I Laugh, Therefore, I AM
A humorous view of politics, religion, human behavior, and insights toward everyday happenings by a single guy living in downtown Chicago.
Thursday, December 31, 2009
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
While at home visiting my relatives, I took my nephew, Zach, to see Avatar today. His grandmother was going to take him, but seeing that the movie was 2 ½ hours long, I became a pinch-hitter.
Zach is eight years old, a terrific kid, and we had a great time.
By the way, Avatar is TOTALLY Dancing With Wolves – in Space. And with lots of special effects.
Both of his grandmothers told me not to let him talk me into buying him popcorn.
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
The Playhouse Theater
There’s just something about an abandoned building that captivates me.
In this case, here is the movie theater where I went countless times while growing up. The Playhouse was built in the early 70s and was the “new” theater back then – one of those modern multi-theater houses. This one had three – count ‘em – three screens.
In 1973, I can still remember The Exorcist playing here and the line winding all the way behind the building. (I was 14 and definitely not allowed to see it.) It scared the bejeezus out of me but I couldn’t tell my mom that I had disobeyed and had had a clandestine, unsanctioned viewing of it.
Back in 1975, I had just acquired my driver’s license and I drove here to see Jaws six times. Star Wars also played here, lines around the back again, but I never saw it. Still haven’t.
The Playhouse sits silent now, cold, wet, and forgotten.
It seems just like yesterday when Linda Blair was scaring the crap out of me inside this building.
Monday, December 28, 2009
It's All Relative
I’m having a great time here in south Texas with my family. (The weather is terrific, by the way.)
My dad was catching me up on various relatives last night and he showed me a Christmas photo that he received from some distant cousins who I hadn’t seen in years. They would often be at family gatherings, I knew we were related, but didn’t know exactly how.
Having studied “degrees of sanguinity” in the Catholic seminary, I wanted to figure out just how these nice folks were related to me.
Dad explained the line of who-was-related-to-whom to get to these relatives in the photo. Turns out, woman seated is my second cousin once removed. She’s my dad’s second cousin.
The three middle-aged women behind her are my third cousins. My paternal great-great- grandparents are our common-denominator. The children in the photo are my third cousins once removed.
Here’s something pretty neat, too. My paternal grandmother had double-first cousins. That is, her parents were married to the brother and sister from the same family. My dad mentioned that he had seen one of his “cousins” recently (who I’ve met.) After doing some calculating, I figured out that was his double-second cousin – who would be my double-second cousin once removed – BUT would be genetically related as close as a first cousin once removed.
Isn’t that cool?
Anyway, it’s really good to be home.
Oh. And from the photograph, I don’t think it’s necessary to mention that my relatives all live in Texas.
Thursday, December 24, 2009
I've really been trying to eat healthy lately. It's not like I dislike fruits and vegetables -- I really enjoy them. I've been known to make a whole meal out of Brussels sprouts. I've recently discovered that you can dump barley, lentils, frozen veggies and broth all into a rice cooker, watch two reruns of The Office, and it'll turn it all into a tasty pilaf.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Festivus Through the Years
Monday, December 21, 2009
So often in work situations, I hear how important “teamwork” is.
Every time I hear that word, it really grates on my nerves because it’s one of those workplace phrases that people toss around without really thinking about it.
“It takes teamwork.”
“We’re a great team.”
“Teamwork! Teamwork! Teamwork!”
First of all, it has connotations of the athletic field and competitive sports; and that’s never a good thing. Yes, it takes a whole team to get the football across those goalie lines, but really, what is the intrinsic value in accomplishing that?
Yes, you scored some points when the other team didn’t . . . .and??
I just don’t “get” competitive sports.
So, the word “teamwork” grates on me for that reason.
The other reason is because teamwork is a huge waste of time. Let’s say that The Boss assigns someone to assemble a team to accomplish a task.
First, a team must be assembled. Then, a meeting time must be established. This is done by sending no less that fifty emails and six dozen Outlook Calendar requests only to discover that the next time everyone on the proposed “team” is available is nine months from now.
Finally, the team meeting is set and everyone meets. Someone with a paper flip-chart is assigned to write down everyone’s ideas on large sheets of paper and tape them to the walls of the meeting room. These are passionately discussed -- usually by only two people on the team -- while the other team members engage in “Blackberry prayers.” (Their eyes cast downward while they play with their Blackberries in their laps.)
Then another team meeting-time is set. Everyone leaves, the sheets of paper are never seen again, and nothing gets done.
Sigh . . . .
Just assign the task to me – and let me do it.
Even in all my emails, you’ll never see me using the word, “team”. You’ll never see me write “Hello team!” or “team members” -- I always say “staff”.
Bottom line. If you want to waste everyone’s time, just engage in teamwork.
I’ll be in my office with the door closed getting things done.
Friday, December 18, 2009
The Employee Potluck
We just had a “potluck” lunch at work. They’re fun, but certainly not the most healthy way to go.
I’ve noticed two things that always happen at these workplace potlucks:
1. There are way too many desserts
2. Staff members bring casseroles that need to be heated up in the tiny break-room microwave. They each take 40 minutes to heat up, thus causing casseroles to be stacked up like airliners in a holding pattern over O’Hare.
Arrivals are, thus, full of tension and never on time.
Today, I brought chipotle potato salad. Against my better judgement, it was a Rachel Ray recipe; and although her creations sound good, they’re all . . .well . . . careless and tasteless slop.
I didn’t get any compliments and so, for all intents and purposes, the employee potluck was a HUGE failure as far as I’m concerned. It’s all Rachel Ray’s fault, of course.
I think one person forgot it was potluck day – and they brought two sacks of White Castle burgers. How freaking lazy can you get?
Anyway, here’s what I had for lunch at the potluck:
2 White Castle burgers (I LOVE White Castle burgers)
Mac & Cheese
Chips & salsa
3 slices of fancy cheese
1 pot sticker (again, confirming the fact that I don’t like pot stickers)
Carrot sticks & hummus
Handful of Puppy Chow
I’ve never had Puppy Chow before but it’s terrific stuff. It would be a big hit at any holiday gathering, especially with the little ones.
I’m going to see if there are anymore White Castles left. . . .
Home for the Holidays
A week from today, I will be flying the friendly skies as I venture home to Texas for the holidays.
I’m already dreading it. The flight that is, not my family.
There will be several hurdles to overcome. First, I’ll have to fly out of O’Hare on Christmas Day and that means one thing:
I was once snowed in at O’Hare for twelve hours while making a connection from Dallas to Toronto. After five hours of watching flights to Toronto being cancelled, I asked the attendant if there was any update on getting there.
She checked and said, “Okay, the plane that will be going from here to Toronto is waiting to take off . . .from . . . let’s see . . . .
. . . . .Seattle!
Then, I have to fly to Houston and transfer to a little bitty micro-plane for the flight to my little bitty home town. The flights to my LBHT have been getting fewer in number and the planes to get there have continually been scaled down.
Actually, we now fly on one of those balsa-wood toy planes that you wind up with a rubber band.
It’s so funny, but when the pilot is about to land the balsa-wood airplane, he announces, “Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve been cleared to land at Victoria Regional Airport. . . .” and I always envision a cow being herded off the runway.
There’s only one flight a day now to my LBHT, so if I miss the connection due to being held up at O’Hare (snow, remember?) or if they can’t find a rubber band for the balsa plane, then I’m basically screwed.
Even if my plane to Houston is on time, making the connection is quite an ordeal.
The Houston airport (George W. Bush International) used to have these nifty, automatic, monorail pods that efficiently shuttled you from one terminal to the other. Naturally, those worked for about three weeks and then broke down -- years ago. They've basically been replaced by refurbished school buses that come around about as often as a solar eclipse.
The only reason I keep flying to my little bitty home town is because any other major airport is so far away. (Texas is a big state, after all.) The little bitty airport is practically in my mom’s back yard.
Also, my cousin brings her kids to see me arrive. The moment I step off the plane, I’m hugged by little ones, Mom, my cousin, and maybe a friendly stranger or two. (Small towns are like that and passenger arrivals are a Big Deal there.)
So, once I’m there I always remark how convenient it is.
Let’s just hope it’s not snowing in late December in Chicago.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Same-Sex Marriage Loophole
Wow. This is really interesting.
Labels: Same sex marriage
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Caption This . . .
Dear Mr. Obama,
Labels: Sarah Palin
Sip With Care
I'm sitting here looking at my to-go cup of coffee.
The plastic lid includes the dire warning:
Sip With Care
And I'm thinking, "No, I'm going to sip with complete abandon."
Who actually says, "Sip with care"?
And what about the road signs that say,
Children at Play
Do R-rated movies say,
Children under 17 not admitted
Couples at copulate
These are things I ponder while drinking my hot beverage.
One of my biggest pet peeves these days is the way twenty-something women are speaking. I’m wondering what caused them all to develop these fake, nasally, clenched voices that make me want to jam a corkscrew in my eye.
The best example is the way they say, “Thank you.”
It never comes out with a plain, American pronunciation, but with a nasally, squeaky, “Theenk yeaw.”
I hold the door open for a young woman and hear,
Then, I want to scream at her and say, “The word is ‘thank', not ‘think’ you vapid, imbecilic dolt!
Who started this trend and how did it perpetuate itself?
If someone has any insight to this, I’d love to know.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
The Most Depressing Christmas Song Ever
Although Emerson, Lake & Palmer is, hands down, my favorite group of all time, this has to be the most depressing Christmas song of all time.
(This was recorded in 1979. At that time I was also wearing my hair just like Greg Lake's in this video -- which is also depressing.)
They said there'll be snow at Christmas
They said there'll be peace on earth
But instead it just kept on raining
A veil of tears for the virgin's birth
I remember one Christmas morning
A winters light and a distant choir
And the peal of a bell and that Christmas tree smell
And their eyes full of tinsel and fire
They sold me a dream of Christmas
They sold me a silent night
And they told me a fairy story
'till I believed in the Israelite
And I believed in father Christmas
And I looked at the sky with excited eyes
'till I woke with a yawn in the first light of dawn
And I saw him and through his disguise
I wish you a hopeful Christmas
I wish you a brave new year
All anguish pain and sadness
Leave your heart and let your road be clear
They said there'll be snow at Christmas
They said there'll be peace on earth
Hallelujah noel be it heaven or hell
The Christmas you get you deserve
Away in a Manger
I was a bearded, nine year-old Joseph at my church's nativity play and my friend, Beth, got to be Mary.
Shepherd #3: I think it’s a type of gum resin.
Shepherd #2: Who the hell gives gum resin to a baby?
Shepherd # 2: Where the hell did you find myrrh anyway?
Wise Man #3: We were late getting our Christmas shopping done, so I stopped at the Myrrh Emporium at the outlet mall just outside Bethlehem.
Saturday, December 12, 2009
Not once. Ever.
As I’ve mentioned before, I just don’t “get” physical surroundings, decorations, or objects in general.
I’m oblivious to “things.”
I’ve taken the Myers-Briggs personality profile a half dozen times in the past. Every time, the evaluator remarks that I have all 20 points in the “Intuitive” category and absolutely Zero points in the “Sensing” category.
The “Intuitive” category lists an attribute as, “comfortable with ambiguous, fuzzy data and with guessing its meaning.”
The “Sensing” category lists someone who “likes clear and concrete information; dislikes guessing when facts are ‘fuzzy’".
When my co-worker dislikes my fuzzy facts, I want to shoot him with an Animal Kingdom tranquilizing dart.
So, I don’t like “things” around me.
I seem to have the opposite obsession to "hoarding." I get an endorphine 'high' when I'm able to get rid of things. For example, every morning, I really do try to take something from inside my apartment and get rid of it down the trash chute. The day just doesn't seem to be "valid" otherwise.
Anywhoo . . . .
Do you remember the Festivus holiday from Seinfeld?
“Festivus” was the holiday for those who do not want to celebrate Christmas (or any holiday) and all its commercial trappings.
“Festivus for the Rest of Us!" was the slogan.
When I learned that Festivus was celebrated by erecting a single, six-foot, galvanized steel pole, I said, “That’s for me!!!”
Three years ago, I bought an authentic Festivus Pole. I put it up every year and I love it. It's simple and takes 30 seconds to put up and take down. Holiday decorations take up a tiny, wittle-bitty portion of my dwelling space.
Every holiday season, I admire the flicker of my HD television and my PC screen reflecting on my Festivus Pole. When I see that, I know that Christmas is right around the corner.
Here is my Festivus Pole, silhouetted against the winter sky fifty stories above downtown Chicago.
Now doesn’t that impart the warm feeling of the infant Jesus and the importance of Christ’s birth to all the world?
It does to me.
Okay, the other tradition of Festivus is to display the “Feats of Strength.”
As I erected my Festivus Pole yesterday, my friends and I all demonstrated our respective Feats of Strength.
For example, Diane can annihilate Iwanski in a very weird sort of body-wrestling. We tried to get it on video but never succeeded. It was sort of like trying to capture Bigfoot on film.
As far as my Feat of Strength, I have the strange ability of being able to turn my feet backward 45 degrees behind me. I had forgotten about that until the Festivus Season prompted me to do so. Everyone went “Eeewww”!
But Iwanski did get it on film. Sigh - - - we all have our gifts. .
Happy Festivus, Everyone.
Our dear friend, Diane, is on a very successful health kick and came down from Wisconsin to see us this weekend. Miss Healthypants, Iwanski, and I always love our “Diane” weekends.
Like I said, Diane has been on a healthy endeavor (and she looks incredible.) She knew that there were a couple of 'raw food' restaurants here in Chicago and wanted to try them. I knew of them as well, but they’re awfully expensive. For example, one offers a ‘raw food’ buffet, but it’ll run you close to fifty bucks.
Having recently experimented with the ‘raw food’ thing, I offered to make a complete raw-food meal for our dear friend. She was so excited about it -- and when someone is that happy about me preparing a meal, then that’s all I need.
Baby Portobello mushrooms stuffed with a mixture of chopped macadamia nuts, a puree of dried tomatoes, dates, garlic, basil and parsley, then dehydrated for six hours. *
2. Tomato cups:
Organic tomatoes stuffed with chopped raw peanuts (that had been soaked in lemon-water for 12 hours) parsley, spearmint, cucumber and shallot.
3. Lettuce wraps:
Romaine lettuce stuffed with raw corn, avocado, dates, cilantro, and minced chipotle peppers.
4. Salsa Finta and Almond Polpetta
This is, basically, a 'raw food' form of pasta and meatballs.
5. Dessert: Maca-Mango Ice Cream
A puree of frozen macadamia-nut butter and fresh mango, topped with pomegranate and raspberries.
Labels: Raw Food
Wednesday, December 09, 2009
Driving back from the depths of Illinois to Chicago, (with three staff members in the car) I encountered really nasty conditions.
There were 50 mph winds, blowing snow and dropping temperatures. And it was night.
An 18-wheeler fishtailed in front of me. The wind began blowing my car around on the icy road. Then, we encountered a pile-up. Traffic was blocked on Interstate 57 heading into Chicago.
"Daddy's calling it," I announced.
We're in a nice hotel for the evening, fifty miles south of Chicago.
Safety comes first.
Frankly, I'm exhausted from driving 600 miles since yesterday morning.
Daddy's going to bed.
Monday, December 07, 2009
Driving in the Snow
I just called the Rental Car Place to make sure my Chevrolet Magnum-XL is reserved for tomorrow. I’m driving myself and three staff members all the way down to the very tip of Southern Illinois and back for a presentation.
330 miles down there.
It's basically to Louisiana.
It’s the “and back” part of the trip that concerns me a little. The forecast for Wednesday says we’re supposed to have a 150 percent chance of snow with hundred-foot drifts, temperatures below Absolute Zero and hurricane force winds.
In other words, your typical Chicago winter conditions.
I told the other staff members to bring an extra pair of underpants, just in case we end up spending another night somewhere in Illinois. Or get blown off the road and end up in Terre Haute. You just never know.
I learned to “always be prepared” during that week I was in Cub Scouts back in the 3rd grade.
Yes, I am a little concerned with the winter road conditions because, after all, I grew up in south Texas. Down there if there is even one hint of ice, the entire Texas Highway Department staff basically turns into Lucy and Ethel.
I should give myself more credit than that. I’ve driven in snowstorms in Buffalo, Toronto, Detroit and Albany. This Texas-boy is quite adept at handling a car in rough winter conditions. There's a secret to driving in a blinding snowstorm and it is this - -
Make sure the hotel you check into has room service.
Quite adept indeed.
(I would have made a fine Cub Scout.)
Friday, December 04, 2009
Dog in the Snow
This really is one of the cutest dog videos I've ever seen.
Perfect for the holiday season.
Snow in South Texas
Oh my goodness, lookie here.
Someone near my little bitty hometown in Texas has already posted a YouTube of the snowfall down there today.
(Many thanks to Speck for sending this YouTube to me.)
I can’t believe it.
It’s supposed to snow in my little bitty home town way down in South Texas today.
The thing is, we have yet to have any snow at all here in Chicago. South Texas is getting snow before Chicago does. (It’s not fair, but I am excited for my family and friends down there.) I’d be willing to bet a thousand bucks that that’s never happened before in all the history of historical events.
I was 12 years old the first time I ever saw snow in my little bitty home town. It snowed a couple of inches during the night and we woke up to a real, live Winter wonderland just like all the lucky folks up North get to do.
It was extremely exciting. I was nuts over it.
Normally, schools in South Texas close down if there’s even one flake of snow or a pellet of ice. But for some reason that day, we went to school. (I was in the 8th grade.)
Before school began, we got to have a real snowball fight, just like kids in Minneapolis get to do. Being that it seldom gets below freezing down there, none of us had any gloves or mittens. So, we improvised by wearing socks on our hands and proceeded with the snowball fight before the bell rang.
The principal of the school, Mr. Peacock, was standing on the front steps, keeping a watchful eye on the winterized activities.
At one point, I hurled a snowball at my friend, Judy, and managed to score a direct hit. I guess I was a little too enthusiastic in my snowball-throwing because her glasses went flying.
Mr. Peacock, ever with the watchful eye, call out in a commanding voice, “Buck, can I see you in my office, please?”
Of course, all my friends were all, “OOOooooo!!!” as a trudged inside behind Mr. Peacock.
We went into his office and he thought awhile. The tension was awful.
He reached in his desk - - - and brought out some sheet music.
It was a piano score to The Bells of St. Mary’s. He wanted to know if I could play it as the processional for our 8th grade graduation ceremonies in May.
I was stunned. I looked at the sheet music. It looked like a pretty complex arrangement for my 12-year-old abilities but I was going to have four months to learn it.
Mr. Peacock used to be the athletic coach at the school and all three of his sons had gone off to college on football scholarships. He was also a close friend of my family and knew very well that I was totally inept at sports.
I’m sure he knew that I was often teased in school for my lack of abilities in phys. ed. But now, he was giving me an opportunity to show what I could do in front of the whole class.
(He also scared the crap out of me for assaulting Judy with a snowball.)
Four months later, I was up there at the grand piano on the stage, playing that big processional as my classmates marched down the aisles. Let me tell you, I was one proud 12 year old kid.
Mr. Peacock was a very wise man.
I’ll always remember that snow day back in 1972. It’s nice to know that my Jr. High school is covered with snow once again.
Update: My mom just called and my cousin just emailed me - -
and yes, it's snowing down there.
Thursday, December 03, 2009
The Christmas Letter
It's time to run my annual Christmas Letter again.
As usual, this is the annual update from Ella-Maureen Doogie of Durant, Oklahoma:
Seasons Greetings from the Doogie family!
What a great year it’s been for us! Rudd, the girls and I are still here in Durant and doing just fine! The good Lord’s truly blessed us all this year.
First of all, we’re buying Aunt Jeena’s double-wide next month!!!! We were finally able to get that bank loan now that mama’s court case was dismissed and she was able to co-sign. We could surely use the extra room, especially since we just found out that Rudd Jr. may be up for probation earlier than expected!!!
That was sure a turn of bad luck for him, especially just after having been accepted to trade school and all! It’ll be so good to have that boy home again!
Our youngest daughter, Sue-Deen, finally graduated from 8th grade!!!! In September, she even made the drill team at Durant High!!!! We really enjoyed going to all the football games every Friday night to see her on the squad. She had to take October off on account of that “no pass no play” rule but after she dropped English, she was back on the field in no time.
Rudd took a bad fall and had to quit his job at the car wash last summer. We used the same lawyer Aunt Jeena had from her casino law suit and got a real nice settlement. Rudd still can’t work, but he’s drawing workman’s comp so we’re doing just fine!
After the lawyer fees were paid, we had enough money to give daughter Brittany a really nice Sweet Sixteen party last month. Praise the Lord, she’s finally quit smoking!! I told her over and over that she was setting a really bad example for her girls. I think the cost finally got to her, especially since the girls’ fathers can’t pay child support anymore. She also saw how big a chunk those cigarettes was taking from her SSI checks.
Don't tell anyone, but Brittany’s even thinking of getting her G.E.D!!!!
Uncle Booger’s his usual, crazy self. It turns out he’s been on the wrong medication all this time!
I’ve been awfully busy myself! Last month, I signed up for those credit restoration classes down at the community center. I’m gonna need good credit because after we get that double-wide, I plan on opening up that day-care center I’ve always wanted to own!!!! Here in Oklahoma, you don’t need a license to operate a day-care in your own home like in other places, so it ought to be real easy.
Since we'll have all that extra room in the double-wide, Rudd's also thinking of combining my day-care with a firearm repair center that he's always dreamed of opening. We'll both be business owners!!! It'll also give Uncle Booger something to do during the day.
On a sad note, we had to put Rascal down right after Thanksgiving. After having been blind for so long, he finally wandered out on the highway and was hit by a Piggly-Wiggly truck. With his broken hip, it was the only humane thing to do. It’s a good thing we hadn’t yet pawned Rudd Jr’s shotgun like he’d asked us to.
Rudd and I will be celebrating our 20th anniversary next year!! Can you believe it’s been 20 years already? We’re thinking of going all-out by celebrating it in Las Vegas!!! We've always wanted to go there and who knows? We might even go crazy get married there! We'll be sure to send you all a post card!!!!
Here’s hoping that you all have a Very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Until next time,
Lots of Love From Ella-Maureen and the Doogies!
What's That Called?
I really have problems remembering names of things.
I can remember numbers like crazy; with almost a savant-like ability.
The loan number to my 1979 Ford Fiesta?
But names? nouns?
Case in point.
I was on the phone last night with a friend of mine and we were talking about new TV programs that we liked. (Modern Family is, by far, my favorite by the way.)
My Tivo was recording something and I said, “Oh, I keep forgetting to tell Tivo to stop recording Leopard Girl. That show really bugs me.”
“Leopard Girl?” said my friend.
“Yeah, that new show with Courtney Cox. I really don’t like it.”
(laughter) "It’s called Cougar Town!” she said.
“Oh. . . .Well, at least I got the cat-part right.”
Tuesday, December 01, 2009
On the Road Again
I'm on yet another business trip. This time, it's a long drive to St. Louis which is all the way on the opposite side of Illinois from Chicago -- basically where the earf ends.