Thursday, May 31, 2007


San Marcos Texas, 1971

Cast of characters:

Me, age 12
Step-sister, Terry, age 11
Brother, Brad, age 10
Dad, age 33
Step-mother, Sue, age 31
Little step-brother, Michael, age 3

Dad and Sue were newlyweds and it was Brad's and my weekend to visit Dad which occurred every third weekend.

Poor step-mother, Sue. Here, she had two children of her own, a new husband, and was now inundated with two step-sons, age 10 and 12 every third weekend.

The house was full of bratty kids, believe me. Brad, Terry and I, being 10, 11, and 12 years old, were constantly bored and our only entertainment was to antagonize little Michael as much as possible.

He cried, oh, so easily.

"Hey, Michael! Did you know there's no such thing as Santa Claus? He died just before you were born."


"You kids leave him alone!"
cried Dad and Sue in unison.

So, on this particular Saturday, my Dad found out that the local theatre downtown was playing a triple-feature horror fest starting at 1:00 and lasting until 6:00 pm. Five whole hours without the kids!

We were quickly deposited off in front of the theatre. My dad probably barely slowed down and was off with a screech of the tires.

With little Michael in tow, we settled in for our five-hour horror fest.

The first feature was King Kong, the original 1933 version. Even then, we could see how lame it was and remained unfazed.

The second feature was Island of Terror with Peter Cushing. It featured these giant slug-like creatures that grabbed the islanders, dissolved their bones and multiplied every 24 hours. It left us pretty rattled.

Obviously, Dad and Sue had jumped at the chance to be kid-less and didn't really bother to check what was actually playing.

The third feature was Psycho.

Oh. My. God! The shower scene really did my step-sister in. Being eleven years old and seeing that poor woman stabbed to death alone in the bathroom just scared the bejeezus out of her. (I think Michael slept through the whole thing.)

So, my dad arrived at six o'clock to find three very frightened 'tweens on his hands.

Later that evening, Terry was alone in the bathroom preparing for bed. So, being boys, of course this was our chance to frighten her even more.

We sneaked around to the side of the house where the bathroom window was and planned to rap on it with Terry alone inside. (The window was really high up -- we couldn't see in or anything).

Well, we had to reach way up and I guess we rapped a little too hard. There was poor Terry by herself in the bathroom after witnessing Psycho and the window came shattering in!

Terry came flying out of the bathroom, half dressed, and so frightened she couldn't even speak. She was just gasping for air and sobbing. Dad and Sue didn't know what the hell had happened. And of course, Brad and I scattered in opposite directions.

After the mayhem subsided, I guess it all seemed pretty funny to Dad and Sue. Brad and I were let off with a scolding.

And poor Terry wouldn't shower for a month without her mother nearby.

It's become a favorite family story. I'm sure my dad is having a good laugh while reading this.



I love talking about food. I love movies about food (Babette's Feast, Big Night) and I love hearing about food. And eating food.

A few years ago, my uncle Nathan retired from cattle ranching and took up catering. Not just any old catering -- he caters rodeos and rodeo-type events.
And he does it well!

So very well, that he's developed an award-winning recipe for fajitas (chicken or beef) that has actually won awards. There was even an article written about his fajitas in the San Antonio Express-News.

A few years ago, I was visiting my folks in Texas and we had Uncle Nathan's award winning fajitas at their ranch home. Let me tell you, this was some of the best tasting stuff I've ever eaten.

What makes them so special is that that he does them backwards. That is, the fajitas get char-grilled and then get placed in the marinade from which they're served.

My Aunt Dixie, his wife, gave me the recipe afterwards. I've since made these award-winning fajitas for folks in New York City and Toronto. These fajitas were so good, them New Yorkers and Canadians would just "fall on the floor and holler" as we say in the South.

Then, I lost the recipe when I moved to Chicago.

But! Through the miracle of email, my Aunt Dixie just sent the recipe to me again.

So, when Lorraine and her family are visiting Chicago next month, I will treat them to my Uncle Nathan's fajitas. The Iwanskis will get some too which, I'm sure, will make Iwanski very happy.

As the appetizer, my Aunt Dixie makes this wonderful "Texas Caviar" which is actually a salsa made with tomato puree, black-eyed peas, onions, cilantro and jalapenos. It'll make you fall on the floor and holler too.

Lorraine has promised to make one of her award-winning meals for us while she's here. I love hearing her talk about food on her website and she has made some amazing meals. The woman definitely knows her way around a kitchen and what to do with one.

I have a feeling there's going to be a lot of falling on the floor and hollerin'. And that's as it should be.


An 81 year old figure skater

Check this out.

This woman is almost 82 years old and looks great in her sexy little costume out on the ice.

She said something really true: "If you don't move, you won't move."

That really is inspiring. . . . and I talked myself out of working out this morning. Again.

Then I see this octogenarian looking great, moving on the ice in a way I can only dream of.

While I sit on my ass like a blob, blogging. . . .

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Urban Chickens -- It's the newest craze!

I saw this article today on how to keep chickens in the city and I was immediately intrigued.

It seems you can order this whole kit for raising chickens in the city! You get this cool little designer chicken coop that has an "eggloo" on one end where your hens can lay eggs and incubate them. It comes with everything you need: The coop, the eggloo, a 50-lb. bag of chicken feed and instructions for raising the hens.

Two weeks after your coop and eggloo is delivered, you get four egg-laying baby hens. No rooster available. This is an urban chicken deal and roosters, as you probably know, are too noisy. Besides, hens apparently don't require male companionship to produce eggs anyway.

Come winter time, you can either buy an additional coop heater or just "harvest" the hens.

Oh, stop it! Where the hell do you think your chicken fajitas come from!

Well, now that I have a farm on my 49-story balcony (two tomato plants and herbs) I thought how cool it would be to expand the farm into a barnyard!

The coop is only nine feet long and my balcony is 20 feet wide -- plenty of room for an urban chicken project! Wouldn't my neighbors above and below me just love the sounds of four chickens clucking away?

I'm sure there's a city ordinance that prohibits barnyard animals from being raised in the city. But I wouldn't be raising them in the city. I'd be raising them above the city.

And come October when it's time to "harvest" the chickens, can't you just see the feathers flying from 50 stories up?

Click Here for an Urban Chicken coop.


Wednesday's Whinings -- The Martini

I almost forgot it was Wednesday. Monday as a holiday has thrown me off.
There seems to be a "martini" craze going on where anything-and-everything served in a martini glass is dubbed a "martini."
There are appletinis, margatinis, tropicaltinis, dirty martinis and "tinis" of every known liquor. There are even martini bars that sport every bastardization of this classic beverage that one can dream up.
Folks, a martini is four parts gin to one part dry vermouth with a green olive garnish. Maybe a lemon twist instead of the olive, but anything other than that is not a martini. That goes for the "vodka martini" as well.
Recently, I came across the worst example of this insanity I've ever seen. This club was advertising a "bourbon martini."
Bourbon and vermouth shaken with ice and served in a martini glass.
Duhh! That's a freaking Manhattan!


Urban Gorilla

Yesterday after work, I was going to take the subway, north from downtown to the Belmont station.

I headed into the Lake Street station and it was jam-packed. I've never seen it so full! Turns out, they were all baseball fans heading up north to the Cubs game. This was evidenced by the plethora of baseball gloves, Cubs attire, face paint, and beer.

A train pulled in but it was already packed with fans heading to Wrigley Field. No one could get on. Then another train pulled in and it was the same situation.

So, being a clever little urban gorilla, I hopped on a southbound train which was practically empty. I rode it past three downtown stations where everyone was waiting to go north. Once I got past downtown (which took about five minutes) I hopped across to a northbound train which had yet to fill up with Cubs fans.

I got a nice seat and was comfortably reading my book when we pulled back into the Lake Street station where everyone was still waiting.

Sports fans! They know nothing.

Okay, THIS is funny!

Click here for a REALLY funny video.

(Many thanks to Lorraine for sending it my way)

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Happy Birthday, Miss Healthypants

Today is a joyous occasion.

Back in the mid-1950's Mr. and Mrs. Healthypants of Smalltown Wisconsin gave birth to a cute little girl.

She was nice, but not quite right. So they tried again.

Still not right.

They kept at it, faithfully, until the eighth try!

And there she was! A cute little girl with blonde hair and blue eyes.

"Awwwww!" said everyone.

Then they all left to watch the The Brady Bunch. (The episode where Marsha got hit in the nose with a football.)

Mr. and Mrs. Healthypants knew they finally got it right and could stop trying.

When it came time for Little Miss Healthypant's first feeding, she asked if a side-salad could be substituted for formula. And extra dressing on the side.

It's been that way ever since. . . .

Happy Birthday, Pood.

Love ya lots.

I want this!

I just received a new cell phone with new bells and whistles on it, most of which I think are really, well, . . . stupid.

I'm not going to use the photo-taking option because I have a digital camera for that. Besides, I don't want to pay the extra fee for sending photos and also, I don't want to have to learn how to operate that feature. No one does.

I've had several friends who get the ability to send a photo from their new cell phones, I get ONE picture from them ("Hey, look! I can send a pic from my cell phone!") and then they never use that feature again.

I'm not going to use the text-messaging features because if I want to send someone a message I will simply call them and leave a voice mail!!! I can speak a thousand times faster than I can text-message. I don't understand these kids nowadays who really get off to thumbing away on their phones.

My new phone has V-something capability where I can download music and use my phone as an MP3 player. I already have an i-Pod and, and besides, cell phones never have enough battery life in them as it is. I'm not about to use up what little battery power it has when I can use my i-Pod the way God intended.
And why are cell phones getting smaller and smaller? How are we supposed to cradle it in our neck when they're the size of a Tic-Tac?

So, to make a statement against all these bells-and-whistles and teeny-weeny phones, here's a big honkin' rotary-dial cell phone! (It uses "Bluehair" technology) Doncha just love it?

I want this! I really do!

Can you imagine how many looks this would get, using this on the train? The kitsch factor is over-the-top.


Monday, May 28, 2007

A very heartwarming story about strudel

My friend, Jack, and I have known each other for almost twenty years now. He had been born and raised in Chicago, the son of Slovenian and Polish parents.

When we met in Texas, he'd often mention his Slovenian grandma's apple strudel. She made it the "old world" style where the dough is made from scratch and then stretched and stretched until it's paper-thin and covers an entire table surface. Apples, cinnamon, breadcrumbs and sugar are then strewn, the paper-thin dough is slathered with butter, it's rolled up and baked.

Occasionally when Jack would go home to Chicago, he'd return with one of Grandma's strudels wrapped in white butcher paper.

Oh. My. God. I'd never tasted anything quite like it. I was fascinated.

He said Grandma was truly an artist at this. Other family members never learned how to do make it and now that Grandma was pushing 90, it might be a lost art in the family.

Chicago 1988: Jack and I go up to Chicago to visit his dad and Grandma. I told Jack that I'd love to see Grandma in action and maybe learn how to make her wonderful strudel. He said that Grandma had a strict routine of getting up very early in the morning to make it, but if I was willing, she'd let me in on her strudel action.

Well, the night before, we stayed up very late, drinking Old Style beer with Jack's dad who was quite a character. Great guy. Fun to be around. The Old Style flowed late into the evening.

Grandma reminded me (in her broken English) that she and I had a strudel appointment very early in the morning. Yeah yeah yeah. I was having a blast with Jack's dad.

6:00 am: Grandma is rapping at my bedroom door. "You get up! It is time!" she announced, very loudly, in her Old-World accent. However my head was pounding with an Old-Style hangover. Still, I didn't want to miss the chance of seeing Grandma in action, so I roused to the occasion.

A five pound bag of Granny-Smith apples was assigned to me for peeling and slicing. And a big mug a of coffee.

"You vant breakfast?" she asked.

"No, thanks, I'm fine," I mumbled.

"You need breakfast," she replied.

"No, really, I don't. . .

"I make you breakfast."

Eggs and toast appeared. I soldiered on with the apples.

Grandma was in command of the kitchen. I watched as she dumped some flour in a bowl and I really wanted to get the measurements. After some gentle persuading, she did let me measure the ingredients which I wrote down on a yellow Post-it note. She then kneaded the dough into a ball.


She began hurling the dough against the top of the table. (I later learned that this is to get out any air bubbles). This 89-year old woman shook the whole kitchen with the force of it. If anyone was still asleep from the night of Old-Style, they'd surely be awake by now.

The ball of dough was placed in a buttered bowl and into a warm oven to rest.

"How long do you let it rest?" I queried.

"Vile I go get hair done" was her quick reply, and out the door she went.

Apparently, this was Grandma's routine. She made strudel on Saturday morning and got her hair done down the street.

About an hour later, a newly coiffed Grandma appeared, and continued on with the strudel.

She took the little ball of dough and began stretching it on the kitchen table that had a floured sheet across it. And stretching it. And strrrretching it. Then she was walking around the table, pulling the dough from all sides.

It was amazing. The dough began billowing across the table, so thin you could see her hands though it. She kept stretching it even more until it was hanging down the sides of the table, practically to the floor. It was truly amazing.

She took my apples which had been adequately sliced, mixed them with sugar, cinnamon, lots of buttered breadcrumbs and spread them in an even layer halfway across the paper-thin dough.

"Vee used to put it all de vay across, but vee change it," she said without looking up.

I smiled to myself as I pictured a panel of Slovenian grandmas, weighing the pros and cons of putting the apples all the way across or halfway across.

She finished the strudel by rolling it up, placing more butter on top and baking it.

In this day and age of ready-made this and instant-that, I could certainly see why none of her female offspring took the time to learn her trade. This was truly a labor of love and I felt as though I'd just witnessed something holy.

I didn't want to let this bit of artistry die out with her. I went back to Texas with my little Post-it note of ingredients and practiced. And practiced. And practiced.

And you know what? I got pretty good at it.

Chicago 2001: The house where Jack's grandma and his dad lived was passed on to Jack after they passed away and Jack had the place remodeled.

But here we are back in that same kitchen where Grandma taught me to make her strudel and now I'm the one making for the family.

Oh, and I still have the little yellow Post-it from 20 years ago. I have it clipped to my own grandmother's old little clipboard she got from the local grocery story where she'd keep phone messages. (Just to give you an idea how old her little clipboard is, click on the pic and notice the grocery store's phone number on it -- it has three digits!)

But this little clipboard along with the strudel recipe sits proudly in my kitchen. Such a treasure.

Click HERE to see the strudel making in action. (Be patient, it takes a while to load).

By the way, Jack just called and was wondering when I'd be able to make strudel again.

I like that. It feels good. Thanks Grandma.


Friday, May 25, 2007

Dove-tailing in Springfield

I was down in Springfield for the past couple of days attending meetings and general work related hoo-ha.
I've never been to Springfield before. My goodness, what a sad little capital city!
I lived in Austin Texas for three years. Now, that's a state capital.
About the only attraction in Springfield are the Lincoln museums and tours of his house. I really wanted to go there because I'm a huge Mary Todd Lincoln buff. There's just something about insane, tragic women that's awfully appealing to me. . .
But, I didn't have time for Mrs. Lincoln. Maybe next time.
Anyway, I was in three meetings down there and there was this one guy who drove me crazy. He spoke a lot during the meetings and every time he would speak, he'd preface it with, "I'd just like to dove-tail onto . . . "
This guy was 'dove-tailing' like crazy.
And I was thinking, "Well, of course what you want to say should be relevant to what is being discussed! Otherwise, you'd look like an idiot."
How many times have you heard someone say in a meeting, "I'd like to dove-tail" or "I'd like to piggy-back. . . ."
Why do they have to preface their viewpoints like that? Why do they have to make an announcement that they are about to offer a viewpoint?
Are they shy about making a viewpoint and have to cushion it? Or is this just an example of attention-getting behavior?
I wonder if other people at meetings are as critical of what I say as I am of them?
It would serve me right.
Dove-tail. . . .
. . . idiot!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Wednesday's Whinings -- Urinals

I have to go on a business trip and will be away in Springfield on Wednesday and Thursday. I don't have a laptop for work just yet (I just ordered nine of them for me and my staff) and I didn't want to miss out on my Wednesday's Whinings segment, so I'm posting it today.
Recently, I was in a restroom and had a wonderful experience. (That sounds funny). There were partitions between each of the urinals.
Believe me, there are no men, gay or straight, who enjoy peeing shoulder-to-shoulder next to each other. The urinals are placed within six inches of each other and if it's a crowded restroom, like in an airport, you're forced to stand there next to your fellow man and try to pee away.
We don't like it. We hate it.
Well, except when I was five and would pee on the side of the house with my younger brother, but other than that, guys don't enjoy peeing near one another.
The partitions between the stalls are a wonderful idea. If I were King of the World, urinal partitions would be mandatory. Men all over the world would cheer, rejoice, and pee merrily away.
Sports stadiums have got to be the worst. There, you have five hundred guys who have all consumed huge quantities of beer and then line up at a 100-yard-long stainless steel trough. Thank god for inebriation.
And what's with these guys that pee all over the floor in public restrooms? There it is, below the urinal, the floor all spattered with mishaps. What do these guys do at home? You'd think that after peeing several times a day every day, they'd acquire some modicum of control over where they aim.
But no. They apparently just let it fly, willy nilly, unabated and uncontrolled, in any old direction.
(And women are just as disgusting, even more so. I remember checking on the women's restroom when I was a restaurant manager. Oh. My. God! What they do with feminine products is truly ghastly.) There should be a sign in the women's stalls: "Please remain seated until the performance is finished."
So, yes, partitions between the urinals would be a good thing. I'm sure every guy would agree with me.
I have to go pee now.

The Onion now has newscasts!

This will give Fox News a run for their money!

Click here

Monday, May 21, 2007

Weekend Treats

I'm trying to lose weight.

They say you're supposed to keep track of what you eat, so here's what I ate this past weekend, beginning with Friday night.

Two frozen veggie pizzas (the cheap ones that are four 4 for $10)

Three pounds of Brussels sprouts

One can of clam chowder

Two servings of spaghetti with marinara sauce

One bag of microwave popcorn

One serving of mushroom risotto

Two apples

Verdict: Too many carbs!

By the way, I love Brussels sprouts.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

30-Year Reunion . . . . Gawd!!

I just received an invitation to my 1977 high school class reunion.

Holy Mother of God!

I'm enclosing a pic of me on my folk's ranch at the time of my ten-year reunion when I was twenty-eight. Notice the nice moo-cows in the background and the beer on the hood of the pick-up truck. Doesn't quite go with the Toronto International Film Festival t-shirt I was wearing, but there you go.

My dad took this pic of me. He was the age I am right now. Good lord.

I remember asking my doctor back then for advice on gaining weight. (She said to eat more cheese).

Now, my doctor said I could stand to lose a few pounds. Fine!

I don't mind growing older. I really don't. I have it pretty good at the ripe old age of 48. Wonderful friends, good health (well, except for the few pounds), a nice job, a Tivo, etc.

A lot of my friends during the 80's and 90's didn't get to grow older. Eleven of them, in fact. That gives me a different perspective on growing older: I'm getting to do something they didn't.

Forty eight? Bring it on baby!

BTW - I won't be going to my 30-year reunion. There were only 75 people in my graduating class and I haven't remained in touch with any of them. I went to my ten- and twenty year reunions and it was fun and interesting. But really, I haven't remained in touch with anyone. Occasionally, I'll see someone from my class when I'm home visiting, we'll say 'hi' and that's about it.

Sure, it would be fun to see how old and fat everyone has become. And maybe remember the high school days when we did nothing but ride around in our parent's cars drinking Ripple while listening to Led Zeppelin on the 8-track tape player.

But I'm not going because it's going to be held outside. I'm not about to stand around outside in July in South Texas.

I'm too old for that.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

What could you do without?

I've come across a really interesting blog call "No Impact Man." The author is this nice guy that lives in New York City with his wife and 2-year-old daughter. He's conducting an experiment where he and his family live without electricity for a year, eat only locally-grown produce, don't drive a car or take the subway, don't produce any waste, and essentially have no impact on the planet.

Here's an excerpt:

For one year, my wife, my 2-year-old daughter, my dog and I, while living in the middle of New York City, are attempting to live without making any net impact on the environment. In other words, no trash, no carbon emissions, no toxins in the water, no elevators, no subway, no products in packaging, no plastics, no air conditioning, no TV, no toilets…

He does have a solar panel on the roof which powers his laptop so he can blog about his day-to-day experiences. It's really amazing.

I got to thinking about my own impact on the environment. So far, pretty good, but I could do better.

I don't own a car and I walk to work. I'm lucky. I would recycle except we have no facilities for doing so. I eat mostly a vegetarian diet simply because I prefer shopping along those lines (when you think about it, procuring dead animals to eat is pretty ghastly).

I was wondering, though, if I had a solar panel that would only power one item in my apartment, what would it be?

What could I do without?

I could do without the computer. I love blogging and looking at questionable material, but I could do without it. I'd just stay later at work to blog or do it on my lunch hour which I usually do anyway.

The TV? Sure, no problem. There aren't any TV programs I'm addicted to at the moment. (I wish there were) Having no TV would free me up to do a lot more productive things that I should be doing anyway.

The elevator would be a problem. I live on the 49th floor, but think about how thin and healthy I'd be? Taking the stairs a lot more would actually be very good for me.

The piano would be a bigger problem. I made the switch to a digital piano years ago and if I'm not watching TV, I'd surely be practicing the piano a lot. Perhaps I'd become a better pianist if I practiced on a real one anyway.

I could even do without the kitchen appliances. I went on the raw food diet for a couple of weeks once and it was pretty amazing. I should be eating that way at least three days a week anyway.

But I'd have to draw the line at air conditioning! Cannot do without air conditioning. I absolutley don't do well if I'm hot. Sweating makes me angry and depressed.

So, my solar panel would be used to keep me cool and happy.
Oh, and the fridge. Gotta keep the leftover pizza that was delivered from spoiling.
No toilet? And toilet paper. C'mon!
I need the blow dryer too.
And hot water.
And. . .

Wow. Looking back on what I could do without really is quite an eye-opener. I'd be a lot more healthy and productive if I did cut back on things that impact our environment.

Hmmmm. . . .

So! What could you do without?

What would your solar panel be used for?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

This is amazing!

There are so many things out there on U-Tube, I know. I've refrained from putting any on this site so far. But this one is truly amazing. It gives new meaning to the term "Extreme Gymnastics".

Note: The last segment is of mixed pairs, male and female. I know that's icky, but it's at the end and you don't have to watch it.

Wednesday Whinings -- T. J. Holmes

Okay, I'm continuing with my little series called "Wednesday's Whinings" where I get to gritch about something that bugs me.

T. J. Holmes is the news anchor for CNN and is usually on during the early mornings.

Now, although Mr. Holmes is awfully easy-on-the-eyes, he has an irritating habit of pronouncing "Iraq" and "Iran" as "o-raq" and "o-ran".

And that drives me insane.

I'm sitting there shrieking at the TV: "It's EE-RAQ you idiot!"

Some people give it a lazy pronunciation like "uh-raq" and "uh-ran", but not dear T. J.
He goes all the way:

"Today, in southern oh-raq, coalition forces . . . "

After a while, it bugged me so much that I got on the internets and actually sent CNN an email about it.
I did.

So, take a look an an early morning broadcast of CNN and note Mr. Holmes' pronunciations.

And if he IS pronouncing it correctly, it's because of ME.


Zippidy Doo-Da

So far, I've really been impressed with my Zipcar. (That's the car sharing program I belong to). There have always been lots of zip cars available, they all seem to be brand new, and there haven't been any glitches. I've even been using the same car every time (a Toyota Matrix) so I already feel like it's "mine."

I've been a very happy "Zipster."

Until last night.

I wanted to go to Target for one big item and would need a car to haul it back with. Zipcar was perfect for the job. I reserved it for one hour which would be more than enough time to get the job done. From 8:00 to 9:00 pm.

When I got to Target, I noticed that the car was completely out of gas. Grrrrr!

One of the rules is that you're supposed to ensure that it always has at least a quarter of a tank before returning it. The person before me left it with just a few gas fumes in it.

They should be punished. Extensively.

Now, the neat thing about Zipcar is that there's a gasoline credit card above the visor for us "Zipsters" to use; we don't have to pay for the gas. You just swipe the card, enter in the Zipcar number (it's printed on the credit card) and enter in the odometer reading (for security purposes).

Well, apparently, 8:30 pm is when EVERY cab driver in the city of Chicago fills up their tanks. There was a long line and I wasn't about to hunt for another gas station. They're few and far between in downtown Chicago, believe me.

So, seeing as I wasn't going to make it back by 9 pm, I had to call Zipcar and extend my reservation another hour. There's a $50.00 penalty for bringing your car back late, even by one minute -- it's all tracked by GPS and wireless technology which is, actually, pretty cool.

So, here I was, being a very conscientious Zipster by extending MY rental time another hour to make up for someone else's inconsideration.

That really bugged me. Banging on my high chair would ensue shortly.

My little Zipcar thirstily gulped down ten gallons of gas. I had barely made it.

Well, I'll have you know, I made it back by 9:00 pm, my original time slot and wouldn't have needed to extend it anyway. However, I was going to be charged for it since I had it reserved for that length of time anyway.

Well, I'll have you know, I was on the phone with my friendly Zipcar representative in a flash. (Well, after I noticed that I hadn't closed the gas tank when I filled up the car). At first, she wasn't going to give me a break because I am indeed responsible for making sure the car has gas in it regardless of what the other person did.

I was very, very nice and sweet on the phone. But persistent. I explained that I had to go wayyyy out of my way to fill up the car, that it was practically out of gas, and I got it back by 9:00 pm anyway. I told her I felt like I was being penalized for the other person's inconsideration and that really didn't seem fair.

She put me on 'hold' twice, but ended up giving me what I asked for; not to be charged for the extra hour. I was very sweet the whole time, almost overly sweet, but I wouldn't give up and it worked.

By the way, the person ahead of me who didn't fill up the car? They'll be charged $25.00 for that. It's one of the rules. They haven't got a leg to stand on either -- the records will show that I drove the car just a few blocks but had to put ten gallons of gas in it.

They're toast. I'm happy.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

In memorandum. . . .

I just saw on the news that Jerry Falwell just passed away. The man who once claimed that Tinky Winky was gay and damaging to children is now standing at St. Peter's gate

My god, the comedic potential is HUGE!

Must. Come. Up. With. Satire. Article!!!

And I love my trash chute

"How did that jar of green olives get there?" I wondered.

There was half a jar of green olives in the door of my fridge. I don't recall buying green olives. They were, apparently, quite old, for their olive green color was now a mottled grey.

"Oh yeah! It was for puttanesca sauce." I recalled. Only I call it 'nesca sauce because "puta" is a very bad word where I come from and we just don't say that. It comes close to the N-word in South Texas. So, my friend and I have taken to calling it 'nesca sauce.

I wish I'd remembered that I had a jar of green olives because I would have made 'nesca sauce more frequently. It has everything I like: green olives, capers, anchovies and hot red pepper.

So, the dead green olives went down the trash chute. So did the tube of anchovy paste. Lord only knows how long that's been hanging.

Hmmmm. What else needs to go?

Ooops! A forgotten container of fuzzy garbanzo beans. I didn't even want to open it. Container and all went down the chute.

The green curry from the Thai place that Miss Healthypants and I went to last week. Better not risk it.

There was a half a cabbage in the vegetable bin that was looking like a cheetah; yellow with black spots. Cabbages shouldn't resemble cheetahs. Bye.

Out goes a petrified lime. It had turned brown and hard as a rock. There was also a mummified finger of ginger. It goes too.

There was a container of ground whole oats in the freezer. (I knew I wouldn't eat that!)

Moving to the pantry . . . A half a bottle of single-malt Scotch was way on the top shelf. I can't stand the stuff. Why did I have that?

Oh yeah. That was for Steve and he's an asshole now. It almost went down the trash chute, underlining the fact that Steve is now an asshole, but I remembered that Iwanski likes the stuff. Iwanski is not an asshole so I saved it for him. It was his lucky day.

Whole wheat noodles. Again, what was I thinking? Trying to be healthy. Out! Out!

Clothes closet: Two old suits I haven't worn in six years. (Yeah, like those will fit). Three plaid shirts (I only wear solids now) three pairs of khaki trousers from a decade ago.

All stuffed down the trash chute.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know I should donate them to a clothing place but I don't know where one is and I'm not about to schlep these clothes all over downtown. Besides, used clothing places keep only about ten percent of what's donated to them. The rest goes to paper recycling. Or that's what I tell myself, thus justifying my laziness by tossing everything down the trash chute.

Besides, trash chutes are fun.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

I love my kitchen, too.

My apartment building, Marina Towers, was constructed in the early 60's and the interior decor truly reflects that goofy era.

When I was considering the move here, I looked at five different apartments in the building. Although mine sports some yellow metal cabinets in the kitchen, it's not as bad as some I've seen here.

One of them had orange metal cabinets, a pink dishwasher and an avocado fridge. If that wasn't bad enough, there was Astro-turf on the balcony.

It looked like an over-the-top parody of The Brady Bunch.

I love to cook and even though my little bitty yellow kitchen is a bit of a challenge because of the size, I've managed to make the most out of the space here. Thank god for The Container Store. That place doth rock my world.

I also selected this apartment for its view. It's on the 49th floor of the west tower and faces west. The night-time views are fantastic. It also has new marble floors which are kinda cool and no Astro-turf anywhere.

But there are the yellow metal cabinets in the kitchen. Like I said, I really do appreciate the kitsch factor.

I'm thinking of getting a Trimline wall phone for the kitchen. In aqua. With a rotary dial.

It's practically a must.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

I Love My Toilet

Yes, I love my toilet.

It's Saturday morning and I'm doing my house cleaning when I realized how much I love this thing.

He was installed in 1964 as you can see by the bright yellow color. (I've included pics here with and without the flash). I'm only five years older than this toilet, so he's holding up pretty well.

He doesn't go very well with the tiles which are sort of chocolate and aqua, but that's okay. I love the 1960's kitsch factor. A lot.

It goes well with my yellow rubber ducky that I've had for about 25 years.

For some reason, when this building was built, they installed these Super Toilets, you know, the ones that you see in commercial buildings. I think they're called hydro-pneumatic toilets; the ones that don't have a tank and rely on gravity.

Man, you could toss a ham down this puppy and it wouldn't bat an eye!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

My Little Farm -- Five Hundred Feet Up

I have this huge balcony with my little apartment on the 49th floor.
It has nothing on it.
I keep some folding canvas chairs in a closet if I need them, but so far I've yet to use them. It's either too windy or too cold to be out on the balcony. Or, my guests are afraid of heights and won't venture out there.
Anyway, I decided to try my hand at growing some crops. (No, not marijuana. I don't like marijuana). But I do like home-grown tomatoes and fresh basil, oregano, and mint.
I had two free hours left on my Zip Car, a 160 square-foot balcony facing west with nothing on it, so I talked Miss Healthypants into schlepping out to Home Depot with me to procure the necessary crops and retail farm equipment.
Let's see, Roma tomatoes, basil, oregano, mint, two big bags of potting soil, two big pots and tomato cages. That should do it.
I'm not very good at growing plants, mainly because I'm usually oblivious to my surroundings and, well, apparently plants require water. So, after I gathered up all the plants, I announced, "Let's get these home so I can KILL THEM."
So, here is my little farm in the middle of the city.
Whaddya think? Will it work?
I thought about just letting the tomato plants grow on the balcony railings but the balcony is 500 feet above the sidewalk below. That's a long way for an errant tomato to fall and strike someone. Although that would be humorous in a way that Attack of the Killer Tomatoes was funny, in actuality, it wouldn't be a good thing.
So, I bought tomato cages and will fasten them to the railing so they don't fly away.
After all, we can't have tomato cages flying all about downtown Chicago.
Now, if I can only remember that my little farm is out there so I can water it . . . .

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Wednesday's Whinings -- Salt and Pepper

Okay, I'm going to begin a new series here called "Wednesday's Whinings" where I get to complain about something that bugs me.

I try to keep all my posts upbeat and funny. I think life should be like that. Sure, there is affliction in life and lord knows I've experienced it. But when affliction isn't happening, you may as well be pleased.

That's not to say that things don't bug me. So, I've decided to allocate Wednesday posts to kvetching a bit.

Today's topic: Salt and Pepper.

I love to cook and I watch cooking shows. A lot. But it bugs the hell out of me that whenever a TV chefs adds salt, they always add pepper.


Those are completely two different seasonings, folks! I don't know why they always have to go in tandem.

If the TV chef is about to sear some scallops, sure sprinkle some salt on there. Scallops need salt. But why pepper? It's as if they're not really thinking about whether or not pepper will really properly enhance this food item -- it just goes with salt. And there they go, just festooning pepper, willy nilly, on everything that has salt.

I hate that.

Yes, I like pepper, but I only use it on things where I like pepper in-and-of itself, independent of salt. Like pasta, grits, or potatoes with butter. Those things are good with the musky, semi-acrid taste that only black pepper can impart.

Most of the time when I want something peppery, I'll go for freshly ground red pepper. I use that a lot more than black pepper. It's hot-yet-sweet and smokey too. (I buy the whole dried pepper pods, split them open, discard the seeds, grind the peppers and keep them in a container above the stove. Very tasty.)

So, the next time you're watching a cooking show and the cook adds salt-and-always-pepper, stop and think of how silly that really is.

And how much that bugs me.


Airline Tip -- This is so cool!

Last weekend, I was flying from Austin, Texas back to Chicago via Houston. As the plane taxied from the gate in Austin, the pilot stopped the plane and announced that we'd be sitting for a while due to weather conditions in Houston.

We sat there for only about fifteen minutes before taking off.
No big deal.

That got me to thinking about the recent Jet Blue flight where passengers were kept on the plane for eleven hours!

I cannot imagine how frustrating that would have been! I was on a crowded flight and had wedged my tall self between two other passengers.
Eleven hours of that? Hell on earth.

I've been stuck on planes before, but nowhere anything close to eleven hours.

Can you imagine being a parent with a baby on board? (And out of diapers? -- the mind reels)
Can you imagine having a case of diarrhea?
Or if you were a feeble, elderly person?
With diarrhea?
Can you imagine your poor grandma being held hostage like that?
Or if you were returning from Iraq and the person you were in love with was waiting for you?
And you had diarrhea?
I'm getting angry just thinking about that.

Here's a tip from a flight attendant that I read on MSNBC:

Simply call 911 and report a hostage situation. Seriously! Airline companies hate any negative news story.

Monday, May 07, 2007


December, 1966, San Antonio, Texas

Every Christmas season, Joske's department store in downtown San Antonio would transform the toy department into "Fantasyland."

And every year just before Christmas, my grandparents would take me (Buck) and my younger brother, Brad, for a weekend stay in San Antonio so that we could visit Joske's "Fantasyland."

Fantasyland was absolutely incredible.

You'd walk in and be greeted by a talking reindeer that would be sitting up on the roof of this gingerbread-type house. Then, you'd walk through where Santa's elves would be working and you'd get to ride a little train. I loved the train.

Then! You'd get to meet Santa, tell him what you wanted for Christmas, (that is, if you were a good little boy) and get your picture taken.

That year, I wanted an electric train and a Sno-Cone machine.

(Well, also an Easy-Bake Oven, but I figured one of my little girl friends wouldn't have a clue how to work it and I'd get to show her how.)

I was SO excited about getting to go to Fantasyland!

My grandmother "Budgie" and my grandfather picked us up for the 70-mile trip to San Antonio. We checked into the Crockett Hotel downtown and then walked over to Joske's. It was sheer heaven.

My grandfather deposited us in front of Joske's and went off to run some other errands. Budgie then took Brad and me up the escalators where the toy department was.

And there it was! The entrance to Fantasyland!

There was the talking reindeer, just like last year.

Only this time, the talking reindeer gave a pretty unusual greeting:

"Well, hello there, Buck! Hi there, Brad! It sure is good to see you boys. Welcome to Fantasyland!" announced the reindeer.

Oh! My! God! That reindeer knew our names!!!

I almost passed out. Brad and I just stood there with our little mouths hanging open. It was the absolute most incredible thing I'd ever experienced!

Well, it turns out that the errand my grandfather had to run, was to run up ahead of us and alert the young woman who operated the talking reindeer of our arrival and our names.

Is that a wonderful grandfather or what? He often did stuff like that.

I remember it like it was yesterday.

I must have been a good little boy that year. I got the electric train. And the Sno-Cone machine.

And it turns out that my little friend, Judy, was completely clueless with her Easy-Bake Oven.

Dumb girl. Ukh.

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Weekend Jaunt

I'm back from my weekend jaunt to Austin, Texas.

That was really fun, just to take off like that after work on Friday. My flight left Midway airport at 7:30 pm on Friday and I got back at 10:00 pm on Sunday, so I didn't even have to request any time off from work.

Tex-Mex food: My-goodness-gracious, those Texans have a mighty tasty cuisine all their own! I've yet to find any place in Chicago that can come close to it.

For example, one meal at Matt's El Rancho in Austin consisted of enchiladas filled with smoked chicken. And this wasn't subtley smoked chicken, no-siree. This was chicken with lots of carcinogens, let me tell you.

There were about five or six different sauces that the enchiladas could be topped with and the server said his favorite was either the chipotle sauce or the tomatillo sauce. Tough choice to make.

"Could you put a different one on each enchilada?" I asked.

No problem. Yay!

So tasty, it makes you wanna fall on the floor and just holler.

The flight was un-eventful. I had a fantastic book to read on the plane, The DaVinci Code. I hadn't read it yet so I saved it to have something tasty to read for this trip.

Holy Mother of God, that's a good book! I was about three-quarters of the way through it on the trip back and the flight attendant saw me reading it. She commented what a page-turner it was and I heartily agreed. I didn't want to put it down.

"Will you kindly ask the pilot to circle the airport until I'm finished?" said I.

It was a crowded, turbulent flight and I was in the back with a bazillion little kids squawking the whole way, but I didn't care. Having a good book to read on a long plane flight is just about the best thing ever.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Ten Things

Lorraine tagged me, so now I have to come up with ten things you don't know about me. Hmmmm. Okay, here goes.

1. I have a spot of "partial albinism" on me. Have you seen those people that have a lock of white hair on their head? That's partial albinism. I have a nickel-sized spot of it just below my right knee.

2. I was conceived on my parent's honeymoon night. Austin, Texas.

3. I once milked a horse. (It was a necessity, not for fun).

4. I've worn the same cologne for thirty years. Halston Z-14.

5. I've always had a fascination with telephones. I remember the first time I was able to make a direct-dial long distance call and my first overseas call. Loved it! I have a 1938 "Lucy Ricardo" phone on my desk that still works. Love telephones!

6. I broke my collar bone when I was two by falling head first into a trash can.

7. I never wear shorts even though I've got terrific looking legs. (Even with the partial albinism)

8. I hate putting away laundry. So much, that I keep only three colors of socks: White, black and navy ones. When the white ones begin to wear out, for example, I throw them all away and buy new ones. That makes the socks much easier to pair up and put away.

9. When I was eight, I wanted to be just like Will Robinson on Lost in Space. He was so cool and so smart.

10. I've never shoplifted anything. Ever. Not even a piece of candy when I was a kid. Wayyyy to scary.

Okay, now I get to tag someone.

JP and Iwanski.

You're it.

Thursday, May 03, 2007


Hey, look!

I just added a poll-thingie to my sidebar thingie.

I'm so surprised it worked. I can mess up a website with HTML pretty quickly.

Regarding Rosie O'Donnell leaving "The View," frankly, I don't think she's really appropriate for that program. While I wholly support her views, I think the spat with Donald Trump was a sad display of two adults acting like five-year-olds.

Frankly, I'd love to see Whoopi Goldberg slip in to fill the vacancy. She's funny, articulate, and can voice her political opinions with humor and a clever wit that I love so well.

While a lot of the gays like Kathy Griffin, I think she's pretty pathetic in that her entire schtick relies on the slamming of other celebs. What's worse is that when the tables are turned, she's the first one to bang on her high chair.

So? Who would you vote for? Take the poll and let's see how it goes. If you have any other ideas for polls, just let me know.

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

I ate a pig's ear last night

My friends and I went to our favorite restaurant, Lao Sze Chuan in Chinatown last night. The cuisine there is incredible and I cannot write enough superlatives about that place. If you're ever in Chicago, go there.
But be careful of the section on the menu called "Very Chinese Special." It features such yummy items as "Pork Stomach in Sour Pickle" and "Blood Cake in Hot and Soup Soup" (that's how it appears on their menu).
I've always been an adventurous eater. Even as a little kid, I enjoyed things out of the ordinary, like anchovies.
Once it got me in trouble, though. I was about ten years old and noticed that the stalks of elephant ear plants in our neighbor's flower garden smelled like bananas. So, naturally, I tried sampling one.
It turns out that elephant ear plants are, well, poisonous. My throat started burning and swelling shut. An emergency phone call to the doctor and I was forced with copious amounts of milk as a remedy.
So, I find the "Very Chinese Special" portion of Lao Sze Chuan's menu quite interesting. Last time, I ordered "Spicy Beef Maw" and we made the following proclamation:
"Hey! It's not that bad."
Last night, I ordered "Pig's Ear in Spicy Szechuan Sauce" and we made the following proclamation:
The pig's ear had, apparently, been sliced lengthwise, paper thin. (Click on the pic so you can see it in full detail) It resembled bacon, sort of, except it was ribboned with lines of gristly cartilage that turned out to be awfully crunchy.
Quite frankly, "crunchy" just shouldn't be an adjective when describing pork. Liane ate a couple of pieces. After a lot of persuading, Miss Healthypants started to try some until it crunched under her fork and she aborted the effort.
The fourth piece of it I ate was particularly crunchy and a server was summoned for its hasty removal.
I'm glad I tried it. At least it didn't require an emergency phone call to a physician.

Adult Escort Service Set Back on Its Heels by Immigrant Protest

Here is my article I wrote for last year:

LAS VEGAS - Yesterday's Immigrant Day protests did more than disrupt the food service and landscaping industries on which millions of Americans have come to depend. When thousands of undocumented prostitutes took the day off to march in rallies across the United States, American "escorts" were forced "to do the jobs no one else wanted" in order to keep the industry afloat."

Damn! Those immigrant chicks can really get after it!" reported Susan "Cinnamon" Weinberg, a long-time escort in Las Vegas.

"I never worked so hard in my life as I did when they took yesterday off to march in their parade. And you wouldn't believe the [expletive] trolls I had to put up with."

Cinnamon drew on a cigarette and exhaled, "And what's with the [expletive] donkey, anyway? I don't ever want to see those girls get shipped back! No [expletive] way."

Shannon Sharone, an exotic dancer at The Thirsty Beaver in San Antonio, Texas, concurred:

"Man, yesterday was hell. After I finished my pole dancing shift, I had to fill in doing lap dances. The tips really sucked. I don't think I could stay in this business if those girls got deported and I had to go back to doing lap dances."

Cody Buck, who is listed on, an online male escort service, noted a huge increase in bookings during Immigrant Day."

You wouldn't believe the stuff these guys were expecting me to do," said Buck. "And for half the price! Most of the time I didn't even know what they were talking about. What the hell is a 'burro grande' anyway?"

Buck thought for a moment, then continued. "At first I didn't care one way or the other about amnesty, but after yesterday, I realized there's no way I could survive in this business without the immigrants doing the low-paying dirty work."

Elsewhere, President Bush has proposed that next year's Cinco de Mayo celebrations be renamed "The Fifth of May" in retaliation for the national anthem being recently performed in Spanish.


Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The Secret to Happiness

The secret to happiness, I suppose, is to always find a way to be of some use.


Workin' it

As you may recall, I joined a gym about three weeks ago.

New here's the weird part:

I've actually been going there! (Guinness and Ripley, take note).

Well, at first, I didn't until Miss Healthypants said she'd go with me my first time. She's the first person in Chicago to ever see me in a pair of shorts. (She should feel honored).

I was excited that MHP was going with me to the gym the first time because I thought she'd be able to show me how to work all the machines.

As it turns out, she'd never set foot in a gym before so it was the blind leading the blind. We were both befuddled with everything. Our major triumph was figuring out how to turn on the TV on the treadmill. (And turn it off).

Oh my god! They've got some scary looking weight machines in that place! There are these big, black, steel monstrosities that look like Sigourney Weaver should be battling with them on a space ship or something. Some of them frighten me and I won't go near them yet.

I don't like it when the guys (and some women) attack the big punching bags. That just seems so unnecessary. There's enough violence in this country; I don't need to be around it while on the stair-climbing thing.

But I've been going to the gym. I even got up at 6:00 am this morning and worked out before work. And I am definitely not a morning person.

I much prefer getting up at the crack of noon.

I'm realistic. I know I won't end up looking like a bodybuilder or even an athlete for that matter. If I can just halt the increasing resemblence to Hank Hill, I'll have achieved my goals.