Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Playing with myself

I know Lorraine and I have both written about playing countless games of Speed Scrabble. I've blamed her for getting me addicted to it.

Here are the rules to Speed Scrabble. Note the part that says, "the game is addictive and sessions of many hours are not unusual!"


That fact is confirmed on a website.
We weren't just being a couple of lame snurds.

(Okay, "snurd" is now a legitimate word one can use)

Oh, and it also says that playing with fewer than four players simply does not work. That is SO not true.

I have to admit that when Lorraine wasn't around to play, I would play with myself. But she would usually catch me doing that, pour a cup of coffee, and join in.

It's that addictive.

If you ever hear of SSA meetings (Speed Scrabblers Anonymous), I will have probably been the founder.

I have to go to a conference next week. I'm definitely taking along a Scabble set so I can play with myself in my hotel room.

I think I might be going blind.


Bao, Wow!

Another thing Lorraine turned me on to is “bao” which are Chinese steamed buns.

I had always thought that they were just plain lumps of steamed dough and had always passed them up.

Boy, was I wrong.

It turns out that they have all sorts of savory, tasty fillings. The one I had in Seattle was filled with curried beef. That along with the slightly sweet glaze on top totally rocked my world.

And look what just opened up only one block from my apartment. A bao place called Wow Bao. Isn’t that just the cutest name you’ve ever heard?

I am SO stopping there on my way home from work tonight.


Trump Tower Update

This thing still has about thirty stories to go.


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Leaving Seattle

Okay, one more post about Seattle then I'll shut up.

Lorraine took me to the airport, we said our good-byes, hugging really hard.

Then, I went to check in. I noticed that I was placed in a middle seat toward the back of the airplane which is just about the worst place one could be for a lengthy flight.


So, I checked in and settled down with a book. There was about an hour before my flight so I decided to get one last cup of really good coffee. It's Seattle, you know.
When in Rome, and all that. . .

I bought a small latte. And it was the absolute worst cup of coffee I've ever had. It was as though they'd melted a brown crayon in hot water. And topped it with a melted white crayon.

It went down the sink in the men's room.


Then, soon before the flight took off, I asked the attendant if there were any aisle or window seats.

Bingo. An aisle seat near the front.

It was a good thing I didn't have any coffee because I slept most of the way back.

About an hour outside of Chicago, we hit some turbulence which woke me up. After things settled down, I heard the little kid behind me ask his mom:

"Was that 'extreme' turbulence?"

"Yes, honey, it was."

I really wanted to turn around and tell him that it was in no way "extreme" turbulence.

That kid's in for a rude awakening if he ever flies to Texas during a thunderstorm.

I called Lorraine, Miss Healthypants, and my mom once we landed.

I'm also buying a Scrabble set on my way home from work today. Lorraine's got me addicted to Speed Scrabble.

Miss Healthypants and I are going out to dinner tomorrow. I'm going to beat the pants off Miss Healthypants at Speed Scrabble.

Really cool buses

I was fascinated by the buses in Seattle, almost all of which are powered by overhead electric wires. Subsequently, they're very quiet and environmentally friendly.

It also makes it impossible for a bus driver to hijack a bus. (I hate it when that happens here in Chicago)

Another thing that surprised me about Seattle is how hilly it is. Up and down, up and down. Everywhere.

And another thing. We've often heard that it rains all the time in Seattle. I didn't see one single raindrop the entire time I was there. Not one.

I just love these buses.



I wish I could convey what wonderful friends Lorraine has.

Lorraine took me to a friend’s big birthday party on Friday night where I got to meet LOTS of her friends. And there was also someone from Blogopia: Seattle Coffee Girl! She was there with her husband and baby boy. It’s always so fun to meet others from Blogopia.

By the way, Seattle Coffee Girl’s baby is just about the cutest thing ever.

I met The Neighbor within minutes of my arrival and she joined us for Thanksgiving dinner. What a wonderful person to be around! She had made a mince pie for the two of us.

What can I say about The Neighbor?

Smiles and graciousness seem to flow from her effortlessly. I’m so glad I got to spend lots of time with her. She and Lorraine are so lucky to have each other as neighbors.

Everyone should be so lucky.

Now, I’m home. Here is my suitcase, lying, oh so forlorn on the floor where it’ll probably remain for a few days.

So sad . . .

The Meal

I’m back at work and it’s time for lunch. Normally, I look forward to lunch because we have a fantastic food court here where I can get all sorts of tasty things to eat.

However, I don’t think I can ever eat again.

When with Lorraine, we eat and eat and eat. Not just for the sake of eating, but because we enjoy good food. Really good food. And believe me, she and The Spouse can turn out some incredible meals.

I just have to tell you all about the meal that Lorraine and The Spouse treated me to. It was a traditional Pacific Northwest meal and I doubt any meal could have been more wonderfuller.

Here is a big salmon that a friend of theirs caught and gave to them. (The Spouse had already cut it's head off).

While the spouse was decapitating the salmon, Lorraine, The Child, and I were at the famous Pike Place Market which is, like, seafood nirvana.

Here is a display of fresh mussels, clams, and oysters in bins, cascading with sea water. I scored two dozen big, plump, juicy oysters for a ridiculously low price. And here is a very large, cute dog with a puppy that was outside the market. It has nothing to do with the meal. It was just a cute dog.
The Spouse and I shucked the oysters which we all enjoyed as an appetizer. Lorraine broke out a bottle of Prosecco to accompany them. The Spouse, The Neighbor and I polished off two dozen oysters. Sheer heaven.
Then, here’s The Meal:

The Neighbor made an incredible salad of mixed greens, roasted pears, pomegranates, bleu cheese, roasted hazelnuts with a pomegranate vinaigrette. Wow.

The Spouse baked the salmon in white wine and served it with a hollandaise sauce. Lorraine served tortellini in a cream sauce, topped with salmon roe (caviar). She also made roasted yellow beets in a balsamic reduction, broccolini, and chanterelles sautéed in butter and garlic.
Can you believe this meal?

Oh, and here is Lorraine at the table, looking coy and demure:

I want to get on a plane right now and head back.


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What a coincidence.
Turns out that The Spouse and I wear the same exact style of Rockport shoes.

I had to get a picture of it.


Monday, November 26, 2007

Back to Chicago

It's been an incredible trip to Seattle. Lorraine and The Family have been incredibly fun to be with. We've laughed. I've wept a couple of times. (The oysters accompanied with Prosecco and then the Christ the King mass at the cathedral made me verklempt. I'm such a puss.)

Lorraine's friends have become my friends. They're wonderful people which is certainly no surprise. I adore The Neighbor. They're so lucky to have each other as neighbors.

The Neighbor took The Child and I ice skating yesterday after church. BTW - The Neighbor sings in the choir at the Cathedral. It's truly glorious. They even sang the "Hallelujah" from Handel's Messiah yesterday. With a full orchestra. Unbelievable.

At the ice rink, they have these cute little helper-devices for the little-bitty kids to hang on to. I've never seen those before, but it sure enables the little ones to scoot around and have fun too.

Oh, and here is the obligatory photo taken by any tourist in Seattle:

I'll post some more when I get home, especially about the meal that Lorraine and The Spouse made the other night. But before I go to the airport, Lorraine and I have to play one more game of Speed Scrabble. She's gotten me addicted to it. Totally.

Here's a pic of my winning arrangement last night. At least, I thought I'd won until I found out I'd been cheating all this time. Notice in the upper left, I've got "box" and "pox." Well, I'd counted the "x" as a quadruple score because it also incorporates the word "ox" twice.

That's four words, right? Apparently not.

We're still having a laugh over my cheating abilities.


Saturday, November 24, 2007

Seattley Stuff

Okay. Today, Lorraine was such a sweetheart and took me on THE quintessential Seattle tour.

We had coffee at the original Starbucks. For me, that's like completing a pilgrimage to Mecca.
Then, while at Pike Place Market, I was agog over the fact that fresh, live oysters were only five bucks a dozen. I bought two dozen.
Here we are with the city at our feet.

Lorraine and The Spouse procured a huge salmon. Hollandaise sauce and chanterelles will join it.

And tonight, The Neighbor is joining us for dinner. I literally got tears in my eyes when Lorraine mentioned that she has Prosecco (Italian champagne) to go with the oysters on the half shell.

Tomorrow after mass, The Child and I will go ice skating and will also be riding the roller coaster by the Space Needle.

It doesn't get more Seattley than that.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

I'm in Seattle!

Can you believe this? I'm writing this blog on Lorraine's computer in Lorraine's computer space in Lorraine's kitchen. I'm actually here.

I helped Lorraine make the side dishes for the Thanksgiving dinner. Cooking with Lorraine in her kitchen is just a slice of heaven. The Spouse is now bustling about the kitchen because he's in charge of making "everything that gravy goes on."

The Dog is at my side.

The Child is emptying the dishwasher.

My flight left on time from Chicago amidst a few snow flurries. I had to get up at 4:30 a.m. which is actually 2:30 a.m. here in Seattle. I arrived here at 10:00 a.m. (Seattle time). I'm feeling a bit a jet-lag after the four hour flight.

Lorraine and I just got back from visiting with The Neighbor who will be joining us for dinner later. (She's making a mincemeat pie for the two of us.)

The pilot mentioned something about a very northerly jet stream which he seemed awfully exciting about taking. Subsequently, we arrived 25 minutes early and from the north. As we were flying over the mountains, I noticed this one BIG mountain and I thought, "That must be Mount Ranier. Lorraine lives behind that mountain."

And soon, we were descending into Seattle. I really didn't know there were so many mountains close by. Needless to say, it's a very unique and beautiful city.

As we were descending, we passed over a misty forest where, I swear, I saw Bigfoot peering up at my airplane. It is the Pacific Northwest, after all.

I'll be posting some pics of us all very soon. In the meantime, all I have now are pics I took from the airplane window, just like a silly tourist.

It's wonderful to be here. Bigfoot and all.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A Thanksgiving Message

I used to work for a large social-service agency in Chicago that also operated a homeless shelter. And every year about this time, we'd get hundreds of calls to the volunteer center from do-gooders wanting to serve Thanksgiving dinner to the residents in the shelter.

We got so many calls on the day before Thanksgiving that several of us had to drop what we were doing just to answer calls in the volunteer center.

I remember one woman wanted to help and when I told her that she could help stock groceries in the pantry, she got upset. She wanted to work with the homeless, serving them food and smiling at them. Other people wanted to bring their children to "help those less fortunate."

I really wanted to tell them all that the residents weren't in a zoo to be on display for their edification.

Every year at Thanksgiving and Christmas, it was the same. We would just be inundated with help. The parking lot would be filled to capacity with SUVs. It was a huge pain in the butt, let me tell you.

Here's a message: If you want to help the homeless shelters at Thanksgiving, stay home! Especially all you presidential candidates.

If you really want to help, then volunteer in February when it's 20 below zero and help unload the produce truck at six in the morning.

Otherwise, stay home and enjoy the football game on your big-screen TV.

. . . I'll return now to my usual postings of humor and frivolity.

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Thanksgiving Traditions

You know how I love to talk about food. And ‘tis the season for it.

Thanksgiving traditions are always interesting, especially where food is involved.

My brother makes, hands down, the best turkey you’ve ever eaten. Really. No lie. He and his family live in San Antonio and we’ve had Thanksgiving dinner there the past couple of years. He does a fried turkey, but first injects it with yum-yum juice. (Actually, it’s melted butter pureed with pickled jalapenos and garlic juice.)

That, my friends, is one good turkey. Leftovers? No way. It’s all snarfed down; fingers are licked.

My paternal grandmother made a super-tasty cornbread stuffing that contained ground sausage and jalapenos. Wonderful stuff. My dad and I still make it to this day.

I make Brussels sprouts with bacon and chestnuts that Brussels sprout haters have enjoyed.

We always had macaroni and cheese at our holiday dinners. Once, I made it from scratch, but my family didn’t like it as much as the easy Velveeta cheese concoction. Tradition doesn't die easily.

My cousin, Joanna, doesn’t eat vegetables. At all. Zilch. Except for Del Monte green beans. Subsequently, Del Monte green beans have been on the table for three decades running.

My uncle and I have always loved mince pie. Of course, no one likes mince pie. But each year, I’d always have one just for him and me. It always made him happy.

This year, I’ll be enjoying none of those things. I’m going to be making new memories with dear, sweet Lorraine and her friends and family.

After all, every tradition has a beginning . . .

Thanksgiving at O'Hare

Two inches of snow and 30 mph winds are predicted for Chicago tomorrow morning, just as I'll be (hopefully) leaving for Seattle.

This Onion News story was just too good to pass up.

Really. It's hilarious.

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A "ta-daahh" moment

Well, dear puppies, I’m going to take this opportunity to pat myself on the back here for a little bit.

First, I have to give many, many thanks to Lorraine for letting me know of a writing opportunity for a monthly magazine here in Chicago.

They were seeking writers to write about unique, Chicago-y things. I submitted an article, they liked my stuff and my first article is going to be published in the January issue. And I get a hundred bucks.

I am feeling SO "Carrie Bradshaw" at the moment.

My article was the “inside scoop” on living in Marina City, the apartment building where I live.

I also have to give credit to JP for coming up with the hilarious term “The Balcony of Terror” because I used it without asking him first. I hope he doesn’t sue me.

Okay, I have to go to a photo shoot now.
They’re putting my picture on the side of a CTA bus.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007


It’s hard to believe that I’ll be jetting off to see Lorraine in Seattle on Thursday. (And The Child, The Spouse, The Neighbor, and The Dog).

I've never been to Seattle before. As a matter of fact, I've never even been to the West Coast at all. It'll be an adventure.

And, of course, snow is predicted for Wednesday night and Thursday. Naturally. The last thing I want or need is to have a flight delayed or cancelled at O’Hare on Thanksgiving Day.

I’ve been snowed in at O’Hare before. Once for eleven hours. I was flying from Dallas to Buffalo and, after circling O’Hare in a snowstorm, we finally landed. Unfortunately, the airplane that was supposed to take me to Buffalo had no problem taking off on time without me.

After watching subsequent flights to Buffalo get cancelled or delayed for six hours, I asked the attendant for a status report. She chirped, “Oh, the aircraft that is scheduled to take you to Buffalo is waiting to take off for Chicago.”

“From where is it waiting to take off?” I queried, sweetly.

She checked her computer. “Ummm. Let’s see. . . . Seattle!”

In situations like this, it’s important to plan ahead in order to make things as stress-free as possible. And by “planning ahead” I mean “remembering to bring Valium.”

Seriously, though, it’s a long flight (four and a half hours) and there might be delays. Little kids aren’t the only ones who need to be entertained for that length of time.

I’ll need to ensure that my cell phone, iPod, and laptop are all fully charged. If I’m delayed, I’m sure you all will anxiously be awaiting for updates from O’Hare and I need to be able to do that. New music on the iPod will help as well as having a Really Good Book to read. (In this case, I just got a copy of Nigella Lawson’s “How to Eat.”)

I’m certainly not going to be checking any baggage. The last thing I need is to worry about is the whereabouts of my underpants. (On the Buffalo trip, I was separated from my underpants for an entire weekend).

I’m also going to splurge and take a taxi to O’Hare rather than public transport. My flight is scheduled to leave at 7:40 a.m. and I need to get there extra early. I had selected an aisle seat near the front when I made my reservations online. I purposely selected a seat near the front (it’s quieter up there) and chose an aisle seat. (Long legs; will need to tinkle during the long flight).

Now, Orbitz doesn’t have me indicated on ANY seat and it won’t let me select one. And that means one thing: The flight is overbooked. So I need to get there extra early if I want a halfway decent seat. I’m not going to wait for public transport.

Maybe I should just splurge and pay extra for a seat near the emergency exit. You know, the one with all the extra leg room. You used to be able to select those seats until the airlines realized they could charge extra for them.

I also like to be near the emergency exit in case the plane hurtles to the ground at 475 mph and crashes. Then, I can be the first one to leap to safety.
Women-and-children-first? What is this? The Titanic?
They’re on their own.

If all goes according to plan, I’ll be in Seattle shortly after 10:00 am and gleefully in the bosom of Lorraine’s family and friends for Thanksgiving dinner.

Trust me. That’s a lot to be thankful for.

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Monday, November 19, 2007

W W J D?

According the Christian Post, the pastor of a large church in Kentucky has asked the church’s 8,000 members to send letters of love and support to Britney Spears.

Isn’t that just the loveliest thing you’ve ever heard? Thousands of children are starving every day, but these folks expend their energy by writing to Britney Spears.

"I believe they are doing exactly what Jesus would do," said Tammy Harlan, a Louisiana resident. "I wish more churches would reach out."

Sure honey, that’s right. We have not one single, written word from Jesus Christ himself. He was spending his time and energy writing to wayward pop stars in Jerusalem.

Mary: "Son, I wish you would write to Mark. He hasn't heard about that lovely sermon you gave on the mount. Or was it a plain? Whatever."

Jesus: "Not now, mom. I'm writing to Salwa."

Mary: "Who's Salwa?"

Jesus: "Geez, Mom. She's that famous singer who got busted riding that donkey after drinking too much wine. You know, during that wedding you and I went to. The one in Cana. Don't you know anything?"

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Friday, November 16, 2007

The Sperm Song

I love calling my friend, Jack, because every time he answers, he's laughing hysterically.

Here's why:

Twenty years ago, Jack and I watched the Monty Python film, "The Meaning of Life."

In the opening segment, there's a satirical depiction of a Roman Catholic mother who, obviously, has no means of birth control. Her drawers fall to the floor while she's washing dishes, her water breaks between her feet, a baby plops down, and she says, "Oh, Diedre, would you pick it up, please?"

The father of the family has about a hundred children around him as he breaks out into song, extolling the virtues of Roman Catholic reproduction.
Here's a video of the scene

Every sperm is sacred.
Every sperm is great.
If a sperm is wasted,
God gets quite irate.

Let the heathen spill theirs
On the dusty ground.
God shall make them pay for
Each sperm that can't be found.

Every sperm is wanted.
Every sperm is good.
Every sperm is needed
In your neighbourhood.

Hindu, Taoist, Mormon,
Spill theirs just anywhere,
But God loves those who treat their
Semen with more care.

The reason Jack finds this so funny is this:

We saw this film together twenty years ago. It was hilarious because he was a minister in one large church in Dallas and I was an organist at another large church in Dallas. Then, one Sunday, Jack attended the large church in Dallas where I was an organist.

It was our little secret. The priest at this church was an absolute, narcissistic, militant asshole and we hated him. So, I suggested that Jack might like to be present at this particular Mass . . . .And I played "The Sperm Song" during communion.

Because my friend, Rev. Jack, was in the audience, I disguised the melody to Monty Python's "The Sperm Song" during the communion meditation music at this HUGE church in Dallas.

Rev. Jack was there among the congregants, and having a very good laugh. He cast a knowing look to me during Communion while I played "The Sperm Song" on this organ, disguised as a churchy-Bach-type-meditative thing.

Twenty years later: Jack has an iPhone which enables him to download ring-tones of just-about-anything. He's downloaded the soundtrack to "The Sperm Song" from Monty Python's "The Meaning of Life."

"The Sperm Song" is now my ring-tone on his iPhone.

We've spoken to each other just about every day for the past twenty years. Lots of familiarity; lots of water under the bridge. . .

. . . But now, whenever he he answers my calls, there's lots of hilarity on the other end. My ring-tone is a full chorus of:

"Every sperm is sacred
Every sperm is good
Every sperm is needed
In your neighbourhood. . ."

I love that.

Having been in the ministry and friends for twenty years, "The Sperm Song" as my ring-tone on his iPhone is, indeed, cause for unalloyed laughter with every connection.

Isn't that what good friends are for?

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

I need a geek

A couple of weeks ago, I purchased an interface device which will allow my digital piano and laptop to talk to each other.

You see, I have visions of making blockbuster music that people will snarf up on iTunes and I’ll make buckets of money and never have to “network” with business people ever again.

But first, I needed my laptop and digital piano to talk to each other.

So, I go to my friendly neighborhood interface-device type music store to buy this thing. There was lots of loud music playing and about eight hundred electric guitars hanging on the walls. I was directed to a glass-enclosed software place in the back where a salesperson named “Trance” helped me. (I swear, that was his name). Trance.

My first question was: “How do I get the laptop to recognize the interface?”
Trance said, confidently, “Oh, it will. Just load the software.”

And, of course, it didn’t.

So, I called Trance at the store who said to call the help-line. He said the help-line was really good and could sort everything out.

After waiting 40 minutes “for the next available representative” I got someone. And you know what? He was really good!

After taking down my phone number in case we got disconnected (thank you!) this guy stuck with me for over an hour. He had me pulling up windows I never knew existed and performing functions that boggled my mind. He was awfully patient with me.

HIM: “Okay, now I want you to open up your accessories.”

ME: “The ones in my back-pack?”

"No. On your laptop."

"Where's that?"

“Umm. Click on the ‘Start’ menu.

“Where’s that?”

“It’s the green icon in the bottom-left of your screen.”

“What’s an icon?”

Okay, it wasn’t that bad, but you get the idea. It turned out that we had to manually load something in a driver which involved me entering “%temp%” in a very obscure box.

But we got it done. I wanted a cigarette afterward.

THEN, I had to learn the software which will enable me to make music that everyone will want to buy on iTunes. It had been about ten years since I’d used any software like this. Believe me, things have changed in ten years.

So, I started in on the tutorials.

Click here to see some of the screens on the software:

Isn’t that impressive? I want to use that screen that has the squiggly line on it.

Last night, I got my laptop to play a note through my piano. I felt like I’d landed a man on the moon.

I wanted to publish that one note on iTunes, but I doubt there’s much of a market for that.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Yet another trip

Okay, I’m going to talk about traveling again.

When I return from Seattle, I have to attend a 3-day conference in Effingham, Illinois.

“Where the hell is Effingham?” you say.

It’s about three hours south of Chicago.
Like everything else in Illinois.

But after last week’s thousand-mile tour of Illinois, I’m not going to drive this time. I just saw that Amtrak goes from Chicago to Effingham for $49.00 round trip.

I am SO not driving.

I will have a nice cab driver take me to Union Station (just a few blocks away) where I will board a nice, comfortable train. (Trains have lots more legroom than airplanes).
Then, I can sit back for the ride, read a book, play on my wireless laptop, procure coffee from the dining car, and not have to worry about driving anywhere.

Then, I can beckon one of the staff members to pick me up at the train station in Effingham. More than likely, I’ll just call a cab to the hotel and not have to actually interact with anyone.

I really love taking the train.

There is no assigned seating, so if there’s a screaming baby, you just move. As opposed to taking narcotics.

Plus, it’s Amtrak, so it's not like there’ll actually be anyone ON the train. Sometimes, you can practically have an entire car to yourself.

Security measures? Bah! You get out of a cab and get on the train. That’s it.

Unlike the airplane, one can operate huge array of electronic devices during the entire ride.

There’s never any turbulence, landings or takeoffs.

There are lots of bathrooms and they use Ozium air sanitizer. That stuff will quell the smell of a decaying weasel, if need be. (Ozium always reminds me of the train and I like that)

I am so glad the train goes to Effingham. I'll be able to blog the entire time.

Aren't you excited?


It was bound to happen. . .

Well, it was bound to happen, just like the Christian right-wingers said it would. How many times have I heard them say, "Once same-sex marriage is allowed, what's next? Marrying a dog?"

Well, they were right! A man in India just married a dog in a religious ceremony.

Check it out:

NEW DELHI - A man in southern India married a female dog in a traditional Hindu ceremony as an attempt to atone for stoning two other dogs to death — an act he believes cursed him — a newspaper reported Tuesday.

P. Selvakumar married the sari-draped former stray named Selvi, chosen by family members and then bathed and clothed for the ceremony Sunday at a Hindu temple in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, the Hindustan Times newspaper said.

Selvakumar, 33, told the paper he had been suffering since he stoned two dogs to death and hung their bodies from a tree 15 years ago.

"After that my legs and hands got paralyzed and I lost hearing in one ear," he said in the report.

The paper said an astrologer had told Selvakumar the wedding was the only way he could cure the maladies. It did not say whether his situation had improved.

Deeply superstitious people in rural India sometimes organize weddings to dogs and other animals, believing it can ward off certain curses.

The paper showed a picture of Selvakumar sitting next to the dog, which was wearing an orange sari and a flower garland.

The paper said the groom and his family then had a feast, while the dog got a bun.

I can just hear it now:

"Man, his wife's a dog."

"Well, yeah."

Well, I’m sure Pat Robertson will be pleased that this fellow married a female dog. After all, same-sex marriage between humans and animals would just be crossing the line.

I don't care. I think the dog is pretty.

The article didn't mention where they went for the honeymoon.

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Monday, November 12, 2007


It seems like I'll I've been doing is talking about traveling lately.

But, in just ten days, I’ll be flying away to Seattle to spend the Thanksgiving holidays with Lorraine and family.

I’m all a-quiver with excitement and anticipation. Having spent a week with them during July, I miss them, and it’ll be so good to see them again.

Plus, on this trip, I’ll get to meet their friends which, no doubt, will be wonderful people with whom to hang. I'm particularly looking forward to spending some time with The Neighbor.

One drawback: I’ll be flying out of O’Hare at 7:40 in the morning on Thanksgiving Day.

I tried to go online and select a nice seat for the long flight, i.e. in the emergency row or at least an aisle seat close to the front. However, the Nasty System wouldn’t let me. It said that seating will be assigned at the time of check-in. That means that, unless I get there umpteen hours early, I’m going to be stuck between two disgusting people and in last row against the toilet.

I’d better get there early. And bring narcotics to make the flight bearable. It’s a long way from Chicago to Seattle.
Just look on the map.
You’ll see.

Time to be a kid again. . .

When I was a little kid, a portable roller-rink came to my little-bitty home town each summer and, to me, that was just about the most exciting thing in the whole wide world.

I still remember the name: Henke Roller Rink.

It was basically a wooden surface underneath a big canvas tent with open sides. It was always erected just a few blocks from our house, and I would just about be beside myself during those few days while it was being constructed.

Waiting . . .
Waiting . . .

Then! I’d notice some skaters underneath the tent, signaling that it was open and ready to use. My dad or mom would give me a quarter for the skate-rental and a nickel for a bottle of pop and off I’d go. (That was back in the days when little kids could venture a few blocks from their house, unaccompanied).

I’d skate just as fast as I could, feeling the wooden surface rattling under my wheels. I was a little bat-outta-hell on wheels.

Then, after getting all sweaty, I’d take a break and buy a Grape Nehi from the ice-bin behind the counter. Believe me, soda-pop never tasted so good as at the skating rink, underneath the canvas tent on a hot summer day.

They played music on a record player over a tinny loudspeaker. I think the only song they had was “On the Bayou.”

Saturday or Sunday mornings were the best times to skate. I’d practically have the place to myself. Saturday nights were the worst because it would be packed with rowdy high school kids.

Now, I’m excited again, because in two days, the ice rink opens at Millennium Park. I just dashed to my boss’s office window which looks down on the rink and there’s ice on the rink! And Zamboni tracks!

Waiting. . .
Waiting. . .

Things have changed a bit though. I much prefer ice skating because I don’t like the heat. Skate rentals are $9.00 instead of a quarter. (I have my own skates though, so it’s free, thank you very much).

Instead of Grape-Nehi for a nickel, it’s a Starbuck’s latte or cocoa for $3.50.

Instead of music coming out of a tinny speaker, I have my iPod that plays a combination of 70’s disco and Baroque adagios.

But some things never change. I still like having the place to myself on a Saturday morning and avoid the place on Saturday nights. Those high-school kids are still way too rowdy.

It’s good to be a kid again.

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Saturday, November 10, 2007

Friday Night: Stephen Lynch

I've been a huge fan of Stephen Lynch for the past six years.
And I got to see him tonight for the first time.

I've performed several of his works, repeatedly, at various clubs here in Chicago, with and without success.

Stephen Lynch is, foremost, a musician;
Secondly, a comedian.

I "know" Stephen Lynch!

First of all, he sings his pieces in an awfully high, piercing tenor voice. It's this sweet, high, folk-song voice that I'd love to be able to replicate.
I can do a pretty good "Stephen Lynch" imitation, but only on a third lower.

I'm a "closet" tenor, so I've always performed his pieces adjusted to lower keys.
For example, his "Lullaby" which written in D major, I performed in B or B-flat major:

"Because Daddy likes poker and drinks lots of beer
Then he wants sex that involves Mommy's rear
Daddy has sores on his naughty-parts oozing with pus;
I think that's why your Mommy left us . . . "

Anyway, I'd bought tickets to see Mr. Lynch two months ago. I couldn't think of attending a Stephen Lynch performance with other than my friend, Marilyn.

Marilyn and I have know each other for six years now.
We first met when we were both employed at United Way here in Chicago.

Here' s nifty pic of us waiting on line last night.

We got on line early and got third-row-center seats, bay-bee!

It had been, like, sixteen years since I had been to a live performance.

Anyway, when Stephen Lynch came out to do his first monologue, I whipped out my cell phone and hit my BFFs number so that she could hear it.


I really didn't know that you weren't supposed to do that. Like I said, it had really been a couple of decades since I'd been to a live concert. . . .

. . . A big muscular and imposing bouncer/security guard sitting at the front of the stage flashed a spotlight on me and glared at me. Like I said, I'd obtained seats right up against the stage. I was completely busted. I switched off my phone and quickly tucked it away.

I'm forty-eight years old and got busted by a security guard at a concert on the third row!!!

Yes, he did do his jaw-dropping, abortion, anal-sex folk songs that included Clinton, Obama, and Bush, that I love so well. There was a lyrical piece about vaginal plastic surgery that tied into a thing about Republicans that made us hoot-and-holler.

Stephen Lynch was extremely entertaining. While I was hoping for, and even expected his familiar tunes to be presented, Lynch, instead, launched into an incredibly rapid, harmonic and comedic diatribe with two other musical partners. While the trios' performance was entertaining and stimulating, it wasn't what I was expecting.

Maybe I was just exhausted from the work-week.
I'd like to think I was way too familiar with his previous work to really be impressed by his performance.

Perhaps I'm just getting old. . .

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Final Destination: Rockford; I Love City Mouse.

I've had to travel all around Illinois this past week in order to visit each of the staff members that I supervise. (OOooo. That sounds SO important. . . it's not. . . . Well, maybe it is; . . . but it's not)

Today, I drove 90 miles to Rockford-and-back which brought my weekly mileage total to . . . . (fanfare, please . . .ta-ta-ta-da-daahhh)
1,005 miles!


This boy did drive over one thousand miles this past week; six destinations with four hotels.

I once told my dad that I had a secret desire to become a truck driver. I even took a preliminary exam with Schneider and got accepted into their truck-driving program.

He still teases me about that to this very day, and I'll readily admit, that my career-change into truck-driving would not have been a prudent career move.

I'll also admit that my imprudent (i.e. "stupid") application to Schneider's truck-driving scholarship program took place less than a year ago.
But I was accepted!

However, my dad should know that my boss was duly impressed with the fact that I was able to effectively employ a company vehicle, on-time, on-schedule and under-budget; most of which was across one-thousand miles of Illinois rural territory.

I did manage to drive over a thousand miles in less than a week (some of which occurred between Peoria and Quincy) and spent over fifty hours driving overtime; three of which were lost in the Greater St. Louis Area, but still. . . .

But the highlight today was driving out to our Rockford site because it's only a ninety-minute drive Northwest of Chicago and (most of all) that's where City-Mouse lives.

City-Mouse and I had planned a lunch-meeting the moment I had planned my trip to supervise the Rockford site. (tee-hee!)

The Mouse called me on my cell phone just as I was finishing up my Very Important Meeting there in Rockford (where The Mouse lives).

We met for lunch.

I couldn't think of anywhere else to meet but the Denny's which was just three blocks from the Very Important Meeting from where I'd just been.

City-Mouse and I had met twice before during Lorraine's visit last July. We knew we really liked each other. .

Really folks . . . For me, City-Mouse is one of the most genuine, appealing, friendliest, and amazing persons I've ever met.
And being such an introvert, well, . . you know. . . .

Hmmm. . .
I can't wait to see her again and I know she feels the same way about me.
Isn't that the way it should be between a man and woman?

During our conversation, we realized that the commuter train-stop is within walking distance from her house.

Oh. My. God!

Everyone, without question, should have someone like City Mouse nearby. . . .

You have no idea of the value. . . .

Here's the pic I took at Denny's today:

Thursday, November 08, 2007

I love my Zip Car

I love this:

The cost of using a Zip Car for my trip around Illinois came to $371.64.

My mileage reimbursement for the 797 miles comes to $386.54.

I came out $14.90 ahead.

That sure beats having to own a vehicle in downtown Chicago (which I would never use) and paying $250.00 a month to park it.

Plus, I don’t have to maintain a car (which I seldom ever did anyway) and Zip Car always keeps new cars on hand and available. My Toyota Scion still had dealer plates on it.

Zip Car rocks!



While traveling north on I-57, the sight of the Sears Tower silhouetted on the horizon sure was a welcoming one.

Then I hit traffic.
But that’s life in the big city.

And it felt soooo good to pull into the goofy parking garage in my goofy apartment building. And sleep in my own bed. And eat food that I cooked in my goofy apartment.

While visiting so many small towns across Illinois this past week, I can understand why so many people down there expressed their disdain for Chicago. I certainly don’t hold the same view, but I can understand it.

True, people are friendlier in the small towns. However, you don’t notice it until you go there. I’m never aware of that fact while I’m in Chicago, but that forgotten fact becomes apparent once I’m in a small town. Smiles seem to be more frequent and genuine. Wait staff are more relaxed. Life, in general, seems to be a good bit slower and easier.

But if these small-town folk want Ethiopian food, what are they to do? If they want to go to see a play where actors don’t wear any clothes, they’re out of luck. (Like I frequently do those things, but it’s there if I want to).

I’ve lived in both small towns and large cities. I’ll take the latter any day. Remember, I’m snooty now.

Here’s a photo of ONE of the Dollar Stores I saw in Mattoon yesterday. (I thought of Bunny Lynn)
Tomorrow, I visit one last site which is where City Mouse lives. We’ll be having lunch afterward. Yay. I’ll get a Mouse-fix.

No more staying in Super 8 Motels for a while.
Awwww. Actually, their shampoo is fantastic, but the walls are sooooo thin.

The other night, I heard a couple doing what couples do best in hotel rooms. The woman had this strange habit of saying “Hey” ever so often. Not yelling it, just saying it as a matter-of-fact:







Ten minutes later . . .







God, some people are weird. . . .

It’s good to be home.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

East St. Louis, Mt. Vernon, Mattoon (Illinois)

Last night, I had a bit of trouble negotiating my way around St. Louis (Missouri) to get to my hotel in East St. Louis (which is in Illinois).

I’ve driven through St. Louis several times before in years past and remembered that the freeways there are awfully confusing. So, I made my way around the north loop of St. Louis to avoid those confusing freeways. Then, as I was coming toward East St. Louis (which is in Illinois) and not finding any hotels, I ended up crossing back into St. Louis and right-smack-dab in the middle of all the confusing freeways.

After making some figure-eights around the base of the Gateway Arch and almost heading toward Memphis, I made it back out to East St. Louis (which is in Illinois, remember?)

And that’s why I was so tired last night, but I didn’t tell you that.

So, after a good night’s rest and an invigorating shower with my little-bitty soaps and little-bitty shampoos, I located the office where I needed to go in East St. Louis (which is in Illinois). We had a very productive meeting and all went well.

Here is a very unattractive photo of the Gateway Arch, but that’s as close as I wanted to get to it.
Then, I headed to Mt. Vernon, Illinois, which is sort of in the southern part. I even got there early and had lunch at (you guessed it) Denny’s and shopped at Wal-Mart.

Living in downtown Chicago, I never get to shop at Wal-Mart. I bought some blue towels, a laminated map of Illinois, and some boxer-brief underpants, all at Everyday Low Prices.

After that appointment, I headed upstate a bit for my next appointment which is tomorrow morning in Mattoon, Illinois.

Along the way, I passed by this giant white cross. I swear, this thing must be over two-hundred feet tall. There’s no sign around there advertising anything. It’s just this giant white cross. See how big it is compared to the Denny's billboard? I think if Jesus saw this thing, he'd raise an eyebrow and say, "Well . . . it's a bit overstated."

I'll bet that the guy who erected this thing must have had a very small penis. I’m now at the luxurious Super 8 Motel in the metropolis of Mattoon. Here is the view outside my window: A winterized soybean field. Isn’t that exciting? That’s pretty much the entire view of Illinois from south to north; 350 miles of plowed up, dormant corn and soybean fields. Doesn’t that just make you want to rush out and drive across Illinois this very instant?

Tomorrow, I drive back to Chicago, work in the office on Thursday, and then drive out to Rockford, Illinois on Friday morning for my last appointment.

Then, I get to have lunch with City Mouse!! Won’t that be exciting? (It really will be).

Then, I have tickets to see Stephen Lynch on Friday night with my wonderful, crazy friend, Marilyn. We used to work together many years ago and she has an incredible sense of humor.

So, an evening with Marilyn and Stephen Lynch will make for a much-needed antidote from an incredibly busy work week.

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Monday, November 05, 2007

Peoria, Quincy, St. Louis

I am SO pooped.

I began my day in Peoria. For those of you who enjoy "The Office," Peoria is to Chicago what Scranton is to New York.

So, after visiting the Scranton office of Dunder-Mifflin, I drove for two and half hours along a two-lane road to Quincy. There was lots of farm equipment along the way, most of which was in the middle of the road driving very slowly. And some sheep. While passing by the sheep I said, "mmmmm. Mint sauce!"

The little road between Peoria and Quincy was chocked full of quaint, charming little towns. I just had to stop for lunch in one little hamlet along the way at a place called the "Dairy Dip." How could you NOT eat at the Dairy Dip in a town of 200 people? Really.

There were lots of Autumn colors along the way.
Here is a tree.
The little town of Astoria was particularly charming
And here is the little bank in the little town of Astoria.
Doncha just love it?

Then I had a two-hour meeting in Quincy which is on the Illinois/Missouri border. I glanced at the Mississipi River. Then drove to St. Louis. Which is a long way.

I’m beat.
Tomorrow morning, I have a two hour meeting in East St. Louis, then drive to Mt. Vernon in Southern Illinois for another two hour meeting in the afternoon.

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Sunday, November 04, 2007


I began my trip around Illinois today.
It’s Sunday night and I’m in the city of East Peoria at the moment. It’s so exciting.

My wireless connection is pretty "iffy" here and I don't like that.

Anyway, like I said in my recent post, I’m going to keep you all updated, dear puppies; updated in excruciating detail about my trip around Illinois.

If I have to make this hugely boring and tedious trip, then I might as well try to satirize it. That’s how I try to live my life, anyway.

I left Chicago in my nifty Zip Car around 2:30 this afternoon. I used the same Zip Car that I used during my hugely boring and tedious trip to Springfield just a few days ago. It’s a brand new Toyota Scion, sort of a smallish SUV type thing in a pretty blue color. (The color is VERY important, you know). I already feel like it's "mine."

On my way, I stopped at the same restaurant that my boss and I stopped at, both going and coming to Springfield. It’s a family-type restaurant on Exit 197 with the very unusual name of “The Family Table.” I think it used to be a Denny’s or something; it has a Denny-esque shape about it.

Anyway, I like it because the folks there are really friendly, and the waitress calls me “Hon”. (Good Lord, I’ve been there three times this past week.)

And the prices are great. For breakfast last week, I had two eggs (ANY STYLE!!) hash browns and coffee for $2.95.

They always say eggs “any style” but I wonder what would happen if I ordered them “coddled” or “shirred”. I never do. That’s snooty, and I'm not really sure what a coddled or shirred egg actually is. I always order them “over easy” which is an equivalent to “medium rare” I guess.

Anyway, tonight I threw caution to the wind and had the buffet consisting of your basic country fare. I had two pieces of fried fish, a piece of fried chicken, mashed potatoes, brown gravy and a salad. All was going well until the brown gravy broke free of the crater I’d made for it in my mashed potatoes which were sitting athwart the fried fish. The brown gravy got on my fried fish! Oh my god!

Ever since I was a little kid, I've hated when one food item touches another on my plate, especially if, say, the liquid from the spinach gets on the fried chicken. That’s just horrible.

I’ve always eaten one food item at a time also. It doesn’t even have to be the entrée first, but I always eat one thing then move onto the other; never taking a bite of this then a bite of that.

I don’t know how people do that.

So, I managed to eat my fried fish, one piece of which had some brown gravy on it, dang it. With two Diet Cokes and the tip, my bill was less than ten bucks. And the nice waitress called me “Hon.”
Here's a pic of the place. If you're ever on I-55, it's at Exit 197. Just so you know. Isn't this exciting? Doesn't this pic make you wish you were on this trip too?

So, I drove on down I-55 to Bloomington where I exited to I-74 to Peoria. Exiting I-55 to I-74 was the high point of the trip, let me tell you. I needed a sedative after that.
As I entered East Peoria, there were a whole gaggle of your regular, garden-variety Interstate hotels so I stopped for the night. How do you pick one over the other? Super 8, Best Western, Travelodge, and Comfort Inn were all there. I chose Travelodge because my car just seemed to drive into their parking lot.

I’ve added two little-bitty soaps to my collection. There’s a Bible just in case I need it. (Why do they do that? If someone is that much into the Bible, don't you think they'd bring their own?) I’ll leave you with some inspirational scripture, dear puppies, before retiring for the night.
You ready?

Joshua 15:22-24:
"Kinah, Dimonah, Adadah, Kedesh, Hazor, Ithnan, Ziph, Telem, Bealoth."

If I ever attend a right-wing Christian rally, that’ll be the sign I hold up; none of this John 3:16 nonsense.

Okay. It's 6:45 pm in Peoria.
Sorry, East Peoria.

Now, what the hell am I going to do?


Friday, November 02, 2007

On the Road Again. . .

On Sunday, I have to head out to visit six locations across the State of Illinois where my staff members are located.

Oh! What fun!

I’ll get to see such exciting and breathtaking locales like Peoria, Quincy, East St. Louis, Mt. Vernon, Mattoon, and Rockford. (see map)

Ya gotta watch out for Peoria, though.
I hear Peoria will just eat you up and spit you out.

At least Illinois isn’t a huge state. Like Texas. I can’t imagine having to visit six locations spread out across Texas.

Oh, and while I’m on this trip, I’ll get to stay in luxurious hotels along the way. I hear that Super 8 has a wide variety of vending machines from which one can obtain tasty snack food items.

And just think of the many little-bitty soaps I’ll get to collect along the way! I won’t have to buy bar soap for a month after this trip.

(I hate buying bar soap. Have you ever noticed that it’s impossible to locate no matter where you shop?)

My generous meal stipend will allow me to dine like a king next week. While traversing the soybean and corn fields of Illinois, I’ll search out exquisite dining establishments like Denny’s and IHOP. Just imagine how many Grand Slam breakfasts forty dollars a day will buy!

I’ll have my nifty wireless laptop with me (generously supplied by my employer) so that I can keep you, dear puppies, updated all along the way. I’ll bet you’ll all be anxiously hopping onto my site ten times a day just to see what adventures will be relayed. (No doubt, my site is on all of your "favorites")

Oh, I can’t wait to get started!

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Thursday, November 01, 2007


Okay, my recent post was about Bigfoot, so today I thought I’d talk about UFOs.

Do I think they exist? Sure. There are lots of unidentified flying objects. I see them outside my apartment window all the time.

They’re flying.
And I don’t know what they are.

Most of the time, I can bet that they're probably American Airlines passenger jets, two hours late getting into O’Hare. That can be a safe assumption.

But the real question is, are there extra-terrestrial alien aircraft flying around here on our planet.

I don’t know.

First of all, our little human minds cannot even begin to comprehend how utterly far away another inhabitable planet would be from Earth. Hell, I have a hard time just trying to realize how far Peoria is from Chicago. (I have to go there on Monday and I normally don't venture outside a five-block radius in downtown Chicago).

I don't know why aliens would come here. If they have the technology to travel such distances, don't you think their own planet would be a lot more interesting than Earth?

Sort of like downtown Chicago compares to Peoria.

If they did land here, here's how I imagine their conversation would go:

Zork: “Hey! Look at those Earthlings. They’re at it again.”

Xron: “What. The republican lawmakers? Again?

Zork: “Yep. Another one says he’s not gay but then picks up a call-boy in a naughty video store.”

Xron: “Eeewww! The last one tried that in a men’s restroom. In Minneapolis.”

“I know! Why can’t they do it like normal gay guys, like meeting for a latte at Starbucks?”

“I love Starbucks! Have you tried their chai tea latte? It’s to die for.”

“You should try their pumpkin mocha cappuccino. They only sell it during the Autumn months, you know.”

“That sounds great. You got some time?”

“Yeah, we don’t have to be back at the mother-ship for another hour.”

“OOooo. And I have a gift certificate someone from work gave me.”