Tuesday, September 30, 2008

If The Train's On Time You Can Get To Work By Nine

Since I finally ‘fessed up three months after the fact that I moved, I figure it’s time to share my first three days of urban commuting….

You see, when I was in the 'burbs I lived across the street from the Metra train line, which is a commuter line with shiny new double decker cars, uniformed conductors who help old ladies and say “Good morning, Bob!” if your name is Bob, and clean cushy seats filled with soccer moms and generic looking businessmen who play golf on the weekends (or at least watch golf on television). They read the Daily Herald or the latest best seller on the way in, then spent eight hours downtown pretending to accomplish whatever middle management roles and responsibilities were listed when they got hired, and then do a Soduko or read a couple more chapters on the way home to be greeted by Wally and The Beaver and resolve whatever hijinx they’ve gotten into that day over a home-cooked meal of meat, potatoes, and some sort of veggies or greens. The trains run on a schedule and are typically on time and move efficiently between the stops all for about $3 each way. You see the same people at the same spot on the platforms every day, and after boarding you see the same people in the same car, often in the same seat. It can be very comforting or very maddening depending on how attractive you found Andie McDowell in Groundhog Day. I could walk out the door at 6:27 a.m., ride down the elevator, walk across the street, and arrive on the platform just as the 6:34 was pulling into the station. I’d get a single seat on the upper deck and, just to be a rebel, read Crain’s Chicago Business instead of the Daily Herald. And then I’d pour out of the station with the other sheep to go answer emails and try not to do anything stupid that will get me arrested or end up in the headlines. Good thing our company has a strict policy about hookers and blow in the workplace. They must be pre-approved. But I digress.

The CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) runs a little differently. Other than a set system of train tracks and bus routes, they generally seem to just wing it. Trains and buses are advertised to run approximately every 5-7 minutes during rush hour, which means you might wait 15 minutes for a train or bus, followed by two of them one minute apart. It may be clean as a McDonald’s restroom or look more like the inside of the Superdome after Hurricane Katrina. Expect some delays due to slow zones necessary to keep trains from flying off deteriorating tracks or due to renovations which they cannot afford. You might get to sit next to a sweet-smelling lass and you can’t help but think you might have a shot at girl like that if you were twenty years younger, obviously forgetting what a dork you were twenty years ago. But I digress. You may also get to sit next to a gentleman that has all of his worldly possessions in two plastic garbage bags and, afraid to let them out of his sight, has neglected to shower in the last week. Any given train car or bus has the potential to be a trim palace or a homeless shelter. At the height of rush hour you don’t have to worry about sitting next to anyone since you’ll likely be standing. If that’s the case, hold on and don’t be that guy or girl that keeps falling into everyone else because xe can’t stop texting xe's douchebag friends. All that excitement for only $1.75 a ride.

At my new place, I have the option to ride the aforementioned CTA or another Metra line. The choice might seem obvious, but let’s review:

Metra Pros

Fifteen minutes to downtown, usually on-time, cars and passengers generally clean and free of unusual odors.

Metra Cons

No longer across the street and now a little over a mile away, so that’s a twenty minute walk, and another ten-minute walk downtown. This could be a pro on a gorgeous day, but it’s usually humid enough that I’m sweating like a fat guy in the potato-sack race on the 4th of July or it’s cold enough to shatter a cheekbone. Another con is that whole schedule thing – I don’t like rushing around in the morning or trying to make up time in case I get my head stuck in the Rice Krispie box again.

CTA Pros

Only four blocks away. No schedule. Drops me off at my office doorstep. Longshot at scoring with a 23 year-old Jessica Alba look-a-like, ending up divorced and losing half my shit. Wait, maybe I should move that last one to the Con section.

CTA Cons

Might sit in an unidentified gel-like substance, or break a heel trying to keep my balance while standing. About 30-40-minutes to downtown with no delays. Possibility of riding with a mentally ill person that enjoys yelling “poop” after every stop. Wait, maybe I should move that last one to the Pro section.

The envelope please… and the winner is….

My loyal steed – a two-wheeled 1991 Trek 820 Antelope. But that deserves it’s own post. And I can’t ride every day. And my bike wasn’t set up back then. So here is how it went down my first three days.

My first full day was a Friday and I made an uneventful commute to work on the CTA in the morning. Since it was a nice day, I bailed out a couple minutes early that afternoon so I could buy a 10-ride pass and check out the Metra option. I hopped on the elevator at 12, stopped at 10 to pick up a fellow escapee, went down to 9 at which time I heard and experienced an elevator phenomenon technically known as “thunk”. It just went “thunk” and stopped. Doors didn’t open. Doors wouldn’t open. We pressed 9. We pressed 1 again. We pressed 10. It just kind of sat there like those guys the TSA hire to make sure that nobody tries to get past security by sneaking in the exit doors.

Now if you know me, you’ll know that in a complex dissertation applying the Newton’s Third Law, the Pythagorean Theorem, and the I before E except after C rule, I proved that Heaven on the Seventh Floor is the greatest song ever composed and recorded. And I was just two floors away from living it. I was kind of hoping that Jessica Alba just happened to have an appointment in my building that day and was stuck in there with me. Hey, stranger things have happened. Actually, no. No stranger thing has ever happened. It’s like falling in the mud can getting kicked in the head with an iron boot. Never happens. Oh, wait, she’s got a kid. Kids make me uncomfortable. She’s out. Let me revise this fantasy. Isabella Rossellini. No, too international. (Ouch, I think I just took responsibility for the first Friends reference on Leper Pop.) Let’s go with the old standby – Crystal Bernard. Not that it matters. Unfortunately my elevator companion was a Metra generic businessman type trying to get home to see what Wally and The Beaver have been up to and plan his golf outing for the weekend. After a couple minutes of continued uncooperative behavior from the elevator, I hopped into action and started getting undressed so that I could find the secret escape route in the ceiling and climb out without getting my business casual best all greasy. I guess my companion was a bit prudish and lacked a sense of adventure and instead suggested we just press the call button. Yeah, that’s right, a call button. It’s didn’t even have one of those cool phones in that normally off-limits compartment just below the main panel. I always wanted to use one of those. But instead I just pressed the call button and there was a little built in speaker in the panel. The call somehow got forwarded to a Chinese take-out joint at which point we ordered some pot-stickers and had them kindly transfer us to the security desk in our building. Security first made sure that we were okay. I told him my water just broke, so let’s move this thing along. For some reason he wanted our names and affiliations, so I identified myself as Pudd'nhead Wilson, Esquire and if he didn’t have us out of there in fve minutes flat that I would be suing for the obvious distress this was causing. He continued to check in about every five minutes making sure that we had not passed out, given birth, or used the situation to explore any bi-sexual curiosity. Other than a 23-year-old Jessica Alba look-a-like, I guess I couldn’t have had a better person to get stuck with. He made just enough small talk so that it wasn’t awkward, but not too much that it became annoying. About 40 minutes later there was another “thunk” but in a good way, and the doors opened on 9 where we escaped to another elevator pod and made out way out.

At the Metra station, the only time there are significant lines for tickets is on the first day of the month when all the monthly pass people who don’t own a calendar with cute kittens on it realize that they need a new monthly pass. Seeing as that was a week ago, I was shocked to find a long line of people snaking through the terminal. If only I could find a way to blame this on James Taylor.

I eventually got my ticket, while missing yet another departure, and made my way over to the next train out. Which was crowded with twice the normal volume one would expect. And the bastards were all carrying chairs in a bag. Chair in a bags? Chairs in bags? And coolers. And pic-a-nic baskets. Of course. There was a concert at Ravinia, a snooty little venue in the north suburbs where people take their chairs in bags and coolers full of merlot and brie and listen to adult contemporary shows while talking about the best place to get their Volvos detailed, and this venue was on the same line as my new stop. I eventually survived my ride, made it home on Sunday afternoon and prepared to go back to work on Monday. Okay, so I exaggerate. But if I had been planning to go to happy hour that Friday night I would have definitely missed out on the free hard-boiled egg buffet. Later that night I checked and it was none other than Mr. James Taylor playing at Ravinia that night. I knew it.

Monday morning I went back to my CTA stop for the ride in and just missed a train leaving the station. So I waited for the next one. No biggie. And waited. Waited longer than usual. Even a bit longer than longer than usual. Then heard the announcement. Trains were not coming out to our station anymore. So please walk two blocks east to the next stop. Cool. As I made my way into the next station I heard another announcement – trains will not be arriving at the station, so please go back downstairs and hop on the bus and get shuttled somewhere where there might be trains. Wait. Another announcement – a blue light special on tube socks in the boys department. Oh, and just kidding about the bus thing – there’s a train here now and it will be on it’s way soon. Walking back upstairs I indeed found a train, boarded, and about five minutes later it departed, traveled about 50 feet out of the station, at which point the power was shut off and we rolled to a stop. For about half an hour. Eventually we got rolling again and I made it to the office just in time for my juice box and naptime. Later I checked the news and found out they had discovered a dead body just outside the stop two blocks west of mine. The train I had just missed was the last one that made it through before they shut down that section of track to investigate. I have a feeling James Taylor was involved, but I don’t have proof. Yet.

Tuesday morning I strode to my station thinking it was going to be a good day. I pulled my card out of my pocket, waved it past the scanner and then slammed into the turnstile shattering my femur and embarrassing myself in front of the 23 year old Jessica Alba look-a-like who just happened to show up behind me that day. Turns out the CTA will not accept my building security identification card as payment. I sheepishly put it back in my pocket, withdrew my CTA pass, scanned it successfully and gingerly proceeded through the turnstile. I just can’t figure out how to pin this one on James Taylor.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Review: Monte Montgomery - Fitzgerald's - 9/20/08

holy shit.

If you need more than that, just re-read my last review. And double it.

Even with a new drummer, they're tighter than ever. Go see them.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Biology Lesson

Last night the daughter and I were studying for her science test, and I asked her what were the two types of biological reproduction.

She smiled embarrassingly and covered her mouth, unwilling to provide the answer. “I don’t want to say that word!” she begged.

I told her there was no need to be embarrassed. These are scientific terms and she must learn to approach the subject matter without any social bias.

She sat giggling, flapping her hands, and still would not give me the answer.

I became a little sterner with her and demanded she answer the question.

“OK, OK, just give me a minute.”

“I know you know the answer,” I said, “don’t think about it, just blurt it out.”


She took a deep breath and said, “Asexual and fucking.”

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Duke Spirit

As I pulled into the parking lot of Nick’s Fat Boy one Thursday night some days ago on a mission to score a dose of food-molded grease and pseudo-edibleness, I heard a song on the radio that caused my ears to poke me in the head and say, “Hold off on that nourishing bag of fat and listen to the rest of this.” So I did, and was glad, even though, due to the delay, my bag of fat ended up being a little more coagulated than I prefer. The song had a sleeky vibe – the kind that fills you with a cool warmth basted with lurid, subconscious tingles. The song was The Step and the Walk and the band was The Duke Spirit.

The Duke Spirit is a rock and roll band from Great Britain. All I know of them I have learned from the Internet, so I encourage you to learn about them from there too, because I don’t feel like regurgitating it here. But I will tell you they are fronted by the adorable, yet savage, Liela Moss - she of the saddened muse. The rest of the band are a bunch of English gits. And I mean that in a good way, since I’m American and don’t know what a “git” is, but it’s foreign, so I find it endearing.

After voiding my Duke Spirit virginity that fateful Thursday evening, I put the word out about them. Most ignored my preaching, but one man turned an interested lobe in my direction. I asked him, “Is that an interested lobe you are directing at me?” And he said, “Indeed, it is an interested lobe.” Then I asked, “What does your interested lobe want us to do about it?” And he said, “The interested lobe wants us to attend a The Duke Spirit event at our next earliest convenience.” That convenience coordinated with our space-time path about a month later at The Empty Bottle in Chicago.

Prior to the show that evening, I met the man with the interested lobe at a small barstauraunt aptly named The Small Bar on west Division Street. The Small Bar is decorated with unapologetic brick walls spotted with window pane paintings by an artist whose only artistic ability was reflected in xe’s choice of painting surface. The crowd consisted of those who find it chic to be served by greasy fat guys with unkempt beards, so we fit right in. The manager even offered me a job. The interested lobe man and I each ordered the tater tot platter; him with a side order of cheeseburger and me with the BLT. They only served the real gusto of Schlitz in cans, so I chose Miller High Life in a bottle to quaff. I think he ordered a caraff of Lobe Lube to sip during dinner, but I don’t remember exactly. As we mawged by candlelight, we discussed the temporal advantages of having all the Olympic swimming events conducted at the same time in the same pool. We also discussed our expectations of The Duke Spirit. We didn’t have any. In fact, we had confirmed our intent to attend the show with a conversation of “You still wanna go?” - “I guess.” the day before. Good guess.

We arrived at The Empty Bottle just in time to catch the last two songs of the first band. I was sweaty and irritable after a lengthy walk from The Small Bar to the intersection of Western Avenue and Cortez. The greasy, fat waiter would not give us a piggyback ride to the show, even though we tipped twenty-three percent. Consequently, the first band sounded like “Gaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh” to me. I was glad to have missed most of their set.

The Empty Bottle presents itself with unabashed dinginess posing as avante-garde. The facility is a blown apart brick building with painted car doors hanging on the walls serving as enigmatic viewing ruptures. There were also some multi-media paintings created by someone with no artistic ability trying to be artistic by blatantly revealing xe’s non-artistic ability. I know bad art when I see it - I've made enough of it myself to know.

Before I became too critical of The Empty Bottle’s d├ęcor, the second band took the stage. I don’t remember their name, but I referred to them as the Hurky Jerky Funtime Band. The singer/guitar player and the guitar/keyboardist took each song they performed as an opportunity to get in some flail aerobics, while the bass player rocked back and forth at the hips like souped-up dippy bird. I think the drummer was sitting on a pogo stick. I’m not sure what they were doing musically, but it had ingredients of the Beatles, Pink Floyd, Yes, The Brady 6, The Wiggles, Madness, Cyndi Lauper and that band from the bar in Star Wars. To their credit, I must admit there was about a three minute span during their show that sounded pretty cool, until they interrupted it with a palmed-keyboard solo and gobble chant. It’s career suicide to either have “Funtime Band” in your band’s name or in your band’s personality. Most people don’t know this, but Black Sabbath was originally called The Black Sabbath Funtime Band until they realized they could not get a recording contract. They lopped off the end of their name and the rest is history. Luckily for us, the H-J Funtime Band did the same thing with their set, before long.

While we waited for The Duke Spirit to begin, I conducted some people watching. Here are my thoughts: Darn, I forgot to wear a giant red bow in my hair. Why is that guy wearing a heavy leather jacket indoors on a hot summer night? On a hot summer night, Meatloaf. I gotta know right now. Do you love me? Will you love me forever? Speaking of forever, when is the show going to start? Look at that old guy. I’m glad he’s here. That means we’re not the oldest ones here. Golly, that bartender is pale. I wish these girls would stop rubbing on me. Oh, wait. It’s the other way around. That’s OK, then. I need another beer. Maybe I should pee before they go on. People are starting to move towards the stage. I’ll just hold it.

The Duke Spirit came at me like a charger of nitrous oxide filling up a punching balloon. I was thrown backward and my bones started to melt. Their sound was argumentative yet soothing, with a consistent adherence to the doctrine of fluctuating compliance. Yeah, that’s about right.

I was unfamiliar with most of their songs, so I had to learn as we went along. Liela’s voice was that of an angel who chose to be in a rock band rather than benefit from the acoustics of an empyrean sound system. The gits in the band were solid and stayed out of Liela’s way as she attacked the microphone stand with fury only to hold it gently, but with strength, as if she were holding an insecure lover. For the first half of the show, I didn’t know what was happening to me. In retrospect, I realize I was drawn to their music while it slowly enveloped me. It wasn’t until they performed Wooden Heart that I discovered that I was engulfed. Liela had engulfed me. That song made me feel like I was in an embrace with a lover after the lovin’, Engelbert Humperdinck, or maybe with an arbitrary drunken skank who had just puked on herself after the lovin’. Either way, I awoke from my daze lying on the floor of The Empty Bottle spooning with the drunk chick who had been standing in front of me, who had just puked on herself. I would understand your heart, if I could feel it, indeed. And if you didn’t smell and feel like puke.

I knew then that I dug this band. And if I hadn’t by then, I certainly would have later when Liela instructed us to all show her our arm pits, in an attempt to get us to clap with our hands in the air. She told us that if she couldn’t smell our armpits it just wouldn’t be good. I've been asked to do weirder things - I'm in. It was at that point she understood what it felt like to know that every straight member of her opposite sex wanted to make love to her that night. I felt close to her knowing that she and I were the only ones in the room to know what that felt like at that moment. They finished us off with an obligatory encore and sent us on our way.

On my way out I strangled the merchandise table girl because she was out of The Duke Spirit CD, Neptune. If you are reading this now, merch girl, I apologize. I was in the midst of an engulfment rage. Don’t worry, I bought the CD a few days later.

The man with the interested lobe and I walked back to our cars, both appreciating our surprised enjoyment of the show. He wiggled his lobe at me and I drove away. All the way home I relived The Duke Spirit show in my head, while I blissfully burped up tater tots.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

FlavorFest is Flavor Best!

Chicago rocks. Especially in the summer when the wind chill isn’t measured in Kelvin and the women aren’t wrapped up in North Face from head to toe. But more so for the festivals – from the insanely crowded Taste of Chicago featuring more belly fat than the morning hog report to German-American Fest which requires blowing a 0.20 in order to leave the premises to Lollapalooza in August generating enough dirty hipster sweat to start a small sea. But our favorite, which we attended for the second time in two years is Whole Foods FlavorFest in Lincoln Park. It’s a two-day affair in a quiet out of the way city park that somehow does not attract the quantitude of masses the other fests do. Which is okay with me. For $5 I get admission and a resusable cloth grocery bag which I can also use to collect more free samples that can comfortably fit in the bag from the plethora of healthy and organic food type vendors that set up shop on one side of the park. Not to mention the free samples of food eaten on site. We ate more yogurt than Jamie Lee Curtis during an commercial taping, along with sausage, hot dogs, empanadas, cookies, chips, energy bars, ice cream, pizza, noodles, and cheese, and washed it all down with an assortment of juices, smoothies, teas, and sodas. And since the vendors used organic ingredients it was all free of both calories and carcinogens and everybody left feeling at least five years younger.

The food alone is worth the price of admission but, not to sound like Ron Pompeil, that’s not all! There is music. Not just the hippie shit you might expect from such an event, although there is some of that. One of the chicks doing a set in the afternoon might have inspired us to kill ourselves if we weren’t already amped up on the free samples of Power Thirst or whatever it is those marathon gamers are chugging these days. But last year we saw Cracker, probably only with a couple hundred of our closest friends. I’ve seen bigger crowds at waiting for an empty Port-o-Potty at the bigger fests.

This year we hung out with our free booty to see The Smithereens. All for the same $5. I have a couple CD’s and like their stuff, but didn’t have overly high expectations for the show. It was impressive that they had the same lineup except for the bass player. I think lead vocalist Pat DiNizio ate him. He’s put on a bit of weight from how I remembered him in their videos, but I was sitting there with a shopping bag full of soda and chips so perhaps I shouldn’t be so harsh. I also believe there have been some health issues, so now I feel bad.

The show started out as expected and I was enjoying it just fine, but after they got warmed up they broke out into an incredibly rocking jam during The House We Used To Live In and never looked back. Even after all these years, they still look like they’re having a great time, seemed appreciative of the crowd that came out, and delivered a solid, surprisingly energetic show. Minus one star for not playing Yesterday Girl, but the rest of the show made me forget it.

So. Whole Foods FlavorFest – be there next year. Smithereens – if you liked their stuff in the 80’s and 90’s, check them out if they come to your town.

Finally, an aside. There was a vendor out there called Upton’s Naturals whose brand is represented by an old-time dude with a handlebar moustache. Besides samples of their vegan pretend sausage (which was delicious, so please send me a free case if you're reading this Upton), they were also handing out coupons and fake moustaches. I grabbed one thinking it would be hilarious to wear one at work since I’m always looking for ways to lighten things up around the workplace. (After being informed by staff that jean shorts are about the uncoolest things going these days, I wore an old pair of mine to work for comedic effect.) It wasn’t until I got home from FlavorFest that I realized I already had a moustache as part of my goatee, and wearing a fake moustache on top of a real moustache isn’t funny. It’s just stupid. I can’t believe I spent all that energy carrying it home. If anyone needs a fake moustache, let me know.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Chapless Ass

I was hanging out on the leather fetish board that I frequent, and I mentioned that I don't care for assless chaps. A lady known as Marlboro Mistress took offense and claimed I implied she had a fat ass. She called me a vinyl-wearing poser and told me to stuff a ball-gag in my mouth. I almost replied that now that she mentioned it, I've seen smaller asses in the Sumo ring and that assless chaps went out with the Village People. Instead, I refrained and told her that the remark was uncalled for and requested she send a picture of herself in said chaps after being spanked. She obliged. Talk about an assful of zits. Jeez.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Review: Fake Lake

You just know kids are peeing in the pool. And I’m guessing all those senior citizens aren’t so innocent during their water aerobics, either. That’s why I only swim in naturally polluted bodies of water in the great outdoors. But Friday night I went to my local community pool. Since my beer-swilling days are over (except for an occasional Clausthaler), we walked past the heavily swilling crowds at German-Fest this weekend and hit the pool a few blocks down the street at Welles Park. But we didn’t have our swimsuits, because we were going to a play.

Earlier this year I introduced you to the Neo-Futurists and their long-running play Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind. Fairly regularly a cast member will develop a piece well over the average two-minute length play that gets performed at TMLMTBGB and they’ll produce their own full-length show. One of the most recent of these is a play called Fake Lake, written by Sharon Greene about her spontaneous trip to Lake Powell with a group of strangers.

I like to keep my options open for the weekend in case I get a last minute invite to the Playboy Mansion or need to follow up on a local Bigfoot sighting so I rarely make plans in advance. That meant showing up at the pool without a ticket and hoping we could get in with my good-looks and charm. They were sold-out but realized that as an influential member of the e-media I should be squeezed in and they offered me overflow seating in the balcony of the pool area. Tickets run $10, but since I could not be accommodated in the poolside metal bleachers it would be pay-what-you-can. This presented a dilemma. I had just taken $200 out of the ATM and didn’t have a lot of plans for the rest of the weekend (Hugh hadn’t called). Rent had already been paid for the month, so realistically I could have paid about $150. This certainly didn’t seem fair, so I managed to negotiate two tickets for $20 and was given a program and access to the balcony.

I’m not a theater critic, so I can only tell you that the play rocked. The pool represented Lake Powell, the setting for all the activities from swimming, boogie-boarding, Marco Polo, floating in a raft and even some amateur synchronized swimming; and the narration helped transform the dreary walls of the auditorium into the dramatic walls of the Glen Canyon and its controversial dam. The pool deck easily made a convincing campsite for the five actors, and I’m betting the play would be even more enjoyable if you get tickets in advance and sit in the bleachers that share the campsite. (Damn, with a plug like that I should get some comp tickets to come back and see it again. I’m joking – that would only compromise any remaining illusion of journalistic integrity that may remain on this site. And it’s in poor taste to mooch off a non-profit.)

Not only is the story and dynamic between the characters highly entertaining on it’s own, but you’ll also learn a lot about the history of the canyon and lake without having to pony up any extra cash for the hi-def Discovery Channels from those bastards at Comcast. The play also takes on some thought-provoking environmental and ecological issues, impressively without being preachy. I’ll be happy to recycle my newspaper, but if you start lecturing me about it I’m just as likely to roll it up and whack you upside the head with it. I didn’t feel the need to do that.

Bottom line is that you should go see Fake Lake. Not only for another unique theater experience brought to you by the Neos, but because you'll have a good time doing it. Only through September 19th, so hurry up. I might go with you to see it again, even though I suspect they’re peeing in the pool.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Long Hair Freaky People Need Not Apply

Remember Mr. Hooper? He never seemed to sell enough stuff to stay in business but he stuck around on Sesame Street until he died even though I’m not sure Muppets even carry cash. Regardless, he taught me the importance of learning all about the people in your neighborhood, so when I recently moved I decided to see who was around. Come join me. Awww, who am am I kidding? I don’t like people. So let’s check out some places in my neighborhood. If you find them interesting, feel free to go and meet whoever lurks inside.

We’ll start at the train station about ½ mile away and work our way back to the new place. As you approach my neighborhood on the train (“Western is next, doors open on the right at Western… this is Western.”) and you’re lucky enough to arrive on a Tuesday be sure to hit the Farmer’s Market. I’m not allowed to buy anything since I don’t know how to pick out produce and feel like a hip hop artist at a Juilliard audition (a real life audition and not one of those movie ones where the alternative kid shakes up the stoic admissions committee with his modernistic take on the classical arts). The Mrs. has taken over Farmer’s Market duties ever since I came home with a strawberry tart from the Polish bakery booth that was representing. Technically it did contain produce and I didn’t hear her complaining when she helped eat it so I don’t know what the problem is.

Since man cannot live by rabbit food alone, there is a convenient hot dog joint across the street. I don’t know if they have the best dogs in the city, but they certainly have the best mascot and best name.

If you’d rather go glitzy, you can go to one of the latest celebrity restaurants to hit the ‘hood at Tommy Lee Chinese Kitchen. I guess he wanted to capitalize on the Rockstar Supernova success by opening a restaurant. Chinese food seems like an odd choice and he probably should have sprung to get his whole first name on the sign, but I still like to stop in with hopes of catching him taking orders behind the counter some day. And yes, my hepatitis shots are up to date.

Speaking of hepatitis, it’s nice to have a pharmacy within walking distance, and just north of Tommy Lee’s place is Becker Pharmacy. Here you’ll note a couple things. First, the reluctance of businesses to use the possessive on their signs – why isn’t it Tom Lee’s Chinese Kitchen or Becker’s Pharmacy? Are they hoping to evolve into their own brand, like Kleenex or Oreo? Or was the sign guy out of apostrophes? Second, not only does Becker proudly advertise ostomy supplies but they also offer delivery! I can’t tell you how many times I’m sitting around on a rainy afternoon and find myself completely out of stock on my drainable colostomy/ileostomy cut-to-fit pouches when I remember my good friends at Becker.

If you continue north on Lincoln Avenue, just past Lawrence you’ll find the best in one-stop shopping/entertainment at the neighborhood Ace Hardware with bowling and cocktails upstairs at Lincoln Square Lanes. Gutters upstairs and down. The best combination I’ve seen since the shoe repair and paintball supply shop I left behind in Lewisville, Texas.

Proceeding north is a place I’ve yet to step foot in – Korean Live B.B.Q. Although you typically will not find me slurping down bowls of pickled pigeon lungs like that goof on the Food Network, I’m usually up for some ethnic food and will give most things a try. But I’m not sure what “Live” B.B.Q. is… it frightens and confuses me, and whenever I try to peek inside through the steamed up windows I can only see a small buffet table and what seems to be the same large Korean family sitting at a table near the back of the restaurant. The seemingly over-elaborate cable and rod support system for their sign also brings back painful memories of the Theoretical and Applied Mechanics class that nearly got me tossed out of college. I found the beer specials in college more interesting than the homework problems that would ask me to determine the tension in each of those cables, so when my papers were returned to me they usually included a comment that said, “See me.” I finally got around to seeing the professor and he suggested that perhaps I should consider a field of study other than engineering. I take that as a sign that I should also consider a dining option other than Live BBQ.

To prove that I’m not a total wuss, let’s circle back to Lawrence Avenue to my latest find – Nhu’ Lan Bakery. This is a Vietnamese joint that carries very few bakery items as far as I can tell. They must have just gotten a discount on the sign and rolled with it. What they are famous for are their banh mi sandwiches. Fresh baguette bread baked daily. My first visit I went with the highly touted Seasoning Pork Belly with Pate. The conjugation confuses me a bit, but the sandwich was pretty darning good. However, it was a little too fatty for my liking and the consistency started to freak me out the more I thought about it. I gave myself a certificate of accomplishment for trying it, but have since switched to the grilled pork while the Mrs. can’t get enough of the lemongrass chicken.

Around the corner you’ll see a sign that says OB, which obviously be some sort of women’s clinic. But the couple times I’ve walked by when the door was open, I’ve only seen a small bar with a few Korean gentlemen inside drinking beer. Even though it’s convenient, I think I’ll find somewhere else to get my pap smears done.

Finally, no neighborhood is complete without the local magic shop. I keep stopping in to ask if they have any Pilot or Olivia Newton John albums but they never seem to know what I’m talking about and keep trying to sell me some sort of magic rice bowl trick. I finally gave in and bought it, but it just seems to piss off the servers at the Thai joint down the street when I keep making my jasmine rice disappear. Maybe I should stick to sawing chicks in half.

The apartment itself is pretty cool. I’ve nicknamed it the Slanty Shanty since various areas of the floor are somewhat off-camber and will throw you into a wall if you’re not paying attention. It’s also about three feet way from the neighboring buildings, from which I can hear the neighbor to our east snoring when our windows are open, and whenever I open the bedroom blinds our neighbors to the west are doing their dishes. It doesn’t matter what time of day or what day of week – someone is at the sink 24/7 washing dishes. I’m thinking about befriending them and taking my dishes over there. The owners of our place live downstairs with their two kids, who think the Mrs. is a kid their age and I’m her daddy. I don’t know whether that should make me happy or if I should be offended. Last time she dropped off the rent check the oldest asked her if she had any Legos. Some day he’ll wise up and figure out that I’m the cool one with the bitchin' Lego collection. Not that I’ll share. Unless he’s got some banh mi on him.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Silly Seriousity

Last night I accidentally watched some of the Republican National Convention. I didn’t see much, but what I did see confirmed my opinion that our political process is silly. This goes beyond the silly hats, silly buttons, silly cheering of silly disgorgements, silly costumes and silly “rally, rally, the other political party’s name is Sally” mentality running amuck throughout the entire scene.

Before I continue, even though I am discussing the RNC, it doesn’t mean the Democrats are any better in this matter. I didn’t see much of the DNC, but I did see a few minutes of Hillary’s speech where she begged her supporters to go Obama (once you go Obama, you never go back?). (Since the DNC followed Hillary’s failed campaign, would it be crude of me to compare her campaign [and the other Dem losers’ campaigns] to a miscarriage?) I’m sure the rest of it was just as much a freak show as the RNC.

When I initially tuned in I saw a pretty girl singing about god or something. A man, who looked like a younger version of the current old looking Elvis Costello, sat upon a stool behind her playing an acoustic guitar that I could not hear over the backing recorded music track (either have the whole band there or just the singer – that’s what I say – what is this, The Gong Show?). I don’t know why he was there unless they were trying to trick people into thinking Elvis Costello is a Republican. Who knows, maybe he is a Republican. Who knows, maybe that WAS Elvis Costello. Either way, I’m not sure what that had to do with the election.

“Jeepers, Ethel, that cute little girl’s sangin’ gives me a hankerin’ to vote Republican. Who’s Elvis Costello?”

Next they showed me a film strip about Teddy Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan, the holy elephantal trinity. Most of the film strip lauded Abe’s accomplishments as the presidential Republican trail blazer, and I was glad to learn that the Republicans are still against slavery (regardless of their feelings about labor unions and the minimum wage). The silliest part of the film strip was its producers’ implicit attempt to parallel aspects of Lincoln’s experience with the Civil War with Dubbya’s performance with whatever the hell is going on in Iraq. The pathetic silliest part is that somebody within that party expected anybody would buy into that crap. And the worst silliest part is somebody probably did.

“Jeepers, Ethel, that poor George W. Bush had to put up with the same kind of hen-peckin’ from the media and the Democrats as Lincoln did. Since the Civil War was the right thing to do, the skirmish in Iraq must be the right thing to do, too. We just have to be patient. I’m voting Republican.”

Finally, I watched Tommy Espinoza take the stage. He is a pal of John McCain who happens to be a Hispanic, a Catholic and a Democrat. Good lord, what’s him doing here at a Republican shindig? A Catholic????????? I thought they all left town after Kennedy was shot? (George Kennedy in The Blue Knight, that is.) The gops in the crowd smattered their claps at him as they dialed security on their cell phones and wondered why he was there. I didn’t wonder, but looked forward to his explanation. As it turned out, he supports McCain because of god, love and hope. Those are some concrete arguments. The economy will be better in no time. I may even get a raise next year.

“Jeepers, Ethel, I didn’t know Mexicans could wear a suit and a neck tie. I’m definitely voting Republican!”

After all of this, and plenty more for which I was too sane to endure, they expect us to take this election seriously? I’m not falling for it. Silliness has a place, and that place is not seriousity. You can quote me on that. It’s about as profound as I get.

I’ll be voting for myself once again, in case you were wondering.