Monday, April 30, 2007

Is this weird or what?

I just realized that I'm friends with two married couples.

But that's not the weird part.

One of them is Richard and Karen. And, no, their last name isn't Carpenter.

But I am friends with Bob and Karen. And their last name is Carpenter.

At One Fell Swoop

All of a sudden, I heard "Mean Parent" voice coming out of me yesterday.

I had scheduled to pick up The Little yesterday at 2:00 to take him to the Sears Tower. (I'm a volunteer with Big Brothers/Big Sisters and have a "Little"). As I was heading for the subway, I got a call from his mom who said he'd run away. Again.

I won't go into details, but later that afternoon he re-appeared and I was talking to him on the phone:

Me: You know, that's pretty inconsiderate to take off like that when we had plans. I don't do that to my friends. It's really unacceptable, don't you agree?

Little: Yeah

Me: What makes you think it's okay to do that to me or your mom?

Little: I don't know.

Me: 'I don't know' is a pretty lazy answer. I need a different answer.

Little: Silence

Me: Well, your taking off like that has messed up our plans, so I'm gonna go on with my day now. I'll be away next weekend so I'll call you when I get back. . . .

I felt kinda lousy afterwards.

Every once and a while, I've gotten a longing to be a parent. And when that happens, God in all Her wisdom gives me a wake-up call to the realities of it.
Things like:

Baby-sitting a nephew. Exploding diapers. Temper tantrums from Hell. Losing a toddler (Oh my God!) then finding him asleep under the bed. Eighteen years of this? No way!

Doggy-sitting. Having to come straight home from work otherwise the dog will explode. (What would it be like to have a kid?)

Flying off for a weekend. (See previous post) How do parents DO this? Better yet, how do they do without it?

Those are the little wake-up calls I get whenever I think about being a parent.

I'm glad I've listened to them.

It's a good thing my parents didn't.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Ninety-Nine Bucks. Why Stay Home?

Next weekend, I'm flying down to Texas just for a quickie trip to visit a close friend of mine. I found one of those Super-Saver fares on Tequila Airways (i.e.Southwest Airlines) for $99 each way. My flight leaves Midway at 7:30 Friday night and I return Sunday night.

Why stay home?

My very first plane ride was on Southwest back when I was in college. Back then, Southwest had these incredibly cheap student fares. My flight was from San Antonio to Dallas and it was only . . . are you ready for this . . . nineteen dollars.

Now here's the weird part. I remember smoking on that flight! Remember that? The smokers would sit in the back and the arm rests had ash trays in them with the little stainless steel lid that flipped open. The moment the flight took off, everyone would light up.

Even though I was a smoker for 12 years, I never really cared for smoking in enclosed spaces. I remember smoking on the flight just because I could.

I have to admit, I like Southwest Airlines. Having grown up in Texas, I've schlepped around on them quite a bit for quick trips. Texas is a big place and you need something like Southwest to get any schlepping done down there.

I do wish they'd let you select your seat though. I always try to get an aisle seat by the emergency exit so that (1) I can go tinkle if I need to (2) for the extra leg room and (3) I can be the first one to leap from the burning airplane after a crash landing. The hell with women-and-children-first. Plane goes down, I'm getting off.

But you can't select your seat on Southwest. You just get a boarding pass, they fling open the doors and herd you onto the plane. Moooo!

I always make a point to bring a good airplane book to read. Texas is about a three-hour flight away from every place I've lived and you need something to pass the time away.

But mainly, I want something to ward off the horrible seat-mate who might want to actually talk to me during the flight. Oh my God! I hate that.

I just want to say, "Look, I don't care where you're from, I don't care why you're going to Houston, I don't care that your daughter is graduating from college with a degree in whatever, and I just wanna be left alone to read The DaVinci Code!"

Here's something fun to do. When I'm seated next to Miss Chatty-Pants and she asks the inevitable, "So, what do you do in Chicago?" I say that I'm a janitor. I love the reaction. Then, I get to read my book.

I hope I get to ride the in Shamu plane this time. I'll bet the mechanics take better care of the Shamu airplane compared to the others. There's just no way they'd let their cute whale airplane crash.


Friday, April 27, 2007

Happy Puppy

I did a little bit of doggy-sitting yesterday for my friends who own Portia. She always gets a treat of some kind each day.
It used to be raw carrots which you can see me feeding her while she played the piano. But now, she's a little older and carrots prove to be a bit hard to digest.
Then it was a spoonful of peanut butter. It soon became evident that peanut butter did weird things to her digestive process. Let's just leave it at that.
Now, it's half of a cooked sweet potato (peeling removed). Very healthy for a dog.
She also gets a Miller-Lite each night. Try sleeping with a dog with beer-breath.
By the way, the reason for the doggy-sitting stint is because her daddy (who's a veterinarian) was on a business trip. He was called upon to evaluate some new software for veterinary clinics. It's called "Woof-Ware".

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Hoo-Hoo Building

Chicago's skyline and architecture is pretty impressive. It's the only city in the world to have more than one building with 100 stories or more (and we're getting a new 150 story building soon).

Even my apartment building, Marina Towers, is an architectural landmark, which is pretty cool.

But there's one building here that's pretty unique, mainly due to the notorious shape of the roof.

Just google "The Vagina Building" and you'll get pics of the Smurfit-Stone Building here in Chicago.

Yep, that's what we call it. I have no idea why.

At night, it's outlined in white lights which gives a diamond shape. Years ago, the "slit" down the middle was outlined in white lights as well, but they removed those about five years ago. It was just way too suggestive.

So yes, Chicago has the Sears Tower and the John Hancock Building. But next time you're in Chicago and driving along Lakeshore Drive, be sure to notice our other notorious building as well.
And try not to giggle.

Oh, by the way, Chicago is bidding to have 2016 Olympic Games here. And here's a pic of the new 150-story Chicago Spire that's going up near the Smurfit-Stone building, to be completed in 2010. (Batteries not included)

What are the city planners thinking?

It'll certainly put us on the map.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

"Such a Feeling's Comin' Over Me. . . "

Miss Healthypants and I have a wild night planned.

I know this might sound really lame but we're going to be working on Carpenters music. And we're really looking forward to it. Remember The Carpenters?

I'll be Richard and she'll be Karen, needless to say. Recently, she bought a big book of their music and I've been working on the accompaniment. So, tonight we'll be working on:

Top of the World
Close to You
Rainy Days and Mondays

Don't laugh!

The Carpenters wrote some really great stuff! I know it comes off as kind of syrupy, but it's actually pretty complex music.

It's certainly more elevated than what that M&M or that Ice Tray guy does.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Spiderman? The Musical?

I just saw where works are in the making to make a Broadway musical out of “Spiderman.”

Spiderman? the musical?

Isn’t that taking things a bit far? Spidey just doesn’t seem like a musical kinda guy.

I have to admit it. I don’t like musicals.

I know, I know. The fact that I don’t like musicals makes me a disgrace to My People.

And it’s not like I haven’t seen a lot of good musicals. I have. During high school, I saved all my hard-earned Dairy Queen money and paid my way to go on a theatre tour to New York two summers in a row. I’ve seen Grease, Chicago, Pippin, Shenandoah, Annie, and A Chorus Line to name a few.

In college, I was even in a production of Cabaret as a rehersal pianist. Later, I was a singing scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz. (It was a really cute musical number that was cut from the film.) Believe me, I’ve been exposed to musicals.

I love music and I love drama. I just want them separate.

Both genres are good enough that they should be able to stand alone, on their own. I love going to the theatre. It just bugs me when there’s a really good dialogue going on and all of a sudden, they break out into song. Ugh! Who does this?

Certainly not a scarecrow.

By the way, I also eat things separately, even when I was a kid. Macaroni & cheese first, then the peas, then the fish sticks, one at a time. And now: Enchiladas, then the rice then the beans.

Since they’re making a musical out of Spiderman, I think, just for fun, I’ll write a musical. It’ll be “Mommie Dearest” set to music. I think I’ll call it Christina! It will be the gayest musical ever.

Here’s an excerpt from “The Lullaby” from Christina!

Hush, little girl, Tina darling, don’t cry;
Tonight Mommie’s here to sing you a soft lullaby;
Dear Christina, my perfect daughter I adore;
Why can't it all be like it was before?. . .

Because you're a spoiled brat who acts like a whore
And when you leave coat hangers all over the floor
It makes Mommie drink, so don't you dare fuss
Because that's why your daddy left us. . .

Hey! I think I'm on to something here!

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I just read where this 13-year-old girl won a prize for text-messaging the word "supercalafragilisticexpialidocious" in under 15 seconds. She estimates that she sends approximately 8,000 texts messages a month to her friends and family.
I guarantee, she'd be no friend of mine.
First of all, I hate getting text messages because I can't figure out how to retrieve the damn things.
Second, they're so cumbersome to send! I didn't even like those old phone numbers when I was a kid, like OL-9-2368 (that was ours). I really don't even like the clever phone numbers like, 1-800-AIRPLAN. All that hunt and pecking is a waste of time.
When I get a text message, I always call back and say, "Call me!"
Geez! It's so much easier and efficient.
And what's with these teeny-boppers anyway? Why do they want to thumb away on a cell phone rather than actually speaking to a person? What's up with that?
Don't get me wrong. I love technology. I'd hate to live without my internets, Tivo, cell phone and my blog family.
I just don't see the allure of text-messaging. Besides, it promotes bad spelling.
I'd love to see what would happen to these kids if they had to spend a week with 1960's technology like I grew up with. We had a dial telephone with eight families on a party line, for crying out loud. Remember the game, "Operation"? That was about as high tech as we got. These kids would explode.
I really wonder what this kid would be doing if she couldn't be sending her 8,000 text messages each month.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

No Wire Hangers!

I know I have my quirks. We all do.

I have all my shirts laundered. With light starch. There's a nice little dry-cleaning establishment in the lobby of my building where I have everything "done." There's a nice elderly Korean woman there who knows me. And my last name. And my apartment number.

But that's not the weird part. . . .

The moment I get my laundered shirts up to my apartment, I take them off the wire hangers and transfer them onto a blue, plastic hanger in my closet.
All the hangers in my closet have to be blue plastic ones. I'll allow two sizes: small blue hangers and large blue hangers.

Then I take the wire hanger from the cleaners and hang it in a small closet in my apartment.

Once I get ten of them, I bundle them with two twistie-ties from the grocery store (green ones that I collect) and take them back to the Korean woman downstairs who does my shirts. However! I always save at least two bundles of ten before I bring them back to her.
Otherwise, it'll look like I'm just a weird, obsessive-compulsive guy!!

You know the wire hangers for the pants that have the cardboard on the bottom?
I HATE those!
They go down the trash chute the moment I transfer my pants to my big blue hangers.
Oh my God! I HATE them!

So yes, my closet consists of ONLY blue plastic hangers.
Large and small.
No wire hangers.
And, that's about as OCD as I'll ever get.

Otherwise, I'm bloody all over the place!

Oh, here's a cute story about the Korean woman downstairs. . .

Occasionally, when I'd pick up my shirts from the Korean woman downstairs, I'd notice that a button would be missing here and there.

No big deal. After all, I'm a grandson of "Budgie" and completely capable of sewing on a button when I need to.

But!! When many buttons began missing from my Alexander Julian "Colours" collection of shirts, I did raise my concerns to the nice Korean woman downstairs!

I showed her an example of where a button was missing.

She examined it. Pawed at it. Selected an appropriate button.

Looked up at me and said in a very soft, wan voice,

"Awwww, . in one hour . . . .

. . . . .YOU COME BACK!!!!!!

Oh my God!

She scared the crap out of me!

Anyway, she loves it when I bring my nice bundled coat hangers to her.

We have an understanding.

And she does my missing buttons.

No complaints.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Caffeinated Naughty Parts

Now I've heard everything.

I just read about a new product called "Shower Shock." It's a bar of peppermint-scented soap that contains caffeine. When you shower with it, you get the equivalent of two cups of coffee. Transdermally.

I thought, "Ooo! I want that!"

But then I realized how much I like my Starbucks in the morning. Why in the world would I want to obtain my caffeine through my naughty parts rather than through a cup of freshly brewed Italian roast?

I've got better things to do with my naughty parts.



El Delay

I was on the “El” here in Chicago the other day, coming home on the Brown Line. There’s a section where the Brown Line intersects with the Red and Purple lines just before entering the Belmont station. The Belmont station is under construction so they’ve got one of the four tracks closed down. Needless to say, there’s quite a bit of train congestion going on there.

The train stopped, the bell that alerts the passengers chimed and the pre-recorded announcement came on:


“Attention passengers. We are experiencing a delay due to signaling problems ahead. We will be moving shortly. Thank you for your patience.”

About thirty seconds later:


“Attention passengers. We are experiencing a delay due to signaling problems ahead. We will be moving shortly. Thank you for your patience.”

Another thirty seconds go by. Passengers are mumbling.


“Attention passengers. We are experiencing a delay due to signaling problems ahead. We will be moving shortly. Thank you for your patience.”

Passengers are whipping out their cell phones. Thirty seconds more:


“Attention passengers. We are experiencing a delay due to signaling problems ahead. We will be moving shortly. Thank you for your patience.”
More restlessness ensued.


Finally, the conductor came on and made the following announcement:

“Ladies and gentlemen, we have been cleared to enter the Belmont station. Please make sure your seats are in their upright positions, your tray tables are secured and all carry-ons are placed under your seats or in the overhead compartments. We will be landing shortly.”

There was applause.

Good for him!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Eat Your Vegetables

I like vegetables. I really do.

But when you live alone like I do, it’s hard to get in the daily requirement of five to seven servings of vegetables per day that we’re supposed to be eating.

I have all these good intentions when I go grocery shopping. For example, I’ll buy dark, leafy lettuce and salad fixings which I usually end up throwing away after the Romaine turns to a puddle in the crisper. It’s just so time consuming to chop up a bunch of salad stuff for yourself and I’m too frugal to pay for those ready-made bags of designer leaves.

I’ve thrown away lots of fresh green beans too. It’s just way too tedious to “top and tail” all those beans, wash them, cook them, etc. Same for broccoli. And again, I’m too cheap to pay for frozen, ready-to-eat veggies.

Sure, it would be nice to have someone to cook for. Yeah, I’ve done that bit where you lovingly prepare a meal and with each slice-n-dice you think about how much you love that person.

But then, love goes flapping out the window when I have to share a Tivo with them. I'm kind of maniacal when it comes to my Tivo. I don't know how married couples get along with just one. The secret to a successful relationship? Separate Tivos.

Miss Healthypants got her name because she orders LOTS of salads. She substitutes salads for lots of things on the menu:

“Do you want fries or a baked potato with that?”

Ummm. Could I have a salad instead?”

Mexican food comes with rice and beans. She’ll ask for salad. Burgers come with fries. She’ll substitute a salad. I’m waiting for the day when she asks that her fortune cookie be replaced with a salad.

But she’s got the right idea. Pack those veggies in whenever you get the chance.

I guess I should treat myself to the veggies that I really, really like. Here’s a list of my favorites:
Brussels sprouts
Collard, turnip, or mustard greens
Red bell peppers

Here are the vegetables I really, really don’t like:

Sweet potatoes
Lima beans
Tom Cruise

I could get lots of veggies in me if I used my Juiceman. I really love a big glass carrot-beet-apple-parsley juice. I know that sounds disgusting but it’s really really good. It’s just such a pain in the butt to clean everything afterwards. Beet pulp festooned on the ceiling is a bitch to clean.

Tivo and Diet Coke is so much more practical.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


A friend of mine from England was recently visiting "on holiday" in Florida. His name is Dickon. (I swear, that's his name.) Here's our conversation:

"Hey Dickon, how's Florida?"

"There are these dead animals all over the road."

"Well, what are they?"

"I don't know what you call them, but they're the ones with the big fluffy tails that sit on top of Davy Crockett's hat."

"Oh, those are raccoons."

"Well, they're all dead!"

Sex and the (Second) City

Last night, I met "the girls" for our usual dinner get-together. I love meeting my girlfriends for dinner and we've had some fantastic meals together. Dishing with the girls over dinner is so "Sex and the City" only we're not nearly as cool as they are and this is Chicago and not New York.

I was trying to think of which character each of us represents. I think it would go like this:

Miss Healthypants would be Carrie because they're both cute, blonde and chirpy.

Liane would be Miranda because she looks kind of like Miranda and works for a law firm.

Carol would be Samantha because she's looking for a boyfriend and just bought a new condo.

And I would be the gay guy with whom Aiden is having a secret affair. (Sorry, Carrie)

Okay, I just made up that last character. But it's my scenario so deal with it.

Afterwards, MHP and I went to Bed Bath & Beyond which should aptly be re-named "Bed Bath & We-Have-Everything-You-Want-But-Can't-Afford."

We both bought new Santoku knives because we both had crappy Santoku knives to begin with. And Santoku knives are SO Rachel Ray right now. Then I bought some more Kaboom because one can never have too much Kaboom in your house. (That stuff is fantastic and it smells really good too.)

Then we went to the grocery store which is next to Bed Bath & We-Have-Everything-You-Want-But-Can't-Afford.

MHP bought some nice cat food; the kind that isn't killing cats this week. I needed some bread so that I could make sandwiches to bring to work instead of spending ten dollars a day in the Expensive Food Court where I work. Right now, I'm eating a Cobb salad for lunch from the Expensive Food Court where I work. So much for good intentions.

Because of my new job, my life is sort of resembling Miranda's right now. Work, work, work, Cobb salad, work.

On a lighter note, I see that the Supreme Court just banned partial-birth abortions. Abortion is a touchy subject, so I'll tread lightly here.

Frankly, with the state these kids are in today, I think federally funded abortions should be available and legal up to the 60th trimester. If your sixteen year old comes home with a tattoo-covered chest or becomes a skinhead, then, blip! That's it.

I should have suggested that before they took their vote. Oh well, maybe next time.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

My Phobia

I’ll admit it. I have a phobia.

Some people are deathly afraid of heights, some can’t handle being near a snake while others freak out if there’s a spider close by. I recall a documentary about a woman who was horribly afraid of feathers. During a session with her psychologist, he slowly presented a small feather from his desk drawer. The poor woman climbed up on the sofa and began crying uncontrollably. The poor dear.

Not me. I’ve climbed atop a 150 foot tall roller coaster, let a tarantula crawl on me and even held a python (but I didn’t like it).

I used to go skiing every year in Colorado with a friend of mine. Keystone, Crested Butte, etc. One time, he suggested that we try going to Montana instead and I told him I really didn’t want to go there.

“But the skiing in Montana is great,” he said. “It’s a lot less crowded than the resorts in Colorado.”

“I can’t go skiing in Montana,” said I.

“You can’t? Why not? What’s wrong with Montana?”

“Because that’s where Bigfoot has been sighted lots of times.”

He was a little incredulous when I told him I was serious; that I just wouldn’t be comfortable out in the wilderness of Montana. Because of Bigfoot.

Yes, I know it’s irrational. That’s what makes it a phobia. I know, scientifically, that Bigfoot can’t really exist up there. I know there’s no hard evidence of its existence. No bones.
No hair.
No Bigfoot poo.

And regarding the famous 1967 Patterson film, my gosh, even I will admit that’s a guy in a furry suit, though it still gives me the willies. Anyone watching that film knows that Bigfoot doesn’t walk like that.

Regarding my phobia, I suppose it all began when I was about fourteen years old. There had been reports of a Bigfoot-like creature sighted in the vicinity of my family’s ranch in Texas. Then one night, my cousin who’s the same age as I, was driving back to the ranch house. (Yes, we drive at the age of fourteen on ranch roads in Texas. It’s the law). He saw some eyes reflecting in the headlights down the road and, lo and behold, it was a Bigfoot.

When he got back to the house, he was really shaken up. My aunt will attest to the fact that saw something that really frightened him. From then on, he wouldn’t go hunting at night as he had done for years.

Well, that just scared the hell out of me. I just knew that there was a Bigfoot-like creature lurking around down there.

My dad had a pecan orchard near the spot where my cousin saw The Creature. One afternoon, Dad had us gathering pecans for a couple of hours and I just knew that thing was watching me from inside the woods the whole time.
God, that was scary.

Yes, I know there’s no evidence that it exists.

But you won’t find me spending the night down on our ranch. And if I ever visit Lorraine in Seattle, I’m not leaving the city limits to go hiking anywhere.

And I never did go skiing in Montana.

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Monday, April 16, 2007

It's All Relative

Remember those models of our solar system you'd see in grade school?
There'd be the sun, along with the nine planets whirling around close by. Those diagrams always bugged me because they really don't show how far away each planet really is from the sun.
So, a long time ago, I did the math. Ratios and all that stuff.
Ready class?
If the sun were the size of a large beach ball (one meter in diameter), and you placed it at the end of a football field, I would never see it because I hate football.
Ha ha ha.
Okay, seriously. . .
If the sun were the size of a large beach ball (one meter in diameter), and you placed it at the end of a football field, the earth would be the size of a pea in the opposite end zone.
For those of you who don't know, the "end zone" is where the good-looking quarterbacks like Peyton Manning try to throw the ball so that their teammates can catch it and then dance around really funny. They get paid millions of dollars to accomplish that.
We're on a pea-sized planet.
Neptune, the farthest planet, would be the size of a golf ball, four-and-a-half miles away.
OOOoooo. Get the picture?
Now then, stars are really, really far away. The closest star, Alpha Proxima, would be three times the size of the beach ball, but it would be 16,500 miles away from the end of the football field.
And that's about as close as I'll ever get to a football game.
On a lighter note, I did my taxes today. I'll be getting a five cent refund from the State of Illinois. . . .
. . . Let the mayhem ensue.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Where have I seen this before?

Have you ever noticed that Don Imus looks like an old, angry lesbian?

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007


I’ve recently noticed a few grey hairs on my head.

Actually, I’m kind of glad about that. I’ve recently crept into my late forties and have yet to get any grey hair at all. I’m tired of people wondering if I color my hair and now I can point to evidence that I, indeed, do not.

Growing up in my little bitty home town in Texas in the seventies was a constant battle with hair length for me. My high school had a very strict and conservative dress code when it came to hair length for boys. Only the tops of the ears could be covered and it couldn’t be below the top of the collar. I hated that.

Growing up in my little bitty Southern Baptist church in my little bitty home town in Texas in the 70’s caused an even greater battle with regard to my hair.

First of all, I need to give you an idea of how utterly conservative my home town Baptist church was:

Never once did I hear anything about homosexuality preached from the pulpit or in Sunday school. The subject of sex was never even addressed. Ever.

Regarding the subject of abortion, well, this was right during Roe v. Wade and I never once heard anything against legalized abortion from anyone in my home town church.

You see, back in the early seventies, for a proper Baptist young lady from a well-respected family, “getting into trouble” would be just about the worst thing ever. EVER. So, having safe, legal abortions available was just about the best thing ever back then.

Reputation trumped ethics, hands down.

Also, I remember overhearing one of the old church ladies (her name was Tommie) once saying: “If abortion wasn’t available, why, just think how many Mexicans there’d be!”

That, my friends, is how conservative my home-town church was.

So, I remember the looks of consternation I received when I was sixteen and walked into church with my hair parted in the middle and with feathered wings. Remembered feathered wings in the seventies? Oh. My. God. You would have thought I’d just announced I was a Communist or something. But I loved my moment of rebellion, flaunting my feathered wings to the little old ladies who were afraid that Mexicans were about to take over the world.

Then, I went to college and majored in music. This was the late seventies. Oh boy! Did I enjoy growing my hair out. Years of small-town oppression caused me to grow it as long as I wanted. Remember Jhirmack hair products? I used them all and I sure had purdy hair. I remember coming home from college with my David Cassidy-esque hair and my dad giving a laugh saying, “I’m gonna get out my pocket knife!”

I just made an appointment with Bob, my haircutter. Bob does a great job at wielding a hair style that covers my slightly receding hairline so well.

I’ll bet he could even give me feathered wings if I wanted them.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

What would Polly say?

When I was growing up, I had your usual array of pets.

There was a black cat named Babo when I was little. On my eighth birthday, I was surprised with a six-week old Beagle puppy that I named Snoopy. How original. Then, there was the debacle with the hamsters.

After Snoopy’s demise when I was fifteen (a mishap with the milk-man’s truck, very tragic) we obtained a huge Persian-mix named Chow-Chow who was a total whore. She had two litters of kittens before she was eleven months old. Such a slut. Definitely a nappy-headed ho.

For some reason, I’ve always wanted a parrot. I still do.

A parrot was out of the question because they were so expensive. Oh, I was supplied with a parakeet for a while soon after the hamsters met their end. But I knew that parakeets were a dime-a-dozen. They couldn’t talk or really do anything. I’d let it fly around my bedroom, unfettered and un-caged. Then one day, I couldn’t fine it anywhere.

Oh well.

About a month later, I found the body. I had some black-light posters rolled up in tubes, stashed away in a corner. Apparently the poor bird had flown into one of the tubes and, well, you get the picture.

I never did get a parrot, though.

In college, I had a friend named Audon who was pretty effeminate and sounded just like a parrot when he spoke.

“Audon, you sound just like a parrot.”

“I do not sound like a par-rrrott!” he'd squawk.

Years later, a neighbor friend of mine had a parrot that, when the doorbell or phone would ring, it would screech, “I’ll get it! I’ll get it! I’ll get it!”

That was so cool. I wanted a parrot like that.

The author, David Sedaris, had the best parrot story. Apparently his sister had a parrot for years. She also drank quite a bit. Subsequently, the parrot was able to perfectly imitate the automatic ice dispenser on the fridge.

“He can do the blender too,” she said.

I wonder what repetitive sounds a parrot would pick up on from my apartment.

There’s the theme to The Waltons that plays on the Lifetime Channel twice in the morning while I’m getting ready, and then twice when I watch it on Tivo in the evening. No doubt, he’d pick up on that.

Whenever I get bored, (which is a lot), I play The Flight of the Bumblebee on the piano for about thirty seconds and then stop. He’d love that.

But the sound he’d hear the most would definitely be the Tivo, fast-forwarding through the commercials.
b’doop, b’doop, b’doop!
Those of you with Tivos know what I’m talking about.
b’doop, b’doop, b’doop!
That poor bird would be going b’doop, b’doop, b’doop! within an hour of residing with me.

God. I gotta get a life. . .

So, what sounds would your parrot be making?

Monday, April 09, 2007

Imus no longer in the morning.

I don't give a rat's behind about what Imus said regarding the basketball players. I'm just glad he's GONE from MSNBC in the morning. Well, at least temporarily

You see, I have a habit of sleeping to either CNN or MSNBC all night long. Usually, I'm up for Keith Olberman at 11 pm and will change it over to CNN at midnight and nod off.

Many times, though, I'll fall asleep to MSNBC and wake up to Imus in the morning.

Oh my god what an inane bunch of drivelly banter! It's just typical "guy talk" about nothing! I hate that typical guy talk; you know, where guys have nothing really to say and they just banter back and forth, never really saying anything:

"Yeah, they really pulled that one off."

"Uh-huh. You can say that again."

"You got that right, buddy."

"I know what you mean. . . ."

Sometimes I'll wake up to it and it really grates on my nerves. How can MSNBC allow this on the air? And who ever found it interesting??

Regarding what he said and the uproar over it, my goodness Al Sharpton, have we become that fragile?? I think the two weeks suspension was appropriate. However, I think his show should be cancelled because it consists of inane banter.

Good riddance!


The Gym. "I'm Back".

Okay. I did it.

I joined the gym.


It’s a Crunch Fitness center and it’s located in the lobby of my apartment building. I won’t have to actually GO anywhere to work out. I won’t have to get in the car and drive. I won’t have to bring gym clothes with me to work. I won’t have to go out in the cold.

I’ll only have to take the elevator down 49 floors and walk across a climate-controlled lobby. The convenience factor for this place is off the charts.
I shouldn’t have any excuses.

But I really need to join the gym. More than that, I need to actually GO to the gym and actually work up a sweat. Here I am:
Age: 48
Height: 6’ 2½”
Weight: 220 lbs.

This boy needs to do a lot of sweating.

The Crunch employee who signed me up was this very enthusiastic young thing named Crystal who spoke wayyy to fast for me to understand. I told her I was originally from Texas and my little Southern ears just couldn’t keep up with what she was saying; she was going to have to bring it down a notch. Ha-ha-ha. She tried, but eventually failed.

Crystal gleefully pointed out the new Stair-Masters they had. I thought to myself how ridiculous it was to be paying money every month to use a Stair-Master when I live on the 49th floor! I’ll bet most of those folks frantically bobbing on the Stair-Masters live in my 60-story apartment building and take an elevator and pay to use a Stair-Master.
Typical life in the U.S. really.

Apparently, all new members get a free session with a trainer. The last thing I wanted was to have some muscled-up dude named "Mace" watch me struggle with a 4 oz. barbell. That’s what happened every day in gym class and my life’s goal is to avoid anything remotely associated with gym class, thank-you-very-much.
“But it comes free with your membership!” chirped Crystal.

I knew that the “free” session with a trainer was just a ploy to have Mace sell private sessions. Besides, paying for my notion of a "private session" is a misdemeanor in Illinois.

I tried my best to tell Crystal that I really just wanted to be left alone at the gym.
No, I don’t want to do kick-boxing.
No, I don’t want to join the psycho-aerobics classes.
No, I definitely don't want to play adult dodgeball. Good god!

However, they do have this new type of aerobics call “Kangarooing” where you hop around on these springy-boingy shoes. That might be fun. Except I've learned the hard way that really tall people have a really high center of gravity. Springy-boingy activities aren't very conducive to an injury-free existence. It might be prudent to stay away from "Kangarooing."

I wish the music wasn’t so loud in that place! It made me nervous. Decades ago, it was disco music they played. Now, it’s all hip-hop, which as you know, I don’t consider music anyway. Because of the loud music and Crystal’s lightening fast speech cadence, I didn’t get most of what she was saying. I hope the loud hip-hop music won’t interfere with the Enya and Bach that I’ll be listening to on my iPod.
God, that’s sad.

Finally, after all the joining-up was completed, Crystal said, “So, do you want to work out now?”

I thought, “Are you kidding me?? It’s Sunday and I need a nap!”

Not a good sign.

Now, if I could only find some shorts that don't make me look like a total dork. . .

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Saturday, April 07, 2007

Winter Weather in April

Should I be commenting on sub-freezing Winter weather in Chicago in April?

Well, yes.

Even though I lived in Canada before moving to Chicago, I was raised in Texas where sub-freezing weather is something to be commented upon.

Having been raised in Texas where everything is always "big" and "hot", I can honestly say that I'd much rather shovel snow in Chicago than mow an lawn in Texas.


Winter in Chicago: The temps seldom rise above freezing for three months and there are long periods when it's below zero (-18C) in Chicago.
Big deal.
Keep some back-up long underpants (in at least two varieties) so that you don't stink during those long cold spells.
Really. Long underpants. Keeping things warm. . . .
Two varieties of long underpants.
Do it!

Snow? Once the snow starts falling, lots of really, really nice Latino guys come out in full force offering to shovel it away for twenty bucks.
Let them do it.
It's well worth the twenty bucks, especially if it's late at night and there's a heavy snowfall.
Let them do it!
They clear the sidewalks and keep the little ones from hurting themselves on the way to school.
Let them do it!
They do an amazing job; much better than you could ever do with your own snow shovel at 6:00 am.
Let them do it!
You'll also be happily contributing to the local workforce.
Let them do it!

Winter Weather in April??
(Click on this weather pic)
We've been having brutal, I mean, brutal nasty, cold, snowy, windy weather these past few days here in Chicago. I'd already put away my "toasty coat" three weeks ago. (That's my full-length, ugly, goose-down, insulated coat that I purchased in Canada many years ago; the one that'll insulate me against polar-bear hunts as well as Chicago's Michigan Ave. in January)

I refuse to bring out my "toasty-coat" in April. (Besides, it's at the cleaners, being serviced and repaired for next year).

But you know, as I was walking home late last night on April 6th while the bitterly wind howled and my face stung, I really enjoyed the fact that, "I'm not in Texas! - - I'm living up North where it's cold!!"

Every time I encounter cold weather, it just underlines the fact that, "I made it out of Texas."

I don't want to denigrate living in Texas in any way shape or form. Living in Texas is, indeed pleasurable, insouciant, and profitable. All my family lives there and I love, admire, and respect them dearly. And, I love to admit, it's a wonderful place to go home to.

But for a sensitive, thoughtful, artistic, Texan kid from a small town who got a little piano scholarship and later made his way to New York, Toronto, and Chicago; well, Winter Weather in April just underlines the fact that he did, indeed, really made his way AWAY from where sensitive, thoughtful, and artistic kids had to languish in the heat.

It's 28 degrees outside with a brutal wind chill in April . . . .
. . . This sensitive, thoughtful, and artistic, kid from Texas really likes that.

Friday, April 06, 2007

It's "Tuesday-Friday"

What's "Tuesday-Friday" you say?

Okay. I'll tell you.

About twenty years ago, I was an organist at a non-denominational church in Austin, Texas. On the Thursday before Easter Sunday, I had to play for "Maundy Thursday" services which they observed.

I had a very close friend of mine who is an athiest. No, I take that back. She's not an athiest because when it came to the question of whether God existed or not, she would say, "I just really don't care one way or the other." (I thought that was pretty healthy, actually). So I proclaimed her to be an apathiest.

Anyway, I told her that I had to play for Maundy Thursday.

"Monday Thursday?'

"No, it's Maundy. Not Monday."

"What's 'Maundy' mean?"

"I don't know."

"So, is tomorrow Tuesday-Friday?"

Sigh. "Yes, it is."

So, every year on Good Friday, I call to wish her a happy "Tuesday-Friday." I just left her a voice mail.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

I'm a "Zipster"

My new job is working out really well. Everyone I work with is really nice and I’ve yet to identify any jerks or anyone who may be a problem down the road. My boss seems to like me. My checking account is also very happy, now that direct-deposit is once again supplying a teat onto which it can suckle.

I’ll be managing a state-wide program of facilities that assist people with disabilities find employment. That means I’ll have to travel about the state of Illinois at least once a quarter. That’ll be fun and interesting because, as a Chicagoan living in downtown Chicago, I’m not really aware that anything in Illinois actually exists outside of Chicago. Apparently, there are lots of soybeans and corn, so it’ll be fun to see.
I hear that Peoria will just eat you up and spit you out, baby.

At first, I thought I’d have to buy a car which I was pretty bummed out about. Having grown up in Texas where everything is a grillion miles from everything else, I grew tired of owning a car. For the past ten years I’ve lived near subways and, except for the occasional encounter with chicken bones or a dead bat, I really like using them.

Also, owning a car in downtown Chicago is horribly expensive. Insurance is sky-high, you have to buy a special city permit each year, and parking costs $200 a month where I live.

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve noticed these new “Zip Cars” that are parked in the plaza of my apartment building so I looked in to it. It turns out that it’s a system of car sharing. You sign up and get an electronic card. When you want a car, you just reserve one online. Then, through the miracle of wireless technology, only your “zip card” will unlock the car you've selected during the time you've selected it. You just drive off and go! It costs $9.00 an hour or $66.00 for a 24-hour period. And that includes insurance AND gas! (There’s a credit card above the visor to use).

It's like the Tivo of car rentals.

There are about 40 zip cars available within a one-mile radius of where I live. Better yet, there are four of them right in the plaza of my apartment building. Best of all, one of them is a Mini Cooper which are off-the-charts on the adorability factor.

I did the math and crunched the numbers. My employer reimburses us at 48.5 cents per mile. A round trip to my farthest destination is 680 miles. I’ll be coming out ahead by using my adorable Zipcar. And I won’t have to buy a car.

So, I joined up. As a Zipcar member, I am now a “Zipster.” (That’s cute too). I tried it out last week and it worked just fine. The Mini Coopers are just a blast to drive. Those puppies can just scoot! Did I mention they’re adorable?

I also like the idea of car sharing. I really have very strong anti-consumerist, anti-capitalist, pro-environment leanings, so knowing that I’m cheating the auto industry out of making me own a car makes me awfully happy.

But now, here’s the best part of all. You see, in the plaza of my apartment building, there are several spots reserved for tenants if you need to park there for less than 15 minutes. But, I’ve noticed this one car that’s often taking up one of those spaces all the time. Twice, when using a friend’s car, I’ve needed to drop things off and none of those spots were available. Grrrr!

I’ve complained to the parking attendants and they told me that the fellow that owns that car runs errands the elderly folks in the building. Yeah, right. (Then, the building management should give him a regular parking spot, - - not let him take up a space for which it’s not intended!) I complained to the management office and they said there was nothing they could do if the parking attendants let him do it. Grrrr!

So, for the past few months, I’ve really been grrrr-ing every time I see that guy’s car taking up a space that I have needed on occasion.

But now, my Zipcars take up four of those spots! And if anyone parks in a Zipcar spot, I can call Zipcar and have it towed away now that I’m a Zipster.

I take great pleasure in hoping that the owner of that car really, really resents that MY Zipcars are encroaching on his ability to illegally park there!

What I really hope for is that, one day, I’ll see that jerk’s car in a Zipcar spot. I’ll be on the phone soooo fast to have it towed. Bwa-ha-ha-ha! I really hope that clown parks there someday just so I can do it. I'll just be singing "Zippidy-doo-dah" as that tow truck yanks his nasty car away from MY parking spot.

God! This feels good!


Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The Gym

I've been meaning to go to the gym for the past twenty-five years.

Oh, I've joined. Lots of times. I just never actually go there on a regular basis.

The first gym I joined was in downtown Austin next to the bank where I worked. I figured I'd go there since it would be so convenient. I did actually go there about a dozen times. Mary Lou Retton worked out at the same facility which was really humiliating. She was like a hummingbird on crystal meth, madly pumping on a set of weights then buzzing to the next and the next.

Meanwhile, I'd be staring at the leg press, trying to figure out how to work the damn thing.

I've probably spent more energy in getting out of a gym membership than I did actually using one.

I don't like working out, mainly for one reason: It hurts!!

I know, I know. No-pain-no-gain and all that.
But my philisophy is, "No pain? - - - - hey! No pain!"

But I'm at the age now where I really need to work out. Not just because I'll look better, but it's now a health issue. I now have a nice job, a nice place to live, wonderful friends, a blue Cuisinart, and I want to be around to enjoy these things for as long as I can.

Wouldn't you know it? I finally get my head together and my ass falls apart!

There's a Crunch Fitness actually located in the lobby of my apartment building. I wouldn't even have to go outside to go there. And we, as residents, get a half-price membership. (They now offer dodgeball for adults which sends shivers of horror down my spine. I don't think I'll be doing that). I could even go there at 9:00 PM each night when no one else is around to actually see me stare at the machines, wondering what to do.

But each night at 9:00 PM, I'm usually on the couch watching my "Geek TV." You know, the National Geographic Channel, the Science Channel, the Discovery Channel. If there's a documentary about conjoined twins, or a new planet, or Bigfoot, I am there!

Man, I gotta get to the gym. . . .

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Bad News About Easter

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Monica Lewinsky and the Monastery

About eight years ago, (in a galaxy far, far away), I was a Roman Catholic seminarian and studying for the priesthood in Toronto. One of the requirements for seminarians was that we go on a spiritual retreat at least once a year to get away from the busy, academic life and all its pressures.

Most of the time we went to these guided retreats, usually hosted by nuns or sisters at a convent somewhere. I'd been to several of them and had grown weary of the warm, fuzzy, New Age-y type of atmosphere that usually prevailed at these things. Gimme a break.

So, that year I decided to go on a real, hard-core retreat. I booked myself for a five-day stint at a cloistered, Trappist monastery in the middle of nowhere. No talking, simple vegetarian fare, sparse surroundings, and getting up for Vigils at 2:00 am every night.

That's right. Up at 2:00 am. This was going to be the Navy Seals of spiritual retreats.

I had experienced three years of monastic life previous to this, but I knew the Trappists were the real monks. Hard core.
"Cold-hard-mean-Christ-the-King. "

The monastery was about 30 miles south of Rochester, New York, and truly was in the middle of nowhere. There was a little town about ten miles away, and I swear I passed Arnold Ziffle and the Shady Rest motel. And a Wal-Mart.

I arrived and was shown to my "cell" by the monk in charge of the retreatants. This truly was a real, live monastic cell. It was about 8 x 10, had a tiny window, a wooden desk and chair and a single bed. The "bed" consisted of two wooden trestles with a board laid across. On top of the board was a thin mattress, an itchy blanket and a pillow.

There was a schedule taped to the door:

2:25 AM Vigils
6:00 AM Lauds & Mass
7:15 AM Terce
Beginning of work
10:30 AM end of work
11:15 AM Sext
1:05 PM None
Beginning of work
3:30 PM End of work
4:30 PM Vespers
6:35 PM Compline
7:00 PM Retire

(And no, that doesn't read "sex" and "none". Those refer to the short prayers held at the sixth and ninth hours during the day).

There was no TV, no internet, no newspapers, no talking.

Worst of all, no caffeine!!! Oh my GOD!!

Supper that night consisted of scrambled eggs, cheese, a steamed vegetable, bread and water.

I brought a lap-top just to keep a journal but the lone electrical outlet in the cell wasn't three-pronged. I hopped in my car and "escaped" to the Wal-Mart I'd seen in Hooterville to buy an adapter.

So much for maintaining the integrity of the retreat.

My alarm went off at 2:00 am in time for Vigils. It was pitch dark outside and there really was an owl hooting outside. Really. It was almost a cliche.

God! I was sleepy. Vigils went on forever. Chant chant chant. Meditate meditate meditate.

I brought only two books with me: "The Imitation of Christ" and Simone Weil's "Gravity and Grace." Heavy stuff.

A Bible?
Bah! Superfluous drivel!

Breakfast was bread, jam, butter, water and a banana.

After about a day, it hit me: I am ALONE!

I've never felt more alone and lonely in my life! No one there knew me. I didn't know anyone, nor could I speak to anyone. The intensity of the loneliness hit me like a ton of bricks. And I was only on the first day. There were four more to go.

I did manage to write quite a bit of insightful things during that time. I'll have to find it somewhere and post it sometime. It was pretty good stuff.

Lunch, the main meal of the day was a bean-y vegetable soup, steamed veggies, fresh fruit, cheese, bread and water.

No snacks were ever eaten nor were they available.

By Day Three, I'd had enough of spiritual reading, meditating and deep reflection. I was going nuts.

I hopped in my car again and sped to the Wal-Mart. I craved something else to read and I wanted entertaining, frivolous fluff.

And there it was. The Holy Grail of frivolity. The newly-published biography of Monica Lewinsky.

Thank-you-thank-you-thank-you, Jesus!

Sure, I'd like to say that I made it through all five days doing nothing else but meditating and only reading the Lives of the Saints. I'd like to say I experienced unabated, ecstatic spiritual insights for five days and heard the voice of God.

I can't.

I'm weak. I'm human.

But so was Christ

and so was Monica Lewinksy.

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Monday, April 02, 2007

More Chicago Buildings

There seems to be a construction boom here in Chicago

Last month, construciton began on two new skyscrapers that will truly be unique.

1. The "Aqua" Buiding. 87 stories. Condominiums.

The unique aspect of this building is the fact no two balconies will be alike, giving the facade of the building and wave-like, undulating effect. The glass will be blue-green. (Click on pics 1 & 2).

The architect is a woman. You go, girl!

2. The Mandarin Oriental. 74 Stories. Hotel/Condominium

Take a closer look at the pic. Each floor space is slightly larger than the one below it. There are no straight sides to this building; it gradually gets wider as it goes up.