Category Archives: Mobile

CHICAGO—THE BEST INCUBATOR IN AMERICA?

by Denny O’Malley

Recently, Inc.com published an article about the best cities for early-stage companies. The premise: Chicago is the surprise winner.

Why would that be? San Francisco and New York are both beautiful, thriving cities that dramatically represent the diversity of American ideas. San Fran—younger, more venture-oriented, with beautiful natural vistas. New York—the classic, bustling private and public equity concrete jungle.

What do they have in common? It costs a kidney to pay rent for a closet. Continue reading

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YOU MIGHT AS WELL DANCE

help-t-ms-officeIT Guys—Stop Playing Defense

by Howard Tullman

Not feeling enough love? Yes, techies are under appreciated until spit hits fan. But if you’re one of them, you’ve got a bigger role to play than you think. Here are three ways to raise your profile.

I feel bad for the guys in our IT department because they suffer the same career issue as the heads of Homeland Security. As we all know, terrorists and other scumbags only need to get it right one time and horrible things happen. Yet our counter-terrorism teams and other law enforcement agencies must try to be right every time. Then, when nothing happens, no one bothers to thank them or offer recognition for their work.

it-guys

People whine about cost, delays, and all the stupid rules. They figure that protecting us is what we’re paying these folks to do. The best the good guys can hope for is a tie. No harm—no foul. And no credit for keeping us safe.

I Don’t Get No Respect

IT departments in almost every business get the Rodney Dangerfield “I don’t get no respect” treatment. They’re taken for granted and get little or no recognition—from anyone—even though the complexity, significance, and risks associated with their responsibilities have multiplied exponentially in the last decade.

Face it, we humans only understand the degree of our dependence on machines and systems when they shut down, data disappears, and systems stop delivering the information we need to proceed.

help-ms-office

The truth is, you can’t do anything intelligent today without solid, timely, reliable, and accurate data. It’s the oil of the digital age and the IT guys are the ones with their mitts on the meters, mechanisms, and measurements. IT infrastructure is the make-or-break gate, tool and tunnel through which everything critical in our data-driven world passes. If they don’t get it right, your business simply doesn’t get done. Relative to your competition, you might as well be in the Dark Ages.

The Tide is Changing

I’ve been spending a fair amount of time with IT teams and I’m encouraged to see a few positive signs.

  • A slowly growing acknowledgement of the importance of IT.
  • Recognition of the turmoil caused by under-investing and under-appreciating the IT team.
  • How neglect exposes your entire company to critical and severe problems.

But time only changes what you don’t change first. I tell all the IT people I meet that they have to be their own best advocates and change agents if they really want to see meaningful improvements and add real value to their businesses.

This is no easy sell. These folks aren’t really built that way.

Selling their ideas is the last thing they ever thought they’d be stuck doing. But the waves of change are coming—and you can swim with the tides or sit still and be submerged.

I’ve found three specific ideas and approaches that senior-level IT folks can focus on to make a serious contribution to the future of their firms.

connected-devices-ms-office

1—Be a Weapon, not a Shield

Playing great defense isn’t enough. The smartest IT players are extracting from the plethora of connected devices and turning the data they develop into “weaponized” information—decision tools that move their businesses ahead by providing better and more timely solutions, both to internal users and outside clients. What gets done is what gets measured. Help your team optimize every aspect of the operation with real-time decision support. That puts everybody in a position to correctly make the most critical calls—like when to double-down on winners and how soon to ditch dogs. Providing increased metrics and visibility is what the best data-driven IT strategies are all about. Money is just expendable ammunition. Data is power and guess who’s in charge of the data?

future

2—Focus on Future

Everything is about the future. We need bridges—not more bandages. The network is the name of the game. Help your team exploit the extensive resources outside of your own shop. Connect your company to critical partners, collaborators, and new technologies that are beyond your four walls. Do it securely, without sacrificing speed, accuracy or ease of access.

Make sure your people are an active and effective part of all the “social” conversations that concern your business because these new channels are changing the way we all confer, compare, communicate, and consume. Unless your products and services are part of the ongoing conversations and decision sets, when the buyers are ready to buy, you’re nowhere.

Holding down the fort isn’t enough; you’ve got to do more than simple maintenance because your business needs a vision and a path forward—not another Mr. Fix-It.

be-the-solution

3—Be In the Room Where It Happens

If you don’t ask, you don’t get. As a senior IT professional, step up and insist that your presence and your input is central to securing the best solutions for the business. If you’re not there, if you don’t have some skin in the game, if you’re just a spectator, then the changes that do happen will happen to you, not through you. It’s not always safe to step up, but it’s the smartest bet you can make. If you don’t believe in yourself and your abilities, who else will? And take my word for it; waiting never gets you to a better result. The world is moving too quickly to give anyone the luxury of time. Just like in racing, you need to understand that no one waits for you.

If it’s any consolation in these tough and troubling times, just remember that they’re going to blame you for anything and everything that goes wrong anyway. So, if you’re already walking on thin ice, you might as well dance.

howard-tullman-double-gulp-t

Howard Tullman is the father of Chicago’s 1871 incubator.

Read his bio on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Howard_A._Tullman

Check out his websites at http://tullman.com/

and http://tullman.blogspot.com/

Write him at 1871@Tullman

Image credits – Howard Tullman, Getty Images, MS Office

This is an excerpt from an article in INC.

http://www.inc.com/author/howard-tullman

Image credits – Howard Tullman, Getty Images, MS Office

Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link. This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. It’s not our fault if you lose money.
.Copyright © 2017 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved
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HOW BAD IS IT

bobs-bad-poetry-swtby Loop Lonagan

Lotsa people keep tellin’ me good things about Bob’s Bad Poetry so I’m checkin’ it out. Yeah, yeah, I know what yer thinkin’. But there’s no law against an angel investor goin’ in fer high culture. That’s right, I like literature ‘n’ modern art too—’specially the abstract stuff. You got some problem with that, bud? Hey, me fodder and me mudder’s both Irish ‘n’ both poets, so’s I got it in da genes. Maybe you already figured that out from da way I talk.

And hey—dis ain’t just any poetry—it’s high tech—performed exclusively on da internet. Maybe it’s a startup company! Y’know how I like t’ invest in them. So I ask ya—lookin’ at da macro picture—with this lousy economy, dis goofy election, crime ‘n’ all—can it be that hard times once again spawn a renaissance o’ creative juices? Will demand fer artistic expression skyrocket like it done in da 60’s? Doncha wish you invested in Mick Jagger or Paul McCartney back then? Could it be that bad poetry is da next growth industry? Sounds like a winner t’ me! But how d’ya make a thing like that fly?

I sneak onto You Tube while da boss ain’t lookin’. He’s over dare, behind his big fat beat-up WWII air force desk tyin’ flies. Yeah, flies! Fer fishin’! Guy’s got da worst case o’ writer’s block I ever seen. He won’t notice me takin’ in a little culture. Don’t seem to notice nothin’ nowadays—unless it’s new fishing gear or maybe a Cubs game. Yeah, he put in a big-screen TV and DVR here at our corporate offices in the backroom of Ludditis Shots & Beer—just so he don’t miss a single inning.

ludditis-shots-and-beer-500

Our Corporate Offices

Whoa—look at dis site! This is fer real! Bob’s pumpin’ out a new poem every single day. Weekends too! I watch five of ‘em and find myself feelin’ real, real good—kinda grinnin’ to myself like I just downed a big mug o’ prime porter and lickin’ my lips. But beer costs money and dis poetry site is entirely free! Don’t cost me a single dollar! And only five minutes goes by! Yeah, deeze poems is all short—real short—just da way I like ‘em! So I subscribe, just to make sure I don’t miss any.

bobs-bad-poetry

Bob Badpoet

Can high culture be good fer a guy and this much fun too? Bob’s Bad Poetry. Looks to me like a creative genius maybe figured a way t’ use dis high tech world t’ make money—in an industry where nobody made money before! And if he’s revenue positive, dat’s what I call da businessman of today! If he’s selling shares, I’m in!

And if you don’t believe me, see fer yerself. Click here: BOB’S BAD POETRY

 

Please listen to poetry responsibly.

Graphic by Jennifer Otsuka

Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link. This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. It’s not our fault if you lose money.

.Copyright © 2016 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved

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DON’T GET DOWN—GET BUSY

Howard Tullman Double Gulp Tby Howard Tullman

If you run a startup you’ll hit a wall or screw up big-time at some point. It goes with the territory. What doesn’t is letting yourself get stopped. Adversity doesn’t need any help. There are things you can do to right the ship—and the first is to right yourself.

The bond between the best entrepreneurs and their businesses is often tight and all-encompassing—so much so that they can make the easy mistake of confusing who they are as people with what they do for a living. They can lose sight of some of the more important things that distinguish earning a living from having a life. And because they typically take the ups-and-downs of business so personally, there’s virtually no separation between work and what little time is left for the rest of life. Family, friends, everything suffers.

If the business takes a hit, which startups do on a regular basis, the tendency is to feel like a personal failure—to feel fundamentally worthless. If that sounds overly dramatic or overwrought, come live in my world for a few weeks and you’ll change your mind in no time. The external stresses of business creation are nothing compared to the mental beatings and recriminations we administer to ourselves. It’s not healthy, it’s not smart, but it’s common to what we’ve chosen.

Frustration from Getty Images

Getty Images

Having said that, I want to be clear that I believe that there’s no such thing as “just business.” It’s essential to take your business personally if you want any chance of real success—if you want to build something that matters and makes a difference. But, at the same time, I don’t think that you can let your identity and your sense of self-worth be entirely subsumed by the day-to-day crises and fire drills and the many setbacks that we all deal with. The ups and the occasional wins are nice; but it’s the downs and learning how to deal with them that makes all the difference in the long run.

We all get depressed from time to time because—and I hope this doesn’t come as a complete surprise to anyone—life isn’t fair. Even the nicest people get knocked on the head from time to time. The very best of intentions are scant protection from the vagaries of the startup world. And especially in the startup world, few things work out the way you planned. Sadly, and far too often, just being in the right time and place, or catching some other lucky break beats out a lot of better ideas, a bunch of long hours, hard work, and even much better technology and solutions. Bill Gates is a spectacular example. That’s just how it goes. But where things go after something good happens is up to you. How do you handle the bruises and blisters that are all an essential part of growing any business?

I’ve watched hundreds of entrepreneurs handle every kind of adversity, and lived through more near-death experiences myself than I care to recall, and I’ve concluded that there’s a right way to proceed and a lot of ways that are wastes of time, leading nowhere. Some of these approaches are just common sense ideas, but it’s easy to look past them when you’re feeling down and troubled. So here goes.

 

What Won’t Work

Playing the Blame Game

There’s always someone or something to blame. Usually it’s the people not in the room or circumstances you can’t do anything about. It doesn’t help to whine. Worse, by putting your fate in the hands of circumstances or third parties, you give up your own power to change things. Sitting back and feeling sorry for yourself isn’t ever a viable solution.

 

Settling for a Situation that Sucks

Nothing I know gets better by itself. If you want a better outcome or result, you have to take control of the situation and make things better. Standing still means you’re sliding back while others are racing ahead. As often as not, when you settle for less than your best, you end up with even less than you settled for.

 

Trying to Ignore the Problem

If you don’t want to believe or accept something, no amount of evidence will change your mind. But, if you ignore a serious problem long enough, you’ll eventually have a crisis on your hands and then you’ll have no choice but to take action. It makes much more sense to get started on a solution before things get out of control. Ignoring the unhappy facts doesn’t make them go away; they just fester.

 

Trying to Be Superman

You can’t solve everything by yourself regardless of how many all-nighters you pull. Important problems are complex and require a competent team to address and resolve. A team distributes the burdens, stresses, and makes for a much better result.

 

Trying to Distract Yourself

You may think that you can re-direct your focus on trivial things—see a show, a movie, take a run or workout, have a few drinks—and magically you’ll stop worrying about the elephant in the room. But that’s not the way an entrepreneurial brain works. It never shuts down completely. Convincing yourself that you don’t care isn’t as easy as you might imagine, regardless of what a great sales person you are. And even if you momentarily get your head out of the game, your stomach will still keep score.

 

What Will Work

Do Something Now to Fix the Problem

Nothing beats now. You may not get it totally right but you won’t get anywhere if you don’t get started. Better to do something constructive and move the ball forward than to sit in a pile of pity. People who work hard and still can’t find the right answers don’t come to a screeching halt. They bend the world to their needs and desires. They create their own solutions. They make conditions and circumstances that succeed.

 

Raise Your Sights and Expectations for Next Time

At 1871, one of our favorite mottos is: “It’s Only a NO for NOW.” The most critical skill of any successful entrepreneur is perseverance. Get knocked down. Get back up. Try again. While you’re at it, aim a little higher the next time because selling yourself short is stupid. Ignore all the people who tell you why things can’t be done.

 

Focus on What is Working and Build from There

I call this “eating the elephant one bite at a time.” Not every problem can be solved all at once. But you can build off the foundation formed by the accomplishments and successes that you’ve had to date and then break the remaining barriers down into manageable, bite-sized challenges. Take tasks on one at a time. A lot of small steps, pushes, and the occasional shove—as well as a little bit of patience—will get you there.

 

Acknowledge that Things Could Be a Lot Worse

People who aren’t living this life think that all entrepreneurs are cock-eyed optimists who view everything through rose-colored glasses and believe that trees grow to the sky. But we know better. Serial entrepreneurs will tell you that it’s never as bad or as good as it looks. Every day you must put on a brave and excited face for the world and your team. Deep down inside, it may pay to be a little paranoid, but it’s essential, in the privacy of your own mind, to be proud—proud of how far you’ve come when so many others never could, proud of what you’ve built so far and all the people you’ve benefited along the way. There are much worse ways you could spend your time and your life. Admit it and get on with it.

 

Remember Why You’re Doing This in the First Place

We didn’t come this far to quit or to only come this far. We didn’t come to play; we came to win. And we wouldn’t be doing this at all if it wasn’t important and likely to make a difference to a lot of people in addition to ourselves. That’s why we come to work; put our noses to the grindstone; and try to get better every single day. If it was easy, anyone could do it. It’s not.

 

Howard Tullman is the father of Chicago’s 1871 incubator.

Read his bio on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Howard_A._Tullman

Check out his websites at http://tullman.com/ and http://tullman.blogspot.com/

Or just type his name into your favorite search engine.

 

Photo credits: Howard Tullman, Getty Images

This article is abridged from the version appearing in INC.

 

Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link. This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. It’s not our fault if you lose money.

.Copyright © 2016 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved

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APPLESAUCE AND APPLE

THE FINANCIAL MINDSET OF A NEW GENERATION

Tom McBride and Ron Nief

Light Bulb

The students who began college this past fall have a forty percent chance of graduating in four years, and a seventy percent chance of graduating in six. Having grown up in the Great Recession they can rarely take money for granted. They are more interested in money than in love, unlike their parents, who may have grown up as hippie advocates of free love during the far more prosperous 1960s.

But it’s possible that the old hippies are their grandparents: yep, that much time has passed.

They expect to graduate from college in debt, but they must also worry about what sort of job they can get to pay it off. They are all too keenly aware of how easily a sophisticated algorithm can replace human beings in the performance of even high-tech tasks. They know that jobs—maybe including one that has their name on it—can be outsourced cheaper overseas. Some of them are growing up in states like Florida where governors are pressuring universities to explain the financial prospects of their various major fields. They might love philosophy but decide to major in Geriatric Studies—perhaps the United States will run out of articles on Aristotle sooner than it runs out of old people living longer and longer.

Since they were about twelve years old the stock market has run a gamut of about twelve thousand points. The most precarious roller coaster at the nearest amusement park seems tame in comparison. They wonder if they will have the guts for investment in this sort of market when they aren’t risking whiplash in their necks (unlikely with the roller coaster anyhow) but cavities in their pocketbooks. Yet at their young age it’s silly to worry about the long-range future, right?

Still, they know they are coming of age in a world where pensions are becoming as infrequent as desktop computers, and where they may have ninety-five year old great grandparents still vacuuming up Social Security and Medicare. They’ve been told that a member of the generation just behind them may live to be 140 years of age. Where will the money to sustain so many geezers come from? Well, it’s too far off to panic now.

The financial hero of their generation is not old Bill Gates but young Mark Zuckerberg, who came up with Facebook. They dream about formulating some high-tech enterprise that will make billions of dollars for them, too. But what might it be? Replacing passwords with high-tech facial identifications? Nah: it’s too late for that—the research is already underway. When they were having their baby food applesauce, Apple seemed to be a company that had seen its best days. Well, look at how that turned out, so for them fantasies of high-tech riches spring eternal.

Rather anxious about money, they are frugal. There’s only a six-in-ten chance they have a credit card. They go debit, thank you. They’d rather have a new tablet or phone than new car. Autos are more expensive and not so necessary. They know a lot more about chips than about carburetors. They tend to congregate after graduation in cities with public transport, and they are a keen ride-sharing generation.

Besides, with Skype who needs actually to go there? One thing they don’t expect if and when they do get a job: lots of face-to-face conversation. It wouldn’t surprise them to learn that they will spend most of their working careers in their apartments—and of course in cyberspace.

They may become the first generation for which there will be scant old-age welfare, and yet also the first for whom it is largely unnecessary to leave the house for anything. Graphic virtual vacations to Venice may be on their way two decades hence, and they’ll be at lot cheaper than going there.

During their lifetimes the price of a first-class stamp has risen 65%. Maybe this has something to do with decreased demand for them. Theirs is a generation that rarely “writes” letters placed into envelopes with stamps attached. Going to the P.O. is hardly a ritual for them.

In their lifetimes K-Mart and Target have always been going in opposite directions. They expect similar corporate unpredictability in a world where popular websites can change every five minutes. They do not expect to stay with one company for long.

They hear about income inequality constantly and may cynically conclude that a rising tide lifts all yachts. Yet both the libertarian Republicans, who appeal to their sense of entrepreneurship, and the progressive Democrats, who promise to close the gap between rich and middle-class, appeal to their economic instincts, however unformulated as yet.

The one thing they should not give up on is education. One study concludes that if every high school student had the skills of every college student, the former would make $28,000 more per year. A Harvard study says that having just one good teacher for only one year can increase lifetime income by $80,000. In a time of gyrating stock markets, rising inequality, and scary high-tech chaos in the job market, it is easy to become cynical about an assigned term paper on the Thirty Years’ War.

But it would be foolish not to complete it, and get a high mark for doing so.

Tom McBride and Ron Nief are co-authors of the annual Mindset List® and of two books: The Mindset Lists of American History (Wiley, 2011) and The Mindset List of the Obscure (Sourcebooks, 2014). For their Financial Mindset List for the Class of 2018, go to http://themindsetlist.com/2014/10/financial-mindset-list-class-2018/

Photo credits – MS Office

Adapted from News From Heartland – the Journal of the Heartland Angels

Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link. This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. It’s not our fault if you lose money.

.Copyright © 2015 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved

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HAWKS

Hawk Logo_JAJ0561by Mark T. Wayne

“Quit talking business!  This is important!”  A shocking pronouncement coming from one’s employer!  I go mum.  We sit behind thick glass, watching the Chicago Blackhawks clobber the Anaheim Ducks in the final game of the series.  The Hawks will win this game and go on to the coveted Stanley Cup.  That is correct, sir—an opportunity for a third championship in just a few years!

I comply with Jonelis’ rude order.  I do it because I sympathize with his lack of discipline in this arena of violent chaos.  And of course, like most men, I am quite prepared to revive my boyhood when the opportunity arises.  Certainly, there are subjects other than business worthy of utterance.

Mark T Wayne

Lonagan is at my right, constantly jostling, constantly booming, “Did ya see dat?” shouts the execrable fellow.  “He jammed da butt o’ his stick right into dat poor sap’s kisser.”  Permit me to note that Lonagan is able to perform a multitude of tasks simultaneously:

  • He shouts expert opinions about every detail of this free-for-all.
  • He gnaws great hunks from greasy bratwurst.
  • He swills beer from a paper cup with great skill.

I have never before witnessed a hockey game.  I attempt to test its worth with my closest scrutiny, but find it difficult to comprehend my editor’s rationale—dragging me out here to write about six bearded hooligans with faulty dental work beating up six over-muscled goons.  How can I stay abreast of the Chicago private equity action?  Nothing of impact happens in California.  Most of their financiers chase after the same-old, same-old mobile apps.  But I agreed not to talk business.

John thru the glass_JAJ05618B

Against the glass

Jonelis and Lonagan both jump to their feet and beer sloshes onto my fine white flannel suit.  “Goal!” they scream in rough unison, and the stadium erupts in opposing voices of victory and outrage.  Jonelis pounds my shoulder.  “Did you see that?  Did you?  A rebound—that’s the way to score a goal—always crowd the net!”  I am perplexed.  How can he possibly assume that I did not witness the occurrence?  Does the man think I am blind?  We are right here in the front row of the roaring crowd, watching this madness with an entirely unobstructed view!  A gentleman named Toews, who I am told, for some unknown reason, pronounces his name Taves, just flung a small black object into the goal by artful use of a stick.  I saw the act, as did every other bloodthirsty spectator in this crowded coliseum.

Meanwhile, Lonagan gesticulates broadly with both arms, then breaks into impassioned laughter that squeezes out a few tears.  He reaches across me and punches Jonelis square on the shoulder.  “Dis is da best!  First class airfare.  First class box seats!  I kin hardly believe I’m here!  What made ya ask me?”

Jonelis seems momentarily at a loss for words.  He grins sheepishly, then admits in a somewhat lower tone, “You know how to throw a party—I don’t.”  He clears his throat.  “After we win this game, I want to celebrate.  I want to do it right.”

I catch a glint in Lonagan’s eye.  “You want I should pour it on industrial strength?”

A wan smile.  “That’s the general idea.”

“Yer on!”  Lonagan grins like a slathering bulldog.  “What about old whisker-puss here?”

“He’s covering the game.”  Then Jonelis addresses me.  “Get the article out tonight, will you?”

I care not about a drunken felon denigrating the quality of my mustaches, but the second insult inflicts its sting.  My host reduces my status from guest to employee.  Such is the level of respect shown an accomplished novelist.  A writer is without honor, sir!  (I secretly resolve to delay the entire project for several days.  I, too, enjoy the Lonagan fellow’s raucous celebrations.)

Two huge bodies in bulky uniforms slam into the glass inches from my nose with an impact that rattles the structure of the enclosure.

I sit up and take notice.

Pinned, the Hawk reaches under an inadequate face guard and grabs the nose of the angry Duck, who bars his stick against the Hawk’s hairy throat.

A whistle!

With a bleeding nose, the Duck skates to the penalty box.

In the ensuing power play, I note amazingly deceptive and expert stick handling.  Fascinating!  Other members of the team, entirely out of the action of play, perform acts of sadistic menace upon each other’s persons.  These go unnoticed by the officials, otherwise engaged.  As an organ plays magnificent chants, I wonder how thugs learn to skate with such skill.

Toews scores another goal and I am wearing flecks of Lonagan’s mustard.  Only a few minutes have transpired since the splattering of beer—inadequate time to allow my suit to dry.

I stand and cheer!  “Hooray!”

This represents an important lesson!  Yes sir!  How is it that I have never before attended such an event as this?  And I speculate on the odds of bribing a season ticket from some luminary with the only real weapon I own—the promise to not write about him.

Read KIDNAPPED

Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link. This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. It’s not our fault if you lose money.

.Copyright © 2015 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved

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KIDNAPPED

Clamps and Bone TBy Mark T. Wayne

Weeks have passed since my last conscious memory.  Weeks, I say!  A man can lose his hat and perhaps even his pants, but to lose several weeks is inexcusable.  Think what mischief might transpire over such a span of time!

I find myself crammed in the back seat of a slow moving vehicle on an unfamiliar and crowded freeway.  How did I get here?  I know the date by the prominent display on that infernal wireless device issued me by my employer.

Big Beefy Bill Blaire the Giant and Jim Kren the Toady occupy the front.  Neither accosts me with the usual raucous humor or churlish inquiry.  Perhaps they assume I still sleep peacefully. I resolve to surreptitiously conduct an investigation on the mobile internet.

Not a single message from Jonelis since he left.  The man must still be on sabbatical—in Israel, I think.  He left me in charge of this yellow rag of a journal and nobody has heard a peep from him since that day. That, sir is not good for troop morale.  Men will lose their discipline under such circumstances.  My last memory is a wild party at our offices behind Ludditis Shots & Beer.  I recall watching that execrable Lonogan fellow crack open another bottle of vintage Scotch and pour it into a dish for his trusty bull terrier, Clamps.

Now I sit in this automobile with no memory of circumstances since that time.

Mark T Wayne

Bill Blaire, the Paul Bunyan of Chicago, grips the mangled steering wheel of this automobile with his sausage-sized fingers.  That man knows how to fill space.  His head protrudes through a hole in the ceiling colloquially known as the sunroof.  The driver’s seat jams against the back, clearly off its rails.  Big Bill blocks any view to that side, but at least I feel secure in the knowledge that he is comfortable and in full control of the vehicle.

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Where Are We?

Kren gesticulates wildly at an overhead sign.  A glance reveals the surprising fact that we are driving away from Newark Airport toward the Holland Tunnel.  I have no recollection of the flight and from his plaintive squawks, I am given to understand that he does not wish to go in that direction.

I consider the possibilities and grit my teeth.

Perhaps we are running from the law.  I steel myself with the thought that whatever damning evidence comes forward at our trial, even if I gain back my personal memory of it, we can blame Jonelis for everything that has transpired.

Perhaps the magazine staff has kept me in a drug-induced coma all these weeks to accomplish some foul purpose yet to play out at an undisclosed but diabolical destination.  Even now, they run rampant down the public highway, my helpless body in the back of their car, kidnapped!

I stop this line of thought because there is no profit in such dire speculation, I choose to assume we are indulging in a sightseeing excursion.  I will enjoy the view.  Here we are in New Jersey and it is a fine day!  And such scenery, sir!  If I remain very quiet, those two may let me alone to enjoy it.

Yes, scenic wonders hold a peculiar attraction for me.  I will cross any wasteland on horseback, donkey, or camel and sleep in a tent to catch a glimpse of a marker of dubious historical import.  Travel in this comfortable little automobile seems a luxury by comparison to other excursions I have expounded upon in my writing.

We cross a high bridge fringed by a continuous line of blowing garbage.  I take that as the source of New Jersey’s fertile moniker, The Garden State.  The vista features a spectacle of belching smokestacks along with the other evidence of this nation’s industrial might, stretching all the way to the horizon.  I am in awe, sir!  Awe, I say!

Smokestacks

The two in front are still unaware that I have aroused from my slumber.

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Wireless Travel

We escape the Holland Tunnel and exit to Staten Island.  I receive my first clue to the real points of interest in the area. The sign directs us to Freshkills Park, New York.

Freshkills!  Every muscle pulls taught as I consider the possible motives for a destination with such a name.  But no—I quickly recover my equilibrium.  We are probably bound for some historic battlefield from the Civil War.  Lacking a travel guide, I turn again to my infernal device to consult Google, the fount of all modern knowledge.

My search reveals alarming locales such as Arthur Kill and Kill Van Kull.  According to Wikipedia, these are bodies of water separating Staten Island from New Jersey.  Also listed are Dutch Kills, English Kills, Bronx Kill.

Here I see references to the Whorekill River and the Murderkill River.  Who can explain such rude use of the English language?  I live in a city known far-and-wide as the murder capital of the world, but we have no such violent names associated with our waterways.  I believe I can travel to foreign lands and experience less culture shock!

My interest in this excursion is piqued and I cling to the hope of keeping these revelations alive in my mind.  Now that recent events have proven my memory faulty, I write everything down.

Further investigation reveals that Kill as a corruption of the Dutch word for creek.  I look up English Kills and find it feeds into Newtown Creek, an estuary that separates Brooklyn and Queens.  Wikipedia identifies that important waterway as the most polluted industrial site in the country, containing decades of discarded toxins, thirty million gallons of oil, raw sewage from New York City, arsenic, cesium-137, and polychlorinated biphenyls.  I leave the definitions of those ominous titles to your imagination.  The main point is the anthropological significance.  Yes sir!  It helps explain various behaviors and escapades the citizens perform in this area of the country.

But I believe we are headed for Freshkills Park.  I punch that name into the infernal device.

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The Park

What one can learn on the internet is staggering!  I say it again—staggering!  Freshkills Park is a 2,200 acre site—twice the size of Central Park.  Long before ecologists corrected our opinions of such property, the area was deemed an undesirable swamp.  Those were wilder days when intrepid men did not shrink from massive and daring exploits.  In 1947, the city began to improve the place by filling it in.

Their ingenuity gained admiration from municipalities everywhere.  This was the main destination of those daily barges of Manhattan refuse—barges that apparently did not always dump their cargos at sea, as other cities in the world do.  Why, with twenty barges a day, each loaded with 650 tons of material, this landfill has become the largest man-made structure in the world!  The Empire State boasted that it would one fine day become the highest point on the East Coast!  Consider that colossal achievement, sir!

Artist's Conception - Wikipedia

Artist’s Conception – Freshkills Park – courtesy Wikipedia

What better landfill material than garbage?  Garbage is the single biggest commodity produced by man!  It is readily available and inexpensive.  People actually pay their city haul it away!  Now, with merely another twenty years of planning and many billions of taxpayer dollars, this dump will become the second-largest park in New York City!  I call that progress!

I address the individual sitting ahead of me in my magnificent baritone.  “Mr. Kren,” I pause for effect. “Did you bring the camera?”

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The Awful Truth

The man looks back at me and drops his jaw.  “Yer awake!”  He punches the giant.  “He’s awake!  Hey Blaire, Mr. Wayne’s awake!”

Just then we turn into the Staten Island University Hospital.  I sense the worst.  Running my hands through every pocket, I fail to turn up my pistol.  There is no taser app installed on my infernal device.  I am entirely at the mercy of these men and whatever foul operation they intent to perform at this institution.

Big Bill pulls to a stop at the curb.  His door creaks loudly and he extricates his head from the open sunroof.  Then he smiles at me, wide enough to display the gaps in his dental work, and utters in a deep, slow rumble, “Hi…Mister…Waaaayne.  Hope…yer…feelin’…oh…kay.”

They wheel me into the clinic and Kren explains the circumstances to the doctor who is apparently some relative of the execrable Lonagan.  I sit aghast at the account of the staff party—my last memory of home—Clamps happily lapping up good Scotch from his dog bowl and I, innocently reaching down to scratch the coarse fur behind his ear when he abruptly lifts his massive head—

Clamps & Bone

Have you ever been clocked on the jaw by an 85 pound bull terrier?  The dog means no harm and I understand it’s a common enough occurrence among those that own the breed but there is nothing to recommend the practice.  No sir!  I cannot recommend it!

read SABBATICAL

Mark T. Wayne is acting managing editor of Chicago Venture Magazine.

Photo Credits – Wikipedia, MS Word, John Jonelis

Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link. This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. It’s not our fault if you lose money.

.Copyright © 2015 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved

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