Wednesday, May 31, 2006

I Love My Apartment

Having been raised in a teeny weeny town (pop. 1,700) in South Texas, my life's ambition was to live in a big city where it wasn't hot. I lived in Dallas for ten years which was nice, but Dallas is still Texas. Dallas is BIG and incredibly, abominably HOT.

Three years of grad school took place at U. of Toronto which was wonderful and definitely not hot. Loved it. Toronto has to be the Greatest City Ever and I'd give anything to be able to live there. Unfortunately, it's pretty difficult for U.S. citizens to immigrate to Canada, so I moved to Chicago after that because it's just like Toronto only not as clean and with a lot more crime. (I blame Bush for that).

Last year, I was downtown and walking by the Marina City towers which are pretty noticeable landmarks in Chicago. Rising 61 floors, they're commonly referred to as the "corn-cob" towers or the "George Jetson" towers and are truly quite unique in their appearance. I was offered a good deal that I couldn't pass up. Signed a lease, and I've been here for two years now.

All the apartments are pie-shaped and it's pretty cool to have no 90-degree angles. My apartment still has the original 1962 design, so my bathroom has a lemon-yellow tub and toilet complete with one-inch aqua-and-chocolate tile all over. Can you imagine?

I do have Italian marble floors throughout, but still have lime-yellow metal cabinets in the kitchen. Love it! While my abode is an itty-bitty apartment, a whopping 600 sq. ft., I love it dearly.

I still wish I could move back to Toronto, but the Canadians really don't want us there. I can't blame them, actually.
I'll blame Bush for that.
In the meantime, enjoy the pics from my balcony.

The Hag

In recent blogs, I've mentioned "The Hag." As dear Lorraine put it, this in no way refers to her being haggard or repulsive. It doesn't. Quite the opposite.

To describe all the qualities of The Hag would involve volumes of socio-anthropological-bio-psycho-sexual studies spanning centuries of experience by philosophers, theologians and socio-scientists. Not to mention many talk-show hosts, colonic therapists, and Tom Cruise.

Here we are on my 49th floor balcony. She and Iwanski live one block away on the 21st floor, but she's terrified of heights. I can understand that. My balcony is 10' x 20', hangs over the river five-hundred feet below and my gonads still need an anti-depressant when I walk to the edge of my balcony. It's a pretty cool balcony, though.

My Hag just had a birthday yesterday. I won't say what her age is, only because it's younger than mine. But we've known each other for over five years now and she has truly earned her Hag Points.

I have to say that this would, indeed, be a perfect world if The Hags governed everything. . . .

The Doctor's Office

I'm back from the doctor's office. Mind you, I really like my Primary Care Physician and I've been with him ever since I moved to Chicago from Toronto. He's originally from El Salvador and works his butt off for next-to-nothing in the Latino neighborhood of Little Village where I first lived for five years upon moving to Chicago from Canada. He reminds me of physicians back in Canada where they really take an interest in you, remember everything about you, and actually provide health care without the cost involved.

It was blistering hot today in Chicago (almost 90 degrees) and I had to take a 30 minute subway ride to access my doctor; complete with a nasty cold and my hair was messed up. I was not in the mood to succumb to my HMO, much less sweat on Chicago's subways over it. They'd not turned on the air conditioning down below at the Clark & Lake station; the air was still fetid and the only relief was from air pushed in by trains that weren't mine.

I have to admit that it was good to be back in my old, familiar neighborhood where I used to have to speak Spanish at the butcher counter: "Yo quero tres libras de pechugas, sin hueso ni cuero." I've been in social services for a very long time and I can tell you that our Latino communities (legal or not) have just about the best family systems going, par non. Our "American" culture can certainly benefit BIG TIME from the family systems that our neighbors from the South can impart. They're a breath of fresh air, believe me.

I wonder what kind of families any of the Minutemen are supporting? After all, they're spending all their time and energy down on the border. Shouldn't family life and parenting be a 24/7 endeavor?

I digress. . .

The air conditioner was OUT at my doctor's office. Kaputz. I was already sweating from the six-block walk from the train station and looking forward to being a/c'd. I was not a happy camper/patient. I had grown tired of my book and the only thing on the TV was a Mexican soap opera. (The endless, gratuitous boobies are bad enough, but the soundtracks! God! That's the worst part. The commercials are fun, though).

Like I said, I love my doctor and it was groovy to be back in the Latino culture, but that also meant that appointment times are quite a relative matter. I understand that. I even embrace that. But there was no air conditioning. I had a cold. A very nasty cold which made me cranky especially with the Mexian-soundtracked boobies bombarding me.

I was not smelling good, either.

I thought about leaving but remembered that dear HMO relied upon my ability to obtain anti-depressants, anti-anxiety medication, erectile dysfunction suppliments, and a referral to the lesbian therapist that I'd been seeing for the past two years in order for me to continue existing on this planet. Otherwise, I might become depressed, anxious, not be able to date effectively, and miss out on figuring out how my parents messed me up while drinking herbal tea. All very important stuff, you know.

It was important that I stick around and bear the heat. I did.

Finally, my beloved doctor returned from comer and saw me. It was wonderful. He asked if I'd recently been home to Texas. He asked me to tell him how much I missed Canada. He asked about my work in substance abuse counseling and illicited my advice regarding a patient of his. He listened to my heart, took some blood, and gave me all the prescriptions I thought I required. Latex gloves and lubricant never made their appearance.

When you're over forty, have a nasty cold and just need drugs, that is a good doctor.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

I'm Sick

I haven't been blogging lately because I've had a nasty cold for the past week. Whine! I just feel lousy, depressed, and bitchy. I'm thinking of writing a book called, "The Chicken Soup Enema: It's Not For the Soul Anymore."
I'm gong to the doctor. He'll give me drugs.

Thursday, May 25, 2006


Okay, I'm going to complain about "these kids nowadays" again. I just don't get this obsession with tattoos that they have. Don't they realize how permanent they are? I know I'm going to step on some people's toes with this and, yes, I'll agree that there are some tasteful tattoos out there. But they're permanent!

Whenever I see 20-somethings on the subway with tats all up and down their arms, all I see is an exercise in instant gratification and a woeful lack of self restraint. I just want to shake them by thier inky shoulders and say, "You idiot!" Don't they know how silly this is going to look when they're fifty-seven, divorced for the third time, slowly undressing and trying to bed the date for the night? There your flabby arms will be, all inked up with silly barbed wire, Celtic crosses and flaming unicorns. You idiot.

If I was King of the USA, I'd implement a mandatory twenty-five year waiting period be observed between tattoo purchase and tattoo application.

I'll admit that I was a stupid kid once too. Just ask my father. I shudder to think of the time when I was a senior in college and bleached my hair stark raving platinum blond. (see photo) I still don't know what caused me to do that. I looked like a space creature with this white hair and huge brown eyes underneath. But bleached hair isn't permanent.

I guarantee that in twenty years, the tattoo removal industry will be extremely lucrative. I should purchase stock in it right now and make a fortune from these kids' stupidity.


A friend of mine called the other night and asked if I wanted to spend Tuesday out at Six Flags, Great America. Do I???!!! Good lord, yes!

For years, I was a very active member of the American Coaster Enthusiasts. We're sort of like Trekkies in that we're obsessed with useless details and have conventions, but unlike them in that we actually smile and laugh a lot. But, yes, I'm a coaster nut and have been as far back as I can remember. Once, there was a new coaster being built at Six Flags Over Texas and a friend of mine and I just couldn't wait to see what the first drop looked like. We just pretended we were on the construction crew and climbed right up to the top. God, was that fun!

It had been a couple of years since my last "coaster fix" so I was rarin' to go. It was a perfect day for coastering. It was sunny, very cool, and all the annoying kidlets were still in school. Just perfect.

I was a little queasy after our first ride on Superman. Hmmm. Have I lost my coastering ability now that I'm firmly implanted in my forties? We then rode three more medium sized coasters, the adreneline was pumping and I was "back". A ride on the 205 ft tall mega coaster proved it. (We rode it six times).

After six hours, I was a pooped puppy. Feet were sore, back was aching, I was sunburned.

I felt old.

It's pretty bad when you plop down to ride a 205 ft tall coaster and you're just glad to sit down for awhile. . . but I was young again once we dropped straight down at 73 mph and I was yelling my head off.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Mouse Sauce

There's this little, dumpy place just a few doors down from my workplace that has fantastic fried chicken and catfish. Now, I'm not too big on fried chicken because a) I have a wierd "thing" about not eating anything with my fingers (yes, this includes pizza, hamburgers, and even popcorn) and b) I'm sort of a closeted vegetarian so I don't like anything too "animal-y" to eat. I do love their fried catfish, though. The first time I ordered it, the cashier quickly responded, "You want mouse sauce with that?"
"You want mouse sauce with that?"
"Mouth sauce?"
"Yeh, mouse sauce"
"Ummm. What is 'mouse sauce'?"
"M-I-L-D! Mouse sauce!"
"Ooohh! Mild sauce. No, I'd like hot sauce, please."

Now that I know how to order it, I've been going there a little too frequently. And that isn't exactly conducive to a healthy waist line. I love fried fish mainly because it's a great conduit and vehicle for tarter sauce and ketchup.
And mouse sauce, apparently.

Airplane Food

Airplane food seems to be a thing of the past and that's just fine with me. Not because it's notoriously bad, but because it's just so impractical. Many years ago when I was young, lithe, and stupid, I was employed as a restaurant manager. Let me tell you, the amount of labor, coordination, time and money involved to get a meal to an airline passenger is just mind-boggling. Frankly, I'm glad that the airlines are now putting all that time, money and energy into other things like making me take my shoes off at security.

(Side note: Why, oh why, can't they supply chairs after the security check-point so that we have a place to sit and replace our shoes on our feet? Is that too much to ask? I'm so tired of hopping around on one foot while I replace each shoe. From now on, I'm just going to sit on the floor like a little kid.)

And then, you have these people who "special order" their airplane meal ahead of time. My god, have we become so fragile that we cannot fly to Cincinnati without an entire airline accomodating our low-sodium-non-fat-kosher-vegan needs en route?

Frankly, I enjoy flying. I love to watch people at the airport for it can tell you so much about our wierd human behavior. I find it refreshing to be as absolutely nice and friendly as possible to the airline personnel - - lord knows, they deserve it. I always plan on bringing a really, really good "airplane book" that I can look forward to losing myself in during the flight. I've learned to reserve the seat by the emergency exit; that way, my 6'3" self can be comfy and have plenty of leg room. And so I can be the first one to leap out when the airplane crashes near Cincinnati.

And I bring my own food and beverages! I'd much rather have my own take-along feast in my back-pack rather than have to fool around with a flight attendant and the person next to me. The less I have to deal with people while reading my "airplane book", the better.

So, whenever I hear someone complaining about airplane food, I just want to tell them, "When your kitchen can fly, then you can complain."

This week's article

I've been managing to submit, on average, about one article each week to the website I've been writing for. Here is this week's submission:

Thursday, May 18, 2006

The Clients

I must admit to stealing a fellow blogger's idea. Lorraine over at has this charming way of referring to her husband as "The Spouse" and her daughter as "The Child". I stole it. I hope she won't mind, but it's just too cute and clever to pass up. I used it recently when referring to my friend, Carla. She's now known as The Hag and seems to like that moniker.

"The Clients"
I'm employed as a substance abuse counselor for an agency that houses those who've been homeless and receive housing subsidies due to disabilites. We have 170 such clients housed in a nice, new building in downtown Chicago. With 45 clients on my caseload and since I'm the only counselor on site during the weekends, my working life is usually raft with dramatic potential.

I'm a pretty easy going guy, but one thing I will not allow is loud music in the building. Each client has a 270 sq. ft. apartment which makes for some pretty close living quarters. An out-of-control boom box is just way too disturbing to way too many folks to be allowed. It amazes me when The Clients seem incredulous over the fact that they have to turn their music down. Once client seemed to feel that since he was young and single, he should be allowed to play his music louder than the others. I told him that if he felt he just had to play his music loud, he should go purchase a house. Plain and simple.

One client died last week of a heroin overdose and the body wasn't discovered for about four days. Gee, there's nothing like encountering haz-mat police tape first thing in the morning. (By the way, drugs don't kill people. Very pure batches of heroin do.)

I love my work. I really do. I get a little frustrated when The Clients act like children, but then again, there was a lot of child-like, bratty behavior in the seminary as well. I guess that whenever there people living in community, there will always be people banging on their high chairs.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

16 oz. T-Bone $2.25

Ever since I was a little kid, I must admit, I've loved eating out in restaurants. I mean, I've REALLY loved it. I don't know why or what has caused that, but so many earliest memories have been somewhat obsessed with eating out, or mainly, with the menu prices of my dining experiences.

When I was three years old, my family always ate at the Red Top Cafe in Azle, Texas. However, I can well attest that my dinner consisted of a drumstick that I called, "chickey-bone-meat". I was always supplied with a nickle to insert in the booth-side juke-box thing that would magically play whatever selection I punched. My parents probably spent at least twenty-five cents to shut me up.

After seeing my Dad sometimes ordering a T-Bone steak, I asked that I could order one for my seventh birthday. My parents, indeed, let me order a steak for my birthday. It was a T-bone, medium rare, at the Double-S Restuarant in Kenedy, Texas. and it cost a whopping $2.25. I was in heaven.

I had heard about eating lobster and was just obsessed with the fact. We lived on the Texas Gulf coast where shrimp, pompano, and oysters were home-fare, but lobster was elusive.
Birthday, eleven years old. Parents had divorced. Mom was a single parent. I was taken to San Antonio with Mom and her mother for my eleventh birthday to a VERY fancy seafood restaurant in San Antonio called "The Zuider Zee" which was, apparently, the only restaurant in all of South Texas that served live lobster. I couldn't believe that the fresh lobster cost $8.75; the waitress affixed the lobster bib on me and everything. What was even more amazing was that my awfully frugal grandmother (Budgie) happily and confidently ordered a $3.75 flounder stuffed with crab meat. Wow! How did she know how to do that??
My mom kept the bill down by ordering fried shrimp for herself and the fried fish for my younger brother. We all had a wonderful time and it was one of my most memorable meals.

Mama Leoni's Restaurant, 1975, New York City. I was sixteen years old on an American Thespian Society tour of theatres for two weeks in New York City. We splurged and had THE seven-course meal at Mama Leoni's in mid-town. Price? $15.00 each (Keep in mind that I was sixteen - - keep in mind that the drinking age in New York in 1975 was sixteen for beer and wine, eighteen for liquor. . The bill was slightly more than $15.00 each . . . )

The Riverside, 1978, Austin Texas. I was nineteen years old, finding myself, and fell awfully hard for a sophomore at nearby U of Texas. With the tip, I spent $35.00 on the meal, the sophomore asked me to drop him off at a club to meet someone else, (without me, sans moi). I shoved myself and my 1976 Honda Civic back to my dorm room where I stared at the moon and wrote really bad poetry. I passed a bad check. Big Learning Experience!

Last Night: I met The Hag for an impromptu dinner after work at a trendy Central-American place downtown two blocks from my apartment in Chicago. While we were really enjoying our dinner together, The Hag pointed out that we no longer took notice of prices on the menu, and how nice that was.

We had a wonderful, tasty, impressive dinner. The waiter was great and we truly enjoyed ourselves. It was more than $50 and less that $100. I think.

I've come a long way. . .

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Spring Cleaning

A pack rat, I am not. If anything, I think I have a slight obsession with disposing anything that might be even remotely superfluous. I just don't like "things" around me that aren't functional and necessary. (Hey. Maybe that's why I enjoy being single). It's my day off from work, I'm through with my night classes for the semester, my chackras are feeling a little constipated so it's time to feng shui my apartment. I have to admit, it's something that I really get into. . . .

When ridding my surroundings of unnecessary items, I employ my "dump and dump" method. For example, now that I'm cleaning out the computer desk, I dump all the drawers out on the floor into one big pile, separate just about everything into a big box, and dump it down the trash chute. Yay! It sure feels good to hear all that crap go tumbling down 49 floors too. Books I've read, CD's I've downloaded, magazines, useless pornography, incidental tax records, it all goes. Sure, I know it would be more PC to re-sell the stuff, but past behavior indicates such an intention without follow-through. I know I won't ever get around to it. For now, it's just taking up space and begging to be hurled down the 49-story trash chute. If I'm ever hesitant about a certain something, a reminder that I'm now firmly implanted in my forties makes me realize that few things will absolutely be required for the next forty years. So, out they go.

It may sound like I've little sentimentality. No, for here are some things for which my dwelling shall always treasure:

1) Letters from my grandmother, Budgie. We were best friends, soul mates, she was a parent for much of my life. We enjoyed writing to each other immensely and I kept her letters since 1984; She happily passed in 2002 at the age of 92. Whenever I need a sense of myself, I only need to pluck one of Budgie's letters. I read one of them and I'm instantly laughing and crying at the same time. I have 865 of them. Such a treasure. Now compare that to a Boy George CD!

2) My autographed copy of Boy George's autobiography, Take It Like a Man. I was a novice in the Cistercian monastery in 1994 when Boy George came to Dallas to sign his autobiography. I snuck one of the monastery cars out at 9 pm and drove into Dallas to have it signed. Having him sign it was, perhaps, the last vestige of the life I was giving up. (Wow, that's pretty sad, really!).

3) My Shaker hymn books. I had corresponded with the last remaining Shaker community for quite some time. The elder of the Sabbathday Lake community was nice enough to impart some rare Shaker musical anthology books that contain some of the most beautiful, inspiring and well-written treasures of hymnology I've ever encountered.

4) Wanda Landowska's recordings of the Complete Bach Preludes and Fugues. (1946 - 1954) If I was ever limited to play one collection, it would be the "Great Forty-Eight." And I'd only want to play it just like Wanda.

5) Framed prints of Kandinsky's "Im Blau" and Munch's "Madonna" (Not the usual one, but the obscure MOMA one featuring the skeletal fetus framed by spermatazoa)

6) Baseball signed by Eric Karros. Don't ask.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

These Kids Nowadays . . .

Having forgotten my i-Pod, I had to listen to two very young women sitting behind me on the subway last night. They were both in their early twenties I'd say. What really amazed me was how often they used the word 'like'.
"He was, like, wearing this, like, black hat and looked, like, right at me. . . "

It was utterly amazing. I know that it's a popular word with kids these days and I tried to keep that in mind while listening to them. I really did. I'm even aware that the American Heritage Dictionary now lists 'like' as a pausitive article which, frankly, I find horrifying. But these gals really amazed me with the frequency of its use. As I left the subway and walked home, I really thought about how fun it would be to change careers, become a public school English teach, and lower the grades of any kid who used 'like' as a pausitive article more than once a day. God! That would be fun.

Listening to these young women, I realized that the frequency in which this word is used in increasing with no end sight. My fear is that these kids will cause the English language to evolve to one that contains only inflections of the word, 'like'. It'll go something like this:

Girl: "Like, like-like-like, like, like, like; LIKE, like-like, like - - like!
Guy: "LIKE! Like-like-like, like, like, like? . . . like?
Girl: "Eeeeww! Like!
Guy: sigh . . . like . . .

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Back to Blogging

For some time now, I've only been posting satirical articles that I've written for another website (See and none of my personal jottings. I've decided to return to posting my personal insights again because:

a) Some of my friends (well, three of them) said it was entertaining and they missed it.
b) All my satirical stuff is now published on
c) The best way to become a writer is to write, write, write!
b) I love reading material posted by my favorite bloggers like and Pretty much the first thing I do at work each day is to read their fun and witty posts. I want to get back into the swing of things too.

So, dear reader, I will be blogging again and will be posting the link to each of my articles as they appear.