Tuesday, January 29, 2008

On the Road Again

I'm on my quarterly expedition around the exciting state of Illinois. The last time I made this trip (three months ago, see? quarterly) it came out to 1,002 miles. That's a lot of driving.

At the moment, I'm at a Hampton Inn somewhere in the middle of the state.

My usual Zip Car wasn't available. I usually take the same one (it's a cute little Scion; sort of like a scaled down SUV type thing). I love that car and have come to think of it as "mine." However, someone probably rented it for a whole hour which made it unavailable for my four-day trek.

So, I'm stuck with a Nissan Vespa . . or Versa. . . Vice Versa. . .whatever it is, it rattles. And it's brand new which makes me not ever want to take it again.

Oh, and the weather is supposed to get blindingly cold again. That should make the road trip fun and exciting.

My new computer arrived yesterday. It's still in the box because I had to get ready for this trip. This weekend will definitely be spent with my new toy. Hopefully, soon, I'll have some original, kick-ass music for you all to purchase on iTunes.

The first thing I want to get done is producing the musical score for Lorraine's hubby's short film. Then, he'll win big prizes at lots in indy film festivals and we'll all make buckets of money and I'll never have to travel to Central Illinois again.

That's the plan anyway.

In the meantime, I have to make a living so I've got to head out to my appointment and then drive to somewhere in Southern Illinois.

I doubt that Barak Obama even knows where I am.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Iwanski Radio

I don't know about you, but I know what I'm going to be doing on Tuesday, Jan 29 at 7:00 pm.

I'll be listening to Iwanski's live radio broadcast on http://www.boskeyradiowest.com/

Unfortunately, I'll be doing one of my thousand-mile treks across Illinois, so I'll be all alone in a sad little hotel room somewhere in Southern Illinois.

At least I'll have something entertaining to do beside playing Speed Scrabble with myself.

I'm sure it'll be hilarious, entertaining, and thought-provoking. He's kinda like that.
Be sure to tune in! That's 7:00 to 8:00 pm CST.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Finger Food

I love to eat. Yes, I enjoy food.

But I’ve always had this strange aversion to eating anything with my fingers. It’s always got to be with eating utensils.

I love KFC but always forget that they only have “sporks” there to eat with. You can’t eat fried chicken with a flimsy little spork, for crying out loud.

Pizza, French fries, hamburgers, egg rolls all get eaten with knives and forks; never with my hands or fingers.

Popcorn gets eaten with a spoon or using a latex glove.

You know that shivering feeling you get down your spine when you hear someone scratching their fingernails against a chalk board? That’s the feeling I get when I even see someone eating with their fingers, especially if it’s something greasy.

I hate KFC commercials because (OH MY GOD!) they're always showing people picking up drumsticks with their fingers. Don’t get me even started on those honey barbecue wings. I have to turn my head.

I remember growing up and at the breakfast table averting my eyes when I’d see my brother eating a biscuit, the butter oozing onto his fingers.

Miss Healthypants and I were looking at family photos last night. She thought this photo of me at my second birthday was cute.

Most two-year olds would dive right in to a cake. Not me. I’m gingerly picking at it, pinky up in the air. I probably requested a fork at that point and made a critical remark about the frosting.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Sorry, Kurt

I just ordered a new home computer. In a few days, I’ll have that wonderful new plastic smell in my apartment and lots of bubble-wrap to play with.

It was really time to order a new one. My old one was soooo old. Cro-Magnons had designed the operating system for it. Only one USB port worked on it. The CD tray wouldn’t open anymore. It was getting glitchy and awfully constipated.

It had served me well over the years, but it was time to move on to newer and better things.

Still, I was rather firm with the nice customer service guy named Kurt from Dell who wanted to sell all sorts of additional bells and whistles to me.

I don’t need Microsoft Office because I never use it at home. Besides, if I do need it, it’ll be work-related and I can download the copy I have for my laptop at work.

So there!
Sorry, Kurt.

I don’t need a monitor because I just got a big, flat-screen monitor from eBay for seventy bucks. I had outbid the other bidder for it within the last fifteen seconds.

God! I love it when that happens. (Pump fist).

Sorry, Kurt.

I charged it to my credit card and paid the balance from my checking account within the hour. No one’s going to get interest from me, nor am I going to buy a super-duper computer system that will take a lifetime to pay off.

Sorry, Kurt.

Oh, and the tax rebate check we’re supposed to get in June? That’s going into a savings account. There’s no way I’m going to use it to support Bush’s desire for rampant consumerism.

Sorry, Dubya.

And besides, my generation can probably kiss any expectation of Social Security goodbye. Any security I might have in my old age will be that which I muster myself.

Okay, enough banging on my high chair. . . .

Oh, and another reason I need this new computer is so that I can produce some really cool music, market it on iTunes, then lots of you will buy it and I’ll become rich and famous.

Like Yanni or Enya.

Then, I can buy Lorraine a summer condo right below me and we can connect our condos with a spiral staircase. That's the plan, you know.

I’ve always wanted a spiral staircase ever since I was a kid saw the opening credits to The Doris Day Show.

Click here to see it.

Isn't that the campiest thing you've ever seen?

Once I saw that, I was completely obsessed with spiral staircases.
I was a pretty weird kid.

I wonder how Lorraine will look in that yellow pants suit. . . .

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Major Brrrrr.

I just walked to work and it was awfully cold this morning.

"How cold was it?"

Okay, I'm glad you asked.

I just looked online at noaa.gov and the temp is minus 4 F with a wind chill of minus 31.

When it's that cold, your wire rimmed glasses give you an ice cream headache. When you breath in, you can feel it freezing on the inside of your nostrils.

I won't be attending my ice skating lessons tonight. Sorry.

Anyway, here's a pic of Chicago in the summertime. I was coming out of the grocery store one afternoon and snapped this pic. Keep in mind, this is not a black-n-white photo. It's in color. This is how it really looked:

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Passengers from Hell

The Chicago Transit Authority.

Say what you will about our CTA, but we do have an effective system that has served us well for over a century.

Yes, there are funding issues, the system could benefit from an expansion and upgrade, but we Chicagoans are pretty fortunate when it comes to mass transit.

Just ask anyone living in Houston or Los Angeles.

Those of us who ride our beloved EL trains have all had this experience at one time or another: We’re riding merrily along with our nose in a book, minding our own business and we encounter The Passenger from Hell.

You know who I’m talking about: The passenger who loudly announces his sad plight to the entire car full of riders and proceeds down the aisle expecting a hand-out; the one who plops down next to you and has obviously thwarted every opportunity to bathe since the Carter administration; and (worst of all) the one who flips out her cell phone the moment the Red Line emerges from underground so she can call everyone she knows to notify them of such earth-shattering news like (1) where she is and (2) what she’s doing.

I’ve often wished I had a means of remedying such Passenger-from-Hell-situations. I usually just suffer along being jostled about in quiet repose, but not my long-time friend, Danny.

Danny and I have ridden the EL countless times together and he is truly an inspiration in situations such as these. Danny has to be the all-time champion of dealing with Passengers from Hell.

Danny is my EL hero. A true Urban Gorilla.

Stories recounting how he has dealt with Passengers from Hell have thoroughly entertained dinner-party guests and friends of mine for years. Trust me. These stories are legendary.

For example, Danny and I were transferring from the #21 Cermak bus to the Red Line in Chinatown. As we were exiting the bus, he lightly brushed by a man who was gathering his belongings and blocking the aisle.

“Excuuuse me?!!” exclaimed the passenger, obviously annoyed at Danny’s brazen attempt to exit the bus.

Danny ignored him.

I watched the situation unfold in front of me. The man scampered off the bus behind Danny and was continuing his tirade.

“Don’t you know you’re supposed to say ‘excuse me’ when you do that?” he fumed.

Danny kept walking and stopped at the corner waiting for the light to change.

The angry passenger then came up to Danny and jabbed his shoulder with a pointy finger.

“Say, buddy, don’t you have any manners?” he bellowed. This guy was out for blood.

Danny then did the most brilliant thing I’ve ever seen. He wheeled around, faced the man with a perplexed look and signed to him that he was deaf.

That guy could do nothing but just stand there, dumbfounded, with the most confused expression on his face.

Situation averted and defused, Danny turned and calmly headed toward the Red Line.

We made sure not to speak until well out of view. . . .

Passengers that solicit for money on the EL bug me to no end. First of all, we’re a captive audience and they know it. Secondly, their stories seldom vary. (They all seem to be war veterans with ghastly injuries, their houses have burned down and they were all recently robbed of everything they’ve ever owned.)

But what bothers me most of all, is that it’s illegal.

We’ve all heard the CTA guy with the mellifluous voice making the recorded announcement: “Solicitation on CTA trains is prohibited; violators will be arrested.”

Perhaps these panhandlers don’t know the meaning words like “solicitation” or “prohibited”; or, for that matter, “trains”.

Danny and I were on a crowded Red Line, heading north from downtown. Sure enough, here comes the ubiquitous solicitor announcing his tale of woe. This guy had a little variation in that he was blind and was tap-tap-tapping everyone’s feet with his white cane as he ambled down the aisle.

Danny, ever capable, took insouciant control of the situation. He stood up, whispered something into the man’s ear and helped him into a nearby seat.

“What did you tell that guy?” I queried.

“Oh, I just told him that I was Officer Henderson with the Chicago Police and that he’d be arrested if he continued.”


The best illustration of Danny’s ability to handle Passengers from Hell was during a trip on the Red Line heading south from the Howard station.

Soon after we embarked, two rather large women sat in front of us and were obviously in the middle of a loud, heated conversation.

When I say ‘loud,’ I mean that Metra passengers in Winnetka were alerted. When I say ‘heated,’ they made contestants on Jerry Springer look like cloistered nuns.

Apparently, they had “boyfriend issues” and showed no signs of letting up. As the train filled with each subsequent stop, they got louder. And louder. It was obviously going to be a long, bothersome ride all the way to State & Lake downtown.

Danny whispered to me, “Watch this. . . .”

Just as I was wondering what he was going to pull out of his bag of tricks, he suddenly obtained a neurological disorder that caused him to let out a split-second ear-piercing shriek about every fifteen seconds.

Every time he did that, the women would suddenly abandon their tirade for a bit.

They would start up and, Danny’s “Eeep!!” would quiet them down again.

It only took a couple of stops, but the obnoxious women obviously had had enough, exited at the next stop and moved to the next car.

Danny was quiet as a mouse after that, but couldn’t help displaying a little grin of satisfaction.

“You just have to be more annoying than they are,” he said after a while. “That’s the rule.”

As we approached downtown, Danny discovered a fifty-dollar bill in the seat that someone had obviously lost.

As I mentioned something about splurging on dinner that night, Danny became reflective and somber.

“You know,” he said, “I’ll bet whoever lost this probably needed it a lot more than we do.”

As I thought about it, he was probably right. We were having a good time without a care in the world that night. We were on our way to have dinner and see Wicked downtown.

It was freezing cold that night. As we walked from the subway station to the restaurant, we passed an elderly homeless woman bundled up on the sidewalk with a cup of change in front of her.

The look of astonishment and happiness on her face when Danny gave her that fifty-dollar bill was more touching and heartwarming than the entire performance of Wicked could have ever been.

That’s the thing about Danny. He can have the most acerbic wit and have you in pain from laughing so hard, but he also has a heart of gold. That’s what everyone loves about him.

Yes, our transit system can use a few changes. Yes, funding is sometimes in jeopardy and the rates get raised. And there are Passengers from Hell who are inconsiderate, obnoxious and sometimes even dangerous.

But perhaps what our transit system could use most of all are a lot more passengers like Danny. Being inundated with riders who have a witty sense of humor, but especially with a heart of gold could certainly provide our beloved CTA with the most effective renovation ever.


Trump Tower Update

Here is today's pic of the Trump International Hotel and Tower.

See that uppermost section they're working on? That will be the last section, but it will be twice as tall as the section below it.

So, that should give you an idea of how tall this sucker is going to be.


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Winter in Chicago

Here's a view of a very frozen Lake Michigan.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Busy Weekend

I don’t have an account at Costco, but Portia’s daddies do. For babysitting Portia last week (I PROMISE this is the last post about that), they brought lots of goodies from Costco that I like.

I’m eating high on the hog.

Here’s the booty:

Two ten-pound bags of mixed veggies. These aren't your run-of-the-mill carrot-pea-lima-bean mixture, but a snooty mix of sugar snap peas, broccoli, red peppers, and some weird mushroom I can’t identify.

Two ten-pound bags of frozen fresh fruit. It’s got peaches, white peaches, pineapple, blueberries and strawberries. I nuke a bowlful to soften it up and give it a drizzle of honey. I think I ate five pounds over the weekend.

Medjool dates. A big container of the really big dates. Love ‘em.

One ten-pound bag of boneless, skinless chicken breasts. I just chuck three of them in the crock pot, pour over a jar of Trader Joe’s Korma Sauce, and the next day I’ve got several great dinners on hand.

Heinz Mustard. You can’t buy Heinz mustard in the regular grocery store. It’s only sold commercially to restaurants like IHOP and Denny’s. I love the stuff. They gave me a big Costco-sized container of it.

Oh, and speaking of this past weekend, it was bitterly cold outside so I stayed inside on Sunday and did nothing but watch Lifetime movies back-to-back.

I’m sorry! But I really like Lifetime movies. I’ll admit it.

In one movie, there was one messed-up young woman who got a crush on this guy that attended AA meetings. So, she attended one even though she wasn’t an alcoholic and really “connected” with everyone there.

You can guess the rest of the story. . .

She and the guy fell in love.
He found liquor in her house.
She told him she wasn’t an alcoholic.
He broke up with her because he thought she was ‘in denial.’
She finally ‘comes out’ to the other AA members and they warmly embrace her.
Everyone lives happily ever after.

I hated the ending and wanted to impale the TV with a shoe. The AA members should have thrown her out.

The next Lifetime movie was even worse.
I loved it.

Hayes to Play Edwards Role

Actor Sean Hayes, best know for his portrayal of Jack MacFarland in the TV sitcom, Will & Grace, has recently agreed to play the role John Edwards in Oliver Stone's new made-for-TV movie, "Ain't I Pretty? The John Edwards Story."

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Driving in Houston

Here’s a nifty pic for you. It’s the largest highway interchange in the world, located on Interstate 10 in Houston, Texas. I’m really looking forward to my mom seeing this. Here’s why.

As a single parent from a little-bitty town in Texas, driving in big cities like Dallas or Houston made her nervous. I can understand why. If you never drive on big freeway interchanges, they can certainly be intimidating.

I lived in Dallas for ten years, and I can tell you that Houston drivers are much more aggressive. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because Houston is so spread out that they feel a greater need to get where they’re going.

I never did like driving in Houston either.

Anyway, I remember my mom driving my brother in me in Houston one time and we were going through one of these interchanges. I was about 13 years old, my brother, about 11. As we were traversing one of these fly-overs, my brother and I would comment from the back seat:

“Look how far up we are!"

“You boys be quiet!” yelled my mom from the driver’s seat, with visions of impending disaster.

“Look at all those highways below us! Look at all that traffic!” we’d continue. . .

“Boys! I mean it!”. . .

I’ve since driven in New York City, Toronto, and Chicago.
And I still don’t like to drive in Houston.


Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Best Red Wine -- Ever.

Here in Chicago, we're fortunate to have Trader Joe's wines on hand. Their infamous "Three Buck Chuck" merlot and cabernet sauvignons have won lots of competitions and, I'll admit, are hard to beat. Especially for the price.

Recently, a longtime friend of mine in Texas went on a family vacation to the Big Bend National Park region which is in the far pocket of West Texas. They stopped at a resort-type restaurant for a nice dinner and the waiter highly recommended a local wine from a nearby vineyard:

Big Bend Red from the Luz de Estrella Winery near Marfa, Texas. It was $28.00 bucks.

My friend tried it and was really impressed. Her first response was, "Oh, that's spicy!" But it also had a hint of sweetness. Everyone at the table really enjoyed it.

Later, they found the same wine for sale at a nearby gift shop for $15.00 a bottle. She purchased three bottles, brought them back to Austin, and we enjoyed one while I was visiting home during Christmas.

It was SUCH a nice bottle of wine!

Here's the thing. It's mostly merlot from a vineyard in West Texas (yes, in the desert where there are tumbleweeds) but it's blended with just a bit of, not syrah or cabernet as you might expect, but Chenin Blanc from another regional vineyard.

I can tell you that those merlots and cabernets from Texas can be a bit astringent and "oomphy". But this winery in far West Texas knew what they were doing by taming a rambunctious Texan merlot with a touch of local Chenin Blanc to soften it up and get it flowery, sweet and spicy.

Yep, just a tad of French white grapes with a spunky Texas twang did the trick.

The result is, hands down, the best red wine I've ever enjoyed.

As we were sampling this wine in Austin, we googled online to find that it's only $9.99 a bottle, direct from the winery, and there's no shipping costs.

I had five bottles shipped to me in Chicago.

There was a glitch in the shipping. Paypal dropped the ball. I called the winery and no one seemed to answer for the next two weeks. Finally, I called the owner of the winery in Houston which turned out to be the husband of Linda, the owner. They had been on vacation in Alaska during the holidays. A fax to the winery cleared everything up. I enjoyed two very nice and Texan-friendly phone calls with them since.

I received my five bottles, no shipping costs.

I'm now ordering a case to have on hand. Not for my own consumption, but to have this little jewel on hand for those dinner parties, get-togethers and what-not gatherings when you don't want to arrive empty-handed.

Also, the label of "THE best red wine - EVER" will certainly get attention.

And, at $9.99 a bottle? No shipping?

Here's your Christmas gifts for next year, folks!

(Scroll down to the "Big Bend Red") Order it here.

Texas Wine. The best ever.
Who would've thunk it?

You can thank me later.

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Friday, January 18, 2008

Portia, The Good Dog

Each night around 9:00, Portia gets a treat which consists of baby carrots tossed across the room and a beer (Miller Lite).

The treats are preceded by the phrase, “Are you a good dog?”
(She perks up)

Then, “What do good dogs get?”
(She bounds up and down)

Then, “Do good dogs get TREATS?”
(She goes nuts)

I wanted to see if she really understood the initial phrase that begins the launch sequence, so this morning I just worked it into some conversation.

She definitely understood.

Take a look here.

It’s sooooo cute!

Now you can see why I love this dog so much.


Thursday, January 17, 2008


Last night during my skating class, the instructor placed these orange traffic cones about six feet apart for us to skate through. Right after she placed them, the wind blew them in unison to the edge of the ice.

By the way, skating against the wind is difficult.

On Saturday, the high is supposed to be 5 F and the low at minus 2. And the forecast says “blustery” on top of it. They’re predicting a wind chill of minus 30. I doubt that it will faze Portia one bit.

The only weather she doesn’t like is rain. That dog will not go poo in the rain for some reason.


Portia has all these stuffed animal toys strewn about the hallway. Whenever I get home, she’s at the door with, say, a stuffed duck in her mouth, tail a-wagging.

Yesterday, I must have knocked Tinky Winky off the windowsill in the bathroom. When I got home, Portia had that purple Tinky Winky in her bed with her.

I told Jack about it.

“She never has her stuffed animals in her bed,” he said.

“Well, she’s got a thing for Tinky Winky,” I replied.

Tinky is back on the windowsill, a little worse for wear.
There was a charge of $154.00 from Holiday Inn Express in Springfield on my credit card dated December 27. I was in Texas on the 27th, not in Springfield.

I phoned them up and contested it. It turns out I was at the Holiday Inn in Springfield on October 24th for two days. They just hadn’t billed me for it yet. And it was a Holiday Inn Express.
Isn’t that ironic?


I had a dream last night that I was back in the monastery. There was a choir singing a beautiful hymn in the monastery chapel and they sang the f-word. Twice. (It was a contemporary hymn, probably from that awful “Gather” hymnbook).
I wonder what that dream meant?

If They Were Alive Today. . .

Janis Joplin would be 64

Lee Harvey Oswald would be 68

Karen Carpenter would be 57

John Lennon would be 67

John F. Kennedy would be 90

Marilyn Monroe would be 82

James Dean would be 82

and Michael Jackson would be 49

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Comfort Food

I’ll admit it. I do enjoy nice restaurants and “snooty” food. If a menu item has the word "aux" in it, I get excited.

For my tenth birthday, I wanted a lobster dinner because it was fancy and unattainable in my little-bitty home town. My mom and grandmother drove me all the way to San Antonio to one of those lobster places where you get to pick out your own. I was in heaven. (That was way before the days of Red Lobster which my brother and I call “Dead Lobster.”)
I love fine food.

That’s not to say I’m a food snob. I don’t send steaks back because they’re cooked medium instead of medium-rare. Please.

To prove it, here are some of my favorite comfort foods. They’re definitely not high on the foodie scale.

Hamburger Helper - - I don’t know why, but ever since HH came out in the 70s I’ve loved that stuff. The lasagna and cheeseburger varieties are my favorites.

Chili dogs - - I love a good chili dog with lots of mustard. A great meal is a foot-long chili dog and tater tots from Sonic. Love. It!

Tamales with ketchup - - Back when I was growing up in my little bitty small town in Texas, lots of the Latino families would make homemade tamales and sell them on Saturdays. Back in the 70s, they were about $2.00 a dozen. For some reason, I’ve always eaten them with ketchup. They were a staple on Christmas Eve.

Onion Rings – Not the frozen little pre-battered ringlets, but the big hand-battered homemade things. With ketchup.

Patty Melt - - a grilled hamburger patty with Swiss cheese and grilled onions between greasy pieces of griddled rye bread. With lots of mustard.

Egg noodles - - simply dressed with extra-sharp cheddar cheese and a little butter.

Yep. These are some of my faves. Not that I can eat them every day, especially at this age, but I do enjoy them when the need arises.

So? What are some of your comfort foods?

I’d love to know.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

I'm Tired

As I mentioned before, I’m doggy-sitting for Portia this week. I know you might get tired of hearing about it but it’s a BIG DEAL to Portia and me.

I love that dog and adore taking care of her. She’s such a loving dog that when she snuggles up to me while I’m watching TV, she has to get as much of her body against me as she possible can.

But it’s a lot of work caring for a dog.

First of all, she has to be walked first thing in the morning at a nearby park. I’m not a morning person

She is!

So, I have to get up extra early to accommodate her morning routine. A morning meal and medication administration is also required.

My normal commute to work each day consists of:
Walking five blocks.

However, the commute from Portia’s house is an hour-long bus ride. That means I have to get up extra-extra early.

When I’m taking her for her walks, I worry that she might dash away from me and get hit by a car or something. She’s so easily distracted by little things like:

Gum wrappers,
Anything that might be considered food.

I worry about her being alone in the house all day.
Is she frightened?
Is she feeling abandoned?
Has she eaten another bar of soap and thrown it up all over the stairs?

It’s only the third day, but I’m kinda wiped out!

I don’t know how parents raise kids. I really don’t.

It’s a good thing I didn’t have kids. Sure, I think I’d make a good parent, but what if I had a kid and it turned out . . .

. . . that I didn’t like him?

It could happen!
There are definitely kids I’ve encountered that aren’t likeable. You know the ones I’m talking about. What if that turned out to be mine? It’s not like you can put an ad on Craig’s List:

“Wanted. Good home for energetic three year-old boy. Almost potty-trained. Has tendency to bite, shove corn up his nose and flush cell phones down the toilet. Allergic to peanuts.”

That would be my kid.

It’s a good thing I avoided all that.

. . . . I’m tired.


Did you know that if Krakatoa, the volcano in Indonesia, blew up like it did back in the 1880's, it would wipe out this village that produces one hundred percent of all the nutmeg used to make Coca Cola?

When I heard that, I thought, "THAT's the spice that's used in Coke!"

And that's why I like Coke better than Pepsi. I prefer nutmeg over peppermint.

Sigh. . .

I just love it when the Answers to Life's Questions are revealed. . . .

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Monday, January 14, 2008

Packing Mishaps

As much as I travel for work, you’d think I’d be up to par on this packing-for-overnight-stays thing.

As I’d previously mentioned, I’m staying with Portia this week while her daddies are attending the Mac Expo in San Francisco, i.e. The Geek Fest.

As I was packing, I couldn’t find my gloves. Anywhere.

No doubt, I’d made another one of my many glove donations to the Chicago Transit Authority or a taxi driver. I’d hate to think how many umbrella or glove donations I’ve made over the years. That’s why I only buy cheap gloves at Walgreens. I know they’re going to end up on the subway after a month or so.

I also packed the wrong belt. A brown one. And this morning I had to make a presentation to the Chamber of Commerce wearing (gasp!) a brown belt with black shoes. It’ll probably be on the five o’clock news.

I don’t know what happened to my toothbrush. I keep an overnight case packed with duplicates of everything (toothbrush, hair brush, razor, shaving cream, cologne, etc) so I won’t ever have to pack anything for an overnight trip. I just plunk in my overnight case and go. My toothbrush wasn’t there. I had to do the toothpaste-on-a-washcloth thing.

My antacid tablets weren’t packed. I don’t know how that happened. I remember putting them in there. I found a gummy one in the bottom of my overnight case, though.

Oh, but I DID manage to bring along:

A bag of cashews.
A geography book written by The Onion
An apple that I’d bought - - in Texas.

I’ll be stopping by my apartment on my way back to Portia’s house tonight.

It’s on the way.


I’m doggie-sitting for my friends’ chocolate Labrador, Portia, this week. We’re having a fine time together.

The dog absolutely LIVES for going outside on potty-breaks because she knows that a meal always follows.

She can be laying there, quiet as a mouse (a very large mouse) and all I have to do is whisper the following:


Oh my gosh! Mayhem ensues. Bounding and leaping. Pant-pant-pant!

Here are a couple of recent pics of her at the lake. Normally, she chases tennis balls into the water and retrieves them. You can view a video of that here.

Then, I threw a big tree branch in the water and she LOVED that. After that, she’d have nothing to do with the tennis balls. Here’s the video of that.

I found a smaller tree branch and she carried it all the way back to the car. And into the back seat of the car. And home with her.

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Saturday, January 12, 2008

Why I Love Anchovy Pizza

It's nine p.m. on a Friday night. There's nothing to eat. My boss has worked me to the bone. . .

I live in downtown Chicago and can call a dozen different places for the Holy Grail of pizza:

Freshly delivered Chicago Style Pizza.

The crust is over a quarter inch thick and it's been baked in olive oil.
On top of that are layers of mozzarella and provalone cheese.
Above that are your choice of toppings.
Then, covering it all, is a huge, thick layer of THE most fragrant tomato sauce you've ever tasted!

With anchovies!

(sound of screeching brakes).

Really, a plain cheese Chicago Style Pizza is really all you need.

However! As long as you're shelling out the bucks for a Real Chicago Style Pizza, you might as well make it worth every penny.

Pepperoni? In my experience, their little slivers only become greasy little things among such a hefty pizza.

Mushrooms? Meh! Tasteless little things

Onions? They're nice and add a bit of oomph to the sauce. But onions as a topping? Why pay for onions? They cost nothing!

Sausage? I don't like sausage. There's always a chance I'll bite down on something in sausage. You never know what that 'something' is.

Jalapeno? It's nice. It has lots of flavor. But it's too "burney". I don't want that much pain to stand in my way of enjoying pizza.

Anchovy? My dear sweet anchovies. They're really the only thing that can add anything of substance to a Chicago Style Pizza.

You bite down into a thick slice and you're hit with an incredible, heady, saline, rich, distinct, muskiness.

Yes, there is a "fishy" flavor that can be overpowering to some, but I've always loved the taste of anything that comes squirming from the ocean.

Also, in Chicago Style Pizza, the anchovies seem to get diffused across each slice, much like they do in a puttanesca sauce. Think of them as a salty tapenade on top of your pizza rather than a cured fish fillet.


Okay, anything but green peppers is fine.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Mars Dodged a Bullet

I turns out that the nasty asteriod won't be hitting Mars after all according to the world's leading geeky scientists.

I am SO relieved!

Not that I care two hoots about Martian activity, but an event like this would have been featured ad nauseum on The Explosion Channel.

It would have taken over all my Geek Channels as well. Bigfoot and UFOs would never be featured again.

I'm relieved.

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The Ick Factor

Okay, I just read on CNN where twins in England married each other without knowing they were related.

They had both been adopted by separate families, met years later and married. The article didn’t go on to say what’s become of them.

That got me to thinking. . . .

What if this had happened to twin males where same-sex marriage is allowed?

See? Huh?

I’m all for equal rights (and obligations) when it comes to marriage. But the scenario of brothers marrying each other made me go “ick” more than the male-female twins.

Isn't that interesting?


Beep Beep!

That’s me, tooting my own horn.

I just received and email from “my editor” at the magazine. (I love saying “my editor.” It’s SO Carrie Bradshaw). She said that the magazine just went to press and my article should “hit the streets” next week.

She also said I’d be pleased with it and that the staff at the magazine loved it.

Then she reminded me of my next deadline. “My editor” is reminding me of magazine deadlines. I love it! I absolutely adore it.

This wouldn’t have happened had it not been for Lorraine. She learned of this writing opportunity here in Chicago and sent it my way. She is such a sweetheart and I adore that woman.

Okay, back to me.

My next article will be a humorous view of riding the CTA (Chicago Transit Authority). There will be accounts of exploding diapers on train seats, crime and violence, but it’ll be poignant and heartwarming too. Fair and balanced, as they say.

I’m also writing a review of our fav restaurant, Lao Sze Chuan, which, by the way, has a whole new menu section featuring frogs. I’ll have to try the frog section of the menu next time I’m there. That should make for a fun part of the review.

I am a columnist.

Mind you, it’s in a free, local magazine that comes out only once a month. But it’s glossy and snooty and I get paid for it. (Here are pics of past copies)

I am so full of myself.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

What Would Brian Boitano Do?

In case you don’t know, that’s the name of a hilarious song from the South Park movie.

But last night, I could relate to it because I had my first skating lesson. Intermediate level, mind you. I’m pretty jazzed over it.

Aside from almost breaking my wrist during a nasty fall, it all went very well. I’ve always wanted to learn to skate backwards, but never could figure out how to get going backwards. I'd turn around and just stand there like a gumdrop, not knowing how to go.

Well, last night, after the instructor demonstrated the proper technique I was the first one to the other side of the rink. Backwards. HA!

Then, we learned to skate on one foot with arms outstretched. I sort of kept meandering in circles rather than straight ahead. Must practice that.

I took a fall when we were learning that stopping technique. You know, when the ice skaters come to a sudden stop by sliding sideways, sending shards of ice flying. (Ever so dramatic).

I was practicing it, but not paying attention. Instead I was singing along to the music. That song from the ‘60’s by Scott McKenzie, If You’re Going to San Francisco was playing over the music system and I couldn’t help but sing along to that haunting tenor melody. While I was practicing my sudden stops.

Boom. Down I went and landed really hard on my wrist. If I hadn’t been wearing heavy gloves, I SO would have broken it.

I see little kids falling all the time. Blip! And they get right back up, no big deal.

But I’m six-foot-five on my hockey skates. And 225 pounds. That’s a lot of falling to do, believe me. (These skating lessons will really give me incentive to drop some weight - - it would be SO much easier without the extra poundage).

Afterward, we got to have the rink to ourselves for about an hour before the public skating resumed. I was so excited over having learned so much. I asked one of my fellow students, a small young woman, if I could practice an overhead lift with her. She wouldn’t let me.

I got to thinking about the horrible phys. ed. classes while growing up; getting picked last when teams were chosen for dodge ball, day after day.

Oh! How I would love to have those arrogant jocks from Texas out on the ice and see how they would do! I would just point and laugh, then choose them last for my skating team. Then hurl dodge balls at them.

The lessons continue for the next two months. Hopefully, by then I’ll have dropped twenty pounds and have a butt like Brian Boitano.

We’ll see.

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Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Plastic Bags

Effective June 1st, it will be illegal for any store in China to supply plastic bags to their customers.

Frankly, I’m all for it.

Yesterday, I was picking up a prescription at Walgreens. My little pills were in a plastic bottle, the bottle was in a stapled paper bag, and the clerk asked if I wanted it in a bag.

“It’s already in one,” I started to say. But the clerk was just being accommodating, so I didn’t.

Yes, we use a ridiculous number of plastic bags. We buy an onion and it goes into a plastic produce bag. Then that bag goes into another plastic bag until we get it home. The two bags are used for fifteen minutes, tops, just to carry an onion.

God already gave the onion a pretty hefty covering in case you didn’t notice, yet we feel compelled to put it in a plastic bag. Same goes for a zucchini.

Those bags gather into big balls in our cabinets until we (usually) throw them all away.

I’m no saint. I don’t always have my canvas grocery bag with me, but I try. If I stop by the store on the way home and buy a can of tomatoes, it goes in my man-purse rather than a plastic bag. After all, I’ve always got my man-purse with me. (It’s a black canvas satchel that I bought for five bucks about ten years ago).

Once, I even bought a new canvas grocery bag at the grocery store. And, are you ready for this? The clerk quickly whisked it into a plastic bag.

Silly clerk.

If you don’t want to carry around a ten-year-old, five-dollar man-purse you can order Stella McCartney environmental designer bags here for $960. Really.

I have to doggie-sit Portia next week. And I will admit that those plastic bags do come in handy. When I'm presented with a big, honkin' steaming pile in the snow, I'm happy to have a plastic bag on hand.

But! I rinse it out, dry it off and recycle it.

Okay, I'm kidding.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Politics - - Here We Go

Okay, I’m going to do something I don’t normally do.

I’m going to express some political opinions about the candidates.

Seriously. Just quick-n-dirty.

Clinton: She has the most experience and it would be soooo comforting to have The Clintons back in the White House where they belong.

Obama: Elegant. Articulate. Charismatic. I can’t imagine him doing anything scandalous or effing anything up.

Edwards: I really admire someone who’s come from poverty and who has also experienced affliction like he has. (the death of his 16 year-old son in an auto accident). I think he’d make a fine vice president. My bet? He probably will.

Richardson: An even better vice president.

Romney: Absolutely revolting. ‘Nuf said.

McCain: Not revolting. But, sadly, we already live in a militarized nation and a military man is the last thing we need in the White House.

Huckabee: Are you kidding me? This guy is a Southern Baptist minister who barely attended divinity school. He’s not even qualified to be in a pulpit, much less a public office.

Guiliani: I’ve seen New York City before and after his reign. I admire anyone who can do what he did for New York.

But who am I to give political observations?

If I had my choice, our next president would be a socialist vegan whose political platform included universal food subsidies to Whole Foods Market.

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The Nice Man

Part of living downtown is that you don’t own a car and I’m fine with that. Very fine, as a matter of fact.

I had a car when I first moved downtown. It sat in the Very Expensive parking garage, virtually unused. The couple of times I did use it, I regretted it. Parking was difficult to find, I’d be stuck in traffic watching the train full of happy passenger whiz by, and I’d return to the Very Expensive parking garage awfully frazzled.

The car got sold and that was almost three years ago. Since then, I’ve no car payments, auto insurance to purchase, Very Expensive parking garage payments, none of that.

That’s why I don’t mind paying “shipping and handling” fees when I order things online, which is a lot. I just compare those fees to the cost of owning and parking a car, and it makes them quite palatable.

Most recently, I bought a new dining room table and chairs which arrived yesterday. (Yay! New stuff!) Shipping was fifty bucks. Fine.

In my apartment building, we have a nice service that accepts our packages and holds them for us. They just put a little notice in our mailbox and we go pick up our packages from the Nice Man who runs the pick-up window in the building.

My very heavy dining room table was there in a big box measuring 4’ x 4’. Normally, the Nice Man has a dolly or a hotel cart with which we can transport such things to our apartments. However, he informed me that someone had taken the dolly and never returned it. The box wouldn’t fit on the hotel cart.

I picked up the big box (which was awfully heavy) and said I’d just try to carry it myself.

“You can’t carry that!” said the Nice Man.

He was probably genuinely worried about my safety in carrying such a heavy object. However, I interpreted his response as, “You can’t have your dining room table which you paid for and that’s your only option.”

I snapped at the Nice Man, “Well, I’m not going to leave it here!”

As I shoved the big box across the lobby, I felt really bad for snapping at the Nice Man. He really is very nice and is always there, Monday through Friday, 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. (2:00 to 5:00 pm on Saturdays) faithfully accepting and distributing our packages with a smile. And I snapped at him like a feral tabby cat. Reeeerrr!

After I unloaded the table (and caught my breath) I returned for the chairs which were in smaller, more manageable boxes. The Nice Man had provided a little cart by the time I had returned. With a big smile and a ‘thank you’ I promised I’d bring it right back. Which I did.

I’m expecting the following items within the next few days:

1. Knife sharpener and other sundries from Walgreens
2. Another biography of Mary Todd Lincoln
3. Five bottles of wine from Texas (to have on hand as hostess gifts)
4. New set of dishes
5. Another dorky sweater-vest

I should buy the Nice Man a gift certificate or something. After all, every time I want anything, I punch a few buttons on the computer and he makes sure that I receive it.

Isn't that nice?

Monday, January 07, 2008

Misc. . .

I can’t think of anything really funny or profound to write, so I’m just going to ramble about the little things taking place at Chez Buck.

I was tired from returning to work after the holidays so I went to bed early on Friday. I awoke at 7:30 Saturday morning and, literally, laid on the couch watching TV and eating bon-bons (thanks, Liane – hi!wave).

Then, I went to sleep around 11:00 am and slept until 2:30. Nice nap. Made a big pot of chicken korma, thanks to the wonderful korma sauce that comes in a jar from Trader Joe’s. That stuff rocks my world.

I tried working on the tutorials to this new music program that I paid a lot of money for. If I ever learn to work it, I can compose and produce lots of music that can be published on iTunes and I’ll be rich and famous.

Mainly, I just stared at it for a while and returned to the bon-bons. (Note to self: Become rich and famous. THEN you can eat bon-bons).

My gym membership that I cancelled last month finally expired. Now I no longer feel any guilt at all for not going. I will be getting some exercise, though. I signed up for ice skating lessons which begin this week. Intermediate level, baybeee.

I really need to exercise. It’s pretty bad when you get winded just lacing up the skates.

While eating my chicken korma, I watched Psycho on TV. The 1960’s version. God that’s a good movie. Then, while playing on the internets, I found this really cool Psycho shower curtain. You can order it here.

I’m getting really pissed off at that new series called “Monster Quest.” On each episode, they lure you in by saying they’ve got new scientific evidence on Bigfoot, the Loch Ness monster, the Skunk Ape and the like. You watch the entire episode and then, at the very end, their scientific evidence turns out to be inconclusive.

God, that makes me mad.

On Sunday, I went out with Jack and Steve, Richard and Karen to Lao Sze Chuan. Richard and Karen hadn’t been there before but Richard said, “I think we’ve found a new favorite restaurant.” (Richard and Karen; no their last name isn’t Carpenter, but I do have other friends named Dan and Karen Carpenter.)

Jack and Steve will be attending the Mac Expo in San Francisco next week (the "Geek-Fest"), so I’ll be baby-sitting Portia for five days. We’ll have a grand time.

I bet she likes chicken korma, too.


Thursday, January 03, 2008

Billy Mays is Evil

Billy Mays is the Devil.

You know who I’m talking about; that guy on TV with the high shrill voice that peddles Ka-boom, Oxy-Clean and the like.

First of all, that VOICE makes me want to thrust a corkscrew in my eye. Awhile back, I wrote a satire article about him that was published. You can read it here.

His most recent item is a knife sharpener called the Samurai Shark that features tungsten-carbide blades and will sharpen any knife.

I thought, “Hey! I could use that!”

But wait!!!! If you order now, you get a second one FREE!

“But I only need one,” thought I.

But wait!!!! If you order now, you also get some poultry shears.

I thought, “OOooo! I need some poultry shears!” (I’d recently almost de-fingered myself trying to butterfly a chicken with a dull knife).

You also get a pair of super-scissors with the deal. All for the low price of only ten dollars!

Two Samurai Sharks, poultry shears and super-scissors for ten bucks. I almost called the toll-free number.

Then, I went on a site called As Seen on TV Reviews where one can read customer reviews of all these products.

So, here’s the catch:

There’s a $7.95 shipping-and-processing fee for EACH ITEM. Every one of those four items actually jacks up the price eight bucks. Every reviewer was complaining about being socked with an extra thirty-two bucks.

There’s also no way to call the Samurai Shark people to talk to an actual person. I tried to call them and ask for ONLY one sharpener, just to mess with them, but there’s no way to get through to an actual, live person.

Isn’t that just the smarmiest thing you’ve ever heard of?

A friend of mine’s mother buys ALL that stuff and gives him the “free” one. Egg peelers, tongs-that-double-for-whisks, pots that have colander lids; you name it, she buys it. He's given some of that stuff to me but it's all amazingly worthless.

(Ka-Boom is great, by the way. I love the stuff, but I can get it at the Bed, Bath and Beyond just down the street)

I know everyone has strong feelings toward some of the presidential candidates right about now. Clinton, Huckabee, Obama, whatever.

But for me, that Billy Mays guy is absolute evil incarnate.

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Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Chad, the Flight Attendant

New Year’s Eve:

Mom dropped me off at the little-bitty airport terminal in my little-bitty home town. She always has to part quickly because she usually begins to cry at that point. I usually dart inside and hold back a few tears myself.

After a little while, our little-bitty airplane pulls in. Here’s a pic. Isn't it cute? So, there were only four passengers on the little-bitty airplane for the 30 minute flight to Houston. A flight attendant named Chad instructed us all to sit in the rear of the aircraft for some reason.

Chad bumbled through the flight safety instructions. He was clearly a newbie which makes sense; only the newbie flight attendants would be assigned to such an exciting route.

After we took off, Chad came around to take our drink orders. Only a bottle of water was requested by the woman in front of me. After that, Chad’s services were no longer required for the duration of the flight.

As we approached Houston, Chad came around to all four of us to provide gate information on our connecting flights.

“Where are you flying to?” he asks me.

“Chicago O’Hare” I reply.

Chad looked up and down at his list a couple of times. And then he asked a question which provided me with an incredible amount of confidence in the capability of our flight attendant:

“Um. . . what state is that in?”

‘Twas a good thing that Chad was only called upon to procure a bottle of water during the flight.

Down on the Ranch

As I said previously, my relatives down on the family ranch in Texas are wonderful people. They are true-blue Texans.

Here are a couple of pics of Aunt Dixie's cooking equipment:

They have a pool and a hot tub. You don't wear spurs in the hot tub.

The sign says so:

As a little kid, my grandmother used to give us oatmeal to feed the goldfish that she kept in this hexagonal fish pond that had a fountain in it. My aunt and uncle still have it going:The horse and I got acquainted:
It's good to have roots:

Cowboy Cheesecake

My aunt, uncle and cousins who live on the family ranch are the nicest people you'd ever want to meet. They are honest-to-goodness Texans and proud of it.

They participate wholeheartedly in trail rides, rodeos, and often cook and cater for these events. While I was in Seattle, I made my uncle's award-winning fajitas for Lorraine and her family which are mighty tasty.
While on this recent visit to my relatives on the ranch, they promised me another award-winning culinary delight and, boy, did they dilever. The following item has won first place in a Dutch-oven open-campfire cookoff several times. Cowboy Cheesecake:

First you line a huge, cast iron Dutch oven with crescent roll dough.
Then, fill it with cheesecake batter.
Top it with more crescent roll dough, and place hot coals around it. One hour later, you've got Cowboy Cheesecake.

Here are the place settings at Aunt Dixie's dinner table. The cowboy hat napkin rings were a nice touch.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008


After a couple of delays while on a layover in Houston last night, and circling O'Hare for a while, I finally made it home.
The clock struck 12:00 just as I was entering my apartment building during the snowfall.

I had a wonderful time in Texas with my family, but it's good to be home.

Many thanks to Sfoofie (MHP's niece) for offering to help just in case my plane was diverted to Milwaukee. The women in that family sure are wonderful people.