the songs were fine, but when he was talking between songs, we had a little trouble hearing him, even though we could practically touch the stage. I'd be hard pressed these days to go to a general admission concert because of this. It seems that when there is assigned seating, more people seem to want to listen to the music.
      The thing that upset me most about the Tribune article was the attitude of the people the reporter talked to about this issue, especially the one that said he was in the "talking section". What? And the other one who said "the band doesn't seem to mind". We went to Fitzgerald's once and saw Alejandro Escovedo open for Poi Dog Pondering, a benefit concert for one of the workers there. His set started with just him on acoustic guitar and Susan Voeltz from PDP on violin. The first song was amazing, but halfway through the second, it was getting hard to hear because of all the chatter. He stopped the song and addressed the crowd. "Look," he said, "I came here all the way from Texas to play this show. If you want to just stand there and talk, I'm just going to get back on the plane and go home." There was a stunned silence in the crowd, and a few of us applauded. He played the rest of the set and it was some of the most beautiful music I've ever heard played live. The crowd was mostly quiet, but started to get chatty near the end.
      Look, I know we're not going to the symphony, where they'll throw you out for opening a candy wrapper too loudly, but show some respect to the musicians, and the people who have paid (sometimes a lot of) money to see them and hear them play.

07/07/13: We had a lousy Fourth of July this year. Since it fell on Thursday, and I had to work on Friday, we decided that we were going to stay home: Stephie to paint and me to relax and maybe write. What we hadn't counted on was Kisu's increasing problem with loud noises. We've comforted her through some fairly violent thunderstorms recently, but the fireworks this year were horrible, beginning well before the first of the month. Even though we put the Thundershirt on her well before the first pop of the day, by mid-afternoon she was glued to my leg, and if I tried to get away from her, even just to go outside to clean the kitchen windows, she would start to panic. The shirt has been working well for storms, but it had little effect today.
     She was never really comfortable on the fourth, but then we usually would go to my parents' house for the day. Their neighborhood seemed in past years to be quieter than ours, and they have a family room downstairs where Kisu could go where very little noise would reach her sensitive ears. On top of staying home this year, it was a beautiful day so we had the windows open, and every bang would just make her jump, then sit and tremble.
     We have some sedatives that we got from the vet years ago, and we gave her one in the afternoon. It calmed her a little, but she didn't sleep. She would just look at us with this glazed look, and she would still be bothered by the loudest of the noises from outside. It wore off just as we were going to bed, after the bulk of the noises subsided. Unfortunately, some bozo must have found a spare pack, and blew them off one at a time, from about 11:30 P.M. until well after midnight. We just sat up with her until she stopped trembling.
     The day had started out great, with Kisu and I greeting our neighbors, who were out putting flags in everyone's lawn, as you can kind-of see in the picture here, but it ended badly, with Stephie and I getting very little sleep because of our little scaredy puppy. I think we'll need a new plan for next Independence Day.

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