Mondays with Mike: Spring chickens

February 8, 2016 • Posted in Mike Knezovich, Mondays with Mike, Uncategorized by

On the last day of January, Beth and I finally made it to see blues guitarist Buddy Guy play at his eponymous club. I say finally, because we’ve lived roughly three blocks away for 12 years, and we’ve been to Buddy Guy’s Legends, but we’d never seen the man himself play at his own place.

Hanna just turned sweet 16.

Hanni just turned sweet 16.

Well, we had seen him play, but only at a big outdoor venue. But every January — every night, all month, Buddy Guy and his band play at his club. It’s a kind of residency. And hearing him in a venue like that is different. Tickets go fast, and people line up at noon to get good seats (it’s all general admission). Beth and I weren’t up to such a vigil, so we took our chances and ended up with standing room space.

Which was just fine, because who wants to sit still, anyway? Going on 80 years old, he can still play one-of-a-kind riffs, and he can sing, and he’s a great showman. All I could say afterward was, “I’ll have whatever he’s having.”

And then this past weekend we were treated by our generous friends Jim and Kathy Zartman (octogenarians themselves) to a special performance by Erwin Helfer and friends. Kathy’s a student in one of Beth’s memoir classes, and her husband Jim is kind enough to drive Beth to and from class. About Erwin Helfer: He’s an accomplished blues/boogie woogie/jazz pianist who’s something of an icon here in Chicago. The performance, at the Old Town School of Folk Music, was in celebration of his 80th birthday. It was a pretty wonderful night all around, as this account in the Chicago Tribune makes clear.

And then, down in Urbana, Hanni the retired wonder dog just turned 16. Her human companions, Nancy and Steven, celebrated by treating her to fried eggs for breakfast and then took her out to a local forest preserve where she likes to run. And run. And run.

Sometimes I don’t much like this getting older stuff. It’s not about the so-called milestone numbers, it’s more the aches and pains, the little diminishments that are just part of the deal. But to Buddy, Kathy, Jim, Erwin and Hanni—thank you for providing proof that life not only goes on, it can go on with style and grace.

I think I’ll go fry myself an egg.

Sheila Welch On February 8, 2016 at 12:03 pm

Hi Mike,

I’m 70 and find that hard to believe. I have a dear friend who’s 93 (or is she 94) who won this year’s Highlights Fiction Contest. She also lives alone, drives herself various places, and in general gives us all hope for the future. I was so glad to see that photo of Hanni, looking so happy and energetic! I met her many years ago and still recall how sweet she was and is. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts each Monday.

Sheila A. Donovan On February 9, 2016 at 1:14 pm

More power to Buddy Guy and Erwin Heller! I want some of their energy.

Benita Black On February 9, 2016 at 4:55 pm

Hooray for these nonagenarians! They are national treasures. Thanks, Mike, for pointing them out. I would be happy to have “whatever they’re having” too.

Deborah Darsie On April 24, 2016 at 9:57 pm

Cool beans for both the human and canine elders for showing us how aging doesn’t have to be a downer.

The general media sure doesn’t make it sound that great…

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