What’s Your Agenda?

One of the many objects I helped my second ex-husband purchase was a 1983 Honda Goldwing. It belonged to a Chicago cop friend of ours. This thing had been sitting in the garage for at least a decade and so needed to be completely torn down and serviced. Luckily, we had another friend who owned a motorcycle shop who was persuaded to do this for a nominal fee. 

Thus, we gained entry to Chicago’s then vibrant motorcycle community, in the mid-1990s.

One of the “rituals” was to all meet up at the Highland House, a diner way up north on Hwy 41. (It closed in 2003, here’s an article reminiscing.) It was a sight to behold. A veritable motorcycle show. You’d roll in, find a parking space, go inside to the counter and get a cup of coffee and breakfast sandwich (forget about trying to sit down if you got there after 9 a.m.) and stroll around the parking lots of the restaurant and adjoining gas station checking out the bikes. Old Indians, Harleys of every vintage, touring bikes (basically cars on two wheels), Ducatis, custom choppers, bikes with sidecars, trikes, you name it.

There also were groups of people who got together to ride, usually meeting at Highland House and then trekking even further north to the two-lane highways where you could open it up and relax because there was less traffic.

One of those groups was “Zell’s Angels.” Zell as in Sam Zell, Chicago real estate magnate, an avid biker. One of Zell’s Angels was a guy named Peter Szollosi. Peter was Sam’s go-to guy for marketing, events, anything creative. We got to talking one time up at the Highland House. That sounded interesting to me so I asked if I could come down and do an “informational interview.”

His studio, in Riverside Plaza, was a visual feast. I can still see him, in his office sitting at his drafting table, in my mind’s eye. Phenomenal.

I explained what I was after (sort of) and he said this: “What’s your agenda?”

I asked him what he meant by that.

“What is it you want out of this at the end? What’s your agenda?”

What I thought: “Hell if I know.” 

What I said: “That’s a good question. I have to think about it.”

We concluded our conversation shortly thereafter, he gave me a quick tour of Sam’s office, and I hopped a Metra train home, head spinning.

But from that point on, whenever I get confused as to what to do next, I ask myself that question—What’s your agenda? It never fails to lift the fog.

After that, we emailed back and forth about once a year or so, until one time I emailed him to check in but got no reply, which I thought was strange because he’d always replied before. I searched online to see if I could figure out where he went.

This is the article I found, a lovely obituary that explains what a creative force of nature he was.

I’d give anything to be able to talk to him again and let him know what I did with his advice and how many other people I’ve shared it with. So in his memory, I pass it on to you to use when trying to figure out next steps on something. Specifically, your book.

What’s your agenda?