Friday, August 29, 2008

Bound for Texas

Yay, Southwest Airlines.

I didn't have anything to do over the holiday weekend, so I found a last-minute airfare on Southwest.

I've packed my bags and will be heading down to Austin tonight.

I'll write more when I get back!

Have a great weekend, y'all!

Am I The Only One?

So, McCain has selected Alaska governor Sarah Palin as his vice presidential running mate.

Has anyone else noticed the incredible resemblence between Sarah Palin and Peggy Hill?

Or am I the only one.

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"No! Small Fish!"

A group eight of us went to the wonderful, incredible Lao Sze Chuan last night for an impromptu feast. Their menu is huge. Here is their delivery menu. Click here. The regular one is even bigger.

We have our favorites that we order every time like mayonnaise shrimp and pea pods with garlic. But since the menu is so vast and varied, I like to try something new ever so often.

Last night, the new item was “Small Fish with Dry Chili”. The “small fish” are actually smelts but they insist on calling them “small fish.”

Me: “OOOooo. Smelts.”

Server: “No! Small fish!”

Me: “I love smelts.”

Server: “No! Small fish!”

It had two peppers beside it on the menu which is the hottest they offer.

My tummy is rumbling this morning.


Thursday, August 28, 2008

God Answers Prayers

Conservative activist, Stuart Shepard from Focus on the Family has been asking his followers to pray for rain at Mile High stadium today in order to thwart Obama’s acceptance speech.

I guess the Good Lord had other plans rather than heeding the misguided prayers of the Christian supremacists. Check out today’s forecast for Denver:

You can’t get any sunnier or more perfect weather than that.

Shepard and his ilk are probably praying for locusts and toads at this point.

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I Won!

I’m doing a happy dance.

I’m into collecting “retro” telephones and I saw this little jewel on eBay three days ago. It’s a Trimline desk phone with a rotary dial in dark blue.
I didn’t even know they made Trimline rotary desk phones in dark blue. Touch-tone phones, yes. But not rotary phones. It’s a rarity. I wanted this phone! It was going for something like twelve dollars, so I placed a bid.

For a day or so, I was the highest bidder. As a matter of fact, I was the only bidder.

Then someone bid twenty-one dollars on it. There were two days left in the auction.

I didn’t want this other bidder to even know I was still around, so I waited in the bushes. I didn't want to alert this bidder that I was even around, so I didn't place another bid. Then, at the last minute I pounced!

I’m sure there are lots of folks much more savvy than I on eBay. I haven’t set up the automatic text-thing that will alert me when someone has placed a higher bid. As a matter of fact, I hardly even know how to text on my phone. (A stupid concept if you ask me - - if you want to tell me something, CALL ME and leave a voice mail).

So, I got the phone. Apparently, the other bidder was just as technologically challenged as I.

You know what? I felt guilty! What if this other bidder had been a nice old lady who barely knew how to use the interwebs? Now, she’s going to look and see that her attempt to obtain this phone had been foiled.

I hope the other bidder was come cocky kid who was busy text messaging his friends and failed to see that he had been out-bid.

At any rate, I can add this little treasure to my collection. I plan on putting it on my coffee table which is made of blond wood. It’ll be very happy there.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The CTA Guy

Since I live downtown and don’t own a car, I ride Chicago’s trains and subways a lot.

For those of you who have ridden the CTA, (Chicago Transit Authority) I’m sure you’re familiar with that guy’s voice that makes the announcements on the trains.

He has a nice, mellifluous voice and I’ve often wondered what he’s like.

Here’s a recording of him announcing a station. (Click below to hear it)


See? Isn’t that a nice voice? I pictured him as a average-looking guy, about 35 years old.

Well, it turns out that his name is Lee, he’s from Milwaukee, in his late 40s, married with two kids. He became “The CTA guy” back in 1999 when he won a contest to become CTA’s announcer. Whenever the CTA has to include new announcements, such as when they opened the new Pink Line, Lee comes down from Milwaukee and supplies his voice.

However, there’s another voice Chicagoans have heard over and over. Whenever you’re standing at an “L” station, an announcement comes on to tell you that an inbound or an outbound train is about to arrive.

Here it is: Outbound_Train.wav

That’s a woman’s voice. I don’t know who she is or why Lee didn’t get to supply that announcement. It’s a huge mystery to me.

Frankly, I think it’s Oprah. Doesn’t that sound like Oprah to you?

Whenever you’re on the train, Lee occasionally makes other announcements such as, "Smoking, littering, and playing radios or loud devices is prohibited."


I really wish more people would pay attention to Lee when he says that. Frankly, I think Lee needs to be more specific with an announcement like, “Leaving chicken bones on passenger seats is incredibly rude. Now please exit the goddamn train, you inconsiderate cretin! Thank you.”

Another announcement Lee should add to his repertoire should be played near the sports stadiums: “Attention customers. If you’ve had too much beer at the game and are about to throw up, kindly exit the train before hurling the entire contents of the concession stand from your stomachs. Your cooperation is appreciated. Thank you.”

I wish I knew how to contact Lee in Milwaukee to give him my suggestions.

So, if any of you are visiting in Chicago and happen to ride the CTA, you’ll know a little something about “the CTA guy.”

I hope you enjoy your stay.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Farmer's Market

On Tuesdays, there is a farmer’s market in the plaza of the building where I work. The prices on some of the fruits and veggies can be a little more than in the supermarket. But goodness gracious, there is a huge difference in taste from a supermarket tomato compared to a real one that just came off the plant.

I took my camera there on my lunch break. Look at these peppers and eggplants! Isn’t that gorgeous?

I bought some patty-pan squash. You can’t find those in the store. Only in grandma’s garden.
Check this out. Sixteen varieties of home-made tomatoes.
The first of the Honey Crisp apples were also available. If you haven’t had a Honey Crisp apple fresh off the Honey Crisp apple tree, you’ve no idea what you’re missing. I’ll be buying them for the next six weeks.

Have you ever heard of Nigerian eggplant? I haven’t either. When I saw those, I just had to take a few home to my kitchen.
I also bought some fresh corn and shell black-eyed peas. Add a few fresh tomatoes, spring onions, some corn bread, a glass of buttermilk, and you’ve got a Southern supper that'll just make you fall on the floor and holler.

Monastic Life

In a recent post, I wrote about my days at the monastery and there seemed to be a lot of response to that. So, I’ll write about it some more.

Like I said, I really do look back on that time with a lot of nostalgic fondness. Yes, there are reasons why I left and, sure, I have some regrets over doing that.

Life is like that.

Would I go back? No.
Am I glad I did it? Very much.

We weren’t cloistered monks. The monks there were all teachers, either at the prep school they operated or at the nearby Catholic university. Since I was to become a priest, I attended classes at the university during the day. Our schedule went something like this:

5:30 am: A horrible-sounding buzzer went off in the hallway, signaling it was time to get up. In the old days (circa 1100 a.d) the monks had to poo in the river, preferably downstream from the drinking water intake. Nowadays, we had our own bathrooms with aqua tile, circa 1956.

6:00 am: Morning Prayers (Lauds) This consisted of chanting Psalms back and forth. "Praise be to the rabbits in the rills. . . . "

6:30 am: Mass (it was open to the public)

7:00 am: Breakfast. I would usually make some mush consisting of whole wheat shredded wheat, hot milk, prunes and butter.

12:15 pm: Mid-day prayers followed by lunch

2:30 pm: Illegal naps were taken. Usually by me.

5:00 pm: Evening Prayers (Vespers)

5:45 pm: Dinner. The food was actually quite good. Each of us could have a cold beer with our evening meal. Unfortunately, I don't like beer.

6:30 pm: Night Prayers: (Compline) Some of this was done in Latin which was kind of cool.

7:00 pm: Recreation. This consisted of visiting with each other in the library and drinking herbal tea. Let the mayhem ensue. . . .

We did not observe strict silence all the time like in a lot of monasteries. However, we did observe the “Grand Silence”, not speaking to each other from 10:00 pm until after breakfast. I’m a grouch in the morning, so eating breakfast in silence was highly preferable.

We followed this schedule every day. I remember wishing that I could sleep in just one day, just occasionally. If only, just one day a month, I could sleep in!
But no.

The only way you could sleep in was if you were really sick. But then you’d have to deal with that monk who was really into dousing everything in holy water. He would come in your room and sling your sick self with a vial of the stuff, just like in The Exorcist.

I wanted to hurl pea soup at him.

There were stages to becoming a monk. The first three months, you were a “postulant.” That’s when you just lived there, observing the life. Then, you became a “novice”. That’s what I called “monk boot camp” when you were really cloistered away from the world for a whole year.

There was a ceremony in becoming a novice called a “clothing.” That’s when you got your monk-clothing which was all white. One careless spaghetti dinner would send the white habit to the cleaners.

Also, when you became a novice, you received a new name. Really!

Before the “clothing” you would submit three names of saints who you admired to the Abbot. He would select one of the names and announce it at the “clothing.” Afterward, that’s what everyone called you.

One of the names I submitted was St. William who was pretty obscure. I’ll admit, I didn’t really give two hoots about St. William. I just liked the fact that ‘William’ would sound nice with my last name which also begins with a W. Very alliterative.

The other two names were St. John (a nice name) and St. Dunstan, the patron saint of organists.

The Abbot chose William. So, for the next three years, I was Br. William. It was weird.

After you completed the novitiate year, you took vows for three years. That's when you got the really cool black and white habit.

Here’s a pic of Br. William after taking vows and getting the black and white habit.

Don’t let the holy look fool you. I was probably thinking, “Gosh, I really miss Will and Grace.”

Oh, and I was often asked what we wore underneath the habits. I hate to disappoint you, for there were no holy undergarments. Simply black Levis and a white undershirt.


Monday, August 25, 2008

Super Tall

I've had fun watching the Trump International Hotel and Tower being constructed here in Chicago. (It's 92 stories). Soon, the 150-story Chicago Spire will being its ascent.

But none of these compare to what's going up in Dubai.

The Burj Dubai (Tower of Dubai) will be 180 stories and about 2,600 feet tall. Check out these recent photos.


One, Seventeen, Thirty-Seven!

I keep having to buy combination locks.

Last winter, I kept one with me for my locker at the ice rink. Well, the ice rink closes for the season during the middle of March and I haven’t needed it again since then.

Of course, the combination to it has long been forgotten, so it's useless and went down the trash chute.

I bought a new one for my locker at the gym recently. However, when I exchanged my man-purse, I left the lock in the one I exchanged.

Somewhere, someone has a man-purse that has a combination lock in it. They won’t know what the combination is, so they’ll probably have to throw it down their trash chute.

I just bought another one. It’s always really exciting to see what the combination will be, at least for me anyway. (Such an exciting life I lead!)

I really hope I can hang on to this combination lock for a while. The numbers are (are you ready for this?)


All prime numbers! Wow!!

I am SO excited!!!

That, right there, makes losing the other locks well worth it.

Music Fads

Yesterday, I had a three-hour session of private instruction at the music studio. (I love saying “I was in the studio”)

My instructor was teaching me a lot of details with regard to music production and I had to laugh when he began mentioning some of the “fads” that have taken place in the past.

Here are some of them:

Are any of you are old enough to remember the music of the late ‘60s? If so, you may recall that there was suddenly a big influx of pop songs that used choruses along with the lead vocals; sometimes only choruses were used. Some examples are:

Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In by The 5th Dimension

Cherish by The Association

Lazy Day by Spanky and Our Gang

That fad certainly produced that “Late 60’s Sound” that came and went.

Another fad was the “Phil Collins Snare Drum Rim-Shot of the Late 80s.”

You’d be listening to a Phil Collins tune and then BAM!, there’d be this incredibly loud snare drum rim-shot with lots of echo effect added to it. Then suddenly, it became “the thing” to do. Music producers everywhere began super-amplifying these random rim-shots in pop tunes from that era.

Let’s not forget about “Cher’s 'Do You Believe' Voice Distortion of the Late 90s.” Remember that song? There would be a couple of words in the lyrics where the vocal line would be given this distorted electronic-ey sound. (This was done by maxing out some of the EQ effects for a split second). Once Cher did it, that stunt became de rigueur for a while.

What’s the gimmick nowadays? I’ll tell you.

Today, you’ll be hard pressed to find a rap or hip-hop recording that doesn’t have the vocal line doubled and lots of bass resonance added to it. I guess it adds to the hyper-masculinity that that type of genre tries to invoke. Years from now, we’ll be saying, “Remember that awful sound from the first decade?”

I love working in “the studio.” It’s amazing what one can do with music and technology these days.

The down-side to this advanced technology is that pop musicians these days are relying more and more on the studio technicians to produce their hits rather than on their own talent (or lack thereof). Thus, you have the huge increase that's so prevalent in live performances these days: That abomination called lip-synching.

Then again, they're the ones on stage. I am not.

Whatever the case, I really enjoy the geeky side of music production and learning all about it. I think I finally may have found what I want to do when I grow up.

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Friday, August 22, 2008

Father Placid

I’ve sometimes referred to the period in my life when I was a monk. I have to say that I do look back on that time with fondness. If anything, I learned a lot, for the members of this monastery were highly educated and valued higher learning a great deal.

The first year of monastic life is the “novitiate” year, or rather, “monk boot camp.” It’s when you’re really cloistered away from the world and spend all of your time at “ora et labora.” (prayer and work).

During the novitiate year, we weren’t allowed to leave the monastery except for a doctor’s appointment or a haircut, both of which were nearby. There was to be no contact with the outside world for that year; no TV, radio, or newspapers. We were allowed to write one letter or make one phone call to a family member each month.

As I said, the members of this monastery placed a lot of value on education, so most of my “work” actually consisted of receving private instruction in philosophy and theology. Since many of the monks were college professors, I was able to receive college credit for most of these private classes. Not a bad deal, really.

Each morning after breakfast, I would have an hour-long Latin class with Father Placid. Fr. Placid was pretty remarkable. He was 82 years old, a small man who immigrated from Hungary in the 1950s, still taught at the Catholic university nearby, and spoke at least fifteen languages. He loved teaching. He loved languages.

Each morning, I’d sleepily wander into the room where I’d have my Latin lessons, and there Fr. Placid would be, beaming with delight and anticipation. (He was always there ahead of me).

I hated taking Latin. I really, really didn’t like it. I love studying languages because you get to learn about a people, a culture. But who are you going to speak Latin to? What culture are you going to embrace? It was all so heady.

So, we’d start in on the dreaded Latin. I usually hadn’t studied my previous lesson, so the verb forms and noun declensions were nowhere to be found in my head. A hadn’t a prayer of recognizing a passive periphrastic or an ablative absolute even if it bit me on the leg.

One day, I sat down at my desk with Fr. Placid and he was particularly excited. He raised both hands up, smiled, and announced, “Today!. . . (He then plopped! his hands on the desk for added effect) . . . “We officially begin the third declension!” It was as if he was making a huge news announcement.

I did my best not to laugh. I barely even knew what a declension even was, much less the third one.

Another time, he decided to conduct a round of verb drills. He’d yell out the short form of the verb (I think it’s called the declarative form) and I’d have to say the English equivalent. It went something like this:

He’d say “Fer!” and I’d say “Bring!”
He’d say “Laud!” and I’d say “Praise!”
Loc! Put!
Cogit! Think!
Aud! Hear!
Scrib! Write!

Then he said “Fac!” and I couldn’t think of what it meant. (It means “to make” as in facilitate).

He repeated, “Fac!” even louder and I still couldn’t think of it.

Keep in mind that it’s pronounced like “fahk” so here was this little Hungarian man, yelling "Fahk! . . . Fahk! . . . Fahk!" at me.

And I got the giggles. He couldn’t understand why I wasn’t taking my Latin seriously.

After my novitiate year was up, I thought I was through with Latin forever, but no. They had me take another year of Latin and then another year after that. I never did learn to enjoy it.

Passive periphrastic?

Fr. Placid had taught Latin, German, Spanish, Greek, Russian and French at the university. He passed away at the age of 92.

At the time of his death, he was studying Swedish and Hebrew on his own.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Veep Announcement


Body Parts -- Your Lunula

How's your lunula?

I was on the phone last night with dear Speck and we were talking about uvulas and lunulas. It's what friends do.

For those of you who are curious as to what your lunula is, it's that little crescent shaped white part at the base of your fingernail. It's probably most apparent on your thumb.

If your lunula is red, that means you have congestive heart failure. Just so you know.

You're all looking at your lunulas right now, aren't you?



A couple of weeks ago, Lorraine mentioned a book written by Julia Child called My Life in France.

I’ve adored dear Julia for years and didn’t know that this book even existed until Lorraine mentioned it. This treasure of a book chronicles her years of living in France (1949-1956) soon after she and her husband married. It was then that she got the “cooking bug” and began her life’s work.

I found the book on for $1.88 ($3.90 shipping) and have been love, love, loving it. Lorraine was right. It’s one of the most pleasurable books I’ve read in a long time.

Her husband was an avid photographer, so the book is filled with photos he took while they lived there. They are utterly charming.

Here’s a happy snap of Julia and her husband, Paul. Look at the tenderness expressed there. It made me weep a little bit.

(Also, check out those gams on Julia!)

At one point in the book, Julia describes how she tried to make mayonnaise. It didn’t work. Then, she tried and tried some more but the results were inconsistent.

So, she set out on a quest to come up with a recipe for foolproof mayonnaise. After many trials and errors, she came up with the perfect recipe.

She included a photo of her typewritten mayonnaise recipe from 1950 in the book. What was I to do but immediately head to the kitchen and make it?

1 egg
½ tsp white wine vinegar
2/3 cup of vegetable oil

In a stainless steel bowl over simmering water, whisk the egg for five minutes until thick.

(This is where I messed up. I think I had the bowl too close to the simmering water and I cooked the egg on the first try. Also, I had the water at a full gallop rather than a simmer).

Add the ½ tsp of white wine vinegar and a pinch of salt.

Then begin adding the oil, drop by drop, and continue whisking.

(Julia must have had the stamina of a marathon runner. I soon got tired of whisking so I chucked the whisked egg into the Cuisinart and drizzled the oil in - - it worked fine).

Oh. My. God!

I just have to say, that I’ve never tasted anything so glorious in my life. Mayonnaise! I can honestly say that I’ve not tasted mayonnaise until now. I wanted to eat the whole thing with a spoon right then and there.

Then, I tried making scrambled eggs according to her French method. Again, I’ve never had scrambled eggs like that before. Not even close.

I can definitely see how she got the cooking bug. I wanted to catch the next flight to Paris and enroll in the Cordon Bleu. (I had Thai food delivered instead)

Here is Julia, lounging in the French countryside.

Obviously, this is just how and where God intended her to be.

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When you envision letters of the alphabet, does each letter have a specific color? If you do, that’s called synesthesia, or “the evocation of one kind of sense impression when another sense is stimulated.”

Other kinds of synesthesia include the association of sounds with sights or even a taste with certain words.

I’ve associated colors with numbers and letters for as long as I can remember. Last night, I finally wrote out the alphabet and used the colors that I’ve long associated with each letter.

(The letters ‘E’ and ‘I’ are white)
It's strange that no letters are green.
I don't know why.

It felt so good to finally see the letters in the colors that belong to them!



Yesterday, the Trump Tower finally "topped out" at 92 stories. It is now the second tallest building in Chicago. The building where I work, The Aon Center, has now been relegated to the third tallest, just in case any of you were wondering.

Now, if only Donald would do something about his hair. . . .

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Soy Ploy

Just when I think I've heard everything that the Wingnuts could possibly come up with, they surprise me.

Here's a six-part series on how soy is the cause of homosexuality.

Whaaaat???? (Sound of screeching brakes)

Yes, apparently if you feed soy milk to baby boys, it makes them gay. According to this author:

"Soy is feminizing, and commonly leads to a decrease in the size of the penis, sexual confusion and homosexuality. That's why most of the medical (not socio-spiritual) blame for today's rise in homosexuality must fall upon the rise in soy formula and other soy products. "

I can hear it now:

Dad: "Honey, did you give soy milk to Cooper? He's singing Judy Garland lyrics again. . . "

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The Man-Purse

I carry this black shoulder satchel with me just about everywhere. I call my “man-purse”. I obtained my man purse about ten years ago from a mom-and-pop store on Yonge Street in Toronto for five dollars.

That’s five Canadian dollars. I don’t know what that is in U.S. dollars because math is not my strong suit. I haven’t a prayer of mastering bilingual arithmetic.

Anyway, I’ve grown fond of this man-purse because, like I said, I carry it everywhere. I’ve grown so used to its various pockets and zippers and compartments. Cell phone goes here, camera goes here, book for reading on the subway goes here, Ibuprophen goes here, back-up Ibuprophen here.

I think I’m very particular about satchels. I remember being in 3rd grade and not liking any of the book satchels that were offered. I didn’t want one with Batman or Spiderman or any cartoon character on it. Only a plain one would do. Finally, I settled for a red and yellow plaid one. And then I got beat up.

About a month ago, the zipper to one of the most-used compartments broke. I had to shift everything to a different place and walk around with a broken man-purse.

I’ve been shopping around for a new one with no luck. One store had nice leather ones but they were about $130.00. There was no way I was going to spend that much, especially when I’ve had this one for ten years and paid only C$5.00 for it. I didn’t even want to spend $30.00 on a new one.

Target and Walmart didn’t have any I liked. They all had compartments in different, goofy places. I’d never be able to find my Ibuprophen in a man-purse like that. I’d end up riding the subway with a headache and nothing to read.

Yesterday, I was walking by that store that had the $130.00 man-purses. They were selling all kinds of luggage and man-purses out of plastic bins on the sidewalk. Are you ready for this? They had my man-purse!

It had pockets and compartments in the very same place as my old man-purse. This one was even better because it was blue. I love blue. Most everything I wear is blue.

This man-purse was $20.00 but they were being sold for $15.00. I was one very happy camper.

That is, until I got it home and discovered that the zipper to that often-used compartment was messed up. I could use it, but I really had to tug to get it open or closed. It was only a matter of time before it broke.


Well, today, I walked by the same place and I saw that they had a few of them left. I tried the others and the zippers worked fine so I asked the guy if I could trade mine out. After a bit of grumbling, he finally said, “Yeah, go ahead.”

I had all my stuff in the zipper-deficient man-purse and had to transfer it to the good one. But, hey. I’ve got my new, perfect man-purse and am happy as a clam.

I’m not looking forward to tossing the old one down the trash chute. It has served me well over the years. You can’t say I didn’t get my money’s worth out of it. But anything in my apartment that’s not being used just freaks me out. I am the very opposite of a pack-rat.


I went back to the sidewalk man-purse place on my lunch break and bought a second one just like the other. After all, in ten years when this one wears out, I’ll have a replacement. (I’ll keep it in my storage locker).

Like I said, I’m very particular about these things. Now, not only do I have the perfect man-purse, but I have a backup to the perfect man-purse.

I am bathed in comfort.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Bigfoot Mystery Solved

Remember the two guys who claimed to have found a Bigfoot carcass in Georgia?

Are you ready for this???

(Brace yourself)


It was a hoax!!

Can you believe that??

Here's the story.

These two yahoos brought in an investigator to view the frozen Bigfoot body. As they thawed it out, the investigator felt the foot and realized it was made of rubber.


It was a Bigfoot costume from

See? All along I was telling you all that I didn’t think this claim was for real.
And I was right!

What first clued me into the fact that this might be a hoax was that the alleged Bigfoot body was found in Georgia.

Oh my goodness, everyone knows that Bigfoot’s natural habitat isn’t in Georgia.
Arkansas maybe.
But certainly not Georgia.

When I heard that, I thought, “What is Bigfoot doing in Georgia? Looking for good barbecue? Does he like peaches?”

I think the perpetrators of this hoax are going to be slapped with fraud charges since they tried to make money off the deal. Imagine that.

Let this go to show you. . . . Don’t pull any Bigfoot hoaxes!!

‘Cause that’s mean and makes you a bad person and it’s not fair to Bigfoot.

Back in the 'Hood

I’m sure you’ve heard me refer to Jack and Steve, the owners of dear Portia. Well, this week, Jack’s brother, Eddie, and his family are visiting from Pittsburgh. Wonderful people. I’ve known them for a long time.

Jack and Eddie were raised in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago which has always been the immigrant neighborhood. It’s close to downtown and dates back well into the 19th century. Back when they were being raised there, most of Pilsen residents were Eastern European. (Jack and Eddie are Polish and Slovenian.)

Now, almost all of Pilsen’s residents are Latino as it is still the immigrant neighborhood. I lived there during my first five years in Chicago as well.

Yesterday, we all met at a neighborhood Italian restaurant, Bacchanalia, where Jack and Eddie had been going for thirty years. I met them and their families there after work and it was really nice to be back in the old ‘hood.

I had about a ten block walk from the train station to the restaurant. First, I passed by the bakery where I used to get these incredible Mexican pastries.
It’s a good thing I moved away, otherwise, I’d be the size of a pregnant hippo.

Then, here’s the supermarket where I used to get groceries.
They have a nice meat counter where you have to take a number and wait for it to be called. (In Spanish of course). I’d always hope to get a number that wasn’t in the 60s or 70s. It’s hard to distinguish between sesenta and setenta among the mayhem.

I’d try to use my limping Spanish to make my request. I once got confused between libros (books) and libras (pounds) so I stumbled along saying, “I must require two books of chicken, no peeling, no bone. . . Please.”

I also liked their fake crab meat:
“I must require two books of crabs who imitates . . . Please.”

The place where I lived was just two blocks away. On the way home was this big Catholic church, St. Paul’s.

I went there once for Mass. However, the moment I saw one lone kid strumming a guitar to lead the congregation in the first song, I bolted.
I’m such a snot.

I’d forgotten how incredible the food is at Bacchanalia. And how friendly the place is. I was greeted by name at the door by one of the servers who’d been there for 30 years. Is that not just the neatest thing or what?

The staff gave us foccacia on the house. Then they brought us a platter of penne arrabiata, again, on the house. Then we ordered our meals.

I love their capellini with marinara sauce. It also has cheese in it but I don’t know what kind. Whatever it is, it’s good.

Eddie had a porterhouse Vesuvio with roasted potatoes. He gave me a bite. Oh, lordy it was incredible. Baby Eddie discovered bread sticks and was content through the whole meal.

He really is an incredible little guy. How many eleven month old kids can sit through a long meal? Most kids that age will have at least one meltdown or let out the usual brain-piercing pterodactyl screeches, but not this little one. He was just all smiles, nibbling away on bread sticks, strands of linguini and bits of cheese.

Afterward, we all came back to my place and gazed upon Chicago from the roof.
It was one lovely evening with lovely people.

Oh, by the way. Leftover capellini marinara in the middle of the night is a slice of heaven.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Eating Baby Toes

At a gathering of family and friends this weekend, my friends Eddie and Maria brought their baby boy with them from Pittsburgh.

I got to have a “baby fix” or as Lorraine calls it, I got to “eat some baby-toes.”

See the baby toes?

Apparently, plum-pear flavored baby food is cause for major celabration:

He sure is a cutie!

Prince the ;

In the 80-story building where I work, the elevators have these little TV screens that have pop-up news blurbs. Since my office is only on the 22nd story, I get to see two, maybe three, of these little news blurbs during my ride.

Here was today’s blurb: Apparently, Madonna, Prince and Michael Jackson all turn 50 years old this summer.

However, according to one of Madonna’s spiritual consultants, she’s only 36 years old in spirit-years. You know how to multiply a dog’s age by seven to figure dog years. Well, in order to figure your spiritual age, and if you’re a multi-million dollar pop star, you get to subtract 28% off your chronological age to figure your spiritual age.

That would make me 35.64 years old. I’m a little younger than Madonna.

So, these three folks are turning 50 this month. My first thought was, “Prince is still alive?”

I also thought, “Didn’t he change his name to the symbol indicating Pi or something like that?”

Then, “Didn’t he change his name again to ‘The Artist Formerly Known as the Symbol Indicating Pi?’”

Apparently, he’s still kicking around, probably thinking of changing his name to a semi-colon.

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Friday, August 15, 2008

It's a Possum!

Okay, the two hunters had their press conference today revealing their "evidence" of the dead Bigfoot they found.

Of course, they have the body of the dead Bigfoot at an undisclosed location.

Of the three DNA samples that came back, one was inconclusive, one was human and the other was of a possum.

The hunters said that the Bigfoot had probably just eaten a possum.

That's silly!

Everyone knows Bigfoots don't like possums.


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Redneck Tube Top

This was taken in front of the Gardendale Wal-Mart in Alabama while she was going to the flea market. Look at it closely.

I hate to say it, but there are probably skid marks right in the cleavage.

City Skylines

I’ve always loved looking at the skylines of big cities. Maybe that’s because I was raised in a little bitty town and always wanted to live among the big, tall buildings. I finally got to live in several big cities soon after college (Dallas, New York City, Toronto, and now Chicago) and their skylines have never failed to entertain me.

Here are some of my favorite skylines:

First of all, there’s San Antonio. I was born there but my family moved to a little bitty town soon after. However, San Antonio was only about 70 miles away and many weekends were spent there as a kid.

Growing up in my little bitty home town in South Texas, the Mary Tyler Moore show was one of my favorite programs. I wanted to live in Minneapolis just like Mary. Minneapolis was a big city and it was also very cold up there. Minneapolis was the opposite of a little bitty town in South Texas and I wanted that.
I lived in Dallas from 1987 to 1997. It’s got a pretty impressive skyline but, good lord, the weather is hot there.
Oh, and my friends and I use to refer to that big building outlined in green neon lights as “Oz”.
I lived in New York in 1997 for a couple of years. I loved New York, but it’s expensive to live there. A slice of pizza and a subway ride will cost you three hundred dollars. There’s absolutely no way Monica and Rachel could have afforded that apartment on their wages. They had sugar daddies for sure.
I lived in Toronto for three years. Toronto is clean, practically crime-free, and the summers last approximately seven hours. Loved it.
And I’ve been in Chicago for over seven years now. It’s been good to me. I have wonderful friends, a nice job, and get to live in a really tall apartment building. Mary Tyler Moore would like it here.
The skyline of Chicago is really going to be impressive when the 150-story Chicago Spire is completed.
However, I love Seattle, needless to say. It’s never hot there which is a big plus. A bigger plus is that Lorraine and all her friends live there. They're all fantastic people.
If the Iwanskis ever have children and move to the suburbs I’ll probably move to Seattle because I’ll never see them again. You know how those suburbs are.
However, on of my favorite skylines is a city you probably wouldn’t think of.
And that is Albany, New York.

Albany, you say??

Yes, Albany, I say. Although I’ve never lived there, I’ve driven though it many times. Since it’s the state capital, there are these utilitarian buildings downtown. Four of them are identical and I love the way they stand there like monoliths on Easter Island all facing the same way.

I'm really captivated by those four buildings downtown. They remind me of something in Communist Russia which makes my heart swell.

Then there’s the Center for the Performing Arts in Albany, also called “The Egg.” It was designed in 1966 and I think it’s the epitome of that modern, retro 1960s type of structure.

Here’s another pic of Albany. Isn’t that the most interesting looking city?

Albany. Skylines.
It just goes to show that you never know where your favorite things will pop up.

Back Alleys in Chicago

Little did I realize that Chicago has back alleys all over the place. Iwanski brought this to my attention. As a matter of fact, many of the elevated trains run along back alleys so as not to impede street traffic.

It turns out that I can slink along a couple of back alleys along my five-block walk to work. It's pretty nice -- no nasty sunshine or nasty pedestrians to deal with.

Rats don't bother me.

It's Bigfoot Day!

Remember, at noon today, those two guys who claimed they've found a Bigfoot body will have a press conference.

That's noon in California.
2:00 pm Central Time.

It looks like it is a huge hoax, but I'm really interested to see what they're going to say.

Here's an article about it in The Times.


Thursday, August 14, 2008

Music You'll Never Hear at the Olympics

If any of you have been watching the Olympics on TV, I’m sure you’re all very familiar with the “Olympic Fanfare” that’s played before and after every commercial break.

It’s that trumpety tune, ever so stately, that we’ve come to associate with the Olympics.

However, if you ever attend the Olympics, you’ll never hear this tune played.


That’s because it has nothing to do with the Olympic Games at all. It’s strictly American television that has gotten us to associate that music with the Olympics.

It’s actually called “The Bugler’s Dream” and it was written by Leo Arnaud in 1958 as part of an album called “Charge!”

ABC television obtained the rights to use it during the 1968 Winter Games as part of the television broadcasts and it’s been used ever since.

I just thought I’d pass along that tidbit.

Oh, and here’s the music to it:

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They've Found Bigfoot!

Just a couple of days ago, I mentioned that I have somewhat of a phobia of Bigfoot, the legendary ape-like creature that supposedly stalks the Pacific Northwest.

And wouldn’t you know it, right after I posted that, my brother emailed a news report to me. Apparently, two hunters in Georgia have found a Bigfoot carcass. They’re going to give a press release tomorrow in California at noon (Friday, August 15th).

See? See? I was perfectly justified in my phobia about Bigfoot.

They’ve found one!

Apparently, the carcass stands 7’ 7” and weighs over 500 pounds. It has 26-inch long feet and it’s a male. And his thingy is. . . well. . . . nevermind.

The hunters have said they’ll provide DNA evidence and lots of photos at the press conference, but no actual Bigfoot carcass. Apparently, they’ve been hunting Bigfoot for a long time and have also claimed to have caught one twice before. And they were going to provide evidence a couple of times before.

One of the hunters is trying to sell a documentary called, "Bigfoot Lives" and he also once tried to get TV viewers to shell out $59.95 for pay-per-view footage of a captured Bigfoot.

Those were hoaxes.

But this time, it’s for real they say.

They have the carcass stored in a freezer right now and have provided the following photograph:

Ummmm. That sort of looks like a gorilla suit stuffed into a broken down deep freeze to me.

I'm sure many of you have seen the famous 1967 Patterson film of an encounter with Bigfoot. Click here for an enhanced verson of it.

Frankly, I think that's a man in a monkey suit. Everyone knows Bigfoot doesn't walk like that.

But tomorrow, these guys are going to have a press conference and reveal everything.

So! Tomorrow at noon, folks! Stay tuned.

If it IS an actual Bigfoot, I’m going to have nightmares the rest of my life.

Something tells me I’ll be sleeping well from here on out.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Getting the Giggles

Today, I had the last of a series of dental appointments. I would have had the appointment last week, but my dentist was on vacation with his family.

I financed it.

Well, he’s back now so I was in the chair, Novocained up to the gills with all sorts of dental gizmos crowded in my mouth.

And I thought of something funny and got the giggles.

I’ve gotten the giggles in lots of inappropriate places. Once was during evening prayers (Vespers) at the monastery. They would just NOT go away. The abbot was glaring at me and I had to leave.

I get the giggles in my sleep. I’ll wake myself up laughing or I’ve been told that I laugh in my sleep.

I often have to stifle the giggles in business meetings. I get bored so I have to entertain myself with silly thoughts. Giggles ensue.

But I’ve never gotten the giggles while at the dentist.

“Are you okay?” he asked.

I rinsed, spat, and told him I’d just thought of something funny.

I guess that’s better than lots of other things he’s probably encountered with his patients.

Olympic Moments

Okay, I’ve been watching the Olympics each night. Well, as I said before, I Tivo it then fast forward through the boring stuff like beach volleyball and water polo.

My goodness, haven’t we seen enough of the swimmer, Michael Phelps? He’s already broken just about all the swimming records. He’s even broken the record for the most gold medals won by any athlete.

Enough already!

Frankly, I think he’s being a little selfish and should let some other swimmers win something. After all, 50 years from now when he’s telling his grandchildren about the Olympics is he really going to say, “If only I had gotten that twelfth gold medal, everything would be different.”

He should just bow out now and let someone else have a little glory. After all, there's probably some guy named Alymkan Oziris from Kyrgyzstan, busting his butt in the slim chance that he might go home with a paltry bronze medal.

I’ll admit that Phelps is a pretty incredible athlete. He consumes ten thousand calories a day, but look at him. You could grate nutmeg on those abs.

I, on the other hand, eat a Tic-Tac and have to rent a room at Crunch Fitness.

I was watching him set another record last night. Of course, after every race the camera pans up to his mom who is always bawling her eyes out in utter amazement. Last night, I yelled at her on the TV, “Oh just stop it! It’s not like you haven’t seen it before!”

Just once after he wins a race, I’d love for the camera to pan up to her while she’s sporting a big, huge yawn.

Ho-hum. Another gold medal.

Now that would truly be an Olympic Moment.

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Here's an article about folks who have really strange phobias. There's a woman who's afraid of cotton balls, another is afraid of buttons, and one is even afraid of chocolate.

Hmmm. I'm continually amazed at how our little human minds work.

I have an aunt who's afraid of feathers. She has been all her life. One time when I was a kid, my parakeet flew out of its cage and she just lost it. Absolutely freaked out.

I'll admit that I have a phobia about Bigfoot. My cousin claims to have encountered one on our family ranch when he was about thirteen years old. Ever since then, any documentary about Bigfoot just gives me the willies.

One time, a friend of mine wanted us to go skiing in Montana rather than Colorado. I really, really didn't want to go skiing in Montana because that's where a lot of Bigfoot sightings have taken place. He thought I was joking and I sort of made like I was.
But I sort of really was not.

One of my earliest memories was when I was three years old. My parents took me to my little Sunday school class called Sunbeams. If any of you were raised Southern Baptist, you're probably familiar with Sunbeams. It's Sunday school for little-bitty kids.

Anyway, there were wires hanging from a light fixture in the ceiling and I just FREAKED. I can still see those wires coming from that hole in the ceiling. I don't know why that frightened me so much but it did. Maybe I was actually afraid of becoming a Southern Baptist.

It didn't cause any phobia though. I can install track lighting, no problem. It's what My People do.
Other than Bigfoot, I can't think of anything that really freaks me out.

Right now, the Iwanskis are on vacation in Arkansas. (I'm baby-sitting their cats) I know there have been Bigfoot sightings down there and I've warned Iwanski not to go hiking in the woods.

Miss Healthypants just called. They went hiking in the woods.

I'm glad they're okay.


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

How Much is that Doggy in the Window?

There are reports that Beijing officials have banned the serving of dogs in local restaurants while the Olympics are being held.

I’ll admit that the act of butchering, cooking and eating Man’s Best Friend is repugnant to me. There have been dogs that I’ve loved dearly and the thought of them meeting such an end makes me shudder.

However, I’ve always had somewhat of a distaste for eating meat of any kind; animal cadavers if you will. I don’t make chicken or beef stock because a vegetarian friend of mine once referred to it as “corpse tea.” (Actually, that’s what it is).

I remember my grandmother’s incredible vegetable-beef soup. She’d make the beef stock from scratch which was a two-day process. Julia Child would have been duly impressed. Even though I was about eight years old, I could eat bowl after bowl of that stuff. However, I’d meticulously pick out all the chunks of meat from my bowl and lay them to the side; an action which would bring a few words of disdain from dear Granny.

It’s funny how we view eating meat from certain animals. Once, I was at an Indian restaurant and ordered goat curry. The friend of mine who was with me was absolutely horrified at the thought of eating goat. There was absolutely NO WAY he would try a bite.

He grew up in Chicago. I grew up in South Texas where cabrito (roasted baby goat) was not uncommon. I had eaten kid since I was a kid. On the other hand, I would never DREAM of putting ketchup and tomatoes on a hot dog like they do in Chicago.
That's just wrong.

As for eating dogs, I think perhaps that way back in our human DNA, we’ve a natural aversion to eating carnivores. After all, our early ancestors instinctually ran away from wolves, tigers, snakes and the like; the faster, the better. On the other hand, they sought and tracked the herbivorous deer, rabbit and even a wooly mammoth or two.

Maybe some of that instinct is still in us as we make menu selections.

I think it’s awfully inconsistent for anyone to protest the hunting of baby seals and then high-tail it in to Outback Steakhouse. Baby seals are cute and cuddly and we don’t like the idea of them being whacked to death. But if everyone saw what goes on at a slaughterhouse, Outback would be out of business.

So, shame on the Beijing city officials for taking "bao-wao" off the menu just to appease our messed up ideas of politically correct food.

That gives me an idea for a restaurant here in Chicago. . . .

Over on LaSalle Street, there’s a place called The Humane Society where one can go and adopt a cute kitty or doggy. They have them all in the window so passers-by can go awwwww as they head to Outback to masticate on bludgeoned cows.

We all know what happens to those that don’t get adopted. It’s sad and tragic.

So, I’d like to open a restaurant across the street called “The Inhumane Society.” Instead of all the dogs and cats getting gassed, the shelter can just give them to me at the restaurant. They would become that day’s "Catch of the Day."

Zero food cost! And talk about being “green”. . .

And with all the protesting, I would have no advertising overhead at all.

It would certainly be a unique place to eat. Every diner could buy a t-shirt that says, “I Ate German Shepherd Pie at the Inhumane Society.” Every tourist in Chicago would want to eat there just to say they had done so.

I may be onto something here. . .

Of course, if Chicago gets to host the 2016 Olympics, I’d have to close down.
After all, Beijing has set the precedent.

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Monday, August 11, 2008

The Olympics

I’ve been watching lots of the Olympics lately. When I say, “lots”, I mean that my Tivo records lots of it while I’m watching cooking programs. Then, I watch the Olympics that my Tivo has faithfully recorded for me.

When I say “watch,” I mean that I fast-forward through stuff like women’s beach volleyball and make it go really slow during the gymnastic routines.

I wish the networks would cover other teams besides the American ones. My cable company supplies me with ten grillion sports channels, so we’ve seen the American athletes. A lot.

Just once, I’d like to see a Bhutanese badminton player or an Icelandic curler. I doubt that my cable lineup has a Bhutanese Badminton Channel, but you never know.

By the way, have any of your ever watched a curling match before? When I lived in Canada, I really got into curling. The precision and strategy involved in this sport is absolutely mind-boggling.

Check it out. Click here.

The “rock” goes creeping all the way down the lane, . . . slowly, slowly, . . . . slower, slower, and then. . . . boink. . . it taps one of the opponent’s rocks and moves it about a half-millimeter. It’s sort of like shuffleboard on Prozac.

What’s really funny is when the Canadian network replays the move . . . in slow motion!
Oh my God! As if it wasn't already slow enough.

If Americans were curling, they’d probably change the rules to where one player would get points for smashing the opponent’s rocks into as many pieces as possible. That’s how we like our sports here. . . with as little subtlety and as much speed and power as possible.

What did you think of those opening ceremonies? Oh my goodness, it was as if the entire Chinese nation was saying, “Don’t even think about messing with China!”
I'm glad George W. was there to see that.

Chicago is one of the four contenders to host the 2016 Games. We're up against Madrid, Rio de Janeiro, and Tokyo.

I'd hate to think what Chicago do with the opening ceremonies. Whatever happens, it won't be pretty. And you can bet that there will be plenty of beer and hot dogs. Chicagoans don't do anything without beer and hot dogs.

Okay, Tivo has three hours of Olympic coverage for me. There'd better be somebody from Bhutan on there.

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Thursday, August 07, 2008

Lots Water Under the Bridge

A friend of mine has been busy scanning lots of old photos and sent this to me.

This is my friend, Jacquie. The photo was taken at the reception when I became a Catholic (She was my R.C.I.A sponsor)

She had also converted a couple of years previous.

We had both been raised Southern Baptist.

She became a nun. I became a monk.

She left the nunnery. I left the monkery.

She now lives in Atlanta and we’re still in touch.

Lots and lots of water under the bridge since then.